Friday, 27 May 2011
Well after an absolutely massive amount of hours I have to say I like this game. The last RPG that I ground out every single little quest was the original Neverwinter Nights, so it is a rare thing indeed.
However lets get a few gripes out of the way. This game has one of the worst introductions/tutorial stage that I have ever seen. As I play most games on the hardest difficulty from the get go I would like something that gives me a quick rundown of what button to mash to save myself before I die, rather then as I try and find the key and get cut down.
Secondly the side quests need to have markers where to find objectives. Often you find yourself looking for things to blowup/kill and you waste a very large amount of time just wandering around, this was one of the games biggest failings as I got quite pissed at one point and just got guides on where to find the damn things.
Lastly, unresponsiveness. What tends to happen in combat is that you mash the attack buttons and then realise, 'Oh, crap, have to dodge/block', but this game had a tendency to queue up 3ish attacks so it wouldn't dodge until it had finished the list of attacks that you had just mashed in.
With that out of the way lets get on to the meat.
This game is gorgeous. The environments are continually stunning and the lighting effects are spectacular. Surroundings are varied and nicely detailed and some of the places just provide a real sense of awe, especially with the shafts of a dusk light passing through trees etc. Weapons and armour also look as if a lot of attention went into them, and the vast majority of the character modelling is superb. Unfortunately there are some aspects of character models that look a little wooden in the close up cut scenes, but aside from that this game is one of the best I've seen.
If you didn't play the original Witcher you are going to be a bit lost when you come into this game, but not to worry, the story in this game holds up very well on its own. Excellent character development and the little snippets that you hear as you go around the towns collecting and completing quests gives a wonderful sense of immersion. The ability to do little things like gambling or bar brawling also adds to the atmosphere without feeling too forced or out of place. Again this game does a pretty great job.
For the most part the voice acting in this game is decent, but nothing to write home about. Occasionally there is a really good voice over and occasionally there is a poor one, they seem to balance out. The sounds in battle hold up a bit better with clangs of steal, squeals of pain and the sounds of punching someone giving a very real feeling. The ambient sounds also help with the sense of immersion.
With a nice looking interface and easy commands (once you finally figure them out) allow you to smoothly control you character through combat with a mixture of casting spells and bashing things to death with a sword. The biggest draw back of the system is that it takes a while to get used to the little things like timing and how things actually operate (things like parry were never explained). However once you get them sorted the experience is very good.
The level up system is nicely balanced as well, with the abilities giving you a noticeable improvement in combat while at the same time not allowing you to just walk through your opponents with ease. The biggest limitation with the RPG element in this game is there is not as much choice as in other RPG games.
This game is a great game. The amount of time you put into it is well worth the price tag attached to the game. Just note that the hardest difficulty is damn hard.
Thursday, 19 May 2011
The original Dawn of War was a cracker of a game, then they made a mediocre sequel (Winter Assault) then they essentially made a skirmish game with effectively zero story line and simply added new units/armies to the current game engine.
Even with these poor choices for follow up games it was still rather enjoyable to play and I found myself spending many hours in multiplayer with friends.
Then came the announcement for DoW II and I was pretty stoked about it. I downloaded the mulitplayer beta the moment it was available on steam and entered into my first game.
I was lost for a short while. THQ had gone with a very different style this game, removing any sort of base building and introducing a huge amount of tactical play with the way your armies collide. At first it seemed a little dumbed down, but eventually I began to enjoy it as I discovered all these new methods of flanking and pinning down my opponents. This gave a very different feel to the way it was played as a strategy game, and while it was a risk to make the game this way, it definitely paid off in creating a unique and entertaining experience.
The graphics in the DoW II series are quite appealing, and with ample explosions and varied environmental doodads made the maps immerse you into the world you were playing on. As it was a top down strategy game the unit models were not super spectacular when you zoomed in but when you were commanding from the usual camera angle they looked excellent and well detailed. Plenty of particle effects and changing environments kept the visual appeal through out all 3 of the games. Same graphics engine was used for the entire series so far.
The Story for the original DoW II and it's expansion, Chaos Rising, was excellent. Well developed characters, an enthralling storyline and some development to the 40k Universe for those that don't get into the table top game.
Unfortunately Retribution had a pretty lame storyline as the tried to get 6 different story lines mixing together which led to a very short story that was pretty generalized so that they could cross over with out too much difficulty. Characters were not as well fleshed out and the game had practically no replayablity as it was too dull.
