Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Uncharted 3 Review

Drake's back, this time in search of the Lost city of Brass. If you've played any of his other adventures you'll know all too well what it's all about. If not I encourage you to read my previous Uncharted series review, as I won't be going over it again.
However, I can say we are back to an action packed adventure, which while short in length more than makes up for it in impact. We start in the streets of London, but it is not long until we are treated to a flashback showing some of Nathan's earliest adventures and how he met Sully. I must be honest in saying out of the three Uncharted games so far, this was my favourite way to lead the game. The end result is us going on a search once again.
The basic combat and navigation has not changed. What has though, is important. In previous iterations of the series I shied away from the AK47 and weapons in that tree - they were simply too unwieldy for too little gain. This has been solved here, so I don't complain to pick one up, Its actually rather nice. We also see improvements to close combat. Grabbing now takes place fairly frequently, so an extra layer is welcomed. I would say that it has pretty much integrated combat into gunplay perfectly. But that would be lying. Its close, but if you want to roll away from an enemy to avoid sniper fire, you may find yourself instead grabbing them. In the heat of battle such an important control issue can be important, as while sometimes you can roll fine other times your stood there waiting to be sniped. With the ability to throw back grenades, while useful, sometimes conflicts if there's a weapon nearby, prompting you to instead change weapon, leading to an untimely death. Other than these (which both turned up at multiple points) the game play is perfect. Fix these and it's golden.
We also see graphical enchantments. Some areas look amazing first time round, and it is not hard to see the detail on each character has again been improved upon. It's a wonder to see. The UI is as clean as ever, with only ammo being shown, and you don't need anything else. You are pretty much guided where to go, so it's still a linear beast, but during the action scenes it seems this is not so as your naturally guided to make the right choices. It works for the kind of game. I would say I was longing for more, but I didn't feel a need - I was just left with nothing.
Now this may be personal, or perhaps because I saw a fair bit of footage for this game before its released compared to the first two games. But it felt rather short. It seemed as if not as much happened, and while I know the series is not quite known for it's length it felt just a bit TOO short. Again, perhaps this is because of my recently completing a 50 hour epic. But regardless, I'll comment on it. And finally, a crushing blow... repetition is starting to set in. It still feels awesome the majority of the time, but in the "epic" finale felt against it's aims. We have seem the massive civilisation being destroyed and falling apart at your hands. Seeing it for the third time felt like just an expectation rather than an epic finish. other than this though it all plays fresh and fine.
And finally, I finally felt a disconnect with Drake. I know that we are meant to use a bit of imagination - Drake will have killed thousands of men by now, more it seems than the villains themselves. But they are evil minions, so it's fine. Indeed, when infiltrating a museum in Uncharted 2 they used stun guns instead, so I felt at least he was unwilling to hurt innocents... But unless I missed a plot device, it seemed to me that Drake killed many airport security guards. Sure, they were trying to kill him, but seeing as he is trying to board a plane with weapons illegally, can you blame them? Ever since this point, regardless of the airport staff intentions - I felt it was just too much. A man who kills good people to save his friend... seems a bit like a villain.
I may seem fairly negative in this review. As indeed, this is how I came out of the game. But perhaps that lies in how I have already said all the good points previously. They carry over. As a standalone game this is fantastic. Must have. But as a third in the series... it's still epic. Yet I did feel elements of dissapointment. I would be lying to say I did not enjoy the game all the way through. Perhaps I have been too negative. This is an A* game for the PS3. Certainly a definite purchase.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Yugioh VS Magic Round 3

Finally, we finnish!

Difference in playing:
I can’t say much for this, but I wanted to touch on it – for my experience of magic at least, it seems a lot more…planned. You can have a game plan of turn 1 preordain, turn 2 squadron hawk, turn 3 sword, turn 4 equip, attack, mana open to leak, etc etc, and have it work out half the time. It can make for similar games. Yu-Gi-Oh has this to some extent, but I find most of the time you take your cards as you get them, with more of an overall plan than turn by turn basis. However, this is countered in commander, where generally the only play you have is when to play your commander and everything else is up for grabs. But it seems to happen in standard – minimum deck size games. It may not always, but it seems to often enough that I should comment on it. For example, my flyers plan is T1 vault skirge, T2 Squadron Hawk, T3 Aven Mimomancer, T4 2 Hawks, T5 Grav shift for game. And while it can alter slightly or slow down a turn, it rarely makes a massive change in game plan.

Now this is pretty much completely opinion reliant. Yu-Gi-Oh opts to adopt the manga style of Japan. Magic takes the western fantasy style. Both work very well in the respective settings and I like them both, where which I prefer depends on the independent card. Both good styles, for different reasons, and since its so depending on context I can’t say much more than this.

Finally, I come to this. Both have elements. In Yu-Gi-Oh, there is no overall set theme, instead many mini themes. Each monster type typically has a or multiple themes within it. The advantage of this system is that you start off with a decent ground, and can add an odd card here and there as sets go on. If you make a theme about say, Vampires in Magic, and they didn’t work quite as well as planned, for the standard game at least you just have to deal with it. Since Yu-Gi-Oh has no ban list, you can just add it in later and help out. Which is nice. But I digress.
The mini themes are nice. Gladiator Beasts to Six Samurai to Frogs. You can make a theme deck if you want, or you can go on random cards, or a more subtle theme such as Chaos. It’s nice to see these mini themes over all the sets. But magic takes a different approach. Each set of non-core set sets is creating a new world or revisiting another, creating an overall feel rather than odd pieces. You could argue here that this makes Magic have improved flavour. And I’ll agree. The effort it puts in is awesome and can really create a different feel – and that’s all good. But it can be limiting. A designer has a really good card idea but it does not quite fit, so they may wait several years to see it. Yu-Gi-Oh can always find space, and this can be really helpful for subtly helping an old theme become apparent again. And each mini theme still has a distinctive, fun playstyle. Both have merits, but for outright flavour Magic comes out top, but the likes of Gladiator Beasts should not be discarded(geddit).

