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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

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.

Divinity screenshot3

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

Is League of Legends the Best Value in Gaming?

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Garen Splash 0With the type of numbers that League of Legends is putting up chances are you’ve heard of Riot Games free-to-play juggernaut already. Having grown from an active user base of 1.4 million in 2011 to 32.5 million in 2013 is the type of popularity even Justin Bieber would be jelly about."It’s hard to believe the game is free to play." Riot continues to invest heavily on iterating the game to keep in fresh and promoting the brand through events and tournaments. The popularity of the game is unparalleled and while doing research for this article I’ve found endless user strategy guides, gameplay videos, podcasts streamed matches and fan art. It’s hard to believe the game is free to play.

I know the term “Free-to-Play” has negative connotations for many gamers.  In most cases games with this classification have very little to offer. Sure, they are free but you get what you pay for. They taste great when consuming them but they soon leave you feeling empty like having an ice cream cone for lunch. Then when you crave a bit more sustenance they charge you for the additional calories. Food references aside, these freemium games are specifically designed to entice you out of your money after you’ve sunk your time in up front. Make no mistake, Riot Games wants to make money but the items that players pay for do not affect gameplay.

 

 

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League of Legends is a competitive team-based action/strategy RTS with RPG elements. No, you don’t have to cut down trees, mine stone or erect towers but you do have to manage resources, play strategically, and control the map, Summoners Rift. Summoners Rift is a balanced playing field which consists of 3 major lanes of attack that are protected by array of powerful AI turrets. Each of the lanes are patrolled by minions from both teams that are essentially are an offensive or defensive line depending upon their position in the lane. In between those lanes are “jungle”. The jungle is basically a collection of “sublanes” that criss-cross between the major lanes which are home to some neutral baddies that will only attack when provoked. Then there are Summoners, you and your teammates that take control of summoned Heroes. Teammates take to the field with a choice of 116 heroes. Each team consists of 5 heroes that all have unique abilities, fighting styles and roles. Within each match player goals and team goals build on one another for the ultimate goal of destroying the enemy’s Nexus that resides in their home base. Within the lanes of approach the early game is a tug of war. In this early stage it usually advised to avoid opposing heroes and just focus on grinding through waves of minions, gaining gold when “last hitting” (players only get credit for landing the death blow). Grinding and not dying are critical because players need to level abilities and purchase stat-boosting items with gold faster than the opposing team. Everytime you die your respawn is lengthen. As the game moves on, the teams that have players that avoided dying, leveled abilities, purchased powerful items and play together can start pressing the other team, getting large piles of gold for killing heroes, bring down turrets and overrun the enemy Nexus. "No need to spend one red cent… nothing but time"While the concepts of the game are relatively simple, the strategy employed is intricate and varied. Knowing when to play it safe, when to push and when to run headlong into the fray requires skill, communication and teamwork. Then there’s the meta game, when Summoners play well and win matches they receive XP (Experience Points) and IP (Influence Points). Achieving levels through gaining experience lets Summoners assign Mastery Points that can be used to improve offensive, defensive and utility attributes. Leveling also unlocks rune slots that can be filled with runes purchased with influence points that add buff to summoned heroes. Oh, also there are non-hero specific spells that are unlocked as the Summoner levels. Everything I’ve described in this paragraph is free to the player. No need to spend one red cent, a thin dime, a wooden nickel, a peso, riel, rupee… nothing but time.

 

Janna Splash 0As I said before LoL pay system doesn’t directly impact gameplay. You can buy “Riot Points” to purchase new Heroes (which can be purchased with IP as well), new skins or boosts for IP and XP gain. Skins for Heroes and Wards can only be purchased with Riot Points but they only alter appearance. The IP and XP boosts can be an enticing option if you have more money than time. But at the end of the day, Riot is making money not by artificially gimping experience but by making a game that is so good and popular that even if a small portion of the player base buys a few skins or boosts that they can still make a lot of dough.

