Singularity

Developed by Raven Studios and published by Activision this game came out in 2010. It’s the adventure of Nathaniel Renko on the Russian island of Katorga-12.

And so it begins…
You, Renko, have been sent along with fellow American soldiers to investigate a surge of power that knocked out an American Satellite.  A second surge knocks out Renko’s buddies and his own helicopter which results in the player  being stranded on the recently re-discovered Katorga-12.  Before you get knocked off your helicopter an NPC by the name of Devlin tells Renko some basic information about the island to you know, set the mood. Once the mood is all spooky and Titan one, HQ if you will, has been contacted the player is set off on their first objective and let loose on Kortuga-12.

The Premise
Upon playing into the game a little further the player (I feel like it’s super rude if I refer to the player as “you”) is thrown back in time to some catastrophic event that happened fifty years prior (roughly) to the game. From here on out the player begins to experience and even gains the ability to hop around through time and by hop around I mean back and forth. There is no wibbly wobbly stuff here, except for maybe a few of the enemies.

Control Yourself
This game makes ample use of all the buttons on the controller, and I mean ALL of them. The “traditional” buttons, if you will, are reserved for things like jumping, reloading, and all that good stuff. But then you have the joystick buttons which control your time bending powers and so become very important.  Now these controls can be a little overwhelming because each button does something different. Thankfully the triggers are still shoot and aim down the scopes whereas the bumpers have taken on punch someone and wield the power of time! While being able to do a lot of different things is fun having to remember ALL the buttons and even how long you have to hold them down, as the duration of such an action  changes what happens, can make leaving the game even for a week or two tough to come back to. Just after a few weeks of having beaten the game I had to take an awkward ten minutes of trying everything out to get a hang of the controls again.

The Baddies
Perhaps the most important part of the game, gun withstanding, is what you’re going to be shooting at. Unfortunately this is where Singularity falls a little flat.  Most of the enemies are unimaginative and look like deformed monkeys flinging barrels. The story behind what they are, or how they got that way is also lacking. It’s a simple “radiation dunnit” with a “you should feel really bad for them” thought process. Why should I feel bad for them? What did they go through? Why was it so crummy? The player can of course find some scattered notes and voice recordings around the island which give some of the personal experiences of the victims, but they are executed in such a way that no real connection is made and ultimately one does not care when the note leavers die. Perhaps you wonder why I am focusing so much on how the baddies got there, rather than their abilities or the harm they can inflict on Renko.  A major part of the game’s atmosphere or over all feel is trying to get the player to feel. They want all the feels. With that in mind the actual victims of the initial disaster are so distant and so bland that the player ultimately won’t care. Luckily the big baddy is a real jerk and one can take real pleasure in chasing him. That’s right, chasing him and working towards his downfall. The actual defeat of said bad guy is really underwhelming.

Now the actual combat is also quite bland. Most of the enemies are just pallet swaps and a few extra lumps on certain limbs.  The only advantage they can seem to get over the player is sheer numbers and even then they are easily defeated. There are even enemies who kill themselves if Renko just pops behind a wall or convenient piece of concrete.  There are of course some difficult enemies and by difficult I mean FREAKIN’ IMPOSSIBLE to kill.  I’m talking about enemies where the game is like, “bypass these guys EXACTLY like I say or they will kill you before you can even scream FUU-,” (that’s how we all react to sudden enemies, right…). So there is some mandatory stealth followed by trying to run through a sewer pipe you’re pretty sure your three year old niece couldn’t fit through. On the bright side there is some stuff to kill in there, and by that I mean kill you. Singularity loves to put Renko in tight places, like the previously mentioned,  and throw exploding bugs at him. Even if you manage to shoot them from a ways off their blast radius (science!) is so large Renko still takes damage. If that wasn’t bad enough they run SO FAST it’s tough to shoot them before they get too close. Good thing only fifty of them come at Renko at once. Even in open spaces they are tough to kill and it is best to just run like a scared little girl (or boy…you know, equality).  The game does allow Renko to destroy some bug pods before they spawn, but beware the script, as scripted bugs are coming to ruin your day.

