Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Witcher 2: Review

One of my cousins recently described this game to me as "30 hours of bliss, bliss on tap." I can't disagree.

Lets start with the graphics. Six months ago I couldn't stop gushing about how pretty the demos and early screenshots were. Well, the real thing does not disappoint in the least. From hair, armor, and weapons swaying realistically as you move to environments actively reacting to weather and breezes, this game goes boldly to the front of the pack and sits there daring anyone to do better. I for one hope the other developers step up, a little healthy competition never did anyone harm :D. Consoles will hold back the market somewhat until the next gen comes out, but thats a discussion for another time.

Staggering detail, you can tell right away the time and effort that went into every scene.

Even though the graphics are surprisingly well-optimized for lower end machines (on low you can even expect dual cores with 3 year old cards to lock at around 30 if my work computer is any indication), it can shred even the most up-to-date systems on the highest settings. My beast 8-core had to play with ubersampling off; a new feature that smooths textures, although some dislike it for the slight blurring effect. Even so, the eyegasms were semi-constant as I looked over the camp in the opening few hours of the game with row upon row of tents flapping in the wind and almost a hundred NPCs going about training.

I like the ubersampling effects, but many just see it as a loss of detail.

While I'm talking about graphics I have to give a kudos for FINALLY having some mature sex scenes in a game like this. For too long we've been hand fed sex scenes with bad music and slow meaningful looks. When my character gets "lucky" I wanna get lucky too! Lets see some ti-tays! *sailor whistle*

I actually had a hard time taking a screenshot that wasn't full of TnA... whoohoo!

For anyone who has played the first one you will see MAJOR changes depending on your choices in the first game. I won't spoil anything, but you won't be unsatisfied. The developers went out of their way to actually include real tangible differences from game-to-game, none of this 'get an email from someone you decided not  to kill' crap.

... and the game-changing choices just keep on coming. The entirety of chapter two is set from different perspectives depending on your choices in chapter one. Usually I'd scold a game of this caliber for only having around 30 hours of game time, but with all the choices and variety it more than makes it up for it in replay value.

Next time I carry the hot chick and YOU fight.

The combat and skill system is an improvement over the first game, but does suffer from a few nagging problems like an erratic aiming system that has a tendency to switch from one enemy to another every few times you swing. Even so, you can get used to it once you realize that it focuses on who is closest to the camera, and not who you necessarily want to attack. This works for the kind of combat that the game intends (or seems to), divide and conquer.

The skill system allows for many different styles of play, just like the first game, and now allows you to 'mutate' your abilities to nudge your character in the direction you want them to specialize. With the amount of points you will get over the course of the game you can specialize in one 'tree' (or style of play) fully, or choose to hybrid yourself down several paths.

Most end the game around 30-35, more then enough to feel like an agile Hulk or a crafty magician.

The crafting is a series of recipes that you can acquire through various means--mostly just bought--to make weapons, armor, and components out of the odds and ends you will find around the world and the drops of the many different beasties. Alchemy was reinvented as well, with a more streamlined approach (and not in a bad way). The only seeming downside is the excessive inventory clutter that any RPG 'hoarder' will suffer from, as there is no 'vault' that follows you around in the game. If it isn't in your inventory, then don't expect it to come with to the next chapter.

The result of all this re-imagining and innovation is an extremely immersive experience. I actually cared about these characters, and the choices in the game are quite difficult when you have to choose sides.

CDProjekt has already announced that all DLC for the game will be FREE! (hows that for a bro developer?) with the expansion pack already in the works. If it wasn't for this I might have given the game some bad marks for the shortened ending, but apparently they left some strings unstrung so that they could be wrapped up in the expansion, and the last chapter actually wraps up quite nicely in my opinion (even if it is a bit short).

Graphics: 9.8 
Gameplay: 8.5
Story: 9
Sound: 9
Overall: 9.4

Final Verdict: Buy it, Gift it, Masturbate with the packaging. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dungeon Siege 3 Review

A new Dungeon Siege game has been a long time coming. The last game being almost 5 years ago, the Dungeon Siege series has been a pioneer in co-op gameplay, and... well... dungeons. So, without further ado:

Obsidian came into this new Dungeon Siege game with quite a few new ideas for direction, while obviously trying to preserve it's 'spirit' if you will. 

Fans of the series will first notice a complete re-shuffling of the skill/ability system. Gone are skill ups based on usage, replaced with a series of special moves of offensive and defensive tac and a smattering of incremental  changes to the character's base stats. 

