Author - Judgeman

Outlast 2 Review (PC)

In 2013, Red Barrels released their first survival horror video game, centered around a journalist investigating an insane asylum, called Outlast.  What made Outlast immediately successful was the intense story and game play, where you play a protagonist that cannot fight back so your only options was to run or die.  Pretty soon, the internet was covered in videos showing people playing Outlast, just to capture their reactions and jump scares on camera.  Outlast became known as a good game for a jump scare, but what many people forget is that the game itself had a great story line, an intriguing mystery, and tense moments that really made the player uncomfortable.  Four years later, we finally have a true sequel in the aptly named Outlast 2. Does the sequel live up to the quality of the first game, or does it get crushed in the expectations?  Be warned, I tried to stay as spoiler free as possible, but some of my critiques talk about the story, so proceed at your own risk.

Story

In Outlast 2, you play as Blake Langermann, an investigative journalist and cameraman, who is traveling to Arizona with his wife, Lynn, to investigate the discovery of the body of an unknown girl.  Near the end of the trip, the helicopter carrying Blake, Lynn, and the pilot, crashes.  Blake wakes to find his wife missing and the pilot skinned alive and attached to a tree.  Searching for his missing wife, Blake makes his way towards the town of Temple Gate, which is run by a man named “Papa” Sullivan Knoth and his cult of followers.  Blake learns that Lynn was abducted by this cult, and is pregnant with Knoth claiming the child is the Anti-Christ.  Blake also learns about another group of heretics that is opposed to Knoth’s group and is in open conflict.  Caught between the two rival groups, Blake needs to find Lynn and get her out of the area, while discovering the mysteries of Temple Gate.

Outlast 2 has a sub plot that comes out as hallucinations suffered by Blake.  Blake remembers a traumatic event that occurred while he was attending a religious school, and is centered around the death of a girl he knew, named Jessica.  These hallucinations pop up at certain times during the game, and I kept waiting for a huge pay off at the end where Blake connects this past trauma with the trauma that he is currently experiencing.   Unfortunately, that pay off never comes, and the whole sub plot of Jessica feels like it was only used to pad the length of the game.  The story would have been so much better and stronger if this sub plot was left completely out.

Other then the subplot critique, Outlast 2 has a decent story line, but no where near as strong as the first Outlast.  Miles from the first game had a strong reason to keep filming, he was documenting the horrors in the asylum to expose the events and experiments going on within the walls.  Honestly, what motivation does Blake have to continue to record his events during Outlast 2?  He isn’t hoping to expose Knoth for his crimes, or expose some conspiracy within the town of Temple Gate, he just wants to find his wife and leave.  The use of the camera in Outlast 2 is literally only there to give the player the ability to see in the dark and to listen to voices using the camera’s mic.  So, if you can suspend your disbelief knowing that, then the rest of the story of Outlast 2 works ok, but it isn’t anywhere near as compelling or as strong as the first game.

Game Play

The game play for Outlast 2 is exactly the same as Outlast, with a few new editions.  Like the first game, Blake is completely inept at defending himself from anyone.  Blake can only run and hide under beds, in barrels, in wardrobes, or in pools of water.  Blake must be in worse shape then Miles was, due to the fact that Blake has less stamina and can run for shorter distances then Miles could, so your foes will catch you much quicker in a foot race.

You will need to find batteries, just like the first game, but this time you have access to an inventory screen that allows you to see what’s in your pockets.  You can collect batteries and bandages while exploring the lovely town of Temple Gate, with the batteries recharging your camera and the bandages healing you when you get caught by the inhabitants.  Your camera also has a live mic that now allows you to listen to noises in a particular direction.  When pointed at a noise, you will hear exactly what is being said and where that noise is coming from.  This will help you avoid chance encounters when you cannot see very far in front of you, like while hiding in a corn field.  And yes, corn in Arizona is a thing, I did check on that.

The new additions to Outlast 2 were interesting, but not enough to really separate the game play from the original game for me.  This felt more like I was playing new dlc for Outlast then an actual sequel that took years to develop.  The easiest thing to say here is, if you liked the game play of Outlast then you will like the game play in Outlast 2.  If you are looking for something more, or huge advances in game play, you will be disappointed.

