Warhammer 40,000: Regicide Review

I reviewed Warhammer 40,000: Regicide over at Tech-Gaming.com

The idea of combining 40K with chess may have been questionable, but in the end, Warhammer 40K: Regicide surpasses expectations. "

Full review HERE

Legacy of Kain Soul Reaver 2

Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Eidos

Soul Reaver featured a scale uncommon for game at the time, so much so that much of its plot and contents were removed and later reworked so as to fit a sequel. What would have been too much for Crystal Dynamics to handle for just one release became more manageable when spread out across multiple ones. From a narrative standpoint, this decision helped solidify the series' lore and story, as Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 effectively manages to tie all preceding titles together in one, brilliantly written bow.

Yet, many gameplay elements were scaled back in this Playstation 2 game. What was once a a near-perfect blend of Tomb Raider and Legend of Zelda had now abandoned most its Hyrule roots in favor of a style more befitting our British archaeologist. While still not bound by levels or stages, Soul Reaver 2 is no longer an open-world title as its predecessor was. All paths are linear, with no secrets or hidden locales to explore. Moreover, Raziel no longer has to fight bosses nor does he gain abilities as he did before. Rather, he keeps those learned when fighting his brethren save for Dumah's constrict ability, though that particular skill was never all that useful to begin with. Even the glyph magic is now gone, with no available substitutes to earn or unlock.

For as many step backs as the game took in gameplay, it seems to have take twice as many when it came to story, character interaction and dialogue. There's a reason why Soul Reaver 2 is remembered for its plot and to put it simply; this game provides possibly the best time-traveling storyline ever written. As a newcomer to a different era, Raziel plays the perfect conduit for players, he is as lost in this world as we are, knowing only what we do from Blood Omen.

This vulnerability opens a web of lies, conspiracies and mistrust where neither player nor character know which side to trust. From the titular Kain to the return of the Elder God, Moebius and a few new characters, we are never sure on which side, if any is speaking the truth. Sadly, we are never given the option to decide for Raziel, rather we simply guide him as we platform, face enemies and explore long abandoned temples.

Combat also took a turn for the worse. No longer facing off against vampires, Raziel's foes are either human, spectres or demons all of which can die rather easily with enough strikes, so carrying impaling weapons, while still useful, are no longer a necessity. The Soul Reaver also gains increased prominence as it can now be used at any time regardless of whether or not our anti-hero is in full health. The wraith blade is as its most powerful here, becoming more powerful with use until it instantly kills enemies with just one strike. However, should it become over-aroused it will also start hurting Raziel, needing a cooldown period to recover. Regardless, combat hardly ever poses a threat, not once have I felt the need to properly learn it simplistic combo system as I never had any trouble dispatching even the toughest of foes.

Though Raziel no longer gains any abilities, the same cannot be said for the Soul Reaver. In order to progress, we are often required to explore ancient forges which grant upgrades to the wraith blade. These act as dungeons, all of which carry their own specific theme such as light, fire or air and require players to unlock several puzzles related to their element. Upon clearing a forge you are granted a reaver upgrade though their usefulness is limited. Rather than providing combat or exploration enhancements, they open specific doors or must be used in fixed/scripted points. Employing its power in these spots can create shadow bridges, light darkened areas or create wind torrents to better guide you, however, the fact you cannot use them at will greatly diminishes any sense of reward from acquiring them.

Thankfully, the puzzle design in Soul Reaver 2 is stronger this time around. No longer are we required to slide blocks, having to rely instead on thematic puzzle-solving and jumping. With no boss encounters throughout the experience, this is another point where Soul Reaver 2 feels hollow. In fact, the only reward for progressing is learning more of this carefully crafted tale.

Indeed the plot is without a doubt the main reason to play. All voice actors without exception perform their roles admirably as their characters come to life through their Shakespearean dialog. Not once will you ever question Raziel's motivation for what he does, but at the same time you question everyone else's as you never know who is an ally or if you even possess any. The game makes it clear there is much you're not being told, but it only drops you small bits of information as you progress, motivating players to press on further. While I won't reveal the ending, I will say it ends on both a plot twist and a cliffhanger and an outstanding one at that.

Throughout his quest, Raziel will travel through different time periods of Nosgoth. However, the portion of the world we see is but a fraction of the world size in Blood Omen or even Soul Reaver for that matter. Thankfully, the land is beautifully rendered, ranging from bright, vivid colors to dark, depressing locales and times. Still, one can't help but feel disappointed as to how little we get to see, which is made even worse by the fact that we are constantly re-visiting the same areas in different time-zones. To make matters worse, Soul Reaver 2 is criminally short, taking little more than an afternoon to complete it.

From a narrative standpoint Soul Reaver 2 is one of the best games of its time. A well-crafted dialog, enticing plot and engaging characters serves as the main motives to progress. Sadly, the gameplay itself is a hollow experience, sacrificing many of its predecessor's strongest elements in favor of dull combat, a linear world and no replay incentive.

Trivia: Did you know Soul Reaver 2 was originally going to launch for the Sega Dreamcast as well? Leaked screenshots showed it to be nearly indistinguishable from its Playstation 2 counterpart. Sadly, with that version was cancelled with the announcement of the console's demise

- Well-written plot with Shakespearean dialog
- Some of the best voice-acting output ever put into a videogame
- Possibly the best time travel story ever told
- Stronger puzzle design with no sliding blocks

- Combat has been simplified and is now useless at best and annoying at worst
- No longer an open world, Soul Reaver 2 is now entirely linear
- Unlike its predecessors, there are now no secrets to explore
- Zelda-like elements have been cast-off
- Short

Final Grade: B-

The Playstation 2 packaging ditches the hologram cover of the first one in favor of a more traditional model. I can't say I appreciate the box art as much as I did in the original game. Inside, you'll find the game, manual and an Eidos registration card.

