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Guitar
Monday, June 29, 2020 - 02:38 by Spindles

Initial thoughts:

It's a wonderful coda to the original game that expands upon the narrative and gives us a perspective from several characters we know and love, as well as a few fresh ones.

It seems to rely very heavily on the trope that Revenge Is Not Enough....

At several points throughout the game, I felt like I didn't want the character I was playing to succeed.... This includes both Abby and Ellie... It seemed like it was forcing me down a path I didn't want to take, whilst simultaneously telling me that what I was doing was wrong.

I can understand totally where they were coming from with their intentions, but to not give us a choice seems lacking where games like The Walking Dead accept our choices and show us the repercussions.

This felt more like it was trying to make an unnecessary point. I would hope that we all know that revenge is not a satisfying conclusion and it plays this to the very last moment.

I was happy that Ellie was instrumental in rescuing Abby, and felt it overstepped when Ellie couldn't let it go.

Honestly, it felt a bit much that she even left Dina in the first place and went out to find Abby despite having lost out to her twice before.

The ending felt like it showed you how Ellie is now paying for that decision despite it being the entire thrust of the game.

The ancillary characters felt like they were given short shrift as well, not really giving any resolution to the Seraphites, Wolves or Fireflies. It also gives no resolution to Ellie's condition and its impact on the wider world, and I can only imagine this is because they want to do another sequel.... Which, don't get me wrong, I will play the shit out of.

In terms of game mechanics, there are some interesting new additions in the form of squeezing through available gaps and some new weapons. Although it seems like the 'Sniper' training level is superfluous as you can't actually put that into practise later in the game. The sniper rifle ignores that training and instead opts for a standard 'Point and Shoot' mechanic.

I also like that safe combinations are now something you need to enter manually rather than finding a code and automatically unlocking the safe.

Another major plus is that you can approach situations and buildings from multiple angles, be it stealth, total assault, or avoidance....

There is a lot to like about the game and, despite knowing what was going to happen to Joel, it contained several truly shocking moments. The new monsters were also intriguing, although I felt that that big combat moments felt a little disproportionate, especially when the characters were treading the same ground over different chapters.

Also.... The guitar playing mini-game is awesome.... I spent hours playing songs because you can choose the key of the song and then the available chords are there.... So... Baked in musical theory FTW.

In conclusion, I would still heartily recommend playing this... There are so many moments that make the whole thing worthwhile despite the overriding sense that this is the Empire Strikes Back of the franchise.... I guess we'll have to wait and see if I'm correct....

Rating:
9
Topics:
Gaming News
Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 18:46 by StefEmp

Boom...

Armikrog starts with a bang.

A crazy almost David Bowie-like theme tune kicks in with a real psychodelic feel, that takes you on a trip with it's imagery. This is followed by a clay animated crash landing on a mysterious planet, introducing you to the protaganist 'Tommynaut' and his friendly dead-pan dog aptly named 'Beak-Beak'. The game itself is visually stunning, reminiscent of claymation such as 'Wallace and Gromit'. From a purely artistic standpoint, the game is fascinating, especially when you consider the time and care which must have been dedicated to create both the environments and characters, as well as the painstaking attention to detail to animation throughout the game.

The game lives in a fairly under-represented and somewhat niche genre in current gaming culture. This is of course the point-and-click adventure genre. Story-wise, the game has a few hits and misses. The general story and overarching plot is entertaining and the animation cutscenes are a treat to behold. However, the main characters 'Tommynaut' and 'Beak-Beak' do not have a vast amount of dialogue. There is enough there to give you a sense of their characters, but in some ways they both feel slightly under-developed, when compared to the LucasArts games of old such as 'Monkey Island' or Revolution's 'Broken Sword' series. In fact, in terms of character-development, there is very little of it. Now this doesn't make the game a bad game, but it forces the game to rely heavily on gameplay over plot, which can be a challenge in an adventure game.

