Thursday
Nov202014

Star Wars: The Old Republic - Now with video combat!

Zealeus show a bit of combat in Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO as a Sith Sorceress

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Tuesday
Nov182014

Star Wars: The Old Republic

After originally transferring with my Rift guild to play Star Wars: The Old Republic at launch way back around Christmas of 2011, we all rushed to level up like crazy.  In the span of a few weeks, I got to level 48 (with a cap of 50 at the time) with my Sith Marauder, but burnt out and got bored of the game.  Recently, I decided to jump back in and check it out.  I ended up playing a Bounty Hunter to about 20, and then with the recent perk of 12x story mode experience boost for purchasing the expansion, I decided to start a new Sith Sorcerer when I played for a bit with Charlie during Extra Life.  I continued playing afterwards and earlier this week, I finally hit the new level cap of 55 and finished my story line quest.

Combat: Honestly, if you've played an MMO like Rift or WoW, or many F2Ps, you've played TOR.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's just the reality.  You have your typical hotbars, with ranged, melee, buffs, etc.  One minor difference is that while there's a general Global Cool Down, many abilities don't take just 1 GDC to complete, but rather some might take 1.5 seconds, some might take 2.5 seconds, etc.  However, this could be annoying at times because I never found an identifying way of knowing when my longer casts finished.  In later stages, I knew when to press my next attack button by muscle memory and repetition, not because the game notified me the spell finished.  I guess there's the graphical representation my casting of the spell, but that's probably +/- 0.5 seconds off, which is an eternity in MMOs.

One thing TOR integrates well is the companion system.  So whereas only some classes in WoW have a companion (usually in the form or a pet or summoned creature), all classes in TOR get a companion around level 10.  Each companion is also varied, in that some might heal, be ranged or melee dps, or tank.  Each class gets their own set of unique companions, with unique storylines.  So that is pretty fun.

Storyline: Normal questing is, for the most part, rather mundane.  Blah blah blah, go gather this or kill these people!  However, that gives rise to the whole 12x experience boost I was talking about: Each class has its own unique storyline, with interesting plot, dialogue, and combat scenarios.  They make the game fun and interesting.  By purchasing the expansion and getting the 12x exp boost, players can effectively do only the main storyline quests to reach 55.  That is what made me stick around to level up to 55!  If for nothing else, TOR is worth it to partake in the main story questline.  However, 2 caveats: 1) This boost isn't always available- players cannot rely on just leveling without the 12x exp boost under normal circumstances and 2) The storyline quests do have some rather difficult battles, and you will get outgeared doing only main storyline quests since the difficulty level's assuming you're keeping your gear reasonably up to date.  Luckily, my old Sith Marauder had enough credits laying around to fund my Sorcerer's purchasing upgrades.

Current State: I reached 55 and did a few of the level 50+ quest lines, and while they were fun & interesting, I still find the game overall lacking now.  Some MMOs have REALLY grabbed me over the years, and while I enjoyed my leveling bananza up to 55, I just don't feel the love currently.  I log in now and I'm like... meh?  Kind of like after my obsession with WoW ended in 2007 and I didn't feel like doing dungeons and raids until I got into Rift 5 years later, that's how I am now.  I still have enough FFXIV:ARR hangover where the idea of realllly diving back into another MMO doesn't appeal to me currently.  And if I really wanted to sink months into an MMO, I'd probably pick up WoW's Warlords of Draenor (which, launch issues aside, I've heard great things about) or wait for FFXIV's expansion, Heavensward, which is slated for Spring 2015.

So should you get into TOR?  The honest answer is maybe.  There are a lot of MMOs out there, and TOR doesn't particularly stand out in my mind.  It's not that it tragically fails in any one regard, it's just run of the mill is most.  The 1 claim to fame is the great storylines, but as I mentioned in my caveats, under normal circumstances, players will still have to either partake in normal (boring) questing or running lots of instances.

One last thought is TOR is F2P.  However, I purchased the 2-month subscription to hedge my bets, which I seemed to get correct.  Thing is, I have little problem playing a normal "subscription" price for an MMO, as long as I'm not nagged about purchasing crap- something TOR did OK at.  Sure, there's stuff I could have purchased with real money, but a lot of the things which would've been annoying (ie, crafting limitations) are included with a subscription.

