I don’t know what to call this… but it’s about GWENT.

WTF is this? An actual update? I know, seems crazy even to me. But I could just not keep quiet about this anymore.


What is Gwent you ask? Well if you are playing Witcher 3 you should already know (and love) what Gwent is. But for those who don’t, here’s just a quick primer. Gwent is a deck-building card game that Geralt can play to pass the time in the world of Witcher 3. The rules of the game are relatively simple. Each player has a deck of cards with which they will play on a row to acquire victory points. The goal? Finish the round with more points that your opponent. Simple right? On the surface, totally… but man does it go so much deeper than that!

At the start of the game each player will draw a hand of 10 cards. These are ALL the cards you will have for the entirety of the game, which is where the deepest strategy comes in! Now this can be changed by special cards that let you draw extra cards too, but I’ll get into that later. Every card in the game has stats, mostly a strength rating and a row indicator but some will also have bonus ability. Abilities such as playing a card from your discard pile immediately or having two of the same card next to each other to grant a strength bonus. Again, there are a ton more, but we’ll cover that in the future.

Players will take turns placing cards on the appropriate rows, acquiring points. The rows are broken up into three sections: Close Combat (sword icon), Ranged (bow icon) and Siege (catapult icon). Close combat cards, from what I have seen, seem to be the weakest with strengths ranging from 1-3 or 4. Ranged cards are generally in the 4-6, and siege are 6-8. Among the character cards there are also specialty cards. These cards have no strength and aren’t played on a row but rather a “one-and-done” style card. These cards include:

Weather Cards – One type for each row. These cards will reduce the strength of all cards in the row to 1. There is also a card that will clear any weather cards on the board and return the cards to their normal state.
Decoy Cards – These cards will let you swap any card on the board back into your hand (one of the best cards in the game IMO).
Commander’s Horn – Play this card on a row of your choosing and it will double the strength of all the cards in that row.
Scorch cards – Destroys the strongest card(s) in play.

Players can also earn Hero cards featuring various famous characters from the Witcher universe such as Geralt, Vernon Roche, Triss and so on. These hero’s cards are generally SUPER powerful, usually about 10 or 15 strength and also immune to any special cards! That also means they don’t get any benefits from the good special cards either though, but their strength alone is solid.

There are four factions or decks that you can pick to play as (Northern Realms Nilfgaard, Scoia’tael or Monsters) each with their own cards specific to that faction. There are some neutral cards that can be used in every deck, but otherwise Monster cards are only in the monster deck, Northern Realm cards are only in the NR decks. Each faction also has a leader with a special ability that can be used once per game. Each leader also has four different variants, which basically just grants a different ability.

That’s about it. I’m sure I missed some things but I really just wanted to get the base rules. You can go ANYWHERE online right now and probably find way better explanation of the rules, but I know most of you come here for my charm so thanks for reading!

Joking aside, Gwent is probably one of the best meta-game activities in a larger game I have played. It ranks up there with Pazaak from Knights of the Old Republic. I love deck building table top games in real life, so this was a natural hook. I spent almost 2-3 hours the other night just running around finding people to play Gwent with, buying cards and building my deck. Like I said before, on the surface the game seems really simple, but when you get into, the strategy gets DEEP. Knowing your opponent, what kind of deck they play and how to counter it, where and when to play certain cards and even knowing when you should throw a round all comes into play every game. CD Project Red have taken something that in most other games, people would play once or twice and made it something that I actively seek to play at least once or twice every time I load up Witcher 3.

Hands down Witcher 3 is one of the best RPG’s I have ever played, and Gwent just adds to that experience so much more so. Thanks for reading and stay tuned over the next few days as I intend to get a bit deeper into the decks for each faction and my general strategies with them!

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On the First Day of Christmas, the video game industry gave to me



1. The Walking Dead

What makes a game, a game? I’ve heard the question asked many times whether by professional video game writers or just general public, it is a question that always will inevitably come up. Is it the medium in which you play it? Is it a measure of how much interactivity you have with it? Is it the story, setting and characters? Or is it simply because you are told “this is a game?” Telltale’s The Walking Dead looked to blur all those lines and created something truly spectacular that I have not felt so affected by in quite some time.

