“Defiance” has become a game that even though I’ve done all I want to do in the open world, I keep coming back to do it again because it is so enjoyable. That said, there are times when the online shooter is afflicted with some of the problems that plague online games.
You are an ark hunter on Earth in the year 2046. Think scoundrel, fixer-upper, gopher and general guy-who-gets-everything-done and you are on the right track. You start out as part of a mission to basically save the world when the aircraft you’re on crashes in the San Francisco bay area.
The region has become a twisted environment of old buildings, new flora and creatures and pockets of human and alien settlements. Because this is a shooter, you are expected to and will gun your way through a variety of missions.
Besides the main story mission that has plenty of twists, turns and challenges, there are also episode missions and side missions to give your character additional opportunities to grow. Because the game is tied into the SyFy weekly series of the same name, you get to interact with the show’s two main characters in your episode mission and get more background on the show itself.
Much of the mission work is typical questing type adventuring. Defeat this bad guy, collect this relic, defend this area. But because this is an online game, there are plenty of opportunities to work with other players to make the jobs easier and more tactical.
It is more incidental co-op play than anything organized unless players join up together to form clans. But there is nothing that prevents a player from clan hopping and no player-vs-player action outside of specifically designed areas.
If you want more than missions, there are also time trial challenges and areas called hotshots and rampage. Those areas are all about killing as much as you can within time or ammunition restrictions to gain the highest score.
And if that isn’t enough, there are random scenarios scattered throughout the area – rescuing farmers, fighting off hellbugs, defeating mutant soldiers. There is quite a lot to do in the game, and that doesn’t even include the four-player co-op maps, the competitive maps and Shadow Wars.
Shadow Wars maps are massive team against team battles where each side tries to take over and control different points on the map. It is total mayhem at its best because the battle takes place on the main map and non-combatants can and do wander into the field of play.
Arkfall instances are similar but cooperative in nature against a series of massive foes. Anyone can participate and some of the best battles occur with dozens of players trying to take down a hellbug matron. The rewards are also pretty awesome as well as loot is scattered across the battlefield for anyone to gather.
There is a bit of RPG leveling in “Defiance” as your character gains points towards Ego powers. Ego is a sentient AI bound to your character that can bestow different basic powers like Blur, Cloak, Overcharge and Decoy. You can earn additional powers that branch off from those four that increase your combat abilities or personal statistics.
You can also level your weapons the more you use them. Quite a bit of variety available, but you can only use two at a time. You can carry more in your inventory, but switching from those two to something else in the middle of a battle could be dicey. Modding is also available for most weapons and let you add barrel, stock, or targeting mods to improve your guns even more.
All of this is why I love “Defiance.” So much to do, so much variety and the promise of additional content make this online shooter quite a lot of fun to play.
While Trion has been doing their best to plug the holes with patches, problems still exist in the world. Four-player co-op maps that are completely empty of friends or foe, and missing event triggers that leave players standing around wondering what to do next still happen far too often.
Server disconnects in the middle of instances aren’t as frequent as they were when the game launched, but can and do occur. But I will say many of the graphical glitches from the launch have been cleaned up and the environments behave better.
Is it frustrating? You bet. Normally, I would have popped this from the console (oh, yes. This is a console online shooter.) and moved on without a backward glance.
But the content and the action continually pull me back in. I’ve already finished the main story mission and am now doing it again just because it was fun. The co-op missions are a blast and the Shadow Wars are insane.
I’m hoping the new content comes sooner rather than later. For their part, Trion has said they will continue to work out the bugs, provide new storylines and improve the missions.
It is a living, breathing world and every glitch will probably not get fixed. But there is plenty of enjoyment to be had with “Defiance” and I, for one, am going back in.
“Defiance” is available now for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC. It is rated M for Mature due to blood, drug references, sexual themes, strong language, and violence. This review was done with a provide retail copy for the Xbox 360.
Let’s cut to the chase – I like the Wii U. It offers a new way to play games and has a wide variety of launch titles to attract different genres of gamers.
Is it perfect? No. Some features haven’t launched yet and some things still need tweaking. But after spending 24 hours with the new console, none of that impacts what it does right now or affects my enjoyment with the new Wii U.
Much has been made about the initial system update that activates many of the online features. The patch is huge (more than 4 GB) and will take some time to download and install depending on your connection speed and how many people are trying to draw from the same source. The games also get smaller patches out of the box, but I would imagine that would not be the case with later releases.
Amazon video, Hulu Plus, You Tube and Nintendo TVii are not ready for prime time yet. While icons exist on the Wii U GamePad touchscreen, they won’t be activated until December. However, Netflix is ready to go now and offers movies through their service.
So what can Wii U do out of the box?
First- and third-party games are readily available to play and range from platformers like the “New Super Mario Bros. U,” sports games such as “NBA 2K13,” action adventure like “Mass Effect 3 – Special Edition” or classic horror games with “Zombie U.” Each game makes use of the Wii U GamePad in different ways.
For the more casual games, the touchscreen offers a full playing experience without the TV at all. Don’t walk away too far from the Wii U console though. I was able to get to another room before the action started sputtering and cutting out. But this is a feature I really enjoy – allowing me to relax on the couch with the game in my hands instead of leaning forward to make out the action on the TV.
If you have someone who likes to watch, the television mimics what you see on the touchscreen so the player can be concentrating on their gaming in their hands. However, you can also change the channel on the TV so someone can be watching a show while someone else is playing. It really does expand the uses of the family entertainment center.
