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Preview // Dark Souls

13 Jul

Do you have a PlayStation 3? Are you are a fan of challenging adventure games? Then chances were that back in June of last year you might well have picked up Demon’s Souls, widely considered to be one of the hardest games ever created. It was hailed as a triumph of old-school action-adventure game-play combined with a fiendishly challenging difficulty level where even the most experienced of players would find it hard to stop dying. Essentially, it was a lesson in perseverance: get past the constant knockouts and eventually you would succeed and feel quite proud of yourself at the same time.

Just a year later a spiritual sequel is being lined up. Dark Souls might not be connected to its predecessor in terms of plot, but the people at Namco Bandai are set to outdo themselves once again. Worryingly, this sequel is said to be even harder to play, with online players being able to see each others’ deaths and enemies becoming more aware of tactics and inventive rather than just mindlessly attacking the player. The game will also feature an open-world environment where the player is free explore the world at their leisure – or their own peril, depending on how you see it.

Perhaps the most exciting addition though is simply a hardware one. Instead of being confined to the PlayStation 3, Dark Souls is set to unleash its demons on to the Xbox 360 as well, offering a whole new audience the opportunity to take on the challenge that this series offers.

The sequels to Dragon Age and Portal earlier this year were worthy additions to their franchises but despite their merits – Portal 2 in particular boasting an intelligent plot and genuinely witty script – they lacked a little something in the challenge department. Both could also be completed in less than 20 hours by a decent player, making Dark Souls a tantalising prospect for those looking for an adventure sequel they can really get their teeth into. All signs suggest that this installment will be devilish.

Dark Souls is released on October 7th on Namco Bandai

This article appears in Faux Magazine Online

Demon’s Souls: Proves to be Challenging

12 Jul

Okay so at this point I should probably point out that I don’t own a Playstation 3, which isn’t any great loss in the most part but it’s killing me right now because it means I can’t get a hold of this amazing game that might finally take me up on the challenge of being something I can truly sink my teeth into.

So here’s the deal with Demon’s Souls: you get to customise your own character who will be plunged into a dark, Medieval-Europe-esque world. To fight for yor life. And that’s not exaggerating either: in this game it is likely that you will die and continue to die until you get better at the game or until you have collected enough souls to enable you to gain a teeny tiny attribute boost that could potentially make all the difference (or not, if that boost turns out to be horrifyingly miniscule). There are horrid traps and increasingly ruthless enemies around every corner, so you will eventually learn to become more aware of your surroundings, and eventually you’ll suspect every little shadow and slight movement, even the smallest of noises until you can deal with what you’re faced with.

The gameplay is non-linear so potentially you can do whatever you like but the purpose of your real mission is to defeat the boss of the demon’s souls in order to bring about peace to the land. So pretty standard fare…. but hey, if you believe that theory about there only being seven stories in the world anyway then everything is similar!

There’s also an online mode which is different to any other online mode you’ve probably played: from what I can gather you don’t run around together in big gangs like in other online gaming modes but other online players will leave little notes and hints around the place to warn you of impending danger (of which there is plenty).

My interest in this game, as you can probably tell, is that it will prove to be tear-your-hair-out-frustrating. Which is great. I love games where you hardly get any parameter boosts at all, because the idea that you can level up and get stronger really quickly leaves the system open for abuse: you could potentially just level up until the cows come home and then find that you can easily defeat every enemy really fast without breaking any sweat. This is different though. Demon’s Souls would require a lot of skill. It’s why I like Mirror’s Edge. Okay, Mirror’s Edge doesn’t take very long at all to complete but if you play on hard mode then you need to be highly skilled to stop yourself dying every two seconds (the enemies are twice as strong, your health is reduced a bit, never once do you get a boost, unless you count picking up the occasional gun – which restricts movement tenfold – as a boost). It was a genuine, nail-biting challenge.

So I hope they release the game on XBox 360 soon: I really want to give this a go and spend a long while trying to figure out how to stop myself from dying. It’ll be the best love-hate relationship ever.

Greatest Video Game Character? No Way!