Aesthetics

My main critique in the aesthetics for the Outlast series is simple, you see almost the entire world through the viewfinder of a camera that is equipped with night vision.  Everything is night vision green, or too dark to see what is going on or what the environment looks like.  So, going into Outlast 2, I already had that strike set up for my review and Outlast 2 carried on with that tradition.  Also, the setting in the first Outlast is far creepier, scarier, more intense then the setting in the sequel.  We go from haunting images within an insane asylum, that is overrun by inmates, to a town in rural Arizona run by religious fanatics.  Given the two, I vote for “asylum” being a hell of a lot scarier then “rural town”.  The visuals are exactly the same quality as the first game, with no real improvement.  It works, and it works fine.  Marta is horrific, and is designed perfectly, still have nightmares about her.

Final Thoughts

So, it looks like I hated the game, as I reread through what I’ve written up to this point, and that is far from the actual truth.  I would say that I was disappointed by the sequel, but did not hate it.  For me, sequels should take what was good about the first one, and really build on top of it to become great.  Most sequels fall at this, some fail horribly.  Outlast 2 simply does not improve on the original’s design, and that is ultimately my biggest critique with the game.  Outlast is far creepier and scarier for me, but mostly due to its originality and setting. You know exactly what you will be getting when you load up Outlast 2, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  If you liked the first game, you’ll like the second game.  It is more of the same, and it’s good.  Where Outlast 2 failed to impress me, is that it isn’t different enough from Outlast to become great.  Is that worth condemning an game?  Absolutely not, but it also isn’t worth overly praising a game either.  Outlast 2 is solid, though confusing at times.  Outlast 2 is available now through Steam.


Outlast 2 Review Score

(3 out of 5 stars)


 

The Banner Saga Complete Pack – A Review (Xbox One)

Stoic and Versus Evil have release the Complete Pack of The Banner Saga games onto the Xbox One, in one glorious package.  The Banner Saga Complete Pack includes The Banner SagaThe Banner Saga 2, and Survival Mode.  For those of you that have never played The Banner Saga before, this is the one pack to get.  The Banner Saga began life as an idea from ex-Bioware developers, Alex Thomas, Arnie Jorgensen and John Watson.  The trio took their idea to Kickstarter, and The Banner Saga was quickly funded, drawing in over $700,000.

Story

The Banner Saga takes place in a legendary world that is inspired by Viking legends.  Everything will feel somewhat familiar, and yet completely alien.  The sun has stopped moving in the sky, and perpetual day has set across the land.  Human and massive human like creatures called Varls, are beginning to feel that something is wrong with the world.  You begin play as the Varl Vognir, tasked with escorting Prince Ludin to the Varl capital of Grofheim.   On the way to Grofheim, the caravan runs into an ancient evil called the Dredge.  The Dredge kill many of the caravan, including Vognir, but the caravan finally reaches Grofheim only to find that the capital city has been overrun and destroyed by the Dredge.  This destruction is only the beginning, as reports from all over the Varl homeland come in that the Dredge are destroying cities.  The remnants of the caravan, then join other survivors to help defeat this ancient evil that has crept across the land.

The story for The Banner Saga and The Banner Saga 2 are very viking like in their telling.  The landscape is bleak, the enemy is relentless, and no hero is safe from death.  I would compare it to the feeling one gets from watching the new season of Game of Thrones, but without the sex, backstabbing, and scheming.  I know what you are saying, “but those are the best parts”, but this story feels just as compelling without those bits in it.  I was immediately drawn into the story, completely enthralled by the pacing and storytelling, then was left wanting much more when I finished the first game.  Good thing the sequel is in here too!

Game Play

The game play for The Banner Saga can be divided up into two categories:  combat and not combat.  While not in combat, you are in charge of dialogue options, and a very Oregon Trail-like experience as your caravan moves across the landscape.  Combat is the bread and butter of both games, however, and can be very challenging, even on Easy.

Combat is turn based and set on a grid.  Each combatant will go at different times, and are shown on a queue in the HUD.  Combatants all have their different strengths and weaknesses, as well as different stats.  The Varl are massive and hit like trucks, but are slow and plodding, while the human combatants are much more agile, but more fragile than their Varl counterparts.  The Banner Saga makes combat pretty difficult by having each individual have two stats, one is armor and the other is health and strength combined.   You will have to deplete a target’s armor before having a chance to do any real damage to them.  This means you will have to be strategic with your placement of combatants, and the attacks that they use.  This is not a game that you can rush in and win at.

Combat also adds in a third stat that can be used, that of Willpower.  Willpower becomes that wild card you can use to give yourself an extra boost, whether it’s move one more space, or do a little more damage.  Willpower is limited, so using it becomes very strategic.  Your characters will level up, allowing you to learn new skills and talents.  You can also practice with your heroes in camp, to learn their abilities in combat and see how it actually affects combat.

