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Progression in Dark Souls is done slowly and this is the way they intended it to be. Not every enemy is one you can kill. Sometimes it’s best to run. Sometimes it’s best to just steer clear. Sometimes you run in swinging. You will only ever learn which is correct by trying. Once you know you keep doing it until you have it down to a science. You learn the strengths and weaknesses and exploit them. This is not your game. You don’t get to play it your way. The only way to survive is to play it their way.
As we work our way up from the Firelink Shrine and past the aqueduct we’re quickly finding that being overwhelmed is something that Dark Souls will throw at us time and time again. From enemies hanging off the side of a railing to metal covered bulls to a dragon that decimates everything in it’s path the onset of Dark Souls will not pull any punches. However the ways to beat Dark Souls are not always contained within the game. Sometime you must look elsewhere to find the solutions. Dark Souls lives outside of the console. It permeates the world around you and ceases to be an RPG and starts to become a part of your life. It’s like that pet that you tried to hide from you parents or that naughty magazine you also tried to hide from your parents. You don’t want to admit that you’re looking for help but it’s the only way to survive.
It is for this challenge and totally different gameplay that we give Dark Souls a 5 out of 5
With new DLC comes new adventures in the Free Marches and another chance to spend time with party members that did a wonderful job of carrying the story in Dragon Age II. However in the case of Dragon Age II: Mark of the Assassin we not only get to once more spend time with the ones that we already know but video gamers also get to meet a whole new character named Tallis. Note: I wouldn’t click that link until after playing through Mark of the Assassin or watched Dragon Age: Redemption.
Tallis is an elf on a mission voiced by Felicia Day, but don’t let Miss Day’s normally pleasant demeanor fool you; there is something going on with Tallis that is far more in depth than you are led to believe. In fact the whole of what is Tallis isn’t what you are lead to believe. I’m not going to get into her backstory suffice it to say that she is quite different than any elf you’ve aligned yourself with so far in the Dragon Age world.
While 90% of the game is similar to Dragon Age II there are a few tidbits here and there that need mentioning. Firstly the “stealth” aspect of the game. While this could potentially be a good idea it seems rather out of place. In it you have three options for sneaking 1.) Stay out of site 2.) Distract them with a rock 3.) Hit them in the head to knock them out. There is a very small modicum of skill or understanding required, but for me it was mostly “Just knock everyone out and move”My hulking clunking tank is not known for his stealthiness or tact. Were I to use my rogue then yes, this would seem a tad more normal however as it stands it feels like they just wanted to try something new. This is not a bad thing and it could play well in future Dragon Age games, however it just feels tacked on.
Bad Wyvern! That cake wasn't for you!
Second thing worth mentioning is the fact that they did a very nice job taking Felicia Day and translating her into an elf. Facial mapping was spot on and her voice acting (as expected) was sublime. I had not watched Redemption when I began my foray into the Free Marches so I found myself asking “Why am I supposed to care about Tallis?” Even as it ends there is little backstory to her so, while I’m sure she’s nice, I just didn’t care about her. That did not, however, stop me from flirting my tank ass off. This just lends credence to the “Hawke is a Whore” theme that seems to permeate Dragon Age II. The gender or sexual preference of the person I’m talking to doesn’t matter, I’m going to make myself “available”. Loudly if need be.
Third there is the combat. This is the standard Dragon Age II style combat where the more mages the better you are. After one particularly nasty “optional boss” I had to restart my game loaded with mages in my party to ensure victory. While not my idea of the “perfect party” it seemed to make the rest of the game fairly easy. However other than this one optional boss the DLC seems fairly cut and dry.
Fourth we have this:
Dragon Age II was not without it’s cameo’s and neither is Mark of the Assassin. Teagan makes a comeback and he does so with Isolde who utters a line that proves to be very difficult to remove from ones ears once it decides to pay a visit. Granted Teagan and Isolde serve absolutely ZERO PURPOSE other than to utter the line in the video. It’s for this reason We’re pretty sure that BioWare threw it in there because of this clip.
This is not the only cameo to appear in Dragon Age II: Mark of the Assassin, however the others are relatively bit players from Dragon Age II. Aside from one.
A certain bard from Origins make’s a return in what is a very confusing and potentially interesting conversation. Leliana and Tallis have a back and forth that appears to indicate there is a rather rich and deep story there involving some form of deception. Leliana appears to know precisely who Tallis is and what she wants to the point that her very presence seems to unnerve our elven companion.
