Alien: Isolation Review

Alien Isolation ReviewAlien: Isolation (Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players:
Genre: Survival Horror
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: The Creative Assembly
Release Date: October 7th, 2014

Parent Talk: Alien: Isolation has been rated M for mature because of blood, strong language, and violence. Have you ever seen the original Alien movie from 1979? If so, you can imagine why this game is rated M for mature. It’s dark, foreboding, and creepy. Children will be extremely frightened should they see, let alone play this game.

Plays Like: Imagine being locked on a massive space station with little to no weapons, and discovering you’re not alone. There’s a menacing alien creature on the loose that’s impervious to your attacks, and can kill you just as easily as you breathe. The only chance you have for survival is to hide in lockers, under desks, and use a motion tracker to be one-hundred percent sure the alien is nowhere near you as you make your way from one objective to the next. That’s Alien: Isolation, it’s just you and the alien, the problem is you’re the one who’s being hunted. Can you make it out alive?

Review Basis: SEGA sent us a review copy of the PlayStation 4 version of the game. I completed the main campaign and tried the included DLC.

Let’s get something out in the open right now, Aliens: Colonial Marines was not well received. I’ve yet to meet anyone that thought it did the Alien franchise justice. It had potential, but through misguided direction the game never lived up to the hype…quite literally. Enter The Creative Assembly and their take on the Alien universe. This one is much more grounded, and features some truly memorable scares. It is the closest we’ve ever gotten to playing in the Alien universe as imagined by Ridley Scott in the 1979 classic, Alien. It’s pulse pounding, horrifying, and will leave you on the edge of your seat for the duration of the game. Now that’s what Alien was all about.

Guess who's coming to dinner?
Guess who’s coming to dinner?

The Great:

Alien come to life. The developer absolutely nailed the look and feel of the 1979 film. You take on the role of Ellen Ripley’s daughter, Amanda who is looking for information about her missing mother. If you’ve seen the Ridley Scott directed film, you know exactly what happened to Ripley onboard the USCSS Nostromo. Amanda arrives on the space station Sevastopol, only to discover the place is in ruins. There is no one around, and it looks like a serious battle look place. There are holes in walls, the power is out all over the station, and you can feel in the air that something’s just not right. When you finally do stumble onto a survivor, they’re not exactly the nicest person in the world. What you discover is that everyone who is left on the station is fighting for their own survival and that some nasty monster has been picking them off one at a time. From there a giant game of cat and mouse ensues as you try ever so hopelessly to seek the information you’ve come here for, and get out alive. It’s in these moments where the game truly shines. You’ll peak around corners, use a motion tracker to ensure you’re alone, and use the environment to your advantage as you slowly make your way through each narrow corridor. To say the game feels just like the original Alien movie during these moments is an understatement, you’re living the movie and it’s just incredible.

Creepy access tunnels like this one are littered everywhere in the game.
Creepy access tunnels like this one are littered everywhere in the game.

The Good:

  • Fight or flight. This instinct-based gameplay is one of the best features of the game. Imagine you’re scouring around an office, and you suddenly hear something in the ventilation duct. You only have two choices available to you, do you stand and fight, or do you run away and give up your position? If you fight, you only have access to a few side arms which don’t really do anything to the xenomorph, or you could use your flamethrower and convince the menace to back down for a few seconds. Your other option is to run away. While that might seem like the best option, doing so will allow the Alien to pinpoint exactly where you are, making your chances of survival near zero. So ultimately do you have any choice at all? Maybe you should just stay right where you are and see what happens, as the lights slowly flicker on and off.
  • While you make your way from one save spot to another, which grant you a very brief moment to breathe, you’ll stumble onto crafting supplies. Collect as many of these as you possibly can as they’re your only means of not only healing yourself, but distracting the xenomorph. You can create first-aid items, noise makers, flash bang grenades, and more. You have to locate a blueprint before you’re able to make said supplies, but it’s critical you do so or you’ll never make it out alive!

  • Unscripted Alien patterns ensure you’re always scared. You’ll always know when the xenomorph drops into the room or area you’re in thanks to your trusty motion tracking device, but you’ll never know where it’s going to go. Will it hop into a vent and crawl around in the ceiling or will it make a circular pattern around the room you’re in. Whatever it does, you have to move, you can’t stay in one spot for too long because eventually it will make its way to you. The ideal solution is for you to hide for a bit, let it walk into another area, and slowly get your butt out of dodge.

  • The motion tracker also serves another purpose, it tells you where you need to go. Since you can use the tracker from virtually any position you’re in, you’ll be looking at it quite frequently during your stay onboard the Sevastopol.

  • There’s more to Alien Isolation than just hiding behind furniture and running from a xenomorph. There are areas you can’t access until you find a way to remove large locks from doors, little terminals you can need hack in order to bypass power from security cameras to air purifiers, and evil androids out to get you. There’s a nice balance between the cat and mouse game with the alien, stealth sections with the androids, and surviving against human opponents.

  • The audio is fantastic. From the limited music that plays during adrenaline-pumping moments, to all the ambient noises that constantly linger in the background, it’s all amazing. You’ll want to play with a quality surround sound system to get the most out of the audio, or a really good headset. Whatever you do, prepare to get fully immersed in this fantastic game world.

The most useful item in the game is the motion tracker.  Use it well!
The most useful item in the game is the motion tracker. Use it well!

