Sheepie & Samimista Write About Games: Tomb Raider

If there’s one thing Square Enix has done lately, it’s reviving old and forgotten franchises. Now with Crystal Dynamics and Rhianna Pratchett at the helm, Tomb Raider retells the origins of the highly influential video game heroine Lara Croft, sending her to the discover what lies in the mysterious, and dangerous, kingdom of Yamatai.

Sammy: Honestly? I was never interested in the Tomb Raider series and assumed Lara Croft was just your generic serious female protagonist who's unstoppable. This however changed when the reboot was announced a few years back. Truth be told, Tomb Raider was an absolute experience.

The writer Rhianna Pratchett introduced us to a young inexperienced Lara Croft who just came out of college. Her goal is to discover the lost kingdom Yamatai while on the ship Endurance with her friends who are filming a reality show. The Endurance crashes onto the island that's off the coast of Japan where Lara is left stranded without her friends.

Hang tough, Lara.

Sheepie: I found Croft's first adventure to be both exciting and lacking in some parts. In short, with her expedition stranded on the mysterious island of Yamatai, Lara must learn to become more resourceful and braver than she ever has been in her life.

I have one big problem though: While the game attempts to paint Lara as someone reluctant to take another person’s life, the combat and skill system does the complete opposite, encouraging players to go for more brutal kills in order to gain more XP. This disparity kind of bothered me, as well as Lara’s supporting cast, which weren’t exactly unlikable but lacked any sort of depth to make them interesting.

Even so I really enjoyed going through TR’s plot. I loved what Pratchett did with Lara’s transition from young and terrified archaeologist to strong and brave woman, and to add to that Camilla Ludington delivers an excellent performance as Croft.

Sammy: I pre-purchased Tomb Raider two weeks before Christmas on Steam. Right away when midnight hit on March 5th I tried to play but unfortunately many Steam users suffered problems until later on in the morning. Afterwards, it ran really smoothly. My only complaint would be the button mashing. On the PC it's a bit confusing to know which buttons are which however, it makes the adrenaline rush through your body while you hope Lara will be alright. You may even find yourself panting after fast pace events and then being relieved that the worse is behind.

Reading this right now, the non players of Tomb Raider probably see similarities to Uncharted. Coming out of someone who's a major Uncharted fan, I can assure you that Tomb Raider has always stand on its two feet and before both of the series existed there's been Indiana Jones which is the father of both series.

It feels not only Lara has been on a voyage but the gamers as well. Throughout the game I've felt fear, sorrow and wanting to comfort Lara while she's trying to find her way off the island. It's extremely horrifying in the beginning where she's in what appears to be bondage to only moments later be sliding on a waterfall in a dark cave where she must dodge boulders and kick away an enemy who tries to kill her. That's when the button mashing begins.

No big deal, just gonna climb up this rusty old Mitchell bomber.

Sheepie: Crystal Dynamics didn’t exactly reinvent third person shooter/adventure games with this, but they certainly managed to keep things interesting with a mix of arrow shooting and puzzle solving. The combat/stealth mechanics and skill system isn’t anything to write home about, but they work together nicely and using the recurve bow to dispatch enemies was a lot of fun.

The puzzles and Uncharted-style climbing and set pieces are pretty fantastic, and the game does a nice job of revolving camera angles without becoming too much of a nuisance. The tombs could’ve been a lot better with more than one puzzle to solve, but still these side missions are well executed, and certainly add to the game’s replayability.

Sheepie: Tomb Raider is a really good looking game, and Yamatai’s environments are impressive and the developers have done a great job in making sure each area doesn’t feel like a rehash of an earlier one. The character models are decent and Lara’s mo-cap and animations are very impressive. There’s also TressFX, a feature that attempts to render Lara’s hair strand by strand, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s something that looks really amazing during cutscenes, and hopefully in the future it’s properly optimized for next-gen consoles and PCs.

Yamatai is beautiful, and at the same time, deadly.

