Tag - review

Dishonored 2 – A Review (PC)

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

Story

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

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

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

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

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Game Play

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

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

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

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

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

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Aesthetics

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

[easyreview title=”Dishonored 2 Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]

Abattoir Movie Review

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I love horror movies – especially those horror movies that make you not only jump, but also think. So, when you give me one that does both it is like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for my brain.  Abattoir, based on the graphic novel of the same name, starts with a quote from one of the father’s of transcendental thinking, Henry David Thoreau, and has actors like Lin Shaye, Dayton Callie, and Joe Anderson. Putting all this together, I got the feeling that Abattoir was going be an odd and suspenseful ride.

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I sat down in my empty house, all the lights out and just a few feet from the screen with potty breaks taken care of in advance.  And I watched.  Then I shook my head and watched again.  Two days later and some housemates come in and I am there in the dark watching the same movie.  You might want to take this as a point to great acting, great story, great directing and you would be right on these but most of all it would be for understanding.

“Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed by them,” Henry David Thoreau quote at the top of the film.  I totally nod in agreement to its relevance and tone for starting the flick and this theme carries on through the whole film. I will keep this review spoiler free giving you little more than you could gleam from a movie description that would accompany it’s rental and scenes that would be seen in a preview.  I’m just going to give you a slight taste here so you might tell if it is to your liking and if you want to make a meal of it for a couple of days that will be up to your palate.

After the brutal and very creepy murder of sister, brother-in-law and nephew, Jules goes back to reminisce at the house only to find it had been sold, escrow and renovations done all in a week after their deaths.  The renovations consisted of tearing out the entire room they were murdered in.  If you don’t know housing you couldn’t really get any of that done in a week even paying cash which the buyer did.

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So Jules makes the journey to find out who did it as well as discover some family secrets along the way.  This is where I stop with the details and tell that the directer and cast tried to keep very true to the source material even when it made performances seem a tad hammy and when shots seem to lack movement inside the camera shot because they are an example of a graphic novel comic frame.  There is an amazing beauty to the lighting and effects that are at the same time somewhat simple but then help tell the tale in a believable fashion.

The film is a heavy one but extremely well told.  I can’t state enough how movie is not light, you really need your thinking cap on.  There are plenty of twists but the more you are thinking the more they feel like progressions of the story instead.

One of the last lines is “It is said that one can never go home again but I wonder do we ever truly leave.” I wonder if Abattoir ever leaves you once you have watched it.

Ninja Loop And Petite Loop Product Review

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Anybody who knows me in real life or reads me regularly knows that I am disabled with a combination of degenerative bone disease and nerve damage. Last night I went to a very fancy dinner for a relative and I had a hand spasm that causes food to go flying off the table.  Because these spasms occur frequently, I carry a combination wallet/phone case and I’m always using devices or cases that I can strap to my hand to keep it from flying away.  For the last year, I have been using an As Seen On TV product called The Love Handle which is a 3M adhesive plastic bar attached to a case with a stretchy fabric on it to slide over my fingers.  It works extremely well but has resorted in me using very utilitarian cases because any design would be covered by the bar.  So tonight I am trying out Ninja Loop and Petite Loop to see if they offer me another solution that might give me some case choices while maintaining the phone safety,

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Getting A Grip:

Each of these has a style to meet a slightly different functionality while at the same time getting the job done. First I will start with a Ninja Loop since it seems the closest to my current Love Handle. Instead of anchoring on the outside like the Love Handle the Ninja Loop has a self-adhesive that attaches to the inside of the case, passes through one of the holes at the bottom of the case, up  the back of the case with room for about two fingers to hold between the ribbon and the case, then through the lens cutout and attaching again inside the top of the case using the self-adhesive.  Where you send the Ninja Loop through the bottom decides how you will hold it so this is important to take into consideration and it will also decide how much of the outer part of the case is shown.  If you bought the case for the design on it rather than function then the Ninja Loop might not be for you (don’t rule out the Petite Loop) or you will want to pick one in a color that goes well with the pattern.  If you have a bulky protective case where you have to use and adapter plug to get to the headset and charging jacks or if it is a all weather proof case then this might not be the one for you but for others it’s simple but effective features have some definite pluses.

