Final Fantasy VII (Review)

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Boy, am I ever starting to feel old. It’s hard to believe that it has been sixteen years since Final Fantasy VII was released. What’s less hard to believe is that the game has been given a brand new release on Steam so many years later because, hey, Final Fantasy games stand the test of time perhaps greater than almost any other franchise out there. So, to celebrate the return of Final Fantasy VII on Steam, I’m going to review the game for those who haven’t played the game. Yes, there are still people in this day and age who haven’t played this massive game! Continue reading

Primal Carnage (Review)

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Ah, a first person shooter. A quick glance at the list of reviews I have on here will quickly reveal that I don’t play many or, at the very least, I choose not to write about them. This is because I’m not really a major fan of first person shooters. They tend to feel very “samey” in this day and age. Everything is a modern war shooter, I guess because Call of Duty: Modern Warfare took off and everyone wanted to emulate it. Continue reading

Final Fantasy VII Coming to PC (Again)

Final Fantasy VII is headed to PCs. No, you’re not going crazy. Yes, this game was already relased for PC in 1998. So what’s going on? Square-Enix has decided to unleash an updated version of the game upon PC users. The game will be available for download on Square-Enix’s official website and a Steam version has also been heavily hinted at. Considering how pretty much every Square-Enix PC game ends up on Steam, it’s really not too far fetched to expect it to appear on Valve’s service.

So what is Square-Enix promising with this version and why should you buy it? Well, unless you missed out on the game when it was originally released (how?!) or are a rabid fan of the title, there isn’t much reason to really lay down the cash for it. Here’s what we know is being included:

  • Achievements: A whopping thirty six of them.
  • Character Boost: A feature for casuals that increases character stats. Isn’t this game already easy enough?
  • Cloud Saves: Must… resist urge… to make a corny joke!

I would say that HD and widescreen compatibility modes are sure definites for the game though neither have been confirmed. The original music from the Playstation version of the game will surely (and hopefully) be included. Many will probably recall that the original PC version came with an awful sounding MIDI soundtrack instead which could only be remedied through the use of various unofficial plugins.

Final Fantasy VII is expected to sell for somewhere in the range of $10 to $15. Watch for it soon!

Terraria 1.05 Released

Version 1.05 of Terraria has been released, and it’s most likely the biggest and most extensive patch yet! Here are the patch notes for the new version, provided by developer Tiy and expanded upon by myself.

NPCs

  • New Enemy: Antlion
  • New Enemy: Blue Jellyfish
  • New Enemy: Crab
  • New Enemy: Demon
  • New Enemy: Hellbat
  • New Enemy: Lava Slime
  • New Enemy: Pink Jellyfish
  • New Enemy: Shark
  • New Enemy: Vulture
  • Changed the way worm enemies spawn.
  • Bats, Hornets, and Eyeballs no longer enter water
  • Slimes now float in water.
  • Only one giant slime will appear at a time.
  • The Guide now seems quite knowledgeable in what an item can be made into if you show it to him.
  • NPC shops now sell some items on certain nights, or after certain events.
  • Devourers should no longer gain random other enemies as its head.
  • The Nurse now charges the correct amount for healing.
  • Bats now have a death sound effect.
  • Talking to the old man at night will give the player a warning now before summoning the dungeon boss.
  • Entering the dungeon before defeating Skeletron now spawns a new NPC instead of Skeletron’s head. This should fix several issues with that event.
  • Enemy coin drops have been adjusted.
  • Man Eaters and Snatchers are no longer effected by knockback and can attack through walls.
  • Eater of Souls’ and Hornet AI has been improved.
  • Enemies now take up different amount of *slots* depending on AI style and strength. This will help balance conditions when there are lots of strong monsters spawned at once, such as Imps and Bone Serpents.
  • Fish are no longer upside-down when out of water.
  • Green slimes have been weakend so that start players can deal with them more easily.
  • Slimes and Flying enemies no longer make a splash sound when hitting water.
  • Items of “Blue Rarity” or higher no longer burn up in lava.
  • Burning Skull has been renamed to Cursed Skull, and given different AI.
  • Enemy caster’s have had their rate of fire slowed down.
  • Meteor heads have less health, do more damage, and move slower.
  • There are now slight size variations to the Eater of Souls and the Angry Bones.
  • Skeletron has less defense and health.

