Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Battlefield 4 Review

Will the latest entry in the Battlefield series be the best, or has it finally shriveled in quality?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

At one time, you couldn’t get a better handheld series port than Zelda. Link’s Awakening, the Oracle games, and Minish Cap were masterpieces in their own right, distinctly different from their console brethren, but equally as challenging and entertaining. 

Then the DS came along and screwed it all up for everyone.

Phantom Hourglass is the second worst handheld Zelda ever created. Though it had the visual charm of Wind Waker, it captured none of the exploration and adventure, instead replacing a vast world with a central dungeon which needed to be beaten nigh-endlessly to get to its ending. This frustrating repetition on top of a less than stellar game made for an experience I care to not repeat. The only game worse than this was its successor Spirit Tracks, which decided if it made us go on set paths to get to areas to explore, it would somehow be better than a free roaming boat. Though the central dungeon idea was improved by removing its time limit and allowing you to skip previously played parts, the developers stuck to their guns of extending gameplay time at the expense of monotony.  Bleh. The age of handheld Zelda darkness was upon us.


But hark, like the sun peering through a dark cloud break, a new game was announced. One that featured top-down adventuring ala the previous handhelds and was a sequel to one of my personal favorites, A Link To The Past. A Link Between Worlds promised to take us back to a familiar Hyrule and bring the series back to its roots. As wary as I was, I bought it on the hopes that just maybe the developers realized that exploration is a crucial part of gameplay and it’s a bad idea to have half your game consist of playing the same level ad nauseam. I popped it in the 3DS and braced myself for disappointment.

I’ve never been so happy to have my fears unfounded.

Okay maybe I have, but you get the picture.

Link to the Past Nostalgia, But Better


First off, just to hear the classic Link to the Past tune to start off the game brought a stupid grin to my face. And it didn’t stop as I started the game. This version of Link is the blacksmith’s apprentice, which makes you wonder how far it is in the future if the fame and deeds of his ancestor didn’t keep him from working, but I digress. You start off in the same house from Link to the Past, you have an almost identical world map to Link to the Past, and all the music is revamped versions of, you guessed it, Link to the Past. This game just screams nostalgia in the absolute best way possible.

Another feature that struck me almost immediately was the smoothness of gameplay. Not only do you have full range of motion instead of just 8, you can break pots with your sword, and the complete pause of gameplay when going upstairs has been removed. The sword swings also seem to be faster and produce such a crisp sound and fast effect, it feels noticeably quicker and more satisfying to cut down a bush. I know that sounds stupid, but when you try it you’ll know and be like “Man, AristoGamer, you were right.” And I’ll pull down my aviators while I power up my helicopter to fly over the ocean and say “I know, kid.”

The story is also quite interesting. An evil entity named Yuga is turning sages into paintings and it’s up to Link, who suddenly gets the power to merge into walls, to foil his plot and save Hyrule and another place whose name is too hilarious to spoil. The second half of the game (there’s always a second half to a Zelda game) features a compelling plotline and one of the best endings to a handheld Zelda game in some time.

Breaking New Ground By Reexamining Old Ground


For the first time in franchise history, you can complete the dungeons in any order you want! When I first heard that, my mind was blown. “A non-linear Zelda should not be possible”, my psyche screamed. It was quickly silenced by the logical addition of Ravio, an item salesman who runs a store out of your house to rent you weapons. That’s right, from the beginning of the game you can rent every single quest-critical item for a price. The only catch is when you die, the items get returned and you must pay for them again. You also don’t need to worry about ammo or magic for specific items, as their use takes away from one unified bar that refills. Though it doesn’t make much sense for arrows to use the same system as the fire rod, it’s much simpler and more streamlined. I definitely don’t miss running out of ammo halfway through a dungeon and having to scrounge for more. This novel system singlehandedly loosened up a series which didn’t need loosening, but benefited from it greatly. The resulting game is radically fun, figuring out what items you need and want for each place and placing emphasis on gaining rupees.

That’s another cool thing, not only do start with a rupee limit of 9999, but because they’re so important, you find yourself caring about getting them far more. Gone was the exasperating feeling of needing to purchase something—anything—to lighten your coin purse. With this system, I don’t think I ever had over 4000 rupees. It seems so simple to place more importance on something so ubiquitous between games, but it’s a smart choice that made even cutting down bushes more rewarding.


In fact, the only negative thing I have to say about this game is I don’t really like the way Link looks from the top down view. Look at his front coif and tell me they couldn’t scale that back just a smidge so we could better see his face. Just compare Link to the Past and Link Between Worlds and tell me one doesn’t look more limiting.


Also, the art style reminds me of what they did with the new Donkey Kong, Kirby, and Mario Brothers games—they all look kind of similar and shiny. Though it’s not as pronounced a problem in this title and it harkens back to Link to the Past, it still has that same plasticky feel that the New Super Mario Brothers has where I feel like Nintendo got a bit lazy on the art. But again, it’s not nearly as noticeable in Link Between Worlds as it is in the aforementioned series.

Verdict:


Even if you’re not a Zelda fan or just haven’t played Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds is an excellent game that has one of the smoothest engines, best soundtracks, and most creative dungeons of the series. The nonlinearity of the game allows the player more freedom while smart design choices remove the small annoyances and increase fun just running around. If you have a 3DS and like Zelda games or adventure titles, this should absolutely be the next game you buy.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ace Attorney 5: Dual Destinies Review

The story of the Ace Attorney series is one full of triumph, despair, turnabouts, and shocking twists, much like the narratives it contains. It originally began as a GBA series, having a 3 game, Japan-only run before sputtering to a halt. When the first game finally resurfaced as a Nintendo DS port with an extra case, diehard fans went nuts, but it was a limited North American release that sparked the series back to life. As more people heard about it, more Ace Attorney memes started showing up on the internet, from sites like Mr. Dictionary’s Objection creator to Ace Attorney parody movies. The game became a beloved cult classic and it wasn’t long before the rest of the games were released in the states. Soon after, Ace Attorney 4 was released bringing with it a bold spectrum of changes, including replacing the lead character Phoenix Wright with Apollo Justice, a red-vested shout monkey who could never capture fans’ hearts.

