Assassin’s Creed 3 Has Got Me Excited !

A couple of days ago, Ubisoft released a trailer and the cover art for their new Assassin’s Creed game. Now that the story of Ezio Auditore is over we’re finally moving on to Assassin’s Creed III. The short trailer (look below)  tells us quite a few things. First of all we know the time period the game will take place in. The game will take place in North America during the American Revolutionary War in the 18th century.

Don’t know what the Revolutionary War is? Well, here’s some background information for you.

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.

The war was the result of the political American Revolution. Colonists galvanized around the position that the Stamp Act of 1765, imposed by Parliament of Great Britain, was unconstitutional. The British Parliament insisted it had the right to tax colonists. The colonists claimed that, as they were British subjects, taxation without representation was illegal. The American colonists formed a unifying Continental Congress and a shadow government in each colony, though ostensibly claiming loyalty to the monarch and a place in the British Empire. The American boycott of directly taxed British tea led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. London responded by ending self-government in Massachusetts and putting it under the control of the British army with General Thomas Gage as governor. In April 1775 Gage learned that weapons were being gathered in Concord, and he sent British troops to seize and destroy them. Local militia, known as ‘minutemen,’ confronted the troops and exchanged fire (see Battles of Lexington and Concord). After repeated pleas to the British monarchy for intervention with Parliament, any chance of a compromise ended when the Congress were declared traitors by royal decree, and they responded with a declared independence forming a new sovereign nation external to the British Empire, the United States of America, on July 4, 1776.

In 1783, the Treaty of Paris ended the war and recognized the sovereignty of the United States over the territory bounded roughly by what is now Canada to the north, Florida to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west.

As I mentioned above, the Ezio story arc is over and we’ll be moving on to a new protagonist who appears to be armed with a tomahawk. Connor (our protagonist’s name) is darting through snowy woodland to help a few British shoulders to the eternal hunting grounds. So it seems he’s helping the Americans in their fight for independence against the British. I guess it will be a welcome change from the overdose of rooftops we had in the previous AC games.

Producer Ubisoft says that, on the moment of release (31 October), the game will have been in development for 3 years. The crew working on the game is double the size as usual and the game is being developed with the new AnvilNext engine for even smoother graphics.

Assassin’s Creed 3 will be released on the PC, PS3, Xbox 360 AND the Wii U.

Personally, I think it’s a good choice to have the game take place during the American Revolutionary War and I’m excited to see what Ubisoft will do with the wide open battlefields en dense forest areas. The long wait until 31 October begins …

/Niels

Hands-on – Duke Nukem Forever

There has been a lot of buzz on the internet lately about Duke Nukem Forever and the majority of it wasn’t even positive. Wether it be through Fox News or Totalbiscuit, Duke Nukem has been a regular topic of discussion. Well now, since the game’s release on the 10th of June I had the chance to play through a good chunk of the game now, and I’m here to give my thoughts on it. Enjoy.

When you come home with some games you just have to stick ’em in your pc or console and start playing immediately. There’s no need to think any further. But sometimes you get to play a game that’s more special than others. Duke Nukem Forever falls into the last category, at least before having played it. What was the joke of the decennium in the video game industry has now became reality. Duke Nukem Forever is being released after 14 years of development. But did those 14 years pay off, or did they just set mile-high expectations that aren’t met?

Firing up Duke Nukem Forever is an exciting moment. First of all because it’s a piece of video game history, but most of all because of the hilarious introduction. DNF starts of with a cartoony compilation video where Duke beheads the characteristic aliens that looks a lot like pigs, reads a newspaper, kicks eyeballs away and blows up floating octopus-things. And with that, the tone of the game is set. Lovely!

If this didn’t convince you that Duke Nukem Forever is not to be taken serious in any way, then you really need to see a doctor or something. The first level, Duke Lives, starts off with the well-known sound of the Duke Nukem theme. Couple that with a black screen and the well-known quote ‘Those alien bastards are gonna pay for shooting up my ride’. How the actual gameplay starts is quite characteristic for a Duke Nukem game, I won’t spoil the fun for you though (a quick search on YouTube will do that for you, if you so desire)

Shits and giggles

Believe it or not, Duke Nukem Forever has a story. After getting head from the most outdated joke in the game, the Holson-twins, Duke visits a talk-show. Once there, he finds out that the earth is being attacked by aliens, which prompts Duke to kill them all one by one. The president, however, forbids him from doing anything as there is a chance for peace. Well, let’s just say that this doesn’t stop Duke from kicking ass and chewing bubblegum. Sadly, he’s all out of gum.

