Divinity: Original Sin Review

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Divinity: Original Sin

PC

Divinity: Original Sin

PC

Larian Studios

Back in the old days, before video games became about fist-bumping, ‘Let’s Play-ers’ and people calling one another ‘bro’, gaming used to be a pretty solitary occupation. You played, you experienced the highs and lows of adventuring in foreign worlds pretty much by yourself. Sure, there were multiplayer games that let you stomp your friend into the dirt – but once they’d gone home to have their tea, it was just you versus the cold, unforgiving computer.

And it hated you and wanted to see you burn.

Fast forwards to today and everything is about social, multiplayer experience. Your friend no-longer needs to be sat in your bedroom, holding the crap controller, in order for you to play with or against them. In fact, they don’t even need to be your friend, as you can log in and play against similarly-minded people across the world. Most of whom, it would seem, have carnal knowledge of your dear mother.

Larian Studios have created an RPG that is at once a throwback to the glory days of PC RPG titles and a showcase of what can be achieved with a modern perspective. If you think Baldur’s Gate or Planescape Torment you won’t be far wrong – isometric display, somewhat open-world experience, although with a strong narrative thread, compelling characterisation and – at times – brutal difficulty. Original Sin offers a clarion call to all those who have been searching for a similar gameplay experience that takes advantage of the fact that we now have something a little higher-end in our gaming rooms.

Divinity 3

Divinity: Original Sin brings back the glory days of ‘traditional’, quality adventuring in a wonderfully realised and well-constructed world, whilst at the same time offering the fascinating spin of allowing you to play co-operatively with a second player picking up the role of one of the adventuring party. An equal role, giving them as much choice as you, an equal share in the glory and portion of the blame if it all ends in ignominious defeat. This was a key part of the Kickstarter promotion and certainly helped to generate the hype around the game – but it’s certainly not necessary to have a second player in order to enjoy D:OS to the fullest.

Original Sin does not hold your hand as you step onto its beautiful shoreline in your role as a Source Hunter and try to uncover its mysteries. Unlike most current adventure titles, the plot isn’t spelled out to you from the get go. We’re given a small amount of context as to why you find yourself arriving on the outskirts of Cyseal – you’re investigating a murder – but soon the scope of the narrative opens out considerably and becomes as engaging as any of the classic CRPG titles of yesteryear.

WHAT IT DOES BEST: LEVEL OF DETAIL

As soon as you dive into the game and are past the mercifully brief tutorial section, you’re thrown into the deep end, with a living, breathing world unfolding in front of you. Soldiers are fighting battles you can help with, and the level of strategy available to you in the opening encounter is huge. From the get go you can choose whether or not to charge in head on, flank or attempt to pincer some fairly hefty, tanky enemies as a well as a spellcaster. Unlike most modern games, it’s entirely possible for you to get killed in your first real fight if you simply decide to walk up to your opponents and whack them with a sword. Splitting your two opening party members, luring enemies into terrain based hazards, forging alliances with friendly NPCs are all possible in that opening battle and it serves as a strong indicator of things to come. You can – and must – really find your thinking cap and wedge it on tight if you’re going to succeed.

The character interaction, inventory management and mystery solving are all highly involved, and as deep and open-ended as you could possibly wish for. The world is populated by the usual generic NPC fodder of course, but aside from the surly barman, untrustworthy imps and bumbling soldiers, there are also Ogres suffering with ennui, displaced seashells with an aching desire to return home and then psychotic elderly Source Hunters. Added to this is your relationship with that second main character, which you can choose to make problematic for optimal stat bonuses but are also very unpredictable if you’re playing with a second player online.

In short, Divinity: Original Sin succeeds where so many other RPGs fail in creating a believable and engaging world that remains that way for its entire length – I’m looking at you, Skyrim.

Divinity 4WHAT IT DOES WORST: LEVEL OF DETAIL (!) OVERWHELMING

Trouble is though, all this depth comes at a price. The game raises a thick, grubby middle finger to the casual gamer. Cards on the table, if you’ve not got the time to devote to playing through the game in some significant chunks, this is probably one to avoid. It does not lend itself at all to piecemeal gaming.

If you’re comfortable with spending a half hour managing your inventory, checking various stats of weapons, popping to the merchant for a quick repair job, clicking through some dialogue trees and assessing which of your four party members would be best equipped to do a given task – all before you actually try a new section of the game – then you’re fine.

If you think that struggling through a particular cave, only to find that you’re simply under-levelled to complete it is all part of the fun of exploration – then this is the title for you.

That may sound like an obvious extreme negative – but it isn’t necessarily so. There are clues as to where you go – but you have to look for them. Not every quest begins with a character with a giant yellow exclamation mark over their head – so progress in D:OS requires time, dedication, seriously ‘legwork’ and patience. But the rewards – oh – the rewards are so worth it.

AT THE END OF THE MONTH, WHEN ALL THE BILLS ARE PAID AND I’VE GOT THAT SPARE CASH, BURNING A HOLE IN MY POCKET, WOULD I BUY THIS GAME? YES I WOULD.

