Well I guess the first thing to get out of the way is that I am a game store employee. Luckiy my soul is saved from the evil of places like Gamestop and EB. Instead I work at C&C Games in Fremont, Ohio, a little slice of heaven in the hell of a podunk/retard town of asshats and wiggers.
Other than that I'm your average gamer nerd, my hobby luckily turning into something I can use at work. Even if my expertise seems to be playing the games my bosses can't stand, like RPGS and crazy ass 'unique' titles >.>;. Can't complan though, since working here has given me some more self-confidence and access to my bosses' vast experience in the gaming industry.
Plus I can get sweet swag, like my bitchin' Fable store display (which makes a nice night-stand XD) or the various posters that I eventually have to throw out because of my damn pets =P.
Besides that I can't think of anything else to put here, save for the fact that I love video game music. From the works of Mitsuda and Sakimoto, or even all the way back to Uetmatsu's early days with Final Fantasy, I have quite a large collection that I tend to listen to when either doing a few bits of writing or working =D.
Yeah I know. I should stop blowing this game's cock, but I just had to throw in one last bit of information for those still seeking it about this game before it releases this week.
This last bit would be the new playguide released on the official site for the game, a guide that simply explains all of the main mechanics in a way that is much quicker than my long posts I suppose. It also features character strategies so you can better figure out which characters to play as when you start out (or make as your main).
So enjoy those few that read my blog over the last couple of days!
After two long chapters to this immense collection of information about Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom, with the first two parts being here and here. To finish this whole piece off, I've decided to do an in-depth review of the game before it comes out here in the States in order to give my fellow D-toid members an idea of what to expect when they pick the game up this week.
Being Naked Makes Elf Chicks Invincible
In order to understand the game, you've got to understand the story. The premise is, for the most part, simple: two gods decide that in order to prevent a massive war between their followers, they agree to a pact that allowed each of them to rule the world for a few eons while the other god rested. Once the other god was done sleeping, he would show up and take his turn at running things while the former ruler goes to take a celestial nap. This creates a cycle of light and dark, the titular 'Circle of Doom'.
However Nible, the God of Light, grew tired of watching his peaceful creations being warped by the 'Age of Darkness', and so he betrayed the pact and refused to give up his rule to Encablossa, the God of Darkness. Understandably Encablossa wasn't pleased with this, reaching from the darkness where he was resting to summon forth legions of evil monsters and men to take the world for him through force.
This would lead into the events of the first two KUF games, which ended with Encablossa's source of power in the world being destroyed once and for all. The result of this created a Sauron-like banishing of Encablossa back to his 'Dark Dimension'. However he didn't leave without stealing away several major players in the war he started, trapping them within the labrynthian depths of his lair.
That's where you come in, taking control of each of the six characters in this game and leading them on their personal quests. Some of them seek power, others seek love. Then there are those like Duane, who are just narcistic pricks with delusions of grandeur. Most of the stories are alright at best, serving as more of a quest chain than a deep, intricate narrative. This at least will give people something to do in single-player, but it's hardly a concern for those seeking this game out for multi-player purposes.
I'm You! But I'm Me!
One problem that becomes apparent over time is the overall lack of true character customization. There's only five or so armor variations (all of which do look pretty sweet as you go higher in level) meaning you won't find anything like in WoW with the myriad of armor combinations to make it tough to find a true clone. The same goes for weapons, with each armanent having around six or so different skins.
But I would be an idiot if I didn't mention the fact that you can synthesize dozens of Enhancements to your weapons and armor, thus allowing some measure of individuality as you tweak your gear to meet what you want out of your character. For instance I've created a Duane that uses weapons with the 'Profit' Enhancement, which enables him to earn extra money from defeated enemies. This allows me to build a lovely purse of gold with which to purchase the necessary health potions that I go through due to Duane's slow speed in escaping enemies.
However there isn't so much customization when it comes to your attributes, with only HP, SP, and Luck being available whenever you level up. Each time you level up you earn points that can be distributed amongst these three stats however you see fit, though putting points into HP quickly becomes useless as you'll find armor along the way that will boost your HP far higher than you'll get by using points. So that just leaves you with SP, which is necessary for using abilities and being able to equip higher level gears, and Luck, which is needed in order for the better loot to drop from enemies. The higher the luck, the better the goods.
