Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic Review

When is comes to Star Wars, I’m a bit of a passing fan. Sure, when I do get in the Star Wars mood I’ll definitely binge on the series but once that high vanishes I’m back to normal and forgetting all about Star Wars. The thing is, with the announcement of Episode 7 looming I became surprisingly interested in Star Wars, more than I have been in years. So, with the upcoming film, I started watching through the entire Clone Wars series. On top of that, I dug though my Steam account and found my Knights Of The Old Republic games so I can play through ’em. I decided that I should talk about this venerable series, despite the fact that everyone and their Star Trek loving moms talk about it. So, let’s dig in!

Good job, Anakin. Now kill him. KILL HIM NOW, DO EET. (Image property of Bioware and LucasArts)
Good job, Anakin. Now kill him. KILL HIM NOW, DO EET!
(Image property of Bioware and LucasArts)

Plot And Setting

So, what is Knights Of The Old Republic all about? Well, this game is set 4000 years before the prequel trilogy. And it’s a pretty epic story, reminiscent of the original films, though not without its faults. The story takes place on a ship about to be destroyed, you are a republic solider and you make a dash to escape. Running across a legendary war hero named Carth, the two of you escape the exploding ship and find yourselves stranded on the planet of Taris with outerspace travel completely forbidden by the Sith. You and Carth now embark on a mission to rescue the Jedi known as Bastila Shan, find a way to escape the planet and deal with the threat of a powerful Sith lord known as Darth Malak.

After escaping the planet, the game opens up to you. You enter Dantooine and train to be a Jedi and then embark on a galaxy-spanning quest to either save the Republic or doom it. In typical Bioware fashion, the game features a ton of allies who help flesh out the lore of the world. The problem? Some of them just felt really lame and unlikable to me, especially Bastila Shan and Carth, both of whom wave their finger and scold me if I do something that is negative in any way. Bastila Shan I found to be fairly stuck up in my eyes, but despite that I still enjoyed her company. What makes the game truly epic is the twist at the end, which I won’t spoil. In a fashion similar to Star Wars Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back, it’s a plot twist you will not see coming.

Gameplay

In terms of how the game plays, it plays very similar to the Neverwinter Nights series. You are given a team of three party members: Your custom player character and two allies who you can select from a group of 9 different partners to assist you in combat. The party members vary wildly from Jedi to Droids and even a Wookie or two. Some of them focus on combat in order to back you up and some focus on assisting you with long-ranged weaponry. Your player character is the main focus and can turn out much stronger than your other party members if you level him up the right way.

The game boils down to a strategy-laden RPG system. You click your enemy and cycle through turns while attacking each other. You are also able to select force powers, grenades, or health items in order to give you more variety and strategy in combat. Outside of combat, you can explore the many different areas and partake in the dozens of side-quests that the game offers. There is no real time limit for primary quests and you can return to most planets in-game whenever you wish to finish certain side-quests. Be warned that some quests are failed if you take certain choices in the main quest, I had to learn that the hard way!

Another focus of gameplay is modifying your gear and weapons. You’ll acquire upgrades throughout your mission that can be applied to your armor and weapons. For example, you can have your weapons do certain kinds of attack damage or have your armor resist certain kinds of attack. You can also customize lightsabers in the game, which is a welcome addition. Using special crystals you can acquire on caves in Dantooine, you can upgrade and modify your weapons to your heart’s content. These give the lightsabers special bonuses, as well as allowing you to change the colors of  the blade. While the customization is welcome, there are very few lightsaber colors and it’s impossible to change the overall look of your other weapons and equipment pieces.

The game itself boils down to a rather large campaign with an estimated completion time of about 30-40 hours, longer if you take on the side-quests. If you don’t have a lot of time to put into large games of this caliber, I suggest you look elsewhere. Still, it’s a fun ride from start to finish with a fair bit of customization and secrets to find. Something to note is that the solutions to certain side-quests may not always be easy to solve, some side-quests can be downright tricky. If you like good side-quests that toy with your mind, then you will feel right at home with this game!

