Game Review – Starpoint Gemini 2

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Game review – Starpoint Gemini 2
Platform – PC (exclusive)
Developer – Little Green Men Games
Publisher – Iceberg Interactive

Release date – 26 Sept, 2014

Rating – 8/10

42islife

Because no space-related article is complete without a Douglas Adams quote.

Starpoint Gemini 2 is the first real *complete* space title to come along since the abysmal launch of X: Rebirth. Having left a considerable gap in the market for the hardcore space-sim crowd, we’ve seen the rise of titles like Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous among a few botched attempts like Transverse. Since the closest to completion at this point (yet still quite aways off) is Elite: Dangerous, but has a rather steep point of entry to the beta, your best bet for spacey goodness in a released package at a relatively inexpensive price is Starpoint Gemini 2.

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Expecting a vast, open void of quiet trade routes and peaceful sailing? This is not that game.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Starpoint Gemini 2 is its unabashed density. Space is not wide open and quiet. You will encounter many anomalies, wrecks, asteroid belts, wormholes, ruins and countless hostiles trying to drill you a new asshole — and that’s just while flying from A to B. There’s no dull moment in this universe. Yet, amid the nearly staggering depth and complexity, there is an apparent simplicity to the control scheme. You won’t be doing a lot of dog fighting and navigating, rather you will be angling your ship for better weapon and shield coverage while giving commands for boarding procedures and defense protocols. You are made to feel more like a ship captain than a pilot. This perhaps takes a bit of the “sim” out of the game from the perspective of flying the ship, but adds a lot in terms of commanding one.

This is actually one of the things the game really has going for it. Rather than relying on pure skill and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants speed, the game plays out a little more like an action RPG. You have skills and powerups based on your class, giving you tactical advantages for say, commanding fleets and using boarding parties, rather than just blasting your way in and out of any given situation.

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It's a spacesimactionRPG.

True to the space-sim genre, the title has a fairly steep learning curve in the early game. There’s not a lot of reward for your time spent, and sometimes you just feel vastly under-powered. However, stick with it long enough, and the ratio flips. Suddenly, you are building a fleet around you, commanding a rather devastating ship of your own, and you begin to feel like a force of destruction within the universe. Due to the contentious nature of the many NPC factions, there’s no shortage of wars to be waged or space to conquer even outside of the main story-line.

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The rather detailed and expansive map requires manual exploration, too.

This brings me to the title’s biggest flaw: the campaign. It’s both boring and poorly written. It tries too hard to be compelling with the most cliche revenge-but-deeper-than-you-think-wink-wink played out archetypes imaginable, with long, uninspired speeches from every damn character, which are all horribly voiced. I don’t just mean the acting is bad, either. The audio quality and volume levels vary between EVERY character, and it sounds like there was no direction at all. No one even tried to put a little effect on the voices to sound spacey. As a guy who is actively trying to work in the audio side of the game industry, I am almost offended by how bad the voice work is in this title. If anyone from LGMG reads this: please drop me a line and I will gladly run your vocals through a compressor or something at the very least. It’s seriously bad enough to make me want to give up on the campaign altogether.

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TL;DR, never mind the yawn-worthy VO. The ability to skip has never been more welcome.

Despite the glaringly awful campaign, the game has more than enough to do to keep you interested. You can elect to forego the story altogether and just freeplay your way around its colourful universe. Its ARPG inspiration means menus and contextual system management, while still as complex as you would expect from a space sim, are easily managed and controlled via its well-designed user interface. While it can sometimes feel a little candy-coated, I mean it with the highest compliment that everything just “makes sense.” It’s refreshing to play a space sim with such a simple UI that manages to retain the depth of control I demand. While there is a bit of a learning curve compared to broader reaching titles, it’s not nearly as steep as some of its predecessors.

