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Demon’s Souls – First Impressions

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Demon’s Souls is not only difficult, it is unabashedly so. It flaunts its difficulty with as much pride and panache as it flaunts its gorgeous graphics and deep level design. If a player is to survive, they must play with the belief–nay, the expectation–that death will come from any angle, at any time.
  • The game’s lack of save feature is an unbelievably cheap way to make the game harder than it should be. Although the game saves your progress every time you pick up an item or change equipment, if you die, you go all the way back to the beginning of the level, and all of the enemies respawn. It wouldn’t be that bad were it not for each level being an hour long at least.
  • While it is a very deep gameplay experience, the plot is bare bones so far, and I don’t get the feeling that this is a very story-driven game. You go into dingy dungeons, fight bad guys, and collect souls (XP) while trying your best not to die and lose all your souls. Every once in a while you get the main NPC in the game giving you snippets of story about this horrible demon apocalypse brought about by a terrible Lovecraftian entity called “The Old One”.
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Categories: Reviews, Video games Tags: ,

Full-Time Gamer: Now on PS3!

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

I am sorry that the blog went dark over the last couple of months. I’ve been hard at work searching for a job as well as rearranging my house to make room for the new addition to the family coming next month. That said, I want to revive this blog, and I’m back on GameFly to continue receiving a steady stream of games to review.

The first game I’m going to do is a great, but difficult, RPG for the PlayStation 3. That’s right, I’m doing PS3 reviews now, thanks to my Xbox 360 deciding to finally crap out on me and chew games like bubblegum. I’d prefer the RROD, which lets me know my machine is dead, over the constant wondering that results from my Xbox sporadically deciding to take a bite out of my discs, so I’m not giving another dime to Xbox.

Demon’s Souls
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Developer: ATLUS
Released: October 6, 2009

Stay tuned!

Categories: Reviews, Video games Tags: ,

I Break Promises Quite a Bit, Don’t I?

I haven’t checked in with my faithful readers in a while. I apologize for that. It’s been a long couple of months, with job hunting and household chores taking up a lot of my time.

So…I’ll quickly review Final Fantasy XIII, like I promised I would. The game is beautiful. The first thing you will notice is just how fantastic the graphics are. We are nearing an age where video game visuals are near photographic in quality, and FF XIII is yet another huge step in that direction.

The game’s story is fantastic and a lot more character-driven than previous iterations. The characters grow on you, even ones that start off being somewhat annoying like the ever-perky Vanille. The gameplay is the weakest aspect, but the battles are still fun and fast-paced enough that only controlling one character in combat is still enough to keep you on your toes.

Overall, I’d give the game an 8/10. It is below average for a Final Fantasy game, and the game’s changes will continue to polarize the fandom for years to come, but it’s still a great game that I would recommend to any JRPG fan.

Now, as for Firefly…you don’t really want to torture me with more of this crap, do you? Well, I’ll torture myself for your benefit. Because I like you so huggy-muggy much. The next few episodes will be done this week. I think. I’m sorry, it’s just that looking forward to these torture sessions is next to impossible. Whenever I sit down and get ready to watch one, I always find something I’d rather be doing or should be doing. The show is terrible, and it isn’t showing any signs of getting better.

An Unlikely Group of Heroes, That’s For Sure

I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XIII for the past couple of days, now. I’m on the second disk already, so I’m a good part of the way through the game and I think I’ve finally got enough done that I can really start to talk about my first impressions.

I am simply blown away by the graphics. This game has looked great since the first trailers were unveiled three years ago, and, sure enough, it meets the hype and possibly even exceeds it. This is a stunning piece of software in the visuals. The music is also very aural and a few tracks are arguably some of the best music I’ve heard in a video game. The boss battle theme sticks out in my mind as being climactic without getting on your nerves.

The story is well-presented, and the characters are strong selling points. A lot of reviewers have ragged on Vanille for her rather strange voice, but I found it charming, even if her voice acting is a bit iffy in parts. Lightning is a very captivating protagonist whose story you will grow to empathize with, even if she’s a bit of a grumpy goose. Hope is a little whiny, but he’s also interesting in his own right. Fang is still an enigma, but she seems alright. I’m really trying to give you a feel for these characters without spoiling crucial plot details, so suffice to say they’re all memorable and worthy of being in the same conversation with the great protagonists that have come before them in the FF series.

