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Game of Thrones: Episode One "Iron from Ice" Review - Xbox One
by: Alan M. Wasserman - 12/11/14
Ever want to be on the receiving end of the ice cold gaze of Queen Regent Cersei Lannister? How about going toe to toe with bastard born psychopath Ramsey Snow? How about trading quips with the cerebral and troublemaking Tyrion Lannister? Telltale Games latest installment into narrative driven games allows you to do just that.
Iron from Ice starts during the now infamous Red Wedding. During the festivities House Forrester is attacked by the double crossing (that’s a pun for the ages for Game of Thrones fans) Freys at the Twins, where most of the participants at the party are holistically slaughtered while drunk and unaware. You start the game as Gared Tuttle a squire to Lord Ironwood who fights as a Bannerman to the King in the North Rob Stark. True to a chapter in J. R. R. Martin’s books or an episode of HBO show; things go from good to bad to horrible in the matter of a few minutes. You are immediately thrust into action where the first choice you have to make is to warn Lord Forrester of the impending attack or help his first born son and heir to safety.
The game presses on just like the books or show by integrating several key characters into the narrative. After starting as Gared, you play as Lord Forrester’s third son and fourth child Ethan who at a tender young age is now the ruler of the Forrester family. The game then shifts to his older sister Mira who is working as handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell in Kings Landing. The first episode of the game alternates the narrative of these three characters and the events surrounding House Forrester after the Red Wedding.
Like all Telltale Games the choices you make determines the story you experience. Choose to defy Cersei and you can find yourself in serious trouble with House Lannister. Stand up to Ramsey Snow and end up a flayed man next to a campfire in the middle of the Iron Wood. The game distills down the agonizing options into two or three equally valid choices. Sometimes they are timed and your answer or lack of answer can influence how other characters respond to you. Other choices are given to you with no time limit. Making the choice that much harder.
The voice acting, character facial capture, and feel of the game make it feel like you are in control of an episode of the show. It’s amazing that Telltale was able to get the actual actors and actresses that play these deep, easily recognizable characters into the game. Telltale’s The Walking Dead game had shout outs to the TV cast; Game of Thrones has the actual characters in the game!! The jibs and jabs between Cersei and Tyrion feel a little stiff and not as natural as they do on TV, but the experience of being in front of the Iron Throne listening to them go back and forth is almost mind blowing.
The graphics and animation are slightly better than the last gen titles The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. But TellTale Games focus on the story and the choices you make and how they impact your story over the course of multiple episodes and I hope seasons, and I can tell you these choices, as small as they seem at the outset, are going to make for huge plot swings in the later chapters. The animation and art almost takes a back seat.
I cannot wait until the next chapter comes out! This game gets 10 out 10 and I may play it again to see if I change the choices I make how different the game feels at the end. Excellent narrative, good mix of some action sequence and Peter Freaking Dinklage!!! Valar Morghulis! A review code was provided for this story.
Game of Thrones: Episode 2 "The Lost Lords" Review - Xbox One
By: Alan M. Wasserman
Ahhh…Westeros, a land rife with politicking, neck stabbing, thieving and scheming, and plotting why do I love thee so? In this second chapter of Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones: Iron from Ice “The Lost Lords” brings you back to the broken House Forrester and continues their struggle against the Whitehall’s, Bolton’s and Lannister’s. The game starts with a recap of the decisions you made in the last chapter so you can cringe and swear to yourself all over again when you see the results of your poor choices. As the credits roll you are pulled to Yunkai following the liberation of the city by Daenerys Targaryen to find Asher Forrester, the exiled son of House Forrester who was largely absent from the first chapter, attempting to collect a bounty on a slaver in one of the city’s taverns. Things, per usual in Westeros, take a turn for the worse when Asher and his mercenary companion Beskha are assaulted by the Lost Legion. The game then launches into a chaotic fight scene that brings evolved mechanics from the first game. The fights require timed thumb stick swipes to dodge attacks, quick time events to attack or avoid attacks, and the Telltale Games’ standard mechanic of moving the target over the highlighted portion of enemies’ bodies and pushing the right button. I was surprised at the speed of the battle, and the timer moves much quicker. I got Asher run through with swords several times before I got it right. Sorry Bro.