While it’s hard to compare Starpoint Gemini 2 to some if its competitors (namely Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous) as a space-sim, it manages to set itself apart with its RPG elements and clever UI. It will never match up to the hardcore realism of other titles, nor does it try to. It’s a great entry on its own, and should be a valuable little gem in any space-sim enthusiast’s collection. Here’s to hoping the main campaign and voice work get some attention, because it could be the difference between a great space game, and one of the best to come along in a while.

/gameon

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P.S. Space is pretty.
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Game Review – Rising Storm/Red Orchestra 2

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Game review – Rising Storm/Red Orchestra 2
Platform – PC (exclusive)
Developer – Tripwire Interactive
Publisher – Tripwire Interactive

Release date – 30 May, 2013

Rating – 9/10

teamkill

That's why you STOP LAGGING BEHIND AND GET TO THE OBJECTIVE, NOOB.

While this is an older release strapped onto a title from 3 years ago with an already aging engine, I felt the need to write a review as it doesn’t get nearly enough praise or attention. Yeah, it’s PC exclusive, so it’ll never get the exposure of a cross-platform, broad demographic “AAA” title – but that’s already a selling point. It’s not trying for flash and flare. There aren’t massive piles of motion-captured slow-motion animations or giant robots. This is a game about substance over cosmetic, and it delivers. My 232 hours in-game stands as a tribute.

In a genre dominated by prestigious franchises blandly following their own trends, there exists a game which has dug in its roots and produced a first-person-shooter focusing on bullet drop off and perimeter fire. Weapons that jam, overheat and require maintenance. Rewarding accuracy and patience over kill ratios. It’s a game where leadership can easily turn the tides of a match in more ways than a kill streak. In short: it’s an online FPS that focuses on realism and makes no apology for it.

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Can't see them? Don't worry, you will learn. (You'll also die a lot)

While there is a more forgiving casual mode for this game, the most populated are the “realism” servers, and for good reason. Once you play on one of these hardcore maps, Call of Duty and Battlefield will seem like on-rails arcade shooters. There are no decals over players’ heads, friend or foe, there’s no ammo counter, no on-screen aiming reticle, and you can easily die bleeding out from a single pistol shot if you don’t bandage up quick. This is not your average shooter. If anything, it could be considered a WWII battle simulator.

Not sure how much ammo is left in the clip? You have to eject it and look. MG keeps overheating and under-performing? Swap the barrel. Getting too many team kills? Start shooting at faces instead of backs of heads. Spawning comes in reinforcement waves rather than individual timers, so learn to move as a unit. And for fuck sakes keep your head down. Cover is your friend. Don’t sprint across open fields like an idiot. Check your map and listen to your commander when he’s calling air strikes so you don’t get caught in your own bombing runs.

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 If a bullet doesn't get you, the mortars, artillery, mines and grenades will.

Yet, beyond the gritty realism lies a game with a lot of heart and a ton of fun if you can handle the intensity. I’ll admit, the attention to detail was almost off-putting at first, and I can see some players being frustrated enough to pass. If you stick with it, though, it’s the most satisfying experience you can have in a game like this.

It’s truly spectacular in execution. Seeing a successful artillery strike wipe away a whole regiment (or being the one caught in the blast) is impressive in itself and actually requires teamwork, as only a Squad Leader can “spot” a target, while the lone Commander reserves the ability to call in the strike. It’s not to suggest there aren’t some cool things you can do as a grunt, either.

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EVERYTHING BURNSSSSSSSS

The weapons are a fairly standard fare selection of WW2 hardware, but Tripwire’s attention to detail shines right through the crowd with how they actually function. I can’t name another title where you occasionally have to swap a machine gun’s barrel, or physically check your ammo count, or with such realistic bullet trajectories. The flamethrower is nigh awe inspiring. It’s beautiful. The flames actually bounce and reflect off walls, and fill up rooms. Victims just melt away in a pool of screams.

The maps are equally as detailed as the weapons. They are large and sprawling; covered with wreckage, weapons, ruins, foliage, coated with a layer of mayhem and gloomy atmosphere. You never quite know where its limits are until you hit them. I’ve never played another game that felt so much like I was actually on a battlefield. It’s dangerous, difficult, and unforgiving. I love it.

