Wednesday, August 31, 2011


FPS/RPG hybrid
Developers: Gearbox Software
Publishers: 2K games
Released: 2009

Zolgar paid: $7.49 for Game of the Year
Beaten: No, ~50% of the game
Zolgar's rating: 8/10
Replayability: Decent to high

Borderlands is one of those games that I held off on getting for a long time, due to to my general dislike for First Person Shooters, especially after my epic disappointment at the last game that was billed as 'Diablo with guns' (Hellgate: London). When I finally broke down and got it though, I was pretty much instantly hooked on borderlands.

The story of Borderlands is simple:
On the alien world of Pandora, there are legends of an ancient vault filled with alien technology. You play a mercenary who's out to find it, with the help of a “Guardian Angel”, and of course you have to contend with the giant corporation that believes that the Vault belongs to them.

Seeing as this is a video game, we know the Vault is real. Wouldn't be much fun if we got there to the end and found that it wasn't, eh? (It'd be a twist worthy of M. Night Shyamalan though!)
Seeing as this is a FPS, there's lots and lots and lots of things to shoot on the way to the Vault.
Seeing as this is an RPG, there's lots of people who want you to do stuff for them along the way, too.

For the RPGers, Borderlands offers us 4 classes (which I'll cover in depth later), each with unique abilities and skill trees, gun skills that go up with use, increased health and armor over time, Diablo-style loot drops, and a somewhat simplified gear selection:
4 guns (start with 2, unlock the others throughout the game), 1 shield, 1 Grenade Mod, 1 Class Mod, and 1 Elemental Artifact.

For the FPSers, Borderlands offers us simple, intuitive controls with fair customization, enough weapon options that you're sure to find one you like (which I'll cover later), minimal equipment to worry yourself over, minimal stats to worry yourself over, and only one skill you need to activate per class. And headshots. Mmm headshots.

There's a few points of problems in FPS/RPG hybrids though:
One of the major ones is accuracy. RPG players want accuracy to be based off of their stats, and don't want to have to have a steady hand and fast reflexes. FPS players don't want to have to worry about those silly numbers, and want the bullet to go where they're pointing.

Borderland's answer to this one leans towards the favor of the FPSers. Guns have an accuracy stat, which simply put, determines how close to right where you're aiming the bullet will hit. The more a gun is fired in quick succession, the less accurate it will become (anyone who's fired a real auto or semi auto will understand why). The loss of accuracy with repeated firing though, can be reduced by characters skills, and gun proficiency. (More information on accuracy can be found here)

Another problem is FPSers aren't used to always having to run back in to town to sell stuff, to turn in quests, to buy stuff, etc. RPGers wouldn't know what to do without it.

Answer? Borderlands is an RPG, sorry. You're gonna need to run back to town and do all that annoying stuff. Thankfully though most of the side zones (I keep wanting to call them instances, because that's what they'd be in an MMO), have ammo and medical vending machines near the entrance, so you don't have to run far when you run out of ammo. Also nice is that most of the 'non essential' quests come from a mission board, so you don't have to try and remember “who gave me this mission again?” and only have to return to 1 place for your side quests.

Difficulty. Most FPS players like to crank their game up to 'hard' or 'insane' or 'Damn, I'm Good'. To be fair, many RPG players like that too, though the standard Action RPG answer is 'beat it, then play it against with tougher foes and moar loot!'

Answer? Borderlands goes the Action RPG rout here. Beat it once, you go on to Playthrough 2 where things are harder. Beat it again, and you can move on to Playthrough 2.5, which has levelscaling and can get pretty bloody insane. There is otherwise no difficulty slider that I can find, and many FPS players complain about that fact due to the game getting too easy once they have good gear.

There are a few other more minor issues in the FPS/RPG hybrid camp, that of course lead to some people saying “bleah this is too (FPS or RPG) for me.”, but most of those are much lesser ones, and in so far as I can tell, Borderlands handles all of them fairly well.

Over all? We've got simple FPS gameplay with some nice action RPG elements.
Run around shooting everything that moves, pick up what it drops, and run back to town and sell it for a profit! So you can buy better gear, to shoot tougher foes, to get better loot! HUZZAH! The never ending Action RPG cycle!

Though when you get bored of that, you can always team up with up to 3 friends for 4 player co-op, which runs remarkably well, and should soon be supported by Steam, too.

In true action RPG fashion, your drops are conveniently color-coded:
  • White: trash, you'll stop using these pretty soon. And unless you're an addict like me, you'll even stop picking them up by the time you're level 20.
  • Green: Eh, OK. In a fantasy game this would be 'magic'.
  • Blue: Decent, for most of the game this will be your staple.
  • Purple: Really good, probably only becoming your staple on your 2nd playthrough.
  • Orange: 'Legendary', these items are the 2nd best in the game, likely only to become your staple late in the 2nd playthrough. (though there are no legendary shields.)
  • Pearlescent: O. M. G. is all that can be said about these. They will only become your staple after countless hours of farming high end content on your 3rd playthrough, and much gnashing of teeth and probably sacrificing your first born son. *Only available with the DLC: Secret Armor of General Knoxx

All orange and pearl items are 'unique' in the sense of unique items from a typical action RPG, that is to say named items with pre-defined stat ranges.
There are also some unique items, also with a special name, flavor text, and only select modifiers available, which can be found at certain specific times of the game. These come in green, blue and purple flavors.

For gear drops you have:
Shields, which offer you limited damage protection, that recharges over time. Basically? More health. Shields can also come with a few minor, helpful modifiers such as a health boost, or health recovery.
Grenade mods, which take your normal boring grenades and make them do fun things, like life leech, or stick to things, or act like clusterbombs.
Class mods, AKA COMs, these tend to provide bonuses to your skills, or certain bonuses that have a strong benefit for a specific role your class plays.
Elemental Artifact, provides bonuses to your Action Skill, usually in the form of damage improvements.
Weapons, are obviously weapons, which come in 8 flavors:
  • Revolvers: fair damage, slow firing speed, low capacity, higher accuracy.
  • Repeater pistols: Fair damage, fast firing, decent capacity, lower accuracy.
  • SMGs: Low damage, full auto fire, good capacity, low accuracy. “Spray and pray”
  • Shotguns: Massive damage up close, slow firing, accuracy? What's that? Scatter shot, making them do less damage at range.
  • Combat Rifles: Well rounded with a good mix of damage, accuracy, firing speed and capacity. These come in two main flavors 3-round burst, and full auto.
  • Sniper Rifles: Do you want to blow someone's head off from half a mile away? I knew you did.. Sniper rifles are slow firing and have low capacity, but they make up for it by having high damage and great accuracy.
  • Rocket Launchers: Boom. Slow firing, iffy on accuracy, craptastic capacity, but man it's satisfying to blow shit up.
  • Eridian: Extremely rare alien tech (rarer even than Pearlescents in some cases) with infinite ammo (but what is essentially a heat meter), these come in the form of other weapon types, and take on the traits of that weapon type. I only list them separately due to them having their own proficiency.

