Archive for the ‘Reviews’ 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 #2

One of the highest-praised games of recent years, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has a great deal going for it. With an enormous seamless world to explore and a highly flexible character development system, Skyrim is exceptionally easy to get lost in, with some of the most engaging role playing RPG fans have seen in a long time. On the whole, Skyrim deserves a great deal of the praise that has been heaped at its feet, but there are a few hitches in its design that are worth stating. Skyrim has a bit of awkward fumbling in its menu layout and a bit of difficulty with overly compartmentalized storytelling, as well as a troubling lack of subtlety in its art direction and a fair number of bugs and glitches even this far out of release. Ultimately, however, Skyrim’s vast and detailed world gives it an uncommonly broad appeal. Continue reading ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Staff Review #2’ »

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’ »

Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns — Staff Review

The Harvest Moon franchise has been running for fifteen years and the key to its continuing popularity is its ability to tweak its formula with each new addition to the series. While Tale of Two Towns shares most of its game engine and graphics with last year’s DS iteration, Grand Bazaar, it adds a new twist to the series by forcing the player to choose to focus on either growing crops or raising animals.

Continue reading ‘Harvest Moon: Tale of Two Towns — 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’ »

The 3rd Birthday – Staff Review

Long feared to be a dead series, the announcement of The 3rd Birthday caused no small amount of surprise and delight amongst fans of Parasite Eve. Unfortunately, the finished product cannot be said to have the same effect. Featuring an overcomplicated mess of a plot, suicidal AI, and an actively hateful interface, The 3rd Birthday has fundamental issues that really prevent it from being enjoyable. There are some good points, of course: the game is great at creating a sense of tension, has a huge amount of replay value, and it presents some unique ideas in gameplay. It’s unfortunate that these ideas are buried under the weight of the game’s less player-friendly elements, to the point where it becomes difficult to recommend The 3rd Birthday even to fans of the series. Continue reading ‘The 3rd Birthday – 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’ »

Fallout: New Vegas – Staff Review #3

With the release of Fallout: New Vegas, it seems Bethseda is trying answer what fans wanted when Fallout 3 was released: a setting familiar to long-time fans featuring established factions and dozens of callbacks to Fallout 1 and 2. On a more fundamental level, Fallout: New Vegas builds on its predecessor in a number of ways, from basic improvements to game mechanics to a far more twisty, open-ended plotline, but it also has a number of unique issues. Even this far from release, New Vegas has bugs that range from the annoying (frequent freezing) to the catastrophic (quest failure), and has a few issues in setting and art direction left over from earlier Fallout games. Taken as a whole, New Vegas is an extremely enjoyable experience, but as so many have said so frequently of this series, it could really have used better bug testing. Continue reading ‘Fallout: New Vegas – Staff Review #3’ »

Fable II – Staff Review #2

Read the back of the Fable II box and it’ll promise you adventure and the chance to “experience how [your] choices change you and the world forever.” While the game does provide players with a decent adventure, it fails utterly to show the effect of any choices you make in the world. Fable II offers a big, beautiful world to romp around in. Unfortunately, it’s coupled with weak story-telling, and choices that have only the most superficial effects on the world. It’s a fun game, but it suffers when compared to others offerings in the genre. Continue reading ‘Fable II – Staff Review #2’ »

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’ »

Valkyria Chronicles 2 – Staff Review

Valkyria Chronicles 2 had at least four major hurdles to clear: deliver a second helping of the first game’s quirky strategy and action; adhere to the cartoony, yet charming and often beautiful aesthetics; tie it together with a strong narrative; and do it all with the PSP’s hardware. It doesn’t quite clear them all, as it is saddled with competing partial stories and lingering smaller issues from its predecessor. However, VC2 expands intelligently on existing mechanics and smoothly adapts the engine to the portable platform so much that it feels right at home. Continue reading ‘Valkyria Chronicles 2 – 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’ »

Fallout New Vegas: Honest Hearts – Staff Review

Between what’s in the Fallout bible and what made it to the games, it’s easy to forget how much of Fallout‘s established world remains unexplored. Enter Honest Hearts, a slice of post-war tribal politics aimed at filling in a few of New Vegas‘ blanks. The content doesn’t quite have a strong narrative thrust, and Zion National Park, though pretty, is lacking for environmental diversity. Still, it’s backed by some very interesting elements that tie smartly into the larger picture, and, more importantly, is more of what New Vegas did right: room to explore, people to deal with, and choices to make. Continue reading ‘Fallout New Vegas: Honest Hearts – Staff Review’ »

Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar – Staff Review

The Harvest Moon series boasts of a long history that hardly requires introduction. While detractors will likely only groan at yet another DS iteration, fans of the series will be tickled by the tweaks to the Harvest Moon formula that make Grand Bazaar a fresh experience.
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Dissidia 012[duodecim] Final Fantasy – Staff Review #2

A veritable sea of callbacks and references, Dissidia 012[duodecim] Final Fantasy is about what is expected from a massive crossover game. Whether this is a good thing or not depends a great deal on what your personal feelings are towards the Final Fantasy series, but thankfully, the underlying mechanics are solid enough that even those who find the constant self-reference tiresome should find something to enjoy. Dissidia Duodecim is a game with a steep learning curve, omnipresent loading times, and a rather disjointed plot, but it also presents a wonderfully deep combat system and a pool of content so huge that it borders on the absurd. But given how heavily the game relies on its combat system, how much a player will enjoy Dissidia Duodecim depends a lot on how eager they are for a fast paced battle. Continue reading ‘Dissidia 012[duodecim] Final Fantasy – Staff Review #2’ »