Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Post of the Year 2009

I know updates have been lacking recently but as most gamers know, it's this time of year (the holiday season) when most games get released, and consequently, I've been struggling to find time to complete all of them!

Dragon Age: Origins has been finished once but I still want to play it some more to give it a chance in the difficulty department. I found the game a bit too challenging for a particular character I picked so I need to see if that's the case for other classes as well... ETA for this game could be well into January since it's a long game.

I'm almost at Level 30 in Borderlands and progressing through the story - no idea how far I actually am in terms of plot but I'm guessing either mid-game or just past mid-game - I don't think this'll be finished anytime soon either!

I also striked a copy of Modern Warfare 2 for X-mas (thanks Gs, you know who you are :)) - I should be able to finish this pretty quickly so expect a review of it mid-January.

Finally, to add to the delays I've been playing Need for Speed: Undercover since it was too cheap to pass (purchased it over Steam). I was hoping a review of this would be really quick (someone boasted on one site that it took them 4 hours to complete) but this isn't entirely true I've found. Anyway a budget review for this should be up soon.

Once all the 2009 game reviews are complete, I can then do the usual Game of the Year awards - expect this sometime in late February.

So just decided to wish all my readers (yes, all two of you) a choicest 2010! Hope to see you back reading Choicest Games in the new year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Guild Wars 2 - Behind the Scenes Voice Acting Trailer

And to follow on from the last video, here's a video about the voice actors behind some of the characters. There are some prolific and well-known voice actors like Steve Blum and Kari Wahlgren. A surprise in terms of the Guild Wars 2 voice acting line-up is the addition of Felicia Day of "The Guild" fame.

Guild Wars 2 - Races of Tyria Trailer

Not so new now considering this trailer was released earlier this month, but for those who have missed it, it gives a bit of background material on five characters that correspond to the five races introduced in Guild Wars 2. The trailer also shows some in-game footage which sadly looks very similar to the old Guild Wars... makes you wonder why it has been taking this long? Hopefully the gameplay makes up for any shortfalls in other areas...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tropico 3 Review

I played the original Tropico and I was hooked. The game was a grand mix of economic simulation, political simulation, city builder and with a sprinkling of RPG-elements. Add to that it is set in the Carribean during the Cold War and its tongue-in-cheek humour, and you've got yourselves a classic. Tropico 3 aims to recreate the experience of the original by updating the graphics engine and also adding a few extra touches in the gameplay department. Does Tropico 3 do the original justice? Read more to find out.

Sound (4/5)
The ambient sounds are great really capturing the essence of the Carribean islands. Alerts about the situation of the island are given via a radio DJ called Juanito, which I personally think is great, since it furthers the immersion but he can understandably get annoying at times (like all radio hosts - my apologies to the radio hosts out there ;)). When you compile your speeches the subject matter is even played on the radio (e.g. if you promise to build a High School, that's what will be broadcast on the radio).

Music (4/5)
The music isn't as exceptional as the original and doesn't quite capture the Buena Vista Social Club style, but it's still pretty good and definitely got a Latin American sound to it.

Graphics (4/5)
The graphics have improved over the original by leaps and bounds. The game is now fully 3D whilst still maintaining lots of detail. You can zoom in right onto street level to see what your citizens are up to, or zoom out to maximum and see the entire island from the sky.

Tropico 3 Game Setup Video

Plot (5/5)
The setting for this game, just like the original, is quite unique in gaming - I don't think there are many games out there which allow you to be dictator of a Carribean Island during the Cold War! Many of the edicts are related to real life events (e.g. the releasing of prisoners from Cuba which are sent "off to Florida!", the Pope's visit to Cuba, securing alliances with superpowers etc.) and it really makes you feel like you're recreating history on your own little corner of paradise (or "paradise" as the case may be ;)).

There have been many improvements to gameplay, but first, I'll explain to the newcomers what Tropico 3 is all about.

