Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Review for Game-Debate: Fort Zombie

Fort Zombie is without a doubt, the worst computer game I’ve ever had the misfortune to play. The controls are awful, it looks terrible, there is almost no sound and it crashes for no apparent reason. It’s so frustrating to play that the concept of a real zombie munching on your brain actually sounds more enjoyable than this rotting corpse of a game...Wait. You’re still here? Really? If the above hasn’t already been enough to put you off Fort Zombie forever, you’ll definitely not want to spend £7.95 on it once you’ve read this.

I’m never one to judge a book by its cover, or a game by its title screen, but I had a bad feeling about this one when I booted up Fort Zombie for the first time. Can you say 2D cardboard cut outs? It honestly looks like something that was knocked up using Photoshop in the space of about 2 minutes. And would you believe it, it all goes downhill from there.

Fort Zombie looks terrible. There are games from the start of the decade that look better than this. The whole world is blocky with a tremendously bad amount of pop-up and the character (also blocky) animation is shockingly bad. If you need any more convincing as to how bad this game looks just look at the screenshots. Do it now. I’ll even make this the end of the paragraph so you can easily come back to where you left off. That is if you haven’t gouged out your own eyeballs after having a look.

See, I told you I’d wait for you and I’m glad to see you still have full use of your vision. Of course games aren’t all about looks but you can’t ignore how ugly this one looks and there’s probably road kill out there that’s more atheistically pleasing than Fort Zombie. Unfortunately the game play is just as terrible as the graphics. You play the role of a chap called Ben Riley, who for some reason decided the best way to survive the zombie apocalypse is to head in to the town of Piety, Indiana and hold up in a fortress. If zombies did start walking the streets I would try and get out of a city personally. Anyway, your first task is to find your fortress and clear it out which is where I discovered many of the problems with Fort Zombie.

The controls are awful. Ben Riley cannot shoot straight, or even move while shooting. If you want to shoot a zombie you have to stand still or run away. Try shooting and you’ll soon discover Ben Riley has trouble targeting a zombie that’s two feet in front of him. If you want to move away from the zombie for a better shot you can’t just step backwards, no that’d be far too easy. Ben can’t walk backwards, he can only turnaround which then involves trying to sort out the awful camera while you try to take aim. It’s probably a good thing you can merely walk away from most zombies, that is when Ben isn’t too exhausted. That cigarette he’s smoking is obviously bad for him because walking a few hundred metres will drain Ben’s stamina so much he’ll have to stop and take a breather – easy prey for zombies ay? It’s a ridiculous aspect of the game. Fear not though, the zombies are so stupid that if you merely walk round a corner they’ll forget about you. The A.I. is just that bad. That’s not just for your enemies by the way. I often found my allies’ path finding techniques laughable. Apparently walking around a car is too hard for them, just another of the many, many things that make Fort Zombie a terrible experience.

Let’s move away from the undead and onto the fort. The main task of the game is find supplies and survivors in order to defend your fort from mass zombie invasions over the course of a 12 day period. Every day you choose ‘missions’ that involve you going to an area of the town in order to find food, supplies or other survivors. These missions are generated randomly so if you really want to play this rubbish more than once the opportunity is there – that is if you can get into a mission. What do I mean? It’ll tell you. Fort Zombie regularly crashed when choosing missions so instead of seeing Piety I ended up looking at my desktop. (At least it’s easier on the eyes than this abomination)

When missions actually loaded they were repetitive affairs. Walk over there, shoot or avoid the undead and look for items. Looking for things involves pushing F and watching your character try to ‘find’ boxes and cabinets. Even if these are quite obviously in front of your face you still need to ‘look’ for them which takes about 5 seconds. Why? It’s completely pointless and just one more irritating thing about this game.

