Trouble Thinking

July 13, 2012

Steam Summer Sale 2012: Day 2

What to buy, what not to buy, you need help I know”

-Payday: The Heist: If you’ve got friends to play it with, I’ve heard it’s a very fun L4D clone. Probably worth a look for you and your pals at $5.

-From Dust: I got it! It got acceptable reviews that mentioned a few issues, but nothing major. For $3.75 obviously worth a shot.

-Anno 2070: Unless you really really need a near-future Anno, I don’t know that I’d bother. The other Anno games are great, and still cheaper than $25.

-The Binding of Issac: Is amazing. For $1.25, you’re going to get a lot of game. I’d go for it.

-Tribes: Ascend Starter Pack: No! You don’t pay for free games. Let other people finance FTP with their $5, you’re no rube.

-Indie Bundle II: Is not setting my world on fire. Maybe E.Y.E alone? It’s very weird, worth a look if you’re into that, but the pack might not be worth $10.

-Warhammer 40K Space Marine: Fun and simple third-person shooting. A bit repetitive, but it’s just a ridiculous, gory good time for the majority of play. Well worth $7.50.

-Sonic Generations: Well, if you’re one of the people who were waiting years for a decent Sonic Game… yay! This is it. If you’re anyone else, feel free to continue forgetting who Sonic was. $10.

-Max Payne 3: I’ve heard good things about the shooting mechanics, but honestly grab Space Marine and wait for the price to drop below $30 if you must shoot things in third person.

Flash Deal You Need:

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light: The best Lara Croft game, and one of my top fun-givers of the past few years.

July 11, 2012

Endless Space: Spacey Good

Endless Space came out last week, it’s made by Amplitude Studios and is pretty neat! It is a great Space 4X that you should give a try because it’s like $30 and what like you’re really so flush with Space 4X games that you can’t afford to try another? I mean I guess Sins of a Solar Empire, sort of, but that really boils down more to RTS mechanics than 4X mechanics.

But let’s talk a bit more about Endless Space and why it’s worth a shot.

Endless Space is a game about taking control of an alien race (or plain old humans if you’re boring), and guiding them from humble beginnings in their home system to becoming a massive Galactic Empire. You begin with a single colonized planet, a colony ship, and a scout ship. To accomplish galactic domination, you need to do several things. First of all, you need to Explore the galaxy, finding out what planets are nearby, what routes connect to them, where the wormholes are (as we all know wormholes are pretty common in Game Space) and whether or not there are any nearby alien races. As you explore, you’ll find new planets that look just as good as home, if not better. That’s where you drop the Colony ship! You basically keep doing this at each new planet that looks decent. At first you can only colonize reasonably temperate planets, but you’ll unlock the ability to colonize asteroids and gas giants later. At first your new Outposts will be a bit low-producing, and they won’t expand your imperial influence, but over the course of around 30 turns at first and 10-15 later Outposts turn to Colonies that may eventually outstrip even your home system in production.

As you Expand further, you’ll find new resources to Exploit. In Endless Space resources are divided into those that are necessary for production of certain improvements and ship systems and those that provide useful benefits for your imperial economy. Access to a resource allows any connected system to use them, as well as allowing you to trade any excess to other races. If you manage to get 4 or more of any resource, you get a unique bonus, like +60% to the movement speed of your ships. As you grow, you’ll research new technology, which will allow you to build new structures that usually serve to either increase your production or increase your influence, with some having unique effects based on the layout of your system (+2 production per colonist on Gas Giants for instance). When you inevitably meet other races, you can talk them up a bit. You always start in “cold war” which means that so long as you’re not in each other’s respective influence areas you can fight, take over Outposts, generally be dicks without consequence. You can choose to make Peace official, though, and eventually start trade agreements and alliances. Pretty standard Civ-style diplomacy.

