Diablo III Demo Impressions

I had my reservations about Diablo III. Not because I doubted how good it would be, but because I doubted how easy it would be to play on a console. Traditionally, Diablo is a PC game, and I remember from playing World of Warcraft that PC gaming is all about hot keys, and assigning skills. Just imagine my pleasure at firing up the demo for Diablo III this afternoon and discovering not only an easy to use battle system, but a thoroughly enjoyable game, and interesting plot to boot.

I recall watching my Dad play Diablo on the PC when I was younger. I was always interested in watching him, but I never really wanted to play it. At this point I had been sucked into the world of Final Fantasy and the JRPG, so a Western dungeon looter was way off my radar. However, now that it’s come to my Xbox 360, I thought it was time to check it out.

After playing Torchlight when it first came out on the XBLA, I acquired a new appreciation for the dungeon looter genre. I loved putting as many things in my Tardis sized pockets as I could possibly find. I would sell all the rubbish, equip all the good stuff, and go shopping for new equipment at whatever chance I could get. Thankfully, Diablo III is much more than just a looting game, and it’s heaps of fun.

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The demo allows you to grind up to level 9, which is quite impressive already. It also lets you play for a good couple of hours, but only if you’re a serial looter and like to look down every nook and cranny. For something that is simply a taster of the game, I’ve been left wanting a lot more after being treated to so much.

At the start of the demo you can choose between a male/female barbarian, or a male/female wizard. Other character classes can be seen, but are grayed out so I presume they are not playable, unless you own the full game. As soon as you have chosen your character, and given him or her a name, you are thrown straight into the action, and start fighting your way through a small group of the undead.

Battling your way through these pesky flesh eaters leads you to a nearby town. In this town you meet up with the local knights, and of course offer your assistance in any way to rid the area of these rotting meat sacks. Soon enough, you’re sent out to deal with vomiting zombies in an attempt to at least alleviate the strain on the knights in the town.

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Now, no Western looter would be complete without a journey into an evil crypt, complete with ghosts, ghouls and ghastly things, so you soon find yourself traipsing off in a bid to help one of the characters you meet in the town. See, her adopted uncle has wandered off into a crypt. Not the best of ideas at any time, but certainly not during an outbreak of the undead. Naturally, you offer your assistance once more and head off in search of him.

This is the main part of the demo, allowing you to travel through huge levels of dungeon, fighting what seems like never-ending hordes of enemies. You know what though? It’s heaps of fun. With each level you gain in the demo you acquire new skills or spells, and of course you can equip bigger and better weapons and armour. New enemies jump out at you, forcing you to run away as you realise they’re not quite so easy to fall down as the frail skeletons you were attacking a moment ago.

My only criticism, and this isn’t necessarily to do with the demo, but the design of the game overall, is the inability to be able to alter the camera angle. I kept forgetting and either doing a forward or backwards roll, and it became more than a little frustrating. It’s a gaming pet peeve of mine, but it really would be nice to alter the camera angle and look at the world in a slightly different way.

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Overall, the Diablo III demo does exactly what it sets out to do; entice you, and make you want to buy it. Mere seconds after finishing the demo I made my way to Amazon to add it to my ever-increasing wish list so I can stalk the price to see if it goes down. An added bonus as well, is that the game allows you to transfer the character you used in the demo, into the full game should you purchase it in the future.

I for one am super excited to get my hands on Diablo III for some dungeon looting fun, but what about you? Are you like me and waiting a while for the price to drop? Or have you already bought it, and are loving it? Let me know down below.

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September Wishlist

I love and loathe September. I love it because it’s that time of year where games are slowly starting to get drip fed to us, but I loathe it because I won’t have time due to going back to university. Nevertheless, I can still want games, and these are the games I want to pick up the most this month.

The Last Of Us

Okay, so this one came out a while ago, but that can’t stop me from wanting it this month, right? I played a little bit of this at a friend’s house when I was visiting family, and I have to say I liked what I saw. The whole zombie concept is getting a bit dull now in my opinion, but the enemy design in The Last of Us looks so unique that I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I check at least every other day to see if the price has gone down, but I’m still waiting. It’s frustrating that I haven’t been able to play many people’s Game of the Year yet, but I believe that it will happen soon.

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Harvest Moon: A New Beginning

It was bound to make the list. If you don’t know of my love for Harvest Moon, I’m sure these next few sentences will make it clear. I’ve been playing the Harvest Moon series for probably 14 years or more. I apologise if that’s an over exaggeration, but my earliest memory of playing it was when I was on holiday in Jersey with my parents, and if I couldn’t go swimming in the pool, I was sat in the hotel room with my Gameboy/Gameboy Advance playing Harvest Moon. There’s something just so addictive about making sure your crops are watered, and making sure they don’t die. Nevermind Farmville, Harvest Moon is where it’s at.