Each of the 4 presculpted characters has its own backstory, as well as a set of unique moves and two different forms (mostly one aoe form and one single-target form for each). 

The result has much less depth then the originals, but actually works well in what it was designed to do--make it a more 'pick up and play' experience. Not necessarily a bad thing, it matches the overall direction of the recent RPG market. 

Gone are our stalwart mule friends from DS1 and 2, so RIP Jimmy the half-crazy mule who lasted 5 campaigns ;_; (screenshot from DS1:legends of Arana)

If the differences had stopped at that, then this title would have been a great new addition to the series.. unfortunately it goes downhill from there. 

I won't sugar-coat this. They completely screwed up the co-op. Basically, the co-op games can only have one of each of the character types. Both you and your friend love playing Lucas? Too bad, that would break immersion (in an action rpg... lol). Also, nothing you do in co-op games can carry over into single player so you cannot continue the story or keep playing your co-op character without a friend...

Emphasis has shifted in this game from combat (the focus of all previous games) to story. There are very clear reasons why the focus was on combat in all previous games, replay value. You played through the game with your buddies, then played it again on a harder mode. A simple formula, and one that has worked for many years.

As you can see the graphics aren't all that spectacular, but they make up for it with very high performance on pretty much any viable system.

Items have also been simplified. Sets of items and uniques have always been part of the series, and are one great way to keep the experience interesting, but now there are only 'rare' items... and little else. 

Games like this have been made over and over again, and I would have liked to think that the format has been refined slowly, culminating with the most recent Titan Quest. With their major break from these norms they get a worse experience, no way around it. 

The story is quite good, its true. Fate of a nation, a deep history, interesting characters--they all come together to make a great narrative worth seeing. 

Wasn't isn't worth it is actually playing the game in the way it was intended on PC. The controls on the PC are a mess. You move with the right mouse button... and attack with the left. Thinking about this a few seconds you can probably figure out the problem in a game where staying still equals death, not to mention you have to dodge with the mouse direction as well. 

Many have come to label this condition 'consoleitis.' That characterization seems to hold true here. The developers have promised to fix some of the control issues in the next patch, although they haven't announced when that might be yet. As it stands now the controls and what they do are a complete mystery except with trial and error, another laughable oversight. 

Anyone remember this move? A film adaptation of the series by none other than Uwe Boll. I actually liked it, but I think I was the only one :P

I know this review has come off as deeply negative up to this point, and with good reason, but this game actually does have some charm. If you can hook up a controller and ignore the PC controls and get into the story with a friend online or on the couch at home, it can be a pretty good experience. 

The combat dynamic in co-op is solid, with every character contributing something unique to the battle. You can run through the main story with a friend in a couple nights worth of sessions, and you won't be disappointed. 

With a bit more complexity, some work on the coop, and the promised control fixes this would have been a solid title. As thing stand, however, I can't recommend it very highly.

Story: 8/10
Co-op: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10 (It can run very well on older systems, and blasingly fast on newer ones.)
Sound: 8/10
Gameplay: 7/10 (would have been 9/10 if it wasn't for the bad controls)
Overall: 7.5/10

FINAL VERDICT: Pick it up if you have a craving for action RPG. It may hold you over till Diablo 3, but I wouldn't bet on it. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Piranha Bytes vs Jowood


Anyone who follows the Gothic series will immediately know what I'm talking about here, for those who don't:

Jowood was the publisher for the entire Gothic series, as well as flagship titles like Painkiller and Spellforce. For publishing these games they quickly received powerhouse status in the industry in Europe and even started making major headway into the american and even the Asian markets (their E3 booth was well-received for several years running)... but that was before every developer of worth jumped ship.

You see, Jowood had a little problem called greed. For years they straddled their developers with unrealistic development schedules and pressed them into releasing unfinished games, Gothic 3 being the worst offense in this thread.

Much to their credit Piranha Bytes still released quality titles, and made the Gothic series a go-to in RPG design that influenced many other titles in the early 2000s. Even Gothic 3 was eventually fixed due to the extreme loyalty of their fanbase, well-earned from their hard work on the earlier titles. This caused one Piranha Bytes developer to say "We have the best fanbase ever." Doesn't that give you a fussy feeling? No? Ok then...

Even with its early flaws, its difficult not to nostalgia hard every time I think about running around Gothic 3. (image taken with Gothic 3 gametool)

...but after the release of Gothic 3 they had enough with Jowood. The split happened mostly behind the scenes, but it was quite obvious to anyone what had happened. They Forced Piranha Bytes to release a title before it was finished, tarnishing their sterling reputation thus far with a buggy release, so they left.

