Archive for the ‘Features’ Category.

Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients – Staff Review

Whatever you can say about the late Drox empire, they sure knew how to make enemies. Not content with turning on their own spy network, the Drox also got under the skin of other races along the way. Older than the known spacefaring species, these Ancients know how to carry a grudge, and have at last returned to destroy the Drox and claim the stars for themselves. Since they’re a little late to that party, they’ll settle for those that bear the name (that would be you). Don’t bother trying to explain that the Operatives fought the Drox aeons ago; that’s just more time for them to lock on and fire. Time to suit up and do what Operatives do best: make their enemies pay, no matter where they hail from. Continue reading ‘Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients – Staff Review’ »

Drox Operative – Staff Review

It’s tempting to label Drox Operative as Din’s Curse with spaceships. The two titles share a lot on the surface, from the almost identical UI to the randomly generated worlds that develop organically. Yet Curse looked like just another dungeon crawler, and it delivered one of the smartest twists on the genre in years. Looks, after all, can be deceiving, and behind Operative‘s textbook looting and questing lies a unique and truly dynamic game world. It’s part RPG, part grand strategy, and all oh-hey-it’s-two-in-the-morning-already. Continue reading ‘Drox Operative – Staff Review’ »

Mass Effect 3 – Staff Review

Five years prior, Mass Effect was BioWare’s new, unproven IP, and exclusive to the 360. Now it’s a critically acclaimed, multiplatform epic that’s broken records all the way to its third and presumably final chapter. Expectations couldn’t be higher, and no doubt BioWare could empathize in feeling the weight of a galaxy on their shoulders. Although noticeably flawed, for the most part Mass Effect 3 is every bit the emotional, action-packed, and deeply personal adventure it was advertised to be, and it’s not fair to claim that a highly criticized ending undermines the whole experience. Yet here I am, about to say exactly that: Mass Effect 3 fumbles the end so spectacularly that, rather than feeling satisfied or eager to revisit the saga, I’m just ready to put the whole sad mess behind me. Continue reading ‘Mass Effect 3 – Staff Review’ »

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Staff Review

Occasionally a game transcends the usual hype train business to become a true event, a shared experience that people talk about for years. For all its changes over time, The Elder Scrolls is an entire series of event games, Bethesda’s self-contained industry of scale-breakingly huge sandbox RPGs. As the long awaited fifth installment, Skyrim is too burdened by old issues for a word as loaded as ‘perfect.’ But there is perfection in the adventure it delivers, which is the distilled essence of everything TES has gotten right over the years. Continue reading ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Staff Review’ »

Dead Island – Staff Review

Dead Island is Borderlands meets Left 4 Dead set in Far Cry with the melee of Condemned. I wanted something less abrupt to start with, but this game is a Normandy beach landing away from hitting the FPS singularity (not to be confused with the FPS titled Singularity). No doubt the story of how a design team brainstormed their way to this is one for the history books. The combination might sound impractical and unwise, like wiring up a crowbar with a car battery, but you can’t argue with results. It’s messy, cumbersome, strange, and fun as hell. Continue reading ‘Dead Island – Staff Review’ »

Fallout New Vegas: Lonesome Road – Staff Review

It all comes down to this: Courier vs. Courier, Trouble in the Rubble, the Exchange on the Interchange. Lonesome Road starts with no fanfare other than questions lingering since Fallout New Vegas began. Ulysses, the original courier slated to deliver the fateful Platinum Chip, offers you nothing more than the reason he turned down the job. The Road itself offers more, from the usual DLC bonuses to a suitably epic climax, guest starring a friendly face from the Mojave. While the content certainly has its high points, it commits you to a linear slugfest and short-changes the narrative where it should have put the most effort. It’s engaging in the beginning, but for content that promised answers it’s not well prepared to give them. Continue reading ‘Fallout New Vegas: Lonesome Road – Staff Review’ »

Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Staff Review

Longtime fans could be forgiven for being wary of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It’s a prequel to a series that ended rather decisively, the last outing proved somewhat disappointing, and the original’s complexity might not sell in today’s market. Normally that’s a free space and a commercial set to rock music away from bad sequel Bingo. Let’s not kid ourselves, the real issue surrounding Human Revolution has nothing to do with transhumanism or the nature of man. Instead the question is how it holds up after years of anticipation, and more than that how well it stands on its own. Is it a great game in a rich world packed with meaningful choices? Absolutely. Does it surpass Deus Ex? Almost. Continue reading ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Staff Review’ »