Finally there is the story. As I mentioned earlier I found myself asking time and time again, “Seriously, who the expletive is this girl and why do I give a flying expletive?” The story winds up being interesting but I couldn’t help but wonder if I was supposed to watch the Redemption videos before I played the DLC. I felt that maybe I was missing out on something. But as interesting as the story was it does not appear to tie into anything in the Dragon Age world other than a way to prance Felicia Day around in Rogue Armor (not that anyone is complaining about that). I’m sure at some point in the story all points will converge into on glorious moment of “Expletive me, that was AWESOME!” As of right now, however, I’m going to be here scratching my head about it all.
All in all it’s a good bit of DLC that takes a decent tick of time to get through. However it feels like it’s a tacked on vehicle for Tallis more than anything related to the lore and wondrous world of Dragon Age. For this reason it holds it back from being truly great and leaves it in the realm of “average”.
Every year football fans get to hear about the Madden curse and how all powerful and accurate it is. How every year the player on the cover has to sit at least one game because of the Madden curse. It’s not the brutal and body pounding sport that is football that takes the blame. No, that makes too much sense. Instead blame is placed on a very mythical Madden Curse. Madden NFL 12 was the be-all-end-all of football video games, a game that was supposed to be the definitive football video game graced it’s cover with something that could prove to be far more powerful. Madden NFL 12’s cover was picked by the fans and I don’t think many of them knew what they did.
While many people believe the Madden Curse is absolute there is one curse that is potentially more potent and taxing in sports. It is seen every time Cleveland sports do anything worth taking note of. It is played any time a Cleveland team faces a potentially season ending game. It is shown by ESPN any time there is any mention of “Cleveland” and “Hope” in the same sentence. I speak of the curse that gave Cleveland wonderful names like The Catch, Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, and The Decision. But that’s not all. There are other acts attributed to the curse that have no fancy name including the Curse of Rocky Colavito, the Cleveland Browns relocation to Baltimore, and the 1997 World Series. Our curse has been going on longer and has had a bigger impact than a player missing a few games. It punishes our hopes and our spirits every year. It’s the only constant we see in Cleveland sports. So the question is, which curse is bigger? The Madden Curse or the Cleveland curse?
While great strides have been made to the franchise mode in this outing of Madden there are still some things that are irksome. But lets focus on the good bits shall we? To start with the preseason is a little more meaningful this time around. I was one of the many Madden players who would bypass the the preseason because it offered little to no advantage. This time through you can properly evaluate a large swath of players to decide who to keep and who to cut. Preseason in Madden finally takes on the meaningful game that the true Preseason is supposed to.
To bad your ass got saaaaaaaaaaaaaaacked
The other nice addition was options in the gameflow play calling system. One of my biggest pet peeves with last season was the inability to easily determine if you wanted to go with gameflow or pick a play yourself. It was an all or nothing approach that led to me simply forgoing the gameflow altogether and picking plays. At least then I knew what I was getting in to. In Madden NFL 12 you are told the play you are running and given the option to pick something a little different. The downside is that when you switch between Gameplan, Passing and Running on offense or Gameplan, Aggressive and Conservative on defense it changes the play on you. While I may like what I see under an Aggressive defense it’s nice to see what the Gameplan has in store. However once I switch away the play is gone.
In addition to Madden NFL 12 not being able to make up it’s mind on what the Gameplan is we seem to find that it makes a great number of mistakes while on the field itself. Take for example the use of a red flag to challenge the play. I have yet to see a play not overturned. A booth review after a fantastic 45 yard completed pass means one thing. You have to go back to where you were. However this can work to your advantage. Anytime you throw the flag you are all but guaranteed to have the play come out the way you want to. While totally unfair it’s an interesting tactic to utilize.
It also doesn’t seem to make up it’s mind on what is or is not possible within the rules of football. I had one play where I threw a pass down field in a very last ditch attempt to pull out a victory. As the ball sailed through the air I watched as defenders crowded around the receiver knowing full well that it would result in a dead ball. Then something magical happened. As the ball bounced between the hands of players down field it bounced off the ground then 15 yards up field (back towards the line of scrimmage) what it was eagerly met with the waiting hands of an open player who ran it in for a touchdown. It was a player on defense. It should have allowed me to red flag the ball as being dead and seemingly altered in some way to cause it to fly 15 yards on it’s own however I was not given the option. I had to suffer the loss I knew I was getting, but something about the rampant cheating of the game was so mindbogglingly bad that I turned it off.
