Dreamfall Chapters — Book One

2zrmg02Publisher: Red Thread Games7.0

Developer: Red Thread Games

Rating: Mature

Release Date: 10/2014-6/2015

MSRP: $39.99

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The Good: Dreamfall is back! Interesting story, fantastic voice work, excellent characters, engrossing atmosphere

The Bad: Extremely short, confusing and segmented story, almost no gameplay, frustratingly slow pace, poorly optimized graphics, non-existent facial animations

The Longest Journey was a game that got me into point-and-click adventure games. Released in 2000, The Longest Journey was a fantastic adventure with extremely memorable characters and an original and awesome story. It also looked good and kept you hooked unlike many adventure games of the time. Dreamfall: The Longest Journey was released with mixed reactions. While it was a technical marvel and did well on Xbox, it didn’t feel like a game, and too many other gameplay ideas felt shoehorned in. Despite that, it also had a fantastic story and was very memorable to me.

I was extremely excited when I heard about the Kickstarter campaign for a Dreamfall continuation. Of course it was in development before and had some problems which I felt would effect the current. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t, but Dreamfall Chapters isn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be. The atmosphere is here, Zoe is excellent like she always is, and the voice acting is awesome. The gameplay feels more similar to the original, but the story itself is so segmented and it just feels like it doesn’t have much direction.

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I wake up in the Dream world where I help people out who are stuck using Dream Machines, which is something Zoe tried to stop in Dreamfall. This felt right, and it was familiar. However, this entire “tutorial” level was one chapter. Imagine paying $40 for this game and only got the tutorial level as your first taste? Absolute bullshit. The second chapter has you playing as a male named Kian escaping from a prison. What his purpose is isn’t discussed as his escape is 20 minutes long and that concludes the entire second chapter. Again, another huge disappointment.

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Chapter 3 is the longest clocking in at about 2-3 on its own. That is if you talk to everyone and interact with everything and get lost as many times as I did. Being back in Stark is nice, but holy fuck is this town as confusing as can be. I got lost so many times, even with the directories laid around. There are no landmarks and the entire town is just poorly laid out. Despite that there is literally zero gameplay to this. There’s some useless segment in which you are putting algae into a river for your school research. I felt this was the most pointless filler in the game and was a huge irritating disappointment. The game moves at a snail’s pace as it is, but we don’t need this. Unraveling pieces of the story is like pulling teeth as the events seem trivial compared to the bigger picture like the previous games. I understand this is an episodic game, but nothing here shows me, or helps me, that I can look forward to Book Two. While I will be more than happy to play it, I just didn’t expect this after playing the last two games.

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Dreamfall Chapters is too early in development to see if this series has been killed or not. Hopefully Book Two’s pace picks up a little bit and we get a bigger grander picture to the events unfolding. For $40, this game is not worth it. This feel like a $10 game at best. I absolutely love the Dreamfall series, but I feel episodic releases aren’t the right direction. The game looks really well, but it poorly optimized and requires a ridiculous amount of power to render. I would stare at a huge vista at 90 FPS then look over to a wall with some lights and drop into the teens. What the hell is that about? I also noticed the facial animations are nearly non existent and the textures look a little weak. The entire game just feels a bit janky and sloppy, but hopefully it will get worked out.

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Wolfenstein: The Old Blood

2731835-wolftobPublisher: Bethesda7.0

Developer: Machine Games

Release Date: 5/5/2015

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $19.99

Also Available On

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The Good: Great voice acting and decent story, Nazi zombies are used just right, satisfying challenge not offered in most shooters, varied locales, excellent gun play mechanics

The Bad: Stealth ruins the pace, useless and poorly optimized graphics options, can feel a tad repetitive and too familiar to the last game

The New Order was a fantastic game. It oozed atmosphere, excellent action, weighty guns, and a decent story. It was the best Wolfenstein since Return to Castle Wolfenstein on PC which was released over 10 years ago. The Old Blood returns to give us a little extra snack with a nice prequel leading up to the beginning cut scene of The New Order. The Old Blood is all about finding the documents to Death Head’s compound while also fighting one of Nazi Germany’s many paranormal agenda’s…zombies. Yes, thankfully they don’t overstay their welcome. They only appear in the final chapter, but it is a nice pace from the broken stealth and gun fights.