And that’s it! Explore, Expand, Exploit resources, research and conduct diplomacy and oh also murder like most of the people you meet. Combat in Endless Space is interesting. It’s a compromise between the Civilization style of just having stacks hit each other with rules governing who wins, and the Master of Orion method where you actually control fights. You design ships by choosing from different size “platforms” and then attaching whatever modules (usually weapons and shields) that are going to be most useful. Then you produce one ship at a time, stack them together in groups of 5 (with research you can increase that number) and send them to different systems. If there’s an enemy ship stack in that system, you blow them to hell. If you take manual control of the fight, you see a nifty automated space battle that you can use “cards” to affect in 3 stages. Each card counters some other type of card, so you can play Barrier (increases ship armor and health) to counter Sabotage (decreases accuracy), and you come out of it shooting straight and nice and well protected for that battle stage. There are three stages, and three weapon types with each weapon favoring a certain stage. Kinetic weapons do well up close, lasers at medium range, and missiles hit very hard right at the end of the first stage. All fights take place at systems, there’s no intercepting fleets en-route. You can, however, prevent someone from leaving a system by setting a fleet to “intercept” at that system. It doesn’t mean they need to attack, or you do, but it does mean that they can’t move their ships unless they take out the intercepting fleet.

So all this hangs together pretty damn well! There’s really not much else to say, if that sounds like fun to you you will definitely like the game. There are a few weird issues that I do think they could do with fixing up. First, the game isn’t “turn-based” in the sense that each player gets to move, then the other, it’s actually simultaneous turn-based. So it can be hard to tell when a thing is going to happen. You might see enemy fleets seem to move during your own turn because you’ve taken a ship off Intercept and suddenly that move order from last turn is viable and the enemy leaps right out of the system where you thought you had them trapped. There’s also an issue with the combat, in that the enemy AI doesn’t seem to quite make decisions fast enough to fight effectively. It heavily favors Kinetics and Missiles, which means that if you take the cheapest lasers, and put them all on the cheapest ships, you can usually overwhelm their ships (as you might be defenseless, but so are they against lasers) with fleets of shitty craft. Building up to the super-cool Dreadnaughts doesn’t necessarily grant enough of an advantage. Dreadnaughts don’t have any real unique ability to overwhelm smaller ships or provide fleet bonuses or anything, so they wind up being the equivalent of 6 shitty ships, which are all cheaper and can be thrown up once a turn. But this does seem like something that can be fixed with a few data changes.

The other issue is that frankly diplomacy is too easy! You basically can just be a nice neighbor, and suddenly you’re on your way to victory because it’s 3 against 1 in any war. There’s no real conflict unless you’re directly next to each other early on, fighting for planets. I wouldn’t mind slightly more in-depth consequences of allying with someone, or manners of frustrating your enemies beyond simply denying them the pleasure of your company.

Also, I haven’t actually played Multiplayer yet, so I can’t comment on that.

The nice part is that between the Games2Gether voting system and the forums, they seem to be addressing these issues pretty quickly. So basically, definitely buy this game if any of the previous description appeals to you at all. It’s pretty as hell, it’s fun, and the issues with it are pretty minor at this point.

 

Edit: Oh and it is $30, so for goodness sake it’s a dang budget half-price game. Can you believe that? Look at the screens and say that looks like a budget game. It’s beautiful.

July 25, 2011

Captain America: More Like Captain Amer I Can… be a good movie.

Filed under: Movies — Tags: , , , , , — Durandal @ 12:03 pm

Look I apologize and I’ll understand if you want to leave right now. But before you go: please watch Captain America. It’s really quite a decent flick.

So I guess all the Marvel comics movies can now be separated into “Avengers” and “Not Avengers”. The Avengers movies seem to have been designated the flagship of the Marvel movie universe, with Iron Man as the standard-bearer because well Robert Downy Junior is adorable. Captain America is the first Marvel movie that gives Iron Man a run for his vast fortune. Wheras Thor was a very fun film with a decent backbone and an excellent portrayal of Loki, and X-Men: First Class was an interesting premise with an amazing portrayal of Magneto, Captain America is simply great.

What has cemented Captain America as my favorite of the recent comic book movies is that it’s the only one that uses the by now standard retelling of the origin story for something worthwhile. Here’s Captain America’s origin from the 40’s comics:

That Nazi Saboteur obviously doesnt' really understand experimental procedure. I mean it's not just a series of tests that ends with the last subject but whatever.

Hunh, I hadn’t noticed that gaining intelligence was supposed to be a part of it until just now. Anyways, that characterization you see? That’s about how much everyone got. Dr. Erskine was a name that kind of sounded like Einstein, and Captain America was a prototype superman who immediately leaps into the war to turn the tide. It’s succinct and punchy but you know, not really a “story”. Most superhero origins are similarly constrained, and the question becomes one of working with them in a way that introduces newcomers to the story without boring the piss out of the stalwart fans you’re depending on for your base audience.

