Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Game Review - The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Game Review - The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Score +1/-7


A fairly typical hidden object game in gameplay, but featuring very good background artwork.

+ Very good artwork in background images and the cutscenes. The hidden object scenes are somewhat average, however. Some of the artwork does appear to be unfinished, however, such as the filigree or other details on some parts of the queen's clothes.
- The introduction movie cannot be skipped. Once you've seen it a couple of times, it's nice to be able to press [ESC] or something to skip it and go straight to the main menu.
- The hidden object scenes are filled with objects that are implausibly placed, often implausibly sized, and frequently anachronistic and inappropriate to the culture/geographic region of the story.
- Very poor attention to detail: For example, in the very first hidden object scene, one of the items to find was a "necklace". There were at least two necklaces, but they weren't the correct ones and could not be picked up. When we used a hint to discover the correct necklace, it was what appeared to be a flower wreath around a stone lion head carving on the wall. In a later market scene, there are two wagon wheels. One of the objects to find is a "wheel", but only one of the wagon wheels qualify.
- Inappropriately named objects: In a market scene, a large floor carpet on top of a tarp is a "rag". There are similar cloths or carpets on clotheslines, but they don't count.
- Clicking on an object does not always select it. For example, if you click a harp where the strings would be, it does not count -- you have to click the frame. Combined with duplicated items, this can lead to a lot of wrong clicks as you experiment with which object you are supposed to click.
- Spelling and grammatical mistakes. Just because English is not the developer's first language doesn't mean this can be excused, since it is a very popular language to being with that a proper translation shouldn't have been hard to outsource. If they did outsource to a translator, they should definitely get their money back.
- The immediate story needs more introduction and context. We start in a cluttered bedroom and ultimately find a golden dagger which we are told is a key and she is lucky to have found it. But why is the Queen there in the first place? Where is she going, or is she going to just stumble into adventure?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fallout 3 Mod Review - Apocalypse Armoury

Fallout 3 Mod Review - Apocalypse Armoury

Score: +4/-4

Summary: Adds a lot of weapons and ammo types to the game, mostly guns.

Why Get This: Expands the interestingness of weapons with more (mostly) guns. Tends to give one type of gun for each of the main gun skills (Big Guns, Energy Weapons, Small Guns).
++ Greatly broadens the range of options for vanilla and DLC weapons. Every weapon has its own model, so this is not simply a retexture or having different stats on recycled weapon models.
+ Gives you automatic, sniping, and explosive weapons for every skill, so that you really need only focus on one weapon skill. In the original game, some features were available only in certain weapon classes.
+ Some interesting unique weapons, sometimes with interesting powers.
- Unbalanced critical percentages, often 1.00 or even more. In the vanilla game, automatic weapons tended to have fractional critical hit chances of about 1/(shots per second).
- Can grossly exceed vanilla weapon ranges. Not as huge a problem as you might think since some vanilla weapons are already very powerful and there is only so much damage you can deal before the rest is wasted. Where the problem often lies is in the fragility of NPCs under fire from the new weapons -- the chances of a powerful weapon spawning on an enemy is suddenly much higher.
- Can lead to annoying ammo micromanagement because you can't get enough ammunition of the type you want, or you are maintaining a very large selection of weapons based on your available ammunition, especially if your ammunition is varied but you don't have many rounds of a particular type. Also, some ammunition is rare to extremely rare, such as crossbow bolts and needler cartridges.
- Repair lists could be much more inclusive so more weapons repair others. In vanilla Fallout 3, one of the inventory management and weapon maintenance mechanics is partially resolved by having not that many weapons. Weapons continually degrade from use, so they need to be continually repaired. Each time you repair something, it consumes and entire item from your inventory. With Apocalypse Armory, you will find a lot of weapon variants, so getting one weapon that can repair the one you want to keep will be much more of a lottery, which in turn can lead to inventory issues.

