Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gone Home - Mysterious Interaction At Its Best

Gone Home is truly a masterpiece that contains suspense, mystery, and probably the best narrative and interactive experience 2013 has given us, all created by The FullBright Company. In Gone Home you get to re-experience the 90's all over again in an Oregon Mansion once owned by a deceased psycho uncle. You play as Kaitlin Greenbriar, Katie for short, who has to uncover the clues about what happened to her sister, Samantha.

When you are first introduced to the game, Katie is flying back home from her trip all around Europe.The first sign you will get is a letter on the door that reads your sister is gone and to not snoop around the house and find out what happened and where she went. You are now surrounded by the empty mansion, 20+ rooms, and the ambiance of the storm that has come over the Oregon town of Arbor Hill.

As an Interactive sort of game, Gone Home has very minimal gameplay with the only controls being the ability to move freely, clicking and examination of most objects, crouching, and the use of the menu. The minimal controls make for a better structure to add to the dynamic and rich story telling that creates the perfect warming sensation all the way until the end. You will read notes of your family, read excerpts from the books your dad wrote about the JFK assassination, 90's punk rock cassettes, and hear small journals that your sister Samantha left you as you progress until reaching the conclusion.

Gone Home is definitely a must play game for anyone that has roughly an hour to waste and should be played and finished before being properly judged, as most games these days are revolved around gameplay, something that Gone Home does so well without. The soundtrack itself is warm, loud, and rough. The atmosphere is creepy, dark, and all mysterious as it keeps you wondering on the edge of your seat.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pokemon X/Y Review [11/20/13]

TL;DR - Only buy if you are want to get into the competitive scene of the Pokemon games. Barely any end-game, non-memorable characters or story. Easier than any other Pokemon game.

Why? There are no end-game objectives. At the end of the Elite 4, you are going to spend most of your end game probably catching up on your Kalos (the region) Pokedex, only to achieve a ribbon that makes the amount of eggs you would receive from the Daycare more frequent. There is probably only one real end-game thing you could do and that's the Battle Maison. Like the Pokemon Tower from previous games (Gen 2,3,4, etc), you are pitted into a 3v3 endurance test against the AI, who get significantly stronger as you progress.

What about the competitive scene of Pokemon now? Well if you're new to it, let me sum it up as a thorough as I can. There are secret values a Pokemon can have that you can give to it that can make it stronger than ones that don't have those values. We call them EV's and IV's. You can easily give EV's to your Pokemon through the Super Training app on the touch pad, which is much faster than older generations where you had to find a specific Pokemon to get that value from and the minimum of that would be 1. With Super Training , minimum is 4. The max EV in one stat can only be 252. IV's are different. These are more hidden, however can be viewed by a guy in the last town you visit after you defeat the Elite 4. Not only did Gamefreak add an easier way to see them, but also to obtain them. If you give a Pokemon in the Daycare a specific item, it will pass down it's IV's to the child Pokemon. There are two of these items in the game, so you can easily pass down a perfect 6 IV Pokemon in probably less than 12 hours if you're lucky with the RNG (Random Number Generator).

Why is this important? EV's and IV's can pretty much give your Pokemon 64+ additional stats in the stat you want your EV's in. If you are facing a Pokemon without EV's or IV's then you are a significant advantage.

What else is there to do? Friend Safari? Why yes, Friend Safari. Friend Safari is like your own practical Safari Zone that you mooch off your friends that share your Friend Code. Each Friend Safari is based on the person's Friend Code and that defines what Type of Pokemon you get in the Safari, as long as three significant Pokemon. However, the third Pokemon can only be seen if both you and your friend have been online at least once at the same time.

Right, now onto the less important stuff, but however, still important overall. The story and actual pre-Elite 4 gameplay.

Trying to not to spoil the entire story or ending, you are helping a Professor to complete the Pokedex just like in all the other games. You receive your new regional starter and you're off onto your adventure! But wait, there's more!

