Category Archives: Video Games

Mass Effect 3 – Improved Gameplay, DLC, and Dramatic Moments Can’t Hide Story Problems

     The version of the game I played was “Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut” which gave me “From the Ashes,” the DLC where you get Javik. I’m glad I got this version and bought what DLC I could find as it really did enrich the game. I would have been super annoyed with the plot holes (there are still a few) that a lot of the DLC deals with, making the game so much more enjoyable. The game still has problems but before I get into details and spoilers, I enjoyed the Multiplayer, the dramatic sacrifices of characters, the gameplay and combat and the character moments you get with side characters and your team who in many cases you’ve been since “Mass Effect 1.” I’ll get into the details of all of these further into the review.

Here is my review of “Mass Effect 1:

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

and Mass Effect 2:

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2017/02/09/mass-effect-2-amazing-character-development-combat-and-final-leads-to-this-being-one-of-the-best-rpgs-ive-played/

    “Mass Effect 3” picks up where “Mass Effect 2” left off with the Reapers on the way. Shepard has been arrested by the Alliance for his warcrimes but is released when the Reapers attack Earth. From here it is up to Shepard to find his team, create a united front against the Reapers and build a Prothean Super Weapon called the Crucible that might be the only way to defeat the Reapers.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Multiplayer – I’m usually not a fan of multiplayer in singleplayer games, especially ones that are almost an implied necessary part of the game as in “Mass Effect 3” multiplayer increases your chances of success in the main game campaign by increasing Galactic Readiness. The thing is I actually enjoy Multiplayer for “Mass Effect 3.” you can unlock the other species such as the Asari, Turians, Quarians, Salarians, Drell and Krogan and unlock other weapons. I really enjoyed playing as someone who wasn’t human as I love the aliens of Mass Effect. The gameplay is PvE which is my favorite type of multiplayer and the maps give a diverse array of challenges as you defeat wave after wave of countless enemies ranging from Cerberus, to Reapers to Geth.

Gameplay – The gameplay is fantastic! You can mod all your weapons, melee is easier to do and more effective and there are more guns and combat scenarios you face. For example at one point you are facing a Reaper one on one while using a powerful gun that calls down attacks from above. The gameplay without a doubt is an improvement over “Mass Effect 2.”

The World – The world continues to be amazing as you get to the homeworld of the Krogan, Salarians, Turians, Quarians and Asari. In each of these places you face a threat that reveals more about the lore and the Reaper threat, as well as how the different species interact among themselves and what they value.

Politics – Politics in 3 is on display more-so than any of the other games as you recruit each of the species against the Reapers and to help build the Crucible to fight them. I really enjoyed this as you have to make choices, like choosing the Krogan and Turians or the Salarians and if you don’t have high enough Paragon or Renegade, choosing the Quarians or the Geth in their war. I loved all of it and it gives some great character moments as politics is the art of what matters on a world and in this case Galactic scale. There aren’t easy answers a lot of the time, and this game really illustrates that.

Side Missions and Recruitment against the Reapers – There are a lot of great side missions in this, where you pick up things like Medi-Gel or Cerberus information to help doctors, scientist and ambassadors on the Citadel. You also help rescue the other species on the Citadel too as the Reapers attack their homeworlds, be it the Elcor, Hanar and Volus. Recruiting from the main council Races is really rewarding too. Also, it’s nice that the Council finally believes you.

Continuing the Romance and Character Relationships – 3 you pick up where the romances left off in 2 or 1. For example I ended things with Ashley as apparently saying no in my quarters in 1 wasn’t taken as a breakup. I also continued the romance with Tali and did her mission last to make sure I’d save her and have peace between the Geth and Quarians. You also continue your friendship with Jack and save the Biotic Academy she works at now, you save Miranda from her father, help Mordin stop the genophage, and Captain Anderson, who stays on Earth to fight the Reapers, help Miranda stop her sister, help Jacob save his partner who is pregnant with their child, spend time with a dying Thane and help EDI get a body! There is so much character development between 2 and 3.

