Monday, 25 October 2010

The Ball Review

Here's a history lesson for all you people out there. "The Ball" started life as an Unreal Tournament 3 mod last year, it was nomonated for Best Art Direction and Best Single Player mod by MODDB in 2009, it won FIVE TIMES in the UT3 Make Something Unreal contest and was used to promote Epic Games' UDK. So as you could expect the team who made the original "The Ball" turned into an Indie Developer and started to make a full release of "The Ball". So this game has alot going for it now, not only are the fans of the mod looking for more content to dig there teeth into but to see if the concept of "The Ball" will work outside the Modding Scene. So here we go.

Story: Right...ummmm... there isn't one! OK there is one but it's not very good, you play an archeologist, who has a thing with Indiana Jones. He is digging in Mexico (probably looking for E.T. the game) when he goes down a hole, the crane breaks and you decide to explore (or you could throw down a rope and pull him back up...Just saying) when you find... the secret Apature Science Lab testing fercility!!! Anyway that's the basic story of "The Ball" there is another strory about an achent race of people but I didn't really find it intresting, the plot points where too spred out so I didn't really connect to that story till the very end. In all the story isn't very good at all, in fact it's almost non-exsistance.

Gameplay: The meat of the game... the gameplay. So here we go, the only weapon you have is a sort of gravity gun that can only control one thing...a ball. With your Ball you can throw it or call it, as you may think it's very ferminual however the puzzles used are unique and are not used from other games in any way. For example here's a puzzle; you must find a way to complete a puzzle to get a pole down to open a door, to do this you must fill the room with water to get to a diffrent floor and to get your ball to remove a pole to finish the puzzle, however when you fill up the room you ball will sink to the bottem meaning you can't remove the pole to finish the puzzle thus your puzzle is born. This may not be the best puzzle in the game but it is a good example of what you go through, there are also diffrent types of puzzles like helping your ball through a maze and finding ways to destroy enemies when your ball is across the room.

Talking of enemies, enemies can only be killed by your ball, you have to squeesh them this can give tention when you get to areas where your ball is taken away from you, however there is a big downside in the difficulty. As I said earlier about the puzzle with the water, yeah that's an easy puzzle, well not really it just felt easy like I did little to nothing to complete them. Like me give you another example you know that big monkey boss seen in the screenshots, it looks like a awesome boss however it's underwelming when fighting him because defeating him is SOO easy, the way you kill him is fireing big cannon balls at him, I won't spoil it any more but it's really easy. This is not just at the start of the game, oh no, I go through the whole game at the same diffaculty.

Another bad thing is that the puzzles have no reasoning and connection to what your doing, for example most the time the puzzles are just set up infront of a locked door and completeing them make no sense on how the puzzle makes the door open. Infact when I complete a puzzle I'm almost expecting a Zelda chime to start ringing.

All in all I'm reminded of Portal when playing this game, however Portal had two things that made it great; a great story and difficult puzzles, also I halt you now writing a hateful email telling me how wrong I am I would like to say that I'm actually recommending this game...just. You see there is just something addicting to the game that it just becomes...mytsic even thought the game is so easy it flows really well and though the story is disconnected and almost nonexistant, I don't really care. The game just has this kinda addiction to it making you want to see the next creative, however easy puzzle. I do recommend it to castle puzzle players however looking for something difficult or even challanging you'll be deeply dissapointed. I feel sorry for this game because it's being released so close to Portal 2 which will almost definantly over shadow "The Ball" what ever it does.

Liam Hackett

Friday, 22 October 2010

Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes

So here's a game where Western RPG's with abit of  JRPG's and RTS are thrown together to make a mish mash of the two genre giving a very strange but yet very addicting game. However is this game the good type of addiction like...ummm... well like something or the bad type of addiction like well everything!!

Story: The story is about taking on a cult called "the Dark Church" (with a name like that how could they be evil?), how do you do this? Well you gather an army of criminals and women (that's my kind of army), "but Liam!"you may ask "what about the normal army that should be dealing with this" well there kinda dead. Yep killed, every single one of them.

The game starts out as you, Drake, decides to kill himself after failing to pass the academy exam to get into the army. However this is seen to be a godsend when he finds out that the whole army has been anihalated by the Dark Church. So he teams up with a spoof of Duke Nukem (you heard me) as you gather your army. The Characters are very well made and the Duke Nukem while being abit like (but I can see a whole lot of other characters being like this soon) and his line are well made and are exacuted well (when I mean well exacuted I mean writen well because there is not voice acting) so I don't really have many problems whith them... well that can be said about all the charicters there have good lines are exacuted well and don't bother me, yes most of the jokes are a flop but there did get a small little giggle out of me at least.

