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Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare – The BEST shooter I’ve played in years

Plants-vs-zombies-garden-warfare

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare came out near the end of February with pretty much no hype or fanfare. I’m not entirely sure if it was really marketed at all. It was actually several weeks later that I noticed it had indeed come out, initially on Xbox One and 360 only, and that’s when I started paying attention. After watching several videos and streams I just knew it was something I would enjoy, and I was totally right.

The Basics

pvz-engineerThe game is a third-person shooter with the Plants vs. Zombies theme. Garden Warfare is essentially multiplayer only but you could play split-screen offline if you really wanted to. There are several modes including a horde-style defense mode where four plants defend their garden from waves of AI zombies, your regular TDM mode where you have to get 50 kills, Gardens & Graveyards where zombies are trying to push through 6-7 gardens to complete their objective while the Plants defend, and a newly added Gnome Bomb mode where each side has pickup the gnome and use it to blow up three objectives. Gardens & Graveyards is easily my favorite but I do enjoy all of the versus modes. The horde-style defense mode, the name of which escapes me right now, is one that I haven’t quite put a lot of time into. Mainly because it’s the kind of thing that requires good communication and a certain level of competency that I have yet to find. [Read more...]

inFamous Second Son

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I just beat inFamous Second Son the other day and overall I enjoyed the experience even if there were some annoyances along the way. For those unfamiliar with the series, you play as a person with special powers in an open city environment. Along the way you make clear-cut moral decisions that give you either good or evil karma which determines how the story plays out and what kind of powers you can utilize.

Presentation

The game looks very good but not quite as good as some of the early footage we’ve seen. I don’t know what the framerate is exactly but it definitely didn’t feel stable. It really only seems to hit the low side during really large battles with a lot going on, especially if you activate your “kill everything on the screen” ability. Other than that I mostly experienced fluctuations on the higher end because I kept noticing sudden bursts of disorienting smoothness. That sounds stupid when I read it back but I don’t know how else to describe it. Personally I find that kind of thing jarring and really prefer a stable framerate.

The story takes place some time after the events of the first two games but doesn’t follow any of those characters. You play as a beanie-wearing and vest enthusiast who also likes to graffiti on the side. Along with having one of the most punchable faces I’ve seen he also sports a curiously stupid name: Delsin. It sounds like a dandruff shampoo and cold-medicine mash-up. I pretty much maintained that sentiment for a while before the game even came out. I later found out it is apparently a Native American name, which the character is, so cue white guilt and all that. At least until the character basically admits in a side conversation that his name is stupid and his mom got it from an old western movie. Now I don’t feel so bad. [Read more...]

Albion Online Alpha

Albion Online is a F2P sandbox MMO currently in alpha.  We received keys to participate in the alpha test that began this evening which ended up being so much fun that I had to jump on here and share my thoughts.  I would have had this post up yesterday evening shortly after playing, but my poor little laptop BSOD’d and I lost the whole thing. :(

Albion Online UI

UO meets Action RPG

Think of Ultima Online + a little bit of action RPG and you’ll start to form the foundation of Albion Online.  Played from an isometric perspective, Albion Online offers a completely sandbox experience on any device.  I was shocked to see that you can play cross-platform on iOS, Android devices, PC, etc.

 

Building

Players in Albion are able to build structures out in the world.  From what I can tell, there appear to be pre-designated spots close to the main city.  I haven’t explored far (the world is pretty dang big) enough to see if it opens up to more of a ‘place anywhere’ mechanic.  You can place storage buildings to help you store all of your heavy resources (there is a carry capacity), crafting stations, buildings to decorate, etc.  Like UO, you are safe in your building unless you built in the guild warfare areas.

Gathering and Skills

Albion Online Skills

This is about 5% of the skill menu

From the moment I started playing I realized how much time I could lose to this game.  The very first thing I had to do was gather wood, stone, and hides to craft myself some basic tools and armor.  I recommend making a shield and adding the Shield Wall spell — great survivability!  After crafting my tools I realized that everything in-game seems to be driven by the skill menu.  This skill menu is MASSIVE and makes Path of Exile look tame. [Read more...]