Original and Chaos Rising 9/10
As mentioned in the starting blurb the unique strategy style of DoW II worked out quite well, providing a refreshingly new type of RTS game. Combined with this was a RPG feel where units would level and you could choose which gear to give them. Again this worked out fantastically as you could really choose what each unit could specialize in and gave more freedom in the way you wanted to play your game, from frontal charge to strategic flanking.
Again Retribution falls down on gameplay however, with the introduction of squads and in game resources. The reason DoW II's new style was effective was that it was small scale and simple. Retribution threw that away, brought in a new for of resource collection and allowed you to mass armies again. In the end this was a terrible idea and bought the game down a great deal. However you could ignore this and play in the original style.
Original and Chaos Rising 9/10
Voice acting in the whole series was great, as were weapon sounds and explosions. Scripts for the different races were quite exceptional and the background noise/music added to the atmosphere in levels. All in all a top notch sound.
This new unique style of RTS has turned out quite spectacularly and if it wasn't for the addition of Retribution in the series I would have recommended buying the complete set. As is the Dawn of War II and Chaos Rising are fantastic games to play, most enjoyable and worth your time.
Original and Chaos Rising 9/10
Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Might be a change to what most people are used to but I'm going to do an Android game. Majesty is sort of an RTS but with very simplistic controls and only an indirect ability to control your military units. While for PC and console this would be an issue, on a handheld device it works amazingly well and the game is addictive and entertaining.
The graphics are not super, instead the developer decided to keep the graphics simple and slightly cartoony, reminiscent of games on the GBA, albeit improved somewhat. This simple approach works well and also allows the game to run on a much wider range of devices rather then just on the high end devices like many new releases are restricted too. Buildings and unit models are adequately detailed to make the game look nice and animations do their part.
Gameplay is simple, yet effective. You place buildings, produce units, get upgrades etc. just like you would expect from a modern day RTS but with a bit of a twist. You do not have direct control of your military units and upgrades are not applied universally once you research them. Instead you place 'bounties' on enemy monsters to encourage your units to attack them and with the money they recieve they will go purchase, upgrades and items. This system adds a new layer of management to keep the game from being too simple, do you get extra units and buildings, or do you place bounties to get items and upgrades. Units also level up so you don't just want to swarm units, you want to upgrade your higher level units. For such a simple game it feels very satisfying to play and complete a mission. especially on the higher levels of difficulty. Occasionally your units will mill around before heading off to defend some structures which can be irritating sometimes
The game lacks a bit in the story area. Rather then having a continuous story it is more like a set of tasks with a quirky little blurb explaining the situation. While this is a short falling of the game you really don't notice it as the rest of the game is enthralling enough to provide plenty of entertainment.
This game was worth every minute I put in. Highly enjoyable and one of the few games on a handheld device that had controls that didn't feel awkward and clunky. I definately recommend getting this game if you have an android device. While it has short fallings
Saturday, 7 May 2011
Portal 2 had the enormous task of taking a fantastic little game and turning it into a full length narrative. Lets see how it held up.
While not being the most spectacular game I've seen on the 360, it had some decently impressive environments and the variation from clinically white test areas to a worn down, rusty, piping area. Aside from the environment this game has little to model graphically, no cutscenes, no character models, so there is nothing more to say on this subject.
Puzzles. (takes place of story)
Most Games don't get a section on puzzles alone, but as it is the only thing Portal is about I had to bring it in.
At the start of the game the puzzle system was straightforward, simple to understand. You knew where you had to get and you would figure out how to open the door. While most of them proved easy it was still enjoyable.
Then the game shifts to the next stage, slogging through the innards of the facility. This was rather disappointing as half the time your just looking for that damn white slab of wall to put your portal on and you're not always clearly shown where the exit is and at times it can be frustrating. While more difficult, it was kinda annoying.
Overall there were some clever designs and interesting challenges, but tended to be too easy.
In co-op it was a little more fun, being able to play with 4 portals, but two minds working on it made most of the puzzles too easy.
Not much to put here, you shoot a portals at walls and go through/make other things go through. It does what it needs to do competently and effectively. Physics may not be realistic but is constant throughout.
Amusing quips and monologues given throughout the game manage to keep a small smile on your face for most of the game. Voice overs, while obviously not being to intensive, are excellent. Portal gun sounds are, well, portal gun sounds. Only thing missing is proper impact sounds from falling objects, those were kinda limpwristed..
Enjoyable, good entertainment for a few hours. Great for playing with a buddy, but practically no replayablity as you already know all the solutions. It stand up very well compared to the first Portal, but doesn't quite beat it out despite much longer development and a much larger game.