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Yes. That is both recent and free content.

Rising Storm, having been released  as what could only seriously be called an “add-on” to Red Orchestra has actually caused them both to evolve. Red Orchestra started taking tank warfare more seriously, (yes, this game has tanks, and holy shit are they challenging to use) and Rising Storm continues to pile on new maps and weapons. Nevertheless, Tripwire has never made me pay for any extra content since I originally bought into the beta. Every content update has been free. Not only is Tripwire dedicated to keeping this title alive, they aren’t nickle and diming us for it.

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Good guy, Tripwire.

I cannot stress the importance of this game to the industry. Tripwire should serve as a model for any developer who actually intends to cater to their audience. They listen, and they deliver. They don’t dilute the formula to broaden their demographic. In fact, one of their more recent updates actually adds improvements to “Classic Mode” which is somehow even more hardcore than “Realism Mode.” This is a game that prides itself on being difficult and doesn’t apologize for it, even if it means alienating the casual crowd. Is that really a bad thing? Perhaps if you just want to make a ton of money.

Sure, it could be rebuilt into a new engine for prettier graphics, bringing it into the “next-gen.” You could hire hollywood actors to have their faces eerily planted into the game for no apparent reason, and you could make dramatic movie-esque trailers full of explosions and filters to show during the Super Bowl.

If instead, you’d rather have a great game that won’t compromise its greatest strengths for the sake of extra sales –  you get an honest developer like Tripwire, and a product that deserves far more praise than it gets.

/gameon

walkintomortars

P.S. Punny Boromir is correct.

Game Review – Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Game review – Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Platform – PC, PS4, XBONE, PS3, 360
Developer – Monolith Productions, Inc.
Publisher – WB Games

Release date – 30 Sept, 2014

Rating – 9/10

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Actually, it's less "walking into Mordor" and more "killing into Mordor."

As a long time fan of Tolkien and his works, I (and I assume many others) have been craving a game which doesn’t sum up to yet another adaptation of the movies. When Shadow of Mordor was first announced, I was cautiously optimistic. We finally have a release featuring a new character who actually gets to stomp around in Mordor – something even Boromir was hesitant to undertake. However, this title shares more than a few similarities with Star Wars: Force Unleashed in its attempt to bridge the two main trilogies with a character who has as many abilities as one could allow in that universe and remain faithful. While I considered Force Unleashed (the first one, specifically) to be somewhat underrated, it was widely received as a disappointment. With predecessors like Jedi Academy and Knights of the Old Republic, it could have taken a few more notes.

Thankfully, WB had the review embargo lifted a few days prior to release, and gave copies to the big sites (IGN, PC Gamer, etc). It was hard to ignore the impressive gameplay videos and raving reviews. Could this be the open world LotR franchise title I’ve been hoping for?

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You will never play another game with so many exploding heads.

Abso-fucking-lutely. For the first two hours, I couldn’t even handle how immediately you are dropped into being the sole perpetrator of the mass genocide of Uruk-hai. With a seemingly endless assortment of decapitations, impalements and other brutal blade attacks, this game might as well have been called, “1000 Ways to Kill Orcs.”

While the combat system borrows heavily from the Arkham series (same publisher, after all) and takes cues from Assassin’s Creed as well, it’s quite refined and satisfying in its execution. There are an impressive variety of abilities and each ability has multiple animations, so you never feel like you’re only relying on a strict regiment of block/attack. As both a human and a “wraith,” you have an array of devastation to unleash upon your foe; whether you wish to rely on the skills of a cunning warrior, or the powers which come with your link to the netherworld. There’s also a nice balance between stealth and active combat which doesn’t appear to favour one over the other. As a whole, the fighting system feels round and well thought out.

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 I love doing this one.

