Author - Judgeman

Conan Exiles – A Preview (PC)

In the early 1930’s, Robert E. Howard began publishing short stories about a massive Cimmerian barbarian and his quest to rule a kingdom.  At the time of Howard’s suicide in 1936, he had written 21 complete stories about this barbarian.  These stories faded in and out of publication for almost the next thirty years, never really grabbing the popular culture again, until 1982.  In 1982, a movie about this barbarian hit the big screens, starring an Austrian bodybuilder that was aiming for stardom as the next big action hero.  That bodybuilder is named Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the title character of this movie is named Conan.  Since that movie, Conan has had relative success in both movies and video games, but it wasn’t until Funcom released Age of Conan that Howard’s vision of Hyboria truly felt realized in the medium.  Currently, Funcom is working on their next Conan game named Conan Exiles.  The best way to describe Conan Exiles is that it is like Rust or Ark, but with balls.  And by balls, I mean actual testicles.  Yes, Funcom went the Full Monty with Conan Exiles.  Is it enough to make you want to play the game?  Let’s take a closer look with our preview.

Story

You begin Conan Exiles crucified.  Yes, actually crucified.  As in, strapped to a cross and left in the desert to rot and die.  The intro cinematic shows Conan wandering through the desert, as he comes upon you and your cross.  Conan cuts you down, defends you against some hungry monsters, then abandons you to your fate.  You next find yourself an exile, a criminal, left alone in the desert with nothing.  You must make your way to the relative safety of the valley in front of you and build your camp.  While in the valley, you will need to hunt for food, gather materials for structures and weapons, and defend yourself against everything that wants to kill you.

Let’s start this preview by saying that Conan Exiles is still in early access, so not all aspects of the game are polished, or even present.  Conan Exiles does a good job in setting up the narrative in the beginning of the game, by showing you your crime during the character creation process, and then by having you find journals as you make your way to the valley.  Once in the valley, the narrative begins to take a life of it’s own.  You will run into some characters that will talk to you, and let you in on more of the story.  Other than that, the story will progress by your own creation.  You make your own narrative, in a similar way as it is in Minecraft, 7 Days to Die, or Rust.  There are stones and journals that dot the wasteland that will fill in the gaps and inform you of the ancient civilization that once was here, but like most games of this nature, the story will change depending on your actions and you can create your own narrative.

Game Play

Let’s start with the naked, swinging genitals in the room, shall we?  Conan Exiles will get a lot of publicity over its approach to nudity.  You have the option at the start to go with no nudity, partial nudity (breasts), or full nudity (everything! and I mean everything!).  Character creation is very deep, allowing you to customize your race based on Howard’s world, and then begin to change all of your features using sliders.  Yes, there is a slider for penis length and breast size, you naughty person, you.  Part of the character creation process is also choosing your God.  You can select many of Howard’s pantheon of gods, including Crom, Yog, Set, and Mitra.  This selection will give you access to special structures and items that can only be crafted by a follower of that god.  You can view the game in first person or third person point of view, which alone will give you at least an hour of laughs watching your bits sway as you jump and run across the desert.

Once you get passed acting like a 13 year old boy, you will realize that Conan Exiles has much more to offer.  The main part of the game is truly survival, and that means keeping yourself fed, hydrated, protected, and healthy.  You gather materials as you travel across the land, and craft items that will help you live longer.  Tools, weapons, bedrolls, and even structures can all be crafted and placed in the world.  You will need to watch your encumbrance as well, so you cannot just grab everything in site and take it back to camp.  You will have to manage your pack and the weight of the pack.

Combat is fairly straight forward, but I found it incredibly difficult in the beginning.  Most everything will kill you in the beginning, so picking your fights will be very important.  As you level up and learn new recipes, gather better items, and even collect slaves, you will discover that these enemies will no longer prove a challenge and will need to find stronger enemies to fight.  Then there is the other players.  Depending on what server you are playing on, other players will also prove to be a hazard to you.  Many will kill you and nick all of your stuff, burn down your fortress, and make your life hell.  On the other hand, if you can get a few of your mates to band together, you can become the object of fear in the valley.

Conan Exiles feels right, though the difficulty curve is something that you will need to get used to.  I found the game fun and enjoyable, even in its early access state.  Lag was an issue on some of the servers that I joined, but here’s to hoping that gets hammered out before release.  What is here, is in good condition and was fun to play.

Aesthetics

Conan Exiles is a nice looking game, with full voice acting.  Many of the animations seemed off during my playthrough, including many enemies that just glided towards me, but hey it’s early access.  You definitely get the feeling of Conan here, from your character’s look, to the look of the enemies, and the structures you are able to build.  I love the way Funcom allows you to pick your character’s origin, which helps define your character.  Choices like Hyborian, Stygian, Kushite, and Zamorian are all offered in game, and will help determine the look of your character.

Graphics wise, Conan Exiles looks good and comparable to other similar games on the market.  The game had issues at distance, but again it’s not a release copy yet.  Structures look fairly generic, but will be completely up to you on how you design them.  I found it fairly easy to build a two story hut out of rock and wood.

Preliminary Thoughts

Conan Exiles is looking to be a very good, if not a great survival/crafting game.  The game has the look, the feel, and the blood of a Conan game, with all of the nudity that goes with it.  As of this writing, Conan Exiles has already sold about 300,000 copies and Funcom has completely recouped their cost for the game.  This is one game that I will be keeping a close eye on when it fully releases.  Funcom is also preparing an Xbox One version of the game, with a possible PS4 release later.  Conan Exiles is currently available on Steam Early Access.

Phoning Home – A Review (PC)

The current landscape of gaming has made it much easier for independent game makers to get their products made and published.  Kickstarter, Indigogo, and Steam Greenlight have opened the gates for many game makers to get their ideas made, and into the hands of the public.  However, not all games are made equal.  For every great game that comes out, there are usually five to six really, really bad games that came out with it.  One such game to get made this way is Phoning Home, by Ion Lands.  Phoning Home made its way through the Steam Greenlight community, and into my hands prior to its official release.  Is Phoning Home one of the good games to make it to market, or something to avoid and forget about all together?  Let’s take a closer look at Phoning Home by Ion Lands.

Story

In Phoning Home you play as a droid named ION, and begin the game by crash landing your ship on an unknown planet.  Your ship’s AI immediately sets you out to collect materials and craft parts to repair the communications array to contact your home planet for extraction.  As you explore the alien planet, you soon discover remnants of an older alien civilization, and another spacecraft, who is missing its own exploration unit, named ANI.  ION quickly realizes that escape from this planet is impossible, without ANI’s aide and sets out to find her.  ANI is discovered, but is also a bit mad, but is absolutely essential in your quest to escape.  Together, you and ANI begin searching for ways to get off the planet, while also exploring the ancient civilization and discovering what other resources are available on the planet.

The story is pretty generic, as these types of stories go, but still will keep you interested throughout the entire game.  The most interesting aspect of the story is the interdependence between ION and ANI.  ANI is extremely dependent on ION to move around the landscape, but ION cannot make it off the planet without ANI’s systems, so what develops is a story that really centers around two characters that are vital to each other for survival.  The story of Phoning Home went a lot deeper than I was expecting it to.

