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Xavier S H reviews Xbox One version of Styx: Master of Shadows. A review code was provided for this report.

Shadow of Mordor Review - Xbox One
by: Alan Wasserman - 10/20/14

Shadow of Mordor was nominated and won a ton of awards at E3 this year. After playing it for 12+ hours I can tell you that every one of those accolades is deserved. The game was created by Warner Bros.; the same house that brought the Batman Arkham games to life, from the get go you can feel the influence of those games in Mordor’s free flow combat system. The ability to chain attacks together with finishers and takedowns should feel very familiar to veterans of the Batman game. The leveling system is pretty robust; you can level up your character and each of the weapons he uses. While the amount of weapons you can use is limited to a long sword, a bow, and a broken sword .Talion uses as a dagger for executions and silent takedowns, the range of what you can do with them is pretty impressive.

The hero of the story, Talion, is a half wraith/half human anti-hero. After watching his family gets ritually slaughtered at the hands of an Agent of Mordor, Talion is “reborn” as death has rejected him. During this process he is linked to a wraith who shares a similar path and story to his own. Together they launch their plan for revenge so they both can rest at peace and join their families in the afterlife. The interactions between Talion and the wraith are pretty entertaining. The wraith is a central historic figure in the Tolkien universe and plays sort of the moral center of the story, while Talion plays the brute who likes to use force of will and arms to get his way. The creators of the game have taken pieces and parts from Tolkien’s less popular works (like Unfinished Tales, the Silmarillion, etc) and included them in the game to make it accurate and deep without messing with the core story from Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit.

The unique thing about the game is the Nemesis system. Each area of Mordor (there are 2 in the game) has five War Chief Uruks who are super powerful. Each War Chief has 1-2 body guards made up of the lower level Uruk and Orc captains.  There are fifteen Orc Captains. When you start out you don’t know who any of the captains or war chiefs are. You have to interrogate lower level orcs or find Intel to uncover who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are, what or who they are afraid of or what enrages them. The captains hang out in areas called strongholds and sometimes while you are on your way to a mission point or to get a collectible you stumble upon 1 or 2 (I’ve had as many as 3) captains in one area and a huge fight ensues. I literally have been so swarmed by orcs and Uruks that the whole screen is full of them and button mashing ensues to get Talion jumping back and forth chaining together attack to clear out the fodder to take down the Captain.

When you kill a captain you are granted a rune that you can attach to one of your three weapons that enhances it in certain ways. It can increase the amount of damage you do while mounted, or give you chance to regain life on an execution etc. The strength of the rune depends on how he was defeated. Taking advantages of his weaknesses and fears will grant you a higher level rune. Captains are not immediately replaced, but once you are defeated the Nemesis system then goes into action. The Uruk that killed you gets promoted to Captain, then about ½ of the open captain slots are filled by other unknown Uruks or those captains who were present at your defeat are majorly promoted to elite captains.

The purpose of the Nemesis system is that my game should be slightly different than anyone else’s. The Orcs that defeat me in combat will not be the same as the ones that get you.  As mentioned each of the captains have a specific weakness, one that I love to exploit is that some of them can be killed with a single headshot. The bow in the game fires pretty far and its awesome and hilarious to shoot a captain from 200ft or more away, follow the arrow as it kills them and the watching all the orcs in the area run away like cockroaches with the light turned on.

For completionists the game has a ton of collectibles and things do to do outside of the main story line. You can roam the lands of Mordor and find hidden artifacts that provide backstory to the world and the characters you encounter throughout the game. Furthermore there are elven inscriptions called Ithildin, collecting each one completes a doorway similar to the one seen in Lord of Rings that leads to Moria. Each area, flora, fauna, and person you discover unlocks more lore about the world of Lord of the Rings giving it a robust and deep backstory that you can explore at your leisure.

The games achievements are pretty straightforward. Some are related to story missions, others to collecting items or completing side quests. They pop with fair regularity so you’re each session you feel like you are moving toward full completion.

I rate games based on how much I enjoy them and how challenging they are. But I also take into account how eager I am to dive back into the game after I have been away. This game has me completely engrossed and each time I turn off the counsel to go to bed I think about when I’ll get to turn it back on again.

