Reviews by IAmUnaware

85

Two Great But Very Different Games

IAmUnaware | July 4, 2013 | Review of Dawn of War: Franchise Collection

There is a ton of gameplay in the Dawn of War Complete Pack, but anybody interested in buying it should know that Dawn of War 1 is a completely different style of game than Dawn of War 2.

Dawn of War 1 is a full-fledged RTS in the vein of Warcraft or Starcraft. The campaigns are long, the combat is fun and intellectually challenging, and the swath of included DLC gives 40k fans the choice of nearly all of their favorite armies (even my personal favorite, the Sisters of Battle). The races have slightly different resource systems appropriate to the 40k universe, such as the orks building up their WAAAAAGH resource by reaching a critical mass of little green dudes. Also included is an army painter, making it easy for 40k fans to make their little digital men look just like their favorite little plastic men. It's a fantastic adaptation of the 40k universe, but its mechanics are a little dated when compared to newer games like Starcraft 2.

Dawn of War 2, on the other hand, is less of an RTS and much more of a squad combat game like Company of Heroes, which is no surprise because it was developed by the Company of Heroes team. That alone should be praise enough to get you interested if you've ever played CoH. In the original Dawn of War 2 and the expansion Chaos Rising, you play as a group of Blood Raven space marines attempting to save some craftworlds from orc, tyranid, and chaos invaders. The games feature semi-randomized loot systems and upgradable units, and they're very tightly executed. The only caveat here is that the missions can be a little long and after a while they start to blend together; there are only so many different mission types, and you'll start to get the feeling that everything is just repeating quite a while before you get to the (pretty impressive) ending.

Dawn of War 2: Retribution shakes things up by keeping the upgradable heroes but adding back in some of the original's RTS elements. There's resource capturing and optional army building, although if you prefer the CoH squad combat style you can just spend all the resources upgrading your hero squads. Retribution also adds 5 more races (orks, chaos marines, tyranids, Eldar, and a mixture of Inquisition/Imperial Guard) to the single player and features an incredibly fun three-player horde mode called The Last Stand. Retribution is definitely the most polished product of the pack, although it lacks the impressive scale of the original Dawn of War.

93

SO MANY GUNS, SO MANY PEOPLE TO SHOOT

IAmUnaware | July 1, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2 and Season Pass

Borderlands 2 has the broadest and most varied shooting of any FPS I've ever played, and a fantastic number of different weapons. The controls are tight, there's a great number of different enemy types with different behaviors and weaknesses, and the game features some of the best writing in modern video games.

The Season Pass contains four DLCs that combine to be roughly the same length as the (fairly long) base game, with more of everything the base game does right. There are tons of new gun types, more than a dozen hours of new quests, and more of the excellent characters and plot. The earlier DLCs (Captain Scarlet and Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt) do drag a bit in places, but the the Torgue DLC is hilarious and Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep is the new standard by which FPS expansions should be judged.

This pack offers more than twice as much game as any other FPS on the market, and it's a better game than most of them to boot. This is a fantastic buy for anyone who loves shooting games, sci-fi action, or LOOTSPLOSIONS.

91

The Best Borderlands 2 DLC Yet

IAmUnaware | June 28, 2013 | Review of Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep

Let me preface with this: I do not like Tiny Tina. I find her incredibly annoying. As such, I wasn't really looking forward to several more hours of her constantly being OHMYGODSOWACKYYOUGUYS in my ear. But Anthony Burch and the rest of the Borderlands team really outdid themselves, delivering the most visually impressive and amusing DLC of the bunch to close out the Season Pass. Assault on Dragon Keep is the most fun I've had with Borderlands 2, and I even found Tina to be less annoying and kind of endearing this time around.

Dragon Keep has more visual variety than most of the rest of the game and DLCs combined, and the fantasy setting let Gearbox take advantage of their engine in some pretty fantastic ways. The jokes where Tina screws up the setting and then dynamically rewrites it are both amusing and visually impressive, and the fantasy creatures are pretty awesome to behold. Dragon Keep is also packed with occurances any tabletop RPG player will recognize, from a player accidentally knocking over miniatures with a die to a GM trying to come up with some way for a critical failure on a mundane task not to be ridiculous.