The story, the detail, the sense of accomplishment when you beat a significant monster or solve a tricky puzzle is sensational. I am shocked at what these guys have achieved in a short amount of time and with a relatively modest budget. Basically, every triple A RPG from the last 10 years has been put to shame. If you consider yourself a fan of role playing games – particularly the golden age of CRPGs – you owe it to yourself to purchase Divinity: Original Sin. A true, modern-day classic.

Karlos Morale

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Divinity: Original Sin is out now on PC

Obludia Review

obludia_beta_hd_title

Obludia

FobTi Interactive

PC

 “Oblud-ee, Oblud-ah, life goes on, bra!”

Obludia is a 2D Arena Shooter from FobTi Interactive. What does that mean? Well, it means that screenshots are going to look very much like The Binding of Isaac and this is somewhat misleading, since the game plays bugger all like Mr. McMillen’s classic* title. Instead it’s got much more in common with games such as Robotron or Smash TV, where a significant number of enemies pour into the arenas and you can change up weapons on the fly to try and cope with the different threats.

* Is it too early to call it a classic? It feels like a classic in its genre, yet it’s only been around for 3 years.

Your Van Helsing looking character has to kill things because of… uhh, there is no plot… because he’s in a dungeon and that’s what you do in those places. Your enemies range from cute ickle spiders to what looks like Orko from He-Man; all foes, whatever their appearance, need to be dispatched before you can move on to the next level. So, you bustle around the arenas, avoiding traps and whacking skeletons with your sword or blasting them with a shotgun. Since this is all that the game has to offer, the core action needs to be spot on – and it isn’t quite.

The worst offender is that the collision detection seems slightly off, especially with regards to jumping enemies. The hit-box on creatures seems to extend out past their sprite, so what should be a narrow avoidance ends up being a hit.

Next up is the floor patterns, these do a great job of masking bullets and floor traps which can lead to unfair injury. I think it is the fourth level where this is at its’ worst, with the dark floor colouring masking a lot of hazards.

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My first attempt – and I notice, most YouTube videos – ended at the hands/feet of the end of level one boss. This giant spider bounces around the screen shooting in multi directions and is accompanied by a swarm of its regular sized brethren. Nothing you face prior to this point is even 10% of the challenge of this brown git. And yet, once you work out that it’s easily taken down by spamming dynamite (a resource that is ridiculously cheap in the in-game shops) you now have the secret key to beating all of the games’ bosses. Hurl dynamite, blast what remains with shotgun and that’ll do it. Not quite the challenge I was expecting after that first encounter.

Aside from boss-brutalising dynamite, the shop also sells magic and health buffs, ammo and a pet dog that collects coins for you and sometimes goes berserk and eats enemies. The doggy is cool, but like everything else in the game, you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve seen the character model before somewhere. It’s all very familiar – but that has a positive side too.

You see, by being so familiar and so straightforward, Obludia manages to be a great ‘brain-off, pick up and play’ title. It doesn’t require any complex thought – no need to carefully budget or conserve ammo, no need to worry about where you spend your skill points since it makes little difference – all you have to do is have a quick blast.

I feel short sentences do this game justice.

The game is not very difficult. I am perfectly OK with this.

Even the ‘carnival-esque’ music lends itself to a sense of a disposable, throwaway experience. You play for a few minutes, try to hook a duck, and win or lose you’ve enjoyed yourself. It was a bit of a giggle – a silly bit of fun – and sometimes that’s exactly what you’re looking for when you sit down at your PC. Not everything needs to start with 25 minutes of cut scenes and have thousands of pages of lore to wade through. Have gun? Kill stuff. Simple enough for anyone to understand.

 

“Oblud-ia, you’re breaking my heart

You’re shaking my confidence dail-y…”

obludia_beta_hd_w3

Mid-review, a patch hit which prompted the following:

Developers, is there any chance you could wait until you’re satisfied with your game before you release it? This isn’t a problem exclusive to Obludia by any means. I tried to open my save file for the game – FATAL ERROR – so I look it up on Steam. Well, it turns out that the developer has been mucking around with the achievements, and as a result, people’s save files have become borked. So I start a new game and – OH LOOK – the difficulty of the first level has been changed with new hazards added. Without discussing whether or not these changes improve the game, the fact is that the game is now different to the one that I was playing a couple of days ago. It’s different to the game I expected to play.

Perhaps it’s me. I come from a generation of gamers who bought physical media of games. When the game was released, that was pretty much it (with very rare exceptions) and you kept the product you paid for. Somehow, the idea of a developer being able to fuck around with a game you bought without warning and significantly impacting on the gameplay feels off to me. Presumably you playtested it and were happy with the build that you released and expected people to pay for. That was your final version. For all the 20 people kicking up an angry stink on web forums bitching about some aspect of your game, there are probably 10 times as many who were perfectly satisfied with what you did and so don’t feel the need to cry about it online.

I understand how patches work. I understand the artist’s need to keep adding brushstrokes. I also understand that many companies use patches as an excuse to shunt out half-finished crap onto gamers and expect them to beta test their games for them (I’m looking at you, Electronic Arts). How about you take some pride in what you create and hold on to it until you’re happy the game is the best you can do

by Karlos Morale

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Obludia is out now for PC for £5.99 on Steam

Knightmare Tower Review

Knightmare_Tower_(01)

Knightmare Tower

PC

Juicy Beast Studio
Back in the late 1960’s, Tammy Wynette sang the words, “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman,” in her hit song ‘Stand By Your Man’. Tammy was right, sometimes it is hard.

