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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dwelvers PC Review - 8.5/10

Dwelvers is a dungeon management game. Dungeon management is kind of like an RTS except all your troops (or in this case minions/monsters) all follow their own agenda unless otherwise instructed to. The goal of the game is to mine into other dungeons, kill other monsters and heroes in order to have the biggest and best dungeon ever. The game is in its pre Alpha state but the product itself is finished enough to give me a decent review.

The Good:
I never thought I would have this much fun with a game like this. I always wanted to play Dungeon Keeper but I could never find it on Steam or anywhere else. While I believe this game doesn't have as much content, you could consider it a spiritual successor at least. Your main objective is to basically just mine through the small area you've been given. Within your area, you construct various pens and rooms to satisfy or strengthen your minions. The biggest problem you'll be faced with is the fact that you'll need to keep building more beds and such to satisfy your troops throughout the massive dungeons otherwise they'll have to walk back miles to get back to the main dungeon's first room.
The game has a good amount of strategy to it. Your troops can die but they can either be brought back to health just by sleeping in a bed or even become ghosts who can still fight for you. You get new troop types by killing other, newer monsters. Taking over enemy locations will allow you to build those places in certain cases. I've only found two, though I suspect this number may go up once the game is fully finished.

The Bad:
The game doesn't really explain much. Sure, there is a tutorial mode, but I shouldn't have to play it in order to know basic things. For example, every time you build something it costs materials. However, those materials need to be picked up manually by your troops. You can easily become overwhelmed with tasks once you've gotten a pretty good ways through the game. Resources to build these things are not infinite apparently. The one big problem I faced was trying to get more wood... however, there is no wood in the game at least not in this build. Does wood come from vines that are sometimes in the walls? If so, that is finite as well, or as far as I've seen. Apart from digging into my floors, I just can't find any more vines. After a while of messing around, I found that there is a mining block you can build over certain blocks. However, even that takes wood to build so build it too late and you can't build it. Even then I have no idea if the vines are even being mined. My wood count doesn't go up in the slightest and it doesn't look as if the vine is being mined at all. I think you're supposed to trade with other tribes but the game told me that after I had already exhausted my resources in order to build a trade station.
Speaking of not explaining much, I have no idea how to get more troops or get newer troops. Sure, I said that you get them by killing newer monsters but that doesn't always work. If you want to build a kitchen and a bar you need a Piggeh, a special type of monster for that. To get one you need to build a bed for it and they will just appear/be made. One time, I mined into a labyrinth, which I never found again after that playthrough. In that dungeon, there were these minotaur like creatures. After I killed them, nothing happened. I didn't get to make them or have them made for me. So I just didn't care after a while and then the game spits out one for me without any notice. A few times, a lot of my troops will complain they are hungry despite the fact I have a place where they can eat as well as a farm that gets the food. Am I missing something?

The Meh:
This is one of those games where you need to be using a mouse and not a track pad. Unfortunately, I have a laptop so I'm stuck using my USB mouse. I say need because you need to use the scroll wheel to move the camera 360. If you don't, prepare to A) not be able to finish the tutorial and B) constantly have your view obscured. You won't be able to see past walls unless you tear them down, which is bad if you accidentally bring enemies back to your base because they'll trash the place much easily now that nothing is impeding them. If this game could have a 'lower wall' tool like in The Sims, that would be greatly appreciated. At the very least, a few walls would be nice.

This is... actually a really good game. While I have a few gripes, its nothing to keep from playing/enjoying this game. For 15 bucks, its not a bad buy. The state the game is in may be incomplete, but there's enough to get me wanting to play it a little bit more.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Witcher 3 PC Review 10/10

The Witcher is (presumably) the last game in an RPG trilogy. Each game has done it's own unique take on the RPG genre. The first game was a slow, methodical, PC exclusive game. Its combat was rich, complex and very non newbie friendly. The combat was overhauled in the second game when it was released for 360 to draw in new players though it still stayed somewhat off putting when compared to other games like Elder Scrolls in terms of simply being able to pick up the game and play it without knowing the subtle nuances of every single detail.

