Total War: Shogun 2 – Fall of the Samurai Review

March 26, 2012 by  
Filed under PC, Reviews, Spotlight

After the Warring States period, Japan is finally at peace, the Emperor sits comfortably on his throne fulfilling his largely ceremonial position, while the Tokugawa Shogunate rules Japan with an iron fist with no one to dispute its rule. All this changes when western ships land in Japan in an attempt to establish trade relations with the region. The concessions made to the westerner powers anger the Japanese people, and the Emperor rises against the Shogun in an attempt take back Japan from its feudal overlords. This breaks Japan in two, and starts the Boshin War, between the Shogun and his allies who want to advance Japan through relationships with the West, and the Emperor and his allies who want to re-establish Imperial rule and advance Japan independently of western powers. This is where you come  in.

At the start of the game, you choose whose side you want to be on. Out of the six factions to choose from, three are Imperial factions and the other three are Shogunate factions. For the first time in a Total War game, you are given a “higher purpose” to fight for, and that is one the reasons that make Fall of The Samurai (FoTS) great. While previous Total War games always had you become the supreme ruler of Rome/Europe/The New World, etc, this time around, the fight is much bigger than you. You are fighting for the Emperor/Shogun and determining the future of Japan, a great change of pace from the usual ‘world domination’ campaigns. With the allegiance system, alliances play a much bigger role this time around. Although alliances and wars are technically independent from faction allegiances, the allegiances (whether to the Emperor or Shogun) play a very big part in who you fight and who you make peace with.

FoTS features the latest chronological setting in any Total War game so far. It is set 200 years after Shogun 2, which means that you will see huge differences in the game’s units and technology. This is not the feudal Japan we saw in Shogun 2. Instead we have a Japan that is at a crossroads between tradition and modernity, and the game reflects that wonderfully. Units now greet you with an enthusiastic “Your orders, Sir!” instead of a stoic “Dono”; samurai are no longer supreme leaders of the battlefield, but are rivaled by gunpowder units. The western powers also play key roles in your campaign, and establishing good relations with them gives you access to new technologies, units and trade. However, appease the western powers too much and you risk angering your people.

While some of the traditional Japanese units for Shogun 2 carry over, gun powder units go through an almost complete overhaul, from matchlock infantry to sharpshooters to US Marines to the almighty gattling gun. The technology also goes through a complete change, picking up exactly where Shogun 2 left of, and reflecting the transition of Japan from a feudal era to a modern militarized super power. Navy gameplay is also updated. In addition to their usual functions, ships can bombard enemy bases and armies if they are close enough to shore, and can even provide devastating fire support in real time battles.

However, my biggest gripe with the game is the lack of difference between the factions. The cover art of the game gives the impression war between traditional Japan and a modernized one. Sadly this wasn’t the case. Both the Imperial and Shogunate factions have access to the same units, technologies and even western relations. The differences between the factions are minimal, giving no real weight to your choice of allegiance. Another complaint I have is the graphics. After the colorful and varied landscape of Shogun 2, I was genuinely surprised by the washed out, bland looking campaign map of FoTS.

But those shortcoming are overcome by the game’s achievements. While expansion packs usually mean adding a few units/maps/features here and there, this is an expansion that plays much like a standalone game, and kudos to Creative Assembly for exploring new areas with their game. For plays new to Total War, I would recommend starting with Shogun 2. But for hardened Total War fans, this is indeed an important part of the series. It introduces a plethora of new units, tactics and gameplay elements, and does represent a significant evolution in the Total War series.

Debut trailer for The Walking Dead video game

March 21, 2012 by  
Filed under PC, Playstation 3, Video, Xbox 360

Dark Souls on PC looks very likely

March 21, 2012 by  
Filed under News, PC

Remember how a while back a petition popped up on the internet to get Namco to relase a PC Port of Dark Souls? And remember Namco forum admin said it caught Namco’s attention? Well it looks like we might finally bear the fruits of the petition, as it looks like Dark Souls might very well come to PC.