The game is not just a Run ‘n Gun game as platform and puzzle elements are fairly common in the game. From this point of view Duke Nukem is as traditional as can be. Whereas most shooters just give you a nice, high-paced experience, Duke Nukem offers the weird (but not annoying) combination of action sequences and puzzle/platform elements. Nope, Duke Nukem Forever is not Super Mario 64, but it’s not a mindless FPS either. Even though the style and humour of the Duke might indicate that. Together with the interactive elements in the environment (you can throw poo, ’nuff said), you’ve got a pretty decent and varying single player experience.

Having said that, shooting alien brains out is still the main activity in the game. And there’s plenty to shoot at – the game will keep you busy for around 10 hours. Although this might have something to do with the pretty high difficulty the game offers: Every once in a while you encounter enemies without actually expecting it. It could be that you’re surprised by a horde of aliens. You often end up dying because a) you don’t expect the danger, b) enemies are often more powerful than you and c) the AI is incredibly stupid as enemies just come running at you and end up blocking your way out. And don’t think you can just scroll through dozens of weapons to find the one that will blow all of them to kingdom come because the Duke can only carry 2 weapons at a time. Not to mention the game often dictates what gun you should use.

Grandpa Duke

The weird difficulty level is not an annoyance however, but it is an indication of old game design. And that’s something you’ll encounter a lot in Duke Nukem Forever. Fo example, the game is graphically very outdated: the faces are pretty standard, objects at a distance are not clear and the textures are ancient. Also, everything seems covered with Vaseline. The game tries to offer a wide variety of environments but in the end they all end up looking pretty brown. Duke Nukem Forever really tries, but it’s still the Meg Griffin of the modern video game world.

In any case, it’s not surprising anymore: the 14 years of development took its toll on Duke Nukem. Both in gameplay and appearance, but also on the technical side of things. You’ll get annoyed at long loading time between levels, trust me. Every 5 minutes you’ll be looking at a loading screen for a minute, which became really annoying after playing a while (for me at least). But even picking up stuff from your environment can be a hassle as you almost have to get your cursor exactly on the object to achieve any form of interaction.

The verdict

In all fairness: Duke Nukem Forever isn’t a very good game. Even worse, in comparison with modern-day shooters it should be mildly ashamed. It’s ugly, technically behind and doesn’t try to do anything new (on a single player level at least, I haven’t played multiplayer). But when all is said and done, Duke Nukem Forever isn’t a normal game. Gearbox didn’t release the game with the illusion that it’s a really good game. The linearity, lack of more than 2 weapons and the pretty generic graphics are its downfall. However, Duke Nukem Forever is an ode to gamers and Duke fans across the world, and from that point of view it does not let anyone down. The humour is still awesome, cheesy and childish as ever. The gameplay does hold up fairly well and the single player will keep you busy longer than a modern-day shooter will (in general, I’m looking at you Call Of Duty: Black Ops!). I enjoyed the game and I had some good laughs, and if you expect nothing more this will be a good game to keep you busy for the weekend.

You might not want to buy at full price though, but I don’t have any doubt that the price will drop fairly soon. If you want a similar experience to Duke Nukem Forever with better graphics, the same kind of humour and more guns I suggest you take a look at Bulletstorm which is dirt cheap by now.

/Gamecultist

Brink – Living Up To The Expectations?

Rising sea levels, humanity on the brink of extinction (see what I did there?) and rebellious organisations: Is it surprising that ‘Brink’, a shooter that is set in a decrepit paradise, touches a sensitive chord with anyone that is concerned with the future of our planet? I don’t know! I’m only here to tell you about the game itself and if it manages to fill in those mile-high expectations that the game has set for itself.

