One of my favorite games in 2011 was Binding of Isaac. This top down isometric rogue like dungeon crawler was my first real introduction to rogue-like games, and I can safely say that despite the fact the game constantly kicked my ass, and still does to this day, I always go back to it to take another stab at it. When Rebirth was first announced I kept my eye on it, but it somehow snuck past me and only recently was I reminded that it was out. The first question that came to my mind was seeing as I owned the original game with the DLC, which could be bought for under $10, is paying $15 for a remake worth the price of admission.
That answer is yes. Emphatically yes.
(It’s just… so.. happy!)
For those unaware, Binding of Isaac puts you in the role of Isaac, who’s mother recently started hearing the word of God. First, she took everything he owned away, clothing included. Then, she locked him in his room, and finally, God has asked her to kill Isaac to prove her love for the lord. In fear for his life, Isaac jumps into the basement trying to flee from mother, but who knows what dark secrets lurk below? Armed with nothing but your tears and whatever objects you can find in the basement, You only have one goal, survive until the end of each floor, killing some grotesque creatures along the way, until the final battle with mom. But once you beat it, the game continues with even more bosses and even more floors than before on later play through’s.
That’s Isaac’s greatest strength in general. When you first start playing the game, it seems fairly straight forward, but the more you play and do, the more things you unlock. New characters, bosses, more floors, more items, it all gets added the more you play. It’s insane how much is packed away in this game, and that was back in the limited Flash based game. Now, thanks to it stepping away from that medium, a huge amount of additions both in unlockables and technical fixes have been put in. That might be the bigger misnomer here, Rebirth is not just a remake, nor is it a port, it’s a completely overhauled redesign of the game from the ground up. Not only are you getting a new engine which runs smoother overall, you’re getting everything from the original and it’s DLC Wrath of lamb, you also get so much more content because the limitations of flash are no longer there. You can restart progress at a later time if you have to quit. Textures can either have a 16 bit appearance or a smoother look. Shadows and attack effects look much better. Not only are there new monsters added, but there are new versions of older monsters. There is a challenge mode, a harder difficulty with its own set of rare items otherwise not obtainable otherwise for veterans of the original. Two player co-op is possible (although limited to couch local multiplayer only), rooms are not only randomly generated like before, there are new types of rooms, including ones of different sizes that make fighting easier or harder, again thanks to that random nature the genre is known for. Balancing issues have been addressed, and I can safely say from my time playing it that it feels much better, making it more about skill and not necessarily about what items you have, which can be a problem in the original version. The most interesting addition though is known as Seed codes, which when used set up specific room/ boss/ item layouts, and is also a way to input special versions of challenge runs, which could be fun for die hard players, or even encourage some competition between friends as they race through a predetermined seed variation. There is so much here that it makes it worth your while, even as a previous owner of the original.
Not everything is better though, if I’m being honest. There is a luck factor in the game, and while skill does trump items, there is no denying that certain item combinations will tear through the game, so if a friend breezes through the game easy when you have trouble, that’s just how it goes sometimes. This is also a strange point to bring up, but there is just so many items to unlock and no real way to know what does what (especially with the more vague power ups) that you may need a wiki to keep track of it all. And I’m torn about the visual design choices. I think the opening intro movie, for example, looks terrible in its 16 bit form, and turning the smooth filter on does not change it. I actually don’t like the 16 bit aesthetic in general, I find the flash version to be better looking, but the filter does fix a lot of my problems with it, and the game play additions and fixes more than make up for it. I just find the 16 bit design was a throwback to the developers wanting to make this a 3ds game, when Nintendo was never going to let that happen. On a big screen it looks a little weird is my point. It’s also worth mentioning that the controls on the Vita version are bad. They are mapped by default to use the touch screen for things like pills and tarot cards, which is not easy to do in the thick of things. Thankfully, all versions of the game allow you to rebind any key you want, making it less of a problem.
(The HUD is a little different, but it still works fine)
The bottom line is that I was on the fence for the game. I needed a way to play it without paying for it first. I had intended to just bite the bullet, but salvation came, in the form of Play station plus. Oddly, the game, despite only being released the day of Nov. 4th, is free for ps+ subscribers on PS4 and Vita. That’s a great thing for the all the non-PC gamers who missed out in 2011.You can sync your save files between Vita and PS4 versions, which is a great feature Nintendo needs to take greater advantage of. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough new here that would entice veterans to return, but thankfully I was woefully mistaken. Rebirth is a fantastic title, and is defiantly worth the price tag of $15 that comes with it. It’s even better when it’s free though. I highly recommend this game, even if you have the original. It is the definitive version to own. If nothing else, it’s a great way to kill time on the go, or at home while waiting for the next big game to drop. I know until Warlords of Draenor drops at least, I get to devote a lot of time to Rebirth, and I hope you do the same.
