The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings review

Rated: 5/5

Yep, a game review.  And with that rating, you can rightfully expect that this will be a glowing review with praises and hugs and kisses.  And sex and violence.  And mods.  And modded sex and violence.  It’s going to be one of those reviews, so I’m putting up the warning signs.

I am not kidding.  This will also include sexually explicit content.  You’ve been warned.

Anyway, this game franchise is based on a series of novels (though they did start as short stories before growing into novels that linked together into a cohesive narrative).  It’s important to use the term “based,” because it doesn’t exactly follow the storyline of the books all that accurately.  Rather, it has its own story with some inspiration from the novels, but keeps the characters and their motivations fairly accurate.

This game has a moment where they tell this story, minus the her begging to have sex part.

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My opinion on Game of Thrones so far.


Source

First off, let me get this out of the way, I have not seen every season of the show, nor have I read every book (only the first 2, and that’s as far as I’m going). I’ve seen the first season in its entirety, bits and pieces of seasons 2-5, and have seen season 6 and 7 in their entirety. Yeah, I know, that seems outrageous, just skipping over seasons where a lot of shit has happened (only catching glimpses of them) before getting back into it. Well, I have my reasons.

It’s my philosophy when it comes to television shows in general to not watch them until they have been completed, whether due to cancellation, or just being seen to the end properly. It’s a philosophy I have developed from my years of watching anime (did that much more often in the past than I do now). Most anime that I’ve seen either ends before it can be resolved (those motherfuckers, them making anime adaptations of ongoing manga; either write your own goddamn ending or adapt something that’s been fucking finished!), or it just has the shittiest ending imaginable that tends to go along the lines of, “Everyone dead, or fucked, or sad and depressed at the end.” You don’t have to go off of Shakespearean tragedy mantra that fucking often!

So yeah, it started as skepticism for anime in general, to where I refuse to watch ANY anime series until it’s finished, and only if I hear good things about it. That being said, it’s not a philosophy I follow 100%. The last anime I watched was Attack on Titan, and that was a while ago. Guess what? It ends on a cliffhanger and it’s not fucking finished! Granted, the chances of them picking it back up to finish it are much better than Highschool of the Dead (I loved every moment of that show, it was made for someone like me, and they won’t fucking finish it, especially since the manga may never get finished), but it still pisses me off that I have to wait. On top of that, I may be waiting on something that’s going to end shittily (that’s a real word because I say so!).

Seriously, you’ve gotta watch this video if you haven’t seen it already. It’s one of the most absurd, ridiculous, defying the laws of physics and human biology, stupid, dumb, perverted, and downright fucking hilarious things I’ve ever seen in my life. You will fall out of your seat.

Which brings me to Game of Thrones. When I first started watching the first season (at the time I was also in the middle of the first book), my thoughts were, meh. It was just ok. The production quality is fantastic, the acting top-notch, the plot intriguing. But there was something about the presentation that never got me fully into it, something I can’t put my (Little) finger on. There was also the fact that, and you’re probably not going to believe I’m saying this, there was too much sex in the show. Too much sex and nudity littered throughout that was only there for the sole purpose of attracting more perverted viewers and to ride off the back of the Spartacus series on Starz. Now look, I like sex and nudity just as much as anyone else (assuming I find them attractive). I also like porn just as much as the next guy. But when it comes to a film or show that aims to be serious and deep/complex, the perverted side of me shuts off and the analytical film/show connoisseur side takes over. I look at what makes it work as a whole for me, and what works against it. This isn’t a show that should have sex as it’s main feature, which it seemed like it was trying to for the first season, or 2, or 3. However, it seems as if the show has lightened up on that regard (at least as early as season 6, maybe earlier), now only showing that stuff when its integral to the plot or character development. As it should be.

Sex and nudity aside, and the fact that I just couldn’t get fully invested in the show, there’s also all the stuff I’ve heard from other sources about how downright depressing the whole thing gets at times. “People you love will die.” Especially when it got to the Red Wedding. It’s at that point that I resolved myself to not get into the franchise unless there was a light at the end of this bleak tunnel. The ending of season 5 sure as hell didn’t make me think there was.

But then comes season 6. I saw a preview of it from the Conan O’Brian show along with a couple interviews. They didn’t spoil exactly what would happen, but they sure implied it heavily enough to where I saw where they were going with this. So John Snow gets resurrected, which makes me think that Amanda Pete (wife of one of the screenwriters) is successful at swaying her husband in how the story is to progress (seemed even more apparent with the finale of season 6 pretty much having women in high positions of power everywhere, replacing men who once stood there). And that wasn’t a bad thing, in my opinion, at first. John Snow comes back, and they end up delivering one hell of an entertaining season. Especially that Battle of the Bastards episode. More optimistic than the previous seasons. A light appeared at the end of the tunnel which now appeared less bleak. And it felt earned after all the depressing bullshit that transpired previously.

