Reviews by DaiMonPaul
Fantastic historical gameDaiMonPaul | Sept. 13, 2013 | Review of Expeditions: Conquistador
Expeditions Conquistador is a game for which I had been waiting a long time. I love strategy-RPG games in the King's Bounty style, but most of them have been fantasy-based -- this is fine, of course, but it gets old after time. This game plays in a similar style, but its theme and setting are unique, and as someone who loves studying history, it's a welcome addition to my gaming library.
The game puts you in the shoes of a 16th century Spanish conquistador, gives you missions to accomplish, and lets you build your own party to best accomplish your goals. The game is fun, but it's challenging... supplies are tight, random events like diseases can come at any time, and if you don't manage your people correctly, some of them will cause trouble and mutiny against you. The turn-based battles aren't easy, either. The graphics look really good for an indie game, the story is excellent, and the game is a joy to play, giving you decisions to make which impact the narrative. There are a few bugs, and if you don't like strategy-RPGs or an historical setting in your games, this one won't change your mind. Overall, though, my experiences with Expeditions Conquistador have been fantastic, and I can highly recommend it.
Fantastic pack for GTA fansDaiMonPaul | Aug. 12, 2013 | Review of Complete GTA Bundle
This is a fantastic pack if you're a fan of the GTA games. If you've never played them before, they're open-world, sandbox action games where you do everything from beat up random people with baseball bats, shoot rocket launchers at police, or drive cars as fast and as crazily as you can, all while listening to the amazing call-in radio. The missions are fun (and can be quite challenging), the stories are great, and if you ever get bored of it, you can do what you want and create random mayhem. They can get a little tedious over time, but the missions are varied and you never really run out of things to do.
This pack gives you five games, and they're all great games worth playing. GTA 4 and Episodes from Liberty City are the two newest ones, and they both look great. Most players will probably want to start there, as they're modern games that give you a fun experience. However, the three older GTA games are more than worth playing; the graphics may be dated, but if you can look past that, they're all still great games, and I'd argue that the games themselves are better than GTA 4 (especially Vice City, which remains amongst my favorite games ever).
If you don't already own the GTA games, this is the perfect pack for you.
Nice unit sprites, but totally cosmeticDaiMonPaul | July 31, 2013 | Review of Hearts of Iron III: Japanese Vehicle Pack
This DLC pack gives you 16 new vehicle models that show up on the map for the Empire of Japan. If you enjoy playing as or against Japan (i.e. in the Pacific Theatre), then this might be a nice piece of DLC to pick up. The unit models look great and are historically accurate, and they add to the immersion factor. However, they're entirely cosmetic, as all they do is replace the more generic sprite models that are currently in the game. Personally, I use the NATO counters when I play Hearts of Iron, so I don't even see the unit sprites, minimizing the impact of this DLC pack.
It's worth picking up if you want nicer, more accurate unit sprites to look at while you play, but it's certainly not necessary to enjoy the game.
A fantastic collection for World War 2 gamersDaiMonPaul | July 30, 2013 | Review of Hearts of Iron III: Collection
Hearts of Iron 3 is the most complex grand strategy game covering World War 2, and it's a great game if you take the time to learn it. You can play and control all aspects of any country in the world, and the game contains political, economic, and espionage systems. At its heart, though, Hearts of Iron is a wargame, and you'll spend most of your time building and directing your armies at an operational level. There's a ton of stuff to manage, and it can certainly be overwhelming at times. Luckily, the game allows you to delegate almost anything -- production, diplomacy, or even military operations -- to the AI, and it does a decent job. To actually learn the game, though, takes a lot of time and a willingness to read outside wikis/watch "Let's Play" videos. If you have the patience to learn it, you'll get a great wargaming experience.
This collection gives you the base game, its first two expansions, and a handful of spritepacks. The spritepack DLCs are totally cosmetic and give you pretty units to look at -- they're an added bonus, but certainly not necessary to enjoy the game. It's the other stuff here that really gives you a great value in this collection. The base game itself is a solid title, but it feels unfinished and contains some bugs/enemy AI issues. Semper Fi and For the Motherland fix most of these issues while adding extra content -- Semper Fi gives you user-defined theatres, many UI fixes and additions that make it easier to manage your armies, and an additional start date. For the Motherland offers battle scenarios (which I love, as they're short, confined to a limited space on the map, and a ton of fun) and partisans behind enemy lines.
This is a great pack if you're willing to put up with a high learning curve and a lot of micromanaging. Once the expansions are installed, the game is detailed, fun, and a great experience, and it's quite moddable, too. The only thing this collection is missing is the last expansion, Their Finest Hour. It helps to complete the HoI experience, so make sure to pick it up, as well!
Great expansion for Hearts of Iron 3DaiMonPaul | July 30, 2013 | Review of Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
Their Finest Hour is the latest expansion for Hearts of Iron 3, and it's a must-have for fans of the franchise. The expansion offers a decent amount of content -- leaders being able to gain traits is an excellent addition, and naval invasions finally got tweaked, making them more realistic with a better chance of the AI actually pulling off a successful naval landing (which is still rare). It also adds battle plans, which is a relatively minor thing, but it's really, really cool. It lets you draw your plans on the map and share them with your allies -- it's a great help for multiplayer, but it's also useful in single player games to remind you of your targets and options. This expansion gives you some much-needed AI tweaks and optimizes the game further, as well. In addition, I rather enjoyed the Spanish Civil War battle scenario... I don't think I've ever seen this war show up in a video game before.
Is there enough content here to justify the price? That's for you to decide. There's absolutely no other downside to getting this, though, if you're a fan of the game. This gives you nothing but positives, and it helps to complete Hearts of Iron, turning it into the game it always should have been. Their Finest Hour is indeed the finest hour of HoI.
Very nice, detailed WWII simDaiMonPaul | July 26, 2013 | Review of Hearts of Iron III
Hearts of Iron 3 is an extremely in-depth wargame that simulates World War 2 and the time around it. You can play any country in the world and control its diplomacy, economy, military, and espionage system, although the major powers of the war are usually more fun to play. There's a LOT to do in this game, and it can be overwhelming for the new player. The learning curve is very high, but if you put in the time to learn the game (mostly through trial-and-error and watching YouTube "Let's Plays," as the tutorial only explains the interface without telling you how to actually play), you'll find that it's a very good representation of the war. I would suggest picking up the various expansion packs for the game, as well, as they add new systems, including battle scenarios (which can serve as a limited introduction for newbies), as well as make the AI stronger.
Adds a fun new mechanic to the base gameDaiMonPaul | July 11, 2013 | Review of Commander Conquest of the Americas: Pirate Treasure Chest
This expansion DLC adds pirates to the Commander: Conquest of the Americas base game. Unlike the other expansion, this one actually adds game mechanics; you can face pirates in battle, trade with them, or even hire them. The pirates mechanic works pretty well and it gives you another strategic option to consider, adding diversity to a game which could use some. I found myself hiring pirates to raid the fleets of my competitors, saving me a lot of time and effort in the game (at the cost of some money). If you don't plan on exploring the options that pirates give you, then there's nothing else in this DLC for you (as it focuses exclusively on this mechanic), but if you want to add a little flavor to the base game, then you should pick up this DLC.
No new mechanics, but some nice additionsDaiMonPaul | July 11, 2013 | Review of Commander Conquest of the Americas: Colonial Navy
This is a solid add-on to Commander: Conquest of the Americas. The DLC pack gives you three new battles to play; they're somewhat obscure battles historically, but they're still fun to play. It also gives you some extras for the base game -- new leaders, new resources, new ships, and new buildings. There are no new mechanics introduced here -- it's very much "more of the same," but it does help to flesh out the base game with its additions. The new resources, wheat in particular, are nice to have, as they offer some variety to the gameplay in the original. There's nothing game-changing here, but ultimately, this is a nice DLC pack to have if you enjoyed the base game.
Difficult to learn, but a solid game in a unique periodDaiMonPaul | July 11, 2013 | Review of Supreme Ruler: Cold War
Supreme Ruler: Cold War is a grand strategy game that lets you take over a country during the Cold War and manage its economy, politics, and military. The game itself is open-ended; you set your own goals, similar to a Civilization or Europa Universalis-type game, and you can do anything from spying on your opponents to trading for needed goods on the world economy to researching military technology for upgrades to your units. There's a lot to do here, and it's overwhelming at times. The game gives you ministers who can be set to auto-manage various parts of your country, and they do a decent job; to really play the game, though, requires an immense amount of micromanagement. Worse, the tutorials don't really prepare you well for this. Reading the manual and watching a few Let's Plays on YouTube will help, but the learning curve with this game can still be brutal. That's a shame, too, because if you stick around and actually learn the game, there's a fun, deep strategy game to be found.