The world has gone to Hell or more so Hell has come to us. You play as Lee Everett, a man alone set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. That is until you meet a scared yet so brave nine year old girl in the form of Clementine. The two of you set out against the world to try and survive the horrors that have overtaken the Earth. As you make the trek looking for survival you meet a cast of characters that will test your mind, body and soul.  There is a lot of evil in the world, and the best thing Lee can do is try and point Clem in the right direction as her watcher.

If you know anything about the universe of The Walking Dead, you know it’s a grim place. Humanity is gone except for a few good people in the world who still think they can make a change. Nothing has changed here, and it’s that attitude and premise that is presented in this game, that makes it one of the best games of the year. Walking Dead is presented in the all too familiar Telltale style of an old school point and click adventure game. You roam through scenes conversing with your companions and interacting with various objects that with either immediately be of use, or will come into play later. Every now and then the game presents you with an action sequence or a quick time event that requires some more interaction than a dialogue wheel and a pointer. Simple enough right?

I bring this up; to relate back to what I opened this post with, what makes a game a game? I have heard this question asked specifically about Walking Dead in the past few months more time than I can count. Many people are calling this another piece of “interactive storytelling.” You have minimal involvement with the game other than moving Lee up, down, forward and back. Sure, like I said above sometimes you have to mash the A button or aim a gun and hit the trigger to shoot, but those sequences are sparse. And that’s because that’s not the point of The Walking Dead. That’s not what Telltale was trying to do. Telltale wanted to tell a story, something meaningful. Game play would take a backseat to Lee and Clem’s story. All I can say is that they pulled off this task FLAWLESSLY.

I don’t/can’t really going into details with the story because it’s just something you have to play for yourself and experience. It’s funny, startling, suspenseful and most of all heartbreaking. Rarely has a game got to me in such a way that I was actually bummed out for a few hours after playing it. But that sadness is what kept me coming back. I needed to see what happened next. I needed to make sure things turned out as alright as they could for Clem. Your choices affect everything. Will you teach Clem right from wrong? Will you show her there is still good in the world, or try and toughen her up for the pain and horror’s that are to come? You have to make that choice with practically every decision in the game. Not just with Clem, but with everything and everyone. Who lives, who dies, who eats and who decides where to go. I made a decision early in the game on how MY Lee would act, and I stuck with it through the whole game. Right or wrong, that was who Lee was and that was how I was going to play it.

I made decisions; hard ones. Decisions that no person should have to make in their life. Sure they were in a video game, but the choices made say a lot about a person. Once I had made them, I stuck with them. No looking back I said. I never reloaded a save when something bad happened. I wanted to keep the experience as far from a typical video game as I could. Other games, like Far Cry, I would die or fail a mission and just restart it. There was no going back here. What made these choices even more suspenseful was the fact that they were presented to you with a timer. Sure you can look at these two ways, one of which being it’s a game and they need to keep the player moving forward. I looked at it differently, it was ways to have the player make a judgment based on instinct rather than thinking over every choice. In the fiction of Walking Dead, no one is safe and things could go south at any moment. This constantly had me on the edge of my seat and like I said, sometimes I made a wrong choice which cost me in the end. But I stuck with it, dealt and moved on.

In the end, the story being told, my story so to say, in The Walking Dead over road any game play experience I had this year. Games, as a medium, are meant to be something to have fun with. Sit down, relax and screw around for a few hours. Walking Dead did that, but accomplished so much more giving players a rich environment and characters who you loved and hated. It blending storytelling and game play that I hope many, many more publishers begin to do. I cannot wait to see what story Telltale intends to bring us in Season 2, but whatever it is, it will be incredible.

As always, thank you guys again for sticking with me through these 12 days and 12 games. Have a great holiday and a happy New Year!