Puzzles, Puzzles and more Puzzles....

I will be honest here, and say that Armikrog is a game for a very select audience. This game does virtually zero hand-holding. It is very much in the vein of what I would term as 'old-school' adventure games. Personally, I like this approach, in fact I miss this approach. Apart from the recent release of 'Broken Sword 5: The Serpents Curse', there are very few adventure games, and fewer still, games that make the player think. The puzzles are fairly varied in their difficulty, which I do not think is a necessarily bad approach, but some aspects can be as confusing, obscure or as difficult to decipher as the long history of adventure games that came before Armikrog. Again that isn't necesary a bad thing, but repetition is a key factor in this form of gameplay and one which newer gamers may find off-putting.

Technical Issues?

The game runs well on Playstation 4. I am aware that the PC version of the game reportly had several issues, but in my playthrough on Playstation 4, Armikrog ran perfectly.

The Verdict

This is a very difficult game to review within the greater context of gaming. I would rather review it in relation to it's genre and it's potential audience (which I will do!). Firstly, I would say that the game is certainly worth picking up for someone who enjoy's adventure games. Armikrog brought back a lot of memories of puzzle solving. I had almost forgotten how engaging this form of game could be. It's also reasonably priced, at £7.99 it lasts a good 8 hours, perhaps more depending on how you find the puzzles and is an interesting, if somewhat under-developed plot.

Secondly, does Armikrog stand up to adventure gamings classics, such as 'Toonstruck' or 'Monkey Island'? Sadly, I would say it doesn't reach such lofty heights, mainly due to it's lack of character development and, while engaging, the game has a fairly simplistic plot. What I will say Armikrog has going for it, is that it makes you want to learn more about the characters, and the ending seems to suggest the potential for a sequel. So perhaps the characters will be expanded upon at a later point? Armikrog after all, was a game that was funded by a kickstarter campaign as a spiritual successor to the game 'Neverhood' (also a claymation adventure), which unfortunately I never had the pleasure of playing. Several of the developers for Armikrog worked on the original Neverhood and this is the first game by their indie company - Pencil Test Studios Inc. As a first game for a newly founded indie developer, I would say Armikrog is incredibly successful at what it tries to do, even if it does feel in some ways to limit itself plot-wise. 

Overall I would give the game a 7 out of 10 for those that enjoy adventure games.  

Let me know if you have played the game yourself, and be sure to leave a comment to let us know your thoughts!

Rating:
7
Topics:
Games, Indie Games, Game Reviews
Friday, July 1, 2016 - 14:00 by Rammy

Having recently enjoyed playing Van Helsing on the Xbone after it was given away for free in the December Games with Gold promotion I was understandably excited to try Van Helsing II. First, a confession, I haven't finished Van Helsing yet. Possibly a bit of a mistake, but more on that shortly.

Van Helsing II is set in the fictional country of Borgovia which has a wondrrful gothic victoriana steampunk feel. It is full of pop culture references and plenty of humour but this only adds to the fun. You get to pick one of three classes for Van Helsing, the classic, Hunter,  the spell slinging Thaumaturge or the gadget based Arcane Mechanic. As in the previous game Van Helsing is accompanied by his ghostly Companion, the Lady Katarina. This provides a great setting for what is a very enjoyable action rpg in the vein of diablo3 and torchlight 1 and 2. All of which I enjoyed immensely and can see myself easily being sucked into Van Helsing II's story.

It's at this point I wish I wasn't so easily distracted and that I had found the time to finish Van Helsing before jumping into this next installment in the series. The action picks up I assume straight from the end of the first game as our titular protagonist begins the game buried under the rubble of presumably his final battle. Yes you can, of course, play the game without playing the first but from a story point alone it makes sense to play the first one in its entirety. Add to that the ability to import your character from the first game and the benefits soon mount up.