The game looks decent and runs well, though it's obviously processor-intensive with so many details to manage. I'm playing on an i3 processor and didn't have any real issues. The AI is decent -- it's not exactly innovative, but it is competent and gave me a solid challenge. I had the most fun with this game playing a country like France or Germany -- plenty to do, but not nearly as much micromanaging as a superpower like the USA or USSR.
This is not a game for everybody, but if the high learning curve and immense amount of micromanagement don't scare you away, there's a fun experience to be had here. This is also one of the few grand strategy games that take place during the Cold War, so if you're looking to play the Korean or Vietnam Wars or to see what would have happened had the Cuban Missile Crisis went hot, then here's your chance!
Competent stealth game with a great atmosphereDaiMonPaul | July 8, 2013 | Review of Velvet Assassin
Velvet Assassin is a WWII stealth game that offers decent gameplay with an interesting plot (loosely based on a true story). The game puts you into the shoes of Violette, a French spy working for the British, and you have to sneak, crawl, and assassinate your way through Nazi-controlled Europe. The game's stealth mechanics are solid if ordinary; this is no Hitman or Thief, but generally, hiding and sneaking in the shadows work well, and stealth kills are rewarding. Avoiding firefights is also necessary, as Violette can't take too much damage, plus it's difficult to aim with guns. This is definitely a game to be played at a slow, careful pace... trying to race through will lead to certain death. It's not an easy game, but it's also not as frustratingly difficult as a game like Death to Spies; if you're patient, you should be ok. The most frustrating part of the game is its checkpoint save system; you never really know where the checkpoints are, and sometimes, they seem to be farther apart than they should be, causing you to replay parts of missions that you've already beaten. It's a minor issue, but it's not ideal.
The game really shines with its atmosphere, though. It looks and sounds great, and I enjoyed the voice acting. In addition, being able to play as a female spy is unique. The story itself is somewhat generic (sneak into base, kill enemies, sneak out), but it's still well put together. I got about 11 hours of gameplay out of it, so it's not too short, either.
In sum, this is a competent if unspectacular stealth game which has a cool heroine and a unique atmosphere. You must have patience to play this game, but if you enjoy stealth titles and are searching for something different, then this is a good place to look.
A fun, unique twist on the RTS genre, but really hardDaiMonPaul | July 8, 2013 | Review of Majesty 2 Collection
Majesty 2 is a unique RTS game where you don't actually control your heroes but rather entice them to do things with rewards. I've never seen a system like this before in a strategy game (other than in the first Majesty game, of course), and it's a nice change from the normal routine when playing RTS games. It adds a new layer of complexity and also makes this game stand out amongst a crowded field in the genre.
Having played and enjoyed Majesty 1, I was expecting to see more of the same from Majesty 2. And that's pretty much what you get here, with a few tweaks. Majesty 2 gives you more units, more buildings, and more options, but it also seems like the AI isn't as good. Your heroes sometimes wander off on their own despite your monetary encouragement or end up charging into a swarm of enemies to meet instant death for no real reason. Thankfully, this doesn't happen often, and the game is still fun to play. It's really, really hard, however; the first levels aren't too bad for someone with experience in the Majesty universe, but before you're even halfway through the game, the difficulty level seems to skyrocket. The expansions are also quite difficult; I've yet to beat them all.
This collection gives you the base game of Majesty 2 plus its three expansions, each of which adds units, items, maps, and campaigns. There's a ton of value here, and this collection will keep you busy for hours. Recommended if you're a fan of RTS games but want something a little bit different from the norm, but if a high difficulty level scares you away, you might want to approach with caution.
A solid standalone expansion, but with some flawsDaiMonPaul | July 8, 2013 | Review of King Arthur: Fallen Champions
Fallen Champions is a fun, if flawed, strategy game in the style of the Total War series. It plays somewhat like an expansion to King Arthur 1 and a preview to King Arthur 2, and if you're familiar with those games, you'll be at home with this one, too. You're given armies, heroes, and missions to complete, and then you get to battle it out in a Total War-style real-time battle. Like in the first King Arthur game, these battles are fun to play, and they're unique in their use of hero units and magic, which can quickly turn the tide of battle. These battles are tied together by a plot in the form of a choose-your-own adventure text story based in the lore of King Arthur. I love this blend of old-school adventure with new-school RTS, but it worked better in King Arthur 1 than in this standalone expansion. In this game, there simply isn't as much to do when it comes to managing your kingdom, and the choices you're given lead to a more linear game. In King Arthur 1, you could pretty much do whatever you wanted to... in this game, you're stuck playing a defined story, with some limited choices presented with the text-based adventure system. It's still fun to play, but it seems like a step backward from the first game, and its replayability suffers.
Overall, though, this is a nice little standalone expansion. The game looks and sounds fantastic, and I haven't encountered any serious bugs. As long as you approach it as a game with limited scope (i.e. not the epic possibilities of the first title in the series), you should enjoy it.
Great strategy experience!DaiMonPaul | July 2, 2013 | Review of Sid Meier's Civilization® V
Civ 5 is one of my favorite strategy games, and it offers a great experience for new players and old veterans alike. The game runs well on almost anything (I'm on a laptop with integrated graphics, and it runs smoothly with some settings turned down), it looks good, and its gameplay is enthralling. It's easy to learn but hard to master, and it's impossible to put down. Each civilization (and the game with its DLC comes with a LOT of them) gives you different bonuses and strategies to pursue, and every map is different, as well. Progressing through the eras, founding new cities, and conquering the map gives you a real sense of progress and accomplishment, whether you're playing against the computer or against other players. The only complaints are the AI (it's decent but not great, and it will do some stupid things) and that religion wasn't included in the base game. Make sure to pick up Gods & Kings!
A great older strategy gameDaiMonPaul | June 27, 2013 | Review of Crusader Kings Complete
Crusader Kings is a grand strategy game which is quite unique. Instead of playing as a medieval country, you take over a medieval family and try to improve the position of the dynasty throughout time. You can conquer provinces, as in other strategy games, but you can also usurp titles, marry off children, assassinate enemies, and vassalize rivals, all from the comfort of the main map. It's a really fun, complex game, and if you take the time to learn it, it'll give you hours upon hours of entertainment.
CK: Complete gives you both the original Crusader Kings and its expansion, Deus Vult. As this is an older, dated title, the map and graphics are mostly in 2D. They're well done and remind one of an old board game, but after you've spent time with 3D graphics, it's hard to go back. And that's the major issue with this older game; it's hard to go back to it after you've played its sequel. Crusader Kings 2 is superior to this one in almost every way; it has more depth and complexity (more provinces and people, more complex mechanics, more things to do), and it looks better. That said, this is still a very good older title, and if you're willing to look past the dated graphics (or if you aren't spoiled by CK2), you'll enjoy this.
Recommended for grand strategy gamers and for those who don't mind a steep learning curve -- the tutorial is practically non-existent, so if you've never played a game like this, I'd suggest watching a Let's Play on YouTube to understand what's going on.
A good attempt at historical grand strategy in historical JapanDaiMonPaul | June 27, 2013 | Review of Sengoku
Sengoku is a solid strategy game, but it's probably the weakest of the Paradox Development titles. If you've played Crusader Kings 2, then you'll be familiar with this game; it has similar mechanics. As in CK2, you take control of a person in charge of a noble family and then control his or her dynasty throughout time, marrying off children, expanding influence, and conquering neighbors. However, Sengoku plays differently. Here, your goal is to unite Japan under your rule, which means that in order to win the game, you have to fight wars and conquer. Much of the game is geared towards this, leaving out some of the really fun, deep role-playing elements that made it into Crusader Kings 2. It's essentially a wargame with some additional diplomatic elements added.