The combat is deliciously fast-paced and, as many of you know, I’m a sucker for fast fights like those in FF X-2 where the organized chaos of it all is as much an opponent as the monsters. It makes for interesting fights. I’ll have more for you when I do my official review, but so far I’ve been incredibly impressed. This game was four years in the making, and it shows.

Categories: Reviews, Video games Tags: ,

Anticipation!

October 31, 2006 was 41 months ago. Think about that. The number one rock song in the country was “When You Were Young” by The Killers. I was a single 17-year-old kid addicted to watching Naruto and working for $5.15 an hour at a Sonic Drive-In on the far east side of town. It was also the last time a Final Fantasy game had seen the light of day. Final Fantasy XII for the PlayStation 2 came out that day to generally positive reviews. It took them over three years to release the next chapter in the venerable franchise, which comes out March 9. I’ll be holed up in my dorm room playing it until I’ve beat it. Then, I’ll review it right here for you. Because I like you a lot.

Quick Update

I realize I haven’t been as diligent in updating as I should be, and I sincerely apologize. College is crunching me on one side, work on the other, and the biggest day of my life is less than three weeks away! It’s easy to see why I haven’t had a whole lot of chances to get this thing updated.

I gave Borderlands a 7/10. It’s a good game, but single-player it just seems so bland. It doesn’t help that the entire planet of Pandora is ugly to look at and there’s not a whole lot of interesting stuff going on in it. Just fetch quests and the occasional boss.

Anyway, Final Fantasy XIII is less than a week away. You have no idea how much I’ve been looking forward to sinking my teeth into the world of Cocoon. So far, reviews have been reasonably positive, but they were also pretty positive for Final Fantasy XII. I did not like FFXII much at all, so it remains to be seen if FFXIII is better.

Mass Effect 2 Review

January 31, 2010 2 comments

I make no secret of the huge reservoir of adoration I have for the extraordinary gaming products brought to our world courtesy of BioWare. These guys work tirelessly on some of the best RPGs I’ve ever played. From Baldur’s Gate II onward, I have yet to come across a BioWare product I didn’t like. Mass Effect 2 carries on the tradition, and has perhaps cemented the series as my favorite RPG of all-time. This game is quite simply one of the most brilliant gems released for the Xbox since the original in 2007. Every marked frustration anyone had with the first game has been either removed or addressed. The result is that the game is very easily playable as an RPG, a third-person shooter, or both.

The amount of love and polish heaped upon this game is readily apparent from the first scene to the last. The graphics and animation engines has been overhauled and as a result the game has some of the most photo-realistic effects of anything ever rendered in a game engine. The original was beautiful; this game takes beautiful and makes it downright artful. The entire experience is marked by a cinema-inspired approach, as character interactions and conversations are more varied and “spontaneous” thanks to the introduction of optional “quick-time” events that allow you to interject a character’s spiel with your own actions, for better (healing an alien dying of plague) or worse (repeatedly punching an uncooperative criminal to get answers). The result is a much closer connection between the player and Shepard.

In the previous game, Commander Shepard was pitted against the geth, a race of sentient machines intent on bringing apocalypse to the galaxy courtesy of their gods, the Reapers. In ME2, Shepard comes face-to-face with the Collectors, a mysterious insectoid race that is abducting entire human colonies in the frontiers of space. Together with the human-advancement (or is it human-supremacist?) Cerberus organization, it is up to the now galaxy-renowned Shepard to rescue humanity from the clutches of the Collectors and shine light on their shadowy purposes. The mission is billed an impossible suicide mission due to the involvement of an interstellar “Mass Relay” required to reach the Collectors’ home world. No spaceship has ever returned from use of this relay.