Fear not however as the game gives you plenty of options for creating a new character of the classes I mentioned starting from scratch at level 1. Or  alternatively create a veteran character that starts the game at level 30. This I found to be a great way to jump into the game and as it gives you 2 different builds for each class to chose from. With a little expermentation with the classes, it's easy to find one to match your play style and a great way to try out the higher level abilities.

It was a bit of drag starting with the level 1 character but still not too difficult,  it's just a lot more fun playing with all the abilities of the veteran characters when you first start out. The ability trees are greatly expanded from the first Van Helsing and offer many more options for customisation. They have even expanded the customisation options for your companion Lady Katarina. Plus the addition of the Thaumaturge and Arcane Mechanic being included with the main game rather than as paid dlc is also a nice touch.

Van Helsing II has all the usual aspects of an ARPG you would expect with plenty of combat and of course that sweet, sweet loot, but it also changes things up a bit. You are working with the resistance, which now includes the monsters you began hunting at the start of Van Helsing against the evil General Harker. As a leader of the resistance you have the opportunity to give orders and influence the flow of battles before diving back into the front lines, providing a nice change of pace from an endless hack and slash which similar games can suffer from. There are also tower defence mini games again which add a little more spice to the game. The combat in the main is pretty satisfying but there are some balance issues. I would be happily killing my way through hordes of minions when some uncouth brute would basically one shot me, it was a little grating.

All in all this game is a lot of fun, especially if you are a fan of the genre like myself. I am sure I will spend many happy hours pursuing the story to its conclusion, as the mix of comedy and the tale itself is enough to keep me hooked and wanting to see what happens next. This is a fine effort from Neocore games, and gives me high hopes for their next game, Warhammer 40k Inquisitor Martyr as I am a big 40k fan. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II releases on Xbox One on 1st July 2016, do go and check it out.

Rating:
8
Topics:
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helisng II, ARPG, Games
Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 20:57 by David

About a week before the release of Uncharted 4 the press embargo on reviews was lifted, so those who had received advanced copy of the game could release their opinions to a PS4 community hungry for the lowdown.

I was not one of those reviewers. 

This is a review of game that I purchased last week and have spent the intervening days playing, around my work and home life.

This means a couple of things.

Firstly it is later than the reviews from the members of the press, secondly I have only just finished the game in single player mode on moderate difficulty, which means that thirdly, my thumbs still hurt from all the button mashing, which could mean typos and meaningless gibberish because my hands don't work any more.

There is also a very good reason that I am not reviewing the multiplayer game. I don't like online multiplayer communities. If I’d wanted to have a snotty 12yr old shouting and swearing at me and telling me what he’d done to my 'mom' then I’d…well actually there is no real life comparison. 

So it’s single player all the way. Which is nice for a change. Single player campaigns seem to get smaller every year, so they have to be special to warrant being the majority of a game package.

But I digress.

Is it six years already?

Six years since I loaded my first PS3 title to find myself hanging by one hand out of the back of a rail car over a mountainside? IN THE TUTORIAL!?!?!

That was, Uncharted 2, Among Thieves, the climbing,shooting,climbing,running,climbing,climbing,puzzler with climbing.

It was well written and confident enough to put an unforgiving set piece as the start level, with a bit of metaphorical ‘I bet you weren’t expecting that were you?’ to  slap in your face.

I will admit that at first it put me off, after my first WTF moment I struggled, indeed I had quite a few minutes of ‘eh, what am I supposed to do?’, a few ‘this is stupid!’ moments and a bit of sulking at the tv.

But when I finally worked it out I was hooked, it was magnificent.

By now of course you are reading this and thinking ‘isn't this an Uncharted 4 review?’ and yes, you are correct. The fact is that Uncharted 2 is the best of the games so far. Uncharted:Drakes Fortune was great but far eclipsed by its’ younger sibling. Then after Among Thieves we got, Uncharted 3: Drakes’ Deception, it  didn't quite live up to the heights of Among Thieves.