The game is high on narrative and again bounces around to the children of House Forrester. You visit Mira again at King’s Landing where she continues to serve Margaery Tyrell and is divided between her loyalty to her family and the family she serves, you take part in Gared Tuttle’s first days on The Wall as a Night’s Watch initiate, and in a small plot twist you find out, once thought dead, that Rodrick Forrester survived his ordeal at The Twins and is brought back to Ironrath and though crippled takes his place as Lord.
The narrative unfolds as Rodrick tries to rekindle the love of his betrothed Lady Elaena Glenmore whose father commands an army that the Forresters can use to secure their holdings, if only she would still want to marry. Gared gets a short and curt lesson from Westeros’ favorite bastard Jon Snow, who I feel needed a lot more screen time, as they prepare for Mance Raynar’s attack on the wall from The North.
The episode ends at the funeral of the Lord Gregor, killed at The Twins, as Talia Forrester sings a song while the funeral pyre burns; while cut scenes of the estranged family members are interjected over the assembly standing vigil. Before the credits role the camera focuses on Rodrick where an intense look of pain, anger, and focus plays across this scarred face. End episode and you get the recap on how your decisions stacked up against the rest of the community who have played the game and then instantly regret some of those decisions.
I am an unabashed Game of Thrones fan and this game continues that love affair. The decisions you are required to make are tough and painful and makes the decisions you make in games by Bioware or Bethesda seem easy. The best answer is often the most difficult choice as you start to care about these characters and that choice often will not make them happy or even safe. The cameos of the TV shows’ main cast continues to tie this story into the carefully crafted world that HBO and George R.R .Martin have created.
Gameplay wise I only had a few small issues with this chapter. In several of the scenes the backdrops or settings appeared grainy and wavy in appearance. The image would settle and stabilize after a few seconds in frame, but it was still noticeable. There were also some lags in the more action packed scenes where the frame would freeze for second before catching up. In a game that is narrative and choice driven these are not huge deals. Where I did have a larger issue, and it’s more of an annoyance really, is several times dialogue was repeated twice in a row. It would usually occur when a character interjected his/her thoughts into a scene. That line of dialogue would repeat its self and the scene would continue. This chapter seemed shorter than the first one, but still extremely enjoyable. I give it 9.5 out of 10 stars. To all who play this game I say Valar Morghulis!
June 15, 2015 - Los Angeles - Opening with the tagline "Jump Ahead', Microsoft's Xbox Press Conference at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) delivered welcome news to Xbox gamers. Most notably, head of Xbox ,Phil Spencer annouced to a thundering roar, Xbox One will now be backward compatible with the last generation Xbox 360. This means all those old favorites will be playable on the Xbox One! The backward compatibility will work for both digital downloads and discs.
Xbox also highlighted a host of exclusive titles, with no less than five triple a titles slated before the end of this year and into early 2016. Those exclusive titles include: Halo 5: Guardians, Recore, Forza 6, Fable: Legends and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Some of the titles will be cross-supported on the newest Windows 10 OS coming this July, allowing PC and console gamers to play together.
From the hardware side, Microsoft announced a partnership with Valve VR (virtual reality) with the Oculus VR headset coming packaged with an Xbox One controller.
However, the biggest "wows" came from the live demonstration of Microsoft's recently announced Hololens. The headset will allow players to virtually project thier game onto a wall and onto a table-top surface in 3D! The demo game used was the very popular game Minecraft and a special Hololens version is in the works.
Keep checking back here for continuing E3 2015 coverage!
