Demon’s Souls

Demon’s Soul box
Demon’s Soul box

Demon’s Souls

If the hype surrounding the PS3 exclusive Demon’s Souls was to be believed, I was looking forward to a game with a brutal difficulty not seen since the heyday of Rygar and Battletoads; one that had a more terrifying atmosphere than Silent Hill; and with more varied and gruesome ways to die than Dragon’s Lair combined with Space Quest. In short, the ultimate challenge for the hard-core. With the bar set so high, it seemed likely to disappoint in at least some respects. What I found was a flawed but thoroughly enjoyable third person hack and slash/dungeon crawler that threatened to send me to a video game addiction clinic before I finally managed to best it.

The basic mechanics of the game can be summed up as follows: “Kill Demons, Get Souls”. Souls are released by killing enemies and they can also be found on the corpses of deceased adventurers. Souls are effectively the unit of currency in this game and can be used to buy items, repair or upgrade equipment, learn miracles and magic, and even upgrade your character’s stats. If you die, you start back at the beginning of the level as a spirit and with all of your souls gone. There will be blue-glowing bloodstain at approximately where the game determined you messed up (if you fell down a well, for instance, it will be just before you left the ground), and if you can reach it before dying again, you can get your souls back.

Demon's Soul character
Demon’s Soul character

Combat is action-packed and extremely unforgiving. Button mashers won’t make it very far, as many of the enemies have good shields and are only vulnerable after they attack. Defensive players can turn a fight their way with a perfectly timed parry/riposte combo or open themselves up for a flurry of blows. Almost anything can kill you, so situational awareness is a must-have to survive. The game’s wide variety of weaponry and shields can be equipped in either hand and there are spells and items that can be used to enchant them. Demon’s Souls has an item upgrade system where blacksmiths can fortify your equipment in exchange for various types of ore. Some of the benefits include adding poison, bleeding, or fire damage; health or mana regeneration; and bonuses to critical hits, to name a few.

Demon's Soul
Demon’s Soul

Player characters are customizable down to the bone structure of the face and there are several “classes” to choose from that ultimately only effect your initial equipment and stats. One is free to upgrade their combat skills as they see fit and pursue different avenues of magic or types of weaponry. It may take a considerable amount of stat upgrading to do so, but it is very possible to turn a robe-clad magician into a full-plate wearing berserker with a sword nearly twice his size.

The game consists of a central hub called the Nexus that serves as your home base and has passageways to the five worlds. Each has its own distinctive art style and feel including a European castle with all the requisite archers, pikemen, and a couple of fire-breathing dragons; a shantytown filled with plague-rats, mosquitoes, and leeches, all surrounded by some of the most disgusting swampland imaginable; a temple full of samurai skeletons and flying manta-rays; and a mine that seems to go the depths of capital H hell. Each world has three or four stages each with a boss Demon that must be defeated. The souls of the boss Demons can be traded to different NPCs in exchange for spells and miracles, and in some cases, can be used to create powerful weapons.

Demon's Soul nexus
Demon’s Soul nexus

One of the innovative features in Demon’s Souls is the world tendency system. Tendency ranges in a continuum from pure white to pure black and can affect many aspects of the game. The player’s health in soul form is higher in a white world tendency and lower in the black. The amount and difficulty of enemies ramps up the blacker you get, and the type of loot dropped is also a factor. Some NPCs will only appear in pure tendencies, and there are even portions of the levels that are otherwise inaccessible until a certain world tendency has been reached. There is a system in place for keeping track of character tendency as well but it has a less dramatic effect on the game except in a few select situations.

Demon's Soul nexus
Demon’s Soul nexus

Players navigate through the game’s areas while either alive or dead. In corporeal form, the player has more health and the ability to summon up to two Blue Phantoms (spirit form players) to help him defeat the stage’s Boss Demon. Being alive has its drawbacks: dying in a level will shift the game’s world tendency towards black. There also exists the threat of being invaded and killed by a soul-hungry Black Phantom player. Spirits gain bodily form by defeating a boss Demon or assisting a player as a Blue Phantom (both of which will shift world  tendency), successfully invading and killing a host player as a Black Phantom (world and character shifted to black), or by using a magical item.