Not all games are like that though. More intense games like “Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition” or “Zombie U” utilize the touchscreen as an inventory area or mapping tool. It complements the action on the TV screen rather than duplicating it, and achieving the dual screen gaming that Nintendo hopes will become the preferred way of playing.
There is a HDMI cable included and the HDMI output display is clear and sharp. I didn’t notice any difference between the Wii U display and visuals on other consoles even with action intense gaming.
The controller itself is wider than other console controllers are and that slight expansion does take some getting used to in longer gaming scenarios. If you suffer from OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), the Wii U GamePad is going to drive you nuts. Its cover and touchscreen show every fingerprint and smear. In my house, it also attracted cat hair like no other gaming device I have.
Battery life is supposed to run about three to five hours with continual use. That’s a pretty good amount of straight gaming, but you’ll need to plug it into a wall outlet to recharge in between uses.
Nintendo wants to incorporate friends and communities into its games, and let people play games together through the Nintendo Network ID system. Miiverse lets you connect with up to 100 friends and exchanges messages with them or include them in games. The communities are broken down into forum areas for each game. Players can share tips, screenshots or even draw their own pictures in connection with their gaming.
There is some drilling down to connect with your friends, which makes it feel a bit unintuitive, but it’s probably a good idea to do some deep digging on all the features to take advantage of what’s being offered.
Wii U chat allows for video calls between friends. A camera in the top of the GamePad lets them see you and you can see them. All calls are done through the Internet.
The Wii U GamePad also acts as a TV remote, changing channels, controlling volume or directing which input you want displayed on your television screen. A nice and unexpectedly oft-used feature that keeps me from reaching for the other remote to change the volume when gaming.
There is an Internet browser for web surfing and a Nintendo eShop to let you purchase and download games directly. Nintendo has also hinted at a bevy of downloadable content for its games.
A couple of the hiccups.
The Wii U does not have an Ethernet port. If your Internet connection is wired only, you’ll need a USB adapter to connect to online features. And as mentioned before, some of those features aren’t available yet.
Your homescreen is called the WaraWara Plaza, where dozens of Mii (players) gather to share information or tips. According to Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, WaraWara is Japanese and translates to bustling. Your Mii stands in the middle of it all, but doesn’t really interact per se with anyone else. Notes and pictures will pop up from time to time, but doesn’t offer conversation opportunities.
Also, as your Mii appears on the screen, it announces what you’ve been playing. Even though I’ve been switching out games, it still saying I’m on my first one. I’m also trying to figure out who all these people are. None of them are my friends and most appear to be Nintendo people. Will this change as more people join the Miiverse or as I meet new friends while gaming? It would be nice to see someone different here.
There are two different Wii U versions available. The basic model ($300) comes with 8 GB of internal storage (keep in mind the update will take up 4 GB) and the deluxe version ($350) has 32 GB. External hard drives can be connected with both for additional storage space. The deluxe version also comes with the NintendoLand game, a GamePad stand and cradle, and a console stand.
For what is does now, the Wii U is a welcome and forward looking addition to the console market. The second screen gaming with the GamePad touchpad is right in line with what Microsoft hopes to do with their SmartGlass technology. The inclusion of popular third-party franchises (Batman, NBA 2K) as well as new entries (Zombie U) and first-party titles from Nintendo offer a wide selection of gaming for all members of the family.
I think the Miiverse will turn out to be a good way to connect with friends and other players once we all get used to using it. The eventual inclusion of other video streams (Hulu, Nintendo TVii, etc.) is an attempt by Nintendo to make the Wii U the hub of family entertainment.
Am I ready to toss aside my other consoles? No. But I now see the Wii U as more of a gaming alternative with the touchscreen controller and variety of games than I did with the Wii.
There are still some bugs to be ironed out and new features to be unveiled. However, the Wii U shows the promise of what gaming in the future may be like. And I’m ready.
“Diablo III” has the unique distinction of being a great role-playing game with excellent gameplay and action while at the same time causing such angst and anguish among gamers when technical problems arise.
This diametric split among fans changes from moment to moment, and reflects the passion and desire for a game that took nearly 12 years to make it into their hands. It is a love/hate relationship with Blizzard Entertainment for creating a fantastic franchise and causing so many angry words on chat boards and Twitter when game servers go down.
The game takes us back to Sanctuary and everyone’s favorite scholar, Deckard Cain. Cain claims the End Times are coming with the rise of the Evil. You are tasked with searching out and destroying demon lords bent on taking over the world and literally bringing hell to Sanctuary.
Players can select one of five classes – demon hunter, wizard, witch doctor, monk or barbarian. Each has specialties and advantages that the other classes do not. Characters level up as they gain experience, making new abilities available and new powers active. To get the most out of the experience, pick a class fitting your play style – barbarian or monk for up close and personal; demon hunter and wizard for distance mayhem; witch doctor for a nice mix of both.
Nearly every action is done with the “Diablo” tried and true method of point and click. Make sure you have a sturdy mouse because the left button and your index finger are going to get a workout.
Want to attack? Point and click (repeatedly). Want to talk with someone? Point and click. Want to walk along a path? Point and click, although holding down the button and dragging it along your chosen route works as well. Want to trade with a merchant or rearrange abilities, inventory or spells? You get the idea.
Special abilities and health potions are tied to buttons on your keyboard. Depending on your class, those special abilities will cost you mana, hatred or some other measure of power, so they aren’t inexhaustible. After a brief pause, those power reserves will refill fairly quickly.
The enemies are varied and numerous. There are also leveled enemies, meaning some are more powerful with special abilities than others. This creates a bit of strategy when wading into battle – go for the obvious leaders while the minions are swarming around you or take out the little guys before powering up for the big baddie?
