Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dust in the wind... RIP Original XBOX LIVE

Launched back in November of 2002 for the original XBOX, XBOX LIVE brought online console gaming to the forefront. Allowing gamers to create their own unique identities that could then be used to compete in various battlegrounds with players from all over the world. XBOX LIVE also worked as an online marketplace which gaming studios could provide additional downloadable content to extend the life of their games.

XBOX LIVE evolved in 2005 with the launch of the XBOX 360 with the advent of achievements and a Gamerscore which has allowed players to compete with each other on a whole new level. This new XBOX LIVE has seen many more additions such as an improved marketplace, Netflix, and the new retro Games Room to name a few. XBOX LIVE has now reached a staggering 23 million users as of February 2010.

Alas all good things must come to an end, at least for the older generation XBOX. This past week on April 15th, 2010 marked the final day of XBOX LIVE service for the original XBOX, it's backwards compatibility on the 360 and any downloadable content. It's a sad day as I'm sure we all have fond memories of gaming on the original XBOX. I'd have to say playing Counter-Strike with my buddies from Aurora (and a certain Black Caesar) was by far my favorite memory of the previous XBOX LIVE generation, what's yours?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cataclysm Class Discussion: Warrior (Part 2)

Possibly the most widely contested class in all of WoW, the Warrior has gotten some pretty interesting changes that should make for a completely new, and welcome, experience. Among them are changes to the rage system, the removal of "on next swing" timers, and interesting take on dual wielding, and some very intriguing new abilities.

Let's start by taking a look at the 3 new abilities Blizzard has planned for us Warriors:

1. Inner Rage (trained at 81)

Once the warrior reaches 100% rage he enters into an enraged state causing all attacks to cost an additional 50% rage but also do an additional 15% damage for an undisclosed period of time (I imagine it will be rather short, probably less than 10 seconds). Think of it as a "Limit Break" (Final Fantasy 7 style) where if you let your rage buildup you can unleash some very nasty attacks. Unfortunately with the current rage model (the system in which warriors gain rage to attack), players with lower tier gear will probably never find themselves taking advantage of this ability. Personally as a Fury Warrior myself, I think this definitely adds another level of strategy rather than mindless rotation mashing, however I'm a little nervous at the increased rage cost at 50% while the increased damage is only 15%, to me it almost doesn't seem worth it.

2. Gushing Wound (trained at 83)

Think Rend on steroids. For those of you who aren't familiar with warrior abilities, Rend is just simply a warriors go-to DOT (damage over time) ability. Gushing Wound is set to replace Rend by allowing it to gain up to 3 stacks, which would increase both it's damage output and longevity. Interestingly though is how you cause it to gain stacks. Traditionally you would just have to keep mashing the ability (think Sunder Armor) but with Gushing Wound you get stacks whenever the target moves, and the duration also refreshes. With that in mind it will be curious to see if kiting a boss will now be an effective way to dps (damage per second) or if the traditional tank and spank will still take prevalence in which case Gushing Wound will unfortunately be a PvP only ability.

3. Heroic Leap (trained at 85)

I'm not entirely sure what Blizzard is thinking with this one, and really all I want to do is /facepalm. The ability causes the warrior to leap in the air at a targeted area (not sure yet if it is targeted by the user like a mage's Blizzard, or if it will be using an enemy target as the center of the effective area) dealing massive damage and applying the thunderclap debuff to anything caught in the effective area. This isn't the first time Blizzard has attempted to bring back "Leap Attack" from Diablo 2 and while it sounds interesting and "fun" I believe that it's an ability that is very lacking in practicality. I would assume like all "ranged" abilities that it will have a min distance so warriors will only ever be able to use it to begin an encounter or to escape from the fire in PvE environments. So that leaves PvP, where even then it would only be beneficial to use it in a large group of enemies, and I don't think I remember the last time I saw a mage doing Blizzard in a Battleground...

Abilities and Mechanic Changes

Unlike other classes, many of the coming mechanic changes have a significant impact on warriors. First and foremost is the removal of "On next melee swing" timers, so abilities like Heroic Strike and Cleave will now be instant and will most likely be tweaked in both damage and rage cost accordingly. This is a pretty huge change on it's own as it will throw a wrench in the warrior DPS rotation. Normally the Fury priority rotation goes roughly along the lines of Bloodthirst > Whirlwind > Slam (if it's up) > Heroic strike always up (providing you have the rage... also this is a rough rotation on a single target, for a detailed rotation just send me a message and I'll be glad to assist). That rotation however hinges on the fact that Heroic strike doesn't eat up a GCD (global cooldown) as it's a swing alteration ability. With the upcoming change though warriors will have to fit it into the rotation, same with cleave.

Another huge change for warriors is that shouts (Battle Shout, Commanding Shout, Demoralizing Shout etc...) will now cost no rage and in fact will generate rage but will last for a shorter duration of time. Working much like that of a Death Knight's Horn of Winter where you will get a buff and a burst of resources allowing you to kick start your attack. This will work great for newer less geared warriors who have problems generating rage but for higher geared players this change will most likely have little effect unless the changes to rage generation are extremely drastic.

