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A Fall Full of AAA Titles (Xbox 360 Edition)

Make no doubt about it, this Fall and Holiday season is stacking up to be one of the most expensive times for gamers ever, as there seem to be a multitude of titles to choose from. Going on that same notion, it also appears to be the year of the sequel as we see installments such as Far Cry 2, Fable 2, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, Fallout 3, Rock Band 2, Guitar Hero: World Tour, Brother's in Arms: Hell's Highway, Project: Origin, Saint's Row 2, Gears of War 2, Tomb Raider: Underworld, Prince of Persia, and Sacred 2: Final Angel all coming out this quarter.

Now, doesn't that seem like quite a list to choose from? Well, there's a downside to that because I've only named off sequels so far, and I've also only named games that were coming out for the Xbox 360. Think about it, while not all of the titles I've just listed might interest you, you have to admit that quite a few of those numbers are games that you'd definitely like to spend some quality time with. While normally I'd look at a list as long as this for sequels and be kind of disheartened by the fact that they'd probably be nothing too original, one quick glance around the net through different previews and interviews with the developers will tell you the exact opposite. Games such as Mercenaries 2 or Fable 2, while carrying some of the concepts from their original counterparts, are robust in comparison due to the technology of today's console systems and the creativeness of today's developers, but let us not get too carried away about the different games just yet, let's look at the list of others coming out under new IPs for the different developers.

This list includes games like Too Human, FaceBreaker, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Lego Batman, Rise of the Argonauts, Dead Space, The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, Tom Clancy's End War, James Bond: Quantum of Solace, and Left 4 Dead. Now that isn't every game coming out for the Xbox 360, but they're just some of the bigger titles to look forward to this upcoming season.

Even with all these big time releases, one thing to keep track of though is what's being released over Xbox Live Arcade. With the recent release of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, I've been constantly plugging away hours trying to one up my score each time. Taking what made the original so great and expanding on every component; the developers did a great job with this sequel as far as I can tell. Other games released on Live Arcade to check out would be Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Braid, and if you're looking forward to Fable 2, you should be picking up the Pub Games. These four Arcade titles alone could keep you busy for quite some time to come.

There just really isn't a reason to be sad when being a gamer around the holidays unless you're constantly looking down at the stack of cash in your wallet draining from week to week over these upcoming releases. In the coming weeks, we'll take a closer look at these games as they're about to be released and see how well they stacked up to people's expectations. But until then...

SadExchange

Back Again, At Last...

After taking quite a long hiatus, due to the nature of the site not being finished, we're back to talk some games. Now, I realize that I reported back in December that we'd be back this past January, but due to real life getting extremely busy, and the programmer, DJ IZ, wanting to get everything as perfect as could be when we went live again, it took awhile longer than expected, but no worries, we're back and adding more content to the overall site with the original music, games, and movie sections, but also books and a new forum to converse about anything pertaining to the site or anything happening in the real world. But I don't have to tell you everything that's new to the site, check it out yourself. Take a spin around and let us know what you think. Please keep in mind there's a few kinks to iron out yet, as we're still getting everything all together, but soon enough.


As far as the games section goes, reviews will be forthcoming including reviews for Assassin's Creed, God of War, Conan, Crackdown, plus many more to come after that. On my off time from the site, when not being pulled down by "The Man," I've been keeping my time busy with games like Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, Battlefield: Bad Company, Space Siege, Legend: Hand of God, Bully: Scholarship Edition, plus many other titles to keep me going through the summer's long drought of game releases; so keep tuned in from now on to get the info you need for the games you want. With such an expansive list of AAA titles coming out from now till the end of the year, you'll have plenty of choices to choose from when deciding what to do with your holiday season, and I'm hoping I can help you make the best decision for you with news, reviews, and blogs from now on.


But if you're still waiting for a game to come out in the Fall and need something to tide you over till then, check out my Top Ten lists of years past for different consoles and the PC to see what'll be worth your time….


SadExchange

Top 10 PC Games of 2007

World in Conflict - A massive title trying to make its name in a genre already studded with long standing franchises, World in Conflict shouts out its name with authority. Creating an engaging experience through an impressive, matched with some great voice-acting, but not to be done is the graphics component of this game, where the huge battles are sprawled out across large detailed landscapes. Creating a realistic battleground with destructible environments in a world where the Berlin Wall never fell and Russia is massing a large scale against Western Europe, World in Conflict will have you playing mission after mission from beginning to end throughout the campaign's lengthy 14 single player missions. And when you're finished with that, you still have the superb multiplayer part of the game to keep you occupied for weeks to come. The multiplayer side of the game is fast paced, and well balanced where you'll be spending hours online perfectly your own strategy on how to take your opponent.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - With each new installment into the series, it seems like the Call of Duty series keeps getting better in not only overall quality, but also gameplay. With this latest game in the franchise, the series takes a modern twist and it does it well. With an intense campaign that has you crossing the globe from the middle of the ocean on a sealiner to the ghost town near Chernobyl. Although the single player campaign may be a little on the short side, not enough can be said about the depth that's in the multiplayer component of this game. With an already great track record with the online multiplayer, Infinity Ward adds something more with an experience system that has you unlocking different ****s and weapons when playing online with others. A different take on the importance on playing more and becoming better online, Call of Duty 4 rewards the player well with their multiplayer component and this feature will keep players and fans of the genre playing for hours on end.

Crysis - Some may be asking, why would Crysis be on this list, it's just another first person shooter that does everyone else a normal FPS would do, and I would say you're mostly right, but you just can't look past the graphics in this game and how realistic the environments look. Yes, the gameplay isn't leagues above other games of the same genre like the graphical content, but they're certainly solid in their own respect. This game does have polish in regards to the actual over gameplay and you have to respect that, but no other game has been able to express their atmosphere like Crysis, mainly due to the graphics and physics engine. Gamers have to be impressed with what Crytek has done and obviously look forward to what they might do in the future. One can only imagine where we go from here with the graphics component after this game's release.

The Witcher - Coming out of nowhere from a first time developer, The Witcher brings back the role-playing game genre with force. With an amazing storyline, engaging combat system and an alchemy system that's unparalleled in any other game, CD Projekt took a license created by Andrzej Sapkowski, a Polish writer, and made a very impressive role-playing game. Hours of engaging gameplay are yours to be had, not only because it's a lengthy game, or because of the replay value with multiple endings and different dialogue trees, but also because of the toolkit and the mods that fans will be creating for this game. Made from an Advanced Aurora Engine, the same engine that ran Neverwinter Nights, the developers breathe new life into this aging graphical engine and makes The Witcher shine in the mist of the some of the best looking games coming out today.

The Orange BoxYou get the award winning Half Life 2, plus the two following episodes that progress the story even further, a new ****of gameplay from Portal which one can only imagine where the community will take its abilities, and finally Team Fortress 2, a multiplayer team-oriented experience where the different ****s actually matter in the overall gameplaying experience. You'd be hard pressed to have never heard of the Half Life series, but if you haven't had the chance to play it, treat yourself and get The Orange Box. First person shooter fans will see the quality and time that Valve took in creating each component of this package in the first few hours and will then be able to play for unlimited amounts of hours when dealing with the thousands of fan created games based off of the Source Engine.

