Dungeons

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Dungeons was a game I was really looking forward to, only to be very disappointed by the end product. ~Nick Herber

Dungeons

Sadly, Dungeons is in fact the exact opposite of one of those stories.  The premise is one that caught my attention from the very beginning.  You are the evil overlord who creates, adds to and manages dungeons that foolish, intrepid explorers will visit in hopes of satisfying some deep need or quest.
Dungeons - PC

Your job is three-fold.  Lure them in, sate their interest by giving them what they want, and then finish them off when they try to escape your dungeon.  I have long heard that Dungeon Keeper was a classic PC title (I never did play it) that Dungeons tries very hard to emulate.  I get the feeling though, that Dungeons missed the mark on several points.  Dungeons was a game I was really looking forward to, only to be very disappointed by the end product.

Graphics – 6:

The details and animation are all pretty average.  This is not a game that will tax your video card by any means.  That said, I actually liked the color schemes and ambient lighting used throughout.

Dungeons - PC

The lack of detail and often minimal animations do little to help matters, but at least the visuals do not seem to cause slowdown and do not tear through environments.

Sound & Music – 7:

I really would have liked more music.  What they have here is actually pretty good, but there is not a ton of variety to be had.

Dungeons - PC
The voice acting is pretty decent as well, which is a big perk since the dialog is pretty well-written for the most part.  The sound effects are nothing special though.
Gameplay – 5:

Where to begin… overall the game’s core mechanics are adequate if shallow.  The idea of luring people in to more or less ‘fatten them up for the kill’ is okay on paper, but quite often I found it frustrating how you had to pander to a hero’s needs.  The lack of direct command over minions only made the missions that much more repetitive as well.

Dungeons - PC
The commands are a bit clunky to access and use as well, though the tutorial does a good enough job of at least getting you pointed in the right direction.

Intangibles – 5:

So, generally I want a long game, but in this case Dungeons just plods on for a bit too long.  The missions really are so similar to one another that I was ready for the game to end well before the last level.  I also had some stability issues with the game.  It would freeze or crash on occasion, but for reasons I could never properly identify.

Dungeons - PC
It was not using a ton of memory and my computer is well above the specs for this title, but somehow I kept getting it into bad states.  That problem did seem to diminish once I got a few levels in, but it got me off on the wrong foot initially.
Overall – 5.75:

What happens when you make a game with a great idea but poor execution?  You wind up with something like Dungeons.  I went into the game with an open mind, despite some negative reviews about it early on.  Usually I can find a couple of high-points for a game to discuss – even if I do not particularly like it.

Dungeons - PC
While there was some witty dialog that was reasonably well-executed, I could not help but feel disappointed in how average the rest of the title was.

Two Worlds II

Polish developer Reality Pump and publisher Southpeak games teamed up to bring us the sequel to an Role Playing Game that was less than stellar. Did they build a better game, or just send out more trash? Read our review to find out.

Two Worlds II

Two Worlds II released last month, and with over 50 hours of play time just to get through the story mode, it is easy to say the game is lengthy. The story picks up 5 years after the end of Two Worlds. Your character, the hero, is a prisoner in the dark dungeons of Gandohar’s castle and any hopes he has of saving his sister, whom Gandahor has taken captive, seem to have vanished along with his freedom. In spite of a self-sacrificing battle against evil, the twins were separated and Kyra is now under the influence of a powerful magic spell from which there is no escape. Evil influences are attempting to awake the slumbering powers of an old generation in order to dominate all of Antaloor, and the hero is powerless to do anything about it.

Two Worlds II

However, just as his despair has reached its lowest ebb, a faint ray of hope appears from a completely unexpected direction. The hated Orcs have put together a rescue squad and the hero is amazed when they free him from the chains of his tormentors.  Still skeptical about this newfound truce between two races which have always been deadly enemies, the hero once again finds himself confronted by a completely new situation. He has to find out why the Orcs helped him – and learn as much as he can about their mysterious leader, the legendary Prophet Cassara. She is both beautiful and mysterious – but the hero must trust her if he has to have his long-planned revenge. So he starts out on a dangerous journey through a land desecrated by evil – a journey he hopes will shed some light on Gandohar’s dark past and help him find a weak point in the defenses of this powerful Mage. Only then can he finally rescue his sister, Kyra.