“Captain America: The First Avenger” brilliantly expounds on the origin, giving a voice and a reason to Dr. Erskine and allowing him to becoming more of a driving force than his one-note existence in the comics allowed. It also makes Captain America something more than the Charles Atlas boy.  Dr. Erskine is introduced as a German ex-pat, a moral man once forced by the Nazis to put his mind to work for evil. That right there is something: the very first German Steve Rogers meets is from Queens. He couldn’t become Captain America without being a decent enough human being to trust that a person isn’t defined solely by nationality. In addition, Erskine himself has a scene where he’s put in stark relief to Nazi Super Scientists Armin Zola and the Red Skull, who pursue science without consideration for safety or decency due to cowardice and self-absorption respectively.

Through the characterization of Erskine, the origin of Captain America becomes less about having awesome steroids and more about the relationship between power and the people who wield it. I mean Erskine specifically mentions that having seen his work corrupted by the Nazis, he’s looking for a man who is weak enough to know that power has to be used wisely instead of taken for granted.

It’s not exactly the deepest philosophy, but it’s trying. Iron Man, for all that I love it, was almost sometimes about taking power for granted, and then mostly was about how robot suits are fucking awesome (another philosophical point I wholly endorse). More importantly, it managed to do this origin without being bone-crushingly boring for someone who already knew the dance steps.

From Marvel.Com! If you didn't notice.

The second piece of Captain America that really made it click for me was that there was a solid reasoning behind the plotting that just isn’t there in many movies, particularly big superhero action flicks. Captain America moved from setting to setting only when it could explain exactly why it was doing so. Nothing happened simply because the principal characters willed it so. Many superhero movies provide motivation and setting for hero and villain, and then in the space of a week they each Origin Story themselves, and they meet at regular intervals for an entire arc’s worth of nemisising. Captain America only allows the hero and villain to meet when a meeting makes sense within the story context. Settings aren’t simply window dressing for action sequences, they’re stages on a journey from Steve Rogers the wimp to Captain America the savior of the US of A. If you took any sequence out of order, it wouldn’t make sense. I can’t say the same thing for many action films.

Also, for god’s sake, things took time. The one silliest part of Thor was that the entire thing took place over the span of a week. Captain America’s personal revelations take place over the course of a war, and his chaste love interest doesn’t fall head over heels for him in a during the arduous trek from Monday to Wednesday. Although the montage sequences went slightly longer than I might have liked, they at least said in bold letters: TIME PASSED AND THINGS CHANGED AS THEY DO…. rather than relying on our idea that yeah it seems right that Thor should learn humility by the end so I guess he does.

I think what provided this backbone was in large part the wartime setting. This movie felt a bit like the propaganda flicks from the 40’s, where providing an accurate picture of exactly where and when the attack was happening and who was flanking who was all part of the wartime cheerleading.

Anyways, go see this movie. It’s the best of the Marvel stuff, and now my personal favorite of the comic films I’ve seen.

March 30, 2011

Dragon Age 2 Sure Was a Game

Filed under: Game Reviews — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 1:54 pm

It's... right behind me, isn't it?

So I finished up Dragon Age 2, and if I had to boil the experience down to two words I would probably say “No, I can’t do that. Go ahead and kill the hostages.”

Massive spoilers follow , so, you know.

It was basically a good time, most of the time. The only real problems with it were the plot, the role-playing opportunities, and the combat system.

Wait that came out wrong. Basically, like the previous game Dragon Age: Origins, I obsessively completed everything and was glad to have done so but also have just just a completely crazy number of complaints large and small. I’m not really certain that most of them are constructive either, but I’m getting these down on internet anyway because all of the things I’ve ever thought are important to every one of you mouth breathers.

Okay so first a bit of a rundown of the game: Dragon Age 2 is the second in a series of RPGs that I assume is really hoping to be this huge ongoing story, they’re not indicating the sort of three-parter story structure that has become standard when you do well enough to warrant sequels. The game lets you choose to be a mage, rogue, or warrior and then you’re plopped into the shoes of [First Name you choose but no one ever ever uses ever] Hawke. You’re a refugee from the Blight, a Fantasy World Bad Thing that has totally screwed up British Fantasy Place “Ferelden”. So you and your generally prickly and annoying family are forced to hit the trail and head to the port city-state of Kirkwall, where you’ll need to make your name.

