Category Archives: Mac

Scourge: Outbreak Review

ScourgeScourge: Outbreak (Available on PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: UFO Interactive (360 Version) / Bitbox S.L (All other versions)
Developer: Tragnarion Studios
Release Date: July 3rd, 2013

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Scourge: Outbreak M for mature because of blood, strong language, and violence. The rating is well deserved as this is an overly violent game. There are copious amounts of blood, and lots of up close and personal death scenes. Certainly this isn’t a game for children.

Plays Like: There’s no denying it, Scourge is an unabashed Gears of War clone. It features the exact same controls, cover mechanic, everything. Even the way the characters look are modeled after their Gears counterparts. This is a very low-rent Gears of War though, and often feels as though it was originally created for a tablet and ported over to consoles as an after thought.

Review Basis: Microsoft sent us a review code and I played for as long as I could stomach it, which was a little over half way through the campaign. After that I finished it with three other players. Thankfully there are only four levels in the game, although each consecutive level is longer than the last.

Have you ever played any of Gameloft’s mobile offerings? You know the ones I’m talking about, the games that rip off AAA blockbusters, are significantly scaled down, and featured extremely small budgets. Scourge: Outbreak feels exactly like that. It often looks like it was designed for iOS or Android, features the exact same control-scheme as Gears of War, and yet it never manages to become anything more than an extremely repetitive and tiring shooter with a wide variety of gameplay issues. Gameloft may specialize in clones now-a-days, but at least their clones are often worth playing. Sadly Scourge is anything but.

The Good:

+ $9.99 asking price is nice. Even though the game has a wide variety of flaws, it’s nice to know the publisher didn’t try to squeeze an extra five bucks out of gamers.

Scourge4The So-So:

+/- It’s awesome being able to bring three friends with you through the campaign, but having four players together just isn’t enough to overcome the plethora of issues that plague the game.

+/- Partner A.I. is competent enough to help you take on adversaries, and save your life, but the same can’t be said for the enemy A.I. These guys are brain-dead and will constantly run right at you, or stand there doing nothing at all.

Scourge3The Bad:

– The four levels are broken down into a series of linear pathways that all require the exact same tactic to complete, use the cover to take out all the enemies, locate a switch, elevator or some other object, and then continue to the next area. Rinse and repeat. Thankfully there are many areas where you can simply run by all the enemies, grab the item you need and move on. Enemies may surround you, but once you grab that item they magically disappear.

– Weapons are all over the place. Some weapons have no recoil whatsoever, so you can be as trigger happy as you want, while others jump all over the place after depressing the trigger one time. As a result you almost always end up over compensating for recoil that may or may not be present.

– The one creative element added to the game, the suit powers, don’t work nearly as well as intended. You can use your suit’s power to either place a shield around you, or to put out a beam of light that explodes and kills everything around it. Problem is that the shield lasts all of three seconds, and the blast wave is almost impossible to aim exactly where you want it, making both features all but useless.

– Being able to issue commands is a novel idea, but you need to actually use your gun’s sights in order to accurately position your comrades. If you simply issue commands without zooming in and aiming, it’s virtually impossible to see where the reticule is and therefore where your teammates will end up standing/attacking.

– Enemies are ridiculously strong. More often than not it feels as though you’re firing a pea-shooter, while they’re firing bazookas. It takes far too many shots to bring down even the easiest enemy, while you have to hide behind cover or get ripped apart.

– Competitive multiplayer works as you’d imagine, with deathmatches and the like. While normally that would be enough for some, the problem is that all the issues with the weapons are present in the competitive multiplayer as well.

Scourge2The Ugly:

Given this game uses the Unreal Engine 3, there are far too many bugs presents. Low res polygons, massive framerate drops, and other technical hiccups such as clipping and pop-in make this look like a spiffy mobile offering. Animations are stiff and rigid, lip-syncing is way off, and overall doesn’t feel like an end of cycle console release in the least. The audio is equally uninspired.

Scourge1The Lowdown:

If you’re looking for a budget Gears of War, I’d suggest you go out and pick up the original game, or download it via Games on Demand, I would stay clear of Scourge: Outbreak at all costs because it’s a broken game. This is the type of game that harkens back to the mid-90s when shovel-ware software tried to replicate the success of Mortal Kombat with digitized graphics. Do you remember how many awful games were released around that time whose sole selling point was “Digitized Graphics!” The same can be said here, just because it uses the Unreal Engine and copies Gears of War, doesn’t make it a good game. Do yourself a favor and download one of the other games from the Summer of Arcade.

Final Score: 3/10

Time to Kiss Your Wallet Goodbye – Steam Summer Sale Begins Today! (Updated)

In what has become a tradition, Valve will unleash a flood of ridiculous game deals starting today at 1PM Eastern on their Steam digital download platform.  We don’t know which games will be listed for 99% off, but seriously if you have a gaming-worthy PC, today’s the day your wallet cries, and your PC smiles.

Steam Summer Sale

Steam is currently being bombarded with people trying to access all the deals, so if you’re having issues just try a little later.  New deals will be added every day from July 11th to the 22nd, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for games you’re interested in.  Bioshock Infinite is on sale for $30, Left 3 Dead 2 is only $5, and there are countless other deals you won’t want to miss!

Good ‘ol Games (GOG) Summer Sale is On Now!

Right now GOG (www.gog.com) is having their no DRM summer sale. They have over 500 games on sale, some reduced by a whopping 75%. While I know we only have a few PC gamers out there in the COE community, this is a deal you don’t want to miss! I just bought the Daedalic Adventure Pack for $26.19 instead of $104.94. I’ve been in the mood for a good adventure game ever since Steven told me to check out The Starship Damrey on the 3DS. Saving 75% is well worth it to me. The best news is that most of the games on GOG don’t require a ridiculously powerful computer to enjoy the games on max settings.

Like Steam, GOG has timed deals as well. Every day there’s a new deal waiting to be discovered. The sale lasts until July 5th, and I highly recommend everyone go and check it out right away. It’s so worth it! You can discover timeless classics like the original Fallout games, or maybe you’re more interested in spending $10 on The Witcher 2. Whatever tickles your fancy, go check out GOG right now to save big on some excellent videogames!

inXile is back with Torment: Tides of Numenera

The boys and girls at inXile haven’t just been working away on Wasteland 2, oh no, they’ve got much bigger plans than that.  Thanks to the incredible success of their first Kickstarter initiative, the group is back with another pitch for interested gamers.  This time it’s for Torment: Tides of Numenera.  While I could go ahead and regurgitate everything, Brian does a much better job than I could.


As most of you already know, I’ve pitched in on several big games last year.  From the Double Fine adventure game to Wasteland 2, Leisure Suit Larry, The Banner Saga and more, I think Kickstarter has been an outstanding success for middle sized developers looking to bring their dream projects to life without the pressures of outside publishers.

So what do you think of this latest pitch?  Anyone interested in backing it?  If you are, be sure to hit up the official Kickstarter page.

Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two Review

Epic Mickey 2Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Blitz Games Studios
Release Date: November 18th, 2012

Parent Talk: Epic Mickey 2 is rated E for everyone. Imagine, if you will, the violence of a typical Disney animation motion picture and you know what to expect. The game was designed with children in mind, and that’s exactly who will enjoy this game.

Plays Like: Much like the original Epic Mickey, the game is all about creation and destruction using Mickey’s magical paintbrush. Players can wipe away obstacles with a simple stroke of the brush, or magically create objects that help them achieve their goals. At its core the it’s an action platformer, wrapped around these elements.

Review Basis: Finished the single player game, and tried the c-op mode.

I enjoyed the original concept of Epic Mickey. I loved the idea of bringing Disney’s lesser-known characters to the spotlight, and also giving players freedom to help shape the world with a magical brush. Sadly the original concept and the videogame we got were too far apart. While Epic Mickey 2 tries to fix some of the problems with the original, it ends up stumbling worse than its predecessor.

The Great:

Your goal in the Wasteland is to either help destroy it or restore it to its former glory. The story, characters, and the very universe itself push you to be good, but ultimately the choice is yours. The way in which various Disney characters and places are incorporated into the game shows the developers have a real love of the source material. It’s this choice, and how you can alter your game world and characters around you which really highlights the game’s potential.

