Reviews by cevana

87

Massive, twisted fun

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of Hitman: Blood Money

Having never played a game in the Hitman series, I recently tried Blood Money out and couldn't have been more pleased. Here is a game that sets you lose in a series of diverse, fully living environments to wreak havoc: a pool party, a wine tour in South America, an opera rehearsal. These are the types of places we rarely get to play in as gamers.

In each of these locales you need to kill a high-profile target. Preferably without being noticed. Your weapon will often be your garotte or handgun, but the environments are designed so as to allow more....creative tools (a flaming grill, glass-bottomed pool, and a nail gun to give away only a few of several dozens).

The save limits impose the necessary tension on the game, while still allowing you to take risks. And the wary AI, combined with the many tools at your disposal means you will be able to replay each level without getting tired.

Pros: - So many ways to complete your objective. Every one gruesomely satisfying. I especially liked the opera singer target. - Boasts an incredible variety of unique locations. - Using disguises to hide in plain sight is a surprisingly fun switch from hiding-based stealth games

Cons: - Neither mouse and key, nor game pad felt completely optimized to me. - The plot feels threadbare, and is just enough to give you a reason to kill. Nothing more. - Starts out slow. Later levels are much more lively than the first.

70

Enjoyed it, but not feeling the hype

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of The Witcher II: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition

I really enjoyed Witcher 2. The art is gorgeous, the dialogue is pretty snappy, and it completely held my attention while I played it. Plus I have nothing but praise for CD Projekt as a company!

But it really am not feeling the levels of love it has received from most corners. In my experience, it is a pretty standard, if well-done, action RPG. Geralt is not such a subversive and revolutionary anti-hero in my opinion -- off the top of my head, even Final Fantasy VI had more equally morally ambiguous characters. Nor is his story on the par of something like Game of Thrones in its brutality and drama (a comparison I have heard made). It's more along the lines of standard Dungeons and Dragons fare.

The gameplay flows well (you really feel like you're swinging those twin blades) and can be refreshingly unforgiving. But even with all your magic tricks, the core mechanics really boil down to 'dodge>attack>dodge>attack' etc.

There's nothing so wrong with Witcher 2 that I would suggest you avoid it. But neither is there anything so new, or amazingly well done it it that I would recommend it above any other well-made action RPG.

90

My Favorite of the Series

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of Mass Effect 2 (NA)

I wouldn't recommend you jump straight into playing Mass Effect 2 without playing the first in the series, yet I find it a huge improvement on that game.

Maybe it's just that we started the game with dozens of hours under our belts as commander Shepard. But I feel like the game really took the promise of transferring a character from one game to another and delivered.

Two common complaints I hear about Mass Effect 2: it lacks the epic scope of 1 and 3, and it abandons the RPG elements of 1. To me, the great appeal of Mass Effect 2 was it's more intimate story. This is a tale about building a crew for a single, dangerous mission. You get plenty of time with each of your supporting characters. When the plot reaches its climax, this pays off in spades. The writing is so much stronger than in Mass Effect 1. It is much more focused on creating believable relationships than cramming an index with entries from a second-rate sci-fi story.

As for the RPG elements, let's be honest: Mass Effect was never a great RPG the likes of Knights of the Old Republic. At its heart it really wanted to be a shooter, or maybe an ARPG, but couldn't ditch the RPG interface. In practice, this meant cluttered menus and a lot of pausing in some mediocre combat. By embracing itself as pretty much a straight-out shooter, Mass Effect 2 plays at a brisk pace, and has a clean and intuitive interface.

Also of note: gone are the cookie-cutter hideouts on unremarkable moons. Mass Effect 2's side quests are full-formed mini-stories that I enjoyed as much as the main quest itself.

71

Beautiful, original, and flawed

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition

I really wanted to love this game. I love old detective stories, and love the open-world exploration of Rockstar. The world of post-war LA they have created is beautiful, full of the details one expects from Rockstar games.

Unfortunately the world is also devoid of life. There is no reason to explore the streets of LA, because nothing will ever happen if you do. You will see some very nice models, but no people to interact with. No surprises. No secrets (apart from the completely mind-numbing 'film reel' collecting game).

The same goes for the interrogation system. Maybe you learn to call out your suspect on their lies based on the detailed facial modeling. Maybe you let the killer go. The story will play out in the same way. What you do has exactly no consequence on the story or your success in the game. This is a real motivation killer. The story provides no incentive either, veering quickly into an unprompted noir twist after hours of mundane, directionless wandering. The ending is among the weakest in any modern game of this profile.

Why the relatively high score? It's a triple-a game from a good studio, with some great source material. It does a lot of things right. But I'm trying to judge it by its peers, and by its promise. It falls short of both.

76

Worth it, despite flaws

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of War of the Roses: Kingmaker

I want to head off the complaints I have with the game by saying first that I don't regret a cent I spent on it, or a minute I played it. It is completely unique. If you want a multiplayer game with some real level of customization, a Mount & Blade style combat, and an aspiration to realism, then this is the only game in town.

