Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

One of the main games I'm still excited for, that hasn't released yet, this year is Alice: Madness Returns that's being developed by Spicy Horse and published by EA. I'm not usually a fan of EA games, but loving the original I'm wanting to give this one a try. The fantastic news regarding Alice: Madness Returns, is the fact that they will be releasing American McGee's Alice for download on the consoles.

 McGee was quoted as saying, "There's also going to be pretty significant release which is the original Alice brought over to the consoles so that a person who's purchased Madness Returns gets a download code and is able to bring Alice 1 onto their console and play through the entire original game alongside playing Madness Returns."

Although I would prefer it to be on the disc alongside the new game as opposed to a token for a download, it is still very exciting news, and I'm hoping that they tweak the graphics and upgrade them for the HD consoles.

The Bad

With the release of Mortal Kombat today, it is found out that there isn't an Xbox 360 exclusive character. However, there is a PS3 exclusive character - Kratos for the God of War series. The developers have come out saying that it was the circumstances that denied them the opportunity to create a 360 exclusive character and that they would have liked to.

This seems like a Sony marketing ploy; along the lines of paying to have dlc released early on a console. To me it sounds like Sony contracted the MK developers to create an exclusive character for them and at the same time deny the 360 that luxury.

The Ugly

FortressCraft is a Minecraft clone for the 360 released under the indie section of the XBLA. By clone, I actually mean almost an exact copy. And in it's first six days of being released it has sold 58,572 copies, and the demo has been downloaded 84,006 times.

These types of sales are phenomenal for an indie game, and I'll be the first to say that indie developers deserve every penny they can make. But these numbers are atrocious for a cloned game. A game that is a blatant ripoff should not sell this well period. I love the indie market for the simple fact that they are required to be innovative, to come up with new idea because they don't have the budget for a major graphical game and FortressCraft has ruined that idea.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mafia II - A Short Review

Mafia II was developed by 2K Czech and published by 2K Games and 1C Company and released August 24 2010. I just now got around to beating the game. I gave the first one a try when it originally came out for the Playstation 2 and didn't find it particularly enjoyable. But I figured I'd give the second one a try after seeing some of the reviews and the fact that I'm a big time mafia movie fan.

The story was cliched. It was a reminder of all the good mobster movies, from Godfather to Goodfellas, with a bit of Casino thrown in for good measure. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's a strong story, but one I've seen too many times before.

The controls are damn near perfect. Driving especially so, being able to drive cars from the 50s and up was great and really makes you feel like you're in the golden era of the Mafia. All the characters are done extremely well although some aren't as fleshed out as I'd like them to be. There are a handful of main characters that you learn about but there are too many side characters that show up once and then were abandoned.

Which leads to the game's biggest fault the lack of side missions. Mafia II is set up as a sandbox game but 2K failed to fill it with anything. The only thing to do in the game is to drive from point A to point B to start the next part of the chapter. This entirely defeats the purpose of it being an open world.

My other big complaint about the game is the sheer amount of glitches in the game there were atleast two missions where the AI screwed up and I had to either restart the mission or push the NPC to the next point of reset. This type of glitch is inexcusable from a major game developer.

The graphics are nothing impressive. The story is lackluster and cliche. The game is riddled with glitches. And it's an empty sandbox, nothing more than the main story and too much driving and running between the mission starts. However despite the flaws if you're a fan of the mafia genre of anything it's worth a play, however I suggest waiting until it price drops to around $20.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood: A Short Review

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood is the latest addition to the Assassin's Creed series, the release date being November 16th 2010. It was developed by Ubisoft Montreal primarily with the multiplayer being developed by Ubisoft Annecy.

This is going to be a bit briefer than my previous reviews mainly because this isn't really Assassin's Creed 3, but more of a 2.5 edition. The plot continues the story of Ezio Auditore and his fight against the Borgia. The entire game takes place in Rome and it is an amazing feeling to climb places such as the Colosseum.

The plot in this game takes a dive from the last game, it's slightly less engaging and overall more boring. It's still a great story, far better than a lot of the rubbish out there, just not as great as the second game.

The problems of the second game are still here with the clunky movement at times and combat is still insanely easy.

But where the game really shines is the multiplayer. I have to give it up to Ubisoft Annecy, this is one game series I never thought would have multiplayer. The multiplayer in this game is extremely innovative; I can't think of another game like it.

