Game: The Lord of the Rings – War in the North

The Lord of the Rings - War in the NorthFinished The Lord of the Rings: War in the North.

You play either a Ranger (Eradan), an Elf (Andriel) or a Dwarf (Farin) in a team of three to face the lieutenant of the Dark Lord, Agandaûr, which decided to conquer the North of Middleearh for his master. In the course of the game, you visit some landmarks from the movies like Rivendell, travelling through Dungeons and defeat Orcs and Trolls alike.

All in all, not a bad game.

And that’s on the plus side. But the game has some flaws and one major real downer.

The gameplay is some rather fast pace combat hack & slash looter. But without a focus system, which gets pretty chaotic if there are many foes to combat with.

The story is so linear and full of cliché it actually hurts.

The surroundings are pretty nicely done and some places are really new and add to the universe, like Nordinbad, but every time you run against invisible walls. These are mere countless in the game.

Sometimes the designer treated their players like morons, e.g. when you click “Start” the game asks you “Do you really want to start the game?” or the embarrassing attempt to explain the setting and storyline in dialogues. Having played the Ranger my character goes into other NPC like this: “So I’m ranger hero fighting evil all day. Now tell me, who is this ‘Sauron’ you are talking about, and who are you ‘Gandalf’?” Now, this example is a bit stressed and not in the game, but these lines are not far off. There is a better way to introduce the player to the setting than to have the hero of a game silly lines.

Next, I played with a controller and there is no explanation of the movements. I actually learned by accident how to run and roll in the game far too late.

As already said, the story is a bit naive and very railroaded.

But all these flaws are pale in comparison to the one major: the game has no soul. It has no character. It’s a game which was made to have a game adaption of a big movie to milk money from the players.

As such: technically not bad and not a bad game at all.

But, … well.

6 out of 10.6 out of 10

Game: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Hellblade: Senua's SacrificeFinished Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.

This is not a game but rather an experience. You play Senua a Celtic female warrior from the Pict tribe. You are suffering from psychosis and are hearing voices. So your clan exiles you for been “cursed by the Gods” and been inflicted with “the darkness”. Yet you return and find your whole clan massacred by Northmen. Even more, the only one who has been fond of you, your lover Dillian, brutally slaughtered. It is this moment in which you totally lose it and find yourself in a nightmarish world. Picking up the head of your lover (sic!) you travel to Helheim, the realm of Hela, daughter of Loki, to free the soul of Dillian. All the way you are facing illusions, hear voices in your head and fight your way through Northmen fighters appearing right out of some dark mist.

This is a trip into a psychotic mind and tries to mimick what people with that condition see and hear. Playing it with headphones is crucial since the Ninja Theory did a great job in making binaural 3D sounds. So you hear those voices sometimes right next to you, then from afar back, then on the left in front of you, etc.

And the Unreal 4 Engine is painting a gorgeous environment. This game has a marvellous, breathtaking scenery of the Orkney Isles.

Yet the game mechanics are very, very minimalistic: there is no inventory, no map, no quest-givers, no log, no nothing. It’s just you, the environment and the voices. Sometimes you get some visions from other people. Combat is light attack, heavy attack, parry and dodge. But that’s it.

At first, this feels weird and anachronistic. But after some time one gets accompanied with this interface and starts enjoying it. Even the combat feels intense since often then not you are facing more than one enemy at a time and you have quite some time keeping those foes at bay.

All in all a very, very clever and well done “game”.

On the con: there is only one save file and the games make auto-saves on checkpoints. For me, this is a big downer.

9/10 9 out of 10

Game: Path of Exile

Path of ExileStopped Path of Exile.

Path of Exile is a very good Diablo clone focused on multi-player gaming. You choose between a set of different (usual) characters and start your journey stranded on an island. You are in exile (for something I forgot). That’s the premise and on we go. In typical Diablo manner, you slash and hack your way to a base in which you can sell your scavenged goods.

At least here Path of Exile parts ways with Diablo. The economy in Path of Exile does not know money in the form of coins but rather you barter and trade goods like in the (very) old days: one piece of armour against 3 scrolls. At first, this seemed interesting to me, but then later on I realized, that

a) The “coin” is actually the “scroll of wisdom” with which you can identify dropped items.
b) As you can only stack up 40 of such scrolls, your inventory will rapidly fill it itself with scrolls.
c) Some items cannot be bought with these scrolls, but with chaos orbs (or something like that), which I failed to find or create.

