Sunday, April 26, 2015

Screenshot of the Week #35: Only in GTA V!

                This was a week full of expenditures. I decided in the end to get GTA V, mostly for the online component, so I bought it at the beginning of this week, then Killing Floor 2 Early access came on Tuesday and I couldn’t say no to that!
                GTA V is better than I expected, still I feel the game is overhyped, there are plenty of annoying problems and questionable game mechanics to drag down the game. The online mode could be better and it feels clunky with an odd grouping system and an extremely annoying number of loading screens (almost everything you do adds a loading screen!). Some of the problems are questionable design choices or probably engine limitations and I doubt they will get fixed. But even despite these issues, GTA V is fun and offers a lot of gameplay options to satisfy almost every type of gamer.
                Killing Floor 2 Early Access is quite amazing. The game is extremely polished for a testing phase and the only thing it lacks is content. The leaps made by Tripwire Interactive with their new title are visible and the game is a true sequel. The gory and satisfying combat with awesome animations and brutal physics is a total delight. The enhanced AI makes the game extremely challenging on higher difficulties and requires a lot of teamwork. When updates and mods will start to pour in, the replay value of this game will be sky high.
A normal day!

                I posted another review this week and there are more to come. I’m working on two articles about Killing Floor 2, one being an Early Access review and the other is a small beginner’s guide. At least one of them will be posted in the upcoming week, maybe both, if things go well.
                I’ve posted my Pillars of Eternity Review on reddit and things went better than I expected, I got some comments and tones of views. I did avoid reddit in the past because I tried to post there and it was unsuccessful, but I’m reconsidering this for future articles.
                The Witcher 3 release is closing in and I’m trying hard to post as much as possible (without diminishing the quality) so I can take a few days off from writing articles (and work) to beat the game and write a in depth review about it.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Resident Evil Revelations 2 Review!

                Back in the day, the Resident Evil name made players think about true survival horror, but the priorities have shifted over the years, and now, after almost two decades, how much of the survival horror feeling does the franchise still have?

                Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is the tenth installment in Capcom’s survival horror franchise. The game was delivered through an episodic format with episode one being released on February 24 and the last episode being released on March 17 together with the retail version of the game.
                Revelations 2 starts with Claire Redfield attending a party at Terra Save HQ, a non-governmental organization bent on aiding people affected by bioterrorism, alongside her friend Moira Burton which was recently hired by the organization. The headquarters is attacked by paramilitary troops which abduct the people attending the party. Claire wakes up in an abandoned prison with a strange bracelet on her hand and after quickly finding Moira they go on exploring the island in search for answers. It turns out that the two are not the only survivors and someone who goes by the name of Overseer is toying with the survivors.
                The story of Revelations 2 features a total of four episodes for the main campaign and two extra episodes to fill some of the story gaps. Each episode is split in two parts, the first part showing the struggles of Claire Redfield and Moira Burton as the two work together in order to stay alive and find answers about what’s happening on the island where they are kept prisoners. The second part follows Barry Burton responding to a radio signal and arriving at the island after six months and he is helped to backtrack his daughter’s actions by a surviving girl named Natalia.
The game follows in the steps of the older Resident Evil games relaying on suspense and mystery more than action gameplay, which makes Revelations 2 more of a survival horror than many of the previous releases in the series.
                The writing isn’t the greatest and I found it quite funny at times as characters with so much background in the fight against bioterrorism are so easily surprised by monsters and events that are quite ordinary in this universe. The dialogues between characters are good and the story, while simple, is captivating and takes full advantage of the episodic design with intertwined action to raise the thrill of the climactic moments.
                The campaign design is excellent, while many of the areas repeat in both parts of an episode, many of the actions of Claire and Moira have an impact for when playing with Burton and Natalia. Paths can be changed and new rooms can be unlocked helping the second team in their journey.
                The atmosphere created in the singleplayer campaign can be terrifying at times. Even if the game is using some of the horror clichés and many common tricks they are still pretty effective and I was caught off guard a few times, jumping from my chair and losing control of my mouse (I still blame Silent Hill 2 for this!).
                Despite only taking roughly ten hours to finish, the main campaign was extremely entertaining. There is a lot of replay value in it as the story has two different endings and the game cannot be fully explored in the first playthrough because by opening some paths sometimes others get closed. There is also a classic unlocks system which can add various modes to the campaign to make it more different and challenging.
Teaming up.
In the name of science right?!?!

                Resident Evil Revelations 2 does use the more conventional over the shoulder 3rd person camera instead of the old style fixed camera but for the most part the gameplay has the feeling of an old school survival horror.
The combination of exploration, puzzle solving and shooting with a few moments where scripted events dictate the pace of the action make for an entertaining gameplay.
                The level design is pretty good despite the overused clichés of conveniently arranged ramps and rubble bridges to pass on. Most of the areas are created to be played from two different perspectives and while this might sound like a lazy design choice, it actually feels right. Not only it has a greater feeling and value for the story, but the action is different enough not to feel repetitive.
                The puzzles add more depth to the gameplay compared to previous titles which ignored this feature completely. The ability to control the two characters in the team was the axis around which the puzzles were designed and this fits the action of the game perfectly.
The number of puzzles isn’t too large and their difficulty isn’t that high to become an impediment, some of them are even optional and just provide more resources or a different weapon to replace the existing ones.
Puzzling cemetery...

                Revelations 2 follows the standard game mechanics for this genre when it comes to combat with no option for hip fire as the shooting always requires aiming first and small QTEs to solve some close combat fights. The variety of weapons is large enough for both teams to enjoy different weapons and the upgrading system makes things a little more interesting and encourages the exploration.
The resources are fairly balanced, on normal difficulty there were enough ammunition boxes and healing herbs to use without having to worry all the time. Still, resources should not be spent recklessly as there are moments in the game when the action goes crazy and ammunition is a life saver (beware, when there is too much ammo around something is wrong!). Stealth kills and melee finishers are a good way to save some ammunition.
                The combat system is helped immensely through monster variety and the enemies AI. For the most part of the campaign, each team encounters different monsters with different abilities and weaknesses greatly avoiding monotony.
The AI also does a very good job at keeping the combat engaging when it doesn’t go plain stupid. The zombies move in zigzag to avoid being shot and do their best to protect their weakest spots. On the other hand, the companions AI is quite poor and expect to waste resources and time to deal with the problems they cause.
Many of the monsters might not be so dangerous when they are alone and in open field, but they become a real threat when ambushing or attacking in bigger groups.
You won't see this one coming!
I clearly need a revolver

                To help with battling bio organic weapons, Revelations 2 has a skill system where the four characters abilities can be enhanced. I found this off-putting as it turned the game even more to the arcade side than it was necessary. The skills include immunity to damage and other nonsense that should not be present into a survival horror game. The experience necessary for leveling up these skills is awarded even by finding jewels or through performance rating after completing a level. Without too much stress, by the end of the game I’ve managed to unlock more than half of the skills and I had many points unspent.
Makes sense!