This isn't a bad game by any stretch, though, and it's still fun to play. There aren't many bugs, and the game runs smoothly on my laptop. The map is really pretty, but because it contains topography, it can be a bit difficult to read at times (i.e. when something ends up in the mountains). Despite this, I enjoyed the game; it's not nearly as deep as Crusader Kings 2, but it shares some similar mechanics, and if you like the Japanese historical setting, it's a nice grand strategy (i.e. no real-time battles here) alternative to Shogun 2: Total War.
A solid sequel to EICDaiMonPaul | June 27, 2013 | Review of Commander: Conquest of the Americas
Commander: Conquest of the Americas is the spiritual sequel to East India Company, and it plays very similarly. It takes the economic and trading formula present in that game and improves on it. While it still gets repetitive at times, there's more to do in this world, and it's more fun. The ship battles aren't the heart of the game, but they're realistically done and can be quite a challenge. I wish they had put land battles into the game, though; it feels weird to build and expand colonies without the possibility of troops fighting it out on land. The campaigns aren't nearly as challenging as the naval battles, but if you don't mind micromanaging colonists, supplies, and trade goods, then you'll have a solid experience. The game also looks great, although it ran a bit sluggish on my outdated laptop.
Recommended for fans of economic strategy games; others might find it a bit too detailed or boring.
A decent historical strategy gameDaiMonPaul | June 27, 2013 | Review of East India Company Collection
East India Company is a solid trading and economic strategy game. While there is some combat here, the heart of the game lies in economics and trade. You have to manage colonies and their supplies, trade goods, and make sure your trading routes are protected from enemy ships. It reminds me a bit of a mix of Patrician with Sid Meier's Pirates, though it's not as good as either one.
The game is deep and very detailed, with plenty of micromanagement (for better or worse). It gets repetitive, but it's an interesting take on the economic strategy genre. I'd recommend this collection over just the base game, as you get some extra battles to play (independent of the main campaigns), as well as new options during the game (such as the ability to play as pirates). If you like the game, also check out its spiritual successor, Commander: Conquest of the Americas -- it's very similar but takes place on the other side of the globe.
If you like turn-based strategy, you'll enjoy thisDaiMonPaul | June 17, 2013 | Review of Disciples II: Gold Edition
This is a really good game bundled with its three expansions. The story is immersive, the turn-based gameplay functions well, and each playable race is unique. The campaigns are fun to play, but they are a bit long (you can easily get a hundred hours out of this game and its expansions, which is nice to have but might be a bit too much), and I found some of the battles to get repetitive after a while. As I had never played a game like this before, I found it a bit difficult to learn at first, but once I figured out what to do, it became easier -- still a challenge, but not overwhelmingly difficult. Despite these issues, I really did enjoy the game.
If you're looking for a turn-based strategy game in a fantasy world, then you'll probably love this. I'd recommend picking up this game over its sequel, Disciples 3, which is a newer, prettier game, but which isn't as good as this underrated gem.
Fun, but definitely not a simDaiMonPaul | June 17, 2013 | Review of Flatout
I LOVE the game modes which make you find the optimum way to eject your driver from the car, measuring how far or high he flies. These minigames never fail to give me a chuckle, and they're truly unique in the world of racing games. As for the actual racing? Eh, it's ok. You can damage almost anything in the world, which is cool, but the cars don't really drive in a realistic way. This is a pure arcade title, not a sim. It's still entertaining, and there are plenty of race types and courses that will give you lots of value for your money. The graphics are dated, but they still look decent. Get this if you're looking for a fairly unique arcade racer, but if you want anything with more sim-like elements, you might want to look in a different direction.
A good stealth experienceDaiMonPaul | May 27, 2013 | Review of Thief: Deadly Shadows
Thief: Deadly Shadows is the third installment in the legendary Thief series. Like its predecessors, it's a stealth game that rewards creativity and carefulness. If you rush in, trying to bludgeon everyone with your blackjack, you won't survive very long in the game. Sticking to the shadows, using misdirection, and having patience are the keys to success in this game.
And as long as you have patience, this is a very good game. It's an older game, but the graphics still look decent, albeit dated. More importantly, though, the lighting effects remain superb. Sticking to the shadows is essential for gameplay, and the game makes it easy to tell when you are hidden and when you are exposed by light. Throw in some excellent sound and vocal acting by the characters you encounter (the random banter you hear from guards as you sneak by them is quite entertaining), and the immersion factor for this game is quite high. It makes you feel like you really are sneaking around and stealing loot (and other things) in a Steampunk-ish medieval town.
The game plays well and has a solid story, but there are some bugs. I haven't experienced any crashes, but others have. It does play and look differently than the two previous games in the series, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It can be quite challenging at times, but I did find it easier than Thief 1 and Thief 2, which are also a bit less linear. Overall, though, this is a very good game, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a fun stealth experience.
A fun game, but you'll probably like the sequel moreDaiMonPaul | May 27, 2013 | Review of Just Cause
Just Cause is a solid entry into the sandbox action genre, but it's not without its flaws. The game plops you down into a tropical country as a US agent, and then it lets you do almost anything that you want to. If the mission you're on calls for you to kidnap a local leader, you can sneak into his house and pull him out, go in with guns blazing via tanks, or (my personal favorite) dive from a helicopter, land on the roof of his car, and hijack the car with him inside. The possibilities are almost endless, and it's very entertaining to see what craziness you can think of next.
It's not all fun and games, though. The game is very ambitious, but the main story doesn't match these lofty goals. It's there, and it's enough to give you some direction, but it's not particularly deep or well-written. The side quests can also get repetitive. Of course, an open-ended game like this can function perfectly fine with a mediocre story, but there are also some issues with the controls. Vehicles don't drive as smoothly as they should, with driving being somewhat clunky. The guns also don't feel as satisfying as in other games, including Just Cause 2. And therein lies the biggest problem with the game: it's not its sequel. Just Cause 2 takes everything in this game and does it bigger and better.
If you're looking for a sandbox action game and don't mind tolerating some rough edges, then you'll have a lot of fun with Just Cause. If you want the best possible experience from this franchise, though, go for the sequel... it looks better, plays better, and simply is better.
A very solid tactical strategy gameDaiMonPaul | May 23, 2013 | Review of Silent Storm Gold Edition Cap
This gold edition of Silent Storm gives you both the base game and its expansion. Both are excellent turn-based strategy games, and they will provide for a good 30+ hours of gameplay. Silent Storm is a tactical strategy game that lets you have almost total freedom. You pick your team with their own unique attributes, weapons, and abilities (that you can level up, if you keep them alive), and you use your team to complete a variety of missions in any way that you see fit. If your mission involves capturing a German commander, for example, you can use stealth, run in with guns blazing, or use the environment to your advantage by setting traps... multiple strategies can work, depending on your team and the tactics you use.
Silent Storm is not an easy game by any means; it is quite challenging. The enemy AI is pretty good, and some of the missions you are presented with are quite difficult. The game never feels unfair, though, and going through the missions with your chosen team is quite rewarding. The game still looks decent for being an older title, and the graphics are functional. My main issue with the game is the addition of some sci-fi elements to the historical story. Some may like this, but without spoiling the story, I just thought it felt a bit out of place.
If you've played the Jagged Alliance or X-COM games, or if you simply enjoy tactical strategy games, take a look at Silent Storm. It's difficult, but it's a very good game.
A great game, but make sure to pick up the expansion pack, too.DaiMonPaul | May 13, 2013 | Review of Medieval II: Total War
Medieval 2: Total War is a very good entry into the Total War series. The real-time battles offer a huge variety of maps (some generic, some based on historical battles) that are a ton of fun to play. The AI is solid and will exploit your weaknesses if you're not careful, but it's also not impossible to beat with good strategy. The turn-based campaign is of an epic scale, covering 450 years of history from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance and the early explorations of the New World. I found it to be a little bit too easy, though. Managing your cities, armies, and economy is a fun time sink, but it's not a difficult task to win. The many mods available for the game make it more challenging, and the four campaigns in the expansion pack, "Kingdoms," are also a bit harder (and highly recommended for purchase). Despite this, the game is still fun to play, and it's very rewarding to see the medieval European empire that you've built once you've put some time into the campaign.
If you enjoy strategy games, then Medieval 2: Total War should be in your collection. It's a classic that still holds up, with great gameplay (especially with the tactical battles) and graphics that still look good. The expansion pack, though, is essential to get, as are some of the many mods out there for this title.
