ReviewMango | ReviewMango Your freshest source for gaming news, reviews, previews and editorials. Tue, 03 Feb 2015 00:22:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Free trial of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn now on Steam Tue, 11 Nov 2014 23:13:39 +0000 Take a trip into the world of airships, moogles and chocobos with a free trial of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, now available to download on Steam. [youtube][...]

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Take a trip into the world of airships, moogles and chocobos with a free trial of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, now available to download on Steam.


This 14-day free trial allows you to join the 2.5 million adventurers worldwide already traversing through the MMORPG realm of Eorzea.

Whilst you do get the chance to test the game out before purchasing it, there are certain limitations over those who own the paid/full version, one being that you can only get to a maximum level of 20.

More specific details on what will and will not be available in the free trial can be found at The Lodestone, the official FFXIV: A Realm Reborn community.

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Starpoint Gemini 2 – Review Sun, 19 Oct 2014 16:14:27 +0000 Little Green Men Games has finally released their combat & trading space sim, Starpoint Gemini 2 after a number of years in development and plenty of public Alpha and Beta[...]

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Little Green Men Games has finally released their combat & trading space sim, Starpoint Gemini 2 after a number of years in development and plenty of public Alpha and Beta testing. Below is one of the moments in the game that most stands out in my mind.

I approach a Holocom Inc space station not too far away from the Trinity Free States’ territory, intending to check their wares and maybe hire some more troopers for my modest freighter retrofitted for less-than-peaceful freelance work. However as I prepare to dock, a fleet of Vanquis ships drop out of hyperspace and start attacking the station. I transfer power to my shields while I maneuver away from the crossfire and get my bearings. Dreadnoughts, Cruisers and Battleships on both sides clashing, with me in the center like an ant in a mosh pit. I had the freedom to transfer all power to the engines and flee, but cowardice isn’t profitable. Taking advantage of my ship’s large cargo hold,  I flew right into the thick of the battle and started salvaging the decrepit husks of the battle’s casualties. Scavenging what I could while the skirmish raged around me.

That, is the Free Roam mode of Starpoint Gemini 2. It is an impressive experience that makes for brilliant emergence by placing 29 factions into this huge galaxy with such a wide array of attitudes and alignments that conflict is inevitable. It is your job as a free asset to pick a side or to truly live the lifestyle of a rogue. With three classes to give to your captain and fifty ships for you (and the rest of the galaxy) to utilize, there is no shortage of playstyles, emergent encounters and personal journeys to go on, although there are quite a few qualifiers and caveats to these claims.

The actual story mode is.. less worth your time, however. I would call it a tutorial zone for the Free Roam mode if the tutorial didn’t just give you soul-crushing boxes to read from that are already implemented in the other mode. So it is not only a pretty poor tutorial for the nitty-gritty sandbox, it is also a pretty poor story to follow. Presentation is rather lacking as dialogue tends to drag on with the only thing to keep you company being a slowly rotating view of your ship (that you don’t get to choose in the story mode). As for the actual plotline, well I wouldn’t want the door to hit it on the way out. You are Adrian Faulkner, travelling with your father and some other close friends when you come back from a short visit to a nearby planet only to find that your dad was murdered before he had the chance to become an actual character (I presume he was 2 days from retirement too). So you decide that becoming an actual character is for losers and go on a journey to avenge your father using the vague clues found around dad’s smoking wreckage. Seems that Little Green Man Games isn’t all too keen on their story mode either as opportunities to abandon your quest and change to freeroam mode pop up.

The interface and graphics are a little bit above what I had expected from this title, light filters past asteroid fields in a beautifully realistic display and nebulae are a real treat to encounter. Most models in the game are interesting to look at but that only takes into account space stations and other artificial structures. Ships are criminally small but I’m not going to fault the game for that. Once the ships are upscaled everything else has to follow suit, which means texture quality is compromised across the board. The UI is reasonably small due to it only hosting the barebones amount of information that is actually necessary at a glance with an optional ‘tactical overlay’ that essentially places your ship’s shield and health status on a holographic display around the ship if you find yourself unable to tear your gaze away from the action. There is elegance in the simplicity – simplicity being the key word for this game.

Simple, very simple is how I would describe Starpoint Gemini 2. I mean that in the best way possible, as a newcomer to the whole concept of Combat & Trading space sims I appreciated not having to feel like I was playing something by Paradox Interactive, but I almost feel as if the simplicity and accessibility was accidental. There are three classes, different weapon types and many different ships, but the differences are negligible or come in the form of linear upgrades. Weapons range from Beams to Plasma Cannons, all dealing damage in fairly reasonable amounts, so it is a bit of a decision on what particle effect you want to see when you click on enemies. Ships are more of a linear upgrade path unfortunately. Starpoint Gemini 2 likes to talk about the different classes of ships, Corvettes and Carriers and Freighters, but they don’t fill any specific roles. Carriers will have more health, more cargo space and more troop capacity while sacrificing nothing. This means some customization is lost as your plucky ace pilot trades in his little smuggling vessel for a ponderous trade freighter because it is objectively better and he has literally no choice but to do so because the leveling system in this game is off-the-wall barmy.

Because this game has classes and (somewhat) customisable player characters, that means it also has a leveling system so that every so often you get your level-up cookie… in the form of a 1% increase to a certain aspect of your class-unique abilities. Meager differences, for sure. But at least every 5 levels you get a ‘Perk’ which gives significantly more tangible differences to scavenging, certain ship types (which would be fine if we weren’t forced to use Carriers) and troop strength. Along with the perk point you gain a new rank as well. The ranks exist to lock out higher level ships but that really has several problems, both mechanically and thematically. The ranking is universal, first off. This means that if one faction will sell to you, then every faction will sell to you, somewhat undermining the notion of faction loyalty. It’s a shame, as really cool relationships could have been forged if vital upgrades were only obtainable from your allies.

