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Wednesday, 18 December 2013 00:00

LocoCycle Review (Xbox One)

LocoCycle review titleSuper-intelligent motorcycles, smarmy weapons dealers, and a mechanic literally dragged along for the ride. Lococycle has this and more for you to try to process into something coherent, unfortunately "Loco" is more than just part of the title.


Lococycle starts out with a live action movie that is scripted, budgeted, shot, and acted like a B-movie. This really isn't a surprise, as it has long been known that developer Twisted Pixel was aiming for that feeling. Given the plot it fits beautifully.

LocoCycle review 6A shady weapons company, Big Arms, has built two super-intelligent assassin motorcycles I.R.I.S. and S.P.I.K.E. They show off their newest creations at a party attended by six stereotypical characters, three of which will probably offend a few people; there is the smarmy, fast-talking weapons dealer CEO, the Korean Supreme Leader, the African King, the American General, the Russian General, and the macho biker with the "cybernetic hand."When a storm rolls in and the party moves inside, the Dealer has some underlings move the motorcycles to a different location. As the motorcycles are being moved I.R.I.S. is hit by lightening. Thinking that she might be damaged she is brought to Pablo. While Pablo is checking to make sure she is not damaged, I.R.I.S. scans the "outlaw biker" magazine Pablo was reading earlier, and then she watches a commercial on the T.V. The commercial is for the "Freedom Rally," a motorcycle fan gathering, kind of like the yearly Sturgis Rally but with more outlaws and less corporate sponsorship.

Taking all this information in and processing it through her now fried and faulty computer I.R.I.S. decides that she needs to throw off the yoke of Big Arms and ride the roads of freedom to the Freedom Rally. She also decides Pablo has to come along and somehow attaches his leg to one of her tailpipes, literally dragging him along.


After finding out that one of his two super bikes has flown the coop the Big Arms dealer does the only logical thing an evil C.E.O. in a B-movie would do, send his entire private army after it; including the other super bike, S.P.I.K.E.


LocoCycle review 7
While I can appreciate a good B-movie, Lococycle tries too hard. It's got some good bits, especially during the live action cut scenes. They even got some name actors and a B-movie legends; Freddy Rodriguez plays Pablo, James Gunn is the Big Arms CEO, Tom Savini is the leader of the motorcycle gang, Robert Patrick is the voice of S.P.I.K.E., and Lisa Foiles is the voice of I.R.I.S. Each sound like they are having a lot of fun in their roles, so that helps make the storyline a little more interesting. Especially Robert Patrick and Tom Savini, between the two of them I thing they get the lion's share of meaty off-the-wall dialog.The live action encapsulates the best parts of the crazy story. It's in the game where things start falling apart.


LocoCycle review 3Pablo speaks nothing but Spanish. I have to applaud Twisted Pixel for wanting to promote a minority character, even though he's just being drug behind a motorcycle and occasionally used as a weapon. The problem is they try to have both I.R.I.S. and Pablo say lines of dialog and witty one-liners during gameplay. For folks that don't speak Spanish the only option is subtitles for Pablo, which if you are concentrating on the battle onscreen, you miss a majority of what he says. So while I know Freddy had some excellent dialog outside of gameplay, I had nary a clue if he had any winners during. I.R.I.S. does not help either, because while early on she states she can speak over 50 languages, her fried computer misinterprets everything he says. So while Pablo may be stating the amount of pain he is in all I.R.I.S. hears is "lollipops and rainbows" or maybe the "love for the open road.”


A majority of the gameplay falls into the action brawler/shooter category, which is a bit odd for a game based on a motorcycle. Driving is the lower end of the spectrum here. You can move left or right, but the only acceleration is a limited turbo boost and there are no brakes. Most of the shooting and brawling sections are tight and fun for the first few times, but they get repeated early and often. The brawling sections do have combo multipliers you build up that get big fancy lettered names that start out as typical fodder like "AWESOME" and eventually move into the silly and fun of "POETRY" and "BEARDED." It's boss battles and some of the mini-games that really make the gameplay a mixed bag of "meh." The "targeted" shooting sections aiming felt way to loose making it very frustrating to have to play through multiple times. Some of the boss battles even pay homage to classic arcade games, but here too the controls are either "right on" or "why bother."


LocoCycle review 2Sometimes the mini-games didn't even give you a clue as to what to do. At one point I.R.I.S. conks out and stops. The game goes into a split screen showing an oncoming enemy with a "distance from me meter" on one side and Pablo sitting on the road behind I.R.I.S. on the other. I started pushing buttons, nothing happened. I started moving Pablo around, still nothing. It wasn't until I start moving Pablo to the extreme sides that I finally got a button to flash onscreen to start me into a simple mini-game. After trial and error I learned that there are three parts to the mini-game, but again, I had to find the next hotspot to activate the next mini-game. Needless to say I became very familiar with the restart. I think that was my biggest frustration with the game, a lot of redoing sections because of lack of information, guides, or just plain poor game mechanics.


TwistedPixelLogoTwisted Pixel is a developer that has created some really good games for the Xbox 360 like The Maw, 'Splosion Man, and Ms. 'Splosion Man, they even created one of the best Kinect games with The Gunstringer. With Lococycle they may have strayed a bit. Ithas some good bits and some bad bits, although Twisted Pixel created craziness it wanted to capture, in the end the bad outweighs the good. Throw in a B-movie story and now you are on a trip to a very niche audience. Lococycle may have been better suited as a straight to DVD B-movie rather than game.

 

Published in Xbox One
Saturday, 16 October 2010 00:00

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Review (PS3)

 

castlevania_lordsofshadow_cover

 

 

The best part about video game conventions aren’t the games on the show floor, it’s the parties afterward where a bunch of geeks can hang out and be themselves. Its not like going to the neighborhood bar where the smell of cigarettes and alcohol is outmatched by the cheap cologne of men talking to women with cheaper perfume.

An industry party is different. Mostly you’re just standing around with a drink in your hand talking to someone about how the big name actors like Patrick Stewart are showing up more and more in games. There’s not a lot of cheesy lines or male bravado because to be honest, there’s not a lot of reason for it. The women at a gamer party don’t have a lot to fear from guys who spend a good chunk of time retracing levels to find that one last health gem.

This party was no different. I had come with my friend who just happened to  fit the role of a stunningly attractive woman. She may not have officially been my date, but that didn’t stop me from feeling just a little bit good about the approving nod I got from the bouncer at the door. As the night progressed we slowly drifted to opposite sides of the room. Every so often I’d see her out of the cornier of my eye hanging out by a Mrs Pacman machine. Even though I’m deep into a discussion about whether the migration from 2D to 3D in classic remakes is a natural evolution or a just money grab, I can still pick out her laugh across the room amongst the background noise. I looked past the blogger blocking my view and see  that she’s talking to a guy we had interviewed  earlier that day on the show floor .I also notice that he had ditched the lanyard and controller based accessories he was sporting at the show and swapped them  for a shiny dress shirt and jacket topped by a gold chain that would be more at home on an MTV reality show than a bar filled with podcasters. I knew the look on his face from experience. He was on the prowl.