Side Characters – There are a lot of great side characters in 3, from Admiral Hackett who is leading the fight for the Alliance on the front lines against Reaper forces, Aria and uniting the gangs and retaking Omega with her friend, Victus the new leader of the Turians and his son, the Asari military forces and countless diplomats, soldiers and refugees on the Citadel.

Past Consequences Paying Off – This isn’t across the board, but if you saved the Council they are open to working with you and at least give basic forces early on, if you saved Wrex you work with him against the Reapers and Cerberus on his homeworld, all your squad in Mass Effect 2 has payoff in their side missions.

The Reaper Threat – The Reaper threat is great in this! From their destruction of Earth and the other Council Homeworlds, to their controlling of the Geth and Rachni, to you feeling them on side missions as they can kill you as you find resources and complete side objectives. They never stop being this great threat and it was one thing that has been consistent through all 3 games.

The Ending of Arcs and Sacrifices Before the Final – The Geth and Quarians have peace thanks to Legion and Tali! The Krogan join the Galaxy and there is peace between them and the Turians thanks to Victus’s son’s sacrifice and Mordin curing the Genophage. Miranda kills her abusive dad and saves her sister and you get to help all of your squadmates and recruit them once more for the final push against the Reapers.

Relationships and Friendships With the Crew – There are some great moments of friendship and romance with your crew. From Tali coming up to your quarters when she’s made Admiral, to conversations around the ship and Citadel (shooting on top of a building with Garrus) to the amazing Citadel DLC where you get to see everyone who is alive.

The DLC – The DLC is the best it has ever been, with only the Shadow Broker DLC being on par and sometimes better than what we get in this game. It really enriches the game and makes it really good.

Javik – Javik is a Prothean, the last living one and is a cynical and sarcastic guy who doesn’t respect anyone except you until the end as he sees powerful the Galaxy is in standing together versus being dominated and enslaved by the Protheans. He really is a fun character and gives a perspective that hasn’t been in any Mass Effects. He was also DLC, which was stupid as he like Leviathan was kind of needed for the game to make any sense.

Omega DLC – Omega is fantastic DLC as you unite the different gangs under Aria and take back Omega from the Cerberus general. It is a lot of fun as you get to know the different leaders and fight your first big battle in the game. It was so much fun to complete, and I rubbed off on Aria and get her to care about her people! Sometimes it rocks to be Paragon.

Leviathan DLC – Leviathan explains how the Reapers were created as the AI you meet that controls them was created by Leviathans in order to dominate and document past races. In the end they got overthrown and nearly wiped out showing the cycle that Snyths will always rebel against the oppression of organics and bring about chaos and death. This is where the cycle begins as these creature are ancient. Getting them to join you is a lot of fun and rewarding and I loved the lore dump.

Citadel DLC – Citadel is awesome! You get time with your squadmates after taking out your evil Cerberus created clone. It feels like a James Bond film until you finish the main quest and after you get to support the characters and have great moments with them. Part of the mission is infiltrating a casino so I took Tali on the date with me. It was a blast.

The Romance – The romance is wonderful in this game as you get to spend time with your partner. I chose Tali and I’m glad I did, she is a great character and is there with you feeling the pain of all that is revealed. Her “I love you,” and “I have a home” are some of the saddest moments in this series and I do plan to play a mod in the future where Shepard survives so I can get their happy ending. For now the game is staying how it was originally intended as this beautiful relationship where I save her people and the Geth and she was with me on most missions and shared what got her into inter-species romance was first born (the vid in your date with her on the Citadel) and all the past moments just mourning our lost friends and the suffering galaxy end in my death. Damn, Mass Effect 3…They sure know how to make you care about the characters…

Tali – Tali becomes a greater leader in this game as she is part of the Admiralty and is one advocating for peace between the Quarians and Geth. She helps bring it about if your Paragon is high enough (as mine was) and we see her arc complete as she has her homeworld back and has found a home in her relationship with you (and vise versa for Shepard). We also see her hurt too as when you complete Miranda’s mission she drinks and regrets how everything she did was for her father and she did nothing to fight his control of her own path. It is powerful and I think this plays a big part later in how she takes the lead in watching out for others (she tells you to talk to Liara after Liara’s homeworld is destroyed). Tali is one of my favorite characters in the series and I think will be the romance in this game that will be the one I would have done if I was Shepard as an actual person in this universe.