The So-So:

+/- The graphics can be a bit of a mixed bag at times. On one hand the xenomorph looks fantastic, and the environments are gorgeous. There’s volumetric fog, incredible lighting, and the attention to detail in the space station is amazing. Sadly some of the human character models don’t look quite as good. The finer details in the face, for example, just aren’t there. I also noticed on a few occasions where the game would drop frame rate during cut scenes for whatever reason.

+/- Alien: Isolation is a fantastic game, but after the ten hour mark it starts to run a little thin. The story appears to be wrapping up on several occasions, only to be forcibly prolonged. I found this hurt the pacing towards the end of the game, but it remained fun throughout.

The Bad:

-False instructions. One of my biggest gripes with the game happens early on in the adventure. You’ll get a radio communication telling you to race towards the next area. Doing so will guarantee death, as the Alien is waiting for you just ahead. Why does the game to do this? If you take your time and do what you’ve been doing since the beginning of the game you’ll be just fine, but actually listening to what you’ve been told will cause you to die constantly.

Someone wants to say hello.
Someone wants to say hello.

The Lowdown:

Alien: Isolation is the best Alien game to come along in years, and it might very well be the best Alien game ever made. It captures the essence of the 1979 movie perfectly, and the feeling of dread you get from being locked in an area with the menacing Alien is unmatched in any other videogame I’ve played before. It might not hit all the right notes, but when the pieces all come together Alien: Isolation is one of the creepiest games I’ve ever played, and it also happens to be one of the very best games I’ve played in 2014.

Final Score: 9/10

Hyrule Warriors Review

Hyrule WarriorsHyrule Warriors (Available exclusively on Wii U)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja
Release Date: September 26th, 2014

Parent Talk: Hyrule Warriors has been rated T for teen by the ESRB. That makes Hyrule Warriors only the second Zelda game of all time to be rated T, the other being Twilight Princess. The reason why it was rated T is because of fantasy violence and suggestive themes. The suggestive themes are mainly some of the character’s provocative costumes, and the violence should be obvious. You play as any number of classic Zelda characters and take out hordes of enemies with powerful weapons. There’s no blood or gore whatsoever though, so even kids could get a lot of enjoyment out of this one, especially if they’re fans of the series.

Plays Like: Have you ever played a game in the long-running Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors series? If you, know what you’re getting here, well…for the most part. The game mashes the Dynasty Warriors’ series tactic and time management gameplay with Zelda’s objective-based gameplay. It also acts as the very best fan service I have ever played. You move around a large map trying to secure key forts, take out legendary Zelda bosses, and defeat legions of classic enemies from every single game in the Legend of Zelda franchise. This is a love letter to the fans.

Review Basis: Finished the Legend mode, and played through the Adventure mode.

The Dynasty Warriors series has spawned a number of spin-offs over the years including one based on Gundam, Fist of the North Star, and One Piece. While all great fan services in their own right, as a diehard Zelda fan, I have never played something like this before. It perfectly balances the classic Warriors gameplay of properly securing your position, and making the most of the little time you have available with Zelda’s objective-based gameplay, such as getting a new weapon to access a new area or take out a boss. It’s a beautiful looking game too, featuring the most detailed designs ever seen for these legendary characters, and from the moment the intro screen plays you know you’re not just playing some cheap mash-up between two franchises, you’re actually playing the perfect combination of two excellent series. Warriors fans will appreciate the amount of polish that went into the development of the game, and Zelda fans will adore all the little nods to their beloved franchise. I never expected this experiment would turn out to be as awesome as it did.

She's in deep thought.
She’s in deep thought.

The Great:

Do I really have to say this? The fan service is hands-down the best part of the game. From the rocking remix of the classic Zelda theme, to the 13 playable characters it’s all just awesome. Have you ever wanted to play as the warrior version of Impa? How about actually taking part in one of the epic wars mentioned in many of the previous games? Everything is possible here. Battles take part in some of the most memorable dungeons and areas from key games in the franchise and the characters you get to play as are nothing short of incredible. From Midna to Ganondorf himself, no characters are off-limits. I also really loved all the little touches like how all the characters hold treasure they find in chests above their heads, all the classic sound effects, and the remixed tunes of epic themes from years ago. This is the ultimate fan service and I really couldn’t imagine anything better.

Link is ready for anything!
Link is ready for anything!

The Good:

  • Keeping the choices from the Dynasty Warriors games is excellent. You’re constantly challenged with making choices. Do you hold the current fort you’re fighting in, or do you go and try and locate the Gold Skulltula that just popped because you killed 1,000 enemies? How about the mid-boss that just dropped in the middle of the filed; they usually drop tons of rupees when they die. All these choices coupled with the more traditional objective-based gameplay of the Zelda series, such as locating a powerful weapon inside a hidden cave, or downing King Dodongo, help bridge the gap between the two franchises.
  • There are currently 13 playable characters, some of which I’ve already mentioned, and the promise of more to come. This helps keep the action fresh as each character has their own unique skills and abilities. From Princess Zelda, to Sheik, and even Darunia, the assortment of characters is brilliant. Each character also has an elemental affinity, which means certain characters will be more useful on certain stages, and this is great because it almost forces you to try new characters.
  • There’s a surprisingly deep crafting system in place where you can enhance your characters’ with powerful new combos, or skills. It’s excellent making a bottle with a potion, or unlocking some new skill for one of your favorite playable characters. I also loved being able to use rupees to level up characters that I didn’t use in a while. It prevented me from having to grind out levels on characters I wanted to use in the next mission. I did find myself going back to earlier missions to farm crafting supplies though, but that was a personal choice, not one the game forced upon you.
  • Boss fights might not be too challenging, but they round out the package perfectly. From the minute you see King Dodongo on the first mission, to Gohma, and the Imprisoned One, Hyrule Warriors keeps surprising you. While the mechanics used to defeat boss characters may be somewhat disappointing, I still found it awesome to have all these characters in the same game.

