RPG Index: Single player Role Playing Games

Monday, 22 July 2013

Might and Magic Heroes VI

I've had a copy of Might and Magic 6 for years. I've tried to get into it several times, but failed due to circumstances outside my control or because I just plain couldn't get into it. Recently I decided to rectify that issue, and force myself to sit down for a solid Might and Magic session and finish a couple of campaigns. I gotta admit I really don't like it. It's fun for a couple of hours, but the longer you play the less interesting it gets.

I just can't seem to enjoy the battles, they are too repetitive.

Genre: RPG, Strategy
Release Date: 13th October, 2011
Platforms: PC
Score: 3/10
Similar Titles: Sorry, I can't recommend other games this bad because I just don't remember any.

Might and Magic Heroes VI thrusts you into the role of a sovereign in the world of Ashan, a place plagued by many monsters and your usual fantasy creatures. Orcs, Gryphons and Undead: stuff like that. As ruler of the realm your role is to build a large army, capture resources around the map to fund that army, and kill everything that gets in your way. Depending on which campaign you dive into there's a different story, usually something about defending your lands from an invasion or something boring like that. Sadly, the story is one of the redeeming qualities of the game- despite being scarce and short. For example, the first campaign pits you in control of Duke Slava; a young noble allied with the Orcs. Unluckily, people don't like the Orcs so you have to send them a message by putting a sword in their gut. Eventually you kill a few people who are important and some angels get involved, and everything just gets a little bloody. But to be honest, you'd be better off just reading the story on Wikipedia, it's less time consuming and you don't have to actually suffer through the tedium of the game.

The CGI does look amazing, but there's barely any of it.

Both the campaign map and the battles are turn-based in Might and Magic. You have a set amount of movement points each turn on the map, which can be increased by equipment or talents when you level up. When you end your turn your opponents get to move, and every few turns everything on the map gets slightly harder to kill. If you squander enough turns, it becomes impossible to progress further because the armies you have to defeat become far too powerful. This is a nice idea on paper, it forces you to keep making progress. The goal of each mission is to capture and convert the enemies castles, or defeat a specific army. On the way you can collect nodes such as blacksmiths or stables to generate units or resources every turn. Once a month you can recruit new forces at your stronghold, so it's usually a good idea to try and get your hero and his army nearby to pick them up. There are small armies everywhere, most of the time you want to capture something you will have to fight something for it. The campaign map is the least offensive part of Might and Magic heroes, it's not exactly fun to wander around securing places for gold; but it's not awful either. If only you didn't have to spend 10 minutes battling a bunch of peasant Undead every time you want to take control of something.

The campaign map doesn't look that pretty, and the UI can get annoying to deal with.

As for the battles, they start out quite interesting. Your units are stacked together, so you can have 40 crossbow men occupying one tile, or you could split it into 2 individual sets of 20. Each unit can move once per turn, and some of them have special attributes that aid their combat ability. For example, Gryphons can attack from any distance by flying to the target and returning to their original position. However, they are all basically the same. You move your unit into position, and attack over and over again until everything is dead. The only layer to combat on top of that is your hero. While he does not take part in the actual battle, your hero can cast spells and attack every turn from the sidelines. When you level up a few times you can choose from a rather large pool of spells in the talent tree. It's nice to have a large repertoire of abilities to use in combat, but the downside here is most of them are boring. Who wants to increase defense by x for 3 turns?

Attacking strongholds is fun the first time. Can't really say the same after that.

Overall, the battlefield is exactly what turned me off Might and Magic. It's a slow paced affair, even with when you set the computer to do it automatically for you. The problem is that you usually end up fighting a couple of armies each turn, and after a few hours it just gets sickeningly frustrating. Combat in this game is the embodiment of 'I hit you, then you hit me.', this outdated mechanic is something Square Enix have been trying to evolve for years. This is the biggest problem with the game, because why would I waste my time on it when I could just play something else with a story that I'm invested in, or with better graphics and combat?

