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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Child of Light - PC Review 9/10

There have been few games that really just stood out to me more than this one. In a generation where games keep trying to be as gritty as possible, its refreshing to see a game actually take a different approach to telling a story with not only its visuals but art style, story as well as the atmosphere. Is it any good? Well... I DID give it an almost perfect score so... ya... it is. But, on to the semantics and more finer details.

The Good: This game looks really nice. I say nice from he stand point of art direction rather than simply graphics because graphics don't really give an atmosphere or general feel to the game. Whereas this is more of a storybook visual which makes it very visually pleasing. There are a few areas in the game and I've been to a few as most of my reviews are based on the first few hours of a game, which I personally feel is the way to go about things.
The combat system is actually very competent. I say competent rather than good or excellent because competent is really a sensible thing to say. You'll have (as far as I've seen) three enemies to battle at a time. There are a few moves you can use that will allow you to hit all enemies but those are in further levels of each character. I'll talk about the skill tree later. There's a little bar that details when your wait time is and when you can take action. If you're smart and cunning, you can also attack enemies once they get into their acting portion to interrupt their attack and make it so they are unable to act for that certain period of time. However, enemies can also do this to any of your party members, so you have to be careful when to block and take less damage, or attack hoping that you don't get attacked first. You can also slow down enemies a bit during either their act or wait time but you can only do it to one enemy at a time and not for forever so there's a general learning curve that's easy but not child's game easy.
I do love the story. Its very unique taking not only a story book cliche approach and flipping it on its head, but how well its presented in visuals and dialogue. The cutscenes are voiced like if you were being read it as a child before bed time with a simple A B C B rhyming scheme through most of it with a few alterations. I was surprised how well this worked out in the long run. Apart from that, the writing is very good. Each rhyming is well written as well as comical at times. Each character is written well and realistically without pandering to certain stereotypes that girls are weak and their speech should be weak. The little girl protagonist is outspoken and sometimes bratty, but you can't but help feel with her plight and you don't find her dialogue irritating, rather as someone in a foreign situation.

The Meh:
I suppose the thing I would have liked put in is an attack out of combat. It could have done well for minor puzzles but the thing I wanted it for was combat. You can kind of stun enemies before entering into combat to get the jump on them which allows you to have a little less wait time. The problem is, I have no idea how to really do it. You can stun then and then just stand right on them till they get unstunned. It would have made combat a little less of a chore to do. I was skipping a few enemies just do I could continue a few times.
I've never been a big fan of Ubisoft's Uplay system for PC. For consoles, it works fine. But on PC, you'll be transferred to Ubisoft's Uplay system before the game starts and then the game starts. While I like having little extras with them playing through the game and being able to unlock a little extra content, it never feels natural to go from one program to open the game to yet another program to open up the game.

Child of Light is a very good game. Competent, pretty and well written. I don't know if I would recommend this for children, but it does seem to be generally age friendly and broad. I'm over 20 an I never felt the game was too kiddy or even too adult, at least at this stage. Suffice it to say, I don't regret buying this game.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Dark Souls 2 - PC Review 9.7/10

Never have I been so excited to die again and again and again.

For me, Dark Souls was one of those games I never got. Dying was frustrating, the game was buggy and PvP was a nightmare... but I kept coming back. There was some sort of sadistic pull that made me want to return. This game isn't like that. The game is thoroughly enjoyable, the graphics are amazing and the game runs about as smooth as melted butter.

