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"Game of Thrones" Review

Posted by Admin on July 4, 2014 at 4:35 AM


“Game of Thrones” spends a great deal of time showing us how the harsh conditions of Westeros and Essos age people before their time. Childhood does not protect girls from being sexually abused, or boys from being castrated as part of the process that turns them into slaves. Adulthood, and the responsibilities that come with it, arrive early for those placed on thrones or shipped off to service in the icy prison that is the Wall.

“The Watchers on the Wall” was at its best when it made a different point: that for all the hardening experiences the young men at the Wall have been through, they retain some of the boyishness of their former lives. It was at its worst when the show served up a reminder that while David Benioff and Dan Weiss relish presenting us with the physical violence of Westeros, they sometimes shy away from the emotional violence that makes George R.R. Martin’s novels so striking.

The men of the Night’s Watch are all so young, in so many different ways. Sam (John Bradley), in his bookish, inquisitive way uses his last night before the attack to badger Jon (Kit Harington), and to play the lawyer. Later, with an awfully nice sense of dramatic timing for someone who lives in a fictional universe without film, Sam steals his first kiss from Gilly (Hannah Murray).

“What was it like to have someone? To be with someone? To love someone and have them love you back. We’re all going to die a lot sooner than planned. You’re my last chance to know,” Sam says wistfully, trying to find a loophole that might let him and Jon dream of love if they survive. “The interesting thing is, our vows never specifically forbid intimate relationships with women…What our vows have to say about all the activities is open to interpretation.” Jon, the more experienced of the pair, is still a bit shy when, describing “having someone,” he tells Sam “For a little while, you’re more than just you. Well, I don’t know,” retreating into the gruff disclaimer that “I’m not a bleeding poet.”

It is not all about love, either. In the tunnel, facing their deaths, Grenn (Mark Stanley) chants the words of his vows to his brothers to restore their courage. Their poignant recitation is the essence of ritual, silly when it is not necessary, but of vital importance when you need to transform yourself into the most powerful form of that “nothing” Sam became when he killed the White Walker. (And it is not only boys who hold onto childish things. Ygritte (Rose Leslie) may kill as many Westerosi people as the nastiest Thenn warrior in battle, but she is desperate to kill Jon herself, both to prove herself to the men who doubt her, and to avenge her hurt heart.)

Because they are boys, they need their teacher. One of the best things about this episode — an illustration of what “Game of Thrones” can do when it has the leisure to linger in a single location for an episode — was the way “The Watchers on the Wall” handled Ser Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale). Thorne is a cantankerous character, and his clashes with Jon Snow have been bitter since they first met. But when Thorne takes a moment to confess that Jon was right in his report about the wildlings and to confide in him atop the Wall, we can see the merit in Thorne for the first time.

“The Watchers on the Wall” does not stop there. Ser Alliser has never been interested in nurturing the boys entrusted to him, but when the wildlings come, it turns out that was not what they needed from him. When he has command of the Wall, they hold their discipline. When Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter) takes the Wall, the men fire their arrows too early, wasting precious resources and showing the wildlings the limit of their range. Slynt complains about the Brothers’ training and discipline, but the contrast between the two men’s brief commands of the Wall is a neat illustration of what makes for real leadership. It is Ser Alliser who takes the risk of going down to lead the fight at the gate, telling the frightened fighters: “A hundred generations have defended this castle. You’ve never fallen before. You will not fall tonight.” Thorne may have made mistakes that hurt the Night’s Watch out of pride and foolishness, but he is badly wounded defending the Wall, encouraging his Brothers to hold the gate even as he is dragged off to be tended to.

As the teacher falls, so fall the students, and the students’ childhoods. In a change from Martin’s novels, Jon loses two of his best friends in the Watch in this battle. Grenn dies holding the gate, while Pyp takes one of Ygritte’s arrows in the neck. Ollie, the little boy who brought the first warning of the wildling’s ranging south of the wall, picks up a bow and kills Ygritte while she threatens Jon Snow. When Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) calls Jon “boy” as Jon orders him dragged off in chains, Jon’s face says what he could never admit in words: He is not a boy anymore.

But while I appreciated the thematic coherence of this episode, one change from Martin’s novels struck me as an alteration for the worse. Benioff and Weiss are not afraid to have director Neil Marshall, their go-to for major battle sequences, show a man get shot off a wall by a giant arrow. They do not shy away from bodies impaled on stakes, eyes gouged out, cleavers and boiling liquid as weapons, or the sight of Jon Snow bashing in the Magnar of Thenn’s skull with a blacksmith’s hammer.

