Video Game

Who is Your Gamer Hero?

Who is Your Gamer Hero?
Gamer Heroes

 
 
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We made it!  Sound the air horns! Episode 100 has arrived!  A big shout-out to each and every one of you for allowing us to continue bringing this show to you (mostly) weekly.  We literally couldn’t have done it without you.

This week, we have a very special episode for you, featuring some very special guests answering one question: Who is your Gamer Hero?

A huge thank you to everyone who participated in this project:

Go give them all the love and support you possibly can!  They all deserve it! Who is your personal Gamer Hero?  Let us know by tweeting @GamerHeroesPod

We’d love to hear about it! Don’t forget to subscribe! We’re available on iTunes Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker, Google Play, or you can use our RSS Feed to plug into any podcast app. Links are below!

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Podcast Credits

A Heroes Podcast Network Production

Produced by GGKC

Editor Kam Konek

Executive Producer Derreck Mayer

Music:

  • Lifeformed
  • Music from https://filmmusic.io
    “Beauty Flow” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)
    License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

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Social Media @GamerHeroesPod | @GG_Kansas_City | @tegannotsara1 | @TheKamdyman

OVERWHELM Game Review

Kam from Gamer Heroes brings you  his review of OVERWHELM for the Nintendo Switch!  A full written version of the review can be found below:


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Developer: Ruari O’Sullivan| Publisher: Alliance| Platforms: Switch, PC (Steam)

In the interest of full disclosure, a copy of this game was provided by popagenda on behalf of the developer for review purposes. The version played for review was on the Nintendo Switch platform.

Every once in a while, a game comes along that makes you appreciate the medium a little bit more. I hadn’t really run across a game personally that nailed the experience of anxiety and hopelessness until I came across OVERWHELM. It’s tense, it’s hectic, it’s even downright scary at times. True to its name, I was unbelievably tense and worried the whole game, but I just kept coming back for more.

OVERWHELM is a side-scrolling action platformer with some horror elements thrown in. You play as a soldier sent into a heavily-infested series of caverns to combat something ominously referred to only as “the Hive.” The goal is pretty straight-forward from the get-go: collect the five crystals spread around the map, bring them back to the center, and get the hell out. It seems simple, but the game will make you fight and learn for every single bit of progress, only to have you start over again as you inevitably fail. Your entire skill set consists of a dashing punch move, an uppercut double-jump, a single-shot pistol with limited ammunition, and three lives to pull it off. Oh, and you die in one hit. Sounds easy, right?

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Working your way through the various areas in OVERWHELM for the first time is absolutely harrowing. You never know what’s around the corner and whether or not it’s already lined up an attack. Coupled with the incredible sound design that incorporates some deep bass synth tones, petrifying white noise, and the scariest of all, absolute silence, the developer delivers a truly unique horror experience. Nothing about this game is scary in a traditional horror sense (after all, the regular monsters are just small white bunches of pixels) but the emergent feeling of dread and horror created by the always real possibility of immediately losing your run had my heart pounding every time I picked up this game for a session.

Once you lose your first life, you start to be able to see less of the screen, as if you, the player, is getting tunnel vision from being too freaked out to think straight. That effect is only amplified on your last life, too. The tunnel vision obscures your remaining ammunition and the silence is broken with some of the most unsettling white noise I’ve heard in a while. Almost as if to call you out, the game also flashes “LAST CHANCE” boldly in the center of the screen before you go off to try and survive just a little bit longer. Eventually you make it to a crystal, all of which are guarded by bosses that aren’t terribly difficult, but force you to learn their attack patterns and how they work. Once you throw yourself at it enough to finally kill the boss and grab that crystal is really when the magic of this game begins to shine.

Because, as the game says, the hive grows stronger.

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I absolutely love this game’s twist on typical rogue-like elements. Once you finally beat the boss, you don’t get stronger or get a new power up, but the enemies do. It felt like the hive you’re there to destroy has finally acknowledged your presence and starts to fight back and adapt to you. I don’t want to go too much into it since it should absolutely be experienced, but I felt it absolutely worth mentioning since it felt really earned by the nature of how the world works. You do get the benefit of being able to immediately start a run outside the boss room of any boss you’ve beaten so far, which definitely saves you time, but you still start over from the beginning. Getting 3 or 4 crystals only to die to the last boss was genuinely soul-crushing, but still absolutely exhilarating the whole way through. Every victory felt earned and while I do take some minor issues with how your character handles while in the heat of the moment and the occasional sudden death from the unfortunate enemy placement, they made everything feel frantic and stressful.

OVERWHELM isn’t a very long game technically (I’ve seen some speedruns clocking in at about the 15 minute mark) but the amount of time and effort you’re putting forth helps it stay around a little longer. Plus, once you finish the game, you unlock the New Game+ option, which changes up the paths and makes things have more of a set path.

I also want to give a shout-out to the game’s accessibility and difficulty options, because I think they’re brilliant. The menu literally says “Overwhelm is never easy. It’s hard for some. Impossible for others. If you find it impossible, try this:” and directs you to the assist mode, which lets you have infinite lives, ammo, and aim assist, among other tweaks. Those seem like they could ruin the experience, but they absolutely don’t. It doesn’t take away from the tension of knowing the boss can kill you in one hit or the frustration of throwing yourself at a problem you can’t solve. The assists streamline the process, and allows for people to experience the game when they normally couldn’t.

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Are you the type of person that enjoys haunted houses and a steep challenge? If so, then I absolutely cannot recommend this game enough. It’s equal parts rewarding, punishing, and terrifying. The sound and visual design combines to allow for some unsettling effects that feel designed to get inside the head of the player. Even if you aren’t a thrill-seeker, I would definitely say to give it a try! The assist mode options allows the game to still keep the same challenge while allowing the spirit of the game to remain. I could go on and on about how cool this game is, so I’ll wrap it up here with this: play OVERWHELM.

Kam is one of the hosts of the Gamer Heroes podcast, head of content at GGKC, and a passable Dave Grohl look-a-like. Read more of his pretty okay words at his blog, or keep an eye on his regular attempts at humor on twitter @TheKamdyman.

Music:

  • District Four Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
    Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • Overwhelm soundtrack, courtesy of popagenda

North by Outlands – Review

North is an Indie video game by Outlands that was originally released in April of 2016 on Steam. On March 6th, 2018, it releases on Nintendo Switch. The Switch is quickly becoming the go-to platform for Indie console titles, so North is in good company. Now, North is a relatively short game. In fact, if you know what to do, you could probably finish it in 30-40 minutes but the game anticipates that it should take you about an hour. With that in mind, I am going to do my best to avoid spoilers in both written and visual mediums. It’s a linear story with very few variations and I would prefer not to ruin it for anyone who is looking to pick it up.

Outlands describes the game as:

In NORTH you play a man who applies for asylum in a city filled with strange creatures and strange customs.

Dealing with the issue of the contemporary refugee crisis while at the same time being deeply rooted in a classical cyberpunk atmosphere à la Blade Runner, NORTH features a dark synthpop soundtrack, a sprawling mega-city and weird monster-like inhabitants.

The gameplay is very straightforward and mostly consists of exploration and simple puzzles. The main difficulty is to understand what you have to do in order to get asylum. You’ve come from an foreign land in the south and find yourself lost and confused – a confusion you convey through letters to your sister back home. An important part of the gameplay, these letters help you understand your tasks while at the same time moving the narrative of the game forward.

NORTH is short (20-40 min) and comes with a full soundtrack (8 songs).

North hits some heavy notes and focuses on an intense topic that impacts millions of people around the world. As you complete the game, the overtones and concepts it relays become much more clear. The story really does all tie together in a fairly creepy and unfortunately real way. But let’s start with the basics.