Epic Mickey 2_1

The Good:

+ The new co-op mode is by far the best way to play the game. One player picks up Mickey, the other Oswald and away you go.

+ Nice audio visual presentation helps draw players into this mysterious world.

The So-So:

+/- Given the more open-world design of the game, it’s important to have objectives that keep things interesting. That only happens about thirty percent of the time. The rest of the objectives are mundane and tiresome.

The Bad:

– Jumping is extremely problematic. From poor camera angles to questionable platforms, players will find themselves falling to their death more often than not.

– Mismatched hit boxes make combat a chore. Enemies can hit Mickey while very far away, but players have to get up super close to do the same. It makes combat frustrating.

The Ugly:

Left to his own devices Oswald is the biggest hindrance in the entire game. He gets in the way of attacking enemies, he won’t help you solve puzzles, and at the end of the day you’ll wish you could take your magic paintbrush and simply erase him from the game.

Epic Mickey 2_2

The Lowdown:

Epic Mickey 2‘s world is more impressive than anything else. From the songs, to the way the various characters and movies are all incorporated make you believe this is going to be something special. The problem is the gameplay. There is real potential for this franchise, Disney just needs the right people to harness it.

Final Score: 5.5/10

Blip: The Elder Scrolls Online Beta Sign-Ups Now Open

For anyone interested in the upcoming MMO, we’ve just received word that the official sign-up process is now open.  All you need to do is head on over to http://elderscrollsonline.com/en/ and fill in your info.  Good luck to all those that apply.

 

Blizzard Confirms World of Warcraft Patch 5.1 Release Date – Today!

I’ve been having tons of fun playing WoW lately, and so I figured there were likely other people out there that are still playing as well.  Blizzard just passed the word that the first content patch for Mists of Pandaria releases today.  Here’s everything included in the free patch.

