Saturday, April 30, 2011

Risen Review

Platform: PC
Genre: RPG

After losing the Gothic franchise to JoWood, Pyranha Bytes had to start work on a new project and started making what they know best .. an open world RPG (Baku:exactly like every other RPG they've ever made). And so Risen made it's way to our hard-drives and consoles. Set in a new world, with a new Nameless Hero the story starts on a ship which is under attack from ... something. You play as one of the survivors, washed up on the shores of a near island. From there on it's up to you ... to save the world obviously.

They seem to have used the same engine (a bit more polished, and it runs much smoother) like Gothic 3 only the island is set in a more tropical environment with thick forests you wouldn't go into. The land is run by three factions and you can choose to join one of them each coming with their pros and cons. You will be welcomed by the monastery for some brain-washing (or so they say ... didn't quite play it the monastery way) and some weed-smuggling, by the Town to keep order or by Don Esteban to retake the town for him. It doesn't quite matter which one you help ... cause, apart for some quests the outcome of it is the same. It is a bit funny how these three factions seem copy/pasted from Gothic 2 ... and maybe Gothic 1 (seeing how one of them lives in the swamp). That might be the major flaw with Risen after all ... it feels too much like the Gothic series ... in many ways ...(Baku: maybe too many ways)

The island is much smaller then many of the lands Piranha Bytes has thrown at us ... or at least that's how it felt to me. But despite its size, it's filled with stuff to explore. Caves, ancient structures (some are explorable only after certain quests ...), mountains to climb or levitate from one to another and treasures to dig. About the levitate part I have to mention a big FAIL (not relevant to the review). I went through a cave and reached an exit on the top of a mountain. I could see a heap of gold, a sword and some other things on another mountain. I checked my inventory and saw that I only have 1 levitation spell. I decided to use it to get on the other side see what's there and if it was worth it I'd reload, buy another scroll and come back. Of course the sword was a bit better then mine so I did all mentioned above. Half an hour later with the sword in my hands I levitated back and continued my adventure. Then I realized the painful truth. I could've just teleported from there. Major fail.

Ok, back to the game ... and to the teleporters ... once you get at a certain chapter, some *spoiler* will spawn all over the land and some of them will be carrying teleporter stones. Yes we saw them till now. The thing is .. that there are too many in my opinion. You will get a teleporter stone for almost every road junction there is. Until your first teleport you will have to walk. The view is nice and the things that want to bite your head off are deadly. The fighting system has improved a lot since Gothic 3. At points it might be the same button-mashing ... until your first human opponent. There I learned to block and believe me it is very useful. Also at first you only have a 3-hit max combo (or something of the sort) but if you level up a type of weapon (the one you will use most of the game of course) you will unlock longer combos and special attacks or the ability to wield two-handers with one-hand.

Well, in the end I'll have to say that Risen is a pretty solid RPG that every fan of the genre should play. Although it resembles some of the developers last games in some ways, it still has a unique feeling, great graphics, a awesome atmosphere, some good characters and that feeling of loneliness and fear to go into a forest at night we missed.

Baku: As you can probably guess I'm not really a fan of the Gothic franchise but I did play Risen and while I did finish it I wasn't particularly impressed by any of it.

the bad: few characters to remember, final "boss fight" 
the good: a solid Piranha Bytes RPG, that brings back that Gothic feeling under a new name

*I will post screenshots late ... you can find them all on our Facebook page

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast Review

Platform: PC
Genre: FPS

Here comes a nostalgia one from the time I had somewhere around 10 games I played over and over again and never got bored of. The time when my internet connection had to struggle a few minutes to download a simple picture, long before my first kiss or any other "firsts".

One of those few games I went through a lot of times was Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. At first, the story didn't make much sense because I hadn't played the first game from the series (or even heard about it for that matter) but I kept going. It kept me entralled because it was the first Star Wars game I got my hands on. Soon followed by Rogue Squadron and Jedi Knight III.

So back to Outcast. You start as Kyle Katarn (one of my favorite Star Wars characters) on a "blue milk run" (yeah, I still know a lot of the dialogue from the game) a.k.a. a scouting mission towards a imperial Outpost. After gunning down some imperial troopers, you find some crystals used to induce the Force into living subjects.

