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8:26 PM on 08.23.2015

Shadowrun: Hong Kong quick review for those wondering if they should pick it up: Did you like Shadowrun: Dragonfall? Then yes, at least so far, you will enjoy Hong Kong. May drag a review from the bubbling depths after I wrap it up.


9:57 AM on 08.21.2015

Welp shadowrun hong kong is out for backers (not sure about general audiences). So lets see whatchya got harebrained schemes, for the third go.


1:12 PM on 08.17.2015

The Unnoticeables review: worth noticing

Gamemaniac3434 and his team of assorted yogurts and other bacterially derived foodstuffs who have gained sentience heroic quest to travel to the center of the universe and defeat an unknowable and collosal cosmic potato seemingly driven only to discover the pure chemcial equation for the perfect starch by destroying planet after planet for their starches Review experience presents:The Unnoticables, by Robert Brockway.

Well, after pre-ordering this book for my nook, I picked it up on and off for the first 100 pages, as summer hijinks tends to force attention elsewhere. 
Then yesterday I started at about page 100, and burned my way through the book till here we are. Such is the nature of me as a reader, but the book grabbed on and wouldn't let go. After RX I was a little curious as to how this one was going to turn out, because while I didn't dislike RX I felt it has some weak parts that held it back a bit. To be fair that was the first type of that book Brockway attempted though, so its understandable that it might have some minor issues. It wasn't anything huge, just some small stuff that kept it from meshing perfectly for me. 

I have no such issues with The Unnoticeables. 

What is The Unnoticeables? Aside from being a word that is surprisingly difficult to type more than once, its a cosmic horror/comedy book in the vein of something like lovecraft, if lovecraft also happened to like punks, copious amounts of alcohol, and references to genital damage by way of fists. If that sounds like a dangerous tightrope to walk, then yeah it kind of is but I honestly think its pulled off well here. The cosmic horror is kind of lingering in the background and while certain elements of its offspring are explained, there's not all that much known about it still and even the unnoticeables themselves have a lot of weird stuff going on with them. Its set between three characters; an unnamed man who pops in every once in a while, a punk named Carey, who is the best character in the book bar none and a stuntwoman named Kaitlyn. All three of these characters get caught up in the web of a cosmic monster, and have to try and do what they can to survive said web. 

Its a pretty interesting story with good setup and payoffs for said setups and it kept me reading obsessively through the entire thing, though more so through the latter as noted above. It keeps a good pace, with lulls in the action allowing a cool down before things hit the fan again. It vacillates between the humor and visceral style that brockway-inarians (copyright 2015) will recall from his earlier work and books and some genuinely eerie and creepy imagery. It also shares some creepy ideas and imagery from some of his earlier columns regarding Mario Lopez, though it is odd because there is certainly no reference to him in this book and the character who holds the title of creepiest character in the book-Marco Luis-is not similar in any respect to Mario Lopez. It can get as equally creepy as those columns however, and I recommend reading those to see what this book is most similar to in Brockway's previous works. 

The story is well told and its got some neat elements going on, things are described pretty dang well and the concepts at work are pretty interesting to take a look at. I would say its closer to Cosmic horror comedy than cosmic horror alone, but honestly I've never read anything from the first genre before so its a fun new angle that's well explored. The writing is solid, the book doesn't shy away from the type of humor that brockways known for and a decent amount of the characters are pretty interesting. Its pretty engaging honestly, and each chapter kept me wanting to know what happened next. 

If you've enjoyed his previous stuff, this is probably some of his best work and you owe it to yourself to check it out. If you haven't enjoyed his previous stuff, then this probably won't change your mind as it is in a very similar-if refined-vein to prior works. Still, would definitely recommend taking a look at it and seeing if its your thing. Eagerly anticipating the next two myself, can't wait to see where this crazy train goes next.


1:10 PM on 08.17.2015

Fallout shelter: actually not bad honestly. Got me in the mood to play some Fallout 3, and there ain't nothing like getting re-acquainted with your favorite game of all time.


7:09 PM on 07.30.2015

Shovel Knight Review: Strike the Earth!

Reviewed on Vita, also known as the best system. Cause Vita ain’t never gonna stop, never going to be kept held dowwwn.

Ahem. To the set up, then?

What is Shovel Knight? Well, it was a Kickstarter campaign put forward on March 14, 2013 by a team calling themselves Yacht Club Games. It promised to be a pixelated platformer, using chiptune music, pixel things, and a philosophy calling back to the golden days of the NES. Now, I wasn’t really around during that heyday, so I had no nostalgic ties to this game. But it looked pretty good, and Dtoid pointed the game out to me to it so I decided to back it.

And damn am I happy that I decided to do so, because it’s one of the finest games I have ever played.

Art Style and Music

I have played this game on PC and Vita, and personally I find it to look better on a smaller OLED screen, as well as finding it to control better on Vita. The game is bright and colorful, and the pixel art style is charming as hell. There’s lots of small details even with a more limited amount of graphical capacity to work with and the game has a really good looking aesthetic. Each area is an excellent reflection of the boss, with lots of background details catching the eye and fluid animations making this game stand among the best. The music is fantastic as well, with lots of fun tunes, and varied tunes to boot. Here’s a good example, that being Strike the Earth:

It’s full of nice music like that, and it just contributes to the charm of the game. Its well composed, and worth a listen to see if its your thing. 


As noted before I have played this on PC and then vita, and found the Vita to perform better in the control department, but you can mostly chalk that up to personal opinion and preference. The game is a side-scrolling platformer, where you can use a shovel-your primary weapon-to pogo on enemies. Those of you who remember Ducktales the video game may find that mechanic similar, as it is, to my understanding a deliberate homage. It’s quite enjoyable to jump on enemies, bounce to secret treasures and use it to navigate during boss fights. You can also pick up varied items that perform different functions, though they must be purchased from a vendor in the field. These items require magic, and throughout the game you must upgrade your health and magic to keep dealing with the reasonable-though high reaching-difficulty curve.

Throughout the game, you can switch between armor sets that fit your play style, and run into random encounters with odd characters-and one, very angry bald character if you grab a Sony version-to add more boss fights to the mix.

Additionally as the game goes on, you will collect gold and gems that allow you to upgrade your moves, buy items and armor, and increase health and magic.

But there’s a bit of a twist.

