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Anna Mirabella

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The only thing I love more than video games is writing. I'm a Creative Writing major with a dream of becoming a professional video game writer. You can usually find me around story-driven games, because I love a good plot. When I'm not writing or gaming, I'm crafting, cosplaying and just enjoying life.

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A few days ago, Square Enix released a free update to their hit game, Final Fantasy XV. The Moogle Chocobo Carnival can be accessed from the main menu. Therefore, you only need a single save file, at any point in the game, to play it. I recommend using your main save since some items you gain during the carnival will be moved over to your main file.

Impressions

Upon entering the carnival, Noctis is met with Carbuncle, the creature who players first meet in either the tutorial of Final Fantasy XV or the Platinum demo. Carbuncle gives Noctis his first quest, which is to earn enough choco-mog medallions to trade in for a coupon that gives the player a nights stay at the Leville and an exclusive seating for the firework show.  You can earn medallions in a few ways; you can earn them by completing quests, playing mini games and finding them around town, but I’ll get to that part later.

 

Aesthetics

First, I want to talk about the aesthetics of the carnival. Altissia has been completely transformed. Every NPC, building and street is adorned in colorful decorations. The NPCs are talking about things happening at the carnival, adding to the playful atmosphere.  The vibrant environment only made me more excited to dive in and see what the carnival had to offer. Just make sure you equip the new outfit that comes with the update; Noctis’s usual black outfit will feel out of place. However, I was a bit disappointed that my bros weren’t by my side. I would have loved to hear some carnival exclusive banter. But, I digress. Noctis is still a good sport without his friends around. I’ll admit, I was a bit giddy wandering around the town. The environment is silly and uplifting, a nice contrast to the adventuring Noctis is doing in the main campaign.

 

Mini-Games and Firework Show

The mini-games are fun at first, but they get old quickly. There are a few games I came across at the carnival like the chocobo races, a shooting game, a variation of whack a mole (but with a cactuar!), and a moogle dance. My favorite game is where you shoot at a bunch of targets; however, the only problem is that the courses never change. The targets show in the same place, only differing by the difficulty level. So, trying to get 35,000 points got infuriating after a few attempts. It felt like grinding, but I guess that’s Final Fantasy’s charm. The missions are basic as well. Also, fighting is not allowed at the carnival, so Noctis only has a toy sword!  As for other games, try visiting Weskham’s restaurant and try being a waiter, or if that’s not your thing, why not try fishing for some prizes?

The icing on the cake for me was the firework show. The first night, I didn’t have enough medallions for the special VIP seating, so I watched from the highest point of Altissia I could find (thanks to Carbuncle’s insistence). Beautiful as it was, nothing tops the close-up firework show you get if you do have the VIP coupon! Though, it’s just not the same taking my own pictures of the firework show without my buddy Prompto along for the ride.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall, the nagging issue for me was not the repetitiveness (because it’s a small event meant to keep players interested in the game), but my isuue is that Noctis is the only one experiencing the carnival. Especially because Final Fantasy XV’s core theme is friendship. Maybe it’s some kind of dream world separate from the story (as Carbuncle has dragged Noctis off to in the past). Either way, I appreciate the novelty of the add on. The dedication of the Square Enix team shows promise for future DLCs and patches to come.

 

The Chocobo Moogle Carnival is only running until February 20th, so download the free holiday pack DLC now to get your ticket to the carnival! 

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Dungeon Souls is a game developed by Lamina Studios that came out officially this year, after being in early access. As the name suggests, it is indeed a classic dungeon crawler. For those unfamiliar with the genre, it is a game in which you pick a character and fight enemies, all while trying to reach the top level of the dungeon or escaping it. Games like these are really fun to pass the time, especially in groups.

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[Just a warning to anyone reading this that some spoilers for episode one and two are present beyond this point. Read at your own risk.]

The Walking Dead is arguably one of Telltale’s most popular series to date, coming out with a third season just recently. Telltale games are episodic and released separately. Though, Telltale gave us a little bonus and released the first two parts for our enjoyment. The first thing I want to get out there is that you do not need to have played the other games in the series to understand what is happening in season three. Telltale does an excellent job making Clementine, the female protagonist, stand out all on her own. Now, that’s not to say I think you should skip out on the previous games. I’d recommend starting with season one because it’s just a generally good game. You’ll also understand what shaped Clementine’s motivations and attitude.

Narrative

Season 3 is interesting because the first protagonist we meet is a new face. Javier, known affectionately as Javi by others in the game, is a former baseball star who was kicked off the team for a gambling scandal. We don’t find out this piece of information until a bit later. In fact, I feel like we’re thrust too quickly into Javier’s life with little to no explanation at all. Episode one starts off, before the zombie outbreak, with him arriving just a few minutes after his father passes away. He exchanges some heated words with his brother before going in to see how his mother is doing. I wonder why Telltale decided to go so far back, especially since we’ve already had an introduction to the phenomenon with Lee, the protagonist from season one, when the police car he’s in crashes into a forest of zombies.

