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    by Published on January 1st, 2011 18:19
    1. Categories:
    2. Nintendo DS News,
    3. DCEmu Games Reviews



    Platform: Nintendo DS
    Developer: Capcom
    Publisher: Capcom

    Ratings:

    PEGI:











    ESRB:


    Megaman Star Force is the spiritual successor to the Megaman: Battle Network series. There are three versions of the game: Leo, Pegasus and Dragon. Each version is almost identical except for a few changes in dialogue and what elemental form Megaman can take later in the game.


    Star Force follows the Battle Network formula of gameplay. There is a real world and a digital world which you can explore relatively freely. Combat is real time in a grid and you use cards to fight your foes. One of the immediately noticeable differences is that unlike Battle Networks side camera view of combat, Star Force uses a third person view instead.

    The main character of Star Force is a boy named Geo Stelar, the son of an astronaut. The story takes place three years after Geo lost his father to an accident on his space station. Since then he has retreated from any and all relationships so to avoid the pain of losing people. He later meets a digital alien entity named Omega-Xis and they team up to save the world from alien invaders by merging into a single entity known as Megaman. The story and game progress is linear and uses the terms days and weeks instead of chapters. Each chapter of the story generally begins with Geo getting out of bed, some trouble happens, an alien claims responsibility, Megaman beats the alien, goes to bed and the world is safe until the next digital disaster occurs.



    One note which separates Star Force from the Battle Network series is the lack of the goody two shoes heroes. All the main characters have their own pains, loneliness and troubled pasts. This is used heavily to enforce the story's theme of friendship and relying upon others for help. Despite being a cheesy plot point you can't help but empathise with some of the characters and the situations they are in. This is a welcome change from the normal fresh faced sword wielding farm boy willing to give his life to rescue a girl he only met five minutes ago.



    The Battle system has undergone a simplification from the Battle Network series. Megaman has three tiles to move in and dodge attacks, he is also given an energy shield to block attacks which cover all three tiles. The card system is also much simpler, with the Program Advance, a mechanic whereby you fuse three cards into a single more powerful card, being absent from the game, replaced with the difficult to activate and mostly unnecessary Card-Combo. This leads the combat to being very cut and dry, with most fights ending in less than 10 seconds, combat becomes a repetitive mild annoyance. Even the boss fights tend to last less than a minute and are much easier compared to Battle Network's bosses.

    The game makes use of the stylus and touch screen to play little mini-games, such as shooting snakes which attack from four directions, controlling an RC Copter or tapping buttons to stay grappled to a mad digital bull. It adds a bit of variety to each boss zone which breaks out from the tedium of the random encounters.

    The games biggest mechanic is the Brotherband. This is where you and another person register each other as brothers and confer on one another abilities and your favourite cards. You can only register a few story characters as brothers, the rest are intended to be real friends using the Wi-fi. It is possible to use the Wi-fi to trade, establish brothers, send emails and dual your friends. However this is all useless if you don't know anyone with this game.

    Sounds: More like GBA music and effects than DS. After playing the game you'll put your DS down and forget what the music sounded like.

    Graphics: Little improvement over the GBA's Battle Network series. Good use of the dual screen however.

    Gameplay: Endless running around with repetitive so-so combat every few seconds.

    Concluson: Very similar to the Battle Network games despite being a different franchise. Repetitive game play but a much better story than its predecessors. Much easier than previous games also. Too much emphasis and options for multiplay, rendering the card directory impossible to complete without buying all three games. Get this if you loved the Battle Networked games.

    by Published on January 1st, 2011 18:18
    1. Categories:
    2. Nintendo DS News,
    3. DCEmu Games Reviews



    Platform: Nintendo DS
    Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
    Publisher: Square Enix
    Ratings: Not yet rated by PEGI

    ESRB:


    Disgaea DS is not a new game. The original Disgaea was released on the PS2 in 2004. Disgaea DS is a port of the PS2 version, albeit with some changes suitable to the DS such as stylus support and less shiny graphics.

    The main character is Laharl, a demon prince of the Netherworld. He has slept for the past 2 years, during which his father, the king, has died and his throne is under contest. Laharl naturally believes that the throne is his inheritance, so he sets off to become King of the Netherworld. He is joined by a variety of different characters, including an angel and a team of earth defenders, to assist him with his goal. Main story events are recounted with voice-acting for the main characters, and it's very good voice acting too.

    The game takes a very light hearted approach to the story, many character are amusing, even Laharl's servants such as dragons and chimeras come off as comical and lazy. This is a diversion from most RPG's which take a very serious story, but it's a welcome change. What it doesn't change however, is the genre's other notable aspect: deep mechanics.

