Creative Outlet – a blog full of stories and personal musings

8Mar/120

Aquaria Review

There are very few games that have drawn me in so quickly as Aquaria did and looking at it, I can’t say anything to that other than it is beyond charming and an exceptionally beautiful ride in a gorgeous world of emotions, song, loneliness and adventure.

At first glance, this indie title seemed a bit technical backwards and limited but that was a short lived thought, as the music, the story, the atmosphere of the ocean, the sounds, the wild life and everything gets together and just brings you into this magical game that can best be described as a mixture between a platform game and Ecco the Dolphin. It is very unique in it’s execution as well, providing an interesting control setup which I have never seen before, which really enhances the beauty of the game, through the slick - yet simple - animations.

Throughout the game, you explore Naija’s travels through figuring out life’s questions, as to why she is, figuring new sides of herself while exploring the ancient and beautiful ocean, defeating it’s more hostile creatures and solving puzzles.

It’s a very long game, especially if you want to figure out all the secrets of the world of Aquaria. I pretty much tried to go straight through it but was often interrupted by the beautiful, awe-inspiring graphics and a sense of exploration. I wanted to explore more, I wanted to see the end of Naija’s journeys and it did not disappoint one bit.

One of it’s very few weakpoints are, however, the very difficult bosses which are enhanced in difficulty as the save points in the game are very far inbetween, meaning a death could mean a lot of backtracking. But the boss fights are unique, interesting and the sense of constant danger in these waters just adds to the lonely atmosphere of the game.

I give it a hearty recommendation to those who appreciate a great story with an amazing and unique presentation, which will haunt you for a very long time. Aquaria is yet another one of those indie games that should be praised as being intuitive, even despite it’s humble engine, which understands the limitations of the small crew and even shines through it.

Pick this up, even if just to support the development of such games that dares to try.

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1Feb/120

Skyrim Review

I've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with The Elder Scrolls games. It is one of those series that is infamously known to be completely tedious and dull without mods, mainly because the game has a lot of shortcomings. But that haven't really stopped me from completing Oblivion several times (or rather, just play all the side quests and completely ignore the ghastly main story). Morrowind, however, will always be the unpolished gem of the series for me - up until Skyrim came out.

Skyrim does a lot of things right, but while it improves upon the terrible design choices of Oblivion, it certainly hasn't removed them at all or made them perfect and in that sense, it still feels like an Elder Scrolls game, in the worst kind of way.

Let's just get the huge elephant out of the room and focus on the terrible stuff of Skyrim:

Characters. There isn't one character I care about and it seems that Bethesda is unable to actually create such a thing. They've made several main characters with a decent background, but it falls flat on it's face in execution. I can't quite put my finger on it, but part of it might be because of the voiceover. While they all are quite experienced and even famous, it just sounds like a professional read off a script. Not a whole lot of power or emotion behind the words and I feel, at times, the game wouldn't HURT from being purely text only, if it did so I didn't have to hear the same damn voiceover say the same damn thing over and over again. I grew tired of hearing the same guy do voiceover for another character and I occasionally thought "Oh, not him again." Granted, it is a lot better than it was in Oblivion, but it is still nowhere good enough. I am unsure if the problem is poor dialog writing or the voice over - but unless the NPC is offering you a quest where someone near them died, it seems to be emotionless. The only memorable characters are the dragons and the all too neutral Grey Beards.

Storyline. While a whole lot more interesting than, the storyline still suffers from predictability and pointlessness, much like in Oblivion. No one seems to be too worried about dragons after you have, in fact, shown them that they exist. Your mission? Stop them. Oh well, how do I do that? Oh, there is this big guy - I must find a way to kill him. Done and done. There are no twists, there is nothing to gain, there is nothing to lose from not doing it - it is just fairly straightforward. Now, what they seem to get, are the sidequests - especially the ones for shady corporations such as Thieves Guild and The Dark Brotherhood. They are still as spectacular and interesting as in Oblivion, but more have joined the fray. The more interesting ones, are the ones regarding actual Elder Scrolls lore - where do all these damn ruins come from, where did they go, etc. and we seem to slowly come to a conclusion to this.

Combat. Combat is uninspired and tedious at times. It's exactly as any other TES games, except with a bit more fluid magic system - but no improvements at all have been made, to make it less about guffing down health potions constantly and whacking at an enemy until the health bar is empty. The best way to play, for me, seems to be to absolutely avoid the combat system by using sneak attack and one shot kills with my assassin. Sure, it's the easy, sneaky way out - but combat can become boring and just a bit too much.