Occasionally, it’s hard to talk about something objectively. I am a huge fan of the Alien series. Have been for a long time. So I find it hard to be objective about something I enjoy by default. Even the worst this franchise has to offer can be enjoyable in some way to me. So after the disastrous release of last year’s Aliens: Colonial Marines, when this game was announced I had doubts. I knew it would find its way into my collection one way or the other, but I was worried, fearful another mediocre product was being rushed to shelves because fans of this franchise will stomach anything and everything. Fortunately, I’m here to tell you that Alien Isolation proves to surpass all my expectations, erases all my fears, and replaces them with entirely new ones.
Alien Isolation is a first person survival horror game, much like Amnesia, that puts you in the role of Amanda Ripley. It’s been 15 years since her mother Ellen and the crew of the Nostromo have gone missing. Amanda, who works for Weyland Yutani, is told by a friend of hers Samuel that a space station Sevastopol has recovered the flight recorder, and she goes with him to get some closure as to what actually happened to her mother. Of course, when she gets there, she finds the station in shambles and the locals less than friendly. See, for the last little while, they have been dealing with their androids acting up, the station falling apart and something sinister stalking in the air ducts…
Clearly a lot of love went into the world and the attention to detail around it. First, the story could actually fit into the series of films, which for a video game can be tough to do. Amanda was first mentioned in a deleted scene in Aliens, which can be seen in the director’s cut of the film, and while she’s long dead by the time Aliens takes place, but she is a character that exists in the extended lore of the franchise. There are some plot holes that don’t seem to be filled, but they are minor ones in the long run. Second, the visual design is breathtaking, with claustrophobic hallways, vast and scenic landscapes out in space, and a sort of haunting beauty to everything in between. This is a game that is worth playing on modern systems/PC, and I won’t say that often. The technology and design of all the ships is reminiscent of the 80’s Sci-Fi look that went into the original film, and everything in the game is reflective of that design. It’s a nice touch and again, a throwback to the original film. It’s charming in its own way. I really wish strangely that there was some kind of behind the scenes audio commentary that would let me just wander the ships like some kind of tour that is of course Alien and enemy free, but, there isn’t one, sadly.
(In space, no one can hear you awe in wonder)
The clear star of the game though is the Alien himself. Like the film, the Alien is a fast-moving invincible menace, and thanks to a highly touted and complicated A.I system, the Alien actually hunts and pursues you in many of games environments, and almost never behaves the same way twice. Combine that with the fact the Alien cannot be killed makes for a tense experience. Sure, there are firearms in the game, but none will kill the Alien. The only weapons that even sort of work against him are the flamethrower, which has limited ammo, and Molotov’s, which require a great deal of components to put together, but all they do is scare the Alien away, and while I can’t confirm this, seems to make him mad. Every time I used an item to defend myself against the Alien, he seemed to grow more insistent that he kill me. The A.I is fantastic, and really lives up the hype it has, making the Alien feel alive, and all the more terrifying. Ripley is an engineer, so she’s able to cobble together tools to function as distractions out of items found strewn across the environment, but in a twist taken out of ROUGE-like games, item placement is randomized, and changes with each and every death. And thanks to the Alien, the androids AKA Working Joes, and the few human survivors with guns, you will die. In fact, you will die a lot in this game, on just about any difficultly. People have complained about the difficulty, and while I can admit the game can be hard at times, there is a real sense of accomplishment when you get past an area your stuck on, and the game, despite being hard, never feels unfair. There is a health bar, but the Alien just flat-out kills you if he catches you, which he’s certain to do if he sees you. In another unique design choice, the game does not auto save, forcing you to save as often as possible at saving stations, but when you do save, and any time you use a computer in fact, your wide open for attack. All this combines together to make a tense as hell experience that has you jumping at every light and sound you see and hear. Thankfully, the game does all it can to avoid jump scares, which is a valuable touch, as too many jump scares would just ruin any of the game’s tension. Jump scares are not scary, they are surprising, and there is a difference. That’s not to say the game doesn’t have any, mind you, but once the Alien comes out, there are no more, which is awesome.
