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There are a lot of things I like about co-op gameplay.  Being able to coordinate with teammates to reach an overall objective is, in my opinion, the best way to play games.  Sometimes a single player campaign will catch your eye or stick with you, but for the most part when the campaigns are over most of us turn to multiplayer or co-op to get the most out of our games.  Occasionally, a company will design a game with little to no campaign and just focus on the multiplayer and co-op experience, but this is typically hamstrung by the fact you need to buy items in game or fork over a huge amount of cash for downloadable content to get a more rounded out game experience.  Destiny is a huge example of how you need the dlc to even play certain levels to get the most out of your game.  While I get the need to provide more content and make money at it, I feel that gamers without large wallets are starting to become victims of this pay to play mentality.   Thankfully, Evolve is changing this for the better.

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Evolve is the newest title from developer Turtle Rock Studios and publisher 2K Games.   Evolve is pretty straight forward in terms of basic gameplay, but where it shines is how you approach the various scenarios with your team.  Think of it like chess; easy to learn, and hard to master.  Evolve is a fully co-op game without a campaign mode and I know some of you are rolling your eyes already.  Patience.  The main concept of Evolve is that you are a 4-person squad tasked with your basic bug hunt, except that one of your compatriots is the monster.  This is a 4 on 1 battle for survival where the best man/woman or monster can win.

 

The overall story is that your group of hunters is dropped into hot areas and needs to assist the local scientists, rescue survivors, destroy nests, or defend certain points.  The hunter group consists of 4 players (or AI) each of varying classes; Assault, Trapper, Support and the Medic.  Assault is your basic tank/damage dealer, the Trapper is great at locking down the monster and slowing it, while Support buffs the team with different abilities depending on which character you selected. The medic is pretty obvious and tries to keep their teammates in the fight for as long as possible. This squad will be pitted against a certain monster in one of the previously listed scenarios.  One of the nicer points is that each class has 3 different characters to unlock as you become more proficient with your character’s particular abilities.  For example: Eva is your starting Medic and the group’s sniper.  She has a healing beam that continuously heals damaged players, and a bolt action sniper that has armor piercing rounds.  Now after you level her up, you will unlock Lazarus who is also a Medic, but he can cloak and revive fallen comrades instantly.  Each class progresses the same way and has enough variations between new characters to keep you engaged and entertained even if someone picks the class you wanted for the next round.

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If you select, or get selected, to be the monster you’re in for a treat.  There are a total of three: Goliath, Kraken, and the Wraith.  Like the hunters, each monster has their own strengths and weaknesses, be it brute strength, flight, or cloaking.  I won’t divulge too much on the monsters’ individual abilities because unlocking them is all part of the fun.  The monster, to me, is where the fun is at.  You get to hunt indigenous wildlife and feed while avoiding the hunters.  The reason you want to avoid them initially is because the hunters working in tandem are a force to be reckoned with for a fledgling monster… until you evolve.  When you start as the monster you assign a certain amount of points to the attacks and special abilities you want to use.  From there you gain evolution points every time you feed until it’s time to evolve.  Once you begin your evolution (5-10 seconds) you’re vulnerable in your egg until you assign the new points and emerge, bigger and meaner.  In total, your monster can evolve a total number of 3 times and once it hits level 3, the entire game changes.  At this point hiding really isn’t something to be worried about as you can knock a lone hunter across the screen and pummel them into submission.  Think of Hulk tossing Loki around in the Avengers.  Thankfully, the game gives you a total of three monsters to upgrade and unlock.  So that’s a total of 12 hunters and 3 monsters without purchasing any dlc.  That being said, there will be more hunters and monsters all available for download if you want to pay for them.  There’s even a season pass available so you can get all the content for the year as well.  The difference between Evolve and every other game DLC that’s out there (Destiny, listen up) is that all future map packs will be free.  The developers have gone with a concept that I think is stellar.  You get all future maps at no charge and the only thing you do need to pay for is characters or monsters.  That way if you go into a match with people who have dlc you can still play on the map and experience the new dlc and see if you actually want to buy it.  Whereas games like Destiny leave you in the cold, because the maps and weapons/armor are part of the DLC.  If you don’t have it then you’re out of luck.

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I think my favorite part of Evolve is that you can you play on random maps with random people or you can even customize your own battle experience.  This is one of the few games where if you make a custom/private match you actually keep the xp you earn toward leveling up.  So you can have a private match with 5 friends or you can do a match with just you and another person.  In that case, I can be the monster and my friend can actually control the remaining AI characters simply by quick swapping via the directional pad.  A word to the wise, if you play solo as the monster against the computer, be ready for a fight.  The AI is relentless and can spot you across the map and will hound you the entire match.  Now I know how any monsters who fought the X-Men felt.  That being said, the planet of Shear is highly inhospitable to both hunters and monsters, as you find some of the local fauna can take a monster out just as easily as a hunter(s).

