I've played two really good RPGs over the past few months. Late in 2011, I was immersed in Skyrim. Skyrim is an incredible game. It has a great story. It has great mechanics. And the graphics are - in my opinion - the best you will see on a console today. Heck, even the last Elder Scroll game (Oblivion) has better graphics than most games released today. That being said - as much as I think Skyrim is a better game, I think I had a lot more fun playing Kingdoms of Amalur (KoA). In some ways, I'm reminded of Grand Theft Auto versus Saints Row. GTA was an incredibly good looking game with amazing gameplay and artistic direction. It's also a game I never finished. Saints Row - which was certainly not as pretty or dramatic, was just fun, and relatively simple to finish.
While I did finish Skyrim (I've got 110+ hours in it), I found KoA to be a heck of a lot of fun and just a pleasure to finish. The graphics are fine (not great, not bad) and the sound is forgettable. The RPG elements though work real well. Like most modern RPGs you aren't exactly locked into a class and you can even reset all your character decisions during the game. While game play is pretty much divided between stealth (finesse), fighting (might) and magic (sorcery), you can create many different combinations of these to fit your particular style. (I chose might/sorcery.)
One thing the game does very well is providing you with a sense of continuous improvement. I'm not talking about just advancing levels but an overall sense of growth into a kick-ass adventurer. Even though I've finished the main game, I'm planning on getting the DLC just as an excuse so I can see how far my character can progress.
Anyway - if you are looking for a fun RPG and are a bit worried about a Skyrim-level commitment, consider picking up KoA.
p.s. It has been a while since I posted a review. Sorry - going to try to get back into the habit.
Disclaimer: I'm not advocating cheating as a good thing. I'm not insinuating that Mozilla's code was somehow lacking (actually the code is pretty kick ass). Nor am I trying to pretend I'm some super hacker. Rather - I thought I'd share how I modified Mozilla's new game to cheat as a way of demonstrating things you have to look out for when coding HTML5-based games. Also - my very first programming experience was pretty similar. I had to learn hex so I could edit my Bard's Tale game saves via a disk editor on my Apple 2e. I figured a legacy as rich as that deserves a rebirth. ;)
Many months ago I posted what I consider (still today) to be the best trailer for a video game yet. I'm probably being a bit dramatic, but I thought the trailer was a piece of art. Graceful, haunting, and emotional all at the same time - it was a complete surprise and made me want to add a zombie game to my 'must get' list of games this year. The last zombie game I played, Dead Rising, was fun for a few hours but quickly grew boring. I figured if the game was anywhere near as good as the trailer it was worth picking up. I can tell you right now that this is not the case. But I still strongly recommend picking up Dead Island. Let me explain why.
I've recently completed two incredible books I thought I'd review today. As always I'm curious to see what others think so if you have read these as well, definitely chime in. I've also got two super quick video game reviews at the very bottom. Enjoy.
As it is a lazy Sunday morning I thought I'd share a few quick reviews on some games, books, comics I'm consuming lately. If you purchase any of these via the links provided I get a small kickback. (Just an FYI, not sure if I should 'warn' people about that or not. ;)
This is the second collection of short stores I've read edited by John Adams. His first collection (well the first I read) was an incredible collection of zombie stories. (The Living Dead) When I heard he was editing a collection of dystopian stories I figured it was a no-brainer. The collection is pretty good. I'd only read one story in the entire book and only recognized another one. There's quite a bit here to like and I definitely recommend it, but I have one problem with the collection. For some reason, Adams feels the need to provide - at least to me - spoilers for every single darn story. Not huge stories mind you. But consider this. In a zombie collection, you can be pretty assured that every story will contain, well, zombies. In a collection of dystopian literature, you really don't know much at all. Sure you have the broad strokes, but the details are where things will get interesting. Will it be a more bleak world like "1984" or something else entirely like "Brave New World"? The odd thing is - Adams introduced each story with - what I thought - a telling clue that ruined the surprise for you. Imagine seeing "Logan's Run" for the first time (see it - don't read it - the book was pretty awful) and having no idea what the "catch" was. Certainly you figure it out pretty quickly, but that's what Adams seemed to ruin before each and every story. After I noticed this before the first few stories, I simply skipped his introductions.
