Should I Buy? – LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga


Who doesn’t love LEGO or Star Wars? If you don’t, you might not be human. Not judging. Just saying. When I first heard the news about the first game being in development, I was really excited. The Complete Saga is actually two games stitched together into one, one based on the Prequel Trilogy and the second based on the Original Trilogy.

Thankfully, these interpretations of the Prequels are much more fun to sit through than the films. For those of you without a soul and ergo have not played the LEGO games yet, you (and a friend if you wish) control little LEGO versions of the characters as you play through the events of the films with all that plot and dialogue removed and replaced with funny cutscenes and puzzles.

And it’s really fun. It’s got a tangible affection for the source material and a light, breezy style. See, each character has a variety of skills which have simple applications in puzzle solving. Force users can build stuff, robots can use panels, guys with blasters can shoot targets etc. The levels don’t outstay their welcome but if you want something really deep and meaty you’re better off looking elsewhere.

There’s a few kinks, the partner AI is terrible and can’t kill any enemies, blaster characters from the Prequels can’t dodge at all (and Chewie, for some reason) and there’s vehicle sections which are…well, vehicle sections.

Where a lot of the replay value for this game comes in the option to replay levels with any available characters to find more secrets or to see Yoda kick Vader’s ass. There’s also a lot of fun to be had playing with friends, and the simple gameplay means that anyone from kids to adults can enjoy it together. Seriously, if you’re looking for something you can play with a young child like a daughter or a nephew or a little sibling for some ‘quality bonding time’, the LEGO games are great. And it means you don’t have to fall off Rainbow Road all the time.

So yeah, it’s fun, colourful, charming, family friendly and great for pick up and play sessions. Seriously consider investing in this. Just don’t get the one based on the Clone Wars TV series. That’s supposed to be terrible.

Price: (CEX) £15 – PS3
(CEX) £20 – XBOX 360
(CEX) £15 – Nintendo Wii
(Steam) £14.99 – PC

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Guest Review – League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth


Hey guys, I’ve got another piece from Mick Deakin over at the Game Scene, so enjoy! Also, check out his blog too, here’s a link to his new piece: http://thegamescene.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/moba-and-f2p/
Well, I say “buy” but both games are free. Don’t be fooled though, they may be of the same genre and be clones of the same game, but they are very different. I will also be writing a sister post over at the game scene, so once you’ve finished reading this review, head over and check it out!

In case you don’t know what parent game I’m talking about, here’s a quick history lesson. Once upon a time, there was this little game called Warcraft 3, and people could modify it. One day, someone made a little mod called Defence of the Ancients and it became one of the most successful game mods ever. It even spawned the whole genre that is now called MOBA, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.

If you let them, these games can suck up a huge about of your time. The rules are simple, but mastery takes a lot of practice. There are 2 bases, top right and bottom left of a square map, and 3 ‘lanes’ between them, top, middle and bottom, with ‘jungle’ filling in the spaces. The goal is to destroy the main building in the enemy base but there are turrets along the lanes getting in the way. Fortunately, both bases spawn minions to help you along the way, and if you get into the enemy base there are buildings that, when destroyed, buff your minions. Your role in all of this is to control a hero or champion and deal the majority of the damage.

Each champion has their own unique abilities, strengths and weaknesses and you have to choose which one you will wreak havoc with before the game starts. Your hero earns experience, to level up through the match and acquire more of their abilities, by killing enemy heroes, enemy minions, enemy towers or neutral monsters, the beasts that call the jungle their home. Landing the killing blow on an enemy minion isn’t necessary to get experience, simply being near them when they die grants you a share of it, but it is needed if you want to get gold. Gold can then be spent on shiny items to buff your hero and get an edge over the competition. Gold is also rewarded when you kill and enemy hero or your team destroys a turret. Yeah, simple…

That’s just about where the similarities end with the two games. Heroes of Newerth (HoN) continued where DotA had left off, using the same stat system and keeping things like denial (killing allied minions to stop enemies getting gold or exp) whereas League of Legends (LoL) took a simpler approach, splitting apart the stats into more descriptive attributes and removing the gold penalties for dying. This means that LoL is a much more intuitive system for the beginner, but HoN is by no means out of reach if you’re a little more determined.

Riot games (the people who make LoL) are also releasing a new game mode soon, which should keep you entertained long after you’ve become bored of the same 3 lanes over and over again.

Lastly, one key factor I find is often missed out of reviews, is the community. HoN is on the back foot here too. Don’t play it if you don’t like being verbally abused, as it’s possibly the worst community I’ve ever had the misfortune of encountering. I have even heard of people being quite viciously labelled as “noobs” on servers which advertise as being for “noobs” only. I’m not saying LoL is only full of saintly helpful people, but you may only get an abusive moron once in 10 or more games.

Of course, Valve’s Dota* 2 is coming out soon, and if you really like LoL or HoN you may be tempted to buy it. I know I am. However, it appears to be going along the same lines of HoN and sticking to all the original mechanics. Just something to bear in mind if you really hate HoN’s way of doing things.

