Tag Archives: Age

Haven Review: The Silent Age

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Immediately I went to check if there was anything in the garbage. There wasn’t. What kind of point-and-click is this? The Silent Age starts you off as mild-mannered Janitor Joe. Joe works for some large nebulous company that’s probably evil. Janitor Joe had a friend, Frank, but he left to find a new job; probably to get away from Joe. I’m surprised Joe even had a friend to begin with. Joe was given Frank’s old assignment and now must go clean the basement laboratory. This starts off a mildly interesting adventure through time. That’s right, you get to fulfill every young boy’s dream: time travel; and in a video game, no less! Well, you can travel to two places…future and now.

The time travel mechanic isn’t even that interesting. Honestly, it’s mostly used as a cheap way to drag out the game. There are a couple of puzzles that use it in an interesting way. But mostly the scenario is: A door is blocked, travel through time, the door is open, go through door, a second door is blocked, travel back through time, the second door is open, but the first door is blocked again behind you. There are a ton of these time door blockages throughout the game, and you have to traverse the same ones multiple times because there’s now some button you can press on the other side of the map that opens something somewhere else; probably in another time.2016-01-19_00005

The puzzles in The Silent Age, the meat of a point-and-click, are somewhat bland. Nothing was hard enough to stump me for more than a minute. There wasn’t really any puzzle that impressed me with it’s cleverness or creativity. Even the time travel puzzles felt tired and overused. Examples include planting some fruit so that you could get it in the future, or going to the future when bolts are rusty so you could pry off a vent. The same was true for the story as well. There were tired time travel tropes, like going back into the past to set stuff up for future you, that led to the game being both unoriginal and uninspired. Let me just say that the game would have been significantly better if you were able to become your own grandpa.

Janitor Joe soon learns that in the in the future the world has succumbed to a deadly disease. It’s up to him to find out what happened and prevent the disease from ever occurring. Janitor Joe pretty much just fucks around with time and is only circumstantially able to save the day. The Silent Age tries to have a twist ending, but it’s quite predictable. It changed nothing, it meant nothing, it was just a thing you had to deal with. And as easily as it showed up, it was fixed. The ending simply more or less happened. There could have been some interesting ideas to play around with there, but it felt like they set up a situation that they didn’t quite know how to deal with. They just immediately came up with a simple solution to put everything back to normal.2016-01-19_00009

Janitor Joe was boring. He did boring things with the power to time travel, and even at the game’s most climactic moments his all-encompassing dullness dimmed the lights of everything around him. Although the whole experience was roughly three hours long, the game dragged on, making it feel like a much longer ordeal. Honestly, there may have been about an hour and a half of actual game play and then an equal amount of filler content. The minutes ticked by at a snail’s pace due to boring-ass Joe and boring-ass time travel.

2016-01-19_00003Finally, when the whole thing finally wrapped up there was nothing from me but a sigh of relief. I keep thinking back on it, and I have no idea what this game was even trying to do. Point-and-click adventures need to be incredibly creative and clever to be good. The minimalist game play means there needs to be an overabundance of substance to the story and puzzles. People shit on “adventure game logic” all the time, but that’s exactly what makes those games fun. It’s finding the weirdest solutions to the most mundane challenges. It’s taking situations and stretching them out to these extremes, so that when you look back on them they’re nothing more than abstract representations of themselves; and therein lies the cleverness of it all. All the while they are intertwined with deep, rich or at the very least incredibly funny stories. This game had none of that. It was flat and boring. It was utter nothing.SilentAgeScale1

Disclaimer: We received this game because we wanted to review it, and as such all views in this article our are own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

-Jordan Kamm-

 

 

Haven Editorial: Thief vs. Styx: Master of Shadows

ThiefStyxCompareWhen considering a genre-based purchase, gamers are often torn between two similar titles. Welcome to Professor’s Game Comparisons. In this installment, we examine two titles in the “Sneaker” genre: Thief vs. Styx: Master of Shadows.

Most of us remember our first experience with the modern shooter. For me, it was id Software’s DOOM (1993). I had seen games like this before, but DOOM was the true pioneer of “texture-based” graphics. It made the maps come to life. From there, other titles such as Quake (1996), Unreal (1998) and Half-Life (1998) took the reins; setting new standards for the modern first-person shooter (FPS).


