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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 22:51:38     -    Overlord (PC)

    SUMMARY:

    I had always heard good things about pikmin, but i had balked at the fact that there was some sort of time limit and if you don't beat the game within the time limit then you have to start again. I've never liked these sort of time restraints, and I will not suffer through them unless absolutely necessary. So, when I heard an Overlord review that likened it to a more sinister version of pikmin but without the time constraints, I had to try it.

    As previously stated, Overlord is a lot like the game Pikmin, except instead of a space ship captain who cras landed on a planet you are a mysterious and presumably evil overlord that was just awaken from a deep slumber, instead of attempting to make your way off the planet in a limited number of days you must try to harrass the local and bend them to your will, and instead of using cute multicolored plant-like creatures to do it, you harness a small army of differently colored "minions" that spread pain and suffering in their own unique ways. Like pikmin, it is nearly impossible to accomplish much in this game without the help of your smal horde of underlings. As you progress through the game, you receive the ability to call more and more minions to control simultaneously on the game screen -- and inevitably throw wave after wave of them at obstacles or enemies in your path, or even into pits of lava if that's your thing, oblivious and/or apathetic to their suffering.

    Your job apparently, as the Overlord, is to basically.. well.. be the Overlord. Of course, you can't just "be an Overlord" by sitting on top of your high spiky tower and shouting orders at anybody who cares to listen -- especially if the entire number of those who care to listen is the very same few goblins who woke you from your mysterious slumber (by rubbing acid in your eyes no less) in the first place. You wake up from your slumber to a mysteriously run down castle, without even a humble tower heart to teleport you to and from your tower into other areas of your domain. Thus, you set out to repair your castle, recollect the minion hives to be able to summon new colors of minions with new powers, filling your tower with slave wenches, finding a mistress, and taking back the will of the people of your domain, be that by savagly beating or killing those who disagree with your word (which your minions thorougly enjoy) or by showering them with love and affection until they desire no other than to rule under you (much to the chagrin of your minions).


    GAMEPLAY:

    The controls were a bit unintuitive at first, but I suppose that's to be expected considering how I have never before in my life attempted anything even remotely similar to controlling a small hoard of people using only a mouse and a keyboard. Well actually that's not completely true -- I have PLENTY of experience controlling "the zerg" in starcratf -- but that is not at all anything close to attempting to control monsters in what I like to refer to as an "extended first person perspective," where the game feels a lot like you are in first person perspective but the camera zooms out enough to give you a good view of yourself as well as a slightly wider view of your surroundings. In starcraft, you do a lot of pointing and clicking -- click on a unit under your command, then click on the place you want him to move to. I found myself attempting to do a lot of this when I first started playing Overlord, and not being able to was very frustrating. It felt a lot like trying to orchestrate with my hands behind my back. "How can I possibly be expected to control these minions," I thought to myself, "if I'm tied to this damn Overlord character and can't click on anything?!"

    Quite easily, as it turned out. As I progressed through the game, I found that I had been attempting to control the minions as if they were chess pieces, picking them up and placing them where I wanted them to move to, or where I wanted them to attack. As I got more into the game, however, I found that what I should have been doing was controlling the minions as if they were extensions of my own body, "sweeping" the minions aross the landscape in front of me by holding down the correct mouse buttons and sweeping my mouse in a similar direction across my mouse pad. The game seemed to suppord this philosophy, as my character representation on the screen even raised his arm to control the minions in the same way I imagined myself doing it. I could also send minions to certain locations or to manipulate certain objects by moving my camera to look directly at the thing I want to send a minion at and clicking the left mouse button, but I strongly prefered sweeping them.

    I just gained the ability to set waypoints for groups of my minions, which should add an interesting new level onto how I control my minions. Now I can ambush monsters by strategically setting up my minions in certain positions where they will remain until moved or provoked. Unfortunately, there seems to be a few bugs with this system, as after some of my brown (melee/tank) minions under the control of my waypoints are attacked by monsters they seem the mainatin their new position next to the monster's corpse and don't defend themselves when attacked by a new monster. Also, they don't chain agro, so only a relatively small number of minions actually engage the monsters from the waypoint.