    The battle system is an isometric, turn-based strategy system. Your team will spawn, one at a time in the order you choose, from a starting tile. You may then move them and attack with them as you see fit. A couple of twists to this grant the player more control and strategy. One of these is the team attack system. By placing characters next to each other and having one attack, there is a chance that those in base contact with gang up on the enemy, with each of them letting off an attack. While each attack is slightly less powerful than a normal blow, the total damage is greater than any individual attack. The other change is that movement can be canceled unless an action is taken. This allows a smart player to move his units to a team attack formation, let off one attack, then cancel the movements of the team to allow those who didn't attack a chance to move elsewhere, and possible take part in another team attack!



    Each level may also contain pyramids known as geo-effects. These geo-effects grant a bonus or penalty onto any colour of tile which they sit on. For example if a geo-effect with the bonus of “+50 defense” is placed on a red tile anyone, friend or foe, who stands on a red tile will gain that bonus. Furthermore destroying a geo-effect will cause all tiles of the colour its on to change to the colour of the geo-effect damaging anyone who stands on those tiles, should a different coloured geo-effect be destroyed in the process all of the new tiles will change colour also. This gives the potential for huge damage combos and is possible to wipe out an entire map of enemies in a single turn by smart positioning and destruction of geo-effects.

    Regarding the skill system of the game, Disgaea takes a very in-depth approach. Everything in the game can be leveled up. Items, spells, skills and characters. Characters are leveled up by defeating enemies. Skills and spells are leveled up by using them. Items however require a different approach.

    Each item in the game has its own world with 'inhabitants'. There inhabitants provide bonuses to stats when that item is equipped. It is possible through the use of an NPC to enter the item's dimension known as an Item World. If you do this you fight through randomly generated levels back to back filled with enemies, defeating the inhabitants subdues them and allows you to move them to other items. Also each level you defeat increases the natural bonuses of the item. This item world allows you to take even the starter weapons of the game and turn them into very powerful items.

    Whilst there are story characters which join you, these don't comprise your entire team. There exists a Senate, through which any of your characters can make propositions, these can include more expensive items in the store, unlocking a secret world, but the main use is to create characters.
    Now every time a character defeats an enemy, they gain mana equal to the level of that enemy. The higher the mana, the more powerful a new character they can create. What kind of character can you make? Any monster you have defeated, yes including dragons, or any humanoid with classes such as cleric, mage, warrior, ninja etc. More classes get unlocked as you progress in the game. In addition to this the new character will be the pupil of the one who created him. When a master and pupil are in base contact, the master can cast any spells the pupil can. If the master levels up that spell, he learns it permanently. This grants huge control over the skills and spells of your characters, allowing even your cleric to cast very high level fire and ice spells.

    Now all this sounds very complicated, and it is. However the main story of the game is well balanced and even if you only create characters with no care for master/pupil or learning spells, you can still complete the game with the bare bone basics.

    My only problem with the game is that it gives you too many options too quickly. From your first chapter of the story you are able to enter the item world, approach the senate, create new characters and learn all manner of skills. Whilst more hardcore RPG players or Disgaea veterans won't be bothered by this, it could be off-putting to a new player.

    Sounds: Very good voice acting, though the battle cries in combat become annoyingly repetitive. Music is varied and fits the scenes well. Also includes the option to buy tracks to have as the music for the Item World

    Graphics: Anime style characters allow for easy showing of emotion. Animations of combat and special abilities are all very good. However the graphics are a downgrade from the PS2 version.

    Gameplay
    : Fantastic in-depth RPG. Many many options and near infinite team combinations available. Weapon and Armour use isn't restricted by class allowing a wide variation of equipment. Inclusion of top screen mini-map and camera rotation allows easy location of hard to see enemies and tiles.

    Overall: Great game. It can be overwhelming in the beginning, but none of the advanced functions are necessary to beat the game, allowing for as casual or hardcore a game as you choose to make it. If you enjoy RPGs and never had the chance to play Disgaea before, pick this up and you won't be disappointed.

    by Published on January 1st, 2011 18:17
    1. Categories:
    2. PC News,
    3. DCEmu Games Reviews
    Article Preview

    Platform: Windows (XP or Vista) PC
    Developer: Stardock Entertainment (official game page)
    Publisher: Stardock Entertainment
    Ratings:PEGI















    ESRB:



    The Political Machine is a turn-based strategy game where the goal is to conquer the worl... become President of the United States. You do this by flying your candidate around the country, state to state, building country awareness of you and promoting yourself on various issues, such as Gas prices or the War on Terror, all over the course of 41 turns. At the same time you manage your funds, build Election Headquarters, belittle your opponent, kiss a few hands, shake a few babies and overall make the world a better place.

