Is Diablo 3 fixed?


With the closure of the Real Money Auction House (alongside the in-game gold auction house), there has been talk on whether or not the issues with Diablo 3 have been fixed. They haven’t been. At least not completely, and I don’t think they ever can be truly wiped from the game without making another title.

The flaws themselves differ from player to player, and like anything referring to games it’s debatable. The disconnects, faulty server connection, loot that would pale in comparison to the auction house, and sub-par writing plagued the launch. Most of that has been fixed, and if you’re a fan of Chris Metzen that last bit has never been an issue. What hasn’t been fixed is what can’t be fixed.

The skill runes over a traditional or intricate RPG set up to make an unique character is the biggest issue. Diablo 2 punished you for not allocating your skills correctly; a simple respec via quest or vendor would’ve answered this. Instead we get a decent handful of skills/spells, along with runes, to cater to specific play styles when combined. This is either an advancement or a disgrace; there is Path of Exile, Torchlight 2, or even Borderlands 2 for us that dissent.

The other major issue is lack of LAN play combined with always having to be online. It’s in part to hurt pirates and spoofing items, but it mainly affects those of us who don’t always have a stable connection. It also makes hardcore characters extremely painful when you’re dealing with a faulty modem or router. The answer is simple: include off-line play (and please LAN play), but disable achievements when a connection to the server is not available.

The last bit is the story. The voice acting, characters, and the multiple settings don’t quite capture the eerie Diablo feel of previous games. Everything reminds me of World of Warcraft. Gameplay is always more important than story (we’re not playing a visual novel or adventure game), but here Blizzard dropped the ball. The Butcher is re-hashed for no other reason but nostalgia. Belial and Azmodan just sit back like cartoon villains. The writing is grandiose, epic, without any sense of gravitas.

Yet, I can’t stop my self from putting in 10-15 minutes a day while deciding what multiplayer game to play with 2-5 friends. I’ve spent enough of the day browsing the internet, and I want something I can quit. And, just like World of Warcraft, it gives me that hollow dopamine fix. Plus, it let’s a certain family member know that their gift wasn’t completely in vain. Otherwise, it’s not worth your $20.

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Dragon’s Crown Review: An Ode To Gygax


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If you get your video game news either by word of mouth from your friends or through TV commercials, you likely haven’t heard of Dragon’s Crown.  However if you peruse the internet like the rest of us, chances are you’ve seen some facet of this game.  Whether it be the game’s incredibly gorgeous art style, the outrage about the game’s portrayal of women from tumblr users and feminists withing the gaming community, or perhaps you’ve seen one of the many adult comics of the female characters that, strangely, existed far before the game was announced.  If you’re uninformed about the game, then strap yourself in, because there is a lot to praise about this game.  Since we at NUReviews like to focus on the things that really make a game great or not, our insight and personal views on the controversy of this game will not be affecting our review score.

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Let’s start with the presentation of the game, because when it comes to the presentation, there is nothing that I don’t love about this game.  All the art is classic Vanillaware style, which if you’ve played Muramasa or Odin Sphere, you know what I’m talking about.  Hand drawn, beautifully colored backdrops and characters that animate as fluidly as a flowing river.  On the Vita’s screen everything looks amazing, and once upscaled to your TV screen on the PS3, everything just pops that much more.  All the effects in the game look as good as the characters and backgrounds, though when you can have four playable characters on the screen with all those enemies, things get a little blinding.  The story is told in a fashion similar to a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons, and by similar, I mean exactly.  The story is told through cutscenes of barely static characters against backdrops, all voices and text are read by a singular Narrator entity like a Dungeon Master painting the scene for their players.  In Dragon’s Crown you play as a random adventurer who has come to a new land with their thief sidekick Ronnie in search of adventure and treasure.  You learn that the king of the land has gone missing searching for the Dragon’s Crown, a mystical crown that gives one the ability to control dragons, in hopes that it will help him defend his kingdom from encroaching war.  Meanwhile, an evil group of magicians have been attempting to revive the Ancient Dragon, a powerful creature who has supremacy over all magic, and threatens the life of the entire world.  Aside from the six playable classes and your rouge side kick, there is a cavalcade of NPCs that you will meet along your journey, some run shops or other places that aid you on your quest, others are simply mission based and provide you with information about your current mission or an alternate route after a certain point in the game.

