Magicka Review

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Do you like to cast spells in fantasy games? Do you like quick crafting systems? Do you like using M60 machine guns on goblins? If so, Magicka is the game for you! Magicka is so ridiculous and over the top, I think most people would be hard-pressed to find a reason to dislike it.

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Vlad is definitely not a vampire.

As the game opens up, we get a seemingly generic story line: Evil wizard threatens the land, go and save everybody. The fascinating part is how Magicka plays into these cliches and its own wonderful humor. All of the voice acting in the game is done with a humorous accent, sort of what I’d expect Swedish to sound like. This had me chuckling with every verbal exchange and I searched for all the dialogue I that I could. The shear amount of random quips and references to movies, games, and other media is astounding.

Searching for all of this game’s references became a game of its own (with achievement tracking to boot) but how does the base game hold up?

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Wonderfully. In Magicka, you combine various elements to create spells on the fly. Combine lighting, fire, and arcane for a devastating beam, or ice and earth for a spike-riddled boulder to launch. The possibilities are many and keeps gameplay feeling fresh as you are required to think about the best combination for each type of foe. In addition to crafting your own spell, there a spellbooks scattered throughout the game, upon collecting them, you gain access to unique spells such as teleporting, spreading grease on the ground, or my favorite: summoning a thunderstorm that decimates everybody.

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Lightning at your fingertips has never been more literal.

The campaign offers up to four-player co-op and can quickly become chaotic as the amount of spells flying across the screen increases. Luckily if any players die, they are easily revived with a simple spell.  More players also allows for a bit more experimentation as you can cross spell-beams and set various status effects on foes. Its is also common for a lot of accidental betrayals and can lead to a small battle among yourselves, but what’s a deathmatch between friends?

If you’re in the mood for battle fellow players, Magicka has you covered. There is a versus mode that can be  customized with various rules and available items. After picking a stage, you can fight with local or online opponents.

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Magicka has so much to offer for its price tag. If you and your buddies are looking for a new co-op game, Magicka can keep you occupied for quite sometime with its lengthy campaign and versus offerings. There is also additional DLC for purchase if you’d like to experience additional campaigns. For anybody that hasn’t tried it, there is a brief demo available on Steam and I encourage everybody to give it a go. You won’t experience a game like this anywhere else.

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A Brief, Satisfying Return to Halo 3

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So today marks a glorious return to one of my all-time favorite games : Halo 3. It was surprisingly easy to convince a group of friends to get together and enjoy the fragfest multiplayer. Gone were the now ubiquitous progression-based unlocks and replaces by pure carnage that is Halo multiplayer.

As our numbers slowly whittled down, we started the 4-player co-op campaign. It had been too long since I had heard the familiar sound of a grunt birthday headshot ringing out, or the roar of a Warthog’s engine. The Covenant threat was once more at it’s peak until crushed underneath our heels.

After playing through Halo 3 again, I’m surprised at how well it holds up. I’ve never felt more in control of Master Chief than I do here. All the weapons are satisfying and fun to use.Visually, it is a lower resolution than its successors, but Halo 3′s art design is iconic, and colors vibrant. The most stunning feature that stood out was the environments. Campaign levels featuring the Ark are marvelous, as you can see the rest of the installation in the distance.

For its time, Halo 3 was the top 360 exclusive, and for good reason. I have enough hours into this title to put the rest of my library to shame: thousands of Ranked, Social, and Custom matches and more campaign playthroughs than I can remember. After the two follow ups in the Halo franchise, my friends and I still talk about “that one time in Halo 3.”  If you have an Xbox 360, then this title is a must-own. Who knows? We may meet on the Halo 3 battlefield one day, you’ll fire your BR, and I’ll fire mine, and it will be glorious.

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The Wolf Among Us: Smoke and Mirrors

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Here we are once again with the Wolf Among Us, a Telltale Games series based upon the Fables graphic novels. If you haven’t already, check out my impressions on the first episode here. So this episode doesn’t skip a beat and continues the action from what happened previously. Once again, I am impressed with the talented voice work in this title, Bigby can sound threatening or empathetic and is completely genuine.

