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By Jessica Brister On 29 Jun, 2016 At 09:54 PM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Featured, Games You Slept On, PC Games | With 0 Comments
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No GravatarTo this day, I still absolutely adore Sims 3.  Even though I want nothing to do with the 4th installment, I still love to play the third, especially while utilizing all of the expansions that have come out for it.  Here is my list of the best expansions to date:

11.) Generations  The_Sims_3_Generations

Though this expansion isn’t “hit you over the head” with new stuff, it does have some subtle changes to the game play that are interesting.  Teens and children have a lot more interactions than before.  There is a new profession: day care.  Adults can even send their kids off to boarding school.  However, with only some slight changes and no new town, this is probably my least favorite expansion.

10.) Seasons  Sims_3_Seasons

This is another expansion that isn’t as good as the rest.  It gives Sims 3 weather, which sounds like it would be cool, but it gets a bit old after awhile.  Sims can go to festivals that change depending on the season.  There are also some outdoor activities that are added, including snowboarding and soccer.  Sims get to swim in the ocean (though correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that was a complete game update…maybe I’m wrong on that one) and aliens are another life form added to the game.  Overall, it’s a little weak for an expansion.

9.) Showtime The_Sims_3_Showtime

This is definitely the expansion for people who love the “L.A./Hollywood” lifestyle.  There is a new town, Starlight Shores, that has a Hollywood vibe to it.  There are new careers that are more performances based: singer, acrobat, magician.  A new life form was created for this expansion as well: genies.  I could take them or leave them, though.  Simport was also introduced with this one.  However, I have never used it (and am VERY glad that EA is not forcing social play in Sims 4).  Some new venues were introduced in this one as well, including coffeehouses, live show venues, and private show venues, though these are not my favorite.  I’ve found that this town is a bit glitchy to play in as well.

8.) Supernatural  The_Sims_3_Supernatural

This expansion allows for a variety of different types of Sims, including vampires, witches, zombies, werewolves, ghosts, fairies, and genies.  Although I never really cared for the supernatural types, the town of Moonlight Falls is one of the more stable towns to play in and some of the architecture features and styles of furniture are really cool.  There is a new skill, alchemy, that goes well with the supernatural theme.

7.) Into the Future  The_Sims_3_Into_The_Future

As the last expansion of Sims 3, this was unfortunately not the best.  It’s an interesting concept: you can take your Sims back and forth to the future and back to the present as much as you’d like.  In the future, there are a lot of high tech gadgets, including jetpacks, hover boards, and other futuristic things.  There are a couple new careers: astronomy and bot arena.  Actions in the present can change the future.  Oasis Landing, the new town, is pretty cool, though I found myself wanting to stay in the present more than the future (the bot people can be really annoying).  Overall, I thought it was okay, but it is not my favorite.

6.) World Adventures  The_Sims_3_World_Adventures

This was the first expansion for Sims 3, and it allowed some really cool travel options.  Players could choose to travel to three different places: China, Egypt, and France.  Besides seeing the sights, tomb raiding is an option for the adventurous Sim.  The more activities a player did with their Sim, the longer the visa level for the particular place.  World Adventures also opens out three new skill possibilities: martial arts, photography, and nectar-making.  Overall, this expansion was a great because it allowed the player to get out of town for a bit.

5.) Ambitions  The_Sims_3_Ambitions

Along with the new town of Twinbrook, Ambitions allowed the player to expand into many different professions, including being a firefighter, stylist, ghost hunter, architect, or private investigator.  These professions are different from regular Sim careers because you go out on “jobs” instead of working normal hours.  Also, this expansion allows for becoming “self-employed” in most skills.  Two new skills were added: sculpting and inventing.

4.) University Life  Sims_3_University_Life

Finally!  Sims 3 got the ability to send Sims off to college.  One of the last expansions done for the game, University Life allows Sims to go off to college and pursue a degree.  A lot like World Adventures, where a Sim travels to Sims University but does not permanently life there, this expansion has plenty going on.  Sims can pursue degrees, join cliques, and drink from “juice kegs.”  There are a few new careers, depending on a Sims degree and clique association.  There are apparently Plant Sims that players can get to, though I’ve never tried this.  New skills include: Science, street art, and social networking.  Overall, this is a very good addition.

3.) Island Paradise  he_Sims_3_Island_Paradise

This is a very good expansion, and it contains that town that I am currently using (Isla Paradiso).  The town is a really cool set of islands and has a really interesting feel to it.  There is a new life form: mermaids.  Also, boating and scuba diving have been added, which I have really enjoyed.  Being a resort manager is the new profession, though it’s not like a normal profession for the Sims (you can still hold down another job, if you want).  With lots of water sports, a cool new town (that is pretty stable for the most part), and an interesting feel to the town this is one of my favorite expansions.

