Archive for the 'Journals' Category

Aug 07 2013

Retro Game Road Trip: The Search for the New Leads Me Back to the Old

Published by under Journals,Video Games


Last week, the New York Videogame Critics Circle held their second annual community meet-up at Brooklyn’s premiere barcade, Barcade. Here in NYC, we call a barcade a Barcade, okay?

I headed over there after work to check out the scene, my calling cards tucked safely away in my case shaped like Han Solo frozen in carbonite. I was all geared up to schmooze with the best of them until I remembered I’m pretty much the worst at networking. I managed to socialize a bit, the results of which I’ll explore in a companion piece to this one next Monday over at Gamemoir.

Paul posted about it last week, but if you’re out of the loop, Gamemoir is co-edited by our very own Benny Bedlam. I’ll be contributing a piece there every Monday, and I hear tell other Unreality writers will be providing some guest posts. So why don’t you come up and see us sometime?

Back to business: the organizers of the Critics Circle event hinted that some independent game developers would be showing off their wares, and I was stoked to check them out.

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One response so far

Mar 18 2013

How the Mass Effect Series Changed My Life


One week ago, I posted an article about my five favorite DLCs from the Mass Effect franchise to celebrate the release of the Citadel DLC. I started the piece by briefly mentioning how the series was special to me and how it’s the reason for so many significant things that has happened in my life. Paul suggested that I write about it in more detail for my next piece, and I happily agreed to do it. Growing up, I was inspired by numerous stories, movies, and video games like many other kids out there. Harry Potter inspired kids to break the boundaries of creative writing while Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones gave us dreams to venture into the depths of the unknown. Yet, it’s rare for us to actually find something that inspires and touches us so deeply that it changes the course of our lives towards a whole new direction. Sometimes people never find it at all, and we consider ourselves lucky whenever we do.

If not for Mass Effect, I would have been in another continent right now trying to walk a different path. I wouldn’t even be writing this piece right now if not for the game. Therefore, this isn’t just some fangirl piece that lauds the game itself but a story about how video games can be so much more than entertainment when it changes a young girl’s life for the better. Continue Reading »

9 responses so far

Dec 15 2012

The Far Cry 3 Journal: Day 6

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

 (whoops this was supposed to go up yesterday, read journal #1 here first)

Two journals in one week! Well, let’s just say I’ve been playing a hell of a lot of Far Cry 3 lately. The completionist in me had to do every hunting, assassination and racing challenge, in addition to clearing the entire pair of islands from enemy bases, so I’m guessing it took me a little longer than most get through the story after about 20 hours of gameplay.

This entry won’t be nearly as long as the first, which covered a large part of the central premises of the game. When I last left things, I guessed that I was about 40-50% done with the game, and was curious to see how it evolved from there. And does it?

No, not really, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, the game can get a touch repetitive, as you do the same sorts of side-quests over and over to get cash and XP, but that said, I was still having fun until the very last soldier on the island had been eliminated. Unlike most open world RPGs where enemies respawn an infinite number of times at the various landmarks, there’s something very gratifying about killing bad guys and having them stay dead for good. Continue Reading »

6 responses so far

Dec 11 2012

The Far Cry 3 Journal: Day 3

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

Admission time, I’ve never played a Far Cry game. Why? Well, I’m not sure really. Part of me kept getting the series mixed up with “Crysis,” another jungle-set game that I assumed my PC could not run. But now that everything’s on consoles, I missed catching up and will just have to start with the first game.

I’m not sure what I’m missing in terms of backstory, but I don’t feel lost as at least this new plot appears to be somewhat starting over from scratch. If a longtime player wants to let me know what this game has in common with the others past “shooting things on an island,” I’m all ears.

This is turning out to be a rather long game, hence the need for a journal installment rather than just a straight review. I’ve been at it for a few days now, and I’m pretty sure I’m around 40% done, despite putting in a ton of time so far. Continue Reading »

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2 responses so far

Nov 16 2012

The Black Ops 2 Journal: Day 3

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Television

It’s that time of year again, and no I don’t mean the impending food and presents holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas respectively.  Rather, it’s November, and a new Call of Duty has been released to rain down care packages and drone strikes on all the little boys and girls.

How many hundreds of millions will this latest installment rack up? I have a hunch this will be the first title in a while to actually NOT set a record in the franchise, as that day has to come one of these years, but we’ll have to see. Rather, I now begin the process of reviewing the game, a few days after purchase.

Again, like with Halo 4, a multiplayer FPS takes a little while to review, hence the journal installments. You can’t really play a dozen matches after beating the campaign and be in the best possible informational position to review it. As such, I’ll let it sink in a while and these will be my initial impressions.

