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

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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

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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.

Something, Something Game News – Update: What I’ve been doing

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Well, I missed yesterday’s post, and today’s post is getting pushed later and later. So, I’ve decided tonight I will just give you a little summary. A lot went on in my little gaming world in two days, not to mention a certain amount of actual work and “real life” commitments (lame, I know). What this means: I have a lot to write about over the next few days! W00tpwnl33tsauce.

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Because South Park premieres tonight. :D

First off, I’ve been playing a whole lot of Gauntlet™, and Defense Grid 2, since I had both pre-ordered and both released on the same day. I’m actually quite impressed with both of them, so you’ll be hearing glowing reviews over the next day or two.

Second, Steam received a face-lift. It’s a breath of fresh air, albeit a little too blue. The new “curator” options are quite awesome, however, and added personalization for the types games you want to see, and the ability to hide the ones you don’t is more than welcome.

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Bluuuuuuuuuueeeee

Finally, there was plenty of tragic comedy as Blizzard shuts the doors on Titan, (a project taking 7 years and costing upwards of $50 million), and Transverse released another poorly received and obviously scripted YouTube video. One might ask why I’d even give it traffic, but it’s fun to watch as more people pass it off as the travesty it is.

So, I’ll leave you with those tidbits as I go back to preparing my full rants. Stay tuned!

/game

 

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

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

Something, Something Game News – QA: Who is to blame: Developers or Publishers?

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For a while, I’ve been trying to come up with an answer as to why games release in the state they do these days. It seems that lately, more often than not a game hits the market with a ton of bugs to be fixed “later.” If a developer or publisher follows through on fixing the bugs within a reasonable time, I suppose it’s acceptable, but there are many games across the industry, whether from “AAA” publishers or indie teams, which go unfixed or unfinished. Of course, the same seems to go for content as well. You buy a rather empty game for $50-60, then have to spend another $30 for “DLC” which should have been in the game in the first place.

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"Bland" and "uninspired" are good adjectives, too.

I understand that much of it has to do with the nature of technology these days. With our always connected devices, software can be updated at any time to add more content or mend problems. The issue is that this has become a strategy rather than a convenience, resulting in poor on-site QA and relying on the community to discover the bugs after having paid for the game. It just seems unfathomable to me, coming from having grown up with a generation of games which couldn’t possibly have the number of bugs they ship with now. If Ocarina of Time wasn’t working out of the box, it would have ended up a relic on the Pre-Owned shelf, destined to collect dust as a failed title.

But when EA or Activision have a launch riddled with problems which go on for months, people still line up for the next game. C’mon people! If we want higher standards, we have to stop buying into the hype.

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DID SOMEONE SAY, "FREE?"

I know, it’s hard. There are big publishers who have control over franchises many of us have been playing for a decade or more.

One of my favourite games to come out last year was TMNT: Out of the Shadows. Well, I’d say more like would-be-favourite. It had some great fight mechanics and truly felt like a Turtles game worthy of the franchise, but it shipped with an uncanny amount of bugs which were never fixed even with frequent requests to Activision’s customer support. Of course, there were absolutely NO official lines of communication for that specific game, so it became clear rather quickly that Activision didn’t give a single fuck that online multiplayer would go unfixed to this day. Not to mention the fact that the Playstation 3 version which was promised within a few weeks after the 360 and PC launch, wasn’t launched until 7 months later… and of course, the 360 and PC would still receive no patches or attention.

activision-blizzard

Exactly.

But this isn’t entirely the status-quo, either.

A little game known as PAYDAY 2 is a great example of a game whose developer is concerned with keeping their audience. The game has frequent content updates (some paid, but even the paid ones tend to throw in a few pieces of free loot) and bug fixes with constant communication with the community. Every patch is lead with notes and hints of what’s coming next. Every patch is treated like an event in which to participate, rather than a wave of hope and/or dread that perhaps they fixed that thing you were hoping they’d fix, and didn’t break something else in the process. It may not be the greatest game ever made and it’s not without bugs, but it’s obvious that the developers care. They’re directly active in the community, rather than putting up complicated and convoluted “customer support” lines of communication which only put up more barriers between the developer and the user.

Nintendo seems to still understand how to make games without bugs as well. Most of the recent games I have, even with online features tend to receive one, maybe two updates in their lifespan. Game breaking bugs are rarely, if ever an issue, and there’s never any complicated DRM procedures to muck up the process of actually playing.

twogens

It's almost like they've been doing this for 30+ years...