Sometimes it’s downright impossible.

You’re minding your own business, being a special and delicate princess, when some bizarre floating head thing kidnaps you and slings you into their enormous tower of doom and monsters. WTF are you supposed to do now? I mean, gone are the days where you can rely on a man to come and rescue you – it’s time to stand up and be an independent woman.

“Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, oh no no.”

If Beyonce and Jay-Z have taught you nothing else, establishing your independence comes from an almighty hip thrust and a sassy wiggle of the finger. Sadly, the floating head and his myriad of spiky denizens are immune to your womanly wiles. The only language they understand is a thrust to the face with an enormous chopper.

Luckily for you, a plucky hero with a big round head decides to come to your (and your similarly unfortunate sisters’) aid. Swinging a weapon about with wild abandon, this unnamed protagonist ascends the tower atop a throbbing rocket, then begins to leap from beast to beast bringing the powerful thrusting of doom to bear.

Knightmare_Tower_(06)

Rising through the tower behind the hero is a hot, lusty lava flow, ever pushing upwards, yearning to cover all in a scalding ejaculation of death. Miss too many blows with the sword and our swashbuckler will be covered with the premature climax that signals another failure.

Failure is assured during those first rescue attempts, our fortune-hunter is woefully under equipped for this task in the beginning. Fortunately, enemies drop cash and other goodies which can be scooped up and spent in the between-game store. The shop sells various weapon, speed and armour upgrades as well as a variety of other boosts that will assist daredevil exploits.

With enough upgrades equipped and enough bonuses acquired from rescuing princesses lower down the tower, our brave adventurer will reach the summit of the stronghold and begin a battle against the diabolic floating head, who controls a hovering fortress filled with cannons, spike traps and assorted accoutrements of evil. Will peace return to the land once the enemy is vanquished and the princesses are rescued? Or are hero and princess alike fated to be stuck in the tower forever, covered in the ghastly emissions it produces?

Only you can make the difference.

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Knightmare Tower looks for all the world like a mobile game – and indeed there is a free version of the game available on line and a microtransaction enabled version for mobiles. The PC version costs £3, so is it worth this modest amount?
My answer is a completely unqualified ‘YES’, in capital letters no less, so you know I’m serious.

According to Steam I have about 5 hours clocked on this game. I haven’t quite beaten every quest, but Story Mode is beaten and I’ve just been ploughing through Survival for the last couple of hours. The first time I played the game, I played for a solid 90 minutes. Never looking around, not even pausing to take notes for this review. I was thoroughly engaged and entertained, guiding the little hero around the tower, crushing monsters, slaying bosses and busting ceilings in an attempt to rescue those princesses. Yes, it’s a very simple title, but the action is well pitched and it gives that just-one-more-go feeling that keeps you blasting back up the tower.

The game would not work at all were it not for the hugely satisfying central mechanic of thrusting down the screen towards enemies. Incredibly responsive and accurate, it allows for deft skills to rack up big scores (or distances travelled), and at the same time means that younger or inexperienced gamers can enjoy the simple gameplay. My 3 year-old got that hang of the game very quickly and concentrated on playing it for a around 10 minutes. This is a huge amount of investment from a tiddler.

I think it’s likely that I’ve come to the end of my time with Knightmare Tower now, but I have enjoyed the game very much during its run. What it lacks in longevity, it makes up for with instant appeal. As you can see from the screenshots, KT is bright and cheerful, with just enough variety and character to see you through 5 or so fun hours of gameplay.

Knightmare_Tower_(08)

What else are you going to spend 3 quid on, exactly? Two fifths of a book? An evening of shoving chocolate into your miserable craw whilst you blub in the corner? A really nasty blowjob from a crack-addled man-whore round the back of Poundland? Bus fare to get you into town in order that you can steal some paint and then use it to paint Shakespearean insults on your own garage door, just to see the confused expressions on the faces of your neighbours as they pass?

I mean, come on dude. If you’re thinking those things, you probably could do with 5 hours of distraction. It gives us time to come round your house and remove all the sharp objects.

Karlos Morale

7/10

Knightmare Tower is out now on PC and Mobile

Block Story – Early Access Preview

Block Story Title

Block Story – Early Access Preview
PC
Developer: Mindblock Studio, LLC

Have you ever played the game where you have to try and not think about a pink elephant?
No?
Well it’s pretty simple; try not to think about a pink elephant.
It’s a tricky game, because the salmon-coloured pachyderm forces its way into your mind like, well, like an elephant.
A similar game can be played by trying to play Block Story and not think about Minecraft. As a voxel built open-world with items to craft and structures to build, comparisons are inevitable. However, as one of the statistically almost-insignificant number of people who has never played Minecraft for more than a minute or two, I am going to keep my focus on what Block Story does – rather than how it competes with its rival.
Whether or not you think there’s any room for Block Story in the market is immaterial – it’s here and you can pick it up for a pocket-friendly seven quid.