‘Brink’ starts off just as perfect as ‘The Ark’, the metropolitan island where all the action takes place. The fancy intro shows how the Ark came to be, and then moves on to showing the harsh reality: After the apocalyps the Ark, once a beautiful dream, became a nightmare. Two factions are on the brink of war (I did it again! ahem …). ‘Security’ is trying to save the project by restoring order on the island. ‘The Resistance’ on the other hand is trying to get away from the Ark 
 Naturally, the two factions are in conflict with each other. Is the battle of the brave law enforcement against the aggressive aggressors (boy, I’m in the mood today). Or are the rebels the heroes of the Ark, who form the last line of defense against the fascist government? Both sides pick their own truth. The player also gets to choose a side, and their class in the massacre that will no doubt follow. Players are able to choose from Soldier, Operative, Medic and Engineer
Globalists on steroids

The creation of your character is pretty extensive: face, clothing and equipment can be customised to the fullest, combine this with a bunch of realistic tattoos, shirts, accessoires and trousers and you’ve got thousands of ways to customize your character. Sad thing is that in the end, you’ll all look pretty much the same anyway. The colours however often make it difficult to make the difference between friend and foe in the multiplayer. Another annoyance is the fact that most customizations are just not available from the start of the game. Bethesda chose to make most of these unlockable through multiplayer. Fortunatly, if you play well and you fullfill your objectives you’ll earn a lot of experience points quick enough to buy whatever you want.

The rebels look a bit like they participated in the protest actions against the G8-summits or the climate conferences. They wear hockeymasks or bandanas that protect their face – although the Brink variant of protesters took a lot more steroids than their real world counterparts. The Security faction can go different ways as well: you can choose between short hear à la commando style or run around with rasta’s. Your choice.

Once you’ve chosen your faction, class, weapon and character, the fun starts. Or should start at least. In single player, the missions are a good way to get a feel for the controls, but that’s all really. The single player missions are the same maps and assignments as in the multiplayer mode. Which is really lame … most First Person Shooters don’t have a great single player campaign, but this is just taking the piss.  The SMART-option on the other hand is a fun feature. With 1 bash on the left bumper your character gains to freedom to spring or sneak across the terrain. This parkour style of gameplay is pretty fun but could’ve gotten more attention in the multiplayer section where only a few maps really allow for a good, fun use of this feature. This is a shame really, as the parkour style gameplay is supposed to be one of the selling points of the game.

Multiplayer is still the most fun 

I discussed the multiplayer briefly already above but I’ll go a bit more in-depth now. Brink’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The game brings the use of teamplay and the difference between classes together beautifully, albeit a bit dull at times. Every player/class has to work together to achieve the set objectives, and effectively win the game. Medics can revive team members, soldiers can blow shit up and so on. A team has to be well-balanced in order to achieve the objectives of the game, and some goals are only attainable by a single class.

Teamplaying is an absolute must in this game, which can get pretty annoying if you end up playing with randoms.

All in all Brink is a pretty decent distraction for a while but gets boring pretty quick, for me at least. The experience is dulled down further when you realise Brink set such high expectations for itself while most don’t get filled in, which is a shame.

Look below for a trailer. Enjoy

 /Niels

Hands-on – Dragon Age II

Dragon Age: Origins, an instant RPG-classic that was released over a year ago. The spicy gameplay and story kept many a gamer entertained for weeks, if not months. Dragon Age II brings us the long awaited sequel to the game. Question is, can Bioware match the sucess of Dragon Age: Origins? Simple answer? Yes. Keep reading if you want to know why.

Before I write anything else on the subject I’ll just say that I know the game has been out for a while now. But, I only just found the time to play through the game properly and gather my thoughts and criticism. Alright, let’s get this on then.

Since the release of the first Dragon Age countless sidepoducts and acessoires have been released. Just about anything you can think of really, ranging from DLC, an expansion, books, comics, action figures and an anime series meant to still the hunger for the world of Ferelden. But a new game is what we’ve really been waiting for isn’t it?

