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July 25th, 2010, 20:16
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
Finished the singleplayer game. Although incredibly short, I thought this was one of the least predictable first person shooters I ever played and the game provided quite a lot of awesome scenery that was just cool to watch.

Story
Modern Warfare II is a direct sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The story continue 5 years after the first game, with the return of several characters from the first game. Like in the first game you change who you play from level to level, giving you different perspectives of the same conflict. I do not want to give any spoilers, because this is a game in which almost every level will surprise you. Some of these surprises are really brutal, prepare to get your emotions touched and not in a good way. I thought that the games unpredictability is one of it's strongest point, almost no levels look the same and there's also a variation between sneaking missions and straight combat missions.

Engine: Graphics & Sound
What can I say, there are few games that looks as good as this one and my only complaint about the sound is that radiochatter was difficult to comprehend. Perhaps it was meant to be. What amazed me is how fast the game ran, despite looking really good. I guess this is because it's optimized for XBox 360, which is now five year old hardrive, but also optimized for modern graphiccards. Only occasionally I got a framedrop but most of the time I must have had over 100 fps with my 4ghz 8800GTX/SLI. By comparison games like Fallout 3, S.T.A.L.K.E.R and other modern titles tend to lag a bit.

Gameplay
As a modern first person shooter MW2 does everything it should. It have tons of weapons, neat physics, smokegrenades that are actually useful etc.
If I have a beef with the game, it's that Modern Warfare 2 is a linear affair. Most of the time you simply follow directions. One could say that MW2 is a sequence of beautiful scenery, because at least it looks good. Yet, there is quite a lot of variation. The type of weapon you use really change what you can do. With some weapons it's no problem taking down a whole army, just rushing forth. Some weapons aren't accurate enough to hit or kill in one burst which makes them less predictable and thus need another strategy. Some missions are sneaking missions, others are sniping missions, others are "defend the area", others are straight on "shoot the tank" kind of deal. There are also some wild driving sequences, and a few surprises which I am not going to reveal here. Occasionally there's a bullettime sequence, usually when you breach a door, that slows down the time for a moment, giving you time to grasp the new room and shoot at the right target.

My other beef is the PC controls, because hold+prone doesn't register if you already use hold+crouch. This oversight is actually kinda nasty, because if you are crouching already and need to go to prone, you must first stand up and get shot. Minor issue but one that shouldn't be in a PC game.

Collectables
In CoD:MW2 you may search for intel, usually laptops hidden around the level. I say that chasing these is nothing more than a waste of your limited lifetime, at best you earn an achievement for doing so, nothing more.

Final Conclusion
Although short, it was great while it lasted. I look forward to play the next one. The end demands a sequel.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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July 25th, 2010, 20:46
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat
Third game in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series, and a real sequel this time.

Story
This time you are playing a member of Ukraine's Secret Service who are sent into the Zone to find out what happened to a number of helicopters that crashed while scouting anomalies in the area. You begin your search near Skadovsk, a settlement of people living inside a rusty boat.

Much of the story is told by cutscenes or through dialogue with NPC's. The main story of the game isn't what you will spend most of your time with, instead you are probably going to do sidemissions. Each major area has it's own story, usually a conflict between a couple of factions. Much like Fallout 1 and 2, your actions here will affect the ending of the game. You meet plenty of interesting characters on the road and you decide who to help and who to decline. Call of Pripyat is a lot more of a roleplaying game than it's prequels, even if the combat itself is still a First-Person Shooter.

Graphics: Engine & Sound
Despite it's age, the developers have made sure Call of Pripyat supports the latest effects, including Direct X 11 cards. I partially played this to try my SLI480GTX setup after my SLI8800GTX completely failed to run the game in an acceptable speed. Rain looks extremely good and I was often amazed by watching water pour over wet stones, over my wet weapon, and raindrops splashing on the ground.

The ruins of Pripyat and it's surroundings is exceptionally well made. You can usually navigate yourself around the map just looking at it's features, something you normally can't since games tend to reuse content throughout a map.
You will probably not see more complex and detailed maps than the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series… and they are HUGE… The main color here is brown, everything is rusty and dirty and in different stages of decay. This is not a pleasent location.

This is also the only series that made night in the wilderness a creepy experience. I actually avoided nights-out this time around by trying to sleep as soon as it got dark, but when I was out I was always amazed how good night looks in this game. You see lightsources from far away, including lights from zombies walking around. Dogs and creatures lack lightsources though and they do not show up on the radar, but you hear their noises. Sound is really good.

