Author - John Dugan

Dark Souls 3 – A Review (Xbox One)

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There are some video games out there that just finishing the game is a huge accomplishment.  These games go down in history of being the hardest games to complete, and to finish one was a badge of honor.  Being of the older generation of gamers (not saying how old mind you), my earliest accomplishments of beating NES classics such as Mega Man, Contra, Battletoads, and Ninja Gaiden still fill me with pride.  However, we lost some of this pride as games progressed.  Developers started putting in multiple lives, save points, or just made the games easier to beat in order to reach a wider audience.  That was, until From Software and Namco Bandai released their version of pain and suffering in the form of Demon Souls.  Demon Souls, and the Dark Souls games that followed, turned up the heat on gamers everywhere.  I have friends that either love or are absolutely afraid of these games, there isn’t an in-between.  When I beat Dark Souls, I felt the same pride at that accomplishment that I felt as a kid beating those super hard NES games, and that just made me want more.

So, here we are with the release of Dark Souls 3, what very well could be the last in the line from From Software.  While I feel that the game is still harder then most of the games on the market today, I also feel that this game is the easiest on the new player to the series, the most accessible to the average gamer.  Now, I know that “accessible” is a bad word to many gamers, just look at the Starfox controversy lately if you want to see that in action, however there is still plenty of challenge in Dark Souls 3 for the veteran player to work through.  Is Dark Souls 3 the ending that the series so richly deserves, or does it fall flat by trying to reach out to a wider audience?  Let’s take a deeper look.

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Story

Unfortunately, the overall Dark Souls plot is still a little muddled for me.  I catch glimpses of clarity when I understand where the games fit in sequence and the overall story that wraps the games together, but that usually gets tied up at the end of each game, not while I am playing it.  I will stay away from spoilers here, and just give you the overall story of the game.  If you are a veteran of the Dark Souls franchise, you will know that the story goes much deeper then what I have here, but part of the fun of playing the game is discovery.

Dark Souls 3 story begins during an Age of Ash, where the First Flame is just about to go out.  No one has tried to link the First Flame, to rekindle the fire and prevent the coming darkness.  As the world succumbs to the darkness, a bell rings out from Firelink Shrine.  This bell awakens the Lords of Cinder and you, the player, as the last hope to link the First Flame and push back the darkness.  You begin the game as one of the Unkindled, an undead that is unfit to even become a Hollow.  This difference in terminology has different game play effects, which I will talk about later, but in terms of story it means you are the lowest of the low.  You are not even fit to become a cinder in this world, but you are the last hope to rekindle the First Flame.  You set out, seeking the four Lords of Cinder, then must decide on whether to fulfill your purpose and link the flame, or let the world finally plunge into darkness.

The tone of Dark Souls 3’s story is similar to the other games of the series.  There is always the present feeling of desperation as the world decays around you.  But with Dark Souls 3, you get a different feeling to your character, based on how the game deals with your death.  Since you do not Hollow like in previous games, there isn’t such a feeling of desperation when you die.  You never quite feel like you are climbing up a steeper hill with each death, like you do in Dark Souls 2.  This does affect the overall tone of Dark Souls 3, especially in comparison to the previous two games in the series.  This isn’t a bad thing, not at all, but it does change how you play the game.  I’ll expand more on this in the next section.

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Game Play

In Dark Souls 2, your death meant you were cut off from your humanity.  Every time you died you lost a little bit more of your maximum health, until your humanity was restored.  With being Unkindled in Dark Souls 3, this mechanic was removed.  While Embered, you will have your maximum health raised quite a bit, then will lose that when you die.  You can restore this health by using an Ember, which replaced Humanity in Dark Souls 3.  For me, this changed how I played the game versus how I played it in Dark Souls 2.  I was much more willing to run into an unknown place to grab items, or tackle a new boss without reading a guide online, because I no longer truly feared death.  Sure, you could still loose your souls, but all you loose really is the bonus health, and some of the bosses just didn’t require that much to begin with to beat.

The other biggest change in the franchise is the addition of Focus Points.  You now have a blue bar that sits underneath you health bar, that will affect your fighting arts and magic use.  Magic is no longer limited by a certain number, now you are limited by the amount of Focus you have, and that can be restored by using your Ashen Estus Flask.  You can even talk to the blacksmith in Firelink Shrine to alter how much of which Estus you carry.  If you are not using much Focus, you can carry more Health Estus, and vice versa.  Focus Points are not limited to magic, but also affect how much you can use a fighting art.  Fighting arts are determined by the type of weapon you are using, some will allow you to shout for an area of effect attack, others will let you flip through the are or sharpen your blade to give yourself life drain.  Weapons are no longer chosen by their stats, but also the move sets you get with your fighting art.

The rest of the game play is very much old Dark Souls.  You will still progress through the world, searching for souls, bonfires, and bosses.  There are plenty of NPCs to interact with, many being recurring characters from older Dark Souls games.  The controls and mechanics, aside from the Focus Point system, feels like the older Dark Souls games.  The enemies range from tough, to maddening and that can happen in just a few steps from each other.  The boss fights feel all over the place though in terms of difficulty.  For instance, I was able to one shot High Lord Wolnir but was crushed on a consistent basis by the demon that was guarding the path to the Smoldering Lake.

Online play and interaction still works the same as previous games, as well.  While Embered, you run the risk of being invaded by another player.  You can also summon players to your world to help you conquer an area’s boss, or summon an NPC to also help you and to further that character’s story line.  Factions return again in Dark Souls 3, and many work well with the online play.  You have factions that focus on killing other players, while others focus on protecting the helpless players in the world from those that will hunt them down.

