You play as an undead warrior exploring desolate environments while trying to bring yourself back to life. You'll select between several classes including a knight, thief, archer, and wizard. How your character develops is entirely up to you. Do you regret being a wizard who can't throw a punch? Well, with some effort you'll be able to buff him up and gradually turn him into a sword-swinging barbarian. The combat is real-time, but it's more rewarding to play it safe rather than go all-out. In fact, you'll spend much of the time hiding behind your shield, waiting for the right moment to strike. Even the lowest of enemies can be lethal if you're not careful.
Dark Souls is designed to be played online even though it's a single player adventure at its core. While online you see other players running around as "ghosts", leaving messages offering advice... or bloodstains that portend doom! It's possible to invite other players into your game to help take down bosses, or you can invade their world to fight them. When played offline, computer-controlled NPCs step in but you'll be missing out on much of what the game has to offer.
Dark Souls is one of the most polished and well-programmed titles I've ever played, yet it's not easy to recommend. Casual players may lack the patience to endure the first few levels, and those looking for fast action won't tolerate its slow, cautious combat. But those willing to play this game on its own terms will find Dark Souls to be one of the most expansive, innovative RPGs in recent memory. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
I love how many locations are visible from Majula, giving a foreboding premonition of what's to come. While you're free to wander, Dark Souls 2 keeps you in line with high-level enemies guarding places you're not ready to tackle. Each path is fairly linear, taking you to a new area before warping you back to Majula. The approach is technically sound but I can't help but miss the intricate, interconnecting mazes of the original Dark Souls. Dark Souls 2 is an action-RPG so you fight enemies in real time with a stamina bar limiting your actions. A defensive approach works best, so you'll spend most of your time hiding behind your shield waiting for an opening.
The game retains the classic Dark Souls spirit by brutally beating you into submission at every opportunity. Some of the new gameplay alterations seem ill-advised. You now lose health with every frequent death, and will need to consume valuable resources to reconstitute. While the first game was clever in its enemy placement, Dark Souls 2 likes to throw them at you in waves. Certain levels are obviously built around a specific playstyle, meaning that if you choose a melee fighter over an archer you're going to be in trouble. You can either play solo or go online, summoning other players to help beat tough bosses. You can leave messages for others to find, whether to drop hints or just lighten the mood. Expect cryptic notes like "beware of horse but hole" or "try jumping" whenever you reach a cliff.
Then there's the concept of being "invaded" by other players. This happens more frequently than the first game, which is both good and bad. While it's fun to pit your skills against real people, repeated assaults can be frustrating when you're just trying to get through a level. Luckily it's only a problem in a few places and can be avoided altogether by playing offline. The first Dark Souls set the bar pretty high but you'll find a solid game here. Most importantly, it really does feel like a Dark Souls game so fans won't be disappointed. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
You play a 21-year old hit-man on the run when you're suddenly endowed with demonic powers, manifested by two Alien-headed, snake-like creatures protruding from your back. You'll use the subways to move between dark, deserted sections of town, and the buildings and alleys look convincingly aged and weathered. In addition to shooting police and mobsters, your "dark powers" let you to remotely scout new areas and summon little demons to do your bidding. Your "creeping darkness" power lets you guide one of your snakes through vents to access locked rooms and other inaccessible areas. Unfortunately, the abysmal controls and confusing viewing angles make this aspect of the game frustrating. Spawning gun-toting and bomb-strapped gremlins is more satisfying, although directing them towards the enemy can be tricky.
The storyline is great, cleverly conveyed with in-game devices like televisions, phone calls, and apparitions. The PS3 edition of The Darkness is almost identical to the Xbox 360 version, except you need to sit through load meters in this one. Also, the lack of controller vibration is glaring. You can only save one game at a time, and I actually lost my latest checkpoint just so I could show my buddy the kick-ass intro. Multiplayer modes are included, but only via LAN or on-line. I've grown a bit weary of first-person shooters, but The Darkness was just original and weird enough to win me over. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Despite its derivative nature Dead Space has ample surprises up its sleeve. You view your character from the back, and his suit makes him look like a high-tech knight. His life gauge is a blue light running down his spinal cord - very imaginative! Aiming your crosshairs directs your flashlight, and there are inventive weapons tailor-made for dismembering aliens. Ripping the beasts apart saves ammo, and the game actively encourages this by limiting its availability. Once your foes are reduced to crawling torsos you can stomp on them to finish them off.
Another unique element is the ability to employ "stasis" to temporarily slow enemies and fast-moving doors. When upgrading weapons, you select electric circuit "paths" to determine how each weapon will evolve. There's no radar to pinpoint enemy locations but that just adds to the intensity. You'll know when creatures are around, because they are loud. Your mission details can be pretty convoluted but it doesn't really matter because pressing the right joystick (R3) causes a bright line to appear on the floor, showing you where to go.