    The most obvious aspect of this game is the graphics. Bubble-head characters very similar to Nintendo's Mii's. The country is depicted in a 3D cartoon style and each state pops out of the country when highlighted. This adds a flavour of parody to the game and gives the impression that this game isn't going to take itself too seriously. The music of this game isn't noticeable. It's possible to play through the game without noticing music was even playing.


    When you begin the game it becomes apparent that there is no interactive tutorial to guide you on your first couple of weeks. There is a tutorial on the main menu and its purpose is to tell you what everything on the screen is and what buildings do. The opening help screen upon starting the game tells you how to move around and some general details. What neither assistance does is tell you what to do to actually win. Once you click past the opening help screen, you're on your own.

    The main screen gives the player options to display a plethora of information, little of which is defined or explained. You are given no help during the game in the way of strategies or tips and as a result a first time player will lose their first games badly whilst they work out, through trial and error, what it is they're supposed to do to win.

    At the end of the game each of the states lights up in turn in either Blue or Red to represent the candidate they vote for. This will create confusion to some players as many of the states they were most popular in voted for the opponent instead, this is because the popular vote and the electoral vote aren't the same. Americans should know this, non-American's won't.

    One of the most customisable areas of this game is the character creation. This allows you to create custom candidates, you could create yourself or go so far as to make a blue skinned eyeless alien. Choosing your appearance and position on topics is very easy to do. However knowing what these topics are will require reading through them, this will presumably affect an American player less as they will already have an understanding of the meaning of some these issues, such as Federal Government. A Foreign player however will need to read them carefully. Some of the issues are ambiguously named and you're left uncertain as to which side is 'For' and which is 'Against'. One important issue here is selecting your party of either Democrat or Republican, who both favour one side or the other of a topic. The player is left in the dark as to which party favours what viewpoint.

    Overall this game has a learning curve like a mountain, one which could have been avoided with giving the player more assistance. Calculating votes and popularity in states is very math heavy and although calculations are done for you, you still need to understand what the numbers mean and how to improve each in order to gain ground in a state. As the game is very heavily based upon American Politics and terminology, it's likely to alienate foreign players from even picking it up.

    The inclusion of custom characters gives the game a bit more of a foothold outside of the USA, as at the very least, a player can create themselves in the game as opposed to playing as Barack Obama or George Bush. Also the Quick-Play option, despite the very misleading name, allows the player to play a Custom Scenario in a comedy style Europe , Civil War USA or an alien planet whose denizens are hell bent on Galaxy Conquest. The alien planet is particularly amusing with their issues of alien destruction and artificial slaves and terror star building. I'm just disappointed I can't have Darth Vader as my Vice-President.


    The most important question to ask is: Is it fun?

    The answer is not really. It's a frustrating game to get to grips with, working out the maths is tedious and the only reason you'll keep playing is because you're stubborn enough to want to beat your opponent. After you beat him however, you realise you now ...
    by Published on June 17th, 2010 16:01


    Platform: PC
    Developer: Runewaker Entertainment
    Publisher: Frogster Interactive


    Ratings:

    PEGI:









    ESRB:


    Runes of Magic is a free to play MMORPG developed by Runewaker Entertainment, a Taiwanese company but is localised for Europe by Frogster Interactive.

    Despite being only a little over a year old the game is already on its third major patch, called chapters, which add to the game and the story.

    The game at first glance is a World of Warcraft clone, but to leave it at that misses the point. Yes the UI and gameplay are very similar to WoW, but Runes of Magic doesn't just leave it at that, instead it takes this foundation and builds upon it, adding features and mechanics that WoW would benefit from.

    Since it is similar to WoW, anyone who has played Warcraft will find Runes of Magic very familiar. The UI and control scheme will be a natural fit to you. Map in the top right? Check. Customisable action bars? Check. Symbols hovering over quest givers? Check. Crafting system? Double check.



    The execution of the game however is where the differences come in and where Runes of Magic shines.

    When creating your character you get to pick from 8 classes. Most of these will be familiar to you, Warrior, Druid, Rogue etc. With a few unusual ones such as Scout and Warden.

    The first big difference comes when you reach level 10. At level 10 your character can choose a second class to enhance your first. So if your first class is Knight and your second class Warrior you will be a Knight (level 10)/Warrior (level 1).

    If you are a Knight, you will have two sets of skills: Knight Skills and Knight Class-specific skills.

    Holy Strike is a Knight skill. All Knights have it and all classes who choose Knight as a secondary class have it.

    Holy Seal is a Knight class-specific skill. Only those with Knight as their primary class may use it.

