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Penumbra: Black Plague

Full Review

Penumbra Black Plague CoverAfter playing Penumbra: Overture, everyone knew a sequel was on its way. The ending leaves scores of questions unanswered and perfectly prepares a follow-up. In 2008, Frictional Games released Penumbra: Black Plague, and in many ways, Black Plague does make the original feel like a mere overture. Frictional well heeded feedback following Overture's release and significantly tuned up their product in regards to pacing, controls, physics, and character interaction. All while continuing the fantastically creepy atmosphere and adding significant new elements to the story.

Diablo III

Full Review

Diablo 3 CoverThe Diablo series is the most important series in my life. While I missed Diablo, I caught its sequel by the throat on release day and was hooked for a good…well, I’m still off-and-on addicted. So sue me. Diablo II was everything I wanted. It was fast paced, exciting, the gathering of objects was awesome, leveling was fun, playing through the game more than once was fun.

I love the Diablo series so much, that when Diablo III was announced, I called every friend I knew that ever played it and told them to check the website so they could experience the surprise. I was SO happy.

I waited 12 years for Diablo III. I got it at the midnight prerelease and tried playing the game, and we all know of the infamous Error 37. I thought about writing a first hour review of just “error 37” every minute for an hour. But anyway…

But I expected servers to be destroyed…I mean, it IS battle.net. But you know what? Despite being more than happy to wait for the servers to be available to me: I wish I had never bought it.

The truth is, this game disappointed me in almost every way possible. Let’s talk about why and what.

Diablo III

First Hour Review

Diablo 3 CoverThe original Diablo was introduced to me by a friend probably no more than 3 years after its release, before my highschool years. Diablo would eventually see some of the most unforgettable and impactful gaming moments of our childhoods, and those of our closest friendslargely due to how much it scared the crap out of us. The first time I laid eyes on The Butcher and heard that deep, grating voice"Ah... Fresh meat"I slammed the door to his lair in his face and ran all the way out of the dungeon (a little excessive since enemies can't use doors). I can distictly recall at least two other moments that caused me to toss my mouse or phone (I was talking to said friend while playing once) in suprise and fear. Ah, the good old days.

Diablo II and its expansion would demand exponentially larger amounts of our attention due to its improved graphics, presentation, story, and gameplay (both online and off). It was a staple in our gaming repertoires, and inspired many discussions and stories of our own. I spent a good deal of my time every night reading through Brady Games' strategy guide.

When all was said and done, standing in the wake of the Worldstone's destruction, Diablo fans were sure we would someday see a sequel. It was just a question of when. The answer came at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in Paris on June 28, 2008, though it would be many years more before an official release date was announced. On March 15, 2012, Blizzard finally announced that the release date was only two short months away.

And now, 11 years in the making, Diablo III couldn't have come at a more awkward time for me... I'm currently in the middle of two jobs, one of which takes up the entirety of my weekends. Throw in a small spat of the flu and new member of the family (a stray cat my girlfriend decided to bring home one night), and I'm left which much less time to play, let alone write, as I would've liked...but I finally found the time, and you didn't come hear to read my whining, so let's jump into the first hour of Diablo III.

The Sea Will Claim Everything

First Hour Review

the sea Will Claim Everything CoverBundle in a Box’s first bundle was adventure-themed. If you paid an astounding $100 or a trifling $1, you got the following point-and-clicky PC games: Gemini Rue, Ben There, Dan That!, Time Gentlemen, Please!, 1893: A World's Fair Mystery, and The Sea Will Claim Everything. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate, because if you beat the average price at the time you also got The Shivah from Wadjet Eye Games and Metal Dead. That’s quite a grouping and, of them, I was most excited to play The Shivah as my wife and I devoured all of Rosangela’s and Joey’s adventures in a short span of time and were eager for more from the man known as Dave Gilbert. Unfortunately, my laptop wasn’t playing nice, and so I went to the next interesting title on the list.

The Sea Will Claim Everything is a point-and-click adventure game by Jonas and Verena Kyratzes, a husband and wife team that have made some other games set in the Lands of Dreams. This one, however, debuted to the world with this bundle. It has a really unique art style to it, akin to coloring book pages brimming with content. Other than that, I don’t know much about the plot, but I’m ready to click around.

Portal 2 - Co-op

Full Review

Portal 2 CoverA year ago I published my full review of Portal 2. I guess you could say it wasn't exactly complete since I never touched the co-op portion of it, but finding time to sit down and play a video game with another human being for a few hours is pretty difficult for me, so sacrfices had to be made. But last weekend, I had the opportunity to sit down with Steve and our gaming PCs for about 10 hours, and time for Portal 2 co-op was finally realized.