Two Worlds II

The story is long and the map of the world is huge. Voice acting is good, but not cinematically great. The hero’s voice can pass as Christian Bale’s Batman, even though the hero looks about 5′ 8″ and not exactly buff. A lot of detail has been put into the story, and each sub-quest has its own sub-story. The writers must have spent a lot of time to come up with a story that is not only long, but also entertaining. The characters fit well together and most are well thought out.

Two Worlds II

As expected with a good RPG, there are plenty of side quests to complete that are mini-stories in themselves. They usually pay well and are worth the extra time they take. Some quests you can complete as you progress along with the story, so be sure to speak to people everywhere. You have a map that you can use and each point of interest has a colored pin that represents what that point means. Active Quest Givers have a Sky Blue pin, so keep an eye out for them. Each quest you unlock is added to your quest log, and once open, you can activate a quest and track it on your map. This is handy in showing where you need to go for each quest. The quest log is divided into three categories. Pending, completed, and failed and each quest has a description, and sometimes hints.

Two Worlds II

Gameplay is along the lines of a good hack-n-slash. Where TW II sets itself apart from other games is in the weapons upgrading system and looting system. As you travel around killing, maiming, and destroying, you’ll find items that you can pick up and take with you. There are chests you can loot from, and some of these require a lockpick. Most of the items can be broken down into their elemental parts and these parts, in turn, can then be used to upgrade your weapons and armor. You are limited as to how many items you can carry, but you aren’t limited as to how many elemental parts you have. Dropping items becomes unnecessary since you can reduce the items to basic parts and carry as much of that as you want. You can have three different weapon sets configured and you need to make sure to not disassemble items you have selected for an inactive weapon set, since no warning is ever given.

Two Worlds II

Having three separate weapon sets is another design that sets TW II apart from other games. You can have one set up as an archer, one set up as a Mage, and another set up as a warrior. This comes in handy when traveling through areas with more than one type of enemy. Different enemies require different weapons to defeat them so pay attention to the enemies on-screen health meter. The meter will indicate their weaknesses, so act accordingly.

Two Worlds II

As you progress along, you’ll earn Skill Points and Attribute Points. These are then applied to different skills and attributes depending on how you want your Hero to evolve. The attributes are basic but the skills system is very detailed. With six different skills categories, and each category with its own subset, you can have your hero evolve in many different ways. If you want to be able fully upgrade weapons, you need to build up your metallurgy skills from the Crafting Skills category.

Two Worlds II

The C.R.A.F.T. (Complete Reshaping And Forging Technology) system is what is used to upgrade weapons. Special crystals can be found in the game and these can be attached to weapons and armor to increase the damage or protection of that item. A fully upgraded weapon can go along way to helping you defeat any foe you come across, so it’s best not to ignore this system.

The menu has an Alchemy tab, and learning this system is key to creating useful health and mana potions. The P.A.P.A.K. (Portable Alchemy and Potions Assembly Kit) allows you to create useful potions from herbs and organic material found throughout Antaloor. Resistance potions are also useful for resisting fire attacks from foes. Killing animals along the way seems pointless until you find out that a baboon heart is perfect for restoring health and a hairball from a cheetah can make potions stronger.

Two Worlds II

The last tab is the Magic Tab. This tab provides access to the D.E.M.O.N.S. (Dynamic Enchantment, Magic, Occultism & Necromancy System). This system governs the creation and use of spells according to the five schools of magic. These schools are Air, Earth, Wind, Fire, and the mysterious fifth element Verita. DEMONS is used to customize spells created by arranging spell cards in a balanced manner. There are carrier cards, which determine a spells core functionality. Effect cards which determine the elemental magic that gives the spell power. Last, but not least, Modifier cards which influence the nature and effects of a spell based on the spell’s core.

Two Worlds II

The story has a depth and character list that goes well beyond most RPG’s, and you could easily spend weeks playing through the entire game. Lockpicking, pick pocketing, sword fighting, quests, and so on, lead you in to a world that is well designed and though out. The overall map of Antaloor is huge, but portals can be found that help you to quickly navigate between the areas of the map. There’s also a portal stone that will allow you travel to any given portal and a personal portal stone which can be dropped in a spot and become a temporary portal so as to be able to move between your current location and another portal. This is very helpful if you need to pick a lock but are out of picks. Drop your stone, teleport to a town and buy some lock picks, then teleport back to your personal stone. Be sure to pick it back up though.

