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Wes Murphy reviews PC game DLC expansion Age of Wonders III: Eternal Lords! a review code was provided for this report.
Game of Thrones: Episode 2 "The Lost Lords" Review - Xbox One
By: Alan M. Wasserman
Ahhh…Westeros, a land rife with politicking, neck stabbing, thieving and scheming, and plotting why do I love thee so? In this second chapter of Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice “The Lost Lords” brings you back to the broken House Forrester and continues their struggle against the Whitehall’s, Bolton’s and Lannister’s. The game starts with a recap of the decisions you made in the last chapter so you can cringe and swear to yourself all over again when you see the results of your poor choices. As the credits roll you are pulled to Yunkai following the liberation of the city by Daenerys Targaryen to find Asher Forrester, the exiled son of House Forrester who was largely absent from the first chapter, attempting to collect a bounty on a slaver in one of the city’s taverns. Things, per usual in Westeros, take a turn for the worse when Asher and his mercenary companion Beskha are assaulted by the Lost Legion. The game then launches into a chaotic fight scene that brings evolved mechanics from the first game. The fights require timed thumb stick swipes to dodge attacks, quick time events to attack or avoid attacks, and the Telltale Games’ standard mechanic of moving the target over the highlighted portion of enemies’ bodies and pushing the right button. I was surprised at the speed of the battle, and the timer moves much quicker. I got Asher run through with swords several times before I got it right. Sorry Bro.
The game is high on narrative and again bounces around to the children of House Forrester. You visit Mira again at King’s Landing where she continues to serve Margaery Tyrell and is divided between her loyalty to her family and the family she serves, you take part in Gared Tuttle’s first days on The Wall as a Night’s Watch initiate, and in a small plot twist you find out, once thought dead, that Rodrick Forrester survived his ordeal at The Twins and is brought back to Ironrath and though crippled takes his place as Lord.
The narrative unfolds as Rodrick tries to rekindle the love of his betrothed Lady Elaena Glenmore whose father commands an army that the Forresters can use to secure their holdings, if only she would still want to marry. Gared gets a short and curt lesson from Westeros’ favorite bastard Jon Snow, who I feel needed a lot more screen time, as they prepare for Mance Raynar’s attack on the wall from The North.
The episode ends at the funeral of the Lord Gregor, killed at The Twins, as Talia Forrester sings a song while the funeral pyre burns; while cut scenes of the estranged family members are interjected over the assembly standing vigil. Before the credits role the camera focuses on Rodrick where an intense look of pain, anger, and focus plays across this scarred face. End episode and you get the recap on how your decisions stacked up against the rest of the community who have played the game and then instantly regret some of those decisions.
I am an unabashed Game of Thrones fan and this game continues that love affair. The decisions you are required to make are tough and painful and makes the decisions you make in games by Bioware or Bethesda seem easy. The best answer is often the most difficult choice as you start to care about these characters and that choice often will not make them happy or even safe. The cameos of the TV shows’ main cast continues to tie this story into the carefully crafted world that HBO and George R.R .Martin have created.
Gameplay wise I only had a few small issues with this chapter. In several of the scenes the backdrops or settings appeared grainy and wavy in appearance. The image would settle and stabilize after a few seconds in frame, but it was still noticeable. There were also some lags in the more action packed scenes where the frame would freeze for second before catching up. In a game that is narrative and choice driven these are not huge deals. Where I did have a larger issue, and it’s more of an annoyance really, is several times dialogue was repeated twice in a row. It would usually occur when a character interjected his/her thoughts into a scene. That line of dialogue would repeat its self and the scene would continue. This chapter seemed shorter than the first one, but still extremely enjoyable. I give it 9.5 out of 10 stars. To all who play this game I say Valar Morghulis!
ArcaniA - The Complete Tale - Review - PS4
by: Luke Horn - 05/22/15
In Arcania – The Complete Tale by Spellbound and publisher Nordic Games, tragedy, revenge and demonic forces give the game a meaningful, albeit classic storyline. It’s as if Romeo has come alive and is bent on revenge for the death of his pregnant Juliet.
