Guest Blog by Mark @EmeraldZone.net
The Just Cause series is known for its high-octane action, gameplay diversity and large, scaling worlds. Its engine has set it apart from the competition and continues to deliver a playground of fire, wind and water where destruction is king and all else can suck an egg. Just Cause 3 continues with the same premise of high-octane action.
As Rico Rodriguez you are once again let loose in a tropical paradise overruled by a violent and omnipotent dictator, General Di Ravello. Rico must destroy the general’s resources across the sunny island to liberate rebel strongholds and build Chaos, Just Cause’s answer for a point system. The character roster features yet another tired foray of empty stereotypes churning clichéd dialogue at times meant to resemble humour. This merry band of hackneyed hacks must work together to defeat Di Ravello to restore liberty to the isles. It’s all rather familiar territory, so what sets this game apart.
In the last game, money was used to buy weapons and vehicles. 3 has an improved system where ‘beacons’ are collected to pay for supply drops, making them infinite to those willing to collect them. ‘Flares’ are another useful collectible used to fast travel between enemy strongholds. The creators have been smart enough to grant free fast travel to ‘liberated’ areas to speed up travel with momentum as you progress through the game.
It's safe to say that Far Cry Primal is a World apart from Far Cry 4. Yes the pun was intended. Far Cry Primal does a lot of things right where Far Cry 4 went wrong and it seems rather ironic that Far Cry Primal seems light years ahead of Far Cry 4. I’ve ben asking myself: why is that? What does it do so well that Far Cry 4 neglected?
Gameplay and setting
Far Cry Primal is set in 10,000 BC in the fictional setting of Oros Valley, Central Europe. When I first heard about this Stone Age setting I felt underwhelmed to say the least. I’ve never really been a fan of books, games or movies from this period so why would I devote my game time to it? How wrong of me to judge. Far Cry Primal feels electric and it felt electric from the get go. Takaar is the main protagonist who is a part of the Wenja Tribe. Taaker feels strong and fearless from the get go as one of the first tasks are to create a bow. That only meant one thing: we became the Predator and the hunt was on; no messin’, no overly baked introductions; straight in to the action. Taakar’s hunting skills are somewhat refined from the outset with his heightened senses. In laymen’s terms Taakar's ability allowed us to easily detect threats and items of interest pressing R3. I wondered if this made certain quests too easy but again I was wrong. Seeing the objects were only viewable if they were in a certain radius and within a level viewing plain. That’s right Taakar can’t see though rock, around corners or through hills which meant I had to move fast if I was going to keep, say, a Goat, within my senses.
Guest Blog by Kevin Kissane @Agent_Prince
In late 2015, Activision released Transformers: Devastation, a brand new Transformers video game (on the PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC). Developed by Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Vanquish), Transformers: Devastation did something bold. No, not just creating a decent Transformers game (it is in fact fantastic), but it wasn’t based on any Michael Bay rubbish; instead they went back to the beginning of the franchise: Generation One.
For those not familiar, Generation One was the original Hasbro toy-driven cartoon and comic series that started in 1984. Although it only lasted 3 years, it was a worldwide success that spawned an animated movie that has a huge cult following, and countless now-collectible toys. Although that series ended almost 30 years ago, there have been multiple reimagining’s over the years, and it’s fair to say that the afore-mentioned Michael Bay monstrosities have indeed rekindled the memories of the original (and indeed best) series.
Despite the quite frankly surprising news of a Generation One based video game in the works, I was initially met with mostly scepticism. Transformers videos games largely have a terrible record, as do many series/movie tie-ins, unless Lego appears in the title. The news of Platinum Games as the developers certainly helped alleviate those initial fears; Bayonetta and its sequel are 2 of the best video games to ever grace a television screen, so I became swiftly confident they could deliver. The result is more than meets the eye.
