ReviewMango | ReviewMango http://www.reviewmango.com Your freshest source for gaming news, reviews, previews and editorials. Fri, 19 Sep 2014 02:02:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Dark Souls 2: Crown of The Sunken King DLC – Review http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/09/05/dark-souls-2-dlc-crown-sunken-king-worth-money/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/09/05/dark-souls-2-dlc-crown-sunken-king-worth-money/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 19:03:38 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6373 A while back, the release of Dark Souls 2‘s first DLC instalment, Crown of the Sunken King, made a huge impact, rekindling the hype surrounding From Software’s Souls series. However, with[...]

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A while back, the release of Dark Souls 2‘s first DLC instalment, Crown of the Sunken King, made a huge impact, rekindling the hype surrounding From Software’s Souls series. However, with this DLC out for a couple of weeks, and with a large portion of the Souls community already emptying their wallets for this latest instalment, is this first episode of the “Crown” series really worth the money? Well, it is all pretty subjective, but I feel that a developer almost has to go out of their way to make a DLC that is only $10 not worth while; and From Software is not famous for screwing things up. Still, it is pretty normal to be curious as to whether or not you are getting the bang for your buck you hope for. Now usually, I write pretty informatively (also known as “boringly”), pointing out certain aspects of a game that caught my eye or are important. But in this case, I’m not really reviewing a game, but a DLC, which is just an addition TO a game, so I’m going to lean out of my comfort zone a bit here, and describe the series of unfortunate events that befell me instead. I’ll try to be as vague as I possibly can, but in the end, I’m doing a pretty detailed review, so: spoiler alert.

Dark_Souls_2_DLC_Review

After you buy the DLC and enter the game, you’ll find a Dragon Talon inside your inventory. This is basically the key that you need to enter the DLC area. Once you get there, you are greeted by a massive overview of the region you are about to delve into, with a huge Aztec-esque pyramid staring you in the face. Some other stuff happens (spoilers), but basically, you soon run into your first enemy. It was then that I noticed two things; these guys will merrily tear you a brand new one and that this is an omen of things to come. Some people would simply call it, “The first enemy”, but I like to call it “The world’s shortest tutorial ever”. It let you get the general gist of what you are dealing with, and got me pretty pumped for what lay ahead. There was also some odd elevator thing, but I couldn’t use it yet, so I went ahead. Once again, I’m not spoiling anything, but suffice it to say that the before mentioned “new one” was immediately graced with a brand new brother. My favourite part was when I, out of impatience, decided to book it past two soldiers. My frantic running woke up two sleeping guards on the ground, some bow men, men with magnetic whip swords, and, to top it all off, a poisonous bug of hell, with a cliff for the perfect touch. So yeah, things didn’t really go my way.

After I braved the gauntlet and found a good place to heal and mentally recover, I began to realize something: I was barely surviving. And, to be honest, it felt amazing. I’ve beaten this game twice (not bragging, I still suck), and even when I first started the game, it never felt all that rage inducing. And yet there I was; nearly all health gone, no way to heal, and I had barely scratched the surface of what lay in store. This DLC had accomplished what the entire game should have been doing all along: punish me for being a cocky twit.

Crossing a small bridge guarded by two lance bearing hollows lead into what was called “Dragons Sanctum”. Sounds promising. Right off the bat, you hear singing, which sounds like it is coming from behind a locked door. It is kind of like the singing in Shrine of Amana, but less pretty and more along the lines of “Why is this door serenading me?” Soon after, you spot a large room, full of metal chests. Problem is, they are guarded by two phantom like guards, who just so happen to be twice your size. I remember just staring at them for a full minute, trying to process whether they were enemies, or just player phantoms that just so happened to be standing in one spot. After a while, the whole “they make Andre the giant look like Kevin Hart” thing sank in, and I decided to charge them full speed. Of course, I could do literally no damage to them, while their translucent blades were fully capable of shearing my face clean off, so the first encounter went poorly. Eventually, I did some deductive reasoning, and figured our how to do some damage to the Shaq brothers, but obviously, I’m not telling you (spoilers, figure it out yourself).

I don’t want to ruin too much, but basically, From Software was more than content to use their invincible ghost strategy to fill a gauntlet with hours upon hours of knee slappin’ good times. However, they made sure to give plenty of little rewards along the way for exploration, leaving new pyromancies, hexes, and more, for anyone courageous enough to brave the trip. There was even some basic puzzle solving, bringing back sweet, sweet memories of Dark Souls 2’s precursor, Dark Souls. In the end, this area was pretty engaging, and had my Estus down to zero, before I even managed to get half way through. It was really nice to be able to experience the joys of surviving solely on your wits and skill as you traverse the harsh landscape, being left to your own devices. It was a feeling that I hadn’t experienced since I first started Dark Souls 2, and it was more than welcome.

So after making it through hell and back, you finally reach the next area. By looking at the bonfire locations, you can see that you are about half way to the end of the level. Sword in hand (or spear or hammer or what have you) you step through the fog gate. And basically, you mind goes through these phases exactly: “Oh, good, at least it isn’t a boss fight.” Soon followed by “Oh good, dinosaurs.” Now, with that little gem for you to mull over, I feel that this would be a pretty good place to stop. While I’m being as vague as I can, in the end, going any further would really ruin too much. However, it is probably for the best anyway. I’m sure you have the general idea, and taking this any further would really just sort of be beating a dead horse. Why not keep things fresh?

Over all, I was pretty impressed with this installment of DLC. It might not have been quite as hard as the first game; but in the end, I feel like it was enough to freshen things up a bit, and it provided a good challenge for those craving the same sense of desperation and difficulty that the first game provided. It was engaging, atmospheric, and had some boss fights that put the rest of this game to shame. As a matter of fact, I skipped an entire area of this DLC. solely to make sure that one of these bosses wasn’t ruined. I still don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that, without revealing anything, it was probably one of the coolest boss fights of the entire game, so look forward to that.
Crown of the Sunken King was just what this game needed. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. In fact, some areas were just a little bit too difficult, with the enemies being less of a challenge, and more of an overpowered mess, while others were slightly too easy, with enemies feeling like rehashed generic baddies with clubs. However, Fromsoft was able to use these enemies, in conjunction with the dazzling area, to make a DLC worth buying. And if the rest of the DLC episodes are as good as this, you might as well save yourself the money and buy the full season pass.

Summary

  • Very good Challenge
  • Small mini challenges that call back to the first game
  • Plenty of treats to reward exploration
  • Enough level to last the play at least a few hours
  • Some enemies a bit too overpowered
  • Some enemies can be a bit dull (though it isn’t a game breaker)

8.5/10

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Rise of The Tomb Raider Xbox Exclusivity is Timed http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/08/14/rise-tomb-raider-xbox-exclusivity-timed/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/08/14/rise-tomb-raider-xbox-exclusivity-timed/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:15:57 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6450 Well, that quickly became old news. In response to the reaction against Rise of the Tomb Raider XBox exclusivity announcement at Gamercom 2014, Xbox boss Phil Spencer confirmed that Microsoft’s exclusivity deal is[...]

