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The Walking Dead Season 2 – Episode 2 “A House Divided”

After a slow moving, character driven first episode. Telltale's The Walking Dead returns with a bang in its second episode of the video game series. The patient set-up that we witnessed previously pays off when we watch the relationships forged break down from the offset.

We continue to follow Clementine as she falls down the rabbit hole towards a bleak outlook towards life. However, the episode itself leans more towards revealing one hell of a menacing villain in the form of Carver (voiced by the excellent Michael Madsen). I immediately felt a vibe from Carver that was reminiscent with the television's Governor, and the comic books excellent character, Negan.

Madsen manages to portray a subtle, yet terrifying presence throughout the episode that sets up what can only be a harsh, bleak future for Clementine and her group. The added addition of the majority of the group already having had a run in with Carver heightens the tensions and action.

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I truly hope that this also sets up Carvers downfall and we can witness some violent revenge from either Clementine or another group member.

Back to Clementine, and Telltale have shifted the overall feel of the character. In episode one, we were forced to feel uncomfortable with the decisions thrust upon Clementine. The killing of the dog springs to mind as an example. In episode two though we're reminded that no matter what we have Clementine do, there's always somebody else that's worse than you. In this case, it's Carver.

Episode two's explosive third act really hits home that Clementine has had to make some major decisions concerning the future of the group, mainly forced by Carvers actions. We see Clementine either cementing her trust in certain characters, or damaging relationships for the greater good.

I felt that this final 30 minute action pact third act really changed Clementine dramatically, and it certainly was the first major change since teaming up with Lee in Season 1. The stress and urgency of each scenario really hits home the moral dilemmas poor Clementine has to deal with.

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The scope of episode two was quite impressive. A lot of ground is covered during the two and a half hour game play with the majority of game changing decisions embedded within some gripping conversation.

Depending on your actions and choices, you may have a wildly different experience with each decision than the next person. It all boils down to where you take Clementine over the 5 day time period that episode two is set around.

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The action sequences themselves are by far the best that Telltale have created and I truly was on the edge of my seat frantically trying to find various items to take out zombies whilst saving a character on a bridge. The tension and slow build up we witnessed previously is really paying off and heightens these explosive sequences to its maximum.

Overall, Telltale have really pulled out all the stops with episode two. It's constantly full of fantastic, and gripping dialogue; ever lasting consequences (good or bad); and brilliant action scenes that really get the player involved with the narrative. Clementine's character arc remains to be the most impressive section of season 2 as we watch her wander a dark and brutal path.

 

Published in PC
Wednesday, 20 January 2016 11:52

SOMA Review [PC]

Introduction to SOMA Video Game

SOMA by Frictional Games can be described as a combination adventure puzzle search and find role playing video game. In my opinion SOMA is a video game that has to grow on you. In other words, when you start playing SOMA, you may think there is nothing unique or different about it. These were my initial thoughts; however, I decided to give SOMA the benefit of the doubt. As I got further into the video game play, I got the impression Frictional Games was attempting to provide a different type video game playing experience from the usual type video games I’ve played before. By the way, I played SOMA on my Alienware PC.

As a summary of SOMA, the main protagonist, Simon Jarrett, experiences adventures not of his own choosing as a result of a brain scan that seemed to have gone haywire -- to the point where he is transported to all types of environments while facing various dangerous situations.

Positives of SOMA Video Game

SOMA, in my opinion, has excellent voice acting including that of the main video game protagonist in the game, Simon Jarrett. As you venture through the SOMA video game environment, additional, expert voice actors are added to the cast for video game characters such as Amy, Carl and others.

I think SOMA has good sound effects. When you hear the stomping steps of the robot villain as it approaches near, you get the feeling that it is right there with you, wherever you are playing the video game. As the robot villain gets closer, the stomps become increasingly louder. As it moves away, the sounds become fainter which gives you the impression that it is safe to either start or keep moving around the SOMA environment.

I liked the puzzles within the video game play with problems you had to solve. For example, in this game you are faced with having to log into a computer; however, the challenge is you do not have the i.d. number to access the system. You have to not only figure out how and where to get the i.d. number, but you must also try to stay away from the robot villain as well. To add to the challenge, you must remember how to get back to the location of the computer, once you have found the i.d. number.

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SOMA gives you lots of missions to complete which are necessary to advance through the video game. Sometimes you get your missions directly from a computer within the video game itself. For example, during the initial part of the game, you must locate the communication center which is a room with a domed ceiling. This, of course is easier said than done, because in trying to do so, you must not only remember where the communication center is once you get this mission -- but you must also try to locate it in what seems to be a gigantic, partially dilapidated mechanical plant that is not the safest place to be.