The Characters – The characters have always been one of the strongest parts of Mass Effect. In this some characters I didn’t give a paragraph to but will mention here are Ashley and her finally trusting you again, Cortez the pilot who mourns his husband as you help go through his grief, Traynor and her worry at being the new person figuring things out, the macho man Vega who has a good heart, Jack and her becoming a mentor and caring for others, Kasumi fighting for the good while still being crafty, meeting Grunt and his elite squad and saving him from the Reapers, and Zaeed finding his nobility as well as saving Samara from her code and meeting her other daughters. All of these moments were fantastic.

Joker – Joker is with you through the series and in this you help him get together with EDI and learn to relax as well as being there as he waits and worries about his family. He is the core heart of the ship it is sushi with him that kicks off the Citadel DLC.

Mordin – Mordin is back and is his fast talking, wonderful, logical self who develops empathy thanks to the female Krogan Shaman and in the end saves all the Krogan. He is a wonderful character and I’m glad I got to see him again this game.

Wrex – Wrex is back and is doing all he can to fight for his people. He can’t be talked out of anything this time and I get why. His people have been screwed over countless times and their survival is down to the wire and can only happen with your honesty, Victus’s son sacrifice and Mordin releasing the cure. I’m glad he comes to the Citadel party too as it is a call back to the first game and you get to have a lot of fun with him.

Garrus – Garrus is one of if not your best friend as male Shepard. I wish I could have romanced him as Male Shep, he really is a great character and in this we see how much he’s grown as a leader as he is adviser to Victus and takes time on the Citadel advocating and caring for the Refugees. He also never forgets about you and reminds you to not get lost in guilt and loss…as last game he was in that place and you help him get out of it.

Liara – Liara is your other closest friend and it is her actions that make the defeat of the Reapers even possible as she learns about the Crucible and as Shadow broker is doing all she can to bring it about. She sadly loses her homeworld and it is up to you to help her heal. She also meets her father and learns she is 1/4 Krogan! I plan to do a romance path with her in future playthroughs of this series.

EDI, Legion, Geth and Synthetics – This game picks up what 2 starts with showing how EDI, the GEth and Synethics are fully conscience beings with humanity. EDI explores it with you when she asks moral questions and gets relationship advice about her and Joker and thanks to the Reaper code, Legion achieves individuality that he gives to the Geth. It is beautiful and there was no way I was going to destroy them so I chose peace and Synthesis, even though it meant my death.

My Squad – My initial squad before I picked up Tali was EDI as my tech and Liara as my biotic, though that quickly changed once I picked up Tali and my old Mass Effect 1 squad was back. These two are two of my favorite characters in the series and they are amazing squad mates to have.

The Good-Byes – The good-byes hurt but were amazing. My favorite good-byes were Liara’s mind meld, Garrus talking about drinks in Turian heaven, Tali’s painful “I want more time.” EDI finding humanity and how you can call up squadmates who are off of Earth. They really are some wonderful moments as you sit in the rubble of what is left of Earth.

Final Sacrifice – I chose Synthesis and in the process Shepard dies to help Synths and organics com to an understanding between one another. It is really cool and it made sense since Shepard had been the one to break the cycle, so his perspective was key in bringing about peace in the galaxy.

Power in Cooperation and Empathy – The power of empathy and cooperation is a major theme  in this and it is in helping others that others help you build the Crucible and protect Earth. It is also in the empathy and compassion of time with Squad mates that saves them from possibly dying and stops war. This is the Paragon way and one I fully support. It is the “Star Trek” ideology in “Mass Effect.”

The Theme of Sacrifice – The theme of Sacrafice is huge, Aria’s friend sacrifices herself to protect her people from the Reapers on Omega, Victus’s son sacrifices himself for peace between the Turians and Krogan, Mordin sacrifices himself to heal the genophage and Legion sacrifices himself for the Geth so that they can find the individuality he gained. There is of course Anderson’s sacrifice and yours on Earth as well. Each of these things goes towards peace and is a major theme of the game. Plus you remember past sacrifices like those of Kaidan.

