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Sega Games Co., Ltd. (Japanese: 株式会社セガゲームス Hepburn: Kabushiki gaisha Sega Gēmusu), originally short for Service Games and officially styled as SEGA, is a Japanese multinational video game developer and publisher headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, with offices around the world. Sega developed and manufactured numerous home video game consoles from 1983 to 2001, but after financial losses incurred from its Dreamcast console, the company restructured to focus on providing software as a third-party developer. Sega remains the world's most prolific arcade producer, with over 500 games in over 70 franchises on more than 20 different arcade system boards since 1981.
Sega Games is a subsidiary of Sega Holdings, which itself is part of Sega Sammy Holdings, which is invested in industries outside of videogames. Sega's North American division, Sega of America, is headquartered in Irvine, California, having moved from San Francisco in 2015. Sega's European division, Sega Europe, is headquartered in London.
An Ode to my Favorite Gaming Magazine
Growing up i always thought That Electronic Gaming Monthly was at the cream of the crop for game news, system release dates and juicy rumors that would entice the imagination to get ready for the Next batch of great gaming. Check out Their new site
Pokemon Alpha Sapphire Review
By Danae Cash
There's something warm and comforting about Pokemon. Regardless of the technological advances from one installment in the series to another and from one console to another there are certain elements we know we can expect to experience, much like returning to your childhood home after years away. Maintaining these elements simultaneously invokes the nostalgia of my childhood and makes me yearn for the series to do something new, something amazing. I’ve been away from the series for a long time and hadn’t personally owned a Pokemon game since Gold as a teenager.
You start the game as one of two children, male or female, newly moved to town with your mother. For this game I chose the female character but there seems to be little gameplay difference other than that the opposite character becomes your rival. The familiar elements begin to kick in: you meet a Pokemon professor who offers you to choose one of three types of Pokemon that are impossible to catch in the game, grass, fire or water type and he then sends you off into the world to fill up your Pokedex, collect badges from Pokemon Gyms and eventually challenge the Elite Four and become Pokemon champion.
Hundreds of Pokemon have been added to the Pokedex since my last time in this world, especially since multiple new areas of Pokemon’s vision of Japan have opened up in the interim years. As a result the Gyms are led by new people that will throw out different types of Pokemon but if you’ve dabbled in the series before you can figure out the strategies to navigate the Gyms’ puzzles and defeat their trainers and leaders without too much problem.
Since I was playing Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, the variant of Team Rocket/volatile nearly terroristic Pokemon Organization that challenged me along the way was Team Alpha. Their aim was to create a better world for Pokemon, and if that meant a world with less people, then so be it. Ultimately their desires get out of hand and the entire world is nearly destroyed if not for the player character’s quick wit and overwhelming ability as a trainer to subdue and later capture Kyogre.
My experience with Alpha Sapphire was entertaining even though I fluctuated between looking forward to battles and being annoyed by the trainers standing directly in my path. Brandon, my rival is less of a pseudo antagonist and more of a cheery fellow trainer supporting me in my endeavors. His friendliness and eagerness to help made it even more sad when I wiped the floor with his carefully cultivated team.
I would recommend the game to both old fans and to those who are trying out the series for the first time, whether because they were too young to have played any of the older games, too old to have done so, or forbidden for whatever reason. There’s something about the formula that replicates a near perfect playing experience and the visual capabilities of the 3DS accentuates that gameplay.
Pokemon Alpha Sapphire was released along with Omega Ruby on November 21st, 2014 on the Nintendo 3DS game system and is available for purchase right now.
Football Manager 2015 Review
I didn’t expect the first sports game I reviewed to be this one. Football of the round and non-American sort is one of the most popular games in the world and one until recently I very rarely paid attention to outside of World Cups both Men and Women. However that began to change first with FIFA and then the Football Manager franchise by Sport Interactive.
The 2015 incarnation, which released in November of 2014 brought a lot of cosmetic changes to the game, completely overhauling the menus and improving on the 3D game simulation. This unfortunately increases the learning curve as you have to figure out where they placed your most important options, though it does come with a tutorial that I like most players have largely ignored. If you’re unfamiliar with the series it offers you the ability to take control of virtually any professional or semi-professional team among many FIFA recognized teams in the world. You can sit at the helm of virtual unknowns and guide them into the upper leagues and immortalize your name forever in the annals of history. Or you can boot the managers away from the richest, most star-studded teams and continue to collect trophy after trophy, the choice is yours.
