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This War of Mine

No GravatarThis War of Mine

I first had the opportunity to check out This War of Mine at PAX East. I was immediately intrigued. The art is absolutely beautiful in its realistic simplicity. The game sucks you in and keeps you wondering what will happen day to day. You truly go through the day to day of what it’s like to live in a country ravaged by warfare.

I found myself wondering if I would survive and make it. You see the characters struggling and dealing with the psychological effects.

11 Bit Studios describes This War of Mine as:

This War Of Mine provides an experience of war seen from an entirely new angle. For the very first time you do not play as an elite soldier, rather a group of civilians trying to survive in a besieged city. During the day snipers outside stop you from leaving your refuge, so you need to focus on maintaining your hideout. At night you get a chance to scavenge nearby locations for items that will help you stay alive.

Make life-and-death decisions driven by your conscience. Try to protect everybody from your shelter or sacrifice some of them to endure the hardships. During war, there are no good or bad decisions; there is only survival. The sooner you realize that, the better.

 

11 Bit Studios created a great game that will keep you enthralled for hours. I highly recommend checking This War of Mine out and giving it a try. I give the game a 9 out of 10.

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This War of Mine is available now. Check it out and buy it here.

Samsung-Galaxy-Tab-S-8.4

No GravatarFor those who want a great medium-sized tablet, there really is nothing else better than the Galaxy Tab S 8.4.  In fact, there might not be anything else comparative on the market for the size and price.

The Tab S sports the following features:

  • 1.9 GHz Exynos 5 Octa processor
  • Android 4.4 Kit Kat OS
  • 16 GB hard drive
  • 3 GB RAM
  • Super AMOLED Display (2560×1600 WQXGA Resolution)
  • 8 megapixel rear camera with an LED flash
  • 2.1 megapixel front camera
  • Micro SD card slot
The Tab S 8.2 also looks pretty slick.

The Tab S 8.4 also looks pretty slick.

Power

This tablet is incredibly responsive.  It will multi-task nicely without issue, including those who would use it heavily for streaming and social media at the same time.  The tablet typically blasts through what most casual users would need, and does a decent job with the hard processing power for a tablet.

Display

The Super AMOLED Display is absolutely amazing.  It by far goes above and beyond much tablets out there.  The display is incredibly sharp to the point that one may have hard time finding a wallpaper that is high enough resolution to show up properly without being incredibly pixilated.  For those who love media, especially videos, will adore the high resolution of this tablet.

The 8.4 inch display is quite nice a well.  Some might find that a 10 inch tablet is a bit too big for holding in one hand, while 7 inch tablets are just a bit too small.  This one reaches an easy medium.  It is easily held in one hand, but has a great screen size.

Size and Shape

The Tab S 8.4 is incredibly thin.  Compared to the tablets of a few years ago, this thing is so small and light-weight, even though it has a decently-sized screen.  It is easy to hold in one hand and looks amazingly slick with its thin profile.

Battery Life

The Tab S can go many days with just casual use.  However, someone who heavily uses the tablet or who decides to run Netflix or another movie streaming site for awhile will need to charge it every night.  After a few months of running the device, the battery life has stayed fairly consistent.  Extensive multitasking doesn’t drain the battery as much as it could, but it is a good idea to close all applications when done with the device.

Cameras

Both the front and the back get the job done, however, photography connoisseurs might want to look at the specs first when deciding.  The ability to do video chat is great for those who enjoy Skype or Google Hangouts as well.

Operating System

The biggest–and possibly only–con to this tablet is the fact that it’s a Samsung and the odds of many Android updates are very, very slim.  In the past, older Samsung tablets have not been updated pretty much at all.

Overall

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S is impressive as a high-performing tablet.  The display alone is enough to turn heads.  However, with the performance and style, this tablet really does shine.

By Jessica Brister On 18 Apr, 2015 At 10:49 AM | Categorized As Featured, PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments
borderlands

No GravatarThe trend of porting or re-mastering games for newer consoles has been something that’s been going on for awhile now.  Some ported games can definitely be labeled as, “Skip this one.”  However, for fans of the Borderlands franchise, The Handsome Collection is an absolute must have.