Then in season 7, it seemed to me as if we were getting too much of a good thing. Too much optimism. Too many saves at the last minute. Some of that was in season 6, but it became bluntly apparent this season. John Snow surviving a few near-death experiences, getting dragged into the icy water, getting the strength to come out, only to be charged by the army of the dead, only for his long-lost uncle to show up at the last moment to save him and sacrifice himself to do so; all this after Daenerys swoops in with her dragons to also save everyone at the last minute. This is the most extreme of examples, all packed into a few minutes of one episode. Shit like this seems to happen too often not just in this episode, but in others throughout the season. Granted, this all ended up leading to a great plot twist that would make the threat of the army of the dead even greater than ever before, but it could have been pulled off in a less “oh so convenient” manner.

The show is becoming the one thing it should not have been, that it has never been since its inception until now (unless you read the books that the first few seasons are an adaptation of, before they went beyond the books). Predictable. Formulaic. Say what you will about the depressing shit, but at least it kept the viewer on edge and wondering if someone was going to get out of an encounter alive or not. Now everyone has gone from, “Oh don’t die! Please don’t die!” to, “Oh come on, there’s no way they’re going to kill him/her off now.” What has become a breath of fresh air has now become the normal air we breathe, and it’s too healthy. I don’t mind a dose of optimism to offset the pessimism, but it shouldn’t overwhelm the pessimism.

So now I have a pretty good idea on how the show is going to end, and at least 2 characters that are going to be alive by the end of it. Granted, I predicted this earlier on before season 7 even started, but now it seems set in stone. So after season 6, I predicted that John and Daenerys would get together and be king and queen of the realm. My reason for this is because of the name of the series. The book series isn’t called Game of Thrones, that’s just the title of the first book. The series is titled A Song of Fire and Ice. So fire and ice would get together. Daenerys is the fire, John is the Ice (hence his last name, despite what the plot twist at the end of season 7 says about his name). The end of season 7 only cemented my theory further. So if nothing else, those two will by alive once everything is over.

But that’s not the only predictable element. The other big one is with dickless Theon. They’re obviously setting up a redemption angle with him, where he’s going to encounter Euron Greyjoy and either kill him, or free his sister so she can kill him.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Samwell Tarly ended up doing something heroic in the next season, maybe killing the Ice King (doubtful) or the undead dragon (also doubtful). He’s likely going to end up doing something along those lines, but I’m hoping he sacrifices his fat ass as a result. I’ve been waiting for his character to get killed off for a while. Him and the other Greyjoys, and maybe even Sansa Stark.

The newfound optimistic nature of this show that had arisen in season 6 and carried onto season 7 threatens to carry onto season 8. Make no mistake, I’m all for happy endings. But they need to be earned, and the only way they can truly be earned is if the threat of an alternate bad ending is real, just as the threat of death hanging over all the major characters was real up until last season. The series seems set on a path where everything is going to wrap up too conveniently. The only way I can see things ending on a satisfactory matter is if there’s mass murder on a wide scale. Major characters should get dropped left and right, villains and heroes alike. And for the love of God, get rid of those fucking last-minute saves. They can be useful, but not if they’re used often. There should only be two last-minute saves throughout one season of Game of Thrones tops, especially when the new seasons are only 7 fucking episodes in length.

PS: Oh, right. The other reason why I’ve actually gotten into this show, other than I think it’s gotten a bit better, is because it would be impossible to not watch it and avoid spoilers with how often they show up online, even in the form of episode leaks online (which I have not seen nor do I ever intend to see). Plus it’s nice to be capable of following along in conversations about this show with co-workers.

Gloom of Kilforth review


Image by Tristan Hall

Rated: 3/5

Introduction

So after bitching about the censorship of the artwork on one of the cards, and later apologizing for it since it ended up not being censorship at all, finally got a hold of the game and played it, solo. So small controversy aside, how is this “roughly 10 years in the making” big bad mamma jamma of a fantasy board game in the same vein as Mage Knight and Magic Realm? Eh, it’s just ok.