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While The Old Blood’s story isn’t as fleshed out as The New Order, it’s not bad or awful at least. The same story telling mechanics are used here such as BJ’s narration in his head and some excellent voice acting all around. The game is literally the same outside of a couple of new guns. All the action from the previous game is here and it just feels great. It shows why Wolfenstein is one of the better shooters in recent times. It’s satisfying to shoot everything and it’s also extremely challenging which most shooters don’t offer. You have to use strategy and actually use cover or you will die, quickly.

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There are a few boss fights in the game, some of which are the hardest I have fought in a shooter in ages. The challenge alone is enough to bring hardcore shooters fans smiles even if they don’t like Wolfenstein. Despite the game’s short length (about 4-5 hours) there are a lot of different locales so things change up constantly. My biggest gripe about the game is the stealth. It never really worked in the last game either. You know you are in a stealth area when commander’s location show up on the screen. You are supposed to sneak around to silence them or waves of enemies keep coming until you kill them. Most of the time the areas are set up in a way in which you just can’t sneak around. This drove me nuts in The New Order and I’m saddened to see it returns here. I don’t know why stealth would be put into such an action heavy game, it ruins the flow and pace of the game.

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Outside of the gameplay, the graphics are pretty good except the textures. Even on PC with all the bells and whistles of DirectX 11 graphics, the textures look muddy and ugly up close. I don’t know if this was to squeeze them onto consoles, but I don’t like it. This game requires a monster rig to run at full settings, some in which are questionable. 32x anti-aliasing, really? It makes the game run at 8 FPS and under 30 even with a Titan X. Some other settings such as 8196 shadow maps just slow things down with no noticeable upgrade. I honestly think this is just crap to make PC gamers feel happy and to shut them up. The game isn’t optimized too well with texture pop-in either. Yes, I know there’s a setting for texture fade in but it doesn’t work. Outside of that the game looks decent, but with all these options available it should look better.

The Old Blood is well worth the $20 price tag. We get a lot of quality game for that, and hopefully this isn’t the end of Wolfenstein.

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Xbox One Controller

maksdHsFX8FOThTxP8c6oMwManufacturer: Microsoft9.5

Release Date: 11/22/2013

MSRP: $59.99

Colors: Black

 

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The Good: Better than the 360 controller, buttons feel amazing, improved D-pad and triggers, uses micro USB, rumble feature in bumpers is a nice addition

The Bad: High price, still uses standard batteries, no wireless option available for PC, bumpers click too loudly

NOTE: Controller was tested for 6 hours with Ryse: Son of Rome, Project Cars, and Resident Evil 6

I had by Xbox 360 controller for Windows for about 4 years and I felt it was time to finally upgrade. I won’t lie, the Xbox 360 controller is fantastic and was the best controller of the last generation, it was sturdy and extremely ergonomic. My 360 controller for PC has been through absolute hell. It has traveled with me for nearly 5 years on my gaming laptop and I played dozens of games with it from Batman: Arkham City to Need for Speed: The Run to Saints Row The Third. It’s scratched up, the four bumps on each analog stick are completely worn down, and the left trigger squeaks like a mouse. The cable is split in one area, I have taken it apart to clean it, goop got stuck down in the buttons, you name it. However, the controller hasn’t failed on me and works just fine for nearly any game that supports a controller. Any game that supports a controller since 2006 supports the controller. I have never had to use a third party button mapper for this thing. It’s fantastic and just awesome. Again, it’s time to move on and upgrade to the next biggest thing.

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The Xbox One controller is actually better than the 360 one out of the box since you don’t need a specific controller for PC. Just grab any Xbox One controller and plug it up via standard micro USB, install the drivers off Microsoft’s website, and you’re golden. Of course these are $20 more than 360 controller, but you’re getting a more advanced and better feeling device. The XBONE controller is black, which is better than the 360’s off white theme. The glowing white Xbox One logo helps the aesthetics compared to the green glowing one on 360. There’s a little glossy black piece that stick out above new menu buttons that holds the Xbox One logo. This is a great new design choice as it makes the controller look sleeker. Of course the button doesn’t do crap on PC, but it’s nice to press when you’re bored I guess.