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Well, that quickly became old news.

In response to the reaction against Rise of the Tomb Raider XBox exclusivity announcement at Gamercom 2014, Xbox boss Phil Spencer confirmed that Microsoft’s exclusivity deal is limited in an interview with Eurogamer. Spencer declined to confirm the length of this exclusivity and wouldn’t speak on Square Enix’s behalf. He did compare the deal made with Crystal Dynamics to other Xbox One games such as Dead Rising and Ryse, which will also launch on PC.

Essentially Spencer washed his hands of the curiously worded announcements, stating it was not his responsibility:

I don’t own every iteration of Tomb Raider.  I don’t own them [Crystal Dynamics] building Tomb Raider on other platforms. I can’t talk about the franchise that way. I can talk about the deal I have…There are certain things I’m just not going to talk about because it’s a business deal between us and them. Obviously the deal does have a duration. I didn’t buy the IP in perpetuity.

While Spencer’s statement is valid, the whole debacle continues to fuel dissent across the gamer community.  Many angry gamers have accused publishers like Square Enix of selling out and alienating their customers. It would not be surprising to suppose that this affair has also convinced also some people not to by the title at all.

Hopefully developers and publishers alike will be more careful with how they word future press releases and statements.  But for the most part, it’s back to business as usual.

 Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action-adventure title coming exclusively to Xbox consoles during the 2015 holiday period. Duration of exclusivity and release dates on other consoles are yet to be announced.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider announced as an Xbox One Exclusive http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/08/13/rise-tomb-raider-announced-xbox-one-exclusive/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/08/13/rise-tomb-raider-announced-xbox-one-exclusive/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:58:46 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6431 In a surprising move during Microsoft’s Gamescom 2014, Crystal Dynamics announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider is to be released exclusively on the Xbox One. Below is the conference footage to prove it. To[...]

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In a surprising move during Microsoft’s Gamescom 2014, Crystal Dynamics announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider is to be released exclusively on the Xbox One. Below is the conference footage to prove it.

To add further validity to the announcement, Darrell Gallagher, Crystal Dynamics’ head of studio, also released the following open letter on Tomb Raider’s official tumblr explaining the decision to keep Lara Croft on solely on Microsoft’s gaming platforms:

Dear Tomb Raider Community,

As you may have seen, we’ve just announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox. We consider all of you to be the lifeblood of Tomb Raider and the work we do at Crystal. I’d like to give you some insight into this decision, and why we feel this is the very best thing for the Tomb Raider sequel we’re creating at the studio.

Tomb Raider in 2013 was a success due in large part to your continued support. Our goal has always been to deliver something truly special with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Today’s announcement with Microsoft is one step to help us put Tomb Raider on top of action adventure gaming. Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past – we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.

This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.

We know that there are probably many more questions and concerns. Please do send them to us, and we’ll answer to the best of our ability. Meanwhile we’re going all out to try and make something truly special – the most ambitious Tomb Raider game ever built.

Despite the assurances put forward by Crystal Dynamics, the gamer community has been set ablaze with criticism for the decision. It has escalated to the point a petition to Square Enix has been made in the hopes of the decision being reversed. While it seems this is a definite confirmation that Rise of the Tomb Raider is a set exclusive, there are still gamers who cling to the hope that it could still be a timed one.

But let us know what you think below in the comments!

Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action-adventure title coming exclusively to Xbox One during the holiday 2015 period. 

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ArcheAge Beta – Preview (Beta First Impressions) http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/08/12/archeage-beta-first-impressions/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/08/12/archeage-beta-first-impressions/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 14:14:36 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6396 Not long ago I quit playing Guild Wars 2 simply because it couldn’t quite scratch my particular itch and I was having trouble finding some good friends to play with, but not[...]

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Not long ago I quit playing Guild Wars 2 simply because it couldn’t quite scratch my particular itch and I was having trouble finding some good friends to play with, but not once since then have I looked back and thought:

“You know, I would have liked Guild Wars 2 if it was the horrific lovechild of RaiderZ and Mount & Blade.”

So here I present to you Archeage, the horrific love child of RaiderZ and Mount & Blade. Developed by the Korean company XL Games, this MMO seems to be attempting to create a living world by having a strong emphasis on crafting and trade. Sort of like EVE Online but without the benefit of a mysterious and vast setting. The economy, the judicial system and more look to be almost entirely constructed from the participation of the playerbase. So perhaps a more accurate comparison would be Face of Mankind if it chose to mimic Tera. I’m being too harsh with all of these comparisons, aren’t I? Well I don’t seem to be able to help myself, this game was a chore and did nothing to grab me. If I was not committed to the beta for the benefit of you readers, I am unsure I would have kept the thing on my hard drive for this long. I’ll try to be more even-handed from here on out but I make no guarantee.

Archeage is quite clearly inspired by Guild Wars 2‘s aesthetics and it really isn’t wise to remind me of other games that I’d rather play (I said I wouldn’t guarantee anything). Lush vibrant colours and a character style riding the fine line between realistic and fantasy. Your exposition comes in the form of mosaic-like boards that feature very slight motion and a voice-over just like in Guild Wars 2 and it looks like it is trying to find a happy medium between a small quickbar for lots of combinations and a large amount of slotted powers. Animations are not the greatest thing in the world but I don’t begrudge an MMO for having janky motion. I do begrudge it for having animations I can’t easily interrupt during combat because this makes for long and painfully sluggish fighting where it really is just two entities standing opposite and taking turns to smack each other. However Archeage seems to be really proud of its player-driven economy! Surely this means that combat is not absolutely required and one could quite happily make a living through honest craftsmanship and trading? Well, yes, but I wouldn’t exactly say the mechanics support such a thing due to the existence of ‘Labour Points’ which dictate how much you are able to craft or train your professions. You gain these points by being logged on and not logged off, so you can’t log on at the start of the day to see a fresh bulk of Labour Points. What these seem to be made to do is cause players to cycle through the different modes, to craft a little and then take on some other jobs while their labour points refresh.  I wholeheartedly disagree with the decision to force players to do new things before they feel like it since you are only going to discourage people from logging back on if all they want to do is a little crafting, but they know their points will only refresh if they spend time doing other stuff.

But I feel a more direct description of my experience would give you all a better picture of what to expect rather than me picking out particularly egregious examples of strange design. You will immediately be struck by how detailed the character creator actually is once you suss out its slightly unintuitive design, though I can’t understand why there is a lack of body sliders; I presume this is because the armour isn’t suitable for scaled body proportions but I’m not sure what the point of letting us even have such a detailed head customisation if we are later going to be bogged down by hoods, cowls and helmets.