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The gameplay is a mix of simplistic beat em up gameplay with RPG mechanics, similar to the D&D beat em ups like Shadow Over Mystara.  You control your character’s movement with the left control stick, allowing your character to move both left and right, and into and out of the foreground, similar to Castle Crashers.  Pressing the Square button unleashes a normal attack, while the X button lets you jump and the Circle button triggers a special.  The special depends on your character, for instance the Wizard can use Circle and a direction with the control stick to unleash different magic spells based on their staff, while the Dwarf simply slams his hammers into the ground in a manly fashion.  Holding the Square button will also perform some form of character trait, in the Dwarfs case it hardens your defense, while the Sorceress and Wizard use it to recharge mana.  You can use any items in your inventory by scrolling to them with the left and right buttons on the d-pad, then using the down button to use the item, however this happens in real time, so be sure not to get hurt while you’re doing it.  You can access and change your equipment any time you’re in town, but you’re stuck with that set the second you enter a dungeon until you finish.  In town you can also buy items such as potions, which allows a limited use in each given dungeon, but will automatically refill themselves up to a certain point upon your return.  This however leads to my biggest problem with the game, the menu system.  By yourself, the menus are of no concern, however the more players you have the more of a hassle it becomes.  Only one player can access each menu at a given time, and every other player must wait for their turn to do what they need to do.  This becomes specifically troublesome when buying/repairing items (which uses gold from the same pool that every player uses, better hope your buddy doesn’t use the last of the gold to repair his weapons before you get a chance to), changing equipment, learning skills, and accepting quests, which each player in the party has to do individually else they won’t get the rewards.  This is easily the hugest problem the game has, for as a four player co-op beat em up, everything in the game should be fluid and match the flow of the action segments, not cause everyone to stop in their tracks for a few minutes while they wait on their friend to decide between repairing their belt or buying a defense up potion.

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The action segments of the game are fairly linear, it’s essentially like any other beat em up where you have to move from point A to point B while scrolling to the right side of the screen.  Some rooms in dungeons will have secret passage ways that you can access by touching (or on the PS3 version, clicking using the right analog stick and the L2 button) something in the background or fulfilling certain requirements in the room.  When you come across a chest or locked door, simply touching/clicking it will command your rouge to go unlock it.  Doors will lead you to alternate rooms where some enemies or treasure will be waiting for you, while treasure chests will give you random amounts of gold and a treasure rank.  Each treasure rank (which ranges from E to S) turns into a single equip-able item at the end of the dungeon, which you have to appraise to learn the true abilities of, costing you a handful of gold to do so.  By picking up coins and other trinkets that fall on the ground, you increase your score, which gets turned into the group experience points once you finish.  At the end of each dungeon is a boss fight, and after a certain point in the game, each dungeon gets a harder, alternate path that you have to complete to further the story.  Along the way you’ll encounter piles of bones that you can pick up with the Triangle button (or if you’re a Sorceress and posses a certain skill, you can turn these bones into an undead minion).  If you take these bones to the church in town, you can resurrect them into AI controlled allies to accompany you into dungeons when playing solo (which, if you don’t have friends or are playing on the Vita, you’ll be doing until about 5 hours into the game).  The AI for these characters isn’t the best AI in town, but they get their job done…sometimes.

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Now you may have been wondering what I meant when I mentioned the controversy around this game at the beginning of the review.  Well let me give you a quick run down, basically there was a huge upheaval about this game when it came out due to it’s portrayal of women.  There were claims that the game’s depictions were “sexist”, and reviewer for Polygon Danielle Riendau claimed it to be “distracting…It’s obvious, one-sided and gross”.   One of the writers from our “favorite” site Kotaku even called the Sorceress, who is depicted as a young woman with a slim figure and massive breasts, as a “lolicon fantasy”, because that’s what lolicon means all right.  With just as many arguments and claims that it is sexist, there have been just as many defending the game.  Many point out that it’s part of Vanillaware’s art style, in which large breasts are used as a symbol of fertility and life, and often associated to characters who dabble in Necromancy such as the Sorceress.  My personal opinion on the art style that most of it is within good taste, a lot of the character art used for cutscenes or unlockable art match a certain artistic theme similar to medieval paintings.  While the Sorceress and Amazon’s proportions might be to the extreme, I would never call this game sexist, as it treats men in an extremely similar fashion, drawing many men in unreasonable shapes or proportions (such as having a chest three times the size of their head).