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Aesthetic

Dark Souls 3 is beautiful, from an aesthetic point of view.  The world is old, and looks to be entering it’s last days.  The environments also look to have a thin film of ash on everything, which works well in terms of the story.  The design of the world is well done, and it an absolute joy to explore, if you didn’t have hundreds of enemies looking to have your guts for garters.  Boss fights are visually stunning as well, and I found myself on more then one occasion focusing on some aspect of aesthetic instead of what was killing me.  Dark Souls 3 is easily the best looking game in the series.

The biggest issue with Dark Souls 3 in terms of aesthetic, comes in performance.  On the Xbox One, Dark Souls 3 will experience nasty frame rate drops, especially during some of the boss battles.  This is incredibly frustrating, especially when dodging and speed are so vital to your ability to survive encounters.  I have seen Dark Souls 3 played on PC, and this frame rate does not occur there.  I have no idea how the PlayStation 4 fares, but the Xbox One does suffer from this frame rate drop, so be warned.

Final Thoughts

Dark Souls 3 is, thus far, my 2016 game of the year.  It isn’t just a great game for fans of the series, but also the best game to play if you have never experienced a Dark Souls game before.  Dark Souls 3 is the most accessible game of the franchise, and that isn’t a bad thing.  The challenge is still there for the veteran player, but newer players will find it easier to get used to the game, but it is in no sense of the word, easy!  This game will still kick you in the shin, steal your pudding, and strut away laughing at your pain and sorrow if you underestimate it.  If this is truly From Software’s last Dark Souls game, then the series ends on a very high note.

Product Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

 

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 420X Headset – A Review (Xbox One)

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Turtle Beach, one of the premier video game headset manufacturers, has just released a new wireless headset for the Xbox One, the Ear Force Stealth 420X Headset (shortened to the 420X for the rest of this review).  The 420X might just be one of the best headsets I have ever owned, and most definitely the best one I’ve had for a console.  The headset fits quite nicely, never pinching nor feeling to small for my head, and is incredibly comfortable to wear for hours of gaming.

Features

The 420X is completely wireless while in use, the only cord that comes in the package is used to connect the headset to the Xbox One for charging.  Using a USB wireless connector, the 420X stays connected for up to 30ft, which is perfect for me to grab a soda from the garage and still be able to talk between online games.  All the controls for the 420X are on the headset, including game and voice volume, bass boost, mute, and a button for presets.  The power button is on the right ear cup, dead center so you can easily feel for it and turn it on or off while the headset is being worn.  The 420X also features a removable omni-directional boom mic, so you can use your headset for music or mobile gaming.

I love the fit of the 420X on my head.  Comfort for me is pretty high on my must have list for gaming headsets, if the headset hurts after a few hours of gaming, then it just isn’t a good quality headset.  The 420x has synthetic leather ear cups that fit over the ear, keeping outside noise to a minimum while keeping your ears from sweating.  I also love how the ear cups swivel to match the shape of your head.

Aesthetic

The 420X is a very clean looking headset, which is pretty typical of Turtle Beach.  Most of the headset is set in a matte black color, with some green highlights around the ear cups.  The Turtle Beach logos are also green, and glow green when the headset is on.  This is just your clean looking, basic design for a gaming headset, which I love.

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Performance

I was able to use the 420X extensively over my testing period, focusing on a few different types of games.  Games like Dark Souls 2, The Division, Black Ops 3, Far Cry Primal, and Borderlands 2 sounded fantastic through the headset.  During multiplayer, I was able to hear footstep directions to give me a better indication of where my opponents were.  With single player games like Dark Souls 2, the music and sound effects really came through nicely and added to my immersion into the game.  Voice communication was clear with no issues at all, though finding the mute button was somewhat difficult at times.  I guess my only complaint with the 420X really is that it was hard to find the controls while the headset was on.  Feeling for the mute button was difficult, and I had a hard time remembering which volume control wheel controlled which volume.

Specifications

  • Digital Signal Processor: Digital Signal Processor for independently controlled chat, game and mic signals
  • Audio mute: Audio mutes automatically when carrier signal is lost
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Polymer
  • Shut down: Automatic shut down after approx 10 minutes of carrier loss or silence to conserve battery power
  • Weight: 8.6oz
  • Speaker Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Battery life: >15 Hours
  • Speakers: 50mm with Neodymium Magnets
  • Digital Wireless RF wireless carrier reception.: 2.4GHz
  • Speaker Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Microphone Design: Removable Omni-Directional Microphone
  • Earcup Design: Around-Ear (Closed)
  • Headband/Earpad Material: Perforated Synthetic Leather (Black) with Foam Cushioning

Final Thoughts

The Ear Force Stealth 420X Headset by Turtle Beach is the best headset I have ever used for the Xbox One or Xbox 360.  The wireless connectivity is a must with my current living room set up, the voice communication was clear, and the headset was incredibly comfortable to wear over long periods of time.  I do wish the controls on the ear cups were a little easier to use or the buttons and wheels separated over both ears, but that is a fairly minor issue unless you are adjusting these items constantly during game play.  The price is set to be around $150 MSRP, which could be considered a little steep, but worth it if you are looking for a quality wireless headset.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 420X Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Sheltered – A Review (Xbox One)

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Ah, how it’s good to be back in the saddle again.  With my life becoming a little more stable, I get to celebrate with a game review.  So, here is my review of Sheltered for the Xbox One by Unicube and Team 17 Software.  Sheltered began life as a Kickstarter game, gathering over 3,300 backers and making just over $42,000.  Originally only slated for a PC release, Sheltered hit the stretch goals, allowing the game to be ported over to the PS4 and the Xbox One.  Let’s delve deeper into this game to see if it’s worth your time, or just another bad Kickstarter game.

Story

Your family of four has survived the nightmare of a nuclear holocaust, and now must face the future together in a underground bomb shelter.  Each day, you will have to make many decisions that could either lead your family to live another day, or perish within an instant.  As stories go, Sheltered does lean to the “bare bones” side of writing styles.  You begin the game with four individuals and a family pet, living inside the bomb shelter.  You are then told to survive as long as you can, and that’s it.  The story is made to be inherent, as the game progresses you are telling your own story by how you react to adversity or how you set up your shelter.  There will be events that occur, but nothing that truly defines a story line as such.

