Video Game Review: Back to the Future: The Game

Details: Released in 2010. Played it on the PC. Purchased for about five dollars. Five episodes in total that took about two hours each to beat.

When you hear the name Telltale Games (and know a little about video games) you think about games like the Walking Dead. You think about games with branching plot lines, meaningful choices that change major plot points in the game and cause alternate endings. Back to the Future: The Game is not one of those games. You need to remember that this game predates The Walking Dead game. Back to the Future: The Game is a very traditional adventure game that follows a single, linear plot line. Fortunately, that plot line is decent.

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Video Game Review: League of Legends

Details: Released in 2009 but is updated and patched periodically. For the PC. Free to play, though it will take time or real money to unlock everything. Don’t know how many hours I’ve played, but I’m level thirty and I’ve unlocked around twenty heroes. They don’t display hours played.

I’ve played League of Legends before and I decided to return to it to refresh my memory. In general, it’s a similar game to Dota 2. However, if you’ve invested the requisite hundred hours in either game, the two games are obviously different. This review will mostly be a comparison between the two games.

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Video Game Review: Dota 2

Details: Initially released in 2013, but constantly updated and patched. I have almost 1600 hours clocked into this game. You can play for free through Steam platform on the PC. Current patch is 7.06c. Internet connection is required.

A while back I wrote a lengthy post on Dota 2, but I never gave it a review. A few years have passed and I think it’s about time I gave it a score. Given the constant patches coming out, I’ll try to go a little into the current state of the game. I also plan to write reviews for the other MOBA’s where I’ll go into what differentiate each game from the others, but since this is the first MOBA review, I won’t really do too much of that here.

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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.

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Video Game Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Game of the Year Edition

Details: Originally released in 2015. Purchased through http://www.gog.com and their game client. Purchased for about $25. Played on the PC. The Game of the Year Edition comes with all subsequently released downloadable content, including the two expansions, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine. Spent about a hundred and ten hours in the base game, around thirty hours in the Hearts of Stone expansion, and about forty hours in the Blood and Wine expansion. Total time spent in the game: about one hundred and eighty hours.

No spoilers, as usual. 

Now that I’ve played this game, I can understand why this game is so beloved. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt does not reinvent the wheel. It does not push some new kind of game. It is an open world, action role-playing game in a time with many, many similar games like Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Assassin’s Creed, The Legend of Zelda, and the Batman Arkham series. What Witcher 3 does do is that it pushes the genre of open world games forward, improving on almost every aspect of the genre and producing a game that can be considered essential if you are a video game lover.

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Video Game Review: Terraria

Details: Released in 2011. Available for pretty much every electronic system I think. Played it on the PC. Purchased on Steam for $5.00. I’ve seen it around ten dollars and as low as $2.50. I’ve spent over two hundred sixty hours playing this game and will likely spend even more time. The most recent version of the game I played was version 1.3.4.4. There have been content patches in the past, but it’s unclear if that will continue in the future.

I’ve done it. I’ve finally done it. After a week of playing the game, I’ve finally managed to beat the Moon Lord — in addition to every other boss in the game — in Expert difficulty. However, that only took me about a week’s time to do. That does not account for the other two hundred hours I’ve spent in the game screwing around, exploring, and realizing all my crazy building ideas.

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Mass Effect 2 Is Free On EA Origin

Public service announcement: Mass Effect 2 is free on Origin, Electronic Arts’ video game platform for the PC. If you haven’t played it before, I would strongly suggest you do. It’s one of my favorite games of all time. I wrote something about it prior, but I don’t recommend you read it if you haven’t played because of spoilers.

Here’s the link: https://www.origin.com/usa/en-us/store/mass-effect/mass-effect-2/standard-edition

Here’s the trailer:

Video Game Review: Batman: The Telltale Series, Episode 1

The first episode of Batman: The Telltale Series is free on the Windows store. You can play it on your Windows computer or on the Xbox I think. Here’s the link: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/batman-the-telltale-series/9nblggh4sq91

It is only free for four more days as of the writing of this post.

Here’s the review.

A while back I tried the Walking Dead series from Telltale Games and did not enjoy it. Since this episode of Telltales Batman was free, I decided to give their games a second chance.

If you aren’t familiar with their video game style, Telltale basically make adventure games that are reminiscent of the choose you adventure style books. You have limited control of your character and gameplay generally consists of quick time events and narrative decisions. Their most popular series relate to popular franchises like Game of Thrones, the Walking Dead, and Borderlands.

This episode is split into five chapters and the story starts from the beginning of Batman’s career. Bruce Wayne has been fighting crime as Batman for a bit of time now and is assisting Harvey Dent in his run for mayor of Gotham City. It’s clear that Batman has yet to run into any of his major super villains and in this first episode, he meets some of them for the first time.

What I like about this episode is that Telltale is clearly intent on rewriting the Batman history. Everything seems to be fair game from Batman’s parents to super villains back stories. You can tell that the characters will follow similar trajectories as their comic book or movie counterparts, but there will likely be some twists on those characters along the way.

In regards to the audio, the music and voice acting are great. I recognized the voices of Laura Bailey and Troy Baker and, as a fan of their work, enjoyed hearing them in this game.

In terms of gameplay, there was little to do. This is an unabashed adventure game. In other words, it’s your narrative decisions that matter, not your reflexes or skill. If you don’t like that, don’t play the game.

Score: 6.5/10 Not a bad start and actually got me wanting to buy the rest of the episodes. Hard to criticize a game that was free.

Video Game Review: Assassin’s Creed Unity

Details: Played on PC for about twenty six hours. Beat the game and the Dead Kings DLC (downloadable content).

When Assassin’s Creed Unity was first released, it entered the market to great controversy. Many people found the game unplayable with crippling glitches throughout the game. It’s been almost two years since it’s original release and I decided to give it a try.