For some reason, though, they were afraid to preserve a key moment from Martin’s novels: Jon’s belief that it may have been his arrow that killed Ygritte, the woman he loved. In the books, that uncertainty reinforces Jon’s loyalty to the Night’s Watch and what it has cost him. Here, that task is given unambiguously to a child. When Jon holds a dying Ygritte in his arms, there is no fear or anger that either of them need to push aside. In an episode about the end of boyhood, “The Watchers on the Wall” preserved a boyish fantasy, and preserves Jon as a relatively unambiguous hero for episodes to come.

“Game of Thrones” can use violence of all sorts very effectively to reinforce its point about characters’ emotions and the society that they live in. The sight of Joffrey Baratheon’s (Jack Gleeson) face as he died of a poisoning served to reinforce his youth, and to suggest that as he died, we joined him in a sadistic enjoyment of a youth’s intense pain.

But that calibration can feel misapplied. Do we really need to see the viscera of the men the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) kills for practice to know his strength? Do we need to watch the ruin of Oberyn Martell’s (Pedro Pascal) face at such length, when Ellaria Sand’s (Indira Varma) shrieks of agony and Tyrion Lannister’s (Peter Dinklage) empty face remind us that Oberyn’s pain ends with his death, but others will have to live with the consequences of his defeat?

Earlier this season, “Game of Thrones” had the good sense to linger on Theon Greyjoy’s (Alfie Allen) face as his crazed master fed a living girl to his dogs earlier. The expression that forces its way up through the muscles Theon has learned to leave slack if he wants to survive, and the sounds of the death he was witnessing, told us everything we needed to know. The Watchers on the Wall know a lesson “Game of Thrones” could sometimes stand to learn: Sometimes the worst things are the ones you cannot see clearly.

 


'GRID Autosport' offers 5 styles of racing : Review

Posted by Admin on July 4, 2014 at 4:25 AM


'GRID Autosport' offers 5 styles of racingPick your discipline and roll out in the latest version of this popular racing simulator

Pin It GRID Autosport at the Sepang Circuit. Photo by GRID Autosport.

Forza-Galorza'Grid Autosport' finds its motorsports roots'KAZ: Pushing the Virtual Divide' movie review'Gran Turismo 6' full reviewReview: 'Grid 2' maintains arcade style with more cars, tracksLapping with F1 2012: Despite bugs, new game improves on 2011 Shopping for a NEW or used vehicle? Click here to start your search.

“GRID Autosport,” out now for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, marks gamemaker Codemasters' final refresh of the franchise before moving on to the next generation of consoles. “Autosport” is the culmination of what the company has learned over its last two “GRID” outings, and they've obviously learned a lot.

“Autosport” has one of the best career modes we've ever played in a racing game, moving through five disciplines of motorsport including touring, endurance, open-wheel, tuner and street. Whatever your fancy, it's in there. The game is rated E for everyone, and it can handle one or two players locally and up to 12 online. Races and events take place on more than 100 routes across the world spanning 22 locations.

Unlike “Gran Turismo 6” and “Forza,” part of the objective in career mode is to hit sponsor goals. They could include finishing in a certain spot, finishing ahead of your teammate or ahead of your rival. Things like an entire clean lap or qualifying first are a little harder to hit without practice.

The artificial intelligence of the computer drivers has been improved. Some racers are aggressive, others are more technical and some defend their spot in the driving line with a verve normally reserved for Monday morning gridlock traffic.

 

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After firing up the game, it immediately throws you into your 25th season at the helm of a high-powered racing Audi in a touring car race. You don't have to finish first or anything -- we think it's just to show you what awaits.

After the warm up, players pick their name and screen name. GRID has a few hundred already programmed in, so “Welcome back Jake.”

Finally, you have to choose the difficulty and driver aids you want, which all affect how much experience you get per race. This is the first time we've seen a system like this in a racing game. We enjoy it because we get extra points for not have a driving line, using a manual transmission and turning the traction control off.

We jumped into the touring car discipline for our first few seasons. We thought the lenient rule on trading paint would be a good way to get a feel for the game, and we were right.