Project Spark

We just discovered an awesome little game/tool called Project Spark.  I remember back at E3 they showed off this new tool that would allow players to create their own games, build their own worlds, and (hyperbole) revolutionize the way games are played.  Well, it’s now available for people to try on Xbox One and Windows 8.

I was skeptical, but after playing around for a few hours I am totally loving what this thing can do.  I’ll try and explain a very broad overview of Project Spark, but you really need to watch the video I made to truly understand.  It’s a long one, so use the times below to jump to different parts that may interest you:

  • Creative mode (01:30-12:25)
  • Someone made the Original Fable RPG (12:31)
  • Pinball (17:47)

Project Spark Create ModeCreate Mode

The possibilities in Create Mode aren’t endless, but they are closer than anything else I’ve experienced.  Creating any kind of game from a platformer to a fully realized RPG is as simple as hand-crafting the terran, adding props, and “scripting” (Koding, as Project Spark likes to call it) the gameplay.  Utilize Kode is simple because everything is built with intuitive ‘when’ and ‘do’ statements.  When X occurs, do Y.  The interface offers visual cues to follow, and if you have any experience playing games you will know what to look for when trying to make the game play how you would expect.

Add, subtract, expand, erode, smooth, blockify — it’s all there.  After playing EverQuest Landmark for so long, I felt like Project Spark was almost too easy.  Not that Landmark makes things difficult, but Project Spark’s terrain tools are so natural feeling that I really sort of with Landmark could be this easy.  Project Spark’s limitations are really only in what props can be placed.

Project Spark Zombie GamePlay Mode

Play everything from a fully realized RPG, 3D platformers like Mario 64, or side-scrollers like Donkey Kong.  All of these can be made in the create mode then be shared and played.  I get a huge Warcraft 3 custom game vibe from Play Mode.  Looking at all the Tower Defense, Defend the point, and mini-RPGs out there it’s like the perfect ‘game’ to play when you are itching for that custom map experience.

Marketplace

Project Spark is free to play, so the developers are making their money via a marketplace.  You can buy tokens or earn credits.  Both will let you buy assets to use in-game when building.  You can buy individual props (everything from barrels to characters like a Knight) or new textures.  You can buy entire packages to make castles, new spell effects, new abilities, sounds, etc.  If you are serious about making games and love to get feedback from people who vote on them, etc., then you will love Project Spark’s marketplace.  I’m unsure as to whether or not there will be monetization for people to be able to sell their creations or not.

Check out the video above for a more in-depth look at Project Spark.

Yoshi’s NEW Island

Yoshi’s latest game is out, and it seems to be getting a lot of mixed reviews. I don’t think Yoshi’s New Island is nearly as bad as some people think it is, but maybe I’m in the minority. To me it plays almost exactly like the previous games with only a few bumps along the way.

yoshis-new-island-floating-marioThe Old

The game is very much similar to the original SNES title. The levels and bosses may be a bit different but the story seems to be essentially the same. You play as Yoshi carrying around baby Mario on his back. When you get hit Mario starts to float away in a bubble and scream like banshee until you either get him back or the timer runs out and he gets swooped away by baddies. Yoshi can swallow most enemies and turn them into eggs which he can then throw at baddies or other triggers within the level. Yoshi retains all of his other classic moves such as his ground pound and flutter jump. In each level there is something like 20 red coins hidden around as well as five flowers. Plus completing a level with a full 30 stars, or whatever the timer points are called, contributes to the overall percentage of completing a level. 100%-ing all levels in a specific world unlocks a bonus level. So yeah, pretty much exactly like the original game.

The New

yoshis-new-islandThe visual style seems to be pretty divisive. The original game used a kind of crayon-drawn aesthetic but the new one is some kind of chunky clay pastel thing. It’s hard to explain, really. The game does seem to look pretty bad in screenshots but when you are actually playing (and in 3D) it does look a lot better.