Secondly, the level requirement is entirely moot because by the time you reach the required rank, you’ve likely gotten enough credits, and if you get the credits before that you’re just stuck with grinding levels. Apparently the opportunistic corporations don’t want your money all of a sudden. Finally (this is just a petty gripe) what the heck are you a Petty Officer or an Admiral of exactly? From what I can see there is no faction you are just a permanent part of, so that makes you some schmo with medals made of tin foil and bottle caps. I also warn all players that the game levels with you just like in more recent Elder Scrolls games, a mistake in of itself due to the galaxy feeling very tame when nothing is able to downright stomp you into fine space powder, but it goes catastrophically wrong when you realise that the game scales with your level but NOT your ship. If you level too quickly or can’t get enough credits to upgrade into a better vessel you have been locked out of all combat until you do, due to carriers and dreadnoughts becoming normal spawns and being so far out of your league.

The last (and possibly most disappointing) part of the selling points I want to talk about is the faction system. While there are dozens upon dozens of factions within the game with their own territory, motives and values, the player’s interaction with them is reduced to a binary moral choice, Lawful and Unlawful. I’ll try to break down the issues with this as best I can but there’s a bit of a list. Context and witnesses are ignored, first of all, as defending yourself from an Unlawful or Lawful attacker will shift your reputation in the opposite direction even if nobody is around to report it. Self defense should be considered a neutral action (or at least viewed negatively by the attacker’s faction). Performing definitely Lawful or Unlawful acts does require a witness to affect your reputation however, such as disrupting a prison facility or sabotaging a stabilizer or automated relay to cause chaos will only damage your reputation if you are caught in the act. It is very difficult to play a pirate or an outlaw when netting Lawful reputation is inevitable while Unlawful reputation is a struggle to gain.

With a good revamp of the reputation and leveling systems and more attention paid to ship balance, Starpoint Gemini 2 has a good chance of being an excellent title instead of just an above-average one. The developers shouldn’t become complacent just because of the modding community around their game. While on the expensive side at £26.99 I would still say grab this title at the earliest convenience whether you are a veteran of space sims or a fresh-faced newcomer like me.


  • Simplistic mechanics for newcomers
  • Beautiful lighting brings the galaxy alive
  • Encourages many playstyles
  • Immense ship imbalances
  • Nonsensical alignment system
  • Combat is a bit too simple


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Dark Souls 2: Crown of The Sunken King DLC – Review Fri, 05 Sep 2014 19:03:38 +0000 A while back, the release of Dark Souls 2‘s first DLC instalment, Crown of the Sunken King, made a huge impact, rekindling the hype surrounding From Software’s Souls series. However, with[...]

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A while back, the release of Dark Souls 2‘s first DLC instalment, Crown of the Sunken King, made a huge impact, rekindling the hype surrounding From Software’s Souls series. However, with this DLC out for a couple of weeks, and with a large portion of the Souls community already emptying their wallets for this latest instalment, is this first episode of the “Crown” series really worth the money? Well, it is all pretty subjective, but I feel that a developer almost has to go out of their way to make a DLC that is only $10 not worth while; and From Software is not famous for screwing things up. Still, it is pretty normal to be curious as to whether or not you are getting the bang for your buck you hope for. Now usually, I write pretty informatively (also known as “boringly”), pointing out certain aspects of a game that caught my eye or are important. But in this case, I’m not really reviewing a game, but a DLC, which is just an addition TO a game, so I’m going to lean out of my comfort zone a bit here, and describe the series of unfortunate events that befell me instead. I’ll try to be as vague as I possibly can, but in the end, I’m doing a pretty detailed review, so: spoiler alert.


After you buy the DLC and enter the game, you’ll find a Dragon Talon inside your inventory. This is basically the key that you need to enter the DLC area. Once you get there, you are greeted by a massive overview of the region you are about to delve into, with a huge Aztec-esque pyramid staring you in the face. Some other stuff happens (spoilers), but basically, you soon run into your first enemy. It was then that I noticed two things; these guys will merrily tear you a brand new one and that this is an omen of things to come. Some people would simply call it, “The first enemy”, but I like to call it “The world’s shortest tutorial ever”. It let you get the general gist of what you are dealing with, and got me pretty pumped for what lay ahead. There was also some odd elevator thing, but I couldn’t use it yet, so I went ahead. Once again, I’m not spoiling anything, but suffice it to say that the before mentioned “new one” was immediately graced with a brand new brother. My favourite part was when I, out of impatience, decided to book it past two soldiers. My frantic running woke up two sleeping guards on the ground, some bow men, men with magnetic whip swords, and, to top it all off, a poisonous bug of hell, with a cliff for the perfect touch. So yeah, things didn’t really go my way.

After I braved the gauntlet and found a good place to heal and mentally recover, I began to realize something: I was barely surviving. And, to be honest, it felt amazing. I’ve beaten this game twice (not bragging, I still suck), and even when I first started the game, it never felt all that rage inducing. And yet there I was; nearly all health gone, no way to heal, and I had barely scratched the surface of what lay in store. This DLC had accomplished what the entire game should have been doing all along: punish me for being a cocky twit.