Luckily, I experienced almost no bugs/glitches throughout the game. Whatever bugs were present at release seem to be patched out or I just got lucky. As for the actual substance of the game… there’s much to be said.

There are numerous aspects of the Assassin’s Creed franchise that I look forward to and expect to see when I purchase one of these games. Firstly, I expect and enjoy the cinematic nature of the series. Playing these games often feels like you’re playing a movie and the performances combined with the motion capture definitely give the game that movie feel. Here, the graphics were great. The cut scenes were also fantastic.

Secondly, I play these games for the historical aspect. Each Assassin’s Creed game takes place in a historically significant time period. Additionally, you not only get to walk through detailed slices of history, the story interweaves with historical events and you get to meet historical figures like Benjamin Franklin or Napoleon Bonaparte. In Unity however, while there are certainly important figures and events present, I feel like they weren’t included enough in the main story. I would have liked to see more involvement of historically significant people. The problem might have been with the time period as well. There just aren’t that many big battles during the French revolution, at least not like the big wars between countries. Most of the missions that take place in historical events just involve walking through a crowd to get to an assassination target. I wish there was more  variety.

Gameplay however, has never really been the Assassin’s Creed franchise’s strong suit and that is certainly true here. Generally, the Assassin’s Creed franchise plays like it part Hitman/Splinter Cell with the stealth, some parkour and platforming, a little Batman detective mode, and some of the Grand Theft Auto feeling of an open world with no aspect of any of these gameplay elements being particularly great. They are just tolerable. I usually describe Assassin’s Creed as historical Batman.

Also, the story of a game like this normally acts as an incentive to get through the missions (ideally the missions are fun, too). Aside from the main story arc, all the side missions are repetitive and do not come with plot points or accompanying cut scenes. The result is that all the quests and missions outside of the main plot line are pretty boring and unsatisfying. Without a narrative reward, you don’t feel any real progression whenever you beat these side quests or chase random collectibles.

Edit: After playing through the game some more I’ve found that there are some story driven side quests involving characters from the main quests. These are interesting, but still boring in that the same mission structures remain (i.e. kill X person, investigate Y area). I’ll increase the score by .1 accordingly.

Additionally, there is no new gameplay mechanic that allows Unity to stand out. In prior games, there is usually some additional mechanic on top of the old run around and kill things gameplay. For example, Black Flag had the ship and sailing and Assassin’s Creed had the hunting (not as fun as the sailing). Unity has nothing new, just the same old things we’ve seen every game.

Oh, and the Nostradamus quests sucked. If you’re going to do something like looking for unmarked objects in a massive open world, at least color an area so we have some clue where to look. What a stupid idea.

The investigation missions were fun, although they needed to be fleshed out a little more. Maybe made a little more cinematic. I’m a sucker for mysteries.

Score: 6.4/10 It was fun, but was it worth sixty dollars? Fuck no. I bought it for substantially less so I don’t feel too bad. Definitely a fun game if you don’t feel the need to collect everything. If you do… maybe skip it because it is filled to the brim with inconsequential filler.

Video Game Review: Grand Theft Auto V (Review of the Single Player Mostly, played on PC)

When I first started playing this game, I was worried that it might be kind of crap. I know the reviews have generally been positive, but the idea of splitting the single player campaign into three separate characters sound like a hassle that would slow down or break apart the flow of the story. I am happy to say that my fears were unfounded. The best part of this story is that it is told from three, playable points of view.

There are three protagonists in this story: Michael, Trevor, and Franklin. Michael is a retired bank robber going through a mid life crisis. Trevor is a user and dealer of crystal meth. And Franklin is your stereotypical gang banger from the ‘hood. Through various events, they come together to form a criminal team and try to pull the biggest heists they can find.

It’s a great crime story. Each character is distinct and the ability to see an event from differing perspectives adds a lot to the narrative. But what really adds to the story is the humor and the way the game offers an R rated parody/critique of real world things like Facebook, the entertainment industry, and corruption in law enforcement. If I were to try and describe this game as if it were a movie, I would say it is a crime/heist movie with some hilarious commentary on real world events.

Gameplay is exactly what you’d expect from this franchise. While you can play from first person perspective, I prefer the default view of third person view. You run around, drive and shoot your way through missions given by a colorful cast of characters in a very large open world setting. The city this iteration of the franchise takes place in is based on Los Angeles and is filled with details and landmarks reminiscent of the real city. The controls are familiar and driving is just fine. Nothing to complain about here.

The most noteworthy aspect of the game play to me is that you can switch between characters during a heist, performing each role necessary in the heist. The general rhythm goes like this: a few missions to prepare for the heist, then the execution of the actual heist mission. During the heist mission, you play as each character based upon the job that character was assigned. For example, you will first go through a portion infiltrating or robbing the target, then you switch to the shooting character who fights law enforcement, then you swap to the getaway driver for the escape. It’s a really fun way to tackle single player heists by letting a player play all gameplay aspects of a heist, rather than locking him/her into the getaway driver, shooter, etc. In retrospect, tying the ability to switch character both narratively and gameplay-wise is just genius.

Visually, for a years old game, this game looks amazing. Especially the way the city looks after a rain. Man, that water reflection looks good.

The legendary Grand Theft Auto soundtrack returns with more familiar tracks that you’d expect to hear on the radio. Lots of familiar songs on the radio.

In regards to the voice actors, they are spectacular and do an amazing job immersing you into this world.

I’ve played some of the multiplayer and it is fun. I just haven’t played enough to really have a full opinion. It does seem a little grindy though. Racing was fun, too.

Score: 8.6/10 With regards to the single player, this game is insanely fun. That they developed such a lengthy multiplayer is just icing on the cake.