Dragon Age: Origins Review

With the larger portion of the RPG genre moving towards online play, we’re always very eager to see a new game that’s designed entirely with single player in mind. It doesn’t happen often these days, so we usually enjoy whatever comes our way – but when you get a single player RPG that’s also done with as much care as Dragon Age: Origins, you can’t help but fall in love.

Gameplay

The game is set in a classic medieval fantasy world, with dragons playing an important part in the plot. The player is tasked with gathering the kingdom together in order to repel an impending invasion from the Underworld. At the beginning of the game, you’ll have to create your own character by defining its race and “origin”.

The origin is a new concept introduced by the game, where you’ll have to go through a short (for the length of the game, more on that below) series of levels where your character’s background story is defined – you play this part of the game as usual, and its end leads up to the actual events of the game.

The number of hours you can spend on Dragon Age is very large – if you’re new to the game (and/or the RPG genre as a whole), your first-time play may last over 50 hours. And if you decide to go for all of the additional quests and bonus rewards, you’re looking at several hundred hours of solid gameplay – none of that repetitive, monotonous grind that most RPGs tend to put in there, giving way to quantity over quality.

Graphics and System Requirements

Dragon Age is not only well-executed in its gameplay, it’s simply a marvel to look at, too – you’ll explore lush forests, cities with interesting architecture, and meet all kinds of highly detailed characters. Your own avatar can look quite differently as well, depending on your choices initially – and as a whole, the game’s graphics add to its already great variety a lot.

The vast worlds that Dragon Age spans over need a powerful computer to be rendered properly though. The recommended system requirements are a Core 2 Duo running at 2.4 GHz, as well as 2 GB of RAM (3, if you’re on Vista or above), and a Radeon HD 3850 with 512 MB of RAM powering your graphics rendering. Mac users will need to have at least version 10.6.2. of their OSX in order to play.

Other

Before buying Dragon Age, we advise you to make sure you have a small vacation coming up ahead of you – the game not only takes a long time to complete on the first go (seriously, divide the 50 hour minimum over however you spend in front of the computer daily), but its replay value is tremendous as well, and your first playthrough will leave so many questions and so many things you’ll want to see, that you’ll feel weak against your desire to go through it again.

Conclusion

A true blessing for classic, old-school RPG lovers, Dragon Age: Origins is a game that will be talked about for a long time.

Dead Space: Extraction Review

When Dead Space: Extraction was announced, fans of the series immediately split into two groups – on one hand there were those grateful for the continuation of the series, while on the other there were the PC gamers who didn’t own a Wii or PS3 and wouldn’t get to enjoy the new title. And even though Dead Space: Extraction didn’t come out on the PC like its predecessor, its popularity somehow managed to surpass even that of the first game.

Gameplay

The gameplay isn’t exactly similar to that of Dead Space. The game takes place before the events of the first game, serving as a prequel to fill in some of the gaps in the storyline so far. The story isn’t directly tied to the one of Dead Space though, in the sense that the game doesn’t leave off precisely where the first one begins.

You no longer play from the third perspective, and don’t even control your character directly – the game is now a “rail” shooter, where the character moves on a predetermined path and you simply control their movement and kill the enemies as they show up.

New weapons have been added, as well as several new monsters. The controls have obviously been geared towards Wii players, as they can aim much more conveniently by pointing the controller at the screen directly, or even using the Wii Zapper if they own one. PS3 players shouldn’t feel let down though, as they can still enjoy the game in its fullest, only with a slightly more clumsy aiming system.

Graphics and System Requirements

Due to the nature of the level design (lack of possibility for backtracking by the player, etc), the game has been designed in a very detailed manner, with the levels featuring some impressive, breath-taking scenes that push the capabilities of the aging Wii’s hardware really far. Despite the predetermined nature of your movements, the animations don’t feel stiff or too unrealistic, and on the contrary, the game feels very smooth and easy-flowing.

The blood effects seem to have been toned down, but that’s somewhat understandable – being unable to avoid obstacles easily, coupled with the copious amounts of blood that is sometimes on the screen at once, could’ve easily make the game look cluttered.

Other

Dead Space: Extraction also offers a multiplayer mode where you can try to beat the game with a friend of yours. It’s only limited to two players, and it’s played in a manner standard to this type of shooters – you both share the same screen and compete against each other for points, but are also trying to help each other to succeed, of course.

Conclusion

If you’re a dedicated PC gamer, you won’t get to play Dead Space: Extraction and that’s a fact. Are you missing out on a lot? Possibly – but if you’re a true fan of the series you can grab a second-hand Wii and give it a shot!

