Watch_Dogs is the much-anticipated blockbuster game from Ubisoft that makes hacking look cool. While the game feels very GTA-inspired, it actually stands on its own as a unique game play experience. The game is a lot of fun. It will definitely sell a lot of copies and make Ubisoft a lot of money. However, it does not feel like a game that is going to stand out as one that people will remember for years and years down the road. There’s a lot to like about this game, but unfortunately, there’s not much to love.
Note: This review is being done for PS4 without any added DLCs. PC users have complained of issues about the game. My colleagues have reported buggy problems with the game as well, point to the Conspiracy DLC as a possible culprit. I personally did not have any of these issues, but it is good to be cautious. Watch_Dogs is a third-person/driving action adventure game that was released on May 27 this year. It was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is an open-world game that allows that player to explore the streets of a digital version of Chicago. The game incorporates an online multiplayer element as well as several “mini games” throughout the main game. The story follows hacker Aiden Pearce, an anti-hero who skirts the law in order to bring about justice. After a hacking heist that went bad, Aiden is bound and determined to go after the people responsible. Known as “The Vigilante,” he is ready to bring down the people who messed up his life. Overall, the story was pretty strong. It’s actually a lot deeper than any GTA plot, and it definitely gives the player some things to think about. Is it memorable for years to come? Probably not. But it is entertaining and does hold some value.
Aiden Pearce is a very cool character.
Game play is probably one of the game’s stronger points. For one thing, there is a variety for the player. Some of the game is car-oriented. Other parts are solely on foot. Most missions highlight Aidan’s hacking abilities, which are a nice added bonus to the game and can be quite fun. The game play is often compared to a GTA game, but they are really only similar. In Watch_Dogs, unless the player wants to go the “evil” route, killing pedestrians and police officers is a “no-no.” Much of the game involves strategy and sneak skills. It is very similar to a game like The Last of Us, where the player can go the sneaky route and not shoot a single round or go the more direct route and get into a fire-fight. Having the option to do either adds to the game play variety. There is also a skill point tree and a HP system. Aidan learns new things as he gets more experience, making a ten minute police chase seem a lot less annoying when the player gets points after it.
The game may look like a GTA game, but it actually plays very differently.
The graphics in Watch_Dogs really demonstrates what the new next-gen consoles can handle. The level of detail is amazing. From the potholes in the street to the reflection of the rain to the dampness of Aidan’s coat when the player makes him take a plunge in a river, the graphics are definitely a highlight for the game. Happily, though, the graphics are not the only good thing about the game. The graphics could be horrible, and the game would still be a lot of fun to play. This game is a lot of fun. Whether it be the smooth game play, the cool hacking abilities, the cute mini games, and the online play, the game can truly hold its own. It is easy to blow thirty plus hours on the game without really even trying. There’s a lot of game play variety as well, which helps to keep things fresh and the player still interested in the game. Even buying it at full price, the player will get his or her money out of the game. Overall, there is a lot to like about Watch_Dogs. It’s fun. It’s hip. It’s cool. However, the biggest problem with the game is that it’s not exactly “epic.” Even though Ubisoft will probably be making more sequels, the game doesn’t exactly feel memorable. It’s not exactly “top video game of all time” material. In fact, it’s not even close. It doesn’t have the same feel as some other games that make you think about them even years after playing them. Watch_Dogs is definitely a good game, but it’s not a great game. That’s not exactly a problem, since most gamers don’t expect every game to be great. But we can hope, right?
One of many upcoming Unity engine games developed by independent studios. Press Play presents to us Max: The curse of brotherhood heads the way on Xbox One’s indie showcase 1st class. Just like the title infers this title is based on a tale of two brothers. One is a seemingly tween aged boy who is starting to outgrow his slightly younger sibling, just like the old story goes. Max the older brother decides to very early in the game (Actually, the beginning sequence) to go online to his worlds popular online search engine humorously named “Giggle” Max has one goal in mind, getting rid of his little brother. Max finds an odd website geared towards witchcraft he then recites the words to a spell on the sorcery site of ill will. Surprisingly to Max a portal opens up behind his brother and a creepy looking hairy armed beast snatches scrappy little brother Felix from their realm to another dimension. Max instantly understood his misdeed and goes after Felix right before thee portal closes.
Max: The curse of brotherhood is a solid puzzle/platformer, it is the best platformer available on Microsoft’s flagship console to date. This title is endowed with great puzzle solving elements and classic gameplay mechanics that made this genre the most go to genre to date. This title has its moments of difficulty and I probably at the time of writing this review have logged in 11 hours to beat the game. I have yet to 100% complete the game currently my completion is at 52% progress in game objectives and 82% XBL achievements.Max: The curse of brotherhood was perfect in mostly all areas, I will give you what I liked and what I didn’t. I will start with the worst elements of the game.
The only part of the game that was lacking, while this title is littered with voice acting keep the game interesting and progressing the narrative of the game. My biggest gripe with the story element of Max is that the story is bare bones in terms of the epic journey Max is obviously on. The story progression is only pushed forward by in game animations and short game engine video sequences. The character progression is also leaving me wanting more, out of the five characters focused in on in this game zero characters backstory was moved forward if built up at all Max really did not impress. I must strongly say that’s while for me story in a platformer or any game is considered one of my four pillars of a solid game whereas Story, Gameplay, Controls & Art direction take precedence above anything else. Max’s other three pillars transfers the weight onto themselves helping you to forget the lack of story and focus in on everything that makes this game awesome!