  • Adventure mode is a true delight. Not only does it perfectly recreated the 2D map from the very first Legend of Zelda, but each ‘screen’ is actually a battle area. You move around the map, selecting an area you’d like to jump into. From there the action reverts to standard Hyrule Warriors gameplay, but gives you specific mission parameters to meet. There are plenty of secrets and goodies to be found in both Legend and Adventure mode, and I loved how the two were so perfectly connected. You might find new weapons, new characters, heart pieces, and more and everything you do in one mode transfers to the next. It’s brilliant!

  • Off-screen gameplay is fantastic, as always. The footage you’re watching in the video review was made possible because of off-screen mode. Without it, this review would have been delayed for quite some time.

  • Hyrule Warriors is the nicest looking Zelda game ever, at least from a technical perspective. Characters look incredible, and the amount of enemies on the screen at once is amazing. I didn’t experience slow-down in the single player campaign, and the nods to the previous Zelda games are literally everywhere. While the level design isn’t anywhere near as complex as in traditional Zelda games, it really doesn’t matter when the cohesive world comes together this well.

  • The soundtrack is fantastic. All the remixed tunes are spectacular. I especially love the rock version of the classic theme, and the sound effects are mostly ripped from the previous games in the series, so you know you’re going to feel right at home.

  • I was absolutely shocked to hear any sort of voice acting in a Zelda game, and while it’s only one narrator that speaks during the game, it was more than enough for me. I hope one day Nintendo adds real voice acting in the Zelda franchise because it felt right at home with just the narrator.

Yes there's even a brand new character waiting for you to check out.
Yes there’s even a brand new character waiting for you to check out.

The So-So:

+/- Some will say the core action of repeatedly killing enemies in the same manner over and over again gets old, but since you can play as so many different characters, and all the fan service, I truly can’t complain. I enjoyed every minute I spent with the game, even if I only had to press the same few buttons again and again.

+/- I thought I would love the coop mode, but there are a lot of technical issues that pop up in this mode such as major from frame rate drops. It remains a fun diversion, but I eventually stopped playing in coop because I wanted to experience the game as it was clearly intended to be played.

+/- While this acts as one of the best Zelda spin-offs ever made, it doesn’t do very much to push the Warriors series forward. The gameplay remains largely unchanged since the last major Warriors release, and while new fans to the series might not even notice, longtime fans will. It’s not bad though as this current formula works perfectly.

Adventure mode is an absolute blast.
Adventure mode is an absolute blast.

The Bad:

  • I would have loved to have played this game with Steven, but alas that’s not an option.
Classic bosses make a welcome return.
Classic bosses make a welcome return.

The Lowdown:

Hyrule Warriors is a fantastic tribute to one of the best videogame series ever made. If, like me, you’ve been a fan of the series since the original NES game, then this is a no-brainer. In fact I’d say this is a game Nintendo fans as a whole should check out. It’s absolutely incredible, especially for the fans. Since I am a fan I’m not going to sugar coat it, this feels like it was made for me, and I’m now about three times more excited for 2015’s Dragon Quest Heroes than I was before. There are so many other series that could get the Warriors treatment, and so long as Omega Force treats said series with such love and respect as they’ve done here, they’ll have tons of success. I can’t stress this enough, if you enjoy action games or the Zelda series as a whole, go buy Hyrule Warriors. It’s one of the best games of 2015 in my eyes!

Final Score: 9.2/10  

Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes Review

Disney Infinity 2.0Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes (Available on PC, PS4, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: Disney
Developer: Avalanche Software
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014

Parent Talk: Imagine a game where you play through a story as one of many Marvel characters, or even better, an interactive toy box where you can create your own games, and use a vast array of characters in silly mini-games, highly competitive races, or pretty much anything else you can think of. That’s Disney Infinity in a nutshell. It’s the perfect family game, and one that features nothing but cartoon violence. I can easily recommend this one to anyone with young kids at home as it’s really simple to learn, and you won’t be bored to tears while they have a blast. There’s real enjoyment to be had here for all.

Plays Like: The one included play set (Avengers) is an open world Grand Theft Auto-like story-driven game where you pick up simple missions and complete them to earn experience and currency, which you use to purchase additional goodies for the Toy Box mode. It’s in this mode where you can create your own games using wonderful assists that do almost all the hard work for you.

Review Basis: Disney sent over the PS4 Start Pack, and I played around with the Toy Box mode and finished the main story campaign that shipped with the Avengers play set. I also plan to cover additional toys that get released for the three current play sets available (Avengers, Spider-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy).