So, with that elephant shooed out the door, we can finally talk about everything Skyrim did right:

The world. Bethesda have, once again, created a vibrant, beautiful world. The nature is breathtaking, the waterfalls amazing, the views mesmerizing and the sounds thrilling. The first time you stand on the peak of a mountain with the wind howling around you, you can't help but freeze. The immersion is amazing, everything feels so fluid and spot on - it's not even odd that there is a few dungeons a stones throw from you, where ever you are. That mixed with the AI system Bethesda have honed since Oblivion, you can meet hunters, couriers, adventurers and groups of soldiers hunting, going to places, adventuring and patrolling. You only see them fleetingly, but you can't help but feel that they are there, because they have a purpose. It fills up the world a bit more, other than having to run into baddies around every corner and it really gives you a sense of a dynamic world.

Hm. Now I am sitting here, thinking if the world is really the only great thing about this game and, the more I think about it, yes - yes it is. But it is such a major point of the game, that it is okay. Bethesda have, once again, created a foundation of a game, mods will make even more amazing. While one can be a bit angry or disappointed about the game's shortcomings, the possibility of mods fixing it all is both exciting and a bit shameful. Shameful that Bethesda have to rely on mods to create the ultimate experience but exciting that they allow it, even support it.

I'll give this a game a good recommendation. It's a solid game in it's own merit, but not amazing or something that will provoke a lot of emotions. And, it's apparently a game that all the jocks play, like Modern Warfare, so you won't have to feel like such a nerd for playing it and talking about it over the watercooler.

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13Jul/100

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands Verdict/Review

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

"I HATE SAND!"

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Pros:

  • More Prince of Persia kind of platform gaming.
  • Beautiful levels, design and graphics.
  • Great presentation - slick and smooth.
  • A good stand-alone game outside of the Sands of Time series.
  • Interesting extra elements to the platform puzzles.

Cons:

  • A few bugs made it so you couldn't progress. A reload fixed it.
  • Constant reuse of the same 3 monsters and 3 bosses.
  • Dodgy and annoying camera.
  • Occassionally a jump sends you anywhere but where you wanted to go.
  • Weak story but is in the same spirit as the other Prince of Persia games.
  • Ubisoft DRM

Buy Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (Amazon.com)

Buy Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (PC DVD) (Amazon.co.uk)

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18Jun/100

Medal of Honor Multiplayer PC Beta Verdict/Preview

The Unrealistic Hopes of a Nerdgasm

This 1895 painting by Edwin Austin Abbey shows...
"This cup symbolizes the unholy union of Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield. Imagine what it can accomplish!"

Let me step right up there and say that I love both the Call of Duty series as well as the Battlefield franchise. I have played both to death and still enjoy a game every now and then, despite the lack of new content to both the latest installments (Yes, I know there will be more map packs to Modern Warfare 2 - but it's too little, too late). So when I heard about Medal of Honor, I immediatly had hoped for a spiritual successor to Call of Duty now that it had turned into somewhat of a media circus and a horribly overused teat of a cow, which have turned a weird shade of grey. Then when it was announced that the cool, suave dudes from Swedish DICE (Guys behind Battlefield) were behind the multiplayer, I immediately  had some nerdgasms of joy. A mix of Battlefield and Call of Duty? This is like the freaking Holy Grail for me. While both games happened to have mostly been aimed for the console, sadly, they played relatively well on the PC.

Enter Anger

When they announced a beta at E3, starting right away, I just knew I had to conquer (read: own) this Jesus of FPS games. This Saviour of a time long gone.  I had to have it. I found out that if I owned Bad Company 2 on Steam, I'd be able to get into the beta earlier by preordering it. It sounded so amazing, it couldn't be true! I did just that - and with a few hiccups from EA (Gun Club still isn't working? Really?!) - the beta started.

Offering 2 modes with 2 maps, 1 for each mode, the beta isn't exactly offering a lot of content to play around with - but I am going to assume that the core gameplay is what they have considered will be the in released version. Which is just dreadful. The game offers absolutely nothing new. The gunplay feels mediocre and boring at best. There is no recoil or spread, except with the sniper, lending the idea that the PC beta is just a 1:1 port from the consoles. There is really nothing to it. It can quickly become quite a clusterfuck, especially because grenades, grenade launchers and rocket launchers doesn't have any kind of splash damage. Spawns are weird in team deathmatch, but mostly follows that of later CoD games, where you'd suddenly spawn behind enemy lines with no one nearby.

