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Monday, January 28, 2013

Impressions of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare














This past weekend, Steam held a free weekend event for Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, an indie first- or third-person action multiplayer game. As its subtitle suggests, the gameplay revolves around medieval warfare, with armored knights and archers waging war against each other in bloody, brutal combat. You play as one soldier on the battlefield, selecting from four classes and picking specific weaponry. The various game modes include typical team deathmatch, free-for-all, and last team standing, with "team objective" pitting teams against each other in attacking or defending specific objectives.

The combat is based mainly on timing and stamina management; blocking attacks and stringing together combos requires precise timing, and each attack or parry consumes stamina. These features make Chivalry's combat feel a little more tactical than your average hack n' slash game, while the weapons have an authentic feeling of weight and impact to them. Coupled with the intense gore and the in-your-face nature of one-on-one combat, Chivalry has a lot going for it. It's exactly the kind of game I want to like, but I just couldn't convince myself it was worth it from the free weekend event. Here are my impressions of Chivalry, based on the free weekend.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Impressions of Playstation All-Stars
















With the introduction of Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale into the gaming scene, the "mascot brawler" can now be considered something of an actual genre, as opposed to just being that one game series by that one company. In case you didn't already know, Playstation All-Stars is basically Sony's answer to Nintendo's Super Smash Brothers franchise; it's a side-view multiplayer fighting game starring characters from iconic Playstation exclusive games. I've been playing the game on-and-off for a few weeks now, so here are my initial impressions on it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Great Games You Never Played: Afrika














"Fine, obscure gems." Part of a periodical series: Great Games You Never Played.

Back in 1999, Pokemon Snap proved that games about photography can be just as engaging as an action-packed shooter, yet ever since then, games with photography as the central gameplay mechanic have been few and far between. Some games like Dead Rising have featured elements of photography, but Afrika (a PS3 exclusive released in 2009) is the only other game I know of where photography is the main and only point of the game.

In Afrika, you play as one of two photojournalists sent to photograph and document wildlife in an African conservation. Each day begins in your tent at base camp, checking your email and conducting any preliminary business before setting out on safari. Email is the source of your missions, with various clients requesting photographs of certain animals, sometimes in specific poses or in a particular setting. You're then free to roam about the African wilderness sandbox-style, taking pictures and completing missions at your leisure. At first you're limited to the nearby steppe region, but as you advance through the main missions, you gain access to a swampland, a large lake, a rocky canyon, and a green plains region.

Photographs submitted for missions are graded based on technique, and your pay is based on the picture's grade. The money that you earn can be spent buying new tools and equipment (such as a portable tent so you can spend the night in the field, instead of having to return to base camp at sundown), as well as upgrading your camera body and lenses for better pictures. Missions are split between sandbox-style side missions where you observe the wildlife in real time, and important main missions where you watch a more dramatic, scripted cutscene (such as a fight between a lion and an elephant) and take pictures of critical moments.

The photography in Afrika is rather satisfying, thanks to the breadth of options for getting the right shot as well as the game's emphasis on emulating real photography. For instance, you can unlock eight different lenses, and some are more suited for certain kinds of shots than others, and you have to worry about settings like depth of field, aperture, and shutter speed (among other things). While the photography aspect is great fun, there are, unfortunately, a number of really annoying things about the game's design that feel like noticeable blemishes on a great formula. Still, there aren't many photography games out there, so Afrika is easy to recommend if you're interested in that style of gameplay. More of my thoughts await after the jump.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Video Games in TV: Criminal Minds














"Some TV shows just don't get it." Part of a periodical series: Video Games in TV

In this season eight episode of Criminal Minds, "The Wheels on the Bus..." two gamer addicts abduct a bus full of high school students so they can reenact their favorite video game, Gods of Combat, after getting banned from online play. They strap 10 of their victims up with shock collars and bluetooth earpieces, divide them into teams, and send them out to kill each other one-against-one while the kidnappers watch and issue commands to their respective subordinates. 

Compared to other episodes I've watched, this episode of Criminal Minds actually doesn't offend me too much. It doesn't get very much overtly wrong and manages not to stereotype gamers as some kind of comically absurd caricature. There are just a few inconsistencies and hiccups that bother me, and these come more from a screenplay standpoint than a gaming standpoint. Continue reading for the rest of my breakdown.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

DmC: Devil May Cry - Demo Impressions















From the very beginning I was prepared to dislike DmC: Devil May Cry, the poorly-named reboot to the Devil May Cry series starring a new Dante in a parallel universe. I really enjoyed the originals (well, the first and third ones, anyway), and the DMC series is not so old as to warrant needing a reboot, which makes the whole thing seem like a dumb gimmick. I didn't like the look and personality of this new Dante, and the fact that it wasn't being developed by Capcom had me even more concerned.

With skeptical curiosity, I decided to try the PS3 demo; as it turns out, the game actually seems alright to me. It's not spectacular, and there are some things that kind of bother me, but it's raised my interest level from "absolutely no interest" to "might consider buying it sometime." It's been maybe a half-dozen years since I played any of the original PS2 games and I haven't even played the fourth one, so I can't make hard comparisons to how DmC lives up to the legacy of the originals, but here are my thoughts on how DmC stands up on its own, based on the demo. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Top 10 From 2012: Reviews















With 2012 now a distant memory, it's time to reflect on the year's greatest achievements and rank them in order of their success. Since I hardly ever play new releases, I can't compile a list of the top ten releases from 2012. Instead, I'll be highlighting some of my best articles from 2012. Shameless self-promotion with an opportunity to get some of my favorite pieces on the front page again. Huzzah.

This time I'll be ranking some of my reviews. Criteria for this category isn't which games I enjoyed the most, so much as which I enjoyed writing about the most and which articles I feel have the most profound statements to be made about their respective games. Continue reading for the full list.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Top 10 From 2012: Editorials















With 2012 now a distant memory, it's time to reflect on the year's greatest achievements and rank them in order of their success. Since I hardly ever play new releases, I can't compile a list of the top ten releases from 2012. Instead, I'll be highlighting some of my best articles from 2012. Shameless self-promotion with an opportunity to get some of my favorite pieces on the front page again. Huzzah.

This time I'll be ranking some of my favorite editorials, those opinion pieces where I talk about some aspect of gaming and compare the relative strengths and weaknesses of a few games. Continue reading for the full list.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Top 10 From 2012: Free Indie Games















With 2012 now a distant memory, it's time to reflect on the year's greatest achievements and rank them in order of their success. Since I hardly ever play new releases, I can't compile a list of the top ten releases from 2012. Instead, I'll be highlighting some of my best articles from 2012. Shameless self-promotion with an opportunity to get some of my favorite pieces on the front page again. Huzzah.

I didn't play as many free indie games as I would've liked in 2012, so this list isn't much of a "top 10" -- it's more like "the only 10" ranked in order of preference. Some of them were a little disappointing, but the top half of the list were all outstanding, and even the bottom half showed a lot of potential. Continue reading for the full list.