We live in an age of instant gratification. Text messages must go out instantly, who can wait around for a phone call when a 15 year old girl can type War and Peace on her cell phone keypad by the time you’ve read these first couple lines(although, I dare you to decipher her shorthand text speak). With that knowledge, it is ironic that all of us PC gamers, who want our content immediately, cannot wait to jump back into 16th century, Feudal Japan! On March 15th, another PC sequel, 11 years in the making, finally goes live on store shelves and digital distribution sites–Total War : Shogun 2.
Listen in as Eric Bouchard, Chris Maeurer, Jordan de Boer and Kyle Stroud discuss games they consider overrated and underrated. Oh yes, toes will be stepped on.
We are taking a break next week in preparation for Episode 100, so to make up for that, we have a nice, long podcast.
Music – Emery, ‘So Cold I Could See My Breath’ and ‘Studying Politics’
What We’ve Been Playing – 18:45
Overrated and Underrated Games – 50:50
Questions from Twitter – 2:08:40
Shoutouts and Recommendations – 2:25:52
Episode 100 Giveaway Info – 2:33:30
Do any of you remember how angry people were with the ending of Fable 2? I am not talking about the final boss; I mean the choice at the end. Many gamers suddenly found themselves in a position where they had to decide whether they were going to do the truly noble thing and therefore close certain quests off to themselves or the less noble which would leave said quests open. I remember gamers arguing they should not have to play the game again just to be able to pick what was for the greater good and yet still have the ability to finish quests requiring a different choice. The anger was so overwhelming that Lionhead Studios added a way to reverse one of the major affects of that choice in the first DLC, Knotthole Island.
Last year, console gamers were alight, with a new Spiderman game, promising an interesting new take on a familiar hero. Without a PC release in sight, it looked like we’d be left out in the cold, missing a great gaming experience. Then, a store exclusive version appeared on shelves, without fanfare or heralding, making us wonder if this game could shake the bad aura of value-priced, store exclusive ports, and be great, or if it would get trapped in it’s own web.
At the game’s opening, Spiderman(of the red and blue, tried and true, ‘Amazing’ variety) is tracking one of his arch-enemies, Mysterio, into Manhattan’s Museum. Mysterio has his sights set on the Tablet of Order and Chaos, but a scuffle quickly ensues, and the tablet becomes shattered into pieces. Mysterio makes his getaway, but Spiderman is contacted by Madame Web, who quickly brings us up to speed on the consequences of breaking this mystical tome. Breaking the tablet, has scattered it’s fragments across space and time, specifically the four dimensions of the Spiderman universes, the Amazing, the Ultimate, 2099 and the Noir. Each Spiderman will have to find the fragments scattered to their region, and ensure that sinister hands do not get access to the limitless power the fragments behold. Madame Web, grants each Spiderman, an augmented Spider Sense, that will help them achieve their goal, much more so then her dull as a spoon wit and helpless comments, that plague you during the game’s frustrating sections.
As the player, you get to control each of the four Spidermen, in their quest for the fragments of the tablet. In a departure from Web of Shadows, and an obvious embracing of the criticisms of it, Beenox has crafted a game that takes a more linear path, across the different dimensions. You unlock waves of levels, one in each dimension, that must all be completed before unlocking the next wave. Personally, I have always enjoyed the more linear Spiderman games, rather than being bogged down in the open world setting Spiderman has inhabited, since the game adaptation of the second movie. On the surface, this may seem like four sides of the same picture, with a different skin. It’s obvious that Beenox really tried, and succeeded, to make each dimension feel unique. The Noir universe is the easiest one to set apart. This dimension plays very similar to the stealth segments in Arkham Asylum. Clearly outgunned, the Noir Spiderman hunts his prey from the shadows, and relies on stealth takedowns, rather than brute strength and combos. These levels are much more strategic, and must be approached from a completely different mindset. I’ve heard accusations that the other 3 dimensions feel like the same levels, with different aesthetics, but I question how much of the game someone making that statement actually played. The Ultimate universe stars a more anime Peter Parker, donning a version of the black symbiote suit ,
that has been altered by Madame Web, to make sure it doesn’t overtake Peter. These levels are much more visceral, using the suit and a rage meter to achieve an almost over the top approach to combat and combos. The 2099 Spiderman, inhabits a universe that has seen the city run out of space, much more so than today’s cities. The solution to that, was to build vertical, and, consequently, the 2099 levels have a much more aerial focus, integrating sequences that use that feature. Of course, the Amazing sections of the game, are the most familiar, with the straight up combat and combos we’ve come to expect from Spiderman games of the past. I would have liked to see the game capture the free-flow feel of Web of Shadows, within it’s combat system, but Beenox did a great job of customizing the engine for each setting. The game uses a mechanic, similar to that of Prototype, to track challenges the player can unlock, for each level. Completing challenges earns you more experience to use for the unlocking of combos, special suits, and stat boosting attributes, like faster health regeneration or an larger health bar. Combos purchased vary from universe specific combos, to all encompassing ones, but choose carefully! Certain combos are not only crucial to the completion of challenges, they also help give some much needed breathing room and tactics in the games more difficult and crowded sections.