North by Outlands - Mines

It is a first-person game. You do not have hands. You cannot see any part of yourself or anything you may be holding. While this cleans up the screen, I would have appreciated some kind of aiming cross-hair as interacting with certain objects was tedious when using the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. It is not immediately clear what you are supposed to do but that is the nature of the game. North doesn’t have a menu. You can’t pause or save. There’s no HUD nor indication of health, location, etc. aside from one specific life monitor when you are in the mines, as show in the image above. Instead, all you get when the game begins is what you see below:

North by Outlands - Opening

The graphics are relatively simple and look like they would have been great for a VR game. However, the loading between screens is a problem. It is very buggy. The beautiful soundtrack gets broken up on a regular basis when loading between screens which really takes you out of the moment and feel. With that said, the sound is truly beautiful and reminiscent of movies like Blade Runner and The Neverending Story, two of my personal favorites.

North by Outlands - First Floor City

Speaking of bugs though, I broke the game. You see, there’s a part when you have to go to work in the mines. The atmosphere is dangerous and you have to limit your time in there. My first couple of attempts led to my death and in dying, broke the flow of the game to where I was not able to complete the steps. The arrow markers that were supposed to lead my way to the mine locations I needed to work were no where to be found and I could not interact with the drink machines that were active prior to my death. I found myself stuck and decided to just close the game and relaunch it, starting over. Being that I was about half an hour in, this wasn’t the end of the world and now that I knew what to do, it was much easier to progress.

North by Outlands - Church

I did use some walk through from Steam because the whole Church conversion tied in with the street cameras was not immediately intuitive for me. I think that’s my chief complaint. The game relies a lot on you just figuring things out but since I essentially broke the game during my experimenting, I was also hesitant to do anything I wasn’t fairly confident in. Of course, there are the letters to fall back on. As mentioned earlier, you are sending letters to your sister and as you progress, they tell you vital information about upcoming tasks. Yes, it’s a little weird. Essentially, you perform an action and a letter becomes available to send your sister. In posting the letter, you get to read it and learn what… you… learned. It’s a little convoluted but it’s a solid mechanic that does help you along. So it works.

North by Outlands - Letters

In the end, it’s a short game that does have a solid message about the way many refugees are treated, the hoops we force them to jump through, and how we make them feel about their background and who they are.  There are some technical issues, specifically around loading between events and what happens if you die or do not convert correctly. Hopefully these things will be fixed with patches. I am playing pre-release, so I will cut them a little slack. Also, it’s a dirt cheap game, only $2.99 USD on Switch, making it easily one of the cheapest games on the platform and not a terrible way to spend an hour.

North by Outlands - Police Station

If you’ve played North by Outlands, please hit me up on Twitter @TheStarTrekDude and use the hashtag #northgame. I’d love to talk to you about it.

If you haven’t played and are going to snag it on Switch, also hit me up and let me know! It releases Tuesday, March 5th on the Nintendo Switch eShop.

North by Outlands – Review

HTC Vive Review

I recently had the chance to try the HTC Vive, the next generation virtual reality peripheral.  I spent about 4 hours taking things for a test spin, poking, prodding, and testing the hardware capabilities. Going into this I had questions about the Vive and this new VR wave in general. Is it a gimmick? Is it truly as immersive as they say? Most importantly, is it worth the money? Well I’d say sorta. Here’s what I think of it so far.

Brief History of VR

I don’t know, I’ve always been drawn to new takes or concepts and I’m always on the look out for new ways to interact with technology, but ever since VR was first touted in the 90s with films like Lawn Mower Man, I was always let down. Gimmicky devices like the failed Nintendo Virtual Boy had left me jaded as to the possibility of having anything like the Holodeck anytime soon.

Wii Comparison
That being said the Vive bares some similarities with Nintendo’s Wii. Both are creative and innovative ways of interacting with a games. They also are both great at bring otherwise non-gamers in to gaming. Interestingly, because of the unique interface, it poses both a puzzle and an opportunity to make games.

The Wii brought motion controls to the fore front and virtually every other gaming system incorporated a wiggle, wag, or a wave into there list of user controls. More Importantly, although the Wii was slightly gimmicky it opened up everyone’s eyes to a new way to play. The Vive is at a very similar crossroads. I believe it is the first VR device that is actually up to the task.

Wii

Level of Immersion 
All of the hardware allows an unprecedented level of immersion.  Every movement and location is tracked flawlessly in real time 1-for-1, enough to fool your instincts up to the nearest millimeter. The 3D vision from the headset coupled with precise motion controls tricks your mind into thinking you are actually in the game. Proof of this to me was treating the virtual world as if it where real.

In one game, although I knew support beams and furniture wasn’t actually there, I had to fight the urge to place the real life controllers on them. I often found myself bobbing and weaving around obstacles that weren’t actually there. Not to mention the actual game mechanics. When the in-game baddies charged in to attack I flinched and backed away, much like a child would when first experiencing video games. I was having as much fun as that small kid playing games for the first time.

Games covered
I played three games and for the most part they reminded me of the Wii Sports and Wii Play games. Sure, incredibly fun to play in their own right but they were fairly simple in both look and function. They are often meant to demonstrate a concept or idea that would otherwise not even be possible on other platforms. And much like the Wii, they were meant to give both game developers and game players ideas of what the Vive can do for gaming. Let’s take a look at those three games next.

Space Pirates: takes inspiration from Tron Legacy. It’s a basic shooter with a techno feel and neon look. You hold lasers in both hands and shoot down drones in a kind of futuristic trap shoot, except the clay targets are shooting back. You fire in powerful slow moving shots or in much weaker rapid fire. To help you out you can draw a shield barrier that can protect you from one angle as your enemy tries to circle around and hit you in the flank. When this fails you can actually dodge and move out of the way in a “bullet time” style when time slows down.

Space Pirate GIF 1

On the whole Space Pirates was a fun challenge as it gets progressively more difficult. Groups of drones hold formation in front of you to draw your attention while others flank you. After learning this trick I’d draw my shield between me and the formation and take out the flankers when they popped up over the horizon. Both your pistols and movements are tracked flawlessly 1-for-1. It felt much more like playing a sport than actually playing a game. Exactly the kind of immersion I’ve been graving.

Space Pirate GIF 2

The Lab:  not so much a game as it is a platform for VR ideas. Many of the features of The Lab are only marginally interactive. The robot repair sequence or solar system model have you more as a passive observer. My favorite by far was the bow and arrow simulation. Holding the bow in one hand and pulling the arrow back felt incredibly realistic. It took some getting used to but it was very satisfying when I got the hang of it. But the amateur astronomer in me was giddy walking around the solar system, chucking planets that I grabbed along the way. This was obviously a great educational or professional tool. Imagine looking at a chemical molecule and walking around inspecting it. The Lab was all done in the Portal video game feel with GLADOS making appearance. As you might imagine it was incredible funny.

The Lab

Zombie Training Simulator: as an avid shooter fan I really wanted to try this one. Sure the zombies coming at you where only cardboard but everything else was realistic, especially the firearms. Besides, I wanted a more realistic shooter than Space Pirates. I was curious at just how easily you could look down real iron sights in the game. At first, my reflexes brought the gun on target, much as it would with something like what a Colt 1911. The in-game guns would shoot like I was pointing my finger at the target, very realistic. At greater ranges the Glock’s U shaped irons sights weren’t that useful but other guns like the MP5 and M4 allowed from the shoulder firing, much as you would in real life. It all felt realistic and accurate. Having to manually aim like this would make “run and gun” tactics in modern day shooters like Call of Duty obsolete, rewarding skill and reflexes, not foolhardiness.

Zombie Training Simulator

Final Thoughts
The HTC Vive is an incredible experience that everyone can enjoy. Sure the price tag is steep ($800, about 1 months rent) but it’s a first step in a completely new frontier of gaming that other game makers are sure to follow. And it’s true that there aren’t many 3rd party developers or in-depth games just yet. But  I imagine as time goes on prices will drop and more and more people will adopt. Developers will follow and we will be living in a new era of gaming. The Vive is more than just some gimmick but for what it’s promising and the price, I’d wait a little longer. Trust me, if I had the money to spend, I’d buy a Vive. I’m ready for VR.
Pros:

  • Immersive beyond compare
  • Clever use of motion controls simpliefies gameplay, no need of multiple buttons
  • A new way to play, making even mundane gaming chores fun
  • Cheap games

Cons:

  • Price tag reminds me of the Sega Saturn’s initially high price
  • The headset isn’t terribly comfortable and sometimes you don’t want to move around a front room just to play a simple game
  • Due to the 3D drain on the system and motion sensing there isn’t much computer resources left for pretty games
  • Not much 3rd party support just yet

Have you had a chance to try any of the new VR platforms? Comment below with your thoughts!