The first-rate production values boast photo-realistic graphics, a silky-smooth frame-rate, and a polished user interface. The storyline is seamlessly conveyed through radio calls and holographic video images. Save points are frequent and intelligently placed. Dead Space is an ambitious effort - but sometimes it feels too ambitious. The "zero gravity" areas absolutely suck. While freely floating through a chamber is original in concept, the clumsy controls and bewildering camera turns it into ordeal.
In general, Dead Space's controls are complicated as hell, with many critical functions mapped to combinations of shoulder and face buttons (L1 and X to reload, for example). Dead Space isn't perfect but it's one of the most intense shooters you'll ever play, especially with the lights out. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
The gameplay alternates between survival horror and detective work. After surviving a car wreck on a stormy night York finds himself fending off zombie farmers and eluding ghoulish girls who are literally bending over backwards to get him! After this action-packed opening stage the game becomes a slow-burn psychological mystery.
The subject matter is adult in nature, drawing from films like Seven, The Ring, and in particular The Silence of the Lambs. The exposition in the cut scenes is really drawn out (it is a director's cut) but the dialog is rich and there's a surprising amount of humor. York is a film buff and it's hilarious to hear him wax poetic about marginal 80's flicks like Remo Williams, Blue Thunder, and Ladyhawke.
While in investigation mode you'll solve puzzles, collect clues, and drive between locations. There are some truly memorable locations including a rickety lumber mill, spacious art gallery, cozy inn, and smoky lounge bar. The game has a lot of atmosphere and I love the recurring jazz music - even when it feels inappropriate. Deadly Premonition gives the player ample freedom to explore and there's a staggering amount of content. It's a shame certain parts of the game put you on a schedule; I hate the concept of having to "kill time" in a video game.
The survival horror elements are clearly inspired by Silent Hill (PS1, 2000), Clock Tower (PS1, 1997), and Alan Wake (Xbox 360, 2010). Glowing icons, floating medals, goofy health items, and big "go here" arrows give a game a bit of an arcade flavor. The controls could be better. As one of only a few games to support the Move controllers, I decided to give them a shot. Using motion to pan the camera is clumsy but I enjoyed aiming my gun by pointing at the screen. Eventually I was forced to switch to a normal controller when the game prompted me to jiggle the right thumbstick which is not present on the Move controllers.
In general the game feels over-engineered. Is it really necessary to maintain both sleep and hunger meters in addition to your health? I still don't fully understand the inventory system. The game suffers from frequent audio/video hiccups and some outrageous glitches. I witnessed a guy in a sitting position floating next to his car as it drove down the street. Less amusing was how the controls went haywire during one critical boss encounter. These glaring issues would sink most games, yet Deadly Premonition hooked me for over 18 hours. With an engrossing story, well-developed characters, and plot twists galore, this is one adventure you'll savor till the very end. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Every warrior who has entered the cursed land of Boletaria before you has failed. Some of them even transformed into the very demons they were fighting. Survival is not guaranteed by a longshot. Demon's Souls' gameplay is neither intuitive nor well-explained. There's no traditional tutorial and the advice provided by NPCs (non-player characters) is cryptic at best and misleading at worst. The combat system is fast and fluid but relies on twitch reflexes and is incredibly unforgiving. Enemy encounters are frequent and often leave the player outnumbered. Navigating the huge levels is as much an exercise in calculated risk as it is a test of action gaming skill.
Demon's Souls is a single player game with integrated online features. Messages scrawled on the ground by previous adventurers assist in navigating environmental challenges. It's also possible for a player to invade the world of other players and assassinate them, as if the game wasn't difficult enough! Dying sends you back to the beginning of a level, and only by collecting your remains can you recover your lost souls (experience points). Die before you reach that point and all is lost.
What makes Demon's Souls fiendishly addictive is its exciting combat and fun risk/reward system. The first few times you die are infuriating, but the more you learn from each death, the closer you come to mastering a level. Overcoming the terrifying bosses after failing numerous times is one of the most gratifying experiences in gaming. Beware ye who enter, however—Demon's Souls is not your typical fantasy romp but a serious commitment. The story is intriguing on a moment-to-moment basis but as with the game's mechanics, you'll only know what's going on if you look below the surface. There is great satisfaction to be had in meeting the challenge of Demon's Souls, but it will require your very best. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
What makes Diablo III so special is its spectacular production values. The quaint towns are rendered with intricate detail, eerie crypts are shrouded in mist, and rain pitter-patters on overgrown ruins. Rickety bridges cross raging rivers and flickering torches light the walls of haunted castles. The dungeons look like a million bucks and convey a remarkable sense of atmosphere. Their sprawling layouts however tend to be highly repetitive (the term "cut-and-paste" comes to mind). If not for the ever-present map and occasional helpful arrow, you'd be wandering in circles. Fantastic audio enhances the experience with an orchestrated musical score, professional voice acting, and jarring surround sound effects (is my house falling down?!).
