Archive for May, 2011

DRAGON AGE 2 or Kirkwall never changes

Posted in Played & Explained on May 19, 2011 by Rabidgames

Let’s not waste time with pleasantries:

Rabidgames is pissed off.

Let’s have a look: Dragon Age 2 tells the tale of Hawke, the heroic Champion of Kirkwall. It is an epic story told in 3 acts. Problem is, Bioware relied on using the same stage without any design changes for all 3 acts! You wander through the very same dungeons – but hey, sometimes you enter from the other side and parts of a dungeon are locked. Granted, there are a dozen of locations but nothing ever changes there in the kingdom of copy & paste, hence known as “c&p”. Yes, the game spans about ten years, and, the Maker help me, it seems Kirkwall is a place where time does not exist. Everything always looks exactly the same; the city itself, a Dalish camp outside the city walls, name it. Even the characters are immune to change.

Unfortunately, it gets worse.
First of, the story is actually not really epic, especially it isn’t compared to the events of Origins. You start as a nobody escaping Loithering during the Blight and become a true Champion. It is not necessarily bad but the scale seems tiny after Origins.

Furthermore, you cannot change your companions’ armour any more. Yes right, Bioware went all Mass Effect over it! You can add minor stuff to the armours, that’s it. Now, this means 66.6% of all the armour pieces you find in those c&p dungeons are pretty much useless – why? It’s not for your character class! Smart move, eh?
At least you can still change weapons and accessories (rings and necklaces). Hooray! That’s what we want: less choices!

For some racist reason, Hawke is strictly human. At least, women are considered equals in Kirkwall so you can still play with a female Hawke. Smart move; that way, Bioware didn’t have to think about making the world more open and interesting from different characters’ point of views. Good for them, bad for story depth.

Ok, Rabidgames admits: It ain’t all bad.

The battle system is alright (don’t play on easy though) although it only plays out perfectly only if you control all your characters in a single battle (again, mages are the most fun), the characters are ok but not awesome, the story is ok, too – but strangely, you get most of it by reading your journal … come on Bioware: do you really expect casual gamers to read in a game? If not, why making the game more casual then?

Rabidgames says:
It is not easy to hate and like a game at the very same time – but Dragon Age 2 pulls it off!
On the one hand, Bioware commits despicable cardinal sins like shamelessly c& p-ing the whole backdrop for 3 acts, omitting large chunks of group customisation and making a RPG look like a casual Devil May Cry clone! On the other hand, the battles are fun, the story is dark and mature, there are some interesting characters … but for some reasons, as soon as you are in Act 2, the game feels more like a chore – and let’s be honest, that is a big mission failed.

How the west won the RPG war

Posted in The Latest on May 10, 2011 by Rabidgames

What happened to Japanese RPGs? Long gone are the glorious days when many ruled the PS1 and PS2! Youngsters these days don’t even know terms like turn-based battles, active time battles, guys with spikey hairs and big swords …

Rabidgames looks back at the first two Playstation generations and beholds true JRPG gems like Breath of Fire, Grandia, Dark Chronicle, Final Fantasy VII, Star Ocean Till the end of time, Suikoden 2 … Of course, there were some brilliant western RPGs like Summoner but if you wanted to play quality RPGs you basically needed a PC to play Baldur’s Gate, Fallout or Knights of the old Republic.

Nowadays, western themed RPGs rule the genre on consoles, too – be it the fantasy setting of Dragon Age or Fable, the post apocalyptic Fallout or the futuristic Mass Effect – they set standards and define RPGs.

