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Narcosis Review

I used to work on a purse net fishing boat off the coast of Southern California. On a pretty regular basis I would find myself hanging over the railing with just my wet grip on a rope or cable keeping me from falling into the dark water below.  That water is dark too, and so very cold the deeper you go.  In Jaws you can see the shark really clearly in the water but it didn’t take much depth on the west coast to lose your knowledge of what mysteries were swimming about in those tides. Divers know that the farther down you go, the more likely you were to panic, get bubbles in your blood while diving known as air embolism which can have all kinds of side effects though a couple of the more difficult to overcome are anxiety and auditory and hallucinations.  Go deep diving and you risk even bigger problems, like hydrogen or nitrogen levels getting too high in your deep diving gear.  This and the game are called Narcosis.\

Dive, Dive, Dive:

So this game’s storyline doesn’t roll on for very long before you find yourself wondering what is and what isn’t real.  As a matter of fact it starts right in the instructions and doesn’t let up.  Though it takes place in the depths of the sea floor it really reminds me of the feel of outer space games.  You are in a big suit with a large viewing glass to look out of.  You have to watch your oxygen levels like a space game, there are things in the dark to beware of (or are there?) you have to conserve your light, and watch your step so that your face plate doesn’t crack, collapse in, and kill ya quick.

Much like out in space where we really have no idea what is going on and what is really out there, the great depths of the ocean are the same in the sense of ever so often we see something come up into the range of our deep dive suits and we “brown” the back of them.  Actually a lot of the stuff is even freakier and scarier than the can be taken out with the provided weapons and a bit of light (actually light is the better of the two weapons since bio-luminescence is one of the only things that generally breaks the deep dark).

You know bad things have happened and you (hope?) didn’t hallucinate it by the members of the crew you find going through the devastation trying to save at least one butt, your own.  Others are curled up, dead in spastic contortions, leaving behind a collectible name card.

How long the game will last definitely depends on how you take the off paths looking for collectibles but that also means perfecting your movements like your booster jets so you don’t fall down chasms.  Along the same lines you can keep using flares, you’ll have an urge to hold on to them but the game provides a decent amount so if a spot is too dark and you think you might fall to a crackling death give a flare a toss.

I highly recommend playing this one in a dark room while wearing a set of headphones. It can be very creepy and is great for those dark and stormy nights where you want a good fright. You can also use VR in Narcosis on the PC if you have the equipment. While I do not, the game is really solid without, so I would imagine it’s even better with!

Dancing In The Dark:

This game is a whole lot of fun because it has some things that you very much expect and then all of a sudden you wonder what the heck is going on in this guy’s head? Hydrogen? Nitrogen?  Childhood nightmares and trauma?  You’ll have to take the dive to find out!

 


Narcosis Review Score

(4 out of 5 stars)


 

Outlast 2 Review (PC)

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

Story

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

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

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

Game Play

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

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

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

Aesthetics

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

Final Thoughts

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


Outlast 2 Review Score

(3 out of 5 stars)


 

Lord of the Rings Online 10th Anniversary Review

Back when Lord of The Rings Online first hit the scene, I was already a seasoned gamer with A LOT of years under my belt. I had played alpha and beta tests of games and knew the pitfalls of game-breaking bugs. I dabbled in the MMO for a while and eventually moved on to other titles. There were many gameplay issues to be balanced out and bugs to fix. The game wasn’t broken by any means, but did take some patience. Fast forward a decade and I had been actually thinking of checking back in on some of the MMOs I had reviewed over the years – then my Editor-in-Chief tells me LotRO is having an in-game 10 year anniversary celebration. So off I go, I make a new account and jump right in.  How has it changed since it first started a decade ago?

First thing I noticed is that there are four free races you can play and nine free classes (when the game first came out it was subscription-based). This gives you a great degree of choice in terms of what race/classes to play without spending a dime. If you choose, you can then you can spend a little money and pick up the man-to-bear shapeshifter called “Beorning”.  This is a race and class combo with its own pros and cons.  Also of note is that I had a displayed “recommended server” for my part of the world with an active population that were both friendly and helpful.  I cannot tell you how many times I go into a game and have a whole bunch of more experienced players give my n00b-butt grief.  One time I was working on a review while recovering from a nasty car accident and a player on my team didn’t like how “n00bish” I was and told me “I hope you get in a car accident”.  The Lord of the Rings Online was totally the opposite, other players offered to tell me the way things were laid out, the standard way to do things, shortcut keys to do it faster and just how I could have more fun at the game.  Right after I asked my questions I was even invited into fellowships to help me get started and learn the ropes.  Seldom is it that such a quick positive response comes out of a community to a new player.