The Visuals and Component Quality

Prior backing this game on Kickstarter nearly a year ago, my impression was that this game had artwork that was better than it, or any board game for that matter, deserved. This isn’t artwork that belongs on playing cards, this is artwork that belongs on posters to hang up on walls, framed, and meant to be gazed at in wonder and fascination; probably even better if you’re doing so while puffing the magic dragon or munching the eddies. The artwork is nothing short of amazing.

That being said, like most games, you tend to forget about how good it looks and look past that to focus on the gameplay. And to make the gameplay better, the component quality needs to be good, with easy to learn/understand icons, pieces that are easy to handle and move around without accidentally knocking something out of its place, etc. In all honesty, I have yet to play a deep fantasy board game that wasn’t fiddly to some extent, and this one is no exception, even more-so if you’re playing with more than 1 player/hero. That being said, it is less fiddly than Mage Knight and Magic Realm (good Lord, what isn’t less fiddly than Magic Realm?). It plays fine without too much fiddliness, assuming you have the room for it.

This will take up some space.

Cards are of decent quality, though when I started sleeving them in clear Dragon Shields (I usually never play one of my own games unless I have sleeved everything first, you know, for preservation), I did notice it ever so slightly chipped away at a small bit of the lower corner of the cards. Not all of them, but some of them. Other than that, the card quality is fine. Sturdy enough and thick enough to be considered standard.

Chipped the card while sleeving.

So aside from the cards, there’s also Zelda hearts for health, black corrupted devil hearts for action points, clouds for obstacles, trees for hiding, sand timers for fate (what, no fate cards from Atmosfear?), Mario coins for gold, and solid sturdy chits for loot and marking enemies.

 

The Gameplay

So this is where games either excel or fall apart, or somewhere in-between. In the case of this game, it’s in-between. You start out as a hero who seems too weak to beat the game as is. But once you complete the first part of you Saga (a 5 part story that you choose at the start of the game), and you level up, that’s when things start to get rolling. Basically the number of actions you can take is equal to your health at the start of the day. You start with 4 health at the start of the game, so you can take 4 actions. When you level up, you get another health, and thus another action point, allowing you to not only do more stuff each day, but also take more damage in combat.

In order to level up you need to acquire cards of certain types, whether they be Quests, Titles, Places, Spells, Strangers, Villains, etc., they are all represented by cards. You can only acquire these cards by traveling around and having encounters in various locations, hoping that the card you draw will be the type you want. And then you have to go about getting the card in the same way you do anything in the game that involves acquiring cards, rolling dice.

You see, when you move to a location where one of these cards is at, or if you move to a location with no encounter and one shows up when you move there, they each have a stat to roll against on the left side of the card. Depending on the card type, you can go for a Fight, Study, Sneak, or Influence test. For each test, you roll a number of dice equal to how much of those values you have (ex: if you have 3 Study, you get to roll 3 dice for Study tests), and get a success on a 5-6. Aside from Fight tests which pretty much mean you’ve entered in combat against a stranger or enemy, the other tests you can try multiple times over the course of a single in-game day until you get enough successes to get the card, or fail to get enough by the end of the day in which case all your successes go away and you have to try again the next day, starting from square one (or rectangle one in this case, you know, card shapes).

And once you get one of these cards, you can do two things with it (aside from getting either gold or loot): either keep the card in your hand as a Rumor for completing Sagas, or exchange the card for an Item, Title, Spell, or Ally (this depends on the card type you exchange; for example only Places can be exchanged for Titles). It depends on what you need the card for. But of course, it’s not that easy. Once you get a hold of a Item/Title/Spell/Ally via rumor-trade, you still have to visit the location depicted on the card in order to get the ITSA. Because it’s just a rumor you heard at the place you visited, from the individual/monster you killed, from the side Quest you went on, etc (thematically-speaking). On the one hand, Items, Titles, Spells, and Allies can give you ability/power boosts to make your life easier. But on the other hand, you can’t fight the final boss without completing your saga, which requires sacrificing these cards to progress on the saga and level up. Personally, from my experience, it’s better to level up ASAP, for at least the first 2 levels, so you can get stuff done faster. After that, it depends on the situation.

So pretty soon it falls into the same pattern. Move to a location, hope you get the card of the right type, hope you have good enough stats to beat it, otherwise move along and try for something better. Once something shows up, keep rolling dice until you succeed. Once you succeed, rinse and repeat until you get enough cards to get what you want/need, level up, do it all over again until the big bad Ancient One from Arkham Horror, I mean Eldritch Horror, I mean Lovecraft Gloom of Killing Forth demons from hell show up that you need to off by cutting it’s head off with a sword, or blowing it away with a spell (if you’re a good enough Arcane aficionado). And how do you do that? You guessed it, the same way you do in Arkham Horror, rolling a bunch of dice and hoping you get enough successes over the course of a few rounds (or maybe you’ll get lucky and only have to do it for 1 or 2 rounds) to take it out.

