Video Game Review: Hearthstone

Details: Released on the PC and mobile devices. Originally released in 2014, but paid expansions are released periodically. Not really sure how many hours I’ve played since Blizzard doesn’t show that information in their client.

Hearthstone is a free to play online trading card game. Two players play against each other, summoning monsters and casting spells. When one player is out of life points, the other player wins. It’s very reminiscent of Magic: The Gathering, but so are pretty much all other card games in the genre.

Continue reading “Video Game Review: Hearthstone”

Video Game Review: Bully: Scholarship Edition

Details: Was originally released in 2006. I played it on PC with an Xbox 360 controller. I bought it off Steam for about $5. Played for about twenty hours. Made by Rockstar Games.

Most of the time, playing this game felt like a chore. This is a really old game.

Firstly, the visuals are actually not bad. This game originally came out for the PS2, which was a freaking long time ago. Luckily they up resolution-ed the game and gave it a 1080p resolution, so it looked fine on my screen. It is definitely dated though.

Gameplay was the most painful part of this game. It is essentially a combination of mini-games. In general, you run around like in a Grand Theft Auto game, more like Grand Theft Auto III and less like Grand Theft Auto V. Some of the mini games involve timed button presses, like in rhythm games. There’s also trivia and some other tracing varieties. There’s a lot of mini-games, but they aren’t very deep or substantial. The difficulty is also pretty easy, easier than a Grand Theft Auto game at least.

My biggest annoyances were that the game broke two cardinal rules of video games. The game operates on a timer that goes in real-time. At certain times you need to do certain things and there is generally a time limit on a lot of missions. The other violation is the inclusion of missions where you need protect someone controlled by shitty artificial intelligence. That means that the computer controlled character will run off and get killed regardless of what you do sometimes. There are a lot of other shitty things about this game. You should just keep in mind that this game is old and a lot of the gameplay used in this game has been removed from most modern games because developers realized how not fun they were.

The music for this game was fantastic. I was surprised how many good, original tracks there were.

The voice acting and performances were as good as any other Rockstar game, which is to say they were great. I was surprised to see that motion capture was used in this game despite how old it is. That motion capture really comes through and adds to the performances surprisingly, even though the character models are old looking.

There are some bugs. The game crashed on me lots of times throughout my play through.

The story was okay. The premise is this: Jimmy Hopkins is sent to one of the craziest boarding schools and must do his best to survive in this strange new environment. I did feel a sense of satisfaction after seeing the ending. However, there were lots of times where I wanted to quit the game. I mainly pushed on because I like finishing games. The story was not strong enough to compel me to keep playing.

While not a bad game, I would not recommend it to most people. The game is so old and outdated that I’d rather recommend something more recent. I can see how some people might enjoy it though. If it looks interesting to you, then you should probably go on YouTube and watch some gameplay videos before making the purchase.

Score: 4/10

Video Game Review: All Fallout 4 DLC (PC)

A while back I bought the season pass for Fallout 4. I enjoyed, but was largely disappointed by Fallout 4 because I was expecting more content and better graphics. In my opinion, the DLC (downloadable content) continues to follow this trend. To be more succinct, Fallout 4 and its DLC are good, not great.

To make things easier I’ll just do a quick review and score for each DLC in the chronological order they were released starting from the oldest one.

Automatron

The first DLC  for Fallout 4 was lackluster. It had some bare story moments and opted for crafting robots, which is fun for about ten minutes. When it comes to role playing games, I desire good story with a sense of discovery and adventure. This game barely offered any story in that regard. Unfortunately, many of the subsequent DLC has even less plot than this one.

Score: 3/10

Wasteland Workshop

More crafting tools and objects. You can catch monsters and have them fight each other. Also some more stuff for your settlements. No story unfortunately.

Score: 1.5/10

Far Harbor

Far Harbor is what I consider the first true story DLC for Fallout 4. A new case brought to Nick Valentine takes the player to an island known as Far Harbor. Here the player will meet new factions and solve mysteries. It was a really fun DLC with hours of content. I also enjoyed the tone of the narratives here and the art style of the island.

Score: 6.7/10

Contraptions Workshop

More tools and objects to build in your settlements. No story.

Score: 1.3/10

Vault-Tec Workshop

The idea of this DLC was a player controlled Vault similar to the Fallout Shelter app on IOS and Android. Some lousy quests and more crafting tools and objects for your settlements.