Then we come to the classes of Archeage, which, at first glance, I didn’t find all too interesting. But there almost seems to be an “open-power” system here, which means that players are not strictly tied to a class’ set of abilities and powers, but are instead allowed to pick and choose from other classes. You would think they would put a little bit more emphasis on this system and go whole-hog with it like Champions Online did. Instead you pick a starter class, then later on you are allowed to pick up to two more classes to add onto your character. The issue I take with this is that (at the time of playing) stats are handled in rather specific terms. Magic Damage or Physical Defense not being derivatives of larger modifiers like ‘Charisma’ or ‘Dexterity’ and are instead their own standalone entities. This makes gearing a hybrid class a pain as you can either try and split your gear preferences to have weaker overall performance, or weaken your physical severely to have decent magical stats (and vice versa). But if you do that then why do you not just pick all three magical classes so that they are all suitably strengthened by your gear? Immediately six classes has been boiled down to two. Mmh, well. If you say so, Archeage.

After creating my character I find myself washed up on a beach along with the crowds of other players, where we are quickly beset upon by the ravenous NPCs who are all too eager to exploit our protagonism. Thus, after just a few minutes I am told to go to a forest clearing and kill some boars for their meat (that doesn’t always drop). This is usually the point where I would tell the game to stick that quest somewhere obscene but I thought I should persevere. The chain of quests would progress as such – get lots of quests that have a single objective: ‘Talk to this person’ until finally somebody gives you a real task. This task is killing 3 of something or collecting 3 of something off of objects located near enemies or following some step-by-step instructions for one of the game’s side mechanics that don’t seem to add much. Also your character is THE CHOSEN ONE with a special glowing birthmark to prove it – but then so is every single other player in the game, so good job on diminishing your player’s sense of importance by putting a singleplayer story into your MMO. This game is simply a messy attempt at standing out.

Extraneous features such as naval combat and trade missions exist but as I understand it, since Archeage is the typical MMO at its core I do not really see these extras being a reason to choose it over other games on the market. What is going to make people choose Archeage over their already established roster of characters on other games? MMOs do not have the luxury of being able to get away with having many similarities to other games because of the investment required.

What I’m saying is, the market for cooldown-babysitting wolf-hunting forest-clearing simulators has already been cornered long ago.

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Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms – Preview (Early Access Impressions) http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/23/early-access-review-shadows-heretic-kingdoms/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/23/early-access-review-shadows-heretic-kingdoms/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:42:57 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6223 When I first opened this game, I played for 11 minutes. I had to go lie down afterwards. I tried again. 6 minutes this time. This game is sapping my[...]

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When I first opened this game, I played for 11 minutes. I had to go lie down afterwards. I tried again. 6 minutes this time. This game is sapping my strength. Then I played more and more, determined to find something that could justify the £23 (!!!) price tag. I didn’t. It’s not a horrendous game! It’s not even bad! It’s just unfinished. Clearly, because it’s in Early Access! Missing voice-acting, placeholder animations, the whole lot, explained by the game being in a Pre-Alpha state. This perplexes me beyond belief. But.. I’ll get to all of this later. There’s a game here (barely) that I need to talk about.

Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is attempting to put a spin on the Diablo-style dungeon crawler. You’ve got your overhead camera, your loot fascination and your different character classes. The kicker is that you are all the characters at once – to some extent. You play as a ‘Devourer'; a summoned spirit of some description that has the ability to devour souls and create ‘Puppets’ that allow you to interact with the physical world. You switch between these different puppets (and yourself) to solve puzzles within dungeons and to access new areas since the Devourer occupies a different realm of existence. So what you’ve got is multiple character classes at once and a dual world mechanic. Maybe it is just because not much of the game is accessible in this Pre-Alpha but I did feel that all of these different states worked well together. I was worried it would get chaotic, but at least in this pre-alpha it works nicely. That’s… about all I can come up with for the positive side. Really. The core concept of this game is neatly packaged, thumbs up. But what possible critiques can I give to a game this early in development?

I’ve got just a few. The combat makes me sad. It is flaccid, weak. I picked a Warrior soul to devour and puppet, the Warrior comes with an AoE hammer smash attack. In any other game this would be an earth-shaking mighty blow that decimates enemies. In Shadows however, it feels like I’m swatting the floor with a mop, and that’s just depressing! Another thing, the Devourer and each puppet draws from a separate experience pool. So you will be running through each dungeon twice essentially, once for the puppet you want to level, then again for the Devourer. Why is that a thing? That shouldn’t be a thing. There are also no checkpoints, meaning you have to save for yourself, lest you are kicked back and forced to start an entirely new game. This game is flawed, true, but I can’t tell what flaws are a result of bad design or a result of the game’s unfinished state due to how unbelievably early this game is in its development.

Do you remember those discs you got in magazines? They were full of demos for new games? Why are demos a dying art? When a dev wanted to build hype for a new game, they just created one or two levels and polished it up. Nowadays? They release their game for full price in an unfinished state and promise you that “No, really! This game will be worth the money eventually!”. You know, Minecraft was worth the money it asked back in Alpha. Because in that state, it was already a vast sandbox full of creative tools. Shadows is a skeleton, hardly even that, it’s half a ribcage. Early Access is not the right program for this game.

My message to readers is DO NOT buy the game in its current state. There isn’t enough here to even tell you if there is a good game coming in the future. My message to the developers is, you made a bad choice with Early Access. You are potentially harming your game with this business model where a free demo bundled with one of your previous games would do a much better job. Excitement for a game can be generated in many more ways than squeezing money out of people for an unfinished product.

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Stronghold Crusader 2: System Requirements, Closed Beta and Final Speculations Prior to Release http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/23/stronghold-crusader-2-system-requirements-closed-beta-final-speculations-prior-release/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/23/stronghold-crusader-2-system-requirements-closed-beta-final-speculations-prior-release/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 06:47:35 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6305 With Stronghold Crusader 2 set to launch on September 2 2014 there’s little time left to speculate on how well the game could do in the light of its predecessor.  Since showcasing[...]

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With Stronghold Crusader 2 set to launch on September 2 2014 there’s little time left to speculate on how well the game could do in the light of its predecessor.  Since showcasing the game at E3 2014, Firefly Studios has really pulled out their guns to try and get more player on board.

Since my last article on the upcoming title, I’ve been interested in the content of subsequent information releases.  Finally departing from exploring their Arab-themed counterparts, the developers have introduced two medieval European AI, Richard the Lionheart and the Rat, who also happen to be iconic characters of the Stronghold franchise in general.  I’m also hoping that there will also be new AI opponents with a western background but that is probably unlikely.