  • General
    • The Pandaren Campaign begins!
      • The conflict between the Horde and the Alliance has ignited a new series of daily quests along the shore of the Krasarang Wilds.
      • Players can visit their faction strongholds in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms to begin the quest to summon their war fleets to the continent of Pandaria.
      • Players will both valiantly defend their faction’s outpost and assault the opposing faction’s headquarters.
      • Two new Reputations have been added: Alliance players can earn reputation with Operation: Shieldwall, while Horde players will curry favor with the Dominance Offensive.
      • Players can follow the story of the Pandaren Campaign through a series of special quests tied to their reputation with the landing forces. Heroes assisting with the war effort will join key characters and faction leaders as the growing conflagration spreads across Pandaria… as well as other locations around Azeroth.
      • Players can slay rival NPCs and opposing faction players along the shore to earn commissions that can be spent to upgrade their faction’s base.
      • Look for strategic objectives to capture, including graveyards and towers. Commissions can be spent to recruit guards that will help protect this captured territory!
      • Players who are truly dedicated to their faction can spend their commissions on an item that will give their fellows an extra reputation group quest for the day. Horde players can speak with Ongrom Black Tooth, while Alliance players can contact Proveditor Grantley for details.
    • Item Level Upgrades
      • Players can now use PvE and PvP currencies to directly upgrade equipment by visiting Ethereal merchants in their respective Pandaria faction capitals.
      • Weapons and armor of item level 458 or higher can be improved by up to 8 item levels each.
      • Rare quality PvE gear costs 1500 Justice Points to upgrade once for 8 item levels, while Epic quality PvE gear costs 750 Valor Points for 4 item levels and can be upgraded twice.
      • Rare quality PvP gear costs 1500 Honor Points to upgrade once for 8 item levels, while Epic quality PvP gear costs 750 Conquest Points for 4 item levels and can be upgraded twice.
      • Be aware that Void Storage will strip item level upgrades from stored equipment, along with other item enhancements.
    • Legendary Quest
      • Wrathion has taken a keen interest in the events along the coast of the Krasarang Wilds. Those that have aided the Black Prince in the past will now have new quests to complete as they advance Wrathion’s agenda for Pandaria and their own progress toward Legendary power.
    • Brawler’s Guild
      • Underground fighting rings have sprung up in Stormwind and Orgrimmar that will give brawlers who have their mitts on an invitation a chance to earn bragging rights by testing their solo PvE mettle against some of the toughest creatures found in World of Warcraft.
      • Players will prove their skill, and increase their rank with the Brawler’s Guild, as they win matches against some of the most difficult solo encounters in World of Warcraft.
      • Entry into the brawler’s guild is by invitation only.  Invitations can be found on the black market auction house, by invitation from somebody within the guild, and occasionally as drops from certain Horde and Alliance NPCs.
      • As their Brawler’s Guild rank increases, players will unlock additional rewards and activities within the Brawler’s Guild.
      • Brawlers on a realm will gather together into the blood spattered ring to watch as their peers face down their own opponents. They can watch the battles in progress to learn from hardened Brawler’s Guild veterans as they wait for their own turn to fight.
      • If this is your first night at Brawler’s Guild, you have to fight.
    • Lesser Charms of Good Fortune no longer take up bag space, and are now recorded in the currency tab of the Character Sheet.
    • Grand Commendations are now available for purchase from all Mists of Pandaria faction vendors at Revered reputation. Using a Grand Commendation will permanently increase the amount of reputation gained with that faction across all characters on a Battle.net account.
  • Classes
    • The durations of all disarm effects have been reduced to 8 seconds.
    • The Weakened Blows effect has a new icon.
    • Death Knight
      • Damage received from players (or player-controlled sources) no longer counts towards increasing the healing done by Death Strike.
    • Druid
      • A new passive ability has been added: Tooth and Claw. This ability causes autoattacks to have a chance to empower the Druid’s next Maul. Empowered Mauls reduce the damage dealt by the target’s next autoattack. Guardian Druids obtain this ability at level 32.
      • Omen of Clarity now has a different visual effect for Feral Druids.
      • Symbiosis:
        • Mass Dispel’s mana cost has been increased to match the Priest version, and its cooldown has been increased to 60 seconds.
        • The cast time of Symbiosis has been reduced to 2 seconds.
        • Survival Instincts is once again granted to Brewmaster Monks and now costs 2 Chi to use.
        • Might of Ursoc is once again granted to Blood Death Knights, and now costs 30 Runic Power.
        • Savage Defense is once again granted to Protection Warriors, but now only provides a 30% increase to dodge.
        • Barkskin is once again granted to Protection Paladins, and now costs 1 Holy Power.
        • The cooldown of Stampeding Shout provided by Symbiosis has been reduced to 5 minutes.
        • The duration of Solar Beam provided by Symbiosis now displays correctly as 4 seconds.
      • Glyphs
        • The Glyph of Solar Beam has been changed, and now increases the radius of Solar Beam to 10 yards (was 5 yards).
        • The duration of Solar Beam has been reduced to 8 seconds.
    • Hunter
      • Careful Aim now increases the critical strike chance of Steady Shot and Aimed Shot by 75% on targets who are above 80% health, down from 90%.
      • The duration of Steady Focus has been increased to 20 seconds, up from 10 seconds.
      • Aspect of the Fox has been removed.
      • Steady Shot, Cobra Shot, and Barrage can now always be cast on the move.
      • Lynx Rush has been changed. Lynx Rush is now a bleed effect that causes damage every 3 seconds over a period of 15 seconds, and stacks up to 9 times.
      • Bestial Wrath no longer grants Hunter pets immunity to crowd control effects, and instead now breaks existing crowd control effects when activated.
      • Glyphs
        • The Glyph of Icy Solace has been renamed to Glyph of Solace, and now causes both Scattershot and Freezing Trap to remove all damage over time effects from the target.
        • Glyph of Scattering has been removed.
        • A new Major Glyph has been added: Glyph of Aimed Shot. This glyph allows Aimed Shot to be used while moving.
    • Mage
      • The damage buff from Arcane Charge has been increased from 22% to 25%, and Arcane Blast’s mana cost increase when affected by Arcane Charge is now +75% (was +125%).
      • Rune of Power’s duration now shows in the UI, and no longer has a cooldown (was 6 seconds).
      • Ring of Frost now has a 45 second cooldown, up from 30 seconds, and can no longer affect more than 10 targets.
      • The duration of Deep Freeze has been reduced to 4 seconds.
      • Frost Bomb will now detonate after 6 seconds (up from 5 seconds). Detonation speed is still affected by haste.
      • Mage Armor now reduces the duration of harmful Magic effects by 25% (down from 35%).
      • The damage absorbed by Ice Barrier has been reduced by 25%.
      • Combustion’s periodic damage is now based only on the current Ignite, instead of both Ignite and Pyroblast. Damage has been increased to bring it up to approximately the same level as before.
      • Blazing Speed may now be triggered after recieving damage in any amount.
      • The mana cost of Spellsteal has been increased to 21% of base mana for Fire and Frost mages, up from 7%.
    • Monk
      • Spear Hand Strike now costs 10 energy (was 30).
      • All healing spells which cost mana have had their mana cost increased by 10%.
      • The energy costs of Legacy of the Emperor, and Legacy of the White Tiger have been reduced to 20, down from 50.
      • The energy cost of Healing Sphere has been reduced to 40, down from 60.
      • The Tiger Power provided by Tiger Palm now reduces target armor by 30% with a single application and no longer stacks.
      • Stance of the Fierce Tiger now increases the Monk’s movement speed by 10% in addition to its other effects. This movement speed increase stacks with other effects.
      • The healing provided by Enveloping Mists has been reduced by 32%.
      • The healing provided by the Healing Sphere base spell has been increased by 20%.
      • The healing provided by Chi Burst and Chi Wave has been reduced by 25%.
      • The healing provided when detonating Zen Sphere has been reduced by 25%.
      • The chance to generate 1 Chi while channeling Soothing Mist and Crackling Jade Lightning has increased to 35%, up from 25%.
      • The Power Strikes talent now grants the Power Strikes effect every 20 seconds, which causes the Monk’s next attack to generate 1 additional Chi.
      • The Healing Elixirs talent now grants the Healing Elixirs effect every 18 seconds, which causes the next Brew or Tea consumed to heal the Monk for 10% of maximum health.
      • Mistweaver
        • Enveloping Mist is now available at level 16, down from level 34.
        • You now have a chance equal to your crit chance to generate double the amount of Mana Tea charges.
        • Renewing Mists now travels to 2 additional targets (was 3 targets).
        • The mana cost of Soothing Mists has been reduced by 33%.
        • Haste for Mistweavers is now 50% more effective through Stance of the Wise Serpent.
    • Paladin
      • Turn Evil is now effective against Aberrations.
      • Hand of Salvation has been changed. This ability now removes all of a target’s threat for 10 seconds.
      • Holy Paladin: The 4 piece bonus now reduces Holy Shock’s cooldown by 2 seconds, up from 1 second.
      • Retribution Paladin: The 4 piece bonus now reduces Avenging Wrath’s cooldown by 65 seconds, down from 85 seconds.
    • Priest
      • Atonement’s healing range has been increased to 40 yards, up from 15.
      • Chakras now persist through death and zoning.
      • Discipline Priests can once again learn Focused Will. This ability is obtained at level 30.
      • Spells affected by Inner Focus cast while Spirit Shell is active now fully apply critical effect heals to the shield provided.
      • Chakra: Chastise now increases the damage dealt by Shadow and Holy spells by 50% (was 15%), and reduces mana costs by 90% (was 75%) while the ability is in effect.
      • Chakra: Serenity now increases single target healing by 25%, up from 15%.
      • Chakra: Sanctuary now increases area healing by 25% up from 15%.
      • Psyfiend’s Psychic Terror cast time has been increased to 2 seconds, up from 1.5 seconds.
      • The Psyfiend’s health has been reduced to 10% of the controlling Priest’s health, down from 30%.
    • Rogue
      • The energy cost of Kick has been reduced to 10 (was 15).
      • Seal Fate will now only be activated by melee combo point generating abilities.
      • Shuriken Toss now deals double damage when used against targets further than 10 yards away.
      • The cooldown of Blind has been reduced to 90 seconds, down from 3 minutes.
      • The energy cost of the Burst of Speed talent has been reduced to 50 energy, down from 60 energy.
      • Wound Poison now deals 33% more damage.
    • Warlock
      • Aura of the Elements and Aura of Enfeeblement can now be dispelled as Magic effects.
      • Demonic Gateway must now be activated by the player wishing to teleport.
      • Kil’jaeden’s Cunning now longer imposes a cast time penalty.
      • Banish is now effective against Aberrations.
      • Kil’jaeden’s Cunning’s snare has been increased from 10% per stack to 15% per stack.
      • Rain of Fire
        • Rain of Fire no longer causes a stun after hitting a target three times.