And you have to level up fast enough to chuck the maximum amount of dice per combat round before the game ends. And at the end of each day, things slowly get worse, with 1 of the 25 locations you can travel around falling into gloom, threatening to suck a little bit of life out of you if you spend the night there. And with each life you lose, you lose an action point. For each life you get back, you don’t get that action point back until the start of the next day. So the game does plenty to slow down your progress to prevent you from leveling up fast enough so that the game doesn’t become a cakewalk.

And that’s pretty much how the game goes. There are different ways to play it, either solo/co-op with multiple heroes, or competitively against others to see who the first hero to take out the baddie is.

Thoughts

This was the one factor I had my doubts on when backing the game, the dice-chucking. But I was willing to give it a shot (and my money) because it looked like there may be enough theme and immersion to where I could overlook most of that. Plus I kind of had to admire how much time and effort Tristan “ninja dorg (because that’s a cool way of saying dog)” Hall put into this thing. Truly worthy of attention on Kickstarter, unlike those other board game companies who would probably do just fine without it, but still use Kickstarter to fund their board game projects anyway.

Mr. Dorg

In all honesty, there is a good amount of theme to it, enough variability to make each game experience different. But the tactical depth is lacking by my standards. A bit too much luck for my tastes. Getting a hold of some ITSAs can be fun, the feeling you get when your character levels up and can do more is great. And the card draws, while luck-dependent, seem balanced enough to where you’ll eventually find what you want (though I’ve only done 1 playthrough so far). But the dice-chucking, man, especially for the boss battle. It’s basically the same reason why I did away with Arkham Horror years ago. All that exploration, adventuring, analyzing the best routes to take and the best course of action to do each turn/round/day. All for it to lead to a nearly mindless dice battle. Sure there are different bosses to choose from, and they hit you in different way, but it all devolves into the same thing at the end of the day.

I guess you could say it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. But the thing is, if the destination wasn’t all that great, why would you want to go see it again? Especially when there’s other games in the same genre to fall back on?

Don’t get me wrong, I do intend to play this a couple more times, and with other players, before I decide if I’m going to trade this off or not. Game could be more interesting with player interaction. In fact, that’s what I’m counting on. The whole game boils down to being a race against time, and mitigating luck and planning well enough that you get to the finish line before it all ends. Throw in other players, then it becomes trying to get to the finish line before they do, which can encourage heavier thinking and more optimal planning. Co-op could be interesting (I would only do that solo, but that’s just me), with the way the rules force players to work together, requiring everyone to participate in completing each other’s sagas. But as it is now, too luck-based for long-term enjoyment.

But keep in mind, I’m a very picky gamer. I prefer my games to be light on luck, or entirely absent of it. Or if there is luck, that there be extreme strategic decision making to go with it, or a heavy amount of immersion. The game doesn’t have quite enough immersion or strategy to be a keeper. But it is worth trying out.

Comparisons


This isn’t fair, but neither is life or the outcome of dice. How does it compare to Magic Realm and Mage Knight?

All 3 games are not dungeon crawlers. You travel along landscapes in each of them. It has a Mage Knight feel in that you get stronger the more you do, to where enemies that were difficult before get easier to beat. But Mage Knight has far less luck, and is absent of dice, and has the same working against the clock and optimizing your turns routine, but with deck-building. But in all fairness to Gloom of Kilforth, it handles taking damage and how much that slows you down, and how much time you have to take to recover from it better than Mage Knight. You feel each and every wound you take in Gloom of Kilforth, while in Mage Knight you can tend to shrug them off unless you take a lot of them. It makes you feel more, well, human, more vulnerable. And that’s a good thing, because the last thing you want to feel in a game where the world is at stake is invincible. But on the other hand, Mage Knight is much more tactical with the combat system, giving you much more control and decision-making.

Mage Knight

With Magic Realm, well Gloom of Kilforth is much easier to learn than that game, so that’s a big pro. But despite it’s complexity, Magic Realm stays very abstract with the theme. Sure there’s monsters and treasures and stuff, but they are absent of flavor text. That game is absent of a set fictional world that has a backstory. It leaves it up to the imagination. It leaves much of what you do up to the imagination, which ultimately encourages the immersive feel, getting you to think about what is happening and what is going on, rather than trying to show you. Each character in Magic Realm is far more distinct than the characters in Gloom of Kilforth. Not just in their starting stats, but in their starting abilities. In Gloom, it’s more about your starting stats, encouraging you to focus more on fights, influencing, sneaking, etc. Wherever you have the most numbers and can throw the most dice, that’s optimally what you’ll go for. It’s obvious in it’s approach. In Magic Realm it’s much more subtle, demanding many playthroughs before you can even see what strategies to use for just 1 character.