“…the best platformer available on Microsoft’s flagship console to date”
One of the most premier pillars of this game, Max: The curse of brotherhood really shines. As Max you will utilize the power of your marker endowed with magic (pun not intended on my end) This “Magic” marker Max has will gain multiple powers which all are derived from nature. Earth, Trees, Vines, Water and Fire will all be at your disposal soon as you unlock them from their temples. Each power adds to your arsenal and can be used at anytime to traverse your way through each level. You will use Earth to create platforms to lift Max up to get past or trap enemies. You will be able to create bridges and platforms with the powers of the Tree,Max will also be able to create customized shapes of branches like steps, ramps, rafts and any weirdly shaped object to get you through the levels. You can snap off and drag your newly created objects across the stage for puzzle solving purposes. Vines can be used to cross chasms by swinging or by crossing over them hand over hand also, you can ascend or descend within the stage. One great thing about all of your powers is that you can combine them in inventive ways to Solve your way through the end. One such way is creating a tree branch then drawing a vine connecting it to the branch either helping you cross something or maybe you can find other ways to utilize this new object to further your goals. Water will allow you to draw custom shapes to ride the waves or direct them at molten lava to turn it temporarily into stone creating platforms to get out of a flaming hot situation. You finally get to have fun with Fire when you create projectiles to pummel some of your enemies into a powdery dust or use the projectiles to break down barriers. I’m sure with all of these powers available to you by this time in the game you will be able to find other tricks to barrel your way to the end.
The key to saving your little brother Felix is you “Magic” infused marker this is how you will draw your way through each stage and you will find that when it comes to control this element is spot on. You as Max will start the drawing process by pressing RT+A buttons while using the left analog stick to draw the shape you want your select power to turn into. You can then cut/ erase your object by holding RT+X button and crossing the objects path using the left analog stick. While playing I have had zero experiences where these controls were anything less than superb while, you will understand the control scheme early on it will take more time for you to master them later on within the game. Later you will get more imaginative battling your way through each level creating strings of power combinations making you feel like you are ready for anything. Max: The curse of brotherhood animations moves smoothly with seemingly cruising at a steady frame rate. Press Play has created this puzzle/ platformer with speed runners in mind in my opinion.
“…this is a pleasant platformer sure to please”
I love the pre-rendered design the character models have. Each stage has its own unique feel they reflect what powers you will use or obtain as you delve deeper into each environment. The dramatic camera angles immerses you into the game along with having background, mid & foreground activity happening all at once or separately. As small as Max is in scale to the world he is apart of the camera plays a large part in bringing you close into the excitement or show you the grandeur of the environment. The large, lush, beautiful environments coupled with bright visuals and particle effects Max: The curse of the brotherhood’s graphical fidelity and camera work is unbelievable for the measly $14.99 you will pay for this small and jam packed title.
I must admit that I am a newcomer to the XBL lifestyle I am typically drawn to Nintendo and Sony’s consoles yet I have kept an eye on on the games out, Last Xbox I owned was the original one two whole generations ago. This generation I have all three eighth generation consoles with that being said out of all three consoles Max: The curse of brotherhood is one of my top 5 puzzle/platformers so far available.This outer dimension out world that Max sent his brother into has a history I would like to sink my teeth into further. I only hope this game does well enough to garner yet another return to this franchise. If you have any apprehension about trying this games out I highly suggest you purchase this title right from the Xbox Store this is a pleasant platformer sure to please.
Survival horror isn’t exactly my favorite gaming genre, but I saw that Outlast was for free on PlayStation Plus a couple of months ago. I can’t say no to free, so I downloaded it and spent some time playing it. Just for the record, this is the scariest game that I have ever played. It’s so scary that I had to stop playing for awhile. It is just downright frightening. This type of genre is not my favorite, but Outlast was unique enough for me to buckle down and play through it. Here is what I thought:
Outlast is a survival horror game developed and published by Red Barrels. The game play is in first-person perspective; however, it cannot be described as a first-person shooter because there is not actual shooting. The game came out for PC in September 2013 and was released for PlayStation 4 this February. It uses the Unreal 3.5 Engine. Outlast is more of an indy-game, but it has so far gotten some good reviews from critics.
The story follows journalist, Miles Upshur, a mild-mannered reporter who unfortunately doesn’t like fighting back. Upshur has gotten a tip from a person only known as “The Whistleblower” and is going to check out some crazy things going on at Mount Massive Asylum. At first glance, the asylum looks like it’s not even in use: there are no guards, doors are locked, and everything appears are be abandoned. After breaking in, Miles comes to the realization that there is some really dangerous and scary things happening in the asylum. Instead of gathering evidence, escaping becomes his main goal.
What could possibly go wrong in a creepy looking asylum, right?
Overall, the story was pretty interesting, but there was something lacking in it, as if Red Barrels could have done a little more with it. It’s a typical horror plot with some slasher elements. The game is really, really scary. Incredibly scary. I found that there were times where I’d scream and throw down the controller. Gamers looking for scary will not be disappointed. However, I was hoping for a little bit more of a story than that I got. Players get a lot of jump scares but not a lot of meat to the story. The gore is pretty amped up, though. In fact, it is a huge aspect of the game: severed heads, bodies everywhere, and pretty much anything that would remind you of a Saw movie. Squeamish players would probably not like this game, but if this is your type of thing, you’ll probably like this game. As a game in the horror genre, Outlast is one of the best that I’ve seen.
