Obscure Gamer – Review of 2009

It’s traditional to round up what has been happening at the end of the year, and to take a look forward at what is coming next. So here are some of my highlights of the gaming year.

I finally joined the Xbox 360 brigade this year, primarily for one game – Rock Band. While it was an evolution rather than a revolution from Guitar Hero, the full band set-up makes for fantastic party gaming and online it is a lot of fun too. A thousand tracks are now available to buy, ranging from Simon & Garfunkel to the latest rock acts. The Beatles: Rock Band did take things to a new level, with its superb presentation and vocal harmonies, while Lego Rock Band had a few tricks of its own. The announcement of a Green Day edition has produced mixed reactions from fans and gamers – is it a band too far, or a good addition to the line-up?

The Lego franchise is in danger of spreading itself thin, but I put a lot of hours into Lego Indy 2. What shone through once again was the sense of humour, particularly in the cutscenes. For the obsessive gamer there was a juicy 1000 Gamerpoints on offer including some very obscure challenges. The addition of the Creator section was very welcome, allowing you to build your own levels and mini-adventures. With more than one Lego Harry Potter game on the way, it doesn’t look like Travellers’ Tales will be putting away the bricks for a while yet.

The mainstream media has once again had a very indifferent attitude to gaming. The midnight launch of Modern Warfare 2 bought the usual sneering coverage (along the lines of “Why are they queuing up for a new game?”, pointing out dedicated fans who had arrived in costume as being odd) tinged with the controversy over the airport siege level. By contrast Episodes from Liberty City and its “Ballad of Gay Tony” did not seem to draw the usual toxic coverage despite the provocative name. The TIGA campaign for tax breaks allowing the British games sector to remain at the top of the industry was ultimately unsuccessful, which could have repercussions long-term.

In the last couple of months there has been more advertising for games, and Sony’s PS3 Slim campaigns have done well to increase the profile of the console and its top titles. Microsoft still spends more and gets more notice for the multi-format titles. Nintendo’s use of Ant & Dec is aimed squarely at a broader demographic and has helped many Wii and DS titles continue selling long after release. However, the supermarket tactics of drastically reducing high-profile titles in price could also be dangerous long-term.

As I have mentioned before, early 2010 has become a sanctuary for titles hiding from the massive launch of Modern Warfare 2, so it could be a big quarter for the industry. Time will tell.

Review of 2009

2009

It’s traditional to round up what has been happening at the end of the year, and to take a look forward at what is coming next. So here are some of my highlights of the gaming year.

I finally joined the Xbox 360 brigade this year, primarily for one game – Rock Band. While it was an evolution rather than a revolution from Guitar Hero, the full band set-up makes for fantastic party gaming and online it is a lot of fun too. A thousand tracks are now available to buy, ranging from Simon & Garfunkel to the latest rock acts. The Beatles: Rock Band did take things to a new level, with its superb presentation and vocal harmonies, while Lego Rock Band had a few tricks of its own. The announcement of a Green Day edition has produced mixed reactions from fans and gamers – is it a band too far, or a good addition to the line-up?

The Lego franchise is in danger of spreading itself thin, but I put a lot of hours into Lego Indy 2. What shone through once again was the sense of humour, particularly in the cutscenes. For the obsessive gamer there was a juicy 1000 Gamerpoints on offer including some very obscure challenges. The addition of the Creator section was very welcome, allowing you to build your own levels and mini-adventures. With more than one Lego Harry Potter game on the way, it doesn’t look like Travellers’ Tales will be putting away the bricks for a while yet.

The mainstream media has once again had a very indifferent attitude to gaming. The midnight launch of Modern Warfare 2 bought the usual sneering coverage (along the lines of “Why are they queuing up for a new game?”, pointing out dedicated fans who had arrived in costume as being odd) tinged with the controversy over the airport siege level. By contrast Episodes from Liberty City and its “Ballad of Gay Tony” did not seem to draw the usual toxic coverage despite the provocative name. The TIGA campaign for tax breaks allowing the British games sector to remain at the top of the industry was ultimately unsuccessful, which could have repercussions long-term.

In the last couple of months there has been more advertising for games, and Sony’s PS3 Slim campaigns have done well to increase the profile of the console and its top titles. Microsoft still spends more and gets more notice for the multi-format titles. Nintendo’s use of Ant & Dec is aimed squarely at a broader demographic and has helped many Wii and DS titles continue selling long after release. However, the supermarket tactics of drastically reducing high-profile titles in price could also be dangerous long-term.

As I have mentioned before, early 2010 has become a sanctuary for titles hiding from the massive launch of Modern Warfare 2, so it could be a big quarter for the industry. Time will tell.

The music of CoLD SToRAGE aka Tim Wright

CoLD SToRAGE aka Tim Wright
CoLD SToRAGE aka Tim Wright

http://www.coldstorage.org.uk/

Tim Wright aka CoLD SToRAGE has been a significant musical influence in the gaming world. Now… enjoy much of his music for free! Check out this link. He is mainly known for his work on the soundtrack of many of the Wipeout racing games that are classic racing games on Playstation. His intense music works well with these fast racing games.

Strategy Guide – Battleforge: Battlegrounds

Bloodhorn from Battleforge
Bloodhorn from Battleforge

Strategy Guide – Battleforge: Battlegrounds by Honorabili

In order to get the most upgrades one should do as high a difficulty as possible in the battlegrounds (I’ll refer to it as bg) with a guaranteed win. If you try to do a bg of one more difficulty than your deck/skill can safely conquer and you win only half the time, you’re pretty much wasting your time. Although you might get some gold, bg is not entended to give gold, merely tokens, so you pretty much just wasted your time.

I think that bg’s were made harder lately in the latest patch/update so I am writing a few tips that I always use and that always net me a victory. They mainly made the bg’s harder by lowering the time limit and “correcting” the spawn rate of enemy waves.