Despite a run and gun kind of gameplay, the game offers not much else. It gives you a sort of "killstreak" called "team actions", which is either a UAV or a mortar strike. In the form of customizations, you have the choice between 3 "classes". Soldier, spec ops and sniper. Within these classes, you can change/unlock weapons, sights, magazine and barrel.

Yes. That is it. There is nothing else to the game. I've played it for about 2 hours and it is just so mind numbingly boring. No sense of progression, no "umph" from the gameplay. No awesome moves or episodes, where you just sit back and think "Wow.. that was intense". The gameplay seems very calculated as well, with you being able to endure a specific amount of shots anywhere on the body (except the head) before falling on your face in the respawn menu, which was just made to taunt you for dying. The only episode I found "fun" was when I saw a corpse fly over a wall. That was it.

The game have been compared to the awesome Insurgency mod for Half-Life 2. In which it fails. It fails against a mod.

Changes I hope to See

Obviously I'd love to see a change in the gameplay itself. It is just lackluster - there is nothing to it. Maybe it can satisfy the console, but I like to think that we are more sophisticated on the PC and require just a bit more for it to keep our attention. It needs to be PC-ified, just like Bad Company 2 was.

Minor issues:

  • Animations look stiff and bland.
  • Menus handle like they would on a console. It even boasts several console-only settings, such as D-Pad settings and adjusting your TV-screen.
  • Chat system is broke. It just shows a bar, which you can't type into and won't disappear before you die. During that time, you can't move. All you can do is aim and shoot.
  • Server browser kicks you back to login screen. They also decided to have forgotten everything they learnt with Bad Company 2.
  • Spawning system: Either add more spawn points or think of something else.
  • Hit boxes have issues.

Suggestions:

  • Respawns are too rapid in TDM, especially for the size of  the map. Add a respawn delay.
  • Tune up the destruction possible in the game. You have an engine that is capable of so much, yet decide that a rocket shot or a grenade can't move concrete or bricks. Turning it up will change the game and how it's played totally, camping spots come and go, making the game more interesting and varied. Who wouldn't have wished for destructible environments in Modern Warfare 2?
  • More and varied game modes.
  • Take a look at BC2. The infantry gameplay in that game is a lot more fun than it is in MoH, which is strictly infantry based. Why is that?

I will keep playing the game - but it does not bode well for now, sadly.

Preorder Medal of Honor (Amazon.com)

Preorder Medal of Honor (PC DVD) (Amazon.co.uk)

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5Jun/100

HTC Desire and Android – Noticing The Small Things

Android robot logo.

Who can deny this guy?

Introduction
I am a bit of an Android fanboy - but I don't think it is an unrealistic affection, as I believe it is just an amazing operating system for mobile phones. Now, having had it across two phones for about a year and a half, I have come to the conclusion: I will never get a non-Android phone again.

Having said that, I must admit that I have never really used an iPhone or a BlackBerry, other than the occasional call from a friend's phone or trying their phone while bored - so my opinions are probably rather biased. I have, however, had a Windows CE phone and it was just plain bad. I don't know if it was because of the operating system or the HTC Touch Diamond, but I really hated it. It felt too heavy and too slow to really keep my interest. As soon as my contract was up, I sold that sucker and went on to another phone.

The HTC Magic
I don't recall why I bought this phone. I suppose it was that kind of geeky feeling you get when something very new, with new technology, comes out. I have studied it, read the reviews, checked up on Android and I wasn't really sold or anything. But suddenly I had bought it and felt a bit giddy having done it.

Some called it an iPhone killer but, having tried the iPhone, I felt that the Magic was, sadly, too slow. The operating system, however, offered so much. It had it's baby problems but the mass of applications made it an amazing gadget to have everywhere with you. Don't know where that tattoo place is? Fire up Google Maps. Want to record your workout? MyTracks or CardioTrainer. But, it really wasn't anything new from what the iPod Touch and iPhone have been offering for a long time. It was just new to me. But I could, absolutely, feel that this phone is just the start of something amazing. After having gotten used to it, I started to use it as an e-book reader, for music, for working out, for looking up new muscle exercises, for social interaction and I really felt it was everything I'd need if I was suddenly stuck somewhere in the world. But, like every smartphone, the battery time wasn't what people would expect from a traditional phone. I, personally, didn't mind it - as it is to be expected.

