Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review: Lord of the Rings: War in the North

Lord of the Rings: War in the North (PC, X360, PS3)

As insane as it sounds, I think this is the first LOTR game I've ever played. And it was good. It wasn't without some major flaws though. I didn't actually beat the game because of one of those. We'll get to that later.
Story: The story, from what I could tell, takes place parallel to the three books/movies. You play as one of three characters who travel together. Throughout the story, you hear about a fellowship of 9 traveling with the Ring of Power, but don't encounter them. At least not up to chapter 3. This review is going to be somewhat incomplete because I've only played until about half way through the third chapter. The story hasn't been as enganging to me as it has been to Neuntoter, simply because I'm not as big of a LOTR fan as he is. There's a lot of dialog filling in the story, but, in truth, I didn't really go through a lot of it. It's just not that interesting to me. This isn't really an issue with the game itself as it is with me not being a LOTR fan, which is definitely who this game is aimed at.
Gameplay: This is definitely where I had more fun with the game. The gameplay is solid and interesting. There are three characters to play as. They definitely mirror the “big 3” being an obvious Warrior, Rogue, and Mage although they don't specifically go by these names. They are referred to as the Champion, Ranger, and Lore-Master, but easily fit the classic roles. I'm not saying this is a negative thing though. Games like WoW and to an extent, Guild Wars have shown me that breaking these 3 into more specialized classes don't always make a game better. The game is more or less a hack-n-slash kind of game with some RPG elements. You learn skills that get better with levels and earn stat points as you level. There are also plenty of options for equipment. There are also special sets of gear you get for pre-orders and for purchasing the game at select retailers. This equipment seems way too powerful however. I got this game at Best Buy and got the Lore-Master set. I was able to equip it all at the end of chapter 1 and have yet to replace any of it up until chapter 3. That may not seem like a long time, but these chapters are LONG. This added on top of the fact that I haven't even seen any gear that I would even consider wearing over my OP'ed pre-order stuff. I don't see any of it getting replaced soon. There's two major complaints I have about the gameplay. First, the characters, while fitting their archtypes for an RPG, all play kinda same-y. As I said, I've been using the Mage-type character and still find myself using melee a lot and doing decent damage with it. Likewise, the Warrior-type character, who is clearly designed for melee, still does big damage at long range. It's not a big deal, but after switching between the three, I'm just not seeing huge differences in playstyles. Second, cheap enemies. There has been more than one occasion where an enemy has an uninteruptable combo that is capable of killing any party member and seems to be an AOE attack that can hit multiple players. The first instance of this occurred in chapter 2 I think. An enemy had some kind of spinning slash attack that was able to kill me as a dwarf (highest hp char) in a single hit from full hp as well as catching my Ranger at the same time who ran at him from the side. This was followed up by the same combo aimed at our Lore-Master who also died instantly. This has happened many more times than it should and I'm not even half way through this game yet.

Lastly. The reason I have not completed this game. I have the PC version of this game and for some reason, on some multicore CPU's, the game takes up ridiculous amounts of processing power. Starting in chapter 3, all maps force my CPU to stay at a consistent 99%. I have a Phenom I, but the most powerful AM2+ Phenom I that existed. This isn't an isolated issue either. There are several Phenom II machines as well as i5/i7 machines that suffer from this as well. 99% is not an acceptable CPU usage rate to be at constantly and as such, I am done with this game until a fix comes out. I can't say I don't recommend this game, but if possible I'd say go with a console version.

Partial playthrough scores:
Console: 7/10
PC: 5/10 (until a fix is released)

UPDATE: I'm fixing the PC score of this since the CPU issue has been corrected, but there's another issue now with levels not being passable due to a bug. It doesn't always happen, but as far as I can tell, it only affects the PC version. So the score still stays lower than the console version.