Even with all of the head chopping and brutal shanking, the thing that ties the whole room together is the Nemesis System. In most games like this, your life is bound to a series of checkpoints and saves. You and the game progress along with these checkpoints and when you die, you restart from the last one, as does the rest of the game. However, because it is established very early on that you are stuck in a deathless limbo, your demise only means you will return again soon after. So, rather than your death forcing you and the game to turn back time, it is now a mechanic for the progression of orcs in a similar way that their death lead to your own progress. Yes. NPCs level up by killing you.

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And now for something completely different...

The map starts off with a set of 20 captains and 5 warchiefs. As you kill them off, they will be replaced by others at random, or by grunts that happen to get the lucky last strike. So not only can a mere grunt be promoted up the chain of command by killing you, he will remember killing you and taunt you for it. Some may actively hunt you as well. Sometimes, captains you believe slain will come back with a vengeance, show up at the worst possible moment, and become a giant pain in the ass you consistently have trouble killing because you can’t keep your emotions in check when he pops up on the screen.

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Fuck this guy so much.

What this translates into is a game world that feels alive. It seems to progress in spite of you. The Uruks continue to roam around the map, fight among themselves, hunt dangerous creatures, tame slaves and generally go on about their business. Because you’re thrown into this right away, there’s never a lull in the action. There’s little urgency to push the plot forward just to have fun; invading feasts and ruining duels is rewarding on its own merit.

Each captain comes along with his own unique skill set, too. So even if you end up seeing a few repeats, they rarely have the same weaknesses and strengths. Variety is not amiss.

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According to the voice over, it's pronounced "douche."

In true Lord of the Rings fashion, instead of amassing an armory full of gear, the weapons you have are named and unique to your character. You’ll even complete specific missions which craft the lore behind them so to become (in)famous orc-slaying relics. Each weapon can be slotted with up to 5 runes which allow you tweak for your play-style. There is a wide assortment of runes with random stats as well as “epic” unique runes with set stats. Only captains and warchiefs will drop runes, so they are your main incentive for taking down the big bosses.

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Is your dagger legendary, or are you just happy to see me?

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor delivers in a way I honestly was not expecting. On its shell, it looks like it might be a bland ripoff of another formula’s success, but it has so much more than that going on under the hood. While the combat isn’t revolutionary, it’s well-refined, and the Nemesis System more than makes up for it in the revolutionary department. The story isn’t particularly original, but it’s well-voiced and cast. The artwork is fantastic, and the lore is respected. It’s not a perfect game but it gets high marks for execution and having the guts to do something new.

However, at the end of all the criticism and nitpicking the game truly excels in one area: fun. It’s so much fun, all the little things don’t matter and you remember why you like gaming in the first place. Yeah, it’s that kinda good.

/gameon

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Mordor: Where killing orcs is a means of transportation.

Something, Something Game News – A recap: Dead space games and and even deader orcs

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I’ve been a little lax this week on getting the blog up, but I’ve been pretty busy working on a game for which its Kickstarter will be launching soon. The past 10 days have also seen several game releases that I’ve been trying my best to review. I’ll likely have a review up tomorrow, and I’ll work on a few more posts over the next few days so I can be back to my regular blogging schedule next week.

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Don't forget to help fund my "start-up company" so I can retire early. Sitting on my ass, here I come!

Nevertheless, I couldn’t let this week go by without a few honorable (and dishonorable) mentions:

Along with recording some voice-overs and composing a few background tracks, I’ve also been playing the shit out of WB’s new release: Shadow of Mordor. I have a full review in the works, but at this point I can tell you that it’s the most fun you can have decapitating the villainous Uruks of Middle-Earth since… well there aren’t really any other games that let you do it with such fervent variety. This title could have been called “1000 Ways to Kill Orcs.”

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It's ok, he wasn't using that head anyway.

However, the big highlight (for me) came with Transverse already giving up on their shifty crowd-funding campaign. As I had noted in a previous rant, Transverse came on the heels of other big, crowd-sourced space titles, did so without a drop of originality, and handled it with the grace of a wild boar figure skating while being fucked in the ass by a mute donkey. How’s that for imagery?