Despite all that, faces and animations of characters doesn't look as great as other modern games.

Gameplay
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is essentially a mix between RPG mechanics and a first-person shooter. You upgrade your items to get better, better armor and better weapons and you can take on almost anything in the game. You also find artifacts that you can mix to get powers such as health regeneration or protection against radiation. There's a quest system in the game, and usually you run quests for various factions, often providing you with a choice on what to do. Call of Pripyat does the questing better than earlier games and overall it feels like a better planned quest architecture. The shooter mechanics worked fairly well, you can really feel the difference between a weak non-upgraded AK47 and a fully upgraded modern assault rifle. One will barely kill someone you unload a mag on because not a single bullet hits, the other can easily take out half an army.

Achievements
In Pripyat you can actually unlock achievements, usually by finding stuff and returning it to the right character, or by finishing larger quests.

Final Conclusion
What an awesome game this was… I find myself unable to finish the game after playing it for 4-5 days… I barely got around to finish my Modern Warfare 2 review above… It's incredible atmosphere is almost unmatched on the market. I know no game like this out there.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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July 25th, 2010, 22:57
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
My other beef is the PC controls, because hold+prone doesn't register if you already use hold+crouch. This oversight is actually kinda nasty, because if you are crouching already and need to go to prone, you must first stand up and get shot. Minor issue but one that shouldn't be in a PC game.
I'm surprised you didn't mention the fact that they also got rid of the "Lean" function.

I found MWII to be a bit of a disappointment compared to the first game. It felt very "consolized" in comparison. I even had to download a mod just to remove the crosshair, which was much too large in typical console fashion.
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July 25th, 2010, 23:14
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
I'm surprised you didn't mention the fact that they also got rid of the "Lean" function.
I never realized, probably because I was playing the game at a high pace. I noted that the game moved forth in it's scripts once you reach a point in the map so just rushing worked quite well.

I found MWII to be a bit of a disappointment compared to the first game. It felt very "consolized" in comparison. I even had to download a mod just to remove the crosshair, which was much too large in typical console fashion.
I actually don't remember that much from the first game.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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July 27th, 2010, 20:52
Not Warpig? Or the sniper mission? The nuke?

You make Call of Pripyat sound very intriguing especially as it's Ģ11.99 at amazon.co.uk atm.
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July 28th, 2010, 08:55
Originally Posted by woges View Post
You make Call of Pripyat sound very intriguing especially as it's Ģ11.99 at amazon.co.uk atm.

It's sad that the STALKER games didn't sell better over here, as great as they are. I think they were perhaps too complex for the common shooter crowd. Call of Pripyat has already been reduced to $19.99 in most of the major retail stores here.
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July 28th, 2010, 09:02
Originally Posted by woges View Post
Not Warpig? Or the sniper mission? The nuke?
I remember the sniper mission, the nuke, the boat at the start of the game, and the last map. That's about it.

You make Call of Pripyat sound very intriguing especially as it's Ģ11.99 at amazon.co.uk atm.
Feel free to try it. You will experience bugs, and the hardcoreness of the game might tick people off (you walk in the forest and the next moment you are dead or have your armor trashed). The story in the first game is the best one though.
The game might be cheap, but be sure you have a rig that can handle it… S.T.A.L.K.E.R is one of the most demanding games for PC as far as I know. Still, I think it's among the best experiences you can get to PC.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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July 28th, 2010, 09:57
Grand Theft Auto IV: Lost and the Damned
Lost and the Damned begun as a DLC for GTA4 but I played the PC version released as a standalone game bundled with the other DLC "The Ballad of Gay Tony".

Story
LatD is it's own story about Johnny the biker who briefly appears in the main story. It occasionally ties in with the story about Nico but from Johnny's perspective. Johnny is the Vice President of the biker gang The Lost who managed to get the gang rolling pretty good while it's president Billy was in jail. But now he's released and bing back a leadership that quickly turn things to crap.

The main story in LatD is only 18 missions long, which is less than 1/5 of the main game. This means that if you push it you get through the game in a day or two, still for a DLC it's a pretty well made one. I didn't find the sidecharacters as interesting as the one you have around Nico and I didn't find the story that exciting.

Engine: Graphics & Sound
Not much to add here from the original game. I was able to run this with 480GTX cards instead of 8800GTX this time around. While not particulary faster, I got less graphical errors. Voice acting is just as good as the first game, with some of the lesser characters returning from the first game.