Game Play

You begin the game by completing some rudimentary quests for your ship’s AI unit, trying to get certain systems back online.  ION moves around the open world very well, with a jump pack and a sprint function to help you get around.  However, using the jump pack burns fuel faster, and using the sprint function will drain your battery.  This makes gathering of resources and crafting vital to progressing through Phoning Home.  

As you explore the planet, you will discover different resources that you can use in crafting.  Resources are initially unknown and not on the map, until you discover them.  Once you have located and gathered a particular resource, that resource will now show up on your HUD and makes finding more of the same resources easier.  ION can only hold a certain amount of each resource, so gathering maximum amounts and constantly crafting fuel and batteries is a great way to make sure you can get around whenever you need to.  Crafting is also done very simply, yet still felt satisfying.  In the crafting menu, you will see a list of all the objects that you can craft, and the materials that are needed to craft that object.  Once you have all the materials, you simply click on the item you want to craft and it is created and placed in your inventory.  Some items require multiple parts to create, so you will need to gather a larger batch of resources.

These items you can craft also include upgrades to ION, including weapons, teleporters, or magnetics that help you move ANI around.  Each upgrade changes the way the game is played and are realized at certain points of the game.  Your ship’s AI will contact you when a new upgrade or item is now craftable, and all you need to do then is locate the right resources to craft and unlock it.  Crafting these upgrades and items are vital to the overall game play of Phoning Home because of the constant shift and threat of the terrain.  ION will take damage from falls, creatures, and even the weather.  Repair kits, batteries, and fuel are in constant need and so you will spend most of your time gathering and crafting, as you explore your planet.

If crafting and resource gathering is half of the game here, then the other half is survival and solving puzzles.  ION is only outfitted with a pipe as a weapon in the beginning, so combat isn’t an option.  Large rock creatures will just crush you with boulders if you get to close, so you best learn to keep your distance.  Later, you will get some photon blasters and other weapons, but the option to hide and wait is usually the better option.  You will also have to deal with ANI, in what becomes long escort mission.  ANI has her own health bars and abilities, so you need to keep her alive at all costs.  ANI is also not outfitted with the same gear you are, so cannot fly or create her own teleport portals.  That’s all you, bud.  You will have to lift her over rocks, create portals to help her climb, or use your magnetics to get her to keep up with you as you run away from a very large rock creature using your head for target practice.

Aesthetics

Usually, indie games go with a drastically different aesthetic or really leave one aspect of the design short to save money.  Phoning Home’s aesthetic is impressive and really works well with the game.  ION does look a little too much like Wall-E for my taste, I would have liked to have seen something that really could stand out as being unique to Phoning Home.  The graphics aren’t awe inspiring but still do a hell of a job making the alien planet interesting to explore.  The planet has many different climates to explore and the planet looks just close enough to Earth to allow you to understand what it is you are looking at, but different enough to know that you are on an alien world.

The sound design, music, and voice acting are done extremely well.  Everything about Phoning Home feels much more polished than your average indie game, but the voice acting and music are easily the highlights of the aesthetic.  The voice acting was really well done, with just enough emotion to keep you invested in the story, but not too much to stop sounding like it would come from an A.I.  The music fits the feeling of the game, of being lost on a strange planet far from home.  It’s immediately the one area that you can just feel that the developers put a huge emphasis on and it comes off almost perfect.  The game feels very atmospheric thanks to the soundtrack.

Final Thoughts

Phoning Home is one of those good games that really shows what Steam Greenlight is really capable of.  Solid storytelling, decent graphics, and a great aesthetic (minus the Wall-E look) makes Phoning Home a must play for those that are looking for a game about gathering resources and exploration.  Phoning Home officially released on Steam on February 7.


Phoning Home Review Score

(3 out of 5 Stars)


 

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Review (PC)

Telltale Games has pretty much gone all-in on the episodic graphic adventure game genre.  Out of the 12 or so games released by Telltale Games, I have played and completed about a quarter of them, so I wasn’t a stranger to this genre when The Walking Dead: A New Frontier came across my desk.  What I love about these types of games is the way that Telltale Games really focuses on the narrative and character development, while still making the games engaging to play as an actual game.  I felt that Batman:  The Telltale Series really had improved on this genre greatly over the last two games that I had played.  So, where then does The Walking Dead: A New Frontier fit in?  Let’s take a closer look.

Story

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is the fourth game by Telltale Games that takes place within the Robert Kirkman world of The Walking Dead.  This time around, you play as Javier Garcia, a former professional baseball player who is trying to keep the remnants of his family alive during the zombie apocalypse.  The story begins just as the zombies are beginning to rise, with Javier trying to reach his dying father’s home.  Due to the traffic that is being caused by the initial stages of the zombie outbreak, Javier reaches the house moments after his father passes away.  On the steps of the home Javier’s brother, David, is waiting for Javier and the two siblings begin to argue over family matters.  After the two brothers calm down, the family begins to prepare to move the corpse of the father, when one of the children tells the brothers that the father is awake.  Javier and David, along with the rest of the family, move cautiously into the room, only to find that their father has become a zombie.  Their father attacks, and is subdued, but only after biting the brothers’ mother.  The family races the mother out to a van, to try to get her to the emergency room.  Then the real story begins.

The first part of the first episode does a great job in building up the new characters so the player can get a feel for them.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier introduces a whole new set of characters that you control.  When the game resumes, Javier is in the same van from the introduction, but with David’s wife, Kate, and David’s two children, Gabe and Mariana.  From the immediate outset of the game, you get the feeling that this group has been on the run for far too long, and is in desperate need for a safe place.  Now, I don’t want to get too much into the story blow for blow, but if you know anything about the Walking Dead universe, you can imagine that their bad day just goes downhill from there.

Let’s get a few things out in the open first, you will play as a whole new set of characters, with some characters from Seasons 1 and 2 making appearances.  Ultimately, that means that The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is connected to Seasons 1 and 2, but not a direct sequel.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier occurs roughly 3 years after Season 2, and introduces a new human faction, in the New Frontier.  Pretty much like most other factions within The Walking Dead, the New Frontier started off as decent enough folks but have degenerated into brutal and savage individuals who raid other settlements for supplies.

Now, I never played any of the other Walking Dead games by Telltale, so I had no connection to any characters.  I only know that some of the characters appeared in earlier games, because I did some research on those characters.  So that really meant that I wasn’t as invested in those returning characters as somebody who had played the other games would be.  With that being said, I still feel that Telltale Games does some of the best work when it comes to narrative storytelling in video game form.  Does this feel like a Walking Dead game?  Yes, to me it does.  I know that others that I have talked to that might be bigger fans of the series had their issues and critiques, but I absolutely enjoyed my time with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier.