Fallout New Vegas: Old World Blues – Staff Review

Much of Fallout‘s peculiar style comes from its tongue-in-cheek treatment of SCIENCE! – yes, the allcaps-exclamation is an important distinction – as imagined through the lens of nuclear age wonder and Cold War paranoia. Old World Blues, the latest Fallout New Vegas DLC, doesn’t so much as run with this concept as drags it into a rocket pointed at Mars. Although dialogue is somewhat bloated, Blues‘ rampant craziness is a welcome change of pace from the gravely serious Dead Money and Honest Hearts. And if that’s not enough for you, then know that this is still a fun, well-balanced adventure with more ground to cover than any Fallout DLC to date. Continue reading ‘Fallout New Vegas: Old World Blues – Staff Review’ »

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Staff Review

Although based on the written works of Andrzej Sapkowski, CD Projekt’s The Witcher proved to be a saga of its own, in no small part from its virtually unprecedented post-release overhaul. Launching to high expectations, The Witcher II: Assassins of Kings quickly loses some steam thanks to early gameplay and interface issues. Sticking with it, however, reveals a complex, sophisticated narrative about big decisions and long-term consequences. Even saying that sells the game short. This is, simply put, one of the best stories the genre has produced in a long time. Continue reading ‘The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Staff Review’ »

Ys Seven – Staff Review

Ys is a series that gets far less attention than it deserves. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that Americans have not really gotten to experience as many of the adventures of Adol the Red as their Japanese counterparts. There are also some people that are probably turned away simply by its title; it’s not exactly intuitive to pronounce it as ‘ease.’ Regardless, Nihon Falcom and XSeeD are determined to rectify the first issue by releasing more games stateside, hoping to give Americans more time with the top-down action RPG series. That’s where Ys Seven comes in, and as it takes the series in many new directions, there’s a lot to like. Continue reading ‘Ys Seven – Staff Review’ »

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection — Staff Review

Final Fantasy is a series well known for its ports and remakes, but out of the series, one game stands above them all as one of the most frequently remade games of all time.  Final Fantasy IV has seen six iterations over the years appearing on the SNES, PlayStation, WonderSwan Color, GameBoy Advance, the Nintendo DS, and finally the PSP as Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection.  Along with an updated Final Fantasy IV, players will also get Final Fantasy IV: The After Years and a new mini-story titled Final Fantasy IV: Interlude which helps slightly to tie the two main games together.  It’s a lot of game in a very small package, so the question becomes is there still life in Final Fantasy IV? Continue reading ‘Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection — Staff Review’ »

Dragon Age 2 – Staff Review

As if following up on Mass Effect wasn’t enough, BioWare had a major challenge in the sequel to Dragon Age: Origins. Despite its flaws, Origins boasted a malleable plot and fantastic characters, and much the same can be said of Dragon Age 2. Discarding the procedural fantasy epic for a more personal story, DA2 speeds up the action even as it paces itself on the narrative. It’s not always a healthy mix, as questionable choices intrude on and sometimes undermine serious developments, but the game easily succeeds in making this new direction fun and engaging. Whether its surpasses its predecessor, however, is far less cut-and-dry. Continue reading ‘Dragon Age 2 – Staff Review’ »

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation – Staff Review

Dragon Quest is one of the biggest franchises in Japan, but it took much longer to catch on in North America. Americans did get access to the first four games, but after that, the series went into relative obscurity. We completely missed Dragon Quest V and VI. Were Dragon Quest games like largely unconnected Final Fantasy series, this would not be as big of a deal, but the Dragon Quest series is known for trilogies. The middle three games form what is known as the Zenithian trilogy, all telling a loosely connected tale about sacred equipment and the heroes that can use it. Despite coming third, Dragon Quest VI actually predates the others in the timeline and helps explain the origin of the myths that play such a central role in the set.