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Just to mention a side note as well.  The game does also have a companion app for Android or iPhone users called Evolve: Hunter’s Quest that plays as a puzzle game, but will also unlock extra damage and abilities in the game once synced to the server.  Some of the unlockables for certain characters are definitely worth the time playing so you can upgrade your damage, healing duration, aoe, etc. for your hunter on the PS4/Xbox One/PC.

All in all my time with Evolve has been fantastic even though it’s only a co-op game at it’s heart.  That being said, with you able to play online with strangers or set up any sort of custom match you want, and being able to get free map dlc, this is the sort of game that offers a replay value that most gamers want and need.  So if you’re game, and think you have what it takes, grab a couple of friends and join the hunt.  The question becomes, are you the hunter or the hunted?

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For those gamers looking for a lot of action similar to the Batman: Arkham series mixed with some high fantasy, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor could be a good choice.  Set in the Lord of the Rings universe between the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, Shadow of Mordor is a great game for LOTR fans.  But, is it enjoyable for people who haven’t read the books or seen the films or for those who are not into the series?  Yes, one can play this game without any knowledge of the series.  However, it will be more enjoyable for LOTR fans.

The game was a sleeper hit when it came out in September of 2014, a hidden gem in a sea of mediocre games that had come out that year.  Developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bro. Interactive Entertainment, it came out for PC, PlayStation 3 and 4, and XBox 360 and One.  For the purpose of this review, I will be exploring how the game felt for PlayStation 4.  The game is considered an action RPG and utilizes a more open world map.

The short version of the story is basically The Crow meets Lord of the Rings.  If you haven’t seen or read either, first of all I would suggest that you remedy that right away.  However, that might take some time so here is the synopsis: it’s a revenge tale about a Ranger named Talion (voiced by Troy Baker) who is killed, along with his family, and brought back to find those that killed them (the Uruks).  It’s an interesting revenge tale, and it’s fun to see familiar LOTR characters in the story as well.  Since the game takes place between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, one can see Sauron’s minions getting stronger throughout the game.  Along with Talion, there is another undead wraith, Celebrimbor, who is helping out and giving him cool powers.  The relationship was a very similar feel to when Aragorn recruited the undead in Return of the King.   

 The biggest problem with the story is that, as a whole, it’s not strong enough to hold what I would say is the “average” person’s attention.  Sure, it’s fun, but it’s not super compelling.  Big-time LOTR fans would probably love it.  However, when I played it, I was playing more for the game play and not for the story.  As good as the beginning of the game started, it very much fizzled out over the end.

The story is in interesting idea but was executed poorly.

The story is an interesting idea but was executed poorly.

The game play, though, is very good, except for a few issues.  If you are familiar with the Batman Arkham games, Shadow of Mordor will be very easy to get into.  The game play is almost exact, and you level up in a similar way.  You fight in a similar way.  You can even change (most) attack commands mid-stride, making it easier to stop and counter and enemy.

The “RPG-aspect” (or leveling up system) of the game is very similar to the Batman: Arkham games as well.  Shadow of Mordor is not really the traditional RPG that I thought it was going to be.  When I heard it was open world, I was thinking more “Elder Scrolls.”  The game is very open world, and it’s very action oriented.  The leveling system is very interesting.  There are two skill trees to level up: Ranger and Wraith.  Each are interesting and fun to play.  There are ability points for getting enough XP, and the player can use those points to add certain powers and moves from the skill trees.  There are also options to upgrade the sword, bow, and dagger with runes that the player obtains from killing Uruk Captains (more on this later).

Overall, the basic game play mechanics of the game are very fun, but that’s not the crowning jewel of the game.  Technically, most of the game play is nothing new, since it borrows heavily from the Batman games’ mechanics.  However, the Nemesis System totally and utterly blew my mind.  It is new, original, and highly creative.  All year, I was looking for something new in gaming.  I was getting really tired of game play that is borrowed from ten or fifteen years ago.  Instead of relying on arena-style boss battles and push-the-button-oh-look-more-enemies, Shadow of Mordor gives us the Nemesis System, which I would describe as a roaming boss battle that remembers.

As you play the game, you meet Uruk Captains that can be pretty tough bosses.  If you kill one, you upset the balance of Sauron’s army.  If you or the boss run away during battle, the guy will remember you.  If one kills you, he will get more powerful when you come back (you’re already dead, so you can die as many times as you’d like–see the next segment for more details).  Not only that, but he may challenge a higher ranking Captain and change ranks.  If a normal Uruk kills you, he will get promoted up the ranks and so on.  If you die from something random, a lot of Uruks among the ranks get more powerful.  These bosses will remember that they killed you previously and comment on it.  You also can interrogate Uruks to gain information about bosses in the higher level ranks.  Each boss has strengths and weaknesses, and you have plan your attacks accordingly.

I have honestly not seen anything quite like this system.  I thought it was revolutionary when BioShock had the roaming boss battles, but Shadow of Mordor has improved upon that even more.  Sure, it can be a pain when you have a boss that has killed you several times and has gotten really powerful because of it.  But let me tell you, when you finally kill the guy, you will be cheering.  I also really enjoyed the strategy element that comes in when attacking these bosses.  You can’t go about doing things in just one way because what works for one boss might not for another.  Plus, you can make decisions such as allowing one boss to live so it will take out another (Uruks like to fight each other for power).