Along with the game’s improvements comes the integration of Steam Workshop which allows you to more easily access mods and tips without having to hunt them down across the internet. For me, a relative novice to football who still doesn’t quite understand the intricacies of the games and the many positions, it is easiest to simply download tactics that have already been used by thousands of other gamers and plug in the most appropriate players I have on my team. The mods available also include custom skins for the games, legendary players like Ronaldo and Ronaldinho as youth players, as well as custom scouting shortlists that allow you to keep track of outstanding players very early on and acquire them as cheaply as possible.
The game’s visuals will fall far short of the other two big Football games, EA’s well-known FIFA franchise and Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer, but neither game I feel quite matches the tactical depth or the scouting depth provided by Football Manager. Moving from the fast-paced head to head action of those arcade games to a simulator like FM might take some adjustment, but if you want to control a team to glory more than you want to build your own personal superstar, this might be the franchise for you.
One of the greatest benefits of this game and the others that came before it is the emergent story. The narrative will vary from player to player and even from which team you choose to control to the next. Your story of triumphs and gut-crushing tragedies at the hands of bigger or smaller clubs will be uniquely personal. Injuries will wreck your season or those of your opponents and give you the edge you need to defeat a much more talented club. Your scouting team will discover some obscure talent from the most unexpected country who will go on to be the greatest player your team has ever seen. You will splash the cash on the biggest transfer signing your club has ever gotten only for him to turn out to be a bust that causes the fanbase to turn on you.
Even those gamers who aren’t currently sports fans can find something to like about Football Manager, and once you get the hang of how the game works you can find yourself sinking many hours into each long season as the storyline of your team unfolds.
I feel very conflicted about the latest entry into the Civilization franchise. A turn based strategy game, it launches the chosen members of humanity into space, starting anew after an unseen event threatens to put an end to the human race. It aims to be the spiritual sequel to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, but falls well short.
You can choose from factions that represent each continent, with each one having a different bonus characteristic, something that should be familiar if you played any of the previous games. My main problem with this one is that… I’m not so sure I enjoyed it!
The new technology trees certainly are interesting, but as I played I didn’t exactly see how researching one tech over another benefitted my civilization. There are three routes to take, and as you research certain technologies you gain points in Harmony, Purity or Supremacy and your competitors in the game will do the same. Pay close attention to which of these they are prioritizing, because if you are in close quarters with civilizations putting their points into other categories that can lead to a war you’re not prepared for.
In my first game for the purposes of this review I chose Harmony because I wanted to create a humanity that attempted to do as little harm to this new environment as possible. My contemporaries were not pleased, but nobody moved towards war, and I was able to continue on in peace despite modifying humanity into an unrecognizable hybrid human/alien. The next game didn’t go so well. Apparently nobody likes it when your community grows too fast and I got pulled into a war that spanned centuries and threatened to completely overwhelm my civilization before it could get off the ground.
There’s a lot to recognize from the last entry in the series, Civilization V. The Hexagonal tiles are back, and it is still impossible to stack your fighters, an “improvement” I personally found annoying after game four. The Barbarians are replaced by various alien types, but wiping out the aliens can cause friction between you and your fellow humans depending on their alignment.
While I certainly put a lot of time into Beyond Earth so far I don’t think I will be going back to it until they release the inevitable Game of the Year edition with the DLC that will make it more of a finished product, much like they did with Civilization V. As it stands, you can pass on this game for now.
Civilization Beyond Earth is developed by Firaxis Games and was released on October 24, 2014 and is available on PC.
I feel like I should just get this out of the way, so here I go! This game is more Borderlands. So If you’re not attracted to the idea of fun, fluid shooty-bang bang stuff alongside lots and lots of loot, that makes the loot you already have irrelevant and also makes you spend more time in menus deciding what to sell or drop than you would ever admit to then this is not the game for you. That aside, this is the third chronological entry in the Borderlands universe, but in terms of the story it is positioned between games one and two. The Pre-Sequel is the first game in the series to be created outside of Gearbox Software and was handled mostly by 2K Australia and consequentially a lot of the minor characters have accents to match!