Blockstory 1

 

Now that’s out of the way, let me tell you about Block Story:
The world of Block Story is created entirely out of blocks. Blocks of sand, blocks of rock, blocks of tree etc. These can all be destroyed and harvested in order to make new items. So far, so familiar to anyone who has played this style of game before. The landscape is generated randomly before you head into the game and, once complete, you head out into the 1st person world that is yours to shape and re-shape as you see fit.
There are two quite distinct game modes here, one is an adventure which gives you an RPG approach to making your way in the world. The second is a creative mode that offers you instant access to all of the exciting blocks, bits and bobs that would otherwise take a donkey’s yonk in order to get. Both of these are a resolutely single player experience. The developer has plans in the future for a multiplayer release but it will be a separate title, not an addition to this one.
Adventure mode tries to spice up the ‘classic’ harvest and craft gameplay by introducing npc’s who are desirous of you to fulfil their questing needs. These are split into ‘gather me X numbers of Ys’, or ‘kill me A number of Bs’ quests. Hopefully, in time these will become a bit more fleshed and out and the folks you meet in your world will get a bit more personality. This aspect by itself could be enough to convince a lot of people to try the game since it offers something markedly different from other games in the genre.

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I was surprised by the amount of crafting scope the game has to offer during my play time, given that you can craft rings, weapons and armour as well as cars and boats – and it looks as though this will expand in the future. Crafting is done by arranging materials on a grid in order that they somewhat resemble the shape of the item you’re trying to create. Happily there is also a recipe book within the inventory that explains how everything is made so you know what items you need to work towards in order to make progress. Some recipes are locked off at the start but are unlocked through completing quests – there are plenty of blocks to play around with from the start however. Vendors inhabit your world, ready to trade you blocks that you might not be able to craft to begin with – it is a good feeling to lay down those first brick foundations for your new house on the beach let me tell you, even if that house is occasionally beset by the odd giant spider or ‘Barlog’ (yes, I know, I see it too) that’s climbed up one of my shafts. If I’d have known that was how it was going to go from the start, I’d have named my new world Australia and had done with it.

Blockstory 2

If I have one strong complaint that I hope the developers address during this early access phase, then it is definitely the strength of the monsters versus the amount of damage you are able to inflict. Given the number of quests that involve killing a number of beasts, it takes an unnecessarily large amount of damage to put one of them down. Given that combat is hardly one of the games strengths, it seems a curious decision to highlight this by making you spend a long time doing it. Still, balancing hit points is a minor issue and can be easily tweaked, right guys?
Block Story seems like it would be interesting to people who are looking for something a little different from their world-building games. It has enormous scope for you to craft the world to your liking – the developers claim that the world will go on forever upwards and downwards. I tried this, and dug down until I got thoroughly sick of the brick bashing noise. There’s some weird beasties down there and I didn’t find an end to it. Plenty of lava though.
If you felt like your Minecraft experience would have been improved by questing, dragon pets and boss monsters to battle, you could well do worse than check this out.

Blockstory 3
KIDS EXPERIENCE:
I gave this game to my 8 year-old daughter to have a play with and she gave the following testimony.

“Yeah, it’s fine.”
“…”
“Oh I like this bit because you can build a house and it’s sort of got built in stairs.”
“Dad, can I have a biscuit?”
“The water is stupid, it’s not like real water at all.”
“It doesn’t work, it’s broken you can’t… oh no wait… oh… huh.”
“Dad, can I play Block Thingy again?”
Make of this what you will.

Block Story is Available on Early Access Steam for £6.99

MyDream Beta Preview

MyDream Title

Too Good To Be True?

MyDream is billed as a 3D Creation and Exploration Sandbox by its creators, and with its kickstarter campaign about to come to a successful conclusion, I’ve been hands on with the current beta to see if there is more to this title than the dirge of block building clones that have flooded the market since a certain juggernaut was unleashed upon the world.

 

Temple

 I See A Paradise

The biggest difference that immediately shows through is that apart from building and creating with blocks of various textures, the land itself is a completely more organic affair.  Rolling landscapes, swaying grass and groaning trees, it’s good looking stuff and definitely sets its self apart from the standard geometry of environments offered in other, similar games.

These more organic features can also be altered, by using your “shovel” you can dig a cave or raise a mountain, the choice is yours.  A click of the mouse button, a shovel full of dirt is removed, another click, a bit more.  Select the piles of sand or soil in your inventory, and likewise you can pile them up and raise the height of the terrain.  It’s very reminiscent of Populous or map editors like in Far Cry.  However you’re limited to using the standard first person perspective, it’s fiddly and takes an age to achieve any real change to the environment.

Whilst the block building mechanic will feel immediately familiar to anyone who has played with Lego, there is already a huge array of different textures, and lighting sources available.  Some of the creations look truly stunning, and people are already letting their imaginations run riot.

Labrynth_1

Build This Thing Together

Multiplayer, collaborative worlds are already starting to look very interesting, and with all the servers being hosted by the developers, they are really easy to find and interact with.  I’ve spent a good few hours with games of this ilk on the PC but never ventured further than my own world as servers addresses and such just seemed rather a hassle, so MyDream’s take on this is definitely a positive step in the right direction.