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Sunday
Nov162014

MONZO Review

I wouldn't really call this a game, in the classical sense, this is really a virtual model kit builder. Utilizing the online store, and the step by step instructions you will be putting together models that sometimes have over 100 pieces. This game MONZO, was developed by MadFinger Games, and is currently available on both Android devices as well as iOS devices.

Graphically this application had to be of the highest quality, and I have to say that they did a hell of a job making sure that the model pieces all the way up to the model look really good, at least on the Nexus tablet. They allow for you to view and build the model from every conceivable angle, which once you get the gestures down will make model building a snap. They also have the step by step instructions that sit just enough of the way out of the way that they are available the entire time while you are building, but they don't take up a lot of your working space. You will also find all of your pieces and parts on the left hand side of the screen in a scroll window. Now one thing you will notice is that when a piece/part is needed for this specific page of instructions it will no longer be greyed out, but if it is, you are going to need to complete more of the model before you can use the piece. 

So as you can see this is really foolproof virtual model building. I have to say that I'm impressed with the amount of models that are available to build, and I'm pretty sure that that number is only going to climb. Now of course this is also the part where the micro transaction piece comes into play. You see you get your first model free of charge, and then you are going to have to buy any other models you want to build. So here's the dilemma. Since you are going to by paying for the models, I know that there are some of you out there, who will think, then why the hell don't I just go buy the real thing and put it together. Alright, so a couple of things, first off there's a bigger chance of you spending a lot of money on the model, especially when you compare it to a virtual model kit. The second thing is that you may not have the right space to build physical models, and making a mistake can be quite costly. 

Now I will fully admit that this is definitely not for everyone, and for those out there who are avid model builders, you are going to feel cheated with this application because it really makes you go step by step, there's no chance of cheating and putting things together that you don't need right now, you have to go in the order you are given. Now it is nice that you can take a picture of your finished model, after you paint and decal it, but once again there are going to be those out there who are going to be screaming for a little more precision, and creative license. 

So at the end of the day, if you are someone who may not be the best and working with physical models, but the idea of model building is something you want to do, this is probably the application for you. I do like the fact that you can utilize your device's camera and virtually add the finished model into any scene, but for those hardcore model builders, this is going to be something that is probably going to frustrate you more than you will enjoy it. This is actually a review where I don't think I can put a number on it simply because this is something that is going to have a unique experience with everyone. 

What I can tell you is that this is a solid application, the model building is easy, and it does throw facts at you, so you do get a little bit of a history lesson along the way. Oh and I almost forgot, if there is something that can move in the model, you always have the ability to animate it and see how it works.

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Friday
Nov142014

The Silence of the Sleep Review

The Silence of the Sleep, developed by Jesse Makkonen, puts you into the shoes of Jacob, a man who thought he just ended his own life, it's not really a spoiler to tell you this, as you will learn about this IMMEDIATELY as the game starts. The strange thing is he does not actually die but plunges into darkness. He will find himself with most of his memories gone, and a very tricky path in front of him to leave the place that he finds himself in.

Graphically this definitely gives that creepy vibe of anything could jump out at you. You will go through several different locations, and they will range from fancy to dilapidated. This is almost a side-scroller but does have the 3D space feel to it as doors will be in front, behind, and to the side of you. The monsters that creep around this game and will kill you with quick ease are very nightmarish. I did find it interesting that everyone is cast in silhouette in this game, but it works.

The sound is going to be used as another layer of the game. There are certain sounds that when you hear them you know you are in trouble, and you either need to run or hide. I do wish that this game was voiced, it definitely would have furthered the immersion into the game.

The controls are really straightforward. You are going to use the WASD combo to move, 'e' to interact, and 'f' for flashlight (which you can use the mouse to gain a little bit more precision on where the beam is aimed. I will tell you this though, if you use 'w' or 's' to face back or forward, you will need to press 'a' or 'd' before you can face forward or back, with the exception of left and right, there is no 180 turns.

Alright so lets get into the meat of the game. You are going to be put on a path that is really a point A to point B type of situation. You are going to be put to the test through each section of the game, and each section has its own wrinkles. There are going to be puzzles that you will have to solve in order to advance the game, and sometimes the answers are not the most straightforward thing. You may miss something small, and that will haunt you as you are combing over each section of the game to try to get a combination, or a solution. 