Pros and cons, Gloom of Kilforth is more accessible than either of those 2 games, but in being more accessible it has less depth. Depending on your group, you may not want depth, you may not want to play something that will take 4+ hours. You may want something like Gloom of Kilforth, which provides the fantasy experience at that level. And that’s the niche the game fits in, a medium level game, as opposed to heavy like Mage Knight, and as opposed to driving university professors mad with Magic Realm.

If there’s one thing I appreciate about this game, it’s that it’s not a dungeon crawler. I’m not a big fan of that genre, at least when it comes to the fantasy genre.

Last Words

So, there’s my thoughts. Take them as you would with any review, with a grain of salt.

PS: Oh yeah, one other thing. It’s extremely refreshing to see a game that uses cardboard standees rather than 3d plastic sculpts.

Update
So I played the game a few more times, once with another player in Competitive mode, too see if the game improves or worsens. Unfortunately, it’s the latter, but there are some nice things I found within the game upon repeated plays.

First it should be mentioned that this game should’ve come with a guide showing the statistics of what is in each region type. It helps with the theme and allows players to formulate strategies.

Badlands: 4 places, 2 strangers, 5 enemies, 8 quests, 2 events.
Forests: 7 places, 6 strangers, 3 enemies, 2 quests, 2 events.
Mountains: 2 places, 2 strangers, 9 enemies, 6 quests, 2 events.
Plains: 6 places, 8 strangers, 1 enemies, 3 quests, 2 events.

So this basically means the Badlands is where one would go in hopes of finding Quests, Forests for finding Places, Mountains for finding Enemies, and Plains for finding Strangers. It’s the most optimal, but the other region types also tend to have a decent number of other encounter types. As I pointed out earlier, “the card draws, while luck-dependent, seem balanced enough to where you’ll eventually find what you want”. It’s not quite THAT luck dependent, as keith hunt pointed out (see comments below). The first 2 or 3 Saga chapters just require places, strangers, enemies, quests, titles, spells, items, and/or allies. However, once you get to Saga Chapter 4, it gets a little more tricky. For instance, some cards require a specific keyword like Arcane, Shadow, Villain, Assist, etc. Those cards are more difficult to track down. However, during the course of the game, from what I’ve played, there’s usually enough instances of cards with those keywords showing up that it’s never unfair. I could be wrong, it may be possible that you could enter into a scenario where every encounter/title/spell/ally/item doesn’t have any of those keywords, but it’s never happened with my playthroughs, so it’s unlikely that will happen.

With competitive play against other players, the only real thing that changes is trying to get encounter cards before others do, though it may not matter that much if other players aren’t interested in some cards that are out there while the others are interested. Plus the map is big enough for players to explore and find what they need. Once you get 3 or more players, those special “keyword” requirements are less of a factor in regards to completing Sagas, because of the number of players and because the competition for getting more cards can become fierce (but it never seemed that fierce to me; then again I’ve only done 2 players tops).

In all honesty, the game seems better as a solo game. It plays shorter, and the playtime increases a pretty good amount with each added player. For a single-player game, if the player knows what he/she is doing, the game tends to run at about the time the box says, 45 minutes, maybe an hour depending. Each player does pretty much add on another 50-60 minutes to the game. And a game like this shouldn’t run more than 2 hours. Just my opinion.

In all the 3 times I’ve played the game, I’ve won 2 of them, including my first playthrough. It’s all really dependent on the type of race and class you choose at the start of the game, but the main difference is how often you play as someone who wants to Fight enemies straight up vs. someone who has more emphasis in study/sneak/influence. Fighting is more dangerous, especially early on in the game. If you lose a battle, you lose your gold and a rumor/asset. This sets you back considerably, and can make things hopeless. This is why I recommend the Advanced Variant for Saga completion, where instead of just spending 5 gold per chapter completion, you spend 2 gold multiplied by the chapter number. It makes the game flow better, and fits thematically for the world becoming more challenging to accompany your increasing strength. I’ve beaten the game using the normal and advanced versions of saga completion. There are ways to increase the difficulty, as provided in the files section of BGG by Tristan himself. But as of now, I don’t feel the need to.

