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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Borderlands - Review

Excuse me for the late review. I've finally finished my work for a while and I've recovered most of my sleep debt, which means now I can actually start writing again (woohoo!). This week's review is on Borderlands.

Borderlands is a First Person Shooter with RPG-like elements. I would consider it to be a game similar to Mass Effect with a bit more freeflow and less protagonist to environment dialogue (actually there's no dialogue between the protagonist(s) and the environment).

Borderlands is about 4 treasure hunters looking for this entity referred to as "The Vault." It supposedly exists on Pandora, a planet under the supervision of a research corporation, who have abandoned their mining operations there leaving it to be controlled mostly by bandits who once were prisoners working there. A guide, referred to as the "guardian angel," tries to lead the treasure hunters to the Vault. The plot itself is very open ended and leaves room for a lot of content (some of which is apparently DLC now)but I'll get to that later. In this kind of game, I believe highlighting gameplay is key here.

As I said before, it's a First Person Shooter with RPG like elements. What does that mean? Well, this game is generally played like a first person shooter. Your HUD shows your compass, HP, Shields, EXP, Class Mod and ammo. Also when you switch weapons, stats for your weapon temporarily appear.

All your weapons have in-depth descriptions such as the weapon's damage, accuracy, fire rate, and magazine size. The item name's color indicates rarity going from least rare to most rare: white-green-blue-purple-light orange-dark orange-pearlescent (which is actually white, but the weapon comes with special traits). The modifiers in the weapon description don't mean additional modifiers, but describe the stats which have been modified from the "base" model. Any red text refers to a special trait the gun may have.

Accuracy actually refers to how large the crosshair is and determines the spread of the bullet when in iron sights/scope. That is to say, you can't just aim in the general vicinity of an enemy and assume it'll hit because the weapon's accuracy was 80%. To be honest, I'm not even sure if the number next to the accuracy refers to a percentage, just a general number system to use to compare one weapon's accuracy to another.

All the characters have been broken down into 3 "subclasses." These subclasses generally determine how you play as the skills (all of which are passive) affect certain weapon types or boost a certain stat that would make another weapon type better to use.

All characters are given on active skill referred to as the "action skill." Needless to say, this action skill varies per player and most likely each character has one subclass tree dedicated to boosting the action skill.

In addition to skills, there are items known as "class mods" which modify skills and apply other effects to complement a certain skill tree or class type. Like skills, these class mods will enhance a certain playing style and generally do not have any adverse effects. The only one I've seen to be a problem is Brick's berserker mod which occasionally gives negative bullet resistance.

Finally, you have the Proficiencies tab which basically tells you which weapons you like using, since the more enemies you kill with a weapon type, the higher your proficiency is with that weapon, the better the boosts you get for that weapon. Just exactly how you can improve weapon damage by using a certain type of weapon multiple times is beyond me, but I really couldn't care less.

If I were to put it bluntly (and I will), the entirety of the game consists of fetch quests, kill x amount quests, go here or "kill this guy" quests. Yes, gameplay wise, that's all. It's actually that monotonous. It's probably one of the most linear "MMO-style" games. There are hardly any cutscenes. There's a lack of plot (or rather, it's so weak, you hardly realize there's a plot) and it tries to pick up but just crumbles.

The difficulty curve is also pretty bad. If you actually play "normally" and generally kill enemies as you progress the story, more often then not, there's going to be a major gap between "recommended" levels and your actual level with you being a good 3-5 levels higher than the target level. Each quest has a "recommended" level that is a marker of the general level you should be. After running through the game with a few characters, my friends and I have figured out that you will BARELY be under the difficulty curve if you ONLY complete the quest and kill NOTHING unless required. What does that mean? The beta testers were picking their noses and twiddling their thumbs when testing this game. More often than not, it's the enemies that initiate attacks (unless you're a sniper) and so the most logical course of action would be to shoot back until said danger was no more.

There's an easy fix for this, either increase the experience tables or reduce the amount of experience you get for completing quests.

So what's keeping this game from being scum of scum?

4 player coop. Probably the saving grace. This kind of gameplay warrants multiplayer and 2k games delivers.

