Planescape Torment

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Planescape: Torment is a game that couldn’t have come to my attention at a better time. The game that I played through prior was Skyrim and as I was going through it, I realized something. The world of Skyrim is so uninteresting, all the quests felt generic and the story is something I have seen a million times before. Now, I am not saying Skyrim is a bad game, the combat was engaging, the spells were fun to tool around with and the graphics were beautiful. Not to mention, It was filled with secrets and treasures that were a blast to find/collect. But after putting some time into it, I found myself craving a good story, something that I hadn’t seen before. Thankfully, Torment fulfilled that longing.

You play as the Nameless One, an immortal who has lived hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. While immortality may seem like a gift, in this mans case, it is a horrible curse that has taken his tole on him through the years. His body is scarred and maimed beyond recognition and he has lost all the memories of his past life. Thankfully, your character comes with instructions tattooed on his back. These can be read by your first companion, Morte. Now Morte is a bit of an oddity as far as game characters are concerned, he is a wise cracking skull that floats along with your character. After a lengthy introduction and some instructions, you are thrust headlong into a struggle to regain your mortality.

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Though, it may seem like combat is a primary focus of the game, it isn’t. Almost every encounter throughout the vast majority of the game is done through an incredibly dynamic dialogue system. In most games, you get only a few options of dialogue, in Torment, 10-15 options is pretty common. Not only that, but many of the options, if done right, can give large amounts of experience that can be used to further your characters skills. Another interesting aspect of the dialogue is that almost every person you meet in the world, has a story. From your average guardsman trying to find love to a wizard trying to steal a job from another to a giant metal construct who builds weapons in the hope that they will be used to destroy all living things. The world feels alive and is incredibly intriguing. Though  I have to admit, hearing everyone’s life story can be a bit tedious at times and not everyone is that interesting, but isn’t that the way life works?

A fairly typical dialogue tree

A fairly typical dialogue tree

Which brings us to one of the games weaker aspects, combat.  It is all run on the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2.5 game system, but instead of physically rolling dice, the game does it for you. While the thought of AD&D brings up a very deep and engaging system to mind, Planescape: Torment takes a different approach, there are limited weapons and the only character you can truly customize is your own. So your teammates will only level a very specific way. But it isn’t all bad, the spell effects in the game are breath taking and are some of the coolest I have ever seen in a  game. One of my personal favorites causes a lightning storm to hit all the enemies in an area.

As is common in games of this era, the areas are static backdrops that are teaming with detail. The only thing that moves are the characters within the world. I personally like this style because it really allows the games art to shine through. None of the buildings look alike and each area is unique in it’s own way. For example, the city of Sigil is fairly typical looking whereas Curst, another city, looks entirely different and is much, much less inviting.

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This brings us to my favorite aspect of Planescape Torment, the fact that it really messes with your perceptions. One example that I always bring up is the Brothel of Slating Intellectual Lusts. When I first came across it, I was expecting a typical brothel. No, this one is meant for the mind. People come in and hire one of the workers to talk to them in a variety of ways. Some are more kind and gentle, some are verbally abusive and others are there to debate with. I never thought I would see something like that in a video game. And this is just one of hundreds of examples from city blocks that are alive to kind hearted demons.

The final element that I need to discuss is immortality. Death in Torment has absolutely no negatives, unless it is your companions. If the Nameless One dies, he just respawns in a different area with full health. Your enemies on the other hand, don’t. While this may seem like cheating it…well…it actually is. Being able to cheat death makes you feel incredibly empowered and is sometimes even necessary to complete the game.  But don’t let that fool you, there are still some areas that are quite difficult to navigate due to the massive amount of enemies.

I honestly could write an entire novel about how much I love Planescape Torment, it has a staggering amount of detail and some of the most fascinating dialogue of any game I have ever played. The only downside is the simplistic combat and general lack of it for the first half of the game. Thankfully, the world is so interesting that you won’t notice it’s absence. I highly recommend this game to anyone looking for a good story

9.5/10

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Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows Of Amn (With Throne of Bhaal) Review

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For many geeks/nerds/artist types out there, the game of Dungeons and Dragons is a big past time. With some imagination, you and your friends can create and shape a world full of magic, monsters and wonder. Now taking a game such as that and making it into a video game may seem tricky in 2000 a team at black isle studios did the impossible, they created not only a fantastic dungeons and dragons game, but crafted what is (in my opinion) the greatest role playing game ever conceived. Some may disagree with that statement, but they have to admit, the game is still extremely good.

