Do you remember the days when video games were sprawling with complexity and slightly confusing level-up options? Blackguards is a turn-based RPG that seeks to evoke the deep strategy and intricacy of games such as Baldur’s Gate and Dragon Age: Origins. Unfortunately, Blackguards is in some ways a study in why video games have moved on.
Blackguards starts with the main character in prison, falsely accused of murder. There are some hints of an interesting antihero story, but the people who put you behind bars are so comically evil that there’s no question you’re simply a standard video game protagonist.
The voice acting is wonderfully overdone - the evil bailiff laughing maniacally, the main character with a confident protagonist voice, and the dwarf companion with the same, vaguely Scottish accent shared by dwarves throughout fantasy video games. The voices do a good job of supporting the story, but they’re so over the top that one wonders if Blackguards is simply poking fun at games that take themselves too seriously.
The combat is clearly where most development time was spent. While towns in Blackguards are essentially menu screens with a pretty picture of a town in the background, every combat encounter takes place in a full 3D environment. The battle-field is a grid of hexes, and characters take turns consisting of a move action then one attack or item use, clearly taking several pointers from Dungeons and Dragons.
Blackguard’s skill system is even more retro - the weapon proficiency for longswords is completely separate from the proficiency for fencing swords. It’s often hard to tell if the skill points you spend are making any difference in gameplay.
Blackguards captures the subtle complexities of many older games, but doesn’t do much to set itself apart from the crowd – the story and setting are clichéd and overused, and the combat isn’t fresh or engaging enough in itself to recommend the game. It’s a solid experience, but what today’s gaming market needs.
Well, what can I say about the much-needed breath of fresh air that is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag? Finally, Ubisoft has released the next installment that gives the series a fresh new feel. Black Flag sees new protagonist Edward Kenway on a journey to become the most feared pirate on the Caribbean seas in this highly entertaining adventure.
You will see Captain Kenway accepted into the Assassins Guild, and trained along the way by the likes of the feisty, yet mysterious James Kidd, AKA Mary Read. There are so many fantastic elements to this game, both great and small. One of the best is having the ability to commandeer your own ship, The Jackdaw. Edward’s ship is crucial to explore the vast open-sea and to plunder the countless amounts of enemy ships (Which is, may I add, the reason as to why I keep getting distracted from the main storyline).
Speaking of the main storyline missions, this is for me, what lets the game down ever so slightly. This is only because they seem difficult, especially some of them should be so simple to complete. It’s probably because I’m not a good enough assassin but on most of the missions, I’ve had to play them over again. Although the missions are hard, it’s not made any harder with the mechanics, which make the free running almost flawless.
All this being said, one thing that cannot and will not be overlooked is the sheer beauty of Black Flag. The gorgeousness is just never ending, which is of course a good thing. The thing I’m in awe at the most is when I am sailing the seas with my crew and a whale or a dolphin does a flip out of the water.
There is so much substance to this game, it is nigh on impossible to cover everything. One thing I do love though: being able to pet all of the cats to my heart’s contempt.
Forza Motorsport 5 is a racing simulator game that puts you in the seat of a professional driver. There isn’t really a set story or anything to the game, you just go to race after race trying to get gold in every event. Not every event is a strict race though. There are head to head races with or without traffic, knocking down giant bowling pins, passing as many cars as possible in two laps, and plain races.
Personally I have played and enjoyed the Forza Motorsport 2, 3, and 4 games, so I was not very surprised with this game. I will say that I was amazed by the change from using programmed computer AI to an AI (called “drivatar”) that learns to race like other people to use as your racing opponents. Another use for this it that the computer learns how you drive and then places you in other races when you are not online in effect having you earn credits while not even online.
The minimum number of races you have to complete before the game gives you a drivatar is 4 races or so, but the game learns with every race to maximize the similarity, or synchronization, to your style. I have raced over 100 races and have a “synchronization” somewhere around 45% just to get an idea.