The major focus of this first entry will be about the campaign, which I always beat before heading off to multiplayer. It can be a good way to sample guns and new gear, but really, it’s pretty far disconnected from multiplayer where you actually have to do stuff like you know, aim. Continue Reading »

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2 responses so far

Sep 26 2012

The Borderlands 2 Journal: Day 8

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

Read Journal #1 here first.

Well, my journey through a revamped Pandora is finally complete, my first one, that is. Borderlands, like Diablo before it, has always been about multiple playthroughs with different characters on different difficulties, trying to reach max level where the greatest gear lies.

But you know, I’m just not sure I’m up for that.

The original Borderlands had a problem. It was relatively short, and felt like you had to play the game through twice to get the full experience. Borderlands 2 no longer has that issue, but it has a different one instead. It’s not short in the least, rather it’s quite long for a single player (or co-op campaign) game, and I believe my playthrough clocked in at about 25 hours with every sidequest I could find completed. Compare that to the 10-11 hour length of an Assassin’s Creed or Dead Space, or the 4-6 hours of Halo or Call of Duty.

And you know, that’s great. Because of the length, Borderlands 2 actually feels like a complete game, where the first one didn’t. By the end, you feel satisfied with the journey you’ve made spanning dozens of huge areas of the map, and it’s perfectly acceptable when your time with the game comes to an end. Continue Reading »

9 responses so far

Sep 19 2012

The Borderlands 2 Journal: Day 1

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Video Games


If you read that in Claptrap’s voice, you’ve probably been waiting for this game as long as I have. The original Borderlands was a breath of fresh air in an era of sequels, even if it was borrowing its endless loot dropping and gear hunting concept from Diablo.

But Borderlands was its own game, an RPG FPS the likes of which had never been seen before, or since, for that matter. The animation was unique, the combat was intense and the story was…well, it had its moments.

As such, Borderlands 2 has been a hugely anticipated title for years now. It’s a co-op game in an era which usually frowns upon such things, especially when split screen is involved. Not only can you play with friends, but it’s what the entire game is designed around. It’s much, much better to play in a group than it is to fly solo. Continue Reading »

14 responses so far

Sep 05 2012

The Guild Wars 2 Journal: Day 10 – The Hunt for Fun

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

Read the first journal here.

It’s been a little over a week to let the glow of Guild Wars 2 fade. My initial impressions from both the beta and first few days of playing were largely positive. The game seemed to improve in many ways upon a genre I really didn’t like. But is that enough to make me like the genre?

The answer would seem to be no.

No matter how much Guild Wars 2 tries to dress itself up, it’s a more traditional MMO than it lets on, and for me at least, that’s a net negative. To sum it up in a word would be “repetition.” Another word would be “repetition.” Care to try for a third?

There’s just something about this game, and subsequently this genre I suppose, that seems so shallow to me. Story is exceptionally light, which is supposed to be forgiven as “that’s not what these games are about.” In turn, you would think you’d have to make up for the lack of a real plot by having gameplay be incredibly dynamic and engaging. Continue Reading »

16 responses so far

Aug 28 2012

The Guild Wars 2 Journal: Day 3

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

It was a strange feeling, to actually be looking forward to an MMO. I’ve avoided the genre like the plague for years now, first for the reason that I thought my addictive gaming personality couldn’t handle the skinner box nature of it. But I dipped my toe in the pool with Star Wars: The Old Republic, and found that not only was I not addicted, I didn’t even like it.

It would be unfair to judge all MMOs based on the rather terrible SWTOR and ten minutes of World of Warcraft, so I’m not writing the genre off altogether. And after being invited to the first Guild Wars 2 beta months ago, I thought I might have found a game in the genre that would actually innovate and shape the genre into something I could tolerate.

I’m three days in to Guild Wars 2 now, which is technically six days in, considering my time with the beta. Not much has changed since then, as evidenced by the fact that I picked a human noble once again and followed the exact same plotline for ten levels that I had previously. Continue Reading »

8 responses so far

Aug 24 2012

The Diablo 3 Journal: Day 89 – The Patch

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

This is definitely the biggest callback I’ve ever done in a “Journal” series of reviews, but one I felt necessary with the recent “relaunch” of Diablo 3 with patch 1.04.

When we last left off, the game was over. As in, there was nothing else to do, which is a problem considering Diablo 2 sustained enthusiastic play for the better part of a decade. The issue was that once you hit level 60, there was nothing to do but grind for gear…which would allow you to grind for gear faster and easier. An endless cycle of pointlessness.

Patch 1.04, in the works for a long while now, has tried to fix that. Now, the good old days of taking forever to level your characters to max are back. There are now 100 “paragon levels,” each adding a few points to your stats and giving you 3% magic find and 3% gold find per level. It’s been calculated by top players that it would take you a solid month of 14 hour a day play to reach level 100, so needless to say it’s added quite a bit more play time. Continue Reading »

6 responses so far

Jun 05 2012

The Diablo 3 Journal: Day 22 – The End

Published by under Journals,Video Games

Read Journals #1 and #2 first.