Xavier S H reviews Xbox One version of Tales from the Borderlands Episode Two: Atlas Mugged. A Review code was provided for this report.
Tower of Guns Review - PS4
by: Luke Horn - 04/23/15
Tower of Guns by Terrible Posture Games is a quirky first-shooter game with turns and twists that makes one feel as if they have entered the mind of Erno Rubik himself. With each turn of the cube, or in this case the “tower”, one finds the internal architecture of the game randomly changes. This creates an ever shifting design for the player to traverse through. The random nature of the design feeds into the impromptu characters that you are presented with. You could end up being anything from a pizza delivery guy to a FBI agent in the form of a dog. The storylines provide a comedic feel to the gamer, if you decide to pay attention to it.
The simple gameplay makes me feel like I have a mouse in my hand instead of a controller. It is refreshing to not be overwhelmed with button mashing complexity. However, don’t let the simple design of the game fool you, it still is easy to die. It takes adroit hands and fast shooting to survive in the open spaces that the game forces you to fight in. The faster you move the better! The vile robots and bosses toss bullets, lasers, and even saws at you in an attempt to send you to your grave.
You start the game with anything from a Portable Pizza Thrower to a Peas-n Carrots pistol. As you kill your enemies they will drop various experience and currency orbs that will help you unlock hidden items and more powerful weapons such as the Absurditron 9000 or the XP Launcher. The more you play the game and the more you accomplish, the better the guns and perks you earn. Its unlock system reminds one of a mini Call of Duty setting. For example, in order to attain The Hedgehog one must kill 250 spikeball launchers. The games humoristic style continues with its perk system. As you advance in gameplay you will earn perks such as the Taco Terror and the Grease Pit.
As you are bouncing around trying to destroy your enemies, remember to look around. Concealed in the nooks and crannies of the rooms are secrets that one can find. The hidden power-ups, massive health badges and secret rooms, could be the difference between your success or demise. Without this aspect of the game you could easily be pulled into a mindless jumping and shooting that would take the title into a realm of irrelevance.
Like most FPS games the goal is to finish the levels and beat the boss. There are 5 levels with anywhere from 5 to 6 bosses to conquer. It typically takes anywhere from 50 to 90 minutes to play through. The cheap cost and low time investment play makes Tower of Guns an easy purchase. I am not a fan of low investment games but for those of you who are, this is a recommended buy. I give it 7.5 out of 10. A review code was provided for this report.
Game of Thrones: Episode Four "Sons of Winter" Review - Xbox One
by: Alan M. Wasserman
The plight of house Forrester continues in this excellent additional to Telltale's, Game of Thrones series. In this episode many of the machinations of the protagonists move forward or begin to resolve in some way. Though as expected typically not in the way you would expect.
The game opens where it ended Gared and Britt’s swordfight on the top of the wall. Gared, who can’t seem to catch a break when defending himself or his family, is locked in a storage pantry to await trial, which to me seems like an odd place to throw someone who you are accusing of murder. There surely is a more secure location somewhere in Castle Black. Inevitably the two dumb guards leave Gared to get honey cakes since “he’s not going anywhere” and Gared with your help and some typical Telltale puzzle solving and his friend Cotter break out of the pantry and escape Castle Black along with Finn if you befriended him, out to find the North Grove. What will they find out there Wildlings? White Walkers? Will the Nights Watch catch them and kill them for deserting?
We then visit my favorite Forrester, Asher and his party of miscreants, as they continue to search for a way back to Ironrath. We open with the continuation of Asher’s conversation with Daenerys as he recounts the tale of seeing (and fighting) Drogon. After several flirtatious remarks from Asher and the thin threating responses from Daenerys, Asher finally asks for some of the Second Sons so he can return home and free Ironrath. Daenerys agrees but only if Asher helps free the slaves from Mereen, which is pivotal plot point in both the book and the TV Show, by going on a mission to disable one of the four warning braziers warn the city of potential threats. Asher volunteers Beshka to come along since she lived in and knows Mereen. As they leave the Queen’s tent Beshka continues to show her anger about going back inside the city walls but really gives no explanation as to why. Asher for once caught speechless watches as she storms off.