I just can't believe this is the sixth edition of a game in 2011. It's like a game from the 90's. A bad one.

Despite the incredibly basic warfare, the game has a fair variety of different units to find and recruit. Some of the endgame angels and dragons are really cool and powerful, it's awesome to have them in your army. However, there are only a couple of upgrades for each unit. It would have been far better to give players choices when they want to make their army more powerful, instead of giving us some none-optional power ups that are insignificant for the most part. It's a real shame, because the base combat starts out promising, but it doesn't give you enough to work with as you get further into the game. The Spearmen you have at the beginning are the same as the Spearmen at the end.

The cutscenes are dull. Can't really describe them any other way.

From the small amount of research I've done, Heroes of Might and Magic 6 has advanced in quality from the titles that came before it. It's made progress. But in my opinion, no way near enough. It looks like a cool game and when you first start playing it feels like it too. The Heroes can develop aggressively down the blood path or intelligently up the tears route. The units have been collaborated from a vast collection of fictional creatures. The graphics aren't half bad, and nor is the atmosphere. Unfortunately, after a few hours your opinion of the game deteriorates, and you start to think 'shouldn't there be more to this?'.

Maybe I'm not being fair to a game that's really old. Oh wait, it's only been 2 years since it came out! It feels like it's a game from 2006 or earlier, it's that outdated. Maybe they didn't have the budget to make it better? Well I'm pretty sure Ubisoft had plenty of cash to publish it. That's the problem with this title. It seems to have everything it needed to be a comprehensive modern video game; and yet it plays like something I'd be playing on windows 98 when I was in primary school. This is the most scathing review I have written for a game thus far, and I feel a little guilty about it. So I booted up Might and Magic to give it one another chance. An hour later, I'm back- and I refuse to change a word of it. Other critics have given this game a fairly high score, one that it doesn't deserve.

Don't buy this title unless you like games that are slow-paced, unnecessarily time-consuming and outdated. I'll give it one saving grace: it's playable. But I don't pay for games that are playable. I pay for games that are going to give me an existential life crisis when I run out of content to play.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Star Ocean Wallpapers

After playing through several Star Ocean games recently, mainly the Last Hope and First Departure; I decided to collect several wallpapers for my desktop. Here they are, for your viewing and downloading pleasure. Star Ocean is really a fantastic franchise, and there's countless wallpapers out there. These are some of the best I could find.

If you're looking for a review on first departure, take a look here.

Desktop Wallpapers: Star Ocean

Star Ocean Wallpapers 1
First departure isn't bad if you can get a copy of it, but the characters are a bit shallow.

Star Ocean Wallpapers 2
The Last Hope didn't exceed my expectations, but it's a good game.

Star Ocean Wallpapers 3
I could never find a copy of Second Evolution, still want to play it.

Star Ocean Wallpapers 4
Til the End of Time is my undisputed favorite Star Ocean game.

Star Ocean Wallpapers 5
If you like pink haired elves, well there you go.

Star Ocean Wallpapers 6
I really didn't like Edge that much. I don't know why.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Infinite Undiscovery

Infinite Undiscovery was a debatable purchase for me. On one hand it was cheap, on the other the box looked pretty awful. However, the blurb sold me on it; promising me a great title from the creators of Star Ocean. After finishing the first disc and making decent progress on the second; I'm impressed. Just not that impressed. Infinite Undiscovery is an above average JRPG with a nice blend of elements, and it's definitely worth a single playthrough.

The graphics are awesome, almost Square Enix quality.

Genre: JRPG, Fantasy
Release Date: 2nd September, 2008
Platforms: Xbox 360
Score: 7/10
Similar Titles: Star Ocean, The Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles

Monday, 15 July 2013

Grand Theft Auto V: New Gameplay Video

I've been looking forward to the new Grand Theft Auto. The information about it released thus far is incredibly promising. This new video, which outlines gameplay and story reinforces that promise. It looks amazing. Instead of being dropped into a world so large you'll never really spend too much time in any one area, Rockstar have opted for a smaller game area with things crammed in. Grand Theft Auto 5 is going to be an epic game, without a doubt. Just how epic will it be?