I give this game 9.5 out of 10.

 

 

SPACECOM Review - PC

by: Benjamin and Joshua Goldfarb - 10/02/14

SPACECOM is a real-time strategy game in which you serve as a starfleet commander; navigating various planetary systems with the goal of outsmarting other commanders. Through a series of battles, sieges, and invasions you aim to gain total space dominance. And while SPACECOM’s gameplay mechanics might leave you a bit frustrated at times, it makes up for your skyrocketing blood pressure by offering a minimalistic art style, deeply meditative soundtrack, and a multiplayer mode to settle all of your real life disputes in.

One of the most interest piquing features of SPACECOM are the minimalistic visuals. This game will not bog down your processor with high detail shadowing. Everything is depicted as a simple geometric shape, almost as if you were watching the ships on a radar screen. This gives the player a strong feeling of actually “commanding” the ships, which paired with the entrancing, ambient soundtrack, allows players to really immerse themselves in the action. While the game interface and layout was visually and aurally excellent, we did encounter some annoying game mechanics during our playthrough. For instance, we found ourselves right-clicking far more often than should have been necessary. This was due to multiple essential commands such as unit movement and map controls being mapped to right-click. This meant that a simple misclick when trying to shift the map could inadvertently send your fleet in the wrong direction. What really made this mechanic annoying was the fact that, once assigned, reversing your movement was incredibly difficult, nigh impossible, leaving you with no choice but to watch the action unfold.

After practicing our tactics and learning strategy in single player, we decided to test our skills against one another in the multiplayer mode. This game mode ultimately proved to be our favorite. There is something innately exhilarating about pitting your strategies against your friends and trying to outsmart one another in real time combat, and that’s exactly what SPACECOM delivers. Whether you are a casual gamer or a dedicated fan of RTS games, SPACECOM’s variable game speed settings allow players of all skill levels to command a fleet and taste victory.

There were a few flaws, what with the control difficulties and some confusing gameplay mechanics. However, we have to give it to the game developers at 11 Bit Studios, SPACECOM won us over with the simple and clean design, relaxing soundtrack, and intensely fun multiplayer. Overall, SPACECOM has a few nitpicky problems, but is a solid strategy game and a joy to play! We give SPACECOM 7.5 out of 10. A review code was provided for this story.

 

 

Fenix Rage Review - PC
by: Benjamin Goldfarb - 09/24/14

Fenix Rage is a 2-D Action platformer for the PC with the potential to leave the most hardcore gamers feeling frustrated. Not because the game is bad but, because frustration is the game's objective. The game developers recommend using a gamepad for a better experience but, I personally don’t feel that it is at all necessary. There are only 3 actions in the entire game: moving, jumping, and dashing. A keyboard is perfectly satisfactory and the keybinding layout is comfortable and efficient.

In game, you play as a space alien, hedgehog-esque creature named Fenix who must navigate through a series of levels and worlds (dodging lots of annoying obstacles on the way, of course) in an attempt to capture another space alien, hedgehog-esque creature named Oktarus. Oh, and did I mention each level has collectables and time goals?

Fenix Rage is fast paced and requires a precise sense of timing previously unimagined by beings of this world. There is no way to play this game delicately. If you aren’t on the edge of your seat jamming the jump button in order to narrowly avoid the oncoming dangers, you are dead. There are no checkpoints, meaning if you miraculously make it past the first set of obstacles, somehow navigate through the second set, and end up dying on the third, you will need to start the level over from the beginning. Though, the game is nice enough to keep track of your failed attempts and gives you a death count at the completion of every level!

The game is difficult, but likable. It is not a childishly simple puzzle. It is not impossible. It IS very very difficult. Naturally, the levels become increasingly more difficult as you progress but, there are several worlds and a plethora of unique levels and features in each.

Fenix Rage has frustrating but diverse level designs, simple game mechanics, and a fun retro soundtrack. Some platformer whiz’s could beat the game in hours while others could take days. This makes Fenix Rage appealing to both casual gamers and speed runners alike. Fenix Rage proves that with insight, timing, and a bit of luck, success can happen. I give Fenix Rage an 8.5 out of 10 rating!