HTC Vive Review

Resident Evil 7 Playable Trailer – Who’s it for?

The first trailer for Resident Evil 7 dropped on 06/13/2016, showing a ton of new dynamics that only touch the tip of the iceberg of what we can expect from the franchise’s newest installment. Sony in partner with Capcom sweetened the deal by offering PSN members an exclusive playable trailer, much like what Konami did with failed project Silent Hills.

First impression – This trailer is terrifying, and the playable portions are incredibly good, however you can’t help asking yourself “why is this called Resident Evil, again?”. This game is not what Resident Evil fans would expect from the seventh installment of the franchise.

Here’s why:
1. It’s not third-person – since the very first Resident Evil game was released in 1996 the franchise has always been third-person.
2. There is no direct references to Resident Evil known characters or story lines (there was a picture of a helicopter that had an Umbrella symbol, and its speculated that the woman’s voice is Ada).
3. Resident Evil 6 was left open – At the very end of Jake’s campaign there are heavy implications that his story will continue.
4. Resident Evil has always been about Bio Terrorism – this playable trailer appeared to be an isolated supernatural occurrence (ghostly girl who randomly appears and disappears, creepy mannequins, isolated story on a family murder in Louisiana).

With all that aside, the actual game itself is intriguing offering everything a fan of the horror genre can ask for; including scary set pieces, various puzzles with hidden doors, and the overall tone set by the first person view. Resident Evil 7 is coming to PlayStation VR this year and will be fully playable inside the VR headset from beginning to end. I spent a good 2 hours exploring the many secrets to be unlocked, including alternative endings that are strictly based on the order in which you find items. As previously stated, there’s likely many more secrets left to be discovered, much like the Silent Hills playable teaser which took days, weeks, or even months for players to solve all the puzzles.

As a long time Resident Evil fan, you can trust me when I say this wasn’t Resident Evil. I can’t help but think Capcom wants to cash in on all the attention that Silent Hills received. It was a great beginning to a standalone horror game that felt like what Silent Hills could have been. Needless to say, this was just a demo and there is a strong possibility that Capcom can still redeem themselves and surprise us all.

Resident Evil 7 will be available on January 24th, 2017 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, and Xbox One.

Take a look at the trailer from the official YouTube page here:

Resident Evil 7 Playable Trailer – Who’s it for?

Top 10 Star Trek Video Games

Star Trek’s 50th anniversary is here, so let’s take a look back at the best Star Trek video games. As with other fan service games such as Star Wars and superhero games in general, Star Trek games have been hit or miss, some good, some bad, and some really bad. The best ones do three things: they immerse you in your fandom, they make a decent quality game, and are most importantly, fun. The games at the top of the list have all three characteristics while those at the bottom may only have one or two of them. And the horrible ones have none of these. For simplicity, a game series is counted as a group and only distinguished if the games in the series are dramatically different in quality. Lastly, I’d consider the game as more or less fun if even a casual Star Trek fan would have fun playing it.

 

#10) Dominion Wars – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

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Was this a good game? Probably not. Was it fun? Certainly. Often found on the $10 bargain bin at Walmart, this was a brutally simple game. Fly your choice of ships in the Dominion War. Plot was minimal, graphics only just adequate, and game play was underwhelming. But what it does have going for it is the immersion factor. From Klingon Bird of Preys to Galaxy Class Starships, you zipped around in space battles, blasting Cardasian and Jem’Hadar ships to dust. Sure it’s a bit shallow but it got the space combat down pretty well. Considering it launched at $10, it was much better than it had to be. It made no promises to greatness but still sparked some fun. Because of this it just barely squeaks at the bottom of the list.

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#9) Star Trek: Deep Space 9 – Crossroads of Time

Star Trek Deep Space 9 Crossroads of Time

Though not the best Star Trek entry in the 16-bit era, Crossroads of Time is still fairly respectable all things considered. It has a pretty decent story that isn’t just a simple rehash of what was seen on the show. It also does a decent job of immersing you in the Star Trek universe by having you control Commander Sisko on DS9 and interacting with the crew. In one particularly interesting mission you go back in time to the battle of Wolf 359 and have Sisko escape his doomed ship while fighting the Borg deck by deck. Pretty exciting stuff. The only drawback is that it isn’t terribly fun. It could be the limitations of the hardware, or even that they only had the early seasons of Deep Space 9 to work with, but it doesn’t really hold much replay value unlike other titles from the 16-bit era. Crossroads of Time squeaks in on the list but only just barely.

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#8) Star Trek: Legacy

Star_Trek-_Legacy_Cover

On the whole, it’s a decent game, not a great game but a decent one. It does great fan service by having a story narrative all the way from Enterprise to Voyager and back again. Not to mention, they got all of the actors of the Captains to reprise their roles, even Avery Brooks who doesn’t do many of these sort of things anymore.

The game is basically a starship game where you control up to four other ships, issuing orders while taking direct command of one of them. A great variety of ships are used against a variety of opponents throughout the history of the Federation. Though it plays better on the consoles than on PC it’s still a fairly respectable entry. What may hold it back is that its space combat is dumbed-down a bit, I guess a little “video gamey” as they might say. Nowhere near as complicated as Starfleet Command and even more simple than Star Trek Online, Star Trek: Legacy is just a little too flat. I’d describe it like the difference between the game series Ace Combat and something like Microsoft Flight Simulator except maybe not as fun. The game is fun to play for the fan service but its lack of originality and game play hold it back. Star Trek: Legacy is fun to play for a couple of hours just not fun to keep playing.

star-trek-legacy-20061211015618728-000



 

#7) Star Trek Online

Star_Trek_Online_coverWhat to say about this one?  After the success of many other Multiple Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) quite a few studios tried to get the Star Trek license to make one for it. Cryptic Studios got the rights back in 2013 and the game is basically MMORPG with slight influences from Star Fleet Command. You fly your ship around for 2/3’s of the time and the remainder is on ground away missions. There are basically 3 types of vessels: tanks for Engineers (think large  lumbering Galaxy Class ships),  glass cannons (small Defiant types that hit hard and maneuver away), and the in-between classes (medium ships like the Intrepid Class) that specialize in more creative forms of space combat. Away missions have a similar model of tanks, glass cannons, and tricky science officers. But the best thing about Star Trek Online is its immersion. You can fly your ship to many places mentioned in Star Trek canon, launch your ship from Earth Spacedock, beam down to Starfleet Academy, warp to DS9, visit Quarks bar, warp to station K-7; the galaxy is yours to explore. Even visit Risa if you want. It’s just that there isn’t much to do when you get there.

sto12

Guiding you along in this adventure is a pretty good story featuring many of the cast from the show including the late Leonard Nimoy whose voice narrates you along the way during key moments. Other actors from Voyager are there as well along with many of the ships and locations from Enterprise all the way through to the end of Star Trek: Nemesis. This is a pretty all encompassing game. There is just so much here for a fan to explore and this is what gets Star Trek Online so high on the list. That being said, the game is far from perfect. It mostly feels like a copy and paste from just about every other MMORPG out there, adding nothing of its own and often accomplishing much less game play wise.  Cooperative play is mostly nonexistent and neither is competitive for that matter. That and maxing your character out leaves next to nothing for a player to do except create a new character and do it all over again.

galerie_Star_Trek_Online_126693695246

The space combat is fun and exciting though not as respectable as it was in Starfleet Command. The RPG elements far over power the simulator aspects of game play. Often you’ll find yourself just mashing the space-bar instead of being thoughtful. The ground combat is downright dull and atrocious. They’ve done a lot to lessen the role of ground actions in the game but when it first launched the ratio was more like a 50/50 mix of space and ground action; now it’s more slanted towards space. But the ground is still horrible. If it wasn’t for the dull MMORPG elements and terrible ground game play this would be an incredible game. The Star Trek license is huge thing to have to make a game out of a fan base that is loyal and Trekkies are definitely the game player type.  But the flaws of Star Trek Online are too much to overcome and that’s what keeps this game out of the top spots. Then again, the game is free-to-play, so it doesn’t hurt to try it out. You just run out of things to do sooner than you may like. But you know what, at least it’s better than Star Wars Galaxies.