Anyway, we’ve seen a few 3D Harvest Moon titles in the past, but for me they failed miserably for one simple reason; they were on home consoles. I could never get the hang of it, and they tried to make them into a little RPG at the same time, which I don’t like. However, A New Beginning looks stunning, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I’m sure that it will be battling for my love with Animal Crossing, and we’ll see who wins on that one.

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Tales of Xillia

I know, this one came out in August, but I still want it, and the Tales Of series has become one of my favourites, I’ve got to say. It’s no Final Fantasy, but it’s a good alternative JRPG and they always have decent plots. I’ve noticed a problem with JRPGs on the PS3 though, and that’s that they’re too damn expensive, and they stay that way for quite some time. They’re like gold dust, especially the Atellier series which is far too expensive for the reviews they receive. Regardless, I’m not paying £44.99 for Tales of Xillia. I’m waiting for it to come down to around £30. It’s not that I don’t think it’s worth it, but if I bought every game I wanted at release price, I wouldn’t be able to eat.

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GTA V

I’ve been bitterly disappointed in GTA since Vice City if I’m honest with you. I found San Andreas to be dull, and I found IV to be frustrating, and also at times dull. I’m intrigued by the multi character layers in GTA 5, and it looks like they’ve really pushed the boat out this time. Not to mention the leaked map looks absolutely colossal. I truly do miss running around and causing chaos, and having three playable characters to do that with really excites me. Roll on September 17th.

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Changing Teams

Well, it’s been a long time again, and that’s been for a multitude of reasons. First of all, I informed you all in my last post that I was going on a week-long work placement with a certain official console magazine, and I can reveal now that I went to work with the wonderful people at the Official Playstation Magazine. It was a great week, full of lots of research, writing and general journalism goodness. I actually got a feature published on the website which can be read here, so please go and give it a read.

There may also be several articles I assisted with, and news articles being published in the next issue, so if you’re a PlayStation fan, pop down to the shops on the 27th and pick up a copy. I won’t know until it comes out, so it will be one big surprise.

Then I had a nice long week with the man who I hadn’t seen in two months, so unfortunately blogging was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t even really do any gaming that week if I’m honest, and the lack of new games, and my ever decreasing funds aren’t helping.

I downloaded Puzzle Quest because it was on offer on XBLA and that’s keeping me going, but it’s an old game, and will only occupy me for so long. As always, I crave a JRPG, but they just don’t appear to be out there. I might have to raid the Classics library on the PSN.

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Simple and fun, an instant winner

Anyway, I have been thinking about the new generation of consoles, and which one I”m going to be getting, but also thinking about what’s on offer from the current generation. I’m sure that many Xbox 360 owners feel my frustration at the mostly un-inspirational Games For Gold. I’m downloading them all because they’re free, so don’t get me wrong, I’m taking advantage of it, but this months first release leaves a lot to be desired and I just feel a bit let down by the whole ‘offer’.

I’m intrigued by card games, but I can’t confess to be very good at them. Baten Kaitos is one of my favourite JRPGs, and that featured a bizarre battle system utilising cards, and I enjoyed that. I appreciate anime such as YuGiOh for its use of cards, but I really can’t get my head around Magic The Gathering. Personally, I think card games belong on tables, not on consoles. The tutorial completely baffled me, and because it was so long-winded I basically just pummelled the A button just to get through it. I managed to beat about 4 opponents and then I got stuck because there was so much to remember, and so much tactics involved that I simply gave up.

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Too many stats make this a confusing experience

The thing is, when I look at PlayStation Plus, and all the free games they get, it makes me wonder ‘What am I paying my Gold subscription for?’. I don’t do online gaming. When I do, I’m just racing around a track with the man in my life, and that’s once in a blue moon. It seems pointless to me now to even have a gold subscription, I don’t appear to be getting much out of it, aside from some games I’ve already played, or are so old that you’d have to give them away anyway.

I am seriously considering taking on a PlayStation Plus account in the future, not only for the free games, but also for the decent discounts. Sony just appear to be so much more clued in to what people actually want. Sure, if you cancel your PS+ subscription, then you can’t play the free games you downloaded, but that’s just an incentive for me to keep a subscription going. I have no reason (unless someone can give me one) to keep my Gold subscription on the Xbox 360, so it may be time for a change of allegiances.

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What are your thoughts? Are you thinking of changing teams, or are you sticking with your first choice?