Last year I thought Disney Infinity was the perfect games for kids. Yes the Toy Box mode was a little cumbersome because it required you to really know what you were doing, and it was a little sneaky forcing parents to buy a second character in order for their siblings to play together, but hot damn was it a fun game to play. This year Avalanche software has mixed things up a bit, and the end result is a fantastic iteration on what was already a wonderful kid’s game. If you have children at home, this will make for one hell of an amazing Christmas gift.

The Great:

The Toy Box mode has been dramatically improved. While you can still customize and make your own games, now the game tries very hard to help you out by offering up some great templates. You can even let the game build mini-games for you if you’re not feeling overly creative, or if you don’t have the time to devote to the game. I loved this aspect as it allowed me to focus on what I really enjoyed, just playing around with all the different creations other people have built. Giving me the confidence to build my own games just made the experience that much better. It’s now easier than ever to submit your creations to Disney, which once approved, can be downloaded by the entire community. Sadly I lack the skill and time to make something really worthwhile, but I have been enjoying what others have created, just as I did in the first Disney Infinity.

Something else I really appreciated was the fact the Starter Pack includes three Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, and Black Widow. You also get the Avengers play set, plus two Toy Box games, which are basically mini-games. That means two kids can play together straight out of the box, whereas last year you had to buy an additional character from one of the three included play sets in order to play together. If you don’t understand the way the system works, it’s quite simple. Each character is associated with a certain play set. Currently there are three play sets available, the Starter Pack’s included Avengers, and two ‘sold separately’ play sets, Spider-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Some characters can be used in different play sets if you located 10 character coins in the current play set. This was done to unlock exclusive stories for that character in a play set they wouldn’t normally be associated with. Each play set is a self-contained story mode. Disney has set up a Disney Infinity website (https://infinity.disney.com/en-ca/characters) that will show you all the toys available, and which play sets they work with. Most Marvel characters will work with all the Marvel play sets, but not necessarily all of them. Be sure to check the site before purchasing additional characters. Classic Disney characters only work in the Toy Box mode, so keep that in mind before expecting to use Donald Duck in the Avengers play set.

Assault on Asgard, and Escape from Kyln discs unlock cute little mini-games that are best played in short bursts. If you’re looking for additional discs, you can purchase what are called Power Disc packs. Each pack sells for $5 and includes two unique discs, either a Toy Box disc (hexagonal shape) which could unlock new textures, features, or items for your Toy Box, or you could get a character power disc (circular shape), which gives your Infinity character a stat boost or some other in-game goodie. Because these packs are completely random though, you could spend hundreds in order to collect them all, and in fact you can purchase the complete set of 40 discs for the low asking price of $200 on eBay. Why this is great is because it helps bring the physical toys and discs you collect in real life to the virtual world, and that addictive nature associated with collecting anything really shines through here. Not only can you collect all the toys, but also all the Power Discs, and some of which are extremely rare.

Thankfully you don’t absolutely need the Power Discs to get the full enjoyment out of the game, and if you bought a bunch of figures from the original Infinity I’m happy to report they all work with the Toy Box mode, and all characters have skill trees now! This means you can level them up while you tackle any number of creations in the Toy Box mode. That was a really great, and much appreciated touch.

Personally it’s the figures I love. They’re expressive, detailed, and sturdy enough to actually be played with. While some of the paint work lacks the quality you’d expect on a $14 action figure, they look good just the same. I kind of which they were articulated, but for $14 you can’t expect too much these days, and the poses are fantastic and fitting. I’ll be honest, I’d love to display these on my desk at work because they look that fun. I would gladly spend some extra money to pick up a few extra figures just to have lying around. Disney already has three different waves of figures planned, with who knows how many planned for the future.

Oh and did I mention the game now features Marvel characters? Yeah, that’s clearly great, and coupled with all the existing toys available, this series has just become an instant classic for children all over the world.

The Good:

  • Each character feels completely unique to the last. While Iron Man and Thor can fly, they both have radically different move sets. Each character has a level cap of 20, but their level trees allow players to evolve them as they see fit. When you reach level 20 you won’t have unlocked all the skills, which gives the game some much needed depth. Level progress is saved to the toys so you can bring them to your friend’s house and be just as strong as you were the last time you played.
  • Local co-op is a blast and fitting for parents with their children. There is online play, but it’s for the Toy Box mode only. That’s not a bad thing as that’s the best mode in the whole game.

  • The audio visual package is fairly impressive. I’m a big fan of the way the toys look, and their in-game personas look exactly like the figures. The voice actors do a great job, and there are a few surprise voice actors you may not expect to be here. The music is fairly standard, but there are some good sound effects thrown in making all the special moves sound powerful.

The So-So:

+/- Your children will get a kick out of the play sets, but odds are you’ll be bored to tears very quickly. While it’s great being able to play as all the different Marvel super heroes, the truth is that the missions within the play sets are extremely repetitive. It’s always escort this bus, take this package, or help these people to reach a certain location, or fire up generations, beat back these baddies, etc.

+/- While playing in co-op the framerate frequently drops, and the open city, while fairly nice to look at is made up of the exact same cars and pedestrians. Sure this is a child’s game, but one would expect it to run a bit better than it does.

+/- I love having different characters to play with, but it’s clear some will be better than others. Black Widow is such an interesting character in the comics and in the movies, and while her sculpt on the figure is great, her in-game persona just isn’t anywhere near as interesting as Iron Man or Thor. She unfortunately has to drive to get to different locations, take elevators to reach rooftops, etc. This doesn’t really make her feel very super, or as powerful as the other Avengers do. I have a feeling the other characters you can purchase would be much the same, so keep that in mind. While they might be awesome to look at, they could be really boring to use in-game.

