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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.

abyss screen3 caverns15

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.

abyss screen2 bossfight08

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.

abyss screen1 plantworld01
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

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

Dying Light - Review [PS4]

 

It’s a common theme, the world is in danger of being overrun by mindless zombies. The outbreak is held at bay by a quarantine trapping both “biters” and survivors alike. The survivors band together into two groups, Runners and Bandits. And so it goes, the conflict between the living and dead as well as between the living and the living.

You play as Crane, an agent of the Global Relief Effort (GRE) dropped into to the writhing hell hole that is the Harran ona mission to secure a file from the leader of the Bandits, Rais. Early on in your campaign you’re befriended by members of the Runners faction that are lead by Brecken, a parkour instructor who’s trained his followers the art of fancy jumping and climbing to keep them one step ahead of the zombies while they scrounge the city for supplies. You’re almost immediately welcomed into the fold by the runners after coming to the rescue of one of their members. Soon you’re asked to go on missions, after a bit of fancy running and jumping about training, which are comprised mostly of fetch quests and dungeon crawls. Being a typical modern city though the dungeons of Harran are comprised of sewer tunnels and the corridors of high-rise apartment buildings. Eventually the Runners need antizen, a drug that’s used to prevent infected survivors turning into flesh eating monsters, from the Bandits and you’re volunteered to broker a deal. Of course the bandit leader is a charismatic psychopath who’s against any deals that have a potential to be fair. Rais orders you to run errands for him, reneges on his deal and a recipe for conflict is concocted. Through the course of the story you grow attached to some of the Runners and their wellbeing soon becomes your primary concern. Personally I found the story formulaic and the NPCs do what they always do, ask you to do favors for them. There are plenty of side missions available but I spent 19 of my play hours focused on the story missions alone.

The open world first-person gameplay of Dying Light is like something Dr. Frankenstein would have dreamt up. The developer essentially spliced together elements from several triple-A titles. Movement is reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge, your ability to run and jump and climb is indispispensible in traversing the city. Dungeon exploration right down to the lock picking mechanic is highjacked from Skyrim. There are several locations in the open world map that can be cleared and made into safe houses similar to Far Cry(unfortunately there are no zombie elephants). There are a lot of other features of Dying Light that are cherry picked from other games but overall they are implemented rather well. Your weapon load out can run the gamut from water pipes to hatchets to rifles. All the weapons can be upgraded to enhance their effectiveness and all behave rather different. Blunt objects will crunch and rebound as you’d expect and slicing weapons will cleave ever sosatisfyingly when upgraded properly. The gun play is a hot mess, right clicking R3 will allow you to aim down the sight but if your hungry opponents get too close you’re better off switching to a scythe and decapitate them before you’re overrun. Besides the mindless zombie drones there are some more deadly variations. Some are faster, some are stronger, some explode with little notice and others will spew green toxins at you from several yards away. In some cases it’s well advised to stick to the roof tops when running from place to place. It’s the best way to navigate the open world while the undead try their best to gnaw on your heels . When you get to the dungeon sections avoidance is less of an option but it still pays to be cautious. Melee fighting drains stamina so having a quick route of retreat to catch your breath is good practice (a la Skyrim).

The sound design and graphics are very well done. Besides a bit of open world jank this is where the game shines. I played about a third of the game with headphones on.The sounds of screams, moaning, feet shuffling and the horror music is nerve racking when you’re playing at night, in the dark, with a bit too much rum in your system. There are jump scares in the game but they are fairly well spread out so when they do happen they are effective. Also when they don’t happen you feel kind of foolish. The city of Harran really looks like an outbreak has taken place. Besides the fidelity of it all, abandoned vehicles, buildings and lunches all appeared to have been turned upside down right in the middle of life. The architecture of the city proper and the “old” city are well varied and provide a beautiful landscape from a distance when your zipping down a zip-line. Walls with blood streamed hand prints, boarded up doors, improvised booby traps and graffiti messages to other survivors depict the the gruesome struggle between living and dead. It’s a beautiful mix of metal, concrete and organic matter that you wish you had more time to explore if you weren’t being hounded awful day and gruesome night. Oh the night! When the sun goes down, you can’t see more than a foot in front of you and ultra violent zombies come out to shred you to pieces. You do get a stat boost for operating in the dark but unless you’ve leveled your weapons and character you might not make it to the morning in one piece. Furthermore, while this might sound morbid but I was very impressed with the level of detail that went into rendering severed body parts. Under close inspection you can see clearly the sinew, bone and marrow of the recently re-deceased. Anatomically, I’ve never seen another game that is its match. It may be something that goes unnoticed by most but if you do play this game, examine your slain, it’s awesome.