I see a lot of people playing and they don’t really know how to follow the map in the correct kill/aggro order. Although the maps are “randomly” generated, all that is random is the placement of buildings and units, the maps are pretty much templates that repeat. Sometimes they mirror or are inverted, sometimes they have a slight variation but pretty much they are the same every time. The strategy I found is to simply attack whatever it closest to your first orb, perpendicular to it. Usually the enemies will be sorted by increasing difficulty with the stuff closest to you being the weakest. Take them out in the correct order.

Talking about aggro, it’s always a good idea to keep your finger on the E key, especially if you have a bunch of swift melee units that want to fight everything and will tend to aggro the whole freaking map. I recommend having these swift melee units to help you take out the production buildings (tents, coffins, whatever) that will be particularly annoying in the T1-T3 phase or a ton of missile units that will focus on taking out the production building. I usually play shadow or nature hybrid decks to do bg’s and I recommend just mainly going to the production building especially in the higher difficulties. Once your archers/troops are within the enemy base and they are getting raped by all those melee troops just keep running in there and spamming foot soldiers or shock troops closer and closer to the production building. Take it out ASAP; if you don’t you (and your team mates) will regret it. It’s not necessarily that the bg’s are hard (unless you play 9 or 10 all the time) but it is a problem that you will run out of time most of the time. It’s important to have spells that neutralize your enemies for a few seconds such as Curse of Oink.

Once you get to the part where you are fighting bosses, I found the best tactic is to get near that base and kite them out of the base and fight outside, preferably outside of the range of their turrets/mortal tower buildings. Once there have most of your units take him our or his liutenants and it will be a piece of cake from there. As far as T4 sieges, I personally like using Bloodhorns or similar troops that have the stampede/charge ability. Just active, point in a direction and every building in that direction basically shatters. A lot of the bg’s now have flying units that paralyze your units so they are to be a priority as well. I also make a ton of flying units that focus on solely going for the production building. I use damage resistance spells such as Unholy Power or Unity or the use of the most overpowered building in the game, Wheel of Gifts (multiple ones built and triggered at the same time.

On the point of killing turrets, most of them suck. You can just ignore them except when you are using small units, where they will rape you. The only other real problem with turrets is that they will get in the way of the line of fire for the production building. Take that specific one out and then snipe, snipe, snipe.

Some people also make specific decks towards the Map of the Week, which you can use to farm over and over for tokens.

Enjoy and go collect those tokens!

Obscure Gamer – Three Horse Race

Every year there is a major race on for the consumers’ money. And this winter is no different. So what is the form guide for the runners going into the race, and what are the odds on a new leader?

Sony has trailed in third place for much of the year. A lack of big name exclusives and the relative failure of Home to attract users was a severe penalty. The redesigned PS3 Slim and PSPGo gained a lot of momentum for Sony after E3, and the sales surge came on the back of a much improved advertising campaign. Titles such as LittleBigPlanet and Uncharted 2 have been put across to the viewer in a much better way, along with other useful features including the BBC iPlayer.

Microsoft has maintained a good grip on second place. Reliability is still an issue, with the Red Ring of Death and other failures affecting many users. The exclusive Episodes from Liberty City and a continued strong showing from Live Arcade (with titles such as Shadow Complex) have meant that for much of the year the sales curve has been steady – good work in a difficult time for the industry as a whole.

Nintendo had galloped ahead of the pack with the DS and Wii, but both have struggled in hardware terms. Wii sales have slowed dramatically, and the uptake of the DSi has not been as widespread. The newly revamped LL with its larger screens has not helped matters. The key for Nintendo is the long “tail” on many of its games – Wii Fit continues to sell strongly, and no doubt the same will be true for the enhanced version. Motion Plus has added a new dimension to the titles that use it, and both WiiWare and DSiWare have been attracting some strong releases.

The music genre continues to be the strongest, with so many good releases – new Lips, new Singstar, Band Hero, Lego Rock Band, Rock Band Unplugged on PSP, and of course the new expensive peripheral-based DJ Hero. The standout has to be The Beatles Rock Band, with its exquisite presentation, vocal harmonies and attitude to DLC (with money from the release of All You Need Is Love going to charity).

But undoubtedly the biggest thing to hit the industry is Modern Warfare 2. Not only is it set to dominate sales in the run up to Christmas, but many big name titles shifted back into 2010 to avoid it. The bad news is that the supermarkets are prepared to use it as a loss leader in their battle for sales – devaluing the game and affecting dedicated games retailers.

So can Sony and Microsoft make ground on Nintendo? And when will the fanfare sound for the next generation, bred from what has been successful this time around?

Three Horse Race

wii-ps3-xbox360

Every year there is a major race on for the consumers’ money. And this winter is no different. So what is the form guide for the runners going into the race, and what are the odds on a new leader?

Sony has trailed in third place for much of the year. A lack of big name exclusives and the relative failure of Home to attract users was a severe penalty. The redesigned PS3 Slim and PSPGo gained a lot of momentum for Sony after E3, and the sales surge came on the back of a much improved advertising campaign. Titles such as LittleBigPlanet and Uncharted 2 have been put across to the viewer in a much better way, along with other useful features including the BBC iPlayer.

Microsoft has maintained a good grip on second place. Reliability is still an issue, with the Red Ring of Death and other failures affecting many users. The exclusive Episodes from Liberty City and a continued strong showing from Live Arcade (with titles such as Shadow Complex) have meant that for much of the year the sales curve has been steady – good work in a difficult time for the industry as a whole.

Nintendo had galloped ahead of the pack with the DS and Wii, but both have struggled in hardware terms. Wii sales have slowed dramatically, and the uptake of the DSi has not been as widespread. The newly revamped LL with its larger screens has not helped matters. The key for Nintendo is the long “tail” on many of its games – Wii Fit continues to sell strongly, and no doubt the same will be true for the enhanced version. Motion Plus has added a new dimension to the titles that use it, and both WiiWare and DSiWare have been attracting some strong releases.

The music genre continues to be the strongest, with so many good releases – new Lips, new Singstar, Band Hero, Lego Rock Band, Rock Band Unplugged on PSP, and of course the new expensive peripheral-based DJ Hero. The standout has to be The Beatles Rock Band, with its exquisite presentation, vocal harmonies and attitude to DLC (with money from the release of All You Need Is Love going to charity).