So, with A Thief's End taking a mere four and a half years to materialise (see Valve not only is there a number 3 but there are others after that as well!!!), and it being a full six and a half years after Uncharted 2, we arrive at the very first proper PS4 only, prestige title. This has to live up to two great titles and one superstar.

Internet rumours abound that this is likely to be the last generation of the dedicated game console, could this be the high water mark that we will look back with fondness to?

I suppose I'd better review it then...

Firstly, since there may be some that are new to Uncharted. The game is the latest and (according to Naughty Dog its’ creator's), last of the series featuring Nathan Drake. 

Drake is an athletic fellow, he jumps, climbs, falls and fights his way across the world in search of mythical treasures and hidden cities, whilst wasting gigantic numbers of sinister henchmen along the way. A sort of Indiana Croft-Bond.

The games have well written stories (mostly - I'm looking at you Uncharted 3. That's right you can look sheepish), that usually have you chasing down a clue to a hidden treasure, only to find that the first clue is a clue to second clue which is a clue to a third clue…ad infinitum. Well not indefinitely, usually there’s a lot of chasing around the world until you find a remote location filled with toughened up armoured baddies and an end of game boss fight in the presence of a fabulous treasure.

So far so mainstream.

Where Uncharted has been a definite win is the storytelling, which is of a quality that is much higher than most developers bother with. We go back and forward in Drakes’ life, his relationship with his mentor/business partner Sully, his relationship with a couple of female acquaintances Chloe and Elena. 

Then there is the gameplay, beautiful, detailed locations filled with complex (and tall !) buildings and scenery to jump around on. And fall off of course, don’t forget the falling off, there is a lot of that. Oh, and there’s the being shot at, many people shoot at you. Luckily you can shoot back, and throw grenades, and do hand to hand combat, or run them over in vehicles. 

See, I told you he killed loads of people…

Over the course of the first three games we see that Elena gets closer to Nathan so that by game four they are married and sharing a sweet domestic bliss where they do things like play Crash Bandicoot for dishwashing rights. By the way, this is a nice touch, because there is a simulated PS 1 on which to play Crash Bandicoot! 

This lovely scene of marital harmony is interrupted by the sudden reappearance of Sam Drake, Nathan’s brother, who unexpectedly isn't dead despite being shot and falling through a roof whilst trying to escape a Panamanian prison with Nathan 15 years earlier. Sam is in trouble with a drug lord who wants a big cut of the treasure that Nathan and Sam were trying to find clues to find whilst in the prison in the first place. Sam needs this fabulous $400Million dollar pirate treasure trove or it is goodbye to his [insert selection of body parts and organs here].

So Nathan does the Hollywood ‘One last Job’ thing, not for the money, but to save his brother. Pretty corny yeah? Well not if it is as well done as this. 

The game takes us from an exciting boat chase opener, then back in time to the orphanage that the Nathan grew up in, to prison to the marital home, to… And so on. 

Alongside the storytelling is the look of the thing, the scenery is beautifully crafted, with a degree of openness that, while not granting a great deal of freedom, gives just enough to make the whole thing much more interesting than a purely linear climber/shooter on rails,

Graphically, the main characters are leaps and bounds (can you see what I did there?), ahead of their predecessors from the previous games. Hair, skin tone, form, movement are all the closest to photorealistic that I have ever seen. Don't get me wrong,you won't be saying ‘Call the Police!They have captured real people and made them live in yonder black box’, but you will be impressed with the detail. 

There must also be a huge number of Nathan Drake moves stored in this game because he has a whole heap of different ways to get about ,and often,become a mangled corpse.

You die a lot in this game. You will fall off things. Jump to safety and miss. Be blown up, shot, be brutally assaulted,shoot a huge variety of deadly weapons, and drive a handful of vehicles. 

My total for my first run through, died 328, killed 480. That's a win for me in game terms, and about 19,200 years in prison in real life just for the killings alone. 