04

To reiterate, it took me about 19 hours to complete the story and there was still a lot of side missions that I didn’t get to and miles of landscape of hidden treasures that I didn’t fully explore. This game is a loot and leveling junky’s wet dream. There’s a lot of real estate to mine for swag to upgrade weapons and endless fodder to max out your character. While obviously not necessary to complete the story, if you’re into collecting this game has extra value. If you’re looking for an intense and deep story with revolutionary gameplay mechanics you should probably look elsewhere.

 
If you'd like to find out more about Dying Light check out the website at:http://dyinglightgame.com/

Farming Simulator 15 [XBox One] Review, Photos & Newbie Tips

farmingsimulatorreview

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

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

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

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

 

Farming Simulator 15 First Impressions

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

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

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

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

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

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

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

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

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

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

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

 

Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 9

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

Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 7

*** Regresamos A La Finca! ***

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

...Well, maybe not.

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

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

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 4

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

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

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

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

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

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

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

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

 Farming Simulator 15 Review AllGames Yogizilla 10

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

Farming Simulator 15 Review

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

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

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

Second Look & Tips From An Avid Farmer

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

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

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

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

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

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

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

 Farming Simulator 15 Review

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

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

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

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

Farming Simulator 15 Final Review & Scores

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

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

     

    Forza Motorsport 3 (X360)

    The Nurburgring is a 13-mile-long race track in located Nurburg, Germany. Nicknamed the "Green Hell", it was built in 1927, has 72 corners, constant elevation changes and is considered one of the most dangerous race tracks ever constructed. And for about $15, anyone can drive on it.

    A lot of games have included the Nurburgring on their list of locales to simulate. The latest is "Forza Motorsport 3," which claims to be the most "realistic racing experience ever." "Forza 3" gives Xbox 360 owners the option of taking on the Nurburgring and dozens of other tracks in a collection of SUVs, exotic sportscars and purpose-built racers.

    My brother and I had flown to Germany for the express purpose of driving on the legendary track. And we'd do it in a rented Mercedes C230 sedan.

    Once you arrive at the public section of the Nurburgring, also called the Nordscliefe, there's an unassuming booth that stands between you and the track. I walked up and handed the attendant 75 euros and received a license that allowed me four laps on the track.

    That was it. No lengthy safety lecture. No car inspection. It would have been harder to get on a roller coaster at Universal Studios.

    Safety lessons weren't needed, though. On the drive up to the track, we crossed paths with a tow truck carrying the remains of a Porsche 911. The front end was nonexistant, and the roof was crushed from an obvious rollover. While Turn 10 Studios has improved the collision model in "Forza 3" over the previous installments, even on the highest setting, a rollover won't result in the carnage featured on the back of that tow truck. That's the sort of damage Forza 3 doesn't simulate.

    I drove to the entrance of the Green Hell and waited for the yellow-clad track worker to give the "go" signal. The gate lifted and I headed down the first straight. This was it. I was on the 'Ring. My brother sat in the passenger seat as we sped by the series of cones that guide the cars down the first part of the track. After I left the coned area, I was tentative about speeding up. Part of me didn't believe I was actually driving on my dream course, and another part kept picturing the metal carcass or the Porsche.

    When I got to the top of the first incline and headed into the initial collection of twists and turns, I began to feel at home. I knew the corners well. Games like "Forza 3" take pride in how closely they can recreate real-world tracks. A long downhill straight opened up in front of me and I pressed the accelerator to the floor. The 2.3 liter engine of the Mercedes pulled the car up the hill, gaining speed. The curve at the top looks a lot less severe than it actually is, a lesson learned from "Forza." I lifted off the throttle and eased the car into the corner. It hugged the road perfectly, the body rolling to the outside while the tires stayed planted on the tarmac.