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For testing I used a plain black case for my iPhone 6Plus by Ballistic. The case is specifically made with acidental dropping in mind, maybe even stopping a mugger’s knife so I felt secure with giving the Ninja Loop a good a proper testing. First off when you start trusting your phone to a ribbon it is a bit disconcerting.  Even knowing the obvious physics behind it I had to train my hand to let the ribbon slide between my fingers and hold by it while using my thumb to hit button all over the place.  The next test was to shake my hand around a lot to simulate someone running but also to simulate a spastic motion of my hand. Even with some heavy spastic moves it still held up. The hardest part has to be training your mind to accept the Ninja Loop as sturdy enough to not send your phone flying away into traffic or falling overboard while taking a picture of a sunset at sea.  Once you attach it it will stay there until you decided to remove it, which might be done to mix up the colors fashion wise or maybe you got a stain on it out for sushi and you don’t want it to look ugly or start to smell like fish.  Cost effectiveness is definitely an important aspect of it.

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The Petite Loop was up next and though it’s design of use is different I could see this one becoming their best seller.  It is a loop of ribbon that self-adhesives to the back of your phone and comes out the charging port of your case.  Since every phone has a charging port and the ribbon isn’t very large then Petite Loop is unobstructive but completely usable. You can any design or style to your case and it will show all of it while at the same time adding a great sense of security.  You just slide it over your wrist then when you swing the phone forward to use it then let it just swing back onto your wrist when you are done with it.  That makes it great for on the go in heavily traffic ed areas where a phone might get jostled from your hand or when you are doing something athletic it can just swing from you wrist until you are ready to use it.  If you are concerned about it maintaining it’s hold then there is a fun video I will post at the end where they use a fish scale and show 33 pounds of pull on the wristband and it still maintaining attached to your phone. Once again the Petite Loop is also so affordable that if you get anything on it you can just replace it or if you change cases and the style conflicts pick up another, you can afford it.

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Letting Go:

The Ninja Loop and Petite Loop were originally a Kickstarter project, but they are off and running and for good reason. The “Loop” family of products are extremely user friendly, come in a variety of styles to fit whatever the user needs.  They could even be used in tandem or with other products and will make me feel much more secure with my disability and handling of my technology.

[easyreview title=”Ninja Loop And Petite Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”5″ ]

Razer Ornata Chroma Keyboard – A Review (PC)

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

Features

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

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

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

Aesthetics

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

Performance

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

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Tech Specifications

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

Final Thoughts

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

[easyreview title=”Product Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”5″ ]

Razer Naga Hex V2 Gaming Mouse Review

There are two gamers in our household: one casual and, the other, more hardcore. Despite this difference, both of us agree that, when it comes to gaming mice, it has to be comfortable for really long periods of use. We recently got the chance to review the Razer Naga Hex V2 Gaming Mouse, a legend for game compatibility without creating a porcupine bristle of buttons. Will it be ergonomic and user friendly to please both sides of my household? Let’s give it a whirl and find out!

Hands On:
First, we should discuss the way the mouse looks. Obviously, selecting as mouse based solely on looks is a bad thing. That being said, the Razer Naga Hex V2 is damn sexy with its out of the box lighting sequence being a slow drift through the colors of the rainbow that lights the wheel, the hex buttons and Razer logo. The lighting is vibrant and makes the gunmetal and black bode that much classier in look. Of course, a much more important and definitely contested point in our house would be the location of the hex buttons themselves.

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The mouse is designed so that your thumb rests right in the middle of a circle of buttons labeled 1-7 so that a slight shift of your finger could hit any of them easily, with buttons 1 and 2 being straight along the desktop plane. The thumb rest has a rubber tiny hex pattern on it that helps with grip as does the entire area you may want to rest your pink for leverage. The wheel also has high knobs so that your finger won’t lose its grip and can make fine adjustments. The left/right buttons and the palm rest area all have an unpolished feel to them so you can tell the difference in pattern from the grips but you might be able to get some minor grip there if you need to.