This “economy” has, at least for me, the impact that the game gets weird: In order not to get too much of these scrolls I’m really picky about what to take with me and whatnot and rush through the level. Having already ~ 120 scrolls in my pocket can be considered rich already and therefore the whole landscape turned into a junkyard: as the game really seldom drops something useful, the areas are soon filled with parts of crap and it is littered fully. Once I passed through an area this whole area turned into a fantasy garbage site. This relates to (felt) 95% of the items dropped by monsters.

Now this, the indifference against equipment, slowly also overtook the storyline. I made my character to about level 28, but still, I did not have any clue about the story. Mainly because:

Tarkleigh: “Ah! Adventurer! It has been …”
Me: Skip!
Tarkleigh: “We are in dire need of …”
Me: Skip!
Tarkleigh: “To the east hides the monster of …”
Me: Skip!
Tarkleigh: “Would you kill …”
Me: Skip!
Tarkleigh: “Good luck and return …”
Me: Skip!

In the end, I very much missed any suggested plot in Path Of Exile, for the simple reason, that I really didn’t care.

And as a solo player, this is the death of a game.

Don’t get me wrong: for multiplayer types, this game offers a plethora of entertainment. Thousand things to do: like the menagerie, prophecies, etc. The creators and designers of Path Of Exile have filled this game with tons of interesting and intriguing game mechanics especially if you play with a couple of friends. Graphics are superb and from the game mechanic point of view, e.g. the tremendous passive skill tree in which one can get lost or the skill-as-jewel placed into sockets on weapons and armour, this game really takes new chances and delivers a very great experience.

But for me as a solo player… sorry. I got so bored as to uninstall the game at level 28 somewhere in Act 3. It turned very quickly from fun to work.

An excellent game for hardcore Diablo fans and multiplayer gamers. For these, I’d say 9 out of 10. Yet, it does not fully match Diablo III. The later is cinematic in nearly every detail. This game here is very good craftsmanship. Albeit a very, very good one at that.

But for myself? Just a 7 out of 10. Maybe if they reintroduced gold coins as payment for any item and “less is often more”.7 out of 10

Game: Silence

SilenceFinished Silence.

Silence is an adventure and the successor of The Whispered World. After an airstrike, you wake up in the land of Silence. In this, a false queen claimed reign who sent her Seekers to search for the splinter of the mirror in the throne room. This splinter is said to have magical powers. The false queen needs this splinter to claim her final power. You play Noah/Sedwick and Renie, his sister, to find your way in Silence. You join the rebellion against the false queen, find the splinter and try to get back into your own world.

Silence is a decent adventure, though the “adventure”-parts are very, very reduced: there is basically zero inventory, resulting in very limited interaction options. The main process is simply to click on the hot spots and see the story evolving. As such, the demands of the game are very, very low. It plays rather more like an interactive movie.

The story continues the theme of The Whispered World meaning: it beautiful, melancholic, sad and adorable at the very same time. Though the game is over in a couple of hours. The game does not bear any real challenges and thus lacks to deliver any feeling of success or mastery on some “riddles”.

Pros:
* Nice story (with a bitter ending though).
* Gorgeous graphics.
* Cute Renie.

Cons:
* Only one save game.
* Very short gameplay.
* Underwhelming riddles.

7/10 7 out of 10

Game: Lords of the Fallen

Lords of the FallenFinished Stopped Lords of the Fallen. I stopped playing Lords of the Fallen at the Lost Brothers boss (Boss #9).

Story: you play Harkyn, a once-been prisoner, who accompanies Kaslo to a Monastery to defeat the Rhogar: daemon like enemies of the evil God Adyr. In the monastery, the leader of the human resistance Antanas welcomes your help and you are the forefront to defend mankind.

The gameplay is a cheeky mimicry of the Dark Souls series.

Pro:

  • The graphics are quite well and the monastery feels cool.

Con:

  • Boy, Harkyn is way too sluggish! Even naked he’s acting ponderous.
  • The weapons and armour start been interesting but soon turn to implausible 12-year-boyish fantasy items.
  • … same as for the story. It provides some “twists” … to artificial prolong the game.
  • The NPC and the dialogues are … uhm … again: 12-year-boyish fantasy (minus the sex). Harkyn seems to have very little IQ.
  • The camera movement is awkward. In narrow spaces, it sometimes goes crazy and unusable.
  • The focus system inspired by Dark Souls is there but somehow lacking, e.g. I still did not grasp how to switch opponents right.
  • The inventory menu system is unclear and confusing and the handling is suboptimal.