My one complaint is that many of the areas feature huge numbers of enemies, such that you occasionally end up standing in one place and just mowing down dwarves or orcs for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. To be fair, I only played the DLC in UVHM, so that may have been responsible.

90

An Expansive 4X With Extraordinary Combat

IAmUnaware | June 21, 2013 | Review of Galactic Civilizations II: Ultimate Edition

For those who don't know, 4X stands for "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate". It's used to designate games like Civilization or Master of Orion that begin with a single colony and a few units and end with an empire that spans the world (or galaxy).

So it's a bit like Civilization in space (hence the name). You start with one little colony, a mining ship, and a scout ship, and you expand out settling and conquering new worlds while building toward one of the five victory types. But it's much more involved than Civ. There are many different races and even a custom race creator, and each race has custom buildings and ship parts as well as a tech tree that differs from the others, in some cases drastically. You have a huge breadth and depth of technologies to research, a number of economic and industrial concerns, and a population reaching into the trillions that must be kept happy. The game comes with a number of scenarios to keep things fresh and provide replay value, but even just the default game easily has hundreds of hours of play time in it. It's also incredibly moddable. It's almost trivial to design your own scenarios, add your own ship parts and races, and so on. The game is fantastic for dedicated 4Xers, but it does have a level of complexity and micromanagement that might be offputting to some. It's not as complex as Master of Orion, but it is more so than Civ, so keep that in mind when purchasing.

Now that that's out of the way, I want to talk about my favorite part: the ships. There are dozens of technologies devoted solely to ship design, and each of these techs unlocks various ship parts such as engines, life support systems, defensive arrays, and of course weapons. The game provides a set of predefined ship designs made of these parts that grows as you do more and more research, but you can get far more efficient and specialized ships by creating your own designs. You can build ships piece by piece, attaching each engine and weapon yourself, allowing you to create the perfect freighter or fighter for you current needs. This aspect of the game alone adds tremendous depth. Add to this the fact that there are three different types of basic weapons systems and three different types of defenses against them, and you can see that tremendous gains can be made by carefully fine-tuning your fleet's warships. Giant capital cruisers armed with hundreds of points of missile and beam weapons facing swarms of tiny fighters equipped with the latest in evasive technology and point defense systems, long range freighters and miners escorted by heavily armed but barely mobile space stations... if you're a space combat nerd like me, this game is a godsend.

This is my favorite 4X. If you're even a little bit into space exploration or fleet micromanagement or if you've just played a Civ game and you're looking for something with a bit more depth and complexity, I couldn't make a better recommendation than Galactic Civilizations 2.

70

A Bit Of Long Lost Arcade Goodness

IAmUnaware | June 21, 2013 | Review of Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara

Chronicles of Mystara is an archive of the two classic Final-Fight-style D&D arcade beat-em-ups Tower of Doom and Shadows Over Mystara.

Tower of Doom features four playable characters, including two spellcasters with multiple spells. The game is passably fun but not spectacular in any way and is pretty short. Expect to die a LOT, which I imagine would have been incredibly frustrating if you were playing this on an actual arcade cabinet.

Shadows Over Mystara, on the other hand, is one of the finest games in the genre. Featuring more combat moves, more items, excellent new weapons, two additional characters, many branching paths, and several well-hidden secrets, Shadows can provide you with a half-dozen playthroughs worth of content easily. Basically, Shadows Over Mystara with netplay is worth the price of this pack by itself. Easily!

The graphics are true to the original games with no alterations for today's gaming resolutions, which is a bit of a shame. The graphics on the original machines were quite good for their time, at least, but they do look quite dated today. The netcode is good for the most part, but it does not handle players crashing out of the game very gracefully, as we found out when one of us crashed to desktop during play and it killed the entire session. The controls are unintuitive and poorly explained, so I'd recommend looking some things up online before playing. The game's House Rules system--most of which you can unlock after a single playthrough--provides a good deal of customization, allowing you to alter many parts of the game that players found annoying in the originals.

All in all, the technical achievements of the new version aren't fantastic, but Shadows Over Mystara is, and being able to play such an excellent beat-em-up with both local and online co-op is totally worth the price of admission. This game is a lot more fun with friends!