Trek to Yomi preview (PC version tested)

Publisher Devolver Digital is always full of surprises and Trek to Yomi, a game set during feudal Japan is another surprise that has come out of nowhere, at least as far as I’m concerned.

I knew nothing about the game until the Australian-based PR team for the game got in touch asking if I was keen to preview the first opening hour or so. I watched a couple of trailers and was intrigued. Insomniac’s Ghost of Tsushima has left an itch for more games based on Japanese culture and samurai lore so could Trek to Yomi scratch that itch for me? Let’s find out.

Coming from developer Flying Wild Hog and Leonard Menchari, Trek to Yomi starts with a flashback of young samurai trainee Hiroki training with his sensei and it’s a good training sequence that introduces the sword-play that will become crucial as the game progresses. Hiroki’s arsenal includes fast upward slashes and slower paced but more deadly downward strikes.

Suddenly, Hiroki’s sensei grabs a spear, tells his ward to stay where he is and runs off to fight the villagers who have invaded the village. Hiroki, of course, doesn’t listen and runs off in search of his master only to see him slaughtered before his eyes. Hiroki vows to avenge his death. 

Trek to Yomi is a 2.5D game with a striking visual style: It has an old black and white film grain that is reminiscent of the samurai films of old. At times the camera will pull back, revealing rice fields, waterfalls and mountain backdrops, and a few times I just sat back and took in the view, Hiroki often silhouetted in the foreground with the sun shining through trees with falling leaves.

As you can see from these captures, which I took from the game, it really does have an amazing visual presence.

Adding to the immersion is the dialogue is in full Japanese. It really adds to the atmosphere of being drawn into a Japanese samurai movie of the 1950s. So far, so good.

When Hiroki explores the game world it’s in 2.5D, meaning he can move left and right, forward and backwards, exploring, but when combat is activated the perspective shifts to a flat 2D plane with Hiroki having to fight foes coming from the left and right.

Most of the time you can dispatch foes with simple slashing moves and as he progresses he unlocks more complex moves but, to be honest, I found it a struggle at times to have enough time to chain together some of the more complex combinations, instead tending to thrust and slash when confronted with a handful of enemies at once. It’ll have three difficulty modes: Kabuki (Story), Bushido (Normal) and Ronin (Hard).

The preview build only allowed for about an hour of game play – essentially the first two missions – and ended with Hiroki fighting one of the game’s bosses so it’s really hard to say how the game will be as it progresses and how the story develops.

My interest is definitely piqued by Trek to Yomi’s visuals and the Japanese narrative and location but with such a short preview build, it’s too early to say whether the game is style over substance.

I guess I’ll find out when the full game is released later this year, right? 

Byte sized review: D-Link AX1500 Mesh system M15

D-Link’s AX1500 mesh system in its natural habitat: The suburban home.

If you need a wi-fi mesh system that will extend your home’s wireless signal, D-Link’s AX1500 mesh system M15 is well worth a look.

I’ve used several D-Link wi-fi extenders in the past and found them useful in expanding weak wi-fi around a house.

Like D-Link’s other mesh systems set up with the AX1500 mesh system is pretty simple. In the past, I’ve set up D-Link extenders using the company’s smartphone app then scanning the supplied barcode. This time, though, I decided to connect two of the units to my router via the WPS button.

If you decide to use the app, you’ll need to download the D-Link Eagle Pro AI app which the company says lets you manage your network more efficiently. D-Link recommends one unit for a house up to 210sqm, two units for a house up to 370sqm and three units for a house up to 500sqm me. My house is single-storey and around 226sqm so I used two units.

Within minutes, I had two AX1500 units set up and extending my current wi-fi network. The first was around 5m from the router, which is sited in the garage, but the signal had to pass through one door and two walls.

The second unit was sited perhaps at the farthermost point of the house: In the corner of the family room next to the kitchen. The wi-fi signal would have to pass through several walls to reach it.

Using Ookla Speedtest, I did two speed tests standing next to each D-Link unit (one using a server 7km from my house in Christchurch, New Zealand; the other in Culverden, which is 90km north of my home). I also did a test using a server in Sydney which was over 2000km from my house.

The first test from the unit placed in the family room came back with a download speed of 201Mbps and an upload of 73Mbps (ping of 3ms, jitter 5ms). The second test came back with a download speed of 227Mbps, 95Mbps upload (ping 6ms, jitter 1ms).

Speeds from the second unit (in the master bedroom and closest to the router) were 318Mbps up, 247Mbps down (7km away server, ping 6ms, jitter 1ms) and 224Mbps down, 240Mbps up (90km away server, ping 2ms, jitter 1ms). The server in Sydney returned speeds of 281Mbps down, 134Mbps up (pin 40ms, jitter 2ms).