The Good:
Another game that reminds me I need to update my graphics card. This game is beautiful in just about every way. From the striking scenery to the character models, this game does it's best to make sure the world feels real. The game still runs but its choppy at the lowest settings for my PC. Then again, 'still runs' is better than doesn't run at all.
It has been a few years but from what I remember of the second game, but from what I remember I can say that the combat has been improved. Wards feel properly like awesome magic while sword play is balanced through dodges, blocking, counters and the like. Its less mashing either the quick or heavy strikes and more skirting around opponents to get the best advantage and using your magic properly to affect the outcome of battle with as little damage gained as possible if possible. The enemies vary drastically as well. Men use various tactics but nothing too surprising in terms of what you'd expect a human to be able to do. Monsters on the other hand are the exception. Sure, you might understand how they work after a few times battling them, but they always seem to surprise you. Maybe the jump from out of the ground or even just circle around the marshes and uneven terrain to get the jump on you. You also have to be careful around them considering fighting something like a drowner or even a wolf is no easy task and should be handled with utmost caution if you don't wish to die. Basically, combat is good. Best I've seen in the series in fact.
One of the things I wasn't too happy with in the previous titles was the story. Well, I suppose the lore is a better way to say it. You were told about some things but you never really had the full picture. I know I never really finished either of the first two titles, but I shouldn't be left wondering about simple facets of the world when I'm halfway through the game. I'd hear about important characters through single sentences or characters that had pivotal moments for other characters in vague details. It wasn't bad, it just felt like I was the odd man out in a conversation I was desperately trying to interject myself into. Here, a lot more is talked about. "Where are the other witchers?" I asked myself while playing the second game. Now, I can see more than one witcher as well as their base. I always wanted to know what the Wild Hunt was and now I know... kind of. At the very least I can see what they look like.
Exploration seems to be key but you can be punished for running into enemies that are far above your level obviously. Then again, if your skill triumphs over the enemies you can pretty much do as you please. Apart from that you can also go underwater and apparently other enemies can be in the water with you as well. I've only seen drowners so far and, true to their name, they try and drown you. Areas vary from forests, marshes, bogs, cities and just about everything in between. There's a lot of varied places you can go to and they're visually stunning enough so that you're not always going to be bored.

Honestly, I have nothing much else to say. The game just hits all the right spots and I've enjoyed myself so far despite the choppiness I've had to deal with, but that's my computer's limitations. Its a really great RPG and it seems every other reviewer thinks so as well. Buy it if you like challenging RPGs and rich stories.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

In the Minority

I really miss the days of cartridge gaming. Weird topic, huh? Oh well. I've been playing with my 'new' PS2, buying all the games I've never had before and mostly being disappointed because next gen has spoiled me so much. The thing that I disliked most about the PS2 was the fact it required memory cards. Yes, plural. If you're trying to get every single game for the system, you're going to have to go through a few memory cards in order to do so. Not to mention the immense backlog for the PS1, and now you've got double the amount.
The advantage cartridges have over disks is pretty easy to see. Each one has its own contained memory where as a disk requires memory to be copied. So instead of having to delete stuff from a hard drive or a memory card, all you have to do is plug and play. The downside is the fact that each cartridge has its own internal battery that holds the game's memory. As we should all know, batteries don't last forever. A few years ago, there was a big thing going on where people realized that the batteries for the original Pokemon Red and Blue should be dying around this time. A game that's so recognized and launched an entire series, this was kind of big. Not insanely but thinking about all those Pokemon you caught and kept (if you grew up when it was released), that's a pretty big punch in the gut for everyone who grew up. Or a wake up call to say, "Your childhood has been over for quite some time."
"But why don't you just get a higher memory space on your memory card?" I hear you asking. Well I have. Got the biggest one I could find, in fact. 128 mb, which by today's standards is pitiful. Weird thing is, this cartridge acts like its an 8 mb and only holds as much as the 8 that I got with it. So screw me, right? I can't seem to find why this is because obviously no one really cares anymore.
Internal memory always has its own problems. Its better if you can upgrade it, but you're always going to be stuck in that place of "I will never have enough memory for every single game," which sucks. The idea of not having to worry about that with things like the Jaguar and the SNES was amazing. Now I'm constantly deleting things from my PC or console because "There just isn't enough room for all these games." Currently I have about 538 games on Steam and I'll just let that sink in. I can never have enough room for ALL of those games, so most times I'm not even bothering to download them. I've probably only played about 25% of those games and even then there's a select few I actually care to play again. Right now I've got a little over twenty that I either play frequently or just enough to let them continue taking up space on my hard drive.
What's my point? Well, nothing really. I've always been fascinated by the divide from the generations. Each one has its own leap that sort of trumps the other. From the PS2 using DVDs and memory cards to the PS3's blu ray and hard drive. Of course the original Xbox's standard memory to the 360's jump to a up-gradable  hard drive that you could take out and put back in working order in less than a second. Is it progress for progress' sake or is it a logical jump? I certainly can't say for sure.

