Reviews by Harbinger_87

70

Where story doesn't matter.

Harbinger_87 | June 5, 2013 | Review of Heavy Blast

There's a huge disconnect in "Heavy Blast" concerning story and gameplay in the way that there's this thought-out background and this earnest effort of telling a story... and then you play a tiny spacecraft that's shooting multicoloured things at other things all the while dodging other multicoloured things. That's a lot of things. And "Heavy Blast" isn't more than a collection of lots of things when you get down to it. All the work that's gone into telling this story that's supposed to give you a deeper motivation to all the fighting is forgotten the moment you enter the real gameplay. All of it doesn't matter anymore. You just do your thing, regardless of why. "Heavy Blast"'s story is a nice touch but it's not more motiavting than for example a simple score-tracker. That said, on the plus side, "Heavy Blast" is not a bad game at all. It incorporates elements of bullet-hell-shooters but isn't as hardcore as games of this cathegory. It offers a decent challenge but is not fixed on a core-gamer-group as an audience. It feels a bit like the classic "Raptor: Call of Shadows" in that there is a certain sense of advancment throughout the game, apart from the usual "beat the highscore"-motivation, but in the end, it's just a shoot em up. A rewarding, ambitious shoot em up, but a shoot em up nonetheless.

79

If bullet hell is where you feel at home, this won't disappoint

Harbinger_87 | June 5, 2013 | Review of Exceed 3rd - Jade Penetrate Black Package

Those Japanese... They even succeed at hammering a completely off-the-wall-bonkers story into a shoot-em-up-game. Suffice to say, the story "Exceed 3rd" feeds the player is completely superfluous to your enjoyment of the game. It rather depends on your liking of dodging dozens of hostile projectiles and shooting enemies at the same time. "Exceed 3rd" is - like it's predecessors - a bullet hell shmup, a game that's filled to the brim with chaotic action and not much else. So if you're into that kind of thing, "Exceed 3rd" will not disappoint. It controls very smoothly, has great graphics and sound on display and is sure to fullfill everyone's rather masochistic bullet-hell-desires. A drawback might be the rather sparse content with six levels (one of them unlockable), but then again, those kind of games are all about repeating the levels you already know and beating your own score or perfectioning the playthrough, so this won't matter so much. Recomended for everyone who likes challenging shmups.

78

Throwing armies never was this fun

Harbinger_87 | May 31, 2013 | Review of Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes

Imagine standing on the battlefield opposite your nemesis, picking up single soldiers and throwing them at the back of your other troops to build chains of three congruent units, since one or two of those guys can't charge the enemy, no sir, it has to be three. Sounds weird, right? Now immagine, your opponent on the other side of the battlefield does the exact same thing. Sounds like "Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes". Split up into five distinct campaigns, this mixture of puzzle and RPG-game puts you in the shoes of five young heroes of Ashan that have to prevent a demon from destroying their homes. The story is a quite chlichéd affair, but you'll want to see it through nonetheless, since the five heroes are a quite likeable cast of characters. The gameplay itself is an interresting match-3-variation that lets you pick up and destroy your own units to build chains of creatures that will charge the enemy lines once they've been composed as such and had time to charge up their attacks. There's quite some strategy involved, although you might find yourself out of luck, just because that one unit you'd need most just won't appear (or that might be just me, since I really really suck at this game, as a lot of multiplayer-matches brought forth...). The RPG-part consists of you getting new creatures, your creatures advancing in levels gathering artifacts that bestow you with unique abillities and so forth. It's all quite light but not without it's charm. And on top of this, it's quite a lengthy game, taking you about 20+ hours to finish. So if you like tactical RPG-hybrids, you should at least try out "Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes". It's worth it.

73

So did technology take a step back in the 2030s?

