Dragon Age Review

When it comes to video games, many players like to customize their character to immerse themselves in a world different from the real one. Dragon Age is a good example of a game full of customization. From choosing a different race (human, elf, dwarf, qunari) to a different play style, Dragon Age has always been a game full of choices. Players can choose their companions and equipment, as well as your own impact in the storyline. Now, three years after the release of Dragon Age II, Bioware and Electronic Arts have released the next game in the series, Inquisition. Inquisition has won many awards, but the one that stands out the most is Game of the Year. Dragon Age: Inquisition is full of many different mechanics that have been added since the second installment, and all of them are for the better. The first major difference from previous games is the storyline itself. An evil force called the Elder One has created portals to release demons and chaos to the world. As the only one who can seal these portals, the player embarks on a mission to stop the world from madness and create an army to reunite a kingdom on the brink of war. The story and lore of the Dragon Age series has always been interesting and addicting. Inquisition uses this to its advantage and makes the story  powerful. Another major difference in the game is the world itself. In the previous games there have been “set” areas where you go, never allowing open world exploration. Inquisition has changed this, allowing players to explore different areas freely and do quests at their own pace. Bioware has also changed places that have been in previous games. Redcliffe, which was a town players go to in the first Dragon Age, has changed dramatically since the last visit. Also, instead of one country to save, the game has two. Orlais, which has been mentioned in previous games, is now available to freely explore with many quests to participate in. A third major difference in the game is the combat system, which has, in some arguments, improved the way you fight. As always with the Dragon Age series, players get three other characters to fight and help finish the quests. Inquisition allows a player to map their abilities and create tactics for them to fit a players every fighting need. The tactical mode, which allows players to pause the fighting and map out attacks for every character, is a new feature in the series. It's most beneficial for boss battles, where players can control movements and decide who handles the guards of the boss. The final major improvement in the game is crafting. There are now weapon and armor schematics that can be collected to craft. Even more, players can alter the armor that is crafted with improvements that are found with materials. On weapons, you can find runes that can be equipped  to improve damage on enemies. Overall, Inquisition holds up as Game of the Year. The gameplay keeps players engaged and the storyline is powerful enough to keep interest.

Review: Mockingjay Part 1

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" picks up right where "Catching Fire" left off. The third installment of the series begins with Katniss Everdeen in the underground, secret living quarters of District 13, having nightmares about the Quarter Quell that shook up the nation of Panem--not to mention her sanity--forever. I mean, if going through one bloody, incredibly inhumane round of the Hunger Games isn’t enough to ruin a person’s life, then a second round definitely is. As avid watchers of the series know, the Quarter Quell--featured in "Catching Fire"--came to an abrupt stop when Katniss shot an arrow into the force field that surrounded the arena, literally shocking the entire nation. The question surrounding "Mockingjay Part 1" is whether or not this was an act of rebellion, or simply Katniss trying to survive. However, the answer to this question turns out to not even matter, as the president of District 13 along with infamous traitor of President Snow, Plutarch Heavensbee, nominate Katniss to be the face of the rebellion against the Capitol (i.e. the Mockingjay). Yet another question in the movie circles around Peeta, Katniss’s star-crossed lover and fellow tribute, and whether or not he is alive--and how long he will be. When Katniss destroyed the force field around the Quarter Quell arena, half of the tributes were rescued by District 13, while the others--including Peeta--were taken hostage by the Capitol. This leaves Katniss desperately wondering what kind of torture and taunting Peeta is being put through. Although the film doesn’t quite contain the same amount of action and bloody deaths as the first two movies, it has enough emotional leverage to keep you wanting more. Nevertheless, I believe that Francis Lawrence, director of Mockingjay Part 1, made a mistake by turning the last book of The Hunger Games trilogy into a two-part movie. While the movie has enough going on to keep you interested, it just does not incorporate the combat and conflict that made "The Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire" so impactful. Most of the drama in the third installment focuses around Katniss, her undying worry about Peeta’s well-being and that stupid cat. And even though these issues incorporate suspense and inquiry, the movie is simply not as jaw-dropping as the others. Then again, a two-part movie might have been a particularly genius move. Part 1 answers very few questions, and also adds many more that may or may not be resolved, which leaves watchers with an undeniable obligation to watch Part 2. In spite of the fact that "Mockingjay Part 1" isn’t as action-packed or adventurous, it exhibits a very emotional portrayal of every character and shows watchers exactly how barbaric and malicious life in the world of Panem is. After all, not all movies need to be filled with blood and starving teens murdering one another in order to be considered favorable. And ultimately, if it came down to getting the opportunity to watch "Mockingjay Part 1" again, I'd volunteer as tribute.