Borderlands The Pre-Sequel concerns itself primarily with Pandora’s moon Elpis, a much smaller world than the previous game and focuses on the rise of the second Borderland games' villain, Handsome Jack from an IT jockey to the guy you love to hate. Jack is ever present, though not playable, and everything is connected to him. You play as one of four characters: 1.) Borderlands’ Athena the Gladiator whose shield Aspis gives you shades of Captain America, 2.) Nisha the Lawbringer whose tree allows you to autoaim targets and eventually becomes Jack’s girlfriend by Borderlands 2. 3.) Wilhelm the Enforcer who fights using two drones and is so addicted to cybernetic mods that by the end of the game he’s more machine than man. 4.) And then there is Claptrap the Fragtrap, that annoying random robot we all despise.
For the purposes of this review I played mainly as Claptrap, an option the game tries very hard to discourage you from choosing, clearing the story completely as him as well as putting in a few hours into Wilhelm. Claptrap’s vaulthunter.exe ability allows him to randomly mimic the abilities of familiar vault hunters as well as throwing in some random curveballs like a punch in the face. The final ability in his Fragmented Fragtrap skill tree is SO Magnificent that I won’t spoil it here.
I alternated playing co-op with two other people as well as going at some of the missions solo. Like the previous two games, this one is clearly intended to be played with others and going at it solo may result in you frequently being overwhelmed or frustrated with the length of certain missions. To be fair, frustration can become an issue when you’re playing in a group as well, as you’re forced to stick around despite having other commitments simply because nobody wants to have to grind it out all the way through those enemies again! By breaking up those missions into parts you could've benefitted by using the Fast Travel System to warp to and from places. This feature would’ve worked highly in the game’s favor and made it much more enjoyable. It got to the point where I just waited until I knew my co-op partners had passed certain missions before joining them in their game.
The loot drops are as addictive as ever, and there’s still the mad scramble feel of rushing to claim items before your friends can, and I already found myself ready to start grinding it out for the rarer weapons. Cryo guns are a welcome addition to the game as well as the butt stomps allowed by the moon’s low gravity. Laser guns are ridiculous fun and I also enjoyed the game’s reasoning as to why they never made it from Elpis down to Pandora.
The story plays out in an interesting fashion, leaving you wondering if Jack truly always had that spark of malevolence and predilection to violence or if the events of this game pushed him into a part of himself that he was always going to turn away from? The game feels a bit shorter than Borderlands 2, but it’s more than interesting enough to get you through while you wait for the inevitable DLC characters and missions and of course Borderlands 3 in a few years.
Borderlands The Pre-Sequel was released on October 14th and is available on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
Double Fine Productions is one of my favorite studios, I just wanted to get that out of the way up front. They are responsible for several criminally underrated games (mostly because the controls are often fiddly), including: Psychonauts, the first Costume Quest, Stacking and Brütal Legend. If you’re interested the first of their two parter Broken Age is available to purchase and play and they are also scheduled to release their Kickstarted game Massive Chalice later this year.
I played the first Costume Quest on the recommendation of a friend and was blown away by how much fun I had. To me the design was very childish, but behind that was a pretty solid RPG about kids fighting monsters to save Halloween and candy. The sequel’s story is largely similar, as it continues almost immediately after the events of the last game’s DLC. The two lead characters are twins Reynold and Wren, accompanied by their friends Everett and Lucy (who are not playable this time). One immediately noticeable change over the previous game is that you’re able to have both kids in your party as opposed to the original where one was kidnapped upon the start of the game. Your parents don’t seem to have noticed you were missing and they inform you about the neighborhood block party that everyone is looking forward to.
Skulking around in the background is your dentist, Dr. White, a jerk who hates candy almost as much as he appears to hate both children and Halloween. As you watch he escapes into a time portal and resurfaces with a talisman that enables him to summon monsters from another realm to help him create a dystopian future where there is no Halloween, no costumes and worst of all no candy! Horrifying, isn’t it?
