Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Raving Rant: The Year in Review - 2014

Another year come and gone. The old saw about time flying when you’re having fun seems apropos for gamers. Especially when some of the stuff is not fun in the slightest. But it’s been interesting nonetheless. We’ve had all new heroes and villains, as well as some old familiar faces popping up, and it’s worth taking a look back to see how we got through it.

I’m going to get this one out of the way right now. I spoke at length on it earlier, and I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but this is probably the single biggest story of the year. I wish it wasn’t. Arguably, the shitstorm that is GamerGate is still ongoing, although it’s now down to a dull roar. A certain segment of the Internet is being incredibly shitty to a few particular women, and pretty much anybody of a certain degree of visibility who calls them out on it. I don’t agree with Anita Sarkissian’s work, I don’t agree with her positions, but I will defend her right to make them and distribute them. People are, likewise, free to disagree with her and not support her if they choose not to. But this shit has gone way too far for way too long.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Review: Watch Dogs (Wii U)

Starting a new franchise is never an easy task. Some games make it, and some don't.

When you have a big developer like Ubisoft behind you there is more at stake but there are also more resources to draw upon to create the game. Watch Dogs is one of those new franchises that had some new elements embedded into it that made it interesting enough to look forward to. It came out on most of the video game systems in the Spring but took around 6 extra months to come out on the Wii U. So, here it is.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Review: Escape Dead Island (PC)

escape dead island

Maybe it's because it's the close of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, and another birthday for yours truly, that I'm feeling too old, decrepit and tired to have any patience for video games that are slapped into lock-step with tried and true formulas that have proven effective in the past but stopped filling me with awe or, hell, interest.

And that, predictably, is where Escape Dead Island comes in.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Review: Skylanders: Trap Team (PS3)

skylanders trap team
"We have seen the evil of the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors in our midst; let us try prohibition and see what this will do for us."
- Thomas Jordan Jarvis
Swap out "intoxicating liquors" for "Skylanders" and you'll know where I'm going with this review of Skylanders: Trap Team. In fact, I really wanted to write this review in the spirit of a 1920's speech on the evils of liquor and the shortfalls of Prohibition because this is the era that Skylanders has started to conjure in my mind. Not just for the addiction angle and the corruption of youth, but because it would be pretty interesting to see what homebrew figures would look like.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Review: Company of Heroes 2 - Ardennes Assault (PC)

company of heroes 2 ardennes assault

Ardennes Assaults shakes up Company of Heroes. The gameplay was already a deep well of strategy, tactics, and being able to quickly refocus attention elsewhere on the battlefield without completely abandoning anything, unless it served some larger purpose, but Ardennes Assault layers additional strategy and long-term planning on top of that with a Risk-like map of the area between Germany and France as borders ebbed under the push of the Allies against German forces.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Hardware Review: Dell Venue 8 Pro 5000

The Venue 8 Pro (from Dell) reminded me – again – that I'm getting old.

In the hands of a 15 year-old me, a tablet computer like this would have figuratively melted my brain. You have to remember though that digital cameras were only just appearing in 1993 and compared to current digital technology, those first contraptions are akin to pin-hole cameras. So, something like this would have cracked open a door to the Twilight Zone. The tablet is packed with features, some of which I'm sure I didn't even see let alone use as I found myself sticking to standbys like Twitter, Netflix, Facebook and OneDrive (Microsoft's cloud storage) rather than exploring the Marketplace to find the best apps or put the thing to use in unexpected ways.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Review: Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition (PC)

gabriel knight sins of the fathers remastered

If there's one thing that 2014 should have taught all of us it's that you can go home. Maybe there's someone else living in the house, maybe everything feels a little smaller, and that weird couple that lived across the alley have turned their backyard into a bone yard for rusty Studebakers, but it's still home somehow. That's what it feels like with Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition, where it's 1993 all over again.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Video: Crimzon Clover

Jeff Nash returns after an extended hiatus to talk about the latest changes to Steam while playing Crimzon Clover:

Review: Ancient Space (PC)

ancient space
If an old grognard of a strategy gamer is asked what the best space-themed real-time strategy game ever made was, chances are that it would be a toss-up between StarCraft and Homeworld.

