Reviews by Xehlwan

90

A new milestone

Xehlwan | March 26, 2012 | Review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (EU)

Bethesda has a great track-record with their Elder Scrolls series. No studio makes open-world roleplaying games like these people.

Improving upon the previous games, Skyrim has further streamlined and polished many features - like magic and combat - but also added more complexity with crafting and perks. For those concerned with "simplifying", the additions greatly outweigh the features that have been cut.

One thing Bethesda is starting to get right is the "hooks" in this game. The things that makes you want to play more. Quests and dungeon delving give more interesting rewards. Difficulty scales much more smoothly and naturally, while keeping the world believable (no more bandits in Daedric armor). Even the changes in crafting and enchanting are made to maintain balance while feeling rewarding.

Perhaps the story is the greatest improvement to the series. Not only do you now feel truly like the protagonist of a fantasy epic, the story introduces mechanics that meld perfectly with the open-world aspect of the game.

Now, Bethesda is known for the bugs in their games, and Skyrim is no exception. However, it is was released in a relatively better state than previous games, and has received more updates than we've seen before. Not only fixes, but even improvements and additions.

Skyrim is a package full of value, with great replay-value. Add in the huge library of mods and addons, and you can literally sink hundreds of hours into this game.

90

Great fun

Xehlwan | March 26, 2012 | Review of Anno 2070: Deluxe Edition

Do you like building cities, planning resource-chains, exploring the seas and managing trade? Would you like all these things packaged in beautiful graphics and amazingly simple mechanics? if so, Anno 2070 is the game for you.

If you have played the previous iterations of the Anno series, you know what to expect. The basic formula is reminiscent of the Settlers, but with a flair that is truly unique. You will build cities and manage resources and productions to sustain them. You will explore the seas for new islands to settle, build a fleet of ships to transport your goods and possibly battle other players - all the while completing tasks and quests for talkative AI personae in return for useful rewards.

Adding to the previous games, Anno 2070 adds new layers of strategy with separate factions, underwater islands and the importance of climate factors.

Unlike similar games, the Anno series are remarkably simple to learn. Mechanics are presented in a way that you never get overwhelmed, yet offer great strategic depth to keep you playing. Most games of this genre throws increasing challenges at you which can spiral out of control. Anno never does this, instead the challenge is always to move forward, not keeping what you already have.

The multiplayer is solid, with military only being one of many paths to victory. There are all kinds of settings for matches, so you can play just the way you like. Strangely, the AI in this game is not as good as in previous Anno games. Not because it is less intelligent, but because no AI plays by rules even similar to human players. Because of this, skrimish falls a bit flat.

There is also a mixed blessing in the online features. The good part is persistent player bonuses, world events, daily quests and other goodies that add to the fun. The bad part is the requirement of permanent internet connection via Ubisoft's DRM-platform. The servers have proven unreliable at times, and the restriction is not fully warranted by the game mechanics.

The bottom line is that Anno 2070 is a worthy successor to its series. Practically the entire game is improved upon, except some missteps where AI players are concerned.

25

Unfinished

Xehlwan | March 26, 2012 | Review of Sword of the Stars II: Enhanced Edition

The premise of SotS2 is brilliant. Taking an already great space 4X game, and remaking it with even more flair. Many ideas have been improved or rethought from the previous game.

Research is improved by adding some granularity to the randomness. The fleet system has some added realism where you give missions to your fleet. It still feels a bit clunky and unwieldy at times, but those issues are successively ironed out in patches.

One of the strongest points of SotS2 lies in its presentation. Every part - from interface to combat - draws you into the sci-fi experience. Your fleets are detailed in both graphics and actual game-mechanics, giving you a sense of commanding actual starships. The graphics are awesome for a game of this genre, if not up to par with the best modern games out there.

Now, for the bad news. Despite all the awesome parts of the game, and all the potential this game has to be a real classic in its genre, there is a big problem: It's not finished. Not after over 4 months of speedy and heavy updates.

The foundation of the game is there; but it still misses core mechanics. The experience is dragged down by clunky features that simply have not received any polish yet. SotS2 is playable - in the same sense that any early beta-version is playable.

Kerberos Productions are diligently working on the game, and show no sign of slowing down. Every week brings lists of fixes, features and polish. Unfortunately, it may take many more months until SotS2 is truly done. Only time will tell if it ever is.

The final verdict is that Sword of the Stars 2 isn't release-worthy. Only the great potential and weekly updates saves this game from a score of zero. However, if you don't mind paying for a work-in-progress, then you may want to give it a try.