The Nemesis System really is the best part of the game.

The Nemesis System really is the best part of the game.

Here’s the only problem with the game play: besides a lackluster story line, the game can be very monotonous.  The side-quests are extremely repetitive and the nemesis system, which should be awesome, is very overbearing.  It’s hard to do ANYTHING without a boss targeting you out, which ends up being extremely annoying after about ten plus hours into the game.  The game play doesn’t translate well overall, unfortunately.  With a poor story line, the repetitive game play ends up being boring and hard to get through.  Sure, you can blast through the man quest with no problem, but for those who like to really get into the game, it ends up being very disappointing.

The graphics are fairly good, though there are much prettier-looking games out there for this current generation.  The overall look and feel of the game was a little dark and somewhat dull, which added to the monotony of the story after awhile.  However, I can understand the developer’s choice in this color palate, since it fits well with the dire tone of the story line.

The overall tone of the game is bleak and so is the color palate for the graphics.

The overall tone of the game is bleak and so is the color palate for the graphics.

Overall, the game is pretty decent: it makes great strides with the Nemesis System, but unfortunately does not do the same with the story.  However, it is refreshing to see a developer in the gaming industry try to do something different for a change, and I have to give Monolith productions a lot of credit for that.  Although I do not feel the game is a full price buy, now that it’s been out for several months, it would be a good addition to anyone’s gaming library at bit of a discount.

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I love me some zombies. Seriously, anything from Resident Evil all the way to Dead Nation, as long as there’s shambling corpses waiting to have their heads bashed or detached I’m game. In 2011 developer Techland graced us with a first person, open world romp called Dead Island and the sequel, shortly after call Dead Island: Riptide. This tasked us with picking one of several survivors (each who had their own strengths) and setting about the island with miscellaneous quests and lots of blood. This was one of the first zombie games I had played in a while that actually felt visceral in regards to the damage you could inflict and how an actual outbreak would be like if your were in the middle of such a situation. Needless to say, when I heard Techland was doing another open world zombie-fest I was excited. Then they said it included parkour style locomotion I was sold. Enter Dying Light.
Dying light is another open world adventure from Techland with a first person perspective that pits you against the undead in a more suburban type sprawl than in Dead Island. The main protagonist in this quest is an undercover operative named Kyle Crane who is dropped into the fictional city of Harran. Harran has recently been swept up in an outbreak that turns the infected into to the usual zombie fare. Crane is sent in to recover a file that’s key to the outbreak by the group he works for called the GRE. After parachuting in and almost being eaten alive Kyle meets up with a local group of survivors to begin his adventure. I don’t want to get into plot points here, but lets just say there are a LOT of side missions and quests to keep you occupied.

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Before we get too far I need to point out there are quite a few similarities between Dying Light and Dead Island. I mean, to the point where I thought I was playing the wrong game for a second. The combat, crafting , loot, etc. all feel like a sequel to Dead Island. This is good in it’s own right, but I was curious why this wasn’t just called Dead Island 3, then I started to notice things. First off, the graphics and sounds are excellent. Dead Island did a great job on PS3 for looking good , but the new consoles make tropical settings and suburban environments all the more realistic. Shadows are cast in very natural light as the day slowly progresses towards night, and when the sun rises in the morning. The infected even received an overhaul in regards to appearance and realism. The modeling accounts for layers so when you haul off and hit a zombie in the head with a sickle you get a pretty realistic result. They’ve even added a “stun” feature so when you hit a zombie with a critical it goes into an x-ray view to show the bone damage a la Sniper Elite.

The next thing that really changes things up is the infected AI. They’ll do their normal shambling and staggering, but with the new infected runners will come looking for you if you make too much noise. These runners make the ones in 28 Days Later look like pansies. I made the mistake of throwing a Molotov too close to an exploding barrel once, and although the resulting explosion was amazing the echoing shrieks that emanated from surrounding neighborhood let me know I was in for it. A pack of runners showed up and I figured I’d parkour my way out of the situation.

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This is where the free running aspect comes in big time. You can freely run, jump over obstacles, grab ledges just like Mirror’s Edge. Based on how much you run you level up your skill for Agility which in turn grants you more moves like sliding, vaulting, and even leg sweeps to break your pursuers limbs to slow them down. On top of it all of the mo-cap for the parkour moves was handled by the founder of parkour himself, David Belle. So when the runners closed in on me I thought I had it made when I climbed to the top of the house next to me. This is when I realized theses are not your run of the mill fast zombies, these are parkour zombies spawned straight from hell. They hone in on nearby sounds and will search for you until they find something else that interests them (IE another noise distraction). If they make eye contact you better get to running and try to break line of sight.