New characters, more story, nothing to complain about here.

New characters, more story, nothing to complain about here.

The game is again at its strongest when Bigby is teamed up with somebody like Snow White or one of our other main characters. Bigby plays off everybody differently (of course depending on your choices) and progressing through the storyline is compelling. Trying to solve these murders is engrossing, and rewarding anytime you discover a lead or clue as to what’s going on.

Gotta put all these clues together.

Gotta put all these clues together.

Another thing I have to praise is the art style the developers have gone with. The comic book look comes to life and we can enjoy plenty of contrasting colors and neon lights. While it is no graphical masterpiece, it  is pleasing to look at, and not a look many games can pull off well.

This game captures the essence of the 80's.

This game captures the essence of the 80′s.

I can’t recommend this title enough. While it isn’t the high-octane action set-piece most games are, this is a fun game to play when relaxing and can just enjoy the storytelling. If you are still not convinced, the beginning of the first episode is free to try with a trial version on most platforms.  The only complaint for me, is now I have to wait a couple more months for more content, but with a low entry price and plenty or replayability, it is a small issue I can glance over.

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Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Part One

2014-02-05_00001As my series of Bioshock reviews continues, what could be better to review than the most recent return to Rapture? This DLC takes Bioshock Infinite’s  gameplay and engine, while using the great art assets and aesthetics of the original. How does this unique mixture hold up? Let’s find out.

For starters, if you are wanting to jump into this DLC, it is essential that you have played Infinite to completion, as there is not only spoilers from the main game, but knowing the ending helps to understand what exactly is going on. You take control once again as Booker DeWitt, private investigator, and Elizabeth from Infinite walks in the office with a lead on your girl Sally. After some dialogue, you are set loose upon Rapture, or parts of it anyway. Unlike previous titles, this takes place before Rapture falls into ruin, so you can glimpse a peek at how life was before. For the first 20-30 minutes, there’s no combat, just exploring.

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Jet Postal makes use of Skyline-esque technology.

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Rapture is all about the artists.

To some extent, that is a strength to this DLC, as this provides large amounts of fan service, with plenty of references to previous entries into the series. It is pleasing to see the art Deco style again, and of course iconic figures like Little Sisters and Big Daddies. After reaching the end of the exploration segment, we see a familiar face, Sander Cohen.

It's confirmed. Cohen was a psycho even before Rapture fell.

It’s confirmed. Cohen was a psycho even before Rapture fell.

After fulfilling a quick task, it is then we are sent to the dangerous part of Rapture, that has been sunk to create a prison of sorts.  It is then the revolver comes out and time to hunt splicers has arrived. With Burial at Sea, the designers tried to emulate more of the game mechanics of the original with things like having access to all of your weapons, stealth, and environmental hazards.

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Old Man Winter is a fun new plasmid in Infinite’s engine.

Unfortunately, we are left with Infinite’s health system of a health bar and small shield bar rather than employing health kits. This comes to be my biggest issue with this DLC, as you have no way to reliably restore your health and EVE. Scrounging around for supplies is heavily encouraged, but they have seen fit to limit you stores of ammo to one full magazine in your weapon, and one full one to reload with. I wound up more supplies than I could carry at some points and desperately low at others.

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If only I had more room for ammo…. sigh.

While I do understand that they were going for a more off-the-cuff, scrounge what you need in the moment type of gameplay, that isn’t what made the original so great. Preparing for what was ahead and using the correct tool was rewarded in Bioshock,  traps and hacking were cornerstones of taking out splicers.

But enough comparison to the original, how does Burial at Sea hold up? Not bad. After it’s all said and done, I did have fun taking out splicers again, and the new plasmid Old Man Winter felt right at home. Like in Infinite, I was driven along more by the story rather than gameplay, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The final boss fight was a bit expected, but it was a fun fight, and one I was eager to repeat and try again.

Is it one of these guys or something worse? Play and find out.

Hint, hint, nudge,nudge.