The strength of button placement is solid on all with the only question being the thumb rest. I found it very easy to adjust to a slightly further back grasp and button pattern but then I have used the old school Razer Naga that had 12 buttons there so if you could get used to that you could get used to the placement on anything, especially one that placed rubber gripping in the middle of the thumb zone. Folks who are used to ergonomic mice will find this a close fit but one they will have to get used to, especially if they were front heavy users. However, you “claw” gaming mouse users out there might have some trouble navigating the thumb buttons efficiently.

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One thing I found odd was the numbering for the Hex buttons on the side. The buttons go 1,2,3 clockwise then go across the wheel to go 4,5,6,7. There may be some reason for this that I missed but it would seem to make more sense to me that if you have a button rotation it should go the same direction. This is an easy fix by either memorizing this order or ignoring the button numbers all together and just program them the way you want.

One last thing… If you have an older version of the software you may have trouble with updating but help is there to be found. My other Razer gear was getting elderly so it had a lot of updates to do and not all were friendly. Once you get there though the program is a simple gem to operate.

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Hands Off:
While my wife didn’t fall in love with the mouse like I did, all that means is she won’t take it from me! The Razer Naga Hex V2 Gaming Mouse is a great addition to your arsenal with strong ergodynamics and buttons designed for hours of gameplay, and it looks damn sexy doing it. Claw gaming mouse users, beware, as it might not be your first choice for a mouse.

[easyreview title=”Razer Naga Hex V2 Gaming Mouse Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”5″ ]

Kaliber Gaming Retikal Pro FPS Gaming Mouse Review

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

Features

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

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

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

Aesthetics

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

Performance and Specifications

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

Final Thoughts

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

[easyreview title=”Kaliber Gaming Retikal Pro Gaming Mouse Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”3″ ]

Through The Woods Review

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I had seen a trailer for Through The Woods a while ago but, with the exception of the name, I had kind of forgotten about it.  That can be nice to go into a review completely cold when it turns out to be a game that is as atmospherically driven as this one is.  This indie title immediately showed its team dedication in the details of every fallen tree and the amazingly immersive sound that made me at one point take my headset off to check if the sound of thunder was real.  The only question… is the story as deep as the woods?

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First Steps:

After a brief Chapter 0 which may have originally been part of the demo that they wanted to keep which mostly showed off the environment and a little of the relationship between a mother and her son, the game starts with you playing the mom as she wakes from a nap, goes out to look for her kid and sees him being taken across the lake in a viking long boat.  The game is set initially in a cabin in the woods of Norway but seeing a row boat with viking carvings row into the mist while you jump in the water and start swimming across after it is kinda unsettling which was a welcome start.  After losing the boat in the fog you make it to the other bank where there appears to be a viking fishing village that though long out of use seems relatively undisturbed except by you as you stomp around it picking up ancient manuscripts and calling for your boy.  From there the story starts to weave and you start to go Through The Woods.

There are lots of woods and other things in them that I won’t give away here but I will say for the best experience play it in the dark with a headset on, preferably by yourself.  There is so much detail everywhere and though most of it gets repetitive the game’s team really kept at it.  I wonder how many bowls they had to put in ruins, how many fallen trees or piles of rocks?  The voice acting is a little stilted (probably not the actors’ native languages) but otherwise the sound is astounding, I noted some spots in certain chapters in case I wanted to listen the sound of wind through the trees or the crackle of a serious thunder storm that had to be captured not replicated.  When playing the game I even stopped a couple times just to take in the graphics or listen to the woods.

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After a while of things beginning to look very much the same, which you are supposed to feel since you are getting lost going through the woods, you might get a little lulled and even stop reading the clues.  I personally kept on top of them despite it and though I did get a bit punished by the game for getting lulled I started to deduce a possible ending.  When the actual ending arrives it neither proves or disproves my thoughts so I would definitely have to say the ending is open to interpretation.  It all depends on what you believe is really going on in Through The Woods, you can take it at surface value or consider… well make your own conclusions when you get there just stay on top of the clues.