Needless to say, after being torn apart and re-spawning I made more of an effort to be aware of my surroundings. Then night fell. The voice over the loud speaker will tell you to find a safe house until morning. Now if you want to level up fast running around at night is the way to go. They give you double power and agility points for everything you do, but at a cost. At night is when the hunters come out. Aptly named, the hunters are night stalkers that can leap from rooftops out of the night to dispatch you quickly. This adds even more a difficulty because these hunters will chase you like the runners during the day.Dying_Light_Screenshot_12

On top of the next gen graphics, sound effects, and new aspects of game play there is also drop-in/out co-op for up to 4 players. This has worked seamlessly so far with hardly any issues. The inclusion of the “Be the Zombie” DLC rounds off the co-op and lets you invade another players game at night as a hunter. There’s also more DLC lined up with a season pass available through the PSN Store so the zombie goodness can continue.

Dying Light is definitely in the same vein as Dead Island, but with more crafting options, bigger and better zombies, and the inclusion of night time missions it certainly not the sequel people assume it is. This is one of the more fun open world adventures you’ll go on in a while. So, if vaulting off a zombie in to a crowd of the undead brandishing Excalibur (it’s an Easter egg) to remove some limbs sounds like your kind of party, pack up 3 of your best buds and see if Dying Light whets your appetite, or leaves you running scared.

 

By Garrett Green On 10 Feb, 2015 At 06:35 AM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Featured, Movie News, News, News, ROG News | With 0 Comments
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No, it’s not April Fool’s Day, no you aren’t dreaming. It’s really happening. Spiderman will appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

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Sony Pictures and Marvel studios have reached a deal to introduce Spiderman into an upcoming Marvel movie. After that, Sony and Marvel will co-produce the next Spiderman movie which is set to release on July 28. 2017. The two companies are also discussing the possibilities of bringing in MCU characters into the new Spidey films. Sony will continue to finance and distribute the movies, and well as own and have final creative say on the films. However, Kevin Feige and Marvel will be co-producing films from here on so expect to see heavy involvement from Marvel.

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The question on everyone’s mind though is if Sony and Marvel are continuing from the Amazing Spiderman Movies or if we are getting our third reboot of the wall crawler. While the press release say one way or the other, the language does make it seem we are getting a new Peter Parker. Specifically the press release says “… the ‘new’ Spiderman…” It also states that Sony and Marvel “…will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger.” Take from that what you will but one can speculate from that phrasing that they will introduce a new actor to portray the Sony-Marvel Spiderman.

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I don’t know about you but I’m pretty excited about this news. Personally, I feel Marvel will get the future Spiderman films onto a better track than where it was headed. I hope all those spin offs (Secret Agent Aunt May? Really???) will be axed and create a better focus on the films than setting up spinoffs. And while I didn’t dislike the Amazing Spiderman films nor the Andrew Garfield I think Marvel will do a much better job. But since Sony has the last say we just have to wait and see what they can do. You can read the full press release here.

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By Charles On 3 Feb, 2015 At 12:30 AM | Categorized As Conventions, Editorials, Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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“You should go to Magfest”

I remember the first time I was told this, way back in 2012. As someone who attends a lot of conventions in a year, names of new events are tossed my way by friends eager to show me something I hadn’t been to before. Most of them are, of course, anime cons: because when you write your thesis on anime convention culture, and spend countless weeks traveling to said cons to speak, everyone you have met AT the con wants to tell you about their favorite events here and there, in hopes of bringing you along and sharing the love. This is nothing new, and is a lot of fun when your friends come along with you.

But Magfest was something else. I had a lot of friends who would “boost” for the convention, telling me about how laid back it was, how it felt more like a party than a con, how it was a lot of music and a lot of games, so there was always something happening. And of course, it was always finished by “you should go to Magfest.” 

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Well, delving into Citizens of Earth, a new turn-based RPG from Eden Industries and Atlus, I was only expecting it to be a short, basic, easy game that may or may not be fun. It turns out to be a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. What is seemingly a small digital title hides what easily could have been a full retail release, yet it only costs a quarter of the price. Citizens of Earth offers much more than your average AAA games released today.

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Within the first few minutes of starting the game I was already hooked on its charm. Even more so after the next few minutes when a clever parody of a well known coffee chain surfaces, Moonbucks. The first few groups of enemies including Cappuccinerds and Decaffinators already had me laughing to myself, even further as the story continued, with more zany enemies and characters to be discovered. The game is definitely not short on witty puns and references to other fabled video game franchises that will have you cracking up whilst playing. There is no rigidly set way for how you choose to continue on, with many side quests and challenges to complete. One must also pay careful attention to detail, including what is revealed as clues, many times only being revealed once and could leave you wandering the world aimlessly in hopes of finding what is required. Although there is a HUD available for the current section of the map there is no overall world map. Combined with the default zoom level, the intricate and specific ways that many areas need to be accessed add to the overall challenge. There were some minor bugs that made it a bit more confusing, like part of Chapter 3 was showing it still needed to be completed, while chapter 4 had already been finished. The game itself crashed a couple of times but the auto save is very liberal, leaving little to no progress lost.

