Vladerag's Blog











For every good game out there, there are two bad ones and for every fantastic game out there, you have three good ones.  You should never buy something merely good, and should never rent something bad, but the odds seem stacked against you, as by this logic there are six bad games for every fantastic one out there.  The trick is recognizing which one is which, and before you actually sit down to play them.

So how do you do that?

The first part is to know yourself.  Regardless that IGN rates it a ten, if you hate puzzle games, dont play Closure.  If you know what kind of game you are looking for, you are going to have a much easier time at finding it.  Each game is defined in a certain class, almost its own species, and each species has several sub-species, which have even smaller branches themselves.  The better you know what you want, the more likely you are to not feel the pain of sixty wasted dollars.

For example, if you know you like action, you should decide on whether you want something fantasy/swords based, sci-fi/shooters based, or perhaps fist-to-fist combat.  For the sake of the example, lets say you chose shooters, but before you pick a random one off the shelf, delve a little deeper into it.  Shooters can be devided pretty well along the line of stealth, namely whether or not stealth is a factor in gameplay.  Metal Gear Solid, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Ghost Recon, and Rainbow Six Vegas II all have significant stealth elements.  A stealth/shooter game usually means that your enemies can kill you pretty quickly, that enviorments will be complex perhaps with multiple paths to your goal, and that you will often need to think of strategies and then modify them on the fly.  This is great for the more tactical player, who prefers to take everyone out quickly and quietly, like they were never even there.

Alternatively, you might decide to go with something more loud.  Left4Dead, Battlefront, Call of Duty, and Medal of Honor rarely have stealth elments in them, and are generally not optomised for it, so dont expect to sneak through the levels and dont expect silenced weapons.  These games are often fairly linear, you are often affored more health than stealth types, and while some tactical thinking is useful it is more about quick reflexes and acurate shooting.

These two game types are pretty easy to identify, so you shouldnt have a problem deciding which one to play.  Without going into too much detail, here is a quick list and description of some of the more common types.

Shooter/stealth – It is all about killing quickly, quitely, and without being seen.  Tactical thinking is more important than brawn, and dont expect all that much health and ammo either.

Shooter/action – For the people who drown their enemies in lead.  You can think tactically, but generally all the tactics you need are an automatic and reflexes.

Fighting/wrestling(w) – Toe-to-toe mash ups.  This genre is more than just wrestling, also containing UFC as well.  Its all about punchs and kicks, not much thinking involved and you are limited to fighting in a small arena.  The (w) distinguishes this as the western style, the kind that doesnt have superpowers involved.

Fighting/wrestling(j) – Like UFC combined with the X-men, punches, kickes, and super energy plasma cannons.  Dont expect reallity and have some fun.

WRPG – Western-style Role Playing Game.  Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur, etc.  Extremely open enviorments, you can often choose to do whatever you want, whenever you want.  The Elder Scrolls Series in particular is noted for that, since you have no real need to follow the main quest if you dont want to.  Great for people who dont want to be held down to a particular storyline, or just like to spread chaos.

JRPG – Japanese-style Role Playing Game.  Tales of the Abyss, Final Fantasy, etc.  Much more linear than their cousins, the wrpg, jrpg’s generally have closed fighting systems.  Meaning that unlike Skyrim, where what you see is what you fight and where you are is where you do it, jrpg’s often use the monsters only as models for groups that may contain many monsters and take place in an almost arena like area.  They focus much more on the combat aspect of the game, and a lot less on choice.

Those are just a few, but doing some research on what type your favorite games are may give you insight into some more types that would interest you.

Ok, so you know what you like.  But how to choose from the torrent of games in each genre?  It isnt like you can play each game ahead of time and see which one is best after all.  Fortunately, you dont have too, because the people at sites like IGN have already done it for you.  There are other places besides IGN, but IGN is a very reliable source of information, and the reviews they write are top notch.