    "Nice," my brother said. I agreed. That gave me the confidence to launch into the next corner, a sweeping right-hand 90-degree curve, at full speed.

    I aimed for the inside of the turn. What happened next was a sharp reminder of the difference between a game and real life. "Forza 3" gives you the option of putting a colored line on the road, telling you when to hit the brakes. There's even an option to let the game apply the brakes for you, making it accessible to just about anyone who can hold a gamepad.

    I didn't have those helpful lines here. Nothing was going to step on the brake pedal for me as I hurtled towards the trees that bordered the turn. I heard the screeching of the rear tires as they struggled for grip. I heard the sound fade away as they lost that struggle and began to slide toward the outside of the corner. The sensation of unexpectantly facing one direction while your body travels in another is eye-opening. Thankfully, the C230 regained its composure quickly. While it doesn't have all the driving assists of "Forza 3," it does have traction control, and that stepped in to cut power to the rear tires, ending the slide.

    The sequence only lasted a split second. But for a split second I was drifting on the Nurburgring. For a split second I was out of control on the Nurburging. For a split second -- I was terrified on the Nurburgring.

    I maintained my speed down the decline and back up into a set of 'S' turns that I looked forward to tossing the car into. A motorcycle was ahead of me, and I had to rethink attacking the corners. I was right up on his tail as we entered the turn and there was little room to manuever around him. Instead of risking an incident, I decided to just follow his slow lead into the section. When we exited, I pulled out beside him and passed. At anytime, there can be dozens of other vehicles on the Ring. Even though "Forza 3" excels in allowing diversity in its multiplayer offerings, the fact that a maximum of eight racers can share the road is disapointing. Add to that the fact that unless you have enough people to create a private match, your multiplayer experience will be limited to the scant few modes available in the game's matchmaking system.

    I sped around the cyclist and headed into the next set of curves. I glanced to the left and was greeted by a bright blue sky. It was a beautiful scene. "Forza 3" has some of the best graphics ever seen on the Xbox 360, but even they wouldn't have compared to the vista that spread out from the edge of the mountain. Then it dawned on me that I wasn't just driving on a road or a track. Beside me was a cliff. A cliff elevated a few hundred feet into the air. And there wasn't a lot to stop me from going over the side of that cliff.

    I checked the rental car's rear-view mirror and saw an A-Class Mercedes storming up behind me. I figured I'd just need to stay in front of the minuscule vehicle for the next few turns, and once we hit the upcoming straight, I'd easily pull away. I was wrong. The nimble car was on my bumper before I reached the final turn entering the next straight. My ego tried to convince me that the tiny A-Class had more than the standard 100hp that it's born with. Maybe the owner had taken a page from the "Forza 3" book and modified the engine with a large turbo, added racing tires, and tuned suspension parts, transforming what was once a normal automobile into a fire-breathing racing machine. But it was more likely that the Mercedes A160 was simply being driven by a better, more experienced driver. I clicked on my right turn signal and moved over to let him pass.

    Up next was the Karussell, a banked section of the track that almost begs you dip into it. It's a turn that can do one of two thinggs: Help you traverse it's hairpin radius at an insane speed aided by centrifugal force, or launch you up and over the guardrail like a ramp.

    I knew this turn was coming, and I knew how dangerous it was. I told myself earlier that if I didn't feel comfortable, I could always stay on the outer, non-banked section of the turn. I didn't feel comfortable. Still, I dove into the banked section of the Karussell. I could feel the suspension compressing and pushing the car into the road as it was cradled around the curve. My brother and I both let out a scream of joy. "That was awesome!"

    Again I checked the rearview mirror. In the distance, I was able to make out the distinctive white silhouette of the "Ring Taxi." The Ring Taxi is a service run by BMW, where for 200 euros, you can be a passenger in a 500hp V10 BMW M5 driven by a professional race driver. Currently, the Taxi was far behind me, but the race-prepped M5 would be on top of my borrowed C-Class grocery hauler soon. I concentrated on the sharp corners ahead, hitting the apexes and accelerating out of each one. The motions were smooth and fast. I checked the position of the Ring Taxi again, expecting him to be a few corners behind me. Instead, the shark-like grill of the BMW loomed impossibly large in the mirror. It was right behind me. How fast was that car? I knew I had to get out of the way as soon as possible.