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Now, this way of story telling isn’t all bad, don’t get me wrong.  Some of the best games just don’t have any stories built into them and it is up to you to define what your story is.  Sheltered takes the same path as The Sims, you are in charge of the family, and what you do defines your story.  While I personally love to have a driving narrative with much more of a goal then to just survive, this method works in Sheltered.  I wouldn’t know how to incorporate a driving narrative in this style of game, so I believe this was the right choice by Unicube.

Game Play

Unicube allows you to design the four people and pet you begin the game with.  You can create any combination of four people to make up your family.  This includes sex, clothing styles, hair, facial features, and skin color.  This level of customization really allows you to invest into your starting family.

From there, you have to keep them alive.  There is a brief tutorial that shows you how things work, but other than that the game play is very much trial and error.  As your characters live their lives, they will require certain things.  Food, water, sleep, and air are just some of the things you will need to be concerned with.  Sanity and fun are also important to handle as well.  You will also have to maintain the items in your shelter, and create new ones to better help your family live better lives.  Your children are not just idle passengers in this game either, send them topside to fix the water filtration unit, get them to work making sleeping bags, or have them maintain the generator.  Child labor is alive and well in Sheltered!

As the game progresses, if you are maintaining your family’s health, they will get better at what they do.  Members can become faster, stronger, and heartier if they live a good, clean life.  This will help out as you send your members topside to explore and gather resources.  You can’t send them out without weapons, though.  Sheltered offers up a strong crafting system that allows you to create various weapons to keep your members alive, as well as create items that will make their lives nicer.  Eventually, you may be able to create a vehicle to really explore the world above.

Through game play, your family will eventually meet other survivors.  These survivors may be friendly to your family, or might just see you as easy targets.  Combat is turn based in Sheltered, which works out quite well.  You can also recruit some of the friendlier folk you meet, and have them join your bunker.  This will help maintain your bunker, but may also put some strain on your resources.  Another mouth to feed will do that.  Well, you could just wait until someone dies and cook that person.  Sure it will cost you a little sanity, but it’s better with a full belly.

I liked the game play mechanics and feel that Sheltered does a great job in handling these items all at once.  My issues with Sheltered steam from the aesthetics that affect game play (more on that later) and the utter lack of any clue as to what I am doing at first.  This style of game play does make it feel like you really are trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, but it may frustrate some gamers out there.

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Aesthetics

This is where the game takes a big hit form me, the aesthetics department.  Unicube went the route of using bit style graphics, so everything looks blocky and it is more then hard to tell certain items from each other.  I could not find my dog’s dish for the life of me during my first run through.  Sure, Sheltered was developed on a budget and, sure, graphics don’t make the game but I do wish things were much clearer then they are.  I have never been a proponent of making everything look realistic and shiny, but I do wish developers would stop going back to really blocky bit graphics just to save some money.  Other than that, the aesthetics works fine, and it really comes down to your own personal feeling about developers using retro graphics these days.

Final Thoughts

Sheltered is a solid, post-apocalyptic survival game for the Xbox One that does a great job in making you feel like you are trapped in a shelter and that your life could end at any moment.  This game will really speak to the micro manager in you, and especially if you ever enjoyed any of The Sims games.  The crafting system is solid and deep, the game is full of atmosphere and the amount of customization will allow you to create the family of your dreams.  I did have trouble with the aesthetics of the game, mainly in just telling items apart from each other.  Sheltered will also not hold your hand at all, you are expected to handle stuff on your own, right away.  If you are looking for a post-apocalyptic human management game, I really think Sheltered is the best of the bunch for the Xbox One and would recommend giving it a shot.  Sheltered is available now for the Xbox One.

Sheltered Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Punch Club – A Review (PC)

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Unlike that other fighting club, we are not breaking any rules by reviewing and discussing Lazy Bear Games’ newest creation, Punch Club.  Punch Club is a life management role playing game, where you take control of every aspect of your fighter’s life, from what he eats to how much he trains.  The only time you don’t control your fighter’s every action is when he actually has to fight.  The fights are completely run by the game’s artificial intelligence, based on the tactics pre-selected by the player and the stats that your fighter possesses.  Is Punch Club any good?  Let’s take a closer look.

Story

Punch Club’s story line begins as many stories do, with the brutal murder of your father before your eyes.  In order to discover your father’s killer, you must rise in the ranks of fighters, choosing different paths that are open to you along the way.  Along the way, you will have to juggle all of life’s varied obstacles, including friendships, love life, training, work, and recreation.  Finding that fine balance in Punch Club is what the game is all about.

Punch Club is full of 80’s and 90’s nostalgia bits, and the story line fits that feel perfectly.  Punch Club feels like a martial arts movie from the late 80’s:  murdered father, training montages, working your way up through the ranks of generic bad guys, finding love along the way and finally ending with a boss fight to gain vengeance.  Lazy Bear Games went for a nostalgia piece, and it works just fine.  While it’s not perfect in any sense of the word, with some of the humor just feeling forced or off a bit, Punch Club’s story line is great and fits the feeling that the developers were aiming for.

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Game Play

I called Punch Club a “life management role playing game” in the intro, and that description fits the game perfectly.  In Punch Club, you have to manage your fighter’s daily life and choose what to focus on during the time you have each day.  In the beginning, that’s fairly simple.  If you hungry, eat.  If you don’t have any money, go to work.  However, just like life, the game gets more complicated when you have more obligations to manage.  Do you spend time with your friends or your love?  You need money to go out, but you haven’t eaten in a while.  To make these choices even more crucial, your states will deplete if you are not training enough, so you constantly have to maintain what you have worked on.