Neogaf users have spotted a teaser of sorts in the Australian PC gaming magazine “PC Powerplay”. The teaser is a black page with nothing but the words “You Died”, a well known ‘catchphrase’ from Dark Souls.

To further add fuel to the fire, Namco has started a Facebook app that promises to reveal a secret once it gets enough likes. So looks like the announcement will come pretty soon, before Namco’s press event next month.

So far though, nothing has been confirmed.

PC gamers, time to practice your ragequit skills.

Thanks, VG247.

Is this the meaning of the protagonist’s name in Assassin’s Creed 3?

March 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, News, PC, Playstation 3, Spotlight, Xbox 360

When Assassin’s Creed III was first announced, we definitely were not the only ones looking for the meaning of Ratohnhaké:ton, the name of Assassin’s Creed’s new protagonist. Unfortunately, the translation was nowhere to be found online.

So, since we really really wanted to know what the word meant, we e-mailed the Kahnawà:ke Language and Cultural Center in Canada, asking them for the meaning of the word Ratohnhaké:ton. There were very helpful and kind enough to reply to our e-mail, and here is the translation they provided.

Ratohnhaké:ton can be literally translated as “He scratches/scraps at life” or “Life Scratcher”. Apparently, it has no significant meaning in Mohawk culture, aside from being a regular person’s name.

So there you have it. Unlike previous protagonists whose names had a bird motif, Ratohnhaké:ton takes a different path. So does “Life Scratcher” have any significance to the character or story of AC III? Or is it just a cool-sounding Mohawk name?

Street Fighter X Tekken Fightpad S.D Review

March 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Playstation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360

So now that you have bought Street Fighter X Tekken, you want the proper equipment to play it. Granted, some may be satisfied with the standard console controllers to play the game, but those looking for a more competitive experience with the game would look for specialized equipment for complete control over their game.

This is where Mad Catz’s Street Fighter X Tekken Fightpad S.D. comes in. It was released alongside the SxT Fightstick Pro, also from Mad Catz. To the uninitiated, the Fightpad controllers are modeled after the basic console gamepad, but with a number of modifications implemented specifically for fighting games.

The first thing you would notice in the Fightpad is the button scheme, where the right shoulder buttons (RB and RT) are positioned next to the face buttons, and the left shoulder buttons (LB and LT) take the shoulder buttons position. There is no analog stick, and the D-pad is enlarged and more elevated than regular D-Pads, allowing for better control and improved execution.

The S.D. in the device’s name stands for “Super Deformed”, which refers to the fact that this Fightpad is 15% smaller than previous Fightpads. Furthermore, the controller is wired. This might be an inconvenience for some players, but this is actually great news for tournament players, as wireless are known to cause some lag, and any lag, no matter how minimal, is a big no-no in tournament play.

In general, the gamepad is really comfortable to use. It is small and light, allowing for a firm grip, assuring that nothing comes in the way of your game.

To those who play fighting games with D-pads, Fightpad S.D. is a great tool. All the new features and modifications elevate the player’s performance substantially. The modified button layout makes pulling off moves a lot more intiuitive that the standard control. Furthermore, The buttons are large and comfortable to the press, with very little travel between them.

The enlarged D-pad may take a while to get used to, but one would find that it is now a lot more responsive to the player’s moves, and very well suited for pulling off combos. And as mentioned before, the wire is a great addition, and the response time is excellent, with no discernable lag during play.

But does this Fightpad rival an arcade stick? Not really. There are some inconveniences inherent to gamepads that are still present in the Fightpad S.D. For example, despite how well the D-pad is implemented here, it still doesn’t compare to the Arcade stick. There still some directional moves that are tough to pull off with a D-pad (particularly the circular moves). Another issue I usually have with gamepads is the left shoulder button. The left shoulder button is needed to pull of some Super combos in tandem with the D-pad, and sometimes pulling off intricate combos using only the left hand can get somewhat difficult and clumsy.

