Posts Tagged ‘rpg’

Dragon Age: Origins Witch Hunt (PC)

Posted: September 11, 2010 in Arcade, PC, Playstation 3
Tags: , , ,

Those hoping for some sort of satisfying closure on the Morrigan storyline in Dragon Age: Origins unfortunately won’t find it here. If you know what that sentence means and find it to be disappointing, then you’re the target audience for this downloadable content. If you have no idea who Morrigan is and why you should care about her exploits, then bail out now. This content is meant for those who have either finished Origins or were too lazy to get through the whole thing and are beyond the point of caring about spoilers.

Combat and conversation should be familiar to any Dragon Age player at this point, and through the various short dungeons visited you’ll find a few mechanics at work to keep the conflict from becoming stale. In the basement of the Circle Tower, for example, you fight guardians that won’t die permanently unless you disperse rips in the Veil that periodically appear on the battlefield. Later on you’ll use a magical light-tracking system to uncover hidden Elven relics, and at one point have to run around the Circle Tower’s library tracking down the appropriate books by using index cards. Ok so that last part really wasn’t very exciting, but in general the combat works well, mostly because it’s the same as you’re used to. A boss battle has been included in final part of Witch Hunt, this time against a creature that resembles a cross between a bat, a spider, and a tree branch. It’s called a Strider, it’s fearsome, and you’ll be seeing more of it in the sequel so it’s cool to get a bit of a preview here. There are also dragons, which is appropriate.

Throughout the characterization is quite strong, as Ariane and Finn wind up talking to each other and your dog quite a bit. It injects humor into the adventure as Ariane makes fun of Finn’s name, or when Finn comments on why the dog decided to relieve itself on an object of interest in the Circle Tower’s basement. Expect a number of interactive conversations where you can select things to say, which helps make the tale seem more significant. There’s enough to kill in here to level up at least once, and you can also buy, sell and enchant at a vendor, in this case Sandal, who fans may be more annoyed than glad to see return.

Considering Dragon Age 2 is following along with a different main character, it’s difficult to say what how what happens in Witch Hunt connects with anything else in the future. As you’ll see at the ending, there’s a choice that needs to be made that potentially has serious consequences, though something tells me it’ll all be smoothed over should you ever encounter Morrigan again. (ign)

  • Published by: Electronic Arts
  • Developed by: BioWare
  • Genre: RPG
  • Release Date:US: September 7, 2010
  • MSRP: $7.00
  • M for Mature: Blood, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content
  • Also Available On: PC, PlayStation 3, Arcade
  • Also known as: Dragon Age: Witch Hunt


Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker (PC)

Posted: September 11, 2010 in Arcade, PC
Tags: , ,
As a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, I have been somewhat disappointed with all of the downloadable content offerings. While the characters have been interesting and the stories well-told, it felt like what happened didn’t matter once it was all over. BioWare has changed that with its latest downloadable content – The Lair of the Shadow Broker. The first “bridging” DLC available, your actions do matter and will play a role in Mass Effect 3.

Later, sucker.

The Lair of the Shadow Broker begins like any other mission in Mass Effect 2: an email in your inbox. Somehow the Illusive Man has tracked down intel on the location of the Shadow Broker, the galaxy’s most mysterious and powerful information dealer. Since your good friend and former squad mate (also possible former lover) Liara T’Soni has been tracking him down for two years, Shepard rendezvous with her on Illium, and they embark on an adventure that’s the best downloadable content for the game to date.

If you’ve read the comic series Mass Effect: Redemption, you’ll already know all of the details surrounding this ordeal. But if you didn’t, the game adequately sets up the situation for you. Liara’s beef with the Shadow Broker stems from an incident shortly after the Normandy’s destruction. Shepard’s body had been retrieved from the icy planet on which it fell and the Shadow Broker possessed it, looking to make a decent sum of cash. To make things worse, the Broker’s buyer just happened to be the Collectors. Not content with this outcome, Cerberus enlisted the help of Liara and a Drell named Feron, a double agent for the Shadow Broker, to recover Shepard’s body so they could attempt the impossible: resurrecting the dead. Clearly they succeeded, but Feron was captured in the process and Liara has been plotting revenge ever since. Fast-forward to present day and it’s up to you and Liara to track down the Shadow Broker and end him.

Clocking in around three hours, Lair of the Shadow Broker unravels the engaging tale at a great pace. Despite the dark themes of murder and betrayal, the conversation can be quite humorous. There are some really great moments between Shepard and Liara, and the storytelling effectively communicates the strong bond between the two, even if they weren’t romantically involved in your game. Over the course of the story, it’s clear that Liara has evolved from the shy girl Shepard met on Therum into a hardened woman struggling with her feelings of loss and guilt. To keep everything balanced, BioWare tossed in some self-deprecating material, including jabs about the Mako’s wonky controls and using Omni-gel to open any door. Visually, Lair of the Shadow Broker boasts some really breathtaking environments. The cut-scenes are beautifully rendered and approaching the Shadow Broker’s ship is simply stunning as lightning storms envelope the massive vessel.

