[REVIEW] Path of Exile

Developer: Grinding Gear Games
Publisher: Grinding Gear Games
Release: 2013 (PC) / 2017 (XBOX)
Platform: Windows, Steam, XBOX One
Genre: Action Roleplay / Dark Fantasy
OFLC Rating: MA15+

Why the hell wasn’t I playing this game earlier?!? Oh yeah! I was busy playing the Torchlight games back when I was bashing Blizzard over questionable game design and shonky business ethics used for Diablo III at that given time. But seriously, kudos the folks at Grinding Gear Games for making arguably one of the best action roleplaying experiences out there. Path of Exile takes a lot of cues from Diablo II in terms of it’s aesthetics and gameplay systems, then builds upon them and streamlines in all the right places. I actually got stuck into PoE with the XBOX One debut announcement (more or less) and was very curious as to how this plays in general along with comparing the experience between both versions of the game.
Path of Exile’s story is well told and like most good stories, there’s a theme to it. PoE’s setting captures an animosity to toward overzealous theocracy with an atmosphere that manages to combine both the Dark Ages and the Spanish Inquisition. Upon creating a character the story becomes ever-present when browsing the various characters you can play, as it describes each one like having their charges read before a court. Ultimately, the game’s story becomes a personal one for your character as they are exiled to the island of Wraeclast.

Technical

Path of Exile is presented in a three dimensional isometrical perspective, as you can play with the classical tilted top-down view (known to Diablo II players) or scroll the mouse wheel to drop down to a more of a third-person take of the perspective – However, this feature is only present in the original PC version of the game. Like Diablo II and the Torchlight games you can press a keybinding that toggles between two available slots for weapon sets. The XBOX version streamlines this by having a single weapon set and allowing for up to eight active skills by way of the right trigger acting as a shift function switching between two sets of four skills mapped to your controller’s right hand face buttons. Aside from small differences that counter-balance each other putting both games at parity – The clear deciding difference come down to whether or not you’re looking to play multiplayer without paying the console online subscription premium on top of what is essentially a free to play experience versus an overall more stable experience.

Gameplay

Playing Path of Exile, whether it’s a click-fest or an all-out button-mashing session makes little difference in to how the overall game looks and feels. Both versions play slightly different to each other, but maintain that core experience. PoE uses seven class-based characters that governed by three main attributes – Strength, governing brutal force and physical endurance. Dexterity, governing a character’s own agility. Intelligence, governing a character’s general magic ability. Three of the six character are each an epitome of the respective attributes, whereas the others are gradients in between. Like Diablo II, no given class is restricted to a given set of skills – Active skills are abilities you trigger at while, whereas passive skills are always active. Active skills come in the for of gems which become active upon slotting into the appropriate armour and weapon socks. Unlike Diablo II, you can remove gems as easily as you fitted them without the aid of a skill or NPC specialising in gem socketing. Gems gain experience points and levels in a strikingly similar fashion to how player characters do, making your active skills stronger and more spectacular. Passive skills are gain from spending skill points on the skill tree earned from levelling up your character. PoE’s characters use the same skill tree but start at different points, as the skill tree resembles a massive and complexed symmetrical board game circuit. Your characters’ experience levels are capped out at 100 allowing for a tonne or replay value, exploring all the different ways you can rebuild any given character. As you develop your character, the skill tree will resemble that of a path (if I had to take a wild guess, this somehow ties into the game’s title). A lot of experience players will provide new players with ideal “builds”, which are essentially a checklist of all the gems and equipment needed along with the roadmap for spending your skill points – That’s great, really. But! As someone who’s played enough RPGs, I will say this – Play to your character’s strengths and by the time you have your first one developed to a substantial degree, you will begin figure out which builds work for you and the given character you’re currently playing. Each character is essentially a starting point with a basic playstyle that varies from the others. Out of the box, these are the seven characters in a nutshell with their starting attributes.
The Marauder (Str: 32, Dex: 14, Int: 14), a portrait of brutality and ferocity this guy is tankiest of the bunch taking as much damage as he can dish out.
The Ranger (Str: 14, Dex: 32, Int: 14), is widely regarded for her sharp aim and reflexes making this mistress of the wilds an ideal choice for hit ’n run ranged combat.
The Witch (Str: 14, Dex: 14, Int: 32), is the obvious choice for those obsessed with magic and/or looking to unleash damage upon the masses with is little mistress of the dark arts.
The Templar (Str: 23, Dex: 14, Int: 23), is the “Ex-Cop” in a theocratic world gone mad who is the best of both brutal force and divine magic.
The Dualist (Str: 23, Dex: 23, Int: 14), is a master swordsman and clear-cut choice for those looking to play the nimble tank.
The Shadow (Str: 14, Dex: 23, Int: 23), this guy happens to be the rogue of the group who happens to be magically savvy as well making a nice choice for those looking to play guerrillas and assassins.
The Scion (Str: 20, Dex: 23, Int: 20), is the “Jill of All Trades” making her a highly versatile platform for any player. To create one of these you need have beaten the third act of the game.
Path of Exile plays very much like your classical ARPG from the 1990s – Take quests that send on a dungeon crawl. Kill monsters and/or bad guys. Get experience points for every kill. Collect loot from fallen foes. Go back to town, pick out any useful gear and sell the junk then repeat the whole sequence of events until you reach your characters peak where you’ll be laying waste to anything that so much as looks at you funny – Mind you, there’s a like more to it all but that’s the basic experience in a nutshell. Starting out in PoW can be quite the brutal experience, especially for newcomers. Once you’ve managed to find your feet playing a given character, a typical dungeon crawl will be a case you laying waste a crowd at a time. The aftermath will have the sizeable pockets of the dungeon floor covered with enough bodies to resemble a mass grave along with huge piles of loot that looks like another council pick-up season. In Path of Exile you will find NO shortage of loot, only that is random number generation that determines any given assortment – whether it’s a pile junk, a treasure trove or somewhere in between with a mass multitude of varying degrees. The biggest problem with this is not having enough inventory space to carry it all – Thankfully, you have a stash which is basically an all-purpose storage lock-up that can be accessed by any of your playable characters created on your account.

Path of Exile being a “Free to Play” title, how does Grinding Gear Games make their money off of this game???

Real easy! Rather than creating a play to win system responsible for the bulk the angst microtransactions have gotten over the years (and Dungeon Hunter franchise being a classical example of a free to play ARPG using such a business model), PoE’s microtransactions are used only for cosmetics, pets and account upgrades – In other words, if you’re obsessed with having the latest fashion and accessories for your characters you are playing your part in funding this game. If you’re into trading and/or hoarding, just want to stay better organised or have more slots on your account to facilitate a huge roster of playable characters you will also be funding PoE.
Given this is developed and published by an independent studio and the massive experience you get out of the box for FREE – you would expect to be buying a Triple-A release title being this good.

Overall, Path of Exile offers a game free to play experience with rich lore and deeply customisable gameplay with an ethical microtransation business model that offers some fair and (dare I say) appealing benefits you might actually want to pay for. Whether or not you spend any money on PoE, you getting an experience that rivals the big budget titles of the genre.