I've been having an issue with my Google account no longer being linked to this blog as well as the game dev blog. That seems to be sorted out now, so I can start posting again here. Yay. I have a few reviews to be posted and will try to keep stuff coming out pretty regularly from now on.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: Left 4 Dead (both games)

Left 4 Dead – A single review for both games

100% True zombie games. That pretty much sums up this entire review, but let me elaborate on that a bit more. I'll admit, I love the Left 4 Dead games. I've met a bunch of cool people and had a lot of fun shooting stuff. It's not without its flaws though. Probably the biggest complaint I hear about it is the lack of maps. I would have to agree with this, but completely understand why there aren't that many. They're huge. It takes time to develop maps of this size. Even in the linear gameplay that L4D uses, a full campaign can take over an hour to finish. On top of that, the versus maps have to be even more expansive to allow for the player zombies to spawn in strategic, but not completely unfair spots. Of course this all needs to be done while not allowing any players to see the edges of the maps and also preventing at least the survivor team from seeing the regular zombie spawning areas. Speaking of spawn areas, this is one of L4D's strongest points. The AI Director. With this system, the game can literally use any part of the map to spawn any character. The regular little zombies can be spawned anywhere on the ground and are dynamically dropped in and out to allow for a challenging, but not impossible (usually) experience for the survivors. Obviously this doesn't always work perfectly, but the mess ups are very rare. Now then, why do I love these games? They're co-op. Not only that, they are exactly what co-op FPS games should be. There are other co-op games out there, but the problem is that the whole co-op aspect isn't really needed. Even when they do the “co-op moves” that require 2 people, it often times just feels forced. Almost like there's no reason they couldn't have just given the player something to allow them to pass these gimmicky obstacles. L4D, however, doesn't really do this. Sure the Hunter and Smoker's attacks need a co-op partner to free you, but the real benefit to having a 4 player team is the regular zombies. When they attack in a horde, you need 4 guns going off to survive that. This is true co-op gameplay. To this day, the only other co-op experience that even comes close to these games would be the co-op section of Portal 2. Those levels were brilliant. Sure they had those “co-op moves” I said were worthless, but in a puzzle game, it's forgivable since the way you use those moves isn't blatantly obvious. The downfall of Portal 2's co-op was the complete lack of replayability. I already beat the levels. I don't want to do it again. I already know the solutions. L4D, by contrast is almost endlessly replayable. Sure there's only a few maps, but with the AI director making the spawns and, in the second game, paths dynamic, no two runs of the same level will be identical. Storywise there's not a lot going on. There has been some backstory given through comics posted by Valve and some of the in-game visuals and voice-overs show a little story, but that's not why you play L4D. L4D is about gameplay. Specifically Co-op Gameplay. With actual people. If you're playing with bots only, you're doing it wrong. Now might actually be the prime of L4D's online play. It's been around for a while, so most the retards and griefers have moved on to other games, leaving mostly decent and friendly people. As I said before, I've met quite a few cool people I never would have known if I hadn't played L4D and L4D2. I know I haven't really differentiated the two games much in this review. Mostly for the same reasons I made a single review for both games. They're too similar to really get their own reviews. L4D2 has superior weapon choice and, of course, different maps. I still play both interchangeably. They're both equally fun. Both Left 4 Dead games combined: 9/10

Each game is available for PC for $20 each on Steam or in a combo pack together for $30.
Check them out:
Combo Pack
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead 2

A side note worth mentioning: DLC for both games is available. If you're on the fence of whether to get the PC or 360 versions, PC gets free DLC. 360's DLC is almost all paid for. Just saying.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm Back

Sorry peoples. Took a break. I ran out of reviews to post and not much has been going on lately worth posting about. There were a few games that came out lately that I'll be writing reviews up for soon. Also doing a few older games I had planned on doing before getting super lazy about everything. ^_^

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Now and Then Review: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Ocarina of Time – A Then and Now review

A quick description: Then and Now reviews are going to be 2 brief reviews of the same game. Older games that I played long ago and have replayed within the past year. The “Then” review will be what I thought of the game the first time I played it, to the best of my memory, of course. The “Now” review will obviously be what I think of it now. I'm going to go easy on graphics and some sounds due to obvious technological differences.