Next would be the unique art style. Cel-Shading isn't anything new, but it's not common either. The art in this game is really well done and the textures are really nice. Animation wise, everything is extremely clean and very visually appealing. It's easy to just throw something like this away for another game when it attempts to go for some kind of realism, but it's worth noting when there's a bit of artistic value to it.

Next would be immersion and flavor text. Despite the core of the game being really boring. The extra effort for dialogue, sound clips, and quest justifications make the game quite amusing. More often than not, I found myself chuckling at certain moments in the game. The developers know how to write well (to an extent. Like I said, the main story sucks). Reading quest descriptions and listening to sound recordings are definitely worth your time and improve the overall experience.

The game mechanics are well organized. They're simple, relatively easy to use and don't require a massive learning curve. The developers know what they wanted from this game and the players can expect the same thing.

This critique isn't so blatant but after a couple playthroughs is very noticeable. The developers play favorites with the characters, particularly Mordecai, the hunter. Upon close inspection, nothing seems wrong. His skills are relatively fine, and considering his weapon types, nothing is drastically overpowered. But certain weapons throughout the game make him a very cheap, broken character. Each one of his skill trees combined with a certain mod can allow him to generally stand still and watch everything around him explode. The trees at full skill allotment Allow him to effectively be a one man army at long and mid-to-short range, or short and mid range with damage dealt easily giving him 1 hit kills. If you look above at the screenshots, you'll notice the sniper rifle equipped along with my proficiency. The red text allows me to fire the sniper rifle like a fully automatic rifle (Meaning, I don't have to press the mouse button for each shot). Combine that with my proficiency and I can fire 13 shots faster than the Soldier class with battle rifles. Not only that, I deal more damage and if combined with a passive skill that decreases cooldown time for my action skill per hit, can use my action skill endlessly. THE ONLY drawback ( and I hardly call it a draw back) is that At the end, players can only have 120 sniper rifle ammo. Meaning that ammo is the only thing holding this character back from completely annihilating the game, but that's easily fixed with at least 1 character having a ammo regeneration support mod.

Overall gameplay is really short. One playthrough takes about an hour and a half, and second playthrough takes shorter totaling around 2 weeks. DLC will probably extend it but gameplay is exceptionally short. The only replay value this has is the post game monster modifications. All enemies enter a third tier of difficulty and are set to level ranges from 49-51.

It's fun for a short while but may not offset the price tag. The coop is definitely fun but with people generally being computer illiterate, joining an online game is somewhat boring. People don't really talk much and voice settings are either on or off. It's better to play with friends then trying to find a good online game.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just a little while longer......

I've got this one paper left. And once I'm done with that I can get posting again. I REALLY wish professors wouldn't assign everything at once and have it due all on the same day..... Anyways. I'm going off schedule and I need to get back. I've actually got some new material and I'm prepping some as I write this. So check frequently.

Things to do:
Borderlands review
(maybe) buy Romeo x Juliet DVDs by Gonzo and compare the english dubs to the Japanese dubs.
Preorder Final Fantasy XIII DONE.
Finish up drafts of reviews that I've started but never completed....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Record of agarest war delayed.

I dunno. I can't help but feel that sometimes people try too hard. No doubt Atlus is guilty of such antics but this feels too forced......


Record of Agarest War receives a simultaneous release on the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system AND Xbox 360®video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, Spring 2010!

Torrance, CA (Friday 13th, 2009) – Aksys Games, a publisher of interactive entertainment products, announces its first epic SRPG, with Record of Agarest War for the Xbox 360 to coincide with the previously announced PLAYSTATION Network version. In this game developed by Compiled Heart, Red Entertainment, and Idea Factory, SRPG fanatics will finally be able to play a game worthy of the genre. Sporting over one hundred hours of gameplay, Record of Agarest War invites players into a gorgeous, expansive world of hope and despair. Players will wage war against the evil forces of darkness, take a bride—actually, several brides— and extend their lineage across five generations!