Gameplay
Most of the gameplay is the same as playing Nico Bellic, but there are some major additions. Most noteably, Johnny is a biker and tons of new bikes are added to the game. Bikes are much much easier to control now and I found myself preferring them over cars. You do not fall off easy and they take lesser space on the road meaning it's easier to get through traffic. You also have free bikes available everywhere, you just phone your buddies and you get a new one droven to you.

There are some missions you go out with your gang and you recover health and repair your bike by holding bike formation. You can also level your biker friends by taking them to missions. Those are the only real changes to being a biker compared to the cardriving you are used to with Bellic.

There are also a couple of new weapons, such as pipebombs and the assault shotgun. The second one was almost overpowered, I found very little that could stop me when I managed to get my hands on it.

Johnny do not rob a bank, he actually have to work hard for the money. You do not get that much from only running the main missions, however, I did manage to get through the entire game without doing a single sidemission for money. Only once I was down to $900 and the only thing I bought was armor.

They did fix the most major issue with GTA4, the need to redrive to a mission if you fail. Now if you restart your mission there are checkpoints that allow you to restart in the middle of the mission if you fail.

There were plenty of things they didn't really use in GTAIV. Internet is underused, you won't go dating, I never felt the need to build buddy relationships etc. Still, that could be excused for a DLC.

I still had some of the issues of the main game. The most frustrating one is that if something happens while the phone rings, you wont get to hear the call. This often happened when I was going to make a call for a new bike and accidently broke off the call for the next mission. Also discussions with friends etc might break and they are never repeated again.

Achievements
If you want to do 100% in this game there are tons of sidestuff to do such as gangwar, armwrestling, pigeonchasing or chasing seagulls. I skipped it all, I really just wanted to get through the main story and then begin with Gay Tony.

Final Conclusions
If you loved GTA4 this brings more of the same. The large and convincing city is still here, the gameplay is mostly the same. The story isn't as well written and the ending felt a bit like a lackluster. Still, as a DLC it's pretty good. I played the PC version though (Episodes from Liberty City). I wouldn't pay full price for this game alone, but with Gay Tony in a bundle it might just be worth it.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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July 30th, 2010, 10:42
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony
TBoGT is the second DLC for Grand Theft Auto IV, and present a new story with another character. I played the PC version that comes bundled with the other expansion "The Lost and the Damned" under the title "Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes from Liberty City".

Story
The second DLC is much longer than the first one and definitely have a better story and more well written characters. It could actually be called The Ballad of Luis Lopez, because that's the main character in this one. Luis is a dominican bodyguard and business associate with Anthony Prince, the owner of several hetero and homosexual nightclubs. Anthony is the one referred to as Gay Tony in the title. He keeps running into trouble with drugs and the wrong business deals, but Lopez is there to sort things out.

TBoGT have a different feel than the first two stories, first of which you played an immigrant in search for revenge, second on which you played a biker. Lopez is trying to do a decent living since he got out of a 2 prison sentence for a crime he did or did not do. He engage in Liberty City's nightlife like no other previously have done, driving flashy cars, play around with a lot of women, visiting nightclubs etc. Most of the time Lopez end up in trouble he didn't ask for, often by simply trying to be nice to people. He is definitely skilled at what he do, but he tend to lack the spine to say no when too much is asked for him.

His relationship with Gay Tony is complex. No, they aren't partners, but it's evident that Lopez cares a lot for his boss, maybe because his own life depends on it. They argue a lot but are still very good friends.

Beyond the main characters there are also a wider selection of minor characters who are much more fleshed out and well acted than what you see in Lost and the Damned. Prepare to laugh and remember them.

Gameplay
Much of the gameplay returns from the earlier games. Bikes didn't return in TBoGT which is ok, but it's weird considering how they were all around town in LatD and then all gone again in TBoGT. One could say that bikes are replaced by helicopters. I hated the helis in the first game, and unfortunately they aren't that much easier to control in TBoGT… however, since you are flying so many of them you get better along the way. There are only a few times you need precision in your flying and since checkpoints are more generous there were never too much frustration in flying them.

Besides helis you have a lot of skyjumping. If you want to you can skyjump from skyjump points all over the city.

Finally there are some new hardware. Lopez get the real high tech stuff, such as combat shotguns with explosive shells, a modern assault rifle which I believe was a FN P90. He also uses sticky bombs that first need to be thrown on something, then detonited with another button.