Published in Playstation 3

talesfromtheborderlandsep1 review

Developer / Publisher: Telltale Games

Tales from Borderlands is rich with wonder and mystery, but the most nagging question you'll be asking throughout this point-and-click version of Pandora is, what's the point?

There's the obvious answer, of course: this is a Telltale game; and after knocking it out of the park with The Walking Dead (and to a lesser extent The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones), the studio has earned a reputation for spinning pop culture franchises into point-and-click gold. Then there's the fact Gearbox Software's Borderlands universe – like Telltale's past muses – is teeming with new and interesting stories to tell.

This explains why Telltale picked Borderlands and why any gamer with good taste should feel compelled to check it out. Still, after 4 hours of half heartedly tapping one or two buttons through the series' debut episode, Zer0 Sum, you might yet have trouble determining what kind of game Tales From Borderlands wants to be (or if it even wants to be a game at all).

Borderlands Rhys

Whatever it is, Tales from Borderlands has style. Gearbox's off-kilter universe is captured with almost pitch perfect accuracy, and Zer0 Sum sets up an odd-ball, over-the-top, sci-fi adventure that fits in snugly with Borderlands lore. In it, you'll split your time between playing two characters, Rhys and Fiona, who cross paths after a Vault Key purchase goes south. Despite their seemingly disparate backgrounds – Rhys being a Hyperion employee out for petty revenge and Fiona being a Pandoran scam artist out for a quick buck – both are the kind of lovable rogues who have a knack for falling ass-backwards into ridiculous situations. Which they do. A lot.

Borderlands Fiona

To say anything more would be giving away some of the game's many satisfying twists and surprises. Needless to say, events in Zer0 Sum have a way of snowballing from bad to “holy crap we're dead” real fast and you'll run into more than a few Borderlands celebrities along the way (spoiler: one of them is in the episode's title).

It's a good thing the story is so strong, too, because despite the game's efforts to cast gamers in a meaningful role, Zer0 Sum saves the best scenes for itself. Yeah, you'll see loads of interesting people and locations and you'll witness a fair share of action scenes, but your actual part in the whole mess is largely reduced to bare-bones QTE events, extremely light puzzle solving (move box, enter vent), and pointing Rhys or Fiona in the direction of the next dialogue sequence.

Borderlands Talk

To be fair, when Zer0 Sum takes a shot at being a game, it does it well. An intense Loader Bot battle at the beginning hints at more twitch-shooting sequences to come, and the final “boss” encounter succeeds at making rote QTE actions feel important. Aside from these rare moments of gameplay, however, Zer0 Sum still feels as though it's happy doing its own thing while occasionally looking back at the screen and saying, “Oh, you're still here? Fine, press this.”

Borderlands LoaderBot

More troubling still is that when the game remembers you're in the room, your actions don't appear to amount to much. In one seemingly do-or-die stealth scenario, for example, you'll be instructed to sneak up on a guard, subdue him with a QTE sequence, and hack a nearby terminal. That all sounds dangerous and game-ending, except failure to correctly pull off the QTE event (or even press a single button) results in the enemy killing himself. Oh, and that potentially cool hacking mini-game? Here's a protip: select “hack”.

Borderlands Weapons


Even your dialogue choices don't appear to have much influence – at least, not yet anyways. Despite the game's warning that everything Rhys or Fiona says will have a ripple effect on the events to come, and even though the game displays a “so-and-so will remember that” reminder after nearly every dialogue scene, there's little evidence that anyone is listening.

For instance, in one scene I was role-playing Rhys as a complete asshole, yet was later told I couldn't be trusted because I act too professional. In another, I was given an elaborate background story that I was told – in no uncertain terms – was vital to earning the trust of a Pandoran outlaw. Out of curiosity, I decided to flunk every one of his questions to see how he would react and if it was indeed possible to “lose”. Sure enough, instead of eating a bullet or failing the scene, an excuse was made on my behalf by another character and the game continued along as if I'd bothered to take my objective seriously.

In short: if dialogue choices really matter, Zer0 Sum does little to prove it. Likely, my idiot role-playing will come back to bite me in the ass later, but in this episode they don't carry much weight.

So if the most of the real action leaves players sidelined, and there are virtually no puzzles to solve, and the dialogue mechanic is more-or-less window dressing, the question remains: what's the point? After all, there are not shortage of Borderlands games that scratch the itch for real action, and there are plenty of Telltale games that offer more to do. The optimist in me believes the point is that Zer0 Sum is merely laying the groundwork for what will become a larger, more involved adventure (and indeed, you get the impression it is). The cynic in me, however, thinks Telltale coded a wonderfully engaging Borderlands movie and remembered at the very end that they were suppose to be making a game.

Borderlands Boss

Thankfully, Zer0 Sum's story is strong enough to generate interest for the next episode, and those brief flashes of gameplay are compelling enough to keep fans on the hook. That said, if this debut episode is indeed supposed to be an opening tutorial of sorts, here's hoping Telltale takes the training wheels off soon.

6.5/10

Published in Xbox 360
Thursday, 22 January 2015 00:00

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Review [Xbox One]

geometry wars 3 dimensions title

The naked body is one of the most beautiful objects in the world. There’s a reason why the Greeks used it as an analog for the gods in their sculpture and why art students around the world study each muscle and intonation of nude models. It’s because the simple lines and curves that shape the human body conspire together to create the perfect melding of form and function.

Here’s an exercise. Imagine the most attractive person you can. It doesnt matter if it’s a man or woman, take your pick. Imagine that person standing there, void of clothes, makeup, or tattoos. Visualize only their body, proud and confident. Beautiful isn’t it? Hell, it’s downright stunning. Now, keep imagining that person, but add the usual adornments people require. Shoes, a simple shirt or dress, etc. Maybe that person looks slightly better to you now, or maybe a little less. Now, continue adding the accessories that we’re used to seeing draped on the human form. Imagine them with a complicated, in vogue hairstyle, pile on the makeup and gold jewelry. Keep going. Picture them wearing a hat, gloves, designer sunglasses. And just like that, the beautiful work of art that was once there no longer has the simple perfection that they were born into the world with. Instead, this new creation is a gaudy substitute. Hidden somewhere under all of those unneeded additions is the true beauty. Somewhere.
gw3 ScreenShot 530 1200x675
That’s the path that a lot of modern games have taken. At the core of Call of Duty’s dozens of weapons and myriad of controls may be a solid first person shooter. Deep down beneath The Crew’s needless storyline and layers of special effects could be a decent racer. But like many games today, you’ll be hard pressed to find the beauty of the game underneath all of the extraneous makeup and jewelry that are masquerading as ‘innovations’.

Geometry Wars 3 takes a different route. The simple, straightforward gameplay that dates back to one of the first twin stick shooters, Robotron 2084, is stripped of any pretense. You aren’t inundated with a story that was shoehorned in. The graphics are made up of basic geometric shapes that somehow seem at home even on a powerhouse like the Xbox One. It’s the opposite of the runway model who can barely stand under the weight of the latest in fashion.

