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Reinventing the Wheel to Run Myself Over (and Other Fall Out Boy Song Title references)

Games go stale, it’s not a new thing or something that will ever stop. There are two directions that a game developer can take their waning franchise, revitalizing it with choice gameplay and setting changes, or completely obliterating it with over-the-top overhauls and unnecessary features.

Good Game Goes In, Bad Sequel Comes Out

There have been countless examples of utter failure on development companies and their publishers part. The lure of a sequel often trumps the bad juju associated with trying to out-do their last blockbuster hit, more or less with the same offering. It has happened to many beloved game franchises.

Take the Burnout series for example. Burnout 1, while not the best looking or even the best control wise, was a great game. The challenge of winning a race coupled with surviving an onslaught from 7+ AI all trying to push you into any obstacle they could find was a rush. There was a great boost mechanic which rewarded the player for doing dangerous maneuvers such as driving in the wrong lane, jumping ramps, and slamming into opponents(bonus points for actually making them wreck into a thousand tiny pieces!). The ‘story’ was progressed by means of a radio DJ calling all ‘burners’ to these races and when the player made their name known in an area they were permitted to enter races in other locales, kind of strange but it worked.

Then of course the developer, Criterion(published by Acclaim), decides to make a sequel… and guess what? It wasn’t that bad! It kept the same core mechanic and gnarly crashes while expanding in just the right areas. Namely the graphics, car selection, track selection, and AI learning is what was tweaked. Burnout 2: Point of Impact played like the original and was better in all the right places. Also, there were nearly double the races and challenges as the original… oh yeah.

After these two successes EA games bought the franchise rights from Acclaim but kept Criterion as the developers. Burnout 3: Takedown was in my opinion the best Burnout release. It bumped up the difficulty of the hard modes by adding more traffic and, coupled with the harder tracks and the way better AI, made beating your personal best that much harder. The car selection was great and varied. Game progression made sense even though they ditched the classic radio DJ theme although there was still some form of interaction with a radio personality.The game was getting kind of old but you could never really get over the bad ass crashes and full on action of the races, the series was far from being dead on arrival, or so one would think.

Sugar We’re Going Down

Now, I’ve told you all this because these were examples of how to do it right. It just so happens that the Burnout series had a great run with outstanding titles. That is, until Burnout: Revenge. This game was basically a rehash of Burnout 3, but worse. In the previous 3 titles touching any of the non-racing vehicles resulted in a fiery death, yes just barely grazing them with 1 pixel of your car or pushing the side view mirror of an opponent into traffic was enough to start a crash. On the same hand if you contacted any car after it had been crashed and was not yet despawned off the track it was an instant death as well. Burnout: Takedown changed both of these features. The 4th installment of Burnout allowed the player to ‘Traffic Check’ same-way traffic. Essentially if you were driving in the same direction of a non-racer car you could blast their rear and use them as a weapon against other racers with NO PENALTY WHATSOEVER. There was no slow-down, no damage done to your car, and if you pinballed a wrecked NPC car into an opponent it counted as a special takedown.

This one change in gameplay made almost everything about the game feel cheap. No longer did you have to actually dodge cars, all you had to do was stay in your lane and rear end every mo’ fo’ unlucky enough to be driving through the Autobahn that day. Not only did it not slow you down but Traffic Checking gave you boost! WTF. Of course this made the race mode extremely easy, but it made the crash mode ridiculously easy. In the previous titles one would have to play a level over many times to get the perfect angle and cause the most destruction, often it came down to millisecond timing and amazing reflexes. In Revenge, however, all you had to do was drive around until you were in same-way traffic and start a chain reaction. And the timer just so happened to always give you enough time to get to that same-way traffic lane. If the timer was 90 seconds you better believe it was going to take you 85 seconds to get to your crash zone.

The Burnout series wasn’t just a scene, it was an arms race. An arms race that fell completely short with its 4th title and Burnout Paradise, the open world driver was so far gone from the first game it was unrecognizable. This was one of the few times a demo made me NOT want to buy the full game. In the end things fizzled out, and I predict that the next installment will be crashing, but it certainly won’t be a wave.

Screen of Burnout 1 for Graphics comparison.