Map sizes have also been a subject of interest and it’s great that not only is the map editor included (unsurprisingly) but will there be extra large map sizes at release.  On somewhat of an unrelated note, a personal peeve when I played Stronghold games is scrolling to the map’s edge.  In the original Stronghold Crusader moving past the map edge was impossible.  But in comparison, the amount of useless black space players could scroll into in other Stronghold installments was terrible.  I’m still not really sold on having the map edge depicted as a dotted line as shown in this title’s E3 2014 stage demo.  It’s also annoying that AI movement continues to appear clunky and I’m just going to have to conclude that it’s a limitation of programming and design.  In addition to the map discussions, I’ve found it strange that Firefly Studios had to make a big deal about the inclusion of  core gameplay units like the siege engineer.  I suppose it was necessary as legitimate developmental reasons initially caused these units to be scrapped. But it concerned me that the developers could be cutting out some of the mechanics and units present in the original.  I personally did not find fault in them, and hopefully these aspects have all been expanded on as expected of a good sequel.

Besides those issues I don’t have any other prospective criticisms for Stronghold Crusader 2.  From the footage seen in the stage demo I was impressed even with the small gameplay nuances such as the camera flexibility or the layout of the user interface (UI). The E3 demo has also made me interested in what the game has to offer.  I cannot wait to find out how the management of a keep’s economy and military works, which in turn has also made me curious about the variety of game modes, campaigns and co-op instances. The introduction of environmental hazards, such as locust swarms and desert tornadoes, has also made me excited which add more layers of complexity.  And aesthetically the game continues to look quite appealing, particularly with the environmental textures.  I also appreciate that the developers have also ensured that their game is rooted well in its historic era (that is the Middle East circa 1189), so the technology and terrain is faithful to the reality of that period.  So even though I believe the developers have hinted at DLCs forthcoming in the future, the base game for Stronghold Crusader 2 looks and feels as though it is packed with content.

Visually the game continues to boast a plethora of improvements and new buildings in comparison to the original. For example, veteran players can probably pick out here that mounted siege equipment now have their own wooden platforms.

The announcement commencing closed beta testing earlier this week has also made me hopeful for the title’s success, especially since watching the E3 demo.  The game is essentially feature-complete since it has entered this phase, and expectantly the period will be spent optimising the game’s performance on PC and tweaking gameplay.  Firefly Studios has continued to affirm their dedication to making Stronghold Crusader 2 a game that still retains all of the original’s positives:

Our stated goal with Crusader 2 was to create the best 3D Stronghold game yet and that’s exactly what we intent to deliver.  Everyone here at Firefly wants the playability of the 2D Stronghold titles within a 3D space…

But given their track record, the developers still have to prove that they are capable of creating worthy sequels.  And if memory also serves me correctly, beta testing for other Stronghold installments didn’t save them from how terrible they were. But this is where Stronghold Crusader 2’s new 3D engine, authentic castle simulation and real time destruction powered by Havok Physics gets interesting.  I appreciate that Firefly Studios has so far shown that they seem to be handling this sequel in respect to the first game to the point that they are doing their best to ensure that it can run on a variety of systems.  As such the minimum PC system requirements for Stronghold Crusader 2 are as follows:

  • Operating System: Windows® XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8 (latest service packs) with DirectX 9.0c
  • Processor: Intel Core2 Duo 2Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Video: NVIDIA® GeForce® 8800GT 512MB or AMD Radeon™ HD 2900XT 512MB or better
  • Storage: 6 GB available HD space
  • Internet: Broadband Internet connection

Stronghold Crusader 2 is a sim castle builder set for PC release on September 2 2014.  It will be available for purchase in physical copies and on Steam.

 

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Transistor – Review http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/16/transistor-review/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/16/transistor-review/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 12:08:04 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6194 Okay, so before anything else is said, let me just say this: Transistor is beautiful, fast-paced, and a definite must-have for gamers everywhere. Made by Supergiant, the makers of the[...]

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Okay, so before anything else is said, let me just say this: Transistor is beautiful, fast-paced, and a definite must-have for gamers everywhere. Made by Supergiant, the makers of the critically acclaimed Bastion, Transistor is a plot-driven RPG full of action and combat. By taking the familiar and successful elements of Bastion, adding a new and unique twist to them, and throwing them into a truly amazing world unlike anything I’ve seen, Supergiant has once again made a product that is almost more of a masterpiece than it is a game.

In a city known as Cloudbank, you play as Red, a famous singer known for her talent, and controversial pieces on the government. After an assassination attempt, from a group known as the Camerata, ends with an unnamed man taking the fall in your place, you gain possession of the sword used for the job: the Transistor. Now, with the voice of the man within the sword, and your voice completely gone, you must try to uncover what is happening, and how to stop it.

When first starting Transistor, there is no menu, nor credits. A small loading screen is immediately followed by the game itself, throwing the character directly into the fray. While it may sound a little chaotic, I personally love the idea. Game developers everywhere strive to make their games more and more immersive, but what better way to get the player into the action than getting rid of the main menu entirely. Nearly everyone just taps “A” like a lunatic to get to playing anyway, so just letting you out of the stables by skipping straight to the game is appreciated.

Turn()
After a short sequence solely there to completely screw with your mind (no specifics, spoilers and whatnot), you get to the meat of the game itself. Transistor totes a top-down, third-person combat mechanic. It’s a tad bit like Diablo, but the movement and combat is far more fluid, allowing fights to be a bit more fast paced. However, what really sets Transistor apart from just about any other game is its “Turn()” mechanic. At short intervals, you can go into a planning phase, where you can coordinate a mix of movement and attacks to devastate your foes. Normal combat exists, and is still very gratifying and rapid; but being able to stop the action at a moment’s notice, and coordinate a devastating chain of attacks, allows an otherwise overwhelming situation to become manageable, and helps you to turn the tables at almost any point in time. However, you are very limited in what you can do in this phase, and have to wait a decent bit of time before you can attack again at all, be it normally or while time is stopped, so there is a certain risk/reward situation here that forces you to be careful and not overdo it.

Customizing
Yet another aspect of Transistor that caught my eye was the combat customization. A wide array of moves can be collected throughout the game, by either discovery or leveling up. This alone offers a nice, regular reward. Leveling up was exciting, and gave me something to really look forward to; instead of just showing me a number that represented me being “better”, I gained whole new abilities, each bringing something different to the table. It makes things feel more tangible than simply increased skills, and really makes leveling a treat.