Two Worlds II

The graphics for the game could be better. They are a step up from PS2 games, but don’t quite measure up to top of the line games like God of War III and Uncharted 2. This is the one area where improvements needed to be made. The enemies are well designed, but graphically aren’t as sharp as we had hoped they would be. The game had a tendency to slow down when a lot was going on graphically, and screen blur was often seen. This doesn’t make the game unplayable at all, but does take away from the overall experience.

The music for the game was enjoyable to listen to and well placed. Tempo is used quite often to help create the overall experience of a scene or battle, and it fit nicely. The music goes from soothing and delightful, to haunting and rough.

TwoWorlds2-

There is also a multiplayer element that allows you to play either with, or against online opponents. A seven chapter adventure mode is a fun co-op game. Village mode is a RTTS mode that pits you against an opponent and you race to build villages and keep them happy. Deathmatch, where you’ll team up against another group of online players. Crystal capture which is basically capture the flag. And Duel, where you’ll face off with an equal opponent and fight to the death.

TwoWorlds2-

The original Two Worlds was an utter mess that probably should have been scrapped altogether. Two Worlds II, on the other hand, is what any great RPG should be. Depth in every direction, a story worth having, characters worth remembering, and a game worth playing.

Biggest piece of advice for this game: Read the Manual before playing

8

Lost Planet 2

Lost-Planet-2-

Everyone knows that it’s more fun to read a bad review than it is to read a good one. One thing you learn quickly in journalism school is that it’s also more fun to write a bad review. This simple fact has led me to always let myself cool off before writing a piece on something that has gotten under my skin. Even with this cool down period, I still find myself cursing Lost Planet 2.

The original Lost Planet was released in early 2007 for the Xbox 360 and later for the PC and Playstation 3. The third-person shooter showcased battles against massive bugs called the Akrid and impressive snow-covered environments. The story focused on Wayne, a young man who joins up with a group of Snow Pirates to combat the nefarious plans of NEVEC, your typical evil corporation.

The unmemorable story was given a pass because of how fun it was to jump in mechs known as Vital Suits (VS) and blast away soldiers and Akrid alike.

Lost Planet 2 receives no such pass. Now, in addition to an even more forgettable story, gamers must slog through a fundamentally broken game.

Lost-Planet-2-

Set a decade after the original, Lost Planet 2 features six episodes, each told from a different perspective. The snow-covered world of EDN III has been thawing for 10 years, causing an increase in Akrid activity. Many rival factions are fighting for the precious thermal energy (T-ENG) that is harvested from the big bugs. The plots of each individual episode intertwine in various ways but the ties are not strong enough to form a decent narrative. Characters in each episode are interchangeable thanks to Capcom’s decision to mask every character in the game. Your armor clad heroes are so indistinguishable that in one cutscene I believed my character had been killed, when in reality it was just a teammate that looked identical to the protagonist.

Lost-Planet-2-

The few times the plot gains momentum it fails due to the game’s pace-killing mission structure. Each episode is divided into chapters and each chapter is divided into several missions. The missions last at most 15 minutes, so any action packed sections end just as they really get going. Some of the shorter missions barely last five minutes making the front and back-end loading and statistics reports jarring and disruptive. Breaking up the chapters in this manner seems even more pointless when you consider the fact that you can’t save your game between missions.

The episode environments are varied but you’ll end up doing basically the same thing in every one. While the game tells you that the objective is to take control of a train or cause a mining drill to spin out of control it always comes down the same thing: taking control points. The T-ENG data-posts from the original game seem to be the most important thing on EDN III. These points are apparently the only control scheme on the planet so every mission has you capturing all of the posts on the map while shooting waves of faceless goons.

Lost-Planet-2-

While gaining control of the precious posts various small forms of Akrid will harass your squad and every so often a massive Category-G beast will show up. The battles against these colossal Akrid should be the thrilling highlights of the game. In reality they’re just as tedious as the standard objectives. Everyone weapon in the game, including those attached to the various Vital Suits, slowly chip away at the Cat-Gs’ life bars. The battles start out thrilling but a few minutes in it devolves into shooting the glowing weak point with your pea-shooters until the bug drops.