Interestingly though, there's another step in the weapons department.
  • Atlas - Above average damage and magazine capacity.
  • Dahl - High recoil reduction, at the cost of accuracy.
  • Eridians - Alien weaponry, deals generally high damage with unlimited ammunition but often suffers from slow recharge.
  • Hyperion - Very high recoil reduction and accuracy.
  • Jakobs - Never manufactures elemental weapons. Very high damage, but with lower fire rate and recoil reduction.
  • Maliwan - Only manufactures elemental weapons, which have much higher tech regeneration rates. Also benefits from marginal increases to accuracy and reload speed.
  • S&S Mnitions - Very high magazine capacity. Usually manufactures elemental weapons.
  • Tediore - Extremely fast reload speed, with a slight compromise on damage and accuracy.
  • Torgue - High damage and slightly higher fire rate, but suffers from much lower accuracy and recoil reduction.
  • Vladof - Very high fire rate, good recoil reduction, but suffers from much lower accuracy.

The 'shopkeeper' (a recorded voice on all the vending machines), will often spout off something about one brand or another.

Obviously this makes for a lot of customization when it comes to exactly what you're looking for in Borderlands. If you're a firm believer in '1 shot, 1 kill', a Jakobs Sniper Rifle is your best friend. If you're more fond of spray and pray, Torgue or Vladof SMGs are a nice choice.
Of course, an Atlas is always in style, as they tend to be good all around.. if you can find, and afford, one!

And now for the classes!

As I mentioned before, each class has their own specialties, as well as an 'action skill', which is kinda like spells/skills from most other action RPGs, except they only get one, and then 21 skills, in 3 different trees, that are either passive, or auto activate when a certain condition is met.
A quick note on Action Skill cooldown: Cooldown begins when the skill duration ends.

And you, beef stick in the back... I'm not going to make fun of you. Your burps smell of blood, and you growl like a rabid animal.
Brick provides us, in theory, with the requisite melee guy. Unfortunately Borderlands is not meant for melee, so he really tends to end up more like a durable tank who likes to tote close range, high damage guns. His Action Skill is 'Berserk', which provides him with a short duration boost to health regeneration and damage resistance, while making him only attack with his fists.
His skill trees are:
  • Brawler, focused on melee damage dealing, and boosting Rage. With the Brawler tree, Brick can go from an 18 second berserk with a 60 second cooldown, to a 27 second berserk with a 30 second cooldown. Not to mention other benefits such as improved damage.
  • Tank, focused on damage soak, with such things as increased health, increased shield, resist boosts on killing foes, and a shield recharge spike when your shields are depleted.
  • Blaster, mainly focused on dealing explosive damage, Blaster provides benefits mainly to rocket launchers, but also any weapon that deals explosive damage, and has a couple of skills that benefit any weapon.

And what's your story, young lady? What can you do? Perhaps you can bake us all a wonderful cake, haha!
Siren or Lilith. The only female class, and as is typical of RPGs, the female class is the 'rogue' or 'assassin' type. Focusing on moving fast, avoiding direct confrontation as much as possible, she does best with an SMG, or any weapon that deals elemental damage. Lilith's Action Skill is 'Phasewalk' which make her invisible as well as providing a major boost to her run speed, and ends with an energy burst dealing good damage to those around her.
Her skill trees are:
  • Controller, a mixture of self support abilities, and the chance to daze foes. Abilities include a cooldown reduction for Phasewalk (from 36 to 20 seconds). Health regeneration while Phasewalked, and the chance to daze with certain attacks.
  • Elemental, a mixed bag tree, which is focused mainly on elemental damage and resistance, but several other tricks. Skills include increased firing speed, increased damage for the energy burst at the end of Phasewalk, elemental resistance.
  • Assassin, This tree focuses mainly on causing death, mainly melee death, the the final ability granting her an epic sneak attack (capping out at +800% melee damage while phased), the tree also includes a skill that increases phasewalk duration (from 36 to 40 seconds), one that recharges Phasewalk a little bit for every kill (up to 6 seconds per kill), and one that increases your resistance after Phasewalk ends (up to 70% for a few seconds.)

You with the sniper rifle and the crazy mask? You look like a Truxican wrestler moonlighting as a dominatrix, man.
Hunter or Mordecai. In the FPS world Mordecai would be called the 'sniper', in the Fantasy world he would be called the 'ranger'. His main focus is shooting things in the head from halfway across the map. He also supposedly likes revolvers, but I'm more fond of something scopes with a high fire rate as a sidearm (and a shotgun for blowing heads off at close range). Mordecai's Action Skill is 'Bloodwing' a predator that drops in from the sky attacking his target.
His skills trees are:
  • Sniper, focusing on damaging foes, most specifically, blowing their heads off with a sniper rifle, and doing it better, faster and longer between reloads than anyone else. With skills that increase damage, increase critical hit damage, decrease sniper sway, and give a chance to ignore Shields.
  • Rogue, focusing primarily on the Bloodwing, with a side order of generic utility. Mainly the skills buff Bloodwing by letting it attack more, do more damage and increase loot drop.
  • Gunslinger, focusing mainly on pistols and general close in damage. Skills include a chance for a 'double tap' with pistols, improved critical hit damage, improved pistol damage, and one that makes you an even better killer when you kill someone.

And you, soldier man? Are those armor pieces from the Crimson Lance you're wearing?
Soldier or Roldand. The basic, well rounded grunt. His specialties are shotguns and assault rifles, but he does good with just about anything in his hands. If you utterly ignore his Action Skill, you because a fairly durable, fairly self sustaining build that does fair damage. His Action Skill though, the Scorpio Turret, while having the longest recharge in the game (100 seconds, to a 20 second up time), can be boosted to be outright insane. Sadly the best uptime you can get it is 20 seconds up to 50 seconds down, with an extra 5 seconds off every 2 seconds when you shoot a foe.
For Roland, I'm going to do a different format for his skills, due to the trees being split between turret and non, in each tree.
His skill trees are:
  • Infantry, for the Turret, this offers a damage boost, a cooldown reduction per enemy shot, and the ability to shoot rockets. For normal weapons, this offers a global damage boost, an improvement to assault rifles, a shotgun improvement, and a skill that makes you a better killer, when you kill a foe.
  • Support, for the Turret, this offers an ammo recharge for those nearby, a supply drop (up to 1 every 30 seconds), increased recharge, and increased shots fired. For normal weapons, this offers shield improvements and Grenade recharge.
  • Medic, for the Turret, this offers health regen for those nearby, and the chance to revive crippled allies on deployment. Otherwise, it's offers Rolland bullet resistance, more health, increased health regen on kills.. oh and the ability to heal allies when he shoots them. No, I'm not kidding.

