[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] 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

[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

[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

[REVIEW] Minecraft

Developer: Mojang / 4J Studios (Console Editions)
Publisher: Mojang / Microsoft
Release: 2011
Platform: Desktop (Core) Edition, Pocket Edition, Console Edition, Pi Edition
Genre: Open Word Survival Adventure / Creative Sandbox
OFLC Rating: PG

Why am I reviewing Minecraft of all things?
Sure, you have a game that is about five years old since it’s official release in 2011 – However, this franchise has been constantly growing is only getting stronger. Just like Lego, Minecraft is very much one of Scandinavia’s exports and one that is proving to stand the test of time. In fact, Minecraft offers a level of creativity that is strikingly similar to that of Lego’s. Since the launch of version 1.0, we have seen Minecraft become available on more and more platforms making it more or less available on anything!
Which brings me to this next point – Minecraft (if you will) is available in three main “Flavours”. The one all veterans know, is “Desktop Edition” being the original core versions of the game that are available for all major X86 operating systems (Windows, Macintosh, Linux, etc.). Then you have the “Console Editions” (XBOX 360, XBOX One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, VITA and Wii U presently) which most lovers of Minecraft would be more familiar with. But for anyone gaming on an iOS or Android device, you have the “Pocket Edition”. There is even a development on “Pi Edition” (a Desktop Edition for the Raspberry Pi operating system). Ultimately, anyone looking for the definitive experience will shoot for the Desktop Edition as you get all the updates before the other editions along with having more options available to you.
So what is Minecraft?
(Assuming you don’t yet know) Minecraft is an experience as opposed to being just another game. An experience that evolved with major patch, from the days of being a creative construct allowing to build things with an infinite supply of blocks into an expansive open world survival adventure experience that only becomes better with more company. But the evolution hasn’t stopped as there is new content continually added to make this much beloved experience better. Every new patch is like getting a new kit to play with sent in the mail from Lego that only adds to your collection to build from. I get that some of you might be asking whether or not you pay a subscription – Back in the early days when you could only get this online, you paid a one time transaction that felt like a lifetime membership and that’s how the Desktop Edition has worked since. Only now you have redeemable vouchers that allow you secure your copies over the counter instead of needing a credit/debit card to buy online. With release of Console Editions, you had the choice from buying digitally from a storefront service (eg PlayStation Shop, XBOX Live Arcade, etc.) or buy a hardcopy of the game from over the counter. Getting back to the question for those unfamiliar…
Going by the Desktop Edition – Minecraft offers the three game modes “Survival”, “Hardcore” and “Creative”. With Pocket and Console Editions you have only “Survival” and “Creative” modes to choose from.
Survival mode drops you into a randomly generated (assuming you did enter a code to generate something specific) world, a wilderness if you will with no particular set goals, instructions or story. In this mode you will at some point need to prepare yourself as your “Avatar” experiences hunger and the world you’re in isn’t always this tame as you will soon see once the sun sets. During the day is your time to prepare yourself with tools, weapons and necessary provisions (eg food, potions, etc.) along with building basic lodgings to retreat to and take cover in. Because at night, all manor monsters from the undead to the infamous “Creeper” will come prowling and ultimately prey upon you after catching your sent (in a matter of speaking). Until you are well equipped and gained the necessary skills (player knowledge) to survive the nights, building shelter (mud hut, wooden shack, carved out cave, etc.) that offers basic secure refuge is going to be your best bet.
By now you will get the idea that Minecraft uses a day/night cycle and also has weather. Back to the day/night cycles. Unless you’re playing the Pocket or Console Editions, there is no tutorial or tool tips that will offer newcomers any particular insight. More often than not, learning the ins and outs of Minecraft is done through consulting wiki pages, Youtube videos, literature and so on. When it comes to the actual story, everything revolves around you (any company you’re playing with) and world you shape. Building a basic shelter is as simple as breaking down blocks and rearranging them to make one. Making tools, weapons, potions and more complexed items requires crafting. When you open your inventory screen you have a two by two grid next to your avatar’s picture. This allows you to execute recipes and schematics by arranging necessary items in the appropriate formation to craft an item. But this will only allow you create basic essentials such as planks, sticks, torches and the all important crafting table – With a crafting table you have a three by three grid to work with. So to get you started here’s a few schematics for some starting essentials.