Crossing a small bridge guarded by two lance bearing hollows lead into what was called “Dragons Sanctum”. Sounds promising. Right off the bat, you hear singing, which sounds like it is coming from behind a locked door. It is kind of like the singing in Shrine of Amana, but less pretty and more along the lines of “Why is this door serenading me?” Soon after, you spot a large room, full of metal chests. Problem is, they are guarded by two phantom like guards, who just so happen to be twice your size. I remember just staring at them for a full minute, trying to process whether they were enemies, or just player phantoms that just so happened to be standing in one spot. After a while, the whole “they make Andre the giant look like Kevin Hart” thing sank in, and I decided to charge them full speed. Of course, I could do literally no damage to them, while their translucent blades were fully capable of shearing my face clean off, so the first encounter went poorly. Eventually, I did some deductive reasoning, and figured our how to do some damage to the Shaq brothers, but obviously, I’m not telling you (spoilers, figure it out yourself).

I don’t want to ruin too much, but basically, From Software was more than content to use their invincible ghost strategy to fill a gauntlet with hours upon hours of knee slappin’ good times. However, they made sure to give plenty of little rewards along the way for exploration, leaving new pyromancies, hexes, and more, for anyone courageous enough to brave the trip. There was even some basic puzzle solving, bringing back sweet, sweet memories of Dark Souls 2’s precursor, Dark Souls. In the end, this area was pretty engaging, and had my Estus down to zero, before I even managed to get half way through. It was really nice to be able to experience the joys of surviving solely on your wits and skill as you traverse the harsh landscape, being left to your own devices. It was a feeling that I hadn’t experienced since I first started Dark Souls 2, and it was more than welcome.

So after making it through hell and back, you finally reach the next area. By looking at the bonfire locations, you can see that you are about half way to the end of the level. Sword in hand (or spear or hammer or what have you) you step through the fog gate. And basically, you mind goes through these phases exactly: “Oh, good, at least it isn’t a boss fight.” Soon followed by “Oh good, dinosaurs.” Now, with that little gem for you to mull over, I feel that this would be a pretty good place to stop. While I’m being as vague as I can, in the end, going any further would really ruin too much. However, it is probably for the best anyway. I’m sure you have the general idea, and taking this any further would really just sort of be beating a dead horse. Why not keep things fresh?

Over all, I was pretty impressed with this installment of DLC. It might not have been quite as hard as the first game; but in the end, I feel like it was enough to freshen things up a bit, and it provided a good challenge for those craving the same sense of desperation and difficulty that the first game provided. It was engaging, atmospheric, and had some boss fights that put the rest of this game to shame. As a matter of fact, I skipped an entire area of this DLC. solely to make sure that one of these bosses wasn’t ruined. I still don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that, without revealing anything, it was probably one of the coolest boss fights of the entire game, so look forward to that.
Crown of the Sunken King was just what this game needed. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. In fact, some areas were just a little bit too difficult, with the enemies being less of a challenge, and more of an overpowered mess, while others were slightly too easy, with enemies feeling like rehashed generic baddies with clubs. However, Fromsoft was able to use these enemies, in conjunction with the dazzling area, to make a DLC worth buying. And if the rest of the DLC episodes are as good as this, you might as well save yourself the money and buy the full season pass.


  • Very good challenge
  • Small mini challenges that hark back to the first game
  • Plenty of treats to reward exploration
  • Enough levels to last at least a few hours
  • Some enemies are a bit too overpowered
  • Some enemies can be a bit dull (though it isn’t a game breaker)


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Rise of The Tomb Raider Xbox Exclusivity is Timed Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:15:57 +0000 Well, that quickly became old news. In response to the reaction against Rise of the Tomb Raider XBox exclusivity announcement at Gamercom 2014, Xbox boss Phil Spencer confirmed that Microsoft’s exclusivity deal is[...]

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Well, that quickly became old news.

In response to the reaction against Rise of the Tomb Raider XBox exclusivity announcement at Gamercom 2014, Xbox boss Phil Spencer confirmed that Microsoft’s exclusivity deal is limited in an interview with Eurogamer. Spencer declined to confirm the length of this exclusivity and wouldn’t speak on Square Enix’s behalf. He did compare the deal made with Crystal Dynamics to other Xbox One games such as Dead Rising and Ryse, which will also launch on PC.

Essentially Spencer washed his hands of the curiously worded announcements, stating it was not his responsibility:

I don’t own every iteration of Tomb Raider.  I don’t own them [Crystal Dynamics] building Tomb Raider on other platforms. I can’t talk about the franchise that way. I can talk about the deal I have…There are certain things I’m just not going to talk about because it’s a business deal between us and them. Obviously the deal does have a duration. I didn’t buy the IP in perpetuity.

While Spencer’s statement is valid, the whole debacle continues to fuel dissent across the gamer community.  Many angry gamers have accused publishers like Square Enix of selling out and alienating their customers. It would not be surprising to suppose that this affair has also convinced also some people not to by the title at all.

Hopefully developers and publishers alike will be more careful with how they word future press releases and statements.  But for the most part, it’s back to business as usual.

 Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action-adventure title coming exclusively to Xbox consoles during the 2015 holiday period. Duration of exclusivity and release dates on other consoles are yet to be announced.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider announced as an Xbox One Exclusive Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:58:46 +0000 In a surprising move during Microsoft’s Gamescom 2014, Crystal Dynamics announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider is to be released exclusively on the Xbox One. Below is the conference footage to prove it. [youtube[...]

The post Rise of the Tomb Raider announced as an Xbox One Exclusive appeared first on ReviewMango.

