Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3: V Generation - PS Vita Review

The latest Hyperdimension game for the Vita makes the most of the handheld and series

Farming Simulator 15 - PC Review

Down on the farm - again. This simulator provides plenty to do for fans of the series

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Xbox One Review

The latest in the Witcher series does almost everything well - a definite Game of the Year contender


This shooter gets almost everything right, throwing lots at you but making it fun

Big Pharma - PC Preview

A fun simulation game with some social commentary to share as well

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mass Effect 2 - Xbox 360 Review

In one of my last posts I was singing the praises of Mass Effect.  Even though that game is a few years old now, I feel as though it holds up quite well by today's standards still.  Well, about two years ago now, Mass Effect 2 came out, and while I had trouble getting into the first game, I had no such difficulty with the second title in this series.

Mass Effect 2 still fully embraces its RPG roots, and Bioware does an excellent job of still giving your character a sense of empowerment as your decisions help to shape the way the story unfolds.  If you have saves from the first Mass Effect game, you can import them into the sequel and your decisions from that game impact what happens here, which is a feature I cannot say enough good things about.  While the first title only has a couple of pieces of so-so DLC, Mass Effect 2 has quite a bit more and while it varies in quality from 'okay' to 'excellent', I find that it all helps add to the overall storyline, which I have become quite invested in by now.

There are some key differences between the first Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2.  Most of them come down to pacing.  While Bioware tried to update Dragon Age so its sequel was more action oriented, the results were considered streamlined and largely unsuccessful.  Here Mass Effect 2 benefits from a tighter focus on combat and menu navigation, and I think the sequel benefits mightily from it.

Gaming Thoughts... Do we need the next generation of consoles yet?

This is something I have been thinking about for awhile now - but I find myself wondering:

Do we need the next generation of video game consoles yet?  For me, the question is an odd one.  I have been playing video games since I got a TI 99/4a and I was around five years old.  I haven't gotten every single console along the way.  Quite often I did not get something like the SNES until years later in fact.  The only system I have stayed current on consistently was the PlayStation.  I had the first PlayStation on release day, and got the PlayStation 2 and 3 within a year or so of their releases.

This last generation of consoles however, I have been very fortunate.  I got a grown-up job, making grown-up money that allows me to make grown-up decisions on how to spend it (generally on decided un-grown-up things like game systems).  The Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and PSP and Nintendo DS and 3DS all came into my house as a result (not to mention the PC I have).  I got spoiled.

But that means I am also really, very heavily invested in this generation of consoles.  As I look around online, a lot of others feel the same way it seems.  Are the technological leaps and bounds significant enough to warrant the expense of new hardware?  It only seems within the last year or two that the systems became more reliable.  There were horror stories about the PlayStation 3 and 360 upon release, with their various lights and rings of 'death'.  Even the Wii was not safe from this, though it was less prominently talked about.

There are some obvious advantages:

- New technology means bigger, faster, more visually and audibly pleasing games
- Lessons learned from this generation can be applied (shipping with larger HDs, true online play)

But do they outweigh the possible concerns?

- What will these systems cost?
- Will there be additional costs, like Xbox Live?
- Will the new hardware be reliable, or suffer the kinds of breakdowns that plagued this generation
- Will all of the technology be welcome? (for example, rumors of limiting used game sales)
- Will there be a push to even more digital content (and if so, will ISPs be able to support it, or is there an additional embedded cost here)
- Will the price of games continue to climb with this generation?

There are some obvious concerns for the system manufacturers and the developers as well.  New systems usually mean less experience with the development tools.  It can be harder to create new games rapidly, and you usually have a lower market penetration earlier in the life cycle of a system than the middle or end, so you have fewer potential customers to buy your games.  With all this new technology, will development costs go up?

I suspect those questions are what spearhead the notion that the Microsoft Durango or Sony Orbis as they are being called, may be using technology to prevent used game sales.  They want a return on their potentially large investments, but I am worried too.  During these early days, I think studios are going to be susceptible to large losses.  Will they be less likely to try out new IP's than to go ahead and roll out things like the next CoD or Assassin's Creed?  Those titles are what you hear about most for the Wii-U at this point - established franchises.

It's all speculation at this point, but my son and I were chatting the other day, and he is turning into quite the little video gamer himself.  Reminds me a bit of me *sniffles at the nostalgia*.  Anyway *clearing throat* - moving on... he commented on how expensive games and systems were.  Even now for his DS and 3DS he can't buy a title new.  He buys them used.  The amount of discretionary income he gets a year is almost nothing outside of birthday, Christmas or the occassional odd job to make a few bucks here and there.  He's been reading all the rumors about next generation and pointed out that he is glad he has a 3DS, because he can still buy used games.  Otherwise he might be priced out of getting games at all if he always had to buy new, or it would be one or two a year.  He commented that he's lucky because his dad buys games and he can play those, but that a lot of his friends can't get games but maybe a few times a year.

I feel I'm getting a bit wordy here, so hang on tight with me (if you're not already glazed over and drooling on your keyboard.  I'm pretty sure I have the knack for inducing that in others).