Platinum’s somewhat traditional third-person hack n slash formula is adopted well here; incorporating both physical attack combos and artillery-based projectile attacks. There are 5 classic Autobots to choose from, and once you get over the cool factor of being the original Optimus Prime, with his original Peter Cullen voice once again, you soon discover the other characters (Grimlock, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack) have enough variety between them to offer different experiences. Grimlock in particular, in his Dinosaur form, unlike everyone else’s vehicle forms, offers different combos and attacks.
But by far the most amazing factor of Transformers: Devastation_ is the fan service, the nostalgia factor. It is by no means a perfect video game; it doesn’t have the combat depth of Bayonetta, or the consistently flawless backdrops of Vanquish, nor does it try to reinvent the wheel in any other way. But don’t be mistaken into thinking it is a poor game with just great fan service, like many other anime titles. The characters and combat style is interspersed with the storyline and boss-ridden levels delightfully, and of course the bosses themselves are recognisable favourites such as Starscream, Soundwave, and of course Megatron. Each and every character even has their own heavy metal theme from the excellent accompanying soundtrack, which surely has to get a release. Believe me, I’ve asked, but it’s a ‘no’ for now.
The perfectly nostalgic cast and characters come together with a plot that easily fits in canon with the series, and plays out much like any typical episode would. It’s the perfect Saturday morning video game derived what was once everyone’s favourite Saturday morning cartoon series. Everything about this package is any Transformers fans’ dream. The beauty of the game is its appeal; it knows why you’re playing it before you’ve even booted the game up: you love the 80’s Transformers, so you are going to love this.
Guest Blog by Kevin Kissane @Agent_Prince
Guest Blog by John @roundeggfilms
I remember a time, it wasn’t that long ago either, when the realm of real time strategy was dominated by three major franchises. Back before the cruel reign of e-sports and competitive matchmaking, these games sat atop their strategy thrones akin to the likes of Xerxes or Caesar Augustus. Millions of fans (I being one of them, of course) and if it wasn’t for their development or subsequent domination of the market, gaming as we know it today just wouldn’t be the same. What are these games I’m speaking of, you ask? Simple. I’m talking about Command and Conquer, StarCraft, and Age of Empires.
Even if you’ve never played these games first hand, chances are you probably have. Their unique playstyles and mechanics have been copied and retooled so many times throughout the years, that even to this day we can still see them pop back up on gaming radars from time to time. Command and Conquer with its fast paced, no nonsense combat. StarCraft with its competitive edge and focus on balance. And of course, Age of Empires: its base building, economy juggling, worker placement meta-game we’ve all come to love, continue to leave an impact on the gaming world at large.
As great as these games were, however, they seem to have fallen spectacularly out of favor with the masses as of late. New gamers, many of which are young or uninitiated, crave nothing more than quick, easy gratification (something a slow, methodical game like Age of Empires can’t deliver.) As a result, it’s rare now that developers choose to emulate these older yet venerable titles, and give ornery old codgers like me a trip back on memory lane.
But the times, as they say, are a-changin’. Seemingly out of nowhere, the developers at SkyBox Labs have done what very little developers do, that is, I.E: release an expansion pack for a 14 year old game. This latest blast from the past is none other than Age of Mythology: Tale of the Dragon, giving fans a long awaited touch up to one of gaming’s most beloved franchises. Boasting a plethora of new units, scenarios, maps, buildings, and effects, can this posthumous expansion pack herald a return to the glory days of Real Time Strategy? Or does it simply just light a candle in honor of one of the greats? Well, grab your Chu-Ko-Nu and praise your ancestors, because we’re about to find out.
For those of you who might not know anything about Age of Mythology, I’ll try to sum it up as best I can. In the game you’ll take the role of one of three major pantheon of gods: Egyptian, Norse, Greek, or Atlantean. Each pantheon has its own strengths and weaknesses to consider, as well as a whole laundry list of divine powers to benefit from. As you build, defend, and research your way to domination, you’ll be given the opportunity to “age up” just like you could in earlier Age of Empires titles (and countless other spin-off games.) This gives you access to even more powerful units and magic that you can then use to crush your enemies and make them squeal. Age of Mythology: Tale of the Dragon, takes this tried and true formula by adding a fifth pantheon to the game: the long speculated Chinese.