New Items

  • Antlion Mandible
  • Blowpipe + Blowpipe Seeds
  • Bottled Water
  • Dark Lance
  • Demon Scythe
  • Diving Helmet
  • Doctor Armor Set (Vanity Armor)
  • Familiar Armor Set (Vanity Armor)
  • Feather
  • Glowstick/Sticky Glowstick
  • Gold Chest
  • Guide Voodoo Doll
  • Illegal Gun Parts
  • Hellfire Arrow
  • Night’s Edge
  • Poison Knife
  • Sandgun
  • Shark Fin
  • Silver Bullet
  • Throwing Knife
  • Tombstone
  • Trident
  • Wooden Boomerang
  • Archery Potion
  • Battle Potion
  • Defense Potion
  • Featherfall Potion
  • Gills Potion
  • Gravitation Potion
  • Hunter Potion
  • Invisibility Potion
  • Magic Power Potion
  • Mana Regeneration Potion
  • Night Owl Potion
  • Obsidian Skin Potion
  • Regeneration Potion
  • Shine Potion
  • Spelunker Potion
  • Swiftness Potion
  • Thorns Potion
  • Water Walking Potion

Item Changes/Mechanics

  • New Feature : Buffs activated by Using Potions. Right click a buff to remove it from yourself.
  • The Silver Short swords recipe has been corrected, it is now craftable.
  • Torches and candles no longer work when wet.
  • Destroying a placed sign while you are reading it will no longer cause your character to become frozen.
  • Rocket boots no longer require mana. They will provide lift for 1 second and recharge every time the player touches the ground or uses grapple. Lift speed has been slightly increased to offset loss of long flights. This makes the boots more viable for caster Characters.
  • The explosion animation for bombs is now correctly displayed in multiplayer.
  • There is now a message pop-up when the player receives an item.
  • Filled Buckets may no longer be emptied into solid ground.
  • Pots in the underworld now have a chance to drop new items
  • Handgun and Phoenix Blaster have been reduced in size.
  • Lowered the knockback of Muramasa.
  • Reduced the damage of the Blue Moon.
  • Flintlock Pistol and Musket have increased damage.
  • Only normal trees drop acorns.
  • Falling sand clumps are no longer carried by magic missiles/flamelash.
  • Jungle armor is no longer a drop. It is a craftable set.
  • Magic Mirror now requires mana to be used.
  • Harpoon and Maces now correctly show the player’s arm animation.
  • The arms dealer will sell unholy arrows at night after the Eater of Worlds has been defeated.
  • Space Gun does more damage, but only penetrates 2 enemies.

Online/Server

  • Spam detection is less aggressive.
  • Increase multiplayer security.
  • Fixed a bug that could crash the server when the max amount of clients are connected.
  • Added an option to enable additional cheat protection for servers.
  • Servers now hibernate when no players are connected.
  • Blood Moons now stop correctly if time is changed to day by the server.

Interface

  • Upon death, A more specific death message will appear for other players, so they know how you died.
  • The crafting and armor interface text will fade out when an item tooltip is in front of it.
  • The Hot Bar now shows the name of the selected item.
  • PVP now requires 5 seconds between Activation and Deactivation and visa versa to prevent PVP spam. The same cooldown is in effect for Team Changing as well.
  • Added hotkeys for quickly drinking healing, mana, and buff potions.The healing/mana potion you use is based on the same principle arrows are. Top-Left most item first. The buff potions are all used at once.
  • Holding right click on an empty space in the inventory will no longer make a sound effect as if something was there to be picked up.
  • Defense totals are now shown in your inventory.

World Generation

  • Tweaked the way sand is created during world gen. (Requires new world.)
  • Oceans are now slightly larger and generation layout has been improved. (Requires new world.)
  • Cactus now grow on sand.
  • Coral now grows in the ocean.
  • Chests can now spawn near the surface of the world. They will contain treasure that new players may find useful. (Requires new world.)
  • Chests and pots now contain loot based on the level they spawn in. (Requires new world.)
  • Gold chests will now spawn in some parts of the world. (Requires new world.)
  • Corrupt chasms have less of a chance to spawn on jungles. They also now have a cave connecting most of the chasms. (Requires new world.
  • Traces of demonite are created during world gen. (Requires new world.)
  • Surface jungles have been enlarged, and will override deserts. (Requires new world.)