This means then that all your physical damage is reliant on your weapons and upgrading them constantly to keep up with the tougher enemies as opposed to increasing a Strength stat. As for your spells, well, they do more damage if you hold down the button you have the skill equipped to drain more SP into it. This either causes more projectiles to be unleashed or even your healing spells to generate a longer lasting field of health regeneration.
In a way this system isn't so bad, but I'm a bit of a numbers freak. I always enjoyed being able to tweak and tune my characters in Diablo and other such RPGs, even if you really only had one right way to distribute points when playing each class in those style of games. So I guess they removed the more time-consuming point management in order to make the game not as frustrating for newcomers to the genre.
Three's Company, Four's a Massacre
One of the key draws for this game is the four player co-op through Xbox Live. Yes it's only through Xbox Live, which I know has already made a few people pissed off. As cool as playing online is, I'd rather have the option to somehow play with someone on the couch next to me as well.
Despite this the four player is quite fun, especially with people you know. It can also turn into quite an obsession for those looking to reach level 120 or even unlock Extreme difficulty for the ultimate challenge. Not to mention the guilty fun of running around after a boss fight and trying to out-grab your allies for the sizeable treasure horde dropped upon the creature's death.
A great feature the game implements to keep the challenge up is the scaling of enemy stats to match the number of players in the game. So while their levels remain the same, their HP and damage output increase and decrease incrementally as players enter and leave the game. This also translates into more experience points and better loot drops as the game seems to combine everyone's Luck stats in order to affect what drops for which character.
There's also a rather easy-to-use trade menu in the game which makes exchanges between players a breeze to navigate. Hell you can even check out what the other guys/gals are wearing in case you want to assess their skills or just show off your well-earned equipment. This is a definite plus for making the multi-player aspect of the game a bit smoother. Well...that and the fact that there's barely any lag in the game at all, even when connecting to players from Japan and Australia. Take THAT Two Worlds. (yeah yeah I know I shouldn't editorialize in a review, but I couldn't resist!)
With an enjoyable multi-player experience, great design in both the enemies and characters, and a somewhat familiar franchise backing it up, Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom should appeal to those looking for something different on Xbox Live. There aren't alot of Action RPGs on the 'box, especially those that feature an online component sans monthly fees. Not to mention the promise of content downloads, which could very well include new characters and levels, should keep fans hooked until the next iteration in the series.
However I can't entirely forgive the flaws of this game either, be it the bleh soundtrack, the barely-there storylines, or the high learning curve for the synthesis system. I think this game should really include a tutorial of sorts to teach people the finer points of fusing weapons together instead of forcing them to search message boards for advice. Also if you don't get into hack-n-slash games, this game will probably not convert you into a fan of the genre because it is quite hack-riffic.
So in closing:
Higher Difficulties add length and challenge that are rewarded with better gear
Voice Acting is, with a few exceptions, well-done
Lots of skills to learn
Plenty of Enchancements to tailor your equipment to your needs
Single-player is boring
Music is non-existant at times
Synthesis can be too daunting for new players
Not many options for giving your characters a 'unique look'
'Destructible environments' are anything but that
Small number (6) of worlds to adventure in
Final Score: 6.5/10
Yes that's right. It's a somewhat average score. Personally I love this game, but I'm not everyone now am I? So I feel that for a good portion of people, especially with the demo out, this game is a pass. But I'm sure that hack-n-slashers, dungeon crawlers, or people who like Action RPGs will enjoy this title despite it's flaws, especially those looking forward to four player co-op in a title like this.
Will this game sell millions? Probably not. Will it find an audience? I'm sure of it. If Koei's anything to go by, it's not always about selling millions of copies; it's about selling enough so that you can keep bringing more of what your fans love to them, and I look forward to more games in the Kingdom Under Fire franchise for years to come.
However I may give up hope if I start seeing Kingdom Under Fire 5: Xtreme Metal Legends Empires (with more elf tits and vampire fellatio!).
In the previous part of this piece I discussed the short history of the Kingdom Under Fire, namely focusing on the Xbox games (as they are what I'm most familiar with). There was even a bit of a information given about the characters that you play as in this game. But I decided to use this portion to share more in-depth explanations for the seemingly complex yet satisfying game mechanics present within Circle of Doom.