Fenix Rage is availabe on Steam and on next-generation consoles in 2015. Green Lava Studios is responsible for developing this painful masterpiece and Reverb Triple XP for publishing it! A preview copy of the game was provided by the publisher for this review.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alien Creeps TD Review - iOS

by: Alan Wasserman - 09/09/14

Alien Creeps TD is a free to download tower defense game that takes place in a time where you become the last defense against the alien invasion. Your mission is to keep the aliens from finally taking over the rest of the world. At your disposal are numerous towers including machine guns and laser turrets.  You are also given a hero at the start of the game a Rambo type named Flak who comes wielding a huge machine gun/grenade launcher. Some of the more unique units at your disposal are the ability to call in reinforcements where a drop ship drops off infantry men to a location of your choice and the ability to call in an airstrike which if timed right can wipe out a cluster of enemy units. The most devastating unit though is the Tesla Tower.  Usable a finite number of times per mission you can target a group of enemies and wipe them out almost instantaneously. You can continue to use it once all your charges are used up but you’ll need gems and gem’s like most mobile games these days requires real money.  You can gain gems in other ways throughout game play but they come in small batches are not easy to achieve.

The game is wonderfully animated; the boards are full of detail including burning oil barrels, flags blowing in the breeze and signal lights flashing.  The enemy units are all very unique and are easy to identify once you play the game for a few minutes. Starting with lowly grunts and moving to more terrifying units like Orb Weavers, Hornets and Juggernauts each unit is more and more difficult to kill and does more and more damage to your troops and Hero. All the characters, both villains and heroes alike, are drawn in a caricature style over emphasizing things like large bodies or heads with small arms, legs or other appendages. It makes for a comical take on the impending alien invasion.

As you complete each stage you can unlock upgrades to your units, buy new units and if you wish you may pay extra money unlock new heroes including Roxie the obligatory fiery red head commando in a tight red tank top that wields unnaturally large pistols. For a little more money you can unlock Skybolt who is a Predator styled alien that flies above the board killing from a distance with his rail gun.  Heroes can be trained and leveled up as they continue to kill bad guys, so they can become a great asset that can either play clean up and take out units the squeak by your towers; or to put up front to thin the heard before they get to the towers. For me both strategies worked pretty well.

Game play is pretty straight forward for a game like this; kill all the aliens before you run out of life or run out of time so there is not much innovative here. The speed of the game however is a little surprising. I was able to complete the first few boards pretty easily and pretty quickly, (within an hour or so) but that is where the game stalled. Once I made it to the 4th board the game quickly got unbalanced. Even after I used all the coins I saved from finishing the previous board and upgrading the towers as much as I could the sheer amount of enemies that come in over the course 10 waves overwhelmed my meager forces pretty quick. Even using most of the gems you are given at the start of the game to fire the Tesla cannon 3-4 times past the allotted amount I was barely able to squeak by the board.

Additionally you can link your game to your Facebook account and your friends who play the game can send you reinforcements and airstrikes which is pretty nice. You can also unlock achievements by killing a required number of aliens, leveling up your hero to certain level thresholds, etc. These achievements give you a nominal coin reward to help buy upgrades and things.

If you like games like Toy Soldiers, Tiny Defense and even in some ways games like Clash of Clans you’ll love this game. The tongue in cheek humor keeps it light as does the animation. The pay for play aspect you can’t get away from these days, though some games do it better than others. Alien Creeps sets the prices pretty fair for a bundle of coins or bag of gems. The Heroes are affordable if you are committed to the game at $2.99 for Roxie and $8.99 for Skybolt.  The game rates for me at 8 out of 10. Enjoyable and fun, each level is replay able three times for maximum challenge and cash rewards. It will reward experienced tower defense players with challenging game play but it allows enough runway for more novice players to learn it, enjoy it, and get hooked. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by: Ben Goldfarb - 10/29/14

Gabriel Knight returns to the voodoo capital of the United States in the 20th anniversary remake of the adventure classic, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. Boasting an impressive visual update and remastered soundtrack, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition holds a candle to it’s predecessor and boy does it hold it close.