    The next turn was a narrow left-hander and afterwards was a fairly straight section that would make it easy for the Taxi to get around me. I planned on taking the corner as fast as I dared, staying wide, setting myself up to end the turn on the outside edge and thus, giving the fierce BMW a lot of room to pass. But halfway through the maneuver, I looked to my left. There, I was surprised to see the white and blue markings of the BMW M5, taking the inside of turn at twice my speed. I didn't see the driver, or the passengers. I was looking at the rear of the M5.

    It was going through the corner sideways.

    I can't explain the feeling that went through me. What I can do is describe how my brother and I both yelled as we saw the BMW beside us. I can explain how the instant rush of adrenaline felt and how my accelerated heart rate made time seem to slow to a crawl. But the feeling itself? I was in Germany, on the Nurburging, in a Mercedes, on the edge of traction, and less than 3 feet beside me was a roaring BMW M5 with the combined power of 500 horses harnessed by a professional driver going double my speed, sideways.

    It felt ... incredible.

    And we still had 5 miles left to go in the lap.

    "Forza 3" has a lot to offer driving enthusiasts. It's as close to a simulation that you can find on the Xbox 360. It goes to great lengths to welcome players in with numerous assists and customization options. Theres still something missing that I don't believe any game will be able to capture -- the visceral look and sounds of driving on the edge. I doesn't convey the fear of knowing that you cant lose concentration for a second. For many people, that's probably a good thing. But I remember the feeling of losing control for a moment while heading toward a tree, glancing over the side of a cliff and knowing only a quarter-inch thick guardrail was protecting me, and seeing that BMW sliding past me close enough to touch. You can't simulate that.

    We drove a total of four laps during the trip. We had flown 4000 miles, and driven another 150 miles on the autobahn, just to go around a 90-year-old stretch of road four times.

    I would do it again.

    Score 8/10

    • Published in Xbox 360

    Titanfall Review (Xbox One)

     Leave it to Beaver was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. Everyday I’d sit and stare at black and white reruns of a show that had been off the air for decades yet still managed to spark a laugh and speak the truth. My favorite character wasn’t it’s namesake, Beaver Cleaver, and it wasn't his stoic older brother, Wally. My favorite was Eddie Haskell, Wally’s near delinquent friend. Eddie Haskell was the catalyst for a lot of the problems that the Cleaver boys would get into. Cheat on a test? It was Eddie’s idea. Cut school and go fishing? Eddie was behind it.My favorite was Eddie Haskell, Wally’s near delinquent friend Go to a party instead of the library to study? All Eddie. It wasn’t his bad deeds that drew me to the miscreant Eddie Haskell. I was fascinated by the fact that he never got into trouble. Whenever the boys would do something wrong, they would, of course, inevitably get caught. Back then, parents were always right and were never outsmarted by kids. But still, Eddie would slide away unscathed and slither back into the house the next week, none the worse for wear.

    Titanfall-1

    The mom on the show, June Cleaver, must have known this kid was doing his best to put her sons on a short path to jail or a long life filled with bad choices. The patriarch, Ward Cleaver, had to have known that every word from Eddie Haskell’s mouth was at best a bold face lie. But still they welcomed him into their home. Why? The answer was simple. Because Eddie Haskell was charming.

    He never missed a chance to remind Mrs Cleaver how lovely she looked in her pearls. He would be polite to a fault, something that must have been sorely lacking in her day to day interactions with the male-centric world of the 50’s. He made her feel beautiful, respected, and appreciated. He would make a point to congratulate Mr. Cleaver on raising 2 fine boys. And at a time where there was no higher goal than to provide for and build a strong family, Ward Cleaver had to have enjoyed the recognition given to him. Both Ward and June Cleaver were more than willing to overlook the shortcomings of Eddie Haskell, as long as he stroked their egos and made them feel good about themselves.

    Titanfall is the Eddie Haskell of next gen games.