Tales from the Borderlands Review

“Tales from the Borderlands: Episode 1: Zer0 Sum” is without a doubt one of Telltale Game’s most electrifying experiences to date. For those not already familiar with developer Telltale’s previous outings, they tend to lean toward episodic content spread out over the course of several months. “Tales from the Borderlands” is their newest five-part epic, following in the footsteps of their award winning “Walking Dead” and “Wolf Among Us” series’. However, “Tales from the Borderlands” puts more emphasis on it’s style and humor, while still pressuring you to make some rather tough decisions that may or may not affect the outcome of various situations throughout the game. As long as the story is interesting, all of the mechanics that Telltale has honed over the years can come together to create a memorable experience. Luckily, this is exactly the case with “Tales from the Borderlands.” “Tales from the Borderlands” is based on the Gearbox Software franchise, Borderlands. Long-story-short, in the far future, a planet known as Pandora was said to contain a number of vaults containing vast riches along with alien technology that far exceeds our own. As a result, bandits and “Vault Hunters” flocked to the dangerous planet to seek out these treasures for themselves. You play as Rhys, a member of a weapons manufacturing company called Hyperion, based in a huge space station floating in front of Pandora’s moon. Hyperion’s reputation down on Pandora isn’t good, considering the previous head of the corporation, Handsome Jack, was killed for trying to become the dictator of the planet. Rhys is looking to take over Hyperion, though his corporate nemesis, Vasquez, beats him to the punch and demotes Rhys to head janitor. Luckily, Rhys overhears Vasquez talking with a Pandoran client about acquiring a vault key. Armed with this information, Rhys and his friend Vaughn take off for Pandora to steal Vasquez’s deal. Meanwhile, a Pandoran con artist named Fiona attempts to orchestrate the deal with Hyperion. Fiona also acts as your second playable character, making for conflicting viewpoints and takes on different situations. Needless to say, each character is fantastically portrayed and voiced. Not to mention, the dialogue is absolutely hilarious from start to finish. As previously mentioned, you’ll be asked to make different decisions throughout the game in order to progress through the story. During conversations, you’ll pick what Rhys and Fiona say as well as how they react to certain people or situations. The system works well, though it’s practically identical to Telltale’s previous games. As for the graphics, Telltale is still working off of its old animation engine. Therefore, if you’ve played “The Walking Dead: The Game” or “The Wolf Among Us,” you’ll immediately recognize many of the facial expressions and gestures that characters make in and out of conversations. This is disappointing, because the game can sometimes feel like it’s fighting against itself. Here, we have some truly interesting, hilarious and memorable characters, but when they make the same robotic movements that we’ve come to expect from the developer, it can take you out of the experience from time to time. Luckily, you’ll be so enthralled by “Tales from the Borderlands” that you won’t care when the lip syncing is a bit off or when a glitch causes a character to repeat his or her line once over. The entirety of Episode 1 is undeniably Borderlands, from the humorous dialogue to the absolutely outrageous sense of schadenfreude. There’s simply no denying that “Tales from the Borderlands’” first act is a complete success. It sets up a fantastic story with some memorable characters while still honoring the source material. If you’re looking for an amazing story, regardless of the medium, do yourself a favor: invest in Telltale’s trip to Pandora.  