Bitten By A Virtual Radioactive Spider
I know that the PC port was not the primary focus, for the game. I can appreciate that the console market can be far more lucrative, and I accept that. Unfortunately, I spent the majority of this game feeling like I was fighting the controls, rather than the villains in the game. Button presses were incredibly unresponsive, and made the crowded sections of the game, and the final boss battle, much more work than fun. For example, simply trying to jump, activate the Ultimate Rage mode, Spider-Sense, or even pause the game, frequently required 3-4 presses of the button, before getting a response. On top of that, when those button presses did register, they would stack, so a paused game would quickly revert back to the unpaused screens. Most of the game, it was frustrating but manageable, up until the final boss battle at the game’s end. During two of those segments, your character was incredibly outnumbered, required to maneuver environmental hazards and attacks, in addition to the hordes of enemies, all of which necessitating a grand amount of precision. Precision which the controls would not allow for. I’m not the type of gamer that would shy away from a challenging game, but fighting the game engine and controls are not my idea of an effective or desired mechanic to challenge the player. I can’t say whether this was unique to the PC version, or if the console versions suffered similar faults, but I would have loved to see a patch emerge to address some of these issues.
I am a huge Spiderman fan, and, despite the faults of the game, I had a great time with it and really feel as though I got my gaming dollar value from the game. On the flipside of that, I really do think the poor controls hampered the experience. Beenox did a fantastic job immersing the player in not just one, but four beautifully crafted environments. They also did a great job separating those experiences from each other, and found some fantastic audio tracks and voice acting, to really bring the immersion home. It’s just a shame to see the game trip and stumble on poorly responsive controls. There is a ton of fan service, and definitely a draw to go back and unlock challenges and content by playing the different difficulty settings. One of the nice perks, was that, in addition to the four suits the player could unlock in each universe, PC players got access to the Cosmic Spiderman suits, in all four dimensions, right from the start of the game. Sadly, I’d still have to recommend experiencing the game on a console, rather than the PC. I am really glad to hear that Beenox will be doing future Spiderman releases, and I can’t wait to see what their team has in store for ol’ webhead! Shattered Dimensions was a great game, an interesting concept, and a lot of fun.
Swedish game developer, Arrowhead Studios, had teased Magicka as an action/RPG release slated to hit in 2010. After a comical video, explaining the delay, most of us were more intrigued than upset about the delay. Now, with the game released on January 25th, of this year, Magicka has charmed us all with it’s spell. To say that it had a rocky release, would be an accurate statement, but I believe there is a great game, and a great concept, hidden in the faceless robes of our heroes.
The story is typical RPG fare–monsters have invaded the land, and you, an up and coming mage, are the world’s only hope. You reside in a mage’s academy, in the capital city of Midgard. With monsters invading, your task is set before you–brave the 13 levels of the game, in a quest to beat back the monster horde, either alone, or with up to 3 co-op friends. You run through a quick tutorial, at your mage’s academy, and learn the control scheme-what really sets this game apart from the pack. In the tutorial, you unlock your spell elements–mapped to the Q,W,E,R,A,S,D, and F keys. Each element, such as earth, fire, cold or the arcane, will grant a unique ability. That ability can be used with a right click, self-casting with the middle mouse button, or combined with the holding of the shift key to obtain an area effect. Combine more than one of these elements, and you get a completely different outcome, in either the beam/attack form or the area effect form. For example, one element is a shield. Casting shield, simply places an impenetrable barrier in front of the player, self-casting it, places the barrier around you, like a second skin. Combining shield, with the fire element, will cast a semi-circle of fire in front of the player, and adding earth to that combo, will create a semi-circle of fire spewing stalagmites. Use the shift-area cast with that combo, and the circle of fire or stalagmites will create a barrier that completely encircles the player. Self cast is good, not only for shield and heal abilities, but to negate unwanted spell effects. For example, one can see how casting a lightning spell while wet would be problematic, a quick self-cast of fire dries you out, and deals considerably less damage than electrocuting yourself while wet. In addition, you can find Magicka books, containing specific combinations of elements, that can be cast with the spacebar to achieve unique effects, like a meteor shower, or the revival of a fallen companion. Be careful who you play with, there is endless fun in finding new and interesting ways to blow up your companions, and revive them for another untimely death, at your hands(insert evil laugh here). If the campaign levels are not enough to grab you, or your friends, you can team up with co-op partners in some survival area challenge maps, and test and refine your mage abilities.
The discovery of new spells and combinations, is the immediate charm of Magicka. There is an awesome sense of satisfaction, those first couple of levels of the game, where you are finding new and interesting ways to use your abilities. Even exploration can be fun, as you can freeze and traverse bodies of water to see if there are any goodies hidden on the other banks, although it is a bit tricky to freeze and make your way across such spots. The single player hits a really high difficulty, very early on, and can be quite discouraging. As much fun as it is trying new spells out, without co-op friends to help you out, single player tactics quickly funnel into finding one or two high-damage yielding spells and sticking to those, while keeping an eye on your shields and health. Playing co-op lends a bit more to experimentation and trying different roles, such as ranged, tank and healer, but even there, it can be easily overwhelming. The game definitely hits it’s stride as a cooperative experience. Sadly, there were many bugs and issues with the online experience, but Arrowhead seems to be working harder than ever to patch the game, post-release. Recognition should definitely be given to that continued support–the game is still being patched, and the soundtrack has even been released as a free download. Bugs aside, Magicka is an insanely addictive, charming and innovative game. Maybe I’m different than some reviewers out there, but I can’t hold a less expensive download title to the same yard stick that we may use to find fault in big releases such as Fallout:New Vegas or COD:Black Ops. None of the bugs prevented me from having an insane amount of fun with the game, and the co-op definitely seems more stable than when first released. Magicka takes a charming, adventurous atmosphere, fuses it with fantastic humor, and gives the player an extremely clever and inventive set of tools to craft their own combat choices. I can’t wait to see if Arrowhead has anymore in store for either the current game or a possible sequel!