Author Archives: Graham

REVIEW: Enslaved Odyssey to the West

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a game developed by Ninja Theory, and published by Namco Bandai. It is available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. It is a less than mediocre game and clearly intended for a ‘casual’ audience. The Xbox 360 game was played for the purposes of this review.

I’ll admit I’m hesitant to give a bad review to a post-apocalyptic kind of game, as I generally like this kind of stuff. What drew me to this game was the art work, the cover art, and the screenshots. It’s very different than most post-apocalyptic kind of scenarios, in that the world isn’t so desolate and barren. So think Wall-E, but instead of dust and nothing growing, there is plant life growing all over the place. The New York skyline is full of greenery, the buildings are
literally taken over by plants, slowly being broken down to the effects of Mother Nature. The idea of exploring New York like this is was really appealing to me.

Unfortunately, that is where the appeal ends. Heard of two people abandoned on an island that don’t really like each other at first, are forced to work together to avoid immediate death, and totally end up falling for each other? If you haven’t, that’s alright, because Enslaved has you covered. You play as your classic tough guy raised in the jungle. The “I have no family and I have no name” kind of hero. You and your companion are prisoners of some sort, and she controls you by means of a headband device which doesn’t allow you to leave her side without killing you. Which is why the game is called “Enslaved.” You, “Monkey,” are enslaved to Trip, your companion.
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Metroids Are Real

I’m not just saying this because I’m such a huge Metroid fan that I’ve become delusional about it’s fictional nature. I shit you not: Metroids exist.

Tip of the hat to The Kartel, but we here at Nightmare Mode have a resident biologist (me), who can go into a little more detail. I seek to inform the gaming world of a very peculiar organism haunting the seas and oceans, half a mile or even as much as a mile deep. Tiburonia granrojo, a giant sea jelly that can get up to 3 metres (9-10ish feet for our unconverted American friends) in diamater.

Though The Kartel is reporting the Sea Metroid as “new,” it is in fact, “old.” This particular species was first described in 2003 by a group of scientists, who also discovered it to be unclassifyable and designated it as a new subfamily, Tiburonia.

Unlike Metroids, they are not translucent, and unlike Metroids they are unable to fly. But, my friends, as famous scientist Ian Malcolm said, “life, uh, finds a way.” As for sucking the life force out of their prey….well, scientists know that the Sea Metroid uses its tentacles to trap prey. Otherwise, scientists are still trying to figure out just how this creature lives.

Final Fantasy XIV Trailer from TGS 2010: Orgy of Wow

Setting aside personal opinions regarding the last handful of titles in the Final Fantasy series as well as the direction the series has taken since the Square-Enix merger, I boldly endorse Final Fantasy XIV.  The second incarnation of an FFMMO is upon us. And god damn, if the opening cinematic doesn’t make the Final Fantasy girl inside you scream with delight, there may be something clinically wrong with you.

The typical fruity colours and lame-looking character models of FFXIII, XII, and X are gone, featuring instead a much more medieval style art direction. Gone as well are the gimmicky features of recent characters. In other words, Final Fantasy has finally grown up.

Here’s to hoping this kind of art direction to take precedence in the next single player title in the franchise.

The game will be out at the end of this month exclusively for PS3 and PC.

Morrigan Returns: Dragon Age Witch Hunt DLC Review

Oh yes, Morrigan returns. But you have to hunt her down first.

After playing the DLC over twice and starting it for a third time, it’s time to write a bit on the thing. I’m a huge, huge, Dragon Age fan. It is my favourite game by far. So know this: the overview before you comes from a genuine Dragon Age lover to you, the reader.

Morrigan concept from Bioware.com

The first thing to get out of the way is that the DLC is short. Just like Leliana’s Song, or Golems of Amgarrak, this is not a large DLC like Awakenings. Just like the other short DLCs, Witch Hunt is similar in length (2 hours at most), structure, and that there are no real “decisions” to make that will seriously affect your character or other playthroughs….or so we think.

Having said that, Witch Hunt is the DLC that most greatly draws on the decisions you did make in Origins. This is apparent as soon as you start, and plays big when you finally do find Morrigan. This was to my immense joy when I started the DLC, quickly putting my personal feelings about a tiny little game about Morrigan instead of waiting to find how things pan out in Dragon Age 2.

Without revealing too much, the beginning of the game I think I’m at liberty to describe without spoiling much. The DLC starts in front of Flemeth’s Hut, where you are re-united with your trusty mabari, who has forgotten his name (or perhaps you forgot it!). You learn most mabari hounds used in the army has died, and due to your mabari’s exceptional abilities, he has been used to mate with many, many female hounds to produce a new army of super awesome mabaris.

Lucky dog.

