Amber: Diceless Roleplaying

[Note:  I wanted to look at an older game that I really enjoy playing and running. It’s not for everyone, but eh. It’s still one of my favorites.]

I’m a gamer.

I don’t mean that I play video games. I mean I play roleplaying games. To me, that’s what being a gamer is. Someone who sits down, breaks out the dice, and gets into character. AD&D, Rifts, Vampire… yeah, the people who play those, to me, are gamers. Some may disagree with me. That’s cool. I won’t hold anyone against it. Continue reading

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Review: Final Fantasy (NES)

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Yep, that’s me fighting a random James

I’m an old-school Final Fantasy fan. I was at the official 25th birthday celebration of Final Fantasy at the Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concert. Nobuo Uematsu was there to lead us all singing happy birthday. I own Final Fantasy and two remakes for it, as well as the reimagining for the DS. I’ve played and beaten every single Final Fantasy from Final Fantasy I through Final Fantasy X. Didn’t care for any of FFs that followed. Continue reading

Dragon Age Origins; Review

Most people I know that own any major gaming platform (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) have played Dragon Age; Origins at some point and everyone I’ve met says the same thing.

It’s amazing.

I’ve seen a few odd bad things said about it through different reviews but they’re but a small stain on the otherwise massive canvas. So, by and large, Dragon Age; Origins must have done a LOT of things right. My opinion? Yes, yes it did. It isn’t by any means a perfect game, but those don’t exist. So, I’m going to try and flesh out the good parts and the few bad parts to try and explain to people who haven’t played it while it’s such a worthwhile investment.

First up, and probably the thing that has the most impact; storyline. This game has a story that trumps almost all other RPGs I’ve played. The main story is compelling and you never find yourself bored with it. There are just enough twists to keep you entertained but not so many so that you expect them. Progression is well paced and enemies scale appropriately according to your level so you’re not over or underwhelmed. The 6 different backstories give the start real depth because it’s something you’ve chosen. It also gives the game replay value right from the off as people treat you differently throughout the game depending on what you chose. The sidequests can sometimes be a bit of a pain depending on what they are but most of them have good pacing with appropriate rewards at the end. Companion quests are extremely worthwhile and engrossing as it makes you realise that the characters you recruit had a life before they joined forces with you. It gives them a great sense of depth and thought. Overall, there isn’t anything to complain about when it comes to it’s story. It’s got everything it needs; nothing more and nothing less.

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Next up is combat. Combat is functional and flows smoothly enough, but can feel quite awkward sometimes considering if you click off and enemy your character will just stand about like an idiot. Your abilities have modest cooldowns as do the various poultices so when you’re in a tough battle you feel as though you’re actually being challenged as opposed to just constantly necking health poultices so you’re Mr./Mrs. Invincible. It’s not very fast-paced but it gets your heart pumping in other ways; suspense coupled with constantly checking up on your allies to make sure they’re coping alright. The combat might not be approaching warp-speed any time soon but it gives you plenty of time to deliberate on your options. Faster paced combat used in it’s ‘sequel’ (though I use the term loosely) Dragon Age 2 can sometimes make you panic and hit any old button, praying it works. Overall, it could be a bit faster and a bit more user-friendly, but it makes up for it in slightly less conventional areas.

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Then comes characters. You fall in love with them. Full stop. I can guarantee there will be at least one party member you come across who will capture your heart, romantically or otherwise. For me, it was every one of them. Even the merchant Bodahn who stays on the fringes of your camp has an extremely in-depth backstory for you to ask about if you choose to do so. Romances are believable and charming, and the gift system is extremely rewarding. Approval and disapproval is very well done; for example if you take a character who prefers immoral choices and a character that prefers moral choices then you make an immoral choice, you’ll earn approval from the character that prefers immoral and disapproval from the character that prefers moral. It’s a challenge to make everybody like you but it’s not impossible. Companion quests hold real sway for them as they almost always have personal items that will last you for at least the majority of the game. However, it’s their own individual personalities that sell it the best. Each character is different and unique. The voice actors are convincing too, sucking you in further. You care for them deeply by the end of the game and whenever something bad happens to them you feel it. It’s not often a game can do that to a person. There is absolutely, definitely no fault with the characters. There may be a few flaws here and there to some, but I can’t see any.