Telltale gives a glimpse of Javier’s family life before their first encounter with a zombie, and eventually, as the story progresses, we see him on the road with the remaining survivors in his group.  I will say that Telltale has created a unique group of characters this time. For starters, Javier is Hispanic so from time to time he’ll speak Spanish which I think is awesome because it feels more realistic. He’s with his brother’s wife, Kate, and her two step kids, Mariana and Gabriel. They meet others along the way, including Clementine.

Speaking of Clementine, why isn’t she the sole protagonist? While Javi is very likable, Clem feels like family. We’ve been with her for two full games already. I understand that we needed Lee to help Clementine grow, but we saw how capable she was on her own in season two, and Season three is no different. The last game’s endings made it completely possible to give Clementine full reign of the story. Especially, since at times, the game feels like Clementine tells Javier what to do anyway. I can’t really complain since Telltale did a great job at writing Javier’s character. I like him, and I am attracted to the fact that he used to be famous. It goes to show how easily someone’s status can change.

Flashbacks were a big plot device this season. As we get to certain plot points, flashback scenes trigger. I both love and hate it. I want to know what happened to Clementine and A.J, but if we don’t have flashbacks in place, we lose Javier’s functionality. The story is then solely Clementine’s. Javier’s flashbacks are less frustrating because I get to learn more about his past. But, I also feel like there are choices (such as kissing Kate when Javi reunites with her at the junkyard) that I would have made differently if I knew what had happened in the past first.

Clementine and Javier are dual protagonists, but the ratio of playability is unequal. We control Javier through most of episode one and two.  Unfortunately, because of this, the player has a few smaller choices when playing as Clementine. Ultimately, the choices we make don’t seem to matter since Telltale did establish Clem’s past from previous seasons.  My last gripe with the story is continuation from season two’s ending.  There were multiple endings a player could get, but it felt like no matter what you chose, the journey for Clementine would ultimately be the same.  I hope this is explored in later episodes.

Despite all this, the story isn’t bad at all. There is a central conflict that saved the narrative from being predictable because of the twist at the end of episode two. Telltale knows just how to keep us on the edge of our seats. The ending of episode one was very shocking, and Episode two’s ending had me anxious to play the next part too. I cannot wait to see what happens next. I’m willing to overlook some plot holes in hope that they may be fixed in later episodes.

Gameplay

One positive is that Telltale has implemented more interactivity than simple text choices in their games. Using the back button to speed up walking is a nice touch. It doesn’t do much, since most of the time you won’t be moving your character, but it’s nice to know the option is there. Aiming seems to be a bit off. I can have my optical aimed away from the zombie.  However, if it’s close enough to the rim, pressing the back button will still work. This was something I noticed in Telltale’s Batman game as well. It seemed almost impossible to lose, even if you didn’t hit the right button. That feels cheap to me. If you’re going to add more gameplay, make it functional and meaningful.  Telltale should not simply make their game seem like it’s more advanced. At times, it just feels like extra and unnecessary gameplay interaction.

There are a lot of choices. I can’t say if any are meaningful just yet since the season hasn’t ended, but I do appreciate having an abundance of them to shape Javier and Clementine as I imagine them. Also, another thing I noticed was the length of each episode. Episode one felt much longer than episode two, which isn’t surprising coming from a Telltale game. What was surprising was how short the episodes felt in comparison to other Telltale series. The first episode of Batman took me nearly two hours to complete. It felt like I spent less time in episode 1 of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier and even less than that in episode 2. This was a bit disappointing considering The Walking Dead is one of their more anticipated titles.

The most disappointing part about The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is that it feels as if your decisions from past seasons do not affect the game in any significant way. The game says right in the beginning that your choices from past games affect the ones in this season. I started with a new game, as I played the past two games on my PS4 and this on PC. Still, I haven’t noticed any references to the prior seasons that aren’t generic. It’d be nice to see this functionality grow in the future, having games where choices do affect gameplay in future releases, like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. However, there is an option to allow you to recreate the past decisions.  The issue is that it’s unclear  how this will  happen.

 

Verdict

I feel as if it’s unfair to give a score to a game that only has two episodes out. That being said, there are some cons to the game that are disappointing, but they’re not a deal breaker for me. Clementine kicking Zombies as Jade taught her to is enough nostalgia to keep me invested in her character. Javier’s personality is helping too! Plus, we do have crowd play which allows multiple people to vote on decisions in a local game, which is a plus for someone like me who likes to play with larger groups. I’d recommend picking this game up anyway, as it looks like it’ll tell a promising story in future chapters.

