Average User Score: 8.4Apr 26, 2015The last time I felt this compelled by the narrative of a game was Dragon Age: Origin. However, by looking backwards to Planescape: TormentThe last time I felt this compelled by the narrative of a game was Dragon Age: Origin. However, by looking backwards to Planescape: Torment and Baldur's Gate, rather than sideways to console optimisation, Obsidian have managed to avoid may of the mistakes fallen into by EA/BioWare and really let the player get involved in the epic, metaphysical story of the game. I was hooked from beginning to end and I'm sorry that I've finished it.
That having been said, PoE is not, by any stretch of the imagination, perfect. The AI - particularly of companion characters - can be infuriating at times, as they stagger blindly into walls and fail to avoid running into one another during combat. There are too many mage spells which are simply too risky to use to get much of a look-in. And there are some rather peculiar decisions which have been taken with regards to equipment and inventory: for example, the idea that helmets add nothing to damage reduction seems inexplicable, and the fact that they can't be player-enchanted also seems odd.
Despite these gripes, I can't help but feel that PoE is one of the most engaging games I've played in a very long time. The environments are interesting; the quests are (usually) well written and engaging and most of the player-characters offer a solid narrative reason, other than their (often frankly useless) stats for taking them along for an adventure.
The game also plays well, with the pause and click tactical combat being smoothed over by a reasonably efficient, expanding spell-and-talent icon menu. In stark contract to the BioWare games, you can select what your character is actually going to say, and, if you would like to know more, there's a function in the options menu whereby you can see the traits which each dialogue option typifies.
I hope that Obsidian make another game in this setting, and soon.… Expand
Average User Score: 5.8Mar 31, 2015I am reluctant to review this game at only 23 hours of play-time, but there are three reasons that I do so: (1) as a 35-year old man with aI am reluctant to review this game at only 23 hours of play-time, but there are three reasons that I do so: (1) as a 35-year old man with a busy professional life, my gaming time is limited; (2) having experienced 23 hours of the game, my strong suspicion is that it has little more to offer; (3) from today, my gaming attentions will, given my limited leisure time, be devoted elsewhere and I am unlikely to complete the game.
May I start with the good? The aesthetic is far better than Dragon Age 2. Weapons look like weapons; armour looks more credibly like armour, rather than a schoolboy's manga-infused fantasy. The Haven tactical map offers another interesting dimension to gameplay and a useful short-cut between playable zones. As ever, characters remain lovingly written and well-acted (in terms of a computer game).
So that's that. Onto the bad.
MMORPG and/or casual gaming influences have polluted the main gameplay to an unacceptable extent, which is so contrived to be story-breaking. This is a bad thing in a story-driven game. " Look into a conveniently-placed skull to collect shards of ... something, anyway." The lack of editorial control on that particular facet of the game is appalling. "Creepy," remarks Varic at one point, and I could not agree more. That a game of this pedigree should require such pointless padding tends to suggest a gross editorial deficit. I logged in this evening, expecting to take another hour or so. But I didn't actually do it. The reason I didn't do it is because I have outstanding quests which feel like horrid chores - the sort of the "collect the shard" variety which are so contrived as to add no narrative value. I have to repeat, BioWare, those of us who have home or professional lives to lead have better things to do than your artifical fetch-quests. The problem is that, having had experience of the Mass Effect series, if I don't complete all these contrived, nonsense non-quests, there are likely to be dire consequences for my characters in the long run. I'd rather save them - and me - the bother and axe the whole tedious affair now, than sit through hours of irrelevant padding.
For all the decent writing, characters seem less approachable in this game. I spent a wee while going through my "valuables" inventory, plotting out in my own mind (as per Dragon Age: Origins) which items were saleable and which were potential gifts. It was only when no option to give an item to another character presented itself that I searched on the internet under DO:I Gifts and found that there was no such function - "valuables" was just another RPG-diminishing term for "saleable junk." How depressing.
In the early stages of the game, you seem to have one or two "getting to know you" chats with your NPCs. Thereafter, even after 23 hours, attempts which fall flat to strike up meaningful conversations with well-acted characters just seems like a waste, and demonstrative of the recent BioWare inclination towards railroading ("You'll get this conversation at this point in in the plot,") rather than real RPG gaming ("You'll get this conversation if you really get in touch with this character.").