I could go on. Lords of the Fallen looks promising. But playing the game? Nah, not so. As I was backtracking again into the monastery the game lost the fun and turned to work.

Sad.

4/10 4 out of 10

Game: Diablo III

Diablo IIIFinished Diablo III. Twice, once with the crusader and once with the necromancer. Diablo III is simply one big great b…tch of a hack-and-slay dungeon crawler.

The story itself circles again around the everlasting conflict between daemons and angels, humankind in the middle, nephalem and other mythical beings engaged in a maelstrom of battles. Finally, you’ll decide the faith of the world.

Along the path, you kill and loot, and kill and loot, and kill and loot, and kill and loot, … it’s a feast! New items keep dropping by the second, you wield fierce magic, summon the undead to fight for you or you hammer opponents to the ground with mighty weapons.

The setting is cool, and the details in the landscape and the setting is just f…king awesome! It’s incredible how many details the developers and designers have put into this game. Not only the presentation and graphics but also at nearly every element of the gameplay and design.

There’s however one thing which I withdraw a star: the need for a constant Internet connection to the battle.net servers. Also, if you have finished the game with a character, choosing another class is not a real experience. Yes, necromancer does play differently than crusader but essentially not very much.

Nevertheless, it is a milestone and with pure right the line to measure all other games of this genre.

9/10 9 out of 10

Game: Dishonored

DishonoredFinished Dishonored.

Nice game! You play Corvo Attano, the Lord Protector, whose agency is to protect the Empress and her daughter in a steampunk version of London called Dunwall. You are tricked, brought to the prison and should be executed as the scapegoat for the murder of the Empress. You manage to escape and then you go for a vengeance rampage.

This game is basically a stealth game with some mysterious magic powers given to you in a comic styled but somehow dystopian steampunk world. The story is well written, the world is nicely done, the graphics are done fine with an Unreal engine underneath.

All telling an interesting story very well done.

I finished the game twice:
* playing with Low Chaos, meaning killing no-one or at least very few. I failed the “Clean Hand” achievement by merely 4 kills.
* playing with High Chaos (at the highest difficulty). This was way easier than the Low Chaos walkthrough on normal difficulty, … but a massacre. I draw a gory, bloody line across Dunwall and was unstoppable.

8/10 8 out of 10

Game: Dragon’s Dogma, Dark Arisen

Dragon's Dogma: Dark ArisenFinished Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen. Puhh, this game is the far worst of all games … I like.

It’s very difficult to judge this one. There are so many interesting ideas integrated into the game, yet at the very same there are so many RPG 101 flaws, it makes one cry. It’s basically a Skyrim, Witcher 3, Two Worlds, Dark Souls cross-over, with huge boss monsters and the ability to climb on those while fighting.

* Pawns: you can create a bot to join you and you can add two more of these bots. They act as party members and accompany you throughout the land, which is cool. But the AI is rather poor and then: these pawns never shut the fck up! One nearly goes nuts of at least one of this idiots commenting on the scenery. Nearly every 5 seconds. Once, all my pawns jumped off a cliff into their death – which they do from time – and there was silence! My God, this was great! It nearly felt like Dark Souls… Also Pawns: when you think about it, you having basically cannon fodder at your disposal, which is acting like humans, talking like humans, pretending to be inferior to you and you basically act on them like they are trash… viewed with this perspective, it’s a little disturbing.

* Crafting: there’s crafting with a lot of different ingredients to do, yes. But most of the “treasure” you find, is just plain junk. Seldom you find a weapon or armour of good use and crafting take the route: you crate “from” not “to”. Meaning: you have X, let’s see what Y you can create with it. I think it should be the other way round: I want Y, let’s see if I have all X to create it and what’s missing. The approach in Dragon’s Dogma is just wrong.

* Only 1 save game. As an Open World game. No further comment needed.

* No mount or fast travel on a large map, but stamina depleting while running the landscape. No further comment needed too. This is stupid.

And there are some really bad ones, like the artificial wait states in the game menu, the pseudo-philosophical gibberish of the dragon and world’s lore, the endless backtracking and repetition and the very, very dull quests.

Still, it is not a fully bad game and there *are* some moments of enjoyment.

Light, with many, many shadows.

Nearly not to recommend, 6/10 6 out of 10

Game: Blackguards

Blackguards(Not quite) Finished Blackguards. Played all on Linux.