Lastly are some of the ability tweaks that will be rolled out in Cataclysm. For all you Arms PvP warriors out there unfortunately your Mortal Strike healing debuff is being reduced to 20% as the healing in Cataclysm is not going to be as ridiculously high as it is now. For all the Fury PvE warriors out there, Whirlwind will now be hitting an unlimited amount of targets, however it will only hit for 50% of weapon damage now. So expect to only use Whirlwind in big packs of mobs and remove it from your single target rotation. For the tanks (and the unlucky dps warriors who don't raid with a protection warrior) Sunder Armor is being changed to a maximum of 3 stacks down from 5 so it's less of a punishment to get them originally up there, and easier to get back if they fall off during the encounter.

Talent Changes and Additions

With the new talent changes being rolled out the lines blurring Arms and Fury are finally being completely dissolved. Whereas at the beginning of Wrath of the Lich King, Arms was the most viable DPS spec as it gave the best return on the lower tier gear. Now Arms is being tailored specifically towards PvP with changes such as Disarming Nature, a new talent that causes successful disarms to fear the target for 5-10 seconds and Blitz which causes Charge to do increased damage depending on the duration of your Charge. Fury will now become the go-to PvE DPS spec with talent changes like Furious Sundering which will allow Fury warriors to apply the sunder armor debuff while still causing 50% weapon damage and reducing threat generated by 100%. This is a huge talent as previously warriors had no aggro dump and only one talent that reduced threat, so this talent is a very welcome change indeed. Also to be noted is Improved Pummel which will cause successful Pummel's to generate 20 rage, a pretty good incentive for warriors to start paying attention to boss cast timers. Other smaller changes include the removal of any weapon specialization talents and that any talents that deal with rage reduction of abilities will now focus on increasing the damage of those abilities instead.

Mastery Stat Preview

New in Cataclysm is the Mastery stat. This stat will quite simply make you better at your current mastery, basically meaning if you spec with most points in Fury the Mastery stat will make you better at being Fury in a variety of ways. Each spec will provide the areas of improvement that the Mastery stat will govern. For Arms it will be overall melee damage, armor penetration and Bonus Swings (this will work similarly to the Sword Specialization talent of old where your melee swings have a chance to deal a second attack for 50% of weapon damage. Fury warriors will notice increased melee damage, melee haste, and Enraged Intensity which will buff abilities like Death Wish, Enrage, Berserker Rage, Enraged Regeneration and Bloodrage. Protection warriors will notice more damage reduction, Vengeance (this is an interesting ability that increased damage the warrior deals the more he gets beat on by a boss, ensuring that threat will never be a problem even when all your DPS is decked out and dealing ridiculous damage) and Critical Blocking which simply allows your blocks to crit (block for more, not hit back).

This concludes the preview for Warriors, I hope all you warriors out there are as excited as I am and I will see you shortly with the Paladin class preview.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm class previews (part 1)

As the impending doom of the Cataclysm looms ever closer, Blizzard has granted it's heroes a small preview of the changes to come that will prepare them for this great disaster. After being announced officially (although most of us knew it was coming) at last years Blizzcon, Blizzard has kept a fairly tight lid on things that will be happening to the game in Cataclysm. With the Cataclysm website getting only a few scant updates, players were left mainly to their own thoughts and ideas as to how Blizzard will take WoW to the next level. This week however, that all changed as Blizzard has rolled out a small preview for each class (except for pallies, unfortunatly they have to wait until next week :( ) to give a taste of the new abilities, talents and changes that will be happening once Cataclysm drops later this year.

Before I get into the good stuff let's recap the changes that we know are coming.

1. The return of Deathwing:

No we aren't dreaming, possibly the best villain in the entire WarcCraft lore is finally making a comeback. Not having made an appearance at all in WoW, and only being mentioned in passing (in regards to his two offspring Onyxia and Nefarion) most players in WoW probably won't even know who he is. Deathwing (real name: Neltharion) is the leader of the Black Dragonflight, and was at one point the Earth Warden and arguably the most powerful of all the Dragon Aspects (whom are Malygos, Alexstrasza, Yszera and Nozdormu). Driven mad by whispers of an Old God (possibly our good friend Yogg-Saron) Neltharion shed his mantle and took up that of Deathwing the Destroyer much to the dismay of the other Dragonflights. Alas, Deathwing was pushed back by the combined might of the Aspects, however they were unable to destroy him. For countless years he has been waiting, deep under the crust of Azeroth, for his time to strike. That time... is now.

2. The Cataclysm:

After regaining his power inside of his subterranean domain, Deathwing is once again ready to terrorize and destroy the denizens of Azeroth. Erupting from the very crust of Azeroth itself and causing the great Cataclysm, Deathwing has returned. The sheer force and power of Deathwing's entry into the realm of Azeroth has caused shockwaves that will be felt all over the world. The world of Azeroth has been torn asunder, deserts are now lush and full of life whereas the Oasis of old have been smashed into oblivion. The entire landscape of Azeroth has been marred by this great event, and it will allow players to undertake new journeys in Azeroth as they explore this "new" world. All zones have been transformed and as such players will have to find new paths in which to progress through the early levels of the game (1-60) as well as a plethora of new quests to undertake.