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Holding the controller itself feels better than 360. The handles are tapered smaller at the bottom and are angular rather than round. This makes gripping the controller easier for people with smaller hands and it just felt better. The triggers are completely redesigned. They are softer yet glide much smoother and feel more responsive. They have a soft stop so you’re not slamming the triggers into the controller. It just feels so much better. The LB and RB buttons are a little disappointing. They are much louder and are a little harder to press. However, the bumpers vibrate for minute sensations and this is brand new for controllers. PS4 has the touchpad and speaker, and Xbox One has this new rumble feature. Honestly, I’ll take the speaker and touchpad over this any day, but it’s nice knowing Microsoft at least tried. Outside of that, the face buttons are much larger and flatter which is awesome. They don’t look so cartoony and aren’t colored like the 360. They are clear black but the letters are colored. So much better looking. Now, here’s the make-or-break part. The analog sticks and D-pad. The analog stick are actually wonderful. They are looser than the 360 sticks but you have more controller. Everything on the Xbox One controller is looser but much smoother with a “glade” feeling that just feels natural and buttery in your hands. The D-pad is something I really like. It clicks with feedback, but not like your think. This is a raised D-pad like the horrible one on the 360. It’s a in-set D-pad which feels responsive and fast.

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Here’s the dumbest part about the controller. It still needs AA batteries. 2015 and Microsoft is still making controllers like it’s 1995. Their theory is you won’t run into half-life issues and have to buy a new controller. I call bullshit on that. My PS3 controller from 2009 has been charged who knows how many times and I still get 15+ hours with it. This is just a money-making scam from MS to buy the $25 play-and-charge kit for the controller. The way around this is rechargeable AA batteries which MS surprisingly doesn’t suggest. Gee, I wonder why. With rechareables you can keep two spare for a quick swap.

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Here’s another downer, the controller can’t be used wirelessly on PC, at least not yet. The wireless dongle is yet to be released and will only work with Windows 10. Another stupid road block. Thankfully you can use any USB cable so the 360’s extremely long and thick cable isn’t an issue here. All in all, the Xbox One controller is fantastic and the best one you can get for PC. Just some stupid design choices get in the way of making it perfect.

Ryse: Son of Rome

91Uocj2zeRL._SL1500_Publisher: Crytek6.5

Developer: Crytek

Release Date: 11/22/2013 (XBONE) 10/13/2014 (PC)

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $59.99 (XBONE) $39.99 (PC)

Also Available On

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The Good: Fantastic audio/visual experience, many different locales are awesome, excellent characters and story

The Bad: Actual gameplay is repetitive and shallow, boss fights are a huge disappointment

I firstly want to say that Ryse isn’t as bad as critics made the game out to be. However, I can see why it was bashed so much. It was the most anticipated Xbox One launch title. When you throw down $500 on a new console plus $60 for a game you expect to get your money’s worth. Ryse would have pissed me off if that was the only game I picked up for the console. It the game awful? No, just very repetitive and feels like a typical rushed console launch game.

The story and characters in Ryse are fantastic. You follow a Roman Centurion named Marius Titus who is fighting the barbarian tribe known as the Britain’s. Marius’ family gets murdered by the barbarians, however there are quite a few plot twists that left me wanting more of the story. I actually love how the story and characters play out. It felt very authentic to the Roman Empire era, I felt like I was playing a piece of history and you can’t say that often about games. The architecture to the way the characters dressed just sucked me in. Even the fighting styles are brutal and authentic to Roman culture. The excellent facial animations and voice acting help drive the story even further, but it’s just so sad that the story was taken down by the repetitive and bland gameplay.

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The game actually seems really awesome during the first chapter. You get to order soldiers to fire volleys in enemies and control a Scorpio, but you don’t get that much control. You literally pick where your soldiers go to make the scenario easier or harder for you. There are several instances where this happens and I felt like it was a wasted potential. Sword play is just so boring by the end of the game. I actually avoided execution moves because they made me nauseous just looking at them (from repetition not the gore). When you execute an enemy the camera sweeps around in a cinematic frenzy. This is just so cool at first, but then you realize the quick time events don’t do shit. The enemies will glow yellow, blue, red, or green corresponding with the face buttons on the controller. This quick time event concept is actually great because it’s non-intrusive, but if you miss the quick time event there are zero penalties. The animations don’t stop, the enemy doesn’t get the upper hand, no loss of health, nothing. It doesn’t even interrupt your combo which is pretty much blasphemy in the action/adventure genre. Imagine playing God of War and failing a quick time event, after that the kill continues and nothing happens. What’s the point of the QTE then right?

There is one interesting mechanic that forces you to do QTE’s which isn’t too bad. There are four different things you can acquire from these QTEs and that’s health, XP, strength, and focus. I used the health drain and XP the most. I never even used my focus except for a couple of fights in the entire game. That’s not a good sign. To top it all off the boss fights are just boring and awful. Each boss uses the same two move sets through the whole fight and it becomes just a yawn inducing repetitive hit-and-dodge game. What makes the combat the worst off all, out of everything, is the same 10 execution animations are used on top of the same 5 enemy types that are just reskinned. It’s a lazy move that cost the game it’s legs and character that it got from the story and characters.