Let me give you a taste of what kinds of different decisions play into things at the absolute beginning of the DLC. My first playthrough I used my first-everDA character. Human warrior, whose decisions included a) killing Flemeth the High Dragon, and b) sleeping with Morrigan to make a demon baby. My warrior was drawn to the place of Flemeth’s demise, triggering a somewhat solemn reaction from my character. Entering the hut, you see an empty chest bed, and seemingly eternally lit flame. It is here where you meet an intruder of the hut, a Dalish Elf, and your two-hour adventure truly begins.

These decisions were probably the more obvious ones to make in DA: Origins, but here’s some food for thought. I played through again as my mage who forced Alistair to sleep with Morrigan to make a demon baby, went to Flemeth to get the book (didn’t kill her), then returned to Morrigan and lied to her about Flemeth’s death.

Two totally opposite scenarios, reveal much different experiences, at both beginning and end of the DLC.

Along the way you’ll return to the Circle of Magi, where your decisions there in Origins will play out: Templars might not like you too much. You will also return to the dungeon in which the Dalish Elf origin plays out. There are also a few references to events in the Awakenings DLC. Some of them are quite comedic if you look for them, for example, you might find some textbook vandalism by Anders.

Other things you can expect from the Bioware team, as per usual, great voice acting you actually listen to, great writing, great conversation, and little surprises thrown in for fans that are not tasteless or silly. And again, as seen in Awakenings andAmgarrak, interesting tweaks and twists to battles and bosses, such that the game is not a straightforward hack-and-slash.

Lastly, the game does not sell short of ruining the Morrigan character or saga, as were my worst fears. If anything, the encounter with Morrigan and this DLC, makes you look forward to with excitement for Dragon Age 2. The Witch Hunt DLC is the best short Dragon Age DLC thus far and you will enjoy it, especially if you are a Dragon Age fan.

Politicians enter Medal of Honor fray

Liam Fox, the UK Secretary of Defense, is encouraging retailers not to stock the new Medal of Honor title, a game in which you can kill UK Soldiers while playing as a member of the Taliban.

I’ve gotta say I’m surprised it has taken this long for some politician somewhere to start a bandwagon. After all the gaming industry has seen through the years – especially in the US – as far as politicians or Bullying mobs of angry parents drinking too much Hot Coffee go , there is finally a game that warrants an outcry from public officials. If you read Fox’s comments, you will probably come to the conclusion that his outrage does not stem from the fact that British soldiers can be killed, but rather the sensitive nature of this game taking place in modern times.

Not that modern military tactics haven’t been incorporated into games before. Battlefield and Call of Duty are both at the top of the list for recreating  modern, urban warfare scenarios based on real life armies, places, people, and enemies. It stands to reason that the sole reason this Medal of Honor game is being singled out, is not because of the recreation of modern urban warfare, but that the game takes place in Afghanistan. I only wish a politician like Fox might cite recent Wikileaks leak as a reason to condemn the game. Within the Wikileaks documents, we have learned that squads like this special ops squad portrayed in Medal of  Honor can be a walking death squad. It might have sounded cool before all the disturbing cover ups were exposed and when it was all hush hush…but now that it is out in the open, EA’s “creative risk” is not a “creative” risk at all, and is instead a risk perpetrating blatant human rights violations, as well as the debauchery in Afghanistan.

I highly doubt this game will aim to teach players ins and outs of the cover ups, the war crimes, or any illegal war activities. Politicians like Fox though, are in a bind. No politician in the UK or US government would dare make any link whatsoever between Medal of Honor and the information ousted in Wikileaks. To do so would be to give validity to the documents and publicly admit the wrongdoings within are true. This might seem like a crazy thing to say or even well above “obvious,” but both governments have lambasted Wikileaks for the document release as wrongful, leaking sensitive information, or putting the lives of coalition forces at risk.

The way I see it, EA is throwing in the towel as far as the Medal of Honor franchise goes. It has reached the end of the line. The name was built on the back of World War II stories and now that everyone has gotten bored shooting Nazis, well, they’ve moved on. EA could have done the honorable thing and let the franchise fade gracefully into the sunset. Instead it seems to me EA is grasping on threads trying to make an irrelevant franchise relevant by doing none other than jumping the shark.

Dragon Age: Golems of Amgarrak DLC

Is it challenging? Bioware says it was made for the experienced player.

I finished Golems of Amgarrak up on Wednesday night. It is an easy 90 minute adventure. How easy? Well, any veteran Dragon Age player might be disappointed. Here’s a sample.

Despite my conclusions and findings in that short clip, the final boss is very, VERY difficult. So it would seem the game is unbalanced, an easy adventure and an insanely hard boss. It’s one of those bosses that are so hard and cheap you have to be lucky to win. I have the feeling a lot of veterans will be turning down the difficulty at the end. I was able to defeat the final boss after over an hour of trying, and only with enough curse words to make my mother shove a bar of soap down my throat.

Come back tomorrow for my final thoughts.

You need to drop everything right now and buy Limbo

Yes really, drop whatever game you’re playing right now, and go get Limbo on XBox Live Arcade.

If you’re complaining about the $15 price tag, or aren’t sure, let me tell you something.

