Torchlight III: A Refocus on Narrative With More Gaming Options

Torchlight III on Steam

  “Torchlight III” is thus far the only game I have bought in early access. This is my second favorite of the 3 games in the “Torchlight Franchise.” The first game still has the best narrative and gameplay but “Torchlight III” has a better story and gameplay than “Torchlight II.” I’ll explore all of this deeper into the review but until then this is a game I’d recommend to any fan of the earlier “Torchlight” games or for folks who enjoy a good dungeon crawler.

Echtra Games developed “Torchlight III” with Perfect World Entertainment being the publisher.

The game takes place centuries later after “Torchlight II” with ember corruption having spread from the clockwork core and an ancient evil attempting to conquer the world with the Netherim. It is up to you as the Sharpshooter, Dusk Mage, Railmaster or Forged to stop them.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Gameplay – The gameplay mostly works. The only con I can say against it at this time is it does fall into the grindyness that most dungeon-crawlers suffer from but this one makes up from it from the themed zones, the challenging boss fights, the personalization of your fort and the variety of character classes you can play.

Your Fort – One thing that sets this game apart from the past games in the franchise is the fact you get a fort. In this fort you can re-distribute your skill points, build up defenses against elements (Fire, poison, etc.), enchant items and save armor sets. For these reasons I always enjoyed coming back here as I figured out how to make the most of the artifact I chose (Fire based) from which you choose your skills from. The game is still in early-access so I’m curious what new things will eventually be added too.

Character and Artifact Variety – One thing that works about this game is the character variety. I chose to play as the Forged who is a robotic warrior class but you also have the rogue-like Sharpshooter the Dusk Mage and the Railmaster. These characters do not play the same and I can’t wait to explore that different more in the future, as well as try out more of the artifacts and the skills they offer.

Pets – This game has a lot of pets and you earn more by defeating bosses. Each of them have different effects that boost your character in different ways. I started with a dog (one of the starter pets) but ended with a teal dragon. You can name them like in the prior games and you have multiple birds, mammals and reptiles that you pick up along the way. I’m really curious if we’ll get Nethrim pets when the game is finished given how powerful your character is by the end of the game.

The World – The world is the richest it has ever been as far as new characters and lore. You interact with scientists and towns that give flavor to the different regions and each region feels like it fits the location be it mountainous, swamp or the artificial ancient crafted world of the dwarves. Each region has a unique enemy being controlled by the Netherim, which made exploring it all the more fun as you find flavor text around the areas and see what drives the boss in the area. You also run into world bosses who fit the area and are a great challenge to level up your skills before the usually more difficult act bosses.

The Enemy Factions – The first faction you face are the goblins. They are fun to face and their primary element is fired. They are lead by the warrior Brall, she is a hunter with a large bow who summons a ghost wolf to fight alongside her in battle and is completely loyal to the mysterious “Mother.” There are the Hyvid who are an insect-like race whose larva can turn humans and goblins into zombies and are lead by the Harley Quinn like Sadista who killed their Queen and wants to overthrow “Mother.” The sister is Varis is the one who is the most competent as she uses human mercenaries to enforce her will and controls the Vultera, an advanced bird-like with the best technology in the game who have come to inhabit the dwarven ruins. We also hear about other worlds and creatures that the Netherim compete with for supremacy over worlds.

The 3 Sisters -The sisters are great and they all fight differently. Brall is the loyal fighter and you see why she admires the goblins. Sadista is sadistic and selfish but does succeed until you defeat her and Varis is the most successful and is shown to have cared for her sisters. We learn from her that all of them were probably humans who had once died but were raised by “Mother” into this new state where they are part human and Netherim. After “Mother’s” defeat Varis attempts to grab the ember heart and is pulled into the Clockwork Core when it reignites once more saving the world from the Netherim invasion. I suspect we’ll see her in a later game or expansion and “Mother” is still around she just doesn’t have a host body.

The Boss Battles – The boss battle are challenging. Ordrak from the first game is still the most challenging endgame boss but fighting Sadista and Brall (especially Brall) was a fantastic challenge that took learning the patterns of attacks and when they one-shot attacks would happen. The fact that was a warrior type meant early on I was in the thick of battle so Brall was the most difficult there. The final boss was also hard but at that point I had so many skill points into powerful abilities maxed out that I was able to defeat “Mother” in the new corrupted reincarned Odrak body that she was easier than Brall. There are also bosses of each type (Vultera, Goblin and Hyvid) who you fight and artificial robots too. They usually have patterns you can figure out and if they are at the end of a dungeon they are hardest if elites are summoned along with him.