Some of the puzzles involve opening locked doors, which may sound simple, until you find out you have to roam around the massive plant to locate a special type tool to do so. Once found, the tool is added to your inventory. I liked that you can retrieve your tool as well as other items added to your inventory as needed by just the simple push of the tab key -- if you are playing SOMA using your PC. Bonuses are also added to your inventory during gameplay as well. For instance, during the early part of SOMA video game play, I earned a special trading car as my bonus.

I think SOMA has detailed, realistic-like graphics that complement the sound effects. In the scene where I was trying to get away from the robot villain, the mechanical plant was so realistically illustrated, I got the feeling I was actually fleeing down the winding metal stairs, rushing to get safely away from it.

If you like exploring environments and real worlds in video games, SOMA may be your type of video game. You can spend quite a lot of time roaming the areas within the context of either escaping villains, locating items, going to and from different locations or other travels depending on the missions or challenges.

Additionally SOMA video game play provides a level of suspense of not knowing exactly what is going to happen next. In a way, SOMA plays like a mystery novel where as you turn the pages, you can delve more into the various actions taking place. The difference, of course is as the video game player, you are the one who must guide the character in order to solve the mystery. From the SOMA video game play, the mystery appears to involve some type of devious underhanded actions going on that are revealed the longer you play SOMA. You, as well as the main protagonist, Simon Jarrett, are learning more about what is happening to him as you advance through the video game.

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Some of the puzzles in SOMA, in my opinion, were creative. For example, once you located a computer, there is a section of the video game, where instead of inputting an i.d. number to log in, you had to realign vertical and horizontal lines within the computer screen so an emblem on the screen defragmented just right for a connection to take place.

Another positive of SOMA was the checkpoints. I liked that if for some reason you were destroyed during the video game play, the checkpoint started at a logical place -- so time was not wasted repeating video game play that had already been completed.


Negatives of SOMA Video Game

I mentioned previously that exploring the SOMA environment was one of the positive attributes; however, there is a not so fun side of this exploration. Even though there was a map of the mechanical plant on a computer within the video game -- SOMA did not provide a map to help you navigate through different environments. Many times, instead of following a map on the screen, you had to try to remember locations based on either the layout of the building or signs posted in the plant.

Since there is not a SOMA map, you will probably end up retracing your steps or going in circles until you determine the correct way to go. This happened to me quite a lot during the SOMA video game play, with me sometimes opting to check out either the hints or a youtube video of SOMA game play to find out where the character should go next and to avoid circling the environment over and over again.

A hint given during the underwater scene was to follow the lights, which was not helpful since there were a myriad of lights in the hazy darkness of the environment. To me it was a waste of time for the character to follow lights that sometimes took him back where his travels began in the first place.

Regarding the robot villain in the early part of the game -- you are not able to fight or defend yourself against it. If you do not get a chance to hide before it spots you -- it will destroy you. Your defenses are to hide until it’s out of sight or to run away from it and hide somewhere else. The plus side is the robot villain moves very slowly which gives you a chance to get away.

SOMA gives you the option of moving items within the environment around, similar to other similar type video games. However, in my opinion, there was no need to be able to move some items that did not serve to advance the story along or help solve puzzles. For example, I was able to move boxes and some other items around for no other reason except that I could do so. Initially when I played this video game, I was under the impression I was moving around items for a specific reason -- but this was not the case.

I know video games do not depict real-life situations because after all -- they are video games. However, I think the developers may have been stretching this a little too far when after Simon Jarrett experienced lots of perils, he reaches a computer and Amy, the person he is talking to on the computer, asks him what is going on. I agreed with Simon Jarrett when he indicated he had no idea and thought that she (Amy) knew. My thought was unless Amy had Simon under surveillance during his earlier adventures, how would she have known what had been happening to him which could have led her to ask such a question.

Even though I did not mind playing this video game as the male character Simon Jarrett, I think it would have been a plus if I was given the option to play as either a male or a female. Additionally, I understand SOMA is rated M for Mature, but personally, I did not like the video game dialogue that was sometimes laced with profanity.

The above being said, overall, I think SOMA has an interesting storyline and challenges. The major minus for me was the lack of on screen map or hints or options in the video game. In my opinion, some of the long stretches of travel during the game where you are simply moving the character along from place to place, would have been ok, if there was a simple diagram to show where you should go next. Even if a map was not used, visual hints could have been displayed to help move Simon Jarrett to his next missions quicker-- which would have eliminated wasted time moving the character around needlessly, sometimes in the wrong directions while playing this video game.