Until he did.

Afterward, a new game following the first game’s lead Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth called Ace Attorney Investigations was released. Following the same “collect evidence, try to prove they’re guilty, repeat until they admit it” formula, but in a sort of sidescroller mode without the familiar court setting. The response of these two games was lukewarm stateside, leading to the second Ace Attorney Investigations game to never be released in NA. Fans were distraught, doing everything from internet petitions to objection videos, but to no avail. Wind of a Layton x Wright crossover game came, bringing with it hope, but also the depressing defeat of a non-international release. Fans’ spirits were at an all-time low.


Then news of a new game hit. One that returned to the basics. To court. To Phoenix. Ace Attorney 5 would put our favorite blue-suited spiked-mane smug-mugged lawyer back in the driver’s seat. Fans clamored for a stateside release with such fervor, Capcom must have been able to justify a release. The game just barely got a digital-only release (one employee informed me that it was going to have a limited edition boxed release, but this was cancelled a few months before the game’s release). But finally, it was time. No more angsting, no more pirating subtitled movies, no more reading walkthroughs, just playing through the series the fans have come to love.

Prepare yourselves. This is Ace Attorney 5.


Story


Following Phoenix’s disbarment, it seems he’s back behind the bench. Joined by Apollo and a new lawyer named Athena Cykes, they’re battling for their clients’ lives at every turn. Using every trick they know and a few they don’t, they relentlessly pursue the truth against Simon Blackquill, a convicted murderer prosecutor who has a thing for the old samurai ways.

 So yes, a formerly disbarred lawyer and killer are now practicing law. Awesome.

The cases in this game are wildly reminiscent of previous ones. The high tension, red herrings, massive twists, and freak outs are all still here. Getting back behind the bench feels as exciting as you’d imagine it would. The overarching story deals with a serious subject rarely breached by the previous games –winning cases by any means necessary, from phony convictions to falsified evidence. Each of the cases ties into this theme somehow, forming a more cohesive narrative than I’ve seen in any previous Ace Attorney game.

Gameplay 

 

And what would Ace Attorney be without some strange new gimmick to get at the truth? For Phoenix it was Maya’s magatama which showed the locks on peoples’ hearts formed by their lies. Apollo had a bracelet that let him know when someone was lying, allowing him to perceive their tells. Now Athena has a computer system named Widget which can analyze audio patterns in a person’s voice for their emotions. When you see a strange reaction to a particular statement, you press on it and eventually clear up their testimony by reducing the discord in their heart. I like the system more than Apollo’s if only because it has more of a pseudoscience explanation behind it. It was kind of hard to swallow a magic bracelet that tightened when people lied. The magatama isn’t much more plausible, but at least it was given to Phoenix by a spirit medium; the bracelet is from Apollo’s mom who’s a decidedly non-magical <SPOILER>.

Other additions to the gameplay include being able to examine a room in 3 dimensions by examining each of the 4 walls that make up a space. That in and of itself may make your heart sink if you’ve played previous games, since you know how frustrating investigation can be. Constantly clicking squares and examine for half an hour tends to do that. But Ace Attorney 5 has solved that too with a nifty feature that puts a little check mark on your indicator if you’ve already investigated something, and a pulsating circle if you can investigate something, but haven’t yet. Absolutely genius (i.e. should have been added a long time ago).


The only complaint I have about the gameplay is that it almost seems too easy. At first, I thought it was because I was a truth-seeking, justicephile who has been in the courtroom one too many times to be bamboozled by Capcom, but upon talking to other fans, I’m finding the same thing. They all agree that it’s not as difficult. I suspect it may be due to things being easier, but it’s more than likely mostly caused by the reduction in frustration. Streamlining investigation alone makes cases take far less time and have much fewer headaches.  Also, though the game features cameos from some rather large characters, there aren’t enough to meet the usually high Ace Attorney quota. Though those calmed down in later games, I still miss catching random glimpses of old suspects once in a while. On the upside, it means less lore to look up for newcomers.


Aesthetics


The art in the new game is phenomenal in comparison to previous titles. Never before has there been an Ace Attorney game with 3D character models, but all the characters made the transition well. Everyone looks great static, but even better when animated since there’s actual movement and not just jumping pixels. The art style is about as close to the original pixelated style as they could get and it comes off great. And fully animated and voiced cutscenes are also spliced throughout the game to convey story when the character animations won’t cut it. The music is also impeccable, meeting a relatively high standard from fans of a soundtrack that fits the drama of the court. All Ace Attorney soundtracks can be measured by their take on Pursuit Cornered, the track that plays when you’ve got the crook on the ropes, and AA5 holds up well. Nothing beats Ace Attorney 2’s version, but 5 gets close. (Quick side note, I just checked a poll on GameFAQs and it turns out most people most people disagree with me are wrong.)


Verdict


I love Ace Attorney, maybe even more than Kingdom Hearts. It’s one of the few series I support in every form I can. From figures to shirts to imported movies to the musicals and beyond, I’m a fan to my core. Though that usually bodes well for a series, this case is a hard one. After being scorned for so long from Capcom, this game had to not only meet the standard, but exceed it just to get a passing mark. Luckily, they did just that with wonderfully updated graphics, a quirky new investigation system, overhauling the frustrating parts, and bringing back characters we love without destroying the wacky continuity we’ve also grown fond of. If you’re new to the series, you may want to go back and play the first few games before getting started on this one (or at least Ace Attorney 4), but if you’re a fan of the series wondering if it’s worth the hype – it is. It so is. Trust me, once you nail your first ne’er-do-well in a lie and this song comes on, you’ll agree.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs Review

J delves into the highly anticipated Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs. Will it live in the shadow of its predecessor or send J wee wee weeing all the way home?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Beyond: Two Souls Review

It’s been three and a half years since the release of Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream’s murder mystery experience on PS3. Since then, the company has been a go-to source for the latest in emotional storytelling visuals, including last year’s tech demo Kara. It’s with much anticipation that the company’s next game, Beyond: Two Souls, is released. Is it truly the next evolution of interactive storytelling, or has Quantic Dream pushed the medium in an undesirable direction?