While the former gets points for being one of Blizzard's best loved titles before World of WarCraft, the latter being one of the first RTS games to truly exploit the notion of 3D space and the tactical considerations it brought. It created a gold standard for what space combat should be like, and it's never been properly duplicated, sequel and expansion notwithstanding. Some might be bold and point to Digital Anvil and their only RTS Conquest: Frontier Wars as a cult classic that got overlooked in the noise of Chris Roberts' maladroit exit from the gaming industry so many years ago. Gamers have, for many years, been looking for something which captures the feel of Homeworld while advancing the genre. Sad to say, Ancient Space is not that advancement.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Book Review: Dragon Age - The Masked Empire

If there's one thing that fantasy novels like Dragon Age: The Masked Empire share in common it's that after the first half or two-thirds of the novel, the story winds up describing a D&D campaign, especially when the book is set in a familiar video game world.

My memory of the first two Dragon Age games aren't branded across my brain like some games – where are the Cole Phelps novels? – so I'm not entirely sure where The Masked Empire sits in the chronology of the games, but the book definitely feels like it came from that universe. Mages, elves treated as second-class (or barely classed) beings, political machinations, rules of honour, and otherworldly beings popping up at the most opportune times.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Review: Alien: Isolation (PC)

alien isolation
In this picture we observe the xenomorph "stepping out" as viewed from
a cowering position under a desk. Not pictured: My stained underwear.
The feeling of dread, suspense, and horror that permeates Alien: Isolation comes from such a weird place. Best know for their intense strategy games like Total War, developer Creative Assembly was quite possibly the least likely studio to be able to produce such an amazing first-person experience, especially with a license that has generated its fair share of mediocre or downright awful video games. Not only that, Creative Assembly has made a game for fans of the Alien film universe and people that possibly know nothing about Alien.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Review: FIFA 15 (Xbox One)

The annual release of sports titles continues!

FIFA 15 is still quite fresh in my mind having just a few months ago taken a swing at the World Cup title – but the EA team does not sit on their laurels and they continue to improve their masterwork. With the mid-year release, the improvements over last year's title are not as drastic as most iterations but that's not to say that there aren't any. Graphically and aurally, FIFA 15 is pretty much the same game as last year: still looks amazing, the sound from the crowd noise to the in-game commentary are top notch. No disappointments here, at best minor nit-picky points.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Review: Fantasia: Music Evolved (Xbox 360)

Guitar Hero took the world by storm, for a time. It wasn't the first time that a music game was released, but it certainly was the game that made it popular. Rock Band followed and then we got to play Dance games when Kinect and other motion controlled hardware made it possible. Now, we have Fantasia: Music Evolved as the latest in genre that for me, was getting very tired.

I started this game up and of course Kinect wanted me to do something. I was comfy on the couch. I thought, "Can't I fake this, and just wave my arms around?" I got up and put some effort into it because that is what game reviewers do. We sacrifice for the people.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Review: Destiny (PS3)

Because of lofty aspirations, Bungie’s first title following the phenomenal success of the Halo games was destined to leave many gamers disappointed in some way or another. It’s a difficult task in any entertainment arena to attempt a follow-up to such an overwhelming success as the Halo franchise was for Bungie. Destiny is that game.

And it has its share of disappointments, primarily in failing to be the massively multiplayer offering it had aspired to be, and having a primary focus on repetitive missions. But it clearly sustains many of the stellar qualities that made Halo a universally well-regarded and lucrative gaming hit, and has even showed improvement in first-shooting game-making, showing lessons learned from the past were implemented by Bungie in its present.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Review: Skylanders: Trap Team (PS4)

I first became aware of Skylanders last year at Activision's multiplayer event for Call of Duty Ghosts. We were whisked away on our last day to a hotel room that was showing off Skylanders: Swap Force. I was in awe because it was my first time playing a PS4 and seeing the Skylanders series. I rediscovered my inner child! This year sees the release of another Skylanders game called Trap Team. Trap Team introduces an interesting new concept that allows you to trap enemy bosses and play as them for a period of time.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Review: Halo: Master Chief Collection (Xbox One)

Halo defined the original Xbox. It single-handedly brought people to the machine, secured Bungie the respect of a world-class developer, and changed the lives of gamers everywhere.