Because this game isn’t just inspired by old NES games, it’s also inspired by that modern classic, Dark Souls. Throughout a level you will run into checkpoints, which will revive you should you die. But if you do die, you will have to a portion of your money, and if you die before getting it back then it’s gone forever. If you are a masochist, you can destroy the checkpoints to earn money-though the more you use one, the less you earn-but generally I found no real need to do so. It’s a neat mechanic, and it’s one that keeps the game moving, rather than forcing you to restart the level from the beginning and incentivizing not screwing up.

Other than all that, the game generally controls pretty tight, and the platforming is rock solid. That said, the beginning control scheme-wherein pressing up activates an item-is baffling compared to the alternate, and I would recommend swapping over to the alternate as soon as possible.


The story set-up is simple, but it gets the job done. Basically you play as shovel knight, a knight who has given up adventuring after losing his ally shield knight in a mysterious tower. But evil has spread from the tower years later, and you must fight against the Knights of no quarter, reach the tower and defeat the enchantress. It’s a simple story, but it’s pretty endearing and it feels like its aware of itself and the history of games like it, making it something interesting to continue on with. Add to that the distinction it holds for having one of my favorite endings of any game I have played, and you have yourselves a winner. There’s also lots of interesting characters, side diversions and side quests that provide interesting looks into the world and lead to more fun stuff to play around with.


So there it is, my thoughts on this game. Honestly I really enjoyed it, and I’m glad to see my Kickstarter backing was well placed, given the quality of the product. If you get the chance, I would recommend giving it a shot as it’s a great game that is definitely worth your time. It’s a well written love letter to a bygone age, a fun experience even if you don’t overflow with nostalgia and given that they still have content to provide, I look forward to seeing what these guys have coming up next. Grab it.


3:11 PM on 07.07.2015

Better with age: Morrowind

Yeah, this is going to be a hard sell to some people who haven’t played this one, I’m sure. Morrowind is the 3rd game in the venerable elder scrolls franchise, and one that has remained in people’s minds for years after its release, and it’s a pretty damn fine game even setting aside its issues.

But it has major issues, make no mistake and they do impact the game. The combat is awful, with random number generation guiding the damage you and enemies do, spells being useless without taking the required college course in how to actually cast spells worth a crap, and ugly, ugly graphics. And while some enterprising gents are hard at work restoring this beautiful work from its age based decay, I find myself musing on it.“But wait!” You cry, filled with the corrective righteousness that all comment sections have at least one advocate for, “this is an article called better with age, not worse with age!”And yeah, you’re right but I feel like not acknowledging this games flaws is disingenuous to its legacy. I won’t send out people to look at it with rose tinted glasses, but will instead demonstrate why it rises above that and ultimately why it is, in my eyes, better with age.

But to tell of that, I have to tell you of a dark time. A time before the internet was massively used for online gaming on consoles, a time when some jackass thought the fat Xbox controller was a good idea, a time when DVD discs roamed the earth, HOWLING for the disc drives of the unworthy. Sometime before the PS3 and Xbox 360 and when the game released in 2002.

The past

I remember starting up Morrowind as a younger human quite well. Even then it didn’t look great, but the scope of the world was so impressive that it sucked me into its world and kept me playing. I remember the odd names, giant striding insects used as transport, the starting area of Balmora being a familar place who I learned to traverse time and time again. I remember the disappointment of learning that my race prevented me from wearing certain types of armor, and also leaned some people to disliking me even more than they already did. I remember picking up axes and shields as the tools of the trade, stealing a lightning axe from a bewitched nord and sneaking off into the night, killing ghosts and fighting horrific monsters. And the terrifying nightmares sent by a man in a golden mask….
And then I remember, somehow, my disk getting scratched up and destroyed. I got it resurfaced, but it never quite played the same, the map was rendered useless and I gave up after a time. Years later, though, I would return to the world of Morrowind with the titan of Skyrim looming large in the background. 

The now…

It was a few years ago that I bought Morrowind, the complete version. With a new mod coming out that improved the graphics to a degree, I decided now was the time. Now I would dive back in, as an argonian once more, into the world of Morrowind.

It....…was a rough transition.

Even with the graphics mod improving the dated graphics, the game was still pretty ugly graphically. The character move speed was atrocious, making the world difficult to explore as someone used to the run and normal movement speed of Skyrim. The awful combat was still awful, with attacks and the hitting/damage thereof determined by Sheogorath, the daedric prince of madness. Combat that was impossible five seconds ago randomly becomes a breeze at his will, and it makes the game play poorly. This game has a lot of problems, not the least of which are hideous bugs that cause the game to crash or glitch. And the horrible loading times are icing on the cake, icing made of live wasps with a vengence pact against lips. 

But as the game went on, I remembered why I liked it. I did the same things as before, and felt like I returned home when I walked around Balmora again.   The world was odd and interesting, with bizarre bug dog monsters, odd crab-squid centaurs hidden in the water, and odd orange dinosaur monsters. There were huge mushrooms in certain areas, and different areas had different biomes. The game forced you to figure things out, learn geography and rely on your trusty journal to help with longer questlines. It’s so engrossing and interesting in a way some modern games fail to be. The world is a joy to explore, with plants and odd sights all around and pretty ambient noise and sounds. The sound design is great even if the sound quality is poor, the music is beautiful-one of the tracks in it will be familiar to anyone who has played Fallout 3 or Skyrim- and the aesthetics are still so interesting. Things had unique visual styles, indicating what they were and whether or not they had magical properties and you could experience several different armor sets and playstyles. Ghosts were unkillable without magic or silver weapons, forcing you to flee in terror should you run into one before you obtain one of these vaunted weapons. Level up screens held introspection, where your character mused on their increasing age and finesse. It’s a rich world, and in design/lore, I personally like it better than Oblivion by far, and even better than Skyrim. And I really, really liked Skyrim.

But I love weird crap more, and about the time you get to the mushroom lair of a wizard who created wives and will help you with your corpus infection this games pretty damn hard to beat. The world has bizarre areas like that, dungeons filled with people turned monstrous by disease who you cannot kill lest you face the wrath of the sanctuary guards…as well as someone very special indeed to the series lore. I haven’t dived into the sidequests a huge amount, but talking about the game again makes that a tempting prospect, not to mention the DLC pack made for it. The world is so atmospheric, and the weather and ambient noise really fleshes the world out.