Harbinger_87 | May 31, 2013 | Review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution

"Deus Ex" is great. I'd even go as far as call it one of the best videogames ever with an engaging story, memorable characters and fun non-linear and open-ended gameplay. Personally I can't comment on how "DX2" tried to keep up the tradition since I never really played it. But I played "Deus Ex: Human Revolution". And it is a very strange kind of game. Not a bad game by any means, although it tries its hardest at some points to be one. The story is quite interesting albeit it carries a bit of an "in your face"-attitude. There's not subtlety to be found here, everything the game has to offer is offered with a blunt smack of a hammer to your forehead. But the philosophical questions it poses are kind of interresting. Which makes it al the more painful to see the whole thing go way downhill in the last few hours. It almost feels like the authors wrote themselves into a corner and didn't know how to get out of it, so they didn't even bother. Which is a shame, since the story is the one thing that holds most of the game together. The gameplay itself is decent, although there are some logistic problems with switching between first-person and third-person-perspective, but you'll get used to it, given time. The guns feel right, the levels encourage exploration and often have a lot of hidden secrets to offer, although it never reaches the quality level of "Deus Ex". Oh, and don't expect such a deep level of character customization. There's a handfull of upgrades and you'll most likely have all the things you want maxed out about halfway through the game. But it all works together quite okay. Not spectacular, but good, except for the atrocious boss-fights you'll be forced to put up with it. And that's "Deus Ex: Human Revolution" in a nutcase. Quite good, with lots of missed opportunities for true greatness along the way and an ending and some boss-encounters that just shouldn't have been. But what strikes me personally most about "Human Revolution" ist how it is FAR more futuristic than "Deus Ex" - which was set about thirty years after the events of "Human Revolution". They could at least have tried to keep it consistent...

66

A short and bloody trip to Ashan

Harbinger_87 | May 29, 2013 | Review of Dark Messiah Might & Magic

Pulling of hand-to-hand-combat from a first person perspective is a quite risky undertaking. It's not only hard to get a feeling for distances judging by a flat surface that simulates your viewpoint, most of the time it also lacks the punch, the viscerality of a true melee. So you might be glad to hear, that "Dark Messiah Might & Magic" gets it right. Whatever this game's flaws might be, they can't be found in the first-person-swordsplay-engine. But shades of it can be found in almost every other aspect of the game. The story and writing are beyond awful, giving away twists and turns at every possibility and never delivering any context to what might be at stake or how your character feels about any of this, which might be because you can somehow decide the outcome of the game by doing one thing or another at several key-positions of the game, but apart from that, your character, Sareth, talks and voices his opinion on things. Which makes a mockery of those choices, because they don't fit your character and vice versa. Apart from that, the game isn't pace that well. It starts off on a bang, letting you run rampant through a city under siege and fighting bad guys left and right. It all comes to a screeching halt when you reach the underground-crypts where you have to battle it out with pesky spiders and undead zombies. Or rather run past the zombies, since they are merely an annoyance and there's no benefit to killing them. Yes, you get experience points from time to time for advancing in the plot or doing optional side missions. But most of this hardly matters. The boni you get from leveling up are nothing compared to the equipment you find or the force of your mighty boot that can insta-kill enemies by shoving them down bottomless pits or into spike-traps. Fortunately, the game ends on a high note. The last few levels are artistically exciting, very well scripted and return the fun of battling clever foes that defined the first levels of the game. The bosses are a mixed bag, speaking from the difficulty, but most of them are quite fun. All in all, you can enjoy yourself with "Dark Messiah Might & Magic", although it is pleasantly brief, so it doesn't overstay it's welcome.