Sammy: Absolutely beautiful. Since I played on PC I had the option to higher the graphics for Lara's hair but choose not to do this since my RAM is fairly low and raising the graphics would of caused major lag. Looking back at the first Tomb Raider to this Lara has bloomed into a beautiful flower. I like how her chest size is more proportioned with her body and how she looks a bit more normal. Due to her new appearance and sensitive yet strong willed personality I've developed a 'girl crush' on her.

Sheepie: The sound effects aren’t anything special and while the game rehashes a lot of the weapon SFX, the voice acting and score manages to overshadow these shortcomings. Graves’ score really adds to the tension, and the voice work from Ludington is convincing and nicely done, and I could say the same for the supporting cast as well.

On Yamatai, your best friend is your recurve bow.

Sammy: Honestly, while playing adventure games I never tend to focus on the music but, that could be considered as a compliment as the composer blended in the melodies very well with the background. The soundtrack for Tomb Raider was composed by Jason Graves.

Sammy: I was very pleased with Tomb Raider and like the direction Square Enix is heading. I do however find it so ironic that Enix handles series such as Tomb Raider, Deus Ex and Hitman better than Final Fantasy which has been declining in quality for the past decade. There should be a sequel to the reboot as at the end Lara discovers that she's an adventurer at heart and it was hinted in the GPS caches. Overall, I give this 4.5/5 stars.

Sheepie: Even though I felt the supporting cast and story could have been better, there’s no denying that Crystal Dynamics and Rhianna Pratchett have done the Tomb Raider franchise justice with this reboot. It’s definitely worth a shot if you love a good third person action game or if you’re a fan of Tomb Raider and it will be very interesting to see what Square Enix will do with a potential sequel.

Thanks for taking the time to read our review, folks! :D

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Sheepie Writes About Video Games - Spec Ops: The Line

In a market completely oversaturated with modern military shooters, what would make 2K’s Spec Ops: The Line stand out? On the surface, it seems like your cookie cutter third person shooter: You run to cover, pop up and shoot guys in the head with your carbine. And generally there’s some villainous militia leader who’s threatening the free world, right?

In truth the game is far from your average 'save the world' shooter story. The protagonist isn't exactly heroic and there’s plenty of difficult choices to be made.

Welcome to Dubai, gentlemen.

Developed by Yager, Spec Ops: The Line is the first title in the Spec Ops tactical shooter series after a ten year hiatus, and reboots the series with a brand new setting and plot.

If you’ve played third person shooters before, The Line’s gameplay is pretty straightforward. You use the A button to sprint and take cover, the left trigger to aim and the right trigger to shoot and use the left and right bumpers to command your team and throw grenades. Although you can give orders to other team members and can shoot out objects to bury enemies under a pile of sand, these moments feel very, very scripted. I really wish Yager emphasized more on tactical gameplay in this, rather than scripted sequences and having you run from Point A to Point B while taking cover in between. We’ve done that one too many times and I just find it exhausting.

As per usual, you pop a lot of dudes with your trusty rifle.

The highlight with the Line however, is its interesting plot, which draws inspirations from novels and films like Francis Ford Coppola’s classic Apocalypse Now.

After a series of sandstorms strike Dubai, Col. John Konrad volunteers his U.S. Army battalion, the “Damned 33”, to help with the evacuation of the city. However the situation becomes awry when the 33 fail to evacuate the city’s inhabitants and are seemingly swallowed up by the intense sandstorms. Delta Force operator Martin Walker and his two other team members, Lugo and Adams are sent in on a reconnaissance mission to find out exactly what happened to the Konrad and his men, but soon find Dubai in disarray with the 33 gone rogue and the locals attempting to fight back.

What exactly happened to John Konrad and the Damned 33rd?

I won’t go much further into the plot as not to spoil anything for you, but let me warn you a lot of f^cked up sh^t happens in this game. The deeper you get into the story, the less you feel like a hero. There are several situations where Walker is forced to make difficult decisions, and these decisions ultimately affect his other team members and Walker finds himself slowly descending into madness.

And this is one sequence I know I won't forget.

Nolan North provides Walker’s voice and while it feels a bit like Nathan Drake, I found the quality of the voice acting in the game to be exceptional. The part that certainly got my attention was how the dialogue slowly shifted from the beginning to the end of the campaign, where Walker and his team’s dialogue change from calm use of military jargon to essentially using the F-Word in every single sentence.