But what really makes Transistor’s combat unique is just how far the customization goes. Usually, one gained ability will be passive, while another is active, and so on and so forth. But when it comes to the moves gained in Transistor, each one has an ability for each category. By matching the move’s respective ability to the category best suited for you, your move set, passives, attacks, and effects, are all tailor-made to your preferences. You can even mix attacks together in order to enhance them with extra abilities (for example, a fast, short-range move, after enhancing it with a slow but long-range attack, will give you a fast and long range move). The level of custom fitting your moves to your design is something I have never seen taken as far as it is in Transistor. It may sound a little confusing written out like this, but trust me, I almost had as much fun just mixing and matching all the different goodies I had gotten from leveling as I did from actually playing the game. My only complaint I have about this mechanic, is the menu designed to use it.

When entering the menu for customization, every single attack you have is just thrown into your face. In order to see which attacks are where, you have to choose one of them, and “pretend” that you want to equip it. Basically, you have to lie to the game in order to see what moves are actually being used. Sure, the attacks equipped are highlighted in the first menu, but which one is equipped as a passive, or an attack, or an effect? Well, the menu has no answers for you, so it becomes a safari adventure to see what attacks are being used and where. It might sound unimportant, but when you get a brand spanking new attack, and are trying to find out how to use it, not actually being able to see if that one attack you got a while back (and promptly forgot about) is actually an attack, effect, or passive, and having to click “Install Move” just to see that you don’t actually want to install that move, but that other one you got from the very start of the game, gets a little tiring after the first few tries. Still, I feel like the genius of the customizing mechanic outweighs this, but to say that this clumsy menu is no biggie is a blatant lie.

Combat
Well, making the moves is fun enough, but how do they work in actual combat? Not bad, but not all that good either. The personalized moves let the combat feel comfortable, and is overall pretty fast-paced. But honestly, I wasn’t as blown away as I thought I would be. For one, most of your moves are a tad bit too slow. I mean, there are a ton of rapid attacks, but I feel like almost 60% of the moves aren’t fast enough to be very functional. A lot of your enemies are very fast, and with the fighting areas usually being relatively small, they tend to cover a lot of ground very quickly. Meanwhile, an attempt to do any injury while you’re getting bum rushed results in one hit on the enemy, and your face getting torn clean off. When in Turn(), just about all disfunctionality is gone, but unless combat was meant to be carried out entirely in this phase, I feel like many of these moves could use a good overhaul. Still, fighting is very fun, and makes up for this shortcoming by being extremely forgiving. When you “die” you aren’t sent back to your last checkpoint. Instead, you simply lose the right to use one of your moves for a while. Of course, when all equipped moves are gone (you are allowed 4 at a time), then you do actually die, but I feel like this is a pretty good trade-off. In fact, it almost feels like Supergiant knew that combat was a little shaky, and decided to balance things out by making death much less punishing. But whether or not this was the intention, this mechanic allows combat to remain fast and fun. It could have been better, but it is more than enough to keep the game interesting.

Plot
So, I have covered just about all mechanical aspects of this game that are worth mentioning, but what about the game itself? Is the story good? Well, to summarize in one word: absolutely. When it comes to indie games, I’ve seen plenty that go all out in an attempt to make a plot worth listening to, and honestly, I cannot confidently say that any of them have gotten close to the level that Transistor has. It is quite simply brilliant, throws you loop after loop, keeps you engaged and anxious to see what is coming up, and most of all, paints a world which is truly stunning. For the sake of preserving as much of the experience as I can, I’m not going to say anything about what actually happens, but talking about the world itself won’t do too much harm.

Environment
The world of Cloudbank is a lot like Tron. Everything is described with computer code, “random events” are programmed and preset, and people get to vote on what will happen and when. Even events such as whether or not it should rain are all determined through votes. Already, this concept is pretty impressive. However, Supergiant took it one step further. Most games would make sure that you were up to date by giving you an opening cut scene brimming with exposition, and technically, that is all fine and dandy. But with Transistor, you are left to figure things out on your own. The only exposition you get is a visual of a person’s conscious being downloaded into your “sword”; but when you see events such as, or similar to that, over and over again, you start to put the pieces together, and formulate for yourself what this world is. Basically, by feeding you small hint after small hint, Transistor shows you just enough for you to figure things out by yourself, allowing the full depth of the world to be retained. See, in a game where everything is just explained right from the get-go, the experience can (in some cases) be a little dulled. We already know what the world will be like, and are prepared for the subtle nuances and quirks that it has to offer, leaving just a little to be truly discovered for ourselves. But when you toss the player into an outlandish world with no explanation or preparation, they are almost forced to experience the awe, making it far more exciting.

In Conclusion…
All in all, Transistor is one of the more impressive games that I have played to date. It has a couple of issues here and there, but what game doesn’t. Plus, what it may slightly lack in combat and comprehensive menus, it majorly makes up for with an unforgettable plot, beautiful art style, amazing soundtrack, and an ending that’ll leave your jaw sufficiently dropped.

Transistor is out now for PC.

Summary

  • Customizable movesets unlike anything I’ve seen before
  • Leveling up is very rewarding
  • Fantastic AAA-level plot
  • Art and music both stunning
  • Combat could do with a little tweaking
  • Customization menu overwhelming and annoying

8.9/10

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Ascendant – Review http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/06/ascendant-review/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/07/06/ascendant-review/#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 22:37:16 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6238 Art and video games have a love-hate relationship. Many developers, and players, want games to be viewed in the same light as movies or music, and have them acknowledged for their creativity. This[...]

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Art and video games have a love-hate relationship. Many developers, and players, want games to be viewed in the same light as movies or music, and have them acknowledged for their creativity. This has been disputed time and time again by prolific opponents, and many players shun the concept as silly and simply unrequired. No matter how long the debate rages on, it’s impossible to dispute the fact that some games are made with nothing more than a pure, artistic vision. Some games are dragged down by this design philosophy, with the core gameplay suffering to make way for gorgeous visuals, and concepts completely outside the norm. Other games manage to use this sort of beautiful art design to create backdrops to excellently executed gaming experiences.

This is the challenge that Ascendant, a beat-em-up roguelike, has set for itself. As soon as the game begins, one thing is very clear: Ascendant is a beautiful game. The colors are vibrant and plentiful, with blues, oranges, reds, and greens combined in ways that give the game a very distinctive, and well-thought-out look. Using the four seasons as the inspiration for level design, each stage of the game has a distinct look and color pallete which, as stated before, is beautiful to behold. And though the soundtrack is simple in nature, the sounds present serve to enhance the visuals in a big way. Most of the music has a calm tone, which contrasts with the hectic nature of the hack and slash combat.

Putting you in the shoes of one of seven demi-god characters, you are tasked with raising yourself to full god status—hence the title. You do this by battling through the seasons of the year, going through both an early and late section of both. After you have completed these eight levels, you will progress through a final stage called ‘astral’. Astral is a fair degree longer than the previous levels, and will challenge your mastery of the game, easily providing the highest difficulty of the entire game. Once you manage to beat the game with a particular character, then that demi-god will be counted as ‘ruling the world’, and will grant an extra buff to the other gods as you play.