Lets hope by this time in the season he's still healthy
Couple poor adherence to the rules of both football and ball physics with a poor understanding of what the human body is physically capable of doing. When running with a ball defenders will suddenly leap, almost immediately, varying distances of a few feet to a few yards to find themselves directly in front of my charging player. While most human beings would be so astonished by the sudden change global positioning that they would either poop themselves or decide then and there to use their powers of teleportation for good or evil, we do not see this take place in Madden NFL 12. Instead, without skipping a beat, the defender acts as if their feet were literally planted in the ground and they were made of hardened steel to stop the runner dead in his tracks.
This round of the Clash of the Curses goes to Cleveland given Madden NFL 12’s seeming inability to abide by longstanding laws of physics and rules of football. One way or another you’re bound to be royally screwed while playing the game.
Madden NFL 12’s Gameplay gets a 2 out of 5
The controls in Madden are very tight and well done. They maintained the ability to effectively run the football with thumbs on the thumb sticks or add a flourish or two (stiff arm, dive, etc) with a quick jaunty thumb trip to the right. They did nothing to really revolutionize the in game controls but they didn’t mess them up either. They essentially kept them normal. Which, in lieu of everything else can be considered a godsend.
However what is lacking is the inability to control not seeing certain in game cut scenes. If you’re like me you turn off the commentary. While that makes listening to the game much more tolerable it does make it relatively strange to see the styling they took with the game. Giving it a TV feel was a cool and familiar direction to take with Madden NFL 12. Without commentary however it’s very unusual. The ability to control the way the game is presented would be nice. However this is not enough to hurt the controls. In this instance we can’t really give any points to the Cleveland Curse. Madden, though, doesn’t really come out on top in this round either leaving the score at 1 to 0 in favor of the Cleveland Curse.
Madden NFL 12’s Controls get a 3 out of 5
On the field Madden NFL 12 looks phenomenal. Visually Madden has never been bad. This season they took greater care to recreate the players in the game and give them a more realistic look and feel. From running, hitting, catching, and even down the players faces, Madden NFL 12 definitely ups the standard for sports video games.
Players don't look fantastic, they look like the actual players.
However it goes down when it goes off screen. More often than not, when showing the stadium, instead of seeing the streets, the buildings, the parking, and lake that surround Cleveland Browns we see a blank field of green. It’s simple elements like this that keep it from being a truly beautiful game. It’s not even held solely to the external views. Even when they pan to the coaches and sideline players the rendering doesn’t always follow suit. While it’s not a game breaker it’s still a minor step back from what could have been a flawless presentation leaving it at just a notch above average. This gives it a slight edge in favor of Madden over the Cleveland Curse. Score now site at 1 to 1.
Madden NFL 12’s Graphics get a 4 out of 5
Good. Sweet. Christmas. I have patience for poor commentary. I can sit through just about anything. I have trained myself by listening to Bernie Kosar’s preseason commentary. For those of you who don’t know he sounds like he’s kicking back the Jack Daniel. So much so that during one memorable game the closed captioning actually came up with “?????” as one of his statements. The people who get paid to listen and transcribe were lost. It’s because of this I can usually make it through at least one season with the commentary on. Not this time. I made it to Week 4.
The Cleveland Browns face off against the Tennessee Titans in week 4 on the banks of Lake Erie. While this isn’t exactly going to be the clash of the NFL greats here one would at least expect the announcers to understand who is playing. Especially in a video game. To my surprise Chris Collinsworth spent the entire game calling them the New York Titans. He never once said Tennessee. He spent the entire game calling them New York. This was so off putting I actually didn’t save this match because I wanted to see if it would happen again. Sure enough the second time through he kept referring to them as the New York Titans. It was about this time that I had to hit the internet to see if they had moved without me noticing. Yes. Madden NFL 12 made me question reality.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Announcers talk about players that aren’t even on field, call plays that didn’t even happen, all the while seeming to repeat the same 6 or 7 statements throughout a single game; the sound quality in Madden NFL 12 has taken a major step backwards. I, just today, noticed that during a kickoff the sound of the ball being kicked is heard at just about the same time that Joshua Cribbs is catching the ball. Apparently Madden NFL 12 decides to bend the laws of physics one last time and distort the way that sound travels.
The Cleveland Curse has once more reared it’s head to mar what should have been a very simple victory for Madden NFL 12.
Madden NFL 12’s Sound gets a 1 out of 5
Madden NFL 12 was intended to be the best Madden to date. It was supposed to be a perfect Madden. It was a Madden for the pure Madden fans. Then they went and attached themselves to the Cleveland Curse who (if you’re keeping score) has taken the contest at a score of 2 to 1 over Madden. Overall Madden NFL 12 gets a 2 out of 5.
