Axiom Verge - PC Review

This homage to Metroid does not just respect the formula - it improves it

Order of Battle: Pacific - PC Review

Surprise - but this is one of the best strategy games of 2015 so far

Gratuitous Space Battles II - PC Review

Get ready for lots of strategic space combat - your time will be well spent

MLB 15: The Show - PS4 Review

It is still the best game of baseball on the market, though the improvements from last year are minimal

Sayonara UmiharaKawase + - PS Vita Review

A challenging platforming title that gets an update for the Vita - but has it aged well?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony - PSP Review

I never played any of the prior Dungeon Siege games, but I have been at least somewhat curious about Dungeon Siege 3. That said, I did get Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony for my PSP some time ago, and only somewhat recently started to play it.

You pick one of three characters (I went warrior) to begin with and a companion to go with you (you generally want to compliment your main character's abilities - so for example I took a mage with ranged attacks). It is an action RPG game that offers a fair amount of customization as you level up.

Graphics - 7:

Characters are pretty well animated, but the backgrounds to me felt a bit... overused. Early on I felt like I was seeing forests, caves, caves in forests, forests surrounding caves... you get the idea. Eventually those assets branch out and you get more, but I would have liked a bit more variety overall.

Sound & Music - 8:

The voice work was pretty solid, and a game has enough variety in sound effects that they never grew monotonous to me. The music however, was very good. It was often well-suited to what was taking place in the game and it did an excellent job of helping to set the mood.

Gameplay - 6:

The menus are a bit confusing at first and the tutorials in-game were pretty limited. The gameplay was a good deal more simplified than I would have expected. For all of the background number crunching that goes on with collecting loot and leveling up stats, combat really just consists of walking up to creatures and mashing a couple of buttons. The loot system is rewarding and keeps you from getting too bored with the grind itself, but the combat mechanics did sort of bore me.

Intangibles - 6:

There's an online mode I never really tried to take advantage of. I've read it was decent, but it just did not interest me. The main quest was of okay length - around twenty hours. Not bad for a portable, but like the combat it just felt lightweight. I was more interested in my stat progression and loot pickups than the game itself, which is a bad sign. There are a number of quests, though they are pretty simple and most of them did little to engage me, though they did provide gold, loot and experience.

Overall - 6.75:

It was not a bad game, and it can be found pretty cheaply now. It did not engage me as much as I had hoped - I never really felt a connection to my character or the storyline and the combat was a bit too simple for my tastes. The most interesting part of the game was those rare loot drops, but I was always maxing out my carried items, which forced me to do a lot of on-the-fly inventory management, which bogged things down a bit for me as well.

The presentation itself was solid, and at a glance when Sony introduced Ruin for the Vita, that game really reminded me of this one, but with prettier graphics and hopefully some deeper game design.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gaming Thoughts... 7/28/11 - 3DS news

So, Nintendo made some big announcements. Back when the Vita announced its $250 price point with what looks to be superior hardware, I predicted that Nintendo would have to drop the price of the 3DS as a result. I will admit I figured that this would happen a bit closer to the Vita release, but Nintendo has said it will be effective in August. I think that's a smart move because while they no doubt could have stretched that date out closer to the Vita release and gotten a bit more money out of it in the process, I think the sooner-than-later approach will help them out in the all-important battle to get their handheld into as many homes as possible before the Vita releases.

When I first read that though, my first thought was - what about early adopters? Well, they get a bit of a deal too - as Nintendo's promising twenty free older games through their e-shop. Now, those game offerings are cool - but they do work out to effectively paying $4 a game for customers who adopted early and I've seen some blog and forum posts claiming it's not enough. Certainly if I was in their spot as well, I'd want to get as much out of the Big N as possible, but I think all early adopters are aware that hardware prices are bound to drop. I still expect the Vita will eventually come down $50 or so after about a year as they get a bit cheaper to make and this is one of the reasons the Wii U probably won't find a place in my house until it's had a price drop as well.

Overall, what are your thoughts? An $80 price cut? I'll be honest - I may be considering one of these at some point once I've built up a bit more in trade-in stock. For those of you who haven't purchased a 3DS yet - is this price drop enough incentive? For those who were early adopters, how do you feel about the price drop and proposed compensation?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Archon Classic - PC Review

I first discovered Archon on my NES many years ago. I came to play Archon 2 on a friend's computer as well afterward, but somehow the original Archon remained entrenched as a favorite of mine. I wound up saving my allowance to buy it for the NES and played countless matches afterward.

The game itself is an interesting hybrid of chess and simple combat. The game is billed as a struggle between light and darkness. Each side has its own pieces, and their counterparts are generally comparable. You have the basic knights and goblins (think pawns) and other mythical creatures like unicorns, basilisks and queen-like Dragons. Some units 'fly' others walk.

The chess-like elements are founded in the two opposing sides of the board and squares that make up the board. Some squares are forever dark, others forever light - just like chess. One differentiating element is that fluctuating tiles that change one shade lighter or darker every passing turn.