I actually almost forgot. An essential part of magic. It has a similar representative in Yu-Gi-Oh, but not one that matters nearly as much. The colours. Magic is splint into five colours that really each do their own thing. This is one advantage of the mana system I forgot to cover. It allows you to limit what decks can do what – If you want to draw cards with blue and destroy creatures with black you might have to miss out on Red’s direct damage. This is something I can only really see as good. It does leave certain colours out of the game a bit – White has little way to gain actual card advantage alone with very few draws, but it has board wipe to cover that, which means before deck building even begins choosing colours is a deciding factor. Sure, Yu-Gi-Oh has attributes, but these do not affect what does what but rather what the category the card fits under. They have some flavourful execution in certain requirements for cards like Chaos Sorcerer or Frozen Fitzgerald, but have a pretty passive role overall. It’s a defining feature of magic and gives restrictions otherwise impossible. A decision must be made when making card choices, to ensure more than just interacting with each other to being able to have the right colour mana to cast consistently. A card might be a perfect fit, but if you have to dedicate another colour it might be worth a pass. Sure, Yu-Gi-Oh has similarity. In Chaos, every non-light/dark creature you take is an opportunity for frustration. And you must consider the balance. But it feels much less influential – you could still get use out of an off-attribute card, but in magic it’ll probably be useless. And many decks don’t even consider attribute or monster type at all, yet still work fine. The colour system has disadvantages, but overall is pretty fun that separates it.

So what’s better? Neither and both. Both are great games that are very fun with lots of advantages and disadvantages to both. Indeed, I’m at over 3700 words and I believe I could still cover much more. But I’ll end with this. In my opinion, Yu-Gi-Oh is better for both single player and competitive games, but this may just be from experience, and Magic is better for Sealed, Casual and Multiplayer. I really love both games and I doubt that will change, so if you are currently only playing one I would really recommend giving the other a go(Especially if your names Ollie) – there are ways to get a decent deck for both with a relatively low price tag. I hope you enjoyed my first three part article, and feel free to let me know if I’m wrong.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Xenoblade Chronicles Review

2011 has been dark times for Nintendo's Wii. Personally I can't recall a single game worth buying on British shores. I could say it's to be expected towards the end of a consoles life, but then I see Portal 2, L.A. Noire, and countless other games on other consoles, so this can't be the case. Luckily enough, the Wii has this. While Wii owners may have spent the better part of a year finding their consoles simply collect dust, once again we have a gem to play.
The premise is quite unlike any game that has come before. The star of the show, Shulk, is a homs(this world's humans) who lives atop a giant titan, the Bionis. It once waged war with the Mechonis, another titan but eventually the battle ceased and life prospered on both titans. The inhabitants of Mechonis, the Mechon, launch an assault on the Bionis city of Colony 9, which for reasons I won't explain due to spoilers result in Shulk leaving on a quest to defeat the Mechon. All hope seems lost, but there is a sole hope in the Monado - a powerful blade that has the ability to seamlessly destroy any Mechonis threat where other weaponry would fail. It may seem like a typical JRPG storyline of Boy with powerful sword beats overwhelming odds, but there's so much more. This game's plot took me and didn't let me go until the very end. It's gripping. I won't shy away from admitting I shed a tear multiple times. I won't spoil anything of course, but once you enter you need to find out what happens next. Some of the plot elements are predictable, but many are not and nonetheless it is interesting throughout.
So the story gets 10/10, but gameplay must match it. It was widely believed that combat had stagnated in JRPG's, but Xenoblade Chronicles throws away this idea. You have a series of "arts" that you can execute in battle on various cooldowns to smite your foes. Each character will specialise in something different, and you can choose which arts to take to battle, so while one persons Reyn may be there to absorb damage another could just hit hard. I really can't do it justice through words alone, but it's fun. Really fun. It does not tire as the game goes on thanks to new tactics needed and new skills acquired. I have a criticism that the main character, Shulk, has little customisation as to which skills to use. While you can choose where your specialisations lie, the arts themselves stay the same. You'll probably be playing as Shulk, so it's annoying to have a lack of customization where there are several spare skills on each other character where you may not know which is best. Regardless, this is a small qualm, as I still enjoyed the game with the skills I had, and thanks to the Monado he does have more skills at any one time than each of his comrades.
For a Wii game, it looks good. Perhaps I've been spoilt by seeing how well Final Fantasy XIII can run on the PS3, so I had to adjust to the Wii's level. But this fault is not with the game but the system, so is irrelevant for the review. For its console, it looks good. Even with the restrictions, there are some simply breathtaking views in the game that really do make you question which console you're on. Elsewhere production is a little off, with occasional discrepancies between what characters are saying and what the subtitles read. Sometimes the voice synch is a little off too. But I only noticed because I was looking, it really does not matter. Where the game really excels is in its soundtrack. All the songs fit the mood perfectly, and some are truly awesome. When entering an expansive field not only does the view impress, but the music alongside it really gives that epic feeling.
All in all, this game is brilliant. I have so much I could say, but in doing so would ruin something for you. I'll end with this. Buy it. It's one of the best Wii games out there. I hope America gets it soon.