The Good: Visuals are gorgeous, and plentiful. Dark Souls was pretty much just shades of bleh to hurk. From the first step, I see darkness and a beacon of light. Further in and the light leads to a gorgeous vista. The game is al about style in the visual sense.
The enemies are really good. Sure, some of the cheap deaths return. But ultimately the AI has improved significantly. Backing up when during 1v1 duels they're loosing, seeing an opening while you're healing and taking it. Before, enemies just threw themselves at you. Now, it seems like they've got two brain cells to rub together. One tough enemy was the Heide Knight. Since it was early on I was weak and only back stabs were effective but he had a special attack to deter me. Simply put, you have to learn enemy patterns to exploit them.
More healing items than just an Estus Flask? YES. Before, all you could hope was to have a Faith based character and some healing spells. Now you have perfectly balanced healing items you can buy or farm from enemies in the game. Now, you have a variety of ways to stay alive.
Every build is viable, even dual wielding. If you know how to use your class, you will have no trouble kicking ass. Sorcerors can now cast faster as well as Clerics. Strength builds are to be reckoned with and even Archers are now viable. Before there were good classes and niche classes only suitable for bragging online with. Now even shields are viable weapons.
The amount of exploration is very nice. Before, I was stuck dying strategically just to try and find the best way forward. Now I can leave if things get too hairy via fast travel. I know some people have been complaining about this feature, but no one says you have to use it. Its just an option that I like having. One of my biggest problems with the previous game was an area called Anor Londo. In which, after one of the easiest boss fights in the game, the difficulty ramps up to the extreme which makes the rest of the game feel a bit like a slide in which now the rough part is over you just seem to be gliding. It didn't help at all that Anor Londo was the place you would receive your fast travel for the rest of the game. A nice addition despite what people, fans and purists may say.
The game runs so smoothly. "But what about graphics?!" Graphics don't mean crap if the game is too choppy to play, and this does both well. I haven't had a single framerate issue on my 3 year old PC after defeating three different bosses in two different areas.

The Bad: The Emerald Herald is a decent character, but the game is doing its damnedest to make you feel she's important. From leveling up not only your character but also your main replenishable healing item, she just screams 'I am important'. In fact, Majula in itself (the hub world where she resides) is also too important. There's this item that drops fairly early in game that allows you to strengthen your Estus Flask's power. In order to take its benefits, you have to, and only can, burn it in that bonfire at Majula. The entire area just screams its importance.

The Meh: I've been hearing it a lot and I agree. Combat seems floaty. Your character just seems to kind of be standing on this invisible cloud as do you enemies. The reason this isn't bad is because it makes combat run smoother, but it has to be mentioned.
I've actually found one bug that seems to continue on and on. I don't remember the name of the area, but its the poisoned bog. There are a few enemies riding on the backs on these large humaniods and they fire 1-hit KO dark blasts. Sometimes, they'll fly in the air, just randomly, not even as a tactic. I haven't encountered many bugs but I just thought it was worth mentioning.
The way is... distorted. I don't mean that in a sense of the lore but from the stand point you don't really have a clear idea of where to go. Its nice being able to choose your own path but not when that path is unclear. For instance, I went into the castle area after you get on the ship. The boss in the castle, three bosses at the same time I should say, were all so massively overpowered to me, I ran through my Estus Flasks and died as soon as one of them was ended... with help. Dark Souls has always been hard but fair, and with the paths being so non linear its hard to tell when its being hard or I'm in the wrong area.

If you've never played a game in the Souls series, this is definitely the one to start with. Fine polished, fair enough so that newcomers can get in without feeling overwhelmed at the start and it has enough explanation to where fans of the genre can appreciate the changes made to both the combat and other mechanics, as well as fine tuned tweaks that you may glance over your first playthrough.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wildstar Beta Early Look

So I've been playing Wildstar for the past day now. If you're crying out, "That's not enough time to play the game and experience everything to the fullest!" then I'd like to say A) this is more of a look on the stuff I've played so far, B) every single one of my reviews are based on just a few hours at most of playing it because I believe if I go for more than an hour, I must like the game or want to traverse it more and C) when it comes to an MMO, B's approach makes sense in the short term.

The game is still in its beta stages and from playing it, I can see why. A few art assets are missing from tutorials for a minor problem and for a major problem is a few times where I wish the game would have crashed instead of what it did. Literally, just a few seconds ago I was playing it and a bug happened to me where my XP bar (both of them) was completely gone and some of the NPCs were at different height levels (ie. one was in the ground while another was floating in the sky). But hey, its a beta. And its not the worst beta I've ever played nor the most buggy. Just saying, the game still does need work, but its playable and these kind of bugs are bearable. The beta lasts until Sunday and the only reason I was able to get my hands on a beta key was to preorder the game. Admittedly, I took the dumb route and preordered the most expensive version at about 70 bucks if I remember correctly (which really just includes some cosmetic stuff).