Gameplay

Let’s go over the game play for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier for the one or two of you out there that have yet to play an episodic graphic adventure game.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is a point and click adventure game that allows the player to take control of the main characters of the story.  Depending on what part of the story you are in, the main character will change, but for the most part in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier  you will be playing as Javier.  You move your character around parts of the game, interacting with items or initiating conversation with characters.  During some of the conversations, you will be given choices as to what your character will say, and  you have to respond within the time limit given by the options.  Of course, just like in real life, silence is always an option.  The other characters in the game will remember your responses, and your decisions that you make during the game.  These decisions will affect future interactions, and have consequences.  These consequences can be tiny and insignificant, or can lead to the death of a character.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier will also access any old save file that you have from Seasons 1 or 2, so any past decisions will carry over into the new game.

Combat is mostly quick time events, with the player pressing certain keys according to the prompts on the screen.  In some cases, you will have to move the cursor until it is within a shrinking circle and click the mouse button to initiate that action.  These quick time events always seem to come up when I have my guard down, enjoying the story telling.  The button sequence is fairly forgiving, and missing one does not mean immediate failure or death.

Really, there isn’t anything new or exciting here that hasn’t been done about twelve times before.  However, just like the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Everything here works just perfectly, and draws the player even deeper into the world that Robert Kirkman has built.

Aesthetics

The aesthetics for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier are exactly the same as all of the other games in the series.  The visuals are done in a very cartoony way, with cell shading and heavy outlines around the objects in game.  This makes you feel like you are playing a graphic novel.  I still love the visuals of these types of games from Telltale Games, and feel that the aesthetics fit perfectly.  If you have never played a game like this before, imagine your favorite comic book coming to life, and you will have a great image as to what The Walking Dead: A New Frontier looks like.

The sound design again is nearly flawless for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier.  Telltale Games always puts a lot of effort in their actors and the dialogue that goes into these games.  A great story can easily be ruined by an actor that isn’t into her or his part.  Every actor that is in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier feels like they gave it their all.  I do not remember any dialogue or performance that felt cheesy, over the top, or just bad.  The music and sound effects also worked brilliantly to bring the story to life.

Final Thoughts

After twelve episodic graphic adventure games, Telltale Games has got the formula down.  What you get with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is another polished episodic graphic adventure game that fits nicely into Telltale’s collection.  Now, whether it’s a great The Walking Dead game or not, I can’t help you there.  I know the comics, and have seen some of the television show, but I never did play any of Season 1 or 2 or even the Michonne game by Telltale, to tell you if The Walking Dead: A New Frontier fits perfectly.  I can tell you this, I enjoyed my time with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, just like I did with Telltale’s other games that I have played.  The story is engaging and really focuses on character development, the gameplay is simple yet is immersive enough to feel like you are still playing a game, and the aesthetics are just fantastic.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is another solid game by Telltale Games, and should definitely be checked out by anyone that is a fan of this style of genre.  The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is available now on Steam.


The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Chapters 1 & 2 Review Score:

 (4 out of 5 Stars)


 

Shadow Heroes: Vengeance in Flames – A Review (PC)

Allied Games have released a new style of real time strategy game that is designed to be fun, regardless of your skill level or game style.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames began life on Kickstarter, where the campaign was canceled then moved over to Steam Greenlight.  Designed to be a fast paced, episodic rts game, Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames reduces the need for micromanagement of forces and puts the focus more on combat that is fun and engaging.  Was Allied Games successful in their goals or does Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames fall short?

Story

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is set in the fantasy land of Hendrika.  You play as the new lord of the land, after a costly battle against a faction of magic users.  You begin the game being attacked in your fortress by this faction, who are trying to create an uprising against your regime.  The campaign follows a series of tasks, quests, or objectives that pretty much boil down to you trying to prevent the enemy from gaining any ground and taking power back from you.

Ok, so honesty time here.  I played Shadows Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames last about a week or so ago, and the above paragraph was all I could remember of the story.  I couldn’t tell you the character’s name that you play as if you held a gun to my head.  What could have been a great story line that could have dipped into the new oppressive regime that was now banning all magic in the kingdom and hunting anyone that showed any signs of magic ability, forcing the player to make some serious ethically questionable decisions and wonder if he or she is on the right side, pretty much boiled down to “you are in charge now, screw the other guys”.

The story is presented in static shots of characters as they talk to each other before missions, or as voice overs during missions.  There is also an opening cinematic that tries to set the story up, but I couldn’t remember a single detail of it.  The names all sound silly, like some sort of fan fiction gone horribly wrong.  It is better then having no story at all, but not by much.  Shadows Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames pretty much will live or die by it’s game play alone, as the story and the aesthetics just are not enough to save it.

Game Play

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is an rts game without much strategy.  The game plays more like a real time tactics game, then your traditional rts style game.  You begin the game with a set amount of leadership points to buy troops.  Troops will then spawn from these beginning zones and attack your enemies, while also generating more leadership points.  With more points, you can buy more troops or upgrade your troops by purchasing items.  Troops are categorized into 3 main groups:  Core, Air, and Assault.  These 3 groups are further broken down into 3 sub groups:  Light, Heavy and Support.  What this really means is you have 12 different troops to choose from, all with their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.

Abilities and items come in two flavors as well, being passive or active.  Abilities are attached to the particular troop you have purchased, while items can be purchased at any time.  I was surprised at the amount of items that were available to purchase for my troops, but found it difficult to really understand what each item did.  Part of that is not knowing the system at first, but also due to the action continuing in the background as I was shopping.  You do not have time to peruse your items if your troops are being attacked.

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames offers quite a few options for game play, which is quite nice.  The campaign will be episodic, and more will be released as time goes on.  The first episode can be finished in about an hour or so, but there are other options to play with while you wait for the next episode to be released.  Assault is the standard rts type game where you set out to destroy the enemy base, Onslaught tests to see how long you can survive your opponent who has superior numbers, and Commander targets the enemies commanders instead of their base.  You can also play these mode in either single or multi player settings.

Allied Games tried to come up with a stream lined version of a real time strategy game.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is just that, but whether it works or not is based on what you want out of a game.  I am a horrible rts player, always have been and pretty much always will be, so Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames should have been right up my ally.  It isn’t and here’s why.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames just feels unfinished to me.  It feels like half a game anytime I play it.  Sure, I have less to stress about and I don’t have to worry about resource management and all that, but in the end all of that is part of what makes an rts game an rts.  I’m not saying that Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames isn’t fun, but it doesn’t not feel like a full experience when compared to other games on the market.

Aesthetics

The visuals of Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is completely influenced by Japanese anime, so everyone has a very anime feeling to them.  It is a decent aesthetic to work with, but in the same vein that some games feel too generically fantasy like, this one feels like a generic anime style game.  There really isn’t anything here that pops up and feel unique in terms of design or art.  Everything pretty much feels like I’ve seen it somewhere before.

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is fully voiced, which is a positive, but the actors sound so bored that it really took me out of the experience.  Bad acting is sometimes even better then bored acting, at least you can enjoy just how bad it is.  The actors here, at times, just sound like they are just reading their lines without emotion nor context.  The soundtrack is completely forgettable, which is a shame.