Gears of War - First coming to the Xbox 360, then onto the PC with some added content, Gears of War brings the dirty corridor fighting to the mouse and keyboard. With an entire extra chapter that flows smoothly into the over storyline, the developers made this Gears of War look great on today's computers with larger resolutions and advanced details for those computers with the horse power. From start to finish, the gameplay is solid with great sound, graphics, voice acting and sound, and a decent lengthy campaign, but you can't forget about the multiplayer which will give you the replay value you've been looking for from an action game.

Bioshock - Somewhat of a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, Bioshock becomes one of those games that you can play over and over again, not only for how beautiful the underwater metropolis of Rapture looks, but also because of the impressive storyline and voice acting is within the games fifteen or so hours. With an impressive physics engine that shines whether you're using your inferno power to light your enemies on fire or your telekinesis power to throw objects around the artistically designed environment, Bioshock gives player multiple ways to progress through the game. Just because it seems a little bit more linear than most modern role-playing games, doesn't mean that the game doesn't have replayability, because there are just so many ways to take out different enemies whether you want to run and gun or use the environment for your needs. Bioshock is a game that gives first person shooter gamers the hope to have overall great quality artistic games in a world where developers seem to rinse and repeat each year with installments in their age old franchises.

Europa Universalis III - Have you ever wanted to control the world around the time that Columbus discovered the new world? Well, you have your chance in Europa Universalis III. No other game has ever given you more depth in every aspect of your triumphant reign over the world that in this last release in the series. If you're a newcomer to the series, don't be dismayed by the learning curve, just spend a little with the instruction because once you pick this game up and really get into what it is to control a culture back in the day, you'll never be able to pull yourself away from the computer. This is one of those games where it's not all about the graphics and that's not to say that the graphics are terrible, just that the developers spent the majority of their time on coding a game filled with depth and TBS fans will appreciate it.

Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars – Following up a long line of previous installments in the Command Conquer series, Tiberium Wars had a lot of pressure to be a great game and the developers succeeded. With some great graphics, decent voice, not to mention the funny wanna'be serious movies into between missions played by actors from the previous games, and a storyline that has you guessing what will happen from beginning to end, this game delivers a solid experience that fans of not only the series, but the genre, will be happy with. A multiplayer component that is balanced, quick-paced, and also fun, is added to provided a well rounded experience in this latest installment.

Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar - The world that Tolkien created is now online for your enjoyment. That's right, what you read in the books, and what you saw in the movies, it's all here leading up to a certain point in the trilogy and it's only getting bigger. Trying to attract both MMORPG and Lord of The Rings Fans, Shadows of Angmar takes the best of both worlds and puts everything into a very detailed, story driven game, along with some superb graphics that fully illustrate the landscape that Tolkien had created so many years ago. Whether you're a fan of MMORPGs or Lord of the Rings, you'll be pleased with this title. Since launch, Turbine, the developers, have released mass amounts of free content that not only extend the overall storyline, but the territory in which you can explore. One can only think of what they may include in an actual expansion.

A Demo a Day...

Has you seen the horde of demos to hit the scene recently? There seems to be a general output of a demo every 3 days for the past couple of weeks. It's definitely easy enough to just download all these demos and play them through, than buying a game right now, because of the amount of time you can easily pour into all of the types of game demos recently released.

Let's take a look at the list of demos out at the moment. There's demos for some of the bigger releases this year including Unreal Tournmanet 3, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and today's Hellgate: London. Let's not forget some of the other demos that aren't as hyped coming out soon and releasing their demos recently including Painkiller: Overdose, Clive Barker's Jericho, Strangehold, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, and the Timeshift demo. And if you more inclined, you can check out the demo for Hard to be a God. yeah, it's in Russian, but if you mess with the ini file a little bit, you can play it in English, but if you're one of those people who are still pondering what a ini file is as you keep reading, no fear, the developer is releasing an English demo soon enough.

But what does it all mean? This barrage of demos from developers from all corners of the earth, and before I forget, lets not forget one of the most anticipated demos of the year, Crysis, by the German developers Crytek. Just the capabilities that this game can have in the way of graphics is quit astonishing. Regardless of gameplay, you have to give credit to Crytek for once again coming up with a superb engine, much like they did when they first released Far Cry, but back to the importance of demos and the industry that they're in. I've glorified the titan enough for now.

While demos can be a good thing for developers, it can also be one of the worst things for their companies and some have fallen victim to this n the past. Gamers don't really understand the concept of the demo, they believe if the 20 minutes of gameplay that they're subjected to isn't all that they've dreamed of and hyped about for the past 2 years, than it's crap and they'll run to their nearest forums and complain to their hearts content because 20 minutes of the possibly 20 hours of gameplay that the game actually is wasn't complete perfection. And because of this scare of random tennieboppers running to the forums **** and complaining, some developers have decided to pass the chance of letting gamers try out an early release of their titles. And while sometimes you can gage a game's mechanics from the demo, such as the interface, combat, and general ****of play, people must realize that it's only a fraction of the game. it's a demo. And what is the definition of a demo? Well, let's check....

noun
1. a visual presentation showing how something works

Oh yeah, showing how something works....Not the entire presentation, just a fraction. I've seen some pretty crappy demos where the actual game has actually turned out great, but first impressions are a big part of what the business is about and there's a large percentage of gamers who are turned off by the first offense to their gaming time. Time is everything yes, but don't judge a 20 hour endeavor by just 20 minutes of your time. But enough pleading for the time of developers, if you are the way you are, I can't change you by a simple blog post.

Let's take a look at some of these demos, but just a couple because of the time allowed by myself to type:) Anyway, to my surprise, my favorite demo at the moment has to be the demo for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Infinity Ward simply did a superb job with optimization of their gaming engine with their fourth time around in the Call of Duty series. It just plays well on a host of computers and for people out there who don't have a top of the line computer right now, you can easily crank up a lot of graphic settings to make this creation look great with a decent enough framerate and what I mean with decent enough, is that it runs flawlessly on a lot of the maxed settings on medium computers. And being the first time away from normal everyday World War II setting that every other Call of Duty was in, Modern Warfare is to everyone's surprise a great turn of events in this series to revive it and have it compete with modern FPS's like the Battlefield series. If you get some time, check it out. After Call of Duty 3 only being released for consoles, I was a little leery about their latest release, but with this demo, I'm very much looking forward to their newest installment in the series.

How about that Unreal Tournament 3 demo. Yeah....I wasn't impressed for some reason. No, I'm not being hypocritical by bashing it here on the site. I'm sure the final version is going to be just as good as the previous games, but I guess the graphics didn't immediately catch my eye, like I thought they would, but I'm thinking it's because you can't max out the graphics options that much in the demo because the developers didn't include that option. The more I play, the more I come to enjoy the graphical design that the developer was trying to portray. It's definitely a different ****of graphics, but it seems to fit the setting and the multiplayer in the game is as fun as it ever was as in previous releases, but I think that's it, it seems like the previous releases with more maps and better graphics. Don't get me wrong, Epic really gets the fun of multiplayer right, but the mechanics of the game seem a little stale after this many times with the same gameplay. I am looking forward to the full game though because in multiplayer there's not a whole lot that can compete with the intense carnage that the Unreal Tournament series gives their players. Check it out this season, I just wish they would have made it possible to go cross console with pc players playing console gamers, but that's cool, most people will probably be playing in on their pc.