In a surprising move during Microsoft’s Gamescom 2014, Crystal Dynamics announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider is to be released exclusively on the Xbox One. Below is the conference footage to prove it.


To add further validity to the announcement, Darrell Gallagher, Crystal Dynamics’ head of studio, also released the following open letter on Tomb Raider’s official tumblr explaining the decision to keep Lara Croft on solely on Microsoft’s gaming platforms:

Dear Tomb Raider Community,

As you may have seen, we’ve just announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox. We consider all of you to be the lifeblood of Tomb Raider and the work we do at Crystal. I’d like to give you some insight into this decision, and why we feel this is the very best thing for the Tomb Raider sequel we’re creating at the studio.

Tomb Raider in 2013 was a success due in large part to your continued support. Our goal has always been to deliver something truly special with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Today’s announcement with Microsoft is one step to help us put Tomb Raider on top of action adventure gaming. Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past – we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.

This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.

We know that there are probably many more questions and concerns. Please do send them to us, and we’ll answer to the best of our ability. Meanwhile we’re going all out to try and make something truly special – the most ambitious Tomb Raider game ever built.

Despite the assurances put forward by Crystal Dynamics, the gamer community has been set ablaze with criticism for the decision. It has escalated to the point a petition to Square Enix has been made in the hopes of the decision being reversed. While it seems this is a definite confirmation that Rise of the Tomb Raider is a set exclusive, there are still gamers who cling to the hope that it could still be a timed one.

But let us know what you think below in the comments!

Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action-adventure title coming exclusively to Xbox One during the holiday 2015 period. 

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ArcheAge Beta – Preview (Beta First Impressions) Tue, 12 Aug 2014 14:14:36 +0000 Not long ago I quit playing Guild Wars 2 simply because it couldn’t quite scratch my particular itch and I was having trouble finding some good friends to play with, but not[...]

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Not long ago I quit playing Guild Wars 2 simply because it couldn’t quite scratch my particular itch and I was having trouble finding some good friends to play with, but not once since then have I looked back and thought:

“You know, I would have liked Guild Wars 2 if it was the horrific lovechild of RaiderZ and Mount & Blade.”

So here I present to you Archeage, the horrific love child of RaiderZ and Mount & Blade. Developed by the Korean company XL Games, this MMO seems to be attempting to create a living world by having a strong emphasis on crafting and trade. Sort of like EVE Online but without the benefit of a mysterious and vast setting. The economy, the judicial system and more look to be almost entirely constructed from the participation of the playerbase. So perhaps a more accurate comparison would be Face of Mankind if it chose to mimic Tera. I’m being too harsh with all of these comparisons, aren’t I? Well I don’t seem to be able to help myself, this game was a chore and did nothing to grab me. If I was not committed to the beta for the benefit of you readers, I am unsure I would have kept the thing on my hard drive for this long. I’ll try to be more even-handed from here on out but I make no guarantee.

Archeage is quite clearly inspired by Guild Wars 2‘s aesthetics and it really isn’t wise to remind me of other games that I’d rather play (I said I wouldn’t guarantee anything). Lush vibrant colours and a character style riding the fine line between realistic and fantasy. Your exposition comes in the form of mosaic-like boards that feature very slight motion and a voice-over just like in Guild Wars 2 and it looks like it is trying to find a happy medium between a small quickbar for lots of combinations and a large amount of slotted powers. Animations are not the greatest thing in the world but I don’t begrudge an MMO for having janky motion. I do begrudge it for having animations I can’t easily interrupt during combat because this makes for long and painfully sluggish fighting where it really is just two entities standing opposite and taking turns to smack each other. However Archeage seems to be really proud of its player-driven economy! Surely this means that combat is not absolutely required and one could quite happily make a living through honest craftsmanship and trading? Well, yes, but I wouldn’t exactly say the mechanics support such a thing due to the existence of ‘Labour Points’ which dictate how much you are able to craft or train your professions. You gain these points by being logged on and not logged off, so you can’t log on at the start of the day to see a fresh bulk of Labour Points. What these seem to be made to do is cause players to cycle through the different modes, to craft a little and then take on some other jobs while their labour points refresh.  I wholeheartedly disagree with the decision to force players to do new things before they feel like it since you are only going to discourage people from logging back on if all they want to do is a little crafting, but they know their points will only refresh if they spend time doing other stuff.

But I feel a more direct description of my experience would give you all a better picture of what to expect rather than me picking out particularly egregious examples of strange design. You will immediately be struck by how detailed the character creator actually is once you suss out its slightly unintuitive design, though I can’t understand why there is a lack of body sliders; I presume this is because the armour isn’t suitable for scaled body proportions but I’m not sure what the point of letting us even have such a detailed head customisation if we are later going to be bogged down by hoods, cowls and helmets.

Then we come to the classes of Archeage, which, at first glance, I didn’t find all too interesting. But there almost seems to be an “open-power” system here, which means that players are not strictly tied to a class’ set of abilities and powers, but are instead allowed to pick and choose from other classes. You would think they would put a little bit more emphasis on this system and go whole-hog with it like Champions Online did. Instead you pick a starter class, then later on you are allowed to pick up to two more classes to add onto your character. The issue I take with this is that (at the time of playing) stats are handled in rather specific terms. Magic Damage or Physical Defense not being derivatives of larger modifiers like ‘Charisma’ or ‘Dexterity’ and are instead their own standalone entities. This makes gearing a hybrid class a pain as you can either try and split your gear preferences to have weaker overall performance, or weaken your physical severely to have decent magical stats (and vice versa). But if you do that then why do you not just pick all three magical classes so that they are all suitably strengthened by your gear? Immediately six classes has been boiled down to two. Mmh, well. If you say so, Archeage.