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Rating of SOMA Video Game

Initially I was going to rate this video game lower because of the tendency for repetitive game play due to non-defense capability of the main protagonist as well as the lack of maps or helpful hints. However, I reconsidered my rating taking into account the attention to detail of the video game graphics, the creative storyline as well as the good sound effects and voice acting.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest score and 10 being the highest, I give SOMA a rating of 7.

Availability of SOMA Video Game

SOMA is rated M for Mature and is available for purchase on Steam, the PlayStation 4 store, GOG.com and the Humble Store.

Published in PC
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 00:00

Monochroma Review [PC]

Kickstarter is certainly becoming a hotbed for video game developers to bring their gaming visions to life without the yoke of a big publisher interfering. One of the latest video games to get fully funded and developed is Monochroma. It was developed by Nowhere Studios, a small studio in Istanbul, Turkey,who wants to take the spirit and fun of classic video games and create next-gen games for all types of systems. Monochroma is their first game towards that goal.

Monochroma tells a bittersweet tale of two brothers. Set in alternative dystopian 1950 it starts with the boys near their ramshackle home doing typical young boy things; climbing, jumping, swinging, and flying a kite. While the youngest brother is flying the kite a strong breeze comes up and takes the kite away from him. The boys chase the kite to a railway barn where it gets caught on the roof. They climb up onto the roof and just as they get close to it the roof caves in. The older brother comes through fine, but his younger brother injures his leg in the fall. With a little determination the big brother carries his little brother out of the railway barn into the connected robot factory only to learn it holds a dark secret. Their journey now becomes one of, not only looking for help, but survival.

It's a well told story especially given the fact that there is no dialog. The animation and "acting" of its characters are combined with a well-crafted soundtrack to convey all the story and emotion. The soundtrack was created by Gevende, a Turkish psychedelic rock band. Gevende manage to capture wonder, adventure, and yet a slight sad dystopian feel that gives Monochroma an emotional boost.

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The animation art is made up of stark grayscale that outlines positive and negative space, highlighted only by the splashes of red that point out items of importance. It's hauntingly beautiful. Little details certainly speak well. For example, the first time you try to set your brother down in the game in a place that's not brightly lit. The way he shakes his head and sort of hides his face at the same time perfectly conveys that childhood fear of the dark.

While the art and music of Monochroma present so much, it's a disappointment that the controls are not up quite up to snuff. For a 2D puzzle platforming game they are loose enough that you will experience more than a few untimely deaths. Part of the core controls is the fact that your movement speed and jumping height are affected by whether or not you are carrying your brother. You can move faster and jump higher without him, but you cannot go very far without him either. The game doesn't always seem to realize you are not carrying him. This issue comes into focus mostly while jumping. In later sections of the game this really matters because you are racing against a clock.The controls aren't completely horrible and if you remember to take the looseness into account, they are playable.

The only other problem I had with Monochroma has more to do with my own muscle memory than any problem with the game. Jump is the up arrow or "W" if you use "WASD" controls and the Space Bar is used to pick up and put down your brother. Years of playing other PC games that use the Space Bar as jump has led to a few “oops” moments. Again this really isn’t a problem with game; it's more a problem if you're so ingrained in one way of playing.

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Overall Monochroma is a very good story. The game rises above its problems and tells the sweet and sad tale of childhood, growing up, and family bonds. It stands out as one of the better Kickstarter games and Nowhere Studios should be very proud of it. I would like to see what they do next; in the meantime though I have some hidden flowers to find in Monochroma so I can finish an achievement.

Published in PC

 Introduction to Black Desert Online: A Ms. H Video Game Review

I was pleasantly surprised at what awaited me when I downloaded the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Player Game (MMORG) Black Desert Online.  Black Desert Online was different from the video game I imagined it would be.  I've played quite a few MMORGs and was ready to experience the same type video gaming experience as I did before.  However, I quickly realized Black Desert Online wants to be clear that it is not your ordinary, run of the mill MMORG video game.  Here are my thoughts and views of the Black Desert Online video game.

Video Game Customizations in Black Desert Online Video Game

It didn't take me long to find out that one of the many high points of playing Black Desert Online was the customizations.  In fact, I spent an inordinate amount of time first of all on naming my characters -- then customizing them to the Nth degree.  There were numerous choices of how I could customize my video game characters which included not only the facial features and body types, but also the horoscopes and other aspects that were provided to me.

There was a minor downside to my customizations. When I logged back in to play Black Desert Online, I discovered the specific character I customized was tied to a particular server.  Of course I had not made note of the server I chose, so I was unable to retrieve my customized character.  No problem.  All I had to do was to pick another server, customize another video game character and be sure to use the same server to bring her back up.