To get something out of the way right off the bat – yes, this is a game. The discussion about whether experiences like Heavy Rain are games is one that’s been done to death.  Games as a medium have been ever expanding in the roles they fill in our lives, their definitions being rewritten and resembling something more like board games in which the medium is no longer defined by the rules of its individual components. You can argue that the experience doesn’t have much player interaction or is bogged down with narrative, but that does not disqualify it as a game.

Story


Story is the main focus with this game, as it has been with other Quantic Dream titles. This time we follow Jodie Holmes, a girl gifted/cursed with the ever-looming presence of a spirit named Aiden. You relive her life story in disjointedly through time, slowly piecing together her sad life. Her journey from a little girl conflicted about what makes her different to a woman who’s accepted and embraces it is as compelling as it is interesting. Along the way, you find paternal figures in Dr. Nathan Dawkins and Dr. Cole Freeman, researchers investigating paranormal happenings. Through the course of your life, people come and go, but these two seem to be the pillars of stability most children have when growing up. As we follow Jodie through her disjointed life, piecing together the overwhelming tragedy and small victories that lead her down a road of self-discovery, you become attached to both her and her spirit partner Aiden.

And here we have Aiden killing a guy. Neato.
The story of Beyond: Two Souls is as wide reaching as it is interesting. Following Jodie’s interactions with the government, people she meets, and situations she finds herself in with her spirit to help her, the game explores the idea of what it means to be truly dissimilar to everyone else. The way Quantic Dream handled Aiden’s character was also impressive in that he has no lines of dialogue, but you really care about your unseen protector. By having Jodie interact with Aiden and seeing his motivations through his action, you’re able to piece together a rather detailed feeling about who this spirit is even if you’re not really sure what it is.

Why is she not sunburnt if she's been walking in the desert for days?
The story is engrossing a large portion of the time, but many moments exist in its storytelling in which I’m reminded less of a blockbuster film and more of a SciFi original movie. This steep decline in believability happens rarely, but it is enough to suck you out of the moments the game worked so hard to create. Some of these happen because of choices you have when exploring or the controls, but most of them are because the game felt like parts of it were removed or dots that weren’t connected needed to be out of necessity. For example, you get trained to be a covert agent, but only use the skill twice, once for a very small portion of time. Why even dedicate an hour to that in the game when you could get the same message across in less time? Also, certain characters make rather dramatic changes in their personality in the last bit of the game, seemingly out of nowhere. Almost as if the game had a number of endings, but they could not pick just one. Though Beyond: Two Souls’ story overall is interesting and more thought provoking that its spiritual predecessor, it doesn’t feel as high quality as Heavy Rain.

Narrative Choices


As with the previous title by Quantic Dream, your choices and actions have an effect on the story, outcome of situations, and characters’ lives. This feeling of permanence and the importance of thinking things through was pervasive in Heavy Rain and is even more pronounced here.  More characters have their lives and wellbeing put into your hands and just as in real life, though certain scenarios only seem to have one solution, creative thinking and patience present you with new options if you’re willing to explore. Though the perfectionist in me wants desperately to go back and change things, like life, you must live with the choices you’ve made.

You've got something on your face. Let me get it.
Two notably large names have been attached to this project – Ellen Paige and Willem Defoe. Hands down, these two deliver solid performances throughout the entirety of the game, and seeing them interact with one another adds richness to the story. Their relationship is one of the most human and believable ones of the game and seeing the characters brought to life through them is great. The only bad thing about this collaboration is that though performances this high quality are rare, they do exist, and when they do you believe the character more because you cannot put a face, backstory, or previous context to them. When I look at Booker DeWitt and Joel from The Last of Us, I have no idea what Troy Baker looks like and I didn’t even know he portrayed both until I looked it up. In contrast, anytime Jodie Holmes and Nathan Dawkins interact, somewhere in your mind, you can easily imagine Juno and Norman Osborne just based off of the visuals. This unfortunate disconnect isn’t nearly as distracting as this paragraph length may believe you to be, but it is something to note.

Gameplay


Homeless Jodie is my favorite. Her chapped lips are such a nice touch
The gameplay is almost identical to Heavy Rain with quick-time events driving high-intensity parts of the game and the right joystick lets you interact with things during the exploration parts.Interacting with your environment often worked well, but felt clunky at times. When walking around, getting around objects was often a chore because of camera angles and when bumping into walls or just wanting to turn around quickly, the immersion was broken by how sluggish the controls could feel when you wanted quick, precise movements. Sometimes, the game would even stop altogether for a second as if it hadn't quite loaded everything and needed just a second more to catch up, another annoyance that broke immersion. Another frustrating aspect of the controls came during quick time events. When time slowed down in a scene, it’s your cue to use the right joystick to make Jodie interact with her environment. Though the tutorial says to push the joystick in the direction Jodie’s body is moving, often times that direction isn’t clear and resulted in our protagonist getting in far more scrapes than she should have.  Also, there’s an incredibly tacked on 2 player mode in which one person controls Aiden, but you can only switch controls between people when pressing a button, resulting in a subpar, frustrating experience for both parties. Just keep it single player, Quantic Dream.

You'll make Ellen Page sad if you don't buy this game

Verdict: For all the critiques I’ve given the game, I still thoroughly enjoyed the ten hour experience and was gripped by the story all the way through. If you love story driven games, this one is for you. Even if the plot can get ridiculous at time, the controls can feel sluggish, and the immersion is broken, not unlike Aiden, Jodie’s always there to pull you back in.