* Interesting Fact: Note the ‘a’ not being capitalised. Someone filed a counter patent on the words “Defence of the Ancients” so Dota 2 is technically not the sequel to DotA.

Should I Buy? – Dawn of War: Dark Crusade


Now there’s actually three expansion packs to Relic’s Dawn of War, but only one that’s really worth talking about. While the first one, Winter Assault was a so-so standard addition only really significant for introducing the Imperial Guard faction and the third one, Soulstorm, was a rushed, unbalanced, incomplete piece of trash from a different studio. Which is a real shame because it also introduced the perennially overlooked Sisters of Battle and Dark Eldar.

Dark Crusade was almost a game unto itself. Each of the three expansions technically are, they’re stand-alone additions which mean that you don’t need the original to install it or play the campaign, but you do need the Activation Key from the others games to use the factions not introduced in the game in multiplayer.

So why is Dark Crusade such a worthwhile addition to the Dawn of War experience? First off it adds some properly balanced factions, the anime-esque Communist influenced Tau, the tabletop game’s newest addition renowned for their shooting prowess and close combat squishiness and the living metal, soulless automations the VAT Inspect-er the Necrons who themselves were fairly new. Think Cybermen, but competent.

These two races had obviously had a lot of work put into them to differentiate them from the other factions. The Tau, like their tabletop counterparts, use their Fire Warriors and powerful vehicles to decimate the enemies from a distance and rely on their Kroot allies to engage enemies at close range. However, about halfway down their tech tree (gaming term used to describe the progression of research and upgrades in a strategy game) you get to choose which of two military doctrines to follow based on the Tau’s two basic army compositions from the tabletop game. One path gives you access to more close combat orientated choices and are suited to drawn out battles of attrition while the other lets you spam firepower to hit the enemy hard and fast, but doesn’t give you much in the way of defensive options.

The Necrons are even more unique than any other faction. They don’t need Requisition, instead their slow, inevitable rise is embodied by the fact that so long as they have power they can keep building. They don’t have much variation in their units and the strategy is pretty much “wait until you can overwhelm the opposition in an endless tide of undying genocidal death”. Does feel good though.

These factions aren’t enough to make this game worth buying a Dawn of War collection though, this is because of the new campaign. Instead of a set of pre-programmed missions you instead choose one of the seven factions to lead and set about conquering the planet of Kronus. Each of the seven factions wants it for a different reason, and everyone’s fighting each other for it. Even the two Imperial factions.

Each turn you move your army to a different territory to attack and try to take it from the other faction in a battle on that map. Some of these are more important than other, offering members of your Honour Guard for purchase or conferring special abilities onto the controlling faction. After your turn, you can be attacked and the computer will attack itself, not just have all six other factions gang up on you, though they won’t remove any of the other factions from play.

When you invade a faction’s home territory you’re thrust into battle against massive fortifications and several unique challenges. These are huge, characterful battles that fall in the tough-but-fun challenge bracket.

So if that sounds appealing to you as a fan of 40K or strategy, then this is a game for you. And if you are planning on buying it I recommend getting it in a pack with the original and Winter Assault.

And seeing as I’ve said that, I should give a brief paragraph to that expansion. The Imperial Guard focus on large bodies of ordinary men that rely on massed firepower and heavy vehicles to compensate for their poor firepower. While they don’t require the same level of micromanagement as the Eldar, they’re still a more strategic proposition than the Orks or…anybody but the Eldar. The campaign allows you to play as the IG, Eldar, Chaos or Orks in preset missions like the first game while the Space Marines are relegated to cameos and support roles.

Price: £5 – CEX
Dawn of War Anthology: £8 – CEX
Dawn of War Platinum Edition: £9.99 – Steam
(Note: The Anthology and Platinum editions are both the original game and WA & DC, just under different names.)

Should I Buy? – Dawn of War


“In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.”

With these words Games Workshop have sold one of the world’s most popular tabletop war games, Warhammer 40,000. It’s set in the far flung 41st Millennium where the Imperium of Man rules over millions of worlds and billions of souls die each day to defend humanity from its manifold enemies both within and without. Though the game is both complex and expensive, it’s certainly an immersive hobby with a rich internal mythology. Luckily, with the work of  Relic Entertainment, you no longer need to absorb tons of information and pay out hundreds of pounds to experience the challenging, visceral battles of 40K.

This is a real-time strategy (or RTS) for the PC that was originally released back in 2004. It allows you control of one of four different factions, either the Space Marines, the Orks, the Eldar and the forces of Chaos. Each is designed with a different play style in mind. The Space Marines are balanced and flexible, the Orks use massive numbers to overwhelm the enemy with little strategy, the Eldar have a wide range of highly specialised units that require intensive micromanagement and Chaos, which are an up-close and personal elite cadre of psychopaths. Each one draws from their tabletop counterpart without being bound by it. All put together, this makes sure the game is faithful to the source material without ever limiting itself.