If you picked up your game recently (I don't know exactly when the event ends or if it has ended), then if you go to Mystery Gift then you receive a special Speed Boost abilitied Torchic. If you missed the event, then you're in luck with even more surprises!

Probably about 20 minutes into the game, you get an item called Exp. Share. If you remember from
previous games, the Exp. Share gave the Pokemon that held the item extra Experience even if it wasn't in battle. This time it's different. Exp. Share is now a Key Item that can be turned on or off to your liking, however if it is kept on, the Pokemon in your party will now gain the same amount of Experience as the Pokemon that had battled would have gained Experience. Exciting. Not really. Let's call it easy.

Want more? Okay, well when you reach the main city, you receive a new Pokemon. A Generation One Pokemon. Yes, like Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander. Isn't this fun?? Now without going further to which ones you get, there are also two more Pokemon you receive. For free. As in freedom or something like that. The game goes by just so fast when you have 3-4 Pokemon you didn't even have to waste a Pokeball on and get free Experience. In fact, so fast that you will probably not even remember the story, the gym leaders, or even the fact that the new legendaries aren't even that great as you sit and moan about how long, tedious, and boring the story can get because you have Pokemon that can one-shot every opponent the game throws at you granted you have the Type-advantage, which at this point you should. You have 3-4 Pokemon that are given for free that basically cover each others weaknesses.

You just want to defeat the Elite 4, catch all the Pokemon, and retire as a Pokemon Master, but all this damn story is getting in the way and you'll get tired of it. Sure, the gyms are different and nicely designed, but really, the gyms are lackluster. The Elite 4 is lackluster. The champion of the Elite 4 is lackluster. What are you really gaining out of this? Really, what are you gaining? The achievement of knowing you beat one of the least memorable and possibly worst Pokemon game Gamefreak has put out? There are only 69 new Pokemon in this Generation. Only a few are worth mentioning that don't look horrendous or atrocious in design.

Let me point out a new feature also that ties in with the story. Mega Evolutions. If you Pokemon is holding a specific item in battle, you get the chance to Mega Evolve it. Not all Pokemon get this, just some, mostly Generation 1 Pokemon, even then is about 10-15 overall. Some Mega Evolutions give better abilities, base stats and even change their Typings. Let's take Gyrados for example. Gyrados is Water/Flying. When he Mega Evolves, he now becomes Water/Dark. This removes his 4x Electric weakness into a 2x Electric Weakness. Not really useful, but the bonus stats could prove useful later. But geez Gamefreak. The designs. The god damn designs you made. If it wasn't the fact that you eventually become used to their awful design, then I would have never picked it up again after I finished it.

What's left to talk about? Let's go back to end-game. If you are going into competitive Pokemon, you will be sitting your ass off for 6-12 hours a day, granted you have that much time, to fully EV, to get a 5/6 IV, to train a level 50 or level 100 Pokemon. Most likely one or two a day. It's boring and tiring and sometimes I think it's not even worth it only to be put into a 3v3 battle on the GTS. Where's my 6v6? Oh yeah, you can only 6v6 your friends via Friend Codes. Maybe I should have put it in earlier, but when you go to the Homescreen of your 3DS to input a Friend Code and back onto Pokemon X/Y, you will be disconnected from the internet. Rude, I know. Tedious, I know. I'll say it again, sometimes I think it's not even worth doing anything at the end of the day.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

[PC] Tropico 4 Review

Tropico 4 is an “island-building simulator”, as I would like to call it, developed by Hemimont Games. In Tropico, you play as “El Presidente” as you control an island in the Caribbean Sea during the Cold War. Tropico 4 features a memorable soundtrack, addicting gameplay that might persuade you that you are really “El Presidente” when you are finished, and yes, achievements.