1998 was a breakout year for several game genres, and it was then that a company called Looking Glass Studios created a new kind of FPS called Thief: The Dark Project.
Thief_The_Dark_Project_boxcover1In this game, you play as a master thief named Garrett. The object is to remain hidden in the shadows, making as little noise as possible (completely opposite to the traditional FPS, where you run rampant…guns blazing!) While hidden, you sneak up on people to pick their pockets. You also lurk through dark neighborhoods, pilfering valuables from citizens as they sleep. As the game progresses, you meet many non-player characters (NPCs). Some are sympathetic to your cause of stealing from, and teaching lessons to the evil rich. Others are against your efforts and should be either avoided or knocked unconscious.

The year 2000 brought a sequel…Thief II: The Metal Age. Thief_II_-_The_Metal_Age_CoverartGarrett returned for a new round of sneaking and stealing, but this time the graphics were crisper and the adventure more challenging.

Thief_Deadly_Shadows_boxart1In 2004, the final entry in a would-be trilogy was released…Thief: Deadly Shadows. Looking Glass Studios had left the project by then; the series having been taken over by Ion Storm. This third game did a great job continuing Garrett’s story. The graphics and animation however, were disappointing. For some reason, the smooth, time-tested Dark Engine was replaced with the lackluster Unreal 2 Engine. This eliminated the game’s signature “rag doll” physics. NPC avatars now fell to the ground in a single frame, rather than performing a fancy pirouette dive.

Let’s fast forward a cool decade to 2014. Looking Glass Studios is gone…Ion Storm is gone. Eidos Montreal (of Assassin’s Creed fame) proudly develops Thief…no suffix…just Thief. Is this a long-awaited fourth installment in a classic series? The game’s early logo and accompanying URL seemed to indicate that it was. Later however, it was decided that Garrett would better serve his fans with a clean re-emergence, and the “4” was aptly removed. The URL is now simply www.thiefgame.com, and the game uses the Unreal 3 Engine; an improvement over it’s predecessor, but not as good as the original Dark Engine.
ThiefOhYeahOhLet’s look at game play. The controls operate in accordance with FPS standards: Movement, aiming, firing and inventory are all what you’d expect. A stark difference from the original series shows up in the game’s custom difficulty options. thiefpost2In addition to traditional “Easy”, “Normal” and “Hard” modes, Eidos has added a variety of special challenges to make the game more difficult. As you enable each, you receive in-game bonus points, which mean absolutely nothing unless you’re going for a certain Steam achievement. If you enable every possible challenge, you will earn the maximum 1300 points upon completion of the game. Nobody at Eidos has yet reached this apex, although there are reports of dedicated players accomplishing this amazing goal. Thief-city-hub-4The aforementioned Steam achievement requires only 700 points to pop. But don’t be fooled; it’s still extremely difficult. If you’re an achievement hunter, I’d recommend completing the game once in Normal mode (or tougher) before enabling bonus points. This will minimize “OMG, what did I do wrong??” syndrome. Another new feature is the selection of behavioral alignment while completing in-game missions. There are three options here:
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Overall, the 2014 re-imagination of the franchise provides players with a solid sneaker “fix”. My impressions are as follows:

  • Pros:
    Garrett is back!
    Dark, misty environs maintain the classic Thief mood.
    Story is engaging and riveting.
    New bonus-point system allows for customized difficulty.
    Steam achievements must be truly earned.
  • Cons:
    Game maps are smaller than in the original trilogy, and feel cramped by comparison.
    The Unreal Engine’s controls are less responsive than those of the original Dark Engine.
    PC keyboard and mouse mappings are limited (e.g.: I’d like to map the “Jump” command to “Mouse Wheel Up”, as I do in many other games, but there is no option for that here).

So is Thief a good choice for gamers wishing to purchase a single title in the “sneaker” genre? Yes it is; especially if you’re new to the series. However if you’re a veteran of the old trilogy, this game will likely feel “rushed-to-market”. By now I’m sure the developers are aware of this, and will hopefully in future episodes bring back the old charm.
“And the guards…cry…’TAFFER!'”

Overall score: 8/10


Next up is our second contender: Styx: Master of Shadows from Cyanide.