Friday, October 18, 2013

October 2013 Podcast

Colby and Daniel discuss the recently released Pokemon X/Y, the sad news of Watch_Dogs being delayed, and the launch lineup for PS4 and Xbox One.



Subscribe to us on iTunes

Or download here directly

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pokemon X/Y Review! An Old Formula - Remastered!

Pokemon is a 17-year old franchise, and flagship of Nintendo's first party titles, that has relied on the same formula since its inception. While the policy to "not fix what isn't broken" has certainly been successful for the Pokemon franchise, each new generation has brought with it new wishes from fans on how to make the Pokemon experience more personal, and how to improve the overall presentation. After 17 years, X and Y are now the quintessential and refined entries in the Pokemon franchise. Although the formula remains the same, this new experience is absolutely unparalleled.

AristoGamer October 2013 Podcast

The summer's dry spell of titles is almost complete! Today we'll be talking about
  • New game announcements
  • Watch_Dogs being delayed
  • Launch titles for new consoles
  • Pokemon X/Y

How to download and use Teamspeak



Date: Thursday, October 17
Time: 8:00pm Central Time

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

EB Expo 2013: Revitalizing the Australian Gaming Industry

 
Recently I had the pleasure of working and attending one of Australia’s largest gaming conventions. Though the great southern continent isn’t known for having a thriving gaming industry, the major gaming retailers are aiming to turn this around. EB Games is one of the leading retailers in games sales, and as such have taken it upon themselves to host what is known as the biggest gaming event in the southern hemisphere, being able to pull the interest of major games developers and publishers, while never forgetting the little guys and providing a hub for indie developers and smaller games companies to show off new and upcoming titles and talent.
Darth Aus and his force boomerang


Dubbed the EB Expo, the event runs for three days in October providing gamers all around Australia to come and experience, test and witness the newest and upcoming titles and hardware for the year to come. This year, gamers were particularly blessed with being able to get their hands on the new generation consoles which are soon to be released in November. Major developers took advantage of this to show off new software running on the new consoles, opting to give players a chance to experience games like never before, and hinting a taste at what is to come.

But what kind of convention would this be without cosplay I hear you ask? Well, EB Expo also catered to our cosplaying friends by throwing a massive cosplay competition with prizes up for grabs for those who had the best voted costumes. As I worked the expo floor, I saw an assortment of Links, Mario’s and Assassin’s from all walks of life. They were all quirky and wonderful, bringing a much needed gaming atmosphere to what would essentially have been a hardware/software show and tell.
One of the truly amazing cosplays that walked past me 
There was an assortment of tournaments ranging from some of the best League of Legend players to Australia’s best World of Tank teams. There was so much to see, that even as a staff member I couldn’t fit it in one viewing session. Each year, the EB Expo gets larger, grander and encompasses more of the gaming industries facets and niches. It gives hope that the Australian industry isn’t quite dead or stifled. There is still growth in our industry, and these annual conventions helps to promote that growth and encourages it to flourish.

And now what we've all been waiting for. Charmander vs Squirtle in the ultimate pokemon showdown.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix Review

J takes the plunge reviews Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix. Will it please hardcore fans and newcomers alike, or is this an overmilked series?

 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Card Hunter Review

One of the experiences I feel is ubiquitous to being a nerd is playing a spot of Dungeons and Dragons. Friends gathered around a table surrounded by junk food, fingers rubbing nervously at multicolored die, and all trained on trying to figure out how to get their characters out of the jam they’re in. That’s what DnD should be. My first experience was 2 hours of creating a character sheet, bumbling through spot checks, and having far less fun than it sounded. I had been put off of the DnD idea for a while, but knew I wanted to try it again.

Then along came Card Hunter, a game that blended traditional tabletop gaming, card game mechanics, and charming yet simple storytelling.  Could this really be the answer I’d been looking for?

One look at the visual style and overall vibe of Card Hunter and it’s difficult to not fall in love. You’re a new tabletop gamer with an inexperienced GM named Gary leading your story. As you and Gary bumble your way through your first campaigns, his brother Melvin is always watching over him and making him question his every move.  And this story isn’t even part of the narrative. Card Hunter take the approach that if you’re playing a tabletop game, it should look like one, feel like one, and the scenarios are crafted around you playing this game. The story within the tabletop game is forgettable at best, but you yearn for the next quick quip from Melvin or mistake from Gary. It’s an interesting mechanic and one unique to this title.



The gameplay is part DnD, part Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, with movement being dictated by tiles, but actions being dictated by randomly drawn cards. These cards determine how far you can move, your attacks, and your defense. It’s an interesting system I haven’t seen in a video game before, but it’s not difficult to understand. The cards in your inventory are determined by the items you have equipped to your characters, meaning you don’t have the fine granularity of card games like Magic the Gathering at your disposal. Maybe a weapon has two very strong blows, but three minor ones and a negative status effect, you can’t just pick and choose what you want. This aspect brings a new level of strategy to deck building that isn’t lost on me even if I’ve played very few card games.

The visual style looks exactly like a tabletop in a friend’s basement—a flat map with standees on top. This choice is a smart one and falls in line with the game’s hyperawareness that this is a game about playing a game. In a strange sense, seeing your characters represented by flat pieces of cardboard gives them much more charm. Over the years, we’ve seen characters go from cartoony to realistic, from pixelated to high def, and from 1 dimensional to 3 dimensional. I’ve seen very few games throw all that to the wind for a static, flat, unanimated look and they’ve mostly been terrible. Somehow, Card Hunter not only pulls it off, it makes me wish I could see more like it.



Card Hunter is a free to play, browser-based game and like most in its category, the developers are paid through in-game purchases. It’s possible to go through the game without ever paying a cent, though it gets harder to do so as you increase in level. If you do choose to purchase access to the Card Hunter Club, you get an extra item for every dungeon you loot. You can also purchase the game’s monetary currency, pizza, in order to buy more dungeons to raid. They even incorporate buying pizza into the story as Gary has a huge crush on the pizza girl Karen. Seeing these interactions is a treat and it’s nice to see the developers integrating the metastory into monetary purchases, as it makes the experience seem more natural and less disjointed.