Outlast is in first person perspective, but this is not a game about fighting for your life like most first person games. Upshur is described as “not being a fighter,” so unless a scripted scene takes place, the player’s options are to run, hide, or die. This was quite annoying for me at first because I can’t stand games where I can’t fight back. I’ve always thought that if anyone is pushed far enough, he or she will find something to fight back with, even if it’s just a make-shift melee weapon. Then again, I will say that not being able to fight back makes the game ten times scarier. There’s nothing more frightening than running from something trying to kill you that makes your heart pound a bit harder.
Instead of fighting, the player will spend a lot of time hiding in lockers from the inmates in the asylum.
As a journalist, Upshur gathers evidence by filming his surroundings. The only light you get to use is from the night vision on the camera, which is very handy since many of the areas are pitch black. Unfortunately, the night vision is hard to see out of. This may actually make the game scarier in a way. You also have to conserve the night vision because it will drain the battery quicker. You can find more batteries but depending on the difficulty, they can be few and far between. In true survival horror-style, you have to be a bit stingy with the batteries if you want to use the night vision during the really important times.
Overall, the controls are a bit stiff, and I found it kind of hard to move around the way I am accustomed to in most newer games. When climbing ladders and scaling ledges, you can’t look down, which was quite annoying. The game really didn’t feel as polished as other games in first-person perspective that I’ve played. I was disappointed with this because I might have liked the game a lot better if the controls were a little more fluid.
The graphics were unfortunately the most disappointing part of the game. Initially, I didn’t notice them as much because many of the areas are really dark. However, after looking at bit closer, I noticed that a lot of the inmates at the asylum weren’t designed very well. They didn’t look that great. I’m not a video game graphics expert, but the characters looked like they were lacking a lot of detail. If you look at them up close, there isn’t a lot of detail. This was disappointing for a game that pretty much came out on PC and next-gen console only. Then again, I do understand that this game was a smaller project. Besides, you probably won’t notice it that much anyhow because it’s always so dark when you play.
There’s something off about the way the characters are built.
Though I don’t really like the survival horror genre, the game was pretty interesting to play. I doubt that I will be playing it again because I don’t like spending my free time feeling scared. However, if you are looking for a game that will scare you, this is definitely the game. Overall, most fans of the genre will enjoy it, and I am now a little curious to see how Outlast will compare to the upcoming The Evil Within, which comes out in August.
Zen Pinball 2 from Zen studios is known for their beautifully themed play tables. These pinball tables span from Plant vs Zombies up to expansive sets based off some of Marvel universe classic characters like the Avengers and Doctor Strange. Now Zen Studios have shot into a galaxy far far away…
To our enjoyment Star Wars: Heroes Within Includes a set of four tables that are available on PSN for PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Steam, iOS, Google Play and the tablet from Kindle, Fire TV also available on Mac App Store, I had the pleasure to review the PlayStation 4 version.
Let’s begin with the first of the sets of course, Star Wars:A New Hope The scene is set in the epic storyline with sound bites littering your speakers from this iconic classic flick. You will notice animatronic characters placed in the front of the table from the movie too in the upper left corner on the play tables you will see the LED screen showcasing off their dot matrix monochrome video of scenes from the film & high scores rankings, Score multipliers & Obi Wan’s wisdom filled quotes will harken you back to the the days of yesteryear when this movie originally released amongst other things. The game table centerpiece is decked out with the infamous Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker & Obi Wan beautifully painted onto the virtual table. Lining the outside of the tables you will find hints of this movies characters and settings like the animatronic foes the Tusken Raiders & their sand dunes on one side then the Temple of the Jungle moon of Yavin 4. The action really occurs where the platform changes six ways all because of the game tables missions, objectives that are only accessed by certain trigger activation like hitting a panel several times to spell out a word, name or phrase. I was able to access several but, two of them I will reveal to you readers the rest I’m afraid you must find out yourself. I will start with scene 6 one in which you enable a multiball challenge and if you can get one of those steel balls into the platform that opens up to resemble the galley run into the Death Star. You can enter and destroy the Death Star via paddling the ball into its treacherous crevices. The second scene I will share with you all is scene 4 where you have to uncover Princess Leia’s location in the prison just like in the movie. In the game several spots will have to be uncovered on the play field to find her afterwards you will reveal the trash compactor minefield to shut it down your steel ball is your only hope.
Star Wars: Droids This play table’s theme is following the story of Star Wars two most famous robots journey, this mainly wide open play table is set inside the busy sand crawler, R2-D2 & C-3P0 are present providing dry-witty quips along with the bells & whistles we are familiar with. While this play table is one of the more open displays this amazes me with all the dizzying rails and ramps crisscrossing the table. The ramps of this table are pushed deep back into the back of the set yet, they all are steep & highly curved making the ascent onto these conveyor belt ramps very tasking, slight mastery will be needed for this portion of the table. The missions for this table are located in center behind 3 yellow panels that will be unlocked after you successfully hit them with your pinball several times later these panels will drop below the surface of the table then allowing you to gain access to tables missions. First of the missions will have you salvage C-3P0′s body parts after an accident caused by the curiosity of the golden droid. The mission is straightforward just like Princess Leia’s prison mission except you just have to recover the exploded body parts scattered around the entire table. If you fail to obtain all the body parts the Head, Torso, Arms & Legs of C-3P0 by losing the ball R2-D2 will finish the job for you while your score gets tallied up as you move on. There are a set of five missions and the following is mission 5 where you are put to the task to immobilize the sand crawler you attempt this feat by unlocking these scrap metal looking balls that you aim towards the middle of the ramp where you initially unlocked your missions for this specific pay table. Playing this one is a delight from the openness of the center to the crazy rails, so far this is my favorite, I love also how the physical pinball machine is the sand crawler dredging through the sand dunes on the outside of play table.