Also there will be more pretty pictures for those that prefer to just look at screenshots instead of reading ;P.
One of the features of this game is the synthesis system, which allows you to fuse various items found on enemies and bought from the Idols (which act as shopkeeper NPCs within the game) in order to create far stronger equipment. For instance if you combined a sword with 100 ATK without enhancements with a sword with 90 ATK with several Enhancements, you'd end up with a sword with around 95-97 ATK power that would keep those Enhancements. The benefit of this is of course to increase the power of the weapon you enjoy using so as to keep it's damage consistant with the level of enemies you'll be facing throughout the game.
Of course one of the key components of the synthesis are the afforementioned Enchancements, of which there are around 50+ (according to the back of the box at least) that add beneficial effects to your weapons. These range from allowing you to perform counter-attacks, apply status ailments with each strike, or even increase the experience you earn from defeated enemies. For the most part people tend to pick a few Enhancements they enjoy and work on synthesizing them to the maximum level of 25.
In order to do this you'll need to find weapons that share similar Enhancements. Once you've acquired these items, you can fuse them together to combine their Enhancements in order to produce a higher level of that Enhancement. For instance, say you had a sword with Lvl. 15 Greed (which increases exp gained) and another weapon with Lvl.5 Greed. Upon successful fusion of these two items you'll end up with a piece of gear that has Lvl.20 Greed.
However it should be noted that each successful synthesis increases the cost of synthesizing that weapon again. So you can see where that whole 'sticking with a few weapons' mentality can help save your gold in the long run. Then again I've only played through on Normal, so I'd imagine the amount of gold you find on enemies increases drastically when playing the tougher (way tougher!) difficulties. At least I HOPE so!
Another mechanic of the game, and one that helps give you some measure of personalizing your character, is the inclusion of various spells and skills that your character of choice can learn. In order to learn these spells, however, you'll have to enter the 'Dream World', where NPCs that live in your mind wander. Among these characters are those that will teach you these abilities, enabling you to learn two of them at a time. The reason for this is because you must complete a 'kill so many of these' style of quest in order to earn the right to learn the skill in question.
Of course the more powerful the spells, the rarer the prey you must hunt down. In fact some of the best spells can only be learned by killing monsters found in the Hard and Expert difficulty levels! But the challenge is worth the rewards, for these skills can be quite beneficial in the long run, enabling you to effectively deal with crowds or even inflict potent status ailments that could save your ass in a pinch.
Yet I would be foolish to not mention another use for spells, one that coincides with synthesis. You see when you get weapon to a high enough level, you can actually fuse an ability onto it in order to give it the chance to cast that spell for free. Granted you'll lose that ability until it's relearned, but being able to cast free spells can prove quite handy. There's even an Enhancement that increases the chance of these spells proc'ing, so if you have a spell you love using it's definitely a good idea to fuse it to a weapon with a high level of this Enhancement.
Well folks this post is getting a bit long, and I'd like at least some left for the next part of this blowout. I'm thinking the next one will be the final part (maybe), though if there are any questions I'm sure I could answer them in the next portion as well. I'd go into greater depth than what I've put in this post, but I'm afraid if this got too long than people might not read the whole thing =(.
Kingdom Under Fire. To most people this name sounds more like a Hollywood blockbuster set in the Middle-East than a game series. But to a very rabid fanbase, this name brings to mind characters like Regnier, the immortal lord of Hextor, or Leinhart, the half-vampire prince. To these people (myself included) the news of any Kingdom Under Fire game tends to get us a bit, well, giddy with excitement.
However for some, this intense devotion has been tested with the third (fourth if you count the obscure PC game) and very different game in the series.
Before I begin this rather long post, I think I should quickly explain just what the Kingdom Under Fire series is about. For the most part it's a Dynasty Warriors hack-n-slash for people who don't care for the continuing soap opera of the Three Kingdoms. Developed originally by Phantagram, creators of the cult hit Ninety-Nine Nights, the series combined elements of Dynasty Warriors with RTS features such as troop management and on-the-fly switching to your various battalions whenever their unique expertise was needed. This, along with the gruff sounds of metal music, helped give the game a very different feel from it's Oriental cousin.