The Asari of the hour.

Of course, Mass Effect isn’t all about the conversation and story — it’s about kicking ass, too. Since the whole idea behind Lair of the Shadow Broker is to showcase Liara and Shepard’s relationship (romantic or not) the Asari joins your squad. While there are typical run-and-gun areas, what makes the combat satisfying here is the boss battles. Both bosses have unique traits that make them a formidable opponent. For example, the first person you’ll encounter shoots around like a bullet out of a gun making he or she extremely hard to target. Though it’s technically not a battle, there’s also a debut action sequence — a high-speed car chase through the skies of Illium. As someone who hates controlling vehicles in videogames, I have to say that the chase is actually a fun time. It’s short enough to not overstay its welcome, the car controls decently, there’s awesome music in the background, and some great banter between Shepard and Liara.

I have only one complaint about Lair of the Shadow Broker: it feels like this shouldn’t be DLC, or at the very least should have been included as part of the Cerberus Network for those who purchased a new copy of Mass Effect 2. It’s such a great story and could have such an impact on Mass Effect 3 that it’s a pity a lot of people will miss out on it. As someone who also romanced Ashley and Kaidan, those romance stories do seem left out in the cold and reuniting with Liara made that even more obvious. However, the fact that this DLC exists makes me hopeful for more content focused on the other relationships. (ign)

  • Published by: Electronic Arts
  • Developed by: BioWare
  • Genre: RPG
  • Release Date: US: Q3 2010
  • M for Mature: Blood, Drug Reference, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Violence
  • Also Available On: PC, Arcade

If you’re like a lot of us in the IGN office, your commutes to work and free time in general are dominated by Valkyria Chronicles IIgameplay sessions, and even if the massive single-player/co-op campaign wasn’t enough to already keep you playing for months to come, SEGA’s sweetening the pot by giving you free content this week and batch of downloadable content this month.

News broke on the SEGA blog today that fans will be able to pick up a downloadable mission pack this month. A price and specific date weren’t announced, although it was revealed one of the missions will take place in Mellvere, home of the main character Avan.

“We’ve mentioned in the past that there was DLC planned here in the west, but today we’re happy to specify that DLC will actually be arriving this month,” the blog post reads. “All of it will be coming together in one huge pack, and we’ll have details on how many missions that pack will give you, as well as the cost next week!”

The post also gives away a free character and sticker for the game. By entering “37LRK5D214VQVFYH” in the in-game “Extras” section off of the main menu, players will unlock Isara Gunther and the “Isara’s Dream” sticker. (ign)

Published by: SEGA
Developed by: SEGA
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: US: August 31, 2010 , Japan: January 21, 2010
MSRP: $39.99
T for Teen: Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
Also known as: Valkyria Chronicles 2

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (PSP)

Posted: September 4, 2010 in PSP
Tags: , ,

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep ScreenshotKingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep follows three separate storylines. At the beginning, players choose between three different characters: Terra, Ventus and Aqua. These three Keyblade wielders (and close friends) are tasked with defeating the recent uprising of creatures known as the Unversed. Along the way, they’ll encounter some familiar faces and a few new threats.

These play sessions exist on separate save files, so once you start the story, you won’t be jumping between them while you play. You can opt to start up a game and then quit out to a different campaign, but I found it very satisfying to play one character’s story from start to finish. And as you might expect, you’ll be rewarded for completing all three campaigns (the game keeps track of completed save files in order to unlock some yummy secrets).

Like the original Kingdom Hearts games, your hero in Birth by Sleep travels from world to world solving smaller problems and working towards one ultimate goal. While on a world, players move through the environments, collecting treasure and doing a small amount of exploring. The real draw, however, is the battle system, as enemies materialize around the player as he or she explores.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep PictureFighting in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is awesome. Players can find, purchase or earn special commands that can be customized from the main menu. These commands can be selected with the d-pad during battle and executed with the triangle button. Once a command has been executed, the deck automatically cycles to the next command and the previous command enters a cool down period.

This system keeps the action fast and user-friendly, but also lets players customize their abilities at will. Commands can also be leveled up and melded to form new ones, so there’s a mind-numbing amount of tweaking players have at their fingertips.

But commands are just one element in the formula. As you build up combos, a meter fills up on the side of the screen. If you use special commands to build up that meter, your character might enter a special “command style” which gives them a temporary but tremendous boost in ability. If, for example, Ventus were to cast a few thunder spells while filling the command meter, he would enter the Thunderbolt command style and his moves would be electrically charged.