Star Wars: Han Solo This nicely designed table is set inside the Millenium Falcon this busy table is by far out of the Heroes Within pack the most difficult of them all, definitely a table to be reckoned with. Filled to the brim with activity from the faithful sidekick Chewbacca & Han Solo in his captains chair done up in their pleasant animatronic form, while a roulette of bad guys surrounding the bar table at Mos Esly’s cantina in the back of the machine are seething at the opportunity to score that bounty on your head. The centerpiece is comprised of two objects; The Millennium Falcon & the dark sides Mother ship of destruction The Death Star. There is an abundance of buttons to trigger and ramps to ascend and rails along with flippers tucked into hard to see corners this suicide run of pinball machines will make you a master of the virtual pinball culture scene for sure. Lined within the nook and crannies of the game table you can flick your ball into a unsuspecting spot only to reveal an electric bumper raise from the surface of the table to garner you added points. From the flurry of fast moving, multi ball challenges to hard to reach jackpot panels & quick shot ramp opportunities located in the back of the table this game table provides feats of skill damn near impossible for a pinball novice such as myself,lol. This by far is the most challenging & the most rewarding of all tables with hard to reach objectives/missions available around the borderline of the table are so hard to find & get to, I applaud the ones who takes this challenge head on and reaches for the hidden treasures this table makes you work every second for. I love the mini games play table provides one in which I encountered was one where the game zoomed into another screen scene only to show up into an asteroid field in outer space, you take the helm of the Millennium Falcon being chased by TIE fighters from the evil empire. The objective is to lure your foes into the massive floating space boulders for of course big points at the end if you get through this mission alive. Each time I play this eye-dizzying table filled with gadgets and action I bump into another activity involving the Millennium Falcon lifting up out of its place, rotating and revealing another parlor game tapping into the gambling spirit of Han Solo. This Han Solo table will challenge you until your eyeballs are drier than the Mojave desert and your fingers are cramped up like Redd Foxx in Sanford and son (I think I might be too old, lol) regardless of your physical strain that might occur, if you can master and uncover all of its secrets you will be known as the pinball Jedi of the universe or just receive a self high five.
Last but definitely not least is Masters of the force, designed to be harmonically balanced between the two sides of the force. On the left red representing death and destruction and on the right you have blue harkening the spirit of justice and peace. Beautifully set up with a set of masters of all signifying the constant struggle, rebirth for universal balance Masters of the force is one of the best to look at tables in my opinion. When first glancing at this play table it doesn’t seem as if it is filled with all the bell and the whistles like our previous affair like Han Solo’s table. Though as you delve deeper into this bad boy you will reveal the mysteries of the two sides. On the dark side you will find floating pyramids that can magnetize and spin your pinball into a frenzy in midair propelling it across the table. Now on the light side, target the Holocron and you will activate one of a few different activities one in which will have you gain access to a crazy puzzles that will have you target your ball into multiple target switches tucked into pocket holes some hidden by sharp corners or strategically positioned curved pathways. All of this of course is all for those beautiful, beautiful points, I honestly couldn’t tell you because out of countless attempts (actually 7) I couldn’t activate all switches inside of this puzzles. Now back to the dark side you will find yourself uncovering many secret passageways to gain entry to so that you can push your ball into unknown spaces, As you set your eyes on the path ahead many revelations will be brought before you. The main attraction of this play table is located front and center, controlled by the Force-meter the legendary fights of classic saga will play right in front of your eyes in two ways. First, you will notice cut-outs of members of Jedis of both dark and light sides sliding left to right attacking one another while you attempt to hit them with your ball while trying to pop off some points while they’re in the thick of it. Second, you will see a full motion video display at first you will notice a still shot of a scene or character from the films watch while this come alive right smack dab in the front of the table directly above the paddles this display is visualizing what the cut out characters or playing out. Zen Studios set out to create a perfectly balanced play table in design they succeeded by giving us a beauty to look at with footage of the epic story on a nice sized screen while having live cut out action dance about the play table centerpiece. We are given plenty to discover and much to stand in awe over Masters of the force is a shout out to great pinball artistry of long, long ago.
All in all while not being a virtual pinball enthusiast I must say that Zen Studios like before with games like Castle Storm (Here’s my past review on it) has opened my eyes to new, fun ways to play classic genres. I now am a fan of the Zen pinball 2 franchise and look forward to all future play tables yet to be released.
There was a point in time that I used to be a hard-core, old-school Tomb Raider fan. I have all of the early games and have actually had the pleasure to play them on both PC and console. When I heard about the new Tomb Raider origins/reboot game that came out in 2013, I put it on the list to play. My chance finally came when I whittled down the backlog of games this spring and got a chance to play Tomb Raider.
If you are not familiar with the game, Tomb Raider is a 2013 action-adventure, 3rd-person video game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. It is a reboot of the original franchise, concentrating on how Lara Croft became the world-famous adventurer. It was also released on next-gen consoles as the “definitive edition” with slightly improved graphics. It is also the first in the Tomb Raider series to ever have multiplayer, though for the purposes of this review, I will only be reviewing the single player aspects.