Score: 2/10

Nuka-World

The final DLC for Fallout 4 and, with Far Harbor, one of the only two DLC’s that I feel are worth their price. The player gets to investigate Nuka-World, a ruined theme park occupied by raiders. A big selling point for this DLC was that players could now play as raiders. After playing through this DLC, I can say that that draw was crap. Raiders play like any other faction. There are a number of notable missions that play out hilariously or morbidly. It was fun, but felt a little shorter than Far Harbor. My biggest complaint is the lack of playable quests. Felt like most of their budget went towards the art department rather than quest/story development. I also dislike how siding with factions is the only narrative trick in Bethesda’s bag. It’s getting boring.

Score: 6.9/10

In Conclusion

Fallout 4 and it’s DLC have been fun, if not disappointing. I expected so much more. instead I got a game that I felt like I’ve played before. A good sequel expands upon what was established before and adds something new. There was nothing new here when compared with past Fallout games. After playing this game, I really think this might be my last Fallout game, maybe even my last Bethesda game. At the very least, I will wait till future Bethesda games drop to a dirt cheap price before I purchase them.

Overal score of Fallout 4 and all its DLC: 7/10

Video Game Review: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (2014)

Details: Played on the PC for at least a hundred hours.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls is an expansion to the action role-playing game Diablo 3 which was released years ago. Diablo 3 had much controversy and in the time since Reaper of Souls was released, the general consensus on the internet is that Reaper of Souls fixes everything wrong with Diablo 3.

I’ve played a substantial amount of time on the game and my conclusion is this: it’s not worth more than $20. Currently prices are from $25 to $40, which means I don’t think it’s worth purchasing or playing.

If you need an explanation why then read on.

The expansion doesn’t add all that many changes. There’s a higher level cap for heroes. There’s a new Act for the story campaign. There’s a new hero, the Crusader (my personal favorite).

The biggest change is the inclusion of bounties and Nephalem Rifts, which fundamentally changes the endgame. I will try to explain why…

Diablo 2, the predecessor of Diablo 3, was a much beloved game that fans spent hours playing. The main attraction of the game was the constant grind of redoing quests from the story campaign in hopes of finding better equipment and items in hopes of becoming more powerful. Like in most role playing video games, when you kill an enemy, they drop items (swords, armor, etc.) which can be equipped by the player. Thus, players were encouraged to kill as many enemies as possible in hopes they would drop powerful items. It’s a mentality similar to the elderly who are addicted to slot machines. Keep doing this repetitive task and maybe you’ll get a reward. Like slot machines, I think most fans will agree they loved Diablo 2. Collecting all these powerful weapons and armors also gave players a sense of earned progression.

Diablo 3’s biggest problem was that the method used to determine whether or not loot would drop was made much more stringent. They lowered the chance powerful items would drop so that most players were stuck with crappy items, if that. It was like playing a slot machine that never won, not even small prizes. Furthermore, the developers of the game exacerbated the situation by creating the auction house; a place where players could sell their items to other players for real money. This made Diablo 3 feel more like a game of Candy Crush versus a game that rewards time and effort. Why would anyone whose not rich purchase and waste time on this game if all you needed to do was spend money to be powerful? The answer was, you wouldn’t. You’d either focus on making more money in real life or play another game.

And that’s what a lot of people did. Since most people didn’t have money/time to burn, most people hated this. Accordingly, the developers of the game have spent all their waking moments trying to fix a game that is arguably broken.

Reaper of Souls is another attempt at that. They’ve removed the auction house and bound the most powerful items to the player that finds and equips that item, thus forcing players to earn their progression as they used to and removing the possibility of “pay[ing] to win.” They’ve increased the drop rates of powerful items so that your playing of the game is positively reinforced more often.

They’ve also created bounty quests and Nephalem rift quests. After you finish the story campaign, you can switch over to Adventure Mode. Here, you do random quests (“kill x and y”) and collect items which let you open rifts. Rifts are higher level areas where you need to clear (“kill x and y again”) and get an item where you can open greater rifts. Greater rifts are a higher level that scales with how powerful your character is. Each higher level yields a higher chance of more powerful items. You can also increase the difficulty in the options menu. The longevity of the game depends on how many times you can endure grinding out dungeons before you tire of the gameplay.

As you can tell, it’s a repetitive, uninspired system. However, it’s what fans want. At least it’s what fans wanted before they left the game in droves. At the present time, barely anyone plays Diablo 3 now.