With the ability to connect up to four units to your network, D-Link’s AX1500 mesh system is a good choice to expand home wi-fi networks. While I’m unable to say how it will perform in a two-storey home, where the signal will need to pass through multiple walls, for my 225sq single-storey home it worked a treat, allowing me to stream countless hours of online content, download games to my PC and consoles and do general internet stuff without skipping a beat.

D-Link’s AX1500 mesh system M15 (three pack) will cost you $NZ399.99 and $AU379.95. Thanks to D-Link Australia for the review units.

EAGLE PRO AI AX1500 M15-3PK Mesh System (3-Pack)
• Dual-band AX1500 Wi-Fi 6 delivers blazing fast connectivity with increased range and reliability

• Blanket whole home coverage up to 500sqm

• Up to 1200Mbps (5GHz) and 300Mbps (2.4GHz) speeds

• AI-based Mesh capability with compatible AI Wi-Fi Extender or Router

• AI-based Wi-Fi and Traffic Optimiser monitors and improves your network automatically

• Supports WPA, WPA2, and the latest WPA3 Wi-Fi Security

• Clean Network Initiative compliant for security and privacy

• Voice control compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa

Trek to Yomi: Way of the Samurai

I have to admit that Trek to Yomi wasn’t on my radar until I was contacted by the local PR team about possible preview codes. Heck, I didn’t even know the game existed until that point.

Well, two trailers later, Trek to Yomi is well and truly on my radar. My “yes please when can I play this game?” radar.

Set in feudal Japan, the game has a real Akira Kurosawa vibe to it and comes from game designer Leonard Menchari (Riot: Civil Unrest, The Eternal Castle), studio Flying Wild Hog and publisher Devolver Digital. Players will face off against myriad enemies across beautiful and terrifying lands, including spearmen, archers, riflemen and even beings believed to be nothing more than folk tales and Menchari has said on social media that the game is inspired by “old Japanese cinemas from the 1950s and 60s.”

You can watch the latest trailer here:

The game’s rather sparse website says it’s coming Spring 2022, which I’m assuming is the Northern Hemisphere, so that means, hopefully, it’ll be out in the three months or so, given the country I live in is heading into Autumn soon.

Colour me very, very intrigued.

Gran Turismo 7: Get your motor running, head out on the highway

The Gran Turismo series has a long pedigree with Playstation.

It’s long been a mainstay series that has pushed the boundaries on whatever PlayStation it has appeared on. This year, the franchise celebrates 25 years of the racing simulator appearing on Sony’s gaming machine.

Twenty five years longevity is a massive achievement so it’s fitting that Gran Turismo 7 is perhaps the series’ most impressive & accessible yet. It’s not perfect but it’s close.

Before you even start racing proper, there’s Music Rally, a surprisingly addictive mini-racing game where you race around a track, against the clock, while a musical soundtrack plays in the background. The timer counts down in the beat to the music with Music Rally kicking off with Hooked on Classics 1 & 2 (performed by Royal London Philharmonic Orchestra, an album I actually own on vinyl), blasting from your speakers while you drive a Porsche 356 Speedster ’56. It’s insane.

Every time you pass through a checkpoint the crowd cheers & claps and time is added to the clock. Race ends when the song finishes. Once you run out of time, you can watch the replay. While watching the replay, I realized I gave a fellow competitor driving a Mazda MX5 a good ole shunt in the rear while rounding a corner!

After Music Rally comes the controls set up section. You can pick from three control schemes. Traditional, which uses the left stick to steer; Using the D-pad or using the PS5 controller’s motion controls where you tilt the controller. This was my preferred control scheme. I don’t have a steering wheel and pedal set up so using holding the controller like you were gripping a steering wheel just felt natural.

I need to talk about the Dualsense controller’s motion controls some more.

Frankly, it is brilliant and adds a level of immersion to a driving game that I’ve not experiences before. I found myself instinctively holding my controller in front of me, arms outstretched, hands gripping the controller like it was an actual steering wheel. As I turned my hands into each corner, I actually also found my body position shifting slightly, mirroring the position of my hands. I hate using the word game-changer – I cringe every time I see it and every time I use it – but honestly, the motion controls with GT7 is just that: A game changer.

Accelerate and braking is controller by the R2 and L2 buttons, respectively, R1 changes your view and other buttons control various other functions. You can have as many or as few driver assists as you like, with difficulty starting at beginner, which has every assist activated, to expert which has every assist off. I’m not a seasoned Gran Turismo professional so I stuck with intermediate difficulty but turned braking assist off.