But undoubtedly the biggest thing to hit the industry is Modern Warfare 2. Not only is it set to dominate sales in the run up to Christmas, but many big name titles shifted back into 2010 to avoid it. The bad news is that the supermarkets are prepared to use it as a loss leader in their battle for sales – devaluing the game and affecting dedicated games retailers.

So can Sony and Microsoft make ground on Nintendo? And when will the fanfare sound for the next generation, bred from what has been successful this time around?

Trackmania

trackmania sunrise
typical in-game screenshot of Trackmania

Trackmania game series reviewed by Honorabili

 

One Sentence Review:

“The only racing game you’ll ever need… until part 2 comes out. =P”

 

Overall Score:

10 out of 10

 

Overview:

Trackmania is pretty much the most played racing game series in the history of PC gaming. Most people in the US don’t know it because it’s from French developer Nadeo. Also since it’s mainly a pure PC racing game (although a Nintendo DS version was released) most of the console crowd (where most people who play racing games are) never heard of it. Sure, people might play Need For Speed whichever is the newest at the time but after a month they will probably never play it again. With Trackmania, since the game has been around since 2003, and now in its 4th game “United” one can just not play it for a while and revisit it months/years later with tons of new content and the game never disappoints. There’s even the free version “Nations” which anybody can pick up. The game consists of racing online against over 5 million players across the world. There’s multiple ladders ranging from your state or country depending on where you are from. There are championships, some even with cash rewards. You get in game money which you can use to design your own tracks, buy tracks from other players/websites, buy new skins for your car, buy music for your tracks, new horns, new pictures, etc. It’s all in good fun and the game does not allow cheating in the form of ramming other people off the road as all cars drive through each other.

There’s different vehicles each with their own driving style and track styles. American muscle cars, 4×4 SUVs, and mini rally cars are the ones included in the original Trackmania game. Island super cars, Bay SUVs that are quick but can flip, and Coast drifting cars which require the most skill and drive like they have 4 flat tires are the ones included in the 2nd game Trackmania Sunrise. Stadium formula cars are the only ones available in the 3rd and free game Trackmania Nations. All car modes are available in Trackmania United.

All the expansions for the game are released for free and even the free players from Nations can play with people on United under the same ladder system.

The tracks in the game in general are something that puts Unreal Tournament to shame as you will see loops and jumps that will make your jaw drop. The speed of the game is usually on terms with other hardcore reflex racing games such as F-Zero and Wipeout.

Fun Factor:

This is one of the few games from a handful where I will forget to eat while playing it and then many hours later will finally get up and have a reality check. I sometimes keep myself from playing it if I have too many other games in my que because I know I will just forget about them if I start up with Trackmania again. Trackmania kind of became an online MMO racing game and in that sense it’s light-years ahead of other MMOs in the sense that you will not waste time looking for group or some other bullshit. You click to race and 2-3 seconds later after the track loads in 3 more seconds you’re in a race. No bullshit. Considering that I forget to eat while playing this game I would say that it’s an awful lot of fun, so I will give it a 10 out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

Even trying to get a top time in practice for a track can be challenging. When you go online and you keep building up your rank, eventually you will get to the top leagues and have to face people that are really really good drivers. I play my racing games on keyboard, although people cry havoc since a wheel and pedals is much easier but I’ve still schooled people have that 200 dollars or more invested in controllers. Anybody stands a chance so long as you have the skill, so I’m quite fond of these games for that. The game will get as hard as you want it to so in this category, I give it the max also, 10 out of 10. Believe me, when you’re trying to beat a world record and somebody you live with or the phone rings and it costs you the world record, it will drive you NUTS!

Value:

You can buy the original game for $1-5 almost anywhere that will stock it. Sunrise is not as easy to find anymore but you can probably get it for $10. Nations is FREE so if you’re not playing it, you’re missing out completely. United can be bought from $20-40 depending on whether it’s on sale or not. The more games you link to your account the more in game money Nadeo gives you. Considering how inexpensive the games are and how it is just a permanent game to play, the value of the trackmania games is the best possible. I give value a 10 out of 10.

Replayability:

These games have unlimited content. New tracks get made every day since 2003. Clans rise and fall in the community for it. In the ashes of the fallen, we still have sometimes hundreds of tracks that created racing legends. Let’s just say that lately I’ve been playing Dirt 2 and I’ve been looking forward to beating it so that I can go back to playing Trackmania a game I have literally logged over 1000 hours for. Replayability gets a 10 out of 10.

Sound:

The only part that I can really bitch about is that the sound sometimes for some of the cars sound kind of generic. Some sound really badass like the super car or the rally car but the rest are just okay to me. Some sounds like the turbo boost section of the track are fun to hear the booming because you know you just hit nitro! I give the sound a 7 out of 10.

Music:

The music can get repetitive, although it’s all pretty funky. Since people make their own stuff, it’s interesting to see what “radio station” a clan might have playing that day. The multitasking alt-tab of the game is godlike so you can just lower the volume bar at the top right with the mouse and load up your favorite racing music like any Juno Reactor or Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird or Tom Petty – Runnin’ Down A Dream, for instance. I give the music a 7 out of 10 only because I’m sick of it.

Graphics:

All the trackmania games have always looked amazing. They make most other games look like shit and considering how fast the game runs and how efficient the netcode is, I’m always and have always been impressed by them. The first time I ran the game on an ATI 3870 it made me want to cry. Graphics gets a 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game has never crashed since we started playing them since 2003. An obvious score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

Simple controls and great gameplay make a classic. Just the arrow keys and the reset buttons are all you really need other than 1-3 for camera controls. Good job! 10 out of 10.

Performance:

Considering the graphic nature of these games and the amazing physics behind them, and the godlike netcode, the performance is astounding. I will give it a 9 out of 10 because in super high settings the game will begin to lag but that’s to be expected.