If the game wasn’t a Tomb Raider game, I would probably rate it as “okay,” considering that the game is fun to play at parts but copies to heavily from the Uncharted series. However, this is supposed to be a Tomb Raider game, and here is what went terribly wrong:
Where are the puzzles?
The first thing I noticed right away was that the game barely has any puzzles. There’s a few sprinkled throughout the mostly 3rd-person shooter game, but they weren’t that hard. I never felt stumped on them, and they only took a few moments to figure them out. What was even worse was the fact that there are no jumping puzzles at all. Some people may rejoice that the jumping and climbing bit of the franchise has been made easier by almost “auto” directing for you when you go to jump. The problem is that jumping puzzles were have the fun of the original Tomb Raider games. Trying to figure out what angle to jump and how many steps into the jump you needed to take was part of the charm of the game.
Too much shooting
The Tomb Raider franchise had been all about balance. The original only had a little bit of shooting (animals and the very occasional bad guy). As more games came out, shooting became more and more prevalent, but the focus was also want adventuring and puzzles. This new game is all about the third-person shooter experience with duck and cover elements. The problem? Old school Tomb Raider games were jump and flip. I have had people point out to me that the game needed updated. I can agree with that to some degree. However, I do have a problem with the developers fundamentally changing the whole feel of the game play.
There was too much focus on the third-person shooting aspect of the game and not enough on puzzles.
Where are the tombs?
This game has basically become “survival raider” because there really weren’t any traditional tombs, at least the type that one would expect in a Tomb Raider game. The player is stuck on one island for the whole time, so there is no variety. There are some ancient houses and temples built there, as well as some areas the game calls “tombs.” I call them “rooms.” They are barely big enough to do any actual exploring. There is nothing really adventurous about the game. It’s sole focus is on survival.
The tone is off
Tomb Raider games used to be fun and hip. Playing the older games, you felt like Lara was in control of the situation, even if the situation was a little out of control. Even given the fact that this is supposed to be an origins story, the tone just felt off. It was too dark and depressing. It wasn’t actually that fun to play. The franchise used to be about adventuring and exploring and having fun. This new game felt as if the developers wanted everything to be a little “too real,” though the franchise has never been like that before. Some people have pointed out to me that they enjoy the realism, that it was nice to see a more realistic side of Lara. However, I would like to also point out that right off the bat at the beginning, she had a metal stake go through her body. Now please tell me how she was up and walking around for the rest of the game?
The tone is a little dark for a Tomb Raider game.
Is this really Lara Croft?
I wasn’t exactly sure who the woman was in this game, but it wasn’t the original Lara Croft, that’s for sure. This woman went from apprehensive to super aggressive in a matter of a few hours. The problem is that the original Lara never got that crazy aggressive. Sure, she knew how to kick some serious butt. However, there was always control. When I played this new Tomb Raider, it didn’t really feel like the same character anymore. Sure, she looks like Lara (sort of), but it’s not the same Lara I grew up playing.
So, is this a bad game? No. Most people will probably like it to some degree. I know a lot of people who gave it high praise (critics included). I also got some enjoyment out of it. However, it just didn’t feel like a Tomb Raider game, orign story or not.
Star Wars has been in the news recently for the announcement of the new cast for Episode VII. Many fans are excited that their beloved characters are coming back to the silver screen, albeit a bit older. It may be the natural tendency for some die-hard fans to reach for one of the many novels while waiting for the new movie to come out. However, there are other options for Star Wars literature. Star Wars comics are nothing new, but they are one of the Star Wars universe’s best kept secrets. Typically grittier in tone, the comics expand upon the Star Wars universe, and their plots are interwoven between the novels. One of the darker series is the Star Wars: Dark Empire Trilogy. Set six years after Return of the Jedi, Dark Empire explores Luke Skywalker’s decent into the dark side.
The Dark Empire series was originally a bi-monthly series that started in late 1991. Published by Dark Horse Comics, the trilogy consists of Dark Empire I (six issues), Dark Empire II (six issues), and Empire’s End (2 issues). The series is written by Tom Veitch. However, there was an artist change between Cam Kennedy, who did Dark Empire I and II, to Jim Balkie, who drew for Empire’s End. The trilogy was published in a hardcover edition in 2010, which unfortunately appears to not be in print at the moment, which has caused the price of this edition to skyrocket. However, buyers can still purchase the individual paperback books fairly cheaply. Another alternative is purchasing in e-book format. For the purposes of this review, the hardcover addition will be highlighted.
Dark Empire begins after Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. The New Republic is desperately trying to battle the last remnants of the Empire. However, they have even more to deal with than they had bargained for: a new type of weapon, called “World Devastators” are wrecking havoc all over the galaxy. Not only that, but Emperor Palpatine is back in a cloned body. Wanting to smash the rebels once and for all, he develops his power even more by studying the Sith. The Emperor, however, has plans in mind for Luke, who this new Emperor “Reborn” hopes to turn to the dark side.
The story is especially fun, since Luke turns into a much darker character.