If that wasn’t enough depth for you, each hero also has access to attacks called Shotlocks, which are designed to help deal with large groups of enemies. These attacks take some skill to use effectively but the results are devastating.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep PictureBut that’s not all! Each hero also forges Dimension Links, or D-Links, with characters they meet as they travel. By activating a D-Link, your hero temporarily gains the abilities of that character. More commands means more variety when it comes to fighting, and that’s a good thing.

This battle system is not only deep, but it also requires skill. This is one of the rare times when I’d actually encourage players to tackle the game on Proud difficulty mode (one step above Normal). Here, you need to dodge constantly, study enemy attack patterns, counter and even use commands like Stop and Poison to best basic opponents. The experience is much more enjoyable this way.

One of the complaints with past Kingdom Hearts games was that the mini-games included just weren’t fun. Fortunately, most of the mini-games in Birth by Sleep are not only fun but are also tied in brilliantly with the main story (Except Rumble Racing. That mini-game does not control well). There’s a full board available where your commands are used as playing pieces and those pieces level up when in use. So even though you’re relaxing and taking a break from saving the universe, you’re still developing your character in the process.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep PictureThere’s also a surprisingly robust multiplayer component to Birth by Sleep that goes down in a separate world, the Mirage Arena. Here, players can compete against each other or fight special arena battles that feature multiple waves of enemies. They can even play the Command Board mini-game together. Although there’s definitely some framerate problems during arena matches, playing with two people is smooth enough and it’s fun to tackle boss fights cooperatively. There are even special commands designed for multiplayer use, which is a great touch.

But one of the most impressive aspects of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is the fact that there are three whole stories being told. Although there’s bound to be some weariness in seeing the same worlds multiple times,  Square Enix did a respectable job in varying the challenges each hero faces on those similar worlds. These concurrent plots also encourage players to beat the game multiple times.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is not without issues. Just like its predecessors, the environments are painfully bare and have very little life to them. This stands in direct conflict with the otherwise eye-catching character models and particle effects, which never cease to impress. It would have been great to see the same care given to the worlds themselves, as they continue to feel static and hollow.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep PictureThe stories in these worlds are also imperfect, as some of them lack the same punch as the overarching plotline of the Keyblade wielders and the Unversed. This is, of course, due to the fact that the heroes spend such a short time in each world so there isn’t much room for character development, but it’s still a shame that there are some boring spots to an otherwise intriguing tale.

But the most problematic issue in Birth by Sleep is the camera/lock-on system. The triggers work well most of the time to keep things under control, but in tight spaces the camera can freak out and it’s tough to keep track of the action. Also frustrating is when the game decides to lock on to a nearby pot instead of the Unversed that’s pummeling your face. I’ll never understand why there wasn’t a better priority system in place to keep that from happening.

Lastly, the load times can be a bit lengthy, especially when opening the main menu. These aren’t “go make a sandwich” loads, but they’re still a hassle.

Don’t let these issues dissuade you from trying Birth by Sleep — this is one seriously enjoyable adventure. There’s plenty to do and the battle system is top notch. The developers even included options to alter the color depth and CPU speed of your game, which gives you control over how smoothly it runs. (ign)

Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
Genre: Action RPG
Number of Players: 1-4
Release Date: US: September 7, 2010 , Japan: January 9, 2010
MSRP: $39.99
MSRP: JPY ¥6,090.00
E10+ for Everyone 10+: Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes

Rift: Planes of Telara

Posted: August 18, 2010 in PC
Tags: , ,
Maybe it was the name change from the even-more-generic “Heroes of Telara“, or maybe it’s the pretty but ultimately not unique art style, but Rift: Planes of Telara is one of those games that, for whatever reason, has sort of slipped under the radar of the press and the public. It’s kind of a shame, too, because for all its sameness, Rift, the massively-multiplayer online role-playing game from Trion Worlds, does a few things differently, and, from what I’ve played, does them pretty well.It begins with the class system which, as we covered earlier, allows players to mix and match a surprising array of class archetypes, and lets players come up with some unique and genuinely interesting combinations, while still allowing for solid group-play, and potentially good balance between players.

During my play session with the developers, I was a combination of an assassin – your standard high-damage rogue character – and a riftstalker – something more along the lines of a caster class. This combination allowed me to throw up a damage absorbing shield by using combo-points I racked up against the opponents at the wrong end of a sharp blade. I ended up tanking an early dungeon in the game called Realm of the Fae.

The transition from Spring...

