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DerrickH Unboxes the ASUS GL551J Laptop

ASUS sent AllGames a Republic of Gamers G Series GL551J Gaming Laptop to review. And the first step in all reviews is of course, opening the box. Take a look. 

  • Published in PC

Rise of the Triad Review

 

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I didn't get really into gaming until the early 2000s, so I missed a lot of the classic stuff that some people remember about the early days of gaming, including Apogee. They eventually turned into 3D Realms, but they put out some stuff before then that people really liked like Wolfenstein 3D, the Blake Stone games, and Rise of the Triad: Dark War. ROTT was a prime example (at least from what I've heard) of the old school style of shooters, with crazy enemies, weapons, and power ups. Also you could turn into a dog. So it would make sense that someone would want to reboot a franchise like this. It's unfortunate that they had to reboot like this, because it's not very good. 

In the new Rise of the Triad, you once again slip into the leather boots of H.U.N.T., the High-risk United Task-force, consisting of Taradino Cassatt, Thi Barrett, Lorelei Ni, Doug Wendt, and Ian Paul Freeley. They are sent to San Nicolas Island off the south coast of Calfornia, which has been taken over by a terrorist group/cult called The Triad. Once there, the team gets discovered and their boat is destroyed, meaning the only way off the island is to fight your way through the Triad. And beyond that I honestly couldn't tell you anything more. The only story bit I saw was at the very beginning of the game. It was told in a motion comic style cutscene, complete with pretty decent artwork and absolutely terrible voice acting. You'd think that last bit would be a negative, but it got me really excited to play the game. While some of the characters' voice-work was just the bad kind of bad, most of the main five have the kind of bad voice acting that just makes laugh and feel good about things.

Then we get to the actual game part of the game. You can play as any of the five characters listed above and each come with their own stats, like endurance or speed, meaning some guys are tougher while other guys are faster. But honestly I couldn't tell you the in-game difference between any one of them. All of them seem to take the same damage, which is really inconsistent depending on where you are, and they all move at one speed, which too fast to be playable. Every character moves at half the speed of sound and the mouse is so sensitive even at 50% that trying to look around while walking down a straight becomes a huge ordeal that will probably end with you running into a wall repeatedly or being stuck on some piece of the world geometry. The movement speed is especially crappy for searching for and collecting coins and secrets, which the game scores you on. A lot of times they are on walkways or platforms that you have to jump to or use jump pads to reach. Since you're in first person the entire time, you can never see your feet to judge when you're above it. Add on to that that your movement in the air is just as fast as when you're on the ground, it becomes a game of trial and error trying to get these items. If you want to avoid these annoying platforming bits and forget about the collectibles, some levels force you to platform in order to finish a level. To top it all off, some of these sections result in instant death if you mess up even once, meaning you have to go back to the last checkpoint, which there are only two of in every level.

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But you don't come to a game like this for the platforming, you come for the guns and shooting which kind of work. You got your standard stuff with your pistols, machine gun, and rocket launcher, but then you have some of the cooler stuff. You've got the heat seeking missiles, which home in on enemies. You've got drunken missiles, which can be fired like a minigun or just flying off in random directions. You've got the heat wave, which shoots out a wall of fire that incinerates your enemies. And you've got Excalibat, a magical baseball with an eye in the center of it that kills enemies in one hit and fires energy balls. The weapons themselves are actually kinda weak and don't really have any kind of punch behind them, but they can make the game bearable for a brief few moments. But these weapons come with very limited ammo and once you run out, so long interesting weapon. You can pick up more of them and if you know where to look you can be rolling with these for a good chunk of the game. If you aren't looking carefully, though, you can miss these weapons and be stuck with your standard stuff. The pistols and machine gun are total jokes, with enemies soaking up bullets and barely even reacting to being shot by these guns over and over again. It makes you feel completely powerless and these weapons, along with all the other ones I mentioned, can be stolen very easily by the enemy leaving you with a solitary pistol until you can find something interesting again. The cool thing I will say about the pistols and machine gun is that both of them have infinite ammo but you can still reload them. So you can just stand there for twenty minutes reloading your dual-wielded pistols with an awesome animation. It won't affect anything and is entirely pointless, but it looks great.