After creating my character I find myself washed up on a beach along with the crowds of other players, where we are quickly beset upon by the ravenous NPCs who are all too eager to exploit our protagonism. Thus, after just a few minutes I am told to go to a forest clearing and kill some boars for their meat (that doesn’t always drop). This is usually the point where I would tell the game to stick that quest somewhere obscene but I thought I should persevere. The chain of quests would progress as such – get lots of quests that have a single objective: ‘Talk to this person’ until finally somebody gives you a real task. This task is killing 3 of something or collecting 3 of something off of objects located near enemies or following some step-by-step instructions for one of the game’s side mechanics that don’t seem to add much. Also your character is THE CHOSEN ONE with a special glowing birthmark to prove it – but then so is every single other player in the game, so good job on diminishing your player’s sense of importance by putting a singleplayer story into your MMO. This game is simply a messy attempt at standing out.

Extraneous features such as naval combat and trade missions exist but as I understand it, since Archeage is the typical MMO at its core I do not really see these extras being a reason to choose it over other games on the market. What is going to make people choose Archeage over their already established roster of characters on other games? MMOs do not have the luxury of being able to get away with having many similarities to other games because of the investment required.

What I’m saying is, the market for cooldown-babysitting wolf-hunting forest-clearing simulators has already been cornered long ago.

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Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms – Preview (Early Access Impressions) Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:42:57 +0000 When I first opened this game, I played for 11 minutes. I had to go lie down afterwards. I tried again. 6 minutes this time. This game is sapping my[...]

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When I first opened this game, I played for 11 minutes. I had to go lie down afterwards. I tried again. 6 minutes this time. This game is sapping my strength. Then I played more and more, determined to find something that could justify the £23 (!!!) price tag. I didn’t. It’s not a horrendous game! It’s not even bad! It’s just unfinished. Clearly, because it’s in Early Access! Missing voice-acting, placeholder animations, the whole lot, explained by the game being in a Pre-Alpha state. This perplexes me beyond belief. But.. I’ll get to all of this later. There’s a game here (barely) that I need to talk about.

Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is attempting to put a spin on the Diablo-style dungeon crawler. You’ve got your overhead camera, your loot fascination and your different character classes. The kicker is that you are all the characters at once – to some extent. You play as a ‘Devourer'; a summoned spirit of some description that has the ability to devour souls and create ‘Puppets’ that allow you to interact with the physical world. You switch between these different puppets (and yourself) to solve puzzles within dungeons and to access new areas since the Devourer occupies a different realm of existence. So what you’ve got is multiple character classes at once and a dual world mechanic. Maybe it is just because not much of the game is accessible in this Pre-Alpha but I did feel that all of these different states worked well together. I was worried it would get chaotic, but at least in this pre-alpha it works nicely. That’s… about all I can come up with for the positive side. Really. The core concept of this game is neatly packaged, thumbs up. But what possible critiques can I give to a game this early in development?

I’ve got just a few. The combat makes me sad. It is flaccid, weak. I picked a Warrior soul to devour and puppet, the Warrior comes with an AoE hammer smash attack. In any other game this would be an earth-shaking mighty blow that decimates enemies. In Shadows however, it feels like I’m swatting the floor with a mop, and that’s just depressing! Another thing, the Devourer and each puppet draws from a separate experience pool. So you will be running through each dungeon twice essentially, once for the puppet you want to level, then again for the Devourer. Why is that a thing? That shouldn’t be a thing. There are also no checkpoints, meaning you have to save for yourself, lest you are kicked back and forced to start an entirely new game. This game is flawed, true, but I can’t tell what flaws are a result of bad design or a result of the game’s unfinished state due to how unbelievably early this game is in its development.

Do you remember those discs you got in magazines? They were full of demos for new games? Why are demos a dying art? When a dev wanted to build hype for a new game, they just created one or two levels and polished it up. Nowadays? They release their game for full price in an unfinished state and promise you that “No, really! This game will be worth the money eventually!”. You know, Minecraft was worth the money it asked back in Alpha. Because in that state, it was already a vast sandbox full of creative tools. Shadows is a skeleton, hardly even that, it’s half a ribcage. Early Access is not the right program for this game.

My message to readers is DO NOT buy the game in its current state. There isn’t enough here to even tell you if there is a good game coming in the future. My message to the developers is, you made a bad choice with Early Access. You are potentially harming your game with this business model where a free demo bundled with one of your previous games would do a much better job. Excitement for a game can be generated in many more ways than squeezing money out of people for an unfinished product.

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Stronghold Crusader 2: System Requirements, Closed Beta and Final Speculations Prior to Release Wed, 23 Jul 2014 06:47:35 +0000 With Stronghold Crusader 2 set to launch on September 2 2014 there’s little time left to speculate on how well the game could do in the light of its predecessor.  Since showcasing[...]

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With Stronghold Crusader 2 set to launch on September 2 2014 there’s little time left to speculate on how well the game could do in the light of its predecessor.  Since showcasing the game at E3 2014, Firefly Studios has really pulled out their guns to try and get more player on board.


Since my last article on the upcoming title, I’ve been interested in the content of subsequent information releases.  Finally departing from exploring their Arab-themed counterparts, the developers have introduced two medieval European AI, Richard the Lionheart and the Rat, who also happen to be iconic characters of the Stronghold franchise in general.  I’m also hoping that there will also be new AI opponents with a western background but that is probably unlikely.