(Granted, this will still surprise and scare you. Then kill you.)
However, for all the good the game delivers and how good the game looks, at times there are some.. glitches and bugs. Creative Assembly is primarily known for strategy games, specifically the Total War franchise, so this is actually a huge diversion for them, and to their credit, they put together an amazing experience. But… there are some technical issues that bring the whole thing down. First, while the Alien looks awesome and the Working Joes look synthetic, like they should, human models look bland, have poor lip syncing to spoken dialog, and look really awkward in comparison to everything else. Second, there are glitches everywhere. I played this game for 2-3 hours spurts over the course of a week. Every time I played this game, I got a glitch of some kind, without fail. Some small things, like the alien peaking through vents in ways he shouldn’t, looking into a locker without opening it, and some other interesting visual oddities, like floating objects. I would have ignored those mundane ones if not for the more game breaking ones. I’ve had weapons that I could not raise to fire, making them useless, not able to use the motion tracker, the motion tracker not functioning, which is a different glitch where you can pull it up, but it does nothing, to being pulled into an alien fatality from across the room, like he were Scorpion. An entire chapter shook terribly, and resetting the game, which usually fixed these glitches, did not work, and I had to stumble through a fairly difficult chapter with the screen constantly shaking. And those are just the troubles I had while playing, there are many videos online of a teleporting Alien, DLC downloading issues for pre-orders, to the scary door, which is a personal favorite of mine. While on the subject of the negative, the game is also a little too long, but the extended levels do work and are very nice and tense. They didn’t feel too out-of-place in my 17 hours of playing, but some people have complained, though I feel it’s not as bad as I’ve seen people complain that it is. The ending is a little quick and disappointing as well, without spoiling it, but I suspect that’s either to set up a sequel, or promote the season pass sales for a future DLC release. Although, the DLC could only be challenge maps, so who knows?
( I had these come out of a save point once, and I still have no idea what they are)
Isolation has been called the game Alien fans deserve, and I agree with that statement. The Alien series has unfortunately been more misses than hits when it comes to its video game releases, and while Isolation is a fantastic game, It’s glitches and bugs do sort of ruin the experience after a while. When the game shines though, it shines in a way I absolutely could not have expected it to. It’s the perfect game to play for Halloween, so it’s October release is also just perfect. So, with that in mind, I rate it 8/10. Maybe in a month or two, when/ if many of those glitches are ironed out, the game may be even better, if not perfect for what kind of game it is. It’s not going to be for everyone, admittedly, but the Alien franchise is a series divided into two styles, a slower paced Sci-fi slasher movie style, like this game, and a Sci-fi action movie, like Colonial Marines was trying to be. We just need a better game to support the latter half.
I was looking for a game to dust off my WiiU with, but it wasn’t until I actually looked at my selection of games that I discovered that there isn’t many on the WiiU that I own. A couple of digital titles, a few retro ones, but nothing I really wanted to play. It’s partly why my WiiU has gotten so dusty lately. But then I remembered Mario Kart 8. Specifically, that I got a free game with it when I purchased it. I choose Pikmin 3, despite not having any real experience with the series. From what I’ve seen and heard, it seems to be an excellent choice in the starved WiiU library. But I have no experience with this series at all, so it was a whole new experience for me.
Pikmin 3 tells the tale of 3 explorers, Alph, Brittany and Charlie, who, similar to the series normal protagonist Olimar, crash land on PNF-404, a alien planet in search of food for their starving home world. Upon crash landing, the 3 explorers get separated, but discover a race of friendly plant creatures, known as Pikmin, are willing to help them out by following orders. While exploring the planet to recover fruit, reunite with each other, and look for the cosmic drive key which can take them home, they battle monsters, solve puzzles, and interact with returning characters Olimar and Louie. It’s a little strange the story just doesn’t continue with Olimar and Louie, seeing as they are really the focus of the game after a while, and introducing a new crew who don’t really seem all that important. All 3 characters do have a personality to them, but there isn’t real growth with it. They get some humor out of it though, mostly through Brittany, who claims to be a kind, sharing person, but actually hogs more juice than she shares. There isn’t much to the story, but all it’s there for is to get us from point A to B, so in that notion it serves it purpose. It is however on the short side, coming up somewhere between 12-15 hours to complete.