Also, be forewarned that this game can be a fair bit more forgiving than older Bioware games. Each vendor is stocked with an unlimited supply of healing items, quests generate a large amount of Credits (Cash) and you have a bottomless inventory that never fills up. If you’re looking for an experience that caters more towards hardcore RPG veterans, your best bet is Dragon’s Age or Baldur’s Gate as Knights was built with a more general audience in mind. It’s still entertaining to RPG fans though, just don’t expect the complexities of older games.

Graphics And Performance

The game looks pretty good for the time. Character models are nice to look at and the graphics are serviceable, but have not aged very well. Character movements can be somewhat jerky and bugs will cause characters to start walking away in the middle of cutscenes or cause you to get stuck on invisible walls behind your teammates. It’s buggy, but not borderline unplayable. The bugs are certainly noticeable, but they don’t mire the experience in any way, shape or form. The designs of the planets and races certainly evoke the Star Wars feel as does that classic music that permeates the background of each planet and area you visit. It all oozes nostalgia from every orifice and it’s truly an enjoyable sight to behold.

The game has a problem of reusing alien sound-clips and facial textures, making a lot of the NPCs blend together. It’s hard to remember half the people I encounter in this game when they all look and sound exactly the same. The game may have some performance issues on newer computers, but there are workarounds in the way of mods that will certainly help you in this regard.

Conclusion And Summary

Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic is a game that is built upon a solid foundation and an interesting universe with much untapped videogame potential. It’s fun, easy to wrap your head around and expands on a universe that many people love and grew up with. It’s simpler than older Bioware games, but still entertaining to veterans of the older games that the company is known for. It’s plagued by some bug and performance issues, but it still runs fairly well and retains it’s amazing nostalgic feel even to this day. If you are looking for a game that caters to that inner Jedi hiding deep down in your mind, than definitely play this game and bring balance to your inner nerd force.

I Apologize For The Lack Of Updates

I’ve just been busy with real-life, getting setup for a wedding and playing a lot of Star Wars: The Knights Of The Republic. I hope to update the blog more often from here on out as I will have a few days off of work coming up. Stay tuned, those two people that visit here every fortnight. Oh, and anybody else who stumbles across this for now obscure blog.

The Un-Education System

Something that happened to me about a month back was a rather ignorant phone chat with a most unlikable school admin. You see, I was planning on applying at a course at particular college in order to broaden my horizons and get better paying office jobs. I had sent an e-mail to the college requesting more information on the course I would be taking. I never heard back and assumed it had gotten last in their e-mail folder or something. I then called the college itself to get the info I needed. The problem? The administrator was a rather ignorant and uncaring man. I was kind, polite, and honest on the phone yet the admin actively tried to discourage me from taking the course.

He told me that because I’m male, i have a very small chance of landing employment due to my gender. I felt demeaned by this, I was down on myself the whole day because of this turn of events. I feel that someone shouldn’t be discouraged from taking something because of their gender. I don’t think a school should be telling its students what they can and cannot do. And I don’t think a school administrator should be this uncaring.

There was a silver lining to this very dark cloud however, as I found a course at a different college that is far more flexible. I didn’t want to give my money to such a scumbag admin, a person who tries to talk his students out of seeking a higher education. I actually submitted this as a story to a local newspaper and am unsure whether or not they published it. I never received any sort of e-mail back aside from an e-mail trying to validate the story and didn’t scan every single paper that had come out since then. It’s been radio silence since then, which sucks because I feel the way I had written would inspire people to not let their school system bully them if something like this happens. Because the worst thing a school can do is discourage their own students.

Solatorobo: The Game I Love To Love

When it comes to video games, especially the stuff that is shoved out these days I tend not to get hyped until the game actually ships. However, back in 2010 when I first heard about Solatorobo, I was genuinely enthusiastic. Here’s a came with cartoon-y animal characters, a fun and easy to grasp combat system and some good old giant robot action. It wasn’t until a whopping five years later did I actually get to play it. Last Christmas, I received a gift from my good friend In92Days, the gift of a Nintendo 3DS.

And when I was bopping around in the game story today, I spotted it: Solatorobo. It was something that was exciting to me, a game that hearkened back to what I loved about games. Fun, entertaining combat systems, and a game that didn’t care if it’s graphics looked like they were from an old Dreamcast or N64 games. Here we had a game that just wasn’t afraid to be what it was.