The damage modeling is great in "GRID Autosport." Not only do cars deform accurately during collisions, they also degrade over time. If you hit a guy in the rear-quarter panel on lap 1, it might last until lap 5, but the tire will eventually blow. In cockpit view, if your car gets banged up too much, you'll lose the windshield, which actually makes it easier to see.

Mechanical damage is fitting as well. If you jam your your front end into a wall or car, your steering goes, and if you spend too much time off track, you can blow a tire. We haven't had any engine problems yet, but were sure that's coming.

 

 


 



“GRID's” claim to fame is the rewind function. If you take a turn too fast, or dive bomb an opponent too hard and crash, just hit rewind. Players have about five rewinds per race, but that number can be adjusted, losing points per race as you increase. Our only complaint about the feature is that we forget to use it, especially in the heat of a race.

“Did I lose too much time in that S turn? Can I get by this guy if I try this again? Can I take this in third? Should I hit rewind or save it?” our inner monologue reads.

After a few seasons in touring, we jumped to open wheel, where our experience in Codemasters' other game, “F1,” came in handy. Learn the track in practice, qualify high—it's much harder to pass in open-wheel racing—and try to keep your position in one of the feeder series. It's fun to switch it up when you get bored.

Our complaints are few after about 10 hours of gaming. The audio can get a little glitchy. It seems like you get the outside sound of the engine and trans sometimes, and other times it sounds like your ears are plugged. That's a big deal when you've trained your mind to shift by sound and not by looking at the tach. Some of the interior views are claustrophobic, especially the driver's point of view. I'm sure the helmet, window net and windshield sticker do narrow your vision, but we're just playing a game here -- open it up. There's a zoomed-in version of the in-cockpit camera, which is what we used most of the time. Lastly, as fun as starting a new discipline can be, you still have to relearn how to drive in a new type of car. On the other hand, it gives the game a ton of replay value.

As you might already know, we play our games with wheel controllers here at Autoweek, and "GRID Autosport" didn't disappoint. The handling model seemed a tick more on the simulator side compared to the last game, and it offered tons of fun on standing starts, liftoff oversteer and wallowing understeer. The cement curbs send vibration back to the wheel and if someone is leaning on you in corner, you'll feel it when you spin wildly out of control.

What really struck us as funny is when we hopped in a simulated Mercedes C63 AMG and marveled at how realistic it felt. Did GRID do a ridiculously good job, or does Merc's steering just feel like a video game? You'll have to decide.

"GRID Autosport" is on sale now everywhere for $60. It's the best of the three in the series. With the open-wheel aspect, it could sate your need for “F1: 2014,” too, but we're not sure Codemasters would be happy to hear that.

 


World of Tanks Review

Posted by Admin on July 4, 2014 at 4:05 AM


Upon entering World of Tanks, two things immediately brushed past my mind that had the potential to change the way I experience free-to-play games, especially when they appear to marketed as a Triple-A title. While some games manage to nail the free-to-play ethics first time round, and know exactly what they’re doing in the case of micro-transactions, there are others that come to mind which vaguely remind me some are in it just for the money, and the passion for creating games is a second priority.

While those such as the Android phenomenon Angry Birds and PC exclusive Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, have clear intentions on the type of experience they hope to give to the player, and more specifically doing so on that specific platform, there’s always two or three games every year that are scraped out from the back of the kitchen that’s soaked in a candy topping sweetness of dollar sauce, that has you pinching at your purse every other hour in order to taste the maximum amount of content from what the game is hiding under its attractive sugary coating.

Then before you know it…your account balance is pretty much empty and you’re sitting in a crowded forum discussing the frustration you just felt, while at the same time looking forward to a sequel that you’ll inevitably purchase regardless of the included micro-transactions. Games are good, we buy them no matter what, and we put up with these methods of practice because it’s now an established norm.

Take Konami’s most recently released two hour tech-demo for example attainable by retail pricing, but that’s another story for another day. However, with game practices aside and trying to remain open-minded while naturally remaining skeptical I was interested to see just how World of Tanks handled its free-to-play strategy, and just how much this would either limit my playtime with it, or have me enjoy the experience without whispering to my wallet.



Right from the on-set of the customization menu which is tightly woven into the main menu, you’re welcomed by what appears to be a progression system, filtered across three different factions as indicated by their world flags. While this is a small detail and means nothing to the game, the whole theme of tanks and war goes hand in hand with this as all online shooters do. In this menu you are able to purchase tanks, use gold coins and what one would presume to be real-life transactions.