Planks are made by placing logs (which can be cut by simple breaking down trees with your fists) into a single space on any crafting grid. Place planks into two spaces on top of one another will create sticks. Fill you all four spaces of your backpack crafting grid to make a crafting table. Using a crafting table, place planks along the top row and two sticks in the remaining spaces of the central column to make a pickaxe. To make a sword place a stick in the bottom space of the central column with planks in the remaining spaces of said column.
For more recipes and schematics check out the Minecraft Wiki, search for guide videos on YouTube and/or download companion apps for your smartphone / tablet. Alternative you can play a Console Edition with or without owning the Desktop Edition as well.
However, if you find yourself in King Solomon’s sandals having done everything under the sun… Enter: The End.
This is a world where you can go to in order to challenge the “Ender Dragon”, a powerful dragon that offers up the one of the most (if not THE MOST) epic fight you will in your Minecraft experience. Once you beat him, you end the game and are treated to a rather peculiar text epilogue. Getting to The End is a quest in itself and fighting the Ender Dragon is no simple matter. But! The things you can do are as great and numerous as the imaginations of you and anyone else sharing the experience. Minecraft is one of those games that embraces that old saying “The more, the merrier” to the fullest. With the new content being added through regular patching, there is no shortage of things to do in Minecraft.
Creative mode is allows you build away to your heart’s content with an unlimited supply of every block, item and mob along with the ability to fly (eliminating the need for using dirt chunks as scaffolding).
Hardcore mode is Survival mode with a twist – You play on the highest difficulty and when you die, you do not get dropped back into the world (and have to go look for your stuff in the place where you previously died). Instead, it’s quite literally “Game Over Man!” (to quote Aliens’ Hudson played by Bill Paxton) as your world is practically rendered unplayable and can only be deleted unless you like to keep it as a record of sorts. Ultimately, Hardcore mode exists for players who appreciate a true challenge with their Minecraft experience. Sadly, anyone not playing Desktop Edition will never know how satisfying this experience can be.
But, what if you are playing the Console Editions?
Survival mode on it’s own is a highly satisfying experience and should not be scoffed at. The advantage of owning a Console Edition is that your character controls as fluidly as your Desktop Edition character, but you have an automatic crafting mode that displays the recipe / schematic for each item you can craft. In addition you have a “Tutorial World” showing you the ropes along with tool-tips and hints that popup during regular play. However, unlike Desktop Edition your worlds are more finite in comparison with restricted world sizes (depending on whether you playing on seventh or eighth generation console).
Pocket Edition is like the Console Editions with the inclusion of the automatic crafting system, but is even more restricted than the Console Editions. Unless you use smartphones / tablets for your primary means of gaming, Pocket Edition is a simplistically effective way to give show off the game to those curious about it.
Multiplayer is an interesting subject with regards to Minecraft as you have so many options. Desktop Edition will allow you to connect via LAN (all players must have their own accounts when playing) game, connect to online server – unlike most server browsers, Minecraft’s won’t auto search and self-populate with available servers to connect to. Instead you need to actively search via external (eg internet browser, etc.) means for server addresses. Finally, you have Minecraft Realms which take the pain out of setting up your own server. So if you play Minecraft and think PC gamers don’t pay for multiplayer… You’re only half right! Minecraft Realms is Mojang’s in-house server hosting subscription service that allows you to setup and manage your server with ease and it’s no wonder Microsoft pounced on Mojang with profitable options like this! This service allows you send invitations to players you want on your server and you can even grant administrator status to guests if you’re looking have others help you run it. Playing as an invited guest on a realm won’t cost you anything as only the Realm’s owner pays the subscription much like a lease.
Console Editions will display available games in the world browser via the particular console’s network service (eg XBOX Live, PlayStation Network, etc.) as well as offering a split screen function (with exception to Vita Edition) making them more viable options for quick and easy multiplayer action.
Minecraft as a whole is a game with both a rich and diverse community behind it as you will get those dedicated to helping newcomers find their feet, entertainers, competitive players engaging in PvP classics such as the “Hunger Games” mod and the mass majority just looking to have fun.
Ultimately, once you beat the learning curve Minecraft offers more than enough content to keep hooked for hours much like a tub of Lego and only gets better when you add company!