                A big problem I had with the game comes from the secret loot hunt. There is a spotting ability that the support character of each team has that allows them to notice secret spots which provide extra resources or experience jewels. This turns all the quiet and creepy moments in the game into annoying pixel hunting. Every time I was short on ammo or I wanted to make sure I have enough I was forced to walk around with the supporting characters and search every nook and cranny for extra loot (the game exploited my completist side).
                 Overall, the gameplay in Revelations 2 is a step forward from this franchise’s perspective as it incorporates most of the mechanics, features and feelings that are the most iconic to it. The coop scandal related to the PC version of the game cannot be ignored, but due to the campaign design I think the singleplayer works better without it. But when looking at the big picture it seems like this franchise is stuck somewhere in the past.
After the explosion of indie survival games, the genre has been pushed to new heights in the latest years and this game missed a good opportunity to climb up there.
The unlimited flashlight, the pointless arcade skill tree or the lack of wider maps are just some of the things that I don’t find fitting anymore in this genre. I felt that the developers could have taken some more risks when it comes to gameplay mechanics and the game would have benefited greatly from that.
Strange decorations...
Not annoying at all!

                While there is no Co-op mode for the singleplayer campaign, Revelations 2 makes up for that with the Raid mode.
The Raid mode is a solo or online action minigame with multiple stages where the players have to clear enough monsters to reach the exit. At the end of each stage, the players receive a rank and experience and currency is awarded based on their performance.
The mode features a variety of playable characters from the universe, including Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy. Each character has their own starting skills and can be further customized through a leveling system. There is a continually upgrading system for weapons and characters that can go up to level 100.
On top of the well known characters from the Resident Evil universe, the Raid mode also features some monsters and locations from previous games.
                While this mode lacks in complexity focusing more on action arcade gameplay, it is quite fun and with an online ladder and enough customization, the Raid mode can keep the game alive for a long time after the campaign is over. Knowing the potential of this mode, Capcom has decided to take advantage of the situation with lots of DLCs and an online store dedicated to it.
Bad-ass as always!
Why not?!

                The graphics quality in Revelations 2 reveal more than anything else the fact that this game is a console port. The overall graphics are dusty at best with good characters models being the only truly redeeming quality. It is true that the Resident Evil franchise was never about being up to date with technology, but this feels lazy. For a game released in 2015, Revelations 2 seems technologically outdated by more than four years. The low resolution textures and the lack of graphical effects have a negative impact on immersion and the atmosphere induced by the main campaign.
A mansion, I'm shocked!!

                As with many of the multiplatform games nowadays, Revelations 2 has a great sound design despite the low level graphical fidelity. The music is phenomenal and suited for each setting being the creepy campaign levels or the Raid mode stages and the accompanying sound effects add even more value to this (some of the weapons sound a little strange). The voice acting comes to top off the sound quality, despite the change in actors for the main characters.

Hmm... Claire, you messed up!
The completists heaven or hell!

                In the past few years it was hard to predict where the Resident Evil was heading. The story became harder to follow and full of questionable moments and the gameplay started to move further away from what made these games popular. Now, with the release of Revelations titles and Resident Evil HD Remaster, slowly, the franchise gets back on track.
I have been missing the feeling of this series and while I can’t agree with some of the design choices and I’m bothered by the complete lack of innovation I’m still looking forward towards the next title.

+ Good story with two endings and an actual revelation
+ Good sound effects and music
+ Atmospheric
+ Good enemies AI
+ Puzzles
+ Raid mode
+ Replay value
+ A huge amount of unlocks

- Average graphics at best
- Pixel hunting
- Many arcade elements
- The amount of pointless DLCs
- Cash shop with pay to win items for the Raid mode
- The menu is full of pop-ups and loading screens


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Screenshot of the Week #34: Claire is back!

                This week the Alpha testing for Armored Warfare started again and I still can’t talk about it, but I can say there is a visible progress from the previous testing session and I think the Closed Beta Test / Early Access is getting closer.
                I’ve been toying with the idea of buying Grand Theft Auto V, I’m not sure yet since it is quite expensive, but people everywhere say that the game is great and feels like a PC title, which is something so rare nowadays.
                In the meantime I purchased Resident Evil Revelations 2 and I’m glad I did. This title is so much closer to how this series used to be before it went full action mode and I think is great that is coming back to its roots. But I think the developers could have tried to innovate a little, instead of using the old recipe for the survival horror games. I feel survival genre has leaped forward since DayZ success and older fashion games will have a harder time because of this. Either way, Revelations 2 seems very promising, I’ve finished two episodes and I was quite mesmerized for the time. I missed the series so much and I didn’t realize it until playing another game from it.
She doesn't seem very happy about this.

                Last week I’ve got my first press copy and it was Blue Estate The Game from the HE SAW studio (I’m a semi-pro now!). The game is pretty good for a rail shooter and I’ve already wrote a review about it.
This week I also managed to finish the article about best male characters in video games. The last two parts were quite demanding and required a huge amount of research since I forgot many details about the characters.
                I’ve been working on improving the number of reviews posted per month and I’m doing better already with two reviews this month and one more in the works for Revelations 2. Hopefully, every new game I play and finish will turn into a review and to make this possible I improved my reviewing techniques by taking a huge amount of notes while playing the game (it works quite well).
                The last thing I want to talk about is that I finally got to talk a little with George Weidman (Super Bunnyhop youtube channel) and he gave me some pointers on how to improve my writing and I’m going to follow what he told me and maybe become much better at writing. He did have some good suggestions and recommended me a book on the subject matter which I bought and I’m trying to find time to read it. It is possible for my writing style to go through various changes in the upcoming months, but I hope this will lead to better articles (bear with me).

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Best male characters in video games Part V

Mordin Solus – Mass Effect Series

                Choosing between Mordin, Thane and Legion was extremely difficult. Each of them has an extremely emotional and complicated story that doesn’t end very well, but I had to go with Mordin as he is, overall, probably the best written character in the entire series.
                Mordin is a salarian professor, doctor and expert geneticist. He was part of the salarian Special Task Group and his last mission before retiring was to study the krogan genophage.  When his team discovered that the krogans were naturally overcoming the mutations of the genophage, the team agreed to design a new genophage that will limit the reproduction level of krogans in an attempt to avoid a complete genocide against the krogan race.
During one of the missions to disperse the new genophage, things went wrong and Mordin was severely injured on his face, resulting in scars and a damaged right cranial horn.
                After STG, Mordin dedicated his time to build and maintain a clinic to heal people. Mercenaries and vorcha tried to intimidate him, but he solved the problems by himself, killing everyone who didn’t let him do his work in peace.
                Mordin joined Commander Shepard’s crew in Mass Effect 2 to help in the fight against the Collectors. He runs the tech labs on Normandy doing research to improve armor, weapons and abilities with the resources collected during missions.
                During the events of Mass Effect 3 Mordin helps everyone on Normandy with various problems and assists the krogans on board with his medical knowledge. In the end, he is set on reversing the krogans’ genophage stating that the Reapers’ invasion has caused this change in heart. Later on, Mordin admits he made a mistake by focusing too much on the big picture. He thinks is his responsibility to cure the genophage and is ready to do anything to finish this even if it means going against Shepard’s will. The success of the mission is up in Shepard’s hands, which can shoot Mordin in order to stop him or let him go in the control room of a facility about to explode.
There are many endings to Mordin’s story based on the player’s decisions, but the one I found the most compelling is when Mordin dies in the facility reversing his actions from the past.
                Salarians are a race with a hyperactive metabolism which makes them think, talk and move faster than other races, but with a cost. Salarians have a short life span rarely living past the age of 40 and in this short period of time they try to achieve greatness and so did Mordin.
                Mordin Solus is one of the most intelligent characters found in the Mass Effect series. Possessing the knowledge to perform multiple jobs, he is a great asset to the Normandy’s crew and to Shepard’s team. He refuses to let his personal feelings and conscience get in the way of his judgment, but the repressed emotional feelings build up and are going to explode at some point.
                Mordin handles himself very well in combat using heavy pistols and submachine guns as his firearms. He also has a set of powers including Incinerate, Cryo Blast and Neural Shock. I found him as one of the most balanced party members in Mass Effect 2.
                Despite his actions being justified by the circumstances, Mordin never really lets go of the past and this haunts him until the end. The scars on his face represent a memento for his work during his time in STG. He sees his decision of modifying the genophage as the only option yet he sees the ethics of the mission as terribly disturbing and attempts to find his peace with it by turning to religion, but his problems still remain unresolved. The one thing that probably can redeem Mordin’s actions in his own eyes is to cure the genophage and leave the krogans with the liberty of their actions.
                The complexity and emotional level of this character story blows out of proportions compared to most of the characters in the series. The choices he and the player have to make are incredibly hard and their results are emotional and unpredictable.
Mordin Solus stands as one of the most representative male characters for the Mass Effect series and one of the best male characters of all times.
“Have killed many, Shepard. Many methods. Gunfire, knives, drugs, tech attacks, once with farming equipment. But not with medicine.”
The scars...
Good bye...