The transition from Spring…

Realm of the Fae is a dungeon that, as players progress, ultimately spans the four seasons. Fae Lord Twill, the dungeon’s namesake and ultimate boss, has created his own realm in an effort to separate him from one of the benevolent factions in the game. In doing so, he’s attracted the ire of you allies, and by proxy, you. The dungeon is a pretty straight-forward affair for anyone who has played other MMORPGs in the last few years. Groups of enemies fill the gaps between the dungeon’s four bosses, who each have their own special abilities which result in players having to form a strategy to beat them.

Trickster Maelow, for example, has two friends who constantly power him up, so they have to be killed early. Battlemaster Atrophinius, on the other hand, fights players in the middle of a ring of drunken satyrs who, if you get too close, will start smacking you around. So naturally the Battlemaster throws you to the edge as frequently as possible. Another battle pits you against a giant frog-beast who spits poison in rings on the ground and hits hard, while the Fae Lord Himself, well, he was a pushover, but the four elemental beasts he summoned beforehand weren’t.

The most impressive part of Realm of the Fae is not the encounters it contains – as a low-level dungeon, it is designed to be pretty simple to beat – but the seamless progression from Spring at the start, through Summer and Autumn, and ending in Winter. It’s a striking visual journey, and helps make the otherwise standard dungeon more interesting for MMO veterans. Beginning the dungeon gave everyone in the group a dungeon-specific quest, which was nice. It meant that no one would realize halfway through that everyone in the group but them was completing a quest they never picked up. We’ve probably all been that guy before, and it sucks. Winter is seamless.

…to Winter is seamless.

Besides Realm of the Fae, I had a chance to have a look at Rift’s unique “rift” system (that’s where the name comes from!), in which inter-dimensional tears dynamically open up, and all sorts of bad things come out. If left unchecked long enough, the bad things begin to leave their staging area and spread outward, finding key locations, such as where quest-giving NPCs might be hanging out, killing everyone in the immediate area, and hunkering down to take a breather before they spread even further. The effect is somewhat viral, and can even get to the point where beasts from two different rifts run into each other and, naturally, fight to the death. It’s pretty neat, and closing rifts gives players unique rewards.

The developers are still working on putting loads more content into the game, and adding in more and more class archetypes. They ultimately aim to get to the point where players can theoretically get to the level cap simply by running each dungeon once. That’s a lot of dungeons, which is good news if you love grouping like me.


Hands-On With Guild Wars 2

Posted: August 18, 2010 in PC

It’s been a long time coming, but after months of teasing little updates, news about character classes, combat, questing and story, and some tantalizing glimpses of gigantic monsters, I finally had a chance to sit down and play Guild Wars 2. Before we get into the nitty gritty, however, let’s recap: Guild Wars 2 is ArenaNet’s sequel to Guild Wars, which was a sort-of-but-not-really MMO that didn’t have a subscription cost and blended group-based combat with trading-card-game-style tactics. For the sequel, ArenaNet began making wild claims. Claims like “you won’t need be in the same party to get credit for helping people” and “there won’t be any quest text.” Naturally, we, the gaming public, nodded our heads and agreed, the way you might as a homeless person yells at you that the illuminati is controlling his mind, and that he, in turn, is controlling yours with the soiled rag he manically grasps in his trembling hand.

So, I sat down and played Guild Wars 2. It began, as most games of the genre do, with character creation. It was, I was told, greatly dumbed down from the character creator that we’ll see in the final version to get into the action quickly, rather than spend fifteen minutes shaping our character’s eyebrows. Instead of being able to mess with the cosmetics of the character, I was whisked off to things that would actually affect the way my character played, and the way Guild Wars 2’s storyline would play out. For the first part of the demo, I had to play as a human. My class was up to me, so, being that I generally like to play caster classes the most, I chose the Elementalist. From there I had to choose an elemental affinity. At this point in the demo, I don’t think it actually made a difference, so I chose earth, picturing my character to be a new-age hippie in a land of battle-hardened warriors.

The Asura are frankly a little creepy looking.

Then there was a small string of biography questions. I was given a few choices as to what my strongest personality aspect was. I chose “ferocity.” Out of three options regarding my upbringing as a street rat, a commoner or a court noble, I chose a commoner. Then I was asked what, of three options, was my greatest regret. The first two were boring things like avenging my sister’s murder or something. I didn’t even really pay attention to them, because the third option completely overshadowed them. My character’s greatest regret is that he never had the opportunity to perform in the circus. This could only play out in the most awesome of ways, although I never got the chance to see ramifications of that particular choice.

From there, my character entered the world. I found myself standing before a collection of buildings, and immediately an NPC ran up to me to inform me that the village was under attack from centaurs, and that I needed to rally survivors and tell them to head to the town’s inn. With that complete, I was told to head to the local fortress — currently overrun by the half-beasts — and take back what was ours. Other players were present during the demo, and I could see them running towards the fortress too. It was there that we all coalesced and began wiping out waves of attacking centaurs. Each kill netted me, and all the other players involved, experience and loot, despite me never having invited any of the other players to a group. We were in the same world, working as separate entities for a common goal, and all being rewarded equally. It was very communistic.