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On the Second Day of Christmas, the video game industry gave to me

The power to defend Earth from aliens.


2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

As I said in my post about Dishonored a big trend in gaming was player choice this year. There was another trend that seemed to be making a comeback as well, games that will kick your ass with no remorse or second thought. Even on easy these games a giving players a challenge that you might only remember in the days of NES. XCom is no different, and I would go as far to say that it’s the worst offender of this trend. But by worst, I mean the best, because it made me love the game that much more.

The premise of XCom is simple. Aliens invade Earth, Earth’s nations rally together to form top secret government organization to kill aliens. You kill aliens, everyone rejoices. Well sure, that sounds all well and good but it’s the furthest thing from the truth. You are the “Commander” a faceless, voiceless person in charge of handling all of XCom’s operations. Everything from picking and recruiting soldiers to deciding what new technology to build is handled within XCom’s top secret headquarters.

This is the first “part” of the game, building and maintaining your XCom headquarters. Within the walls you have full control of what rooms to build, how to spend your money and how to train your soldiers. It sounds simple, but even this small task becomes painstaking. Every month you get income from each country still attached to XCom. Panic is ensuing across these countries and if the panic level gets to high, that country is GONE. Again, every decision you make will affect something in the bigger picture. Do you spend your waning money supply on building new armor and weapons for your soldiers so they can fight to see another day? Do you build another Tech Lab to research new alien technology or another Power Generator next to another one for a bonus? It’s a constant struggle of what do I do next.

The other part of the game is combat. The game itself is a turn based tactical strategy game. It’s like a game a chess where you think you might have the upper hand and in one small mistake could bring everything down around you. You send your six man teams comprised of four classes (heavy, support, assault and sniper) down to these alien infested warzones to fight to the death, and trust me, there will be so much death. Each character in your team only gets to make a few choices per turn so it is VITAL that you make the right moves. Should you take a shot at an alien with a 61% chance to hit? If you miss that could mean one of your soldiers goes down. It’s a tough choice and really have to think about every step you take.

I could not put this game down. These choices, these decisions that I had to face made me keep coming back to the game. When a soldier died, I was bummed out. When I lost a county, I was annoyed. Every time something bad happened, it would help me to learn what NOT to do the next time. As much as the game is nowhere near a game like Brain Age or something, you really have to think things out before doing them. I like a game that brings something like that to the table. It was the reason I loved Hotline Miami, one wrong move could end you in the snap of a finger. I’m usually not a fan of “hard” games, but after playing XCom, I welcome them with open hatefully loving arms.

Tune back in tomorrow for my 2012 Game of the Year!

Thanks for reading!

Note: XCOM: Enemy Unknown is on sale currently as part of Steam’s Holiday Sale!

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On the Third Day of Christmas, the video game industry gave to me



3. Dishonored

Dunwall City. Bodies of the diseased fill the now desolate and ruined streets below the tall Victorian buildings. The swarms move from the shadows consuming anything in their path without thought or remorse. Smoke from a City Watch Officer’s freshly lit cigarette billows up under a street lamp as he raises a hand in salute towards a patrolling Tallboy. An explosion ignites the sky, and in the distance an alarm from the prison cuts the silence stillness of the night. Someone has escaped…

That person would be Corvo Attano, the (now) disgraced bodyguard of Dunwall City’s Empress. I say now disgraced because you are framed for her murder (a big theme in gaming this year) and now seek revenge on the ones who have accused you of this horrible crime. Now on a path to clear your name and find the Empress’s daughter, you are set off on a path that will change the face of Dunwall for years to come.

This may be quite obvious since we are now in the top three, but I really loved this game. Looking back at my list, I see a lot of two’s, three’s, subtitles and what have you tacked on to the ends of these games. That’s because we are nearing almost the 10 year mark for our current console cycle. Still as of this writing we only assume that this E3 will bring the announcement of the new Xbox and Playstation next gen systems or at least we hope so. My point is that not many companies are taking a chance on new games on our current consoles… that is until Dishonored came around. Developed by Arkane Studios (Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic) and published by Bethesda Softworks (TES: Skyrim, Fallout 3) Dishonored was a fresh IP that combines game play aspects of the Theif games of old and Bioshock with the setting and feel of Half-Life 2’s City 17, but a bit more Steampunk-ish.

