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12:35 PM on 10.17.2012

Mount and Blade: With Fire and Sword

The Mount and Blade series is one of my favorites. I'm summing this post about the series rather than an individual games in it because unfortunately, the games aren't really that different.

The game can be called an RPG of some sorts. The concept of the game is quite simple really. You start off as a nobody; a single unknown individual. As you progress through the game you slowly build up an army and gain renown. At first you do this by doing mundane work such as delivering items from town to town or simply delivering messages between the lords and that brings me to the world map.

The map is where you spend a majority of your time even though it doesn't seem that interesting due to its simplicity. All you see in the map is a few towns, villages, armies, and some basic geographical elements. The armies, like one one expect from a world map are represented by a single unit and the geography lacks variety. All factions look the same except for the different font color. That's how the game might seem at first.

Given time, the game gets deeper. Despite its simplicity in some areas in offers a deep and rewarding experience. As you progress through the game (as long as its good progress) you will build up renown, join a faction, make friends and enemies. Best of all, you engage in politics. You have the power to start wars between factions and given enough renown, persuasion or a big enough army you can end them too.

The battle system is surprisingly well-made compared to the setting I described. The game allows you to use small melee weapons (swords, axes and maces), large two handed weapons, bows, spears, guns and grenades. And best of all, you can engage in mounted combat. In fact, you start the game with a horse. Needless to say, different weapons serve you well in different situations. Your movement affects how you swing a weapon and how hard it hits. Momentum can allow you to two twice as much damage and that especially applies to sabres and spears. I particularly enjoy using a speeding horse to slash around infantry with my sabre. What I really hate however is to charge towards another speeding horseman with a spear and I get impaled with that spear. Man I hate physics sometimes.

The game has a very loose story. It's sort of a sandbox game but there are sometimes quests that offer to guide you towards a specific goal. With your help you can help a wronged heir back to the throne, or a former queen to get it back. That is if you don't want to help current lords with their business. You can do them all in fact due to the sandbox nature of the game.

The game can get boring once you help a faction rule the world but once you do, you can just help another claimant take the throne and rule the world. I wouldn't be interested in ruling the world twice, but some dedicated players have done it.

The process from being a nobody to a leader of huge armies is a time-consuming one. Dozens of hours can be spent in this game. Fights might not take that much time, but after a big battle such as taking over a fortress or something you will need to recover, make some money recruit some soldiers to replace the fallen ones, etc. The repetition of these tasks can feel tedious at times, but I personally felt very rewarded when I helped take over a town and was awarded control over it.

Overall this game's shortcomings mostly fall under graphics and unimaginative backgrounds and terrain. The game play more than makes up for those but I'm hoping that they do make another sequel that puts some effort in the areas I mentioned.

Another thing for gamers to look out for is mods for the game. I personally haven't tried any, but a modding community does exist for the game and if its like any game with a half-decent modding community, that can increase the game's longevity by many, many hours.   read

5:33 PM on 07.16.2012

Lessons Learned From Gaming

Playing video games teaches people more than they realize and more than some people would like to admit. As a person who spent a frightening number of hours playing games, I'm glad to say that it wasn't all a waste of time. There are many things that can be taught through gaming. Enough things to make this post the first of a series.

Team Building

In some games you're given a choice of what people to have on your party. Sometimes there's barely any choice with very few possible combinations. You're almost always stuck with the main character who many times has a specific skill-set but you have some freedom over the others. The people you choose on your team are the ones that fit the specific plan you have in mind.

Once you have picked out the party members you want to build them up to be stronger, or just generally better at what you want them to do. You pick out the right skills, buff up the right stats and buy the right equipment so that they fit into the roles you've planned for them to fill from the beginning. It's like running a company; you need to hire the right people to fit the roles you need filled and you need to train them and develop their skills in order to perform the tasks and overcome any obstacles they might come across. It's really the same concept albeit it's more fun done in a game... though it may be less rewarding.
Team Work[/b]

Now this one is a much better example. Many games have team-based modes that don't have the need for much cooperation. They just stack your score on top of people who share the same flag or color and you don't kill each other when you meet on the battlefield. Other games however, require teamwork. Sometimes the concept is all about teamwork and communication. In order to win you sometimes need to continuously coordinate with your buddy to assist him and support him. It's very common for people to spend an item to heal they're teammates or to hand over a piece of potentially valuable loot if it suited their friends' class. Gaming like that makes you friendly and it encourages friendliness.