Then there’s the property damage, we’re not quite in Man Of Steel territory, but there’s some impressive demolition work throughout.

Is it any good though…?

YES!!!!!!!

There are some niggles, which I will come to in a minute, but wrapped up together the positives massively outweigh the negatives. 

It's fun, and has well balanced play. There is enough variety within the game to keep you pressing onwards. The characters are engaging. The fights look totally one sided against the player, but there are multiple ways to win against the odds,often not easily though.

There are some great alternative level designs, normal stealth game levels involve sneaking past police or military types, not nuns having a secret cigarette at the orphanage window. Indeed, some of the shouty 12yr olds from the multiplayer communities might find the level with a relatively normal couple competing for domestic chores more horrifying than any close up messy sentry kill! 

The new tools that aid the exploring in novel ways include the winch on the jeep, and the piton. I must confess that some of the leaps across high gaps and swinging from a grappling hook across vast chasms turn my stomach and set off my fear of heights, only this series and Tomb Raider have ever done that, it adds to the frisson. 

Jumping across to a rock face and sliding down it to certain death only to be saved by jamming a piton into the porous rock face is great from a gameplay perspective. 

There are some nice touches that string together some of the new elements. Sliding down uncontrollably towards a cliff edge with the only way out being to have to throw a grappling hook at a hanging tree branch off the screen whilst receiving machine gun fire from multiple bad guys is exhilarating, and also bad for your nerves, let alone your underwear...

Against the game, there are a couple of things. 

Occasionally, the commands that you are putting in are misinterpreted, and you find yourself unable to climb down from a ledge that you are dangling from. Instead, you fidget about rather than draw the assault rifle off your back and dispense hot leaded death to all and sundry. This misinterpreting of the inputs is almost inevitably followed by game death seconds later. This is irritating, and may not be a flaw of the game, but more panic stricken pressing of everything by the player so I’m not going to hold that against it. 

And for all of the great storytelling that  you want to watch rather than skip through, which is an option, some of the cut-scenes are just too long. I found myself just wanting to get back to shooting and climbing, I mean it is a game after all…

For those that have played the Uncharted games before, the innovations between games were the greatest between game one and game 2, there are not radical upgrades between this and the last game. I wouldn't recommend a marathon end to end play through of one to four in sequence or back to back, you might find things a bit too repetitive on the controls front, but that's a personal thing that's come out of my thumbs’ disagreement with the punishment I have meted out to them. 

The whole innovation thing is interesting though. For a game in a series, should you expect radical overhauls between games? That would be like Indiana Jones growing a second pair of legs between the last film and the next, which frankly should be a possibility after being contaminated with all of the radiation he would have been exposed to after getting out of the fridge that wouldn't have saved his life…

None of the above drawback points really should be enough to put you off. This is a great game, and a great film as well. It has been commented that Naughty Dog’s experience with The Last Of Us has given them more experience of layering depth into their storytelling and it shows, but this isn't a grim tale, it is a lighthearted action thriller, and it is done brilliantly. 

The question is, are there going to be any more in the series. It is called A Thief’s End, and it means it. I'm not spoiling the ending for you, so go buy it if you have a PS4 and find out.

Just remember that I warned you about the heights OK? There are some seriously big drops, and some proper stomach cramping,arse-clenching moments where you don't think you are going to make the ledge or handhold you are going for. You might want to think about something to settle your nerves!

Maybe some grog to fit in with the pirate theme!

If this is the last Uncharted game then thank you Nathan Drake, I will raise a glass (or possibly flagon) of rum as you go out with a bang.

Although that bang could be the sound of your body accelerated to terminal velocity slamming into the scenery from on high, or a bullet in the head, or a slap from Elena, or a building falling on you.

Or a booby-trapped corpse…they make a bang too. 

Yes… 

I definitely need some quiet time now.