The game is... actually fun. I've been hearing some people that you shouldn't listen to anyone who hasn't played up until level 40 and that's just insane. With an MMO, I don't want to justify my actions for playing this game well into the twilight hours of the game or even when I hit the elder game content and the level cap. No, the game should be judged on the first ten to twenty levels. If you don't like it within that time, try to work around it or stop playing. Its ridiculous to think that the best of the game is days ahead of me. And I can honestly say ya its pretty fun. All the classes feel unique and are available at this stage of the game. My personal favorite is the Spellslinger and I'll talk about that in a minute via the telegraphs. The story is a bit bewildering considering the bugs in the game are in some of the cut scenes. Minor bugs, sure, but its enough to make me skip over those points in favor of the combat.

Combat is actually pretty decent. Its not your standard click this enemy MMO, but rather a bit of skill is needed. The game sports a telegraph system which basically means that enemies will telegraph their attacks via cones, bubbles and other shapes that lie on the ground, giving you ample time to run or push all the damage you can into the enemy to stop them. You also have a dodge mechanic... which I'm not too fond of. You can dodge twice before you have to wait for it to recharge. This makes sense considering there's PvP, but in terms of everything else, it needs some fine tuning. Sure, it works, but it never feels like it works. If that doesn't make sense to you, neither does it to me. Suffice it to say, when I dodge, sometimes I get hit and other times I don't. Maybe that's just my fault but I can't get past that feeling to be honest. The reason my favorite class is the Spellslinger is because it works so well with this system. My moves are very sniper-ish. My telegraphs go pretty long and not very wide. This works because I can select my targets. Early on in the game there will be enemies who don't want to attack you right next to those who want to and my class easily allows me to pick and choose. The Stalker would be my second favorite for its stealth ability and massive damage. Makes combat more calculated than fun but still fun which I like.

Quests are a bit of a mess. Some quests want you to go through a large area to find stuff or kill enemies... it doesn't properly display this. Some quests need you to go to certain areas to get something... sometimes it sends you in the wrong area. When you pick up a quest, the quest giver will still have the same exclamation point above their head, making you think you still have quests to pick up in an area. I'm just saying a simple art asset change would keep the exclamation point for quests you still need to pick up, and something else for quests you're currently on. That's my major gripe. The mini map also doesn't seem to work for this either. There's been about two different quest markers on it since I've been playing instead of being a bit more of everything. Sounds weird when I say it, but trust me if you play this you'll know what I'm talking about. The large map doesn't seem to facilitate this well either. You'll have random numbers for quests and they'll be on the map. Its a bit confusing at first, but you get the hang of it after a while.

Honestly there's not much else to talk about. The game is fun and definitely worth a look when you have the chance. After this beta preorder weekend, there's only one other coming up from May 2nd going till May 4th, so if you want to play the game by then, that's probably your best time till the game releases in June. Honestly I'm looking forward to this game in the final product. It looks great and plays well.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thoughts on Piracy (mostly in Cydia)

Jailbreak developer, Nikias Bassen @pimskeks, posted the following tweets on Twitter on March 11, 2014 and they have been sitting with me ever since.

For those of you who may not know, Insanelyi is a repository for Cydia that is usually best known for connecting jailbroken iOS devices to pirated tweaks. At this moment in time, Cydia allows users to add any and all repos that they'd like to their devices including ones like this Insanelyi and even others like porn repos without any sort of regulation. In the attached tweets, Nikias says that he has tried to include security into this and that making it so users of Cydia can't add repos like Insanelyi won't do anything as someone will release a patch anyway.

If you check on the Safari Upload Enabler tweak in Cydia, you will notice that Nikias is one of the authors of the tweak as N. Bassen. It's understandable why he is so upset with the community at Insanelyi and others who pirate his tweak. It was his hard work after all and if he requests payment, he deserves payment. And if you don't agree, you ought to not use the software and instead find a more moral alternative.