Solatorobo takes place in a universe populated by anthropomorphic dogs and cats. It takes place in the same universe as a similar title called Tail Concerto and features some of the same characters. In this game, you control Red and his robotic suit as you fight against an evil group trying to destroy you and take your medallion. It’s typical anime stuff, but the combat is the icing on the cake. Unlike other games where you punch and kick an enemy, Solatorobo takes the Captain Kirk approach. You see, instead of killing your enemy you grab them and toss them into the wall or you can use your stun gun to temporarily immobilize them.

Solatorobo is a typical action RPG, but it’s fun and refreshing enough to make me want to play it. With its fun and likeable characters, its simple yet dramatic story, and its fun combat, its probably one of the best Nintendo games I’ve played. It irks me how people act like Splatoon is Nintendo’s most unique idea in years, yet those very same people have never touched Solatorobo. It truly saddens me when people ignore such an awesome and under-appreciated game. I should know, I ignored it and kicked myself about it later.

The Electronic Disappointment Expo

E3 has come and gone once again and has shown us how low the money-grubbing videogame developers would stoop in order to wrestle the coins away from our wallets. Trailers full of promises that they can’t possibly keep, lies about technology, or Kickstarter drives shoved into the conference in an attempt to gauge interest instead of actually trying to fund the project that was advertised. E3 was just full of nonsense this year, just nonsense and toys.

They had very little games to actually show, it was primarily just cinematic trailers that barely showed the game. The only games that seemed mildly interesting were Fallout 4 and For Honor, but other than that few games actually grabbed me. On top of that, the trailers and developers spoiled a lot of what these games had to offer instead of letting the player discover these when playing the game.

This is why I prefer the magic of Steam or Playstation Network. With those services, I can check online reviews to see if a game is good without reading an in-depth breakdown on the entire game that ruins the charm of discovering these things for yourself. E3 was generally a disappointment, and I feel that if we want to get games back to that high quality they were in the early 2000s, then we need to start by trying to improve the Expo and focus more on what the people paid to see instead of banking off nostalgia and lies. We need to make an expo that appeals to everyone, not just the hardcore and casual audiences. Hopefully, the guys who see E3 will eventually see it that as well and try to change it for the better. Probably not, but it’s wishful thinking.

Avernum: Escape From The Pit Review

Can you escape from the pit? (Image property of Spiderweb Software)
Can you escape from the pit? (Image property of Spiderweb Software)

I’ve decided to look at some Steam games as the Steam Summer Sale is currently going on. This whole week I will post reviews on some of the best games I have ever gotten on sale at Steam (And every game I’ve ever bought on Steam has been on sale, so it may be tough for me to choose) What happens when you remake the remake of a classic game with better graphics that can work on newer operating systems without a hitch? You get Avernum: Escape From The Pit, a CRPG game.

Plot And Setting

What’s Avernum? Originally released in the 90s as Exile: Escape From The Pit, you play as a warrior thrown into the underground of the land. You are now trapped in a land of lizard people, cat people, monsters, and various other things that want to kill you. It’s up to you and your party of slightly customizable adventurers to escape. Along your way, you encounter many viscous beasts and entertaining side-quests as you make your way to the end of the main story at which point you choose from one of three different endgames all resulting in a radically different end to your story. The real question is, can you escape from the pit?

Gameplay

The gameplay of Avernuim is what would happen if you made a more user-accessible version of Baldur’s Gate’s engine. After choosing a party by selecting your favored classes so you can have unique party of adventurers, you start your game when you encounter several underground-dwellers who wish to enslave you. This part of the game serves as your tutorial and teaches you the basics of what you need to do properly play the game. You gain one stat point and two skill points per level and you can assign them wherever you see fit. Keep in mind that with this kind of game you need to be careful where you assign your points. If you put all your points into your Cave Lore skill then your warrior or mage may be unprepared for the challenges presented later in the game.

Another awesome feature of this game is open world exploration. You can go wherever you want in this large open world, yet I think I prefer the open world of older Spiderweb Software games like the original Avernum games and Geneforge. In those games, the open world was split into segments that you could travel much like the old Baldur’s Gate games. While an Isometric open-world is cool, I found that I would often backtrack to the wrong areas too often or get lost easily. There is no fast-travel system so I found that backtracking was terrible. In Spiderweb games, it was a lot more streamlined and the game would often highlight areas you haven’t fully explored yet.

