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A scholar of geek culture with a specialty for fantasy.
Posts by Matthew Ahern
Spartacus Legends is a free-to-play fighting game on Xbox Live and PSN. The free-to-play model has the ability to be so invasive, that it can undermine the overall experience. Spartacus Legends is not plagued too much by these tactics, but it suffers from some debilitating gameplay flaws.
Set in Starz’s Spartacus universe, you take control of a whole roster of gladiators. Right from the start, a huge opportunity was missed. You are able to purchase gladiators, but you are given no information about their past. No background, personality traits, nothing. This could have been a game where you are connected to your characters, but instead, they are shallow segregates for carnage.
Combat is visceral and intense, albeit slightly glitchy and sporadically difficult. It works simple enough: there are light and heavy attacks, grapples, and knock back moves. While frame rate can plummet and controls can be finicky, it is the moments when you pull off the perfect move and destroy your opponents that make it so enjoyable.
Difficulty progression makes no sense whatsoever, the lower level generic opponents are frustratingly difficult while the bosses seem to be laughably easy. On top of that, this game requires a constant internet connection, which can be a problem when they fail to maintain their servers.
The graphics are poor, character models are stiff and environments are overly bland. There are only about 5 different in-game locations which may be disappointing for some, but the vast array of armors will likely satisfy.
Free-to-play microtransactions are not as intrusive as they could be. You are able to buy armor that is levels ahead of you but, if you are experienced at the game, then the extra armor doesn’t matter. There are moments of annoying microtransactions though. Unequipping skills in the place of new ones carries an unnecessary fee. This is so frustrating because it breaks the mold that allows you to put in time, rather than money to get what you want.
Spartacus Legends, is no masterpiece. Issues appear in every aspect of the game. That being said, fun can be had and it is completely free.
In theory, free-to-play seems like an excellent model for both the creator and the player. Most of the time, it is. However, when a game becomes pay-to-win, that is when things begin to fail. Doritos Crash Course 2 adopts many of the pay-to-win strategies that come at a detriment to the overall experience, and yet, there are still salvageable moments to be found.
When you play Crash Course 2 for the first time, you are given one map for free. Everything from then on is purchasable content. You are able to earn tokens through in – game accomplishments, this allows you to purchase many of the basic maps in the single player. Unfortunately, it is the details of the game that destroy the experience. When you buy a course, you only buy a part of it. The other part is available for an extra purchase. Power ups and bonuses are rarely earned, so they must be bought. The problem with this is, if you don’t purchase the extra content, you are put at a severe disadvantage in single and multiplayer.
In single player, you race against three other AIs. They range in content availability. Some have no advantages, but the most challenging competitor has the full course and many different power ups available to them. This makes it nearly impossible to win without paying for more content. Despite this, the maps are entertaining and the mechanics are a bit smoother albeit slightly more forgiving than the original. Multiplayer also is fun despite the potential advantage that other players have over you.
The fun begins to fade away when you listen to the terrible soundtrack. It’s not that the music is bad, but it constantly skips or repeats itself as if it is stuck on one note. However, the various locations such as, Egypt and Antarctica offer a wider variety than its predecessor.
The original Crash Course was a great title that was completely free. While smaller in scope, it offered a more fulfilling experience. Doritos Crash Course 2 had the advantage of making up for some of the shortcomings of the original, and it did. Unfortunately, these successes were clouded by micro-transactions.
When originally announced, Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny of King Washington seemed to be a refreshing departure from the core franchise. Unfortunately, this DLC was boring and unjustifiably expensive. However, despite these flaws, fun can still be had here.
The issues start early. For some reason, Connor retains his memories from the original reality while he is physically the Connor of this alternate reality. They never explain it, nor does it begin to make any sense. This is just the start what is wrong with this story. It is terribly paced, the first two thirds of the game feels desperately slow with little to break it up. Elements such as the animal spirit powers are poorly introduced and supporting characters are almost never fleshed out. Despite all of these issues, the final third of the plot was both exciting and dramatic.