Final Conclusion
The Ballad of Gay Tony is a much greater story than The Lost and the Damned. The main story is almost double the length of the first one, with more well written characters. If you liked the original game GTA4 but didn't like TLaTD you should still check this one out.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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July 31st, 2010, 16:42
This is going to be a long one…

Splinter Cell: Conviction
The early Tom Clancy games like Rainbow Six and later Ghost Recon was hyper-realistic, which was a special kind of game among a sea of FPS in which taking a bullet only lost you a few hitpoints. Then came Splinter Cell, which also relied on not getting shot but added stealth mechanics to challenge games like Metal Gear Solid. The third game of the series, Chaos Theory, is celebrated as one of the best PC games ever made. But then things changed. The fourth game tried to be different when Sam Fisher went undercover to infiltrate a group of terrorists. But the fourth didn't just change the conventional way the game was played, it also did some changes to the canon, the backstory, the established NPC's. This is what I disliked the most about the fourth game, but the PC edition was also a terrible port, with dysfunctional keys and graphics.

Conviction is the fifth game, and if the fourth was a tweak, the fifth is almost a complete rehaul. Is the series dead now or did it manage to redeem itself?

Story
The story in SC5 is told in past tense by Sams friend who seem to be interrogated by unknown men in a dark room, only lit by a single light aimed to a table in front of him.

Unlike previous games, Sam Fisher do not work for a government agency doing missions for them, this time it's personal and he sets up his own rules. The following will spoil earlier games in the series, so do not read this if you haven't played the rest.

Spoiler


Splinter Cell: Conviction tells a story in many new ways. A really interesting new feature is that flashbacks is shown like movies projected on walls that Sam walks past. Guidelines on how to progress on the mission is also shown this way, projected on the street, on walls and on other objects. Sometimes Sams mood is shown in this way, telling you how Sam feels about the situation.

Graphics: Engine & Sound
SC5 is a beautiful game to behold. The greatest settings made my SLI8800GTX to crawl, but worked very fast with my new SLI480GTX. Interestingly movie cutscenes actually looks worse than the in-game graphics! Most noteably I thought Sams hair was, it looked very realistic. There are more to it, but I thought I would mention that in Gameplay below.

Sound is just as great. I played the game with my 7.1 speakers and it really helped me to not get surprised from behind. Many of the foes and characters you walk past can have long dialogues with eachother which you can listen to if you like.

Gameplay
Where to begin. SC5 is one of the most innovative games of this kind that I have seen in a long time. I already mentioned that the game present you with labels on stuff, directly in the 3d view, rather than present you with a separate window with a journal or directives. There is a small hud that shows you your weapon but it's barely needed. Another nice feature is that when you are in the shadows, the screen go black and white. This allow you to know you are stealthy without looking at a bar in the hud. Both of these changes I feel allow you to get yourself absorbed into the game more, not forcing you to look elsewhere on some kind of minimap.

You have a large amount of weapons that can be upgraded as you move along, but you also have a very cool execute mode. If you meleekill a foe you unlock execute. When you have it activated you can mark foes with one button, then launch an execute sequence with another. Unless the targets are behind something Sam will automatically kill them for you. No need to screw up your stealthshots anymore. My best weapon allowed Sam to headshot 4 people in a matter of seconds. There were also ways to mark people, such as using a mirror beneath a door, watch for foes, mark them, then open or bash the door and press execute.

Another interesting feature is the "last known position". When you are spotted, foes do not know where you are, they only know where you were spotted, so they will move over there. If you quickly sneak around them you can take them out from behind when they are searching for you. Your last known position is shown as a ghostlike figure of Sam.

I won't tell you everything this game offers, but I can tell you that you have a large amount of special gadgets which you can use to assist your stealth or your sneaking, in fact there are so many features that you might not even learn to use them all during one playthrough. You can EMP targets and take them out when they are stunned. You can plant a mine and detonite it from far away. You can plant a camera and watch it. There are many ways to get past a sticky situation.

Once you finished the campaign you can play singleplayer missions that gives you an objective and set up foes for you. This is not the main storyline, but it allows you to play with the gameplay mechanics some more if you like to. You can also play the game online.

Achievements and collectables
This game does award you to try stuff out in more ways than giving you achievements or badges. The game have "challenges" that reward you with points. Theese points can be used to upgrade your weapons. Having some upgraded ones make the game a lot easier. You can go back to do earlier maps, or you can play online or do the automated singleplayer bonusmissions to unlock more if you like. I personally replayed some earlier levels to unlock weapons before doing the later missions in the singleplayer campaign.