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Don’t get me wrong, the game is worth a weekend rental and it’s quite enjoyable thanks to the frequent locale change and fast-moving story. Thankfully the game doesn’t overstay its welcome by clocking in at about 4-5 completion time. I was able to get nearly all the upgrades before the end of the game, but this game is not worth a second play through, not one bit.

Let’s talk about visuals. Ryse is actually one of the best next-gen console game to be released…looks wise. On PC there are some enhancements like AA and SSAA as well as better shadows, and higher resolution textures. However, this game requires a monster rig (GTX Titan) or SLI 8xx-9xx cards to run at 60 FPS maxed out. My i7 4770 and GTX 670 dropped down to the teens in some areas. Ryse uses the CryEngine 3 which looks freaking amazing and next-gen consoles finally have the power to use it. If you don’t have a rig that was built in the last 18 months you should probably play it one Xbox One. There’s even an option to use Insane textures for 4GB VRAM GPUs. Ryse is one of the few games out that really pushes new rigs to their limits, so this is a good thing for PC gamers.

Screenshot taken directly from my game

Screenshot taken directly from my game

Topping it all off, Ryse isn’t an awful game. It’s a game that has strong legs that are weakened by the repetitive combat and awful boss fights. Many of the locales are just awesome, like the Colosseum, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome which can balance this out a bit. If the game was pushed back another year we could have had the best gladiator type game ever made (Shadow of Rome and Spartan: Total Warrior still remain at the top). It’s a great weekend rental or bargain bin purchase but nothing more.

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Killer N1202 Half-Mini Wifi Card

FcLljkveX__N.878x0.Z-Z96KYq (1)Manufacturer: Rivet Networks9.5

Release Date: 5/2012

MSRP: $39.99

 

 

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Killer series wifi cards have been elite gaming cards for a long time. With the new Killer N series, smaller sized wifi cards are now powerful beasts. The Killer N1202 also packs in Bluetooth 4.0 and 2.4Ghz/5Ghz speeds. Killer series cards are known for low jitter and smart data streaming. N1202 has a feature that will prioritize speeds to applications that need it the most such as game clients, Chrome, torrent clients, and various other speed hungry applications. You can manually set speed priority to other programs such as Windows Update, anti-virus updates, or various other programs that don’t require much speed. This is an amazing tool that you notice within the first few hours of use. I can download a game on Steam, and surf Chrome without slowing my download down. I tested the card on a 100 mbp/s connection and I rarely ever dipped under 10MB download speeds.

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Various other tools in the software allow you to see other wifi connections that are nearby compared to yours. This can help you pick a more vacant channel. There’s also a pie chart available to let you know what apps are using the most data and this can be reflected on the app control manager. The software even lets you put in your internet connection speed according to your ISP to help regulate and get the most speed out of your connection. Outside of the software the drivers were extremely easy to download and install with zero problems or hiccups. Windows recognized the card as soon as it was installed and booted up. However, there is a separate driver for the Bluetooth that I was unaware of and didn’t get until I needed to connect a device.

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This is the best wifi card I have ever had. With the low $40 price point, it’s hard to pass up for people who don’t want to be wired. With the data control and smart streaming software gamers, movie streamers, and heavy downloaders will love this card. If you have a rig that uses a half-mini card I highly suggest ditching whatever is in your system and picking this guy up.Capture

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

downloadPublisher: Konami7.0

Developer: Kojima Productions

Release Date: 3/18/2014

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $29.99

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The Good: Streamlined gameplay yet still familiar, open ended missions, great visuals, interrogating enemies

The Bad: A glorified 90 minute demo, using sounds as clues to find objectives is difficult, fans of the more linear games may hate the open endedness

When I first heard about Ground Zeroes being released, I thought of one other game: Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. A glorified demo that showcased the tech behind the game. This usually happens when games take way too long to release and the developers need some feedback. So, they release a chunk of the game for about $30 and get the world’s reaction. Ground Zeroes is actually a glorified demo of the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. If you aren’t a Metal Gear fan…well what the hell are you reading this for?!