After a little more than two weeks, Piranha Games had only managed to fund about $12,000 of their intended $500,000 initial goal. Meanwhile, Star Citizen was just recognized by Guinness as the most crowd-funded thing ever. Time to go back to the drawing board, PGI.

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Of course, PGI emptied their forums in a predictably fascist move. No hilarious meltdowns to read. :(

Otherwise, I hope you guys are all having a good week and I’ll be posting regularly again by Monday!

/gameon

gofundyourself

Because South Park.

Game Review – Gauntlet™

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Game review – Gauntlet™
Platform – PC (exclusive, for now)
Developer – Arrowhead Game Studios
Publisher – WB Games

Release date – 23 Sept, 2014

Rating – 8/10

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Because fuck making things easier on you.

Gauntlet is one of those legacy franchises that never fades away. Before there was Diablo, there was Gauntlet in all of its 8-bit glory. The premise is simple: Pick from a Wizard, Warrior, Elf or Valkyrie and stomp around in dungeons to find gold and kill monsters. There have been many incarnations of Gauntlet over the years, but the original arcade machine still stands out the most to me. I will say, however, the N64 release of Gauntlet: Legends was fantastic.

Nearly 30 years later, we have what can effectively be called a “reboot” of the franchise. No fancy title, no new characters. Pick your class and lets go dungeon diving.

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Get ready for a frantic romp with a classic level of difficulty. I.E. Expect to die a lot.

Gauntlet is definitely a back-to-basics title. The graphics aren’t amazing, but get the point across. There’s no complicated story, although there is a surprising amount of voice work and banter among the few characters in the game, which does a lot to enhance the atmosphere. There isn’t a vast plethora of items to collect, and instead they have rather steep prerequisites and prices to unlock. Personally, this adds a more rewarding level of satisfaction when finally gearing out your character with the best items, rather than constantly finding duplicates in massive piles of loot. Not that I’m opposed to massive loot piles, it’s just a nice change of pace from what has become a standard in modern dungeon crawlers and ARPGs.

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Want this tome? All you have to do is beat the game on the hardest mode.

Each character has an array of abilities with a unique style of play suited for its class. There may only be 4 classes to choose from, but none play at all alike. The Elf is a ranger with mostly ranged abilities and is well designed for speed and accuracy. The Valkyrie is probably the best balanced between melee and ranged attacks, with a rather Captain America style shield throw. The Wizard is the most interesting, as he has a spell combination system not unlike Magicka (makes sense, Arrowhead originally developed Magicka). You press two elements (Ice then Fire, for example) and it arms a particular spell to use, ranging from lightning bolts, and fireballs, to shields and freeze beams. As expected, he’s pretty handy for crowd control. The Warrior is unfortunately, the weakest character because he has only rather basic melee attacks, and this is a game where you do not want to be caught in the middle of a crowd. I honestly hope they decide to tweak him later on, as he is both somewhat boring and difficult to use compared to the others which seem far more thought out.

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A PC exclusive designed to play best with a controller? Blasphemy!* *Sarcasm

A strange and immediately noticed feature is this title’s dedication to being played with a controller. As the developer currently has no plans™ to port to console, it does seem odd that such a game would lean heavily into controller support. However, with its co-op features implemented so well, it starts to make a lot of sense. It is indeed a rare game on PC which allows for simultaneous local and online co-op play. This would really only make sense by plugging a controller (or 4) into the same machine. Since most of the PC gamers I know have at least a Logitech F310 (the 510 and 710 are pretty great, as well) or something similar, it’s actually quite a welcome feature for quick and easy multiplayer Gauntlet.

The only snag is that you cannot drop into an already created game. All joining must be in the lobby. It’s something that could receive some attention in the future, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker at this point. Especially not with how fun co-op play is, which even throws in a few extra competitive elements, and compares your scores to others via leaderboards.

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Some clever chaps even have names with "penis" in them.

Gauntlet is a return to classic dungeon crawling with just enough modern flare to bring it into the 21st century. It has that arcade machine appeal which is often lost on the PC audience. In an age where multiplayer gaming has become rather impersonal, it’s great to see co-op games which encourage you to play with friends rather than sit in sterile lobbies.

