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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The prophecy fulfilled, and the dragons return to scorch the planet.


Story

As many likely know, but I'll cover just in case, Skyrim is in the northern part of Tamerial, full of snow covered mountains. Skyrim is also very rich in minerals and beauty, making it a heavily populated land for all the races, to which the Nords are native. The game begins, 200 years after Oblivion, with the traditional "you being a prisoner" introduction. You are caught entering Skyrim, as well as several others, who are believed to be a part of a rebel group called the Stormcloaks, who believe the Empire is crumbling and wish Skyrim to be separate from its destruction, come to find that one of the captives is the leader of the group and had assassinated the King not long before his capture.

Upon arrival to a small town, you learn your fate. Death. However, after creating your character, it turns out that the guards find you are not one of the rebels, but are sentenced to death anyways. As you are about to have your head painfully removed from your shoulders, a dragon crashes the party, and you are able to escape, with the help of some captives and Imperial Guards.


Graphics

Skyrim uses a new graphics engine this time around, making the environments look gorgeous. The new engine is able to give each branch, each blade of grass, its own sense of being, they move separately, affected by the wind.People also have been redone, they move more fluidly, act more natural and go about their own schedule. Weapons will retain blood on them from previous fights, and spells look much better this time around.


Controls

The controls have been edited slightly, you can equip a weapon in each hand, and to use them, you pull the corresponding trigger. Some spells, like racial abilities, need to be used via the right bumper. You can sprint now by clicking the left joystick, and speed is determined by amount carried, and stamina. To access your journal (which has your quests and settings) you press the "Start" button, but to access inventory, you press "B", which can take some getting used too.


Voice/Music/Sound

Bethesda has always impressed me with their music scores for their games, and they didn't disappoint this time. Music is always well done whether in town, wilderness, combat or caves, the music always feels right. Voices seem to be done right, except for the Khajitt, some sound a bit like French people, I liked the way the spoke in Oblivion, but since that took place 200 years ago, it's understandable that they would lose their accent.


Other

This time around, you have no major or minor skills, your character will receive the bonus its races naturally gets, but how you level is up to you. Every skill increase adds to your level progress (any 10 skill increase and you level). You no longer get to allocate skill points to Strength, Speed, etc, this is seemingly done automatically, which is a bummer to me. This does allow you to level up more, but prevents in-depth customization from previous installments.

Dragon Shouts provide a nice new feature, and have 3 levels. You must learn each form to use it, and they become much stronger as you do, I've only unlocked 2, one is a blast and the other gives you a speed boast for a second, which comes in handy.

When you level up, you'll earn a skill point that you can use in a specific skill area,each skill has several "Perks" that you can unlock, from increased armour while using light/heavy armour, to increased damage with one-handed weapons, there are several upgrades that will come in handy.

You can make weapons and armour, as well as other niffty items from various methods (using leather you collected, gems, etc) much like Morrowind did, which is a nice touch.


Overall

Skyrim is a awesome game, but may take a bit of adjusting if you're fresh off of Oblivion. With a vast area to explore, several quests, and many characters, Skyrim will undoubtedly be one of the better games on the X360 (or PS3 and PC) for quite awhile.


9.5/10.0

Pros:

- Beautiful graphics and character design 
- Weapon, spell and armour crafting
- Interesting spells and talents available

Cons

- Difficult in the beginning
- No skill points to allocate
- No major skills

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lord of the Rings: War of the North




Story

The story follows 3 characters, Eradan, Farin and Andriel, who are given the duty of going to The Shire to scout enemy forces, upon arriving, they are attacked by Orcs. The trio finds that a man by the name Agandaur plans on destroying the Free People of the North under the orders of Sauron. The 3 are given the duty of distracting the enemy forces while Frodo and the Brotherhood head towards Mt. Doom, and stopping Agandaur from completing his malicious plans.


Graphics

The graphics of LotR: WitN are very nice, areas are lush and green (or not if the area requires it), and effects are well done (blood sprays, element effects, etc). Characters look realistic (or as realistic as fake beings can be) and animations are smooth. Weapons and armour have unique skins (for the most part) and equipping something changes the look of the character.


Controls

The game relies on basic controls, normal attacks, heavy attacks, block and range attacks. Holding the right trigger will allow you to use one of three melee or ranged skills. When talking with NPCs, the game uses a Mass Effect style, allowing you to ask various questions or dig deeper into the situation, this can earn you extra quests or additional info as to what you should do.


Voice/Music/Sound

The music can be a bit buggy at times, you'll hear battle music when not in battle, or it may reset a few times before working properly, but despite that, it sounds good and is appropriate. The VO seem to be appropriate for the setting of the game, characters use old tyme speech (my lord, thus, etc) and makes the game feel authentic.


Other

The game allows for split screen play of online play, this makes some parts of the game much easier to pass.

When you level up, that level stays with you, if you play as the Ranger, but decide you want to play the Melee, you'll do so with the same level of your Ranger (with all the stat and skill points free to allocate as well as all the items you had). Your team, when controlled by the AI, will allocate points automatically, and upgrade their equipment by themselves, you can provide them with armour and weapons if you want, but they may lose them.

