Dragon’s Crown Review

The Playstation 3 is in an awkward place for me right now, lacking the decent screenshot capacity of the Playstation 4/Xbox One while being new enough that getting around that by emulating its games isn’t really an option. A Playstation 1 or 2 game is as simple as ripping a disc to the computer and playing through it, but PS3 games require setting up this big Frankenstein’s monster of wires that feed into my temperamental capture device. Needless to say, I’ve avoided covering a bunch of games for the system because of the hassle required. That hasn’t stopped me from slowly building up a backlog of PS3 games that I originally missed out on, though, and none of them were more tempting than Dragon’s Crown; a beat-em-up in the style of the arcade Dungeons & Dragons games, this game received rave reviews on release and everyone seemed to love it without reservations. Having now spent a bit over 40 hours with it (which is what it took to unlock all of the art and do everything there is to do outside of the randomized Labyrinth of Chaos levels), I can say that I definitely loved Dragon’s Crown at times, but most assuredly not without reservations. There are some things that I really like about this game, but there are also certain things that are downright annoying about it, and in some ways it’s actually surpassed by Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara. Read more →

King Arthur 2: Dead Legions (DLC) Review

The Dead Legions DLC’s store page describes it as “the chronicle of how the greatest adversary of King Arthur came into power.” If one takes that (as I did) to mean an adversary of the character King Arthur, it’s a lie. King Arthur doesn’t play a role in either the base game or DLC, and this supposed adversary doesn’t even get beaten by his son, main character William Pendragon. Instead, Willy P holds off his hordes of undead warriors while Morgana takes him on instead. If one takes “greatest adversary of King Arthur” to mean “the most difficult encounter of the game,” that’s slightly closer to the truth; I certainly found his fight to be the most difficult one up to that point in the game, putting aside the impossible-tier battles that keep you from straying too far off the story’s rails. Even then, though, he’s eventually outclassed by later such encounters. A better description for this game, then, would be: “the surprisingly interesting origin of a middling wannabe quickly swatted out of the way in the main campaign.” I totally understand why that’s not as marketable, but it’s accurate—while Septimus Sulla, who I’ll henceforth refer to as Silly Sully, is mostly just an annoyance thrown into the base game to have a middle-game antagonist, the DLC that covers what made him that way proves to be focused and enjoyable in a way that the base game simply isn’t. Read more →

King Arthur 2: The Role-Playing Wargame Review

It’s been 3 years and 8 months since I reviewed the abysmal King Arthur: Fallen Champions, and a month longer since I covered the surprisingly enjoyable King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame that Fallen Champions failed at being a sort-of-sequel to. To be honest, I’ve had King Arthur 2 for around the same amount of time (in fact, according to Steam I bought both of them on the same day) but put off playing it for a number of reasons. To start with, I didn’t pick up the Dead Legions prequel DLC until late 2015 and refused to get into the game without it being complete. Though I’ve yet to actually play through said DLC, the base game did a wonderful job of showing me what an incredibly dumb reason that was. By the time I had purchased the DLC, though, my memories of the previous two titles had faded and the mixed reception of the second game made it difficult to click on the little icon. King Arthur 2 must have been sitting on my desktop for 6 months before I finally decided to give it a try, and only then for the sake of being able to delete it from my hard drive in order to free up some space. As tends to be the case with the games I avoid for stupid reasons, I ended up enjoying it quite a bit, and though there are some huge caveats that keep it from living up to its predecessor, King Arthur 2 is still a surprisingly enjoyable game. Read more →

Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara Review

First and foremost: screw the people behind this game for making tagging this game so hard. I always tag by half-decade (mostly because it’s entertaining to look back and see how games advance—or don’t—over those 5 years) and wanted to reflect the original releases of Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara, but Tower released in 1993 and Shadow came out in 1996. Adding the modern incarnation’s 2013 release date on top of that, I’d have had 3 different tags for when this thing came out. Messy, messy. As for the game itself, it’s one of the most enjoyable, infuriating games I’ve played in a long time. As per the title, it’s based on Dungeons & Dragons, but it does nothing to ease you into all the little details you need to know. For example, there’s no obvious way of knowing that the final boss in Tower is completely immune to most spells because it’s a lich, making the final boss fight a huge pain when playing as the magic-using elf or cleric. That’s just one of dozens of things about D&D and the game in general that I had to figure out using a combination of trial and error and the internet, but despite how soul-crushingly unfriendly the game manages to be, you eventually start to piece things together. Once you’ve begun to pick up on its oddities, Chronicles of Mystara becomes an incredibly fun and deep beat-em-up. Read more →

Call of Juarez Gunslinger Review

Something like a week and a half ago, I picked up GameMaker Studio in a bundle. I only bring this up because I also started playing Call of Juarez Gunslinger around the same time. Take a guess which one had most of my attention this past week? There’s a very real reason this 5-ish hour game has taken me over a week to finish, and it has a lot to do with how thoroughly unengaging it is. Let’s run through just a few of the seemingly endless reasons behind that, shall we? Its writing is amateurish and the big twist is blindingly obvious less than halfway through the game, for one. Its gameplay is also awkward and full of invisible walls, with enemies running around unpredictably, seemingly free from the tyranny of physics much like enemies in the original Red Faction (but this game came out 12 years later and has no excuses). Then there are the insta-deaths. Fell into ankle-high water? Death! Bumped a wall while walking along the outside of a train? Death as the physics bounce you off the train! That’s not even mentioning the constant QTEs, or the fact that the game is so coated in high-contrast textures and a sharpening filter that can’t be turned off that actually seeing enemies—the most basic element of a shooter and one I’d never seen someone screw up before this point—is such a hassle that it becomes half the battle. Or how about the end-game section where you’re surrounded by enemies who randomly spawn in around you and shoot you in the back? Yeah. I’ve played a lot of games, and this is among the worst of them. Read more →

Cthulhu Saves the World Review

It’s depressing the number of times I’ve covered the first game in a series, only to then leave the sequel (or unrelated followup in Cthulhu Saves the World’s case) untouched. Call it a bad habit. In my defense, though, it’s only been 4 months since I reviewed Breath of Death VII. That’s quite a bit more defensible than the 3 and a half years it’s been since I reviewed King Arthur: The Role-Playing RPG and its spinoff despite owning the sequel for even longer than that. I think part of the problem is one of expectations; it’s easy for a sequel to play things safe and end up feeling like the same game, just like it’s easy for a game to diverge so much from its predecessor that it fails to embrace the things that made the first game worthwhile in the first place. The latter is what’s seen Lost Horizon 2 sit idly on my desktop for the past few months, while the former is why I had to force myself to jump into Cthulhu Saves the World—I was expecting more of the same, and while I was pleasantly surprised by the number of things that were improved on since the previous game, the biggest problems remain unchanged and render a sizable portion of the game a tedious slog through yet more mazes. Read more →

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