Your party of heroes can be changed out during the game, and will need to be as characters die.  Decisions and failure in combat will have direct consequences on the rest of your game.  Loose a particular hero early on, and you will have to deal with that absence until you can find a replacement.  Characters can be switched out while in camp, and talents can be selected to give your party a good balance of skills that compliment one another.

Aesthetics

The Banner Saga is visually and musically gorgeous.  The visuals of the game are hand drawn and look like an old style animated movie, like the 1978 release of The Lord of the Rings.  The aesthetic is stylized Viking mythology, so the creatures, villages, and heroes all look like they could be right out of a Viking story, but with a little extra thrown in.  Colors are appropriately muted when they need to be, to continue the feeling of dread that the game presents.

The music of The Banner Saga is fully orchestrated and created by Austin Wintory, the composer of the fantastic score for Journey.  If you have never played Journey, that game had to carry the entire narrative solely based on the musical score, since there was no dialogue at all.  What Wintory brings to The Banner Saga is nothing short of incredible.

Final Thoughts

The Banner Saga is but one step into this fantastic world that you get when you purchase The Banner Saga Complete Pack.  The story is engaging, the aesthetics is incredible, and the game play is challenging and addictive.  Between both games, you are looking at over 30 hours of game play for just the main story line and the extras.  Completionists will be looking at far longer.  While the game is not perfect, it is pretty darn close.  I did find certain sections to slog down for me, and the difficulty curve can come right out of nowhere and smack you in the face.  Other than that, The Banner Saga Complete Pack is most definitely worth picking up.  The Banner Saga Complete Pack is available now on the Xbox Store.


The Banner Saga Complete Pack Review Score

(4 out of 5 Stars)


 

Northgard – A Preview (PC)

Shiro Games has a pretty good game on their hands with Northgard, a viking based real time strategy that is out on early access on Steam.  Those of you out there that have read my reviews in the past, know that I have always struggled with real time strategy games.  I just can’t handle the micromanagement aspect that many of these games require.  While Northgard may feel shallow to the hardcore rts gamer out there, it felt almost perfect to me.  Northgard is still underdevelopment, so what we received was the early access version, and only the skirmish mode was unlocked.  Like many of our other previews, this information is based off of the version that we played, and could change in a later build or even upon release of the full game.  Because only the skirmish mode was unlocked, I’ll have to skip my typical review of the story, and move right into game mechanics.

Game Play

You start a game of Northgard by picking a clan:  Raven, Stag, Goat or Wolf.  Each clan has their own bonuses and advantages, making a game against other clans asymmetrical.  When the game begins, you begin in typical fashion as many other rts games on the market, with a few peons to gather food and a central building.  What makes Northgard immediately different is that your peons will also serve as your Scouts, Warriors, Healers, Traders, etc.  You will select a peon and give that person another job, and they will become that person.  You don’t create more warriors to invade a neighboring section, you assign peons to the warrior job, and then set out to kill your neighbor.  This gives you quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to organizing a work or attack force, but it also means that your resource production will be severely hampered if you suffer major losses in a fight.  To make things even more interesting, your peons can’t be bought, but you gain one every few weeks or so as long as you have enough food and happiness in your village.

Another big change over your typical rts games, is that you have to conquer sections of the world in order to expand your territory.  That means you have to send out a Scout to discover new sections, then pay the expansion cost before you can build your expansion.  Each section also have a building limit, so you will need to constantly expand if you wish to keep on building.  Your workers and military will automatically go about their business and won’t just stand around waiting for you to tell them what to do.  This feature, alone, made me love this game.  The workers will stay in their section, but will continue doing the job you assigned to them.

Northgard also includes a time tracker, that tracks the changing of the seasons.  As winter approaches (brace yourself), your food and wood production decreased while your consumption of these resources increase.  Some years will have harsher winters than others, so you will need to pay attention to what the winter will look like.  This will change how you will behave in September and October.  You might find a new land with some enticing resources, but may not want to expand if it’s October and the winter outlook is particularly harsh this year.

Northgard also let’s you choose your path to victory, which is something that I hadn’t seen in any other rts game before.  Usually, you fight until either you or your opponent is too decimated to continue.  In Northgard, you can still bury many an axe into your opponent’s skull, or you can win by reaching the Trade, Prestige, or Lore Victory requirements.  Each one of these has different requirements for victory, and really allow you to customize how you want to play Northgard.