Portal 2's co-op is pretty fantastic in that it is a completely different experience than the single player, in every aspect. The story is different, the characters are new, and the puzzles are two-player required. While many games that feature co-op, if they even bother, just toss both players together in the single player campaign, that would have been disastrous with a puzzler like Portal 2. So major props to Valve for developing this campaign, just for us.

This really isn't a proper review, but I wanted to present both Steve and mine opinions about just the cooperative portion of Portal 2. Enjoy, and give it a try if you find a few hours with a friend.

Blackwell Deception

Full Review

Blackwell Deception CoverThe Blackwell series hasn’t changed a lot over four games released across five years. The screen resolution and accompanying art still seems reminiscent of 1990s adventure games, the point and click gameplay is also rooted in the classics, and the story is still well polished and very entertaining. But none of this at all is a bad thing, it enables indie developer Wadjet Eye Games to release quality games at a manageable pace.

And I have certainly had it well off the last few months having just discovered the Blackwell series. Four games that I almost instantly fell in love with at my fingertips! But now that they’re done, I find myself playing the waiting game like the rest of the fans. Much like when I caught up with the A Song of Ice and Fire book series in 2008 or The Wheel of Time in 2007, waiting really can be the hardest part.

So I present my review for Blackwell Deception. You can also read my reviews for The Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, and Blackwell Convergence, or just play the games. They’re great.

A Valley Without Wind

Indie Impression

a Valley Without Wind CoverThere are ambitious indie games like Fez, which go all out on their insane puzzles and clever solutions. Then there are ambitious indie games like the Blackwell series, which tells a tale of death with believable characters and full voice acting. And then there are ambitious indie games like A Valley Without Wind, which features a fully procedurally generated, side-scrolling action, massively multiplayer online world.

Developed by Arcen Games, A Valley Without Wind is, if anything, ambitious. It’s also genre defining, I personally haven’t played a lot of action RPG 2D MMOs, but now at least one exists. Released last week for Windows and Mac, here are our impressions on the game. They’re unsurprisingly varied.

Gratuitous Tank Battles

Preview

Gratuitous Tank Battles CoverThe tower defense genre feels older than it is, with basically only five years under its belt since Desktop Tower Defense and its kin. But its games have seen so many variations to the model and appeared on so many platforms, that it feels very mature in its parameters of game design and implementation. And this is from a genre that has essentially never received a “triple-A” release and most sales come from direct downloads, not on discs or cartridges.

Solo indie developer Cliff Harris of Positech Games is now officially tackling the genre with Gratuitous Tank Battles, a sort of sequel to his popular Gratuitous Space Battles game from 2009. I had a great time playing that game, but didn’t realize at the time that Space Battles, boiled down, really is a tower defense game too. An excellent example on how varied the genre is, even if you don’t realize it.

But Tank Battles is a proper tower defense game with the familiar onslaught of units marching across the screen and grid-based gameplay that veterans of the genre will instantly recognize. It also features an attack mode for most missions letting you experience the other side of combat, and it wouldn’t be a Gratuitous game without an insane amount of unit creation and modification at your fingertips.

Mass Effect 3

Full Review

Mass Effect 3 CoverI love the Mass Effect franchise. Mass Effect 3 is the first console game I bought new in over two years (previous new purchase was Mass Effect 2). I beat the first game six times. I’ve read the novels and comics that accompany the games. I own two Commander Shepard action figures and a mini Normandy SR2. I have a one year old son named Shepard.

So you could say with some confidence that I was really looking forward to Mass Effect 3. I made the day one Collector’s Edition purchase and popped up my first hour review of the game immediately. The game doesn’t start with as much energy as Mass Effect 2, but it’s hard to argue that there’s anything more powerful than beginning with the Reapers invading Earth.

Mass Effect 3 has received a huge amount of controversy regarding its ending. Do you know how hard it is to take two weeks to beat a game you’ve been waiting for two years while seemingly everyone on the internet is talking about its conclusion? Ugh. I’ll say right now that I certainly didn’t hate the ending, but didn’t love it either.

Now for my review on the other 99.5% of Mass Effect 3. I also have my review of the first DLC available, From Ashes.

Blackwell Convergence

Full Review

Blackwell Convergence CoverBlackwell Convergence follows The Blackwell Legacy and Blackwell Unbound in Wadjet Eye Games’ story-driven adventure game series. I found Unbound to be a stunning entry that rectified many of Legacy’s issues while building on the series’ mysteries. It also had a ton of style that is sadly absent in many games today.

So I had high expectations for Convergence, as the story was brought back to present day with our original heroine Rosangela Blackwell. The detour Unbound took to the past was engrossing and informative, and gave the series that much more emotional weight. I knew it would be tough for Convergence to keep up the momentum, but I promised myself that if it did, I’d be waving the Blackwell flag for many years to come.

Released in 2009 for Windows and once again built in Adventure Game Studios, here’s my review for Blackwell Convergence.

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