I do want to bring up one more demo though before I talk your ear off, the demo for Clive Barker's Jericho. This seems like it could be the diamond in the rough for fps gamers alike. The ****of gameplay with the squad based tactics and the storyline done by Clive Barker himself seems to be a great combination. Just from the demo, which has some pretty impressive graphics, you can tell that the setting is gonna be a big part of the game and this is fine with me for sure. The entire setting, background, team-based strategy, squad members, and gameplay seems to be a winner in this years barrage of games coming out this fall. Check it out...

- SadExchange

Top 100 Games of All Time

It seems like there's been a rather large influx of "Top 100 Games of all Time," or something along those lines and many are filled with similar entries, but of course, there's a few that don't make each person's list each time they're made. But how much do you pay attention to this "Top Whatevers?" After speaking with my good friend, DJ IZ, and constantly complaining about every one else's "Top" lists, I've come to the conclusion that I should either make one myself to let you know what is the actually Top 100 Games of all Time, or just tell you why I constantly **** about these lists and I chose the later. Lucky for you.

First off, let's look at "of all time." Really, so, you're saying that we've hit the pinnacle of computer gaming where we won't see any better games out there that will crack this list of 100? Come on, I know we've seen some pretty good games out there to this day including a few of my favorites being, Baldur's Gate II, Planescape: Torment, and Fallout, but you're telling me we won't see anything that might equal some of these ****cs? That's kind of depressing to think about. It makes me want to latch on to the gems in my closet and bookshelf, because once they're gone, that's it. It's over. You've left with crap for all eternity. It's safe to point out that there are quite a few ****c games in the past that are very hard to beat in the fun and gameplay factor, but I think they could be topped someday. Just look on the horizon, we have games like Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Bioshock just to name a few this year. These titles alone look to be some impressive jaunts through many hours of worthwhile time. And also, the fact is, many creators of these top 100 games are still developing games and I know they still have a lot left in them for creative design.

Lets take a look at who make up these lists. Most list that come out are from different gaming sites across the net and some gaming magazines circulated throughout the world, but is the person or group who comprises the list of games playing every single game out there to make sure they're the best? Now, this might be the pot calling the kettle black, in the respect that I make a top 10 list of pc games each year and obviously I don't play every game of every year, but I'd like to point out that I do play much too many of the crappy ones to know what I'm talking about for the year to make up the best that these is released every 365 days. But these games make lists of 'all time' and including every type of game including PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS1, PS2, PS3, Nintendo and their respective systems, etc. The list can go on all the way to the Atari and some lists do in fact do that. That's just quite a lot of games if you were to take a look at just on year, but looking at everything that's been released all the way till this day. Youch, that's quite an endeavor. And even if you had twenty people in your panel of judges, that's still a load of games to cover. And what do you do? Play every game over again before you put together the list to see if they're still enjoyable to this day or believe on your memory. Heck, I bet a lot of gamers react to games like they do to other things in their life.

(Quick tangent) I must say that when I'm reading a book, playing a game, doing something in my life in a point where my lie is going great, my sense of positive ness flows into what I'm doing. I bet if some people would go back to playing some of the older games, they'd find that some of their fun experience of playing their 'most enjoyable game' was partly based upon the fact that they were at a good place in their life. (End Tangent)

It just seems a little unrealistic to believe that even a group of twenty people could cover the amount of games that were in that large of an expanse of time. A little unrealistic to say the least.

Approximately 99% of these lists are not based off of overall sales and that in itself is a good thing. Basing the overall quality of a game off its sales would be utterly wrong in the fact because of pre-advertising and overall commercialization of some games that have come out in the recent past. Some developers have quite a lot of extra money to throw into advertising than others and this hype that builds from the advertising can create sales that wouldn't normally be there in the first place. How many of you have bought a game based on hype and then found out that it was utterly terrible and you never played it again after first installing it? I'd imagine quite a few people have done this with at least one or two games in their libraries of games throughout their systems. So, with not basing the overall top 100 of all time on sales, these groups base it off of their own opinion and you have to take this with a grain of salt, well, maybe a pound of salt in their instance.

So, can you trust these top 100 lists or do you even care? In my opinion, the only reason I spend more than five minutes looking at these lists is to complain about them and complain what's not on them and pretty much ripping my hair out in handful chunks screaming at my monitor. Most times though, I compare these lists with different lists that have come to my attention and see what makes this one and what makes the other one. I guess you have to consider the source of the list. Where it comes from is a big indicator of how well you'll probably take it. If it's coming from a site you trust and have visited quite a lot, you might share some of the same views if that site has persuaded you to their liking throughout the years of you perusing their site. With different gaming sites changing their review systems every few years though, this might be hard to do. Again, with a grain of salt, you can come to your own conclusion of what games might make your 'Top 100' list. My suggestion, go with something a little smaller such as: "Top 20 PC Games from 1990-2000," or "Top 20 PC Role-Playing Games from 1990-2000." This would really let you sync up with the importance of the numbers on your list. And by making these separate lists, you may then come to the conclusion of your Top 100 PC Games or Top 100 PS2 Games, but give them a time limit. Why you ask? Because in another ten years when some pretty awesome games have been released, you won't be stuck with making yourself look like a fool when you're switching games in and out of your Top 100 Games of all Time list. A damn fool indeed! I challenge you to start making lists of your own, with time schedule, and maybe different systems of consoles, and then from there, make an overall list, and see what you come up with and then start comparing them to the list out there and see if they compare. They're all opinions anyway. Make your own, get a website and be somebody in this era of "Everyone's got an opinion and you should listen to it." In the mists of it all, you'll come back to plastiksickness.com and realize that SadExchange was somewhat right and you can be safe in knowing that I'll be staying that way as long as DJ IZ keeps telling me so.

Someday soon, I may put some lists together and we can all match them together and see what we come up with.

Top 10 PC Games of 2006

2006 was kind of a different year for pc gaming, mainly because of the hyped up release of the PS3 and Nintendo’s Wii, plus the fact that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 was making a strong stride after its release at the end of last year.  Although there were quite a few pc game releases in 2006, much the same as any year, choosing the top ten was quite a bit harder in the sense of only finding the tenth choice.  Most of the top ten is comprised of sure-fire selections while there were a few that really had to be thought about to be picked others.  Remember, this is only my top, not based upon sales of games, or other top ten lists across other gaming sites such as Gamespot, Gamespy, or IGN.  As with any of my top ten lists to date, the order in which their given has no meaning.  Hope you enjoy!