The game is a mixture of an economic/political/city-building simulation and sees you taking the role as El Presidente of a banana republic in the Carribean. Like SimCity games, what you do in the game is pretty open-ended (provided you're not playing a scenario). You can generate income in the game from an agricultural industry, a mining industry, a manufacturing industry or from tourism. With the money you get you can either pay it in providing human services that helps the lives of the people or you can oppress them by spending on the police and Army. All the while you'll be trying to balance the needs of various factions on the island who react to your every action - and certain factions, i.e. the Communists and Capitalists, have sway over how the USSR and USA view you, respectively. Make any superpower mad and you could face an invasion!

Okay in terms of new features, well you no longer build paths in Tropico 3 but instead build roads since your citizens now all have motor vehicles. This allows them to get around the island much quicker provided you place garages around as well (otherwise they have to resort good ol' fashioned walking). However, this also brings new challenges since densely populated areas will eventually have overloaded garages (which means people will resort to walking) and too much cars on the road leads to traffic jams, which could potentially bring your economy to a screaming halt if it gets too bad - this is usually resolved by providing more roads however. The game also introduces election speeches which get played on the radio! But more importantly they can temporarily sway support in your favour that allows you to easily win elections (perhaps a bit too easily, as is mentioned in the next paragraph). Finally, you can now micromanage your avatar to visit buildings which has various effects: visiting a pub will increase its service level for example, whilst visiting an armoury will have you award a general with a medal increasing his respect for you. Your avatar can also quell rioters and fight rebels!

On the downside, the game actually feels a little bit too easy when compared with the original. In the original I remember rarely ever actually surviving more than a couple of elections before being kicked off the island, whereas in Tropico 3, besides the final scenario, the others were quite simple including sandbox play. Also one sadly missed feature is the ending cinematic - Tropico 3 doesn't have one. In Tropico the ending cinematic was great since it would outline your achievements, which factions liked you the most and which of those didn't. It was a great way to give an overview of how you fared. I suppose they got rid of it in Tropico 3 due to it being incompatible with some of the scenario plots...

Tropico 3 Gameplay Video - Part 1

Replayability (4/5)
Having more features and allowing you to customise your avatar even more than the original results in the game being an improvement in replayability on the original (even if it doesn't have the choice cutscene at the end). There is even a scenario editor you can use to make your own challenges, however I found it was quite confusing and not very user-friendly - so you'll need lots of help if you want to make heads or tails of it!

Polish (2/5)
The game isn't too bad in the polish department, although the interface does have issues. For example, the mouse-wheel is usually used to zoom in and zoom out but when it comes to placing buildings, it somehow switches the mousewheel to rotate the direction of the building with you stuck on the zoom level you were last on. A bit annoying at times.

Also my game crashes occasionally when submitting islands, whilst other times it doesn't. I have no idea why this occurs but I suspect perhaps the server which stores all that data is perhaps down the times I've tried to submit and it crashes. When I asked about the issue I got no support at all from Kalypso Media which is a definite thumbs down.

Finally, it seems that Haemimont Games have forgotten about the female El Presidentes out there. Yes you can get a female avatar but firstly she has less customisation options in terms of appearance, she also gets the "Womanizer" trait just like her male counterpart, and her speeches are exactly the same as the male El Presidente, which brings into question her sexuality as she has a preference for "the ladies" - so not a problem if you want to roleplay a lesbian, but not so much if you don't!

Tropico 3 Gameplay Video - Part 2

Overall - 72%
While Tropico 3 makes some great improvements on the original it does cut back in some areas and it's not quite as polished. Still if you've ever wanted to try your hand at being Fidel Castro, this is the best game for it.

If you want to get the game, you can check out your purchasing options here at the official website.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tales of Monkey Island Review

Well the scores have all been tallied for the five episodes of Tales of Monkey Island so now it's time to see how they all work as a game overall!

Sound (4/5)
Overall sound quality was great due to the exception voice acting, however, it was kind of lacking during some parts in the second episode, Siege of Spinner Cay

Launch of the Screaming Narwhal Gameplay Video

Music (4/5)
The music was generally good but seemed to get more ambient and moody towards the end - I kind of missed the reggae and calypso of the previous series (Monkey Islands 1-3 in particular) - nevertheless, the music is still exceptionally good.

Graphics (4/5)
Overall the graphics were good, the only criticism being that many of the models besides the major characters seem to be recycled. It would've been nice if they put a little extra effort into them...