Admittedly, I do use Insanelyi and for the purpose of piracy...but allow me to explain my side. I only say piracy as that is what it is currently defined as by many authors: the use of an application without properly paying for it first. Why would I use it and how could I justify it?

When it comes to Cydia, what you see isn't what you always get. With as many different versions iOS has had, it's difficult to know what tweaks will work with what version and what won't; not all tweaks explicitly state if they work or not. This is where Insanely comes in for me.

Most tweaks on Cydia do not have trials/demos of their applications. For example, before MyWi 7 was released, I wanted to have some way of getting tethering for my iPhone 5 but wasn't sure whether the current version of MyWi was compatible with my iOS version. Rather than paying $19.99 to try the app and finding out it doesn't work, I wanted to try Insanelyi's pirated version to ensure it would work. (In the case of MyWi, the pirated version didn't work as its security was very tight.)

Is it really right for someone to charge for something without allowing you to make sure it works completely? In the case of brick-and-mortar businesses, most customers will not purchase a product unless they can touch it and/or physically see it. When it comes to online transactions, especially digital software, it's a bit more difficult. But most companies and developers have been accommodating by either applying some sort of very reasonable means of return in case the product was not as described or with trials and demos that allow users to try bits and pieces of the product before coming to the ultimate conclusion to purchase. But how about in the case of things like Cydia and many of the repos that don't offer some sort of refund or trial/demo for the product?

In the absence of a reasonable refund or trial/demo, and when dealing with something as tricky as unapproved-of software, I feel that piracy in the short term is definitely justifiable.

Coming back to my story about MyWi, I eventually purchased the app when I found out that it was truly compatible with my iOS version and that it was just as it was described. With the case for many other tweaks on Cydia, I admit that I did try them first through Insanelyi then purchased them when I found out that they really worked. Also, I admit that there were some tweaks I got through Insanelyi that I found out didn't work and never purchased them because of that. Once I realized that, I removed them from my device and that was that.

I understand Nikias' frustration with users and I wonder if his tweet was targeted at users like myself who use Insanleyi in this same fashion. I certainly hope not as my intention to use Insanelyi is not to be cheap but to ensure a product's validity and certainty with my device. Am I not entitled to that security as a user? I'd prefer that developers like Nikias could offer a better way to try their product, but for the meantime, this seems like the only way and until then, piracy will continue supported by people like me for this reason because we have no other option.

To you, Nikias, and any other developer angered by piracy, strongly consider changing these conditions so that users like myself don't feel a need to support piracy. I've noticed that some developers, like that of MyWi 7, allowed for a trial which allowed users, like myself, to try the tweak before purchase. If it weren't for their trial, I wouldn't have been able to try the app and found out that it works and was worth my money.

Like you, as developers, who work hard developing these wonderful tweaks, we work hard for our money and don't want to feel like we were ripped off because the tweak never worked for us. Through trials, demos, or a better refund policy, users, like myself, feel more secure and safe knowing that we won't be forced to purchase something that never worked for us. It won't completely stop piracy as there are and will always be some who pirate because they're cheap and inconsiderate in not thinking of your hard work, but there will be those of us who won't indirectly support these pirates because we have better ways of getting what we need.

So what are your thoughts guys? Do you disagree or agree with my opinion? If you pirate or use things like Insanelyi, for what purpose do you choose to use these?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Yahoo! Answers...aha

Years ago, half a decade ago, Yahoo! Answers used to actually be a pretty good place to get some decent answers to some of life's most difficult and unusual questions. As time went on, it just became something for trolls, ignorant, and sensitive people to use. By ignorant, I'm speaking about those "answering" questions, not so much those asking as many of them are genuinely curious.

Yahoo decided to "suspend" my account a few years ago and never gave me a reason why. Still, to this day, I send them an e-mail every now and then asking when my account will be reinstated and why was my account suspended in the first place. To this day, Yahoo refuses to give me a solid answer as to why my account was suspended. Yahoo still uses this term "suspension" as if my ban is not permanent when it really is which also made it frustrating when they first did it to me. To me, I find it highly inappropriate to not give a user the exact reason why they were banned in the first place. I mean, if it was that bad, shouldn't they know so they don't repeat the same mistake?