“In truth, we had Record of Agarest War ready to go up on the PLAYSTATION Network months ago,” [Ed.'s note: That's a lie.] says Ben Bateman, Editor, Aksys Games, “But when a haggard man emerged from a ball of crackling energy that materialized outside our office with dire warnings from a dark future, we decided to reconsider. As it turns out, a PLAYSTATION Network-exclusive release of Agarest was—or rather, would have been—the catalyst for World War III. The gaming community was torn apart—literally—by this apparent favoritism, and from that schism poured the infinite minions of Satan himself, the Lord of Lies. The man told us, his eyes blank with the 1000-yard stare, of the horrors of this future war. He had been sent back in time, the last hope of a desperate human resistance, to prevent what the people of this desolate future Earth called, simply, 'The Breaking.' As the last spark of life passed from his body, broken and battered by his journey through the time vortex, we swore to honor his final wish.”

“This is why Record of Agarest War has been delayed,” Ben continues, his eyes wet with tears, “So that we may release it on both consoles, and in doing so, save the world.”

Record of Agarest War Prologue
War darkened the skies of Agarest. Not a simple war between mortals, easily ended by divine intervention, but a war that split the gods themselves. Armies such as the world had never seen before, and would never see again, clashed in the skies of Agarest, across its surface, and even in the caverns that wound their way through its interior.

As is the way in war, many died on both sides, gods and mortals alike, and the war left Agarest broken, blackened, and dead. The gods wept for their paradise, and in a final act of creation, sacrificed themselves to bring life back to its charred and twisted surface.

Although the gods are long dead, the withering darkness that began and fueled their war is not. Imprisoned for millennia, its bonds have begun to weaken, and as they do, a shadow once again spreads across the surface of the world.

Born into this world perched unknowingly on the brink of the apocalypse, a young man by the name of Leonhardt and his descendants are the last, best hope for Agarest. Their journey will span generations and continents as they strive to once again bring peace to their beleaguered world, even as the cost of their own souls.

Record of Agarest War Key Features:

* Soul Breeding!

Tired of just living through one lifetime in typical RPG titles? Then witness the Soul Breed system! Choose a bride at the end of your adventure and give birth to the hero of the next generation!

* Collaborative Attacks!

Position your forces on the battlefield and wait for the right moment to string together massive combo attacks using multiple party members—both in melee and at range!

* Affection Rating

Curious how one of Agarest's lovely ladies feels about you? Look no further than the Affection Gauge, which gives you a quick and easy visual representation of her opinions! Is she smiling? You must be doing something right! Frowning? Uh oh... If only real relationships were this easy!

* Newly Engorged with Content!

Enjoy an enhanced version of the game based on the Japanese release of Record of Agarest War: Reappearance! Hot pix included!

* Exclusive Trophy and Achievement Support!

The North American version of Record of Agarest War is the only version in the universe, and all the other places too, to have trophies and achievements! [Ed.'s note: I think you'll find that the universe pretty much covers everything.] [PR's response: Shut up, woman, get on my horse!]

Record of Agarest War has not yet been rated by the ESRB. More information about Aksys Games and Record of Agarest War can be found at

Playing Borderlands

Rather.... I started yesterday and I won't be able to post for a while again.....
Midterm japanese project + 10 page research paper + computer science project = absolute mayhem until thanksgiving break.

To top it all off, thanksgiving break is the first break my college has had in this school year. Sonova.....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm holding out on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.... i think

It's not that it's too expensive or that Infinity Ward doesn't deserve the sixty dollars of quality that they put out, it's Activision. I know it's stupid, but currently i'm not too happy with how Activision is presenting itself as a company, so I'm really on the fence here. I love Infinity Ward and what they've done and from the previews, it looks beautiful. I can't wait to see the story and how they've twisted it.

But every dollar i send to infinity ward for call of duty modern warfare 2 is a dollar to activision to continue being an ass......

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Persona 3: PSP

If you haven't heard of it already. Persona 3 for the PSP is now out in Japan. Why should you get it? Probably because it's a great game and you're now able to change the gender of your character.... and it incorporates most of Persona 4's battle system including the side effects of getting a high ranked social link (helping others up, knocking you out of the way if you're about to die...). Movement is a bit restricted (like Persona for PSP) but they've made a lot of improvements to compensate that. If you can't read Japanese.... well, i highly doubt Atlus USA is just gonna let this go, so all we have to do is wait a little while.