 

#6) Star Trek: 25th Anniversary

ST NESThis was a bit of a cross-platform game varying greatly from console to PC and mobile devices. Riding on the heels of the revival of Star Trek in 1993 with the success of The Next Generation all of the versions of the games did a superb job of fandom immersion in  The Original Series that had just turned 25 years old. On the NES you spent most of your time on away missions that were very reminiscent of classic episodes such as “Paradise Syndrome” and “A Piece of the Action.” Sure, the NES version wasn’t terribly original or innovated but it did alright as a puzzle adventure game. Spaced in between away missions there were some space battles to be had and the overall story worked well, not to mention the 8-bit take on the classic Star Trek songs is still awesome to hear. Not bad for the hardware limitations of the NES.

Star Trek - 25th Anniversary (U)

The PC version though was unique in that many of the actual actors where used from The Original Series. Just as with the short lived Star Trek: Animated Series, Shatner phones in his lines and is kinda lame but Nimoy, Kelly, and the rest of the cast are as wonderful as ever. The game on PC took the form of a point and click adventure and looks great in an old school 8-bit style. The game would’ve ranked higher if wasn’t for the lack of innovation or at least being a little dull. What it lacks in other areas it makes up for by being as immersive as it could be for when it was made.

ST 25 Game play

PC version of the game



 

#5) Star Trek: The Next Generation – Future’s Past

Futures_Past_box
This one was actually pretty darn good considering when it was made. It’s a basic action adventure game with ground and space scenes, but unlike Star Trek: The Original Series for the NES, it had an original story, not some hodgepodge mixture of episodes. It was a brand new story all of its own, and that’s saying something.

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On top of that it’s actually fairly fun. For a 16-bit game, it’s pretty immersive. The helm interface is how you would expect it to be on the show, complete with LCARS style and star system layout and organization. It goes in order from;  cluster, star group, star system, planetary system. Very logical. The ship’s computer database was very thorough. I mean, in the age before the internet it was a Wikipedia in video game form. You could look up anything from crew dossiers to phaser power settings. You could learn the difference and affects of setting 1 through 16. You could even look all the planet class ratings; understanding M and Y class planets was interesting. Everything about the game was pretty darn immersive and for a Super Nintendo game it was as good as Star Trek could get for when it was made.

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The only thing that holds it back is that it’s fun but not incredibly so. Sure Star Trek fans would love it but the casual fan wouldn’t be all that much into it. The best games have even a casual Star Trek fan itching to play it. It was good fan service and ahead of its time as far as immersion but was only moderately fun to play.



 

#4) Starfleet Command II: Empires at War

Star_Trek_Starfleet_Command_II_coverBased in the Wrath of Kahn era, Starfleet Command II is basically a starship simulator game and what that meant is that there is an emphasis on realism, as absurd as that sounds for science fiction. After all, realistic science is what Star Trek is all about.  The Star Trek universe has rules. You can’t transport through shields, torpedoes damage the hull more than phasers, you don’t have limitless power, etc. With those limitations, you control your ship the best you can by clicking power to various systems to squeeze more into the phasers, for example. Should you save up for a powerful shot or use quick bursts of phasers? If your opponent can’t maneuver, divert power to forward shields from the aft and flank’em.  If your target is a fast little sports car like vessel, wait until he gets close, use your phasers to drop his shields, send a volley of torpedoes to take out his engines and then maneuver to his blind side. You are master and commander of your ship and the stars are your battlefield.

The game feels like 24th century take on 17th naval combat. Maneuvering and timing are important and using knowledge of you ships capabilities are key. This was starship combat at its finest in the world of Star Trek video games. The first Star Fleet Command is alright but it’s at its best with the second one. They also made a third that has a pretty decent story but it doesn’t really add much to the already excellent game play, but on the plus side, it’s based in the Star Trek: First Contact era modernizing the whole affair.

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Though the game is uniquely fun, innovative, and immersive, what holds it back from the top of the list is that it gets stale quick. Sure the combat is great but that’s all there is. Nothing outside of combat is relevant here. It’s all action and no deep thinking, no exploration or sense of wonder. Other Star Trek games capture it a little better.

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#3) Star Trek: Bridge Commander

Star_Trek_-_Bridge_Commander_CoverartProbably the one of the most immersive games on the list, Bridge Commander puts you in the Captain’s chair commanding first a Galaxy Class, then later a Sovereign Class Starship. Like in Starfleet Command where you pilot your ship, in Bridge Commander you do so by issuing orders to the bridge crew. Precise commands make this more of a Captain simulator than a starship one but the result is the same, immersion and some great fan service, add on to that a decent story and game play mechanics. The game also had the voice acting talents of Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner reprising their roles, awesome. The only problem may be that it won’t appeal to the more casual Star Trek fan as much as the games higher on the list would.

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#2) Star Trek: Armada

Star_Trek_-_Armada_CoverartThe second best game on the list is a good one. Representing the often visited genre of real time strategy (RTS) you command fleets of often all too disposable starships. Four factions are represented; Klingons, Federation, Borg, and Romulans. If you wanted to relive the battle of Wolf 359 and see what it was like from both sides of the battle, then this was your chance. Add on top of that some interesting game mechanics such as being able to take over any ship by transporting your crew over, the Klingons and Borg excel at this, the Federation and Romulans not so much. Every ship had an unlockable special ability that changed how battles would unfold. On the whole, the game was a solid real time strategy game in its own right.

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Sound was suburb and graphics are great for their time and was later ported over to Star Trek fan mods of other games. A.I. was pretty good too, so much so that they copied some of the code for Star Trek: Legacy. All of these come together for a game that not only die hard Star Trek fans would love but even a fan of real time strategy games can play and have some fun playing. It’s not perfect as the races aren’t terribly well balanced in player vs player maps. Romulans are way over powered oddly enough, but aside from that its an excellent game.

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The game is fun and does great service but the final criteria of a great Star Trek game, immersion, is very much a part of it. Both the user interface and game controls look and feel like something that would be in the 24th century. Perhaps the most enticing part for the fans the Star Trek alumni reprise their roles from the show; Picard, Worf, Martok, and Selia all play prominent roles in the story that isn’t half bad for it being just a game and not an actual episode. It isn’t just a simple repaste of prior episodes but continues the story where Insurrection left off in epic scale, across time and space. If it wasn’t for the imbalanced multiplayer with the Romulans being overpowered this may have ranked higher.



 

#1) Star Trek: Elite Force I and II
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Does Star Trek work as an action based game? Even as a first person shooter? You better believe it does. Elite Force I was set on Voyager and Elite Force II was more of the TNG film era but both were spectacular.  Based on the Quake game engine, Elite Force was a blast to play, boasting a great single-player story and exciting multiplayer system. How many modern shooters can make that claim? Because of its solidly enjoyable game play, fans kept playing this one years after it released and kept modding it. This is because the game makers realized one thing, add a balanced multiplayer in and you add some replay value to the game.

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Making the game a first person shooter naturally lent itself to some real immersion like no other genre could. In one multiplayer map you had a Klingon ship and a Federation ship battling it out using the ships transporters to go between. From the bridges to the corridors fans could phaser it out to see who was left standing.

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Aside from the action parts there was a lot of subtle detail. You could walk around freely on the decks of Voyager clicking on controls and interacting with the crew who where voiced by the actual actors from the show. You could even click the auto-destruct or even start attacking the crew. Sure you’d end up in the brig or worse but the amount of free will added to the immersion factor.

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The three factors of a good fandom are exemplified by the Elite Force games. They are some of the most immersive and do some great fan service but perhaps most importantly they are the most fun. To have all three of these factors in a fan game is why it is on the top of so many peoples favorite Star Trek games list. Hopefully with the new DOOM game maybe some love will be sent Star Trek’s way and a Elite Force III will be made. Hopefully we’ll all be walking aboard a deck of a starship soon.