 

So, is League of Legends the Best Value in Gaming? Based on my point of view it is. I’ve been playing video games for approx 27 years and I’ve never seen such a feature rich IP for free. "is League of Legends the Best Value in Gaming?"LoL provides an incredibly deep playing experience that is competitive and rewarding. Graphics, gameplay and systems are all top-shelf and you don’t need a supercomputer or business class broadband connection to play. I’ve been playing on my 2011 13” Macbook Pro over WiFi with no problems. Furthermore the community is huge and this provides value to the player in two ways. First, great players want to play with other great players so they are willing to teach n00bs how to play. You don’t need to purchase a strategy guide to learn how to play, just Google or type into Youtube “League of Legend Tutorial” and you can learn to play like a pro in no time. Second, large communities mean the developers will keep investing and supporting the game which provides even more value because the game won’t disappear while you are trying to master high level play.

I encourage you to try League of Legends play through the tutorial, play some bot matches and give yourself several competitive matches to get a feel for the game. If you need a friendly companion to fight alongside you, add me to your Friend’s List: JoEDigiTECH and I will be more than happy to share (what little) I know.

Review - Abyss Odyssey [PC]

“To sleep, perchance to dream,” in Abyss Odyssey therein is the rub. Out now for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC Abyss Odyssey presents a very interesting story wrapped in a brawler, a platformer, and a rouge-like game.

Drop into the darkness.
The story is set in the 17th century Chilean capitol of Santiago. Evil creatures are coming up through a hole in the center of town and threatening to overtake the city. You start out as Katrien, a swordswoman who specializes in short swords. As she arrives at the edge of the mysterious hole, the soldiers guarding it tell her to leave, that this is no place for a lady. She tells them they have no idea what they are facing. That they are fighting creatures that are the result of a Warlock sleeping at the bottom of the abyss. Those creatures are being created from the nightmare he is having. With those bold declarations, she drops into the abyss to begin her journey to the bottom in order to confront the Warlock.

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Along the way you will die. Several times in fact. Such is the nature of Abyss Odyssey. The first time Katrien dies she reveals that she too is a part of the Warlock’s nightmare, that she died a long time ago. The dying part isn't as bad as it first seems. When Katrien falls she is replaced by a soldier who promises to revive her at a shrine, provided he makes it. The soldier is less powerful, but not entirely helpless. If he does fall in battle, then you are revived on the surface and have to fight your way through again. There are no save points in the game, but you can have temporary checkpoints. At special shrines you can change it into a checkpoint, provided you have the key for it. A note of caution, these checkpoints have a limited number of times you can be revived. Once used up you start at the surface again. This is not necessarily a bad thing either. As Katrien observes, the abyss, like a dream or nightmare, is never the same. Which means that every time you enter the abyss it is randomly generated, making it something new and different every time. It is a nice touch that provides for a lot of replayability.

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While you start out as Katrien you won't play as her all the time. Besides the soldier you will be able to eventually unlock two other characters, the Ghost Monk and Pincoya. Both, like Katrien, have their basic attacks, but also special attacks and weapons. If that's not enough variety of characters for you, there's a way to acquire more. You can capture souls of enemies you defeat. Once captured, you can turn into them and use their powers and abilities.
Choose your weapon wisely.

The characters have some role playing game characteristics in that you can level them up and tailor their fighting styles. You may be slow and sluggish at the start, but carefully choosing how to level up your characters will result in a lean mean demon killing machine. Weapons can be found in the abyss or bought from merchants. A small problem for me was that you couldn’t sell your old weapon. This necessitates spending your money cautiously and wisely. Found weapons can only be picked up if they match your current character's weapon style. So if you are playing as Katrien, you can't pick up pole arms, only small swords.

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Pretty as a picture.
Graphically Abyss Odyssey is stunning. It looks like someone crossed a storybook with art nouveau prints; it's colorful and beautiful. One of the touches I really liked was when you use the block move to stop a hit, a halo appears around them. The halo's design takes on the look that's almost a trademark of art nouveau prints. This art style is present in everything, from the backgrounds to all the enemies. I would love to see an art book created from this game.

Final word.
Abyss Odyssey is a downright stunning game. The art, music, story, and gameplay come together in a beautiful arrangement. Even when you finally get to the end and finish the story the randomly generated abyss makes the game different every time. On top of that the developers, ACE, have stated that at current count there are about 37 enemies are to be captured and used. ACE has hinted at more enemies and bosses to be added to the game in the future. The game also really challenges you with that rougelike system. Can you make it to the end with no saves and limited checkpoints? It's a game that I really think is a contender for my top 10 of the year. I like it that much. If this sounds like your cup of tea, pick it up now.