While the original lacked online play, Halo 2 followed it up with the anticipated online play and a wonderful single-player campaign. Then Halo 3 and Halo 4 extended the universe and drew more players to the franchise. Bringing these titles back to life on the Xbox One is something I have been looking forward to since the announcement, and I'm happy to report that this does not disappoint.

This package contains all four main Halo games and this is the first time that Halo 2 has been available in high definition.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Review: The Last Tinker: City of Colors (PS4)

I love third person action adventure games.

In fact, it is my favourite genre. Games like Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, Sly Cooper and the 3D Mario games are among my fondest gaming memoreis. I am not sure why the genre has declined but I'm glad to see games like the Last Tinker try to revive it.

You play as the Last Tinker in a world where the colours are like races and are no longer getting along. The bleakness has arrived to take all the colours away and you must figure out what happened and get the aid of the various colour spirits along the way in order to do so. Once you gain their trust and confidence, they provide you with their powers (conveniently mapped to the D-Pad) and you can progress further in the game.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Review: Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One)

Starting the game up I wanted so badly to love Sunset Overdrive. After all, I'm a huge Insomniac fan, with standees of Ratchet & Clank throughout my basement and I proudly wear the achievement of completing every single game in that series (even the mobile one). I never really got into Resistance (although I'm still willing to give it a proper try) and for some reason, Fuse hasn't even made it into one of my machines even though I own it. Come on, Insomniac, give me something to love if you aren't giving me the Ratchet and Clank HD remake until next year.

I closed my eyes and started to play. (Then played with my eyes open after that.)

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Hands-On Preview: Evolve (PC)

Evolve is one of the highly anticipated titles for 2015, and the game is now entering it's first widespread alpha. After some hands-on time there is a lot I love about the game and a lot that still needs to "evolve." so to speak.

For the uninitiated, Evolve is a four versus one game where the group pursues the alpha predator. It plays like a highly charged game of Cat and Mouse, with the monster getting a twenty second head-start to comfortably situate themselves in the wild, consuming various wildlife to grow stronger.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Review: Stronghold Crusader II (PC)

Stronghold Crusader II is the sequel to the popular Stronghold series of games by Firefly Studios, and it’s safe to say that Firefly has delivered plenty of what fans loved about the series.

Stronghold Crusader II focuses specifically on The Crusades-Era, allowing the player to assume the role of King Richard, or Saladin should you so choose. The objective is simple: to overtake your opponents’ stronghold. This won’t be new to veterans of the series, but does the sequel they bring anything different to the table?

Friday, 31 October 2014

Hardware Revisited: Alienware M18x at Three Years

Here I am at Year Three with the Alienware M18x, a gaming laptop that continues to justify it's $2,000 price tag even if I've finally found a game that puts the boots to the system. While some of that might relate to the optimization of the game -- Dead Rising 3 -- it feels like the first time the system just couldn't keep up.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Matter of Opinion: The Declining Relevance of Traditional Reviews

Over the summer, some pretty dramatic changes came to Steam. While plenty of them instantly plunged me into Curmudgeonly Old Man Who Hates Change mode, there was one thing that I really liked. For the longest time, it was possible to sort games in a given category by review score, whereby games would be listed in ascending or descending order by their Metacritic score. With the Steam update, this was changed so that user reviews were used instead.

Review: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

It's no secret that sales of the Wii U haven't exactly been what Nintendo was hoping for. It usually takes a stellar title or two to really be "must own" to make the system fly into the hands of the masses. While the system has definitely had its share of hits like Super Mario 3D World, nothing so far has really been the hit they have needed—until now.

I'm surprised to be saying that a racing game would, could, or should be a system seller because it's certainly not my most favourite gaming genre but I have to admit this one is bursting with the signature marks that Nintendo is good at. The game is made with extreme polish, is full of great content, is bursting with creativity, and most importantly, is fun! There are 30 characters to choose from and with the bikes from Mario Kart Wii and the new Quadbikes, the vehicle selection is better than ever.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Review: Super Smash Bros. for 3DS (3DS)

If I ever built a time machine the first stop would be 1992 to pay a visit to myself, fully charged 3DS in hand. I'd leap out of dark alley and hit myself with a rolled-up copy of EGM. While my past self was dazed I'd snap open my 3DS and show my past self Super Smash Bros. (for 3DS). Besides being impressed by the tech -- especially compared to the current GameBoy, the Game Gear, or the Atari Lynx -- my 1992 brain would implode with the thought that Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Donkey Kong, Mega Man, Pac Man, Samus, Starfox, and that crazy new character Kirby (and a gaggle of other characters) could be in one game.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Retrospective: Super Hero Games

The relatively recent explosion (or satuaration) of super hero movies and plans that are under way by movie studios to extend storylines across multiple movies and decades, it got me thinking about my favourite super hero games of all time. There's nothing scientific or objective with this list, it's just 8 titles that have delivered on the fantasy of a being a suped-up guy or gal in tights and levelling hundreds of enemies with a single thunderous punch.