3. Increased level cap:

The heroes of Azeroth are currently ill prepared for the return of the Destroyer and will have to season themselves again if they plan to stop the dreaded Deathwing. Although typically Blizzard has granted players the ability to go an additional 10 levels (60-70, 70-80), this time around however you will only be leveling to 85.

4. Flying mounts in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms:

Players will now be able to use their flying mounts in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms. However there hasn't been any word on whether it will require new training or if there will be a level requirement to do so (like cold weather flying in Northrend).

5. The Maelstrom:

A constant reminder of the atrocities committed in the past by the Highborne, the Maelstrom churns eternally between the two great continents. Underneath the chaos though, is a beautiful underwater world rich with life that players will have to explore if they want to become powerful enough to face the dreaded Deathwing and emerge victorious.

6. Two new races, Worgen and Goblin:

While the great Cataclysm has wrought much destruction in the world of Azeroth, it is not without gain. The great wall surrounding the kingdom of Gilneas (erected to keep the Scourge at bay) has been shattered. But a great darkness has enveloped the people, causing them to become Worgen. Old alliances have been reforged and the Worgen take their place alongside the heroes of the Alliance.

On the other side of the coin, the Goblins have found themselves without a home, as the great cataclysm has brought nothing but chaos and invaders to their home isles. Both taking pity and seeing an opportunity, the Horde has welcomed the Goblins into their ranks.

7. New class combination's:

If the heroes of Azeroth ever hope to defeat this unrelenting evil, they must open themselves up to new endeavours. Coming with Cataclysm players will enjoy new class combinations such as Tauren Paladins and Priests, Human Hunters, Undead Hunters, Orc Mages, Troll Druids, Blood Elf Warriors, Dwarf Mages and Shamans, Night Elf Mages, and Gnome Priests.

8. Guild leveling system:

Arguably one of the coolest features in Cataclysm, is the ability to gain guild XP through various ways. This can include individual player leveling, killing progression bosses in dungeons and raids, PvP events such as battlegrounds and Arena and various other activities that players will have to discover for themselves. The benefits of leveling your guild are worth the trouble, things like cheaper repair bills and mass resurrections are just some of the talents that will be available in the guild talent tree.

9. New profession and player advancement system:

A new secondary profession, Archaeology, has been introduced into the game that will coincide with the player advancement system known as the Path of the Titans. Path of the Titans is a system that will allow players to further customize and progress their characters after they have reached 85. Players can expect to choose from multiple paths that will lead to unique and interesting bonuses that will help keep players feeling refreshed and eliminate the "cookie cutter" mentality that is currently present in WoW. Archaeology has been implemented to support the Path of the Titans allowing players to discover ancient treasures and artifacts that will help you progress through the Path of the Titans.

10. New (and old) raid content

let's face it, without raid content would anyone still play WoW? With that in mind Blizzard has promised that Cataclysm will feature more raid content than ever before. With multiple raids open to players the minute they ding 85 as well as bringing some old raid bosses back, such as Ragnaros and Nefarion (I admit I squealed with glee when I heard they were making a return). Also coming to the table are heroic versions of classic instances like Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines, so once again Van Cleef can challenge you and your friends.

11. Sweeping changes to the talent and player stat system

Blizzard has not turned a deaf ear to the millions of players out there that have been crying out for a more streamlined and effective stat system. Coming in Cataclysm players will find some stats such as Defense, Attack Power, and Armor Penetration removed from items in the game. Players will still be able to gain said stats however it will be through talents, abilities and accumulation of more traditional stats like Strength, Agility, Intellect, Spirit and Stamina. Also Blizzard has added a new stat called Mastery, which will simply make you better at your chosen spec (for example a Resto Shaman will find their heals heal for more). Accompanying these changes will be an overhaul of the talent system. Blizzard has promised to get rid of passive talents that players feel they have to get or their spec will be broken. Talents like passive 5% crit will become a thing of the past while new talents will take their place. Also, the more points you spend in a talent tree, the more effective you will become in said tree (this applies only to the tree you spend the most points in). I will go into the details of what Mastery will do to individual classes and specs when I preview the coming class changes.

Well that about covers everything that we know is happening in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Check back everyday over the next week (and beyond) as I will be bringing you detailed analysis and theory crafting all the new class changes that have been preview earlier this week.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Transformers: War For Cybertron multiplayer classes trailer

I think it's safe to say that anyone in my generation (and probably a few others) holds the Transformers franchise very close to their inner child. Well...maybe not the entire franchise as there have been some less than desirable spin-offs over the years. Thankfully though for the next entry into the gaming industry, they seem to have gotten the picture. People want the original transformers, they want Optimus, not some crazy over the top rendition. War For Cybertron is just that while at the same time retaining some artistic freedom.