I don’t consider the overall game to be fun enough to be worth going into Challenge mode for (or Ancient/Bloodbath mode, as it’s called). Mainly because despite the nice streamlined gameplay, despite the nice artwork, despite what immersion there is and thematic connections between the cards and race abilities and other things, the game is a glorified dice-chuck-fest. If that is your thing, by all means, go for it, it’s one of the better dice-chuck-fests out there. But for others who want more decision-making when it comes to battles, there’s other adventure board games out there that provide that. For everyone else who wants something accessible and dice-heavy, there’s this game.

Barbarossa review

Rated: 3/5

Introduction (ie addressing some criticisms of the game)

So there are 2 versions of this game. One is the version which has anime chicks in scantily clad outfits doing some implied and ridiculous sexual gesture. The other version is a more historical version with black and white WWII photos. Regarding the latter, where’s the fun in that?

First of all, I own the anime-chick version, not the historical photograph edition. Some would ask why I would buy such a game. I bought it for a simple reason, spite. I despise all you easily offended politically correct gamers with all of my little black perverted heart. Some of which state that no one should play this game because it is vile, perverted, sexist (sexploitation), pro-lolita, pro-nazi, and glorifies horrible people in a horrible war. That revisiting/addressing WWII should be done in a serious/professional matter, and in no other way. And there’s also arguments along the lines of keeping your sexual fetishes in private. Subject matter like this should not be perverted.

“It amazes me that people who fancy a certain fetish can seriously be upset by the aversion displayed by people who don’t share this fetish.”Simon Mueller

I’m starting to think that political correctness is also a fetish.

You know, stuff like that. It’s less controversial to have a game with images of individuals getting their brains/organs blown out by knives/gunfire/bombs/zombies, but more controversial when there’s any amount of skin shown in any fashion, perverted or otherwise. That’s how it works here in America. Doesn’t help that the girls in this game are under-age.

All you SJWs scared off now?  Good.  This review is for everyone else.  Image by jpwrunyan.

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Grand Theft Auto V review

Rated: 4/5*
* = with some caveats and warnings that must be brought up

So, first confession, I initially played this a few years ago on the PS3. At the time, I thought it was the best GTA game ever made. Granted, one could think that with any newly released GTA game, but I thought this was the definitive GTA game that does the title and theme justice. The first in the series to get it right, in my opinion, was GTA: San Andreas. Though I really hated how you had to button mash and do workouts and stuff to make your character stronger. GTA IV was, uh, not bad, the gameplay was solid enough, especially with the shootouts. But the storyline in that game was cliche and predictable. GTA V took the best elements of both games and removed all the shitty ones. The storyline and characters are fantastic, blending satire and legit emotion into it all, covering aspects of both gangster land, redneck country, and high class riches levels of society by having you play as one of three characters representing each. Thus you get to play as someone who represents a certain aspects of society, for better or worse. But since it’s a satire on society as a whole, not being afraid to show the cons of all three, and mostly reveling in the cons, that is what makes it so perfect. The crimes they will commit, all of which require hijacking vehicles as a bare minimum to get the job done. Not to mention it does away with all the BS workout minigames from San Andreas, improves on the storytelling aspects of GTA IV, and makes banging hookers fun again. But you still don’t get to see nudity when you’re doing that. The nudity is left strictly in the strip clubs, where you can be subject to private strip dances ala GTA IV, but no sex.

So, to rephrase that last part, there’s sex in the game, but no nudity while sex is going on. There’s nudity in the game, but not while having sex, and outside of strip clubs, the nudity is mostly relegated to man-ass. Rockstar is teasing us, aren’t they? Like how they showed the full monty with that one DLC story in GTA IV. Maybe in the next one they make we’ll be able to play as a female protagonist who isn’t shy about baring her assets. That would honestly be a bit refreshing, having a female lead in one of these games. She should be a biker. But if the sequel will turn out anything like this one, I’d expect there to be multiple characters to choose from. Well let’s see, they’ve done Russians, they’ve done black gangsters, they’ve done white gangsters, they’ve done rednecks (which deserve their own distinct classification)… Well I guess they could do a Mexican gangster, which up until now have pretty much been NPCs. They’ll also probably have some Middle Eastern guy or something, with some terrorism theme thrown in where some assholes yell “Alla Akubar!”, and one of the missions is just mowing down radical Islamic terrorists or something. But to counter-balance that, you also have a mission where you get to mow down a bunch of radical Christians, radical KKK members, radical neo-nazis, radical leftist liberals, radical right wingers, etc. Have them be done via those Rampage missions, like those ones done in this game with Trevor.