I believe I customized about two or three characters before I decided that it was time to get into actually playing the video game.  When i concentrated my efforts on playing the video game, instead of using my customized characters, I decided to use the character that was provided in the game with no customizations whatsoever.  That's not to say that I will not maybe later retrieve my customized character and play the game from her vantage point.

Graphics in Black Desert Online Video Game

At first glance, Black Desert Online graphics had the cookie-cutter look of other similar type video games.  However, some of the close-up rendering of the enviornment was quite impressive, and appeared to look realistic.

Choices in Black Desert Online Video Game

The developers, in my opinion, did not economize when it came to giving gamers choices when playing the Black Desert Online video game.  In addition to the wide variety of customization features available for the video game characters, there were numerous choices within the video game itself.  As I completed quests and other adventures, I was given options to interact with other video game characters in the game by simply pushing the "R" key.  There were many other choices as well throughout the video gameplay.

If I was stuck in some way in the video game or needed help, I could summon the assistant called the Black Spirit by simply pressing the comma key on my laptop.  The assistant would appear as a black flowing cloud with red dots for eyes to instruct me on what I could do.  Interesting enough, I found out if I summoned the assistant while I was in combat with enemies, this assistant was not immune and could get temporarily destroyed.

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Violence and Gore in Black Desert Online Video Game

Speaking of enemies, many of the quests in Black Desert Online video game involved fighting or destroying enemies.  Some of the enemies included grass beetles, weasels and other creatures.  I think it was creative how the developers would oftentimes camouflage these enemy creatures in the foilage and other areas where sometimes they were not easily visible.  A negative was the blood splatters in this video game which I am not a fan. I think the video game would be even more enjoyable to play if there were no blood splatters in these battles.

Leveling Up in Black Desert Online Video Game

I think leveling up in Black Desert online was not difficult.   When I reached level 10, I was no longer considered a beginner in the tutorial stage. As I leveled up, I begin to notice other aspects of the video game.  For example, I noticed the attention to detail in the environment as well as other video game players' characters in the game.  There was also the usual dialogue among players appearing and scrolling sometimes on the left side of the screen.

I was leery of being tempted to get loyalty points by logging on to the video game Black Desert Online daily.  For the first two or three days, I gave in to signing in daily, and in turn boosted up my loyalty points.  However, I still limited my video game playing time.  I resisted the urge to log on to Black Desert Online for loyalty points as I did other things instead of playing this video game.   My caution is to not get lured into having this video game take up a lot of your time by playing it for long periods of time, not only because of the temptation of the loyalty points, but also because Black Desert Online is such a fun video game to play.  As I've cautioned you before -- always strike a balance between playing video games and doing other real-life non-video game activities.

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Assessment of Black Desert Online Video Game

In my opinion, Black Desert Online is a video game that is worth your time playing in moderation.  I think you will enjoy the different type environments and the feeling that you are actually a part of this video game world and making video game accomplishments. There are lots of quests you can choose to take as well different adventures you can embark upon.  Black Desert Online video game will keep your interest in part because of the wide variety of characters and the real-world look of the video game backdrop as well as the various missions and quests.   As with most online video games, there is also an online forum you can consult as required if you need help in getting to the next level or getting further into the video game.

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I believe I would have rated Black Desert Online higher if the blood splatters were eliminated, if it was easier to get the video game launched in the first place and if the characters retained their customizations once you got a far-away view of them in action, if profanity in the video game was eliminated and on top of all this if there were no instances where the server timed out during the game play.  When this happened, I had to start playing the video game all over again. That being said, I think the positives of the Desert Online video game far outweigh the negatives.

Rating of Black Desert Online Video Game

On a scale of 1 star to 10 stars, with 1 star being the lowest and 10 stars being the highest, I rate Black Desert Online video game 8 stars.

Availability of Black Desert Online Video Game

Black Desert Online is a buy-to-play video game developed by Pearl Abyss and is playable on the PC.

Published in PC
Tuesday, 05 August 2014 00:00

Review - Divinity: Original Sin [PC]

Growing up, I always felt western role-playing games on the PC were underrated. Maybe it's due to the fact that I was only two years old when Wasteland was released. Ten years later when I was enthusing about Baldur's Gate, most of my twelve-year-old buddies were busy anticipating the release of the next Final Fantasy game on console. I mean, yes, I love Japanese RPGs as much as the next gamer, but the communities for the computer games I grew up loving always seemed scarce or closed in by comparison.

Fast-forward to the current era of gaming where we have the introduction of Steam and crowd-funding websites, and a different picture is emerging. In an arena where consumers can have direct involvement and influence on the types of games they want to play, there has been a reemergence of these very games. And while the Divinity series of games may not span as far back as some others, they certainly have harkened to this earlier era of RPGs in their latest release Divinity: Original Sin.