Three things instantly hooked me into this game, the first being its look and style. Everything from the character models to the cityscapes presented in screenshots looked incredible. While most games these days are leave their fantastical moments to the game play, Dishonored puts much of that into their design as well. Characters have a super stylized look to them; buildings and homes feel old and worn. But looks alone did not compare to how much fun I had actually PLAYING the game. Dishonored is a stealth game (second hook for those following along) at its core. As I said, you are out for revenge to clear your name, and what better way to do that then to hunt and kill the men who put you there.

Well I personally didn’t kill them, but and that’s the third reason why I knew I had to play this game. Choice and player agency has become such a major part of games for what I assume is a deeper connection to the character and story. Dishonored uses this to great effect; your choices fully effect Dunwall City. You are presented with two styles of play that you can take or blend together to mold your Corvo. I chose a (mostly) non-lethal playthrough, slinking from shadow to shadow choking out my enemies and hiding the bodies. I wanted the good ending. I wanted to see Dunwall City prosper again and felt that MY Corvo, despite being framed, would not want to stoop to the level of his accusers. He would want to clear his name the right way and bring to justice those who set out to harm him. This would become a driving factor in the game for me when trying to finish it. Anytime I would kill someone either by accident or not, I would reload the save. I didn’t care how many times I would have to retry an area or whole mission; I wanted to kill no one. Sure every once and a while my hands got dirty but sometimes they have to get what needs to be done, done.

To help you on your path of redemption, Corvo gains “super-natural abilities” from a ominous being known as The Outsider. These powers, along with the awesome arsenal of weapons, become your tools of destruction. One of the first powers you learn is called “Blink,” an ability that lets your silently teleport in ANY direction. This will become clutch in making your way around Dunwall City in silence. Being able to teleport to a rooftop, and then across five others to escape a group of enemies was so fun. You really can go anywhere, especially when you upgrade the ability. Along with the power to posses animals to move unnoticed through crowded enemy areas, or turn your enemies to ash after silently stabbing them in the back, these powers let you really customize how you want to play the game.

As I said earlier in the article a big part of Dishonored is choice. As I also said choice has played a major part in more than just a handful of games this year. Even the newest Call of Duty game gave players the option to choose a path rather than just a white dot. I keep bringing up choice because it affects everything from actions within in a game to real life; I had to make choices on where to put the games that I loved this year and player agency in game is something I had to heavily consider when forming my top games. This will become more self-evident in the new two days with my last picks. I hope more games push their players to make decisions and carve their own path when playing games. The days of hitting A and B are over with story is becoming a major focus, and having the player feel like their actions mean something will mean more and more. Dishonored accomplishes this to great effect and I really hope a sequel takes these things to the next level.

Thanks for reading!

Note: Dishonored is currently on sale on Steam for $30 for the next day or so make a choice and buy it!



On the Fourth Day of Christmas, the video game industry gave to me

The gateway to ultimate consciousnesses.


4. Syndicate

The year is 2069. Gone are the days of politics and government and in its place, syndicates (mega corporations) now control everything. You want to control your computer, tv, gaming devices, internet, whatever just by thinking about it? Get chip’d. Just know this… the syndicate now owns you and your mind. Who watches the watchmen they say? Bio-engineered soldiers known as Agents carrying out the dirty business of their Syndicate to whatever ends that may be, for good or for evil. But with law gone and business the new warzone, what good is left?

This is the grim scene set by Syndicate. A reboot, but at the same time a prequel (sorta) to Syndicate released in 1993. I never played the original game, but from stuff I have seen, it was a totally different game. The original was a tactical squad game where you controlled a group of Agents sent out to do the bidding  of your Syndicate. The 2012 reboot drops you in the black combat boots of Milo’s Kilo. A prototype agent fitted with the new DART6 chip as opposed to the standard DART5 chips used by many other agents. Why is this important you ask? Because your DART6 is combat ready, giving you able to access and override other chips for your own hellish devices.

