Category Archives: Video Game Reviews

Star Wars Battlefront: Our Thoughts on the Beta

Over the weekend Star Wars fans and gamers were treated with the open Beta for Star Wars Battlefront, and so far it absolutely lives up to the hype of being one of the year’s most anticipated games. The beta went live on October 8 and has been extended through October 13. Even though there are only 3 game modes and maps available in the beta, it didn’t really feel too samey during the time I was playing it, and I played it fairly extensively on my PS4.

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King’s Quest: Back and Better? Perhaps.

If you are of gamer of a certain age, there is a good chance you remember King’s Quest. A stalwart in the adventure game history, King’s Quest has returned with a new chapter.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review: A Grand and Rewarding Adventure

After a couple heartbreaking delays, CD Projekt RED has finally unleashed its magnum opus unto the gaming world – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The last two releases in the series have consistently raised the bar with their feature-rich gameplay and mature plot elements, and this third and final instalment of Geralt’s adventures across a world mired in war and politics is an amazing experience that is miles ahead of its peers as well as its own prior entries.

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Battlefield Hardline Review: The Proper Way To Play On Both Sides Of The Law

Battlefield fans have had a lot to worry about since the announcement of Battlefield Hardline. The botched online servers for Battlefield 4, EA handing over the development duties to a team best known for working on 3rd-person horror games, and a strange new cops vs. robbers focus gave them ample reason to worry. After spending a hefty amount of time with this new take on the long-standing FPS series, I can firmly state that there is nothing to fear. Battlefield Hardline does right by its namesake and provides a new experience that’ll likely have you hooked.

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The Order: 1886 – A Gorgeous But Shallow Gaming Experience

Publishers don’t take chances like they used to.  Developing a game has become so costly that if a game fails to sell millions within the first few weeks of release, it could easily mean bankruptcy for the studio.  It’s the reason so many publishers are sticking with the certainty of sequels and familiar franchises – Even if they do poorly, they’ll still likely sell better than an unknown quantity. There’s far less risk. But as a result of this policy fans take notice when a brand new IP is announced. Repetition has become such a common thing that a lot of hope goes into the debut of a new franchise. It could be the thing that shakes up an entire genre (think Arkham Asylum‘s free-flow combat, or Assassin’s Creed‘s free running mechanic). We’re over a year into the new generation of consoles now, and with new hardware comes an eagerness for new experiences.  As one of the most talked about new IPs of the PS4/Xbox One era, The Order: 1886 is expected by many to be just that.

The Order surprised many people when it was revealed at E3 in 2013.  No one had heard anything about the title before the trailer reveal, and the footage shown was impressive.  As the months went on, developer Ready At Dawn gave us more glimpses into this strange, new steampunk, Victorian London world.  Was what we were seeing merely footage of cutscenes?  Was it gameplay?  What was the game about?

I was extremely excited about The Order.  Everything Ready At Dawn released had me changing my pants.  Steampunk?  Yes, please!  Werewolves (or, in this instance, lycans)? Sure, I’ll have some.  Nikola Tesla?  Oh, hell yes! Sign me up!  And those graphics?  :::pants heavily:::

It’s been a long wait to finally get ahold of the game since its original Summer 2014 launch date was pushed back, and all the while the important question was whether or not I’d feel the same way after playing the game. And so, many months later, now that I’ve had the chance to finish The Order: 1886, does that excitement still hold?

It does… sort of.

Let’s talk about the graphics first.  Here is a game that makes a compelling argument as to why a person needs to upgrade to the current gen.  Presented in a cinematic letterbox format, the game is just gorgeous.  I’m not just talking about the cutscenes.  I’m talking about the gameplay, too.  The cinematic camera angles and lighting add an unimaginable atmosphere to the environments you explore. Whether you’re walking the dirty streets of White Chapel or scaling the side of a zeppelin, there is so much subtle attention to detail you’ll marvel at the technology behind it. You can shoot hats off enemies or pots off their hangers. A zeppelin’s form will shift and deflate as you rappel down its side. The graphical fidelity is so great that the transition from cutscene to gameplay is practically seamless.  There will be moments when you are watching a cutscene and nothing is happening and you realize it’s time for you to take control of your character again.

But graphics alone does not a great game make.  And it’s here that the game starts to falter.