What makes Ascendant so special, even among the flood of games using the rogue formula, is that the meticulously crafted art approach is not just surface deep. In fact, in the brawler, the art is only its secondary strength. Ascendant really shines thanks to a set of rock solid combat mechanics that are easy to learn, but much more difficult to truly master.

Gameplay for Ascendant takes place on a two-dimensional plane, where you will platform around the randomly generated levels, slaying enemies to earn powerups and progress. At the end of each level, you will fight a boss character. Some of these bosses are notoriously simple, such as the goblin like Grunty at the end of stage one. Other bosses, as you will discover quite quickly, are far more difficult, and will push your knowledge of the movement and combat systems as far as possible. You will find yourself simultaneously dodging the attacks of the boss, dealing with the minions that often spawn with bosses, and trying to deal damage.

In some cases, you can have multiple potential bosses at the end of the level. This often makes the boss battle at the end of a stage feel like Russian roulette. If a simple boss is fought, the player will have more health remaining at the end of the conflict, and will thus have an easier time in the next level. Likewise, a more challenging boss is taxing, and escaping the fight itself is enough to make a player feel accomplished. If they manage to escape with more health though? Then the feeling of accomplishment is insurmountable as health is easily the most valuable resource.

It’s difficult to stress just how well the mechanics in Ascendant work. From the basic action of stringing together small combos on the ground, to the trickier and far flashier act of mixing melee with air juggles and magic to make your enemies your own personal playthings. Every nut and bolt within the game just feels right. Again, this is what is so impressive about Ascendant.

Happa Games, the developer, has even managed to make great use of an often fumbled aspect of the genre. Levels in Ascendant are procedurally generated. More often than not, this leads to levels feeling forced or unnatural, and ruins the flow of the game. In Ascendant, this is not the case; levels just feel right. Never do you walk into a room and feel like it was just created. Instead, it flows well, with enemies and rewards positioned in ways that make sense, and even manage to look good. After seeing many games fail at precisely this, it’s difficult to not give Ascendant praise for this seemingly small feat.

When talking about Ascendant, there isn’t a huge amount to be said. The game is beautiful both visually and technically. It is fun, difficult, and fair all at the same time. It suffers in very few points around the board. You will see the same enemies over and over again, with little changing aside from the aesthetic of the levels, which just boils down to some changed effects, and a new splash of paint. Across the staggering variety of weapons and spells, nothing truly feels unique and your play style will stay the same no matter what you are wielding.

Thankfully, in the end, these faults are minor, and one thing is very clear. Ascendant is the best entry in a genre that has been saturated constantly as of late, and anyone who appreciates both art and gameplay should play it. It is worth it.

Ascendant is out now for PC.

Summary

  • Mechanics are tight and precise
  • Beautiful art direction
  • Combat is fun, allowing you to feel both powerful and fallible all at the same time
  • Limited variety of enemies can get boring
  • Weapons boil down to stat changes and nothing more

8/10

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ReviewMango’s Best of E3 2014 http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/21/reviewmangos-best-e3-2014/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/21/reviewmangos-best-e3-2014/#comments Sat, 21 Jun 2014 14:41:04 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6079 Whereas last year’s E3 was largely dominated by new hardware announcements, this year has been “all about the games”. Having had some time to digest the deluge of information, we each[...]

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Whereas last year’s E3 was largely dominated by new hardware announcements, this year has been “all about the games”. Having had some time to digest the deluge of information, we each discuss and break down our favourites from this year’s show.

 

Seathe Linden

Out of everything showcased this year the one title I’m really yearning for is Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Bloodborne. Seriously, his games have created a whole new benchmark for games in general and in themselves are quite the works of art. Although I was pretty bummed that there were a few games announced this season that aren’t going to be released until next year like Rise of the Tomb Raider (another game I’m also looking forward to). Seriously what’s up with that?

But with there are plenty of other games that I can’t wait to play. The Assassin’s Creed games are my one guilty pleasure.  While the series is becoming dry for some players, I always enjoy exploring Ubisoft’s recreations of historical environments.  Not to mention that the multiplayer looks absolutely gorgeous in Assassin’s Creed: Unity. The gameplay footage for Batman: Arkham Knight, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Far Cry 4 was fantastic. And while I didn’t really see too much eye candy for these games, Mirror’s Edge 2 and Stronghold Crusader 2 are both games I’m keen to get my hands on.

It was also good to see that some companies learned from their mistakes from last year. After the X-Bone debacle, Microsoft resumed trying to satisfy their hardcore audience by focusing on promoting games which was a good call. Nintendo also had some pretty good games to showcase. Both the Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Warriors and the Legend of Zelda working title looked exciting, but that’s probably because I’m quite the sucker for that series. And with Bayonetta 2 looking swankier than ever, I might just be tempted to buy a WiiU.

Overall the promotion of capabilities of next-gen consoles was quite enthralling. For me at least, Microsoft’s announcement for the Master Chief Collection was pretty swell. But hopefully things won’t be too over-hyped this time around.

Callum Taylor

I don’t think there even is a “best” here. Looking back on all the coverage, I can only pluck one or two names that registered on my Intrigue-o-meter. The gamer community seems to unanimously agree that the focus on software as opposed to hardware was all around a good thing and that’s a sentiment I share. But was the software any good? We got more information on the yearly Call of Duty sequel, Advanced Warfare, which I find is becoming more and more desperate to find new ways to make the game fresh ever since it perfected the Arcade Twitch style of shooter back in CoD 4. Dying Light was also a stand-out contender with the Dead Rising/Mirrors Edge mechanics. The fact I haven’t heard of any controversy surrounding development is a good sign, no graphics downgrades and no console issues in sight. No Man’s Sky takes the prize for ambition if it really wants to follow through on the scale it claims the in-game galaxy will be, the blank-slate approach to player equipment and skills also looks like it will allow for any number of characters. A pleasing prospect for roleplayers, if it did not have some worrying information on the game’s website.

“Choose whether to share your discoveries with other players. They’re exploring the same vast universe in parallel; perhaps you’ll make your mark on their worlds as well as your own.”

Will this be asymmetrical multiplayer such as Dark Souls or are we looking at an MMO? Introverts never seem to catch a break.

However, the show wasn’t without hiccups. Ubisoft caught some flak when a promotional image for Assassin’s Creed: Unity showed 4 identical grizzled white dudes (who are actually the same character, Arno), prompting some gamers to ask the question ‘Why can we not play a female instead?’ and thus igniting discussions (read: arguments) over whether allowing the option of being a female is acceptable in forums across the web. Dead Rising 3 is going to have issues on the PC release, locked at 30fps, showing how much of an afterthought the port itself was. Debates as to which of the big 3 ‘won’ the whole of E3 too. But can anybody be called a winner when even the simple act of presenting a game in the works has quite a good chance of causing negative buzz through short-sightedness or neglect?