Our intrepid heroes find themselves drawn back into battle for Halloween, traveling back and forth between the distant past and this dystopian future in order to defeat Dr. White and finally get to go trick or treating and attend that spectacular block party.
The costumes shine here, with each one you don having unique abilities and some costumes are even able to manifest themselves outside of the battle to provide you with useful actions like diplomacy, rappelling down cords or blowing your clown’s horn. The worst costume to me by far is the Candy Corn which by itself a political statement on how much candy corn sucks! Accidentally wearing it in battle results in hilarious dialogue that doesn’t repeat itself much. Double Fine brought the wit and the jokes you would expect from their production team and the result is a family friendly, very entertaining story.
The battle system has changed to one that is more timing based and while it can take time to get used to, proper execution can be extremely satisfying. However, the fact that you don’t immediately heal after battle like you did in the first game can lead to a lot of backtracking to find fountains to heal the group and save progress. Gone are the Battle Stamps from last game, replaced by Creepy Treats Cards which require recharging after use and forces you to swap your favorites out for others in order to keep the upper hand.
If you didn’t play the first Costume Quest and are unable to buy it, no need to worry as there isn’t much you’ll miss out on other than many reunions of characters that showed up in the first game in both their older and younger forms. While a lot of the tweaks over the previous game are appreciated, Costume Quest 2 does feel like more of the same, albeit an enjoyable ride, it misses the charming surprise of being the first game in the series. All in all, well worth the $14.99 to pick it up.
Costume Quest 2 comes in at around 6 hours playing time and is now available on PC.
In the weeks leading up to the highly anticipated release of The Sims 4 I somehow found myself once again fully engulfed in the addictive world of The Sims 3. Five minutes in the world easily becomes an hour, one hour easily becomes three and suddenly the sun has set and risen again. Maxis, the studio behind Electronic Arts’ juggernaut franchise has perfected the formula for addictive game play, and somehow convinced us entirely to invest hundreds of hours of our lives watching and pointing virtual humans through their daily lives.
I first purchased The Sims in the summer of 2000, right before starting eleventh grade, having never heard of the game before. Something about the packaging appealed to me, and just like that I’ve owned every official iteration (there are about a billion expansion packs that I can’t afford to own;-) of this franchise on PC since. Using my vivid imagination as a child I often formed vast imaginary worlds of my own and populated them with characters, designing even the most mundane aspects of their lives, filling out entire family trees in my spare time. So you could say The Sims enabled me, as I was hardly blessed with the artistic talents to give my characters form and create stories around them.
Throughout its many iterations, The Sims has continued to resonate with me because of its stories. The games themselves don’t have an overarching storyline but there are some recurring Sims sprinkled throughout the franchise. They basically offer us the tools and we build our individual experience from there. Fast forward to 2014, and EA Maxis has finally grown tired of releasing expansion packs for The Sims 3 and finally released The Sims 4.
The first instant difference is the Character Creator. Gone are the sliders and in its place the user is able to click and drag any part of their Sims’ body to change it to their personal taste and satisfaction. This feature was released ahead of time in a demo version, allowing prospective players to experiment with the system and design Sims for future play. Your Sims now have moods, ranging from Energized, Sad, Happy, Flirty, Playful, Angry and more, rather than just the Happy and Upset of the previous games and that will affect your choices for interaction with other Sims and objects in the world.
As powerful as that system is, it hasn’t all been good news. Several other review sites have highlighted deficiencies in The Sims 4, pointing out missing features from previous games and expansion packs. Some of these features undoubtedly will be available in future expansion packs, while others are confirmed to be stripped from the game entirely. I admit that in my hours of play I haven’t gotten into many of the removed features, mostly due to my disdain for the popup tutorial that seems to be impossible to disable without fiddling with game files. The growth stage between babies and children, the toddler stage where parent Sims must teach their child to speak, walk and use the potty has been removed. So far I’ve noticed pools have been stripped entirely, which was one of my favorite features in the game as I refused to have my Sims live at a house that didn’t have a pool, one of the easiest ways to tone your body, and a personal housing goal.
