Dungeon Keeper Review

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Dungeon Keeper
Pub:  Electronic Arts / Dev: Mythic Games
Android/iOS

Approaching this review, you may have heard one or two things about terrible gameplay, predatory business models and a shocking disregard for gamers shown in this title. These things are all true –  Even stuff you might have made up in your head, on the spot, just then. Dungeon Keeper is probably the greatest example of how the mobile game market needs a radical overhaul – and that action needs to start with you, today.

I knew this game was in the pipeline but had forgotten about it around release, so I was surprised to see a couple of YouTubers suddenly coming up with videos about one of my favourite older game franchises. I was not ready for what I saw on screen and – despite their warnings – went ahead and downloaded the game from the Play Store.

Dungeon Keeper does not fail because it is an inherently bad game. The IP of Dungeon Keeper is strong; you play the villain who builds a dastardly dungeon filled with traps and minions and you must defend it against the incursions of pesky ‘heroes’ and other ‘Keepers vying for power. The original concept came from Bullfrog Games who were responsible for many classics in the 90s (that have since been shat all over by EA – I’m looking at you, Syndicate) and was full of character and interesting gameplay mechanics. Essentially a realtime strategy game, you design and dig out your dungeon and interact with monsters to gather resources and fight battles. Playing from the bad guy’s point of view was novel, but the humour was what made the games shine.

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Dungeon Keeper does fail because it treats you, the player, like an idiot. The redesign of the game needs you to be a hyperactive cash-cow, randomly clicking everything and throwing money at the screen – or it requires you to not really enjoy playing games at all, and instead merely check-in once or twice a day to tap a flashing button.

Like the original games, you still dig out your own dungeon. Again, like the original games you send your imps to dig out rock to make space for rooms. What makes it slightly different to the original is that some rocks take 4 hours or dig out.

Or a day.

So if the idea of ponderously digging out a 5×5 room over the course of a month appeals to you, then great. Go ahead and download.

Alternatively you can take what the game itself calls ‘quite the polarizing solution to make the timer disappear’ and pay. The game knows it is being exploitative. The game knows that it is cashing in on what are hopefully the final death-throes of a monetization model designed to mug, and mug heavily, a few people who get caught in its trap.

To put it simply, you can pay quite a lot of money to progress more quickly. Without paying, there is basically no game to speak of. Everything has a timer and nothing is fun. If you want to make the slightest change to your dungeon, the game sticks out its grubby paw and asks for payment – like a drunken busker stumbling his way through some of your favourite tunes and demanding cash in return for silence.

I don’t care that they got the original voice actor back to play the games’ narrator. I don’t care that there are a couple of moderately funny one-liners. Dungeon Keeper 2014 is NOT A GAME. It is a cynical and manipulative title that gives you no reason to play it. Were it to have been released at £15, with  no additional micro-transactions tacked on, it might have been worth a look – but I have neither the time, inclination nor bottomless pockets to discover what the ‘end game’ of this particular title might be.

I’d like that to be the end of it. It would have been nice if we could just turn away from Dungeon Keeper and never speak of it again. This is however, one final aspect that I have to bring up – just in case you come across this title in the app store and get confused by the ratings. Like many other titles, this game will ask you to rate it and – again like many other titles – it will ask you to give it five stars. Here’s the thing about that – if you choose 5 stars from the in-game options it will take you to the store page to rate it. If you choose 1-4 stars it will ask you ‘send feedback’ to them EA instead.

Sneaky. How many people do you think actually follow up, find the game page in the store and rate the title from there? I would suggest a great deal fewer than the ones who just click ‘5 stars’ to get rid of message.

I don’t know how to put it more plainly than this: do not download Dungeon Keeper – it sucks.

Do not tolerate ‘free-to-wait’ games that offer you virtually nothing in return.

Hell, even Flappy Bird offers a complete experience.

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Reviewer: Karlos Morale

Dungeon Keeper is out now for Android and iOS

Dungeon Keeper is ‘free to play/wait’

 

Long Live the Queen Review

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Long Live the Queen
PC
Hanako Games

How is it that the animals are always first to know?

