Category Archives: RPG

Children of Mana (DS)

ChildrenManaLogo[1]

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.

Star Trek Online: A recent returnees opinions

sto

So, I have been away from STO for quite a while, about a year, and returned just a few weeks ago. Getting back into the Defiant, and flying some more missions, I quickly reached Rear admiral lower and then upper half, flying an even more powerful ship. I love the escort class ships, even though some fleet PVE players hate them… I saved their asses at the end of the day.

I still had the basic free Odyssey floating around in my bank, so I decided to bring that out when I reached Vice Admiral. Took what I could from my previous ship and built a decent ship from it. Yeah its not the best, and some weapons are not as good as what I could get, but I got a fleet starbase to upgrade too.

The Edinburgh's first voyage was to New Romulus on a diplomatic mission.
The Edinburgh’s first voyage was to New Romulus on a diplomatic mission.
Admiral Walker on the bridge! Edinburgh prepares to venture into deep space
Admiral Walker on the bridge! Edinburgh prepares to venture into deep space
This bridge is not my favorite, but it will do... for now.
This bridge is not my favorite, but it will do… for now.

So I took my ship on its first battle. And oh boy is it huge and powerful. Its shield could stand up to a lot of abuse, and it had enough power to keep all my abilities and weapons going whilst it was taking all that fire. That battle was a clear victory. The USS Edinburgh had won against some Cardassians… next fight saw it against the Borg. Again, exceptional performance… hardly a scratch would come off of it, and cube after cube, probe after probe would blow up spectacularly.

The Edinburgh visits the fleet starbase
The Edinburgh visits the fleet starbase

After a few days of missions, fights and visiting new worlds, I decided to check up on the starbase. After sorting out some freighter ques, I got my ship ready for its voyage to Deep Space Nine. On the way we battled a few level 2 klingons (not much for a level 50 cruiser to handle) and I quickly wiped them out just using phasers.

Klingons! The Edinburgh easily destroys them with its phasers.
Klingons! The Edinburgh easily destroys them with its phasers.

Upon reaching the sector block, I engaged the slipstream drive which took me to equivalent of Warp 38.9… and incredibly quick speed. Within minutes we had reached DS9 and proceeded to deliver supplies and personnel, along with engaging with missions against the local hostiles.

Edinburgh arrives at DS9
Edinburgh arrives at DS9

Now onto the opinions I have:

The game has massively improved, space combat is quicker and deadlier, ground combat has got a lot better, although still average, and the interiors have more variety. Although they are still MASSIVE. And that is one of the issues I have. Corridors, even in the small ship layouts for classes such as the saber (a light escort) are way too big, you feel like a midget in a giants house.  Some of the new features such as projects and stuff are amazingly complex, I dont even know how to craft many items yet alone do all this. Although I am sure I will learn quickly, it could be too much for a new or casual player to deal with.

So, all in all, in my opinion, worth playing and learning the ropes. Join a fleet, have a good time, shoot some stuff… Oh and Discovery Alliance fleet… Join it.

DISCOVERY ALLIANCE
DISCOVERY ALLIANCE

Star Trek Online

sto

Star Trek Online is a free to play MMO developed by Cryptic Studios, originally published by Atari with a pay-to-play model, based on monthly subscriptions, the game was horribly rushed and broken almost beyond repair. Luckily, Atari ditched STO after they realised they were flogging an almost dead horse. Soon after, with STO’s fate almost consigned to the history books, Perfect World Entertainment took over the publishing rights, bringing their free to play model to the game. Soon after updates began to flow in to fix the many problems still with the game, and the subscription model was changed to reward players who pay with more free content in the form of Zen point stipends and rewards. Lifetime subscribers still get more and more content, and the Zen point stipend. Zen points are PWE’s online currency, however, those rewarded through STO’s subscriptions are not transferable to other games and can only be spent in the C-store (Cryptic’s STO store) or traded for Dilithium, an in game currency used to purchase rare items and more powerful weaponry (which can be traded in the exchange for energy credits… another resource usually used for common items or duty officers/bridge officers along with commodities and consumables)

The gameplay as of mid-2013 is solid, although ground combat is average and a bit tedious with its samey samey levels and oversized corridors and rooms, but still plays better than many other MMO’s. the space combat is what this game is about however, and it plays well. Ships speed about firing their phasers and torps at the enemy, shields take damage in different shield arcs, fighters explode and battleships use all the abilities at their disposal to try and take each other out. Ship classes are well balanced, all having weaknesses and strengths, and the levelling system is nice and easy to understand.Onto weapon types… again nicely laid out, if a little more complicated to understand. You got your standard Phaser weapons which deal normal damage but with a chance to knock subsystems offline, and then you have your plasma which can cause continuing damage with plasma fires, you have disrupters that lower the enemy’s resistance to further damage, amongst others.