As far as which curse is mightier it seems that the Cleveland Curse has come out on top. Really the only way the Madden Curse will win out is if Peyton Hillis suffers some outlandish injury. This is a man who is over used in a very punishing position. He was going to get hurt either way. However is a velociraptor suddenly appears wearing a Raiders jersey and ninja kicks Hillis into half of the Browns starters then I will say the Madden Curse took effect. Okay I mean really he just has to sit for more than two games but come on, admit it, the VelociRaider just sounds kinda awesome.
When you start Catherine you’re not really sure what’s going on. What you do know is that you are looking at Vincent. Vincent is in his underwear. He has horns on his head. Vincent is surrounded by sheep and standing at the base of strange wall. Suddenly you are forced to climb as the floor beneath you begins to crumble away. Oddly if it was any other way it just wouldn’t feel as right.
TL/DR - Catherine is definitely worth the buy
Controls are a vital part of any game (hey there Captain Obvious!). If they are not spot on the game becomes infuriating and frustrating. This, more often than not, is the case with Catherine. While I’m not ruling out that this is by design to add a new element of difficulty to the game, it did seem that I felt a very frequent and overwhelming urge to break my controller in half and throw it into a wood chipper because Vincent either moved or didn’t move how I instructed him to.
The controls for Catherine were, however, delightfully simple. This was a fantastic boon for the game since there was a very present time limit that is chasing after you, in some instances very literally and also while screaming. There were few simple options during the game: move in a direction, grab a block, use whatever power up you have and from time to time you get to talk or to text. Very simple. But it was the movement that became a little fuzzy. It’s this level of “fuzz” that takes away from Catherine’s delightfully simple controls. When precise movements mean the difference between life and death it’s the precision that needs to be in place before the simplicity.
Catherine’s controls get a 3 out of 5.
This is a typical morning for Vincent. That. Asshole.
Catherine is a game that is quite unlike any other. Right from the onset you are are thrust into a wonderfully realized world that is full of confusion and chaotic fear. More often than not you will be asking yourself, “What is the correct answer? What is the correct course of action?” With no clear choice of right and wrong you are literally forced to make a choice between two possible answers. Sometimes you may not even agree with these answers. For example the question was posed “Do you believe that life begins or ends at marriage?” You literally have to answer this question in order to progress the game. It does not matter if you agree with either of the decisions, but you do have to answer. It’s these answers that will ultimately determine the outcome of the game.
In both the dream world and the real world time always flows. There are certain things you can do to stop it like check your phone or play a video game (within the video game) but other than that time keeps on moving. In the real world there are people you can talk to and learn interesting bits of information about the denizens of the world. However you have to act quick because if you don’t talk to them quick enough, they wind up moving on with their evening and you may not be able to help them.
Then there is the difficulty. Catherine is not what you would call easy. It is hard. It’s hard because of this always moving time frame. Once you start to work with the puzzles the dropping floor comes up faster than you expect it to. This is without the bosses. You throw them into the mix and you have a confusing puzzle that is quickly getting smaller and smaller while something tries the falcon kick you, chop you, or crush you into paste. Each time you die you see one more continue go away, and with it…a small piece of your pride.
The ability to base a game on your decisions is not something new or unique to a video game anymore. However the always moving, always flowing time frame that takes place in Catherine adds a wonderfully finite dynamic that is something I wish more games carried through. It’s this sense of constant urgency that gives Catherine a special edge.
Catherine’s gameplay gets a 4 out of 5
Catherine is an exquisitely beautiful game. This is no secret. The pre-rendered anime cutscenes are definitely well drawn. While the anime style may not be for everyone it is certainly something that I enjoyed. But what struck me was how well the rest of the game lived up to this style.
This is not pre-rendered. This game looks THIS nice.
There is little else to say other than it is so beautifully crafted and rendered that it absolutely deserves recognition
Catherine’s Graphics get a 5 out of 5
This is a game that will automatically default you to the easy setting. It’s not that Catherine doesn’t believe in you, it just knows precisely how frustrating it is and it wants you to enjoy it’s story. It’s the story that will carry you through the game. As you climb you interact with other people. As you interact you begin to learn more and more about them. Learning about their problems you begin to know them. When you see them at each landing between climbs you are happy to see they made it. When they perish you are met with a sense of grief.
Seriously Vincent. I don't care what she really is. You're a lucky asshole.
Then there is the real world and your friends and bar patrons. Their struggles and stories keep you gripped to the world. The game ceases to be the standalone tale of Vincent and his peccadilloes. The game becomes a living breathing world with surprisingly deep and rich characters who’s lives and problems you begin to genuinely care about. The time in between climbs becomes treasured moments of dialogue and depth that is rarely seen in a game these days.