Further, there's also the driving portion of the game, which is mostly optional, but quite entertaining and a good way to cover long distances of map quicker, especially when you're exploring new areas. There's something disturbingly satisfying about just bowling through anything that comes after you.. until, that is your care explodes and you die.. >.>

Which leads in to death. Like modern ARPGs and even many FPS, death is not the end. It's merely an inconvenience that leads to you losing money, and getting laughed at by your friends due ot dying to Skagzilla. In Borderlands there are New-U stations, which you upload your DNA to the first one you find, and then, should you die.. for a small fee (I believe a percentage of your money), you get resurrected! Well, cloned, with all your memories and experiences intact is more fitting.
Now that your DNA is registered, you have the best in horrific death and dismemberment insurance! Should an unfortunate fatal incident occur, you 'new you' will appear at the nearest station.
What happens if you don't have the money? No clue, and since you start with $80, and the first death takes $6, and each successive one takes less... I'm not about to spend that much time to try and find out.

Then of course, there are achievements, always..
There's two types:
Steam Achievements, which are standard Steam achievements. A mixture of generic bullshit ones, mixed in with a few that are really achievements.
Challenges, these are ingame, and not exclusive to Steam, which are awarded for meeting certain numeric conditions. Killed X skags, shot X bullets, etc. These are not so much achievements as rewards for how long you've been playing. The only two that are real achievements are 'the 12 days of Pandora' which requires 1-12 of 12 different kill types, and the 'airtime' one, for the jumping car.

As an added note, there are also 4 DLC packs, which come with the Game of the Year edition (making it very much worth the extra money):
The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned: Opens up a new zone which has been over run by zombies.
Mad Moxxies Underdome Riot: Opens up the Underdome, which is an arena full of baddies, but no real story.
The Secret Armor of General Knoxx: Endgame content, bringing us an expansion of the story, level cap increase, and lots of new shit.
Claptrap's Robot Revolution: More endgame content, with an even more humorous bent than the rest of the game. The Claptraps are revolting!

My only REAL complaint though about Borderlands, is that without modifying the game, you cannot skip the 'opening sequence' for new characters, and it takes a good 3 or 4 minutes. No real problem, but really annoying for someone who likes experimenting with new characters.

"All right back there, time to wake up! It's a beautiful day, full of opportunity!"

Availability and price: (despite being over $20, the GotY is listed, simply because the DLCs are $10 each)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Notice of delay

There WILL be a post this week.
It's just going to be late.. I wasn't feeling it most of the week after getting the news of my Grandmother passing away, finally got started on a review Sunday night.

My review of Borderlands is about 1/2 done at the moment, I'll try to get it up by end of day Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Genre: Casual, Driving (?), Music Driven
Developer: Dylan Fitterer
Publisher: Dylan Fitterer via Steam
Released: 2008

Zolgar paid: $9.99
Beaten: there is no beating Audiosurf
Zolgar's rating: 8/10
Replayability: High

Audiosurf is a very hard game to describe because when you try to explain it, it just sounds stupid. I have never seen it described in such a way that made me go "I want to play that!", even the game's official 'sale's pitch' doesn't. Instead of failing miserably at my own words, I'm going to cheat and use the official description:
Audiosurf is a music-adapting puzzle racer where you use your own music to create your own experience. The shape, the speed, and the mood of each ride is determined by the song you choose.
You earn points for clustering together blocks of the same color on the highway, and compete with others on the internet for the high score on your favorite songs.

See what I mean? A music adapting whozawhata? It sounds potentially cool, but mostly on the curiosity factor. Thankfully they offer a demo to sate said curiosity factor. It's a lot better than it sounds though.

Really, I think that kinda sums up my review. “It's better than it sounds, try the demo and see!” so yeah.. I think I'm done.. *saunters off to get a samvich*....... *wanders back* What, you're still here? Fiine, I guess I have to write a real review.

The description says it's a puzzle-racer. What does that mean? Well, it means that they have to declare it a puzzle game because you match color boxes, heaven forbid it be called a SKILL game, because that's what it is. It's not a puzzle game, and it's not a racer because you're always going to finish in the exact same amount of time.

I'd call it a skill game with driving elements. You pilot your 'car' on a 3 lane track (with a shoulder on either side), on which spawn colored blocks, 5 colors to be precise, worth varying amounts of points. When you collect and connect at least 3 blocks of the same color, they clear from your board and give you points based off the number and color you cleared. There are an assortment of powerups as well, such as 'paint' which turns every block on your grid the same color, 'organize' which sorts your blocks to be most efficient, and a score multiplier.

Your track is a unique track derived from the specific music file you decided to load: the speed at which you move, the twists and turns in the track, and even the block spawn, are all calculated by the song. This means that you can readily choose the feel of your game. Want something insane and intense? Just pop in Dragonforce or some other Speed Metal or the like. Want to wind down and relax? Just put in something soft and mellow. Want to try and get motion sick? Pop in something that has a beat like how Captain Kirk talked. You.. know.. like.. this.

In addition though, there are 6 'characters' you can play, each one with their own traits that make them unique to play, altering the gameplay further.