Demon's Soul shrine
Demon’s Soul shrine

In addition to the relatively seamless co-op and PVP experience, players are able to see ghostly images of other adventurers in the same areas, as well as the ability to give them hints or lure them to their doom. One of the first things you’ll notice while playing online are pools of blood scattered around. These are grisly remainders of other players that have died. By touching a bloodstains, you are able to see the last four or five seconds leading up to that player’s demise. This can be a great way to spot traps and ambushes that would otherwise give little to no warning. Another way that players can interact is by leaving messages, which can be entered through a Madlibs-style system using a library of the game’s terminology. Players can vote up useful messages and this will reward their creators with health. There is no way to down-vote messages that are misleading, false, or simply situated in places that will kill you if you try to read them, unfortunately, but there are a couple of messages (“beware false messages”, “liar!”, etc.) that can be left as tip-offs.

Demon's Soul shrine
Demon’s Soul shrine

For players that manage to finish the game’s main quest, a NG+ is available to start at the beginning with a character’s weaponry and stats intact to fight through an even more sadistic challenge. The game’s difficulty increases the more times you beat it (up to NG+8, at least!).  There is an in-game hall of fame called the Pantheon to show off the players that have the highest number of souls, most trophies achieved, etc. and this can be helpful to see what sort of equipment is favored by the best.

I had been following this game for a while, back before it was announced that there was even going to be a North American version and many people were importing Demon’s Souls from Japan. Gaming forums were full of people trading war stories about how many different ways they died before beating the first level, and I think the average was about twenty. Import sales continued to rise to the point where Demon’s Souls was released stateside. I snagged a copy from Amazon but it languished on my shelf for a couple of months before I decided to break the plastic and possibly my spirit by playing it for myself.

Demon's Soul shrine
Demon’s Soul shrine

When I finally worked up the courage to pop this game into my PS3, I was immediately grabbed by its atmospheric soundtrack and the bleakness of the art direction. The tutorial level showed me the basics of the game mechanics and drove home the message that a scrawny demon with a broken sword and no shield could easily take me down if I didn’t watch myself in combat. More and stronger baddies are introduced including the dreaded blue-eye knights with the ability to bash your shield out of your hands, chain three or four attacks together, and heal themselves if somebody did manage to wound them. More advanced combat tactics were required, such as the parry/riposte combo. I eventually found out that if I could get behind an enemy, there is a brutal backstab attack that would make the TF2 spy blush. Past the knight was an even bigger foe: the morbidly obese Vanguard demon that swings a battle axe twice the size of your character. I was under the impression that this was an unwinnable fight to utterly demoralize new players since the tutorial level invariably ends with your death, but I’ve read that it is possible to beat Vanguard here, even with the newbie equipment.

Demon's Soul valley
Demon’s Soul valley

The next couple of hours were a blur of gristly deaths. I would get past one obstacle and find myself stabbed, ambushed, crushed by a trap, toasted by a dragon, stabbed again, filled with crossbow bolts, and impaled by the blue-eye’s tougher counterpart: the red-eye knight. I was nearly at the home stretch but missed a step going down a spiral staircase and found myself plummeting to my doom, landing right on the switch that opened the gate to the end-boss. Obsolete Gamer cohort Stirge dubbed this game “You Can’t Win” around this point, which I think has a nicer ring than my nickname: “Kill Yourself Dungeon 3000”.

Demon's Soul tunnel
Demon’s Soul tunnel

There are few things that I didn’t like about this game and I don’t want them drowned out in a flood of praise for the stuff that was done right.

  • The targeting system stinks; when locked on to an enemy, it changes the controls so that moving side to side will strafe around a target rather than turn. This is usually a good thing when fighting one-on-one, but throw two or three extra combatants into the mix, and I’ll find myself dodging right into someone else’s attack or even off of a cliff. Also, if an enemy is out of range to be targeted, it will reset the camera, usually to face the wrong direction.
  • The camera is your biggest enemy. Demon’s Souls has a pretty good third-person camera system assuming you’re in an open area without a lot of debris. The camera fails miserably when in underground catacombs, some of which can be quite twisty and hard to maneuver even when you can see where you’re going.
  • When logging into the server, the world tendency will be reset to the average of all players, which can make it very hard to get to pure black or pure white. There are some occasions where the tendency will be set to pure white or pure black, such as holidays or announcements from the developers, but aside from special server events, logging in shouldn’t affect anything.
  • You can get booted back to the main menu if your internet connection becomes broken while playing online. I’ve found it better to play offline than have to gamble with the PS Network logging me out.
  • Contra-lag. The game can slow down if there’s too much stuff on the screen, like in the old-school space shooters. In some games, this bug ends up like a feature; a free bullet-time mode when things got hectic. This is unacceptable in a next-gen title.
  • This one is a minor gripe, but there is no way to sell items to merchants, so the only way to get any currency is by slaying demons or eating soul items.
Demon's Soul tunnel
Demon’s Soul tunnel

Every time you die, you start back at the beginning of the level, where you will have to fight past the legions of demonic assholes that you barely survived fighting in the first place, just to get back to your bloodstain. Many times, I’d find myself trying to rush through the beginning wave of enemies only to find myself mercilessly swordraped by some of the weakest dudes in the game.