An older title, but it's still an exceptional one!DaiMonPaul | May 13, 2013 | Review of Rome: Total War
Rome: Total War is the game that really showed us what the Total War series could do. It's nine years old at the writing of this review, but it still holds up as an exceptional game. As with all Total War games, it has two main parts: the grand strategy element and the real-time battles. The real-time battles give you the opportunity to play general for either the Romans or their enemies. The controls work well, and it's extremely rewarding to crush a Greek phalanx with a Roman legion. Over time, though, the battles do get a bit old and repetitive. The grand strategy element more than picks up the slack. The game offers several turn-based campaigns which have a lot of strategic depth. They remind me a bit of the Civilization games in their complexity, which is a good thing. You can choose to play in real-time any battle during the campaign, or you can have the computer auto-resolve the fight. The AI is pretty good and will give you a solid challenge, and the gameplay is so addictive that it's very easy to completely lose track of time while you play. After playing through the included campaigns and battle maps, make sure to check out the countless mods that have been developed for this game; many of them are quite good and offer an almost unlimited source of entertainment from this title. You might want to also look for the Alexander expansion pack, which gives you an additional (albeit short) campaign.
The only major negative with Rome: Total War is its graphics. They are dated, but they still look decent for a game that's almost a decade old. Once Rome 2 is released, though, there may not be much of a reason to go back and play this game. Until then, this is one of the best strategy games that you can buy!
Very entertaining romps through the jungleDaiMonPaul | April 28, 2013 | Review of Just Cause Pack
This pack contains Just Cause 1 and 2, and both are entertaining sandbox games. The Just Cause series places you in the role of a field agent in a tropical country with no rules, no limits, and no boundaries. You are given carte blanche to run wild, and the games let you do essentially whatever you want to. Want to parachute in from a helicopter, steal a tank, and indiscriminately bring chaos and destruction to the locals? Piece of cake!
Just Cause 2 reminds me of a crazier version of Grand Theft Auto that is set in the tropics. The controls are tight and don't get in the way of your adventures, and there's a gigantic world to explore, pillage, and destabilize -- one of the largest that I've seen in a sandbox action game. There is a main story in the game, with smaller side missions to complete, but it's not particularly deep or well-written. Chances are that you won't even notice this, though, as you'll be having too much fun doing insane stunts with your grappling hook and parachute and blowing up anything and everything in sight.
The biggest issue with this pack is that once you've played Just Cause 2, you probably won't want to go back to Just Cause 1. They're similar games, but the sequel improves on its predecessor in almost every way: controls, graphics, and level of fun. JC 1 isn't bad by any means, but it IS a bit rough around the edges. The controls aren't nearly as tight, especially when it comes to vehicles. Driving feels clunky, as does gunplay. The missions in JC 1 are also more repetitive, and they get tiring after a while. Just Cause 2 fixes almost all of these problems and also offers a larger and more entertaining world.
Overall, this is a very nice pack with two entertaining sandbox games. I can recommend it, but you might be better off only getting Just Cause 2.
A fantastic pack for the strategy gamerDaiMonPaul | April 28, 2013 | Review of Total War Grandmaster Collection
This is the best Total War pack that you can buy right now. It contains every game in the series except for the earliest two (Shogun 1 and Medieval 1), which were both replaced by much-superior sequels. It also has every piece of DLC and all of the published expansions. This alone makes the pack worthwhile, and it's why I'd recommend this "Grandmaster Collection" over the other "Master Collection" of Total War games that GMG sells (which only contains the base games).
The Total War games are an interesting mix of turn-based grand strategy with real-time battles. You can choose to skip the battles and play only the campaigns, which play in the same style as a Civ or Europa Universalis game (albeit without as much depth). The real-time battles are a ton of fun, though, and they play out quite well and look really good, even on the older titles in this pack. This pack gives you campaigns and battles from every corner of the globe and multiple periods throughout history, and it should give you hundreds of hours of playtime. The base games come loaded with content, and the expansions add even more. A lot of the DLC, though, adds minor stuff like units that you may or may not notice, but it's still nice to have. This pack also comes with Viking: Battle for Asgard, which comes from the same company. It's a decent action-adventure game, and it's a nice addition to this giant pack of strategy games, even if it doesn't really fit with the theme of the rest of the collection.
If you enjoy strategy gaming and you don't already own most of the games in the Total War series, then picking this up is a no-brainer. You won't regret it!
A very good older game, but probably too complex for mostDaiMonPaul | April 24, 2013 | Review of Victoria Complete
This is an older grand strategy game from Paradox, but it's still a good one. Victoria lets you play as the driving force behind any nation on the globe in the 19th century. You are given a virtual sandbox and can do anything you wish, whenever you wish: conduct diplomacy, fight wars, establish colonies, industrialize your nation, trade resources, and so on. The amount of freedom you have is staggering, and that's part of what makes the game so complex; combine this with historical event chains, economic numbers that you have to deal with, and managing a diverse range of viewpoints and classes from your citizens, and the game can be overwhelming at times. It's certainly not easy, but it can be very enjoyable if you take the time to learn how to play.
That's one of the major issues with the game, though; it's very difficult to learn how to effectively play. There isn't really a good tutorial included with the game, so your best bet would be to watch a Let's Play on YouTube (at a considerable time investment). The other major issue here is that the sequel, Victoria 2, simply does the same thing, and it does it in a more effective way. The two games play differently, with this game focusing on more of a historically-guided sandbox, but the sequel is easier to learn and has a much better interface. This game's graphics are charming, but they are dated, and it's not always easy to find what you're looking for.
This is a very good game, but only if you're really interested in taking a considerable amount of time to learn it, if you enjoy very detailed and complex strategy simulations, and if you don't mind micromanaging economies, politics, industry, and military units. If you've never played a grand strategy game from Paradox before, I'd recommend starting with either Europa Universalis or Crusader Kings to get your feet wet, or with jumping ahead to the sequel, Victoria 2, which is much more beginner-friendly. Vicky 1, though, remains entertaining, fun, and challenging, if a bit dated, and it's worth picking up if you like the genre.
Nice uniforms, but they don't add all that much to the gameDaiMonPaul | April 13, 2013 | Review of Victoria II: Artillery Spritepack
This DLC adds extra sprites for armies which have artillery units in them. The sprites are historically accurate, but they don't really change gameplay in any way. They're entirely cosmetic. While they're well done, they don't show up until the ending part of the game, and only for specific army units. I'd recommend passing on this sprite pack unless you feel the need to have all the DLC for the game. Paradox should have combined all three interwar sprite packs into one DLC, rather than charging $6 combined for the three packs.
Cool planes, but entirely cosmeticDaiMonPaul | April 13, 2013 | Review of Victoria II: Planes Spritepack
This sprite pack adds planes to the map of Victoria 2. It's pretty cool to see planes out there on the map, but ultimately, it's entirely cosmetic, as it doesn't alter gameplay in any way. The sprites themselves look good, but they will only show up in the ending period of the game and for armies which have an air component to them (which probably won't be that many circa 1920). This limits the appeal of the DLC. I'd recommend passing on it unless you're a collector and want all of the DLC or if you really need to see historically accurate aircraft sprites on the map.
The best of the Vicky 2 sprite packs, but cosmetic onlyDaiMonPaul | April 13, 2013 | Review of Victoria II: Interwar Spritepack
This sprite pack adds realistic uniforms to the army sprites of various nations in the later part of Victoria 2. It's entirely cosmetic, and you don't really need it to enjoy the game. It IS well done, and the new sprites do add extra flavor to the experience of playing as one of the major nations. Of all the sprite packs, this one is probably the best one because it focuses on armies comprised of infantry. The other packs deal with artillery and aircraft, which you may not necessarily have in all of your armies (and thus, they would not show up). This pack would be better if it didn't just focus on the interwar period, though... this means that you have to actually make it to the end of the game in order to see the new uniforms in the game.
Pretty sprites for an American or Confederate player onlyDaiMonPaul | April 13, 2013 | Review of Victoria II: AHD American Civil War Spritepack
The quality of the units in this spritepack are excellent, and they really do add to the immersion of the American or Confederate player during the Civil War era. Ultimately, though, they don't add anything to the game except nicer visuals. If you play as the USA or the Confederates during the 1861 starting point, then they might be worth getting. If you never play as either country, then you'll probably want to pass on this, as you'll be paying for sprites that you'll never see.