When you beat the game, you'll unlock a higher difficulty and will be able to use your character and retain your gear, stats and level, making it easier to progress. You'll also earn more exp and better gear as you play.


Overall

This is a very fun game for RPG fans, I don't even like LotR but enjoyed this game a lot.

8.0/10.0

Pros

- Fun RPG
- Weapons and Armour are unique
- Can be a nice challenge for the player

Cons

- Can be beaten in, literally, a few hours if you rush
- Areas are linear
- Many locations on the map, only a small number are visitable

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A World of Keflings - It Came From Outer Space DLC

This is the first piece of (allegedly many) DLC for A World of Keflings.



What's New

This DLC adds a new chapter to the game that is selectable from the "New Game" option. You and your buff little Kefling friends somehow end up in a mysterious new sulfer filled canyon. Once you arrive you meet some friendly aliens (although the Captains deep desire to obliterate you and the Keflings isn't what I'd call friendly). You and your friends decide to help the stranded aliens repair their ship so that they can return to their planet of Yurbut.

New things to build and new resources in a small area prove to be somewhat challenging thanks to the horrible AI. Keflings will work on one resource, and when that space runs out, they SHOULD move to the next one, however, even if there is a similar resource next to them, they will not work on it. This can get annoying as you need to rack up numerous amounts of a particular resource, but the Keflings won't gather them for you.

There are also 3 new achievements, worth 50G, they are very easy to obtain, and can be acquired by playing the story.

This DLC is rather short and can be completed in 2 hours easily.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Saboteur

An Irishman running around blowing up buildings and killing Nazis? What else do you need in a game?


Story

The story begins with the main character, Sean, a champion race car driver, in Paris recounting a series of events that has lead him to this little pub, being hunted by one of the countries most powerful Nazi commanders. While having a drink, a mysterious man approaches Sean, offering his help to rid Paris of the Nazis once and for all, but the dangers involved could risk the lives of everyone Sean holds dear.


Graphics

The games graphics are grainy, on purpose, to give the feeling of dread and doom (which is understandable, it IS Nazi infested Paris). While in Nazi territory, the environment loses all color, becoming black and white, the citizens are downtrodden and fearful.
As Sean takes down key points held by the Nazis, color slowly returns to the area, allowing him more freedom to explore and climb various buildings without being attacked by Nazis.



Controls

Controls are easy and simple to learn. Driving, which is notorious in games for being poorly made, is also simplified so that anyone can master it in a few minutes. Certain areas of buildings (rails, doors, windows, alcoves, etc) are highlighted by a small shimmer that allows the player to climb them to access the rooftops of buildings (ala Assassins Creed), however if caught by Nazis, they will open fire, knocking Sean down.

Sean can equip a numerous number of guns, ranging from pistols, shotguns and even rocket/grenade launchers (these will give your position away faster, but are a lot of fun). Gunplay uses a more over the shoulder style (similar to The Mercenaries), but you can also stealth kill if you wish to be more elusive.


Voice/Music/Sound

Voice work is done well, Sean (who again, is Irish sounds like an Irishman), citizens have a French accent and the Nazis sound German. What stands out is the music, which changes depending on the situation (in dangerous territory, it's somewhat depressing), when in friendly territory, is more friendly. If Sean does something suspicious/illegal, Nazis soldiers will come after him and the music takes a more dangerous turn.


Other

There are many, many, MANY objects to destroy (in fact, if you're an achievement whore, this may be a painful grind, as there are easily 600 things to destroy), luckily, the map shows the location of where these things are (although not always ground level). 

There is a plethora of hidden areas for Sean to discover, and more vehicles then one can count (which, if you bring them to one of the many garages you eventually unlock, you'll be able to drive them at any point in the game, and this is also an achievement).


Overall

This is a fun game if you like open-ended games and/or collectibles, and blowing shit up. However is can get very tedious for achievement hunters.

8.5/10.0

Pros:

- Destructible environments
- A very large play area
- Very fun exploratory game

Cons

- Can get repetitive
- Numerous amounts of weapons, cars and destructible objects for achievement hunters
- Straightforward game

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver

The remake of the most popular versions of Pokemon, will this new installment make fans cry from joy or heartbreak?








Story

Pokemon has had the same story from the get go, this doesn't really change in this remake. You are a young trainer who has just acquired their very first Pokemon, and are tasked with retrieving a very important egg from a friend of Prof. Elm name Mr. Pokemon. Upon receiving the egg, you find out that someone has broken into Elm's lab and stolen one of the starter Pokemon (and what a coincidence it's the one that's strong against the one you picked).

You run into the unnamed rival, battle him, and are then told to fill up the Pokedex, beat the Elite Four and just be super awesome. But there's an issue, Team Rocket has returned. After being disbanded 3 years ago after Giovanni lost to a snot nosed brat (who, as we know, is the player from FireRed/LeafGreen/Red/Blue/Yellow) and you must stop them.... again.


Graphics

The graphics haven't received much of an overhaul, but this isn't bad, as Pokemon has looked just fine for several years. I enjoy the simple, yet well made pixel art. Buildings have a slight 3D effect when approaching from the side, and the people, Pokemon and effects are all very well done.


Controls

The controls have remained mostly the same, one this you can do is register two items instead of one (not sure if this was a feature in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum), these items are conveniently placed on the touch screen so you don't have to open your bag to fish them out.


Voice/Music/Sound

This remake has some of the best music of all the Pokemon games. At first, it's nothing special, but when you arrive in Kanto, the music turns into a sorta techno beat, and it's good (I HATE techno so the fact that I like this is amazing). Battle music ranges from Wild encounters, Trainer encounters, Rival encounters, Gym Leader encounters, Elite Four encounters, Champion encounter, Legenadary encounters (and some have their own unique theme) and the encounter with Red (the player from the FireRed/LeafGreen/Red/Blue/Yellow).


Other

Besides the things many of us already know (after defeating the Elite Four, the player can play through Kanto, fighting Brock, Misty and other Kanto Gym Leaders) HG/SS offers a few new changes. The most prominent being that the Pokemon in the top left slot will always be following you, much like Pikachu did in Yellow version.


There is also a Safari Zone in Johto this time around (which was not included due to the Glitch City in Red, Blue and Yellow versions) and the player can manipulate which fields show up in the zone (swamp, grasslands, water, rock, etc) allowing more control over which Pokemon appear.

If you bought the game new, you also received a device called a PokeWalker. This device acts as a pedometer that you can transfer a Pokemon onto and take with you. After a certain amount of steps, you receive a "watt" (or charges), these charges can be used to battle and catch wild (and sometimes rare) Pokemon and find items with the Dowsing Machine, you can also send and receive gifts from others.

If you enjoy friendly completions, you can become a PokeAthlete  in the Pokeathlon Dome. This is a series of events that test your Pokemons' skills (speed, stamina, skill, power and jumping abilities, these can be looked up under each Pokemons' information). There are many events like the Circle Push (sorta like sumo wrestling), Hurdle Dash (like at the Olympics) and several others. Winning (and losing) earns you points which you can spend on items (such as Stones, Apricots, Nuggets and more).


Overall

This is a game that fans of the series should absolutely pick up. It's all the good things about Pokemon and none of the bad. If you have even enjoyed a single episode or game, you MUST get this game. This is one of my most enjoyed games of all time.

10.0/10.0

Pros

- Great music pieces
- Great looking game
- Can enjoy both Kanto and Johto
- Fun having your Pokemon walk with you
- PokeWalker is a nice toy

Cons

- It eventually ends

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pokemon Black and White

Pokemon Black/White is the fifth generation of the series, will it live up to the fame the series has generated?






Story

If you don't already know what the story is in the Pokemon games, you've never played one.... BUT, I'll refresh your memory. You, are a young boy/girl who has finally become the required age to carry Pokemon with you, as a gift, the local Pokemon Professor has decided to give you, and your friends, a Pokemon of your choice, but there's a catch, you must help fill up the Pokedex (which I would think, across 5 generations, would have been done by now), stop a mysterious criminal organization and become the Pokemon Master, standard stuff really.


Graphics

The graphics have been tweaked, slightly. The game will, on occasion, switch to a more 3D perspective. This does make your 2D character look out of place though, but, with improvements, could work on future titles. One major issue is the sprites, when a Pokemon comes out of the Pokeball, it looks nice, but then the game zooms in, and you can clearly see the pixels, which are a big no no to me.... turned me off.


Controls

These have gone unchanged, nothing new, which is a good thing, as it never needed to be fixed.


Voice/Music/Sound

One thing I always liked about the Pokemon series was the music, but not so much this time around. I LOVED the techno-y version in HeartGold/SoulSilver, this new gen decided to try new music, which I hated. This is just me though, maybe you'll like the new battle music.


Other

There are a few nice looking new Pokemon, but most seem to be rip-offs of already existing Pokemon, example below:



You have to admit, they do share some striking resemblances.
+ =

Others, like the 3 above, seem like simple crosses between each other.

I haven't had a chance to play online (thanks to a defective wi-fi card in my 3DS....).

There is also 3 on 3 battles, I've only taken part in a few and I'm at the Pokemon League.

After you beat the Elite 4 and Champ, you can explore the other half, yes, HALF, of the continent (it's not that the place is big, they just don't let you see much until after you've beaten it).

Sprites constantly move during battle, which I really liked, I hope they continue to do this in future titles. The game also uses seasons, but not like Animal Crossing, the seasons in an area will change every few real months.


Overall


This game had potential, but with so many (personal) issues, I really didn't care for it. If you're a new fan, maybe you won't mind, but if you are a veteran who grew up with Pokemon, you may be just as disappointed as I am.

7.0/10.0


Pros

- Moving sprites
- Looks nice
- Months change

Cons

- Users Pokemon look very pixel-y
- Lame Pokemon
- Limited until you're the Champ