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And now we get down to brass taxes, the final summary and score of the game.  In the amount of time that I’ve had to play Dragon’s Crown I’ve had a blast.  It’s been great fun playing single player, and when I played local co-op with my friends we all had a good time (when we weren’t dealing with the menu system).  I’ve just gotten to when the game opens access to the rest of it’s goodies, such as online play and the expanded, harder dungeons, but I can tell I have much, much more in store for me in the coming hours.  Despite it’s couple of flaws, the game’s art style, story presentation, and gameplay are beautifully done and make for a game that exceeds many expectations.  However, I probably wouldn’t recommend this game to everyone, if you wouldn’t get committed to it you’ll likely get tired of it quickly.  With that in mind, I give Dragon’s Crown for the PS3 and PlayStation Vita an edited score of 4 out of 6 stars.

Project X Zone Review: WHAT AM I FIGHTING FOR!? No, really…


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Chances are if you own a Nintendo 3DS, you know of Project X Zone.  The big collaboration title got a massive following when it was announced for release in Japan, and similarly to Xenoblade Chronicles or Pandora’s Tower, hoards of fans begged for it to be brought over to the west.  Well their cries were heard and their wishes granted, for Project X Zone has breached our shores for about a month now, so the question on your mind may be: “Is it really worth it?”

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The story follows a cast of characters whose size would make the Game of Thrones cast look like as small dog, and that’s before R.R.Martin wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.  The cast is comprised of characters from across numerous series owned by Bandai Namco, Capcom, and Sega, some of which never even made it stateside.  As with many cross over games, the story REALLY follows a handful of original characters designed solely for the game, in this case it’s Kogoro Tenzai and Mii Koryuji.  Mii is a cheerleader and youngest member of a rich family, and Kogoro is her tutor/private detective/ninja…yeah, I couldn’t make that up if I tried.  A treasure of the Koryuji family, the Portalstone, has been stolen, and due to it worlds from across space and time, reality and virtual reality, are crashing together.  Allies and Villains alike clash in a battle for the stability of the multiverse.  Needless to say, the story isn’t the strong point of this game.  It’s hardly enticing and really only picks up in the later chapters of the game, I didn’t find myself caring until 10 chapters away from the end, and only then I was wondering what the non-original villains were up to.  And with a lackluster story comes similarly lackluster writing, while it’s still better than most of the fanfiction universe (a place where something like this would seem to fit right at home) and the entirety of the Twilight series, it still leaves much to be desired.  Gratefully all the established characters talk and act similarly to how they would in their own series, and there are a number of little nods to their respective games.  For example, when ever Frank West encounters a new, female character that is, how should we say, top heavy, he snaps a picture of her and the “Erotic!” label from the Dead Rising game will pop up over the female.

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The battle system is really where the game shines.  Project X Zone is a Strategy RPG with a battle system that focuses heavily on combos and special attacks.  Each playable character is divided into pairs of two, such as X and Zero from Megaman X, Chris and Jill from Resident Evil, and Dante and Demitri Maximoff from Devil May Cry/DarkStalkers.  Along with these pairs are solo units which you can group up with your pair units, and while you can’t control these solo units directly, you can summon them to deal extra damage and extend your combos.  Examples of solo units include Tron Bonne from Megaman Legends, Ulala from Space Channel 5, and Totally-Not-Bruce-Willis Bruno Delinger (PS. It’s totally Bruce Willis).  Battles are separated into two “phases”, there’s the over-world and the battle screen.  In the over-world you have an isometric view of the whole battle field, where you’ll be able to see all enemy and ally placements.  Everyone moves on a grid based system within a pre-determined range, and can attack any unit within a pre-determined attack range.  When an enemy unit attacks one of your characters, you can expend some of their XP to either lessen the damage done to you, or counter your opponent with some attacks in exchange for taking full damage.  When you choose to attack an enemy, your current active unit and any solo unit paired with them are pulled into battle, also, if you’re standing next to another pair unit, you can summon them into battle as well to extend your combo and deal more damage.  The battle screen is set up on a 2D view similar to most fighting games, with the enemy on the left side of the screen and your controlled unit on the right.  By using any combination of a directional button and the a button, you can unleash one of 5 attacks against your enemy, building up XP as you do so.  If you use all of your available moves once, you’ll be granted an extra attack, so once your full array of attacks is available you can perform a maximum of 6 attacks.  By pressing L or R you can bring in the solo or extra pair unit to attack, and if you land an attack at the same time as them you’ll perform a X-Attack.  Once activated, your opponent freezes in place and you generate more XP than usual.  Once your XP is 100% or greater you may press the Y button to perform a unique special attack which will do massive damage to your opponent.  I absolutely love this battle system, it’s very similar to the system in a DS game by the name of Super Robot Taisen OG Saga Endless Frontier (in fact, some of the characters from that game make it into Project X Zone).  However, as much as I can praise the battle system, it still doesn’t shine as much as one would hope.