+/- Having to unlock toys in the Toy Box mode never sat well with me, and it remains the same here. It forces you to go back and play through the play sets over and over again. Children won’t mind, but adults will. It limits your creativity until you can purchase new toys and design elements.

The Bad:

  • Some issues occur when playing Toy Box games, including but not limited to full game crashes.

The Ugly:

I really shouldn’t be this into the figures, but damn I love me some Marvel, and these figures are just too awesome to pass up. Gotta Collect ‘Em All!

The Lowdown:  

Disney Infinity 2.0 is a fantastic way to spur one’s imagination. While the core gameplay still needs some fixing, the addictive nature of the Toy Box mode will keep your children glued to the TV screen. If they get bored of watching Daddy try and make new games, they can always play with the physical toys, or jump back into one of the three available play sets. I can’t recommend the game enough for young children, or parents that are looking for a game to play with their kids. If you’re a fan of Marvel, I highly recommend you take a look at the figures, you might just fall in love with the designs and end up purchasing all of them.

Final Score (General audiences): 8/10
Final Score (Kids): 10/10

Destiny Review

DDestiny (Available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 12
Genre: FPS
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bungie
Release Date: September 9th, 2014

Parent Talk: Destiny has been rated T for teens by the ESRB because of animated blood and violence. If you’ve played the Halo series you know more or less what to expect here. You’re in a sci-fi setting, shooting everything that moves, however there aren’t major depictions of blood and gore. Instead your enemies simply disintegrate or their lifeless corpses stay motionless on the floor. It’s standard FPS violence you’ve come to expect from Bungie. It’s not over-the-top or super realistic.

Plays Like: I know Bungie said they didn’t want people to make the comparison, but let’s be honest, the core gameplay feels very similar to that of Halo. It should too because the core foundation of that series is fantastic, and so too is Destiny. That’s the only thing the two have in common though, everything else is rather unique. Destiny borrows a lot of elements from MMOs like World of Warcraft, in that players have to work together to overcome special strike missions, which play out something like dungeons from WoW. There are even six-player raids! Top all of that off with the Crucible, which is a deep competitive multiplayer mode and you start to see why Destiny was the most ambitious undertaking Bungie has ever done.

Review Basis: I finished the story, played through all six strike missions, and tried my hand in the Crucible. Given the ever growing nature of the game, I’ve done all I can do at this point to give my overall opinion on the launch version of Destiny.

Destiny is most likely the most hyped game of 2014, perhaps of the entire ‘next-gen’. Like Watch Dogs before it, it would be almost impossible to please everyone, however Destiny goes one step further in that by its very nature it’s an extremely divisive game. Take the story for example, it can easily be completed in under ten hours or so. That’s hardly the epic journey fans of Bungie’s other huge franchise would expect. Then there are the MMO elements, or MMO-lite as I’ve come to call them. There’s no in-game communication tools for looking for groups, and all six strike missions (cooperative dungeon-style events) play out almost exactly the same, and use recycled enemies. The main draw here is the loot, however gaining new loot is an exercise in tedium, because the only way to truly score the most epic gear is to repeat strike missions over and over again. After having played well over 20 hours now, I can safely say that this is the perfect FPS for me. I will be returning week after week to try and boost my level ever so closer to the hard cap of 30, but let’s take a closer look at why the game is so many different things to so many people.

D1The Great:

A beautifully realized world. There’s one element no one can take away from Destiny and that’s the stunning world Bungie has created, or several worlds to be precise. From the gorgeous views you see while traversing the moon, the strange and alien design of Venus, there’s always something beautiful to look at. The graphics are simply superb, featuring an incredible amount of detail in the environments to the high polygon counts of all the inhabitants. Destiny is often a sight to behold.

Much the same can be said for the wonderful audio package. From a beautiful score, to powerful and fierce sound effects (you’ve just got to love the sparrow sounds effects), fans of Halo’s music will not be disappointed. The orchestrated intro that plays when you’re logging into the game world speaks volumes to just how much thought went into this game. It’s an easy recommend for your iPod.

Finally we come to the third fantastic element, and this time it has something to do with the gameplay. The gunplay is amazing, some of the best ever actually. The core foundation feels tight, and as spot on as any other Bungie offering. Everything feels perfect from the way guns handle, to the power of your melee attack. Bungie knows how to make an awesome FPS, and Destiny is no exception to that rule. It’s utterly fantastic as a FPS, strictly in terms of how it controls and plays.

There’s also a certain something that I can’t explain, and this is what has hooked me. There are some fundamental flaws with the game, some truly questionable development decisions, and yet I’ll still login at 1AM just to meet up with friends and tackle the weekly heroic strike. Why am I bothering with a flawed game? That’s the ultimate question, and one I cannot answer. There’s just something special about Destiny that if it grabs you, won’t let go.