There is a good variety to the Boss Demons. Some are relatively human-sized, others stand two-stories tall; most can kill you with a single attack, even if blocked with a good shield. The Dragon God from World 2 (Stonefang Mine) almost seems to have been borrowed from the Scarecrow sequences in Batman: Arhkam Asylum, as keeping out of the Dragon’s line of sight is the only way to survive.

Demon's Soul tunnel
Demon’s Soul tunnel

The Tower of Latria wins my award as having some of the game’s most freaky moments. You start near the top floor of a prison in a medieval castle and have to go through all five stories of it to find the keys that will let you out. There are narrow walkways and breaks in the floor that can drop you to your death if you’re not paying attention. Through the bars of the cells, you can see the emaciated forms of the prisoners, some of which will drop to their knees when you go by, as if they’re begging to be put out of their misery, others will hide in the shadows and try and shank you to death. Several lantern-carrying guards walk slowly up and down the corridors, and the only sound aside from the gibbering and shrieking of the prisoners is the eerie tolling of a bell that gets louder as the guards get closer. It somehow manages to get more disturbing once you get out of the prison and into the cathedral but I won’t spoil all the surprises. I also wouldn’t recommend playing this part right before bedtime.

Demon's Soul valley
Demon’s Soul valley

I would have to give high marks for nearly every aspect of the game’s presentation. The quality of the in-game graphics are pretty good, but perhaps a bit lacking when compared to some of the cinematic cut-scenes that introduce some of the bosses and locations. The levels are well designed and nuanced for the most part. The sound design pops; there are tons of great weapon clashes, monster growls and squeals, and magic effects. There isn’t a whole lot of voice acting in this game, but what little there is benefits from a diverse cast of expressive voices. The music ranges from epic symphonic scores to stuff that would fit right in to a 1970’s horror movie, but what I found interesting was the way that music cues are held back for boss fights or other major plot developments; for most of your time exploring the five worlds, you will be enveloped in ambient sound. This, along with the ghostly images of other players’ phantoms, helps heighten feelings of isolation and strangeness unique to Demon’s Souls.

Demon's Soul warning
Demon’s Soul warning

Playing online can be a blast if you don’t mind the occasional PVP encounter, as Black Phantom players can and will jump in on your game if you’re in body form and attempt to murder you at the most inopportune times. I’ve been able to recruit a couple of Blue Phantom players the last time that happened, and it ended up turning into a huge brawl. Summoning Blue Phantoms can be a double-edged sword, as the bosses get much harder the more players there are.

I think it was on the second or third night of my Demon’s Souls addiction, after a three hour soul-farming bender, that I left a cautionary sticky-note on the inside of the game’s case; a warning to future-me to think about what I was getting into. Of course, I didn’t pay it any heed; this game is too challenging and deep to blow off just because it’s aggravatingly hard. Also, this is one of the only games in recent memory to give me adrenaline rushes when the action gets furious. In closing, Demon’s Souls is a cruel mistress and if you like to wear nipple clamps or enjoy a good flogging, this one is for you. I’d like to leave you with some survival strategies I’ve picked up from my time with the game.

  • Watch your equipment encumbrance weight. You can load up to your maximum with a suit of plate armor and a comically large battle-axe, but this comes at the price of maneuverability. One the things that will save your skin is the rolling dodge, and if your endurance is too low for that amount of gear, you will end up on the ground for a few seconds in a very vulnerable way. The magic number to stay under is half of your maximum equipment weight.
  • Weapon upgrades. There are a limited number of Crystal Lizards that will spawn in each world, some of which are the only source for the various rare ores needed to upgrade your weapons. If you’re trying to trophy-whore this game, I recommend looking up a guide to finding out where the spawns are in advance.
  • On Royalty and magic. When I found out that the Royal class started out with a magic ring that can regenerate MP, I dumped my Temple Knight build and started the game anew. Talk about easy mode! Royals have practically no starting armor or weaponry to write home about, but the Fragrant ring is a great item for a caster, not to mention the fact that they also come equipped with Soul Arrow, the magic missile equivalent in Demon’s Souls. Having a pure caster almost breaks the game, however, as I was able to storm through most of the worlds blasting everything that moved with my pea shooter spell and effectively unlimited ammo, given a book or a magazine to read while it replenishes. I cheesed out some of the major bosses by nuking them from a distance or even by casting poison and running away. I beat the game but I feel like I’ve cheated myself in the process. Now I’m in the process of playing through as a fighter and the game is so much more challenging.
  • Common sense. A lot of this game seems like trial and error, but your biggest defense is not being dumb: keep your shield ready, peek around corners, listen for footsteps, etc. If you see a pile of freshly incinerated corpses, keep it in the back of your mind that whatever caused that will probably like to do the same thing to you.

gog.com sale: 2010 Spring Promo, huge sale!