The game was completed and enhanced through Kickstarter funding. Different aspects of gameplay were unlocked as levels of the funding were reached, and thanks to all of those who contributed, the game is intricate and vast. The self-published title from Larian Studios also runs on their own engine, complete with a tool kit for designing customized levels. While the game is available on Mac and coming soon for Linux, mods for the PC version are available and can be published through the Steam Workshop.

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The first thing you'll want to do with the game is decide whether to play the campaign in single-player or drop in multi-player mode. Both modes require you to create two characters. You will choose the name, sex, appearance, portrait photo, and class for each character. Advanced players can mostly disregard the pre-built classes, as the Divinity gameplay allows fluid and complex class building. Don't feel like you must limit yourself to be strictly caster, ranged, or melee. Various items found in the game, along with perks, traits, and skills, allow you to reach outside of basic class structures. Customization is more involved than the RPGs the game emulates, but it's still more simplistic than a lot of modern RPGs. The game offers a variety of skin tones and hair styles, but sadly falls short in offering any variation in body type. Once you have your character looking stunning, it's time to give them a voice (three options per gender) and most interestingly, an AI personality. AI personalities, such as Loyal, Knight, or Rascal, are more than just clever fun for dialogue- they offer unique insight and development for your playable characters.

You start the game with only two characters, but you can add certain people you encounter to your party. You have the ability to change their gear and assign skill points, as well as control them in battle. However, they are still separate from your main characters, as you cannot speak for them. If you choose to play multi-player, LAN or internet connection are available for drop in/drop out gameplay. The person hosting the game can assign characters to those who join and also determine whether they can change certain aspects such as gear or skill points. I absolutely loved the simplicity of playing in multi-player. However, it would be great to have the option of more than two original characters for a team. Events in the game don't just happen to your characters, your characters also take time to reflect upon events and even their own actions. This is where the exciting addition of the AI personality really shines, allowing the player to create exchanges between their characters. The options chosen in many dialogue exchanges not only shape the character in the player's mind, but they also contribute to certain traits gained through gameplay. For example, if a player chooses kind options, they can receive the Compassionate trait, which gives them a bonus to critical hits. If a player chooses to be cruel, they can receive the Heartless trait, which increases their chances to hit while backstabbing.

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Another unique aspect of the game is the bartering system. The game still offers vendors for particular items, but player purchases are not limited among them. Every person in the game offers not only a chance for better information and possible quests, but a selection of items they are also willing to trade. This is one of the ways that the game really emphasizes thorough exploration. And if talking to every person in the game isn't enough, there is also the option to take on the Pet Pal perk, which allows your character to speak with the various critters found throughout the game. Aside from humorous banter and the realization that the animals are more pleasant company than most of the humans, this perk can also help provide solid clues to solving quests and puzzles.

Talking to every creature great and small isn't the only thing that will take some time. Turn-based battles set the pace at self-determined and much slower than an action RPG, especially if you're playing multi-player. This, along with the ability to see rolls for each action, really give the game an old school tabletop feel. The battle system is quite easy to learn, which allows the player to focus on customization and tactics. With every move and attack costing action points, it's important for players to understand what each spell and skill can do. It's also vital to pay attention to the hit percentage that will pop up, along with the area of damage, since friendly fire is very possible and likely with certain magical and elemental attacks. The battle system here allows the player's inner strategist to really shine as they discover attack and elemental combinations. There are many barrels filled with water, oil, etc, but spell casters can also create elemental changes, such as rain. Use these abilities together to create poision gas clouds or electrically charged steam. The creative battle techniques are really what set this RPG apart not only from action RPGs, but also from other turn-based RPGs that place far less emphasis on atmosphere and status effect combinations.

The basic gameplay is straight-forward and great fun to explore, and once you've felt your way around most of the game (which will take many hours depending on how thorough you are) you might get the itch to take your creativity to the next level. Divinity: Original Sin does a fantastic job of merging the organic feel of tabletop with the best offerings of contemporary gaming technology. The next step in staying true to these roots is to allow players the ability to build levels within the game's engine. The engine is solid and provides for smooth gameplay even on less advanced set-ups, though my one small complaint is load times, which of course vary by computer. The Divinity Engine Toolkit is far more advanced than many level editors in other games of its ilk. As a player who loved to create levels in games like the original Warcraft games and Lode Runner, I had all the creative will, but very little of the modding and world editing advanced knowledge. Larian has provided many videos to help those who are newer to level editing on this scale. The step by step guidance was extremely helpful for me, and while building levels this way is definitely more complex and time consuming than in other games, it also creates a more detailed and personalized product.

