Archive for story

Tomb Raider (2013)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2013 by caseystorton

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-I’d like to personally dedicate the following review to the Steam Summer Sale. Good times were had, plenty of money was spent, and at the end of it all I had 11 new games to call my own, 13 if you count everything included in Doom 3 BFG Edition. Anyway, I’ve played a little bit of most of them, but Tomb Raider was the first one that I kept playing. Well, second actually, but I still need to play all of the DLC for Fallout New Vegas and there’s this annoying bug that’s halting my progress, so I won’t play that game again until it’s thought about how its action have consequences and decided to stop being such a little shit.

-Anyway, Tomb Raider is meant to be an origin story for the character of Lara Croft, taking place while she was still a young, bright-eyed, innocent archaeologist just out of college on her first real expedition. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, her expedition shipwrecks onto the island she was looking to explore and Lara is separated from most of the crew. It’s up to her to find her friends, fend off the evil pirates that inhabit the island, and figure out how to get everyone home safely. For a story that initially comes across as nothing more than “we’re stuck on this island and we’d really rather not be,” Tomb Raider shows a surprising amount of depth, with some solid writing complemented by some good voice-acting to make the experience feel much more meaningful than it otherwise would.

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-While there is plenty of story to be had with the other characters and the conflict with the island’s inhabitants, the main focus of the story is developing the character of Lara, as much like in Far Cry 3, we can see her slowly change from an innocent, civilized person just like anyone else into a hardened warrior, molded by her constant exposure to violence in its most raw and devastating form. I’ve heard complaints that Lara’s development feels wrong, as she’s supposed to be innocent and inexperienced, but can already climb and jump incredibly well, but again, Far Cry 3 made similar assertions, but Jason Brody was really good at firing automatic weapons and impaling people with a machete, so there are certain instances where the story must take a back-seat to the gameplay, but this is only meant to be in service of the player, so I don’t mind.

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-On the gameplay side, Tomb Raider is certainly one of the most varied games I’ve ever played. Gameplay flows smoothly between climbing and platforming through the jungle, solving puzzles to find the way forward, and dealing with enemies. Combat in Tomb Raider works pretty well, but the fact that the enemies often far outnumber you coupled with your not all that substantial health bar, even with regeneration, direct combat is often not the way to go. Stealth is usually the best option when dealing with enemies, and I like that the game doesn’t force you to kill the enemies if you think it would alert the others to your position, occasionally allowing you to sneak past potential threats to save your ammo for later. Also, here’s something that I really wish more games would do. You know how most third-person action games have you press a button that slaps your character against the wall when taking cover. You know how rigid and robotic that all feels, almost like you’re just fulfilling an obligation? Well, in Tomb Raider, you can take cover by simply walking up to it, and when enemies aren’t around, Lara won’t even bother. It’s little, but I really like it. It’s almost like this in itself is another angle of characterization, where Lara is learning to be more diligent of her surroundings and takes it upon herself to hide from potential threats.

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-There’s the by now pretty standard progression and upgrade system that has you using limited resources scavenged from the environment to upgrade Lara’s weapons and using experience points to upgrade abilities. It’s pretty typical stuff, but it manages to not feel forced, so while I could have done without it, I don’t begrudge it for being there.

Image-Overall, Tomb Raider is a great game. It’s looks great, it sounds great, and it plays great. Some of the combat instances can be a little frustrating, and the quick-time-events are a bit annoying at first, but it’s still a great deal on the whole. 

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2013 by caseystorton

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-I’m starting to get just a little bit embarrassed by how long it normally takes me to put out a game review. The thing is, I usually just play whatever game I feel like playing that day, whether or not it’s something I’ve reviewed already or something that I should probably get to at some point depends largely on the day. That said, I’ve currently got several games in progress (this, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Serious Sam 3: BFE, The Walking Dead, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin), and thought I’d devote some time to a “First Impressions” of the one that I knew would take me the longest to finish.

-The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings centers around Geralt of Rivia, a “Witcher” who is assigned to protect the king is Temeria from harm during a battle with some rebels. After a battle the king gets offed by a professional assassin and Geralt is blamed for it, forcing him to go on the run and pursue the king’s real murderer. It seems like a pretty standard plot, but I can already tell that there’s a lot more to this story than there initially appeared to be, with plenty of side characters and plot diversions to keep the pace going.

Image-Probably my favorite thing about the first few hours that I’ve played is the combat. I’ve heard some people complain about the difficulty, but really, it’s not a hard game. I’d heard some people mention the controls, so I went through the tutorial once with the mouse-and-keyboard and once again using an Xbox 360 controller, and while the keyboard setup doesn’t exactly have any major issues, I’m thankful that the game was designed with a controller in mind. Really though, the combat isn’t hard if you know what you’re doing. You can sort-of get away with simply charging into battle slamming the light attack button like a moron on Easy difficulty, but Normal difficulty requires at least a little bit of discipline to play. You need to effectively pick your targets, know when to block, dodge, counter, throw bombs, cast magic, enhance your sword, or drink potions in order to survive a fight. On the topic of potions, you can only drink potions before battle, which isn’t really an issue, as at least so far, combat happens in continuous bursts, and the first fight is never the hardest, giving you plenty of time to stop and drink a potion before heading to the next battle. The only real problem I have is with the targeting system, which doesn’t always work quite as well as I want it to, but a quick dodge or parry is usually enough to get me out of any bad situation the targeting got me into.

