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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.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Why We Shouldn't Have Gaming Awards

Ah yes. Gaming awards. This is generally a weird subject for gamers. First off I'd like to give my opinion on award shows: they're dumb. I know I'm coming out of the gate swinging my biased bat around like a kid trying to smash a pinata, but I stand firmly by this. Award shows are about as interesting as... something that's not very interesting. Okay, so maybe I'm not a word smith. I consider award shows to be dull and sort of cancerous. The whole process is rigged to be either the most pretentious or the obligatory "this movie was actually good" category that pops up every once and a while. With no input from those who ACTUALLY saw and liked the movie, award shows are more Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB scrolling until they find the movie that was pretty highly rated and had that one actor who was in that other movie that fans liked but they didn't give even a participation reward to because 'gorsh I sure love them'.
The same reason I don't like award shows is the same reason I don't vote for the president: my choices don't actually matter. In the rare occasion an actually deserving movie gets the nod like Tropic Thunder, sort of brings people back to the thought that, "No seriously this time award shows are finally getting their stuff together and taking their faces away from the tight grip of their butt holes. I think award shows would have a lot more clout if they allowed actual real people to chime in to vote. But I feel much like what is the Electoral College to voting for the president, they'll somehow shaft everyone in one fell swoop
The reason you can't quantify what is 'good' is because movie is an art form. That would be on the same level if I gave awards to a Salvador Dali painting. Art is subjective. One person would see a brilliant take on the social economical norms of their respective culture and time period, while another person would just see a gloopy pile of paint. Yes, I'm going to hammer in that games are an art form. Accept it. If I saw a painting that got the 'Painting of the Year' sticker plastered on it, I'd feel a bit weird. First off that's not the painting I would have picked and neither would most people. Second I don't need to be told when art is pretty to look at by a person I've never met. In gaming its different. Movies often have their awards plastered all over their box but its more of a "You should buy this because people said it was really well made" kind of thing. Comes off as less pretentious when you do your best to market what people have actually said. However, the gaming industry has taken this to it's logical breaking point, releasing all new 'versions' of their game with the tag line "Game of the Year". The game doesn't even have to be actually good or even that no one liked it. The gaming industry thinks of us all as cows looking at shiny objects, Game of the Year, or GOTY for short, being the crowing achievement of shiny stuff. This can also happen for good games. See Arkham City's GOTY box art in all its messy glory, simply plastered with praises for it being a good game. Yes it is a good game though I feel as though I will vomit from your choice of box art.
Gaming award shows are even worse. Generally speaking, I don't mind people reviewing games. I feel that would be very hypocritical as it is literally my job to do so. Giving a score to a game is a decent way to tell if a game is good or bad. Reviewers use general and quantifiable ways to say if its good or bad. Good games should be rewarded and bad games should be punished. I am not disagreeing with you there. However, in this industry it has become increasingly apparent that shady practices often come into play. The most recent has to be with the debacle of Shadow of Mordor. The developers were so scared their game wasn't going to be well received so they did some underhanded stuff to get better reviews like paying off people. They must look red with embarrassment now considering that their game was actually great. In fact it was the best Lord of the Rings game I've ever played... excluding the Lego games. Those are usually good.
There is no committee of people dedicated to making sure sub par games don't get to slap that coveted GOTY sticker on their box so any idiot could do it. If you know anything about the economy, know that over saturation of a thing with devalue said thing. I know its tough to sell games in this industry but you don't have to do it in a patronizing way. I think the problem also arises with gaming gems. Games that surprised just about everyone but quickly fell off the map. In fact this is what this whole post is kind of about. I've been playing Dragon's Dogma again, a game I consider to be my favorite of all time. The problem arises when a game we like or adore is not getting the praise it deserves. This ties back into the whole 'Games are art' motif. Often times good games get shoveled under a pile of mediocre or bad titles. The good games often have a difficult time shining through the muck and gaming award shows are if the industry hands a shiny stick to the game to get out of said muck. However, that stick is wrapped in barb wire and alcohol. Its a double slap in the face when a poisonous industry content on lining their pockets at the expense of others gives awards to games. Suddenly that industry we have a love-hate relationship with becomes like an abusive figure promoting something. No matter if it is good or not, you have to take whatever they say with a grain of salt, knowing full well this is a horrible person who probably likes horrible things.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

What can I expect from Dragon Ball: Xenoverse?