With a little bit of character balance tweaking (seriously, fix the warrior), and what would be an extremely welcome ability to drop-in to co-op play, this game nearly has the potential to bring back Gauntlet as a franchise. It’s tons of fun for a $20 game.

/gameon

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P.S. Did you know that tips are shown during the loading screen?

Game Review – DG2: Defense Grid 2

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Game review – DG2: Defense Grid 2
Platform – PC, Mac, Steam OS/Linux, XBONE, PS4
Developer – Hidden Entertainment

Release date – 23 Sept, 2014

Rating – 8.5/10

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You will forever crave raspberries.

I have been a huge sucker for tower defense since the days when they were free flash games on Newgrounds. Since the advent of the mobile marketplace, there have been a huge flood of clones and clones of clones with micro-transaction stores, overused themes and reused assets. However, there have been a few gems among the sea of mediocrity, and this game’s PC exclusive predecessor, Defense Grid: The Awakening was indeed a rare diamond. It never felt like a quickly assembled time-killer. It was a full-featured title with dozens of maps, modes, upgrades and even a clever plot-line.

When Defense Grid 2 showed up for pre-order, I wasted no time jumping into Early Access. Unfortunately, it was little more than a demo with a couple of maps and no upgrades, so it was hard to make a critical judgement of how the finished game would look and for that matter, impossible to compare it to it’s predecessor. So, how does it stack up now that it’s been released?

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Lasers now 140% prettier.

Right away, there is a massive visual improvement. For such a widely cross-platform title, it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s catering to any particular hardware than what you’re playing it on. It looks great, plays great, and fits right into the modern generation.

The maps are impressively designed with lush details, intrinsically capable of producing atmosphere and mood. The environment feels like it’s part of the  multi-directional pathways, instead of a complimentary after-thought. The main campaign is long and engaging with a clever story and several characters. The characters all have unique voice talent with what seems like hours of recording. Each map has nearly a dozen modes which can be played alone, with a friend or competitively both online and locally.

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Each map is painstakingly layered. Someone spent some time and effort on this stuff.

They actually improved on the original formula. It still feels a lot like the original, but it’s not the same game twice. While the towers are mostly the same, there are new ways to use them with the simple addition of what is called the Boost Tower. When placed under any standard weapon tower, it can have various effects including boosting the damage, revealing stealth enemies and improving your score. On top of that, each tower has multiple upgrades which you can choose from before battle allowing you to tweak for every scenario.

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You will also unlock a variety of commanders, each with his or her own special ability.

The path designs are truly Defense Grid in their unique combination of both set paths, and open grids allowing for a flexibility of gameplay unseen in most tower defense titles. Yet again, DG2 includes a new dynamic to the maps by providing sections which you can spend credits to add or move around.  Some may expand the path, while others simply give you a few extra squares to place towers. This might be my favourite new feature, and I can’t name another TD game with dynamically changing maps. Kudos for that one.

I should also be named an international felon if I failed to mention the “DG Architect” map editor feature. You can construct a map from the ground up and includes most, if not all of the in-game assets. All the trees, concrete and lava you can imagine.

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Yes, it's as complicated as it looks.

DG2 is a fantastic reminder that even when a genre becomes saturated with garbage, there is still room for a shining example to burst from the sewage pipe. Hidden Entertainment has done just that with a sequel superior to its parent in nearly all ways. Between the varying selection of upgrades, modes and map alterations, you never have to play the same map the same way twice.

If you love tower defense, Defense Grid 2 will keep you busy for a long, long time.

/gameon

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P.S. The loading screens are works of literature.

Game Review – Marvel heroes 2015

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Game review – Marvel Heroes 2015
Platform – PC (Exclusive)
Developer – Gazillion Entertainment

Rating – 8.5/10

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When you see it...