The ending cutscene throws a lot of information at you and had me genuinely surprised. I’m highly anticipating the follow-up episode for more answers, and more importantly, more Bioshock. If you are a big fan of the Bioshock franchise, than I would recommend the Infinite Season Pass so you can obtain both Episodes at a discounted price. If you haven’t played the original, I would recommend playing that first, you can find my review of it here.

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AMD’s Mantle to Uneasy Start

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Well it is a bit late, but Mantle API has finally come to Battlefield 4 PC. When I finally got the update for the game, I quickly went to AMD’s website for the drivers. They weren’t there. But being as forgiving as I am, I figured maybe waiting a day or so and the drivers would be there. So I felt my excitement ramp back up up again when I saw the driver was up for download today. I hurriedly downloaded it and started up Battlefield. After switching to Mantle API from Direct X I encountered an immediate issue. The game kept crashing. I loaded up a new server. Crash. Load up a less populated game. Crash. Attempt to load a campaign level. Crash.

As you might’ve noticed there was reoccurring issue going on. Now I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and re-installed the drivers, I repaired Battlefield 4 for any missing/corrupt files, and I knocked down the settings. Crashed. After so much build up, I became increasingly frustrated. I went to the forums and messaging boards in hope of an answer, but the only thing I managed to find was: “Some people are experiencing issues.” To be one of those people is quite frustrating. Another possibility is that Mantle hasn’t been properly optimized for the HD7XXX series of graphics cards (rebranded the R9 and R7 series) but that rumor was quickly debunked as some users reported no issues with these products.

Maybe bad launches are a trend with Battlefield 4, but it came as a surprise all the same. Hopefully AMD/DICE will manage to fix this issue ASAP. As an avid fan of both companies, I feel really let down that an issue such as this plagues me from enjoying the optimal experience, and will remain a problem for some time. Once Mantle is up and working I will post my experience with the new API as well as performance increases. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

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Octodad: Dadliest Catch Review

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I know this was my week dedicated to Bioshock, but I came across this curious little title and quickly fell in love with it. Octodad is an indie title where you take control of an Octopus trying to hide in our society.Keeping the guise of being human and avoiding detection is key. The game continually ramps up the ridiculousness as everybody fails to see past his meager disguise.

Except for this maniacal chef hunting you down.

Except for this maniacal chef hunting you down.

This octopus has actually managed to get married and started a family, thus the title of Octodad. As Octodad, you are in charge of completing such exciting tasks like mowing the lawn! Or weeding the garden! Strangely enough as it sounds, these mundane activities are part of what gives Octodad its charm.Who knew that making a game completing menial tasks could be so entertaining? Making coffee and pouring chocolate milk become affairs of ridiculous proportions as you struggle with the controls.

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In most triple-A or very fair games, control is something the developers must get perfect so the player can accomplish the tasks set before them. Octodad throws this concept out the window. Most of the game is laughing at how absurdly you can (and will) move through these environments. Taking a trip down the soda aisle becomes a real mess after a badly placed footstep. Trying to grab a milk carton can result in soda, bananas, and milk cartons flying all over!

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Everybody else drags their mower behind them… right?

It’s hard to describe the controls, I used the Xbox 360 controller for the PC version and it worked well enough. The triggers control Octodad’s feet and the analog sticks control his right arm. It took me some adjusting to, but before long I was flopping around with ease. As the game progresses, the developers do throw many objectives your way and to their credit, nothing feels repeated or recycled in this title. Nearly every objective is new and is almost never accomplished the same way twice.

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All in all, Octodad: Dadliest Catch is silly, ridiculous fun that will have you and your friends laughing as the stakes get higher and objectives crazier. Admittedly there’s not much content to the game, maybe enough to occupy a couple hours, but this a great game to show to your friends and have them play. You can even try out the Co-op mode which makes controlling Octodad even harder! I picked up my copy on Steam for 20% off making it around $12. While it does seem a bit much for such a short game, Octodad:Dadliest Catch will enthrall gamers with its excellent sense of humor and charm.