Powered by Unreal Engine 3, the Line has some pretty solid graphics and a lot of the in-game cutscenes , most notably the facial animations, look amazing. However the animations look stiff at times and some of the explosions and other effects look completely unimpressive.

There aren’t a lot of reasons to go through the Line’s campaign more than once, other than searching for intel pieces scattered around each chapter that provide a bit of background history to Konrad’s character and context to the situation in Dubai. I haven’t touched the multiplayer but it has your standard CoD-esque leveling and perk system, and it looks really rough and mediocre.

...

Spec Ops: The Line has your generic third person shooter action but provides a very interesting narrative that’s hard to find in other modern military shooters. There are no heroes in Spec Ops: The Line, and if you want a unique experience with a 3PS then I suggest you pick it up.

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Sheepie Writes About Video Games - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

Keep on running my man.

Now you’re probably thinking “Oh no, this is going to be some biased review of a four year old game and this Sheepguy fanboy is going to give this a 30/10”

Well, sort of. Yes there will be some biased comments but mostly this is how I feel about this wonderful, wonderful game (See?)

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 is the fourth major release of the Persona spin-off series by Japanese developer/publisher Atlus. Following the success of Persona 3, Persona 4 has a fresh set of characters, a brand new plot and an entirely different setting.

Uh...welcome to Inaba.

Set in the quiet, rural town of Inaba, you (the protagonist) are to live for one year with your uncle Ryotaro Dojima and his young daughter Nanako after your parents decide to work abroad. Ryotaro is a detective in the police force but is still trying to deal with the sudden death of his wife and Nanako, a shy but helpful elementary school girl. In spite of all their problems, Ryotaro and Nanako gladly take you in.

Initially the atmosphere in town appears to be friendly, quiet and normal, but that quickly changes as a series of mysterious murders in town leave the police completely baffled as there is no murder weapon, no witnesses and no exact cause of death.

Things get pretty grim quick.

Shortly after, however, the protagonist discovers he has the ability to enter a strange world (Aptly named the Midnight Challenge) through television sets, and the Midnight Channel is filled with yellowish fog, and consists of monsters known as ‘Shadows’. The protagonist slowly realizes that the killer also has the same ability to enter the TV, thus allowing him to throw people in and leave them at the mercy of the Shadows.

This is where you and several classmates boldly go inside the Midnight Channel, using the strange power of your Personas to fight the Shadows and rescue the people being thrown in before it’s too late, as well as to look for clues to apprehend the killer.

It is a very strange premise and setting albeit interesting enough to keep you hooked all the way through (And as JRPGs are likely to do you’ll sink in 70-100 hours’ worth of your life)

Persona 4 essentially builds off of gameplay of its predecessor and vastly improves it from the Social Links to the Battle System. The battle system is fairly easy to pick up and the game gives you a quick lowdown on seven attack types. Enemies have weaknesses to certain attack types and if you manage to strike a Shadow’s weak spot, that Shadow is knocked down and you are given another turn.

You can either opt to attack the same Shadow or go after another one in order to knock them all down and initiate an All-Out Attack, an insanely powerful and awesome sequence that sends your party charging down on the enemy and will often deal an insane amount of damage. Although the dungeon crawling becomes tedious at times, the boss battles are challenging and will keep you on your toes.

Throwdown!

Weather dominates much of the activities in Persona 4, and if there is someone trapped in the Midnight Channel you must rescue that person before the next foggy day. Once it becomes foggy in the human world, the fog lifts in the Midnight Channel and the person trapped dies.

It’s really all about careful planning and preparation, from choosing which days you’ll face off against bosses to which days you’ll take a breather and hang around with friends. You can’t exactly grind all the time or spend most of your days hanging around town with friends. There needs to be a balance between both.

When you’re not out fighting Shadows, you’ll be attending the local high school answering dull questions from uncanny teachers and socializing with other students and residents of Inaba. The mainstay of Persona’s gameplay is the Social Links, which allows you to interact with NPCs and develop a relationship with them.