  • Mono: Mono changes the game a lot. Mono's track has no shoulders (except in the casual version), and only two colors of blocks. Colored blocks, which change color depending on the intensity of the song, and gray blocks. In true block-match 'puzzle' game fashion, grey blocks are bad and you don't want to hit them, in this instance they clog up space in your match bar and take a while to go away, also lowering your over all score. For each colored block you grab in a row you earn an increasing number of points (capping at 200) just for picking them up, this is reset when you hit a gray block. Due to the difficulty Mono has of getting the other bonuses, he has a special bonus of an extra +30% to your score for hitting no gray blocks.
    Mono's special moves are: Left click: Wings, gather from all 3 lanes at once (including grays!), right click: Jump, leap over blocks if you can't get around them. (Elite mode loses jump in favor of shurikens, which damage gray blocks in your inventory, due to them not decaying over time.)
  • Vegas: As the name kinda implies, Vegas is the gambler, and is based mostly on luck, and knowing when and how to press your luck. The trick to Vegas, is trying to hold out until you get something good to give you a nice large-scoring move. Just watch that you don't over fill!
    Vegas' specials are: Left click/move to shoulder: Shuffle existing blocks in grid. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Right Click: Over time, Vegas will random generate a power up, a right click will use one. She can store up to 3.
  • Eraser Man: A bit of an odd one, and possibly the most tactically minded, able to build up some very impressive chain reactions, with skill and planning.
    Eraser Man's specials are: Left Click: erase all blocks from your grid of the color you just hit. Right Click: Undo last erase. (blocks will return in the same column, in the first open slot as if you hit them again)
  • Pointman: Another tactical one, but somewhat less so. Pointman picks up blocks or specials and can save them for later, or drop them in a different column. Basic planning can net some nice chains or better matches.
    Pointman's specials are: Left Click: pick up block/special you just hit (up to 3 can be stored). Right Click: Drop block/special in current column. (If more than 1 is stored, you will drop the most recent.)
  • Pusher: Lacks the tactical versatility of Pointman, and the massive potential of Eraser Man. Pusher tries to appeal to those who like to plan ahead, but he's far too spontaneous for that, what with only being able to push blocks left or right.
    Pusher's specials are: Left Click: nudge block you just hit one space left. Right Click: nudge block you just hit one space right.
  • Double Vision: I have one word for playing Double Vision “bwah?” Double Vision is designed to be a two-player game, or one player who is just stupidly coordinated. DV has 4 lanes, and 2 cars. One car is in the left two lanes and controlled by the keyboard. The other is in the right two lanes and controlled by the mouse. Bonus points are awarded for matches that cross the center line. DV has no specials.

There are also 3 difficulty settings, though, Casual only offers Mono, Pointman and Double Vision, while Elite offers ll of them except Vegas (This is a slap in the face for me, as I enjoy Vegas the most), then there's also Iron mode, which moves faster, and it's game over if you over fill, instead of the normal loss of points.

There is also complete control over the colors of the game, as well as the ability to apply certain effects to the screen, and there's an assortment of use created mods and utilities out there for further customization.

For a casual game, Audiosurf offers a lot of options for how you want to play it.

Audiosurf also offers Achievements. 18 of them, in fact. Guess what? I'm not going to bitch about them, seriously! Audiosurf is one of the few games where I do not feel a single achievement is a pointless, worthless achievement that is tantamount to saying “congratulations, you just opened a door!” All 18 of the achievements are real achievements, and while some are royal pains in the ass to get, they're not devoted to stupidly long amounts of time. No achievement in AS has been earned by more than 80% of the players, and one has only been earned by 0.2% (I believe it can only be earned in certain songs, with Pointman or Pusher, and a lot of luck.)

If I still haven't convinced you that Audiosurf is worth your time (and money), then seriously, go play the demo. Remember, the first hit is always free.

*noms samvich* Vas? You really want a TL:DR now? I already gave you one.. Ah well, fine.
“It's better than it sounds, try the demo and see!”

Availability and price:

Now lemme enjoy my samvich!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beat Hazard Ultra

Genre: Arcade, Action (space-shooter), Music Driven.
Developer: Cold Beam Games
Publisher: Cold Beam Games via Steam
Released: 2010

Zolgar paid: $3.74
Beaten: There is no 'beating' Beat Hazard
Zolgar's rating: 8/10
Replayability: High

There are two versions of Beat Hazard, technically. Beat Hazard Classic and Beat Hazard Ultra, they are mostly the same, with Ultra having more enemies and more shinyness. As such, my review will mostly be focused on Ultra.

Beat Hazard is an arcade-style Space Shooter in the style of Asteroids, and if you had to click the link to find out what Asteroids was, congratulations, you have made me feel old. Simply put you fly your ship around the screen blasting enemy ships and flying rocks trying to kill you, while you collect power ups.

As far as an Asteroids Clone goes, it's actually pretty good. A lot of enemies to face, both in-game pickups to boost your power, as well as upgrades to your vessle that carry through your game. Of course there are also assorted game-play modes, and multiplayer for if you feel like it. Paired with nicely polished, very shiny graphics, you get a game that is well worth playing.

However what stands out about Beat Hazard is it's engine. Music powers Beat Hazard, and any music you feel like playing from your computer in fact. The tempo of a song determines how fast enemies move and how fast their attacks move, and in general how many foes there are. Unfortunately it also determines how fast you shoot, and seems to adjust the power of your attacks, too.

This means though, if you're wanting something slow and mellow, very relaxing to play, you can just hit a soft slow song, but if, instead, you want something insane and fast paced to play you can pop in Dragonforce or the like, allowing you to control how your game plays out. As an added bonus, you're guaranteed background music that doesn't suck.

The bigger music collection you have, the more options you have and the more replayability Beat Hazard gives you.

Beat Hazard offers 4 main gameplay modes:
"Standard", One track at a time, try to avoid dying much, rack up a high score and get money.
"Survival", It plays through one album, or folder of music, and if you survive it all, starts over again. Last as long as you can!
"Boss Rush", Like Survival, only every wave is bosses. See how many waves you can get! (great source of money)
"Chill Out", The mode for if you don't want to worry about death and score and stuff. It plays like Survival, except you have infinite lives, and several perks automatically maxed out.

There is also 2-player co-op or Head to Head, available either through an ingame server, or playing on the same rig (requires at least 1 game controller that the game believes is an Xbox controller).

For the completionist there are a few extras:
23 Perks to unlock. Perks alter the game, usually in your favor, some add a spawn of random powerups at the start of the game, some increase your score multiplier, others give you new equipment. Only a limited number can be active at any time though, unfortunately, so it requires you to decide exactly what you want to be able to excell at. While Perks are unlocked by gaining Ranks, you have to purchase the Perk to be able to activate it, then you can use money to further upgrade your perk to make it more effective.

26 Ranks to achieve, ranks are based off your total score. Every time you go up a rank, you unlock a new Perk, although if you go up more than 1 rank at a time, you only unlock 1 perk still.

43 Achievements, by now if you've read many of my reviews you know I like to mock achievements, because they're anything but. Beat Hazard is really no exception, there are a few achievements that are 'real' achievements, but most of them are just the same crap that passes for achievements in every other game, playing the game how it's supposed to be played, or playing for an arbitrary amount of time. Thankfully there's only 43.