One interesting thing I did come across while browsing this menu was the different classes and names for the tanks, which I assumed would required me to have actual knowledge about these vehicles in order to keep me invested potentially for the long term. While it’s easy to see some sort of authenticity in this aspect of the game, the child inside me that just wanted to jump in a tank and blow stuff up was also excited by what the game had to offer at this point.

The game’s main menu itself is easy to navigate and links seamlessly with the other tabs, consisting of stats, store, and daily news. Although I did appreciate the welcoming nature of the game’s menu and the convenience of having my garage as the primary tab, there’s no denying that aside from its friendly nature, World of Tanks looks like one fat mobile game that’s been tightly wedged onto a big screen. This aspect of appearing mobile has nothing to do with its graphical details or the amount of pixels that’s been drawn to the screen.

No, it’s more to do with the message the game sends you, in that it’s being almost ironic in trying to deliver a free-to-play experience while at the same time attempting to look Triple-A. These two aspects, or for lack of a better word “categories”, don’t blend in well together. It’s not like the game is filled with ads or requires you to sign in to one of fifty accounts that you’ll forget about in the next hour or so.

It’s the bloated amount of coins, star count, and purchase elements that are present in almost every aspect of the screen, with the latter hoarding the top right corner. The left side serves as a reminder of your current trial days remaining, and that you should purchase an Xbox Live Gold subscription to claim a “Premium Tank”.



While I have no real agenda with these elements on something of a mobile platform, because that platform purely knows its purpose in continuously pinching your wallet. These aspects of a console game should have remained fairly discreet when attempting to mold the idea of a free-to-play game that’s also of Triple-A standards.

Going in-depth with the main tab, by the name of Garage this is where you store your tanks. All sorted vertically by classes of light, medium, heavy, and so on. The element of choice here is great considering you can assign more than one slot into each of these classes. This may aid in prolonging the life of the game seeing how it’s an online multiplayer game only, and let’s face it, a game based purely on tank warfare with no actual reasoning for doing so can only last so long. The good thing here however is that there’s no other game doing it, or one that comes to mind that’s actually as popular as World of Tanks.

World of Tanks serves its gameplay to you that’s best described as thrown into the abyss. After selecting my vehicle from the reasonable choices available and being informed to roll out I had no say in what match-type I would be playing. After taking part in three matches of capturing and holding the enemy base, I was introduced to the second of three game modes which the game had to offer. This was something I found to be frustrating and unwelcoming to players who may have not fully looked into the game before getting involved in, but hey least it’s free.

The other two modes available consist of defending your base from the opposing team, and taking control of a neutral base which you fight over against the opposing team. While the matches don’t outstay their welcome and in my case ended fairly quickly due to the nature of its gameplay, the reward system for taking part that follows shortly after, presents itself as nothing but a kick-in-the-teeth for the enjoyability that you had while playing for free.

Greeted in celebration by “Battle Awards” this giant show-stopper informs you on the amount of points you’ve racked up during the battle, while at the same time telling you how much more you would have earned had you been playing on a premium account, and with a Silver premium account. To topple this approach of introducing account types and game purchases, it doesn’t do a good job in explaining how exactly to do so and what real rewards you reap from it, other than being granted additional XP and gold which you can use to purchase Premium tanks and gain a leg up on your status for bragging rights.



In my first two hours in of playtime it was fairly easy to see just how far the game will take you in terms of enjoyability and grinding for better rankings and tanks. The implementation of micro-transactions in the game feels ultimately useless. World of Tanks is an enjoyable game, and anybody who fantasized as a kid about blowing stuff with miniature models and tank toy replicas can finally have some degree of excitement, by experiencing it through the big screen.

That being said however, it’s easy to see that those not generally interested in tanks, although being interested in other online shooters may not take to World of Tanks, regardless of it being a free-to-play game. It’s safe to say that one may have to have a real interest in fantasy tank warfare, or general curiosity before picking it up. One thing I do consider however is the longevity of the game as a whole and how long the player base will last, asw ell as the approach that Wargaming.net the studio behind the game, will fair in keeping it fresh and relevant via the use of new game modes.