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Bioshock Review

bioshock weekIn today’s gaming world, many people may point to landmark titles such as Doom, Marathon, or Halo as games that have defined the FPS genre. I believe in this past console generation we may have one more game to add to this list: Bioshock. Bioshock (as you might have guessed) is a First-Person Shooter with some RPG elements thrown into the mix.

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Health and a mana bar…… RPG fans should feel at home here.

After the opening cutscene, you take control as Jack, a silent protagonist. By now, the silent protagonist trope is old hat, but was the name of the game during the 7th console generation. Jack’s silence allows for players to more fully immerse themselves in Bioshock’s world, and as gamers would come to find out, actions speak much louder than words.

As Jack, you are the lone survivor of a plane crash and after swimming ashore to a nearby lighthouse, your descent into Rapture begins. A quick narration briefly acquaints you with the underwater city, and then after a creepy welcoming, you make your way inside. The atmosphere in this opening quickly sets the tone with music of the era, haunting dialogue with splicers, and shadowy visuals.

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Low on ammo in a dark and scary part of town. Better make these shots count.

The environments in Bioshock are amazing, visual designs boasts beautiful art Deco stylization, and contains lots of steampunk influences; the world they have crafted is entirely unique. Graphically speaking, it looks nice, but its not a showcase of cutting edge technology. Irrational Games used the popular Unreal 3 Engine to great effect. The graphics have started to show their age, but with this stunning art design, many of the flaws can be overlooked.

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As the campaign progresses, you obtain various weapons, starting with the now iconic wrench and graduate to the revolver soon after. Now about 20 minutes in, you are introduced to another big part of the game: Plasmids and Gene Tonics. Plasmids are these spectacular genetic enhancements that can give you a literal fistful of lighting. Gene Tonics provide a passive skill increase or ability, such the ability to blend into your surroundings. The main enemies in Bioshock, splicers, are the citizens of Rapture that have over-used these genetic enhancements and have since gone mad.As you make your way through various environs, many more Plasmids (and Gene Tonics)  are unlocked for purchase at special vendors known as Gatherer’s Gardens, which take a particular currency.

Bioshock includes some moral choices for you to make. After encountering your first operational Gatherer’s Garden, you are informed how they don’t use regular cash, no these vendors use Adam, a genetic material that allows for genetic changes. Unfortunately, the only way to obtain Adam is by interacting with the Little Sisters, young girls who have gone through some genetic changes of their own. In this moment, you are alone with the girl and forced to make a choice: Harvesting the Adam from her brutally, getting the most Adam possible, but killing the little sister. Alternatively, you can choose to save her, using a Plasmid to rid her of these changes, netting you a little Adam, just enough to get by on.

If only I had harvested a few, I might of had enough Adam for a few more purchases.

These moral decisions do add up, and will result in minor differences in the game, culminating in an ending that corresponds to your choices. After dealing with your first Little Sister, you are then encouraged to discover (and save/harvest) them on your own. Unlike the first one you interacted with, all the others in the game are accompanied by Big Daddies, hulking creatures in diving suits. How you choose to take them down is entirely up to you. Big Daddies, unlike other enemies, are not openly hostile. In fact, unless you come near their respective little sisters, they will happily ignore you as they patrol Rapture. Be careful when you do choose to engage them though, they are difficult to take and will require planning.

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My plan involves grenade launchers, grenade launchers everywhere.

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Big Daddies take a big lickin’ and keep on tickin’

Many of the encounters in this game will require a little more thought than typical shooters, attacking foes head-on is often not an ideal solution, and will often times be the cause of many Vita-Chamber visits. Bioshock rewards players for stealthy approaches, using correct weapon/plasmid combinations, and using the environment to your advantage. Early on, Atlas (a friend on the radio) gives you the combination of using electro-bolt to shock an enemy, then to use the wrench to smash their face in, which is a useful way to dispatch foes. Knowing to use electro-bolt on splicers in water or the incinerate plasmid on baddies on oil slicks makes each of these hazards an opportunity to wipe out foes. Many of these elements are essential in the many defensive segments.