Some noteable omissions include that there are no vehicles, and Sims seem to have to walk everywhere in their towns. While this is incredibly environmentally friendly, it’s ridiculously unlikely and could become tedious. The personality aspects of the Sims have been simplified and there are less to choose from. Now your Sim no longer has individual preferences for music, colors and foods. The amount of lots available for you to place characters is very limited and there are only two worlds/neighborhoods for you to play in. Any babies added to your Sims’ family can only be interacted with in their bassinet.
While most of these changes have not impacted my style of play negatively, I can certainly understand why those changes and the remaining ones in the two linked reviews have turned some people off. Ultimately it still has many elements of the games I previously enjoyed and I’m still exploring and learning the changes made to the system over 12 hours in. For those who haven’t played a game in this franchise yet, this is a good version in the series to jump into and is every bit as addictive as the previous games.
The huge modding scene is what really extends the playability of the Sims and keeps it interesting. The many talented creators customize every possible element of the game, from clothing to hairstyles, makeup, eye color, houses, toys, appliances and many more. They create celebrity Sims or characters from popular video games and anime, TV shows, athletes, etc and are available to download on various fan sites as well as through EA’s community itself. A modding scene as big as The Sims’ tends to find ways to fill in the gaps of features the development team failed to add, and they may yet find ways to please those turned off by the missing elements.
So if you’re looking for a life Simulator that’s huge on time consumtion, and would love to lose yourself by tormenting your neighbors, finding love, embarking on a career as a comedian, singer, or astronaut, the Sims 4 offers that and more. Even if you just want to surround yourself with a million kids and grandkids without the bills that you would incur in the real world or want to become a world class chef, you can find it in this game.
The Sims 4 was released on September 2nd 2014, and is available on PC.
If you read some of my previous reviews then maybe you would’ve seen me mention The Walking Dead by Telltale Games. At the time I played it I was only familiar with Telltale from their Monkey Island and Back to the Future Games, neither of which I had any real attachment to. Then in 2012 The Walking Dead phenomenon happened to us and our collective emotions, crushing them in their wake. So when Season 2 was announced as a sequel, I was all over it.
In Season 2 you take control of Clementine, the character you protected as Lee in Season 1. Over a year has passed since the first season and things haven’t gone well for the group Clementine was left with. Omid is murdered and sometime later a depressed and significantly not pregnant Christa is abducted by a group of men, never to be seen again during the game and presumed dead. From that moment Clementine, armed with a pistol and the skills you helped imprint on her as Lee, is left alone in an increasingly deadly world to fend for herself.
In the interest of not giving anything away further, I’ll try not to go into too much detail about the plot lines, but if you played the first season almost all of it will be familiar to you. Clementine joins a group of people with issues and her presence fractures the group almost immediately. People die, there is high drama, more people die, and you make decisions that despite the advertising, have very little impact on the game. However, I will admit that seeing my decisions compare to other users at the end of the chapter is still one of my favorite parts of the game.
I wanted to love this game, especially coming off of the high from the last one, but there are problems. The first isn’t exactly the fault of the developers. In Season 1 they put so much effort into making Clementine a fully fleshed out real child. As a result many players grew to love her as their own daughter, myself included. Making her the central character seems a bit of a misstep here. While I saw myself as Lee in game 1, despite obviously not being a male convicted murderer, putting myself in Clementine’s shoes was rough. More often than not I found myself talking to her, taking sides with her against other characters, viciously angry at them for how they treated her, but I didn’t identify with her. Again, not their fault, but it seems to be a pre-existing bias that many players had going into the game.
The second problem is as mentioned earlier, the game feels mostly like a retread of the previous season. Clementine, like Lee is an outsider to her new group of friends. And for inexplicable reasons, like Lee she is almost immediately seen as a voice of reason and as a leader of the group. She’s eleven by the way. Eleven. I understand that it had to be done for your decisions to actually impact the story, but it consistently broke my immersion whenever the adults around her turned to Clementine to make life and death decisions. And whenever those decisions resulted in the death of yet another one of your friends, well, the characters around her let her have it, harping on this idea of her manipulating those around her by relying on her status as a child whenever she was in trouble. This infuriated me because well, more than a year on, the vast majority of characters are still ill-prepared to not only exist in this zombie apocalypse, but survive in it. They seem perfectly content to blame an eleven year old for their poor decisions.