    Titanfall 2

    Titanfall is pretty straightforward, taking the well worn genre of futuristic first person shooters and adding giant robots to the mix. You can fight on the ground with assault rifles and grenades, using parkour skills and jetpacks to run up walls and perch on buildings or you can call in a Titan mech to stomp grunts, let missiles fly, and even self destruct in an atomic mushroom cloud. Titanfall is mostly a multiplayer affair with the campaign seemingly only there to tick off a box on the back of the case. The core of the title is made up of 6 vs 6 online game modes. While 12 players may seem like it would make for a sparse battle in a world where 64 player skirmishes aren’t out of the norm, don’t worry because space on the field is taken up by AI grunts who do their best to get shot instead of you.

    Titanfall looks great on the Xbox One. The levels are filled with detail and the Titans inspire the appropriate amount of awe when they drop into the fray. While the levels look fantastic, they quickly reveal how lifeless and static they are.Titanfall looks great on the Xbox One. You would expect that a huge battle taking place within a few city blocks would leave some type of impression on the environment, especially with giant robots lobbing missiles at one another. But after a battle, you would be hard pressed to point out any evidence that a war was going on, much less one involving 30 foot tall robots. Trees survive megaton explosions without losing a leaf. Structures that look like they’re barely holding themselves upright manage to survive multiple rocket impacts without the paint getting chipped. For all the power you wield on the field, you have surprising little effect on it. The titans are epic and the transition from scurrying along the ground to being placed inside of one is seamless. It would be nice to have more variety in the types of mech you can pilot. Aside from the 3 main body types, your customization options consist mostly of switching out the types of guns they carry. If you had dreams of dropping into battle with a customized battlebot, then you will need to scale back your expectations.

    The 6 vs 6 player limit is frustratingly low, especially when you realize that MechAssault on the original Xbox was 4 v 4, and that was one of the first Xbox Live games ever. All of the advancements over the past decade have led to just 2 more players per team.Titanfall is the best last gen game you can play on a next gen system The upside to the low number of players is that you’re almost always in the middle of the action, mainly because the levels themselves are so small. Each map is roughly the size of just a few city blocks. These are limitations that you would have expected to be a thing of the past on a next gen system as powerful as the Xbox One. Instead of plowing through an entire metropolitan area, you will be battling over a small patch of land that quickly becomes repetitive. These limitations are ones that I expected to be a thing of the past. And being so early in the life of the Xbox One, maybe it’s understandable that Titanfall feels like it would be just as much at home on the Xbox 360. The more time you spend with it, the more obvious it is that Titanfall is the best last gen game you can play on a next gen system.

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    Titanfall may have it’s shortcomings, but still, it’s fun. Charming. When you’re running past the near brain dead AI, you don’t care because they yell encouraging phrases to inflate your ego as you dash by.Titanfall may have it’s shortcomings, but still, it’s fun. You won’t get frustrated after being blown up repeatedly by another player because you can always go mow down a few squads of enemy AI, replenishing any feeling of power you may have lost. Eject from your doomed Titan and look in awe at the magnificent landscape below you. The leveling system is so forgiving and generous that your rank will soar up faster than you can say ‘Prestige’. Despite everything else, the bottom line is that playing Titanfall makes you feel good. Good enough to make you overlook it’s faults. Eddie Haskell would have been proud.

    Titanfall-Xbox-One-Box

    Score 8/10

    Retro City Rampage (PS3)

     

    retro city rampage 01When I saw her, the first thing that went through my mind was that she doesn’t belong in a place like this. She’s leaning up against the bar, drink in hand and facing the crowd, oblivious to the mass of people. Her blood red dress contrasts against the dull woodgrain of the world around her.

    Her curves. Every line on her body forms a flowing curve. Her shape forces your eyes to make the journey from floor to ceiling. My eyes take note of each destination. Legs. Hips. Chest. Face. It’s as if she was created from the molds of the women I’ve known in the past. The best parts of them sculpted into the work of art thats taking inventory of the room from the bar.