Miscellaneous

  • Corrected some spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Lighting code has been optimized to increase performance.
  • Mud and ash now have a chance to fall like sand when struck.
  • World update rate has been reduced slightly.
  • Water now evaporates when it reaches the underworld.
  • Slowed the rate of plant growth.
  • Hardcore is now an option when creating a new player. Hardcore players are gone for good after dying.
  • The Jungle now has its own music track.
  • Vines that refused to grow longer than 1 tile in length while underwater, will now grow correctly.
  • Pot graphic was brightened to make it more visible.
  • Plants growing out of a clay pot can no longer be cut with a weapon. The new alchemy plants can be grown in these pots.
  • Gems, ore, and gold chests now have a sparkle effect.
  • Giant glowing mushrooms will now grow back over time.
  • The player now starts out with a copper shortsword.
  • Dungeon bricks and walls have had their brightness reduced.

Hope onto Steam and check out this awesome update!

DiRT 3 (Review)

In 2007, Codemasters released the newest game in their Colin McRae Rally series simply titled DiRT. It was a stunning rally game that was a huge blast to play and I couldn’t have been happier with it. Two years later, DiRT 2 was released. I was less than impressed with the aesthetics and presentation changes from the first game. DiRT 2 was still a decent game to play, but the game itself had been “mainstream-ified” by tossing in a punk rock soundtrack, silly gameplay features (friendships… seriously?!) that added little to nothing to the core gameplay. Despite these problems, I still thought that DiRT 2 was a pretty great game overall, but it could not compare to the depth of the first game. Now here we are in 2011 and a new game, DiRT 3, has been released. Is it a more traditional rally game like the first DiRT, or does it stray from the established Colin McRae Rally path in favour of something that will appeal to people who don’t even really like rally racing, like DiRT 2 had done?

DiRT 3 has abandoned the whole “the entire game is a career mode” approach that DiRT 2 featured in favour of a more traditional presentation similar to what was found in the first DiRT. The game is no longer centered within a three dimensional motorhome and the career mode is an actual selectable game mode from the main menu once more, and I couldn’t be happier with this. The previous game focused too much on trying to drag the player along a silly career mode and not straying from that path much, which made the rest of the game feel a little weak. DiRT 3 gives ample attention to everything in the game, and it makes for a far better experience than DiRT 2.

From the main menu, there is of course the career mode, but several other choices are present as well such as the single race mode that lets you set up a specific race or rally to compete in. There’s a good number of options here, but I did not seem to see any option that let me make a custom championship or even a custom rally that would let me play consecutive point-to-point stages. This was a bummer for me, and it seems that to access any form of championship gameplay, you will have to venture into career mode and select a pre-made championship. This can be a little upsetting since individual rally stages aren’t very long in DiRT 3. The longer stages will probably take most players about three minutes to finish which is, once you get driving and into your groove, painfully short.

Gymkhana is a fairly disappointing addition to DiRT 3.

There are a variety of ways to go driving in DiRT 3. Typical point-to-point rally racing is of course present, which is a relief since it is indeed true rally racing. Other mainstay modes such as circuit racing and rally cross are there while a new mode tries to establish itself. The new mode in question is gymkhana. Many people have probably seen videos of Ken Block doing all kinds of impressive stunts and tricks in a rally car on YouTube. These videos are in fact gymkhana, which Block seems to be popularizing quite a bit. While gymkhana videos are pretty cool and entertaining to watch, the actual game mode in DiRT 3 is not nearly as impressive. While the controls are certainly responsive, the challenges presented in the gymkhana mode are extremely dull. You’ll be asked to drift around poles, break through obstacles, and even collect tokens. While this doesn’t sound so bad, it is all executed pretty poorly and is not a very replayable game mode. It all feels very gimmicky and out of place, especially when you are forced to compete in mandatory gymkhana events in the career mode.

A lot of lame tacked on features from DiRT 2 have been removed to deliver a slightly more realistic gameplay experience. No more will you have to forge friendships with fictional female rally drivers. In the career mode, you only have one objective… Do better than your competitors! By doing so, you will level up every now and then which now serves a much better purpose than it did in DiRT 2. In the previous game, gain levels would give you pretty useless things like dashboard decorations for your car. DiRT 3 understood that this was pretty stupid, so now gaining levels will instead increase your popularity and recognition in the rally scene. Get enough recognition by leveling and new rally teams will be interested in offering you a drive. The career mode is also narrated by a few different characters who serve as your staff (mechanic, etc.). They are a breath of fresh air compared to the hopelessly bad narration by Block and Pastrana. While they never say anything particularly important or useful, they will crack a few jokes or say funny things from time to time, and this helps break up the mononotous nature of the game’s menus.