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Ground Zeroes is actually taking place after the PSP game Peace Walker which really surprised me. The game is made up of one giant mission in a large military compound. You must rescue to children, Chico and Paz who were main character in Peace Walker. The first thing I noticed about GZ was how much everything has improved from visuals to controls and animations. The entire familiar gameplay is streamlined like is should have been years ago. No longer do you have the radio menu where you dial in and talk to people with long dialogue sequences. Just press a button to get hints on what to do, genius. The aiming is also a lot better this time around, as well as inventory swapping and interacting with objects. Again, it’s all very familiar but just more streamlined. My favorite combat feature is when you are alerting a guard the game will slow down and turn towards the guard you alerted. You get about 10 seconds to put the guy down before he raises the alarm. Thanks to the more open environments it’s much easier to see where everyone is. Climb up a watch tower and use your binoculars to tag enemies is just what the series has needed for awhile.

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That’s another thing some MGS fans will not like, the open endedness of the levels. The compound is huge with many rooms, areas, and buildings. A new feature in MGSV is to interrogate an enemy but sneaking up behind them and grabbing them. They will tell you where something valuable in the area is like an armory, weapon, or enemy placements.  You can choose to kill enemies or knock them out with your tranq pistol (like the good ‘ol days). Figuring out where to go wasn’t too difficult. My first objective was getting Chico from a prison camp not too far from where I started. The second objective, finding Paz, was a real pain as I had to use sound clues from a cassette recording to find out where she was. I finally figured out what area, but it was getting to the right building that was tough. Silencers in this game eventually break so I was stuck with just a tranq dart and couldn’t disable cameras. I had to run around finding an armory that had another silenced weapon to continue and I died many times doing so.

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Once I got Paz I called in a chopper to pick her up. I jumped on an AA gun since her being missing was discovered and the whole base was on alert. Thankfully no one took the chopper down and I was able to squirrel away to the starting point to end the one hour mission. After the final cut scene the game ended and I thought that if I had paid for this game I would have been really pissed off.

With that said, Ground Zeroes shows us just what Phantom Pain will be like and I also have to mention that Kiefer Sutherland pulls off a better Snake than David Hayter. Yes, I said it, bite me.

Sorcery 2

Icon_ipad7@2xDeveloper: inkle9.0

Release Date: 11/7/2013

Rating: Teen

MSRP: $4.99

Also Available On

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The Good: Organic story telling with choices that lead from great to small consequences, every single choice matters, huge world with great lore, great visuals and sounds

The Bad: Can be very confusing at first and frustrating if you are new the to series

Fighting Fantasy novels are some of the best fiction I have ever read. Being translated to a game is even better thanks to all the perks that come with a game. Not having to keep track of stats, inventory, or where to turn the page. Sorcery is a series created by Steve Jackson and is wonderfully crafted. It’s not so much the characters in the game, but the world itself and how it’s portrayed.

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When the game starts out the player comes across a beggar and has complete freedom to kill him, greet him, or just ignore him. In fact, this is a completely open game; every choice matters until the very end. I was just surprised at how much detail went into each choice and each move. Every step of the way a choice can be made that can kill you, help you, or show consequences later in the game. Just greeting or ignoring someone can be optional or that is the person you needed to talk to to make your path easier. It’s so organic though, and that’s the magic of this game.

The goal of the game is to find four magic lines that you must recite at the north gate of the city that has been locked for thousands of years. Of course you can leave the city and leave it to be burned down by the raiding Orcs and Goblins, however this is the cheap way out. If you missed one of the four nobles you must find you can warp back to a point in the city and try the area again. Another thing I really loved is that your character remembers going through these areas so the game is adjusted accordingly. You can avoid traps, being captured, and fights to make going to areas you missed easier. You can also rewind any encounter at any time without any penalties which is a blessing for these choose your adventure games.

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The visuals are rather charming and feel like something that has come right out of a book. The sound design is a little lacking, but when it does kick in, along with the music, it’s fantastic. The other two elements of the game besides adventuring are magic and combat. Magic is used throughout the entire game from predicting traps, weakening enemies, creating shields, or making yourself bigger. Magic can be used to help or harm people. Combat is strategic in a way that you must read what’s going on with the enemy and then watch their stamina bar to predict how hard your next attack should be or to defend.

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In the end I had one problem, I couldn’t figure out where the last two nobles were, I almost gave up on the game, but some of the clues finally made sense and I was able to find both nobles in one try before going back to the north gate. The story flowing organically allowed me to remember where I heard about the nobles and that I had visited those areas and it finally clicked. Once I opened the game I finished the ending and couldn’t wait to jump into Sorcery 3. This game is highly recommended to RPG fans and choose your adventure fans.

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