On a visual scale World of Tanks is fairly acceptable in what many would consider attractive. There’s no eye-strain, no screen tearing, and there’s no performance issues present at this point. While the game is no eye-pleaser and doesn’t attempt to triumph over any other games, it’s not ugly. I feel it’s safe to say that at this point in the Xbox 360s eight year life span games are looking as good as they’ll ever get and the limits with this system have been reached.

There’s nothing to write home about regarding the amount of details or objects present on the game’s maps, but the scale is acceptable and works well with the amount of distance that can be covered with tank warfare. The flat textures and jagged trees prove noticeable from far as is the low pixel count. But as I stated previously, as long as the game isn’t ugly and doesn’t brake the player’s sense of immersion or enjoyability, then judging the game’s visual aspects at this point in the console’s life span is pointless.

Although World of Tanks is a game that appears to be skeptical on the surface it proves to be an enjoyable experience once you give the chance. I stand by my word when say I question the longevity of the game , but it’s certainly worth the experience regardless. The micro-transactions here fall flat in their purpose as the gameplay stomps the need to actually considerate it. World of Tanks isn’t authentic in gameplay nor does it try to be. It blends arcade gameplay with a touch of realism that’s just about enough to keep the player entertained and playing strategic enough to make the most of what it has to offer.


Micro-transactions prove useless due to the nature of the game.


Worrying longevity of the game due to game mode variety and interest from the player.

Watch Dogs Review

Posted by Admin on July 4, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Rating : 3 Star

Watch Dogs has been in the news ever since its teaser was launched in 2012. After a six-month delay, the game finally released last month and we had a chance to review the game over the weekend for you.

Watch Dogs is set in a fictionalised Illinois, Chicago that shows the best and worst parts of the city as well as the countryside. Here, players control Aiden Pearce, a hacker who is out to seek revenge against the death of his niece. Players essentially hack into ctOS, a centralised operating system that controls the city in which players can choose to play as vigilantes. ctOS is managed by Blume Corporation whose far-reaching powers are unravelled throughout the game.

Visually, the game retains the same feel as those of other premium games, somewhat over-glorifying the dark parts of Chicago. This gives the city a zombie-like feel and takes away from its reality quotient. Some blurry faces and lack of detail also contribute to the overall lack of excitement in the graphics department.



The hacking part of the game is cool though. You can check in to citizens’ conversations and read their most sensitive documents including transferring money to your account after hacking into bank ATMs. The sheer ability to hack into something and cause damage rather than go all ballistic with heavy-duty armoury or tanks is a welcome relief. It also lends Watch Dogs a firm overtone of geekdom. In fact, customising Aiden and his weapon is one of the most boring tasks of the game, primarily because there isn’t much to do in that department. Perhaps it’s all the bad karma for gathering too much money from other people in your account. Or perhaps the makers were just lazy to look into that aspect of the game.

But even hacking has its limits, especially in Watch Dogs. The problem with this is the sheer monotony of repetition that Aiden gets into. The game essentially is a series of missions for Aiden that are all similar to one another. During the rare mission where police will actually chase you for going into a restricted zone and hacking, the sub-par graphics will let you down.

There is a fair bit of suspense as you get closer to the end and things begin to unravel. It actually makes the effort of getting to the climax worth it. If only the game hadn’t relied on much on hacking and actually made the journey to the end more interesting, Watch Dogs would have been a great game. At the moment, the game feels more like a work-in-progress that Aiden himself might have to hack into to perfect.



Moto GP 14 : Review

Posted by Admin on July 4, 2014 at 4:00 AM


In a world where games such as Gran Turismo, GRID, Forza, and Need for Speed have essentially become household names for those who enjoy racing games, be they simulation based or insane arcade fun, it’s always refreshing to see lesser known games although they’re fairly legendary and pre-date most of the former, make their way back into the spotlight and actually reel in some serious attention.

While car games mostly dominate the genre of racing games and motorbikes tend to play on the sidelines of being an optional vehicle stumbled across within the game’s vehicle selection menu, developers at Milestone S.r.l. however have decided to flip things the other way with MotoGP 2014.

For a good number of the most recent years, we’ve had to satisfy our needs for adrenaline-fueled, motor popping gas tanks with racing games that follow of the tagline of Batman and Robin. To quote Chris O’Donnell from 1997′s caped crusader sidekick equality “It’s Batman and Robin, not Robin and Batman, and I’m sick of it!” MotoGP 2014 stands out as a game that seeks to rectify this for all the bike racing wonders of the gaming world, and rightfully so it does.