RPG elements are pretty slim at the moment, but what is there is a good start.  Your character levels up along three different paths depending on your actions.  Builder, Explorer and Co-operator are the skills, that when levelled up will grant you rewards.  It’s an interesting feature which I’m looking forward to seeing develop.

Let Them Say We‘re Crazy

Minecraft, there, I’ve said it, a true gaming phenomenon that’s sold over 35 million copies and given the world another eccentric millionaire.  MyDream does enough things differently and has a few unique ideas that do warrant attention.  However it remains to be seen if there is enough appetite or room for a game that at first glance is so similar.

At the time of writing, MyDream has crept past its kickstarter goal of $100,000, and is currently sitting at $116,000. It’s worth noting that over $70,000 of that total has come from just 7 backers, with just over 320 individual pledges making up the rest of the total.  For a point of reference, another 3D open-world creation RPG called Planets3 ended three days ago, with over 10,000 backers and $310,000 in the kitty.  With Mojang raking in the millions, Project Spark being bankrolled by Microsoft and other independent titles being much better funded,  MyDream is really going to have to stand out to get any serious traction.

MyDream Lava

The team behind the game has some great ideas and I’m looking forward to watching this games development. Hopefully with the success of the kickstarter campaign and the creativity of the ladies and gents behind it, the team will have the time and finances to put those ideas into action. Whilst I wouldn’t simply say they are jumping on the the Minecraft bandwagon, as has been suggested elsewhere, they have definitely arrived late to the party, and have got a lot of ground to make up.

You can find the MyDream Kickstarter Here

 

OMG Zombies PC Review

omg-hd-zombies

OMG Zombies PC Review

Publisher: Laughing Jackal
Developer: Laughing Jackal
Platform Reviewed: PC
Release date: Out Now on PC/Steam £3.99

Zombies making an appearance in video games is certainly nothing new, but Laughing Jackal have tried to do something different with their approach to the seemingly inevitable apocalypse.  Set in the fictional city of Redfield, which has been overrun by the said horde of undead, a lone survivor stands, armed with only a sniper rifle and a handful of bullets, ready to save the day.

You begin each level perched on high ground, relatively safe from the zombies- shuffling around beneath you. From here you can take your time and pick them off at will, the twist comes when you realise you only have three bullets, not nearly enough to slay them all. Thankfully your bullets are coated with a special pathogen with causes the zombies to explode on impact. As one explodes it will cause others nearby to do the same thus causing a very satisfying chain reaction. With careful consideration, a good aim and a bit of luck it is possible to clear the whole screen with one shot.

OMG Screen

Adding to the already strategic elements of the game there are also different types of zombie that will react differently upon there expiration. Police zombies will fire a single shot across the screen, bloaters explode, corrosive zombies leave a pool of acid behind, soldiers fire bullets which ricochet, screamers run across the screen with a high pitched wail killing those around them and finally there are zombies which fire a form of Taser -providing a trip wire, electrocuting others on contact.

Kill enough zombies on screen and you are rewarded with a medal- from bronze up to platinum. For each medal you achieve you are also given a lump sum of cash. This can used to upgrade your weapons, explosive barrels and the zombies themselves. Each advancement increases there lethality to each other, thus making it easier to clear the levels. There are 100 stages in total and the upgrades are essential if you want to clear them all.

The game is a port of a PSP mini title and realistically this shows.  A little bit more refinement would have been very welcome. The visuals are drawn completely in greyscale except for the oodles of red blood that will eventually awash the screen, think of the movie Sin City and you will have some idea of the look on offer. The death animations aren’t really smooth enough and the sound effects can get annoying. That being said, it’s not the presentation that will grip you.

OMG2

A well placed shot which obliterates all the zombies feels absolutely gratifying. There is an element of luck involved due to the random placement of enemies but, this does not stop this title from being any less addictive. To platinum every level will take some time and once it grabs you won’t want to stop until you have them all.

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Reviewer – MrBadDog

Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance.

Warhammer Banner

Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance | PC | Eutechnyx

Cor blimey. This game is going to cause some controversy and no mistake.

If you were going to write a crash course in ‘dodgy ground to make games on because of fanboys’ then the Warhammer universe would have to be somewhere near the top. Hosts of loyal neckbeards who would happily die for the Emperor today if it bought glory to the Imperium and in the meantime they’re all ready to jump onto internet forums at the slightest provocation or conceived slight against their beloved franchise.

And if you’re getting your hackles up right now about how rude I am being to 40k fans, then that means you are one of those neckbeards – even (and especially) if you’re a girl.

Throw into the pot the fact that the developer of this particular Warhammer game is the very same who created one of the worst games of last year in Ride to Hell Retribution AND that this Warhammer game is basically just a reskin of one of the developer’s earlier titles, Ninja Cats vs. Samurai Dogs. What have you got? A big, delicious stew made of web forum bile. Our job is to grab a big spoon and see if we can’t find any moist, meaty chunks beneath the scummy top crust…

Storm of Vengeance is a lane defence game which at first glance looks a little like Plants Vs. Zombies but is in fact a little more dynamic than PopCap’s classic. You begin as the Space Marines, in particular the Dark Angels, and your job is to wipe out the Ork threat on each screen. This is done by building bases on the start of your lanes that will either generate ‘currency’ to deploy units or cards that represent the actual units themselves.