So what happened? Rabidgames does not have a definite answer but some theories might spring to mind:

Case study: Too Human or Copy, Past & Fail
Too Human was just too bad, bland and boring; heck, even writing about it is a waste of time. Then why the fuck is it listed here? Because it shows that Japan not only repeats itself but also tries to copy western products. Sad thing is: There are games even worse than that one, namely Mindjack (the weird name is the only memorable thing here) or Quantum Theory (Gears of War as it would have been 10 years ago) … Instead of coming up with their own ideas, Japanese studios now look to the West and start copying …

Case study: Final Fantasy XIII or The Triumph of Linearity
Remember FF XII and the almost open world MMO feeling? All gone! FF XIII delivered a tutorial of 25 hours, narrow never-ending corridors, no towns, no real conversations almost no going back to places you’ve been before and spamming the A or X button over and over and over and over again. FF XIII was rather an interactive movie than a RPG. Yes, it was somehow successful (rather because of the hype), but critical voices have been louder than ever before.

Case study: Spikey Hairs and Clichés en Masse or Any Advancements Halted

There seem to be unwritten golden rules in JRPGs: The hero is an angsty teen with (usually blond) spikey hair who will overcome his fears and the end of the world. Combine said hero with scantily clad girls who look 12 and behave like 6, androgynous villains who were/are/want to become gods and ridiculously oversized weapons (usually swords). Even technically, evolution has spared the JRPG genre: There are basic dialogue systems at best, basically no branching multiple choice story archs and 3 battle systems: turn-based, turn-based with a bar which pretends to be real-time, and quasi real-time (think of Star Ocean or Valkyrie Profile).

Case Study: Dragon Quest for Nintendo or Why bother for Next Gen?

Dragon Quest IX is a DS game, DQ X to be released for wii, the really promising Xenoblade Chronicles wii only … there are other JRPGs for Nintendo consoles – yes, they might still sell in Japan but leave these few islands and sales are hardly there! See, Xenoblade Chronicles has only sold 230.000 units so far which is  meagre in a starving genre. Lost Odyssey, on the other hand, sold a solid 810.000 units – despite being considered worse. Why? Because it was released for consoles where gamers care! Do you want more examples? Blue Dragon sold around 800.000 units as well, Tales of Vesperia even 900.000 units. Surely, DQ IX is a 5 mio exception – but that’s about it.

Case Study: WTF? or Gameplay Malfunction

Here’s the thing – many next gen JRPGs have had their conspicuous shortcomings: Last Odyssey used the ancient system of chance encounters, a stupid level-balancing and made very light use of save points. Last Hope had abysmal characters and a shallow story, FF XIII was devoid of any exploration – admittedly, games like Fallout (and its bugs) or Fable (too easy) are not perfect – but neither have they core gameplay malfunctions nor do they seem to rely on a formula which has not changed in 20 years.

Rabidgames says: Those reasons show there are many things wrong on many levels in Japan these days – and if you love Japanese RPGs, well, your best option is to stop your PS2 from collecting dust and to start playing one of the old revered games of this genre’s golden past. The present is dim, the future … wait, what future?

MORTAL KOMBAT or Go back in time and improve your formula

Posted in Played & Explained on May 10, 2011 by Rabidgames

MORTAL KOMBAT – an ultra-violent beat ’em up without any gameplay value to some, a kleverly designed ultra-violent revelation to many, an ultra-violent legend to all. Sadly, also a krumbling one in recent years.

But there is good news, folks: After years of experimenting with 3D movements, different fighting styles and  trillions of kombo button mashing trials (better not mention the PG themed MORTAL KOMBAT vs DC Universe here), the franchise is back – with a twist: not only did the developers travel back in time to get rid of lame side steps and annoying fighting stances, no, the very history of MORTAL KOMBAT itself has been rewritten – a bold move, but a successful one?

Let’s start with the kombat itself – old-fashioned and quickly learnable at the beginning, you slowly adjust to quicker possibilities – but still, you feel you are in kontrol. There are not many special moves to learn. However, use them wisely or suffer the consequences of being vulnerable. In brief: If you liked the first 3 MORTAL KOMBAT games, you will like this one. If you prefer the likes of Streetfighter or Tekken, this piece of software might be a bit too slow for you.