Siege of Spinner Cay Gameplay Video

Plot (4/5)
The plot started off as intriguing, peaking during the third episode, Lair of the Leviathan, and then subsiding towards the end, which made the latter episodes somewhat disappointing. However I believe this is the danger of making a game in an episodic format since I'd be curious to see what the experience was like if the game was played as a whole - maybe I'd be more forgiving of the latter parts!

Unfortunately, the game overall was simply not as fun as previous Monkey Island games. There were some instances where puzzles were very repetitive and the game is definitely targeted towards the fans, in terms of the mechanics of the puzzles and the humour involved. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for the fans since they get that feeling of being rewarded from playing previous Monkey Island games but (1) I suspect it's infuriating for newcomers and (2) recycling old puzzle mechanics may make the gameplay stale for old-timers. Hopefully if they make a sequel to this (which seems likely) they rectify this department.

Lair of the Leviathan Gameplay Video

Replayability (4/5)
As mentioned throughout all episode reviews, the game is about as playable as any other adventure game (that doesn't have multiple endings :)).

Polish (3/5)
For most of the game I experienced no issues although at one stage there were some random Crashes-to-Desktop (CTD).

The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood Gameplay Video

Overall - 72%
Most fans will be jumping aboard to get a taste of some Monkey Island Magic, especially at the great price, however don't be fooled - we've yet to see the grand return of the excellent games that started the series.

If you want to get the game, you can purchase it online off Telltale Games.

Rise of the Pirate God Gameplay Video

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rise of the Pirate God Review

Here it is, the final episode of Tales of Monkey Island. Once again, it's advisable that you read the reviews for the previous episodes in order to appreciate the scores in this one. It also helps this review to be concise!

Sound (5/5)
Sound quality doesn't appear to be poor in this episode so it gets top marks thanks to some help from the usual high quality voice acting!

Music (4/5)
Once again no complaints with the music - it's as good as previous episodes - although it tends to be more ambient and not as imposing as in other episodes.

Rise of the Pirate God Gameplay Video

Graphics (4/5)
Not much change in the graphics score. It's pretty much the same as the previous episodes. Graphics are reasonably good, although some of the minor characters are obviously used with recycled models...

Plot (3/5)
Just like the episode before it, The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood, it's simply not as funny and has a much more serious tone (although there are still a few jokes here and there). There is a lot of backstabbinng of poor Guybrush in this episode which will leave you wondering if you can trust any character in the first place. The game's ending finishes rather suddenly too with little explanation of what actually happened in the time after defeating Le Chuck (okay a spoiler, but not much of one really... isn't the aim of every Monkey Island game to defeat Le Chuck? Okay maybe not the fourth one... but still...). It definitely smells of "sequel".

I didn't feel like there were as many puzzles in this episode as previous ones and there is actually a lot of running back and forth through portals to solve puzzles. They were relatively easy this time around though.

There is the return of the original insult sword fighting which will please the oldschool fans and you get to re-use some of the puzzles/mini-games from previous episodes - which on one hand is a nice touch, but on the other hand it also means the developers were perhaps lazy in developing any new puzzles for this episode!

Replayability (4/5)
Just like the other episodes, this game is about as replayable as adventure games get (without resorting to gimmicks like alternative endings and different classes - then you're entering RPG hybrid territory there :)).

Polish (4/5)
I didn't have any issues with this episode so it's about as polished as the first one.

Overall - 73%
A competent final episode in terms of execution but lacking much resolution which sets it up for a sequel.

If you want to get the game, you can purchase it online off Telltale Games.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lack of updates

Hey all, sorry for the lack of updates - thanks to the acquisition of three new games over the past month (Tropico 3, Borderlands and Dragon Age: Origins) I've been kept quite busy trying to finish them all so I can finally review them! Dragon Age: Origins has been taking the most time and I've finally finished it... once - although I prefer to play games thoroughly so I may have to play it a second and maybe a third before posting a review :).

I've also completed most scenario islands on Tropico 3... most have been easy so far but the remaining few are getting a bit trickier, but my "Coward" character trait doesn't really help when it comes to fighting Rebels!

Borderlands has taken a back seat as of late but I'll be sure to play with some guildmates soon (provided they *want* to) - some have already completed the game...