Let’s get Real…Singularity at first was very promising with good graphics and a solid foundation to build a great story on, but it all just falls apart after the first encounter with an enemy. There is no real explanation as to why the former citizens of the island had muted the way they did and therefore making different kinds of mutants, or even what the mutagen really is. I mean the scientists figure out how to harness it and use it for all sorts of cool stuff (time travel!) but there is no explanation or in depth understanding of it by even one scientist which just feels very unlikely.  I mean the very thing they claim mutates people is the CURRENCY and yet that isn’t radioactive? How does that make any sense? Why does it grow around the island like little plants? What about the island makes it so special that this…stuff can only grow there? So many unanswered questions. These may seem like small details, but it is the small things that make up the greater whole of the game and make it make sense and therefore allow the player to “connect” with it and really feel involved. A lack of emotional involvement paired with weak writing ruins what could have been a great game.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • interesting concept
  • good graphics
  • good visual atmosphere
  • a good variety in weapons
  • an upgrade system which allows the player to improve weapons and powers to their liking
  • great voice acting
  • good for players who just wanna run around and shoot things with no real complex story or tasks

Cons

  • overwhelming controls
  • repetitive gameplay
  • no subtitles
  • no world explinations
  • weak ending
  • no back tracking
  • when the player picks up a note there is no way to go back and re-read it without physically going back to the note and interacting with it again

Overall I give this game a solid 5 out of 10.

 

 

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Back in the Game (Literally)

So I took the longest break ever (well maybe not ever) and I am now getting back into the reviewing game. I will start out with Viking: Battle for Asgard. This is actually a game I have been wanting to play for a reeeeeeeaaaaaally long time. In school I studied creative writing and Classic Literature and I intend on eventually going to grad school for the latter. I want to focus on the fun but bloody Norse Sagas, so naturally this game was very appealing. I only just began but I hope to have some sort of review by the end of…whenever (this week?).

Reviews Coming Soon

Sorry I have not been able to keep up with my blog here, but now that I have a new computer I will be getting back into the reviewing game. I will probably move on to some different games rather than stick to the old list I left before my previous computer died. Hopefully I will have something up in the next few days, thanks for your time.

 

Fire Emblem: Awakening

This latest installment in the Fire Emblem series can be thought of the Final Fantasy IX or even the Resident Evil 6 of the series. Fire Emblem: Awakening is an all new story with a new cast of characters, but is very reminiscent of the older games with allusions and references.  In Awakening the player gets to create their own avatar and take up the sword, the bow, or the magic tome amongst other weapons. Along with the Avatar, or the player’s character, Prince Chrom of Ylisse sets out to bring peace to his people and quell the evil that is invading the land.

Getting Started

Like a classic RPG the player gets to create a custom or personal unit, character, that will join Chrom as the protagonists of the game.  The Avatar can be either male or female with three separate body types to choose from along with type-specific faces and hair styles. The best way to summarize the body types is small, medium, and large; with small being a little too close to childhood and large being uncomfortably tall for man or woman.  Despite the height and…proportions for the large characters I find they have the best hair styles. I mean shoot for the female the medium body style mostly has long hair and the one hair style she can have that is short looks like a cheap rip off of one of  or several of the male’s haircuts. Another slightly troublesome thing to mention is that all the faces for the tall male make him look super creepy, like inching towards his midlife crisis which can be kind of worrisome considering the marriage system in this game . The customization goes beyond just the physical which is nice.

Aside from just being able to make a chibi version of a fantasy self the player also gets to choose The Avatar’s birth date (which does have some significance), a strength and weakness. It is worth mentioning that The Avatar’s weakness does not have to be the opposite of his/her strength which makes choosing a strength all the easier. The strength/weakness can be ANY of the stats including: HP, magic, strength, speed, luck, skill, defense, or resistance.  The best combo in this reviewer’s opinion is of course speed for the strength and resistance for the weakness. However there are side effects to having speed as a strength; one will often feel the need to sing “Can’t touch this”.

Support and the Barracks

Support is super important for survival on the battlefield as it allows teammates to give each other boosts, aid in attacking, and deflect attacks.  There are multiple ways to raise a characters support levels for each other, but the most common way is to pair up in battle or to simply fight side by side. Support doesn’t just play its part in battles, but in the overall story of the game as the player learns about the characters through support conversations and can even have a part in what each character ultimately decides to do when the game ends.

The barracks are a place for your units to talk outside of battle and further their relationships, or to receive boosts by listening in on conversations. The player can also find items outside of battle in the barracks as well.

Combat

Combat for Fire Emblem: Awakening is grid based; meaning that each unit can move a certain amount of spaces to attack any enemy within reach each turn.  Each action takes a turn whether the unit moves or not, this includes: using items, pairing up, separating, and talking to other units in combat. The strategy, however, doesn’t come just from using one’s turns wisely but alos playing on the strengths and weaknesses of each unit.