I could have skipped up levels as that is something you can purchase with real money, but I would only really suggest that for a character further down the road because the world is so beautifully detailed. The areas so smoothed out after so many years of play that you won’t find glitches in quests or NPCs, all you have is a nicely developed playing experience.  I also wouldn’t recommend playing the Beorning right away, as I think you should have something to look forward running around with after you get other characters leveled up.

PVP is very different in LotRO and works a bit towards something you will want to put money into while playing. Free-To-Play players without VIP status play on the monster side of PVP doing quests and getting titles as they fight as different styles of monsters against the VIP (paying) player who plays as “the Moors” and are the free people fighting the monsters.  You don’t have to be a permanent VIP player to do these battles as the people side, you can pay that as you go with in game currency. It keeps things fun and interesting!

So how most of the Pay-To-Play works in LOtRO is by purchasing VIP status for one month, three months, six months, or even a whole year.  This VIP status opens up pretty much every aspect of the game to you, adds a couple dozen perks, give you free in-game money every month and every chapter and volume of the game are accessible to you during that time.  They seemed to understand that if they are going to charge a subscription of a normally Free-To-Play game it needed to feel like a subscription game like World of Warcraft.  The nice thing is if someone can’t afford the subscription they can still play and have a great and rewarding experience with their friends regardless if that friend is VIP or not.  It’s a smart move to maintain a player base.  You basically wind up with three tiers of player: the FTP player, the VIP but nothing else player, and the VIP and additional prestige items player.

The prestige item player will get the same pony as the normal VIP at that level but they might also buy a special steed with armor plating or a coloring they like or named after a special kingdom.  The VIP prestige player is the one that makes it so that the FTP can come in and enjoy the beauty of the game that they probably otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.  The March 2017 edition of Wired posted findings of a study that said on FTP games 2% of players are responsible for 48% of all revenue.  That guy who has the sweet looking mount and gorgeous armor makes it so that a FTP person can play buy paying the developer’s bills.  I wish more games were built on such a model so that friends could game together regardless of their disposable income.

The subscription money hasn’t gone to just keeping the lights on at Lord of The Rings Online, they are constantly releasing new content that tells rich stories while leveling players up to 95.  Maybe one of the best draws of all is you can play them furry-footed hobbits.

A Tale Still Being Told:

Lord of The Rings Online is still going strong and just getting better and richer with time.  I am so happy it had its 10th anniversary to pull me back into its shires and castles. This isn’t just a flash in the pan game for me.  This game has true FTP, VIP, and VIP prestige style play and that means I will stick around, continue with the journey of my characters and hopefully be writing the 20th anniversary review in another decade!


The Lord of the Rings Online Review Score

(5 out of 5 stars)


 

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

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

Story

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

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

Game Play

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

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

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

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

Aesthetics

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

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

Final Thoughts

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


The Banner Saga Complete Pack Review Score

(4 out of 5 Stars)


 

Quick Review of the World of Tanks Graphic Novel

World of Tanks has been one of my favorite games since it first showed up at E3 years ago.  Its sister games World of Warplanes and World of Warships are really good too but nothing seems to compete with the original which has me coming back to it no matter what system it is on.  Its newest platform isn’t a game but rather a graphic novel and that brings up the question if the game holds up well in static print.

Turn The Page:

First off it should be known that it is penned by Garth Ennis, which if you don’t know the name yet you probably know the work.  He wrote some Punisher, Hellblazer, all of Preacher, and a great series of comics called Battlefield, more than one run that involves tank crews.  When he does his war writing things get down and dirty so he was a perfect fit for World of Tanks.  I can’t think of any better modern war story writer to pen this fledgling series.

Ennis was also able to cover the fact that in games you are able to adjust your armor, guns and engine to change the speed by having the adjusted tank be an accidental training prototype that allows an advantage to the crew that knows and a disadvantage to the German tankers who don’t.  This leaves it wide open for changes in future installments when he is working with other countries and their tanks.

World of Tanks as a game isn’t gory, it just shows burning vehicles.  Garth Ennis is known for trying to be as realistic about the gore as he can, not shying from nastiness.  However he also knows the audience he is supposed to be working for and though you might see some bodies you won’t see much gore.  It seemed to be a compromise of Ennis and the publisher/game owners.