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    Feb 20th, 2008 at 20:45:01     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    GAMEPLAY:

    The gameplay of this 'game' consisted of running around, rolling, grabbing, riding a horse, and stabbing into the ground, which 90% of the time will end up being a giant monster, and the other 10% of the time you will find that you actually fell off the monster while he was rolling around in the ground and you actually just shoved your sword into that patch of dirt you were desperately clinging onto. You also will find yourself trying to figure out how to kill this particular patch of dirt. That's the game. That's the entirety of the game, and it sucks. For more information, see the 'design' part of the game below. I honestly don't feel like that information belongs under 'gameplay', because the majority of this game clearly was not gameplay.

    DESIGN:

    I kept hearing how great and amazing this game was, and how it was such a pity that it was such a short game and could be beaten so quickly because of how great it was, so I decided to stick this one out to the end. Honestly, I don't know if I am glad I did or if I am not glad that I did. On the one end, I hate cliffhangers and there was an interesting story behind the game that I enjoyed seeing played out. On the other hand, the majority of the game felt long and drawn out, repetitive and simply irritating.

    The wikipedia article on this game states that the designers spent the grand majority of their time on this game working on the Colossus themselves, to the extent that they purposely excluded all other forms of monster from the game, so that the design team could spend the majority of their time working on designing each colossus... and it shows. Although the boss battles were interesting and undeniably fun, the rest of the game was pure drudgery. Even the cut scenes immediately after each boss battle were boring and predictable, in fact, the first 15 out of the 16 colossus have the EXACT same cutscene, in the exact same order, right down to the very dialog:

    1) You finally destroy the colossus by stabbing its glowing weakpoint with a tremendous jab.
    2) The colossus crumbles and collapses to whatever part of the world was below it in a predictable fashion, whether that be land, water, or sand.
    3) you stand about for a few seconds admiring your skill
    4) Giant black tentacles unexpectedly fly from the colossus's corpse and impale you
    5) In complete and utter surprise, you fall to the ground and pass out
    6) You see some strange glowing white light
    7) You appear back in the temple, lying unconscious on the floor, with (insert number of colossus you have killed) standing around you, staring at you.
    8) The camera pans to the statue representing the colossus you killed. It explodes. The camera pans back to you as you stand up. You turn around and stare at the glowing hole in the ceiling.
    9) The glowing hole in the ceiling states, "Thy next foe is..." (I swear to god if I see that phrase one more time I'm going to go on a rampage)
    10) The glowing hole in the wall finishes his sentence by describing the next colossus's location in a horribly grammatically incorrect style, as if he had NOT just dramatically declared, "Thy next foe is."

    The cookie cutter style doesn't even stop there though, no. In fact, the entire game follows a predictable pattern from the very onset, disappointingly so in fact. When I firt started playing, I had to navigate a small maze on the side of a mountain to get to the first colossus. I remember being amazed at how much control I had over my character, and how realistic the controls felt. I was incredibly happy that I had such control over my character, and I looked forward to using those controls to fight a dynamic army of baddies with unpredictable fighting styles that would stretch my skills to the limit...

    But it wasn't meant to be. There is so very, very little skill involved in Shadow of the Colossus. In fact, I don't even think Shadow of the Colossus should count as a game. I'm even going to go as far as to declare Shadow of the Colossus to be an elaborate lie masquerading as a game. I think Shadow of the Colossus should count as a sub-par foreign movie, and not much else.