In Dragon Age II you start your RPG-life, just like in the first game, as one of the 3 classes (mage, warrior or rogue). Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses and you’ll be able to gain certain skills and develop powers during the game. Nothing new there as that’s pretty generic for an RPG. What is noticeable though is the sheer beauty of the game. Suffice to say that, from a graphics point of view, the game is looking awesome. The somewhat ragged, creepty warrior I created could literally be customised in a 1000 different ways.
The promise of visual beauty that is made during the creation of your character is being kept during the further course of the game. The mystical cities, the darker nature environments and the medieval illustrations on the load screens all contribute to a certain atmosphere.
Now, wipe the drool of your chin and let’s talk about the story. You start your adventure as a refugee, Hawke, that is trying to get to Kirkwall to start a new life. During the first period in Kirkwall, you’re confronted with violence, xenofobia and prejudice. All topics that are less exclusive to a fantasy universe than we’d all hope. Next, the player follows Hawke in his violence, intrigues and greed filled life. Hawke will grow to become on of the most powerful figures of his time. Next to the main storyline, you can also complete all kinds of side quests that reward you with cash, items and experience. Again, pretty generic for an RPG.
Special about the story is that Hawke’s story is told after the events, giving the illusion of being a story in a story. This is a reference to tales like the medieval ‘The Canterbury Tales” by Chaucer. Such references to litarature and art of a darker past contribute to the very realistic fantasyworld in which the game takes place.

While you wander around, talk with your travel companions and random people on the street you’ll make items, potions. Furthermore you’ll be looking for hidden entrances and chop up a couple of armies of thugs, monsters and other malevolent folk. The stronger you get the more amazing your abilities get. My warrior could churn out pretty nice combo’s on those filthy enemies after just a couple of levels. Especially as a mage you’ll be drooling over the destructive power of your spells.

The more seasoned gamers among us will find the combat a little bit too easy, especially when compared to the first Dragon Age which was pretty difficult. Easier fights make for faster progression and that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it makes the game more accessible for the less experienced players. Nevertheless, this game will keep you busy for around 50 hours which is respectable in a world filled with 6 hour single player games.

The movie ‘The Godfather II’ is often referenced to as an example that a sequel can be better than the original. I wouldn’t go that far with Dragon Age II, but the game can at least stand next to Dragon Age: Origins without being ashamed. Bioware delivered another masterpiece (surprise! /sarcasm off). This game definately gets my approvel and I recommend playing it if you’re a fan of RPG’s.

/Niels

Hands-on – The Sims: Medieval

Why hello there! Today I’ll be having a look at the newest installment of The Sims. This time, The Sims go back in time to the Dark Ages.

The Sims franchise comprises of a series of extremely addictive games such as The Sims 2 and the gazillion expansion packs that were released for it. But this time, the Sims jump back in time. In The Sims: Medieval you can literally build and expand an entire kingdom. Question now is if this version of The Sims is just as addictive as its predecessors which were set in a more modern time.

Personally, I don’t have much experience when it comes to simulation games such as The Sims. I only really played The Sims 2 for a couple of hours before I got bored because it resembled real life too much … And because of that it takes a whole lot of time to actually build something nice for your Sim. Hence, I can only deliver a basic look at The Sims: Medieval.

From what I understand, The Sims: Medieval differs from other Sims games because you have to build an entire kingdom from scratch rather than just a family. You control your king or queen and you get to create all kinds of characters, called ‘Hero Sims’ such a knight, a bard, a wizard, a priest or a spy.
 
Just like any other Sims game, The Sims Medieval has you controlling people during their everyday lives. They have basic needs that must be met, though The Sims Medieval has slimmed down this aspect to only two needs, hunger and energy. Thankfully, this means you no longer have to make sure your Sims are having fun or using the bathroom. The goofy sense of humor, Simlish, character creation, and home decorating are all here as well, but that’s just about where the similarities end.