        • Aftermath will now grant Rain of Fire’s damage over time effect a chance to generate Burning Embers.
        • Rain of Fire no longer requires Immolate to be present to generate Burning Embers.
        • Rain of Fire’s damage over time will now hit every 1 second, down from 2 seconds. The damage animation for the damage over time effect will no longer always display.
      • Removed the ranged Melee attack from Demonology Warlocks in Metamorphosis form, and increased the damage of Doom by 25% to compensate.
      • Conflagrate now generates Burning Embers.
      • Demonic Gateway’s duration has been increased to 20 15 minutes, and it will no longer despawn if the Warlock moves too far away. In addition, this ability can no longer be used in any capital city.
      • Glyphs
        • A new Minor Glyph has been added: Glyph of Gateway Attunement. This glyph will cause a Warlock’s Demonic Gateway to transport them immediately when they step on it.
    • Warrior
      • Avatar no longer grants immunity to movement impairing effects, and instead now instantly breaks movement impairing effects. This ability also no longer generates addiitonal Rage while active. Its duration has increased to 24 seconds (was 20 seconds).
      • The cooldown of Intimidating Shout has increased to 90 seconds, up from 60 seconds.
      • The silence provided by Glyph of Gag Order is no longer effective against players.
    • Shaman
      • All totems are now considered spells, and summoning totems can be prevented by silencing effects. Searing Totem, Magma Totem, and Fire Elemental totems fall into the Fire school, while all other totems fall under the Nature school.
  • Items
    • Spirit of Harmony can now be purchased for 600 Conquest Points at the Conquest Quartermaster.
    • Item Enhancements
      • The Dancing Steel, Jade Spirit, Colossus, and River’s Song enchantments now use the Real PPM system utilized by Windsong and Elemental Force.
  • Pet Battles
    • A new item has been introduced that can be used to upgrade the quality of Battle Pets: Battle-stones.
      • Battle-stones are available in two basic types, general purpose Battle-stones that can be used to upgrade the quality of any pet, and family specific Battle-stones, which can only be used to upgrade pets of a specific pet family.
      • Battle-stones are available in two qualities: Flawless Battle-stones can upgrade pets directly to Rare quality, while Polished Battle-stones will upgrade a pet to Uncommon quality.
      • Players will have a very small chance to obtain a general purpose and family specific Flawless Battle-stone after winning a match against wild pets; defeating higher level opponents increases the chances of obtaining a stone. Family specific Flawless-Battlestones will be of the same family as the pets that were defeated. These valuable items are not soulbound, and can be sold on the Auction House.
      • Family specific Flawless Battle-stones can be found in the Sack of Pet Supplies obtained from performing Pet Trainer quests, and are Bind on Pickup.
      • General purpose Polished Battle-stones can be purchased for 1000 Justice Points.
    • Pet Journal
      • The quality of each pet is now visible in its slot in the Pet Journal.
      • Pets can now be filtered by name, type, rarity and level, and filters will remain in place each time the Pet Journal is viewed.
      • It is now possible to search locations in the Pet Journal. For example, searching “Westfall” will display all the Battle Pets that can be found in Westfall.
    • Pet Battle music is now more appropriate for the type of match being fought.
    • Several new Pet Battle PvP areas have been added to the world.
    • Several classic Raid bosses now have a chance to drop new Battle Pets. The new pets can be obtained from bosses in Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, Ahn’Qiraj, and Naxxramas.
    • Abilities that have been used will now continue to cool down for pets when they are not the active pet in a battle.
    • Right clicking a pet’s portrait will now offer the option to look it up in the Pet Journal.
    • Players can now keep up to 650 pets.
    • Battle Pet tooltips will now display whether a pet is owned, and how many pets of that type are owned.
    • Pet Quality is now displayed in battles, and will be visible on portraits, names and tooltips.
    • The level of battle pets in a zone can now be seen on the map, and it’s now possible to see the strength of wild pets relative to your team at a glance.
    • Backline pets now display debuffs affecting them as well as the remaining duration of these effects.
    • The experience multiplier obtained by all seven Grand Master pet trainers in Pandaria has been increased to x5 from x3.5.
    • The experience multiplier obtained by defeating Pet Trainers Julia Stevens, Old Macdonald, Zunta, and Dagra the Fierce has been reduced to x2.5 from x3.5.
    • Macros have been added that allow for summoning random pets and random favorite pets.
    • The achievement Taming the World now awards the Safari Hat, which increases pet experience gained from Pet Battles by 10%.
    • Pets previously removed from the Safari achievements have been added back to the criteria of those achievements now that they’re back in the wild.
    • The I Choose You achievement has been added for defeating Zen Master Aki. The reward for this achievement is 3000 gold.
    • Players that defeat Aki the Chosen at the culmination of the Battle Pet quest lines can now follow a new line of Battle Pet quests and associated daily quests that allows players to battle against Pandaren spirits.
    • A new Master Pet Tamer offering daily quests has been added to the Darkmoon Faire. Completing quests for the new trainer will offer the chance to acquire a new pet: the Darkmoon Eye.
    • The Dragon Kite can now be used in Pet Battles.
    • The Imperial Silkworm and Imperial Moth pets can now be created by Tailors.
    • A number of pets that could previously only be found accompanying other pets into battle can now be found roaming the world.
    • A number of new capturable pets can be found in the world from pet families that were once more sparsely populated.
    • Two new Battle Pets now roam Darkmoon Island waiting to be caught.
    • Fixed an issue that would prevent some pets captured in Pet Battles from correctly saving their skin color once added to the Pet Journal.
    • Player versus Player Pet Battles now award more experience.
    • Large plants and bushes in the environment that interfered with visibility during Pet Battles while now fade out of view during the match.
    • Fixed an issue where the Gazelle would join pet battles.
  • Sunsong Ranch
    • A new Seed has been added: Portal Shards
      • A mage who fell on hard times back in Dalaran has found a new home on Pandaria. Barnaby Fletcher will occasionally visit Halfhill Market to peddle a new type of seed – and take advantage of the Tillers’ hospitality.
      • Portal Shards grow into consumable items which can be used to open a portal from Sunsong Ranch to a major faction city.
    • Seeds now stack to 50.
    • Runty crops now have a spell visual to help call attention to themselves.
    • Growing crops now display the duration until the crop is ready to harvest.
    • Characters who have earned the “Friends on the Farm” achievement will no longer find gifts while harvesting Cooking Ingredient crops – instead, they have a chance to find special seeds such as Magebulb, Enigma Seed, Songbell, and more.
  • Raids, Dungeons and Scenarios
    • Non-boss enemies in Mogu’shan Vaults, Heart of Fear, and Terrace of Endless Spring now respawn much more slowly.
    • Raid groups are no longer necessary to enter pre-Mists of Pandara raid dungeons. Enemies in these raids that previously required more than one player to defeat are now more easily dealt with by players battling alone.
    • The Statistics page now tracks and displays 10-player and 25-player raid boss kills separately.
    • Cooldown timers greater than 5 minutes will now reset between attempts on Challenge Mode dungeons.
    • Scenarios
      • New level 90 Scenarios have been added, including additional faction specific Scenarios:
        • Assault on Zan’Vess
        • Alliance
          • Lion’s Landing
          • A Little Patience
        • Horde
          • Domination Point
          • Dagger in the Dark
      • Scenarios now include Dungeon Finder queue features, including leaders, backfill, vote to kick, and deserter debuffs. Roles are still not required.
  • PvP
    • The growing conflict between the Horde and the Alliance has spilled across the face of Azeroth: level 90 players can now queue for Wintergrasp and Tol Barad via the PvP tab to battle one another in these epic conflicts.
    • Arena matches now have a 25 minute time limit (was 45 minutes).
    • Rated Battlegrounds now share the same spell restrictions as Arenas.
  • Professions
    • Cooking
      • A cooking profession bag has been added, and can be purchased with Ironpaw Tokens from Nam Ironpaw.
    • Mining
      • All mineral nodes will now despawn one minute after they are mined, even if items remain in them.
  • UI
    • Justice, Valor, Honor and Conquest Point quartermasters are now signified by new minimap icons.
    • A new banner will appear when a player is subjected to an effect that causes them to lose control of their character. The effect that caused the loss of control and remaining duration will be displayed. Configuration options are available in the “Combat” section of the “Interface Options” menu.
    • A search bar has been added to the mount section of the Mount and Pet Journal.
    • The Mount and Pet Journal remembers which tab you were last using.
  • Bug Fixes
    • Swooping Plainshawks no longer use abilities from the Bird of Prey Hunter pet family.
    • Fixed an issue that could cause crops to fail to appear when players entered Sunsong Ranch while several hundred yards up in the air.
    • Players who have learned the Terrible Turnip pet can now continue to find Ominous Seeds when harvesting Cooking Ingredient crops.
    • Classes
      • The responsiveness of many abilities and effects has been improved, including: Renewing Mist, Halo, Rogue Poisons, Revealing Strike, Rime, Killing Machine, Maelstrom Weapon, Sudden Doom, Ultimatum, Scent of Blood, Crimson Scourge, and Sudden Death.
      • The following spells now display less intense visual effects for other players: Hellfire, Death and Decay, Hurricane, Astral Storm, and Explosive Trap.
      • Earthquake’s sound effect is now quieter.
      • All spells that cause Forebearance can no longer be applied simultaneously.
      • Hunters
        • The snare provided by Ice Trap is now more responsive when enemies enter or leave the area of effect, and its effective area more closely matches the visual effect.
        • Lock and Load will now activate correctly when Ice Trap is triggered by an immune target, as long as a susceptible target is within the area of effect.
        • Fixed several issues involving Trap Mastery, Entrapment, Glyph of Black ice, and Glyph of Ice Trap.
        • The Growl pet ability will no longer cause diminishing returns against bosses that are immune to its effect.
        • Glyph of Black Ice now correctly benefits from the increased duration provided by Trap Mastery.
        • Glyph of Ice Trap now causes the visual effect of Ice Trap to match the increased area of effect provided by the glyph.
      • Mages
        • Fixed an issue with Glyph of Icy Veins that could prevent all three bolts from firing.
        • Fixed an issue with Glyph of Icy Veins that could prevent the affected abilities from doing the correct damage.
      • Warlocks
        • The Felguard and Wrathguard pet ability, Threatening Presence, will no longer be auto-cast by default.
        • Pandemic no longer smooths the damage when extending dots with different amounts of spellpower.
      • Warriors
        • Execute damage with high amounts of Vengeance is now capped at the Warrior’s maximum health to prevent it from reaching excessive numbers.
      • Professions
        • Banquet of the Steamer and Great Banquet of the Steamer now correctly provide Intellect to damage based casting classes. Healers will continue to gain Spirit from these foods.