Score: 4/10 A boring game that mainly appeals to those with addictive personalities. Reaper of Souls doesn’t last long and isn’t worth it’s purchase price. Avoid this game.

On a side note, in order to play this game, a constant internet connection is required. This wasn’t the case with prior games in the franchise and, in my opinion, is a depressing step down. Clearly, Blizzard Entertainment is worried about piracy and this is one way to stop it. However, Valve’s Steam platform has already introduced a way to protect intellectual property without requiring a mandatory, constant internet connection. That Blizzard has not adopted a similar method shows how primitive and slow the company is. With the money grubbing nature of the auction house and the necessity of a constant internet connection (and this is not even going into the micro-transaction laced Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm), it’s not hard to realize that the upper management of Blizzard Entertainment care more about making money than making a satisfactory product. It’s sad to see what was once a great company with a collection of beloved, unique franchises degenerate into something like Electronic Arts. This isn’t to say that Electronic Arts is a bad company, it’s to say that Blizzard Entertainment used to be better. Now, based on their decisions for new projects and game designs, I see little difference between the two. All that likely matters to them is the bottom line (i.e. money, $$$).

Video Game Review: Mirror’s Edge (2008)

Details: Played on PC for about five hours.

This game was pretty terrible. I was relieved when it was over.

Mirror’s Edge is a game released by Electronic Arts back in 2009. The main emphasis of this game was on trying to express free running through the first person perspective. This game puts in a barely satisfactory effort in that regard, but let’s start with the good before we get to the bad.

Despite being a years-old game, Mirror’s Edge still looks amazing. I was running the game on maximum video settings and it looked great on my 1080p monitor. The art — which focuses on a clean style with bright colors contrasting with white — is also lovely to look at. I do have a bias for minimalist, clean styles (be it in video games or interior decorating), so this was right up my alley.

In regards to gameplay, Mirror’s Edge is at its best when you are running at maximum speed and free-roaming/navigating an expansive level. At its core, Mirror’s Edge is a first-person platformer/puzzle game slightly reminiscent of Portal and Portal 2. However, despite succeeding a few times, Mirror’s Edge fails by trying to take away the speed and freedom of the game and forcing the player to conform to strict, one-path level design and half-assed combat mechanics.

For example, many times throughout the game your are forced to fight enemy guards (armed with guns) or else you cannot proceed through the level. You cannot avoid them or run past them. The game only gives you a few options for combat: strike/punch/kick (which sucks and if you try, you will get killed) or disarm (which involves running up to a guards face and waiting for a prompt).This is retarded because it generally leaves only two ways to combat groups of guards: disarm them one by one or disarm one and use that guard’s dropped gun to kill the rest. Guns can be picked up, but cannot be reloaded. Also, aiming/gun control is terrible and was clearly not thought out in development. In a game which should be focused on speed and navigation, this slows the game down to a frustrating crawl.

Furthermore, the levels themselves are confined to a set path which you must pursue in order to complete a level. Many parts of the game require to player to stand around and think about a level rather than run through with improvisation. Personally, there were some parts where I died over and over again, eventually figuring out some obtuse solution to a path with only one exit. This did not feel very “free” in a game about free-running.

Here are some more negatives:

The controls weren’t precise for a game that required some fairly precise platforming.

The story was ridiculous and did nothing to motivate a player. It was cheesy as hell.

The use of flash videos instead of cinematics or even in-game scenes to tell the story was pretty lousy. I wonder if it was a lack of budget or just laziness that caused the decision to include these scenes.

In conclusion, it wasn’t that much fun and I enjoyed uninstalling this game much more than I should have.

Score: 3/10 When I purchased Mirror’s Edge, I was expecting a fast paced game where I would run through large, mult-pathed levels that required me to act with speed and improvisation. What I got was a game where levels had only one path; forced combat on me with shitty controls; and a stupid story told through flash videos. The fun parts of this game are few and far between. Mirror’s Edge is a tolerable game as long as you do not spend more than three United States dollars on it.

Battlefield 4: Second Assault DLC Review

Details: Downloadable content for the Battlefield 4 game. Played on PC.

There aren’t any servers playing the new maps. Only thing of note is the new shotgun, which is arguably the best shotgun in the game. Only bought it because of premium, which I bought because of the new carrier Titan Mode which comes out in March.

Don’t buy this individually, but an acceptable purchase with premium I say.

 

Score: 2.5/10