70

A flawed sequel that almost gets it right

Harbinger_87 | May 29, 2013 | Review of Puzzle Agent 2

"Puzzle Agent" convinced through quirky atmosphere and mind-boggling logic-puzzles, but it left some plot-threads untied. What happened to Isaac Davner? What are the Hidden People? Did Nelson's imagination play tricks on him? Or was there more to the whole Scoggins-affair than Nelson Tethers could deduce by the end of the first game? In "Puzzle Agent 2", Nelson returns to Scoggins to find Isaac Davner, who disappeared before the events of the first game. "Puzzle Agent 2" brings back a lot of the strange townsfolk, locations and logic-puzzles, while also keeping the pervasive atmosphere, the subtle humor and the awesome writing. Sadly, there aren't a lot of new places to explore. "Puzzle Agent 2" feels a bit like it was hacked together from leftovers from the first game. En plus, it feels considerably shorter, although it packs it's short playing time with a lot of content. The story packs a few nice twists and turns and Nelson gets more possibilities to shine as a character, which is quite nice, considering that he is quite a likeable guy. The biggest problem is the conclusion of the story, seeing that a lot of plot threads are left rather unresolved. Maybe this is because the makers are hoping to publish further entries in the franchise, but it leaves you a bit unsatisfied. Still, if you played the first one and liked it, you'll like "Puzzle Agent 2", too, since it's basically more of the same. Which is a good thing in this case.

74

Pieces come together quite nicely

Harbinger_87 | May 29, 2013 | Review of Puzzle Agent

For anyone like me who is into quirky narrative, strong atmosphere and logic puzzles to keep it all together, "Puzzle Agent" should be a match made in heaven. "Puzzle Agent" follows the exploits of FBI Puzzle Research Agent Nelson Tethers who is sent to Scoggins, Minnesota to investigate the close-down of the eraser factory that supplies the White House with erasers. Scoggins is something the Coen-brothers could dream up under the influence of certain substances. The inhabitants are a quirky people, locked up in tradition, wary of outsiders and obsessed with puzzles. As Nelson you travel around town, solve logic puzzles that most of the time have a paper-thin connection to the plot, take part in conversations with the population and... that's about it. No obscure inventory-puzzles, no dead-ends, nothing, the game flows quite nicely and you don't have to follow that one obscure train-of-thought that the designer had. If there's a puzzle, you can solve it by sheer logic. Or if you can't, the game will tell you that you can't. Apart from that, the story is quite quirky and therefore really nice, the hand-drawn animation might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it helps to distinguish the game from the competition. And the atmosphere really comes together in a "Fargo meets Twin Peaks"-sense. Problems are negligible. Sometimes the aim of the puzzles might be a bit obscure and all in all the game feels a bit... antclimactic. But if you're a fan of logic puzzles and quirky small-town-mysteries, "Puzzle Agent" is for you.

80

Grappling hook. 'nuff said.

Harbinger_87 | May 24, 2013 | Review of Just Cause 2

"Just Cause 2" includes a grappling hook. That is all you need to know. Seriously, take that feature away and you have an okay but derivative open world adventure where chaos reigns supreme. You shoot bad guys, you blow up stuff and you're constantly encouraged to continue messing around, because that's how you advance in the game, opening new story missions by creating mayhem. The story is short and turns out pretty lousy in the end and the missions aren't that involving or creative, especially not the side-missions you stumble upon at every turn. But the biggest problem is that the environments aren't really that great. Okay, there's jungle, desert, some snowy mountainslopes and even a giant city, but not one of those environments has even the least bit of personality. It's not exciting, it's just there. What IS exciting is the grappling hook. You can shoot it at almost anything, propel yourself towards your target or just stick one thing to another (like a badguy to the ceiling or the rear-bumper of your car while your driving towards a field of cactusses) and this never gets old. What makes it even better is the fact that the whole fluid grappling-hook-parachute-gameplay works out so fluid and smooth that the generic environments aren't that bad anymore. It's not a boring jungle anymore, it's a playground, an obstacle-course you wildly swing, float, drive, run and fly through and it is constantly a blast. So if messing around is the thing you like most about open world games, you can't fail with "Just Cause 2". It has so many opportunities to just lose yourself in the chaos you create, that even the subpar story and boring missions can't really bog this game down.

76

Who are those people and why... Oh, glaive-slaughter, what fun!