The Borderlands franchise began with the original Borderlands in late 2009 with developer Gearbox.  The game had the signature cartoon-like look with the cell-shaded graphics, and the story and characters were just as goofy.  However, Gearbox had a bit of work to do with the game.  When Borderlands 2 came out in 2012, it was a runaway hit, spawning many popular DLCs and a “Pre-Sequel.”  The game play was greatly improved and the cell-shaded graphics started to look great.  The franchise earned a lot of die-hard fans with the four player cooperative play and dark satire.

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After the last-generation of game playing started to die off, many Borderlands fans tried to look for a new game to play on their new console.  Games like Destiny seemed like a good option, but for many, it just wasn’t the same.  Luckily for Borderlands fans, Gearbox decided on a port for the this generation, but not just a normal port: it’s the ultimate port for any Borderlands fan.

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection contains everything that comes from Borderlands 2.  It contains all of the DLCS, skins, characters, and even the Pre-Sequel and all of its that just came out in October of 2014. That many sound tempting to Borderlands fans or even someone interested in finding a new online cooperative game, but is it worth it?

The answer: yes!  Here’s why:

It’s amazing to play Borderlands on a current gen console.  After playing on the latest console, whether it be PlayStation 4 or XBox One, it is a little painful to go back to a last-gen console.  The latest generation has a much better set up, including better party chats and social media connectivity.  With a much faster processor and more memory, the game doesn’t feel as “clunky” as it did on a last gen console.  I also found that my digital download copy had faster loading screens for the game, which is important for Borderlands when a player is popping in and out of areas.

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Also, since the game is running on a more powerful console, the graphics look really slick.  The signature cell-shading graphics actually look really decent at times.  Unfortunately, there are some major screen tearing and graphics issues with the Pre Sequel that have yet to be fixed, including monsters that glitch on the screen when they die.  However, Borderlands 2 is amazingly well-done and is probably is the game that most Borderlands fans will play.  I think of the Pre Sequel as a “nice add-on” at this point because compared to Borderlands 2, it just doesn’t match up.

There is something for Borderlands players to really be happy about: for former Borderlands 2 and Pre Sequel players who don’t want to start over on character that they spent hours and hours on,  Gearbox made it incredibly easy to port characters back and forth.  It does require the player to have their last generation console, but it works very well.  There is no need for USB sticks (the old way of transferring, particularly on PlayStation 3).  All a player has to do is complete the update for Borderlands 2 and the Pre Sequel on their older console, go into the game of choice, and select “Cross Save.”  From there, a player can upload one character at a time into the cloud and download it onto the newer console from the game.  Players can also take a character from the newer console and download it back to the older one.  It’s an incredibly easy process that will make it the decision to upgrade Borderlands 2 much easier.

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One of the most appealing aspects of this port is the price.  For sixty dollars or under (depending on the deal that the consumer gets), a player can have Borderlands 2 and the Pre Sequel, plus every DLC for both games.  That’s two full games with their DLCs.  That includes characters and skins that were sold separately when they were available a few years ago. Though the Pre Sequel isn’t that great of a game, for many fans, Borderlands 2 and its DLCs are worth the price just by themselves.  Throw in the Pre Sequel, and it’s an amazing deal.

Sadly, for someone looking for a great online cooperative, there are not many good options for the current generation of consoles.  There probably should not be a need for a Borderlands 2 port, but unfortunately, there is.  Happily, fans of the franchise should love it.  Players unfamiliar with the game, but want a decent cooperative game will probably want to jump on this as well.

 

By Jessica Brister On 12 Mar, 2015 At 11:55 PM | Categorized As Mobile Gaming, Portable/Mobile Gaming, Reviews | With 0 Comments
good sleuth logo

No GravatarSmartphone and tablet users are constantly hounded by a barrage of gaming apps, most of which are mediocre at best.  These apps pass the time when a person is waiting around at the doctor’s office, but they are usually not that great outside of that.  Sleuth is a bit different; it’s a game that actually makes a person think.  Part trivia, part Wheel of Fortune, and part Pictionary: Sleuth is a creative and addictive game that is a blast to play.

