The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review

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Over the past six years, CD Projekt Red has developed quite a name for themselves. With titles like The Witcher and The Witcher 2 it’s obvious they have the talent required to make a fluid RPG experience, but when comparing the slogging combat of the first title with the utterly immersive jaw-dropping visuals of the second, it’s clear they’ve only grown more competent with time. Because of this, the bar of expectation was raised significantly for the trilogy’s third entry. And here we are, seeing the release of The Witcher 3: The Wild hunt, one of the most anticipated games of this generation, and I’ve got to say, it feels pretty damn good knowing that a AAA developer has finally lived up to expectations. The Witcher 3 is a well-realized title whose world and all its inhabitants felt like a living breathing entity, and the weighty decisions I made during the course of my 73 hour journey felt like they had a direct impact on the world around me.

Anyone familiar with the Witcher universe knows that it’s certainly a dark place full of loss and danger, but the amount of intrigue that CD Projekt Red has injected into its lore-filled world is one of this game’s most compelling highlights. Between the cinematic story quests and the fascinating hunting side missions The Witcher 3 ends up being not only one of the most captivating RPG experiences in recent memory, it’s the first one that I’ve had the pleasure of playing that feels truly “next-generation”. 

The Witcher 3’s story is an experience that, much like the Mass Effect series, will depend on your choices made in the second game, though from what I understand this seems to be strictly a PC option. Console players and PC newcomers will be prompted to choose what decisions were made in the second game via a series of dialogue options presented early on. Unfortunately the weight of these choices and the profound effects they had on the outcome of the second game are not well explained and I fear that a lot of these choices will be lost on newcomers. Because of this I strongly recommend that new players familiarize themselves with the branching outcomes of the second title before jumping headfirst into the third game. It will without a doubt enhance your overall experience.


"It feels pretty damn good knowing that a AAA developer has finally lived up to expectations."

The Witcher 3 places players in control once again of Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a Witcher, a person who has undergone a series of mutations and intense training that specializes in monster hunting. Witchers are lone travelers that tend to wander from place to place in search of contracts and jobs that can keep their pockets lined with enough money to journey forward once more. Because of this they have a distinct reputation of being heartless, concerned only with coin. 

As a result this reputation precedes Witchers, causing villagers and local townsfolk to be wary while in their presence. This is something that is made prevalent in the Witcher 3, and soon players will find themselves used to being outcasts only welcome when people are in dire need. Luckily being a Witcher is a lucrative business and it is never hard to find townsfolk that are in need of your services, so expect to engage in a lot of monster hunting.

One of the best aspects of the Witcher 3 is its monsters and the way they’re presented. With each new contract I found myself spending hours gathering information about my enemy, attempting to discover the best course of action. Direct engagement was never the only option; in fact charging in headfirst was rarely the best way to solve a problem. Most monsters, especially specters, no matter how sinister they may have initially appeared, were eventually presented with such an incredible amount of humanity that I was left with nothing but sympathy for them forcing me to seek out other, more humane ways to solve problems.


"The Witcher 3 isn’t all about monster hunting, though. Its main storyline is one fraught with suspense and intrigue. The characters were all incredibly well realized and each one felt like it had purpose and weight, as if there was reason for Geralt’s interactions with them."

Even the game’s more standard fantasy monsters like griffins and werewolves had motives that were more than they seemed. If anything, the more that I committed to learning about my enemy the more I realized that there was always another side to the story. No matter how much a village was being terrorized by these creatures there were reasons for it. This presentation extended an impressive amount of empathy towards the creatures in the game; so much so that I found myself feel bad at points when eventually my blade would be used to end their lives. No other game I have ever played has had this kind of profound effect on me when it comes to monster presentation, which is a telling point of CD Projekt Red’s keen attention to detail.

The Witcher 3 isn’t all about monster hunting, though. Its main storyline is one fraught with suspense and intrigue. The characters were all incredibly well realized and each one felt like it had purpose and weight, as if there was reason for Geralt’s interactions with them. The voice acting behind them was superb, their animations were stellar – especially facial animations, and their dialogue and interactions all contributed to the overall realism of the world.

