Game Review Roundup: SKYRIM Soars 10/10


Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

From: Bethesda

Review By: Lucas Siegel

'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

I've never liked the Elder Scrolls series. Previous games in the series that I tried came off as having a very high entry point; you seemed to already have to be a fan, both of the series and the style of game itself, in order to be able to enjoy it at all. Honestly, I never got more than about two hours into any other Elder Scrolls game, despite having many people - fans and industry members alike – telling me to give them another shot.

So imagine my surprise when, about 3 minutes into Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I was completely sucked in. I felt immediately engaged by this world, this expansive place full of warriors and elves and dragons. The magic, the pomp and circumstance, it gripped me from the first scene, through the character creation, and into the fire (literally). Suddenly, it was 5 hours later, I hadn't eaten, and wanted nothing more than to just sit right in that spot and keep playing that game.

The burden of entry here is very low. The inventory might be a little confusing to a novice of the Role Playing Game genre, but it is built up gradually enough to take even the most basic player by the hand and lead them in. Combat just plain works. With spells, weapons, and shields equipped in your left and right hand, you simply press left trigger (or L2 on PS3) and right trigger, and watch as your hands exude fire or throw powerful slashes of a sword. You can dual wield just about anything, and while certain races are more geared toward certain types of attacks, with the right amount of dedication you can customize your own resident of Skyrim to be the strongest swordsman, or the most masterful magician, and have hours (and hours and hours and hours…) of fun doing so. That's the thing here: from the lowest level to when you're a power house, from the first basic exploration (you can go anywhere in the world right from the start if you're patient enough to run for a couple of hours) to traversing vast distances on you owned horse or becoming a real estate mogul with a warm bed in every town, from your first wolf attack to your first mage kill down to your twentieth slaughtered dragon, this game is fun every step of the way. You play exactly how you want to play, you go in the order that you want to go in, it's really a perfect example of a company building a world for you to live another life in, rather than saying you have to do x before you can go do y. Yes, there are linear goal-oriented missions (and quest "strings" that lead from one to the next, usually resulting in a loss of sleep as you try to knock out one last mission only to find yourself with two new goals at the end), but which you do, and when you do them, is entirely up to you.

Freedom, fun and fast paced gameplay, and a massive world make for a fun game. Things aren't perfect in the world of Skyrim, however. If you don't do the optional install on the Xbox 360 (it's mandatory on PS3 and PC of course), loading times and slow down can be nigh-unbearable, especially because you simply want to get back into the game. Even with the installs, there will be some slow down. The inventory and level-up system should come pretty easily to vets of even just a RPG or two, but may prove unwieldily at first to newbies. Luckily, as you access the various menu screens for the first time, there is a handy tutorial giving you the basic idea.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a spectacular game. It shows exactly what the term role playing game should mean; you are actually becoming a character living in this impressive world. The game also just lasts and lasts; when you have a limited budget and are spending $60 on a video game, it's nice to know you'll easily pull in a hundred hours of gameplay. You can spend four or five hours on an early low-level quest line with ease, and later ones even mores. There are so very many options for quests as well, with virtually every person in a place like the magic college or the thieves' guild being able to give you one (or more) special journey within the world. It's hard to cover everything here, honestly, as I could probably write another six hundred words on just how cool magic is, especially when you get into the dragon soul-fueled shouts (which is precisely as cool as it sounds).

Even with the slight loading flaws and the slightly higher point of entry for newbies, this game is without question a game of the year contender. As those are more about the limitations of technology and not an inherent flaw of the game, I'm still comfortable giving this one a 10 out of 10. This is a must-play, and a way to easily destroy your social life, in the best way possible. Now please excuse me, and with apologies to the pile of games here to review, but I have dragons to slay.


Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

From: Capcom

Review By: Seth Robison

‘Rama Rating 6 out of 10

In the year 2000, Marvel Comics launched their ‘Ultimate’ line of comics. In this new, separate universe from the canon established by their forty-plus year history, they re-imagined their classic characters as if they were just coming into their powers in the modern world. Both new and very familiar at the same time the Ultimate line was and is known for traveling along some of the same storytelling paths but with a fresh coat of paint.

Therefore, it’s fitting that the re-imagining of Capcom’s 2011 release: Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, is called Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, out now for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Though this ‘Ultimate’ reboot come just nine months after the original, as opposed to a half-century.

While the focus should rightly be on what is new/has been changed in this ‘budget priced’ revision, it should be noted that all the features from the previous version make their return with a cosmetic facelift. The core game is still a bright, colorful 3-on-3 fighter where the action on any difficulty level is fast, furious and packed with characters that recall and expand on their own canon with entertaining adaptations of their skills to this game’s style.