One further note about the two versions of the game. You might be tempted to just buy Beat Hazard classic as it's only $9.99, but it really lacks the polish and options of Ultra. And if you consider, the Ultra upgrade is $4.99, and the iTunes file support is $1.00, combined that would be $15.98, while Beat Hazard Complete is $12.99 with everything.

"Beat Hazard, Asteroids' raver of a little brother."

Availability and price:
Steam: $12.99
XBox Live: 400 points
(I am unsure if the XBL version is Ultra or not)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sacred Gold

Genre: RPG (Action, 'Click Fest/Diablo Clone')
Developer: Ascaron Entertainment
Publisher: Strategy First
Released: 2005

Zolgar paid: $9.99
Beaten: No, ~30-50% of game
Zolgar's rating: 7/10
Replayability: Moderate to High

Sacred Gold is another one in my never ending quest for another epic time sink of an Action RPG. It ranks pretty high for me, too. In fact I would say it is in my top-5 all time Action RPGs (In no particular order: Diablo 2, Titan Quest, Sacred Gold, Sacred 2 and, Torchlight, all for different reasons). Sacred Gold is on that list because it's a good hybridization between a "real" RPG (like Fallout or Arcanum) and an "action" RPG (like Diablo or Loki).

Sacred Gold is a combination of:
  • Sacred
  • Sacred Plus
  • Sacred: Underworld
All rolled in to one nice neat package. Sacred was, of course, the original game, Sacred Plus was a free add on which added a small amount of content to the game (these days it would be a $5-$10 DLC), and Sacred Underworld was the requisite expansion that added another campaign, 2 new classes and a few fun shinies, and a lot of side quests.

Now unlike almost every other expansion out there, Underworld didn't add more endgame content, but adds a new mid-level+ campaign, that I've honestly never played (despite having this game for several years and logging far too many hours in it), so bear that in mind with this review.

There is one thing Sacred does extremely well, that few other RPGs of it's sort can even try to boast: Open World, and I do mean open. There are a few places you will find, early on, where they won't let you go there until you've furthered the story, but they are few and far between (according to one source, approximately 70% of the world is accessible at level 1). This makes it very easy to forget about the main quest as you're sauntering around the world, killing things and taking their stuff.

I will be honest here, it is actually too easy to forget about the main quest and get distracted by "ooh someplace to explore, things to kill, ph47 13w7z." (Fat Loot, for those of you who don't speak 1337), especially because the story is not put forth the way it usually is in video games of this sort. Normally a game of this sort is "I'm a Big Damn Hero, and I'm going to destroy the evil!" Sacred though, treats you more like a normal RPG of the era. "I'm a nobody who got roped in to this and proved to excel in combat so I get trusted with more important missions and eventually save the world."

The main storyline of Sacred is:
A great Sakkara demon was conjured into existence by the necromancer Shaddar. The conjuring went wrong, and the Sakkara demon is now loose in the world of Ancaria. The heroes must find the five elements of Ancaria (wind, fire, earth, water, void) and use them to defeat the monster. Each hero has different objectives along the way, but eventually, they all lead up to this one final quest.

But, I didn't even know that until I read the Wikipedia article. Seriously, despite all the hours I've put in to the game, I didn't know the 'goal'. What I knew was more like:
Some mage botched a demon summoning spell (in a cinematic reminiscent of the one from Diablo: Hellfire), which seems to have nothing to do with the fact that there's war in Ancaria and the Hero gets roped in to aiding the King for one reason or another (which depends on your character of choice). It's probably going to end up with me killing the demon.

Of course, there are also side quests. In total there are over 300 quests in Sacred. That's a lot of pointless distractions. These are the typical RPG quests of "Kill 15 Orcs"" or "My sheep ran away, find it for me" or "bring me my Dingerwhipple". Side quests award Gold, runes, XP, Items.. they're well worth doing, and also very distracting.

Between quests and for quests, and probably just because, you will be killing things. Lots of things. Combat is simple, click/hold foe until it's dead. Right click to use special ability to make things dead faster. If you kill enough things in one 'zone', without leaving the zone (or game), a special zone boss will spawn. Unfortunately 'enough' is between 5000 and 8000 depending on the zone (you can tell by hitting Tab look at your map), and I'm a little too ADD to do th- Ooh shiny!

On combat, I've heard many people say "Kiting is king", I.. don't agree. Even on horseback, I found Kiting to be slow and ineffective, especially when compared to a melee fighter who can travel long distances quickly. My preferred method of mass slaughter is herd and AoE. Although I'll admit for some fights (like Dragons) kiting could be useful if you don't have a powerhouse build.

A quick side note: Some foes actually feel down right epic. There are giant spiders that are considerably larger than your horse (which is done to a good scale), and Dragons! Dragons are few and far between, but when you fight them.. you know it! Dragons are massive, destructive powerhouses. Though if you learn their pattern you can melee them with ease.

For it's era, Sacred had a lot of nice little 'convenience' features over it's competitors. Such as 'click and hold', instead of 'click click click click' for attacking. Horses for quicker travel (and combat.. sorta). A 'collect all' button, that will have you walk around the screen and grab everything on the ground. Level-Scaling foes (which ties very nicely to the open world).