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As the Vice President of the World, your quest begins with investigating all the strange on goings in your hometown. As you progress, you recruit more citizens to help on your journey. They also are responsible for not getting your hands dirty, as the VP, they will fight all you turn based battles while you cheer them on (no the battles aren’t automatic, the VP just becomes an NPC cheerleader during them). In total, there are 40 citizens that offer varying degrees of quests to recruit. Not only does each one have a level that increases with XP earned in battle, they also have unique talents that also increase with talent XP. Some of these talents are required to progress while others are very helpful, such as fast travel, difficulty slider (which offers differing bonuses base on setting), and removing obstacles on the map. Combat is basic turned based, with 3 citizens of your choosing, partaking in battles. As with their talents, each have unique combat skills, an unlock more through experience, the depth and variation of which can greatly alter the outcome. The voice acting is intentionally cheesy, yet puts shame to some other big name video game appearances of late that were rather lackluster. The VP especially, left me constantly reminded of an Adam West type performance.

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Overall, Citizens of Earth is an intricate, detailed, fun filled experience. Those that may scoff at it for its appearance of a small or indie game are truly missing out. Some have said it’s a knock off or a lower version of games of old, yet it is nothing of the sort. Of course there are similarities based upon the game’s inspiration, but it has enough merit to stand on its own. I enjoyed all 43 hours and 3 minutes that it took to achieve 100% completion and now that I have a full idea on the layout and progression, I look forward to a second play through. Those looking for a throwback, turn based RPG cannot go wrong with Citizens of Earth, especially at $15.99 (or less with PS Plus and Steam sales). So hop to it and save the world today.

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By Isabel On 23 Jan, 2015 At 02:19 AM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments
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What is Richard & Alice? Well it’s a game that is not gameplay driven, but mostly about narrative the same way visual novels are.

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It’s a point and click game but at its core is a modern work that uses the video game medium to tell its tale.

The scenery is dreary and lifeless, unimaginative at most, the pixelated characters and scenery leave much to the imagination that itself doesn’t make the world it brings forth much more exciting. This works in favor of the game.

Richard & Alice is about the struggle of a woman to survive after a cataclysmic change. She is Alice, and the other titular character Richard is the character you use to learn about her. Richard and Alice both find themselves in prison for very different reasons and since he finally has a cellmate and hasn’t talking to anyone but guards since his arrival he eagerly tries to learn about her. You can play as both Richard and Alice, with the game going through days and the same pattern of action taking place. Play as Richard in the prison and then play as Alice when she continues recounting her experience.

Alice’s story is one very much like The Road, a book Richard actually has in his cell, since it shows the strain a guardian must endure to protect a weaker and innocent child from a harsh reality and how to bring one child to adulthood without damaging them in the process. Where The Road had ash Richard & Alice has snow. Blanketing the world, delegating it to a reality far from the one that used to be.

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My only real critique is getting places takes a long time since your characters move rather slow and the character illustrations next to the dialogue look rather amateurish. I really think having the characters better drawn wouldn’t have taken anything away from the dreary pixelated scenario and made the game stand out more. Other than that not much else. The writing is superb, the characters multidimensional, and based on your actions there are various endings with realistic outcomes. I recommend this for literary geeks like me, and gamers who want to play a great story driven game.


By Isabel On 30 Dec, 2014 At 08:51 PM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, Reviews | With 0 Comments
I! My! Girls! main screen

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I love the first Cherry Tree High game. A lot. It set itself apart from most visual novels I’d played because unlike most visual novels it was highly interactive. Usually you just get the dialogue and a few choices, playing more like a pick your own adventure novel. It is a medium with endless possibilities and lends itself to some splendid storytelling. The medium however is only widely used in Japan, with most western VNs being subpar cash ins for anime fan money. Cherry Tree High was a visual novel and a strategic video game at the same time. You can read all about why Cherry Tree High Comedy Club was so good in my previous review.

Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is the follow up I never expected to actually happen. When I saw it in the Steam store I could barely contain my excitement, and from the first episode with the subtle humor I’ve come to expect from the series out in full force I was greatly looking forward to some fun time with Miley and all her friends.

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Wait what’s going on? Why are all the names Japanese?” was the sentiment that followed. When I first played the game it was westernized, with the setting in America along with appropriate name and reference changes. This was really alienating after playing through the westernized game. I couldn’t help but wonder if they made an original version of the first game so new players can seamlessly go from the first game to the follow up. Turns out they had.

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I’ve learned about some wonderful things in Japan by replaying the original version.

Now as to why they’ve deviated from localizing this particular game unlike the previous one can be attributed to an entirely Japanese phenomena. Idols.

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As to what idols are; you could equate them to pop stars but the culture surrounding them is so much more different than that of the west, it’s a difficult topic to explain. Unlike the first Cherry Tree High game where the plot involves happenings that can occur almost anywhere, the emergence of an idol in the story now makes it impossible for I! My! Girls! to take place anywhere but Japan.