Set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of dungeons and dragons, Baldur’s Gate 2 tells the story of the lord of murder, Bhaal, and the mortal children he left behind. Naturally,  you character is one of them. Anyway, you begin the game in the Lair of Jon Irenicus, a mad wizard with insane power. Believe me, this guy is scary, cool and unrelentingly powerful. Naturally, you spend the first hour or so escaping his compound. Once you leave, then the world opens up and gives you free reign to explore. For starters, the main city of Athkatla is enormous and filled with all sorts of magic, monsters and a healthy dose of corruption, which you can either help spread or destroy, your choice. But outside of Athkatla, there are rolling hills, plains, forests, ruins and castles to explore and, for the most part, they are free to explore when you want.

Irenicus

Irenicus

This freedom is the greatest aspect of Baldur’s Gate 2, you feel as though there are hundreds of choices to pursue, despite the main story leaning you towards a certain direction. I should also note that after the second chapter, you will be forced to follow a specific series of events before freedom is given back to you, so make sure you have done as many quests as you can before you end the chapter, trust me, you will know how to end it. Fortunately, some of the best moments in the game occur when you are following the main story. Such as the battles in Underdark or the final confrontation with Irenicus. Speaking of the story, its phenomenal. It is unpredictable and Irenicus is constantly making moves against you, which makes it feel dynamic and gives a sense of urgency.

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Next is the gameplay, it is similar to the first Baldur’s in that you control a party and each different character class gets his/her own set of skills and abilities. However, unlike the first game, the variety is greatly expanded upon! Not to mention, you start the game at level 7 which makes you feel pretty powerful from the start. But don’t think you will be able to destroy everything from the onset, there are many beings in the Realms more powerful than you. Also expanded is the enemies list. You will fight everything from evil dwarves to a troll that wants to cook you, but it doesnt end there, you will encounter doppelgangers, dragons and some wicked demons. And each encounter with them is interesting, sometimes there is more to a fight than meets the eye.

Speaking of the eye, I must comment on the graphics. They aren’t the best of the time, but the world feels so alive. People are walking through the markets, random fights break out, and there are laws that must be upheld. I also must comment on the spell effects, they are simple but brilliant, the battles can turn into a dazzling spectacle of lights and sounds as enemies are hewed asunder and magic missiles rain out all over the place!

The sound is also very admirable as well, the music is epic during the battles and calm whilst walking the country. Unfortunately, the music and sounds are recycled a lot throughout the game and it can become old over time. But that’s to be expected when you sink 100+ hours into a game inst it?

Now its time to move onto the expansion, Throne of Bhaal. My words cant really describe it but I will try. The developers striped away a lot of the open world freedom of the original for some of the most amazing set pieces I have seen in a rpg. Not to mention, the level cap has increased dramatically and the action becomes even more intense as the game goes. Thought some of the fights in BG2 were crazy? Well, they are childs play compared to Throne of Bhaal. You can go the entire game of BG2 without fighting a dragon, but Throne makes you fight several, and there are stronger foes than that. It is insanity! Because of these enemies, the game feels a bit more difficult than before, which is welcome as BG2 isn’t the trickiest game I’ve ever played. The story, unfortunatly, isn’t as strong as the other one but what is there is still well executed. Besides, the story isn’t what Throne is all about anyway, its more action oriented and is focusing on a giant war between Bhaal’s children, or at least the power hungry ones.

All in all, BG2 and Throne of Bhaal are amazing gaming experiences with loads of variety, fantastic settings and an spectacular story that is begging to be played through multiple times! Not only is Shadows of Amn one of my personal favorite games, but I feel that it is the best RPG ever made!! And it is followed up by one amazing expansion, fantastic stuff.

BG2: 10/10

Throne of Bhaal: 9/10

Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (Review)

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Today, the word Warcraft is associated with MMORPGs and often used to ridicule nerds. However, back in the late 90’s Warcraft meant something totally different. It stood for epic conquest between orcs and humans, intense fantasy battles filled with mystical creatures and some not so mystical creatures. It was about collecting gold from a mine, wood from the forests and oil from an oil well. Yes, Warcraft was originally an RTS series and the second one is considered by many to be the best in the series.

First a little background, Blizzard had released other games such as the Lost Vikings, Rock N Roll Racing and Blackthorne, but their first big success came in the form of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, released in 1994. It didn’t necessarily redefine the rts genre for the time but it certainly became a hit because of balanced gameplay and addictive multiplayer. Because of its success, its only natural that a sequel should be made. Well in 1995 gamers got to play the highly anticipated sequel, and were treated to some of the best RTS game play of its time.