    The much lauded boss battles consist of not much other than figuring out the boss's weak point, figuring out how to get there, and then doing it. Once you figure out what to do and how to do it, there is no skill involved in actually doing it. The one part of the game that would make the boss battle require any skill, the element of having to decide when to hold onto the boss and when to let go to regain some of your gripping strength, is further trivialized by a grip meter and predictable boss moves that pretty much tells you exactly what to do in every situation. In the end, it's a lot like playing chess against a new and exciting opponent, only to discover that your opponent not only always make the exact same moves every time you fight him, but repeats the moves that he does every 9 moves or so while you are actually fighting him. In the end, the only enjoyment that you gain from the boss battle is the temporary enjoyment you get from figuring out how to beat the boss, and the immense enjoyment you get from actually watching the battle play out. Again, though, what are you left with at that point? That's right, a movie. I bought this GAME with the intent of playing a GAME. If I wanted to watch a fancy CGI movie, I would buy a fancy CGI movie.

    The characters in Shadow of the Colossus speak a fictional, non-English language. As a consequence of this, all the dialog in the game is subtitled. Although there is nothing wrong with listening to a language other than English and having to read subtitles in order to understand the game's story line, I couldn't help but be mildly annoyed by it. I can understand the designer's perspective, they probably wanted to help immersion into the game world and separate your view of the world from that of your previous schema associated with the English language. Just because I can understand their perspective in creating the game this way, though, does not mean that I have to enjoy it. In my opinion, games should only use made-up languages in cases where characters are fully voiced during dynamic scenes where it is not plausible to voice everything that a character could possibly say, to make it harder to tell that the player is simply repeating the same few phrases over and over again. Shadow of the Colossus definitely does NOT fit that criteria -- the only time that any character speaks is during a scripted cut scene, and even that speech is few and far between.

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    Feb 20th, 2008 at 20:44:39     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    SUMMARY:

    In Shadow of the Colossus, you play as an unnamed man who ventured to a forbidden land with the corpse of an unknown woman, a sword that is rumored to have mythological powers, and his faithful horse named Agro. You reach the forbidden land by traveling an expansive bridge that leads across the entire area and into a chapel in the middle of the zone, where a door closes behind you, allowing you to explore the entire area without fear of running into invisible walls that attempt to restrain the player to a specific play area. The game begins at his arrival in the forbidden land, where he encounters a powerful being with the ability to bring back the woman from the dead. The being manifests only through a disembodied voice that appears to come from a skylight in the chapel that you begin the game in. He tells you that he will help you bring the woman back to life, but that the price for doing so will be terrible indeed. You accept of course, so he sends you off to destroy the 16 statues in the room by defeating the 16 colossus in the environment around you, using your sword to guide your path by holding it to the sunlight and heading where the light beam is concentrated.


    GAMEPLAY:

    I had heard amazing things about how great this game looked and how amazing the graphics were, so I was a bit surprised when I actually started the game just to find that the game in no way lived up to its hype. The first thing I noticed, even during the opening cut scene, was that the apparent 'realism' of the game's graphics was achieved not through an intensely amazing graphics system, but through obscuring your vision to such an extent that it becomes nearly impossible to find any sort of flaw in the environment. If you want to get a feel for how it felt to play this game, walk outside on a bright day holding a piece of fogged, bumpy glass used for windows in bathrooms, smear sand all over it, face in the direction of the sun, hold the glass up and try to look through it, while shaking the glass around and continuously throwing sand at it. I kid you not, that's almost exactly what it looked like. I don't even know what kind of things they had to throw into their graphics engine to get the sand effect, I couldn't even begin to guess at that. The parts of the environment you COULD see did look rather amazing, but as I said before, either that was achieved solely through not allowing you to see much of it in the first place, or they did such a poor job rendering the view port in their game that they destroyed all the work they put into it.