The events of I! My! Girls! take place where the original game left off with the comedy club’s founding and all potential club members recruited. This new chapter in the Cherry Tree High series involves an idol, real name Ai Fujino, who finds out about the comedy club’s revival and decides to attend Cherry Tree High to pursue her dream of being a comedian. This of course is something that poses a problem since she is an idol.

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The story, while primarily focused on this new character and Mairu the main character, also gives time to tell the stories of the other club members while introducing new characters.

Unlike the previous game, this one is purely visual novel. There are no choices, the story is told and slowly revealed. The game is broken up into “episodes” each with a chapter of some sort.

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To me this actually felt more like reading a manga than playing a game since there are no choices. Did I like it? Yes I enjoyed the game for what it was. But do I think someone who knows nothing of Cherry Tree High Comedy Club should buy this game? No, this isn’t a story one would enjoy unless they are already acquainted with the characters and setting. It is knowing the character and seeing them carry on with the promise of the previous game that make I! My! Girls! satisfying.

Mairu faces challenges to her comedy club from rivals, you learn more about the adult characters from the previous game, about the Cherry Tree High Comedy Club’s history, you see character bond with each other, and so on and so forth.

I don’t want to describe the plot further since I wouldn’t want to spoil it but any CTHCC fan would like it. You get the atmosphere of the previous game and the same easygoing slice of life dialogue while being told a new story. The game ends on definite note of  more to come, and as much as I enjoyed this, I hope the next installment is as interactive as the first game. It’s a good companion to CTHCC, but as a standalone game it lacks footing.

What is it that I find most disappointing about I! My! Girls! is the fact that this is not a game I could show to my non-otaku friends as an example of how visual novels can be for anybody, that it is not an obscure medium, and they can tell wonderful stories anyone can enjoy. Unlike Cherry Tree High Comedy Club it doesn’t lend itself to wide appeal outside of Japan.

The creator can’t be blamed. This game was made with a Japanese audience in mind, foreigners are the last thing doujin circles try to cater to. In a Japanese market obsessed with Love Live! School Idol Project and used to simple VNs like these there is no obligation to be innovative. I’m not saying the creator wrote to pander, it’s obvious through his writing he enjoys what he does, but the fact I! My! Girls! was so different from CTHCC disappoints me a bit.

Conclusion, play Cherry Tree High Comedy Club and then Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! If you’re unfamiliar with VNs and not a big fan of slice of life anime I suggest sticking with the first game unless you’re willing to take risks. Luckily, both games come in a bundle deal for max savings. Happy gaming!

 

By Jessica Brister On 5 Dec, 2014 At 09:25 PM | Categorized As Featured, PC Games, Reviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments
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When SimCity was “rebooted” in 2013, it had major launch issues that gave Maxis and EA a bit of a black eye.  However, a year and a half later, after making some major corrections, the new SimCity might now finally be a smart and extremely fun purchase.

SimCity (2013) is a city creation simulation game developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts.  It is considered to be an MMO (massively multiplayer online game) because it has a large work-together online component of city building, which is a new game play aspect for the franchise.  It was originally released in March of 2013 for Windows and eventually for Mac as well.  Though there was a decade between the release of SimCity 4 and this newest version, there were a lot of very critical reviews when it first came out.  Despite having a lot of cool new elements, the online multiplayer component was panned because it forced players to be “always online” and had a lot of bugs and connectivity issues.  It got so bad that it pretty much rendered the game as unplayable because players could not connect to the online servers and therefore could not play the game.  Eventually, these issues were fixed, including a desperately needed offline single player mode.  On November 14, EA released SimCity: The Complete Edition, which includes the base game, all of the city sets, and the expansion pack, Cities of Tomorrow.  People who passed up game because of the original bad reviews might want to give the game a chance now that there have been some updates.

For the purposes of this review, only the single player mode will be focused on, since this was one of the game play elements that turned people off from the game initially.  However, for those who are interested in online game play, the multiplayer functionality has been much improved from when the game was originally launched.

The new SimCity is very different from previous SimCity games.  Players who are used to older versions may be very surprised to see how much the game has changed.  The game focuses more on regions and collaborations than having players try to build large utopian megacities.  In fact, if a player tries to build a megacity without any outside help from other cities in the region (either from other players online or another city that the player controls), it can get very difficult very quickly.  The individual cities are not that large, but working as a region, there’s actually a lot to it.  Unlike previous SimCity games, each cities absolutely must specialize in something, instead of trying to have it all.  A city can specialize in anything from mining to tourism to technology, which is very different from previous SimCity games.

Cities are smaller in the new SimCity, which forces the player to specialize in an industry.

Cities are smaller in the new SimCity, which forces the player to specialize in an industry.