You can create Drop Pods that spawn standard Tactical Marines, Ravens create melee focussed Assault Marines whilst Rhinos are used to make long-ranged Devastator Marines. That’s pretty much it for standard troops – but they can be augmented with special abilities including plasma weapons (slightly better guns) and grenades (wheeeee! Kaboom!).

Warhammer Doomed

Early levels are a case of hurling as many troops as you can down a given lane like so many heavily armoured bowling balls, a tactic that eventually results in the crushing of the Ork defenses at the other end of the lane. The Xenos scum eventually start to build units which require you to show a little more tactical nuance and you will need to think more carefully about lane positioning, troop priority and spending Resolve – the secondary currency – on special defensive towers, grenades and bike mounted troops.

Capture three ork lanes and you’ll win the stage which means earning experience points for you to spend on troop unlocks and more special powers. Fortunately the difficulty of the game is balanced to an extent that the early levels are simple enough to allow you to gain a few upgrades before things get difficult – meaning you don’t struggle if you invest points in a skill you don’t seem to use much. By late game you’ll find that there’s a place for all the skills, but it can take a while before you really see the advantages to some of the powers.

It is in those early levels where you’re figuring out the best combination of towers and troops that the game is at its most effective. Progress is straightforward but it feels like you’re building towards something. None of the problems that come to dampen your enjoyment of the game are yet present and you’re having a good time. Anyone who spends a couple of hours total playing this before moving on to something else is likely to have a reasonably high opinion of the game.

Warhammer Dreadnought

So, problem time. I daresay if you look around the net after reading this review, you’re going to find that there are a fair number of below average scores for the game. Some of these are going to be based on more or less valid criticisms dependant on what’s important to you, so let’s take a look at some points.

1 – “It’s not a true Warhammer 40k game!”A tricky and debatable point this. It walks like a 40k game and quacks like a 40k game, but the web is up in arms anyway. There is a story to the game but it’s fairly nondescript. The text that pops up before a mission is ‘generic Warhammer speak’. It’s what I would expect from the franchise without being interesting. In the game itself, the fact that the Marines are Dark Angels makes not one scrap of difference to the gameplay. So the skin of 40k is there, but that’s all it is – a thin veneer over the top.

2 – “It lacks interactivity.” Can’t ague with this really. There are many times in the game where you’re simply sat waiting and there’s not really a lot to do. This wouldn’t be so bad, except the AI for both you and Orks is incredibly frustrating. Units will frequently walk right past one another or prioritise attack something that makes no sense whatsoever. The inability to be able to direct your units’ attacks is a crushing blow to the game, as it allows your troops to fire across lanes but they sometimes do so at the expense of the lane they’re in – defeating the point of them being spawned in that lane in the first place and hugely frustrating later in the game where it can be the difference between success and failure.

3 – “It’s ‘just’ a mobile game.”This is basically impossible to argue with. Storm of Vengeance is also out on iOS and without a shadow of a doubt I’d say that was the best way to play. If you’re at all interested in this title, the touch screen input method and the fact that tablet play lends itself to more bite sized gaming experiences suggest that mobile is the way to go. We tend to have different expectations from games presented to us in this format and the odd dodgy control or strange AI decision is more easily forgiven in a £3 title that you play on the train to work than a £6 game you’re playing on your PC.

4- To say that Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance is a difficult game to rate would be an understatement. It seems like it was designed to appeal to fans of the Warhammer franchise but almost certainly won’t, since it lacks the depth of titles such as Dawn of War or the excitement of Space Marine.

Warhammer Snow

There is certainly a kernel of something here, but it’s obscured by occasionally dodgy mechanics and too much repetition. As a PC game I would say it’s one to avoid but if you find yourself looking for something to pass a couple of hours on a National Express coach ride to Skegness, you could probably do worse than to check it out on your mobile device.

[wp-review]

Karlos Morale

Warhammer 40,000 is out now on PC and iOS.

 

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Review

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Diablo 3 – Reaper of Souls Review | PC | Blizzard Entertainment

Somewhere in the lowest echelons of humanity, nestled in between the child abductors and Michael Gove, there is a special place for the rubberneckers and those who can’t wait to glory in the misery of others. The kind of people who are quite happy to cause a 20 mile tailback in order that they might have a good old stare out of their window at a car accident on the other side of the road.

What is it that these people want to see? Are they looking for a severed arm on the central reservation? Perhaps some brain matter spread across the windscreen of the smashed up vehicle. Personally,  I have a grim determination to not look at the aftermath of an accident if there’s nothing I can do to help – I don’t want to see something that I’ll wake up with night sweats dreaming about years later. So, those people who are happy to ruin your day by slowing down to stare, how do they feel when there’s nothing to see?