The story is fascinating too, as you are believed to be Nerrevar, a reincarnation of an ancient warrior who fought against Dagoth Ur years ago, prophesied to defeat Dagoth Ur and deal with him in the massive volcano in the center of Morrowind whose ash storms spread death and disease. He’s a terrifying figure in your nonsensical dreams, a ghoulish figure wearing a golden mask and one who is built up throughout the game. But from the start, you have no idea if you really are the Nerrevar, until a certain event demonstrates the veracity of that claim. It’s a pretty interesting story, and it kept me slogging through the games issues to get there. I can say I enjoyed it all the way, and comprehending it better has certainly allowed this one to get better with age where it counts. It redefined what I though videogames could be, taught me the difference between east and west and still holds a special place in my heart. And if you’ve never played it, hopefully skywind makes the plunge all the easier. That aside, if you can stomach the issues, I’d say go for it and see for yourself why so many still love this game. And yes, I do think this one is the best of the triumvirate of Skyrim, Oblivion and Morrowind.


12:03 PM on 06.18.2015

Killzone Mercenary Review: Technically impressive, but anemic

Killzone is a franchise I have never really gotten along with, even though I have tasted of some of the different games it has to offer.

Killzone 2 was a decent game that mistook swearing for maturity and it was fun but not memorable. It was not that colorful and it was mainly gray and brown, and interesting weapons were hard to find.

Killzone shadowfall was a beautiful game with some pretty areas…..that was a bog standard FPS with some bad frustrations that held it back from being something I would hold up as a good game. 

Killzone liberation for PSP controlled like crap and was ultimately so colorless I couldn’t convince myself to continue playing it and just gave up.

I point this all out to illustrate my above point, and to let you know where I stand on this franchise. If you really like the franchise, you may disagree-in fact you probably will disagree and so you should consider that when reading my review to know if what I liked or didn’t like clashes with your opinions. Now if you read on a consistent basis these blogs of mine, bless you sir or madam, I really appreciate it but also you may remember me blogging this particular blog. Or you may notice its sitting around, waiting for your hungry eyes.

This was written before I played shadow fall and I also played Mercenary before then, so I wasn’t as disillusioned on the franchise before then. So now that the set-up for my thoughts and opinions on the franchise as a whole are now laid bare, to tell of the value of my critique is to you, let’s hit it!

Story of Killzone as a whole

Spoilers for the franchise can be found here, skip to the bottom of this section for only kinda spoilers about mercenary.  

Mercenary, and all of Killzone actually, takes place in the future during future world war 2, but in space and also America is actually the bad guys! (More on that in a minute). The heroic ISA flies to two planets, Vekta and Helghan which are owned by the Visari Corporation, ran by a man of the same name. Big corporations don’t like how well his corporation is doing, and bribe the ISA to go boot them off of Vekta, the nicer of the two planets and claim it as their own. The people living there are forced to live on Helghan, a harsh mutagenic environment that alters the genetic makeup of the people living there and turns them into a distinct offshoot of humanity-the Helghast. Crushed under the ISA, they are forced to use cheap and dirty concrete and pollution spewing machines to build up a militaristic society and are called space Nazis because some of their number are big jerks and to be fair they do some pretty nasty stuff. 

Yet they overcome this and develop incredible tech to fight back against the bloated stagnant ISA and try to reclaim Vekta, fail, and are then invaded in turn in a hilariously insufficient attack on Helghan that leads the now mad Visari to bomb his own people and turn them against the ISA before being murdered by a jingoistic madman who serves with the player, the two of whom later literally render Helghan unlivable and lead to a berlin wall situation on Vekta.

And you play as the ISA, IN ALMOST EVERY SINGLE KILLZONE GAME, who are portrayed as generally heroic and noble even though they are clearly the polar opposite of that in most of the games. That forms the crux of my issue with the franchise as a whole, because no matter how much the game tries to make me hate the Helghast, all I can do is look at this from an outside perspective and determine the ISA to be the more monstrous of the two. It makes me roll my eyes at everything the cookie cutter protagonists do, and when you’re rooting  for the bad guys more so than the good guys, you may want to reconsider your entire game story guys.

Which is why I find mercenary to be so much more satisfying story wise than any other game, including shadowfall. It isn’t perfect, or even really that good, but it’s much better than the other storylines in concept at least.

Basically you are a mercenary, a rough and tough voiceless faceless protagonist who is one of many exploiting the current war for big profits. You work with Merc Company, and spend most of the first half of the game fighting the Helghast, as the ISA hired you to work with them. You save a general, and eventually you’re ISA loving Merc buddy has to sacrifice himself for stupid reasons to blow up a ship while you escape but you never really make a connection with him anyway and I feel that might be somewhat intentional. You then go to Helghan to help with the invasion and attempt to secure a scientist who has information about a scientist who has info on a virus that can be used to kill the Helghast en masse, but get betrayed and have to work for the Helghast for a few, fleeting moments. Then you go back to just killing everyone, because it’s an FPS. There’s also a thing about a virus that can kill tons of the Helghast or tons of normal people, but this is starting to drag.

Honestly, it’s a pretty nuts and bolts story and there’s not too much complexity to it but it gets the job done. I also like how both sides are portrayed as big a-holes, as opposed to the prior games and even Shadowfall to a degree. It didn’t grate or make me roll my eyes as the heroic ISA marches towards justice-in fact, the ISA is portrayed here as a bunch of incompetent idiots who have no idea what they’re doing and have technologically stagnated compared to the Helghast-in least in terms of lightning artillery. This game is mainly a tech and proof of concept demo on the vita than anything, and if you play it for the story you’re probably in for a disappointment, but it’s not the worst story ever told.

 Visuals and Mechanics

This is the most impressive and memorable part of this game for me personally, despite all my other misgivings. This game looks incredible, and shows the amazing things the Vita can do with the power under the hood. The game looks really good, better than PS2 graphics by a wide margin and the game runs smooth too. Mechanically it controls solid as well, though one gets the feeling that a sequel would get the feel better. Generally it controls like a full FPS on a console, but there is a weird awkwardness to it that doesn’t ruin the game but is too noticeable to fully ignore. Enemy AI is generally competent, and the game has stealth in it to allow you to grab more Intel, get more money and get better guns and armor. It runs really well, and sounds pretty solid as well. That this game is so solid on a handheld is just really cool, and it would have been cool to see what could be done if this was expanded if Sony wasn’t stupid.