As the story develops you find Dessan, a Sith ... Lord I guess and his apprentice who kill your partner to get information about the Valley of the Jedi (something happened there in the first game). From here on the game takes you to many well-known places including Yavin 4 (where you get trained by Luke Skywalker to get in touch with the Force again), Bespin, Nar'Shadaa and many more. You will also meet many of the movies characters like Lando Calrission, R2-D2, C3-PO ... Some will help you in your quest (or you will help them) or others are just there to look pretty (and as reference to the movies I guess). Trust me you will not be dissappointed with the story and the way it evolves. Also you find out why it's not always a good idea to trust "a bartender with bad grammar". Linking the story are cutscenes (which at the time I found to be awesome) usually presenting the Raven Claw (Katarn's ship) leaving or coming or landing...

One of the most awesome levels, in my opinion, is the one where you have to regain your lighsaber (and your force powers). You have to go through a training ground gaining one force power at a time and use it to go to next area. At the end of the course your lightsaber awaits ... in a cage of sorts. I don't know about other people, but that was a moment in which I wished I had three hands. But, after gaining the saber I felt powerful and awesome. From that moment on I usually tried to "role-play" the game. Not having a moral system, I usually tried to feel like the "good guy" by walking slowly through the levels with the sword turned of, trying to mind-trick the enemies and so on.

The Force Powers are pretty neat, you get the ability to pull, push, mindtrick, lightning, run very fast and maybe some others I don't recall right now. From time to time, these upgrade themselves. The only problem with the lightsaber is that after you get it in your possession all the other weapons become obsolete (and you get a lot of new ones from that point on) ... you will use them just to see how they fire or maybe in a few bossfights. But when you start meeting the Reborn (the bad guys with lightsabers) you can pull some cool combos or jumps and stuff (I don't know exactly how many there are or how they work ... cause I remember smashing buttons when I experienced them). Oh, I forgot to mention dismemberments.
All these being said, the game still has some tricks up it's sleeve until the end. At some point you have to go through a stealth-based mission and at another point you get to 'drive" an AT-ST.

The game also offered a pretty nice multiplayer. With the above-mentioned Force Powers (customizable) you could do some pretty sick stuff. I always liked to play on the Bespin level with Force Jump maxed and jump around all over the place like a moron.

the bad: i'll have to think about it
the good: a nice Star Wars title for it's time

Monday, April 11, 2011

Crysis 2 Review

Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: FPS

What's the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear Crysis ? A earthquake, starvation, economical breakdown, terrorists or a tsunami ? Well in a gamers mind a tropical paradise full of vegetation and life that looks and feels as real as is gets is getting shape. Also names like Nomad and Prophet pop up. Take the above mentioned place, throw some vehicles, make it (almost) fully destructible and you got one of the best FPS's launched in a long time.
Now with Crysis 2 you might be expecting to return to the said paradise and ... maybe fill out the missing gaps in the story. Well ... no. The game takes you to another jungle, this time made out of concrete. I'm talking about the always busy New York. You start the game as a US Marine, named Alcatraz minutes before his death. After getting hold of a nanosuit (which saves his life) you start roaming around the streets of the city killing Ceph (the aliens) and soldiers (of course, humans to kill each other even when the Earth is attacked). On your pointA-to-pointB journey you will meet some interesting characters (some that want to help you, some that want you dead).

Although New York looks impresive (thanks to the new cry engine) it lacks the free-roaming from the previous games. You don't have the same freedom to build up a strategy on how to pass a group of enemies. Yes there are side-streets, subway entrances and you can jump on buildings (or jump down for that matter) but it's just not the same. Also this renders the vehicles provided totally useless and one of my favorite things in Crysis was to drive around the place.