I found that interesting - that a 13 year old kid is making me realize that the game industry in many ways is pricing itself out of the 'kid' market by and large.  It is almost as if video games, if the prices continue to go up (systems, games) and external costs go up (online subscriptions, online passes) - we are making video games a more adult form of entertainment.  It's almost like the video games are following our generation around, since most of the prior generation never got into them, and now the younger is struggling more and more to keep up.  Are used games the answer?  Probably not.  But they serve a purpose too.  Quick, when was the last time you bought a brand-new NES game?  I still pick up classic games for my old systems.  Do the developers get anything from it?  No.  Is it good to see gaming history played and preserved?  I believe so, without a doubt.

Right - you eventually need that 2nd hand market or the system dies off.  Maybe they want that - obviously publishers are making money off of re-releases of classic titles and compilations.  Eventually it will be a hobby that is probably entirely digital.  But it feels like we are still a long ways off from that, at least to me.  I know my ISP can't keep up with me watching Netflix, and friends of mine struggle to download movies or who download a bunch of Steam games get themselves in trouble.

I think the next generation of consoles is threatening to arrive 2-3 years too soon.  Some of the rumored innovations could be awesome, others could severely hamper the market though as well - potentially doing more long-term harm than good.  It's early, we have lots of time for all of this to sort itself out.  But in this day and age of internet and opinions scattered across it, I suspect publishers, developers and 'the big three' read comments and concerns.  They can't think of everything, so hopefully articles like this, even if I'm in a one-person minority, maybe gets read by the right person in the right place and it gives them a slightly different perspective.

The video game industry is at a crossroads where we have become more mainstream and popular than ever.  A few wrong choices however could set us back considerably, just like the right ones can propel us forward and break the few remaining barriers to more complete acceptance.  I'm excited about the next wave of consoles and their possibilities, but I'm also afraid that a few missteps will undo a generation of growth as well.  What are your thoughts?  What are you most excited about or nervous about?  What one or two things are you most hoping to see come out of this next generation of consoles coming out in the future, and do you agree that it is a bit too soon, or that these console releases cannot get here soon enough?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

MonkeyPaw Games making use of the Kickstarter trend

I am a huge RPG fan.  I play a bit of everything from sports to platformer to action-adventure to strategy... but I spend more time with RPG games than anything out there.  Whether that is a Western RPG like Skyrim or Mass Effect, or a J-RPG like the Final Fantasy games, I find myself enjoying those titles more than anything.

Mass Effect 3 - bonus experience this weekend!

One of my favorite parts about Mass Effect 3 has been the multiplayer.  I am really digging it, and have already gotten around level 15 with all of the available classes.  Yes.  I plan to hit the level 20 cap with all of them.  And now this weekend, Bioware has helped me get that much closer to my goal.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gaming Thoughts - PlayStation 4 "Orbis" - no used games?

A non-Mass Effect article!  Well, there were bound to be a couple as I keep trying to update things here fairly quickly when an article or information catches my eye, and according to Kotaku and IGN - the new PlayStation 4 is being called "Orbis", will not be backwards compatible and will not play used games.  The rumor at this point is the disc will be tied to a PSN account.  Which makes me wonder how that will be handled for others on the same machine.

Considering the backlash that came out in regard to the no used games for Xbox 720, I am frankly pretty shocked by this.  This makes me believe that game publishers are really putting some pressure on the console makers at this point, because this would be the perfect opportunity for Sony to appeal to a larger segment of gamers by doing the opposite of Microsoft on this front.  I suspect both of these may be reality at this point.  Microsoft took a ton of bad press over this, so if they were not going to follow-through on it, it stands to reason they would have come out and said so by now.

When the PlayStation 3 had rumors about this kind of technology, Sony came out fairly quickly to quash them.  IGN contacted Sony, but the official response was "we don't comment on rumors or speculation."  Thing is, they did for the PS3 when it was potentially damaging to their brand's reputation.  As you can imagine, the majority of gamers are not responding well to this in forums and blogs I've seen talking about this so far.

It's an oft-discussed topic, and one I fall into the middle on to some degree.  In the end, I don't think that companies should limit used content.  I can see both sides of the debate, ranging from publishers needing to make back their money to gamers who feel like their rights are being infringed on to some degree.  There are some other major players like Gamestop and Amazon that likely wouldn't be pleased by this either.

As an aside, I am really, really disappointed if there is no backwards compatibility to boot, but I'm sure that is going to be less of an issue for most people than this other rumor.

Any thoughts on these rumors?  With Nintendo as the only one not being rumored to have this kind of protection in place - are they in a better spot to win customer favor as the Wii-U comes closer to reality?  Should Microsoft or Sony step up and say one way or the other, or not in your opinions?  Or is it all just too soon to tell and nothing more than pointless speculation?

Mass Effect 3, NBA Jam, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Kid Icarus and game deals

I have had a pretty focused run on games over the last week or so.  Once I beat Sakura Wars and Kingdoms of Amalur, I decided to beat up on Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Mass Effect 3.  I'm only about twelve or so hours into Final Fantasy at this point, but I am enjoying the game quite a bit so far - but then I enjoyed the initial XIII as well.