Also there is a multiplayer scence, which seemed to be reasonably sized and actually provided some enjoyment, but I didn't mess with it all that much and don't expect too much longevity in it, competent as it may be. 

Music and Sound design

Nonfactor honestly, nothing special about it, nothing to write home about music-wise and the sound design gets the job done.


So there it is, my review. Honestly this game is basically just ok at the end of the day, more notable for the console it’s on and being one of the first of its kind on said console that was actually worth anything. As I expected it looked pretty good, played pretty good, and just meh’d its way through everything else. Had these guys had another crack at it, maybe with resistance or a different franchise than this one if need be, they could’ve expanded on it, and maybe made something to build a story off of and create something really cool. Now that the tech limitations and control limitations have been set, they could have built on that skeleton, tweaked and improved it, and focused more on a new story that could’ve surpassed this one.

As it stands, that’s not going to happen because of Sony and the Vitas poor performance. But this game stands to show off the power under the hood, and how incredibly strong this platform actually is and I think that’s not entirely without merit. If you can get it cheap, hey I’d say it might be worth a shot if only to see what your Vita can do.


2:46 PM on 06.10.2015

Risk of Rain Review: Dance in the rain

Risk of Rain is an indie game released a while ago that is no longer hugely in the public eye, but one that I have recently decided-for one reason or another-to review.


Story and set-up

Anyway, Risk of rain is a side scrolling rogue like pixel art action shooting game wherein you must attempt to escape from a hostile planet after an unknown force destroys the space ship you are riding on. This ship is one that is carrying tons of different and strange things in transit to different areas of the known galaxy-including your character. These items land and can be used to aid in your continued survival in the increasingly hostile world, as you make your way from teleporter to teleporter, fighting a boss at each one till you can reach the ship and send a distress signal to escape once and for all.

It’s a minimal story, but one that’s brilliantly woven into gameplay. Items that fall have descriptions that flesh out the world of risk of rain, as well as giving you special abilities. Said items were in transit and it makes sense for their variety and multiple different applications. Character escape pods hit the ground nearby-similar to the one you find near wherever you start on the first level-when you unlock new ones. It all works pretty well and creates an enjoyable background as you attempt to make it to the end of the game, which is one of the most amazing feelings I have ever had as a gamer.

That said there is an issue, and that’s character unlocking. While the commando is a decent enough character, I like him the least and it’s pretty difficult to get to far if you don’t like his playstyle. For me the engineer and acrid are personal favorites, but there’s such a variety of characters and playstyles associated with them that locking them all behind arbitrary restrictions is somewhat irritating to me. I understand that this is an inherent part of the discovery of items and characters and what not, but when some of the characters are hidden behind random drops that drop really infrequently (logs) and that you have no input in getting, it chafes. The engineer requires 40 drone activations, which at least the player can move towards and acrid has to be found in the sea area and beaten which again fair enough. But I wish there was a better starting variety of characters, so people weren’t forced to slum it with a character they don’t care for until they got another one. I have never played the commando again after getting the engineer and I never will most like.

Controls and mechanics

Risk of rain has 4 abilities for its characters, a jump and an item activation button. Seems not too complex, true, but these different abilities need to be utilized at the right time and in the right way to truly maximize their effectiveness, giving depth to the combat. You can play with keyboard or controller, but the controller is my preferred option. You can learn the buttons and what abilities they link to better, and I feel it controls a little better and more viscerally with a controller but to each their own. That said, the controller control of menus is poor, and you can’t even select item descriptions from your item list with it. Instead of being controlled with just going up and down, the controller moves the cursor on menus, and it’s not really elegant.

Still the main gameplay is tight, and you’ll need to play smart to stock up on items, deal with ever spawning enemies and make it to the boss. There’s also a timer that slowly increases the difficulty, ensuring that no matter where you start on the difficulty scale or how many great items you get, you’re going to have to deal with enemies who are more than a match for you in a sheer numbers game as well as toughness. The game requires you to play smart and learn how to best utilize your characters unique abilities to survive past the first two areas. Maps are randomized a bit on where item crates and teleporters are, and bosses are randomized as well. This keeps the game from having its locations grow stale, and forces you to sometimes backtrack across areas to try and find it while being hounded by enemies. Some random permutations even allow you to get artifacts which add unique permutations to the gameplay and allow you to mix up the gameplay.

Multiplayer, however is one of the areas where this game falls down. Co-op is fun, even if it can be hard to tell who’s who, and the game is in desperate need of a tether to on player so that if one goes off-screen they’re not just given up for dead to the respawning enemies. Additionally characters dont have seperate item lists, meaing you'll only ever know what player one is carrying if you should forget what player two is.  Online play is impossible unless you know how to do port forwarding on your router and get everything set up right, which is a massive pain. I know this is a small indie team, and I am sympathetic to that, but it’s something you should know before you considering buying a copy or two to play online with a pal.

Music and sound design.

Risk of Rain has one of the best soundtracks of any game I have ever played, period. Sound design is solid and gets the job done well, but the music is out of this world. It just works, and I never grow tired of hearing it. Each level has its own unique track, and each one is just fantastic. I sincerely hope that if you don’t at least try the game, you’ll give the incredible soundtrack a try, as it fits the themes and levels perfectly and it’s just a revelation.



Risk of Rain is a good looking pixel game, with visually distinct locations and interesting enemy design. Enemies move in good looking ways, attacks have good visual feedback, and everything looks pretty neat. Your character is small, so in coop it’s easy to get lost in the chaos if you get cornered by lots of enemies and this can happen infrequently in single player as well. Still even the main characters are really visually distinct, and I like the aesthetic quite a bit. It’s a good looking pixelart game, and the vibrant colors and locales really help sell the alien world.

Wrap up

Risk of Rain is not perfect, not at all. It’s got some bugs, poor design decisions, poor controller support and problematic coop dragging it down.