Neverwinter Nights 2 -  Following the success of Bioware’s prequel and expansions, Obsidian Entertainment decided to try their hands in this new installment.  Improving on every aspect from the first, NWN 2 has a deep enriching storyline, decent enough graphics for today’s standards, and a great soundtrack that will give any player hours upon hours of enjoyment no matter how many times they play through it.  With the selection of the races, classes, and feats within the game, the replay value through character creation alone is quite amazing.  Not to mention the fact that also like its prequel, NWN 2 gives players the ability to create their own modules and adventures for their friends to play.  Most of the big time mod makers from the first installment have already divulged plans for some pretty epic modules already.  And add the fact that you’re still able to have a live DM preside over his own adventure in the game, and this game could be the pc game that takes over your weekly Dungeons and Dragons tabletop get together.

Company of Heroes -  Coming out of nowhere is Company of Heroes, a very strategic real-time strategy games that puts the strategy back in RTS.  Giving the player a deeper feel for the action that they’re involved in, Relic delivers a masterpiece in pretty much all respects of the game including some stunning visuals, amazing sound, and a deep enough storyline to not only keep the player interested, but also keep them invested in their troops.  Although there have been quite a few World War II RTS games released in the past few years, Company of Heroes really sets itself apart with its intensity involved in every mission whether you’re trying to rush the enemy or build a strong command center to work your operations out of.  Add an engaging multiplayer component where strategy is the key and you have yourself one of the best games of the year.  Unlike most RTS games, rushing isn’t always the best course of action, so long time RTS fans will have to hone their skills and think of a new strategic way to accomplish their goal of taking out their enemies. 

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – Bethesda’s newest installment in the Elder Scrolls was a sure fire hit with long time fans and also newcomers to the series.  With its amazing graphics, interesting story, radically changed artificial intelligence, and a great soundtrack from longtime musician Jeremy Soule, Oblivion practically succeeds in every department.  Letting the player live another life in the fantasy world of the Elder Scrolls, whether they want to be a mage, warrior, thief, or something from their own concoction, Bethesda lets the player do just that.  With a graphics engine that succeeds in everything it’s meant to do, players are placed into a whole other world to complete loads of side-quests along with a deep main storyline that will keep them engaged along the hours and hours of game time you’ll get from this game.  Players are also given the ability to make their own mods for the game and players have done just that with creating their own quests, weapons, and improved graphics since the release of the game back in the first quarter of the year.  With everything that’s in Oblivion, players can only dream what Bethesda has in store for their next release in the Elder Scrolls series.

1701 A.D. – Coming out at the end of the year, this game has sparked quite a bit of interest from gamers across different genres.  Following along the same lines as the two previous installments of 1503 and 1602 A.D., Related Designs brings players to the Caribbean-like environment to start a colony and complete different objectives throughout different scenarios and such.  Featuring some of the greatest graphics for its genre, 1701 A.D. shines when zooming in to look at your population from any angle.  The soundtrack is also quite nice and will keep you interested as you build your settlement into a large scale city consisting of settlers, citizens, and aristocrats.  This time around, Related designs didn’t give the game’s missions an overall storyline that connects everything together, but the scenarios follow each other quite nicely and having the ability to start from scratch and continuously play for however long you want is always something well liked from any players.   Coming from a small time developer in German, most people might overlook this for just a small upgrade from the previous installments, but be warned, you’ll be missing out if you do. 

Titan Quest – Coming from new developers Iron Lore, comprised of developers from other long time game companies, Titan Quest takes the players through a long intriguing story across the ancient world consisting of locals like Greece, Eqypt, and China as they try to smother the uprising of the Titans recently released from their prisons below.  With great visuals and some great level design differentiating the different areas of the world, Iron Lore put their best foot forward with their first release.  Featuring some great music to accompany you along your historical journey, players will be happy with their many hours of game time they’ll spend traveling through the ancient locales battling mythical beasts like minotaurs, centaurs, Cyclops, and chimeras.  Lovers of mythology and action role-playing games, no to mention all those Diablo fans waiting for Blizzard’s next installment will be pleased with Titan Quest.  With some superb and detailed equipment to pick up and great character class customization, not to mention the modding that’s available to players, Titan Quest is one of the best overall games of the year. 

Hitman: Blood Money – Eidos latest installment into this creative series where you play as Agent 47 comes alive again.  With an updated graphics engine that brings the characters and environments around you to life, and some great music and voice acting, Blood Money is easily the best of the series to date.  Giving players the ability to complete the mission objectives in a multitude of way allows for that non-linear freedom that fans of the series have been looking forward to for quite awhile.  With loads of weapons to use, not to mention the different costumes that be stolen from npcs throughout the different missions, Blood Money offers an extreme amount of fun and replay value as players try to achieve game goal objectives such as not getting noticed by anyone, not killing any innocent people, and also completing mission objectives on time.  An interesting storyline progresses you through the game’s missions, keeping you intrigued in the storyline all the way to the very end where you’ll come across one of the best endings in gaming history.  Interested in seeing that?  Check the game out.

Medieval 2: Total War – Following the success of the Rome: Total War, M2TW tkaes everything that was great about the first one and simply improves upon it in all respects.  Having an immense campaign screen to conquer and wage war through from the perspective of a multitude of countries makes this game’s replay value just skyrocket.  Rome was a fun time period, but many were waiting for the release of this game to battle through the Dark Ages to conquer different civilizations and infiltrate their societies through force, politics, or even through espionage.  Visuals have been updated from Rome, along with the environments seeming more lifelike with more foliage and buildings throughout the entire field of battle and strategy has never been more important with attacking and waging immense wars against castles, but there’s always using the ability to lay siege to a castle, but who wants to wait right?  That’s why they call it Total War.  The depth of gameplay is only extended from what Rome was, so you’ll be able to spend quite a bit of time between turns just trying to set up your government just the way you want.  It seems like the developers have given all the choices to make, so if anything is wrong with your culture, it’d be your fault.

Lego Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy – Coming off a fun and successful release of the first installment which chronicled episodes one, two, and three of the Star War Saga, The Original Trilogy follows episodes four, five, and six where you’ll be able to relive the great moments of Han Solo, Luke and Leia Skywalker, and the all hairy Chewbacca.  Much like the first game, you’ll start out with the basic characters that appear throughout the storyline from which you’ll be able to unlock other characters to have fun with throughout the game’s trilogy plotline.  If you loved the original game, you’ll really enjoy The Original Trilogy because it’s more of the same fun, but you’ll be loving the trilogy that older fans grew up with and that more fans actually liked overall.  Of course, much like the prequel, playing through the game multiple times is a necessity if you want to unlock everything, but don’t worry, playing through the game multiply times is quite fun because of the ability to play as any of your unlocked characters if you choose the right play mode.  Although this game may not seem like a top contender for the top ten list, it easily achieves the fun factor and the replay value that everyone looks for, but it also capitalizes of the greatness of the prequel and goes one step further in both fun, content, and overall gameplay.

Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords – Making a massive space strategy turn-based strategy game can be quite difficult, but it seems like Stardock knows everything there is to know about the space strategy genre.  In this game, you have the ability to either pick from a host of races, or customize your own, and then go on from there to build an empire, either through one of the game’s many scenarios/storylines or just go into open gameplay.  One awesome feature in this game is the ability for the player to create their own ship with tons of different customizations that actual matter if you care how fast your ship can go, how much cargo it can carry, or how many people it can transport.  With a decent graphics engine, and a good soundtrack to keep you awake through the hours and hours of gameplay, Dread Lords is a worthy successor to the prequel.  Even if you play through the game a couple times, you probably won’t even touch the depth that can be had in this game, but players don’t be afraid to tackle a turn-based strategy like this, because even for new players to the series, Stardock has made it possible to have a great gameplay experience even if you don’t want to concentrate that much on all of the details. 

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter – Releasing in the beginning of summer where kids should be starting to get outside and enjoy the weather, Advanced Warfighter upset parents by giving the kids a reason to spend hours inside with this squad-based strategy action first person shooter.  Taking place in Mexico City, Mexico, you’re part of an elite task force that comes in to save the life of not only the American President, but the Mexican one as well.  When an all-out war erupts in the streets of Mexico City because of a rebel terrorist group wanting to wreck havoc not only Mexico, but the United States as well, you and your squad are sent in to clean everything up and take care of business.  There are a multitude of features that are given to the player which they my never use but are good for those times you have a few extra seconds to spare, such as the ability to see through the head cam of your squad mates or through the camera of your mechanical flying helper throughout the different levels.  These little touches, along with a host of great weapons, decent level design, and an interesting story, provide the player with a great gameplay experience.  Add a decent multiplayer component to the game’s gameplay and you have yourself an overall great game that makes its way in the top ten of 2006.

Some notable entries that nearly made the above list of ten were…

Gothic III – Riding off the cult following of both Gothic I and II, plus the expansion that took forever to translate from German to English, Gothic III puts the player in an extremely large streaming world that will never make you watch a loading screen after load up.  Piranha Bytes took everything great about the previous two installments and threw it into Gothic III, but there are drawbacks that take away from the greatness of this game, taking it off the top ten and those drawbacks basically have to do with the general performance of the game.  The games was released in the United States a month after its initial release in Germany, but the U.S. got patches already included, but they weren’t enough.  Not only are there bugs that hinder the performance of the game, but also bugs that hinder the completion of some quests.  If you’re able to look past some of the bugs, turn down some graphic options and make some small adjustments to the .ini file, you’ll be in for a great experience and you’ll be safe in the fact that Piranha Bytes are working on updates and patches to perfect their huge endeavor in their third installment.

Flatout 2 – Coming off the popular prequel that gave another look at offroad and street racing, Flatout 2 comes back to give the player everything they could want in an all out fun racing game where wreaking is racing.  Having a multitude of vehicles to pick from, a ton of options buyable to upgrade your vehicles, and a lot of great tracks to race through gives this game a lot of gameplay value in general.  The graphics have definitely been updated since the first release and the soundtrack has also been updated with more noticeable musicians such as Nickelback, Rob Zombie, and Megadeth to name a few.  With totally destructible environments to race through, destructible cars to wreak up, and a large variety of different games to play such as bowling, and the ski jump with your driver as you try to fling him as far as you can, Flatout 2 can provide a ton of laughs with you and your friends online.  One of the main drawbacks that hinder this game much like the first one are the lack of difference in the races throughout the game.  You’ll find yourself going through the same track a lot just to complete different goals within the game.

Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends – From Big Huge Games, Rise of Legends gives a fantasy edge to the Rise of Nations series with three distinct and unique cultures to play through and to play as when progressing through the single player campaign.  Having a great storyline and some extremely artistic environment and troop design to match, Rise of Legends is a different branch off your regular RTS tree.  With an engrossing soundtrack that only complements the overall game and some different style of multiplayer power gaming, Rise of Legends throws a couple new things into the mix in the real-time strategy genre.  I can’t compliment this game enough for the artistic designs of everything in the game, with the different types of troops of the three different cultures, but also the different environments that you’ll travel through throughout your travels across this great game.

The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth 2 – Much like its predecessor in design, LOTR:BFME2 gives the player the side of the War of the Ring not experienced in the movies.  A closer look at the different civilizations and races not described in the movies, but detailed more throughout the original books.  Giving the player a decent storyline with graphics that have been given a little bit of an update, the developers took a little more time with the sequel to give the player a bigger game with a better strategic map layout when completing their goals.  With more freedom for creativity to work with when not having to deal with Frodo and his friends, EA Games did a decent job in giving the player a more unique game that’s fun.

Star Wars: Empire at War – The last real-time strategy game set in the Star War universe was Galactic Battlegrounds and I remember putting in quite a few hours with my friend taking out as many wookies as we could, but does this new RTS game live up to the greatness in GB?  In some ways it does, and others it doesn’t.  The developers built a great engine for the game and with it, they created some awesome space fighting between you and your friends, or by yourself when dealing with the single player campaign.  And the campaign can be quite fun whether you’re playing the Light or Dark side.  While the space battles are great, the land battles lack depth and strategy and you might find yourself doing more in space for the amount of fun to be had.  I’m not saying that land battles are terrible, just not as good as most real-time strategy games that you could compare Empire at War to.  There is a great feature known as cinematic camera where you push a button and the camera follows the battle around just like it would in a movie.  A fun game to be played if you’re a Star Wars buff or if you want a different style of real-time strategy following a decent storyline.

Top Ten PC Game Expansions of 2006

Age of Empires III: The Warchiefs

Fear: Extraction Point

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - The Knights of the Nine

Star Wars: Empires at War: Forces of Corruption

Civilization IV: Warlords

Guild Wars: Factions

Guild Wars: Nightfall

Half-Life 2: Episode One

The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth 2- The Rise of the Witch-King

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade

New Review System

After going off of Gamespot's review scale for the past few years, I decided to make my own. There are a few different categories including gameplay, graphics, sound, story/plot, replay value, stability, and multiplayer.


All the categories has a different percentage to the overall value.
Those games without multiplayer will have different percentages to value as the scale for the reviews above, but will carry the same weight in the overall value comparatively.


If you want to check out all of my reviews on one site, go to www.plastiksickness.com


I would suggest going to this sie to check out all of my reviews because most times, Gamespot's website has trouble showing my reviews in the exact way that they're supposed to look.


All of the review scores will be switched over to the new system soon enough. There are also news, blogs, lists, top 10s and more at plastiksickness.com. Go check it out.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Initial Impressions Part II

There are nine different cities to travel to including the massive capital of Cyrodiil, The Imperial City.  But don’t get discouraged by the small amount of large settlements, because there are quite a few different smaller settlements spread across the dense forest life present in Oblivion.  Some of the inhabitants will be friendly while others will dislike you for actions that you’ve taken in the past.  There are also quite a few different campsites of helpful strangers throughout the land where occupants will be willing to provide helpful information towards any quest you may be on at the moment, but some of this information may come with a price, but that can also depend upon how much the NPC likes your character and Bethesda introduces a new minigame to widen this element of the game.  When in conversation with different characters throughout your time in Cyrodiil, you’ll be able to use the disposition minigame to gain the affection to possibly collect more information on your topic choices.  Based upon your speechcraft skills, NPCs will either like you more or less, but with the help of the disposition minigame, you may be able to change their opinion of you.  Another minigame implemented into Oblivion would be the lockpicking minigame.  When having to deal with the different locks on either chests or doors, you’ll be shown a screen of a lock where you must use your lockpicks to raise pins and lock them into place and there are different amounts of pins depending upon the difficultly of the lock.  If you have a higher security skill, this will become easier as time goes on.  The element of stealth in Oblivion is much more advanced this time around than in any Elder Scrolls game.  Light and darkness will affect your hiding ability and also the type of armor you wear.  When deciding on your character, you’ll need to think of what kind of person they’ll be in the providence of Cyrodiil. 

