Re-play of “Dragon Age: Origins”

Bioware has been offering “Dragon Age: Origins – Ultimate Edition” for the PC @ discounted prices over the past few months with great frequency.  For $7.49 on Steam it was finally time to pick up this game with all the D.L.C.

I played through this title about 3 years ago but there is over 35 hours of main quest here, with the additional content you could easily log 70+hrs.  Not to mention the branching story-lines and quest details that can be imported into Dragon Age 2 upon completion of this game…

Origins has been available since 2010 but still holds up to the triple AAA releases today with respect to overall presentation. The music is great, the voice acting is very good, and the in-game banter of your characters among each other is truly unique and unexpected.

The game-play utilizes the now famous “pause” mechanism present in many Bioware RPG’s…so if you liked it before you will like it here.  There is a real challenge to many of the battles, even on normal difficulty settings, so you will have to plan out your character progression and party composition depending on the scenario.  As usual, here are some pics and a game-play video from the play-through:

“The Banner Saga” Review

I stumbled across “The Banner Saga” in mid-January and picked it up on it’s release date (1/14/14) for $24.99.  I didn’t know anything about it but the artwork looked great and I fell for the trailer and the fact that the developers had previous ties to Bioware…So far, I’ve logged nearly 50 hours of play plodding along on an epic journey with my clansmen.

Value: 8

To sum it up, this game is “Oregon Trail” meets “Final Fantasy Tactics,” crossed with a “choose your own adventure novel.”  There is challenging turn-based game-play that your heroes will face, but the game is unique because a lost battle does not mean you will have to replay a section, but move on at a disadvantage.  I have played through and seen one of the endings so I plan on making some changes to my decisions and opening at least one more alternative…On normal difficulty the game offers a challenge with special emphasis given to the final battle.

Gameplay: 8

This game exceeds expectations with regard to the quality of the artwork and the music composition.  You feel immersed in this unforgiving world and there is a constant sense of urgency moving your characters forward.  The vast majority of dialogue is presented in sub-titles with a very rare voice-over as a scene shifts.  This simplifies the dialogue scenes and further promotes the terrific animation.  The environments presented along the way reinforce the idea that your party has limited resources and that every decision could impact your companions.

Overall Presentation: 9

Total: 25 (any score 22 points or higher is recommended)

I’ve attached some screenshots below (click on the image for slideshow) and will put up a YouTube video soon with documentation on how to get through the final battle (if you had a little trouble and don’t care about some spoilers)…

Final Battle (Spoiler) Video on YouTube: 


“Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” Review

A couple weeks ago Kevin and I finished our play-through of Assassin’s Creed IV: Blag Flag…the verdict; this game has become my new favorite in an already solid series…

This week, Steam has the PC version marked down as low as $34.99 and there is some real value there if you like any of the other games in the series and have been considering this one.  I played to 93% completion and easily sunk 60+ hours exploring, hunting, questing, looting, spying, plundering, and diving for treasure.  The main campaign has methodically been devised to offer variety in the mission structures and locations. Additionally, the movie cut-scenes before and after missions (especially those with Blackbeard) are truly memorable. The developers took time to make my pirate adventure feel complete (and there are also a number of multi-player modes to choose from).

Value: 9

Detractors of the series complain that these titles are too easy and/or lack mission variety. Perhaps true in both cases for some of the previous titles in this series, but the developers are clearly making efforts to enhance difficulty in certain areas and keep things moving. There are many different mission types in Black Flag and the action that takes place at sea on your own ship is unlike any game-play experience I can think of.  The fighting is fluid and the progression is balanced as the game moves forward.  You gradually acquire a number of weapons and tools that can be employed in ways that completely alter how you might go about accomplishing a mission objective (the late game rope dart is fun…).

Gameplay: 9

The game looks great although there are some areas that look “wow” and others that look kind of “hhhmmm, what happened here.”  I say this because the game was being played on a PC at the max settings so we have to keep our standards high!  Additionally, Ubisoft has had a lot of experience with these games and we are on the brink of Next-gen games so lets keep the standards high.  That being said, the music is AMAZING.  I had my crew singing pirate “shanties” all game long.  I never wanted to fast travel because I might miss a storm at sea…you get the point.