When looking at reviews on sites like IGN before you do anything else, skip to the end and take a look at how they scored it.  IGN rates games across several aspects, presentation, graphics, sound, gameplay, and lasting appeal.  They then give a score which represents how well the game was overall, and keep in mind that it is not the average of the other scores, but rather a sum of its parts type deal, representing the entire experience. 

If the game is less than a seven overall, dont bother with the review, it isnt good enough to merit the attention and only read the ones from seven to eight if the game looks interesting to you.  You want the best, so look for games in the eight to ten range, with ten being the most perfect game that the reviewers at IGN could have hoped for. (at the time of its release.)  A quick note is that IGN gives out tens very sparingly, with only a few games every taking that title.

If the overall score is good, check the other scores too.  The important ones are presentation and gameplay, as these are the ones that tell you how the game feels and how the game plays, good scores indicate a very playable game, you want to look for eight to tens in this range as well.  Scores less than eight indicate that the game may have stellar graphics, sound, or some innovative feature that warrant its overall score.  Nevertheless, in general you are probably not interested in just looking at pretty pictures with pretty music if the gameplay sucks.  The reviews are helpful besides the scoring as well.  They can alert you to difficulties in controls, graphics, or gameplay that might not be enough to hurt their rating but are still annoying nonetheless.

Reviews are great, and a fantastic way to check a game before you buy it.  At the same time, they are no the end all and be all.  Some of my favorite games have only merited low sevens, even though I throughly enjoyed them.  Which brings us to the concept of a demo.

Demo’s are possibly the best of all for learning whether or not a game is for you.  Since you actually get to play a sliver of the game, you get the best chance to see how it plays, what it looks like, and whether or not you want to buy it.  If a demo is available, you should always play it before you buy a new game.  Of course, that isnt always an option.

When considering buying a game, it is also a good idea to check who makes it and if it is in a series.  If the game has eleven titles, then that means it sells.  If it sells, it is probably a good game.  They wouldnt make it if they couldnt sell it.  By the same token, the “they” is pretty important, as it also will show a track record.  Bioware, Bethesda Softworks, and Blizzard have been making best-selling hits for years and they know what they are doing.  Anything they make will likely be quaility work, if not fantastic.

The second to last test is looking at the package itself.  By this time, you should be practically sold on the game already, since you would have researched it pretty thourghly, but it never hurts to take a look at the package.  Read some of the stuff on the back, check to see if it requires special things for the full experience (like a PS move or Xbox kinect), check to see if it requires an online pass, and double check the descriptions on the back.

Finally, you are at the counter, prepared to lay down some hard earned money to get some well earned rest and relaxation.  There is only one final thing that you should do, ask the clerk.  The people who work at Gamestop know the games fairly well, and can tell you if this game just sold was rated highly by reviewers but low by the actual buyers. 

If it all checks out, congratulations on your new game.  If not, well, consider that at least you havent wasted money on something that makes you want to rip your hair out.

Renting isnt a wholly different animal.  The same things still apply, except that you can lower your standards a bit and take a chance.  Services like Gamefly can allow you to try new things, without major consequences.

Still, why waste your time if you dont have too?

Again, it is important to know what types of games you like, and what you might be interested in.  If you like Battlefield III, you might like Rainbow Six Vegas II, or try Deus Ex: Human revolution for a taste of the sci-fi and rpg type genres.  Dont try and jump from one to other in one go, you might regret it.

Reviews are a good way to decide as well.  You have much more leeway when you arent buying, but you still want something better than a six.  IGN recommends that you only play games from seven to ten, and in their description of ratings, declares that some of the lower rated games are painful to play.  Something rated less than five can be compared to moonshine, it burns and will make you blind.

Unlike when you buy games, demos are of no use in renting.  For the time it takes to download, you could just rent the game play for an hour, and then send it back if you dont like it.  Dont even bother.  Similarily, there is no clerk to talk to, and no package to check. 

Honestly, if you feel you need a second opinion after the description offered and the review, it probably isnt worth the time.

You should pretty much avoid everything that doesnt pass these tests, because some of the games on the trashy side of the scale really are painful to play.

Happy Gaming.