D2The Good:

  • Learn as you go. One area that I’m sure most people will either love or hate is the way in which the game doesn’t tell you virtually anything. There’s no tutorial here showing you exactly how best to use your newfound powers, or why you should stack Intellect over Discipline or Strength. I’ll tell you right now, each one allows you to either recharge your special ability quicker, your grenades, or your special melee attack. You can find out a lot of info just by reading stats, but to truly understand the minute details, you’re going to have to ask around or look online for solid character builds. That’s going to drive some people crazy, but for someone like me, I love it because it allows me to constantly learn new elements of the game that I didn’t realize before. This being just one example.
  • Events. One of the best features of Destiny is that is isn’t a finished game. What the heck am I talking about you say, only that every week Bungie announces a new event. Perhaps a new Crucible challenge unlocks, or a Raid, or maybe new weekly missions, etc. The fact that the game is ever growing really helps put some of the other concerns to rest because ultimately you feel that Bungie is in this for the long haul.

D3The So-So:

+/- Weapons aren’t specific to one particular class, meaning if you get a shotgun, you can store it in the bank for your additional characters once you out level it. That’s the good part, however if you are more interested in a robust system that makes each weapon feel unique and original to each class, well that’s not the case here. That is the case for armor though, albeit you won’t realize it until you reach past level 20. Prior to that all the gear feels extremely similar, although I expected that. After 20 aromor starts to zero in on specific traits from each of the three classes, and additional sub-classes.

+/- The progression system/level tree is a bit too simple for its own good. While it’s nice that players can easily see which skills they’ll eventually unlock, not having diversity hurts the overall individualism of the game. Take my warlock as an example, there is literally no difference between my character and any other warlock out there until level 15. Remember that the soft level cap is 20, so that’s a good portion of the game where my character is just like every other warlock out there.

D4The Bad:

  • The matchmaking needs some work. The strike missions scale to the number of players involved so when a player exits, and believe me they will, you can actually complete a random strike all by yourself if need be. The problem I have with that is, it hurts the experience. Why other players aren’t automatically added to your strike team is beyond me, but I’m hoping they address this in a future patch.
  • Loading… There is a metric ton of loading in Destiny. From the minute you leave orbit to select a mission, to heading to the tower, to virtually anything else, each zone takes quite a while to load in, and when you realize you forgot to check something out at basecamp it gets all the more annoying.

  • The grind. Absolutely everything about Destiny is wrapped around grinding. Want new loot, well you’ll have to run the same six strikes a hundred times in order to get a good item drop. Want to purchase new gear, no problem, you’ll just have to grind Vanguard reputation, and Vanguard Marks (which are given out at a max of six per strike). Items cost anywhere from 60 to 120 marks! Want to upgrade your weapons, all you have to do is farm supplies from one of the four planets. I could go on and on with different examples, but I’ll spare you. My point is only that if you’re not into grinds, Destiny will not be for you.

  • The story isn’t anywhere near as fleshed out as I was hoping for. You’re brought back to life, made a Guardian and then sent to drive back the darkness. The thing is, who are we, why did we die, what makes us so unique? The truth, you’re not special, you’re just one of many, and even after completing the game you’re never going to find out more about this interesting universe, and that’s a shame.

  • Four planets just isn’t enough. Think of the planets like large maps, and each missions takes place within a section of the larger map. Even strike missions will take place within the same map. In itself this isn’t a problem, but when you realize how much grinding you have to do, the locations all start to blend together to become one. Why doesn’t the moon, Venus, or Mars have different gravity for example? Just that would have fundamentally altered the gameplay and feeling of the areas, but alas no, they all play the same.

  • Lack of variety. Missions almost always feature the same rotation. Go to a certain location, send out your Ghost to scan or activate something, take out a few waves of enemies, and then make your way to a boss character. Rinse and repeat and you pretty much have not only the main missions, but also the strike missions (dungeons).

  • D5The Lowdown:

    For all my complaining, I have become obsessed with Destiny. There’s a reason this review was delayed by so long. I just couldn’t stop playing. There’s something magical about seeing a +3 added to one stat when I finally get a drop I have been waiting for. I’m sure there will be others out there that will feel exactly as I do, however I’m not blind to the fact that there will be others who detest this or feel highly disappointed. Ultimately your enjoyment of Destiny will depend on the type of gamer you are. So are you heeding the call Guardian or is this one you’re going to leave behind?

    Final Score: 7.5/10

     

    Dragon Quest Review for iOS/Android

    Dragon Quest (Available on Android and iOS)
    ESRB Rating: E
    Number of Players: 1
    Genre: RPG
    Publisher: Square-Enix
    Developer: Square-Enix
    Release Date: September 11th, 2014

    Parent Talk: Like the original NES version of Dragon Warrior, there is absolutely nothing damaging to children in this release. It’s fit for a five year old, or the ten year old at heart. There isn’t even direct action in the game, just static pictures that shake when your character ‘attacks’.

    Plays Like: Dragon Quest is the game that laid the foundation for all other JRPGs to come, so you can expect lots of grinding, turn-based combat, and a simple magic and leveling system. Don’t expect anything robust or deep, this is the one that started it all, not a modern day RPGs with countless options and level trees.

    Review Basis: Not only did I complete the original Dragon Warrior on the NES when it was originally released, but I took the time to play through the Super Famicom remake, and again on my iPhone 5. This is a fantastic port of a legendary game.

