Umbra – Pre- Alpha Preview

UmbraKSCover-1080p review

I started spotting word of this game over Twitter, a few re-tweets here and there. What was being touted was a Kickstarter project using Cryengine, next-gen graphics and what looked like a whole bunch of fun on the intro video.

They were not wrong.

The build I have been given to test is very early, super early in fact. But from what I played, I loved. Umbra is a hack ‘n’ slash extravaganza. Also did I mention that it is stunning? The Cryengine does just that, makes you want to weep with joy. Watch the video, crank that bitch right up and rejoice as your eyeballs melt out of your face.

Incredible eye candy aside the game plays exceptionally well for a demo that takes up about as much room on your HDD as a well detailed photograph. I’ve played it through a few times, I’m still finding new ways to combine my skills and spells.

Let’s explore the mechanics – you have quite a choice of skills and spells, and you can assign these to either mouse button, and a small pool of additional spells on your number keys – or in my case assigned to my thumb keys on my shiny new mouse. There appears to be space for using a controller as well. Plugging in an Xbox controller led to all sorts of fantastic oddness, but the tech is there to be built on.

There is no fixed progression, you have a mana, rage and stamina pool to draw upon, each combining in their own ways to allow blocking, sword sweeps and fiery death to be visited on the shuffling hordes. Boss characters make an appearance like Diablo – Colours dictating what to expect from the enemy type and what abilities they possess.

Umbra_screenshot_04 review

Spells combine most satisfactorily, much like Diablo, you can build an arsenal of attacks that mean you barely get touched by enemies as they come at you in waves. My favourite being an area attack that flash freezes everyone around you. Allowing you to lay tremendous amount of beat down with your weapon of choice, or as I did, a great big fireball.

The last time I checked, this game has reached its kickstarter target and is well on the way to completing its next stretch targets.

The sheer amount of stuff happening on screen at any one time is staggering. Light interacts with motes of dust, leaves fall from trees, clothing ripples, enemies and not to forget the burly SoB Crusader chap with the *Insert Weapon Here* and shield looking like a Juggernaut. Bodies stay splatted , body parts strewn all over as you lay waste. Bits of scenery have a habit of exploding as well when you start throwing your sword and spells around. It’s truly a feast for the eyes.

Noteworthy Differences :

You get a house, or at least a housing area is promised. The idea of being able to maintain your own little slice of umbra and personalise it at will has a big draw factor form me.

There exists a spell ability called an Apocalyptic Form. This allows the hero to transform into an all singing, all dancing walking nuke which different forms convey different stat boosts and abilities. Sounds exciting, and i can’t wait to see where they take it.

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Wants :

This game is pretty much amazing but there are a few things I would love to see.

  • Spell growth – I get that the more times I use a spell the better (read stronger/more damaging) it becomes. I would love to see alternate spell choices fixed or otherwise. Spell branching into different effects and sprites.
  • A female character, this is a stretch target I know, but it seems a very large stretch.
  • The ability to change my UI how I want it
  • A haunting soundtrack
  • Companions
  • Multiplayer

Try to avoids :

  • Repetition of levels. I love the idea of procedurally generated maps. This will increase replay value massively
  • Diablo and its play it harder – get better rewards. not everyone wants to play the same thing over and over.

 

All in all I can’t wait to see the finished product, Hell, the beta in fact, as this demo is absolutely stunning. If you haven’t backed it or are just curious as to it’s current state you can find them on Kickstarter HERE

 

 

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition Review

Diablo_III_Logo

We’ve Only Just Begun

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition, I guess Blizzard just couldn’t bring itself to call it Diablo 3: GOTY edition, ‘Remaster’ or just plain Diablo 3 HD complete.  Essentially the complete Diablo 3 package, you get the base game, ostensibly for free according to the promotional bumf, and the Reaper of Souls expansion all wrapped in glorious next gen goodness.

Its an enticing package, both for newbies to the game and also people like me who put a good 40+ hours into the vanilla Xbox 360 version back in September 2013.  A dungeon crawling, loot hunting, monster bashing, RPG hack ’n’ slash game.  The basic Diablo 3 was very well received on all platforms, nudging towards 90 on Metacritic.  The expansion that this release brings to consoles was also pretty darn good, our very own Karlos Morale gave it an impressive 9/10 on PC and he’s probably the hardest to please person I’ve ever known. Review HERE

If you’ve played Diablo before, chances are you already know if you are interested in D3:RoSUEE, but if you’ve yet to jump in then hopefully this review will give you an idea of what you’re letting yourself in for.

