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Review – Saints Row the Third (PC, Xbox360, PS3)

2011 – Volition – 1 Player (Campaign) Multiplayer (Online)
PC, PS3, Xbox360

The Good

  • Loads of fun Gameplay
  • Reminiscent of classic GTA
  • Amazing custom character creation with voices and interactions not just “faceless”

The Bad

  • The missions are kind of just a repetition of a handful of mini games
  • Kooky level may be too much for some people’s taste.

In Depth

Saints Row really has a comeback story behind it. The first game is apparently rather terrible. the second game is better but not great. It’s already saddled with being a “GTA knockoff” by default no matter what it does. Somewhere Volition has managed to get something really right because Saints Row the Third seems to be quite a hit among gamers. So much of a hit that THQ had decided to focus more on games like Saints Row over things like it’s failing Wii Tablet thing (U-Draw).

This thing is pretty long and image heavy, so you’ll have to click through to get the whole thing.

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Review – Fez (PC, PS3, XBox 360, PS4, Vita)

2012 – Polytron Corporation – 1 Player
* Review is based on the PC Release

The Good

  • Neat and well executed 3D rotation Gimmick
  • Interesting and reasonably complex puzzles

The Bad

  • Some of the puzzles are a little too complex and not obvious that they are even there.
  • Drives to be a community experience but the community has kind of dried up.
  • Navigating around the world is tricky and can get confusing.

Review

Fez Fez is a platform game centered around a 3D rotation gimmick. The core game play is simple platform mechanics. Walk around, jump and climb, with moving platforms and such thrown in. There aren’t a lot of enemies to contend with which doesn’t really matter because dying has no consequence anyway. The trick is, that Gomez, your character has been bestowed with the Magic Fez (or whatever) and can rotate the world 90 degrees left and right. This changes the layering of some objects allowing previously inaccessible paths to be accessible. The object is to collect these cube things. There isn’t much of an actual story.

It’s something that kind of has to be seen to really be understood but the general idea is, that say, there is a platform floating off to the right that you can’t jump to. Rotating the world may bring that platform in front of your current platform. You can then jump to it as if it’s in the same 2D plane. You can then rotate the world back and you will have no cross the gap that was previously not crossable.

Fez Keeping track of the 3D environment can be tricky if the player is poor at spacial logic. The other puzzles all tend to revolve around learning (read Googling a key) for the multiple in game alphabets. These are little symbols that show up from time to time. Sometimes they look like Tetris pieces instructing the player to enter a certain button sequence, sometimes they are little riddles that you must answer. They are basically cryptogram puzzles. I probably would have figured it out eventually but I didn’t even know these factors were a “thing” until i went searching for answers online, which is kind of a problem of game design. It’s not a bad idea, it’s just not presented in a way that is overly intuitive to the player.

Fez This is also a problem with the in game map. I went through almost the entire first half of the game before even knowing there was a map. a map that not only makes navigating the 3Dish world much easier but tells me when I have cleared out an area. You might think “how can you blame your own stupidity on the game?” Because it’s, once again, poor design. I played most of this game using a controller with at least a dozen buttons. Not one of the buttons was mapped to the map. Both the right shoulder buttons were mapped the same and both the left shoulder buttons were mapped the same, yet I had to press escape on the keyboard to open the map. In a game with such redundancy in it’s controls I would expect something as almost necessary as a map to at least be on the Start or Select button, it was not. This is likely not an issue on console versions of the game which don’t have a keyboard.

FezThe game itself also has a few bugs, at least one pretty substantial one that I uncovered (though I am sure I am not the first). One of the puzzles involves cubes which only shot up on certain time intervals, the longest of which is every 48 hours. Firstly, any puzzle which requires player intervention at such a specific time period is pretty shoddy to begin with. This can be “circumvented” by futzing with the time settings of your PC (or console). Doing this seemed to screw up my save file though. I ended up resetting my play time. Not a huge deal. I did however seem to reset several cubes that I had collected, sort of. The map showed them uncollected and I could rediscover them, but at some point I had collected “everything” and could still get more cubes. It didn’t increment my cube counter though. and I could complete the game as if I had everything.

Fez I believe in my searching for clue to complete the puzzles I read that you can collect all of the cubes in one play through but finishing the game once unlocks a FPS view mode which is required to see several hidden codes. It also unlocks a flight mode which basically turns the game into “easy mode”.