This game first piqued my interest a little while back when it was just circulating as a rumor. I never thought in a million years that a game developer would ever think of something so genius (hell even I never thought of it). That stroke of genius being to take the Transformers universe, strip it down to it's roots (pre-earth) and make a 3rd person shooter that can be quickly compared to Gears of War (except you can turn into a jet...take that locust). War For Cybertron is without a doubt the game I am most excited for this year, and for good reason.

In the clip below that was just released today, you will see some of their plans for the multiplayer part of the game. An actual war that players will participate in, not just by logging in and fragging their way to a victory but by actually taking a personal approach to the war that cost so many autobots and decepticons their lives. In War For Cybertron players will actually be able to create their own autobot or decepticon and give them a class which will add quite a bit of depth and strategy instead of just mindless shooting. Unfortunatly the process doesn't look very robust at the moment, but the game is still a ways away and for all we know this could just be a teaser.

Stay tuned for more updates as we get closer to the tentative release date in June.

Also, all you WoW fans should check back over the next few days as all the major class changes in Cataclysm are being preview and I'll be bringing all the juicy details right here.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

April Fools Round-up

Well it's time to round up the biggest and best jokes from this April Fools. I do have to apologize for taking so long in writing this post but I wanted to make sure I had scoured the net for only the best in this years jests. This year had quite a few names taking part in the festivities from iconic Google and Blizzard to the smaller Escapist and ThinkGeek. Since there were so many, I'm only going to list the top 3 (in my opinion of course). Well, without further ado, let's get started!

1. Blizzard

The kings of April Fools are back and as usual have spared no expense in trying to fool the masses. While focusing mostly on fooling the denizens of Azeroth, they haven't forgotten about their other IP's. Even digging deep into their archives to bring you Blackthorne 2: Thorne Harder (sorry I can't stop laughing everytime I read that haha) one of the two games that will catapult them into the mobile gaming industry. The other being Queens Quest, a hilarious StarCraft take on the great text adventure Kings Quest. Head on over to Blizzard's announce page for all the details.

Also from Blizzard we have a couple Diablo themed jokes as usual. Firstly is Blizzards take on those ridiculous full body blankets with the Diablo 3 Deckard Cain X-Treme Gamer Blanket. As silly as it might sound, just for pure giggles I probably would actually pick one of these up (I think it's the book that does it for me xD). That's not all from our good friend Deckard Cain though, he's also cooked up a voice pack for your GPS. Now you'll never have to work up the courage to run a red light when you have Deckard Cain telling you that the hordes of hell are driving right up your tailpipe.

World of Warcraft keeps up with tradition by adding the E.P.E.E.N system and the Neural Interface. As if players in WoW didn't have enough to make newbies feel insignificant, Blizzard thought it good to add in the E.P.E.E.N (Equipement Potency EquivalencE Number) system. Basically every time you get a piece of gear it adds to your score, higher scores put you in higher tiers. The higher you go, the more bonuses you get, like a larger ignore list and a higher change to roll high on your need/greed rolls, and also anyone who isn't in your tier can't talk to you, so no more getting whispered for gold in Orgrimmar! As for the Neural Interface...well the photo below speaks for itself...

Also if anyone was checking their Armory over the past few days would have noticed that everyone in Azeroth was a Tuskarr (oh the humanity...)...

2. YouTube

While there are far more April Fools jokes on YouTube than I can probably count, there are 2 highlights. First up we have a trailer for Team Fortresses take on Law Abiding Citizen with Law Abiding Engineer. While the other is something I kind of wish they would add as a permanent feature. If you looked at a couple game trailers on YouTube over the past few days you might have noticed the option to turn the video into ASCII (an image comprised completely of text, see below).

3. Penny Arcade

The great web comics themselves have dived headfirst into the festivities by announcing their second attempt at gaming. The worlds first web comic based fighter. While not exactly something April Foolsish as I'm sure this game would actually probably sell, I know I'd like to pit Gabe against Leo from VGcats (rat morning-star FTW).

There were plenty more where these came from, if you want to see the entire list of gaming related pranks, head on over to Kotaku and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Downloadable Content and You

Having games that rely on online features is nothing new, but only in the last couple of years have gamers (and more importantly, game studios) really embraced the power of online. If I asked you 10 years ago where you buy your games (or at least a majority of them) the answer would have been at your local game/department store, and rightfully so as it was the only place you could get it all in one shiny package. Not to mention that at that time, the only games you could find online were quirky, and sometimes obscene, flash games (I remember spending countless hours at during my high school years). But if I were to ask you today where you buy your games, the answers would be a lot different.

Maybe it's because gamers don't care so much for all the frills that come with buying a game from your local game shop, maybe it's the price difference, or maybe it's got more basic reasons like not having to leave your house. Whatever the reason is, more and more gamers are buying their games online, and why not? With online retailers like Steam, Stardock, and Direct 2 Drive it's never been a better time to join the bandwagon. For the same price (in fact usually less) gamers can now buy their games (currently PC only) from online retailers like Steam and have them downloaded directly to their computer and installed at the same time. Depending on the game the entire process takes on average about 2 hours. The other upside to online purchases is that platforms like Steam also manage your games. This means that whenever there is a patch, it will automatically update your game the next time you go to launch it. This may seem like a no-brainer but you'd be surprised how many studios out there don't incorporate it into their games.