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As with it’s predecessor, the game focuses  around the Orcs and Human Alliance who are at war with each other. For what reason, I do not know, but does it matter? Anyway, when you boot up the game, you get several options to choose from. I recommend the campaigns as they are a good learning tool and they scale in difficulty as you complete levels. I personally found the campaigns to be a bit easy at times, and they never really became hard, but for players who don’t play a lot of RTS games, it will be just the right level of difficulty.

The next option is to play against the AI in custom battles. Now this is where the game shows it’s age a bit in my opinion. There is no mini map to show what the map looks like before you play, maybe there is something I don’t know about but the fact that you have to guess what the map will look like is rather frustrating. The first game I played ended up being a map with several islands and I actually ran out of gold before I could build a transport ship, as I spent a lot on upgrades early on. This made my angry, as you may imagine, so I had to quit and restart on a different map. However, there is a plus side, once you know what maps to pick then you can engage in some fun battles with the computer. As with the campaign, the AI isn’t extremely difficult so you always feel like the battle is fair, unlike Starcraft 2 on  Insane difficulty, I swear, that game cheats.

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Anyway, on to the gameplay. If you have played a Blizzard RTS even once in your life, you know what to expect. You start out with almost nothing, and have to collect 3 different resources. The two you need to concern yourself with early on are Gold and Lumber. So you have your peasant or peon collect resources, all while building buildings or hiring new peasants/peons. Once you have a suitable amount, then it its on to building a barracks and hiring warriors. Once you have an a suitable army, usually a few men early on, then it is on to the navy. This is where the third resource comes in, Oil.  I won’t go into further details as it will only confuse the uninitiated. But I can say one thing, the build up of resources and the creation of units/buildings is very slow compared to future RTS games, so prepare to spend some time on each match.

Next, we have combat, something that has a tendency to bother me at times. Basically, each and every unit has attack and defense values. Sadly, each unit doesn’t have  a base damage such as in other games. No, they have ranges of damage. I am not sure how it works but a low level unit can do anywhere from 2-9 damage every time he/she/it hits. It seems that this could add a level of unpredicability to each fight but it really doesn’t. Basically, if you have low level units fight high level units, they will die. If two low level units fight each other, then it is a toss up. Usually whomever hits first wins. It’s actually really simple. However, there is one negative about combat and units in general. You can only select 9 at a time. Thankfully, for large armies, you can apply hot keys using CRTL and a number from 0-9 and use that to quickly switch between groups of 9. Honestly, I think that is the one major flaw that plagues Warcraft 2 and Starcraft for me. I love the games to death but I wish I could select everything at once.  In terms of gameplay, there is way more involved such as unit abilities, ground vs. air and a variety of other topics. But I won’t go there, its far too much to cover, but lets just say that a well placed ability can make all the difference in a battle.

Now, we move onto the graphics and sound. Firstly, the game looks awesome, it has a cartoonish fantasy art style that is rich with color and has some fantastic texture work for its time. I think games need to be colorful like this again, today, there is too much brown, black and grey. I want some color!! Also, the music is epic and the sounds, well, are simplistic. Plenty of tings and bangs. Despite the simplistic sounds for combat and buildings, the voice work is awesome and some of the quotes have become iconic, such as the peasants saying, “Yes Me Lord.”images

Finally, there is multiplayer! Oh man this is seriously fun to play at a LAN party. I find it is at it’s best during team play, because it allows for some serioulsy fun tactics and strategies. Such as having one person go all air and the other all land. Also, if you can get your hands on it, Blizzard released a Battle.net version of the game which allows for users to play on battle.net that was introduced when Diablo was released. For those that don’t know what Battle.net is, it is a basic gaming service that allows people to easily connect an play games.

Overall, this is a fantastic entry in the RTS genre, though it hasn’t aged as well as Starcraft has, its still a lot of fun and is loaded with personality and deep gameplay, and thats not even including the awesome multiplayer offerings!!

8.5/10

Diablo 1 Review

In my last review I looked at the computer gaming giant that is Diablo 2. While its well known for its loot system and awesome gameplay and large improvements to the original, I feel that it was also a departure from the original game in some ways. So thus, I think a review of the first Diablo is necessary, so here we go!