Blog Update

Hey everyone. Sorry about the lack of posts. Not a lot of games have been coming out so... ya, no reviews. This is just more or less a quick update on the blog and what we're doing/what we will be doing or are thinking about doing.
I actually wanted to pick up Majora's Mask for 3DS as well as the Xenoblade, but my 3DS has a problem (which I'm told is common) where the shoulder buttons just don't work anymore, so I'm a bit cautious when picking out 3DS games now and reviews are probably not going to be flooding in for games. Xenoblade also REQUIRES the newest 3DS model which has a circle pad and apparently you can't play the game without it so I'm thinking about picking up that... when I have enough money...
I've been doing some serious thinking into getting an Xbox One so I can broaden the reviews a bit. Mostly its just been PC for various and obvious reasons. While I'd personally like to get a better PC (or even better to build one) it doesn't seem like that's going to be all that possible, money wise and time constraints at least.
We've been seriously thinking about starting a Youtube channel, mostly starting with the PS4 just for it's ease of use and all that. Its not definite but its definitely on the horizon. If we do, I'll be sure to tell you how you can see our videos. On a somewhat related note, we've also been starting a retro games collection, starting with a PS2 and an original Xbox. We've got a few games but if there's something you'd like us to look over specifically feel free to tell us. I've personally just been getting all the games I never had as a kid because I never owned a PS2 before. We'd like to make this into a thing but we're not sure if that's even possible at this point, its just more for fun's sake than anything and pure nostalgic value.
In any case, thanks for reading this blog. Its always nice to see those views pile up and I'm always grateful to see people reading my work. I'm not sure if any games are coming out in a while so you may or may not see a review come in. In the meantime I'll just be talking about random things or whatever I feel is pressing on me at the moment. Thanks for the support!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Why is no one talking about this? - Dreamfall Chapters, Ori and the Blind Forest

I think one of the more infuriating things about this industry (apart from the shady business practices) is the great or just good games that get over shadowed. We all know what the next Call of Duty is but most games slip under the radar. Its even more unusual when it seems like no one is talking about a game at all. Youtube has its own people posting about their "Top 10 Underrated Games" lists but even then that doesn't cover all of them. This weekend, I picked up two games, one I heard about but never played and another I'd never even heard of.