But in every single other way, it is sublime. This is hands down one of the best games I have ever played, a game that plays great and sounds great and just looks great. That this is the work of a small couple of person team is nothing short of incredible given how great it truly is. It’s my favorite rogue like, and stands as a gold standard for what you can achieve with the genre. It’s so fun to play through, and learning the different characters playstyles is such a joy. I love this game, and even if it’s got issues its still just fantastic. It goes on sale all the time so if you are concerned about investing in it, just wait and grab it when it’s on sale. And then treat yourself to a game that deserves your attention and time due to the high quality on display.



6:58 PM on 06.06.2015

Lone Survivor Review: An intriguing, flawed horror game

Way behind the times, perhaps, but I finally finished it recently and needed something to throw here....SOOOOOOOOOOOO...

I first got Lone survivor as part of a humble bundle, unaware of what it was and any of the buzz it may have had around it. I played it on PC, but never got around to finishing it due to a frustrating basement area (more on that momentarily). I later got it on sale for Vita and have finally completed it. What did I think? Well…

Vita Edge?:

Not really. While I prefer it on the Vita and think that the Vitas OLED and smaller screen add more quality and detail than on PC, it’s more a matter of preference than anything and you should probably just consider playing it on whatever works for you.

Art Style and Music:

One of the interesting things about Lone survivor is its art style, being a pixelated style that still conveys quite a bit of detail. The pixels are pretty visible and lend everything an interesting texture if there’s enough light to see them, and the monster designs are appropriately messed up. There’s enough detail to know what things are, and see certain actions in motion, and personally I like the art style and the messing around with lighting coloration. I like the look and the minimalistic interface keeps things clean and ultimately found it to be a good looking game indeed. I like the music in general, as it generally fits a tone and makes you feel content or worried as the situation demands. The sound design is appropriate and the monsters sound as gross or odd as they need to, with situations introducing different music to indicate different things. The music is also well composed-unsurprising if you consider this guy also made some of the music for Hotline Miami, which I find to be an interesting wrinkle.

World and Atmosphere:

The world is a dark place, filled with horrible inside out man-like monsters the narrator calls infected and another more bizarre variety. The world is a creepy one, and an oppressive atmosphere hangs over the player as they make their way through the cramped and confined apartments, leading to a bit of claustrophobia. There’s gross fleshy growths to be found, and hellish looking corruptions spreading across certain surfaces, with certain areas being partially demolished by some unseen forces in the past. The character believes himself to be the last one left, and most of the game takes place in his apartment complex and the city around it. You grow to find landmarks and get pretty familiar with the apartment, knowing its safe zones and tricks to get through the apartments as quickly as possible. You become very familiar with it, and each new item found that enhances your living situation makes your apartment feel more like home and makes you feel like you’re making progress.

However the basement is a black mark on the game, as it’s really frustrating and a pain to get through on a non-lethal run. If you don’t play the game just so, flares become impossible to get and the basement is near impossible to work through without using the gun, which a nonlethal play through prohibits. If you don’t use up your flares at the right time, you won’t find more and basement feels needlessly frustrating, though this is a horror game so perhaps there is fairness to it.  

The unlocking of quicker routes that make backtracking easier make the world feel more coherent and I find it’s a nice feature that allows shortcut use to make things easier.  Getting outside feels good after being cooped up, and the city is also interesting, with different buildings containing different useful items and odd events to find. There’s secrets to be found, and depending on how you play the game and what secrets you find, you get different endings. This is inspired by silent hill, after all. It’s generally well set up, but near the end the game loses steam and just kind of ends after getting through the city, which feels like an interesting new part of the game in its own right but is quickly gone.


The world of Lone survivor is one in which nothing really makes sense, due to the unreliable narrator you play as. He’s literally only called “You” and he can’t remember his name, and as he goes through the world he sees several disturbing things that cannot be explained by anything other than madness or twisted magic. His only goal is to survive, and he can do so by lethal or non-lethal means. There’s things you need to figure out to get everything to work out, and the minimal handholding forces you to figure out things to do as good as you can. The apartment has a lot going on, and it’s interesting to watch the main character go through maddening events that can’t be explained and contribute to this story behind the scenes. After getting out of the apartment complex, the city only lasts for a bit and it isn’t too hard to figure out where to go, meaning the game doesn’t have much left after that and ends pretty quickly afterwards, somewhat anticlimactically I find. I like how the character has his own thoughts and responses to other characters, and how there’s a lot of hidden things in the game that affect your sanity-and by proxy the ending you get. However the ending feels anticlimactic and unsatisfying, and ultimately I wish the game had been longer to take more advantage of the latter half, and I wish it had ended on a higher note. I still enjoyed it, despite its imperfections and I hope Mr. Byrne gets the chance to make a new one at some point.



10:44 PM on 04.22.2015

From Software, with love: Collect all the souls

Band of bloggers has rung the bell, and who am I not to answer the call?

Demons Souls. Dark Souls. Bloodborne.

Maybe Dark Souls 2, if yah squint.

These games-not including the king’s field series that is considered a spiritual successor-make up the soul’s series. All games are classically known for their extreme difficulty, and to those willing to look deeper, for their rich lore and worlds.

Except Dark Souls 2.

But it occurs to me that before we go any further in our discussions, perhaps it’s time to look back on where it all began, how everything went down and sum up the games for those who may not be as familiar. Obviously my personal perspective is at play here, and I’d like to share my views on each game as well as talking about timing and personal impact to perhaps interest those who haven’t had the chance to try one of this venerable series.

Demons Souls-a rough start

Recently I repurchased a used copy of Demons Souls, dredged up from the pits of suffering and eternal torment you tend to find these things dwelling in. After clearing off the ash and silencing the screams of those who came before using calming new age jazz, I popped the game in.

Time…..has not been kind to this game. It runs pretty poorly, even for a console game with lots of stutters and tears, certain animations are prone to breakage and it’s kind of ugly to be honest. Loading times are long, textures are bad, the game definitely has problems.

Now, when I had first played the game, sometime in 2009 I recall it not being quite so deficient, but nostalgia and time make fools of our eyes I suppose, though I do distinctly remember the awful loading times. Still, the core of the game is still pretty solid and once I got back into it, I found there is still enjoyment to be had.I remember getting the game as a Christmas present and being so excited, the trailer still thumping it’s rather unique drum heavy orchestra in the back of my mind. It was such a rich and interesting game, filled with secrets and interesting items to be found.