The Cons:

On the Grind – There are some areas that are real grindy as you level up high enough to really stand a chance in the next area above your level. This does become easier once you hit a certain level and can fully empower certain skills but before that I stopped playing a few times because of how annoying the grind could be.

Who is the Main Villain? – We never learn who “Mother” is. I think the implication is she is some powerful type of Netherim and her leading the Netherim army but we learn nothing about her and her aims post-invasion. She is setup akin to Ordrak in the first game but we never see her interactions in-game beyond her children (Ordrak corrupted someone for example) and I wanted to learn more. She is the focus and has characters who know some degree who or what she is but that isn’t reflected as well as it could be in the text.

The Somewhat Cliffhanger Ending – So Varis has the Ember Heart and it is implied her being pulled into the Nether is going to transform her in ways she can’t protect. The final scene also shows the character who is implied to be “Mother” I think with her eyes and arms over the world. This is contrasted with the happy ending of your victory making it feel very much like a cliffhanger. So is this going to be Torchlight III or IV? This is big or me because the game is in early access and there is no guarantee they will make enough money to make future content.

I had a good time playing this game and I do hope we get more story in the future. I enjoyed the consistent enemies in zones, the sisters were fun antagonists and the skills and artifacts as well as character types give the game a lot of replay option. The variety of pets and ways you can decorate your fort helps too. This game isn’t great as there are story issues and the grindyness stands out but I still consider this a good game. If you’ve enjoyed the franchise so far, definitely check this out.

Final Score: 8 / 10

 

Torchlight: A Worthy Addition to the Dungeon Crawler

      My experience of “Torchlight” is that of a game that pulled inspiration from the source but went it’s own way. This was not my experience 6 years ago after playing “Torchlight 2.” Looking back on that earlier review I will definitely be returning to that game and seeing if the harsh criticisms I gave still hold up. This is a game that obviously takes inspiration from the APRG that “Diablo” is one of the most obvious starting points. Given how much my analysis has hopefully grown since that time I plan to return and do a replay to see if I still generally agree with the initial review. I really enjoyed this game to the point of finishing it over a weekend. I can see the “Diablo” dark inspiration but the “Dungeons and Dragons” inspiration seems more-so as I hardly remember goblins, trolls and dragons are something this game did really well. I don’t remember “Torchlight II” doing this as well.

“Torchlight” was created by Runic Games and published by Perfect World.

The story follows your character who is an Destroyer, Alchemist or Vanquisher as they arrive in the town of Torchlight as you are pulled into Alric and his plot tied to the powerful corrupting Ore of Ember as you investigate the source of the corruption.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – The world is fantastic. This world feels like it more pulled from “Dungeons and Dragons” than Diablo as you fight through a goblin fortress, a corrupted Dwarf keep and a hellish landscape dominated by Dragonborn and demons. It is really cool and your character is naturally pulled in as you follow an adventurer who is tracking his leader Alric. Syl his apprentice is the main person trying to stop Alric after her corrupts the third member of their party Brink is transformed into a monster by Alric, solidifying his corruption and drive for power at any cost. The fact that this story is what you are investigating as Alric’s journals give you taste of what each area will be like really enriches the game and makes the world rich.

Gameplay – The gameplay is a lot of fun for a dungeon crawler. I never felt overpowered and had to strategize to get through some areas. What helped along those lines was the level variety and unique bosses as well as the fact that you have a pet who can sell your gear in town.

Level Variety – There is a huge level variety that stood out for me more than “Torchlight II.” The goblin fortress feels like a goblin fortress and it makes sense that they’d set a big troll on you that they control and heal. Same goes with the corrupted Dwarf Fortress being ruled by a Demon and the undead area being ruled by ghosts. The levels made sense and built upon each other, which only enriched the world and the experience.

Unique Bosses – The one thing all the bosses have in common is that they are almost always bigger than you. What is different is how you fight them. You fight a giant Troll that you can only beat after you kill the goblin healers who are constantly calling in adds and you fight a demon who replicates herself so you have to focus down the real one and then the final boss has constant adds that he kills to heal and it becomes a war of attrition. The final boss fight feels worth it in the end and it is a victory you earn. In the first game The Dark Alchemist was difficult and I think the only one I died against but didn’t even compare to the difficulty of the dragon Ordrak.