THEN: I picked this game up when it was brand new. Even had the limited gold cartridge. This game, for me, is what defined 3D games. I played Mario 64 first, but this is the one that I felt really stood out. This game played like a list of things I wanted in a game. The graphics were beautiful for its time and the music was perfect. The environments were laid out pretty well, although there were some weird places you could stand that would really mess with the game. That was to be expected from a first gen 3D exploration game though. Level design is exactly what I'd expect from a Zelda game. The dungeons were creative, unique and challenging. A lot of people hate on the Water Dungeon, but I didn't really find it that hard. It was decently challenging, but I didn't feel that it warranted the complaints I would always hear about it, but maybe I was just that awesome at the game. Doubt that though. The story was similar to the previous installments, but altered enough to be interesting. Especially with the whole time travel thing. It was a great story that kept me coming back for more until I had beat the game twice and fully understood everything it had to offer. Gameplay was solid. Combat is accurate and fast paced, but controllable. The only combat I have a problem with isn't exclusive to this game, or even the series. Boss fights. Boss fights that are very predictable and impossible to lose once you memorize an attack pattern have always bothered me. Bosses don't need to always be filled with gimmicks. Having an all out sword dual with Ganondorf would have been better than all the reflecting projectiles and hitting certain weak points that bosses are plagued with in these types of games. It was a truly epic game that defined a genre though. Then: 10/10.

NOW: I dug out some old games a while ago and found my old OoT disc with the Master Quest included for the GameCube. I eventually decided to pop the game into the Wii and play through it. The regular game, not the Master Quest. The first problem I found was the awkwardness of the GameCube controller for the game's design. OoT was designed with that thing we called a controller that came with the N64, so it feels awkward putting everything on the more refined, but still somewhat awkward GC controller. I'm not reviewing hardware though, so I'll let that pass. It was about the time that I absolutely breezed through the Water Dungeon that I realized the game felt way too easy. Maybe I just remember the layouts of all the dungeons somewhere in the back of my mind, but I actually went through the first 2 dungeons without taking a hit. The story is still interesting and entertaining, however, it's clear how much Nintendo re-used parts of it in later games. After playing all the newer games, I can't help but feel like I'm playing the same game, but with fewer features in OoT. Graphics, I can't hold against the game. They look like feces smeared on the TV compared to Black Ops or Final Fantasy XIII, but it's from more than 10 years ago, so meh. The music is still amazing, even after all these years. The GameCube port has a problem with audio tearing, but again, not the game sucking, just the port. The combat system also feels kind of clunky and awkward. This is probably because I've played every Zelda game since as well as several other series, which have only improved on OoT's formula of epicness. Graphics and porting issues aside, it's still a very fun and enjoyable game, but seems way too easy compared to the newer games. Even Majora's Mask gave me more trouble when I played through it again than OoT. But whatever. It's still a classic game that anyone interested in gaming should play at some point. 8/10

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Halo 3

Halo 3 (X360)

I had to get to this series eventually. Since I never played Reach, I guess I'll have to review Halo 3. Let me start this off by stating that I've never been a huge Halo fan. That's not to say I think the Halo games are bad. They're just not the Chuck Norris level of Godly everyone gives them credit for being. They just feel too dumbed down for what they are, to me, at least. Halo 3 was the first Halo game I ever sat down and seriously played and, I have to say, I was very underwhelmed. The story didn't really make sense to me, but I expected that, having never played the campaign modes of the first 2 games. I assume it all comes together nicely to longtime fans of the series, but I just didn't get into it. I actually played through the campaign of this game twice. The first time I played at the regular difficulty by myself. After that, I played through again with a co-op partner on the Legendary difficulty. Neither one was that hard. Legendary would have been much tougher if the strategy of having one player hide while the other constantly dies and respawns wasn't so effective. The environments of the game were very well done. They seemed a bit nonsensical to me, again having never played Halo 1 or 2, I had no idea what any of this random stuff was. The weapons are almost too varied, but they work for what the game is. The human weapons are pretty much what you'd expect to find in any standard fps. The Covenant weapons, however, are very...varied. They're the more bizarre and situational weapons of the game while the human weapons are the standard run-and-gun kinds of weapons. Once you start to remember what each weapons does, they all make a nice balance.