Nathan Hayman

Following on from the last two E3s, Ubisoft have continued their fine form, winning the show for me for the third year running. I was left gleaming when the likes of Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4 (two of my absolute favourite franchises) and The Division (which to me appears to be the next big step in the gaming industry) were shown to us. However, while these games left me feeling dread for a depleted bank account, the one game which completely blew my socks off was of course, the return to the Rainbow series, or more precisely the reveal of Rainbow Six: Siege.

This new version of Rainbow plays into everything I have ever wanted, a CQB, SWAT-like Ubisoft title. While the demo played to us was heavily scripted, even going as far to use include some ridiculous “gaming communication”, it left me wanting more, and then some. For me the next year is completely owned by Ubisoft, nothing Microsoft or Sony showed moved to the levels Ubisoft managed to push.

While I have covered my positives I feel its important to add my one major criticism of E3 this year – SONY. I wanted them to come out and persuade me to buy their PS4 platform (being a PC gamer) but they showed me NOTHING which made me think “I should go and buy a PS4″ (insert thinking cat meme here) – instead of focusing on third party devs (I’m looking at you Sony, and Microsoft) I think they should purely focus on their first party devlopers, leaving EA and Ubisoft the full limelight to show off their multi-platform titles.

Jason Dafnis

I’d be lying if I said that I followed this year’s E3 as closely as I wanted to (work and internship preparation have a nasty way of taking time away from dirt-poor gamers), but I will say that several showcased titles tickled my fancy. Heck, I’ll even tell you why. But as excited as I am for each of the following titles, I can’t help but play devil’s advocate; there was at least one aspect of each of the following games that nagged—and continues to nag—at my optimism.

UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END

In my opinion, Nathan Drake’s next foray will be the PlayStation 4’s killer app. Beautiful presentation (we already know that the E3 reveal trailer was made with in-game graphics) and a certain return of classic Uncharted gunplay will be enough to make me finally fork up the money for a new-gen system. I truly cannot wait to hear and see more of A Thief’s End.

BUT…

What if it doesn’t push the series far enough? A criticism of Uncharted 3 was that, while fun and attractive on the surface, it was a lot more of the same predictable pacing seen in its predecessors. Early last-gen games like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots showed that a series can bridge the console generation gap with aplomb, but I’m still worried that franchise fatigue might follow Drake into the new gen.

LET IT DIE

I’ve been an avid fan of Suda51’s work since I first played No More Heroes. His work is so distinctive that once you become acquainted with its style, you can pretty accurately pick it out of a crowd. Lollipop ChainsawShadows of the Damned, and the No More Heroes series weren’t without their flaws, but their uniqueness made them some of my favorite titles from the last gen. Needless to say, I’m tantalized by the prospect of a next-gen Suda trip.

BUT…

Goichi Suda (A.K.A. “Suda51″) has a penchant for hitting the right notes in presentation or gameplay—but rarely both. Even with as little as we know about Let It Die, it’s safe to predict that there will be some damning flaw underneath a cool, interesting exterior. The question isn’t, “Will it fall short?”, but “How?”

NO MAN’S SKY

If what Hello Games tells us is true, they’ll give us the first game that allows us to truly explore the game world. Each of a variety of unique planets is procedurally generated and potentially uncharted, letting the player carve out their path and build their own understanding of the game world. On top of its core gameplay is a vivid, colorful art style that immediately catches the eye. No Man’s Sky might not have been the biggest game at E3 2014, but it certainly was the most interesting.

BUT…

I had to think pretty hard to come up with a “But…” for No Man’s Sky. The only concern I have is that the huge game world(s) may quickly lose their lustre under the pure weight of their own size. Countless open-world games have shown us that bigness for bigness’s sake can be as bad as limiting the player too much. It’s a con that we’ll only be able to quantify when the game releases, but there it is.

DEVIL’S THIRD

Former Ninja Gaiden developer Tomonobu Itagaki’s long-dormant Devil’s Third rounds out my non-all-inclusive list. First revealed in 2010, it has since adopted a new style and release console (it’s now a WiiU exclusive title, having been announced initially as a PS3 and Xbox 360 title). Its straight-up action track is what appeals to me: as of yet, we’ve seen no pretentious gameplay schticks or aloofness about the title. If it turns out to be as much ass-kicking fun as it looks like it is, Devil’s Third could turn out to be the WiiU’s MadWorld.

BUT…

Devil’s Third will be the first game from Valhalla Studios, a game development studio comprised of former Team Ninja members. While we’ve seen some great releases from these individuals in the past, there’s no telling if their work will come together as a cohesive whole. The game could easily fall apart by means of its own ambition if Itagaki isn’t able to maintain clear directive control.

Lucca RF

Last year I briefly mentioned it, and The Division still managed to captivate me this year. The Snowdrop Engine is creating some remarkable results, making what they showed one of the standout gameplay segments of the show for me. The weather effects, dynamic objects (paint cans exploding and splattering colour all over), and damage effects really bring the world to life. Add to that the kickass gadgets that we saw being used (taser trap, a drone that stuns enemies with strobe lights, an automated flamethrower turret, and what I can only describe as a “mini clusterbomb grenade”), and it looks to be shaping up pretty well.

No Man’s Sky hit a particular sweet spot for me: lush, colourful graphics, the promise of a theoretically infinite—yet seemingly interesting—universe to explore, and a mix of both wandering about and exploring the vast skies above—with a splash of spaceship dogfighting. If it can actually deliver on all this, and of course this is just a tease of what we’ll actually be able to do in the game, then it has the potential to be something truly big.

Being a huge Uncharted fan since back when Drake’s Fortune considerably brightened up the prospect of buying a PS3, I have a lot of confidence in Naughty Dog to do the same with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End on the PS4. While not surprising, I was extremely happy to see a slightly longer (if still quite uninformative) trailer at E3, than the teaser trailer we were previously shown. Graphically it looks fantastic (all shot in-engine, with Naughty Dog claiming that they don’t plan to employ CG cutscenes in the future), and retains the classic Uncharted vibe that makes the series stand out.

Overall, Ubisoft had the strongest showing for me, with The Division as I mentioned before, The Crew looking to add a hugely social—and open—world to the racing genre, Rainbow Six: Siege looking like a slick and polished special forces experience, and AC: Unity pushing the series’ graphical fidelity beyond even what Black Flag showed us. Of course it’s all rehearsed and we’re only treated to the good parts, but that’s the magic of E3: for a few days in the year, we can hope and dream about how these games could turn out.