The Pet – One of my biggest issues with APRGs and Dungeon crawlers is the need to go back to town to sell loot or simply dropping loot in order to wait for the good drops. Having a pet that fights with you and sells your gear solves this. This is one thing I wish “Diablo III” had done as it would have solved the overload of gear problem that none of the “Diablo Franchise” really addresses.

Story – The story is simple, but it works. You are helping Syl stop her corrupted master from summoning Ordrak who will conquer and corrupt the world. When you fight Ordak he clearly can do this as he sets tons of Dragonborn and undead against you over the course of the battle. To get this point you fail to save Syl’s friend Brink and you get corrupted by the Ember too. Syl saves you from the corruption only to get captured and after you save her…only to get corrupted at the end when you hold Ordrak’s ember heart. It is well done even if on the face of it it is following the corruption ark of the Warrior in the first “Diablo.” There are enough “Dungeons and Dragons” elements as well as you following the story of the other adventurers to set it apart.

The Cons:

The Hero’s Motivation – Your character shows up but we don’t really get his motivation. I played the Alchemist and he was almost immediantly corrupted after defeating the final boss. There was not motivation and setup, which is a shame as I felt I got to know the characters who surrounded him.

I ended up really enjoying this game. So much so that I’m giving “Torchlight II” another chance. Here is my Old Review of Torchlight II. This was a solidly great game and I enjoyed my time in the universe as well as the fact that I could keep on playing after defeating Ordrak. The graphics and world feel unique and I’m really curious to see if “Torchlight III” will be any good. If you are looking for an older dungeon crawler to play, definitely check this one out.

Final Score: 9 / 10 It is a shame the sequel doesn’t live up to the original. This one improves on the gameplay of the first “Diablo” while still telling an original story without getting cartoony.

 

 

 

 

Halo: Reach – A Fantastic Exploration of the Cost of War

Buy Halo - REACH - Microsoft Store

     “Halo: Reach” is easily the best “Halo” game of the Franchise. This is a story with stakes and consequences and some phenomenal character development. This was the first time the UNSC characters are truly compelling and humanity is complex and nuanced. This is something the core games of the Franchise don’t really give us. They give us human archetypes but not nuance and complexity (at least in Halo 1-3 (haven’t played ODST or 5). This is also a game with a ton of mission variety and does the rising stakes really well, nearly as well as the original game.

The game was developed by Bungie and produced by Microsoft Studios.

The story follows a group of 5 Spartans called Noble Team when Noble Six joins their team as they investigate what the Covenant is doing on the planet of Reach.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – This game continues the quality soundtrack from past games and does a wonderful job playing on the heart strings when we experience character deaths or moments of heroism. Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori continue their amazing work.

The Gameplay – The gameplay is the height of “Halo” as we get the greatest variety of missions and the levels get progressively harder. You get the great ground vehicle combat of the later Halo games (2 and 3 specifically) some amazing space combat that I haven’t seen in any other Halo game and the greatest variety covenant foes as you face both Elites and Brutes along with the standard variety of Grunts, Jackals, Drones and Hunters. I had so much fun beating this game and playing the missions again with a friend.

Dr. Halsey – Dr. Halsey created the Spartan program and because of this it is hard to call her good. The Spartans we meet were child soldiers and not all of them survived when they were turned into Super Soldiers. To them she admits care and keeps distance between and feels angry when they question her judgment and calls. She is a wonderfully complex character and I wish the Franchise as a whole could have given us more nuanced humans like her. She also created Cortana and it is up to your team to get Cortana to The Pillar of Autumn.

Noble Team – I love Noble Team. Noble Six (the player character) is the heroic rookie who always has his teammates back and is inspired by their actions. You have the reserved leader Carter who is easily the most balanced of them. He sacrifices his life to stop a giant Covenant Scarab Tank from killing you and Emile. You have Jun the thoughtful sniper and one survivor the the Fall of Reach. You have Kat who is Carter’s second-in-command the one willing to take risks to learn truth or complete the mission who is sadly killed by a sniper when evacuating civilians. There is Emile who is the hardened soldier who warms to you over time (wears a skull painting over his helmet) and dies from an Elite’s sword and there is Jorge. Jorge is the only Spartan-II on the Team and risks his life to defeat the Covenant cruiser above Reach. He is the first to inspire Noble Six and his death is felt by the team as each of them probably knows that his end will most likely be their end as well. This element of tragedy and getting to know your team is what I wish “Rogue One” could have been. This is the suicide mission done right.