The game also features a fun multiplayer aspect after level 5 in which your multiplayer party (separate from your single player party, though I’m not sure why) can go face to face with opponents of similar level. The formats are roughly the same as the single player adventures, though the maps are generally smaller and control points are more important. Overall, it’s a nice addition to an already entertaining game.



Verdict: Card Hunter deserves your attention, and not just because it’s free either. The gameplay is addictively fun, the metastory, though sparse, is funny enough that you want to hear more, and the deckbuilding and combat both make the game a must try. Even if you don’t like strategy games (and trust me, I’m with you), this is still something you should try. And why wouldn’t you, it’s free. So grab some Cheetos and your preferred carbonated beverage, pull up a folding chair, breath in the musty scent of old card table and well-worn manuals, and immerse yourself in Card Hunter.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

AristoGamer September 2013 Podcast

The summer's dry spell of titles is almost complete! Today we'll be talking about
  • GTA V
  • KH 1.5 HD Remix
  • Tokyo Game Show News
  • PS Vita TV

How to download and use Teamspeak



Date: Thursday, September 19
Time: 8:00pm Central Time

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Payday 2 Review

With all the buzz about this game, Payday 2 must tickle J's fancy, right? THAT'S WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT ELSWORD.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tales of Xillia Review

Alas, the life of a Western fan of the "Tales of" series is a rather trying one. Some of the flagships of the Tales series (most notably Symphonia, Vesperia, and Abyss) have been ranked as some of the greatest RPGs ever made, and continue to gain popularity years after their initial release.  Unfortunately, the series has not had the best track record for localization outside of Japan. The legendary RPG series has spawned fourteen mothership titles, and only half of those have been released internationally. However, the fifteenth anniversary has finally brought with it a new localization! Two years after its release in Japan, Tales of Xillia made its long-awaited North American debut earlier this month. Does this new title live up to the standards set by its critically acclaimed predecessors, or does it fall to the crippling cliches and development flaws present in many JRPGs today?

Friday, August 23, 2013

August 2013 Podcast

Join Devin and Colby as they talk about the PS4's release date, the Vita price drop, Payday 2, YouTubers and the next console generation, and marketing in gaming.



Subscribe to us on iTunes

Or download here directly

Thursday, August 22, 2013

AristoGamer August 2013 Podcast

Summer's finally ending and with it, hopefully the drought of good games to play. Today we'll talk about:
  • Payday 2
  • PS4 Release
  • HDCP on consoles
  • YouTubers and next gen

How to download and use Teamspeak



Date: Thursday, August 22
Time: 8:00pm Central Time

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Divekick Review


When a friend first linked me to the above video, I thought it was rather silly. A game with only two moves? That's weird, I thought. I laughed about it and went on with my life. Somehow word of its Kickstarter, and subsequent Kickstarted cancellation, never made it to me, so the next time I saw it was PAX East 2013.

And my word was I surprised.


I rushed hurriedly to the booth and hopped on a system with a two button arcade box, one of the most unnecessarily overengineered and beautiful pieces I had ever seen. Lovely art with two huge blue and yellow buttons int he middle proudly labeled Dive and Kick. Two matches later and I was hooked. I interviewed the creator, I bought a shirt, I kept up on the news, I raved about it whenever possible, and I waited with anxiousness. It came out yesterday and I was so excited, I wrote a haiku about it.

divekick, Divekick, dive
Divekick divekicks; Divekick, kick
divekick, Divekick, win

If all of the waxing poetic about the game wasn’t an indicator, I like it. Superficially, Divekick is a joke. Obviously. One of the characters is a doctor named Dr. Shoals who has rocket boots and its looking for a cure for a foot disease called Foot Dive. Of course it’s a joke.


But if you give it a chance (i.e. exactly one match), you quickly realize it’s so much more than that. It's a fighting game that attempts, and succeeds in many ways, to equalize all competitors. Gone are people who juggle your character across the map for 30 seconds and leave you with 2 hits until death. No longer can you put your controller down while waiting for someone’s massive combo to end. And obliterated is the feeling that no matter what you do, there are some people that know way more about the game than you and will exploit programming flaws to eviscerate you. By limiting your input to jumping, kicking, and having a few variations on moves for other characters, it’s as close to one on one, equal combat as you can get. You always know exactly what you did wrong and the other player did right to get you.

At least in theory.



As Divekick matured, its roster grew, and with more characters, things to distinguish between characters needed to be added. As a result the roster is significantly expanded, allowing players to choose a character to fit their playstyle. With that comes a certain degree of having to learn a character and I was initially scared that this would mean the end of what I enjoy most about Divekick—its transparency. But as I played, I found that these fears were unfounded as it’s as complex as it is understandable. The metagame of Divekick—trying to figure out when your opponent will attack, how high they’ll jump, etc…—is incredibly complex, but the controls and movesets are so limited, you’re always in control and your opponent's moves are never an unknown.

Put simply, that’s why Divekick is currently my favorite fighting game. There’s nothing mystifying about it. If you lose, it’s because the other person is either faster with their fingers than you, able to outsmart your moves, or lucky enough to land the first hit. And when you are defeated, you see exactly what happened and you can learn from it. Divekick is the first fighting game I’ve ever played in which I didn’t feel alienated when playing friends proficient in fighting games, and that’s intensely satisfying. Even playing pros online, I could win a few matches because I happened to position myself in such a way that they were caught off guard.

The game features single player mode, which has exactly as much story as you'd expect—somewhere between five and six panels of moving comics plus three dialogue banter sessions. Of course there's a local versus mode, even on the Vita, but there's also an online portion which boasts the best netcode of any fighter out there. To be fair though, I've had more than one match with a little lag, and one in which the loading screen came up for a few seconds before the battle resumed.