Monday, 8 July 2013

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Having never played a Call of Juarez title to date, I didn't know what to expect when jumping into Gunslinger; aside from a few very pretty looking screenshots. After diving into the playthrough and finishing it in less than 10 hours, I can attest that it's a short but enjoyable game that peaks at above average. It's not a bad game, but it lacks content and can't really stand up to FPS games of higher quality.

A screenshot of robbing a train on the game Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
Trains seem to be a big focus on Gunslinger. Mostly because people like to rob them.

Genre: FPS, Adventure
Release Date: 21st May, 2013
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Score: 7/10
Similar Titles: Red Dead Redemption, Desperados, GUN
Worth Playing: Definitely, you can run through the whole game in a day and it's a fairly enjoyable arcade style shooter.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Mount & Blade: Warband

If you're looking for Warband mods, try Floris or Pendor, they are the biggest and best available.

I have yet to play a better kingdom building game than Mount & Blade. No other title can really provide the same satisfaction of starting out a campaign alone and penniless, forming your own band of mercenaries, rising in power until you're ready to try for the throne. Sure, other games try to create this experience, but none of them do it as well as Warband. As far as single player titles go, this one's top quality bueno.

An intense melee brawl in Mount and Blade
Things can get a little crazy when the melee starts.

Genre: Action, Third-person, RPG, Strategy
Release Date: 30th March, 2010
Platforms: PC
Score without mods: 7/10
Score with mods: 9/10
Similar Titles: Total War, Chivalry, War of the Roses

Mount and Blade: Warband is the sequel to the original Mount and Blade. It hasn't changed much, it's the same game with buffed up features and some polish. It's not nearly as polished or pretty as it should be, in fact it still feels like a game in beta. Which is why it's strange that Warband is still one of the best games I've ever played.

A night battle in Warband
Taking a hill gives you a pretty overpowered advantage.

There are two sides to Warband. The campaign map and the battlefield. Most of your time will be spent on the map, traveling from city to city looking for quests and enemies to fight. However, once you make a little progress you'll be repelling armies left and right. There is zero story whatsoever, so don't expect any until you start piling on some mods. The battlefield is the fun part of Warband. When the fight begins, you can command your soldiers around the field at the same time as controlling your character. It's essentially third-person action, combined with real-time strategy. It's a great feeling, sending your infantry into the fray whilst charging alongside your cavalry into the flank. It's far more satisfying being in the combat instead of watching it from above.

The overworld campaign map in Mount and Blade
The overworld map isn't particularly pretty, but then again neither is the rest of the game.

Warband's combat really is something special. You can make use of various weapon types, including swords, crossbows, lances and even stones. Each weapon has limited functionality, so it's quite a hard decision to decide whether to keep that two-handed claymore for sweeping past people on horseback, or trade it in for a bow so you can nail enemies from afar. Moreover, dealing damage is directly related to physics. For example, if you're running at full speed on a horse and land a blow on somebody, they are going to take twice as much damage as they would if you were stationary. You can swing in 4 different directions, and if you swing in the right direction with your momentum, it will do significantly more damage. This is a unique feature that brings a new element of strategy to battle.

Upon starting your new character, fresh with your own backstory, Warband drops you into the lands of Calradia. From the beginning of the game, you are free to do whatever you want. You can try to besiege a castle at level one, if being hit by 40 arrows in the face is something on your list of things to do. Typically it's a good idea to kick off your campaign by recruiting a few peasants and searching for bandits to get early weapons and cash. Completing quests for villages and lords lands you reputation points and money, both of which become important as you progress. Once you have trained your men into competent swordsmen and archers, you become a formidable band of mercenaries prepared to fight some of the larger forces on the map.

A siege battle in the snow from the game Mount and Blade
Castle sieges can be really difficult with limited ladders to attack from.