 

World of Warcraft Turns 8

Eight years ago Blizzare released the much delayed World of Warcraft.  It would go on to spawn four expansion, and over twelve million subscribers worldwide.  It has had its ups and downs, but for one reason or another remains the dominate, and most played, MMO ever created.  Blizzard wanted to say thanks to all those who have been around since day one, or are like me and only now getting into the game, by releasing a compilation video highlighting some of the game’s key moments.  So sit back and enjoy.

It’s funny how much I have been enjoying my time with this game over the past few months.  Sure it’s not for everyone, and yes at times it feels like one giant grind, but there’s something to be said for the feeling you get when you take down a boss with 39 other players, or go through a dungeon with 24 people backing you up.  These situations are a first for me, and have completely changed my look at what it means to create a videogame with heavy multiplayer options.  Should all games become MMOs, heck no, but I’ll admit that this has opened my eyes to certain franchises which could benefit from experimenting with some of these elements.

Raids in particular are something I have become increasingly interested in.  These play out like your typical Zelda dungeons except instead of having large, complex puzzle built into the dungeons themselves, the bosses act as the puzzle.  In these areas groups of ten or 25 have to figure out different strategies for taking down a behemoth.  Keep in mind that some of these enemies have over 250 million hit points, while you’re cruising at just over 300 thousand.  Cooperative teamwork is the only way to overcome these challenges and there’s nothing else out there that compares, that I’ve played.  Everyone knows I love cooperative gameplay in my first-person shooters, or anything else for that matter, which is why these raids really struck a chord with me.  It’s the ultimate form of co-op.  Typically one screw-up means the entire party is wiped (dead).  That means you might have to tackle the same boss for hours, but the feeling of accomplishment you get when said boss finally goes down is incredible.

So that’s my little WoW story, but I’m sure you guys have way more than I do.  So let’s hear them.  For all those that have played the game at one point or another, what are your key memories?

Cubemen Review

Cubemen (Available exclusively on PC)
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number of Players: 1 to 6
Genre: Tower Defense
Publisher: Three Sprockets
Developer: Three Sprockets
Release Date: March 16th, 2012

Parent Talk: Cubemen has not been rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board because it is an independent release. The game is available on Steam and Desura, and would likely get an E10+ rating because of cartoon violence. Cubemen is a tower defense game where you position your troops in such a way as to prevent enemy troops from taking over your base. Troops take the form of tiny polygonal cube men.

Plays Like: Most tower defense games work like Planets vs. Zombies where you position your troops in a fixed location on a grid to prevent incoming enemies from getting to your base. Cubemen works exactly like that except it goes one step further and adds some basic real-time strategy into the mix by allowing you to move your troops while they’re on the battlefield.

Review Basis: I played through most of the 26 single-player levels, until it got to the point where I just couldn’t proceed because I don’t have the moves like Jagger. I also tried a few Mayhem matches and some Skirmish battles.

Cubemen is a very fresh tower defense game that adds some nice RTS elements into the mix. The graphical style fits what the developer was trying to achieve perfectly. If you’re looking for a surprising tower defense game that adds in all kinds of extra features, this one is for you. It doesn’t hurt that it’s only $5 too.

The Great:

Cubemen is a fantastic, and simple to learn tower defense/RTS hybrid that’s easy to recommend at only $5.

The Good:

+ Simple to learn and easy to play. Line up your troops and protect your base, and if you need to make alterations as each new enemy wave approaches, the option is open to do.

+ Skirmish allows for two players to battle one another using the same gameplay from the single player mode. Essentially both players try to protect their bases, while simultaneously trying to take over the opposing base.

+ Mayhem is an up to six-player variation of Skirmish. Each three-person team protects their bases while trying to take over the three enemy bases.

+ The fun is figuring out which troops to place against incoming enemies. Do you use the troops with machine-guns, rockets, lasers, etc. As you collect resources (done by destroying incoming enemies) you unlock more powerful troops, but often it’s not worth waiting for the upgrade.

+ The audio visual presentation may not be for everyone, but the rocking soundtrack and crisp clear graphics go a long way in giving the game a retro feel without making it feel dated. Three Sprockets did a really bang up job with this one.

The So-So:

+/- Might be a little too simple for some. There’s really not much to Cubemen once you learn which troops to use under different situations. The additional multiplayer modes go a long way in helping break up the monotonous feeling, but some players may think it’s just a tad too simple.

+/- I think there was a bit of a missed opportunity by not allowing players to have access to a map editor. I can imagine the community going nuts being able to built their own unique levels.

The Bad:

– The tutorial isn’t quite as robust as I would have liked, in terms of explaining all the different troops and how they should be used.

The Ugly:

Pixel guts everywhere! Ok, they’re just dots but still one can imagine ;)

The Lowdown:

For $5, Cubemen is an excellent tower defense real-time strategy hybrid that offers hours of fun. It’s also a robust and feature-rich release, which is extremely surprising considering the low asking price. It’s currently available on Steam and Desura for those interested, and after reading this review you should be very interested!

Final Score: 8.5/10

Dustforce Review

Dustforce (Available only on PC and Mac)
ESRB Rating: This game has not been rated by the ESRB
Number of Players: 1 to 4 (Local only)
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Hitbox Team
Developer: Hitbox Team
Release Date: January 17th, 2012
Note: Available on Steam for $9.99

Parent Talk: Given Dustforce wasn’t rated by the ESRB, what should you do? Panic, run for the hills, or allow your kids to be subjected to one of the goriest and vulgar games ever created??? Kidding, I’m just kidding. The truth is this was an indie release, and while it may not have been rated by the ESRB, it’s perfectly harmless for children of all ages. You play as one of four ninja janitors who’s sole job is to clean up the world. By using your acrobatic skills you zip through each of the game’s many levels increasing your score for bragging rights on the global leaderboards. This is the perfect time-killer for your children, or if you’re a hardcore gamer, you’ll find yourself playing “just one more level” before heading off to bed.

Plays Like: At its heart Dustforce is a platformer, so in that sense it plays similar to something like Super Mario Bros. albeit instead of jumping on Goombas, you’re taking out evil dust tumbleweeds. There are no coins to collect, but a multiplier that continues to climb as you venture forth cleaning, and dodging pits, spikes, and other hazards you stumble upon. For one reason or another Dustforce also reminds me of ‘Splosion Man, and I think that’s because both are ultra colorful and unique.

Review Basis: Played through all the different areas, although found out I really suck at the game so couldn’t finish all the stages with an S ranking.

Dustforce is a really unique platformer where you simply progress through levels trying to clean up as much dirt and grime as possible, all while moving as fast as you can and avoiding anything that could cause you bodily harm. Sounds simple, and in the beginning it is, but very quickly becomes extremely difficult. Therein lies the fun.

The Great:

This is one of those games that’s super easy to play, but virtually impossible to master. If you love indie games or arcade-style games in general, this is one you most certainly should check out. For $10 you can’t go wrong.

The Good:

+ It’s so hard, it’s punishing…in a good way. I love seeing that I suck at a game, because it inspires me to get better. Constantly coming in at rank 12,000 means I’ll be coming back to Dustforce for a very long time to come.

+ Variety is the spice of life. Each stage feels completely different than the last. The key to success is learning the stages inside and out, where shortcuts are and how to clear out the dust as quickly as possible.

+ Replays rule, and show you that you suck…big time. You’re allowed to watch the top ten players of any given stage, which not only shows you just how bad you are, but also gives you ideas on how to improve your game.

+ Fantastic audio visual presentation. The graphics are super stylized and look clean and fresh. The audio is upbeat and features really catchy tunes. Another plus is the system requirements. You only need a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, and a gigabyte of RAM. That’s not asking for much in today’s world of super high-end graphics.

The So-So:

+/- I’m going to be ultra honest with all of you, while this was designed as a computer game, it begs to be played with a controller. The default keyboard layout is nowhere near as responsive or comfortable as a console-controller is. I would love to see Dustforce released on Xbox Live Arcade, or the PlayStation Network as I’m sure it would be a huge hit. If you’re planning on downloading this one on Steam, do yourself a favor and pick up an Xbox 360 PC controller. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

The Bad:

– One of the only negative comments I can make about the game is the lack of information provided in how to setup a local multiplayer game, how to unlock new stages, or even how the four playable characters differ from one another. While I hate being hand-walked through each and every detail, sometimes it’s nice to be told basic information.

– Local multiplayer only?! Yeah you read that right, you have to gather up to four real-life friends and play on your PC. When’s the last time you did that? Oh right, never. Sadly I wasn’t able to test multiplayer because I honestly don’t have four friends that would care to play a local multiplayer game at my house.

The Ugly:

Dust, dust everywhere! If you’re asthmatic, this game will be your worst nightmare (that was intended to be a joke. Yeah, sorry, I know it was pretty lame).

The Lowdown:

For $9.99 on Steam, available for both PC and Mac, Dustforce is a fantastic arcade game that I hope more people get into. I adore the art-style, love the music and think the gameplay is super addictive. If you’re looking for something different to play on your PC, and you have a controller, this one’s a clear winner.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Blizzard Releases World of Warcraft Patch 5.0.4

Considering I’ve been playing quite a bit of World of Warcraft over the past few months, this news is rather exciting to me.  You might just skim this over and move on, but for those that still play Blizzard’s popular MMO, I’ve got the official patch release notes directly from Blizzard.

