Tag Archives: game review

Pokemon X and Y (3DS – 2013)

 

pokemon_boxartEasily the best Pokémon game in the franchise; X and Y break the mold by introducing a plethora of new features, interesting characters and breathtaking 3D scenery to compliment the decade old tradition of catching them all. With a plot that made you care, Pokémon X and Y are the latest games in a long franchise that has captured the hearts and minds of many youths of the nineties and continues this tradition well into the 21st Century.

The game steps away from tradition by introducing your cute little partner through your neighbour rather than the handsome young Pokémon Professor Sycamore. As you travel along in the new Kalos Region, you will find a lot of familiar themes and locales that you can visit and a variety of new places like Hotels and Cafés to satisfy the appetite for both food and battles. Part way through you will encounter Team Flare, a puzzling looking team that is in collection for profit, but their ulterior motives soon shine through their orange suits. As you save different organizations from their Leader’s broad vision, you will become closer with your Pokémon and your friends and perhaps rekindle a friendship that has been lost for thousands of years.

Pay attention to the man who looks like Snow from FFXIII.

Pay attention to the man who looks like Snow from FFXIII.

The new features of the game allow for some interesting play styles to come through.  The most glaring and popular change is the way you EV train your Pokémon. Instead of using spreadsheets and battling specific Pokémon over and over; they have changed it into a terrific mini-game that all of your Pokémon can participate in. Different levels change the amounts of EV you get, so you still have to be careful, but it allows for an alleviation for what use to be a very taxing grind.

The way your Pokémon gain friendship with you and the benefits, change dramatically in this generation. With the introduction of Poké Amie, you can play several mini-games with your characters; Berry Picker, a match game, Head It, a ball hitting game and Tile Puzzle, in which you complete a randomized puzzle of your Pokémon. Giving them Poké Puffs increases their fullness while petting them increases their overall friendship. Each individual Pokémon will like different Poké Puffs and will enjoy being petted in different places. Just keep exploring until they look like they’re enjoying themselves. Increasing friendship rewards you with in battle perks such as instant cures from status afflictions, an increase to the Critical Hit chance and enduring moves that would otherwise K.O. your Pokémon. This is certainly one of the best additions to the game.

Chespin is digging the Pink Poké Puff.

Chespin is digging the Pink Poké Puff.

What people had been craving for has finally arrived. The ability to customize the look of your trainer. You can change clothing and hairstyle, accessories and shoes to create a trainer that is most suited to you. This is done by going into Boutiques inside several of the cities in the game. Once there, daily you will have a selection of clothing that you can purchase. Some of the more interesting items are pricey and if you’re a real player and clothing connoisseur; you will find yourself in some of the most exclusive Boutiques in the Kalos Region.

Another one of the most interesting introductions to the game was the expansion of online function. With Wonder Trade, you choose a random Pokémon to send out and receive a random one back. You have the opportunity to get some of the Generation VI Pokémon you wouldn’t normally get in your game and some people will trade off some Legendary Pokémon, although I can’t imagine why. Imagine trading a Bidoof and receiving a Mewtwo. It doesn’t get much better than that. The robust online capabilities allow for a wide variety of battle styles that will keep you and your opponent on your toes. With opponents that use knowledge of abilities, natures, type advantages and breeding, you won’t know what comes next.

The dynamic settings only go to show the effort put into this game by developer Game Freak. With random wind storms and rain changing the overall look of the areas and the battlefield itself to seeing your breath in the cold; it’s the little things that make the environment a much more realistic world. Traveling along beaches and under overhands changing the camera angles as you travel has made the universe a lot more immersive. It may be taken for granted because it’s not a new thing to gaming, but it is to handheld Pokémon games.

There are few flaws to this generation and they’re minor at best. This generation has seen the introduction of only 69 new Pokémon. Most of these Pokémon were very well designed, but then we have one that has joined the ranks of some ridiculous designs such as Vanilitte, the Ice Cream Cone and Rotom’s turning into house appliances. It is alright to draw inspiration from everyday objects, but a keychain Pokémon? That is some low design value. The new Fairy type has it’s mascot for screwing up the type advantage chart.

This is seriously a Pokémon.

This is seriously a Pokémon.

The other issue is that there is practically no end game content beyond catching them all and The Looker Bureau missions. It has become a lot more difficult to catch them all as currently there are only so many Pokémon available in the game. With the introduction of the Pokémon Cloud in December, Trainers will be able to transfer Pokémon over from the Generation V games (Black, White, Black 2, White 2) which will allow them to transfer Pokémon as far back as Generation II.  Until then, they will have to rely on some of the fun mini-games to keep the game alive.