I am going to be far from the first person to say it, but the player perspective is appalling. I felt uncomfortable in trying to control with the WSAD keys a character keys who wasn't properly first-person controllable in combat, and DA:I seems to import the worst of both worlds: a non-tactical, WSAD P3 view of the character for most of the time, switching to a temporary, foliage-blocked, fallible, non-intuitive tactical view for combat.
Finally, can I save my particular ire for the failure to import saved games? When my old PC died, I spent a certain amount of money in recovering not just work documents, but also my DO:A and DO:2 saved game files. Imagine my surprise when, during a conversation with Leiliana, absolutely apropos nothing at all, she referred to my male Warden mage from DA:O as a "she." Again, I reverted to Google. There is no save import function, we are told. Make your own (contrived) histiory using a website and download it. "Thanks, BioWare," I thought. "Thanks for putting me on notice of that." Because - much as reviewers of this site might disagree - I'm really not stupid. But if I have to read in-depth into obscure fine print for a computer games company that they're not going to do what they've always done, surely something is not right? Isn't this what the late, great Lord Denning called a "red hand" clause - that is, it ought to be pointed out with a big, red hand, to draw the attention of the wary consumer?
I am aware that a lot of this review may sound like complaining. I hate to join my voice to those who say "DA:O" was a better game. The sad thing is that it was. It was both more intuitive and immersive. DA:I is a bit of a shadow of what BioWare used to be. It's better than DA:2. But at least I had time to finish DA:2.… Expand
Average User Score: 5.3May 11, 2013Mass Effect 3 is a basically decent game which is irretrievably spoiled by oversimplification and lack of dramatic direction.
The gameMass Effect 3 is a basically decent game which is irretrievably spoiled by oversimplification and lack of dramatic direction.
The game looks marvellous, but, as with many Bioware games, the locations are Potemkin villages: Shepard and her squadmates are restricted in their movements, hemmed in on all sides in small arenas with convenient chest-high walls, with no potential for interaction with the scenery.
Combat largely handles well, but never strays from the mould of "cover-based shooter." The lack of any real challenge from the enemies discourages tactical thinking and the awkward use of the "F" key as a melee button makes the use of melee an unrealistic option on the PC.
What is particularly frustrating about this game is how the stripped-down interface divests the gamer's experience of any verve or life. So many of the side missions are no more sophisticated than a text-based DOS game. When exploring a planet to find resources for the war, a player is simply told that he had recovered something of use, but there is no game-driven, interactive imperative to treat those text notifications with anything other than apathy. The "Citadel" DLC adds some welcome opportunity for character interaction and development, but really ought to have been part of the original game I can only imagine how shallow and unsatisfying ME3 would have been without it.
The ending of Mass Effect 3 has attracted opprobrium quite rightly. Labouring hard over the course of three games to save squadmates, or entire species, has little or no dramatic payoff. The destinies of squad-mates and their unusual pairings are left ignored and untold. The narrative justification of the final denouement is weak and unsatisfactory, and somewhat contradicts established canon. This is particularly disappointing when the stripped-down, simplified gameplay mechanic runs the player on rails towards the choice of four such unsatisfying conclusions.
For all those gripes, there is some fun to be had here, but ME3 deserves to be remembered most for squandered opportunities.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.3Nov 3, 2012The most frustrating thing about this game is how close it comes to greatness. Although I genuinely enjoyed it, I couldn't help but thinkThe most frustrating thing about this game is how close it comes to greatness. Although I genuinely enjoyed it, I couldn't help but think that Dishonoured could have been so much more. In gameplay terms, Dishonoured could crudely be called a steampunk Deus Ex: Human Revolution. You can kill enemies or knock them out. You can drag their bodies around and create a big old heap o' men (although bodies in Dishonoured have a habit of vanishing after a while). Each level offers a decent variety of ways to sneak, climb, charge or slay your way through. But Dishonoured lacks some of DE:HR's sophistication. The cover mechanic in Dishonoured, while straightforward, makes for the slightly ludicrous notion that an enemy cannot spot a player peeking out from behind a pillar. Corvo cannot talk his way around baddies. The plot is a good one for a computer game, but the efforts at character immersion are futile, given that Corvo is a blank canvas without character, and the dialogue sections contrast most unfavourably with DE:HR. Of course, it might be said that Corvo's personality reveals itself through actions rather than words, given that each mission's body count affects both the disposition of NPCs and the