Burnout 3: Takedown screen, my favorite of the 5 console games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calm Before the Storm

I really wanted to get into other games and how they have ruined their franchises, or at least sullied their reputations… but I know I can be and already am very long winded here. I just feel pretty strongly about keeping to your guns when you know what works, and also knowing when to quit or just release some DLC instead of a new potentially bad game. Gears did it, Halo did it, Ghost Recon is also a culprit. Street Fighter, Zelda, Mario, Sonic, hell even PONG has run themselves over with their own game before.

We are on the cusp of a new ‘gaming season’ where more and more information will be released about ‘blockbuster’ games conveniently coming out near December. How are companies going to wow us, and ultimately let us down this year? A new Gears and CoD are likely releasing, along with (maybe) Duke Nukem Forever. Lets just hope we get a polished and well thought out product instead of a hastily released amalgam of old boring features and new bullcrap.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Console

 

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New Map for Call of Duty? Leaked poster image seems to confirm.

Below you will find the image that was leaked earlier this week containing the rumored titles of the Map Pack 2 for Call of Duty Black Ops. There is much speculation to be done, and don’t be fooled by the date format… it is day/month/year as most of the world does(not here in the USA though).

The big question is ‘is this real’. I for one believe it to be genuine. In a lot of images there is a small portion on the bottom detailing Xbox live and copyright info (there is a ‘First on Xbox LIVE’ brand just like the first DLC), it is just cut off on this one. The only thing that points it to being shopped is the picture for Hotel is actually already used on another Black Ops poster but this could just be a slip up on the image designers part or intentional.

There is a good bit of info on the map Hotel already. It’s loading screen has been mined out of the data on the disc that was shipped and there is also a top-down map of the gameplay area.

The Load Screen for Hotel

Hotel top down map.

From the pic and the map we can see that the left side of the map is where the stairs in the picture go to. There will likely be a rappel feature somewhere in the map, possible in the lower right hand corner which is probably the lobby area in the picture on the poster.

Zoo should be an interesting addition to the multiplayer. One can assume that there will be some sort of animal based obstacle or interaction if they continue with the trend from the last DLC of putting in ways to interact with the map such as ziplines.

Convoy is the one I am most excited for. From the teaser picture we can assume that it is set near Crystal City, Texas… a great deal closer to home than most Call of Duty arenas. I am guessing this will be a smaller map set around an underpass on a large highway. Hopefully there will be overturned cars and tanker trucks and the like for cover.

Stockpile is the only one in a snow type environment this go around. It is likely it is the map that people thought was Discovery from Map Pack 1. I have done an article that featured this screen before but it was in speculation of it being Discovery or not, now I am leaning more towards the not side.

I have no idea how the new zombie map ‘Survival’ is going to pan out. It will probably have some sort of crazy easter egg just like the 90 second death machine from Ascension. Here’s hoping!

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Console, FPS

 

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Crysis 2 preview

Here's a quick look at the features of Crysis 2, clicky for link.

Crysis 2 is the long awaited sequel to the PC Sci-Fi shooter Crysis. Crysis was a beautifully engineered piece of work that essentially bridged the gap between Halo and Call of Duty. Here’s the kicker though, Crysis 2 will be available for PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles. This is very good news indeed as I didn’t want to rebuild my machine just yet.

Guns for funds

The guns in this game skirt the boundary between realism and futurism. There are some which are based off of IRL firearms, such as the SCAR and the K-Volt(based off the Vector, or Super-V SMG). However most are completely fictional, with names such as ‘Feline’ and ‘Grendel’.

The SCAR is the assault for the demo. It performed well, with 40 round mag and decent fire rate. The iron sights are not bad at all and can be upgraded to a ‘reflex’ sight. It had some recoil but really no trouble single shotting enemies across the map. Definitely the most versatile of the demo guns.

The M60 showed up as the LMG for the demo. This version of the M60 was … how can I put this lightly… BAD. Really terrible recoil and not so great damage made this gun pale in comparison to any of the other guns at any range. I hope they retune this gun for release.

The DSG-1… do you think they meant PSG-1?.. is Crysis 2 first sniper rifle. 8 round clip, semi auto, and comes standard with a variable zoom scope. It took 2 shots anywhere but the upper chest/neck/head which is good. The zoom took a brief moment to steady then it was rock solid. I enjoyed sniping as it allowed for good skill shots and close quickscopes.