(Screenshots don’t really do this game justice, its really pretty)
Speaking visually for a second, this game is rather gorgeous. It’s also unique given the perspective while playing. Everything in the world is larger than you, giving the game a microscopic feel to it. It helps to make you feel like you truly are on a alien planet, and you are not the dominant species, your just lunch. But that perspective gives the game a certain charm. It helps that its beautiful for a WiiU game. Fruit looks good enough to eat, the stages have unique looks to them, and the flora and fauna of each stage are highly detailed. It’s actually kind of amazing that the game can handle all that, plus up to 100 Pikmin running around with little to no slowdown or lag. Truthfully, I can’t really find any faults with how the game looks, as it looks really good. It might be the trade-off for the short length of the game, as while it is short, what we are given is visually stunning and very impressive.
Game play wise there is a bit of a disadvantage to the game. It’s a RTS, through and through. It’s dumbed- down for consoles, but it’s still a RTS. your collecting resources for troops, managing troops, and fighting monsters. RTS games on home consoles have rarely been any good. Even genre giants tend to be lackluster in this market. But in fairness to Pikmin 3, I only really have one issue with Pikmin 3 in that regard, and it has to do with boss battles. Boss battles tend to resemble Zelda, in the sense that suddenly you need a more active and reactive game play. It kind of clashes with the rest of the game, especially that you and your Pikmin are not nearly nimble enough to make dodging easy. Outside of that though, the game is simple enough to pick up and play without the micromanaging aspects of other RTS. Simplifying the mechanics of an RTS has done wonders. To compensate, the game is more focused around puzzle solving, and that helps to keep it unique. You can separate and use the 3 captains and sub groups to reach items and areas that are otherwise inaccessible. 2 new Pikmin are added, a stone Pikmin, handy for breaking glass and are immune to being crushed, and a pink Pikmin, who can fly and take on aerial baddies, and the standard red, blue and yellow Pikmin, who are immune to fire, water and electricity, respectively. There are other returning Pikmin in multiplayer, such as purple, but they have been removed from single player. Speaking of, the game does have multiplayer, although sadly its only local multiplayer, either in co-op or VS. Co-op is actually rather fun, although you can only play that way in mission mode, which is basically a time limited scoring round. VS is interesting, but rather poorly put together. The player using the Tablet controller has an advantage over their opponent, as they are only ones with a map function. The only fair way to play VS is to not use it, but then you have to use one of the other controllers, which not everyone will have. I just find it funny that is the only time where people will want to use the tablet controller.
(My greatest enemy….)
That is a big issue that I have with Pikmin 3, and a lot of WiiU games in general. The reliance on the tablet controller. Pikmin kind of lies to you about its controller options. You can play this game with one of 3 controllers, either the tablet, the WiiU pro controller, or a Wii mote and nun chuck deal. All 3 play fine, but the issue comes from the lack of a map function. Only the tablet controller is given a map option, even if you are playing with the other control schemes. So that means if you’re in need of a map, you better get up and get the tablet off its charging dock to see it. A lot of WiiU games also have that silly mechanic of forcing the player to look at the tablet, and here is no exception, as anytime you are contacted by radio, the game directs you to look at the tablet. Thankfully though, you don’t actually have to, as the game still displays what’s on the tablet on screen, within the characters tablet, or the Koppad. WiiU games also like to shoe horn that in as well, but that’s a minor nitpick. The problem is that it can be small to read and annoying. The WiiU tablet also has two ways to play now, one the standard way, and another that uses the stylus on screen to help you aim better. The downside is while playing with the stylus option, you either need to rest it on your knee or you gut as the controller itself is to large and heavy to hold in one hand while using it like a 3DS. It’s like the developers forgot that the controller they are using is much larger than the 3DS, but expect you to use it the same way. Thankfully, you can drop out of this mode easy. Another downside with the tablet is dodging. You are eventually able to find a dodge upgrade, but in order to dodge, you have to push the D-pad. In stylus mode, this is impossible to do without dropping the controller, and you’ll have to train yourself to push the d-pad with the stylus and not your left thumb, which is the reflex. You also can’t change your button layout, which is another annoyance I have, as I have two throw buttons, it would be nice to adjust one of them to be the dodge button. The other control schemes work fine, really they do, especially the WiiU pro controller, which is a really good controller. I just wish that the game didn’t railroad you into using the tablet by taking away a handy feature, especially given that the tablet does not have the longest battery life.