I was always horrible at using maps but video games (before the age of constant mini maps) have forced me to rely on old school maps. I'm not going to say that I became an expert navigator, but I certainly got a little better with maps. Now I'm not afraid to look at them anymore and I can usually make sense of where I'm at.


Ok maybe this isn't a very serious pointer but every once in a while you encounter a history lesson or two from video games. Believe it or not, games are not the best source for such information. I know you're all disappointed now wishing that all those things were true but it doesn't mean that nothing is learned.

Logic / Problem Solving

There are just too many games to count that test your mental fitness, and I'm not talking about educational games or anything of the sort but many games force you to look around for clues, solve a puzzle or fix a problem. It's not always simple and it can make the wheels in your brain spin wildly at times.

Now that it has been mentioned. Have you ever learned anything from video games? Do you think these topics truly apply

Stay tuned for the next part of this. It will focus on a whole new area of things learned (more academical). Meanwhile check out this link. It could possibly your new top reason for gaming.   read

11:40 AM on 07.08.2012

Are You Out of Your League?

Everyone wants to be the best but there's always someone who's out there to outdo them. Sometimes it's a really tough battle, other times you feel like you deserve to win but it just doesn't work out in your favor and there are some occasions when you know you're going to lose but you just keep going at it. In the worst case scenario you know from the first moment that it's going to be a slaughter, and not in your favor and in those cases it's just easier for you to give up. Walk away and leave.

So here I'm going to help you gamers define the moments where you should let the controller go and lower your head in shame as your opponent obliterates you. So here's how to tell if you are way out of your league.

Overlaps: If you're playing a racing game and you're driving around and suddenly the racer gets past you again you know it's hopeless from that point on. It gets hopeless before that, but once you see the driver's back one more time it's the moment it hits you and you realize that it was a pointless race to begin with. One thing you could do in order to enjoy your time is make a U turn and try to crash into the one kicking your ass. If it works, it will make you giddy.

Flawless victory: I bet you love hearing that or a similar phrase once you win a round. Well, so does the guy kicking your ass. If you get beaten two rounds in a row without touching your opponent you're just embarrassing yourself so you might as well just quit. Once someone starts a flawless victory streak on your expense, it's time for you to give up. A similar concept applies to other games too. Once you build up a massive death streak just stop trying to kill people. Try to get on top of the most killed list. You have a better chance there anyway.

Enemies at the base: In many strategy games you start with a base that is vital to your survival so you work hard to keep it intact. For some of us it's all we do. So if you suddenly see a swam or enemy units all over you and you notice that not only you're severely outnumbered, but the units themselves are more advanced than yours it's time to close your eyes and say a prayer for the units that are about to die and there's definitely no need to open your eyes until the game is over.

Durable bosses: Some bosses just refuse to die. The good thing about most RPGs is that they give you a chance to build up your character or team. So in this case you don't simply surrender. You actually have a chance and here's how to go about it:

Died more than 7 times?
Spent all potions, buffs, etc?
Tried out different types of damage dealing?
Changed your strategy?
The boss lost less than half his health?

If 3 or more were answered yes then you need to do the following

1- Grind a lot
2- Grind a little more
3- Spend the money gained from grinding on new equipment and potions
4- Try again and go back to the check list. Repeat as much as necessary.

Note to readers: In case you were wondering; no I don't go through these situations often. I don't play strategy games online in order to prevent that from happening. The RPG thing definitely happened on a few occasions.   read

6:09 PM on 07.06.2012

Looking for Some Couch Co-op?

Online games are great but sharing the same console with your friends or family has a different feel to it. Trash talk feels better, you get to spend time with friends and family rather than random online people and I have to emphasize that trash talk is approximately fifteen times better when done in person. For some reason, playing with friends makes bad games good and funny. In addition to that playing games online isn't necessarily a social activity. Sometimes it's as if you're playing with a bot. Split screen ensures social interactions... usually. So I'm going to go ahead and suggest a bunch of co-op friendly games from a few genres.


My top two picks in this area are New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii and Rayman Origins. They both play the pretty much the same and are both very good choices for a nice individual or co-op experience. I can almost guarantee a good time playing either one of them. Unfortunately the both share a similar flaw. In Super Mario sometimes your teammate can get in the way, taking away some valuable space you might need to stand in and in Rayman it's a little too easy to hit your mate by accidentally, knocking them towards their doom. Both games are quite forgiving to make up for it.


Now this is a tricky one. Most RPGs are either made for solo play or let you get a co-op partner that is a slightly glorified generic NPC follower. There are some that are made for co-op play such as Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and Zelda Four Swords. They were both designed with 2-4 players in mind. Another good choice would be Fable III. It's more like a regular RPG but your partner might feel a little left out when you're not in combat.


The Gears of War series and Army of Two are two great choices for some co-op action. They both encourage teamwork to some degree and I personally had a really good time playing both. However, Gears of War has the advantage of supporting around 10 times more modes than Army of Two does. Well, it's mostly hoard mode (survival against a bunch of monster waves) and different types of fighting.


Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Playing with a full band is far more entertaining than a solo act and I don't think I need to delve any deeper into explaining this.
Note: Band members need to understand that drummers get tired sometimes on higher difficulties...   read

11:38 AM on 07.04.2012

Rayman Origins Review

I've been playing Rayman Origins on the Xbox 360 and I have to say it's pretty fun and serves a wide demographic. The game follows the classic side-scrolling method and the goal is to get from point A to point B on every stage and there are some collectibles along the way. I say it serves a wide range of people because the graphics are very well done and their style appeals to the younger generations and the game is easy enough for them to go through. However, getting the collectibles is actually challenging. As a "veteran gamer" myself, I had to retry some of the stages about a dozen times in order to get a certain piece. However, the game is very forgiving when it's being playing with the intention of simply beating the stages.

Rayman doesn't have any great new innovations as far as I can see but that's not a bad thing at all. In fact, the game play is great. I'm sorry Mario, but I think Rayman has you beaten. I bought the game for the co-op but I was expecting an ok game that I can spend some time in cruising through the stages. Fortunately I was wrong and I'm impressed. The game also has some water stages that weren't horrible and if that wasn't impressive I don't know what is.

Almost every stage gives you a reason to go back to it. Beating the stages is simple, but you will almost always miss a few things that will keep you coming back for more. There is no shortage of levels in the game but even with the ones there, you'll almost always miss collectibles. Actually I never completely cleaned out a stage yet (to be completely honest) but that's something I'm putting on my back burner for now. I definitely plan on backtracking all the way to the beginning of the game to get the items that I have missed. A typical stage has 5 face-like things, a trophy and a coin. In order to get all said things one must collect enough coin like objects throughout the level, find 2 hidden areas and perform a time trial. So if you're wondering about lasting appeal, you have a ton of stages to go through and you'll need to go through more than once. After all, this game isn't just a piece of DLC.

Backtracking in Rayman doesn't feel tedious. Playing the same area on a trial run and a normal way feel completely different and doing so with a partner is a great experience. The co-op is awesome and potentially very funny. My only problem with it is that it's way too easy to hit your partner by mistake and knocking them into a hole or into something that kills. Now it can be funny, but annoying at times. The game somewhat makes up for that by being even more forgiving in co-op. A player can die all he wants as long as the other is still alive and kicking.

So to sum this up I'd like to say that I would recommend this game to just about anyone. A person who wants some family gaming time, or looking for a platformer or just looking for anything good in general.   read

11:52 AM on 06.27.2012

Video Games Cause Sleep Deprivation

First of all, no, I don't mean that people who play video games have trouble sleeping. Video games simply keep you away from the bed itself. As a matter of "fact" winning a game against a rival or accomplishing a feat in a video game helps you sleep with a smile on your face.

As a gamer, like many others I tend to waste the night playing video games before heading to bed or I play video games before leaving to do something. However, there are certain things in games that just prevent you from leaving your seat. How often has someone called you to do something and you answered with "Wait, just let me finish this" or "Just one more!". So here I'm going to list some of the top reasons gamers have trouble leaving their games.

1- "Where the heck is the save point!": So like any normal human being, when I do something, I like to save my progress whether it's a word document, a presentation or video game progress. Sometimes games don't save your progress until a certain point and there's no way in hell you're going to let your progress go away after so much time and effort were pooled into that game so you're forced to find the next checkpoint or save area before you can hit the sack. Repeating the same area the next day is just counter productive.

2- "Just one more turn. I promise.": Now that's a lie and you know it. Now when I do a few things during my turn, I see my opponent doing things in his that just make me want to react quickly. You just want to take action. So you do take action, end your turn and then the computer does something that pisses you off. You can't simply go to bed when a computer attacks your country can you? You have to retaliate and when you do you want to see what your opponent has in store for you and so you repeat the process again and again so one more turn ends up being just a few more hours.
Note: There are many variations of the just one more lie such as: One more match, one more collectible, one more level, etc.

3- "I'm not leaving before I beat this boss.": It doesn't matter if you were killed dozens of times you just have to beat that boss or level before shutting down your game because if something kills you a dozen times or more it's definitely personal. It doesn't matter if you need to grind some more or get better equipment, you just want to have another go at that boss because when it's past your bed time, there's no time for grinding.

4- "But I didn't win any matches yet...": Now that's sad. Would you want a happy go lucky gamer to leave his beloved game when he's on a losing streak? Winning at least once is required before quitting.

5- "My party is just too good.": When you team up with a bunch of good players who each carry their own weight in the team, they don't lag or make you lag and they even help you out, you just can't let that go to waste. It's very common to be teamed up with a very good player like that, but what are the odds of the whole team being like that?

6- "I'm close to the ending.": Now this excuse can leave you sitting in front of your screen for hours. It's true that on most occasions you can tell when you're approaching the end but sometimes you encounter that plot twist that extends the story by a few more hours but it doesn't matter because when you're that close to the end, you simply must finish what you started, right?

7- "I didn't even start playing yet...": So when you're starting a new game, especially if it's an RPG you will most likely spend some time before getting into the actual gameplay, in fact for some games it can take more than an hour. Personally I can't leave if all I've seen is the intro, I would want to at least try out this new game.

I'm guessing that pretty much sums it up for me. What glues you to your gaming seat?   read

11:53 AM on 06.20.2012

Achievements: Why and How I like them

Achievements: Why I like them and how I like them
Ever since the launch of the Xbox 360 all developers were forced to distribute 1000 achievement points per retail game and the points had to be spread over a maximum of 50 achievements (excluding DLC). The concept sounds extremely trivial in theory. People asked at first; do they unlock anything? Am I rewarded in any way for them? Are there leader boards? The answer was always no, but that didn't make them any less fun, nor did it stop people from trying to maximize their gamer score or hunt for the easy to get achievements. I'm guessing that humans by nature like gathering points and they like to keep score. The value of the points is irrelevant, anything they provide is an added bonus as long as at the end of the day you could go to your friends and brag, telling them that yours is bigger. Yes, that's pretty much all there is to it; personal pride and bragging rights.

I'm not personally much an achievement hunter myself, but I tend to go out of my way trying to get some of them but there are also many others that I simply ignore. Would they give me some sense of accomplishing something? They probably would, but I find it unnecessary to waste my time. When I find a huge open world game that tries to encourage me to find their over nine thousand generic collectible items I simply don't bother. I was never a fan of collectibles like that in the first place. I'm bad at looking for things in real life and video games. If the points I got were worth something I would probably put a little extra effort behind it, or simply download a map with all locations but I find it pointless to do a task that I dislike for a large amount of time to earn a reward like that. so Basically I hate collectible related achievements or ones that force you to do a dumb task that takes you WAY out of your way to do something. For example what if you had to walk across the GTA world without using any form of transportation other than your feet? That would indeed suck. I enjoy the game, I enjoy walking around but not like that.

It's not just the time-consuming and daunting ones that I dislike. Completing the tutorial is not an achievement that I feel proud of having. It's that kind of achievement that takes away the meaning of the word. Although I have to admit that the "press start to play" achievement was funny, so I wouldn't mind it so much.

Crackdown was a game that handled its achievements right. They were fun to do, they were challenging and yet they weren't too hard. To me, that's the perfect formula. I completely understand that developers are being forced to include a certain number of achievements into each game, but a certain level of creativity would be appreciated.

One of my favorite achievements was in Red Dead Redemption. I had to tie up a woman, go to the train tracks and let the train run her over. Call me whatever you like but that was simply awesome and thoughtful of rockstar. It perfectly suited the game and the era it was being played in. It reminded me of countless TV moments where that exact scene happened except that the woman died in my game. Honestly I couldn't stop laughing throughout the whole process.

One type of achievements that I don't dislike is the counter type or stat-based. Things such as reaching a certain level or stacking up a certain amount of kills though not to the extent where Gear of War took it. The 'Seriously' achievement took it too far.

So folks, what are your favorite and worst achievement memories?   read

4:09 PM on 06.19.2012

Games That I Wish Had Sequels

Sometimes you play a game in a specific genre, you finish it and get over it knowing that soon you'll have another game similar enough to soothe your craving for that type of game. That's what generally happens in the world of games. Developers use the same mechanics over and over again to ensure that their games appeal to the masses that liked the people who used those mechanics first. That's not entirely bad. After all, we got many decent games that way and spent countless hours playing them, but sometimes a gamer looks for something to fill a gap in his soul that can only be filled with something specific. Something that is only available in an old classic that for some reason never had a sequel. There are some games that have no sequels. I wouldn't mind an unoriginal, yet entertaining game not having any sequels since I can find a similar experience elsewhere. However there are a few itches that only certain games can scratch.

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber

I do realize that this game is actually a sequel to a SNES game, but this was 12 years ago and if I had to choose one game ever to get a sequel for, it would be this one. Ogre Battle wasn't just a great game to play. To this day it's one of the deepest and most unique games I've played. The combination of real time strategy, turn-based (yet auto piloted) battles and RPG style unit management was amazing. I spent hundreds of hours playing the game throughout several playthroughs and I'm sure dozens of those hours were spent managing my army in the menus.

A maximum of 10 squads could be deployed in the battlefield, each one containing up to five units and it's up to the player to equip each unit, choose its class and change when necessary and choose each squad's formation. Formations really mattered but were simple. Unlike most games the generic characters were more customizable than the story ones since they were glued to their classes. There were also several endings and branching story lines. That was pretty good for over a decade ago.

My outline of the game does not do it justice, really but it's a great game that might seem overwhelming at first. It's hard to master but simple enough to play effectively. Just talking about it is getting me excited to download it on the Wii's virtual console (I still have an N64 and my copy of the game). I don't care if they change nothing, I just want a new one. Pretty please, Atlus? Or are you busy making games like Game of Thrones and Cursed Crusade?

Mirror's Edge

Mirror's Edge was a pretty good game and different than what we're used to and it was well-executed. Thank god it wasn't one of those good ideas gone bad. It was an action game that wasn't about violence in fact the game encouraged the pacifist approach. The game relied on parkour styled action. Instead of fighting your way through an enemy force, you get to jump, duck and slide around obstacles as fast as possible to avoid the enemy. The game employs, wall jumps, sliding, climbing and all sorts of things that basically get you from point A to point B while overcoming obstacles. The controls were well-made so they felt natural. I very rarely (not never) had trouble performing the action I had in mind.

Skies of Arcadia

What makes skies of Arcadia unique is that out of the games in this list, it's the one that isn't unique... Sega made a standard JRPG following classic japanese formulas and there wasn't much that was considered new in this game but certain aspects of it really appealed to me. It's part of the JRPG formula to start as a nobody kid that saves the world but that's not the case in this game. You start as a pirate living in a tiny island starting small and slowly growing. The growing process is tangible. By the time you save the world you're not a nobody anymore and you can feel it in some aspects. You start with a crappy old ship and end up having a bad ass ship hosting 20+ crew members. It's like starting with an old Corolla and ending up with a Bumblebee car. Little by little you can develop your tiny base, buying it upgrades and seeing it flourish. To a degree it's cosmetic but it feels good to see progress. Those are the games that come to mind when I think of games I'd want to revisit after years of forgetting them. They're not the best in their genres, but they had some key differences that made them different enough. Sound your opinions in comments. What do you want a sequel for the most?   read

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