Dragon Age: Inquisition

100879bPublisher: EA9.0

Developer: BioWare

Release Date: 11/18/2014

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $59.99

Also Available On

ps3-logo

xbone

x360

pc

 

 

bar

The Good: Fantastic visuals and foliage (especially the foliage and lighting), one of the best musical scores since Skyrim, deep dialog choices and engrossing story, fantastic characters that are memorable, plenty of side quests to last you 100 hours

The Bad: Story missions take a back seat to side quests, most side quests are fetch or gather quests, many maps are hard to navigate or devoid of life, combat is a little shallow and requires little strategy, many glitches and AI issues

Bioware has a knack for creating D&D style games that are memorable years down the road. Dragon Age is one such series. Origins helped push forward the way stories are told in Western RPGs. This was with dialog choices that would impact your relationship with fellow party members and the overall story. The game was also well known for its huge amount of lore that filled hundreds of Wiki pages online. Inquisition helps to mainly wash the sour taste of Dragon Age II out of our mouths by bringing back the original feeling of Origins.

Inquisition has a lot of politics involved in its story, more so than the previous two. I say this because the entirety of Thedas is on the brink of being wiped out due to a powerful ancient being ripping a hole in the fade and unleashing chaos. You play as a brand new character (your choices don’t carry over here from DA2 it’s set several years into the future). You play as a nobody, just some guard serving Divine Justinia when all of a sudden you walk into this ancient being, Corypheus, attacking the Divine. You try to help stop him but something terrible happens to you. You take on part of the powers he is trying to acquire. This foils his plans and also weakens him leaving then entire land accusing you of killing the Divine.

This is where the story starts off with several of your companions. Many dialog choices are brought to you to ease you into how this is done. It’s actually quite easier to understand over the last two games. Symbols will easily tell you what your choice will do. A heart will advance a romance, branching arrows could lead to anything, a question mark is an investigation, etc. While dialog and story is a hue part of Dragon Age so is combat and exploration.

Inquisition is huge. Twice the size of Origins and DA2 combined. There are several areas you can explore but these are large map that take hours to completely explore. There are hundreds of side quests on top of the dozen story missions. The meat of the game is actually the side quests. If you skip these you are missing 80% of the game. Of course not all side missions can be blown through. Some require accessing new areas which require being cleared or accessed through the War Table missions. The War Table allows you to send either Josyphene, Cullen, or Liliana on missions to open up new areas in maps or acquire items.

There are two major hub areas you will have with Skyhold being the main one. Here you advance relationships with character through dialog, upgrade your castle, and try prisoners that you captured throughout the game. Inquisition has so much going on that it will take you a good 100 hours to complete every missions and see everything. I can’t do this game’s sheer size justice just by explaining it. Outside of exploration is the combat. It is a mix of DA1 and 2 with more control over companions by freezing time like DA1 but it’s completely optional. You can also just wail on people like DA2 but this time you aren’t just standing in one spot while fighting. However, despite this change I felt something was missing from combat. There wasn’t much strategy to it and it was just a button mashing fest outside of learning what each skills cooldown times are and planning accordingly.

I do commend BioWare for the interesting enemy designs and wildlife. The game just has so much detail and is one of the best looking games available right now. I mainly love the lighting in this game and foliage placement, it’s just so beautiful however, there are issues with pathfinding. Many missions are hard to get to and some maps are just poorly laid out. The Forbidden Oasis is the worst offender with huge cliffs and gaps and hidden caves to everything in the map. It’s a chore to navigate and most maps are pretty barren with not much to do besides these fetch quests.

And that’s where I will wrap this up at. Inquisition is a fine game, it looks amazing, has extremely deep dialog choices and there’s so much to do here from creating armor and weapons from blueprints, to deciding what kind of drapes you want in your castle. However, it is all filler content. By hour 80 I really started getting annoyed with the game and bored. I said screw it to the rest of the romance options and any companion quests that were becoming a chore to complete and just did the final story mission. Will I come back to Inquisition to complete it 100%? Sure, but not for a while. Inquisition over stays its welcome by about 30 hours with fetch quests and item gathering. If you loved the previous games you will love Inquisition, but haters from the past will find even more to hate here.