Most of the things we loved about Season 1 are still hanging around the edges of this game. The voice acting is still stellar, and Melissa Hutchison nails the darker and older Clementine. It pretty much looks exactly like the previous game and plays familiarly, though the combat situations with a smaller, weaker character are nailed and ratchets up the tension appropriately. I feel like there’s something about growing up, and standing on your own without your parents in there.
Having said that, the story still feels too much like a retread of the first. While the characters and their decisions may infuriate you, the suspense is still there to be found from chapter to chapter. I will give Telltale points for not only giving us a black male lead in the first game, but a black female lead character in the second, both choices that we rarely see game developers make but are much needed in this industry. A third season has already been confirmed.
The Walking Dead Season 2 is available now on PC and Mac and will release on October 14th 2014 for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
This past June I casually tuned into the world renowned E3 press conferences out of habit. I soon discovered that most of what Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and Ubisoft would be demonstrating on the big stage I either didn’t own a console for or my pessimism easily dismissed the footage as pre-rendered and not an honest view of what the full game will actually look like. That being said Ubisoft's press conference stood out the most in my mind, and surprisingly not for the showing of their big hits Tom Clancy’s The Division or the New Assassin’s Creed: No Girls Allowed, but instead for a small game developed by Ubisoft Montpellier called Valiant Hearts. The Montpellier studio is mostly known for working on the Rayman franchise and will also be a part of the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Unity release.
Valiant Hearts was introduced to us the viewers as having being inspired by letters from soldiers on the frontline of the first World War and it stood out immediately. It was a puzzle game, not a shooter and the art style was cartoonish, not gritty and realistic, but it excited the crowd all the same. Not one of the characters wields a gun throughout the game (unlike most games set during wars), though it does occasionally let you drive a tank. Through the course of the game you play as one of five characters whose lives are both intertwined and torn apart by World War I. One of the five characters Karl is a young German who has emigrated to France and settled down with his French wife Marie and their infant son. Our second character Emile is a middle aged Frenchman who formerly served in the French military and is also incidentally Marie’s Father. The third character Freddie is an American who has joined the war effort to seek revenge on those who took everything from him. The fourth character Anna is a young Belgian student in search of her missing father and the fifth protagonist Walt is a German war dog who worked with a medic, found by Emile.
Alternating between these five characters you begin to learn more about the life changing effect the war has had on all of their lives. Very early on Karl is deported back to Germany and is then immediately drafted into the German army and rapidly deployed in the battle against France. Conversely his father-in-law Emile is drafted into the French Army, fating the two men to meet on the battlefield. As you progress through the game you unlock journal entries from the four playable human characters and Marie that keep you abreast of the characters’ motivations and let you know how they react to the events that unfold as the years progress.
This is not a game for the faint of heart. While there is very little disturbingly realistic gore there are still amputations, soldiers in your units are shot down by planes, tanks and also blown apart by mines. The designers seem to have taken a lot of care to minimize the violence done by the player and in most cases enemy soldiers will escape after being fired upon by the player, giving it a very different tone from the average war simulators. However, in the letters you will read, and in the voiceovers you will hear, the facts you unlock and attached to the emblems you will collect are solemn reminders that the First World War was in fact one of the deadliest and destructive wars in human history.
Here I will point out my two major nitpicks with the game. One: the puzzles are fairly easy to solve and the game as a whole won’t keep you engaged for a very long time. However, that may serve to be a blessing in disguise as the material is very heavy and may require breaks from the game in between chapters for the faint of heart. The second problem is with the game’s villain, Baron Von Dorf. Enlisted in the German army, he distracts from the seriousness of the rest of the plot due to the fact that he is so cartoon-ishly exaggerated, and that the ultimate punishment he receives for his grave misdeeds that have led to such an enormous loss on both sides of the conflict is a bit vague and perhaps lazily handled in a brief cut scene.