The idea of the naked form has become transformed by society. It’s been co-opted by everything from advertising to porn. Sure, there’s a juvenile part of us that wants to laugh and point, mock and ridicule, or reduce it to a base sexual stimulant. But once you look past that, what you’ll see is beauty. Pure, simple beauty without the need to cover it up and over adorn it with needless trinkets and toys.

gw3 10.35.5.56 ScreenShot 604 1200x675

The developers at Lucid recognize this. The gameplay modes of Geometry Wars 3 are basic, yet still satisfying. They range from the straightforward ‘Deadline’ where you shoot everything that moves in a set time limit, all the way to Pacifism, where the object is just to survive as long as possible without firing a shot.The adventure mode is a simple progression of level and game types, getting progressively more difficult as your ship equally gains in power via A.I.drones. These power ups are the only really unnecessary piece of bling on the title. Most of them equate to either increasing your firepower, or helping to protect your ship. But with the hectic gameplay, they could have easily been left out without much impact on the experience. Lucid has managed to hone the controls to near perfection, with movement becoming almost instinctive. Your eyes and hands work together in harmony with no middleman to slow them down. 


Some people say that it’s our insecurities that cause us to hide behind layers of makeup or strut around with expensive watches and designer clothes. The theory is that there’s some inherent flaw underneath, real or perceived, that can be covered up. Like an over compensating student at prom wearing too much cologne. Game developers have a tendency to fall into the same trap. It’s as if they know that if you were to strip away the fancy graphics and dense controls from most AAA titles, you’d be left with uninspired, tiresome gameplay thats been repeated for years. Geometry Wars 3 stands defiant and proud, unashamed of the absence of baubles and trinkets. It has grown since it was born as minigame in an Xbox racer. It’s a bit bolder, a bit wilder. The primitives based visuals have matured into a melding of shapes, color and sound that complement the gameplay instead of overpowering it. It doesn’t need nor want to be hidden under a thick blanket of excess. Geometry Wars 3 revels in it’s nakedness. And that’s a beautiful sight to behold.

Score. 9 out of 10

Published in Xbox One
Sunday, 18 August 2013 23:59

Ducktales Remastered Review

When Ducktales first released on the NES in 1989 I was 4 years old and whilst I probably was aware of the TV show, I had yet to make my first foray into the magical world of Nintendo (I was busy twiddling nobs to move paddles up and down on some Pong clone). So the jist of it is that I have never owned a NES and therefore never played Ducktales. 
 
Shocking I know but that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. So when it was announced that Ducktales would be given the HDifying treatment affording me the chance to play the game for the first time I was understandably excited (especially as continuous reruns of the cartoon during my childhood years have left Scrooge McDuck and his nephews and also the ridiculously awesome theme tune, engraved into my mind). Ducktales a woo-ooo.
 
It's now 2013 and this year we have the next generation of consoles coming out but still we gamers clamor for these old school 2D platformers (just check out Ali's review of the recently released Cloudberry Kingdom) and remakes of our childhood favourites like Amiga classic Superfrog HD, there seems to be a new one popping up every week.
 
This week it's Ducktales turn to be remade and exposed to all the retro gamers and a whole new generation of gamers who were either too young like me or perhaps not even born yet when it originally released.
 
The game harkens back to the days of old school Mario and Alex the Kidd playing a lot like Mario the difference here is Scrooge Mcduck the grumpy Scottish Billionaire. The main character of this game is not your atypical hero, he's a duck, he's Scottish and he has a rather misguided view on life, valuing his vast fortune of gold and collectables over all else. And it's here that we kick off our adventure with Scrooges fortune being stolen by a load of Beagles and after he rescues his nephews and reclaims his mansion we set off on the epic quest for treasure.
 
Scrooge controls much like the classic Mario however Scrooge utilises his cane as a pogo stick/weapon to bounce on enemies heads and to reach higher platforms, this can be a huge advantage but also in some areas becomes a massive hinderance to progression with spikes etc on the ceiling for you to avoid. The pogo mechanic is actually one of the most frustrating aspects of the game for me as when it works correctly it’s great fun and a useful tool in the game, however when it goes wrong it really causes you problems especially on the higher difficulties where you have very limited lives. The game almost lulls you into a false sense of comfort with the pogoing you’ll be bouncing quite happily on platforms and enemies only for Scrooge to suddenly stop dead when he hits the ground, inevitably this throws you off your game and inevitably an enemy you were about to pogo on will hit you instead. This becomes very frustrating both in the platforming areas and against the bosses however on the lower difficulties it isn’t such an issue as you have more lives (especially on easy where you have unlimited lives).
 
Graphically Ducktales is easily comparable to any recently released 2D platformer, though the backgrounds are rendered in 3d the sprites retain that classic 2D aspect and that only adds to the overall charm. This is of course a Disney title based on the cartoon of the same name from the late 80’s/early 90’s so it just oozes charm all over from the cutesy trio of Scrooges Nephews to the classic soundtrack including the famous theme song in all it's chip tune glory. 
 
The replayability for this game is actually far more vast than you would initially expect for this style of game. We have online leader boards tracking total time played, fastest completion time, most profitable playthrough and most money collected overall. In addition to this there are a ton of unlockables to purchase with the money you collect, ranging from concept art and sketches to music. In addition to this there are 4 difficulty levels, easy, normal, hard and extreme, and for anyone who hasn't played this before it is a tough game even on normal it provides a solid challenge! So to finish it on the top difficulty is going to be a real tough ask.
 
The real crux of this game is that it's just huge amounts of fun, easy to play hard to master and it does have possibly the best theme tune in any game ever, however at £11.99 in the UK it is in my opinion hugely overpriced unless you are planning to play through it multiple times for high scores and trophies, so unless you are looking for those I’d recommend waiting for a sale.
 
Overall Score - 76%

Andy Urquhart
42 Level One


Published in 42 Level One Blog
Friday, 14 June 2013 00:00

Rush Bros. (Mac/PC)

rush bros review

If you would like to play a fun, energetic, competitive  type video game, then you may want to play Rush Bros. In the multiplayer mode, you play against your friends and find out just who is the better player.  Rush Bros. is essentially a platform racing game, where your video game character travels and avoids or conquers several obstacles before reaching the finish.  The gameplay consists of about 40 levels, with you as the video game player choosing the specific level you want to play. You do not have to traverse each level in sequence -- you have the freedom to choose whichever level you prefer to play.  There is also a survival and fast forward mode where the gameplay is basically the same; however, your character will move more quickly.

 

Rush Bros. Gameplay Before I get into the specific gameplay, lets talk about some preliminaries.  Rush Bros. is a PC/Mac game, so it is playable on either the PC or the Mac.  I played this video game on my Mac, and did not experience any problems having the game added to my Steam library for gameplay.  So it goes without saying that before you play this game, you must already have a Steam account or be prepared to set one up.  I'm thinking that if you are an avid video game player, whether you play games on your favorite consoles, PC or Mac -- that you more than likely already have a Steam account.  If not, why not set one up so you can play Rush Bros. with your friends?

 

Rush Bros.!Rush Bros.!