Blackguards is the battle mechanics of The Dark Eye. You are commanding a party of up to 5 different heroes and engage in various figths throughout the story which itself lets you visit various places in southern Aventuria.

Granted, the game has some nice ideas and the battles themselves are quite entertaining. But the game suffers from many drawbacks:

* First, the difficulty level in “easy” is very high. That’s why I quit the game at the end boss, Urias. Since at this stage it’s more a matter of luck than tactics.
* You can easily skill your heroes in a very wrong. You have no chance to re-skill.
* The story is somehow confusing and not very intriguing.
* The graphics in some places are quite good, which makes the bad rendering in the cut-scene even more obvious.

To sum up: a nice idea with potential, sadly wasted: 5/10 5 out of 10

Game: Metro Last Light

Metro Last NightFinished Metro Last Light. Played on Linux.

Metro Last Light is an FPS in the (very close) tradition of Half-Life 2. You play Artyom in Moscow after a nuclear war. The public government is broken, nonexistent and anarchy prevails. People fleed into the Metro (hence the name) to survive and escape the radioactive fallout. Mutants roam the streets and in the tunnels, adding up to the danger. Your character is a Ranger of The Order and finds himself in between the different factions like The Red (communists), Reich (Nazis), Bandits, … Though the game is very linear, the storyline is quite intriguing and in the course of actions you find friendship, are betrayed and discover a plot of mass destruction which – of course – you have to prevent.

And it is this story alongside the graphics the game shines. These two things are the strong points of Metro Last Light. Ok, the story abates to the end.

Next is your weapon arsenal: you have a good choice of the usual FPS weapons. There’s also some limited weapon crafting in the game.

… but then there is the gameplay itself. Looking closely, Metro Last Light is no match for Half-Life 2. Yes, the graphics are better and Metro has some nice immersive stuff, like wiping your mask. Yet, the game is thrifty when it comes to actual numbers and player orientation, guidance. You do not know your health stat in numbers or the quality of your guns. You have to judge the effectiveness of a weapon by the looks of it or how it feels to handle it. You also have no map of any area.

The game is very dim light in many, many places and interactive objects do not light up. Well, at least too weak for me to be noticed. I’m sure, I missed a ton on my playthrough. On the other hand, the game shows a lock symbol in your face when you cannot interact with a locker. But not on the thousand other objects, why?

On some maps, I got lost very easily. It’s not that the maps are big, but sometimes just confusing, e.g. in the Swamp I circled for ages until I found finally the gas. More often then not, I did not know where to go and stumbled to the next level rather by accident than by plan.

And finally, the save game mechanics: you have one single save and it’s checkpoint based. WTF?! This is just plain righteous stupid. When you got the next level, this is it. You can’t go back and try different things, different paths. For me, as a completionist, this is unacceptable. More than once I just stumbled to the next level by opening a door (e.g. Venice) and all my plans in doing different, new things in the level just before vaporized. That nagged on me more than once.

… or the hidden in-game moral level deciding which of the endings you will be offered. You do not get any feedback for some “good” and “right” actions, though I read online, that you get bad points for killing a lot while you get good points for various good deeds. Among these is … wait for it .. squeezing a teddy bear(?!). There’s no feedback on this right within the game for the player. So this is hard to verify.

Another, somehow irritating element: the game has a lot of spoken parts. Now, the voicing is in English with a heavy Russian dialect. This supports the idea, that the game takes place in the Moscow Metro. Without this, only the occasional signs in Cyrillic would give you this idea, since the game world could be likely anywhere else: Paris, New York. However, the people also talk with Russian English among themselves and the longer you think about this, the more awkward this appears. I mean, this dialect is very hard to blend out. It is omnipresent when you listening to the game. And as such it always stresses the fact, that the speaker is not speaking his mother tongue. As a result, it feels like no-one in the game speaks his mother tongue but turns to some clumsy Russian English when they speak among themselves, especially when you are around. Once I got this idea, it festered and then it’s just been super wired walking around people and listening to them. As if I have a big cap phrasing “Foreigner: at least try to speak English” on my head. That became quite silly in the end.

And, yes: it crashed about every half hour.

Summary: Metro Last Light has excellent storytelling, high-quality graphics, and some little nice immersive but fails badly on the details on game mechanics and overall gameplay. For me, the dumb choice on game saves has cost the game 2 points. An additional big minus for the obvious deliberate withhold of game information and playing stats for the player. The rest are minor quirks.

6/10 6 out of 10