A must-have expansionDaiMonPaul | April 13, 2013 | Review of Victoria II: A House Divided
Victoria 2 is a fun game with certain flaws. Its first expansion, A House Divided, fixes many of these flaws and makes the game finally feel complete. AHD offers an improved interface, a new starting point, and some much needed diplomatic and political options that help to flesh out the parts of the game that felt unfinished. The first thing you'll notice is the 1861 starting point. This is extremely welcome, as the American Civil War often showed up in weird ways in the base game. With this new starting point for the grand campaign, you can finally play the Civil War with its historical setup. The new diplomatic options also allow for multiple ways to create casus bellis, or reasons for war, and give you more peace options. You can even end up with great wars, if you're not careful... while encountering something akin to World War I was almost impossible in the base game, with the expansion, it can (and does) happen. The expansion offers various other tweaks, too, including some economic rebalancing. A House Divided is a must-have for anyone who has enjoyed Victoria 2.
Build your own empire under the sunDaiMonPaul | April 13, 2013 | Review of Victoria II
Victoria 2 is another sandbox-style grand strategy game from Paradox. It takes place mostly in the 1800s in a period not often covered by strategy games (the only one I can think of which focuses on the same period that isn't exclusively about the American Civil War is Pride of Nations). Like other grand strategy games made by Paradox, it has a very high learning curve, but if you put in enough time and effort to learn the game, you'll end up with a very enjoyable experience.
Victoria 2 focuses on economics and politics, although there is diplomacy, warfare, colonization, and empire-building in the game, too. The game plays smoothly, and the map is really pretty. The game is extremely complex, though, and it is not easy. There is a lot of micromanagement at times, especially when dealing with setting up your economy, but for a good portion of the game, it almost feels as if the game can play itself. The right balance between player interaction and computer help just isn't there all the time. There are also some other issues with diplomacy and colonization not being as in-depth as they should be. These are mostly fixed by the expansion, A House Divided, which I highly recommend you pick up.
Vicky 2 is a fun game, and it is a good game, but it isn't perfect. If you can deal with a high learning curve and enjoy economic and political simulations, then you'll have a fun time with this game. Just make sure to pick up the expansion!
Two of the best superhero games ever madeDaiMonPaul | April 3, 2013 | Review of Batman Game of the Year Pack
This pack contains two of the best superhero games ever made: Arkham Asylum and its sequel, Arkham City. Both games offer good stories with compelling gameplay, as you actually feel like Batman when you swoop down from a gargoyle statue to take out some thugs, then quickly disappear. You have a full range of gadgets at your disposal, as well as detective tools to help you complete your missions. The free-flowing combat system in both of these games is smooth and responsive, and it allows you to string together impressive combos to take out a large number of thugs. The games aren't all about action, though, as stealth is quite important. Being able to sneak around in the shadows and pick the right moment to attack is essential to beating both games, and the controls allow you to effectively do this.
Both games introduce you to many familiar characters in the Batman universe; you'll meet everyone from Harley Quinn to The Riddler to The Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill). The graphics are solid and appropriately dark and gloomy, and the audio is fantastic. Most importantly, the games actually run decently on lower end computers. On my laptop with integrated Intel HD Graphics, I have to turn down the settings of both games, but they both run smoothly and even look decent with low settings.
Both of these games are well-made with attention paid to detail; they're both very similar in graphics and in how they control. Arkham City offers a larger, more open world, but the story of Arkham Asylum is a bit better. They're both excellent games, and any fan of Batman or action games will enjoy them. Highly recommended!
Channel your inner dictator and build your island paradiseDaiMonPaul | April 3, 2013 | Review of Tropico 4: Collectors Bundle
Tropico 4 is, at its core, a city and citizen simulator. You play as El Presidente during the Cold War, and you build up your Caribbean island with plantations, casinos, and army barracks while maintaining relations with outside superpowers and a balance between the various factions of your citizens. Essentially, the game is SimCity with some citizen management, set in a Latin American dictatorship (with you as the dictator). And just like in the older SimCity games, Tropico 4 is an awesome sandbox that offers countless hours of entertainment.
Tropico 4 is many things, and the most important of them is fun. The game offers a substantial campaign with a detailed tutorial. It's easy to learn how to play, and the game isn't too difficult. If you want a serious challenge, then Tropico 4 probably isn't what you're looking for, but if you want a fun diversion into building your own Latin American paradise (and stuffing your off-shore bank account), then Tropico 4 is the game for you!
This collection contains the base game and all of the DLC released for it. Most of the DLC adds a few buildings and other minor things, but the real gem here is the Modern Times DLC. This is a semi-expansion to the base game, adding a lot of new content (new buildings, edicts, and upgrades), including a campaign set in the current day. It adds a ton of replayability to the base game, and it also alleviates one of the main criticisms of Tropico 4, which is its similarity to Tropico 3. The base game feels like the developers took Tropico 3 (also an awesome game), tweaked it a bit, slapped a fresh coat of paint on it, and then released it as a full-priced sequel. If you already owned Tropico 3, the value wasn't really there for the price. With all of the DLC included, though, Tropico 4 finally feels like its own unique game.
A great collection of classics!DaiMonPaul | April 3, 2013 | Review of Gothic Complete Collection
The Gothic series is well-known amongst fans of RPGs, and for good reason. The trilogy of games puts you into the shoes of the nameless hero who traverses through several open worlds. All three games have memorable characters and excellent branching stories, and each game offers hours and hours of playtime with a ton of replayability. These games are somewhat difficult, though, and they have controls which take some time to get used to, especially relating to combat. Learning the weird keyboard-based system to combat found in Gothic 1 (and to some extent, in Gothic 2) is more than worth it, though, to experience these awesome games.
Of the games included in this complete collection, Gothic 2 (with its expansion, Night of the Raven) is the best of them all, combining solid (albeit dated) graphics with excellent gameplay and a unique world that will not easily be forgotten. Gothic 1 is very good, but it graphically shows its age and is somewhat ugly... if you can look past the graphics, though, there's a lot of entertainment to be had. Gothic 3 is the weakest of the three main games, but it's still quite fun. Released in its original state, it is quite buggy, but installing the unofficial fan patch (and the various mods that go with it) brings the game up to the standards of the prior two.
If you're a fan of RPGs, then this collection is a must-have. For other gamers, I can still recommend this collection. There are a few issues with bugs and difficulty levels, but overall, the Gothic series is a classic one that all gamers should have in their libraries.
AGEOD comes to the ancient worldDaiMonPaul | March 29, 2013 | Review of Alea Jacta est
Alea Jacta Est is the latest game from AGEOD, a company that specializes in turn-based operational wargames. The AGEOD system has a very steep learning curve with somewhat poor documentation (i.e. the tutorial teaches you the interface, but not what to actually do on a turn), but if you're willing to put in the time to learn the game, you will be rewarded with an excellent strategic experience.
If you've played an AGEOD game before, then Alea Jacta Est will be familiar to you, as it plays similarly to other games developed and published by the same company, including Revolution Under Siege, Rise of Prussia, and Birth of America. If you've never played an AGEOD game before, then Alea Jacta Est is a good place to start, as it's probably the most accessible game published by the company. The game allows you to take command of one side of several wars taking place in ancient Roman times, the most notable (and lengthy) scenario being the civil war between Caesar and Pompeii. You organize your troops, move them around, promote generals, decide on various political actions to take, and set combat stances for your soldiers which help to dictate whether they will engage an enemy force if they come into contact with it. Battles are automatically resolved by the computer, and the battle reports you are presented with are extremely in-depth and detailed.
The game's interface is a pretty one, and it functions quite well. The game looks and plays like an old school board game version of a wargame, and it simply works. You make your moves, click the "end turn" button, and then the moves of all the different factions/players are resolved simultaneously. This means that planning is crucial, as once you click the "end turn" button, your legions carry out your orders (or fail to) without your direct control. If you're looking for a tactical simulator (a la the Total War battles), then this is not the game for you, but if building an army and directing it on an operational level sounds appealing (a la Risk or Axis & Allies, but much more complex and set in ancient Roman times), then this game is worth looking into. The AI is challenging and will often win, but the most fun way to play the game is against another person via multiplayer. Alas, the game only offers play-by-email as an option. This does work well, but it's also a bit of a hassle to do and a quite inelegant solution to multiplayer. AGEOD, however, has built an excellent game, and if you're willing to put in the time to learn how to properly play it, you'll get much enjoyment out of it.