Closing Thoughts

Northgard is going to be a very good game, once it actually released.  Even in Early Access, Northgard is looking top notch.  With the addition of a single player campaign and multiplayer (both coming soon), Northgard will quickly rise to the top of the current rts games on the marking for people like me.  For the hardcore of you out there, Northgard may not feel as deep as other games on the market, so you may or may not find the game as top notch as I do.  I love how the game allows me to focus on the actual game itself, instead of worrying about what each and every little knucklehead is doing across my land.  Northgard is currently on Steam Early Access for $19.99.

Cherry MX G80-3000 Keyboard – A Review

Having been involved in PC gaming since the mid-80’s, I have had years of experience using several different styles of keyboards and mice.  I have watched keyboards go from being massive, off white behemoths, to slim, black, sexy things that have so many more features than they used to.  The last keyboard I received to review was the Razer Chroma, one that has taken over as my default day to day and gaming keyboard, due to the features that it offers and how much I just love to type on it.  The Razer Chroma was sleek, minimal in terms of size, and had multiple features attached to it, like lighting effects and programmable keys.  So when I opened my next keyboard review, I was shocked at what I found.  The Cherry MX G80-3000 keyboard is a throwback to my early days of PC gaming, and I’m not exactly sure if nestalgia, in this case, is a good thing.

Features

Let’s start off with the good first, shall we?  The Cherry MX G80-3000 is a fantastic keyboard to type on.  The Cherry MX G80-3000 can come either in black or red switches, the one I received has red switches, and is completely silent.  I found that the response times from keystroke to action was smooth and felt great.  The Cherry MX G80-3000 is a mechanical keyboard that has a service life of about 50 million keystrokes, so it will last you a very long time.  It comes USB 2.0 or PS/2 (via adaptor) ready.  The Cherry MX G80-3000 weighs a solid 2 pounds and measures in at approximately 19.48′ x 10′ x 1.96′, so it’s a monster of a keyboard.  And that’s it.  That’s the whole lot for this keyboard.  There really isn’t anything else to say about that.

You see, the Cherry MX G80-3000 does not light up, is not programmable, does not come with any additional software to add more functions to it.  It is seriously just a huge, solid keyboard that looks like it escaped from the 80’s.  The worst part?  The cost.  The Cherry MX G80-3000 will run you around $150.00.  For comparison, the Razer Blackwidow Chroma will run you around $170.00 for so much more functionality.  Now, I understand that there is great technology in the Cherry MX G80-3000 that makes it great to type on, but it’s not a gaming computer nor is it designed for the gamer.  I can see this showing up in a laboratory somewhere, not attached to your high end gaming PC.

Listed Features:

  • Mechanical Black or Red stem MX Silent keyswitches are rated at 50 million actuations to withstand harsh environments and ensure long product lifetime
  • Patented noise reduction using an integrated 2-component stem minimizes noise at top and bottom-out
  • N-Key rollover: Simultaneous operations of up to 14 keys without any ghosting effects
  • Self-cleaning contacts, dust and dirt resistant
  • Full QWERTY key layout in full-size 18.5″ form factor
  • USB 2.0 Interface or PS/2 with adapter
  • 104 Keys
  • PC & MAC compatible over USB

Technical Data

  •  Interface: USB 2.0 (PS/2 via adapter)
  • Current Input: Typ. 15 mA
  • Connecting Cable: approx. 1.75 m
  • Weight: Approx. 935 g, 2.0 lbs.  (without packaging)
  • Dimensions: 470x195x44 mm, 18.5″×7.67″×1.73″
  • Storage Temperature: -20°C to 60°C
  • Operating Temperature: 0°C to 50°C

Aesthetics

The Cherry MX G80-3000 is big, off-white, and is not backlit.  It is strictly functional is aesthetic and design.  This keyboard will not get you excited, unless you have a thing for large keyboards that look like they need to be hooked up to a Commodore 64.

Final Thoughts

This is the hardest review I’ve ever had to write.  I would rather write a review for something that is so bad, that I have something to say about it.  The Cherry MX G80-3000 is just a strictly, functional, silent, mechanical keyboard.  In this day and age of gaming keyboards, you need to have something that draws the eye to you.  Is the keyboard good looking?  Does it have software that allows you to program macros?  Is it backlit?  Is it sleek and small, as to not take up too much space on your desktop?  The Cherry MX G80-3000 answers all of these questions with a resounding “no”.  What it does do is type, and that it does quite well.  The Cherry MX G80-3000 is really nice to type on, and is something that I would use in my office at work when I worked in a lab.  It is not something that I will use on my desk at home, for gaming or for writing.  If the Cherry MX G80-3000 was priced more modestly, like about$70, I would have a little less trouble recommending it.  However, at $150, you are so much better off spending that money on a more feature-rich mechanical gaming keyboard.