The reason Mount & Blade: Warband is so addictive is because you can choose your route to power. If you want to become a peaceful diplomatic, you can help villages prosper by helping them with bandits and buying them grain. Then you can invest that money into various enterprises to turn a profit every week. Eventually you can join a faction and fight for them, with enough reputation your king might even reward you with a castle or city. Or, you can take the quick route to power. Loot and burn villages, ambush lords and ransom them for money. Take a castle for yourself and establish your own rogue kingdom. This is a fast way to piss off all the factions, but if you're prepared to fight them off you can create your own utopia; recruit your own lords to patrol your lands and manage your finances.

Rolling around the map outmaneuvering armies twice your size and crushing them feels like an entire game in itself. However, when you start conquering provinces and owning lands- it becomes a whole different ballgame. Suddenly you're posed with questions of state, who to appoint as a leader, how many troops to leave in the garrison, and even building upgrades to improve your cities and villages. Instead of going from country to country, you're posed with defending your lands all while keeping your own army strong and formidable enough to counter any threats.

Training peasant villages in Mount and Blade: Warband
Training peasants consists of beating them unconscious until they get stronger.

Even though Warband is definitely better than most of the medieval war games I've had the misfortune of playing, it's still inherently flawed and feels unfinished. Sometimes attacks glitch and miss or hit when they shouldn't have, and walking up hills slows your units down far more than it should. There aren't many quests and they are a chore to complete, which often makes it difficult to farm reputation with a village or person that you want on your side. It's possible to romance lords and ladies of the opposite sex, but it's time consuming and lacks benefit. Although all these features seem hastily tacked on it's justifiable due to the massive branches of options and mechanics in Warband. Even more so considering it was created by a small indie company. With a higher budget and a bigger team, there's absolutely no limit to how high the Mount & Blade franchise could reach.

When I take a step back and look at the overall composition of Warband, it's nothing less than fantastic. There are dozens of cities and keeps owned by different factions, all with their own economy. With some memory and a little perseverance, you can make money by transporting the right goods from town to town. Lords recruit armies and trawl across the map, picking off bandits and fighting their enemies. Over the space of a couple of months in game time, factions go to war and try to conquer territory. If you're not careful, you can indirectly help a faction by defeating their enemies, and then they will spiral out of control and take half the map. Dozens of companions can be found in taverns, who level up just like your main character. You can even throw some epic gear their way, if you want them to be a monstrous killing machine. My point being, every individual feature of Mount & Blade: Warband needs work, polish or an overhaul. However, when all those single pieces come together as a whole; it forms a beautiful game worthy of every fanatic collection.

Fighting in a tournament, Warband
Tournaments are a good way to rack up some cash, if you win anyway.

What's funny is, this is all just the core Warband game. You still don't know about the best part. Mods. Mount & Blade has one of the finest modding communities in existence, rivaling that of the Elder Scrolls and Total War. From small to complete overhaul, if there's something you want- you can find it. You can change the size of battles, add in story elements and even monsters. You can download packs with dozens of new units, or even entirely new maps. Don't like playing games with sub-par graphics? Download some HD textures and voila! Pretty. There are overhaul packs that make Warband feel like an entirely new game.

It's gotten to the point where I physically cannot stand playing the core Mount & Blade. It's a brilliant game, but it reaches near perfect with some of the mods you can download. If you're looking for an overhaul to make Warband so much more; try Floris or Prophecy of Pendor.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Warband Mods: Floris

Floris is the largest mod I've seen for Mount & Blade yet. It's a whopping 1.1 GB, and upon starting it up you will immediately notice changes everywhere you look. In essence, Floris is a patch that brings countless gameplay changes, fixes, and tweaks to Warband. Beware, once you get into this mod it's unlikely you will ever play the native Warband again. It's a massive improvement to the original.

An intense fight on the battlefield in Floris, a warband mod.
Mounted archery is useful for whittling down hordes of opponents.