way that subsequent levels are played. This is a great idea in theory, but it also acts as a powerful disincentive to use one of the game's more interesting features: the combination of sword-and-pistol combat. Given that Dishonored has so few original features, discouraging the exploration of one of them in this fashion just feels perverse. Dishonored does have some interesting magical powers which stray pleasingly far from established RPG tropes, possession being the most obvious and delightful example. The downside is that such powers tend to make relatively easy missions even less challenging. And Dishonoured borrows one of Dragon Age II's most annoying attributes in converting collected loot instantly into cash, rather than offering the player the opportunity to do anything with it. If casks of whale oil can be made to explode, for example, could not a flask of refined whale oil make a jury-rigged grenade? Could not the medicinal herbs be sold to deserving (or undeserving) characters who might, in turn, offer some quid pro quo? While Dishonored is a fun and diverting 15 hours, is is not nearly so immersive or original as some reviewers would have you believe. But the really infuriating thing is that it could so easily have been great.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.1Jun 5, 2012Grimrock is an old-school, four-man-party dungeoneering RPC which represents a timely reminder to Bioware, Bethesda et al. that it is possibleGrimrock is an old-school, four-man-party dungeoneering RPC which represents a timely reminder to Bioware, Bethesda et al. that it is possible to make a fantasy roleplaying game which is challenging, but still enjoyable. The old-school puzzles are every bit as contrived as older gamers will remember from Eye of the Beholder and its like, but within that contrivance lies a really enjoyable challenge simply absent from most modern RPGs. Combat is no cake-walk and my playthrough needed more than a couple of re-loads, especially after Level 6. Loot is nicely balanced, however, with just the right amount of equipment progression to keep the hardened dungeoneer interested. There isn't a great deal of role-playing per se in this RPG. Magic is a little bit shallow in this game, being almost entirely combat-orientated: my mage was little more than a flamethrower with a name. The rooms and corridors are sparsely furnished, with only the occasional barrel or egg-sac to break up the endless grey corridors. NPCs are notable for their absence. But mysterious dreams and notes left by a previous prisoner who attempted to navigate the dungeon provide enough of a sense of story and atmosphere to keep the four prisoners going. Ultimately, Grimrock is a loving tribute to a style of game whose day has passed and to that extent, it succeeds superbly. Although it's targeted fairly and squarely at those who assaulted Myth Dranor in days of yore on much older machines, there is a salutary lesson for modern studios: tricky puzzles and challenging combat give the player something to do besides staring at the landscape between cut-scenes.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.0Dec 4, 2011Having clocked up around 80 hours on Skyrim now, I feel just about qualified to write a review. It is fair to say that Skyrim is a very goodHaving clocked up around 80 hours on Skyrim now, I feel just about qualified to write a review. It is fair to say that Skyrim is a very good action RPG, but is rather too shallow to offer a truly great roleplaying experience.
By doing away with the standard base statistics (strength, agility, personality, etc) in the name of simplification, Bethesda has actually cheapened the gamer's experience significantly. Fallout: New Vegas offered a great insight as to how those statistics could affect the player's choices in a game, from different dialogue options with real consequences to being able to solve certain tasks for certain NPCs. Without those differing routes to the same conversational goal, interactions with NPCs feel flat, bland and pointless.
Of further frustration is that NPCs fail to recognise the player's achievements in the realm, though they comment freely on abilities of which they ought to know nothing. "Hands to yourself, sneak thief," a Whiterun guard might tell me, though I've never been spotted thieving in Whiterun (or anywhere near it). I am, however, a thegn of Whiterun and, despite the Jarl's promise to let all and sundry know my new rank, I am never addressed as thegn by anyone save my huscarl (who, I am sure, does it only to humour me). The addition of companions is tiresome in the sense that it adds nothing to the game, save a beast of burden. Most are pretty poor combatants and the dungeoneer will find most of his time protecting the person whom he has hired to protect him. Followers offer no unique interactions or personalised side quests and, in that respect, compare unfavourably with Fallout: New Vegas and the Mass Effect series. They feel like an entirely wasted opportunity to add some roleplay value to the game.
There are a large number of quests to complete, ranging from the benign (advise lovers for the Temple of Mara) to the downright evil (lure priests to their death for demented gods). There are some real moral choices to be made. However, there don't tend to be particularly profound consequences for those moral choices, which is rather disappointing.