Final Thoughts

My summary of Minecraft may have come across as barebones regarding the finer details, given how “In Your Face” the game’s marketing (from both Mojang, Microsoft and the community) has been since it’s offical launch of 2011 you should by now have an idea what the game looks like and roughly how it plays. Minecraft from a technical standpoint (with retrospective aesthetic aside) is quite stable across all editions to say the least. The Desktop Edition allows for full control binding allowing you get that perfect setup for your style of play, whereas Console Editions are limited to a few set control schemes. However, the Pocket Edition is probably most limited of all the editions as you are restricted to the set touch controls though it would have been nice to have an option for use of smartphone / tablet supported game controller.

So, is Minecraft worth purchasing?

If your tub of Lego had you enthralled for hours, then Minecraft is going to offer some strikingly similar enjoyment.
If you enjoy no-holds-barred open adventure games, then Minecraft offers a fresh experience with every new world!
If you want a game you can enjoy with company… Minecraft is fun for friends and family alike!
Look to get into a game with a socially engaging community… From helpful players contributing regular YouTube content to the party that is MineCon, you’ll feel right at home!

Report Card

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

[REVIEW] Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom / Nintendo (European Releases)
Release: 2014 / 2015
Platform: 3DS
Genre: Action Roleplay
OFLC Rating: M