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Did your favorite game make the list? Where would you rank these games? Comment below with your thoughts!

Top 10 Star Trek Video Games

Saurian: A New Breed of Dinosaur Game

It has been years since I have purchased a PC game,  eight years I think, probably six since I bought a console game. They just aren’t the sort of thing that I spend my money on. Don’t get me wrong, I have been gifted games, and I love them. But it really takes something to get me to break open my wallet.

Today’s topic though is something really special. It goes beyond the simple concept of a game. It has risen above that to an area seldom seen in this area of entertainment; it is educational. It is probably for this simple fact that I, without question, cracked open my normally sealed (and empty!) wallet to fund its Kickstarter campaign. A campaign that thus far has been wildly successful.

I am speaking about the new open world concept game, Saurian. To quote the description from its site:

Saurian is a video game focused on providing the most captivating prehistoric experience ever developed for commercial gaming: living like a true dinosaur in a dynamic open world through intense, survival based gameplay. Players will have the opportunity to take control of several different species of dinosaur in their natural environment. You will attempt to survive from hatchling to adult, managing physical needs, while avoiding predators and environmental hazards in a dynamic landscape reflecting cutting-edge knowledge of the Hell Creek ecosystem 66 million years ago.

So, I have no problem saying that this game is right up my alley. I love games that require a long play, some customization, an open world concept….and dinosaurs….I flippn’ love me some dinosaurs. But dinosaurs games themselves have been a fantastic disappoint for me up until now. It  seems that every dinosaur game is either based off the Jurassic Park franchise or decides to go down the frequently traveled dinosaur hunting route. Saurian is different though – the team behind it have done their homework and it shows in every aspect of the game.

Mr. Tom Parker who is the lead for Saurian’s research accepted my invitation to be interviewed in a Grid Daily exclusive so we can learn a little more about the game before its projected January 2017 release. Tom was quick to point out that with the stretch goals being met left and right the game is ever expanding, but he graciously answered the following questions.

How did the idea of Saurian first come about? We know why it is being made, but what were the circumstances that changed it from being an idea to an action?
Nick (project lead) came up with the concept originally and when he found no trace of such a game existed on the internet he started contemplating doing it himself. Then while acting as a forum mod and QA tester for a game called Primal Carnage, he first came in contact with me (Tom, researcher), Jake (3D artist) and Erin (tech artist). We collectively began to explore more substantial development, and as we did, we shared our idea in any place that we found like-minded people. Once Bryan (animator) joined the team, we knew we could attract programmers, and serious development started.

How did the team meet? You all seem to be well spaced from each other.
As I mentioned earlier, Nick, Jake, Erin and I all met on the online forums for another video game, Primal Carnage, which is also where the concept for this game was originally conceived. The rest of the team pretty much all found us, seeing our work online and then contacting us about potentially joining the team. The rest is history.

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The cast of playable dinosaurs from the game. Iconic species such as tyrannosaurus and triceratops, as well as lesser known species pachycephalosaurus and dakotaraptor

You have chosen some pretty famous dinosaurs as player characters, were there ever suggestions among team members to go for lesser known species?
I wouldn’t say Dakotaraptor is particularly high profile outside of the palaeo community, though we are doing our best to remedy that. Before it was announced, we were considering Acheroraptor, which is probably even less well known. Outside of that, no. Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops were always instant shoe-ins and Hell Creek was partially chosen for these two taxa.

I am curious as to how he players in your game will find prey/avoid predators etc. Is there a HUD that we have not seen yet, or are senses such as smell and better sight being shown in ways that you haven’t shown yet?
While we have not settled on exactly what the HUD will look like yet, the team is unanimous in agreement that whatever it may be, it will be very minimalist. We’ve thrown around a few neat ideas. As for smell and sight, these will be shown in ways that have not yet been revealed. We have already begun work on the scent system.

What has been the hardest part of creating Saurian, or to rephrase – the biggest chore?
I wouldn’t call any part of development a chore. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time researching seemingly dull topics such as fossil plants and fish, but it is still fun to learn about these things to me. The biggest hurdle so far has been a lack of resources and the inability to acquire the necessary amount of time from our developers to work on the game, but it looks like our Kickstarter is set to change that.

Could you let us know what in game aspect, as a group, you are most proud of accomplishing? ex: hard thing to program, the way a dinosaur moves etc.
I’m not sure about one single aspect. We’re all really happy with how the whole game is shaping up. The whole thing has really started coming together over the last few months, as you can see in our Kickstarter video. I personally am just really happy to see all the hard work we’ve put in start paying off.

Have you ever been tempted to sneak anything non-scientific into the game? What would this have been? For example, the KT event (That is the asteroid impact that triggered the extinction of non avian dinosaurs) goal which the Kickstarter is likely to unlock. Aliens vs dinosaurs etc.?
No, absolutely not. We have been tempted to sneak developer names into the scale patters of the animal models though.

With the success of your Kickstarter campaign, do you foresee sequels to Saurian? Obviously there are a number ofancient ecosystems that are fascinating – what would you dream as being the next stop off?
We are wholeheartedly focused on doing Hell Creek right now. However, if we reach our 300k stretch goal we will be adding the Two Medicine formation, an earlier Cretaceous locality. The reason we picked this one is because it is not different enough to require a complete overhaul of the game, all the major archetypes (tyrannosaurid, ceratopsid, hadrosaurid, etc.) from Hell Creek are there but it offers a different environmental setting. The Two Medicine is an upland environment, closely associated with high volcanic activity and frequent droughts, which should give a very different experience should we hit that stretch goal.

And for those of our readers who have not before heard of Saurian, there is another team member who I very much wished to speak to as he is the team member with the most unique viewpoint, as the only dinosaur in the group. The emu Gerry.

To the dinosaur in the group. Are there any plans long term for dinosaurs to retake the planet?
Gerry:  *stares* Chirp.

Now, if I have you interested, Saurian’s Kickstarter campaign is still currently going on, with about two weeks left! It would be a very worthwhile investment to donate to Saurian. The pledge rewards are all fantastic, and I would personally really love to see the game make it to consoles which is one of the stretch goals listed.

The Kickstarter has been very successful, but lets keep it going!

So there you are, a fantastic independent game on the horizon, and it looks for all the world like it will be a huge success. Will you be in line to play Saurian when it comes out? Have you already donated to the Kickstarter? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you are most excited about regarding this game!

Saurian: A New Breed of Dinosaur Game

Bastion, Should He Be Nerfed?

Should Bastion be nerfed in Blizzard’s Overwatch? Perhaps, but before we tackle this we got to ask ourselves if there is a problem. I’d say yes.

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I’ve seen teams on defense get crushed and pushed back on payload missions just to get to the very end of the map and then the losing team “turtles up” and gets several players using Bastion. Bastion is a fine character but with their backs to the wall and near spawn points, Bastion is much more overpowered than normal. It’s not uncommon to see not only one or two players go as Bastion but I’ve seen 3 or 4 players do this, taking turtling to a whole new level.

 

Teams Stacked With Bastions

During most parts of the map teams full of Bastions can be dealt with easily enough, usually by flanking or with characters that can infiltrate such as Reaper with his teleport ability. But the problem is that at the end of the map the terrain favors defense, this makes sense as it makes games exciting to have that final push be all that much harder.  But having teams full of Bastions is way more difficult than it should be.

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Backs to the Wall

What makes this so hard is you can’t get behind the team that is stacked with Bastions at the end of a payload, their backs are literal against the wall. The map doesn’t go on, there is no path behind them. Also there are limited alternate routes to approach the target. There may be only one or two routes to the objective and they can easily have two Bastion characters watching both of these paths. With the amount of fire power Bastion brings to bear, two players can do most of the defense for a team, freeing up other players to go on the offensive.

