Review: Darksiders II (X360)

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In 2010, the first thing that Darksiders did was to destroy the world. It brought on the Apocalypse reserving players a front row seat as one of the Four Horsemen. Humanity was dead, and War was on the march.

Fueled by the vision of comics industry veteran, Joe Madureira, and his team at Vigil Games, it took the charred building blocks of a Biblical end and gleefully twisted them into a vast adventure battling through the aftermath as angels and demons fought over the bones of what was left. But like any good story, there’s always more to tell. And like any good sequel, there’s always more than one way to improve on the original.

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Review: Kingdoms of Amalur – Reckoning (PS3)

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Bethesda Softworks’ first Elder Scrolls game, Arena, took FRPGs by storm in ’94 packaging an entire continent on a set of eight 3.5″ discs requiring only 25MB of space on your hard drive and experiencing it all in first-person.

The randomly generated terrain and quest system created the illusion of endless adventure spanning a vast wilderness rife with cities, isolated towns, secrets, swamps, and barren deserts. Nearly 20 years later, new entries into the series herald hundreds of hours of lost productivity and countless memes as players take extended vacations into the worlds that Bethesda crafts under its banner.

Others have also tried, with varying success, to emulate that success and now 38 Studios’ freshman effort has boldly staked its own claim. After years in development and with EA taking on the publishing duties on this sandbox, history could be repeating itself.
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Review: Lord of the Rings – War in the North (X360)

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War in the North takes players back to Middle Earth to fight evil while Frodo and company head to Mordor to destroy the One Ring. Taking place in the North, would-be adventurers will play their part in stemming the tide of darkness waiting to erupt from the cold, wintry holds there.
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Review: Hunted – The Demon’s Forge

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Throw the words “old school” into an RPG conversation and you might get a number of different answers depending on who is in the room with you. Visions of spreadsheets filled with statistics, inventory menus filled with +2 weapons, or a hack ‘n slash slog through deviously crafted dungeons rife with hidden horrors and HP draining traps are only a few that you might get.

And that’s what Hunted delivers – deep, mysterious ruins, hidden treasures, weapons, and plenty of monster fodder to wade through. Remembering my own time with Stonekeep on the PC, it was as if inXile had shaken loose the good bits from the games its founder, Brian Fargo, had made in the late 80s and distilled them through the Unreal Engine’s alchemy. What came out the other end, though, is slightly sweet with flawed grit.
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Developers Feel PSN Downtime Crunch

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Computer and Videogames has a story in which they spoke to the producer of the upcoming action RPG, Dark Souls. Kei Horono admitted that “I would be lying if I said the problems
with PSN hadn’t caused us some problems, but we are in
contact with Sony and are aiming to meet a street date of October 11.”

The team at From Software who are developing Dark Souls had hinted at a larger online component than they the one used to great success in its predecessor, Demon’s Souls.

Andriasang posted the translated points of an interview from Japanese gaming site, 4Gamer, with the director of Dark Souls, Hidetaka Miyazaki, where he stated that he wanted to bring back the feeling of “the old Dragon Quest” games. In that way, he hopes that it will deliver the sense of where everyone feels the struggle of everyone else by sharing tips as they did in the old days. PS3 players saw a taste of this with Demon’s Souls where they could actually leave simple hints – or deceptions – behind that the servers shared with everyone else in the form of text messages.

With PSN down, however, none of that is coming through making the world of Demon’s Souls even more grim than it already is. The difficulties that Kei Horono admitted to above also emphasize the troubles that other developers may be having with PSN’s forced downtime -  especially for those working on PS3 titles with online features.

IGN had posted a story last month in the early days of the outage speaking to one such developer that was directly affected, Open Emotion Studios. The Irish developer was set to release their puzzler, Mad Blocker Alpha, on PSN for the States on April 19th but as everyone knows, circumstances prevented anything PSN related from happening the next day when Sony took it offline. Paddy Murphy, CEO for Open Emotion, said that they have been in contact with Sony who promised extra marketing to help promote their game to help “recoup our potential losses”.

But the days of exclusivity continue to wane with more games appearing on both the Xbox 360 and PS3. Dark Souls will be the first taste of From Software’s unique punishment that Xbox 360 players may have missed if they didn’t have access to a PS3 and a copy of Demon’s Souls. Even with PSN down, continuing development with Live is likely providing valuable lessons useful for whatever networking tricks will be worked into the gameplay for both versions. This may be why Kei Horono seems confident in hitting that October 11th release date.

And why players will have another reason to be afraid of Halloween.

Dark Souls is scheming of new ways to hurt you

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Demon’s Souls on the PS3 was a surprise hit to Atlus, who imported and localized the game for the States, and to Japanese developer, From Software.

It was tough, unforgiving, harsh in its execution of the challenges it threw at players, but rewarding to those that took the time to learn its systems and eventually take the fight back to the enemy. It was an action RPG that didn’t handhold you as much as it killed you – though dying was a big part of the gameplay anyway.

Now we have Dark Souls on its way – which is basically Demon’s Souls with a few tweaks, though it’s really a “spiritual successor”. Sony owns the name to Demon’s Souls, and with Namco Bandai publishing this one instead, well, you know how things go. But even the creators are distancing this game from Demon’s Souls and it sounds as if they have plenty of reasons to. New story, tweaked mechanics, a “base” type approach to advancing through each area, and tougher difficulty.

Wait, tougher? That’s what Hidetaka Miyazaki, director for the game, has come out to confirm in an interview on Sony’s blog. I loved the first game and the tougher challenge has piqued my curiosity to see just how it plays out. Looking at this trailer, it certainly isn’t pulling any punches. Not that fans would want it to.

Dark Souls is expected to humble dungeon crawlers sometime this year.