Granted, hardened D-pad players won’t face such problems, and if you play fighting games with gamepads regularly, then those issue are behind you now. However, newcomers will find some issues with gamepads in general, and while the Fightpad S.D. manges to deliver a host of improvements, they still suffer from some of the issues that have traditionally plagued gamepads

The Fightpad S.D. is a great piece of hardware to accompany to a great game, and pretty much at the top of the heap as far as Fightpads go. If you are a pad user, then this device is as good as it gets. However, if you are a newcomer to fighting games and willing to invest in a specialized controller, our advice is to go with the Mad Catz Fightstick Pro. Seriously, nothing beats a fightstick.

Could Assassin’s Creed’s American Revolution work?

The list of potential locations for the next Assassin’s Creed game that Ubisoft published raised all kinds of hopes about the new setting for Assassin’s Creed III.The list included exotic locations that were rarely, if ever, explored in video games. My favorite options were the Russian Revolution and Feudal Japan. The Russian revolution would’ve provided great architecture, interesting story (Rasputin  as a templar! Come on), and the wonderfully grim atmosphere of early 20th century Russian winter. Feudal Japan would’ve also made a great choice, because ninjas.

But then rumors started appearing saying that Assassins Creed III will be set during the American Revolutionary War, and with the picture leak today, there is little doubt anymore that it is indeed going to be the setting. It is fair to say the reveal was met with mixed response at best, and despite generally trusting Ubisoft (the constant milking of Ezio notwithstanding), I do with a lot of complaints about the setting, and it pales in comparison with the other potential settings. For example:

  • the American Revolution is an era explored countless times in books, movies and even in video games (Age of Empires III and Empire: Total War come to mind). We would’ve liked a setting less visible.
  • The setting does not feature the large sprawling cities typical to AC games, neither does it contain any unique architecture.
  • Depictions of the American Revolution are usually very black-and-white, where the line between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” is clearly drawn.
  • Conspiracy theories about the American Revolution are trite and overdone, and have been explored from Dan Brown books to the National Treasure films.

But then again, I’d like to put my faith Ubisoft (pointless gameplay additions in AC: Revelations notwithstanding), and in the right hands, the American Revolution setting could potentially be good, and there a lot of elements can come into play to create a great AC game, such as:

  • A Native American protagonist (as the tomahawk in the poster suggests) alludes that their will be some moral ambiguity, where neither the white Americans nor the English are the “good guys”.
  • The American Revolutionary had MAJOR effects on world politics and history, and this could play into a very interesting story
  • New era-specific weapons means new combat mechanics without shifting focus from bladed weapons
  • London and Paris could potentially be the settings for some parts of the game, given the role of England and France in the American Revolution
  • A great cast of supporting characters consisting of the likes of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, King George III and Benedict Arnold.
  • The lack of big cities could mean new game mechanics for exploring other locations, such as forests, forts, mountains…etc
  • Voice actors won’t have to do any ridiculous Italian accents

Anyways, I can’t say I am not disappointed by the choice of location, but I’d like to keep my faith in Ubisoft (lame filler plot in AC: Brotherhood notwithstanding). Plus, there’s virtually no information at all yet on the game, and it would be ridiculous to make any judgem… oh crap.

Uncharted 3 wins WGA writing award

February 20, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Naughty Dog’s massively successful game Uncharted 3 has another accolade to add to an already long list, as the Writer’s Guild of America has they have chosen Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception to recieve its coveted Video Game Writing Award.

Game director Justin Richmond announced the news via a tweet, with a picture of the award being recieved by Uncharted 3 writer Amy Hennig.

The nominees for the award, alongside Uncharted 3, were Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Batman: Arkham City, Brink and Mortal Kombat. Surprisingly, Portal 2 is nowhere to be found on the list.