Final Thoughts

Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is a bargain at the $2.99 price tag it is set at on Steam, it really is.  However, the old adage “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true in this case.  You can a great amount of content for the price, but you will not get the polish nor the excitement of game play that you would from a AAA rts game.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames does feel like part of a rts game that is missing an significant chunk of what makes rts games fun to play.  To compare Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames to something like Starcraft II would be unfair, and to be honest, criminal.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames has an audience out there, and that audience just isn’t me.  I think if the aesthetic and story had been far more polished, Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames would be a much easier game for me to recommend.  As it stands now, Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is an interesting diversion, especially for $2.99.  Shadow Heroes:  Vengeance in Flames is available now on Steam.


Shadow Heroes: Vengeance in Flames Review Score:

(3 out of 5 Stars)


 

Watch Dogs 2 – A Review (PC)

Watch Dogs by Ubisoft had tons of hype leading up to its release in 2014.  However, what ended up in our hands was something less then perfect.  The main protagonist, Aiden Pierce, was uninteresting, the driving was horrid, and the story takes way to long to kick in.  With all of these negatives, I still finished the game and enjoyed most of my time with what made up Watch Dogs.  When Watch Dogs 2 came my way for this review, I was filled with equal parts excitement and trepidation.  Did Ubisoft learn their lessons from the critiques of Watch Dogs?  Will a change of protagonist and setting help gamers forget the original game?  Or is this just more of the same?  If you want the short answer, it is better and worth your time.  For the long answer, keep reading!

Story

Watch Dogs 2 technically is a sequel to the original, but so much has changed in terms of the plot, setting and character, you do not need to play Watch Dogs before you play Watch Dogs 2.  Watch Dogs 2 shifts the story to the city of San Francisco and the emergence of ctOS 2.0.  Blume has learned the lessons of what made the system faulty in Watch Dogs, and has ramped up the security and the invasiveness in this new version of their city wide operating system.  Along with a shift in city, we also get a new protagonist, Marcus Holloway.  Marcus is, in every way, a better protagonist, then Aiden Pierce ever thought of being.  Marcus is motivated by what he believes in instead of simple revenge, much more likable in character, and doesn’t take himself too seriously when he screws up.

Watch Dogs 2 begins with Marcus’s “interview” with Deadsec, the hacktivist group that was introduced in the first game.  The first mission has Marcus infiltrating a ctOS2.0 server farm to wipe out all traces of his profile in the system.  With Marcus successful in his “interview”, he becomes the catalyst for Deadsec to become much more then just some hackers with a dream, they begin to work towards proving that Blume is invading the privacy of every person living in San Francisco and how Deadsec will be the ones to take them down.  Deadsec in Watch Dogs 2 is represented by a few more characters then the first game was, and these characters will be the ones that you will interact with the most.  The members are Wrench, Horatio, Josh and Sitara, each with their own specialties and character nuisances.  For the most part, the members of Deadsec are interesting, if just a little bit annoying at times.  The members are all young, and are obviously made to resonant with the younger audience out there.  Raymond Kenney, the first person to work against Blume in Watch Dogs, does make a comeback to help out Deadsec in the sequel.  His appearance in Deadsec brings about an older view, which I can identify with, while also making that connection so player who did play the first game feels like this is part of a bigger story.

Overall, the story of Watch Dogs 2 is more engrossing, more interesting, and just more fun then Watch Dogs.  Marcus makes for a far better protagonist then Aiden did, and I cared much more for the development of Marcus’s character then I ever could for Aiden Pierce.  The main story will take you about 13 hours to complete, but with Watch Dogs 2 being more of an open world game, there are plenty of side quests and multi-player quests to keep the story going further.  The side quests keep the story interesting, with quests that range from spreading the Deadsec logo all over the city, to teaching Sitara’s younger sister a lesson on internet safety.  The multi-player quests delve a bit more deeply into the rivalry between Deadsec and another hacker group, Prime Eight, but don’t expect much narration here.

Game Play

Ubisoft also tweaked the game play for Watch Dogs 2 based on the critiques of the original game.  At it’s core, Watch Dogs 2 is an open world game where the player travels all over the city, completing quests.  These missions can be completed in multiple different ways, but stealth and hacking is still the best method to get through with your skin in tact.  I also see this as being in character with Marcus, I never saw Marcus as the type of person who would gleefully gun down a group of security guards, unlike Aiden.  Sticking to the stealth approach, though, has it’s issues as well as it’s rewards.  You are not durable in this game, at all.  Just a few shots and you will go down like the Titanic.  That means, you will have to rely on your tech and stealth to get through some of the hairier missions, and you have plenty of that at your disposal.

In addition to the standard hacks from the original game, Marcus also has a jumper and a drone that can be used to extend his reach, in addition to using the camera system that is all over the city.  You also have access to a tech tree that will grant you more abilities depending on your choice and resources.  Some of my favorites is being able to control cars remotely, flagging individuals for arrest by the police department, or having rival gangs show up to cause trouble.  These all work great as stealth options, as it draws massive amounts of attention away from where  you need to be.

Hacking is still done in the same way as the original Watch Dogs, which uses gates to control the flow of the system until you can unlock all of the areas needed to access the system.  You see these through the use of your “hacker vision”, which highlights important things you can interact with.  Stealing money, information, or energy is done by the click of a button.  Targeting these systems, though, while traveling at high speed is a bit touchy.  You still get some prompts to blow up gas mains while being chased, but hitting the right car with the right hack can be tricky while boosting over the Golden Gate Bridge at 100 mph.

Watch Dogs 2 is great when it is trying to be Watch Dogs 2, it only fails when it tries to be Grand Theft Auto.  Driving has been improved over the original, and shooting while driving has been added to Marcus’s repertoire of skills, but it still pales in comparison to the cleanliness of the mechanics found in GTA.  Overall, Watch Dogs 2 is a vast improvement over the original game, but still ends up feeling not as polished when compared to other open world crime games, like GTA.

Aesthetics

Watch Dogs 2 is a great looking game, as well as a great sounding game.  I was able to play the game at the Ultra settings with everything turned up and found that that everything looked great and only suffered some frame rate drops while in a vehicle, in a denser area.  The city feels as lived in as the last city, which is to say well enough.  I found that the city in Watch Dogs 2 felt more like San Francisco, but that might only be because I am more familiar with the city in the sequel then I am with Chicago from the original.  The aesthetics follow the similiar design to Watch Dogs, even down to the idea that Marcus does wear a bandana as a mask.  Clothes can be purchased to change the looks of the main character, and you will visit different locals during game play.  Overall, good looking game that doesn’t really make a huge impression.

Sound design for Watch Dogs 2 is also well done.  The voice acting was impressive, to me.  I enjoyed the way the characters delivered their lines and interacted with each other.  I especially thought the character, Wrench, was interested and well voiced.  The soundtrack for Watch Dogs 2 uses licensed music, with more songs that can be found in the world through using the song app on your phone.  Artists like the Dead Kennedys, Sublime, Naughty by Nature, N.E.R.D., and Bob Marley all make appearances on different radio stations throughout the game.  Once a song is found, you can create your own playlists on your phone and listen to them while outside of vehicles.  It’s a neat touch that adds an extra layer to the game.