The story is faster-paced when compared to some of the novels and highlights the “core” Star Wars characters: Luke’s struggle with the dark side, Han and Leia’s relationship, and the Emperor, a bad guy that readers just love to hate. The tone is dark, serious, and desperate. For Star Wars fans who want to see the darker side of the series, it is a must-read. If reading as a stand-alone from the rest of the novels, the story could become a bit confusing at times, as it assumes that the reader had prior knowledge of many of the plot lines that have happened in previous books and movies. These comics are not recommended for casual Star Wars fans. If reading the hardcover edition, it does include the Dark Empire Handbook that walks through all of the characters, places, and terms. It still might be a little daunting, though. However, many die-hard fans will enjoy the direction that Veitch takes with the storyline and tone.
Both Kennedy and Balkie are amazing artists. Although their styles are different, the overall tone was kept the same, making the transition from Dark Empire I and II to Empire’s End pretty easy. Kennedy’s drawings are a little sharper, focusing on sharper lines. Balkie’s art is a little softer both in the way that he draws the characters and scenes. Both are enjoyable to go through, although probably the best piece in the hardcover edition is the cover art by Dave Dorman, which features Luke Skywalker in his “dark side” outfit.
Here Luke and the cloned Emperor fight. Kennedy is a bit more sharp in his images.
Overall, this series is a must-have for hard-core Star Wars fans, especially ones who have all of the rest of the novels lining their bookshelves but haven’t dabbled into the comics. The writing, storyline, and art are top-notch. Star Wars: Episode VII writers and producers might want to take note of this one. This is the way to do a good Star Wars plot. Dark Empire is a series that takes the fantasy of Star Wars and adds a more artistic element to it, not only in the artwork but also the story. Here’s hoping that Episode VII is half as good.
When I was first asked to play Conception II I haven’t played an RPG in quite sometime. Going into this game I didn’t expect an extremely fantastic title or anything remotely interesting…mainly because I didn’t know anything about the title or series for that matter. Then I realized that the more of it I play the more intrigued I became. Then the experience became a little more jaded. While the game wasn’t bad it became slightly repetitive and more so cumbersome than anything.
The game takes place in the World of Aterra where they worship the Star God where they prosper through the power of Star Energy. You are known as God’s Gift who trains at an academy for disciples which is a special group of people who are summoned to fight against monsters who come from Dusk Circles. As God’s Gift you and a collective of females perform a ritual for the church known as Classmating to generate Star Children. Why is this important? The Star Children assist you in combat along with you and a female partner and they all have a particular class and several set of set of skills.
I’ve never been so confused and befuddled with confusion quite like I have been while playing the game. I’m not so much confused into the depth of the world as I am with why some of these things are especially necessary. For a lack of better words, classmating is essentially having sex to produce children who can fight. It is blatantly obvious considering the underlying tone of everyone and the way each girl presents themselves before and after it occurs. Doing it just makes you feel slightly more dirty. Even more so when you are forced into doing classMANting which while really funny is in a way kind of perverse.
Engaging enemies is where the game gets even more unique. Once you encounter an enemy inside one of the games many labyrinth’s you are forced to choose between normal JRPG actions such as attack, skill and defense. The most interesting aspect is the combat system in which you choose the side to attack your foe. Every enemy has a weak side and the choice of each side benefits you during combat. My only main concern with the battle system is that you are given the option to guard and yet it does nothing. It states that you will take less damage but you still take just as much as if you weren’t defending. I have also noticed that for a JRPG it’s pretty easy. I have played much easier games but I never really felt as if I there was too much going on and the difficulty made matters worse.
Graphically the game is rather impressive as it features fully animated anime style cut scenes and moves at a silky smooth 60 FPS. The in game engine isn’t bad as it looks more like an above average PlayStation 2 title with a few more bells and whistles. The thing I was more impressed with was the music and the character design. These two things were probably my main drive for playing this game as I was more intrigued just to see what the next monster would look like. To be quite honest the designers seem to draw heavily from the Persona series as the music and monsters seem as if they came straight from that source.
Overall the game is like “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears” as it doesn’t do anything overall really impressive nor does it do anything really bad. Although it’s themes may not be quite suitable for everyone it’s still interesting enough with it cool soundtrack and character design. The game may not be for everyone but I do feel as if it worth a play through for anyone who is itching for a new RPG to play for their Vita. It hits the mark at being just right.
Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons is a beautiful game perfectly offset by a dark and bloody story. In Brothers you set off from a nice peaceful town, where the biggest obstacle is a random bully, in order to save your ailing father to dark and bloody areas filled with despair and death. As you travel across the world with their unique controller setup you’ll have to navigate countless simple puzzles and save the occasional NPC who will in turn help you along your journey; which is only becoming more and more perilous as you go.
In between these moments, however, is where you’ll experience the bulk of the game’s brilliant storytelling. Brothers is a nonverbal game where the characters speak in a fantasy language and your only context are the characters heavy use of hand gestures and actions that do a wonderful job of making everything clear while also showcasing each brother’s personalities. While the older brother’s actions are far more focused on helping his father the little brother’s interactions with others and the environment are more carefree.
Simply going down the alternate paths will reward you with experiences you would have otherwise never knew existed. For instance I’m moving on to the next area and I look down to see a man standing on a chair. What I didn’t notice until I went down his path to look was that there was also a noose tied around his neck. Now you can either watch a man commit suicide or have the older brother hold him up while the little climbs the tree and unties the knot. Brothers is full of moments like that in each and every area and the controls really enhance the experience.