The narrative is split into three parts, each separated by a time-jump of three years. The idea being to show you the consequences of your actions over a longer timeframe and allow you to see less of a straight “hero arises, defeats big bad” story and more of a story about the life of a particularly cool person.

There’s a framing narrative thing that the whole game is a story being told by one of your companions, Varric, but as they do precisely 2 interesting things with it over the course of the entire game, one at the very beginning, they may as well have not done that at all and just gone with a narrator and no extraneous explanation of the timeskips beyond “and then…”

So let me get down into what I disliked about the game, because what I liked is boring stuff like “it was a pretty well-made version of a genre I enjoy”.

(more…)

February 18, 2011

DreamKeepers Volumes 1 and 2: A Review

Filed under: Books, Comics — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — callmegeo @ 4:34 am

Well, well, well, look who’s running the show now. I’m sorry to say that Durandal came up a little late in making payments on his “don’t break my computer” insurance. It’s a shame  just how fragile our modern technology can be…

While my esteemed colleague is busy contemplating the merits of not being a wise guy, the duty falls upon me to keep you entertained with insightful commentary. This week, I bring you a review of a graphic novel series called DreamKeepers.

The artwork in DreamKeepers has a surprising amount of depth and polish

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Geo, you’re an engineer. Engineers are social outcasts so crippled by their overwhelming genius, that they could not possibly provide any sort of legitimate commentary on a work which requires a real soul and human emotions to appreciate.” And, in truth, that’s a fair point. However, if I am to ever learn to know what it is like to feel love, I must attempt to communicate with you, the reader, through a critical examination of modern graphic novel media. It says so in the rules.

So, let us begin.

I stumbled upon DreamKeepers entirely by accident, by clicking on the wrong ad banner whilst browsing one of my favorite webcomics, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. It turns out it was a very fortuitous event, as rather than being led to some internet flash game promising “intense space battles”, I instead found myself on a site advertising some form of fantasy-ish setting graphic novel series with anthropomorphic animal characters.

Now, normally I see fantasy and go ‘meh’, and I see a character with a tail and go ‘meh’ some more. I normally confine my attention to things involving a lot more lasers and spaceships and human or robot characters. But, being an inquisitive young lad, I poked around the DreamKeepers site a bit, just to see what was going on.

What really made me stop and take notice of DreamKeepers was a sextet of articles written by the one of the creators, explaining the state of the modern day comics industry, why comics are marginalized as a medium, and what he plans to do to change all that. I certainly can’t do the articles justice by summarizing them myself, so I’ll simply say that if you go to the DreamKeepers site, you should give them a read. It really opened my eyes to a world I frankly know very little about, and it was also a very entertaining read that managed to present facts in a fun way that made me actually care.

Unlike my friend and colleague Durandal, I my greatest aspiration in life is not to make love to both Batman and Iron Man simultaneously. I’ve never bought a traditional comic book in my two and a half decades of existence. I *do* have Watchmen the graphic novel, and a very small collection of manga, but that wraps up about anything I read that has also pictures in addition to words. So, when I say that DreamKeepers interested me enough to buy both volumes that very night, you understand the context of my experience.

Reading what the DreamKeepers author was attempting to do with his work, and understanding his road map for success made me sit up and take notice. This isn’t some teenager sketching catgirls to satisfy his secret sexual fetishes (as far as I know), this is a man with a head for business, a passion for his work, and the determination to take the difficult first steps towards creating something that never existed before, like starting his own publishing company. Entrepreneurship always gets my motor running, so I forked over the $4 to buy digital versions of both DreamKeepers volumes published so far, and dared DreamKeepers to impress me… As it turns out, it did.

Super quick synopsis: The story is set in a fictional dreamworld which ostensibly parallels our own reality. The characters in this world (called Dream Keepers) have no awareness of our own world, yet their reality is the the line of defense between our real world, and the so-called Nightmares which seek to gain influence over us. After several hundred years of relative peace between the last war between the Dream Keepers and Nightmares, the dreamworld society has become disarmed and complacent, setting the stage for the story as the Nightmares plot a new uprising.