While the game itself is short I find myself wishing that I could have spent more time in the Stray Sheep talking to friends. It’s the calm and subtle down time of alcohol and conversation that ultimately keeps you gripped to the game and wanting more. It’s the brief interludes on the landings between climbs that somehow manage to be small but powerful.
Catherine’s Story gets a 5 out of 5
Overall Catherine is a solid and well put together video game. While the controls were the biggest point of contention they should in no way, shape, or form detract anyone from purchase. With multiple possible endings to both Catherine and (surprisingly) the in-game video game the replayability is sure to keep fans coming back for more. Atlus has absolutely just delivered a winner with this one.
Catherine gets an overall score of 4 out of 5.
Now, first person to answer the name of the game within the game and it’s endings gets the first ever Ass Stamp of Approval.
Dragon Age 2 was a fine game that we at Polish the Console really enjoyed. While it wasn’t the marvel that Dragon Age: Origins was we can’t help but feel that perhaps we may have let our expectations from BioWare get the best of us. All in all Dragon Age 2 was a good romp through the Free Marches.
Many reviewers touted the lack of diversity in the landscape as a flaw of the game (and it was) and almost irrelevance of Hawke to the story as another drawback, BioWare looked to correct some of this in Legacy. Correct it they did. What we have is an adventure through an old Grey Warden prison buried underground that holds an ancient Darkspawn. While it’s not going to be enough to elevate Dragon Age 2 to the epic heights of Dragon Age: Origins it does serve to help lend more weight to the game by further fleshing out the tale of Hawke
Since this is just an expansion we still see the same graphics, gameplay, and control. BioWare didn’t revamp the entire system. It’s just an add on and as such we will forgo droning on about them with the same cliched analogies that you’ve heard before. What will ultimately make you want to play Legacy is the question “Is the story in Legacy worth spending $10.00 on?”
In a word, yes. I believe the word I actually used to describe it to Kat was “ballstastic”. To me this was a very worthwhile purchase. Dragon Age 2: Legacy playthrough lasted me around 2.5 – 3 hours which is fairly respectable for any expansion pack. Now this was padded intermittent pausing to take my two dogs out, so for you I would imagine that it would be less. Unless you really like to stop and enjoy the scenery.
These shields are a nuisance on more than one occasion
It was interesting to me to watch the tale unfold of the family Hawke. Throughout Dragon Age 2 we were constantly reminded and spent time with the matriarchal side of the lineage, the Amells. But throughout this adventure very little was ever spoken of the Hawke side. Legacy provides a brief glimpse into the other half of Hawke’s lineage, but to be honest I found myself asking “Why do I care?” They never brought it up during the main campaign of the game, at all. I mean yes they made references to Hawke’s father so we know he existed and had some relationship with his children however not once did they ever mention that the family may have some additional purpose or strange history. It felt very tacked on.
Now this is not to say that it was not thoroughly enjoyable and interesting. As we explored our way through this Grey Warden prison my companions continued their interesting and witty banter back and fourth that elicited more than a few chuckles. Something about Isabela saying “See, this is why I don’t wear pants,” will go a long way to produce a wry smile across a man’s face.
But they didn’t stop with just an interesting story. The weapon received is not just some obligatory “here’s a fancy new sharp killy thing.” It plays an integral role in the story. In fact without it the story itself could not proceed. It’s called “The Key” and helps Hawke to complete the task at hand. While this may not sound all that interesting what sets it apart is that as the game goes on you assign traits to it based on what you want from it. Think of it a little like the weapons in Fable III, but better implemented. It’s this aspect I would like to see them develop more in future Dragon Age 2 expansions and Dragon Age 3. It became such that I got excited when I got to upgrade my weapon because I couldn’t wait to see what was out there for me. By the end I had developed the perfect weapon for my character and would have loved to have spent a little more time with it.
Now as you can tell from trailers and various pre-release information you are once more dealing with some talking Darkspawn that were believed to be seen for the first time in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening. This was referenced in the game by Anders (who was in my party) and questioned if there was a relation between the two. What began to unfold was a much more interesting story that also gives players some insight as to the origins of the Darkspawn altogether. This was like an unexpected present of knowledge and lore and who doesn’t love that?
While the story in Legacy isn’t going to make Dragon Age 2 a game of the year it did certainly make me feel better about Dragon Age 2 as a whole. It’s something that helps create a more complete offering. While it’s not earth shattering ground breaking by any means it’s still better than you see in some games.
For this reason we’re giving Dragon Age 2: Legacy gets a 4 out 5.