Final Thoughts

For a game that operates much like the PC version of Diablo III requiring an internet connection at all times to play, PoE pulls of this model so much better! The netcode is pretty fluid between 10 – 23 Mb/Sec and I’ve noticed the PC version tends to crash every now and again regardless of running under Windows or an emulated environment (eg: WINE, CrossOver Games, etc.). Being a Macintosh user I would highly recommend downloading the Porting Kit as there is an app-skin for PoE available that runs relatively smoothy despite crashing from time to time. Crashes aside, I have thoroughly enjoyed developing the Shadow I’ve been playing on both PC and XBOX versions.

So is Path of Exile worth it?

If you enjoy a solid action roleplaying experience with the freedom to craft playable characters to suit your playstyle and enough lore and storytelling that would rival a big budget production… The wait from downloading and patients with the online connectivity (not that they’re much to complain about, if at all) are well worth it. As for the microtransactions… If you plan to be playing this game a lot, outlaying money for designated resource stash tabs and stash capacity upgrades can be essential. In short, Path of Exile is an experience well worth your time and money!

Report Card

Quality: A
Gameplay: A
Content: A
Skill: A
Technical: B
Value: A
Audience: Adult

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[Review] The Sims 4 (Series Snapshot – May 27 2017)

Developer: Maxis / The Sims Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release: 2014 / 2015
Platform: Windows, Macintosh
Genre: Life Simulator
OFLC Rating: M

What are Sims?
Before the franchise debut in 2000, these were the pixel sized dots that moved on the sidewalks depicting the citizens in the game SimCity. Playing SimCity 2000, I learned that sims were quite fussy and only built no more than three spaces from any given stretch of road. Then we found out what these little fusspots actually looked like and just how fussy they could actually get with the introduction of The Sims. Sims are the simulated people who can be shaped from their appearance to their initial personalities. As for the game – it is many things to different people and could make for a good venatology report as no two reports would read the same. There are three main characterisations for defining what this franchise is. Firstly, a “Dollhouse” experience where players will tell stories through the sims they create and control. Secondly, this game is considered to be one of the guilty pleasures among computer games as players can experiment with all kinds of things – that kind that players aren’t necessarily comfortable sharing, let along talking about. Finally, The Sims is notorious for being an interactive torture chamber where only pixels are harmed in the making of one’s sadistic pleasures. One thing that many would agree with is that The Sims can be extremely addictive as hours will pass like seconds when players become deeply engrossed.

Technical

The Sims is also the franchise that released (arguably) the most expansion packs for any given game, each one adding to the overall experience. The original game saw a total of seven expansions. Then came The Sims 2 with the addition of booster packs that added extra content to game without necessarily altering the experience in any way, these were branded as “Stuff Packs” and retailed considerably less than the expansions. The Sims 3 was the first game in the franchise to feature downloadable content (DLC) delivery, used primarily for offering individual pieces official additional content from EA / Maxis. Eventually, this would be used to purchase and install all expanded and boosted content for the game. Then we have The Sims 4 carry on where it’s predecessor left off and introduced “Game Packs” that were essentially mini-expansion packs to roster of expansion and content delivery. Mods and custom content has existed since the beginning, but The Sims 2 introduced the ability to install mods with ease through mod management systems built into the game and introduction of the package-files (they actually used the extension .package). Initially, you could open them like an executable, then The Sims 3 allowed you to import them through the game’s launcher. Now, you simply drag and drop them into the game’s mod folder – “\Documents\Electronic Arts\The Sims 4\Mods”, The method for importing custom content on both Windows and Macintosh is more or less the same whereas the folder locations can vary.
The Sims has advanced with each new series – The Sims 2 introduced ageing, progressive life-states, The Angel of Death (The immortal sim who would collect the very recently deceased), facial expressions as well as desires and fears along in addition to their personality settings bound to the Zodiac that also determined a sim’s birthday. The Sims 3 overhauled personalities by redefining them with selectable traits. This series brought about a single persistent world that removed the need to load up between lots and allowed sims that weren’t being played to age. The Sims 4 however, despite making advancements to sim personality and multitasking as well as making stable game overall for both Windows and Macintosh takes a huge step back with by reverting to loading between lots but allowing unplayed sims to age through life states off-screen. Essentially, you’re getting a base game that feels like The Sims 1.5 with just how much has been stripped. Thankfully the expansion and game packs along with the major updates have helped to add meat to what was a bare-bones experience to begin with. But it is a shame that so much had be sacrificed to deliver a stable experience for all platforms in order to dramatically improve upon The Sims 3 instabilities – In other words, I’ve only ever had a single crash with The Sims 4 on my MacBook Pro to The Sims 3’s countless.

Gameplay

For those who’ve never played a series (base game and expanded / boosted content) in The Sims franchise, this one doesn’t really differ terribly from it’s predecessors. In the original series you had to issue commands via a point & click interface for every single one of a given sim’s actions. Essentially, The Sims (original) was a digital Tamagochi style game where failing to maintain any particular sim would impact negatively upon their health and wellbeing. The Sims 2 is largely responsible for shaping the franchise with the basic suite of features and sim autonomy that we’ve come to expect. Autonomy allowed sims to live their day to day lives, leaving players to focus on the bigger picture for a given household or neighbourhood. With autonomy, The Sims 2 introduced whims that impacted the game by adding greater challenge with fears and desires shaped by a given sim’s personality. The Sims 3 overhauled the personality system from one that conforms to profiles dictated by the Western Zodiac and shifted to model which allowed players to shape sim’s character through picking traits, a sort of strengths and weaknesses based system. The Sims 4 redefines the personality system to not only display whims, but also adds moods that react to events, people and surroundings impacting a sim’s behaviour when presently active. Like The Sims 2 the game will load up between lots. However, sims no longer have vehicles that provide those novel little transit animations instead simply disappearing and reappearing.
Okay, what do you get out of The Sims 4?
Like the first, the purpose is to maintain your sims’ basic needs on top of living their stories vicariously through their digital lifespans. These needs are Energy (or fatigue), Hunger, Hygiene, Social, Fun and Social. These are displayed with gauges reflecting positive and negative, maintaining these will mean the difference in a sim’s present emotional state. However, allowing both energy and hunger to reach critical levels of negativity can mean certain death if prolonged in said state. A sim’s happiness is defined not only by maintaining a positive condition levels, but also maintaining one’s mood through fulfilling their desires. You can have up to three at a given time, which are displayed as thought bubbles. Hovering the cursor over one will reveal a discard and thumbtack (keep) option as a sim’s desire will shift, unless you have that sim keep it. By having your sims complete a desire you are able to improve a moods and score points toward a sim’s aspiration. Aspirations (unlike The Sims 3) are interchangeable for any given playable sim and can be switched out at any time. Aspirations function as a bucket list of sorts, where sims would check off the respective accomplishments throughout their lives as opposed to the traditional reference of a checklist of everything you want to do with the remainder of your twilight years. Essentially these function as sets of challenges for your sims to beat – There is no real need to complete them all, unless you fall into the completionist category of simmer. Just as you have desires, your sims have fears and they are triggered upon an event that puts your sims in the respective negative mood state. A sim’s mood is displayed as a hued aura around that sim’s portrait in the bottom left corner of the game user interface and below are icons with corresponding colours. These will display the basic reason for that given mood – example, soiling one’s pants will result in an embarrassed mood with a yellow hue. Winning the lottery will likely give your sim a very happy mood with a green hue. In a positive mood, your sims will be more compliant when you are steering them in certain direction or just trying to get their conditions into a good balance.
At the end of the day (whenever that may be) every player is has a story to tell through their sims regardless of whether we’re actively telling one or finding ways to amuse ourselves, every experience your sims live through is just another scene in that story. If for a moment, you’re wondering about whether or not their’s more to this sandbox besides unleashing your inner architect, interior designer and / or fashion coach – There is. Don’t let all your sims die, otherwise your sims will get a rather amusing visit from the Angel of Death himself and you will be greeted with the infamous “Game Over” message window.