The story and characters are just as compelling and fantastic as in the original Mass Effect. There are a ton of new characters in this game and they run the gamut from ruthless Cerberus officer Miranda and her significantly better-natured underling Jacob to a hyperactive salarian scientist and incredibly powerful renegade biotic. All of your favorites from the first game are back and you’ll get to see what they’ve been up to in the two years since the climactic end of that game. Trust me when I say that you’ll be very surprised to hear what has become of them, particularly Liara and Garrus. A lot of minor characters from the first game also make cameos throughout, and it’s a masterstroke to see even your most insignificant actions in the first game have had impact on the events of the second.

The shooting and exploration aspects of the game have been cleaned up a great deal. Mass Effect 2 takes the flaws of its predecessor and either addresses them or completely removes them. My biggest criticism of the original was its unwieldy inventory system. In ME2, inventory is so streamlined that you never once have to plod through several menus just to apply an upgrade to a weapon. Also, your inventory is unlimited, so no more running through levels converting everything to omni-gel just because you’re out of space. The combat AI and interface is also significantly more intuitive and logical. While sometimes characters can get overly aggressive and end up putting themselves in poor position tactically, the days of watching teammates jump in front of cover to become target practice are more or less over. Also, the numerous tech and biotic powers from the first game have been simplified down to create a more manageable system that ensures each character has a unique specialty. Cooldown times have been drastically reduced and are now shared across all powers, meaning the game isn’t quite as hard for Engineers and Sentinels as it was the first time around.

Space exploration in the game has also been forged into a deeper experience. In the first game, traveling through the galaxies was simple and all you had to do was pull up a planet on your galaxy map to harvest it for resources. In ME2, you instead have to manually maneuver your ship to the Mass Relays as well as keep an eye on your fuel levels. You also have to manually scan the planets for resources which can then be used to upgrade Shepard’s ship, the Normandy. The planet-scanning is an addition the game probably could have done without, if only because it is a rather drawn-out process if you’re intent on being thorough. There can be anywhere from one to ten planets in a system, about 75 systems, and each planet takes about five minutes to harvest. The time adds up, especially when the actual gameplay is so alluring and enjoyable.

Once again, award-winning virtuoso Jack Wall contributes his musical expertise to the score of Mass Effect 2, and it is once again one of the best and most atmospheric soundtracks to ever grace a video game. The music is situation-appropriate and a joy to listen to, although I won’t lie that the game had me pining for the beautiful opening theme from its predecessor. The sound effects are also perfect, catching the distinct sound of a pitched sci-fi battle to perfection. The voices of each character are fantastic, although Jennifer Hale (the voice of Commander Shepard if she’s female) seems to have lost something since the first game. Her voice comes across as less forceful and a lot more monotone, and it’s especially noticeable in situations where Shepard is wearing a helmet with a breath mask. The game’s numerous celebrity guests do not distract or disappoint, and Martin Sheen’s turn as the shadowy Illusive Man is amazing.

Mass Effect 2 is also a pretty long game. My fairly complete first playthrough clocked in at just under 40 hours, and I’m sure there’s still a fair bit of action that I missed. If you race through, you can probably finish the main storyline in under 25 hours, but you’ll miss out on a great deal of side-missions. Also, your actions throughout the game will be the ultimate determiner of whether or not Shepard’s crew survives the final mission. Racing through the game will heavily impact your chances of survival.

My recommendation comes to you based on the wise words of Robert McKee: “Wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit.” The ending to Mass Effect 2 is easily one of the most amazing and heart-pounding final sequences of any medium simply because you don’t know if your party will survive until it’s over. The resulting pressure just makes you focus a little harder, your reflexes tweak a little faster, and your eyes catch just a little more. It did that to me, at least, which says something about the quality of this game: the characters are easy to relate to and you’ll want to see them all make it back alive from the final confrontation.

If you’re a fan of RPGs, you owe it to yourself to play Mass Effect 2. If you’re a fan of shooters, you ought to play Mass Effect 2. If you like quality storytelling, moral dilemmas, and science-fiction, play the first one and then play Mass Effect 2. In the end, this is Game of the Year material, so much so that it’s sad to think that it will likely be overlooked at the end of this year. I cannot recommend this highly enough. It is, quite honestly, as perfect a game as anything I’ve ever played.

In a nutshell…
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 10/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Story: 10/10
Value: 10/10
Overall: 10/10