Monthly Archives: January 2013

Preview: God of War: Ascension Beta Impressions

God of War is a franchise I love dearly. Everything from the action, item collection, puzzle solving and god killing, this is one of my favorite Sony exclusives out there. I was excited when Sony announced God of War: Ascension, despite the fact we already have prequels to the series. While others whined and moaned, I said “Screw it, everything is dead in the present. Let’s just go kill more stuff in the past.” Then they announced Multiplayer.

When they first announced Multiplayer, I mostly just figured it would be tacked on garbage that served to feed those who have a shorter attention span than the Virtual Boy’s lifespan. I still kind of think it is, but part of me thoroughly enjoyed what I played. The system is simple, it borrows the concept of leveling up and obtaining new gear for your character, enhancing his abilities. They start you off by selecting a God to fight for. In the Beta, we were able to choose between the Ares and Zeus. Ares followers are front-line Warriors who are able to take a hit and use fire magic to burn their foes. If you follow Zeus you were offered special Mage abilities and were treated with the element of lightning. Naturally, being myself, I chose Zeus because I always play Mages.

The arenas feature a several capture points, chests that have score, items scattered around to help combatants, traps, multiple levels, and a Titan standing in the distance. This is definitely a different kind of game for multiplayer, it’s very asymmetrical and hazardous. When a team acquires a certain amount of score, the gods intervene and throw down the Spear of Olympus, which is a super powerful weapon you can use on other players… and the Titan. The Spear must be obtained by doing a button mash mini-game, but beware, the enemy team will also be attacking in full force to acquire the spear.

The customization comes down to armor and weapons. In the Beta, we weren’t offered any modifiers for character looks, but the armor and weapons give your character a bit of his own personality. Completing certain challenges or just leveling up will unlock you new helmets, torso armor and leg armor as well as sword and warhammers. Warhammers pack a heavier punch while Swords are quicker to strike. There are multiple sword and warhammers to choose from, all of which offer different modifiers to stats like power, magic, elemental power, and defense.

The combat is still good ol’ God of War. It was a lot of fun charging into battle with my team and tearing up the enemies with my sword and lightning spells. I was actually surprised how solid the gameplay was, this really isn’t your run of the mill tacked on multiplayer to drive up sales, they put some heavy time into this and made sure that people enjoyed it. At the same time, this isn’t why you should be buying God of War: Ascension. The multiplayer was cool, but it really wasn’t unoriginal. The only thing about it that was original was the God of War combat system. Everything else has been done before, more often than not, done better.

I’d say my favorite thing about the multiplayer was how asymmetrical, random, and hazardous it is. When a Titan slaps the stage knocking me down, or even when he crushes me while I was trying to capture a scoring location, I really couldn’t help but to think “This game is awesome.” I got quite a few laughs out of silly things and just overall fun gameplay because of the randomness. Some people will hate this, but I think it works quite well for some games, God of War being one of them.

If you’re going to get God of War: Ascension anyway, this multiplayer is a great addition. If you’re looking for the next revolutionary step for multiplayer, look elsewhere, because it doesn’t offer anything new to the table.

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Miniview: Paper Mario: Sticker Star

The Paper Mario series is usually an RPG series with a powerful plot and character development, but Sticker Star dives away from that and into another direction. It is disappointingly different and flawed compared to its predecessors that many fans were hoping Sticker Star would try to replicate. The game gives the simplistic story of Mario going on a quest to obtain the fragments of the Sticker Comet (which Bowser stole) and save Princess Peach (who Bowser stole). The Sticker Comet is a magical, wish-granting Comet that goes over the Mushroom Kingdom once a year. Hmm… seems familiar? That’s because it’s the same basic story of the original Paper Mario.

The Gameplay has stripped nearly all of the role-playing elements that we’ve come to know and love from the Paper Mario series. The puzzles are pretty unique. You have the ability to “Paperize” which turns everything into a flat piece of paper and allows Mario to stick and pull stickers on the field of play, manipulation things like air ducts and doorways, often opening up the path to the next area. The combat is still turn-based, like in the first two installments of the series, but vastly different because Mario doesn’t have access to basic moves unless he has the sticker that represents that move. For example, I have two jump stickers and a hammer sticker. I can only jump two times and use my hammer once until I leave and buy more from the shop in town or peel them off of the floors and walls in the area. It’s more like a strategy game with resource management, but the strategy is so basic it’s almost non-existent.