JC Denton – Deus Ex

                While Adam Jensen who featured as the protagonist in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a good character and his story will expand with the announcement of Mankind Divided, JC Denton is an actual legend. JC Denton is the protagonist in Deus Ex and one of the major characters in Deus Ex: Invisibile War.
                After Paul Denton was born, his mother was unable to have more children. She was approached by a member of Majestic 12 posing as a fertility expert and was promised a lot of money in  in exchange for her participation in some experimental surgery that will allow her to have more kids. She took the offer and without knowing she was implanted with a clone embryo of Paul Denton and in March 2029 JC Denton was born.
Six years later Majestic 12 killed JC’s parents and sent him to one of their schools for the next twelve years where they attempted to train him to obey orders without questioning and to follow his superiors with loyalty. But JC developed a rebellious attitude which he kept hidden.
A few years after graduations JC follows his brother and is nano-augumented and joins the anti-terrorism organization named UNATCO as an agent.
                During his time as an anti-terrorist agent JC is assigned to take care of the attacks on Liberty Island and recover the stolen barrels of Ambrosia, a cure to the Gray Death virus that was plaguing the entire planet. After successfully completing his mission, JC is sent to Hong Kong but he rebels against UNATCO and he is captured together with his brother and imprisoned in a Majestic 12 facility. During this time JC is contacted by Daedalus which arranges for him and Paul to escape and the two flee to Hong Kong where they deactivate their kill switches and escape from the MJ12 grip.
                After infiltrating into the headquarters of a corporation specialized in the fields of medicine and nanotechnology, JC finds the machine that was producing the Gray Death virus and destroys it. The analysis of the virus proves that it was manufactured by the Illuminati and this buries JC even deeper into the conspiracy for the world’s control.
The events lead JC to Area 51 where the truth is revealed to him that Deadalus, who was aiding him all this time, was an artificial intelligence. A battle between the Illuminati and MJ12 leaders begins, with Daedalus being released to take over US military networks and Icarus is released to counter it. The two AIs merge becoming a stronger AI by the name of Helios with the ability to control the entire global communication.
                In the aftermath of the Area 51 battle, JC has to choose who to help between the three different factions involved, the choice is up to the player, but the sequel of the game takes a little from each ending. JC merges with Helios becoming the world’s first benevolent dictator, he kills the leader of MJ12 and destroys Area 51. Due to problems in his nanite architecture his merge with Helios was imperfect and he is forced into statis to wait for a cure.
                JC’s goal as the one leader of humanity is to create a new civilization. He intends to give all humans the physical and mental powers of biomodifications which will allow their minds to communicate directly with the Helios AI. He posseses total control over nanotechnology making him a half-god, but he never intended to assimilate people’s minds. The ending of JC Denton’s story remains the player’s choice in Deus Ex: Invisibile War where they play as Alex Denton, JC’s clone.
                The story of Deus Ex series is complex and merges multiple conspiracy theories that people have feared for many years. The problem that the games expose aren’t so far from what could become reality in the near future and that’s what makes these titles scary.
The complexity of JC Denton’s character overshadows any other character in the game. His rebellious actions, even if many are driven by the player, speak about his mindset and bring unexpected outcomes. JC stands against the world’s shadow leaders and even if his plans are questionable and could be perceived as evil, he is clearly the lesser evil of them all .
                The accomplishments of JC Denton, a nano-augmented clone, exceed by far any expectations from those who trained him in the game or even the players. He stands as a symbol of the people, but also as a warning to the dangers of power itself.
Bad ass! 
A long time ago...

Revan / Darth Revan – Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic

                Star Wars is a universe I love so much, but lately there weren’t many games that could do justice to it. But Bioware and Obsidian’s work still stand as some of the greatest work done with this universe and Revan as one of the most complex characters created in it (and my favorite one).
                Revan was a human male who studied under many Jedi Masters. He became friend with a student by the name of Alek and was promoted to the rank of Jedi Knight when was still young.
During the Mandalorian Wars between the Galactic Republic and the Mandalorian warrior clans, Revan critiqued the passivity of the Jedi Order in the matter, this lead to the Revanchist movement. Defying the Jedi Council, Revan picked up the mask of a fallen Mandalorian and joined the Republic forces to fight.
                After Revan defeated the Mandalorian leader in the Battle of Malachor V, he and his friend now known as Malak picked up the trail of the Sith and followed it into the Unknown Space. There they discovered the reconstructed Sith Empire and were turned to the dark side by the Sith Emperor. Darth Revan and Darth Malak came back to the Republic and broke free from the Emperor’s mind control and created their own empire to wage war against the Republic using the Star Forge, an ancient space station capable of creating powerful armies. This war became known as the Jedi Civil War, as many veteran Jedis of the Mandalorian Wars joined Revan in his cause.
In the Sith fashion, Malak betrayed Revan and the latter was captured by the Jedi Knight Bastila Shan. Revan’s mind was wiped and he was given a new identity as a Republic soldier. But Revan was destined for great things and without knowing about his past he retrained as a Jedi Palawan and gained new allies and friends to help him in his missions and during his travels throughout the galaxy he became very close to Bastila Shan.
                During his encounter with his former friend, Malak reveals to Revan his past and later on goes to capture Bastila and turn her to the dark side of the Force. A battle erupts for the Star Forge in order to stop Malak’s monstrous plans. Revan fights Bastila Shan and turns her to the light side of the Force using his love for her then goes to fight and defeat his old apprentice and friend Darth Malak.
                Revan married Shan and lived with her for several years, but when some of his older memories returned to him, he left her and his unborn child and went in the search for answers in the Unknown Space. Revan was captured by the Sith and waited to be saved by his old friend the Jedi Exile Meetra Surik, together the two helped by the Sith Lord Scourge attempted to eliminate the Sith Emperor, but failed. Meetra Surik gave her life and Revan was captured and kept prisoner for three hundred years, time in which the emperor fed from his force. When liberated by the Republic Forces, Revan hasn’t forgot his purpose and goes to great lengths and sacrifices to fight the Sith Emperor and his forces one last time.
                Revan is known by many names as his actions were many and controversial. The renegade Jedis followed him as the Revanchist, the Jedis honored him as the Prodigal Knight, but those who’ve seen his dark deeds know him as Revan the Butcher or as the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Revan.
                Jedis are warriors using the light side of the Force meant for the good and to protect the Republic from the threats posed by the Sith, but Revan was not always such a warrior. His constant alternation between light and dark makes him different from any other Jedi before him. It is true that most of the personality traits of this character are up to the players which can even choose what path of the Force they want to follow and the romantic involvement, but the canonical ending brings Revan back to the light side to set the scene for the future games.
                Revan’s actions and motives are not always truly understood and even today some remain as a mystery. The holocrons he made as a Sith Lord guide the future Sith including Darth Bane and his action for the Republic are praised by the Jedis. His skills as a leader are undeniable and his power as a warrior couldn’t be matched during his time of glory.
                Revan was a great leader, his charismatic personality brought many on his side during the Mandalorian War and his tactical and military genius helped win the war. As a warrior Revan stood almost unmatched, his great skill wielding the light saber and his control over the Force brought down the Mandalorian leader and his former apprentice and friend Darth Malak.
The relationship with Bastila Shan and Revan’s vision over love was disapproved by the Jedi Council, but became the foundation for change. He used love to better connect with the light side of the Force and it helped him withstand the three hundred years he was captured.
                Revan can be characterized as an antihero more than anything else, but his importance is greater than that as he stands as a revolution for the Star Wars universe. His actions kept him between dark and light something that was never thought possible, one could say that this is the balance.  Many have died and lived because of him, but ultimately he stood as a protector of the innocent and defender of the Republic, his sacrifice was not in vain and his existence changed the Jedi Order and the Republic forever.
"Savior, conqueror, hero, villain. You are all things Revan… and yet you are nothing. In the end you belong to neither the light nor the darkness. You will forever stand alone."
Darth Malak and Darth Revan!
Without the mask.