I really like the feel of racing actual people without having to go online, and online multiplayer can be set up with just drivatars. This was very helpful when I played a few races online with my cousin since we didn’t have to worry about finding a full room of people or listen to any trash talk.
My favorite thing about Forza 5 is that your opponents are first filled by your friends list that have a drivatar, so it is like I am racing my cousin in every plain race I participate in. This does lead to some friendly competition and laughs when I get a text complaining about something my drivatar did in game.
Overall, if you enjoy racing games, I would highly recommend adding this Forza to your game library. There are many events that are fun to play, many different options and challenges for online, and many cars to look at and admire. My only complaint is that as of the last time I played, the marketplace wasn’t open and I couldn’t gift a car like in the other Forza games.
Curiosity drove me to Gomo. I was enthralled by the game’s quirky aesthetics — and its awfully sully premise was a big plus— but as the proverbial cat who reached a fatal end, I would have been wise to stay away from the object of my curiosity. This is not to say Gomo is a bad game, because it isn’t. In fact, Gomo is a fairly decent — if a little straight forward — point-and-click adventure: the mechanics work, the story serves its purpose, and the team at Fishcow Studios, never fell into the genre-trap of making puzzle solutions too obscure. It’s all very functional… and nothing more.
It only took me two hours to complete the main campaign and find the three hidden objects needed to open the bonus whack-a-mole stages. Two hours isn’t a whole lot of time and yet, when the credits rolled, all I could think of how meaningless the experience felt.
To be fair, all my grips with the game may be caused by the simple fact that (and this is just a hunch) I’m not part of Gomo’s intended audience. I get this feeling particularly from the game’s lack of challenge. Every answer to a puzzle is right there, in front of you, almost shouting and pointing to itself.
Add to this the goofy animations, a story that features an alien abducting your dog for a ransom, and a great amount of slapstick humor, while lacking any kind of character development, sentiment or stand. It all hints at a product developed for a young audience.
For the most part Gomo is a decent point-and-click adventure game. It never stays away from genre conventions and it never tries to, opting safety over risk. When looked through the eyes of a child new to gaming the game’s design and challenge makes sense; without that filter, all falls apart: it is too easy, too short, too conventional and too conservative. A month from now I won’t remember Gomo.
Jumping around and killing things is, for some indeterminate reason, the core mechanic of a large portion of video games today. Wooden Sen’Sey is an indie platformer set in a vaguely Japanese world. The intro cutscene was a bit difficult to understand, but I got the general idea that an alien entity had attacked my village and stolen all the liquor. It’s not a bad way to start a game, and certainly less stereotypical than a princess being carried off by a large turtle.
Fluid controls and colorful environments make the game a joy to traverse, with the exception of a submarine section with clunky movement and only one type of attack. Another surprising thing in Wooden Sen’Sey’s vibrant expression of Japan is the uninspired enemy design. A majority of the baddies are simply black blobs with eyes— it almost feels like the artists ran out of time.
Combat in Wooden Sen’Sey is solid — equipped with God-of-War-esque axes on the ends of chains, smashing and slicing enemies is smooth and satisfying. Throwing your axes at certain ceilings allows you to swing on the chains, providing an intuitive and enjoyable traversal mechanic.
The real difficulty in Wooden Sen’Sey isn’t in the combat, though — sections of precision platforming and very lethal environments present a good challenge for the experienced platformer, but also have the potential to really slow down the experience for those enjoying the combat aspect. This game has a slightly archaic ‘lives’ system, and dying enough times results in restarting the entire level, a very frustrating experience.
Wooden Sen’Sey isn’t revolutionary, but it is still, at points, fun. Combat and traversal are enjoyable, and the platforming, while sometimes overly challenging, is at least satisfying to complete. What it lacks in polish, it makes up for in spirit. This game won’t change your life, but it will fill your afternoon.