You win one of two ways - you take all the squares of power (there are 5) or you destroy the other side completely. The combat elements are two-fold. Each character has an attack: knights and goblins have very little health, and their attacks are weak, short-range melee strikes while Dragons have a powerful ranged attack with lots of life.

The color of the squares however affects the creature's life. A dragon has considerably more life if on a dark square than a light one. Each side's primary piece (think king or queen) has a handful of useful spells they can cast one time each.

This almost feels like a Retro Reflection as well, since it has such a long description. That said, this game does enhance upon the original. There are expanded game modes, including secondary attacks now and new rules. There are also a handful of campaign modes that create situations for you (like using two characters that are a bit stronger than the opponents and overcoming their eight units). This mode adds things like experience and level gains.

Graphics - 7:

This is not exactly top-shelf stuff, but they are a vast improvement over the original, with better textures and details across the board. The battle arenas have always felt a bit sparse, and that holds true today. The board could use a bit more of an update as well, but it does not look bad either.

Sound & Music - 5:

There are limited but effective sound effects. That said, in a longer fight, they can grow a bit repetitive, but even then the longest matches usually only take a minute or two. The music is okay and fits the action, but it is far from amazing. There is no voice work at all.

Gameplay - 7:

Menus are easy to navigate, the various mode offerings are nice. It would have been great if the game had some sort of online mode though. Two of my friends and I played quite a bit against one another before, and this game allows for local competition, but some sort of online would have been nice. Campaign mode does a nice job of giving you something to do besides the tradition even-sided match. The storyline is pretty minimal, but as a kid I was always coming up with my own sort of 'story' for light vs. darkness, so the effort's appreciated. Combat plays like it did before, which is generally good and the addition of secondary skills (which can be turned off) was a nice surprise.

Intangibles - 6:

The four campaign modes do chew up some time, and the ability to play against a person or the cpu locally is fun, but there was a missed online opportunity that would have added a lot of value to the game. It has an old school feel that I can appreciate having spent soooo many hours playing it when I was younger as well.

Overall - 6.25:

The normal price for this game is $10 on steam. For me, the game has some fun nostalgia to offer, because I was such an ardent fan of the original. On top of that, I got it on discount around Christmas time for about $3, so it was easily worth it to me then. For others? It is hard to say. My son played it for a few nights and liked it, but has not really bothered with it since. I get the feeling that for most people, it will be fun for a couple of nights or so, but fall into obscurity before too long. The campaign mode adds some value, but only so much. As a note? It plays far better with a controller than a keyboard.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

White Knight Chronicles - PS3 Review

When I first spotted White Knight Chronicles in an issue of Game Informer, I was fascinated by the idea. I love RPG's and this had a different look and feel to it than the average RPG coming out of late. I enjoy the 'western' RPGs like Fallout and Mass Effect, but I've always enjoyed my more traditional JRPG's as well.

When White Knight Chronicles came out, the reviews were pretty bad. Almost every professional review site lambasted the game for a variety of reasons, and I held off from picking it up right away. Eventually though, my wife found it used and picked the game up for me, and I'm glad she did. My son and I both played and enjoyed the game quite a bit. Is it perfect? Far from it, but we both had a good deal of fun with it.

Graphics - 7:

The game won't win any awards here for technical merit. The environments look good but sometimes lack detail. Character models are not great, but the cut scenes were generally fun to watch. My son compared it to watching a cartoon. There was sometimes some odd pop-in and tearing, but almost never much in the way of slowdown. I also appreciated the wide variety of locales the game provided, and really sold the world as a whole I thought.

Sound & Music - 8:

The music was excellent in my opinion. I loved the opening music - the attract mode with cut scenes from the game played out against the instrumental (found here on Youtube if you're curious) is one I really liked. The voice actors do a good job with their roles, some of them really good and few actually embarrassing themselves along the way.

Gameplay - 6:

The game does take a few hits here. The combat is a bit slower than I would have liked. The building of an online village is fun, but there were a lot of questions I had that I could not find any information on. The combo system was not terribly clear right off of the bat. Still, leveling characters is rewarding and you get a good deal of customization to them. One thing that disappointed me is that your character is silent throughout. He is not the star of the game, in fact he is really just there as a combat aid. The customization system is very cool, but it is somewhat wasted on the fact your created character is more or less just along for the ride. It's understandable to a degree because roles and characters are very clearly defined for the sake of the storyline, but it did hurt my connection to the game.

Intangibles - 7:

The storyline was a bit over the top in places, but I enjoyed it for the most part. The game itself was seldom actually hard and I did beat it in about 40 hours. The new game plus was a nice touch, and I did play through it a second time to get some more trophies and try some different character combinations. The ending, without spoiling anything, was set up for the sequel that has already been announced.

There is an online component that adds some value to the game as well, though I did not get to participate with many online groupings - I didn't have any friends playing the game and I don't generally enjoy grouping with random people as much. Still, it was a neat, and slightly under appreciated feature.

Overall - 7:

And speaking of under appreciated, I feel like this game was precisely that. It plodded at times, and the combat was a bit slow for my liking - but I enjoyed the game and am looking forward to the sequel. Now that it's been out for a bit, if you are interested, the game should not be terribly expensive to pick up.