As beautiful as the world is, there’s just not much you’re actually doing in it.  The visuals are great to look at but the game doesn’t do enough to try and bring you inside its world.  Walking off the obvious route doesn’t yield many rewards.  You might find an occasional newspaper or phonograph tube, but beyond that there’s little incentive to turn your eyes off the beaten path.  It seems like they want you to explore the environments, but when you do you’ll oftentimes encounter a dead-end with nothing to interact with.  The few times you do find something, the flavor text doesn’t do much in the way of world-building.  It’s horribly frustrating because I wanted so badly to learn more about The Order and the Lycans, but barely anything I found added felt like a worthwhile addition to the central storyline.

The gameplay functions well enough. It’s serviceable.  Sometimes you’ll have to sneak, in which case you automatically go into a crouch to “quick-time” death your victim.  It works, for the most part, although sometimes you can find yourself sticking to the wall unintentionally or dropping out of a wall-hug at inopportune moments.  These moments can be irritating but they’re manageable.

The action works fine, too.  It’s a typical third-person cover-based shooter, and it controls responsively.  A quick push of the circle button puts you under cover.  Melee is a timed pressing of the triangle button and gunplay is handled with R2.  Much like the graphics, however, the action will leave you wanting more.  For all the talk of interesting and creative weapons, a lot of the firearms you use can feel underpowered.  Sometimes it feels like the the enemies are taking far too much punishment before they’ll go down.  The biggest travesty is how infrequent Nikola Tesla’s weapons are used, especially for the way his tech has been advertised by Ready At Dawn.  My favorite weapon is the thermite gun, but it is tragically under-used throughout the campaign.

Finally, we come to the story.  Again, as with the rest of The Order, the story works. For the most part.  You play as Galahad, a Knight of The Order, tasked with unraveling a massive conspiracy that could change the face of the known world.  Who can he trust?  Who are his friends?  Who are his foes?  The story is told through sixteen chapters and by the end you can’t help but feel like they told the wrong part of the story.  You want to learn more about the lycans and hopefully encounter them more.  You want to know more about The Order and your teammates.  Hell, you want to learn more about this weird, anachronistic steampunk London.  But by the end of the game, you’re left with nothing more than a set up for The Order‘s next chapter.  Like the trade negotiations in Star Wars Episode I, the part that they focused on the most – the conspiracy – was probably the least interesting part of the game.

And since we’re talking about the story, now would be a good time to talk about the game’s length.  Much has been said about the running time of the game.  Some sites have reported the game can be finished in four – five hours.  The game’s length is in line with other single player action titles.  That is to say, while it isn’t a short game, don’t expect to find 50 hours of game in here either.  On a thorough playthrough, expect to sink about seven to ten hours into the story.  Unfortunately, there is no multiplayer of any kind nor is there a New Game + mode, so there is little reason to replay the game unless you’re hoping to achieve a platinum trophy.

Ultimately, The Order is a fun romp but it left me wanting more.  The game’s gorgeous graphics almost brought me into Ready At Dawn’s gorgeous world but, once I took the time to inspect my surroundings, I found there’s really not much beneath the beautiful textures and lighting. It constantly feels like something big and exciting is just around the corner but never gets introduced.  And with no real replay value, it’s hard to imagine a reason to revisit the game once it’s finished.  The Order: 1886 is a solid first effort by Ready of Dawn but it falls just short of great.

Images: Ready at Dawn

Life is Strange – Episode 1: An Engrossing Start to a Supernatural Mystery

Episodic adventure games are in the middle of a well deserved renaissance period. Telltale Games’ popular titles have breathed new life into the genre, which is why other game developers are now following suit. Dontnod Studios has put together a supremely interesting plot line that follows the supernatural mysteries and high school drama of a female teenage named Max.

Welcome to the first episode of Life is Strange – Chrysalis.

Life is Strange Game

Your main character, Max Caulfield, is an aspiring photographer who’s recently made a big move. After leaving her quaint hometown for the big city, she finds herself returning to that quiet town to attend a prestigious private school. Max exhibits the expected qualities of a teenager who considers themselves an outsider, which makes her instantly relatable for some. Her love of photography has driven her to attend such a respected institution. Max’s school mates fill the gamut of the personalities that exist within high school cliques – mean rich girls, varsity jacket wearing jocks, mysterious loners, skate punks and more. There’s a wide host of interesting characters to interact with who come with their own events for Max to intervene in. Getting the chance to play out these events is one of the highlights of this game.