The player starts off as a king gone mad who is plagued by demons and is out for world domination. A short play through and a few nominal fights later, the gamer gets to the hero of the story - a farmer who is madly in love with the hottest young woman in the village. He is trying to win the acceptance of her father by proving himself worthy with heroic deeds. While away on his adventures, the village, his love and his unborn child, are all slaughtered by a dark force. He is to be “nevermore” with his Juliet. Like all tragic lovers, he must garner his strength and set out on a journey of revenge.
Like most open world games, the player will find a common theme of quests that serve to level up the character. You can choose to simply follow the main plot lines thus moving the story along or you can accept multiple side quests. That is the beauty of open world games; you choose how much time you want to devote to the world. The thing to keep in mind is that in order to open other parts of the map you must eventually follow the main plot line, but that is pretty common in many open world games. Some people have called the game a bit too straight lined or linear. However, I disagree in the sense that all games have a main plot line that pushes them forward. That is nothing new to open world RPG games.
The graphics are sub-par but hey I am used to playing the big budget games like Dragon Age and Dying Light. I do appreciate the simple crafting methods that the game has as I am not one who likes to spend countless hours on a game trying to figure out the combinations of what works and what doesn’t work. I give them a big “Hell Yeah” for that choice of gameplay. That was one thing that always aggravated me about the Dragon Age series; I would spend painstaking hours on crafting. I am just not into the crafting aspect and appreciate the simple approach they took on this concept of the game. Like most RPG games you must work your way up to the big items by leveling up your character with the completion of both friendly and combative quests. Yes, in the beginning, it can be a big sluggish but for the most part it moves fast.
Arcania’s combat system is fun and at times what some might call pedestrian. I find its system to be refreshing in an ‘old school’ type of way. To me the combat system is one of the major draws of the game as it allows the player to fight fluidly and not have constant pauses during battle. You have to time your hits, block and know when to strike. It does provide a fun bash and slash atmosphere for the player and in some ways this aspect of the game becomes addictive. It doesn’t get lost in a multitude of controls. I enjoyed that aspect immensely as it allowed me to hone in on the fights and appreciate the combative gameplay.
As an open world game it obviously doesn’t have the big dollar budget but in some ways I respected that as it made me feel like I was an important part of the game and that the game actually needed me in it to be relevant. Its European aura was refreshing and I would recommend Arcania – The Complete Tale because one doesn’t have to dedicate a decade of their life to the game and ignore their friends and families for weeks to enjoy it. Cheers!Rating: 7 out of 10. A review code was provided for this story.
Xavier S H reviews Xbox One version of Tales from the Borderlands Episode Two: Atlas Mugged. A Review code was provided for this report.
Tower of Guns Review - PS4
by: Luke Horn - 04/23/15
Tower of Guns by Terrible Posture Games is a quirky first-shooter game with turns and twists that makes one feel as if they have entered the mind of Erno Rubik himself. With each turn of the cube, or in this case the “tower”, one finds the internal architecture of the game randomly changes. This creates an ever shifting design for the player to traverse through. The random nature of the design feeds into the impromptu characters that you are presented with. You could end up being anything from a pizza delivery guy to a FBI agent in the form of a dog. The storylines provide a comedic feel to the gamer, if you decide to pay attention to it.
The simple gameplay makes me feel like I have a mouse in my hand instead of a controller. It is refreshing to not be overwhelmed with button mashing complexity. However, don’t let the simple design of the game fool you, it still is easy to die. It takes adroit hands and fast shooting to survive in the open spaces that the game forces you to fight in. The faster you move the better! The vile robots and bosses toss bullets, lasers, and even saws at you in an attempt to send you to your grave.
You start the game with anything from a Portable Pizza Thrower to a Peas-n Carrots pistol. As you kill your enemies they will drop various experience and currency orbs that will help you unlock hidden items and more powerful weapons such as the Absurditron 9000 or the XP Launcher. The more you play the game and the more you accomplish, the better the guns and perks you earn. Its unlock system reminds one of a mini Call of Duty setting. For example, in order to attain The Hedgehog one must kill 250 spikeball launchers. The games humoristic style continues with its perk system. As you advance in gameplay you will earn perks such as the Taco Terror and the Grease Pit.
As you are bouncing around trying to destroy your enemies, remember to look around. Concealed in the nooks and crannies of the rooms are secrets that one can find. The hidden power-ups, massive health badges and secret rooms, could be the difference between your success or demise. Without this aspect of the game you could easily be pulled into a mindless jumping and shooting that would take the title into a realm of irrelevance.