The game engine has changed a lot from previous SimCity games.  It focuses on the happiness of individual Sim people that players can actually see on the screen, instead of hypothetical ones that are delineated by graphical arrows on screen.  If there is a fire, it can actually be seen in the city, and players can see fire trucks going to it and responding to it.  Everything affects everything else.  Traffic issues in a city can mess with education, fire, and crime because the services and citizens can’t get to where they need to be.  If there is not a good education program, it will affect crime in the city and whether or not the people will want to recycle or not.  A player must also worry about ground pollution and running out of water and resources, which is quite different from previous versions.  One must play slowly and strategically in order to be successful.  Even the design of the roads and the placement of utilities and services can affect how things go in the city.

Regions are very important, whether a person is playing single or multiplayer.

Regions are very important, whether a person is playing single or multiplayer.

The Cities of Tomorrow expansion that comes with the Complete Edition adds a futuristic element to the game play.  Citizens can live in massive towers, travel on monorail-type systems, and visit cool-looking parks.  It’s not a bad expansion, and it’s value really shines when it comes with the base game and other city sets in the Complete Edition.

Obviously, the graphics are a big step up from previous SimCity games.  The game looks pretty slick, and it’s cool to be able to see the individual people in the city.  For this review, the game was played on a laptop with an integrated graphics card only, so everything was unfortunately set on low.  Despite this, it’s been very enjoyable and very pretty to play.

Just like with any SimCity game, the new one is quite addicting.  It’s one of those games that a person can get lost in for days and weeks.  The learning curve was, unfortunately, very steep, especially for players who have played older versions of the game and expect the game to play a certain way.  It can take many practice cities before it really clicks with how the game should be played.  Maxis could have done a much better job with tutorials and their game manual as well.  Sometimes Google and YouTube ended up being the best bet to figure out how the game mechanics actually worked.  Overall, it was still quite enjoyable and was a blast to play.  Obviously, when the game first came out, many people were not having a lot of fun, considering they could barely play the game.  However, with the bugs fixed and single player mode in operation, this game has improved quite a bit.

Overall, this game is a much safer purchase now that the bugs are corrected and connectivity issues are fixed.  Plus, the game is quite a bit cheaper now than when it was previously released.  For those people who decided not to get this SimCity because of the horror stories, this might be the time to get it.  The game play is a bit different from previous SimCity games, but it is a change that–for the most part-is for the better.

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Fans of the Borderlands franchise rejoiced when Gearbox announced that a new game would come out for the series.  Set between the original game and Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre Sequel (a made-up word that’s a play on prequel and sequel) would be the fix fans of the game needed while patiently waiting for Gearbox to start working on Borderlands 3.  So did it live up to what fans were expecting?  For the most part, yes.  However, despite being the best new game that I’ve played this year, it still does not compare to its predecessors.  But that’s okay.  It’s still a blast to play.

Overview

Borderlands: The Pre Sequel is a first-person shooter that supports both single player or online cooperative (up to four players).  It was developed primarily by 2K Australia instead of Gearbox, who is the original developer of the series, and was published by 2K Games.  However, Gearbox did work with 2K Australia during development.  Much to the dismay of many fans, it was released only for PC, PS3, and XBox 360 on October 14.  Gearbox stated that this was because there is much more of a demand of the game for the last generation of consoles versus the current generation (Source: Gamasutra.com).

The Pre Sequel is a nice addition to the Borderlands franchise.

The Pre Sequel is a nice addition to the Borderlands franchise.

Story

Taking place between Borderlands 1 and 2, the player gets to see Handsome Jack (or just “Jack” at this point) go from hero to the  much-hated (or much-beloved, depending on who you talk to) villain of Borderlands 2.  At this point, he’s just an employee of Hyperion, a corporate conglomerate with its eye making tons of money from Pandora (a wild, wild west type planet with a lot of resources; hence, “Borderlands”).  However, after the company’s Helios space station is attacked by a group called the Lost Legion, Jack must become the hero and save Helios and Pandora’s moon, Elpis.  In order to do this, he commissions the help of a group of colorful characters to go to the moon and gain back control.  It certainly was interesting to see Jack as the hero instead of the villain.

I will have to say that the set of playable characters you get to choose from this time are absolutely awesome.  I actually had a hard time choosing which one I wanted to play first.  They are all pretty cool characters, and it doesn’t seem like you can go wrong with any of them.  There’s Athena, the Gladiator.  Her special skill involves a Captain America-like shield that players can either use to block attacks or swing to kill an enemy.  Wilhelm is the Enforcer.  He’s the character that I’ve played the lease but has a cool little drone that flies around and helps you kill bad guys.  Nisha is the Lawbringer, and she is the character that I have played the most.  Her skill involves an auto-lock firing sequence that is actually quite powerful.  Then there’s Claptrap.  He is by far the most fun character to play, especially when playing in a group.  His special skill basically is a malware program that could be one of many different skills, some good and some not so good.  If you are playing with others, the program can actually affect your friends as well.  It sounds annoying, but it’s actually hilariously delightful.  Sure, your teammates might moan and groan if they get affected, but at the end of the day, everyone’s laughing.  The Jack Doppelganger is a DLC-added character as well.  I have yet to play as this character, but will update what I think of him in another article.