Final Conclusion
It's evident that if there's a SC6 it won't bring back how SC1-3 worked. The story around Fisher and the main characters have changed definitely with this game. However, that doesn't make it a bad game, in fact, this one is a hell of a lot better than the fourth one. I found the story satisfying, some things happened that I had hoped for actually, and the gameplay is superb. SC5 is an extremely well designed game and as far as I concerned it have redeemed the series rather than trash it.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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August 1st, 2010, 14:32
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
Direct sequel to the game "Escape from Butcher Bay" with an improved engine and a new story. I assumed this was a DLC length addon. I was wrong. AoDA is a full game.

Story
I personally do not remember much from Escape from Butcher Bay, nor the movie. Even if Butcher Bay was bundled with Assault on Dark Athena with it's upgraded engine I had no intention playing it through again. A prologue might have been nice though, but AoDA is really it's own story, mostly separate from the events in the first game. You begin in space, on a ship. Waking up from cryosleep, Riddick see the Dark Athena pop up. Dark Athena is a huge starship filled with mercs and they aren't friendly.

The story is nicely presented with plenty of sidecharacters. Much of it is presented through cutscenes.

Engine: Graphis & Sound
AoDA uses the same engine as the old Butcher Bay that was released 2004, only spiced up with some new eyecandy. Most of the time it looks good, but it still keeps a retro feel to it. It looks a lot like DOOM3, using mostly greyish or greenish textures with bumpmapping and other effects on them. Surfaces looks good, what really make it look old is the lack of details. Most games today have incredibly detailed maps in which you can really see the difference between area to area. Dark Athena have the old issue of many areas looking the same so I sometimes got lost and couldn't see where I was going.

Faces looks almost exactly like in DOOM3… meaning they look like they were rendered 2004, not 2010. They have an okay amount of polygons, but things like lips looks teared up and unrealistic.

It's a shame the game couldn't be as colorful as the great concept artwork of the game.

Gameplay
Let me say first that Dark Athena is it's own game, but it doesn't have too much tutorial on how the game is played. I have forgotten most of the tricks learned in the first game, I even skipped an health upgrade station since I believed it to be a regular one.

There's two major elements to Riddick, stealth and melee. Kinda like Condemned, Riddick relies more on melee weapons than ranged weapons. In fact, most of the time you do not have ranged weapons, and even when you do those areas are the most difficult in the game. Melee is difficult to pull off right, most of the time I just ran onto someone and sliced them down with my double moonbladed knives. If there was a proper way to do melee kills, I forgot about it.

The A.I. in this game makes enemies behave like Quake bots. They have superb eyesight and see you with ease even from long range. Once they see you they aim like snipers and they strafe like crazy to avoid incoming fire. You may think you are ok with full health before a fight, but you die in 2 seconds no matter what. This makes Dark Athena HARD, very hard.

Playing this game after finishing Splinter Cell 5 gave me two stealth games to compare. AoDA is a pseudo stealth game. It have the stealth mechanics in it, but most of the time it doesn't work very well. The enemies usually have an easy time finding you and silent kills doesn't work too well. You can shoot out lights, but most of the time it doesn't help and the enemies pinpoint you once you begin to shoot anyway.

Another weird thing is that you grab onto ledges with USE instead of JUMP, but at other places you are supposed to use the jump key. I fell down a lot and often thought a wall was impossible to jump because of this.

Collectables and Achievements
The game will award you with achievements depending on what you do. You can go back later on and replay maps in attempt to get the achievements. There are several hidden bounty cards to find that unlock artwork and background story that can be accessed from the game menu. There are also nanomed cartridges that can be used in health stations to heal, or large health stations to permanently upgrade your health.

Final Conclusion
Over all Dark Athena have been an enjoyable experience, yet extremely hard, oldschool and frustrating. The story is ok and there are some satisfying moments. That said, I am not hoping for a sequel unless they seriously swap out the engine and fix the gameplay.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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August 1st, 2010, 21:20
You probably should have played Escape from Butcher Bay again. It was much better than Dark Athena.
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August 1st, 2010, 23:45
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
You probably should have played Escape from Butcher Bay again. It was much better than Dark Athena.
Yeah, but I'd rather work on the pile of unplayed games I have at the moment.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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August 2nd, 2010, 08:45
Ankh III: Battle of the Gods
Imagine Monkey Island in 3d and with an egyptian setting and you get the Ankh series. That means a place where everyone is nuts and crazy and despite the ancient setting the references to the modern world is plenty.