Graphically there has been some controversy over the final product and the initial demos that debuted a while back. Personally I found the visuals to still be among the best I’ve ever seen, and while there is a noticeable difference between the pieces that were presented in gameplay demos and the game’s final overall look I was incredibly pleased with the striking realism. Players will no doubt find themselves in awe of the environments and character models throughout the game. In fact, the only thing that I can think of that comes remotely close to matching the Witcher 3’s beautiful scenery is a heavily modded Skyrim, which is saying something. The graphical options that are available to PC players are incredible, and CD Projekt Red has done their best to ensure that people can change every little detail of their visual experience.


"Personally I found the visuals to still be among the best I’ve ever seen, and while there is a noticeable difference between the pieces that were presented in gameplay demos and the game’s final overall look I was incredibly pleased with the striking realism."

Combat and alchemy has gone through an extensive overhaul when compared to the controls of the second title. Things have been streamlined, and that’s not to mean that controls have been “dumbed down”, but every action feels smoother and the ease of use has improved extensively. The process of alchemy has been simplified but the challenge of finding and maintaining ingredients still exists, and the inclusion of meditation and potion regeneration makes things a lot easier to manage when stuck in a long dungeon.  Signs are easier to cast in this game as well making combat feel much more fluid when compared to the last two entries. The ease of access ensures that there’s little downtime during the heat of battle keeping the pace constant, but choices made within combat must still be deliberate especially when pertaining to potion preparation and sign usage.


"The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt may very well be the most defining role playing experience released thus far this generation. It’s deserving of praise in every regard, and the occasional stumbles are so few and far between that they seem to be non-existent."

CD Projekt Red was kind enough to include another highlight for those that wanted a way to enjoy their downtime in The Witcher universe: Gwent.  Gwent is a simplistic card game where players each take turns playing cards with varying power. The goal is to have the most power on the field by the end of the turn. Players make decks consisting of anywhere between 20-30 cards including a few spell powers and heroes. The players then draw 10 cards each and are forced to manage those 10 cards for the entirety of the game. Occasionally there are ways to bring back discarded cards or even draw a card or two, but other than that you’re stuck with your initial card draws and must make the most of them. It doesn’t sound like much but there’s an element of strategy that is contained within this format that is incredibly fun. I found myself booting up The Witcher 3 on more than one occasion just to play Gwent and I sincerely hope that CD Projekt Red somehow manages to patch in some sort of multiplayer format or even decides to develop a standalone Gwent title. I would love the option to be able to play other real people online, and I think it could really turn into a special experience that could compete with the likes of Hearthstone if given the right treatment.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt may very well be the most defining role playing experience released thus far this generation. It’s deserving of praise in every regard, and the occasional stumbles are so few and far between that they seem to be non-existent. CD Projekt Red has provided an experience that deserves – no, demands to be played by every gaming enthusiast out there. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to pick up my controller, hop on Roach, and start my second play-through because there’s still so much for me to see and do in the game’s astoundingly well designed world.

Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: PC

10

Koei Announces Samurai Warriors 4-II

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Is that Samurai Warriors 42? Nope, that’s Samurai Warrior 4, the 2nd. This latest installment of the Samurai Warriors franchise is a tad different. Samurai Warriors 4-II focuses on 13 new samurai as you play through 13 new chapters. The game also includes a revamped battle system and a new game mode called Endless Castle. Endless Castle is exactly what it sounds like; you race against the clock to see how far you can advance through levels, and try to get as far as possible before dying.

Samurai Warriors 4-II will be released on October 2nd for PlayStation 4. It will also finds its way to PlayStation 3, PS Vita and PC via digital downloads. More information will be coming out in the coming months and we will be sure to let you know when it is revealed. In the meantime, why not brush up on your Samurai Warrior 4? We gave it a 9.5 in our review, and it was one of our top ten games of last year.

News by: Mike Ackerman

The Witcher 3 Giveaway

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We're still in the process of wrapping up our review of The Witcher 3, but in the meantime, we're giving away a FREE PC copy (redeemable on GOG Galaxy) of the game to anyone who comes up with the most creative caption for the screenshot below. The Witcher 3 boasts a rather dark narrative, but for this particular contest we're more interested in a satirical approach. Humor and creativity are key. One winner will be selected by Friday May 29th. Please post your quote in the comments section below, and make sure your username has an email address attached so we can send you the key if selected. We're looking forward to your entries!