Steeleye Span, like basically everywhere else I visited, had an event of some sort going on.

But the world would soon splinter, as I later made my way back to Divinity’s Reach, the human home city. Wandering through the town, I soon came across a swirling portal, indicating I was about to enter an instanced area. On the other side was a homey little area. In the local tavern I met what could potentially be a love interest, and what was most definitely a rival. Words were traded, and all hell broke loose, with my rival and his posse wrecking the bar and its patrons. I took action and disabled the rabble-rousers with fiery justice.

On the real-world side of the monitor, another was looking over my shoulder and asked how I started all of that. One of the developers informed us that, because I had chosen to play as a commoner, I had that bar-fight scenario. If I had chosen to play as a noble, I would have had to help some sissy-man with a horse or something, and the game’s story, from the get-go, would be different.

The farmland surrounding Divinity’s Reach is full of dynamic events. As you first walk down to the farms, you may have someone run over to you, begging you to help slay an invading Broodmother. In the opposite direction, you can help a farmer save his watermelons from a pack of ravenous rabbits. Participating (and completing) these events have consequences. In the instance of the rabbits, you can now buy and eat the watermelons for a passive stat-buff, while the death of the Broodmother means the fisherman can now go back to work in the river. Some of these events lead into others, which can become a pretty long chain. You can stop whenever you want, of course, and other people can join in whenever they please. It was surprising how often some sort of event was within reach simply while running through the world.

Later, I logged into a higher level Charr character in a much more arid-looking locale. Again, wherever I seemed to go, there was something to do. One particular event chain ultimately led to the summoning of an enormous, purple, glowing dragon. My allies (as in, all the other players in the area) and I were rapidly killed by the beast as we got too close.

Divinity's Reach - the human home city.

Combat in Guild Wars 2 feels sort of like a blend of the traditional MMO-style that you know — but may not love — with more of an action focus and heavily positional combat. As an elementalist, I could summon walls of fire and giant ice-spikes, but my favorite spell was far and away the ability to conjure a phoenix that would fly where I told it and immediately boomerang back. I was able to hit multiple, moving foes with it. It was very satisfying. Other abilities didn’t seem to work as well, such as when I briefly played as a sword-and-shield warrior, and could barely make a dent in my foes, while not really feeling the defensive benefit of the shield.

The abilities I had at my disposal depended on my equipped weapons. As an elementalist, my best high-damage abilities were to be found while wielding a staff, while a dagger and focus combination resulted in more evasive abilities, and moves that would help in group situations. Playing a warrior with a gun, I could deal pretty solid damage at a range, while with an axe in hand I could bleed foes down over time. Having a shield out let me close gaps quickly, though, like I said, I didn’t immediately see a huge defensive benefit, and the sword abilities certainly needed some further development.

Elementalists are pretty neat.

I had high hopes for my first experience with Guild Wars 2, and I was not disappointed. Although the game is certainly not without problems, the problems are small and easily fixable. The launch date is still a vague 2011 (or “when it’s ready”), and yet, with the exception of the few combat and graphical bugs that are to be expected in any demo, the game has the hallmarks of something far into an open beta.

The demo showed Guild Wars 2 is capable of fulfilling the promises it made — at least, at the start and somewhere in the middle. If the full release can sustain what the demo showed, World of Warcraft may finally have a run for its money.

  • Published by: NCsoft
  • Developed by: ArenaNet
  • Genre: Persistent Online RPG
  • Release Date: US: November 2, 2011


Final Fantasy XIV

Posted: August 17, 2010 in PC
Tags: , , ,

Final Fantasy XIV Online Picture“Hear…” a woman’s voice beckons, “feel… think…” The sky goes dark and, in the center of a swirl of clouds, a light appears, only for an instant, then gone. Around you, everything begins to tremble, and you know things are about to take a turn for the worst.

The wait is almost over for massively-multiplayer and Japanese role-playing game fans alike, as Square-Enix’s MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV Online is set to launch in less than a month and a half on PC (September 30th worldwide), and even sooner for pre-orderers. PlayStation 3 owners will have to wait until March 2011. I recently sat down with the game for a few hours and spent some time in areas that, until now, have never been seen by non-Square employees.

The first major city-hub Limsa Lominsa, perched high above the ocean and seemingly suspended by a series of stone bridges, has been seen in various forms for months now, but two more cities have since been revealed. The first I had an opportunity to mess around in was Gridania, a city deep within a massive forest known as the Twelveswood. Before you can set foot in the forest, however, you’ve got to make a character.