The Jackal is the resident shotgun, with 7 shots in the clip, 1 shot kill if the enemy wasn’t locked in armor and then only 2 this gun is amazing. If you want to get high kills and low deaths just be smart with your movement and attack when the time is right. Compound movement with stealth and you really have a killing machine on your hands.

There were NO SMGs available in the demo, something I took offense to because it meant that the 1 shotgun dominated CQC. Also I happen to be an SMG kind of guy. Give me a MP5 over a G36C any day.

The Nano Suit

This is where things start to heat up. The nano suit is your armor in Crysis 2, and it is quite the departure from your typical battle armor. It allows a multitude of abilities standard such as Cloaking, Sprinting, Armor Enhance, ‘Nano-vision’, melee and enhanced zoom.

All of your abilities except for the zoom function run off of energy. So you can’t just sprint around all day then hope to have any juice left to melee. This is a great way to balance melee especially

Stats stats stats stats stats stats stats

Crysis 2 unloads so many stats onto your screen in the menu item ‘Operative Status’ that it boggles the mind. There are graphs and charts, percentages, numbers, and graphics galore. It is almost overwhelming.

There is a pane for challenges such as weapon progress and module progress. These can help you on your quest to upgrading your equipment by showing you precisely how many peoples heads you need to impact into their spine with a drop-kick.

Counting everything there are 126 unlocks (weapons/modules/classes/attachments/gametypes), 520 challenges, and 256 ‘dog tags’ (think Titles/Emblem in CoD). Thats a lot of stuff! The demo maxed out at level 10 of the 50 in retail so who knows when you unlock any of the later guns.

Perks, oh yes another game with Perks

I’m not sure what game started this system but it is sure taking off nowadays. Nearly every game that comes out has some sort of perk system, Battlefield, CoD, even Halo with it’s 1 dimensional armor abilities. In my opinion they are a great way to define play and restrict power. There is no easier way to balance something than to dictate when it can be used and how it is used, and perks essentially do this.

Crysis approaches this system with ‘modules’ for Armor, Stealth, and Power. There are 3 available in the demo for each catagory, and they are unlocked based on use. So if you want to unlock a stealth module you need to do stealthy actions like assassinations or kills shortly after cloaking.

The Armor modules available are:

Air Stomp: “Perform a powerful downwards attack when in the air.”                                                             You activate this by holding B in the air, crashing down with your fist and boot on any unsuspecting enemy below you. I was not afforded very many opportunities to use this ability so I largely ignored it. That and the long recovery turned me off, but when you upgrade it(each module has 2 upgrades gained by actions done while the module is equipped) the recovery is lowered.

Proximity Alarm: “Automatic warning when an enemy is nearby.”                                                              This warning is in the form of a beep. The beep changes tone depending on the distance the enemy is from you. This is quite useful for people who are unobservant, unlucky, or who just want a little extra notification. It can get quite hectic when multiple enemies are around so be wary of that.

Armor Enhance: “Reduces drain speed of energy in Armor mode.”                                                            This is the one I chose, as the Armor mode of your nano suit was super-effective. It allows you to absorb  more damage and live longer while activating Armor. This is helpful in firefights and also if someone catches you with your back turned the lowered drain of Armor mode will give you that extra energy to sprint away.

Stealth Modules make up the 2nd tier of perks:

Stealth Enhance: “Faster transition in and out of Stealth.”                                                                         The Stealth mode on your nano suit is very useful, most players will use it the most of their nano suit powers. Anything that gives a boost to this ability is welcomed with open arms. Sometimes it is just that 1/2 second while cloaking that gets you killed, and if you can shorten that window of opportunity for the enemy you will gain the upper hand. A very useful perk.

Covert Ops: “Suppresses the sound of footsteps.” I found this perk extremely useful. Footsteps are l-o-u-d  in this game. Anything to stop the enemy from turning around while I sneak up on them is better. As an added bonus the upgrades are “Invisible to enemy killstreaks” and “Louder enemy footsteps”

Cloak Tracker: “Identifies when enemies enter Stealth mode nearby.”                                                            A vague description huh? It actually gives Stealthed enemies nearby a shimmer so you can see them. It is not only effective right after they enter cloak as the description leads you to believe. This is a must have for some teams, as there will be tons of stealthers because literally everyone can use stealth at any time.