But what about all you console lovers out there? are you still forced to go out to your local shop? Well... Yes and no actually. All of the current generation of consoles have an online store, Nintendo's Wii has the Wii Shop Channel, Sony's PlayStation 3 has the PlayStation Network Store, and Microsoft's Xbox 360 has the Marketplace. All of the above are a great place to find various goodies to make your gaming experience more enjoyable. Mostly available are wallpapers, themes, demos, trailers and the like. But they also have games from indie developers that don't make it to your local game stores. Games like Titan Studio's Fat Princess, are amazing full games in their own right but they just don't have the big budgets or price tags that come with store bought console games. Does this make them any less enjoyable? quite the opposite actually. I've had a blast with games like Fat Princess, which can be a refreshing break from the norm of mainstream gaming. Indie developers tend to take more liberal choices in designing their games, which is a very welcome change in the industry.

That's not all that's offered either, you can also delve into the world of Downloadable Content (DLC) which helps to expand your gaming experiences. DLC can come in various forms, from changing the skin (how your character(s) look in game) of various characters to adding new weapons, levels, enemies, and challenges to your favorite games. Sometimes DLC comes as a bonus when pre-ordering the game, other times it can be found in your respective stores but regardless DLC is usually a must have. Take Bioware's recent hit Dragon Age: Origins which just released a DLC pack title Awakening, which adds an entire new campaign with new party members, spells, increased level cap and new dungeons to explore. That's quite hard to ignore and makes for games that last longer than it takes to beat them once and put them on the shelf to gather dust.

So I ask you to take a break from going to your local game shop and embrace the downloadable generation. Take a peek through some of the online stores, you will find there are quite a few gems among them. And stay tuned as I'll be adding downloadable games to my reviews

Monday, March 29, 2010

Technorati Verification

Hey all,

Just posting a verification code to get my blog added to the Technorati database, so just disregard this post :P


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Review: God of War 3, this is spartaaaaa!!!

Kratos is back for his 4th (he also starred in God of War: Chains of Olympus for the PSP, a prequel to the series) and supposedly final installment of the God of War series. While the game is really nothing new, they have added a few very cool gameplay features and have dramatically improved the visuals, to the point where this is probably the best looking game I have ever seen. It's the classic case of "if it ain't broke don't fix it".

The God of War franchise is best known for it's gratuitous amounts of violence and non-stop action, however that would all be meaningless if not for the epic story that drives the series. You play Kratos, a Spartan who essentially sold his soul to Ares, the God of War, in order to save him and his men from certain death...bad move. With Ares holding his leash, Kratos is sent into a bloodrage killing everyone in sight, including his own wife and daughter. This breaks Kratos free of his insanity and begins a hatred for the gods of Olympus, who conveniently require his aid in bringing down the rogue God of War. With the help of the rest of the gods, Kratos defeates Ares and becomes the God of War, but he is plagued by visions and dreams of his past deeds while under the control of Ares. This ignites a fire of hatred in Kratos and he swears to bring all of Olympus down, and see his father Zeus, dead at his feet. God of War 3 is the culmination of the story and starts with you leading the charge of the Titans towards the top of Mount Olympus to enact your revenge. Will you have what it takes to defeat the God of Gods, and bring Mount Olympus crashing down?


It's very hard to formulate into words the visual experience you get from playing God of War 3. The environments are simply breathtaking in both textures, lighting and scope. Character models are beautifully rendered and even though your a big hulk of a man, make proportional sense. There is one major blemish on an otherwise perfect record and it comes fairly early in the game as you are climbing the Chain of Balance, if you keep an eye out (trust me it's very hard to miss) you'll see it sticks out like a sore thumb. I'm not sure how they managed to miss it but the rest of the game runs at a smooth and gorgeous 60 fps no matter how much carnage is going on the screen at any given time. Speaking of carnage, you will be very hard pressed to find a game that actually makes you cringe as you play it (I couldn't help but say "ow" as Helios found himself without his head as I ripped it clean off with my bare hands). Kratos has an impressive arsenal of some very cool looking weapons that allow you to take on the hordes of Olympus with a style and brutality fitting of the franchise. All that aside, the crowning achievement by far is that the game does not run any cinematic cutscenes, only in-game cutscenes so you can see the amount of care and dedication that went into making this as immersive as an experience as one can get.


An epic story deserves an equal audio experience, and God of War 3 doesn't fail to deliver. With quite an impressive voice cast (Michael Clark Duncan and Rip Torn to name a few) to support the brilliant and life-like visuals. And with a musical score brought right from ancient times, you will truly feel like you are transported to a world long past.