Story
In earlier titles we met Assil, the young egyptian lad and his girlfriend Thara. As the game begins they live together and Assil still have the Ankh. Suddenly balls of fire rains down over the landscape. Turns out that every 1000 years there's a battle between Gods about who will be the next ruler. Horus, trapped in the Ankh, needs Assils help to win the battle and hopefully get his body back. Seth, the evil god, have everything in his favour and it's not pleasent if he wins.

This is an adventure game and as a such the game lives on it's story. Sadly to say I personally didn't find the 3rd game as likeable as the others. I might have grown out from it but I remember laughing much more to previous titles than this one.

Engine: Graphics & Sound
Ankh III uses a yesterday 3d engine with some modern effects. Visually it looks like a game from the early 10'ies but with a lot of color sparkled on it. The Animation is clunky, cutscenes are badly animated. While not technically impressing, the artwork itself is excellent with an overly cartoonish feel. The game have an excellent cast of voice actors that do their job well. The music does it's job. Overall Ankh III feels like a decent attempt.

Gameplay
When the 3d craze set in and adventure companies went 3d, the results were almost aways bad. Many times they tried to use the 3rd person view, moving the character around with WASD like a shooter. Ankh do not do this, instead it carry over the classic point & click interface from older titles, click on the ground with left to move, use the right to interact. When you move into a different section of the same room, the camera switches. I think this is a good choice and it feels ok. My problem however is that it's often difficult to see where you can go to change the camera view. Also, important objects might still be covered by objects in the forefront. In the first part of the game there was an oven behind a chair that had to be clicked trough the chair and could barely be seen. Other times, the room was too dark to distinguish objects that was interactable. Art design have some blame here, I wish that key sections had been lightened up a bit more to make them more obvious. I found myself missing the eyeglass function they had in Secret Files: Tunguska. Puzzlewise there were plenty of puzzles that didn't make too much sense to me.

Final Conclusion
Reading my Ankh II review, I wrote "second game of the series and yet again it's absolutely hilarious". Ankh III is perhaps the end of the series, I wouldn't mind if it is really. I laughed a lot to the first two, but the third… I don't know. I didn't feel as wanting for a sequel as I did at the end of the first and second game. The best thing I can say about it is the voice acting that is still excellent, but that's about it.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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August 10th, 2010, 03:40
Gothic 3 with Community Patch 1.74, with alternative balancing and AI on, normal difficulty.

My previous attempts at the game without CP ended fast due to my general dissatisfaction, recently Iīve replayed G2: NotR and afterwards decided to give G3 one last chance in hope CPīs fixes and changes will be enough to make the game at least somewhat enjoyable so that I could finally finish the damn thing.

Well, since Iīm posting here I did finish the game, yay.

Overall, a pretty enjoyable experience but still not a great Gothic game.
Would I be someone without the experience with previous two titles, the game would be probably enjoyable more because Gothic 3 + CP delivers a lot on the sandboxy front, but since I do have a comparison I just canīt deem the game as a satisfying conclusion.
CP team obviously did a great work at alleviating a lot of gameīs gameplay and technical issues but mostly bland and uninspired writing, sketchy approach to important characters and general change in tone just rids the game of the signature charm present in G1+G2.
Also, thereīs way too much hackīnīslashy scenarios and combat balance itself is still rather lacking, especially when it comes to wild animals. Add to it a lot of not-all-that optional repetitive sidequests and you get a game that certainly isnīt shy of being tedious.

That said, in its current state, Gothic 3 has quite a lot of positives as well.
A bit more complex character development is engaging and does not allow for the jack-of-all-trades build (I tried though), economy is well balanced, loot system (mainly due to unique loot chest progression thing) works as a solid driving force for exploration, thievery is nicely balanced. Companions worked fairly well with defense power added by CP.
From a more macro perspective, the three different environments definitely arenīt just a gimmick - all have quite well realized and distinct cultures, backstories and landscapes (plains of Varant, lush woodlands of Myrtana, vertically challenging Nordmar) and Iīve found the whole faction concept to be an interesting spin on C&C matter.
Music is pretty much uniformly great, as are the visuals. Character animations and a lot of character design (water mages, Lares just for exapmle), as well as some sound effects (swimming, combat sounds) are for some reason subpar though.
Thank god the atrocious sun glare could be switched off.

Some companion pathfinding issues aside, I donīt think I experienced any other bugs at all and had zero crashes throughout the cca 80 hours playtime. Stuttering here and here became a non-issue after short while (played on 1680x1050, medium rig).