Probably about the same as all those dullards who have been polishing up their ‘error 37’ jokes ahead of the launch on Monday of the long awaited expansion to Diablo 3, Reaper of Souls. Yes, we rightly gave Blizzard a load of shit about the terrible launch of their online-only title when it dropped in May 2012. Error 37 was the code applied to the failure to connect to a server – and there was a great deal of that at launch.

Diablo Dong

Indeed, at launch, Diablo 3 was a bit of a fuck up all over the place. It quickly became apparent to players that the loot system in this latest iteration of the well-loved franchise was broken and that the Auction House (which ultimately lead to the real money trading of ingame goods) was less than ideal. Basically, Diablo 3 – despite looking pretty and somehow retaining a bit of a community – was a lame duck with no decent end game.

Fast forward then to 2014, and I’m here to tell you that not only is Diablo 3 now finally an excellent video game but that you should buy it and its expansion, Reaper of Souls. The launch of which was absolutely seamless, I might add – kudos where it’s due, Blizzard. No matter what AAA releases follow this year, if you invest £50 of your hard-earned into this, then you’ll be getting tons of fun and value for money. That’s all we ask, right?

DIABLO 3 – WHAT’S CHANGED

First up then, Diablo 3. For the uninitiated, Diablo is a loot gathering, isometric, action RPG. You play through 4 Acts, leading up to a final encounter with the titular villain. As you do so, your character progresses from fragile, weedy derp to fire, lightning and holy light spewing killing machine by levelling up and acquiring better gear.

Thanks to the Loot 2.0 system that Blizzard put into D3 ahead of the RoS launch, this process of getting new gear is now a lot more fun. The holy grail for players – the legendary items – now drop with greater frequency and do much more interesting things for the player. You are also much more likely to receive loot drops that are usable by your class. The frustration of a run through the game resulting in a mere 2 legendary items, neither of which you can use, has been eliminated. As such, nearly every game session you play is going to result in you getting something that will upgrade your character – which means every game session feels fun and worthwhile.

The story in D3 is nothing to write home about, but the level settings and creature designs are certainly effective enough. Even though the tropes are familiar, the visual sheen applied by Blizzard’s design team makes exploring the world a good experience.

Diablo remains far too easy on ‘normal’ skill levels, but then it is all about pushing on through the difficulties once you have beaten the game and gathered your first decent set of equipment. It’s fair to say that the good times don’t really start to roll until you’ve beaten the game at least once, but it’s designed to be played and replayed – at least until you stump up for the new content.

Diablo III

REAPER OF SOULS – WHAT’S NEW

Epic Spoiler Alert  –  you kill Diablo at the end of the Diablo game. Shocking, right? So Reaper of Souls needed a new bad guy for us to boo and hiss at – and gets just that in a stunning cinematic that introduces the expansion pack. Malthael is Death – and he’s a bit of a git – something that is established by the fact that he wants to kill all humans. A bit like Futurama’s Bender, but not as cute.

I get the feeling that two distinct teams worked on the design for Reaper of Souls. One team designed things like Pandemonium, with its twisted fortress and shifting portals; perhaps they also designed the City of Westmarch with its winding alleyways and interesting architecture. The other team said, “Meh, let’s just do a sewer level with rats in. Everyone loves that.”  So the extra act that RoS adds to the campaign is a bit of a mixed bag visually, but plays just as well as the main game. Loads of great loot to find and an additional helper to get for your area hub.

Joining the weapon crafting Blacksmith and the magic jewel creating Jeweller, we now get a Mystic who enables players to ‘re-roll’ elements of their magic items. This means you can fine tune your favourite weapons to suit your play style as well as customise their appearance to match legendary items you’ve picked up previously – a nice touch that means you don’t have to sacrifice looking like a badass for merely being one.

Barb Avalanche

Aside from the extra act, there is Adventure Mode, which is really where the big impact of Reaper of Souls can be felt on the game play. Instead of grinding through those Acts again and again as you did in vanilla D3, once you’ve beaten the game once you can undertake ‘bounties’. Rather than a delicious coconutty chocolate treat however, these bounties are level-specific challenges which take place across different maps within the acts. Collect enough bounties and (apart from the XP and loot rewards) you will can undertake missions in the Nephalem Rifts, completely randomised loot runs which could drop any crazy combination of enemies and bosses on you for big rewards.

The last major addition is the new character class – the Crusader. A melee and mid range fighter, the Crusader is one of those great characters that starts off looking puny and ineffectual but quickly ends up (to borrow a quote) a mean motherfucking servant of God. With a glowing red, spectral horse – because, why the hell not?

The auction house is gone now – but that just means there are fewer shortcuts to getting a decent character set up. Expanding the level cap to 70 also means that even people with great gear for their level 60 characters who may have grown tired of D3, have a reason to come back and upgrade.

Path of War

I got into Diablo 3 in January, and for the last two months it has made writing about other games very difficult indeed. Now that the expansion content is here, I can envisage at least another couple of months solid gaming on this title from me. I’m the first to happily admit I have the attention span of a coked-up butterfly when it comes to games and for something to hold my attention for this long is very rare indeed.

Reaper of Souls is the delicious icing on top of an already sumptuously moist gameplay cake. It offers great options for bitesize or lengthy session gaming, with a pretty nice multiplayer community to boot. The chances are that you could easily get hooked by this game and find yourself running the dungeons of hell and pathways of heaven for, literally, years to come.