I tend to be cautious and easily bored when it comes to games with a free-2-play model. They are often grindfests with a lot of flash, but also the intent of boring you just to get some money out of your pocket to advance more quickly. I’ve also witnessed many subscription-based titles convert to free-2-play because they didn’t have enough confidence in their original strategy. Personally, I don’t think subcription models aren’t worth using anymore, I just feel they need developers with the confidence and stride to actually execute. Considering the fact that so many games which began as subscription and switched to free-2-play have fallen apart faster than a drunken Palin. (City of Heroes comes to mind).

However, being a bit of a Marvel fan, seeing a fair number of positive reviews and at the recommendation of a few friends, I decided to jump into Marvel Heroes 2015. I never played the previous edition, so I have no basis for comparison, but all of my sources suggest it’s an improvement.

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The sheer staggering number of available looks for Iron Man alone was enough to get my wallet out.

If you like Marvel superheroes, you will love this game. No, really. Each playable character has personality; from the impressive variety of voiced quips and remarks, to the many well-designed and detailed costumes. Heroes and villains will banter as they pass each other or while in combat. The maps and locations are well representative of their comic inspired settings. All in all, it’s a great exemplar to the Marvel universe.

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Diversity is the name of the game. (They've since added Rogue and Star-Lord, too)

While it is a bit of a grind to get new characters (without spending real $$$ of course), there’s a pretty wide range of stuff to do. There are a few team-based events and raids, there’s not much you can’t do by yourself with many of the characters. You can follow the main story, or you can do individual maps via Terminals which allow you to pick a location to your liking. Many of these instances have daily rewards as well, along with the random daily bonuses for completing the assigned missions, plus you get a reward just for logging in once a day. Furthermore, there are week long events which occur nearly every week, constantly cycling new locations to find the best loot and bonuses. You will quite often find potions which boost your experience gain and item find percentages, making finding things a rather explosive experience.

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I was using explosive in the literal sense. Loot bombs are a common occurrence.

Character creation is surprisingly complex, and I mean that in a good way. You can make your Iron Man into a missile launcher, a beam weapon, a melee artist or a combination of those. You tend to be best off specializing in one for maximum effect, but there’s no one way to play each character. Additionally, there are so many slots on each character for subtle customization and gearing up, you’ll be hard pressed to find two characters fit out exactly the same, even if they’re going for a similar build. Plus, there is the Omega skill tree, which allows you to continue adding small bonuses to each character long after you have reached max level. I actually prefer playing my max level characters, because there’s always a little more tweaking to be done.

Not to mention the “Team Up” heroes you can acquire, which follow you around like a sidekick, and also have a limited amount of customization. The possibilities are nearly endless, and that’s quite an achievement for a game using existing, well established characters.

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Each of those 14 icons is a whole tree of interesting little bonuses.

Finally, the gameplay is fun. Yes, it’s a fairly clicky, hotbar-surfy type dungeon crawler, but many of the abilities are well rendered and executed. You feel like a superhero. It’s easy to see why this game has been getting good reviews. It caters well to its audience. It’s a bit buggy sometimes, and could use a cork for some of the memory leaks, but the developers are always active and working, as is evident by the weekly events and updates. The free-2-play model is used well by keeping players engaged and not forcing them to grind just to make progress. Leveling is relatively painless, especially once you have a few characters to 60 (there is a stacking experience bonus up to 200% BEFORE you apply potions and other bonuses), and loot is constantly thrown at you.

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Smash.

The only annoying thing you may find yourself having to pay for is extra storage space for all that loot (yes, you can only buy extra space with real cash… that’s where they get ya), but spending $10-15 for a little extra space seems like a pretty fair trade off, since there’s not much else you feel you need to drop money on. Everything else is cosmetic.

As a result, you have a free-2-play game that encourages you to play frequently, but doesn’t shake you down just so you can avoid feeling like your working to get some satisfaction out of it. Gazillion has done an impressive job with a popular franchise without needing the oversight of a mega-corp publisher.

/gameon

ironmanagain

P.S. Did I mention I like Iron Man?