Final Thoughts

Watch Dogs 2 is what the first game should have been.  If Watch Dogs 2 was released instead of the original, the franchise would have been a bigger hit then it is today.  Instead, the reaction to the sequel has been mostly “well, it’s better then the first”.  And that is true, Watch Dogs 2 is better then the first, but then again it absolutely had to be.  If you played through the first game, you will play through this second game, and you will enjoy it much more.  People who didn’t play the first game, should absolutely play the sequel, and don’t worry about getting the original.  You don’t need it to understand what is going on in Watch Dogs 2.  It’s those of you that didn’t finish the first game that need to be convince to try your luck with Watch Dogs 2,  and the best I can tell you is that I truly think you will like this game more.  Watch Dogs 2 is hands down the better game, the more interesting game, and the more polished game.  While still not perfect, it is indeed worth your time.


Watch Dogs 2 Review Score:

(3 out of 5 Stars)


 

Dishonored 2 – A Review (PC)

I am a big fan of Arkane Studio’s 2012 Dishonored, so when the 2016 sequel became available for the PC, I quickly jumped on it.  Dishonored gave me everything I wanted in an assassin style game:  multiple ways to carry out the assignment, multiple paths through the level, and an up-gradable character that changes depending on how you want to play the game.  Dishonored 2 is that much, plus more.  Arkane Studios took the safe route in developing their sequel, and I am fine with that.  Dishonored 2 gives us more of the same, but with some small differences that makes Dishonored 2 better then the original, but not earth shattering.

Story

Set fifteen years after the original story, Dishonored 2 sees the Empire of the Isles being led by an adult Emily Kaldwin.  Emily is still protected by Corvo Attano, who is also training her in the way of the blade and assassination.  However, not all is well within the Empire, as there is an individual who has been dubbed the “Crown Killer” roaming the streets and eliminating Emily’s most outspoken critics.  The population of the Empire have begun to talk and distrust the Empress, fearing that she is using the “Crown Killer” to silence her enemies.

dishonored-2-3

The game opens with Emily and Corvo preparing to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of Jessamine Kaldwin’s assassination.  During the ceremony, the Duke of Serkonos, Luca Abele, interrupts the proceedings by offering Emily a gift, the gift of family.  Duke Abele produces Jessamine’s long lost sister, and claims that the sister is the true Empress of the Isle now.  The long lost sister is none other then Delilah Copperspoon, somehow making her way back from the void that Daud had imprisoned her.  This revelation immediately begins the coup in earnest, and you are forced to chose who you will play for the rest of the game; either Corvo or Emily.  The character you do not choose becomes imprisoned and you escape your own fate in order to set out and to take back your throne from Delilah.

Ok, so the story isn’t that much different from the first game, when you really boil it down.  You are forced out of Dunwall, hunted by your former soldiers, and are trying to recover something that was lost to you, this time being the character you didn’t choose in the throne room and leadership of the Empire.  I don’t know where Dunwall finds their soldiers at, but they have the absolute worst idea of what loyalty is.  The story progresses the same no matter who you choose, but the game will change up the small details depending on whether you play as Corvo or Emily.  I do love how Arkane Studios made this choice a thing, that way anyone can play this game as a protagonist that speaks to them.  Each character has different game play mechanics as well, but we will talk about that later.

The story to Dishonored 2 is very well done, but it does make the assumption that you played through both The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches dlcs of the original game.  This makes the story of Dishonored 2 feel much more a part of a larger story, but you may need to accept a few things on faith story wise if you didn’t finish either of the dlc.  Like the last game, the choices you make affect the story in terms of low or high chaos.  The more you kill, the more chaotic the world becomes and the darker the ending you will get.  While you get to choose how you want to go through the game, there is definitely a lean on the non-killing approach being the “nicer” way of doing things.

dishonored-2-4

Game Play

Dishonored 2 is more of the same from Dishonored, with some minor changes that makes the sequel feel much more complete then the original.  First, each character is completely upgrade-able to fit your desired play style, just like before.  However, each character has separate abilities and skills that makes each one play just a little differently.  Emily’s Far Reach works in a similar fashion to Corvo’s Blink ability, but Emily’s Domino ability is far more fun to use for me then Corov’s Bend Time ability.  Domino allows you to connect individuals together, so the fate that befalls one will be felt by the others.  This is great in subduing multiple enemies at once, and can be really fun if you chain it’s use with Emily’s clone ability as well.

Dishonored 2 also adds in a non-lethal combat ability that literally saved me hours of time.  I played through Dishonored trying to do the non-lethal pathway, and would constantly have to restart if I became discovered and cornered and was out of sleep darts.  This new ability allows you to block and counter, just like the original, but with a choice of whether you stab your enemy or choke them out.  Discovery and lack of sleep darts no longer meant a restart for me, I could just block and choke then continue on with my journey.

The other big change is the type of plague you are dealing with in Karnaca.  The plague is no longer a threat and the weepers and the rats won’t bother you like before.  However, you now have to deal with the blood flies, which I think I hate more then the rats.  Blood flies gather around hives, and become very aggressive the closer you get to the hive.  You can take these out quickly and easily using explosive bolts, but they become a huge pain if you don’t see them quickly enough, or are out of bolts.

The rest of the game play for Dishonored 2 is pretty much the same from Dishonored.  Sure, the levels are designed differently, especially the Clockwork Mansion mission, but really the point is to move through the level the way you chose how to play, collect bone charms and runes, and finish off the target character.  The game play experience vastly changes depending on your own choices with the stealthy option being the more rewarding, in my own opinion.  I found myself restarting levels or checkpoints, just because the game did not go the way I wanted it, because I got caught sneaking around.  The estimated length of Dishonored 2 is between 12-16 hours in length, but I can see that being extended  by restarts if you are going for the Ghost or Clean Hands achievements.

This game does what it needed to do in terms of game play, which is give me more of what I got in Dishonored but make some improvements in the areas that I felt were lacking in the original.  Dishonored 2 does nothing ground breaking here, but does what it needs to do correctly in order to feel like Dishonored, but still has its own soul.

dishonored-2

Aesthetics

For those of you that have read my PC game reviews in the past know that my system was lackluster at best.  Well, that has all changed now that I was able to purchase a brand new gaming PC, and Dishonored 2 was it’s first test.  Let’s start the conversation by talking about the elephant in the room, the frame rate performance.  I had read about this issue prior to running Dishonored 2 for the first time, and was very worried about it.  However, I can honestly say that my experience in game was absolutely flawless, and that I experienced little to no frame rate drops during my time with the game.  I ran Dishonored 2 on a PC that had a Core i7-6700K Quad Core 4.0 – 4.2GHz, GeForce GTX 1070, and 16GB of Ram and it ran extremely smooth and looked great.  Arkane Studios is fully aware of the performance issue, and have released one patch already trying to fix it for everyone.  If you are worried about performance, my advice is to follow this story and wait until it is confirmed that Arkane has fixed it.