The demon lords are your reward for reaching the end of each act and present their own challenges. While they can take some punishment and dish it out pretty good, smart players will find the cracks in their armor to take them down.
Speaking of armor, you will find a lot of that after a battle. You’ll also find a lot of gold, weapons and health globes. If I have a complaint about the game mechanics, it is there is too much loot. You will make multiple trips back to town (thank goodness for the portal spell) just to clear out your inventory.
It gets a little monotonous. I guess you can choose not to pick up the loot, but you’ll need that gold if you want to train with the blacksmith or jeweler. The former allows you to craft your own weapons and armor, while the latter help create gems that can enhance the abilities of your clothing and implement of destruction.
There is a new auction house system allowing for the buying and selling of your loot using in-game gold. Blizzard has also been working on a real-world money auction house where players would buy and sell in-game items for real cash. That system was repeatedly delayed while they worked on implementation, but is currently up and running.
There are four different difficulty settings to the action, from normal to Inferno. The challenges progressively increase as the difficulty is raised, but the rewards in armor, weapons and more also increase appropriately. Tactics that work on the normal level will likely get you killed in the Hell level. When you complete the game, it allows you to keep your character and restart at a higher difficulty level. So all your hard work and loot gets carried over into your next attempt.
Players can also create Hardcore characters, which progress as regular characters through skills and levels with one important difference – death of the character is final. Once you die, your character stays dead. It won’t be revived at the last checkpoint and Blizzard will not recreate your character under any circumstances.
This creates some pretty intense and crazy moments in gameplay. You always are keeping an eye on your health globe and trying new tactics to take down bigger enemies.
During my regular run, my character would just plow through rooms, knowing that if I went down, I would be reborn to try again. During the hardcore run, there was much more caution and strategic retreating. Getting surrounded was not an option.
Along your journey, you can meet and recruit companions to help you along the way. Three different types – a templar (like the barbarian class), a scoundrel (like the demon hunter class), and a sorceress (like the wizard class) – provide support during attacks, offer passive benefits during battles, and act as comic relief with some of their dialog. The artificial intelligence for these characters is good and they act appropriately with no direction (even if their dialog gets a little repetitive).
If AI helpers aren’t your style, three friends can join in your adventures through online play. Make sure the party is close to the same character levels. A wide disparity in power can make some people feel left out or overbearing during combat – neither is very much fun for anyone.
The graphics, both indoors and outdoors, are well done. They are bright, vibrant and alive when they need to be as well as dark, foreboding and gloomy when it is called upon. The physics engine really shines through during combat as body parts go flying during strong hits, and walls and masonry collapse realistically. It raised the level of immersion for the player and evokes an appreciation to the sense of detail. Of course, after 12 years of waiting…
However, for all its grand flourishes and spectacular battles, none of it matters if you can’t play the game.
Blizzard was plagued with server issues from the very start. “Error 37” quickly became the buzzword among players, indicating problems logging in. While the company worked quickly to resolve the issues, the Internet lit up with players proclaiming their hatred of Blizzard and frustration with the always-logged-in requirements.
Maintenance time and patch updates have also recreated harsh feelings among “Diablo III” players. Forum boards reached their limits after players voiced their displeasure.
From my own experience, I only received the Error 37 once and it was resolved quickly. I’ve only been shut out due to scheduled maintenance one time, and I did something else while it was going on. While I understand people who want to play when they want to play, the venom and anger at being temporarily inconvenienced seems excessive.
And no, I do not have a direct line to the Blizzard servers, as was jokingly suggested. I treat the idea of downtime like going to an amusement park and finding my favorite ride has a line two hours long. Either I can stand in that line and complain for the next two hours or I can find something else to do until the wait is over.
The amount of excitement and adventure to be found in “Diablo III” is worth the wait – two hours or 12 years. The action is crisp and clean. The quests are enjoyable without feeling repetitive. It is one of those games where you can easily lose track of time as you get lost in the never-ending battle against evil.
It took me almost 21 ½ hours to get through the normal level, raising my demon hunter to level 31 in the process. The Hardcore mode option is one that should be experienced to really get the flavor of the action as it unfolds. But if final death isn’t your idea of fun, hit the next difficulty level and challenge yourself with stronger monsters and greater rewards.
That is the true testament of “Diablo III.” Play it the way you want to by creating the character with the abilities and skills that work for you, by picking a difficulty mode you want to enjoy (regular or Hardcore), and by playing with friends or AI characters. It is flexible enough to find a way to play your game.
Treat the server downtime as an opportunity to do something else; because once you get in, you’ll never want to leave Sanctuary.
“Diablo III” is available now for Windows PC and Mac OS X systems. It is rated M for Mature due to blood and gore, and violence. This review was done using a provided digital copy for the Windows PC system.
There were plenty of great games for 2011 and all many long-time franchises put bows on storylines that have been going on for years. It was also the year of the shooter (and the number 3) as “Battlefield 3,” “Gears of War 3” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” brought players into combat zones with new and creative gameplay.
As with any top 10 list, many very good games will not make the cut. As I put this together, I tried to include games that I played and never really wanted to put down until the very last scene. Your list may vary.
A fitting finale for Nathan Drake and his adventures, “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception” wraps up the historical adventure franchise with possibly his greatest treasure yet. Not only does the story takes a look back and reveal how Drake got started on his quests, but also tied up many loose plot lines very well. The game feels like an Indiana Jones adventure and Drake keeps a wry sense of humor throughout the most trying times. The designers did their research to showcase several incredible environments, historical references and lost treasures. Players will come away feeling like they’ve been on a grand adventure, which they have.