Hellraiser

666968-hellraiser2Publisher: Epic Comics

Author: Various

Artist: Various

Release Date: 1990-1993

Issues: 20

bar

While Hellraiser was an extremely successful horror film in the 80’s and became a cult classic. Clive Barker is a fantastic horror author/creator and the comic series does the Hellraiser name justice. However, I have never read a comic series that slowly started imploding on itself after starting out so great and actually become boring and monotonous to read.

Each comic is cut into 3-4 mini-stories relating to the universe of Hellraiser. Someone finds a Lemarchand cube or a Lament Configuration. This mysterious puzzle box is a gateway to hell and one of the Leviathan’s many generals known as Cenobites must take you with them. The comic series really digs deep into the human psyche and brings out all of humanity’s flaws such as greed, lust, gluttony, and all the evil and hatred that our species is known for. Each story is fantastic and really draws you in, but it’s after issue 10 or 11 that the series really starts taking a dive.

I also love the art. Each mini story is done by a different team so you see all kinds of different art style. While not all of it is fantastic is sets the tone and atmosphere for each story. Now, here is where the series fails: story archs. Trying to do something with the comic series that it never really did. There is two different story archs playing out here and they takes several issues to finish. The first is the Devil’s Brigade which is a drawn out and exhausting 18 part series that see several Cenobites that are assigned to key figures on Earth and they must make sure order befalls man and not chaos. This is such a jarring and disorienting story. The characters are boring, the story mostly never makes sense, and it just feels so forced. After a while that’s all the entire Hellraiser series is about. No more unique mini stories that stand out on their own.

The second story arch is The Harrowers. This is even worse than the Devil’s Brigade and feels so far fetched that is just becomes silly. Several men and women are “called” to a hidden tomb where a goddess lives and is somehow the good sister of Leviathan. This is absurd and completely ridiculous. At this point you can tell the Hellraiser team just wants it to end and doesn’t care anymore. 20 issues and the series just took a complete nose dive right on its face.

With that said the series is still worth reading especially the first 10 issues. They keep you drawn in and are just so fantastic that I needed more.

4.0

Diablo III: Sword of Justice

3415031-01Publisher: DC Comics

Writer: Aaron Williams

Artist: Joseph LaCroix

Release Date: 1/2012-8/2012

bar

Diablo is not really a game series you see making a good comic, but Sword of Justice is a pretty decent one compared to all the terrible or mediocre adaptations I have been reading lately. The story follows a boy named Jacob who is part of the Barbarian tribe guarding Mount Arreat. However, one day his father executes his mother in a fit of rage about justice and law. It turns out that there’s some sort of rage blood curse pouring out through the Barbarian tribes and this specific tribe has isolated itself from the others claiming they are better due to their righteous laws and justice.

Of course this leads Jacob to travel the world trying to find a way to stop all this, and this is when he runs into a mage who helps him along his way. He picks up Tyreal’s sword of justice and tries to stop this blood curse. Without spoiling anything the 5 part series does a good job bringing out the characters and fleshing out an interesting story in just a measly 100 pages. The art is fantastic and dark and each character feels unique and likeable in some way.

What I love about this series is that it takes a small part of the Diablo Timeline and shows you what these people are going through on a daily basis due to the demons from the Burning Hells. The onslaught is never-ending and what Jacob has to go through it something that would break most people.

With that said, if you can find it, Sword of Justice is a fantastic comic series and does Diablo justice.