Raziel – Legacy of Kain

                Gamers often take inspiration from the name of their favorite characters when choosing a nickname, this was no exception for me and for a long time Raziel was my video games nickname (I still use it from time to time).
                Raziel is the protagonist of the Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver series and one of the two lead characters in Legacy of Kain: Defiance.
                Raziel is introduced in Soul Reaver as a vampire and one of the six lieutenants of Kain. He surpasses Kain in evolution, who, filled with jealousy rips off Raziel’s wings and orders his execution. Raziel was thrown into the Abyss and the water burned his vampiric flesh and dissolved his jawbone, but he wasn’t killed. The Elder God saved his life and encouraged him to take vengeance for his suffering.
The dive into the Abyss not only changed Raziel’s physical appearance, he also became stronger than he used to be and his blood thirst has been overcome by an even bigger hunger for souls. Raziel was no longer a vampire but a wraith and the Spectral Realm became his natural place, while the Material Realm required effort from his part in order to return to it.
                Raziel started his path of vengeance by killing one of the vampire lieutenants when he had to face Kain. The battle ended abruptly after Kain tried to use the Soul Reaver, but the sword shattered and the spirit of the Reaver bonded with Raziel’s soul manifesting itself as a wrath-blade.
                Throughout his journey, Raziel found an important secret about his past that changed his perspective. He used to be a Sarafan warrior-priest, a vampire hunter who had completely different ideals. After killing the remaining lieutenants he could find with guidance from the Elder God and a spirit named Ariel, Raziel tracks down Kain, who activates a time machine and runs away into Nosgoth’s past. Following Kain into the past, Raziel learns more about his own history and of Kain’s plan. Kain created a temporal paradox when he killed Raziel and by using Raziel’s free will the time could be altered and maybe Nosgoth balance could be restored.
                In order to find answers, Raziel wants to travel even deeper into the past but he is tricked by Moebius, the Guardian of Time, who sends him one hundred years into the future. Here he witnesses his human brothers and himself slaying the vampire Janos and taking his heart. Filled with self-loathing, he pursues the Sarafan group to their keep, there, imbued with immortality by the physical Reaver, he slay his former human brothers and himself, renouncing of his past heritage forever. Standing over his dead body, he realizes his true destiny as the eternally imprisoned soul devouring spirit from within the physical form of the Soul Reaver blade. The sword starts to devour Raziel, but Kain attempts to save him from this fate by removing the Reaver from Raziel’s body. But as he is sent to the Spectral Plane, Raziel realizes he still has the wraith-blade and that his terrible destiny was inevitable.
                During the action of Defiance, Raziel learns about the prophecy of two champions that will battle to decide the fate of Nosgoth. He is manipulated to believe that Kain and himself are the two champions of prophecy and in order to resurrect Janos, Raziel needs to kill Kain. Kain attempts to reason with Raziel by explaining to him about the free will he possesses. But filled with rage and hate, Raziel fails to exercise his free will and kills Kain and takes his heart to resurrect Janos.
                Janos helps him enhance his wratih-blade but is possessed by the Hylden Lord and Raziel has to fight him, yet, even after defeating the Lord, Raziel can’t find the strength of heart to kill Janos and has his physical form destroyed by the lord sending him in the Spectral Realm back to the Elder God. Imprisoned, Raziel comes to the realization that he is both the champion of vampires and hylden and that the Elder God is the root of all conflict. With this epiphany he now understands that his choice can change the fate of Nosgoth. When he finds out that Kain lives, he destroys Moebius spirit, which was another pawn of the Elder God, and decides to exercise his free will one last time allowing the Reaver to consume him healing Kain of his physical and spiritual wounds and giving the vampire the power necessary to see the true enemy, the Elder God.
                Raziel’s story is so complicated and complex that it would be too hard to explain it in a few pages. Everyone in his life tried to manipulate him for their own benefits and for the most part they managed to do so. Tormented by his own mistakes and continuously lied by others, Raziel gains perspective and fights for what he believes to be the right thing, but the circumstances are not in his favor and many time he fails. He served as a pawn for many, but in the end it is his free will in a world where everyone was bound to a destiny, that tipped the scale to what can be considered the just cause.
                Raziel is a tragic hero whose unpredictable events of his story kept me glued to my seat while playing the games. His combat skills, personality and the humanized story of a hero that tries hard but doesn’t always succeed made me love this character above any other.
By now a continuation to the Legacy of Kain franchise feels like a foolish dream, but even if somehow this could happen, it is unlikely that Raziel will ever return as a character in the series. But he will always serve an important role as the sword used by the Scion of Balance.
"The Soul Reaver - pure of all corruption - this is what it is for. This is what I am for - the two become one - both Soul Reavers - together - and the Scion of Balance is healed. And I - am not your enemy - not your destroyer - I am, as before, your right hand. Your sword. And now you will see - the true enemy - "
Devourer of souls!
The Spectral Realm.
The two shall become one!