“LA Noire” puts the story to the forefront in a daring attempt to be different. Action is dictated by the narrative and not by a splash of action to get the plot moving. It looks and feels like a 1940’s style detective thriller with some great voice acting and motion capture animation. It is a great effort to bring the narrative to the forefront without forcing dialog or plot. Expect to see more like this in the future.
[PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC]
Sackboy returns and actually got better. “Little Big Planet 2” has a single-player story that has a good plot, supporting characters and new abilities for everyone’s incarnation of imagination. There is actual dialog instead of grunting or mumbles. The puzzle solving remains fun, but the creation of levels to share with the community raises the enjoyment level. The inclusion of social media connections increased the player’s audience for their newly created level and has spurred some wonderful creations that anyone can play.
”Deus Ex: Human Revolution” allows players to experiment with different augmentations to enhance their human character. Creatively building and upgrading, gamers will discover new ways to complete missions even during replays. The atmosphere of the not-so-far-away future is one of hope and despair. The story is well crafted and keeps players involved with very little downtime or boredom.
[PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC]
“NBA 2K12” offers more basketball action, both on and off the court, and gave hoops fans a great outlet while the real NBA figured out their work woes. Improved animations make the action look more realistic than ever. The inclusion of more of the NBA’s greatest players lets you pit superstars from different era to find out who is truly the greatest of all time. “My Player” mode lets you get drafted, work your way up the depth chart and puts your player in the harsh glow of the media during press conferences.
[PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation PSP, Windows PC, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii]
So many games use sex and violence as a hook to draw players in. “Saints Row The Third” uses it as the canvas of a hilariously funny and sexually charged romp that also offers excellent game mechanics. Missions are ultra-violent, outlandish and filled with tons of OMG moments. Drive around with a tiger in your car. Rescue hookers from a violent gang. Converse with Burt Reynolds and Hulk Hogan. It is a tongue-in-cheek, high-paced game players will enjoy.
[PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC]
An independent title that shows what the “little guy” could do, “Bastion” was a surprisingly stunning game with original weaponry, an environment that players put together as the game progresses and narration that literally tells the story of what you are doing at that time. Dialog isn’t tied to a predetermined set of events. The narrator, known as the Stranger, reacts to what your character does and makes the game seem personalized. It was a game that was very fun to play without taking itself too seriously.
[Xbox Live Arcade, Windows PC]
Let me say that the top three could be shuffled in any order and it would still be right. But this is how I’m shuffling them (for now). “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” is an open world role playing game that literally has over 100 quests to complete. Your character can be trained in any skill at any time, thus assuring that the game is very personal to each player. Sure, there are some minor bugs in it, but they are more amusing than frustrating. And any game that lets me stand at the top of a mountain while more than a dozen dragons fill the sky is a big winner in my book. It is enthralling, addictive and satisfying.
[PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC]
The Dark Knight returns to his beloved city of Gotham and discovers it to be just as violent and twisted as the dark halls of Arkham Asylum. His new adventures, “Batman: Arkham City,” expand the playing field dramatically and take the insanity into the open world. This allowed for more freedom during combat as well as takes the missions away from a linear progression. The voice acting remains flawless, the design and the increase in the number of the classic villains and the sense of foreboding throughout the game made this game a pleasure to play and a difficult one to put down even after the main story line (which was highly dramatic) was finished.
[PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC]
Outstanding characters? Check. Cryptic puzzle solving? Check. Great dialog? Check. Everything you’d expect from a “Portal” title returns in “Portal 2” with some great additions. While the first title was all about the puzzles, this title keeps the puzzle solving portion alive, but mixes in a wonderful story that is fast paced, informative and extremely humorous. Origins are discovered, new alliances formed and there is not a crumb of cake to be had. If that wasn’t enough, a new co-op mode was introduced that allows players to play as test robots that act like Abbott & Costello. A fantastic game from start to finish.
[Windows PC, Mac OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360]
Social games are becoming more prevalent as mobile devices allow us to maintain contact with family and friends. But those games usually rely on visual displays to play the game and chat with other players.
Debbie Fisher, 37, from Reno, NV, and a mother of four, has been legally blind all her life due to a genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa. She can only see light and dark shapes and cannot discern details.
Fisher said she has always enjoyed playing games with her family. However, those games were usually restricted to titles where other people were physically around to assist her. After she got her iPhone and iPad, she tried playing some of the downloadable games, but due to her eyesight, she couldn’t find a game that she enjoyed and allowed her to play with her friends.
Fisher uses the Voice Over accessibility program on her Apple products to help her “see” what’s on the screen and interact with it. She said it was tough to find games that were compatible with the Voice Over program.
“I always get the free version (of games) to make sure it is Voice Over compatible, which is what makes the iPhone and the iPad talk,” she said. “If it works, then I’ll get the paid version, but I need to make sure it works first.”
Fisher said she’s likes the games on the mobile devices, but has only found one game that works for her and also lets her play and communicate with her friends. “Hanging With Friends” (Zynga) is word game that resembles Hangman, but there are a few twists.
One player comes up with a word that another player tries to discover one letter at a time. Get a letter wrong and the balloons holding up your avatar will start popping until there is nothing to save you from the lava pit below.
The game, which debuted in July, is played one on one and can be played with anyone anywhere. Fisher said “Hanging With Friends” specifically works with Voice Over and lets her “see” what’s going on and chat with her family and friends who are playing.