Dreamfall Chapters is one of those kickstarter children popped out some time ago, October of last year to be precise. Its a continuation of the Longest Journey series that was around during the time of the original Xbox. I always wanted to play it if only for how unusual it looked and probably because of the lack of things people said about it. Even the worst games get their own time in the spot light to get roasted for their five minutes of fame, but this series was just that one title I always saw at GameStop (or EB Games back then; god I'm old...). I never got to play them because I was too young when it came out to pick up an M rated game, too poor to pick it up on the 360's arcade and not really interested to pick up the games on Steam. Too bad for me.
Its a standard point and click game. Pick up item, combine item with another item, solve puzzle with said combination. I've never really been a fan of these games though I suppose The Walking Dead series from TellTale has warmed me up to the idea. Its also sort of in the same vein as Walking Dead. There's a heavy focus on narrative but not in a bad way. Walking Dead was about the loss of humanity and the futility in trying to reclaim it. The story it told was never forced into your face and you were free to respond to it how you pleased. I can't really get a focus on the theme of this game other than "authority is bad" but it doesn't really matter. The writing is really good and haunting at times. Tragically beautiful at points and funny in others. Juggling both dry comedy and saddening writing is no easy feat but welcome when done right.
Speaking of writing, I really like the world building. I've never played any of the other games in the series but it never felt like I needed to. I decided to go in blind rather than get caught up. Thankfully there was an option for me to be caught up to speed in the game which is a nice tough. Its difficult to make a world feel real but the game did a pretty good job. Rather than be assaulted with exposition dumps or dragged kicking and screaming past terms and events I really wanted to know about, each dialogue felt natural and fluid. Though I missed a few terms, common sense filled me in pretty well. I knew what was a curse, what was their term for currency and generally all that was going on. In contrast, if you've ever read a book with just massive amounts of exposition filling the reader in versus a story like 1984 which doesn't hold your hand in anything, its leaning more towards 1984 but not too much so that its alienating.
I have my qualms about the game in certain areas but its a puzzle game and that's pretty par for the course.

Speaking of puzzle games, Ori and the Blind forest. I give off this groan whenever I hear that a game is going to be exclusive to a certain system, especially when it interests me. I can deal with it when its for a handheld system, especially in this generation considering the mechanics of both the 3DS and Vita are unlike any other system to date, but when it comes to consoles its really annoying. I don't have too many qualms about it, I understand the practice, but I just hate it how something might not get the exposure it should have gotten because not everyone had that particular system. Its like if your favorite series had its own cannon continuation but it was on a completely different system and then failed so now you can't expect to see any more games in the coming years. This game looked amazing to me and heart breaking. I was really excited for it but it just kind of fell through once I knew I couldn't play it for lack of owning and Xbox One. Lucky me it was on PC.
This is one of those few times when I debate giving a perfect score if I was reviewing it. Breathless is really a good way to describe something like this. Its like watching a painting move before your very eyes but slowly so you have time to appreciate it as the art itself begins to change. As far as puzzle platformers go, its pretty standard with a few variations. The story and visuals are really where it excels. There's combat but its done in a way I feel I can get stronger. If an enemy is too tough, I can usually end up using my cunning or just coming back later after I've gotten stronger or a better ability. Each encounter you have shouldn't be enraging but rather rewarding. If it is enraging, the player should feel in control so as to not feel as though they've reached and impassible point but rather have options apart from sticking it out to just straight up quitting the game.
Puzzles shouldn't be annoying as well. If I feel the need to window the game just to look up a quick commentary, then you've done something wrong. I did have to do it once, but it was more my fault. Rather than explore the puzzle, I got frustrated and looked up a walkthrough. Of course it was the easiest thing to solve so I felt like an idiot.
In terms of writing its more of a vacuum. Rather than dialogue, visuals are represented. While there is some text, most of it is just telling you minor things. "Go to Point A!" kind of stuff. Its difficult to make me feel sad or any emotion other than unintentional anger for a particular character. Its a greater feat when you make me feel for a character without even having any dialogue spoken. I don't like to feel heartbreak but it invests me in characters. Like how Tali is just my favorite character in Mass Effect for the things she did rather than me being told by the game, "SHE IS AWESOME. YOU LIKE HER NOW." An opposite example would be "Press button to pay respects."

Both of these games are worth their price tag. Good games that I had completely looked over until now and its unfortunate that I did.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Early Access: Oblitus

So I guess I'm starting up a new thing here. Early Access is going to (obviously) look at early access games on Steam. The point being is that I either feel these games are in a state which, while being unfinished, I cannot definitively pin a static score to. That is to say if I either feel a game has some untapped potential in the early access list, I feel it would be 'unfair' of me to evaluate all I've seen/played so far.