I know I asked the question, but I feel like my answer is coming quickly. I know there are plenty of indie developers with a massive disconnect to their audience, but they are often run off the road like the infamous Fez developer, Phil Fish or given hell for vanishing like the developer of The Stomping Land. Meanwhile, it’s just business as usual for the big corporate publishers like EA, Activision and more recently, Ubisoft with their intentionally crippled PC port fiasco. Why do they get to stay in business while indie devs get slammed?

I’m actually sure the developers working on some of the big publishers’ titles would probably like some direct contact with the gaming community, but they aren’t allowed to — so we end up with idiot PR dept amateurs who know nothing about game development, because they never even end up talking to the developers, either.

pcwhocares

 

"I recall replying saying that the game was not downgraded, i still stick to that yes." - Ubisoft PR

So I guess the real question is, do the big publishers still deserve our money after consistently releasing disappointing products? Should we not expect more? Is it really worth it to spend $60 on a game you know in your very soul will be terrible, but happens to have a fully rendered Kevin Spacey? I’m not necessarily calling for a boycott, but perhaps people shouldn’t line up for the midnight release when it’s becoming more likely that the game will end up in the bargain bin for $10 after 6 months. If you don’t want a repeat of Ghosts, or the BF4 launch, don’t rush out the door to line the big publishers’ wallets. That’s exactly what they’re expecting you to do.

/gameon

halrrod

Hardware is not exempt, either.

Something Something, Game News – Next-Gen Consoles: Where is the “Next-Gen?”

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It recently occurred to me that the so-called “next-gen” consoles (PS4 and XBONE, specifically) will have been released for a whole year in two months. Now, I don’t have much experience with either console as I don’t own them, so I don’t pretend to be an expert on their daily operative functionality. However, I will be spending the entirety of this entry explaining why I have no interest in them at all, and will likely never own one. Aren’t you excited?

Instead of my typically cheeky image, let’s start with a short video from ReviewTechUSA:

If you like general gaming industry banter, this guy often makes some pretty good points.

Since I know some of you didn’t bother to watch (I know, 7 minutes seems like a long time on the internet), the general point of his message is that the XB1 and PS4 are woefully antiquated for their generation. His main argument is that they aren’t at all prepared for 4K picture quality as “4K is here.” I’m a little hesitant to agree with that particular assessment as nothing else is ready for 4K either, aside from PC towers for which the average person would need a loan. BluRays aren’t in 4K, TV isn’t in 4K, YouTube and Netflix certainly aren’t either, so I’m not jumping on the 4K bandwagon just yet. I give it at least another 2-4 years before we really start seeing those kinds of resolutions from general media sources.

However, I completely agree with his overall sentiment.

consolespower

I know, graphs of GFLOPS get the ladies wet.

Remember the difference between SNES and N64? Or even the difference between N64 and Gamecube? Hell, the difference between PS2 and PS3. It was always easy to be blown away by the new generation because it was always mind blowing how much better the graphics were. The first time I saw a PS4 demo at my local game shop, my first reaction was “meh.” While I was never a big playstation fan myself, I couldn’t deny the difference in graphics between the PS2 and PS3 was impressive. Yet, I’ve been playing games on my tower that look better than games on the PS4 since before it even came out. Not only that, but they have to keep showing us side-by-side comparisons of 360/XB1 and PS3/PS4 versions of the same games just to convince us of how much different they look.

sonextgen

Well I'm convinced.

Yet, that’s still not really the point I’m trying to make here. I could go on and on about how underpowered the technology is, and talk about bytes and hertz and screen resolutions, and blah blah blah… but this is a tired argument and frankly, the biggest reason why people hate the PC gamer community. It’s also not the main reason why I am avoiding the “next-gen” consoles.

Where am I going with this?

Games.

The new consoles have no games. It’s been a year, and neither one has any exclusive games worth upgrading for. All of the most anticipated titles are cross-platform (i.e. Destiny, Titanfall, etc), and no-brainer re-releases like The Last of Us HD should have been a launch title rather than an after-thought.

noplansforlastofus

"No plans" apparently means, "We didn't realize how much money it would make."

Meanwhile, the Wii U, having been the wet blanket of the console industry until two months ago is now dominating the XBONE in sales. Mario 3D World is also an impressive release, as is nearly every Nintendo first-party title. Throw in the hot items for 3DS such as Link Between Worlds, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Pokemon X/Y, etc, and suddenly Nintendo doesn’t look like such a chump. While they have the weakest hardware technology, they have the best list of exclusive games. You don’t need a PS4 to play the latest Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed.

globalhardware

 

"But Nintendo is for babies!" - Super serious adults trying to justify $400 on a Netflix machine.