And now for something really different. Bulletstorm - AKA the game that got you the GOW MP beta - was a hell of a lot of fun. I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud so many times while playing a game. It's fun. A lot of fun. Is it as cool as "Call of Duty"? Nah. But for pure FPS fun, this was a great game. Every aspect of the game is focused on making shooting bad guys an enjoyable experience. From getting bonuses for shooting them in the no-no spots (yes, I said no-no spot) to additional bonuses for sending your target into a giant cactus. I didn't try the multiplayer so I can't comment on that, but the single player game was great and I'd recommend it to anyone.
Have you ever begun reading a book where you only had the vaguest idea of what the story was and found yourself completely surprised? That's how I was with the Hunger Games trilogy. All I knew about it was "young adult dystopian fiction". That's it. Within about 5 pages I was completely addicted. I honestly don't know how this could be young adult fiction. Sure the writing is pretty simple but the content is... well - not inappropriate. Just dark. Incredibly dark. I can't remember being so depressed by a book since I read "1984." They are making a movie out of this and I honestly don't know how I feel about it. On one hand if they truly honor the book and keep the incredible darkness of the novels intact, it could be too difficult to watch. If they neuter it though that would be a shame as well. Either way - I'd recommend the entire series. You can probably read them back to back over a week - just keep the Lithium handy.
And just to wrap things up - a few comics I'm reading lately:
- Sweets - a New Orleans-based crime story over 5 issues. Created by a guy local to me, the art is incredible and the story is pretty darn good too.
- GI Joe - there's about 4 lines out now. Some silly - some pretty darn cool - especially the Cobra titles. You should also check out the "Hearts and Minds" mini series that was created by the author of "Wolrd War Z."
- Fantastic Four (Future Foundation?) - I figure with the 'relaunch' after Johnny Storm's death it may be cool to start reading the series. I never read FF growing up. The first issue was neat so I've added this to my monthly collection for now.
- Y the Last Man - Yeah I'm a few years behind on this. Basic premis is that some disease wipes out all males on the planet - except for one human and one monkey. I'm on issue 30something now. (Affiliate link: Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned)
- Star Wars: Empire - I pick up a trade back collection of these about once a month. Basically "Empire" themed Star Wars comics and as we all know - the bad guys are always more fascinating then the good guys.
I recently finished two very different shooters (for the XBox 360) and thought I'd share a quick review on both. It's kinda sad that I seem to only finish shooters lately. I grew up on RPGs but lately I find it real difficult to actually finish them. I've had the latest Final Fantasy for a while now and haven't put more than an hour in it. I've had Fable 3 for a while as well, and while I've played it a bit I just don't feel very motivated to finish it. (And let me say again - it pisses me off that the unnecessary adult content on Fable 3 prevents me from playing it with the kids. It's stupid, out of place, and adds nothing worthwhile to the game.) Anyway - the games in question are Homefront and Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
I typically try to save my video game/movie/off topic stuff until the weekend, but when I saw this video today I had to share it. As a warning, this video is incredibly NSWF for violence reasons. I consider us all adults here so if zombie level violence turns you off, please stop now. Anyway, watch the video, then I'm going to chime in with some thoughts.
Before I added this game to my wishlist I had heard that - for the most part - all Spider-Man video games sucked. I'm not sure how true that is but I can say the last time I played Spider-Man on a console it had a wood finish to it. But I had heard good things about Shattered Dimensions and the concept intrigued me. The basic idea behind Shattered Dimensions is that you get to play four different versions of Spider-Man. You got your "regular" Amazing Spider-Man, your Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, and the Noir Spider-Man. Each of these different versions have their own story and unique design, but gameplay wise only the Noir version is really unique. For the most part you'll be spending your time beating bad guys up when in the non-Noir worlds and playing a stealth game as the Noir Spider-Man.
The game has you hopping between dimensions hunting down pieces of some kind of magic rock. Along the way you encounter many of Spider-Man's classic villains. Now - growing up - I was a Spider-Man fan. I didn't buy many of the comics, but I'd pick up an issue from time to time. I was also a big fan of the corny cartoon growing up. Even with my probably mediocre understanding of Spider-Man's villains I find the game has an incredible line up. Even better - many of the baddies are presented in alternate versions which makes things even more interesting. Enemies like the Vulture, Hobgoblin, and the Sandman are presented very cool.