The most important element behind Life is Strange is Max’s newfound power – she has the ability to rewind time at will. Max’s time rewinding skills come into play as you solve simple puzzles and help deal with situations involving your closest friends. The first episode starts off simple enough, as you sit inside a classroom and discover how to make good use of your new time sensitive skills. The story quickly intensifies though, as you’re forced to utilize your rewinding skills to save the life of a close friend. The rest of this episode is filled with even more events that test your moral compass. You’ll be driven to find each and every instance of character interaction.

Life is Strange Episode 1

Life is Strange’s supporting cast is fun to follow. The voice acting here is great, as is the simple yet clean visual makeup of the quaint environment you inhabit. A slew of personalities await at every turn and the conversations you engage in with them are hard to pass up. The trials and tribulations of early adulthood permeates through this first bit of the game. Important decisions seem to occur regularly. Should you tell the school’s principal about a potential threat? Should you intervene when a school security guard bothers a young student? Should you aid a close friend when her stepfather gets out of hand? There are several decisions to make here and the game’s solid story will drive you to strongly consider every possibility.

The time rewinding mechanic of Life is Strange is a cool, no doubt. But this power kind of diminishes the impact of your decisions. Having the chance to quickly change your decisions after making them feels like a cop-out, which may be great for some players who feel a sense of regret and guilt after an important event. This ability is great for navigating environmental puzzles and changing minor events, but it makes important decision making feel unimportant since you can change your mind at the drop of a dime. It’s best if you were left with your hard choices instead of having the power to change them to your liking so quickly.

Life is Strange

Life is Strange’s first episode ends on a high note and will most certainly have you anticipating the next chapter in this strange tale. Max is an interesting young soul surrounded by suspicious characters who present several mysteries to solve. All of these stories, combined with the time rewinding powers, missing young girl and the threat of an impending storm has us ready for another helping of the game.

Images: Square Enix, Dotnod

Dying Light Review: A Fun Parkour Infused Romp Through the Zombie Apocalypse

Gamers have come to notice the types of trends that withstand the passage of time. Badass ninjas, gun-toting commandos and women with irregular chest sizes are just a few of the elements that still play a part in the games we play today. We can also add zombies to that list. While the influence of the undead seems to have grown a bit stale over the last few years, Techland has done a great job of making them prevalent again. Their work on Dead Island has now been carried over to a new-gen adventure packed with even more ways to dodge the undead – Dying Light.

Dying Light

Your main character starts off his journey through the zombie apocalypse as he parachutes into the city of Harran. Your main mission entails the retrieval of a secret file from a local warlord, but you’ll have to go undercover while you do it. Playing both sides of the primary factions while still reporting back to your superiors presents moments of moral decisions that fall into the grey area of doing acts for the greater good or doing them simply to obtain more goods. This game is a lengthy trek through an incredibly vast city. It’s just a tad bit unfortunate that you won’t care too much for the people that inhabit it. The voice acting falters and the character animations are a tad stiff. These knocks on the game’s supporting cast is Dying Light’s biggest issue.

Dying Light

As for the better parts of Dying Light, they’re strongest when it comes to the parkour infused movement. Your main onscreen avatar runs, hops buildings, dodges zombies, baseball slides and dropkicks anything in his way from a first-person viewpoint. The sense of immersion derived from moving so smoothly starts off good enough, but your mobility options get even better as you move around. It feels great as you naturally improve your stats and earn new abilities just by performing movement feats and fending off your enemies. The amazing sense of discovery, wide variety of melee variety and wealth of items that exist around every corner all make this game click on all cylinders.

The majority of the main missions in Dying Light will command you to retrieve some sort of item or perform some daring task for either of the two factions you work for. The mission structure here is decent at best. Being sent out into the dangerous city as a glorified errand boy gets old, but the strong gameplay will push you to keep going. The missions tend to improve at the later stages of the main campaign, plus the fun factor certainly improves thanks to the presence of co-op play. Most of the fun of this parkour inspired romp comes from running around freely, accessing new safe houses and lock picking every chest in your wa. Things really pick up during the evening hours, as more dangerous foes prowl the streets and provide you with a greater challenge that nets you extra experience. There’s so much to see and do when you aren’t in the mood to progress the ho-hum plot.

Dying Light

Dying Light is a surprisingly great game. It has its issues that hamper its overall quality, which makes it an open world adventure that’s rough around the edges. The visuals shine during the day and are appropriately dark during the night hours, the parkour movement feels great and the overall progression/weapons systems is awesome. Even though the game’s many characters and plot won’t grab you, you’ll derive a good bit of fun from running through the contaminated streets of Harran.

Images: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Techland