2.) Pets  Sims_3_Pets

One of the better expansions to date, Pets allows players to own different types of animals, including cats, dogs, horses, and smaller rodents, birds, and snakes.  A new town, Appaloosa Plains, is given.  It’s a very western-themed town, but I’ve found it a bit glitchy to play in.  Sims can train their horses and the new riding skill is offered.  However, for people who don’t like pets, this expansion could be a miss.  But I love pets, so this expansion is more of my favorites.

1.) Late Night  Sims-3-late-night

This is definitely my favorite out of all of the expansions.  Besides giving the player the new city of Bridgeport, which has a cool “big city” feel to it, the expansion also introduces a lot of cool social aspects.  Clubs, bars, and a new celebrity system add a new dimension to playing.  Sims can also live in high-rise buildings with elevators and join the acting career.  This was also the first expansion to add a different type of Sim other than “human.”  Vampires came with this particular expansion and made things interesting to the game play.  Overall, it’s a very slick expansion.  And the city is very stable to play in, which is definitely a plus.

 

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No GravatarSometimes there are very special games that will forever hold a place in the heart of gamers. Chrono Trigger is one of those games. It is a game that is often hailed as being one of the best RPGs of all time and, in many cases, can be considered on of the greatest games of all time, period. Here are the reasons why:

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Chrono Trigger is a role-playing game developed by Square (now Square Enix) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The game was created by a team of extremely talented individuals, including Final Fantasy’s creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi. It was published in 1995 with critical success and was the third best-selling game of that year. Chrono Trigger was later ported to the PlayStation in 1999 and then repackaged in 2001 with Final Fantasy IV as “Final Fantasy Chronicles.” With such critical and commercial success, it has been later ported to the mobile platforms of the Nintendo DS, iOS, and Android. It is a revolutionary game that spawned the sequel Chrono Cross and gave a lot of fans some very happy memories.

The game follows Crono, a main character who never speaks during the game, Marle, a princess, and Lucca, Crono’s super-smart friend. During a Millennial Fair for the time period of AD 1000 in their world, Lucca and her father demonstrate a new teleporter. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work quite like it was supposed to and teleports Crono, Marle, and Lucca in time. They bounce around both forward and backward in time, learning about a creature named Lavos that wipes out civilization. The party is then determined to do what they can to save the world through time travel.

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It is a fantastic story, filled with twists and turns. Players end up traveling between seven different eras with their distinct characters, setting, and feel. Along the way, you meet the wonderful characters of Robo, Ayla, Magus, and the best and coolest video game character of all time, Frog. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. Trust me, though. Frog is freaking amazing.

One of the many revolutionary aspects of Chrono Trigger was the possibility of multiple endings. However, there were other advancements including plot-related, character-driven sidequests. These may not seem like a big deal today, but in 1995, that was unheard of.

Though the game play is a fairly standard RPG, there were several new ideas to come forth as well. Done with beautiful two-dimensional graphics (that still look good, by the way), the player can roam around in an overworld typical of RPGs of the time and visit different areas. Each area has things to interact with, whether it be people to talk to, puzzles to solve, or enemies to defeat. One change to the traditional RPG is that Chrono Trigger has random encounters for enemies, some which may be visible and some that will ambush you. Unlike other RPGs at the time as well, the game’s battles take place in the same map area instead of being whisked off to a different screen.

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During fights with enemies, Chrono Trigger uses an active battle approach. Each character can do an action based off of a personal timer that is affected by that character’s stats. Characters can either do a straight attack or use their Techs, which use their magic points. One unique feature for the time was the ability to do combined attacks with characters using the Techs. The characters can double or triple their Tech use to create an even greater effect.

The game play is a lot of fun and allows a player to use many tactics to defeat enemies. Another really cool element that Chrono Trigger officially introduced was the New Game+ feature that allowed players to keep their characters’ stats, techniques, and inventory when playing a new game. This helped players go through the multiple endings easier. Though this idea may have been used in earlier games, from my research, it does look like Chrono Trigger was the first to actually use the term “New Game+.” Pretty awesome, right?

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One of my favorite game elements of Chrono Trigger is actually the soundtrack. It was primarily done by Yasunori Mitsuda, who had some help with the legendary Final Fantasy composer, Nobuo Uematsu. The shear amount of tracks for the game was an amazing feat for the time frame. The music is otherworldly and consists of some amazing songs, one of which is my all-time favorite: Frog’s Theme. Seriously, whenever I do something cool, I start humming it. Yes, the song is THAT epic.

Chrono Trigger took some giant leaps forward for gaming. It helped push some of the gaming elements that we all love so much in modern RPGs, especially Western RPGs. The game will always hold a special place in my heart, and I am planning on making it the first game that my daughter and I play together. It is just THAT amazing.

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No GravatarAs some of you might know, Mass Effect is one of my favorite gaming franchises.  Of course, when I say that, I am looking at the franchise as  a whole (I will not dwell on what happened to ME 3).  However, for those gamers who primarily play on PlayStation consoles, playing the original Mass Effect was not in the cards.  This changed once the game was finally released for PlayStation 3 at the end of 2012.  Finally, PlayStation fans were able to play the whole series through.  I  was one of those fans who got the original for digital download.  Here is what I thought:

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Mass Effect is a science fiction third-person RPG developed by Bioware and published by Microsoft originally, but is now being published by EA.  It originally was released for XBox 360 only, but eventually was released for PC and then Playstation 3.  It uses the Unreal 3 engine.  The game was applauded for its in-depth universe.  To me, the game is the Holy Grail of RPGs, since most do not have the Science fiction twist that Mass Effect does.