The last tier is rounded out by the Power Modules:

Side Pack: “Allows an additional magazine of primary ammunition to be carried.” This is a great perk if you tend to live long and don’t really care to pick up enemy weapons. That said, with the amount of enemy weapons laying around you can’t really be without a gun. The upgrades probably make it useful but as I see it vanilla is just not worth it.

Weapon Pro: “Faster weapon reloading.” Short and sweet, I like it. This is a great perk if you are using a fast firing weapon such as an assault rifle, or SMG(even though no SMGs were in the Demo). This perk will give you an advantage in so many situations including 1 on 1s and quick fights with multiple enemies. On top of being awesome the upgrades are “Faster Aim down sight” and “Faster weapon switch” so it pretty much just gets godly the more you use it.

Aim Enhance: “Decreases weapon recoil when aiming down sights.” This perk reduces the recoil so much it isn’t even fair. The only gun that still has recoil on it is the M60, and even then just barely. This turns the ARs into laser guns and pistols into face-dominating auto wins. Upgraded it is even better, allowing you to take less flinch for the first upgrade, I sadly don’t know the second upgrade.

Streaks in your kills?

Adding another ‘system-from-a-game-we-all-know-and-love’ Crytek went ahead and lopped in Killstreaks for Crysis 2. They did address an issue that some gamers have brought up before, camping for streaks. The system Crysis 2 uses is dogtags instead of outright kills. Whenever you kill an enemy they drop an item that must be retrieved to actually unlock your streak.This seems to balance camping and sniping as these two actions generally won’t net you a large number of dog tags.

I am not sure if there are customizable streaks as the only ones I could see in the demo were 3) Radar 5)Orbital Strike 7) Alien gunship. Those look familiar though don’t they? 3)UAV 5) Airstrike 7)Helicopter… anyone? Anyway, at a couple points in the demo I had my radar ‘jammed’, guessing that is another streak but I can’t for the life of me find out how to change.

 

Level Design

With the ability to leap high distances as well as sprint for an extended duration Crysis 2 will have fairly mobility heavy maps. This will play to the strengths of people who prefer to run n’ gun, but don’t count the slow methodical players out yet. There are secret routes galore so even if you are not running around like an alien with it’s head shot off you can traverse the terrain fairly quickly.

There were two maps available in this demo. The first was Skyline, a small map on the roof and top floors or a NYC high rise. The verticality of this level really shines with jumps galore. The middle of the map is characterized with a large glass enclosure.There are multiple ways up to the top, a couple of the walls are broken out which allow for one to jump and climb up.

There are 2 ‘sides’, one with an outside staircase and a helipad and the other with a set of green houses to hop on top of. The underneath is a series of offices, corridors, and gym areas where quarters are tight and shotguns prevail. Several risky maneuvers can be found in the low parts of the map to ease travel. One such stunt involves shooting out 2 windows and jumping the middle death pit. The result is a scene fit for The Matrix as you fly through shards of glass to grasp the opposite edge and pull yourself up.

 

Pier 17 is a starkly different kind of map. When you first set foot on it you will see what I mean. The skirmish takes place at a dock for yachts after the alien menace has annihilated most of the ships and buildings. The sideways boats are quite trippy to walk on, making you feel off balance and disoriented. It is akin to those 45 degree angle maps people have made in Halo 3 and Halo Reach forge mode, but less gimicky.

The inner portion of the map is flat and open except for the sinking ships, most of which you can go inside. There is a good deal of water but get this, you can SWIM. This is a great way to get that sniper off your back, simply dive underwater. Many a game people would pitch an underwater tent and camp with the fishes.

The outer portion of the map is a mall/coffee house that is two to three stories. This affords some nice sniper perches and vantage points across the desolate middle. Cloaking helps with movement on this map and a savvy player will always use the Detect Cloak perk just for this reason.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2011 in Console, FPS

 

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Upcoming Shooters

I am an avid FPS and TPS player. These games are my bread and butter. There is nothing better than laying down a hail of bullets on some unsuspecting player via XBOX live. Though there is nothing worse than having the same dealt back to you. 2011 promises to be a year ripe with great games, including a few standouts from the shooter genre.

Battlefield 3

Persistent damage = Persistent fun!