First, you choose your race, then your gender, at which point you’ll be presented with a few pre-made characters to choose as a basis for your own. From here, it’s a pretty standard process of selecting a section of the character (face, body, features etc…) and then selecting various options from drop-down menus — eyebrows, eyes and nose all have several variations, for example. It’s not as flexible as some of the more recent creation tools, but on the other hand, you’d be hard-pressed to make something ugly. Believe me — I tried. I chose a hulking Roegadyn character, made his skin bright red, his beard and hair dark green, and ensured he had yellow highlights. The final result was, unfortunately, rather stylish.

Final Fantasy XIV Online PictureUpon entering the game world, my character’s first appearance was him simply wandering through the woods. Above, he hears a crash, and an airship, aflame and leaving a trail of smoke in its wake, sails clumsily overhead. He hears the cries of two individuals as they plummet from the damaged craft, and runs over to ensure they’re okay. There, before my character, lays Yda, a Hyur (basically human) female clad in what appears to be bright red mechano-pants, and Papalymo, a Lalafell (kind of like a mixture between a gnome and a moogle), in rather civilized attire. You must wake them up, at which point they begin to argue as a pack of wolves slowly surrounds them, and you.

This is where your first taste of gameplay begins. As the wolves begin their attack, your first task will be to choose your target. This is done by clicking a wolf, or tab-targeting. Once selected, you’ve got to take out your weapon with ‘F’. Then, at the bottom of your screen, your skill bar appears. I chose to begin my life as a Conjuror, so I had at my disposal a magic-missile-type attack (which, for all intents and purposes, was the standard attack for the Conjuror), fire, and blizzard, the last two of which both dealt area-of-effect (AoE) damage.

While the proximity of the wolves to each other was important for the AoE on blizzard and fire, it didn’t seem like range was particularly important for the wolves to attack me. There were times when I thought I was standing beyond the range of a physical attack, and still found myself taking damage. Eventually, the wolves are slain, the ground shakes, and a gigantic tree-beast rises from the earth, intent on devouring my delicious bright red flesh, when out of nowhere, a musical band of flying moogles appear and lure the beast away.

Final Fantasy XIV uses a system where your class is determined by the type of weapon you wield. By choosing a conjurer at the start, I began with a staff. But there are other classes available, including non-combat oriented classes. If I had, for example, chosen a cook (known as a Culinarian), I would have found myself wielding a cooking utensil, with my only attack being the ability to throw rocks. They’d do very, very little damage, and under normal circumstances I’d certainly die, so the game allows Yda and Papalymo to fight alongside you, and ensure you’re always healthy.
Final Fantasy XIV Online ScreenshotAfter this brief intro, and after meeting a few more key figures (a group who basically serves as the guardians of the Twleveswood, for example), I found myself in an inn within Gridania. This is where I was told that my encounter with the living tree was no coincidence. The forest doesn’t like outsiders, and unless I purified myself, I would continue to find myself at the mercy of the woods. So I had my first quest — to begin the rite of purification.
Navigating Gridania’s paths seemed a great deal easier than Limsa Lominsa’s network of stone bridges, although the wooded city was less immediately visually striking. Leaving the city in any direction, I found myself faced with some non-aggressive low-level monsters. I took a few down, and reached level 2, where I was given three points to spend on my attributes, and three points to spend on my magical resistances. I went a little further into the forest in an attempt to find my quest destination, but eventually came upon a ladybug. Thinking that I, with my mastery of the elements, could make quick work of a ladybug, I began my attack. Within seconds, my lifeless body lay unmoving in the grass of the Twelveswood. Ladybugs, it seems, are a great deal stronger than they look.

Death currently sends players back to an Aetherite stone with a debuff to a few key stats that fades over time. Interestingly, my mana, which I assumed would recover out of combat, remained unchanged, lowered by my spellcasting from earlier. To refill mana, players apparently need to locate an Aetherite crystal and use it. Every town has one, and they can also be found in the wilds. It looks like, unless players use a consumable to restore their mana (which isn’t entirely farfetched), they will be required to boomerang around these Aetherite crystals.

Immediately after exploring Gridania, I began a new game in the third starting city, Ul’dah. Much like Gridania, the introduction was beautifully animated, displaying a parade through a city reminiscent of Istanbul. A lumbering green beast sat chained atop one of the floats, and inevitably broke free, beginning a fight similar to the wolf one. Ul’dah was simpler still to navigate as it was virtually a series of concentric circles with a few offshoots.

With so little time until the release, it is good to see that XIV is looking as pretty as it is. We have our concerns, however. The user interface currently feels clumsy and unruly, and combat is not super intuitive. You also can’t jump — which may not be an issue for fans of Final Fantasy XI, but may feel constrictive for players who have become used to mashing the spacebar to get around.