Completing the game a second time unlocks a Red and Blue 3D view (which can be disabled). I am not real sure how effective this mode is as I don’t have any 3D glasses floating around to test it with.

Anyway, it’s an interesting game. If you like the idea of combining cryptographic text puzzles with a platformer in a slightly confusing 3D environment then by all means give this game a go. Frankly, I probably enjoyed this game less than i should have. I don’t have the time or patience for this sort of puzzler so I ruined half the fun by just looking up the answers. I did find the 3D rotation gimmick enjoyable though.

Review – From Dust (PC, PS3, Xbox360)

2011 – Ubisoft – One Player

The Good

  • Interesting Gimmick where you manipulate the world using literal God Power
  • Eventually there is a sandbox mode, which is neat.

The Bad

  • The gimmick is way more limited than it is made out to be and the world tends to “right” itself
  • The above makes a lot of the levels frustrating since you try to do X but it just sort of fails…
  • By the time you unlock the Sandbox, you’ll hate the game play.

In Depth

Ok, I tried… I really tried. If possible, I try to complete a game before I do a review of it. This means being late to the game most of the time but it also means I get to experience all that the game has to offer, which is the way it should be. There are exceptions for various reasons, some games don’t have a real ending, some are repetitious enough that it’s clear nothing more is going to be gained by continuing onward.

Others become so frustrating and irritating I just can’t being myself to finish it no matter how hard I want to. From Dust is one of the latter set there. (more…)

Review – Battlefield 1 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

2016 – EA DICE – Single Player/ Online Mutiplayer

The Good

  • Visuals are top notch and dense
  • World evolves and changes as the battle continues
  • Massive miltiplayer battles that really feel like a war.

The Bad

  • Dense visuals can be extremely confusing most of the time
  • Leveling process is extremely slow
  • Price (Game, Micro Transactions, DLC, etc)

Note, I generally try to use my own screen shots but despite my best efforts with several tools, I couldn’t get this game to TAKE screen shots.  Chock that into the negatives if you want.  These shots are pretty indicative of what things look like, if anything, they are too sparse.

tl;dr Review

This isn’t the first Battlefield Game and it won’t be the last.  It is the first one that I’ve personally played however.  This sort of title isn’t really my type of game but I’ve found that I ended up enjoying it a lot and really stuck with it despite it’s flaws.

Most of these flaws are in the level progression, which is extremely frustrating and slow on all fronts.  Also, being an EA title, it’s kind of ridiculous how expensive this game is in order to get the “complete experience”.

It’s a lot of fun though and definitely a different play experience than the types of FPS games I generally play (think, TF2).  It’s much more grounded in a realism aspect, there isn’t any kooky power ups or super abilities, and you die pretty quickly if you get shot.  The game is pretty much built around the idea of dying a lot, the opening tutorial style missions says this right off the bat.  The line is “You aren’t expected to survive”.

The battles also feel huge, despite the massive open areas of each map.  You will almost always be surrounded by fellow soldiers with gunfire and explosions all around.  It’s easy to get lost and killed without even seeing the enemy.

It’s not likely a game that will appeal to everyone given it’s frantic nature but it’s a lot of fun to be sure.

In Depth

I want to start off with the problems, which are things that could be patched and fixed but reading around online about the history with other titles from the same folks, it’s not likely to happen.

The biggest annoyance is how slow progression is on all fronts.  Your account has an overall level and rank which progresses the quickest, you gain points for how you perform throughout each round.  I can tell you from experience that you don’t have to be the best shot and get the most kills to progress this rank.  I’m pretty terrible at killing the enemy and often have a Kill/Death ratio in the range of 1/10+.  I also still finish in the top ten players on the team often, since points are also earned for how much team work you do.  Kill assists, Medic healing, and control point capturing all help push up your score and rank.

As near as I can tell, this rank is mostly just good for earning money to unlock weapons.

There are also 4 classes, Assault, Medic, Support, Scout.  Each class has it’s own rank up system.  This system feels like it runs extremely slow and has the most impact on gameplay.  After fifteen hours of play across all classes, I only managed to level up one class to Rank 1.  I believe there is a maximum of Rank 10 on the classes.  Ranking classes allows you to unlock (via in game currency) new weapons and equipment to expand how you can play your classes.  Based on my experience, the new weapons work much better than the earlier ones.  I may or may not be an awful shot, but I find I often will unload 4 shotgun blasts into an enemy without a kill only to get killed in one shot in return.