Jowood even tried to milk Gothic 3 for more money with a horrible expansion pack. Way more buggy than the original game... but noone bothered to try to fix that piece of crap.

But then Jowood, being the greedy buggers that they are (or were, but i'll get to that later), forced Piranha Bytes into a legal battle that they were ill equipped to win, taking away the profitable Gothic series from the developer. This led to the release of a huge dissappointment of a sequel Gothic 4. This title, developed by Spellbound interactive, divorced itself from every aspect that made the Gothic series unique and good. Instead of the living atmosphere of the Gothic series thus far, fans had to sit through a 'wax museum' experience with as much life as a dry turnip.

An awful boring experience compared to any one of the other Gothic games. If you feel like running on a linear railroad train, then give it a try.

Jowood has a history of taking rights to their developer's own intellectual property away when they leave, trying to do it again with the Stargate SG-1 franchise less than a year later. Luckily for everyone involved Jowood was embarrassingly forced to admit that they had no legal right to that intellectual property, and never had in the first place. Perception Pty still holds the rights to that series, although the game that they first made for it (Stargate SG-1: Alliance) under Jowood has been held in lymbo ever since, with no sign of further development.

Shortly afterwards Gothic 4 came out. Amoungst poor reviews, sales only totaling 200,000 units (only 40,000 in america link ), and a whopping 10 million dollars in resultant debt... I wonder how hard the good people at Piranha Bytes laughed.

So in the end Piranha Bytes left and signed on with a new publisher, Deep Silver. Since then they have released Risen (which won critical acclaim and continued the 'true' Gothic storyline) with their biggest project yet Risen 2 (financially and otherwise) in development.

Risen 2 will be Piranha Byte's biggest project yet

Oh, and the greedy publisher? What of them? I'm happy to report that as of June they have announced their attempt to gain solvency and finance their massive debt failed. They are officially a defunct company in bankruptcy, which will soon be bought off by a European distributor with their executives that made those idiotic business choices all fired.

To add a note for the fans and a 'happy ending' if you will: Insiders say Deep Silver and Piranha Bytes have expressed interest in buying the Gothic property back from the now defunct company Jowood. This buy is thought to be dependent on the sales of Risen 2 after release. So, if you want to see the Gothic series back in hands that know what to do with it, go preorder Risen 2. Good guys should get rewarded, no?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oh shit son!

Looking like I have to go in for surgery tomorrow because of some congenital heart thing (wtf?), anyway now I feel even more silly for writing reviews then never ending up posting them :P

So... heres my last comic and review for awhile. If I live through this I'll never procrastinate again, lol.

Dragon Age 2

This is going to be a short review (feels right not giving it a full review, because of the state it was released in).

How did Bioware make the graphics for this game worse then ME2, a game that came out almost a year before DA2? Separate production teams. This one needs to be purged like a plague.

Every feature, map, texture, and aspect of DA:2 just screams at the top of its lungs, NOONE TOOK ANY TIME WITH THIS, HAVE FUN WITH A 18 MONTH RUSHJOB!

Heres a good example of what I'm talking about:

DA:O version of a trip to the dark roads: 6 hours of content with HUGE maps/areas and a half a dozen sidequests (all of them pretty interesting, some pretty fun) with a great storyline underneath it.

DA2 version of a trip to the dark roads: Under 1 hour of content with a map that is used twice more in the later game, 1 sidequest that you complete no matter what you say or do, and a average storyline.

Every single feature of the game has LESS to it, never more. 

Skill system? GONE.
Attributes? Only the main attribute for your class + constitution matter, skip the rest because they are useless.

They tried to fool grafics cat with a high res texture pack, but a few shiny armor retexturings won't hide the horrible face textures or randomly horrible wall and floor textures.

Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon age 2.
Maybe he had a seizure? Every face they tried to import from Origins looks worse, no exceptions.

I could literally talk for hours about the corners that were cut on this game. The only redeeming quality I saw was the pretty good storyline, and the combat. Unfortunately the combat was riddled with so many flaws that it hurts my head to think about it.

Enemies come in waves out of thin air and always scale to your level (along with all ingame equipment) making certain that whenever the player levels up he becomes weaker compared to all enemies, along with his armor and weapons becoming weaker as well. This leads to the character actually being penalized for exploring and achieving higher levels! 

Maybe it was somewhat unrealistic to hope for a game at the quality and level of Dragon Age: Origins, being that  this title was made in a little under a third of the time, but in that case they shouldn't have charged 60$ and hyped it like it was the next coming of Jebus.  