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Divinity: Original Sin is a sampling of some of the best offerings from both old and new schools. A fitting homage to the games I grew up playing, it also establishes an identity of its own and can be grouped in among the best of the genre. It's a fine example of what can be achieved when a good balance between a development/publishing team and players is created. Between all of the creative ways to construct in the game and the sprawling world to explore, the game brings apt innovation to an already solid genre.

SCORE: 9/10

Published in PC
Monday, 17 June 2013 08:43

Mom's Minute 6-17-2013

Fresh from covering the Anime Mid-Atlantic event for Allgames.com, Ms. H welcomes everyone to the show with a promise to fill listeners in with more details of the event during her next show -- due to time constraints.  She also wishes everyone a happy "after Father's Day." She reviews Knytt Underground and Sonic the Hedgehog Tennis video games....

Published in Mom's Minute
Friday, 18 July 2014 00:00

Review - Divinity: Original Sin [PC]

 Recently I received a gift of Divine Divinity and Divinity: Original Sin on Steam as a belated birthday gift from one of my best friends, David. He had been keeping watch on Divinity: Original Sin while it had been in development and thought I might like it. I had never heard of the series nor its creator Larian Studios, but I was willing to give it a go.

Divinity: Original Sin is a top down, third person, isometric view RPG. Think of the way the Diablo series looks and you get the idea. However, the game play has very little in common with the Diablo series.

First things first. The character creation.

Character creation is interesting because you start by making two characters. The appearance editor is okay. It has a several options for both male and female characters, but nothing really to write home about. However, the class or abilities portion of the editor is where it shines. Yes, you have 11 classes to choose from, but each of these can be modified by the player during creation. Playing a Wayfarer but don't want the Pet Pal talent? Change it to something you feel will be more useful. The only part of the editor I took issue with was the character portraits. Despite there being many, I really felt like it was still too easy to come up with an appearance for your character that didn't have an analogue in the portrait selection.

The visuals and audio for the game are both well done. The maps and general animation are on par for this style of game, but the spell and particle effects really kick it up a notch. Some areas you walk through will have seeds and leaves blowing by your field of view, making the game feel more alive and further immersing you in the game. The sound track for Divinity: Original Sin is truly top notch. Normally I tend to turn music way down or off in games because often times I find it jarring and that it doesn't fit the mood of the game. Not so in this case. The first time I heard the theme music at the beginning of the game I was hooked. And the music in the game is no different. It just sounds great and works.


Looks like you passed out around a lot of combustibles, little goblins.

Divinity in gameWhere Divinity really shines for me is the feel of the game play. I have never played an RPG video game that feels so close to playing a pen and paper RPG, ever. The game doesn't spoon feed you your quest information or where to go. You have to spend time conversing with NPCs and looking for clues. For the most part I really like this, but there have been a few times now where I've missed a vital clue or it just seemed there wasn't one.

The combat also feels like a table top RPG too. When out of combat you just roam around at your leisure, but once you go into combat it goes to an initiative based turn system like most pen and paper RPGs. Once in a fight you rely on action points to determine your movement and what attacks or actions you can take. This might not sound very interesting, but believe me when I say that the combat in this game is some of the best turn based combat I’ve ever experienced in any game. There is so much that goes into an encounter that it's really hard to describe it with out writing a small book, but i'll touch on one of the coolest parts; that being the area effects. With your elemental attacks as a magic user or a ranged attacker, you can set the field on fire to burn anything coming at you. Fire isn't working? Cast a rain spell to douse the fire and create steam clouds which you can then hit with lightning to electrify. This is just one example of many.

My only real issue with Divinity: Original Sin is also one of its strengths. The conversation. On one hand you have these great moments of dialogue between your two main characters that can reveal a lot about their personalities and back story and reward you with in game bonuses. On the other hand dialogue with random citizens is the same thing over and over. I would have preferred that there be no conversation option with the background players because they all pretty much have the same dialogue options which tend to be pretty jarring and pulls me out of the immersion of the game.

Divinity: Original Sin in a very well done RPG. I think for true fans of the genre it's a game well worth owning and playing over and over again. If you are hoping for another Diablo clone or something hack n' slash, don't bother.

 This review originally appeared on GameonGirl.com

Published in PC

January 30 2014 was Star Trek Online's 4th year anniversary, and besides the fun and prizes normally included in an anniversary there will also be a release of an episode of Season 8.5 called “A Step between Stars” with actor Tim Russ starring as Admiral Tuvok. Season 8.5 will be introducing a Brand-new Ship Management System, new episodes, a new PVP arena, and so much more. There will be three rewards you can receive by playing episode “A step between Stars” three times or you can receive a single one for playing through once. On the first playthrough you will be rewarded with 400 Qmendations. The Qmendations can be used for the Anniversary event reputation project.