 

The Expected Method

The usual method of countering them, aside from getting behind them, would be sniping them with Widowmaker  or Hanzo, or even a ranged attack from Pharah. The problem is that many of the end points of final maps don’t have lines of site for these sorts of tactics. The only way to get lined up with a turtling team of Bastions it to put yourself way too close to them. If you can see a Bastion in sentry mode, then he can see you and it’s a lot easier for him to spray bullets your way than you’d like.

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Spray and Pray

The problem is worsened by having no damage fall off with distance such as with Team Fortress 2. Bastion can fire down a long corridor spraying bullets at a suspected sniper spot and all it takes is one or two lucky bullets to kill a squishy sniper. All a Bastion needs to do is “spray and pray” with his 200 round magazine. But it takes a lot more skill for a sniper to get a one shot kill. Skill should be rewarded not blind firing.

 

Skill vs Luck

The same with another skill based character Genji. Sure, Genji could reflect the fire back at the Bastion but that takes some good timing. All Bastion has to do is see Genji and stop firing for a couple of seconds, wait for the cool down timer for Genji’s reflect to start again and then Bastion resumes fire. It takes a real dumb Bastion to fall for it and it takes a skilled Genji to pull it off. Not to mention if the team has Bastion placements with fields of fire protecting each other this is an all but impossible tactic, not to mention if the Bastion has only the slightest bit of help.

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Bastion With Few Limitations

Compounding all of this is the short setup time with no limitations of resources. In Team Fortress 2 an equivalent sentry takes some time to build up, not to mention ammo. But Bastion can plant himself down very quickly and be ready to fire immediately after spawn. This is especially difficult at the end of the map where the defense doesn’t have to travel far to defend the point. Just spawn and plop down Bastion and you have the point covered, way too easy to defend.

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Squad Ratios

It’s true there are more advanced ways of handling a Bastion stacked team. I imagine as players get more experienced at team work then cooperation will happen naturally, but it’s not a good equation when you have something like Mercy and Pharah teaming up to take down one Bastion, a 2:1 ratio favoring defense. This is even worse with six-player teams where this unfavorable ratio gets more one-sided. Imagine a team that is half Bastions. Besides the high damage output of Bastion easily out paces both Mercy and Lucio’s ability to heal. Bastion just deals out way too much raw firepower. Defense is way too easy with Bastion.

 

No Adversary for Bastion

You never see this kinda problem in Team Fortress 2, as a class heavy team will have problems. For one thing, team size in Team Fortress 2 makes team staking harder, at about 20 players. Overwatch only has but 6 players per team. but more importantly both Heavys and Engineers and their sentry’s aren’t perfect; they have major weaknesses.  In some ways Bastion is similar to both of these TF2 classes. So why not consider some of the drawbacks of both the Heavy and the Engineers’ sentry?  The Heavy doesn’t really do all that great of damage at greater ranges and has limited ammo. His damage drop over range is considerable. So you have to get close to be effective, similar to D. Va in Overwatch. As for the Engineers’ sentry, it has a limited targeting range but more importantly there is always an angle to attack a sentry. There is no such thing as a perfect spot for a sentry because of how the maps are designed, that and natural counters to the Engineers’ sentry are Spies and Demomen. These adversarial classes are usually something the Engineer always has to worry about. Bastion on the other hand doesn’t really have a dedicated class that opposes him. Genji isn’t nearly as threatening as a Spy or Demoman.

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The equivalent class in Overwatch of the Demoman would be Junkrat and he does specialize in indirect fire like the Demoman, but because of current map layouts, it’s hard for him to get the job done all by himself. Where the map limits his options as far as angles to bounce explosive, the enemy team can way too easily harass him. There is no good angle for him to attack the point on most maps. I don’t know how many times I’d take out one or two Bastions just to have them re-spawn and turtle up before we even have a chance to move in and capitalize on the kills.

 

Bringing Down the Nerf Hammer

It’s never a good idea to bring down the “Nerf Hammer” too soon, especially with everyone is still getting used to the game, but I’m getting tired of easily pushing back an entire team and having half of the team suddenly go all Bastion when the going gets tough. Just as when the offense is about to win they turn it around because they have their backs to the wall with limited approaches angles to be attacked. A simple thing may be to increase Bastion’s reload times or his clip size, or limiting the damage over range to Bastion would eliminate the “spray and pray” tactic that people use. This has been done before with McCree, adjusting his damage over range so he doesn’t just spam out the shots at clusters of people from across the map. I believe the best way of correcting this is altering the maps to give more approaches to final points. Sure, the defense should have the advantage at the end of a map but Bastion heavy teams are nailing down limited paths way too easily. Another option, though very blunt, is to limit how many people can go Bastion. Maybe even having one Bastion per team but this may be a little to harsh but seeing teams go 3 or 4 Bastions at the end and having losing teams become unbeatable makes the game significantly less enjoyable.

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What are your thoughts on the Bastion Overwatch character? Should he be nerfed? Sound off below!

Bastion, Should He Be Nerfed?

Star Trek Online: Agents of Yesterday

With 2016 being the 50th anniversary of the famed Star Trek franchise, many fans are getting a taste of new content in the form of a new feature film, Star Trek Beyond, the announcement of a currently unnamed CBS All-Access TV series set to premiere in January 2017, the largest Star Trek Las Vegas convention to date, tons of new merchandise including the 3D chess set, and now a new major expansion to the Star Trek MMO, Star Trek Online. The game is in its 6th year and has evolved quite heavily since its inception. For those who don’t know, the game allows you to select a faction, the Federation (Starfleet), the Klingons, or the most recently added Romulans. You then get to move up through the ranks completing missions, getting more powerful ships, additional bridge crew, etc. It’s Star Trek’s attempt at World of Warcraft or EVE Online. It is free to play, by the way.

The new expansion, Agents of Yesterday, focuses on the classic era of Trek from The Original Series and will include voice work by the original Chekov, Walter Koenig and the son of Scotty, Chris Doohan, who has done work on Trek in the past. The expansion specifically takes place after the original show’s cancellation and focuses on the addition of new time travel aspects and Temporal Agents. Check out the details in the official press release below!

The 50th anniversary of Star Trek is here, and I couldn’t be more excited to announce our contribution to the celebration: Agents of Yesterday, the third full expansion to Star Trek Online!

Agents of Yesterday will allow players to create a new captain in Star Trek: The Original Series era and will set them on an adventure featuring classic story lines, locations, celebrities, and era-appropriate starships. In 2270, the year following the third season of the original series, the player will adventure with Walter Koenig, reprising his role of Chekov, and Chris Doohan, filling in for his father as Scotty. There is a new threat to the security of the Federation, and they are invading with hopes of overwhelming the past to destroy our future.

In addition to the ability to create a brand new Star Trek: The Original Series Starfleet captain, we will be introducing a new episode arc for players of every faction, the Temporal Initiative Resistance Reputation, a Temporal Operative Primary Specialization along with brand new Bridge Officer powers. Players who create their captains during the first six weeks of launch will also be able to participate in the new Temporal Agent Recruitment system for bonus personal and account-wide rewards, a new iteration of the popular Delta Recruitment system that released a year ago. This release is packed with content to keep you engaged in the classic Star Trek: The Original Series era – and beyond.

There isn’t a better way to continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek: The Original Series than by creating a Starfleet captain and engaging in some amazing adventures in that classic period.

This is only the first of many blog posts with detailed information on everything that’s shipping with Agents of Yesterday, so stay tuned and I’ll see you in game!

Stephen Ricossa
Executive Producer
Star Trek Online

Watch the official announcement trailer here:

Are you excited about the new expansion? Have you played Star Trek Online before? Comment below with your thoughts. Live long and prosper.

(Source: Arc Games)

Star Trek Online: Agents of Yesterday

Zombie Vikings – Review

Zombie Vikings.  The name is enticing.  I certainly do love vikings, and zombies are still cool..ish,  so I was excited to give this game a shot.  The basic premise is that you are one of four different zombie vikings summoned to life by the Norse god Odin, to recover his one good eye from the trickster Loki.

The first thing that catches your eye is the unique art style.  It is different and interesting to look at, and certainly fits right in to what the game is trying to be.