  • Published in PC

Black Desert Online: A Ms. H Video Game Review

 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

Preview - Interstellar Marines [PC]

Interstellar Marines can be best summed up in one word: potential. These days terms like “alpha” and “beta” have been so overrun by marketing speak and promotion that they don’t have much of a meaning anymore. That’s not the state that this game is in, it’s what we would have considered “pre-alpha” and in truth I don’t think it’s anywhere near complete. That’s not to say that Interstellar Marines doesn’t have something to offer at this early stage, just that the finer points of what it can and intends to become have not formed yet.

The tale Interstellar Marines dates back to 2005, when the project was originally started to be an Unreal 3 shooter for the 360, PS3, and PC that was hoping to use pre-orders and investors to bypass the mainstream publisher system and create a high profile game. While that did not work out, developer Zero Point Software has fully utilized the modern independent landscape to keep its vision alive. After a transition to the Unity engine and an unsuccessful Kickstarter in 2012, Interstellar Marines has found a home on Steam with both the Greenlight and Early Access program. Despite the sordid tale of its beginnings, one who looks at the eventual goal and current work on this title cannot deny that it is compelling and may give way to one hell of a game. Throughout the development, one key concept has remained intact: deliver a “AAA” (which is code for “high budget, high profile”) experience within the independent development system.

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If you haven’t heard of it, you probably wonder what Interstellar Marines is and wants to be. Zero Point Software has released a concept statement that will pique interest. They are promising a tactical shooter that takes a more simulation approach to gameplay and integrates RPG-like elements to create and enhance character progression. Additionally you will have the option to take your character on a sci-fi adventure campaign, a co-operative campaign (at time of writing these appear to be separate campaigns), and of course a myriad of competitive multiplayer modes. Zero Point has made specific focus on the unpredictability of the campaign, realistic simulation goals, and also has released some great concept art as to what we can expect in alien worlds. I mean seriously, there’s a hulking shark creature, who doesn’t think that’s cool?

So how has that fared so far? Since releasing last summer, twelve updates have gone live and this title has begun to shape up into a playable format. It used to be simple items like traversing several areas, which eventually gave way to the eight or so maps that you can play around in at this point (although you will be completely alone in them). Each environment is a medium sized playground that follows the multiplayer shooter concept by the book – mild verticality, choke points, and strategic points for both defensive and assault play types. As you navigate these maps they will come to life with random effects like alarms going off or rain beginning to fall. It could be day, it could be night; both have strengths and weaknesses although I did not see an actual transition cycle from one to the next. Areas warn of hazards like poison gas or reduced oxygen – these hint at future plans for both zoning and the helmet function – but currently nothing happens there. It all points to a heck of a lot of minutia for a game that is so early in development. I’m not a developer and I know little about the stages of creating a contemporary shooter, but typically this amount of detail is one of the last parts in development on most previews I’ve seen (and it’s been quite a few over the last 5 years). Still, there’s no denying the game looks gorgeous and with the steady patter of rain to impede sight or having an underground passage flooded with poison gas to trap enemies you can see where these early ideas could be cool.

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The closest hint you will get to actual gameplay can be found in the prototype area where you can play around with previous updates. Bullseye is a shooting gallery that lets you get used to how the guns will work and the basic concept of aiming. Given that this game is focused on being more realistic, you will probably notice right away that kickback and aim are a large factor. For those hunting down the single player experience, here’s where you can challenge yourself to high scores and even unlock some achievements.

Once you’ve had your go at the shooting gallery, you can move on to the Running Man demo that integrates shooting and movement with some bots. It’s more of a movement concept to show off what could be, but it doesn’t resemble much of a training ground. It should also be noted that you can play these two prototypes in a web browser on the Interstellar Marines web site (interstellarmarines.com) before purchasing the software. There is also a cooler updated version in the “bonus” folder of the Steam version called Get Killed By Bots! that can be run to unlock that fun little feature. It was amusing to say the least.