Look forward to continued coverage as we close in on Final Fantasy XIV Online’s release date.

  • Published by: Square Enix
  • Developed by: Square Enix
  • Genre: Persistent Online RPG
  • Number of Players: Unlimited
  • Release Date: US: September 30, 2010 , Japan: September 30, 2010
  • MSRP: $49.99
  • T for Teen: Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
  • Also Available On: PCPlayStation 3
  • Also known as: Final Fantasy XIV


The game amounts to tapping rapidly to kill enemies (they’re literally squares of varying sizes and colors), and gathering money from the destroyed enemies to spend on attack, defense and health. Fastar! would be too thin to be worth even its 99-cent asking price if it didn’t have a variety of game modes that make it a more interesting play.

As far as controls, you tilt the iPhone to the right to make your side-scrolling character travel in that direction, and left to travel left. Fighting, which occurs every few steps, amounts to tilting back and forth to avoid attacks and get close enough to use a sword on the offending square enemy. Tapping the screen swings the sword.

Every once in a while, you’ll come upon a town where you can spend the money you’ve accumulated to make your character better. You also can choose a form of magic at the outset of the game to use on enemies, like fire or lightning.

The true coolness of Fastar!, however, are the many leaderboards and game modes. One has you collecting as much money as possible; another ramps difficulty up; another series just has you fighting certain square types.

All of these are engaging only because Fastar! puts your score up against other players on the network, and competing keeps the game interesting.

3 of 5 bars
PRICE: $0.99
TASTY: Lots of game models and leaderboards give an incentive to keep playing and get better.
BUMMER: The game is overly simple, and not really that engaging on its own.
COOL: Cartoonish art style is kind of cool; your character’s look is somewhat customizable.
100 Rogues
Knights of the Phantom Castle

(via appolicious)

Arc Rise Fantasia (Wii)

Posted: August 14, 2010 in Wii
Tags: ,

Arc Rise Fantasia Screenshot

Confession: Until Arc Rise Fantasia I’ve never played more than an hour of any Japanese RPG. It’s not that I hate them, but rather that I’ve never been that intrigued by their art-style and what appeared, to me, to be a very slow style of play.

Now, after having dedicated innumerable hours of my life to playing Arc Rise for review, I’ve discovered something about myself — I actually don’t mind JRPGs after all. In fact, I think I might enjoy them. Especially if, as so many people tell me, there are JRPGs that are much more intriguing than the relatively dull grind of this, my first adventure.

Arc Rise Fantasia Screenshot

Arc Rise has all the pieces of JRPGs that I’d come to fear over the years. From an utterly predictable, cliched story involving typical things like magic, dragons, and teenage love, to a complex, garish menu system that’s hard for a newcomer like me to navigate, this game is clearly designed for a very RPG-literate audience. I think fans of these games are more inclined to forgive the awful localization (misspellings in subtitles, for instance) and quirky, kiddy moments the characters share in the game, but for me they just made the story something to laugh at, as opposed to laugh with. I mean you don’t have to tell a completely new story to make it interesting — see any game BioWare does, for example — but this story feels like they hardly even tried. Still, despite eye-roll inducing narrative, I found that I mostly enjoyed what I had previous assumed would be tedious turn-based combat.

Combat systems are, of course, a huge deal in any JRPG, and Arc Rise’s is just complex enough to make it interesting during the more intense fights. The four members of your party all draw upon the same pool of Action Points (AP) to do anything and everything (fight, use spells, move, etc.) during their turn. This means that you have to strategically decide which characters are going to participate in the battle, sometimes choosing to have one character use up all the points while the others just stand there. The finite AP resource also makes for hard choices: at times making you choose to simply defend or do nothing for a turn, in order to save up the points you need to enact more powerful moves in subsequent turns.

On top of AP, combat is made deeper still by giving you several other things to manage on the fly. For instance, physical positioning of your party members is important, as standing spread out might allow you to avoid damage to multiple characters from a single spell, while having them standing next to one another could allow them to assist each other’s attacks. Additionally, casting spells costs MP, and each level of spells has its own MP. Then you’re special powers are spent using SP, which builds up during the course of battle (all other stats outside of AP are for each individual, not in a collective pool). I’ll admit, as a newcomer, having to manage so many stats and variables — as well as just focus on keeping my party alive — can be overwhelming, but it also makes a hard-won victory all the sweeter.

Arc Rise Fantasia Screenshot

The only problem is that battles are hardly ever challenging. Besides the boss battles — which are often so difficult that you have to go back and grind for an hour just to get past them — combat is so easy you can pretty much put your party on autopilot and do something else. Maybe that sounds appealing to some people out there, but for me it’s problematic when a large portion of how I spend my game time is mundane enough that I find myself searching the Internet or chatting while it goes on. And please don’t confuse my complaint for some strange desire to have each battle be an epic struggle, I just wish that combat could have been better balanced overall instead of a series of far-too-easy fights followed up by a sometimes frustratingly difficult boss battle.