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The Jackbox Party Pack 3 came out just a few short weeks ago. It’s the newest installment of crazy party games to play with your friends either over the internet through twitch or local multiplayer. To read my review on part 1, click here and for part 2, click here. This review will be written with local multiplayer in mind. I haven’t actually gotten to play with the twitch functionality yet, but there is a plethora of features with online game sessions in mind.

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Worms W.M.D.

The first word that comes to mind when I think about this game is difficult. Stop right there. Don’t write this game off just yet. Let me explain. Worms W.M.D has the look and feel of a classic online browser game packed into a polished console game. Despite the look of the game, it is much more complex than a bunch of worms shooting each other with massive weapons.

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At the center of all good storytelling is compelling characters. Poorly written characters can destroy even the most thought out and well written plots. The best way to keep a player immersed in the story is by creating characters that are not only believable in their world, but relatable in ours as well. This article will discuss some of the funniest companion characters I’ve come across in game. Companions follow the player character around and help in battle. Usually, they bark out one liners to keep players immersed, or help push them in the right direction. In more interactive games, you can find out more about the characters from their own lips, by talking to them and getting them to like you.  Now, on to the list:

I’m almost positive that you’ve heard about the newest phenomenon, Pokemon GO. News programs like NBC and FOX have featured segments on the new game. It’s rise to popularity is both startling and impressive. I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m NY based, so my experience is with a largely populated city atmosphere.

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What is Pokemon GO?

Pokemon GO is a phone app available on both the Apple and the Google Play Store, produced by the company Niantic. It utilizes your GPS and data to allow you to capture virtual Pokemon on your phone. To catch Pokemon, you can’t be stationary. The game is meant to get the player to move. The movement is tracked via GPS on your phone. The game tracks your location and projects several Pokestops in your area, as well as virtual Pokemon onto your screen. As you walk around, you can collect pokeballs from various designated locations and catch Pokemon that pop up on your device.

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What is the appeal? 

Pokemon is massive and always has been since it initially came out. If you ask someone who doesn’t watch the anime or play the games to name a Pokemon, more often than not, they’ll have an answer. Pikachu for example, is a household name and one of Nintendo’s most famous characters. It’s been a fantasy of many to be a Pokemon trainer and travel the world hunting down Pokemon. This is really close to that reality.  Both children and adults alike are playing Pokemon GO! Maybe it’s the excitement of catching a Pokemon, or being part of a faction and battling. I don’t think anyone can pinpoint one specific reason why Pokemon GO is so popular.

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What Critics are Saying:

Just like with any popular thing, the critics are abound. Pokemon GO has been on several news channels and media outlets for the past few days. I never thought I’d see the day where I’d walk outside and see not one, but several people engrossed on their devices playing the very same game that I am. But, that seems to be the problem. Pokemon GO is wildly addicting, and leaves people vulnerable to theft and physical injury. When someone is staring at their screen and walking down the block, chances are that they aren’t paying attention. It is so easy for someone to snatch the phone from your hand, or worse. I argue that this is possible with any phone application. I’ve seen people engrossed in texting, Instagram and even reading on their phones. Which begs the question, what makes Pokemon GO extra dangerous?

I’m going to talk about a few instances that I’ve heard about. Online, many people have reported walking into things because they weren’t paying attention to their surroundings. Even though the app itself warns people to be aware of their surroundings of all time, some people can’t take their eyes off of their phones. News outlets have also reported players stumbling upon dead bodies trying to capture Pokemon. This can be traumatizing to a person and potentially be putting them in dangerous situations. Others reported Pokemon GO players as disrespectful, going into places like The Holocaust Museum and attempting to capture Pokemon.

Perhaps the most threatening is reports of robberies at gun point. People use something called a “lure module” to attract players to a specific spot. When a lure module is attached to a Pokestop, Pokemon are more likely to be found in the area.  When players arrive at certain spots, robbers steal their devices, most often at gunpoint.  This is alarming, but does that mean you should stop playing?

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Pros of Pokemon GO:

This is fun, competitive and collaborative. People have said that Pokemon GO has helped them with things like anxiety and depression. It is an outlet that encourages people to walk around, rather than staying in their homes all day. It gives people something to look forward to and helps boost their confidence. Not only that, it gives players the opportunity to meet others who are interested in the same thing. It’s incredibly easy to meet other players at Pokestops and to strike up a conversation. Most are really friendly!