One thing I do want to point out though is if you had gotten the comics when they came out they had free codes to get starter kits and a free tank on each of the systems you can play the game on.  The starting kit and tank might have actually paid for your first couple issues.  The codes are expired by now but next time you might want to take a chance on the comic instead of waiting for the graphic novel.

Last Shot:

World of Tanks being written by Garth Ennis is a match made in literary heaven.  I am not sure who came up with the idea for this graphic novel.  Perhaps they just looked up “battlefield comics” on Google or they may have already been fans of Ennis from Preacher or The Boys.  However it happened I just can’t wait to see the next gift they bring us – it’s a great read!


World of Tanks Graphic Novel Review Score

(5 out of 5 Stars)


 

Man O’ War: Corsair – Warhammer Naval Battles Review

I love to try pirate themed games.  I don’t care how bad initial reviews may or may not be, I will always give one a chance and that is probably because of years of playing them.  I also love to play games where I get to face off against orcs and goblins. The best and most notable case of this for me is a game I just celebrated a 10 year guild anniversary in.  So let me fight those black sails and privateers through waters where there be monsters… on other ships as well as the deep dark depths.  Man O’ War: Corsair – Warhammer Naval Battles promises pirate combat and plenty of orcs to kill. Let’s see how she sails!

Full Sails To The Wind:

Man O’ War: Corsair is out now on Steam and first I’d like to address the game’s score.  It sounds like it was made by an orchestra for the History Channel and that is a great compliment.  The score is epic and sounds professionally orchestrated – it pulls you in and makes you think about the game having massive scope.  Massive sound=massive expectations, especially in this case!

The graphics are what you would expect from a Warhammer game, and it is truly Warhammer on the high (and low) seas.  These are some large boots to fill because usually when you think of Warhammer you think of fighting outside then maybe going into the occasional vehicle or siege machine. This time, however, it is the other way around.  You will get boarded by Green Skins or even board their ships, but you have to watch your back as well for the pirates or other countries who don’t like you and might want to use the opportunity to sink you.

You go into ports to get crew, weapons, ship repairs, upgrades and purchases, find contracts for everything from sneaking spies and diplomats between ports to making sure one ship or another never sees dry land again.  You have to be careful how many enemies you make throughout your journeys because when your ship is shot to hell, most of your crew is dead, and your sails are ragged sheets the closest port in a hell storm just might be what saves you.

Speaking of storms, the game has a terrific weather system that brings beautiful rain, fog, and snow – and sometimes these storms can be brutal.  But it isn’t just the monsters riding ships or diving from above that you have to fear, there are also great beasts beneath the waves that can tear your ship apart and leave you wishing for a bigger boat.

Man O’ War: Corsair is open world, with over 50 ports to visit (or sack) and you can play as a merchant, privateer, pirate, great sea hunter or any mix of lot to further your career through across the seas.

…Surprise, and that is just the humans!  You can work your way up through the dark ranks and even lead Green Skins in fleets to sack cities and torture citizens.  It is the Dark Gods you are trying to impress and their is no place in their royalty for the squeamish.  So (especially while learning) I suggest you save often and kill plenty.  Once again it is still open world and open season on the puny little humans and seem to fear nothing more than heads on pikes.

Shifting Sails, Headed Home:

Man O’ War: Corsair – Warhammer Naval Battles is a terrific game, with an open world and a mind-boggling amount of playtime.  If you like naval combat games, you will like this game. If you like pirate games, you will like this game. And, if you like games set in the Warhammer universe, you will especially love this.  Man O’ War: Corsair – Warhammer Naval Battles is a blast from the moment you get your feet wet and it is available now for about $30 dollars on Steam.


Man’O War: Corsair – Warhammer Naval Battles Review Score

(5 out of 5 stars)


Mass Effect: Andromeda PS4 Review

Space is big, like way bigger than any game or any series of games can contain, and that is just outer space, let’s not get started on inner space or aquatic space.  As a result the creators of the Mass Effect trilogy were able to craft three amazing games taking up tons of space with well developed characters and still be able to go… hmm where should we start our next trilogy of games? The Andromeda galaxy isn’t that far away in terms of space distances, let’s go there!  And so it was, Mass Effect: Andromeda, a ginormous game of its own was born!