My history with this game:

My friends and I have been playing Trackmania since it first came out in 2003. We had countless LAN parties where we would basically try to win but at the same time use the in game chat and type “COCK” and some other braindead shit to try to make the other players die. Since you can mod the looks of your car, horns, picture of your avatar, etc. my brother even went so far as to paint his cars pink, put a picture of a tranny, and put a clip of Ru Paul going “you betta work!!!”. That made the game extremely DIFFICULT to play considering he would sneak up on us racing and sound his “horn”. I can’t wait to play Trackmania 2 and I always recommend Trackmania games to any true lovers of speed and driving.

The Amazing Spider-Man (Amiga)

[youtube id=”V7MY03AXnfc” width=”633″ height=”356″]

The Amazing Spider-Man

In my days of Amiga gaming this was the game I played the most once released. The Amazing Spider-Man was released in 1990 and could be played on multiple systems including the Atari St and the Commodore 64. It was a multi-screen platform game where you controlled everyone favorite web-headed hero on his quest to save Mary Jane from the evil Mysterio.

amazing_spider-man_amiga

Now the first thing that grabbed me was its theme song. I must have watched the info a million times just to hear it, seriously it’s almost intoxicating. I will admit that after that the game did let me down slightly.

The graphics were not that good compared to other games on the Amiga and the in game sound effects were just as behind the times, but the variance in game-play is what made this game addictive. Unlike many of the Spider-Man games of today which is mainly fighting, ASM was a puzzle solving game where your goal was to navigate Rockwell film studios to get to Mysterio’s lair.

the amazing spiderman - Amiga - gameplay screenshot

The controls were pretty simple, the Amiga used the same one button joystick as the Atari, but there were keyboard controls as well, but they were mainly for pausing or quitting the game. You could make spidey walk or climb up walls and even walk on ceilings in some cases. You could also fire your web to swing from place to place.

The game might look and sound simple, but believe me it was not. Here is the layout. Within the studio is a series of rooms that spidey must make it through to get to Mary Jane. Each room has walls and trapsand enemies to deal with in order to move on to the next. The way you progress is to hit a switch or a series of switches to open the way to the next room. This is easier said than done as there are many obstacles in your way including, robots, poison gas, reverse gravity, illusory, magnetic and slippery walls.

The Amazing Spider-Man - Amiga - Gameplay Screenshot - 2

What made this game addicting is pretty much what made Portal so much fun. Some of the traps were well thought out and took time to fight out how to overcome them. The puzzles made you think and sometimes pissed you off, but when you solved them it was pretty cool. You really never fought against anyone. Even the robots you encountered were there for you to avoid or stun with your web and then avoid.

amazing_spider-man_amiga, cover

One thing that freaked me out was the health meter on the Amiga display. It showed a picture of Spider-Man on the side standing tall in his costume. When you would take damage his body would slowly fade away revealing his skeleton beneath. So as you are playing and losing health you see yourself turning into a skeleton which to me added a really creepy element.

The game was far from perfect and suffered from some quirky controls at time as well as programming issues where walls would not work the way they should or you would randomly die for no reason. Also, sometimes the save would not work correctly which almost cost me an Amiga one day when I lost a ton of progress and almost smashed it.

A game like this would never make it today. It took time to play. Sometimes you would be in a room for an hour trying to figure it out. I understand that a game can’t be to frustrating, but the difficulty in puzzle solving and trap navigating was refreshing. Sure the graphics and sound were not that great, but the overall package was worth my time.

You can check it out yourself by finding an Amiga emulator and getting the ROM of the game, but I warn you if you can’t handle slow progress, difficult puzzles and little action then don’t put yourself though the trouble. If you are truly a old school player and want a challenge give this game a shot and let us know what you think.

Assassins Creed 2

Assassin's Creed II Ezio
Assassin’s Creed II Ezio

Assassins Creed 2 Review by Darknight630

Assassins Creed 2 is the sequel to one of the fastest selling new IP’s of all time, Assassins Creed. As was with the original Assassins Creed 2 has two distinctive story lines thrown in. One is of Desmond Miles, who you might remember from the original game. While the other story line involves the new assassin, Ezio. Unlike in Assassins Creed you played as Altair, the dedicated assassin. Ezio’s story is one of betrayal and revenge, the more Ezio goes into getting revenge the more he becomes tangled in the same war between the Assassins and Knight’s Templar. Assassins Creed 2 has been in development for over 2 years now, so how have those two years served to fix all the issues that plagued the original Assassins Creed? Let’s find out.

Once again Assassins Creed 2 takes place in both the future and the past. The game begins at the exact spot where the first one ended with Desmond Miles escaping Abstergo Industries. Desmond still sits on the sidelines for most of the story, but in the few times that you do play as him you do a lot more then walk around a small room. Desmond must use the animus to watch the memories of ancestor Ezio in order to both train him to become an assassin and find an incredible secret. Unlike Altair (who was an assassin from the get-go), Ezio starts out as a simple nobleman whose seemingly perfect world is shattered when his family is betrayed and killed. Thus begins Ezio’s quest to seek revenge against those who betrayed and killed his family. However the deeper Ezio goes in avenging his family he becomes more and more tangled in a war between the Assassins and Knight’s Templar. Everything in Assassins Creed 2 is much deeper story wise. Whereas the original Assassins Creed had you repeating the same tasks over and over again to reach an assassination, AC2 actually has a story that fleshes out each character and has you actually seeing what is going on in this war between Assassins and Templars. Once more unlike Altair, who blindly followed orders from whomever, Ezio has his own agenda and plan. There is no one pulling the stings so to speak when it comes to Ezio. Plus without getting into spoiler territory AC2 also goes into explaining the “creation of man” in the AC universe and thus leaving you with the begging feeling to play Assassins Creed 3.

Assassins Creed 2 has made an incredible improvement from the first game in terms of game play. No longer do you walk around cities quickly doing three of the exact same missions. Ezio has specific people to go to that provide him with a large variety of missions that never once become repetitive. The original idea for Assassins Creed was to be a mixture of Prince of Persia and Grand Theft Auto, however the first game never delivered on that. Assassins Creed 2 definitely delivers. Combat has been improved in a big way making it so much more fun. You have about 30 weapons to choose from now rather then just three (including using enemies weapons), and each have different styles of killing enemies. You may also disarm enemies now and even do actual combat with your hidden blades. Ezio has many different assassination techniques such as pulling guards over ledges, jumping on them from roofs, stabbing them from a hay bale, and more. Other new gadgets include a hidden wrist pistol, smoke bombs, and poison.