“Playing a game against the computer is one thing. But playing against real people is what makes it so much better.”
Paul Bettner, general manager of Zynga With Friends, said they didn’t intend to make a game for the visually impaired, but are pleased that their game can be enjoyed by people like Fisher.
“It may seem silly to think that a game can change someone’s world, but why not?,” Bettner said. “’Hanging With Friends’ was designed so that nearly anyone can pick it up and play and we are very happy and proud to welcome visually impaired players now as well.”
Fisher said there are other games that are Voice Over compatible, but they don’t allow for the social interaction that “Hanging With Friends” does. She said she hopes more social games will embrace the Voice Over program so she can enjoy them with her family and friends.
“’Hanging With Friends’ really wasn’t my type of game until I started playing it. I wouldn’t have even guessed that I’d be so into that game before I started playing it,” she said. “But I love this game.”
Playing “Civilization World” on Facebook takes the power away from the individual player and forces cooperation among people you might not even know – and comes off as something un-Civ-like.
To the millions of people who have played a version of “Civilization” on their computer, taking to Facebook to challenge Sid Meier’s game is a cautious task. “Civilization World” (2K Games) wants to bring the idea of global domination to the social networking arena.
The nexus of any “Civilization” game is to build of nation from meager beginnings into a world power by any means necessary. The player controls different aspects (science, culture, military, etc.) and decides how best to overcome other countries toward the ultimate goal.
In “Civilization World,” the idea of world domination still exists, but players can no longer control their own destiny and must rely on others to band together for success. It is a mind shift for long time fans of the series and one that requires changing strategies on the fly.
Players only control one city-state throughout the game and manage how its citizens work and produce resources for the common good. Food, production, science, gold and culture are constantly harvested from the surrounding lands.
Citizens move from home to resource to drop off point to increase overall production. How short their travel time is, where their home is located and how many similar citizens live nearby all affect their overall happiness.
Each resource is used in different ways. Science goes towards research, culture developes Great Persons cards, food increases your population and so on.
It is a Facebook game, which means there are opportunities to purchase Civ Bucks, which can then be spent on purchasing additional resources. The game plays just as well without spending any of your real money, but the option is there.
Alone, players can act as independents, but only accomplish so much and will get quickly left behind unless they create or join up with existing civilizations. In an interview with CNN.com, Meier said developers wanted re-imagine the game to involved hundreds of people playing the same game.
“What was really intriguing to us was being able to emphasize cooperative game play, which was something that really hadn’t been a major part of ‘Civilization’ up to now,” he said. “A lot of our design in ‘Civ World’ was taking advantage and using these opportunities for players to work together — teamwork, communication, planning. Those are all the things that become really important to ‘Civ World.’”
The pace of the game is slow and methodical. Resources are harvested en masse every hour. Battles take up to 10 hours to set up and are conducted one unit at a time over many more hours.
Wonders are formed by using Great Person cards, which are obtained by having a high culture score. Armies are bought after accumulating massive amounts of gold.
And all that time invested in those actions doesn’t even include the time it takes to plan out future actions for your civilization with your comrades-in-arms.
“You need to vote if you are going to battle another civilization. You need to vote on adopting certain civics,” explains Tiffany Nagano, a producer for “Civ World.” “Voting becomes a pretty central part for a lot of Civ-related activities.”
The entire process is designed to encourage drop-in, drop-out play. This isn’t a game that requires the micromanaging of the PC version.
Grouping together speeds up the process as resources are shared among all the players in the civilization toward goals. Era victories are achieved by completing one of three goals usually oriented towards military victories, scientific discoveries or accumulating gold.
Playing at different times in the day, Meier said, “fundamentally changes the mechanics of the game because if you are not there at the same time as other players, there needs to be ways of leaving messages, ways of communicating. Things have to happen at a pace where everybody can be included. So that fundamentally changes the pacing and the mechanisms of the game.”
Players can also earn positions of power within their civilization, which provides bonuses and special skills that help the overall group.
The game does have a distinct end so it won’t go on in perpetuity. Each civilization is limited to 10 players and each game is limited to 10 civilizations, so it doesn’t become unwieldy.
But is it fun? Yes and no, depending on what you are expecting.
If you go into “Civ World” thinking it is just “Civilization” on Facebook, you are going to be disappointed with the lack of control over your own destiny. The long held idea of “Just one more turn” in a typical “Civ” game doesn’t really apply here since turns, such that they are, can take hours.
However, if you like the idea of cooperating with others toward a common goal and are happy being a part of the puzzle instead of the entire solution, “Civilization World” will be enjoyable and immersive. It isn’t “Civilization” as played on PCs, but it is a redevelopment of that game idea and allows many more players to be involved in a collaborative effort.
In my game during beta testing, I concentrated on building up science and researching new discoveries. Others in my civilization focused on military and gold to help us win.
It was thought provoking, engaging, and not as time consuming as the PC version. While you can play with your Facebook friends, you can join up with people you’ve never met and possibly make new friends.
Unless, of course, they stand between you and world domination.
“Civilization World” will be officially launched on July 6 only on Facebook. It is a free game to play, but there are micro-purchase opportunities during gameplay. This review was based on gameplay during the beta stage testing.
The adventure from Bethesda Games and Splash Damage takes place in the future when global warming has raised the ocean’s levels and forced people to take refuge in a floating city called Ark. The action begins as two factions battle to determine the fate of the safe haven.
The game opens with a choice: Save the Ark or Escape the Ark. But in reality, it doesn’t matter what you choose since both sides are open to you once you start playing.