Wakey Wakey!:

Cryosleep, it’s how we are gonna get there, pretty much everyone agrees, and they also agree those first poor buggers who wake up are gonna have a hell of a time with it.  They are gonna be cranky, probably not all hot and daisy fresh like Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Most would wake up with hard jobs and blame they want to pass off for everything that went on during the “welcome back from hibernation” weeks or months.  So you are the new pathfinder, chosen not by the decided process or the per-ordained individual but because your dad realize his was about to buy the farm and he wanted to hitch you to the tractor load.  Nobody seems genuinely happy about this, the best you get is indifference from a crew member who you helped move a couch.  This sounds like it might be spoiler filled but you actually get this unwanted vibe pretty early in the process, and those who do want you want you to help with stuff you should not be doing when there are so many big items on your plate.  If you are a completionist (I can relate often) this will keep you from some of the important tasks, even if not a completionist you might wonder if one of these quests that seem menial might pay off in the endgame.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to do it all but my suggestion would be to try to do that on planets to start with, the resources and goodwill of getting all those cryo-cranks some terra firma between their toes goes a long way towards the good will up on the tin can.  You still probably won’t get much credit for anything going right but you can at least sneer at the computer/television screen.  When it comes to doing things both in ship and planet side it helps to have played the other Mass Effect games for a learning curve but they are by no means necessary.  I actually played them all and as a result plenty of things came natural and there are still a few things that even going with the tutorials I don’t understand what the heck I am supposed to do.  I know that this game has massive amounts of hours to play it, especially if you get into side missions.

This brings me to something I don’t usually remark on too much and that was how much negative press I was seeing pop up on my newsfeeds for this game.  It made me think the game must be pretty short and I kept waiting for it to end soon and disappointingly.  It just wasn’t the case.  Actually the more I played the better I thought the game was.  There is a difficulty curve, new story line angles unlocking as you go and you have the option to play naughty “Captain Kirk” with any species and sex in the whole game.  You can have heavy effects on what happens in the politics involved with the game or not have any play right down the middle trying to keep things as peaceful as possible.  You can make decisions that will reflect how the whole Andromeda Galaxy views the human species… are we explorers trying to find new homes or a military society that is just as comfortable interacting with others by putting a boot on their neck and a gun to their temple if that doesn’t work?  I am still working at side missions in the game and figure I probably will be for a while but I can tell that there is a lot more to this game than most people have probably given attention to and that would give them the wrong feeling about it.  If you don’t get far enough away from the snarky buggers on the main ship the game feels like a downer and not the fledgling battle of a new hero but rather a scapegoat that can be used to wipe whatever you stepped in off on.  This is the story of one person seeing the potential in another over all the opinions of others and you as the player proving that opinion right.  It’s an underdog story, the kind of thing most of us love (Rudy!  Rudy!) I just don’t think most people let it get to that amazing point.

The graphics and scope of maps and scenic locations are excellent and though there were some pretty brutal glitches and some rather large areas where manual saves are blocked and auto saves are painfully separated for the most part everything goes as planned.  I had one point where I fell through the ground and it chose the moment on the other side of the mapping to auto save (it wasn’t until afterwards I really thought it was funny enough I should have captured it) causing me to go back quite a ways but for the most part it wasn’t too bad that way.  Loading seemed pretty nicely quick when you consider the sheer size of these open world maps and how much detail can change in a short distance so that your health melts off you faster than you can run or suddenly a whole bunch of big bad guys have ambushed you.  Going planet side can be slow but again for a lot of the before mentioned reasons.

My big hope is for some releases with some more planets down the road, ugly planets, bug planets…

DON’T PANIC!:

Mass Effect: Andromeda I think is a great game and a nice power starter for a new trilogy of games in a new set of worlds.  We have a hero, we have planets, we have aliens… all we need is our towels.


Mass Effect: Andromeda Review Score

(5 out of 5 stars)


 

Castle Torgeath: Descent Into Darkness Review

I’ve been playing video games almost as long as there have been video games and ever so often one comes along so loaded with nostalgic feel that it feels like it traveled through a time machine.  The beauty of Steam Greenlight is these beautiful old school RPGs like Castle Torgeath can still find a home in your heart after so many years of hardcore games.

At the beginning of Castle Torgeath: Descent into Darkness, you are presented with a few paragraphs of text explaining the game’s premise. You are a down on your luck adventurer who finds a listing on a job board. The listing advertises an expedition into the ancient, and supposedly-abandoned, Castle Torgeath. The ad promises fortune and glory for anyone who joins in, so you grab your sword and start after the expedition.

The game resembles those old school, first-person dungeon crawlers like early Elder Scrolls games – actually, it more than resembles them – it is one! Castle Torgeath captures that retro feeling so well that, if you played through those kind of games when they came out, it is like a time warp.