 


So how exactly do two-wheels instead of four hold up in this day and age? Frankly it’s been far too long since we’ve seen a good two wheeler that actually approached the genre of simulation racing, if any at all. As fun as Motorstorm Apocalypse is, MotoGP proves that race lines and flat surfaces can be just as heart-wrenching and nerve worrying as those that crumble before your feet and lift you over death-tumbling buildings.

MotoGP 2014  incorporates a fair number of gameplay modes most of which are no stranger to any other racing game. These include an instant race mode, grand prix, championship mode, MotoGP career, time attack, split-screen local multiplayer,online multiplayer and a safety car mode.

While the majority of these are fairly self-explanatory the modes to take note of here would be real events and challenge the champions. Real events use a mixture of real and fictional races that the player is able to experience for themselves, change the outcome, and live the event through the eyes of the selected rider.

Challenge the champions on the other hand does something fairly similar while placing a set of objectives for the player to complete, all of which are unlocked as you play through the other modes within the game. Although the main bulk of the game is played through MotoGP career which uses the player’s custom rider as their progression tool. I found the championship mode of the game to have more interest.

 




Using riders and tracks from past MotoGP games there’s alot of content thrown in to make up the game, the majority of which are unlockable riders which are gradually unlocked the more you play the game. There’s a reason to play here and more so than in the game’s career mode.

But that’s not to say the career mode takes a hit of any sort, as the basis of immersion and progression which is essential for any racing game is largely a requirement should it seek to be considered worthwhile. Keeping true to authenticity and realism, the game uses a physics system based on the rider’s behaviour when riding the bike.

MotoGP enthusiasts will know these as Balanced, Body Out, Old School, Elbows to the Ground, and Shoulders Out. Each of these riding styles have an instant and different effect on how you ride your bike, and players will have to play with each one to find their own unique style and which one works best with them.

It’s not as simple as automatic and manual, no car pun intended  but MotoGP 2014 has everything under the hood, when it comes to gears, tuning, and character behaviour. The game also uses a rewind feature that’s more commonly known to the Grid series by Codemasters.

This basically allows you to rewind the game while you’re actually playing up to a certain point in time, should you crash or wish to retake a certain turn from a different angle or strategy. There’s also a level of bike behaviour properties that tie in to the the simulation aspects of the game. These work in combination with the riding aids available in the game all of which can be toggled accordingly.

This is great for training newcomers to the series and will help by gradually increasing their skills and techniques the more they play, until they’re ready to take on the game at it’s ultimate level of realism. It should also be noted that the level of A.I. from your opponents are just as superb and well designed as the other implementations of realism within the game, and can be adjusted too. As said previously MotoGP takes realism quite seriously within the topic of tuning of your rider’s bike and character’s physics.

 



Bike mechanics can be adjusted before the start of your race and I’m sure fans of the series will tweak till their heart’s content. Mechanics such as handlebar rake and trail can be adjusted, the discs of your front and rear brakes, wheel choices of soft and hard tires, gear adjustments and so on. All displayed through an immersive interface that really succeeds and pulling the player directly into the game.

One thing in particular that serves as an interesting feature to MotoGP is one that isn’t particularly well implemented. The game employs a rider customization system that allows you to choose between male and female.

Without going into the whole debacle of more games should involve female characters, as that seems to be the latest trend within gaming these days, of the fairness and equality of variety in games, I will say this.

The way in which the game gives you female riders isn’t actually something that visually noticeable, and I didn’t see the point nor could I find the reasoning for picking one over the other, when the differentiation between them is a portrait photo of an actual rider, symbolizing your characters.

Physically the two gender models appeared the same and the fact that they wear helmets anyway made the overall idea pointless. Without being said however, the choice of rider gear, colours, and player information was all done fairly well.

Customization ranges from helmet, gloves, boots, and  knee pads. Taking it a step further to increase player immersion are the choices of your character’s name and age, rider number, and the choice to represent your own country. So where exactly does the rider fall off amongst all this precious content of enjoyment? Well let’s start with the game’s method of installation.

Coming close to ten years since the launch of Steam, PC gamers were no longer burdened by the need of physical discs in order to play their games. While some developers over that time period opted for the idea of disc based installation while still requiring you to insert the disc in order to play, most of them threw this idea out the window and went for a one time installation via an activation code.