Gabriel Knight debuted on the point-and-click adventure scene in 1993 and has aged well since. The new artwork really helps bring the game to new life. 21 years later, the games content is identical to the original’s. I think this says a lot about the quality of the game. While some of the dialogue seems outdated and hokey at times, the plot line needed no adjustments to maintain relevance in a modern context.

The story revolves around Gabriel Knight, a writer by day and a womanizer...well, all of the time. He catches wind of some voodoo related murders in New Orleans and decides to investigate the murders, hoping to use them as inspiration for a new novel. Suspicious characters and strange occurrences emerge as Gabriel dives into the world of voodoo and Gabriel must make some life changing decisions.

I ultimately found the game to be quite enjoyable. The audio and visual updates were necessary to bring this game back to life! It is spooky, clever, and pretty difficult. Others compliment the pacing of the game but I actually found it to be somewhat slow. I admit that I am not the best at these kinds of games, but I solved the puzzles in Portal...I shouldn’t have to use a guide for this. Another issue I had was that the “interaction” mechanics are relatively unique for the genre. While different is not inherently a problem, these differences were not ever discussed or introduced to the user. I would prefer that the controls be listed somewhere in the client. I would give this game a solid 8/10.

 

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition is now available for iPad, PC, Mac, and Android platforms. A Review code was provided by Pinkerton Road for this story.

 

Simple Matching Game...Maybe Too Simple

by: Alan M. Wasserman - 07/24/14 - iOS

Elfcraft is a simple but fairly addictive matching game. In Elfcraft your objective is to place three or more matching component parts together. Three stones become a flint stone, match three flint stones to make dragon scales, match three dragon scales to make moon rocks and so on and so on.  There are 12 possible components to make.  Each turn you are given a two component piecess made up of the available component as you can currently make. At the beginning its two stones, but as you progress you may get a low-high piece in a stone and a Ice crystal and placing it can start to get very difficult if you are not somewhat planful of your moves.  Thankfully you can spin your pieces Tetris-style by tapping the screen and swiping your finger side to side to choose where to lower the stone in the 6x7 play area.  The early game is easy enough but as the pieces have more options with which to present you with your best laid plans can go out the window.  One interesting mechanic in the game is if you tilt the screen side to side all the pieces move together. This is advantageous if you have a matching component that is merely on the other side of play area, simply tilt and watch as the match resolves it’s self. I found that sometimes tilting can also create matches you can’t see.  The game also presents you with a “spell book” that has four spells to choose from. One spell removes one component of your choice to allow you to remove a mistaken placement or just get one out of the way that is blocking at match, other spells remove whole rows of components while others remove every component of one selected type.  For me the most useful and most rare spell is the swap stone spell. It allows you to swap two adjacent stones. Like Tetris, if your pieces get to the top of the board and you cannot place an entire piece the game ends.

I have a few issues with this game, while the game is fun and has a high replayability factor the board remains the same every time and the opening pieces are always the same so it can get very redundant until you start unlocking the 4th and 5th combinations.  The spellbook is limited use only, spells are unlocked when you reach predefined achievements (viewable from the main screen) but if you want more or are in a pinch you have to pay real money to get more.  The biggest issue I have with the game is the number of lives you have. Represented in this game as tree trunks or logs you only have 3 lives with which to play with and afterword’s you have to let them recharge before you can play again. A game without levels or missions should not employ this type of game mechanic. It cries out to me as a money grab by the developer.  As in many other mobile games you can pay for more lives starting at $1.99 for 10.

The game is fun and I think for a younger gamer it can provide a few minutes of entertainment, while a more experience gamer may be able to play longer eventually the game will end. The inability to play the game for as long as you want has me rating the game lower, as well as the pay-to-win mentality on the spellbook is pretty frustrating. Because of the novelty of the concept and the initial fun factor of the game I give it 5 out of 10

Xavier S H reviews Xbox 360 version of Cry Wolf - Episode 5 in The Wolf Among Us series. A review code was provided for this report.

 

 

Xavier S H previews PC version of the Kickstarter funded project Habitat. A preview code was provided for this report.

Gaming Nexus' Travis Huinker interviews SOE's Jimmy Whisenhunt about the upcoming PC based survival MMO, H1Z1!

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