"If it ain't broke don't fix it" must have been the mantra for development at Sony's Santa Monica studios. While you will find nothing new or groundbreaking in God of War 3, there is plenty to keep you from putting the controller down. God of War 3 does run a little short in the amount of time it will take you to complete (I clocked 9 hours on Hard) but it offers plenty of replay value in the form of running through the game again in a different skin (a different model for Kratos, however doing so also does add bonuses and negatives) or playing through the various challenge modes. This shouldn't scare you away, quite the opposite actually as the game does an incredible job of pulling you into the world of Greek mythology. Everything you do makes you feel epic and powerful, while at the same time the stunning environments and enemies you fight do a great job of putting you in your place, puny mortal.


If there is anything that could have used some tweaking, it's definitely in the controls. While they do allow for easy input of combo's, I found myself usually getting smacked around as I pulled out my bow instead of the head of Helios to blind enemies. I also found that the controls were a tad unresponsive when it came to using the right stick to dodge, I could move the stick in a direction and about half a second later Kratos would dive. That's a pretty big window to get impaled at the end of a centaur's spear, and trust me it doesn't tickle. Something as simple as allowing the user to swap control buttons for certain actions (ie. blocking, casting magic or weapon swapping) would make a world difference. All things considered though it doesn't break the game or make it unplayable, although it does add some frustrating moments but hey we are gamers right?


The story - GoW3 has possibly one of the most epic storylines I've ever played through. You can feel the rage and sorrow of Kratos as he continually trudges forward on his quest for vengeance. And the supporting cast isn't too shabby either, my favorite moments of the game were actually watching Kratos interact with the various gods, titans and divine beings throughout the game.

Scale - This game is huge, although linear in how you traverse them, the environments sprawl out as far as the eye can see. Whether your riding on the back of a Titan scaling mount Olympus, flying through the Icarus vents using your ill-gotten wings, or just walking through the beautifully rendered environments you feel very much like a mortal in a world of the gods.

Weapon arsenal - There are some really, really cool weapons and combo's in this game. Even the basic starting weapon (the Chains of Olympus) when fully powered up are capable of some brutal attacks. As the game progresses and you attain new weapons, accessories and spells as well as using the souls of the defeated to empower them, you can pull of some pretty crazy combo's that will leave your enemies in the dust.

Boss battles - It's been awhile since I've seen a proper boss battle in a game, and it's been worth the wait. GoW3's boss battles are truly epic and deserving of a battle with a god. The battles are extremely well scripted and quite unforgiving to those who just want to button mash their way to the final quick-time event that will lead to the bosses head on the floor. Speaking of the quick-time events, button usage wise they haven't changed from previous versions of the game however they possibly have gotten more brutal with the dramatically increased visuals GoW3 provides us with.


The controls - Maybe I'm being too critical but I felt that the controls were pretty stiff and unforgiving in certain situations. Not to mention that on more than one occasion (usually while jumping from cliff to cliff) the controls just simply refused to do what I told them. On the bright side the game is very lenient in checkpoints so if it happens to you fear not, at most you'll be set back about 5 minutes. I do feel that all these troubles could have been avoided if they had allowed for some user customization of the control scheme.

GoW3 is a must play for any PS3 owner. The unbelievably epic sense of scope and unrelenting brutality of the combat makes for an incredible experience that simply should not be missed.

9.5/10 - Perfection

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Patch Day!

Yesterday patch 3.3.3 rolled out onto US World of Warcraft servers, and it's surprisingly a big one. Unfortunately there isn't a new dungeon or raid instance to gather your friends and go smash, but there is plenty of content, UI, and mechanic updates to freshen things up a bit before the Ruby Sanctum becomes available in 3.3.5.

As stated above this patch is filled with tons of goodies, from new vendors to new pets and mounts and even some streamlining changes to the battleground system. For starters there has been a new Icecrown questline added that starts from an item that drops off of the Lich King. I'm not sure if it will drop in all versions of the LK encounter but considering it rewards a unique Deathcharger mount (colored according to faction) I would assume that it drops only in the heroic 10 and 25 versions of the encounter.

On the topic of mounts, a couple more have also been added to the client in this version. Firstly are the 2 new WoWTCG reward mounts, the Wooly White Mammoth and the Blazing Hippogryph. As most of you know the future of the WoWTCG is uncertain as UDE announced earlier this year that they will not be working with Blizzard anymore to continue the game, however Blizzard has said that it isn't the end of the WoWTCG and to stay tuned for updated. The inclusion of these 2 new reward mounts to the game lends credibility to Blizzards statement and hopefully means we will see the Wrathgate expansion soon afterall, until then these 2 mounts are unobtainable. Secondly is another mount of unknown source, the X-53 Touring Rocket, which looks to be the first multi-passenger flying mount. Lastly is the Frosty Flying Carpet, a tailoring only mount, that is purchasable from the new vendor Frozo the Renowned in Dalaran (I'll go into more detail about him later in the post). Last but certainly not least in this case is the Celestial Steed mount, which looks like they took Invincible (Arthas's mount) and turned him into Algalon. Like the WoWTCG reward mounts, the Celestial Steed eludes me on how we are supposed to obtain it, but as soon as information comes to light I'll be sure to let you know as it's probably one of the best looking mounts since the A'lar mount off of Kael'Thas back in Burning Crusade.