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Sleuth gives out four pictures and has the player try and determine a particular “mystery.”  A player is initially shown a category, which include people, movies, places, words, history, television, books, and songs.  There are then four tiles that appear on the screen.  Each tile slowly reveals a picture that gives hints to what the mystery item might be.  Above the tiles the answer is given in a Hangman or Wheel of Fortune-type style.  A player must start typing from the beginning of the sequence in order to get the answer correct.  The letter will show up green for correct and red for incorrect.  After awhile, letters will begin to appear in the answer boxes to give the player a bit of a hint.

There is a timer that  counts down, and the quicker a player solves the puzzle, the more points he or she ends up receiving.  When the time goes down, the points fall as well.  Guessing an incorrect letter will also drop points as well as not getting a puzzle at all.  A player’s points carry over, so it’s important to try to solve the mystery as quickly and accurately as possible.  Players may use in-app purchasing to buy hunches that reveal letters.  However, a player can refer a friend and get free hunches.

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Players end up competing against each other from around the world because there is a leader-board for the highest scorers.  The top month’s scorer gets a Sleuth t-shirt and the top annual winner will get an iPad.

The game is not one of those apps that someone can “space out” and play.  One must really think to do well.  Puzzles can range in difficulty depending on the player’s trivia skills.  The variety of puzzles also can keep a player on his or her toes, since the categories can range from popular culture to geography.  The pacing and scoring of the game make it addicting, since guessing wrong or not getting a puzzle correct will decrease the score.  It’s easy to go, “Just one more puzzle,” and end up playing for a lot longer.

The best part about Sleuth is its uniqueness and possibilities for play.  It’s different from the typical game app because it relies on a player’s knowledge instead of gaming skill.  It is geared more for adults, but it would actually make an interesting app for older children as it reinforces spelling, visual cognition, and common knowledge.  The game would also be great for parties and gatherings if used on a larger tablet.

Sleuth is developed by SimWave and is available for Android this week and IOS next week.  It is free with ads and $.99 without ads.

Overall, Sleuth is a lot of fun.  It’s different, challenging, and has a lot of potential.  This one is a must-add to your list of game apps.

Far_Cry_4

No GravatarTake a beautiful, open-world.  Stir in an interesting plot.  Add a dash of humor.   Blend in some great first-person shooter action.  Finally, mix in some fun online game play.  This is the recipe for the must-have game of this current generation: Far Cry 4.

Released in November 2014, Far Cry 4 was developed by Ubisoft Montreal.  Following in the footsteps of the critically acclaimed Far Cry 3, it is an action-adventure, first-person shooter.  It also contains some RPG elements, such as an XP system that allows a player to upgrade or add different abilities.  Although there is multiplayer in the game, one does not have to be online to play through the game.

The game takes place in the fictional world of Kyrat, a Nepal-like, mountainous country in the midst of a cruel dictatorship.  Pagan Min (Troy Baker), Kyrat’s insane dictator, rules with an iron fist while a resistance group called the Golden Path tries to take back their country.  The game takes on the first-person perspective of Ajay Ghale (James A. Woods), a refugee of Kyrat who was brought to America as a child by his mother.  Upon her death, Ajay has been requested to sprinkle her ashes in Kyrat.  After arriving in the war-torn country, Pagan Min intercepts Ajay’s bus.  Some quick rescuing by the Golden Path ensues, and now, the fate of Kyrat rests with Ajay.

Throughout the game, the player is immersed in the world of Kyrat.  There’s not a great amount of depth to the actual plot, but that is not an issue because the story combined with the colorful characters and engrossing setting make it very entertaining.  In fact, the characters are so quirky that it really makes the game enjoyable.  Pagan Min may be crazy, but some of the things that come out of his mouth are hilarious.  This may be one of Troy Baker’s finest performances to date: dramatic, wry, and dynamic all at the same time.  There are also many other outlandish characters in Kyrat as well, including two druggies, an overly enthusiastic but ignorant gun-slinging American, a man who thinks guns and religion are the same thing, and a silly radio DJ.  The game can be laugh out loud funny at times, even with a more serious underlying tone.

