Tuesday, 30 July 2013

RETROspect - Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning


I recently started thinking about games I have put too many hours into, and even though I came up with a number of them, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning has to be my most played.  I honestly can’t tell you the amount of my life I have invested into this game; mainly because I can’t access the details, but also because I’m not sure whether I want to actually know myself.  

WAR (as it is abbreviated to) was released back in 2008, when I was still in high school and I got into it at the start of 2009 when I had some free time.  My main character has to be one of the most scantily clad races of all time; of course I am talking about the Witch Elf, who fights for the Armies of Destruction with Chaos, the Greenskins and other Dark Elves, against the Order.

The Witch Elf is a Melee DPS archetype that focuses on stealth, speed and a lot of damage, so naturally she (only playable as female) isn’t going to wear much armour…  Dual wielding daggers and doing massive damage appealed to me greatly back then so she was perfect.  In PVE areas I could either take out enemies easily, or just sneak past them with her stealth ability and continue on my way.

PVP, or RVR (Realm Vs. Realm) as WAR calls it, was where it got more complicated.  I didn’t actively participate until level 40 because in earlier tiers it was harder to get into a Scenario (WARs instanced PVP) and I didn’t often get into parties for other PVP based activities.  At 40 though, I realised my horrendous mistake and started trying to correct it; I became a part of Open RVR, taking Keeps, killing
Kings and trying to open Orders main City up for an attack.  This was when I realised just how much fun it was to be in a massive Warband, and how great a guild could be (even if I wasn’t in an awesome one).

My absolute favourite thing about WAR though is the lore and how it covers everything.  I am a massive fan of story and WAR had it in excess for me.  Not only are there a bunch of characters to play as, with different story lines per race, but you can roam through other race’s lands and do their missions which I found fascinating.  Exploring the Greenskins zone as a Dark Elf was hilarious and I will always have a soft spot for the Orcs and Goblins in the Warhammer Universe.  The Chaos area is also a lot of fun, even if some of the humour is ridiculously dark, and I actually ended up playing a Chaos Chosen once I realised I was better at Tanking.  I also played for the Order for the sake of seeing the opposite side of the story, playing as a Human seemed bleak; the High Elves were that bit too fancy for me; and, even though the Dwarf story was as great, I just couldn’t play as a Stunty.

WAR was my first MMO; it gave me my love for RPGs and taught me how to play in a team and by myself.  I can’t say I made friends in WAR, but it showed me how much you can miss out on by not being a team player.  I also realised that I was not cut out to be a light DPS character, unless the game is completely PVE, and the Tank class was much more suited to me.  Unfortunately I don’t play WAR anymore (I would if it went Free-to-Play, Mythic!) as the player base dwindled massively and because of this, the community was no longer full of humour and fun.  Even so, I will always remember WAR fondly.

 - Steff Webb

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Preview - Pokémon X and Y


The newest title in the Pokémon franchise will be released in September this year;  X and Y are the first to be released on the 3DS for the main series and look to bring more than just 3D graphics to the table.

In the ever changing, ever nostalgic, universe of Pokémon we constantly see evolution, some good and some not so good.  So far, X and Y is providing fans with a reason to be excited again.  Every sneak peek and trailer has shown us just a little bit more and the latest footage revealed on Pokémon Smash TV has given yet another glimpse into the new region, gameplay and footage of some of the new Pokémon.

The battle animations seem to be what we have been waiting for, with more actual animation, and I can only hope the 3D features will improve the immersion in the series.  Battles have also gained two more styles, Sky battles and Horde battles; the former only able to be fought with flying types and the latter are encounters with up to 5 wild Pokémon.  The graphics have been greatly improved, being designed specifically for the 3DS, thankfully taking a step away from the original region design while keeping much of what has made it accessible to gamers.  With more interaction in the world, somehow feeling even more RPG like, even old fans will be falling for the loveable series once again.


The most obvious change is the new regions Pokémon.  Kalos even comes with new type of Pokémon (fairy-type) with the previously announced eighth evolution of Eevee included. So far we know of 27 new Pokémon, including the starters, and each looks just as crazy or cute as the last.  The most exciting change though, is the character customisation, giving us the option to customise our trainer’s skin tone, hair, and even their accessories and outfits.


If you are anything like me, not only are you hanging out to play the latest in an awesome series but you will have already picked which version (X for me) and starter Pokémon (I can’t refuse fire-type Fennekin) you are going to start your adventure with.  September cannot come fast enough and with information regularly announced the hype will continue to grow.  We can all only hope X and Y will live up to the high standard Game Freak has set itself.

 - Steff Webb

Monday, 15 July 2013

Top 10 - Super Arts in Street Fighter X Tekken



Asuka – Kishin Enbu

I’m not sure if it's the bone splintering crunch of each blow, or the epic coat hanger Asuka delivers at the end of her combo that I find more impressive. Actually, it’s the coat hanger, defiantly the coat hanger.