Ultimately though, the themes of this game resonated strongly with me, reminding me of a poem I read in high school by Wilfred Owen, written as he sat in the trenches and sent back to his mother. In Dulce Et Decorum Est he describes in painstaking detail the deaths of men as the Germans dropped Chlorine gas. There are similar moments in the game where you attempt to rescue civilians and other soldiers who have been attacked by this deadly gas that reacts with water in the lungs to form Hydrochloric acid that kills victims from the inside. Owen concluded in his poem, dedicated to an ardent war supporter, that if you could witness the horror of the man dying from chlorine poisoning, hear every gurgled cry that you would never spout the old adage “It is a good and wonderful thing to die for one’s country”. And while it may never have been Ubisoft Montpellier’s intent, I came to a similar conclusion from their game.
Valiant Hearts concludes on a somber note, reflecting on the many lives lost in World War 1, “Even though their bodies have since returned to dust, we must strive to cherish their memories and never forget.” There is an argument that resurfaces every year about whether video games qualify as literature or art and both sides whip themselves into a frenzy as they spout their rhetoric. To me, the two most important factors are whether you enjoy the experience of the game, and whether as you complete the game it leaves an impact on you. Valiant Hearts I think fulfills both of those objectives.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is available now on Playstation 3 and 4, Xbox One and PC. For the purposes of this review, I played on PC. PC Download price $14.99(Amazon)
Created by Starbreeze Studios and published by 505 Games, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was released last fall for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. This game opens with one of the main characters Naiee, the younger of the two brothers struggling with the tragic drowning death of his mother and the fact that he was not strong enough to save her. Suddenly his elder brother Naia appears and together the brothers take their sick father to the nearby doctor. The doctor gives the boys a map and sends them off on the quest that will ultimately define the game, which is to find healing waters to bring their father back to health.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons delivers an interesting twist on the puzzle game platform. In this game you control both brothers with the analog sticks, meaning that if you purchase the game on PC you probably should consider buying a controller. The left stick controls the elder brother Naia's movement and the left trigger/L2 allows him to interact with his environment and the right stick controls the younger brother Naiee while the right trigger/R2 lets you perform his actions. This is presented a slight problem for me as I have small hands and am not the most skilled at simultaneous control. However, there is not much of a difficulty curve and your characters are rarely in dangerous situations where you would have to worry with regard to their movement. The easiest solution I found was to keep the elder brother on the left and the younger brother on the right as much as possible.
I'm not the biggest fan of puzzle games so I was pleased that the puzzles were fairly simple and the solutions were often prominently visible in the environment. Naia is the stronger of the two brothers and can often be relied on to pull heavy switches and levers. Naiee, being younger is much more agile, and his smaller frame allows him to fit through tight spaces that his brother often cannot. You succeed often by realizing quickly what each puzzle calls for and accurately deploying the brothers to complete the tasks that are best suited to their abilities.
Our hero's family live in a small hillside village, and your first major task is to avoid a bully who refuses to allow you passage out of the village and interestingly enough you eventually trap him in very close quarters with an agitated dog. As you interact with the various residents you pass on your way to your adventure it's clear to see that the elder brother is much more focused on your task as he will often ask for directions, whereas the younger brother is still very childish and playfull and will often try to prank people you pass on the way.
I don't want to give too much away of the story as that will diminish its emotional punch at the end, but I must admit that the revelation of the world took me by surprise as I progressed. I ended up failing a few times at carrying my younger brother after he'd fallen before realizing that there were weird anthropomorphic trees jutting out of the mountain and trying to claw him to death. There was also a fantastically fun section that relies on the two of you riding mountain goats from mountain peak to mountain peak. Naia and Naiee live in a world with far more dangers than disease or drowning and the brothers have to grapple with fearsome and horrible creatures, the elements, all the while growing closer to each other.
The game itself is mercifully short, coming in at around three hours and it feels appropriately priced for the story itself. Any longer and it feels as though it would've drawn out the conclusion and made it boring and cartoonish rather than impactful. My only complaint is that near the final boss battle the ending seems telegraphed, perhaps due to the familiarity of the trope.