Now for the part most people bought this game for: Multiplayer. This section is the only part of the older Halos that I had any past experience with. Halo 3's multiplayer isn't all that different from the other games in this series. There really isn't any part of the multiplayer that stands out to me as being amazing in any way. It's not all that different from the second game (maybe the first too, never really played it). The matchmaking is much better, although despite the hundreds of thousands of people Live was reporting as being online, it seemed surprisingly hard to find certain game types.

The only real complaints I have about it would be that it's just so bland that I just can't get into it and the way health works. It may sound strange, but I feel like you just have too much health in Halo 3. Someone I talked to was saying how it only takes 3 bursts from the Battle Rifle to the head to kill someone. I thought about this a little and realized that that's 9 bullets. To the face. To kill someone. And that's if you can do it all in one attack. Aside from having an enormous amount of life, it also regens very fast. And why is melee so effective? I shot a guy in the face with a rocket and he lived. He then punched in the arm and I died instantly. I'm not trying to complain that the game is cheap or unfair, it's just nonsensical at times. The game makes me feel like I'm playing some kind of child's first fps.

Overall, it's a decently built game with no truly major flaws or gamebreaking problems, but it doesn't really do anything to stand out to me. It was the experience that I had with this game that convinced me to not even take a second look at Reach. I did actually end up playing Halo Wars, but that will be a story for another day. I did mention that this is the first Halo campaign I played through, but I really don't think having the backstory from the other 2 games would forgive the all around generic-ness problems that, for me, make this title a 6/10.

I'd post a link, but, seriously, who doesn't know what Halo 3 is?

And no, I never picked up ODST. I heard the problem I mentioned earlier about ridiculous amounts of health was fixed in that, but I just didn't enjoy this game enough to warrant buying an overpriced expansion pack.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Review: Portal 2

Portal 2 (PC, PS3, X360)

Do I really need an introduction for this one? It's Portal 2, sequel to the stupidly popular Portal that was included in the Orange Box. I'm writing this assuming you have played Portal, so if you haven't and are worried about spoilers, get out now. And go play Portal. It's incredible. Portal 2 at its core is a puzzle game with a truly immersive story over top it. You play as Chell, returning from the first game after being put into some kind of stasis by the bots serving GLADoS, the first game's antagonist. You are awoken several hundred years after the first game and are immediately dropped back into the test chambers with your trusty Portal Gun. This game is atmospherically very different from the first game. The chambers return, but are overrun by plant life in the beginning and show an obvious advancement in technology deeper inside from what was previously seen before this game. GLADoS also returns with her trademark dark humor centering mostly around killing Chell. That's about as far as I'll go with plot, so I don't ruin anything.

This game takes the gameplay from the first game and adds several new additions. The cubes return, but have a redesigned look to reflect the hundreds of years worth of technological advancement. Those big red buttons are back, too. Some new additions are laser beams that need redirected into a certain receptacle to unlock or open something. These seem to be based around those energy orbs from the first game, but instead of bouncing around, this game has steady beams that can be redirected with a new type of block.

As far as music goes, I have no real complaints. Everything fits, but doesn't really stand out. Aside from the ending song, of course. Not quite as epic as Still Alive, but still good. Voice acting is almost perfect. The two main voices you hear in this game are GLADoS and a new character, Wheatley. Both voices are perfect fits for the characters.

Last, but DEFINITELY not least, co-op. Portal 2 features several cooperative levels that require a second player to play through. These levels are where the real challenge of the game lies. Each player controls one of two little bots that each has a portal gun. With double the portal guns comes double the portals. Each player has 2 matching portals, making a combined total of 4 usable portals to solve puzzles with. As epic as the single player campaign is, you simply HAVE to play the co-op levels.