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Most people who pick the game up at this point will jump into the active stage of development: multiplayer. It’s only available on one relatively open map that takes place at night with the usual weather effects. Named Deadlock, it has capture-and-hold areas on the map but the catch is that it’s more intended for single players to be at each point. This is handled by putting more spread out points on the map than there are players on a single team and points are only given to the first player that arrives. This means you’ll want to take advantage of ducking, cover, sneaking up on people, and planning your shots appropriately. An arrow appears in blue over teammates’ heads so you do not shoot at them, although I think the only penalty is giving away your position. Jumping feels a bit weak, although if you’re going for realism the average soldier doesn’t have the vertical leap that other shooters give them not to mention the near flight Master Chief is capable of. Respawns take time but you can dynamically view cams and open environments while waiting so it’s not so bad, but it does work with the low health of each player to encourage you not to be hasty. Given that it takes place at night, you can also play around with your laser scope and flashlight for assistance, but again this is a visual cue of your position. The helmet can be put on and taken off, but it currently does nothing save for having a visor animation – plans for a HUD may be live in the next update. It’s fun for a short spell, but honestly wasn’t my main draw to this title although in full disclosure I’m not much of a multiplayer fan in shooters.

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If you are going to play Interstellar Marines be prepared for a few decent, and expected, hiccups in running the game. It ran just fine on my Windows 7 64-bit and didn’t ever crash, but I saw quite a framerate dip in multiplayer along with occasional lag. At times the game would hitch up and I would need to quit and restart, not to mention the bugs that Zero Point cop to. Keep in mind that at this early stage this is all to be expected and hopefully as development continues we will see improvement to the framerate. Honestly it’s unfair to expect much until the final finished product hits, which is usually when the engine is optimized to run as best as it can. I was on a 3.4 ghz quad core AMD with 4 GB of RAM and a GTX 760 and was able to run Interstellar Marines in 1080p with mostly high settings around 40-60 fps. Tweaking some of the effects didn’t make a drastic difference in performance, but I also didn’t see a drastic difference in visuals without some effects. Granted, I’m betting the game performs much better on a stronger machine, I would consider mine midline. All in all Interstellar Marines has the potential to take on bigger budget games provided that it can get development wrapped up at a slightly faster pace. This already seems in place as co-op is supposed to hit September 18 and they are hoping to release the single player Prologue after that and within about two years the full campaign. It’s going to be a slow process, but in the end those that get in early should hopefully expect some decent updates every 12 weeks or so (based on current pacing). Keep in mind that mechanics are still being worked on so campaign is most likely a back burner item. With all that in mind you may find that $19 for the regular edition is worth getting in at the ground floor or if you’re really dedicated you can get the Spearhead Edition for $44 that gives you a gift copy of the game and earlier access to some updates along with plenty of bonus items. It all comes down to whether or not you see the potential and if you trust the development team. In the least, Zero Point Software has been very open about the development process, but this also demonstrates just how slow high end game development is today.

Interstellar Marines is currently available on Steam Early Access for $18.99 or $43.99 for the Spearhead edition. It is possible to pay to upgrade the regular version to Spearhead at a later date. A code was provided for this preview. We plan to continue review coverage after major updates come along that justify more elaboration. Currently the co-op update is scheduled for September 18, but this is subject to change. Keep in mind that all Early Access games are in development and that this game is still quite early. It will be some time before it is in any state that resembles the goal of the finished product, but purchasing at Early Access means that you are getting the final project at presumably a lower price point.

  • Published in PC

The Walking Dead Season 2 – Episode 2 [PC]

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.

twd s2e2 zombiepole

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.

twd s2e2 clemluke

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.

twd s2e2 bridge

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

The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter - Review [PC]

 Please Note: This review does not contain any spoilers.

Lately there has been this push in game development to move beyond the formulaic nature of what big name publishers think works in video games.  It doesn't take too long to see the slew of complaints coming out of major titles these days: the explanation of game mechanics is too long, pacing is terrible, show don't tell, cutscenes are not a great method of storytelling.  From the presence of these forumlas and subsequent gripes, there has been born a new style that I like to refer to as a "just play" game.  The Vanishing of Ethan Carter doesn't tell you a back story, it doesn't tell you what to do, it simply has one initial message that tells you it's an unguided free-form experience and then lets you go.  While I'm sure most gamers will get the jist of what's expected and what to do, I'm sure there are some people out there who will simply freak out and not be able to handle a game where their progress isn't being tracked, where there are no goals or achievements, and where at any given moment you have no idea what to do.  If you are one of those people, just turn away now because you will never find solace with Ethan Carter.  On the other hand, if you just want a lush, gorgeous world to explore and in the end get rewarded with a thought-provoking experience that almost never has to concede to game mechanics, then this could be up your alley.