                Finally this long list has come to an end. It might not be on everyone’s taste, but such is the nature of these articles as they have a huge subjective component. These are the male characters that I find interesting and passed the test of time for me.
                As a tribute to those that I have excluded, here is a list of characters worth mentioning: Morte (Planescape: Torment), Adam Jensen (Deus Ex: Human Revolution), Solas (Dragon Age: Inquisition), Thane and Legion (Mass Effect 2 & 3), Craig Boone (Fallout: New Vegas), Gann (NWN 2: Mask of the Betrayer), Andrew Ryan (Bioshock), Leon Kennedy (Resident Evil Franchise), Kain (Legacy of Kain Franchise), Master Chief (Halo Franchise), Prince of Persia (Prince of Persia Franchise), Garrett (Thief Franchise), Arthas Menethil and Medivh (Warcraft universe), Kyle Katarn (Star Wars Franchise), Max Payne (Max Payne Series), Isaac Clarke (Dead Space Series).


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Blue Estate The Game Review!

Serious business!

                Blue Estate is a rail shooter developed by HE SAW and adapted from the graphic novel with the same name by Viktor Kalvachev. The game first launched on June 24 2014 on PS4 and made it to PC on April 8 2015.
                The story follows two characters: Tony Luciano, the lunatic son of the LA Italian mafia leader Don Luciano, who has constant hair gel problems and Clarence, an ex-Navy Seal now a gun for hire due to the fact that he is broke. A horse and a lot of chihuahuas also play a huge role.
The story is narrated from Roy Devine Jr.’s perspective, a private detective who oddly enough, despite not being present there, talks about the action like he was in the middle of it. He also makes constant remarks about what goes through the protagonists’ minds. The narrator often gets off-track with the storytelling and goes on and on about pointless things, luckily the game stops a lot of his annoying blabbing using amusing producer’s commentary.
                The game starts with Tony Luciano assaulting the Sik Brothers gang in an attempt to rescue Cherry Popz, his best dancer, and because of Tony’s actions things blow out of proportions into a full out gang war. As Tony goes to Jamaica, after he messed up things even more and couldn’t recover Blue Estate, his father’s horse, Clarence is hired by Don Luciano to clean up the situation, but not everything goes according to the plan.
                The story feels like a satire of a 70s or 80s mafia movie. Looking from a serious perspective the things that happen in this game could be terrifying and no character is even remotely close to the hero type, but the tension is constantly broken through black humor (it is everywhere!) with many references to pop culture. The narrative makes use of 2D animations with an interesting artistic design to describe the story in a way that feels closer to a graphic novel and this is part of the game’s charm. Sadly, Blue Estate’s length barely beats the one of long movie and leads to an abrupt conclusion leaving things in the air while hinting to more action as Tony returns from Jamaica. I’m not sure if the game will get some DLCs or a sequel to continue, but for those interested to see the full story the graphic novel seems like a good alternative and the first three episodes come free with the game purchase.
That looks about right!
I liked Deus Ex: Invisible War!!!
Don't get fooled this is a dangerous guy!

                The gameplay in Blue Estate is simplistic enough and alternates between intense shooting and small QTEs to dodge attacks and avoid obstacles.
The game mechanics are what to be expected from a rail shooter, which for those who don’t know, means that the player is limited to move around the screen while the game follows its own route. It is a shame that the game comes with an aim assist feature that cannot be turned off.
The monologues and especially the narrative moments have great comedic value and make the gameplay feel more story driven, which is good as it might get monotonous at times to just shoot everything in sight.
                Arcade elements like score and combos are something to be expected from a rail shooter and contribute to the replayability of the game. Keeping a combo multiplier going can be difficult and probably only the best and dedicated players will get a clean run. Each beaten level is followed by a score screen which takes into accounts many variables and a new harder difficulty is unlocked. Replaying missions on higher difficulties for a better score is what extends this game lifetime as it is an appealing feature for those that like to compete with themselves.
                To make the gameplay more fun, during each missions there are challenges included which can be completed for extra points. The game also emphasizes good aiming and timed shots so waiting until the last milliseconds of a combo and delivering a headshot award more points. There are slow motion events to help when the action goes out of control, but these moments also underline how great the shooting can be in this game.
I found it strangely fun to shoot for score and I didn’t think these arcade features will be so enjoyable, but they caught me. I tried my best to keep my combos running and get the highest scores.
Don't look at the chihuahuas! Look at my combo multiplier!
I'm getting better!
Slow motion fun!!!

                A feature that impressed me in this game is the destructible cover, which I didn’t expect to see in this type of game. There are first person shooters released in the last couple of years that lack badly on physics, yet this game has body and environment physics. Dead enemies slide breathless on the stairs and those still alive can hardly find a place to hide as many of the walls and decoration can be blown to pieces. It is a great feeling to unload a weapon and destroy everything in sight (I sound like a psychopath, don’t I?).
                While there are only two to three weapons per level, overall, Blue Estate offers a good variety of firearms. From a golden desert eagle, to a hand canon magnum and even a SCAR (my favorite weapon), the game makes sure that the player will have enough toys to play and have fun with.
My all time weapon of choice
You can't hide from me!

                Despite scoring big on physics, Blue Estate shows weakness when it comes to graphical fidelity. Unreal Engine 3 does show its age and is a little disappointing as this game deserved better graphics. But even so, the artistic direction is spot on and there are some detailed models in the game, including weapons, some of the environment and naked women (oh yeah!). Judging by the price tag of 13$, the game looks good enough, but I can’t stop imagining how it would have looked using Unreal Engine 4 (maybe in the sequel?!).
On a second thought, the graphics look pretty good!

                Blue Estate does make up for the graphical fidelity with great sound design. The firearms sound great and the overall sound effects are impressively good. A big plus is the voice acting, which is on par with the humorous action and theme of the game.

Pulp Fiction deja vu!
Tony should really get a different haircut!

                My experience with on-rail shooters is limited and arcade games are not my favorite, but getting used with the style of the genre wasn’t hard especially because the controls work smoothly and it can be played just with the mouse, which is quite relaxing (the game also supports a wide variety of controllers).
                Overall, Blue Estate is an irresistible mix of shooting, violence, sexual content and old school style humor. I enjoyed this game and after Rambo The Video Game fiasco last year, Blue Estate does justice to this genre and I’m rooting for a sequel.

(This article is based on a press copy of the game provided by the developer.)

+ Amusing characters, dialogues and plot
+ Satisfying shooting
+ Good voice acting, music and sound effects
+ Loads of action
+ Physics
+ Replay value

- Average graphics
- Short
- Some bugs
- No way to turn off the aim assist


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Screenshot of the Week #33: Acrophobia!

                After finishing Pillars of Eternity I find it hard to get started with another game. Strangely, I feel exhausted at the moment and there is not much that I want to play right now.
I’m continuing some casual Guild Wars 2 farming and trying to beat the singleplayer campaign of ARMA 3 (which is extremely frustrating due to the annoying AI), but not much else going on.
Soon there will be a public testing for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns expansion and I might participate to check out some of the new features, but for some reason I’m not that excited about this, even if I’m impatiently waiting for the release of this expansion (I think I’m getting old). Probably I should take a short break from gaming as it seems a burnout is taking over me.
                GTA V is releasing in less than two days, but I don’t see myself purchasing the game. I have nothing against the franchise and I enjoyed GTA III a lot, but I don’t connect that well anymore with this type of games (clearly I’m getting old). So, most likely this month I will circle between the games that I already have while waiting for The Witcher 3 release.
                This week Grinding Gear Games presented some of the new features in their first real expansion for Path of Exile and was cool to see hack & slash innovation taken to the next level. These people at GGG really know how to make an interesting and complex game out of a genre with basic gameplay. I can’t wait to get started on the game when the new expansion is out, but I feel a little tired of losing my builds (again!!!).
My hands are shaking...