The Ending and Fall of Reach – This game is the story of how Reach fell to the Covenant and even you as a Spartan Super Soldier is unable to change that. What the game does well though is that you rescue tons of civilians and in the end deliver Cortana to The Pillar of Autumn which saves humanity in the long run. This is all expressed in the Epilogue which has power behind it as you see nearly every member of Noble Team die except for Jun who survives. This is one of the few games where you lose and in turn it does a fantastic job of giving the player the cost of war.

The Cost of War – This game shows us the cost of war both in the lost of civilians and soldiers and how no matter how heroic a person is, sometimes you die in battle. This is told through the loss of the majority of Noble Team and the events they witness as they attempt to save as many lives as possible.

This is the best of the “Halo” Franchise and I hope if they continue to make “Halo” games that they will learn from this one. It is possible to tell a complete and contained story that has stakes without the need for it to be apocalyptic and world ending. This game is the story on a personal level and is elevated all the more because of it. I wish humans had been written this well in the other games as this game truly shows the potential and amazingness of the Halo Universe.

Final Score: 10 / 10 The perfect “Halo” Game.

 

Halo 2: Anniversary – Great Lore Caught in the Center of a Trilogy

Halo 2: Anniversary PC | Halo: The Master Chief Collection - YouTube

  “Halo 2” is another of the “Halo Series” I played back in High School but didn’t have the chance to beat until I bought the “Master Chief Collection” when it came out for PC. This game improves on the gameplay from the first game and adds a ton of lore (a lot of which is to explain the events of the first game) and overall it is good. The things that bring it down are some of the cliche story elements, some of the added story from “Halo 5” and the fact that it is clearly the middle of a Trilogy storywise so the ending isn’t as complete as it could be. Either way, if you enjoyed the first game and are invested in the lore like me this one is well worth your time.

The game was Published by Microsoft Studios and developed by Bungie, Blur Studio and Certain Affinity.

The story follows Master Chief who has returned to Earth when the Prophet of Regret of the Covenant attacks Earth. At the same time Thel ‘Vadam the Elite Commander who failed to stop Master Chief from destroying the Halo is made into the Arbiter as he begins to learn more about the internal politics of the Covenant and the truth behind the faith they follow.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematics – Blur Studio has created some of the best looking cinematics I have seen in any game. The Anniversary edition gives us movie level quality between missions and crafts some fantastic drama that fully captures the unique design of the Covenant species, the epicness of the ships and the personalities within the individual characters on screen.

The Soundtrack – The Soundtrack once again captures the epic nature of the events you are taking place in. This time it does some in a hard rock fashion, which I thought would be distracting but still work really well and gave an apocalyptic feel to some of the scenes. The sounds from Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori from the original game with Kazuma Jinnouchi using it in the new edition is simply handled beautifully.

The Gameplay – The gameplay does nothing but improve upon the first game. Vehicles are easier and actually fun to control. You can dual wield guns and you have the energy sword that is absolutely deadly, fantastic and fun.

The Covenant – The Covenant story is the most compelling part of “Halo 2.” Within the game we get to see the power struggle between the Prophets (Regret attacks Earth early in order to bring about the Great Journey and become a God) ends in failure and Truth lets Mercy be devoured by the Flood on their Capital of High Charity when the Flood invade. He also starts the Civil War by blaming the Elite’s for Regret’s death and being a major reason for the Brutes ascending to Honor Guards. This Civil War is what dominates the narrative and the historical records we get from the Terminals are fascinating as the Prophets go into how they came to dominate different species and brought them into the Covenant.

Tartarus and the Brutes -Tartarus and the Brutes are the new antagonist in the game as we see them become the new Honor Guard in the Covenant. They are large, gorilla-like aliens that take a lot of hits and can go into Berserk mode when enraged. Their leader Tartarus is clever too as he uses the Arbiter to get Guilty Spark to the Prophets and nearly succeeds in achieving Truth’s goals. They are a fantastic threat and were really fun to fight. After “Halo Wars 2” and the Banished faction it was really cool to see their origin in the Covenant and the Brute’s rise to power in this game.