In Brothers you simultaneously control them maneuvering a series of puzzles working together through beautiful landscapes. Each brother is assigned a half of the controller and it works flawlessly. While you use the analogs to control each brother’s direction the triggers control their actions. The only problems I experienced with the controls were user based which at times can cause a little frustration. I would routinely have the little brother running into some random wall because I was paying attention to the other or use the wrong side of the controller and falling.
Puzzles or I guess obstacles are obviously the main challenge of the game and all of them use the teamwork component. Whether it’s the big brother using his strength or the little brother using his size each obstacle is easy to navigate for the most part. The challenge comes when you have to “quickly” traverse the area. You’ll be so focused on doing it right and finding your rhythm and it may take you a little longer than expected. The best part about this, however, is that there isn’t a task that will take you forever to figure out or even do. The “harder” ones will take you a few tries tops and you’ll be on your way. Once you learn the controls you’ll be able to fluidly move through every challenge.
Brothers is an extremely short game, but appropriately so. You won’t have this incomplete of rushed feeling by the end of it. Brothers is a must play for anyone who can appreciated a good story and in my opinion should be enjoyed by all. Gamers and non-gamers alike. It’s truly a beautiful game. 9/10.
You can find Brothers: A tale of two sons on Xbox live arcade or currently for free with a PlayStation plus membership.
Fifteen people have been banished from their city and left to their own devices in Medieval times. Can you help them get back on their feet? Banished is a city builder/real time strategy on PC where you start with a randomly generated map and fifteen citizens who must survive harsh weather, natural disasters and disease. You assign citizens to specific jobs like farmer, woodcutter, builder, and hunter. The objective is to repopulate the map and have enough resources to keep your citizens alive.
Banished is about as open to interpretation as Minecraft. All of the things you can build are available right off the bat, all you need are the resources and the workers to build them. The game is incredibly challenging because you have to multitask. Not only do you have to keep your food supply up, but you also have to make sure you have enough firewood ready for the winter. Chopping logs into firewood is a separate job from cutting down trees, so you have to remember to tell your laborers to chop down wood. You also have to make sure your people have warm clothes to wear, so hunters gather leather while tailors make clothes. Then, you have to remember that all of these people need tools to work with, so make sure your laborers are gathering iron and wood so your blacksmith can make tools. It can be quite a mess at times.
The thing I like least about this game is that what you start out with is all you get. Because of that, the game gets monotonous after awhile. There are no objectives other than “don’t die.” You can’t really make upgrades. It’s not like Age of Empires where you can buy upgrades to help your citizens work more efficiently. It’s also not like Sim City where you can make advances in education and medicine. I realize this is a game set in Medieval times and isn’t meant to be advanced through time, but I would have at least liked to see the technology in the game advance through the period.
Even though there are no real objectives to Banished, at least you can use the achievements as guidance for how you want to progress in the game. Most of the achievements start at having a population of 300. After a couple hours of play, my town was only up to 100 citizens. The more you play the game, the better you get at managing your town. You also get faster at expanding your population. I think this is the type of game that gets better with more practice. The last city I built, which I named South Park, was growing fast and had more than enough workers. I had tons of food and I kept up a steady amount of firewood. However, earlier in the game I had turned off tool production since I had reached a good amount, and told that worker to go do something else. There isn’t any alert about being low on tools like there is for pretty much every other resource in the game, so I had forgotten to send my blacksmith back to work. Now none of my citizens can do their jobs and the blacksmith can’t keep up with demand. That’s an example of how once you think you’ve mastered Banished, you’ll eventually make a mistake.
Here are some tips where I’ve learned from my mistakes:
Keep building houses! This is the number one way to keep your population growing. Your citizens have babies, and those babies grow up to be workers. The parents get old too, and die of old age eventually. In one of my earlier towns, I didn’t keep up with building houses and it turned out all my citizens were over the age of 80!
Never turn off firewood production. At the beginning of the game, you’re going to think once you’ve hit your woodcutter’s limit for firewood, that you can send him to a different job and turn off firewood production. You will run out quick, especially as you expand your population. Always keep several woodcutters available to make firewood. That “Low Firewood” alert is annoying!
Keep a couple laborers handy for when you need raw materials. These are citizens who don’t get assigned to specific jobs, they just hang out until you need someone to cut down a tree, or gather stone or iron. It’s really a good idea to always have laborers gathering raw resources.
Create hunters and gatherers first thing. These guys gather food quicker than farming. So while you’re planting farms and orchards and waiting for livestock to mate, hunters and gatherers are going to be your main food source. If you have enough workers, you can build more lodges.
Herbalists aren’t that big of a deal. In my last and best town, I decided not to worry about an herbalist hut. As a result, that was one more worker for something important, my citizens were still at maximum happiness, and I was at maximum health for my longest time yet!
With all its frustrations, I would give Banished 8 out of 10. Even though there are no clear cut objectives, it’s very rewarding when you’ve learned something new on your own and can implement it in a new town. As a huge fan of strategy games, I’ll be playing Banished for weeks to come.
If you want to get banished you can buy it on Steam or DRM free from the source!