The Cons: Lack of Rachni Payoff – The Rachni Queen gets captured again and we never see the full Rachni force after you save her for a second time. This was a waste as they should have been a powerful ally against the Reapers given the Queen tells you in “Mass Effect 2” that everything is going well with her people.

How the Catalyst is Handled – The Catalyst AI looks like a kid and it is never explained and you see it in stupid drawn out dreams. The Catalyst should have been hinted at in 1 or 2. There is no setup and the scenes with the Catalyst just feel awkward.

Cerberus, the Illusive Man and the Villain Problem – Cerberus kills so many humans and the Illusive Man never explains why. I get ends justify the means but this game he does everything to turn humanity against him and how he has such a large force is never explained. He isn’t like Saren where you get his background and can see it. He’s just a character who was never on your side to begin with and it is shown by his actions in 3. This was a wasted opportunity. Luckily the Reapers never stop being a threat.

Kai Leng – This guy is meant to be the anti-Shepard but is only introduced in this game. I wouldn’t have minded the ninja thing if he’d been a presence on 1 or was a squadmember who betrays you. Instead he is a one-dimensional baddy who has no personality or drive. He is a waste of a character who is only there to hurt you but with no reason why.

Going Cinematic and Forgetting the Game – There are a few times where 3 wants to be a movie rather than a game and it hurts both. You have these weird dream sequences chasing the Catalyst and when you get the final part of Earth you are limping everywhere and somehow survive a direct hit from a Reaper, with no explanation. These are good examples of “Cinematic” over “Story” and they hurt the game. The game would have been worse and only been okay if there had been more of it.

The Choices I Made – The choices I made were to end the relationship with Ashley (apparently turning her down in your quarters doesn’t break up with her in 1), continued my relationship with Tali. Chose the Krogan over the Salarians and helped end the genophage (saved Wrex in the first game) and let Mordin sacrifice himself, saved the Council (again), saved the Geth and Quarians and let Legion give himself to the Geth to make them stronger and brought about peace between the two species. Finally, I chose synthesis and gave up my life in the process.

This is a game and series as a whole that for all of it’s flaws, is one of my favorites. Though I wish more had been done with the ending and the Catalyst be presented in a different matter rather than an annoying kid, and Cerberus being so powerful never being explained (as well as the Illusive Man’s motivations being one I never understood fully and Kai Lung having no setup as the New Dragon…he should have been in “Mass Effect 2” if he was going to be such a threat. I still loved the Synthesis ending and as much as I wanted to have Shepard stay with Tali forever, Galactic Peace was worth the sacrifice of losing her. Synthesis was a great explanation that really changes the drama that 2 and 1 set up of Organics against Synthetics. It was also great having Tali and Liara as my main squad again. If you like science fiction stories and games you may still love this series. It is one of my favorites and the best ending really is fantastic, even with all the story flaws littered through the game. “Mass Effect 2” is still the best of the series, but I did enjoy 3 more than 1.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time – A Gonzo Type Adventure Brawler Through Time

turtles-in-time-art

   “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time” is the most bizarre side scroller game I’ve beat since the “Metal Slug” series. Like the TMNT Franchise there are enemies that are all over the map in themes and the fact that the turtles are fighting them through time makes it even more crazy. Suffice to say I enjoyed this a lot. This is my first time playing the Arcade version all the way through and I’m glad I got to do so with a friend.

     The story is insane as it involves Shredder stealing the Statue of Liberty (really) and when the Turtles try to stop him he sends them back in time to face his minions through time and space.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is insane and gonzo and very much captures the world of TMNT which came around out of a satire of Frank Miller and American comics obsession with Ninjas and Samurai. The 80’s show almost satires that and this is that same world with some sadly annoying 90’s “Cool Kids” vibes. The Turtles are the most annoying part of this game…but their villains are fantastic and even the Turtles have some redeeming aspects.

The World – The world is amazing! You fight in “Modern” times (90’s in the game), ancient times, the old west, the future and eventually Krang twice…each level is unique and the style of gameplay for each level even varies. You can also fall and die, which reminded me of Battletoads. This game was challenging at times because of how the world was designed.