As for the rest of the aesthetics of Dishonored 2, the game is great looking in Ultra thought the textures, while still being above standard, didn’t match up to other games on the market.  The cities feel much more alive to me then they did in the original game, which is fantastic.  The new plague, the blood flies, apparently didn’t scare the residents of Karnaca off like the Weepers did to Dunwall.  The lighting is top notch, giving the city and locals a mood that I felt added to the story telling.  The voice acting works, but can feel stilted in some cases.  I am not sure if this was due to the actor’s performance, or the actor having issues with the chosen dialogue, but it isn’t that big of a deal for me.  The production is top notch, with just a few hitches along the way.

Final Thoughts

Dishonored 2 is a fantastic game that truly allows you to play the game your way.  You get to chose your protagonist, your style of play, and your pathway through the missions.  This is flexible game play at it’s best.  The worst part of Dishonored 2 is that it may not feel different enough from the original to really give you a unique gaming experience.  It ultimately is more of the same, but with a few tweaks and changes to make the game play better.  As a fan of Dishonored, this was enough for me to enjoy my time revisiting the Empire of the Isles.  The game is beautiful on the PC, and the music and voice acting worked great, most of the time.  Your biggest concern should be the performance issues that have hounded Dishonored 2 from the beginning.  While I did not run into these issues personally, they are out there and you should be informed before you buy.  Arkane is working on a fix, but last I heard people are still having issues getting the game to a playable state on their PCs.  Dishonored 2 is available now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.


Dishonored 2 Review Score:

(4 out of 5)


 

Razer Ornata Chroma Keyboard – A Review (PC)

When it comes to my keyboards and mice for my PC, I am a creature of habit. I find a good quality keyboard or mouse that fits my hand, feels good to use, and performs well and I stick with it.  It’s a pretty rare occasion that a review item replaces one of my standard items for daily use.  Well, the Razer Ornata Chroma keyboard is one such item.  From day 1, I fell in love with the way the Ornata Chroma felt in my hand, and just how satisfying it was to use, both in gaming and for daily use.  I loved my Thermaltake Poseidon Z keyboard, but just after a few hours of using the Ornata Chroma, I knew that the Thermaltake was going to go onto the backup PC.  And the Ornata Chroma gets released just in time for the holidays?  I see what you did there, Razer….

Features

The Ornata Chroma is being described as a mecha-membrane keyboard.  The mecha-membrane system combines the best of both mechanical and membrane keyboards, into one hybrid system.  I have always been partial to mechanical keyboards, I never liked the tactile feedback that I received from a membrane keyboard.  One of the worst typing experiences of my life is using the touch keyboard that came with the Surface Pro 2 that I use for book projects.  The Ornata Chroma has all of the tactile feedback of a mechanical keyboard, but without the fatigue that you experience from long hours of typing or gaming.  That’s thanks to the membrane section of the keys, the membrane helps soften the amount of pressure needed for a response, keeping that old mechanical fatigue to a minimum without loosing the tactile feedback. Razer promises an “typing experience unlike anything before” and they deliver.  I have never used a keyboard that felt like this in my hands, and immediately fell in love with the Ornata Chroma.

razer-ornata-chroma-gallery-02-copy

Another fantastic feature of the Ornata Chroma is the use of mid-height keys on the keyboard.  The use of a mid-height key is brilliant with this design, it gives the Ornata Chroma a faster response time to the pressing of these keys.  A higher key height will delay that time, even if it’s measured in milliseconds and most people would never feel the difference.  PC gamers do and that’s what’s important here.  I have never liked the feeling of the chiclet style keyboards either, so the mid-height key design is perfect.

There are two more features which make the Ornata Chroma my new “go to” keyboard, customizable lighting effects and the wrist rest.  I’ll speak more about the lighting effects in the Aesthetics section of this review, so let’s look closer into the wrist rest that comes with the Ornata Chroma.  I usually hate wrist rests, I never got used to using them.  They always feel like they get into the way of my typing for some reason.  The Ornata Chroma comes with a detachable wrist rest, so if you feel the same way you can just not use it.  The wrist rest attaches to the main keyboard by what using what feels like low strength magnets.  When attached, the wrist rest does not move or shift, even under some intense gaming.  I never use these things, but I found myself using the wrist rest for the Ornata Chroma and felt that it added to my comfort level when using my PC.  Even if you don’t like using these wrist rests on other keyboards, give this one a shot.  It might be a different experience then you are used to.

Aesthetics

The Ornata Chroma looks like a pretty standard keyboard, design wise.  In comparison to the Black Widow Chroma, the Ornata Chroma does not have the row of keys on the far left side.  The Ornata Chroma is roughly 18 inches long, 6 inches wide and about 1.5 inches tall, so pretty standard in size also.  What makes the Ornata Chroma come alive is the customizable lighting effects, which sets the Chroma line apart for Razer.  When active, the Ornata Chroma can produce over 16 million different types of color combinations and is customizable for personalization.   The standard effects that the keyboard comes with are beautiful in their own right.  These effects include fire, full spectrum cycling, starlight, breathing, static, reactive, wave, and ripple.  Using the Razer software is easy also to program these lighting effects, and these effects can be applied to other Chroma devices you may have.  Chroma will also react differently depending on the game you are playing if the game is on the list for Chroma effects.  For instance, playing Overwatch will cause the WASD keys to glow yellow and your ability keys will glow in different colors depending on the status of those abilities.

Performance

Ok, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, I love the Ornata Chroma.  For this last week or so, I have put it through the ringer to see what it can do.  I played H1Z1, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Dishonored 2 (review pending!) and felt that playing on the Ornata Chroma was a vastly superior experience then playing these games on my old Poseidon Z.  The response time felt shorter from key press to on screen action, I felt that I could move faster or use items faster, and I noticed a serious drop of on keyboard fatigue because of the mecha-membrane keys and the wrist rest.  I felt better after hours of playing then I had in a while.  The Ornata Chroma feels good, performs well, and looks great doing it.

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Tech Specifications

  • Razer™ Mecha-Membrane Technology
  • Mid-height keycaps
  • Razer Chroma backlighting
  • Ergonomic wrist rest
  • Razer Synapse enabled
  • Fully programmable keys with on the fly macro recording
  • 10-key roll over
  • Dedicated Gaming Mode
  • Anti-ghosting capability for up to 10 simultaneous key presses

Final Thoughts

The Razer Ornata Chroma is my new keyboard for my main PC.  This is the keyboard that I will be doing all of my gaming and writing on in the future.  I can quote you all the specs and features in the product manual (which I guess I did during the review…) but at the end of the day, the Ornata Chroma feels and performs the way I want a keyboard to feel and perform.  The new mecha-membrane keys feels fantastic and is precisely what I would want in the perfect keyboard.  I feel like I can type faster, play faster, and react faster to changing situations with this Ornata Chroma keyboard, due to the fast response and tactile feedback I get.  Price wise, the Razer Ornata Chroma keyboard is on the higher end, but not as expensive as the Black Widow Chroma.  The Ornata Chroma will set you back about a $100, but I feel you are getting every penny’s worth.  The Razer Ornata Chroma is available now, and it’s fantastic.