Chun-Li – Senretsukyaku

Chun-Li delivers a huge flurry of kicks (as she is famous for) that slams her opponent back and then launches then in the air with a huge double kick straight to the face. It is not as flashy as her Kikosho energy blast, but it is powerful enough to beat down even the strongest bad guy.


Rufus – Big Bang Typhoon

Big Bang Typhoon is great for one simple reason; Rufus looks ridiculous while doing it. He spins his extreme girth around in circles, launching his arms out in all directions faster than you can blink; all while his head stays dead centered, staring straight at you. Hilarious.


Poison – Love Storm

This is a super that I enjoy using on friends when we play on the couch, and ends much in the same way a date with Poison would go: surprise, humiliation, and someone crying in the corner.


Kuma – Fatal Wind

Kuma farts in his opponents face. Words cannot describe how funny this is, you just have to see it for yourself. Seriously. Google it.


Sagat – Tiger Genocide

Sagat's super is one epic show of power, being able to scoop a falling person out of the air and straight back up is awesome enough. Sagat then delivers the final blow that leaves opponent with a goofy look on their face and in a lot of pain.


King – Muscle Buster

King is a powerful grappler and anyone who plays Tekken knows the kinds of combo’s he is capable of. A single grab could mean the end for you so when you see him begin his super animation, prepare for a world of pain. The Muscle buster is on par with Zangiefs flying pile driver, utterly spectacular to look at.


Zangief – Final Atomic Buster

Zangief has always been an awesome character to me but have always sucked playing as him. I can’t deny how epic his special moves look. The Final Atomic Buster throws the laws of gravity out the window and sees Zangief launch himself high above the level in one jump (after delivering two powerful  German suplexes) to bring his opponent down on their heads for a crushing defeat


Kazuya /Jin – Devil beam

I have always been a fan of eye beams since my Dragon Ball days and there is now exception here. Both Kazuya and Jin have this ability and both are as epic looking as each other. Tapping into their devil powers, a huge blast of red energy is release from there eye’s to annihilate there opponents.


Akuma – Misogi

Akuma has two awesome supers, but I prefer this particular one for the sheer awesomeness left in its wake. He launches himself in the air and brings his fist down in one huge punch right into his enemies face. Not only is this move virtually impossible to dodge, but in SNK vs Capcom, it was unblockable as well!



-William Flynn





Tuesday, 9 July 2013

RETROspect - Crash Team Racing


Let’s face it, Crash Bandicoot was a childhood hero.  Not only in his local country of Australia, but in the entirety of the gaming world.  His crazy “Whoa!” when he got hurt was spine chilling and filled people who heard it with a feeling of failure.  Crash’s more recent entries have been questionable at best, but I want to go back to the early days; back when Crash, Coco, Cortex, Tiny, and the rest of the crew, were all at the top of their game.

While the Crash games predominantly stuck to the rear view platformer there were two spin offs, Crash Bash and Crash Team Racing.  Although Crash Bash did not do so well in the public eye, it was still a fantastic party game and kept the child in me alive; CTR on the other hand was simply astonishing.  While it was a Mario Kart clone, it had enough of its own touches and quirks to make it stand out as a worthy “kiddy” racing game.

Being able to play through multiple worlds with several tracks themed to a variety of new and classic levels was nothing short of pleasing.  The simple combination of overpowered weapons, annoying traps, dynamic levels and nearly a score of playable characters was more than enough to ruin my social life as a child.  The sheer thrill of unlocking another boss and working to defeat him was unmatched by any racing game available on the PlayStation.  Just about everything in this game was addictive; whether it was the lengthy story mode with an abundance of collectables, the grand prix mode, or even the simple split screen battle mode; it was near impossible to walk away from the next race.

While there has been a “redo” of CTR in the form of the PS2’s Crash: Nitro Cart, I would strongly recommend you skip that title and just purchase CTR off of the PSN store, and because it is a PSone classic it will work on your Vita as well.  In the end there are some very decent current gen racing games that deliver the same sense of carelessness and childish behaviour, but if you are feeling nostalgic, then I would strongly recommend giving CTR another play through.

- Frank van der Merwe

Monday, 8 July 2013

Top 10 - Ways to Die in Minecraft



Minecraft is a great way to relax, build, explore and use your imagination.  Problems come into play, though, when you die and either need to respawn and race back to collect your items, or start a new world because this was your hardcore world.  These are my worst ways to die in Minecraft, and most of these have happened to me more times than I can count.


10.  Hunger

Definitely one of the worst ways to die, mainly because it is just so preventable.  If you forget to take food with you while exploring a cave or making tunnels, you better hope you don’t get lost.  The amount of times hunger has killed me is sad.