Only bother picking up this title if you loved the first one and enjoy the RPG genre, even then I don't recommend buying till all the DLC is in and the price drops.

Oh, and heres a comic for no reason. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011



This iteration is partially an attempt to be a return to the ‘roots’ of the fallout gameworld, which is sort of hard to do considering they used the same engine/models/physics etc. etc. etc.
…but with that said the folks at Obsidian did do a pretty decent job of it, so on to the review.

The opening sequence is brilliant, and ends with you being patched up by one of the local docs, who leads you in setting your SPECIAL stats and perks.  Starting perks are, this time, much less generic to the larger pool and all have significant drawbacks as well as benefits. They even included a Bizzaro World perk for replays, which I very much enjoyed. The extras aren’t as common as you may expect, but still are enough to make re-exploring quite enjoyable.

Remember this little fella from the trailer? He makes an appearance again in the game, and you can even bring him along for the ride... provided you have the skills to do so. 

The first few things you will notice are that the narrative is excellent, and so is the voice acting. Story elements placed in your path don’t seem forced, so finding things feels more like a discovery and less like being led around by the nose.

The voice actors (some you may recognize) are all very good, and after playing through 3 times I can’t remember even one performance that took me out of the story with an ‘ugh’ moment. From the cliché cowboy sounding robots to the detached intellectual Mr. House, I was fairly impressed.

Cowboy robots? Check.

If you played the first game much will be familiar, but the sticklers will be pleasantly surprised this time around. The minor glitches of the first game, like missing in VATS even if it was 100% if the enemy closed to point blank range while in the mode, seem to be mostly resolved. Also you’ll notice slight improvements throughout. One such improvement is greater VATS control of melee and unarmed fighting. Executing an upper cut and making an opponent’s heads snap back, chin pointing at the ceiling, and then watching him fall backwards in that position was quite satisfying no matter how many times I did it :D

One of the many LoL moments of violence. If you're going to hit someone in the face with a golf club, at least keep proper form.

Returned are the old ‘implants’ administered by the ancient and shady autodocs, as long as you have the endurance to handle it. This makes endurance a must on all character builds, along with an increased role of luck in the game world… this is Vegas after all ;)

There are many games of chance to play in New Vegas, all of which rely on luck to determine the odds. For this reason, starting at around 7 luck is best and even upping it to 8 as the first perk achieved. With the right strategies one can come out of a trip to the strip with around 50,000-100,000 caps in the pockets, or be completely broke… as the difference in chances are quite drastic if points are taken away from luck in character creation. Most of the caps you earn on the strip will go towards your autodoc procedures to make yourself th3 uberz.

Mmm heavy ranger armor... Looks so good it makes you wanna slap yo momma. Unfortunately if you put on a faction's armor you get all their reputation baggage along with it. 

The storyline, while good, is quite short (only around 10-20 hours depending on what path you take). Most of the game’s content can be completely skipped in favor of following the breadcrumb trail. Even though most RPG gamers, who have the habit of thinking “OMG A SHACK I WONDER WHATS IN IT!?! :D :D :D” will love every minute of it, it was still odd to talk about the game with people and have them stare blankly if I mentioned the supermutant town, or one of the numerous vaults, or nooks and crannies of the game.

Still, the replay value is extremely high, and if all the separate storylines were to be added up (even with the major overlaps) it is still more than enough to fill the stomachs of any would-be gamer.

These suckers pack a punch, even though it looks like you should just be able to push them over and laugh. 

Graphics were much to be expected considering it uses the same engine as the previous game. Yet, some improvements were made, the most recognizable being that new animations were added, both for human NPCs and the critters of the wasteland. The atmosphere of this iteration is also a bit different, more of a desert and less of a radioactive wasteland.

All in all this in an excellent game, well-worth a purchase, whose only major flaw that I saw was that it leaves you wanting more. Would that all games I played had that flaw :D

Gameplay: 8/10 (crashes every once and awhile on some systems)
Graphics: 8/10
Story: 8.5/10 (short)
Sound: 9/10
Fun: 9.5/10

Final Score: 9.1 Go buy it!

If you have any questions about the game, quests, and strategies don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments  section.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm back! :D

After a long hiatus I'm back with plenty of new content! :D

Anxious to get back in the game and see what everyones been up to since I've been gone. Later today I'll post the Fallout: New Vegas review, and I'm also hanging on to about a dozen previews/reviews that I've written in the meantime so expect new goodies every other day or so.

Until then, enjoy a stoner comic.