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You enter the game on a forest-covered path as detective Paul Prospero, who immediately explains that he has supernatural abilities that assist you in discovering what has happened in the town of Red Creek Valley.  It was just as easy to imagine myself as the protagonist and the voice of Prospero merely lending the narration,  but regardless of how you want to view it this is the point where your journey begins.  It's a bit jarring to be dropped into a forest with no indication as to what's going on or what you are supposed to do and with each clue of the game's handful of mechanics and potential puzzles I found myself getting more confused and a bit overwhelmed.  Don't let this discourage you, enough people have played through it and made it out on the other side to assure that eventually you will make the progress you need.  Exploration in this title is so wonderful thanks first and foremost to the game's gorgeous graphics.  Built on the Unreal Engine, it looks almost photorealistic.  Everything from the backdrops to the textures of the ground are handled with the utmost care and the attention to detail must have been a pain for developer the Astronauts to assemble, but the payoff is a world that looks alive and never pulls back the veil to reveal its artificial nature.  The trade off for such wonderful graphics is that you will want a decent graphics card to support them, which my GTX 760 2 GB did a decent job of keeping up with in 1080p although I had to drop a few settings from the highest.  You may notice a random stutter or framerate drop, but the forums on Steam have found a decent solution and the rest can be chocked up to limitations of the Unreal Engine streaming in the next area.  If you're moving at a regular pace and trying to take in everything it's not all that noticeable, but if you find yourself having to backtrack - which you should prepare to have to do - it can be a bit of a nuisance.  Graphics aside the accompaniment of ambient sound effects and a subtle ochestral music assist in the richness of the world, yet again encouraging you to get out there an explore.  

voec 3That's not to say that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is all about wandering about in the woods looking at minutia, because I would have led that this was an art exhibit instead of a game if that were the case.  It presents itself as a mystery and that comes with it the inclusion of investigation, puzzle solving, and naturally wandering upon grounds where you might not be welcome.  Something has clearly happened in Red Creek Valley and it isn't long before you start to see hints of the past emerge to make your earn the title of detective.  It's at this point that one of this title's main flaws appear in full effect: without guidance you have almost no way of knowing when you have completed an area or puzzle.  Logic dictates the game will give you some sort of indication that you are done, which this game does, but when you go in blind and with no direction you could easily assume it may not.  Couple that with the initial tasks of the game being somewhat complicated and you almost wonder if the point was to eventually have you backtrack to complete what you started.  I don't like to return to areas I've already been and I view it as even more of a misstep when the backtracking works to remind me that I'm playing a game, complete with its experiential limitations.  For all  the work The Vanishing of Ethan Carter does to immerse you, it almost seems misguided when a player can bypass a significant mechanic and plot point only to be forced to spent long stretches returning to clean up that mistake later.  Perhaps it was a concious decision or perhaps the Astronauts were unsure how to balance explaining these early concepts without breaking the ultimate goal of letting the player lead the experience, but either way it's quite a setback.  In all honesty I had to restart the game within the first two hours when I realized what I had left behind and thought about how long I would have to retread my steps to clean things up.  I also discovered from breaking my experience into three different sittings that the checkpoint system is a bit broken and works more like a bookmark of new accomplishments as opposed to the save location that you will begin when playing again.  What I mean is that I could see the familiar "scene saving" message on the screen (there's no direct saving or loading on this game) and quit out, but when I restart later I'm dropped in a completely different part of the map where I last accomplished something new and might have to spend minutes if not tens of minutes returning to where I left off.  If you perform all the duties that an area has available to you before moving on the system should work like a true checkpoint, but from my experience you will often have to return to clean things up and at that point may checkpoint yourself far from where you want to go next.  It might surprise you to discover that as annoying and blasphemous as these factors may be, they hindered but didn't ruin my experience of what is otherwise an enchanting work.