Map sizes have also been a subject of interest and it’s great that not only is the map editor included (unsurprisingly) but will there be extra large map sizes at release.  On somewhat of an unrelated note, a personal peeve when I played Stronghold games is scrolling to the map’s edge.  In the original Stronghold Crusader moving past the map edge was impossible.  But in comparison, the amount of useless black space players could scroll into in other Stronghold installments was terrible.  I’m still not really sold on having the map edge depicted as a dotted line as shown in this title’s E3 2014 stage demo.  It’s also annoying that AI movement continues to appear clunky and I’m just going to have to conclude that it’s a limitation of programming and design.  In addition to the map discussions, I’ve found it strange that Firefly Studios had to make a big deal about the inclusion of  core gameplay units like the siege engineer.  I suppose it was necessary as legitimate developmental reasons initially caused these units to be scrapped. But it concerned me that the developers could be cutting out some of the mechanics and units present in the original.  I personally did not find fault in them, and hopefully these aspects have all been expanded on as expected of a good sequel.

Besides those issues I don’t have any other prospective criticisms for Stronghold Crusader 2.  From the footage seen in the stage demo I was impressed even with the small gameplay nuances such as the camera flexibility or the layout of the user interface (UI). The E3 demo has also made me interested in what the game has to offer.  I cannot wait to find out how the management of a keep’s economy and military works, which in turn has also made me curious about the variety of game modes, campaigns and co-op instances. The introduction of environmental hazards, such as locust swarms and desert tornadoes, has also made me excited which add more layers of complexity.  And aesthetically the game continues to look quite appealing, particularly with the environmental textures.  I also appreciate that the developers have also ensured that their game is rooted well in its historic era (that is the Middle East circa 1189), so the technology and terrain is faithful to the reality of that period.  So even though I believe the developers have hinted at DLCs forthcoming in the future, the base game for Stronghold Crusader 2 looks and feels as though it is packed with content.

Visually the game continues to boast a plethora of improvements and new buildings in comparison to the original. For example, veteran players can probably pick out here that mounted siege equipment now have their own wooden platforms.

The announcement commencing closed beta testing earlier this week has also made me hopeful for the title’s success, especially since watching the E3 demo.  The game is essentially feature-complete since it has entered this phase, and expectantly the period will be spent optimising the game’s performance on PC and tweaking gameplay.  Firefly Studios has continued to affirm their dedication to making Stronghold Crusader 2 a game that still retains all of the original’s positives:

Our stated goal with Crusader 2 was to create the best 3D Stronghold game yet and that’s exactly what we intent to deliver.  Everyone here at Firefly wants the playability of the 2D Stronghold titles within a 3D space…

But given their track record, the developers still have to prove that they are capable of creating worthy sequels.  And if memory also serves me correctly, beta testing for other Stronghold installments didn’t save them from how terrible they were. But this is where Stronghold Crusader 2’s new 3D engine, authentic castle simulation and real time destruction powered by Havok Physics gets interesting.  I appreciate that Firefly Studios has so far shown that they seem to be handling this sequel in respect to the first game to the point that they are doing their best to ensure that it can run on a variety of systems.  As such the minimum PC system requirements for Stronghold Crusader 2 are as follows:

  • Operating System: Windows® XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8 (latest service packs) with DirectX 9.0c
  • Processor: Intel Core2 Duo 2Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Video: NVIDIA® GeForce® 8800GT 512MB or AMD Radeon™ HD 2900XT 512MB or better
  • Storage: 6 GB available HD space
  • Internet: Broadband Internet connection

Stronghold Crusader 2 is a sim castle builder set for PC release on September 2 2014.  It will be available for purchase in physical copies and on Steam.


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Transistor – Review Wed, 16 Jul 2014 12:08:04 +0000 Okay, so before anything else is said, let me just say this: Transistor is beautiful, fast-paced, and a definite must-have for gamers everywhere. Made by Supergiant, the makers of the[...]

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Okay, so before anything else is said, let me just say this: Transistor is beautiful, fast-paced, and a definite must-have for gamers everywhere. Made by Supergiant, the makers of the critically acclaimed Bastion, Transistor is a plot-driven RPG full of action and combat. By taking the familiar and successful elements of Bastion, adding a new and unique twist to them, and throwing them into a truly amazing world unlike anything I’ve seen, Supergiant has once again made a product that is almost more of a masterpiece than it is a game.

In a city known as Cloudbank, you play as Red, a famous singer known for her talent, and controversial pieces on the government. After an assassination attempt, from a group known as the Camerata, ends with an unnamed man taking the fall in your place, you gain possession of the sword used for the job: the Transistor. Now, with the voice of the man within the sword, and your voice completely gone, you must try to uncover what is happening, and how to stop it.

When first starting Transistor, there is no menu, nor credits. A small loading screen is immediately followed by the game itself, throwing the character directly into the fray. While it may sound a little chaotic, I personally love the idea. Game developers everywhere strive to make their games more and more immersive, but what better way to get the player into the action than getting rid of the main menu entirely. Nearly everyone just taps “A” like a lunatic to get to playing anyway, so just letting you out of the stables by skipping straight to the game is appreciated.