Portal 2 can be found on the Steam store Here.

This game is a definite candidate for my GotY. 10/10

Wow, two perfect scores in a row. This will probably never happen again...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: Infectonator: World Dominator

Infectonator: World Dominator (PC Flash game)

ZOMBEHZ! This was a little flash game I found when I was in college. I had about a 40 minute break between 2 classes everyday, so I would go to the library to leech some wireless on my laptop. After surfing NewGrounds for a while, I found this game. It's incredibly addictive and very fun. You play the role of....someone who's spreading the zombie infection through....something. It's not that well explained. The story is almost completely irrelevant though. You play as some kind of sky god who can umm, well, click and shoot these little balls of...zombieness I guess, that instantly infect any human they touch. Once this click is done, it's up to the zombies you created to spread the virus further. There are various upgrades you can purchase such as more clicks, more zombie ball things per click, and upgrades for your zombies. You can also unlock other types of zombies that can be manually placed by infecting them when they appear as heroes in certain levels. The game starts you in some unprotected African villages and as you upgrade, you move onto heavily guarded cities and towns until the world has been completely taken over. That's about all there is to it. It's a simple game that got me through almost a full semester of these poorly planned breaks in my schedule.

Go play it. It can be found Here.

It's simple and fun. Exactly what a free flash game should be. 10/10

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: Terraria

Terraria (PC Steam game)

Terraria is an indie game released not that long ago on Steam. It initially got some flak for its similarities to Minecraft, but these claims were based on only a very small portion of the game. Minecraft is about mining minerals and materials to build stuff. Terraria is more about exploration. Sure, you build stuff in Terraria and there have been some pretty incredible things built in it, but that's not the main portion of the game. Terraria is much more combat oriented than Minecraft. As you dig, you will be assulted by several different monsters of varying difficulty. The slimes you find on the surface and just underground are a complete joke while the fire imps you find in the underworld will destroy you if you don't have high tier gear. Although I do appreciate that Terraria is so combat oriented, there are some problems with it. The hit detection for some of the weapons and enemies can get a bit inaccurate. This usually results in taking hits despite blocking or dodging or having your attacks clearly make contact, but have no effect. These problems aren't so severe as to ruin gameplay, though.

Terraria does somewhat have an economy as well. As you build more rooms into your house/cabin/cave/castle/whatever more NPCs will move in. Some will offer to sell you stuff for coins made of copper, silver, or gold. These coins can be harvested from the raw mineral, picked up from killing enemies, and obtained from merchants from selling them unneeded items.

Check out Terraria's Steam page Here.

Terraria is an excellent game with few flaws. Between myself and Neuntoter, we have probably put a few hundred hours into this game. For $10 you can't go wrong. I'd give this one a definite buy. 9/10

Review: Level Up!

Level Up! (PC Flash game)

Level Up! is a free flash game I found on Newgrounds a while back. It involves 2 main characters known only as “The Boy” and “The Girl” who have both lost their memories. You play as The Girl who awakes one day to find that The Boy has somehow crashed through her fence, breaking it. The two argue and we learn that this world is based around people being certain levels in skills. The Boy claims he has been brought to level 0 jumping, so he is unable to jump at all. The plot gets a little deeper than that, but if I go any further I'll be into spoiler territory. Gameplay time. Gameplay in this game is a basic platforming style, but with a major twist. Everything you do has a level attached to it. Yes, Everything. Running, jumping, healing, taking damage, collecting gems, talking to people, even idling. As you do more of each action, you level up and are able to do more with that skill. For example, level 1 running means you walk everywhere. Once you have walked enough to reach level 2, you will be able to move at a slow run. Your skills max out at level 5. The world the game takes place in features several areas with some NPCs around. These NPCs will say various things, some giving or selling skills. When you run out of time in the day, The Girl goes home and sleeps. Every night she has a nightmare where a shadow is trying to kill her. This part is essentially the boss fight of the game. You don't have to win this fight, but if you lose, the next day you will be dropped to level 1 for all skills and have to fight the boss the next night as well. Any skills you buy or earn, however, are kept. The boss is tough. Chances are, it will take you a few tries to win. Leveling isn't required to win it, but any extra levels or skills you have will make it that much easier on you.