    It’s a methodology shared by Brian Provinciano, who has taken iconic traits from legendary games and managed to form them into a fun, expansive title that can be as deep or as straightforward as the player wants. There are the obvious nods to well known classics like Duck Hunt, Contra, and Frogger. But there are just as many influences from lesser known but just as deserving games like Bionic Commando and Top Gunner. From the moment the opening title screen appears, Retro City Rampage makes it clear that its about to take you on a ride into the past.

    Her legs. The thin red fabric of the the dress outlines the long supple shape of her legs. Her pose accentuates their tone, creating an angle that allows the slit in the dress to do it’s job, exposing a single, tanned thigh to the world. Exposed is the wrong word. Revealed is better. The cloth separates and is replaced by flesh. It’s an immediate and yet barely noticeable transition. It’s revealing.

    retro city rampage 02Hidden in each section of Retro City Rampage are layers of reasons to replay each level. Not so that you can get extra power ups or max out your point total. Instead you want to make sure that you’ve seen every little in-joke and bit of pop culture that was crafted into the area. Provinciano has taken his time in dotting the game’s landscape with layers of memories from gaming history.

    The dress. It was from a different era. A vintage relic from the past that made me question why things had to change. Sheer skirts, low cut blouses, tight jeans, they are all just pretenders to the throne that this dress reigns over. Its fabric hugs her body without being greedy. Instead of being skin tight and trying too hard, the cloth just kisses her skin, tracing the form that nature sculpted for her. The neckline dives down her chest, just barely promising a glimpse at the arc of her breasts.

    Like that dress, Retro City Rampage is a piece of the past that has been forced into the modern era. It calls itself ‘retro’ and proclaims that it’s a parody, but thats not true. It’s not a mockup of what people think gaming used to be like. It actually is a game from those times. Its nonsensical story, exacting controls and multiple gameplay styles have created a game that doesn’t parody gaming history, it celebrates it.

    Her face. Everything else was just a prelude. Her hair cascades over her shoulders, catching what little light that was in the room and framing her cheekbones. Her pursed lips show only a hint of a smile. It’s a sly expression that lets you know that whatever she’s about to say, it will be about you. Long lashes cast shade over her eyes, and yet their sharp, silver tone still flashes through. She’s scanning the room, like a predator bored with the hunt.

    retro city rampage 03The seconds that I’ve been mesmerized by her feel like hours. It’s as if I’ve been standing in a museum, examining the brush strokes of a Matisse, with more details uncovered every moment. She wasn’t perfection. But she stood there with a smoldering confidence that dared you to notice any perceived flaw.

    The faults with Retro City Rampage may be there because they’re inherent in the style of game it is. But they’re still there. No matter how detailed the pixel art is, it’s still pixel art. The reduced color palette may be authentic, but after spending a lot of time with this game (and most likely , you will be spending a lot of time with it), it drifts into being gaudy. But those are shortcomings that can be happily tolerated. Because in return you get a rare title that even though it takes pride in being wholly unoriginal, is one of the most original games released in years.

    Score 9/10

    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.

    Divinity screenshot1

    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.

    Divinity screenshot2

    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

    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.

    Black Desert OnlineBlack Desert Online

    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.

    Black Desert OnlineBlack Desert Online

    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

    Call of Duty : Advanced Warfare Review [PS4]

    Call of Duty. The game people love to hate. The Michael Bay movie of the gaming world, everyone will complain about it but everyone will play. This year’s addition to the franchise Advanced Warfare is brought to us by COD new comers (not including their help on MW3) Sledgehammer games. In this COD Sledgehammer have brought the franchise to the future. Exo skeletons and Minority Report stylisation galore.


    From the offset you can be sure…this ain’t your daddy’s COD. The introduction of the double jump alone has created a whole new beast, let’s take a look shall we?


    The campaign mode, while not any different from any previous year’s campaign weighs in at around 6 hours gameplay (for the average gamer) and this is what we have come to expect from the Activision shooter franchise. However this time, more than applicable to any previous iteration, it is advisable to play through the campaign first before delving into multiplayer as Sledgehammer have shaken the very foundations of the COD series that have remained relatively unchanged since the first major shake-up in Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare.
    Story wise it is more or less the same length as previous CODs, you have your team, you have your buddies and you have your mission. While not quite as engaging as perhaps the Ghosts campaign, the jump to the future certainly changes the game significantly in location settings and looks, and also the equipment available. While playing the story, even in the opening chapter, you are witness to a ‘Matrix’ esque swarm of drones and walkers that look plucked straight out of Metal Gear Solid 4. A standard tale of power and corruption helmed by Kevin Spacey himself is enjoyable, but it won’t take the whole weekend to complete.