9.  Drowning

This shouldn’t happen often, as it is easy enough to swim to the surface or create an air pocket, but when it does happen you feel ridiculously silly.

 

8.  Skeleton

There are so many different hostile mobs in Minecraft, and many of them can do more damage than the skeleton.  Unfortunately it is all too easy for their Bow and Arrow to cover a distance, and when this catches you unaware, down you go.



7.  Lava

In both the Overworld and the Nether lava can be a pain, especially if you don’t pay much attention.  Digging into, running towards, and even falling into it, has killed me more times than I can count.


6.  Zombies and Zombie Hordes

Zombies quite like the taste of your villagers, and of course you, so while setting up or taking over a village it is important to have plenty of light sources.  Otherwise zombies will travel in hordes to break down you doors to come after your villagers, and while acting the hero, it is easy enough to become overwhelmed and become the midnight snack yourself.


5.  Falling

Really I should just call this, drowning and lava carelessness because that is the main reason that this will kill you.  Though it is also possible to overshoot a ladder and not make it back in time, or underestimate a jump and fall to your death. 


4.  Slime

It is a sad day when slime kills you, but nevertheless it can happen.  As they break down into smaller and more slimes it can become easy enough to miss a few, and finding yourself against a gang of very small slimes hopping at you making jelly sounds is a painfully annoying way to die.


3.  Enderman

Honestly, the Enderman actually frightens me on a regular basis, they make creepy sounds and seem to appear out for no-where and all while holding a block, eek.  When you find a random block in, or taken out of your house you know that you need to be on the lookout.  This has got to be the way I have died the most in Minecraft, as I will often just freeze up at the sight of one.

2.  Creeper

Creepers are not exactly hard to kill, and because of this I like to hunt them down and use their gunpowder to make TNT.  I especially don’t like creepers in or near my Village scaring my townsfolk and destroying stuff.  It is too bad that one wrong swing of my enchanted diamond sword can break something else, and ‘BOOM, Headshot!’


1.  Ender Dragon

I have only twice actually got to The End to fight the Ender Dragon.  Fighting him on my first attempt was disastrous and, of course, I died.  The amount I was disappointed is comparable to finding out the cake was actually a lie.  I ended up in Creative and went straight to The End so I could, at least once, destroy the Dragon like it did me.  This is number one because I don’t ever want to do this fight again, and it was by far my worst death.

-Steff Webb

*The texture pack I'm using is OzoCraft.*

Project X Zone - Final Round Review


When it comes to Japanese RPGs the market is huge, and what better way to tap into it then with a massive crossover game?  Project X Zone does just this, crossing over Capcom, Namco Bandai and Sega with 29 different franchises.  Characters that are well know, Ryu and Morrigan, to those less know, Soma and Xiaomu, come together in this simple yet captivating strategy game.

 With turn based strategy games it can feel like you are just doing the motions, over and over again, with little in the way of diversity. Project X Zone can fall into this category but fortunately the differences balance out the rest of the game; each team of characters has different theme music, attacks, catch-phrases and of course interact differently with each other.

The crossover combinations, which are amazingly flashy, can happen between a team(two characters) with (or without) a solo partner and another team, in total there can be up to 5 characters in the battle screen at one time.  There are of course requirements to this, such as radius with another team, and only being able to use this ability once per team per turn.  Even considering this it is pretty easy to rack up some enormous damage on your enemies.  Because of this it is easy to think you’re overpowered and can take on the world, but fear not!  The tables can get turned very easily and each turn can become more important than the last in your struggle to stay alive.  Combat isn’t overly deep as each character does roughly the same damage per attack, depending on level, and unfortunately there is very little strategy in the combat screens.

Each chapter lasts upwards of half an hour, easily past the hour mark later in the game, depending on your skill and whether or not you want to defeat just the objective or everyone in the arena and collect every chest.  Every battle area is just as amazing as the last, with breakable objects, obstacles, chests and, of course, a plethora of enemies.  There can be so many different characters and enemies at once that it can sometimes become daunting, yet the simple menus and status screen provide a way for you to keep track of your team and utilize them to their fullest extent.

As with most RPGs you can upgrade the stats of the characters, but rather than upgrading individual characters it is done via their team.  There are only two slots that can be modified per team, one for gear and the other for accessories.  Each of these item have different stats, such as +health or negate poison, and the stats are clear enough that a newbie to the genre will easily be able to understand and plan around them.  The best thing about the items being team based is the fact that you don’t need to fiddle with 30+ different characters to get exactly what you want.

Another similarity between Project X Zone and other JRPGs is the surplus of dialog, it wouldn’t be right to call it this otherwise.  Because these characters are known, they tend to say and pass on little titbits of information or references that will catch certain fans attention.  There is, of course, quite a bit of fan service, but even this can produce laughter as the characters are somewhat aware of themselves.  It is a surprise when there is dialog that doesn’t produce some sort of laughter, and even the references that go right over your head (I’m sure I’ve missed a fair bit) can still get a chuckle.