HTC Magic
HTC Magic

Sadly, this phone had some major issues. When I first started using this phone, I told myself that I will never need another phone again. This, sadly, kicked me in the balls later on. The phone got tediously slow, especially while writing on the touch-screen keyboard. The plastic shell is very prone to dents and scratches if you accidentally drop it, meaning mine had a few from having landed on a few small pebbles. It wasn't a pretty phone, but that isn't really what I look for - as long as it's comfortable in your hand. It had a reasonably unique look, which meant it stood out. It's main strength, the Android 1.5 OS proved to be one of it's major flaws, as well. HTC never released an update for it, despite having hinted at it a few times - so it was stuck on the severely outdated OS, lacking several optimizations, special Google apps and a more polished look. I didn't realize the severity of this before I tried out the HTC Desire.

The HTC Desire
I didn't really care about the HTC Desire, at first. I figured I could wait a few more months until something even better came out - but I suddenly tripped over an offer I just couldn't ignore. Costing around 160 dollars less than normal, I knew I just had to have it. I must have it. A few of my friends decided to get it as well and those few friends became quite a lot of friends. I was amazed to see just how many was going for Android over the iPhone and I believe that the cost was a huge factor in this - but I was surprised to hear that the design also made people, especially girls, steer clear from it. What Apple have become famous for is actually keeping people from buying it - the shiny metal, the shape, how huge it looked. Why, even a few of my friends, who are die-hard Apple fans, decided to purchase the Desire.

HTC Desire

HTC Desire

I fell in love with Android all over again. Gone were the issues from the Magic - it was highly responsive, the HTC Sense UI was slick and made a seamless integration with Facebook, Android 2.1 had polished the edges but it was the smaller things that really amazed me. Those things you really have to try for yourself before realizing just how great they are. I called some company and had to press a button to get to the proper department. The phone noticed, via the accelerometer, that I had removed the phone from my ear so it unlocked the screen so I could pull up the keypad. When putting it back up to my ear, it locked itself again. Most people will probably just go "So what?", but that, mes amis, are the things that just leaves me at awe - that someone thought about that - in order to make my life easier. Because that is essentially what gadgets and technology is for; making our life easier.

I cannot help but feel that my phone have become my intelligent little friend. A companion who just wants what's best for me, building bridges over gaps in my life. Someone from an unknown number is calling me, it tells me who it is. I need to know just how freakishly hot it is outside, it tells me and even keeps my location up to date, ensuring I get the right weather information for my area. I feel a bit tempted to go to a concert, it can check my location and lists what is going down in my area. I feel like stalking my friends and my faithful guy gives me Facebook and Twitter. I want to check the pictures from that awesome party I wasn't invited to and I can even do that from within the UI. If I even happen to lose my little buddy (No sexual innuendo here, guys), I can just text from another phone and it will tell me it's exact position or just ring really loud until I find it. If I suddenly wanted to read a book while waiting for something, it can even do that. There is just so much to it. Obviously the Magic also did this, as mentioned earlier, but it is just that much smoother on the Desire.

The Magic had a decent camera but no flash, which meant it was beyond crap at taking pictures inside. This is not the case with the Desire, which is sporting a flashy flash and a 5 megapixel camera. I love taking pictures and, while it's still not as great as a camera, you will always have it close to you so you can take pictures of what ever the hell you want. Sharing is as easy as pressing 2 buttons, so Facebook can be updated with your friends kissing or that awesome sunset by the beach. The gallery is slick and fast, even if you are showing HD+ pictures and the great screen really compliments this. Sadly, the screen have a tendency to be barely viewable if you are out in direct sunlight.

But there is never such a thing as a perfect product. The Desire have it's shortcomings. It doesn't have the great customizable LED that the Magic had (To indicate different kind of notifications), but I have been told that is a "bug". The screen, while amazing under normal circumstances, is horrible when walking outside in the sun - as mentioned earlier - and it is really prone to greasy fingers. The battery time is about the same as the Magic, which is short for some.  You have to remove the battery to get to the MicroSD slot. But that is about it. Other than that, the phone is amazing.

I'd just love to have a docking station for it but have been unable to find any at all.

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