Oblitus is an early access game I never heard about. Literally. I just happened across a Youtube video... somehow, about it. The game is supposed to be '2-D Dark Souls', which I can kind of see. Nameless faceless protagonist you are, you have been given a loose directive to find... someone. This objective now tasks you to kill things/avoid being killed by things. I... kind of like it. The immediate problem is not knowing what the hell is going on. After the ten minute loading screen (yes, ten minutes) I was dropped into the main menu and then into the game after a short tutorial. You have a shield and a spear. Pretty standard stuff. You have a variety of moves, mostly just in poke with spear, throw said spear, block, parry, roll and jump.
Progressing into the game you may find small 'power ups'. Said power ups will give you different bonuses. However, as I've seen, these bonuses don't stay once you die and they don't come back with you once you die. First run I got heavy armor. Second run was a poison spear. Third was a spear that went through enemies. And last was an invincibility roll. This is kind of annoying. I don't mind not being able to take said items with me when I respawn but the problem is that I have no idea what said items do. In Dark Souls, I may take a risky path in order to get that one item that is just the most awesomest thing ever and not care about dying once I get it. In Mario, die and your power ups are forfeit. The difference is with Dark Souls and Mario, each of those power up are in static places. So if I was a Mario savant, I know exactly where to get the next mushroom and then fire flower. I can accurately go forward knowing full well what is going to happen. Randomized rewards are... interesting. They keep game play blind like in The Binding of Isaac. I have no idea if said power up was worth having my health shaved off.
Back to not being told stuff, you have a health bar riiiight in the top left hand corner. Difficult to see and since its not numbers, its hard to know how much life you actually have. Its a circle that empties itself when you take damage. Goes from green to yellow to red. Pretty standard. Apart from that, there's a moment when the damage I took led to me having almost no life bar. I mean in the sense it was either so low it was outside of my 20/20 vision, or some problem with the resolution obscured it. When I fought a boss after getting the heavy armor, my damage didn't seem to change at all. I seemed to still take the same amount so I was unaware if it did much of anything at all.

The game shows promise. I feel there's a lack of focus on certain aspects, but the game is playable so there's that. Combat is interesting and definitely has a 'think first' motif. Each enemy varies in how you must deal with them. Some easy enemies will be clunked in with harder enemies so you have to use your moves perfectly to survive unscathed. If this game was finished, I'd probably buy it. I do like the atmosphere and handling of certain things, so I'd say its not bad.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Dragon Ball Xenoverse PC Review - 9/10

The very first anime I ever saw as a kid and recognized it as anime was Dragon Ball Z. The series stuck with me all the way into adulthood. The adolescent violence, over the top fight scenes and ridiculous amounts of yelling. Its the perfect anime. All joking aside, I really love it. All of it actually. Though most people don't seem to hold it in such high regards, at least parts anyway. Everyone remembers Z but no one really wants to acknowledge GT and the first series is barely even mentioned. The games don't really help either, focusing on a specific series rather than the whole entirety. While this game doesn't have the first series, it does have Z and GT which is a step in the right direction. But enough delaying and onto the review.