Highly recommended, but only for players who like detailed wargames. Others may find it boring, overwhelming, or be totally lost.
A competent but bland RPGDaiMonPaul | March 23, 2013 | Review of ArcaniA
This game has gotten a lot of terrible reviews, and many of the negative comments in those reviews are well-deserved. That said, it's not as bad as most of the reviews make it out to be.
Arcania, in theory, is the 4th installment in the Gothic series, which has been lauded by RPG fans as having three difficult, immersive, and memorable games (especially with fan patches fixing the bugs that the series is also known for). This game, though, was developed by a different group than the developers who did the original trilogy (who published Risen, which is the spiritual successor to the Gothic games). Because of this, it plays very differently than the previous games in the franchise. It's more accessible and less difficult, but it's also offers much less depth in its gameplay. The combat system is a bit arcade-y, but it works decently. The game looks good, but the world that you're in is pretty generic.
And that's the main issue with the game. There's nothing that really stands out here. It's set in a generic world with a generic story with generic characters. It's competent, but it's bland. The world is open, but it never feels like there's really all that much to do. While the previous Gothic games all had their faults, they offered unique environments with memorable characters and excellent stories. Arcania may be easier to pick up and learn, but it offers less enjoyment. While the game isn't horrible and there is some fun to be had here, there are simply better fantasy RPGs out there.
A good way to complete the gameDaiMonPaul | March 23, 2013 | Review of Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour DNS
"Their Finest Hour" is the latest (and presumably) final expansion to Hearts of Iron 3. It further refines this extremely complex game, adding new units, new mechanics (lend-lease is very useful for the Allies), and additional fixes and elements to the battle system. The two new battle scenarios are almost worth it by themselves, as the Spanish Civil War scenario is a ton of fun to play. Being able to draw battle plans is also a welcome addition, even if it is mostly cosmetic (it's quite useful for multiplayer, which I don't really dabble in).
If you've been playing Hearts of Iron 3, then this expansion is a must-have. Also note that it is not found in the "complete" version (which came out before TFH), so if you wish to really have the "complete" version of the game, then you'll need to pick this up.
A very nice DLCDaiMonPaul | March 23, 2013 | Review of Crusader Kings II: The Republic
"The Republic" adds the ability to play as a merchant family in Crusader Kings 2. Playing as the Doge of Venice or a member of the Hanseatic League functions very differently than playing as a normal Christian lord or Muslim ruler. This DLC allows you to build trade posts, buy elections, and plot against other merchant families. "The Republic" essentially feels like a different game set in the CK2 universe, and this adds a tremendous amount of replayability to an already extensive game. Technically, republics function well, and they're fun to play, offering many unique challenges that don't pop up in the base game. A highly recommended DLC expansion!
A must have expansion for CK2DaiMonPaul | March 23, 2013 | Review of Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
Sword of Islam is the first major DLC expansion for Crusader Kings 2, and it's almost a must-have. It expands the map, adds the important and unique "decadence" system for Muslims, and (most importantly) allows you to play as Muslims! With the systems and interface set up in this DLC, playing as a Muslim ruler feels very different than playing as a Christian. Having to balance the pressure to expand with the hassles of managing the family dynasty to avoid decadence offers a unique challenge with lots of flavor. If you're even going to think about playing a Muslim dynasty in the game, then you need to pick up "Sword of Islam."
A fantastic addition to the Total War seriesDaiMonPaul | March 23, 2013 | Review of Napoleon: Total War Collection
Napoleon: Total War is a great game. Following in the legacy of its predecessors (Empire, Medieval 2, and Rome), it brings the same quality mix of grand strategy and tactical real-time battles that have made the Total War series famous. NTW has a much smaller, narrower scope than these other games, but it goes into great depth on the Napoleonic Wars. You can choose to play as any country during the period on the world map, campaigning for dominance over Europe. You can choose to play out famous historical battles, such as Waterloo. You can do both at the same time! The Total War series offers a flexible experience, and Napoleon does a great job of building on the lessons of Empire: Total War (a great game with some questionable AI) to deliver a great experience for strategy gamers.
This pack includes the base game and three DLC items. The two unit packs are nice to have and add extra elite units that you can use in the game. The game is perfectly playable without these, though. The third DLC item, "The Peninsular Campaign," adds an entire new campaign to the game taking place in Spain. This is highly recommended and more than justifies the extra cost for the bundle over the price of the base game alone.
If you're a fan of historical strategy games, real-time battles, or the Napoleonic Era, then this is a must-have.
A solid game with some flawsDaiMonPaul | March 23, 2013 | Review of Binary Domain Complete Pack
Binary Domain is a game that I'm torn on. I love the atmosphere of the game, and the story feels somewhat Blade Runner-ish. There's a lot to like here, but the game is far from perfect. If you can overlook its foibles, though, you can get a lot of enjoyment out of this somewhat unheralded game.
First, the good. The game plays like a standard third-person shooter with a cover system that should feel pretty familiar. It doesn't really add anything unique to this basic gameplay, but it all works well. The shooting elements feel really good, and the ability to shoot off various parts of your robot enemies is awesome. Being able to knock the legs off a robot, only to see it crawl after you, is something that never gets old. Likewise, the game gives you some choice, even if it is fairly linear overall. You can choose which members of your team accompany you on missions, you can level up team members and weapons, and you can favor one team member over another, which will result in your colleagues liking you or disliking you (and refusing to follow some of your orders).
Ultimately, though, all of these choices don't really impact the game all that much. It's nice to have different options, but the game still remains relatively linear.. Mass Effect, this is not. The game also includes voice commands as a selling point, but these don't always work very well. It's a solid idea, but it's just so much easier to turn them off and use the keyboard or controller to issue commands. And that leads into my final major complaint with the game -- it is a PC port from consoles, and this shows. It runs quite well and it looks good, but I found it to be difficult to play with a mouse and keyboard. The mouse sensitivity is set waaaay too high, and any config options have to be set outside the game in a separate config program. With a controller, the game works much, much better, and I'd highly recommend using one to play.
The game itself is probably an 85 or so. Why have I rated it lower? This is the "complete" pack, but it doesn't really add enough content to justify the extra cost. Very few people play multiplayer (which feels a bit tacked on to the game), and the multiplayer pack only adds one map and a few weapons. The Dan Marshall pack gives a few items and cheats for the main character, but it ultimately adds very little. These are nice to have, but the base game is cheaper and is all that you really need to have an enjoyable experience with a solid (if unoriginal) game set in a cool setting.
Older games can still be funDaiMonPaul | March 22, 2013 | Review of Spellforce: Platinum Edition
This is a bit of an older game, and it definitely shows in its graphics. They simply aren't very good to the modern eye, although their art style is pleasant. However, if you can look past the dated graphics, there's a very solid game here that will give you much enjoyment.
Spellforce is a bit of a unique game, blending RPG and RTS elements together. Its fantasy world is a standard one, and the game reminds one of an updated Warcraft 3. The game plays a bit differently, though. At its core, it is an RTS game which gives you detailed RPG elements, allowing you to upgrade and equip your hero units, in addition to building a base, recruiting new units, and so forth. Neither element by itself is particularly unique, but when blended together, it becomes something new, something different, and something which works pretty well. The game also allows for exploration and side quests as in a traditional RPG, which doesn't add much to the fairly linear main story, but it's a nice addition that further differentiates the game from the standard RTS experience.
This pack contains the main game and its two expansions. With all of these three, you can easily get 60+ hours worth of gameplay, if not more. That's a very long game, and it does tend to drag at times. Overall, though, the story (although nothing terrible unique) is fine, and there's a lot of fun to be had here. If you can overlook the dated graphics and like your RTS games to have some added elements and options, then this is a game you should enjoy. It's also a better game than its sequel (although the sequel looks prettier).
The latest gem from ParadoxDaiMonPaul | Feb. 21, 2013 | Review of March of the Eagles
If you've played other games developed by Paradox, you'll be at home with March of the Eagles. If not, you're in for a treat!