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Once these intial hiccups are overcome and you are getting work done in Red Creek Valley, the subsequent events make it all worth it.  Each encounter or puzzle will make you think, but I never found myself stuck for too long nor was I unable to figure out what I was being asked to do.  You realize just how much testing must have gone on to throw people into an unexplained situation and yet give them enough subtext that they are able to easily navigate provided that they just allow themselves to stop and think about it.  As my momentum through the campaign grew I was rewarded with both plot and design twists that kept me hooked.  If you can't already tell from the screen shots it's a slightly eerie and ominous game from start to finish.  I also never worried about how much I had played or how much game I had left while traversing the story.  I just kept playing as long as I was entertained and when I got tired I would stop, but it wasn't long before I felt the pull to return and complete the mystery.  By the end of the game's approximate 4-6 hour journey, I was pleasantly pleased with the outcome both in terms of the story and looking back at The Vanishing of Ethan Carter from a macro perspective.  Some may find that this length is short, but I felt it was as long as it needed to be and may have been in danger of wearing out its welcome had it been padded down with additional content.  There's no doubt about it, this is a thought-provoking experience that will leave you wanting to talk about it with someone. If you're craving something fresh, look no further than The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

Final Score: 8/10

A review copy was provided by the developer for review purposes.  The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is available on Steam for $19.99 and should be released on PS4 early 2015.  It took the reviewer 5 hours to complete with an overall playtime of approximately 7 hours.  

  • Published in PC

Win A Shirt Weekend 9/24 - 9/25 Pacman CE 2

This Weekend, 9/24 - 9/25 you can win a limited edition All Games ‘Legacy’ t-shirt by beating me in a videogame. I’ve flipped a coin and this week, the game is ‘PacMan Championship Edition 2’ (Championship 2: Single Train Course). Available on the Xbox One, PS4, and PC(Steam) .

To win, you just have to beat my score by the end of the weekend. Post your score on the AllGames Website, or on Twitter (#allgamesWASW) and everyone who beats my score will be entered to win one of these beautiful high quality limited edition AllGames Legacy collector's items t-shirts. (we can ship to US or US Military Base addresses)
Win a Shirt Weekend

You can also bypass the contest altogether and get your own Lecagy Shirt from the AllGames Shop (allgames.com/shop)!

Here’s my current highscore to beat, 2,869,250 , and I’ll be updating it all weekend with (hopefully) better scores.

 

Score to Beat: 2,869,250Win a Shirt Weekend Score

 

Pathologic Classic HD [PC]

Pathologic Classic HD is a remastered version of the cult classic first person survival game where you search an open world to find clues, items, and of course a lot of stopping random people and children to talk and barter items. Not a lot of action in this game, and after awhile it can get a bit dull doing the same things over and over. You live out the story of 3 people in this game and it may leave you scratching your head wondering what is going on and why.

GRAPHICS:
The graphics are reminiscent of Day Z and H1Z1. The overall animations of the characters are fairly basic, as the people you 'talk' to look at you with various facial expressions. You’ll have to "talk" to a lot of people in the form of reading text on a screen..lots of reading text on the screen...lots!

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CONTROLS
With this game you should be able to use either joystick or keyboard/mouse, but my joystick never worked on this game. I’m not the best keyboard game player and the learning curve is small but it does take awhile to get used to. The overall motions are smooth once you get used to the controls. The quick loading times are a plus when going in and out of buildings. With such a huge map, there are a lot of houses to go into and places to buy stuff. Although sometimes you wonder why there is so little to choose from in some shops.

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GAMEPLAY
This is a very slow game in my opinion. After a few hours of walking and reading text with no real action, I lit up when I was slapped in the face by someone who I had spoken too. On another occasion I was getting punched in the face for doing talking to someone else. That led me to believe that there was going to be a battle, but no, just run out the door and the fight is over. Your reputation is very important in this game, so be careful how you treat the people you are talking to. But there are times where the actual audio of the person has nothing to do with the task at hand and sometimes the choices you get for communicating are to either saying something mean or saying something even worse.

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THE FINAL WORDS
This is the kind of game that is an acquired taste for sure, if you like a game where you do a lot of walking and reading text, finding random items and seeing some things that just are simply strange, then you may enjoy Pathologic HD. Not much shooting or fighting in this one. Be prepared to play for hours trying to figure out what is exactly happening in this game. It seems to be aimed at the more cerebral gamer that steers clear of twitch action titles.

  • Published in PC
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