The Cat-G fights showcase just how little thought was put into Lost Planet 2′s design. In the very first encounter you’ll be forced to spend 15 minutes slowly killing the Akrid with the default machine gun. As the beast rises out of a lake you get a great view of Vital Suits and rocket launchers. The problem is, they’re on the other side of a door that doesn’t open until after thebattle. All the wonderful toys are for mopping up leftover Akrid while activating, you guessed it, data-posts.

Lost-Planet-2-

The design missteps drive the fun from Lost Planet 2. The clear focus on co-op makes playing solo an exercise in futility. The mini-map doesn’t indicate the altitude of objectives making finding data-posts in cluttered levels more tedious than normal. There are quicktime events peppered throughout the cutscenes but they’re so infrequent that it’s easy to put the controller down and forget they even exist. When one does pop up you have to fumble to find it and input a single button press. I know just about everyone complains about QTE-heavy games but putting just a random few into a title doesn’t solve anything. Unlocks provided by a slot machine more likely to give you nick-names than weapons, the fact that when hit you can’t fire back, being knocked-back by every attack (often sending you off a level), atrocious AI; the list of poor ideas grows more and more as you play the game.

Then there’s the unnecessarily convoluted controls. Buttons are given four or five uses causing you to often do the exact opposite of what you meant to. Want to transfer T-ENG to teammates so they can heal themselves? Press triangle and L1. Press triangle a split-second too soon and you’ll switch weapons instead. Press L1 a split-second too soon and you’ll throw a grenade at your pals. To activate a data-post you repeatedly tap circle. That also happens to be the button for melee attacks. I often found myself smacking data-posts with the butt of my rifle instead of activating them. It’s also sprint so you could very well just run past the posts.

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Capcom also expects you to read the game’s manual. While this is something I frequently do, major features should also get a mention in the in-game tutorial. The dodge roll, an very important maneuver, isn’t even referenced in the control page of the options menu. By the way, it’s executed by pressing X and L3 at the same time. Yes, dodge rolling forces you to either use the uncomfortable claw method of holding the controller or take your thumb off the right stick, causing you to lose the ability to stay focused on what you’re escaping from.

Also omitted from the game’s tutorial are the T-ENG powered weapon caches. The glowing boxes require an infusion of the precious energy to open up. The weapons inside are almost always worth the sacrifice but if you don’t read the manual there’s no clue about how to open them.

I desperately wanted to like Lost Planet 2. Capcom’s MT Framework engine does a stellar job making the massive Akrid and environments look great. The music conveys an epic feeling and the front-end menus are well-crafted. The game isn’t completely devoid of fun. Playing with friends greatly improves the experience but in the end it’s still a prime example of wasted potential. For every thing the game does right there are three or four truly awful design choices. Lost Planet 2 is easily the biggest disappointment, so far, of 2010.

Lost Planet 2 was developed and published by Capcom. It was released on May 11, 2010 for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. A PC version will be released on May 18, 2010. A copy was purchased by this author for review on the Playstation 3.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Kingdoms of Amalur - Reckoning - gameplay - screenshot -1

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an expansive action RPG. It was released as the first of a trilogy by the now-defunct Big Huge Games studio, and feels like a Fable/Elder Scrolls lovechild. KoA sports excellent game-feel, seemingly endless side quests… and a terribly generic and un-inspiring main story-line.

Kingdoms of Amalur

If this had been a JRPG or a turn-based  game, I would not have played it solely for the story. There are plenty of other games to choose from if that is what you’re looking for. Though glitchy in minor areas, KoA is an excellent choice for lovers of action RPGs who have a difficult time finding games that don’t have wonky combat controls. You begin by choosing one of 5 races, each with a couple of unique bonuses. Character models are very customizable, so long as you are only concerned about the face. The beginning features a good tutorial that gets you familiar with the basics, but make sure to manually turn tutorials off in the main menu once you get out into the main game. Amalur is pretty damn easy on Normal mode, so unless you really just want to enjoy the landscape and make a 10 hour speed-run through the main quest, play on Hard.

Kingdoms of Amalur

Primary and secondary weapon slots do not have any requirements. This means you can equip two axes, a scepter and longbow, or any possible combination of the several weapon classes to tailor to your play style. A unique “Fate” system allows you to personalize your skills even further. You are allotted points at each level-up  to apply towards any of 3 ability trees; Might, Sorcery, and Finesse. After a certain amount of points have been invested in the trees, new fates open up which grant special bonuses that correlate with your most buffed abilities.