The setting puts the game far into the future where the human race discovers alien technology that allows them to travel faster than light (the “mass effect” field).  They have also found mass relays that allow them to travel significant distances in space in short amounts of time.  The human race expands throughout the galaxy, meeting other alien races.  They create the Human Systems Alliance that becomes a rising power among the other, older races.

The game follows Commander Shepard, an elite soldier who is picked to head a secret mission on a experimental ship, the SSV Normandy.  He is also in the running to become the first human Spectre, a black-ops division of the Citadel counsel, a governing body of the “civilized” parts of the galaxy.  As the story continues, the player begins to delve into the richly-designed universe that is Mass Effect and discovers that there are some very sinister things lurking in the galaxy.

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One of the fun things about this game is the ability of the player to go where they want to go in the galaxy.  Sure, there are some parts that you don’t get to decide, but there is a lot of freedom in traveling, allowing the player to go to some really cool planets.  Another interesting aspect (that I’m sure you may have heard about) is the ability to have Commander Shepard have a relationship with some of the characters.  You only get a few options in this game, but it still keeps things kind of interesting.

There’s a lot going on in Mass Effect.  It’s an RPG with XP, leveling up, and different skill-sets you can go through.  However, it is also a third-person action adventure shooter.  It employs a duck and cover system of fighting but also incorporates vehicle battle as well.  It SHOULD be a very diverse game play.  For the main missions, that is correct; the actual main quests are a ton of fun.  It’s the side quests that are a complete bear to play.  They are tedious and difficult in some spots, something that I wasn’t used to from playing Mass Effect 2 and 3 originally.  Because of this, I will have to knock the game play down quite a bit.

There are other aspects of the game play that I would like to cover, however.  The first being the class system.  Players get to choose at the beginning the type of class they want their character to be.  This also includes being able to fully customize the Shepard character: male or female, default or customize completely.  I recommend being on male default because Shepard is sexy.  Besides customizing the character in that way, there are six classes to choose from: Soldier, Engineer, Adept, Infiltrator, Sentinel, and Vanguard.  Each class has its own special perks.  I typically play as soldier.  Each of the classes also have their own special combat abilities.

Another interesting aspect of game play is dialogue and morality system.  As the story unfolds, the player is given options for dialogue.  One is typically the “good” option.  Another is the “neutral” option.  And the third is the “bad” option.  Depending on how good or bad you want Shepard to be will depend on how you answer.  However, sticking with one side opens up special dialogue conversations not available otherwise.

This particular Mass Effect game focuses very heavily on upgrading weapons.  The player can upgrade pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, as well as grenades and armor.  Mods to weapons and armor can also be found as well.  Upgrades are collected while exploring and in battle when an enemy is killed, but it can be a pain keep track of all of them.  Many times, I would have to stop game play because I had accumulated too many upgrades and had to either apply them or convert them into omni-gel (an all-purpose tool that helps with everything for fixing damage on vehicles to hacking locks).  This did get a bit annoying at times.

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For the time that the game came out, the graphics were pretty darned slick.  And not only that, but the game has actually aged well.  It is still playable without the graphics seeming to be annoying.  They certainly do not cause me headaches like Final Fantasy VII, for instance.  The in-game graphics are great, but the cut-scenes are really were the money is.

Unfortunately, even though the main parts of the game are a lot of fun, all of the side quests are a pain.  They are such a pain that I almost stopped playing the game.  They are tedious and repetitive.  Technically, I would give the fun-factor of the main game a 10, but I would give the side quests a 1.  Also because of this, I will probably not be revisiting the game, despite the awesome storyline.

As a whole, this game is great.  It’s got some issues; however, if the player just focuses on the main mission, the game is a lot of fun to play.  I’m also a bit picky because I feel Mass Effect 2 is a much better game overall.  Then again, considering that you can get the whole trilogy pretty cheaply and just the original even more cheaply, it’s definitely worth your time.

 

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No GravatarBioShock is a first-person shooter released in 2007 for XBox 360 and PC. It was later ported for PS3 in 2008.  It was developed by Irrational Games (they were calling themselves 2K Boston back in the day) and published by 2K.  The game uses a modified version of the Unreal engine with Havok for the physics side.  It was highly praised for its story, setting, and thematic elements.  It later spawned two sequels: BioShock 2 and BioShock Infinite.

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As the player, you take on the character of Jack, a man who survives a plane crash into the middle of the ocean.  Upon swimming to safety, you find a lighthouse.  However, this is more than meets the eye.  After getting into a device called a bathysphere, a type of submersible, you are transported underneath the ocean and are introduced to Rapture, a huge underwater city.