The main protagonists of DreamKeepers are Mace, an orphan, and Lilith and Namah, the legitimate and illegitimate daughters respectively of the world’s primary political figure. The three of them quickly find themselves drawn into events far larger in scope than they realize, and the conclusion of Volume 2 promises that the events depicted so far are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s in store for future installments of this franchise. If you want to learn more, you should pick up a copy of the story yourself, so instead of prattling on about background information, I will proceed with a topic by topic breakdown of the series.

Setting: I suppose the best way to describe the environment of DreamKeepers is as a fantasy-hybrid setting. A fantasy foundation with an anachronistic smattering of more modern day and sci-fi technology, such as telepads, computer-like “data scrolls”, and firearm analogs called “springers”. It doesn’t perfectly fit the mold of any traditional genre setting, but for me, that’s appealing. There’s enough commonality with the world we live in to feel familiar and comfortable to the reader, yet at the same time its uniqueness is alien enough to draw you in and elicit emotions of wonder and exploration. The various discrete elements of the setting combine to become one which is fresh, engaging, and surprisingly believable.

Characters: I was very skeptical about how the characters would flesh out in DreamKeepers. Anthro-style characters and works have a bit of a bad rep out here in the cyber world, and the stereotype was a hard one for me to see past when deciding whether or not DreamKeepers was even worth my time and attention. I’m not a “furry” fanboy, and I didn’t really want a story that specifically catered to that demographic subset. Thankfully, my wariness disappeared relatively quickly once I started to get through the first chapter. Yeah, the characters are all some form

of anthropomorphic animal or combination of animals, but it didn’t feel like I was just watching a bunch of foxes and cats with clothes on running around and doing things.  These characters were individuals, each with a personality and perspective on events that grew far larger than their mere physical appearances. As a matter of fact, I started to really appreciate the diversity of appearance of the inhabitants of the DreamKeepers universe. Each character was his or her own person, but being based on different creature foundations gave them a physical uniqueness which seemed to further individualize them in my eye. My favorite character in the whole series so far is actually one of the secondary protagonists, a badass bionic snake-like character called Scinter. You’ll see who I mean when you read DreamKeepers yourself(which you should).

All in all, the cast of the story is very organic and original, with my only complaint being that one of the antagonists, Tinsel, seems a bit too over the top in fitting the “evil, conceited, hot girl” mold for my personal tastes. I prefer villains who are more akin to misguided heroes, who firmly believe that they are acting in the right, yet find themselves at irreconcilable odds with protagonists due to differences in philosophy and perspective. However, since DreamKeepers is only two volumes into the story so far, there admittedly hasn’t been enough time to gain more than an introductory glance at some characters’ ultimate goals and motivations.

Writing: Overall, the script of DreamKeepers is very good. The maturity level is somewhere in the PG-13 ballpark, not in your face graphic or intense, nor sugar coated and dumbed down for younger audiences. I personally enjoy the flexibility a middle of the road approach provides to the writer and the reader. The serious moments are

I know the lighting effects are pretty, but you should be reading my review too!

certainly serious when they’re supposed to be, but interspersed are laugh out loud nuggets of wit that I couldn’t help but chuckle at. The overall gravity of the story seems to be at a balanced level, starting on the lighter side but slowly building up a sense of weight that sits in the back of my mind, leaving me with the unmistakable impression that events will continue to get  darker, deeper, and more epic in scale as the characters of the story get drawn further and further into a conflict of which only the surface has been scratched. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Volume 3, hopefully the later half of this year, so I can see the next iteration of events (to use a cliche) as the plot thickens.

The environment artwork in DreamKeepers is absolutely breathtaking

Artwork: This, for me, is really the biggest selling point of the DreamKeepers books. Yes, it’s a fun story with engaging characters and a well developed setting, but when I buy a graphic novel, I want my eyes to have something to enjoy too. As you can see from the example pages I’ve posted throughout this review, the DreamKeepers artists are not only talented, but committed to producing artwork with depth and color and scale which, frankly, I didn’t expect to see. The artwork in DreamKeepers Volume 1 seems to be slightly rougher and less refined than that of Volume 2, at least by my limited inspection. That’s not to say that it’s not excellent artwork, but there seems to be more complexity and more layers of effect in the second volume than the original.