Look at almost any horror film you can name and the little barking doggy or the startled cat is the first indication, to any character willing to see it, that misadventure is about to befall. Animals, it would appear, have some kind of preternatural sense of impending doom – it’s just we humans who are too dumb to recognise it. Trouble is, as soon as our animal friends – whom we feed and protect for years – sense anything dangerous they give the most useless warning signals going. Oh, puppy is barking at the door? Well it could be that the old man outside is a hideous were-beast from beyond the veil, or it could be that puppy needs a piss. Thanks for making that clear, pup. Now we’re all dead.

Well, great news if you enjoy obscure animal signals leading to your untimely demise, because Hanako Games has brought us what I can only imagine is a world’s first ‘useless animal sign of death’ simulator, under the charming name of Long Live the Queen.

In this game, you play as Elodie, a 14 year old princess with gigantic eyes whose job it is to survive long enough to become queen – just 40 short weeks are all that separates you from the crown that your mother vacated by virtue of ‘magical mishap’. It would be nice to think that your soon-to-be subjects are all rooting for your in your bid to take control and have a bit of sympathy for you as a young girl who has suddenly lost a parent. Unfortunately, life in the court of Nova is a dangerous place and basically everyone has an agenda of some kind. Only by harnessing the skills necessary to be queen will you survive long enough to take the throne.

Long Live the Queen is a story that you read, with some game-y elements that make it feel very similar to a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ story. You make choices based on the information you have (or have learned from previous playthroughs) and hope that you are choosing wisely.

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Given that most people you meet seem to either subtly or openly hate you and want to see you dead, and that violent murder can come suddenly from any direction, you swiftly need to get Princess Elodie up to speed on how to manage the affairs of the kingdom. This is done by attending classes in various topics to increase your skills (hey, that’s a lot like life!) which could be things such as Public Speaking, Animal Handling or World History, amongst many others. Being a teenager, Elodie’s mood is up and down like a yo-yo in a hurricane and her mood effects her ability to learn certain skills at certain times. Happy Elodie wants to go running and swimming whereas lonely Elodie prefers more cerebral pursuits.

All of this is done in the vain hope that one day, your skill in accountancy or dancing will prevent you from getting stabbed, poisoned, blown up or any of the other fail-states that punctuate your story.

Fear not however, as death doesn’t exactly mean the end of your tale – rather that you begin it again – and try to make better decisions to prevent your demise.

In fairness, murder doesn’t always come out of the blue. Sometimes you might get a piece of text that describes a falcon flying over head and dropping a twig. Other times you might hear a dog barking. These are clues. And if you don’t have the necessary skill to interpret them, they are f*cking useless clues which – as you expire from eating poisoned chocolates or whatever – you realise it would have been better if you’d have picked up on.

Although there are multiple paths to victory, there is definitely an optimal way to play through the game. A wiki guide can take you straight through to the end with zero effort on your part besides a little clicking and reading.

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So here’s the kicker – will you care enough to want to see Elodie’s story played out through to the end? Unfortunately, I’ve got to say probably not. At £7 on Steam, it really is hard to recommend this title when there are so many other games vying for your attention and hard-earned cash. Although Long Live the Queen is certainly an interesting title, there is little variation (the story can be virtually identical from playthrough to playthrough) and, once beaten, little incentive to return. It is certainly a charming game, with relaxing music and undemanding visuals that are pleasant to look at – stats screen aside – but I have to say that you’re probably better off watching one of your favourite YouTubers do a Let’s Play of it than play through it yourself.

Long Live the Queen simply doesn’t offer enough fun to make it a worthwhile purchase.

Now I am off to keep a close eye on my dog, in case she is trying to warn me that the new bowl which has appeared in my house is a bomb by going to sleep on the stairs and shedding exactly the same amount of fur as normal.

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Karlos Morale

Long Live the Queen is out now for PC

Try the demo here

Hearthstone Preview

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Blizzard Entertainment
PC

Here we go then; one of the most talked about titles in PC gaming has finally hit the open beta stage, so it’s time for everyone who hasn’t played it yet to stop waiting for access keys and start slinging fireballs and dropping Leper Gnomes with wild abandon.