Invisible, Inc. Review

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I think it’s safe to say that Klei Entertainment is one of the most prestigious indie developers in the industry today. Instead of indulging in the comfort of their success and regurgitating the same concepts like many of their AAA counterparts, they tackle each project with renewed ambition and a willingness to take risks. What do Mark of the Ninja, Shank, Don’t Starve and their latest Invisible, Inc. have in common? Aside from being superb games, very little. Each one of Klei’s titles differs drastically, both in presentation and gameplay.

Their latest title, Invisible, Inc., is yet another phenomenal entry. It’s a spectacular turn-based tactical espionage adventure that combines the best bits of XCOM, Laser Squad Nemesis and Syndicate, while introducing new creative gameplay elements and some of the most impressive randomly generated level designs I’ve seen in a long time. Invisible, Inc. is not only one of Klei’s finest titles to date, but it’s arguably one of the best indie games to come out in years.


"Invisible, Inc. is not only one of Klei’s finest titles to date, but it’s arguably one of the best indie games to come out in years."

In Invisible, Inc. you control a team of special operatives by infiltrating some of the world’s most dangerous corporations. The game lasts 72 in-game hours in which you have to complete all objectives, or your trusted AI system Incognita shuts down and your organization becomes vulnerable to attacks. Missions are accessed via an XCOM style world map where you can choose available objectives in any desired order. Objectives range from rescue missions to intel acquisitions, and playing stealthily and defensively is the only way to survive. The game is hard. Forget about rushing through levels and taking risks. Carefully calculated strategy is a must, and even then, the enemy tends to do everything in their power to stop you.

Levels are presented via an isometric view, allowing free camera movement in and around the environments. Movement and actions are turn-based, and your trusted AI companion, Incognita, can be utilized to hack distant cameras and similar devices. During earlier missions, it’s very easy to spam Incognita’s abilities to shut off surrounding tech, but as the levels grow, so does the need for a more conservative approach. If Incognita is used too often, the alarm level continues rising until all available enemy forces are on the lookout. If you aren’t near the end of a level by alarm stage 5, it’s pretty much impossible to veer through the ruthless enemy defenses.


"Much like Shank and Mark of the Ninja, Klei Entertainment has a knack for setting a unique tone and aesthetic. "

There are numerous ways to overcome enemy guards. Sneaking by is the most rewarding, but also the most challenging, option. Once guards get too nosy, you can use your diverse gadget arsenal to either temporarily disable them, or use deadly force. If a guard is knocked down, they awaken within a few turns and start searching for you. Closing doors and escaping the area quickly is imperative if you want to avoid raising the alarm any further. When standing next to a door, your agents can use a “peak” command to analyze the next room. Sometimes it’s best to lure a guard near the door entrance, and ready your agent for a sneak attack. The possibilities are literally endless.


"Klei Entertainment has done it again. They’ve created another gem that every PC gamer must add to their collection."

Invisible, Inc. is a visually gorgeous game. Technically, the game isn’t very demanding and performs beautifully on even the slowest computers, but it’s the superb art style that steals the show. Much like Shank and Mark of the Ninja, Klei Entertainment has a knack for setting a unique tone and aesthetic. The levels are vibrant, and the animations fluid. The only downside is the overall lack of visual diversity between the interiors. Almost all levels share similar assets, and the lack of exteriors does come off a tad claustrophobic. Nevertheless, the randomization works wonderfully, and you never feel like you’re venturing through the same area.

Klei Entertainment has done it again. They’ve created another gem that every PC gamer must add to their collection. Invisible, Inc. is an absurdly fun strategy title from a team that continues to impress with every new release. Klei has recently announced that they’ll be porting Invisible, Inc. to Playstation 4, so console gamers have something to look forward to as well. If you’re in the mood for stealth and tactical gaming, Invisible, Inc. has got you covered. 

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC

9

Arcania: The Complete Tale Review

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Arcania: The Complete Tale is a dated game. There’s no getting around it. Everything from the gameplay to the graphics feels marginal. In fact, I have to wonder why it was even ported. Is there a crowd out there somewhere clamoring for this release? Arcania: The Complete Tale was already a mediocre experience when it debuted on the PS3 and without any improvements this title shifts from its lukewarm starting point to utter rubbish. 

Arcania places you in control of a hero whose town is attacked by a mysterious group of sinister henchmen. Low-and-behold you are the sole survivor and it’s up to you to uncover the truth and seek vengeance. It’s a clichéd story that doesn’t do much to promote exploration, and it definitely didn’t make me care about the character or his quest. Arcania does its best to tell an epic tale of high fantasy, but ultimately falls short making the 23 hours I spent with the game feel wasted.