Graphically Assassins Creed 2 is amazing. Ubisoft did a real nice job of bringing all the cities of AC2 to life. Considering the game takes place in Italy you can tell how detailed all the cities look. Everything has pretty much been accurately recreated to match what could be found in Italy during the AC2 time frame. The inhabitants of the cities also add to the effect and don’t look as bland as they did in the original game. The same goes for all the main characters in the game, they actually show emotions and actually make you feel for these characters as you meet them throughout the game. Also for all you fans of blood and gore those effects are definitely nice in AC2, in some cases they are good enough to even make you cringe at the sight of some of the assassinations. Soundwise Assassins Creed 2 is much better over its predecessors. There is a simple soundtrack to be found in the game, nothing to really get excited about. However the sounds of weapons hitting each other and even the sounds of weapons being impaled into flesh all sound great. Also a grand addition to AC2 that the original game didn’t use, character accents!

In terms of replayability and value Assassins Creed definitely has both of those over the original. Unlike the original game who’s only form of replayability was collecting flags scattered around the land, AC2 adds far more options in this sense. Such missions include finding hidden treasure chests in the land and helping your mother find 100 feathers scattered around. These two are in the same vein as the original games flag collecting, however AC2 adds one more thing that greatly improves replayability, the ability to assist your Uncle Mario (Yes, there is a Super Mario Brothers joke in the game) in rebuilding his city. Using any money you earn throughout the game you can donate and repair things such as the Mansion you live in, the Weapons shop, the Art shop, the Tailor shop, etc. All these repairs go into giving you discounts for weapons, armor, art pieces, and more. Also added to the game to increase replayability are the clues that explain something I cannot go into for fear or spoiling the game. They serve as clues that explain Subject 16…and that’s as far as I can go.

So to sum it up Assassins Creed 2 is a great improvement over the original game. It’s a rather lengthy game as well spanning well over 25 hours or so depending on your skill and if you choose to do the side missions. I completed the game in about 27 hours playing it on the Xbox 360. There are no major differences between playing this game on the 360 or PS3 aside from the controller.

Final Score: 8/10

Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG
Super Mario RPG

Though I had played various RPG’s on the NES and Amiga in the past it was watching my friend play Final Fantasy IV on the Super NES that got me heavily into RPG’s. My friend would come over and I would just watch him play for hours, so much so that my mother began to wonder why her son was sitting around watching another boy play a game for six hours.

At the time I was a big Mario fan. I had beaten all the games that had come out even earning recognition in Nintendo Power for beating Super Mario World. When I read that Super Mario RPG, made by Square (Now Square Enix) was being released I was ecstatic. By then I had already gone back and beaten all the previous Final Fantasy games, so to combine my love for Square RPG’s and Mario into one game was just heaven.

When I finally had it in my hand and loaded it up I was amazed by the quality and music of the game. The graphics had almost a claymation vibe to it and it fit the game very well. Some of the in game sound effects were a bit loud, but overall the presentation was very well done.

The open sequence had Mario on his way to Bowser’s castle to save Princess Toadstool. The isometric platform style of the game took a bit to get use to, but after a few battles it felt natural. Unlike some of the Square RPG’s before it, in Mario RPG the enemies were visible on the map and in most cases you could avoid them though some you had no choice but to fight.

Personally I wondered how the story would go since from the beginning you were jumping and fighting your way though Bowser’s castle to find the Princess tied to a huge chandelier. You have to keep in mind there was almost no place to go at the time to see reviews or spoilers, so when I defeated Bowser the first time I was generally worried the game might not have much to it, but I was wrong.

Before I continue with the story let’s talk about game play. The game definitely felt like a Square RPG, but it had all the elements you would expect from a Mario game as well. You could walk and jump pretty freely on the main world and once in battle you fought turn based style just as you would in Final Fantasy. Within the battle you had four choices, your main attack, items, your special attack and tactics such as run away or defend.

The game is fairly easy even if you haven’t played any RPG’s before. Whichever character you were playing had different attacks and when you used them you could hit a corresponding button to increase the damage. For instance if you are playing Mario and use his jump ability, if you hit the right button at the right time you will do extra damage and you would know you did it right because you would hear a special sound, in Mario’s jump attack case it was the one up sound.

You can time your defense as well, so when an enemy is about to hit you, you would hit the correct button and you will either take less damage or absorb the hit all together. Pretty much if you got the timing down you were unbeatable, if you sucked at timing you might find some of the boss fights pretty hard.

The overall story in a nutshell was that pieces of the Star Road fell to the world and were being collected by the evil Smithy gang, Smithy, a robotic blacksmith was a from an alternate dimension with aspirations of world domination. The Smithy gang was so bad ass they even took over Bowser’s castle and kicked him out.

The main protagonist is Mario who along with Princess Toadstool, Bowser and two new characters, Mallow, a strange-looking tadpole (with a secret) and Geno, a star spirit who has taken control over a doll, fight to get the star pieces back. But fear not there are a ton of other side stories and adventures.

Now this game came out in 1996 and there are a ton of reviews on it and you can even play it on the Wii, so I am not writing this so much as a review. However, as anyone will tell you Mario RPG was one of those games that once you started playing you would not want to put down. From the music to the boss fights to the hilarious shorelines, the game, in my opinion, perfectly mixed the worlds of Mario into an RPG format that did not get stale.

Personally the use of humor in the game was what made me fall in love with it. There are multiple laugh out loud moments from fighting a giant cake, a power ranger spoof and Toadstool’s forced wedding. Also, Square tossed in many little references to its other RPG’s including a fight against a very Final Fantasy-like character called, Culex which, in my humble opinion, was pretty hard to beat.