Another complaint I have is that some of the early enemies can be a little too overpowered. The Slith were a good example of this, you can fight a group of them right off the start and you’ll get destroyed very easily by them. In fact, a lot of early enemies are like this. Still, near the middle of the game it starts to get a little more lenient. Once you hit Level 30, the game becomes a bit of a cakewalk. Still, it is a very fun game. I had fun leveling up my rebel, “Ninjoe” and his party of sidekicks.

The strategic gameplay is fairly simple, yet it does take a little bit of planning and tactics to take out the tougher enemies. You can also find various items in the game that will buff your party as well as spells that can do similar status effects. The game has over 100 locations and is truly massive for a game I only paid about 2 bucks for. I whole-hardheartedly reccomend getting this game while its on sale because it is a tremendous value.

Graphics And Sound

Here’s where people often throw their complaints at this game. Here’s the thing: The graphics are extremely outdated and the music is non-existent. That being said, these aren’t really detriments tot the game. The Spiderweb games are meant to emulate older CRPG games and those games didn’t possess astounding graphics either. A lot of the gamer features assets re-used from Avadon: The Black Fortress and other Spiderweb games as a sort of cost-cutting measure. The only music in the game is the tune you’ll here on the main title screen, but the lack of music does help add to the atmosphere. The game isn’t much of a looker, but that kind of quality doesn’t really matter much with a Spiderweb Software game.

Overview

In conclusion, this game is a lot of fun and has a massive amount of content for such an amazing price. I highly reccomend grabbing it. I also reccomend the Avernum: Great Trials Trilogy if you are looking for more classic RPG goodness. If you like Avernum, you may also enjoy Geneforge, Avadon, or Nethergate: Ressuection which are all games from Spiderweb Software that all have different setting and features. It’s a good value, especially for such a massive game. As usual, I’m adverse to giving out numbered ratings. Since the CRPG genre is starting to make a comeback though, I feel it only fair to give this game a score. I award this game a 7.5/10. Definitely a fine game that I will come back to quite often. Backtracking is an issue and world exploration can be somewhat of a problem, but these things can be overlooked for a great RPG that acts as a great successor to similar games of this caliber. Currently, the game is on sale for little over 3 bucks which is a steal. If you want an RPG with meat on its bone, you should definitely pick Avernum: Escape From The Pit!

Ant-Man Coming Out Soon!

Anyone looking forward to this movie? I can’t say I’m overly excited about it, but I’ll definitely see it. I like the idea of superheroes have shrinking powers, it’s a pretty unique power that is underused in the superhero world. The movie looks pretty awesome and I look forward to seeing what they do with it. Marvel already proved they could make obscure superheroes a hit with Guardians Of The Galaxy, so I’m definitely looking forward to see what they do with this.

Drumsticks Are The Best Ice-Cream Ever!

And I’m not even really into Ice-Cream that much, but surprisingly I love Drumsticks! And what’s not to love? Drumsticks are the sugar-filled equivalent to a box of treasure. It’s full of goodies on top of even more goodies! You start by biting off that chocolate shell that is coated with nuts. And then, you get into the vanilla cone part. After eating through the vanilla, you get to that delicious caramel filling in the middle. You eat the filling and the rest of the vanilla and reach the cone part. And jammed within the cone is even more ice cream! And upon eating that, you find that the very bottom of the cone is lined with chocolate. DANG! Yeah, I know Drumsticks aren’t the healthiest for you, but they are still a great summertime treat.

Kung Fury: The Short Film I Wanted To Love

I'm here to do my job! (Image property of Laser Unicorns)
I’m here to do my job!
(Image property of Laser Unicorns)

The 80s, a time when you could afford to have stupid hair or lots of bling. A time when looking cool involved you taking everything out of your closet and haphazardly draping it across your body. I’ve seen many parodies of the 80s and one that I was a little mixed on was the recent short film “Kung Fury”. This film was made on a Kickstarter budget, has amazing effects, a crazy story and some fairly solid acting.

Kung Fury tells the story of a cop named “Kung Fury” who is also a martial arts chosen one. After defeating an evil arcade machine robot, Hitler travels through time and attempts to assassinate Kung Fury. Kung Fury decides to travel back in time with help of a hacker who is so good at what he does that he can break the very laws of physics and bring people back to life. Sounds insane? Good, because it’s supposed to be and Kung Fury does its best to revel in its own insanity.