For the as-yet uninitiated, Blizzard’s Hearthstone is a Collectible Card Game or CCG, bearing some similarities to that classic of the genre, Magic: The Gathering – a game which has transcended its roots in sweaty gaming clubs to make it a highly popular game across various gaming platforms.
You choose a hero and build a ‘deck’ of virtual cards with which to do battle against either AI or other players on your server.

Hearthstone is a turn-based game where you select from your hand of cards and try to whittle down your opponents life-counter to zero, thereby winning the game. Your only limitations are the cards in your deck and the mana pool (points to spend on playing cards) available to you. It is an intense game of strategy and counter play, with a nice dollop of randomness and luck that you need to learn to get on your side. Many forums ring with praise for the RNGesus – the god of the random number generator, and those who bemoan when he has turned away from them at the crucial moment.

So far then, so like many other CCGs out there. So what sets this apart from Magic, Scrolls and the rest?

Well for a start it comes from the mighty PC gaming juggernaut that is Blizzard Entertainment, home of the best-selling MMO, World of Warcraft and eSports colossus Startcraft 2. Hearthstone draws on the characters that are familiar to Warcraft players to populate its world and therefore comes with a strong personality right out of the gate – but that’s not all that it has to entice new players.

Hearthstone’s real strength lies in the immediacy of its gameplay and the power of its assets to grab the curious. Every card dropped onto the field comes complete with its own catchphrase and effects. Similarly, the heroes are all well-voiced and characterful, drawing players in and getting them to invest in what otherwise could have been a rather dry gameplay experience. Add this to the usually fast-paced nature of the turn taking and the rather glorious and visceral nature of the simple animations and you have a game where most people who see it in action think, ‘I’d like to play that.’

Blizzard pulled off a bit of a coup by releasing Hearthsone at the best price point available – free to play. This means that if you are interested in checking out their game there is literally no barrier to entry besides signing up for a battle.net account and having a functioning PC. Of course, being a collectible card game, the is the option there for you to buy packs of cards with hope of improving your deck, but with a bit of luck and some time spent playing you can build a decent deck from just spending currency earned in-game.

I honestly surprised myself after a couple of weeks playing that I put my hand in my pocket to buy a few packs of cards. I am the last person usually to buy into ‘freemium’ models for gaming, but Hearthstone manages to make the whole experience so enjoyable that I felt it was definitely worth supporting the developer and handing back some cash for all the hours of enjoyment that I had already.

And hours of enjoyment is right! There are two main play modes, the first being online play with constructed decks that you have worked on over time. This can be in either casual or ranked mode where you play against people of equal skill level to yourself and hopefully move up the ranks over time. The second main mode is the Arena. The Arena mode differs by seeing you use a deck that you have drafted for that particular play session. You choose a hero and then are given 30 sets of three cards, picking your most favoured one each time to build a deck with. Then you enter into the arena, playing against other people’s drafted decks who have the same number of wins as you from that particular run. Your session ends at either 12 victories or 3 defeats, which comes soonest. At the end of your Arena run, you are given a set of rewards which could be either gold, ‘dust’ (for crafting specific cards) or cards. It’s hugely addicting as the vast number of Hearthstone Arena videos on YouTube and streams on Twitch.tv will attest.

OK, so that’s the praise and as effusive as it was, there is room for some complaints – although this part of the review needs the caveat that Hearthstone is still in Beta and is being regularly patched and updated. Firstly, the game suffers with some game breaking bugs on occasion. These come in the form of graphical glitches, cards overlapping and cards swapping position on the board. Although this sounds minor, in a game where strategy is everything, a random piece of misplacement on the behalf of the game engine can be hugely frustrating – especially if it ends your arena run. Secondly, there are some semi-frequent issues with accessing the servers which can prevent you from playing the game completely. Worse, on occasion the game will disconnect you from the server due to an issue at their end which results in a loss for you – again, less than ideal. Finally, although I would not call this game pay to win, it can feel a pretty unfair for newer players to see their plans destroyed by players who have ‘legendary’ (rare and powerful) cards in their deck. With experience you will discover that these cards are not necessary to win, but can feel like an unfair advantage when you begin.