  • Published by: Ignition Entertainment
  • Developed by: Image Epoch
  • Genre: RPG
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date: US: July 20, 2010 , Japan: June 4, 2009
  • MSRP: $39.99
  • T for Teen: Drug Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Simulated Gambling


Chaos Rings (iPad)

Posted: August 13, 2010 in iPhone/iPad/iPod
Tags: , ,

What a delight to see a developer as talented as Square Enixtake the iPhone and iPad seriously. Chaos Rings, an original adventure created specifically for the iPhone and now up-ported to the iPad, offers the thoughtful, engaging play you expect from Square’s other big-name RPG franchises.

Chaos Rings is the saga of the Ark Arena, a mysterious coliseum where four pairs of heroes thrown together (sometimes against their will) must fight for their lives if they hope to escape. Each pair of heroes has their own story and banter, which actually gives Chaos Rings a considerable amount of replay. I am loathe to ruin any of the story here because even though the writing suffers from serious melodrama, it is very good. The characters — some of which you will not like, such as the insufferable Escher — are fleshed out well. So, if you are a big fan of Square’s brand of character and scenario development, you will enjoy the yarns spun here.

Though Chaos Rings is surely an RPG, the emphasis is squarely on action. Because you are in an arena, you are constantly fighting monsters to stay alive. The combat system in Chaos Rings is very smart. I love the ability to either choose solo attacks that do less damage or a paired-up move that devastates. The difference is that pair attacks leave both heroes on the team vulnerable to an enemy attack while a solo attack is only answered by a single enemy strike. As you can imagine, this adds an element of strategy to attacking.

But there’s a second system that makes this even better. A break meter monitors the flow of the battle and shows which side (heroes versus enemies) has the initiative. If the monsters have the initiative, they usually attack first. However, when you land a blow, the battle tilts a bit toward you. Now, if you are struggling, a big pair attack can swing the break meter in your favor so you have the initiative. But there is risk involved here. If your attack fails, not only are you still without the initiative, but you are now open to an attack on each hero. This really does keep each battle thrilling, especially when you are squaring off against some real brutes.

Your heroes regain any lost health after a battle, but not expended magic points, which are used for attacks and support. Magic Points are recovered when you leave the arena, so you must be choosy about casting spells. You may want to save MP for later in a scenario when you will need them to save a battle you are about to lose. There is a secondary system of finding Gene Plates from fallen enemies that you attach to your heroes for new abilities which adds a nice bit of collecting to Chaos Rings. Battles are also complicated a bit by the addition of elemental factors. When you use a move related to an element (gale, blaze, or aqua), your hero takes on that elemental property which can affect the strength of future attacks against an enemy with its own elemental property. This is a little paper-rock-scissor-ish and something I admittedly did not get into very much.

As much as I love the battles and exploring the dungeons, there is a piece of Chaos Rings I just never warmed to: puzzle rooms. To get through dungeons, you often need to pass through puzzles that require tapping on ESP blocks. Each ESP block captured gives you the ability to swap your hero with a cube. You need to collect all of the ESP blocks and have swapped your hero to the far side of the room, next to the exit. You can retry these puzzles as many times as you like. And you will restart them. Often. The battle system and story were good enough on their own. These puzzle rooms feel tacked on and part of a lesser, common puzzle game I could download for 99 cents elsewhere on the App Store.

Now, the battle system and narrative would still be good if Chaos Rings was just a bunch of stick figures against plain backgrounds. It certainly doesn’t hurt, though, that Chaos Rings is absolutely stunning. As good as Chaos Rings looked on the iPhone, the iPad edition is simply sumptuous. The environments are richly detailed and covered with crisp textures. The monster designs are just awesome (as much as Final Fantasy games drive me crazy sometimes, I always love the enemies). Your heroes also look remarkable, complete with unique costumes detailed right down to the buckles. And, no surprise here, the music is fantastic.

Chaos Rings is not an amazing adventure game for the iPad. It is an amazing adventure game – period. This battle-heavy RPG is loaded with dozens of hours of play across four sets of heroes. The narrative is excellent, as is the character development. It is easy to control in both exploration and battle scenes thanks to clean, smart virtual controls. There is real depth to the battle system, too, as you weigh the risks of solo or pair attacks versus exposure to enemy blows, and how this can affect the flow of the fight. My big complaint is the out-of-place series of puzzle rooms that just slow things down. Otherwise, this is a wonderful RPG that any Square fan or adventure gamer would be crazy to miss.

(via ign)