Unfortunately it has not quite lived up to its potential. Patches are constantly shifting the strength of armor, the hit-boxes and overall balance of of weapons, all while introducing new weapons into the mix. Balance is not the games strong suit, and get ready for a challenge if you want to use anything but a two-handed sword.

Nonetheless, the moments when you find a great duel or narrowly defy death while capturing a castle make the rest worth it. You can't have the experience anywhere else.

Pros: - Only game of its kind (Chivalry and WOTR are apples and oranges) - The potential hours you can spend only mastering one weapon, still mean a real big bang for your buck (plus new free content is often released)

Cons: - Terribly unbalanced weapons and armors - The learning curve is very high

85

Changed My View of Indie Games

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of Bastion Cap

I had never been interested in indie games. I didn't have anything against them, but was fairly certain that because of sheer budget they could never compete with a studio game of similar quality. Bastion proved me wrong. '

From the moment I turned it on it sucked me into its world, in no small part due to the original and eye-popping art design, the acclaimed voice work of the "narrator" and the wonderful music (I wish I could describe the style -- some sort of country-bluegrass with industrial beats and a dash a old school videogame soundtracks ala Sonic).

The gameplay itself it classic action-RPG and strikes just the right balance. It always keeps you on your toes, but I never found myself struggling.The enemies are all cleverly designed and unique, with distinct patterns to observe and outwit.

If anything, the game is too short. Luckily it has an excellent New Game plus feature that I can't wait to take advantage of.

85

The Best Civ Yet (Especially for Completionists)

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of Civilization V: Gold Edition (NA)

I've been playing the Civ games since III. Like many, I was a little ambivalent towards V when it came out. I liked the removal of the massive stacks of armies, but missed some core features such as religion.

With the Gold Edition, these worries shouldn't stop anyone interested in the latest installment. Gods and Kings re-introduced religion (in a way that encourages more player decision-making than it did in IV) in addition to ironing out the erratic AI a little.

Of note, this is the only edition I know of that contains ALL DLC and expansions in a single package (GOTY, for instance did not include the Korea or Wonders of the Ancient World DLC). Some of the DLC civilizations are among my favorites (the Inca's terrace farms look epic and the Vikings are fierce competitors).

If you are determined to get the most complete version of the famed civilization building god-game, the Gold edition seems like your best bet until the expansion is released

Pros: -The best Civilization game yet, including the classic multiple routes to victory and defining age shifts -Gods and Kings has worked out many kinks with the AI and tech tree, and introduced a highly customisable religion system -Hex system and removal of stacked units means more strategic warfare -Gold is the only 'complete' package of the game as of this review's writing

Cons: -Can lag a little even with recommended specs, although this has been improved with this edition -Even with improvements, AI is still not as enjoyable as in Civ IV

55

Not What I Expected

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword DNS

Building off of Mount & Blade Warband, I had high expectations for WFAS. I can't say I'm not a little disappointed. I had heard much of how imbalancing the introduction of firearms was. Having played the excellent Napopleonic Wars, I had a hard time seeing how this could be a problem.

I should have listened. There is very little as frustratingly out-of-your control by being one-shotted off of your horse by an enemy rifle. Rare, but since the consequence is defeat and capture, the steaks are too high. Thus, you end up trying to stay out of harms way and play commander. Too bad the introduction of firearms dilutes battlefield tactics as well. Mass guns and fire, rinse, repeat.

Pros: -An interesting change of pace from the Medieval setting. If you already own the game (as part of a Paradox package for instance), it's still worth checking out.

Cons: -Firearms are not implemented well, and disrupt the wonderful combat from Warband -Money is hard to come by and very integral to progress (I spent much of my time trading, rather than fighting) -Main quest breaking bugs can occur

90

Unlike Anything Else

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of Mount & Blade: Warband DNS

Don't let the graphics fool you. I have lost more hours to this game than any since Morrowind. It is so hard to describe, because it is without a peer in the gaming world. Part simulation, part war game, part hack-and-slash...kind of.

Pros: -The possibilities are nearly limitless. Play a noble night, savage horse archer, silver-tongued trader, archer bandit. You'll probably want to end up riding a horse and sitting the throne at least once, but the replay value is practically limitless. - The original and intuitive mouse-controlled attack direction forms the spine one of the most rewarding combat systems in any game, ever. Whether delivering that perfect spear thrust through an enemy's skull, or feinting the opponent with your arming sword just in time for a swift counterattack, the game creates drama in every small skirmish. -Mods mean its never the same game twice. An incredible modding community offers graphical improvements, even more control over the minutiae of on-the-field battle, and a host of other perks (diplomacy, seafaring, pageant-filled tournaments, etc. etc.)