Overall Presentation: 8.5 (+.5 modifier for “shanties” and music)

Total: 27/30 (Kevin & I recommend any score of 22 points or higher…)

How I “Review” Video Games…

Reviewing Rubric:

Value: 1-10 ; Gameplay: 1-10 ; Overall Presentation: 1-10

Plus or Minus a “Modifier” if there is something especially positive or negative in the game that was unexpected/unintended/not advertised etc.


Ever bought a game for $50-$65, played through the campaign in under 10 hours, and found that you really had nothing left to do?  It has happened to us all, but there are ways to avoid this hazard by simply doing a little bit of digging…

Reviewers often do not make reference to the replay value of a title or its current price point in relation to the presented game-play/content.  There are a ton of games out there today for PC, XBOX 360, or PS3 that you can pick up at the “used” or discounted price points and then get hundreds of hours of game-play.  “Bad games” from developers & studios seem to ignore the “value” premise of a game.  They would prefer consumers pick up the next recycled first-person shooter for $60 and then drop $50 more on DLC even though the game was maybe 85% percent done when they released it…

It bothers me when a publisher spends two or three years making trailers for a game, gets the guys/girl at all excited, and then they release a crap product. What about all those people who pre-ordered before the game was reviewed?  Many of those customers often desire to show support for a game or developer but instead are duped by the parties who chose to release a sub-par product in the end…

Example after example in the marketplace shows us that a game is not done until it is done!  Nobody is gonna argue with you for dropping $60 or more on GTAV or a game that delivers similar value relative to content.  I think we all realize that there are only 10 or so games like this released each year while publishers would have us believe that every title of the hundreds they release each year are worth $60 plus DLC…?   I think not.

*Here is an example of “current” great value for PC gamers:

Just Cause 2 sells on Steam for $14.99, it was originally released in March 2010 at the $60 price point to decent reviews…I bought multiple copies for the PC @ $2.99 during a recent Steam Sale.  The game has now been patched in recent months to include multi-player support for the PC (patched to version 1.3 on 1/30/14).  Most users find that they end up sinking 50 hours or more into the main campaign/side quests and now multi-player support will add to this!  This is the type of game that I want to review and re-review on this site so that gamer’s do not miss these opportunities.


Terraria 1.2.3 Update…

“Value.” Just one of many positive comments that could be made to sum up the Terraria experience so far…and then comes another update…!?

It doesn’t appear to be an update that incorporates anything earth-shattering in terms of the actual game-play.  But then again, there are a number of Hard-mode “balancing changes” mentioned in the developer notes to entice fans back for another playthrough…

Here is the link from the developer blog listing all the new updates:


Upon logging into my Terraria world today, I immediately noticed some of the new animations related to the character’s equipped accessories and some of the new sound effects scattered throughout the game (i.e. duck noises).  This was a fun surprise because I had been preparing my world a few days prior to go and take down the Wall of Flesh and activate Hard-mode…I cleared out the area around the Jungle Temple, farmed the WOF twice, destroyed five or so Demon Alters and then got smoked by a Pirate Invasion that I just didn’t see coming…, “Boo me”!

The best part of it all is that I have played through the game in Hard-mode previously and defeated the other bosses, except for Pirate Invasion and Pumpkin King…that’s even more value coming my way down the road!  In my experience when the developer team is releasing a new update before the user has played through the previously released material that’s a good sign for both sides.

It appears fans are letting developers know that the punctuated stream of improvements is appreciated.  I paid $4.99 on Steam for my copy last June and then bought two more copies to share with friends a few months later.  At the time, many of us were “waiting patiently” on an update rumored in August or Sept of ’13…, but in the era of developers charging a fee for DLC, this “free” content is a nice change of pace.  Few could have expected the game to be improved so dramatically, developers had already produced a great game that had tremendous replay value.  Now they have followed it up with multiple patches that improve the game in a meaningful way.  Let’s hope this trend catches on with other development teams moving forward…