In fact, there is little in the game that isn’t open to change. Only your initial characteristics are locked in place. Clothing, gear, and accessories are all interchangeable in between missions.
An introduction video (worth 1,000 experience points) is available if you choose to watch it. The video provides an explainer about the different modes, challenges, and unlockable weapons and abilities you can earn.
There are four classes to choose, from but those can be switched around in each game setting. Each (soldier, operative, engineer, medic) has special powers and usually has a specific objective in the mission to complete.
Killing the enemy and securing goals earn experience points, which can be translated into new abilities or accessories. There is a level cap of 20 that can get reached pretty quickly if you are able to complete all the primary and side objectives.
Players never work alone. You are part of an eight man squad that is controlled by AI in single player mode or other players in the online, multiplayer mode.
Either way, the missions, abilities and goals remain the same. Only the mentality of your comrades changes.
The action is fast paced and goal oriented. The team is required to alternately play offense to take over a specific point on the map and defense to hold a point.
There are side missions, such as rebuild a staircase to allow for another path, that usually require the services of a specific class. The directional pad is used to bring up the list of objectives, let the player select one, and then highlight it on the heads-up display.
For maximum experience points, players will need to change classes during a mission to complete all the goals. The switch can be done at command posts and doesn’t cost anything to do.
Movement and numbers are required for mission success. If you stay in one place for too long without support from your teammates, you will get overrun in a hurry. Likewise, a lone wolf won’t be able to hold objective positions for very long and will get hung out to dry.
The controls are pretty typical for a first-person shooter with the addition of a SMART button, allowing players to get over and around obstacles with one push of a button. Sprinting, jumping, ducking, and other athletic movements are handed with this one button, but sometimes it is hard to know when a ledge is within your reach and when it isn’t.
Death has little meaning other than just giving you a time-out. You can be instantly revived by a medic in the field or you can respawn at your base location – usually within about 15 seconds.
There are annoying problems that drag the game down.
The movement of the characters is stiff and doesn’t feel or look natural. Characters will jump off a ledge still holding the same pose as if they were standing on solid ground.
There were also instances when characters got stuck in mid-air, whether they were alive or dead. There wasn’t too much variety in how they moved and, without an icon over each to indicate class, acted very similar.
The audio was repetitive and annoying. The same catch phrases and instructions got repeated over and over again in each level. It was so bad I muted the game from time to time just to get away from it.
There needed to be a better way to alert players to objectives without resorting to the same words and inflection each time a goal was met or created.
The biggest complaint was the horrible lag in the online mode that made the game unplayable.
I will admit that when there wasn’t lag, the game was really fun to play with others and the missions became even more enjoyable than with the AI. However, when the lag occurred, control over the characters became impossible.
One moment, I would be walking into a room, then stop, appear to jump to the side, or start looking at the floor. My character was basically out of my hands.
It got so bad that as soon as I started experiencing lag, I logged out and then logged back in, hoping for a new connection. It really was hit or miss and didn’t seem dependant on time of day.
“Brink” felt like a game that had some really good elements in it, but was not quite as good as it could have been with a little more time.
The character animations were disappointing and the voice acting was distracting at best and annoying at worst. However, the changeability of classes inside the mission and the multiple objectives available made for fun play.
I like the idea of being able to complete the story line using AI teammates or online teammates. But the frustrating lag that cropped up at random moments detracted from the enjoyment factor of playing with human teammates.
It was a game that was on the edge of being very good, but fell off with elements that could have been avoided. Hopefully, some of those things can be addressed with future patches.
“Brink” is available now for play on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. It is rated T for Teen due to blood, language and violence. This review was done playing the Xbox 360 version after the day one patch.
Now, the designer of “Civilization” is ready to take over a completely new world — social gaming on the pages of Facebook.
“Civilization” is one of the most popular computer strategy games of all time, and has spawned several versions and updates over the past 20 years. The game allows players to build and develop their own cities, countries and civilizations across the expanse of time.
It has sold millions of copies and drawn in fans from around the world who are involved, vocal and loyal. From its beginning in 1991 to its most recent edition, last year’s “Civilization V,” Meier said it has been a strong, connected community that has kept the game strong.
“Players have continued to respond to the game in spite of how far technology has come, in spite of how the world has changed, in spite of how the demographics of game players have changed,” Meier said. “Each game starts out in a brand new world (and is) probably going to go off in a different direction than your last game. You’ve never really exhausted the possibilities of the game.”
While the game primarily has remained a PC game over the years, Meier took his creation to consoles in 2008 with “Civilization Revolution.” The game retained many of the PC version’s features, but made them available to a new set of fans — those who enjoy console and mobile gaming.
“We’ve seen console games getting more strategic, having more depth. It felt like, both in terms of the technology and also where players were, that they would respond to having a strategy type game on their console.”
Fans and critics who enjoyed the fast playability and ease of control warmly received the game. Long-time fans bemoaned the simplicity of the console version, but it won 2008′s Best Strategy Game award from the British Academy Video Games Awards.
Now, Meier is ready to take to the pages of Facebook with an incarnation of the franchise called “Civilization World.” Developers hope to have the game up and running this summer.
“It’s been the most dramatic stretch for the game, I’d have to say, so far,” he said.
“We really weren’t looking to make a quote-unquote ‘Facebook game’,” he said. “We were looking at what does Facebook bring us that is unique, that we can leverage and take advantage of with ‘Civilization’-style game play.”
Meier said there were things that a Facebook game can offer Civ players over a traditional PC game. Connections with friends and a world with potentially hundreds of millions of players provided fuel for the development team to re-imagine the classic strategy game.