To conclude, Fort Zombie looks awful, plays terribly and is so full of bugs it really isn’t worth the £7.95 asking price. Here are some suggestions as to more enjoyable ways to spend your money:

  • Buy a set of knives and repeatedly jab them into your legs.
  • Spend it all down the pub! You’ll want to forget this review no doubt.
  • If you really want some cheap zombie action (steady...) use the money to buy the excellent Plants vs. Zombies

Yeah, do that last one! But whatever you do, don’t buy Fort Zombie. Ever.


(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Monday, 14 December 2009

Game-Debate Review: Divinity II - Ego Draconis

If I were to tell you this review is about a dragon based RPG, it’s more than likely you’ll think of the massively publicised Dragon Age: Origins. Now while, DAO is certainly an excellent game it’s been somewhat hogging the limelight.

There are in fact other recent RPG releases, recent RPG releases that have dragon themes and this is where Divinity II – Ego Draconis comes in. Produced by independent Belgian studio Larian (Now say you can’t name a famous Belgian), Ego Draconis is the latest in their series of Divinity titles. However, new players need not fret because you can be totally unfamiliar with the previous games and still appreciate Divinity II as the highly enjoyable title it is.

You play the role of a newly trained Dragon Slayer in the fantastic looking fantasy world of Rivellon and the game starts with you creating your character. You choose the basics like sex, looks, class and starting stats. While this isn’t revolutionary, it does nonetheless give you the feeling that it’s your story rather than that of a pre-determinedcharacter.

Once you’ve decided on your looks and stats you have the opportunity to choose a class - warrior, ranger, priest or mage – and the choice will further boost your characters stats in some capacity. For example, choosing mage will increase your intelligence which will in turn boost your magic spells. As you level up it’s completely up to you how to distribute your skills which again, allows you to feel as if it really is yourcharacter developing in a way that isn’t too different from Fallout 3.

Once out of the training academy quests are the name of the game and you’ll play through a lot them. Many of these are optional side quests but without completing them you’ll find Divinity II gets very tough, very quickly. I learned this after my level 2 character failed the first boss encounter horribly. This problem was encountered throughout much of Divinity II, especially during the first half of the game. Without completing side quests and level grinding you’ll find it impossible to push on through the story missions because groups of enemies that are just a couple of levels above your character will absolutely slaughter you. However, roam around Broken Valley and its dungeons for long enough and you’ll get there eventually. (On an interesting side-note, enemies don’t respawn. Once you clear an area they’re gone for good.) The combat itself is a somewhat hack and slash affair but is fun nonetheless. It’s your characters special skills that make combat really enjoyable and these are assigned through hotkeys making it easy enough to dispatch of goblins, the undead, bandits and a variety of other clich├ęd Tolkienesque fantasy villains.

Yes, Divinity II is full of fantasy characters that could be straight out of Lord of The Rings or Dungeons and Dragons, but much of the game is tongue in cheek in a very charming way. You can’t help but smile when talking to the NPC’s who all have regional accents from throughout the UK. Of course, as inLord of the Rings , there are loads of “ooh ar” accents representing the West Country, but you’ll also find scouse soldiers, Irish boatmen, and my personal favourite, a Welsh weapon smith and his wife...apparently from Dudley. There is a real charm to the voice work of the NPC’s which certainly makes up for your characters lack of speech. Yes, you select a voice when creating them but this is mainly just used for quips during battle. When in conversation you select your responses from a text menu. Or you can choose to read minds...

Yes, as a Dragon Slayer you have the option to read minds while in conversation with NPC’s. This is paid for by sacrificing experience points. (These are easily earned back after defeating a few enemies) Sometimes mind reading will give you massive insights into completing a mission, extra skill points or a variety of other bonuses. Sometimes you’ll just end up seeing what the NPC had for lunch. Generally you’ll know if mind reading will end up being useful because the thoughts with the most benefit cost the most experience points to access. It’s a nice touch that certainly gives Divinity II a unique gameplay element in the world of RPG’s.