                The Pillars of Eternity review was quite demanding, I have spent more than fifteen hours on it, but I’m quite satisfied with the end result (probably my best work so far). I’m working on more articles, mostly to expand the new Guides section. The last part for best male characters was delayed, but is definitely coming out next week.
                I’m trying to find a way to write more reviews, but for some reason I can’t get a hold on this. My editor says I should write smaller reviews and this way I could write more of them, but every time I start writing a review I plan on doing 2-3 pages and I end up with 6-7+. Hopefully I will find a way again to write at least two reviews a month.
Truth be told, the games I have reviewed lately have been quite big, so there was a lot of time involved in playing them and then writing the article. Probably when I will start playing smaller indie games, things will get back on track

In the meantime, please share my articles and follow me on
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Game Slashers on Facebook!

                I kept saying in the past months that the blog will get an official Facebook page and that time has come! There are more things to be done in the future that will improve the image of the blog on the social media, but we are now on Facebook and this is a big step.

Please like and share The Game Slashers Facebook page!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pillars of Eternity Review!

                In 1996, under Interplay Entertainment, a subsidiary division was formed which later became known as Black Isles Studios. With Feargus Urquhart as founder, Black Isle gathered some of the people that worked on the original Fallout game and continued with its sequel. During the development stages of Fallout 2, three members of the studio left to form their own company, Troika Games, which gave us three of the most memorable (and buggy) RPGs of all times: Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, The Temple of Elemental Evil and the highly acclaimed (and buggy) Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines.
During their work on Fallout 2, Black Isle Studios also helped Bioware release Baldur’s Gate, the first game made using the Infinity Engine. Because of the success Bioware’s game had, the Infinity Engine was used to power even more games like Planescape: Torment, the Icewind Dale series and the expansion and sequel of Baldur’s Gate.
                In 2003, due to serious financial issues, Interplay laid off the Black Isle Studios staff. Following these events, some of the former members of the studio formed Obsidian Entertainment. With Fergus Urquhart as CEO and other key people like Chris Avellone, Chris Jones, Chris Parker, Darren Monahan, Josh Sawyer and even Tim Cain joining in 2011, Obsidian Entertainment continued their previous RPG legacy with games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Neverwinter Nights 2 and its amazing expansion Mask of the Betrayer, Fallout: New Vegas and now Pillars of Eternity.
                Black Isle Studios should always be remembered for working on some of the best RPGs ever made and their work with Infinity Engine is so memorable and unique that people always wanted more.  This brings me to the subject of this review: Pillars of Eternity.

                Initially known as Project Eternity, Pillars of Eternity is an RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment which was made possible through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that raised over 4 million dollars with the help of over 77,000 fans, being the highest funded video game campaign at that time. This project and the funding campaign saved Obsidian from a dire financial situation and gave the studio the opportunity to create a game that stands as a tribute for their work in the past.
The aim with Pillars of Eternity was to recreate the feeling of the old Infinity Engine RPGs through similar graphics, art style and gameplay and oh boy did they manage to do that. With the power of Unity Engine, Pillars of Eternity looks like the reimagining of a 2000s game in the year 2015.
I couldn't find my name in the credits! :(

                Set in the new world of Eora, the events in Pillars of Eternity take place in the Eastern Reach region, more specifically in the lands known as Dyrwood and Eir Glanfath, populated by two distinct civilizations which have been at war with each other many times throughout their shared history. As peace reigns now between the two nations, the land is tormented by the deeds of the past. Fifteen years ago a holy war erupted as a farmer by the name of Waiden, presumably, became the vessel of Eothas, the god of light, and began a purging of the heretics. Waiden led the northern nation of Readceras into a war with Dyrwood known as the Saint’s War. Despite many dyrwoodans worshipping the same god as Readceras, they went to fight in order to defend their lands and with the help of technology and the blessing of the other gods, Waiden was stopped with the power of flames, purging a god from existence and putting an end to the war. But peace wasn’t obtained, as dyrwoodans sought vengeance and started another purge.
                After the Saint’s War a curse has spread throughout the lands, which became known as Waiden’s Legacy. Children were born without a soul, Hollowborn, and despite the prayers of the people in Dyrwood, nothing changed. Practitioners of animancy, a field that studies the essence of souls, have been brought to the country to help and despite their efforts people started to despise them as it seemed like they were doing more evil than good. It is during these apocalyptic times that our hero arrives and goes through a series of unfortunate incidents that put him on the track to find out what’s going on in these lands.
                The story is at a large scale but relates to the main character personally, the player is not the chosen one but merely someone tied to the situation in a mysterious way. The adventures in the game lead to interesting situations that allow the player to define his own past while shaping the present.
The villain plays his role in a great fashion, as a mysterious figure from an unknown time or place. His machinations twist the story in unexpected ways and his true goals intersect with some of the existential concepts behind this universe.
                This fantasy universe full of what seem like powerful gods has a scientific perspective to many of the more mystical things present in this world. The essence of life in Eora is part of what seems like a never-ending cycle, where souls are never lost unless on purpose. The souls of the dead go back into The Wheel and return to the world as newborns with the memory of their past lives erased. Animancy is a discipline dedicated to study the essence of souls and is able to read into the past of one’s soul and even cure a soul sickness. This practice, in my eye, resembled a lot with the genetics science of today as it looks and treat life from a controversial perspective that many people consider as playing God.
The adventure begins!
What is this device?!

                 Being set in a new universe the lore in Pillars of Eternity is delivered at a pace as slow as possible, but even so, there is a lot to take in, especially at the beginning of the game. This is normal for a new and complex universe, but becomes exhausting. There are dozens of books presenting the history of the Gods and the lands with various interpretations. While some of the books are just enriching the lore, many contain information that is quite relevant to the story ahead.
Being a fantasy RPG, Pillars of Eternity is not free of clichés as the world of Eora bears a resemblance to other universes and also takes inspiration from human history, but it does stand tall on its own with its unique elements and a captivating lore that can be expanded.
                The writing in this game is magnificent and sucks you in this universe from the first couple of hours. It is not only at dialogues that this game excels, but also the sheer amount of awesomely written text that presents in detail everything that is happening around creating a unique atmosphere. The text is clearly the most powerful tool Obsidian had at its disposal and is used to describe the face reactions of characters engaged in dialogues and even the surroundings.  
The main character can read into other people’s souls, which is something important in this universe, and you can get an idea quite fast of what this power really means. This opens up a lot of flavor text as events from the past of many NPCs can be read like a book and while the amount of text involved in this might be upsetting for some, for me it was quite the opposite. I found the souls reading deliciously immersive and some of the events from other people’s past were quite captivating, leaving me wanting to know more.
                The writing in Pillars of Eternity is a feast for the imagination, it presents just the right amount information and from there you can let your imagination go loose and you should, because this game will take it far.
There is something wrong with these gods!
Always funny!