    COD AW UN-Speech


    In campaign mode, visiting the pause menu will greet you with a set of EXO challenges such as, get 50 kills or, collect 5 pieces of Intel. This gifts to the game a set of side quests to accomplish alongside your main objective. The introduction of the new arsenal such as the threat detector grenade, gives Advanced Warfare’s campaign even more reason to be played as it gets the player fully comfortable with the changes this time round. A short stealth section aside and some ninja like grappling, the campaign is an easy 6 hour blast, needed this time before hitting the multiplayer. While short and sweet like most COD campaigns, the main story proves more as a necessary training ground for the COD elite.


    Controls are shaken up a tad with the dodge mechanic, clicking L3 down and flicking down, left or right will make your character dodge in the corresponding direction. While a nice touch, having it in the multi-player is quite redundant giving the fast paced antics you find in there. Clicking R3, knife kills are replaced with insta-death punches which feels immensely more satisfying than knifing. Finding the beam weapon instantly brings the Ghostbusters theme to your head and is gratifying to use to cause more devastation.

    COD AW Biolab-EM1


    Weapons are much more fun to handle, the aiming and feedback are a whole ton better than we had in Ghosts last year. Bringing the franchise to the future has seemingly brought the fun back to COD. Getting used to the new mechanics and the level layouts is a breath of fresh air to the series and something that needs to be recognised by the teams making next year’s iteration.


    Onto multiplayer, while it’s always nice to play your favourite COD map (Nuke town right?) having a complete fresh feeling set is always better. Yeah sure most new CODs have their own set of maps, but never before has such as sense of freshness occurred in venturing into online multiplayer. Thanks to the ingenious (and about 5-10 years overdue) double jump mechanic, playing COD online is a very different game from ANY game previous. Maps have suddenly become much more open as reaching high places is as simple as a double tap of X. That one guy who used to be carefully placed in an unapproachable nesting spot can be quickly dealt with by a few timed double jumps.


    Multiplayer seems a lot more frantic this time around. While standing pumping rounds into the guy in front, his buddy is generally only a corner away with a loaded fist. Fast paced has never been a more astute phrase, but this time you will need your wits about the multi layered levels. As granting players the ability to leap buildings and walls means you are never a minute away from the action.


    For the old hard-core, online mode does feature a classics section, where you can play online with all the new-fangled young kids double jumping is negated for good old fashioned shooting and being shot at. The extra mile has certainly went into making Advanced Warfare feel as different while familiar as possible.

    COD AW Riot-Slam-Dunk


    On to the not so goods – graphically the character models in the cut scenes and in game are absolutely superb. Kevin Spacey being a natural highlight in the story but, each characters facial expressions have had some amount of work put into them. Hats off to Sledgehammers talented studio for that. However the downside is while looking very nice in cut scenes, when the game actually hits the backgrounds just can’t match that cut scene quality and somewhat detracts from the immersion. Getting new items and equipment this time around sadly is not up to the player and is assigned automatically after each online match. This leads to a sense of less customisation than the previous installments that have allowed the player to pick their rewards after matches.


    All in all COD is a great package, it’s a big shake up in the way the games played and is visually impressive despite the shortfalls in the way the backgrounds look in gameplay. This is the game to bring back the COD doubters and is the game for any Kevin Freaking Spacey fan to play as he is fantastic in the campaign mode. It’s big dumb fun, but this time… it’s futuristic big dumb fun that might require some getting used to.
    For more on COD Advanced Warfare, check out 42 Level One every Tuesday at 9:30pm GMT right here on All Games.
    9/10

    The Good
    It’s the freshest COD since MW 1
    Kevin “freaking” Spacey
    The guns

    The Bad
    Campaigns still short and unsurprising
    Scenery could look prettier

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