I received a review copy of a game I was eyeing on the Nintendo Eshop roughly a week ago it is exactly what you read in the title above… Welcome to NZ Gamer’s Review of Zen Studios, Castle Storm. Let me start this all off with a disclaimer, Castle Storm has DLC I did not get the opportunity to experience to that portion of the game. I attempted to acquire something from this package yet there was nothing available yet at the time of my review. Though, the online structure is set-up so that you can choose various types of castle sets from the Viking side of the war which is similar in many ways to the knight class of men normally used in single player campaign. These on the other hand have classes of soldiers and projectile types along with your spell casting possibilities are unique to the mystic lore of the Norse people I must also mention that at the times that I had enjoying Castle Storm I could not get a connection with another player on Nintendo’s Network not because of network issues just that the game is fairly new and also the time I decided to play this title. Now that all the jibber-jabber is out of the way lets hunker down and take a longer gaze in the world of Castle Storm.
From war to peace and back again…
A very long time ago when time moved at the pace of a gargantuan snail yet war was as constant as the sun rise and sun set. There were the Vikings, on the barbaric path to rule all the lands of the civilized world pitted themselves constantly against the Knights of might, magic and chivalrous deeds. The history was torn by tumultuous times neither side making headway towards a victorious end came to a battle of the ages. The greatest battle of their times this war was so great and horrible the goddess wept over the battlefield and the many lost as she wept two gems of tears fell to the ground one red and the other blue. The sheer sound of these gems touching the ground caught the attention of each colliding squad of men as they each grasped each jewel each bearer had unending life creating the atmosphere for peace for all and so the entire land fell into peace. Time passes the kingdom fall under the same woes of past lore forgotten by most though, not by time.
First, I delved into the kingdoms by selecting the Normal difficulty, the other two options available is Casual & Hard. I played this title mainly in Gamepad mode I am a Dad and a Husband so, there is some the full treatment I was able to fully interact with the screen in simple ways like, selecting virtual buttons and opening up menus and sub-menus. This is not the only interaction that is included with the user experience you can also play directly from the gamepad screen via touch controls, independently from the controller’s thumb sticks & face buttons. I found that as a beginner the touch controls are great for a novice though as I progressed through the game I have gotten used to the normal controls. Castle Storm at first glance to would seem like an Angry Birds projectile game with the some swordsmen added to the mix. Making that assumption and sticking with it might be a decision you should reconsider all because Castle Storm is a 3D modeled 2D Tower Defense/ Light RTS/ Action side-scroller it requires a much deeper skillset. Gameplay elements are simple and the light & sometimes funny dialogues in between stages are a good break from the madness that occurs within the game. There are “capture the flag” scenarios along with “raiding” scenarios the latter has you sending your troops by foot to the neighboring castle while, the former has you defend the flag on the opposing troop & your squad tries to retrieve the flag first. There are various types of gameplay scenarios thrown at you through Castle Storm all of which are scored, tallied and hinged upon the completion of certain objectives. All in which are as follows; Main Objectives which is something that will have you complete certain tasks that are typically story involved like Capture the flag or destroy the castle while the Bonus Objectives you have a mission to complete the stage by a certain time limit or to obtain a point score of a great size to be able to receive additional points or coins. There is a statistics system that consists of total kills, headshots, ballista kills and frenzy kills along with kill streaks & longest streaks. In between each main stage you will compete in a arena type stage pitting you against a bevy of baddies such as wild turkeys, boars and the like within a limited amount of time along with some bonus objectives.
Ready the arms we have troops incoming!
There are many different ways to deal death to your sworn enemies in Castle Storm you get 3 different of weapon classes to accomplish your goals. Weapon types can be selected using touch or classic controls by tapping the L & R shoulder buttons the list of your available items will be located on the bottom of either screen you decide to use. Depending on your play style the Ballista will be your choice Reaper of bodies several “Projectiles” are ready for you to use 9 to be exact. The life blood of most of your military operations will be “Troops” whereas you will be able to select from 9 different types. This list ranges from Archers, swordsmen, Healers and many more it will be up to you to figure out the correct range of mighty men to place in your queue choose wisely the kingdom is on the cusp of destruction. Last but not least you have the class of “Spells” in which you have 7 to choose from these spells can be used in the field typically by Temporary Invisibility, Shielding for your castle of course there are others to utilize against your enemies I will let you discover what lies ahead. All these weapon types can be selected in between stages so, that you can reconfigure your plans leading into your future battles. While using your “Troops” you can have them on the field as long as their health meter has energy left. Your projectiles from your ballista are controlled by a timer which can be extended by upgrades to your arsenal. The same can be said about the spells that you will use throughout your battles against your barbaric enemies.
As they huff and puff let’s fortify our walls with strength and grit so that they shalt not fall…
Castle Creator/ Defense strategy
As your game progresses you will start to unlock castle upgrades initially you can change typical decorative aesthetics. Later, things like your barracks of your Archers & swordsmen also recruitment office quarters & many more will be available to you. These castle upgrades can be positioned anyplace within your castle walls it’s up to you to strategically place these upgrades wherever you see fit. I have tweaked the best positioning that suited my plying style though, I have created several types of castle sets to work great with certain stage difficulties along with the opposition’s projectiles and various troop types. You are able to test your designs within the creator’s ballista which has all the possible projectiles available to you via your single player missions which is great for perfecting your fortifications. As I delved deeper into mastering the architecture of castle building I was pleasantly surprised by how this game came together I tip my hat to Zen Studios of Pinball fame. I can now see that this game company is not just a one trick pony and I hope two things happen 1.) You go out and purchase this game from Nintendo Wii U Eshop available to you for a low $9.992.) I hope that Zen studios keep hitting us with games with deep skill sets and enjoyable to play.
Thank you, for your stay and please enjoy the rest of Real Otaku Gamer your place for Nerdgasmic pleasures!