The characters are very expressive, and the art style does and excellent job of conveying emotion. Then again, I suppose that’s one of the great advantages of cartooning. As a man who couldn’t draw a properly expressive cartoon character to save his life, I’m suitably impressed, if not totally unqualified to make any sort of judgement on the matter. We’re going to ignore that little detail though. Some people believe that because I’m some sort of new fangled rocket scientist I’m an expert on all things, and I’d hate to shatter their innocent illusions.

Anyways, what really grabs me about the artwork is the art direction of the natural environments of DreamKeepers. The flora, fauna, and especially the natural terrain depicted in Volume 2 is just absolutely breathtaking. I could lose myself for hours in the alien landscapes, and I can think of no more accurate adjective to describe them other than “beautiful”. Even the interior or city backgrounds can be quite elaborate, and the level of detail provides a real tangibility to the universe as you read through it. I could have posted dozens of pages to illustrate my point, but the three shown to the left should be sufficient to give a general impression of what I’m talking about. If you don’t like what you see on this page… you should probably go home and re-think your life.

Bottom Line: If you’re the sort of person who enjoys excellent things, then you will very likely enjoy reading DreamKeepers! It has beautiful artwork, excellent writing, characters, and a setting which borrows from many sub-genres yet feels entirely fresh and new. I don’t want to sound like some brown-nosing asshole, but seriously, if you have $4, support the talented creative duo behind this series and purchase the first two volumes to enjoy at your leisure. It’s less than you’d spend at McDonalds for a Big Mac, and it’s way nicer to look at than a Big Mac could ever be! Or you could shrug indecisively, mumble something inaudible and go back to poking around the internet like a normal boring person who has no sense of adventure. Your call man, whatever works for you.

If you’re poor and destitute without any money to spare, DreamKeepers

also puts out a weekly “Prelude” web comic, which examines the lives of the protagonists several years before the start of Volume 1.  I haven’t read through all of it yet, but hey, I’m not the cheapskate here.

In any case, if you’re reading this sentence, I appreciate your patience in

getting through this review. If you have any complaints, please remember that this is Durandal’s fault. Had his computer not kicked the bucket, you could read little snippets about indie games on xbox network, or whatever it is he goes on and on about these days.

The DreamKeepers website can be found here.

DreamKeepers is copyright of David Lillie and Vivid Independent Publishing. Images reprinted with permission.

No bribes were accepted prior to publishing this review ;).

INTRUSIVE EDIT: Learn to position pictures, Geo. Now that Durandal is back up and running and people are linking this article for some damn reason we can’t have this sort of slapdash getting thrown around.

INTRUSIVE RESPONSE TO THE INTRUSIVE EDIT: Gimme a break man, it looked super sleek on my monitor at my resolution, and now that you’ve dicked with the formatting it looks like ass on my screen. You have failed me for the last time…

January 3, 2011

Harry S. Plinkett Reviews Revenge of the Sith!

Filed under: Movies — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 11:45 am

So, the Plinkett Review of Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith is up!

What’s that? No idea what I’m talking about? God. New Year, new I’ve always been disappointed in you. The Plinkett Reviews are incredibly long, detailed, and hilarious reviews of the prequel Star Wars trilogies, as well as the Next Generation Star Trek movies. He also did a short one of Avatar. And when I say long, I mean it. The newest one clocks in at 110 minutes, or longer than the last actual movie I saw.

So who in their right minds would dedicate that much time to watching a movie review? Well, first of all you need to understand that the prequel trilogy is a slap in the face from which my dignity will never recover. Seeing the movies tarred and feathered for a grand total of about 5 hours is only barely the recompense I desire.

The other reason is that the reviews comprise a reasonably detailed lesson in film studies. By taking the time to piece together every tiny little thing the prequel trilogy did wrong, the Plinkett reviews give you some idea of what a movie needs in order to have some chance of being good. For instance, from the Episode 1 review I learned that it is traditional to have “a protagonist.” They’re also really, really funny if you’re into complaining about things.

Good stuff, give it a watch. Except Chris, Chris you can’t watch this it’s too good for you.

I should note that it’s totally not safe for work due to some um… well, you should see for yourself. At home!