Most likely, you’ll never be in a situation where you only had two jumps and a hammer; I often found my sticker album, which contains the stickers, was completely full despite battling quite often. The most disappointing thing about the game is that there is almost no reward for actually doing the battles. You acquire coins at the end which can be used to buy stickers for your sticker album which is always full anyway. Yeah that’s cool. Luckily the combat still holds up and is pretty fun, especially the boss fights. The basic battles are a cinch, but the boss fights often have a drastic increase in strategy required. At that point the game loses the RPG completely and just becomes a turn-based, strategic, resource management game.

Overall, Paper Mario: Sticker Star is not a bad game. It’s just not what the fans were expecting or wanted. The direction they have taken the series makes sense for a portable entry, but would be terrible as a console game. If they decide on making a sequel to this game, then they could make it seriously good by just fine-tuning the flaws the game holds. For example, they could make combat worth initiating, make stickers scarcer, or emphasize on the strategy a bit more. Looking past the gameplay’s flaws and lack of story, it’s a cleverly written game with witty dialog that will often leave you with a smile on your face. Sticker Star is flawed, but I believe the formula holds potential. I foresee an improved and more respectable portable entry to our favorite plumber’s future RPG endeavors. Intelligent Systems has, until now, seamlessly created magnificent Mario RPGs. Let’s hope this bumpy road is short lived.

Badges:

*They Slipped Up

*Skippable

*Stripped

*Hilarious

I give Paper Mario: Sticker Star a 2/5.

For more information on Badges and the Badge system, click here.

Opinion: What I Want From Next Gen Consoles

Wii U

I want quite a few things from the Wii U. It’s the first console to hit us in this new generation that everyone seems so excited about (I personally think our current consoles are still packin’ heat, but whatever). Reggie Fils-Aime really likes to emphasis that Nintendo is all about the games, and that’s my one true hope for Nintendo’s new console. People smack the Big N for its less than stellar hardware that the Wii U features, but as a big fan of Nintendo, it doesn’t matter to me in the slightest.

As I already mentioned, I think the current consoles are still relevant. Some people disagree, but I’m not a nitpicker. All I care about is seeing my favorite Nintendo Games in High Definition. I’ve been a huge Nintendo fanboy my entire life. It doesn’t matter what series I play, Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Star Fox, Animal Crossing, Metroid, Pikmin… I love them all.

That being said, I was quite disappointed by the Wii… but really for only one reason, it wasn’t in HD. In hindsight I liked my Wii quite a bit. I really enjoyed Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Animal Crossing: City Folk, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, Monster Hunter Tri and a few more. With that on your mind, I’d like to mention I’m really excited to play another group of games that I am just now starting to pick up including Super Mario Galaxy 2, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Mad World and more. Luckily for me they’re starting to appear in the bargain bin because I waited so long.

But, I digress. The Wii U is what we’re talking about, not the Wii. I played the Wii U a couple times, and both times I enjoyed the touch pad and thought there was a lot of potential. All I want from the Wii U is solid Nintendo titles with new innovations and gameplay formulas that we have yet to see. Luckily, Nintendo also clearly wants that as they demonstrated from Skyward Sword. Some people want to see more from the Wii U, and it’s understandable. What it comes down to is this: Are first party Nintendo games worth the $300-350 investment? For me, certainly. For others, not so much.

Durango/Xbox 720

What I want from the new Xbox is essentially more of what they’re giving us now. I love the Xbox Live service and their batch of exclusives (Halo, Gears of War, Forza, Various Arcade Titles) are some of my favorites from their respective genre. One thing I would LOVE to see more of is their “Dead” or “Unused” IPs. Banjo-Kazooie, Kameo, Perfect Dark, 1 vs 100, and more are all games I would love to see make awesome comebacks, especially Banjo-Kazooie.

Obviously Microsoft has amazing Shooters and Racers, but they don’t have “that much” diversity when it comes to exclusives. I, for one, would LOVE to see “Banjo-Threeie” come out of nowhere and live up to the first two games. I would also like to see Fable make a game on par with other western RPGs (Sorry, Fable fans! They’re not that good!). If they pinned the tail on those two genres, Microsoft would have a devastating arsenal of FPS, TPS, Racing, Role-Playing AND Platformer!

