Thoughts and predictions on GTAV (Grand Theft Auto 5)

Grand-Theft-Auto-V-Splash-Image1[1]So, with September 17th coming fast, I thought it would be a good idea to say my opinions and thoughts of GTAV, along with my plans for content and community around it. Continue reading Thoughts and predictions on GTAV (Grand Theft Auto 5)

Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth Remix (DS)

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Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth Remix is a remake of the original Hoshigami done by Atlus, which was originally released on the Playstation One. However, this remake didn’t really change much from the original.

Story

3/10

I hate to say it, but past the initial ten minutes, this game doesn’t really have a plot. You start off as your standard mercenary who stays at home with your girlfriend in between fighting, up until the point where your girlfriend gets kidnapped, which gives you a reason to fight the bad guys. There are also a few clichés, most which are done in the opening scenes, such as the death of your mentor figure.  It all gets a bit messy after the first ten minutes though, and the story falls by the wayside completely about six hours into the game. I also find it hard to take the story seriously when the main character is named ‘Fazz’, but that’s more of a niggle than anything.

Sound

7/10

Well, on one hand, the sound effects are good. I find the death scream that the characters make when they get killed in battle hilarious. Things like water splashes and magic effects are quite good as well. The battle music which you will be hearing a lot of, is okay. Nothing inspired, but a bit more variety would have been nice, especially as the main battle theme gets a bit monotonous after a while.

Graphics

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5/10

On one hand, it’s an SRPG, so I’m far more concerned about gameplay than I am about graphics. However, compared to other SRPGs out there, like Tactics A2 or Disgaea, the graphics in this are fairly bland. It almost looks like they’ve been ported straight from the original PS1 game and not been tarted up in the process. I mean, yeah, sure, they work well enough for the game, but really could have been done better. There’s a few minor graphical glitches I’ve found as well, where some of the sprites break apart during battles, but other than that, they’re, well, uninspired but workable. There is also a noticeable lag when there is too much on the screen.

Multiplayer Options

5/10

Standard SRPG fare here, where you take your team up against a friend’s team on a few different battlefields. Variety would have been nice though. And good luck finding somebody else with this game.

Challenge

4/10

It’s an SRPG, so any challenge this game could’ve had is blown out by the simple matter of overlevelling. If they’d done something like have opponents level up with you, rather than set enemies to be at a certain level at different points in the game, I think this game would’ve had a lot more challenge to it. As it is, the most challenge you can get out of this is by doing a low level run or no magic run, or no ranged weapons run. Something like that.

Gameplay

7/10

And we’re onto the meat of the game!

This plays like your usual tactics game, so you and the opponent take it in turns to move units around a set distance and either prepare attacks for the next round, attack opponents or cast magic. What sets this game apart from games such as Tactics A2 or Disgaea, however, is the addition of something called the ‘RAP Gauge’ which is altered depending on how many attacks  you make, how much you move, magic cast, etc. This gauge controls how many actions you can carry out per unit, and it can be good fun seeing how much you can get out of a unit per round. It’s a bit different, and certainly makes a nice change from the standard one action per turn you see in most SRPGs.

Something else which is a minor annoyance during battles is the addition of another gauge which you get when you attack. You get a limited area in this gauge where you have to hit the ‘A’ button, and your closeness to the area determines if your attack misses or is a critical hit or not. It’s an imprecise science, and it does seem as though the AI manages to hit it in the critical area every time, which gets a bit wearying. If the AI was as inaccurate as you, or it wasn’t there, I think it would’ve been a bit better.

There are a variety of different weapons and magic you can use, all with different ranges and effects, and these do add a layer of strategy to the game. I have found however, as long as you have a good few swordsmen, a magic user and a couple of ranged attackers, you can take on most enemy teams, which is a bit disappointing in a way, I like being made to rethink my entire team for each battle, and not being able to do this does bring the game down a bit. The fact that all characters can use any weapon and all cast magic is a downside however, as it ruins any chance of you having specialised units, which are generally a staple of most SRPGs.

The weakness of most enemies is also a sore point, as most enemies will fall within a couple of whacks of a sword, and don’t really put up much of a fight. And I swear your opponents recover their turns quicker than you do. Well, suppose it adds a bit of challenge if they get to move before you do…

There is a mercenary element to this game, where you can go to a shop and hire mercenaries for your team. However, they’re all generic and come fairly low levelled, so chances are, the only time you’ll use them is when a member of your team dies in battle and you don’t get a chance to revive them before the battle finishes. It does make it feel like mist of your team is expendable however, and can be replaced at a whim, though.