From the beginning of the game, you’re able to create your character and you can easily spend quite a bit of time with this.  There are ten different races to choose from that are retained from the previous games and from there, you can mess with the appearance of your character only dealing with the face and hair, but don’t be discouraged because you can’t change your body type around because the multitude of choices you’re given when designing your face is anything but limited.  You can change everything from the shape and angle of your eyebrow to how skinny and pointed your chin is.  It’s quite astounding the options that the developers provided the character.  After you’ve finished creating your character, you’ll begin the game in a prison cell where you’ll soon find out the storyline of the game, and this storyline is more engaging than any previous Elder Scrolls game to date.  It may seem odd to be starting out in a prison cell, but previous games in the series have also started the same way and the developers found this easier and more interesting for the player to deal with, with letting them create the reason that their in jail.  Bethesda really wants to give the player a game where they can truly create their own character, every aspect of them including everything dealing with their past.  Back to the story though; you’ll find that the three heirs to the throne have been assassinated and that the king is being moved away from the capital city, but he’s taking a secret route of escape and it happens to be right through your jail cell.  You’ll find out that the king has seen you in his dreams and that you’re part of a prophecy that could change the face of Tamriel.  With being in the jail cell that leads to the secret escape route of the king, you’re given a ‘get out of jail free card’ where you can follow the king out of not only the jail, but out of the Imperial City.  But, half way through the secret route, the king will be attacked by Daedric Cult members and you’re left with his ancient amulet that you must bring to a monk which starts the main quest of the game.  But before you’re left to travel on your own, you have to progress through the rest of the escape route through the city sewers, and at the end, before you reach fresh air, you’re again given the chance to change any aspect of your character in case you’ve decided that you would rather be a Nord than your Dark Elf, or a Warrior instead of a Battle Mage.  After this choice, you finally reach the outside of the Imperial City and gaze upon the wonder known as Cyrodiil, and that first view will be breathtaking.

The two characters that I’ve created so far consist of the Wood Elf thief/assassin listed above and a Nord Warrior whose beginning to take a liking to acquiring items that aren’t actually is.  The Wood Elf, being my first character, had a great time exploring the landscape around the Imperial City for quite some time finding ancient ruins and campsites of evil bandits.  The great thing about Oblivion is the fact that you can do anything anytime you want.  With the multitudes of side quests at your disposal, you’re able to go off and wander the land for hours without even starting the main quest.  To tell the truth, I spent the first seven hours doing side quests and exploring the landscape.  I was able to become part of both the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood and from there, I started doing their quest missions.  The developers have stated that the guild missions can easily take ten to twenty hours themselves for each guild.  That amount of time is usually the length of a usual computer game in most genres.  They’ve stated that the main quest of Oblivion takes from twenty to twenty-five hours.  And even though that may not seem as huge as you first would have thought, the length of the game depends upon your gameplay style.  Look at my game; I’ve spent the first seven hours not even touching the main quest.  And the time you take with the game also depends on your modes of travel.  If you just fast travel everywhere, you obviously cut not only a lot of time out of your game, but a lot of the gaming experience that Bethesda has tried to offer.  It all depends on you.

There are four different guilds to join including the fighters, mage, thieves, and the dark brotherhood guild.  Each guild is different and unique from the next and the missions that are involved in each are very different from each other.  The fighter’s guild will have you completing missions where you help locales out with different tasks such as taking care of bar brawls or finding jobs for others.  The dark Brotherhood’s missions are among the most liked by fans so far.  In particular, one mission will have you locked inside a home with five others where you must either kill them or have them kill each other without making yourself the prime suspect in the matter.  During the party, you’ll converse with everyone to see what they like and dislike about each other so that you may have an easier time with taking them out one by one.  If you’re good enough and they like you enough, some of them might even do the killing for you.  The missions within Oblivion aren’t your normal mailman missions where you must take an item from point A to point B.  And this is apparent from the start and Bethesda keeps all the different quests unique and intriguing for you throughout the entire game.  You’ll find yourself deciding which quests you’ll want to complete, because there will be loads of them to acquire throughout your travels across Cyrodiil.  Between the main quests, side quests, and the guild quests, you’ll be spending quite a few hours of time with this game.  Easily more than most role-playing games released recently and the replay value of this game is amazing.  Not only are their ten different races with different abilities, but there are also different classes to choose from, and you’re also able to create your own custom class with the many different skills available.  The different races, classes, abilities, and the different quests provide almost unlimited replayability for this title.  And also, with the downloadable Construction Set available at release, fans and modders alike can extend the life of this game ten-fold.  For those of you who can remember the fan community of Morrowind, you’ll remember that the modders breathed life into the different NPCs and even the providence of Morrowind.  Fans can expect amazing things to come from the different fans around the community with all that’s involved within this game.

And you simply can’t forget to talk about the physics’ engine involved in this title.  Using the newest version of the Havok Physic Engine, Oblivion gives every item in the game mass.  What I mean by that is when you’re out by the water side and you decide to drop some things out of your inventory, some of that stuff could actually float, depending upon the weight of the object.  While most weapons and armor will certainly sink, some spell components and ingredients will definitely float across the top of the water and the same goes for any water-filled areas such as dark caverns at the bottom of caves and ruin sites.  Arrows that are shot out of your bows will travel with velocity where if the enemy is far away, you’ll need to aim a little higher to make up for that distance.  Enemies will fall down accurately when killed or shot and always remember to loot their bodies of course.  A wonderful feature of Oblivion is when you shoot an enemy with arrows, you’re able to retrieve the arrows that are sticking from their body.  Running low on arrows in a fight?  Pick up the arrows that were shot at you that are across the ground or stuck into wood walls.  The physics engine is a nice welcome addition that gives the game even more realism.  If you’d like to see how well the physics engine in the game works, I suggest grabbing a hundred wine bottles from a few people’s cellars, then go up to the top of a set of stairs, then unload all the bottles from your inventory and watch them fall accurately to the bottom.  Quite nice looking I might say.