I am really enjoying NBA Jam: On Fire Edition for the PlayStation 3 as well.  I squeeze in a quick match or two every morning before work, and have been for about two months now, so hopefully I'll get a review of that up in the near future.

Finally got my copy of Kid Icarus: Uprising for the 3DS yesterday (I had it on pre-order, but standard shipping.  I wanted to play it pretty quickly, but I knew I'd have a day or two of playing some other title by the name of Mass Effect 3).  I can only say that my initial impression is pretty positive.  I loved the pre-order bonus of the original Kid Icarus game from the NES, but 3D-ized (yup, that's a word now.  True story).  I haven't touched the original in soooo long (despite having the old cartridge still bouncing around here next to our NES).  My son has been giving Icarus a thorough playing so far too, already on level 5 and having done a lot of multiplayer, which he says is pretty awesome.

And then there's Mass Effect 3.  I know this release has been polarizing people, and no - I haven't seen the ending yet.  Based on what I have heard, I suspect I will be slightly disappointed because my actions do not greatly effect the ending from what I have seen and heard.  However, there is talk now that Bioware is going to change or add to the ending.  What that means?  No one really knows at this point.  Maybe new endings, maybe more content with future DLC?  I am not really sure what to think at this point.  I know that the game itself has played out as my favorite so far, and that while there are quirks (some texture pop in is pretty rough graphically, and just odd audio/video things like James 'talking and playing cards' but not being visible, or Liara conversing with Jacob and not being visible) - the game itself plays very solidly.  Right now, I'm using the default character and not an import, but it's easy to see how my actions from ME 2 could radically change my experience in ME 3.  I'm already plotting my next play through.  If I am looking forward to another round of the game, it would be safe to say I am enjoying it.

And multiplayer is pretty solid.  Not perfect.  You can get stuck in spaces where Brutes beat you and you just can't move, and when you mean to roll you stick to a wall in coverage, but the gameplay is a lot of fun in my opinion.  The dual currency of coins and experience really helps keep me invested in growing.  But as of writing this, my lowest level character is 14, and my highest is 17 and there's a level 20 cap.  Between that and the relatively limited number of maps, I wonder if Bioware is eying DLC for the multiplayer as well as the single player or not?

I just can't see the ending, even if it underwhelms me, causing me to get up into arms the way so many other players are yet.  The rest of the journey has been entirely too much fun so far.  That said?  It sounds like Bioware is taking the commentary to heart based on their impending patch to fix the face import bug as well as planning to 'address' the ending in some fashion.

Now, onto the deals...

Atlus has several great RPGs for the PSP downloadable at pretty hefty discounts via PSN here.  The most notable are the Persona titles, but there are several others worth taking note of as well.

Steam has a King Arthur sale - the original titles are 75% off, and King Arthur II is 40% off as their midweek deal.  Their daily deal for the next five hours or so is the Luxor Collection for 66% off - or $13.59.

Fox Xbox Live Gold members, racing is the name of the game.  Various packs for Forza Motorsport 4, Joe Danger Special Edition, Daytona USA and Sega Rally Online Arcade.

Good Old Games has some DRM free indie titles such as Trine, The Whispered Word and a pre-order for legend of Grimlock, plus having recently added Anachronix as well to their lineup. 

GamersGate has Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days and Thief: The Dark Project for 75% off, and Lunar Flight for 50% off.

Amazon has James Bond 007: GoldenEye for the Wii for $14.99.

Sony's offering is pretty weak for PlayStation plus, with nothing really free, though there is a lot of discounting, including the new Closure puzzler that IGN scored an 8.5 this morning. also, there is a very heavy Tom Clancy theme as you'll see.

PlayStation Plus:
  • Closure (PSN, Discount)
  • Dead Block (Mini, Discount)
  • MotorStorm RC (DLC, Discount)
  • Skydrift (PSN, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's End War (PSP, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 (PSP, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 (Retail, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Predator (PSP, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (PSP, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (Retail, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 (Retail, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory HD (Retail, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Classic Trilogy HD (Retail, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent (Retail, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (Retail, Discount)
  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell HD (PSN, Discount)
  • Zack Zero (PSN, Discount)

General Discounts:

  • Armored Core 3 (PSN)
  • Armored Core: Last Raven (PSN)
  • Armored Core: Silent Line (PSN)
  • Puzzle Dimension (PSN)
  • Zack Zero (PSN)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mass Effect Galaxy - iPad Review

I've been a huge fan of the Mass Effect series for some time now.  I do admit that the first title took some time to convince me of its worth, but once I gave it a proper chance I dove right in and enjoyed it thoroughly.  When I saw Mass Effect Galaxy come out for the iPhone/iPad, I was pretty excited.  I had seen some games handle shooter mechanics well on the platform, and since the series was an RPG at its heart, there was room to be creative and make sure that it fit the iOS platform.

However, I was surprised to find a game that was a radical departure from what the series had been to date.  Here are my thoughts on it.