Continue reading ‘Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation – Staff Review’ »

Pokemon Black and White – Staff Review

From Pokemon Gold and Silver onward, each new generation of Pokemon has improved on the basic formula of the series, refining the execution bit by bit. Pokemon Black and White continue follow this tradition, although the improvements are nowhere near as huge as the shift between the GBA games and Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. Primarily a shift in interface and presentation, the core mechanics of the Pokemon series continue largely untouched from the previous cycle of Pokemon games, while the series’s habitually scattershot interface and connectivity receive the lion’s share of attention. Overall, it’s not quite the geological shift of Diamond and Pearl, but changes Pokemon Black and White introduce have been a long time coming, and they are most welcome. Continue reading ‘Pokemon Black and White – Staff Review’ »

Fallout New Vegas: Dead Money – Staff Review

Last year’s Fallout New Vegas lived up to the series’ pedigree in many important ways, not all of them to its credit. But no one can accuse Obsidian of not knowing how to plot, and even in a crowded field Vegas easily gave other story-heavy RPGs a run for their money. Dead Money is their first step into DLC territory, essentially playing as its own separate game that just happens to use your character. Minor, but frequent nuisances are determined to hobble the experience, yet beyond that are real moments of ingenuity that even Vegas didn’t pull off. Continue reading ‘Fallout New Vegas: Dead Money – Staff Review’ »

2010: The Games We’re Glad to Have Played

The end-of-year “Best of” awards are a widespread tradition amongst gaming sites, a nice way to close the year out by looking back. We have toyed occasionally with the idea of doing our own awards, but the sheer scope of RPGs released during each year has to give one pause. How do you go about settling on one title to call the best RPG of 2010? Certainly no one can claim to have played them all, and there’s always the nagging suspicion that something has been forgotten. So instead of a straight up and down awards, this year we’re taking a short look back the games we’re glad we played in 2010. Not all of them were released last year, and many of them would never have appeared in an awards feature, but in the end, the important thing about playing video games is simply that you enjoyed them. Continue reading ‘2010: The Games We’re Glad to Have Played’ »

Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded — Staff Review

Unlike North America, Japan has had a booming market for cell phone games for several years, and many popular RPG series have had mobile installments on Japanese phones. Kingdom Hearts: Coded was one such game, originally downloaded to phones in monthly installments. Fortunately, there is a trend to release some of these games on mobile gaming platforms like the DS and PSP with improvements in graphics and pre-rendered videos. This, in turn, brings us to Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, a prime example of how to use a handheld’s accessibility while maintaining the feel of the original game Continue reading ‘Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded — Staff Review’ »

Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light – Staff Review

Perhaps related to the success of Matrix Software’s DS remakes of Final Fantasy 3 and 4, Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light is a stand-alone Final Fantasy game deeply ingrained in the old school tradition. Unfortunately, the developer seems to have taken all the wrong lessons from the old school. Four Heroes of Light does push for overall simplicity of design, and that does capture something of the spirit of older RPGs, but it also features an obtuse interface, inconsistent difficulty, and direction so vague that it borders on the incomprehensible. Four Heroes of Light does do some things right — the class system is interesting, if a bit basic, and the game’s visuals are exceptional — but the game is unfriendly on a basic level and doesn’t offer the player much reward for getting past that. Continue reading ‘Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light – Staff Review’ »

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Staff Review

Castlevania is one of today’s oldest and most iconic gaming series, with its roots tracing all the way back to the NES. Back in those days, it was a platformer famous for its tricky jumps fraught with traps that usually resulted in an untimely death. With the PlayStation came Symphony of the Night, a game that expanded upon the basic gameplay of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest and incorporated the exploration of the Metroid series to create a very long running and well-liked RPG series. With the Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation 2, the series went 3D, and those games are largely considered disastrous by all but the most hardcore fans. With Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the series tries to merge all three styles of gameplay into a cohesive game, and it largely succeeds, albeit not without copying a few other games along the way. Continue reading ‘Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Staff Review’ »

Pokémon Black Version – Staff Import Review

Two people could look at this game and come to entirely different conclusions. One could say that it’s the fifth verse, same as the first, another 160some pokémon and a whole lot worse. Another could say that the differences, though subtle, mix things up in ways that haven’t been seen in the series’ 15-year history. It’s a matter of how closely you’re looking. Continue reading ‘Pokémon Black Version – Staff Import Review’ »