The first Diablo was released by Blizzard Entertainment in 1996 and is a different experience compared to their other games, such as the strategy game Warcraft or the comedic arcade adventure The lost Vikings. Most of Blizzards games at the time were set in fantasy realms or the far future. But Diablo did something different, sure the world is similar to one in a fantasy game but it adds an element of horror that was uncharacteristic for the time. Diablo takes place in the town of Tristram where the forces of hell have launched an attack on mankind and its up to a mysterious Hero to save the town, and thus the world.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, I need to talk about the three classes. You can choose between the Warrior, Rouge and Sorcerer. The Warrior, specializes in melee combat, the Rouge in ranged weaponry and disarming traps and finally, the Wizard specializes in magic, naturally. I should note that your characters don’t have any real special abilities, your choice only effects your statistics, which you can change as you level up. The neat thing is that everyone can use every weapon/item, so long as they have the stats to wield them. Its a neat system that allows for a decent amount of customization.

After you choose your hero, you are thrust into the middle of Tristram where you can trade items, repair weapons and chat with the locals. The chatting is probably the best part of the entire Diablo experience as it lays down the entire story for the game. Some of the dialogs are interesting and some are even scary or sad, I highly recommend learning as much as you can about the butcher, its some creepy stuff. The story and character development are rock solid in this game and you are rewarded with a lot of detail if you choose to speak to everyone. Sure some of the voice acting is bad by today’s standards but for 1996, its pretty good.

Once you have learned of your task, its time to confront the horrors of hell. And to do that, you must go into a cathedral?!?! Yes, a cathedral, a holy place where no evil is supposed to linger. I think thats what makes this game great, the atmosphere is amazing, the places where evil shouldn’t be able to touch have been defiled by it. Nowhere is safe, you feel trapped as you descend through the 16 levels. There are screams and strange noises in the background, skeletons everywhere, blood soaked rooms and demons everywhere. I’ll be honest, this game had to have scared people, but its what makes the game great, the scary atmosphere, not knowing if you will survive a fight, a constant struggle between life and death against a tide of foes.

Speaking of foes, there are plenty of enemies to combat. These range from small demon dogs, to skeletons, to well, Diablo. But it doesn’t end there, there are other bosses to face, such as the Butcher and Skeleton King. Combat is handled the same way it is in all other Diablo games, click like a madman to swing  your weapon or perform a spell. Its a simple system but it works nicely. But all this demon slaying and clicking has to have an award right? Well, there are loot drops, enemies will drop weapons and gold. I find that the loot isn’t as inspired as in later clickfest rpgs but hey, its the first game of its kind, so it deserves a break.

Another nice thing is the levels themselves and how they randomize. All the layouts will be different in each playthrough, and you wont even fight the bosses in the same order. Now, Diablo is always last but you might fight the Butcher towards the middle instead of the beginning or the Skeleton King will show up first. Its fun to see who your opponent will be next, because you never know.

In conclusion, Diablo is a good game but for different reasons than its sequel. While D2 focused on a fantasy world, D1 went for horror and shock, and a good story with solid characters. Sure some things don’t hold up as well, such as the voice acting, loot system and lack of class specific abilities but if you have played Diablo 2 or even 3. I highly recommend trying Diablo 1, its an awesome experience of story and atmosphere and it created a game design that has been often imitated.

9.2/10

Diablo 2 + Lord of Destruction

I bet this cover scared little kids at the store.

For those that take a look at society, one thing they will notice is that people love to acquire things. Sometimes these things are precious items (Classic video games or good music) other times its frivolous things that make you question why people buy it (Pet Rock). Some people even take this need to acquire stuff to a whole new level. For example, a kleptomaniac will steal things just because they can, but these people get away with it because its a mental disorder. Other times, people will steal things because their desire for an item is so great that they will do anything to have it. So, you might be thinking, “Why is he writing about societies need for things in a game review?” Well, I am here to tell you that this is one of the driving focuses of Blizzard’s Diablo 2, and its expansion, Lord of Destruction.

For starters, Blizzard hands down one of my personal favorite gaming developers as well as one of the most popular. They are the creators of 4 hit game series. Warcraft, World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. All the games in these series have been runaway financial and critical successes. However, its worth noting that they are known for some of the longest development times in the history of gaming. It usually takes years for them to release any new games. For example, the wait between Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 was 4 years. But the wait between 2 and three was a whopping 12 years.

Anyway, back to the game at hand. After the runaway success of the first Diablo, people may have wondered, “How can they improve on a game that is dang near perfect?” Well, they did and they did so in epic fashion. Diablo 2 is an awesome experience.