This becomes one of the major game play elements of Syndicate that made me love the game so much. From the outside it looks like your standard futuristic shooter, but the abilities given to Milo make it so much more than that. You have three main abilities along with your weapons to use against your enemies. Backfire which will cause your enemies gun to backfire (duh) and either jam or blow up in their face. Persuade which turns your enemy on your side for a short period of time. Lastly, and my favorite, Suicide, which makes the target shoot the enemies around him and then himself, or just flat out pull the pin on his grenade and hold it in his hands as it goes off. I cannot tell you how many times doing that saved my life in the middle of a big fire fight. Each time a battle came down it was super fun to try and figure out new combos to use on guys. The guns in the game were pretty good “future weapons” as well but I relied much more on my DART skills to save my ass.

Every game needs good, competent game play for me to like it. But the look and sound of Syndicate grabbed me as well. I love cyberpunk settings and I really wish more games would use them. Last year’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution utilized that same setting to great effect and was also one of the reasons why I liked that game as much as I did, because it certainly wasn’t the combat… anyway. Everything in the world of Syndicate had this slick feel to it. Sure, it’s the future and massive businesses with tons of money own everything so naturally things would look well kept, but it just adds this element of awesomeness that I didn’t see in many other games this year.

I don’t really have a lot to say about the game other than just play it and see for yourself. Like I said, I never played the original, but soon as I started hearing about this game, I grabbed it ASAP. Sure it doesn’t break the mold of standard shooters, but what it does with its  internal systems and style are well needed and wanted change from the 100th sword and spell fantasy game. Play it, you will not regret it.
Thanks for reading!


On the Fifth Day of Christmas, the video game industry gave to me

Friends, enemies, betrayal, and Kung Fu.

5. Sleeping Dogs

We’ve made it! In the home stretch now as we hit my top five games of 2012. Technically yesterday was the half-way mark, but really the top five is what’s important. So again, thanks a bunch for those of you who stuck with me on this!  Without further adieu…

Video games seemed to have hit a dead spot around the summer this year. Luckily the Steam sale came and helped bulk it out a bit, but the ball really wasn’t going to get rolling again until late August wit h the release of Darksiders II. So I waited and waited and finally it came out. And I played it, and it was good (not great) for a couple weeks. Sleeping Dog’s had quietly released on the same day. And as the next few weeks went past, more and more reviews for Sleeping Dog’s started popping up, and the outlook was pretty positive. So when a friend asked if I wanted to borrow his copy, I jumped on the chance.

You play as Wei Shen, a detective sent into the heart of one of the most violent and dangerous Triad gang wars in Hong Kong. As with most of these stories, the lines of friends and family, who is right and who is wrong, and where your allegiances really lie pull Wei back and forth through his rise from lackey to a top man.

The game is your typical open world game. As you make your way through the main story missions there are tons of side quests for you to pick up. Some include helping your Triad gang members say for instance, steal an armored bank truck or extort money from someone. On the other hand a fair share of police undercover work comes in as well. One such mission type that I always found fun were Drug Bust mission in which you got to go beat up a whole bunch of dudes, hack a camera and then set up a stake-out. Sure every one of these missions all played out the same repetitive way, but I never got tired of them. Mainly because the combat system in the game was so well done. Picking up aspects of the newer Batman games counter-combo system where every kung fu block, kick and punch you threw flowed together felt super smooth. Every now and then you would get different enemy types that would require you to switch up your methods, but it still felt great.