In a nutshell, The Sims is basically an epic marathon game of Lemmings in a dollhouse-style sandbox – But what extra stuff do you get from the packs?

The “Get to Work (Expansion Pack)” adds the Detective (Police Investigations), Doctor (Hospital) and Scientist along with self-employment careers that your can actively participate in with your sims as well as reintroducing aliens. The “Get Together (Expansion Pack)” adds the ability to join and / or create social clubs, and yes I have actually tried to make “Fight Club” – Whoops! I spoke about it. Anyway… The “City Living (Expansion Pack)” gives your sims access to condominium and penthouse rental properties, with the key difference of having full architectural freedom with a penthouse as opposed to an apartment. The “Outdoor Retreat (Game Pack)” will allow sims to go on holiday and grant access to national parks where sims to can camp out in chalets and tents. “Spa Day (Game Pack)” introduces massage therapy, yoga along with general relaxation and wellbeing related activities. The “Dine Out (Game Pack)” adds the restaurant dining experience for you sims to partake of and expands the self-employment options from “Get to Work” with the opportunity for your sims to become restauranteurs. Then there’s the “Vampires (Game Pack)” that reintroduces vampire sims in a whole new surprisingly satisfying way. The key difference between expansion and game packs (aside from the price), comes down to whether or not you get a new region to play around in along with the new experiences and content to customise your sims and lots with. Stuff Packs more or less themed content booster packs with one or two minor gameplay functionalities thrown in. Here in Australia, The Sims 4 in it’s entirety will likely set you back around AU$469.10 (Deluxe Edition $89.95 + EPs $49.95ea + GPs $19.95ea + SPs $14.95ea), and that’s not including new content promised for this year alone!
Are these packs really necessary? Electronic Arts would like to think so (obviously), and to a certain extent they are very necessary if you’re looking to put meat on a barebones experience.
Overall, The Sims 4 as a series is hit and miss – leaning to more toward decent hit with the packs installed or an “Airball” if you’re going to skimp out them.

Final Thoughts

DAMN YOU EA! I could’ve bought a new computer or console with the money I spent getting into and maintaining The Sims 4!!! FIVE BLOODY BICKIES!!! (Strine for AU$100s)
I can’t complain too much… Since expanding the game, I have had some good times and few to no crashes unlike the Macintosh build of The Sims 3. The Sims 4 has brought some good stuff to the table, but at the end of the day previous series have brought forth far superior experiences with fewer packs.

Is The Sims 4 worth it?

If you’re devout fan of the franchise, then that’s not a question I have to ask.
If you enjoy the dollhouse sandbox experience, then The Sims 4 will provide that enjoyment.
If you’re new to The Sims, you’re either going to have to purchase this series over time or… Well… Anyway, you get the picture.

Report Card

Quality: A
Gameplay: B
Content: C
Skill: A
Technical: A
Value: D
Audience: Youth

[Review] Pokemon: Go

Developer: Niantic
Publisher: The Pokemon Company
Release: 2016
Platform: iOS, Android
Genre: Augmented Reality
OFLC Rating: PG

I don’t really play a lot of “Mobile” games outside, but this one has my attention. This is Pokemon Go (not to be confused with the mainstream experience on Gameboy, GBA, DS and presently 3DS) an augmented reality spin-off title for iOS and Android platforms. The game is essentially two parts treasure hunt, one part king of the hill. Pokemon Go is powered by Google Maps. Like the core games, you venture out, track down and catch wild Pokemon. Similar to the core games you can develop them – but in the case of Pokemon Go, don’t expect this to be as good or better than core titles available on Nintendo’s platforms. Pokemon Go is essentially a licensed gimmick to promote fitness, exploration, social interaction and ultimately generate brand awareness for the Pokemon franchise – If you want more from Pokemon Go, take the hint and buy a 3DS if you haven’t already.
If you own a Nintendo handheld and a library of the core Pokemon games, this game will be a very casual experience playing second fiddle (at best). Along with scattering procedurally generated (based on the given local environment – eg Woodland, Tropical, Desert, Tundra, etc.) assortments of Pokemon, you have designated landmarks marked by Pokestops and Gyms. Pokestops are essentially fixed “Loot Drops” where you can pick up Pokeballs (used to catch Pokemon) and other provisions for the care and development of your Pokemon. Gyms (as any enthusiast will more or less tell you) is where the main “Pokemon on Pokemon” action goes down. Pokestop and Gym designations can range from anything from nature reserves, community centres, shopping malls, cafes and dining establishments to historical sites even public service buildings (eg Police Stations, etc.). Given the assortment of designated lankmark locations, this has prompted concern from both residents of private properties and authorities alike. Naturally you’re going to have (the less savvy) players wander in where they shouldn’t and because of that, I can appreciate the concerns. The other concerns regard obvious common sense – playing while crossing the street and operating a vehicle (eg automobile, bicycle, etc.), both being pure idiotic mistakes that even a moron with half a clue should know not to make – Period!
Concerns aside, the “King of the Hill” aspect of the game comes down to gym battles. The first Gym Battle you will be offered an invitation to join one of three teams, each with a slightly different and basic ethos relative to Pokemon trainers – They are Instinct (Yellow), Mystic (Blue) and Valour (Red). Gym battles are more or less real time fights that are fought by tapping to attack and swiping to evade. Every gym battle one will place your winning Pokemon as gym “guardian” and claim the location for the given team you represent. Claiming a gym comes down to challenging (by tapping the landmark when in the vicinity of) beating Pokemon belonging to the trainer current holding the point.
Here are two concerns that will effect players – Firstly this game will kill you device’s battery, due the fact relies heavily on GPS tracking. Finally (and this one is more of concern to parents and guardians), players can use in-game currency to purchase items and provisions. Whilst players can earn these from winning gym battles, they also have the option to spend in-app purchases to acquire them with real money (via attached credit/debit card for iTunes or Google Play respectively).
Ultimately – While Pokemon Go is free to download, this game will cost you one way or another.