 A big part of video games in addition to gameplay is the graphics.  This game did not disappoint in this area.  I believe you will enjoy the bright graphics as well as the colorful backgrounds as you play the different levels of this game.  Even though Rush Bros is a racing game -- the race to the finish may not be as simple as you may think.  On your way, hopefully to victory, you will encounter spikes and other obtacles that you have to avoid if you want to clinch the win.  

 

Need help in getting to that next higher structure while you are racing?  Simply, use the springs to propel your character to the next higher height.  If the springs do not do the trick, then you may have to scale the side of the structure before jumping over the spikes to continue your journey for the win. My points here are there are a multitude of ways to move your character along the platform.

 

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 You may say to me -- "Well, that's all good, Ms. H, but were there any negatives about this game?"  My response would be the positives of this game outweigh the negatives -- but there were some.  When I loaded the game and saw the graphics on the main page, I thought this would be basically a music game.  I saw two figures wearing sunglasses who appeared  to be DJs.  And what do DJs do?  Among other things, they play music.  So I was getting excited about playing some sort of music game.  However, that was not to be the case.  Music is a big part of this game -- in fact, you can change the music to listen to different tracks as you play the game.  However, music is more of a by-product of the game -- instead of being intricately woven into the gameplay -- at least on the parts of this game that I played.  Once the gameplay started, the music was more of a backdrop to the game itself.

 

I'm not sure if this was a glitch in the game; however, while trying to get my character through a maze of blocks, I got him actually stuck in a block -- and he could not get out.  Try as I may -- the little figure stayed in the confines of the block until the challenger, of course, obviously won the race, since I could not get my character out of the block.

 

Another possible glitch is at one time during gameplay, I stopped pushing buttons during the game; however, the figure continued to run back and forth across the screen. Mind you, this was a character that should have been following my directional commands -- but that was not the case. He kept moving along, without me pushing nary a button.

 

There was also what I would call a "tedious" part of the game. The gameplay involved the character needing a key to open certain doors.  In order to get the key, the character had to backtrack over areas that had already been covered to retrieve the key -- and then go back to the door with the key to open it.  I found this part of the game to be tedious, because I felt that I made progress in getting to the door that required a key -- only to find out that I had to sometimes retrace my steps to get the key and return back to the door to open it.  Some may see this as a way to win the race, especially if your challenger is not fast at locating and using the key; however, I found it tedious to go back and forth in this game.  My suggestion would be to position the key at a checkpoint that is very close to the door to be opened instead of having the player to retrace his or her steps.  

 

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From a PC/Mac playing standpoint, versus the video game consoles, i.e. the current Xbox 360, and the PS3, I had to get accustomed to using either the directional arrows or the specific alphabet keys to move the character. In my opinion, this game would be more enjoyable to play using a controller instead of the keyboard.  In fact, I believe it is recommended that a controller be used along with your PC or Mac.  Unfortunately, during the game, in my zeal to win, my fingers would sometimes become overly taxed, as I pounded the keys to move the character.  Thankfully, my fingers returned back to normal after I stopped playing the game. Of course, you may or may not experience this discomfort while playing the game.

 

Now back to the positives. I liked  getting co-op help on certain parts of the game via challenger on Skype. I also liked the upbeat music that played during the gameplay, as well as the different environments that changed with each level. 

 

Sounds like a video game you would like to play? If so, you can play Rush Bros. now since it is available on Steam for the PC and Mac. 

 

Rush Bros. was released on May 24, 2013 by Xyla Entertainment.

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Published in PC
Monday, 13 April 2015 00:00

5 Star Wrestling Review [PS3]

As the AllGames.com resident wrestling fanatic, which includes video games, and seeing as it's WrestleMania season, I've been tasked with reviewing the new indie game that dropped on the PlayStation Network exclusively for PS3, 5 Star Wrestling. First, to understand the title of the game, you need to know that a 5 Star match in wrestling is the highest ranking you can receive in wrestling. Though, this ranking system was started by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer newsletter, it just caught on and now everyone just kind of follows it. To put this in perspective, the WWE as a whole has only had five 5 Star matches since this ranking system began in the 80's.


The selling point by 5 Star is that wrestlers can/will take damage and that damage will actually affect gameplay. This selling point is what got me so excited for the game in the first place. This was something that no games before it had done, even though the WWE games Wrestlemania 2000, No Mercy, and Day of Reckoning 1 & 2 had damage meters, and the wrestlers would limp or hold an arm, the damage never affected gameplay. The other point, which was also exciting, was unique finisher reversals, some even reversing into the opponent's finisher. This also, to my knowledge anyway, hadn't been done before. So when the game dropped, and I bought it, I had some high hopes. Was I dreaming or did 5 Star Wrestling deliver a 5 star product?

5starwrestling1


When starting, and playing this game, I feel it's important to note that this is an indie game. A small team of passionate people came together to make what they felt would be an awesome wrestling game. So keeping that in mind, I also feel that it's completely unfair to compare it to critically acclaimed games like WWF No Mercy, and current games like WWE2k15. I mean, WWE2k15 is basically working off a backbone that was started and has been refined since 1995!


I'm not going to bore you with basic stuff, there's a menu, there's music, language select, all the good stuff. The game menu music is just a randomly played wrestler theme song. Getting into the meat of this game, there's 8 wrestlers, "Raging" Andy Organ, Harvee Dee, Gregg Hearty, Dynamite Pegasus, Jonny "The Bull" Miavia, Mike Iceberg, Curtis Angel, and Ragnabrok. Since the name of the developer IS Serious Parody, I'm sure you can figure out who each wrestler is a parody of. Personally, I find the goofy names pretty awesome because it feels like a throwback to the old Fire Pro Wrestling games that had to come up with a bunch of goofy names for the wrestlers. As for match types, there's 7, with 6 being locked, they are:

  • Wrestling Match*
  • Pin Fall Only
  • Submission Match
  • 2 Out Of 3 Falls
  • No Holds Barred
  • First Blood
  • Last Man Standing


*Available at start

5starwrestling2


There's also 1 alternate attire for each wrestler that can be unlocked. You can unlock match types, attires, and arenas by going through the Challenge Mode, and earning coins.


Challenge mode is the main mode of this game. Challenge mode is what it sounds like, a lot of different challenges, each challenge comes with 3 (or more) objectives, and tracks whether your match is a 5 star classic or not. To be honest, the first few challenges I did, i was just killing the objectives and then finishing the match, which lead to 1 or 2 star matches. You'll get more coin for higher star matches.


Graphically, this game is better looking than a lot of stuff out there right now, and it doesn't do the typical indie game thing where it's either pixel art dubbed "retro" or some weird artsy style. While the character models are far from realistic, they'd probably fall somewhere in like with cartoony muscle guys. But it works, so I can't knock it, i like the look of the characters and the arenas. Oddly, there's crowd noise piped in by speakers that you can see in the arenas if you really look, because there's no crowds. I kind of hope they add crowds via a patch or something, but really it's not that important.