Yet as good as the two Xbox KUF titles were, they weren't exactly major sellers. I don't really know the sales numbers myself, but I'm pretty sure they weren't that high. So for most fans, it seemed like the series was doomed. But as a fan of games, I've noticed that sometimes even cult series can continue despite lackluster sales (like Koudelka which got THREE sequels with the Shadow Hearts franchise).
Sure enough Blueside, who had co-developed the KUF games with Phantagram, decided to bring out another game set after the events of Kingdom Under Fire: Crusaders, which was the first one brought out on Xbox. But instead of the tradition style of gameplay employed in the previous titles, Blueside decided to go with....a dungeon crawler.
That's right folks. A Diablo-style dungeon crawler with hack-n-slash gameplay mechanics. So quite a bit different from the norm for this franchise, as well as something quite different from all of the quality (and not so quality) shooters on the 360. Despite this, I'm sure some of you out there could give two shits about this game. I hope perhaps I can inform you enough so that you'll give this game a try =).
The basis for the game is simple: 6 heroes from the 'Age of Light' have been trapped within the Dark Dimension by the dark god Encablossa following the events of Crusaders. Now let me assure you non-KUF fans that knowledge of the previous games isn't entirely necessary to enjoy this game. While it certainly helps if you are familiar with the characters, most of the story is understandable without knowing each character's full history.
Anyways each of the heroes is drawn to this place for differing reasons, be it for power, love, or even to preserve their valor. With each of these characters also comes various play styles, from slow yet destructive powerhouses like Regnier and Kendal to speed freaks like Leinhart and Celine. There's even Duane, who is perfect for the more 'sit and shoot' type of player. Sadly I haven't really had a chance to play with Curian (the sixth and 'hidden' character unlocked through Celine's quest chain), though I see he plays out in a more balanced style with his wrist-mounted crossbow and partisans from observing those that have unlocked him ^_^.
Yet as unique as each of these characters are, if you just had to use them by their lonesome this game would be quite boring. In fact on the surface this game looks to be a generic 'kill everything that moves' style of game, simply mashing the X button to achieve victory. I won't lie to you either; a good portion of the game IS like this. But beneath the surface lies some very complex and obsession-creating game mechanics that could give some numbers freaks (you know who you are) the fits for months for come.
Come back tomorrow when I'll go into details about the game's synthesis system, the different abilities at your disposal, and why the demo for this game is pure and utter shit that does more to hurt this game than help it. See you then folks! I'm going to get some fucking sleep...
Today should have been a great day. Not only was I off from work, but two important items came in today for me through the mail. The first item was Sonata Arctica's live DVD For the Sake of Revenge, acquired through Ebay for a measly $20. As a big Sonata fan, this DVD is really my only hope of seeing these guys live for a long while, as they rarely tour the US. Money well spent!
But the second item was one that, at first, added even more to my day. Straight from GameFly, sitting there next to my DVD, was my copy of Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am for the PS2. Like a good chunk of 'young people', I've been a fan of ATHF since the very beginning, having acquired my first taste of them back in high school. Ever since I saw Dr. Weird spray the Rabbot in the eyes with a giant bottle of perfume, I've been hooked.
So with such rabid devotion I put the game on my 'GameQ' through GF, eagerly awaiting it's arrival in my home. I even went so far as to purchase the game through them, not only saving a few bucks because it would be 'used', but also because it open my GameQ up for Assassin's Creed and Kane & Lynch to make their way to my home.
However you can already guess that something must be amiss, else why would I say today 'should' have been a great day? Well first watch this promotional video in order to give you a bit of background on the game itself. After that I'll tell you why I feel kinda let-down by this game.
Watched it? Good. As you can see from the trailer, the game is a strange beat-em-up/golf hybrid game, featuring 11 levels (12 if you count the tutorial) of golfing while also mixing in some slight exploration, item collection, and fighting. In other words: this game is certainly original.