However, there is something completely wrong with Rapture.  Upon arrival, you discover that the once utopian city is now in a state of disarray with roaming “splicers,” creepy little girls called “Little Sisters,” and huge robotic bosses called “Big Daddies.”  I don’t want to get into the story too much because I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I will tell you that the story is top-notch.  To me, the best part of BioShock is the setting.  I could just walk around in Rapture all day and be as happy as can be.  I know it’s a really creepy place, but it’s also a really interesting place, especially since you have to dig around a bit to figure out what went wrong.  I loved that the game was kind of scary, but not so scary that I wanted to stop playing it.

One of the other great things about the story of BioShock was a lot of really good and really interesting thematic elements of the game.  Rapture’s creator, Andrew Ryan, designed the city to be free of government and free of religion (a nod to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism).  However, without some constraint of morality, the city quickly crumbles into chaos after some bio-engineering and experimentation gone really wrong.  It’s a really interesting and engrossing game.  It’s one of my favorite video game stories of all time.

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BioShock is first and foremost a first-person shooter.  It’s a rather good one at that, especially for the time that it came out.  As an FPS, it plays smoothly and adds some interesting game play elements.  It has a typical style of ever-increasingly fun weapons to play with, but it also adds the “bio” element to it by creating the use of plasmids (a type of genetic alteration involving needles–I told you the game is a bit creepy).  With your left hand, you control your plasmids, which can vary from shooting fire, ice, and even bees out of your fingertips.  With your right hand, you control your primary weapon.  This is a really, really fun combination, and it makes for  some interesting game play.  However, it gets annoying switching back and forth between shooting plasmids and shooting your weapon, since you can only have one or the other at a time.  This glaring issue was later fixed in BioShock 2.

Besides the use of plasmids, the game play also adds some role-playing and stealth elements as well.  The player has options for stealth around security, including cameras and auto-turrets.  Collecting money in the game gives the player options for upgrading weapons, buying new plasmids, or gaining additional ammo or health.  You may also collect gene tonics that give you special abilities.  One of the more annoying parts of the game was the ability to hack certain things like cameras and vending machines.  Although this sounds like a great idea, to hack something, you get pushed into this mini-game, similar to Pipe Dream.  The first ten or so times you do it isn’t bad, but it gets annoying after twenty, thirty, or forty times.

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One of the unique game play aspects of BioShock is fairly original concept of “roaming boss battles.”  In order to gain more power, the player must take on Big Daddies in order to get to the Little Sisters.  There are a set amount of Big Daddies in each level that will appear in various places (but sometimes can feel like at random).

The graphics were very good for the time that it came out.  It has still held up well for an older game.  In fact, it has held up much better than games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and even the original Infamous.  Even going back and playing it now, I don’t get headaches from playing a game with crazy old graphics.

One really enjoyable thing about the graphics (and the setting) is how it highlights the amazing Art Deco designs of Rapture.  This is one of the reasons why I will actually play the game just to wander around and explore (I can’t say that for many other games).

I don’t care if the game play is perfect.  I don’t care if the graphics are perfect.  BioShock will always be one of my most favorite games of all time.  It is probably my favorite first-person shooter.  This game is just plain fun.  It has been the most fun that I have had in a game in a long, long time.  It is the reason why I have been so backlogged on so many games: I keep wanting to play this game over and over again.  BioShock made me expect more out of my first-person shooters.  It is a complete must-play, trust me.

By Jessica Brister On 1 May, 2016 At 05:07 PM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Editorials, Featured, PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4 | With 0 Comments
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Warning: This article is spoiler-city. If you have not finished playing The Last of Us, please do not read any further.

Spoilers!  Spoilers!  Spoilers!

Seriously…you were warned!

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It is rare that a video game has a story so beautifully told that it gains critical acclaim and a massive fan-base just based on the story alone.  The Last of Us is one of those exceptional gems that show the world that video games can be fun and intelligent.  One of the most interesting aspects of the game is its theme.  Many have been scratching their heads at the end of the game, wondering what the implications of Joel’s decision may actually be.  He chooses to save Ellie rather than save humanity.  Is he being selfish?  Was it a bad choice on his part?  Judging by how Naughty Dog presents the rest of the story, Joel actually became one of the few moral characters in the story.  The Last of Us demonstrates that traveling down the slippery slope of so-called “sacrifice” will only cause humanity to lose itself.

In the early parts of the game, the gamer witnesses a police-state with martial law.  There is no freedom; people are forced to live and work in a place where their every move is watched.  Checkpoints are everywhere.  The people who live in these areas are forced to comply in order to receive food and the illusion of safety.  Of course, the military is doing this in order to “protect” the citizens there.  However, in doing so, it has completely destroyed everyone’s freedoms.  Under this militaristic rule, all rights are taken away.  The military can kill anyone for any reason at any time.  Under the guise of “safety,” people have given up all of their freedoms.  As the player can see by watching Joel and Tess’s actions early on, people do not naturally want to live in this manner.  Even in the beginning segments, The Last of Us demonstrates that survival situations can bring out the worst in the way a government will treat its people.