Does trust lie with the critic, or the consumer?

If you’re anything like me, you spend forever stood in the game stores googling that game you’re considering buying. You look up professional reviews and glance through them for the key points, you look up gameplay images, and you also look at what other players have said about it on websites such as Amazon.

What is it that sways you to buy a game though? Is it the citizen journalist who thinks their review on Amazon is top-notch? Or is it the paid professional who has poured hours into this game, purely to spend more hours writing thousands of words about its merits? As an aspiring journalist myself, I find this a tough question to answer.

Journalist-400-x-300I use both, and it ultimately depends on how fussy you are about your gaming. I for one would never consider picking up a JRPG without first of all scouring the internet for all possible opinions. The problem is, so often the critics reviews and the consumer reviews vary so drastically.

I was reading reviews for Children of Mana, and some were saying it was amazing, whilst others were saying it was a tough slog, a bit repetitive and featured a tiny world. That put me off straight away. The critics gave it glowing reviews, receiving a decent 8/10 many places, but Amazon told me a different story, and ultimately it was the reviews on Amazon that changed my mind.

Why did I trust the consumer more though? Because they were more inclined to point out its flaws straight away, rather than hiding them in a positive review. When I write a review I like to remain completely unbiased. Even if I love a game, I will still point out its flaws, and I will go into details of those flaws if I need to. I’m not saying all reviews do this, because they don’t, but unless you read many different reviews you’ll never get the full picture.

I then looked up reviews for Dragon Quest Monster: Joker 2. I compared the consumer opinion with professional opinion and they both matched, so I bought the game. On the flip side though, I bought the original Cooking Mama without even bothering to look up a review. I knew what it was, I knew it would be addictive, and I knew it my kind of game. I didn’t need to look it up on either platform. I knew that some would love it, and some would hate it, but it didn’t matter (because it was £6).

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Should you spend your money without checking your facts first?

I trust the opinions of IGN and GamesTM more so than any other gaming site and magazine. Why? Just personal preference. IGN is my daily news site, and GamesTM is my subscription magazine. Their opinions matter, but I would never trust them alone when it comes down to certain genres. It’s nothing against them, but I’m a picky gamer sometimes, and I just want both sides of the story.

As someone who writes reviews herself, I struggle with myself sometimes when I choose the consumer opinion over the journalists opinion. Who do you trust the most when it comes to games reviews? Are you a rigid believer in the game sites and magazines, or are you all for the consumer review?

 

Animal Crossing New Leaf Review

The world of Animal Crossing has a special place in many people’s hearts. If you own a Nintendo console, then it’s a possibility that you have been subject to Tom Nook’s constant debt collecting, and harassment from villagers who haven’t seen you in a day or two. It’s like a living and breathing tamagotchi, just without the constant need to feed your pet to ensure it doesn’t die.

There’s a new addition to the series on the scene though, and it arrived last month in the UK. Animal Crossing New Leaf is like Animal Crossing Wild World for the DS, the only difference is, it’s better.

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A slight twist on the original plot of you moving into the neighbourhood, instantly being plunged into debt my Tom Nook and being thrust into the ‘Lets be friends!’ scene, New Leaf instead sees you taking on the role of the new Town Mayor. Mayor Tortimer has clearly done his time, and is ready to pass the responsibility onto someone else. As Mayor, you have control over a lot of different things, and this is what really makes New Leaf a fantastic, and tailored experience. You have full control over town ordinances, which allow you to declare whether you want the shops to open late or early. Your animal residents will react to whichever ordinance you have in place, waking up and staying out later if you want the ‘Night owl’ ordinance, or getting up early, and going to bed early if you have the ‘Early bird’ ordinance in place. This really helps players to pick when they can play their game depending on their own lifestyle.

The next important role as a mayor is to build as many new things as you can. These are called Public Works Projects, and the townsfolk will constantly be suggesting new things that you should build. Of course, it’s not as simple as saying you want something built, it all has to be paid for. Every time you start a new public works project, a small creature named Lloid sets himself up at the site of the project and all but begs for donations from you and everyone else. Brilliant idea, I hear you shout, but is it? These projects aren’t cheap, and the animals in your town may very well be more than a little tight with their spare bells. So who ends up forking out the extra cash? Yep, that’s right; the mayor. There are a lot of public works projects to complete, and coming in at anywhere between 30,000 and 400,000 bells, it’s a tall order for just one person, but needs must.