Final Thoughts

Look, I’ve had fun collecting Pokemon whilst out at the shops and stuff. But, is Pokemon Go a satisfying experience as what the games are on my 3DS? No.
For me this game is very much a sidelined experience and is something I will be participating with on a very casual basis, as I will likely do my serious play sessions with the upcoming Pokemon Sun / Moon. However, I can see this being as much of marketing tool for businesses as much as it is for Nintendo and I have heard of local establishments getting in on that in some way.

So… Is Pokemon Go worth it?

If you consider yourself a “Die Hard” Pokemon fan… You’re going to jump in on the action no matter what.
If you like AR games… This one’s going to keep you busy.
If you’re looking for a traditional Pokemon experience… Don’t be expecting much more than cheap mobile-centric action from this game.

Report Card

Quality: B
Gameplay: B
Content: C
Skill: B
Technical: C
Value: C
Audience: Youth

[Review] Prison Architect

Developer: Introversion Software / Double Eleven (Console Editions)
Publisher: Introversion Software / Double Eleven (Console Editions)
Release: 2015 (PC Launch) / 2016 (Console Editions)
Platforms: Steam, Windows, Macintosh, Linux, PlayStation 4, XBOX One, XBOX 360
Genre: Strategy / Management / Sandbox Simulator
OFLC Rating: M

Prison Architect is one of those creative sandbox simulation games that will burn through hours like seconds. It’s also a game that falls into the category of empire management where balancing numbers is crucial to success in everything you do. If you’re familiar with games like Dungeon Keeper, Theme Hospital or Evil Genius then you should have a good idea what you’re in for. For those who aren’t, Prison Architect is a game where you essentially build, maintain and oversee the day to day running of a correctional facility. Now before you dismiss this as another educational simulation game that allows you to plan, manage finances and staff of a prison – Trust me when I say, that this game is both gritty and (more than likely) confronting. If the thought the innocent being wrongfully convicted makes your blood boil, then Prison Architect will have you meditating on every decision you make. However, anyone plays sandbox games to (safely) indulge in their sadistic tendencies – Either way, (and I speak from experience) Prison Architect will rob you of your sleep!
Prison Architect’s art style is very simple resembling what you’d expect see from a computer assisted design (CAD) program. But underneath what would appear to be a rather clean looking game is a dark and gritty experience, especially when you play the “Prison Stories” (Campaign on PC) mode. The stories in the campaign are told though text dialogue and Polaroid photographs. The campaign, while show you the basics paints a surprisingly graphic picture of the given story. The opening story “Death Row” will show how an inmate sentenced to be executed catches his wife literally having sex with another man and shoots them both in a premeditated double murder. Aside from scenes being graphically depicted through photos, you are faced with dealing with rough situations involving the inmates. Grittiness aside, Prison Architect is both satisfying and challenging to play – In fact, this game can potentially leave newcomers for dead. Whilst you can play through the episodic story-driven campaign, you can also learn the ins and outs of Prison Architect by starting up a new prison with unlimited funds allowing you to experience the game through trail and error. When creating a new prison, you have a suite of options that allow you to tailor the difficulty to your liking. The Console (PlayStation 4, XBOX One and XBOX 360) Editions offers the option to choose your initial funding as well as select from three difficulty presets – County (Basic), Federal (Intermediate) and Super-Max (Advanced).
Ordinarily when you think of a PC strategy game like this one being brought over to consoles, you’d be forgiven for having low expectations. However, the console editions have had the user interface streamline while offering concise information and a control setup optimised for conventional controllers. Normally, I would opt for a mouse and keyboard any day, but the way the game handles with a controller is surprising slick. Where you would pan you’re view with the keyboard (W,A,S and D keys), zoom using your scroll-wheel and use your mouse for getting down to business – The two analogue thumbsticks operate your camera panning and control cursor respectively, while your triggers control your camera zoom. The rest of your controls and options are displayed on screen with concise contextual prompts. Ultimately the console editions will be somewhat more forgiving to newcomers than PC, but will lack both mod support and (presently) Escape Mode.
Escape Mode is found under extras in PC version and provides a sort of asynchronous multiplayer in conjunction with the prison sharing feature (PC via Steam Workshop and Console Edition via “World of Wardens” using a free Double Eleven community membership). In this mode you start off playing as an arriving random medium security inmate, where your goal is to simply escape. Because Escape Mode plays like a roleplaying experience where you can recruit additional party members and level them all up, this game adds deep level of improvisation to your planning. However, your goal to escape or die trying will include any and all members in your party. In order to develop your characters and recruit additional party members, you earn reputation through causing mayhem around the prison along with running an eventual / inevitable killing spree. If you any of your party is caught alive (concious or not) you have the option to skip punishment by paying a single point from your reputation. At the end of an Escape Mode session you are scored according to your total time, killing spree and how many party members you get out alive along with any you lose in the process.
Playing the core experience of building and / or running a prison, you can choose from a roster of wardens the benefit your given playing style. “The Warden” offers a fairly generic playing style suited to those enjoy versatility. The other wardens, depending on whether you’re merciful or otherwise you will likely find a warden to suite – especially in the console editions with the DLC expansion pack installed.
Overall Prison Architect has a lot to offer strategy and sandbox simulation enthusiasts with it’s surprising deep gameplay.

Final Thoughts

When I first played Prison Architect is was on Steam’s Early Access program and back then it was an awesome game though incomplete. Since it’s official release, Prison Architect has only gotten better. The transition to consoles is similar to Minecraft, in the respect that the PC version is more advanced. Whether you get this on Steam or your console of choice, Prison Architect will offer satisfying strategic sandbox simulation experience.

So is Prison Architect worth it?

Let me put it to you this way…

Ever wanted more grit out your sterile management simulators? Prison Architect will either have you struggling with your morals or have you throwing your head back in maniacal laughter.

Report Card
Quality: B
Gameplay: A
Content: A
Skill: B
Technical: B
Value: A
Audience: Adult

Minecraft just got competitive…

I believe an interesting point was raised with regard to a competitive multiplayer format for Minecraft. One of the most popular mods that offered such an experience, is the “Hunger Games” (inspired and named after the popular dystopian action thriller novel and movie franchise) which receive similar treatment to the Magic: The Gathering community format, EDH / Commander. Magic’s Commander format started off as community development game using MtG and was eventually recognised by the game’s creators by printing official Commander decks. In a similar fashion, the Hunger Games has more or less been recognised by Mojang and 4J with the introduction of Battle as the first available mode for (Console Edition’s) Minigame suite along with a map pack made exclusively for this new mode.
So does this mean the Minigame suite is going to serve as the officially recognised competitive multiplayer formats for Minecraft across all console (XBOX 360, PlayStation 3, XBOX One, PlayStation 4, Vita and Wii U) editions?

It’s a very real possibility!

Anyway, if you’re hungry for Battle I will be playing my fair share on XBOX One, PlayStation, Vita and Wii U.