“What was really intriguing to us was being able to emphasize cooperative game play, which was something that really hadn’t been a major part of ‘Civilization’ up to now,” he said. “A lot of our design in ‘Civ World’ was taking advantage and using these opportunities for players to work together — teamwork, communication, planning. Those are all the things that become really important to ‘Civ World.’”
Meier points out that a typical “Civilization” multiplayer game can easily span 12 or more continuous hours, whereas a Facebook game will take place in stops and starts over days and week.
He said pacing and having to work with other people would be the biggest adjustments for PC “Civilization” players.
Playing at different times in the day, Meier said, “fundamentally changes the mechanics of the game because if you are not there at the same time as other players, there needs to be ways of leaving messages, ways of communicating Things have to happen at a pace where everybody can be included. So that fundamentally changes the pacing and the mechanisms of the game.”
Meier said all the game’s traditional pieces — science, economy, military, culture — will be in “Civilization World.”
“You can do those things yourself but you’ll be most effective — science, for example — if a couple of people are researching the same technology then that technology will be discovered more quickly and you can all use it.”
In the Facebook game, a world will consist of 200 people, all vying for supremacy. The goal remains the same as previous “Civilization” games — to build an empire that will stand the test of time.
“You have your own city to manage and you can do all kinds of stuff (on your own),” Meier said. “However, the most successful players will be those that can also work together with other players.”
Unlike other Facebook games (oh, let’s say “Farmville”), “Civilization World” will have a beginning and an end. Players who succeed will be rewarded, and then another game can start.
The game will also look different from its PC counterparts.
“We’re dealing with Flash. We’re dealing with browsers, dealing with kind of a whole different technology than we are with PCs. It is not your standard PC ‘Civ’ look by any means.”
He said designing a Facebook game does give them the ability to update things really quickly because players are essentially downloading the whole game every time they play. He said they will be taking a look at feedback and making adjustments and providing new stuff frequently.
Meier says he’s excited about the prospects of social gaming, but thinks its full potential hasn’t yet been reached.
“The future is really out there, but I think we are at the very beginning of exploring the possibilities of social gaming,” he said. “It is not like I can see the end and know where this is going.”
He said that, ultimately, gamers will decide whether social gaming will stand the test of time alongside consoles and PCs.
“It’s just one more place to experience games,” he said. “Games are really taking over the world.”
The latest version in the iconic series from NetherRealm Studios and Warner Bros. Entertainment returns to the game’s root with fast action, brutal results and a story mode that takes players back to the first three “Mortal Kombat” games in an effort to change the future. Fatalities make a return as well as a new move called X-ray.
The controls are deceptively simple. Each button on the controller works a particular body part – one button for left arm, one button for right leg, and so on. Using the D-pad or an analog stick in conjunction with the button makes the character perform more complicated maneuvers.
And, as in the past, stringing together a series of buttons and stick movements creates highly specialized and devastating attacks. However, the game is successful with the more basic movements for beginners as it is detailed for the experienced players.
While the characters and background are rendered in three dimensions, fights take place in a two-dimension plane. The details in the movements and battle effects are highly rendered and graphic.
No where is this more evident than in the new X-ray move. A bar at the bottom of the screen fills up as moves are used. Once completely full, the X-ray move can be used.
Cinematics are shown as a character performs a devastating series of attack that demonstrate in gory and specific detail what bones are being broken or which internal organs are being destroyed. The imagery is gruesome and groan-worthy, but won’t let you avert your eyes.
Fatalities are also more detailed and violent. These moves are seriously not for the faint of heart or stomach. More than once during my game play, others watching were heard moaning or yelling, “Gross!,” which made me want to perform those actions again and again. There are also Fatality moves that utilize the surround environments to deadly effect.
Fan favorite characters are back including Liu Kang, Scorpion, Kitana and Sonya Blade. Other playable, never-seen-before characters get unlocked during game play.
The single player story is cheesy, but gets you into the action quickly and uses a variety of characters throughout. Each stage has the player controlling a different avatar through a series of fights to advance to the next stage.
Combat difficulty ramps up as you advance, but there are battles where the difficulty seems to shoot extraordinarily high for some reason. Specific tactics seem to be needed to get through those particular fights – for example, counterpunching only or flying attacks only.
The story involves Lord Raiden sending a message back in time to himself to prevent Shao Kahn’s ultimate victory (“Mortal Kombat: Armageddon”). It plays out like .. well, a movie.. but offers the basis for the battles and tournaments to take place.
Single player action is expected to last more than eight hours. It took me about 10 hours to complete including the climatic boss battle at the end, which ended up being fairly easy once I figured out a particular series of moves to win.
There are other modes of play that help with fight training, skill tests and tutorials that allow you to practice Fatality moves over and over again.
The Challenge Tower consists of fights and mini-games that test your skills and hone your moves. There are also special modes that randomly change the fight rules, award coins for breaking items, check your eye sight with a hidden ball game, and test timing with a fast strike game. With 300 different challenges, this mode will keep you busy for quite some time.
The new Tag Team feature lets up to 4 players play in a tournament or single competition. The tag element allowed for combo attacks using one character setting up the move for another with devastating results.
The Fatality tutorial outlines the specific buttons and stick movements to carry out the graphic final battle attack. A box on the ground also highlights where a character needs to be standing to perform the strike.
The opponent offers no resistance, so there is no pressure and it allows players the time and direction to perfect the awesome maneuver. Plus it is just fun to see how combatants are dismembered.
There are also battle modes for online action including ladder challenges and tournaments. Sadly, due to the PlayStation Network outage, I was unable to check those out at this time.