Borderlands Review

Gearbox Software are a well-known game developer – and if you think about it, that’s a curious fact considering they’ve been coming out with only a handful of games (most of which based around their own franchise, Brothers in Arms).

However, looking at their release history, pretty much every title that’s come out from their studio has been a highly successful one – and their newest Borderlands is set to solidify their name as a developer in gaming history.

Gameplay

Borderlands is a combination of first-person shooter and RPG. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, reminiscent of the world from Mad Max – everyone is fighting for their own survival, anarchy prevails, and people have split up into small groups to increase their chances of making it alive. In the beginning, you get to choose your character from four possibilities, and each will offer you a completely unique gameplay experience.

The game follows a non-linear plot, where you have one main quest you’re following, but can also take on various side-quests that are given by friendly characters. Doing so gives you access to more money and upgrades, which in turn helps you progress through the game at an easier pace.

Scavenging is a major part of the game’s play style, as you’ll have to collect the weapons of your fallen enemies to sell later. One of the interesting aspects of the weapons system is their semi-random generation – much like in Diablo and similar RPGs, you have a set of “base” weapons which the game modifies before giving to you. That way, you can find the same-looking shotgun with completely different stats, for example increased firepower or reload speed, better accuracy, etc.

This makes it important to constantly look around for new weapons and collect everything, as you never know if the one you’re using won’t turn out to be a kids’ toy compared to the one laying on the ground that you just passed by.

Graphics and System Requirements

Borderlands is unique not only in its gameplay, but also its graphics – the game is designed in a cel-shaded art style, and it looks simply outstanding. It’s not as cartoony as, say, XIII, but also looks less realistic than even Valve’s Team Fortress 2. Borderlands is a great example of the flexibility provided by the Unreal Engine 3, as most companies are using it to create highly realistic environments, while Gearbox have managed to do the exact opposite and have done their best with the engine to draw the animated characters.

The game is a bit lighter than most other UE3 games, mostly due to the simplicity of its assets – with fewer polygons and lower-resolution textures (as anything more detailed would’ve spoiled the looks), it can easily run on a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 coupled with 1 GB of RAM and a GeForce 8600 GS.

Other

Beating the game on your own is fun, but if you give it a go with a few of your friends in the co-operative mode, you’ll never want to go back to the single player again – the online play in Borderlands is a truly captivating experience.

Conclusion

A game that will surely be talked about for long, Borderlands pushes the boundaries of the FPS genre in ways few developers have dared go so far.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review

Modern Warfare 2 is the follow-up to the massively successful Call of Duty series. Ever since coming out, the game has built up to the top of the ladder of online shooters, and still ranks #1 in terms of players online at any time. This huge success came despite some negative backlash from the community against the way the servers were structured in the new version – it seems that people have calmed down with time and have came to terms with the new rules (more on that below).

Gameplay

The game features a rather short single-player mode, which managed to stir up some controversy due to the depiction of a group of Russian terrorists slaughtering an airport. The selling point of the title isn’t the single player though – its power lies in the online play, managing to gather together thousands of players every day. You can unlock various new weapons, tools and ranks as you progress through the RPG-like levelling system, giving you access to a very powerful arsenal on the battlefield.

Some of the criticism from the community came as a response to the removal of dedicated servers – in other words, you can’t host your own private game, you need to rely on the IWNet (Infinity Ward Network, the game’s centralized account system) to connect to other players via “lobbies” – which, while convenient for newcomers, precludes more advanced players from customizing their gameplay to greater extents.

Graphics and System Requirements

The game uses the newest version of Infinity Ward’s proprietary engine, and it performs excellently for the task of giving you tons of eye candy – the game looks spectacular, and the graphics combined with the rest of the effects really make you feel like you’re in the center of the action. The system requirements scale appropriately though, and you’ll need a powerful machine to run the game with everything enabled – at least a GeForce 6600GT or Radeon 1600XT, or any other DirectX 9-compliant card; and a 3.2GHz processor if you’re using a single core.

Other

An underrated aspect of the game’s multiplayer is its cooperative mode, which allows you to play with your friends in a variety of exciting situations – so if you’re getting MW2, make sure you give that one a try, if you manage to find any lobbies for it. Also, since the game was released, more content has been made available for it in the form of DLC map packs (one released so far and more coming up), though you’ll have to pay for those as they’re not free.

Conclusion

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 managed to become one of the highest-ranking games of its time, and we’re yet to see anyone take the crown from it – and despite its occasional flaws and hiccups, it deserves its popularity in all aspects – so if you want a refreshing shooter, give it a try.