But make no mistake, difficulty was very high even early on, this is a soul’s game after all. And it pounded me into the dirt more than once, with cheap tricks and cheaper bosses. It’s easy to claim I needed to GIT GOOD but Demons Souls definitely suffers from more obtuse difficulty than its progeny. Certain boss fights are ridiculously unfair, some can only be fought via exploits and the game is hilariously unforgiving, with poor checkpoint systems stemming progress through tougher areas. Enemies that can one hit kill you, bosses that are a huge pain to defeat if you failed to at least get a bow and arrow (metal spider, I’m looking at you) and enemies that punish you for your class choice….yeah there’s problems beyond mere difficulty here. Yet I made it through this game despite these problems, and it’s a testament to the world building that I kept going even though the rough spots. It’s got its problems, but it’s a solid game and even if I find it to be the weakest of the series (not including Dark Souls 2, of course) it’s a solid game and you may want to try it if you can get past its significant problems. It’s a PS3 exclusive sadly, though this wouldn’t be the first time Sony ruined the fun for everyone else…but I will return to that in a moment

Dark Souls-prepare to sublime

Oh yes. Oh yessss. OH YESSSSS. This game, this game is my personal favorite of the series. The difficulty is almost always fair, the combat is weighty and solid as well as being desperate at times, and…URGGHHH it’s just such a wonderful game!

Ahem. But let me collect myself and at least have a set-up to explain how I and this game became acquainted.

It was back in the pre-apocalyptic times of 2011, when I first claimed this game and it claimed my heart in a way only a dominatrix can (the joke is masochism). I went after school, and managed to snag the last metal box copy my local GameStop had. Funny thing about that was that From Software had claimed it was a free upgrade, but failed to specify that it was indeed a free upgrade….for a very limited pool of first come first serve. Regardless I claimed my copy, the last that GameStop had in fact, and destiny on my side went home and proceeded to feast on the spoils. I listened to the phenomenal and sometimes downright bizarre soundtrack, looked at the art book and finally popped in the game to experience it all. I visited the community when I needed help and marveled at this deep, dark world, full of secrets and legends beyond comprehension.

And then proceeded to hit a wall, known better by its in game name, Sen’s fortress. Before then the game had been keeping me on my toes but that fortress stopped my adventure for a time. I needed time to step back and so I went and played Rage to completion….which was a horrible mistake, but I digress. Only when I had surgery was I man enough to leap back into the fray, and by that I mean I got my wisdom teeth out and needed something to do. So thanks to the power of corrective oral surgery, I plowed through Sen’s fortress and continued on, completing one of the finest games I have ever had the pleasure of playing.

Bonfires kept the game moving and made the game flow so much better, weapons were more unique and fascinating, lore was deeper and richer and shortcuts tied the massive world together, giving it a unified feel and creating immense satisfaction with each new shortcut. All of this created such a fascinating atmosphere and world, bosses were so integral to the story and earned their build-up and epic fights, and there was so much hidden that just blew me away. Finding the Ash Lake was one of the most amazing moments of the entire game, and the boss designs were better than ever. This game deserves its praise and proves that having high difficulty and requiring lots of patience can be refined beyond the more obtuse Demons Souls and this game stands the test of time as a game not beautiful for graphics, but with a rich and beautiful world, and I will take that over graphics any day. My favorite Souls hands down, and due to fan petitions it also came to PC. In a horrible state, but it expands the life of the game so much and now I can play it on my favorite system too.

Dark Souls 2

I feel bad for this game, I really do and I have shared my opinions at length before. With the main team secretly making Bloodborne, Namco Bandai/Bandai Namco decided to keep the cash cow-a-milking and split off part of From Software, like Athena from the head of Zeus into something new. But much as you never read about Athena becoming better than Zeus, this game never really succeeded to escape the shadow of its predecessor, something I would argue it forced itself farther into.

Dark Souls 2 released in 2014, and got decent reviews for console. This was good enough to risk getting the game before launch, with a decent discount for me on PC. The last game had been horribly handled, sure, but this one looked better. And to make a long story short, it was better-at least graphically. But remember what I said about pretty faces vs beautiful worlds? If not go up there and read harder, yah lazy non-motile bundle of cocci, you.


-Cocci are small, round bacteria and motility is a reference to movement among smaller life forms. This joke has been made as a reference to microbiology, and should be taken as such. If you found this joke to be lacking, contact a local microbiologist to voice your concerns. Carry on please


Anyway, yeah, besides the better graphics and smooth framerate this game was not nearly as good as Dark Souls. You can check out my full thoughts on that here, but needless to say it was a bit disappointing. Bosses would track you and attack even if you dodged at the right time, the world was disjointed and shattered by warping…bleh. Overall a bit of a failure, but a decent attempt and good enough to warrant some hope for a future game from these guys, if only they will learn from their mistakes. Not much to say I already haven’t said, so if you’d like more in-depth thoughts, check out the link to a previous blog above.


Yep. This game has been getting universal praise, mixes up the traditional Souls combat system and has Lovecraftian elements filling it to the brim.

And it’s a Sony exclusive, ala Demons Souls. Unlike the other two, which both released on all systems.


I thought I was ok. I thought I had got past this fact. Then I watched this:

This fantastic song got my mind on the game, and showed off more and more of the game and what I had been avoiding with my trailer blackout. And it looks so good, and the world looks so good and the game just looks fantastic. IT LOOKS SO GOOD, and the reviews SAY IT’S SO GOOD. I want this game, I want it so bad but….because they made a deal with Sony, in a console war I as a PC gamer have no interest in being a part of I don’t get to play it unless I buy a console when I could just upgrade my rig. Which means I may never get to play this game. I hate to end on a sour note, and to be fair this was really a clever play on Sony’s part, but it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking to me that I don’t get to play this because CONSOLE EXCLUSIVE HURR DURR. I love this series and arbitrarily not getting to play it makes me sad. I will update if this situation ever changes, but sadly I very much doubt that happening.

End Souls

So there it is. My personal experiences and thoughts on all the games in the soul’s series. Feel free to chime in the comments below and let me know what your experiences were, or your opinions on the games. Thanks for reading, and please rate this message!!!!


3:02 PM on 03.24.2015

Wolfenstein: The New Order review: Insert Nazi pun here

Wolfenstein: The New Order released last year to critical and commercial success, proving that shooting Nazis is, in fact, timeless. For years Wolfenstein has been a fixture in the industry, even if in recent years its name has fallen into disrepute.