Chances are you’ve probably heard the name Monster Hunter before in relation to video games, but never really knew much more than that. You’ve probably seen the promotional artwork and / or the one of the games on the shelf, assuming it to be nothing more than a game catering to the crowd who dream of slaying mythical beasts. Chances are you’ve seen the promotional trailers for one of the games and found yourself mildly curious about the franchise. Monster Hunter is one of Japan’s most popular video game franchise as well as being one of the most rewarding action role-play experiences on the market. Developed and published by Capcom, Monster Hunter presently has four generations of games – The first two were predominantly a PlayStation affair (PS2 and PSP), whereas the latter generations stand out as a reason for giving Nintendo’s computer entertainment systems a look-in. Monster Hunter is a fantasy action role-playing game that is quite self-explanatory when you go on the franchise name alone. But to refer to the franchise as either action or role-play is missing the point about what this video game juggernaut is. One hand it’s very much an open world action game for the most part, but incorporates strong elements from MMORPGs (eg Looting, resource gathering, stat-checking, upgrading, etc.). But, there are other elements that make this stand out from traditional “Hack’N’Slash” ARPGs. Capcom have designed the monster AI in way that seems to add a level of simulation and strategy to game, making you feel like a real life big game hunter in a fantasy universe.
Monster Hunter doesn’t stop there, but also approaches character development different to traditional roleplaying games – Instead your experience being reflected by a level number and the number of experience points, it’s all listed in detail within your profile. This serves as a portfolio displaying your achievements and failures, other players in your party at that time along with the specific weapons and equipment used for that given quest painting a more accurate picture of a particular player character. Your character is not defined by a player class and associated skill set but rather by the armour, weapons and how you put it all to use. Monster Hunter has only two classes (if at all), being Blademaster (Melee / CQC) and Gunner (Ranged) which are associated by the weapon your character is presently using. These classes come into play when crafting new armour as certain pieces as offer a specialised statistics catering to the particular class (when specified). Weapons and armour not only give combat (offensive / defensive) ratings for each piece, but has a set of statistic values (“Buffs” and “Debuffs”) that can add or remove passive abilities. These abilities can be have either positive or negative effects depending on their numerical value, abilities will require a certain number of points to activate (eg 10 or -10) before they can take effect – This is great for adding and removing abilities by mixing various pieces to tailor a set of passive skill beneficial to your play style.
Speaking of play style, there are fourteen weapon classes that each offer their own style of play contributing to what is some of the most diverse gameplay seen in an ARPG. To simply categorise them into one of two classes I honestly believe that does them little justice as they each have something different to bring to the table, despite having very similar weapon types.
The first of these that you will be introduced to from the get-go is the Sword & Shield, offering a basic means of inflicting damage and countering blows at the cost of your stamina. A great weapon set for learning the ropes and ideal for the run of the mill close-quarters skirmisher builds.
Next up you have the Dual Blades which inflict similar levels of damage as the Sword & Shield, but sacrifice blocking for double the attack. These are highly useful, if you’re looking to go for a close-quarters berserker character build.
The Long Sword may not offer blocking, but makes up for it with the ability to offer some offensive and technical swordplay. If you consider yourself a swordsman / swordsmaiden or looking to live out your Samurai fantasies, then this weapon class is your best bet for those builds.
Then there’s the Great Sword, a common real world example being the Claymore often used by Celtic warriors (eg “Braveheart” William Wallace). These bad boys are quite large and often bear resemblance to six-foot clever. Aside from being able to cleve your way through packs of beasts, you can block with them. They’re one of few ideal weapons if you are looking to play the “Beast Slayer” build.
Next is the weapons ideal for Slayers is the Hammer, which doubles down on the offensive. Though this weapon (obviously) inflicts damage with blunt force, you can unleash charged attacks.
Then there is the Hunting Horn which works like a club for the most part, but allows you to play songs to boost the moral of your hunting parties. A weapon ideal for party leaders and / or party support.
Moving on you have the Lance which comes with a shield allowing you to block as well as being able to thrust at the enemy. This weapon is ideal for those looking to play either heavy skirmisher slayer builds.
Then you have the first hybrid weapon class, then Gunlance. This weapon like the lance has a shield, but this lance allows hunters to fire a close range gunshot serving as an amplifier for greater impact. The gunlance is ideal for similar builds using lances.
Then there is the Switchaxe, for those really looking rock the slayer builds to the nth degree. This badass of weapon is a hybrid that can switch between an axe and a great sword offering the offensive capabilities of both weapons.
Then you have one of the franchises two newest weapons, the Charge Blade. This hybrid switches between being a broadsword with shield and a battle-axe. Highly versatile for aggressive close-quarters combat.
The other new addition is the Insect Glaive, which comes with a beetle-like creature called a Kinsect. The glaive itself is a dual edged staff allowing you pole-vault onto your targets. In addition your Kinsect serves as an attack dog that leaches from the life-force of your target. This particular weapon is ideal for those looking to play a sort of beast wrangler build.
Then you have the Bow (pretty straight forward really), a traditional RPG staple weapon for ranged combat. Like you would expect, this weapon allows for ranged combat with agile mobility. Being a projectile weapon, the bow allows you to apply coating to your arrows if you’re looking to (for example) poison or tranquillise your targets. An ideal for those looking to play ranged builds traditional in nature.
Then there are the Bowguns, with in both light (LBG) and heavy (HBG) that are cross between a crossbow and a rifle. The HBG is the superior option for firepower, whereas the LBG makes up it with superior mobility – Like comparing a carbine to a high-powered rifle, really. All bowguns are able to use different ammunition types, ranging from regular rounds to various specialty rounds. Both make ideal weapons for those looking to sport commando and sniper builds.