Image-I can already tell that the branching dialogue options will lead me through a long, well written, and very worthwhile story just by the huge variance each option has from the others. The dialogue isn’t really something that can be adequately explained, as it largely revolves around what you as a player want to do and who you want Geralt to work with. Major side-note, if you don’t have a relatively high-level gaming PC, just go ahead and buy the Xbox 360 version instead, because this is a very demanding game. For my more tech-savvy readers, I’m running it on an MSI gaming laptop with an i7 2.3 GHz processor, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M with 2 gigabytes of DDR5 video memory. This is what my current settings are, and keep in mind I tweak a couple settings every time I boot up the game, and I experienced some minor drops in frame rate during the cut-scenes last time I played:

Image-It takes a LOT to run this game, so don’t think that just because the game is nearly two years old that it won’t take a powerful machine to run it on full settings.

-So far, I’m really enjoying The Witcher 2. The combat is fun, the story shows lots of promise, and the lack of hand-holding is incredibly refreshing for a modern RPG. Sure, the inventory screen is a bit weird, and the visuals may put a strain on your rig, but I’ll go ahead and give it an early recommendation. Also, there’s lots of sex in it.

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Borderlands 2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2012 by caseystorton

-When this game was announced way back when, I was quite excited. I really enjoyed the original Borderlands, even in spite of its few glaring missteps, including the nonexistent story, annoying interface, and occasionally repetitive missions. Now that the sequel has arrived, I can tell you all about how awesome it is.

-Things pick up a few years after the original Borderlands with four new main characters to serve as protagonists. We have Maya the Siren, Zero the Assassin, Axton the Commando, and Salvador the Gunzerker. They each have their own special abilities to complement different play styles. Maya can trap enemies in a Phase Lock which suspends them in midair and keeps them from attacking. Axton can deploy an auto-turret that goes after enemies and takes the attention away from the player. Zero can turn invisible, leaving a hologram of himself behind and dealing more damage when he exits his invisibility. And finally Salvador can enter a super mode that allows him to dual-wield two guns at once.

-The plot centers around Hansome Jack, the CEO of the Hyperion corporation who is currently recharging the Vault key from the first game to try opening some other vault that contains a crazy monster that he will use to wipe out every living thing on Pandora that he doesn’t like. Already, I can feel anyone who’s reading this mentally tuning out under the pretense that this is going to but another story like Borderlands 1. The thing is, Borderlands 1 didn’t have a story, it had a goal. The goal was to get to the end and open the vault. That’s it. Sure, there were people that may or may not help you with that, but the primary objective is exactly the same in the beginning as it is at the end. Borderlands 2 has, by contrast, a fantastic story. As the story goes on, the stakes continue to get higher and higher, with one of the most uncompromising game stories I’ve seen in a long time. In the original, the closest thing to an antagonist was the leader of the Atlus Corporation who talks to you once or twice over the phone, asking you to please stop doing what you’re doing. Hansome Jack talks to you continuously all throughout the game. At first he’s pretty funny, but as the game went on and Jack killed more and more people that I cared about, I started out-right hating him. At first he seems like a ruthless killer with a sense of humor, but by the end of it he turns into a disgusting, heartless monster, and I desperately wanted him to die. Slowly, painfully, die.

-Now that we’ve discussed the complete 180 that is the story in Borderlands 2, let’s move onto the gameplay. The game mostly plays like a regular FPS with a few RPG elements. The challenge system from the first game which granted EXP bonuses for things like killing 100 human enemies, firing 100,000 bullets, and so on, has been replaced with a new system that grants “badass tokens” which you can spend on buffs like increased gun damage, shield capacity, accuracy, ect. It’s a nice new addition that adds another layer to progression that’s aimed at giving players more to strive for after they reach the maximum level, which is a nice touch.

-The biggest question recently when word of a sequel to an acclaimed original surfaces is always people wondering whether or not the sequel will be different enough and bring enough innovation to the table to warrant its own existence. In this regard,  Borderlands 2 more than justifies its existence. Even if they could condense the plot enough to sell this adventure as DLC, all of the changes in gameplay coupled with the new and improved gun models, gameplay alterations, and yes, even more new types of guns, Borderlands 2 innovates more in 1 game than Call of duty has in 5, and that’s a fact.

-The best thing about Borderlands 2 is the way that it makes amends for all of the issues from Borderlands 1. Claptrap no longer annoys you with missions you don’t care about, the interface is a little easier to navigate, and would you believe,they managed to give the original a story! No seriously, we hear some back-story over the course of the game, mostly from returning characters, about who wanted The Vault open, why, what they needed out of it, and how it all has an impact on what’s happening here in Borderlands 2. I don’t think I’ve ever played a sequel that actually managed to make the original better.

-At the end of the day, Borderlands 2 is a fantastic game. I consider it the best game to be released this year, and one of the best sequels I’ve ever played. It’s tons of fun, and it’s got a fantastic story to boot. So go ahead, buy it, there’s no need to wait and see how other people like it, because it’s just a great game. 93/100

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