The Levels – The levels are unique and a lot of fun and the Bosses give a level of flavor to each level that “X-Men” never did. Where that game most areas were copies of one another with harder bosses, this one changed setting and how you had to fight…you would fly on skateboards in the future to fighting on a train in the old west. They put effort into making each level mean something.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is great. I’m a Donatello player as I like range fighting and he’s my favorite of the Turtles and you have a bunch of ways to fight enemies so you don’t get flanked as easily as you get flanked in “X-Men.” Gameplay this is superior though “X-Men” has more friends who can play.

The Bosses – The bosses are fantastic! Baxter Stockman is the first fight and Fly Guy is a tough fight so when you beat him it is rewarding. Tokka and Rahzar were great from the “TMNT2: Secret of the Ooze” and the and the comics were great too and took a while to beat, as was Leatherhead and Krang. Krang you fight in 2 forms and Shredder has a one hit kill that will end one of our lives. So the bosses in this are overall great.

Okay/Pro: The Turtles – Annoying puns (and I like puns) and 90’s “cool” isn’t my thing. I liked the Turtles in their first film and the more 2000’s Turtles since they had distinct personalities and hadn’t been Michael Bayed.  I should check out the current 3D Turtles too, even if just for curiosity’s sake.

The Venue – The venue has some games that steals quarters and the bar isn’t open until 5pm and and is cash only…so those were all cons against it. Being there with 2 of my friends and beating a game there and the fact that they have 2 levels of games are a plus. Come here if in Portland, but seriously check out Salem’s “Coin Jam” if you can.

14231416_10206649004575419_5983945228332966671_o

The Ending – They get the Statue of Liberty back and credits roll. It was more rewarding than playing it over again with “X-Men.” Given how long my friend and I were playing this was great and the story actually ended.

The Cons: The Chapter Titles – Horrible puns and I like doing puns. This game made me understand why my partner and some other friends hate puns. One can only take so much if they aren’t good….

    This was an awesome experience and I’d say that the TMNT games on the SNES are just as good. This was so much fun to play through with a friend who like a brother. TMNT was gonzo level fun with a level of randomness to the levels and humor given that Shredder stole the Statue of Liberty just to laugh at the Turtles. They clearly had fun making this game so if you have up to 4 friends, check this game out where you can.

Final Score: 8.3 / 10

14195305_10206649004415415_6446165202902701736_o

X-Men (1992 Arcade Game) – A Solid Brawler in the X-Men Universe

14305243_10206649001175334_8816828223178106229_o

   There is something wonderful about arcades, especially arcade games you can do co-op with friends. For some of my time this week when 2 friends came down to visit my partner and myself that was the experience. There were Barcades we vsisited. The Coin Jam, which if you are ever in Salem I highly recommend and Ground Kontrol. I’ll talk more about Ground Kontrol in the next review, suffice to say though, if you are ever in Salem, Oregon check out the Coin Jam. It was here the 4 of us beat X-Men Arcade.

          “X-Men” was created in 1992 by Konami and is a Brawler/Beat-emup style game that up to 6 people can play.

      The plot involves Cyclops, Storm, Dazzler, Colossus, Wolverine and Nightcrawler working to save Professor X and to stop Magneto.

The Pros: The Venue – The Coin Jam is a great venue. The food is affordable grill food, they host tournaments and have a huge selection of games and a decent selection of beer. This improves the experience with friends everytime.

The World –  The world of X-Men is great and we get to go to Asteriod M, where Magneto’s headquarters are in this game. I would have liked to see more of the world but we get to meet Sentinels, Reavers and mutant crocodiles which add nice flavor to the world.

The Characters – The characters are great! We got the X-Men against the Brotherhood which is classic X-Men. Some of the bosses are actually difficult too, reflecting how hard they are to defeat in the comics.