Beyond Good & Evil
Beyond Good & Evil

gog.com sale: 2010 Spring Promo, huge sale

To celebrate the coming of Spring, Good Old Games is having a huge sale on all their top selling games. Let’s see what they are offering this weekend!

1. BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL™ (30% OFF) $6.99
2. DISCIPLES 2: GOLD EDITION (50% OFF) $4.99
3. DIVINE DIVINITY (50% OFF) $2.99
4. EVIL GENIUS (50% OFF) $4.99
5. FALLOUT (50% OFF) $2.99
6. GOTHIC 2: GOLD EDITION (50% OFF) $4.99
7. HEROES OF MIGHT AND MAGIC® 3 (30% OFF) $6.99
8. MYST: MASTERPIECE EDITION (50% OFF) $2.99
9. RED BARON PACK (50% OFF) $4.99
10. SIMON THE SORCERER (50% OFF) $2.99

About each game:

1. BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL™ (30% OFF) $6.99

Praised by almost all adventure gamers as one of the top adventure games of all time, Beyond Good And Evil actually lives up to its hype.

The Good Old Games version includes the manual (16 pages), hi-res wallpapers, the soundtrack, and artworks.

2. DISCIPLES 2: GOLD EDITION (50% OFF) $4.99

You will like this game if you like games like Heroes of Might and Magic and Age of Wonders. It’s that same kind of strategy fantasy game.

This versions includes all of Disciples II including Dark Prophecy, as well as new scenarios, and all the three expansion packs: Guardians of the Light, Servants of the Dark, and Rise of the Elves. The Good Old Games version includes the manuals (3), hi-res wallpapers, in-game soundtrack, artworks, and avatars.

3. DIVINE DIVINITY (50% OFF) $2.99

We’ve promoted this game before and it’s a highly praised diablo-clone action RPG but with its own special style.

The Good Old Games version includes the manual (37 pages), wallpapers, prequel story to Divine Divinity (31 pages), in-game soundtrack, artworks, and avatars.

4. EVIL GENIUS (50% OFF) $4.99

Ever want to be Dr. Evil from Austin Powers? Here is the perfect Sim-strategy game for that!

The Good Old Games version includes manual (31 pages), hi-res wallpapers, in-game soundtrack, artworks, World Domination Starter Kit, avatars, as well as the English, French, German and Spanish language versions.

5. FALLOUT (50% OFF) $2.99

Fallout 1 is a game that changed the ways computer RPGs were from that point on. This to me is a game that created a golden age for that genre.

The Good Old Games includes the manual (124 pages), hi-res wallpaper, Fallout series wallpaper, Fallout Bible (205 pages), reference card, in-game soundtrack, original soundtrack, artworks, avatars, and PipBoy avatars. So you get a LOT of Fallout for just $3.

6. GOTHIC 2: GOLD EDITION (50% OFF) $4.99

The Gothic series pack a lot of interesting RPG aspects as well as replayability. For some reason these games have become their own classic series from one of our favorite studios, Jowood.

The Good Old Games version includes manuals (78 pages), hi-res wallpapers, soundtrack, and avatars. Gothic 2: Gold Edition includes Gothic II and the expansion pack Gothic II: Night of the Raven.

7. HEROES OF MIGHT AND MAGIC® 3 (30% OFF) $6.99

Apart from Panzer General, the Heroes of Might and Magic games are awesome turn-based strategy war games. Level up your heroes (generals) which modify the performance of their armies.

The Good Old Games version includes manuals (209 pages), soundtrack, and creature tables. You get the original game as well as the two expansions, Armageddon’s Blade and The Shadow of Death.

8. MYST: MASTERPIECE EDITION (50% OFF) $2.99

If you like adventure games and you haven’t played Myst then I don’t know what to tell you…

The Good Old Games version includes the manual (17 pages).

9. RED BARON PACK (50% OFF) $4.99

People might think World War I is cheesy but flight combat was extreme back in that war. It was a test of pure skill. No bullshit computer to calculate a lock-on from a missile back then. Just the machine, your machine gun (if it worked) and your enemies.

Red Baron is probably one of the top flight combat sims of all time. If you love WWI stuff or flight combat, you need this game.