Kingdoms of Amalur

You can gain some pretty sweet gear through various quests. You can also invest in Blacksmithing and Sagecraft abilities to forge your own unique weapons, armor, and augments. The vibrant landscape is full of herbs and plants you can harvest for Alchemical use, though I preferred just buying potions from vendors.

Overall I would definitely recommend this to friends who were fans of the original Fable, though Elder Scrolls players might find it a bit too  simplistic. If you’re looking to kill 20-60 hours, pick this up used somewhere and really enjoy the smooth controls and pretty atmosphere. 

Age of Empires III for ten cents

age of empires 3 cover
age of empires 3 cover

You have to love the run up to Black Friday. This is the time everyone tries to outdo each other and we as consumers win out. You might want to keep your eye on the Games for Windows page because they are offering some awesome deals.

Right now you can head on over to the Games for Windows page and pick up Age of Empires 3 for only ten cents. Yeah, that’s right, ten cents. There’s no trick or hidden cost, we’ve already checked it out and had some friends purchase it and it’s legit.

Here’s the info on AOE3:

Immerse yourself in the award-winning strategy experience. Microsoft Game Studios brings you three epic Age of Empires III games in one monumental collection for the first time. Command mighty European powers looking to explore new lands in the New World; or jump eastward to Asia and determine the outcome of its struggles for power. There are no refunds for this item. Digital Rights Management Disclosure. This software uses digital rights management software (“DRM”). DRM may limit the number of times you are permitted to install this software on a computer and/or the number of computers to which you may install the software. To function properly, DRM downloads certain data and files to your computer, which may or may not be uninstalled when you uninstall the software.

So if you are interested in this awesome deal head on over to Games for Windows.

Oh, and tell em Obsolete Gamer sent ya.

There Are Games On Macs. It’s True!

PC vs Mac Steam
PC vs Mac Steam

For those late to the party, Macs are finally getting some PC gaming love from Valve’s digital gaming distribution service called Steam. With this new cross-platform addition to the Macs arsenal, the chic liberal Starbucks drinking hippies can now play Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Portal, and other Valve games built on Source. For those who weren’t aware, there was an offer to get iPod ear buds for the purchase of a Mac copy of Team Fortress 2 which could carry on to your PC version as well since the Steam Cloud works cross platform. I mention this because it also means that whatever saved state you have on your PC will move over to the Mac and vice versa so you don’t have to start all over again.

One other neat little quirk is that Mac players don’t play with only Mac users as some other games seem to segregate them to their lonesome selves. The battle against the PC and Mac can now take place with more than just words. Someone in your L4D2 team using a Mac? Let a tank flip a car on him while you rush to the safe house. Tired of the shit talkers on the PC talking down to your little apple? Become a spy, pretend to be his friend, sap his sentry and take a nice stab to their back. Finally, the war can be waged.

The scenario I described does sound a bit immature but I assure you that the internet is serious business. From personal experience, playing TF2 since the Mac launch I have seen Mac and PC users alike verbally assault one another in a brutal fashion and even personally attempt to dominate the OSX or Windows lovers specifically. It has brought a new flavor to gaming online in Source games and it’s a welcome rivalry that I think many are glad to finally play a more aggressive stance in. The only downside I find in all of this is when someone asks me if they should buy a Mac I can’t say “There are no games on a Mac.” With World of Warcraft and Source’s amazing multiplayer online games that’s all you’d really need to have as a Mac user. Before someone begins the debate that Call of Duty is better than Team Fortress 2 and that is reason enough to not buy a Mac… you need to eat a bag of dicks. Team Fortress 2 is superior to Call of Duty. I know this may cause some internet rage but that’s my stance on it and if you haven’t given Team Fortress 2 or any Valve games a chance yet you can purchase the entire Valve Library for $66.99 this weekend. That’s 22 games for the PC and 6 are available for the Mac. For those who have yet to play Steam on the Mac, what are you waiting for? Let the shit talking and rocket flying begin!

Games for Windows sale: Batman Arkham Asylum $12.49

Batman Arkham Asylum title
Batman Arkham Asylum title

Games for Windows sale: Batman Arkham Asylum $12.49

If you have yet to pick up the best Batman game made to date, do so now for $12.49.

This is one of the best action games that came out in 2009. If you want to read our review of it, click here.

Click here to go to the sale’s site.

The game is on sale this weekend only.