Overall it was a great addition to the RPG lineup you could find on the SNES. I believe it is still worth playing today and though I am not a fan of the Wii, if you have one I would suggest downloading it or if you have this thing called an emulator…. Oh, the Obsolete Gamer legal team says I can’t talk about that, never mind, just go check this game out.

If you want to listen to the original soundtrack click here

Link to Dawn of War 2 Soundtrack

Dawn of War 2 Soundtrack Cover
Dawn of War 2 Soundtrack Cover

Free Stuff – Link to Dawn of War 2 Soundtrack

Get the free mp3s for one of the best game soundtracks for a recent game.

http://media.steampowered.com/apps/15620/dow2_soundtrack.rar

If you want to read my Dawn of War 2 review then click here.

If you want to read my Dawn of War 2 Chaos Rising review and strategy guide click here.

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2

Space Marines from Dawn of War 2
Space Marines from Dawn of War 2

Warhammer 40K – Dawn of War 2 Review by Honorabili

 

One Sentence Review:

“Challenging squad combat level based RTS based on the Warhammer 40K universe but based on the game style of Company of Heroes.”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

If you want to read my review & strategy guide for the campaign of the expansion Chaos Rising, click here.

Overview:

This is the ambitious and different sequel to what is considered (by the computer game industry) the 2004 strategy game of the year. The first game was similar to Starcraft but this one chooses a different route. For the multiplayer aspect/connectivity the game decided to use Games For Windows Live as the backbone. If you have a microphone you will appreciate that the game has a built in voice chat that is used via Games For Windows Live. In general over some older RTS games and introduced in Company of Heroes, the game makes use of cover in the terrain to give defensive bonuses to units.

There are different game modes: single player and co-op storyline campaign, skirmish which you can set to PVE or play with a combination of other players together or against each other in the tradition of online pvp play that’s now commonplace, and the recently added mode of The Last Stand. The campaign consists of you or your gaming partner following a series of linear and also randomly generated conquer and defend missions with your squad of hero units which have leveling through combat/objectives (also a level cap) and the acquisition of relics (wargear) that modify the combat characteristics/tactics of each squad. You can only play as the human Space Marine faction in the campaign. The difficulty is variable. As far as fighting goes, the campaign mainly consists of completing objectives and taking optional ones. As far as skirmish goes, you can opt out to practice against the computer or either do traditional 1 vs 1 and up in groupings of players. For skirmish you can be human Space Marines, Eldar, Tyranids, or Orks. The game includes a ladder system for this mode. In the skirmish mode, this plays out more like a regular RTS with two resources available, power and requisition. You can set the objective to either wipe out the player or hold the most strategic points for x amount of time and so forth. This is a lot like Unreal Tournament 3/Company of Heroes. The newest game mode The Last Stand groups you up with two other human players in a series of levels, each in increasing difficulty, in a game of survival. You get a higher score multiplier for killing all enemies quicker than normal groups, not dying, holding the defense points capped, with all your multiplier being resetted to 1X if any team member dies. There is a high score/ladder system with this mode and the game also keeps track of your best scores for each of the characters you get, those being the Space Marine, Eldar, and Ork.

Fun Factor:

The campaign keeps you playing until you beat it and it’s worth replaying with another player, usually at the highest difficulty. It’s worth also playing alone in the max difficulty as having another player can (sometimes) make it easier. The skirmish mode can be a lot of fun as the game plays out more like a traditional RTS game rather than the storyline hero system that people will get used to playing if they play the campaign a lot. The Last Stand is probably the funnest game more as it creates a good feeling of teamwork, although it can be disappointing to get paired up with a bunch of noobs that will get you killed faster than you think. If you play the game with a good group of friends the game can be a lot funner as you can start to dominate the ladders and scoreboards. Overall the game will keep you entertained for days, maybe weeks and it’s good to go back to it and visit it once in a while especially if they released new maps for it or modified minor parts of the game. For fun factor I give DoW2 an 8 out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

As far as the campaign goes, I find it rather easy even at the highest difficulty setting. I’ve tested this and made people who never played the game play it at that difficulty right from the start and they found it easy to dominate, even with non-experienced RTS players. I started to play the game with non-favorite/favorable characters and it’s still easy. Still, it’s worth playing through at least once.

The skirmish mode is much more challenging as you are dealing with human players that most likely have been playing the game already in this mode kicking ass and will school you until you get the hang of it. Don’t be discouraged as this is often the case in RTS games online and if you are a good player and played the tutorial, I mean campaign, you will quickly get used to the units, although the campaign only lets one play Space Marines and skirmish allows more races, so one will need to learn all about them from scratch. If you put in the time and effort, you will find skirmish to be the most rewarding as far as a challenge goes. My advice is that you memorize all the cover points in all maps so optimize defense tactics/cover. Don’t worry most other players you will fight already have done this. 😀

The Last Stand is a lot of fun but make sure that you are grouped with great players that know what you are doing and you make a good team effort to make it to the last stages/top of the ladder. The difficulty can be impossible if you play with noobs but don’t feel bad as the game will soon be over. ;-] With my friends we played the hell out of this mode easily for 1-2 weeks nonstop so it can be exciting for a while. In the final stages of the mode when you are fighting the entire screen filled with enemies the difficulty is literally impossible but that’s the point of the mode. It’s really well done in that sense.

The tutorial (campaign) is a cakewalk so I will punish the game for that. Skirmish is great if you put in your time getting used to it so that’s flawless. The Last Stand is what it is and it works as advertised. Overall I give DoW 2 an 8 out of 10 for this category.

Value:

I bought the game when it first came out for $50 on Steam. The game is currently sold for about $40 on there as of the time of this writing and if you buy a bundle of THQ/Relic games you can get it for partially cheaper cost. It is also sometimes sold on sale via Steam as the game did not sell as well as they anticipated and they are trying to get more people to play it. Since the expansion pack is a few months away as of now it will probably be on sale again often as they might also bundle the game and expansion together when that’s available. Since the game is not that popular right now, I would say that they should sell it for $30 all the time as the base price to encourage more players to get it. Since the game provides many many hours/days of entertainment and it can become a permanent game to keep playing, I give it a 7 out of 10 in value.