Also included in this patch is a slew of new non-combat pets that can be acquired from a few different places. First up are 3 new toys from Jepetto Joybuzz (the toyshop owner in Dalaran), the Blue Clockwork Rocket Bot, the Blue Crashin' Thrashin' Racer Controller and a Tiny Blue Ragdoll. The other 2 pets added in this content patch also have mystery drop locations. One is most likely going to be purchasable from the blizzard store as he shares a similar name with one already sold there(Lil'KT), he is Lil'XT (a boss from the Ulduar raid instance). Lil'XT shares the animations of his big brother and also comes with his own voice, a first for non-combat pets. The other pet also shares similarities, with the Celestial Steed, he is the Celestial Dragon and like his big brother, his drop location is currently unknown.

One of the bigger additions to the patch is Frozo the Renowned who has moved into the Dalaran Magus Commerce Exchange and will be selling various items in exchange for Frozen Orbs (they finally have a use, huzzah!). For just 1 Frozen Orb you will be able to purchase all of the Eternal elements (Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Life and Shadow) as well as Frost Lotus, finally you won't have to scrounge through the AH to make your flasks! Also available for purchase are Runed Orbs (for 4 Frozen Orbs), Crusader Orbs (for 6) and the pattern for the Frosty Flying Carpet (tailors only, also for 6 Frozen Orbs).

Speaking of professions there have been a slew of changes to existing recipes. The biggest change by far is the removal of cooldowns on all transmuting, the big ones being Titansteel, Ebonweave, Spellweave and Moonshroud. All the other changes are reductions to Ulduar item-level craftable item materials, so you should expect to see a 2-3k price drop on most servers (now is the time to gear out the plethora of alts most of you probably have).

The final major changes this patch have to do with The Culling of Stratholme and Battlegrounds. Players will now be able to skip the ridiculously long RP (Role Playing) scene at the beginning of the instance and teleport straight to the first wave of mobs. Never has Chromie looked so good =D. Also of note are some subtle changes to the Dungeon Finder tool. The first being that the Deserter debuff has been increased from 15min to 30min, so don't be so quick to leave a group or you could be waiting quite a while for a new one. On that same vein, when initiating a kick for a player in your group you must now provide a reason for kicking said player, this will not be seen by the player being voted so don't be shy in your reasoning.

As stated previously there has been a rather large change implemented to the existing Battlegrounds system which borrows heavily from the Dungeon Finder tool. The daily Call to Arms quest is now a thing of the past, as PvP goers now have their own Battleground Finder tool to use. Players can now queue for either a random Battleground or the Call to Arms of the day from anywhere in Azeroth (and Outland!) and will get a bonus for the first win (it doesn't count if you lose, so don't worry!) of the day. This bonus is worth 30 extra Honorable Kills worth of Honor, as well as 25 Arena Points so it's a great way to build PvP sets. For any subsequent uses of the tool, the bonus is reduced to 15 HK's worth of bonus honor and you won't get any Arena Points. Also of note is the removal of all Battleground Marks (Players will be able to turn in existing marks for a Commendation of Service which will grant you 185 honor per commendation). With the Battleground marks being removed, the prices on all PvP has been adjusted accordingly, so high end PvP gear will cost you in the ballpark of 25k honor. Mounts have also had their prices changed to just honor and are 50k per mount.

Well that looks to be all the major changes, there have been a slew of buffs, nerfs and fixes to various items, dungeons and classes so head on over to if you want to view the complete patch notes.

On a side note, this might be the funniest thing I've seen in awhile....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nintendo Announces 3DS

It's finally here, the day us Nintendo lovers have all been waiting for. The day that Nintendo finally announces their next generation handheld. Currently using the codename Nintendo 3DS (presumably a working name, but you never know they have used worse) it will debut at this years E3 in all it's handheld glory. In true Nintendo fashion, they've only let a little bit of information out to us. What we know so far is that it is indeed the next generation console, so that means all new games (huzzah!). We also know that the system will be backwards compatible with all DS and DSi games including downloadable DSiware games.

That's all well and good, and mostly to be expected, but this is Nintendo we are talking about here, so what's the real reason to make a new handheld when the DS (and all it's incarnations) are doing so well? The answer is 3D, uh-huh, as in 3-Dimensional (the stuff that pops out of the screen at you). The aptly codenamed 3DS will utilize 2 screens and a host of other features such as motion sensing and multiple camera's to immerse users in a 3D handheld experience.

The full list of features will be both confirmed and unveiled at this years E3 as well as a more solid release date (as of this post it's dated for Nintendo's next fiscal year, April 2010 - March 2011). I'm very interested to see where they go with this and how they can make a system 3D without the use of glasses.

Stay tuned for more posts as information gets released...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Review: Heavy Rain, it's gonna be a wet one...