4.0

Diablo III: Book of Cain

downloadPublisher: Insight Editions9.0

Author: Various

Release Date: 12/12/2011

Pages: 148

MSRP: $39.99 (Hardcover)

Recommended Audience: Adult

bar

The Good: Fantastic design and atmosphere within the book, explains the Diablo universe and lore perfectly and makes complete sense of everything

The Bad: A little on the short side

If the game’s story can’t explain itself well enough or with enough depth always leave it to a book. Book of Cain does this in a very unique way by telling Diablo’s entire history via a tome written by Deckard Cain himself. The tome is beautiful with hand written notes to Leah at the beginning and end of the book which are actually quite touching. The illustrations and the way the book is written makes it feel ancient or just border-lining on the words of a mad man.

The book actually makes a lot of sense and answered so many questions about Diablo’s universe that the games didn’t quite get across well enough. While this book is more of a sum total of all events in the timeline is still brought to light many things. Mainly starting with how the universe was created. A diamond exploded, this diamond was the original God Anu, and its many faces turned into demons and angels. The book goes into great length about explaining each of the Prime Evils as well as the Lesser Evils and the Archangels as well.

After explaining how all this began the book goes into explanations of the many wars throughout history such as the Sin Wars, The Search for the Three, and even the Darkening of Tristram. Many major characters in all three games are talked about in-depth and their roles in Sanctuary’s dark history. I just love how well paced this book is and how Deckard’s writing style just sucks you in. Some times the book gave me goosebumps with how morbidly macabre and dark the book is. Deckard’s constant fear of the end times and knowing it will happen just sends chills down my spine.

The book even talks about many areas in the games and the many realms you trek through. After finishing the Book of Cain I am just glad I don’t live in that universe. There’s no happiness, no hope, and always fear and hate. With that said, if you are a fan of Diablo this book is a must read if not for the great info then the beauty of the book itself.

Tales of Hearts R

100149bPublisher: Namco Bandai8.0

Developer: 7seventh Chord

Release Date: 11/11/2014

Rating: Teen

MSRP: $39.99

Available Exclusively On

psvita

 

 

bar

The Good: Memorable story, great characters, lots of voice acting and dialog, deep and tense combat, New Game+ adds replayability

The Bad: Mass amounts of cut scenes can slow the pace, last two bosses create an overwhelming difficulty spike, cooking isn’t as useful as it should be, leveling system is a bit complicated, graphics are underwhelming

If you have been following this site for a while you will know by now that I don’t have much patience for JRPGs. They are usually extremely long, random battles get tedious to the point of me wanting to quit the game completely, and some times the stories and battle systems can be boring or convoluted or both. Tales of Hearts R just so happened to one of the few JRPGs available on Vita so I thought I would give it a try. I was in for a strange surprise.

The story itself is actually pretty decent and actually makes sense despite how involved it is. You play as a young hero named Kor Metor who is traveling the world to help save a girl named Kohaku along with her brother. There are links within people called Spirias. This is kind of like their soul. Somatics have weapons that are formed from this Spiria and Kor discovers he is one after watching his grandfather die at the hands of a woman named Incarose. There is a “Spiria disease” called xeroms that can cause dispir within people meaning part of their Spiria Core is missing or corrupted. Kor and his friends and “link” with people to fight off this corruption. Kor does this to Kohaku and shatters her core sending the shards into eight pieces across the globe. However, what threw me for a loop was that this whole adventure was only the first half of the game. The second half involves another huge plot with an entire ancient planet that can suck out these Spirias. Of course your new goal is to stop this new evil mad man.

ToH_Apr222014_06

Holy crap…I can’t believe I remember all that! With that said the story consists of endless cut scenes…I mean endless. There’s probably hundreds of cut scenes in this game but 90% of it is spoken Japanese dialog which is nice. There are a few anime cut scenes that are beautiful but I wish there were more. I know most people like cut scenes but I honestly felt it held up the game too much but that’s just personal preference. Aside from the story the combat is actually pretty intense and deep. You can control four different party members in real time in an arena. The attack buttons are completely customizable allowing you to assign new skills and “Artes” to Circle and X. While you hacking away at enemies a meter will charge that allows you to go into a “hyper drive” mode to deal more damage and take less. All while this is going on you can also assign other members’ skills to the touch screen by flicking their icon which I thought was a nice touch. I had one party member heal at my beck and call exactly how I wanted him too instead of relying on his AI which would usually wait until everyone’s HP was in the red.