17 Jun

Empire Online are running a special feature about the 50 greatest video game characters of all time and have voted the man on the left, Gordon Freeman from Half-Life, as the best of the best. The top 10 were:

  1. 1. Gordon Freeman (Half-Life)
  2. 2. Mario (Super Mario series)
  3. 3. Shodan (System Shock)
  4. 4. The Nameless One (Planescape: Torment)
  5. 5. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
  6. 6. Link (The Legend of Zelda series)
  7. Guybrush Threepwood (Monkey Island series)
  8. Master Chief (Halo)
  9. The Lemmings (Lemmings)
  10. Sephiroth (Final Fantasy 7)

Ouch. Okay, so for starters who will actually remember Gordon Freeman in 20 years time? I don’t think longevity of a game franchise is necessary to be iconic, but Sephiroth only needed one shot to be completely burned into the memories of millions of gamers. Gordon Freeman? Who remembers him like they remember Sephiroth? Bearing in mind that the both games were released at roughly the same time… Come on, there’s no contest! Empire said that Freeman was the best because everyone could pick a little bit of themselves out of him, but does that really mean he’s great?

Mario has been unfairly overshadowed in my opinion. He may just be a simple plumber with a bashful nature and an inhuman leap but he’s iconic. When you think of Nintendo, your thoughts instantly turn to the man in the bright red overalls. Oh, and maybe Link if he was more your thing (I probably am more endeared to the mute wood-elf than the stereotypical moustachioed plumber but hey, I do love him too!). And where the heck was Sonic on this list? Sonic is Sega. To be fair, he was further down but that wasn’t high enough for my liking. I wanted him to be higher. Surely everyone knows about the lightning-fast blue hedgehog?

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that they may not be the toughest, violentest, human characters ever but if you’re thinking of great, then surely just through being icons of their genres, franchises and production companies, that Sephiroth, Sonic, Mario and Link needed more love. Stuff Gordon Freeman.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope

12 Jun

Last week, in a desperate attempt to find a game that would help quench my thirst for long, adventure-style games I bought “Star Ocean: The Last Hope” after some research. I had been after the game for a couple of years but never quite got around to it (bearing in mind that roughly the same time it was released, I was immersed in Final Fantasy 12).

The narrative follows two teenagers, Edge Maverick and Reimi Saijoni, as they travel across the Star Ocean in hopes of finding a suitable refuge for the people of Earth, who have been displaced after the planet succumbed to the effects of World War 3. Along the way they meet many friendly and unfriendly races, search for Edge’s missing rival Crowe and try to solve the day-to-day problems of the people on various planets.

The graphics are really good, even though the characters look more based on anime than on real human beings, and the controls are not fiddly at all. It’s easy to explore the various planets and take your time with searching around, fighting enemies and talking to people in need. There are also tons of items, equipment and skills to collect and learn which makes Star Ocean a time-consuming but rewarding play.

The battle system is at first repetitive but soon develops into a more interesting experience as you learn new skills and symbology (this game’s magic). At the beginning of the game you have no choice but to repeatedly bash the attack button and wait for victory, but I’ve reached the third planet now and it’s starting to become a more tactical affair: the enemies are tougher, smarter, and it’s difficult to work out the best strategy to stop yourself being killed. Luckily, there are many different characters that you can control, so if the going gets tough with one party member, you can switch to another and try different battle methods. You can also choose how freestyle or conservatively the other party members are, so if you were worried abot using up too much MP then you could make your characters fight in a more melee style.

The major downside of the game is that the save points are very far apart, meaning that if you want to get anywhere with the storyline then you’ll have to devote at least a couple of hours to the cause each time you play. At the minute I don’t have all of the characters available but I know that people say that some of the characters are annoying: I have Lymle Lemuri in my party and she’s a fifteen year old who acts about six. She’s starting to get on my nerves a bit, but I suppose it’s her personality (her biography says that both of her parents died when she was young and despite having a grandfather she wanted to fend for herself and finds it hard to make friends and trust people, so she is more attached to her summon spell Cerberus than any human). Some of the voice-acting is a little amateurish, but that could be seen as being picky!

However, despite its downsides Star Ocean is actually a really good experience and is great for people who have an RPG-shaped hole in their lives. As for me, I think it’s a great filler for the timespace between now and when I eventually grab a copy of Final Fantasy 13.

It’s-A-Me, Mario!

11 Jun

Do you know what I did a couple of weeks back? I bought the new LCD soundsystem album. Then do you know what I did? I played Super Mario 64 – you might remember that a couple of months ago I managed to get my retro console working again and after that I was attached to it permanently for a good few weeks. It was time to unleash Mario:


I’m so sad I can even tell which level this is from that slightly awkward angle: this is Dire Dire Docks, where you have to get this star in order to unlock the second Bowser level, Bowser In The Fire Sea. Needless to say, I completed the game promptly. I turned Bowser into the mega-star and freed Princess Peach from his evil mitts (although I actually feel really sorry for Bowser in this one because he’s sooooo cute!). Why did I drag LCD Soundsystem into this? Well funnily enough I listened to it while playing the game and the retro synth sounds made the perfect soundtrack to the game. Weird, huh?