Heavy Rain, released Feb. 23 2010, is Sony's latest exclusive for the PS3. Developed by Quantic Dream (the guys who brought us the fabled Indigo Prophecy on the original XBOX), the game explores a world rich with characters, intrigue and plenty of heart-stopping moments. Dubbed THE psychological thriller of this generation, it doesn't disappoint in the slightest. The game's ability to rely completely on the use of quick-time events (specifically timed button presses) to control the game is executed perfectly and makes for a more cinematic experience the draws you deep into mystery.

Plot Summary:
How far are you willing to go to save someone you love? Not something you think or talk about on a daily basis, but at the same time not altogether unfamiliar. It's the underlying edge that drives Heavy Rain through it's emotionally turbulent (to say the least) forecast. The story revolves around several characters although if you had to select a main character it would be Ethan Mars, a father of two who tragically loses his oldest son in a car accident when he loses sight of him in a crowded mall, and that's just the beginning. The story takes many dark twists and turns as it hops between the 4 playable characters; Ethan Mars, FBI special investigator Norman Jayden, private investigator Scott Shelby and Madison Page who suffers from chronic insomnia. All of whom are involved in some way with the mysterious Origami killer whose latest victim just happens to be the son of Ethan Mars, who in a way almost taken directly from "Saw" has to overcome a series of tests to save his son from certain death.



I remember when I saw the first teasers and tech demo's for Heavy Rain a couple of years ago, that I was completely blown away with how real everything looked. Now I don't just mean that if you stopped to look at the scenery it looked like real footage, I mean that the characters and the environments they are in looked believable, and they delivered. The guys over at Quantic Dream have taken the industry a step forward by using realistic character emotions, in other words the characters don't always have the same look on their face. This makes for some really engaging storytelling as you feel a much larger personal link to the characters than you normally would in traditional games. It also makes for some great visuals as the characters are beautifully rendered and animated so fluidly that at times you feel like the game is just one big cinematic. The game isn't without it's shortcomings though, despite it's strengths in this area. Some less important characters, environments, and items (like telephones, pots, anything the characters interact with etc...) are very poorly done and stick out like a sore thumb against the far better done backgrounds and characters. Thankfully these breaks in the splendor are short lived and far between.


In a game where so much revolves around the experience and story, it's nice to see that they were able to get a musical score that fits the bill and good voice acting. The characters sound believable and the dialogue isn't altogether too cheesy although there are a few moments, as to be expected. I do recommend playing with subtitles turned on however, as some of the sound levels can get a bit wonky at times and you won't be able to make out that important piece of story.


Much like Quantic Dream's XBOX title Indigo Prochecy, Heavy Rain isn't played using conventional means. The game is almost entirely controlled by quick time events (you do get to control where to walk, however that's about all of your freedom) which let you interact with the world and also fight when needed. At first glance it may seem odd or scary to have to play an entire game using only times button presses but thanks to some intuitiveness, it never gets stale. Some interactions have you use the analog sticks (such as opening doors or putting on Norman Jayden's ARI sunglasses computer) while others (such as getting Scott Shelby's puffer ready for use) require you to take advantage of the PS3 controllers built in six-axis motion technology by shaking it in various directions. The other cool thing that has never been done before is tracking the speed in which you carry out certain events that will reflect in the in game animations, for example if you motion with the stick to slowly put on the sunglasses, the animation will take longer in game. But the real treat here is that not everything gives you a second chance, the game isn't afraid to kill off characters and drastically alter the story just because you were taking a drink and couldn't mash the X button fast enough. This is what really seperates Heavy Rain from it's competitors, everything you do (or don't do) in the game has a consequence be it good or bad. Even in fight scenes, normally if you miss a button press the scene will restart and restart until you get the sequence correct, while in Heavy Rain if you miss an event action you'll find the fight will take a different path than if you did it correctly. This really draws you in and immerses you in the story so that you feel responsible for everything that happens in the game.


Heavy Rain is a must play through for any PS3 owner, and for those who don't have a PS3 go watch it at a friends house. The story is extremely compelling and highly addictive, you simply won't want to stop playing just because you want to see what happens next. And because of the use of quick time events as a control mechanic, there isn't a lot of time wasted learning menu systems or combos. It also allows for multiple people to sit down and play the game start to finish, perhaps filling up the spot your favorite TV show used to?

Although Heavy Rain is a must play, and an extremely satisfying game, there are a few issues. As previously stated not everything in the game is treated with the same meticulous care, and it shows. Certain objects that the characters interact with are inexcusably poorly done (jagged lines and pixelated textures plague most non-static objects) to the point where it almost makes you laugh, which in a game as dark as this, kind of kills the mood. The only other real issue is how you navigate around the world (in the few times it gives you free reign). Instead of your classic controls of left stick move and right stick camera, Heavy Rain adopts a control scheme more akin to a racing game. Holding R2 controls your movement speed (just a little pressure to walk, and full grip to run) and you use the left stick to steer. It will throw you off at first but after awhile you will grow accustomed to it, although there are a few times where combined with changes in the camera angles, it was pretty bad.

Final Verdict:

8/10 - Excellent