All posts by Alexander Hinkley

Alexander Hinkley founded his own indie games developer in 2006 called Penguin Run Games. As someone who has had an Xbox 360 since launch, he joins the thisisxbox.com writing team as an XBLIG Reviewer.

Dynasty Warriors 8 Review

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Dynasty Warriors 8 is the latest entry in the long-standing Dynasty Warriors series from Tecmo KOEI. Some people have criticized Dynasty Warriors as just being the “same old thing” year after year but as veteran fans of the franchise will tell you, each title has its own unique feel to it and slightly different features, characters, and variations in the way the story of the Three Kingdoms unfolds. Developed by Omega Force, Dynasty Warriors 8 had a lot of fans really excited for all the new stuff it was supposed to bring to the table. But did they deliver?

Dynasty Warriors 8 is much more in-depth than any previous game in the series so far. For one thing, it has the largest roster of playable characters yet with 77 to choose from. Rather than playing through the campaign over and over again with each officer, this time around you are given the option to choose from several different officers available on each mission. This adds a little bit more variety when playing through the campaign. Since you aren’t locked into playing a bunch of missions as the same character, you can switch it up if you want.

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DW8 also brings back the weapon swap system that was added into the last game. You once again will collect, buy, and sell various types of weapons. Long gone are the days where each officer was restricted to one unique weapon. Any officer can pretty much use any weapon, with varying degrees of compatibility. Although being able to use any weapon with any officer does make it so there aren’t any useless characters, it does detract from the overall personality of each officer. The focus seems to be placed more on what weapon you’re carrying than who you are actually playing as.

Weapons are even further emphasized with perhaps the biggest new gameplay mechanic called weapon affinity. There are three types of weapon affinity: Heaven, Earth, and Man. They interact with one another in a rock-paper-scissors type fashion. Earth is strong against Man, Man is strong against Heaven, and Heaven is strong against Earth. When you attack an officer that has a weapon weak against yours, you’ll deal extra damage to them and also be able to perform special Storm Rush attacks. Fighting an enemy officer with a weapon strong against yours reduces the damage you deal to them and will also make it so they don’t flinch when you hit them, thus they can power through many of your attacks. Switching weapons during combat is useful against these officers and there is a new “switch counter” mechanic that allows you to counter their power attacks with a precisely timed weapon switch.

The campaign is pretty long, with each kingdom’s story taking four or five hours itself. Added to that is a new game mode called Ambition Mode. In this mode you are trying to construct an impressive building that will motivate the Emperor to visit you, so that you can draw him to your side. To increase your status and build up the tower, you’ll have to complete various battles that earn you building materials and allies. Materials can then be used to construct or level up additions to your tower such as the teahouse, blacksmith, and barracks. Ambition Mode is a decent addition but it eventually starts to feel like doing chores. Even if you stick to just playing the campaign, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of this game. Campaign missions can also be played with a friend co-operatively which is nice.

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There have also been a couple of changes to the musou attacks. Players now have three musou gauges instead of just two and there’s also a new Rage Awakening gauge that, when full, can be activated to go into Rage mode and perform a True Rage attack. True Rage attacks are incredibly powerful musous that will go on for as long as you hold down the button (or when the gauge is empty). It’s possible to clear out entire bases of hundreds of people, including notable enemy officers, using just one True Rage attack.

Dynasty Warriors 8 feels more “Dynasty Warriors-like” than some of the previous games in recent years. The maps are absolutely huge which makes for some epic battles and lots of triggered events. Battles are filled with more triggered events making them seem more dynamic and authentic. The latest installment brings back pseudo-officers that control an area or command a unit such as gatekeepers, mobile commanders, and of course base commanders.

With all the new features and gameplay mechanics, Dynasty Warriors 8 should have been the best in the franchise ever. Unfortunately the Xbox 360 version suffers from severe frame rate issues that often make it nearly unplayable (the PS3 version supposedly does not have this problem). One would have expected this to no longer be an issue in the year 2013, especially since other Dynasty Warriors games on Xbox 360 could run just fine. This slowdown makes large battles annoying rather than fun. Tecmo KOEI has said they are working on a patch to alleviate the problem. Hopefully it will be released sooner rather than later.