 

Published in All Games Blog
Friday, 02 May 2014 00:00

Moebius: Empire Rising (PC)

If you are a gamer of a certain age then the name Jane Jensen will catch your interest. She is the writer behind many classic Sierra Online games and the creator of the Gabriel Knight adventure games. Recently she has taken to Kickstarter to back two games. The first of those two games has been released, Moebius: Empire Rising.

If you are a gamer of a certain age then the name Jane Jensen will catch your interestMoebius: Empire Rising is a point and click adventure that tells the tale of Malachi Rector, an antiques and art appraiser. He is very intelligent and sharp eyed in his chosen profession. He is also something of an aloof snob and an ass. He is hired by semi-secretive organization (F.I.T.A.), run by a man named Amble Dexter, to go to Venice to investigate a murdered woman and determine what historical figure her life most resembles. While there he is attacked by ninjas who then scan all of the information he has on the murdered woman. He reports back to Dexter that, while her life closely resembled Livia Drusilla, she did not match completely.

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Working for himself again Malachi is next in Cairo to appraise ancient artifacts from a mummy's tomb. While there he saves ex-special forces American, David Walker, from the same ninjas who attacked him in Venice. He decides to hire David as a bodyguard. In many ways David is a typical American, blonde haired, blue eyed, jock, who likes to tell bad jokes. (How many Special Forces soldiers does it take to change a light bulb? Sorry that's classified information.) When the ninjas attack a third time Malachi and David are able to stand their ground and fight them off. He finishes his business in Cairo and returns to New York.

Malachi believes the ninjas are part of something bigger and asks to meet with Amble Dexter. He is surprised when Dexter insists that Malachi bring David to the meeting. At the meeting Dexter reveals that F.I.T.A. believes in Roman philosopher, Paramedes’, theory that everyone is an "echo" of someone in the past. From there the story takes some strange twistsNot like reincarnation where a person was someone else but now living a new life, but that same person living the same life event for event in a new generation. Their overall goal is to make Senator Markam, whom they believe is the echo of Augustus Caesar and will bring hundreds of years of prosperity to America, the next United States President. Malachi agrees to help in their endeavor.

From there the story takes some strange twists from a detective adventure towards one of a more supernatural vein.

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The mechanics of Moebius: Empire Rising is pretty standard and sound for a point and click adventure. No major problems arose when I used the controls. It does have a quirky playing feature. In most point and click adventures you can pick up and carry almost anything. In Moebius: Empire Rising, you can’t just pick up whatever you want and carry it around. Certain items needed for a puzzle can’t be picked up until you hit the right “trigger point” that will allow you to pick up that item. This causes a lot of backtracking during game play. The oddest of which is when you try to get into a VIP tent to meet Senator Markam. You practically go from one end of Manhattan to the other, working back and forth gathering the items you need. By some strange coincidence the Senator's rally lasts just long enough for you to do all this and then ends the moment you walk into the VIP tent. It's a slight stretch of your suspension of disbelief, but it’s not a game breaker.

The graphics are where the breaks start happening. Moebius: Empire Rising has anexaggerated comic book look that turns into the late 2000's video game style. All the characters have long thin limbs, except David who looks in normal proportion. The style is fine. It's clipping and other effects that fail. Feet go through floors, legs sometimes twist in unnatural ways, and at one point Malachi moves a chair, but he doesn't actually grab the chair as it magically moves, his hand floats on top of it and the whole thing shifts. Little things like this took me out of the game. The worst offender was the water reflections. Now in the background things like trees and buildings that didn't have as much definition are reflected fine. It was when characters stood next to the water with their backs to it. The reflection was not their backside reflected, nope. It was a complete recreation of their front. So unless everyone has their face on the front and back of their head, something's not right here. The first time I saw it I thought the game was going into a dream sequence of some sort.

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I do have to give great praise to Moebius: Empire Rising's voice actors. They turn in some fine performances. I think the real audio gem though is Jane Jensen's husband, composer Robert Holmes. Robert provides a great soundtrack that wouldn't sound out of place in a Hollywood spy thriller.


Moebius: Empire Rising's story starts a bit slow, but by the third and fourth chapters things start getting interesting enough that I want to see how it will end. Malachi is a really hard hero to cheer on. His aloof attitude never really endears himself to the player. The only thing that makes him seem to have a heart is subtle underlying relationship between him and David. At one point David tells Malachi that he is meeting Malachi's assistant, Gretchen, at a nightclub. Malachi asks that David not get involved with his only other employee, to which David replies, "She's not my type." At the nightclub David hints around that he's not interested in Gretchen. Towards the end of the conversation Gretchen tells David point blank to not get too close to Malachi, that, "he will break your heart." The possible gay romance never really moves up from a subtle possibility. It gets to a point where you wish it they would either just come out with it or drop it.