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You choose from four different characters to play from in each level: The very tiny and very spiky Hedgy, the large armored Gunborg, the small but powerful Caw-Kaa, or the “has-an-Octopus-for-a-stomach” Seagurd.  Each character plays very similarly, with each having a unique special move.  For me, it came down to which one I thought looked the coolest, as none of the special moves really appealed to me one way or another.

The gameplay wasn’t at all a game changer or impressive.  It feels nearly identical to other games in the genre, wrapped in a different package.  That’s not to say it isn’t fun, or a good game; it’s just that nothing about it really stands out among other games in the genre.  Simplistic controls and a low difficulty level means that even the most novice of gamers will be able to be successful playing this game.

The first boss you run into was pretty obviously a throwback reference to one of my favorite characters of all time, “Earthworm Jim”.  That was a positive point in the play through, as appealing to a players nostalgia is a path straight to their heart if executed well.

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As far as the writing and humor in the story goes, there were some moments that gave me a slight smirk, but it seemed to rely mostly on crude bodily fluid humor.  If you love poop jokes, you will most likely love the humor in here.  For me, it wasn’t really doing much.

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The music and sound effects managed to not get overly repetitive, which is a solid plus on a game of this type. 

Overall, a fun game that doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but still manages to be a fun mindless game to play with your buddies.  I can’t recommend it fully at the $19.99 price point on Steam, but if you can grab it for $5 -$10 during a sale, do it.

Ryan’s rating: 5 out of 10 random Octopus appendages.

The Grid Rating Saucer 2.5

 

 

If you’re looking for more information, check out Zombie Vikings here – Zoink Games Website

Have you played Zombie Vikings yet? Let us know your thoughts on the game in the comments below!

Zombie Vikings – Review

Atom Bomb Baby – A.K.A. My Experience with Fallout 4

Fallout 4.

I couldn’t believe it was happening.  The excitement for this game’s announcement was near Half-Life 3 levels and deservedly so.  The last 2 games in the series were some of my favorite games of all time.  Yes, even New Vegas.  Don’t be a hater.

The game opens with you in your quaint 1950’s house, having discussions with your spouse about your baby, how you need to get your Mr. Handy serviced soon, and eventually goes to the topic of the inevitable nuclear war.  Just then, a salesman from Vault-Tec knocks on your door, wanting to ensure your spot in Vault 111 when the bombs drop.

Wouldn’t you know it?  Within minutes of him leaving, you are running for your life.  Running past all your friends and neighbors, the rest of civilization that doesn’t have a spot in the vault.  As you get to the vault and the elevator starts to drop, BOOM, you see an explosion. The world turns a terrifying shade of orange, and the doors close above you.  You and your family are safe.

I’m not going to dig deep into the story, as I want you to be surprised by the twists and turns that it takes.  The main storyline is great, and as with other Fallout games, your choices can change the wasteland in a very visible way.

Let’s get real here, though.  The draw for Fallout games is never the main storyline.  It’s everything else you can do in the open world.  It’s dealing with the different factions, finding companions, getting that perfect suit of armor, scavenging for that perfect gun, and finding that next bobblehead.  It’s popping that super mutant’s head off with a sniper rifle from an obscene distance.  You get all that and more in this game.  If you thought you were testing the limits of your marriage with the last game, this one adds new mechanics that might just push it to the breaking point.  Call your lawyer and get the divorce paperwork ready, and let’s dig into this.

First of all, when I play a game with role-playing elements, I always pick a female character.  DON’T JUDGE ME!  Anyway, something I love about Fallout games is all the different clothing options available to you.  A downside to this particular Fallout game is that you have to make a choice: Either be fashionable, or have armor and not die immediately.  I’m hoping that’s something they patch in later.  I did my best to find a compromise i could be happy with.  This is, seriously, the outfit I have worn through the majority of my play time.

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Though, sometimes, a lady just needs a suit of power armor to get the job done.  You get your first suit of power armor very early in the game, which I wasn’t a huge fan of.  I haven’t used my suits of armor more than a handful of times, because they made me feel overpowered, as well as the fact that I didn’t spend all that time creating my characters look just to cover it up with a big metal helmet through the whole game.

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I am a dog person in real life, so it makes sense that in the game my character would use Dogmeat as a companion whenever possible.  When I first found him, mere minutes into the game, my first thoughts were “YAAAY PUPPY TIME” followed shortly with “I need to find him some armor.  Wait, is there even armor for dogs in this game?”  After my 60+ hours, I have finally found the last pieces to make Dogmeat look like the wasteland rock star he is.

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There are downsides to having Dogmeat as your companion, though.  The biggest downside, in my opinion, is that Dogmeat can be hurt.  It’s not a bad gameplay mechanic, because an invincible companion would be stupid.  Its a downside because seeing a raider kick my dog, and hearing his pained whine, sends me into an uncontrollable killing frenzy.  A bloodlust that can only be sated by the complete annihilation of all living entities in the vicinity of my puppy.  Also, I have wasted so many valuable stimpacks because it pains me so much to see my poor Dogmeat dragging himself around, barely able to move after a big fight.

A second downside is that now, when a raider sends an attack dog after me, I kill the raider and let Dogmeat handle the dog.  I then praise Dogmeat after he rips the other dog’s throat out in an epic finishing move.  QUIT JUDGING ME!

Really the only gameplay reason why Dogmeat sucks is for the sneaky type players.  If you shoot at an enemy, he runs in, thirsting for blood.  It makes sneaking much more difficult, and it may be a problem among all companion AI. Having only used Dogmeat, I can’t comment on that.

The biggest new mechanic that they added to the game is the addition of “Settlements,” and it’s a doozy.  Think player housing, x1000.  In the first 10 hours I played, I would bet that at least half of those hours were spent just customizing my first settlement, not knowing that I would be able to get other settlements in the future.  Truth be told, I have no idea how many settlements are actually available, but there are a ton, and you can customize every single one.  When you first get a new settlement, it’s usually a trash covered pit of junk, and it’s your job to change that.  From clearing out fallen trees and piles of tires to building new houses, trading depots, salvage stations and supply lines, to keeping your current settlers happy, it’s all up to you and your creativity.

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So, because you have to build power lines, water pumps, houses, turrets, guard posts, etc., you need materials.  You get materials from getting rid of all those fallen trees and tires, sure, but the good stuff comes from exploring the wasteland.  Everything in the game can be salvaged.  This has changed the loot mechanics in a very interesting way.  Now, when you are in that final room of a long quest, having just killed a boss, you will be more excited to pick up that desk fan for its sweet, sweet screws rather than the missile launcher sitting on his dead body.  It is a very smart way to make all that junk you see sitting around useful, and you will wish you maxed out strength to carry it all home with you.  I did not, so I found myself loading up Dogmeat with as much as he could carry just to get a little bit more back to my settlement.

Along with crafting for your settlement, you can also use materials to upgrade your guns, clothing, and power armor to suit your playstyle.  One thing you can’t craft, however, is ammunition.  It sucks, and is something I hope that they will patch in later on.

The game isn’t perfect, I have run into a few bugs, but not nearly as many as others have claimed.  Because I am playing the PC version, every bug I have encountered was easily fixable by using a console command or two, but I imagine those bugs would be pretty irritating for you console peasants out there.  Also, the radio is entertaining for the first hour of the game, but after the fourth or fifth play through of “Atom Bomb Baby”, you will find yourself switching to the classical station, or putting pandora on while you play.

So, how would I rate this game?  It’s a really great game with a solid storyline and no shortage of things to do.  The positives far outweigh the negatives.  With that said, I give the game 9 out of 10 Dogmeat throat-rips.  I highly recommend buying this game for PC if you have a system that can handle it, as there will be a ton of mods released in the coming months to fix the bugs and add all new gameplay elements.

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Thanks for reading!  Let me know if you agree with me in the comments below.