Why my feelings are mixed on Kung Fury isn’t because of the insane plot, it’s because it feels like something I’ve seen many times before. 80s parodies are all too common and Kung Fury’s style of humor and insanity reminded me a lot of Adult Swim’s offerings. This isn’t an entirely bad thing as I do enjoy Adult Swim’s content from time to time. The thing is that Kung Fury uses way too many 80s tropes to the point where I had a feeling of Deja Vu the whole way through.

That’s not to say Kung Fury didn’t have some unexpected moments. In fact, I think the film really shined in scenes that aren’t as laden with 80s references. I especially liked the part where Kung Fury traveled back in time to the “Viking Age” which was full of scantily barbarian princesses riding wolves while wielding machine guns and shooting at “Laser Raptors”. That being said, I was still annoyed by scenes that parody 80s cliches in the same way that almost every other parody has. Like the obligatory “You’re like a father to me moment” where the main character loses someone he loves and then screams “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” To me, that doesn’t really create an engaging experience.

Just because I don’t love the movie doesn’t mean I don’t like it. It’s a solid experience and Jorma from The Lonely Island did a good job as Hitler. And the song David Hasselhoff sung for the movie was truly spectacular, it was a very good soon that perfectly encapsulated an entire decade of music in one fell swoop. I’ve seen a ton of  spectacular short films such as “Hulk Vs. Wolverine” and “Reversal Of The Heart”. I don’t really think this measures up to those films, but it was still enjoyable nonetheless. I have watched Kung Fury 4 to 5 times now, so it’s definitely got that pull keeps bringing me back. All in all, I gotta say that while Kung Fury didn’t wow me, it certainly did wet my whistle. If they made a sequel to it, I would definitely give it a look-see.
Continue reading “Kung Fury: The Short Film I Wanted To Love”

Dragon’s Crown Review

That fairy drank all of my ale! (Image property of Sony and Atlus, image captured from my Vita)
That fairy drank all of my ale!
(Image property of Sony and Atlus, image captured from my Vita)

A lot of people forget the olden times, the archaic era of arcade machines and primitive home consoles. Graphics weren’t the best, the games were brutally hard and unforgiving, and most of all the games were fun. This was most true with the genre of games known as “Arcade Beat-Em-Ups”. These games were designed to suck away all your quarters, but were at the same time very fun and enjoyable. By far, one of the most memorable arcade beat-em-ups would have to be the Dungeons & Dragons ones. These games were quarter-suckers back in the day and the developers behind it decided to create their magnum opus. The following game is a send-up to the age of yore, I am of course talking about Dragon’s Crown.

What is Dragon’s Crown? It’s a game that has been in the works for a very long time, since the late 90s to be exact. After George Kamitani (The game’s developer) did some work on Princess Crown, he decided to start work on a new project. Time passed and it took a lot of time to get developed, especially due to the lack of interest in the genre. After a long amount of time, the game was finally finished and released simultaneously for Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita. I thought I should give a review on this game as it is the one I’ve played most on my Vita. I haven’t played PS3 version, but I’m told it’s essentially the same. Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty!

Plot

The plot of the game is somewhat nonexistent. The game is said to take place in the same universe as two of Vanillaware’s other games “GrimGrimoire” and “Odin Sphere”, but on a different timeline. You are sent on quests through various areas on behalf of the kingdom and eventually come across a plan to resurrect a powerful ancient dragon from his age-old slumber. Most of the areas you’ll visit will have little to with the actual plot, they are mainly areas with some awesome set-pieces and fun bosses. Halfway through the game you are given a new mission to collect 9 talismans by fighting 9 brand new bosses. Once the talismans are collected, you confront the Ancient Dragon, defeat him, and are promptly rewarded 1 of 6 endings depending on the character class you selected. And that’s pretty much the plot in its entirety.