In an age of Call of Duty and CoD clones, this mutliplayer is a refreshing smack in the face. It's still extremely competitive and you're still killing other players. But just like in the single player campaign you're rewarded by using stealth and sneakiness to assassinate your opponents. Ubisoft implemented a leveling system that rewards you with more weapons, skills, perks, and character models to choose from, although I'm not a fan of most leveling systems it still seems pretty fair and balanced. The times I've played it's rare to run into other players that out level you by more than 3 levels.

Overall it's a great game and the multiplayer alone is well worth the $60 price tag that it released at.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Assassin's Creed II: A Brief Review

The second installment of the Assassin's Creed series was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, published by Ubisoft, and released November 17th 2009. By dropping the other two development companies that worked on the first game Ubisoft made a game that was leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor.

Assassin's Creed II begins with a whole new story, beautiful graphics, more intriguing characters, and a far superior plot. It is still a sequel in the truest sense of the word, but Altair is no longer present in the game, except in a series of flashbacks. You continue to play as Desmond Miles, however the sluggishness of the first game is absent from the second entry.

Ubisoft Montreal did a fantastic job of picking up the plot and running with it. They removed the sluggishness of the first one by making the jump between Animus sessions and the modern world less frequent and when in the modern world there are two new characters to learn about all the while learning about the fight between the Assassin's and the Templars.

Ezio was a far more interesting character with a more interesting life than Altair. This is probably helped by the fact that you play Ezio basically from birth, through some of his adventures as a lady-wooing teenager, through his family's murder and clear through his inducement into the Assassin order.

The turn that Ubisoft Montreal took with the pieces of Eden was fantastic. I love the blend of sci-fi and historical context. The puzzles left as clues by the previous test subject are challenging but the video unlocked it well worth it to find and solve all of them.

Assassin's Creed II also introduces two new characters, Rebbecca and Shaun, two of the remaining Assassin's you end up training with. Rebbecca is an engineer, who created and improved the Animus based on Abstergo's design, and Shaun is the data analyst for the entire Assassin Brotherhood. Both characters come across as genuine and believable. And both make you want to learn more about them through the optional dialogue, it had me hooked. Lucy is still there and is still an extremely likable character, possibly even more so now that she isn't an Abstergo employee and is more herself, as an Assassin.

This is compounded by a great cast of characters inside the Animus world also; ranging from Leonardo Da Vinci, to Machiavelli. These characters are all fantastically done and their personalities transfer really well into video game characters. Over the course of the game you see Ezio's and Desmond's relationships with these people grow and mature, more Ezio than Desmond, but that's to be expected when 90% of the game is played through the eyes of Ezio.

However, even with all the praise the game is still flawed. There's a few extremely awkward camera angles and the controls still aren't as fluid as they should be for a game with parkour as a central feature. Combat is still sickingly easy, possibly even easier than in the first. Although the submissions in this game are vastly improved and no longer a real necessity, the ones that are there aren't too varied but they removed the least fun one from the game entirely.

The game does exactly what a sequel should do, fix the problems of the previous game, improve on the general game, and expand the story. The game is enjoyable while playing, but it really is the story that'll keep you coming back for more. Overall the game is worth a purchase with the price tag being right around $20.

Pax East 2011

PAX East, the Penny Arcade Expo on the East coast, was a week or so ago. Nothing major was really announced. Mostly it was just previews and demos of games announced at either E3 or PAX Prime. Still sadly I wasn't in the attending; living in the Midwest kind of sucks in that way.

However there was a demo available for Portal 2 (I'll try to have a video up later), Fire Fall looks promising, in the way that ABP looked promising. And Wizards of the Coast is finally releasing their own version of a virtual tabletop.

Portal 2 is slated to release mid-April. And I couldn't be more excited. Valve has announced that Portal 2's single player and co-op length is two and half times the length of the original Portal. It's still retained that Portal comedy that made the first one so amazing and the inclusion of a co-op multiplayer is a fantastic addition, especially considering it's going to be two different stories and sets of map.

Fire Fall is an online only Third Person Shooter. It looks to have promise, but the little I've seen seems like the game is a quite a ways from release. With only three playable classes it looks to be a mediocre experience extremely subpar when compared to games like Team Fortress 2. If they don't beef it up some it'll be just another lackluster game in a market oversaturated with lackluster and shitty games.