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One area where Bioshock shines is when the player is forced to take a defensive position. Many of the weapons and plasmids favor a trap-setting approach, and it is very satisfying to wipe out splicers (or maybe even a Big Daddy) with a well placed proximity mine, or launching a splicer sky-high with a cyclone trap. Various environmental items assist with this as well, oil slicks that can be burned, explosive barrels to detonate, and water to shock foes in.

As you progress through the various parts of Rapture, you are introduced more weapons and plasmids, as well as improved versions available to purchase. Purchasing these upgrades will be necessary, and the theming of choice extends here as well, you will not have enough Adam to upgrade all of your plasmids and weapons are only upgradable through particular stations that are hidden. If I recall correctly, there are enough to upgrade all of your weapons, but finding and accessing them all will be challenging.

A beefier shotgun for close encounters.

A beefier shotgun for close encounters.

Now what really draws gamers to Bioshock other than the polished gameplay, is the fantastic story and writing that goes into these characters. I’ve avoided talking much about it as much as possible because it is something that needs to be experienced. Atlas is your constant companion in over the radio and he is increasingly interesting as you discover more about him. The various citizens of Rapture have left audio logs detailing life in the city, political issues, and stories about your current environment. Andrew Ryan, the creator of Rapture, constantly harasses you as he considers you a threat sent down from the governments above. All of the voice acting and dialogue is AAA, high production quality.

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What sells this title as a landmark amongst other games is the use of theming. Player choice is a mechanic toyed with not only for gameplay sake, but also narratively. The motif of becoming stronger and more of a survivor is something players adapt and will start doing by themselves. Many philosophical ideas are also introduced to players with such ideas like The Great Chain Andrew Ryan constantly crows about in his audio logs. The problems that were swept under the rug in this seemingly perfect society show cracks in its infrastructure and also comments on some of our own faults in todays society.

Maybe I’m digging into Bioshock a bit too much, but still even for casual gamers, this game has massive appeal. It has horror elements, shooter elements, and RPG elements without being overly complicated or convoluted. Bioshock is a game that has so much to offer,if you missed playing this game the first time around, I encourage you to pick it up. By now it should be cheap in stores/used and is on many services for download: Xbox Live, PSN, and Steam to name a few big ones.

 

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Gold Found on Youtube: Luigi Wins Against Level 9 CPU (by doing nothing)

I’d seen this video awhile back, and after viewing some upcoming Smash news, I felt compelled to find this again. Seeing a stationary Luigi trump one of the hardest settings on the CPU is hilarious and had my sides aching as every character finds a silly way to perish. This video is definitely a highlight of 2013′s year of Luigi.

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Gears IP Firmly Secured by Microsoft

ImageGears of War was one of the bigger franchises to come out of the last generation of gaming consoles, and showed up exclusively on the Xbox 360. Now with the new generation getting started, Microsoft has acquired the rights to the IP and assigned it to Black Tusk Studios, a newly formed company under Microsoft’s umbrella of developers. It is stated that they will still work closely with Epic so that the series stays as an example of what the Unreal Engine can do.

When this information came my way, I was both excited, and a bit worried. The Gears of War franchise consists of four games so far, but after the release of Gears 3, I must admit I had some fatigue from the series. So much so that I skipped over the latest release (Judgement) and haven’t had an urge to play it since. With that said, the Gears games have all been pretty good, high scores from critics and much adoration from fans, the series definitely deserves some attention for its next-gen iteration. 

So what’s your take on this? Are you pumped to see Gears coming to Xbox One? Or are you tired of the franchise after four games released thus far? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think.

 

 

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Announcements+ Bioshock Week

bioshock weekThis upcoming week I have the whole week off from my day job and you know what that means? More posts, more reviews, and more videos. Also, it gives me the chance to finally focus on a series I love oh so much: the Bioshock franchise.

Also, the Gold Found on Youtube series has seen some positive reactions so I’ll keep that running. I’m open to any suggestions for future content, so if there’s anything you would like to see this blog cover or improve upon, please message me!

So stay tuned this upcoming week for all sorts of great stuff.

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