Razer Ornata Chroma Review Score:

(5 out of 5)


Kaliber Gaming Retikal Pro FPS Gaming Mouse Review

About a month ago, I reviewed IOGear’s Symmetre mouse, and was somewhat not impressed.  I wasn’t a fan of the design nor the feel of the mouse, even though the performance was pretty good.  Today, I get another crack at a mouse from IOGear, this time it’s the Retikal Pro FPS Gaming Mouse.  Will the Retikal fare better then the Symmetre in my hands, or will it earn the same fate of being banished to the bottom of the “Extras” drawer?  Let’s find out with my full review.

Features

The Retikal is designed to be a much more traditional mouse then the Symmetre, which means it feels proper in your right hand (as long as you are right handed).  The Retikal comes with 9 programmable buttons, one of which is featured as a sniper mode button.  Essentially, this button will slow down the mouse speed to allow you to focus in, but it doesn’t slow down the game so unless you are already in the vicinity of the head, slowing the mouse down won’t do you much good.  The Retikal can hit up to 5000 dpi (1000 more than the Symmetre) and can switch dpi on the fly, as well as profiles with just a button press.  The Retikal also features a USB 2.0 braided cable, which I do love.

So, my biggest negative with the Symmetre was the feel of the mouse, and unfortunatly that is also my biggest negative with the Retikal.  While the Retikal feels initially better in my hands then the Symmetre did, it never once matched the feeling of some of the higher end mice that I have owned over the years.  I literally felt like I could snap the Retikal in two with one hand.  The Retikal is light and flimsy feeling, has almost no weight to it, and does not feel sturdy enough to handle some rough gaming hours.  This is all based on my own preferences when it comes to the feeling of a mouse, but there it is.

  • USB 2.0 eSports professional optical gaming mouse
  • 9 programmable buttons with custom programming software
  • Non-slip rubber coated click wheel and thumb rest
  • Up to 5000dpi with shift-on-the-fly adjustment
  • Sniper button- instantly increases aim accuracy
  • Instantly switch between 5 profiles
  • Adjustable weight system for precision tuning
  • Sculptured housing designed for FPS gaming
  • LED backlighting with “breathing” effect
  • Pixart 3310 optical sensor
  • 128K built-in memory
  • 125/500/1000Hz adjustable report rate
  • 6400 fps frame rate
  • 130 ips speed

Aesthetics

The Retikal looks slick, with the logo glowing blue on the palm rest and the wider frame of the mouse to fit your hand.  There is a nice pad near where your thumb rests that’s made out of a slip proof material, which increases your grip on the mouse.  Right above your thumb is where the sniper button is located.  While I didn’t really like that button as a feature, it is placed in the best place possible.  Just don’t accidentally hit it while you are playing, you will get a nasty surprise.  Overall, the Retikal is a clean looking mouse, but does not do anything special either.

Performance and Specifications

So I took the Retikal out on few gaming dates with my new PC, and saw what it could do.  The last week saw some increased play time in H1Z1:  King of the Kill, World of Warcraft, and some Battlefield 1.  While the performance was decent, I could not get rid of the feeling that I was going to break the mouse, and absolutely hated the weight of the Retikal.  Maybe I’ve gotten too use to my Bloody mouse, but the Retikal did not feel natural in my hands, though it performed pretty well.  I was never happy with the mouse sensitivity that I set it to, and would switch dpi on the fly a few times more then I’m used too.  I tried out the sniper button, but did not like the immediate slow down of my mouse.  It’s a good idea, just one that I would never use.

Final Thoughts

I know it sounds like I’ve been rough on IOGear these last couple of reviews, but the market is a tough place and there are a lot of mice out there.  Finding one that truly fits your play style and sense of touch can be tough, and once you found your range then anything outside of that just feels off.  The Retikal is an entry level gaming mouse, priced at roughly $26.00, so the investment isn’t high if you are looking to use it.  The Retikal is a decent mouse for the price tag and will perform well enough.  There are better mice out on the market, though not many under $30.  This one’s a toss up for me, the Retikal is pretty much the definition of an average mouse, so if you need one for under $30 I would say check it out.


Kaliber Gaming Retikal Pro Gaming Mouse Review Score:

(3 out of 5)


 

Symmetre Mouse – A Review

Today I look at the Symmetre mouse, an ambidextrous PC gaming mouse from Kaliber Gaming.  Reviewing mice and keyboards is always a little tricky for me, it’s like trying to review a brand new pair of shoes after  you’ve been wearing Converse your whole life.  I get used to the feel of a particular mouse or keyboard, then switch it all up with a new product.  The trick is trying to be objective and reviewing the product as fair as possible, but sometimes you just prefer your current mouse or keyboard, and that taints your view.  Yeah, you guessed it, the Symmetre didn’t fair too well this week.  Let’s find out why.

Features

Let’s begin by saying that Symmetre is a truly ambidextrous mouse.  The design is perfectly symmetrical, hence the Symmetre name, with two thumb buttons on either side of a standard mouse configuration.  Standard left and right mouse buttons are exactly where you would expect them, plus a scroll wheel third button, and two switches that allow you to switch dpi profiles on the fly.  The Symmetre mouse ranges from 500-4000 dpi depending on the setting you have it at and features a USB 2.0 braided cable which is always appreciated.

The main feature of the Symmetre is its ambidextrous design, so let’s really discuss this feature.  As a right handed individual, I found the design of the Symmetre mouse to feel clunky in my hand.  It never molded to the shape of my hand like my other mice do, so from second one the Symmetre mouse never felt natural.  One of the flaws in a universal design, is that it never feels like it’s shaped to your particular hand since it needs to be universal, and that is truly where Symmetre failed for me.  I never once felt comfortable using the mouse, and looked forward to going by to my old stand by.

  • USB 2.0 Full speed gaming mouse
  • Fully ambidextrous design for right- or left-handed gamers
  • 9 buttons with custom programming software
  • Avago 3050 optical sensor
  • Adjust on-the-fly up to 4000 dpi
  • 64K built-in memory
  • 125/500/1000Hz adjustable report rate
  • 6600 fps frame rate
  • LED backlighting with “breathing” effect

Aesthetics

The Symmetre mouse is a very clean design.  Designed to be completely symmetrical, Symmetra is the type of mouse that Death the Kid from Soul Eater would prefer (see how many of you get that reference, ha!).  Symmetre is back lit blue out of the box, which is always an appreciated feature from an aesthetic stand point.  The Kaliber Gaming is placed on the mouse in a non lit version.  Overall, the aesthetic is something that has become understood as the norm in mice these days.

Performance and Specifications

The Symmetre and I went through some good games together this last week, including being used in my two reviews of The Final Station and Zombie Night Terror.  The Symmetre worked fine, for the most part, but never felt just right in my hands.  Plus, missing the extra buttons that are a feature on my Bloody ML160 mouse hurt in my mmorpg time this week.  The Symmetre never felt like it fit in my hand, mostly due to the symmetrical design, and I hated the weight of the mouse.  The Symmetre was way to light for me, and never felt comfortable because of it.  I prefer heavy mice when I play, not sure why.  I prefer heavier hockey sticks when I play hockey, and that has carried over to my gaming habits.  While the Symmetre performed well, I never got comfortable with it, and could not wait until I could go back to my old mouse.