This actually makes things kind of discouraging for new players getting into the game.  Dying is part of the game, but dying constantly despite what seems like a good effort starts to get discouraging.  Leveling up classes seems to be done by getting kills and such with the classes, which means it’s slowed even more when you are fighting stronger enemies with weaker weapons.

I don’t expect to be Rank 10 after a week of play, but it would be nice to see SOME progress.

Then there are the medals.  It’s not super clear within the game how Medals work and they don’t seem to really affect gameplay other than being a nice fun side mission to work towards.  Essentially, they are like achievements, only not (he game has it’s own separate achievements).  A different set of 5 medals become available each week.  They involve things like “Get 10 kills with the shotgun”.  Each medal has 3 stages.

Problem One, you must select which of the 5 medals you want to work towards before a match.  If you select an Assault based Medal, you can’t earn the Medic medal just by switching classes, which is pretty lame.  The 3 stages also need to be earned in order, which is also lame, since many of the later stages are tricky enough to earn.  For example, the above metal will have the stages, “10 kills with shotgun”, “5 headshots with shotgun”, “5 kills in one life”.  Killing ten people with headshots in one life with the shotgun, will only earn the first stage.

This is the biggest issue, because it really discourages newer players from getting into the game.  It encourages older players to always be more powerful which only results in a constant stream of death which just drives people away.

This isn’t helped with how confusing things can get, especially early on.  The maps are huge, there are enemies running everywhere and friendly players running everywhere.  There is a constant stream of noise and explosions, and the terrain changes drastically as the battle rolls on.  This is really both a plus and a negative actually.  It makes the game harder, but it also makes things way more interesting and it’s a nice realism effect.  War, especially this kind of on the ground war, is confusing and bloody and overwhelming.

Rolling into the positives, I really do like the crazyness of everything as much as I hate it.  Many of the buildings and structure can be damaged, so as more tank fire and canon fire rains down on the maps, the builds fall apart or get destroyed, walls will be missing sections, there will be huge craters to hide inside dotting the landscape.  You can take a tank and drive it through a small house and a wall and it will leave a permanent huge hole.  You can bombard a building with cannon fire and it will start to collapse revealing the structure and any enemies inside.  You can pummel a checkpoint from a one of the giant airships into a flat wasteland removing all cover for anyone trying to capture it.

This all makes the game pretty graphics intensive, though it’s worth mentioning even on under powered hardware it seems to run pretty well.  I get a warning that my video card is under the minimum but everything still runs fine and looks great.

The result is the battle feel HUGE.   Though admittedly sometimes they are huge.  Often there will be 64 players running around on a map making little ad hoc teams to drive tanks or defend or capture control points.  Everyone has a place as well and though there are only 4 classes, you can select different sets of equipment for different play styles.  For example, you can select trip mines and such as a Scout to try to snag enemies at choke points, or you can use the flare gun to help reveal enemy locations for your team mates.  The Assault Class can use different grenades for dealing with troops or heavier artillery to deal with tanks and armored cars.

There are also the limited “other” classes.  Such as piloting one of several types of planes across the battlefield, or jumping on a horse and running around shooting and swording people.  Occasionally the losing team gets a massive overpowered bonus in the form of a massive battleship, a zeppelin or an armored train, these have gun emplacements which can be used by the players to decimate enemy locations.  It adds a lot of variety, though it’s a shame some of it is behind the slow leveling gatekeeping mechanic.

You can also earn unlocks with “Battlepacks” which are your pretty standard fare micro transaction random loot boxes.  You can earn them through regular gameplay or by purchasing them in the store.  The gate keeping mechanism also kind of discourages low level players from purchasing these packs however.  The weapons still have a Class level limitation, so you may find a good weapon drop and still be completely unable to use it.  This is kind of a shame since, though it costs money, it would be a good way to help give newer players and edge if they so wanted if the weapons were instantly usable.

This leads into my last point, though it’s more a critique of modern gaming, especially EA.  This game is really expensive.  The base game is $60, the Deluxe version that contains some weapons and cosmetics is $80 and the Ultimate edition which includes all (eventual) DLC packs is $130.  Now, the base game does go on and has been on sale, but that extra $50+ for the DLC isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.