Out Of The Woods:

Through The Woods is a beautiful immersive experience with a story line steeped in Norse Mythology that explores the dynamics of a mother and son.  It can at times seem to drag but after each lull there is a reward, you just have to make your way through the woods.

[easyreview title=”Through The Woods Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]

SteelSeries Rival 500 Optical Gaming Mouse Review

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I love testing gaming gear and, in some way, for one of the strangest reasons:  No one else in my house likes gaming gear.  If I give them a headset designed for hours of comfort, maximum sound quality, and perfect voice capturing – they use speakers.  If I hand them a keyboard with 5 memory keys, special ergonomic shape, and ghosting prevention they use it like it was a simple $10 keyboard from Budget Depot. So, I always consider it a challenge to see if I can get the others to like and use a product I bring home.  I kept this in mind when putting the SteelSeries Rival 500 MOBA/MMO Optical Gaming Mouse through the paces.

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Hands On:

When it comes to SteelSeries, we are talking about one of the most well-known and respected names in gaming gear to ever hit the market.  People sometimes complain that with certain companies you are paying for a name or a logo but SteelSeries has yet to be one of those kinds of peripheral-makers.  There products have been used by professional gamers and eSport teams for years and have a history of durability to go with reliable performance.  A SteelSeries headset for the Xbox was one of the first headsets I reviewed over five years ago for GamingShogun.com and I still have that headset hooked up to one of my Xbox 360 consoles.  So I’m not spouting corporate babble, here, just personal experience.

Most gaming mice start to have problems with buttons getting in the way of everyday use to the point where a lot of people will have two mice hooked up to their rig or an easy switch out port to go between program heavy gaming to not accidentally clicking on a button with normal typing.  This can especially become a problem when you get over ten programmable buttons, they just wind up getting in the way or messing up ergonomics by bristling off the mouse.  So first things first you can use this mouse without hitting a bunch of unnecessary function button if you are thumb heavy or palm heavy, the pad of your thumb has a nice ergonomic rest right in the middle of the buttons with sliding it up, down or back to hit buttons and the palm rest area is clear right up to the left/right buttons.  If you are thumb and pinky heavy on the mouse (some of us are) the pinky is completely clear so a thumb/palm/pinky lock on the mouse allows you to access all the buttons without losing your grip, all this with 15 programmables.  This mouse is designed specifically to avoid missclicks in any use and it works.

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The most exceptional way it is designed to avoid miss-clicks is both inspired and simple, they created an on/off switch on the bottom of the mouse to turn off the buttons under the thumb to create a normal ergonomic thumb rest.  Being able to slide a switch to turn off buttons and turn them on?  It’s so straight forward that I would love to see on future models one more switch that can turn off all extra buttons to make it a normal mouse for everyday use!  This mouse immediately shot to the top of the gaming mice in my house with that so that in case a family member got on my rig for some reason (how dare they!) they feel more comfortable with the mouse right away.

So having solidly pointed out how gamers and non-gamers in the house will be able to work with the SteelSeries Rival 500 and not hit buttons the next point is what if you want to.  Most surround your thumb with a few located on the sides of the left and right button.  The general idea is that your thumb will be most free during action yet at the same time you don’t want a pad full off little buttons that are hard to tell one from the other.  So the buttons are all different shapes and sizes with most being around the thumb and some being able to be shut off if not needed.

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Internally, the SteelSeries Rival 500 has a butt-kicking PixArt PMW3360 Optical Sensor with a 1:1 tracking accuracy.  If you don’t know what that babble means then just stick to the fact it is “butt-kicking” and you should be fine.

As for software and hardware interactions the mouse includes the SteelSeries Engine 3 that provides everything from tactical alerts and button assignments to changing the color of your illuminations.  The GameSense software makes it so that you can get custom lighting, vibration and duration effects from such things as stuns and health damage it does zero recoil on your tracking.