Unlike most RTS’ that emphasis base-building, this game instead advocates combat.  The usual resource harvesting and base building has been streamlined. There are only two resources to worry about, Power and Requisition. Power is earned simply by building generators, and Requisition by holding Strategic points and Critical Locations. These are special locations on the map that you can order your squads to capture. These are set at routes to your base, chokepoints etc. which gives you two reasons take as many as you can. It also gives you objectives to focus on in battle. If your north entrance keeps getting harassed because you haven’t secured a proper perimeter and defence, you know what you gotta throw your Tactical Marines at.

The base building also boils down to just a handful of proper structures, the rest is all big grimdark tough things like turrets and stuff Once it’s set up, you’ll pretty much never have to bother about it.

You know how in most RTS’ building a unit just gives you one guy? Not here. Instead, it gives you a basic squad which you can then reinforce it with additional members, leaders, advanced weapons etc. that can be used to adapt the squad into different roles. Each race gets variations on different archetypes. There’s the scouts, the standard guys, the jetpack types etc. Still, they manage to strike a balance so that each race feels familiar enough at first that you’ll have a basic handle on them but they’re differentiated enough not to feel like palette swaps.

The game’s campaign only allows you to play as the Space Marines and pits you against the other three factions over twelve missions. It’s not the focus of the game, but it’s much better designed and fun than most tacked-on single player campaigns.  It doesn’t hold a candle to the campaign from the expansion pack Dark Crusade, but I’ll get round to reviewing that soon. Overall, this is a great game. The graphics may be dated now, but the whole visual and auditory design is pitch-perfect 40K material.

I’m only going to include the price for the base game below, but the various expansion packs are available in collected editions.

The price is £2.50 in CEX, but you can’t get this by itself on Steam. There are many collected editions on there though that combine the different expansion packs.

Guest Review – Should I Buy? – Magicka


Hi guys! Today’s post isn’t following the every-three-day-schedule I know, but I’ve got a special piece from themickanator who writes The Game Scene over at http://thegamescene.wordpress.com/ So enjoy! 

“Do I have any PC gamer friends?” How you answer this question will also be how you should probably answer the title. Magicka is not a game built for single player, but club together with 3 chums and you’ve got a great deal.

The story plays out the typical promising-student-embarks-on-epic-quest-to-save-the-world narrative, but it certainly doesn’t take itself seriously. Without giving too much away, you have to save a powerful but misunderstood wizard to restore peace to the realm, all under the guidance of your teacher who is certainly not a vampire. The dialogue is as light-hearted as the aesthetics, with most of the voice acting being done is a sort of simlish-like language which is a source of many giggles on its own. Despite that, the actual game play is not as jovial.

I said Magicka is not built for single player, and by that I mean that it is nearly impossible to get very far on your own. Let me explain why. You have 8 basic elements under your control, and you can mix up to 5 of them to create more powerful combos and ‘magicks’, special spells which are learned from books along your journey. Controlling your mage and your magic is an unusual system. But not hard to get used to, however, the difficulty lies in the game mechanics.

Mages aren’t fighters, sprinters, swimmers or, well, anything athletic. Your walking speed is just enough to evade pursuing foes, but the more elements you have loaded ready to cast the slower you move. And while casting you are motionless. Oh, and do not cross the beams… However, don’t let that put you off! All these difficulties may be frustrating, but they provide many hours of frustrating fun, and a fair few funny moments.

Now, let us suppose that you somehow get bored of the campaign (or your friends), but you still need your Magicka fix. There are a number of other game modes you can indulge in with your spell-casting chums. There is versus mode, which has 3 variants on death match, and Challenge mode, which mainly consists of survival levels.

These 2 modes can then be further expanded with the relatively huge list of DLC available too. The most notable of these is the Vietnam DLC. Yes, you read correctly, Vietnam. This provides challenge mode with another survival map, and a mission level which records your time, so you can keep trying to better yourself. It really does take place in a Vietnam setting, with enemies (still goblins) and allied soldiers (sadly not goblins or other mages) wielding guns. These guns can also be used in other levels in both challenge and versus modes.

Also, as with most of the other DLC, it provides you with an additional set of robes to choose from. Each set of robes have special abilities and have a different starting staff and sword/gun. All of that for £3.49, and the cheaper DLC going as low as £0.59.

So all in all, Magicka is a fantastic little game with a superb sense of humour, all for a very agreeable price. The campaign, versus mode and challenge mode will keep you occupied for many hours, but it is a game not suitable for the casual gamer or the chronic rage-quitter.

(All prices from Steam)

Magicka – £7.99

Complete Pack (1 copy + all DLC) – £16.99

Four Pack – £23.99 (4 copies of the base game, one for you and 3 to gift to friends so you can play together!)

DLC:

Vietnam – £3.49

Final Frontier – £1.99

Marshlands – £1.79

Party Robes, Frozen Lake, The Watchtower – £1.59 each

Nippon, Wizard’s Survival Kit – £0.59 each

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