Overall, it's a very fun little game. It's short, but what do you expect for free? The only major complaint I would have is that winning the boss fight in the dream world isn't required. If you manage to level yourself up enough in any one day, you can reach the game ending sequence. I won't spoil that, but it does take place outside of the dream world. There's not a ton of game here, but it's free and short, so check it out Here.
Final Score: 8/10

There's also a sequel in the works. There's a link to the dev's page on the Newgrounds page.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

First Post!

First Blog Posting! Yay! This blog is primarily going to be for progress on the game(s) being developed by myself, Nonulok, and my buddy Neuntoter. It'll have some other random stuff on it too. Not sure what yet. Probably some game reviews or let's plays or anything having to do with gaming and possibly music.

EDIT: This blog is going to be used as my personal blog for anything not related to the game in development. A link to the new blog about that can be found Here.

First game progress: The engine for the DooM game we're working on is almost complete as well as most of the character graphics. Sound and level design are the main things left to do. A lot of little things are needed too, but we'd rather get the game up and functional before doing minor tweaks. I'll get a video up of the current status of the game soon.

Since I'm already here and typing, I might as well do a quick game review:
Catherine (PS3/X360)
Catherine is the latest game from Atlus. Atlus has made several games that I have loved including the Persona series and the Trauma Center series. In fact, every Atlus game I had played was awesome. Because of this, I ended up pre-ordering Catherine without doing much research on it. So little, that I actually didn't even know what genre it was. In hindsight, I probably should have looked into it a little more. Catherine is primarily a puzzle game with the S.Link style RPG stuff from Persona 3/4 included as sort of a side quest. I should probably mention that the S.Links were what really set apart the last 2 Persona games from other JRPGs for me. They make the game so much more immersive, just by giving each character a unique personality and back story, as well as problems each character has to face in their S.Link sequences. Catherine has some of this as part of the Bar side story. In between puzzles, the main character, Vincent, hangs out at a bar with his friends. He can talk to them, drink, play games, or w/e you want, as you're in complete control. This combined with the excellent story structure I've come to expect from Atlus are the strong points of Catherine. Unfortunately, the weak point of the game, for me at least, is the main gameplay portion of the game. The puzzle sections. I've never really been a big puzzle game fan and Catherine did nothing to convince me otherwise. The puzzles just seem dull, which is weird for Atlus. They are also very easy to screw yourself over in. One wrong move can mean a game over. This is especially true on the boss levels. These levels will have most players dying. A lot. Outside of the boss levels though, the game is pretty easy. In between the puzzles, the NPCs will reveal new climbing techniques if you talk to them. I did appreciate that these techniques were not the average "use them once in the very next level and maybe once at the next boss then forget them forever" kinds of things, but most of them are pretty obvious to anyone with any skill for problem solving. The music in the game is perfect. Dark and atmospheric in the puzzle levels and more light and upbeat stuff in the bar portions. Fits perfectly.
Overall, I'd give Catherine a 5/10. The puzzles were dull, unimaginative, and a little too easy. The story was top notch though. If you're into deep and interesting stories, I'd recommend getting this game and playing through on easy. If you're looking only for an amazing gameplay experience with no regard for story, skip it.

I doubt this makes a difference, but I should probably mention that I have the PS3 version.

Well, that ended up being a little longer than I thought. Anyways, If there's anything you would like to see posted here that's related to video games in any way, leave a comment or e-mail me at Videos of any games we develop will be posted on YouTube and I'll also be keeping a Twitter about gaming and just life in general. If there are any games you would like to hear a review about, let me know. I have a PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP, an original NDS, and a gaming quality PC so I'm pretty much open to anything.

Thanks for reading,

Edit: I'm moving game dev stuff to its own blog and using this one for pretty much everything else. Not sure if Blogger will link it, but it's Here.