Dungeons and battlefields are populated by skeletons, minotaur, walking trees, ghouls, warlocks, and giant spiders. The creatures are well designed but their detail tends to get lost in the dark lighting and high camera angles. Targeted enemies are outlined in a thick red line, and I found that to be kind of off-putting. Still, I enjoyed playing Diablo III both solo and with a friend via two-player local coop. While selecting character classes it's a good idea to strike a balance. My friend opted for a brutish barbarian to compliment my agile, fire-from-a-distance archer babe. The weapons are imaginative and fun. One of my bows unleashed rapid-fire shots, while another had the ability to bounce arrows between foes. You constantly acquire new items and it's enjoyable to sift through your inventory.
The game gets so many details right. You can't fall off ledges, autosaves are frequent, waypoints allow for fast travel. There are plenty of hints to prevent you from getting stuck. When you die you can respawn with a minor penalty. Diablo III may feel like a grind at times, but there's no question that this is one classy, first-rate adventure. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
On the surface, the game is a work of art. The characters are huge, remarkably detailed, and rendered with an artistic flair. The stages resemble lavish painted scenes of castles, ruins, catacombs, and pirates' coves. A central village area adds depth by propelling the narrative and letting you buy items and learn skills. This is an old-school 2D hack-n-slash title rendered in high definition (HD). What's not to like?
Well, you can start with the non-intuitive menu interface. Just the act of creating a simple character feels like an extended ordeal. Who designed this?! The convoluted storyline is conveyed via text, and the verbose exposition tries to cover way too much ground, tossing out so many names and plot twists that you just start tapping buttons to get the damn thing over with. The missions are ideal in length and take you to a lot of interesting locations which all tend to look the same after a while.
The look and feel of the combat is all wrong. The digital pad should have been used to control your movement, but instead it's used to rummage through items in a really clumsy manner. Most battles feature many oversized combatants being tossed in dark environments. This is where the HD works against the game. The exquisitely detailed but poorly defined characters all tend to blend into each other, creating a big confusing jumble. The worst example is when you fight a band of pirates for a magic lamp, and you can't even locate yourself much less the lamp! There's a sweet spot when it comes to the optimal amount of on-screen activity, and Dragon's Crown overshoots it by a mile.
It doesn't help that most enemies can absorb dozens of hits and the phystics is horrible. Whether you're throwing or jumping, everything moves through the air in a perfectly straight line. A generous number of continues tends to water down the challenge, but it's necessary to get you through this mess. Finally, there's no pause feature during off-line play, which is unacceptable. I wanted to love Dragon's Crown but came away disappointed. I think the concept is fantastic, but this game feels like far less than the sum of its parts. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Dogma begins by plunging you into battle with a ferocious lion-goat-thing in a cave, which is very confusing. Once you get your feet wet you're free to explore a sprawling world, accepting missions as you please. You might set out to investigate a cult, rout a monster infestation, or retrieve a magic book. Context sensitive controls are displayed on the screen, so you know if the O button is used to converse or open a gate. The fact that you travel with a party of independently-behaving cohorts is comforting. In fact, fighting is often less critical than keeping fallen allies upright. I like how party members collect items on their own and toss out comments like "we need to take this path" and "there's no way we could have lost to that!".
The scenery looks so fantastic you'll stare in awe at sights like a majestic castle perched on a seaside cliff. My main problem with Dragon's Dogma is that it has that "PC smell". The controls are touchy and the animation stiff. Draw-in is an issue as plants and people materialize out of thin air. And why is everything so dark? I can understand caves being pitch black, but it's even hard to see in shadowy canyons during daylight hours. During the heat of battle it's easy to lose track of your character in darkness or dense foliage. After my entire party once got eviscerated in a spiral-shaped dungeon I thought my game was over. Instead, I found everyone back at the headquarters no worse for wear. Can you even die in this game?
The loading process is arduous and the game is constantly checking for downloadable content even though it knows I'm offline. What's the difference between "retry" and "retry from last checkpoint"? It's easy to knit-pick but you have to appreciate the epic scale of Dragon's Dogma. This live action D&D adventure will give as much as you can take. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
When I purchased this disc in 2009 I assumed it would work in any generic Blu Ray player, but that was not the case. I was lucky to get it working on my Playstation 3, which is why it's included in this section. One decade later it's even experiencing problems on my PS3! There must be some kind of buffering problem, as a one-second "preview" of each new scene is flashed before the scene restarts and plays in its entirety. Either the game was not programmed to specification or the specification changed. It's still playable but the glitch is off-putting and disconcerting at times.