Rating:
9
Topics:
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 10:00 by oxgoth

Story driven games (ie. Telltale games) have a habit of falling into two categories with me. Either WOW that’s amazing and it’s needs another play-through or alternatively, well; that was unplayable.

The Detail (Season One) by independent game developer Rival games manages to buck the trend and end up with, well, an OK game, not bad, not great, just…… OK. Now don’t get me wrong, this review is not going to end up with me saying its not worth buying but don’t expect it to be something you go back to (The Walking Dead being a good example).

The Detail takes you to the streets of a crime-ridden city. In a Noir setting you play as a number of characters investigating criminal activity and murder scenes. You make arrests and interrogate them for information, you deal with the scum of the earth from both sides of the law, and sometimes you get to ‘bend’ said law as well. All three characters that you play are fairly well rounded with good backstory.  

The story line itself keeps you hooked and is interesting enough, though I sometimes found some of the characters interactions felt a bit ‘forced’. At this point I should mention though that the background music was fantastic and worked perfectly throughout, atmospheric and not distracting in the slightest.

One thing I loved was at the end of each episode it gave you a breakdown of your actions in the game, this made me think more about what I had done and how it can affect other characters. I haven’t had that to such a degree in a game since This War of Mine.

The graphic novel art (driven by the Unity engine) is gorgeous, on it’s own this would make the game worth buying.

My real issues with The Detail are two fold; the story line is realistically not affected that much by your actions which really ruin any kind of re-playability and as mentioned earlier some of the scenes just didn’t feel natural, the felt like they were there as glue to hold together a story line rather than something that would actually happen.

Pro’s: Background music is gorgeous. Graphics are really nice (note, I played with graphics set to Max). The actions breakdown at the end of each episode.

Con’s: Player characters 90% of the time acted how I thought they would (10% felt forced). No real re-playability.

Bottom line; as of writing Season one is for sale on Steam at £4.79 an episode (which works out as £14.37 for the complete Season) which for my just (approx) 4 hours of game-play I feel is not great. If a sale or Bundle is available nearer the £10 mark (and it’s on a bundle at £12.93 at the moment) it would probably be worth you money as it does give you a nice bit of escapism with some good graphics to look at. 

For more details and to buy the game, go to http://rival-games.com/?page_id=16

Rating:
7
Topics:
Rival Games, The Detail, PC, Linux, Mac, Point and click, Noir
Sunday, June 21, 2015 - 15:38 by oxgoth

According to the blurb Orctions is a game for 3 to 8 players and takes about 90 minutes to play. And like all great games Orctions combines fun with strategy. Based around 6 Orction techniques and a worker placement mechanic Orctions blends a fantasy world of Orcs with classic Roman Gladiators.

I picked this up at the Board game expo in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago at it's release. Incidentally if you didn't go to the expo make sure you go next year, it was epic. :)

First of all I must say I am impressed with build and art quality, the box and every thing in it has a very nice feel and looks pretty dam good. The rules were a nice easy read (something that can be easy to mess up with complicated rulebooks sometimes) BUT if I have a small niggle it's the order of some of the rules, I felt that during some of the gameplay hunting for certain rules slowed things down a touch.

Onto the game play itself; 90 minutes? A group of four fairly experience game players tried this game out and it was well over 90 minutes, we are going to have a second go at this in the future and see if the game time decreases but even if it does I still feel 90 minutes is a tad on the optimistic side.

During the gameplay itself the main issue we had was with the artwork, it looks fantastic but I feel more obvious colours would have sped the game up as some times we had trouble working out the fine detail on stats. Also the yellows and greens were a little to similar.

The board to play the first section of the game looked really good and was nice and simple to use, the only thing we changed as a group (house rule) was to roll all the D4's first and when placing them you had to use one of the pre rolls, ie. You could not choose the number on the dice yourself but had to choose from the available pool of dice, this made the later section of the game which involved said dice a little more interesting.