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The game offers very little in terms of difficulty, and reaches more the realms of frustration.  Never was I really challenged by the difficulty of an enemy, since their all pretty much the same through out the game, just with scaled health and damage output.  Most normal enemies can be taken out easily single battle with proper  combo management (and some even improper combo management), while bosses are just a matter of ganging up on them with super attacks.  Often you’ll start a level feeling as if there’s a proper amount of challenge, then three turns in the field will be swarmed by new enemies and bosses, often surrounding your current units and putting your team at risk.  Even with that however I only ever lost a unit maybe three times, the cause of which being me just neglecting their health.  When a unit loses all it’s health, it’s simply out for the rest of level and will be back in fighting shape next level, so there’s no fear of perma-death like in some other strategy games.  Item management is also not a big issue, while I often felt as if I didn’t have enough of the items that heal greater amounts of my health/XP, I never found myself in a situation where I needed an item I didn’t have.  Combine this with the bad story and lack luster writing, it doesn’t lead to a very favorable start.  All in all the game is decent enough, in my eyes, but it’s not something I would recommend to everyone.  If you really like the characters, then you should probably wait till it’s on sale before you pick it up, at least 50% off.  If nothing really turns you on about the game, but you still might pick it up, wait until you can get it REALLY cheap, otherwise you’ll probably feel as if you wasted your money.  I give Project X Zone for the Nintendo 3DS, a NUReviews rating of 3 stars.

 

C’mon Step It Up Podcast Special: The Xbox One Announcement


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The Xbox One has been announced! And…well, I rather not say more. Just listen to this special episode of ‘C’mon, Step it Up’ and find out what we think.
Download the MP3 here: https://archive.org/download/CsiuXboxOneSpecial/CsiuXboxOneSpecial.mp3

Articles mentioned:
http://www.computerandvideogames.com/408116/microsoft-xbox-one-pre-owned-plans-consistent-with-way-the-world-works/

http://www.joystiq.com/2013/05/21/xbox-one-not-backwards-compatible-with-360-discs-xbla-purchases/

http://www.joystiq.com/2013/05/21/xbox-one-may-require-game-installs-close-out-used-game-market/

Music provided by Bleepy Bloopy

http://bleepybloopy.bandcamp.com/

Thoughts on Iron Man 3 (Spoiler Free)


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Iron Man 3 Director Shane Black had a tough act to follow. The hype that surrounded the Avengers and the praise it got after being released was massive. But I’m glad to say that Iron Man 3 was not only a great follow up to not just the Avengers and the Iron Man Series, but it’s just as good as the first Iron Man in my opinion.

Here’s a quick plot setup for the movie (again, spoiler free, don’t worry): Post-’Avengers’ Tony Stark is suffering from panic attacks due to the attack on New York (as seen in the Avengers). As a way to cope, Tony Stark begins to build numerous prototype suits for just about any emergency or situation in order to be sure that he’ll be able to protect his loved ones, especially Pepper Potts. However, a new terrorist threat emerges in the form of the 10 Rings, led by the Mandarin. At the same time, a mysterious person from Tony’s past, Aldrich Killian, surfaces with a vendetta against Stark.

When compared to the previous Iron Man films, this is much more of a character driven story. In fact, for a majority of the film, you’ll be seeing Tony outside of a suit rather than in one. But rest assured, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t as much action. In fact, I feel that the action choreography in IM3 is quite creative. The humor found in this movie is great as well. Tony’s snark/sassiness is set to maximum. As this is Robert Downey Jr’s fifth portrayal of Tony Stark (counting the cameo in The Incredible Hulk), all of his one liners and retorts feel quite natural, as we come to expect this sort of behavior out of him.

The rest of the cast do a stellar job with their respective roles. Major props go to Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of the Mandarin, which surprised me as being a bigger role than I expected (leaving it at that to avoid spoilers).

However, there are certain aspects of the film that I feel that the comic fans in the audience would find controversial, since it’s a different interpretation of the Iron Man lore. But the movie was still good regardless, so the more open minded fans would be able to overlook it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, since in my eyes, it hit just about every mark. It doesn’t try to be  Iron Man 1 again (which was a reason why Iron Man 2 fell flat with audiences), but rather it continues the story that the previous films has set up. That might be something that Marvel Studios has realized. Sequels don’t have to be ‘bigger’ to supersede the previous movies, but now that all of major players of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been set up, they can make continuations and new stories for these heroes to venture.