In The Sims Medieval, you don’t have the ability to take control of any Sim in the world, which is a big change from previous Sims titles. Rather, you have a set of “Hero Sims” with very specific jobs that can only be controlled if they’re directly involved in the active quest. Even though this might seem limiting, my Sims play style has always been to focus on one Sim at a time, so I didn’t really feel that constrained by this element.Each Hero Sim can be quickly selected using pre-set parameters or created from scratch in the character creator. In addition to their looks, Hero Sims each have two traits and one fatal flaw, which have a big impact on how they behave in the world, and how much of a pain they’ll be for you to control. Sims affected by Gluttony are seemingly always hungry, and have to eat at least twice as much as Sims without this flaw. While this certainly adds to the challenge, it can get pretty tiresome. The other flaws that don’t have anything to do with eating or sleeping are much easier to manage.The traits and flaws don’t always introduce a new layer of challenge, though. Some of them are pretty funny and keep the game amusing in unexpected ways. Evil Sims will stop and laugh maniacally at random times, Unkept Sims will pass gass frequently and laugh after doing so, and Sims with Weak Constitutions will vomit all over the place.One of the coolest new features that really makes The Sims Medieval stand apart from its predecessors is the use of quests and kingdom ambitions. The ambitions are broad over-arching goals that range from simply building up your kingdom to seizing power in all neighboring territories. You satisfy the ambitions by completing a number of specific, smaller quests. You can pick and choose which quests to undertake, how you will approach them, and which Hero Sims will be involved. I really enjoyed this set-up as it gave me a satisfying amount of direction while still providing me with plenty of choices to make. The quests also enabled a bit of story to form, which helped defined my characters beyond their traits and flaws.

Although I had plenty of fun playing The Sims Medieval, it’s not without its flaws. Like all Sims games before it, The Sims Medieval suffers from Sims getting stuck walking in circles or screaming and stomping their feet when someone’s in their way. The camera can also become an issue at times. You have the option to “follow” your active Sim, which is really useful, but if you’re speeding along in super time, it might take some camera finagling to be able to see your Sim behind some of the scenery. I also encountered a glitch that forced me to abandon a quest, as the Sim I was supposed to get an item from got stuck in the forest. After speeding through a few days, hoping she would free herself, I finally gave up and moved on to another quest.

The Sims Medieval also seems to be pre-primed for expansion packs, as there are a number of areas your Sims visit, but you can’t actually see, much like going off to a job in the original Sims. The forest, village, and cave are all examples of this, and given EA’s affinity for expansion packs, I can’t help but wonder if this was deliberate. However, The Sims Medieval is a very expansive game and still feels like a complete package, unlike The Sims 2 and 3, both of which removed features that had already been available in the original game, only to release them later as expansions. 

People who are used to the older Sims games will have to adjust to this medieval world. As a new player you probably will enjoy the refreshing and beautiful way this game is developed. All objects and quests fit the heavily romanticized version of the medieval world.

Though, after this pleasant aquantance with The Sims: Medieval I can’t help but think that the real fans will appreciate this game less than the modern version, where they get a ‘realistic’ reflection of real life. The Sims: Medieval is more limited in this way, even though the game is well made and still as addictive as before ….

/Niels

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Preview

Hey there guys, just thought I’d share an article that just appeared on The Escapist. It’s written by Steve Butts and it’s a report of the preview demo of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that he got to watch. Personally, I’m very excited about this game and I can’t wait until 11.11.11 for it to release. I wish I had a DeLorean sometimes!

Anyway, enjoy the article, I certainly found it a good read and it got me even more psyched about the game than I already am! Everything below this line is written by Steve Butts and thus I can not (and will not) take any credit for this. Enjoy.

I took thirteen pages of notes during last week’s two hour Skyim demo, but the two words I scribbled near the bottom of the first page probably sum it up better than anything else I wrote: holy shit. Yes, I wrote that in my notes. Bethesda’s newest Elder Scrolls game is just that impressive. While that observation was originally prompted just by the game’s breathtaking visuals, as the demo progressed it became clear that the gameplay will be every bit as impressive as the graphics and overall art direction.

Bethesda’s Todd Howard, who helped make Fallout 3 and the previous two Elder Scrolls games, Morrowind and Oblivion, gave me a thorough tour through the game last week and even answered some (but not all) of my questions. This preview is largely spoiler free, at least with regard to the main story, but I will be revealing some details of a certain quest in order to provide some context for the overall gameplay. It’s nothing that will diminish your appreciation of the game overall, but you will learn a bit about the particular errand Todd took to show off the game.