As the player continues to follow Joel and Ellie, there are several factions that are introduced.  The first is the group of hunters that patrol down-town Pittsburgh.  This group will kill anyone they see in order to salvage clothes, shoes, weapons, food, and whatever else they can scrounge.   The group labels outsiders are “tourists” to perhaps make it seem like it’s okay to kill in non-defensive situations.  Besides, they are just doing it to survive, right?  Joel even mentions to Ellie that he was in a group like this in the earlier years because that was what he had to do to survive.  Another group that Joel and Ellie come across are the cannibals run by David, a charismatic but highly crazy guy.  When justifying what his group is doing, he uses the “we’re just surviving, like you are” argument to Ellie.  Of course, Ellie completely rejects that reasoning.  The player sees in these sections groups of people who have lost their humanity and their souls because they were “just surviving.”

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At the end, Joel is faced with a dilemma: save Ellie and give up a possible cure to the infection or sacrifice her in order to help humanity.  Some may argue that Joel’s decision to save Ellie was selfish and short-sighted, that he wanted to save her because she symbolizes the daughter that he lost twenty years earlier.  This is not the case, though.  Killing Ellie was no guarantee that they would have found a cure.  If Joel would have sacrificed Ellie, it would bring up the question: How many need to be sacrificed in order to “save” humanity?  The Fireflies wanted to practice altruism, but what is the tolerable number of little girls that need to be killed in order to help the rest of the human race?  One?  Ten?  A hundred?  A thousand?  It becomes a slippery slope when people start sacrificing others in the name of “saving the human race,” especially when Ellie didn’t even have a choice in the matter.  She was never asked.  That individual choice was taken away from her.

The Last of Us thematically looks at the question: Where exactly does it stop?  How many individual rights and freedoms need to be given up?  Self-defense aside, is surviving worth giving up your soul for extra clothing and food?  How many people need to be sacrificed in order to help the whole?  At the end of the game, Joel becomes a symbol for “enough is enough.”  His decision to take Ellie marks an end to the slippery slope that was highlighted again and again in the game.  Humanity does need a cure for the infection, but at what cost?  What it really needed was a cure from the thinking of “survival at any cost.”  Despite the infection, people wererebuilding.  The player can see that with Joel’s brother Tommy and his group.  This group was a beacon of hope.  They emphasized the re-establishment of the family and the focus on working together to achieve a goal, while still keeping everyone’s individual liberties.  Joel’s final decision to bring Ellie back to that group highlights the final message in The Last of Us: the end of the slippery slope of moral decay in world that had been decaying for decades.

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Resistance 2 may now seem like a small blip in the world of gaming after so many years, especially since Insomniac pretty much killed the Resistance franchise with the third installment.  However, for those who played Resistance 2, it was a game to be remembered.  It was a follow-up for Resistance: Fall of Man, and everything about it was just right.  Published in late 2008 by Sony, it became one of my favorite first person shooters ever.  Here is why Resistance 2 was one of the best games ever:

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Story Mode

The Resistance franchise is based off of the premise that before Hitler could begin taking over Europe in the 1930s and ’40s, a group of aliens known as the Chimera did instead.  So instead of sending American troops to fight Hitler, the United States sent troops to help the Europeans battled the Chimera.  An American soldier, Nathan Hale, accidentally is infected by the Chimera virus and becomes a complete bad ass.  That’s basically the plot of the original.  In R2, the Chimera have pretty much taken Europe, and it is a last-ditch effort to try to keep them from completely stomping all over the United States.  Nathan Hale is recruited again to help fight the Chimera in a squad called the The Sentinels, a group of other soldiers infected with the same virus.  The story follows Nathan as he tries to push back the Chimera in America.

Now doesn’t that sound like fun?

It really was, too.  Despite being a bit linear in game play, the game was enjoyable as a stand-alone.  I will admit that, like many first person shooter games, the story mode is not that long.  I would complain about that, except for the fact that it has BOTH cooperative and competitive (just read on to see what I’m talking about).

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Cooperative

A good cooperative mode on a first person shooter is like the holy grail of game elements to me.  Cooperative forces people to have FUN and work as a TEAM instead of being jerks.  R2 created a class-based system for the cooperative that had amazing balance.  Classes included: Solider, Spec-Op, and Medic.  Each one had its own purpose.  The tank had the heavy weaponry.  The Spec-Op did the long distance and sniping dirty work.  The Medic supported and healed the team.  That’s perfection right there.  The cooperative mode could range from two to eight people and allowed people to work as the Spectre Team, a group trying to flush out the Chimera.  There were multiple, large maps that rotated the starting point, which made the maps feel more new and interesting, even if you played them a ton (like I did).  Sadly, Insomniac never offered map upgrades (shame on them), but I still enjoyed the cooperative so much that I didn’t care.