Jane Jensen can tell an interesting tale in a video game still, but there seem to be some stray parts to Moebius: Empire Rising that just doesn't pull me in. Moebius: Empire Rising has flashes of a good gameA main character I have a hard time caring for and a subtle romance that doesn't go anywhere are things that push me away from a game. Throw in graphical elements that completely take me out of the game and we are starting to have real problems. I have to say the puzzles hold things together fairly well, but an adventure game needs more than just puzzles to engage a player. Moebius: Empire Rising has flashes of a good game and you can see where Jane Jensen wants to take it, but as a whole it falls to the middle of the road. If you're a fan of Jane Jensen or point and click style games it might be worth it, but it's a pass otherwise.

Published in PC

It’s been at least 15 years since I last picked up Jane Jensen’s point-and-click adventure classic Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father. Some revere the title as the best Sierra game of all time, which is quite a bold claim, and although I can’t say I appreciate it that much there’s no doubt it’s a special game. Now, nearly 20 years after the game’s 1993 release an updated 20th Anniversary version is upon us complete with new graphics, a new voice cast, and even some tweaking to the more obtuse gameplay mechanics and puzzles. We got a chance to check out a demo that contains a handful of days and around 90 minutes of gameplay (roughly 10-20 percent of the game) to check out these updates.

Right when you boot up Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father 20th Anniversary (Gabriel Knight from now on) it’s like journeying back to the first time you played it - and first timers, fear not, it mostly holds to contemporary standards for an adventure title. Initially I didn’t think much had been done to the game. The opening seemed the same, the credits definitely were (which gave thanks to the original voice cast for some reason), and although the opening seemed tweaked I thought it was pretty much the same. Upon booting the original (available on gog.com for modern machines) boy was I reminded how thick nostalgia goggles can be, it’s a complete overhaul.

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Gabriel’s world has been re-imagined in that fantastical but realistic style I see represented heavily in title like The Sims, where there’s a bit of a cartoon twist but also grounded in reality. This is important because although Gabriel Knight sprinkles in some amusing moments and laughable dialogue, it is a story about voodoo murders and has plenty of violence to and dark situations to match. Granted this new title is being built in the Unity Engine, which is why you will see it on both PCs and mobile, but I’m really liking what that engine can do to breathe new life into 2D based games with 3D graphics. Each scene has been given the same care and attention to detail that made the original so special from the graphics to the thematic music and most notable with the voice acting. Many may disagree, but I never cared for Tim Curry’s voice work in the original, it seemed wrong for a creole accent and like he was mocking the character with each line. I was unable to get his exact name, but the new voice actor for Gabriel seems much more fitting. He brings that snarky pedigree with a somewhat smooth accent that I’ve come to attribute to the character proper (although keep in mind that back in the 90s I would frequently switch from having the sound on and off thanks to text of all speech). From the early parts I saw the other voices are great at emulating the originals as well, especially the narrator, but they more assisted in tricking me into thinking I was playing the original rather than improve like with Gabriel’s character. Some of the functions like how to interact with items and select the multiple options you have with each have been greatly improved, especially because it seems optimized for mobile, so you no longer have to scroll between functions and instead just click on something and all available options are displayed. This streamlines the “try anything with anything” nature of a point-and-click adventure and I feel is essential for those of us who have either never played the game or can’t remember almost any of the puzzles. While it seems like the puzzles haven’t changed - my demo was, in terms of content, identical to the original game - perhaps the full release will feature new content or puzzles. Even if that’s not the case, it’s still a brilliant game that I will have no problem returning to upon full release, perhaps even on that dreaded mobile platform I try to consistently ignore. All in all it does prove that a fresh coat of paint, a few audible tweaks, and streamlining the guess-and-check nature of this classic does do it good. Purists of the genre need not worry, there is still some challenge here and none of the puzzles have been made much easier by the new streamlined feature, it merely doesn’t display the ability to do the many things that would get you that “I can’t do that” voice prompt. Gabriel Knight is back and fans of the original or those that haven’t experienced it may want to take notice when the game launches on October 15.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father 20th Anniversary will be available October 15 on PC, Android, and iOS for $19.99. It can be pre-ordered at this time for a discount on the Pheonix Online site (store.poststudios.com) as well as gog.com and Steam (store.steampowered.com ). This demo was provided for preview purposes by the publisher.

Published in PC
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