The raidiant quest system works well as a means of getting the player to explore the whole map. While the radiant quests themselves are necessarily simplistic, that is entirely forgiveable in the circumstances. Far more frustrating are the scripted side-quests, the College of Winterhold plot being particular source of dissatisfaction at its short and shallow scope. When I arrived, I was learning to cast ward spells. Three hours later, I was the Archmage, thanks to an infuriatingly simplistic deus ex machina plot device, and without being a noticeably better spellcaster. Morrowind required me to do tasks for various mages and to master several magical disciplines. Winterhold obviously sets a lower premium on actually being any good at magic. There are, of course, things Skyrim does brilliantly. It's a very handsome game to look at, even on medium graphics settings. The dungeon design has improved immensely since Oblivion (even if the inevitable secret door back to the beginning seems like something of a cop-out). The dual wielding system, while not perfect, is an interesting development and a welcome addition to the game. Even in snowy Skryim, there are a variety of terrains and architectural styles which gave the game a real feeling of size. The underlying plot dynamics are interesting: the Nords portray themselves as valiantly fighting for their homeland against the elven oppressors and the weak imperium, but themselves oppress Skyrim's native folk in the west. But the game feels unfinished, even hasty in places and, after 80 hours play, leaves me with the distinct impression that it could have been so much more.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.4Sep 4, 2011This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. PC gamers must get used to this fact: many of the big studio releases for their (and my) favoured medium are being principally developed on consoles, with console gamers in mind. Most of the attacks on this game acknowledge that fact, but resent it. There is a perception that a PC game should mean complexity and depth, whereas a console game should be accessible and shallow. Whatever the truth of these perceptions, Deus Ex: Human Revolutions is a game which has been developed for a console which stands up happily on the PC and is one of the more enjoyable PC games of this year. It is billed as an RPG-shooter. The RPG elements are located as sensibly as any leveling up system can possibly be inside the story. Jensen, following his operation, has all his augmentations intact, but he's brought out of recovery early. His body and nervous system aren't used to their newfound, mechanically-enhanced talents. Therefore, he needs Praxis software - earned through the accumulation of experience, i.e. use of his new body, to unlock the higher level abilities. Well, it's a stretch, but it's a brave attempt by the game's writers to impose a story on the notion of levelling up, something which RPG enthusiasts have taken for granted since the first tentative forays of pen-and-paper, kitchen table games onto the home computer in the eighties. Personally, I approve. Speaking of the difference between pen-and-paper, kitchen table RPGs and their electronic successors, DE:HR offers the player a decent amount of choice for the type of game it is. A pen-and-paper session over pizzas and beer is limited only by the rules of the game and the tolerance of one's fellow gamers. Not so on a computer game. All choices must be limited by necessity. The story of DE:HR implies that the action happens within the space of a few days; by necessity, it is tightly plotted. But within that, there are multiple ways to execute each mission. There are different physical routes to each objective. There are a good range of weapons to support a given player style and a sensible, intuitive inventory system. There are approaches ranging from a Terminator-style shoot-out in a Detroit nick, through persuading your way in, to sneaking in undetected. Yes, of course real people don't really patrol like DE:HR's guards do, but we are somewhat limited by the technology available to us in 2012 and no game has yet achieved a perfect patrolman. DE:HR's guards move naturally enough to keep up the illusion of reality, and even chat to each other on occasion.
it No 21st-century shooter would be complete without a cover mechanic, but it works nicely within the confines of the game. The game awards points for merciful take-downs over straightforward kills; and awards end-of-level points for remaining undetected, in order to encourage different styles of play. On the topic of rewarding, the dialogue system invites comparisons with Bioware's and tops it without question. The dialogue options accurately foreshadow both the temperament and content of Jensen's potential answers, unlike Bioware's wretched wheel. Rather than a straight choice between flippant, aggressive and passive, one must watch the tone and personality of the NPC to get the best out of the conversation. With the right augmentation, one can release pheromones to increase diaglogue options. It's just a shame that more conversations don't follow this path: a goodly number are, in essence, cuscenes, which is somewhat frustrating, given the potential shown in the interactive dialogues.
Of course, it's not all roses. Entertaining as the manual takedown animations are, they don't always gel with the preceding action and the dissonance can grate. There are four mandatory boss-fights in the game, which are an unwelcome encumbrance (and a nod to DE:HR's console roots!) and force even the sneakiest of players to play, temporarily, in an aggressive style (vive le Typhoon). Also unwieldy, in a narrative sense, are the sidequests: enjoyable as they are, they do feel forcibly levered into the time-conscious plot. Finally, the corporate-espionage-with-a-moral-dimension plot all takes a turn for the Dan Brown towards the end, invoking ancient conspiracies and giant machines we've all seen a hundred times in other games, books and films, which is something of a let down. The ending montages, particularly, are annoyingly bland and a good deal of loose ends are not tied up (DLC, anyone?)