    Wizardry and Ultima may have been the forefathers of RPGs on home computers, but it wasn’t until Enix’s Dragon Quest that RPGs literally exploded, especially in Japan. Sure it took a while before North Americans and Europeans warmed up to what we now call JRPGs, but in the East, Dragon Quest ushered in an entirely new way of playing videogames, and to this very day the series continues to dominate the Japanese sales charts. Sadly Dragon Quest has never been super popular outside of Japan, and because of that we have missed a truckload of fantastic remakes, side games, and even some of the coolest action figures and statues you could possibly imagine. Square-Enix has now decided to test the waters by releasing the series on mobile platforms running on Android and iOS, so let’s see how the very first console RPG stacks up several decades after its original release, being played on a touch screen no less.

    DQ_iOS1The Great:

    I cannot believe I am actually writing these words down, but the absolute best version of Dragon Quest ever released outside Japan is on iOS and Android. Did you honestly ever think that would happen?!?! The graphics and sound are fantastic, and have all been updated from the Super Famicom remaster. While I still prefer that version, it never officially saw the light of day outside Japan. Several years back Square-Enix released a mobile version of the Super Famicom port, albeit greatly tweaked for the cellphones and this version is based on that version that was only released in Japan. Boy what a mouthful. The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter where the game comes from, this is absolutely the best way to experience the original Dragon Quest outside Japan. Simple as that. The graphics and audio are leagues better than the NES original or the Game Boy Color port. So if you’re curious about where the series started, play this one. Nuff said.

    DQ_iOS2The Good:

    • The gameplay might be incredibly simple by today’s standards, but it holds up perfectly, and dare I say it, but feels completely natural on a mobile device. The interface has been completely streamlined for single hand use. To walk around you simply move your thumb anywhere on the screen, or on the visible track pad. Simply tap a command to execute an attack, or check your inventory, equip a weapon, etc. It can take some getting used to since there is no tactile feedback, but it works far better than I thought it would.
    • You play as a descendant of Erdrick out to stop the evil Dragonlord. That’s it, the story never gets deeper than that, and you know what, it doesn’t need to. You only have one party member for the duration of this six to seven hour game. Like the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and that is so true here. What’s interesting though is that Square-Enix decided to stick closely to the original translation of the NES version, known as Dragon Warrior. That means Erdrick replaces Loto, and some of the original old English also makes a return, although it has been streamlined and isn’t featured in the battle screens thankfully.

    • Like the original game there is lots and lots of grinding to be had here, however I don’t look at it as a negative since the game is on your mobile device. Think about it, grinding while sitting in front of your TV gets old really quickly, but while you’re on the bus, train, or elsewhere it makes time fly for some reason. I found myself playing for five or ten minutes, and before I knew it I had gained a level. While on the bus I was grinding before tackling the Dragonlord and I almost missed my stop because I was so into what I was doing. That’s a great sign, and perhaps I was wrong to be so worried about the series going mobile-only outside Japan.

    • The price is right! Coming in at only $2.99, that is an absolute steal for the original Dragon Quest. Seriously, if you enjoy RPGs and own an Android or iOS compatible device, give this one a purchase. For $3 it’s a perfect impulse buy and I think you’ll be surprised.

    DQ_iOS3The Bad:

    • I really would have liked to have the option to play the game with a landscape mode instead of being forced to play only in portrait. I suppose it’s not the end of the world, but it would have been good to at least have the option.

    DQ_iOS4The Lowdown:

    The original Dragon Quest might seem archaic by today’s standards, but it holds up well, and this port is the best one we’ve ever had in North America and Europe. I can’t stress this enough but if you’re a fan of the series, support it by purchasing this game. Yes the controls will take some time to adapt to, but damn is it pretty and it sounds fantastic too. The translation is perfect, and the gameplay remains fun, grinding including. I will be purchasing the entire series on my iPhone 5 because I adore this series and part of me hopes if we all show enough support that Square-Enix just might release the next numbered entry on a home console here too. Let’s make this happen Dragon Quest fans!

    Final Score: 8/10

    Dragon Quest Logo

    Rally Together Dragon Quest Fans!

    I’ve done a lot of complaining over the last few days about Square-Enix, but recently Yuji Horii made a blog post about the Dragon Quest series in North America, and I figured this would be a perfect time to rally the fans together and blast Twitter, Facebook, and the blog post to show how much we love the series and that we want more Dragon Quest games released here in North America, and in Europe.  Come on everyone, we can do this!

    Link to Yuji Horii’s blog post: http://na.square-enix.com/us/blog/message-dragon-quest-creator-yuji-horii

    Silent Hill Review

    Silent Hill Review

    Silent Hill ReviewSilent Hill (Available exclusively on PlayStation)
    ESRB Rating: M
    Number of Players: 1
    Genre: Survival Horror
    Publisher: Konami
    Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
    Release Date: January 31st, 1999
    PlayStation Network Release Date: September 10th, 2009

    Parent Talk: Silent Hill was originally rated M for mature because of animated blood and gore, and animated violence. That remains true today. While the graphics haven’t aged all too well, the game still features some rather disturbing imagery, lots of blood, and an overall creepy environment that most adults find tough to play at night, while they’re all alone. This is certainly not a videogame for minors.

    Plays Like: The tank controls made famous from Resident Evil are featured here, although the game separates itself from that legendary series by not resorting to cheap scares and actually gets inside your head and messes with your emotions. It was one of the very first games that challenged Resident Evil because it was so different, and gamers couldn’t stop thinking about the creepy setting long after they had completed the game.