This game is the true sequel to Battlefield 2: Modern Combat. It is one a lot of people, including myself, have been waiting for. Bad Company and BC2 were nice and all but I just couldn’t get into them. Battlefield 3 has so much support behind it at EA that it seemingly can’t fail. They even pulled their PC title Battlefield 1943 and some of the resources from their Free-to-Play Battlefield Heroes, not to mention putting the brakes on some BF:BC2 PC updates.

DICE boasts their new engine, Frostbite 2. Patrick Bach, the executive producer, has been quotes as saying, “Frostbite 2 is, I would argue, the best piece of technology on the market when it comes to building games.” The studio has been working on the engine for at least 5 years, possibly even during the development of Battlefield 2. The main focus on the engine is to fully utilize current-gen systems for their upcoming releases. This means that the PS3 or Xbox360 will be chugging away hastily rendering all of the lighting effects and errant debris each and every RPG blasts from a building wall. And yes, the environments will be nearly fully destructible! Color me giddy! The release is not yet confirmed but is suspected to be Oct 2011.

Gears of War 3

The Coletrain is getting nostalgic for his old Thrashball competitors.

While Gears 2 left a bad taste in peoples mouth Epic Games has stated that it has learned from its mistakes. Slated for release Sept 20, 2011 Gears of War 3 will hopefully be the standard bearer for 3rd person FPS. The original Gears pitted 2 teams of 4 in 3 round based gametypes spanning human environments turned hellish by underground dwelling Locust Hordes. The fast paced action and twitch aiming brought in many fans. Lo and behold the sequel Gears of War 2 tuned back the twitch and reflexes and bolstered new ways for carnage, but just didn’t feel ‘Gearsy’.

Gears 3 has a beta releasing soon which can be accessed through your copy of Bullet Storm. You did buy Bullet Storm right? Me either, hah, don’t worry though those BS buyers just get it early. In the beta players are going to be able to test out many new(and improved) features such as executions, ranking system, game modes. Also there are unlockables for the full game given out in the beta: A gold retro-lancer and Cole’s Thrashball costume are confirmed. This is a great feature to get people to play the beta because you actually get to keep some of the content you earn.

Modern Warfare 3

Not much is known about this game, but it matters not. The last two Call of Duty games broke record sales all time and in their first week. Some may say it is time to move on from this franchise but the market doesn’t lie. The release is speculated for November 2011, which makes sense as a CoD game has release in that month the past 2 or so years.

Will there be hackers? Will Infinity Ward do a good job with hit detection? Will you find Makarov? All of these questions have yet to be answered. And sadly I can’t point you in the direction of people who can. All I know is I will probably buy the game, and play it… way too much. But to be honest there are other games I am more excited about. Liiiiike…

Homefront

Another screen with a huge explosion!

Dropping March 15 Homefront is a large scale FPS set on American soil after North Korea invaded a crippled US. The premise alone has been enough to keep me salivating for more details. And everything that is revealed delivers. There will be a slew of drivable vehicles and user controlled war machines ranging from artillery to helicopters to armored troop transports. Drones will play a part as there will be UAVs and land-bound robots.

The game system works on BP, or Battle Points. Every action you take will net you BP which can then be used to purchase items in game, such as an Apache. The BP do not carry over from game to game, so it is sort of like a killstreak reward system that works for things other than kills too. Homefront is an ambitions project but one that I hope will turn out amazing. It’s dedicated servers can’t hurt either!

There are others, such as Ghost Recon Future Soldier and Brink, but I am in the dark on these titles. If you have any info or want some please post a comment or send me a message and I will do some research and post up a preview of any game I missed.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Console, FPS

 

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nail’d demo

I am not one for racing games really. My favorite series has to be the Burnout series, though I entirely skipped the last release, Paradise. The last racer I played was Test Drive Unlimited which was extremely fun on Xbox Live. Before that I dabbled in the original Dirt, so you could say I am a little behind on the racing genre.

Back in m day...

The graphics on this game look ok. Or maybe it is just the blur effect that occurs when you go over 15 MPH. The controls are pretty standard, RT is go, LT is stop, X is boost…and you guessed it, I never once hit the LT. Steering was lackluster, basically taking no skill or thought. Keeping in mind this is a very arcade racer I let it go. But boosting seemed to have no effect on my steering or ability to control the vehicle. This I could not overlook.The boost system was like Burnout’s, where you got boost for doing risky maneuvers. Yet it was not as clear or rewarding as that of Burnout, so it is of little importance to me.