General

  • Account-wide Achievements, pets, and mounts
    • In Patch 5.0.4 and beyond, the majority of your character’s Achievements, pets, and mounts will be shared with your other characters.
  • World Event: Attack on Theramore Isle
    • Warchief Garrosh, obsessed with assuring the Horde’s supremacy over Kalimdor, launches an all-out attack against Jaina’s island home of Theramore. Though valiant Alliance defenders rush to repel the sudden onslaught, they’ll soon find themselves unprepared for the terrible scope of Garrosh’s true plans…
    • This Scenario will become available in the weeks leading up to the launch of Mists of Pandaria on September 25.
  • AOE Looting
    • Area of effect looting comes to World of Warcraft with this patch. After killing a group of enemies in close proximity, when you loot one of their corpses, the loot window will include items from all of the nearby corpses for which you have loot rights.
  • BattleTag support in World of Warcraft
    • Players who have enabled their BattleTag will now be able to:
      • See BattleTag friends in your friends list.
      • Add and remove BattleTag friends.
      • Send BattleTag invites to other players via right-click.
  • Cross-Realm Zones
    • In some zones, players are now able to form a group with other players from a select pool of realms.
    • When a player is in a zone that is set as a “cross-realm zone”, in addition to seeing other players from their native realm, they’ll also seamlessly see (and be able to play with) players from other realms.
    • Players will always be able to group and quest as they normally would with players from their native realm.
    • This functionality will be enabled for a limited number of realms at first, and will be granted to additional realms as we near the release of Mists of Pandaria.

Classes: General

  • All classes have been updated with a new talent system, improved abilities, and spells (accessible throughout levels 1-85). Your character’s talents have been reset.
    • Many old talents have been converted to specialization abilities.
    • Druids now have access to a fourth class specialization: Guardian.
    • New spells are now learned automatically. Class trainers are only needed to change talents, glyphs, class specialization, or to utilize the dual specialization feature.
    • All characters now take 40% less damage from other players.

Currency Conversion

  • Valor points have been converted to Justice points, and Conquest points have been converted to Honor points.
  • Neither of the resultant currencies (Justice and Honor) have an enforced hard-cap at this time.
  • Players are no longer able to earn Valor or Conquest points (bosses drop Justice, and arenas are closed).
  • Items formerly purchasable for Valor/Conquest are available for Justice/Honor.

Items

  • Spell Penetration has been replaced by PvP Power on existing items.
  • Head enchants removed
    • Enchants that modify the gear in your head slot have been removed from the game. This includes older head enchants of every type.
  • Relics, ranged, and thrown items
    • The slot in which ranged, relics, and thrown items were previously equipped has been removed. All weapons should now be equipped in the weapon slot.
    • Ranged weapons, including wands, have been adjusted to be more powerful.
    • Ranged weapons no longer have a minimum range.

Professions

  • The glyph system has been updated. Many class glyphs have been added, altered, or moved to different glyph types.
  • Prime glyphs have been removed.
  • Chef’s Award and Dalaran Cooking Award have been removed. Existing awards have been converted to Epicurean’s Award.

Quests

  • The cap for daily quests has been removed.
  • There is no longer a displayed count of daily quests completed.

User Interface

  • There is a new user interface for your mounts and pets.
  • Character creation screens have been updated.
  • Buffs have been consolidated in the UI.
  • New roll results frame added. This new feature can be accessed by clicking the word “[Loot]” in chat, or by typing “/loot”.
  • The PvE queue frames have been unified. You can now queue for dungeons, raids, and other queue-able content in one handy place.
  • Vendors now offer item filtering.
  • Spellbooks have been updated to reflect changes to core abilities, and now include a brief overview of specializations.
  • The Dungeon Journal has been expanded with information on all pre-Cataclysm encounters.
  • A new help system has been added to many frames. You can toggle this on and off by clicking the “i” button in the upper left corner of the frame.

Mac

  • Mac OS X 10.5 is no longer supported.
  • Added full support for Retina displays.
  • Added support for game resolutions that match Mac screen aspect ratios.
  • Switching between Windowed and Fullscreen display modes should be faster.
  • A “Help” menu has been added, so that players can quickly navigate to support pages.
  • A menu item that allows players to copy system information to the Clipboard has been added.
  • A menu item that reveals various game files and folders in Finder has been added.

That’s a ton of new content, all for the low low price of free. You have to love that. One big question I have, and I’m sure some of you out there will as well, is whether or not this new patch will require the new system requirements.  Since my new gaming rig isn’t build yet, I’m still use a first-gen Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro.  Needless to say, it won’t be able to play Mists of Pandaria, and somehow I doubt it’s going to allow me to run this patch as well.  Anyways, I’ll update once I have confirmation either way.

Ys Origin Review

Ys Origin (Available exclusive on Steam)
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: XSEED
Developer: Nihon Falcom Corp
Release Date: May 31st, 2012

Parent Talk: Ys Origin is a role-playing game originally released on the Japanese PC market in 2006, now available in English for the first time. There are some instances of mild profanity, but nothing severe. There are no instances of blood, gore, excessive violence, or sexual themes though, so parents should have nothing to worry about.

Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 64-bit compatible; Pentium III/1 Ghz minimum, Pentium 4/1.3 Ghz or higher recommended, 1 GB ram, 64 MB VRAM, 3D accelerator w/DirectX 9.0c,  and 2 GB HD space.

Plays Like: Ys Origin plays similarly to other games in the series, especially Oath in Felghana and Ark of Napishtim. While all of the games in the Ys series are action role-playing games, these games share some many close similarities, like control style, the third-person perspective, etc. Even the visuals are similar. The major differences between them are the playable characters, story, and skill sets. While most games in the series feature Adol as the lead, Origin has three unique characters to choose from: Yunica, Hugo, and Toal.

Review Basis: Played for 28 hours, completed two campaigns (on normal and hard), currently playing the third.

The Great: Fast-paced role-playing. The Ys series has always distinguished itself from other role-playing games. This is due to many different things, but one of the primary differences comes from the game speed. Ys is anything but slow. While most people think RPGs tend to be slow, boring games, the Ys games focus more on action. You move quickly, attack quickly, and the game keeps going at a brisk pace. The emphasis on quick action, platforming, and combat makes every game a blast to play. You can easily power through the adventure in a much shorter time than other RPGs, but that just means there’s far less filler time to sift through. Story and cutscenes are important, but they take a backseat to the action. You will run and jump through a variety of traps and hazards, keep an eye out for switches and hidden passages, and attack enemies with a myriad of spells and skills. Think of it like the 2D Legend of Zelda games with a serious case of ADD.

The Good:

+ Excellent music. Nihon Falcom games tend to have great music, but Ys Origin managed to impress me thoroughly. The music is simply incredible. The boss themes are among the best I have ever heard in an role-playing game and they perfectly highlight story scenes. Scars of the Divine Wing and Beyond the Beginning are songs I’ve listened to repeatedly even after finishing the game.

+ A variety of characters to play as. When you boot up the game for the first time, you are allowed to be as Yunica or Hugo. Yunica is a young knight-in-training tasked with rescuing the goddesses Feena and Reah, while Hugo is a magical prodigy with his own agenda. They offer completely distinct styles of play, making the game ideal for multiple play throughs. Yunica is a quick, mid-range melee fighter with very aggressive and offensive skills. She is considered best for first time players and I had a genuinely fun time playing as her. Hugo, on the other hand, is far slower but offers more range and versatility. He has defensive skills (a wind barrier), in addition to mines and a fire attack. Once you complete the game, you will unlock Toal Fact as a third playable character, who specializes in speedy close-range melee attacks. His claws aren’t as tough as Yunica’s axe, but he moves quickly and his skills emphasize his agility. If you’ve grown tired of playing as Adol, then Origin will make you happy.

+  A sincere and well done story. Ys games never focus too much on narrative. Most often, the game just boils down to a conflict of good vs. evil. Still, the games manage to be endearing thanks to strong characters and an interesting world to explore. Origin manages to be even more interesting, because of its lead characters. Yunica isn’t just a knight-in-training, but she’s the daughter of a famous warrior who was slain by a man bartered for a demonic essence to gain power. She has to struggle with thoughts of revenge while on her quest, making her story genuinely fun without being overbearing. There are several cutscenes throughout the game and there are quite a few lines of dialog (nothing voiced), but they don’t ever come off as intrusive or annoying. Hugo’s story is arguably even more interesting, because of his moral ambiguity and his struggle with finding inner strength and purpose. Toal’s ambitions are even murkier, making him a fascinating character to explore—especially because it’s like experiencing the game from the enemy side’s point of view.