We all know that video games are exspensive.  Setting aside the intial sixty dollar investment, many games require “online passes,” or have Downloadable Content (DLC) that while not neccesairly required, often “fills” intentional holes left in the story or features.

All in all, you might end up paying $100 for your gaming experience, or more.  On the other hand, the quality of games are improving, right?  Well, maybe.  Some games are better than others, and if you are going to be spending $100 of your hard earned money, it should be fantastic, not merely good.  Some of the games listed here are series or collections by the way, but remember that a good series is always a safe bet, and that collections are some of the best you can get for your money.  So here we go:

10.  The Civilization Series by Sid Meier

The Civilization series is one of the best PC game series out there.  You play as one of the various cultures of the world, Spanish, French, or even Iriquois, and your goal is domination.  You can conquer with an epic military, or culture, or trade, or really whatever you want.  Even if you go back to Civilization III and play it today, you wont be disapointed, but the newest out is loaded with features, including an awesome multiplayer that will keep you coming back for more.  Not to metion that a single, single player game can take over ten hours.  This game will suck up your time like nothing else.

9.  Rainbow Six Vegas II

Available for both PS3 and Xbox360, RSV2 is a fantastic game for those who enjoy stealth/action games.  No add-ons required and has both online and local multiplayer, which is a definate plus.  The game places you in the shoes of Bishop, an anti-terrorist agent, and sends you all over as you face bomb threats and terrorist acts.  With a amazing arsenal of customizable weapons, armor, and camoflauge, not to mention a a plethora of quick action maps with a couple of different game settings, combines with local and online multiplayer, and you are set for a good long time.

8.  Castle Crashers

Castle Crashers is a downloadable game over the PSN and Xbox Live that will keep you up at night playing it.  You are a knight, and your goal is to rescue four princesses.  Easy right?  Wrong, as the games takes you all over a map in ridiculous side scrolling action.  the grahpics are fantastic and the game never has a dull momment, with up to four players in local and online multiplayer, and no split screen to deal with.  Not mention tons of knights to play with, each with their own unique powers.  And when you beat the game, it is not nearly the end.  You get to tackle insane mode, and if you thought this game was easy, prepare to be rudely disabused of that notion.  The action takes place on an entirely new plane once you go insane.  And all that doesnt even cover the pets and weapons that you can get.

Did I mention that in multiplayer after rescue a princess the knights fight for the honor of who gets to kiss her? 

7.  The God of War Collection

Do you like mindless action and bloodlust?  If no, skip ahead to number six, if yes, well look no further.  Collections are great because you are getting multiple games and at price less than a newer one.  If you like action, and havent played the first God of War, it is a shame.  Because Kratos, the character you play as, on a quest to kill a god, grinds his way through more enemies than you can shake a stick at.  And in a uniquely brutal fashion.  Honestly, you cant go wrong with a collection of some of the best-selling games ever to hit the PS2.

6. Infamous

Alright, so the sequel is out already, and that is pretty good too in terms of bang for your buck.  But because the sequel is already out, the original is even less exspensive, and you are more likely to get a deal.  Infamous drops you in a city that has been ripped apart by an unknown cataclysm, than struck by plauges and disease.  Quaratined from the outside world, the city is controlled by gangs, and the people have nowhere to turn to.  Except you, for some unknown reason you have gained superpowers from the intial blast, you have control over electricty and magnatism, with all the fun that entails.  Not to mention a whole city to explore, think of it like Assassins Creed with superpowers, and you get the idea.  Plus, those powers are customizable and upgradeable.  And your actions, good or evil, determine how they are used.  Lots of action + lots of adventure + couple of choices + superpowers = fun.

5. The Rachet and Clank series

It is worth noting that both number five and number four go to Rachet and Clank, and for good reason.  Each and every Rachet and Clank has been better than the last, and the very first one on the PS2 is one of the best games ever made, so it is fair to say that this series has high expectations and exceeds them every time.  How can you go wrong with tons of fantasitc weapons and tons of enemies to use them on?  Plus it is fun for any age group, and the latest one out All4One, is designed for four people to play the main story line, which is unheard of in gaming.  Of course, it is still playable on single player, so dont worry if you are a loner.  I have played through every Rachet and Clank game at least three times, sometimes more along the lines of ten times, you simply cant go wrong.