Gameplay wise, this is where I have a lot of conflict. The controller scheme is something completely new to me, so it takes some getting use to. After a few playthroughs I really like it now, as you only need to press, at most, 2 buttons (at once) and flick the right analog stick to pull a move off, but mostly you'll be pressing one of the shoulder buttons and either hitting the right analog for grapples, or X for strikes. Working the limbs of your opponents, and seeing their knee give out under their weight while trying to perform a move, or favoring their arm, it's really nice to see that stuff. This game is probably the most cerebral wrestling game on the market right now. Oh, you could use psychology since the N64 days. Working body parts, even now in the 2K games, helps to win matches quicker. but the PRESENTATION of it. The way working the knee affects a match, it's never been done like this before, and it's a breath of fresh air. The problems with the gameplay come with glitches where grapples cause wrestlers to teleport and switch places to finish the move. But, I mean, that's really the biggest, consistent, problem I've seen. And that's not bad.


The sound of the game is typical wrestling sound, though I give immense credit on not using generic rock music or public domain music or something to cut cost. The music in this game is all original, all be it parody of real songs, but even if they're parodies they sound pretty great. My favorite is Harvee Dee's theme.


Considering this is their first outing, and their own original engine, they've really powerbombed it out of the park, and into a table. Is it a perfect game? No. Is it the fabled second coming of No Mercy, no. But it doesn't need to be. Once the little problems are patched, and once whatever planned DLC is implemented, it'll carve it's own niche in wrestling video game lore.It's not the greatest game, it needs small work in a lot of areas. I think once it's patched and everything's working solidly, it'll be one of the greatest wrestling games in the past 10 years.


Score: 3 1/2 Stars

Published in Playstation 3
Saturday, 18 April 2009 00:00

Street Fighter 4 Review [X360]

 

There is something extremely satisfying about a well thrown punch. The feeling of contact between your fist and bone. The sharp snap it makes. The tinge of pain in your forearm from the shock of the impact. I'm not talking about justhitting something. I'm describing what happens when you use everything your body has, directed through your fist, in an attempt to destroy whats on the other end. Its addictive and dangerous. Most people never really experience that. But those that do, know exactly what I mean.

When I was younger, I was very familiar with that feeling. Growing up in the projects meant that when someone pushes you, you push back harder. It's a simple rule that worked amazingly well.I didn't get pushed that often, andwhen I did,I made sure it didn't happen again.

That rule changed when we moved to the suburbs, but no one told me. Being one of the few Black kids at Linkhorn Park Elementary School, I got pushed a lot. And I pushed back. Punched back. And when I'd get pulled into the principles office, I couldn't care less what she had to say. She obviously didn't know how things worked. Her rules weren't my rules. Even when Chris, the only other Black kid in the school tried to explain things to me, I ignored him. "Derrick,the kids here are wimps, you can't hit them like that anymore'. He was right, the kids were wimps. A shove on the basketball court was a reason for tears. A kick at the playground was a reason to run to the teacher. Why were they crying? They have 2 parents, nice houses, and didn't have to use a free lunch card in the cafeteria. Wimps.

I finally got the message when my mother was called in for a 'conference'. I waited outside while the teachers recited my crimes to her. When my mom came out of that room, I expected a smack to the head and to be shoved into the back seat of the car. That what was supposed to happen. But it didn't. Instead she refused to look at me and headed for the bathroom.Tears streaming down her face. I had never seen her like that. When the teacher appeared, she looked at my blank expression and accused me, 'You did that to her.You're the most apathetic child I've ever seen, do you know what apathetic means?' I nodded my head. I knew exactly what it meant. It meant 'boy who makes his mother cry'. That's when I decided to change. What beatings, and restrictions, and suspensions failed to do over the years, was accomplished in a split second by the image of a strong woman reduced to tears.

But deciding not to hit other kids doesn't mean the feelings go away. And they needed an outlet. When I saw a new game at the supermarket called Street Fighter 2, I asked my mom for a quarter and played it while she shopped. When another kid joined in, it was a revelation. I could punch him, kick him, throw him to the ground. No punishments. No crying. This was a good thing. Very good.

Over the years other ways to channel those feelings have come and gone, and Street Fighter faded into the background. Each new version seemed to get farther away from allowing me to throw a punch and enjoy it connecting. Instead of an outlet, it turned into a way to watch a combo meter count upward. I just wanted to hit someone.

Street Fighter 4 brings that back. The visceral thud of a punch is conveyed in beautiful images that make the violence seem like a work of art. The controls have been simplified so that I don't have to search online for a 13 page move list to enjoy it. And most importantly, when a punch connects on screen, I feel it. And it feels good.

Score 9/10

 

Published in Xbox 360

farmingsimulatorreview

With games like Euro Truck Simulator and Goat Simulator out there, it’s easy to be dismissive of the growing simulation space.  Simulator games are making quite the comeback but, as with anything else, you have great content and then there’s the stuff that’s…  Questionable.  Farming Simulator 15, I would say, is of the foremost camp.  The game may not be on most gamers' radars but, if you give it a real shot, you may very well fall in love.  So let's get into the nitty-gritty of this wonderful country romp!

 This gem by Giants Software comes from a long line of blue collar simulation games, particularly Demolition Company and Ski Region Simulator.  Farming Simulator is their flagship property and it shows.  If I’m not mistaken, this is only their third or fourth installment in the increasingly popular franchise.  The depth and attention to detail is significant and you can tell this is a game developed with love.

Farming Simulator is significant to me because it is representative of a paradigm shift in video games.  We’re going back to games that are not shooters or visceral, visually-pleasing experiences with no substance.  Simulations were huge in the 80s and 90s (arguably during the 70s too..  like that space simulator on the Atari 2600 with the really nifty peripherals), particularly with flight and war simulators, but then they disappeared, alongside point-and-click adventures and FMV games.  This excites me and the fact that gamers are voting with their wallets is even more encouraging.  We need more innovation, risk-taking, and variety in the video game industry because, let's face it, all the big studios are regurgitating the same old thing.  To that end, Farming Simulator certainly delivers a unique, memorable experience.

Today, simulator games seem to be on the rise, much like we have seen with MMOs, MOBAs, and TCG/CCGs.  While the space is rather saturated, it seems like the demand is there and Farming Simulator does a great job of carving out it’s own little niche.  Can you name another game that lets you operate over 140 different vehicles and brings the farm of your dreams to life (virtually)?  I can’t.

 

Farming Simulator 15 First Impressions

Going into Farming Simulator 15, I was worried the skill cap would be too high yet I was more eager than anything else.  While I will always be a New Yorker at heart, making me a city slicker for life I suppose, I spent a lot of time on farms and the countryside as a kid.  Some of my fondest memories include watching chicks conga line with their mother hen, waking up to the coos of a very eager rooster (at aroun 4am every day), and having an angry chicken poop on my shoulder.  Oh, we can’t forget the time that a goat tried to eat my little brother...  Sadly, he did not succeed.  All jokes aside, I truly appreciated the opportunity to review this game and revisit simpler times.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

In any case, jumping into the game was easy.  In Career mode, you have two regions:  Bjornholm or Westbridge Hills.  The former is best if you want to go through the tutorial and get a full tour.  The tutorial did a good job walking you through the basics without becoming a total drag.  Westbridge Hills is better if you want freedom - ‘MERICA!!!  Bjornholm offers a persistent tour with tool tips and in-world prompts to walk you through the various features, locations, and core mechanics.  If you want more challenge or immersion, Westbridge Hills is the way to go.  You don't have to be American to appreciate this region - look how purdy it is!