Dragon's Lair stars a lanky knight named Dirk the Daring attempting to navigate a dangerous, trap-laden castle to rescue a princess. Each random room offers a new creature or hazard, animated in Don Bluth's charming style. Control is limited to moving the thumbstick or pressing a button at strategic moments. An incorrect or poorly-timed move results in an amusing "death" animation such as falling into an abyss or getting burnt to a crisp. Visual and audio cues are available to help you along.
The high definition upgrade lets you savor every bit of the artistic backdrops and whimsical animations. My friends and I had a good time passing around the controller and playing through the entire game in about an hour. Bonus features include trailers, interviews, and commentary from the creators. Dragon's Lair is a legitimate classic but so the fact that this Blu Ray edition is marred by so many technical issues is a shame. Note: I now have a PS3 model 2 as opposed to the original model which could be a factor. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Unlike the first game which featured compact scenes that were logical to navigate (more or less), this sequel features long, complicated sequences during which you're expecting to execute a rapid-fire series of actions. If the actions made sense that would be one thing, but they rarely do, so you just end up responding to the flashing hints.
Dragon's Lair II sucks as a game but the extra features give you the option to just watch it as a movie. I was hoping to kick back with some popcorn and enjoy, but the pacing is so hectic and the animation so rough you can't even tell what's happening! Perhaps the bug is affecting movie playback as well? The time travel theme whisks Dirk through all sorts of different places, many of which don't make any sense. What does Alice in Wonderland have to do with time travel? Why is he fighting Cupid? If I can't even stomach watching this game how could I be expected to play it?
Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp feels like a really bad animated film with a video game grafted over top of it. I tend to have a soft spot for these laserdisc games but I can't tolerate this one at all. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
The story tells of six sisters called "intoners" ruling a kingdom, each with a massive dragon watching their back. One sister is evil and wants to destroy everything. Her name is Zero and she has a flower growing out of one eye. That's your character. You begin by beating up about 100 useless guards in a bloody Dynasty Warrior-style courtyard brawl. It's hard to overstate how ridiculous it looked to see a petite girl slicing through dozens of heavily-armored knights while prancing around in a skimpy (albeit blood-soaked) white dress. After an inconsequential skirmish with your sisters the title screen appears. Don't you hate semi-interactive intros where you realize your actions had absolutely no bearing?
From there Drakengard 3 settles into a familiar pattern of plowing through waves of guards before taking on some oversized, nondescript boss. I pretty much hate everything about this game but first and foremost the voices and dialog. The older dragons speak like college professors and the young ones sound like whiny kids. I don't know what's worse, but they could have at least attempted to sync the words with their mouths. The dialog is so juvenile it's embarrassing. Every single time you boot up this game you hear these words from the petulant child dragon, "Zero, can I find a bush? I need to pee!"
But before you mistake this for a kids' game, you should know the dialog is loaded with profanity and inappropriate sexual references. During battle Zero will toss out lines like "what are you looking at, [expletive]-head?" This the most cringeworthy game I've ever played! Watching Zero effortlessly dismember hulking knights seems little more feasible when you hear them talk like a bunch of sissies cowering in their boots. One original aspect of the game is the ability to switch weapons mid-attack, and that's just dumb.
The graphics are sharp but the scenery is so repetitive I often found myself backtracking by accident. The camera is so unruly I would often lose track of where I am. Huge bosses get stuck in the scenery, hovering ten feet over the ground. Controlling the dragon sucks in the worst way. You have to continuous press X to flap to maintain your altitude, all while pressing other buttons to target and attack enemies. Beyond clunky and unsatisfying, it's exhausting. You sink a battleship by repeatedly diving head-first into it? Whatever. Drakengard 3 makes no sense, and I'm shocked Square Enix would even slap their name on this piece of garbage. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Most Japanese games use English text (in the menus at least) but sadly that's not the case here. That makes wading through the copious options and extra features confusing. That said, the side-scrolling hack-n-slash gameplay remains enjoyable. It reminds me of a more sophisticated version of Golden Axe (Genesis, 1989). You choose between several characters including a fighter, cleric, dwarf, and thief. Your ability to toggle between several special skills (projectile, magic, potions) gives the game surprising depth. There also seems to be an endless variety of treasure and items to collect.
The lush graphics make it interesting to forge through forests, caves, castles, ships, and even a moving train. D&D fans will instantly recognize creatures like kobolds, troglodytes, manicores, and displacer beasts. Rendered in exquisite detail, some of the creatures are frightening in appearance. Up to four people can play at once, which sounds great on paper. In practice too many characters makes the visuals look cluttered and the gameplay confusing. The action is far more palatable with one or two players.
Each game provides unlimited continues, which is a shame because I would prefer to configure that. Frankly it's hard to tell what options are even available. Chronicles of Mystara offers some terrific 2D side-scrolling action, but if you don't understand Japanese you may want to think twice before picking up this disc. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.