Game play wise everything works well - but swinging - at times - can be a bit confusing. I was concerned that it would be the weakest point of the game - and it probably is. But it isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Once you get used to the basic concepts of traveling by web you get the hang of it. There are a few points in the game where control is frustrating but for the most part - it just works. My youngest son is playing the game currently and he's farther along than I am so I think just about anyone can pick up the game and play well.
Graphics are well done - see the screen shots below. I've commented already that I really like the design of the bosses, but the levels are also great. Audio wise there isn't much to comment on. There is no background music that I'm aware of. I can say though that the Spider-Man "chatter" is dead on perfect. Multiple times both myself and my kids laughed out loud based on some smart ass remark Spidey made. I can also say that the Deadpool level is very funny. (There is - I kid you not - a conversation about henchmen uniforms that will have you cracking up.)
Any way - this is one of those games where I did not expect to enjoy it nearly as much as I am. I definitely recommend picking it up - especially if you like the comics. (As a side question - what's the best Spider-Man comic for a person to start picking up again?)
I've been a fan of Transformers ever since I was a kid. So I was pretty excited when the movie was announced. I had such high hopes for the movie (and the sequel), but obviously a geek's dream are never what going to be truly realized. Outside of the horrible acting and plot holes an Optimus could drive through, the main thing that bugged me about the "modern" Transformers was how they looked. Don't get me wrong - they looked pretty realistic. You can't knock the special effects. What bothers me though is how... unrecognizable they look. Outside of Bumblebee and Optimus, everyone else just kinda blends in together. The movies did get some of the personality right and I remember remarking on that after I saw the first movie. But in general I didn't feel any real connection to these new robots. (Wow, I can't believe I wrote that. I am a complete dork.) When I got "Transformers - War for Cybertron" I had much of the same worries. First, the game was all on Cybertron, not Earth. Secondly, these were all definitely "modern" Transformers. I had not read any reviews on the game so didn't really know what to expect.
First - lets talk about game play. This game is nothing more than 100% shooting. There isn't much stealth. It's basically run through corridors and keeping your finger on the trigger. It is complete fun. I never got bored once. It is essentially all the cool fight scenes from the movies without any of the lame jokes. As a Transformer you obviously get to spend time both in robot and vehicle mode. The vehicles themselves don't have much variety. You are either a beefy looking car or a jet. But the game uses these modes pretty well. It's typically a 'get to point X as fast as you can' levels that work great. There is a good mix of opponents to shoot up as well as a good set of weapons. From nice sniping rifles to guns that look almost as big as the Transformer itself. And speaking of size - the game throws a few "jumbo" opponents at you that are absolutely epic to fight against.
The story is also really well done. I don't want to give anything away. Yes, there is a war going on. You get to play through first the Decepticon campaign and then the Autobot. What I really liked though and what surprised me was how well they tied it into "our" Transformers. It's obviously a good lead up to a sequel (which I hope they make) and was much better than I expected.
But all of the above is bunk. Let me tell you what I really liked. While playing as Megatron during the first half of the game, each mission involves you performing some task. Get to X. Blow up Y. Whatever. You always have two other Transformers there helping you out. What made me laugh out loud more than once is that throughout every single mission Megatron is being a complete and utter ass to his subordinates. It's like the manager from hell. It's awesome. And unlike the movie which touched on the Starscream/Megaton rivalry a tiny bit - the game nails it perfectly and has a lot of fun with it. On the flip side, playing as Optimus means you get to hear the constant prater about how they "must" get it done for the good of all and blah blah blah. It was dead on.
I haven't yet given the multiplayer game a try yet but I've heard great things. I can say I definitely recommend picking the game up. It wasn't deep, but just a heck of a lot of fun.
Oh - one last note. The ending credits? Best credits song ever.
It's been a while since I've done a video game review, mainly because I've been addicted to Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (hereafter CODMW2), so I thought I'd write up some quick thoughts on the last game I wrapped, Halo: Reach. This is the third Halo game I've reviewed (Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST) and is close to being the best. Unfortunately, I don't see myself playing it again. Before I talk about what I consider to be the big disappoint, let me talk about what I really like.