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction loomed large in my gaming library for a long time. Long after the review was completed, I would dive back into this game on a monthly basis to SMASH! things. For years, this was the benchmark game I compared against all super hero games because it had just about everything I like in a game: a giant sandbox world, incredible range of movement, a story to plow through with boxing gloves made from crushed cars, and a massive, no nonsense protagonist with easily discerned goals.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Raving Rant: The Gender Games - Part 2: Barbarians at the GamerGate

So far, The Armchair Empire has more or less stayed out of the whole “GamerGate” fracas, and wisely so in my opinion.  But sooner or later, it has to be addressed, and being the token loudmouth American (so far as I know) on staff, I might as well jump in.

In the last month, what began as yet another example of the bottom rung of Internet culture showing off its asshole credentials somehow blew up into a “thing.”  Game journalists suddenly got caught in the crosshairs.  Salacious rumors and unverified claims of infidelity became front page news, not in Wired or Ars Technica, but mainstream news in major daily publications.  And the hits just keep on coming.  Rumors of collusion between game journalists, sexual improprieties, death threats, DDoS attacks.  There’s a part of me that knows when the Internet loses its collective shit, things are never the same afterward.  Sometimes, it’s a good thing.  Sometimes, it’s horrific.  I've spent most of the past month or so thinking “fuck all, y’all!” whenever some fresh report of insanity with the hashtag of “GamerGate” heaves into view.  It’s had me vaguely toying with the idea of basically walking away from the video game industry entirely.  Why?  Because everybody who’s got even a modicum of restraint is drowned out by partisans on both sides, and I get enough of that as it is watching the local news.  The Internet, as a whole, does not do “calm.”  But it damned well needs to try.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Review: Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (PS3)

Besides offering hours of enjoyment for the kids, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes did something for me. It reminded me how much I enjoyed the likes of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (2005), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), and the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games (2006, 2009) and then plunged me into a hole of nostalgia eight miles deep reminiscing about Stunt Island (1992) but before I can really explain that it's worth quickly describing Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes.

Besides the actual game, the "starter pack" comes packed with three figures -- Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow -- two Toy Box Game Discs, and the Infinity base, which plugs into your PlayStation 3. To actually play the game, one need only put one of the plastic characters on the base; their digital reflections appear in the game and it's off to the races.

At least, for the kids.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Review: NHL 15 (Xbox One)

It's the start of hockey season once again; a time for players to wash their equipment before they stuff it back into their rank smelling hockey bags. All teams start fresh, and for those that insist on not winning every game by 20 goals… there's NHL 15 to get the results that you really want.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Review: The Walking Dead Pinball (XBLA)

Anybody that reads The Walking Dead comics or watches the TV show knows that when it comes to defeating zombies – or walkers in the world of The Walking Dead – in the undead apocalypse, anything can be useful as a walker-head-crushing weapon. Frying pans, pool cues, 2x4s, baseball bats … practically anything within reach while under walker attack duress. What wouldn't be particularly useful to slaughter walkers is a single small silver pinball from a pinball machine. Not seeing that as much of a brain-buster. That is unless while playing The Walking Dead Pinball table on Xbox Live Arcade via Pinball FX2 from Zen Studios.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Review: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II (PC)

What happens when the world's most famous monster hunter turns freedom fighter and overthrows the mad scientist despot running the creepiest little country in Europe? Well, he sure doesn't get to enjoy his victory overly long.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II picks up right where the first game ended and throws players right back into the battle for Borgovia, this time challenging the would-be warlord General Harker for control of Borgova's streets and Borgovia's future. Much like any real revolution, there's a lot of slogging around in the streets.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Impressions: Alien: Isolation (PC)

After a little time with Alien: Isolation, it's almost impossible to believe the game comes from Creative Assembly, better known for the Total War strategy series, but it does. The kind of attention to detail they poured into those game is the same kind of love they poured into Alien: Isolation. The difference is that a strategy game never got me so wound up that I had to walk away to let my heart rate return to normal. A full review of Alien: Isolation is coming but here are some quick impressions and observations from the first 60 - 90 minutes.