Anyway, you must be wondering why I’m talking about any of this, right? Well surely it’s obvious! The much-anticipated release of Super Mario Galaxy 2!

Fun yet probably pointless factoid: this is the first ever direct sequel to a Mario game. Apparently creator Shigeru Miyamoto (who was also the mastermind behind the Legend of Zelda games) thought it was the right time to bring out a direct sequel because he had a whole bunch of ideas left over from the original Super Mario Galaxy that he thought were good enough to use in another game. Usually when ideas are left out it’s because they’re just not that good but apparently this sequel is perfect in every way: a techniclour dreamworld that will infuriate and delight at the same time. Just like all of the classic Mario games then!

This one re-introduces Yoshi the dinosaur into the frame to give Mario new abilities. Here’s what I think: every time a character in a franchise gets “new abilities” it can only mean one thing. A good few hours of getting mad and saying “Why won’t you do it? I’m telling you to go that way and you’ve done the opposite thing!” When I first played Super Mario 64 I was young. Pretty young. And I was tormented by how complicated its platform-style levels were. For me the slower-paced and laid-back “Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” was a heck of a lot easier.

But now I’m all grown up and can fly through 64 without batting an eyelid (years of experience!) I feel I could take Mario and Yoshi on. And win. Eventually. To be honest there’s not enough truly challenging games out there anymore: whenever I think something will test my skill I end up disappointed. But my love-hate relationship with Mario shouldn’t let me down: I will prevail!

Song Summoner Encore: Innovation!

7 Jun

Last year creators of Final Fantasy SquareEnix released Song Summoner Encore under the radar, and now I’ve got my mitts on it. It was a game specifically designed for the iPod. And it works like a dream!

Basically, five years have passed since Ziggy and his brother Zero escaped from the Empire. Zero was recaptured, Ziggy was saved by the tune master. In the present day Ziggy is given a conductor’s cube which allows him to make Tune Troopers and his search for his brother can begin.

This is where the innovation starts. You simply can’t play this game without having at least 20 songs on your iPod – characters are created by using the music you have. If you select a song, they will create a class, type, rank and status for your new battle creation – I thought I had the idea sussed but the way that the characters are created is completely random and you can’t get a brilliant character just by picking a song you’ve played to death. After this, the characters can rank up in two ways: you can advance their status from bronze to silver to gold to platinum by using crystals yuo get after battle or in the rehearsal room. You can also play their song to let them go up levels (up to 99). It all means a lot of hard work, but you’re rewarded to listening to music on your iPod. Neat, huh?

The graphics aren’t bad either. It’s not in the crisp league of some miniature games that Square have released, but the innovative play system more than makes up for some of the minor imperfections of the game. All in all, it’s a great play!

Prince of Persia: Already A Letdown?

6 May

Coming soon to a large multiplex cinema near you: Jerry Bruckheimer’s take on Prince of Persia:

I have to apologize for the slightly dodgy picture quality here; what I was trying to pull off didn’t quite work I’m afraid. Anyway, any film by Jerry Bruckheimer will no doubt have its share of thrills and spills and also a large spoonful of wooden dialogue (including clangers, plus some explanations that we’re frankly patronised by) but his films always make for a good night out, right?

Well maybe not if, like me, you’re a disgruntled fan of the original Prince of Persia games. First of all, the Prince never had a name, secondly, he wasn’t so wooden in the way he talked. No doubt Jake Gyllenhaal can wield a sword very well (he’ll have to, otherwise it’ll be “Prince of Persia: The Laughable Rogue”) and Gemma Arterton as his love-interest Tamina will prove to be a good sidekick. Plus we’ll be able to tell who the bad guy is because he’ll be the one wearing the most eye-liner. We’ve got all that, but none of this:

That’s right: BEAST BASHING! In Bruckheimer’s version, the Prince will not slay a single zombie or kick a demon into the pits of oblivion – all of the enemies are human. To my mind this defies one of the points of Prince of Persia: it’s a platformer where you get to kill some inhuman beasties using some flashy swashbuckling moves. It would have been better if, like in the video game, the Prince used the Dagger of Time to stop a zombie or demon from jumping on him. Surely the film needs to have an element of the supernatural in it? Even if the villain eventually turns into that devil-god monster from the fourth installment in the end, at least it’ll keep the purists happy.

I suppose if you’re not familiar with the game, then you’ll enjoy the film as a piece of escapism. If not, well, at least they’ve got the Prince’s clothes right!

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