As for my progression (some SPOILERS I guess), being quite sure I wonīt play the game again, I pursued a somewhat jack-of-all-trades-y route and played for all sides as far as I could to generally suck the game dry as much as possible on the sole run.
Explored about 2/3 of Myrtana with some companion tagged along, mostly playing as an archer since Iīve found close combat against wildlife to be often infuriating, in a similar fashion Iīve "cleared" Nordmar. Somewhere in a second half of Nordmar my char finally become strong and well equipped enough and a large portion of combat tedium went away. Maybe thatīs the reason why Iīve found Varant to be the most enjoyable part of the game. Two handed fighting was my most common practice there and usually I went companionless.
I barely liberated anything until I had all quest items, then came the carnage where I finally put all gathered spell scrolls tu use .
Liberated Varant (though I got free access to Ishtar beforehand), liberated Nordmar, tried to preserve balance in Myrtana (killed the king, destroyed one rebel camp, liberated two cities), went Xardas route and ended up with partially unsatisfying ending slides (I hoped for human-orc peace but that didnīt happen, probably because one paladin died long before I restored his power via chalice I presume). Got carried away a bit here.

Anyway and all in all, even though Iīve found the game lacking in several important departments, it didnīt stop me to play it quite thoroughly, which in my book basically the game as of now (with CP) has enough strengths as well.
If the Humanforce Questpacket (and its English translation) turns out to be great, I may even consider replaying this game some day.

With a better though-out combat balance, more involved and creative storylines for three main regions, tied together for the endgame, more depth to selected characters as well as main hero and 2009 release date, this could be an all-round winner, Iīm damn sure .

Hereīs my ending charscreen just for the heck of it:

P.S.: There was a big cleanage/redecoration/etc going on in my apartment for a while and it got mostly finished today around midnight and it made me throw a humble little one man drinking party, so if there are any bugs in this post, ascribe it to that .
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August 10th, 2010, 05:25
Originally Posted by DeepO View Post
Overall, a pretty enjoyable experience but still not a great Gothic game.
Would I be someone without the experience with previous two titles, the game would be probably enjoyable more because Gothic 3 + CP delivers a lot on the sandboxy front, but since I do have a comparison I just canīt deem the game as a satisfying conclusion.
My thoughts exactly. Gothic 3+ CP is a "good" game, but it had the disadvantage of having to live up to its prequels, which were two of the greatest crpgs ever made.



Originally Posted by DeepO View Post
Liberated Varant (though I got free access to Ishtar beforehand)
How did you get your access to Ishtar?
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August 11th, 2010, 02:16
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
How did you get your access to Ishtar?
I initially planned to "join" hashishins so I did all their quests available in Myrtana in their favor and continued to do so in Varant as well. Thankfully, I got the required 75 reputation without killing any water mages because that would be a big no-no. Had to wipe out one nomad clan though, IIRC.
I actually didnīt want to liberate whole Varant at all, just the town with imprisoned water mage, but for some reason cleaning out the orcs around two main Varant temples counted as liberations too and since Iīve already done all hashishin quests anyway I kinda went with the flow from there .
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August 16th, 2010, 09:52
Dragon Age: Origins
Finishing every quest in the game took me 13 days in total and I have played the game 6-16 hours per day. I think I got the most satisfying ending possible as far as I concern. I played and elven mage who I leveled into buffing/healing magic. I was happy to see this work very well.

Story
If you have played previous games from Bioware, you know what you can expect here. Storytelling share a similar formula to games such as Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire, Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect.

As the game begins you get to play one out of six origin stories. Since I was a mage, I got to play a short story in which I was an aspiring mage in a closed school. Mages took the blame when the "blights" were created, so the school is almost a prison, guarded by templars. Blights can be explained as an infectous zombie horde, lead by an archdemon.

Once the origin/tutorial is completed you earn your generic title (compare with Bhaalspawn, Shardbearer, Shepherd etc), this time it's "Warden". A Grey Warden is a kind of heroic band who specialize in opposing the blights as they pop up.

In many ways Dragon Age is a very traditional fantasy story, probably inspired by the Lord of the Rings. Your main quest is to gather an army to lead against the horde, gathering the mages, the dwarfs, the elves and the humans. Of course there's a lot of sidequests on top of that, as always the allies you take with you each have a story of their own.

Each section of Dragon Age is well written. Considering the length of it, some parts could have leaned only on it's written content, sparing long sections of fighting/looting. Some areas felt a bit too drawn out for my taste, but once I got trough and back to the story, the game became interesting again. That said, I didn't think the overarching plot were the best I have seen from Bioware, but the origins felt fresh. Sadly they aren't going to use those in DA2.