UPDATE: (from my DoW2 Chaos Rising review)

On Steam, they sell DoW2 Gold which has the original game and expansion for $40. The link to the Steam sale is the following. If you were like me and already owned DoW2 then for $30 Steam sells the expansion here.

If you never played DoW2, for $40 both the original and expansion for that price is an amazing value because that’s like a month or more worth of gaming right there, easily. $30 for just the expansion is a bit more steep but if you’re a fan of DoW2 and/or Warhammer 40k then you will probably buy it anyways.

Replayability:

The campaign can be played a good 2-3 times before you never want to see it again. The Last Stand can be very entertaining especially if you have a great team going. Since you have 3 heroes which you level up and unlock special abilities/wargear for, you would have to play many (and I mean MANY) matches to unlock all their powers. You don’t necessarily have to do that to get ranked super high in the scoreboard so long as you are good and your team mates play like a well-coordinated military unit. The skirmish mode will have unlimited replayability depending on much much you liked the game already in general and how you approach ladder pvp RTS games in general. I give the replayability a score of 8 out of 10.

Sound:

Most of the voice actors from DoW 1 which are professionals are back and you will quickly recognize them. They are well picked, especially units like the Dreadnought (undead human Robocop ED209 unit of an almost dead human soldier stuck in a killing machine that will forever “live to serve”). The sound effects themselves are great especially hearing the explosions and sounds of machineguns letting loose and Eldar weapons flying through the air (shurikens, etc.). I give the sounds of DoW 2 an 8 out of 10.

Music:

The music for DoW 1 and its expansions are all epic and may be some of the best soundtracks for a war game in the RTS genre. Relic continues this tradition with DoW 2 and they are to be commended. The music of DoW 2 gets a 9 out of 10.

You can download the entire the Dawn of War 2 OST from this link.

Graphics:

This game looks simply wonderful even in Windows XP running DirectX 9. It improves on the graphics of the first game and you will enjoy the spectacular display of combat and gore of the units. One of my favorites is seeing how effective Assault Space Marines can be on a group of unsuspecting targets/victims. ;-] The graphics get an 8 out of 10. They are pretty enough for an RTS but they’re no Assassin’s Creed.

Stability/Reliability:

Overall the game runs pretty well although the netcode can sometimes be laggy. Some people will experience port/NAT errors because of the Games for Windows Live and I researched this and Relic is yet to provide a real fix for it. One might be able to fix this by finding all ports used by Games for Windows Live and forcing them open but I have yet to test this. I found this problem when trying to invite players to co-op campaign and The Last Stand and the game will give a generic NAT routing error message. The game itself is stable as a rock and I haven’t seen the game itself crash to desktop on my hardware. Because of how annoying the NAT error is, and the lag in the netcode, although the game itself is stable, I give this game a 4 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls are pretty standard for RTS games with abilities hotkeyed and CTRL + number to group/remap unit groupings. The camera control, panning, zooming is standard. Since Supreme Commander has much better zooming capabilities and Battle Forge has better, faster scrolling I give the controls a 6 out of 10. No real innovation there but no annoying attempts to try new control methods that are a failure.

Performance:

On a modern machine the game runs decently. My brother bought the game but he was not able to get it running on his old machine which uses an ATI X800 video card so make sure you have a video card that supports enough technology in shader models to even run the game. They recommend having at least an ATI X1600 or nVidia GeForce 6600 GT to just be able to run it. I’ve seen the game run kind of laggy on the machine of a friend of mine that had the latest video drivers, a faster CPU than mine and this was at 1600×1200. Even when I scaled it down to 1024×768 it still ran slower than my older machine so I guess the game is kind of a fickle beast. I give the performance of the game a 7 out of 10 for its lack of support of older machines and unpredictable performance (a faster machine should run the game better but in reality didn’t).

My history with this game:

My friends used to have LAN parties every weekend for 2 years nonstop playing mainly DoW 1 as out favorite RTS game and all its incarnations of expansion packs and patch updates. I bought this game when it first came out for 50 bucks hoping that we could continue playing and since the game had a better online client (Games for Windows Live vs GameSpy which was a pain in part 1 to play online because of port issues) but pretty much I was the only one of my friends that bought this game when it first came out since the game got mixed reviews when it came out and fanboys crying like bitches in forums about how they “ruined” the DoW legacy since they went away from the Starcraft roots. About 5-6 months later a few of my friends finally got the game and it’s been a lot of fun to finally be able to play with them again. 😀

Battleforge

Battleforge Logo
Battleforge Logo

Battleforge Review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“The lovechild of Warcraft 2/3 on crack mixed with Magic the Gathering.”

Overall Score:

9 out of 10

Overview:

This is an RTS MMO by Phenomic and it is run by/published by Electronic Arts. The player takes the role of a Sky Lord, which is basically like a minor god mage that manifests units, buildings, and spells in the mortal realm. Every action in the game takes form of a card to represent the icon for the unit/building/spell which is played in real time whenever the player builds up enough power (mana) to cast/summon it. There are four disciplines of magic: Shadow, Fire, Frost, and Nature. You can make up your army of any mixture of disciplines. There are only two resources during battles, power wells which make power (mana) and monuments (orbs) which are your units/building/spell tier tech levels. Cards are bought using real money which buys one BFPs (battleforge points) either from EA or by buying the game. Trade in game is also possible so it’s not really necessary to buy the game at all if one wants to put in the time instead. The game is divided up into PVP and PVE. The PVP is divided up into unranked (practice), collection (any cards go) 1vs1 and 2vs2 (ranked), and tome (specific to cards bought that month in a random collection) 1vs1 and 2vs2 (ranked). The PVE takes the form of premade missions that are either single player, 2 player, 4 player, or 12 player. A new game mode has been added in Nov 2009 which adds random pve maps from 1-4 players and adds the reward system of the PVP system. As far as rewards go, missions give the player in game money (gold) and upgrades for unit/building/spell cards the player may or may not already own. The goal of the game is up to you, whether to own every card in the game, get all upgrades for them, or dominate the pvp ladders. The initial launch of the game in the US seems to have failed (as far as I know) and it’s relatively cheap to play it here vs the rest of the world. There is no monthly subscription fee and the game is “Play4Free.”