March of the Eagles is Paradox's most accessible title yet. Taking place in Europe during the Napoleonic Wars, the game allows you to take control of any European country and fight wars, conduct diplomacy, and try to become the dominant land and naval powers of Europe. Unlike most Paradox games, MotE gives you a victory condition and a goal to play towards. This reduces the replayability and open-endedness of the game, but it also brings a greater focus to the game experience and can make end-game scenarios quite hectic, crazy, and fun, as coalition allies double-cross each other to try to become the dominant power in Europe. Paradox has also included a system of question marks and exclamation marks throughout the interface of the game that function as a tutorial. This is a very nice and much-needed change for the positive; if you're not sure what a game element is, simply click the question mark and a pop-up will explain it. This functions in a manner reminiscent of the Civpedia in the Civilization games, which is a good thing.
MotE plays well and looks beautiful. The game truly shines in multiplayer, as players can make secret alliances and double-cross each other without warning. Single player is fun, but while the computer AI seems quite good so far, it doesn't provide the same depth as the multiplayer game does. And that is where the game falters a bit, in its depth. Paradox has created a hybrid of EU3 and Hearts of Iron 3 with this game, and for the most part, that works well. However, both EU3 and HoI3 offer deeper systems (economic and exploration in EU3, military in HoI3); there really isn't that much to do in March of the Eagles other than conduct warfare. Warfare is complex and detailed, and it provides for a very satisfying experience, but there are some limits on what you can do, and you are stuck on a map of Europe that is smaller than the CK2 map. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes it different from other Paradox games which offer more of an open-ended sandbox and then give you the tools to do whatever you wish.
Veterans of Paradox games will find this a fun and compelling wargame, but they may lose interest in it after a while because it lacks the immense depth found in Europa Universalis or Hearts of Iron. Those looking to get into Paradox games but who are daunted by the immense learning curve found in Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron, Victoria, and Crusader Kings should look into this game, as it serves as the most accessible starting point to the Paradox style of grand strategy games. Overall, this is a fun and intelligent wargame that is put together very well (and with minimal bugs!), but it's limited in what it does. As long as you don't expect to get 600+ hours out of it (like one can easily do in Crusader Kings 2 or Europa Universalis 3), you should enjoy it!
A must-play sci-fi trilogyDaiMonPaul | Feb. 5, 2013 | Review of Mass Effect Trilogy (NA)
The Mass Effect series has received much critical acclaim over the years, and all of it is well-deserved. BioWare has created not just a video game, but rather an entire universe full of characters that spring to life, events that will shock and surprise you, and an overarching story that will grip you and not let you go until you have finished it. The game itself meshes together the RPG, Action, and Third-Person Shooter genres, and it does so quite effectively. The controls work well, the graphics look great, and the game plays smoothly, even on lower-end systems (although you may need to turn down some of the settings).
In this pack, you get all three of the main games that integrate together to form a comprehensive story. Your actions in each game impact what happens in the story, which gives the games an immense amount of replayability. You can make different friends or enemies, specialize your Shepard in different areas, romance different characters, complete different missions, and get different endings. Replaying through each game is almost a must. As a bonus, what happens in ME1 affects what happens to you in ME2, and ME2 in ME3.
ME1 and ME2 offer only single-player campaigns, while ME3 adds multiplayer. This multiplayer option is nothing ground-breaking, but it's fun and it works relatively well. There have also been complaints about the ME3 ending, and while I would have ended the game differently, it doesn't take away the enjoyment had from the previous 99% of these three games.
The only real drawback to getting this trilogy pack is that it does not include all of the DLC, and there is a lot of it. There are several pieces of important story DLC that are only found online for ME2 and ME3, and these are NOT cheap. Having to buy them from the BioWare website and then download them separately is an annoyance... ME3's integration into Origin makes this easier to deal with, but it's still expensive. Overall, though, the value you get in this trilogy pack is incredible. Any fans of the sci-fi, action, or RPG genres will enjoy these games and should pick them up. Great gameplay + a unique universe = a winning combo!
Love love love this game... but it's not easy!DaiMonPaul | Feb. 4, 2013 | Review of SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition (NA)
SimCity is THE name in city building simulations, and that's for a good reason. SimCity 1, 2000, and 3000 all offered fun and intelligent gameplay that allowed gamers to play city mayor/manager, building whatever city they wished to build while forcing them to maintain budgets, improve infrastructure to reduce traffic, and so on. SimCity 4 continues in this tradition and adds some additional complexity onto the tried-and-true formula. It isn't easy, but it sure is fun!
SimCity 4 is nine years old at the time of this review, and it has shown its age a bit. The graphics are still sharp, though, and the gameplay is unrivaled in the city-building genre. You can build every kind of road imaginable to control traffic (much more than the two choices: road or highway from SC3k), and with the Rush Hour expansion, you can even build monorails! The "U-Drive it" missions attempt to add some action to the game, but they are completely optional and I would recommend avoiding them, as they do not really fit with the standard SimCity experience.
If you enjoy city building games, this is still the best one that you will find out there. Grab it and play it, and be sure to keep a clock nearby, because you WILL lose track of time getting lost in this game!
A good conclusion to the trilogyDaiMonPaul | Feb. 4, 2013 | Review of Mass Effect 3: N7 Digital Deluxe (NA)
If you've played the previous Mass Effect games, then you already know what ME3 is about. If not, then what are you waiting for? The Mass Effect series is a fantastic entry into the Action RPG genre by BioWare, creators of Star Wars: KOTOR and the Dragon Age series, all fantastic games. Mass Effect 3 continues the story of Commander Shepard from the previous games, and I'd highly recommend playing ME1 and ME2 before playing ME3. The game allows you to import your saves from the previous games in the series, and your actions and decisions from the previous games will affect how this game plays out. It's a great system to tie together the trilogy, and it works well.
The game itself is nothing new if you've played ME2, merely more of the same awesomeness. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? The major gripe with this game seems to be with its ending, which has received much criticism. The extended cut (which can be downloaded for free through Origin) improves the ending, but it's still not a great and satisfying way to conclude the epic story told in this trilogy. That said, the first 99% of the game is excellent, and if you enjoy RPGs, sci-fi games, action games, or simply want to experience the amazing universe created by BioWare, then this game is well worth your time and effort.
I'd recommend getting the deluxe edition here over the vanilla ME3 edition, if you can. It's an extra $5, but you get the "From Ashes" DLC, which adds to the story and is a must-play for fans of the game. This DLC will run you $10 separately on the BioWare store or through Origin, so that makes this pack a good deal. You also get a lot of minor extras (additional clothing, weapons, etc), plus the soundtrack and art outside of the game are cool additions, although not essential. The amount of content you get overall, though, is well worth the extra money for the deluxe edition.
A fun trek through Wonderland, but beware of several annoyancesDaiMonPaul | Feb. 4, 2013 | Review of Alice: Madness Returns (NA)
Alice: Madness Returns is a good, but not great action/adventure game that is more than worth picking up. This is the sequel to American McGee's Alice, which unfortunately is not included here -- only in the "complete" collection. You don't have to play the original game from a decade ago to appreciate its sequel, though. The atmosphere and setting are where this game truly shines. The levels look fantastic, and whether you're familiar with the Alice in Wonderland story or not, the game's story is a unique and creative one that will entertain. The game also runs pretty well on lower end systems; I'm on a laptop with Intel HD Graphics, and it will run the game relatively smoothly if the settings are turned down a bit.
The major problem with this game -- and the primary reason why it is not as highly rated as it should be -- is that it contains a large number of bugs. There are a couple of patches out there, but they don't fix everything. One of the most annoying bugs prevents you from opening your umbrella to block enemy attacks, which is required by the game to advance in the story. Not everyone gets this bug, and those that do can work around it by either messing around with .ini files outside of the game or by playing with a controller (which I would recommend anyway for this game). Either way, though, the bugs are annoying and do require some patience.
While flawed and in need of some further QA, this game is worth any annoyance it may cause. When they work correctly, the controls are tight, and this game offers a unique and twisted adventure that one will not soon forget. Just bring some patience with you when you play it.
Wonderful strategy game, but not "complete"DaiMonPaul | Jan. 22, 2013 | Review of Europa Universalis III Complete DNS
Europa Universalis 3 is a fantastic game, one of the best grand strategy games that I've ever played. It's deep, endlessly replayable, and awesomely entertaining for hours on end. It's not one that's easy to learn, but if you can get past the steep learning curve (the Paradox forum, YouTube videos, and AARs/Let's Plays greatly help with this), then this historical sandbox game is one that belongs in every strategy gamer's library.