The Prophets – The Prophets are one of the fascinating antagonists of the game. Regret acts quickly and ends up defeated by Master Chief and consumed by Gravemind and the Flood. Mercy is attempting to keep Harmony among the different species that make up the Covenant and Truth is ego and power and only sees others as means to an end. In the end he outmaneuvers the others, causes a Covenant Civil War and is on his way to Earth to activate the Ark and bring about “The Great Journey” which he believes will bring about his ascension to Godhood. This game made me appreciate the Prophets as antagonists.

File:H2A - Gravemind.png

Gravemind and the Flood – Gravemind is this lovecraftian horror made up of all the minds it has consumed. It is ancient and extremely intelligent as it uses Master Chief and the Arbiter as weapons against High Charity to weaken it’s defenses enough for it to invade. At the end of the game he has control over Cortana as well giving him control of the Forerunner technology, the Covenant (The Prophet Regret and probably Mercy at this point) and Cortana for humanity. It is extremely creepy and scary and the design for this being is nightmare fuel.

Attack on High Charity – One of the funnest parts of the game is the Attack on High Charity. Gravemind warps the two of them to the Capitol City of the Covenant as they seek to stop Tartarus from activating the Halo Ring and the Prophet of Truth from reaching the Ark. Tartarus is stopped but the Prophet of Truth escapes and in the chaos and destabilization of the Capitol City the Flood take hold and you witness their consuming of the installation over the course of both missions. It is horrifying as you witness a Civil War in real time when Truth blames the Elites for Regret’s death and call for their annihilation and of course the horror as the Flood arrive and consume. This whole segment is really fun to play and keeps the stakes high in a way the original game kept consistent throughout.

Betrayals – This is a game full of betrayals. Regret betrays Truth and Mercy when he attacks earth Early who in turn betray him. Tartarus and the Prophets betray the Arbiter have her gets them Guilty Spark and the Prophets betrays the Elites. On top of this Gravemind uses and betrays the Arbiter and Master Chief, though I doubt they ever trusted the creature at any point.

Thel ‘Vadam the Arbiter – Keith David is absolutely amazing voice the Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam. Vadam was the Elite who failed to stop Master Chief from destroying the Halo in the first game and is punished for it, being made the Arbiter which the Covenant have turned into their enforcer to send on impossible missions. His arc is realizing that all he learned about was a lie and in turn becomes a leader among his people when the Covenant turns on them. He is also the first to reach out to humanity after he defeats Tartarus and prevents the newly discovered Halo from being activated. This a character with self-hatred who finds his dignity once more and never stops fighting or caring about his people.

File:H2A-Arbiter&Co.jpg

Okay:

Master Chief and Cortana – Master Chief and Cortana are at the point where they can nearly predict what the other will do. They are the perfect fighting team so this game works hard to seperate them as in the end the only way to save the world is for Master Chief to get onto the Prophet of Truth’s ship while Cortana stays behind on the Covenant homeworld of High Charity as it is consumed by the Flood and she is captured by Gravemind.

Sargent Avery Johnson and Commander Miranda Keyes – Sargent Johnson and Commander Keyes are alright. Sargent Johnson has the “devil may care’ attitude and somehow survived the first game (2 only addresses as classified, which is lazy). Commander Keyes’s father Captain Keyes is the Captain consumed by the Flood in the first game and here she carries on his legacy in the fight against the Flood and Covenant. Like Cortana and Master Chief they never get out of the tropes but they were compelling enough to keep me involved.

The Cons:

Damsels to be Saved – Commander Avery is captured by the Brute leader Tartarus and it is up to Master Chief and Sargent Johnson to save her. Cortana is captured by Gravemind at the end of the game too. This is a shame as before this both characters have a lot of agency and drive the action. It is only turned around at the end the Bowser equivalents of the game capture them.

A Story Caught in the Middle of a Series – One of the biggest things that goes against the narrative and wonderful story we are given is the fact that it ends on a Cliffhanger so things can be concluded in “Halo 3.” Gravemind has captured Cortana and High Charity, The Prophet of Truth is going to the Ark on Earth (with Master Chief on board) and plans to activate the Halos to end the Universe and the Arbiter teams up with Johnson and Keyes. These are huge hanging threads which leaves the game feeling incomplete, unlike the first “Halo.”