As far as gameplay is concerned, there’s a definite step up from the previous two games. In the first DiRT, games felt very floaty and gave the impression that they were hovering above the ground. DiRT 2 tried to address this issue and did indeed make the cars feel slightly grounded, but the controls were still incredibly forgiving and cars still felt a little floaty. DiRT 3 has eliminated all previous issues with controls, with cars that now feel completely grounded and respond brilliantly to your inputs.

One joy that I’ve found in DiRT 3 is how much more entertaining it is to deal with a car that is trying to spin out on you. In one rally stage, I took a turn too sharply and ran off the road slightly and over a few bumps in the grass. This was all it took to make my car want to fly off the other side of the road and into the ditch, but I was able to quickly wiggle the car and snap it back in place, thereby averting disaster. While it certainly was not impossible to straighten your car out and continue during spins in the previous two games, it feels better in DiRT 3. The cars are just much more responsive to you when you tell them what to do. Only the worst of mistakes will force you to crash without being able to prevent it from happening.

Yes, DiRT 3 really does look THAT good!

The AI has been revamped to be much more aggressive in DiRT 3. While they wrestle their cars through rally stages more realistically now, the AI racers in lap races are pretty terrifying! It is not unlikely to be rammed from behind, or for a car to violently slam into the side of your car when they try to pass. In many racing games, these events occur from the player being overly aggressive when trying to defend or overtake, but in DiRT 3 I point my finger exclusively at the AI. Outside of lap racing, the AI is pretty bearable. However… Once you’re confined to a race track with the AI drivers, you’d best watch your back. They are positively ruthless in DiRT 3!

DiRT 3 also boasts the ability to upload portions of your replays to YouTube. While this sounds cool in theory, you are limited to uploading only 30 seconds of your replay and uploads take several minutes at a time. There is no way to save the replay and rewatch it from within the game either. Because of this, the YouTube functionality that is present feels half done at best, and the inability to watch entire replays at a later date is a real downer. Fortunately for PC users, programs such as Fraps are easy enough to find and use.

Multiplayer is pretty great in DiRT 3. There are the usual rallies and lap races to take part in, but a few silly minigames are also thrown into the mix. Want to play capture the flag? It’s here. How about playing a zombie themed game of tag with cars? Yup, you can do that too. How about defending Earth from an invading alien swarm? That’s here too, no joke! DiRT 3 offers a variety of fun themed minigames to jump into, and they are all fairly interesting and varied. Gamers who really don’t feel like racing and rallying all the time will definitely enjoy what DiRT 3 has to offer here.

In terms of graphics, DiRT 3 is probably one of the best looking racing games out there. The original DiRT looked great in 2007, and DiRT 2 looked a little above average in 2009, but in 2011 it is safe to say that DiRT 3 is king. I am more impressed with the graphics in DiRT 3 than I am in other games such as Gran Turismo 5 – a game that takes photo realism a little too far. Car models in DiRT 3 look absolutely incredible, and the rally stages that are held in the middle of nowhere, like just about any stage in Finland, look absolutely breathtaking as you zoom through forests and past the occasional house or two. The HUD also looks pretty nice, abandoning the urban graffiti look of DiRT 2’s HUD and replacing it with a cleaner, sleeker looking one that is easier to read and understand.

DiRT 3’s soundtrack is definitely worth mentioning. Most of the tracks are really entrancing techno or foot stomping rock songs, which isn’t a bad thing at all! Every single track I’ve listened to in DiRT 3 simply sounded great. Need proof? Here is a tune that many feel is the unofficial theme of DiRT 3.

Sound effects are pretty much what you’d expect. There hasn’t been much of a change since DiRT 2, so most vehicle engines and such sound more than adequate but won’t really excite the diehard fans. Environmental sound effects are pretty good, though. You’ll hear nearby spectators cheering and shouting an awful lot and, if you park your car in the right areas and listen, you’ll get to enjoy mother nature as well.