Excuse me if my grammar is terrible during this post because I'm jumping up and down with excitement, figuratively of course. While I must wait an excruciating amount of time for this game to release, it has given me time to research about the game. And looking at the calendar it will come out in two weeks so ya, I have a LOT of time. In any case, over my browsing the web, here are some facts to hopefully get you excited for the game.

1. Its going to be open... kind of
Open world may be too much to ask for but this game will have more of an actual world. You'll be able to travel around certain parts of Earth in terms of Dragon Ball's world. While it hasn't been completely clear as to how open or what parts we'll be able to travel around in, it seems that the game has a bit of progression outside of simply just 'fighting mode'. This isn't new for Dragon Ball as a few years ago, in Raging Blast, you were able to travel around an albeit small but still free to travel around Earth.

2. The game will feature the same sagas as the anime including Battle of Gods, as well as a new story
The game itself is centered around you going through the same sagas from Saiyan to Buu. This is pretty standard, seeing as how basically every single game has had this story. The only difference being the GT games and any additions to the normal Z story. Pretty standard, except the story is flipped. Not to go into too much detail, your character is from the future and some bad stuff is happening. So you and Future Trunks go back in time and essentially mess with the time line to your own liking. Not sure as to what 'your own liking' will entail, but aside from that the story this time is flipped. Speaking of 'your character'...

3. You can now create your own character, complete with race options
FINALLY. I've always wanted this! You can now create your own character, complete with gender (equality high five) and clothing options, as well as being able to choose from a few races. From what I've seen, the races are from Earthling, Saiyan, Majin, Namekian and even Frieza. Not only that, but apparently races DO have an affect on gameplay. Namekians can use healing items to a greater advantage as well as regeneration when low on health as well as high health and defense. Saiyans have lower health but larger attacks and can become stronger if revived. No word on what other stats the other races have but I can presume that the Majin will have increased defense and regeneration and Frieza will have higher levels of Ki. Not only all of this, but you can choose to become and apprentice of one of the original characters, allowing you to learn their special moves and even be able to use their clothing options. Also, leveling up... which is awesome.

4. Differences in combat
Not a lot of them, though two worth mentioning. First you can now fight underwater. This isn't a huge deal, but considering this is probably the first time any of the games have added this in makes it somewhat significant. Will you be hindered underwater? Will ki blasts be ineffective? We'll just have to wait and see. Lastly, you can teleport behind targets. Sort of like an instant transmission, you can pop behind someone for a few quick attacks. This does have its own limit being its own ki meter, so you can't just BAMF in back of someone for instant wins. Still it adds a new level of depth to the game.

5. NO QUICK TIME EVENTS
This really needs no introduction. NO. QUICK TIME. EVENTS

6. The game is (sort of) based off the failed MMO
Don't you just hate it when you don't get the cool things other people get over seas. Dragon Ball Online shut down almost two years ago to Korea and Taiwan. Why it wasn't released here or anywhere else, I don't know. The game also allowed you to create a character with gender and race options as well as level up... and that's pretty much where the similarities end.

7. A bunch of new characters
Well... new as in you can play as them. Of course there are the cool ones like Gogeta and even Beerus, And then... Raspberry? Appule? Whatever. A bunch of characters you can choose from which is cool. Might be like a 'Dan' situation but whatever.

Bonus: Preorder exclusives
I preordered the Steam version which gets me two types of armor and access to SS4 Vegeta. From the website I'm reading, it also says that there is planned DLC so you might want to fork over a few extra bucks for that extra content when it comes out.

So as you can see, I have a lot that I'm going to be fretting over I would like to say, however, this game releases on a Friday. So far, I've been getting random Tuesday releases, which really screws with my sleeping/work schedule, making me choose to whether I want more traffic to this site by releasing my review sooner or sleeping and getting to work on time not sleepy. Whoever made this game release on a sensible time, I could kiss you.
In any case, the game releases on February 27th on Xbox One, 360, PS4 and 3 as well as PC.
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