There is so much to say about this game that is positive that it completely outweighs the negative. A great story mixed with an impressive array of new features just goes to show that they thought of all the concerns from previous generations and improved things you thought impossible to improve upon. Thoroughly impressive, this will be the generation that keeps everyone interested in what happens next. Until then, catch them all!

Final Score: 9.5/10

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS – 2013)

url

After my first taste of Fire Emblem in the form of The Sacred Stones on the Gameboy Advance, I was itching for more tales of intrigue from this universe. Fire Emblem: Awakening was a thrill ride to be sure, with believable characters and nods to the legends of the entire franchise. I was in awe about how gripping this installment was. I hadn’t been as compelled by a story since Golden Sun, and we all know how much I love that franchise (minus Dark Dawn). With some enhanced features that both save time and bolster the experience, this game was a perfect addition to the growing array of 3DS games.

While being very similar in gameplay to the originals, there were some features I feel that helped the game along. Some of the battles could be long and drawn out, so with the inclusion of the Dual Strike Support system, you aren’t just getting a stat increase, but you also have a chance for your ally to join in your attack. This can increasingly affect the tide of battle in your favour, as these attacks are usually fatal for the computer’s attackers. Not only can you do this with any character for boosts to your accuracy and avoid, but characters can latch onto each other in a more permanent role in the “Pair Up” feature.

The great inclusion, which I believe brings a lot of heart to the story, is the fact that many of the characters, including your own Avatar, can marry. When you reach Support Level “S”, your characters will enter a cut scene in which one proposes to another, and most are very cute as it follows their equally enjoyable banter through the game. When they pair, they also may unlock certain Paralogue chapters in which they find their children displaced from the future and have them join the party.  For example, I had my Avatar “Yvelle” marry Lissa, sister of the hero Chrom. I found their relationship to be the cutest out of all the ones I had encountered. Virion and Tharja came in a close second with his willingness to be her guinea pig for hexes.

Have you ever wondered what your favourite hero would be like if he picked up a bow instead of a sword? I do. Switching classes is one of the fundamental musts while playing this game. Allowing your characters to grow and learn new abilities and use new weapons allows for you to tailor the combat to your tastes. One of my characters can instantly kill and move again after bringing her potential count to two kills a turn. Mathematically speaking, a number of battles in this game are over in moments. Another gains health from kills and simultaneously always regains and restores health to those nearby.

What I enjoyed about this game is that all characters had well written personalities. I really felt for them during their falls and cheered with them during their triumphs. With the many characters in the roster, it feels like an entire universe of stories. Even your implacable enemies join you eventually and the story gets even more interesting. Even the trusted Lieutenant of the main bad joins you during another Paralogue. He’s a beast to tame, but when you do, my god is he a powerhouse.

Explosive action encompasses this game.

Explosive action encompasses this game.

This game included the first paid DLC in the history of Nintendo-exclusive franchise and it did a poor job of executing it. I didn’t feel the game warranted the DLC until I reached the end of the rich and full main story. When I did get to the end, I wanted the adventure to continue. When I did this, I found out that the DLC doesn’t level with your characters. This ended up making them stupid easy for my already maxed out characters with insanely powerful weapons and abilities. I didn’t even have to look at the screen; I just set the game to auto-battle and won each with ease. Although the stories were interesting and the tasks fun, when you have absolutely no craps to be given because of the ease; it gets boring.

While the in-battle sequences and the manga inspired 3D cut scenes are beautifully executed, they must have cut the funding when making the battlefield and overworld map. They didn’t utilize 3D at all for the sprites and barely with the field. It was a bit disconcerting to switch between the two. The overall execution of the 3D animation in all the battle scenes and cut scenes was nothing short of spectacular. Fluid animations of battle graced the top screen as I watched my characters slice or get diced.

If you can overlook the DLC and the battlefield graphics, then you can easily call this game a shining testament to this franchise’s longevity. I was really happy with the way it turned out. With the game’s heavily customizable characters, brilliant story and a backstory for each main character; Fire Emblem: Awakening is a must for anyone who owns a 3DS. If you can’t find yourself a physical copy due to the rarity and apparently unintentional shortage of copies, it is available to download directly from Nintendo’s eShop.