So how good is DiRT 3? Truthfully, it is Codemasters’ best rally game since Colin McRae Rally 3, which was released in 2003. The superb rallying from the first DiRT is here and gone are the tacky filler features from DiRT 2. The interface and menus have been cleaned up, and DiRT 2’s reliance on graffiti art and text is now a thing of the past. DiRT 3 is proof that this new series (it is no longer a part of the CMR franchise) has grown up and has established a true sense of identity for itself. While a few features such as gymkhana aren’t really up to par, overall this is probably the best mass appeal rally game there is.

PROS:
+ The graphics are absolutely stunning.
+ Meaningless content from past games has been cut.
+ Multiplayer modes are very fun and original.

CONS:
– AI can be frustratingly aggressive in races.
– Gymkhana events feel bland and lack replayability.
– Rally stages are far too short.

Final Score

9/10

Universe Sandbox (Review)

What is Universe Sandbox? Well, that’s a pretty good question. Is it a game? Not really… But then why is it even on Steam and why does it cost money? These are questions I really don’t think I can even answer and, by the time you are finished reading this review, you won’t be any closer to knowing the answers yourself. You will, however, know what you can do in Universe Sandbox.

Universe Sandbox is, well, a universe sandbox made by developer Giant Army and released at the end of April 2011. In Universe Sandbox, you quite literally get to do whatever you want with our universe. Want to take our solar system and add a few new moons to planets or change the order of the planets from the sun? You can do that. Want to make the moon crash into Earth? That is also possible. Hell, are you even wild enough to want to make Andromeda crash into the Milky Way? Again, that can be done.

KABLAMO! Yes, you are allowed to throw asteroids at the Earth.

In this open-ended sandbox title, there is no limit to what you can do with the tools given to you. While you can’t really have much fun with things like nebulas or quasars, you can place and edit any asteroid, planet, moon, or sun that you can think of. There are lots of simulations to play with as well, or you can start with a blank universe and build your own galaxies and solar systems complete with fully orbiting planets and moons.

So, what can be edited when you set down something like a planet? Diameter and mass top the list, and putting them both up to insanely high numbers results in some funny situations, like watching an unfathomingly huge Earth sucking in the entire Milky Way. You can also edit the model and texture of any celestial bodies, which grants you the ability to make entirely new planets or suns. Fans of science fiction series like Star Trek or Star Wars would surely like this as it grants them the ability to quite literally recreate their favourite solar systems and such. There are about three pages of text fields and sliders to play with for each object you set down in space, which is pretty insane. I haven’t even touched all of the sliders and, truth be told, I’m a little afraid to because one false move and you’ll completely upset whatever you’ve been working on unless you’re one hundred percent sure of what you are doing.

The controls are incredibly poor and unresponsive, which is this Universe Sandbox’s biggest fault. There is a Sims-like camera control menu in the bottom left of the screen, but it is very slow and tedious to use. The alternative is using the keyboard and mouse to move about but, quite frankly, how successful you are with the control scheme is pretty 50/50. Sometimes I’ve been able to navigate my solar systems with ease while, other times, one false click of the mouse and the camera is locked or I’m all the way across the universe.

Evidence that Universe Sandbox has a silly side. You are seriously allowed to place these objects.

There is no sound effects or music to speak of at all and what little graphics you’ll find in Universe Sandbox aren’t really that breathtaking. You would expect a space simulator to have really nice graphics to reflect the beautiful sights of the universe, but nothing in this sandbox title will even come even remotely close to wowing you. It’s all average fare. This isn’t a good thing, but it isn’t necessarily bad either.

If you’re a huge space buff, then you’ll probably have a lot of fun with Universe Sandbox. There’s so much to do that it’s overwhelming and sometimes you may not even be able to think of anything to do because there are just so many choices. This is pretty much what happened to me, and it’s why I’m completely unable to make this review any longer! Universe Sandbox is a pretty cool tool to check out, especially if you like space. However, if you doubt that you’d use it any more than a few times then you may not want to lay down the cash for it.

PROS:
+ It’s fun to cause chaotic events in space.
+ Extensive tutorial section should help players learn the game.
+ Player is given complete control over events.

CONS:
– No music or sound. At all.
– Sandbox is very intimidating for a while.
– Camera controls are terrible.

Final Score

5.8/10