4. The Rachet and Clank Collection

Ok, ok.  So at the time of this post, it has not been officially released.  But come one, before R&C Tools of Destruction came out as the first PS3 R&C game, there were FOUR games released for the PS2, Rachet and Clank, Rachet and Clank: Going Commando, Rachet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal, and Rachet: Deadlocked.  Each and every one was an awesome game by itself, the last two, Up your Arsenal and Deadlocked are, as far as I am concerned, the two best games in a series of absolutely fantastic games.  We are talking hundreds of hours of playtime here, and if the price tag is $100, then that is only $25 a game, and each has been remasterd for the PS3 graphics.  What more could you want?

3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

The top three games on this list really deserve their titles.  We are talking about games that are so well produced, that the asking price of $60 seems cheap.  Games that are like Icarus, only that they fly higher and when the wings melt they turn it into an olympic dive with more twists and turns than any gold medaltist could hope for.

Entering into that arena is Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  IGN describes the hype for this game like icarus as well, wondering if they would fly to close to the sun of expectation and crash and burn.  Only that they didnt fall, but flew on taking all the heat and delivering only the best.

Set in the year 2027, humans now have the abillity to augement themselves with mechanical parts.  You are Adam Jennsen, the Head of Secruity for the biotech corporation Sarrif Industries, and the game begins the day before your company is set to announce a major discovery to the world.

Then, an unkown force breaks in, kills the sceintists and nearly kills Adam.  Adam goes into surgery almost dead, and leaves with more circuts and features than anything you have ever seen to embark on a gripping tale of conspiracy and ethics, of advancement and humanity, and of duty and determenation.  Action and adventure lurks in every corner, and you are fully customizable to become the ultimate tank, who takes and dishes out damage like nobodies business, or a sneak who can turn invisible and specializes in close quarters kills and submissions, or even a tech head who uses an enemies turrets, cameras, and robots against them.

No matter which you choose you will gain experience, and there is always multiple ways to accomplsih your goal.

And on that note, Deus Ex boasts something unheard of in modern action games.  You dont have to kill anyone.  Yes, you read that right.  You dont have to kill a single person, alternatively you could kill them all of course, but you are never forced to kill.  (with the exception of three boss fights.) and there is a trophy for completing the game without killing a soul. 

This game has it all:  action, adventure, choice, and consequence.  You have to have it, and it is worth every penny you spend.

2.  The Dragon Age series

Playing these games raised the bar in my mind for all other games, afterwards, I expected that peoples faces should look real both in cutscenes and out.  That when a person has an emotion, it should show.  That when I make a choice, there will be consequences for it and that those consequences will not only shape the world in ways that I might not be able to forsee, but the games I play afterwards too.

These games are all about choice and consequence, and every choice you make is important.  They are beautiful and boast people with actual expressions.  The action and story are equally amazing, espcially since your choices dictate the course of both.

Honestly, I do not have the words to describe how awesome these games are.  They are simply some of the best, and if you dont have them, you are missing out.

1.  The Elder Scrolls series

Many years ago, I stumbled across a game called Morrowind, and I have never been the same since.  They are like no other game out there, as they have more choices and openeness than any other game before or since.  I still play Morrowind today, because on the PC they can be modded by anyone exstensively and for free.

Truly there is no limit to these games, and that is why they are on top.  Simply search for mods online and you will find libraries of them, a limitless supply of modifications to improve your game.  And the games are practically perfect without these improvements! 

Like Dragon Age, words are not enough to describe these games.  Try them, you wont regret it.

And that is everything, the top 10 games, or series for your dollar.  Each and every one is good, and packed with more content than you might even be able to get through, and worth every cent you put down for it.