Having said all that, if you can remember you’re getting into a game that is still in Beta and is steadily being improved, I can heartily recommend that you check out Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft right now. Oh, look – here’s a helpful link to help you do just that:

http://eu.battle.net/en/int

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Reviewer: karlosmorale

Score – 7/10 (will rise when Beta issues are resolved)
Out Now for PC with Android and iOS versions to follow.
Hearthstone is free to play.

Character Cards

Community Review – MLG Pro Circuit Controller for PlayStation 3

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We are pleased to announce the return of our community review section. Community plays a very important part at Frugal Gaming and we’ll be publishing reviews submitted to us by our forum members, Twitter followers and Facebook friends.

Review by Forum Member @csreynolds09

Ten years ago, Sundance DiGiovanni and Mike Sepso founded Major League Gaming, a professional electronic sports organisation headquartered in New York that sought to elevate videogames tournaments to viable competitive and spectator events. In the last decade its Pro Circuit has hosted and broadcast countless national and international championships, awarding victors with monetary prizes exceeding tens of thousands of dollars. These competitions illustrate that playing games is more than a casual undertaking to some; it’s an opportunity to fund an education, or secure a future.

When it comes to peripherals, particularly joypads, few third party companies cater to this breed of player. Sure, many may market their merchandise with punchy slogans promoting improved durability or game-changing features, though from experience the ‘style over substance’ ideology rings true too often. Not so with the MLG Pro Circuit Controller. Built by reputable manufacturer Mad Catz, its creation has been heavily influenced by feedback from elite MLG competitors. It is therefore a controller designed by gamers for gamers, but can it realistically compete with Sony Computer Entertainment’s robust and reliable DualShock 3?

On initial inspection, the MLG PCC is a hybrid of Microsoft and Sony’s first party pads. Its glossy chassis is modelled on the Xbox 360 controller, while its two convex (curving out or bulging outward) analog sticks and divided D-Pad are laid out as per the classic PS3 arrangement. But there’s much more to the product. Delve deeper into its packaging and you’ll discover a number of substitutable ancillary components, including matte finish faceplates, two concave (curving in or hollowed inward) analog sticks, an adjoined D-Pad, and an clip-on cartridge containing two 35g weights – all of which can be interchanged on-the-fly without the need for a screwdriver or similar tool.

Lift the primary faceplate from the five mini magnets holding it in place and you’ll gain access to MC’s patented ProModule system. Say you want to swap the right convex thumb stick for a concave one. Simply twist the analog module anticlockwise to unlock it, and remove it. Then, insert the replacement analog module and rotate clockwise until a click is heard. Return the faceplate and presto, job done. The MLG PCC’s hassle-free compartmental construction empowers gamers to build a controller that meets their individual preferences, be it an Xbox-style layout (left concave analog, adjoined D-Pad, right concave analog) a PS3-style layout (divided D-Pad, left convex analog, right convex analog) or an exclusive configuration somewhere in between.

The third-party pad doesn’t fail to impress from a performance perspective either. Its rubberized contours sit comfortably in the palms of your hands, and hours of continuous play can be had before your digits’ dexterity starts to deteriorate. A mandatory wired connection precludes battery-related disconnections occurring at inopportune moments, and the 3m gold-plated USB cable supplied eliminates input latency, ensuring that thumb sticks, D-Pad, face and shoulder buttons respond optimally. The most welcome function though is the trigger switch, a nifty trick oddly absent from the peripheral’s user manual. By holding down Start and Select for a few seconds you can remap the shoulder buttons so that L1 and R1 perform the actions assigned to L2 and R2, and vice versa (the joypad’s controller assignment indicator lights invert to notify the user that the switch is active). To begin with I found the change disorienting, but after a few Team Deathmatches on Call of Duty I’d familiarised myself with the new set-up, and it felt so natural that I found reverting back to the PS3 norm challenging.

Despite its alluring features, the MLG PCC is marred by a few inadequacies. For one, neither of MC’s D-Pad modules cut the mustard in terms of precision. Occasionally, pushing up or down will concurrently perform a task mapped to left or right, which makes executing combos in Tekken 6, for instance, rather cumbersome. The analog sticks take a bit of getting used to also. Apply a touch too much pressure when turning and a slight adjustment accelerates to a fast revolution. As such, aligning iron sights with moving targets in first-person shooters proves extremely difficult, and even after altering my sensitivity settings I still found myself doing an increased amount of strafing with the left analog stick to compensate.