Along with that stuff there are tons of collectable items scattered around the world. There are statues that you can bring back to your old kung fu teacher to learn to fighting movies. Most stores will have tons of different outfits for you to buy and wear; some will even confer some solid bonuses to your stats when you wear them together.  Speaking of stats, that’s something else this game just does right. Whenever you fight or complete a mission you get various forms of experience. Some will increase your “Face” meter which equates to how well you are “staying in character” or points to your Triad/Police bar depending on who you are doing a mission for. This will net you skill points that you can use to unlock various abilities to improve your cop or criminal skills.

Let’s hope Rockstar picked up some tips from this game for GTA V. While Sleeping Dogs didn’t reinvent open world games, it certainly pushed the genre forward. Everything about this game surprised me. From the great story it was telling to the fantastic voice cast, I didn’t think I would enjoy an open world game like this again after playing something like Skyrim. If you are a fan of open world games and John Woo style action-crime drama’s this is a must play for you.

As always, thanks for reading!


On the Sixth Day of Christmas, the video game industry gave to me

Some masks, a few spaceships, and lots and lots of grief.

6. FTL/Hotline Miami

Ok so I cheated on this one a bit. I REALLY liked both these games, and totally felt that they should each get their own spot on the list, but in the end, there were so many other games that I wanted to make sure I included without leaving these guys out, I had to group them together. Plus the combined time I put into each one individually equaled out to about the same amount of time I would put into a single game alone.

FTL: Faster Than Light
FTL is awesome. A Kickstarter success story, FTL puts you at the helm of your very own spaceship, it’s crew and all the internal working systems. You travel from sector to sector with vital data trying to escape from the bad dudes who are after you. As you progress you unlock new ships, new crew members and new weapons. Each fight ends up being a carefully thought out puzzle where every move is integral as it could be your last. It’s a neat little rogue-like that will kick your ass from top to bottom every time you play it, but will always leave you wanting to play more. I won’t spend to much time on this as I wrote a previous review which you can find here.

Hotline Miami
This game is INSANE. Story-wise and game play wise. It’s the 80’s, a time where big hair reigned, drugs flowed freely and unknown, unnamed people in masks resembling animals call you into dark rooms and talk cryptically to you… yea. That’s the general “plot” of Hotline Miami. Every night your phone rings. On the other end is someone asking for a “plumber” to “fix some pipes” (IE: MURDER). There seems to be almost no rhyme or reason why you are asked to be doing these things or for that matter why you keep agreeing to get into your Delorian and go them. Every level lets you outside a building, filled inside with various thugs armed to the teeth with an arsenal of weapons that would make the army scared. Your job? Get in, kill everyone, get out. Easy as pie apparently…

Well that’s totally not the case with Hotline Miami. This game is BRUTAL and unrelenting as ALL hell. For starters, there’s no life bar. One hit and you are dead. Whether it’s by gunshot or a bat, boom, you are down in the snap of a finger if you make your move at the wrong time. Each level, you get to choose a mask to wear. Each mask confers a different ability to you. Here is the first of many, many, many choices you will have to make when playing this game. Do you want to be quick? Do you want doors you hide behind to take dudes out? Do you want to start with a knife in hand? The next big choice is how to approach each room which is the whole point of the game. Each level is a puzzle. How can you take out that guy with the knife, without being seen and shot by the guy down the hall? Do you bum rush him and hope for the best? Do you hold still and wait for movement patterns. All this matters so much because as I said above, one wrong move and it’s back to ground zero.

With both these games, no matter how many times I died or failed a mission, I jumped right back in wanting more and more. Going at each level a different way always added an element of fun that entertained me for hours on end. Both FTL and Hotline Miami are great retro indie games for super cheap that everyone should play for five minutes or five hours.

Thanks for reading!

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On the Seventh Day of Christmas, the video game industry gave to me

The power to BURST!!!


7. Asura’s Wrath

There has been a change in the industry in the past few years. Games as a medium have always tried to tell a story to its player. As simplistic as they might have been back in the days of Nintendo, there was still a story to tell. Now more than ever storytelling in games has become just as an integral part to the action and game play itself. It’s been described as “interactive story-telling” and it could not be more right. Asura’s Wrath is just one of the numerous, fantastic games to use this medium in 2012, and the reason why it fell into my number seven spot.