The Pre Sequel has a group of really fun characters to play.  It was hard to choose which to play first.

The Pre Sequel has a group of really fun characters to play. It was hard to choose which to play first.

One of the things that makes the Borderlands franchise so special is the fact that the setting and characters are so memorable, especially some of the non-playable characters.  Although some favorites from the first two games make appearances (my personal favorite happens to be Torgue), the new characters on and around Elpis don’t seem to be as memorable in the Pre Sequel.  Sure, there is still wacky humor and some interesting satire, but it’s not quite up to the same level as Borderlands 1 or 2.  The feel of the game is even a bit different, since it’s on a moon instead of on Pandora.  The whole Firefly-like space western vibe that the other two games had going on is lost a bit with the change in setting.  However, I did enjoy the futuristic electronic soundtrack.  It felt a bit Tron Legacy like in sound, but to me, that made it enjoyable (also, speaking of Tron Legacy: there are two characters on Elpis that look like Daft Punk, and I thought it was quite amusing).

 Game Play

The game play has not changed too much from Borderlands 2.  Zainy missions, skills trees, Badass Rankings, and tons and tons of weapon choices and loot are still there.  There have been a few new game play elements that were added as well.  Laser guns were added because, you know, it’s the moon and why not?  Besides the usual elemental effects for guns, a freeze one has been added, though it’s probably my least favorite of all of them.  Due to Elpis’ low gravity, players can jump higher and do “Butt Slams” (no, I didn’t make that up), where the players smash down on enemies from above.  Also, since it’s a moon without an atmosphere, non-robotic characters must wear Oz kits in order to breathe.  Oz kits also generate effects for Butt Slams.  I played with one in particular that made farting sounds every time I did a butt slam.  It was quite hilarious.  All of these new elements were pretty good additions.  However, the one thing that I really did not like was the wacky level designs for many of the areas.  Because of the low gravity game play, a lot–and I mean A LOT–of vertical level designs were used.  That might sound fun, but it can be quite frustrating when where to go isn’t exactly clear.  I had to go to YouTube several times to figure out where I needed to be to complete a mission.  Also, there were too many cracks and crevices throughout some of the larger maps.  Those made it very hard to just goof around with friends when there is constant worry about jumping over places.

The cooperative is pretty much the same as Borderlands 2.  It’s four player co-op at its best.  I wish that there were other games like it, but at this point, it’s pretty unique since I can play by myself as much as I want, and then invite a group of people into my game without missing a beat.  One of the things that I love about Borderlands is that it really does encourage goofiness and fun among a team.  You really can’t take the game that seriously with how it presents itself, and that’s a good thing, since I can’t stand when people take online FPS games too seriously.  The game was a bit glitchy at launch and didn’t seem as polished as Borderlands 2.  Still, it wasn’t too bad, and I was able to play both by myself and with friends without any major issues.

The Pre Sequel isn't as polished as Borderlands 2, but it is still a blast to play.

The Pre Sequel isn’t as polished as Borderlands 2, but it is still a blast to play.

 Graphics

The graphics are pretty similar to Borderlands 2.  Obviously, if you are looking for a pretty game to play, choosing the cell-shaded Borderlands franchise and a last-gen game probably isn’t for you.  With the new group of games that have come out, the graphics do show their age a bit, but that’s okay.  You don’t play Borderlands for the graphics.  You play it for the game play and the goofiness.  You play it for the amazingly fun online cooperative.  In a way, the very original style that Borderlands creates with its cell shading is making waves in its own way.  It’s immediately distinguishable from other games, and it also lets the play know that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously.  I maintain that if it had been “pretty,” it wouldn’t have done as well.  Most fans would also argue that they wouldn’t want it any other way.

 Fun

At the end of the day, games are here for our enjoyment.  Borderlands: The Pre Sequel hits high marks under this category.  The zany story and characters are good enough to keep a player’s attention, the game play is a blast (even with a few issues), and the online cooperative is still probably the best in the industry.  It’s one of those games that you can get on with a good group of friends and have a blast and goof around.  The game will keep you laughing, regardless of whether it is something in the story, a silly character, or one of the crazy weapons.  For me though, the best part is the fact that I don’t have to be online to play if I don’t want to.  I don’t have to worry about if a server is working or not.  My game doesn’t become a paperweight if the Internet is out, which is one (of many) things I really don’t like about  Destiny.  Sometimes it’s just okay to play on your own.  However, if you want the awesome team experience, it’s right there for you.

The Pre Sequel is the most fun I've had in gaming all year.

The Pre Sequel is the most fun I’ve had in gaming all year.

 Overall

Unfortunately, the time frame that the Pre Sequel came out was a little too late.  Many people have moved on to a newer console and some have even sold their last-gen console.  I’m not seeing as many people playing, and there is a lot of steep competition from this fall’s slew of next-gen games.  The Pre Sequel probably could have done a lot better if it had game had come out in the summer when there was a dry spell in the industry for new games.  However, the game is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of the franchise.  It’s actually been the most enjoyable game I’ve played this year.

 

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