When you train, you will get to focus on one of three stats:  strength, stamina, or agility.  Some exercises will increase small amounts of two stats, but it isn’t very efficient when you factor in your time management.  You pretty much need to focus on one stat as a primary then one as a secondary, leaving the third stat almost untouched.  So you have to decide what type of fighter will you be?  Punches rely on strength, defense rely on agility, and stamina keeps you up and moving longer.

You have total control of your fighter, that is until it is fight time.  You get to select a few fight tactics that your fighter can use before the match begins, but once those are in place and you start the fight, then the a.i. takes over completely.  Whether you win or lose will be dependent on your tactics and your stats that you have trained in.  As you fail, and you will, then you have to decide what other stat or tactic would work better in that situation.

For the first few hours, I really enjoyed Punch Club’s game play.  I thought the life management game play was fun, and it was satisfying to see my hard work pay off.  The problem with Punch Club comes a little later, when you find yourself grinding for hours on end just to win one fight.  This makes the game absolutely no fun to play anymore and can lead to feelings of frustration and bitterness as you loose time and time again.  The shine and enjoyment that I felt in the beginning of Punch Club did not last throughout my time with the game.

Aesthetics

Because the developers were going for a retro style 80’s nostalgia piece, the game looks like it came out of that era as well, though much more defined graphically.  Punch Club has pixelated graphics that reinforce the feeling of nostalgia, without actually looking like an 80’s game.  I felt that the aesthetics of Punch Club fit the vibe of the game perfectly and did everything right, even down to the small little nods to popular culture you will find throughout the game.

Final Thoughts

Punch Club is a great game for the first few hours, then it turns into a complete grind fest that will try even the most die hard gamer.  In the beginning, your fighter’s life is easy to manage, and the fights are easy to train for.  As the game progresses, your life becomes a chaotic mess and the fights are brutal slug-fests that you are not prepared for.  My life is complicated as it is, I don’t really need to play a game that replicates that complexity.  I would still recommend the game for anyone who is looking for a game like Punch Club, because what is there is really well done.  Just be prepared to grind through the middle of the game.  Punch Club is available now through Steam for your PC.

 

Punch Club Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Mad Catz C.T.R.L. R Mobile Gamepad – A Review

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The C.T.R.L. R Mobile Game Pad by Mad Catz is a fitting way to complete my trilogy of mobile gaming reviews. Unlike my other two mobile gaming reviews, the C.T.R.L. R took a little more convincing for me to see the positives that it brings to mobile gaming. The C.T.R.L. R is not a bad product by any stretch, but just does not feel necessary, or even helpful at times when it comes to mobile gaming.

Design

The design of the C.T.R.L. R is much like your standard Xbox 360 controller. The game pad has a pair of analog sticks, four main face buttons, and a direction pad on the face. There are two shoulder pads and two triggers in the same places as they are on the standard Xbox 360 controller, with a Start, Select, and power buttons in the center of the face. The placement of all of these features are precisely in the same positions and spots as they are on the Xbox 360 controller, so those of you that are used to Microsoft’s controller layout will feel right at home.

The differences that the C.T.R.L. R has over the Xbox 360 controller are significant. First, this is a strictly wireless controller. The small, micro USB port on the front is only used to update the game pad’s firmware, not to connect the game pad to a device. The C.T.R.L. R connects via Blue Tooth to your mobile or pc devices. The biggest difference in design between the C.T.R.L. R and the Xbox 360 controller is the mobile device holder. This holder screws into the controller between the shoulder bumpers, and holds your mobile device in place. The calipers slide open and then closed by using a spring for tension, to hold your device in place securely. The mobile device mount unscrews with ease, to return the C.T.R.L. R back to the standard controller configuration.

The C.T.R.L. R also features a few more buttons that are not found on your standard controller. A row of media remote buttons sit above the power button, which includes Play/Pause, Fast Forward, Rewind, Volume Up, and Volume Down. There is also a three-way switch on the bottom edge of the controller that switches the C.T.R.L. R to work with different devices, such as your mobile device or your PC.

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Performance

The C.T.R.L. R Gamepad can be used in three different ways; as a mobile game pad, as a mouse controller, or as a PC game pad. Most of my testing was done as a mobile game pad with my Samsung Galaxy S4 device, but I did test it on my Windows Laptop as a mouse controller and a game pad.

As a mobile game pad, the C.T.R.L. R worked wonderfully well. The phone fit into the mount well with no fear of slippage or droppage at all. The C.T.R.L. R paired right up with my phone in a matter of seconds and was very responsive in game. I don’t have too many games that the C.T.R.L. R would work with on my phone, but the ones that it would work with played just like I was on my Xbox.

As a PC game pad controller, the C.T.R.L. R didn’t fare as well in my testing. First, since it will only connect via blue tooth and cannot be wired, I could not use the C.T.R.L. R with my desktop. I did not have the capability to connect blue tooth devices, so the C.T.R.L. R would have been useless in that department, except that I have a new laptop that is blue tooth capable. Again, connecting the C.T.R.L. R was a piece of cake, and the mouse mode of the C.T.R.L. R worked great. However, the game pad mode did not work as well as it could, and I experienced connection issues with many games that I tried to use the C.T.R.L. R with. Using the free Mad Catz app, unfortunately, did not fix the issue. I feel that too many developers out there are expecting PC users to just use a 360 controller these days, and have programmed their games to work just fine with that particular one.