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Things to Keep In Mind:

Pokemon GO can be dangerous. Always be vigilant and watch for any suspicious behavior around you. If going to a lure, it’s best if you’re driving by in a car rather than walking. I find it’s much safer this way. If you’re hellbent on walking, bring others with you. Travel in groups when catching Pokemon. Also, please be mindful of rules that businesses and landmarks have placed up and respect their wishes when it comes to the app.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go out, have fun and catch some Pokemon!

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A couple of weeks ago, The Witcher series was on sale on both Steam and Origin. With the enhanced edition of The Witcher at the low price of $1.50 and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings at $2.29, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally play one of the most talked about story driven games. I’ve heard great things about the game, some people even comparing it to the Dragon Age series (which I adore). Now, I’m not one to pass up a good story, especially one with choices, but something seems to be stopping me from actually starting the game up. Believe it or not, it has a lot to do with the lack of character creation.

In The Witcher, you play as Geralt of Rivia. Apparently, he’s a bad ass monster hunter for hire. But, like I said, I haven’t actually played the game yet. I’ve been spoiled by games like The Sims, Dragon Age, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim where character creation was pivotal. In The Witcher’s defense, those are all games whose story is all about the character the player wants to be. The Witcher is like some other games in which the character is given to you. You can make choices, but at the end of the day, you are playing as Geralt and experiencing his story.

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This unwillingness to play may also have something to do with my life, because who isn’t burned out after a long day of work or school? Regardless, it got me thinking, how important is character creation in a game? Often times, people ask me what my fascination with video games is. My answer to them is always the same, interactivity. A story is being told, and I am an active (rather than passive) participant of it.  We can break down the interactivity of storytelling in games even further. There is the kinetic story, which follows a strict linear story line, games that have none, like the Sims, or games such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect which allow the story to change depending on the choices you make.

When character creation is implemented, it allows the player to further immerse him or her self into the game. You create the character that you see on screen, and this doesn’t just regard full character creation but customization as well like in The Division. Being able to change a companion’s clothes, regardless of changing their features, also gives the player added control of the story. This is because the player tweaks the aesthetics to fit their vision of the world within the game. I’ve concluded that character creation’s vitality is dependent on the game that you’re playing.

Take a game like WWE 2K16. It has a host of real wrestlers from the television show to choose from. You can be anyone from Andre the Giant to John Cena. A high appeal to the game is the creation features. Throughout the series, there have been many opportunities for the player to create their own wrestler, entrance video and music, way their wrestler walks out on to the ring, and even the arena they wrestle in. The character that I make can interact with very real characters that I watch on television. I can even go as far as creating my own match cards and manipulating what happens. In this game, character creation is not vital but it enhances the experience. You can very well play with the characters and arenas already given to you.

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What about the Sims? Character creation is the selling point for The Sims 4. EA has boasted that you can change the features of your sim by dragging body parts, unlike any of the other games in the series. You even have control over how they walk, sound, and the way their family looks as well. In a game like this, character creation is vital. You have full control over the character (or characters) that you want to play, the town that they live in, the people they meet, and how they interact with the world around them.  Its appeal comes from the fact that it’s a platform for the player to create their own story, rather than giving them one. Therefore, the character creation cannot be substituted for a pre-made character, without hindering the player’s experience.

These are just two examples of games that utilize extensive customization and character creation assets. A series like Uncharted does not need character creation, because the story lines are linear. If we take out Nathan Drake, we don’t have the same iconic series. Therefore, I’ve determined that character creation is a necessity in certain kinds of games. Customization is a different story entirely. It should be utilized in more games. In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning’s outfit changes depending on what armor you equip. This is limiting (of course) because you can’t have both your favorite looks and best stats. For example, I hated the dress that Lightning had to wear for one armor, but I needed it because it was resistant to fire. Regardless, it is a step in the right direction.

I don’t see how customization can hamper the intended story for a game. In the zombie mode for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, the game takes place in the 1920s. Obviously, it’d be strange to have a character wearing Google Glass. To keep the feel of the game, the developer can limit the customization options to clothes of that period. If a character would wear only certain types of clothes, the developer can lay out a few templates for the player to choose from. It is this added interactivity that allows us to relate to the world of video games, while still being able to make it on our own.

 

 

Gamers and movie fans alike have been talking about the Warcraft movie since it’s initial concept release. Blizzard has put an immense amount of money into promoting the movie. For the past few months, I couldn’t turn on the television without seeing a commercial about the movie. The hype is immense, so when I got the opportunity to see an advanced screening of the movie, I had to check it out for myself. Warcraft is based off of the hit MMO game World of Warcraft which (since it’s last been reported) has about 5.5 million subscribers. In China, the movie has reportedly broken several box office records. The interest is there, yet some reviewers have given the movie less than stellar reviews. I’m here to give you my honest opinion of the movie with a breakdown of several different aspects.