Firstly, lets begin with the story, its really basic, Diablo has never been about story anyway. All you need to know is that  Diablo, his brothers Mephisto and Baal, along with hordes of hells minions are wrecking havoc across the land of Sanctuary and you must stop them. From here, you select your hero. In the main game there are 5 of them, the Amazon, Barbarian, Necromancer, Paladin and Sorceress. Each of these characters provides unique play mechanics. The Amazon is a weapon specialist with an emphasis on spears and archery. The Barbarian charges headlong into battle, absorbing damage and killing enemies with ease. The Necromancer uses a combination of summoning magic and poison/bone and curse spells. The paladin is a solid fighter with lots of holy magic, most of which is useful when with a team. Finally the sorceress is terrible in melee combat and relies almost exclusively on magic.

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Once you have made your choice, its time to give the minions of hell a taste of their own medicine. Well, not quite yet, you start in a town with some basic equipment. After some talking you will be tasked with some mission objectives. Now its time for the one thing you will do a whole lot of in Diablo 2, fight stuff. Combat is handled nicely. To attack an enemy, simply click on it then hold down your mouse button. Or, like many do, you can click as fast as you possibly can because it makes you feel like you are fighting faster than you actually are. But it isnt just about left mouse clicking, the right mouse can be used to attack as well, or be used for special attacks. The nice thing about this is that you can easily set a specific ability to each of the mouse buttons or use the keyboard to quickly switch between skills and abilities. However, no matter how many abilities you use and how powerful you are, you are going to need health and mana potions. These can be set in your belt and can be used by either clicking on the icon on the screen or by pressing the number assigned to it. Trust me, you will need to memorize the potion buttons as you will use them constantly.

After you hack your way through a horde of enemies you will be rewarded with loot. For the uninitiated, loot refers to the items that enemies drop when you destroy them. For many, this is the best part of Diablo 2. You never know what kind of items you will receive. Many times, they are worthless and broken swords or pieces of armor. However, sometimes you get magical items that need to be identified. This can be done by using an identify scroll that you can find or buy in town. Later, you meet someone who identifies stuff for you, which is nice. Once identified, you can either sell the item or use it on your character. Its this loot system that makes the game extremely addicting as you will want to keep playing just to see what loot you will get.

But there is more to the game than just killing and looting. You will be constantly earning experience points that you can use to level your character. Every level, you can put some new points into your character stats and 1 point into your skill tree. Personally, I really like this part of the game, there are tons of possibilities and you can tailor your character to your own personal play style. Its really fun to play around with. However, I have to say, I hate how you cannot take your decisions back once they are made. Say for example, you have a skill that you hate, well you have to deal with it. They eventually dealt with this but its only possible at one spot in the game.

For the most part, that’s all there is to it. Its a fun formula that can get dull at times as some of the missions are really long and you are required to chop through tons and tons of enemies, most of which you will see a lot of. But, thankfully, the game throws in boss fights and sub boss fights. Its really common to run into one of the numerous sub bosses just wandering around. Also, in every game, the map layout is different. That is right, there is no set map world, there are certain areas that are the same mainly due to story reasons but the rest of the map is randomly generated. This does add some freshness to a very repetitive game. Its nice to see that they thought of this.

Next, its time to talk about the multiplayer. Its one of those games where the multiplayer is just as fun as the single player. Its neat because the game becomes more difficult depending on how many players are in a single multiplayer game. So if you want to play with four friends, then more teamwork is required in order to face your foes. The loot system also becomes interesting as everyone scrambles to pick up that piece of loot before that useless teammate of yours does. Its almost comedic to watch as everyone will fight over who gets the new items. However, if you are a good teammate, you will give your weapons to the people that need them. But most people tend to forgo the team and feed their greedy little souls.

All in all, this game is seriously fun, and helps feed ones greedy nature, but Blizzard didn’t stop there!!

FACE BAAL!!!

A year after Diablo 2, Blizzard unleashed its expansion pack. Lord of Destruction adds a 5th act to play through, in which the player faces off against Baal. I can firmly say that it is my favorite chapter. Its scale is epic but it isn’t frustrating like the long act 2. It also provides closure to the story as well, you finally kill all three prime evils.