There is one minor problem here, though. This isn't actually the complete version! EU3: Complete contains the base game and the first two expansions. To get the most out of the game, you need to have the next two expansions -- Heir to the Throne and Divine Wind. EU3: Chronicles (the full and truly complete version) gets a perfect 100 score from me.
An interesting mix of CK and EUDaiMonPaul | Jan. 21, 2013 | Review of Europa Universalis - Rome Gold DNS
If you've played any game in the Europa Universalis series (or really, any grand strategy game developed by Paradox), you'll be familiar with the interface to EU: Rome. This game is Paradox's first foray into ancient history, and while it has its issues, it's a fun and rewarding game to play. The game plays as a combination of Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings; while you still control your country, as you do in EU, you also have personalities to manage, a la CK. Playing as the Roman Republic and having to manage barbarians, diplomacy, the military, the Senate, the economy, and so forth adds interesting dimensions to the game, and all are important to deal with. This game isn't as deep as either CK2 or EU3, and there are fewer viable options to play as, but it's still an entertaining game. If you've enjoyed either Crusader Kings or the Europa Universalis series, you'll probably like EU: Rome, as well.
Fantastic old-school gameDaiMonPaul | Jan. 21, 2013 | Review of Europa Universalis II
I can't praise EU2 highly enough, as it was my first real introduction to Paradox games and the Europa Universalis series. I must have played this game for over 200 hours over the years, and it really is that great, if you enjoy grand strategy games. Essentially, you are thrown into an historical sandbox, able to play any country in the world for a period of over 300 years. You can choose to expand militarily, diplomatically, economically, or by colonizing Africa, Asia, and the New World; all are viable options, and no two games (even as the same country, playing the same style) end up the same. There are a number of excellent mods, as well, especially the AGCEEP mod, which adds a huge number of historical events, leaders, and flavor.
Unfortunately, this game has started to show its age. After playing (and loving) EU3, I simply can't go back to the old-school board-game look. Some still like this game better than its sequel, though, so your experience may be different than mine. Either way, this is a game that belongs in the collection of any strategy gamer.
Good music for a great gameDaiMonPaul | Jan. 21, 2013 | Review of Europa Universalis III: Music of the World DNS
This DLC adds an hour of extra music to EU3. If you've played Europa Universalis 3 for a long time, you know how great the music is, but you also know how repetitive it can get over time. This music pack adds some much-needed songs to the EU3 playlist. The songs themselves are of good quality and definitely add to the game, but you might run into a few problems with volume leveling. When Paradox mixed the songs, they seem to have not properly leveled the volume of them to match the music in the base game. This is easily fixed on your own with a Google search and some simple freeware software, but it's still an annoyance that detracts from an otherwise great music pack.
Unique setting, flawed gameDaiMonPaul | Jan. 21, 2013 | Review of Reign: Conflict of Nations DNS
This is a game that I really, really wanted to like. I enjoy grand strategy games, and this game reminds me a lot of both Knights of Honor and the turn-based map sections of the Total War series. It takes place in the Medieval Baltic, encompassing Russia, Lithuania, etc, and you just don't see this area and time represented in many video games. The graphics are solid, and it's easy to get started in the game, but once you start playing, the bugs and poor AI start to show up. It's also somewhat simplistic and not as engaging as the grand strategy elements of the Total War series or Knights of Honor. I've never had the game crash, but I have had issues getting the game to run smoothly on a low-end system. My system can run Crusader Kings 2 better than it runs this game, and I'm not sure why; your situation may vary, of course.
Overall, this game is a missed opportunity. If you enjoy grand strategy games and want to play one in a somewhat unique historical setting, it's worth picking this game up when it goes on sale. Otherwise, I'd recommend a real hidden gem, Knights of Honor, instead.
Short, but well worth playingDaiMonPaul | Jan. 21, 2013 | Review of Spec Ops: The Line dns
Spec Ops: The Line is a short game (roughly 6-8 hours) that doesn't offer much in the way of replayability, and mulitplayer is limited. I normally wouldn't recommend a game like this too highly, but any of those qualms go out the window after going through this game's story. This is a military shooter that makes you question the role of the military; without ruining the story, the game puts you into several situations and lets you deal with the ramifications of them, both to your characters and to yourself. I've never seen anything like it in a video game before. The gameplay itself is solid, although nothing really new in a 3rd-person shooter. The cover system and the gunplay work well enough, although neither stand out as unique. There are more than a few scripted sequences, and the game is relatively linear, but once you get to the heart of the story, none of that matters. Highly recommended as an awesome, underrated game.
An underrated game with a few flawsDaiMonPaul | Jan. 21, 2013 | Review of Alpha Protocol
This game is highly underrated. It has gotten a lot of bad press for flaws in its gameplay, particularly its use of guns, and this is not undeserved. Stealth isn't handled great, and the gunplay isn't anything memorable, although it's not as terrible as others have made it out to be; it gets better once you have leveled up your character. More importantly, though, the game has a wonderful story with lots of replayability. There are multiple endings and multiple ways to get to those endings; replaying the game when you're done almost becomes a must. It's also very difficult to find RPG games that center on spying and political intrigue. A few other reviews have compared AP to the Mass Effect series, and while there are a few similarities in themes, I think that Alpha Protocol stands on its own as a unique game. It's not perfect, but if you enjoy RPG games that aren't set in the same old medieval fantasy setting, you'll enjoy this.
A precursor to CK2DaiMonPaul | Jan. 4, 2013 | Review of Sengoku DNS
This is a good game made by Paradox, but it's not amongst their best. It plays similarly to Crusader Kings 2 because Paradox used the game as somewhat of a features test for CK2, particularly in the form of character-to-character interaction. When you play, you control a Japanese family and have to use war, intrigue, and marriage to build up your territory. Unlike most other Paradox games, though, this one has a victory condition: have 50% of Japan under your rule. Because of this, the game tends to focus more on military matters than other Paradox games (especially CK2).
It's a solid game, and if you're a fan of the Japanese historical setting, then you should pick this up. The Total War: Shogun games take place around the same historical period, but they are very different games. There are no playable battles here... only top-down grand strategy. I personally prefer that, but your mileage may vary. Either way, if you've enjoyed other Paradox games, then you'll like this one, but you'll probably end up playing Crusader Kings 2 more, as it is a bigger and deeper game.
A solid cosmetic DLCDaiMonPaul | Dec. 29, 2012 | Review of Crusader Kings II: African Portraits
This pack adds additional graphics to the base CK2 game. All of the African characters show up without this DLC, but this pack makes them look more historically accurate and less like medieval Europeans. This DLC is purely cosmetic, but it's well done and a nice addition to the game. If you play as African characters or in a region where you interact with African characters a lot, it's probably worth picking up this DLC to add to the historical flavor of the game.
Worthwhile graphical DLCDaiMonPaul | Dec. 29, 2012 | Review of Crusader Kings II: Byzantine Unit Pack
This DLC pack adds unit graphics to the Byzantine and other similar Greek/Orthdox states in the area. The graphics added are very nicely done and do add to the immersion factor of playing a family in the Byzantine Empire (or playing against the Byzantines), but this is merely a graphics pack. The units themselves are already in the game, merely skinned with more generic graphics.
If you tend to play as characters in the area and would enjoy the extra historical graphics and flavor, it's worth picking up this pack for cheap. It's very well done, but it's not essential to the game.
A nice addition if you enjoy the music of CK2DaiMonPaul | Dec. 29, 2012 | Review of Crusader Kings II: Songs of Byzantium
This music pack gives you several additional songs that play whenever you play as the Byzantines or other Orthodox powers in the Anatolia area. The songs are of top-notch quality. Andreas Waldetoft, the composer, has done a spectacular job with the music of Crusader Kings 2 and other Paradox Games (Victoria 2, Hearts of Iron 3, Europa Universalis 3, etc), and this music pack only adds to that. The three songs, "Komnenos," "Legacy of Rome," and "The Byzantine Empire," have an epic feel to them that enhances the experience of playing a character in Byzantium.
Highly recommended if you're playing a character that will trigger the music; however, if you don't ever intend to play as a Byzantine family, then don't bother, as the music won't trigger unless you mod the playlist file. I've also taken off a few points from my rating because it's only 3 songs and 10 minutes. There's not a lot here, but what you do get is an excellent addition to the game.