Final Thoughts

The C.T.R.L. R Gamepad is a solid controller that works very well with your mobile device. The functionality and performance of the C.T.R.L. R met and exceeded any expectations I had for a mobile game pad. My issue with the C.T.R.L. R isn’t with its design or performance, it’s with the necessity of the game pad. For me, having a controller for my phone just does not make sense. The types of games that I play on my phone are designed to be played in small increments, and without having to lug a full size controller around. Mobile gaming has to be just that, mobile. The C.T.R.L. R game pad is just too large and unwieldy to be mobile. For the C.T.R.L. R to really become necessary in my life, it would have to double as a PC controller, and it could not do that. If the C.T.R.L. R could hook up to my desktop and play my games without issue, then I would love this product. But since it cannot connect to my desktop, nor even work well enough with my laptop games, the C.T.R.L. R just becomes a well-working novelty piece that I cannot see myself using in the future. If you need a mobile gaming device controller, then I can recommend the C.T.R.L. R, but at the price of roughly $40 the game pad is a little expensive for what it can be used for effectively. Otherwise, I would steer clear of the device, especially if you were looking for a universal game pad to use with multiple devices.

Official Store Page

Mad Catz C.T.R.L. R Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

H1Z1 – A Preview (PC)

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The video game industry has a tendency to get into trends when it comes to video game themes or choosing a default bad guy. The industry has seen massive waves of games that featured aliens, vampires, mutants, and Nazis. Well, we are currently seeing this trend again, but this time it is with zombies. Zombies have become the default bad guy of recent years, with many games being released that features the walking dead. Games like Left 4 Dead, Dead Island, DayZ, 7 Days to Die, and Call of Duty have shown the industry that zombie games sell, and now everyone wants a bite of the action. Today, I look at yet another zombie game by Daybreak Games (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) that is currently on Early Access on Steam called H1Z1.

H1Z1 is set in a post-zombie-apocalyptic world where you play as a survivor, trying to make it through a changed world. The story of H1Z1 is mostly created by the players. There isn’t any dialogue, quests, or city hubs. You are placed with just the clothes on your back, into the middle of a zombie rich environment and set out to survive. It would be very hard to play H1Z1 without making comparisons to DayZ, since they both have very similar styles. You will spend the first part of any game running from everything that might cause you harm, while searching for weapons, ammo, and other supplies so you can survive your first night.

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There are no safe zones in H1Z1, your life is constantly being threatened. It’s not only the zombies that are out to get you either, it’s the other players that are on the server. H1Z1 is an open world PvP game. Everyone you meet could possibly kill you at any moment, or help you if you approach them nicely. But let’s be real here, this is the internet. Just assume EVERY player is out to kill you and you might actually live a day or two in H1Z1. The only people that band together are the ones that set out to play together. I have yet to meet another player that didn’t try to kill me at first sight.

H1Z1 is heavy on items. Weapons, clothing, equipment, crafting materials, and vehicles can be found throughout the open world. There will also be air drops that will appear during game play, but these end up being huge kill zones for PvP action, where “to the winner goes the spoils” is the only rule. The crafting system is pretty deep and you can make a ton of items that will help you increase your ability to stay alive. Anything from tools, weapons, animal traps, even water collectors can be crafted to help make your stay in the zombie apocalypse a comfortable one. H1Z1 also features base building, so if you do happen to find some people that don’t immediately rip your face clean off, you can work together towards building a base that you can barricade yourself inside of. Don’t get your hopes up though, the face ripping community of H1Z1 is much stronger and more numerous than the base building community.

Currently, there is one other game mode that can be played in H1Z1, and that is Battle Royale. Battle Royale is very similar to the game mode that was introduced in Arma 3, where a large group of players are placed into the environment via parachute and commence to kill each other until only one remains. Prizes are given out to the top ten competitors, and this game mode is extremely popular with the streaming community. There is also now a Hardcore Battle Royale mode that includes environment dangers, such as bears and zombies. This game mode removes all pretense of working together that the normal version of H1Z1 tries to have. Throughout the game, gas will be dropped that makes the playable area smaller and smaller, so players must stay within the game zone in order to continue fighting. Staying in the gas for too long means you will die and your game will be cut short. This is a one death type of game, so be prepared to have many games cut short if you can’t get the right drops early on.

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H1Z1 is still in Early Access, so there are still bugs that the developers are dealing with. Frame rate issues, hackers, and glitches can be plentiful at times, but the core game is solid. The real questions comes down to whether H1Z1 is better than DayZ in the end, and that’s going to be a tough one to call at this point. I see positives and negatives to both titles. DayZ has a better aesthetic and visuals to it right now, but I like H1Z1’s crafting system. Zombies, for both games, are an ancillary threat compared to the player community. The player community is out for your head in both games, so that’s a tie. H1Z1 does have the Battle Royale game mode, but if you have Arma 3 then you have already played the hell out of that mode.

H1Z1 will be free to play once released, but is currently $19.99 for the Early Access privilege. H1Z1 will be released on the PC and the PlayStation 4 once it is all done and looks extremely promising. While I am personally over the whole zombie genre in video games, H1Z1 and DayZ have both been my go to games for my zombie fix. It will be great to see how both these products turn out at their full release.

Transformers: Devastation – A Review (Xbox One)

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Platinum Games has reached back into my childhood, and brought forth a game that I have wanted to be made for over 30 years with Transformers: Devastation. Transformers: Devastation is a cell-shaded, action packed trek through what made the Transformers extremely popular in the mid-80’s. But what makes Transformers: Devastation better than just a nostalgia piece, is that Platinum Games put in a very solid, action game with rpg elements at the game’s core. The game is incredibly fun, action packed, and truly gives the player the feeling of controlling a Transformer to it’s fullest potential.

Story

The story of Transformers: Devastation feels like it could have been a plot from the original television show. The Decepticons, led by Megatron, are bent on transforming the Earth into a version of Cybertron by harnessing the power of Plasma Energy. The Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, leap into action to prevent Megatron’s transformation of Earth. During the game, you will control one of five Autobots: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Wheeljack, Grimlock, and Sideswipe. In preventing Megatron’s plan, you will battle against faceless hordes of Decepticons and will battle against some of the biggest names from the television show in impressive boss battles, including Devastator.

What also makes Transformers: Devastation story feel like an episode of the old cartoon is the characters and their voice actors. Many of old voice actors have been brought back to relive their old characters, and the characters themselves act like they should. Everything just feels right about this game in terms of story progress and atmosphere. This game just nails the Transformer world like no other.

