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Ninja Gaiden (NES)

By Droog on November 22, 2019

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Windows)

By Droog on June 2, 2012

Legend of Grimrock (Windows)

By Droog on June 2, 2012

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (Windows)

By Droog on September 7, 2010

Panzer General: Allied Assault (Xbox 360)

By Droog on July 31, 2010

Braid (Xbox 360)

By Droog on July 31, 2010

Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360)

By Droog on July 31, 2010

Rock Band 2 (Xbox 360)

By Droog on July 31, 2010

Rock Band (Xbox 360)

By Droog on July 31, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins (Windows)

By Droog on February 5, 2010

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (Collector's Edition) (Windows)

By Droog on February 5, 2010

Fallout 3 (Xbox 360)

Fallout 3 is a great post-nuclear sandbox experience.

The Good
Fallout 3 continues the great non-linear gameplay of Fallout and Fallout 2, while adding much-needed innovation to the series. The first or third person viewpoint is a much more immersive experience than the isometric point-and-click interface of the earlier Fallout games. Unlike other sandbox RPGs, Fallout has breadth and depth in the same game -- you feel like your character is really changing the world that he/she inhabits, and there are few quests that aren't worth trying. Contrast this with Bethesda's Oblivion, where a lot of quests were clearly just filler for a fun, but ultimately empty gaming experience.

VATS is a fun way to add precision targeting to the game without turning it into an FPS. It makes combat more strategic - you can spend Action Points (which regenerate slowly during combat) to freeze the game and target specific body parts to cripple the enemy's movement or attacks (or just to get in that glorious headshot).

Finally, Fallout 3 distinguishes itself with attention to little details. Some examples: Galactic News Radio, the main radio station, repeats news of your exploits to the whole Capital Wasteland when you finish an important quest. Characters talk with each other on topical subjects, and comment on your actions or warn you if they think you are going to steal the Mini-Nuke on their store shelf. Most importantly, settlements and ruins exist within the context of the game's setting, that is, I never felt like a ruined town was just there because the game designers needed to fill in space on the map.

The Bad
The control system was sometimes difficult to use. Even after scanning through the manual, I only found out how to turn my flashlight on by mistake. VATS is a great system, but it can sometimes be hard to get the game to select the body part you want. I would often move the left stick in every direction and manage to select every body part BUT the one I wanted to target.

The graphics are well done, but there is a distinct lack of variety in the settings. There are only about 4 different types of places in Fallout 3: wasteland, ruined sewers/subways, ruined buildings, and Vaults/high-tech buildings. The color palette of the settings (with few exceptions) is brown, light brown, and black. Another graphical failing is the poor animation of your character in third-person view, where you look like you are skating or floating above the ground, not walking upon it.

The character advancement system is fun, but I was level 20 before I finished even half of the main quest.

Finally, the main plot of Fallout 3 is not as interesting as some of the preceding games. The side-quests (with one notable exception) are actually more fun than the main quests.

The Bottom Line
Fallout 3 is a post-nuclear sandbox RPG set in the ruins of Washington, DC and the surrounding area. Using a combination of real-time and turn-based combat (whichever you prefer) in a first-person or third-person view, you battle, explore, discover, and make difficult choices to influence the world around you.

By Droog on August 21, 2009

Kung Fu Panda (Xbox 360)

By Droog on March 6, 2009

Left 4 Dead (Xbox 360)

By Droog on March 6, 2009

Left 4 Dead (Windows)

By Droog on March 6, 2009

Carcassonne (Xbox 360)

By Droog on March 6, 2009

Mass Effect (Xbox 360)

By Droog on March 6, 2009

Wizard's Crown (Apple II)

By Droog on March 6, 2009

Sins of a Solar Empire (Windows)

Sins is a unique and innovative RTS/4x hybrid that combines the best elements of both genres into a great game.

The Good
Sins of a Solar Empire borrows elements from many other games, and the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It's more than a homage to the old Masters of Orion games (or Stardock's own Galactic Civilizations) - it's a reinvention of them. Instead of being turn-based and epic-paced like many 4X games, the game operates in real time with an adjustable speed (in the single-player game). This innovation gives the game a much better pacing than other strategy games, which often suffer from the constant clicking of the "End Turn" button.

The interface is quite well designed. The main screen is a 3-D view of the planets in the galaxy (or galaxies on larger maps). You can zoom all the way in to one planet to watch your constructions ships building or your fleet patrolling the space around the planet, or you can zoom all the way out to the strategic view, which lets you view the entire map at once. In this view, each planet has status readouts which give you a general idea how many friendly and enemy ships are near that planet. You can mouse over the fleet indicators to view a more detailed summary of the ships in the system and their status.

On its own, this interface would have been sufficient to play the game fairly well, but Iron Lore also added a handy collapsible sidebar which shows in detail (via icons) what buildings and ships are in each sector. You can easily highlight units from this interface and give orders to attack specific units or to use special powers.

Finally, you can zoom all the way into a planet and control the battle like you would in many other RTS games. Fortunately, 90% of the time this is completely unnecessary - you can play entire games without any micromanagement of your fleet and win just through strategic decisions.