The enemies will be shooting at you, too, so you'll need to know where their shots are coming from to find them. Good luck with that, because the damage indicator is a joke. It barely reacts when you're being shot, so you only get a notification when you're being shot every fourth or fifth time. It also doesn't dynamically move to show where the shots came from relative to the way you're looking. Combine that with the movement speed problem and you will have no idea where most shots are coming from unless you stand still and just wait while you're getting shot to find the enemies. Also, have fun finding the enemies. All of them dress in grey and brown, and since this is an Unreal Engine game, all of the environments are grey or brown, so enemies can very easily blend into the background while spinning around trying to find them. It gets especially fun in the poorly lit corners when the only way to see them is their muzzle flare. Plus, enemies can just randomly spawn in. Multiple times throughout the game I'd be walking along and all of a sudden an enemy just appears before my eyes.

Speaking of environments, they are quite bland in this game. Every level I played was interchangeable with every other level in a given area, just with a different layout. Because of this it can be difficult to figure out which way you're supposed to go. A few times while playing I got turned around and ended up running back to the start of the level before I realized I was going the wrong way. From what I've seen of later levels this gets better, but they still look incredibly boring. One of the later levels gets lava and it looks just awful.

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This game is also bugged up the butt. I already mentioned the enemies magically appearing in front of you and being caught in the world geometry, but that's just the tip of the iceburg. Many times while playing through the game, I was forced to reload my machine gun. The machine gun, need I remind you, has infinite ammo and no need to reload. But still, I would walk in to an area, running out of my rocket launcher or special rocket launcher ammunition, and switch back to my machine gun. I would click to fire, but instead I would reload, giving the enemy a chance to shoot me to death.

The cheats are bugged as well, because yeah there are cheats. Twice when I was in god mode, you know, the mode that makes you invincible, I was killed. And this wasn't an instance where god mode just randomly turned off (although that happened a couple of times, too). I was in the middle of a god mode massacre, when all of a sudden this big new enemy or boss would show up, fire off one shot, and kill me instantly. Even if I wasn't in god mode, I was at 100% health. Either those enemies have one-hit kills or I got screwed. On top of being buggy, the cheats just aren't really that great to begin with. Sure, god mode and no clip and stuff like that is fine, but all of the cool stuff brought over from the original game are just power ups, even with cheat codes. The god mode power up is way better than the god mode cheat, but that and dog mode and every other cool thing from the original game can only be used for a short amount of time before they run out. Then you'll have to jump back to the command console, which doesn't pause the game when you pull it up, enter in the code again and pick up the power up it spawns. That is, assuming it even summons the power up at all. I've had to enter codes four or five times to get the power up to appear.

Finally there's multiplayer. But I couldn't tell you anything about it. I waited in the lobby for 10 minutes while the game searched for servers. It never stopped searching.

Rise of the Triad is not a good game. It is a pretty bad one. While some of the weapons and power ups are kinda cool and it's nice to play this style of shooter again, the game is buggy and bland and too damn fast you to enjoy any of the nostalgia this kind of shooter will invoke. If you're a huge fan of the original, I can maybe see you getting some enjoyment out of this. But you have no love for the original and are just looking for a fun, old-timey shooter, DOOMSerious Sam, and Painkiller are all available on Steam. Get them. Don't even bother looking at this game. it's not worth your time.

  • Published in PC

Star Trek Online 4th Anniversary Event and Season 8.5

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

 

Trine 3 Now on PC

Frozenbyte has announced that Trine 3: Artifacts of Power, the puzzled filled platform game, is now available for Windows machines on GOG, Humble, and Steam. It will set you back $21.99 but you can get a 10% discount during launch week. Check out their 3D world in this trailer:


Divine your way through a plethora of physics based puzzles in this 3D fantasy world as you battle your enemies and try to bring the broken pieces of the Trine Stone back together. Building on the award winning games Trine and Trine 2, Trine 3 also include local and online co-op. So whether you like to play, jouer, spielen, jugar, играть, 遊びます, or toque (yes it is available in all seven of those languages), you will enjoy this game and the soundtrack by composer Ari Pulkkinen. For more info head over to http://www.frozenbyte.com/games/trine-3-the-artifacts-of-power/

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  • Published in News

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

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

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.