Graphically, Gran Turismo 7 comes with Performance mode, which targets 60 frames per second at a native 4K, and Ray Tracing mode, which isn’t full ray tracing: It’s just implemented in race replays, demo scenes and the ‘scapes photography mode.

I stuck with performance mode as quite frankly GT7 looks so freaken good that I didn’t miss the ray traced features.

Perhaps one of the most impressive features of GT7 graphically is the often at times simply mind-blowingly stunning time of day cycle, especially when the sun is starting to set in the distance and the landscape is bathed in the orange glow of the disappearing sun.

As is the way with Gran Turismo, your road to greatness starts at the bottom, giving you just enough entry credits to buy a used car from the local car dealership.

Cars range from the Honda Fit Hybrid and Maxda Demio XD to Subaru Impreza WRX Type E to a Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640 – but, sadly, you only have 20,000 credits so you’re restricted to the Fit, Demio or a Toyota Aqua S. I went with the 2014 Honda Fit Hybrid.

Then there is the Car Cafe, a seemingly strange destination at first but it soon turns out to be a rather interesting location. Owner of the Car Cafe, Luca, issues you challenges through “menus”. It’s all very high brow, and the challenges generally task you with completing a series of races in order to collect, say, three European classic cars or three Japanese compact cars by placing in the top three. The cars are the prize for winning the series (if you can’t be arsed racing you can always just buy the car, of course).

The first race I took part in was the Sunday Cup at Northern Isle Speedway: I won a zippy Mazda Demio. In my second race, I won an impressive Toyota Aqua (I genuinely think the Aqua is a neat week car).

My first car collection was obtained, I’d completed the first “menu” and I was sold on Luca and his Car Cafe.

With Gran Turismo 7, the basic fundamentals haven’t changed: The more races you compete in, the more credits you earn, the more of “locations” you unlock, the more cars you can buy.

Before too long you’ll be putting in the miles obtaining a new category licence, you’ll be taking photos at the ‘scapes photo centre, you’ll be upgrading forks, brakes and engines to eek as much performance as you can from your current pride and joy and you’ll be … pressing your nose against the glass at Brand Central as you drool over the luxury cars that will take you most likely a lifetime to afford (or hours and hours and hours of driving)!

Gran Turismo 7’s music is a strange mix, too. at times that almost clash with each other. It’s a real eclectic mix with races having at times quite poppy, modern tunes while menus have more orchestral scores, with grand pianos and saxophones. The soundtrack selection is quite odd at times and forgettable, to be honest.

One thing I didn’t like was that races were the old rolling start – and you’re always at the back. Why, oh why, do racing games insist on doing this? Why place me last out of 12 cars and force me to fight my way through to the front of the pack? I’m not Lewis Hamilton, for goodness sake.

I lost count of the number of times in my career that I busted a gut in, say, my little Citroen Clio, screeching around corners on tracks like Alsace, the occassional touch of bumpers, trying to make up ground lost by starting last to end up 4th by a lick of paint.

There’s definitely a grind with Gran Turismo 7, though, the more you progress but that has always been the way with the series: You have to put in serious time tuning, practicing and racing to achieve greatness.

That said, there is an incredible amount of depth here, there’s so much minute detail that dyed in the wool car afficionados will be positively salivating as they tune their race cars to the nth degree just to gain that crucial extra horsepower. It’s not a racing game, remember, it’s a driving simulator.

GT7 also has a rather splendid photo mode and all of the images with this review were captured with it. I’m especially fond of the ‘scapes photo mode which lets you place cars into images of iconic world location. The Mini and Corvette were photographed in front of the New Zealand South Island’s stunning geography, including Lake Pukaki.

It’s inevitable that Gran Turismo 7 will get comparisons to the Forza Horizons series – that’s just what some gamers do, right: Compare a game on one platform with a similar one on the opposition platform.

For me, though, I’d liken the Gran Turismo series to an avid collector with a stable of classic cars that they polish on weekends and take out for Sunday outings. Forza Horizons 5 is the young, enthusiastic racer with the Subaru Imprezza with lowered suspension who loves nothing more than cruising as fast as they can on a warm Summer’s night, tunes blasting from the eight-speaker Bose sound system. Both games are brilliant in their own right but both appeal to very different audiences.

I’ve yet to check out the multiplayer – the servers weren’t online yet – and the game seems to have micro-transactions embedded in it as I noticed a few pop ups when the game’s roulette-style reward system was in play that linked to the PlayStation Store, clearly allowing players to top up their in-game credits balance with real-world money. Frankly, I wish games would just stop this micro-transactions bollocks.

Twenty five years on, Gran Turismo is still a cracker driving game and it’s rather fitting that Polyphony Digital’s latest creation is such a finely tuned experience that just sings on the PlayStation 5.