Funnily enough, the back of the box is misleading, stating Raziel can earn new glyphs and physical abilities, something which never made it onto the final release. There's even a screenshot featuring Raziel performing an animation from Soul Reaver which isn't present in Soul Reaver 2 either.

The manual is pretty solid, effectively summarizing the events of Blood Omen and Soul Reaver while detailing the game's intricacies. The text is adorned by screenshots and the occasional artwork though sadly, all images are in black and white. Overall, I quite like this packaging, even without the hologram cover it's still a solid packaging.

Packaging Grade: B

20XX Preview

I previewed the indie Megaman-inspired roguelite, 20XX over at Tech-Gaming.com.

" Even as an early access title, 20XX is the best approximation to the Megaman franchise gamers have been presented with in roughly a decade. The game celebrates Capcom’s blue bomber in both visuals and gameplay while adding enough twists to make it feel unique. We can only hope the final release will improve upon an already solid formula even further. "

Full review HERE


I reviewed the indie strategy game, Armello over at Tech-Gaming.com

(Armello) never acquires the necessary maturity to evolve into a deep web of war and conspiracy that is often found in titles like Civilization or Age of Wonders III. It’s true this bite-sized formula works well for tablets and mobile devices, but when playing on a computer, Armello leaves much to be desired in scope. Regardless, the potential here is immense and I can only hope it sells well enough to warrant a sequel addressing these issues. "

Full review HERE

Act of Aggression

I reviewed Act of Aggression over at Tech-Gaming.

" Act of Aggression proves the classic Command & Conquer RTS formula can still provide fast-paced, strategic thrills when properly handled. "

Check out the full review HERE.

Party Hard

I reviewed Party Hard over at Tech-Gaming.com

“ Party Hard offers a unique take on the stealth killing genre, it’s a brilliant concept with a solid execution. The occasional bugs and later maps may hinder the experience somewhat, but fans may appreciate this relaxed approached to the genre. “

Full review HERE

Sega Visions Part 4: A Shifting Market

Click here for part 3

It was clear Sega was enjoying its success. Articles dedicated to developers or publishers signing on for the 16-bit system were but a distant memory as for over two years now there was simply no need for them. The Genesis was selling well and third party software houses wanted to get in on the action. Sega had a large flow of new releases every month and it got to the point where Sega Visions could not cover them all even with the increase in page size. Regardless, times were changing and issue 18, launched a mere two months after the previous one heralded several new developments, not all of which promising.

A Genesis 32-bit upgrade was on the horizon

The cover focused prominently on 32-bit gameplay for existing Genesis owners, this of course, refers to what would eventually become the 32x. Ironically, despite it being the center piece of this issue's cover, very little information was provided, readers were only given half a page of text and scant few details. Interestingly enough, the article mentioned "CD-quality audio" something which the hardware was not capable of without a Sega CD add-on.

Regardless of what the flashy cover would have you believe, the 32x was not this issue's focal point, that honor went to videogame censorship. As mentioned on part 3, by the time issue 17 launched, the US senate hearings which led to the ESRB's creation were already underway and Sega was feeling the impact with Night Trap being pulled from store shelves.

The 'Say What?' section was entirely dedicated to the ESRB

For the first time ever, the 'Say What' section focused on solely one topic; The ESRB. The writing takes an apparent neutral stance on this whole situation, but upon closer inspection it seems to paint the picture that every major software house wanted a rating system. It mentions how Sega, Nintendo, Atari, 3DO, Phillips, Acclaim and Electronic Arts created a special committee for this and how Sega was at the forefront of creating an industry-wide rating system. It gives off that every major studio thought these senate hearings and the ESRB were a good thing.

Tom Kalinske and Ken Williams write opinion pieces on how they perceive a new rating system

To further drive the point home, Sega of America CEO, Tom Kalinske wrote his first and only article for the magazine, an opinion piece on why he support the new rating system. In his words, he supports this move because he's a parent and because the movie industry shares a similar safeguard as well. It's interesting to see how Tom mentions on-demand movies in 1994, roughly ten years before their use became a mainstream commodity.

Amidst all this, there was still more hardware to sell

Perhaps to serve as a counter-balance to all this wave of positivity towards a shifting industry, this issue also included a guest editorial article by Sierra On-Line co-founder, Ken Williams. Ken defends the creation of a rating system, just not one that is state-run, his issue being the government shouldn't decide what is or isn't safe to view. The editorial cites examples of games who already contained warning labels deeming them unsafe for children including Leisure Suit Larry 6. Ken stated Sega's arguments with the congress fell on def ears and that a government-led rating system could potentially block freedom of expression. Regardless of my thoughts for Ken's arguments, I can't but be surprised to see an editorial of his in a Sega magazine considering both companies never shared much of a working relationship.

The community seemed somewhat split towards the topic though leaning more towards Ken's side

Mr. Ken's words would not be the only ones opposing the ratings board as the topic dominated the "Yo Sega" section. Most letters discussing the topic were clearly against this industry-wide citing reasons which ranged from censorship to not being old enough to purchase titles. Others were simply asking for information on what the big deal was and one is even thankful at the prospect of a rating board. Of course, as with nearly every other issue, there's someone asking how bits work.

The image isn't particularly relevant for today's post, but I wish I could get my hands on this game

This is perhaps the most interesting issue in the entire Sega Visions run. It was the first time Tom Kalinske addressed his readership and the first time someone outside Sega had their own editorial and the community was obviously worried about these market changes as well. The amount of historically relevant information within the first 14 pages of this issue is staggering. In part five we'll be taking a look at the rest of issue 18 along with issues 19-22.