To sum it all up I don’t hate Pikmin 3. Really, I find it rather cute and charming in its own unique way, and I can see what people have seen in this series. It’s a fun game to play, it really is. It’s creative, the stages are well put together, and with the exception of being a little short and the controller being finicky, it’s really a great game. I’ve been harsh on the WiiU, it does have games, but their very niche. Pikmin 3 in particular, as I cannot think of any other RTS game that actually works on console. It’s not worth buying the console for, but it’s something that is worth owning all the same as time goes by. If you’re like I was and didn’t play this one, perhaps it’s time to dust off the WiiU and give it a go. Pikmin 3 gets a 7/10.
Well, it’s here. The first of many games people are saying will turn the WiiU’s favor around. Mario Kart 8. While I think it’s ridiculous to say that one or even two games will “save” the system, let’s take a look at the newest entrant in the Mario Kart series and see if it gets the checkered flag or burns out at the starting gate.
First off, this isn’t going to be a terribly long review, because there is only so much that can be said about Mario Kart 8. It’s Mario Kart. Surely I don’t have to go into in-depth detail about what Mario Kart is, if you’ve played a Nintendo console in the past 10 years, you know what Mario Kart is and if you like it or not. So instead, let’s talk about the stuff they added, and what’s good and what’s bad.
The biggest notable change in Mario Kart 8 as advertised on the box is the antigravity sections that the game has. Almost every track has a section for it, noted by what looks like a blue dashpad, where the wheels on your kart/bike/atv/yoshi bike/flying battleship will turn sideways. In these sections, you can actually get a speed boost by hitting other racers and certain special bumpers. This actually adds a bit of timing and strategy to racing, where a good timed hit in these sections can speed you up, and knock one of the other racers off the edge, slowing them down. It also looks really cool. 3 New items have been added to the collection, the awesome boomerang flower, which works exactly like how you think it does, a potted piranha plant, which isn’t as cool, but does chomp on nearby racers and gives you a speed boost for a limited time, a little like the bullet bill item. The super horn has one use, protecting your lead from a blue shell, as when used it destroys any items that its shockwaves hit. Also added is the crazy 8, which gives you 8 items (Coin, bob-omb, star, green shell, red shell, mushroom and a blooper), it’s rare though, and I don’t know how useful it actually is, as I’ve never actually gotten one myself. The items additions are ok, finally adding a way to protect yourself from that dastardly blue shell destroying your lead. It also seems to be less common than the blue shell( I can’t speak for the math, only by how often I see it vs how often I see blue shells) and lighting strikes are VERY common, which of course not only shrinks you, but takes away your item too. So, even though they added an item to counter the blue shell, don’t rely on it too much. I don’t mind the new items to much, as the boomerang is an awesome addition, which kind of makes up for the other lackluster additions.
Control wise, the game is very smooth on every controller I tried. This is the first WiiU game I’ve played that did not require me to use the Gamepad to play on my own, which is awesome, because I’ve been looking to use my pro controller for quite some time. The motion controls are still there, and they are still as weak as they were on the Wii, but thankfully they are turned off by default, and if you do wish to try it, it can be turned on and off with the press of a button on the gamepad which is handy because once you try it once, you may turn it off just as quickly. It’s very comfortable to play this game on the gamepad, and nothing is lost if you switch to say another controller type, and thankfully this game lets you use any controller setup you want, so if you found a favorite in the Wii version, you’re in luck here. Well, unless you wanted to use a Gamecube controller, but that might not be an issue for much longer.
There are 32 tracks in the game, half of which are new tracks, and half of which are retro tracks, updated to make use of antigravity, underwater, and gliding sections in case they were missing them before. The new tracks are really well made, and are gorgeous to look at, making full use of WiiU’s capabilities graphically. I didn’t feel that I hated any new stage, they were all great, even the rainbow road stage, the most hated stage of all, has some cool moments. The retro stages look great as well, but I’m not the biggest fan of some the changes to these tracks, and one stage from the SNES days feel really out of place in this shiny new world of karting. Still, the tracks are fun, and upgrades to certain tracks make them much more fun they were before. I’m looking at you, Toad’s Turnpike. I only have two issues with the stages, and one is more a personal nitpick. We see some stages from Mario Kart 7, and I think it’s too soon to call those stages “retro”. But considering they have been doing retro stages for years, they may have used the good ones already. The second issue I have is there are no arena stages for battle mode. When you play battle mode with friends, you choose from 8 of the tracks, but they are unedited for battle purposes. You can go forward and backward on any of these tracks, but it’s not the same as having a arena to battle in, as battles are not as frantic as they were before, with far too much ground to cover.