It also gave some gameplay tweaks as well. I find that it upped the single and multiplayer difficulty a bit, which is welcome because I found D2 a bit too easy at times. But the additions don’t stop there, two new classes are playable. The assassin who sets traps and uses stealth tactics to defeat her enemies whereas the Druid calls upon the forces of nature to fight. Both of these classes are fun to play as, in their own way and add some interesting dimensions to the game overall. Finally, we have more items as well as class specific items. Yes, there are special weapons that provide huge bonuses to certain classes. For example, the Barbarian has special helmets that he can wear that boost his skills. But they are only wearable by the Barbarian.

All in all, Diablo 2 is an awesome game and Lord of Destruction just makes it even better. Sure its repetitive and has some sections that I just dont like, act 2 is way to long for its own good. But the loot system, random mapping, fun boss fights, awesome character progression and wonderful multiplayer make it all worth it.

Diablo 2 8.8/10

D2 with Lord of Destrction 9.5/10

Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Complete

For many, the name New World Computing means absolutely nothing. However, for those of us that have played a lot of classic computer games, that name means a great deal. The now defunct developer gave the pc world some very fine games. The series it was most known for is Might and Magic, a popular role playing experience where you lead your warriors on quests fighting magical creatures and solving puzzles. Personally, I didnt like them, the lack of direction is frustrating. However, they created a spin off of the series and turned it into a popular turn based strategy game with just the right amount of role playing elements. This series is known as Heroes of Might and Magic. To this day, there are 6 of them each with its own unique storylines and play styles, however, the last one that was made by New World Computing was Heroes 4. The newest two were picked up and developed by Ubisoft and are great games in their own right. However, of the entire series, Heroes 3 stands the tallest and is a shining example of what strategy games should be.

To begin, its worth noting the game play elements. This is a rather complicated game that has a rather sharp learning curve, especially at the beginning. It is definitely one of those games where reading the manual is mandatory. To begin with, there are a couple of play modes, the first is to select a campaign and play through the stories therein. Another is to select and play a scenario, which are there to challenge you. There is also a tutorial and mulitplayer, more on the multi later. I highly recommend by first playing the tutorial as it gives you a basic understanding of the game. I do find however, that it isn’t the best tutorial system and leaves out a lot of important details. From there you can launch into one of the three campaigns. The first is Restoration of Erathia, which is the easiest. The second is Armageddons Blade, which takes place after the events of the Restoration. I find this to be the second most difficult, but probably the most fun because the battles are huge. Then we have Shadow of Death which is a prequel to the entire thing. This one has some missions that are brutally difficult so its only for seasoned veterans. Normally, Armageddons blade and Shadow of Death are released as expansions to the original but New World Computing released a Complete edition which has everything in one. Currently, it is 10 dollars on gog.com, that is where I purchased it and it has compatibility with Windows Xp, Vista and 7.

Anyway, after that little diversion, lets talk about the factions that are available (when you pick a campaign, you don’t get a choice). For starters, each faction has several tiers of units that they can hire. For example a simple skeleton is a lower tier unit where a vampire and dragon represent the middle and upper tiers. Each unit has a variety of different stats, such as attack damage and health. Some also have special abilities that lower enemy unit morale or even drain enemies magic power. Each of the 9 factions have 7 different units that they can purchase from their towns. There are also upgraded versions of these units that can be purchased as well. For example, taking a skeleton and then upgrading it to a skeleton warrior thus making it a tougher unit. While this may not seem like a lot of unit variety, its all you really will need because of the fact that you can always incorporate other faction’s units into your armies. This increases the army possibilities to a staggering number. (I made a list at the end of this review that gives some insight into the factions and their units)

However, it isn’t that simple, you will first need to construct your town and hire the individual units into your army. This, however, costs money and resources. This is where your hero comes into play. You can use your hero to move around the world map. On this map, you will encounter resources, enemies, other towns, magical artifacts and other misc. things. All of this is daunting at first because you can only move a hero so far and build only so much in one turn. However, you can hire additional heroes to aid in the process. On top of exploration, your hero gains experience points by succeeding in combat or by performing missions. Once you level up, your stats increase and you get to choose a new trait or skill. These vary from adding additional damage when a unit attacks or giving you the ability to learn new spells. These can provide a huge benefit to an army. On top of experience and levels, you can equip artifacts to your hero to further boost stats and skills. Eventually you can make your hero so powerful that large armies will quiver with fear at the very sight of him/her.

Next we should move onto the combat aspects of the game. This is where the game shows its age a bit. The combat is a simple turn based affair where numbers generally defeat tactics. You and the enemy take turns moving units, based off of their statistics, the faster units move first. That is pretty much all there is, but you can also use your heroes to cast spells that can wreak havoc or give your units bonuses. Thats really all there is to it. Its fun but can be monotonous after prolonged exposure.