February 26, 2010

Review: Mass Effect 2

Filed under: Game Reviews — Tags: , , , , — Chris @ 3:56 pm

Mass Effect 2 is so good, that it makes the first Mass Effect (which was great, by the way), look like an enormous piece of crap—and I mean that as the highest compliment imaginable. Bioware took everything that was annoying, or lackluster, in the first game, and either totally threw it out the window, or slimmed it down and reworked it into something superior. Gone is the completely out of place, yet frustratingly omnipresent, Mako Tank you had to struggle to drive around the surface of dozens of eerily similar planets. Instead, planetary exploration is handled by short, entertaining ground based missions. Loot and equipment, which in the first game was saddled with a clunky interface, and an overabundance of useless crap you were never, ever going to use, has been almost completely jettisoned, in favor of a series of upgrades which benefit not only Shepard (your main character), but all your party members, as well as the ability to customize the appearance and functionality Shepard’s armor as you see fit. The shooting mechanics and enemy AI have also received a massive overhaul. No longer will your enemies seemingly forget that they’re supposed to be in a cover shooter, and just run behind your cover and shoot you in the back of the head repeatedly, and the addition of location based damage, means all those carefully aimed headshots you made actually matter now.

The most astonishing thing about Mass Effect 2, however, is the quality of the writing. Very rarely am I actually impressed by the story and characters in a video game, and when I am, I suspect it has more to do with my filling in the blanks with my over-active imagination, than any skill on the part of the game’s developers. Mass Effect 2, though, is the real deal. This game’s characters are so well written and developed, that by the end of the game, when terrible, horrible things start happening to them, I was actually mad at Bioware for doing this to me. That’s quality right there

The ability to carry over your character from the first game, and the decisions you made, is executed far better than I ever imagined was possible. Altogether, this game serves to stoke my excitement for the series’ concluding chapter, which is supposedly coming out sometime next year. Bioware already had me sold on buying Mass Effect 3, before I even bought this game, just by virtue of their being Bioware, but if there were some way they could have like had me sold on it extra, they would have with Mass Effect 2. Does that make any sense? Probably not. What I’m trying to say, is this: the Mass Effect series is fucking sweet, Mass Effect 2 is the sweetest entry so far, and I can’t wait for more.

There.

That was so much easier.

February 24, 2010

Review: Star Trek Online

Filed under: Game Reviews — Tags: , , , , — Chris @ 3:55 pm

To say that I had “played” Cryptic Studios’ first MMO City of Heroes would be an understatement. “Obsessed over and devoted an embarrassingly large portion of my late teens/early twenties to” would in fact be a far more accurate description. For just over four years, the perfect storm of the superhero genre, near total character customization, and a wonderful group of fellow players kept me glued to my computer monitor for hours, days, months, playing City of Heroes, when I should have instead been doing pretty much anything else. Still, I loved that game, and it was only after exhausting nearly every gameplay possibility available, followed by continuing to play the game for another six months on top of that, did I finally decide I was finished with City of Heroes, and by extension, MMOs entirely. I had spent far too much time in Paragon City, and clearly there was something wrong with my personality which allowed me to be held in thrall to this genre, and I decided it would be safer simply to forgo them entirely. World of WarCraft could not entice me, and I was even able to hold CoH’s spiritual successor Champions Online at bay. Then, I started reading about Cryptic’s new project, Star Trek Online. Captain your own starship, it promised me. Customize every aspect, from the ship’s name and hull, its weapon output, and even your entire crew of bridge officers, all the way down to their species, gender, name, uniform and features. Why, that’s almost like creating your own “Star Trek” cast, and I sure do like character customization. Cryptic had me sold, and gainst my better judgment, I picked up STO, always fearing in the back of my mind that this would mean yet another four years of my life wasted. After having played the game long enough to reach its middle levels, I find that it turns out I never had anything to fear, because Cryptic’s Star Trek Online is a massive pile of shit.

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February 22, 2010

Review: Bayonetta

Filed under: Game Reviews — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 9:47 pm

Bayonetta, developed by Platinum Games and published by SEGA, knows exactly why people play action games.

Bayonetta shines when you’re given leave to go to town on the denizens of Heaven. The combat is fast, fluid, and inspired. Like most of the game, some of the most entertaining touches are simultaneously embarrassing and fun. Foot-guns are something you’ll have trouble convincing anyone are a cool idea. But it works, and it works so damn well. You’re given so many ridiculous options for dishing out punishment that you’d be hard-pressed not to look awesome doing it. The cut-scenes, crazy as they can be, never equal the sheer beautiful brutality you can muster when you’re playing well.

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