Nathaniel Webner

There were a couple of things that I was really looking forward to seeing in this year’s E3. But I have to say that what I was looking forward to the most was news on truly innovative developments in the gaming world. With two new consoles just being born, this convention really defined where the gaming industry would be taking this new hardware. And it seemed to me, from what I have drawn, that how games are played is going to be changing in the upcoming months. With the numerous announcements on incoming AAA titles, came the overwhelming trend of combining single player and multiplayer in some pretty interesting ways. Of course, there are the obvious examples like Destiny, where even single player will, to an extent, involve player to player interaction, working together to meet a common goal without heavy multiplayer involvement (an idea that I think could work out very well, provided it’s not forced on gamers). However, even games such as Tom Clancys’ The Division show aspects of “multi-single player”, as players can team up in a sort of randomized co-op. This idea of single player/multiplayer crossover is defining the next gen consoles, and will be a common theme in the upcoming year. So being able to see that development all at once in E3 was truly phenomenal.

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Skyforge – The “Ascension Atlas” Breakdown http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/19/skyforge-ascension-atlas-breakdown/ http://www.reviewmango.com/2014/06/19/skyforge-ascension-atlas-breakdown/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 22:47:44 +0000 http://www.reviewmango.com/?p=6048 Following the commencement of the world-building of Aelion, Allods Online dives deeper into Skyforge with a formal introduction to the “Ascension Atlas”, a fancy name for the MMORPG’s combat and class manager. In[...]

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Following the commencement of the world-building of Aelion, Allods Online dives deeper into Skyforge with a formal introduction to the “Ascension Atlas”, a fancy name for the MMORPG’s combat and class manager. In advance, I have to say that this trailer felt more like a commercial and the more concrete information concerning this mechanic could be found on a post in the Skyforge forums.

I suppose that the term “Ascension Atlas” has an immersive quality about it. The developers have stated that the deities of Aelion are expected to both fight and constantly improve their combat abilities to adequately combat whatever monstrosities invade their planet. In many other games most skill trees feel tacked on, so it’s nice to see that the developers have let their leveling mechanic actually have some relevance to the overall lore of Skyforge. Additionally, players can only bind one player to a Skyforge account, but the bonus is that this account has access to all the classes.

But on to the actual details. First let’s take a closer look at the Atlas’ look, purpose and how to use it. Essentially the Atlas is a map of “nodes”, the term the developers have used to describe the dots on the diagram. Each node has a description, and all of them are visible from the beginning. Players can zoom in and out the Atlas interface for easy and convenient navigation.

The Atlas enables players to learn new skills, talents and unlock different classes. However, the developers have stated that at the “initial stage”, players will be able to choose from several classes and will have the ability to switch between them using a separate interface that is not connected to the Ascension Atlas. Whether this is a reference to playing Skyforge in its beta, or that the Atlas has to be unlocked later during in-game progression can only be clarified once the developers release more information.

Regardless and unsurprisingly, the Atlas is also a key instrument of character progression. For each unlocked node in the Atlas, players will receive “prestige points” that reflects the degree of character development. And obviously by participating in quests and various other activities, players can collect resources for the unlocking some of the Atlas nodes.

So far it has been confirmed that for leveling up in the Atlas there are three types of resources:

  • Rubies of Strength: increases maximum energy which in turn increases damage stats and unlocks new abilities.
  • Emeralds of Life: primarily increases defensive stats.
  • Sapphires of Knowledge: allows players to use secondary stats and learn new talents.

Additionally, abilities and talents are unique to their respective classes while stats remain a common attribute to a character regardless of how players may switch between classes. All stats gained are accumulated and saved, so should a player decide to stop playing one class and switch to another there will not be any progression loss.

Secondly comes a trickier aspect, how the Ascension Atlas itself is divided. The Atlas consists of two levels, the lower and the upper.

The “lower level” of the Atlas is dedicated to class development and where the resources stated above will be in most use. This is where skills and talents can be attained for a class. Once a class has been developed to a certain point, players will be allowed to learn a powerful ultimate ability, thus gaining access to the upper level. Below are two screenshots of this lower level to give a bit more visual context. Descriptions have been added for further clarification.

This screenshot depicts a self-contained cluster of the "lower level" of the Ascension Atlas. Once an ultimate ability has been unlocked in the "lower level", class progression will branch out and open new opportunities to refine a class' skills.

The “upper level” of the Ascension Atlas is dedicated to “global progression”. On this level other classes can be unlocked as well as “perks” in varying degrees of specialty. These special passive skills can be used by any class, unlike the class-specific abilities on the lower level. I am assuming that this described upper level consists of the golden clusters as depicted below.

On this screenshot, there is a perk the middle of the central cluster which increases critical chance, while the perk in the middle of the left cluster is the Paladin class.

A screenshot depicting the “upper level” of the Ascension Atlas.  For a guide, the perk middle of the central cluster increases critical chance, while in the far left cluster the perk in the middle unlocks the Paladin class.

But once again, this Ascension Atlas may look good in gamer theory but there is still the chance for it to completely flop or be drastically changed. Even with Skyforge’s showcase at E3 behind closed doors, the developers have admitted the game is still a work in progress and based on the results of the testing, parts of it can be changed or adjusted. Though I have to admit even if I didn’t get to actually see some actual footage the game looks pretty swell.

A photo capturing a "Skyforge" playthrough at E3.

A photo capturing a Skyforge playthrough at E3.

And aside from all the perks, abilities and stats, classes clearly play a key role in the variety within Skyforge’s experience. As the developers stated in the “Ascension Atlas” forum post:

We did not come to this decision lightly; we tried to create variety in gameplay by making each class completely unique. With this approach to character development, players will not have to spend a lot of time trying different classes or trying to pick a playstyle best suited to them.

Hopefully this also means that players could see a breakaway from the traditional MMORPG mould where endless hours are spent grinding characters up to a particular level. There will likely be some grinding involved, but hopefully it isn’t too tedious. And this also ties back to the aims of the developers trying to emphasize the uniqueness of each class and keep them balanced. It has been confirmed that there is no strict healing class so that should make gameplay interesting.

So far five classes have been named and confirmed by the developers. From left to right they are: Gunner, Paladin, Cyromancer, Beserker and Lightbinder. Unfortunately I could only find information for the Paladin and Cyromancer, but hopefully more details will be released in time.

Gunner Paladin Cyromancer Beserker Lightbinder

Perhaps this highlights the most promising aspect of Skyforge. The developers have always subtly hinted at maintaining the game through continuous improvement. Just as the developers stated there were thousands of worlds within this universe, there will be ten classes available at launch which in turn implies that there will be more classes to come. But once again it’s still a tossup as to how great these classes will be or if there will be microtransactions in order to get them.

Skyforge will soon be available on the PC. The game is currently accepting Beta sign-ups here.

The post Skyforge – The “Ascension Atlas” Breakdown appeared first on ReviewMango.

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