Replay Value

4/10

Well, I haven’t been inspired to play through this game more than a couple of times. Maybe I’ll try and challenge myself one day or something. This game is so bland however, and the plot so non-existent, that it is very difficult to find a reason to play it again after the initial play through.

Overall

Story:  3

Sound:  5

Graphics:  5

Multiplayer:  5

Challenge:  4

Gameplay:  7

Replay Value:  4

 

Overall:  5/10

I’d say go for this game if you want an easy entry point into the SPRG world, but don’t go in expecting anything fantastic. Some aspects of the battle system are done well, particularly the RAP gauge, so I can’t completely condemn this game.

Written by Karen.

Children of Mana (DS)

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It seems to be a little known fact that Square-Enix actually makes RPGs which are not Final Fantasy. One of the other series which Square-Enix has claim to is the Mana series, which were pretty decent at one point. Unfortunately, since the GBA days, the Mana series seems to be going downhill.

Story

4/10

For a series which traditionally prides itself on having a strong plot, I must say, in this game, it’s disappointing. The story essentially boils down to ‘oh bloody hell there’s an evil dude doing bad stuff and turning the elementals evil, you must stop him with the holy sword’.  The pacing isn’t great either – you advance a bit of the story, unlock a new dungeon to run through, complete that, go back to the hub village, advance the story, unlock a new dungeon, rinse, later, repeat.

Sound

3/10

Well, some of the soundtrack is decent (Jadd’s desert and Lorimar’s Ice Citadel come to mind), but the rest is… well, not great. Off the top of my head and away from the game, I am struggling to recall much from the game’s soundtrack. One thing that annoys me is, considering how much of your time is spent in the hub village, the lack of decent music for the village is glaring. Apart from a few select places, I can honestly say, I’d rather play this game with the music turned off. I don’t often say that for games…

Graphics

4/10

I will give the graphics, they are pretty. However, they also look like they’ve been pulled straight from the GBA games. Still, they do the job well enough. However, one glaring thing with the graphics is during the character creation bit, you get the option of choosing your character’s hair colour. You see the hair colour change on the in-game sprite. When it comes to character portraits during dialogue… there’s only the generic hair colour used for the portraits. That really niggles at me. Also, the sprites being completely static in the background when you’re in the village hub also annoys me. I mean, how difficult would it have been to make it look like the inhabitants aren’t statues?

Multiplayer Options

N/A

I have a slight problem here. I haven’t yet found someone else who plays this game to multiplayer with…

Challenge

4/10

Unfortunately for this game, it does suffer from the same problem a lot of Mana games suffer from. Once you’ve overleveled enough, which isn’t difficult, everything becomes easy to kill. The game does attempt to stop you from overlevelling by capping the amount of EXP you can gain per kill once you’ve reached a certain level, but that doesn’t really do much to stop you hammering away at the enemy until it falls. There are a couple of bits in the game where you will grind your teeth, but this game really does boil down to ‘meh, I died there, let’s level up a level or two and try again’.

Gameplay

3/10

I hate to say it, but the gameplay isn’t brilliant. You do have a very basic (and I mean basic) job system, whereby you get to choose at the start of the game if you have a fighter-based, magic-based, mixed-attacker or a defensive type to play through the game with. What I have found is, it doesn’t matter which you choose, the game becomes a mad button mashing frenzy of the A-button to kill things with whatever weapon you have equipped. This is a shame, because the Mana games do generally tend to do quite well with the magic system (Sword of Mana on the GBA comes to mind), and this is a bit of a let-down as magic is massively side lined in this game. The lack of strategy when it comes to fights is also an issue. I like being made to think about how I’m going to fight something, I don’t want to just mash ‘A’.

The boss fights are also a bit pathetic. I mean, yeah, sure, you occasionally have to think about how to kill them, but even they get killed with whatever basic weapon you were handed before you went into the dungeon.