The Good Old Games version includes manuals (306 pages), maps, and reference cards. In this version you get Red Baron 1, the Red Baron: Mission Builder, and Red Baron 3D (a heavily patched version of Red Baron 2).

10. SIMON THE SORCERER (50% OFF) $2.99

A must for fans of the old Sierra and LucasArts adventure games, although this one was made by Adventure Soft.

The Good Old Games version includes the manual (7 pages), Simon the Sorcerer series wallpaper, as well as being able to pick between playing the subtitled and talking version of the game.

***

Click here to go to Good Old Games and see the sale!

Titan Quest

Titan Quest logo

uh, which one of you works in the audio-visual department?

Why am I going commando in this scene?

Have you been itching for Diablo 3?
Have you had a yearning for your characters to walk around without pants?

Titan Quest is calling and you are just poor enough to buy it!

To be fair; let’s state the obvious… the game is a less original version of its idol at the original selling point of $49.99… this fateful reviewer would have demanded a refund. In general, however, the game is serviceable and you can lose several hours without complaint.

The story goes along the Greek mythology route in a somewhat moronic layout:
You are the Nameless Hero! Bad Stuff is happening and the gods are not able to handle it (Where is your Zeus, now? Moronicles…) and as that is a fairly familiar state to the average action-rpger… let’s rumble!

Titan Quest - Lich
Yes, master pet…sir.

You get to advance along 2 of 6 trees of special powers and use whatever equipment you qualify for along the way. This probably the largest difference and can lead to unusual characters that are definitely fun to consider and play (a hoplite-type that levels with AOE fire effects? Checkus-Majorus). I decided to make a pet-user… no, not a farm-lover sort. But when I decided on the necromancy-path (a real natural fit into the heroic Greek tradition?); I became the servant of the Lich. The Lich is apparently from a Dungeon and Dragons game and, there of, proceeds to be better then anything you might actually fight in the game. It clears rooms, draws attacks and kills bosses with maximum evil floating for dramatic effect. And your part in this, after summoning the Mega-Lich and upgrading it faithfully? You are its bitch treasure-collector and re-summon it when the hordes of useless fantasy stereotypes actually kill it (it can happen a few times every ten hours of play).

Where I cannot mock the game too harshly (don’t worry, we’ll return to that shortly) is that the animation art and music are pretty good. Things look great for the time period of release and the music is pretty atmospheric and appropriate for what ever land (or tomb) you are adventuring in. The voice-acting consists of scared folks telling you about monsters that haven’t killed them and their families yet… Sometimes you get a scantily-clad female character begging for your help. No commentary on whether a relationship with a female centaur could go ‘all the way’ with a minion treasure collector. Not bad… but far from a good use of decent voice actors. Sometimes you get the gruff-soldier telling you how he has held out against the said monsters… very ‘eh’ reports. In essence if he/she has an exclamation mark above his/her head, its a quest related babbling. Diamonds mean that the voice acting was wasted on a script requiring the actor to be sorrowful that giant bird creature is eating his livestock or something else you cant do anything about.

Let’s talk about your enemies along the way to Titan-killing.
Basically, you commit genocide with a smile to anything vaguely sneering and hairy or slightly undead. Apparently, none of the gruff soldiers you met or the stable cities you sell and buy your crap from has actually cleared anything from Greece’s countryside or its tombs (once you get to Egypt you should have been a near-Stalin level mass-killer-of-stuff-that-never-really-stood-a-chance-against-human-heroes). Is that a satyr settlement? Fireball the hairy savages. Are some amphibious critters strolling along a beach? Life-Leach the waterborne abominations to their tranquil beach graves.

If one thing can be said about the enemies you massacre; they don’t follow such things as common sense or a history book or silly crap like that. Slime puddles are next to rat-men in caves. Hostile boars infest 55% of Greece. Birds hang out with cat-people. It’s rather wonderful to realize that much like in movies with hot chicks; when stuck, the designers just threw in whatever looked cool and could pass for mythology. Sort of.

Speaking of ridiculous… Something that seemed a little ridiculous was the teleporting system in ancient Greece. The Greeks apparently discovered teleportation somewhere to allow the hero access to every city section once discovered. They even clear a patch of city in order to have built a ornate ‘teleporter’ area for exactly one man. Your bumbling, genocide-inducing self. Let me repeat this for effect; the Greeks. and later the Egyptians, have made a system of instant teleportation and yet… somehow… are under siege by horny goat-men and skeletons that are about as deadly as gnats with cold-symptoms.

Yes, makes perfect sense.