Online isn’t too bad. The races are smooth and lag free, and it doesn’t seem to matter who you race with. It does take longer to start sometimes, but if that’s the tradeoff to no lag, I’ll take it. The only downside I had with online is some connection issues, but there could be any number of reasons for that, it might not be Nintendo’s fault. Still, it’s relatively painless, and bodes well for the future. Maybe Nintendo is finally ready to enter the online market of gaming. Another new addition is MKTV, which allows players to share videos of their racing highlights. After each race the game makes a highlight reel for you and it takes no time to do so, and it has some neat editing features, like how long the reel is, who you follow and what type of action you follow. I don’t imagine it will last too long before the novelty wears out, but still, it’s another cool feature. Hopefully Smash Bros will be released with something similar. You can upload straight to YouTube as well, but you sadly have fewer options and the videos are compressed to 720p. It’s not a deal breaker, as least not to me but I know some people who will be put off by that.
(a highlight reel, from one of my new favorite tracks, to give you a taste of what its like)
Do I feel this is the game to save the Wiiu? Honestly, I think Nintendo is putting WAY too much on this and smash bros shoulders to save their struggling system. They are doing everything possible to make people buy this game, including giving away a free game when you buy it. That’s not to say the game is bad however, as it is a blast to play. Mario Kart games are always fun, and this one is no exception, and for all the WiiU owners out there, I do recommend it. But all the WiiU owners I know already have it, and I’m not convinced it’s going to get people to purchase a WiiU. Regardless, it’s a great party game, a great racing game, and just in general a fun game, easily worth your time. I give this new Mario Kart a:
Dust, an Elysium Tail is a game I ignored it when it was first released in 2012. You may notice a pattern in what I play these days, as it tends to be stuff I’ve ignored somehow. Truth be told, I probably never would have even played it if it hadn’t been the free game for Games with gold promotion during May. It’s not that I heard bad things, but I was probably playing Mass Effect 3 or something, and ignoring the Indie darling enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. But, seeing as it was free, I thought to check it out.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is the story of an amnesiac by the name of Dust, who awakens in a field with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He is approached by a floating sentient sword, known as the blade of Ahrah, and its guardian Fidget, a small flying cat like creature. Together the 3 make toward a nearby village in search of answers as to who Dust is. Eventually, we learn of a race of beings known as Moonblood’s who are victims of a genocide caused by General Gaius, and that Dust has played a role in that genocide. The story is simple, but effective. We get the sense that Dust is a nice guy, so the question of how or why he was involved in this genocide is actually rather intriguing, and it does make you want to press forward to find out more. It’s a tale of redemption, morality during a time of war, and the nature of the soul. Dust and Fidget also banter really well with each other, both in these serious moments and the lighter moments in the earlier segments of the game. It flows well, and given the length of the game, fits just right for it. However, one big issue I have with the story is the motivation of General Gaius. It’s never explained as to why he insists on wiping out the moonblood race. He’s just kind of there to be a big bad, but he never feels like a big bad, except you know he’s the bad guy because of genocide. He’s the final boss, but he’s a letdown. The bosses in general are a letdown, and I’ll get into detail why later, but Gaius is a bigger letdown because the story behind him is… too vague. at least the story surrounding the other bosses fit in nicely.
(Also, they break the 4th wall. A lot. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes its not.)
Would you believe looking at this game that one man did most of the work? Believe it or not, a large majority of the game was created by Dean Dodrill, a self taught illustrator and animator. And for 99% of the game, that is outstanding. The visual details in this game are stunning, considering that fact. The various areas are all well detailed, giving each area a sense of identity and keeps the locations fresh. The animations for many of the characters are fluid, especially in the case of Dust himself, who has a clichéd, but awesome ronin style design to him. Really, the complaint I have is drawn to two animated sequences. Normally in this game when characters a talking to each other, the models used are very limited in frames, and look really good. However, two fully animated cutscenes happen, and they look really cheap. I don’t want to poke fun at the fact that one guy did it, because again, for the most part, it’s awesome, but these two cutscenes stand out like sore thumbs, and look like only one guy did it. It’s feels wrong to point it out, but, wow. That’s a minor hiccup visually though, as the game is very impressive. Audio, however is a bit more underwhelming. Dodrill did not do the sound himself, it was done by a separate company. But the music never hit home with me. It’s not ear wrenching, but it never really stood out to me. Sound effects are also decent, but at the same time never really stand out. Voice acting is a little on the hammy side too. It’s not horrible, mind you, but it’s not award winning. Maybe it’s because visually the game is so strong, that makes the audio portion feel lackluster by comparison.