Okay/Pro: The Bosses – Back when I wasn’t playing with friends to win Blob and Nimrod were the ones who would always wreck my partner and I when we played the game, with 3-4 people though the most difficult bosses were Nimrod and Juggernaut. Mystique appears and sets all the past bosses on you but she’s nothing compared to the final fight and is largely a multi-mini boss fight. I would have liked to see her shape-shift in the battle beyond just pretending to be Magneto giving a fake-out before the last battle with Magneto himself.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is solid. Each of the mutant powers are unique and though there aren’t any good ways to cancel out getting overwhelmed beyond more people playing, the mutant powers are really cool and can be quite deadly against bosses and enemies. Juggernaut and Nimrod are one of the few who had to hit a lot by the mutant powers to be taken down.

Okay: The Enemies – The basic enemies that aren’t bosses are okay. They aren’t super creative but I like that we fought Sentinels and their boss Nimrod and some of the creatures later one have some neat designs they just aren’t great.

The Ending – The war continues and it does set up the show as it is meant too…which was bad. A videogame should have a good ending. You pour all your time and money into something (like any story be it book, film, show or game) and that should be rewarded…and doing it over again isn’t a reward, that’s Pac-Man level creativity.

    I beat this game a long time ago in Elementary school with my brother and second cousin. Ii was one of the first games I ever won and game me fond memories of San Francisco given how young I was. Coin Jam is one of my favorite arcades I have ever been too and for a game that you can play co-op with friends at an arcade, “X-Men” is a solid game to catch out if you are ever there. The only real criticisms is Magneto’s plans are never really clear or fleshed out and the ending isn’t anything special, it feels unfinished and after you just start the game over…for all the quarters machines like this take I expected better for sure. The characters, gameplay and world of the X-Men are great though and the fact that it is at the amazing Coin Jam is all the more reason to check it out.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

14231224_10206649003135383_820476721216153626_o

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.

Kengin Witch Doctor 7252016

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.

Gone Home – An Amazing Game of Love, Mystery and Relationships

Gone_Home

        I’ve never been one for games that are purely exploration. Often times I find them overly convoluted and confusing and the gameplay tiring. It’s one reason I could never get into the “Myst” series…Though I am willing to give that series another chance as one of my favorite games is an exploration game, “Journey.” “Gone Home” is also a favorite after playing it last night, though mostly because of how immerse the story is. Suffice to say, if you like a good mystery and powerful story, chances are you will like this game.

      The game was developed Fullbright, designed by Steve Gaynor and composed by Chris Remo. The game is in the style of a first person interactive story adventure game.

     The story involves Kaitlin Greenbriar who has returned home after being gone for a long time traveling and studying abroad in Europe. When she arrives to the home her family had recently moved into she finds that everyone in her family is missing and must piece together the mystery of what happened as well as the mystery surrounding her Uncle Oscar who owned the house before.

From here on there are spoilers.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Chris Remo did a great job on the soundtrack! There is the haunting sounds in the house combined with punk rock music and jazz when you put cassette tapes into tape players around the house. It gives the mansion a lived in feel beyond the graphics and items you interact with.

The Graphics – The graphics are fantastic! The house is beautifu/l and it is haunting as you are trapped inside with no way to contact the outside world as the phones are down because of the storm. There are also tons of rooms that are really detailed. From the bedroom of your little Sister Samantha who is the character who learn the most about and your father’s study as well as your mother’s sewing room. Each room has a distinct personality that the graphics portray really well. This also includes the hidden rooms that have a really scary feel to them and feel like they’re out of “Silent Hill” at times.

The House – As described above, the house is wonderful and has so much personality to it. From the hidden rooms with abandoned crosses and a safe, to Sam’s rockstar room, to the ornate bedroom and study of the parents. The house feels real and mysterious and is pretty much a character all on it’s own. Wanting to learn more about what it revealed was a big part of what kept me playing.

The Story – The story is amazing! There are a few stories that you get in the overacing narrative. Your Mom has a crush on one of the Ranger’s she works with and is having marriage problems with the father who was possibly molested by Uncle Oscar and lives in shame of his father’s expectations of him as an author as he largely rights pulp…and Oscar’s store going under and his seeking redemption from his Sister for what he did.