Last Click, In My Hand:

After years of reviewing gaming mice the SteelSeries Rival 500 is the first one that after trying it out, Mrs. Ripper requested to be her new gaming rig mouse.  In my household, that is a stamp of approval which I have been trying to achieve for years.  Knowing the quality of SteelSeries I know it will be a mouse in our house for years to come too.  Do yourself a favor and pick up the SteelSeries Rival 500 for all your computing and gaming needs.

[easyreview title=”SteelSeries Rival 500 Optical Gaming Mouse Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”5″ ]

SteelSeries Arctis 3 7.1 Surround Gaming Headset

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SteelSeries makes gaming gear with longevity and versatility, from mice to keyboards to headsets.  So I was more than happy to give their latest entry level headset, the Arctis 3 7.1 Surround Gaming Headset, a run through its paces.  Does it meet up to the expectations of entry level gaming headsets?

Heads On:

First off we announced the Arctis line of headsets a while back and there was a comparison chart to give readers a general idea of the differences between them and some of the standout features that all three possess.

steelseries-arctiscompAll three have ski goggle suspension bands which, at first hearing, might be confusing but that just means that the Velcro adjustable bands like the ones that are used on many ski goggle models are the same type that are used on here with many designs to choose from and interchange as a result as well as maybe even using the same design as your favorite set you use when hitting the slopes.

steelseries-arctis-e-800x445This adjustable design instead of a static stretch one allows a consistent fit no matter how much you use it and the ability to clean it if it begins to get a bit dirty which built-in bands tend to lose elasticity over time and apply the pressure of the stretching to your head as well as just being wipe cleanable.

steelseries_arctis_headsets_3Adding to the comfort and the sound isolation is the AirWeave Ear Cushions which are so comfortable they feel like memory foam for your ears.  I recently did an extremely long, almost all night gaming session and had the headsets on the entire time and they never got uncomfortable to the point I had to remind myself they were on so that I didn’t talk too loud to myself and or head to the bathroom with them on (they have a long cord with the included extension but not that long).  On ear audio controls of both volume and mic on/off made it so that if I did need to listen for a sound I could turn it down or with the cups I can turn both sideways if I need to which is great to listen to someone or to set the headser flat down on a desk.  When I didn’t feel like wearing them this came in particularly handy to make them double as speakers so that I could still hear stereo sound on the desk.

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Like the other Arctis headsets when wearing the Arctis 3 you get 7.1 surround sound you just get it with SteelSeries version instead of DTS which is no doubt a cost saving tool while still maintaining the sound directional ability that you would want in most FPS games in particular. At the end of the day they are also nice just to close your eyes and listen to some music or atmospheric relaxations sounds and SteelSeries 7.1 Surround Sound is solid enough that it would probably be hard to tell it from DTS.

 

One of probably the weakest points on entry level headsets is the microphone quality. This is a problem in general with most except the highest end headset systems usually so one of the most notable parts of the Arctis series has to be the SteelSeries ClearCast microphones.  Located on a retractable, very flexible boom the microphone is encased in a very sturdy housing and is designed with a noise cancellation system built-in that also works in tandem with audio software. The clarity is surprising, with only a little bleed from the room ambient noise.  They are definitely up to the task of team chat or Twitch broadcasting and depending on your perfectionist level they would probably due for YouTube videos.  If you are going for a walk with them plugged into your phone SteelSeries ClearCast system is handy, since all you have to do is pull out the practically hidden boom and take your call.

In my case I have nerve issues and other medical issues that prevent me from being able to hold a phone up to my ear for long periods of time.  This way I can set this headset up to my cellphone and be able to carry on 2 hour catch up sessions with my mother who has hearing issues and has a hard time sometimes understanding me if there is too much background noise. It really is easy to change between setups, since it has two types of plugins on the headset it is literally a matter of changing cables.

steelseries-arctis-3When it comes to the headset there is really only one question and that is whether or not to spend another $20 and go from entry level to mid-range, which when you consider the small amount of money difference does come into play. I haven’t tested the Arctis 5 (hopefully I will get the opportunity soon, you never know) but on the list above it seems to give you a lot more for that little amount, DTS Headphone:X 7.1 Surround Sound (probably not that noticable), Illuminated Wired with Prism RGB Illumination so that you can change the glow color of the headset which has a nice illumination ring, LED indicator on the mic, and probably one of the biggest things the USB ChatMix control that allows you to increase your chat levels if you have a soft speaker without blowing your eardrums out by the game on the fly.  It comes down to if you think you would use those features, if you don’t find yourself wishing to adjust chat much or like light up headsets then you might as well save your money and go with the Arctis 3 which has much more than the usual entry level mics would ever aspire to add on.