 Next, i need to discuss the graphics. They hold up really really well today, the over worlds are lush and full of detail. The resources stand out amongst the landscape making it easy to find that pile of wood laying there next to a forest. Also, some of the buildings have small details built into them. For instance you can see little fires burning outside of a tomb. Not only that, but the character models look good during the battles. Their movement is a bit stiff by today’s standards but its really good considering that it was made in 1999.

Finally, I have to talk about multiplayer. This game has a fun multiplayer component, if you can get it to work. The servers for the game have long disappeared with New World Computing going out of business. However, there are gaming clients that you can use to get a game going. I used game ranger for mine. This mode is where the real competition can begin and its fun to play against live opponents as the computer has some tricks that you can exploit. This gives even more longevity to a game that already has absurd amounts of replayability.

All in all, this is one of my personal favorite computer games that I have ever played. It has a really deep system that rewards creativity but it also is simple enough for a basic gamer to get into after some practice. I find that the campaigns are interesting and provide some unique challenges, with the scenarios and mulitplayer rounding out the entire package. This game also has a sense of humor, it has sections that are built in for comic relief. I won’t spoil these.

10/10

As promised, I am going to talk about the factions:

Castle: Basically your knights and good hearted creatures. They are the most well rounded of the factions and boast some fantastic units, including the mega powerful Angel and Archangel. Id say that this is the best faction to start with as they are the most straight forward. Heroes include the Knight and the Cleric

Rampart: The friendly woodland creatures. Such as Centaurs, Pegassi and my favorite unit, the Grand Elf which is an archer that can fire 2 arrows each turn with deadly precision. Overall, this is a solid choice that requires some tactics to use properly. Heroes include Rangers and Druids.

Fortress: The fortress is a swamp home that has creatures such as Lizardmen, Basilisks, Gorgons and Hydras. I’m not the biggest fan of this race as their units tend to be weak. Heroes include Beastmasters and Witches.

Dungeon: An underground city that has a wide range of units from Harpies to Black Dragons. I really like this race because they have some awesome unit abilities such as the medusas ability to turn enemies to stone and the Harpies ability to attack without enemy retaliation. Heroes include the Overlords and Warlocks

Tower: The tower faction is one of the most interesting in the game. The creatures are of a magical nature and include the Magi, Titan and Gremlin. This faction has the greatest number of ranged units with 3 of the 6. However, this firepower comes at a cost. This one requires lots of resources. They are also the most magic centric of the factions, so this is the one to pick if you love using a variety of spells. Heroes include the Alchemist and Wizard.

Stronghold: The polar opposite of the Tower Faction. Stronghold units tend to be difficult to kill and do large amounts of melee damage. Their ranged units are ok but there is nothing that is tougher than the Behemoths. They simply do not die. I love this faction. They are so powerful when leveled up enough. Heroes include Barbarians and Battle Mages.

Necropolis: The undead comprise some of the most amazing units. The Vampire Lord may be the best unit in the entire game. Every time they attack they drain the enemies health, this draining even allows you to resurrect dead vampire lords. With enough of them, they are almost unstoppable. The Necropolis also thrives on the ability to create thousands of units and swarm over their enemies. I love this faction. Heroes include Death Knights and Necromancers.

Inferno: Demons and Devils, they are the antithesis of the Castle Faction. They also have the really powerful devil unit and the fireball throwing Magogs that can harm more than one enemy at a time. They are an overall decent faction. Nothing too special. Heroes include Demoniac and Heretic

Conflux: This race is interesting. They are the golems and elemental units. They tend to be very weak and die easily but they have some awesome units. The psychic elemental and firebirds do some crazy damage. Overall, an interesting race to play around with. Heroes include Planeswalker and Elementalists.

Simcity 3000 (Full Review)

I had teased earlier that Simcity 3000 was going to be my next review. After putting a lot more time into it, I believe it is time to complete a review.

Firstly, there are a couple of ways to play. The first is to start with a blank slate, get an area of land, adjust the physical features and then begin. But to be honest, its not as simple as you might think. These physical features can provide some challenges. For example, if there are large bodies of water, then you will need to connect everything with expensive bridges. But if you are a terra centric builder, then you wont be able to purchase water pumping stations which provide large amounts of water to your city. Its also important to consider elevation when creating your starting world as leveling it can be expensive or it will cost more to build buildings. You need to weigh all of these options when choosing a world. But the land layout is just the tip of the iceberg where choices are involved.