Each weapon, including magic, has a weapon it is stronger than and a weapon it is weak against. The different classes of units also have their own “sets” of weapon strengths and weaknesses. Keeping this in mind will help avoid wasted turns or one hit kills on the player’s units.

Let’s get Real…

Pros

  • Great story
  • Good English and Japanese voiceovers
  • Fun battle system
  • In-depth support system that actually aids the game
  • Consistent characters
  • Choice to turn Perma-death off or on
  • Replay ability
  • Money is not to easy or too hard to earn
  • Free downloadable content! (Awwwww Yeeeeaaaah!)

Cons

  • Repetitive play after a while
  • Weak morality or choice driven system
  • Tough to level new low level characters (Poor Olivia!)
  • Support system on has a few unique conversations
  • Paralogs are random in difficulty and numbering

All in all I give this game a solid 8 out of 10.

Tomb Raider 2013

A prequel to all prequels this is Lara Croft’s first archeological adventure. It takes place somewhere around Japan while Lara’s team is in search of the ancient kingdom of Yamatai when they are shipwrecked on what at first appears to be a deserted island. In order to survive Lara must adapt and explore the island in order to save her crew members and get off the island.

Not Your Childhood Tomb Raider

This latest installment reworks the traditional action of the Tomb Raider series with some RPG elements. One can now earn EXP and choose skills to allocate points to. There are three different skill trees and three different skill levels. The skill trees include: Survivor, Hunter, and Brawler. As the player adds skills they will move up in ranks; starting with Rookie then going to Hardened which is followed by Specialist. EXP can be earned by: killing and looting animals and enemies, after completing certain parts of the game, looting special plants, finding GPS Caches, finding relics, finding journals, completing side objectives, and finishing collections. There are lots of options. 🙂

Weapons can also be upgraded as the player collects salvage found around the island.  Along with salvage the player can also find gun parts in the regular salvage bins or from fallen foes. It is important to check every salvageable container or body because the gun parts are found at random. The gun parts found will be enough to upgrade the weapon as a whole and the salvage is used to upgrade individual features of each gun.

Another new feature is the “Survival Instinct” which helps the player find their objective, relics, animals, enemies, plants, salvage crates, and interactive environments.

To the Tombs!

This game does take place amongst many ancient ruins, but the game is mostly devoid of tombs. There are, however, secret tombs that one can raid for massive rewards. These rewards can include: gun parts, treasure maps, EXP, and salvage. The tombs are of course puzzles one must solve in order to get to the goodies at the end, but wheres the satisfaction in gold if you don’t have to work for it?

Combat

This version of the game follows the classic over the shoulder shooter with a wide range of customizable weapons with several different fire modes. One can choose to go all out and shoot the place up, or take a more subtle approach by using stealth kills. There are two ways to accomplish a stealth kill and those ways would be: with the bow or by sneaking up behind an enemy and following the button prompt.

When fighting enemies and “shoot-til-you-hit-something-moving” fails there is always the scrambling option. Scrambling makes it much harder for enemies to hit Lara with projectiles or to catch her with lunged or physical attacks.

Survival Instincts become very important when attempting stealth kills around multiple enemies. Enemies highlighted in red will alert their  comrades when killed, but if they are yellow you’re good to go.

Just Like a Movie

The graphics in the game are great and there is a huge attention to detail, but get ready to engage your willful suspension of disbelief. I understand that Lara is supposed to be a survivor but dang! She goes through some really unrealistic injuries that are cured by the passage of time or a dinky little first aid kit. Despite the unrealistic injuries and action scenes (that bugged me enough to mention them) the game has several breath taking cinematic moments that are actually part of the game play.

Map

This game plays kind of like an open world game by using a fast travel system which allows the player to go back to previous parts of the map.   The open world aspect is however limited by the need to unlock each part of the island by playing through the main game.  The map aspect is also further limited by the player’s need to find treasure maps in order to highlight or locate relics, GPS caches, and journal entries.  The treasure maps aren’t necessary to finish the games, but they sure help the player get EXP.

Let’s Get Real…

Pros

  • Awesome graphics
  • level up system
  • enjoyable combat system
  • good story
  • plenty of chances for EXP
  • weapon customisation
  • good character development
  • semi-challenging puzzles
  • a lot of replayability
  • just a really fun game to play
  • multiplayer game mode

Cons

  • Too easy on any difficulty
  • predictable outcomes
  • unrealistic injuries or survival
  • messy or “forced” parts of the plot to keep Lara alone
  • several unexplained or easy to miss EXP collections

All in all I give this game a solid 8 out of 10.