            As soon as you start the game, you are welcomed by what seems to be a Caribbean style of music that creates a blend of an acoustic guitar and bass levels that just says, “Damn, this is great already”.
            When you’re asked to play, you get to come to a screen that asks you what you want your “El Presidente” to look like and what he or she is like. I myself chose the pirate-looking mate who was installed by the KBG and praises the USSR like it’s his actual mother. You can also choose traits on how your people or other countries see you. You could become an ugly, alcoholic, gambler, but hey, those people need love too.   

            There are 20 missions in the Tropico 4 campaign that spread out onto 20 different islands. Most of the missions are intense as they test your management skills. Some missions you cannot build certain buildings or farms because your advisor lost the blueprints. It seems like as you progress, you’re asked to deal with one simple task that might take you at least an hour to complete. Then there are tasks that seem more like a tutorial, like building your island full of tourist attractions or a stable mining island.

            As you proceed to build your island, feed your people, and possibly commit Communism, your people are bound to get unhappy. Maybe rebels are attacking and you have no army at all, or you have no religious buildings and your people are calling you a heretic. Tropico 4 kinda throws it all at you pretty fast. First, you need to start a steady income of exports, which is usually a farm or mine, then you just build away to suit either your needs or your population’s needs. Sometimes you’ll see the Reverend asking you to build a church or the religious nerds won’t vote for you in the upcoming election and you’ll lose the mission. Perhaps the tree-hugging lady doesn’t like you to have logging stations, cutting down their precious trees. More importantly, the way these situations are thrown at you, you feel obligated to do them or you have a huge risk of losing the mission via being thrown out of office. 

Your island and the HUD
Becoming top dog of your island isn’t quite easy. You have many factions to deal with, such as the Capitalists, the Communists, the Intellectuals, the Religious, the Militarists, the Environmentalists, the Nationalists, and the Loyalists. Of course, you can’t please them all, so you’re always busy with what faction you want to support you the most. If the Militarists don’t think the size of your army is suitable, they could cause protests or even join the rebel forces. 

            A fun feature I noticed that seemed to be more of a mid-game or a late-game action, are edicts. Edicts act as a purchasable perk for your people or your island. You can raise the rate of education across your island, train the poor into your army, praise the USSR and protect yourself from any US dogs coming to attack your island if your US relationship plummets. 

A fully functional island.

             Besides the Campaign mode, there is a tutorial, extra missions, which is like DLC, challenges, and a Sandbox mode. In Sandbox mode, you can create your own island if you’d like, customizing how large you want it, the amount of resources the island contains, and the elevation. However, in between everything, there are loading screens that consist of quotes from people you have likely never heard of before, albeit pretty neat, as most of them seem political, and you are pretty much supposed to become this badass “El Presidente”, so why not? Also in Sandbox mode is the option of turning rebels off, no immigrants, or keep the pesky tourists out. There’s also a God Mode option that turns everything negative off and gives you $500.000 for free, but also disables achievements. Speaking of achievements, there are 50 achievements for you to unlock through your course as an island-owner.  

Overall, Tropico 4 is just a Caribbean political island-building simulator. It’s highly fun as it creates many opportunities to mess around with what you want to become like with the character creator, political stance, national stance, and the Sandbox mode, which adds to the replay value. There are some problems with the game of course, such as sometimes the cursor goes too far when I’m trying to find a certain building and that there’s no option to change mouse sensitivity in-game. I wish there was a windowed-screen option in the options, but sadly there isn’t. There is Social Media connectivity though, so you can tell all your friends that you’re playing some awesome game that they have never heard of before and brag about all of your achievements via Facebook or Twitter. Some more issues are that the game really does seem it like it throws a lot at you if you don’t build stuff right away. You’ll probably be pestered to death all game long by the Reverend to build that church or cathedral, and you’ll end up feeling bad about it, so it’s either waste $20,000 on a cathedral or lose the game as the pesky Religious faction refuses to vote for you, or they just become rebels. It’s the same for the other factions as well.

 If I had to score Tropico 4, I’d say it deserves an 8/10. Some option issues and tedious decision making shouldn’t stop you from playing the addicting Fidel Castro Simulator 4. Just kidding with that last part.