NHL 2015 - Xbox One Review

The NHL comes to current gen - but does it do so smoothly?

Gunspell - PC Review

This puzzle game lacks magic

Pure Pool - Xbox ONe Review

Pure fun for billiards fans

Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager - PC Review

I surprisingly high amount of depth makes this trip to the moon worthwhile

Tales of Hearts R - PS Vita Review

This update on the RPG from a few years ago has a lot of heart

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Elven Legacy - PC Game Review

Recently I reviewed the game Fantasy Wars. Despite the somewhat generic title, I found it to be a pretty effective turn-based strategy game. A couple of years later, they released a follow-up game called Elven Legacy, which in turn has spawned a trio of expansions: Magic, Ranger and Siege. I picked them all up as a combo pack from Steam and finally had a chance to play them. Since they use the same basic engine, I figure I will review them as a whole here.


Graphics - 7:

They're okay - the environments are bland, and the characters themselves do little to stand out at a distance, though they tend to fare a bit better on their close up. The maps themselves are easy enough to navigate visually. The cut scenes are pretty basic-looking, and in places, ugly if I'm to be perfectly honest. The engine looks very, very familiar to Fantasy Wars, which is a bit disappointing given a couple of years development time between titles. Thankfully, there does seem to be more color and the flying units look better, and the environmental textures are a bit more detailed.


Sounds & Music - 6:

The music's what you expect, but it can be a bit repetitious too. There are not a ton of sound effects, but what is there gets the job done. The voice acting is in fact, terrible at times. What's worse is the tutorial, which is broken in terms of audio. Overlapping sentences, phrases that get cut off early, these things make the tutorial almost completely useless. The expansions don't seem to have any voice acting at all.


Gameplay - 8:

The menus and overall interface were very similar to Fantasy Wars, which is to say they are easy to get around once you're familiar with them, but there is a bit of a learning curve. There's quite a few units though, and the turn-based tactics are solid. The way units progress is entertaining, and gives you a reason to feel invested in them - but be prepared. Like Fantasy Wars, this game is tough. The Fog of War feature keeps you from seeing what you're getting into at times, and the enemy is very adept at ganging up on and beating a single unit to a pulp.

One returning feature I am not particularly a fan of is the time-based gold/silver/bronze system, where you have a certain number of turns to meet your objective, and it seems like gold in several of these is virtually impossible. When you try to rush to complete objectives, you tend to lose more units and overlook things you might have found if you took the time to scour the map a bit, which is a shame. Still, the rewards for gold completion are usually quite nice - solid gold earning, usually a free troop and it unlocks a parallel mission that does not really affect the outcome, but is interesting all the same.


Intangibles - 8:

The games are a bit short - I got through my first run of Elven Legacy in about fifteen hours or so, but there's plenty of replay value with things like the side missions you can unlock and also a separate mission feature on top of the campaign mode. I also found the story more interesting than what was presented in Fantasy Wars, though I felt it was better in Elven Legacy than the additional packs.


Overall - 7:

Technically the games are not great. The graphics and sound/music are average, but the gameplay is challenging and there is a fair amount to do within the game. Like Fantasy Wars, this series of games can be found relatively cheaply (though not quite as cheaply). It's a bit disappointing that the series did not come a bit further over the two year span, but for strategy enthusiasts there is enough here to keep you busy. The AI presents a good challenge and there's a fair amount to do.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Snoopy Flying Ace - Xbox Live Review

This was a title that caught my eye when it first came out. I mean, I loved Snoopy as a kid, I'm not going to lie. Snoopy and Garfield were holiday standards for me. It's been out about a year now, and I picked it up a couple of months ago on a whim and finally started to play it last month and am very glad I did. This game was a surprise to a lot of people and reviewers when it came out, but I have to admit that despite knowing that going into things, it was as good if not better than I had expected.


Graphics - 8:

For an Xbox Live game, there is a lot happening here. There is a metric ton of activity on the screen. Moving backgrounds, lots of players, gunfire and the various effects that go with it. The detail is not overwhelming and the animations are pretty simple, but I never really encountered any sort of tearing or slowdown, which is awesome considering the intense action.


Sound & Music - 6:

Not a lot of variety to the sound effects and music here. It's not bad really, but it's gets repetative fairly quickly. In addition, the sound effects never really 'help' the way they do in say, Modern Warfare 2 where the gunfire and explosions often take advantage of surround sound in a way that actually translates into gaming performance.