In regards to the buying and selling of orcs and buff cards I felt their was not enough buff cards (maybe an expansion pack could be released? I would most likely buy it) There should also be more options to trade and buy or sell Orcs which would help speed the first half of the game up. Being able to trade 3 for 1 with the bank? Being able to buy from the discards at double the cost?

The actual auction section was loads of fun though, really got everyone in the game involved and a great little mechanic. Also good was the way the aution could change each round. This kept it fresh.

The fight mechanic (second part of the game) was good and a fun way to play but I feel would have been better with a larger section of buff cards. It was also a little slow and heavily weighted towards the auctioneer. Annoyingly during the first part of the game all the players were involved which had kept the game flowing nicely but during the fighting section suddenly unless you are not the two people in the arena you have nothing to do.

Pros: A good/fun auction game mechanic. Simple rules. Great artwork.

Cons: The colours on the cards have not come out as vivid as the games website would suggest and can slow gameplay down. The fight mechanic could leave other players a bit bored. Quote of the game : A bit like monopoly with Orcs.

Conclusion: A good game but not great, I would still consider this a game in 'beta' but with some modifications this could go from good and played every so often to a regular game to play. A game to keep an eye on.  

http://www.orctions.co.uk/

Rating:
6
Topics:
Board game, Orcs, Birmingham, Review
Saturday, April 11, 2015 - 15:41 by StefEmp

If your old and decrepit like myself (27 years of existence is old in gaming terms), you may remember the epic tales woven by the developers of Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II. Back in those long forgotten days the RPG was a pretty new concept and the Baldur’s Gate franchise was based on Dungeons and Dragons, which is a table top roleplaying game. These games are beloved because of their character development, story and their focus on following Dungeons and Dragons rule sets within the combat, as well as the beautiful hand painted backgrounds that players play on. The combat itself was complex and death, was a pretty common occurrence, leading to the odd habit of spamming quick save regularly before a big fight. Now, what does this have to do with Pillars of Eternity you may ask? A LOT would be my answer.

Pillars of Eternity is a Kickstarter project developed by many of the original developers who made the Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and Planescape Torment games. All of which focused on an isometric viewpoint and were built on the Infinity Engine. The idea of the Kickstarter project was to create a spiritual successor to those games/  I would say,  overall, they’ve done a pretty good job of this.

 

Pillars of Eternity follows a protagonist who gains the strange power of being able to see peoples past lives and experiences. The game itself mirrors much of Baldur’s Gates combat and focus on story. I would rather not ruin the story too much, but the game very much feels like a compelling story with rich lore and fascinating interparty dialogue. Side quests are everywhere and the main plotline spans a large portion of hours. When I say a large portion of hours I am talking in terms of old school games, we are talking 100s of hours of gameplay.

 

One of the interesting new aspects that has been brought to the genre is the cut scenes. In Pillars of Eternity they do not exist. What’s in their place is interactive text based scenarios, in which you can make choices and actions. These are very reminiscent of a dungeon master in Dungeons and Dragons proposing several options to the heroes. These scenarios can rely on multiple factors. Perhaps you have a grappling hook in your inventory that could help you climb a wall? Or perhaps you character is incredibly strong and is able to do this independently?  There are often branching choices and various solutions to individual problems.

Another interesting aspect is party interaction. The game provides a varied group of NPCs who can join your party of whom you can interact with and learn of their history, background and help them to achieve their own goals. While I have enjoyed this aspect of Pillars of Eternity, I do feel that the characters are a little lacking in comparison with those in the Baldur’s Gate games. While the world is interesting, it does not compel me with the same sense of fascination that the Baldur’s Gate franchise did. Perhaps this is because I have gained rose tinted glasses in my old age, or perhaps it’s because I haven’t actually fully explored the story to its end point.