Final Score: 9/10

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Bioshock Infinite (PS3 – 2013)

bioshock-cover

Our ruggedly handsome protagonist, Booker DeWitt

Man, Bioshock Infinite was surely one hell of an experience. It was nothing short of a brilliant story, with incredibly written characters of both good and evil affiliations. It was a game that didn’t fear reprisal, and included some themes that you wouldn’t normally find in a first person shooter or video games of any kind for that matter. It tugged at the heartstrings, frightened you and intrigued you every second of gameplay. With favourable combat dynamics, breathtaking visuals and loads and loads to find; Bioshock Infinite is one game you’ll play through again and again.

The main setting of the game is Columbia, a floating city in the sky that has seceded from the United States. I cannot imagine the amount of work that went into creating this setting, but the culmination leads to one of the most stunning locales I’ve ever seen in video game history. From the Comstock Center Rooftops to the Hall of Heroes and leading to the Sea of Doors, you will never tire of the ever changing scenery. Obviously the most intense visuals in the game come when you are hanging from the Skylines in combat, or traveling through different areas. The setting also contains reactive materials such as puddles of water to shock and oil slicks to burn which adds to the already high octane action.

If you like the sights, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the sounds. Surprisingly enough this soundtrack contains recorded versions of songs released in the latter half of the twentieth century. My favourite being “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, which they have remade into a lovely barbershop along with other hits like “Fortunate Son”, “God Only Knows” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. Along with the edge of your seat combat music, this game couples some interesting covers with an enticing array  of music.

Swapping Plasmids out for Vigors, Bioshock Infinite offers some interesting powers to overcome obsticles and dole out punishment to your enemies. Firery “Devil’s Kiss” grenades, a deadly “Murder of Crows” and a bulletproof shield from “Return to Sender” are among the deadly choices you have in the way of ingested abilities. That isn’t all these provide. For extra combat bonuses, some of these vigors can be used in tandem to create some killer combinations. For example, using the Bucking Bronco alongside Devil’s Kiss causes damage to all those you have suspended in the air or shocking a person in a group being attacked by your Murder of Crows causes the crows to shock and stun the enemy. These combos can be very useful in a pinch.

Infinite_incinerate

Burn baby burn!

Then there is the story and oh man, what a story it is. You are Booker DeWitt, former Pinketon Employee who has become a man in debt, working as a Private Investigator in New York. Your task is to retrieve a young woman, Elizabeth, from the flying city of Columbia. Along the way, you find clues to her mysterious power, your connection with her and the enigmatic religious leader Comstock, and the lives that you and the people of Columbia lead in different universes.

This game introduced themes and touched upon topics you don’t see within gaming frequently. These include blatant racism against multiple cultures and religion. Even some racial slurs appear in the game. This was actually kind of refreshing. I was impressed that this game wasn’t afraid to touch upon some of the more antiquated views of the early 20th century. The heavily Christian tones are incredibly apparent, with numerous references to baptisms, prophets and saviours. Again, something you don’t see, but glad it was in the game.

Each game is not without its problem, but they pale in comparison to the amazing pros. The guns leave nothing to the imagination; they are very simple styled weapons you can find in any first person shooter with the exception of the Skyhook. You have your pistol, rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle. They are very vanilla weapons and I was disappointed as each have their drawbacks and never seem to do much damage near the end of the game causing you to frantically find ammo just to finish an enemy you spent an entire clip on already.

E32011Tear4

Ra-tat-tat…

Final Word: Get this. Get this now and enjoy the hell out of it. If you had any interest in playing it even in passing, you have a duty to buy and play this ultimately fulfilling game. It follows in the series of thinking games where your actions have consequences, in a world where you really begin to care about the characters and their personality and plight. Bioshock Infinite was nothing short of amazing.

Final Grade: A

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Diablo III (PC – 2012)

After twelve years, it had finally arrived, Diablo III. This game was one of the most highly anticipated of 2012 and boy did it deliver. It delivered a mountain of complaints right off the bat. From server errors, inability to log-in, in-game glitches that broke the game completely; it has been touted as the worst launch in Blizzard history. Now, I’m a patient man, but this kind of thing doesn’t sit right with me. It seems that the more complicated a game is in the way it is presented, the worse and worse the launch gets. I’ll touch more on this later, but now let’s delve into the awesome world of Diablo III.

A complex world where good battles against prime evil.

