Madden 15 - Xbox One Review

It looks good, but how does it stack up to the prior years?

Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star - PS3 Review

This ambitious RPG might not be for everyone, but is worth giving a chance

Lords of the Black Sun - PC Review

The potential is there, but so are plenty of missed opportunities

Styx: Master of Shadows - Xbox One Review

Challenging, beautiful and rewarding stealth for the Xbox One

Ancient Space - PC Review

Not as exploratory as it claims to be

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Kingdoms of the Lost - 10 year anniversary

So, I'm diverging just a bit from my usual posts - as is very evident by now, I am a huge fan of video games, but I also grew up on tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, etc. Along the way, I discovered text-based online communities called MUDs. I played a few on and off over the years, but then in August of 2010 my wife and I started our own called Kingdoms of the Lost. It's swords and sorcery fare, and we've met and worked with a lot of amazing people over the years. We're actually celebrating our 10 year anniversary at KotL

This type of game's obviously not for everyone. In the day and age of modern MMORGP's like World of Warcraft, Everquest, Lord of the Rings Online - MUDs have fallen off the map somewhat. However, right now we have 12 people on, and last night we had about 20 on - 5 years ago we had 60 on, so while it's dwindled, it hasn't gone away. To see who's on now, you can click here.

Still, it's free. It's a community. It's an opportunity to roleplay, meet new people, kill some time at work (if you're like me and lucky enough to have cpu access) or between classes - whatever. Anyway, there's a lot going on this week, so if you have any interest in taking a peek in, this is a good time to do so. We're giving away lots of free in-game stuff, we've just added a ton of new content and we've seen some of our old friends resurface lately on there as well. 10 years... It's been a long, fun ride.

How to play? Well, you need to connect, either via telnet or by downloading a client - I use GMUD - and directing it to kotl.org port 2222

Here's some more information about the game:

Our website

Our community supported story archive

Our Facebook page

Our Forum

Some information about the game

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment - Xbox 360 review

I remember playing the original Vandal Hearts a very long time ago and enjoying it thoroughly. As I commented recently as well, I really enjoy strategy/rpg games quite a bit, which is why even though I thought some of the aspects of Agarest War could have been better, I'm currently giving it a 2nd playthrough. Well, a couple of months ago there was a deal where you could buy Xbox 360 arcade games at a discounted price, and this game was among them.


Graphics - 4:

I realize it's an arcade game, so the bar tends to be a bit lower, but they are pretty bad here. The combat maps are at least more visually interesting than Record of Agarest War, with different levels and surprisingly expansive terrains. Now, for the cut scenes - what the heck? The disproportionate looking characters are odd to look at and it doesn't look very good either. When people speak, the picture that pops up is very average (at best) as well. At least I was able to appreciate the overall artistic direction of Agarest War. I'm not sure what direction they were going with in Vandal Hearts, but the result was very poor.


Music and Sound - 6:

The music's not bad - I especially like the somewhat chorus-like startup music. They make little comments with voice overs I can actually understand (unlike the Japanese laden voices of Agarest - sorry, I'm going to keep comparing these two as they're similar games I'm playing right now at the same time). There's some varied combat sounds to help keep things from getting too repetitive as well. Still, some of those combat sounds really got on my nerves - especially when you were hitting someone. My wife asked me why my characters were continually kicking dogs at one point, the wolves were making such a horrible whimpering sound every-single-time-I-hit-them. And if you have a spell that hits 3 or 4 guys at once, they all make a loud combined sound that had a tendency to be a bit grating. Plus, while it was nice understanding what my characters were saying, they didn't have a lot of variety in what they said on the map.


Gameplay - 7:

Not bad at all. It's mostly menu-driven stuff, but it is easy enough to navigate them and moving around the map isn't too hard. The camera angles were sometimes a tad bit annoying, but you can spin the camera and tilt the landscape to vary your view, though it seemed like on some maps I was doing this for every single turn, which was a bit annoying. Still, the combat moves along at a brisk pace and things like flanking, terrain types, height of terrain, etc - all of that is a factor, which is very cool.


Intangibles - 7:

I've only beaten it once, but I've heard there's at least 2 different endings so I'm giving it a 2nd play through now. Still, a built-in reason for an extra play is nice. There are questions along the way you are asked to answer - I'm curious to see if these actually change the story or just alter what's said right after - we'll see. The game's not terribly long, but there's hidden maps to find and the system used for character progression is kind of cool - basically the more you use a skill - melee, archery, magic - the better you get in that area, so you can customize a character if you want to, though some of them are predisposed to certain things so it's easier to just continue along that path.


Overall - 6:

The game could be a bit longer - and the graphics really hurt the score. That said, if you're a fan of this type of game, you're not in it for the graphic realism most of the time. It appeals to me the same way Record of Agarest does. Vandal Hearts is not as good - it's not as deep of a game. You won't be playing it nearly as long and there's not as much to do in it. That said, if you're looking for a turn-based strategy game, that's relatively inexpensive (I got it for around $8, and I believe the regular full price rings in about $15 on both Xbox and Playstation 3) - so it's still a pretty good price for what you are getting.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Gaming News and Notes from 9-1-10

I commented on the increase to Xbox live costs the other day, but on the other side of that coin Nintendo is lowing the cost of their DS Lite and XL's - the latter of which is kind of surprising given how little time it's really been on the market. There's been a lot of speculation about when the Nintendo 3DS will be coming out - with most of it saying early next year. Still, this reported price drop does have people wondering if perhaps Nintendo is aiming for a last moment push before the holiday season. Considering how the units being shown at the last few conferences have been fully functional, it would appear the hardware is there. Probably the biggest concern is the launch lineup and if it is ready to be put out there yet.

Borderlands was a very popular and well-reviewed game - and sadly one I haven't gotten around to playing yet. Still, this Game of the Year edition with all of the extra content may be just the reason to pick it up for the first time.

Castle Crashers is making its way to the Playstation Network. It's late to the game in arriving - it's been out on the 360 for quite some time now. But, this was a well-reviewed game and a favorite of my kids'. I've had a couple of playthroughs on it as well with my kids and overall it was a pretty cool game. If you haven't had a chance to play this one on the 360 yet, it may well be worth a peek if you're a ps3 owner.

Last but not least, the Playstation Move is a peripheral I've been curious about, and though I'm unlikely to pick one up, at least out of the gates, I have been watching for news on it. Well, IGN gave me a lot of news on it today. They've posted quick blurbs saying that they were using the device for a while now, but today they had a chance to actually review it and their launch titles. What were the results?

The hardware fared good, scoring an 8.5 - though I suspect it would get mixed results in my house because the camera would be pointed right at the window as a backdrop for the players, which could affect sensitivity.

Sports Champion came in at a decent 7.5 - not breaking any new ground, but as Wii has proven a variety of sports mini games can prove entertaining.

Eyepet was one that I thought would really appeal to 1 or 2 of my kids, especially my youngest daughter. With the 8.0 score it ranks as the highest of the release scores from IGN and looks to ooze cuteness if that's your thing.

Kung Fu Rider did not hold up nearly as well, getting a 3.5. The visuals scored well, but the controls and gameplay apparently were quite poor.

Racquet Sports did not fair much better, with it's 4.5 score.

Back to the 3.5 range for Tumble.

Then they dropped some preview impressions on High Velocity Bowling and a Tiger Woods game.

Overall, the technology seems decent, but the launch titles seem to leave a bit to be desired. One of my primary concerns with Move and Kinect are that they feel like addons. The Wii has the motion controls enabled for almost every game, and while they're not always well implemented by the developers, the developers know that every Wii owner has already got the potential to utilize these controls. This encourages development using motion controls. However, if the Move and the Kinect do not make big sales right out of the game, will developers make games for these peripherals knowing that maybe only a small percentage of the PS3 or 360 market can even play the game? That makes the launch titles very important and it would seem that the Move's launch set is very questionable. The next several titles that are released for the Move could very well make or break its early success, so we'll have to wait and see.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Yeah, I haven't posted a whole lot lately...

... with several reasons at fault. First, I've been replaying a few games I'd recently beaten, just to try some new things on them, so that's prevented me from rolling out some new reviews on other newer games. I did however snag a few more games recently - 3D Dots Heroes, Eternal Sonata, the new Lara Croft game, Monday Night Combat, Limbo, Vandal Hearts: Fire of Judgment - so expect a few reviews to be coming on that front. By grabbing Lara, Limbo and Combat - I also qualified for Microsoft's 400 point bonus, which I will likely be putting toward the new Scott Pilgrim beat-em up or Snoopy's Red Baron game - no doubt my kids will decide that one for me. So, do I have anything new to toss out there? Only that I'm finding my 2nd playthrough of Agarest War to be fun (I know, I know - I gave the game a low overall score - but that was based on technical merit. I'm a sucker for srpg games - hence the acquisition of Vandal Hearts).

Got an interesting article here on how Xbox Live Gold accounts will be going up in price somewhat soon as well. Seeing as I recently let my own Gold subscription go, this doesn't exactly fire me up to get it. I'd rather pay out for the Playstation Plus and see if any of those extras are worth the price of admission - but basically what me and a handful of my friends have decided is if the game's got multiplayer and it comes out on both consoles - we're getting the PS 3 version since the online play is free. I also am unlikely to buy Halo: Reach. I may play it at a friend's house - he's a hard core Halo fan and will no doubt get it, but without the online, it's probably not worth it to me. So, depending on how Microsoft wants to look at it, it's losing sales to me and several of my friends -we can't be alone on that front, can we?

Anyway, I do have a few reviews I plan to get out this weekend - I should have a nice 4 day weekend for the holiday (My last two were very busy with family visiting from out of town), and I'm hoping to reward whoever follows this blog for their patience. :)