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

After choosing your region, you can choose a difficulty.  I recommend Easy if you want more creative freedom and opportunities to explore.  Normal and Hard increase the amount of debt and, by extension, operational overhead you have to offset with revenues.  If you ask me, I don’t want to simulate my own life so starting off in debt doesn’t sound like fun.  For the masochists out there, sure, go with Hard mode.  Oh, and easy means you can hire illegal immigrants or outsource jobs overseas to save a buck.  That's the American way, amirite?

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

I spent my first hour or two cultivating land, sowing seeds, harvesting, and then going across town to sell my crops.  Along the way, I noticed different icons on the minimap and HUD.  There are places where you can drop off surplus items for quick cash (more on that later).  Everything else you either store or sell right away in the appropriate buildings.  The strategy here is to sell when the rates are good but not wait so long that your storage maintenance and crop freshness get ruined.

 From what I could gather, the initial run in any career will revolve heavily around sowing and harvesting corn and wheat.  Radishes and other crops require more specialized equipment and investment thereof.  You also have livestock/cattle in the form of sheep, chicken, and cows.  Chickens are your best bet due to their low upkeep and the steady supply of eggs that you can resell.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

After going through a few cycles of the basic cultivate-sow-harvest, I did more exploration.  My suspicions seemed confirmed.  The game only opens up fully once you repeat the core farm operations and expand into other livestock and crop options.  Buying new plots of lands and woodcutting is also an option, though I am not sure how the latter works...  It’s also quite awkward when you try to work a field that doesn’t belong to you.

My close to four-hour first romp came to a screeching hault quite literally when my tractor got stuck in traffic.  Darn jerkface drivers. *muttering to myself*  Wow, this really is a simulator.  Bad drivers with no consideration for those around them - so realistic!  I mean, let’s be honest: most people with licenses don’t really know how to drive properly..  Those gumball machines must be chock-full of driver’s licenses!

 

Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 9

 Kids, this is why it's important to obey the rules of the road!  Stick to your side of the road and always observing incoming traffic... Especially in the countryside (trust me, I'm in Georgia and the drivers out here are SAVAGES)!

Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 7

*** Regresamos A La Finca! ***

After some focused E3 2015 viewing (how about that Bethesda presser, folks?) and getting over the initial butthurt (of the traffic jam situation, not E3), I was able to salvage the session after reloading and cleverly getting off the road before the cars came in to pile up again.  I almost opted to start a career on Westbridge Hills.  Fortunately, I used better judgement there because this mode does not hold your hand at all..  Instead, after dabbling with Career a bit more I decided to dive into multiplayer a bit and have someone carry me instead.

...Well, maybe not.

All the good servers required DLC.  BOOOOO!  I finally found some vanilla FS15 servers but then it took forever for the hosts to realize someone was joining their servers.  Ultimately, impatience took over and I went back to Career (this time on Easy because Normal made me feel like a scrub).  BTW, DLC for the game currently runs between .99 to 9.99 USD.  Not a bad deal if you can spare the scrip.

I would say the game does a fantastic job at balancing depth and accessibility.  That’s no small feat, either.  There’s enough opportunity for mastery and perfection without making the game hard to learn or play casually.  As such, Farming Simulator is equally good as a palette cleanser or simple escapism; you can play a quick 20-30 minute session or get lost in it for hours on end.  The graphics are not mind-blowing but the locations are quite picturesque.  The little touches like watering troughs, phone booths, and houses really helped me escape and get lost in the world, even if only for a little while.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 4

It’s worth noting that the game is called Farming Simulator, not Farm Simulator, and that branding makes sense.  The focus here is more on the operational side of a farm, rather than the farm itself.  You are tasked with cultivating, sowing, and harvesting.  The more minute details seem to take care of themselves so it doesn’t seem like your animals will die nor do you have to clean up after them.  This frees you up more to be creative and play the resource management meta game.  That means you don't have to worry about building sheds, barns, silos, or any of that more granular stuff.

The game’s web site boasts over 40 licensed vehicle brands and 3 livestock options so the variety is there.   I barely made a dent in the game in terms of unlocking new equipment but I was able to get more cattle in the mix; after all, 7K only goes so far!  Anywho, this game has some serious brand power and it's a brilliant way to gain sponsorships and subsidize development.  The Giants Software team knows what they're doing!

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

Now to be a typical gamer and complain for the sake of complaining...  I was disappointed that I was not able to run a baler in my runs with the game.  There are over 100 tools and vehicles in the game, which seems about right from my extensive window shopping.  They start you off with the basics and, from there, it’s whatever you want it to be.  I must say, though, machinery is super expensive…  Did I mention I’m a cheap bastard?  Well, I am.

One of my favorite things about the game is that you don’t feel rushed.  You can pace yourself however you see fit.  The game takes place in a pseudo real time but the clock stops when you quit.  This gives you time to explore and take in the scenery.  This also averts the pesky aspects of, well, just about every mobile game these days.  For me, any video game that respects your time is automatically a cut above the rest.

The controls are responsive and intuitive.  There are lots of controls to learn but it’s about as simple as it gets for a simulator.  Control schemes pretty much carry over across vehicle types, too.  My only gripe is that I have become so accustomed to pushing the left analog stick in to run so, whenever I go into first-person view, I keep bringing up the stats screen.  This is handy and, well, I’m just bitching because I can...  That’s what we geeks do!

So, back to the plethora of licensed brands in the game, I actually recognized a few of these names, mainly because I live in Georgia and can actually drive up to some of these companies.  New Holland comes to mind and  Husqvarna you’ll see everywhere these days, possibly more than John Deere.  Is it me or are all these agricultural manufacturers in Europe?

All these nifty items can be purchased using virtual currency and there are no microtransactions - YAY!  The in-game store can be accessed by going to the physical location or pressing Y anywhere.  Overall, the HUD and global functionality is super intuitive and informative.  You have all the information you need, including a mini Farmer's Almanac type screen.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 10

On top of the vehicles you can get,  there are a lot of attachments and tools too..  Like these strange contraptions.  I don’t know about you but these things are scary - and I’m not just talking about the price tags!

Farming Simulator 15 Review

 Fantastic multiplayer is something I look for in any game I play these days since I have limited gaming hours; alas, I was not able to dig into the multiplayer here.  From what I understand, the host can control how income is distributed but, essentially, all players in a session help the farm owner out on his property.  Servers seem to support up to 6 players, which means you can get a lot more done in the course of an hour or two.