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Gameplay

Transformers: Devastation’s gameplay is almost perfect, with just a few hiccups worth mentioning. The game plays mostly as an old school beat-em-up in 3 dimensional environment. Combos are going to be your best friend, with ranged weapons helping take out some of the airborne threats you will run into. The combos are fun and very satisfying to pull off, including transforming mid-combo. The characters will also play differently depending on you are playing as. Optimus Prime is a slower, stronger style of character while Bumblebee will hit quicker and more often, but with less power.

Moving around the environments is very satisfying also. You can run around in robot mode if you so choose, but transforming into your alternative mode will give you benefits in certain sections of the map. Adding Grimlock the Dinobot was a great addition so you can change up your alt mode from car to dinosaur, though Bumblebee is probably my favorite to use due to his speed.

Transformers: Devastation comes with five difficulty levels, and the difficulty definitely ramps up as you progress through the game. The first boss, Devastator, is absolutely no warm up fight when it comes to difficulty. Quick reactions, reading the boss movements, and timing your attacks with your dodges will get you through most fights.

Not everything in Transformers: Devastation is perfect, however. The maps feel a little generic at times and can be hard to navigate. The loot system feels forced into the game and really made no sense to me. I would have preferred no loot system, and just had increases to my power as the game went on. Having a loot system just did nothing for my enjoyment of the game. It made the game much more fiddly for me. Instead of just wailing on Decepticons, I was finding myself becoming more concerned over min/maxing my loot and stats. Transformers: Devastation also falls on the short side, about six hours of game play. It is a lower price for an Xbox One game then standard releases, being priced at $49.99, but six hours is still on the short side for me.

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Aesthetics

This game looks amazing. Platinum Games went with cell-shading when it came to art direction, and this is absolutely the perfect use of that design. The game looks like it was ripped from the 80’s. The colors are vibrant, the graphics look clean and just like the cartoon. Sure, the settings have a tendency to look a little generic and uninteresting at times, but watching my Autobots race around and battle Decepticons in full cell-shaded graphics made me not care.

Sound design is perfect as well. The original soundtrack has enough of the old 80’s guitar metal riffs to bring you back to the original cartoon, without really being cheesy. The big draw here, though, is the voice cast. Peter Cullen, Dan Gilvezan, Michael Bell, Gregg Berger, and Frank Welker all revisit their original characters from the cartoon. Having the main characters voiced by the original actors is amazing and just adds mountains of joy on an already great game. The rest of the cast does a great job in sounding like the original characters.

Final Thoughts

Transformers: Devastation does not only serve up a great dose of nostalgia for those of us that remember the original Transformers television show, but it is also a fantastic game at its core. Beautiful cell-shaded graphics and the use of the original voice actors brings the world of Transformers to life like no other game has. Ever. A solid combat system helps keep the attention of the player, even after the novelty of the art design has worn off. Combos are satisfying to pull off, and even more satisfying when you transform in the middle of a combo. Transformers: Devastation isn’t without its issues. The game is on the short side, about six hours in length, and has a misplaced loot system that will feel more like a hassle then a feature. Other then that, Transformers: Devastation is six hours of pure Transformers fun that I would recommend to anyone that likes a good action game, but it is a must buy for anyone that remembers the Transformers cartoon fondly. Transformers: Devastation is available now for the Xbox One for $49.99.

Transformers: Devastation Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Blood Bowl 2 – A Review (PC)

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My experience with Blood Bowl began in 1988, when my gaming group in high school really discovered everything made by Games Workshop. We would spend weekends playing 40k, Warhammer Fantasy Battle, and then started to set up our very own Blood Bowl Leagues. Even as I am typing this review, I can see my Second Edition set sitting on my board game shelf, remembering the time I went 0-10 with a Snotling team. The first Blood Bowl video game by Cyanide Studios felt good, but it was also missing some pieces. Blood Bowl 2 fills in those missing pieces to make the best video game simulation of the board game that I grew up with.

Story

The single player story campaign puts the player into the position of coach of the famous Reikland Reavers. Gone are the days of the dominant dynasty of Griff Oberwald and Zug, the Reavers are sitting at the bottom of the entire league, just having fired everyone that had to do with the team. Your job, as new Head Coach, is to hire a whole new team from Blood Bowl hopefuls, mold them into a terrifying team, and win the Blood Bowl Cup. You begin the campaign by selecting your team from different positions, customizing your players, then off to some friendly games to earn sponsors and more gold.

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Jim and Bob, two sports commentators who just happen to be an ogre and a vampire, will offer color commentary and analysis in between games. They also act as a plot device, helping the story along by telling the player what is happening around the league. While I felt that some of these segments went on for a little longer than they should have, Jim and Bob are a very entertaining duo of sports commentators that really add to the flavor of Blood Bowl 2.

The story itself isn’t anything special in terms of uniqueness or complexity, but serves as a great way to offer a structure to the single player campaign. My only gripe is the bonus objectives that were mandatory in some of the matches. Some of these objectives were extremely difficult to pull off due to the randomness of the game (more on that later). Other then some of these objectives, the campaign moved along very smoothly and was absolutely fun to play.

Game Play

Blood Bowl 2 offers a few ways to play the game, campaign mode, single player vs AI and some multiplayer modes. While the single player mode is great to play, it isn’t the best option for the long run. Creating your league with up to 128 teams is where you will get the most mileage for your dollar in Blood Bowl 2. These leagues are highly customizable and can be set up rather quickly.

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Blood Bowl 2 offers a wide variety of ways to build your own team also, including different races, customizable team jerseys, and you can even customize your own stadium to fit your team. The races available are among the classic Warhammer Fantasy races, such as Humans, Orks, Skaven and Dark Elves. With Blood Bowl 2, the Brittonians have been added to the mix. You can also create your roster from the different positions available for your race, such as Blitzer, Linemen, or Catcher. Each position has strengths and weaknesses that will come out during game play. And not all races have each position available, and that fits in with the original Blood Bowl feel. Dwarves just don’t make great throwers due to their height and Elves just are not as rough and tumble due to their delicate constitutions.