This game has a lot of back and forth to it through each section as you try to advance the game, there's also layers of gameplay that keep getting added, which I don't know if I really liked. The first real example of this is that you will get to a certain part of the game, after you have already run into at least one nightmarish monster, where all of a sudden you are now able to see through a peephole or listen to the door to try to determine where the monster is so that you can hopefully get past it and not get killed by it. This left me wondering why not start off the game with this ability. Then a little bit later you all of a sudden have an ability to hide from the monsters. Now I'm all for adding layers of complexity to the game, but this just feels like the developer decided to come up with ideas and throw them in as they went, never thinking about previous sections.

This is a tough game, and there's going to be those moments of absolute frustration, but as long as you save, A LOT, by interacting with the record players you find, you might find a hidden gem here. Personally this game doesn't feel as polished as I think it could have been, but there's definitely something to the game that kept me coming back. The story was interesting, I wasn't a HUGE fan of the font being used for dialogue, actually that was not a good choice, but the font didn't bother me to the point where I wanted to stop playing. 

This is actually one tough game to rate. There are parts of the game that I didn't like and then there were pieces of the game that I liked. It is a good game, but at the same time there are things that just don't rub me the right way. So I guess I'm going to have to say that this game gets a 6.9 out of 10.

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Monday
Nov102014

The Detail Episode 1: Where the Dead Lie Review

The Detail, developed by Rival Games Ltd, puts you into the shoes of a detective who is about to be handed one hell of a case that will change everything in the city. I know this is a slight spoiler, but a gang boss is found executed. Was it a drug deal gone wrong, was it a hired hit, why are all the drugs still at the scene? You will have to answer all of these questions and more. The interesting thing about this game is that it is definitely a point and click adventure, but there are definitely points that can definitely go in different directions. Now of course it still has a concrete start and finish, but this game actually allows you the chance of making different actions take different effects in the end.

Graphically this game looks pretty good, the one thing that does seem a bit off is the walking from front to back, I don't know what it is but it looks off. Now one of my favorite things in a point and click adventure game is the ability to toggle on and off all the interactive spots in an area. The developers do a great job of doing this, with highlighting the areas with an orange circle or arrow, as well as a greyed out circle or arrow for things you have previously interacted with. You will also get to see a wide variety of locations in this game, which to me is especially impressive seeing as the game isn't all that long and doesn't really reuse most of the scenes. I'm also a fan of the character design found in the game, you are going to see people of all different stature, race, gender, and age. Once again quite impressive when you think about the short length of this first chapter of the game.

Alright now comes the ONE portion of the game that left me screaming in frustration. The sounds and music of the game. This is supposed to have intense moments, but none of it felt intense. The music didn't really draw the player in, and the lack of voice work causes me great distress. How could a game that looks this well put together miss out so totally on one of the key components of a game?

The controls are what you would think for a point and click adventure game. Well almost, you see there is some tension and concentration that is introduced into the game when you are taking part in an action scene. No you don't have to worry about button combos, but you will have to make split second decisions, and in some instances you will have to get the timing just right.

So here's the deal, the game starts off with decisions in which whatever you choose could bare consequences to the story. The thing is you have to live with them as you go along. Now that being said this definitely allows for a unique chance of actually playing the game again and having slightly different outcomes occur. It is very rare for me, personally, to see an episodic, point and click adventure game, where there's actually replayability, and its not just to do something obscure, you can actually re-write a chunk of the game's middle portion. You are also going to get the chance to play more than just the detective in this game, which will definitely enhance the story that you will find yourself in. 

This game is definitely not meant for all ages, but it is something that I think everyone should at least check out. I just really wish that there was voice acting in this game. The problem is that I know that there are those out there who are going to bee turned off with that amount of reading required to get the whole story. Sure there are parts in cut-scenes, and in situations where you have to make a decision, that perhaps voice acting would not completely fit, but there needs to be something, and in the end you're going to be left wanting. The strange thing is that its a 50/50 split between wanting to hear more than the forgettable background music, and wanting to know what happens next in the game. So in the end I've got to give this game a 7.4 out of 10 (It could have been much higher with better sound).

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Wednesday
Nov052014

Ziggurat Review

Ziggurat, developed by Milkstone Studios, puts you in the shoes of a magic user trying to prove their worth. They will have to do this by taking on a tower that is ever changing. No two games will be the same. Well there is a start and a finish to the tower, of course, but the configuration of the rooms, the enemies you will face, the upgrades you will come across, all of these will be random. You see this is a rogue-like, First Person Casting, fast-paced, dungeon crawler (well actually tower crawler as you will be ascending, not descending). You will have to be fast because if you hesitate, or take too long to act you will be killed in a heartbeat. I say this having died WAY TOO many times to start off.