Gameplay: Well think of a mix between DOTA, Final Fantasy and well any western RPG that has ever come out over the last 10 years, that's a loose comparisont to Evil Heroes. To be honest it's more a new genre than a mix of them (I may be wrong becuase I don't play JRPGs). The combat is more on a turnbased structure where you can move anywhere you want if it is coverd by a blue tile, From there you can choose to attack and eneme if close enough wait till the enimies have had there tern or do into a defence position (more end turn than anything). Combat is OK can be a bit bland at times but does get spiced up when abilities and a sort of rage meter get incorporated. Battles are exciting when battleing more than 3 enimies, the difficultly curve takes a big bend at the second "level" if you can call them areas (there more cohesive and attached so I would rather call them area's) which can be a big shock when all of a sudden you find that running in guns or in this case swords blazing will give you a quick death as a reward, the game wants and rewards you by thinking battles through and it's highly satisfing when distroying a whole army with little damage.

However one of the biggest annoiences is the broken camera that will frequently annoy you by running away from the character and focusing on some random tree (or hedge) in the background. What I can't get my head around is how come we're still having problems with stuff like this I thought we finished with bad cameras 5 years ago,(Tomb Raider dude -Witty) but no this problem is very big because it can throw you out of the emertion and screw up your game and you constantly fight the camera to be in the right position. This will probably be patched by right now it's a big problem, may not be game breaking but a problem non the less.

All in all Grotesque is a unique game to say the least it's bright enviroments and witty lines give the game a charm of which is dying these days. So should you buy it...well sort of if your a RPG fan then yes pick it up but don't expect the next Dragon Age becuase it isn't but it fills the void till it comes out. 

Liam Hackett

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Wittyreviews: Winter Assault

Why does this cover remind me of C&C 3?

Could it be called an expansion or a sequel? Technically neither. It was it's own seperate game, but equaly it has nothing to do with the original Dawn of War game. There is only one reference to the original and that comes in late. Nether the less, Winter Assault is the second DoW game, so let's take a look. (And yes, I am aware it says "Expansion Pack" on the box, I'm just makeing a point)

So Winter Assault takes place at...some point after Dawn of War. For the first time in the DoW you are able to play as more than one race. Either the Imperial Guard (or IG), The Eldar, The Orks or Chaos. Each has their own story to unfold, though they intertwine at points. Playing the Order campaign for instance means you will be following the IG and Eldar while the Disorder follows the Orks and Chaos. The plot is practically the same though, just told from different perspectives. The plot circles around one of the Imperiums greatest weapons: The Titan Dominatus. A massive war mech that once was the pride of the Imperiums fleet, along with the other Titans. During the Horus Heracy (one of the many great conflicts within the Imperium) many of the Titans defected or were destroyed. And, since building just one takes alot of time, men and resources, they were scrapped. Thus, the recovery of the recently found one out in the armpit of space is important. Thus, General Sturrn of the Cadian Regiment is sent to recover it.

Don't forget your stick, George
Before him he faces the Chaos Legions protecting their conquered works and the full Ork Waaagh. Also keeping a carefull eye on events are the mysterious Eldar, who have their own agenda as always. In detail, the Order campaign begins with General Sturnn landing on the planet and attempting to take a fortress from Chaos to use as a firebase for his assault. The Eldar, while lurking, realise that the IG are about as intelligent as the average bee drone and decide that they have to do everything for them. Thus follows a plot of IG and Eldar on a systematic race to the Titan, all the while trying to work out how best to bump eachother off. Disorder follows the great Warboss Gorgutz (TM) as he sets out to crush and kill everything in his path, thus proving he is the best. Meanwhile, the Chaos lord Crull is annoyed that he's running out of stuff to kill, just in time for the IG and Orks to arrive! Fun times. Gorgutz really just wants the Titan so he can smash it, while Crull wants it to, yes, prove he is the best.

Ladies and Gentlement, the Beatles!

As this is the first game where you can play as the IG you'll quickly learn something, they blow...hard. A single squad of Chaos Space Marines can wipe out a Guardsman squad with realtive eas most times. The properly upgraded Guardsmen can handle it, but be prepared for heavy casualties. I suppose that's why they're so cheap to produce. The other problem with them is that they suck in close combat too, so orks can overrun. That's only the rank and file though, you also have other units at your disposal. The Karaskin, or as I call them "The Uber Guardsmen" can be pretty handy at Take and Hold duty. The beefy dudes with the huge ass bayonetes can handle the Possesed Marines easily and the Imperial tanks can pretty much hammer an enemy into destruction before even haveing to fire a shot from a lazgun. The Eldar are also pretty soft, but make up for it by being freakin' awesome in close combat. Their main tactic is strikeing hard and fast and then running away, use this wisely. Their Howling Banshees can hold their own in close combat for a while, but once one bites it it's time to run. Guardians are another story, ignore them completely. They suck in all aspects, even by IG standards. The other units are pretty much the same deal as eachother, just hit hard and run. Orks and Chaos works similiarly to eachother, they're both designed to hammer you untill you cave in under the combined preassure. Orks have numbers on their side, and it makes them formiddable in force. Chaos can toast an IG army quick unless you have a good number of tanks to bolster them. The only real worthwhile tank the Orks have is their Squigoth, Yeah, that one thing you killed in DoW? They're back.