    You can swap between your primary and secondary classes, this is actually required as you need to level both classes to max to access both sets of skills. So if the Knight/Warrior swaps his classes, he will become a Warrior/Knight gaining access to the Warrior class-specific skills but losing access to his Knight class-specific

    Improving skills can be done also by using talent points, these points you spend on a per-skill basis to increase the level of your chosen skill. These talent points cannot be revoked or undone so you need to choose carefully what you improve.

    The crafting system is also very different from most MMO's. While in most MMO's you may only learn a few professions, Runes of Magic lets you learn all of them, but you're limited in how many you can specialise in. At level 1 you can be an apprentice Woodcutter, Miner, and Herbalist as well as a Tailor, Alchemist and Blacksmith. This is both good and bad. It's great because it means you can explore the various professions without locking yourself into a few. It's also good to get some starting cash as you can sell the lower level herbs and ore to other players. However to a new player this can be overwhelming as there's too much choice at too low a level.



    Runes of Magic's User Interface has a few improvements over other MMO's. When logging into the game, when you click in the password input box an on-screen keyboard will appear in a random location on your monitor. This is here to combat account stealing, as it is much more difficult for a keylogger to trace your password when it is clicked in on a random location on your screen.

    Inside the game there is also an automatic movement option. By enabling this your character will automatically move to where you want them to go. Every quest has this option to let you auto-run to the quest giver or quest receiver. This drastically cuts down on the running around to find one guy that plagues a lot of MMO's.

    As a free MMO they need to make money somehow, as with most Free MMO's Rune of Magic uses a Real Money Transaction (RMT) system. This allows you to purchase, with real life cash, items to enhance your characters, as well as mounts and pets for vanity purposes. Thankfully these items are mostly for player convenience not player power. This means they offer items like luck potions which increase the chance of better drops, or items which reduce or negate the experience penalty from dying. There are a few player power items in jewels which increase the power of an existing item, but it seems like you can get these outside the store albeit they are less reliable.

    Despite that these items are player convenience not power it seems like a lot of the game is intentionally ...
    by Published on October 12th, 2009 16:21


    Platform: PC, XBox 360
    Developer: TimeGate Studios
    Publisher: SouthPeak Games

    Ratings:

    PEGI:









    ESRB:



    Section 8 is a sci-fi first person shooter powered by the Unreal Engine. The first noticeable thing when you start this game is the odd organisation of the menu. Now normally in a game you would have Campaign followed by Multiplayer. In section 8 you have Multiplayer then Instant Action then Corde's Story? This tells you straight away that, first and foremost, this is a multiplayer game. Your campaign (Corde's Story) is essentially training for the multiplayer.

    Once playing the actual game you'll notice that it's pretty. It's very pretty. The armour looks awesome, the spaceships looks amazing, the detail is great. It's what you'd expect from a game built upon the Unreal Engine. Therein lies the first problem, even if you don't bother reading the box within minutes of play you'll recognise this as an Unreal game. The environments, the textures, the objects, the playstyle. They all scream UNREAL at the top of their lungs. Now this isn't a bad thing, the Unreal games are excellent and the engine is a fantastic product, but given what else has been done with the Unreal Engine, like Bioshock, it isn't wrong to expect something a bit more original.

    The Campaign itself is a series of missions in the style of Unreal Assault maps. You drop in at one location and have to go to another location killing off continuously spawning nameless enemies while capturing points or destroying objects. You are limited in the area you can explore by a red border on the minimap. Entering this border will shut down your system in 5 seconds, in other words, kill you. But death isn't a big deal in this game, you die, you click, you spawn in orbit again and free fall to your spawn point before crashing into the ground and you're ready to go. During this time the game continued on without you, just like a game of Unreal Tournament would.

    The story is unimportant and forgettable. You're with one military group fighting another military group and trying to kill a defector who turned from your group to theirs. You're not given much information on who anyone is or why you're fighting. Even when members of your team get killed off, you just don't care. There's no real bond between the player and the characters formed and the game doesn't try to make them. This leads to a very bland story where you're more interested in gunning things than why you're gunning them.
    The game advertises it as being able to 'Fully Customise your armour and weapons for tactical advantages'. What this means in practice is that when you go to a weapon drop pod you can choose what two weapons you carry into battle. Your choices are Assault Rifle, Shotgun, Rocket Launcher, Pistol or Sniper Rifle. You can also choose your secondary items such as a mortar, a knife, a repair kit etc. As for the armour customising you have 10 points to split among a bunch of skills. These skills are things like +5% damage to your weapons, -10% recoil, +12% armour or bonuses to your repair and shield recharge speed. These Give you a degree of control on your playstyle. However in the heat of battle you'll find that the difference between these is so insignificant you might as well have not bothered.