Spending more time with certain people will allow you to form better Personas and interacting with party members outside the TV World will enhance their abilities and give you a significant advantage during battle. What makes this system so endearing though, is that the characters involved aren’t exactly perfect.

I ask myself that question at times too, Teddie.

They all feel genuine and human, and they have their own set of problems (And their personal problems often turn deadly) From an intelligent young sleuth trying to hide her feminine traits in order for the police force to take her seriously, to a fellow schoolmate who is generally viewed as a tough guy and has trouble being accepted for his ability to sew cute stuffed animals and so on. There are plenty of characters I found I could relate to, and it made maxing out their S. Link all the more satisfying.

The soundtrack is from the work of Shoji Meguro, the com and plenty of projects from Atlus. Consisting mostly of J-Pop and J-Rock, the game has plenty of good and catchy songs and the game has its share of pretty annoying songs.

In terms of voice acting, Persona 4 features the likes of Yuri Lowenthal, Troy Baker and Laura Bailey. There’s some pretty quirky dialogue during battle and cutscenes, but for the most part the voice acting is spot-on.

Uh, yeah...Naoto.

Graphically, Persona 4 uses the Criware engine and while the visuals are not exactly stunning they’re not abysmal either. The UI is well done and the style is very distinct, and the menus and animated cutscenes are really well done.

Investigation Team Go!

All in all, Persona 4 comes off as a very charming RPG and what I consider to be one of the best video games ever released. While I don’t believe that the plot is truly excellent and that the grinding becomes a chore at times, it has one of the most well written and memorable group of characters that you can't help but love.

So if you've reached this sentence, thanks for reading my first ever review of a video game. x)

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Catwoman with a BIC pen

I did this earlier today as a sort of personal challenge to see if I was better at art using only a pen and here are the results. 
 

It's rough (Well I did draw it with a BIC pen and that's just the way I draw) but it came out a bit better than I expected.  And I owe Darwyn Cooke one on this. xD
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First time's a charm...

After several hours of boredom I decided to try out the CV quizzes and took the 'Date A Superhero Chick' quiz. And surprisingly this is the one I got on the first try. O_O           

 
Her description is kinda off-putting though. xD
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Sheepie's Photo Collection Mk. I

Out of everything, the only thing I'm ever good at (Well I think I'm good. xD) is photography. And since I have a lot of shots sitting around in my PC, I've decided to post them. Seven photos and I hope you like em'!     

   
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Back from the 100+ hour break!

Well it's been quite a week down here in the place called Manila. Free Comic Book Day was awesome (Which I'll talk about later), I watched the Cubs win a game (After seeing them lose over and over again) and we had a fierce monsoon right in the middle of summer (Which is great as I mentioned in the previous blog, we had 36 degree heat here!). Quite a stellar week!

And now back to spamming on Comic Vine! ;P

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Gone for more than 100 hours!

Well the week has so far been quite dull. Sister is mildly annoyed that I used (A better term is steal XD) one of her icons, unfavorable weather conditions (Temperature is at 36 Degrees Celsius!) and I've been stuck in the house.

But tomorrow I get a change of pace: I am off to stay at a friend's house and I won't be on Comic Vine for around a week.

 I'm bringing along my camera, several comic books and my trusty baseball glove, so I'm sure to enjoy myself in place far away from the city.

Au revoir!

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A hypothetical question

Okay, let's just say you witness a horrible bus crash. You are the first person on the scene and you immediately pull out severely injured passengers. Then you recognize one of the casualties as your neighbor. But this neighbor of yours is also your worst enemy. He/she constantly heckles when you are on your way and coming home from work. Your neighbor makes everyday life hell. Deep down, you hate him/her.
 
But among the casualties is a little puppy. Now, while this puppy may look innocent, it is a test subject of a scientist who has been conducting tests on it. But there is a possibility that this puppy is carrying a virus that could decimate the whole planet.
 
If you opt to save your neighbor, he/she will continue to heckle you, but will make your life almost unbearable. If you opt to save the puppy, you may or may not die a slow and extremely painful death.
 
The bus has caught fire and will explode in little over 30 seconds.

So, who do you save? Your neighbor or the puppy?

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