On the change front, first and foremost is the addition of twelve new fighters, bringing the total up to 48 (50 with the two DLC characters, Jill Valentine and Shuma-Gorath, installed). Among the new fighters, comic fans will welcome a rare playable character appearance by Doctor Strange who comes complete with his trademark exclamations and invocations. Ghost Rider’s hellfire and long-range chain attacks are an unexpected threat and Hawkeye’s arrows (and smart-alecky mouth) ably outmatch the mimicry of Taskmaster. Iron Fist is probably the most ‘normal’ fighter on the Marvel side, a kind of flashy Ryu, and in motion Nova feels as powerful on the screen as he ever has on the page. Finally the deep album cut hero Rocket Raccoon is built around gimmicks, as he uses an array of devices including ray guns, mines and spring loaded traps to attack while at the same time being the whole roster’s smallest fighter.

On the Capcom side two of the new additions deserve special mention, Frank West of Dead Rising fame might feel outclassed with just some pro-wresting style moves and an array of shopping-mall objects to use as weapons, but more powerful moves can be unlocked by ‘leveling up’ during a fight by taking a picture of a recently competed combo. More (much more) meta-game quirkiness can be found within the move set of the fan-demanded character of Phoenix Wright, who engages in each fight in a way that is quasi-consistent with the style of his source game. To unlock his most powerful moves, including the ability to damage a foe severely with swaths of paperwork and of course a potent legal summation, you must take the time to search the stage for evidence that can also be used as projectiles. Rounding out the expanded Capcom roster is returning favorite Strider Hiryu, Ghost and Goblins villain Firebrand, a Resident Evil T-Type Nemesis (packing a rocket launcher) and Devil May Cry pretty boy Vergil.

While as admitted there are no new stages in which to fight on, the reality is that all of the existing ones have new forms that all but work better than new stages. The alternate Metro City stage is reworked to homage the classic Days of Future Past X-Men story, complete with Sentinels and that famous dead/captured poster in the background. In addition, the Hand Hideout has a new master sitting on its throne: a red eyed, black costume wearing Daredevil, as seen in last year's "Shadowland" crossover over in the comics.

While the apparent rush to market kept the intriguing “Heroes and Heralds” adventure mode from making the disc at launch, gamers can unlock (by having an original MvC3 saved game, or by collecting ‘player points’ in game) Galactus mode, which lets you play as the Devourer of Worlds/end boss. Basically this mode lets you turn the tables against five sets of three AI controlled teams by pounding them with the purple planet eater’s slow but cosmically powerful attacks. On the multiplayer side, the game remains largely unchanged, though Spectator Mode, which was an odd omission from the previous game after being developed for one of the versions of Street Fighter 4, has been included to help pass the time between matches on the lobby screen.

These additions and the purported “re-balanced” gameplay (that will be largely invisible to all but the hardcore players) do what they can to salve the understandable hurt feelings that longtime fans of this franchise feel, but even that and the lower price point can’t overcome their patient, nine year wait from the second entry being rendered obsolete in as many months. New gamers to the franchise can take the risk, but existing players should exercise caution and consider if 12 new endings and two new modes is enough to warrant spending more money for a game they already own 80% of.


Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One

From: Insomniac Games

Review By: Lucas Siegel

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

If you've followed our reviews here for a few years, we've made no secret of our love for this franchise. With graphics that at times make you feel like you're playing inside a Pixar movie, hilarious and jaw-dropping weapons, and banter that drives the fun, action-packed gameplay, Ratchet and Clank games are always worth playing. This game would be dangerously close to "more of the same" if it wasn't for one very big change, though: up to four player co-op throughout the whole darn game. Playing the shooter-platformer hybrid with three friends makes this much more "new" feeling, and provides the extra oomph to make this well worth the purchase and play for fans of the series. For newcomers, it'll be the multiplayer that gets you to stick around for the weakest story of the series (and hopefully get you to reach back into the archives, at least to play the time-bending entries for PS3, where the story seems to have peaked). Otherwise, everything you expect from Ratchet and Clank, from team-based platforming (and attacks) to crazy weaponry, is in place. This one isn't as ground breaking in some areas, but it certainly shows how well multiplayer fits into the series; I'd be surprised if we see a straight single-player entry again after this.

Stay tuned later this week for a shooter-extravaganza as we delve into the many FPSes out this fall!

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