The runs pretty smooth on the Xbox although in some cases it stutters a bit and sometimes you can see things just appear meters in front of you. Also I really liked the fire in the game and light effects (there are a lot of lights, explosions, stuff like like that). The weird thing is that when you throw a object ... Alcatraz moves his arms forward and it takes one extra second until he let's go of the object (I also noticed this in the previous Crysis games).
After killing Ceph you can "harvest" their bodies for resources that you can use to upgrade your suit. These upgrades vary from stealth-bonuses to running consuming less energy and so on. You still have the ability to cloak yourself or enhance the suits armor but you have to be careful because everything (like running, jumping) will deplete your energy bar and you can accidentaly de-cloak yourself in the worst moment possible. Just like these suit upgrades, you can modify your weapons with parts that you had on previous death-sharing-devices. You also have a nanovision (some sort of infrared or something) and the ability to look at a zone and mark weapon caches or enemies. While in stealth you can quick-kill your enemies or if you get close to them you can grab-and-throw them.
The only weird thing in the game is that the AI isn't always there. Sometimes I would just sit behind this tree or something and the enemies came one a time in the same spot. I also encountered a situation when i was sitting right besides a enemy and we would just look at me ... eventually crouching or running back-and-forth.
The game has a pretty lengthy campaign full of surprises and plot-twists, it looks and feels brilliant but the thing it lacks the most are boss-fight ... there are none. Also there are plenty of collectibles to make you replay the game a lot of times. There are New York souvenirs, dog-tags, car keys and email conversations.

the bad: the AI 
the good: graphics, you can go stealthy or just gun everyone down

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Gothic 3 Forsaken Gods Enhanced Edition Review

Platform: PC
Genre: RPG

So after making a awesome job on Gothic 3, making the game more than playable, the community patch team was hired by JoWood to do the same thing for the expansion pack (or so the rumor goes). Now I retried the game and I have to say I'm very pleased with their work. I haven't encountered any bug till the end of the game. No quest bugs, no floating trees (maybe there are some, but I didn't check every tree in the game).

So CPT made the game more then playable and now I finished it and I can review it properly. The story follows Gothic 3's "go to the unknown lands with xardas" ending (the best one in my opinion). So far so good right ? Yes but this is where the Gothic story I know and like ends. Once in the Unknown Lands, the nameless guy and Xardas have an argument over human's capacity to protect themselves and the land. And here the Nameless Hero "dies". The producers decided to make a drastic change in the main characters behavior. Bad move. Now, our beloved pony-tail-wearer feels like all humans are weaklings and he is the only one man-enough to do something right. After coming back to the land of Myrtana he finds Gorn fighting Thorus for no apparent reason.

The land of Myrtana is almost the way we left it, except

that Varant and Nordmar are completely blocked and maybe a temple/fence/neighborhood spawned in some places. The quests are interesting and kinda diverse (although some are weird), but the annoying part is that from a point on you get to run between cities for stupid reasons. Like... you have to find a replacement for a guard in Montera but the only place you find one is in Cape Dun (and then you have to escort him back).

The only weird thing is that Myrtana kinda lost it's appeal ... I didn't find the least desire to explore a cave or anything if I didn't have to. Also the new producers added a lot of new armors and items that kinda don't fit the universe. Also from a point on the game offers different ways (so you can end up in jail at some point or not ... and many other choices) but the ending is the same. Another weird thing is that 3 quarters of the game (even more) is about Gorn and Thorus and the [maybe spoiler alert] big new menace ... blabla... is introduced with 3 quests (or so) before the end. And just like in Gothic 3 ... you get a lot of learning points that you'll just look at (opposite of Gothic 1 and 2 ... when I never had enough). I did encounter one "bug" (if you can call it that) but it was pretty helpful. The last ... let's call it boss has a summoning ability. So after getting my butt kicked a lot of times I tried to summon my own Golem to help. Of course in a few minutes I was running like a scared kid (and drinking potions on the way, you can still enter your inventory and

nothing will attack you) when I got the quest completed message ... the bosses summons killed him somehow ... AWESOME.

So yes, the community patch team made a unplayable game ... playable. The game can be finished now without any bugged quests or anything and is worth it (if you're not considering it has Gothic in it's name).

the bad: it's a Gothic 
the good: a nice enjoyable casual RPG (if you're not considering it has Gothic in it's name)