Over the course of the time I have been playing this on my 3DS, and every time I put it down to play or do something else, it is so easy to pick back up again.  It is honestly so much harder to actually put it down in the first place. 

All round it is a great JRPG, and with the easier strategy and simple combat system it will be a great title for those who haven’t played the genre before.  Even veterans of the genre will find reasons to love Project X Zone; the characters, interactions or story will have something for everyone.

FINAL ROUND RATING  -  8.5/10


- Steff Webb

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Preview - Killzone: Shadow Fall




With the Next Generation in gaming just around the corner we are seeing a lot of amazing looking new titles, many of which will be cross-platform.  There are, however, still some fantastic looking exclusives coming out for both the Xbox One and the PS4.

Killzone: Shadow Fall is shaping up to be a seriously badass looking title for the PS4.  Building upon an already successful double entry on the PS3 with Killzone 2 and 3, Shadow Fall has a solid foundation. 

Shadow Fall takes place roughly 30 years after the events of Killzone 3, and the ISA (good guys) allow the Helghast refugees to live in a “camp” on the planet of Vekta.  This camp is divided by a massive secure wall with the Helghast faction on one side and the Vektan on the other.  The Helghast are pushed to the edge of their existence and are forced to live as refugees and fight for their very right to exist, while the Vektans struggle for their own survival leading to “cold war” between the two factions.
 
Killzone has always been a benchmark for PlayStation games when it comes to graphics, Killzone 2 was simply remarkable and set a new standard for console gaming, and Guerrilla Games somehow managed to push the PS3’s limits ever further with Killzone 3.  Shadow Fall looks to be continuing the trend and will most likely set a new benchmark in the next gen FPS genre.

Shadow Fall is also incorporating a whole bunch of new features to the series, for instance the OWL droid.  What this little flying companion does is pretty helpful, with the ability to attack, stun, shield you, or even create a zip line for you to reach far away platforms.  The OWL also allows you to take med-packs, scan your radar for enemies and much more.  Furthermore, Shadow Fall integrates a new melee combo-system.  

The familiarity of the series with a new bag of tricks is going to hook both new and veteran players alike.  The latest in the Killzone franchise is set to launch with the PS4 at the end of this year.

- Frank van der Merwe 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Legends of Chima: Laval's Journey - Final Round Review


When you think of a LEGO games the first things to come to mind are the series for licensed titles such as LEGO Harry Potter and LEGO Star wars.  TT games has no doubt had many hits in the past, but when it comes to self contained LEGO games they rarely hit the same mark of success a licensed game does.  This could be due to the fact that LEGO games almost always play out the same and it begins to show when it can’t hide behind big franchises like DC comics and Marvel.

The story begins with our hero Laval the lion losing a jousting match against Cragger the crocodile.  After some sulking about his loss, Laval discovers that the crocodiles are using their winnings (Chi orbs) from each jousting tournament to create a powerful new Chi power called triple Chi power.  Usually I wouldn’t complain about a games plot if it’s aimed at a younger audience, but why would they hand over something so powerful to the crocodiles, or any other creature for that matter, if it could be used as a powerful weapon?   Not only that, but Chi orbs can corrupt other living creatures and make them hostile and dangerous to anyone who comes into contact with it (This is usually occurs in a select few plants in game).  Each animal kingdom has been affected by the Chi orbs and the organised attacks by the crocodiles; you must venture into and offer your help in battle.

Legends of Chima has you running around a handful of sub worlds, each with its own obstacles and enemies corresponding to what animal lives there.  While helping the eagles, you are required to jump and glide across platforms; in the gorilla home world, you’re swinging around on vines and dodging boulders.  The game controls well on the vita, the jumping and attacking are responsive and fluent which can be enjoyable.  Unfortunately the gameplay is so simplistic and repetitive that I found myself falling from ledges out of boredom, you will die more times because of you lack of attention than anything else.  Even the games sound effects and music suffer from monotony with boring music loops and dodgy at best voice acting, each character having around three lines in total aside from there cut scene dialog.

What Laval’s Journey struggles with the most is new ideas, each LEGO game comes with a few new features but never a defining aspect that really sets them above any other LEGO franchise.  There is nothing adherently wrong with Laval’s Journey but there is nothing good either, which makes repetitiveness its greatest weakness.  It uses the tried and true formula that has been replicated over every other LEGO title and its dullness is beginning to show, without a licensed name to bring charm to the characters and more life to the world.  If you really want a new LEGO game, you’re better off waiting for LEGO Marvel later in the year.

FINAL ROUND RATING  -  6/10


- Will Flynn