Overall, the range of weapons given by Apocalypse Armoury is mostly eye-candy. As you start to get better weapons and if you can stock enough ammunition (or can use a lot of stealth to conserve ammunition), you will drop the rest of the weapons, which then defeats the purpose of the vast variety, except you get to see it on enemies.

If you feel the game is too easy as it is, then getting Apocalypse Armoury will feel like you're cheating.

Fallout 3 Mod Review - Weapon Mod Kits

Fallout 3 Mod Review - Weapon Mod Kits (WMK)

Score: +3/-1

Summary: Add an Auto-Fire Mechanism, Extended Magazine, Laser Sight, Scope, and/or Silencer, to most hand guns and some other weapons.

Why Get This: Expand the usefulness and interestingness of your weapons. Hardly any customization for Big Guns.
+ Visible additions to the weapons for more immersion.
++ Greatly broadens the range of options for vanilla and DLC weapons.
- Some sense of cheating here, especially with Silenced weapons. For example, the original game featured only two silenced weapons -- the Silenced 10mm Pistol and the Dart Gun. Silenced weapons are a huge advantage because they help you stay hidden while shooting from a moderately close distance (often the worst case is [CAUTION] when you miss). This meant you really only had a silenced peashooter weapon, and against tough adversaries (or on Hard Difficulty) you could only use it stealthily draw individual enemies aside instead of getting 1-shot kills. With WMK, you can have silenced powerful weapons, exacerbating an already unbalanced Stealth issue in Fallout 3.

Despite the possible issue with Stealth, this is a great mod to have to make your guns interesting, and the kits aren't so pervasive and easy to get, spreading out the effect over the course of your gameplay. Ultimately, however, it will typically come down to a choice between having Automatic Fire or having your weapon Silenced since the former increases your weapon spread while the latter is generally exclusively for sniping and also lowers the damage.

If you also use Apocalypse Armory (which adds a ton of weapons), it is somewhat integrated with weapons sometimes showing up with one or two mods. But the actual adding/removing of weapon mods does not exist for Apocalypse Armory, although work is being done to add WMK to AA.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fallout 3 Mod Review - In the Shadow of the Swamp

Fallout 3 Mod Review - In the Shadow of the Swamp (v1.08)

Score: +5/-1

Summary: Three linked quests set in Point Lookout (requires the Point Lookout DLC). A lot of reading and running around. Tricky puzzles.
Why Get This: Good quests, tricky puzzles, sense of humour. Quests that don't involve a lot of killing.
+ The quests/puzzles generally don't involve killing, which is a nice change from most quests in Fallout 3.
+ There are three stories here, all interlinked. There is a lot of text to read, but which also fleshes out the background and characters involved. A lot of work has been done to make the mod interesting.
+ There is a sense of humor to the texts which doesn't go overboard into farce. This helps make the substantial amount of reading for buried clues to be less a waste of time.
- You may find some puzzle solutions to be too obscure. There is also that fine line between clever, and overly clever or railroading the player. Finally, if you just want the story to move along, it can be frustrating, especially with the amount of running around involved. This mod can require a lot of patience and some hints, available in the forum thread.
+ There's some intriguing loot to be gotten.
+ Some interactions with mini-bosses and interesting events.

Also included is an optional mod that reduces the availability of healing items. Stimpaks and the like are generally unnecessary, but in Point Lookout they were increased because the weapons in Point Lookout have a  significantly higher chance of scoring a devastating critical hit, and a lot of enemies carry them. I would recommend you try Point Lookout normally first, and just cache your stimpaks if you don't need them, instead of using the optional mod.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fallout 3 Mod Review - Rat Trap Remastered

Fallout 3 Mod Review - Rat Trap Remastered (Nov 1, 2010 Beta)

Summary: Dungeon crawl. Boss, treasure, and two companions. Playable but could use some polish. Work on this has probably been abandoned, though.
Why Get This: Kill things, get loot including a unique power armor. Interesting ambiance and story.