But, as an older game… available from our friends at Impulse and other digital distributors… It’s okay to fulfill the specific need to pass time.
I would say 5 out of eight tentacles, but i would give it a six if you can get the game for under 20 bucks.

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 review by Honorabili

WARNING: This review is not for fanboys or people who like simple games or dumbed down RPGs. If you have played as many RPGs as I have, you will find it useful.

One Sentence Review:
“More action-rpg space opera mayhem”

Overall Score:
7 out of 10

Overview:

Mass Effect 2 is a sequel to one of the better modern RPGs out there. Both Mass Effect games are a lot like Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), taking some elements from the early Fallout games and Planescape: Torment. The game plays like an interactive movie done by a really good director.

I will assume that people who played this game have already played the first one. If you haven’t, you should stop reading this and go play ME1 instead before looking at this game.

You take the role again of Shepard, Captain of the Normandy. I won’t get into any spoilers but the intro of the game will leave you saying “WHAT THE HELL?!” You go around the galaxy recruiting/commanding a team of soldiers, scientists, engineers, etc. trying to uncover clues and complete missions that get you closer to attacking the home of the main baddies, etc.

I won’t cover spoilers and I am writing this review from the perspective of someone that has been playing RPGs from the mid 80s, both normal RPGs (table-top, pen and paper) and classic computer RPGs (non-MMO). Most media out there considers this game the next best thing to sliced bread but I have found some areas that I thought could have been better, especially since they were available in previous Bioware games.

In general, in both games I have a problem with the way they made the dialogue circle. It’s fairly evident after you have been playing for a few minutes that all the nice/good-guy/Paragon options are positioned towards the top of the circle and the asshole/bad-guy/Renegade towards the bottom. My beef with this is that in real life, there’s more to just the extremity of being super nice Jesus Chris Superstar or being Satan/Adolf Hitler. I wish they would have implemented more alignments than just good or bad. In reality nothing is black or white. How about a grey zone? The game has it but all the responses for most of those choices are half assed and you will usually end up getting screwed by the game when you try to apply a rational solution to a problem that compromises both sides.

I wish they would go away from this dumbed down choose-your-own-adventure system and go back towards the roots of more intricate RPGs. It’s kind of annoying how they only phrase part of what your response would be in the options. I miss the days of being able to look at 8-9 different responses that were worded out exactly as my character would deliver them. I would look at lines in Fallout 2 or Planescape: Torment and think “hey, that’s really clever, let’s see what happens?!” Now I can just click on the obvious choices and just keep making my guy nicer/more of an asshole. Like, it takes no skill or thought.

Some people have said that this is now more an action game than rpg. A big problem I found with the action is that there are NO GRENADES. Grenades have been a part of warfare for more than 100 years now. Are you telling me there are no more being used by the military in the future?

Mass Effect 2 vs Mass Effect 1:

ME2 is a lot like part 1 but many things are changed as well.

The first thing that you will notice is that character progression is pretty primitive vs ME1. The game lacks an attribute progression system (hell all attributes in general other than shields, HPs, DPS).

They have done away with the planetary landings/random missions (they are MUCH less in ME2) and your little buggy is gone, which they in turn have replaced with you launching probes (which magically mine minerals for you) from a point and click screen. This is a huge mistake as, at least to me, this was one of the funnest parts of part 1 and that’s the difference between me beating part 1 in 1.5 weeks playing a good 4-6 hours a day and me destroying ME2 in 3 days only. The probing is BORING as hell. I’m good at it but basically as soon as I would start doing it, it would put me in the mood to go do something else (like go play another game or go to sleep). You might say, “Hey, it’s a good concept” but it’s been done right in other games, like Star Control 2 (The Ur-Quan Masters, a 1992 space exploration/combat game, with rpg elements to it). They should have included the buggy and maybe added a chemical analyzer to it to manually explore and drop off mining drones. That might have given the game a feel sort of like Koronis Rift, a lost Lucasfilm Games classic for c64 and other 8-bit computers/systems.

The game was dumbed down even further by removing the inventory system. When you kill enemies the only thing they drop is generic ammo, which you adapt to fit on any gun. This is the same as the previous game, and yes it does make the game go a lot faster. It’s not very realistic though, at least from the perspective of loot. It would have been nice if they gave you bonus money for salvaging and selling the weapons/armor/equipment that enemies dropped, for missions where you can pick that stuff up (not ones where you run off a ship/space station that is blowing up). That part of the game just made no sense to me. Some people think this is an improvement of the game but a good part in just about every RPG is gear/weapons/armor/tool management. Many people who play RPGs care about loot and having special items for their characters. (Some real RPG purists will argue otherwise but the plug-and-play system of loot in this game is just silly).