Playing with the new spirit animal abilities definitely adds a new layer of gameplay to the traditional Assassin’s Creed formula. Using the wolf to stealth, eagle to fly, and bear to destroy everything around Connor, you can now kill like you’ve never killed before. Instead of adding a mana bar, these powers drain your health, so balancing these powers during combat becomes an important factor.
Connor’s new Native American design is very detailed and fitting of this alternate world. The war-torn landscapes of the frontier and Boston fit the desperate feel of this reality and King Washington’s colossal pyramid in the center of New York is fitting for his vast power. There is nothing else that stands out, supporting characters look the same, and the military has no royal flair to it. If the soundtrack was changed, it wasn’t by any means noticeable.
This game is a complete chore to get though in the beginning but the experience is somewhat redeemed by the rather impressive ending. However, this is not worth the 30 dollars Ubisoft is charging. There is just not enough content to validate the price point. If you like Assassins Creed III and want to see more of Connor, then you will enjoy this, but for everyone else, stay away.
After long last, Deadpool has finally received his own game. Deadpool is the crazy, misogynistic, merc with the mouth from the Marvel Universe. The game goes above and beyond what makes Deadpool great. Unfortunately, this comes at a detriment to gameplay, content, and overall polish.
The story revolves around Deadpool attempting to make his own video game. However, much like Deadpool’s mind, this game makes no sense. This is due, in large part, to Deadpool tearing up the game’s script within the first chapter. The main story is just there to allow for that off the wall Deadpool humor. This merc with the mouth is not the only voice inside his head, he is joined by two different voices that provide consistent, and hilarious banter.
A slew of other characters appear in the game to either fight or aid Deadpool, and while many will require a Marvel scholar to identify, some, such as Wolverine, are popular enough characters for any player to recognize. Constantly breaking the fourth wall, making sexist comments, and acting like an overall deranged lunatic, Deadpool is represented perfectly in his game.
Despite such a fantastic single player story, Deadpool leaves a lot to be desired in gameplay. Melee combat feels solid, if not slightly generic, and while gunplay is not exactly polished, it is functional. Everything works well enough here, but bland level design, and the miniscule amount of enemy types detract from the overall experience. The graphics are poor with muddy textures. On top of all that, the game is about seven hours long with only throwaway challenge modes afterwards.
The sound work is another high note for this title. The voiceover by Nolan North is absolutely incredible and he is now, more than ever, the voice of Deadpool. The soundtrack to Deadpool is complementary to the environments, and though it does not stand out, it doesn’t get in the way.
High Moon Studios has done a commendable job with Deadpool’s first video game. It is just unfortunate that they could not polish the gameplay up to the level of the character they brought to life.
Indie games have never been my favorite. I find the quality to be all across the map and they often have an amazing aesthetic but are shallow in every other aspect. The Night of the Rabbit certainly has a beautiful design but there is so much more to enjoy.
First in foremost is the story. You play a young boy named Jerry Hazelnut during his second to last day of summer vacation. While exploring the wilderness around his house he discovers a magical anthropomorphic rabbit named Marquis de Hoto. He is then whisked off to the mysterious land of Mousewood, where all the inhabitants are animals. Taking a page out of Alice in Wonderland, The Night of the Rabbit is so whimsical and cleverly charming that every bit of dialogue and every new location is an absolute joy to experience. Because I was instantly enthralled in the universe Daedalic had created I did not mind the rather slow pacing in the beginning but others may.
Art and sound design is key to making this entire experience function. Not only do the hand drawn characters and backgrounds compliment this very storybook-esque narrative but they also build a world so entirely unique. The main theme of this game was phenomenal, the soundtrack is so entrancing that it just begs to be listened to again and again.
Gameplay on the other hand is not as impressive. It is a point-and-click with a heavy emphasis on puzzles. They are sometimes very challenging and they require a great deal of common sense (which I apparently have none of). While not bad, there is nothing new here. In the end, the puzzles feel like filler before you are given more story which makes it all the more frustrating when you are unable to solve one of them quickly.
The Night of the Rabbit gives me faith in the indie market. It has single-handedly changed my opinions on an entire genre. Good experiences can be found with indies, you just need to know where to look. While just shy of greatness, Night of the Rabbit delights nonetheless.