Engine: Graphics & Sound
One who played Neverwinter Nights can definitely recognize the engine. This is very much Neverwinter Nights 2, although with new map sections. Also optimized for 5 year old consoles, it isn't graphically up to par with modern PC games. Still, graphics isn't everything and the artdesign that went into amazing areas like the Dwarven City or stuff like armor was quite amazing. Also there were two graphical improvements I noted from NWN2, first traps can actually be seen now, they are more than red boxes on the ground. Also there are death animations for the bosses. Especially when fighting large opponents you can see one of the characters jumping up on top of an opponent, slaying it.

DA:O on PC supports both 3rd person (like Mass Effect, Gothic, Risen, Divinity II etc) and Isometric (like Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights 2 etc). I used both. Isometric was a must to be able to properly control area spells, but I used 3rd person in cities to see distances.

There are a lot of gore in DA:O. While fighting you see your characters getting more and more splattered with red. Interesting touch.

If I have any concerns, it's that wizard hats are butt-ugly. I sometimes optioned to not have them since they look so bad. I might even have preferred your traditional cone-hat with stars and moons upon it over what's in the game now. I also thought the selection of wizard robes was rather poor. I only found about 5-6 robes throughout the entire game, most look the same with only color variation.

Like NWN, DA:O isn't optimized for higher resolutions. I play the game in 2048x1536 but had to use a mod that resize things like the inventory window and fonts. Unfortunate I couldn't find a mod capable of sizing the minimap or portraits.

Audio is as expected, rather good. Voice acting is excellent, although sometimes NPC voices are overused. I could actually hear when I met an NPC over a Companion since I recognized the voice actor who made the NPC's.

As usual in modern games it was rare to get catched by the music, but one combat music catched my ear. The music in the Dwarven City definitely reminded me about Lord of the Rings.

Gameplay
One who played Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale or Neverwinter Nights will recognize themselves in DA:O. There aren't that much that have changed, which is a good thing. You have an inventory with a paper-doll with twelve slots (two for alternate weapon), a party inventory similar to KOTOR, a toolbar at the bottom of the screen where you can put all your shortcuts to spells and inventory, your party portraits and health in the top left, a minimap in the top right etc.

DA:O is a tactic rpg, so there are a lot of talents, skills, items, stats etc to boost and a lot of things can happen in a fight that you need to keep track of. I was very happy when my buffer/healer got a "Tactic Achivement", which you get from your party killing 250 foes while you deal no damage yourself. This was the way DA:O told me "play your character you want to play". Sometimes you have to face opponents on your own, but I managed to handle most of these situations, even if having very few damaging spells.

Unlike Dungeons & Dragons, spells aren't a "suite", meaning you have unlimited spellcasting as long as you have mana. When a spell is casted, a timer begins to tick and the icon is darkened. It lits up again when you can cast it again. This worked well so you do not need to rest.

It was great to see proper dialogue again, not the dialogue wheel they had in Mass Effect. At the bottom of the screen, dialogue options are shown, and you get to pick what you wish to say. This make dialogues unique for every situation and sometimes there are alternatives that have subtle differences that still feels better for how you choose to play your character. There are no black & white morality system in DA:O which is great. You can pick dialogue options based on how you feel in the situation and it will probably effect the outcome of that situation, but you do not need to chase orange or blue points like in KOTOR or Mass Effect. Some attributes, like cunning, and skills like coercion, unlock additional dialogue options, so two players with different characters might have different ways to get past an encounter.

Final Conclusion
DA:O is a game for intellectuals. Story, great companions, tactical combat, heavy system to learn etc is precisely the stuff that got me to enjoy RPG's in the first place. It was great to see and play this game compared to Jade Empire and Mass Effect that had the story and great writing, but tremendously poor actual gameplay.

Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. - John F Kennedy
An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
The world is my country. To do good is my religion. My mind is my own church. This simple creed is all we need to enjoy peace on earth. - Thomas Paine
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August 16th, 2010, 16:45
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
Final Conclusion
DA:O is a game for intellectuals. Story, great companions, tactical combat, heavy system to learn etc is precisely the stuff that got me to enjoy RPG's in the first place. It was great to see and play this game compared to Jade Empire and Mass Effect that had the story and great writing, but tremendously poor actual gameplay.
Oh please
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August 16th, 2010, 17:10
Itīs also a game that separates the men from the boys .
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