Sunday, January 29, 2012

February Releases - Love and Other Drugs

Highlighted Release

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
PC - PS3 - Xbox 360
Developer: 38 Studios / Big Huge Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: February 7th, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur caught my eye at E3 as being one of those hack and slash RPGs with promise. With a story written by fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane working on the art, there are major players at work in shaping a fantasy world unlike any other. Though acting as a hack and slash, twitch gaming will only get you so far, as developers promise combat soon requires much more strategy. With a slew of classes available and plenty of content to explore, Amalur is shaping up to be an RPG experience that will make you set aside Skyrim.

*** If you wish to watch a trailer for the game, simply the click on the game cover art. Enjoy!***

Additional Titles

February 7th

February 14th
February 22nd

February 26th

Monday, January 16, 2012

SWtoR Review - Galaxies Ahead

Score: 8.25 / 10
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: EA/Lucasarts
Release Date: December 20th, 2011

  • Thousands of lines of spoken dialogue bring story to life
  • Plenty of variety in choosing a class fit to your style
  • Animations are spot on and battles are entertaining to watch
  • Flashpoints are challenging and rewarding experiences
  • Plenty of content to keep you entertained well past the level cap

  • Finding a group for a quest or Flashpoint proves difficult
  • Companions are limited in skill customization
  • Repeating corridors turn bland after a time
  • Crew skills are far too easy to level

After years of being teased with pretty cinematics and the promise of a Star Wars game for the masses, Bioware has finally released one of the most anticipated MMOs this year.  Star Wars: The Old Republic looks to give fans exactly what they asked for, in crafting their own story in the franchise history as anything they want to be. Featuring a more focused emphasis on voicework and a hefty license backing the content, Old Republic manages to not only deliver a stellar MMO but a love letter to fans of anything Star Wars.

A Long Time Ago, in my Galaxy Far, Far Away...

If Bioware is good at one thing, it's making a good story. With a franchise history to build off of, they continue their success in crafting a unique and enjoyable storyline for each class. Your role in the galaxy is determined by your choice in one of two sides: Republic or Empire. You then choose your class ranging from Jedi Knights to Smugglers, or Bounty Hunters to Sith Inquisitors. After customizing the looks to your character you are off on your very own adventure in the Star Wars universe.

Your starter planet depends on your class, and each class has a unique story to follow. Jedi Knights and Jedi Counselors both start out on the same planet, but have varying objectives to follow. Sticking with the Smuggler class, my story evolved from landing on a planet to deliver a shipment, to chasing a two-faced crook around the galaxy to recover my stolen ship, and eventually to beat him to a lost treasure.

Each story continually evolves, and is further supported by the fully voiced cast of characters. Everyone from your own character, to companions, and even quest givers are fully voiced. While the sheer mass of voicework is often repeated or deduced to a Hutt dialect, the overall scope is impressive. Your story is where it really stands out, as no performance lets up among the thousands of lines you will hear.

What the game lacks in visuals, it makes up for in its use of the license. Notable Star Wars tracks back your epic battles, with such music as "The Duel of the Fates" chiming in during a boss battle. The familiar sound of blaster fire and the ear candy that is the hum of a lightsaber, round out a complete package in presentation.

MM Oh!

MMO veterans will feel comfortable with the setup, as Old Republic does not stray far from the expected in terms of game play. You set out on quests in a certain areas and gradually level up, upgrading skills and equipment along the way. The standard amenities are all here; you have a galactic trade auction house, your PvP options, your crew skills and crafting trades, etc.

Classes in the game have up to six variations and there are plenty of options. Once you hit level 10 you will choose a specialization. The Smuggler class for example can follow one of two specializations; the Scoundrel or the Gunslinger. The Scoundrel can then follow the Sawbones healing tree, Scrapper DPS tree that focuses on stealth attacks, or the Dirty Fighting tree that is more melee focused DPS.

In addition to a specialization, your story will eventually grant you a ship that you can use to travel from planet to planet. Your class mission generally guide you on where to go and the locations are diverse. You will quest on notable Star Wars planets such as Tatooine, Hoth, Korriban, and Nar Shadaa. Though the look changes, the general rythym does not and at about level twenty or so, you being to see the pattern emerge of fetch quests and repeating corridors. Quests range from collecting items, to defeating certain enemies, and even quests within a quest that unlock as you go. While your story class objectives stand out the most, the other quests tend to be a bit more forgettable.

To take a breather from the MMO play, you also have the option to engage in space missions. These Starfox inspired segments are only about 5 minutes a piece and have you taking on opposing faction fighters and cruisers. It ends up being a battle for survival most of the time as you attempt to dodge around to recharge your shields. It's nothing spectacular, but it is a nice break from the grind and can net you some experience and items.

My Wookie and Me

One of the most noticeable additions to the game are the companions you pick up along the way. These colorful characters will act as a counterpart to your class in battle. This is especially helpful for the solo grind, as healer specialists can use their companion as a tank to pull threat and use their role as intended. Companions can also be sent off to craft or gather supplies from the crew skill missions, or even sell off items to make room in your inventory.

Helpful as they are, there is little customization you can do with them. If your companion is a healer he is going to stick to healing and will likely end up being used to fetch components. You can only summon one companion, which is a bit of a let down considering the amount of Heroic quests that demand multiple partners to complete.

You soon gather a hefty amount to fill your ship, and as I was changing planets I got the feeling of nostalgia from Knights of the Old Republic. Having a ship full of crew members that I could fully equip and even exchange dialogue with is a welcome feature. Though some have gone unused, and keeping six companion's equipment relevant to the level you are at is a bit of a chore.

Power in Numbers

For the more difficult dungeons and quests, you will need a group member or two. Flashpoints act as the games' dungeons, complete with a slew of baddies to overcome and a notable boss encounters. What starts as a simple spank and tank encounter soon evolves into the MMO basics. Up to four players can enter a Flashpoint, and each will need to know how their class works by level thirty. The promise of loot and ultimate reward of commendations at the end of each mission is a welcome break from the typical grind, and there are plenty of Flashpoints for each level range.

In addition to Flashpoints, most areas will have Heroic quests that offer players at a similar level a more difficult task in their area. While these start pretty basic, they also become a bit more challenging at later levels. They tend to act as a nice warm up for some of the more difficult Flashpoints, oftentimes requiring crowd control and DPS focus.

While the overall experience is great, finding a group for these experiences is anything but. You will find that most areas offer Heroic mode quests for groups of two, and soon require four on later planets. With no real server to server link, you are stuck with who is on your server and depending on the population of the planet you are currently on, results can vary. Oftentimes I found myself wishing to just use three of my own companions in lieu of human players, but since such a feature does not exist I simply abandon the quest all together and move on to the next solo area.


Knights of the Old Republic doesn't stray far from the MMO formula, but the small tweaks and improvements still make it fun. There is enough diversity in the classes to offer a variety of toons and enough emphasis on story to hold the solo player's interest through the grind to the level 50 cap. With steady improvements since launch and plenty of expansions on the way, any fan of Star Wars can appreciate the amount of content the game contains...just don't expect the next revolution in gaming.