The Prime story is that of Sam and her girlfriend Lonnie. The story involves Sam accepting she loves Lonnie and expressing that through her story of Captain Allegro and the First Mate who go on adventures together and are lovers. Her parents are religious though and they don’t believe her when she comes out to them and put her under house arrest. Later when they go to work on their relationship at a retreat, Lonnie leaves the military and runs away with Sam and you find the Journal entries that describe all of Sam’s experiences of learning how much she loves Lonnie, her being an outcast at school and her past friendship with Danny and making peace with herself enough to the point that she can leave home and make a life with the woman she loves. Katie is the one who learns all of this and we see and hear it through her experiences of discovering the mystery of why the house is empty.

The Characters – Uncle Oscar – His ghost haunts the house but it isn’t literal. He probably molested Terry (the Father of Sam and Katie) as we see Terry’s height measured throughout the years but stops at age 12 in 1963, which relates directly to the stories Terry writes about JFK and the assassination of him. He is not a good person and though he seeks redemption and has regret, we have no reason to trust him. I put this character as a pro because he reveals Terry to us in regards to Terry’s drinking and trust issues and also we see how Lonnie and Sam are ghost hunters as well as they try and get rid of what they see as his ghost haunting the house.

The Parents – Terry is insecure and drinks a lot and has a powerful artistic mind. His niche market even catches on with Time Travel and the Assassination of JFK. We don’t really know his relationship to his wife though and sadly his rejection of his daughter (whether from his experience with Uncle Oscar (not realizing that Pedophilia and Homosexuality are two very different things) or his insecurity in his marriage lead him rejecting Lonnie and Sam (or his religious belief, “Bibles” are all over the house). The Mom is pretty driven too as she gets promoted in Oregon in the Forest Service is maybe having an affair with Ranger Rick and sews and is in contact writing letters with one of her old friends. She’s also an immigrant from Canada. We see she’s supportive of her husband even though she is exploring another option. The marriage is complicated but I get her doubts given the amount her husband drinks and his doubts and we don’t know if he ever shared what happened when he was 12. They are off at a Marriage Retreat when Katie returns home though.

Sam and Lonnie – Sam and Lonnie are pretty distinct and awesome characters. Sam is quite and an artist who finds her voice both in coming out to her folks and when she runs away with Lonnie. Lonnie is tough and independent and is a singer in a band and is all about self improvement via her nearly joining the military. They are pulled apart at one point as Sam is looking at Reed College since she has a scholarship and Lonnie is joining the military. After Sam comes out to her parents though they choose each other. They are reckless but committed and it makes them very human and my favorite characters in this.

The Message – The message is one of equality and love and it is powerful. We see two people who are willing to risk everything for one another since who they are has been rejected by their parents. It’s powerful and shows just how rejected they were. The time period is the 90’s but in some families in the United States an LBGTQ relationship would still be seen as wrong and be rejected and not seen as love even when love is there. This message speaks to the affect that has on people. If Lonnie’s or Sam’s parents had accepted their relationship, they would not have run away as they’d feel they had a safe space to be together and themselves.

Okay/Pro: The  Gameplay – The gameplay is good but not great. There were many times I wish I could have explored more objects or learned more of what each object meant. For example, your father’s novels about the “JFK Assisination” where a Time Traveler goes back in time to stop it and later on wants to save himself was a story I wanted to read. This story is a glimpse into your Father’s life just as “Captain Allegro and the First Mate” are glimpses into who your sister Sam is. I also wish you could go outside so there would be more than just the feel of danger as you explore the house.

Okay: Katie – Katie is a cipher and we don’t get much of her personality beyond her love of adventure and her family. I wish we could have got her thoughts about Sam and Lonnie running away and if she accepted them and loved them the way her parents never could. Still we get some characterization, I just wanted more.

   I played the game in full with my partner playing a few places in it. She had played it earlier and I am extremely grateful she introduced this game to me and that I got to play and discuss it with her. It was a story we could relate to in many ways and the characters were so real. When I started to play it was hard for me to put down, which is one reason I consider it a favorite game. The gameplay was good enough that it didn’t interfere with the story and it was still a puzzle and discovery game rather than an interactive movie. I highly recommend this game and not because of the story message, it is a great game and one of the beset I’ve finished in a while.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

Torchlight II: A Fun but Lesser “Diablo II”

Torchlight II

Dungeon Crawlers are a fascinating type of game to play. They have the chance to show truly rich environments as well as creating worlds that span continents and you can create tons of quests to flesh out the stakes and the enemies. “Torchlight II” doesn’t do that all that well. Oh it is still lots of fun but unlike “Diablo II” where the stakes felt large and real this game doesn’t really have that. I’ll get into what I mean in the assessment.