[Review] Fire Emblem: Fates

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Release: 2015 / 2016
Platform: 3DS
Genre: Fantasy / Tactical Roleplay
OFLC Rating: M

Fire Emblem, Nintendo’s tactical roleplaying franchise that has enjoyed success across all their platforms. This franchise was only ever released domestically in Japan from 1990, up until 2003’s “Fire Emblem” for the Gameboy Advance. But even then Fire Emblem’s franchise releases weren’t exactly common until the 2012’s franchise debut on the 3DS with “Fire Emblem: Awakening”.
Fire Emblem is a franchise with rich lore set in a medieval fantasy universe and seems to revolve around two mythical dragons opposed to each other. Each game has featured a setting with feuding states to set the scene for the given story, yet places a deep focus on the characters within these stories. The game plays a lot like your typical turn-based strategy game with strong roleplay elements. Combat relies heavily on preparation and plays out automatically (once engaged) based on the statistics of all combatants involved. However, these battles are not depicted with simple animations but with a cinematic that allows you to view for few different perspectives. The battle outcome takes into account a given combatant’s personal and weapon stats, along with any buffs and debuffs they may have. Because you’re able to engage battles fought 2v2, you also have the given affinity between the given team mates adding to the statistical equation. Battle’s are more or less numbers game when you look at them “Under the hood”. When using characters to team up you can do this in one of two ways – either have both characters aligned with one another on the battlefield when engaging or place a character upon another selecting the “Pair Up” option (which can be disbanded via the “Separate” option, and for good reason). Characters fighting side by side will have the ability to unleash an all-out attack, whereas paired combatants will attack and parry. The more you have characters team up with one another, they gain affinity with one another leading to off-field relationships – Character affinity will allow you to see off-field plots happening as bonds are formed and developed. Through this you can even see characters married and have offspring, thus leading to new ones. Fire Emblem’s characters are so well written that you are put tested emotionally as well as mentally – Referring to a Fire Emblem title to as “XCOM meets Game of Thrones” is putting things lightly, especially when you take this latest entry into account. Because in Fire Emblem if you lose a character in battle, they’re gone for good. However, recent titles have included difficulty settings that allow you play where fallen characters are able to return post-battle.
Enter Fire Emblem: Fates, a story featuring two feuding states where the lead character is quite literally at the centre of it all! With any modern Fire Emblem game you customise the “Avatar” or central character’s gender, appearance, stats and name – An avatar’s name (according to writers) is present by default and can be changed. In the case of Fates, you experience the story from Corrin’s point of view.
Fates is (initally) focused on the conflict between Nohr and Hoshido. Nohr bears a striking visual resemblance to medieval Germany with a slight Japanese flare. However, Nohr’s lust for power makes them look like a cross between Napoleon’s France and Sweden under Charles XII. While Hoshido on the other hand appear very much to be a parody of Japan from the Sengoku period.
Without giving too much away – Corrin is a Hoshidan prince/princess who was abducted and raised in Nohr’s royal family. During the first five chapters you will learn this, with the following chapter really pulling at your heartstrings where Corrin must decide between his/her real family, the family he/she knows or refuse to take a side. Each decision will begin three very different campaigns with a story that comes full circle – These are entitled “Birthright”, “Conquest” and “Revelation”.
Birthright’s campaign caters toward series newcomers, as it offers simple clear-cut victory conditions and allows players to “Grind” (develop their characters through side-quests and challenges, etc.). Conquest on the other hand is both challenging with brutal opposition and objective based gameplay while being potentially hard to swallow given the character exchange you are faced with in the open five chapters. Revelation’s campaign is flagged with a recommendation to (at least) complete either one of the previous campaigns as it “Contains Spoilers”. However, Revelation plays as a happy medium between the other campaigns and focuses the direction on the real adversary present in the story.


It is in that decision Fates comes across as oddity from a consumer point of view because unless you were fortunate enough to secure the Special Edition copy of the game – Fire Emblem: Fates retail release ships with either the Birthright or Conquest campaign (as indicated on their respected game covers), leaving remaining two available as expansion packs available for purchase and download within the game’s “Explore Fates” option. Alternatively you can purchase the digital version allowing you to choose your initial campaign and purchase the remaining campaigns as previously mentioned. What Nintendo have done here is like serving up a pie and cutting into thirds charging the price of the whole thing for a single portion, while turning around asking for half that price to secure each the remaining portions. Normally, I wouldn’t blame you for feeling pretty cheated by this move by Nintendo’s sales & marketing department. But, Fire Emblem: Fates is no run of the mill corner shop pie for one – It’s rich and hearty deep dish pie that gives The Elder Scrolls (Chapter) V: Skyrim a run for it’s money with the total playable content on offer. On top of that you also have booster content selling for a few dollars each which can be purchased collectively via the “Map Pack” options. DLC is very weird in Fates as you can only purchase and play it all by going to the “Dragon’s Gate” on the map during an existing game.
One of the features Fates offers during character downtime, is your Avatar’s fort. This feature offers a somewhat base-building experience. For the most part, your fort serves as hub where you can have your avatar interact with other characters as well as being the Streetpass social centre and the main competitive multiplayer arena.
Fire Emblem: Fates is not only a rich satisfying gameplay experience, but has a beautiful artstyle and a memorable soundtrack. Overall, this game definitely has a great deal to offer.

Final Thoughts

Having played and enjoyed Awakening, Fire Emblem: Fates continues to serve up a strategic roleplay experience that is both mentally and emotionally engaging. Be warned! Fates is one of those addictive franchises that will have staying up to all hours of the morning… And it’s a 3DS game! As far as purchasing, I would highly recommend the digital version if space on your SD card and internet connectivity aren’t an issue.

So, is Fire Emblem: Fates worth going “All In” for?

If you are passionate about Fire Emblem, definitely.
If you love good character drama, this franchise will not disappoint.
If you are a connoisseur of strategy and tactics, Fire Emblem is sure to satisfy.
If you love a game that doesn’t hold back the challenge… Crank up the difficulty and be prepared for the fight of your life!
If you’re looking for another reason to take up the 3DS, then consider this one of them!

Report Card

Quality: A
Gameplay: A
Content: A
Skill: B
Technical: A
Value: B
Audience: Adult

[REVIEW] Quake

Developer: GT Interactive
Publisher: Id Software
Release: 1996
Platform: DOS, Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Amiga, Nintendo 64, Saturn
Genre: Dark Fantasy / First Person Action Horror
OFLC Rating: MA15+