 



Milestone S.r.l. on the other hand decided to be negatively old school and required that I install the game from it’s disc, while still having me insert it every time I wish to play.

Two things the studio needs to take note of here: A. This is the year 2014, and B. There’s no need to inconvenience the player with noisy DVD-drives when we live in a technological world dictated by mandatory hard drive installations. Adding injury to insult for not taking advantage of modern technology let alone PC hardware are the graphical options given to PC gamers.

Employing a method of incompetence through the use a game launcher, which acts as barrier of entry between me and the actual game is where these lackluster of options reside. With nothing but the basics of V-sync, resolution choice, high quality AFX and high resolution textures, the game falls flat on it’s face with the potential of even giving the impression of something beautiful to look forward too. While v-sync is a must to eliminate screen-tearing the game doesn’t look all that bad, but with that being said it’s clear it should look better than it actually does. Especially for a racing game which by no means is demanding.

One thing in particular, I really have to question though is the developer’s understanding of high resolution textures. There wasn’t one thing within the game that displays gorgeous textures of any sort, and while the bike and character models are quite accurate and look reasonably good, the game isn’t going to turn any heads.

 



This lack of visual quality also extends into the game’s tracks and environments. Racing tracks look fairly bland, the backgrounds outside the stadiums are non-existent, and the NPCs that make up crowds in the stands may as well be dead. Cardboard cut-outs are not cool.

This is a real shame as it’s gameplay is so damn impressive and gives you plenty to do. Up until now I still await a game that visually exceeds the level of detail and over the top eye candy that Codemasters did so well with GRID 2 and GRID Autosport.

Visual inferiority aside MotoGP 2014 is without a doubt an enjoyable ride that succeeds in delivering great gameplay, immersive entertainment, and unlockable content using the true method of learn as you play progression. MotoGP constantly gives you a reason to play and it feels rewarding. Becoming better the more you play there’s enough gameplay modes to take part in, and more so than I’ve seen from the majority of the car games available.

 


An enjoyable progression system combined with unlockable riders and bikes motivate the player to ride on.



Poor visuals and a failure to stay up to date with modern technology inconvenience the player as much as it embarrasses the developer.


Battle Princess of Arcadias Review

Posted by Admin on July 4, 2014 at 3:55 AM

 


Through colourful curtains, rotating ducks, and an artistic background of hand-drawn illustrative stages, Battle Princess of Arcadias waste no time in plunging the player directly into the heart of the game. This was both pleasing and enjoyable as opposed to sitting through a ten minute cut-scene, and an hour long tutorial fueled by over complex game mechanics that most JRPGs seem a custom to.

Known as Plume the declared protector of the kingdom of Schwert, The Princess’ loyal squire known as Del, is slayed by a forest dragon and it’s up to the player to finish what Del started. After a brief tutorial of basic and strong attack buttons, player navigation, and a simplified item system, the player is required to hack ‘n’ slash the beast to it’s demise and become familiar with the controls.

 



Heading into a short cut-scene which introduces Raltz, the princess’ squire replacement due to Del’s death this is where the game truly begins and we become more familiar with the Princess’ character and those who will accompany her throughout the game. Seeing how Raltz has never been a battle and his scared stiff to the idea of even picking up a sword, it begs the question of who is going to be protecting who.

However, despite the desperation and imminent threat the game tries to present to the player, of dangerous monsters and such roaming the lands, the characters fail to portray this. Characters are cheerful and colourful in personality and smile through every encounter.

The princess enjoys the idea of monster slaying and appears to live in a dream world of her own, largely oblivious to what’s actually taking place around her.  Aside from mythical monsters of dragons and giant birds, Battle of Arcadias presents a norm inwhich talking ducks serve at the princess’ royal hand, and keep the player up to date with all the mishappenings taking place within the kingdom.

Battle Princess of Arcadias plays as a 2D side-scrolling hack ‘N’ slash inwhich the levels are decided through the navigation of a hub-based map, within the princess’ kingdom. Playing as a battle party of three characters, with the choice of characters expanding as you progress through the game and meet these wonderful and distinct people. All characters level up through battle by the use of skills and abilities in order to remain distinct and useful for different battle situations.