(Visually, the game is a wonder. One of the best looking Indie titles I’ve ever seen.)
Gameplay wise the game is a triangle of decadence, taking Metroid and mixing it with a 2d brawler, and adding a dash of RPG. As you run around the world finding monsters to slay, combat is broken down to either a basic slash, a magic attack fired by Fidget, and a move known as Dust storm, that manipulates magic and items in the environment. That’s it. There are combos, but the game teaches you them very quickly and never unlock or learn more. I had worried at first this would make for a ridiculously simple and altogether boring combat system, but surprisingly it’s more fun than I thought, and never feels repetitive. Battles are chaotic and fast paced, even to the point it gets hard to keep track of things. There are upgrades in the game, but the only 3 that are combat related are two magic upgrades for Fidget, and a slide. All the other upgrades tend to be movement based, but means more towards world exploration than combat. It works though, and thankfully there is no one combo or strategy to deal with everything, as everything works fairly equally. Not everything is perfect though. The RPG elements are a little on the slim side though. They do affect your stats, but compared to your equipment, they feel insignificant, and a waste of time. Equipment is primarily made by finding items off monsters and using them with blueprints to make new powerful equipment, but finding certain items feels more time consuming then it should, and more often than not you’ll just buy the parts you need from the shop. Another letdown is the bosses. There are only a few of them, but they feel… really lackluster. The problem is combat is more frenetic and fun where there are a ton of monsters on screen. Bosses are a one on one affair, and offer little in the way of challenge because of it. There are only 3 of them, so I suppose it’s not like they take up a lot of play time, but they still stand out as sour notes. It should also be mentioned that game does run smoothly… for the most part. I did have it crash a couple of times transitioning from one area to another, and getting an achievement does seem to slow the game down, but other than that, the fast pace combat stays that way, which is impressive given how much can be going on at a time.
(Just how I love combat. Numbers, flashy effects, and cupcakes)
I’m a little sad to admit that I probably would have never played this one if it hadn’t been free. It’s a excellent arcade title, giving you about 10-11 hours of playtime, more if you’re a completionist, and truthfully except in boss battles, it never feels stale. That’s achievement, considering this game was mostly made by 1 dude. I missed the wagon on this one, and if for some reason you did as well, go check it out. Seriously, its worth the price of $15 easy.
Ya know, I keep telling myself I will keep this blog up to somewhat date, and try to add something new weekly. Well, I keep messing that up. Two reasons for that, 1. I do a lot of work on my bi-weekly podcasts called The Three Guys that keeps me busy. If you like movie podcasts, check it out, I’ll start posting them here more frequently than once in a while. The second thing is I’m a rather finicky writer. Without assignments, I tend to only write when inspiration hits. I have a ton of half finished ideas, and I should definitely get those down at some point, as I think there are some interesting ideas in there, but it’s hard for me to sit down and write. Also, gaming happens, because outside of stuff I want to review, there are just games I want to play. And I can’t think of a bigger time waster that caught my attention recently than Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls.
Truth be told, I was never HUGE into Diablo. By that I mean I was never wrapped up into it as big as some people get. I had a friend who gave me his copy of Diablo 2 because he was losing sleep over playing this game, he was addicted to it. He later went on to play WOW when it was released. That was my revenge though, as I had gotten him into it. But when Diablo 3 was announced, I thought to check it out. And that was when I first learned, not even the mighty Blizzard is immune to day one PC issues.
Still, that was eventually worked out, and I think my opinion on it was the same as many others, meh. It’s a game that tries too hard to be WOW and Diablo at the same time, and not really succeeding in either. It’s passable, but it was never going to be the game changer that Diablo 2 was, by far. To be fair though, it was never gonna live up to that hype, but it wasn’t much more than passable. I eventually put the game away after completing it, I never even bothered to level up one guy to max level, and let it sit on my shelf. Then it’s expansion was announced, and like every other time Blizzard does it, the intro cinematic/trailer got me hyped. Eventually, I got the game. And let me tell you, it succeeds in bring Diablo 3 back to form. So lets talk quickly about it, and give you my impressions.