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One of the other problems with the game is, as was mentioned before, there is too much of a focus on weapons rather than characters. Meeting an enemy officer on the field of battle becomes simply a matter of hoping your weapon beats his in the rock-paper-scissor matchup. What would have been challenging battles with powerful foes will turn into an easy rout if you happen to have a superior weapon affinity. Even if you do happen to face an enemy with a stronger weapon, they are usually nothing a few consecutive musou attacks won’t take care of for you.

Mowing down waves and waves of enemy soldiers becomes stale after awhile since they do little more than stand around waiting for you to kill them. It’s not unusual to have KO counts over a thousand on this game. It is surprising that after so many years nobody at Omega Force has thought to make the underlings feel more realistic and attack more often. Turning up the difficulty adds more of a challenge since you get hurt much more with each hit that does land against you, but it also seems to make your NPC allies get dominated, leading to you having to run around the battlefield doing everything yourself.

Slowdown issues aside, Dynasty Warriors 8 is still a pretty good game. If you are into mind-numbing hack n’ slash action, or are a fan of the series, then don’t hesitate to pick it up.

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XBLIG Review – End of Days: Survivor

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End of Days: Survivor is an Xbox LIVE Indie game by Sick Kreations modeled after the zombies game mode from Treyarch’s Call of Duty games. It is a first person shooter and the object of the game is to survive wave after wave of zombies until a helicopter comes to rescue you. There may be twenty total waves to play through but you’ll probably get bored before long before reaching it.

Initially, End of Days: Survivor feels really fun but it quickly becomes apparent it is not very polished. There is only one type of enemy – zombie. They aren’t very smart either. Perhaps playing the role of mindless zombie a little too well, enemies will literally just run into your gunfire. They won’t try to find alternate routes to you. They won’t even climb up through the windows. They just all come at you in a line. This makes standing in a doorway and letting them wander into your sights a completely viable, yet incredibly boring, strategy.

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At least there is some variety provided in weaponry. You’ll unlock a new weapon to use every one thousand points but instead of having to pay the points to get the gun like in Call of Duty, you can just take it whenever you want. You start off with a pistol which can be upgraded to a more powerful version at six thousand points. There is also an assortment submachine guns and assault rifles at your disposal as well as a shotgun and machine gun. Players will also be rewarded with a bonus “noob tube” round every three waves where they are given a grenade launcher with infinite ammo.

Waves don’t really get harder as time goes on, but you’ll have to kill more and more enemies to progress past later waves. The only thing you really have to worry about is running out of ammunition so you’ll want to stay close to the area where you can pick up the guns from the wall and then just switch between them as you run out of ammo for each one. Dying isn’t as bad as you would expect since you respawn without any penalty whatsoever. Your progression into the current wave isn’t even reset. This sort of ruins the whole concept of a survival game when you don’t get punished for deaths.

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End of Days: Survivor could have been an awesome XBLIG if Sick Kreations had just spent more time on it. For example, there are a few game-breaking glitches such as the ability to sprint backwards which enables you to pretty much always avoid danger. You can also jump on the humvee in the center of the map and the zombies can’t ever touch you. You could just stand there forever and never be damaged. Perhaps they should have playtested this a bit more? One other problem is throwing grenades. There is no grenade throwing animation whatsoever and the grenade itself will bounce around like a superball.

If you are looking for a zombie survival game on the indie marketplace, you should consider picking up I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 instead

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XBLIG Review: Little Racers STREET

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Little Racers STREET is an indie racing game developed by Milkstone Studios. It is very well made and ranks among the most fun games on the Xbox LIVE Indie Marketplace. Little Racers STREET is played from a top down perspective rather than directly behind or inside the vehicle. This makes the cars look pretty small and thus probably why the game is titled “little racers.” Playing this game reminds me of Micro Machines on Sega Genesis. Continue reading XBLIG Review: Little Racers STREET

XBLIG Review: Life in the Dorms

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Life in the Dorms is a point-and-click adventure game on the Xbox LIVE Indie Channel developed by Moment Games. Unfortunately, the game is not about binge drinking and wet t-shirt contests as you might suspect from a video game about college life (guess I’ll have to stick to the Van Wilder movies for that) but rather the more “family friendly” side of things. Continue reading XBLIG Review: Life in the Dorms