From the onset, I should HATE every shred of Asura’s Wrath’s existence.  As I said, the game can be described as an interactive story with quite a fair bit of game play interaction, expect it’s presented in a form that just does not gel with me at all, anime.  It’s over the top characters, loud screaming voices, goofy hairstyles and crazy mythology should have pushed me so far away from this game. But it didn’t;  in fact it did the total opposite. It pulled me ever close into it. Each level plays out like an episode of an anime complete with opening and closing credits. This way of handling episodes is such an innovative way to go about level design. Giving you a finite start and finish to each level lets you pick up where you last left off pretty seamlessly seeing as each “episode” starts off a recap of what happened on the previous episode. It all totally works for the story it wants to tell.

You play as Asura, a demi-god disgraced by your former “friends” with a short fuse giving him the ability to “burst” (he grows an extra four arms and Hulks out pretty bad) when he rages out enough. You are set to exact revenge on those who gave you a bad name and save your daughter as well. Every character in this game is so crazy that I could not help but sit and laugh hysterically while playing through the game. Everyone is constantly yelling at each other in the most angry voices ever. During a few major fight sequences, Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (or New World Symphony ) plays giving this epic feeling that could only come about in a game like this. Even now listening to it, reminds me of a fight with your former master Argus and brings a smile to my face.

I keep using the term interactive story when describing this game. That’s because the majority of the game is play out in full cut-scenes where every now and then you will have to hit a button prompt or more the analog stick in a direction. Sure, the game does drop you into quite a few combat scenarios that feel and flow great. Most of the fighting you will do comes down to some button mashing with heavy and light attacks that can chain together filling your BURST meter. Once that’s full, it’s time to unleash so massive damage. There are a few bullet-hell sequences that play out really fun.

If an person like me (IE one who does not like anime or manga or anything of that sort) can love this game as much as I did, than people who are actually fans of that medium will love this game. More games need to start pushing the boundaries of mixing deeper storytelling and a game play in the years to come. It seems to have a profound impact on how we look at games, and that will become way more self-evident as we make our way through this list.

Thanks for reading!


On the Eighth Day of Christmas, the video game industry gave to me

The definition of Insanity.


8. Far Cry 3

Generally starting in September the industry starts to ramp up for the holidays with it’s game releases. By the time December hits, most of the major releases for the year have dropped and game of the year lists have mostly started taking form. So its jarring when a game like Far Cry 3 comes along, and I have to redo my entire list to fit it in, because wow. This game is awesome.

I never cared for, or played any of the first two incarnations of Far Cry. I had dabbled in Crysis, a very similar game that drops you on a massive island and lets you loose on the land, its natives and the secrets it might hold. So when Far Cry 3 was announced, I looked the other way. I had mapped out my video game schedule from late August running until 2013 at this point. I knew the games I wanted to play. But more and more info started coming out on Far Cry and I started becoming more and more interested. After a pretty lengthy discussion and Quick Look of the game by the guys over at Giant Bomb, I was convinced I HAD to play this game.

You are put in the shoes of Jason Brody, just a (somewhat) thrill-seeking dude out to celebrate with his friends and family via various “extreme” activates on the beautiful Rook Islands. Well, that all goes to shit when you are all captured by a ruthless, insane pirate named Vaas. Bad things happen as they often do in video games, and you are set free on the island to survive. You quickly learn the dangers of the island and what it will take to find your friends, more importantly, how to live to see the sunrise another day.

The big quote that was being posted everywhere around the release of the game was “Skyrim with guns.” Now that’s not totally accurate, but it does give you a decent idea of what the game will hold for you. It’s a typical open world game, giving you a massive land mass to run around on. You see a mountain, go climb it.  You see a cliff to dive off of into the water, have at it.  The game gives you the freedom to run a muck on the island however you please. But be warned, the jungle is a scary place, with blood thirsty animals that will hunt you down without notice. Be on your guard at all times, if you hear something in the brush behind you… assume the worst. Sure there is a main story but it becomes less and less important the more fun activities the game throws at you to spend your time with.