It also offers 8 character classes, a number which I believe is only beaten by Titan Quest (45 classes), and these aren't your generic classes either, while some definitely have the flair of "warrior" or "mage" or "paladin", they all have their own unique twists and styles.
  • BattleMage, Male: This one is pretty straight forward, a mix of melee and magic. Two main playstyles exist for him, using magic to buff, killing with weapons, or explodinate enemies with copious amounts of spells. The BattleMage has a total of 20 Combat Arts, dispersed in 5 'pools': Earth, Fire, Air, Water and, Life. If those aren't self explanatory to you, please stop playing video games.
  • Deamon, Female: One of the two classes with Underworld, the Deamon is an interesting, and fun, class. She is a hybrid melee fighter/spell caster, whose spells tend to focus on fire damage and general mayhem. The Deamon has a total of 12 Combat Arts, broken in to 2 'pools': Transformations and Hell Magic. Hell Magic is your run of the mill attack spells, while Transformations each put the Deamon in a special form which provides resistances and a special attack.
  • Dark Elf, Male: "Assassin" suits the Dark Elf best, he is a mixture of fast melee combat, poison, and battlefield control. He's a bit squishy, but he makes up for this with speed and the ability to stop foes from hitting him. The Dark Elf has 16 combat arts, broken down in to 2 'pools': Combat Arts and Traps. Traps are battlefield control, mostly, providing such things as AoE stuns, blinds, etc. While Combat Arts are a series of weapon attacks and defenses.
  • Dwarf, Male: The other class from Underworld, the Dwarf is another odd one. He's a mix of melee and ranged combat, with a side order of crafting, trading and item-hounding. They're also the only class that can use guns, and can't ride a horse. Dwarves have a total of 15 Combat arts from 2 'pools': Combat Arts and Dwarven Technologies. Dwarven Technologies is a mixed bag of tricks, land mines, item finding, flame thrower.. too much to try and put in to a few words. Combat Arts are once again defenses and weapon attacks.
  • Gladiator, Male: The 'warrior' or 'barbarian' of the lot. Touch as nails and hits like a Mack truck. Give him heavy armor, a big weapon, and a few health potions and watch him go. The Gladiator has 11 Combat Arts, all of which are focused around one simple thing: Kill. He has exactly 2 Combat Arts that cause no damage, one that's an AoE knockback, and one that's a self buff.
  • Seraphim, Female: "Paladin" or some other sort of holy warrior comes to mind with the Seraphim. Much like the Deamon, she is a mixture of spell casting and melee abilities, though her playstyle is quite different. The Seraphim has 17 Combat Arts, coming from 2 'pools': Her pools are not named so I will call them 'Combat Arts' and 'Celestial Magic'. Celestial Magic is a mixture of Holy attack spells, and defensive spells. While Combat Arts, I'm sure you've figured that out by now.
  • Vampire, Female: Thank the FSM, she doesn't sparkle. Possibly the most unique class in Sacred. She is a dual-form melee fighter/summoner. She has a Human form, in which she's a Knight, competent in melee combat and fairly durable, and a Vampire form, where she becomes a melee powerhouse, stronger, faster, and progressively dealing more and more damage, of course, she also takes damage if she is in the sun. She has a total of 16 Combat Arts, in 2 'pools': Combat Arts and Vampire Arts. Vampires arts provide a mixture of summons, specialized attacks and Control effects. Combat arts.. Yeah, you know the drill.
  • Wood Elf, Female: A Ranger with a side order of Druid. A very squishy character, but the best at fighting at range, she specializes in bows, and only uses melee combat if she is desperate. Extremely weak initially, later in the game she gets some wicked capabilities. She has 16 combat Arts, broken in to 2 'pools': Combat Arts and Magic. Her Magic is a very mixed bag, a self heal, a summon, battlefield control, buffs, makes for a very versatile character, when you learn to use it all. Meanwhile, her Combat Arts actually warrant a comment: Most of her Combat Arts are bow-only, creating extra damage through special arrow types, one of which summons spiders when it hits. Seriously.

In order to progress your Combat Arts, you need to find Runes, these work in a similar fashion to the Spell Books of Diablo (oldschool reference), you 'use' them, and increase the listed combat art by one, making it do more damage (or whatever it does), but as a trade off, it takes longer to regenerate.

You can also create Combos, which allow you to activate multiple Combat Arts with one click, however, this often leads to a greatly increased regeneration time, and has a few annoying quirks. I've personally never been very fond of the combo system in Sacred. (Now the combo system in Sacred 2... well that's for another review.)

In Sacred 'Mana' doesn't exist, all combat Arts have a set Recharge time, which is often ties to other Combat Arts recharges, too.

Each character also has an assortment of Skills, such as Weapon Lore, Armor Use, Dual Wielding, etc. These skills are chosen by the player as they level up, alter the characters capabilities by doing things such as decreasing recharge time, increasing defense and resist, increasing damage, etc. Of course, there are also your stats, as well, which obviously do things like increase your max Hit Points, increase your damage, decrease poison effects on you, etc.

These factors mean that the odds of two players creating identical characters (unless they're using a guide) is pretty slim. Even 2 Dual Wielding, Battle Deamon focused Deamons, are likely to end up very different based on the desires of the player in question.

Then, of course, we cannot forget the gear. Gear is why most of us play these games. Kill, get gear to kill more to get better gear to kill more to get better gear... you get the idea. Sacred offers the gear hounds plenty of treats, like many of it's competitors you can tell the 'quality' of a gear by it's color:
  • White: Normal.
  • Blue: Magic, common.
  • Yellow: Magic, rare.
  • Gold: Magic, unique.
  • Green: Magic, set.
I will, once again, assume you've never played a game like this.
Normal items are, just that, normal. At low levels, these are what you're mostly using, a blue drop is a good drop!
Common magic items will become your staple pretty fast though, these only offer a few attributes, but they're still better than normal ones.
Rare items will become your staple mid-late game, providing a good number of benefits, ironically, Rare items are actually more unique than Uniques, and often surpass them.
Uniques would be better listed as 'Named' items, these are items which have a 'lore' to them, if you will. Or atleast look like they should. Often Uniques have many, powerful attributes on them.
Set items are, as it sounds, items which are part of a set. On their own they flucuate between Common and Unique in power, usually hovering in the Rare range, but as more items from the set are equipped, you gain more benefits, making them often the most powerful pieces of gear in the game. Set and Uniques will only become your staple after many hours of gameplay, and several playthroughs.

Really though, that's not enough, because the items also have sockets in them, the number and quality of the sockets is randomly determined, and allows you to vastly improve your gear by dropping things like Runes, Rings, and other items in them. This leads to it often being the case that an item with weaker stats, but more sockets is actually the better item.

Unfortunately, in a game where many of the items dropped cannot be used, there is no means to transfer items between characters. There is only one way to do it, and that requires starting a new game, which is obviously exceptionally vexing if you're playing multiple characters side by side.

Lastly, like other games of it's ilk, there's a system of "beat the game, start over in a tougher difficulty." Unlike most, there are 5 settings however:
  • Bronze, 'easy'.
  • Silver, 'normal'
  • Gold, 'difficult'
  • Platinum, 'hard'
  • Niobium, 'insane'

Bronze and Silver are both unlocked at the start. Beating Silver unlocks Gold, and so on from there.
Each progressive difficulty level, of course, the enemies get harder, but also the drops and XP get better. If you have far more patience than most human beings, you can reach level 216.

A word on the Bronze/Silver thing:
The difficulty level between Bronze and Silver is a little irritating. Bronze is stupidly easy to the point it's boring. Yet Silver is a bitch to start out in for most classes.

Many say that you should take Bronze to 20ish before venturing in to Silver, I could see that, maybe.. except for the fact that leveling in Bronze is annoyingly slow, and the foes are no challenge at all. Personally, I suck it up and deal with the early problems of Silver, or at most hit level 10 in Bronze.