So, who is Farming Simulator for?  I think this game will resonate with anyone with fond memories on a farm, love for agriculture, an affinity to any sort of simulator experience, or mobile gaming addictions.  The latter I say lovingly because most mobile games are about completing mundane tasks and keeping an eye on a your recharge bar/clocks.  Farming Simulator has that level of repetition and minutia but not to the obscene degree where it stops being fun and becomes a job or obsession.

Overall, this is a game I can very much see myself getting lost in since it has a good balance of resource management and creativity.  There’s more structure and guidance than in, say, Minecraft…  Huge plus for me.  I love games that are flexible and dynamic, but it’s also nice to have some default activities you can do almost completely on autopilot or at least in the midst of heavy multitasking (like watching E3).

Second Look & Tips From An Avid Farmer

Well, technically, this is a fourth or fifth look but I decided to approach the game from another angle thanks to my pal, podcast co-host, and simulator enthusiast, ObioneX2.  He was a little jelly that I got a review copy of the game.  Full disclosure: Obi  has a good relationship with Giants Software and they have hooked him up in the past but his love for the game is authentic, believe me!

 One thing Obi recommends is focusing on woodcutting if you want to raise money fast or at least have a nice head start.  I revisited my first save game and started off with a $1000 Husqvarna chainsaw.  You can use your starting vehicle to collect logs so the initial investment is easily recuped.  Obi cautions against focusing on livestock/cattle initially as it is the slowest way to earn money.  That aligned with my relatively limited experience.  I noticed early on that livestock has high upkeep too, but not nearly as much as storing surplus.  Chickens cost around $1 a day, whereas cows are the most expensive at around $40-100 a day.  Chickens are a good place to start since they produce eggs..  And they're delicious.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

Tree stump cutters will be a good investment if you get into woodcutting.  After a while, tree stumps will make pathing hard but be careful: the tree stump cutter is treachorous (just watch my video clip on XBox LIVE, my gamertag is Yogizilla).  Each tree will average you between $3000-5000 a pop.  Drop them in the pond by the lumber mill and you get instant cash.  Some trees can get you over 20K in munnies!

Woodcutting is a super efficient way to generate revenue because you can take the wood chips left over from chopping down trees and store them.  After you get a nice stash, you can sell them.  The same thing goes for all surplus (like hay bales) in the game.  Obi adds that you have to wait until the Bio Mass factory wants to buy wood chips.  One shed full of wood chips can net you around 100K - WOW!

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

One of the really nice things about Farming Simulator is that crops grow quickly so you don’t have to wait several days or weeks.  In Farming Simulator, seasons don’t really matter as much as they do IRL.  You do get bonuses for growing during good weather and using fertilizers when cultivating land.  This helps with the sense of progression and rewards, which feeds into the overall immersion of the experience.  If you think that you might lost track of your crop yield, don't worry: the heat map makes it quite easy to know what is ready to be harvested.

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

Out of the box, a lot of core features seem to be missing.  For example, unless you have the Bank Transfer mod, you can’t transfer funds across save games or game modes.  This seems like a missed opportunity to me but it’s not a deal breaker.  Of course, it’d be unfair to compare any console game to it’s PC counterpart but it’s worth noting.  The benefit of not having the extra mod availability is that the game is more challenging and less overwhelming at the same time.

 If the controls escape you even after the brief walk-through/tour, press Start and RB one time, you’ll see the basic controls..  One more time and you can get into the Settings.  The amount of customization throughout these screens is nice.  The most notable options are Timescale (defaults at 5x), Mission Frequency (default: every 5 minutes), Plant Growth (default: Normal), and Plant Withering (default: On).  Obi recommends turning plant withering off if you want the freedom to explore and switch jobs often.

 For a more automated experience, perhaps to accommodate multitasking, you can hire help.  Whenever you hire help, they seem to take over the last activity you were doing.  So, if you are sowing, the help will sow until there’s nothing left to do.  If you’re cultivating, they’ll cultivate the land until it's ready for sowing.  I didn’t play with this option much because, like I said, I’m cheap.

 The last featured I only discovered towards the end of my last gameplay session is the job board (there’s one by Field 1, BTW).  This is the game’s way of including challenges and missions without breaking you out of the simulation or overall immersion.  The jobs I first came across included clean-up and transportation gigs.  It’s pretty much what you would expect a farmer would do to supplement income.  If you need more structure or objective-driven gameplay, the job board has you covered.

Farming Simulator 15 Final Review & Scores

When judging simulation games, I think it’s important to temper expectations and realize that these are very specialized games for specialized tastes.  Judging within the proper context and with the right expectations is key, especially when it comes to graphics and overall technology.  As such, I wouldn’t compare Farm Simulator 15 to a sandbox experience like GTA V or the coming Fallout 4, but I can see the appeal to fans of the franchises.  This is not a big studio release so the amount of polish we may be accustomed to is not there but that is not to say the game is not amazing in it’s own way.  With that in mind, my scores and assessments will take these special considerations into account, as well as the standards set within this very special genre.

  • Graphics:  It won’t blow the socks off those seeking bleeding edge but the environments are detailed and pretty to look at.  The nice little touches to livestock behaviors, tool operation, and other animations are brilliant.  There are no jaggies and frame rates are smooth but you could definitely tell there is a compromise due to the multi-platform release catering to the least common denominator.  9/10
  • Audio:   I noticed somelack of environmental sounds and spatialization but, other than that, the audio is good.  Vehicles and tools murmur, clank, buzz, and toot, as expected.  There’s not much music to listen to, which is fine since this sort of experience caters more to we heavy multitaskers.  I do wonder why the title music so jazzy but it definitely got me in a good mood. *jazz hands*  Ths is a perfect  BYOM opportunity - Bring Your Own Music (May I suggest an AllGames.com podcast?).  On sound bit side, the rooster and chicken sounds really sold me and brought me back to simpler times.  8/10
  • Controls:  Game controls are fairly consistent and intuitive across all vehicles and tools.  Vehicles do pull a bit but that only adds to the realism.  Even the camera controls are solid and you have full 360-degree control!  9/10
  • Immersion:  There’s plenty to keep you busy and you can easily get lost in the world..  But it’s also easy enough to play the game on autopilot (i.e. while multitasking) and not be fully-engaged with it.   Once you learn the conventions, locations, and core mechanics, you’ll find that there is always something to do or somewhere to explore and admire.  8/10
  • Progression & Feedback:   Farming Simulator seems to favor immersion over feedback, though I’d say they go hand-in-hand at times.  In my 6+ hours, I did unlock any achievements and feedback seemed limited to prompts and hints triggered by map points and key events.  This kept me immersed in the world but not as driven as most modern games make you feel, either by force or just good ‘ol “sticky” content.  Lack of a sense of rewards or progression (e.g. Destiny) can make the grinding less tolerable for some, which is a common complaint with gamers.  7/10
  • Fun & Replayability:  The replay value is there and there’s tons of fun to be had if you appreciate a more open, less hand-holding gameplay experience.  As with most simulators, repeating mundane tasks over time is rewarded.  The experience does lack some stickyness until you open up your options.  9/10
  • Originality:   I don’t know many farm simulators..  Farmville doesn’t count, though some may argue that point.  This is an original concept that has been cultivated into something with quite a massive scope.  If you love the subject matter, you’ll find it refreshingly original.  Across the franchise, Farm Simulator seems to be on the path to keep evolving and building upon a solid foundation.   10/10
  • FINAL VERDICT:  Farming Simulator 15 is a solid simulation experience that has a promising future if they build upon the strong core and foundation.  If you want to work a farm without actually breaking a sweat, there’s no better solution.  This game would be a fun thing to stream or do videos on while you share commentary or engage with a live audience.   8.7