The first thing you notice about the game is how gorgeous it is. Todd went on about the rewritten renderer and the optimizations and streaming level-of-detail effects, but what it boils down to is this: The game looks good. Better than good, actually. The icy land of Skyrim, the northernmost province in Tamriel, is perhaps the most realistic and impressive game world I’ve seen. From the massive mountains looming in the distance to the ferns alongside the road, everything in this game is incredibly detailed. The streams have salmon leaping up over cataracts, the trees cast dappled shadows on the ground, and the snowstorms actually flow around the towering peaks.

Still, there is a lot of combat in this game, and Todd showed us how it all works on the 360. Each trigger controls one of your character’s hands, so if you’re armed with a sword and shield, you can use one trigger to block and another to swing your weapon. As in previous games, the right stick can add a little English to your strikes, which should give you a sense of control over your swings and stabs. I watched as Todd made his way through the mountains and took on a few early enemies, from simple bandits to ape-like Frost Trolls, and the whole experience was very visceral.

The great thing about this system is that you can equip whatever you want in either hand. Want to be like Gandalf, with a sword-staff combo? You can do that. Want to rock a two-handed sword? That’s possible too. Want to equip a healing spell in one hand and an armor busting mace in the other? Go for it. The mix and match system seems really versatile, especially with your favorite spells being selectable using the D-pad in the middle of the fight. If you really want to get nasty, you can gain access to even more powerful versions of your basic spells by putting the same spell in each hand. You might not feel so secure wandering around without a piece of steel in your hands, but that double-handed fireball spell might just make up for it.

Eventually Todd’s journeys brought him to one of the game’s first towns, a small place called Riverwood. (Can you guess what two things they have there?) As Todd walks in, he hears an Imperial Guard talking with another NPC named Gerdur. They’re discussing some recent trouble that nearby towns have been having with dragons and wondering why the Jarl, the official in charge of this particular Hold, hasn’t done anything about it. Noticing Todd’s character, they suggest he might find employment at the smithy. On his way to practice his smithing skill, Todd stops to linger at the town’s lumber operation. An NPC is splitting logs on a massive machine, and the wood is piling up outside.

This is just a small introduction to the game’s new radiant storytelling. This new system keeps track of everything that happens to you, essentially creating content based on your character’s current context. Todd could help out here, or he could sabotage a town’s main industry, inflating prices and reducing the availability of goods. Todd and the design team still haven’t decided just how much a player will be able to mess with the economies but there’s a potential to have a lasting impact on the prosperity of the towns, and radiant storytelling is an important part of putting those consequences front and center.

It works at various levels. You might, for instance, intentionally drop a sword while sorting through your inventory. The game tracks that item and, if an NPC comes along, he may decide to pick up that sword. If he knows it’s yours, he’s got a few options. If he likes you, he may track you down and try to return the sword. If he doesn’t like you, he may still try to track you down and return it, but he’s likely to be returning it to your face. The game might also notice that you haven’t seen a dragon in a while and are in a place where that might make sense. Next thing you know, there’s a dragon, appropriate for your level, circling overhead.

In our particular case, the radiant storytelling system kicks in and drops a few hints about a recent robbery at a Riverwood shop. Throughout the conversations with the residents of the town and the shopkeeper, the player is still free to move and act. I hadn’t noticed how annoying it was to jump in and out of static conversation scenes until I saw Todd carry on a conversation with the shopkeeper while also wandering around and looking at the items for sale in the store. It gets even better as the shopkeeper’s sister offers to guide Todd to the path the robbers might have taken. As Todd walks alongside her, she pours out most of the “tell me more” information that keeps the action from progressing in games like Mass Effect.

I won’t spoil the particular elements of this mission but the shopkeeper wants you to retrieve the item from the robbers who have fled up to the region’s largest mountain, the Throat of the World. The mountain is home to an ancient Nordic temple and carries some secrets of the Way of the Voice. This unique ability allows Dragonborne to use their voice to convert words into physical effects. It’s essentially what the game’s dragons are doing when they use their fiery breath on players; it’s basically their way of saying “Hello. I hate you.” Todd gets just such a greeting as he reaches an elaborate barrow near the top of the mountain. The dragon itself is a fantastic looking creature, but rather than stay and chat, Todd runs into the barrow where the dragon can’t follow.