1996, a year that saw some memorable hits for entertainment as a whole and one of Australia’s infamous events in history – The Port Arthur Massacre. Let’s get a few things clear…
Nobody likes a bloody massacre in their “Back Yard”. I have nothing against gun control. What I don’t appreciate, is knee-jerk censorship as a result of massacres such this one – Why do you think we computer game enthusiasts pushed for an R18+ classification???
1996 was also the year Id Software unleashed yet another “Game-Changer”, that is Quake. This was also the last great game before John Romero left Id Software – Id’s greatest work (as remembered fondly by enthusiasts) was with Carmack and Romero at the helm, but I digress.
Quake was the first time a first person shooter moved on from using two dimensional sprites in three dimensional environment and rendered everything in 3D! Quake’s style of movement allow jumping and free-aiming via the mouse along with the abilities to execute tighter technical manoeuvres. Quake’s story and setting was a departure from Doom’s visions of Hell, making way for a world drawing inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft’s work along having enemies with a Hellraiser-esque appearance to them. The story draws some similarities to Doom dealing with inter-dimensional travel out military installations and the use of what sounds like an arsenal of conventional weapons, is about as “Sci-Fi” as it gets with Quake, otherwise you’re dealing with dark fantasy with the gothic vibe going on.
Quake’s single player experience begins at “The Entryway” where you select your difficult level and episodes by walking down corresponding hallways. First up you choose one of the four following difficulties: Easy being the passage on the left resembling a simple walk down. Normal walking up over ramp down the centre hallway. Hard down the passage to the right, requiring you jump over a pool of lava which can easily kill you. Then there’s Nightmare difficulty, which is hidden within the episode selection hub. Each episode will take you to a different dimension where you must fight your way though and collect one of the four runes that will take you to final challenge. The four episodes are as follows: Dimension of the Doomed, The Realm of Black Magic, The Netherworld and The Elderworld. Starting one of these episodes will take you to a military installation where you fight your way through soldiers and attack dogs to reach the Slipgate that will take you that dimension.
Once inside, you will find yourself in dark gothic settings faced with all manor demonic foes. Unlike Doom, these demons will each require certain weapons and tactics to beat – In other words, you will have to know your enemy and be prepared to respond to each one of them. This is where Quake differs from Doom…
Doom is terrifying, especially to both newcomers and the feint of heart. But that terror can quickly turn to rage upon putting down a clever ambush making for some seriously adrenaline pumping gameplay. While Quake is built upon everything that made Classic Doom (Ultimate Doom & Hell on Earth) that made it the monster hit experience that was, Quake is remembered for being both brutal and technical. Quake’s allows for tight manoeuvres demonstrating some serious feats of speed and agility by way of finely executed movement combinations. Aside from being able to traverse levels like a “Bat out of Hell”, players with aid of their Rocket Launchers can execute the “Rocket Jump” – This is done by firing at your feet while simultaneously jumping effectively turning this weapon into a high powered pogo-stick that can easily kill you without sufficient health and armour to mitigate the slash damage. While these might have been consider exploits to gain unfair advantages, Id’s level design embraces them as “Combat Discipline”.
Being a first person shooter it would not talk about tools you’re going to need to survive this crazy labyrinth of death. In Quake there are four types of ammunition and a total of eight weapons, they are as follows.
Firstly you have the Axe, useful for when you run out of ammunition… Just don’t get too used to using it, as it’s barely good a providing an adequate means of self-defence. Mine you, it makes a handy weapon for “Hit ‘N’ Run” style trolling.
Using Shells (yes, 12 Gauge) are the Shotgun and Super Shotgun (Double Barrel Sawn-Off). Because shells are the most common type of ammunition in the game, the shotguns will play a major role in your arsenal. The regular Shotgun offers a decent rate of fire and range, making it ideal for wearing down targets from a distance. Whereas the Super Shotgun has a slower rate of fire and shorter range yet deals a significantly more damage, ideal for close quarters action.
Using Nails… Yes, you are reading this correctly!
The Ammunition boxes display the Nine Inch Nails (NIN) logo on them, and that along with their use is probably due to (the band’s front man) Trent Reznor’s involvement with the game’s development working on both Quake’s atmospheric CD soundtrack and sound design.
Nails are used for both the Nailgun (a twin-barrelled SMG-type weapon) and Super Nailgun (resembling a four barrel Gatling Gun). The regular Nailgun makes for good close quarters combat peppering your foes whilst running circles around them. Whereas the Super Nailgun works like a traditional machinegun mowing down charging foes from down range. Anyway you look it, the nailguns are excel at dealing a constant stream of damage.
Next up you have explosives or “Rockets” that are used by the Grenade Launcher and (previously mentioned) Rocket Launcher. The Grenade Launcher is an interesting weapon as many might dismiss it as being rather useless compared the Rocket Launcher – However, this weapon does have its place as you have the ability to shoot around corners by way of bouncing grenades. The Rocket Launcher fires rockets in a straight line and best used at a distance from tougher foes that aren’t likely to rush you in a heartbeat. Like most shooters, explosive based weapons can kill you with the splash damage from the explosions.
Finally, you have the Thunderbolt which uses (energy) Cells. This particular weapon is an oddity for Id game, as it is quite the departure from Doom’s all-powerful BFG 9000. Unlike the BFG, the Thunderbolt did deal concentrated damage capable of clearing rooms. Instead, it fired a stream of electricity requiring you to maintain line of sight on your target. While this bad boy could fry up a horde of lesser foes, larger ones could easily drain your batteries. Just be careful not fire it while immersed in liquid (ie Water).
Along with the arsenal of weapons you also have your assortment of armour and power-ups, most notable of these being the “Quad Damage” which amplifies damage by four times for a short period of time.
When it comes to enemies, soldiers are the least of your worries when compared to the “Big Bad Four”…
The most common of these is the Ogre. No, not Shrek. These guys are about six foot something, beige and burly cantankerous sods armed with a grenade launcher and chainsaw! Stand close enough to them and they will show you their impression of Leatherface (that chainsaw wielding hillbilly from Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Stand out of striking distance and they’ll keep spamming you with grenades. Being slow, you can take these guys down with nailguns and the SSG up close.
Next up you have the five foot nine hairless horned ape-like demon with the most menacing set of claws known to mortal kind that is the Fiend – The epitome of savagery. When I mention tough foes that can rush you in a heartbeat – This mean piece of work will leap at in a split second and will cut you to pieces with every swing of its long claws. To beat these psychos, you will need agile footwork and quick trigger finger.
Then you have the Vore, a spider-like demon known for hurling deadly homing attacks. Depending on how ruthless you are, then can be beating either by going toe to toe with them or taken down using “Hit ‘N’ Run” methods in order to avoid being struck by their attacks.
Then there’s the big guy every player remembers – The Shambler!
He’s the Abominable Snowman who is anything but cute and cuddly. This guy is white, furry, has sharp claws, stands around eight foot and has a disposition to rival Godzilla’s. At a distance the Shambler will throw a bolt of lightning at you and up close he will tear you apart – Quite literally! Beating a Shambler without so much as scratch will give you a taste for the tight and technical side of Quake’s gameplay.
Aside from these mention foes, there are others which can kill you just as easily should you let your guard down. However, there are two who are easy by comparison. Chthon (The final boss for the Shareware Version / First Episode) and Shrub-Niggurath (Final Boss for the entire game). Whilst these two are the only featured enemies from Lovecraft’s dark fantasy, they are each beaten by completing a surprisingly simple puzzle.
Quake may have a brutally challenging single player experience, but this is the game that open the doors for the fiercely competitive professional gaming scene and rich modding communities we now know today!
While Quake Live is the official game being played in the profession circuits, there is still a strong community of players and modders being the original game even today. Running Quake, your best bet is buying playing the Steam copy. However, whether or not you have a copy of the game already – The best way to play this is by using a source port. Take the highly recommended Dark Places engine for example. Install / unpack the original game onto your system, then place the contents of the Dark Places ZIP-File into the game’s root directory and you’re pretty much good to go. In fact, Dark Places is a source port I would strongly recommend as well, given it allows you to run on modern X86 systems along with offering a good deal of flexibility and easy multiplayer connectivity.
Overall, Quake is an action horror experience that still holds up today.