+ Platforming, combat, and exploration. Ys games aren’t particularly deep in any one area. They don’t offer huge and robust battle systems like strategy RPGs or rich and detailed worlds like the Elder Scrolls games, but they put it somewhere in the middle, perfect for a fast-paced adventure. There is enough emphasis to fully explore each area because of all of the hidden power ups and secret items though. With each new ability gained, you can access to new areas and new rewards.

+ Lots of challenging enemies and bosses. Even on normal, you should expect to die and retry on your first encounter with several of the boss enemies. Enemies will put up a serious fight and require precision to overcome. You can’t just hack away at bosses and expect to win (with some exceptions). You cannot pause the game or use healing items during boss encounters, meaning that you need to exercise absolute caution. Memorizing boss patterns and recognizing safe zones is a crucial element.

+ Excellent visuals. Origin is a six-year old game, so set your standards accordingly, but even so, this game does look pretty. When running at 1920 x 1030, everything looks nice and clean and the magic effects are a sight to behold.

+Replay value. It may only take you about 10-12 hours to complete a campaign, however, that’s 10-12 hours of solid gameplay and there are three unique characters to play as! Each character boast a distinct story and play style, making the game fun to play every time. That’s not counting the Steam achievements or bonus modes, like Time Attack and Arena Mode.

+ Support for gamepads like the Xbox 360 controller. It comes recommended, especially for tight jumps.

The Bad:

-You can’t pause during boss fights. I know I praised this a bit earlier, but it’s not a great decision. Granted, yes, it does raise tension during a fight and forces you to pay attention, but it’s just inconvenient. There have been several times when someone tried to call or text me, or someone in the room was trying to talk to me, but I was fighting a boss so I couldn’t pay attention until I either won or died. What if you had to use the restroom or answer the phone? It’s just a matter of simple convenience.

-Lack of towns and sidequests can make the game feel too linear. It moves about at a breakneck pace, but there aren’t meaningful distractions. Some may enjoy the fact that the game is straightforward and without filler, while others may think that it’s too linear.

-Character sprite animations are decent, but admittedly most of the environments are just ok. Remember though, this is a six-year old game, so set your expectations accordingly. I still feel that most will find this game pleasant to look at.

The Lowdown:

I had to struggle to find negative points to harp on for this game. I had so much fun while playing that I lost track of time, which is the highest praise I can give! While longtime fans may not rank this entry as his or her favorite, it is just excellent. With a price tag of only $19.99, I can’t think of any reason to pass on this one. It comes highly recommended.

Score: 8.5/10

One Month of World of Warcraft

On November 23rd, 2004 Blizzard Entertainment released World of Warcraft.  I remember the day well because it marked the 10th anniversary of the original Warcraft.  Long before, our very own Timothy Magana was going on and on about how I should have pre-ordered it, and how it would be a game I wouldn’t want to miss out on.  To give you a little more background info, Timothy is a hardcore PC gamer and adores his MMORPGs.  At the time we used to chat every evening about Nintendo, Blizzard and other game companies we were both into.  We were both big fans of Warcraft III so he was surprised I showed little to no interest in WoW.  At the time he was playing and talking about EverQuest on a daily basis, and would tell me about how he had played the game for years and how it was a ‘true game for true gamers’.  For whatever reason I never bothered with any massively multiplayer online role-playing game before.  I was much more interested in console games and PC games like Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, Half-Life, etc.  I figured I didn’t have the time or the interest to stick with one game for ages and ages, which is all I ever heard about MMOs, that they required a significant amount of time to enjoy.

That was 2004.

Exactly one month ago today Timothy finally convinced me to give WoW a try.  He can be very persuasive when he wants to be…either that or a big nag.  I didn’t have anything else to do at the time, and this summer has been a complete washout for new releases that I was interested in.  I figured if I was going to jump in and try this out, I might as well pick up the two expansions that weren’t included in the “vanilla” version of WoW (which now also includes the first expansion, The Burning Crusade).  So after the lengthy download, and armed with a nice cold beverage, me and my early 2006 MacBook Pro decided it was time to finally experience the World of Warcraft.

Once my download was complete I had a ton of options I had to shift through.  I needed to select a server, so I picked the one Timothy plays on (Uther), and then needed a character name.  That proved to be rather difficult because virtually every name you could think of was already taken, and you can’t use numbers for names.  That’s logical.  So after some thinking, I decided on Righ, like Right without the T.  This fit the character I was making too, a Worgen, which is basically a werewolf.  I then needed to pick a class, which Timothy helped me choose.  See I knew virtually nothing about this game, so all of these choices like which race I would select, what class I would play as, etc. were based entirely on Tim’s suggestions.  He said if I wanted to experience a class that was advanced and allowed me to mix and match how I played; a Druid would fit my needs perfectly.  So that’s what I ended up with, a Worgen Druid named Righ.

Say hello to Righ.

From there I was shocked to learn that you start off in a closed area.  See I always thought MMOs were something like GTA except without a character-driven story.  In other words, you are just dropped off in some open-world and left to find quests and that was about it.  Boy was I wrong.  The opening area sets up your character’s place within this giant world.  So for me, it was all about my home village being attacked by a group of Worgens.  After a solid ten hours (!) of taking on new quests, reading through the rich lore, which pushes you along at a nice brisk pace and walks you through the game’s various battle systems, you come to the story’s conclusion.  In my case, my character was bitten by a Worgen and therefore transformed into one.  His home village being all but destroyed, he finds himself in Darnassus, one of the capital cities in Kilimdor (the giant western continent of Azeroth).  I couldn’t believe just how much storyline there was in those first hours, and also how the game was so user-friendly.  Sure it might not have always been like that, but I’m experiencing this some seven years and change after the original release.

Once I hit Darnassus that’s when the game opened up, however the story continued.  I knew my place within the world, and I had many choices to make moving forward.  I needed to select trades to learn, which could be used to make special items, or to sell goods on the auction house for much-needed gold.  I also learned cooking and first aid skills, which aid in making healing and boosting items.  All of this took days to come to terms with, but at no point did I ever find it overwhelming, which was one of my biggest fears going in.

After taking the first few quests, which led me all around the opening area, I started to come to terms with the way the game works.  It’s essentially a series of giant landmasses called zones, which are level-based.  In other words if you’re level 12, you’re going to spend your time in the level 10 to 15 zone, and no further or you’re going to get destroyed Dragon Quest style.  So that’s primarily what I did, lots and lots of quests before moving on to the next zone.

After my first few days, Timothy came online and started showing me some of the other capital cities in the Eastern Kingdoms, which blew my mind.  Never before had I ever seen a videogame this massive.  I was spending on average between five and eight hours per zone reading through all the lore, taking on quests and just exploring everything the game had to offer.  When Tim showed me the other continent I realized why people were playing this game for close to a decade now, because it’s just so bloody huge.  Think GTA but maybe five thousand times larger.  No joke, it really is gargantuan.

Rare mounts and pets help keep players coming back long after they’ve hit the max level.

After maybe a week or so Tim started explaining how other aspects of the game work from taking on daily quests, to earning reputation with the various cities.  By doing this you unlock more features, mounts, quests, etc.  Mounts were something that excited me greatly because at first I found my character walked extremely slowly.  By the time I hit level 20 I was able to purchase a mount, which was just great because it allowed me to explore quicker.  Sure the increase wasn’t astronomical, but it was just enough to make me happy.  I hit a nice speed boost when I reached level 40, and finally the ability to fly when I hit 60.  This progression ensured I always wanted to keep playing, to keep pushing forward just a little bit longer.  At level 70 I was awarded the best gift of all, a drastic 280% increase in flying speed!  What’s not to love about that?  I’ve heard things get even crazier when you hit level 80.

Because I’m playing as a Worgen Druid I was able to transform into various beast forms when I hit these levels as well, which was great because again, it made me feel as though I was constantly making progress and jumping up another 20 levels didn’t seem so out of reach.  It also made me feel distinct and important, because virtually everyone else I saw in the world had mounts, only a few of us were able to actually transform into creatures ourselves.