You get some new egg types this time around. In some levels you will get to use a rather gigantic egg which you need to use to break down pipes either directly or by banking them off walls. There’s also a larger, but not quite as large, heavy egg which you can roll out ahead of you like a large boulder or to weigh you down in water.

Yoshi transformations are back and I think some of them are new. There’s stuff like a helicopter, submarine, jackhammer, and I think there is a hot air balloon as well. You wont encounter these in every level but when you do you must use the gyro controls to steer the transformed Yoshi around.

Final Thoughts

I do really enjoy the game despite the flaws it may have. The music isn’t great, which is a real bummer, and the transformation sections are pretty “meh.” The levels themselves aren’t overly challenging but the difficulty is definitely a lot higher if you are trying to 100% the level. Making it through with 30 star points and also finding all of the coins and flowers can be pretty tricky, especially on most of the bonus levels. Yoshi’s NEW Island is basically Yoshi’s Island, but not quite as good. Still fun, but probably not destined to be a classic like the SNES game. However, if you liked Yoshi’s Island DS then you will probably enjoy this.

Windows 8.1

Several of our readers have been asking me to do a quick write up on Windows 8.1.  I recently bought a new PC, and I decided it was time to give Windows 8 a try.  I’ve been happily using Windows 7 for the past 4 years.  Honestly, I have no complaints.  As a gamer, Windows 7 did everything I needed and felt compatible with everything.  So naturally, it makes sense to upgrade.

I’m not an expert.  Let me get that out of the way right now.  I am your slightly above-average user; perhaps more, but far from a techie.  I’m a gamer.  I spend the majority of my time on a PC playing games, writing about games, browsing the internet looking for things related to games, and talking with others about games.  Those are my requirements.

keen-start-screen

Windows 8.1 Start Screen

I heard horror stories about the start screen.  I heard everything from you no longer have a desktop to this thing being worthless.  All of that is untrue!  The Stat Screen is actually pretty neat.  The image above is what mine looks like right now.  It has that tablet look and feel that emphasizes user experience.  I’ve chosen to keep mine simple: the games I play, the programs I use every day, and the extra on the left.  You’ll notice I have a nice big desktop button.  If I click that, it takes me right to the normal desktop you’ve been using for over a decade.

This Start screen is completely customizable.  You can use any image you want, any color, etc.  You can change the size of tiles, name the groups (or not), and make it like a little command-center for whatever you want to easily access.  If you don’t want to use it, you can practically get away without ever seeing it.  [Read more...]

Quick Thoughts on Dark Souls 2

I’m a big fan of the Dark Souls games, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Dark Souls 2.  I’ve only put in around 15 hours so I haven’t seen too much of the game yet. Had I not gotten the game two days late and restarted my character five times I would probably be farther along. Still, there’s a lot of interesting changes worth noting, both positive and negative.

Spells Require Stamina

This is actually a pretty big deal. Your spells still have a limited number of charges but they also require stamina to use. So after you run away or roll to the side to avoid a nasty blow you have to regain enough stamina to cast your spells. This is pretty much why I decided not to try playing a caster on my first go through.

Cool New Covenants

I really like most of the new Covenants they added to the game. There is a decent mix of co-op and pvp along with some new PvE covenants. There’s a Champion one, for example, that makes the game more difficult and disables all summoning so you have to do it yourself. Another interesting one is the Blue Sentinals, a PVP covenant that summons people to defend members of the Way of the Blue co-op covenant when they get invaded by enemy players.

Soul Memory

This a record of all the souls you have acquired. I believe the idea of it is to prevent people from making low-level characters with powerful gear to invade the worlds of new players. Some people also claim that this prevents co-op summoning if the range is above 500k or something like that. It seems that nobody is exactly sure about the mechanics of this but it sure is bothering a lot of people. [Read more...]

Titanfall Review and Giveaway

Graev and I have been pretty excited about Titanfall ever since we played the beta.  We both consider ourselves to be ‘average’ when it comes to first-person shooters.  We’re never going to top the K/D ratio charts or consistently lead a team to victory, but we enjoy the action and get-in-get-out fun from your everyday gamer perspective.