By the time the expansion came out, the real money auction house was gone. I never had a problem with this in theory, because players were already buying and selling gear black market style in Diablo 2. I can’t blame Blizzard for trying to get in on that action, but when it effected drop rates is what bothered me. In order to get the best gear for your class, instead of playing the game it often turned into a shopping trip. Drop rates have such been reworked with the auction house removed, so now in order to get that rare drop, you can actually just play the game. A novel concept. To prevent the black market from returning though, Blizzard implemented a tool they used in WOW, binding it to an account as you pick it up, with only the other players who were there when it dropped being able to access it. Everyone still gets their own loot still to prevent ninja thievery, another lesson they learned with WOW.
Speaking of gear, stats have been reworked dramatically. Gear now has a tendency to drop only stats that you need, rather than some seemingly global pool. If your like me, and have a old character from way back when, you probably noticed all your gear has some stats you need, and many you don’t. Gear drops have been reworked so more often then not you get stuff that is actually useful to you, with only the stats you use, like Intelligence for Wizards and Dexterity for Monks. Sure you still get gear for alts you have at times, but it makes it easier to build an alt at the same time while gearing your main. This gear fix was a godsend, exactly what the game needed, to keep the player playing for loot.
But Reaper of Souls is not solely a loot pinata. I mean, that’s why many people play it, and Diablo 3 in general, but there is a great deal more to it. The story is actually rather good, and a solid follow up the original game, and is in a lot of ways, better. In Reaper of Souls, the former Archangel of Wisdom Malthael, who vanished after the corruption of the world stone in Diablo 2, has returned and stolen the Black Soulstone with the essence of all the Prime Evils, and intends to use it for… well, not to spoil anything, but he calls himself the Angel of Death now, I bet you can guess what he plans to do with it.
(if you guessed he’s here to sell you girl scout cookies, your sadly mistaken)
Admittedly, this is a much more direct plot than the original game.. but, two things really help carry it. First, the character of Malthael is lore related, tied to something series long players have actually done in the past, and is a well known name, a Diablo series celebrity if you will. You would be surprised how much facing a boss that is more than a random bad guy can have an affect on the story. The second point is Diablo 3’s story.. wasn’t all that good. It tried to create a sympathetic character with Leah, a girl with a dark history that would fall to evil, and it was all destined from her birth, she could not prevent it. The framework is OK.. but Leah herself is not all that interesting, and is usually a damsel in distress more than anything else. It just felt really hollow to me, and was by the numbers rather predictable. This expansion however is a little more natural feeling, and hopefully with expansions in the future(should we get any) The story of Diablo will continue in this nature of established ideas.
The two other big things to talk about are Crusaders and the adventure mode. I can’t say much about the Crusader, as I haven’t played one, but from what I can tell they appear to be very much like the paladin from Diablo 2, or like a cross between a barbarian and a monk, so while I can’t talk too much about that, I can say it seems fun. Adventure mode however kicks ass. You do have to beat the campaign (Reaper of Souls included) to access it, but once you do, it’s game time.. No fussing about with specific chapters or plot, your able to jump in and go to any location in any of the 5 acts and complete bounties, which are quests, and generally run around causing mayhem as only you can. Each act has 5 bounties which range from killing certain mobs and bosses to clearing out a floor or a random event. Do all 5 bounties in a act and you are given a Horadric Cache, which is a fancy term for a box of loot. It’s a great way to just run around and just randomly kill mobs with friends, much like Diablo 2 did, only without the fussing of which act you were in or what part of the plot you were on. You can even preset the game to any difficulty you want, and even raise it or lower it once while playing. It’s also the fastest way to level an alt, as once you unlock it, its usable by all your characters. This might be the best part of the expansion, hands down. It’s a truly does make the series feel like Diablo again.
I do highly recommend the expansion, even for folks that were bored of the vanilla version of the game. Once you unlock adventure mode, the game feels just like it should, but the actual campaign segment of the game is no let down. If you are not a diablo fan of course, nothing here will change your mind, it’s just solid Diablo fun. For anyone who still plays, feel free to add me on Battle.net (TGnerd#1689) and me and my monk can help stomp the forces of diablo, and whack loot pinatas.
As always, you can get the MP3 of the podcast here http://goo.gl/xHuc2O
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