 It was one of the earliest shooters around, and is pretty highly regarded as one of the pillars of FPS history. Yet for years the franchise has somewhat fallen from relevance, and for the past couple of years it hasn't produced all that much of note until this game. With The Old Blood 20 dollar campaign coming soon, I think it's appropriate to write my thoughts on the game-as I finished it somewhat recently-to inform those who may not have tried it yet on what it is and why I think they should consider grabbing it, or indeed the DLC to get their toes wet.

Graphics and Mechanics

The first thing I noticed about WNO was the size of the game, 40 GB to be more precise. That's pretty insanely large for a game, as the next largest game in my library was Assassins creed Black flag, at 36 GB and that was a huge open world game. The size attribution is somewhat clearer, however, when you discover that not only is this running on the Idtech engine, but that it also uses mainly unique textures for lots of different stuff. It's a very good looking game, not the best perhaps, but still a good looker in its own right. 

 The aesthetic is also really neat, oozing a style that fits perfectly with the enemies and giving them a similar but distinct look to their compatriots. The tech looks somewhat old, and somewhat futuristic, which helps make the games aesthetic all the more interesting. There are certain set pieces as well that help illustrate how utterly the world has changed and moments like the drive to the London Nautica help build this oppressive world's atmosphere. Enemies have enough variation to keep you on your toes, but have a unified grim aesthetic that helps cement them as a homogenous force and fits with the overall themes.

The gameplay is rock solid as well, and that ties into the fact it allows you to pick up health packs and dual wield. Look, some people like the Call of duty linearity, 2 gun system, but I personally don't like it and find that it forces you to play one way depending on the guns they give you at the start or how much ammo they're going to drip-feed you determining which guns you have to choose.

 Running into a room, dual-wielding shotguns and blasting away before taking off and sweeping any health in adjacent rooms is much more satisfying to me than sitting behind cover all the time. You can dual wield 4 different gun types, and it's almost always satisfying to do so. You need to use some smarts, as at times the game is pretty unforgiving but the rapid pace and booming action is so engaging, bringing to mind good memories of the new Shadow warrior reboot. You can carry all your weapons at once, and the game forces you to switch by limiting ammo in certain areas for certain weapons. It's quite a well put together combat system, and it feels great. It's a good call back and it's ultimately a very satisfying game that only occasionally becomes way too difficult for its own good. The game is at its best when you have to keep mobile and blast away at your enemies without overwhelming you. However, it can be a bit too stingy with ammo and health for its own good at certain junctures, but overall it's a solid combat system.


One of the big things I respect about this particular game is that it only has a linear single player campaign. The specter of having to have multiplayer hangs over our industry still and I can respect the decision to say no and then find success. Bethesda in particular is proof positive that you don't need multiplayer to sell, and I'm glad they continue to support more games from that school of thought.

Anyway, the story is actually one of the more interesting things to note in this game, simply because of how well executed it is. When you say story, Wolfenstein doesn't always come to mind, and with as bombastic as the combat is you might expect that to even less so, yet this games story is actually quite a large focus. It details an alternate future in which the Nazis gain access to super futuristic tech and manage to take over the world using it. Our hero fails to stop this, mainly owing to the fact that during this conquest BJ Blacsowitz, the player character, is incapacitated and in a comatose state due to brain shrapnel relations. During this time BJ manages to somehow not suffer muscle atrophy, and even manages to pick up a love interest...somehow.

There's some weird quirks to the story here and there, but overall it's actually pretty solid. The Nazis are really vile, the character building back at your home base is interesting and I like BJs inner monologue, even if I wish he would talk to others outside of cutscences. The games villains are twisted and interesting, giving you real reasons to hate them beyond just being Nazis, even if that is normally enough.

The occult magic of previous games also factors in a bit, though it's an interesting new take on the previous games handling of the magic and what not that I enjoyed even if it did remove some of the Nazis fearsome mastery of technology due to what it eventually turns out being. It's a fun game, and even if there are moments you can see coming a mile away it's still enjoyable.


Another thing that makes this game great is extra moments and text that build the world if you are interested enough to check them out. You can fulfill random tasks for the various inhabitants of your hide out, or just take the time to read news clippings and booklets scattered throughout the world to let you know what's happening in the Nazi controlled areas. There's lots of information on different things to be found, and it helps flesh out the world without shoving it down your throat, in a method similar to Metro: Last Light. There's also music releases based on famous songs but performed in German, which makes sense for the world and is just an impressive extra that didn't need to be included but shows how much the team at hand cared about what they were doing.


Overall this game is not perfect, as my gripes throughout this review may attest to. However, despite is imperfection, it's a great game that's fun and reinvigorates an old franchise in the best possible way via Machine games. If anything I have said piques your interest, I highly encourage you to give the game a shot and decide for yourself, but I think it's worth your time and money to experience this game. And hopefully we can say the same for The Old Blood, so keep your eyes peeled and we'll see how that goes. 


12:02 PM on 03.11.2015

Why Dark Souls 2 is worse than Dark souls: and why I still hold out hope

The Scholar of the First Sin DLC is coming to Dark Souls 2 (or has already arrived depending on when you read this/when I can be bothered to publish this) with a bevy of improvements, most of which seem like they will help make the game better than when it first released and add some story improvements as well. And that got me thinking about something that had been on my mind since I had finished the game. Dark Souls 2 came out last year to good reviews, and seems to have sold pretty well. Yet if you were to ask most people, they’d probably say that they still prefer Dark Souls to Dark Souls 2 and I find myself falling into that camp. I’d like to talk about why, and in so doing hopefully target what the DS2 team can do to improve and make something on the level of at least Demons Souls.

A major departure

Hidetaka Miyazaki was the director of Dark Souls, Demons souls and the upcoming, fantastic looking Bloodborne.

And more important to consider than that impressive pedigree, is that he was not the director of Dark Souls 2. Now this might seem a bit unfair to the director of DS2, but to me it’s very important because it seems Miyazaki was a major driving force in making the previous games as rock solid as they are. I will delve into the different aspects in more detail, but ultimately I think his influence and vision are an important part of the divide between DS and DS2, and it needs to be considered throughout the discussion. There’s a lot missing in DS2 that could perhaps be due to other team members on Bloodbourne, but without knowing the specifics, the face of the studio has to be given the main credits. 