                There are eight recruitable companions in the game and while all of them are well written, most are not as memorable as I was expecting from an Obsidian RPG. A few hours into the game I was worried that this could be an issue, but then I found Durance, a mad priest worshipping the goddess Magran and Chris Avellone’s work gave me hope. Later on I found Hiravias and Grieving Mother and the game was fully redeemed. While these three characters are part of some over used archetypes, they are unique in their own way and complex enough to make me follow their story progression with interest. The game doesn’t have characters presented in a cinematic way, neither does it have full voice acting or a romance, which are things that can make the attachment to characters more impactful. Instead, the descriptions of the companions’ behavior made through dialogue panels add a level of depth to them that even fully animated sequences could not do. Characters are described from a narrative perspective and this knowledge is given to the player (and the protagonist) providing a tremendous power over the companions with the hero perceiving their emotions as read from a book.
                The outcome of the companions’ quests comes closer to reality and it is something different than what it is usually seen in other RPGs. The game underlines the humanity of the characters as their struggles not always bear fruit and not everything ends up as it should, life can be cruel and the revelation of such quests redefine the personality and goal of these companions.
I must say that the ending dialogues of Durance’s quests gave me goose bumps and Grieving Mother’s description when I first met her gave me chills. It is something rare in a video game and I think it stands as a praise of just how good the writing in this game really is.
That level of faith! 
Not crazy at all!

                As a game that attempts to recreate the magic of the old Infinity Engine RPGs, Pillars of Eternity is mostly focused on storytelling, dialogue and choices, but between those there are moments of fighting and struggle.
                This game is an adventure that can’t really stay locked in the boundaries of the screen, forcing the players to imagine more instead of offering detailed cutscenes of what happens when the player is not fully in control. A good example of this are the narrating screens which presents dangerous actions like jumping over a huge gap or running from enemies using text and a series of 2D images influenced by the player decisions. Some would say that the cause for this might be the fact that the game didn’t have the budget for a higher production value, which is probably true, but I think that this feature complements the entire design of the game. While going through these screens and choosing what my party should do next I felt like a pen and paper RPG adventure and this is something I haven’t felt in a lo(ooooo)ng while. The things that I could imagine and the impact of my actions during these moments might surpass what the commonly used cutscenes can do.
                During the first narrating screen I threw my weapon to save someone, and when I was past that moment and I found myself in a cave full of dangerous creatures I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that my character didn’t have a weapon anymore. There is logic behind this game more than I would have expected and the more I looked for it the more I could see it. It was everywhere, from world design, to choices, in the loot system (this is quite rare) and in every little action. Pillars of Eternity doesn’t take the players by the hand and lead them through its world, instead it allows them to explore a world based on common sense and this felt great because here was a game that validated the fact that gamers can think for themselves.
Pack up your imagination for this adventure...
Wizards can't jump!

                Pillars of Eternity provides a multitude of maps and the exploration is extremely immersive and it can take hours to discover every corner of every map and search for secrets everywhere. While this sounds good, the feeling is quite diminished by the small size of the majority of the maps. The areas designed to serve as a connection between important places like cities or other settlements can be crossed from one place to another in less than 1 minute at normal speed. These small maps don’t really do justice to the game and become frustrating when having to go from one loading screen to another every few minutes. I feel like Obsidian could have done more when it comes to this matter.
I'm going to freak out if those eyes open!

                The questing is a thing of beauty. Supported by the great writing, the quests are varied and most of them can be solved in multiple ways with different outcomes that might impact the future actions and even the story. I haven’t noticed any pointless or filler quests and I have looked a lot for them. Even the bounties, which require killing a group of enemies and their leader, don’t feel like menial tasks as they add challenge to the game and have quite good loot.
I completed every single quest in this game and the only thing that bothered me about them is the fact that I wanted more, but even so, the multitude of ways in which many of the important quests can be solved adds up to the game’s replay value.

                A stronghold was promised by Obsidian as part of the reward for the 3 millions tier in the Kickstarter campaign. The stronghold goes by the name of Caed Nua and is an area that can be found quite early in the main quest. The zone looks amazing and the music for it is as good as it gets. The stronghold takes the role of the camp fire and for the random encounters that are usually seen in this kind of RPGs.  
                Caed Nua was built over some old ruins of the first race that inhabited these lands and seems to be cursed because of this. Generations over generations of its owners lost control of the area because they were always attacked from the ruins below. This story of the stronghold leads the player into the Endless Paths, a progressively dungeon (not so endless) that keeps going down and increases in difficulty with each level. The Endless Paths tie nicely with the main story of the game and offer some of the most challenging fights in the game and the best designed areas. At the bottom of the dungeon, the Master Below awaits, and be prepared because he is extremely difficult and as buggy as a fight can get.
                Despite the nice story and the Endless Paths, much of the potential for this area was wasted. Like in Dragon Age: Inquisition, there is no moment when everything that the player constructed is put to a real test. While raising the prestige can bring special NPCs to visit the keep, the area feels dead with so many buildings and yet nobody in sight. The forum lies empty with no one arguing there and the chapel has no people coming to pray.
I wish more time and resources where invested in this feature, more varied and interesting encounters and even a better incorporation into the main story could have made the area have a bigger purpose. After buying all the upgrades, this feature falls short and serves mostly as the place where you come to continue the Endless Paths and a passive money maker.
Money exploit!
I'm going to get to the bottom of this thing!

                This game doesn’t lack variety when it comes to almost anything and such is the case with the creatures. Pillars of Eternity has every kind of creature a fantasy universe consumer would want to see: zombies and ghosts, trolls and ogres, bandits and of course the always present dragons!
Each creature has to be approached differently in combat, as they have different powers and are resilient to some types of damage. Adjusting to the situation is part of the game, especially early in the playthrough and switching between weapons with different type of damage is how battles are won (or use guns to faceroll everything).  
The loot system behind these creatures adds up a lot to the already sky high attention to details. The items dropped by the creatures killed are not randomly generated, instead they are a realistic representation of what that enemy could provide. An ogre will drop his gigantic bat or a bandit will have as loot his equipment. Realistic and logical loot is something quite rare nowadays, since this genre has taken a heavy inspiration from MMOs when it comes to this matter and more often than not we see wolves dropping gold instead of pelts.
                The experience system is something unusual compared with other RPGs and while I had no problems with it, it can certainly be annoying for others. The experience required to level up is mostly obtained from exploring new areas and completing quests. At first the enemies killed grant experience, but there is a progression system for each type of enemy which unveils their strengths and weaknesses as the players’ party kills more of the same type, when the progression is finished, that particular enemy won’t grant any more experience (a realistic system). This can lead to many battles awarding no experience, but considering the low level cap, this doesn’t affect the gameplay too much.
A dragon! How unusual!

                The items are in abundance and vary from common equipment to unique and powerful weapons and armors. The crafting materials share the same rarity system as the equipment with one important material type that can be found in only two copies. Loot in industrial quantities is always nice in an RPG, but Obsidian didn’t implement a weight system for items which would force the player to constantly manage the inventory and throw away what is not worth carrying. Instead, there is a bottomless stash implemented where all the loot can be sent for storage thus eliminating the need to manage the inventory (not the wisest choice). Because of this feature and the stronghold taxes income, the economic balance is broken. Early in the game it seems that money will be an issue, but it becomes obvious quite fast that everyone will end up being rich. This problem could have been avoided by adding more ways of spending the money.
Equipment for an entire army!