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Work hard and you too can have a mansion

The main purpose of Animal Crossing New Leaf is fairly simple; get as much money as you can to develop your town, expand your house and make as many animal friends as possible. On the surface it’s childs play, but it can be much deeper the longer you play it. It’s not just a simple case of collecting bugs, fish and fossils. These only serve to provide you with the bells that you need in order to set the ball rolling on public works projects and make your house the perfect example of a Happy Home. Animal residents will ask you for help with hunting down a certain bug and will always reward you, and they will even send you gifts when they’ve been to visit your house.

There is also so much more to do in New Leaf than there ever has been before. Main Street is where most of your shops are kept, and through time and spending of bells, these shops will eventually expand, and new shops will open. This is a fantastic way to keep the player interested, as this was an issue that Wild World had; everything was already there. It is exciting and intriguing when a fresh building site crops up on main street, and really adds a thrill to otherwise potentially monotonous gameplay.

Animal townsfolk are also much easier to interact with in New Leaf, tending to be far less clingy. In Wild World, if you made an appointment for an animal to come and visit you, and you forgot, you would never live it down. New Leaf is much more forgiving. While it’s still not a good idea to forget, you’re not attacked with disappointment every time you have to do something in the real world and forget about your little visitor. This makes playing the game much easier, and far less guilt-ridden.

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Tom Nook still wants all your money…some things never change

As Mayor, you also have the ability to create your very own town tune. This will play every time you speak to an animal, so it’s important to make a little jingle that you’re not going to mind hearing every few minutes. The background music is also relaxing, and can really help you escape from the world for a long time if you’re out catching bugs, or sat along the shore fishing for exotic sea creatures.

KK Slider also makes a reappearance, but this time as DJ KK. He’s not available from the very beginning of the game, but you’ll soon be able to see his live sets once again, and have a little dance with your animal friends late into the evening. Other familiar names and faces will also crop up the longer you play, such as the angry Resetti, there to tell you off if you accidentally turn off without saving.

The character models have improved since previous titles in the series, featuring taller and more anatomically correct players. It’s impossible to say life-like, because that would be a lie. Because of this increase in proportion however, clothes designs and your own custom designs are much easier to see, and much more defined than in previous titles. You can even buy socks and shoes for your character at a later date, which is a simple and appealing addition.

It still has a very childlike feel to it, but that’s part of the charm. Video games aren’t all about blood, guts and gore, and just because this game has vibrant colours and no violence (aside from those pesky bugs) doesn’t make it a kids game. You would be mistaken for looking at Animal Crossing New Leaf and assuming that it would be dumbed down for a younger audience, and while the dialogue between characters is hardly complex, players of any age can enjoy this game.

New Leaf makes excellent use of the online capabilities available on the 3DS, utilising Spot Pass as well as Street Pass in a very effective manner. If you Street Pass someone with a copy of Animal Crossing, a copy of their home will be made available in the Happy Home Showcase in your town. The Happy Home Showcase is just as it sounds; a living gallery of other players homes for you to visit and admire. The best part about this? Any home that you visit in the HHS will allow you to purchase any item you feel like from a catalogue. Really like that funky bed someone’s rocking in their spare room? Simply order it from the catalogue. All items in the HHS have a slight markup in comparison to if they were purchased from the shop in town, but it’s certainly worth it if you’re collecting a furniture set and someone has just the item you need.

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Having friends join your game really brings it to life

The addition of what is called the Dream Suite is also a fantastic idea that allows you to roam freely around other players towns without changing anything. You see, the Dream Suite puts you into a dream version of other players towns, where you’re free to cause as much chaos as humanly possible, without it having any detrimental affect on said town. You can also upload a version of your town, so that other players can visit you. The only downside to the Dream Suite is that nothing you pick up in your dreams can be brought back to the real world with you. You can spend as much time as you want harvesting perfect fruit from Nintendoland’s dream town, but none of it will come back with you, which makes it all seem rather fruitless (pardon the pun).

If you have a friend who shares your love of Animal Crossing New Leaf, then they can also visit your town for some fun and games as long as your train station gate is open. It is possible to leave your gate open and allow anyone to enter your town, but it is not always advisable. Unlike the Dream Suite, if someone visits your town while your gate is open and chops down all your trees; that’s it, they’re gone for good until you grow new ones.

Animal Crossing New Leaf just keeps getting better the more you play it. There are so many secrets to be discovered that it would be unfair to reveal any more in this review, nor is there enough space. Unlike previous instalments, it doesn’t feel as static, and there is always something to work towards, whether that be filling the museum, or expanding the super store. The social features the 3DS bring to the plate also help make it an unforgettable experience overall, and anyone who loves games such as Harvest Moon or Rune Factory need to get their hands on this game.

My dream address is 7800-2228-8347