But without further ado….

Graphics and framerate.

This one is an easy win for Dark Souls 2, and even if they did lie in the trailers-which I find distasteful in the extreme-about the final graphical quality, it’s still a pretty good looking game. Lighting is pretty good, everything looks nice, and the game runs at a glorious 60fps. Dark Souls…has not aged super well, with somewhat poorer lighting, and worse looking textures. Its framerate is a bit choppy, and it has some glitches and problems. To be fair to Dark Souls, it was never planned for PC and only came to consoles, but it’s a very good improvement, and I applaud the team for it.

Unfortunately, this is the only real colossal improvement I find. Minor tweaks here or there help improve the games feel, but ultimately it’s the only thing I can unreservedly say is better.

Aesthetic and world

And here is where Dark Souls begins its roaring rise to the top of the hill. For all its ugly features and graphical problems, I still think this game looks better asthetically than Dark Souls 2. The game has more interesting locales and one of the key parts of that is that the world feels like a unified one rather than a disjointed stitching of disparate parts. In Dark Souls the areas tie into the lore and all are linked to feel that they belong together and fit into one beautiful picture. There are odd locations, but their placing makes sense and they feel like they link in some way to similar to the area before. The areas also tie into the lore and even the items build the lore of the area, solidifying its place in the world and explaining its presence to a degree.

Dark Souls 2, on the other hand, suffers from its world design not feeling cohesive or built well. A poison swamp leads to a poison filled windmill-fair enough.

Then that leads to a freaking iron castle sinking into the lava of the land it was built on. That’s the most egregious example, but it helps illustrate that the world feels more like levels created and stapled together than one cohesive world linked and interlinked together. One of the coolest moments in Dark Souls for me was seeing Lost Izalith from the giant’s tomb level, a small touch that solidified both places placement and their belonging in the world. Dark Souls 2 just feels oddly disjointed and certain areas feel like they could have been more fleshed out rather than being quick visual set pieces, ala the interesting tower area near the ocean that’s crumbling but lacking in real depth or areas and is more of an area to walk through than a deep area to explore. Areas are areas, and rarely get that much fleshing out to help build their place in the world, with some limp examples having info here or there, but not much else.


Items are also spread and try to build lore, but they feel poorly thought out and don’t build the world nearly as well as Dark Souls was able to achieve. Items in Dark Souls are tied to the wider story and world, so that each item was a reward to lore hounds as well as to your inventory, building a story in the background and leaving it there if you want to dig deeper. Even keys have lore, a small touch that adds to the world even more. Some Covenants in Dark Souls 2 are fine, and work in the context of the world but some feel like they don’t quite belong and are copy-pasted from DS.  They feel like someone’s just throwing stuff out there to seem deep but they feel hollow and too many items and spells are recycled as well. And hey, speaking of recycling...


Bosses also get recycled as well, with some being reskins or straight up copies of bosses from Dark Souls. This comes off as terribly lazy, and linked with the fact that most of the boss fights are less interesting or cheap in the hit detection it just takes off more points. Honestly, only a few bosses really made me go wow, as opposed to most of the bosses in Dark Souls, and were so bizarre that I fell in love with their design.

There are some good ideas here, like the royal rat vanguard or the prowling magus boss fights that are actually pretty unique and fun, but they shine all the brighter next to bosses that are either boring or irritating to fight due to special conditions required to fight them. Hitboxes on bosses make several fights feel much cheaper than any Souls game should, with hits that were clearly going to miss nailing you because the game demands it. The hitboxes thing doesn’t ruin the game, but it cheapens and further weakens the boss fights, formerly a highlight of the soul’s series. And besides the looks, because the areas are poorly fleshed out, the bosses are also poorly fleshed out, with some of the bigger ones just being put in the area because they needed to be put there, rather than feeling like a cohesive part of the world. The 4 main bosses’ thing is lifted directly from Dark Souls, but there’s less meaning to it. Those bosses felt like legends, built up and nestled in their domains, with lore adding context and ensuring you knew they were forces to be reckoned with.

Dark Souls 2’s 4 great soul owners are just big bosses, put in there because Dark Souls did it that way and so that’s the way it has to be, without any real buildup and poor lore building robbing them of interesting development. Pretty much the only somewhat interesting boss of the four is The Rotten, but even that is robbed of lore and characterization. It feels like some key lore is missing, and so the world and bosses are weaker for that.


Dark Souls 2 continues to imitate to it detriment, as it too is about you taking over a kingship after beating four big bosses and then one final boss who is one of the previous rulers of the land. You are chosen…blah blah get the point here, right? Remember Dark Souls storyline? Just that, but less well built, executed, and handled. This ties into the item lore and the buildup of the world, because that’s a massive part of the previous games story and many of the games mechanics tied into the wider story. Bonfires were tied to the undead, as were estus flasks, and bonfires also dealt with the fact that the world was slowly falling into darkness. Dark Souls 2 has no real bigger idea like that behind it, and suffers for the comparison. If they had altered the story more, and focused on a central theme the game would have been better for it. Maybe it feels like I am being harsh here, but nevertheless I am being harsh because this was their chance to really differentiate and create something uniquely their own, but Dark Souls 2 couldn’t help but wallow in the success of the former here. They had chances to make this game more their own, but it just feels like a lot of copying and disjointed story beats with no payoff. I expect better, and actually...

Hope for the future

I really have hope that the team that made Dark Souls 2 gets another crack at the soul’s series. Look, I’ve spent this article tearing down Dark Souls 2, but that’s because it’s a good game at its core. I tear it down because I want to expose the weak points and hopefully show what should be improved so that this team can create a souls game without leaching off their predecessor’s success. I enjoyed the game, but I would have enjoyed it more had it tried to be itself and embrace new ideas more. I want the team to have another go, and them introducing a patch to fix the lore indicates that they understand mistakes were made. It takes guts to fix lore and try and add more to help flesh things out, because it basically admits you made some mistakes. But fixing that gives me hope that this team can create something new in the soul’s series, make it their own and perhaps create another game truly worthy of the soul’s name.

I sure hope they do…because Bloodbourne is probably never coming to PC, and I needs my fix.

Thanks for reading!!!



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