The Added Content from “Halo 5” – There is an added scene at the beginning of the Arbiter talking to new Spartan who is hunting for Master Chief and it sets up the game as him recounting the story. I wasn’t a big fan of this as it took away of the stakes of the narrative of any major character being at risk. At this point the Arbiter and Master Chief are both confirmed alive at the beginning of the game. This hurt the stakes immediately.

Master Chief Rides a Bomb – Master Chief becomes God Level at this point and I was no longer afraid of him ever being truly at risk. He rode a disarmed bomb and destoryed a Covenant carrier and landed safely on an UNSC. The first “Halo” had nothing like this so within the game it still felt like Master Chief could get hurt or experience pain. After this act of insanity that he walks away from untouched he ceased having any kind of vulnerability.

The greatest parts of this game are the stories that come out of the Covenant. The Civil War that arises where we have Arbiter and the Elites with Hunters and Grunts on their side facing against the Prophets, Brutes, Jackals and Drones. The politics and how compalling Thel ‘Vadam’s arc is is what made the story work. The human story when Master Chief isn’t doing the impossible is fine but it never elevates itself. The characters are never as complex as the heroes and villains that make up the races of the Covenant and that is why I can’t rate the game higher. As an experience it is very well done and I still highly recommend it, especially the “Anniversary Edition.” This is a beautiful, fun and compelling game and I look forward to when “Halo 3” is released on PC within the “Mater Chief Collection.”

Final Score: 8.6 / 10 The human story never reaches the height of the Covenant story and the fact that it ends on a cliffhanger setting up “Halo 3” and the Trilogy of the war against the Covenant brings it down from feeling complete and from being rated higher.

Mother Russia Bleeds: A Wonderfully Dark Beat ‘Em Up

      “Mother Russia Bleeds” might be my favorite Beat ‘Em Up of all time. This is a game full of rich lore, fun gameplay and really brutal and beautiful design. What helped was playing it with my wife and one of my closest friends. Just the experience of us working together to figure out the pattern of the boss fights as we advanced through Russia really was such an amazingly fun experience. Before I get into details about the game itself and spoilers, I definitely recommend checking it out if you are a fan of Beat ‘Em Up style games.

“Mother Russia Bleeds” is an indie game created by the France based studio Le Cartel Studio and was published by Devolver Digital. Frédéric Coispeau designed the game with Alexandre Muttoni being the artist and director. The game itself was released in 2016.

The premise of the game is that you are four Roma who are used in street fights to make money in the slums. After your friend betrays you to the government you find yourself experimented on. After escaping the lab, you seek revenge against all those who wronged you.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Graphics – This is a beautiful 8-bit game. The game is dark and gritty while at the same time giving color where it is appropriate. Whenever you are fighting mafia or are in club, the colors stand out. The game becomes progressively more colorful until you get to the end where red and black are the main contrasts. This is a beautifully brutal game and I love the artistic choices the artists made when designing bosses (military generals, butchers, mad scientists) as you advance through the game as you unravel the conspiracy.

Difficulty – This was a difficult game. I’m glad that I didn’t play this alone. There are a few boss battles and fight sequences where having more than one person helps you figure out and learn the patterns. The greatest example of this is the helicopter attacking through a window as you fight oncoming goons. It is stressful and that was one point where the three of us took a break. Same went for the final boss too. He had 3 phases and each phase was harder than the last. This is a game where the build up in difficulty is progressive and challenging. Suffice to say, I enjoyed it. A game should make you better at it, and that can only come through challenge.

The Gameplay – Beat ‘Em Ups are a fun style of game. In this case it is also a side scroller too, so you can’t go back to where you were before. This provides a good challenge as when you knock enemies off screen you can’t attack them again until they’ve returned to the window of the fight. I really enjoyed the gameplay. You have Nekro which lets you heal up but also powers you up for a super move as well. There are also isn’t healing everywhere and you can only get Nekro from certain enemies you’ve killed at a certain time. This keeps the tension up as you advance through the levels. There is also a great enemy variety. You fight gangsters, zombies, soldiers, mob bosses, masochists in pig masks and quite a few others. The enemies all have different attack styles as well. This is a game that you have to learn. It isn’t easy and that makes all the more amazing. The final boss is another great example of this. The incarnation of Nekro is the punk rock skeleton who has three phases. One phase is fighting copies of yourself and a closing in wall that you throw syringes at, phase two are living syringes and muscle dropping down and the final phase is the boss itself in 2 forms. It is hard and so very rewarding.