If you’d played Diablo II, you’ll have a very good idea of what to do in this game. The controls remain the same, the setting has changed and the enemies provide a challenge to each player based off the way the game is played. For those who may be completely unfamiliar with the franchise, as I was before Diablo III, it is a point and click action role-playing game. The settings in the first two acts mimic the acts of Diablo II, from the town of New Tristram, to the desert outside of Caldeum; while Acts III and IV take you to the battlegrounds outside Bastion’s Keep and finally the silver spires of the High Heavens for the final showdown.

While praising the overall look of the game, I can’t help but feel that my computer was wasted on it. The engine, while allowing for 3D movement for enemies, relies on an overall look that feels outdated by today’s gaming standards. Sure, it’s still a pretty game, with lots of interesting locales that change on occasion, thunder and lightning in the background and cliffs to look off to see the span of the world. I’ve seen games from years ago that look and feel fresher. Not too much of a complaint here, the game looks great. In contrast, you can tell a lot of time and effort went in to the thing that we are going to skip the most in this game, the cut scenes. These are just, breathtaking, the character animation is so close to human in this day that I’m just floored by the detail.

The skill system has been enhanced, which allows for players of all kinds to choose their class abilities and passives in a way that compliments their style. I chose to first roll a Barbarian, pure damage output and I chose skills that assisted me in murdering as many demons as possible in the shortest amount of time. However, by the time I reached Act IV of Hell difficulty, I had to change my skills to pure defense as to not get completely slaughtered by enemies that are hitting for a third to half of my health. The ability to choose and mix these skills is what I believe makes the gameplay a lot more interesting. You’ll encounter public players of the same class with a completely different play style. As you progress in level, skills gain runes that augment abilities to add damage, slow, reduced cost and many different effects. It’s a great skill system, can’t give it enough love.

Finally, a skill system that works!

I get a lot of satisfaction out of this game. Because of the ability to go back to the earlier difficulties with your higher level characters, it takes the grind out of achievement hunting. It does take the challenge out of it, but it does make it a lot easier for people who don’t have the proper skill necessary to pull off some of the more challenging achievements. Currently I am sitting just shy of fifty percent overall, but after a bit of hunting I’m sure I can get some of the more tedious collecting challenges out of the way. I do like that you unlock new banner accessories as you go through the game. I’ve always enjoyed designing my own logo.

Then we have the issue of it being an online only single player game. This DRM, while having the best of intentions, causes extreme discomfort among gamers as it prevents Diablo from having the option for offline play. This in part lends to the awful server issues and error codes that plague the game. Unfortunately this represents the future of gaming. We can expect to see a lot more of this in the future. This anti-piracy front is good, but the method is intrusive.

I wish I didn’t have to gripe on this game, I really do, but there are issues that just cannot go overlooked. If you don’t want stress, you might want to wait a couple months before some of the more incredibly annoying bugs and glitches are fixed. Many reported a game breaking bug quite early in the story. This bug, gone overlooked, crippled players making them unable to log-in to their game and in some cases their account in general on other Blizzard titles. I’m incredibly surprised that this wasn’t fixed in a timelier and polite manner, as the game, Blizzards main site and forums were shut down for hours after Diablo III launch.

The game continues to suffer from incredible latency at times, at one point causing my computer to blue screen. A quick change in the foreground FPS led to my first day without crippling lag. For a computer that has run some of the most graphically heavy games of all time on very high to be halted by a game like Diablo III has confounded me, but I will have to swallow it on this one, it was kind of my fault sometimes. However, with the General chat being plagued with more complaints than good, one could wonder exactly how prepared they were for this launch and the bugs that followed. The plethora of error codes shows you just how many things can go wrong.

A big “fuck you” to the gaming community.

Finally, at this moment they are currently fixing the third and final issue I have with this game. The imbalance at higher levels makes it tough to beat the first act of Inferno difficulty and pretty much breaks the second, with enemies hitting for more than your total health. It is expected that it will be nerfed in this coming patch along with the damage output of my beloved Barbarian at higher levels. Players can look forward to not dying as much very soon.

Overall, I’m still enjoying the game. If you overlook the bad launch, numerous error codes, disconnects and lag; you’re going to find an amazing game with an excellent story, some decent visuals and an excellent combat and skill system. The level balance leaves me topped out for now, but once the new patch comes in, I can look forward to playing a well-balanced game. I think you’d enjoy this game, but in a few months when they have it ironed out. Until then, happy gaming!

Final Grade: B+ (The launch gets an F)

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized