Category Archives: Favorite Games

Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm – An Evolution of Gameplay and Story

      “Heart of the Swarm” improves off “Wings of Liberty” in most places where it counts. The story has more going on, the characters are more interesting and the side missions are really enjoyable as well as the hero leveling system that the game gives in how Kerrigan grows through the game. You are given choices that matter and affect gameplay, which is more than “Wings of Liberty” was ever able to do. I’ll get into more of what I mean later in the review, but this is a game that improves upon the original in almost every way.

The downsides are really in how there is too much emphasis on Emperor Mengsk as the villain and not enough on the threat of the Xel’Naga, which sadly hurts the overall arc of the Trilogy.

The story picks up where “Wings of Liberty” left off with a de-infested Kerrigan with Raynor’s Raiders and Valerian Mengsk. When Dominion forces attack she is separated from them all and when she believes Raynor to be killed goes on a revenge mission against Mengsk as she takes control of the Swarm and grows once more into her role as the Queen of Blades.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Universe – I love the Starcraft Universe and in this game we get so much more of it. From Narud’s experiments and the infested resurrected Stukov and the Hybrids from the last game, from the Primal Zerg and the Zerg who witnessed the Xel’Naga come but only cared about becoming stronger and better and did not care for the greater war in the Universe as Amon created them on the Primal Zerg world…from the power of the Dominion and recruitment of the Brood Mothers as Kerrigan re-establishes herself as the Queen of Blades. I love this Universe and this game does nothing but enrich it. We also get to play as Raynor’s Raiders taking on a Mercenary army with their Battlecruiser in order to find out where Raynor is trapped and so that he can rescued. The world is so wonderfully dark and complicated.

Evolution Missions – On the way of taking control of the Swarm once more Abathur, Kerrigan’s Evolution Master gives missions where you can shape Zerg into different strains. Each choice is permanent but their are pros and cons to each. You can have faster and weaker units that can fly, greater number of units or stronger individual units with greater regeneration depending on the choice you make…and on those missions you take out Dominion or Feral Zerg forces. They are so much fun.

The Nature of the Swarm – The Swarm is change and evolution. This is one reason Kerrigan works so well as the leader because she is constant change and adaptation and now being free of the Overmind she no longer as Amon’s influence on her (that she originally got through the original purpose of the Zerg and the Overmind). It is powerful seeing her take charge of the swarm and see how their primary drive to live, change, evolve and grow. The Zerg are not static and this game really shows how easy it is for the Swarm to grow and become one of the strongest powers in the Universe. It is in their nature and when they have direction from the Queen of Blades the Overmind or one who knows them, they are unstoppable.

Kerrigan and her Team – Kerrigan has my favorite Team out of the 3 games. I like how Abathur is a selfish being that only sees the point in making things more efficent regardless of cost (so weird, awful and alien) how Zagara only values strength and bettering the Swarm and serving Kerrigan how Stukov has no one so only wants acceptance and the Swarm is the only acceptance he has now that he is dead to humanity and Dehaka and his obsession with essence and his drive to survive and change through anything.

Leveling Kerrigan and Shaping the Swarm – The gameplay is fun and part of the reason it is so much fun is you power up Kerrigan and her abilities and these abilities influence her as hero unit and also your base and how quickly you can build or what you start. She is a powerhouse and the right upgrades make her an unstoppable force on her own or one who can sustain the Swarm and have a large group. The Swarm is also shaped from the Evolution Missions stated above too.

Okay: The Power of Emperor Mengsk – I’m putting Emperor Mengsk’s power and the Dominon as okay and not a pro for two reasons. The first is that he should have been weaker after Valerian took half his fleet and second Kerrigan destroyed his forces on more than one occasion. This game happens just after he got his butt kicked last game. The reason I don’t put him as a con is he did have Narud and via Narud Amon backing him so he was powerful that way and there was a good amount of time between “Brood War” and “Wings of Liberty.” For these reason I won’t put him as a con.

Not Enough Xel’Naga Exploration – We get a glimpse of the nature of the Xel’Naga on Zerus (the Zerg homeworld) and when Narud’s true form a changeling is revealed and what dialogue he gives us. Otherwise they are an abstract threat even though we the prophecy of Kerrigan’s role going on and really needed more in the lead up to whatever her future is.

The Narud and Amon Payoff – Narud is the mini-boss before Arcturus Mengsk and it is only over the course of 3 missions. He really should have been a bigger deal. Mengsk makes more sense narratively but for the overall game Narud has been the greatest threat of them all. He is the reason the UED no longer exists as a threat, he is the reason the Protoss continued to fall apart and his master Amon is the reason the Zerg almost destroyed everything fulfilling their role in the big picture. With better writing, he really should have been the end boss or played a much bigger part in the story. He’d been around for so long why did he suddenly stop manipulating the Zerg when he clearly still had control of some Protoss forces, Moebius and the elements of the Dominion. Narud and the Xel’Naga deserved better and I think Blizzard didn’t know what to do with them after setting them up so well in “Brood War” and the original “Starcraft.”

The Cons: Raynor and Revenge as Primary Motivation – I think the writers meant it to mirror Raynor’s love for Kerrigan as his motivation in “Wings of Liberty” but it sucked that Kerrigan was turned into that as well. I never got those vibes from her in any of the original games and making her The Bride from “Kill Bill” was fine but her best character moments are when we see her accepting her role as the Queen of Blades and finding motivation beyond revenge as she cares for and shapes the Swarm. That was where she was amazing as we already got her revenge story back in “Brood War” and it was handled so much better.

I really enjoyed “Heart of the Swarm.” This is a game for all the flaws it has (largely based in story with Emperor Mengsk being this unstoppable force who still continues to lose through 2 games) and the lack of focus on Narud, Amon and the Xel’Naga makes the upcoming threat feel only so strong. It also sets up Kerrigan as the Chosen One which is stupid storytelling in general, even though I like that Kerrigan’s flaws are all her own. she is ruthless and driven and a little bit of a sociopath but it makes her compelling because it is her mind that shapes the Swarm and we see how she makes the Zerg Swarm less of an all consuming force and more a precision weapon focused on perfection and change. For these reasons I would rate it higher than “Wings of Liberty.” There is better payoff storywise, better gameplay and the campaign missions are a lot of fun and honestly, my favorite heroes are the Heroes from the Swarm and how wonderfully alien they all are. This is another one of my favorite games.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty – A Bit of Revolution and about Time

  “Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty” was a game I’d been waiting for, for a long time. It was the original “Starcraft” series that got me into RTS games and also was a huge influence on my love of science fiction stories. I still remember playing through the game for the first time at my friend’s place in college on his computer as I saw just how awesome the campaign was, I’d been waiting for this game for a long time. Years later after a second playthrough, I still really enjoy this game, but the flaws are much more apparent as well as what it misses that “Brood War” and the original “Starcraft” brought to story. I’ll do an overall comparison after reviewing all the games of “Starcraft II.”

The story picks up with war beginning again as Raynor’s Raiders seek to overthrow Mengsk and stop Kerrigan’s Swarm. This involves putting news of Mengsk’s betrayal out to the world while taking on Zerg and Dominion forces and seeking Xel’Naga artifacts for the Mobius Foundation as they may be the key to taking out Kerrigan’s Swarm.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Gameplay – The gameplay is a lot of fun. There is a great variety of strategy to each of the campaigns and how you use your hero units and troops. You can outlast and go all out with a large fully upgraded force, or push forward with any level of balanced forces. It’s extremely enjoyable and there is a reason that even after years of not playing this game I couldn’t put it down once I started playing it again.

Mission Variety – There is a great amount of mission variety, from a prison breakout where you defend a giant Odin piloted by Jim’s friend Tychus, a choice to do a ground based hero mission on Char or Air Assault against Kerrigan’s Swarm and some racing against the clock where you save civilians before Kerrigan destroys you. You also have a huge Prophecy side quest with Zeratul discovering Kerrigan’s role and the what the oncoming destruction will be and how to stop it. These are small hero driven missions.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is wonderful and captures the old west feel of the Terran as well as the tension of war, the threat of the Swarm of the mystery of the Protoss. It has a lot of salutes to the original soundtrack while still remaining to be it’s own thing.

The Universe – The Universe is the same wonderful one from past games except that it gives us more characters and reestablishes there has been some stability after the “Brood War” as the Dominion is now one of the core powers once more and the Swarm is a large threat while the Protoss as a power are scattered. I love this Universe and it was wonderful to jump into it agai as Jim Raynor, even if some of the characters really annoyed me and felt cheap compared to the characters of games past. You get flavors of the Universe in news reports from the Dominion Channel and witness one corrupt news anchor fall apart as another with integrity rises, mirroring Jim Raynor’s own journey through the campaign.

The Complex Rogues – The complex rogues are the best part of this game…whether it is Zeratul as the Dark Wizard seeking to keep back the end, even if it means saving Kerrigan, the woman has meant nothing but destruction for his people, Tychus as the Merc who believes in Jim but also wants to be free so will kill Kerrigan if given the chance and of course Gabriel Tosh, the rogue spectre seeking to overthrow Mengsk who also helps you through Zeratul’s visions. These are easily the best characters in the game with Jim as the rogue trying to do the right thing in the difficult situations he is put in. Hell Valerian Mengsk (Emperor Mengsk’s son) is even complex in his own way as he wants to find a way to fix infestation and in doing so be a better savior to his humanity than his father ever was. These characters drove the story and made me click them for conversations when you are the Battle Cruiser “Hyperion.”

Okay: Prophecy and Destiny – I don’t really like the idea of prophecy and destiny as all powerful beings like the Xel’Naga would have been destroyed if they could have seen the future. It also ends up giving plot armor to all of Kerrigan’s actions in “Brood War” and this game does not deal with the monster she currently is, instead we get mopey lovesick Raynor, which really hurt the storytelling as he gets a love interest out of it and it hurts Kerrigan’s agency in her actions.

The Cons: The One-Dimensional Characters – There are a few of these, with the worst offenders being the nerd stereotype Egon and the love interest scientist Ariel Hanson. They only function as plot devices to tell Raynor things and I never saw them as complete characters. Matt Horner is also this to some degree as he is the noble revolutionary, and we never get why. This was the disadvantage that comes with a large cast and so many characters really should have been developed that weren’t. This is the weakest of the the “Starcraft II” games because of this.

“Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty” and is a great game I’d recommend. The gameplay and mission variety are absolutely wonderful and the complex rogues are a lot of fun to follow, even though I hate how prophecy turns some of them into some a certain level of plot device. If you haven’t played this game already and are a fan of RTS games, I highly recommend it. As a fan of the Starcraft Franchise, they would have had to really mess this up for me to hate it, but even as someone who was away from the game for years it is still a solidly great game worth time. It took long enough to make and if you have, it’s about damn time to play.

Final Score: 9 / 10 Solidly great.

Mass Effect 2 – Amazing Character Development, Combat and Final Leads to This Being One of the Best RPGs I’ve played

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    “Mass Effect 2” is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. This is a game that manages to capture the best of story, combat and character to the point that I stayed in this world as long as I could before doing the final/suicide mission with my squad, which was hands down one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had. There is a lot to cover in this game that I’ll get into deeper in the review.

    This was when EA bought Bioware so even though Bioware made the game it was EA who published it.

   Here is my review of the first game in case you need a catch up on the story or need a comparison to how much this game improved.:

 https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/mass-effect-an-amazing-space-opera-with-some-narrative-and-cinematic-choppiness/

SPOILERS if you haven’t played the first game.

     The story involves the Normandy being attacked by the mysterious species known as the Collectors, leading to the death of Shepard. 2 years later you wake up, having been resurrected by the Illusive Man and Cerberus. From here you must recruit your team to take on the Collectors and end their threat to the Galaxy.

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The Pros:

The Universe – The Universe is really one of the best parts of this series and Bioware is a gaming company with fantastic world builders. The amount of aliens introduced grows as we have Vorcha, Batarians and Collectors and a ton of organizations that you work for or against, as well as the old ones too. There are some pretty amazing locations too! From Omega, Illium, The Collector Base and countless other planets you discover.

The Action – The game is finally a good shooter! In the original game the shooting was kind of janky but it flows here and there are stakes, even on casual you might die a few times if you are new FPSs. It was this action gameplay and the world and story that helped keep in and to explore every star system.

The Stakes – The stakes are higher in this game, the Collectors have already killed you once and you are working for an organization that is all about human supremacy and experiments on their own people. You are in a rock and a hard place and it makes the choices you make with characters so much higher, especially since the Reaper threat is hanging in the background.

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The Characters – The characters have always been the strongest part of Bioware games and in this game we get new characters and get to know past characters from the first game more. I did all the options I could when it came to exploring characters and I loved my squad’s loyalty missions.

Captain Bailey – Bailey is voiced by Michael Hogan (Colonel Tigh from “BSG”) and he is great. He is a rough beat cop who grows over the course of the series as Shepard helps him see the depth of certain situations. He is a great character and I’m glad he survives this game.

The Illusive Man – The Illusive Man is obviously evil, he brings you back to life but there is never any question that his intentions are to use you as a weapon for power. You see some of the things he’s done over the course of the series and he has the gall to ask you to save the Collector Base. Telling him to screw himself was really rewarding.

Aria – Aria is the Asari leader of Omega, a gang planet where she is the one pulling all the strings. She is a really cool leader, she even owns a Krogan Warlord she has called Patriarch mockingly. As Shepard you hurt and help her operations about equally given the Mercs are people who use Omega but they are also targeting Patriarch and her other assets…so she pretty much gives you free reign. She is one of the few characters unafraid when she meets you.

The Flotilla Admirals – The Flotilla Admirals are a fascinating group. There is the family friend, a soldier who served with Tali’s dad, an Admiral who wants to control the Geth and one who wants to make peace. There are reasons for each on why they think the way they do and in the end Tali was just a political pawn so calling them out on their crap frees Tali from being exiled.

Kelly Chambers – Kelly is the ship psychologist who lets you know what characters are interested in you and why and explores your relationships. She was the one I told that I didn’t have feelings for Ashley and found out that Tali liked me.

Wrex – Wrex is amazing! Since I saved him last game he is now working on uniting all the Krogan clans. He is such a fun character, he is a bit overwhelmed by his new leadership responsibilities but he helps you with Grunt’s coming of age and it is fun to talk to him about his life and the past memories.

Joker – Joker manages to survive the Collector’s destruction of the first Normandy. He is the first person you meet on the new Cerberus Normandy and his relationship with the Ship’s AI EDI is the main drama on the ship. He also is the first to let you know whenever two of your shipmates are at odds for you to resolve it. He is the heart of the ship with EDI and they rescue it before the Suicide Mission.

EDI – EDI is an AI who is pretty fantastic. She jokes and is good at giving you assessments of different situations and is always a help. She is an AI that makes choices and has drive and I’m curious to see how she develops in “Mass Effect 3.”

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Your Squad – The Squad, minus Zaeed is one of the best parts of this game. I loved their loyalty missions, and each of the characters is complex and compelling in their different ways. You are the crew of “Firefly” or “Farscape” aka a bunch of misfits who are great at your certain tasks.

Garrus – Garrus goes Batman in this game and has become a vigilante targeting the leaders of all the Merc Groups. He is going under the name of Archangel and it is up to you to rescue him. His loyalty mission involves him hunting down the member of his team who betrayed him and you can let him make the kill or forgive his former friend. It is powerful and Garrus is really the best friend of Shepard.

Miranda – Miranda is the one who brings you back to life. She is cruel to a lot of the crew, especially Jack but I initially pursued her for saving my life. That changed when she was cruel to Jack and I chose Jack over her to remain friends with both (Tali was my romance option) since I didn’t have any patience for Miranda’s crap towards others. You get why she is cruel though as she has an abusive controlling father and your loyalty mission with her is rescuing her sister.

Jacob – Jacob is the human soldier cut from the same vein as Kaidan, as in he is super serious and he only chills with you after the loyalty mission and even than doesn’t talk much. I liked the guy when he wasn’t being a racist though. The moment he talked down to Tali I was done with him as his Cerberus was showing. He gets better (they all do) but it gave me Ashley vibes and I hated her Speciesism.

Jack – Jack is the PTSD super biotic created by Cerberus. She is an awesome character who you help get revenge on Cerberus by destroying the station. She also meets another person there too who was just as scarred as she was. She was my backup Biotic and her flavor text is a lot of fun. She really does not care.

Grunt – Grunt is a test tube Krogan made to be a Super Krogan by the Warlord you are attempting to recruit. He is unstable but a lot of fun as you help him find balance and go through his coming of age as you can make history with him, making a killing that only Wrex had made prior.

Thane – Thane is Drell assassin who you help by rescuing his son. Captain Bailey even helps you out too and makes an easy way for Thane’s son to have a new start. It is from Thane you also learn the one time he didn’t kill was when his wife tried to save his quarry. It is powerful and seeing him recount memories as exact is powerful, as his philosophy of mind and body being separate entities.

Kasumi – Kasumi is DLC and her DLC is awesome! You go undercover to steal the Grey Box from a rich crook. Over the course of the DLC you help her hack and get revenge and after I said she could keep the Box if that is what she wanted. I really liked Kasumi, there was a reason she was my backup tech. after Tali.

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Legion – Legion is a fascinating character. It is Geth as in their are multiple programs that make him up. His arc is saving the Geth from the Reapers as he uploads a virus to combat Reaper control and integrates the other Geth into him. His sole goal is the survival of the Geth but he can see beyond that as he and Tali do become friends. He is a great character and I really enjoyed his loyalty mission.

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Mordin – Mordin is a Salarian Mad Scientist and is one of my favorite characters. He helped improve the Genophage and his arc is dealing with his past actions and his opinion changing about the Krogan. I really enjoyed this character, especially learning how he was a singer and the scene he gives you were he sings Gilbert and Sullivan. He was my early main squad until I did Tali’s mission.

Samara – Samara was my go to Biotic. Her story is powerful and sad as she is an Asari Judicator seeking out her daughter who kills with sex. You make the choice to choose her or her daughter for your team and I obviously chose her. I’m Paragon and Samara is Paragon incarnate. She is old and you learn a lot from her over the course of the game. I missed having Liara on the main team but Samara was so cool I wasn’t too sad.

Tali – Tali was my love interest this game and now I just want to survive through 3 with her and end things with Ashley from 1. She meets you early on when you are with Cerberus and sees right through Cerberus. It was great planning to fight Cerberus with her and helping her when she is put on trial as a Pawn for the Admirals plans against the Geth. Her story is tragic as we learn her father was doing experiments on the Geth that lead to his team getting killed. I chose to not reveal what we found so she wouldn’t be exiled and after the romance took off. Tali is my favorite character in the game at this point. I really want to end “Mass Effect 3” with her and survive the game.

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The Major DLC – The Major DLC as in Kasumi, Lair of the Shadow Broker and Overlord were a lot of fun and really enriched the game…I just wish they’d come with the game already given Liara’s role is too important to be DLC.

Overlord – Overlord involves you rescuing a Savant who has been turned into a rogue AI by Cerberus. It is a sad mission and listening to Tali and Samara’s dialogue made it all the more powerful. We all felt for the guy and it was great rescuing him from his brother and getting him help.

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Lair of the Shadow Broker – This was my favorite mission in the game besides the Suicide Mission. The Lair of the Shadow Broker involves you teaming up with Liara and following a bread crumb trail back to the Shadow Broker’s lair where a final showdown goes down and you take out the current Shadow Broker, leading to Liara’s ascension as the current Shadow Broker. After you can invite Liara to the ship and have wine with her. It was such a fun mission with high rewards, easily one of the best parts of the game.

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Loyalty Missions – Loyalty missions are part of what made this game great. You not only have someone on your squad automatically…you have to earn their loyalty and your choices during the game change that status. The missions themselves are usually a lot of fun with Tali, Legion, Grunt, Mordin and Kasumi being my most favorite loyalty missions.

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The Collectors – The Collectors are the main threat and are established as dangerous early on (they do kill you). Over the course of the missions you learn they are being controlled by the Reaper Harbringer and that they were once Protheans. Each level where you face them is a challenge as they have some pretty powerful weapons and enemies which makes defeating them at the end, all the more rewarding.

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Tali Romance / Romance – Initially I pursued Miranda for saving my life but changed my mind after she was being cruel to Jack and ended it. After Kelly Chambers told me Tali liked me and I pursued her. It was great helping her and Legion come together and she is such a cool character. I loved her relationship with her people and her father and the whole romance scene is beautiful. She takes some things to strengthen her immune system since when Quarrians have sex they are at risk due to their suits keeping all germs and things away, since in space they had to keep everything sterile. After the game I just want to survive Mass Effect 3 with her and end the Ashley Romance that apparently I made happen in 1, that I thought I’d ended at the end of that game.

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The Suicide Mission – The Suicide Mission is powerful and hard. The first time I played it I lost Legion so went back to last save and chose the right people in order for everyone to survive. The stakes are high and I ended it with my main squad of Tali and Samara. Fighting the Human Reaper was so much fun as well as the Collector Harbringer possessed who kept giving us trouble. This mission was easily one of the best experiences I’ve had in gaming.

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My Main Squad – My main squad was Tali as my tech. and Samara as my Biotic. I took these two on the most missions throughout the game. I always play Soldier and it was great having a squad similar to the Tali and Liara main group I used in the first game. My backup tech was Kasumi and after her Mordin and back up Biotic was Jack.

Okay: Zaeed – Zaeed is a rough around the edges creator of the Blue Suns mercenary organization. His loyalty mission is taking out the other leader of the Blue Suns and rescuing the people he endangers. I really didn’t like this guy. He contributes nothing to the crew besides being an extra body for the Suicide Mission.

Too Many Mercs – There are the Blue Suns, Eclipse, Blood Pack, etc. Mercenaries are mostly what you fight and I think that was a missed opportunity. There should be more than mercs controlling the underbelly of the Galaxy.

Overpriced DLC – Zaeed, Kasumi, the Hammerhead, Lair of the Shadow Broker and Overlord. First the 2 new characters should have come free as should have Lair of the Shadow Broker. I enjoyed the DLC but it was expensive. Bioware Credits are a stupid idea that forces you to spend more money than the DLC is actually worth. I still enjoyed the DLC but screw EA and Bioware for not releasing most of it with the game.

The Path I Chose – I chose the path of Paragon, Tali as my romance option and to destroy the Collector Base. On every loyalty mission I did the Paragon options and I chose Samara over Morinth. I really hope these choices matter in “Mass Effect 3.” I don’t want any of my squad to die.

    This is a game I’d highly recommend, and you don’t have to play the first game to do it (though it is more rewarding if you do). This is a Universe on par with “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” in regards to lore and characters I care about. I know I’m probably in for at least some disappoint with “Mass Effect 3” but the first 2 games has made the risk worth it. I care about the world and the characters and want the best outcome for all of them. God, I really have become a Paragon.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10 Would be perfect if not for too many Mercs that you fight, overpriced DLC and Zaeed being a waste of a character.

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Mass Effect – An Amazing Space Opera With Some Narrative and Cinematic Choppiness

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     I am a huge fan of science fiction. That has most likely been made pretty obvious though, given the amount of times a sci. fi. film has made my “Top 5 Films” of the year, the videogames I’ve reviewed thus far and my favorite shows (which also tend to be sci. fi.). “Mass Effect” is an amazing Space Opera that before I upgraded my computer, I’d only played bits and pieces at friends’ houses. Doing a run through on my own, gave me an even greater appreciation for this game and also made the flaws it have more apparent too.

    The series was created by Bioware and easily their best game since “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.” Another Western RPG that this game develops in play style and types of choices further.

   So without further ado I’ll get into the review, first with a basic overview of the story:

       It is the future and thanks to ancient Prothean technology called Mass Relays, The Alliance (humanity) has joined the Galactic World at the Citadel. There is lots of tension though as the First Contact War of Humans against Turians (one of the council races) wasn’t that long ago leading to mistrust on both sides. Commander Shepard is the first to discover an ancient threat though as the rogue Specter Saren is using the robotic Geth to track down Prothean technology and to destroy humanity.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

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The World – The world is the best part of this series. This is a rich universe full of different factions from the Citadel, The Alliance, Cerberus, the Quarians, the Protheans, The Geth and the Reapers to name a few. Each as a unique drive that drives the story and Shepard’s relationship with them.

The Species – There are a ton of Species but I’m going to focus on the big ones. You have the ancient Asari who are biotics (telepaths) the Turians who are the militaristic reptilians, the Salarians who are the brains, the Quarians who are the survivors and travelers who were kicked out by their creations…the Geth. There are also the Krogans who were used by the Citadel to fight a greater threat known as the Rachni but eventually the Citadel Races put the Krogans down to stop them from becoming the next big threat.

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The Lore – The lore is beautiful and amazing! We get to learn how the Prothean’s were wiped out by the Reapers (Who have returned again via Soveriegn to continue the cycle of destruction of organic life) and within the lore we have reason to care because of the characters we meet.

The Characters – The characters are the driving factor, just as they were in “KOTOR,” Bioware knows characters. Most of the villains were sympathetic and the heroes were all given their own levels of complexity. An RPG is the art of interactive storytelling and this game put me in the world and got me to care about these characters.

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Saren – Saren is the overall villain who makes a deal with Sovereign in order to save organics from the Reapers as he sees their survival in their subjugation. I felt bad for the guy as you get why he hates people (most are racist in this Universe and the First Contact War was against his people). He is still receptive though and I was able to save him even though Sovereign resurrected his body for the final fight.

Matriarch Benezia – Marina Sirtis (Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation) plays the Matriarch who originally worked with Sovereign to influence him but soon found that he and the ship were controlling her as all they have her do blows up in her face. She is tragic in this way as she is a strong character who became so broken by the Reapers. She is an Asari.

Captain Kirrahe – This guy is one of my favorite minor characters! He’s part of an infiltration team and helps you take out Saren’s Krogan army. He has an epic war speech and trusts you. I had nothing but respect for this character.

Captain Anderson – Anderson is fantastic and is the smart military man who is anti-politics. He is your Captain until you are promoted and get the Normandy (your ship). He is a constant ally as the council and Alliance Ambassador are always trying to control you (more so Udina the Ambassador rather than the Council…until the end).

Joker – Joker is a lot of fun. He is the anti-authority pilot who has trouble walking and has a major chip on his shoulder but comes around to liking you when you show how much you care. He was a great character and a memorable pilot.

Wrex – Wrex is a Krogan mercenary who is a lot of fun! He’s a tank and he and Tali were my mains until I finally did the quest that gave me Liara. After that she was my Biotic support and I became the tank. Wrex is cynical and fun and really cares deeply about his people. He is also blunt too and it makes his interactions with the other characters fun. There was no way  I was going to let Ashley kill this guy.

Garrus – Garrus is so much fun! He’s a C-Sec beat cop who doesn’t like the rules. You help him take out a serial killing mad scientist and it is great seeing him get revenge. He was the guy I enjoyed talking to the most. He is a Turian.

Tali – Tali is the tech. and Quarian and was the one person who stayed on my squad the entire time. She’s super expressive and brilliant and it was fascinating seeing how her pilgrimage and proving herself to her father (one of the fleet Admirals on the Flotilla) was a main drive. She was one of my favorite characters.

Liara – Liara is Benezia’s daughter and a scholar who studies the Protheans. She is socially awkward and it is wonderful. She like Tali is one of my favorite characters and her melds with you help you understand the Reaper threat.

Alien Relations – The relation between the different species is handled really well…from the Council distrusting humans, to the tension between Turians and humans, and the other species and the Krogans. This is a world that feels lived in and real.

Okay: Kaiden – Kaidan is a jerk until he opens up that he was a biotic experiment. He still isn’t the easiest to get to know but it was still a hard choice to save him or Ashley. He was a fellow soldier and in the game I did everything I could to try and save both before I had to make the choice for good.

Ashley – Ashley had a rough life and is a bit of a racist against aliens. I liked her openness on her family life but a relationship wasn’t going to happen, even though the game seemed to really want to make it happen. She was still a good friend just one that had a lot of growing up to do and thankfully we do see her learn over the course of the game.

Paragon v Renegade  – You act like a Paladin or Jerk and there isn’t really a middle ground. Bioware tends to do this and I’m not the biggest fan. I like the grey choices and this game didn’t have many of those.

The Cons: Ambassador Udina – Udina is a jerk and it was an easy choice putting Anderson on the Council over him. Udina turns on you the moment he gets power from the Council and is a complete tool. There is nothing likeable about him.

Choppy Cinematics – There are a few choppy cinematics…especially in early appearances of Saren, it feels unfinished in that way though the final fight with the fleet destroying Sovereign is fantastic.

The Mako – The Mako sucks as a vehicle. I got adept at using it eventually but it still was so hard to control and the worst gameplay. Some vehicle sections go on a bit too long as well.

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 The Path I Took With Kengin Smith – Kengin is the name I tend to choose in RPGs or as a gamer tag. It was inspired by a fictional character I created in a series I’m working on so of course I chose that name this time. I chose soldier as my starting type since I tend to choose soldier or Paladin in RPGs. Overall I played as a Paragon, with only a few times going Renegade, I saved the Rachni Queen, saved Wrex and talked him down from going against us to save the Krogans, I let Kaidan die to save Ashley and turned down a relationship with her when I realized it was turning into a relationship and just wanted to stay friends. I chose Anderson for the Council and saved the Council too. For a first playthrough I did zero of the romance options. Curious to see how these choices play out further down the line…they were fun choices to make.

      This is a game that is well worth your time if you are a fan of Western RPGs and Science Fiction. The creators in Bioware clearly cared about the subject matter and it was so much fun. I hadn’t binged a game for some time and this game had me pulled in enough that I couldn’t stop playing. I like the fact that I can transfer over the choices I made into the future games and I can’t wait to return to this world again, as I have already payed some of “Mass Effect 2” and “Mass Effect 3” in the past (though only parts, haven’t played from beginning to end). I do wish Shepard could be more than just a human as the different species are a lot more interesting than humanity in any sci. fi. that has more than humans in it. Still, “Andromeda” will get that chance.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10

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Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Better Gameplay, New Class and a More Immersive Story

Diablo III Reaper of Souls

    “Reaper of Souls” is one of the best expansions I’ve played. “Diablo III” was already a game I’d beaten at least twice before buying it and the expansion improved upon some of the problems in the story from the first game as well as adding a lot of other elements that raised the replay value and made it so I continued to put time into Kengin my Witch Doctor and continue to put time in until this day. This is what a great expansion is supposed to do. Blizzard really does know how to make great expansions…from “Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne,” Starcraft: Brood War” and “Diablo II: Lord of Destruction” I have yet to be disappointed in any of them in how they’ve improved both the gameplay and changed things up in the story on the ones that came before.

The Pros:

 Gameplay – Things have been improved immensely with Bounties and Nephalem Rifts that give you the chance to face challenging foes and discover amazing worlds like the Cow Level, Whimyshire (Where you kill Unicorns, Teddy Bears and Flowers) and the realm of Greed where you fight another one of the evils who is a fat Goblin who gives you tons of great awards just for entering her realm after killing one of the Treasure Goblins. This is one reason I keep bringing my Witch Doctor back and I can’t wait to take more characters through the the game.

 Difficulty –  In this the bosses are more difficult and you feel their difficulty in the later levels of Torment. I really appreciate that Blizzard has the Torment difficulties as Normal and Expert were too easy and my Witch Doctor didn’t even die until I’d gotten a few levels into Torment. Dying adds stakes and it makes you appreciate the enemies and Nephalem Rifts and Infernal Machines allow you to face those challenges beyond facing the bosses on higher difficulties for Bounties from Tyrael.

SPOILERS ahead

Story – I’m going to start with the story. Act V reveals more about your character beyond them being just a noble archetype of whatever they are playing and gives your character anger and emotional investment. You see this in the hunt for Adria as your hero gets angrier for her escape and using of her daughter and also anger at Maltheal for his slaughter of the innocents of Westmarch as you learn over the course of the story he’s gone mad and wants to solve the problem of evil by destroying all those with Demon Blood, which is all the members of Sanctuary since humanity was born out of Angels and Demons who had children together and just wanted to escape the Eternal Conflict.

The World – The world is expansive in this one and it is a pretty large act. You get to go Westmarch, which is this wonderful large Gothic town who we learned last game defeated Tristam in a war but is now in the middle of a Civil War and ends with no one in control to rule. There are the Battlefields of Eternity which have scavenger demons all over the place and portals to new dimensions and there is the Pandemonium Fortress, a haunting angelic fortress that feels like a fortress of death, a fitting place for Malthael to make his home base. It is also a prison too so you get the chance to face some powerful angels and demons there.

The Characters – The characters are wonderful and it is great seeing Tyrael and Imperius’s relationship to Malthael as they mourn their fallen brother but will not call him, though they will help you get to him to kill him. It is powerful seeing their conflicted loyalties as Tyrael realizes you could be the destruction of all at the end and Imperius respects you even as he hates you for the same reasons as Malthael and for walking all over Angelic Ground in the Heavens. Adria gets some backstory too as we see how persecution lead her to Diablo…though I hate that in the end she is just another Demon Boss. All the characters have more revealed about them and the fact that Diablo is free at the end gives me hope that we’ll see the Seven Evils return.

The Crusader – The Crusader is the added class and I’ve been leveling her up right now as  I continue to work on my Witch Doctor and some of the other classes. I like how they are tied to the same realm as the Paladins but also very different. I named one of mine after a friend and I really enjoy their playstyle as back in College and High School the Paladin was my main in “Diablo II” and the Warrior was my main in the first “Diablo.” She is my secondary to Kengin who is my main character.

Malthael – Malthael is one of the best villains to come out of Diablo. You see his minions destroy Westmarch and your saving it can’t prevent the destruction, he nearly destroys the world and everyone you saves he takes away. He is a really deadly villain and he nearly wins at the end. I never got that from Diablo, Belial (Though he at least kills Cain via Maghda) or Azmodan in the last game. Diablo especially was underwhelming for being the big bad of last game…not enough was done to show the threat of what destroying the High Heavens would mean or what it would be doing on our realm…it was too far removed, and even though it was fun and I liked the Angels and was invested since my personality can be a Paladin type in games, it wasn’t enough. Westmarch is personal and everything Malthael does is personal as well as the confrontation with Adria. That is what the last game lacked and took away from the villains comparing to Malthael, who is directly hurting everyone you try and help and is always out of your reach.

Kengin Witch Doctor

    Rather than writing a concrete con I’m going to write what I would have done differently since it does relate to why I won’t be giving this game a perfect 10 / 10. The main thing I’d change in this game is I would have added another class. We got two new classes in “Lord of Destruction” and as Epic as Act V is, it was also epic in “Lord of Destruction” too but we got more characters out of it. I also would have done more to explore the other Angels and their relationship to Malthael and Tyrael as Imperius is the only one who interacts with Tyrael really and Tyrael is the only one who interacts with Malthael. There were so many great character opportunities here, as well as a chance for us to meet and get to know the rest of the Council more fully. There is also no explanation of why Diablo (and no mention of the other Evils) is now free after the Black Soulstone was destroyed. Blizzard hasn’t explained that yet at all. These are the things that I would have changed and that would have made it a perfect game. This is still one of Blizzard’s great expansions and it does solve a lot of the problems of “Diablo III.”

Final Score: 9.7 / 10.

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Diablo III – A Solid Return to the Franchise With Addicting Gameplay and Some Story Issues

Diablo III

    My general rule for games and shows is that I have to finish watching them or playing them before I do a review. This is a big reason why I don’t tend to as many game reviews. I’m a completionist on games that have an actual ending. Luckily “Diablo III” does and with it the chance to review the 3 aspects of a game that I will be judging upon. Story, gameplay and the overall experience of the game as a whole.

    I have been a big fan of the Diablo Franchise since the first game, which was one of the first games I ever beat. I still remember saving the game right before I faced Diablo and returning to my save to kill him multiple times with my warrior who I had got his mana high enough to lay down a bunch of fire walls that destroyed the minions surrounding Diablo and brought down his health. Besides Starcraft and Warcraft II, Diablo was my introduction to the great worlds that Blizzard has created, and I look forward to going back and reviewing more of those classic games as well as the expansion to this game, “Reaper of Souls.” Suffice to say I am a huge fan of these Universes (Though I think Warcraft went downhill after “The Frozen Throne”) and can’t wait to return and review the games.

   The story of Diablo III takes place after the destruction of the Soulstone at the end of “Diablo II: Lord of Destruction” and the world has gone quite as evil starts to rise again as the mysterious Black Soulstone arrives on the scene and a mysterious figure falls from the sky leading the Hero go and investigate the incident in New Tristam and meeting up with Leah and her Uncle Deckard Cain who have been investigating the surrounding events.

The Gameplay: Pros – Exploration – The exploration aspect is one of the great things about all of the games of the Diablo Franchise. The maps are expansive but not boring since there is always a dungeon to raid or an event to take place in that keeps you on your toes and gives you a chance to try out new tactics or see another part of the world.

Rewards – The reward system is fantastic. From getting different flags with symbols, winning achievements and of course gear for your character so you can tackle the next area or a more difficult area. The rewards reward you for challenging yourself and pushing your limits.

Combat – I play Witch Doctor as my main and I much prefer his mixture of spell and pet based combat. The Demon Hunter is my secondary in Diablo III pre- “Reaper of Souls” and I found her combat style still fun, but a bit too slow for me. The Witch Doctor rewards quickness and taking on as many enemies as possible which I enjoy.

Skills – The game has both active and passive skills. I have a pet based Witch Doctor so the skills I chose were to strengthen pet life or give me more pets be it stronger gargantuans, more fetishes or more zombie dogs. Besides that I play him somewhat like a mage and enjoy using fire based abilities. Each character has a diverse range of skills and options too and it is much clearer on what they and how they can work together than in “Diablo II.”

Okay – Most Boss Battles – Most boss battles were easy but the ones that provided a challenge were a lot of fun. The Butcher and King Leoric when I first started took a lot to take down and the Belial fight was fun too even though he couldn’t touch me. Some of the minor bosses in the High Heavens were fun too. Overall the bosses could have been more challenging and been given more area attacks or abilities that would not down half you health automatically. That would have helped with their threat and made the game more fun.

Difficulty – The difficulty was normal in my first playthrough which was too easy for me. I beat the game really fast. After I increased it by two I had a bit more of a challenge, Act Bosses weren’t any harder though, only mini-bosses and Elites. That is why I’m putting difficulty at okay. Difficulty should be across the board…Act Bosses should be more difficult than mini-bosses and Elites.

The Story: Pros – The World – The world is fantastic and in this we get to explore Sanctuary, Hell and the High Heavens…which is a first since in the past games the only places you could explore were Hell and all over Sanctuary.

New Tristam – New Tristam is a great gothic area that I greatly enjoyed as we got see King Leoric return and learn his tragic backstory (he is another pro, I liked the whole drama surrounding his corruption and how his son was the hero from the first Diablo who became Diablo). The zombies and cultists give it an amazing gothic feel and there is so much history. The fact that this is the only Act with Deckard Cain helps too.

Caldeum – Caldeum is a lot of fun as you get to help refugees and deal with the Cultist and Belial threat. The world has a lot of history to it and here is where you start to learn about the Nephalem and meet the awesome mad character Zolton Kulle (another amazing character who is pretty much immortal and created the Black Soulstone) and visiting his prison to get him back his body is a lot of fun.

Bastion’s Keep – Like in “Lord of Destruction,” this area is one giant siege that you have to fight back before facing the one responsible in their lair. You see the destruction of war in this and a lot of characters you aren’t able to save as demons swoop out of the air to carry warriors away. You feel Azmodan bringing his full force in this one and it makes for a fun act.

The High Heavens – The High Heavens is where you learn most angels hate you and it is only when you save some of them that they come around and see you are helping free the world from Diablo. Diablo almost wins in this and it is great seeing what a corrupted Heaven would look like.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest parts of the Diablo Franchise, especially the villains as often they are given tragic or distinct motivations that make them a lot of fun to face.

King Leoric – The King is back and in this we learn he started going mad after a failed war against Westmarch and how is corrupt adviser (Who you fight after Leoric in the first game) is a big reason why he’s losing it. I felt bad for him and as you go to face him you see everything he’s lost as all the dead shells who you fight were once humans and men who served under him before he lost everything to Diablo.

Zolton Kulle – This guy is fun and hilarious. He’s sarcastic, he mocks those who trapped him and he keeps his deal up until the end. I wish he was a follower since his witty remarks are a nice break from the genuine feelings from your followers or Leah.

Maghda – Maghda has a great design and has butterflies wings from creatures carrying her. She is a threat throughout Act 1 and 2 and a constant presence. She also kills Deckard Cain cementing her as a more relevant bad than a lot of others you face. Her fight was hard too when I raised the difficulty by 2 as she had adds over the entire map and they were changing into stronger figures so it was a race to kill her in time. I wish the Act end bosses had been that challenging.

Adria – Adria is Leah’s mother and a witch who hooked up with the Dark Wanderer (Diablo) from the last game. Her story ends abruptly when she turns Leah into Diablo using the Black Soulstone and we never get her full motivation. I liked her journal though as it showed that there was persecution she faced to a degree and her being outside of town showed her to be an outcast.

Belial – Belial corrupts New Tristam and Caldeum. My issue with his story is that Maghda is his only real minion outside of those she raises and his reveal of being the child Emperor wasn’t that smart of a plan for the Lord of Lies. Belial’s Act should have been an investigation with more NPC interaction and with the option of Belial outricking you. I think that would have made for a better first fight as he could have defeated you if you didn’t find out who he was in time or if you accused the wrong person. After all of that there could be the minion and true form fight. I still liked design and location and the fact that he had a follower who you faced all through Act 1. It made him more of a threat.

Azmodan – Azmodan is the strategist of Hell and manged to overthrow the Prime Evils when he and Belial took over. He does a great job causing destruction but should have shown up in Caldeum. He isn’t even on the stage until after Belial is defeated and since he’s defeated in one act we never get to see his full threat. His design and minions are great though and it is a long Act to finally take him down.

Diablo – Diablo is back as the Prime Evil and holds all 7 Evils within him. It is cool that he becomes this, though I wish it had been shown better in appearance and in the final fight. Diablo is a character with plans within plans and that is why the games are named after him I think. He always finds a way to live, which makes him a good antagonist.

Imperius – Imperius is the leader of Heaven and hates humanity and those who defend humanity because of the demon blood that exists in all humans. He doesn’t change either and it is only when Diablo incapacitates him that you are able to save Heaven. I like his stubborness though as Diablo II only had angels helping unless they’d been turned into a demon.

Deckard Cain – Cain has a small role in this and helps you fight Leoric before he is killed off by Maghda. It was great seeing him again but I get why he had to die as it pushes Leah to desperation leaving her open for her mother to corrupt and maker her Diablo’s vessel.

Tyrael – Tyrael is the Angel of Justice from the last game who destroyed the Worldstone to save Sanctuary. He ends up leaving the Council of Angels when they choose to sit back and his arc is reclaiming his place in Heaven as a defender of humanity as he becomes mortal and the first Act is him figuring out who he is and working to stop the Evils.

The Player Character – The player character is fantastic. I loved the Witch Doctor lore and how he is character who calls upon the dead in the unformed lands for his power. He is a smart character with good intentions who is a bit of a paladin in mentality but quick to anger (this applies to all the player characters I think) which sets up them becoming the new Dark Wanderer and vessel of Diablo or a Prime Evil if Blizzard chooses to take that route.

Okay – Leah – Leah is an idea, not a bad idea though I hate the “Anti-Christ” meme of her being the child of Diablo so Diablo can possess her. That I found uncreative and Leah doesn’t help. She’s well meaning but beyond caring for her uncle and figuring out her powers she doesn’t feel fully fleshed out, so I’m putting her at okay.

Followers – The followers each have unique stories but I felt that they should have had more outside of their quests. I like when they interact with one another but they should have been given more quests outside of the one you get for loyalty. I also would have liked more followers as each of them could have been a much greater exploration of the regions of the world in each Act.

Cons – The Villain Taunts – The villain taunts are annoying and especially after killing a lot of minions and mini-bosses rang false. There was no danger of them winning and in the case of Azmodan I was literally attacking him in his home. Belial at least had the excuse of not having home field advantage (Same with Diablo in the High Heavens and he seemed about to win at least). I would have liked to see more lasting damage to the world if they were doing taunts like if every time they taunt the room you are in a no-name npc dies from the voice. That way it would show just how powerful these villains still are.

  This was a gamer that I kept coming back too and have already beaten twice with my Witch Doctor. There is so much replay value in this game and that was even before I bought “Reaper of Souls” which only increased the overall replay value. Each of the heroes has a different play style and within that play style so much you can accomplish with gear and different builds. The story is also interesting enough that I like seeing villains and characters again. The weakest parts are Leah, Adria and Diablo. Adria’s backstory and her going to Diablo should have been fleshed out this game as well as where Diablo was the whole time and how she was able to bring him out and make him the Prime Evil. Besides these issues though, the story knows exactly what it is and even though I would have preferred the bosses be a lot more difficult in my playthroughs (even as I increased the difficulty, only certain bosses ever gave me much of a challenge as my Witch Doctor). It is still a game for any lover of gothic, blizzard or RPG games.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great and one of my favorite games.

Universe Sandbox 2 – An Early Access Look to a Universe of Infinite Possibilities

Universe Sandbox 2

        Sandbox games are hard ones to pull off. If there aren’t enough possibilities it is easy to get bored…for example I could never get into the Sim City Builders or Train Builders as there weren’t enough possibilities to keep things interesting. Even within ways to destroy a city…it eventually gets boring. What if you could shape the Universe though and have different ways in which you could create life and have it follow the actual laws of our own Universe? This is what makes Universe Sandbox 2 work. You are a God and there is no limit to the possibilities you can make, and the fact that this is Early Access means more updates and possibilities are to come.

     This game was created by Giant Army who also created the first Universe Sandbox, that I plan on checking out as well after this. It is currently available on Steam and is seeking more people to help bring it into it’s final form.

Destruction

   When I was playing what I ended up creating was a giant black hole in the middle of giant Super Nova. It was fantastic, beautiful destruction and was grateful that my friend introduced me to this game. Over the course of this playthrough i added more black holes and Suns to keep the radiating destruction going on. It was so powerful the beautiful music even stopped playing because it was so strong upon the computer. The black hole below is all that remains now as all the remains of the supernovas were eventually sucked into the supermassive black hole that came out of the destruction.

Super Massive Blackhole

     Later on she was playing and myself and another friend were Trickster Gods to her Earth planet that had life in India and Europe but everywhere else had been destroyed by the asteroids circling it. The planet had also been turned to a 90 Degree angle because of all asteroids that had hit it, knocking it off it’s axis…yet still there was life.

     That was until the other friend and I decided to place 3 moons around the planet which turned the planet red and destroyed Earth completely, as well as 2 of the Moons as the debris from the destroyed moons (from the circling asteroids) annihilated all water and life on Earth. It was awesome!

      This is a game that is well worth buying and gives you the chance to be a benevolent creator creating life all over the universe, or creating epic levels of destruction on a galactic scale. This is a game that if you have any love of astronomy and science is worth checking out. The game is still being worked on, as it is Early Access, but even in it’s current form I’d rate it over most games that are similar Sandboxes. You feel the epicness of being God over a Universe and you learn so much by the things that can be done in the Universe you create.

Final Score: 9 / 10