The graphics aren't the best I've seen in the genre, but the level of detail in battles is amazing if you zoom all the way in. Capital ships majestically turn to bring their weapons into combat and unleash their strike craft. Smaller frigates zoom around and harass the enemy. Siege ships send rains of warheads down to destroy the inhabitants of planets with colorful explosions. The cinematic mode is great for watching the largest battles, which can feature several hundred ships on each side.

For the most part, the "slow RTS" pacing of the game makes the game easier to play and the battles more suspenseful. In other RTS games, battles tend to last no more than 10 seconds. Most of the major Sins battles average in the minutes, which frees you from the micromanaging clickfest into a more strategic contest.

The online matching service for multiplayer games is no, but it is much more robust than many other services, and there are no weird firewall bugs or network settings needed. (Yes, I'm talking about you, THQ and the lame firewall bugs in the Dawn of War series!)

Finally, the lack of intrusive copy protection is wonderful. Whether you buy it off the shelf or from Stardock's online store, all you need to activate your game is a serial number. No CD-checks, no copy-protection checks at the company's web site every time you start the game (like the Steam service), no nothing. Just the game. It is refreshing for the developers to trust their customers instead of punishing them.

The Bad
The game designers did not do a good job balancing the different factions in the game. As of the writing of this review (version 1.03 of Sins), the Advent is quite underpowered in the early game vs. TEC or the Vasari.

Some ship types are also much better than others. One multiplayer complaint is that you can basically mass huge fleets of the long-range missile ships and mow down everything in your path in the early game, ignoring the early planetary defense systems because your long-range ships can fire from out of their attack range.

The game is also prone to crashing, especially in multiplayer games, which is quite frustrating.

The AI is not all it's cracked up to be. Like in many other strategy games, you cannot practice vs. the AI to get more than a basic understanding of how to play humans in multiplayer. It's a totally different game.

Iron Lore is dedicated to fixing most of these issues (I look forward to the 1.04 patch), but the crashing and game-balance issues should really have been sorted out before the game was released.

The Space Pirates are a mixed bag in both single and multiplayer. They are too powerful in the beginning of the game and too inconsequential at the end of the game, which is why so many people turn them off. I'd like to see them developed into a more interesting part of the game.

In the single-player game, diplomacy is a mess. You can only curry favor by completing quests for other factions, which are often contradictory to your goals or arbitrarily difficult or impossible to complete. For example, sometimes the computer assigns you quests to kill 5 enemy tactical structures, and the enemy only has 4 tactical structures built. It would be nice if you could assign quests to your allies instead of just hoping they will help you.

The Bottom Line
Sins of a Solar Empire is an innovative combination of the best elements of traditional turn-based 4X games and a space RTS game. Its interface lets you control your empire in any detail level you want, from arranging each ship exactly as you want in a particular sector all the way out to moving hundreds of ships across the galaxy to destroy your enemies with one click in the strategic view. You can play single or multiplayer as one of three different factions (the TEC corporate empire, the warrior Vasari, or the religious Advent) with a wide variety of map and game options.

By Droog on September 4, 2008

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Warlords (Windows)

By Droog on April 15, 2008

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword (Windows)

By Droog on April 15, 2008

Titan Quest (Windows)

A Fun Diablo II-style RPG, surpassing Diablo II in some areas, and falling short in others.

The Good
The class advancement system is by far the best of any of the Diablo-style games that I have played. You get to combine two different classes (from a wide selection) into one of many hybrid character types. I also liked that I really felt like I got a real improvement when I leveled up an ability. The ability increases are usually linear and not diminishing like in Diablo II, so most of the time, it really matters whether you have 1 point or 5 points in an ability.

The graphics were also excellent compared to other games I've played in the genre. This actually caused some problems before they patched the game a few times, since performance sometimes suffered in intense fights. After the patches, though, these problems were mostly solved. I really enjoyed the physics effects, too. It's fun to get a critical hit and watch your enemy fly back from the impact.

Titan Quest also gets rid of a lot of the boring parts of games in this genre. You don't have to manage Town Portal scrolls, identify scrolls, or potions, for example. The caravan, where you can store unused but valuable equipment, is sharable between characters, so you don't have to resort to opening multiplayer games just for the purpose of trading items between your characters unless you never throw anything away.

Finally, the game is tuned to be a little more forgiving than Diablo II. The best items in the game are much more attainable than in Diablo II, where some items were nearly impossible to find even if you played 5 characters to level 99. In addition, single-player and multiplayer were created equal. There were no multiplayer-only items like in Diablo II. This is great for people like me, who don't want to play multiplayer that often.

The Bad
My main criticism of Titan Quest is that the game is too easy, especially in the Boss fights. Don't get me wrong, some of the bosses are quite tough until you learn how to fight them or you get the right resistances, but none of the bosses are as challenging as those in Diablo II. This is especially true of the randomly-generated bosses. Some of the random bosses in Diablo II were truly fearsome. In Titan Quest, they just take more hits to kill.

The Bottom Line
Titan Quest is a beautiful hack-n'-slash RPG that is very entertaining, even if it is a bit easy.

By Droog on April 3, 2008

Wizardry: The Return of Werdna - The Fourth Scenario (Apple II)

By Droog on February 28, 2008

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