The art style is hand drawn and can be a little amateurish at times, but it all fits with the themes of the game. The music is unobtrusive and the backgrounds aren’t distracting, lending to the idea that in Divekick, combat is king. Just like in most fighters, you can complete story mode in about half an hour per character if you’re bad. Matches are completed in anywhere between 15 seconds and the absolute maximum of 3 minutes, meaning it's as quick as it is intense.

Though things may seem to be all raindives and sunkicks, there are few things to be mad at Divekick about. The loading screens are far more boring than they should be. Here’s what it looks like, except the circles don't shrink away and the background is black:


No, that’s not the image loading, that’s the whole loading screen. Black background, swirly circle. JUST PUT IN A SWEET BACKGROUND OF DIVE DOING SOME MATH HOMEWORK OR KENNY LOOKIN’ AT A TOURNAMENT. SOMETHING.

Also, the Vita’s static portraits on the character select screen and during the fight were scaled down versions of the PS3 version, resulting in some jaggy graphic artifacts. A simple update could fix that, though I'm not sure why nobody caught it sooner.

Verdict: Come on, have I not gushed enough? Divekick is hands down the most simple, elegant, fair, and accessible fighter I’ve ever played. To fighting game terri-bads like myself, it’s perfect since the investment to get proficient is so low. And to fighter pros, it’s also perfect since the movesets are so simple, you’re forced to be creative and quick thinking to pull off a victory against a seasoned pro. Or lucky. That’ll work too.

Just go buy it, come on man.




As a side note, Iron Galaxy was kind enough to give me a review code for the game the day before its release on a far too late request from me. Even though he wasn't in the office, the CEO himself handled my request quickly and got me the code very quickly, so thanks so much to Dave Lang. Also for the record, I bought the game on Steam just so I could support them with my dollars. You should too!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

UnEpic Review

  
http://rrrat.ru/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/unepic/LOGO.jpg

Recently, I’ve been looking for games to keep me occupied between my irregular working schedule and had UnEpic suggested to me. Always willing to try out new indie games, I threw caution to the wind and bought it from Steam for a wonderful $7.99. To my unfortunate discovery, I found the game lives up to its name, UnEpic is actually un-epic.

The first issue I encountered before I even began playing was trying to run it on my computer. Admittedly my Alienware is older now, and has a harder time running the new and shiny software, but upon booting UnEpic, I was greeted with a black screen and menu sounds. To my dismay, it was a problem that could only be solved by updating my graphics drivers, which are now out of make and no longer have supported drivers. After dealing with this error, I got in to playing the game.

What struck me first about the game was the hand drawn title screen, which was well animated and lent a sense of foreboding about the game to come. Would I be thrown in to a gritty and dark adventure with monsters to slay and quests to complete? The scene opens with a group of players playing a tabletop RPG, where our protagonist excuses himself to the bathroom. Thus our adventure begins.

UnEpic places you straight in to the action with a rudimentary starting story, basic introduction to your inventory and equipment. There is also a severe lack of basic movement tutorials, and I was left to figure them out on my own. The controls however, feel well tuned and you have good response from the character, which is great when compared to other metroidvania style games.

As I progressed through the game I was provided with many more basic tutorials for looting items, and how to split my bag in two to make sorting easier. I'd have preferred an inventory option to sort my items by type, or have some other form of inventory management instead of having to do it manually. I found myself spending a lot of time in the inventory comparing weapons and armor, locating potions to bind to hotkeys and sorting potion ingredients that dropped with sheer abundance.

UnEpic does implement a crafting system, so you can make various potions with effects that are very useful - 3 levels ago. Potion crafting is learned by purchasing a recipe from any of the vendors that are located throughout the dungeon, for exuberant amounts of money that you must then learn from your inventory. The entire process from learning to creation is too long and drawn out, with the final result of creation being handled poorly. Many of the crafted items are simply dropped on the ground and must be reacquired before leaving the area, instead of the items being added straight to the inventory. This is frustrating, especially if you take in to the account the random encounters with thieves inside the dungeon, that steals any item left behind on the ground while you are away from that room. Yes, this adds an element of life to what is essentially a stagnant dungeon crawler, but often it is easy to lose those essential items that have dropped or been crafted.

The combat in UnEpic is enjoyable, with a very hack and slash feel. There is not a whole lot of opportunity to dodge, and most of the time it's easier to soak up the damage. There are definitely areas where crouching to dodge incoming missiles would be handy, but if you can equip yourself with enough healing potions, and are savvy enough with getting yourself to a save point, you won't need to worry about avoiding damage. This can be frustrating as it does take time to drink a potion, which can often mean the difference between life and death. Poison is a commonly occurring status effect, with many creatures able to stack instances of poison on you, which can dramatically and quickly drain your health.

UnEpic also implements weapon type switching to get the best damage out of your weapon against specific enemies. For example, a mace is excellent for breaking those deadly barrels that sit in the corner and glare at you and a sword is good for stabbing living things. It's great that the developer thought of trying to add a little more complexity and meaning to weapon types, but after putting a handful of points into my sword skill, I could take down pretty much everything that sniffed at me funny with either magic or a well placed sword swing to the everywhere.

http://i1.wp.com/www.ogrejungle.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/unepic-Gameplay.pngOne of the big issues with UnEpic is that there is a sheer amount of backtracking involved in the game. Not only do you have to retrace your steps to complete side quests as you adventure, but you need to backtrack to get to save points, fast travel gates, and to progress to different areas. Out of the seven hours I played, two hours were actual story content, the other five was spent trekking back and forth completing side quests, shopping and saving the game. All this traveling became monotonous and boring, and I soon found myself getting tired of navigating ladders and corridors. I nearly freaked out walking down my own apartment corridor after seven hours of this, thinking a ladder and another corridor awaited me.