We travel back to Ironrath where back in the family woods, Royland and Rodrick train. Royland is showing Rodrick how to fight and deal with his injury. They dream up some techniques that will help take advantage of Rodrick’s limited mobility and balance by getting his enemy on the ground. While they spar Rodrick’s bethrothed Elaena shows up with her brother and the royal guard. They want to help Rodrick toss the windbag Gryff from Ironrath. The reasoning for this sudden move to violence; Elaena’s father has promised her to Gryff instead of Rodrick. As defiance daughters go, Elaena’s pretty high on the list. After Rodrick agrees they share a moment in the woods alone, which is a rare happy moment for any of these Forresters.
We finally catch up with Mira Forrester, about half way through the chapter. Her story has begun to bore me as it doesn’t really move the needle for the full house forward. Mira has decided, that even though Queen Margaery has told her not go to Tommen’s Coronation Feast she is going to sneak in and find out who is Lord Whitehill’s contact and who has the agreement to sell Ironwood now. We find out that contact is little know Lyman Lannister, who has a problem with milk of the poppy. Mira creates multiple scenes at the feast while angering Lord Whitehill and divulging Lannister secrets out in the open. My guess is Mira’s world is about to go from bad to worse. I would not be surprised to see her thrown in the Black Cells.
The game move along at a good pace, and as before, I will not provide spoilers to the main plot points. Especially because this far into a Telltale game my game may be radically different than anyone else who is playing it.
The climax of the game is the infiltration of Mereen by Asher and the Second sons as you take out several emplacements of guards. Combat, both ranged and hand to hand, come into play and the evolution of the combat system for this game continues. A lengthy sequence emerges as the Beskha and Asher take the brazier and keep the signal fire from going off. While the game keeps you on the edge due to carefully constructed choices and dialogue, it has not felt impactful during the combat scenes. If you fail, you die, you get a Valar Morghulis screen and you get to try again. While I didn’t fail during this combat I did get the more overwhelming sense of dread that something bad would happen if I didn’t succeed. I am eager to see what “rewards” I get for helping Daenerys. The other tense scene in the game comes when Rodrick decides to go rescue Ryon from the Whitehills at Highpoint. The scene takes a very Red Wedding tone when Rodrick’s group is surrounded by crossbowmen at elevated positions and Lord Whitehill pulls a knife on poor Ryon. In the end you get a some choices that help decide Ryon’s fate and your party returns to Ironrath to find creep of the world Ramsey Snow sitting at the table eating dinner with Talia Forrester. He says he's heard Rodrick is a man that can't be broken, and that he's decided to come see for himself.
I only had a few small problems with the game, the biggest of which was when starting out the game on the “Previously on Game of Thrones” recap scenes there was a lot of dialogue running without the animation. I don’t know if this was intentional but I felt like the game as going to crash because of it. Secondarily, and probably my biggest issue with the game as a whole is that we only get a new episode every 2 months or so and I frequently forget what occurred in the previous episodes or who lesser characters are and how they could play into the grand scheme of the narrative. The game continues to drive and tell a great story, but with it being so disjointed I feel like I am missing out a little on the entire experience.
I give this episode 7 out of 10. The more and more these chapters go on, they are clearly driving towards a grand finale where everything happens at once and the choices we made come back to help or haunt us. I feel though that this chapter lacked the Holy Crap moment when you just stare at the screen bemused and amazed at what just happened that we have had in several of the other episodes. Sure there were tense moments of combat and choice, but nothing that shocked me at the outcome. The payoff, like Winter, is Coming I am sure. And until then I will wait patiently for the next installment. To that I say Valar Morghulis!