Another way to play is to use a starter city. These vary in terrain, zoning and certain buildings. Some are basic while others throw you to the wolves. These provide some unique challenges as you never know what will await you when you select one of these. This is the mode that people looking for a challenge should go to.  After you select your level, you name your city, mayor and select your difficulty. The difficulties don’t really change any of the in game content but it determines how much money you start with. Easy gives you a whopping 50,000 dollars to start with (a large amount of money in this particular game) Medium gives you 20,000 dollars to use and hard destroys you by sticking you with a 10,000 dollar loan, meaning you have to pay it back eventually. To be honest, I’m  perfectly content at easy right now as I am far from skilled at this game.

The final, and maybe most interesting game mode is real city terrain. This takes big cities from around the world such as Berlin, Tokyo and even Washington DC. These are interesting because you can create a better version of the city, or a worse one. Its a neat feature. You don’t get any of the buildings that are in these cities but its perfectly fine.

Now you have chosen your terrain or starter city, but you want to see some buildings. To do this, its time to add in some zoning for builders to build on. But its not that simple, there are multiple different zines that you can put down. You have Residential, Commercial and Industrial. Within each of these, you have 3 tiers. These are light, medium and dense. The light is for small density areas so for local businesses and low end housing. Medium basically represents the middle and upper class. And dense includes, malls and apartment complexes. But you cant just throw zones in randomly. There is a demand indicator also known as the RCI, this stands for Residential, Commercial and Industrial. You need to taylor your zoning to the demands that are given. There are other zones that you can place as well. These include, Airports, Seaports and Landfills!!!

But that’s not all, you need to consider the people themselves. Its a bad idea to place industrial areas right next to residential areas as the pollution will make them leave, and when people leave, you dont earn any tax money. On the subject of people, you will have to deal with them a lot. Its very common for proposals to be presented to you, some of these provide some great opportunities for your cities and others are downright annoying. To aid you in you city building, you get a panel of advisers. They will gladly tell you what they think needs to be done to make your city a success.  To be honest though, this panel can be so annoying. They bother you about nearly everything but its ok as they are there to help you.

After all of your zoning is complete, it is time to attend to basic infrastructure. You will need to build roads, create water systems and electrical systems. Other necessary buildings are fire departments, police stations and schools. If you choose to start in the year 1900, these options will be limited but will increase steadily as you progress through the ages. This makes things fun as you will always be unlocking new technology.  But of course, technology comes at a cost, the more high tech your systems, the more expensive.

Expenditures are handled in a rather unique way in this game. At the end of a game year, the computer takes your earnings and compares it to what you spend and then either adds or subtracts money from your coffers. Its simple but can break your city quickly if you aren’t careful. Of course, you can always increase taxes or reduce spending. But these options can prove to be dangerous. If your infrastructure isn’t very well funded, it will topple in on itself. And if taxes are high, then citizens and/or businesses will leave. This requires a careful balancing act, but you dont have to be too careful as its easy enough to handle.

All of the above, is all you really need to know to be successful, but there are other options that need to be mentioned. The first is the disasters. Every once in a while, you city suffer a natural disaster or an alien invasion. These can cause insane amounts of damage that will take many hours to fix. This is adds to the games difficulty and are almost like a giant slap in the face. Thankfully you can turn these off. To be fair, its a fun addition that adds a lot of replay value. I think the reason that I dont like them is because I have a lack of skill in this game. But I will overcome it and turn the disasters feature back on.

Other features include the ability to create different recreational areas. These range from ballparks, playgrounds and even zoos. These are mainly for aesthetics, but the citizens of the city will appreciate it. On top of all of this, you can make national landmarks. These range from the Statue of Liberty to the Parthenon. These dont really do anything special for your city but that’s not the point. Besides, who hasn’t wanted to have the Eifel Tower in their own city?

Finally, we get to one of my personal favorite things about this game. You can make business deals with your neighbors. These are done by connecting roads, power lines or water pipes to the edge of the map. This provides some fantastic money making opportunities. But not only that, if you are having trouble getting enough water, then you can get some from your water wealthy neighbor. Its an awesome feature.

All in all, this game is a lot of fun. There is a lot to think about but the majority of it is manageable. It provides limitless opportunities and is one of the most entertaining games that I have played in quite a while. I loved it and highly recommend that you check it out.

9.5/10