All the while, the PC market is flooding with incredible indie titles foregoing the idea that you need a big franchise and a big publisher to make a good game that makes good money. Analysts suggest the PC market is already overtaking the console market.

Now, I’m not crying doom and gloom for the console market. I don’t think the PS4 and XBONE are going to die, and I don’t think the PC market is going to make a huge surge and suddenly become the main box in everyone’s living room. What I’m saying is that Sony and Microsoft seriously need to rethink their product strategy. The PS2 was the highest selling console ever because it also had the most diversity in games, and particularly exclusive games. The big companies aren’t infallible due to their legacy in the market.

All you have to remember is that Sonic now lives in Nintendo’s eStore.

/gameon

hdminintendo

 

$50 saved.

Game Review – Planetary Annihilation

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Game review – Planetary Annihilation
Platform – PC (exclusive)
Developer – Uber Entertainment

Released: Sept 5, 2014

Rating – 6.5/10

PAsouthpark

Get ready to spam.

Planetary Annihilation is among the first and second generation of highly successful Kickstarter games to achieve official release status. Unfortunately, unlike it’s generational peer Divinity: Original Sin, I find myself wishing they didn’t release yet. This game does a lot of things incredibly right, but requires more foundation and less superficial to be truly deserving of its early adopters’ expectations. (and money)

PAwinskick

248% extra win.

Let’s start with the price of entry as an early adopter. Those who supported the kickstarter were able to get beta access for $40, but when the game first appeared for pre-release on Steam, it was $90. That’s a steep point of entry for any game. Eventually it was whittled down to $50, but we’re still in the realm of “AAA” prices. If I’m paying that kind of money on a new game for PC, it better be loaded with content. Luckily, I was able to get in several months ago when a bundle site (I believe it was BundleStars) was offering it at $25.

For a beta, I was actually quite impressed. Single player was a bit empty, and there were certainly some features in need of polish, but the core game was there, and multiplayer worked surprisingly well. For $25, I couldn’t complain, especially not for a beta. However, we’ve now passed release day, and I don’t feel like much has changed — except for my opinion of Uber Entertainment.

2014-09-17_00001

Yes. That's $10 for a single item in a game that may have cost you $90.

Where the hell do these people get off having a cash shop in a game for which some paid $90?  A game by the way that has barely changed since I first started playing the early release. It really sickens me when games reduce themselves to this if they aren’t running a free2play model. I paid for the game. Give me all of the features of the game. Maybe bundle them all as one DLC, for $15-20… but cash shops in paid titles feel sincerely cheap to me. You already got my money. Stop asking me for more while I’m playing.

Did I also mention that there’s no way to play this game offline? Yeah, it’s one of those “always online” lobbies, even though you can play through a whole single-player campaign without ever talking to anyone. Anyone else understand why new games are doing this? Me neither.

planetcrasher

But seriously, planets are weapons in this game.

Don’t get me wrong, this game is amazing. There’s no other RTS quite like it once you experience the immense scale of planet smashing.

Many will compare it to old titles like Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander, and it does share similarities in it’s style of “spam warfare.” Honestly, its similarity to them is what I consider a bit of a detriment, because it tends to become less about tactics and more about speed and efficiency. I wish base building were a little slower and perhaps required a few more steps in between building super structures.

planetary-annihilation

Everything burns. Everything.

However, all that is left behind when you have multiple planets in a system buzzing with activity. You get a pretty wide array of units at your command able to traverse the varying terrains of each planet. You’ll be building factories, wiping out enemy units, moving around satellites and resources, all while feeling rather omnipotent. Especially when you unlock the deathstar-esque super weapons. If nothing else, this game effectively provides the sense of grandeur you might expect from using celestial bodies as target practice.

bigboom

It was blocking my view.

My biggest problem with this game is how vacant the single player campaign feels after having higher expectations during the beta. At the heart of any good strategy should be a deep, involving single player campaign. Multiplayer works fine in this game, but it gets repetitive and it felt finished a long time ago. When the biggest addition to the official release was a cash shop and a map editor, I was unimpressed.

As a whole, this title gets big points for style. I wouldn’t even say that the game suffers particularly in any area of execution. But it needs tweaking, and it plainly lacks content for how much hype it was getting. Get rid of the cash shop, give me more single player, and let me play offline for fuck sakes. With some significant improvements, (but mostly simple changes) this game could easily be an 8 or a 9.

I like it, but I think it could be much better.

/gameon

buildfactories

P.S. You always should have built more factories.