Gameplay - 8:

The controls are precise, and feel familiar yet different. Your ability to aim and use alternate weapons all resembles other shooting games, but the way your plane actually handles gives the shooter a unique feeling. Some of the combat manuevers are a blast to pull off, like the barrel roll. Some of the menu/customization stuff was a bit difficult right at first, I didn't quite understand how the secondary weapons were selected and set up, but once I was familiar with them, it was pretty quick and easy to choose what I wanted.


Intangibles - 8:

The campaign mode is nothing special. It's not bad really, but it's not the reason to play this game either. You can unlock a couple of achievements and such, but it feels more like training for the online mode, which is pretty robust. I'll admit, I was a bit surprised by that. I've played a handful of slightly older games lately that had little to no active online players on it. Heck, I haven't found a single online pairing for Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, which is about the same age. With quite a few different online modes to go with the people still playing, there is a good deal of fun to be had here.


Overall - 7.5:

It seems like this should be a higher score. I picked it up on a discount week, so it was only 400 points for me - but even at 800 points the game is a lot of fun. I generally just play it in small 15-30 minute bursts, but I enjoy the matches I play in. It's not as good in my mind as a Modern Warfare game or something like that, but you gain levels and that sense of progression online is still a fun one as is the core gameplay and combat. That they've skinned the whole thing with a Peanuts theme only enhances the game's appeal overall.



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura - PC Game Review

I like classic games. I have most of the old consoles still around my house in working order. One thing that is tough however, is playing older PC games (I still have this old Magic the Gathering game that requires Windows 95 or 98 to play sitting in a box), because the system requirements don't match up and many of them simply don't load or run. Some you can get around, but not most. That's why I was pretty excited when I found Good Old Games (gog.com) - they have many classic games playable on the PC.

I also didn't have a PC until I was midway through college, so while my history of console gaming is pretty extensive, I'm a bit weaker on the older PC front. One of the games I picked up awhile back was called Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. It's a mouthful to be sure, but it had a solid pedigree with Fallout developers having designed it, so I picked it up on sale one day. I know that this game got great reviews when it first came out, and a lot of people on GoG reviewed it, but it was one I struggled with to be honest with you.



Graphics - 4:

I know that this is an older game, and I keep that in mind, but while some things like the menu and the character portraits look nice, the rest of the game is just really bland and featureless. Walking around gives you very little new to see of interest. I kept getting the impression that even though this game is older (2001) - the graphics feel older than that even.



Sound & Music - 7:

There's almost nothing in the way of in-game sound effects, and that mingled with the sparse graphics can make your journey feel a bit empty. Luckily there's some voice acting, and it's actually pretty good. There's also a decent if somewhat repetitious musical score at play. Certainly fares the years better than the game's visuals.



Gameplay - 6:

I can appreciate a lot of what they tried to do here. This is probably one of the earlier systems where you see your actions affect the world around you. This is a theme in Fallout and plenty of other games since, and it works pretty well. The character creation system is actually pretty detailed as well, but truth be told I almost had more fun with this than the game itself. A lot of the gameplay elements are less-than-intuitive and though pretty much everything can be found in the PDF manual, it's not always easy to find what you're looking for.

My biggest gripe though? That has to be the combat. It just feels broken - almost silly in the way you click on things to swing and attack (I built my guy up for melee primarily - maybe it's less awkward for different combat styles, but I have my doubts. Sometimes party members hit other party members, things like that. Also the followers take odd paths at times and get stuck.



Intangibles - 7:

The game has the potential to be quite large. There are a ton of side quests, though I honestly did not bother with many of them - which was in and of itself an indicator as to how little I was enjoying the game. The way you can develop your character does lend some replay value to the game, as well as the deep creation system. It's a very open-ended RPG, but so many of the mechanics just did not work for me, and drained the fun out of the game. There are some multiplayer and map editing options I never got to make any use out of, but for those interested that's probably worth a point there.



Overall - 6:

It wasn't horrible, and I would say I spent about 35 hours beating the main storyline, but I'm someone who does every single side quest available in Dragon Age or buys every piece of property in Fable 2. So the fact I was streamlining my adventure is a pretty good indication that I just was not enjoying the game as much as I thought I would.