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’ »
Posts Tagged ‘Original’
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.
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’ »
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’ »
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’ »
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’ »
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 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 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’ »
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’ »
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.
Continue reading ‘Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar – Staff Review’ »
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’ »
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’ »
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: 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’ »
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 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.
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’ »
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 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’ »