But how does this all go together? Simple: you hit the ball, then you have to go through the level in order to get to where your ball landed. As you roam around, however, you are beset on all sides by classic Aqua Teen creatures like Brownie Monsters, Trees (from 'Revenge of the Trees', one of my favorite episodes), and even the 'Wisdom Cube'. But luckily you are not defenseless, your club making a fine weapon along with swords and anti-crab spray found throughout the levels.
Of course there's also that whole item collection aspect to the game I mentioned earlier. Like many games, this one too requires you to seek out hidden objects in order to unlock special bonus content. One of these are film reels, which unlock clips from the shows for your viewing enjoyment. The other are Broodwich pieces, of which there are twelve altogether (one in each level). Collecting all of them supposedly unlocks a special bonus video, however I'm only on the sixth level at the moment so I haven't acquired all the pieces yet.
I'm sure you must be wondering to yourself 'so what's the problem Mike? It sounds like a decent attempt at something original while also retaining the Aqua Teen humor'. Well allow me to give you the quick and dirty on this game.
The first thing that bugged me were the graphics. Granted I know for $30 I shouldn't be too picky, but GodHand was $30 and looks way better than this. I blame part of this on the Aqua Teens themselves, as they really don't transition well to 3D. Carl and the Plutonians especially look really bad (Ogglethorpe looks like a bald, spiky Hershey Kiss). This takes away slightly from the cutscenes as well, the humor making them the only reason I could stand watching them over and over again.
The other item on my list is the gameplay. The golf itself is alright, serving as more of a plot device than a true feature of the game. It's mostly just hitting X to determine power, then hitting X again to set your accuracy. Nothing to really complain about. Yet I can't get over how repetitive the fighting is, featuring nothing more than running around fighting rapidly respawning enemies over and over and over again while just mashing the X button to attack. Like I said about the graphics, I know I shouldn't complain since this game is on the cheap end, but I really wish they had done a bit more to make the combat a bit more enjoyable, as the game is mostly about killing creatures while occasionally golfing.
Yet despite all of these issues, I guess I can't be too cruel to this game. The cast of the show lends their voices to the game with excellent results. Also the levels are quite nice, feeling like they belong to a golf course that could only exist in the twisted universe of the ATHF.
I also can't forget the bonus features, which feature artwork, the cinemas from the game, and a neat trailer for Blacksite: Area 51. Granted I don't get why they would include a trailer for a game that isn't even coming out for the PS2. Maybe they assumed a few PS3 owners would give this game a run through their system instead of something like Uncharted or Ratchet and Clank Future?
The best bonus, however, is the inclusion of four full episodes from the series, one of which is an exclusive to the game called 'Robots Everywhere', which features a family of annoying robots moving in next to Carl. As you can imagine they do nothing but torment our favorite bald sexist until he finally fights back in the most awesome way imaginable. The other episodes are 'Revenge of the Moonites' ("I don't need no instructions to know how to rock!"), 'Video Ouiji' ('We are Sofa King We Todd Ed"), and 'Broodwich' ("That sumbitch had an axe!"). Definitely three classics =).
Now that we've got that out of the way, I guess I should add in some sorta score in order to help people decide on whether or not to check this game out. While I do feel disappointed to an extent with the ugly graphics and primitive gameplay, there are redeeming qualities about it that certainly keep it from earning my total ire. So it's no 9 or 10; hell it's not even in the range of a 7-8 for me. However it's certainly not a 1-4 either.
I guess to be fair I should give two scores, one for ATHF fans and the other for anyone else looking at this game. Yeah that'll work! Here goes then:
For ATHF fans like myself: 6/10
For non-ATHF fans (how i pity you =P): 5/10
Yes I know it's one whole point. Let's be honest though; the only people who will truly get the most out of this game are those familiar with the material in question. As for renting it or buying it, I'd say at least rent it. If I had thought about it, I probably wouldn't have bought this game despite my fandom. Yet I can see this game being a tough one to rent, so perhaps just picking it up for $30 isn't so bad after all. I mean what else do PS2 owners have to look forward to?
Well that's all folks. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did typing it up. Granted I know it's not as good as something from Jim or Dale, but at least it's something. Especially because I'm not sure if one of the editors were planning a review of this game or not.