The characters are a definite highlight to the game.

The characters are a definite highlight to the game.

Though characters and story are a definite highlight of the game, it is the game play that really shines in Far Cry 4.  It is a slick open world, first-person shooter with a lot of upgradable guns and many different game play strategies.  The map area is large and can become more and more visible by climbing radio towers and liberating them.  The player is free to explore, although some areas are more hazardous than others.  There are also outposts that must be cleared out in order to drive back Pagan Min’s men.  These outposts can be replayed as many times as a player wishes.  Missions appear on the map in a similar fashion to a Rockstar game like GTA.

The variety of missions given in the game really keeps it interesting.  Both main and side missions seem relevant to the story line, and therefore, do not get old.  Missions can involve anything from hunting wildlife, racing on one of the many vehicles, defending a Golden Path area, or hitting supply trucks.  Since Kyrat is very mountainous, there is actually a mountain climbing element to the game that is actually more enjoyable than the last Tomb Raider game.  The most fun, however, may actually be just exploring around Kyrat in one of the may means of transportation.  Besides the traditional cars and trucks, there are wing suits, hang gliders, and a helicopter.  A player can dive out of a helicopter, go into the wing suit, and then to a parachute in a matter of moments.

The helicopter is probably the best transportation in the game.

The helicopter is probably the best transportation in the game.

Though the game may seem like a standard first-person shooter, it does have some RPG elements to it.  Players gain XP from killing bad guys and finding different items, which in turn gives them skill points.  Skill points can be used to unlock or upgrade abilities.  Some abilities, however, cannot be unlocked without doing certain missions.  And, yes, one ability is elephant riding, something that adds a whole new dimension to the game.  Crafting is another way to upgrade the character, this time by allowing the player to hold more items such as weapons (up to four can be held at one time), loot, money, and ammo.  A player must hunt for certain animals in Kyrat in order to upgrade these items.  Different weapons can be bought and upgraded as well once they are unlocked by completing certain game play elements.  There is a nice variety to the what a player can carry and can really depend on play style.  Bows and weapons with silencers are great for someone who enjoys stealth.  More flashy, automatic weapons are for the run and gun type.  The best part of the game play is that a person is not–for the most part–forced to choose only play style.

Online play includes both player versus player and cooperative.  The player versus player aspect, titled The Battle of Kyrat, includes game play modes such as quick matches, seize the outpost, recover the demon masks, destroy Pagan Min propaganda, and defend territory.  Each mode feels very similar to the main game play and includes fun aspects such as animals and different weapons.  The cooperative is only two player, but it is quite entertaining.  One person plays as Ajay, while the other plays as Hurk, a crazy but hilarious American who loves guns and destroying stuff.  Both players basically go throughout the open world and do side missions together.  Unfortunately, story missions are turned off, but it is still a lot of fun to do the many side missions.  It is definitely the best co-op of this generation because it relies on the “you and a buddy” approach to online gaming, where it is more about fun than players trying to take the game too seriously.

To add the amazing game play, the graphics are slick.  They may not quite be the best of this generation so far, but they are quite pretty.  Exploring Kyrat is a pleasure in a very similar way to trekking around Skyrim.  However, the color palate is much brighter, emphasizing more greens and bright blues.  It makes for a great gaming experience.  And the cut-scenes aren’t so shabby either.

Kyrat is a very pretty world to explore.

Kyrat is a very pretty world to explore.

So, with a decent story, amazingly fun game play, and beautiful graphics, Far Cry 4 is a must have for this current generation, especially for first-person shooter fans.  It incorporates everything that is good with gaming, and though it might not the be the greatest game of all time, it will definitely one of the best games of this generation so far.

Oh, and Far Cry 4 has the best East Egg ever.  Google it.

 

evolve-title

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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?

Mordor_title

No GravatarFor 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 Charles On 3 Feb, 2015 At 12:30 AM | Categorized As Conventions, Editorials, Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments
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No Gravatar“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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No GravatarWell, 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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