After a short sequence solely there to completely screw with your mind (no specifics, spoilers and whatnot), you get to the meat of the game itself. Transistor totes a top-down, third-person combat mechanic. It’s a tad bit like Diablo, but the movement and combat is far more fluid, allowing fights to be a bit more fast paced. However, what really sets Transistor apart from just about any other game is its “Turn()” mechanic. At short intervals, you can go into a planning phase, where you can coordinate a mix of movement and attacks to devastate your foes. Normal combat exists, and is still very gratifying and rapid; but being able to stop the action at a moment’s notice, and coordinate a devastating chain of attacks, allows an otherwise overwhelming situation to become manageable, and helps you to turn the tables at almost any point in time. However, you are very limited in what you can do in this phase, and have to wait a decent bit of time before you can attack again at all, be it normally or while time is stopped, so there is a certain risk/reward situation here that forces you to be careful and not overdo it.

Yet another aspect of Transistor that caught my eye was the combat customization. A wide array of moves can be collected throughout the game, by either discovery or leveling up. This alone offers a nice, regular reward. Leveling up was exciting, and gave me something to really look forward to; instead of just showing me a number that represented me being “better”, I gained whole new abilities, each bringing something different to the table. It makes things feel more tangible than simply increased skills, and really makes leveling a treat.

But what really makes Transistor’s combat unique is just how far the customization goes. Usually, one gained ability will be passive, while another is active, and so on and so forth. But when it comes to the moves gained in Transistor, each one has an ability for each category. By matching the move’s respective ability to the category best suited for you, your move set, passives, attacks, and effects, are all tailor-made to your preferences. You can even mix attacks together in order to enhance them with extra abilities (for example, a fast, short-range move, after enhancing it with a slow but long-range attack, will give you a fast and long range move). The level of custom fitting your moves to your design is something I have never seen taken as far as it is in Transistor. It may sound a little confusing written out like this, but trust me, I almost had as much fun just mixing and matching all the different goodies I had gotten from leveling as I did from actually playing the game. My only complaint I have about this mechanic, is the menu designed to use it.

When entering the menu for customization, every single attack you have is just thrown into your face. In order to see which attacks are where, you have to choose one of them, and “pretend” that you want to equip it. Basically, you have to lie to the game in order to see what moves are actually being used. Sure, the attacks equipped are highlighted in the first menu, but which one is equipped as a passive, or an attack, or an effect? Well, the menu has no answers for you, so it becomes a safari adventure to see what attacks are being used and where. It might sound unimportant, but when you get a brand spanking new attack, and are trying to find out how to use it, not actually being able to see if that one attack you got a while back (and promptly forgot about) is actually an attack, effect, or passive, and having to click “Install Move” just to see that you don’t actually want to install that move, but that other one you got from the very start of the game, gets a little tiring after the first few tries. Still, I feel like the genius of the customizing mechanic outweighs this, but to say that this clumsy menu is no biggie is a blatant lie.

Well, making the moves is fun enough, but how do they work in actual combat? Not bad, but not all that good either. The personalized moves let the combat feel comfortable, and is overall pretty fast-paced. But honestly, I wasn’t as blown away as I thought I would be. For one, most of your moves are a tad bit too slow. I mean, there are a ton of rapid attacks, but I feel like almost 60% of the moves aren’t fast enough to be very functional. A lot of your enemies are very fast, and with the fighting areas usually being relatively small, they tend to cover a lot of ground very quickly. Meanwhile, an attempt to do any injury while you’re getting bum rushed results in one hit on the enemy, and your face getting torn clean off. When in Turn(), just about all disfunctionality is gone, but unless combat was meant to be carried out entirely in this phase, I feel like many of these moves could use a good overhaul. Still, fighting is very fun, and makes up for this shortcoming by being extremely forgiving. When you “die” you aren’t sent back to your last checkpoint. Instead, you simply lose the right to use one of your moves for a while. Of course, when all equipped moves are gone (you are allowed 4 at a time), then you do actually die, but I feel like this is a pretty good trade-off. In fact, it almost feels like Supergiant knew that combat was a little shaky, and decided to balance things out by making death much less punishing. But whether or not this was the intention, this mechanic allows combat to remain fast and fun. It could have been better, but it is more than enough to keep the game interesting.

So, I have covered just about all mechanical aspects of this game that are worth mentioning, but what about the game itself? Is the story good? Well, to summarize in one word: absolutely. When it comes to indie games, I’ve seen plenty that go all out in an attempt to make a plot worth listening to, and honestly, I cannot confidently say that any of them have gotten close to the level that Transistor has. It is quite simply brilliant, throws you loop after loop, keeps you engaged and anxious to see what is coming up, and most of all, paints a world which is truly stunning. For the sake of preserving as much of the experience as I can, I’m not going to say anything about what actually happens, but talking about the world itself won’t do too much harm.

The world of Cloudbank is a lot like Tron. Everything is described with computer code, “random events” are programmed and preset, and people get to vote on what will happen and when. Even events such as whether or not it should rain are all determined through votes. Already, this concept is pretty impressive. However, Supergiant took it one step further. Most games would make sure that you were up to date by giving you an opening cut scene brimming with exposition, and technically, that is all fine and dandy. But with Transistor, you are left to figure things out on your own. The only exposition you get is a visual of a person’s conscious being downloaded into your “sword”; but when you see events such as, or similar to that, over and over again, you start to put the pieces together, and formulate for yourself what this world is. Basically, by feeding you small hint after small hint, Transistor shows you just enough for you to figure things out by yourself, allowing the full depth of the world to be retained. See, in a game where everything is just explained right from the get-go, the experience can (in some cases) be a little dulled. We already know what the world will be like, and are prepared for the subtle nuances and quirks that it has to offer, leaving just a little to be truly discovered for ourselves. But when you toss the player into an outlandish world with no explanation or preparation, they are almost forced to experience the awe, making it far more exciting.