If you already know the game but would like my tips, click here to read my strategy guide on how to do battlegrounds properly.

Fun Factor:

It’s been 2 months since I started playing it and I am still lured back to the game. I hate MMOs in general but for what this is, the usual biweekly updates keep me coming back for more. It’s a lot of fun setting the difficulty higher each time to level up my real life micromanagement skills and I really enjoy sometimes being able to hold out 6-7 fronts throughout different parts of the battlefield all at once. I’ll give the fun factor score for Battleforge a 9 out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

There have been times that I have been doing a mission with a friend for an hour on the max difficulties only to fail for not paying attention for about a minute or two. The difficulties for the missions scale very fast as there are 3 difficulties (Standard, Advanced, Expert) at the time of this writing. Let’s just say you better be good to play Expert. 😀 For the Random PVE maps, they implemented a bar that slides from 1 to 10 so it’s a lot more customizable and the game earns a lot of points in this category for that. For PVP, people have researched the living crap out of the game by now so there are pvp guides out there for people who just want to stick to other people’s strategies. I have myself countered some of the instawin bullshit strategies so I think the game has a lot to offer. I give the difficulty versatility a 10 out of 10.

Value:

Since the game is free, the game has a great Value score. You can download the full game from the main Battleforge website. With the Play4Free account one gets a limited amount of cards but it’s still possible to pretty much do everything in the game with them, although it will very hard to do so if just using these free cards as many basic cards are missing from the free account. To solve that one can trade gold for cards (risky because of the nature of the trade system in game) or if one wanted to be really cheap one can spend the bare minimum real money and add $5 through the EA website to their Battleforge account. That basically translates to one cent is one BFP and with those assets one can either buy two booster packs in game (which I don’t recommend) or buy a lot of cheap 2 cent cards in the auction house and then build up one’s army slowly. Those 500 bfps can also be used to farm the auction house and slowly start earning bfps through one’s buying out of and reselling in the auction house. It’s up to you if you want to put in the time and this can be a game in itself. I myself are notorious for my AH buyouts. (evil grin) If you opt out and buy the full game for $20, you get almost every basic card in the game automatically and 3000 bfps which you can use to buy boosters/tomes/cards in AH, etc. In the long run this is the best value for the in game economy of your character. Since the game has no subscription fee and it’s only $7 or $20 for many, many days/weeks/months of entertainment the game gets a 10 out of 10 in this category from me.

You can get the game from Direct2Drive or Steam for $20 or for close to 7 dollars on Amazon since the game is not as popular as they anticipated. This is by far the best value way to get the game.

Replayability:

The number of missions is limited but since there are three difficulties for each and each difficulty is completely different, these missions will offer at least a whole month worth of entertainment until you grow tired of them. The random pve can be a lot of fun since you pick whatever custom difficulty you want and it’s a random map/enemy every time. They can be extremely challenging. For PVP you can spend endless hours trying to fight your way up the ladder system. It’s up to you what your goals will be and you can always invent new ones. 😀 I’ll give the replayability an 8 out of 10. I do hope that they keep adding more content for this game if not this score will drop.

Sound:

The sound of the explosions and swords rattling is great. The voice actors they picked do a nice job as every unit has their own sounds, some which are funny, some which are generic. Overall I give the sound category a 7 out of 10.

Music:

Each discipline of magic has its own music score which sounds great, except to me the nature music which is kind of annoying (reminds me of the Lion King). My favorites are the music for Shadow (sounds like something out of Gladiator mixed with music from the Dawn of War games) and Fire (sounds like a mix of Assassin’s Creed music). The music can get repetitive, well if you play the game like I do (100 missions in a row, etc). Overall I still think they put a great effort on the soundscore and I reward this game a 7 out of 10 for the music.

Graphics:

The graphics for this game are simply beautiful! To my knowledge this is one of the first games to embrace DX11 and it’s sponsored directly by AMD/ATI (even gets promoted directly on their website and I saw the add for it when updating to the latest ATI video drivers). Each card in the game has its own custom icon which is very pleasing considering this is an RTS game. Special versions of cards (promotion cards) have an even more custom avatar for the units with a special skin and/or better graphics. I think this is one of the better looking RTS games out there and the graphics remind me a lot of Guild Wars and Age of Wonders 2, which as far as graphics go are a great thing! Graphics gets a 9 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

Overall the game is stable but…there are drops in connection/desynch when you least expect it. This might be because of latency issues between people playing far away but I had been playing this game with my brother which lives in the same house as I do and one of my best friends which lives blocks from my house and the match ends because of a desynch issue. This doesn’t happen all the time but I do want to bring it up because for an online game this is a deal breaker. As far as server up time, the servers are up 99.9% of the time with the only times I saw them down being for an update to the game which took about 30-50 minutes and one time for general maintenance. Compared to WoW or Eve Online, EA really does a much better job for quality of service. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 6 out of 10.

Controls:

The game implements the WASD scroll which is great and now makes other RTS games controls seem clumsy. Most hotkeys for commands of units are the same key which simplies micromanagement even further. I give Controls a 10 out of 10.

Performance:

I don’t run the latest hardware and the game runs like a champ on an AMD Athlon X2 5400 CPU and an ATI Radeon 3870 512 PCI Express MB video card. My brother is running the game playable on an AMD Athlon 64 3000 CPU and an ATI X800 AGP video card. Most gamers will be able to run this games on any modern gaming PC. I give it a score of 9 out of 10 for performance.

My history with this game:

I downloaded the demo for this game and I wanted it so suck so much but instead it was enough fun that I stopped playing most other games for a good month or two. I got most of my friends addicted to playing it, even those who hardly ever buy new games bought multiple copies of the game and we got a lot of members added to out gaming clan because of this game. I’ve been playing for two months and I have still a way to go before completing my card/army collection. Probably by the time this will happen another expansion will come out (there has already been one made) so that will keep me even more interested.