    I must admit, I went into this game with high expectations, and why shouldn’t I have?  Aside from all the hype surrounding the game, it had a star studded cast, including my all time favorite author R. A. Salvatore and the lead designer for the amazing games Morrowind and Oblivion.  It was promised to have found a way to merge action and rpg, fixing the terminal problems of both.  The lack of story, holes in the story, in action style games.  And the weakness of combat in rpg styles (particularly western style rpg’s).

   To say I was disapointed is an understatement.  The story starts interestingly enough, your character, which you construct in a funny maner in the introductory cutscense wakes up on a pile of corpses, the only success in a series of otherwise failed experiments.  The action starts soon after, as your enemies, introudced as the Tuatha, attack for unkown reasons and you are forced to defend the facility with sword and magic.

   Initially, I was impressed by the fighting system.  It lacked the choppy feal of the Elder Scrolls series. and the graphics and actions were beautifuly choreograhphed.  The shift from magic, to sword, to dagger was almost seamless, allowing me to shift my fighting style as soon as the mood hit me, and usually not requiring using the menu.  Even in the  begining, I was never forced to adopt a particular style.  All the usual rpg classes were introduced, daggers and bows for the stealth/ranger, swords and hammers for the warrior, and staves and spells for the mage, and it seemed, for the momment, that this game truly was a synthesis of choice and action.

    That illusion was quickly dispelled as the game went on.  There were almost no improvements or additons to the combat past the intial point, only a few more weapons were introduced, and I soon realized that I had almost no real choice at all.  My standard test for my abillity to choose in a game goes like this:  Can I join my enemies and reak mayhem and destruction?  If yes, than that game is generally one with lots of choices that can affect the outcome in different ways, if no, then it probabbly isnt. 

   That said, I did not enter the game banking on that abillity.  I expected something along the lines of Dragon Age, where my choices would affect actual events, even important ones.  For example, if I have two objectives that can be pursued, but I have to do one before the other, I would want there to be consequences for it.  I would want the abillity to choose to right or wrong, or some stranger gray area that perhaps previous actions unlocked.

   However, I was sorely disapointed.  I realized that almost none of your choices have any affect at all.  If I go wild and kill an entire city of people, I will get a bounty and guards will chase me.  But nothing else will be much affected, if I leave a sick village alone and dont help it, it wont die off.

   My last hope for choice was in how I customised my character.  With the abillity to invest in three branches of skills and never being forced to choose one over the other, I thought I could customize my character into the perfect mage-assassain, but more than that, that there would be choices within each tree that would dictate what kind of magic I would have, and what kind of stealth user I would be.

   Alas, but it was not the case.  You can choose to be whatever you want, but within each tree you are practically required to obtain everything in order to meet the requirements for the next level of skills and improvements.  I could not focus on daggers and sneaking in stealth, or focus on summoing and offensive spells in magic.  I was forced to get a little of everything in order to proceed.

 

   In the end, this game is not as bad as I make it out to be.  It was good, but simply not as great as it could or should have been.  In the end I felt as though I had more choice in Assassain’s Creed and Deus Ex, and better action besides. 

Graphics: 9 

Absolutely stunning too look at, without a single detail overlooked.  With the exception of people, who looked a little stupid in the faces, and after Dragon Age, there is simply no exscuse to have stunning landscapes and ugly people.

Sound: 7

It was okay, but I never really noticed it.

Gameplay: 6

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.  This game promised choice, the abillity to change the games future and how you played it at will and in many different ways.  It promised a fighting system to rival action games.  It promised a good story and an in depth and detailed society.  Thank you R. A. Salvatore for being the one to come up with the story and legends that are found in the game, at least you did your job right.

Overall: 6

When I get the feeling that Assassain’s Creed gives me more choices and action, and mind you that I am talking about Assassains Creed I, than an wrpg touted as giving the best of both, something has gone horribly wrong.  The game is good, but many games are decidedly better.  Beauty and story are not replacements for gameplay, and trust me when I say that I did not even cover the half of my problems with this game.  (Don’t even get me started on the problems with stealth.)



et cetera