Graphically this is a game that you really don't get to admire much of when enemies are involved. I will say this though, I love the fact that there is destructible objects in the game where you can blow off a little bit of steam, and if you are really luck perhaps you will find something hidden. There are several different types of rooms that you will have to familiarize yourself to. There is the guardian room (basically the room you will HAVE TO GO THROUGH to get to the next level), the guardian's key room (this is the room you will have to find in order to unlock the guardian that must be defeated to advance in the game), the trap room (this is where you are probably going to spend a lot of time cursing when you need precision and you end up just falling off the platform), the minion rooms (these come in all shape and sizes, basically this is where you will have to kill all the enemies to unlock the doors), the treasure room (a room that can give you a different spell to use, or perhaps something else to help you survive), and to mention one more room you have the, what I like to call, the sacrifice room (this is the room that you can give up some of your magic, nothing, or life to obtain something that might help you out further down the line. 

Speaking of magic there is quite a variety of magical attacks that you will get to use. Some of them will simply come out of your wand, while others will be in the form of a magically loaded gun or bomb. The thing is that you will have your purple shooting wand (which is your basic attack) at your disposal at almost all times, the magic points needed to use this will regenerate over time. The other three types of spells, blue, green, and orange, have to be collected from defeating foes, and those spells of course can cause MUCH MORE damage than the purple. 

To truly survive this game you are going to have to choose your level ups wisely. Once you have gained enough experience you will be given a choice of cards, each card has its own effect, and it will change the game for you. I HIGHLY recommend that you go the route I usually go, and that's the one where if there's a card that allows you to get more out of experience point pick ups. Did I miss out on some of the level ups, absolutely, but I was always leveling up, quickly, I might add, and that allowed me to really pump up my character. I thought that I might have safely made myself over-powered, but the final boss still crushed me like a little bug.

The enemies in the game all have a very unique look to them, there are bald chickens mixed with lizard looking creatures, there are blobs, there are elementals, there are screaming banshees, there are flying skulls, crab handed demons, and so much more. I really did enjoy the variety of enemies. Well at least the look of them, there were definitely some of them that I really didn't want to see as they seemed to be the ones that chased me right into the grave, over and over again.

To play this game you have the options of keyboard, or gamepad. I am here to tell you that the gamepad is the ONLY way to play this game. Try as I might with the keyboard and mouse, I was just never fast enough to last very long, but on my first gamepad playthrough, I actually got through the first level of the tower. The game is just so fast, at points, that I couldn't keep up with the pace, especially when it comes to changing spells out so that you can try to do as much damage as possible, and not be left vulnerable.

So the interesting thing about this game is that no matter how many times you play it, there's always going to be some new wrinkle, or design that is going to keep you on your toes. There's also other heroes that you will unlock as you play the game more and more, so in a way, even when you succeed you will still need to grind if you are going to be able to unlock the whole game. 

I guess I should probably wrap up this review at this point. I will tell you this, at first I was ready to rage quit, and never come back to this game again, but once I found the comfort in playing with the gamepad, I definitely started to enjoy this game. Sure there were some difficult times, and some SERIOUSLY close calls (I beat a boss with basically 2 health left, if my spell hadn't killed him he would have killed me). So if you are looking for a fast paced first person shooter (magic casting) game where the levels will never truly be the same, you are going to have to get this game. If you are looking for something that is quick to pick up, this will not be the game for you. This is the kind of game that you have to initially play over and over again so that you can get a feel for it, and then find the best way to survive. This will definitely cut away at potential gamers, but those who are willing to stick it out are definitely going to find a game where you are going to lose track of time, and hopefully find victory. This game gets an 8.2 out of 10.

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Sunday
Nov022014

Wasteland 2 Review

Wasteland 2, by inXile Entertainment, puts you in the shoes of a group of trainees trying to prove their worth to an organization called the Desert Rangers. You see this group is about the closest thing you have to a police/military force that is out of Arizona and is willing to try to help all of those who are in need of help. The thing is there's a little something extra that is going on, that you are going to be thrusted into, and if you have the right people in your party, and you make the right decisions, you might be able to figure out what the hell is going on.