Secondly, you level up in this game very oddly and it took me a while to figure it out. You don’t buy weapons in shops, only armor. Weapons are acquired by leveling up your members through their Somas. There’s some sort of complicated line chart in the form of a star, but thankfully the auto-level button just lets you choose what type of fighting style you want for that character and it will assign the points accordingly. Along with this there’s also cooking items which give you boosts during battles, but I never really got into this much. It did come in handy at times, but thankfully you level up fairly quickly while only hitting a difficulty spike on the last two bosses of the game. This required me to level grind for over a day just to raise my members up about 12 levels to get and edge over the bosses.

1

Lastly, there’s a lot of side content in this game and a New Game+ which is usually unheard of in JRPGs as they are linear and follow a set pattern and path. There are other difficulty levels that also raise the level cap (200) as well as a few side quests for people interested in some more side story (I usually hate side quests in JRPGs). With all that said it’s optional.

ToHR_Fami-Shot_11-21_002

After the credits rolled and I logged 30 hours into this game I felt satisfied. The ending had closure, the final boss was rewarding to fight, and I felt myself feeling relieved that the game was just the right amount of challenge throughout and not requiring constant bouts of level grinding. Graphically the game is average. Not very ugly but also doesn’t push the Vita to its limits. The music is monotonous and typical of a JRPG, but at least the voice acting is great. If you own a Vita this is probably the best JRPG you can plan outside of all those PS1 classics.

Razer Ouroboros

razer-ouroboros-mouse_extensionsManufacturer: Razer9.5

Release Date: 8/17/2013

MSRP: $149.99

 

 

bar

The Good: Fantastic design, extremely ergonomic, ingenious button placement, magnetic grips are simple and easy

The Bad: LEDs can’t change colors, issues switching from wired to wireless mode

I love gaming mice and I am slowly building a collection of them. It may sound odd to some people but gaming mice are the most advanced mice out right now and companies are innovating them physically and technologically. We have come a long way since the first mouse which was just one button. They almost look like spaceships or android robots. Razer is one of the biggest innovators when it comes to gaming technology and their mice have reigned supreme for the past decade. While I love the Naga and Mamba 2012; the Ouroborous is by far their best product yet. It seems physical customization is a new thing since Cyborg’s series of R.A.T. mice have come out and the Ouroboros looks like it’s taken a few pages from the R.A.T. 9.

tumblr_mcj36kfJqR1qm9irko1_500

First off the box just makes you oogle at the mouse. Sitting on that pedestal in the plastic case. It even made the employee at Best Buy (where I purchased my mouse) gaze in amazement since she had never seen anything like it. Razer products are boisterous and bold and they are also sleek. The Ouroborous is most sleek mouse I have ever seen or held. The low profile and sharp angles accompanied by the perfect LED placement makes this mouse look like something out of the future. While looks can be deceiving the mouse performs beautifully.

07c6bd5ecf10474720bcc822c363fc65

Having 8200 DPI may seem like overkill to most. This is one of the few mice out there that support it. After using my Mamba 2012 that had a max of 6400 DPI I figured it couldn’t get any higher. I have to say 8200 DPI is so sensitive a sneeze could make it move. Barely flexing my fingers muscles allowed me to move the entire mouse across the whole screen. Some people prefer little movement while some prefer lower DPI. While I personally would never use 8200 DPI (I prefer around 3000) it’s there for someone. I also felt that the laser itself is just so much better than any other mouse I have used. It glides just right has technology to detect what mat surface you are using. You can select your Razer mousepad in the Synpase 2.0 software which is great and I noticed a huge difference while using my Razer Vespula (speed side).