The old Nords used to worship dragons. I say, “used to” because the dragons in Skyrim are returning after being gone for thousands of years. No one knows where they’ve been or why they’re returning now, but it’s a sure bet that the game’s larger story will address some of those mysteries.

Inside the barrow, Todd overhears two guards talking about the man who stole the shopkeeper’s item and they mention that he’s gone deeper into the barrow. Todd fights his way past the guards, solves a few interesting puzzles, and uses Frost Rune spells like landmines to defeat a giant Ice Spider before finally confronting the thief. Again, I’m not going to try to give away any of the story here, but let’s just say that things go bad and the player is left alone to face a handful of undead warriors skilled in the Way of the Voice, a swinging pendulum trap, a troll, more undead warriors and another challenging mental puzzle. At the end of it all, Todd learns some of the secrets of the Way of the Voice and finally has it out with that dragon waiting outside.

With all the encounters he’d been through, Todd had used a wide range of abilities, from long-range bowshots, to indirect magic attacks, to dragon shouts, to straight ahead melee strikes to defeat his enemies. The demo was obviously unbalanced so he could show us all the variety (and not get killed), but it seems as if the designers want players to try out all these different systems. Since this is a classless game, you’re not restricted in how you play. In fact, you’re not really going to be making any hard decisions about who or what your character is before you’ve had a chance to explore the world and discover how you like to play.

Like previous Elder Scrolls games, you start this one as a prisoner with no scripted backstory. All you know is that you’re being led to your execution, and it’s up to you to supply the context. Maybe you were falsely accused or maybe you had it coming. Either way, the game doesn’t care what you’ve been; it only cares what you do next. Character creation has been simplified considerably. Now you’ll simply select your gender, your race, and your appearance before jumping right into the thick of things.

From there your character advances according to the way you play him or her. The only way to improve a certain skill, like archery or magicka, is to use it. (Most of the other attributes that existed to feed into a skill ranking are gone now.) As you gain levels in a skill, you contribute to your overall character level. Each time you gain a character level, you’ll have the option to buy whatever perks your skills allow. For instance, if you really focus on using your bow, you may unlock a perk that allows you to zoom in to aim your shots. Keep at it, and you might also unlock an additional perk that slows time while you aim. Go for axes and you might unlock a perk that causes additional bleeding damage each time you hit an enemy.

As cool as all that is, the real star of the skill system is the overall presentation. Normally that kind of thing wouldn’t warrant a mention from me, but that’s only because I’ve gotten so used to spreadsheets. Skyrim puts all yours skills against an astronomical backdrop. It sounds a bit cheesy but it really works and reinforces the whole “destiny” angle. Even better, your perks are stars in various constellations, so if you unlock all the perks for a given skill set, you’re rewarded with a very compelling visual. Like I said, it might sound lame, but it’s a great alternative to the character sheet model.

Unlike Oblivion, the enemies and encounters won’t level alongside the player. I think most of us who played Oblivion remember what it was like to hit a hard fight and leave to level up, only to come back and find out that the fight had become even harder in the meantime. In Skyrim difficultly levels are locked in place once you visit an area, so you’ll have a chance to go out and get stronger before coming back and facing a challenge that’s been getting the best of you.

With as much as we saw, there are still loads of questions still to be answered. Can players ride mounts? If not, can we still buy horse armor? How will crime and stealth work? Will you finally be able to sleep in the beds of the people you murder? What are the guilds like? Speech mini-games? Alchemy? There are plenty of unknowns in Skyrim but Bethesda still has a bit of time to answer these questions before the game is released on November 11.

Hands-on – Crysis 2

Hey there guys and welcome to the first new content post on the new host. I hope you like it and that it offers more functionality and shinies.

But let’s get started with the main event. Today I’ll be reviewing Crysis 2, an fps that brings a new breeze into the shooter genre. The game is developed by Crytek and released Electronic Arts on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.