I also want to mention that part two of my CCG opinion piece will be coming shortly. I'm also making a promise to no longer do another '20 Questions' style post again, as not only did I feel like a total Myspace tool while doing it, but I never even found out if anyone shared any interests of mine on there =(. To make it up to you folks, let me end this post with a little bit of Mizzeatwizzad for your enjoyment.
Well folks I've put the whole 'CCG Rant' on hold for the moment. It'll be a few days until the next part as I wish to research my subject in depth. This will work out with me using facts to supplement my opinion so I'm not talking out of my ass about a subject that I'm semi-knowledgeable about.
So instead I've decided to use a random filler post to help tide folks over. The filler in question? Why it's the popular 20 Questions filler! Granted most people HATE these as they tend to reek of attention-craving delusions. However I'm hoping that by sharing a few details about myself, I might give people on D-toid a better idea of the kind of guy I am.
Plus I might find some more friends to occasionally chat with on here that share an interest ^_^;.
ONTO THE QUESTIONS!
1. Favorite Food?
2. Favorite Song?
A. 'Dante's Inferno' by Iced Earth. It's a tad bit long (16+ minutes), but it has great vocals, awesome riffs, and is more of a string of bite-sized songs combined into one metal meal. You'll see what I mean if you listen to it ;D!
3. Favorite drink?
A. Bolthouse Farms' Mocha Cappuccino with Whey Protein.
4. PS2 GoTY?
A. Persona 3 easily!
6. 360 GoTY?
A. The Orange Box. Team Fortress 2 ALONE would be my GoTY, but add in Portal and it's a sweet, sexy Source-powered thrill for all.
7. Band I'd love to see live?
A. Sonata Arctica
8. Least favorite band?
A. Fallout Boy. I almost put Maroon 5, but they at least had a song I LIKED (Harder to Breathe).
9. Favorite Magic: The Gathering card?
A. Pit Spawn. In my old Necromancy deck it was one of my best weapons alongside Devouring Strossus. Granted they weren't really that well-liked, but I always have a soft spot for those two. Plus most of the people I played with that deck were always surprised to see Pit Spawn come into play. Ah..memories..(/nerd moment)
10. Favorite game quote?
A. 'That was doctor-assisted homicide!'
11. Favorite Adult Swim show?
A. Aqua Teen Hunger Force
12. Favorite 'adult' cartoon?
A. South Park (Drawn Together is a damned close second)
13. Least favorite show?
A. Charmed. It's thanks to that shit that I see 'Witchcraft' books at every fucking book store I go into. I wonder if half of these 'witches' realize that there was a love spell that involved feeding the person you loved your own piss mixed with ground beef? I guess they don't mention bat-shit crazy stuff like that in those oh-so-truthful 'tomes' do they?
14. Favorite movie?
A. Either Citizen Kane or Kung Pow
15. If you were on a deserted island, which ONE game would you have there to keep you occupied until your hopeful rescue?
A. Jeez this is a hard one. I guess I'd have to go with Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. I've easily put about 100+ hours into that game over the years, and I bet I could put in about a few hundred more =P.
16. Woman I'd most love to have a dirty, raunchy, fuck-a-delic adventure with?
A. Considering that I used a word like 'fuck-a-delic', I doubt I'd EVER have a chance with a lady like this one. Yet if I did, it would have to be Keira Knightly. 'Nuff said.
17. Favorite video game song?
A. 'Dancing Mad' from FF6
18. Favorite video game moment?
A. Blowing up Hitler's fucking head with a rocket in the NES version of Bionic Commando.
19. Least favorite game moment?
A. Zelda's 'oops sorry I overslept Link' line from the final fight in Wind Waker. Just when the game was getting good and serious, they thrown in some hackneyed Saturday morning bit that made me want to smash Zelda and Links' over-sized tumor heads together and let Ganondorf take over the damned world.
20. If you had one billion dollars, what would you do with it?
A. Use the money to research cryogenic freezing or to develop giant mechs for use in our wars. Actually scratch the robot one. If I've learned anything from Gundam Wing it's that the most emo, androgynous, and for the most part queerish guys will become badass mech pilots that will take out dozens of other pilots in short order. Can't very well empower the emotionals now can we?
So there it is. I'd add in something to the end here, but I'm a wee bit tired so I just want to say 'fuck it' and go to bed. Later folks.