I almost forgot, Multiplayer! Sacred Gold does support Multiplayer, when it was released it had a system much akin to Blizzard's Battle.Net, however this is no longer around. The only options for multiplayer now via LAN (real or virtual).

"A reviewer once called this 'Diablo for masochists', I say it's 'Diablo for real RPG players'..... wait, same difference."

Availability and price:
Amazon (digital): $9.99 ($4.99 at the time of writing.)
Amazon (physical): ~$8.00

Friday, August 5, 2011

Freebie Friday: GemCraft: Labyrinth

Genre: Tower Defense
Developer: Game in a Bottle
Publisher: Armor Games
Release year: 2011

Freebie type: Flash
Paid option: Premium Edition upgrade: $5 US.

Zolgar paid: $5
Beaten: No
Zolgar's rating: 8/10
Replayability: High

So after bashing Sanctum a bit a couple weeks ago, I decided for the next Freebie I actually needed to do what I feel is one of the best Tower Defense games on the market, especially for the price.

GemCraft: Labyrinth is the 3rd in a series, unlike many Flash game series though, it's not a case of “it's the exact same game just reskinned”, yet the developers managed to still keep the feel, style and playability, but simply improve on the design.

Now, if you've played a lot of Tower Defense, you're probably sitting there wondering what is so great about GemCraft: Labyrinth (and the rest of the series, in fact), because after all.. all TDs are basically the same game. Honestly, that's kind of true, they're all basically the same game.. but saying that is like saying “All first person shooters are basically the same game.” They all use a predefined formula, but those that stand out are ones that find a way to deviate from that formula.

Take Sanctum, as a TD is follows the formula to the letter, but it then lets you take part in the action in FPS mode. It's not, however, the first TD give you a 'player character' that assists the towers. I forget what it was called, but there's a Platformer TD that you have a gunman in it as well as the towers.

The GemCraft series deviates from the formula quite a lot, and Labyrinth shows it the best.

First, the game actually has a story! We're not talking a generic “OMGz0rz the Creep(tm) is attacking your Convenient Plot Device(tm) following a set path, use these nonsensical weapons you shouldn't have anyways to protect it!” Especially Labyrinth gives you an actual story progression as you play through the game. The gist of the story is that you are a student of the GemCrafting school of Wizardry (not taught at Hogwarts, no), which is the discipline of creating weaponized gems. You discover the source of the creatures that have attacked, and nearly destroyed, the village you were protecting.. and go after it. I know, I know it sounds generic.. but it gives you a lot more than that as you play through.

Then, there's a bit of an RPG element to the game, or more to the point what the game industry calls an RPG element. Because clearly “Leveling Up” makes an RPG (you know, instead of things like.. choices and consequences.. OK, I won't start ranting about that). As you beat a map, you gain experience, this XP is determined by how good you do, as you gain XP you level up. Levels grant you skill points, skills have passive effects on the game, anywhere from granting you more mana, bonus to damage, bonus to Gem attributes, reduced creation costs, etc. Also, it allows you to reset your skills at will, to try something else.

The number of Towers (“Gems”) you get is, in and of itself rather impressive. This isn't the classic TD fodder towers (slow high damage, fast low damage, explosion damage blahblahblah), no sir. While some of the Gems have standard TD tower attributes, others are completely unique to GemCraft, and their 'special' always improve as the gems get higher in level.
  • Chain Hit: Moderate base damage with a chance to hit multiple creatures, damaging all of them.
  • Multiple Damage: Decent base damage and has a chance to add a multiplier to the damage the gem deals.
  • Blood Bound: Low base damage but takes a percentage of the total kills a gem has and adds that to the damage of the gem.
  • Mana Gathering: This is your standard 'extra money tower', it generates mana (your 'money') with every hit, deals low damage of course.
  • Poison: This one is pretty self explanatory, slightly low 'hit damage' with a DOT (Damage Over Time, for you non-slang-savvy folk.)
  • Shock: Fair base damage and has a set chance to Shock (freeze in place) a foe for a set amount of time.
  • Slow: Also fairly self explanatory, decent base damage.
  • Armor Tearing: A semi-common one in TDs, this one reduces the armor of it's target, making it take more damage from towers, deals low damage on it's own.
You might be thinking “Well that alone isn't much.” and you know what? You're right. You can also combine gems, not once but twice. (Well, you can actually combine gems as much as you want, but after 3 type gems they get weaker, and only the dominant 3 gems work.) When you combine gems, the multi-type gems gain a bonus to damage, range and attack, but also gets a penalty to it's specials. To counter that? It has multiple specials. So you can do things like:
  • Chain Hit/Multi Damage/Blood Bound: This gem is honestly broken. It deals multiple damage, hits multiple foes, and for every kill it deals more damage.
  • Slow/Mana Gathering/Armor Tearing: These are the perfect companion to the above-noted brokenness. Slows your foes down, makes 'em take more damage, and give you more mana to boot. Especially if you happen to use them in Traps (I'll explain later).
  • Slow/Chain Hit/Poison: You can't tell me that's not a killer combo.
And that's just scratching the surface, you can create .. well, if my brother-in-law and I are correct: 129 different towers. (Please feel free to provide me with math that shows I'm wrong, but don't say I have it wrong if you don't have the equation to back it up.)

Next up on the list, you also get more than just Towers. You also get Traps, Shrines, Amplifiers, and Bombs.
  • Towers: Are obviously what you drop the Gems in to in order to make them shoot at the Creep.
  • Traps: Are akin to towers in that you place Gems in them to damage the Creep, but in this instance they are placed in the pathway and have a fixed, very small, range. The Gem has it's damage reduced, but it's special (or Specials, for multi-gems) increased.
  • Amplifiers: Also get Gems placed in them, but they do not directly harm the Creep, instead any Tower or Trap adjacent (including diagonally) receives a buff to damage, range, firing speed and it's special(s).
  • Bombs: Say something slips past your last tower, you can grab a Gem, turn it in to a Bomb and drop it on the Creep to do an AoE explosion for decent damage. The damage and number of critters the explosion can hit is based off the tier of the Gem you use.
  • Shrines: Shrines are slightly strange. These deal damage in a predefined pattern (either an AoE, or straight lines on the N/S and E/W axises), based on the tier of Gem your sacrifice to them, in addition they have a cool-down time so you cannot simply spam them.