Big aspects of the game are the side missions, including crafting & hunting, Big Game hunts and assassination missions. You want to carry more than just one gun, which means going and having to hunt a couple boars’s for their hide.  Need some more cash, go track down and silently take out an encampment’s leader. Vehicles, including boats and hang gliders are peppered on the map, giving you the freedom to drive or fly wherever you want. Doing all these things nets you XP and skill points which you can delegate into three skill trees set to help you hone your skills to survive. I’ve been playing the game for about 2 weeks now and have yet to make it past mission five.  These side missions flesh out the game making the island feel like a living, breathing place. It’s great.

It doesn’t take much to make me want to play a game these days, but all the positive feedback I was hearing and reading about this game clearly put it as one a must play game of 2012 for me, and if any of this perked your ears up, then you should as well.

Thanks for reading!


On the Ninth Day of Christmas, the video game industry gave to me

A hatchet to the head and a hidden blade in the back .

9. Assassin’s Creed III

Way back in the cold days of post-Christmas ’07 I was left to my own devices in a Best Buy with some gift cards. As I made my way past the various movies and games, one caught my eye. Assassin’s Creed. I had been hearing about the game for a while, and being a fan of stealth style games, I knew I had to pick it up. And that I did.

Cut to September 2012. I hadn’t touched Assassin’s Creed. I mean, I played it a bit when I bought it, but I didn’t get very far at the time. It sat on my shelf mocking me to play, but I never did. I regretted it. And the more I saw about Assassin’s Creed III, the more I wished I had played them as they actually came out. My wife took a liking to the series, of which we own all the games, and has subsequently played through them all. She ended up becoming my ANIMUS, living out my AC dreams as I caught glimpses of what looked like a fantastically realized world with characters that felt real. I knew I had to finally buckle down and play them, and play them before AC3.

Well me being me, that ended up never happening. That’s not totally true. I made it through Assassin’s Creed which should be considered an achievement in itself because of its poor controls, underdeveloped combat systems and way to repetitive “quest” system. I started AC2 and realized something. If I wanted to play and enjoy AC3, I would have to give up the rest of the series (for now…). I was afraid of burnout. It’s one of the main reasons you won’t see Mass Effect 3 on this list. But that’s for a whole other post.  So I took my own “leap of faith” and dove right into Assassin’s Creed III.

I came at this game from a different perspective than most people. Having only played the first game to completion and only few hours into the second, AC3 was technically only my second game. I hadn’t experienced the thousands of silent stabbings and hiding in hay barrels that others did. It was a fresh start for me, so to say. That’s what made me end up loving the game. For starters, I love that time period in history. I didn’t mind the settings of the first few games, but something about the American Revolution really intrigued me. Along with the time change, came the fresh face of Conner to the story. I loved that you got really experience his story from some pretty significant points in his life and the things that turned him into the man he would become. Sure this happens in all the games, but without giving away anything, it’s much more important in this game. Conner as a character, personally, is one of my favorites that they have created. He has this “take no shit” attitude. He’s out to save his heritage and will do what it takes to get done.

Aside from the new characters that were introduced, the mechanics of the game have changed a bit. Combat felt more fluid. The way you could combo together attacks off of a parry or use the numerous weapons as part of Conner’s arsenal in the middle of a fight just felt smooth. The environment traversal from the normal up, up, up to across branches and rooftops was a hell of a lot more fun.  Sure most of the side quests and building the home front seem inconsequential, but they are still fun time passers in between story missions. The game could and would have fell much closer to the top five if it had just gone that extra mile more because at the end of the day it still felt like something I had already played.

I fully intend to go back and play those other Assassin’s Creed games, but for now I’m really impressed with how Assassin’s Creed III played out. Coming at it from this late in the series gave me a better appreciation for it I think. I enjoyed my time with it and really look forward to what Assassin’s Creed 4 brings.

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