Oh yeah, the Rampage missions. Those are fun as hell. They’re mainly done via the redneck character Trevor, who has a very short temper, has some screws loose, and virtually anything can set him off. So at various points in the game some optional side missions can pop up where you can start killing off people who pissed Trevor off. For instance, he has a conversation with some rednecks at a bar, just out of the blue, he gets pissed at them and starts shooting them, and then you have to start shooting all these other rednecks which just start showing up trying to kill you. Rinse and repeat for black gangsters, Mexican gangsters, and the U.S. military. It’s a huge amount of politically incorrect fun.

So that’s Trevor’s unique character missions. As for the black gangster of the trio, Franklin, he has side missions that are all about assassinations. And about those assassination missions Franklin does. The first one that you get to do, the hotel assassination, I never was able to do the fucking thing. Both on the PS3, and PC version. There was some fucking bug in the game where the guy you are supposed to assassinate never goes outside the hotel, and you’re just waiting for-fucking-ever for it to happen. It pissed me off that I couldn’t do the mission, but thankfully the game seemed prepared for such a scenario and had countermeasures built in. If you fail a mission enough times, there is usually the option to skip it, which I did, because I didn’t have a choice. And by “skip”, I mean the game glosses over it and treats it as you you successfully pulled it off, without you actually having done anything. The game gives you the option to do that for all the side missions as far as I know. I’m positive the reason they implemented this is because they didn’t want gamers getting frustrated over a mission that is optional to do, but really this also serves as a way to bypass mission-breaking bugs in the game.

The 3 main characters are fantastic, and so are several of the side characters themselves. The dialogue is top-notch A+ class writing. I don’t think it could’ve been done any better. Trevor is one crazy psychotic sick sadistic motherfucker, whom the other characters are scared to meet, as they should be. On top of being less than rational, he has a very short temper. His special ability is all about ignoring damage for a limited time and shooting everything in slow-mo.

Michael seems to be the main central character, at least in my opinion, though the other two share as much screen time as him. But everything major tends to revolve around him. His actions usually keep the story progressing. A retired criminal who is having a hard time living the retired life and keeping away from the criminal life. Also doesn’t help that his family are spoiled rotten annoying pricks. I kept hoping he would leave them, but he doesn’t. Whatever. Special ability is shooting in slow-mo.

And then there’s Franklin, the true character living up to the GTA name, stealing cars for profit, and being a thug life gangster. But he desires more than where he’s at, and is thus willing to go along with Michael on more high-stakes heists. Special ability is driving in slow-mo for better vehicle maneuvers.

The story is all about satire of the United States and its occupants. How the main characters themselves are terrible people, the people around them are terrible, and the supposed “good guys”, from the police to the government to corporations to shop owners and such, are all terrible people. But in this fucked up little world, somehow someway, amidst all the muck, there still manages to be small slivers of goodness within everything. But they come at a point where characters have fallen so far when it comes to stealing and drugs and (mass) murder, that the only good comes from killing off guys who end up being worse than they are. Michael’s family hates him for being an uncaring asshole of a father (though he seemed reasonable to me), and for bringing danger to them through his criminal activities, yet they have a hard time living without him because they don’t know of any other way, and are too fucked up to live any other way. And even though the pacing slows at a couple points with the main missions, it never gets bogged down for too long. And there are alternate endings (like GTA IV), but any decent person knows which one to choose.

The story is better than GTA IV. The graphics and gameplay are better than GTA: San Andreas (even if this game does take place in that location). And all 3 of those are better than any GTA game prior. If you were to play any of them, this would be the one, regardless of any bugs it may contain. The only real downside to this game is the whole buying/selling of stocks. I mean, I seriously doubt many would be into that sort of thing if they’re playing a game like this. But hey, it’s there. Also gets a bit irritating how messages can clog up your in-game cell phone.

* But the other con to this game, and this is a big fucking con that everyone should know about before purchasing this game, is with the Rockstar servers themselves. I purchased this game on Steam, and when you first play it (after spending a long-ass time downloading all 66+ GB of it), you need to register with the Rockstar Games Social Club, which is required to log in each time you play the game. A sort of DRM thing, more or less. Now, theoretically, you can do offline play even with this, but it still has to detect the Rockstar servers before it allows you to play the game, which means you still need an Internet connection, even if just for a moment, before it will allow you to play the game. It’s mainly because of GTA Online, which I do not and never want to be a part of because of all the bullshit I heard goes on with it (plus they’ll ban you if you play GTA Online with a modded game). Now, this may not sound so bad, at first.