Simply put, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is an extremely remarkable game in all aspects.  From a role-play standpoint, to a graphical standpoint, and also in a musical standpoint.  Jeremy Soule was the composer for the soundtrack, the same person who did Morrowind, and he did a wonderful job with Oblivion.  For the hundreds of hours that you’ll be spending with this game, Soule really provides a lot with his musical sense.  Whether you have a decent computer or one of the best on the market, you should check out Oblivion.  If you enjoyed Morrowind, you’ll easily fall in love with Oblivion for all its achievements Bethesda has made since then.  If you’re someone who is unsure how Oblivion will look on your system and graphics really matter to you, go out and by the Xbox 360 version, but of course, one with a hard drive because the load times will be dramatically shorter.  If you have neither a Xbox 360 or a decent computer, you should probably go with the Xbox 360 because it’ll cost a third of the amount it would take to buy a computer that will put Oblivion in all its glory.  And this game is definitely one of those titles that could easily influence you into buying a Xbox 360.  If you had no other reason to buy a Xbox 360, this title would be it.  If you’re more into gameplay, check out what I said about my computer specs and framerates and decide from there.  As of right now, this is a must play title and has an extremely good chance to make the top ten of the year, but more time has to be spent to give an accurate assessment and in time the review of this great title will show up here.  If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Initial Impressions Part I

Where do you start with something that’s so massive?  Bethesda, creators and developers of the Elder Scrolls series, released their newest installment entitled Oblivion last week and there are so many things that be said about this latest role-playing game.

I’ve played the game quite a bit since its release taking on two different characters.  Over the course of the past week, I’ve clocked in around forty-five hours of play and have not become the least bit bored with any element of the game.  My first character, a thief/assassin who was enlisted into both the Thieves Guild and the Dark Brotherhood started off the game exploring the country side, and this in itself is quite an undertaking because there is around sixteen square miles of area in Cyrodiil.  No, not a square four by four area, but the province of Cyrodiil that is centered in the middle of Tamiel, the continent that also includes the provinces that were the settings for the previous games.  I’m not quite sure if you can imagine just how large this area is, but once you’re on foot outside the city sewers, and you’re traveling the country, whether by trail or off the beaten path in the multitudes of forest land, you’ll soon see just how small of a character you are in the game world.  During the game, you’ll come upon horses at different stables and I suggest you get yourself one, whether you actually pay for it or steal it, because you’ll be covering quite a bit of ground throughout both the main campaign and the hundreds of side quests that are offered in Oblivion.  One feature added in this newest Elder Scrolls is the idea of fast travel from any location to another if you’ve explored the place you’re heading to.  Some fans have sworn up and down how ‘fast travel’ takes away from the realism of the game world, but it’ll definitely come in handy when completing the hundreds of different quests throughout your travels.

The sixteen square miles is breathtaking in itself.  You’ll see trees and grass sway to the flow of the wind.  Animal wildlife will be all around including deer, wolves, and different types of bears.  The entire terrain is handcrafted by the development team using the Speedtree engine and it creates a sense of realism to the player as their trying to locate different dungeons and abandoned ruins across Cyrodiil.  And many different dungeons/caves you will find because there are two hundred unique caves and dungeons that were hand made by the developers and they look beautiful.  Whether it’s an ancient abandoned Elven ruin or a bandit infested cave, it’ll be different from the last and you’ll find yourself loving every moment of it.  And with most caverns or ruins, the enemies inside are level based meaning that each time you go inside whether you’re level one or twenty, the dungeon will still appeal to your character because of not only its challenge, but also the leveled loot inside.  But watch your step when inspecting the various places because there will be triggered traps such as trip wires or pressure points where if you push/pull them, you better watch out before you get slammed with a spiked lead ball coming down from the ceiling of the cavern or a stack of logs hidden above the doorway just waiting to drop.  One remarkable aspect of the game’s terrain is the sky.  Something that’s usually given the least amount of time in most games, the sky in Oblivion is excellent.  No longer will you be sufficed to having a completely sunny day turn into a rain storm in seconds, because in this newest installment, you can clearly see the storm move in.  The clouds will begin to add up, and you’ll hear thunder in the distance and it begins to rain, and likewise, when going from rain to sunshine, you’ll be given a sequence instead of the awkward transition from one to the other.  The game has a day and night cycle which takes about forty-five minutes real-time to complete twenty four hours, but you’ll see a beautiful sunrise and sunset in that time.  The horizon will have a red glow and the sun will rise in the morning, and likewise at night, the sun will settle over the mountaintops and the two moons of Tamriel will appear along with thousands of stars including the different constellations of Elder Scroll lore.  You’ll sometimes find yourself just staring off in the distance of the landscape in awe of just how beautiful it is.  You’ll see large forests and mountains in the background which look amazing and from extremely long distances away you’ll be able to still see the tower in the middle of the Imperial City which happens to be the starting spot of the game.

But be forewarned, if you want this game to look amazing like all the thousands of screenshots that have been presented so far, you’re going to need a very powerful system, or at least give up some resolution to have a decent framerate within the game.  The recommended specifications may not seem to awfully high for something that looks this beautiful, but the recommended requirements won’t give you all the wonderful details within Oblivion.  You’ll still need to turn down some options or the resolution so that you’re not chugging along in the outside environments or when you’re fighting off hulking trolls in the hundreds of caves.  I myself have a AMD 64 3000, with 1 GB of Corsair XMS RAM, and a Radeon 9800 XT with 256 MB of RAM and I can run the game at 800 x 600 with bloom on, 4x AA, and most of the options maxed out, (some options aren’t allowed since my card doesn’t support it including HDR, etc.), and I get around 30-40 frames per second (FPS) inside and about 20-25 FPS outside in the wilderness.  If I’m battling a monster outside, it’ll easily drop down to 15 FPS, but unlike most first person shooter games, role-playing games are still very much playable at these lower FPS.  Some may not agree with my view of ‘playable’ frames per second, but it really depends upon what you’re willing to deal with in the game and my expectations are a little lower because of my older system and wanting to see some decent graphics.  There are a multitude of options to change and adjust ingame to try and see if you can get better performance, or if you feel really inclined, you can mess with the Oblivion.ini file a little bit.  If you’re not too sure about what you’re doing, I’d suggest going online for help.  But one major tweak that has helped lots of people with their framerates outside has been turning down the density of the grass making it still look great, but also making it more playable.

Upon the release of Morrowind, the previous installment in the series, the fan community dealt with a multitude of bugs dealing with all the different aspects of the game, but this time around, Bethesda pushed back the original release date of the game by four months to play test and optimize the game engine even more so that they wouldn’t have the same problem this time around.  Considering everything that was implemented into Oblivion, Bethesda did exceptionally well.  I cannot speak for everyone, but I have not come across any bugs whatsoever.  There have been people who have come upon a white screen when loading up, but upon further inspection, it seems that their system didn’t meet the minimum requirements, so you’re taking your money in your own hands when purchasing it with below minimum requirements.  Those with older systems, and hardcore fans alike won’t mind turning down the graphics settings, because what they’re truly after is the gameplay and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has quite a lot of that.  Bethesda have always wanted to create a game where the player could ‘live another life’ and in the past, they’ve succeeded, and in Oblivion, they pushed the envelope even more   The game world you’re thrown into is extremely realistic because of the Radiant artificial intelligence that each and every non-player character  (NPC) has.  Unlike Morrowind, where every NPC was the same and didn’t have anything to say, Oblivion’s NPCs live their own lives each and every day.  They have their own schedules throughout each day which can consist of getting up, finding something to eat, opening up their shop or going to work, possibly stealing something from someone, closing up shop, going to the tavern, and then heading home to go to bed.  This may not seem like much, but once ingame, it really shines.  You’ll hear NPCs have different conversations with others on the street, and sometimes when listening, you may be able to pick up a quest this way.  It’s all about role-playing your character in the world of Cyrodiil.  You may be hearing some of the conversations a couple of times, but this system is far advanced from Morrowind where NPCs stood in the same spot twenty four hours a day doing the same thing day after day.  In Oblivion, you’ll find yourself trying to make it to a city to sell your goods at different shops before they close at night.  If you run out of time, you can either do some exploring of the local terrain, find a room at the local inn, or break into the shop and steal what you need, but don’t get caught because the consequences can be harsh depending upon how much you’ve taken.  The world is free for you to do whatever you deem your character would do.  The choices are basically unlimited in Cyrodiil.  If you don’t feel like taking up space at the local inn, you’re able to purchase homes in each of the different cities spread across the providence.  Some homes are purchased through dealing with a quest or two and some are just given upon cash payment, but start saving early on if you’d like a homestead.  And don’t forget, you’re able to decorate it also with trophies and prizes you find across your travels of the sixteen square miles of lush terrain.