Harbinger_87 | May 24, 2013 | Review of Dark Sector

Story in videogames is always a quite touchy subject, but it's a rare occasion to see this particular element handled as sloppily as "Dark Sector" does. There is a story somewhere in here, but it plays out as if every second page of the script got lost somewhere and the rest didn't fare that well either. Seriously, it was aproximately after two thirds of the game that I learned the name of the main character. And when the plot twists came left and right in the last levels of the game, the only thing I could ask myself was "Who are those people and what are they talking about?". Nevertheless, "Dark Sector" is a good game. It has a great artistic design and still looks quite nice, despite the age of the game. On top of that, it sports a very solid shooting-engine that takes cues from the awesome "Resident Evil 4", although - like many other games copying the "Resident Evil 4"-formula - it doesn't quite grasp the puzzly quality the aforementioned archetype of mdern "Let's shoot ugly things in the face in style"-games pulled off so nicely. The cover-mechanic works, the guns feel quite nice, everything on a very solid base here. And then the glaive comes into play. Remember "Turok 2"? Remember that sawblade you could use to cut off a dinosaur's arms and legs? Remember how fun it was to do that? Well quadruple that fun and you get the glaive. Not only is it constantly hilarious to decapitate foes in the most brutal maner, the soon acquired ability to directly control the thrown glaive makes it all the more cool. Yes, "Dark Sector" might be a one-trick-pony, but it's one trick is far more entertaining than it had any right to be. So if you don't care about story that much and just want to have a bloody good time, "Dark Sector" provides.

85

So Action-RPGs needn't be soulless loot-grind-monsters? Huh...

Harbinger_87 | May 23, 2013 | Review of Bastion Cap

I'm not that big into Action-RPGs. I mean, I liked a lot of them in days past- "Terranigma" for the SNES is still one of my favourite games, I played "Diablo" for a while, I have fond memories of the "Gothic"-series and that's not nearly all. But when I look at modern incarnations of this genre, I get the feeling that a certrain statistic-obsession has taken the helm. You get bombarded with loot and change your trousers every two seconds because you found a pair that is a bit better than the one you're wearing. And you HAVE to do this, because if you're not wearring the lightning-repelling trousers at the absolute right time... Well, you get the point. "Bastion" is different. because it is a lot simpler than comparable games, although this stems from it putting it's focus on different things. Like emotion and storytelling. Basically you run around different environments and hit enemies with hammers, machetes, shoot them with pistols or rifles and so on, trying to restore the fractured world you used to grow up in. There's no focus on loot as in there is practically none. You get new weapons at fixed points in the story and there's only like two handfuls of those. Which you can upgrade over time, but you shouldn't expect elaborate skilltrees or such. It's all very minimalistic, but this allows for a very smooth and fluid experience. This is further supported by the way the story is told and therefore the world fleshed out. The whole game is narrated by the incredibly awesome-sounding Logan Cunningham while you're playing it. He explains everything, what you do, why you do it, what happened, he basically builds up the world around you. Without jolting you out of the game. It's an ingenious method of combining storytelling and gameplay and thanks to Cunninghams talent, it provides a lot of very emotional moments. Other aspects of the game don't fare that well. It is a short, rather simplistic game that you could finish in about six to ten hours, it plays okay without reinventing the action-RPG-gameplay (although the missions are quite varried and present you with something fresh every time) and the hand-drawn graphical style looks overcrowded and confusing at times. Like most of the other best story-and-emotion-focused games out there, like "Planescape: Torment", "Silent Hill 2" or such, "Bastion" is a better experience than it is a game. But what an experience it is...

89

The most daring RPG in a long time. And it works.

Harbinger_87 | May 23, 2013 | Review of Dragon Age 2 (EU)