The repositioning of the Start and Select buttons is sore point as well. I imagine they were moved to lessen the likelihood of pressing them accidentally during intense gameplay moments, but their new placement makes accessing menus and scoreboards in-game an awkward affair. Last of all, the premium controller is lacking a basic PlayStation 3-specific trait: SixAxis support. To most this won’t be a deal breaker, especially considering how few games nowadays harness the technology. Nevertheless, as someone who likes to revisit Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune or Heavenly Sword from time to time, its omission is hard for me to ignore.

Maybe I’m not the videogames God I thought I was, or perhaps I’m just too used to the feel of my worn, well-used Dualshock 3. Whatever the explanation, I wasn’t able to fully adjust to the MLG Pro Circuit Controller, although that’s not to imply Mad Catz’s joypad is a poor product. Its build quality is second to none. The innovative ProModule system offers unmatched versatility and personalisation possibilities, and FPS enthusiasts will definitely value the (strangely) secret trigger switch function. Dedicated and tournament-standard players will love this peripheral, of that I am confident, but casual and budget-conscious gamers might be opposed to investing £79.99 in hardware that marginally outshines Sony’s own.

Verdict: 7/10

Cheapest Price: £79.99 Delivered @Currys

Review by Forum member @csreynolds09

Follow on Twitter @csreynolds09

Find more reviews by this author here

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]If you would like to submit a user review, please add it here. Our community members will then vote on whether or not it makes it to our front page[/box]

 

Gioteck GC-2 Review – The Xbox 360 Flavoured PS3 Controller

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I mainly play all my games on the Xbox 360 even though I also own a PS3. The reason for this is that I detest the Dualshock 3 controller, it’s too small, too light and just feels wrong compared to that of the Xbox 360. I’ve owned a PS3 since the day it was released and although I prefer the console over the Xbox 360, the gamepad just killed the whole experience for me. Games like Killzone 3, Uncharted, MAG and many more PS3 exclusives always frustrated me as my hands seemed to have turned in to claws that will only ever feel comfortable with an Xbox 360 controller in them.

I have tried many third party PS3 controllers that are based around the 360 design, but they were all pretty rubbish. They either had connectivity issues or dead spots on the thumb sticks that made playing precision games with any degree of accuracy pretty much impossible. By the time you had compensated for the controllers lack of accuracy in shooting games, you’d get a bullet in the face. This made me very angry as I am rubbish enough without this hindrance!

Then a friend of mine recommended the Gioteck GC-2 controller as it had some pretty good reviews. I went down to my local game store and managed to pick one up for £27.99, which is about £6 cheaper than the official Dualshock 3.  The first surprise I had was that the controller worked straight away without any issues. Just plug the wireless receiver in to the PS3 USB port and the controller connects straight away, this is one thing that caused issues with the other third party pads I’ve trialled.

The pad itself feels almost the same as the Xbox 360 controller and it also has the displaced thumb sticks that I love so much. The finish may look a little shiny and cheap for some peoples tastes, but the rubbery finish of the grips makes it really comfortable to use. It also has triggers that are far better designed than the Dualshock 3, which I always thought were dire. I have played Killzone 3 and a few other shooting games and the controller has proved accurate and responsive.

There are also a few other features on the pad, a few of them I will never use. There are various thumb stick sensitivity settings, force feedback that provides a satisfying amount of vibration (that sounds a little wrong) and a turbo button.

Overall this is a very good controller and I would recommend it to anybody that prefers the 360 style controller over that of the PS3. The only negative elements I’ve found is that the triggers and buttons are a little on the small side and could do with being a little chunkier. The bumper buttons are also a bit on the flimsy side. For all those lazy buggers like me, you cannot use the controller to turn on the console. You’ll have to get a large stick that can reach the consoles power button or alternatively get off your backside and turn it on manually, just like we did in the 80’s!

Frugal Gaming Product Score : 7 out of 10

Cheapest on-line price £19.99 here

You can find all GC-2 details here in an on-line PDF

 

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