On the hardware and service side of things, if the hardware is anywhere near double of what we have in the current consoles (and I think it will) I would be MORE than satisfied. I think Microsoft is going to go the extra mile in terms of creating a universal entertainment system. They aren’t creating the next gaming console… they are creating the next entertainment console, one that provides a powerful and diverse arrangement of entertainment. We’ll see a lot of focus on Movies, Music, Television, Applications, Browsing the Web, and of course, Gaming in all shapes and sizes.

Orbis/Playstation 4

Sony and I have a less-than-stellar relationship. I never owned a PS1 until recently, and although I loved my PS2 (who couldn’t?), I really only “like” my PS3. Despite this, I think there is a lot of potential for the new Playstation. I think Sony is going to have to recover from mistakes made this last generation. They lost almost $6 BILLION from 2011 alone, and the four years previous also generated loses. However, I have faith that Sony can learn from those mistakes and generate enough hype with their dedicated fanbase to strike brilliantly again.

Sony needs to refocus on third party. The Xbox 360 was a popular choice this generation because it came out first, offered better services, better accessibility, and because third party games often ran, looked and felt better on the Xbox. One of the reasons the Playstation 2 thrived so viciously was because third party games worked amazingly on the console, as well as the incredible first-party support with Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, God of War, Twisted Metal, and more. This generation was much less received in the first-party department with the exception of Uncharted. I want to see a new, fresh group of IPs and as well as some of our old favorites reline the pockets of the PS4’s Gaming Catalog all while having the great third-party support that made the PS2 as good as it did.

In terms of hardware and service, I want PSN to evolve. Copy Xbox Live, I don’t even care, just become a slightly better service. It’s not BAD right now; it’s just not as good as Xbox Live. Yeah, you have to pay for Xbox Live, but I would definitely pay for PS+ if they offered the same kinds of communicative and accessible services XBL offers. The hardware would have to be equal to or slightly less powerful in comparison to the Xbox 720 for me to be satisfied. The reason I say slightly less powerful, is because the company really can’t take much more hit financially and if that means water down the power a bit, go ahead. It wouldn’t even start to show in our games until the end of its lifespan anyway, no harm done.

Steambox/Piston

I want an easily accessible gaming device that is cross platform with steam players on PC, is inexpensive (a fraction of a gaming PC’s cost), and powerful enough to run games on the more CPU-intensive side of the spectrum. In a world where almost every PC gamer is a fan of Steam, I think most will agree that Valve has truly done PC gaming a momentous favor with their platform. I love Valve, and I think they can do a great job in the console business if they play their cards right.

Valve already has a solid set of exclusives, and if you add in the indie support that Steam has, it could make for an extremely (really infinitely) diverse catalog of games to choose from. This is something you have to weigh in considerably, because if they continue to have good alliances with indie developers, then a console where they have complete freedom would be a wrecking-ball of creativity. Sadly, Valve itself, although has good exclusives, doesn’t have much variety. Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead and Portal are ALL First Person Shooters. Sure, they’re all very different, but nonetheless, they’re all FPS titles. That would push away some people who aren’t big fans of the genre.

In terms of hardware, it would have to have pretty high specs in order to stand up to the Powerhouse Gaming PCs people are rockin’ nowadays. Luckily, if it’s dedicated to the Steam software and has no other function, this would mean that it could still be a powerful piece of gaming equipment while keeping its price lower than a powerful PC. No Music, Movies, Television, Applications, Internet Browsing… this thing could be a dedicated gaming platform, and I’m okay with that as long as the price fits the match.

Overall

I am quite excited to see what happens in the years to come. It really feels like gaming is going above and beyond this time. I feel an evolution on the horizon, and I like that feeling. In the coming days of E3, we’ll see if these gaming platforms of the future will live up to my, as well as your own, expectations. In 2013/2014 we’ll make new friends, alliances and enemies to the gaming consoles to come. We’ll see new companies take interest in gaming and might even see companies drop out. Hopefully whatever happens, it’s for the good of Gamers and the future of gaming.