After a while the questing does get to you, I mean there are only so many different types of quests you can do right?  I’ve got to hand it to Blizzard though; they sure packed in as much variety as they could think of.  From Plants vs. Zombies type of quests to races, fights and everything in-between, there are likely 5 billion quests in this game, and while they all repeat after a while, the variety is extremely impressive considering just how many quests there are.  That said, after a while you’ll likely tire of questing, and that’s where dungeons come into play.  This is something Tim also showed me when I hit level 20 or so.  By queuing for a dungeon I was able to take part in instances, basically closed off dungeons that no one but a five-man team can take part in.  This completely changed the dynamic of the game because you need to work together in order to survive.  Enemies are significantly tougher, but the rewards are equally great.  The average queue time for a dungeon was between five and ten minutes, but you continue to quest and explore as you’re in the queue so you don’t even see the time pass by.  After a short period of time, a prompt pops up on the screen letting you know you’re about to enter the dungeon.  Finish the roughly 30-minute dungeon, and bam you’re right back where you left off.  How awesome is that?

Lots of quest variety, plus dungeons, raids and tons of social events also extend the replay value significantly.

 

Dungeons are where you start to come to terms with the group aspect of the game, and they also ease you into the social portion of the game.  You’ll talk to these random strangers, and eventually build up confidence as you level up.  Eventually you can take part in arena matches, player versus player zones where it’s all out madness, and the infamous raids.  Raids are legendary from what I hear.  You need to be max level in order to take part in them, and equip yourself with some of the best weapons and armor in the game or you won’t stand a chance.  Essentially a raid is where a group, sometimes 25, get together to take on a massive dungeon, could be hours long, and eventually pummel bosses that are simply epic.  Doing this alone is not an option, heck doing this in a small raid group may prove impossible.  Raids are what keep you glued to WoW long after you’ve finished the game.

Blizzard was able to do this by introducing various forms of currency.  Sure gold is the standard, but there are also Justice, Heroic, and Conquest points.  Each of these are earned by either taking part in a raid, high level dungeons and arena matches.  They can then be traded in for the highest quality armor and weapons the game has to offer.  It takes months to earn enough points to actually buy something, and Blizzard limits the amount of points you can get.  For example, if you’re looking to buy some of the older raid equipment you’re going to need Justice points, which are the ones awarded by taking part in dungeons past level 70.  The thing is, you can only earn around 100 points per week.  The cheapest piece of equipment you can buy is 500 JP, and the max is 5,000JP.  Do the math, that means it’s going to take you a minimum of five weeks before you can buy anything!  Now that’s how you keep players come back for more.

There are also countless other social events to take part in.  My first was the Darkmoon Faire.  These are events, if you will, which Blizzard sets up throughout the year.  There are events for every major holiday, and there are simply monthly events, like the Darkmoon Faire.  At these events there are special daily quests, like the awesome fishing dailies, where you will earn another form of currency.  Typically you receive tickets or tokens from completing these special quests, which you can bank until you have enough to buy something sweet from one of the vendors.  What I love is how the game naturally adjusts to these events.  For example, a lot of NPCs in the major cities begin to talk about the Faire, and you’re always reminded to go and check it out.  There’s even a new area of the game that opens up just for players to take part in these events.

One of my favourite aspects of the game is fishing. It’s extremely relaxing and can net you some impressive loot if you have the patience.

If all of this wasn’t enough, there are many different social aspects to the game, most of which are getting enhanced moving forward.  For now you have all your trades you can work on, there are countless daily quests; there are dungeons, raids and yes, the classic quests.  There are also achievements, which unlock epic mounts, and other goodies.  Some of these achievements take months or even years to complete, but like everything in this game, the time you put in is greatly rewarded later on.  With the latest expansion coming up on September 25th, all of these areas will see a major facelift.  Blizzard is adding a Pokémon-style pet battle system where up to three wild pets can be captured and fought.  They’re adding a farm a la Farmville, and so much more.  The social scene is only going to continue to grow moving forward.

By mixing and matching quests and dungeons, taking part in as many different events as I can, and just taking my time to let this mysterious world unfold I’ve been able to get all the way to level 79 in only four weeks.  I have now subscribed for three more months because I really want to experience everything else the game has to offer including raids, all the special events and more.  I’ve also pre-ordered the Digital Deluxe edition of Mists of Pandaria, and simply can’t wait to explore every nook and cranny of the new continent.

I can now say that my biggest regret of this past generation is missing out on this excellent game.  It’s well worth the $15 a month it costs, and for anyone who isn’t sure if an MMO is for them, I highly recommend you go ahead and give this one a try.  There’s currently a free-to-play option that lasts for a month or until you hit level 20.  Whatever the case, give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Diablo III Sells Over 10 Million Units

During Activision Blizzard’s quarterly earnings conference, the company revealed that Diablo III has over ten million players.  Not too shabby at all since the game was released May 15th of this year.  On top of that, it’s a sequel to a game that was released way back in mid-2001!  While the sales are extremely impressive in and of themselves, Activision Blizzard was clear to remind everyone that 3.5 million of those sales happened during the first 24 hours.  Another 1.2 million came from World of Warcraft players subscribing to the annual pass promotion Blizzard ran leading up to Diablo III‘s release.

That’s all I’ve got to say about that for as of right now I still haven’t had the chance to build my computer and give D3 a spin.  I plan to do so ASAP though, but knowing me that could be quite a while ;)  In other relevant news, Blizzard is hoping for a repeat performance with Mists of Pandaria, the fourth expansion to World of Warcraft, which officially goes on sale September 25th.

Ys Origin Impressions

Ys Origin is something of a first for me and I suspect for many of you as well. Gamers in the US may now be more familiar with the Ys brand due to more recent exposure, with Chronicles, Ark of Napishtim, 7, and Oath in Felghana available on the PSP, Legacy of Ys Books I and II available on Nintendo DS, and Ys I and II available on Wii Virtual Console.  Origin, however, marks the first time the series has been made available on the PC market in the West. Several games have been released for the Japanese PC market, but thanks to localization by XSEED and Steam’s online distribution system, English-speaking players can finally enjoy Origin.

If you have played any game in the series so far, you are probably already familiar with Nihon Falcom’s long-running action RPG series. Though it is technically the seventh entry in the series, it is technically a prequel, and one of the few games not to focus on lead character Adol Christin. I nabbed this game during Steam’s summer sale, something I expect I will not regret. After playing for five hours, I have high hopes for the rest of the game.

Like most other Ys games, the story takes a backseat to the gameplay. Cutscenes are brief and dialog is kept to a minimum, though the characters are endearing and the game world is distinct. Origin takes place approximately 700 years before Ancient Ys Vanished (I and II) in the series chronology. Three characters take prominence here: Yunica Tovah, Hugo Fact, and Thor Fact (though only two are available at the start). Yunica Tovah is a young, spirited girl who is following in her father’s footsteps. She wants to become a knight so that she can protect the Goddesses Feenah and Reah, with whom she has created a close bond. Opposite her is Hugo Fact, a prodigy in the magical arts. He is proficient with long range attacks. For my first time playing through the game, I’ve decided to choose Yunica. She is genuinely fun to play as and her story is surprisingly good.

Rather than taking place over a large landscape, the game is confined to a large tower. You climb to new floors, encountering traps and enemies along the way. Sometimes, you need to find a special key or item to uncover a hidden route. The game’s pathways are mostly linear, but it’s never boring thanks to fast-paced combat and a fun play style. If you have played Oath in Felghana or Ark of Napishtim, you will feel right at home with Origin; the colorful sprite-based characters, 3D backgrounds, and general feel of the combat system remain consistent.

One of the big draws in the series, and in this game for sure, is in its challenge. Enemies are rarely pushovers and bosses can be especially dangerous. You really need to be prepared for fights and have to take the time to learn patterns. Don’t be surprised if you die several times on some fights. The other point I have to praise is the music: it is absolutely fantastic. This is certainly one adventure where I strongly recommend you crank up the volume.

You can easily configure the game for a gamepad, and admittedly, I would recommend doing so. Using the keyboard is not exactly cumbersome, but it’s not ideal. If you happen to have a wired Xbox 360 controller, that can be plugged into your PC quite easily and makes for a great alternative. Combat sections are generally fine, but I had trouble with jumping over obstacles when using the keyboard. Expect a full review from me soon!