Final Thoughts

First time I saw the ads for it in computer game magazines, I was wondering what this game was all about – Especially being Id game. First time I played it… Staring at a Shambler just out of striking distance certainly manages to raise the pulse. While the game maybe abstract in appearance compared to Doom, Quake still manages pack in a rich art-style while immersing you in a tense atmosphere at the same time.

Is Quake still worth the purchase today?

If gothic dark fantasy action games are your thing, then Quake will have plenty to see there.
If you consider yourself a connoisseur of Id Software’s finer work, then Quake is worth adding to your collection if you haven’t already.
If you’re feeling drained from today’s action games and looking to immerse yourself in something oldschool… Look no further than The Godfather of online action games!

Report Card

Quality: A
Gameplay: A
Content: A
Skill: B
Technical: A
Value: A
Audience: Adult

DooM: Past, Present and Future…

Doom – Whether you love it or hate it, this is a piece computer game history!
The trivia concerning Doom’s development is interesting, as this game originally started as project to make a game that would use the Aliens license. Instead, (creators) Id Software chose to make something original to allow for creative freedom. The game draws inspiration from multiple influences – The name alone, was taken from a quote featured in The Colour of Money made by character portrayed by Tom Cruise in response being asked what was inside his cue case. While abandoning a licensed tie-in for Aliens, that didn’t stop the boys at Id from using the movie as another inspiration. On top of that you have both the Evil Dead movies and Id’s Dungeons & Dragons sessions among the game’s major inspirational influences. Whilst you had a team full of creative minds behind Id Software at the time, the driving force came from both John Carmack and John Romero.
Doom itself is a highly controversial game on it’s subject matter alone, especially when you’re talking about Satanic imagery around religious folk. But talking into account that this franchise was one of the first to market violence in computer games prior to the introduction of game classification is another factor as to why Doom is so controversial. Controversy aside, Doom was the game-changer that perfected the first-person shooter and introduced the world to network multiplayer along with coining the gaming term “Deathmatch”.
Doom is a first-person action horror in a science-fiction setting that puts you into shoes of a Space Marine stationed on the Martian moon, Phobos. The whole point of Doom, is to clean up the mess of stupidly powerful corporate conglomerate (not to mention stupidly immoral and just plain stupid in general) after their experiments into inter-dimensional transportation quite literally unleashes Hell itself! So, you’re probably thinking the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC – said stupidly powerful corporate conglomerate) sounds a lot like Umbrella Corporation… Here’s the thing, Doom was sporting a story (even though the first two weren’t exactly story-driven games) with a powerful and immoral mega corporation before Resident Evil / Biohazard (Japanese Title) ever did – But I digress.
Doom and Doom II: Hell on Earth focused purely on gameplay over narrative expositions setting the tone for the franchise. These games made use of clever level design that allowed the designers to hide secret areas and levels that could easily prove tricky to find. At the same time, the core action used lighting, traps and the idle sounds of your enemies ranging from (possessed) “Former Humans” to a wide assortment of demonic foes in order to create a terror-filled atmosphere. It was that terror that came from being ambushed while clutching onto a loaded shotgun by a blood-lusting demon in a dark corridor – Only for the terror to turn into rage in split second, providing you with a rather disturbing but potentially intoxicating adrenaline rush as result of pulling the trigger spattering said foe over any dimly lit decor. This terror exists even in a Deathmatches, as your opponents can come flying out of nowhere suddenly engaging them in a “Quickdraw” gunfight with rocket launchers! Whilst it’s possible to take up cover and pick off foes, you will quickly learn that Doom whether Solo/Co-op or competitive is a matter of “The Quick and The Dead”.
Doom 3, while not an actual sequel (but a reboot) it serves as the Doom “Trilogy’s” narrative exposition. The game is very much a rich story-driven experience in comparison to it’s predecessors, but still manages embrace the terror-factor that made the original games so awesome. However, the multiplayer component plays like an afterthought as it feels very bare bones with only four player deathmatch and no option to fight among demon hordes. Overall, Doom 3 is a rich single player game that provides actual narrative behind the games.
The standout feature behind the franchise is both it’s richly diverse user generated content and mod support along the community behind it all. From map-packs, texture packs, total conversions to mods like Brutal Doom that take the original game to the next level.

So with the new reboot coming out on May 13th, I will be honest about having mixed feelings about the game – So on that note, I am curious enough to give the game the benefit of the doubt. Initially having watched some E3 presentation footage of the single player experience, I found that the game resembled too much of Quake Live than Doom. Hearing that the original design for the Doom reboot was too much like Call of Duty and wasn’t “Doomy Enough”?
Not Doomy enough is basically saying the game isn’t terrifying and that’s what I currently think of the new game so far.

With that said, I will pick up a copy at my leisure and give it a go. If it plays like the homage to Brutal Doom as quoted by those to receive it more positively, then I may end up keeping Doom… Just don’t expect me to be playing the PC version, as I clearly will be playing Project Brutality instead.

[Review] Brutal Doom v20

Developer: Sergeant Mark IV
Publisher: Sergeant Mark IV / Mod DB
Release: (Original) 2012, December 31 2015
Platform: (PC Game Mod) Requires Doom and/or Doom II, Zandronum 2.0 or GZDoom 1.8
Genre: Game Modification, Action Horror
OFLC Rating: N/A

Created by id Software with John Romero and John Carmack at the helm back in 1993, Doom is the action horror classic that redefined first-person shooters along being one of the games to introduce the gaming world to concept of network multiplayer.  Both Doom and it’s sequel Hell on Earth (released the following year) become known as “Classic Doom” with the release of Doom 3 that debuted the idTech 5 Engine.
Recently the latest iteration has received a substantial degree of harsh criticism, which is mostly due to the game’s design direction compromising what made Doom the game we know today for the sake of making a game palatable to the mainstream gaming audience. Doom is about experiencing terror that quickly turns into an intoxicating rage – Classic example is being ambushed in dark corridor by a demon only to blow it’s brains out using a shotgun with catlike reflexes. It’s those moments of adrenaline fueled action that make Doom the game that is, even in a Deathmatch with seven other players among hordes of demons and the possessed undead (former humans). Doom (2016) when it was being promoted at E3 and footage covering the open beta offers little to no sense of terror that I know it’s predecessors to have in abundance.
Here we have Brutal Doom, a mod that uses both Doom and Doom 2 along with idTech 1 Engine to evolve the experience with compromising it! With the use of modern source ports, you can tailor idTech 1 games to play like today’s action games while offering greater support for game modification and more advanced user created content. To look at Brutal Doom, you would be forgiven for labeling it another mod that simple adds a sensationalized gratuitously violent aesthetic to the game. On the surface this mod from a purely visual standpoint may very well look to be a patch for an “R18+ Version of Doom”, but Brutal Doom adds modern physics and gameplay elements to the game. Because Doom is very “Run ‘N’ Gun” (in both single and multiplayer), you cannot afford to stay one place for too long without being “Fragged” or winding up some demon’s chew toy. Brutal Doom takes modern mechanics like the ability to actively aim down the sights of your weapon and enhances the overall gameplay to emphasize a greater need for “Run ‘N’ Gun” tactics.
So how does it work?
Well, you can literally make a bloody mess of any foe (human, demon or otherwise)… BUT! Every foe you encounter has the ability to do same to you, making for some highly tactical skirmishes. Furthermore, where each of your weapons was a stepping stone for something more powerful Brutal Doom takes the arsenal and gives each weapon it’s own purpose for a given situation – Whilst you can play Classic mode that plays using the weapons and combat mechanics of the original game with realist physics that make this mod both a spectacle and a challenge, playing Modern mode will open up the weapons and gunplay mechanics made to complete the experience. Most of the weapons have an alternate function. There a total of eleven weapons (not including your bare hands, making a dozen means to brutalize your foes):