“Torchlight II” is the sequel “Torchlight,” (another game I plan on reviewing) and is an Action Role-Playing Game (ARPG) created by Runic Games. The creator was Travis Baldree.

The premise of the story is similar to “Diablo II” with the corrupted hero (The Alchemist) from the last game traveling the lands and corrupting the Guardians so that he can bring destruction to the world. It is up to you the hero (an Engineer in my case) to stop him. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the game:

The Pros: Gameplay – One thing I will say for this game is even if it starts out easy it dose have a challenge curve and it is possible to get overwhelmed by Elite Monsters, especially later in the game where they tend of have special attacks that can reek havoc on your health. This challenge was fun and it motivated my getting better armor to finish up quests and take on bosses. The linear progression serves it well similar to “Diablo II” and “Diablo” and the fact that you don’t have to go all the way back to turn in quests is a major bonus in it’s favor. Gameplay was fun and it was something that I could easily play casually.

Ideas – There are some great ideas in this world. From a village overrun by werewolves were you learn about how everyone died and need to kill the Alpha to being part of a civil war between two immortal races of metal men in the middle of a desert. The use of genies and dragons as generals over hordes is quite interesting too. There are some great concepts in this game.

Enchanting – Being able to get extra bonuses to your armor and weapons was something I enjoyed doing. It was a good use for the tons of gold you pick up during questing and gave you more reason to keep the armor you had given you are pouring so much money into make it better than before.

Okay: Bosses – Bosses went from disappointing (the Alchemist fight at the end was underwhelming…we never got this guy’s motivation and after we fought a Netherlord which made no sense since we’d gotten no information on the Nether prior) but some fights like the Artificer (a giant metal Naga like creature), Vyrax the Dragon (who sends swarms of enemies at you and attacks from the air in the first few phases) and Ezra Khan (a corrupted genie). For this reason I’d put it as okay. Most bosses weren’t all that creative or much of a threat beyond the Artificer, Vyrax and Ezra…which was a shame since ARPG’s are all about the enemies if they aren’t about characters who become a part of your party.

Cons: The Tone – The Tone goes from dark to cartoony, especially in how some bosses look which takes away from the threat of the Alchemist…the fact that you free all the Guardians shows this as well. Nothing was at stake in the end and only bad guys and unnamed civilians died. It wasn’t like “Diablo” or “Diablo II” which were all about consequences and kept a consistently dark tone because of it.

The Story – The story tries to be “Diablo II” but misses what made the story of “Diablo II” so rich. We got to learn about Hell and what was stake in “Diablo II” as Diablo worked to free his brothers while the Dark Wanderer (the hero from “Diablo”) tried to contain him. This lead to everyone from the last game getting corrupted or captured and we saw governments fall just from Diablo and the Prime Evils’ Influence. This story has none of that…what motivates the factions is never explained and why the Alchemist is corrupted and wants to bring the Nether to are world (or if he even does want to do that) is never explained either. This really brings down the story and gives a lot to be desired. This is a story without consequences, where in the end there are no stakes. Nothing the Alchemist does mattered which in turn makes your own quest kind of pointless…it’s almost like you are just a visitor cleaning things up, not a hero even as the game gives you fame for quests completed. I am big into stories in games and this one failed to deliver in a big way.

This is a game that is worth checking out if you are a casual gamer. It isn’t too difficult but can still promote strategy in certain areas and some of the level designs are really cool if you can take the clashing tones in certain instances. Also if you aren’t looking for story and just gameplay, chances are you will really like this game. Because I am looking for story though I have to give this game an okay but not great. There was enough here that I was motivated to finish the game…but the fact that nothing really happened means I’m less likely to play it again. I want to be enriched in whatever medium is sharing a story with me and for a world to have consequences and feel real. This game sadly does not have that.

Final Score: 7 / 10. Okay and enjoyable but in no way great.