+ There's an intriguing story supported by background story bits you can pick up along the way. This elevates the mod beyond a straight dungeon crawl.
+ Interesting use of radiation in the end battles.
+ There's a solid attempt at ambiance with Chinese propaganda posters that parallel the Western ones. Also a lot of dialogue clips and music.
+ Some interactions with mini-bosses and interesting events.
- Still buggy, but nothing serious or game-stopping. One of the companions may not follow you. Two quest objectives won't update.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Game Review - Herofy

Game Review - Herofy
Score +1/-3


There are only superficial fantasy RPG elements in Herofy. Gameplay is dominated by match-3 games with barely any correspondence to story. The "character development" here consists of choosing your gender and buying board-changing powers.

The match-3 game is very basic, has a few power-ups, and a few interesting elements such as monsters and board rotation. It plays like a watered down version of Puzzle Quest that is hardly worth playing and largely inferior to contemporary match-3 games.
+ Some interesting elements such as board rotation.
- Hardly any story or fantasy RPG action, although the promotional material and artwork suggest a fantasy RPG.
- The match-3 gaming here is nothing special. Without a strong story element and with a boring match-3 game at its core, there is hardly any reason to pick up this title unless you don't mind playing through 100 levels of match-3 games.

- There's barely any artwork here, especially considering it's supposed to be a fantasy RPG. Click here to check out the various characters and backdrops.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Game Review - Battle Slots RPG

Game Review - Battle Slots
Score +2/-5


Battle Slots plays very much like Puzzle Quest, except instead of a Match-3 game, the skill and chanciness of battle is abstracted with a casino-like slots game.
+ There's some customization available to buy or earn for your slot machine and how it functions.
+ Like Puzzle Quest, there are upgrades to buy, pets and pet powers to collect.
- The premise involves you discovering and carrying around a slot machine. Duh. Could they not have abstracted it more and left the slot machine as a mechanic instead of a literal part of the story?
- There is just something really retarded about your being a hero involving carrying around a slot machine. Who else is carrying one? The sparrow that can defeat you in combat?
--  Like Puzzle Quest, there is a lot of random factor which can overshadow skill. However, unlike Puzzle Quest, Battle Slots is almost entirely chance. In fact, if you lose two fights in a row, a pop-up tells you that it may just be bad luck simply due to how slots work. This should have been a hit-you-in-the-face obvious clue that the slots mechanic is severely flawed as a game or rpg mechanic. It's two different things. Slots are casino games meant to take away your money. Games are supposed to be winnable and generally involve some sort of skill-based interaction.
- Because of the highly random slot game, skill level means almost nothing. Moreover, you get nothing for losing combat, meaning you don't really get a chance to accumulate anything that will eventually get you past a mandatory battle. This translates to a good chance that you will waste your time in exchange for nothing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Game Review - Clive Barker's Undying

Game Review - Clive Barker's Undying
Score +5/-3


Clive Barker's Undying is by today's standards, a pretty primitive first-person shooter. The consultation with master of horror fiction Clive Barker produced a game that was strong in the beginning but quickly became boring. Only unravelling the story would drive you on, and if you lose that, you will probably give it up.
+ There's a story here, which is typically more than can be said for most shooters. Lots of background information to find, but it appears to be quite optional. Still, it fleshes out the game experience and the "why you are there".
+ Interesting combination of spells and firearms expand tactical choices.
+ Interesting vignettes to uncover using the Scrye spell, some of which are quite unexpected and startling. Sometimes they are also useful in finding out what you can do or need to do next. You get more out of what is in most games, even nowadays, an underused utility spell if it appears at all.
+ Boring creatures, but interesting bosses.
+ Good use of cutscenes to enhance the storytelling.
- The graphics are obviously dated nowadays. On the up side, you can run it with all the graphical bells and whistles you can enable through your video card and still expect smooth gameplay.
- Initial suspense/horror factor is good -- there is more anticipation/dread before the appearance of a monster. This is sadly replaced by more typicical FPS run-and-gun not long into the game.
- The level designs are overly large and largely empty, leading to a lot of running around doing nothing.

SPOILER WARNING: The YouTubes below show the boss fights.