 

 

 

 

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Preview/Info

 The spring time of any year is usually a pretty good time for gamers and 2006 is no different, thanks to some nice developers. Over the next couple of weeks, I’m gonna talk about just a few of the more popular titles that will be coming out for the computer starting off with the upcoming release, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

All the upcoming titles have been in production for quite some time and each game has quite a large fan following. These next few blogs are previews filled with information collected over the course of their development periods. In no way can I talk about all the material that has been released for each title so far, but a sort of summarized preview of collected information throughout their development cycle.

The first game listed above is The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, developed by Bethesda and on schedule to be released next week(week of March 20th). A lot of anticipation has been built up for this title since some displeasure with Morrowind. Bethesda has definitely took their time in trying to make the best title that they could this time around taking many third party engines and putting them altogether to create what is being summed up so far by every reviewer, a masterpiece. Taking advantage of a program called Speedtree, Bethesda have created a lush forest filled sixteen square miles known as Cyrodil. I’m sure you’ve probably seen at least one or two screenshots for this title so far and from those, you’ve probably seen how amazingly great looking this game is. Bethesda used a newer version of the Havok engine to have great physics where pretty much everything within the game world has a weight. Many people playing the game for the first time will probably take a lot of time just playing around with the different objects in the game.

Also, Bethesda created what is known as Radiant A.I.(artificial intelligence), which is a nonstop twenty-four hour schedule for all of the non-player characters(NPC) in the game. From what has been shown through different legal and illegal videos on the internet, the A.I. looks like a real step up since Morrowind, where many fan members complained of how all the npcs were outside their shops twenty-four hours a day. This tends to make an unrealistic feel, but pretty much all that could be done for when Morrowind was released. One other downfall of the previous Elder Scroll game was the combat system. There truly isn’t anything good to say about any part of the combat system which was included in Morrowind, but this is where Oblivion will hope to improve. Instead of the game having a hit dice roll each time you swing your sword, in Oblivion, if you swing at your opponent and it makes contact, meaning if it’s not blocked by a shield, then you’ll do damage. This makes the player feel like he’s actually fighting in the game and makes it more realistic overall. And also, unlike Morrowind, using your shield as a defense actually means something. This idea of both actual blocking and attacking is something that fans are just waiting to get their hands on.

Compared to Morrowind’s eleven square miles, Oblivion promises to be a huge endeavor and unlike Morrowind, the landscape will be filled with dense forests and beautiful scenes that will have many people picking their jaws off the floor after. While Oblivion’s landscaped is more along the lines of a fantasy type world comparable to Tolkien’s vision, Morrowind had a barren desert type geography that sometimes made traveling boring. Bethesda, knowing that traveling can get long dealing with the large expanse of territory they include, decided to give the player the option to fast travel to any point they’ve already been. While this may seem cheap in the beginning, while doing different quests throughout the game’s long campaign, many players will probably find themselves using this feature. And for the hardcore players who still will resist the idea of fast travel, the developers gave ride able horses for traveling. Whether you buy them or steal them, the player is able to cross enormous landscapes faster than on foot.

The same races are back from all the previous Elder Scrolls games and the same style of leveling management is along the same lines as Morrowind where you’ll raise your level in different skills by using those skills. And the different classes of characters have also been fleshed out, namely the stealth part of the game, because of a great addition of one of the main guys from the Thief game series. Stealth in Oblivion was totally redone and the shadows actually mean something this time around. Now, when sneaking around in dark corners, a little eye is visible above your character and the eye lights up whether you’re visible to those around or not. Little additions and unique touches like this could make this game a great title.

So far, the game has been reviewed by three different magazines, and of those three, one score was a 9.5/10, another 10/10, and another 93/100. These are all very impressive scores already, but of course, those are only the first three. Fans will always remember all the bugs that Morrowind shipped with and maybe the developers themselves even remember that because of pushing off the release of the game four months to further bug test and optimize the gaming engine. Optimization is going to be a key for this game considering the requirements of the game. Many community members still remembered the strange minimum requirements for Morrowind, being a 500 Mhz system only needing 256 MB of RAM, and that was completely bogus because if you wanted to even run the game, you really needed a 800 Mhz cpu with at least 512 MB of RAM. With Oblivion’s high minimum requirements, players can only hope that the time spent optimizing the game was time well spent. But fans of the new installment in the series really fall into two groups, those who strive to have the ultimate gaming machine to see just how beautiful this game is, also can be known as graphics whores, and there are those who just want a decent graphics setting but are more in it for the gameplay because Oblivion definitely has that to offer.

Throughout the published reviews so far, the writers have sparked a lot of interest in the different quests available to the character, including the quests and missions dealing with the different guilds within the game. Bethesda have reported that a person just going through the main quest will probably play a good twenty to twenty-five hours while someone whose taking their time and completing most if not all the quests in the game could easily spend around two hundred hours overall. This is great news for fans because with all the different character types and races available, this game could ultimately have unlimited replay value. Not to mention the nice toolset that will be downloadable either upon or soon after release and with all the content that the fan community released for Morrowind, one can only guess what they will come up with for this title.

All the elements discussed in the past few paragraphs really give the fans some extreme anticipation to find out how Bethesda brought it all together. I for one cannot wait to see how it all comes about. I have high hopes for Oblivion, but also some reservations from the release of Morrowind. One can never know from mere screenshots of the game released early how it’s going to look on their computer. It’ll all depend on the optimization of the game engine and lets hope that Bethesda got it right. If anyone is wanting to take an early look at someone playing this latest Elder Scrolls game, Gamespot.com is doing a live 12 hour run on Monday, the 20th to all those who are subscribed to their site. It was initially posted for the previous weekend(March 18th and 19th), but Bethesda themselves pushed it back not wanting anyone to be spoiled by what the game has to offer. If you’re like me, you won’t be watching this preview, not only because I don’t have a subscription, but because I want to see the world as the developers wanted it for the first time when I’m behind the computer.


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