"It’s a clichéd story that doesn’t do much to promote exploration, and it definitely didn’t make me care about the character or his quest."

Arcania is a continuation of the Gothic series, but it doesn’t borrow much from any of the previous titles. If anything this entry is more accessible than ever, but that accessibility is something that contributes to its failures. In an effort to make the game appeal to a wide audience developer Spellbound removes everything that made the Gothic universe so intriguing and makes this title feel like generic fantasy nonsense. 

One great thing about Arcania is its loading times. They’re almost nonexistent, which made world exploration a breeze. What’s unfortunate is the fact that looting, exploring, and questing is all standard fair that doesn’t do much to break the mold or create any sense of progression aside from noticing that overtime there are fewer and fewer quests on your log. In spite of its smooth loading times, framerate dips do occur which is unacceptable for a game that looks this dated, especially when you stop to consider the processing power of the PlayStation 4.


"I can’t, in all honesty, recommend Arcania. It’s just not good, even from a nostalgic point of view. "

A surprising thing about the PS4 port of Arcania is the amount of glitches it seems to have that didn’t exist in the previous version. Graphical hiccups, texture popping (which existed in the PS3 version, but are even more noticeable in the PS4 version), and sound glitches only further amplify the overall lack of quality that Arcania’s latest port has. It’s a shame, really. This title should have benefitted from a polished and more improved presentation, but it has only begun to wallow in its age, making every rampant problem I came across more evident. 

I can’t, in all honesty, recommend Arcania. It’s just not good, even from a nostalgic point of view. Sure, you’ve got a decent 30 hours of gameplay (when factoring in the expansion, which is also included), but even at a discounted price point I can’t say this is something that people out there should buy. It’s an incredibly poor example of an “HD” last-gen port, and when there are so many other great games to play on PS4 why should you waste your time with this tripe?

Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: Playstation 4

4

When Gaming Meets Charity: Raising Awareness Instead of Just Funds

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Over the past year there have been some amazing charity campaigns in the gaming industry through DLC, in-app purchases and also via Twitch live streams. Gamers have helped raise millions in funds and therefore supported causes from providing life-saving hospital equipment to planting trees. Gaming is now an effective place to raise funds for your favorite causes.

Something that you’re less likely to see inside of a game these days is an awareness raising campaign that sets out to inform and educate players with helpful information about a cause or charity. The award winning multiplayer fantasy game RuneScape offered a memorable example of such a campaign. The online roleplaying game supports United for Wildlife, a collaboration between seven of the world’s most influential conservation organizations brought together by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, to help promote the protection of rhinos in the wild.

For two weeks RuneScape players had the opportunity to learn about the animals’ plight as they answered a series of one-a-day questions. By answering three questions successfully, the player unlocked a white rhino and with ten questions, the player received a rare black rhino. As an additional feature, two young conservationists lent their voices to be used for special in-game characters. They provided facts and help to further explain the plight of rhinos in the wild to players as they moved about the game.

Ros Aveling, deputy chief executive of conservation charity Fauna & Flora International, explained why she sees this partnership as a perfect match. "Innovative approaches to reaching a younger audience, who are traditionally hard to engage in conservation, are vital to the success of United for Wildlife and to the protection of critically endangered wildlife,” said Aveling.

Young people are not typically known to donate, but perhaps the gaming industry can raise funds from this burgeoning target market to make an impact for charities by building loyal support from an early age. Many of these new PC gamers are beginning to use providers such as paysafecard - who do not require bank accounts or credit cards to pay for their games. Perhaps now that charities have learned how to engage young people in this new way, they can also think about how to facilitate their donations better using payment methods like paysafecard.

The campaign’s results were outstanding: over 57 per cent of RuneScape’s daily players participated in the campaign and over 1.3m questions were answered. RuneScape said that the player’s feedback was predominantly positive - some even signing up to support rhino charities. These numbers are significant and really show the potential that these gaming projects could have in engaging a new audience in a cause.

A campaign like this has the chance to change and inform opinions on a huge scale. This doesn't mean that raising funds isn't a great way of giving support, but raising awareness is equally important and there is doubtlessly a lot of room for that within the gaming industry.