Like most FPS games the goal is to finish the levels and beat the boss. There are 5 levels with anywhere from 5 to 6 bosses to conquer. It typically takes anywhere from 50 to 90 minutes to play through. The cheap cost and low time investment play makes Tower of Guns an easy purchase. I am not a fan of low investment games but for those of you who are, this is a recommended buy. I give it 7.5 out of 10. A review code was provided for this report.
Game of Thrones: Episode 3 "Sword in the Darkness" Review - Xbox One
By: Alan M. Wasserman - 03/26/15
“Words are wind. Choices define who you are.” These words as spoken to Asher Forrester by his estranged uncle about halfway through Telltale Game’s latest installment of their Game of Thrones series. The quote sums up just about every game in Telltale’s library of games but resonates even more true in the GoT series. The game picks up right after Episode 2 leaves off as Asher, Beshka, and Malcolm are traversing the dessert outside of Meereen as they continue their flight from the Lost Legion. They find themselves cornered in a cave with nowhere to run as the Lost Legion finally catches up with them. The duck into a cave to hide and what they find in the cave is more dangerous and amazing than the Lost Legion and quickly you must choose between your friend, Beshka, and your family, Malcolm, as they engage in battle and both appear to be on the verge of being defeated. I try not to spoil plot points in these reviews, but let’s just say what you find in the cave is something Daenerys Targaryen has lost.
The game continues the story of the royally screwed House Forrester and their plight against the forces that move against them. Rodrik and his family must deal with Gryff Whitehill and his men moving into Ironrath and disrespecting everyone in the family including mimicking the death Ethan from Chapter One. Rodrick and his council must decide to move against House Whitehill or rescue the youngest Forrester, Ryon, from Highpoint, seat of the House Whitehill. The choices you make could save or destroy the family.
Mira Forrester continues on as the handmaiden of Margaery Tyrell, though her actions seem to constantly disappoint the Queen to be. You find out from your friend Sera, also one of the Handmaidens of Lady Margaery, that Margaery is looking to replace you and because you did not stand up for Sera previously she did not come to your defense. Will the Queen send you packing? Only the choices you make will decide your fate. More importantly, Mira’s relationship with Tyrion Lannister and the deal they struck for Ironwood may destroy the Forrester family after the death of Joffrey at the royal wedding.
And then there is Gared Tuttle, the squire sent to the wall for killing a Bannerman of Roose Bolton. He has become a full fledged member of the Night’s Watch. One of the best parts of this chapter is the trip to the Weirwood Tree north of the wall, the same place Jon Snow took his vows in the books and on the TV show. There you say the vows of the Night’s Watch along with your other brothers, just as Jon Snow did before you. After it’s over Jon welcomes you to the order and to Rangers. Just as you are returning from the Weirwood, your Uncle who sent you to The Wall to begin with, shows up with a quest for you. You must desert your new Brothers in the Night’s Watch and search for the North Grove, a “forest in a forest” as it’s the key to save House Forrester. What choice will you make? Honor your vows or desert and go North of the Wall in search of riddle.
No game that I play has me sitting on pins and needles with every decision I make. Did I just doom someone else to die? Will this choice screw me over 3 chapters from now? Just like life, the choices we make define who we are. It’s one of the things Telltale continues to refine more and more as they evolve in their version of storytelling. Their other games like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us had choices to make, but I never felt anxiety at making them. The worst part is most of the choices in this chapter of Game of Thrones had that dreaded countdown, so you couldn’t agonize over it or think about what you were going do. There was some really good combat in this chapter as well as you had more choices over what to pick up, where to hit, and whether or not to deliver a killing blow. They clearly are taking some cues from the Borderlands series there. I say this after every chapter, but this was my favorite installment so far. Spending more time in Meereen and on the Wall was nice change from Ironrath and King’s Landing where a good portion of the other chapters took place. And finally at the end you get introduced to none other than Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen as Asher tells her where to find what it was she lost. She warns Asher to “choose his words carefully.” I would warn Asher to choose his actions even more carefully. Of course if he chooses poorly, I have only myself to blame. 10 out of 10! A review code was provided for this report.
Until the next chapter....Valar Morghulis!