Last Listen:

The SteelSeries Arctis 3 is one of the most impressive entry level headsets to ever hit the market giving many mid to high end features at a more affordable price.  This headset will work for you universally around the house and on the go, the only question being whether you want the next model up with a few more bells and whistles for just a few more dollars.
[easyreview title=”Arctis 3 7.1 Surround Gaming Headset Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]

Laser Disco Defenders Review

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I’ve mentioned a time or two or twenty that I am an old school gamer with a collection of my original consoles and games.  Probably one of my favorites of all time would be the original Sega Genesis system’s game Toe Jam And Earl and it’s sequel Toe Jam And Earl: Panic On Funkatron.  These little known games, if you mention them to people who played them when they were new, immediately bring back memories of “humans” that included moms with shopping carts trying to run you down, chickens with artillery and one of my personal and hardest to deal with ones, The Boogeyman.  You were playing as the titled characters in a terrific fun animated world with a great addictive soundtrack.  Today’s review has a lot of that old heart and feel but with a bit of nail biting action in Laser Disco Defenders!

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Getting In The Groove:

The animation style, particularly of the ship, and the music soundtrack sound like a tribute to the old TJ&E but with definitely it’s own style and flash.  The main characters are a musical band of space travelers who protect galaxies from bad, monotone music.  That sounds like a simple premise but the game action is really hard and somewhat in the vein of Asteroids.

Your main weapon is a laser gun and the interesting part of it is how your laser bolts respond in what is supposed to be closed in sections of space.  When you think of space we often think of light years, the distance light will travel through space if not blocked.  Well imagine what would happen if your laser bolts could burn through some things but the light reflected off of others. The result would be laser bolts that would burn through certain targets and as long as their energy wasn’t diminished would continue to burn through everything until stopped.  In Laser Disco Defenders the laser bolts NEVER stop unless you leave a level so every bolt you fire will bounce off the levels walls and hit anything in it’s path, which includes you.  So as you are firing at flying enemies and sharp crystals on the wall you have to use your jet thrusters to avoid running into them while at the same time carefully firing bolts knowing they will ricochet off of surfaces and can continue to destroy enemies but might also come back to haunt you.  Some of your enemies fire laser bolts too so that suddenly the screen is full of bolts to dodge as well as enemies.  It is pretty nailbiting except the fact that you need both hands to stay alive.

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Each member of the band can be outfitted with different gear but the main difference between them is a health to speed ratio.  The bigger the crew member the more health but the slower they are.  On lower levels speed doesn’t play in as much but when you hit higher ones and you are dodging lots of bolts you might want to trade a couple hearts for higher speed.  The fastest crew member only has one heart so can only take one hit.  That is where the gear you get comes into play.  Some gear allows you to be hit more, other gear makes you faster.  The key is picking the right gear for your play style.

Then comes the main reason I took this review.  I was watching a trailer for the game and Mrs. Ripper heard the soundtrack and said she really, really liked it.  She said it reminded her of Toe Jam And Earl so I picked up the review and had the music playing loud while I played and playing in the background while doing other stuff.  This game keeps your eyes and hands busy while providing a treat to the ears.

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Last Dance:

I just titled these final comments “Last Dance” but that was just saying I am wrapping up the article, I am by no means done playing the game.  Laser Disco Defenders is an easy game to jump into for some quick fun while at the same time hearing some funky tracks.  It has tons of charm while at the same time being a very challenging play, but not so bad that you get frustrated.  It seems Disco never died it was just waiting for this game to play some more.

[easyreview title=”Laser Disco Defenders Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]