The game now makes you research for weapon mods, which for which you get resources by probing/mining (the game killer for me). You still buy stuff at stores but they are mainly mods which lead to new research projects for which you still need to waste time mining. This feels like grinding except that you’re not killing anything except strip mining a planet through a simple little interface. Where’s the action?

Fun Factor:

The fight scenes are pretty nice but they are impaired by probing/mining in between missions. I’m only really bitching about it so much because if you want to unlock every item mod/ship mod, you will have to spend time grinding on the probes. That’s not my idea of fun.

The fights themselves are pretty fun, although they are easy, especially with the dumb A.I. (see below) and lack of challenge.

The story is nice, but essentially it’s more of the first game (which I love) but it lacks more secret/side quests. It would have been nice to see more of those that secretly integrated into the background of the main story. An example is in Planescape: Torment when you buy a little toy Modron (an artificial robot race in this fantasy setting) and he lets you go to a special Modron dimension that’s an endless Dungeon. I think something like that is unique in a game but I see how that could make a game company dedicate a lot of resources towards something like that. Some people consider Planescape: Torment to be a failure as a “product” but it’s more like what a real RPG (non video game) is like than many others.

I would have liked as well to have seen a LOT MORE interaction between characters while in missions. I purposely picked characters on missions that would have ethical problems with whatever the mission was at hand. I would have liked to have seen them interacting more with each other, maybe even arguing rather than provide a one liner like “Shepard I don’t agree with this, but you’re the Captain.” They had that in Planescape: Torment but I would like that developed even more than that so it seems like you’re dealing with real people/real characters.

Back to ME2, I would have liked more interactivity with my plot/dialogue choices and more challenging combat and NO grinding/mining (if I wanted that I would go play an MMO). When I played ME1 or KOTOR, I cherished every moment. As I played ME2 I just felt like “okay let’s beat it to say I beat it.” I liked the characters in ME1 more as well but that’s beside the point of this section. Fun Factor got a score of 6 out of 10. Bring back more non-predictable dialogue/plot and better/harder/more intense action and my love will return.

Difficulty Versatility:

Overall, I found this game to be easy. There’s multiple difficulties but overall you won’t feel much of a difference unless you play it on the max difficulty. Doing that will sometimes create a situation where if the story dictates that you get screwed/ambushed by multiple enemies from multiple directions, you will often die then. That’s not really an issue for most of the game because you can just switch the difficulty on the fly through the options menu, and that IS useful.

The A.I. of the game is pretty linear/retarded (for the enemies). It’s not as bad as Dragon Age: Origins (that literally made me stop playing that game, although I bought that game). The biggest problem I had with the A.I. is that the enemies take cover really POORLY. In just about 95% of all combat in the game I have just been able to keep attacking the enemy even when they hide behind a box or wall. I especially love when they hide everything except the top of their head and I just unload a clip of sniper rifle on their sweet spot.

I would have liked the A.I. to get smarter as I set it on a higher difficulty, and not just lower my regen rate. Oh, yes, you have a regen rate in Mass Effect 2. Healing items are pretty common and they’re pretty useless unless you’re a really bad gamer. On the 2nd to last and even on the max difficulty there have only been about 2 real fights where I needed to heal my character. The rest of the time I just take cover and drink some tea and pretend I’m playing Gears of War.

The option to change the difficulty is nice (although it doesn’t do much) but the game is a cakewalk (for me). Difficulty Versatility get a score of 6 out of 10.

Value:

The best price for the PC at the time of this writing that I found quickly was from gogamer.com for $41.90.

For Xbox 360, on gogamer.com they have it on “sale” right now for $52.50, which is a bit steep for me, but then again I don’t buy console games as they are expensive.

The game took me about 3 days to beat which is longer than most new video games these days. The problem with RPGs is that unless they have dramatically different replayabilities then they’re pretty much a game you will play NOW and then again a year or so later. I can justify more paying money like that for a game you can play daily, whether a strategy game (any Civilization game) or FPS (Unreal Tournament series, Call of Duty, Team Fortress 2) than a game you will play sparsely like this one.

Most fans will pay the current amount for the game, if they like it enough to buy. If you are a fast gamer like me, especially for the console crowd, you’re better off renting the game.

I give Value a score of 5 out of 10. Too expensive for my blood to buy but longer than most one shot games out there.

Replayability:

I unlocked pretty much everything on my first run of the game, so I don’t think I’ll replay this for a while now. I’d probably replay Mass Effect 1 before I replay this one anyways (especially since I think ME1 is a better game).