Here’s where Monster Hunter gets interesting in the weapons department – All weapons have their own set of advantages and disadvantages with no clear-cut night & day differences between them. Ultimately it will come down to the hunter as to which is the better weapon. However, no two beast is the same as any real-life hunter will tell you. Which is why you will either need to line up a selection of weapons or an entire playbook of strategies for a single weapon. To say whether or not to specialise is the answer will again come down to the particular player and what works best from their play styles – At the end of the day, Monster Hunter stands out as being one of the most gameplay diverse ARPGs on the market. But make no mistake, Monster Hunter has never been about “Hack ’N Slash”. When hunting beasts there are no health gauges as you would be expecting from RPGs like the critically acclaimed Elder Scrolls franchise, hunting requires you determine your target’s state from their body language. This is easier than you might think as there are typically three main states creatures can be in – In the case of MH4 you have an additional state that ties into this games lore. These are normal, exhausted, enraged and infected or frenzied.
Normal state is pretty self-explanatory as all beasts have a set of behavioural patterns, especially when attacking. This useful for allowing players to learn both using each of their weapons tactically and understanding specific game. Because each weapon takes a certain amount of time to attack, one must learn to position themselves strategically in order to strike (or land a shot) their prey whilst ensuring their own character’s safety.
When exhausted beasts will begin to drool, move slower, have certain attacks become less effective (eg those with fire-breathing go to breath fireballs will only produces bust of hot air) and when injured will limp.
When enraged a beast (even when injured or exhausted) will have greatly increased mobility and capabilities along with some not normally displayed during a fight. In these states beast will fight fiercely to the death and require you to up your game when attempting to take them down (whether you kill or capture).
The frenzied state is all part of a story mechanic relating to a devastating rabies-like virus that causes the infected to take on a super enraged state. This particular virus is not restricted to the beasts you hunt – Meaning your character can contract it during a fight. The virus can be treated with the aid of certain medicines. Ultimately this virus can kill player characters, but it can also empower them.
Taking into account these states that by going in swing or all guns blazing can easily get your character taken out. So understanding how your weapons work and find those that fit your style of play along with knowing your game are crucial factors to getting the most out of a hunt.
The only displayed gauges in the game show the player’s condition (health and stamina), time (when contract specifies a time limit) and the mounting gauge – Because of the verticality introduced by MH4 players execute aerial attacks, even mount a beast which opens up a rodeo-style mini game. While mounted players can either hang on or stab their prey in the back. However, the mounting gauge displays a bar that will fill from every attack with a dinosaur skull at the starting end. This head represents when beasts attempt to throw you off – Of course, this will happen when this reaches your progress on the bar. By filling this gauge you are able to bring your prey down long enough for you and your party to get in some free hits.
Verticality also effects basic movement, allowing players to have a parkour-style flow to their movements and in addition players are able to climb cliff faces faster as well defend themselves by slashing at attackers that would ordinarily knock them off.
Where this franchise truly excels, is playing with others (whether locally or online). By adding teamwork into the mix, the game becomes more strategic and more engaging. However, games that promote teamwork such as your typical Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games (eg DOTA2 and League of Legends) can be severely off-putting to newcomers due to the potential toxicity that can exist within these player communities. Because of the way MH4U is set up, it’s makes it difficult (though not impossible) to experience player toxicity (eg Harsh undue criticism) with lack of voice chat (though that feature would have been a useful for coordinating with others) along with Nintendo’s family-friendly influence. Ideally this is game you will want to play among friends and players you know, whether in person via local link or online via the friends list.
I’ve talked about Monster Hunter’s gameplay, but what about the single player experience?
MH4’s story loosely follows the travels of a caravan that you become a part of, setting out to discover the mysteries of a strange fragment that the caravan leader has in his possession. The single player game will introduce you to the game and prepare through playing the village quests – These will range from fetch-quests (eg Gathering a specific type of mushroom) to eventually being introduced to both your first big-game hunt and expedition. On the subject of fetch-quests, people often roll their eyes at the thought of something so menial, but they are used to teach about how to develop provisions on the field which become very relevant later on. While not exclusive to single player – Along with shopkeepers for weapons and provisions, you have street cooks that serve meals which are useful for giving you additional statically based perks for your next undertaking. By playing the single player portion of the game, you will hopefully pick up (this game conveys information via text, so be careful not skip over any of it too lightly) the “ins and outs” of Monster Hunter. By the time you make some serious progress with the single player component (if not finish it outright), you will have figured out crafting (upgrading / forging new sets via the blacksmith) weapons and armour are how you progress in Monster Hunter along side having to learn the finer arts of hunting big game in a fantasy world.
Overall, between hunting beasts, crafting new gear and coordinating a hunting party Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is one of the most satisfying action roleplaying games as well as being a damn good reason for owning a 3DS system.

Final Thoughts

Don’t get me wrong, I have played MH4U as well as a bit of MH3U (Wii U) and I can tell you Capcom do a good job in making it more accessible to newcomers while keeping the challenge fresh for veterans with each new instalment. Any veterans holding out for a Western release of Monster Hunter X (“Cross”), MH4U has plenty to keep you occupied until then if you haven’t already stepped up to this current hunting season. As for newcomers, MH4U is an ideal starting point to begin you Monster Hunter experience.

So if Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate worth purchasing?

If you’re that player who plays The Elder Scrolls (Chapter) V: Skyrim just to slay dragons, then consider MH4U your ticket to the big leagues!
If you have been longing for a deep and satisfying action roleplaying game, then MH4U will offer that and then some!
If you love play games with co-op functionality with your mates, then be prepared for you and your hunting party to break out that playbook entitled “Greatest Hits”.
If the idea of big game safaris in a fantasy world excites you, then look no further than Monster Hunter!

Report Card

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