People have tipped this game off as a ‘Halo killer’, and even developer Crytek would be very disappointed if this game was rated below 90. Personally, I think the term Halo Killer is an exaggeration considering Halo 3 sold more than 11 million copies. Nonetheless, this game left a very good impression on me. Crysis 2 really refreshes the whole genre and the tactical touch to it makes it all the more interesting to me.

For people who missed the whole fuss about this game: Crysis 2 trades the exotic locations of the first game for the urban wilderness that is Manhattan.  The city has been ravaged by aggressive aliens who look more like a Terminator than the organic floating creatures from the first installment. All around you, skyscrapers have collapsed or are missing big chunks. You, a soldier named Alcatraz, have been tasked to deal with this invasion as the constant bickering between the military leaders have lead nowhere. A classic story if you ask me. You’re our only hope Obi-Wa- …. uh Alcatraz.

Fortunately, you have been armed with a Nano suit 2.0 which gives you a really nice arsenal of abilities such as invisibility, some kind of shield generator and the ability to jump long distances. Unfortunately for you, the Nano suit has a limited supply of power which you often need for your visor in underground levels. Running and jumping cost a relatively low amount of energy, but your cloaking really eats up your meter.

One other feature in the game is the collection of Nano points, which are used to upgrade your Nano suit, your weapons (deadlier bullets, silencer, ..) and other really fun extras.

However, this doesn’t allow you to run into a group of enemies and start emptying clips on them. This is where the tactical touch comes in. Trust me when I say you will need to run, hide and flank your way around the map in order to survive. Enemies are fast and smart and will use the same tactics you do in order to stop you from reaching your goal.

Another nice feature in the game is the vertical gameplay, where jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper (or what’s left of them) offers you a ‘Mirror’s Edge’ type of experience. Using your super jump you’ll be able to reach higher ground and use a sniper rifle to pick off aliens from a distance. Running and jumping around has never been more fun and graceful. Not to mention it offers a unique kind of gameplay and the illusion of choosing your own path through the levels. Some players may prefer to use the high ground, while others will use a more direct approach or a stealthier one.

And speaking of the level design, it’s just sublime. Levels have been designed to fit a certain combat situation. Because of this, you move from situation to situation in a linear way but you have a lot of ways to defeat the enemy. For example, you’ll be slapping aliens around the ears with your gun using the cloaking device only to switch to armor attachment to start spraying bullets all over the room.

Graphically, the game is really really great … if you have a monster pc at least. Xbox 360 and PS3 have a slightly lower graphic quality but still very high end. And don’t worry, the game still looks beautiful on a normal pc.

Let’s take a closer look at the multiplayer next. Crytek’s multiplayer has always lacked allure. At face value Crysis 2 shamelessly borrows elements of the two most popular online shooters, Call of Duty and Halo, but once you dig into the experience you begin to respect its subtle differences. For instance, instead of giving you game-changing bonuses for killstreaks, you need to collect the dog tags from your fallen victims to access radar, airstrikes, or a gunship. This forces campers out of their comfort zones or keeps their influence in check if they prefer to stay and snipe. If it works, it’ll be really sweet (Fu campers).

As with the campaign, the Nano suit is the great differentiator. Crytek UK balanced the suit’s abilities well and created a smart system of persistent enhancements that players earn by using the suit’s power, armor, and stealth abilities during battle. There are enough upgrades to give players the flexibility to build a unique suit tailored to enhance their strengths or shore up their weaknesses.

With 12 maps ripped from the campaign, 50 rankings, medals, and customizable kits, Crysis 2 makes a strong case for becoming a destination multiplayer mode. The one major criticism I can levy is that Crytek locks the more creative game modes. You won’t have all the modes unlocked until level 39, which seems needlessly buried in a game that doesn’t have a large community behind it that is guaranteed to keep playing for the 15-plus hours necessary to access all the options.

If you’re tired of fighting corridor-based wars against an endless flow of brainless meatbags, Crysis 2 is worth a look. The unique sandbox approach to gunfights and game-changing Nano suit lend the title a flavor of its own, and Crytek smartly leverages these strengths in both the single- and multiplayer modes. Enjoy the trailer below.

Definately worth buying this game I reckon!

/Niels