And here’s another issue. The dungeons.  They are bland, repetitive and just generally ugh. They all have the same format of either being four or eight floors in size, and have a boss at the end. You do have the option of clearing a dungeon again and taking on jobs for rewards while you’re doing it, but meh. The rewards don’t really justify the means. Not to mention mashing through the text at the end of each dungeon gets painful as well.

The one thing I did like about this game is the gem system. In this game you get given a gem frame which you can fill with various combinations of gems you either find or buy from one of the in –game shops, which change your stats in different ways or given you different abilities. A little bit through the game you also get the ability to combine different gems for a small fee in order to unlock new gems. Being an SRPG fan at heart, anything which allows me to tinker with the stats of my characters is always appreciated, so this did go down well for me. I just wish it was more in-depth.

Replay Value

3/10

Well, you can play this game through four times with different characters.  From what I can tell after running through the game with three of the four, there are no changes at all, as far as dialogue, events or gameplay go. This is a shame, as I like playing through games with different characters if I’m given the option at the start. Still, I would say you can replay this game… only just though. And preferably with a very long gap between playthroughs.

Overall

Story:  4

Sound:  3

Graphics:  4

Multiplayer:  N/A

Challenge:  4

Gameplay:  3

Replay Value:  3

 

Overall:  3.5/10

Why Square-Enix, why did you do this to the previously solid Mana series, why? I’d recommend this game really only for hardcore ARPG fans and/or Mana series fans.

Written by Karen

Star Wars: The Old Republic

star_wars-_the_old_republic_-_music_trailer_hd-386051-1280827025[1]Not so very long ago in a city not so far away…

STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC…

Developed a few years back by BioWare and published by gaming tyrants EA, SWTOR was a game of mixed feelings, its conception had killed a much loved and much played MMO Star Wars Galaxies, but had returned players to the same universe featured in Knights of the Old Republic One and Two.

Having initially been launched as a pay to play, it flopped in reviews.
Plagued with bugs, plot holes and Korean gold merchants, EA and BioWare decided to make it free to play, keeping subscriptions for those who want the bonuses. Free to play however reduces the XP you receive, you cannot sit idle in a bar to get resting exp, and you can only list 2 items in the galactic market. You are also restricted to sprinting after level 15… and the normal running speed is horrifically slow. There are still glitches, such as the no head but eyes glitch (2 confirmed by FHG including the one named “Yollo” near the Jedi Temple on Tython) and the strange occurrence where you see AI speeding past you to their patrol point.
The big thing that SWTOR has over Galaxies is that you get your lightsaber pretty early on, and you cannot do what I did on galaxies, which is select Jedi class but somehow join the Imperials.
However, the story is not as open as people may have hoped and the worlds are very closed in and small as compared to the likes of Galaxies, which brings me to another point,
Player involvement with the universe…

There is not much impact you can make, you go on your own storyline that everyone else in your class does but it does not make a difference… in Galaxies, players could make a difference, capturing or desolating entire worlds as part of the Empire or Rebellion or even player made groups, forming their own towns and cities and owning their own homes, having a fully customisable starship they could truly call their own or flying a super specced fighter blasting anything that flies into their crosshairs.
In a way, it is disappointing that these features and gameplay styles are not in the game, but at the same time, it makes it different. For sheer mission based co-op lighsaber and blaster mayhem though, SWTOR is ace. The lightsaber combat is truly one to behold, not since the days of Jedi Academy have I played a game with proper lightsaber duels. The Co-op systems are a bit clunky, and can be annoying when doing the main story missions, however, remote NPC convos where people far away can join in with the group member initiating the conversation and the simple and easy to use group system make it at least workable.

You still don’t feel a true important part of the universe though and there is no real legacy. Similar really to STO, great action and a good story, but until recently in that game, no actual legacy. And that is where SWTOR falls flat on its face. The graphics are nothing to shout about, it has average MMO graphics and it uses a lot of resources but really does not help the lack of immersion. However, the OST is at least decent, and fits in with the era of the game.

All said and done, SWTOR is a good game, but is plagued by its early days, lack of immersion and player interaction and an increasing amount of paid for content, which is bad for the PVP servers as those are usually all level items ahead of everything else. The game would have benefitted from being a co-op based game with locally hosted servers and more streamlined for fewer players… the MMO aspects do not really make sense apart from the PVP and PVP-RP based servers.

It gets a 7/10, still a good game but not a true MMORPG.