Experience points, gold, items, and score counts are registered after completing stages, then ranked upon a standardized grade of A, B, and C. The player is then allowed to reap the items gained from fallen enemies and put to good use should they not wish to sell or trade them. Something that’s unique about the game’s combat system is the use of brigade formations. This feature allows the player to set on-the-fly formations for supporting NPCs that aid you in battle.

 



Attack formations, defense formations, and the choice to retreat, all place different effects on how the brigade moves in battle and raises certain abilities dependent on the chosen formation.

This adds a certain strategy to the game and is important when engaging in boss battles. As the use of NPC assistance builds up a power gauge, which is required for the use of special attacks known as showdowns. During showdowns the player needs to button bash as fast as possible within a given time limit.

A cinematic attack sequence then takes place in which a significant amount of damage is inflicted upon the enemy. This keeps the battle sections of the game from becoming boring and repetitive, while also looking visually stunning and exciting.

It’s important to work as a team while switching between your chosen team mates on the fly. Changing team mates is also crucial to the combat system as each character has his or her own unique weapon that may prove to be beneficial given a certain distance from your enemy. It’s also worth pointing out that since each character has their own health bar, upgrading each of them is quite necessary to the improvement of combat as well as your overall progression.

The failing of boss battles however seem to have no consequence for the player and you are free to repeat the battle or visit other locations in the game. There feels no rush or pressure to complete objectives in the game, and while this feels like a great implementation and serves as a good opportunity to stock up on potions and upgrade your weapons. The feeling of having no repercussions for failed battles seems like a missed-step for delivering new situations in the game, whether it be perma-death for NPCs or an adverse effect of the boss gaining it’s own set of skill points and holding it’s own sense of progression.

When the player is not taking place in battle, the kingdom’s village is free to roam about, where the player can visit the weapon-smith, item merchants, and barracks. While this hub is fairly limited in navigation and is simply a ten step system of moving the character back and fourth between each location, it seems to be attempting to replace a menu system in order to keep the player immersed within the game’s world.  At these stores the player can buy and sell different items, as well as upgrading, and equipping different weapons for each member of the battle party.

 



As every location in the game is navigated through a 2D stage in which you move from one stage to the next, by walking left to right out of the screen, this often sometimes feel time consuming and pointless. It also breaks the idea of becoming immersed within the game’s world, when you’re presented with a world map pointing out your location. It’s a very strange clash as the map gives an illusion of freedom but the game is explored by 2D side scrolling.

Making use of an illustrative and colourful art style, Battle of Arcadias is very similar to most JRPGs, and this means it doesn’t do much in the way of standing out against them. While it’s visually pleasing and the use of colour works great amongst its still backgrounds is contrasting to it’s dynamic stage of battling characters and cartoonish explosions, demonstrating a sense of speed and player engagement.

While there’s nothing bad to say about how good the game looks, sadly that’s all there is to it and just like ever other JRPGs the only thing that sets this game apart  from the other games to an outsider looking in, is the game’s characters, story and gameplay mechanics. While the game’s mechanics are enjoyable and simple enough to engage with, the battle sections of the game are frankly the only sections of the game that actually seemed worth playing. That’s precisely where the game’s strength lies and holds it’s only reason for true existence.

Character interaction is evident throughout the entire length of the game, and while this goes on for many to many hours, these characters did nothing worthwhile to keep me invested or even care for that matter for the end result of the game.  Will Raltz eventually man-up? I didn’t care. Will Plume progress beyond her own fantasy world of pastel coloured flowers and hearts that flow from her head? I wasn’t sure and I didn’t care enough to look forward to it.

The only thing outside of the pretty yet mediocre art style which is common at this point to games of the same genre, was it’s use of items and NPCs when engaging in battle.  Everything else outside of fight sequences felt like a drag, and I couldn’t be more grateful enough for the automatic skipping of cut-scenes, which can be set directly from the game’s option menu.

 


There was always an imminent feeling of ” I’ve played this before” and aside from the obvious visual traits that the game possessed it occurred to me just how bland and mediocre the game’s storyline was, with it’s use of fantasy creatures and a chosen warrior aided by an unskilled accomplice.

It’s nothing new and there’s nothing refreshing that says it’s worth anyone’s time amongst the enormous amount of JRPGs out there, other than general enjoyment for this genre of games and it’s satisfying combat system. Battle Princess of Arcadias isn’t a bad game, it just borders on a thin line of being a good one, while stumbling over to being cast as generic.

 




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