This screen was grabbed about three minutes into the game. This was the point that absolutely convinced me the developers had done their homework and put in 2,000-psi worth of effort to crush the details (in a very good way). The setting, the sense of place is incredible; it feels (at times) like you're wandering an extremely detailed movie set circa 1979.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Book Review: The Eye of the World (Vol. 5)

If there's a series of fantasy novels that could supply an almost never-ending series of graphic novels, it's the Wheel of Time series.

A sprawling series, it was started in 1990 by Robert Jordan and was only recently concluded by Brandon Sanderson in 2013. Eye of the World Vol. 5 is barely into the first book of the series and there were 13 chunky novels so the current output of the graphic novel means the last book won't arrive until 2035... if the world exists in a form that makes socio-economic sense to still be dealing with, ahem, comic books.

A lot of that has to do with the fact that the graphic novel sticks very close to the original source material -- there appears to be no artistic license taken when it comes to the dialogue and pacing of the overall story. That's another way of saying, "It's a real page-turner!"

Monday, 29 September 2014

An Early Look at Lords of Xulima

Retro-styled RPGs are certainly becoming a thing of late. There have been no lack of crowd funded projects going that route and several small teams have been throwing their hat in the ring as well. I'm certainly all for it being a fan of these sort of games. Today, we'll be taking a look at Lords of Xulima, which is also trying to tap into many of the things folks find appealing about RPGs of old.

Xulima is an overhead isometrically viewed RPG with first person combat sequences. There is a very obvious level of influence from classic role-playing games like Ultima and Wizardry as well as more modern offerings such as Divinity and Legend of Grimrock.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Review: Wildstar (PC)

When it comes to MMOs that are outside the usual heroic fantasy mold, things don't always seem to click as well as you'd like to think. While The Secret World and Star Wars: The Old Republic are holding their own, they're still pretty small change compared to fantasy worlds like World of WarCraft and Guild Wars 2. Carbine Studios looks to break the mold on that with WildStar, and they might have the formula.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Review: Madden NFL 15 (Xbox One)

The Madden franchise exists to remind you of the sheer depth of complexity that exists in the game of football. Earlier Madden iterations gave you the opportunity to tinker around a bit in formations, do some play-calling, and perhaps a bit of clock management. Madden '15 comes with a requisite love of football, because if you aren't fanatical, the huge information dump that is forthcoming will be painful to say the least.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Review: Dead Rising 3 - Apocalypse Edition (PC)

Dead Rising 3 initially scared me a little. When I first saw the reveal trailer, I was concerned the game had tossed away its campy stories and incredibly silly gameplay and weaponry in favour of being more “edgy."

Fast forward to the launch of the PC version. (It was released about a year ago for Xbox One.) I purchased it giving Capcom the benefit of the doubt, and despite some optimization issues, this is Dead Rising at its best.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Review: Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light Redux (PC)

I can't recall a recent game that has so believably created a sense of place. Right from the get-go I bought into the sci-fi setup of the Metro games and the resulting hardscrabble life of living in underground tunnels. Little snippets of what life is like, coping with hardship, the various factions that have risen up in place of a central government, the cobbled-together devices and an economy driven by bullets and the ever-present threat of mutant attacks and the mysterious Dark Ones. During the periods of downtime I found myself poking around in corners trying to understand how these people are surviving. Even during periods of shooting, sneaking, and battling mutants I often lingered in "cleared" areas to soak in the atmosphere.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Review: Firefall - Part I (PC)

At this time in my life I don't have the necessary patience to grind, grind, grind, grind... and grind some more. And every free-to-play game relies on the grind to make money. The logic being, "Hey players that want to climb the ladder to avoid the grind they'll pay real money to buy items and XP boosts in the game! Cha-ching!"