Verdict: UnEpic lives up to its name; it is very un-epic. Combat was well tuned, and it definitely promotes exploration and character progression in classic RPG fashion. What it lacked though was a well developed story, natural dialogue and too much backtracking. I found myself having to retrace my steps often, and I would often ignore the weapons mechanic for my sword which was pretty effective against everything. UnEpic has charming graphics reflective of many older metroidvania games, and the sound design is pretty good. UnEpic is good for those afternoons where you don't have much to do and want to kill an hour or two before you go out, or are just looking to chill and not think too hard.




Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Elsword Review


Join J as he stumbles upon the free to play beat 'em up MMO Elsword. How can they screw this one up?

Monday, August 5, 2013

July 2013 Podcast

Devin, Casey, and Colby discuss the upcoming Quakecon, games and tech shown at SDCC 2013, and the indie gaming policies on the next generation of consoles



Subscribe to us on iTunes

Or download here directly

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2

"Stealth. The entire point of a recon sniper.  To be deadly without being seen.  Shoot and blend into your environment.  The modern day ninja as it were.  The ultimate game of hide and seek." 

"Raise the difficulty only slightly and despite remaining perfectly off the grid and out of sight, you’ll still find your every slightest movement amplified to the world. In fact, I will go ahead and warn any perfectionists reading this that if you feel the need to achieve the perfect stealth kill each time with your rifle, you're going to become very good friends with the save/load game button. You can line up a perfect shot, hold your breath, fire your silenced rifle, and the moment the guard’s body hits the ground the ENTIRE  BLOODY PLANET IS AWARE OF YOUR EXACT LOCATION AND WILL FIRE 10,000 ROUNDS OF RIFLE FIRE AT YOU AT ONCE."

        Why yes, those should sound familiar, especially to you ardent fans who've read all my reviews (all 6 of you).  My review of the first Sniper: Ghost Warrior really tore into the lack of balance in stealth elements and obscene difficulty. With Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, it's as if City Interactive read the above lines and decided to take THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE APPROACH. I have a lot of experience in playing scout recon/sniper with FPS games, especially in the few sniper "simulators" that are out there. But that shouldn't mean that I can play the entirety of Ghost Warrior 2 on the highest difficulty with 90% or more accuracy in every single level...on the first play through. I'm not kidding! I didn't even expect this to happen! I only started at such a difficulty to give myself a bit of a laugh. I mean hey, if the difficulty in the first game was ridiculous, I can only imagine what an improved and battle-tested AI would be in the sequel! So let's start the first level, get absolutely trampled, have a laugh, then restart and actually play. Only I finished the level...at 100% completion (including the always stupid "collect the somehowsignificant tokens we've hidden to add game time)...with 92% accuracy...and taking no damage. At first, I sat back and thought, "Man, have I really improved that much? It has been quite a long time since the first game was released. Well, let's load the first game back up and play a little of it on the same difficulties, make a fair compariAND THERE GOES MY LEG YAY!". 

I'm going to thuper kill him. Theriously Diaz.

        I couldn't believe it. The game has really been dumbed down! And the real kicker is that nothing else has changed! NOT A BLASTED THING. The levels are just as linear as before, the environments are the same, even the rifles are a bloody joke. All throughout the game, you have the option to pick-up a Dragunov from a fallen soldier. Maybe it's an improvement from your starting rifle? Nope! The sights aren't near as accurate to use and most of the time you'll need to keep the silencer in order to maintain your stealth. So maybe the damage is better, as a trade-off for the lack of noise suppression? Wrong! Damage is the same throughout, especially for the killshots you're aiming for. The scope magnification? The amount of ammunition in a clip? The colored stickers on the stock? I can say variations of no in only so many ways. So yeah, you'll pretty much always stick with the starting rifle, unless you feel the strange need to sneak behind a man and pop him with your pistol. Granted this is a legitimate tactic as it not only conserves your rifle ammunition but it also allows you to get up-close observations of your surroundings, especially in those moments when night-vision is needed and the coloring now matches the surrounding foliage, giving your enemy even more camouflage. But heck, that's what the pistol is for! Why would you ever want to use your scoped rifle from a perfectly dark and well hidden vantage point when you could instead just hike across the creaking wooden bridge and bust a cap in thug Joe?  REAL SNIPERS ONLY POLISH THEIR EQUIPMENT.


There you are! Now if I shimmy down this ledge, crawl across the road, work my way around the building...
           
        So by now you may have noticed my lack of details in aspects such as controls or the physics with the actual sniping. To be honest, there's really nothing to say about them as they're pretty much duplicates from the first game. It's a little sluggish, but still overall fairly simple. At the highest difficulty you won't have the little red circle helper dancing around your scope, indicating the compensations for wind and bullet drop. Otherwise, he's there to help whether you like it or not.
NO!
        Now here is something I have to commend Sniper Elite: V2. Not a perfect game by any means, but it did have a unique feature that allowed you to set the difficulty of the AI separately from the level of realism you wish to have with your sniping experience. You could have the helper dot available as you fight through mutant Nazoviets, or you could give your focus on the physics of the scope with absolutely no help against an enemy that needs his squad leader to demonstrate proper procedure for blinking. With Ghost Warrior 2, it's just a tad more basic in customization. I guess you could say that difficulty lies in knowing which scope you're actually using, since the level of magnification and power of rifle affects the tic interval on your scope. Now, it's not like I would particularly want an in-depth explanation of my rifle scope each time I started a level, but a little journal entry or blip of info in the mission briefing would've been nice. Certainly would've saved me from having to draw crude scopes and write in that each large tic was 100m for rifle A, 75m for rifle B, etc. No, that's obsessive! Either you have little numbers indicated on your scope so you can figure out your shot while in the moment, or you at least given an indication to what you'll be dealing with.  The best part is, even on the missions when I realized that my rifle was at some wonky interval and not the basic 100m distance I had been using, my accuracy never drops below 90%. I deliberately missed several shots in order to figure out where to friggin' aim, and it was still ok! Expert level for only the really experienced players. Ha! Imagine coming to an amusement park horror house and reading a disclaimer that anyone with heart conditions or certain phobias shouldn't consider entering because of the extreme use of scare tactics. You're excited, your heart is racing, you can't wait to see what nightmares or ideas they have! This could be one of those places where the actor is dressed up in some professional quality outfit and prop weapon whom will chase you after you walk in on him sawing through the leg of a screaming victim. The wait is over, it's your turn to walk! You round the corner and...BLEGH! Count Chocula is standing in a room, playing with a yo-yo. Elaborate set-up for a lame comparison joke, right? The same can be asked of Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2.