    Little of how combat works is actually explained to you. Given that this is an FPS it should be straightforward, but sometimes you'll find your shots ignore the enemies shield and hurt him directly for huge damage. Other times you'll find no matter how many bullets you pump into him you can't dent him. Even the Sniper rifle is little more than an inconvenience to enemies, its advantage is clearly in the range not the ability to head shot people. Given the unclear nature of combat you'll find yourself using an Assault Rifle and Rocket Launcher for most situations.

    The real meat of this game is in the multiplayer, for which there is only one gameplay mode. A strange victory point collection game, you get points for killing your opponents and capturing and holding points. You gain money as you complete these tasks which allows you to buy items such as a mech suit, a tank or various anti-tank/personnel/air weapons. These help with defending a point and give you a bit of control over how you defend. Xbox 360 owners will be disappointed to learn that there is no split-screen multiplayer in this game. So you can't play with your friends on the same console, it's online multiplayer only.


    A couple of interesting things Section 8 brings to the table is a lock on. When you right click to aim if you press E you'll lock onto whoever is in your sights and for the next few seconds you can fire without worrying about tracking ...
    by Published on September 8th, 2009 22:38


    Platform: PC
    Developer: Wizet
    Publisher: Various, depending on region.

    Ratings:

    PEGI:












    ESRB:


    Maple Story is a 2d side scrolling free to play MMO. It was developed by the South Korean company Wizet and is published and localized by a variety of different companies depending on region.

    The first thing noticed when playing is the graphics. Maple Story uses pixelated graphics similar to the Super Nintendo but done in a chibi manga style. This leads to a very cute and bright game with much potential for silly enemies and creatures like giant killer tomatoes, smiley mushrooms and enormous pelicans with headsets. The downside to the graphical engine is that the pixels are very noticeable, especially on a larger monitor.


    The gameplay is a mixture of super mario brothers with golden axe. You jump around platforms wielding swords and spells to defeat your enemies. As expected of an MMO your character levels up, gaining stat points and skill points. Stat points are spent on your basic stats, such as strength or intellect, each class needs different stats in the way you would expect, e.g. a Warrior relies more on strength and a Wizard relies on intellect. If you're unsure what to do, there is an auto-assign button which splits your stats up in a good way for your class. Although this may not be the best for min-maxing it's still a good feature to include. Your skill points are spent learning your class spells and abilities, the flame wizard I played had the ability to summon a flame elemental which followed me around and blasted my enemies. Each skill point I put into it (to a maximum of 20) increased its damage and duration.


    The game is played using mouse and keyboard, with movement and attacking dealt with solely by keyboard control. You are able to customise any control except your movement, which remains as the cursor keys, this gives quite a bit of customisation and is able to suit most players needs. There is an option to use macros also.

    As is normal for a lot of free to play mmo's the game includes a micro-transaction system whereby you spend real life money for in-game items and features. The items gained in Maple Story are almost purely cosmetic, things like a lightsaber weapon, a detectives hat or a Halloween outfit, none of which have any impact on the gameplay. The items which aren't cosmetic don't grant any combat advantage to the player, these items are pet incubators, stat/skill point resetting scrolls or a scroll which increases your experience gain for 24 hours.

    As in most MMO's there is an important social side to the game. Guilds and Parties are common place, where players group up for a short or longer period of time and interact, both in playing the game and just chatting. The game also includes a marriage function, where two players can get married and throw a party with their friends.

    However despite being around for such a long time, Maple Story suffers from some quality of life issues.

    The game is based heavily around grinding, getting past the tutorial which takes you to level 10, requires you doing a variety of quests which almost entirely consist of “Go here and kill 20 of this creature”. This repeats from level 1 until level 10.


    To be fair this is a common quest among MMO's and a common problem among many however the spawn rate of said creature is very poor, it can take up to 20 minutes to kill 20 creatures as having killed all those on the screen you must wait for them to respawn. This is of course assuming you're fighting them alone and not sharing them with 3 or 4 other players. I myself have seen a player standing in the middle of the screen and when the enemies spawned cast a screen wide fire spell which wiped out all the enemies at once, leaving none for any other player. They continued to camp that same spot for quite some time.

    Many of the quest givers during the tutorial weren't in the town but in the field of battle. The game doesn't pause or render you invincible whilst talking to a quest giver, so not only are you being attacked whilst getting a quest, you're also unable to fight back. A minor issue but an annoying one none the less.

    The other QOL issues are more cosmetic. There is no windowed mode option, in fact trying to put the game into windowed mode with software or tools will be detected as a hack by the game guard system and shut your game down. This same game guard also dislikes Alt-Tabbing out and should you do Alt-Tab you'll find that all your keys come out as BBBBbbbbbbb, making surfing or IM chat impossible.