If you aren't a fan of puzzle or adventure games then Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons may not be the game for you. While the puzzles themselves may be a bit too simplistic and tend to make the game a bit too easy to progress through, I'd wager that the creators were mostly concerned with providing a beautiful layered world for the player to see and interact with. They even included benches for the player to relax and take in the remarkable scenery that they've created for you. Eventhough Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons tells the familiar story of the love between family members, growing up and learning to stand on your own two feet, both the art direction and the unique control scheme lends toward it being a very rewarding experience.
Brothers: A Tale of Two sons is currently available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. Retail price $39.99(Best Buy price)
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Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
By Danae Cash
Telltale Games has had a tremendous past couple of years. The small to mid-sized studio known for its episodic point and clicks released the critically acclaimed The Walking Dead Season 1 in 2012 based on the like-named graphic novel series and propelled itself into the spotlight. In 2013 Telltale Games released both the first episode of the second season of The Walking Dead and a new property, The Wolf Among Us.
The Wolf Among Us is based on the graphic novel series Fables written and created by Bill Willingham. You play as the hard-boiled sheriff of Fabletown, a town within New York City populated by Fables (mystical creatures from lore) thrust into a murder investigation. As Bigby Wolf (Big Bad Wolf, get it?) you try to balance your responsibility to uphold the law for every citizen of Fabletown with the flaws inherent in the system. Bigby's past as a very angry wolfman (who spent what I presume is centuries terrorizing the more animalistic fables) has led to strong distrust of him and his motives by the citizens. Frequently they will accuse him of seeking out danger and fights to appease his more base urges.
You're able to decide for yourself what kind of man Bigby Wolf is. Is he genuinely trying to help and protect the citizens of Fabletown? Or has he not changed at all from that angry wolfman of his villainous past and does he just love inflicting physical pain on those people too weak to defend themselves against him? Is he just as corrupt as some of the darker forces controlling Fabletown?
Among the Fables you meet is the famed Snow White (who is prized especially by Bigby for saving him from himself), Ichabod Crane, the Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, Prince Charming, Red Riding Hood, one of the three little pigs, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Rub-a-dub-dub's butcher and many others both famous and a little more obscure. The re-imagining of these stories and verses that have been around for many centuries presents an interesting angle to the traditional hard-boiled detective solves a murder mystery story.
At the heart of the story is the difficulties the Fables face adjusting to life among the mundies (their word for humans) and the laws supposedly created by those who run Fabletown to protect the Fables. Chief among those laws is that all Fables who do not naturally appear human must use a glamour (magic spell) to conceal their true natures and prevent humans from seeing them and becoming aware that Fables exist. Those who cannot afford to buy the glamours at the business office are then evicted and sent to live on the Farm. Many of the Fables are kept in a perpetual state of debt and are thus unable to purchase the glamours from the business office. A black market exists to fill the gaps and allow such Fables to continue to live in Fabletown as opposed to on the ominous Farm. The full extent of exactly what horrors the Farm represents is not described in the game, as Bigby is forbidden from ever going there due to its residents not exactly being fond of (him?).
Like The Walking Dead before it, The Wolf Among Us focuses primarily not on solving puzzles like traditional point and click adventures but on character and story development. As you're playing the Big Bad Wolf and are tangling with those in the criminal underworld there are a lot of fighting sequences. My trouble with the game is that the fight sequences feel sort of haphazard and don't handle as well as I’d like, though they fit in with the plot. Like many complained about The Walking Dead, the decisions you make don't seem to have the serious consequences implied earlier on in the game and ultimately what is most interesting about these decisions is how they stack up against choices made by other players.
I completed the game in seven hours and your mileage may vary, but it comes in a lot shorter than The Walking Dead did, with one chapter being less than an hour long. That said, the game kept me engaged the whole time, not the least because it reminded me of some of the earliest stories I've read. Telltale Games is still working on completing the second season of The Walking Dead and will release episodic games based on Game of Thrones and on Gearbox Software's Borderlands Universe. The studio has found a niche for itself by adapting other properties into point and click adventures and has won acclaim for doing so.
The Wolf Among Us is available now on PC and Mac, will be released for Playstation Vita on December 31st 2014, and will find its way to Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on November 18th, 2014.
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