Blood Bowl 2 is a turn based sports simulation game, when it all comes down to it. The coin toss will determine who starts the half off with the ball, then you position all of your players during your turn to move the ball down field to score. During your turn, you will set up as many blocks as you can, with the success of each block coming down to a throw of 2 dice. If you happen to become knocked over as the attacker, your turn will end right then and there, so a little luck and planning are needed to get through a turn. There are no downs like regular American Football, but if the player that has the ball is tackled, he will drop it. The ball then can be picked up by anyone and moved down the field. Each half is timed at sixteen turns, and the team with the most touchdowns at the end of the game wins.

During a campaign, each player will gain experience from each game. This will lead to some of your players rising to the ranks of a Star Player and earning extra abilities, but will also be demanding more money to stay on your team. Other not so fortunate players can become permanently injured, or even killed during a match. Replacing these players in between games becomes standard practice for some teams, mine included.

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Aesthetics

Blood Bowl 2 looks and sounds amazing! I love the overall design and aesthetics of the races and stadiums. The designers really made the game looks like it comes right out of the colorful world of Warhammer Fantasy. Each races has their own specific style and look to them, as does each stadium. Especially during your own leagues, with the customizable jerseys and stadiums. The voice acting for Blood Bowl 2 is just as top notch as the visuals. Jim and Bob are voiced very well, and the commentary during the games is much easier to listen to then Madden or the NHL games from EA.

Final Thoughts

I liked Blood Bowl, but I like Blood Bowl 2 even more! Blood Bowl 2 feels far more polished and much more of a finished product than Blood Bowl was. The single player campaign is great, but it won’t be where you spend most of your time. It really is the custom league that shines here in Blood Bowl 2, and that is how it should be. Just like the original board game, Blood Bowl 2 truly shines when a group of people get together to schedule weekly games using their own customized teams, jerseys, and stadiums. Blood Bowl 2 is available now on Steam.

Blood Bowl 2 Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Roccat Aluma In Ear Headset – A Review

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With the rise of mobile gaming, companies are creating top of the line peripherals to make mobile gaming the experience that many desktop gamers have enjoyed for years. Roccat has just released their audio option for mobile and music, named the Roccat Aluma. Built and designed to handle whatever life has to through at you while you are away from your desktop, the Roccat Aluma offers top-notch in-ear audio quality, while also offering a durable and light-weight aluminum housing.

Packaging and Aesthetics

Let’s start off with what you get for your $55 US (or 49.99 Euros Roccat’s online shop only ships the Aluma to Germany currently). The Aluma comes packaged with the in-ear headset, 6 different pairs of earphone adapters for your ears, adapters for your PC, Mac, mobile devices, and a nice little case to store everything in while you are out and about. The entire headset is designed in a black and light blue aesthetic, which reminds me of a headset designed in the world of Tron. I really like the overall look and feel of the Aluma, with one exception. The cord that connects the headset to your device looks and feels like a rubber band. This is to make the cord much more compact and to fit in smaller places, but I do not like the look nor the feel of the cord personally. This is such a small gripe that I almost did not mention it, but being used to braided cords from my desktop headsets or mice, made this cord stand out a lot more then I expected for me.

Performance

The Roccat Aluma sounds good, really good. I tested the Aluma with my mobile gaming, some laptop gaming, and with my music while I was at work. In all aspects, the sound through the Aluma was impressive, and it immediately replaced all of my in-ear headphones as my go-to set. Music sounded fantastic through the Aluma, and the headset brought a nice depth to my mobile gaming that my old in-ear head set could not bring. The quality of the sound of the Aluma along with the portability that Roccat designed it for, makes the Aluma perfect for mobile gaming and music.

There are just a few downsides to the Aluma as well. The mic that Roccat uses for the Aluma is an omni-directional, in-cable mic that also has a mute button. This is great for some communication, but I find that a uni-directional mic always works better and cannot be beat for gaming communication. Also, there isn’t a volume control on the cord itself, so all volume has to be control via your device.

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TECH SPECS

DRIVER UNITS
Frequency response: 20~20.000Hz
Max. SPL at 1kHz: 98dB
Impedance: 16Ω
Max. input power: 5 mW
Drive diameter: Ø8mm
Cable length: 1.2m

MICROPHONE
Max. SPL at 1kHz: -40dB
Impedance: 1.6kΩ
Directivity: omni-directional

Final Thoughts

The Roccat Aluma is a fantastic product that will give you quality mobile gaming and music audio while you are away from your desktop. The aluminum housing is both light weight and durable, so the Aluma will not start to hurt your ears even after hours of use. The mic used for the Aluma is similar to the mics you see in other in-ear headsets, which works fine for communication but cannot beat the quality of a good desktop headset with a dedicated microphone. Roccat also makes sure you have enough adapters to handle anything and everything you might run into out in the real world, with a pc, mac, airplane, and mobile device adapters. You also get multiple sets of rubber adapters to find that perfect fit for the shape of your ear. All of these can fit into a nice, durable carrying case that can travel with you where ever you go. The Roccat Aluma runs about $55 US (49.99 Euros), so it isn’t on the cheaper side for an in-ear headset, but considering the quality of sound and the durability of the aluminum housing, I would venture that it is worth the price.

ROCCAT Aluma Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Warhammer 40,000: Regicide – A Review (PC)

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My next two game reviews are both Games Workshop properties, which makes me a very happy game reviewer. Today, I will be taking a closer look at Warhammer 40,000: Regicide, Games Workshop’s version of Battle Chess. That being said, to simply write that Regicide is Warhammer 40k Chess would be to over simplify the game. Yes, the base idea is Chess, but the good people at Hammerfall Publishing have made this game so much more then just that.