Graphically this game reminds me a lot of Baldur's Gate, except in a post-apocalyptic, highly radioactive, world. That's not to say that the graphics look dated, its just that the feel, the look, and the camera angle reminds me of BG. Now let me talk about the camera real quick, before I forget. I fought many a battle with the camera when it came to trying to keep the camera centered on my characters when in combat where the terrain was uneven. This was by far the most frustrating thing about this game. 

Now lets get back to the graphics of the game, I did like the personalized photos of the characters that you interacted with, throughout the game, I just wish that it carried over, EVEN A LITTLE BIT, to the character models that you interacted with. The thing is that the majority of the character models where the same for specific type of gender in a specific area, so I understand the need to personalize them with the conversation system, but it constantly made me double take on who I was actually having a conversation with. Speaking of conversation system, I did really like the way it worked. Not only were you able to click on a selection, but you could also type it in. Now there were a couple of cases where when give the conversation prompt you HAD TO type in an answer, and that to me actually made me feel good about paying attention to what might have been a nonsense conversation that I had.

Now lets get into the voice acting, or mismatch of voice acting. This of course is one of my biggest pet peeves, if you are going to voice a character, voice them all the way. Don't half ass it and have some of the dialogue choices voiced and others you just had to read. I understand that it is a huge undertaking to voice everyone, and with such a vast amount of characters you could talk with, I can understand the enormous cost that could incur if you were to voice them all, but if you are voicing a character, just voice them completely.

The controls in the game are very straight-forward, you are going to point and click. You will also have some hotkeys for special abilities, that you will definitely need to employ. One HUGE recommendation that I have for any gamer that takes on this game, is make damn sure your entire party is selected when you are exploring over great distances in an area, and make damn sure you have all your party gathered together right at an entrance/exit before you go through. First you might be screwed because you will enter combat solo, and there's no way to come to your rescue, and second off the game doesn't do well with finding your other characters if they are in a slightly different area, even if you are not in combat.

So this is a very nice, layered, RPG. You will have tons of skills to master, weapons to upgrade, and of course things to find. I wouldn't call this an open world game, but its pretty damn close to it. There's definitely a story you need to stick with, if you are going to advance the game, but for the most part, as long as you have water in your canteens (VERY IMPORTANT), and a rad suit (to fend off the radiation), you can go wherever you please. Now I will admit that you might want to pay a bit closer attention to the conversational choices, or prompts that characters give you, otherwise you might end up accidentally massacring a TON of people that really didn't have to die, but ended up dying because you accidentally didn't heed a warning, or were trying to hard to advance a quest. 

This game utilizes a five person party system, and I will tell you this right now, make sure that all your characters have their weapon of choice, and make sure its different. Ammo is hard to come by and it really sucks if you have two characters highly proficient in a specific type of weapon, and you seem to be running through bullets at an alarming rate. The problem is that you have to be at least level 1 proficient with a weapon, otherwise its basically useless in the game. I learned that one the hard way when I had not only two, but three people using pistols. There's also some other skills that will definitely come in handy. Make sure you have a weaponsmith, it is actually very interesting how many weapons you come across, and of course if you are not careful you will encumber your party members, so why not try to scrap it and see if you can't get a couple of upgrades to use on your parties weapons. Another thing that you will want to have, in combination, is a shovel and perception. The shovel is a hell of a tool to have and will allow you to dig up a lot of good items, and if you are interested, it can also dig up graves. The perception part is to make sure that there's no booby traps, I can't tell you how many mines blew up my characters for serious damage.

There's one last thing that I want to give you a heads up about in this game. Early on, at least for me, I found that I was collecting a ton of clothes. Well don't sell them, store them at the Ranger headquarters, there's a certain weapon that gets introduced in the game that will literally blow all your clothes (minus undergarments) away.

So I guess the final thing is this, should you get this game? Well that all depends, if you are looking for an RPG with depth, in a post-apocalyptic setting, then yes get this game. If you yearn for the days of old (Baldur's Gate-esque) get this game, as long as you are comfy with the guns instead of bows and crossbows. If you are looking for a game that gives you hand holding when it comes to the story, this is NOT the game for you. There is a portion of the game that if you miss the radio transmissions the first time, it becomes damn near impossible to figure out, until you start going over EVERY inch of the world. This game, even though it has its flaws, its ramping difficulty (yeah it gets pretty hard as it goes), and camera issues, its still a solid game, and I'm sure that it would be a nice addition to gaming collections. This game gets an 8.3 out of 10.

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