It was difficult to do anything in the game without getting “nail’d”. I think the point of this game is to leave the most of your own body parts on the track, instead of win the race. It seemed that nearly everything, even landing jumps or taking a turn too high would result in your quad exploding in a fiery ball of fire.

Now entering The Bone Zone

I had a hard time breaking single digit positions, even out of 12 racers. Needless to say this is not a very sophisticated racing game but what did I expect Mario Kart Double Dash?!

My friend managed to break the top 5 one race, only getting wrecked, sorry  NAIL’D, 4 times. He went through a lot of the NAIL’D gates for boost and navigated the extremely vertical course with ease. I was shamed.

If you are a young adrenaline junky aged 8-15 you would probably enjoy this title. I can’t really see anyone with driving experience liking the game, nor anyone who actually rides motocross or ATVs of any sort. It will make for a good quick birthday gift or bribe for your stepson though!

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Console

 

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Dragon Age 2 demo review

I am stepping into this experience without ever having played any of the previous games in this series, so bare with me. Having said that, let it be known that I am a huge RPG fan. There’s nothing this guy doesn’t like more than some sword and board action. Well, I am more of a arching/stealthing kind of guy but you get the point.

After a 40 minute download of the 1.98 gig file I started it up, eager to get crackin skulls.

Ooooh, blood!

The game is developed by Bioware, a company that I am already familiar with as a fan of the Mass Effect series, and a follower of Star Wars The Old Republic(their upcoming mmo). I was rather surprised when I had to accept a ToS and another form at the main menu, apparently there is a setting enabled to give gameplay feedback, which EA will use to tweak the final release. Cool? So after looking through the settings and upping the brightness I started a play through.

You are immediately asked to pick 1 of 6(3) characters, a mage, warrior, or rogue, each have a male or female version. I ended up picking a male mage as it was the first one on the left. After a brief cutscene with a dwarf being man handled by a very scary she-beast you are thrown into a combat tutorial.

For the mage attacking takes the form of pressing buttons that are assigned to spells. A is a normal attack which can be ranged and when in melee distance is a magic imbued staff-hit. X is an ice spell which hits more than 1 foe, Y brings up the targeting mode for Fireball… this feature stops time and allows you a chance to see the action from a higher angle and aim the spell. B was Mind Blast, a sort of knockdown which also lowered aggro on the caster.
The conversation system has a small dial at the bottom with choices, not new to Bioware games. The center of the circle shows you whether your choice is good, neutral, or evil. This is handy if you can’t grasp the nuance of a situation.

When I leveled up I found that there are several stats to allocate points into, like all games with this system some are not suited for all classes. Mages should generally stay away from strength and Warriors intellect etc. Yet some stats, such as magic, have secondary effects like lowered magic damage incurred. This could be useful for hybrid specs. Along with the stat allocations I was directed to the skill tree, or more like a skill map. There were 6 seperate ‘roads’ for the mage, each having to do with a particular school of magic: Elemental, Primal, Entropy, Creation, Arcane, and Spirit.

To briefly detail each of the 3 available schools I will give an example spell/skill, there really are a lot… about 10 for each. The other 3 are locked as ‘level 99’ just so there is still some mystery to the game on purchase.

Creation: Glyph of Paralysis. The mage inscribes a glyph on the ground that paralyzes foes who cross its bounds. At level 1 paralyzes 1 enemy within 6m of cast for 4 seconds, the AoE lasts on the ground for 20 seconds, or until an enemy uses up its charges, it gains more charge and more effect as it is leveled.

Arcane: Elemental Weapons. (Aura, locks 20% of mages mana while active) While this spell is active, the caster’s staff channels its base elemental power across the entire party, enchanting the weapons of allies to give them additional damage.

Elemental: Improved Winter’s Blast. Winter’s Blast is now likely to freeze opponents and may leave some in a brittle state that warriors or rogues can exploit.

So as you can see there are several possibilities within the class building system, and hybrid builds are not only encouraged but it is highly likely they are essential.