Stahp. Moveng.


OH! THE CONCLUSION! Ok, so story wise this plays out like any action movie of the 80's and 90's. Guy is in jungle, guy finds super evil men. Guy flashbacks to his previous missions in Russia. Guy gets revenge. Guy's buddy asks him if anybody is waiting for him back home. Guy says "my rifle is my best friend, it is my life" because I guess that was the deep meaning behind this or something. I don't know, no one cares, helicopter into sunset, the end.




The Colonel's Conclusion:


            Overall, it's just a giant disappointment. Once again, there's so few games available that are geared for a tactical scout sniper experience, you'll probably end up picking this up during a Steam sale. And you'll play it. And you'll see exactly what I mean. The only redeeming factor in this sequel are the missions where you're in a nest position and there's a .50cal waiting for you. It's really unfortunate you only got to use that scoped cannon a few times in the game because those were pretty rad (yes, I'm bringing rad back. Fight me.)

Monday, July 29, 2013

AristoGamer July 2013 Podcast

The year's nearly half over, and the console war is heating up! Tomorrow's topics are:
  • SDCC Wrap-up
  • Quake Con talk
  • Indie game policies
  • Console wars

How to download and use Teamspeak



Date: Tuesday, July 30
Time: 8:00pm Central Time

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

SDCC 2013 Wrap-up: Bayonetta 2, Ace Attorney 5, PS4, Xbox One, and more!

San Diego Comic Con was full of some highly anticipated, upcoming games. Check out this preview of these titles:

Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds
Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
Bayonetta 2
Ace Attorney 5
Octodad
Ryse: Son of Rome
Knack
Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns
Yoshi's New Island

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cube World Alpha Guide

I’ve talked about it often with my friends, cursed wol_lay’s name for not releasing it soon enough, and ventured to the deepest depths of the internet to try and find a copy of the game. But no more.

Cube World is here.


For those of you that don’t know, Cube World is a voxel-graphics adventure game inspired by Zelda, Minecraft, and other dungeon crawlers, programmed over the past few years by a German man named wol_lay and his wife. You can join friends or play alone to quest across an infinitely generating world to slay enemies, grab sweet gear, and discover new and exciting lands. Also you can hang glide, boat, and ride horses which is just rad. Also, before you ask, no, it’s not another Minecraft clone. In fact the similarities only go so far as the graphic style and the infinite world, everything else is wholly different though equally as fun and addicting.



But before you jump into this dangerously fun title, you might want to take these tips to heart.

Water Mage for multiplayer, Fire Mage for single

 

Mages come in two different element variants, each with their own advantages. Fire Mages have potentially more attack power, especially in the higher levels, whereas Water Mages have access to healing magic. Though it’s nice to be able to heal yourself, fire magic is more suited to solo questing for being able to eliminate more enemies quickly as you can still heal yourself with potions.


With groups, however, Water Mages are one of the most crucial components. Not only can they pull aggro if needed, their attacks can double as both attacks and heals, meaning warriors can tank far more effectively since mages only have to cast one spell. This spell comes in handy when to keeping a warrior alive as he leads a Dwarf King on a merry chase.

Think you don’t need a pet? You’re wrong

 

For one if you don’t want a pet, you probably also don’t like ice cream, fireworks, or hope. Secondly, the friendly animals in this game are all so cute, it’d be difficult to say no. And for three, they all attack!

Yes, they all attack.

Yes, even the bunny. Look at this cute little guy.


Beyond that, you can ride your pets for a movement bonus, which is nice when you need to cross a plain and there’s nothing to hang glide off of. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rode my horse across the land and straight into a castle sheerly because it was faster than running.

Oh also, the spitter is the best pet. It has water mage powers and looks like an octorok from Zelda. He’s great. I like that guy.

Item power


You have a power level associated with your character, and since the game never stops, it may even one day reach over nine thousand. This power level determines what gear you can equip and can often be a source of trouble when trying to get new items as you generally find things for power levels greater than your own. Fear not though, since a quick trip to the guy in the giant tower in each town can adapt that equipment down to your level free of charge. He can also adapt equipment you’ve grown out of, but are still quite in love with, up to your level, though that costs far more than free. So is it better to wait and get the level required for your sweet new sword, or do you want to use it now to smear gnoll blood across the mountains? That’s for your play style to decide.


Another, similar note is that when you craft items, their power level is in line with your own. I didn’t know this when I crafted 50 pumpkin muffins that were all +2. Now that I’m level 24, I’m still eating 6-7 muffins just to gain back my health, whereas I could just make one +24 one now and my health would regain exponentially more. So the secret is to get as many items to craft as possible, but only craft when needed!

Glitches/Quick tips

 

1)      Warrior’s berserker class is broken and the attack speed bonus is not nearly what it should be, so be a guardian just to get the HP boost
2)      There’s missing sound effects for a large number of things as well as no ambiance music, so get a playlist ready
3)      If you take too long clearing a dungeon, the monsters will respawn, so you’ll have to fight your way back through the same guys you killed 15 minutes ago in the same areas
4)      There’s no death penalty other than being transported away from the enemies and them regaining their health, so use that to your advantage and be adventurous!





And that’s about it! To pick up a copy of the game go here, then play it and make your friends get it, and go raid some old castles or temples! Cube World is as expansive as Minecraft, as challenging as Fallout at times, with a unique item system like Diablo, and all the charm of a 6 week old kitten. Give it a try if you like Minecraft, Zelda, or hate having free time.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...