The Good:
I might say this too much but it bears repeating: a game that runs well is better than the prettiest game. While I'm not saying the game's visuals aren't striking, what I mean to say is that it runs smoothly thanks to cell shading. Looks nice and it runs nice. Most every game tries to do the best graphics and the best shadow/water effects, my PC chugs just trying to render a single frame and even then its still screwed up. While I did have a few drop points here and there, it never became a problem and was at sensible times like during a brightly colored and flashy super move. Point is, it runs great and it looks great.
One of the things I really dislike about Dragon Ball games is their almost complete leaning on fighting. Sure, the entire series is based on fighting but we have enough fighting games out there. Too many clones of the same game with the same functions. Set in a small arena, 3D fighting on a 2D plane, over reliance on combos and exploits. This game does have some of those things but it doesn't dwell on them. For instance, there are a few large maps such as on Namek and even multiple stages to switch between maps in a single mission freely. Combos are there but they aren't thrust into your face or the core of game play. Dragon Ball has always been fluid. One fight can go through multiple stages, elevations and even different places. The stages rarely stay static so it always bugged me that the maps in previous titles were more scenery than actual... well, maps. You usually have wide open spaces, not only the ground but also in the sky and now even the water.
Another gripe I have about fighting games is cheapness. At the beginning, you're given everything you can get. Apart from unlockable skins and even some finishers, this never changes. So when I get to a boss or fight that is insanely difficult or just plain cheap I just want to throw the controller out the window. Adding in the ability to get stronger and faster through game play definitely makes me happy. The fights in the game are far from easy and I have a few losses to prove it. Though at the end, I can just go back and grind for more Xp or even just power through it by skill alone. Basically, the game is more accessible with the ability for veterans to take their course and the rest of us to take what we want.
While the character creation leaves some to be desired, it still is a welcome addition. Rather than pick that one fighter simply because they have the best moves, I can make someone to my own liking and add the skills and abilities I WANT. Do I want to be a namekian with a kameha wearing some Frieza soldier armor? Now I can! Or how about play as a female majiin with some of Vegeta's moves and Piccolo's armor? Now I can! Apart from that, each race as well as gender has their own additions and subtractions. Females are usually quicker and with a higher ki count while males have greater defenses and do more melee damage.
Back onto the subject of the previous games, they were always static. They always followed the same arcs to the letter and any deviation was considered a side mission. Here, the entire story is basically a 'what if' scenario. What if all the baddies won their battles? What if the Z fighters weren't strong enough? While we'll probably never see each individual enemy's ideal world as they see fit, we do get to see a small snip it of if they win. The ones who were supposed to stop them are lying face on the floor and an evil smirk cuts across their face. You are a time traveler and someone is messing with time, making it so Goku and his friends fail in each of their major fights. You need to go back in time and help them. I love this idea so much. Not only do we get to gloss over the major points of the series, we also get to be apart of it. One funny part was during the fight with the Ginyu Force in which your character accidentally switches bodies with Ginyu. An awesome point was when I fought Frieza in his final form while Namek burned beneath our feet. Its one of those things you just have to experience to see how awesome it really is.

The Bad:
Unfortunately the character creation leaves much to be desired. Why can't I have a skinny majiin male? Where are the female Namekian and Frieza's race choices? Its not a huge deal but there's a point where you have to see that there was some really cool stuff on the cutting board. You know what I would have liked to have been? A kai. While this can be added into future DLC, I just want it now rather than later.
The tutorial is lengthy and somewhat annoying. Once you've created your character, you walk around the hub world just... talking to people. Some people have blips over their heads to signify something to say but the game doesn't tell you that you need to talk to just about everyone before you can proceed. During this time you can't fight, play, buy items or gear. Also be wary of simply clicking without reading. A mission required me early on to go into a portal. Too bad I skipped over that part because I didn't know how to go through it. What you need to do is lock on and press B. Of course I, being an idiot, thought you could just fly through it.

The Meh:
The game is sort of structured like an MMO and its clear to see. There's a somewhat big focus on online. While I wasn't able to play because I think the server for the game isn't up, after a certain point in the game you can see other people's characters walking about. Not the people playing as the characters but simply stock characters like NPCs. Its not a bad thing but usually MMOs don't last very long. This game was based off of the failed MMO for Dragon Ball Z and it really shows. Even in characters. You 'apparently' can have more than one character. Only problem is all the other slots are locked out. So I basically just have been deleting my current character to see what the other races look like... which sucks.
Its hard to tell when items become available to you. I had two sets of armor for preordering and I did not like their look at all, but they functioned so I had no choice but to wear them. You never really know when the new set of gear is going to be available because it doesn't work by your level. I'm 15 right now and I've only just gotten access to lvl 5 stuff. Super moves can either be rewarded via missions but you can also buy them... sometimes. After you've bought them they just kind of vanish. I haven't been able to buy new skills in a long time. Speaking of gear, there's no real easy way to see which gear is better. It works off of increments of stat changes, however, it doesn't tell you if said stat change is better or worse than the stuff you're wearing even if you've bought it. It just shows what will be lost and what will be gained by putting on the armor and I don't mean loss as in the skills that are currently modified by your current gear.

I'm calling it. This is the best Dragon Ball game I've ever played. Its a solid game and at the end of the day I feel it was worth the price of admission. While you won't be able to preorder it anymore for the special little goodies, the game is worth it. Its fast, its fun and you will have fun as well.

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