 

Atom Bomb Baby – A.K.A. My Experience with Fallout 4

Star Wars: Battlefront Beta – Review

As most of you may know DICE and E.A. Games have been working on a new Star Wars game in the Battlefront franchise titled simply Star Wars Battlefront. It isn’t a continuation on the previous series but a reboot of the franchise. Well this past week they released a Beta version of Star Wars Battlefront across the PS4, X-BOX One and PC for all to play and go through. With three out of the 13 different modes unlocked for the Beta version, players got just a taste of what DICE and E.A. have been putting into this next game and possible rebooted franchise. So here is my review on all three game mods, the pros and cons for the game as a whole, some DLC, and what hopefully this game will deliver on its release date of November 17th. (I should also mention that I played this game on the PS4)

Walker Assault Mode

The first game mode I tried out was the famed Walker Assault. I did get a taste of this as well when I went to San Diego Comicon. They had a tent set up with this as a playable thing. Now it was on PC and I myself am a PS4 guy. So I died pretty much every single time while playing it at SDCC. I was therefore very happy when it was released on consoles. The basic idea for this game mode is a 20v20 online battle on either Hoth or Endor (Hoth was the only one available for the Beta version).  You either play as the Empire or Rebel Alliance as you take control of unique vehicles, power-ups, and weapons. You either defend your base if you’re a Rebel or lead Imperial Walkers and troops to destroy the Rebel Alliance if you play as the Empire. The choosing of what side you are on for any of the three game modes was completely random. So it’s unknown if that will stay the same when the final version of the game is released or not.

In the Hoth mode, it was just like watching Empire Strikes Back. Everything from the music, to the location, sound effects and objectives really did feel like the battle of Hoth. The match played fairly simple. Either you’re the rebellion and you’re trying to activate uplinks around the map to call in Y-Wing Ion Bombing runs or you’re the Empire and trying to destroy the uplinks and lead the walkers to the shield generator. There are an array of weapons and power ups scattered across the map for you to find, including the rare and hard to grab AT-AT power up, where you get to control the cannons on the Imperial Walkers and hero card where you get to play as either Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader for this map. With those two being some of the hardest to grab they will surly go fast if you can’t find them first. You can also fly Tie-Fighters and X-Wings respectively but sadly not the bombers. This is a fast-paced map with a very large open landscape for all you sniper fans out there. This mode during the Beta would earn a solid 8.5/10 with me.Star Wars Battlefront Gredo Battle

Drop Zone Mode

The second game mode I tried was a mode called Drop Zone. In this mode you have to capture and defend five escape pods that are randomly dropped from the sky onto the map. Once you defend and secure the escape pod it releases power-ups from inside as a reward. The team who captures all the pods or has the most in 10 minutes wins the match. The developers have stated that they intend to add more escape pods to capture but only did a small amount for the Beta. This mode took place on the new planet they have been pushing called Sullust. Mentioned briefly in Return of the Jedi this is the first time in the newly formed Star Wars canon where we get to see this volcanic planet in all its glory. This mode has a smaller map and I believe only 6-10 players on each team.Star Wars Battlefront Vader ForestI am not sure if there will be other locations for the game mode but I do know for sure Sullust is one of them. Was this the most fun game mode I played? No. But it was more action packed and extremely fast paced with tight corners and rocks to maneuver between. I found it super relative after the third time playing it but that’s just me. So if you like the close combat style and capture the flag style gameplay, then you will surely love this mode. Personally I would give it a 6/10.

Survival Mode

The final game mode that was released with the beta is called Survival. This is a part of their single player/co-op missions. During this you only play as the Rebel Alliance as you are stranded on a planet and must fight off 15 waves of Imperials either by yourself or with a friend. During around every 3-4 waves a drop pod will land in your location and you must capture it to gain the power-ups from within. Star Wars Battlefront Luke ForceThese power-ups include personal shields, orbital strikes, rocket launchers, and Ion magazines for your blaster just to name a few. This is the typical survival mode that are in games now, you kill all the enemies in the wave and then more challenging enemies emerge in the waves after. During the game you want to use the environment around you to take cover and spy on what the enemy is doing and where they are going. This mode probably features the smallest map out of the three in this article. So use the corners and rocks for major cover from snipers and AT-ST’s. With each wave the Imperials grow in number and strength so you can’t just go full head on charging them. You have to plan your attack according to what power-ups you have and what type of enemy there is to face. This mode was a solid 7.5/10 for me.

Battlefront: Pros

Now on to some pros and cons for this game. I can’t list all of them but I will hit on the key ones fans have been vocal about and some I found while playing it. Let’s start with the pros. The game is beautiful! The graphics are absolutely amazing and blew my mind when I saw them. This is so far the best looking Star Wars game out there right now. The snow shines like real snow on Hoth and you can leave footprints in the sand and have destructible environments in forests and while blasting at rocks. It is just amazing. It really feels like a Star Wars game when you see the blaster bolts firing from your rifle and hitting your target ahead. You no longer have a count for ammo or thermal detonators like you did in previous Battlefront games. It is on a cool down system for the rifles/blasters and grenades replenish over time along with your health if you’re hit.

You get to customize what species you are. You sadly didn’t get to during the beta but they have confirmed, along with customizing weapons, you get to choose your species. They haven’t released what’s to choose from yet but rumors are Twi’leks, Rodians, Sullustians, and many more. You also get to play as a female soldier! After all these years of featuring female characters who are totally bad ass you get to play as them on the front lines. You get to play as iconic hero’s and villains. Everyone ranging from Princess Leia to Boba Fett and with a whole lot more to chose from. You only got to play as Luke and Vader during the beta but they played fairly easy. If you were a fan of the heroes and villains you could play as in Battlefront 2 then you will love these because it’s basically the same game mechanics. And finally the gameplay itself. It feels like a PS2 game. Not in a bad way at all, mind you, but like how the original games felt. It’s very simplistic with not a whole lot of buttons to use. You basically point and shoot. You will have to play it to see what I mean by that, but it’s totally a good thing.

Battlefront: Cons

Now on to some cons. No campaign mode. In the previous two games there were actually story driven missions where you played through iconic battles and locations from the movies or expanded universe. This does suck, but they have said that there will be single player missions. Whether or not those are story mission or whatever is still unclear. So we will have to wait and see what those are all about.
Star Wars Battlefront FalconThere are no hangars for ships/ground vehicles. Before, you could just walk up to a random ship or ground vehicle and get in no matter what side you were on or what you were doing. In this you have to find and activate power-ups for vehicles of any kind. So in all reality if you’re on a big map you may never find a vehicle power-up for a good long while if others keep taking them or if they are scarce. But they do make up for it in a way by just having a fighter squadron mode. So that may calm people down who can’t fly anything during normal game modes.

There are no Republic or CIS sides to play as. I will miss playing as those two sides just because it gave the previous games more to work with character and troop wise, not just the Empire or Rebels. There are only limited locations and planets. So far, only four planets have been announced to fight on and it’s looking like that could be it for now. I sincerely hope not because there are so many locations in the Star Wars universe, and it would be a shame to limit it to just 4 or 5 planets.

Finally, there is no space combat. That was a huge plus for Battlefront 2 and it was so cool! Docking in huge capital ships and taking out their support systems, then flying out and destroying fighter support was a blast. With the game engine and mechanics that DICE and E.A. have come up with for this, a space combat mode would have been killer! I am hoping they will add that in either the next hopeful game or as a small DLC pack.

Speaking of DLC packs, E.A. has just announced that there will be four add-on packs that you can buy for Star Wars Battlefront, one of them being a pre-order bonus, which is called The Battle of Jakku. This takes place one year after the Battle of Endor as the newly formed New Republic tries to capture a major post on the planet. This is also the setting for a good part of the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. So fans get to see and live out what happened before we see it some 30 years later on the big screen. Those who pre-order the game have early access to it and those who do not pre-order it must wait a week before its release to the public (It’s rumored to be a free download, btw),

All in all, I hope this game really delivers to the fans what they want and need. Most Battlefront fans have been waiting for a new game since Battlefront 2’s release in 2005! So no pressure to DICE and E.A. I really did enjoy myself while playing through just those three modes. And with 10 more to be released along with all the DLC, I am sure that this will be one of many Battlefront games to come.

Have you picked up the Star Wars: Battlefront beta? If so, what do you think so far? Which platform are you playing it on? Comment below!

Star Wars: Battlefront Beta – Review