Question: If Assassin’s Creed and Thief had a love child, what would it be?
Answer: A shrewd, tough-skinned goblin named Styx.
styx2Styx: Master of Shadows is a followup (if not exactly a sequel) to Cyanide’s third-person RPG: Of Orcs and Men (2012). Whereas “Orcs” leads players through an open world riddled with cut scenes (sound familiar), Styx combines the run-and-jump action of Assassin’s Creed with the stealth-crawl of the original Thief trilogy. Declaring a genre is not easy here, but this “Sneaker” is a good fit.scr03

The first feature to raise an eyebrow is the view…it’s third person. In the beginning it’s not so bad, as obstacles and enemies are easy to overcome. Later as things heat up, the camera angles become a slight hitch. Thief‘s first person view, by contrast makes it clear at all times where you are, in relation to others on the map. This brings up a related point: The HUD.
For me, a good sneaker should convey much information to players regarding their environment. Thief does this very well in the form of a “detection meter”. A glowing gem icon on the HUD shows how hidden/exposed you are. Multicolored orbits around the gem show how much noise you’re making and how healthy you are. Styx is lacking a bit here, opting instead for placing such meters above the heads of your enemies (as in Assassin’s Creed). This isn’t horrible, it’s just that enemies tend to move around a lot…forcing you to test your mouse sensitivity more often than you’d like.

Styx-03One feature I do like is the customizable skill tree, where you gain expertise in any of six general abilities. Sounds good, right? Well, it turns out that you can only learn these skills while camping inside your secret hideout, which may be difficult to reach from your current in-game position. Once learned however, these abilities enhance your character and make the game a lot more fun. I especially enjoy the “cloning” skill, where you can spawn a miniature contortionist version of Styx; great for squeezing through gates and other tight spots!

StealthCloningIf there were any real negatives to the game play itself, it would be the combat. While third person fighting is not my favorite (give me a Skyrim sword skirmish any day), genre giants like Batman and Witcher have proven the technique worthy. But in Styx it simply doesn’t translate. You are encouraged to “parry” enemy attack, but that really only works when facing a single foe; not common after the first few hours of play.

All in all, Styx is a likeable character. As with his counterpart, Garrett, our little goblin spouts pithy one-liners and expressions of tedium…all very entertaining. But the game falls slightly short of the standard, as set by Thief: The Dark Project and Thief II: The Metal Age.

  • Pros:
    Styx has come into his own since “Orcs”!
    Story is engaging and riveting.
    Enemy AI is smart and challenging.
    Skill trees are varied and experience-enhancing.
  • Cons:
    Combat is purely defensive and much too difficult.
    No first person option (except via unauthorized mods).
    Camera angles are confusing at times, and fail to show correct paths (as seen in my YouTube series!).

Overall score: 7/10

-Chris Roberts-

Nerd Editorial: Whose side are you on?

Marvel Studios has commenced principal photography at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, Georgia on Captain America: Civil War, the third installment of its Super Hero franchise. The production will shoot on location in Atlanta, Georgia, which serves as the base for the film’s production, as well as locations in Germany, Puerto Rico and Iceland.

Set for release in the United States on May 6, 2016, Captain America: Civil War is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, “Community”) from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The Winter Solider, Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger). The film returns Chris Evans as the iconic Super Hero character Steve Rogers/Captain America along with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Paul Bettany as The Vision, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes/War Machine and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch.

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After his debut in Marvel’s Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Paul Rudd will make his first appearance alongside the Avengers as Scott Lang/Ant-Man in Captain America: Civil War.

The cast of the film also includes Chadwick Boseman (42, Get on Up) as T’Challa/Black Panther, Emily VanCamp (“Revenge”) as Sharon Carter/Agent 13, Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds,Bourne Ultimatum) as Baron Helmut Zemo, Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow/Crossbones, William Hurt (Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk) as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey).

Captain America: Civil War picks up where Avengers: Age of Ultron left off, as Steve Rogers leads the new team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. After another international incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability and a governing body to determine when to enlist the services of the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers while they try to protect the world from a new and nefarious villain.

Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War is produced by Marvel Studios’ president, Kevin Feige, with Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Patricia Whitcher, Nate Moore and Stan Lee serving as executive producers.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo’s creative team also includes director of photography Trent Opaloch (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Elysium), production designer Owen Paterson (Godzilla, The Matrix), and three time Oscar-nominated costume designer Judianna Makovsky (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).