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The last thing I’ll touch on is soundtrack. The score for this game is amazing. Even the menu screen music captivated me for a good 5 minutes. I didn’t start the game until it’d finished. The amount of sheer effort gone into composing the music for this game is monumental and you can tell. It always suits the situation and the battle music changes depending on the severity of the enemy you’re facing. It can make you stressed out, but it compels you to do better. It makes you want to win. Some of the scores make your heart swell; sometimes with pride, sometimes with determination. For me, it was half of what kept me going when I’d face a strong opponent and they’d keep killing me over, and over…And over. I probably would’ve given up before long if I hadn’t heard the score and thought;

‘…Yup, I can do this.’

Again, nothing to complain about. Only praise. A good musical score can be just as important as the story in games like this. If the music is awful and fits poorly, you’re not going to want to play it. It ruins the immersion and the fun, for me at least.

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So…There you have it! I’m sure there are plenty of better reviews out there but here’s my addition to the ranks. If you haven’t played Dragon Age; Origins I would strongly recommend it. Considering the game isn’t that new, the price is very modest. Even the Ultimate Edition on Steam with every DLC pack is saving you a lot of money as opposed to buying the vanilla then adding all the DLC afterwards. Don’t take anyones opinion as true; you’ll only know how good this game is if you try it for yourself. Try it, you won’t regret it.

ashenRenegade, signing off~

Game Review: Starfleet Commander

I’m not too familiar with facebook games. Honestly, I consider them to be a waste of time. But, that could be a short sighted view, you know? People have put in time and effort to create a product that people would be interested in playing. Millions of people play these games a day. So I decided to give one a try. After doing some searching, I settled on a game called Starfleet Commander. I love space adventure TV shows like Star Trek and totally dig space adventure games and RPGs like Mass Effect. So, if any facebook game would appeal to me, it would be this one.

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Okay, so let’s review the basics of the game.

Gameplay

The game is text based. So no, you will not see hundreds upon thousands of ships flying into battle. This is what the game looks like.

MainScreenThe game centers around resources: Ore, Crystal, and Hydrogen. Ore and Crystal are used to build up mines, buildings, robots, ships, and for research. Hydrogen is used to power the ships. There are a couple ways of getting these resources. One of the ways is to build up mines. The other way is to use a powerful fleet to take resources from other players or NPCs. A third way is to harvest the debris from space battles.

If you want a powerful fleet, you need to build a shipyard to construct them. Oh, you want advanced ships? You’ll need to build a research lab and start working on new technologies.

So, the game plays fairly simply and intuitively. I was never overwhelmed with too much information at once.

Just because the gameplay is simplistic doesn’t mean the game is simple.

Why?

Playing the Game

Most of the current players of the game are fairly experienced, playing the for quite awhile. These veteran players have gotten the rules down to a science. It makes battles against other players very difficult for new players who don’t know these strategies. Worse, the veteran players have fleets hundreds the times the size of any new player. They also researched technologies so their ships are just flat out better than anything a new player can hope to build. I’ve been playing the game for about three weeks now and I still don’t have anything close to taking on any of the veteran players.

FleetSo I stick with attacking NPCs and harvesting resources from battles. And I have to tell you… it gets boring fairly quickly. The only way I can stand a chance at going to war against anyone is if I have great ships. That means, I need advanced technology to build better ships, a great shipyard to build these ships quickly, and a lot of resources to make it all work. As you can imagine, doing this would take a lot of time. I’ve played for three weeks and I’m nowhere close. Time’s the major factor in all of this. It’s easy to level up mines, shipyards, and technology at lower levels. But when you hit higher levels, it takes a lot of tme.

That’s where money comes into play. If you don’t feel like waiting, just pay some money and I get what I want. In this game, one can bypass waiting if one wants to pay for it. For a new player, that’s pretty tempting. Sadly. If I want to get ships quickly, I can level up the shipyard to a point where I can get a dozen ships an hour. If I need more resources quickly, I can pay to get the mines up to snuff. The game can quickly become pay to win for the new players.