Story

The campaign for Warhammer 40,000: Regicide takes place on the Imperial world of Hethgar Prime. The introductory cut scene shows the plea for help from Hethgar Prime, that finally reaches the Blood Angel Chapter of Space Marines. The Blood Angels arrive on Hethgar Prime too late to save its inhabitants from the savage alien threat of the Orks, but the Blood Angels are never too late to deliver the Emperor’s vengeance.

The campaign story telling is very typical of Warhammer games. The theme is generally one of vengeance and intolerance towards the enemy, in this case it is the Goff clan of the Orks. The story is told before each stage of the campaign, and is told through text boxes that are fully voice acted. In these narrative sections, the objective of the stage will be set, as well as any secondary objectives that can be completed. Each objective will be unique to each stage of the campaign, and fits with the story being told. The map will also be set up uniquely between each stage, and the pieces available will be determined by what stage you are on.

The story of Regicide is typical Warhammer 40K, which is just fine with me. The Blood Angels have arrived on Hethgar Prime to eliminate every Ork on the planet, both to avenge the fallen Imperialists and to spread the word of the Emperor. This is the heart of Warhammer 40K. Fans of the IP will pick up on the story immediately, and know what roles each person plays throughout the campaign. Players new to the world of Warhammer 40K will have a decent introduction to the game universe as a whole, without having to learn the thousands of years of narrative that has been built into this property.

Warhammer 40,000 Regicide Screenshot

Game Play

Warhammer 40,000: Regicide has two game modes that can be played outside of the campaign, Regicide and Classic. The campaign uses the Regicide game mode, but with set formations for the board depending on the campaign stage and objectives.

Regicide mode is broken up into two phases, movement phase and attack phase. Pieces will move in the movement phase exactly as they would in the classic Chess game; bishops move diagonally, rooks in straight lines, queens moves in any direction, etc. If you move into a space with an opponent’s piece, then you automatically kill that piece and capture that spot. This does not count against your points to use in the attack phase, this is considered part of your movement. It’s the attack phase that really makes Regicide feel unique as a Chess game, and adds another level of tactics that Chess just does not have.

The attack phase gives you a set amount of points to use to either attack, bolster your defense, or use the special abilities of your pieces. When attacking other pieces, you can either assault them using your close combat weapon, or shoot them using your ranged weapon. You select your choice of attack, and the game will give you a percentage chance of the attack being successful. You can also Go To Ground to add to your defense, or use a special ability. Special abilities will depend on what piece you are attacking with. The Librarian, which is the queen for the Space Marines, will have the typical ranged and close combat attacks as well as a life drain attack that heals the Librarian. The Weirdboy, the queen for the Orks, has a different set of special abilities even though it fulfills essentially the same role as the Librarian.

This attack phase completely changes the tactics used during a Chess game. You have to weigh your movement against the ranged capabilities of the enemy. Sure, I can move my bishop right across the board, but during the Ork attack phase, they will just start blasting him before I have a chance to move him again. In a normal Chess game, you would be absolutely safe placing a piece directly to the side of a pawn, but in Regicide that pawn will be able to assault you and cause some hefty damage.

Classic mode is just that, a game of classic Chess using the Warhammer 40,000 theme. This mode plays exactly like the old Battle Chess game that I loved so dearly in the olden days of PC gaming. There is no attack phase, so all combat is done as you take pieces. There is no ranged attacks, nor percentage chances of an attack missing. If you can take the piece in Chess, then the piece will be killed here. This is Warhammer Chess, so either you will like this mode or not. I have played Chess my whole life, and love having this mode to play. Regicide mode is where the action is, this mode is a great addition to an already solid game.

Regicide will also utilize a single unified account. This means you can play Regicide on your PC, switch over to your phone or tablet, and play against friends regardless of what system they are playing on. You can also change the skins of either side to be another Ork Clan or Space Marine Chapter. Some are available right away, while others will need to be purchased with in game currency. The latest patch just added the Snakebite Clan and the Raven Guard Chapter to Regicide. Other clans and chapters available include the Evils Sunz, Ultramarines, Space Wolves, and White Scars.

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Aesthetics

Warhammer 40,000: Regicide bleeds Warhammer 40K. The maps of the stages, the design of the pieces, and the cut scenes all feel like they belong to the world of Warhammer 40k. This is a world of total war, where nothing but the complete annihilation of the enemy matters. The death scenes are suitably gory, the environments are suitable desolate, and the characters all look like veterans of a never-ending war. This game looks good, and is designed very well. Regicide has to be right when it comes to design, since it does have over twenty years of Warhammer 40K to live up to.

The sound and voice acting in Warhammer 40,000: Regicide is also great. The actors nail their parts in accordance to what Orks and Space Marines are supposed to sound like. The sounds of bolter fire and chainswords starting up also fit exactly what I was expecting. Like any other long standing franchise, the sounds and accents have been well documented over many games and movies so the developer just had to match those sounds to be right on the money. Regicide feels like a Warhammer game, and absolutely sounds like one too.

Final Thoughts

At its very core, Warhammer 40,000: Regicide is a Warhammer 40K Chess game – but,  if you skip this game based solely on that, you are making a mistake. Yes, Classic mode is Chess, pure and simple. However, Warhammer 40,000: Regicide mode is much more a turn-based strategy game then it is a classic Chess game. You must plan your movements in accordance to where the enemy is due to the enemy’s ability to open fire on their turn. The addition of the attack phase adds an entire extra layer of tactical planning that Chess simply does not have. Regicide is a great game that will keep you entertained for hours, either through single player or multiplayer. I highly recommend this game to anyone looking for a Chess-like experience that can be played across multiple platforms. Warhammer 40K: Regicide is available now through Steam for $14.99.

Warhammer 40,000: Regicide Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
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