Now what I'm most excited for. Wizards of the Coast has done a great job of attempting to bring new players into the fold of Dungeons and Dragons. They've set up D&D encounters at game stores across the country, where beginners can just join in, so long as they have a set of dice. They've produced two board games, Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon, both a mix of Dungeons and Dragons and a typical board game. They've rereleased the famous Red Box, the newbie's guide to D&D essentially. Many 3.5 players believe that 4e is a simplified game, and if that wasn't simplified enough Wizards of the Coast just released the Essentials which further simplifies the game to allow new players.

Wizards of the Coast's newest project will help both new players and experienced players alike. Dungeons and Dragons Virtual Tabletop is essentially an official version of Maptools. It allows players to play with friends from pretty much anywhere with an internet connection. As much as I like the open source community, when you have an actual developer making something it tends to be leaps and bounds ahead of the freeware version. D&D: VT is currently in closed beta and doesn't have a release date yet, but I'm eager to get my hands on it.


Apologies are in order, I've been extremely busy as of late with the start of my second set of eight week classes and with a few friends and family back in town from places abroad. I've also been working out the logistics of moving the blog into more of a video format, something a bit more entertaining.

I'll have at least the third part of the Assassin's Creed review up tomorrow and a decent size post about PAX East which just wrapped up. So bear with me while I get everything back on track and it'll all be back up and running in no time.

Anyone who's done a bit of video reviews, let's play or even podcasts got any advice to a newbie at it all?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted. - Assassin's Creed Review

Let’s tackle the first game first. Assassin’s Creed was released November 14th 2007. It was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, Gameloft, and Griptonite Games and published by Ubisoft.

The first game in the series has a lot of things going for it. But primarily it is the visuals; the graphics are extremely well done especially considering the release date. The cities are extremely massive and there are three of them, Damascus, Jerusalem, Acre, all with multiple sections and gorgeous visuals. There is also the land in between them known as the Kingdom also massive and the Assassin Stronghold of Masyaf. The story of Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, Desmond’s assassin ancestor during the Crusades, was brilliantly written. It had an intriguing plot and I couldn’t wait to figure out what happened next. The characters were believable and the villains were not clichéd in the least and exceptionally brilliant, especially Al Mualim. The plot twist at the end was sheer brilliance and next to impossible to see coming.

The plot and the visuals are really the only thing going for the game. The series as a whole is plagued by mediocre controls. For parkour being a large part of the game it isn’t fluid movement and sometimes the main characters in the game do stuff that you didn’t mean for them to do. It is most likely caused by an over simplification of controls and is probably just a byproduct of playing it on the Xbox 360. Another problem that plagues the series as a whole is the combat for a game that claims to stealth based and is called ASSASSIN’S Creed there is a lot of open combat and once you get the counter ability it makes it a joke. To win in against any number of combatants the player just needed to stand there and press the counter button, “X” on the 360, at the appropriate time and the player could not die.

The main problem with the first game is the times you are not playing as Altaïr, being pulled out of the Animus periodically completely removes you from the narrative of Altaïr and makes the game seem slow and sluggish. The mechanic was soundly done in the other games, but in the first one Desmond gets pulled from the Animus for two lines of dialogue and then a short walk to his bed to continue to the next day.

There were also way too many collectibles in the game. City or area had a set of flags that Altaïr was supposed to collect. Many of the cities had multiple sets of flags due to the different influences in the different districts. On top of having to collect flags Altaïr is also charged with killing Templars positioned all over the map, however unlike the flags killing the Templars was fun but didn’t add much to the actual gameplay. This is a problem with many games on the market and it’s hard to hold it against the game since it is entirely optional and has no bearing on the game.

Assassin’s Creed also got pretty repetitive. The main story was fantastic, although not varied. The sub-missions leading up to the main story mission were repetitive. Before the player can complete the main storyline in each district there are a set of submissions meant for the player to complete, using all the watchtowers, saving citizens from guards, pick pocketing information, beating information out of people, race missions, and assassinating a certain number of guards. Every one of these missions was essentially the same as the ones previous to it and although for the most part optional if you wanted the best shot at killing your main target it was best to take care of all the sub-missions.

Assassin’s Creed was the worst game in the entire series so far. It is a skippable entry; the second game has a complete story rundown in the beginning. It was enjoyable for the most part, but if you’re not concerned with actually playing it I suggest just skipping it and moving on to the much better Assassin’s Creed II.