This is how my time with Diablo 3 ends, not with a ragequit, but with a whimper.

This will likely be the final journal installment chronicling my time with Diablo 3, at least for a good long while. After having a decent amount of fun initially, I learned many things about the game as I progressed in difficulty and level, and have come to realize that it’s fundamentally broken for anyone wishing to play it for a prolonged period of time the way we all did Diablo 2.

In short, unless some serious changes are made, this will not be the decade-long phenomenon that D2 was. Read on to see why.

Continue Reading »

22 responses so far

May 24 2012

The Diablo 3 Journal: Day 9

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

It’s time for another piece of my Diablo 3 review, now that I’ve had more than a single day to take it all in. It’s a game that takes months, not days to really understand, and as such, you’ll probably be seeing these journal reviews for some time to come.

It’s been about ten days since the game was released, and in that time I’ve put in (oh god) about 55 hours across two characters. I have a level 51 Barbarian that I used only to quest with a very specific friend with a similarly powerful Wizard, and a level 27 Witch Doctor that I play whenever I feel like. Which is increasingly often.

If you can’t tell by my current play time, the game is addicting. Impossibly so. Even when I’m not playing, builds and item drops race through my head. I’ve been able to keep a balance in my life despite this fact (hooray gym and girlfriend), but yeah, it’s pretty bad.

I suppose since I’ve now beaten the game about three total times, it’s worth mentioning that yes, there is some vague semblance of a plot. Unfortunately, it’s about the worst excuse for a story I’ve ever seen in a game as it kills off major characters left and right without so much as a head nod in their direction, and the dialogue is some of the most inane I’ve heard since I was a bad enough dude to rescue the President. Continue Reading »

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8 responses so far

May 16 2012

The Diablo 3 Journal: Day 1

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

If any game ever deserved a journal installment style of review, it’s Diablo 3. I’m not exactly sure how other outlets are running full reviews already, even with early access. It’s all about “the long game” with this title, and even though some crazies already have beaten the game in seven hours, you’ll have to get up to at least a hundred before you can fully make a judgment.

But this isn’t truly a “Day 1″ start. I did play the beta, and previously shared my thoughts about it here. But the truth is, the beta is only about eighty minutes long, and I’ve blown way past that mark already in day one.

I’m currently nearing the end of Act I. Or at least I think I am as I’ve already fought two sub bosses and have to be heading for some kind of dramatic conclusion. The acts are quite long, I’ll give them that, and I supposed they would have to be now that there are four instead of the usual five. Continue Reading »

11 responses so far

Mar 19 2012

Lost in Space: Adventures in the Old Republic

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

After a long deliberation process and probably a bit too much internal (and external) debate, I finally decided to take the plunge and get Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I’ve never been an MMO man myself, not because I have anything against the genre in particular, but more due to the fact that I have an addictive personality when it comes to games, and I was a bit afraid that in a few months I could be one of the news stories you see about the guy who died after playing World of Warcraft for 36 hours straight.

But I’m a bit more grown up now than I used to be, and I believed I could keep my compulsions in check. And I have, so far, and am ready to report my findings on my first stretch of playtime with the highest budgeted video game of all time.

I’ve got two characters right now, so that I may balance both the light and dark side of the force, and also experience different play styles between ranged and melee. Thus, I have a level 14 male Jedi Knight, and a level 11 female bounty hunter.

Continue Reading »

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14 responses so far

Mar 13 2012

The Mass Effect 3 Journal: Day 7

Published by under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

Read Journal #1 here first.

Well I did it. After thirty hours, adding on to probably a hundred more I spent on past titles, I’ve saved the universe. I think. Probably.

The grand finale of the Mass Effect series is both epic and frustrating, and though we’ll discuss it later, right now it’s time for some talk about everything that came before it. I could have squeezed in another journal installment before this one, but I saw the finish line, put my head down, and just went for it.

Usually I’d do a follow-up entry after this where I report what it’s like playing through with my hardassed renegade female Shepard, but this is one time I don’t think I’m going to do that. Why? Well, outside of the fact that she’s just kind of a dick, there are no real “opposite choices” to be made here, with the only important one being in the game’s closing moments, and I could just reload that segment and pick another option if I really wanted to. Not that it would really matter.

No, rather being a Renegade or Paragon doesn’t have nearly the implications it used to. Decisions you made in past games will have big repercussions here, but as this is the “final” installment, there aren’t really many opportunities to make choices that matter, and often times the game forces you into a “Renegade interrupt” as the only way of saving your own skin or that of someone close to you. The fact is either path leads to the relatively same conclusion, it’s a bit frustrating that the illusion of choice existed in this series at all.

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23 responses so far

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