Nostalgia Aside: Band of Brothers

As an American and son of a veteran, it is always important to me to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. One way to do so is to watch the gritty, dramatic, and realistic HBO show Band of Brothers. This show premiered in 2001 and portrays the actions taken by the real life Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division during World War II in the European theater. The main characters of the show are portrayals of real men of the 101st that served including Major Richard Winters, Captain Lewis Nixon, Staff Sergeant Darrel 'Shifty' Powers, and Tech Sergeant Donald Malarkey just to name a few of the men in this show. What separates this show from any other war documentary or movie is seen at the beginning of every one of the ten episodes with interviews of the actual men that served. This gives an emotional insight to how they made it through not only the fighting, but also the harsh conditions of being in war. The episodes chronicle the men of Easy Company as they go through basic training to when they jumped into Normandy, France on D-Day, and then move to fighting in Holland, the Battle of the Bulge, finally reaching Germany and the end of the war. Each episode is basically a roller coaster ride, not because of ground breaking action, but more on emotions. The characters are portrayed in such a fantastic way that you feel like you know all of them on a very personal level, but when something happens to one of them or one is killed, you do feel sad and angry at the same time. The sets, costumes, equipment, aircraft, tanks and locations are all pretty accurate with the exception of a few nitpicky times where someone may have a wrong knife for example. However, overall the atmosphere is very much there and does make it believable that this show does take place in 1940s Europe. While it is not a 100% accurate representation of the historical acts of Easy Company during World War II, but it still does a really good job of representing the men of the 101st Airborne. It is important to continue to tell the stories of men like Major Richard Winters before it's too late because these men will not be with us much longer. Major Winters passed away in 2011 in Pennsylvania and it is only a matter of time before the rest of who served World War II will be gone. Even though Veteran's Day has passed, do not let the men and women that keep us safe be forgotten.

Super Smash Bros. 3DS Review

Everyone who enjoys video games has a favorite character in their favorite video game, and Super Smash Bros. brings the favorites from Nintendo to battle, handheld style. On Oct 3, everyone got the chance to purchase and experience Super Smash Bros on the 3ds for the first time. The game can start slow, as the controls can be confusing. After all, most gamers are used to pushing a button to jump instead of moving the analog stick up. But, it’s still your typical fighting game, with different rules and styles to play. You can go from having a time limit and trying to deal the most damage to your opponents to a free for all with a set of lives. The thing that makes the game difficult are the different levels of the game. There are a ton of levels where if you don’t watch your step, you can fall off and lose a life. It’s very difficult on this game to save yourself if you fall, thus making some of the stages on this game infuriating. The characters and animation on this game were really good. There are a few characters that were unfamiliar, but were fun to play as. Characters in the game came from several other games, including Super Mario Bros, Zelda, Pokémon, Kirby, Sonic, Pac Man and more. While doing battle against your foes, many different items and weapons can drop to help you get those knockouts against your opponents. The weapons ranged from swords to laser guns. There are even poke balls that can appear. There’s nothing like throwing a poke ball at your opponent and using a Pokémon to help you win. Besides the classic smash mode, where you set up the rules, choose the stage and battle against other characters, there’s a new feature in the game called Super Smash Run. This mode is trickier because it involves a lot of strategy to get through it. You begin by choosing your character you want to use. Then, for five minutes, you defeat as many enemies as you can. This mode is kind of like a Mario game, where you’re the character trying to run through a course with a ton of enemies. The strategy part is when you defeat an enemy, you can collect upgrades for your character. There’s attack, defense, speed and jump. Your goal is to collect as many upgrades as you can and hope your stats are better than the three fighters you have to face once the five minutes are up. The problem with this mode is that your only one character trying to fend off hordes of some of the most difficult enemies in the Nintendo Universe. It’s really entertaining to have Bullet Bills flying after you while trying to fight Pokémon and collecting the upgrades before they disappear. While the Super Smash Run is complicated, classic mode is really fun and with every new character you unlock, it brings a different and enjoyable experience.