Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category.

Din’s Curse: Demon War – Staff Review

At first glance Din’s Curse gives the impression of a leaner, more efficient take on Diablo or Torchlight.  You know the genre by now: you’re the hero, there’s the dungeon, clear quests to get loot, kill the boss, rinse and repeat until game over.  Much of that holds true here, but get past that outer layer and you’ll find the devil in the details, and a fiendishly clever one to boot.  Where other games sit and wait for you to make your move, Din’s Curse plays back, and aggressively so.  Supported by strong and versatile gameplay, the central mechanic turns a by-the-numbers hunt for better gear into a tense, engaging, and meaningful dungeon crawl. Continue reading ‘Din’s Curse: Demon War – Staff Review’ »

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together – Staff Review

An exceptionally influential tactical RPG, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is responsible for a large number of the more common elements found in the genre today. As the original printing has been more or less relegated to the status of collector’s item, the PSP remake of Let Us Cling Together is an excellent opportunity for fans of the genre to enjoy this seminal title. There have been a great deal of changes made to the game, and although the core mechanics remain basically unchanged, it has been heavily rebalanced, with new systems and ideas added in order to make it a bit more forgiving. The end result is that Let Us Cling Together is a more than worthwhile play, though the hugely complicated nature of the game, along with some lingering balance issues, makes it difficult to recommend without reservation. Continue reading ‘Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together – Staff Review’ »

Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy – Staff Review

Dissidia: Final Fantasy was a game that kind of took players by surprise.  On the one hand, it’s hard to believe that it took this long to make a fighting game out of Final Fantasy, and on the other hand, it’s hard to believe that you could honestly make it work.  The result was one of the best games on the PSP to date, so when a prequel was announced, it had some big shoes to fill.  Ultimately, Dissidia 012 is a fantastic, yet oddly named game that needs to be in your library. Continue reading ‘Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy – 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.

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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’ »

Valkyria Chronicles – Staff Review

Valkyria Chronicles is an odd beast: a grim war story constructed with standard anime elements, all wrapped around an unusual twist on turn-based strategy and painted with every bright color in the palette.  It’s not always an easy fit, and the plot has an annoying habit of telegraphing its punches.  Yet there’s a respectable narrative at the core, backed by some solid direction and a charming cast.  And if that doesn’t do it for you, the game is still some of the most fun you can have with tanks involved. Continue reading ‘Valkyria Chronicles – Staff Review’ »

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’ »

Deus Ex: The Nameless Mod – Staff Review, Kind Of

The otherwise clear line between fanmade product and professional creation tends to get fuzzier as people take the project more seriously.  Take The Nameless Mod, a massive and ambitious mod for Deus Ex built by fans, for fans, and about fans.  The fandom itself is the world of TNM, and as silly as it sounds the concept is played amazingly straight, yet done surprisingly well.  Even if you peel back the internet setting and nested conspiracies, you’ll still find a well-built campaign at the core, as deep and replayable as Deus Ex at its best. Continue reading ‘Deus Ex: The Nameless Mod – Staff Review, Kind Of’ »

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn – Staff Review

I’d like to start this review with a simple promise: I will not make a single solar pun or reference. It’s just too easy to make comments like that, and I’m sure that most other reviewers have fallen right into that trap. After a while, it’s just tiring. So, here it is, a straightforward review of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.

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Eschalon: Book II – Staff Review

“More of the same” is only a bad thing if same was bad the first time around. Consider Eschalon: Book II, the next entry in Basilisk’s classic-styled roleplaying series. Functionally identical to Book I, it boasts a few new hooks but overall just expands and refines the content: same engine, same gameplay, same ground rules. That basically means every other paragraph of this review will start with words like “As in Book I” and such. Fortunately, more of Eschalon – a challenging, intelligent, and versatile RPG by any measure – is most definitely a good thing. Continue reading ‘Eschalon: Book II – Staff Review’ »

Fallout New Vegas (PC) – Staff Review #2

Man, where to even begin?  Let’s start with big.  Fallout New Vegas is mind-bogglingly big, easily outpacing Fallout 3 in terms of content.  With the hard work of engine development out of the way, Obsidian was free to expand on the template Bethesda provided; a long-awaited homecoming for many of the original Fallout developers.  The team clearly didn’t hold back, and there’s enough game here to overwhelm even the most industrious player.  While the results aren’t quite perfect, New Vegas is a clear improvement in most respects and easily one of the best RPGs this year. Continue reading ‘Fallout New Vegas (PC) – Staff Review #2’ »

Vampire: the Masquerade: Bloodlines – Staff Review

One part tabletop RPG, one part multiple strains of vampire fiction, and three parts of that special Troika blend of high-ambition but low-stability programming; that’s Vampire: the Masquerade: Bloodlines in a nutshell.  A serviceable first-person RPG, Bloodlines is also a newbie’s field guide to the World of Darkness and its modern-day undead secret societies.  How well the game works depends largely on how well you can tolerate subpar coding and questionable design choices, yet buried under the usual PC RPG mess is a versatile story and a cast of memorable, well-acted characters. Continue reading ‘Vampire: the Masquerade: Bloodlines – 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’ »

Fallout 3 – Staff Review #2

The controversial successor to a short yet venerable gaming dynasty, Fallout 3 generated a lot of backlash amongst older fans. Frankly, there’s a lot of wiggle room as to whether or not Fallout 3 constitutes a worthy sequel (whatever that means) to the Fallout series. The combat system has been changed from an almost tactical turn-based affair to a first person shooter with a sort-of-kind-of turn based option, and the mainline plot is very inflexible, both aspects previously considered hallmarks of the series. However, by not relying too heavily on established conventions, Fallout 3 pushes itself further towards being a stand-alone title, which allows it far more creative freedom. Continue reading ‘Fallout 3 – Staff Review #2’ »

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon – Staff Review

In the world of gaming, it’s fairly common for titles to focus far too much on abstract gameplay concepts and not enough on setting the stage. So often, fighting legendary monsters feels absolutely nothing like being in a fantasy world, as players are simply too aware of the multitude of systems that surround the experience. Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is an odd reversal of this issue. It is supremely easy to get lost in the sheer beauty and tragedy of the crumbling world the game presents, only to have that illusion come crashing to the ground when asked to do something practical, like press a switch. Continue reading ‘Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon – Staff Review’ »

Fallout: New Vegas – Staff Review

Taking place in the ruins and area surrounding Las Vegas this time, the aptly named Fallout: New Vegas gives players a bit of a different experience from Fallout 3 while still keeping the same Fallout charm. Continue reading ‘Fallout: New Vegas – 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’ »