Cons -A bit of a learning curve to advance from 'proficient' to 'good' at the game

66

Good, but Incomplete

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of Hearts of Iron III DNS

Yes, HOI III is terribly complex: you will learn to be as concerned with with the supply line of fuel as you will the axes of global power. Whether you find it needlessly complex is somewhat a matter of taste, considering the genre (by comparison the Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis series look simple). But if you're interested enough in the game to be reading a review, I'm guessing that you're looking for a level of complexity and freedom-of-choice. The game will deliver that in spades, yes. But to have all that complexity translate into a playable game experience you will really need the expansions. As released, the game is essentially unfinished.

If you love grand strategy games, it will probably be worth it to shell out for the base and expansions. I still find it unfortunate that the game was released in the state it was and necessary balance and AI improvements were not patched in, but made part of paid expansions.

45

So much missed potential

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of A Game of Thrones - Genesis

The developers snagged such a wonderful property. The land of Westeros begs for a game adaptation. I've been a huge fan of the books (and now the show) for years, and love a good RTS. And this one had such novel ideas -- emphasizing spys, diplomats, and religion just as much as soldiers.

What sounds great on paper falls flat in execution. Any memorable RTS has diverse and distinct factions. With great houses such as the Lannisters, Starks, and Baratheons to draw from this would seem like a no-brainer. Instead nearly all of the houses are indistinguishable in almost any way you can name (appearance, units, playstyle). Why can't they even change the name of the generic lords and nights players receive? Why must it be be 'Generic Lord #1" not "Roose Bolton"? "Generic Knight #2" instead of "Ser Gregor Clegane"? What a difference that small change would have made in the immersion!

The diplomats and spies are interesting for a bit, but are implemented in such an obtuse way that you really can't stick around long enough to care how to learn them effectively, considering how little else the gameplay has going for it.

Pros: -The campaign has some admirable focus on relatively obscure storylines from Westerosi history that are sure to at least catch the interest of hardcore fans.

Cons: -What should have been dynamic factions, are dull and nearly identical -Unique gameplay elements under-deliver on their promise, and are not intuitive enough for an RTS -Campaign gameplay is not involved enough to hold the player's attention

74

Open adventure, ideal for a quick fix

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of Sid Meier's Pirates! Capsule

Having heard so much about the original Pirates!, had high expectations heading into this game. With few exceptions they were met. You feel invested in your pirate crew, as you personalize your ship and sails, and determine your own course of action. Sure, there's a main quest, but it involves chasing down the same pirate across the map, and some incredibly dull exploration sequences.

Much more fun is the opportunity to: besiege a port town with the help of some natives and sack it; create a massive fleet of ships, pleasingly lined up like ducks in a row;become a merchant, privateer, or explorer. The game won't fill in the lines for you, but with a little imagination you can have some compelling adventures.

Pros: - Open-ended with many possibilities to pursue - You determine when you "retire." Good for a quick couple days of gaming. I've revisited it often. - The best of its genre

Cons: - Underwhelming main quests - Even the most fun mini-games (swordfights!) become tedious. The worst (finding map pieces, dancing) become nearly unbearable - Some inflexible key binding makes it very difficult to play without a number pad

97

Nearly Perfect

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of Batman Arkham City: Game of the Year -

With the game of the year edition out, there is no excuse not to play Arkham City if you have any interest. The combat (as it was in Asylum) is perfect in its simplicity, offering a real challenge to those who put in the effort to master the rhythms of a perfect blow (invest in a controller for this game). An adventure game, merged with an old school-brawler, plus some truly immersive puzzles.

Some claim that the plot is inferior to the less ambitious and more focused Arkham -- I found the large cast of characters and diverse goals to be nothing but an improvement. People often said that Asylum made you "feel like Batman." I never felt it in that game, but I constantly did while prowling the rooftops of Gotham in Arkham City.

Pros: - Takes everything that Asylum did, and betters it - Gorgeous in design and graphics - DLC included in GOTY edition is a smash for Batman fans

Cons: - They still haven't quite nailed boss fights. But that's hardly a mark against it, since the most fun battles are against hordes of thugs. - Still runs GFWL

80

A Worthy Successor

cevana | May 26, 2013 | Review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Those who never experienced the original Deus Ex owe it to themselves to play this game. Those who have fond memories of that game should still check it out, but temper their expectations. The crux of the gameplay revolves around the player choosing various "augmentation" upgrades to maneuver through the open-ended challenges that cyborg Adam Jensen faces.

Ideally, you choose upgrades to suit your playstyle. Realistically, I found many puzzles and challenges to have fewer viable solutions than in the original Deus Ex (I almost always ended up slaughtering my way out of trouble) and many augments are near-useless while others are absurdly powerful. Nonetheless, this classic series needed a new coat of paint, and some new additions (including a very original dialogue minigame) made the experience well worth it, especially at the current cost,

Pros: - Wonderful cast of voice actors - Immersive, detailed art and character design - Wide range of adventures and challenges - A steal at the current cost

Cons: -Boss battles break the flow of the game, and require brute force (and luck) -Augment system is not as well-balanced as it could have been -Though well-designed, level graphics (especially backrounds) seem a little outdated compared to its contemporaries -Lacks the labyrinthine conspiracy, and heavy atmosphere that made the original a classic