Now for the big one and what is possibly the most unique selling point of Divinity II – the ability to play as a dragon. You’ll have to work for it though because this ability is only unlocked around the half way point of the story. (I won’t say why exactly the slayer becomes the dragon, that would spoil the story) In dragon form you can quickly travel across maps and access areas that would be impossible to reach on foot. Of course your dragon will be involved in mid air battles with a hot key system identical to the one for the ground. However, if you’re planning on taking your dragon form transform enemies on the ground to mere piles of ashes you’ll be disappointed – while playing as a dragon you can’t target enemies on the ground, nor can you even see them. Occasionally I would transform back into human form only to find myself surrounded by foes and quickly killed. Frustrating but nothing a quick reload can’t help with. It’s not only when in dragon form that you’ll find yourself getting frustrated moving around Rivellon. Waypoints are provided for the main quests but that luxury doesn’t accompany the side quests. There were a few occasions where I needed to level grind but couldn’t actually find where I needed to go without exploring every nook and cranny of the map. Not that I don’t like exploring – I do – but sometimes I just felt the game would be more enjoyable if you were directed towards the locations when you take on side-quests.

A quick mention must go to the superb soundtrack that’s featured throughout the game. The storyline on the other hand isn’t particularly strong with its basic stop the evil fella theme. That said Divinity 2 is excellent fun and you won’t really be thinking of the story as you hack and slash your way through foes and complete quests. Larian studios have produced a good game here, and while some will say it’s your typical fantasy adventure, its tongue in cheek humour and the ability to play as a dragon certainly offer you something different. It’s also a massive game with a completion time of at least 25 to 30 hours when you throw in the many, many side quests which really demonstrates that Larian can mix it with the big boys. Add to this that many of the quests have multiple outcomes and there’s massive scope for replaying the game. Divinity II – Ego Draconis is an enjoyable romp and is definitely worth playing if you want a different take on the RPG genre. The hack and slash nature ofcombat also makes it an ideal first foray into the world of RPG’s if you’re unfamiliar with the genre. Divinity 2 does have some minor problems but it’s definitely worth parting with your precious gold coins for this magical experience. Get goblin bashing!

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Game-Debate News: Borderlands DLC now on PC

Gearbox Software have now made the first Borderlands downloadable content pack available to PC gamers. Previously The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned was only available on the console versions of their RPG co-op shooter.

The additional content revolves around the afore mentioned Dr. Ned and trying to track down his undead creations in a new area the DLC adds to the game - Jacobs Cove. You can buy The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned directly from the Gearbox Software Store here for $9.99 - which works out as just over £6.

You can discuss Borderlands here or alternatively discuss The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned here.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Game-Debate News: UK Government set to reject developer tax breaks

Video games developers won't be receiving government support. That's according to The Guardian who report that Chancellor Alistair Darling is set to reject tax breaks for developers in today's Pre-Budget Report.

The UK games industry has produced worldwide hits like the Grand Theft Auto games and the Tomb Raider series but is facing fierce competition from other countries such as Canada and North Korea who are using their government subsidies to lure British developers overseas.

The games sector contributes more to the economy than UK film - which does get subsidised - but it unfortunately appears the government will be rejecting recommendations for a "cultural tax break" in the Digital Britain report.

The UK games industry had been ranked third largest in the world for decades - behind only the USA and Japan - but it's estimated the UK is now only ranked fifth behind Canada and South Korea.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Game-Debate News: Gamers' Voice Meeting Next Week

Gamers' Voice, the pressure group founded following Keith Vaz's negative comments about gaming in The Daily Mail, will be holding its first meeting next week.

Tom Watson MP, the founder of the group, has organised a meeting inside the House of Commons starting at 18:30 on December 9th.

The aim is to "discuss what people want from the group and how we can get it moving"

Anyone can attend but Mr Watson says the meeting room can only hold 50 people.

If you want to go, you can sign up and get the details here.