                The character progression is heavily inspired by older editions of Dungeons and Dragons and has enough depth to make the players think twice about their choices. There are eleven classes in the game, most of them being standard for a fantasy setting with the Cipher being specifically designed to fit the universe. Each class has a unique set of skills and plays differently enough from the others to tempt the player enough to test all of them.
The multitude of classes and possible builds adds quite a lot of replay value. Still, I felt that the game could have benefited more from the complexity of DnD rules, sadly that wasn’t possible. The level cap of 12 might feel a bit short for many people and I understand why. Since it can be reached before starting the 3rd act of the game it might affect the motivation for some players.
DnD spin-off.

                Now it is time to talk about the controversial combat system. Pillars of Eternity’s combat is extremely similar with the older Infinity engine RPGs and at the same time it isn’t. While the real time combat system with pause brings back memories and can be quite tactical and fun, there are moments when it made me go crazy, due in part to the new game mechanics added to the system.
The engagement system is designed to make tanking more reliable and get rid of some of the older problems (ranged characters kiting), but in reality this mechanic doesn’t work that well. Sometimes, despite doing everything by the book, the enemy’s AI goes crazy and ignores the tanks completely, this can turn into frustration during battles like the Master Below where my tank was constantly ignored and the boss kept attacking my priest. It also works against the party when characters get stuck in each other and in order to make space for one character, half of the party has to be moved (this is always fun when engaging with a ranged character). If this was the only issue, it would have been excusable, but the list goes on.  
The pathfinding does its best to increase difficulty during combat when characters fail to follow their movement command and go in a completely opposite direction.
The stealth system is a nice addition that has been excluded from the latest RPGs. But even if it has its pluses it doesn’t work as it should. When a character is discovered in stealth it reveals the entire party, no matter the party’s position, which is probably the most illogical design choice in a game that does its best to follow the common sense.
And finally, the range of most of the spells in the game is extremely short, forcing the caster to come almost in melee range to use a spell.
                Many of these mechanics are designed to get rid of older exploits and problems, but in reality they bring new problems and damage what should have been a smooth, tactical and challenging combat experience. Reading all these things it might look like the combat system is terrible, which is an understatement, the combat is good, but it is not as good as it should have been and I wonder how some of these problems got past the testing phase of the game and the backers’ beta.
                Despite its problems, Pillars of Eternity is challenging enough with moments of absolute pain on higher difficulties. Even if it doesn’t have the torturous feeling of The Temple of Elemental Evil, mostly because the difficulty is quite unstable, there are encounters where the combat feels like a puzzle and pausing the game is required every second in order to micromanage each character. The fight with the Master Below stole a scream of joy and relief from me after many hours of horrendous attempts (he’s a little glitchy and cheats!).
Don’t go hasty into this game, at start, the combat can be hard to handle even for a veteran. It has been a long time since a game like this was made and it can take a few hours to get used with it and be completely aware of every detail that is important during fights.
Tactical engagement. 

                I’ve seen reviews taking points of this game final score because of its graphics and I found that extremely odd. It is true that this game doesn’t use the top notch tech of today (but what game does?!) and aimed for something else entirely. From the moment it was announced, Pillars of Eternity promised to bring back the feeling of Infinity Engine games and while the whole UI and even the loading screens pictures resemble those games, it is the graphics that bring back the nostalgic feeling of that time.
Pillars of Eternity blends 2D graphics with 3D characters impeccably. The vivid pallet and the amazing artistic design make for breath taking landscapes. I could stare for hours at some of the locations and still not get bored. And in five years or more from now, the graphics will feel the same as 2D graphics age much better. The one thing that bothers me is the vegetation animations, which were present in early concepts for the graphics and they were later removed. Troika Games pulled this off in 2003 with The Temple of Elemental Evil and Pillars of Eternity doesn’t have it in 2015.  
Something went wrong here.

                The sound in this game is a work of art. The music is fantastic and chosen perfectly for each area and there are enough tracks to avoid repetition. The combat music is engaging and gives a moral boost during each fight. The overall sound design and sound effects are incredibly immersive with clutter sounds in crowded areas and all kind of wild sounds while exploring the world.
The voice acting shows the game budget limitations, even if it is welcomed and some of the characters sound great, the way the voicing is done is questionable. It is understandable why only companions and the important characters are voiced, but it is hard to get used with the fact that the voice acting feels random at times. The voice work starts sometimes in the middle of the conversation after the character said quite a lot but his sound was mute. At first I felt that the voice acting emphasizes the most important dialogues, but as the game moved on I realized that wasn’t truly the case.
One thing that this game lacks, compared to its predecessors is a variety of sounds for each companion during combat. Baldur’s Gate series did an excellent job at this with characters having something to say based on the combat situation. It was a nice little touch that I would have liked to see (hear) in this game as well.

Icewind Dale?!?!
Good leadership!

                Pillars of Eternity is a reminder of a different time and not only because it tries to recreate the atmosphere of the immortal classics, but because it treats the player the same way the games a decade ago did. It doesn’t straightly assume that the players are clueless (can be read as stupid) and doesn’t hold their hands in everything they do, instead it gives the players the opportunity to learn through trial and error and discover the game by themselves. Difficulty and logic are notions almost lost to this new generation of games and with some producers saying that their games are more difficult than they should be (when it is quite the opposite), the future doesn’t look so bright. Games like this one come to stand against the current trend and their success show that there is still hope.
                Pillars of Eternity is not a flawless game and knowing Obsidian’s work, that was never going to happen, as the people working there have a huge history with bugs dating before the existence of this studio. The game makes an appeal to nostalgia for a time that is never coming back, but it stands on its own and shines like a diamond, a little rough on the edges, in a sea of carbon, yet failing to be masterpiece of this age.
This title also stands as proof that Kickstarter crowdfunding is not a way of just cashing on the hopes the fans, redeeming this concept from the latest mishaps.
                If I can let my suppressed subjective side speak freely for a short passage during this review, I want to say that I enjoyed this game immensely, more than most of the games in the last couple of years. It was a heart breaking moment for me when I heard that Obsidian Entertainment was so close to bankruptcy and I’m glad that the fans of this genre and of this studio made their continued existence possible. By the time I write this review, Pillars of Eternity is a known success, it has an expansion in works (already announced during Kickstarter) and this can only make me happier.  
Obsidian Entertainment (inXile and some other smaller studios), don’t ever leave us, because without you and your games, the PC gaming industry and the RPG genre will be much bleaker.
                As an ending note I would like to say this: The Witcher 3, Shadowrun: Hong Kong and Torment: Tides of Numenera, come and challenge Pillars of Eternity if you can, because this RPG is high up there!

+ Perfect combination of artistic and painted-like 2D graphics with 3D characters
+ Epic soundtrack
+ A story full of adventure, mystery and choices
+ Extremely well written dialogues and some captivating characters
+ Tactical combat with many challenging fights
+ The DnD vibe
+ The Endless Paths
+ Loot system and the itemization
+ 60-70+ hours of gameplay and enough replay value
+ Infinity engine games feeling

- Enough game breaking bugs and lots of other glitches at launch
- Some of the combat mechanics don’t work too well
- The skills system is an underwhelming copy of DnD
- Many small maps
- The stronghold is nothing more than a money spender/maker
- The big number of loading screens can become a nuisance
- No vegetation animations