The World and Story – The game takes place just before the Russian Revolution. You are Four Roma (Sergei, Ivan, Natasha and Boris) who are betrayed by your friend Mikhail and given to the government to be experimented on. You survive but become addicted to Nekro in the process. From here you are seeking revenge against your former friend and end up helping another friend as the revolution begins. It is a dark, violent and twisted world as you are the lowest rung in society and everyone wants you dead. You end up in some fascinating environments too on your quest for revenge. You fight in a sex club where you fight people in pig masks and battle against a giant butcher at the end, you fight on a train, against military officers and police and finally against a living embodiment of the drug itself. It is in the final fight where my wife and our friend ended up getting the bad ending. If you use the drug to defeat the final boss than you die of an overdose and are remembered by the revolution. If you succeed without using the drug than a statue is made to honor you in how you helped the revolution. We got the bad ending, which I honestly thought was more realistic to the world the story takes places in and was the better story.

As you can tell, I loved this game. This is a Beat ‘Em Up better than “X-Men” or the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” games. I enjoyed both of those games but this one built on the core fun base game they had. The fact that the story has a point gives even more power to it. It is a tragedy about addiction as well as just how costly revolutions are on the people, while also recognizing the importance of fighting corruption. Our protagonists are the lowest within society and them grabbing their own agency lends power to the narrative as they seek revenge against those who wronged them. This was a really fun game and I definitely plan to check out more games from this studio.

Final Score: 10 / 10 This is the perfect Beat ‘Em Up.

 

Pac-Man Battle Royal: Fun With Friends Not Good Replay Value

     The Coin Jam is a pretty amazing arcade and last time I was there with a friend and my fiance we happened to be there on “Free to Play” day where certain games you can play for free. “Pac-Man Battle Royal” was the game we ended up choosing first and a random person joined us to make it the full 4 player battle royal.

What I recently learned is the is the 17th game in the Pac-Man Arcade series, though officially only the 11th. Namco Bandai Games was the developer and it was released in 2011.

So now the question is how does it hold up? Often how I judge games is based off story, but I can’t really with a versus game like this and Pac-Man doesn’t really have a story so in the end it all comes down to gameplay and replay value.

The replay value is alright. We played two full games, with me winning the second time playing. Would I play it again? With friends, yes I would especially if we are at the Coin Jam as they have good drinks that make a simple game like this more enjoyable, even though it does get repetitive. There was a reason we only played 2 games.

Gameplay is repetitive, it is Pac-Man so it is predictable but the fact that there are ghosts adds a little bit of randomness to each match and strategy as does the eating of the fruit which changes where the dots are on the map. The gameplay is fun but in the end those few bits of variety aren’t enough to make it great. Now if one could play a ghost or do more to change the map, that’d be different, but this isn’t the case.

If you happen to be around when this game is available and you just went to do a quick matches in an easy versus style game you will probably enjoy it. I wouldn’t call it good, the game would have to do a lot more and have a lot more variety to make it good…but it is enjoyable with friends and good for a few quick rounds.

Final Score: 7 / 10

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

Original “Dawn of War” Franchise Reviews

Dawn_of_War_box_art

    It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed games, the last one being gone home…as I’m still suck in the “Starcraft: Brood War” campaign reviews on the Zerg Campaign. I don’t feel comfortable reviewing the campaign or a game until I’ve finished the campaign and got to try out the other features. For “Dawn of War” this will be easy, minus the “Winter Assault” campaign of the 2nd game which I remember being rather difficult.

      I’ve read some of the “Space Wolf Omnibus” as well as some of the Codexes on the different factions, so the world has always been rather interesting to since college, as my introduction to this universe was through “Starcraft” who took inspiration from this game.

    This is a franchise that inspired “Starcraft” as the Zerg are inspired by the Tyranids, the Protoss by the Eldar and the Humans have space marines in both worlds and tend to have governments that end up being based in nobility or tyranny, and of course having no elected leaders. Where the emphasis on Starcraft was on politics though, Warhammer 40K has more so been on magic and survival as the different factions rarely if ever worked together due to them representing the worst of humanity so often (fear, zealotry, etc.). 40K is also more fun in a lot of ways as the Orks, love to fight for the sake of fighting.

   In each of these reviews I’ll go into gameplay, what faction I enjoyed the most and how I thought the story campaign was executed. These will be the deciding factors on what score each of them get, and when I get a better computer I plan to do this for the “Dawn of War 2” franchise as well.