Think it's boring to run between objectives? Well, there are vehicles available for purchase right now rather than grind with the idea that one day, maybe, you'll have enough in-game currency to buy one and affirm yourself a masochist.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Review: Tricks of the Classic NES Tetris Masters (Book)

The great thing about a self-publishing platform like Amazon's CreateSpace is that it allows for the creation and distribution of wonderful little publications that might not otherwise see the light of day. "Tricks of the Classic NES Tetris Masters" by Brian K. Smith is such an example.

While Tetris itself is one of the most beloved video games of all time, dedicating an entire book to just one version might seem a little too niche. This book runs with that idea, however, and it's a great way to take what turns out to be a tremendous amount of information and focus it.

The book includes a well written single page introduction from Alex Kerr, a Tetris Grandmaster, that gives some insight into why the NES version of Tetris is special and later in the book the author discusses the Tengen version of the game that was taken off the market. There could have been more discussion about this version, although I understand why there wasn't.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Review: The Last of Us Remastered (PS4)

Like a handful of successful PlayStation 3 titles, The Last of Us has been remastered and brought to the PlayStation 4.

My first encounter with the game was a little underwhelming to say the least. I played Last of Us on the PS3 last summer for a few hours and couldn’t really get into the game. I found the pacing too slow and quickly stopped playing the game. I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. I even remember walking from electronics store to electronics store being told by the cashiers that all their copies of the title were sold out. Naturally, I just downloaded it from the Playstation Store and it say on my hard drive not being played.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Review: The Walking Dead - Season 2 (PC)

This review takes a look at The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episodes 3 - 5.

There are few things I'll give developer Telltale credit for and one of them is owning up to the fact The Walking Dead series is merely a Choose Your Own Adventure (or possibly more accurately, "gamebook" or "interactive story") rather than an adventure game, where players might have to solve a puzzle or two along the way. You know, combine items, use game logic to figure things out... there's really none of that, even in comparison to first season of The Walking Dead.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Interview: Jane Jensen (Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary Edition)

I suppose the first question is, why now. Why now for a remastered version of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (besides the 20th Anniversary aspect)?
It was really just a series of fortunate events. I first started talking to Activision about doing something with them around the time of our Pinkerton Road Kickstarter in 2012. There were some managers there who wanted to see the old Sierra franchises brought back (those same people were behind the new Sierra brand I expect). The idea of doing a 20th anniversary edition of GK1 came up. (We were all shocked to realize it had been 20 years.) The chance to be able to redo the game that established me as a designer as one of our first Pinkerton Road titles was too good to pass up.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Hardware Review: HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset

There's something to be said for the simple approach and it's often that same approach that's often eschewed in favour of extra doo-dads and poppler-danglers.

Kingston's HyperX Cloud gaming headset takes the simple approach and still offers some great sound and recording capabilities. Though it's somewhat over-packaged, you'll spend more time removing the outer box then opening the heavy interior box than it takes to get the HyperX Cloud working. Plug in the headphone jack (and mic if you need to record something or communicate a multiplayer games) and it works.

For this review, I used the HyperX Cloud with my laptop.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Taking a Peak at Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox (PC)

visiting a village
The very first computer RPG that I ever played was Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. My dad and I would take our party into the maze and map our way around there while fighting all sorts of monsters and hoping we didn't accidentally step onto a teleporter. Good times were had, and the game imbued me at an early age with a taste for role-playing games presented from a first person perspective. From there, I went on to search out other such games like this, eventually absorbing myself in the likes of The Bard's Tale, Might and Magic, and Eye of the Beholder. So, when I found out about Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox, an RPG of similar ilk currently in development, I knew that I had to check it out.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Review: EA Sports UFC (PS4)

It seems like every time a console cycle starts, there's always a title or two that shows off the graphical powerhouse of the next gen consoles.

On the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 it was Fight Night; for PlayStation 4 it is UFC. It just happens to be a "coincidence" that both Fight Night and UFC are published by Electronic Arts.

UFC is a drop dead gorgeous game. Little details like sweat, muscle and tattoos look photorealistic. Even the instant replays show off the games graphical prowess. Seeing every muscle react to an opponent being punched in slow motion shows what these next generation (now, current gen) consoles are capable of.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Review: Divinity: Original Sin (PC)

Battling undead

Over the last decade, there's been a shift in a lot of RPGs toward more stripped down, cinematic affairs. A lot of the meat and potatoes of the genre were removed in favor of a more streamlined experience. Some folks really warmed up to this. Others did not, though, instead longing for days of old when we had huge, open worlds to explore a la Ultima, or complex tactical combat like Baldur's Gate. This is where the deluge of Kickstarter projects swept in with games that would hark back to those days. One such title promising these experiences was Divinity: Original Sin, and now that it's out it has very handily delivered with a huge world to explore, interesting characters to meet, satisfying combat, and it looks pretty darn good to boot.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Subscriptions for Everyone!