    The controls were a little hard to get the hang of at first, but once I got used to them I really began to like them. When I was trying to navigate a maze they put up on the side of a mountain that I had to traverse to get to my next destination, I was surprised at just how fluid all my actions felt. Sure, sometimes I wasn't 100% instantaneously responsive, but everything I managed to do my character was able to pull off expertly. Even accidental actions, like rolling over and falling off the back of a giant beast and trying to grab onto his back hair before I splat into the ground looked amazingly fluid. That's not something you see very often in video games -- I imagine the game prepares for all your moves 2 or 3 seconds in advance, so that it can show you avatar actually preparing to execute every one of his moves, instead of simply doing them as per the status quo. You may recall me praising Mario 64 for its amazing responsiveness to your every move and for Mario's ability to perfectly translate your every thought and intention through the controls that you are given... Well, Shadow of the Colossus manages to take the other end of the spectrum in that respect. The players actions are beautifully carried out, and I was more than thrilled to test out this new, unique form of combat on whatever monsters I may encounter when I reach the top of the mountain I was climbing... only to be disapointed with an immediate boss battle. I continued to be disapointed from this point on with the game.. What I was hoping to turn into an amazing action game became a dull adventure game, where I spend half my time attempting to follow the beams of light shooting from my sword, and the other half the time trying to figure out how to latch myself onto the body hair of the next colossus.

    Once you get yourself on top of the colossus, you pretty much have to follow the same routine to beat each one. When I first attempted to beat the first colossus, I was not aware that my grip meter was indeed a grip meter, and was following a meticulous set of rules and strategies to attempt to climb up this giant creature without following off. My strategies included, but were not limited to, climbing only in areas surrounded in hair, climbing on body parts that have smaller ranges of motion, and on joints when I could, so that it would be harder to be shaken off, and staying completely still whenever the giant moved even the smallest amount. My strategies were met with failure, however, until I realized what the grip meter was, and that I had been seriously overestimating the game. Pretty much, all I had to do was keep climbing towards the next weak point my grip meter was almost empty, then get to a horizontal piece of skin, let go to recharge my grip meter, and immediately grab on again the moment the colossus showed any signs of moving. What was mind bogglingly difficult before became trivial, and I was quickly disappointed. My attacks themselves were always the same as well -- raise my sword, plunge my sword into the monster. No variation. no skill. No fun.

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    Feb 9th, 2008 at 01:45:27     -    Team Fortress 2 (PC)

    GAMEPLAY:

    I was right about this game, it DOES get a lot funner the more you play it. It's common knowledge -- winning is fun, losing is not. Even though all the classes are fantastically well balanced, that doesn't mean a thing until you have reached the average skill level. This game is very fun, but can get frustrating when you're playing against a team that you just can't seem to win against.

    The classes add a new dynamic to the first person shooter genre -- for example, playing as a spy changes the feel of the entire game of first person shooter to a splinter cell-esque stealth game, where you attempt to convince your enemies that you are one of them and they should not attempt to blow you away just long enough for you to kill them instantly by stabbing them in the back. In fact, the first few times that I played as a spy I had to change classes because I felt too badly for disappointing the enemy team like that, a few times I disguised myself as a medic and it felt like my enemy really was counting on me to come through for them. Of course, this feeling of sorrow went away eventually and I came to really enjoy the spy class. The hardest part is to get them to not attack you, because you are unable to kill your teammates so they would lose nothing from simply blasting you in the back a few times to make sure that you are on their team.

    DESIGN:

    Team Fortress 2 is an exclusively multiplayer game -- there is no single player or tutorial option. When you start the game, you are presented with the same options that veteran players are, thus a beginning player is lacking in absolutely no in-game benefits that any other player would have on any normal server (players can host their own games on their own servers and add their own layer of rules onto the game, which could serve to give some players advantages over others). The core gameplay philosophy behind Team Fortress 2 is that, under normal during routine gameplay circumstance, the game is designed to place the most emphasis on skill, experience, and strategy, rewarding players not for playing the longest or even perhaps for putting the most energy into the game, but for making the right choices at the right time. Every class is nearly perfectly balanced, playing team fortress 2 is a lot like playing rock paper scissors with 9 objects and where all the items shoot bullets.

    The focus of the gameplay is centered around everybody attempting to keep themselves alive and killing everybody of the opposite team, not so much on accomplishing the objective. The concept is that those who are the most effective at killing the other team and keeping themselves alive, are most likely to be able to accomplish the small task, and it does that pretty well.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Feb 9th, 2008 at 23:11:14.

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