Warrior Skill Roads

For your party members you can set tactics, or how you want them to automate themselves. There were several ‘settings’ that you could choose, like Damage or Healer. So if you were taking more damage than you would like just set the mage in your party to his healing role and he will cast the spells from that role. It works in a Target:Condition:Action manner, here are some examples:

Self:Surrounded by 2+ enemies:Cast Mind Blast

Enemy:Cluster of 2+enemies:Cast Fireball

You can essentially build your party exactly how you like, because you control their level up points, their skills, and even how they use these skills. The party members have slightly different skill roads to differentiate them from the main character and give each its own flavor. Overall it all seemed very fluid.

Pressing the right and left bumpers toggles you through your party members, so you can live vicariously through them and try out different classes while not actually BEING one. This is something I have not encountered before, and was useful for saving low health allies by choosing them and then kiting mobs around.

The demo is played out through a Fable-like linear area, with only 1 real path. Mobs kind of just trickle down the path towards your party, never really overwhelming you. Midway through Bethany, your sister and one of your party members, is brutally murdered by a boss mob. The mob picks her up and bashes her against the ground several times, causing blood to spill out of her mouth and chest. I was really pissed off at this because I had just given her the heal spell!

 

Bethany, just before her untimely death.

Shortly after this encounter you fight another horde of mobs until a dragon interferes and blasts them all to hell. A cutscene follows with Flemeth, who just turned from a dragon to a snarky witch, asking you to help her if she helps you. Imagine that! She trusts you with a quest to deliver an amulet to some elves. And at the end of this conversation one of your party members is afflicted with the corruption and you have to choose who kills him, his wife or the player… presumably this will decide how the rest of some story line goes. It is quite a sad scene, even though minutes before the dying character was inches from killing you and your party.

Apparently the witch takes you on a boat to Kirkwell, a big city area, where you meet Isabella who asks you to watch here back in a duel, which turns into an all out free for all after the gang is ambushes. In the time that has passed your allies and yourself have gained attributes and skills, and a new dwarf archer(who is actually narrating the story) is added to your party. Isabella brings on her own problems, she has wronged Castillon, a big wig in the slaving community and his minions want her head, also she wants your member bad. Your group easily dispatches 10 or so of them, though the archer has a hard time living through encounters with such low health… it is best to have him stay in the back and cast AoEs.

This is where the demo ends, it is pretty short for such a large file. I got a good grasp on all the classes from one playthru as it let me physically control each of the 3 character types. There were tons of features that will be present in the retail version that were locked in the demo, the inventory, over half of the skills, certain dialogue. All of this adds up to more suspense than just letting everything out in the open.

This will be a great addition to the Dragon Age series, and makes me want to go back from the beginning to actually see how much new content/UI etc is in this game. I probably should have done that before writing this review but oh well, deal with it.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Console

 

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Dead Island: Ruining your next island getaway with 100% awesomeness

Beautifully Gruesome

Zombie games are nothing new. The most popular, newest series is Left 4 Dead.. but before that there was Dead Rising, Resident Evil, Zombies Ate My Neighbors(see image below) even the quirky Plants Vs Zombies. As far as I know no game has broken the ground that Dead Island is set to annihilate. That ground is zombie filled free roam. Think Red Dead Redemption with zombies, oh… thats a real game? Well, think … uhhhh GTA with zombie… wait, thats been done? Ok so it isn’t new ground but its the first game that is Zombie themed and Free Roam together, instead of the zombies being an afterthought.

Somebody get that baby outta there!

The trailer for Dead Island is a masterpiece. The slow daunting music goes perfectly with the visuals we are shown. The fact that the here-and-now action is in reverse, and the flashbacks are in chronological order makes it even creepier.

And I was pretty sure they weren’t allowed to show horrible deaths of children! All I can say is wow. There is also a version that is played in forwards, but it just isn’t as glorious.

From what I have read about this game you are a vacationer on a gorgeous island resort, and after a night of partying you awake to (presumably) everyone else being zombied up. There of course are some other survivors, as the game allows 4 player coop. It is set in 1st person and there will be firearms but most of the gameplay has been said to be melee oriented.

If the game delivers half as much emotion and urgency as the trailer does I will be jumping for joy. I can only hope for scenarios that are half as gnarly as having to throw my mortally wounded kid out of a 5th story window because she was getting a bit nibbly. I get goosebumps every time I watch it, and I feel like I already know the characters in the 3 minute trailer. 5* for in-reverse head chops too!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Console

 

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