    The in-game UI can be a bit clunky and awkward, clicking the small X in ...
    by Published on May 1st, 2009 21:39


    Dragonica is a side-scrolling action MMO, similar in gameplay to Golden Axe or Streets of Rage. Unlike many MMO's it is free to play, unlike many free MMO's it isn't terrible. There is a general consensus that free MMO means terrible game riddled with bugs and bad graphics. In many cases this is true however it couldn't be further from the truth with Dragonica, where even the preview version is highly polished with beautiful colourful, vibrant graphics and excellent game play.

    You start off by creating your character, this can be of one of four classes: Thief, Fighter, Magician or Archer. Each one will have their own style of combat and can only wear the gear of their class. The game plays very similar to the side scrolling beat em ups of the 80s and 90s. You walk forward, you find enemies, you slash them up and move on. This simple style of play makes the game very accessible. The control scheme is also very simple, relying on the cursor keys and Z, X, C and Space bar. The game's reliance on such a few keys and the future addition of controller support makes it ideal for playing on a controller. Any controller. It is possible to play this game using a SNES pad with a USB connector. It's also compatible with Xbox 360and Sega Saturn controllers, with work being done at the moment to make it playable using an Atari Jaguar pad amongst others.


    The graphics are a form of chibi anime, everything is cute and brightly coloured even the enemies. The lack of blood and cartoon violence makes it perfect for parents who want their children to play a game but don't want them exposed to the violence and gore that other games can contain. The game itself requires very low specs to play, allowing older laptops and PC's to enjoy the game on high graphics, however should you select the low graphics option the game will remove the background. The purpose of this is so that everyone can enjoy the game as it is meant to be played even on low settings.

    As is common with both MMO's and RPG's, Dragonica includes a skill tree for each class. These trees aren't complicated, no more than 4 tiers deep with 2 or 3 skills per tier. Normally this would conflict with the simplistic style of play, but most of these abilities take the form of passive effects or combo abilities that can be executed using a direction and attack. For example one warrior skill is to jump in the air and slam down to the ground, you can use a keybind for it, alternatively you can jump in the air and attack whilst holding down to do the same thing. This is what allows the game to work so well using a controller.

    The interface of many areas of the game is reminiscent of other mainstream MMO's, this was done with the intention of players being able to get into the game quickly without having to relearn how everything works. Some examples of this include Mailboxes, Auction Houses and gold exclamation marks over the heads of quest givers.

    The business plan of the game is Free to play with micro transactions. These MT's take the form of non-gameplay items, such as player housing furniture and silly suits such as an astronaut or a skeleton.

    Future features of the game include:

    Guild PVP
    40 Man PVP fights
    Pet training and mounts


    Dragonica's cute graphics and low specs create an MMO that is accessible to almost everyone with a PC or Laptop. As it is free to play there is no commitment to playing for long periods of time. Adding in the controller support and control style enables anyone to play the game whatever way they want, it's ideal for busting out an old controller from your favourite console and playing with it. This all makes Dragonica a definite game to keep an eye on.

    This is a preview of Dragonica, it is a sample and therefore cannot be taken as the final word of the full version scheduled for released in June. ...
    by Published on January 9th, 2009 11:21



    Platform: Nintendo DS
    Developer: Capcom
    Publisher: Capcom

    Ratings:

    PEGI:











    ESRB:


    Megaman Star Force is the spiritual successor to the Megaman: Battle Network series. There are three versions of the game: Leo, Pegasus and Dragon. Each version is almost identical except for a few changes in dialogue and what elemental form Megaman can take later in the game.


    Star Force follows the Battle Network formula of gameplay. There is a real world and a digital world which you can explore relatively freely. Combat is real time in a grid and you use cards to fight your foes. One of the immediately noticeable differences is that unlike Battle Networks side camera view of combat, Star Force uses a third person view instead.

    The main character of Star Force is a boy named Geo Stelar, the son of an astronaut. The story takes place three years after Geo lost his father to an accident on his space station. Since then he has retreated from any and all relationships so to avoid the pain of losing people. He later meets a digital alien entity named Omega-Xis and they team up to save the world from alien invaders by merging into a single entity known as Megaman. The story and game progress is linear and uses the terms days and weeks instead of chapters. Each chapter of the story generally begins with Geo getting out of bed, some trouble happens, an alien claims responsibility, Megaman beats the alien, goes to bed and the world is safe until the next digital disaster occurs.