Asus GL551j Laptop Review [PC]

When I was younger, I put a pair of house speakers in my used 1979 Mustang . I did that because I was a kid and kids like loud cars. Plus I liked telling people that I have house speakers in the back of my car. A couple of years later, I spent way more money than I should have installing a full blown audio system in my Audi 5000. I did this even though there was a flashing red light on the dash telling me the brakes didn’t actually work. I did that because I was a kid and kid like loud cars. The other night I was riding down the road in my Crown Vic listening to some radio station that claimed to be ‘Hot’ through the stock speakers and I kinda missed having a trunk full of bass. But not really. Because I’m an adult.

It may sound like I’m lamenting the path to adulthood, but I’m actually not. I can fondly look back on the days when it was important to let everyone I drove by know what type of music I was enjoying. These days though, it’s more important to me that I enjoy the music. Because I’m an adult.

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A few weeks ago, a package was left at my door containing a shiny new ASUS gaming laptop. A GL551J to be exact. Since it was a ‘gaming laptop’ I had certain expectations when I opened the box. I expected a firebreathing, neon clad, vent covered, wildly shaped beast of a machine ready to rip the throat out of anything I could throw at it. The GL551J did not live up to those expectations. And that made me happy. It seemed to have been built for a group of people that are often overlooked when it comes to high end gaming hardware. Adults. I have no aspirations to lug around a 10 pound machine whose first purpose is to let everyone around me how extreme it is. There’s a demographic of people who like to set up shop in Starbucks, flip open their PC and make sure that anyone within earshot knows that they’re in the middle of an intense firefight on ARMA at 60 frames per second. But I’m an adult, so I don’t go to Starbucks to pimp by computer to strangers. Hell, I don’t even go to Starbucks. I have a Keurig which makes a great cup of coffee in under a minute right in the comfort of my own home. The GL551j is a powerful gaming laptop that does it’s best not to call attention to the fact that it’s a powerful gaming laptop.

The Asus doesn’t fly completely under the radar though. It’s still sports a Republic of Gamers logo on the case along with a keyboard backlit in red. But it’s a far cry from the boy racer looks of offerings from other vendors. You could easily get away with sitting down in the office breakroom and finishing off a few levels of Defense Grid 2 while your co-workers think you’re catching up on some late reports. At 6 pounds the laptop isn’t svelte, but it’s still a good traveling companion. Sitting on a plane while exploring the realms of Dragon Age won’t leave you with a scorched crotch, since the single side exhaust vent does a good job of shooting the heat over to the traveller in seat 15B. As far as power goes, it’s a gaming laptop. So you can play games on it. But if you’re into running benchmarks trying to reach 120fps at 4k resolution, then this isn’t the machine for you. The Intel i7 cpu and Nvidia 860m GPU do a great job at getting you up and running at 1080p all day long (or about 3-4 hours on battery), but you won’t be bragging to all of your friends about your incredible 3DMark numbers at 4k resolution. But adults know that 1: 3DMark isnt a game, and 2: You didn’t just drop $1,099 on a laptop to look at statistics.

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At a little over a thousand dollars, the GL551J won’t force you to sit down with your kids and explain to them why they won’t be going to Disney World this year. Asus has managed to pack a lot of performance into the unassuming satin black finish for a price that won’t force you to put in overtime at the office. It’s difficult to find which, if any, corners were cut. Although the 15.6 inch display has a slightly washed out look to it that kept me angling it away from the light. My time with the Asus did have one hiccup. I don’t know if was because I had a well used review unit or because of some other reason, but every so often the screen would go black when I set it down. And it would only come back when I pressed the latch on the battery case. At first it was an annoyance, and then it became frustrating. I’m an adult. I don’t have time to be fiddling with battery latches.