I’m not going to give a rating on the film, but rather I’m giving this movie a heavily regarded recommendation to everyone. I assure you that you will not leave this movie disappointed.

The Movement #1 Review


The Social Justice supergroup coming to a tumblr near you.

If this comic was supposed to get me to side with the Movement themselves, it failed. Horribly.

This is going to be rife with spoilers for the first issue. I’m still trying the Green Team in hopes of a story covering the venture capitalists of the DC world, but unless this is shoved in my face it’s not being touched.

The issue starts with a teenage girl being sexually harassed, soon to be assaulted, by two corrupt cops in Coral City. They’re stopped because they’re being recorded by several members of “Channel M” who all wear this mask:

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The only likable character, the police chief of Coral City, catches wind of this from the news and starts the usual, lawful procedures against the two cops. It’s later mentioned that the cops are protected by being union members, but that doesn’t mean the case is closed; it just has to go through city council first, and with video evidence against them it won’t be easy to defend.

The police chief starts investigating a murder case near a church while the suspect is still in the area. The Movement comes in to defend the suspect (because he’s mentally ill and super-powered), rejects the authority of the police, and has rats eat up one of the dead bodies to destroy evidence.

It was preachy, the art looked a bit rushed, and it made me dislike the entire team of heroes. Other comics have attempted what it’s trying to do, and have done it better. This is especially true for non-big-two comics from the past three decades, but even true for DC itself. Did you want a team with some diversity in it instead of the usual? Earth 2 has that, and it actually makes sense given that the scope of their problems are actually worldwide.  Did you want social justice or confrontation of social issues? The Invisibles did a better job tackling, “the system,” and Y: The Last Man did a spectacular commentary on third-wave feminism.

This is just the beginning for The Movement, though. It could get better. So far, however, I care for none of the heroes, dislike two of the police force, and feel sorry for the police chief that is left to handle everything. Now that a Joker event tie-in, and Batman, isn’t there to sell the title, it’s a wonder if it’ll still sell in six issues.

 

Comics Review: East of West #1


Futuristic, western, alternate-history apocalypse.

 

Jonathan Hickman is a writer that loves his work; he indulges in it, and the resulting story reflects his tender, loving treatment. Avengers has been taking up most of his time, as did Fantastic Four  and FF before Marvel NOW! It’s been good, but it hasn’t been nearly as enjoyable as Manhattan Projects and his other creator-owned content. As a habit of following good writers, East of West was picked up. The story didn’t disappoint and neither did the art.

East of West is an alternate-history, Western, futuristic apocalypse story. The first few pages set the backdrop: the South never lost the Civil War because the remaining Amerindian tribes rallied as one and also fought the Union. The struggle was long, but moderately successful. Texas never fully joined the union and remained a separate entity. There is no California; only a People’s Republic of America because Mai Zedong chose to flee to America as Chang Kai-shek or the Japanese took over mainland Asia (the rest of the world hasn’t been addressed yet). The year is also 2064 A.D. after all of these events. A classic, Christian-centric apocalypse has begun. The four horseman are rallying to cull humanity sans one – Death.

It’s very, very fun, but it’s not everyone. Right now it looks like it may be better to pick up in trade paperback form; I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I majored in History. Alternate history stories are my legal version of pot brownies. This was a brief introduction into the world, what has become of the people due to changed events, and the reasons why the apocalypse is coming. It manages to be a bit less pretentious than Hickman’s current Avengers run (unless he’s just building up Ex Nihilo as a villain or breaching out even more into cosmic, but that’s neither here nor there).

The art itself works. It’s what I’d expect in quality from Image. Nick Dragotta captures the characters and the setting as he should; nothing is wrong with it. For what Hickman is probably writing in the script, his artwork is amazing. Yet what really stands out is Frank Martin’s coloring and inking. The contrast that the four horsemen have to the rest of the world is eye-catching; this, again, is probably in the script because Hickman’s Manhattan Projects does have similar contrast. Hickman has paired himself up with considerable talent though considering a writer is nothing without an artist in this industry.

East of West #1 is out now for $3.50 from Image. It has more pages, in color, than comics published from DC or Marvel. You just may want to wait for the trade depending on how long the story needs to be told.