To me, cooperative is the best way to do online.  Aren’t games supposed to be FUN?  Why do I need to get worked up over playing a game?   Yes, in R2 you did get a score with how many points you got during the match, and it WAS fun to see if you could beat out your teammates, but at the end of the day, everyone has to work together for a goal.  There were parts that even when you were high-level, if the team wasn’t gelling, it was over.  Plus, when you aren’t worried about shooting other players (as opposed to killing NPCs), you learn to relax and enjoy the game.  The amount of inside jokes and craziness that ensued makes me always think fondly of R2.

Sigh.  Those were the days!

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Competitive

Just when you think the awesomeness of R2 could go no further–just wait–there is more!  R2 also has a competitive mode for people who are, well, competitive.  This type of game play has never been my cup of tea, but I did enjoy it on R2.  It was basically Chimera versus humans, but the cool thing was that you could select the size of the match.  You could have a small deathmatch, or you could have up to sixty players in a match.  Let me tell you, that could get crazy quickly.  Crazy fun, I mean. Apparently, for the time that it came out, it was the most that the PS3 had every hosted.  The whole feel of it was much different from a Call of Duty game.  It was much faster paced with the extra people, and although it was my least favorite part of the game, I still played because it was kind of fun.

So that’s Resistance 2.  A perfect mix of story mode, cooperative, and competitive.  I’m not saying that was a perfect game.  It has its flaws, but I just can’t seem to understand why no one else has decided to use this type of gaming structure for their first person shooter.  Maybe one day it will happen…

***Caution: Just because I love RI and R2 does NOT mean I recommend Resistance 3.  That game was a complete mess, and I like to pretend it never happened.***

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No GravatarBorderlands 2 is one of those special games that only comes around every once in awhile.  It’s a blood and guts shooter with some humor (and a bit of satire as well).  It also is one of the best online co-op games to this day.

Although the game has aged a bit, it still holds up very well.  Borderlands 2 is considered an action RPG first person shooter.  It was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K in 2012 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC/Mac (the game also had a late PlayStation Vita and Linux port).  It is also the sequel to the original Borderlands that came out in 2009.  The game was re-released in 2015 in the Handsome Collection for this current generation of consoles, but for the purposes of this review, I am referring to my play-through on PlayStation 3.

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Just like the original game, Borderlands 2 follows different Vault Hunters on the planet of Pandora.  Another large corporation has taken control of the planet, spear-headed by the charismatic Handsome Jack.  The Vault Hunters have come to seek an even larger Vault on the planet but also end up getting caught up in a lot of issues on Pandora, including tons of side-quests.  Although the plot itself is kind of bland, the dialogue, humor, and splash of satire keep the game interesting.  Overall, the feel and ton of the game is a kind of dark comedy/space western.  It’s an odd combination, but it somehow works.
Borderlands 2 is a game that CAN’T take itself too seriously because the game itself is absurd.  It’s filled with ridiculous characters in a ridiculous places doing ridiculous things.  When playing the game, you will laugh, and you will probably laugh a lot.  It’s just enjoyable wandering around the world of Pandora and meeting the crazy people who live there.  Whether it’s meeting the British-imperialist wannabe, Sir Hammerlock…Or the very much redneck, Scooter….Or Ellie, the very big, but very funny mechanic….Or Tiny Tina, the world’s deadliest 13-year-old (by the way, search for “Tiny Tina” on YouTube and see why she’s a freaking hilarious)….Or my favorite, Butt Stallion, the diamond pony.

One great thing about Borderlands 2 game play, is that the game allows you to play as much as you want offline and immediately join up online and not lose your place in the game, as long as you are hosting.  So I could play for a couple hours by myself, see my friends online, invite them into my game, and continue my adventure with my friends without missing a beat.  Another thing that I love is that you can have your game open and allow online people to pop in and out at their leisure to help you.  Or, you can jump into someone else’s game that is way ahead of yours and help you level-up.  Or, you can have someone help you get through a particularly tough time.  It’s an extremely social game.

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Online holds up to four people of whichever class you prefer.  The classes consist of: Commando, Siren, Gunserker, Assassin, Mechromancer (DLC), and Psycho (DLC).  Let me quickly go through each:

Commando: Turrets!

Siren: Phase-lock/Team Nurse!

Gunserker: Double-trouble guns!

Assassin: Stealth/Snipe!

Mechromancer: SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND! (You get a mech that helps you, and it’s awesome.)

Psycho: High risk, high reward play-style!

Each character is a blast to play.  And you will end up playing through the game, which is pretty long to begin with several times with each class.

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Another big thing about Borderlands in general is the fact that there are more weapons possibilities than a player knows what to do with.  I’ve heard at least 17.75 million combinations because weapons randomly generate based on: your level, how many people in your group, where you found it, what baddie you got it from, what rarity level it is, and so on.  This means that even if you have beaten Borderlands 2 several times on all of the difficulties with ever character, you are ALWAYS looking for the next best weapon.