The Asus made me wonder how the kid version of me would have liked it. The version of myself leaning against a mechanically dangerous Audi with a sound system that cost more than the car. Wondering if I should spend my latest paycheck adding another amp or chrome exhaust tips (spoiler, I did both). That kid would not have looked twice at the GL551j. He’d be asking ‘where’s the neon?‘ and ‘why aren’t there more vents all over it?’ The kid me would not have liked it. The adult me however, likes it a lot.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone through a neighborhood revving my engine while blasting the radio in a car with no brakes. Now my car has more power under the hood, and can stop on a dime and my ears don’t ring when I turn the radio off. Being an adult doesn’t mean you give up all the fun stuff kids have, it just means you don’t spend time and money trying to impress everyone else around you. I don’t have time for that. Because I’m an adult, and I have games to play. And the Asus GL551j is just the machine to play them on.

Take a look at our unboxing of the GL551J
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  • Published in PC

Beatbuddy Review (PC)

beatbuddyYou probably haven’t heard of THREAKS before. It’s more than likely because they’ve never released a game before, so here’s their first game ever, Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians. Just because it’s the first game for the developer doesn’t mean there aren’t some industry veterans behind it, including Austin Wintory, composer of Journey, who has contributed songs for the game and Rhianna Pratchett, who is the writer for such games as Tomb Raider and Mirror’s Edge. So despite THREAKS being relatively new, there’s plenty of experience behind the team of Beatbuddy. Beatbuddy is a puzzle adventure game where your character, who just so happens to be called Beatbuddy, has been awakened from a deep slumber and then finds out his musically driven world is being the threatened with ultimate destruction. It’s up to you to puzzle solve your way through the game and find out why.

Beatbuddy is a rather simple game, your character Beatbuddy is a floating ghost-like character who moves around with 8 directions of freedom. It plays like you were a spaceship in a 2D world. You go through from section to section where you run into different obstacles that stop you from advancing. For example, one the most common puzzles elements are bounce pads which send you flying backwards and you have to orientate various mirrors to send you in a different directions from where you bounced from. The point is to send yourself flinging at top speed at clearly marked destructible walls which you hit and destroy after successfully orientating the mirrors correctly. You then move on and advance to the next section of level from there. Honestly it’s usually rather obvious what direction you’re supposed to line the mirrors up and so you spend an excruciating amount of time trying to line up mirrors correctly rather than solving actual puzzles.beatbuddy

Another central mechanic found within the game is that it’s supposed to be all about the beat where the music drives the environments and the environments drive the music. Honestly on this score, the game doesn’t quite live up to it’s hype. While there are definitely reasons that the music matters, like when the music is affected by touching items in the environment and even some enemies that have to be killed to the rhythm of the music playing, however there is no compelling use of the beat mechanics for the most part. It’s really just a gimmick that never gets used to its full potential.

Rhianna Pratchett is flaunted as the star writer, however the story really isn’t all that central to the game. You do have a reason to go from point A to point B but you’ll never get all that involved in the plot. The game’s story is mostly told through boring text bubbles that can be kinda funny sometimes but usually aren’t.

I’ve spent plenty of time bagging on the game but I feel I should highlight its positives as it’s not a bad game. While not innovative, you do have on your hands a solid puzzle adventure game that is not very difficult but is still fun. The primary mechanics are compelling enough to make you want to play through the game despite the few annoyances I mentioned earlier. There are constant checkpoints making it easy to jump in and out of the game between sessions. The game has plenty of options for controls (Keyboard, Gamepad, Mouse) and all of them play well. The musical score for the game is great. There was much attention paid to making a great electronic orchestral for the levels so I’d definitely recommend picking up the soundtrack once it’s available. I did notice the volume options can’t mute the game and only goes from somewhat low to high volumes, so keep that in mind. The “hand-painted” characters and environments look awesome and much kudos goes to the art director for the unique and beautiful game that they crafted.

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Beatbuddy is a fun little game that warrants it’s budget price. You’ll get a solid 5 hours out of playing it which could be seen as short to some but it was enough for me. You won’t have your socks blown off playing the game but it’s got a unique vibe and all in all it's worth a look.

  • Published in PC

Mom's Minute 6-17-2013

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

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