The game is strangely addicting. I’ve found myself checking the game every few hours to continue building up my resources, ships, attacking NPCs, etc. How can a game get boring and be addictive? I’m told this is how a lot of facebook games are. So in this way, this is a typical facebook game. It takes a few minutes here and there from the player…. dangerous in a way if you are looking for a game that’s easy to play and won’t take up too much time, as the game can easily pull you in.

Socializing

This game has guilds that a new player can join called Alliances. I was approached by an Alliance and joined up quickly. I’m told it is common for Alliances to approach new players. The moment I joined, I received plenty of resources as a way of saying welcome. This Alliance went out of its way to make sure I felt welcome. They have guides in case I was curious about strategies. They also promised to back me up inc case I was attacked.

In other words, they have my back.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a quick game, look elsewhere. The game’s designed to be easy to learn but will take months to get powerful enough to do anything against the veteran players. It gets repetitive, which works to the game’s detriment.

Try out the game for yourself. I cannot recommend it, unfortunately. But it is worth a look.

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Enjoy

 

 

Nostalgia and Other Drugs

We all know how powerful nostalgia can be when it comes to video games and the like. The games we played when we were young greatly influence our taste as young adults and beyond. The old consoles we played our games on are not obsolete to us; they’re a critical part of our past. I know plenty of people who would happily take an N64 over the next gen consoles that have been recently revealed at E3. (Yeah Xbox One, I’m looking at you.)

Speaking from personal experience, I’m a 90’s kid. I was born into an era of bad music but fantastic games. I was born in the Pokemon, Legend of Zelda (I’m talking the first 3D ones, at least), Yu Gi Oh and Monster Rancher generation.

Seriously, does anyone remember Monster Rancher? That game was amazing.

Oh yeah, and Beyblade.

Anyway, I digress. It’s sad to see so many kids that are born in THIS generation who are so obsessed with how a game LOOKS compared to how it plays. Graphics have overridden gameplay in recent months with big titles focusing on things like textures and maps. However, a couple of days ago I experienced something rare and absolutely magical;

A kid came into the local game store and was taking a gander at the DS section. I paid no mind until he started talking to his friend who’d come in with him and said. “I can’t see the case. I’ll go ask the guy if he has Pokemon Diamond or Pearl,”

I know it’s not exactly Red or Blue but it’s a start. Diamond and Pearl could even be considered ‘old’ at this point and it’s so refreshing to see a kid WANT to play Pokemon as opposed to a game like Modern Warfare or Far Cry. Not that I’m having a dig at either of those games – in fact Far Cry 3 is in my list of ‘to be played’ games – but it was just unusual to see a child investing in a franchise that’s seemed to mainly grow with it’s 90’s followers. It made me smile, that’s all.

I guess my main point was that it doesn’t take age to love a good game but the big gaming companies that keep churning out the same highly textured blobs of unimaginative plots are drowning the few gems that are released every so often. That’s why I implore you, maybe even BEG you, to please invest in any indie developer you see potential in.

Buy their game on Steam. Don’t want it? Send some encouraging words to the developer. Kind words can work wonders for people who are tackling a BIG franchise on a very small budget. I’m not saying every indie game is good but I’m saying that the majority of them are really promising. Some polish and hard work could really make the word of difference to an industry where game sales are falling. Bad games make for bad sales. So why not make good games for a change? Seems like the most logical step forward. I’d love to see a modern game with all the mechanics and deep plots we loved (though didn’t always understand) as children and teenagers. I’m an RPG kind of person so something with lots of options and character attachment would keep me happy for months…So long as it had replay value.

Anyway, at the end of the day it’s all down to personal preference. Whether you like shooters, sci-fi, adventure, strategy, RPGs or fantasy it doesn’t matter. I think we all deserve good games we can not only respect for being modern but love for making us remember what made our childhoods so special.

ashenrenegade, signing off…Nostalgically.