Limbo is worth every penny.

Less than ten minutes into the game, there is an encounter with a spider that makes it worth all your 15 hard earned greenbacks.

Download this surreal “Summer of Arcade” title, turn up your surround sound, and prepare to soak in a black and white landscape of awesome. Actually, turn that bass dial right up too. And…prepare to jolt in fear…oh yes, this game will have you jumping off the futon in your parent’s basement in fear. Not that phony Resident Evil fear either, the “holy crap I totally did NOT see that coming” kind.

Check back soon for Tom’s review.

“No, YOU Suck!”

A feature at Nightmare Mode in which two brave warriors are pitted against each other in a battle to the death: this is point/counterpoint! Today’s subject: the ability to toggle permadeath in the newest Fire Emblem game. Contestants: Graham and Fernando!

By GRAHAM

One of the most charming features of the long-running Fire Emblem series is that, when your guys die, they, uh, die. They’re done. There is no magical “life” spell to revive your fallen comrade, no mystical life potions and no auto-life rings or gizmos to help you ward death.

So when you finally build up your army to lay waste to villages and lowly peasants, you don’t want any of them to die. Keeping your guys alive is a very active part of your strategy. You can’t send your mage in to the front lines, for if he dies, he’s dead for good and forever. If someone does die, well, you don’t even blink before you hit that reset button.

Well then THIS should come at a surprise. Developer Intelligent Systems  went at each other pretty hard over the possible elimination of this FE staple.

What?! How COULD THEY?!

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Dragon Age Nightmare Mode Strategy Guide: Archer Class

This post is a part of an ongoing feature here at Nightmare Mode to provide you with an expert’s strategy guide on playing Dragon Age.

(Disclaimer: this is a very long strat guide as this class has more complexity weaved into it than any other class in Dragon Age. Perhaps more than all the others combined.)

I’ll be completely honest with you, I never thought playing as an archer, or turning Leliana into one would be useful at all. There are only three talent trees for the archer, it just seems like a class or option that was tacked on at the end of the game. Everybody tells me archers suck. But Dragon Age is such a perfectly balanced game. How bad could they be, really? Could archers be deceptively good?

I took the challenge upon myself to try it. I started as a Dalish Elf. At first, I did not use a bow so I could gain some experience and such to bolster my chances. By the end of the game, I really had fallen in love with my babe of an archer. I’ll be upfront and forward; she wasn’t lethal or anything. When played right, the archer commands the battlefield like no other class. It is a highly, highly strategic class and not for the easily frustrated or impatient. You cannot plow through the game like you’re cutting through butter. You do not use the archer to inflict massive damage, but rather to stall and stop the enemy, and make armoured foes more vulnerable to attacks. The archer is an asset on the field, not a killer.

So take that as a warning if you will.

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Let’s Reinvent The Wheel, By Destroying It

Dragon Age 2 details have been released, one being that DA2 will use the same “conversation wheel” that Mass Effect uses.

I was excited for DA2 when it was announced, really excited. This news, however, put a bit of damper on that. One of the things that was responsible for growing my DA fanaticism was the conversations.

When you play ME, there is really no thought process involved in the conversations–though admittedly, they are entertaining, Personally, I don’t really pay attention unless it’s a story-driven event. Blue for good, red for bad, white for something neutral, and if you’re charming enough maybe you can twist somebody’s arm. That’s not the case in Dragon Age Origins.

There are times in Origins when you choose one of 6 dialog options. They are listed in numerical order and they aren’t colour-coded. So how do you know which response to give? Well, you’ve just got to use your brain. All you have to go by, is the context of the conversation and your comprehension skills to deduce what your answer could be. It is really challenging, what you pick might not always be what you thought it was, and you find out later in the conversation as it pans out. I will give you an example.

Leliana: “And…that is the reason I am here. The real reason. No more lies between us, at least in this.”

Response (no colour coding wheel, listed in the same text that is used for subtitles):

1. Is having you here a threat to us?

2. Thank you for trusting me with this.

3. Your past is going to catch up to you eventually.

4. You will be safe in my company.

So…there is no EVIL or GOOD answer here. This is a point in a conversation with one of your party members when she is telling you a very deep and emotional personal travesty. You have to take into account how the character Leliana will react to each answer. In other words, you have to understand people and party members enough so you know HOW to be a dick to them.

For plot-advancing things, this is hard on your first time because…well, not everybody has people-reading skills, or enough skill to pick up on the inflections and tone of people’s voices, the manner in which they’re speaking.

To be a dick to Leliana, you have to pick number 1. I THINK, I’m not sure. ITS NOT COLOUR CODED. She might react neutrally, or what you think might be an insult they might just laugh off.

That makes it both tricky and entertaining, a wrong response might end up making you curse at the TV or start laughing. The mystery and comprehension requirement of the conversation options doesn’t exist with a colour-coded system. I lament the loss of brainpower-related skills in any game, and that it is happening to my most favourite franchise.