[wp-review]

Karlos Morale

out now for PC

Rambo: The Video Game

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Rambo: The Video Game | PC | Teyon

Question Time:

As a rule, games based on film franchises are:

A. Well realised adaptations of the intellectual property, expanding on the world of the story using the unparalleled freedom of the video game form to enrich the players’ enjoyment of the franchise they love.

or

B. Cynical cash-ins involving minimal effort on the part of the developer who shovel out crapware to suckers who don’t know any better.

If you answered A or B, then I’m sorry – you have no concept of the unmitigated shit factory of a game that awaits you by purchasing Rambo: The Video Game, probably the worst title I have had the misfortune to review for frugalgaming.co.uk*

*note: I’m not counting Dungeon Keeper for mobiles, since there is nothing there that constitutes a game in the first place.

So friends, let me take you on a journey of misery and false promises as we travel together through the R:TVG experience.

First of all, I’m not really a massive fan of the Rambo movies. I mean, they’re OK, but they never grabbed me in the same way those 80s Schwarzenegger films did. Maybe I’m prejudiced against Stallone’s wonky mouth, I have no idea. So anyway, I’ve only seen the films a couple of times, but even I can recognise that the dialogue from this game has been directly ripped from the movies themselves. A nice idea you might think, adds authenticity you might think. Unfortunately, no one bothered to clean up these sound assets or even go as far as to equalise the volume, so what should sound highly professional ends up sounding like a cheap rip-off. Bizarre, but hardly the worst crime the game commits against you.

Rambo 2

The trailer for the game does a fantastic job of hiding the game’s true nature. From looking at it, one might think you’ll be playing an FPS mixed with some third person elements, allowing you to play key sequences from the films. Bless your heart, I was once naive like you, living in a dream world where developers at least made a token effort to include game play in their titles.

In fact, the game play here is split between two elements that both suck balls and infuriate in equal measure. The first is the shooting. With so many substandard FPS titles out there, you’d think even Teyon – a developer with a history of crappy titles – would be able to crowbar something together. Sadly, this was beyond their wit, and what we’re given is actually an ‘on rails’ shooter. Yup, a flipping light-gun game.

Without the light gun.

A light gun-less game that fails to live up to the standards set by Taito’s Operation Wolf back in the 1980s when the Rambo films still had relevance.

Sure, there are some nods to modern titles in there; you duck behind cover periodically only to pop out again and shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Sometimes there’s no cover for you, so you have to shoot more quickly or go into ‘rage mode’ where you have to kill targets as fast as possible in order to revive health.

Occasionally you toss a grenade.

And that’s about it folks. It’s stupidly easy until you get to the final level, where the difficulty ramps up from ‘meh’ to ‘oh for fuck’s sake’ and will probably take you a few goes to learn the waves and the best time to utilise grenades. Then it’s done.

Rambo Bang

The 3rd person sections contrive to actually be even worse than the scrolling and shooting parts. Firstly, they’re all QTE based. If that isn’t enough of itself, you also get to really dwell on the frankly appalling graphics of the character models. They’re all pretty dreadful but special mention needs to go to the Rambo model himself, which is so poorly put together you could end up questioning whether it’s supposed to represent a human being or a bag of sausages glued together with fresh turd. Oh, and then shrink-wrapped to give it an uncanny sheen. Poor Sylvester Stallone, I hope he never sees this travesty of an image of himself – the shock alone might be enough to do him in.

The game tells you it includes stealth sections. It doesn’t. You just need to press Y at the correct time to sneak.

The game tells you it includes fighting sections. It doesn’t. You just need to press X at the correct time to punch (or dodge a punch).

Fortunately, the developers must have recognised what a load of crap these quick time event sections were and so they actually included an unlockable perk that means you can’t fail the QTEs.

Seriously.

So what was the point then guys? If you felt it appropriate to include a perk that helped us skip sections of your dreadful game, why not simply do us all a favour and not make us play any of it in the first place?

Rambo 3

I don’t know where to spray my hate cannon next on this game. How about the fact that it can be beaten in less than 3 hours? Or that this drivel costs £30 on Steam right now? Similar price on consoles. £10 an hour for this. I’m quite certain you could get all the movies for a tenner, and if all you did with them was smack them repeatedly into your face, you would have had a better time than playing this awful game.

I don’t mind giving games a chance, even when people tell me they’re rubbish – if something gets terrible reviews but I have even the slightest interest I’ll wait for a sale and pick it up. Hell, I managed to squeeze £3.49 worth out of Aliens: Colonial Marines because I went in with limited expectations. But there is really nothing here to justify you spending any money. There is no price level at which I would agree you should even try this game. If your time is worth so little to you, go and volunteer somewhere and make the world a better place to live in. But send a message to Teyon and Reef Entertainment:

We deserve better than this.

[wp-review]

Karlos Morale

Rambo: The Video Game is available now for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3

http://www.rambothevideogame.com/

 

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.

[wp-review]

Karlos Morale

Long Live the Queen is out now for PC

Try the demo here