Recently, Electronic Arts has begun rolling out its EA Access program where, for a monthly fee, people will be able to play a bunch of their games, both new and old. The service is extremely limited at the moment, only being on the Xbox One after Sony turned it down, but it is making waves as some folks fear that, should it take off, the program could set a nasty precedent whereby other major publishers feel emboldened to erect their own little walled gardens for their IPs as well. Where once it was just a matter of going to a shop, or online digital distributor to get a game, suddenly things could become a lot more complicated, as people have to register multiple accounts with different services while being nickle and dimed on multiple subscriptions to play the games that they're interested in.

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Tired, Bastardized Practice of Exclusivity

Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusivity has ruffled
some feathers.
Last week, Microsoft and Square-Enix made some waves when it was announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be a timed exclusive for the Xbox One. Many a gamer cried fowl, and it's been a parade of interviews ever since by various executives and developers to paint a narrative that this is somehow a good thing.

Traditionally, when I think about exclusivity, it's more to do with a developer or publisher deciding to put a game on a specific platform because they see something special in the system whereby it makes more sense to either make it the only one it shows up on, or at least the lead platform. Be it market dominance, player-base idiosyncrasies, or specifics to the hardware, in these circumstance at least the people making the game are looking at a set of variables and choosing on their own to make a game for that system based on its merits. What we're seeing here with the whole Rise of the Tomb Raider kerfuffle reeks far more of a return to the bad old days of money hatting.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Review: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil (360)

World Cup Soccer – the most important month for futbol fans every 4 years, or as we celebrate in North America: as good as reasons as any to go drink at 11 am and not look like you have a "problem." With half of my family coming to Canada this generation, and the other half having lived here in excess of 400 years… the World Cup gets a differing amount of care depending upon whom you are talking to. Needless to say, I cheer for my Dad's country because cheering for Mom's and my homeland would have been a tremendous waste of time in this tournament.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Futzing Around in Final Fantasy XIV

Playing as Summoner in Brayflox Longpost.

Once I walked away from World of Warcraft, I figured I was done with MMORPGs, but recently that hasn't been the case.  I've poured an absurd amount of time into Final Fantasy XIV, a game that in quite a lot of ways is very similar to WoW.  Battle mechanics and the whole hot key controls setup are very reminiscent of Blizzard's MMO, yet the game squeezes in all of the Final Fantasy-ness that one would expect from a game to bear the name.  What I'm left with is something that has totally consumed me.

Review: The Last Tinker: City of Colors (PC)

If games could be disassembled and broken down into their “ingredients” The Last Tinker: City of Colors would form neat stylistic piles of Viva Pinata, Little Big Planet, and platforming action and sensibility of Banjo-Kazooie. That doesn't prevent The Last Tinker to convey a charm all it's own – it's often cheery and light-hearted even if though the storyline's main message is a Sesame Street take on BioShock Infinite's racist underbelly and there's an ominous tone throughout (if you think about it too hard).

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Preview: Skylanders Trap Team (Multiplatform)

skylanders trap team
Just like all those times when Joker breaks everyone out of Arkham Asylum, Skylanders: Trap Team features a dramatic prison breakout thanks to the perpetually evil, Chaos, which plunges Skyland into a diabolical hell of violence, drugs, corruption, and organized crime. (I may be slightly overstating this.) Only this time, once the crazy guys are captured, they work for Batman.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Review: EA Sports UFC (Xbox One)

It's been a few years since my last crack at a UFC game, the original Undisputed made by THQ. There have not been many revolutionary new changes to MMA since then, besides the popularity increase of the sport, of course. Any time you switch companies, you are obviously going to switch engines and likely design philosophies. I was a little disappointed to hear that the Fight Night Boxing team was going on hiatus to work on this franchise – I've always enjoyed that franchise and will look forward to it's return down the road.