Throughout my time as The Chinese I could best compare them to the Egyptian pantheon, a faction whose might at first is fairly weak when compared to their Western counterparts. However, if a Chinese player can survive the grueling early ages and keep a level head, the Chinese evolve into one of the strongest late game factions in the game, bolstered by powerful mythic units and a borderline overpowered economy game.
The latter is brought about by the unique Chinese building called the Garden. A Chinese player can build Gardens which will grant a slow trickle of any of the four collectable resources: food, wood, gold, or favor. Giving the player the ability to collect on a resource without the need of assigning a peasant to collect it gives that player a huge advantage over other players, an advantage that I I’ve now grown accustomed to having. At first the trickle is slow, giving you a few extra resources here or there to help you get over the hump in dire times. But considering the fact that you can build up to 10 gardens at a time, that Trickle can soon turn into a down right geyser of extra resources, so much so that you can totally ignore harvesting, say, food for instance, and instead just let your gardens do it for you. This mechanic, while unique, is a tad overpowered, but future tuning might knock it down a peg.
But let’s not get bogged down with the negatives so early. The one thing I absolutely loved about the Chinese is their mythic power. Everything from their gods to their magical abilities downright throbbed with Chinese influence, and it really hit the mark. Units like giant amphibious salamanders do tons of damage, and bridge the gap between naval and land combat. Massive birds of fire called Vermilions fly overhead and wreak havoc with whirlwinds of flame. Terracotta soldiers fight nobly, only to explode in a poisonous gas when finally killed, dealing extra damage. They even brought back the much beloved Monk unit from the original Age of Empires. While he might not recite the epically quoted “Wololo”, he does heal units and convert the unbelieving just like his distant cousin could. All in all the Chinese go into the game with a tough lineup and most importantly, are fun as hell to play.
I’ve also had no qualms with the graphics. The Chinese buildings have some of the most soothing aesthetics out of all the pantheons, and I quite like just building massive cities just because they look pretty. The new maps are alright too I suppose. While I didn’t get a chance to play all of them, I don’t remember any of them being boring or bland looking. SkyBox Labs did an amazing job with the HD remaster of Age of Mythology a few months back, and unlike some, I find the visuals and effects to have come together nicely considering the game is again, 14 years old.
Unfortunately, the single player campaign which accompany the Chinese in this expansion pack, feels roughly the same age, despite it being totally new and crafted in the modern age. Characters are boring, the voice acting is weak, and individual scenarios are long and drawn out. While the Chinese may be fun to play as, the campaign that revolves around them was nothing more than filler in my eyes, and after a few missions, I got fed up and reverted back to random skirmishes and multiplayer.
I should also mention, that there does seem to be a slew of bugs and crashes. One simple glance at the Steam discussions page bring about over a half dozen posts about people’s game’s no longer functioning after the DLC was installed, etc etc. But since I had no such bad luck with the expansion, I’m going to leave a lot of those complaints up to user error or client side hiccups. Everything just simply worked for me, down to the multiplayer, which when played with friends, is as awesome as it was years ago.
So does Tale of the Dragon deserve a look? Yes. Absolutely. Despite the bugs, despite the semi-overpowered nature of the new Chinese faction, and despite the slog of a campaign, Tale of the Dragon adds a bunch of new content to a venerable franchise that many would have thought to been long deceased. I’m all for developers reviving older games at acceptable price points (This expansion is only $9.99 USD) and if the trend can continue, I can only imagine what they might do with some of my old favourites.
Pick it up if you’re a fan of the old “Age of” titles, have a soft spot for ancient mythology, or just want to take a trip on memory lane, and see how far Real Time Strategy has come along since those glory days of old.
Guest blog by: John @roundeggfilms
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