“Mortal Kombat” is a triumphant return to the roots of the classic fighting game with traditional battles as well as the new tag team mode. The Fatalities are as graphic as ever and the new X-ray move ups the carnage and gross-out factor.
Despite storyline dialog that is more in line with a B-movie, the single player action does move along at a brisk pace and offers great variety in characters and action. If you’ve never played a “Mortal Kombat” game before, this is a good way to get a handle on the characters.
But if you are a long time fan of the series, you will be impressed with the improved graphics, original content, and battle challenges. It is a worthy addition to the series.
“Mortal Kombat” is available now for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. It is rated M for mature due to blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, and strong language. The PS3 version also contains Kratos from the “God of War” series as a playable character, and the game can also be played in stereoscopic 3-D.
A follow-up to the 2007 surprise smash hit, “Portal,” the game from Valve puts you back in the test chambers at Aperture Laboratories many years after the ending of the first game. You play again as Chell, a female test subject, who has been in stasis for many centuries, and are once again trying to escape from the lab.
You are aided early on by a helpful robot ball named Wheatley, who wants to get out as well. However, you eventually run into GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), the homicidal computer from “Portal” who you destroyed, but is now seeking revenge – in the name of science.
The game play is a series of platform-based puzzles that require the use of the portal gun to traverse. The gun fires two types of portals that form an opening to get to hard to reach places easily.
Not every surface can be used as a portal, so proper selection of targets is key to advancing in the game.
The Weighted Storage Cube and Companion Cube, a small box with hearts on the side, are back to help with weighted triggers. There are also Redirection Cubes that contain lenses to deflect laser beams, or Thermal Discouragement Beams as they are called.
The puzzles require logical thinking and are smartly done. If you didn’t play the first game, “Portal 2” does start with some basic puzzles to help you understand how the physics, mechanics and portals work. But the difficulty ramps up quickly after a few test rooms.
There are some new elements to help work out the puzzles. Aerial Faith Plates launch you and other objects around the room and often help in adding momentum, which is sometimes critical to get to hard to reach places without a portal.
Liquid gels are also available later in the game that provide different properties. A blue gel helps Chell bounce while an orange gel boosts her speed as she moves along the floor. A white gel covers walls or floors that normally can’t be used as a portal and allows for one to be created.
There are puzzles that will require the use of one, two or all three gels to complete. And much like Chell, these gels can be flung through portals to reach places they normally wouldn’t.
All of these additions to the puzzle solving make for a very intelligent game. It is often best when entering a new room to stop, take a look around, and analyze the scene. Be sure to look in all directions because the way out may force to you to go in a different direction that the obvious one.
The story is fantastic, and the writing and dialog remain one of the cornerstones to this series.
GLaDOS’s voice is dripping with sarcasm and malice even though her tone is soothing and calm. Wheately is silly, frantic, and almost childlike in his guidance.
The humor remains dark and dangerous, as it was in “Portal.” GLaDOS often lies about concern or danger, then admits her lie and seems to revel in the deception.
Without giving away any story spoilers, the game is pretty much divided into three parts and introduces the CEO and founder of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson. Johnson was heard in promotional videos for the game and has a sarcastic, shoot-from-the-hip attitude that just adds to the great dialog found throughout “Portal 2.”
The single player version takes about 6 to 8 hours to play depending on how fast you can solve the mind-bending puzzles. But the action doesn’t stop there.
“Portal 2” offers a co-op version for two players, each operating a robot with a portal gun. GLaDOS puts Blue and Orange, the two bots, through test rooms much like Chell had to experience.
It is truly a co-operative game and cannot be done with just one person. The rooms are designed for interaction between the two robots to get to the exit of each chamber.
The puzzles are more complex since they do require cooperation, but the devices and mechanics remain the same. And the dangers are more pronounced since they are just robots (i.e. – falling to your death means shattering into pieces).
Orange and Blue can communicate by using indicators to show what needs to be moved or where a portal should go. They can also gesture to one another for a wave, a hug, or even a high-five after a job well done.
A random partner can be found online, but it is infinitely more enjoyable to play with someone in the same room or with a friend. These puzzles can take some time to solve if you’ve never seen them before and a friend might be more willing to cut you some slack if you are analyzing your options.
There is no drop-in or drop-out during co-op play. If one player leaves the game, the session is disconnected. Another reason to play with someone you know.
GLaDOS keeps up with the sarcasm, but doesn’t show any empathy for the robots. Her dialog remains funny and brutal at the same time.
Xbox 360 players can play each other across the Xbox LIVE network. Steam, the online gaming platform, is supported on the PlayStation 3 as well as PC and Mac computers so players on the different platforms can play co-op with one another. It is the first title that Steam supports on a gaming console, but likely not the last.
The co-op adventure lasts about as long as single player adventure, but the interaction between Orange and Blue make it worth playing repeatedly with friends.
“Portal 2” was scheduled to be released Tuesday morning, but a Steam promotion gave gamers the chance to get the game released early by purchasing a package of independently produced games. The release threshold was reached around midnight Monday night for it to be downloaded from Steam.
Overall, “Portal 2” is a sublime game from start to finish with humor, wit, intelligence and drama that continue from the debut title. The action remains fresh and original, and the dialog spurs spontaneous laughter even in the deadliest situations.
And in case you were wondering, there is no cake.
“Portal 2” is available now for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Mac. The game is rated E10+ due to fantasy violence and mild language. This review was done playing the single player version on Xbox 360 and the co-op version on PS3 and PC (through Steam).