Being an MMO, teamplay is important… and recent fixes have solved various issues. Players no longer have to worry about ships being the level of the highest team member (despite all matching the lowest) and overall co-op runs fairly well. Difficulty is scaled to the amount of players involved, 5 being the maximum, but that is fairly insignificant if you have a level 50, say, helping a level 6.

A mixture of larger team modes such as Players vs. Environment (AI) and Players vs. Players in both ground and space battles with different factions such as Federation starbase defence vs . Klingon raiders or a fed fleet attacking the Borg transwarp hubs… Or a party of Klingon ships going up against some Cardassian True Way invaders.Once you reach the higher ranks of the game, you have access to different areas that were not open to you, and new missions that were locked to certain ranks. You will never find yourself without a mission to do or a deep space encounter to fight some ships at, and the gameplay is highly replay able due to  the choice of multiple races, 3 classes and 3 different factions.

The latest expansion pack, Legacy of Romulus, has added a great deal of content, including the Romulan faction where you can play as a Romulan or Reman officer, new ships, new weapons and a new set of missions including a set specially for level 50 players of both the Klingon and Federation factions. The fleet system has been bolstered now with a fleet embassy on New Romulus which can be upgraded and various visual enhancements added.

Talking of the fleet system, fleets can have a maximum of 500 characters, and have a fleet starbase and embassy to upgrade and use. As those upgrades improve, fleets have access to new fleet upgraded ships and equipment, along with new services and higher challenge fleet missions. Fleets that work together in missions also receive multiple bonuses, and can share abilities that boost their team in battle.  Overall, Star Trek Online is a very good MMO, however it suffers from occasional server down time, sometimes can lag, and average ground combat. If ground combat were to improve (a cover system might be too much to ask for however, and they fixed weapons going through most objects) a lot, it might score higher in that front. However, the rest of the game is solid, space combat is fantastic and the levels and gameplay are easy to understand but can also be used to tailor high end character/ship builds to add some extra power or defence to your ship and crew.I give Star Trek Online a 8/10 score, and I suggest that anyone who likes Star Trek, sci-fi, MMO’s and space games to check it out, links below:

Star Trek Online website

Image representing Perfect World as depicted i...
Image via CrunchBase

Written by Steve

Image representing Cryptic Studios as depicted...
Image via CrunchBase

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA)

Way back during the days of the Playstation One, there was an off-shoot of the main Final Fantasy games, called Final Fantasy Tactics, where Square decided to branch out into the realm of Strategy RPGs. That game was very well received, and a follow up on the Gameboy Advance came out…

Story

7/10

As with all its other Final Fantasy games, Square-Enix likes to put the fantasy into overdrive in its games. At the beginning of the game you are a child with a disabled brother and school problem (and very dodgy hair. This doesn’t improve)  At school is the typical outcast girl, strong willed and brave, and secondly is a teddy bear hugging boy that is liked by only a few.

Next, after some training events at school, one of your friends finds an old book at a bookstore, brings it to a gathering of the girl, you and your brother, and , of course, you open it. The text is too strange for you to understand, and you put it up.

Later in the evening after everyone is in bed, the book opens up and sucks the world up in a big flash. Everything is transformed into a wonderland of strange being and exotic locales. Everybody is transformed into creatures, except you. As you wake up in this strange new land, a Moogle greets you and offers to invite you to join his clan. Thus, the adventure begins…

 

Sound

7/10

This category can either make a game or break and in this case although it doesn’t necessarily make the game, but it does the job well enough. There are a couple of catchy tunes in this game, and I adore the Totema theme. You might find yourself getting a bit bored of the main battle music, but every now and then it does get changed for different fights, which keeps it fresh.

 

Graphics

6/10

The graphics are bright and cheerful, I will give them that much. Sadly every Human Soldier looks the same, just as every Moogle Time Mage looks the same. The only dissimilarity in this is the main character, and they are stuck with one look as well regardless of their job. Now onto a more positive note; the spell effects, especially the more powerful ones like Thundaga and Blizzaga, are a joy to watch and to hear. And the Totema summons are brilliant. There is one small complaint, the summon spells used by summoners are disappointing in my opinion, especially as I was expecting bigger and better things from these summons from other FF games. I don’t know, I find it kinda insulting what they’ve done to the likes of Ifrit and Shiva…

 

Multi Player Options

7/10

I haven’t really played around with the multiplayer on this game, apart from a few times against myself using another cartridge and Gameboy.