     

    Published in Xbox One
    Wednesday, 26 June 2013 00:00

    Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter (PC)

    Most epic fantasy has a lot of thanks to give not only to Tolkien, but to his inspirations: mythos and lore. In this same way, much of modern fantasy that occupies tabletops and gaming consoles can tip a hat to Forgotten Realms for the depth of their universes. It's hard to escape the influence in most games set in medieval or high fantasy. Expecting Perfect World and Cryptic to bring something new to the table when presenting their free-to-play MMO, Neverwinter, is a bit much considering this framework defined the genre. Yet they still brought innovation to the table, just with focus on MMORPG functionality.

    This isn't to say Perfect World changed how they monetize FTPMMOs. They have a solid structure that has worked with their many other titles, and they know better than to mess with that. For those new to the program, however, things can be a little daunting. I get that the urge to rush into the gameplay is strong, and you probably feel you have a pretty good grasp on MMOs in general, (at least I did), but it's important to pay attention in the beginning of the game. Not everything you need to know is spelled out for you, but the game offers access in game to wikis and provides tips in load screens. You can also do a quick search and find plenty of fanmade wikis to aid you, as well. Learning as much as you can as early as you can will benefit you, because there are a lot of things going on here.

    First, there is normal gameplay. The controls here are decent once you get used to a targeting system that is a little unorthodox for third-person RPGs. (I did, however, much prefer the controls here to the ones found in D&D Online, but maybe I just didn't give those enough time.) My biggest gripe with a targeting system where you aim instead of click on targets is how often line of sight is easily broken. (This is especially a headache if you try to heal an individual in a full on battle.) When targeting enemies, however, there is a bit of an auto-aim that adjusts your character's focus while you are in attack mode. The controls are fluid and responsive. I have always been a double-click the mouse runner, but learning to use WASD full time was not difficult, especially since it's pretty standard. The rest of the key-mapping is intuitive and easy to remember, and also entirely customizable.

    Speaking of customization, the character selection screen is pretty darn good. Players can choose between some of the most prominent races in Forgotten Realms, such as halflings, half-orcs, dwarfs, and even the drow eventually, with more races to come. Tieflings are also an option, creating some of the most impressive looking wizards you'll see running around in game. Individual tweaking of character appearance is detailed (though not quite as much as in PWI or other Cryptic titles) and impacts both facial structure and body structure. A wide range of tones are available for skin, hair, and other features. There are also three body types available, including a “heavy” preset, which can be altered using individual sliders for each body area.

    customapp

    Class is not limited to race, though different races have abilities consistent with specific class types. There are also more classes that will be added to the game over time.  Attributes are chosen by rolling, which is a nice touch. One of the best parts of creating a character is choosing their background and deity alignment. You can also add a character history while creating a character, or at any point during gameplay. Just be sure to save this text in another application, because I encountered a glitch that repeatedly erased the character history I wrote for all of my characters. Only two character slots are available per account, with additional slots available for purchase. Some gamers choose to create multiple accounts to get past paying, but keep in mind that purchases made on one account with real money will not transfer to other accounts.

    b5acc065e64e259f96c927218b2ed0f71367610089

    Speaking of the many forms of currency, how do they work? Well, the Zen currency is used in all of Perfect World's game incarnations. It allows you access to exclusive items, but there is also a variety of game currencies that can be achieved through different means as you progress in the game. Each currency relates to a specific market, granting access to things such as augmentations, profession items, and potions. Astral diamonds are the in game currency that can be acquired and traded for Zen to be spent on exclusive items. The amount of astral diamonds needed for these items is very high, and it takes a lot of work, but there are ways to avoid spending real money to get some of the real money items.

     

    Astral diamonds/Zen also help to unlock Nightmare Lockboxes that are found in the game. While most of the drops in the game at lower to mid level are good, they all lack a certain legendary quality. The character will have many chances to collect these dropped lockboxes. They contain very rare items at random, but require a large about of astral diamonds or the purchase of Zen to open. At this point, there are aspects of the game that resemble a pay-to-win structure. I personally prefer when games stick to purely aesthetic purchases for real currency. On the other hand, you are required to pay nothing for a game that will likely provide you weeks upon weeks of enjoyment.

    I had no real issue with the currency system because I've always been more of a PvE player, but there is a PvP arena that allows party vs party combat. It can be really invigorating provided you're in a solid team. If you prefer solo or small group play, the game is set up for that, too. I found the rogue and cleric to be very fun in solo play. You can also unlock the ability to use a computer controlled companion that you train and summon to help you. Keeping up with the timing of their training, on top of timed profession building, means your character has a lot to focus on while they strive for the current level cap of 60. Professions work like time-based quests found in social gaming apps, so they can be performed in the background at all times. There are dungeons and skirmishes available, each performed with a full party of five players. Queue up for these events while you work on other parts of the game.

    All of the things I'm describing are achieved at level ten and higher, but you can only realize how fun these things are if you make it past the beginning of the game. Granted leveling is quick, and the beginning is relatively short, but the story here is drab, dry, and a sorry follow-up to the awe-inspiring opening cinematic. The story and fighting abilities vastly improve as the player levels, and my personal favorite feature of the entire game is introduced at level 15- The Foundry. The Foundry allows players to create their own quests and campaigns within the game. Some of the stories you can play, created by individuals from all over the world, are varied, creative, and an excellent way to level outside of the main quests. You can create your own campaigns, but this varies from the tabletop version. Even with a vastly adaptable tool kit and a cornucopia of base content to configure, there are limits simply by using the visual representation required in game. That's not to say the limits prevent any worth- the Foundry is an amazing addition to this gameplay format, and does a fantastic job at resembling the creative nature of tabletop itself.

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    The truth is, as a lifelong fan of the Forgotten Realms and nearly every game released from this universe, I had high expectations. In some ways, I was disappointed. I maybe expected too much from the story given my nostalgia for other games set within Neverwinter or Baldur's Gate. Neverwinter is a game that takes a little time to ease into, but it's worth the investment. I'd even say that in-game purchases with real money are warranted, provided you like the game enough to keep playing as it grows better and better. Beware of glitches that can cause things like character histories to be erased, or even prevent you from using an ability or potion here or there during battle. (I encountered the latter infrequently, and I'm sure the game is constantly patching and fixing these things.) One of the most compelling features of Neverwinter is the constant attention to improving the game and adding more features, including endgame PvE and PvP opportunities. This, along with character created Foundry campaigns and a seeming desire to incorporate the essence of tabletop magic, lead me to highly recommend at the very least trying this game if you are a fan of Forgotten Realms and MMOs.

    Published in PC
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