Gameplay

Here’s the best part of the game: The gameplay. As mentioned before, the game plays like a beat-em-up. You choose one of six classes, start a mission, and proceed to travel to the right fighting every enemy in the process. However, it’s not as simple as that. The game is also part dungeon crawler RPG, so you will be gaining items, leveling up, and acquiring new gear along the way. The game offers items such as potions, spell scrolls, and magic runes as basic items. However, there is also a lot of equipment you can earn by playing through the game and opening chests. Each character has unique equipment that is exclusive to its particular class as well as equipment that can be worn by any class. Every equipment piece is given a certain alphabetical rating with E being the worst and S being the best. After a while, I just focused on getting A and S rank weapons and armor as those offered the best stats.

The game also offers six different classes, most of which play different than each other. You have the bulky armor-wearing Warrior, the muscular and powerful Dwarf, the buxom Xena ripoff Amazon, the Sephiroth clone Wizard, the archer Elf, and the busty Sorceress. The classes are grouped into different difficulties, with the magic and archery classes essentially being the game’s Hard Mode. The game also has regular difficulty levels, unlocked by beating the game on Normal Difficulty.

You jealous of my epic loot? (Game property of Vanillaware and Atlus, image captured from my PS Vita)
You jealous of my epic loot?
(Game property of Vanillaware and Atlus, image captured from my PS Vita)

The class I found myself using most is the dwarf, due to rock-hard defense. Each class boasts abilities the others do not possess. For example, a sorceress can call down a blizzard to due ice damage to enemies and a Dwarf can use a Lava Bracer to add fire damage to his attacks. You can sink points into certain abilities and unlock new ones, building a strong character build in the process. The level cap for the game used to be 99 but was raised to 255, a level which I never reach. That level 132 Dwarf has leveled up twice since I took that pic and I doubt I’ll ever get him 255. The primary way to level up your character is to earn experience points but to do this you need points. The more points you have, the more experience you get. So, by getting that score higher you can level up multiple times in one play session.

The game itself plays like your typical beat-em-up, you mash the attack button and activate special abilities to do a ton of damage. The game features 9 core areas that have one alternate area that is unlocked at the halfway point of the game. You are also given the Labyrinth Of Chaos, a special dungeon full of randomly generated map layouts and immensely hard bosses. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as the game offers a ton more than just that. You’ll have to play it for yourself to see what all this game has to offer.

Graphics And Sound

This game looks beautiful and its graphics are highly detailed. The visuals are all hand-painted with drawn 2-d sprites and backgrounds. Each character is loving detailed and well-drawn, even though most of the character designs for the women feature giant jugs and butts and 80% of males in the game are super muscular dudes. Despite the ridiculous character designs, graphically the game is impressive and really shows that 2-D games can look just as amazing as 3-Dimensional ones.

The sound and music for the game is awesome too with enough medieval-sounding tunes to fill up a small renaissance Fair. The soundtrack does a good job of sucking you into the game as does the voice acting. The game features some great voice acting talent who have done voicework for games, TV shows and anime. They do a great job of representing their characters very well and I don’t think that there is a single sour one in the batch.

GIVE ME SOME RARE ITEMS, OLD MAN! (Image property of Vanillaware and Atlus, gameplay picture captured from my Vita)
GIVE ME SOME RARE ITEMS, OLD MAN!
(Image property of Vanillaware and Atlus, gameplay picture captured from my Vita)

In Conclusion

Despite being a game that is almost two years old at this point, I still find this game immensely enjoyable. This is one of the few games I have ever pre-ordered and played on the day it was released and I have never regretted it one bit. It also came with an amazing artbook, that’s more like a Playboy Magazine due to the excess amount of half-naked lady pictures. Still, if you can look past the character designs and fan-service moments, then you have yourself a solid and fun action game. It takes the best parts of beat-em-ups and dungeon crawlers and mixes them together. I’d give this game a rating, but that would imply it’s comparable to other games on the market. Sad fact of the matter is that they don’t really make games like this anymore, unless you count the large amount of Indie beat-em-up games. If need be, I’d rate this a solid 8/10. It’s a solid enough title with lots of replay value and tons of loot to collect. I reccomend this game to those hardcore RPG nuts looking for something for their Vita or PS4.

Well, time to spend half of my savings on repairing equipment I'll replace three hours from now. (Image property of Vannilaware and Atlus, image captured from my Vita)
Well, time to spend half of my savings on repairing equipment I’ll replace three hours from now.
(Image property of Vannilaware and Atlus, image captured from my Vita)