First up, the story is your usual load of completely forgettable cods-wallop.  Big bad evil, heroic protagonist, and annoyingly clichéd companions with annoyingly clichéd voice acting, but as with most games it’s a means to an end of getting your chosen character from A to B.  Whilst most of the narrative unfolds in game, Blizzard have done their customary fine work of making the chapter ending cut scenes a thing of pure beauty.  You won’t care one bit about the story, and the fact that the game only really gets going on your second playthrough does mean that these elements, and especially the in-game dialogue can drag but you won’t be going back just to hear the story unfold again, you’ll be going back for the pure joy of the gameplay.

barb-002-largeStuck In The Middle With You

The six classes of fearless warrior now available after the addition of the Crusader class really do offer fantastic variety.  From the long range Wizard and Demon Hunter, to the melee combat focused Monk and Barbarian, there is something for everyone. The Witch Doctor, who summons bestial minions and the tank like Crusader round out the options nicely.  Whichever class you chose, the high level warrior you end up with will be almost unrecognisable after a few hours.  Whilst abilities are unlocked in progression when you level up, you can’t use them all at the same time.  Take the Wizard for example, his basic attack is the magic missile.  Get your character up to level six and a skill rune is unlocked which adds rather a bit more punch to his primary attack. At level 13 it changes this attack into an icy glacial spike, up to level 31 and the next skill rune splits your attack into three. Only one of these runes can be active per power, so whilst each class might have 20 or so abilities, this increases to a crazy amount of different loadouts once you factor in that each ability can be customised.

Combat in D3:RoSUEE feels simply sublime, the jump up to 60fps from 30fps in this next gen version is like using some expensive fragrant lube rather than spittle.  Everything feels perfect and Diablo is well suited to being played with a controller. The left stick guides your chosen hero, whilst just about every other single button is used to activate an ability or attack,  you’ll be using just about every trick in your arsenal to battle the seemingly never ending hordes of enemies.  From zombies, giant bats, Ent like tree beings, trolls, spiders, angels, ghosts, Minotaur’s, the list of bad guys you’ll be facing off against is seemingly endless.  Whilst none of them will ever prove too much of a challenge on normal difficulty, the sheers number of things trying to kill you at anyone time might well overwhelm.  You’ll kill thousands of foes in your first play through alone, and one of the best bits about such wanton slaughter is all the lovely loot that the vanquished will drop.

Loot is king in Diablo, it will lead you to playing just that little bit longer than you planned on the off chance of more and better spoils to come.  From weapons, and armour, to shields and rings.  Basic level stuff will just boost your defence rating, but the higher level and thus rarer items will boost and buff your character in so many ways.  Boots that make you move faster, a ring that helps regenerate your health.  Its absolutely mind boggling the different combinations of active effects that wearing all these weird and wonderful things gives you.

reaper-of-souls-02-largeThe End Has No End

All in all, if you only play through the campaign once, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition is a cracking game. Multiplayer both online and couch co-op is undoubtedly the best way to experience it.  It’s in the extra end game content that Diablo 3 really comes alive.  There is now so much to do right at the end of the campaign, that everything that went before can be merely considered an Aperitif to the main course.  Its quite possible to spend hundreds of hours with Diablo, an impressive feat for any game let alone one with a 20 hour campaign.  Adventure mode lets you continue the fight with bounties and rifts. Bounties let you dive back into the game to kill specific high level enemies or complete a certain objectives, complete enough of these and you’ll then be able to tackle some Rifts.  These are random dungeons cobbled together from campaign sections, your goal is to butcher enough foes so that a stonkingly powerful boss arrives, leading to more levelling and of course a whole lot more loot.

Nearly a year after first playing Diablo 3 on 360, I’m still playing and enjoying it with the Ultimate Evil Edition on Xbox One. I’m not one for remasters or remakes, but the added content that comes with this edition on which ever platform you chose genuinely adds a whole bunch of stuff to keep you going for a long long time. If you have already played it, the extra campaign act and all the end game extras are welcome and engaging.  If you’re new to Diablo then you’re in for a real treat. 6 months down the line I’m pretty sure I’ll still be playing it, not everyday or even every week but I’ll still be going after the end game bounties and more than likely starting from scratch to get a new character up to the highest levels.  Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition might sound like a mouthful but it’s a fine addition to any gamer’s collection.

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Publisher: Blizzard

Xbox One Version Played