If they add more missions, game modes through DLC then it would entice me to play it again (assuming they addressed at least some of the game design problems I had with ME2). The problem I have with DLC is that it’s simply a way for companies to milk you of more money for stuff they could have included in the game to make it a better game from the start. Business-wise it’s a good move (for profits) but it does make inferior games come out.

Some of my friends are as of this moment replaying it as a different class but the game overall is the same. For me that has the same appeal as watching a movie and then immediately rewatching it. Unless an rpg has a lot of different endings and side quests that are unique to that way you picked to play, then they don’t really have much replayability. Since I have really good memory, I will not go back to ME2 for a long while, maybe before Mass Effect 3 comes out. I give replayability a score of 4 out of 10.

Sound:

The sound effects are nicely picked. You have many sounds from ME1 repeated but they did the job for that game and they continue to work for this one. Some of their menu interfaces have their own sounds and they are pleasant. The weapons sound authentic and that’s important for an action (rpg) game.

The voice actors do a good job and you will hear familiar voices (not just from the gaming industry) doing an amazing job with their characters. I think they add a great level of immersion to the game. Sound gets a score of 9 out of 10.

Music:

The music is great for this game but my beef with it is that it is not constantly playing. There will be some songs like the galaxy interface that you will hear over and over. Some songs, like the ones in your private quarters, are pretty epic, but you can only listen to them by going into that room (for which you hardly ever go into). I would have liked an option to force the game to play music constantly to be integrated, and you can make specific songs override what’s playing for dramatic effect in cut scenes or specific fights.

The music I enjoyed but if we can’t really hear it then it’s not really there. Music gets a score of 7 out of 10. It’s there and great, just absent.

Graphics:

Eye candy! This game looks just as good as ME1 and even almost as good as Dead Space. I think they did a great job with the ingame graphics and cut scene movies. Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game never crashed for me, even though I alt-tabbed the game a bunch of times. You’d expect a game with such a pretty graphics engine to go nuts from that but it never did. In fact, I purposely crashed the game sometimes to see if it could recover and the game relaunched immediately, with no performance hit. Stability/Reliability gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

For PC, the controls are pretty standard. WASD moves you around, the mouse aims, F melee attacks, Shift pauses the game (so that you can issue squad commands and use powers), and Spacebar is the general use/run/everything else key. The controls could have been a bit better, such as including a crouch key, common in most other FPS games, rather than forcing me to run like a little girl for cover. The general action spacebar key sometimes got me killed because my character decided to stand up from cover rather than jump over it. Controls get a score of 7 out of 10. They are enough considering how easy ME2 is but they feel primitive.

Performance:

The game runs pretty okay on my 2 year old gaming PC. There were moments, especially during heavy action sequences when the game did lag/skip frames. Most people will be satified with the overall performance of the game, especially since the graphics of the game are PRETTY. Performance gets a score of 8 out of 10.

My history with this game:

Overall, I like the game. (I’m not as much of a hater as you’d think, but I am critical). I have my opinions on what I wish they would have done differently and I hope they implement some of those changes especially for when we see Mass Effect 3, which is pretty much guaranteed to be made considering how much money this franchise makes.

gog.com Sale – Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity for $8 total

Divine Divinity
Divine Divinity

gog.com Sale – Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity for $8 total

You can get both Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity for $8 total from gog.com this weekend only.

I’ve played Beyond Divinity the most of these. They are action RPGs similar to Ultima 8, Sacred, and even Diablo.

Click here to go to the sale.

Steam Sale – Mount & Blade for $4.99

Mount and Blade
Mount and Blade


Steam Sale – Mount & Blade for $4.99

If you like Defender of a Crown and want a true medieval world simulator, then Mount & Blade is what you’re looking for, especially at $4.99! It’s available now on Steam.

The game is very challenging and you will find the combat unforgiving and realistic. Usually getting hit with a sword in the game directly will result in getting crushed in the battlefield. If you want a game that makes you feel like Braveheart or Robin Hood or a knight from Camelot then you should check it out. At $5, it’s more than worth it.

The link to get it through Steam is the following: http://store.steampowered.com/app/22100/

Steam Sale – both Freedom Force games for $2 total!

Freedom Force vs the 3rd Reich
Freedom Force vs the 3rd Reich

Steam Sale – both Freedom Force games for $2 total!

The Freedom Force games are the BEST action-rpg-RTS games ever made for super hero comic book characters. Get them both for $2 total!

You get the original Freedom Force and the sequel Freedom Force vs the 3rd Reich.

You can get them through Steam at the following link:

http://store.steampowered.com/sub/1662/