You have three meters in you lower corner, one for mana, one for health and one for hunger.  Healing and mana are refreshed through potions and fountains and hunger is helped through food.  You want to keep an eye on all three to survive.  Occasionally you will stumble on a lost adventurer who will sell you the goods he has found or a spell he knows for the treasures you have stumbled upon.  Be wary of making too many trades or you might be short of valuables when you need them most.

There are multiple levels with bosses at the end and the game progresses with starting enemies being weak like rats to bigger enemies like summoned demons and big ass bugs.  All the time you also have to look for hidden clues and passages while avoiding hidden traps and enemies. The graphics are even retro, and they are done well enough to not make you sick playing but still simple enough to still hearken back to the roots it’s based on. The game features no speech, but plenty of tried and true text to read and the developers have quite a bit of lore scrawled out for your enjoyment.

At one point in gaming history, first-person dungeon crawlers relied on angular or grid-based movement systems. Torgeath allows for free-roaming movement, which should help modern gamers from giving up. The older movement systems can be rather constricting.

Last Health Point:

Castle Torgeath: Descent Into Darkness is a very fun play based off a very old school game design which works on a nostalgic level as well as introduce modern players to gaming history.  Besides it less than $10 and when you consider inflation isn’t that much more than it would have cost back in the day.


Castle Torgeath: Descent Into Darkness Review Score

(4 out of 5 stars)


 

Advanced Evo X Wireless In-Ear Monitors Review

About 6 months ago I was 325 pounds and on multiple medications to control my Type 2 Diabetes. Even with my canes I could not stand for more than a few minutes at a time.  I was trying to get into weight loss surgery to help with both mental and physical results of my weight including worsening my degenerative bone disease complications.  Basically I was a medical wreck but my insurance like so many other people’s gave me the run around and denied me. So I got out my cane, strapped my phone to my hand, and started walking the court we live on in case I collapsed too badly and couldn’t walk home I could possible call for help or crawl home.  It was painful from the beginning and the only thing that helped was diving deep into my music.  I now have a weight flux between 255-265 pounds, less Diabetic meds and even though I still have to walk with a cane because I still have all my medical ailments I can walk longer before having to lay back down.  That means I am always testing headphones and this time I got the privilege of testing my first wireless ones with the Advanced Evo X Wireless In-Ear Monitors.

Locked In:

The Evo X Monitors have a feature I particularly needed in earphones and that is the “twist and lock” into your ears design.  They twist from the front, slide into your ear canal and have tubing that wraps around your ear.  Sometimes even the shortest of walks such as to the bathroom can have me overwhelmed in pain and staring at the ground or pulling off my hat to wipe away the sweat and these just stay on and stay in place when bumped.  They supply different size ear foam buds to make sure you have the one that fits your ears best and a travel case to keep them safe in and to keep the spare buds in a mesh holder.

All the comfort of headphones don’t matter if the sound doesn’t come through clearly.  Luckily they have wired clarity.  They connect to your phone via Bluetooth and have and surprisingly nice range.  I was listening to some music while preparing for one of my “death marches” and couldn’t find my phone in my pocket when I was about to go out the door.  Turned out I had left it on the bedpost upstairs at the other end of the house and yet I had no problem with reception.  So they have comfort and range, but what about how long does the battery last?  After my walk and laying down on the bed watching programs on my phone I found the battery worked about 4-5 hours which is probably a lot more than the average person needs and it takes about two hours to recharge, less if you use a speed charging battery.

The controls only take a little while to get used to and that is because they are so nicely low profile.  It wasn’t until reading the box that I found out it had a built in mic for taking calls, hence being called “monitors” instead of just “headsets”.  Everything is low profile even the cable between monitors could be hidden under a hat or knit cap.

Last Words:

The Advanced Evo X Wireless In-Ear Monitors are the most comfortable in-ear headphones I have ever used as well as being the most secure.  I wish I could say I will be using them but my wife who is getting weight loss surgery in a couple weeks has already laid claim to them so I only have them until surgery time.  I’ll have to look forward to Advanced’s other lines of products and hopefully I will be able to get a pair for myself!


Advanced Evo X Wireless In-Ear Monitors Review Score

(5 out of 5 Stars)


 

Cherry MX G80-3000 Keyboard – A Review

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

Features

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

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

Listed Features:

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

Technical Data

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

Aesthetics

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

Final Thoughts

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


Cherry MX G80-3000 Review Score

(3 out of 5 stars)