Source: VG247

Skyrim DLCs to be more like expansion packs

February 20, 2012 by  
Filed under News, PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360

There has been talk of Skyrim’s DLCs before the game was even released, and Bethesda has recently spoken, albeit briefly, on what the DLCs would be like.

Apparrently, Bethesda won’t follow the short-length DLC structure it followed with Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. Instead, Skyrim’s DLCs will be more like expansion packs (remember those?), with a lot more content to the DLC, with longer periods of time between each DLC release.

Speaking to Kotaku, Skyrim Lead Designer, Todd Howard, said “For Fallout 3 we did five DLCs. That was a very aggressive path for us,” he said. “Our plan now is to take more time, to have more meat on [Skyrim DLCs]. They’ll feel closer to an expansion pack”.

That is actually very good news. Fallout’s DLCs were a hit or miss, but Bethesda knows how to make expansions; remember Oblivion’s “Shivering Isles” expansion pack? Some people would go as far saying it was better than the actual game. If Skyrim’s DLCs are of that caliber, then we’ll be 100 hours we spent with Skyrim are about to get doubled.


Seven Arab game developers to look out for

January 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Features, Spotlight

While most of us look in the direction of America, Europe and Japan for quality games, little do we know that video game development in the Middle East is a burgeoning industry with a promising future. Arab companies throughout the region are working hard to establish a Middle Eastern market for game development, and one that produces games with their own Middle Eastern qualities and identities

So if you are interested in exploring game development in the Middle East, enter the field of video game development yourself, or simply play games with their own Middle Easter flavor, then this article might be your guide for doing so.

Company NameWizards Production

Wizards Productions boasts not only developing the region’s first MMO for Facebook, but also having King Abdullah II of Jordan test the beta of it. Wizards Productions works consists of both localising foreign games as well as in-house development of their own video games, thus bringing the game genres we all know and love to the Middle Eastern settings.

While most of their games target dedicated gamers, the company does produce the casual games that target various demographics. Their most significant acheivement is their game Operation Arabia, a Facebook-based third person action game that reached 150,000 monthly active users after around 6 weeks of its launch. While their current portfolio sports both Flash and Facebook games, they will soon be launching their first iPhone game, therefore completing the three pronged indie game attack.

Official Website
Facebook Page
Operation Arabia
Operation Arabia Trailer



Comapny Name: Semaphore
Location: Saudi Arabia

Semaphore is a subsidiary of Semanoor, a company which specializes in training systems for Arabic education curriculums. Sephamore aims at producing multiplatform video games that target both the Middle Eastern and the international market.

While Semaphore has not released any game yet, they are working on the highly ambitious project “Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta”, a third person action adventure game which seeks to present the Middle East like never seen in a game before. Unearthed Online, the game’s multiplayer component, is available now free-to-play on Facebook. Sephamore is has garnered considerable hype for their game, and are aiming to bring Unearthed to a variety of audiences, as the game will support two languages, Arabic and English, as well as 18 different subtitle and menu languages.

Semaphore’s other project isn’t related to video games, but still falls within the creative media. They will soon be launching Rsooom, a tool which allows users to create their own full fledged animated clips and import to a variety of media.

Unearthed Official Website
Unearthed Online
Interview with Ahmad Jadallah, director of Unearthed
Unearthed Trailer

Coverage of Hadouken event in Dubai Technical College

January 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Features, Playstation 3, Xbox 360

The Hadouken Fighting Game Tournament was held in the Academic City in Dubai between 10 and 12 January, and it is considered the first inter-college fighting game event. The event saw a decent turnout of students, where some were participating in the torunaments and some spent time casually playing and sparring in games like SSF IV: Arcade Edition, Mortal Kombat, Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3, Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 and Mario Kart Wii. Apparently games and technology go hand in hand, since the event also saw a display and sale of smartphone accessories.

The star of the show was a preview of Namco Bandai’s upcoming fighting game, Soulcalibur V, which will be released on PS3 and Xbox 360 in Febraury. The preview was obtained thanks to GamePlay Entertainment.

More pictures from the event here.

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