First, there is the Rifle (that replaces the Pistol). Your typical automatic rifle with a decent rate of fire and allows you to aim using the alternate function. However, this is one of two weapons that can be dual-wielded (once another dropped weapon of same type is picked up) allows your primary and alternate weapon functions to fire each weapon independently. With a single rifle – From the hip you can drop foes at medium range, whereas aiming down the sights will allow you pick off targets from long range using short bursts. Dual-Wielding rifles is great for those aggressive “Hit ‘N’ Run” attacks using short bursts in quick succession.
Then, you have the Shotgun! For “Doomers” this weapon needs no introduction – With a single shot you can either take a multiple foes or deal devastating damage to single tougher foe. Brutal Doom takes the Shotgun and gives you weapon for both close-quarters and medium range skirmishes, depending on whether you fire from the hip or use the alternate function to take aim.
When playing Doom 2 you have addition of the Super Shotgun! This is a rather beastly dual barrel break-action shotgun intended for obliterating foes up close. Using the primary function, this beast fires both barrels dealing serious damage if not blowing foes to pieces. Otherwise, using the alternate function you can fire each barrel separately to blow two targets away in close succession. In short the SSG is a monster in close-quarters engagements!
Then there’s the Chaingun. It’s basically modern-day Gatling Gun, or a Minigun. This is a rather interesting weapon as the alternate function is almost becomes a necessity with this gun. Using the primary function will spin the barrels up and fire for as long as you hold it. Using the alternate will act as toggle to keep the barrels spinning allowing you to use primary to apply devastating bursts or just unleash a stream of hot lead at a moment’s notice. This nasty piece of work is your best bet for mowing down foes, a horde at a time.
The next heavy weapon is the Rocket Launcher! With no alternative weapon function, this bad boy simple fires off rockets that do one thing – Fly straight and blow up whatever they hit! Handle this one with care, because the explosive damage from those rockets will make short work of you if you stand too close! In other words, it’s heavy weapon best suited to dealing destruction from down range – Whether it’s making mincemeat of hordes with one rocket at a time or hammering the big tough ones.
Then there’s the Plasma Rifle. This bad boy is energy weapon that will reduce foes to smouldering pile of blood and ash. Best suited for “Hit ‘N’ Run” attacks on tough enemies at medium range – With the primary function it behaves like a typical assault rifle that fires rapid pulses of plasma, while the alternate fires a super-charged scattershot. One Drawback – The problem is when you stop firing between volleys, because the weapon takes a few seconds to cool down each time you do.
Then you have the BFG 9000! If you’re curious as to what BFG stands for… Just know that it’s big and fires a big ball of energy that can vaporize a hall full of bad guys! Having said that, it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out. With a single weapon function this weapon chews through cells like nobody’s business and takes a few seconds to cool down between firing – This is a good option for clearing out hordes, but one you should be conservative with (especially if you tend to rely on the Plasma Rifle).
Then there’s every “Doomer’s” favourite melee weapon, the Chainsaw! Nothing does mincemeat quite like the chainsaw and it has it’s uses for procuring weapons from two Doom 2’s demons. With the primary function, hold down to simply rev up the chainsaw – This useful if you just want to run foes through (literally!). Otherwise with the alternate, holding down will swing the chainsaw side to side while revving up – Great from cutting through hordes or just lopping off heads.
The first of these weapons that you pilfer demons for, is the Twin Rocket Launcher from Revenants. This weapon is safe enough at medium range and will only fire with a target in your sights using only the primary function.
The other lootable weapon is the Flamethrower acquired from a Mancubus. Whether up close or from down range, this bad boy is great for setting foes alight and watching them run around on fire as they burn to a crisp. The primary function launches fireballs that torch targets from a distance, whilst the alternate unleashes fire torrents barbecuing foes dumb enough to stand at close range.
One of the most powerful weapons is the hand grenade. You start the game with one of these and you can only acquire these in ammo backpacks. As these are the most scarce weapon pickup, it would pay use sparingly and make each one count. One the plus side, their explosive damage gives the BFG’s destructive power a run for it’s money. You can either select them and toss them with primary function or their dedicated function, allowing you to throw them without selecting them.
BUT! You can also use your bare hands. Normally you can beat the crap out of lesser foes as well as deliver fiercely powerful hooks and uppercuts. But, when under the effects of demonic rage (from either picking up a Berserker Rage black first aid kit or Demonic Rune) – Using the primary function (normally for punching) you can execute “Fatalities” (graphical execution techniques, very much akin to Mortal Kombat) on the majority of demonic and undead foes. But, know that all enemies have their own individual “Fatalities” they can use on you as well as each other! Swings and Uppercuts (with the alternate) deliver devastating degrees of damage, allowing you to spatter foes with a single punch. You also have a dedicated function (like the grenade toss) for kicking – Normally this will either knock foes down or kill them. But under demonic rage, you tie it in with your punches and make like Chuck Norris on a demon horde! Hand to hand combat also allows you to perform stealth attacks on targets unaware of your presence, allowing you to conserve ammunition and gain a small foothold.
Remember, you’re on a level playing field – Brutal Doom embraces the original games and turns “Run ‘N’ Gun” into a game all about “The Quick & The Dead”!

Overall, Brutal Doom is an awesome mod that not only turns you classic Doom experience into bloody spectacle but introduces a richly satisfying challenge.

Final Thoughts

Okay, normally I don’t review mods or demos – But, this is one such exception!
For a mod to have me more interested in the original game rather than the latest iteration that developers are promoting, that’s saying something. I first played Brutal Doom with version 18 and the announcement of this version had so many hotly anticipated Triple A titles taking a backseat… For a mod designed for a twenty-year old game of all things!!!
If you’re looking to get the most out of Brutal Doom, play it on “Realism Mode”!

I’m not going to put my usual question as with all my reviews, but I will say this…

If you love Doom, Brutal Doom is absolutely worth going back into Classic Doom for!

Report Card

Quality: A
Gameplay: A
Content: B
Skill: B
Technical: A
Value: A
Audience: Adult