    One note which separates Star Force from the Battle Network series is the lack of the goody two shoes heroes. All the main characters have their own pains, loneliness and troubled pasts. This is used heavily to enforce the story's theme of friendship and relying upon others for help. Despite being a cheesy plot point you can't help but empathise with some of the characters and the situations they are in. This is a welcome change from the normal fresh faced sword wielding farm boy willing to give his life to rescue a girl he only met five minutes ago.



    The Battle system has undergone a simplification from the Battle Network series. Megaman has three tiles to move in and dodge attacks, he is also given an energy shield to block attacks which cover all three tiles. The card system is also much simpler, with the Program Advance, a mechanic whereby you fuse three cards into a single more powerful card, being absent from the game, replaced with the difficult to activate and mostly unnecessary Card-Combo. This leads the combat to being very cut and dry, with most fights ending in less than 10 seconds, combat becomes a repetitive mild annoyance. Even the boss fights tend to last less than a minute and are much easier compared to Battle Network's bosses.

    The game makes use of the stylus and touch screen to play little mini-games, such as shooting snakes which attack from four directions, controlling an RC Copter or tapping buttons to stay grappled to a mad digital bull. It adds a bit of variety to each boss zone which breaks out from the tedium of the random encounters.

    The games biggest mechanic is the Brotherband. This is where you and another person register each other as brothers and confer on one another abilities and your favourite cards. You can only register a few story characters as brothers, the rest are intended to be real friends using the Wi-fi. It is possible to use the Wi-fi to trade, establish brothers, send emails and dual your friends. However this is all useless if you don't know anyone with this game.

    Sounds: More like GBA music and effects than DS. After playing the game you'll put your DS down and forget what the music sounded like.

    Graphics: Little improvement over the GBA's Battle Network series. Good use of the dual screen however.

    Gameplay: Endless running around with repetitive so-so combat every few seconds.

    Concluson: Very similar to the Battle Network games despite being a different franchise. Repetitive game play but a much better story than its predecessors. Much easier than previous games also. Too much emphasis and options for multiplay, rendering the card directory impossible to complete without buying all three games. Get this if you loved the Battle Networked games.

    ...
    by Published on December 10th, 2008 20:00



    Platform: Nintendo DS
    Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
    Publisher: Square Enix
    Ratings: Not yet rated by PEGI

    ESRB:


    Disgaea DS is not a new game. The original Disgaea was released on the PS2 in 2004. Disgaea DS is a port of the PS2 version, albeit with some changes suitable to the DS such as stylus support and less shiny graphics.

    The main character is Laharl, a demon prince of the Netherworld. He has slept for the past 2 years, during which his father, the king, has died and his throne is under contest. Laharl naturally believes that the throne is his inheritance, so he sets off to become King of the Netherworld. He is joined by a variety of different characters, including an angel and a team of earth defenders, to assist him with his goal. Main story events are recounted with voice-acting for the main characters, and it's very good voice acting too.

    The game takes a very light hearted approach to the story, many character are amusing, even Laharl's servants such as dragons and chimeras come off as comical and lazy. This is a diversion from most RPG's which take a very serious story, but it's a welcome change. What it doesn't change however, is the genre's other notable aspect: deep mechanics.

    The battle system is an isometric, turn-based strategy system. Your team will spawn, one at a time in the order you choose, from a starting tile. You may then move them and attack with them as you see fit. A couple of twists to this grant the player more control and strategy. One of these is the team attack system. By placing characters next to each other and having one attack, there is a chance that those in base contact with gang up on the enemy, with each of them letting off an attack. While each attack is slightly less powerful than a normal blow, the total damage is greater than any individual attack. The other change is that movement can be canceled unless an action is taken. This allows a smart player to move his units to a team attack formation, let off one attack, then cancel the movements of the team to allow those who didn't attack a chance to move elsewhere, and possible take part in another team attack!



    Each level may also contain pyramids known as geo-effects. These geo-effects grant a bonus or penalty onto any colour of tile which they sit on. For example if a geo-effect with the bonus of “+50 defense” is placed on a red tile anyone, friend or foe, who stands on a red tile will gain that bonus. Furthermore destroying a geo-effect will cause all tiles of the colour its on to change to the colour of the geo-effect damaging anyone who stands on those tiles, should a different coloured geo-effect be destroyed in the process all of the new tiles will change colour also. This gives the potential for huge damage combos and is possible to wipe out an entire map of enemies in a single turn by smart positioning and destruction of geo-effects.

    Regarding the skill system of the game, Disgaea takes a very in-depth approach. Everything in the game can be leveled up. Items, spells, skills and characters. Characters are leveled up by defeating enemies. Skills and spells are leveled up by using them. Items however require a different approach.