Winter Assualt also introduces one of the most awesome, funny and scenery eatingist villans ever! Warboss Gorgutz. There isn't a single moment when he isn't chewing some part of the scenery, being it talking with Crull the Chaos Lord or yammering to his Boyz about how awesome he is. His reason to be fighting is simply so he can get more heads for his pointy stick. Something else of note, is that Gorgutz and the Eldar leader Taldeer are the only recurring characters in the series from now up untill DoW2. Sadly, however, Taldeer will be leaveing us next game. It would seem she forgot the Eldar golden rule: Lurk moar.

Winter Assault is, in a few words; pretty damn good. It's worth a play if you liked DoW and a worthwhile entry in the series. Strangely, this is also the last time there will be a story driven narrative untill DoW2. Next game, it follows a sort of Risk type play style in the last GOOD game in the original DoW series: Dark Crusade. (Soulstorm can blow me)

Final Score: 4/5

By: Wittyreviewer.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Wittyreviews: Dawn of War

Dawn of war: GARbat evolved

Ah Games Workshop, one of my favourite haunts when I go out to the mall on occasion. I used to bring out the box of models, crack the player handbook and wile away the hours conquering the plains and retaking them from hordes of Orks, Eldar and the occasional Necron invasion. As you can probably tell my favourite part of Games Workshop is the Warhammer 40K series. It's...well grim and dark. My favourite races are the Space Marines and the Tau, both I happen to be fairly decent with. Hell, in ages past I was known as One Shot for never missing a combat dice roll for an entire week, dunno how I managed it. And since the film based on the series is right around the corner I think it's a good idea for me to look back on one of the best series of games to come out of the Warhammer 40K name, Dawn of War.

Featureing Sir Not Appearing In This Film

Before I get into the meat of it though. Allow me to explain the plot of the Warhammer 40K universe in some detail. As the old addage goes, "In grim darkness of the 40th Millenium, there is only war". Earth has been renamed Terra and all of mankind is now ruled over the a man simply known as The Emperor. The Emperor has ruled for over a thousand years and he revered as a God. This 'Imperium of Man' now stretches through most of the known universe. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near that simple. All of mankind may be united, but they are under seige from all sides from aliens and heretics. The Eldar, one of the oldest races in the universe (though now heading towards extinction) view humans as an arrogant race who have no idea what damage they do to the worlds. The Orks, battle hungry green aliens who, as their more famous warboss Gorgutz puts it, only enjoy 3 things: Fighting, fighting and banners. The Necrons, machines who's only goal is the complete eradication of all life and the arch enemies of the Eldar. The Tyranids, alien beasts who devour everything in their path, without number and without mercy. The youngest race of all, the Tau, who somehow are technically advanced though only recently heading into space. And the forces of Chaos, fallen humans who turn to demons for power and corrupt the land around them. These races all fight for undisputed supremecy in the universe for their God, for their people of for da great waaaagh (yeah, Orks don't have war, they have waaaagh).

Orks: There are NEVER enough

The Imperium of man, in particular, has many branches to it's nature. Apart from their usual rank and file soldiers they have the Space Marines. They are bionically enhanced soldiers who are split into 'chapters' which go off fighting the various enemies they have. Dawn of War in particular focuses on one of these chapters known as the Blood Ravens. Canonically the Blood Ravens have a very mysterious past, as very little of their history remains even aboard their capital ship and even who their founder was is forgotten to them. Sadly, this doesn't come up in the series untill Dawn of War 2. In the first game, the world of Tartarus is under attack by the Orks, and the Blood Ravens third company are dispatched to help the Imperium soldiers stationed there. At first, it would appear to be rather straight forward, however as the game goes on it is revealed there is far more to the invasion than meets the eye and an even stronger force is pointing the Orks in the right directions. Betrayals, plot twists and OP'd tanks abound, but you don't wanna know about all that, you want to get the bear grit. Well let's see.

It plays exactly like every kind of RTS game ever. Make a squad, move a squad, kill enemy squad, rinse and repeat. But it's pretty fun to do so, praise be that it's not an annoying grind of a play through. The enemy AI never really tries to out 'think' you but it certainly tries to out 'fight' you. Often you'll find yourself faced by a massive force that's pretty hard to beat, especialy late game. Although sadly, with the objectives being more than the simple 'capture and defend this point' it's hard to fully exploit the Blood Ravens battle potential and often you'll find yourself going for the simple infantry rush to hammer at the enemy untill you reach the objective. There are no aircraft, and there won't be untill Soulstorm, so get used to ground only combat. APC's are pretty much useless unless you're going for a bull rush to the goal, which I don't personaly recomend as often the enemy will follow you even when you're speeding away. And lastly, keep in mind that the enemy CAN and WILL go after your base. Don't think because you're battleing at the other end of the map that the enemy isn't sending something after your base. Often simple objective turrets help to ward them off but if that doesn't work keep a squad or two back, just incase. One thing to note is in this game the Imperial Guard (the rank and file of the Imperium) do NOT suck. In every game from then on they only act as meat shields unless they attack en masse, but more on that next time.

Considering the already established canon the game had before it, it does a very good job of sticking to it. Indeed, it keeps everyone in character and delivers what could possibly be....a good performance?

Final Score: 4/5.

By, Wittyreviewer.