Though the original Borderlands game was interesting, and I have played a good deal out of it.  But I really didn’t like it, mostly for the fact that the graphics were awful and the online play was hard to connect to.  Now for the graphics, please understand that Borderlands uses cell shading, which gives off a cartoony-look. In the original game, I had a hard time even playing it because it gave me a headache (I call this Final Fantasy VII syndrome–where the graphics are so weird that it hurts you eyeballs/head.).

In Borderlands 2, you still have cell-shading, but IT IS SO MUCH BETTER.  The lines are crisper.  The graphics are much improved, and I can play this game for hours without issue.  Plus, now cell-shading makes sense to me.  This game isn’t about the latest, greatest graphics, but about the humor, satire, and fun of it.  The graphics actually look pretty good, but I have come to understand why the developers choose to use this method.  Also, with the online play, it is pretty easy to connect with your friends or random people.  The original Borderlands was kind of a pain in the you-know-what, but now you can jump from game to game without issue.

So, as you can see, Borderlands 2 is nothing but fun.  I am currently patiently waiting on news for a 3rd.  But in the mean time, happy vault hunting for those who still play!

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No GravatarEvery once in awhile, a very special game comes along and confirms that there are still indeed wonderful games out there.  The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of those gems.  It is a definite “must have” for any RPG fan.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a third-person, action RPG with an expansive open world environment.  It was developed and published by Polish studio CD Projekt RED.  The game is based on the a set of fantasy novels by Polish author,  Andrzej Sapkowski (these books are available in an English translation).  The game came out in May of this year for PC, PlayStation 4, and XBox One.

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The story follows Geralt of Rivia, a witcher who takes care of people’s monster problems for coin.  Those who become witchers have been mutated and have special powers such as a special sensing ability and limited magic powers.  He is searching for his adopted daughter, Ciri, who is in danger from being captured by the Wild Hunt.  The main quest line is compelling and interesting.  It also has a bit of a Mass Effect quality to it, since Geralt’s choices do affect the outcome of the story.  The side quests are fun to play and range from playing gwent with certain people (more on this later), getting rid of monsters, and helping people out.  The sheer amount of side quests can be a bit daunting.  It feels like every time a quest is finished, five more are available.  This is not a bad thing, though.  A player could spend full price on the game, and it is definitely worth its price.

The game play is quite a lot of fun.  It’s a well-done third person perspective game.  The combat system is excellent.  Geralt uses swords and a bit of magic to keep the monsters at bay.  He has two swords: one for human foes and a silver one for monsters and such.  Witchers can cast magic by making signs, which vary from blasting things for flames to influencing people’s minds.  There is also an amazing crafting system for both weapons and potions.  Weapons and clothes can be upgraded by finding materials and schematics around the world.  Potions can be created in the same way.  Players may upgrade abilities by either leveling up Geralt’s character or finding places of power, which give extra allotment points.

The open world is expansive.  A player can spend hours and hours just exploring.  Geralt moves around throughout the land on his horse, Roach and by boat.  The world has its own weather system and goes through a day/night cycle.  Depending on the time of day can actually affect the powers of particular monsters (think: werewolves and such).  The world can range from quaint orchards, to buggy swamps, to massive cities.  It’s amazing to explore.

The mini game in The Witcher 3 is probably one of the best-done ones yet.  Gwent is a strategy card game that Geralt plays with the merchants and inn-keepers, and there’s a lot of strategy to it.  The game involves three rounds.  The person who wins two obviously wins the game.  Everyone brings their own deck, so finding and winning more cards is also a strategy.  This encourages the player to hunt for more cards either by buying or winning them in high-stakes games.

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An open world would not be decent unless it had amazing graphics, and the Witcher 3 delivers.  There are surprisingly great.  The best graphics in the games are the cut-scenes; they are absolutely gorgeous.  The in-game graphics are amazing as well, and actually focus on colors.  There are little bits and pieces of detail everywhere from the weather to Geralt’s growing beard.  A player actually needs to see a barber because the beard will start to grow after a certain amount of time.

The Witcher 3 is an absolutely must-have.  Hands-down.  Get it now if you don’t have it.  Obviously, it is an adult game (there are some really raunchy parts).  But overall, the game is just amazing.  It really should get game of the year for 2015.  However, with Fallout 4 coming out in the fall, The Witcher 3 may be dethroned as game of the year.

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No GravatarI always have to shake my head a bit when someone compares another game to Skyrim and says something like, “It’s just like Skyrim.”  Really?  It is “just like” Skyrim?  I’ll then start to question them to see what they really mean.  This is the line of questioning that I go through with them:

Is it open world? (Note that this is one of the only questions that they say yes to.)

Will it take you an hour or more to walk from one side of the map to the other?

Is it an action RPG?

Is it first-person point of view with the option of going to third person?

Do you level up an ability by using that ability?

Do you have to pick a certain character type (i.e. mage or warrior)?  Or can you have multiple talents?

Is the game set in a high-fantasy realm?

Can you choose between being a male of female character?

Do you have the choice of multiple races to play?

Does it have hundreds and hundreds of hours of quests?

Does it have a weapons and amour crafting system?