However, the missions you do get to play through multiplayer are quite good fun, even if it’s more directed towards co-operative play rather than competitive. I think the main issue nowadays is that you’d be hard pressed to find somebody with a copy of this game and a Gameboy Advance to link with.

 

Challenge

7/10

As far as challenge goes, the first ten hours are pretty easy, but as it serves as the introduction to the game, I’ll let that slide.

The challenge picks up a bit as laws are introduced, but I wouldn’t say it was particularly challenging for anybody who is acquainted with the tactical RPG genre.

Another aspect to the challenge would have to be deciding what you want to do. Random type battles are here so you’re not limited to how many opportunities you have to try out things. You can have a total of 23 members in your clan, and it can get overwhelming. Typically, and usually very quickly so, you’ll learn not to overextend yourself in too many directions.

However, you can challenge yourself (I dare you to do a no-ability run and see what happens when ‘Fight’ is outlawed!) which does make up for some of the lack of challenge. I’d say this is a nice game for breaking in new gamers to this genre.

Gameplay

10/10

This is the most important part of a tactical RPG, in my opinion. As far as gameplay goes, it is fairly simple to pick up and easy to control in battle.  In battle, things are fairly simple once you’ve got a grasp on them. You have access to certain attacks based upon what abilities you have mastered from weapons and what weapons you currently have equipped. Alongside what abilities you have from your main ‘job’, you can also have the abilities of a secondary job, as long as you’ve learnt them. So you want a magic casting soldier? Go ahead. You want a Dragoon with the abilities of a Templar? Do it.

As well as the standard top-down isometric grid turned-based gameplay which seems the standard for many handheld SRPGs, this game likes to change it up a bit by adding in ‘laws’ for each battle. With the law system, you get penalised for breaking the law (either sent to jail if you KO an opponent whilst breaking the law, or given a yellow card, two yellow cards and it’s do not pass go, do not collect £200, go directly to jail) and rewarded if you do the recommended action. For example, there might be a law against fire in play – you get penalised for casting fire magic, but rewarded for casting ice magic. The games starts off with only one law being in play but goes up to three during the course of the game, making battles that slightly bit more interesting.  Of course, you also get the ability to manipulate the laws as part of the story…

The main menu interface is a bit confusing to find your way around at first, but it’s easy enough once you’ve played around with it and gotten used to it. You can equip items, make units leave your clan, modify their abilities and equipment. Heck, I can spend hours in the main menu tinkering with my individual units and switching up equipment and abilities. You can also tap the R-button whilst in the menu and this will give you various bits of background information. The select button does the same in certain situations.

Overall, very well done and deserves and good 10/10.

Replay Value

8/10

I’m in two minds over replay value. I’d say a regular run through of this game will take around 50 hours to complete. For a more thorough play through, something like 100+ hours. I’ve currently got a game running which has just hit the 450 hour mark, and I’m nowhere near done yet.  As for replay value, I’d say yes, this is a game you can replay –  you can try things like solo character runs, Mage-only runs, Bangaa-only runs, runs where you deliberately try and set the laws against you, etc. You’d probably be more inclined to replay it a while after the first play though. But yeah, this game definitely has replay value.

 

**Final Score**

 

Story ——— 7/10

Sound ——- 7/10

Graphics —- 6/10

MultiPlayer – 7/10

Challenge — 6/10

Gameplay – 10/10

Replay Value – 8/10

 

Overall ——- 7/10

Written by Karen

Artifact Red-X

Artifact Red-X looks to become one of the best hybrid strategy/rpg games of all time, perhaps even beating most of the SRPG’s on the sci-fi genre market.

AR-X is set in a future where the humans are the bad guys (nice touch) and you have to go around marauding alien cities and stealing their resources… BUT…
A nice twist emerges before you can even think of wiping entire populations from a distance, acts of genocide go unpunished.

Your team is controlled in battle on a hexagonal grid, and it is turn based, you get upgrades for performing well and for atrocities you get punished. You need the resource that you loot in order to upgrade.

The game is set to be featured on PC and Ipad, one criticism is lack of support for android… despite the fact of their being several capable gaming devices, such as the xperia play, or the upcoming Nvidia shield.

Overall, this is a game that we can look forward to.

Link Tier2 game’s kickstarter page