But on the whole, DE:HR is a good game. The plot is on a par with any B-movie or airport thriller novel; the action's decent; there is enough freedom of choice to keep most RPG fans satisfied (if one recognises that this is not trying to be D&D on your PC); the dialogue system is a real hit; and the game has a sense of humour (Robocop fans will encounter a policeman named Murphy without a sense of dramatic irony; Megadeth fans a certain hangar...). Give it a go.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.7Mar 16, 2011I enjoyed Mass Effect 2, I really did. But when I'd finished it, I felt...unsatisfied. Perhaps it was because the tactical element to theI enjoyed Mass Effect 2, I really did. But when I'd finished it, I felt...unsatisfied. Perhaps it was because the tactical element to the game - issuing orders to squad-mates - was really a bit of a fig-leaf, because I could get on perfectly well without them for most of the game. Perhaps it was because there wasn't much opportunity to interact with my crew. Perhaps it was because the dialogue wheel is perhaps one of the most frustrating means of interacting in a conversation ever devised in an RPG, and what I thought I was saying was frequently not what I actually said. But mostly it's because the game runs on rails. There is no real opportunity to go off on a frolic of your own: BioWare has a story, and they're going to tell it, whether you like it or not. It feels like a smaller game than the original. On the positive side, the graphics are an improvement on the original - which wasn't bad --, the voice acting is good and the plot is engaging, when it's not being rammed down my throat. But there isn't actually very much to do and I did have the impression that I was just pressing buttons between cut-scenes for quite a lot of the game.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.9Mar 16, 2011I bought Morrowind in 2003. I played it for about a year. My then-girlfriend's computer went the way of all things and all my significantI bought Morrowind in 2003. I played it for about a year. My then-girlfriend's computer went the way of all things and all my significant progress was lost. Then, last year, I re-installed the game and got lost in Vvardenfell once more. The graphics are old and dated now, but when first released, it looked fantastic. The environments are rich and varied. The characters are -- mostly -- well written and there are flashes of quirky humour (at one point, I was accompanied by a near-naked barbarian whose clothes had been stolen by a "witch." After the initial conversation, initiating dialogue produced the response, "Chilly today, isn't it?"). There are so many paths and alliegances to choose from in the game that no gamer will have the same experience as another. Magic and crafting feel genuine and personal: there is the opportunity to create spells with several different effects, with whatever name you choose. Ditto potions. Ditto magical weapons. Even the clothes and armour options are interestingly individualised: you can wear clothes under your armour, and a robe over the top, if you're so inclined. How many other games offer that level of character customisation? Levelling up makes sense: skills improve the more you use them, rather than experience points being arbitrarily assigned for finishing quests or killing enemies. Morrowind is, without question, the most immersive game I've played. It's not perfect: combat is frustrating, because blocking is taken entirely out of the hands of the player. There are a few bugs, but a devoted modding community has fixed a good deal of them. The down-sides are few compared to the positives. I played Oblivion and I enjoyed it. But I didn't love it. Not like Morrowind.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.7Mar 16, 2011M&B:W is not a particularly beautiful game. This was brought home to me early on when practice-fighting in Praven's arena. As my swordM&B:W is not a particularly beautiful game. This was brought home to me early on when practice-fighting in Praven's arena. As my sword curved up, my neck (which was a different colour to the rest of me) appeared to detach from my shoulders. Oh well. It's only a flesh wound. That said, the graphics aren't bad: just unpolished. The combat is frankly the best I have ever seen from a first-person hack and slash: I only hope that Bethesda are paying attention to it for the Elder Scrolls V. Mounted combat is thrilling and exhillerating. Issuing orders to my army felt second nature after a while. It is difficult to express just how enjoyable it is to engage 50 enemy spearmen and archers with my own infantry and archers, then have my cavalry flank the enemy and turn those proud lines into an utter rout. Where this game does falter, apart from the graphics, is the role play element. Quests and characters seem to have been lifted from a game 15 years older: while perfectly adequate, they don't provide much in the way of immersion. But M&B is the only game I've come across which offers the opportunity to build and control a warband from a first person perspective, without sacrificing anything in the way of action. I wouldn't be without it.… Expand