Your options are vast in today’s marketplace.  Call of Duty and Battlefield dominate the FPS space with consistency.  Is Titanfall a contender?  Should you spend your money and give it a ‘shot’?  Read on for our complete thoughts on Titanfall and a chance to win some free stuff!

Overall Gameplay

Gameplay in Titanfall is uniquely intense without ever subjecting the player to a lapse in action like one might find in Battlefield.  The 15 available maps are on the smaller side, but with only 6 players per side and a squadron of AI controlled grunts it somehow manages to feel ‘just right’.

Leaping through windows, jumping rooftop to rooftop, wall-hanging, jet packing around, sprinting, cloaking, hanging off enemy and friendly titans, and leaping into the waiting arms of your titan — an experience you simply have to experience at least once in your life — are all enough to make any match satisfying.  The opportunities to use the map to your advantage while doing all of the above are incredible and easily a distinguishing factor between the novice and experienced players. [Read more...]

Thief Disappointment

I played the original Thief games when I was younger and since then they have been the standard that all other stealth games get measured by. When I heard that a new Thief game was being made I didn’t hold out a lot of hope that it would be as good as the originals, but it looked interesting enough to try anyway. I’m not very far in the game yet, only up to chapter 3, but I have several things that I wanted to talk about.

Garrett the ThiefDifficulty Customization

Originally, I decided to try playing the game as they had designed it. I picked the hardest difficulty and left every other setting at default. I got all the way up to chapter three before I could no longer take such a patronizing experience. For some reason it seems devs think modern gamers are incredibly inept at playing games and require giant waypoint arrows, visual meters that show the alert level of guards, and special vision modes that make everything intractable light up like a Christmas tree. Fortunately the game allows you to customize the difficulty options in an attempt to make the game feel like the originals. You can disable anywhere saving, the aiming reticle, the focus vision mode, etc. So after turning on essentially every limitation and disabling waypoint arrows, and pretty much everything else, I started over. Unfortunately, there’s a lot that is still same about the game. Even though the focus vision mode is turned off you will still see climbable spots glowing with an offensive blue tint and even though the reticle is turned off objects will still highlight when you aim at them, which essentially is the same thing. [Read more...]

South Park: The Stick of Truth

south-park-stick-of-truth

The new South Park RPG comes out today and we were lucky enough to get an early review copy from Ubisoft. It probably goes without saying that the game is full of violence, cursing, and a whole lot of other offensive content, but it’s South Park so that should be fairly obvious by now. The show has been on for over 15 years or something, so I’m sure most people who would complain about anything are probably burnt out by now. But hey, at least it seems like they go out of their way to insult everybody rather than any specific thing.

cartman-the-stick-of-truthPresentation and Story

The Stick of Truth looks pretty much just like the TV show. Admittedly, I’ve only seen sporadic episodes from the first several seasons but they seemed to replicate the aesthetic rather well. The music is also fantastic and features a lot of pieces that fit really well with the fantasy motif. As far as I can tell all of the voice actors seem to be the same people that do the TV show, and the whole game seems stuffed with various cameos and references.

In the beginning you take on the role of the “New Kid” and create your very own South Park character. The creation is fairly limited but you are able to pick from several hair styles and colors, a base outfit, and even skin color (Which does influence a few conversations in a way I’m sure you can imagine.). Once you are in the game you can wobble around and explore your environment which consists of parts of South Park (Some neighborhood streets, downtown, etc.). Almost immediately you will find your way over to Cartman’s backyard and be asked by the grand wizard himself to join the KKK — the Kingdom of Kupa Keep. It’s then that you get to choose between one of four classes: Fighter, Mage, Thief, or Jew. I’m actually very curious as to how many people do a double take at that point in the game. Anyway, through most of the game you will essentially be taking part of the kids’ fantasy game that has the humans and drow elves waging war over the fate of The Stick of Truth which grants the bearer powers over the universe. [Read more...]