At some point in the story you gain your own keep. You can upgrade your keep and use it for sending off party members on missions to gain gold or items. The micromanagement of the keep itself is fun, however upgrading the keep is solely focused on how much gold you have spare. The keep itself seems more of a money sink as opposed to having any particular purpose other than something in which to upgrade. Again perhaps due to being only half way through the game, I may have a limited perspective, but so far the keep seems to have little impact on the game. Also the fact upgrades are bought via gold can feel at times to be merely there to offer you something to do with the gold you earn, as there is very little else worth purchasing in the game. This felt a little like a missed opportunity as perhaps the developers could have tied some form of quests that lead to upgrades or other ways of expanding the keep.

As someone who played previous infinity engine games, I would definitely recommend this to players who experienced Baldur’s Gate and its ilk, as well as to new players. However adapting to this type of game as a newcomer may be difficult, the game may feel cumbersome and overly difficult. Also much of the game is left to the imagination, much of the game requires long periods of reading text as opposed to being offered voice acting. Additionally , many games nowadays do not seem to offer such difficulty and strategy and this may put off some new players. Currently you can buy the game on steam for £34.99 and I would definitely recommend this to any hard-core RPG fan, as well as fans of Dungeons and Dragons.

 

I would give this game an 8 out of 10.

 

Pros

·         Complex and difficult Combat, strategy is required

·         Fairly interesting NPCs

·         An interesting overarching plot

·         The return of Isometric RPGs!

 

Cons

·         The keep felt like a money sink and seemed to have little purpose outside upgrading it for its own sake

·         The Plot and NPCs while interesting, do not surpass that of previous games such as the Baldur’s Gate saga

Rating:
8
Topics:
Friday, February 20, 2015 - 13:05 by Spindles

In a slightly altered version of history, Hitler, almost at the point of defeat in the second World War, unleashes his deadliest weapon: Hordes of undead soldiers. That's the starting point for Rebellion's new co-operative shooter. Fans of Rebellion's Sniper Elite series will find a lot of the engine very familiar and may well have even played earlier versions of the first two segments of the game, which was availalble as a downloadable expansion. 

The game has been fully remastered and has had all manner of extras crammed in to feed your zombie slaying habit. There are now 8 playable characters that you can choose to take through the campaign mode in co-operation with up to three of your friends, or you can choose to go lone wolf. Although it's worth pointing out that your finely honed sneaking skills gained from Sniper Elite are worth exactly squat against the horde.

Speaking of hordes, this release of the game introduces a new Horde mode. This is for those players who have reached the endgame and really want to test their skills. In this mode, wave after wave of the undead attack whichever of the strongholds you choose to defend and it's up to you to prevent it being overrun. Like all of the best Zombie movies, you can never actually win in this mode, instead it's all about who can survive the longest.

The array of weaponary on display is truly impressive. You can take your pick out of a vast variety of WWII era firearms allowing you a primary, secondary and tertiary choice. As well as the standard choices, there are also special weapons hidden within the game environment that can be picked up during gameplay, such as The Preacher, a devastating close range shotgun that can decimate the ranks of the enemy when you're in a tight spot.

Traps are an important element of the game as you can set them up all around your base ahead of the attack to allow you to strengthen your defenses. Based on the play I've seen so far, you'll be hard pushed to make it past wave 3. No-one managed that on our play test.

For those who are not familiar with the Sniper Elite series then the Bullet Cam will be a wonderful new discovery as you get an X-Ray view of exactly what damage your shots are doing to your intended target. Since we are dealing with zombies, there are a few game mechanics which allow for you to sever limbs from your target and still have them crawl along the floor trying to bite off your ankles until you make that all important headshot.

In conclusion, much as it's fun blowing away the undead horde, I do hope that there is a little bit more to the game in terms of storyline and puzzle solving in the full version as I could easily see it becoming a bit too repetitive.

Zombie Army Trilogy is due for release on PC, Xbox One and PS4 on the 6th March 2015

Rating:
7
Topics:

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