In Conclusion…
All in all, Transistor is one of the more impressive games that I have played to date. It has a couple of issues here and there, but what game doesn’t. Plus, what it may slightly lack in combat and comprehensive menus, it majorly makes up for with an unforgettable plot, beautiful art style, amazing soundtrack, and an ending that’ll leave your jaw sufficiently dropped.

Transistor is out now for PC.


  • Customizable movesets unlike anything I’ve seen before
  • Leveling up is very rewarding
  • Fantastic AAA-level plot
  • Art and music both stunning
  • Combat could do with a little tweaking
  • Customization menu overwhelming and annoying


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Ascendant – Review Sat, 05 Jul 2014 22:37:16 +0000 Art and video games have a love-hate relationship. Many developers, and players, want games to be viewed in the same light as movies or music, and have them acknowledged for their creativity. This[...]

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Art and video games have a love-hate relationship. Many developers, and players, want games to be viewed in the same light as movies or music, and have them acknowledged for their creativity. This has been disputed time and time again by prolific opponents, and many players shun the concept as silly and simply unrequired. No matter how long the debate rages on, it’s impossible to dispute the fact that some games are made with nothing more than a pure, artistic vision. Some games are dragged down by this design philosophy, with the core gameplay suffering to make way for gorgeous visuals, and concepts completely outside the norm. Other games manage to use this sort of beautiful art design to create backdrops to excellently executed gaming experiences.

This is the challenge that Ascendant, a beat-em-up roguelike, has set for itself. As soon as the game begins, one thing is very clear: Ascendant is a beautiful game. The colors are vibrant and plentiful, with blues, oranges, reds, and greens combined in ways that give the game a very distinctive, and well-thought-out look. Using the four seasons as the inspiration for level design, each stage of the game has a distinct look and color pallete which, as stated before, is beautiful to behold. And though the soundtrack is simple in nature, the sounds present serve to enhance the visuals in a big way. Most of the music has a calm tone, which contrasts with the hectic nature of the hack and slash combat.

Putting you in the shoes of one of seven demi-god characters, you are tasked with raising yourself to full god status—hence the title. You do this by battling through the seasons of the year, going through both an early and late section of both. After you have completed these eight levels, you will progress through a final stage called ‘astral’. Astral is a fair degree longer than the previous levels, and will challenge your mastery of the game, easily providing the highest difficulty of the entire game. Once you manage to beat the game with a particular character, then that demi-god will be counted as ‘ruling the world’, and will grant an extra buff to the other gods as you play.

What makes Ascendant so special, even among the flood of games using the rogue formula, is that the meticulously crafted art approach is not just surface deep. In fact, in the brawler, the art is only its secondary strength. Ascendant really shines thanks to a set of rock solid combat mechanics that are easy to learn, but much more difficult to truly master.

Gameplay for Ascendant takes place on a two-dimensional plane, where you will platform around the randomly generated levels, slaying enemies to earn powerups and progress. At the end of each level, you will fight a boss character. Some of these bosses are notoriously simple, such as the goblin like Grunty at the end of stage one. Other bosses, as you will discover quite quickly, are far more difficult, and will push your knowledge of the movement and combat systems as far as possible. You will find yourself simultaneously dodging the attacks of the boss, dealing with the minions that often spawn with bosses, and trying to deal damage.

In some cases, you can have multiple potential bosses at the end of the level. This often makes the boss battle at the end of a stage feel like Russian roulette. If a simple boss is fought, the player will have more health remaining at the end of the conflict, and will thus have an easier time in the next level. Likewise, a more challenging boss is taxing, and escaping the fight itself is enough to make a player feel accomplished. If they manage to escape with more health though? Then the feeling of accomplishment is insurmountable as health is easily the most valuable resource.

It’s difficult to stress just how well the mechanics in Ascendant work. From the basic action of stringing together small combos on the ground, to the trickier and far flashier act of mixing melee with air juggles and magic to make your enemies your own personal playthings. Every nut and bolt within the game just feels right. Again, this is what is so impressive about Ascendant.

Happa Games, the developer, has even managed to make great use of an often fumbled aspect of the genre. Levels in Ascendant are procedurally generated. More often than not, this leads to levels feeling forced or unnatural, and ruins the flow of the game. In Ascendant, this is not the case; levels just feel right. Never do you walk into a room and feel like it was just created. Instead, it flows well, with enemies and rewards positioned in ways that make sense, and even manage to look good. After seeing many games fail at precisely this, it’s difficult to not give Ascendant praise for this seemingly small feat.

When talking about Ascendant, there isn’t a huge amount to be said. The game is beautiful both visually and technically. It is fun, difficult, and fair all at the same time. It suffers in very few points around the board. You will see the same enemies over and over again, with little changing aside from the aesthetic of the levels, which just boils down to some changed effects, and a new splash of paint. Across the staggering variety of weapons and spells, nothing truly feels unique and your play style will stay the same no matter what you are wielding.

Thankfully, in the end, these faults are minor, and one thing is very clear. Ascendant is the best entry in a genre that has been saturated constantly as of late, and anyone who appreciates both art and gameplay should play it. It is worth it.

Ascendant is out now for PC.


  • Mechanics are tight and precise
  • Beautiful art direction
  • Combat is fun, allowing you to feel both powerful and fallible all at the same time
  • Limited variety of enemies can get boring
  • Weapons boil down to stat changes and nothing more


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