However, the inklusion (or rather perpetuation) of kombos is something that pisses Rabidgames off – starting a kombo and taking away a big chunk of health from a defenceless enemy might be a symptom of tides having turned and adjusting to a new generation of fighting games, but it takes away a portion of the good old MORTAL KOMBAT feeling where each upperkut used to kounted.

Another twist is the new special bar: One bar lets you hit your opponent with an enhanced attack (rarely useful), two bars and you can break a kombo (sometimes useful), and finally, a full bar lets you crush your opponent with an uber brutal x-ray attack (hell yeah!). Admittedly, most of them look really good – but then again, losing 1/3 of your health because of one set of attacks (which are hard to block, especially if trampling down newbies) is a tale which is not to be found in Rabidgames‘ book of good gameplay.

There is no MORTAL KOMBAT without fatalities (there is actually; if you ever happen to play the German version of Shaolin Monks and see the screen turn black when you perform a fatality you’ll see anything goes) – and thank the Elder Gods, there is lots of gore, blood, humour and kreativity to be seen when some hapless guy or gal loses more than just a match … Heck, there is even a fatality tutorial where you can practice your killing arts and make friends laugh – sadly, stage fatalities or babalities (they are awesome) won’t work there. Of course, there are a few pretty boring fatalities but Rabidgames promises Scorpion’s Split decision or Sektor’s Scarecrow make up for it!

Don’t you hate games you start playing, you blink twice – and it is all over? This surely won’t happen with MORTAL KOMBAT: You have the Arcade Ladders of old and Tag Ladders (Tag fighting is fun but nothing special), the big challenge tower with 300 challenges (some are great, i.e. the world turns upside down; some are outright annoying – why do I have to fucking nail 8-hit kombos?),the krypt where you unlock lots of stuff (although most of it is just junk), the obviously obligatory online matches Rabidgames does not care about … well, let’s say there is quite a shit load of stuff in there.

The heart of MORTAL KOMBAT is the great story mode which lasts 4-10 hours and starts at the events of Armageddon to retell the events of MORTAL KOMBAT 1-3. You will thoroughly enjoy it if you know all your kombatants and their stories. There are some surprises as history gets rewritten – if you like the new kourse of history, well, that is another story. Sadly, the game abandons the adventure modes from Deception and Armageddon: you only watch kutscenes between fighting – it is still a great and long story mode for a beat ’em up though (and let’s be honest, the adventure mode was never fleshed out anyway).

Rabidgames played MORTAL KOMBAT on the Xbox 360 and cursed the 360 D-pad as well as the analog sticks constantly – no matter which one you use, it is far from perfect. If you own both systems, PS3 should be your choice because of the better D-pad which will make kombos and fatalities a hell of a lot easier to pull off.

Rabidgames says:
SUKKSESS! If violence makes you giggle, you like good old slow-paced kombat and you like get some value in return for your koins, MORTAL KOMBAT is your way to go. The fun clearly outweighs those well-known moments of fury when you want to smash your kontroller, your konsole or the whole world to pieces after you lost in an ridiculously unbalanced fight (even worse when you lose to a friend). Fuck Streetfighter, screw Tekken, MORTAL KOMBAT is back and kills them off for good – so get over here and kill some!

Welcome to a honest look at video games: Rabidgames! Enter, friends!

Posted in Gaming these days ... on May 9, 2011 by Rabidgames
  • Are you happy with PR ads instead of reviews?
  • Do you hate reviews which never tell you what you WANT to know?
  • What do you really think about today’s video games?

Do not despair for there is a cure:

  • Rabidgames will show a different view on games.
  • Rabidgames will look at games without cash in mind.
  • Rabidgames will cut to the point.

But beware:

Rabidgames likes games – not gimmicks!
If you want to know about those fancy motion control thingies or the latest Call of Duty blockbuster game – please leave.

Rabidgames will shed light on the latest video games as well as on old and maybe forgotten classics as long as Rabidgames deems a game worthy.

Stop reading and start playing!