    Each item in the game has its own world with 'inhabitants'. There inhabitants provide bonuses to stats when that item is equipped. It is possible through the use of an NPC to enter the item's dimension known as an Item World. If you do this you fight through randomly generated levels back to back filled with enemies, defeating the inhabitants subdues them and allows you to move them to other items. Also each level you defeat increases the natural bonuses of the item. This item world allows you to take even the starter weapons of the game and turn them into very powerful items.

    Whilst there are story characters which join you, these don't comprise your entire team. There exists a Senate, through which any of your characters can make propositions, these can include more expensive items in the store, unlocking a secret world, but the main use is to create characters.
    Now every time a character defeats an enemy, they gain mana equal to the level of that enemy. The higher the mana, the more powerful a new character they can create. What kind of character can you make? Any monster you have defeated, yes including dragons, or any humanoid with classes such as cleric, mage, warrior, ninja etc. More classes get unlocked as you progress in the game. In addition to this the new character will be the pupil of the one who created him. When a master and pupil are in base contact, the master can cast any spells the pupil can. If the master levels up that spell, he learns it permanently. This grants huge control over the skills and spells of your characters, allowing even your cleric to cast very high level fire ...
    by Published on October 22nd, 2008 14:49

    Platform: Windows (XP or Vista) PC
    Developer: Stardock Entertainment (official game page)
    Publisher: Stardock Entertainment
    Ratings:PEGI















    ESRB:



    The Political Machine is a turn-based strategy game where the goal is to conquer the worl... become President of the United States. You do this by flying your candidate around the country, state to state, building country awareness of you and promoting yourself on various issues, such as Gas prices or the War on Terror, all over the course of 41 turns. At the same time you manage your funds, build Election Headquarters, belittle your opponent, kiss a few hands, shake a few babies and overall make the world a better place.

    The most obvious aspect of this game is the graphics. Bubble-head characters very similar to Nintendo's Mii's. The country is depicted in a 3D cartoon style and each state pops out of the country when highlighted. This adds a flavour of parody to the game and gives the impression that this game isn't going to take itself too seriously. The music of this game isn't noticeable. It's possible to play through the game without noticing music was even playing.


    When you begin the game it becomes apparent that there is no interactive tutorial to guide you on your first couple of weeks. There is a tutorial on the main menu and its purpose is to tell you what everything on the screen is and what buildings do. The opening help screen upon starting the game tells you how to move around and some general details. What neither assistance does is tell you what to do to actually win. Once you click past the opening help screen, you're on your own.

    The main screen gives the player options to display a plethora of information, little of which is defined or explained. You are given no help during the game in the way of strategies or tips and as a result a first time player will lose their first games badly whilst they work out, through trial and error, what it is they're supposed to do to win.

    At the end of the game each of the states lights up in turn in either Blue or Red to represent the candidate they vote for. This will create confusion to some players as many of the states they were most popular in voted for the opponent instead, this is because the popular vote and the electoral vote aren't the same. Americans should know this, non-American's won't.

    One of the most customisable areas of this game is the character creation. This allows you to create custom candidates, you could create yourself or go so far as to make a blue skinned eyeless alien. Choosing your appearance and position on topics is very easy to do. However knowing what these topics are will require reading through them, this will presumably affect an American player less as they will already have an understanding of the meaning of some these issues, such as Federal Government. A Foreign player however will need to read them carefully. Some of the issues are ambiguously named and you're left uncertain as to which side is 'For' and which is 'Against'. One important issue here is selecting your party of either Democrat or Republican, who both favour one side or the other of a topic. The player is left in the dark as to which party favours what viewpoint.

    Overall this game has a learning curve like a mountain, one which could have been avoided with giving the player more assistance. Calculating votes and popularity in states is very math heavy and although calculations are done for you, you still need to understand what the numbers mean and how to improve each in order to gain ground in a state. As the game is very heavily based upon American Politics and terminology, it's likely to alienate foreign players from even picking it up.

    The inclusion of custom characters gives the game a bit more of a foothold outside of the USA, as at the very least, a player can create themselves in the game as opposed to playing as Barack Obama or George Bush. Also the Quick-Play option, despite the very misleading name, allows the player to play a Custom Scenario in a comedy style Europe , Civil War USA or an alien planet whose denizens are hell bent on Galaxy Conquest. The alien planet is particularly amusing with their issues of alien destruction and artificial slaves and terror star building. I'm just disappointed I can't have Darth Vader as my Vice-President.


    The most important question to ask is: Is it fun?

    The answer is not really. It's a frustrating game to get to grips with, working out the maths is tedious and the only reason you'll keep playing is because you're stubborn enough to want to beat your opponent. After you beat him however, you realise you now have a new opponent to beat and you've to do ...