By the tone of my writing voice, you can already tell that I'm not too happy with the service and that this post will be more of a rant with the site and how it's handled.

Since the internet's beginning, forums have developed into a fairly decent place to find answers to questions as many people bring their ideas to the table in many different ways. Yahoo Answers is simply a cheap, corporate ripoff of this concept. After being banned by the company, I moved over to forums and saw a huge difference in how effective they can really be in helping me with some of my issues. But enough about forums for a moment.

What brought on this post was a Yahoo Answers question that I read this morning. I truly felt for the guy posing the question. It can be found at this link.

The original poster asked a genuinely interesting question that I, too, was wondering. He/she included as many details as they possibly could into the same post section and patiently awaited for people to answer the question he/she posed. The answers they received? Subpar, to say the least.

I agree with the poster's choice in "Best Answer" as well as their response. The "Best Answer" chosen is "Chrome is crap. Stick to Firefox." Seriously? Is that honestly the answer given to this well thought out question? The question, simply put, was asking why Google Chrome takes up so much memory. The poster already came to the conclusion that Firefox uses much less memory for the same amount of content, but did not ask for opinions. Even if they did, "Chrome is crap" and "Stick to Firefox" are not explaining the opinion given. They are just statements. The other "answers" to this particular question weren't much better.

You can see by the answers too, that each of them have major numbers of thumbs down too. To me, this signifies that the community realizes that these are stupid answers. Yahoo feels differently about the answers and refuses to remove them. I'm sure people reported the answers too and, as usual, Yahoo refuses to remove the unnecessary answers.

For me, personally, Yahoo removed a few of my answers that I gave. One such situation still bothers me as to why they did it.

A user posed a question asking for information about torrents. They were genuinely curious about what torrents were and how they worked. I responded by simply answering their question by explaining how the peer to peer network works as well as brief information on the programs used like uTorrent. I also made sure to inform them that most torrenting is illegal in most countries. How did Yahoo respond? Removing my comment and placing me on a temporary suspension. For what? Answering the question with accuracy?

Seeing my unfair treatment and then the way Yahoo treats trolls and ignorant people like the ones replying to the question above made me lose respect for the website in whole. It became a joke and things still haven't changed today.

Besides the lack of support the company provides, the website itself is, as I said before, a cheap, corporate attempt at a forum. What makes forums far superior are two distinct things.

For one, forums allow multiple inputs by each user; whereas Yahoo Answers only allows one post per user per question. In this, forums allow healthy dialogue amongst users that evolves and you can see the evolution in real time by going through the various pages. In Yahoo Answers, it's nothing but a bunch of ugly edits, one after another, for users to have a conversation over a specific topic.

Secondly, Yahoo Answers is too generalized and using a points system increases the amount of idiotic responses people receive. One of the worst responses I saw and still see today is people "answering" questions with "I don't know". This is the result of Yahoo Answers enticing users with points for each answer they give regardless how useful the answer is or not. Then the generalization of the website based on categories increases the amount of ignorant replies. Someone may have joined and have more knowledge in fashion, but will answer questions in technology and automotive because they're bored and want points. Forums have an advantage because they are centralized and the users are there because they are experienced in that particular area.

True, I may be a member of a forum just for one reason and that means I'll be the member of multiple forums with multiple identities, but it's much better than being in a place like Yahoo Answers where the users don't always know what they're talking about. You can get much better answers regarding your Android device from than you will by asking it on Yahoo Answers.

I still contact Yahoo about my "suspension" just to see if they've changed, but I don't think they will any time soon. I don't have faith they'll ever change and I don't really care about coming back. But the company should change. I often come across Yahoo Answers in my online searches to questions and time and time again I see questions like this that continue to go unanswered. Yahoo is stuck in their ways and the small community they have is far too dedicated to something lacking what other sites can provide because it's all they know.

It was a nice idea, but its execution was flawed.