But there came a day where my PC couldn’t connect to the servers for some reason. I assumed it was a problem on my end for a while, until this problem continued for 2 days straight. At which point I did some research to find out this is not a rare occurrence. Sometimes this happens to gamers. And when it happens, there’s no way for you to get into the game to play it, not even single-player mode. And the only way to fix it is to uninstall the game, delete your folder than contains data on your Rockstar Social account, then reinstall the game, all 66+ GB of it, which takes a long-ass time. This was fucking bullshit.

So while I did eventually get it up and running again, this issue should be a disclaimer put in front of the game whenever anyone wants to buy it. I’m going to be very skeptical of any future purchases (if any) I make from Rockstar after this little stint.

Mods
Oh, right, this is a PC game, so naturally I want to see how mods can improve the experience. And they’re definitely out there. The main site to go to for mods for this game is GTA5-Mods.com. To get started, there are 2 main mods to download in preparation for everything else.

Required Mods (in order for actual mods to work that affect gameplay):
1.) Script Hook V, which comes with Native Trainer, which allows you to do some cheating in the game if you wish to fool around with it.

2.) Community Script Hook V .NET

After installing those two, then you’re usually safe for everything else, though you should always read the instructions and requirements to be sure. Anyway, here’s the mods I ended up using for my playthrough:

Recommended Mods:
1.) World of Variety. Basically gives greater variety in the people you see, the clothes they wear, and in the cars and boats that are driven around. Variety is a good thing to break up monotony. That being said, every now and again, there’s a minor glitch of a vehicle disappearing. Happened to me once immediately when I tried to get into it while the cops were chasing me. But that’s a minor bug that doesn’t happen very often.

2.) Fine-Tuned Felony & Response. Makes the cops act more intelligent and realistically.

3.) Bullet Impact. It just felt unfair how you would get shot and nothing much happened, but if you shoot someone else they could fall over or stumble for a moment. This mod fixes that, making your character react like anyone else if they get shot. It encourages more use of cover. I thought it was great, but it may make missions a little too difficult at times. It’s clear that the game wasn’t built for your character to take a pounding like this in certain places (the Rampage missions in particular). However, with a couple struggles here and there, I made it through the game with this mod. Just be warned of the increase in difficulty.

4.) Safe Cracker. Hey, now you can break open safes and get a bunch of cash rather than only stealing from cash registers. Works for me.

5.) Rob People. You aim a gun at someone, they will stand with their hands up for a moment, then drop their wallet, then run off. You pick up the wallet and get money. Brings more immersion, but it can also cause some missions to get a little buggy with this feature. But again, I was able to play the game the whole way through with this mod.

Now, those are the 5 main mods I used for my playthrough, but there are some others worth checking out after you complete all the missions in the game. That’s required because these other mods don’t work to well when playing through the game normally.

Optional Mods to use at end of the game:
1.) Open All Interiors. Opens up a lot more buildings that were previously closed off in the game. That being said, don’t mistake this for something that opens up “any and all” interiors in every single building. It doesn’t do that. It just opens up many more interiors that were previously closed off. Makes for more interesting shootouts with the cops.

And honestly, those are all the mods I’ve tried that I can recommend. There are plenty of others to choose from which I’m sure will improve the game the way you see fit. One other one I have tried which I can’t fully recommend is the Tanks Spawn at Five Stars, which means the military and their tanks and choppers come after you when you have a 5 star warrant rating. It was fun at first, but there’s 2 reasons why I don’t prefer it. 1.) It’s not realistic. 2.) The tanks are way too overpowered and way too accurate. You won’t last 10 seconds after reaching 5 stars when the tanks show up. That’s no fun.

* One other thing to mention. Last I checked, Rockstar still releases occasional updates for this game, mainly just for GTA Online. Whenever they release an update, and you have mods installed using Script Hook V, you need to either wait until Script Hook V gets an updated release which you must also download and install in order to play with the mods, or play the game for a while without the mods.

Anyway, despite the caveats, I do recommend this game. The game itself is fantastic, it’s just that Rockstar borderline fucks it up with their corporate DRM bullshit.

Wing Commander review

Rated: 2/5

So this PC version is from GOG.com, and uses DosBox.  Well, this is a game that certainly shows its age from 1990, coming out 3 years before Doom, that had 360 degree movement.  So in some respects, Doom is actually a step back in terms of gameplay compared to this game, but on the other hand Doom also had cooler weapons, monsters, and puzzle solving (although the puzzle solving aspect frustrated the hell out of me in that game, but that’s another story).

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