B00EWEHI5K_img1B00EWEHI5K_img3._SL285_

While the device may feel smooth and respond well in both wired and wireless mode, it’s also about how it feels in action. The Ouroborous comes with magnetic finger grips and/or rests. This is great for people who have a more fingered grip or use more palm, or just have big hands and don’t want your pinky or thumb to drag. The magnetic grips snap right on which ingenious and much more practical than the R.A.T. 9’s need for a tool. Now, the Ouroborous does come with a screwdriver but it’s separate and only needed to extend the palm rest and insert the rechargeable AA battery. One feature that I love about the Ouroborous is the wheel underneath the palm rest that allows you to tilt it for better grip. It allows you to fill in that gap in your palm if you’re a finger grip gamer or lower the palm rest for a more palm heavy gamer. This allows you to essentially suck the mouse into your hand rather than just trying to form the mouse to your hand like the R.A.T. series by Cyborg.

Razer_Ouroboros

With that said the buttons themselves feel amazing. This mouse has a dedicated clutch below the scrolls wheel dedicated to DPI switching which is a must as certain games register DPI differently. With this being an ambidextrous mouse the mouse is symmetrical. One feature I was surprised at was the thumb rests being clutches for shortcuts or macros. This works surprisingly well and I never accidentally clicked it by gripping the mouse too hard. It requires a right amount of force to not be accidental. Each clutch can be individually locked if you don’t like it or want only one side working. The side buttons are great since it allows 4 shortcuts/macros instead of just the two by your thumb. The scroll wheel is also fantastic and I am usually unhappy with most scroll wheels. This one has a nice grip and clicks down just right and isn’t too stiff. I feel there are just enough buttons by they are in places that make sense and are also immersive. The final thing would be the battery indicator located above the palm rest. A simple three light system is great for keeping an eye on your battery.

razer-ouroboros

Most gamers scoff at wireless mice as they can lag and the battery can die mid game. This battery can last about 12 hours on charge on lower DPIs. Wired mode works just as great. I also have to mention this mouse comes with the best dock I have ever seen. It is very small (must smaller than the Mamba dock) and uses magnets to pull the mouse down right on top. It also looks good as it doesn’t stick out past the mice giving it a feeling of levitation which looks nice. My biggest downside would be that I had issues switching from wired to wireless mode. I had to fiddle with drivers and restarts, but I tend to stay in wireless mode so I’m not too concerned. I also wish the lights changed colors instead of just being that “Razer green” like the Mamba 2012. However the green color does look nice and isn’t overused on the dock or mouse.

Darksiders II: Death’s Door

2454756-darksiders2_pg01Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Andrew Kreisberg

Artist: Roger Robinson

Release Date: 7/2012-9/2012

Issues: 5

bar

Darksiders II is a fantastic game. It’s had become a trend to slowly release comics up to a game’s release, but Death’s Door proves why this is such an issue. The main reason is that most of the game’s story can’t be spoiled before its release thus limiting the comic’s story. Death’s Door feel pointless and empty. Each of the 5 issues are only 13 pages full of maybe 10 sentences each. Sure the art is good but the story is seriously lacking and there’s absolutely zero character development. We don’t even know who Death is or the other Horsemen and the entire story is about some artifact that Death is trying to get back from an angel. Completely pointless and just plain forgettable.

What this comic also shows is that they need to be released after the game’s release. This gives the writers more freedom to advance or even divert from the game’s story while also incorporating and talking about it. Death’s Door at least looks decent but it’s also nothing special. Nearly every page is one piece of art with a few words that Death is narrating. It’s all a bunch of foreshadowing and riddles. The entire comic doesn’t make any sense even for people who have played the games. Sure we know who the characters are, but this series just doesn’t do the Darksiders franchise justice.

1.0