Is the open world interactive with both NPCs and items?

Do you get to have followers who help you?

Can you pick and choose who you’d like to be your follower?

Is the game background and setting intricate and in-depth?

Are there hundreds of areas to explore?

Is there a huge modding community for PC that puts out amazing mods all of the time?

Is the game so beloved that there are tons of memes and jokes of it all around the Internet?

Is the game the yard stick that other games are measured by?  (Because Skyrim is.)

There, of course, are games similar to Skyrim, but there is nothing “just like” it.  The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt gets some things close.  Far Cry 4 also does the same.  It was described as “Skyrim with guns.”  But is there really a true comparison?  Not really.  Not even the Fallout series is actually the same because of the way the leveling system works.   I don’t necessarily mind comparisons, but when people make statements that include “just like,” it gets me a little riled up because in the end, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of the most defining games of this decade.  And that is why it is so beloved.

 

 

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No GravatarI have a problem.  Well, let me rephrase that: I have a gaming problem.  In a way, it’s a good problem, but it still follows me whenever I try to play an RPG.  You see, ever since I played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim a few years ago, I can’t play any other High-Fantasy RPG.  I’ve tried.  I really have, but I honestly think that Skyrim has ruined me for any other RPG.

And I am totally okay with that.

Because it’s the best modern RPG ever.

Now, when I say “modern RPG,” I am referring to games done for the PS3/XBox360 generation and newer.  I don’t think that you can compare games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII with more modern games.

However, I do feel that the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the best we have right now in terms of the combination of setting, game play, and story.  Let me explain:

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Most people who adore Skyrim will comment on its expansive open world.  I will admit, that it is probably the best open world map to date.  The scenery is gorgeous.  Most of the items in the world are very interactive.  The people in the world are interesting.  The places are fun to explore.  I’ve gone walking around the map just for fun.  I’ve even read about people who create characters and don’t even play the game; they just make up their own story and go hunting animals, collect things, and just have fun.  It’s so in-depth with lore and back-story that it’s hard not to fall in love with Skyrim.

Even though the open world is amazing, my favorite part of the game is actually the game play itself.  I have never quite come across anything quite like it.  For me, even another Bethesda heavy-hitter like Fallout 3 doesn’t compare.  Sure, Skyrim is a first-person, action RPG.  A lot of games are.  The thing that really makes Skyrim stand out is the leveling and experience system.  It’s very simple: you level up what you use.  Whatever angle you want to play with Skyrim, you just have to use it to level it.  In this way, players are not pigeon-holed into a certain class.  Do you want to be a mage who has thief tendencies?  Go for it.  Do you want you want to be a warrior who also can use magic when needed?  Yep!  You can do that.  Do you like being a thief who enjoys two-handed combat?  Why not?

For me, since I have a bit of gaming OCD, I love being able to play all three play-styles.  Why not?  I hate having to decide what class to play because two hours later, I want to change it.  Skyrim lets me do whatever I want, and I love that!  For console, I was a bit limited because there are only so many perks a player can add in Skyrim.  However, on PC…oh dear, on PC…it is GLORIOUS for OCD gamers like myself.  Okay, there is a bit of cheaty, cheat, cheating going on, but only to add the perks when I run out of levels.

Interestingly enough, there is more to love about Skyrim than the setting and the game play.  The story is also pretty darned good.  It’s not spectacular, but it’s not bad either.  I wouldn’t say that it’s BioShock or The Last of Us quality, but it will hold your attention for many, many hours.  The story of a person who discovers that they are Dragonborn and sets out to save the world from ending isn’t too shabby.  The fact that there are hundreds of hours of relevant side-quests make things pretty interesting as well.  I’ve heard of people complaining about the side-quests for Skyrim.  Sure, some of them are menial, but the big ones have their own story-lines.  It’s the reason why some people have literally spent more than a thousand hours in the game.

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Lastly, there is something special about Skyrim, and it may have to do with the fact that gamers can easily make fun of it without damaging the integrity of the game.  How many “arrow to the knee” memes have you seen?  How many times have people made fun of the fact that one can eat 99 raw potatoes in the middle of the battle to gain health?  What about trying to kill a chicken?  Or, my personal favorite happens to be: why are all of the lights on in a dungeon that hasn’t been visited by anyone in hundreds if not thousands of years?  It’s fun to make fun of Skyrim because it’s a game that no one has to defend as being good.  Some people might not like it, and that’s fine.  But it’s hard to argue that it’s a bad game.  Therefore, when there are some “silly” elements of the game, it’s enjoyable to point out the shortcomings because even though there definitely are some, no other game even comes close.

There are a lot of games that I have enjoyed over the years, but there are few that I truly love.  The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim is one that I absolutely will love forever, even when newer and better games come out.  I have about an estimated 415 hours on the game right now between console and PC, and I have thoroughly loved every minute of it.  I actually cannot think of another game that I have spent so much time on.  That’s the power of Skyrim.

REAL OTAKU GAMER is using WP-Gravatar