Well. who would have guessed that? See, "Dragon Age: Origins" was a nightmare. Not the "absolutely horrible and unplayable" kind. No, "DA:O" was perectly playable. But it was a nightmare, because behind the glossy facade, it was such a generic, safe product completely devoid of every bit of amibition. It created the most generic fantasy universe you could think of and still felt that it had to explain every last bit of it to death. Perhaps I should be grateful for that, because if they hadn't covered the basics of the Dragon Age universe in such mind-numbing detail in the predecessor, "Dragon Age 2" wouldn't have turned out as swesome as it did. "Dragon Age 2" does everything a good sequel should. It takes the first game as a basis and does it's own thing from there, trading in the massive scale of the predecessor for a lot more personal, intimate story about one man's (or woman's) rise to glory. It doesn't pull this off quite perfectly, but all in all it does what it does quite remarkably. See, while "Dragon Age: Origins" was THE story of Thedas, where nothing could go unexplained for a second and the game was a lot more interrested to show off it's flashy landscape than let's say tell a story, "Dragon Age 2" feels a lot more believable, like a very mundane story about someone who lives in this magical realm. And this is a bold step for an RPG and one the genre ultimately should do more often. The rest is just the icing of the cake. Most of the gameplay-changes are very welcome, like simplified inventory-management for companions and more elaborate skill-trees. The dialogue-wheel, that was borrowed from the "Mass Effect"-games also creates a very smooth dialogue-flow that makes conversations more believable. And while the hub-based gameplay might seem like a step back from the "adventuring around"-structure of the predecessor, it gives more personality to the surroundings and characters you'll encounter, since you'll return to places more often and see changes over time. And the characters are absolutely fantastic. Varric Thetras alone justifies this game. Of course there are drawbacks. The often lauded dungeon-cloning is as bat as it's said to be, although BioWare also did this - albeit to a lesser extent - in "DA:O". But here it gets ridiculous at times. And the enemies that spawn in waves also tend to make the battles a lot more chaotic and less strategic. And you'll face a barrage of strangely implemented fetch-quests from time to time that aren't a lot of fun. But apart from that, "Dragon Age 2" is a huge step up for RPGs in general and a prime example for how the often overlooked plot-issue should be handled nowadays. And on top, it's a perfectly playable and fun modern RPG.

74

What a great game... it could have been

Harbinger_87 | May 23, 2013 | Review of Alpha Protocol

"Alpha Protocol" has so much going for it. An intruiging story, exceptional voice acting, great character customization and one of the best dialogue-systems ever created (including great writing), so by all means, it should have been a great game. As it stands, it is merely good. Promising, but one of the biggest wastes of potential in the history of gaming. The biggest problem is that Obsidian had lots of great ideas but failed completely to design a game around them that livens up to the potential. If you're programming an espionage-RPG, why let all missions objectives consist almost exclusively of shooting people in the face? If you let a player sink dozens of skill points in stealth and hand-to-hand-combat, why create mandatory boss battles that are absolutely unbeatable with such character-builds? And if all you do in this game is fighting bad guys, why program such a shoddy shooting-engine? Even when "Alpha Protocol" isn't bugging all over the place, it plays merely like a second rate third person shooter. And that's too bad because with a bit more polish, "Alpha Protocol" could have been great. As it stands, it's definitely worth playing for everyone who likes RPGs, especially everyone who wants to see a "realistic" RPG in execution, but if you do, I promise, you'll constantly cringe because of all the wasted potential that'll take place in front of you.

70

A good RPG marred by control-issues

Harbinger_87 | May 23, 2013 | Review of Two Worlds II Cap

Okay, I can't draw a comparisson to the first "Two Worlds" game here, since I didn't play it yet. But on its own, "Two Worlds II" is solid. Even more than that, although there are some setbacks that keep the game from reaching true levels of greatness. Be it the atrocious voice acting, the overly complicated controls, the crowded UI or the... err... "strange" plot. See, the story of "Two Worlds II" is not bad. It actually presents some very interresting ideas, but it is written in such a hackneyed way that it is hard to get invested in anything that's going on. But if you can get past those issues, you'll encounter a very rewarding RPG with a fast-paced combat system, lots of room for exploration and perhaps one of the greatest systems for character progression ever seen in any game. Seriously, the character-customization is mind-boggingly awesome, especially because of the crafting that makes every low-level-item that you can find in your travels somehow valuable and balances the usual RPG-gold-problem quite nicely. Overall "Two Worlds II" is a good game, kept from reaching greatness by a few quirks but that shines brighter in other aspects than most games you'll encounter. Give it a go, it's worth it.