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: FFXIII-2 (PS3)

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Square Enix’s FF13 was a controversial title to a number of longtime fans of the flagship series. Much has been made of its heavily linear area designs, overly long tutorials, shallow world, and its twitch-centric combat system. To more than a few, for a game expected to carry the series forward, it seemed to be heading in the wrong direction.

FF13-2 wants to change all of that. Or at least head back in a direction that won’t burn as many bridges behind it. Boasting a new story packed with all of the ludicrously beautiful visuals that HD televisions squee with delight over, Square Enix took much of what was criticized about the first game by focusing on hammering out the rough edges.

It’s not the first time that they’ve followed up on one of the series’ major chapters in this fashion as FF10-2 can testify, but it is probably the first time that the changes aren’t so much experimentation as they are a belated do-over of what didn’t work as well the first time around.
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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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BlizzCon 2011: Diablo 3 – Soulstone Trailer

Of course, what would Blizzcon be without some mention of Diablo 3. Blizzard’s dungeon crawler is currently in beta but a firm release date is still in the air.

The latest one shows Deckard Cain’s daughter poring over his notes to discern some meaning from the knowledge he has left behind, eventually stumbling on a villainous vision of apocalyptic terror. In other words, it’s likely that you’ll have to fight what you will see in the trailer below.

It’s also rated Mature, so be warned.

Get your skills on for Diablo 3

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The mighty skill trees of Diablo 3 are finally available for everyone to peruse at their leisure.The beta is due out “soonish”, though prospective demon slayers can slap down a few skills using this free tool online to plan out the perfect build for their chosen character. Or characters. Endless scrutiny ahoy!

The tool does remind prospective adventurers that the level cap for the beta is set at 13, though it allows window shopping skills that unlock further on such as at level 29.

All of the classes are represented from the muscle-bound juggernaut, the Barbarian, to the newish Demon Hunter who apparently replaces the Rogue. I’m tempted to go Wizard or Monk this time around, though the voodoo-inspired trickery of the Witch Doctor – who is apparently covering for the no-longer-around Necromancer – is also a tempting choice.

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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New Skyrim trailer teases gameplay

Out today is a new trailer from Bethesda Softworks for the next major chapter in their Elder Scrolls series: Skyrim.

This time, it has gameplay that drops more than a few hints on what would-be heroes can look forward to when this open-world RPG arrives on November 11th. Players on the PC, Xbox 360, and the PS3 will all have a chance to save Tamriel, though if the previous games were any indication, they’ll have to set some time aside for this one. Oblivion, its predecessor, literally had a hundred plus hours of gameplay to it especially when you factor in the add-ons.

Now the bigger question is: will my PC be able to actually run this thing?

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.

Review: Risen (Xbox 360)

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Risen sets the player loose to die at their own peril in their quest to save the world. That is, if the bugs don’t eat them alive first.

I’m not talking about the giant bugs that can kill you in seconds. I’m talking about the kind that can turn your screen yellow, make the ground invisible, or respawn you in the ceiling of a big room after reloading a save forcing you to drop to your death. I hope you save often.
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