Cherry MX G80-3000 Review Score

(3 out of 5 stars)


 

Card Quest – A Preview (PC)

I love card games.  Outside of video games, card games are some of my favorite ways to spend an evening.  I’ve spent hours playing games such as Magic:  The Gathering, Marvel’s Legendary, Android:  Netrunner, and Dominion.  So, when it comes to card games on the PC, I’m usually up for the challenge, but always feel like there is something missing.  For me, the card game is also something that should be a social event.  I think that’s why Marvel’s Legendary is my all time favorite, as it is cooperative.  Still, I play the hell out of Hearthstone, so I was interested in previewing Card Quest when it came up.  Card Quest is an Steam Early Access game from developer WinterSpring Games and publisher Black Shell Media.  How is it shaping up?  Let’s take a closer look with my preview.

Game Play

The best way to describe the overall game play of Card Quest is as a card driven, dungeon crawler.  You select a class between the three major archetypes (fighter, mage, rogue), and set off on a specific adventure designed to test your class.  The game gives you a specific deck for your class, and sets up ten challenges in a given section of your dungeon.  Each deck has it’s own strengths for both attack and defense, and feel completely different from one another.

The main component of Card Quest is managing your stamina during these encounters.  A typical encounter could have five enemies that you need to kill before moving onto the next round, and each card you use to either attack or defend yourself uses stamina.  You can gain stamina slowly between rounds, or quickly using certain cards.  You also have to manage your stamina between the attack and defense phases of each round.  Using all of your stamina to attack works fine if you can kill all of the monsters.  Otherwise, you are getting hit when they attack you, and you don’t heal.  The smart money is to save some stamina to defend yourself.  You can also spend stamina to draw a card, though that usually is a desperate measure due to the amount of stamina it will cost you.

This stamina management is what really drives Card Quest and turned a fifteen minute game test, into a full hour long run trying to beat the first boss.  The first rounds really lull you into a false sense of security, then that 40 h.p. monster comes down and just beats you senseless, because you didn’t manage your stamina, can’t stun lock the boss, and need to do a ton of damage.  You also have to manage your combinations too.  Certain cards will have bonus effects if played in sequence, so the game makes it enticing enough to use more stamina, because you want to hit certain bonuses.

You gain experience every time you win a battle, and will level up.  As you level up,  you will gain more equipment that will give your character different bonuses, more hit points, or more stamina.  There isn’t any packs of cards or collectible aspect, at least as of now, so you will quickly learn what each card can do and the limits of the decks.  The challenge is definitely there, and I found Card Quest to be a little more difficult than I was initially expecting.

Aesthetics

Card Quest uses an older aesthetic that really brings back the early days of my PC gaming life.  Looking and sounding more like Bard’s Tale than Hearthstone, Card Quest revels in the older aesthetic and makes it feel right.  After my first hour of gameplay, I was so focused on beating that boss that the art and graphics blended into the background.  I feel that the aesthetics goes well with the gameplay, and it shouldn’t have been any other way.

Each card has it’s own artwork, so identifying cards becomes easier over time.  The cards are fairly easy to understand, though it will take some time to get used to what each card actually does, especially when it comes to the combo powers.  Due to the small space on each card, symbols are used and are fairly easy to understand.  I did love how the chain ability on the card would change color if you had done enough to combo the cards together.  That little bit right there helps out a lot in helping out deciding what card to use.

(Not So) Final Thoughts

Card Quest is in early access on Steam, so this preview is based on the build as of the last week or two.  While I never expect developers to make massive changes from one build to another, it can happen.  In its current state, Card Quest is a very challenging and fun card game that is deeper than it comes on to be.  What first seems like a bad card game clone of other popular card games, ends up being a huge test in how you can manage your stamina and plan both of your offence and defense, to protect your non-regenerating health.  I was absolutely sucked into Card Quest for the first two hours, just trying to beat the first boss.  If you are into card based games, Card Quest is a great way to spend an evening or two.  Card Quest is available now through Steam Early Access for $7.99.

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)