    Review Basis: I finished the game countless times upon its original release, and quickly blasted through it for this very review.

    Silent Hill was one of the very best games released on the original PlayStation, and I thought it would be fitting to discuss it in further detail considering a brand new reimagining of the franchise is currently underway at Konami with both Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro at the helm. Silent Hill is remarkable for getting inside your head and staying there. It features an incredible soundtrack, solid gameplay, and brain-twisting puzzles. If you’ve never experienced it before, there’s no better time to do so than right now. Take my advice, lock yourself in a room somewhere, close out all the lights, and crank up the volume. You want to be creeped out while playing, because it actually makes you feel like the protagonist, Harry, who has just lost his daughter in the bizarre fog-filled town of Silent Hill.

    One note to make is that the video review is entirely made up of the very earliest portions of the game. I did this on purpose so as not to spoil any of the settings and environments for those who have never played the game before. Trust me, you’re going to want to experience the whole game for yourself.

    Before continuing, did you know that Silent Hill was heavily censored for its release outside Japan? It’s true, even the North American version had many different elements changed so it would pass through the ratings board. Many of the enemies look like children with knives, and that just wouldn’t fly with the censor boards. In Europe the enemy designs were even more radically altered than the North American version. Ok that’s enough about censorship, let’s jump right into the game.

    SH1The Great:

    Atmosphere, it’s all about the atmosphere. Silent Hill operates on an entirely different playing field than Resident Evil because it doesn’t want to simply scare you with cheap tricks, it wants to mess with your mind. This is a physiological thriller more so than an action game. It succeeds, tremendously well. From the eerie sound effects, to the radio which omits static noise the closer you get to an enemy, the game is always reminding you that you’re not safe. From traveling through a fogy town, to the darkest depths of your imagination, Silent Hill, challenges you in ways very few other PS1 games did, and it’s for that reason why so much of the game has held up superbly.

    The story is also the game’s biggest strength. It starts off with Harry and his daughter Cheryl making their way to the small town of Silent Hill to spend some time together on a little vacation. While driving a woman suddenly passes in front of them and Harry swerves out of the way, causing the car to flip and crash. When Harry comes to, he sees Cheryl in front of the jeep, through the thick fog that has enveloped the town. As he makes his way towards her she starts to walk off in the opposite direction. What’s going on, and why would she run away from her father? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Silent Hill.

    SH3The Good:

    + The music and sound effects are truly what make this game. Akira Yamaoka did a wonderful job, and to think that he wasn’t the original composer, he was brought on after the original departed the project. With incredible industrial tunes, creepy melodies, and countless memorable sounds, Silent Hill’s soundtrackis considered a modern day classic.

    + While dated by today’s standards, the graphics do their job well. The town is completely covered in fog, but that’s ok as it allows the details in the buildings and environments to shine through. The grain effect also works extremely well in making the players feel uneasy. If you’ve got a weak stomach you might want to skip out on Silent Hill as it’s extremely gory, and there are plenty of disturbing images.

    + One of the more interesting aspects of Silent Hill are the multiple endings. I won’t give any away, but they give you an incentive to keep coming back and trying to do things slightly different each time you play.

    + Dynamic camera angles work extremely well. Unlike Resident Evil, the camera swoops and twists and turns as you make your way through alleys, corridors, and rooms. It can even be a little disorientating at times, which as the whole point to begin with.

    + The FMV cutscenes were simply gorgeous for their time, and while they do look somewhat pixelated today, they’re still impressive.

    SH2The So-So:

    +/- You either get used to the tank controls, or you hate them for the duration of the game, simple as that. For people who started playing 3D games with the N64 and PS1, most don’t have too many problems adjusting to the controls, but that doesn’t mean they’re ideal. Combat, and exploration aren’t anywhere near as fluid as they are in today’s games, but for someone like me, I find that’s what heightens the game’s stress level and causes you to get sweaty palms within a few minutes of playing.

    +/- The combat system feels much like the controls, mostly dated. Sure it works, you can knock back enemies with a pipe, or shoot them with your gun, but if the camera is moving around it can be difficult to pin-point exactly where you need to shoot.

    The Bad:

    – The voice acting shows no sign of emotion. The game would have been better suited for text-only dialogue.

    SH4The Lowdown:

    While Silent Hill certainly shows its age, it remains a chilling experience. The thought of losing one’s daughter in a creepy town is enough to put you on edge, but having child-like creature attack you, limited lighting, and a very eerie setting help push you over the edge, and that’s what makes Silent Hill so special. Hopefully the developers of the reboot remember that, cheap scares don’t stay with you months or years after you finish a game. It has to take control of you, and really freak you out, and based solely on the interactive P.T. teaser, Kojima-san and del Toro appear to be on the right track. If you’re curious to see where this legacy of evil started, I encourage you to check out Silent Hill.

    Final Score: 8.5/10

    Loot Crate

    August 2014 Loot Crate Unboxing!

    I’ve started to become quite a big fan of Loot Crate, because I love the goodies they give you.  My work desk is slowly but surely becoming the fantastic office I always imagined it would be.  Take a look at this unboxing for the Heroes-themed Loot Crate.  Lots of fantastic goodies inside!

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    If anyone is interested in subscribing to Loot Crate, be sure to check their site out: http://mbsy.co/lootcrate/7731075

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