Specifications
PART NUMBER
GME630
WARRANTY INFORMATION
3-year Limited Warranty
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
Windows Vista®, Windows® 7, Windows® 8, Windows® 8.1, Windows® 10
Mac OS X 10.3+ (user interface software not supported)
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
Housing
Case: ABS, Polycarbonite, Rubber
Resolution
up to 4000 dpi
Operation Temperature
0 to 40 degrees (Celsius)
Final Thoughts
In the end, I did not enjoy using the Symmetre mouse from Kaliber Gaming.  This is solely based on my own comfort level using the mouse and how it felt in my hand.  The Symmetre performed well in most game genres (not so much in mmorpgs, but again I went from my mmorpg Bloody mouse to the Symmetre), so the performance is there.  Priced at around $25 USD, the Symmetre mouse is an entry level gaming mouse that won’t break the bank, but you will get what you pay for.  Kaliber Gaming also has software that allows you to set your own macros and programs the Symmetre to do more, but unless the mouse feels right in your hands while you are using it, all of these features just won’t win over your heart.  Unless you are in absolute need for an ambidextrous mouse, I would have to not recommend the Symmetre mouse from Kaliber Gaming.
[easyreview title=”Symmetre Gaming Mouse Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”2″ ]

Zombie Night Terror – A Review (PC)

Today, I review Zombie Night Terror, the second zombie themed PC game this month.  Yes, I can hear you saying it, “not another zombie game”.  One thing that can be said about the video gaming industry is, like the movie industry, when a theme or a genre is popular, even for a moment, then we get tons and tons of content from that idea.  Zombies have become the new World War II shooter in today’s market, so it takes something different or fresh to really get me to take notice.  While Zombie Night Terror isn’t the greatest zombie game in the world, in reminded me of another game from the early nineties that I used to play a lot of, Lemmings.  This connection alone made Zombie Night Terror, by NoClip, much more interesting and worth my time then I originally thought it would be.

Story

Zombie Night Terror centers around a mad scientist who has created a new street drug called Romero (as in George).  This new street drug has a horrible side effect on the user, and by horrible I mean it kills the user and they return as one of the walking dead.  Apparently, the mad scientist didn’t concern himself with returning customers that were still breathing.  You are the hive mind behind this newly created horde, and you are out for blood.  And brains, brains too.

The story for Zombie Night Terror gives you a framework for why you are doing the things you are doing in the game, but it doesn’t really drive the overall game play.  The story is told through in game cut scenes, or through dialogue boxes that come in the shape of news reports.  Usually, these news reports are telling you about a new ability or feature that you can do, but more on that in the Game Play section.  Each level gives you a certain amount of humans you must eat and convert to move onto the next level, but there are also challenge objectives that can be done, like find the secret drug stash or kill every last human on a level.  Ultimately, the story is pretty simple to follow with nothing substantial or ground breaking, but it is a zombie game so what did  you expect.

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Game Play

Zombie Night Terror plays a lot like Lemmings, a lot.  For those of you that are on the young side and don’t know what Lemmings was all about, let me describe the game play style.  You are placed in charge of a horde of creatures that have no mind of their own.  This horde will walk right into dangers and perils, without any thought of their own safety.  Your job as overlord, is to complete the task set in front of you, by commanding your horde in a way to preserve the most numbers.  As you loose members, you become less efficient, and it becomes harder and harder to complete the level.  That perfectly describes what Lemmings and Zombie Night Terror are at their core.

So, how does Zombie Night Terror differ from Lemmings?  Mostly in theme, but you have a few other things you need to worry about.  First, you can get a certain amount of syringes filled with Romero to infect humans anywhere in the level.  This could give you a tactical advantage, or help you kill off hard to reach humans.  You can find more Romero in the level as you play, but it is always a limited amount so what you you stick.  You will also have access to special zombie types that will help organize your horde.  Like the Overlord, who will block a path and tell your zombies to walk the other direction, or the Exploder, who can destroy certain walls on the level.  You also only have a certain amount of DNA to use, and you need this DNA to create special zombie types.  You can burn your own zombies to get more DNA, but must watch because the less zombies you have, the less effective your horde is.

As you kill humans, your horde becomes stronger and stronger.  The humans, however, won’t stand idly by and let you just eat their brains, oh no!  You will encounter tougher enemies, like bat wielding tough guys, or even SWAT officers, who could easily decimate your entire horde if you are not thinking ahead.  Controls are fairly simple, once you get used to them.  You use the arrow keys to move around the camera around the level. The HUD has a dashboard on it that allows you to choose your zombie type or use certain powers.  The rest is pretty much point and click, then watch humanity die.

Zombie Night Terror plays extremely well and is a great take on this genre.  Yes, it’s another zombie game, but it’s a zombie game based on Lemmings!  That’s something we haven’t seen at all yet. It will take some tactics to complete each level, you just can barrel through the game without thinking, but it will take some real planning to hit all of the challenges.  Zombie Night Terror allows you to pause the game by using the space bar, and this will allow you to think ahead and plan.  You can also use this time to see each route through the level.  There will be doors you need to break down or stairs you need to climb, and you will need to tell your horde to do just that by clicking on the icons near each feature.  These icons can be switched at any time, and doing so will help guide your horde or keep them locked in the attic until you have figured out your next move.

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Aesthetics

Like The Final Station last time, Zombie Night Terror uses outdated graphics to both help keep costs down on development, but to also make the aesthetic fit the game.  Zombie Night Terror looks like the old Lemmings game visually, using pixelated graphics that won’t win any prizes this year.  With that being said, Zombie Night Terror isn’t a bad looking game, not in the slightest.  NoClip chose to use these graphics with a monochromatic color pallete.  The game is almost entirely done in black and white, with the only two major colors being green and red.  Green shows the player where more Romero is, and red is, well, it’s the blood.  Lot’s of blood.

The sound design follows the visuals in aesthetics.  The characters all talk like they are rejects from a Sims game, speaking mostly the same type of gibberish, with all dialogue being shown in subtitles.  Again, a smart design decision that helps keep costs down for a small developer, while feeling like a conscience design thought.  If you are a graphics hound and only play games for the shiny, just skip Zombie Night Terror.  For those of you that are willing to look past the aging exterior, you will find a really, really fun game.

Final Thoughts

Zombie Night Terror is flat out fun and challenging.  This is a new take on a tired genre, and helped relive my high school years by bringing back memories of Lemmings.  Is it possible that I’ve been seduced because of my memory of another great game, sure.  I recommend this game anyway.  The theme and aesthetic work perfectly together, the game play and mechanics are finely tuned, and the game is just flat out fun.  What else do you need from a game that costs $12.99?  Zombie Night Terror is available now on Steam.

[easyreview title=”Zombie Night Terror Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]