Now most TDs have like 10-30 maps, maybe 50 levels with lots of duplicating maps. Not CG:L, 165 (I think) standard story maps, plus 4 challenge maps that can be unlocked, and so far none I have found have been exact carbon-copies of another, though obviously there are only so many viable patterns before you start to run in to “this looks kinda familiar.” Each map also has default Gems 'unlocked' for it, but for a bit of Mana you can unlock additional Gems for use for that fight.

There are also your Battle Settings. Say the game isn't hard enough for you, or you want to get a bit more XP, as you level up, you unlock modifiers for battles. 20 modifiers in total (for the free version), which add more monsters, add more waves, make monsters stronger, etc.

Lastly, there's the Achievement system. By now, if you've read many of my reviews, you'll realize I like to mock achievements. GC:L is not exempt. It does have a lot of meaningless “Congratulations, you blew your nose!” achievements, I'm sorry “Amulets”. What it does well though, is it breaks them down in to different categories. One of which is actual honest to the FSM achievements! Radical concept, eh?

Now, no game is perfect.. CG:L is no exception to that rule:
The Creep is simply generic. A few models, 'tough slow' 'weak fast' 'swarm' 'normal' and 'boss' monsters. Not even flying monsters. Everything that went in to the rest of this game, I would have really liked to see a little more creativity with the critters.

The balance of the Towers is .. slightly skewed. Know that combo I mentioned back there? Blood Bound/Chain Hit/Multi Damage? While I was writing this, I was also playing GC:L, and I was on Endurance mode.. I got past wave 150 with one of those towers (surrounded by 8 amplifiers), not even any traps. By the end it was doing something like 20,000 damage per hit, and hitting at least 2 foes every shot. I've had other combos prove good, but nothing is as good as that.. and it's just insane if you pair it with mana/armor tearing/slow or shock traps.

I feel certain features are lacking in the Free version. In order to get Endurance Mode (unlimited waves), you have to purchase the Premium Edition, and most of the Challenge Amulets required Endurance Mode. The previously mentioned 4 unlockable maps? To get those, you have to get all of the Challenge Amulets.

It moves slow. I can comfortably keep up with the game on 'Fast Forward'. It really needs another tier of speed that makes things move even faster.

If you purchase the Premium Edition, you are still forced to play online, logged in to one website or another.

Not a lot of detractors though, especially not for a game you can play absolutely free of charge.

Finally, a word on the Premium Edition:
Honestly, I was on the fence about purchasing it for two reasons. First, it seemed it would slightly off-balance the game, and second.. it's a Flash game, which I have to play in my Browser on Armor Games. If I have no internet, or Armor Games goes down.. I have no game. The factor that made me decide to buy it was deciding that I had already gotten more than $5 worth of enjoyment without even paying for it, and I am a firm believer in supporting Indy developers.

The Premium Edition doesn't even throw the game balance off much, though it does make it a lot easier to level up, and start out if you buy it before you start playing.
It gives you 30 extra skill points (doesn't mean much after about level 30, before that it could be really useful though.)
It gives you access to 9 new skills (some are useful, so are not so much), none of which are exceptionally game-breaking.
Lastly: it open up an extra 10 Battle Settings, these include Endurance Mode, Tenfold monsters, Bosses Only, and 7 more almost as challenging.

Jokes about The Sorcerer's Stone or Family Jewels will not be tolerated.”

Available from:
Armor Games
Game in a Bottle

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dino D-Day

Genre: FPS (Multiplayer, team-based)
Developer: 800 North and Digital Ranch
Publisher: 800 North and Digital Ranch via Steam
Released: 2011

Zolgar paid: $14.99 (for 4 copies)
Beaten: N/A
Zolgar's rating: 5/10
Replayability: Since you can't 'beat' it, you I suppose you're never 'replaying'?

This is one of those games that when I first saw it, I busted up laughing and knew I would have to try despite my general aversion to FPS. Then of course I forgot all about it, until Steam ran a 'free weekend', so I tried it. That free weekend happened to coincide with a 50% off sale, which happened to be shortly following the devs decision to half the price.. so I bought it, too.

Now, you can't mean to tell me you've never been looking at a history book, reading about World War II and thought “Maaan, what if they had dinosaurs? That would make this history stuff worth reading about!” and then spent your history class daydreaming about Nazis riding dinosaurs, instead of reading about the concentration camps.

Well, now you can stop daydreaming and start fighting! Join the Allies and fight against Nazi Super-Dino-Soldiers! Or, you can side with the Nazis and BE one of the Super-Dino-Soldiers!
...Maybe after a long weekend of playing Dino D-Day you'll be able to pay attention when they try to teach you about Auschwitz. (Depressing read, you have been warned.)

The premise of Dino D-Day is pretty simple:
Jurassic Park, only with Nazis instead of a crazy old scientist, and taking over the world instead of an amusement park.
Though there's a nod to JP in one of the bits of 'flavor text' from the games website:
I am astonished that the promised recreational park featuring these noble beasts did not materialize, even though Mister Goebbels sent us convincing tickets of admission and discount coupons to the park gift shoppe. However, it appears now that this was a well planned deception. I now believe that Hitler has planned all along to use these dinosaurs for evil, and that there shall be no park in our time.

Let's be honest though.. Nazis+Dinosaurs.. who needs anything more?

As of writing the review there are 7 playable characters for each side.

For the Axis we have:
  • Streicher, an assault trooper equipped with a Mauser K98 (bolt-action infantry rifle), an MP-40 (machine gun), grenades, and a knife. He's a grunt, an elite grunt mind you, but still a grunt.
  • Hissman, a sniper equipped with a scoped Mauser K98, a Luger (semi-auto pistol), grenades, and a knife. He can also call down a kamikaze pterodactyl rigged with explosives.
  • Von Graff, a .. veterinarian!? Armed with an MP-44 (Assault Rifle), a Luger, a med-kit, and a knife. He can heal his wounded allies, warm or cold-blooded, or toss them med-kits to use when they need them.
  • Velociraptor, if you don't know what a Velociraptor is, go watch Jurassic Park. Now. I'll wait. … .. .. OK, anyways where was I? In combat, you have 2 options, claw your opponents, or pounce them. Clawing does good damage, pouncing is an auto kill. You main weakness? No armor.
  • Desmatosuchus, “Tankasaurus”. Seriously, heavily armored and armed with a cannon that fires explosive projectiles. This dino is basically the 'easy button'. Though it IS slow as all hell and can't jump.
  • Dilophosaurus, unfortunately this dino doesn't take a cue from JP, it doesn't have a frilled neck and spit poison. It claws it's foes, charges them, and it can pick enemies or goats up and throw them as a weapon. When in doubt, throw a goat.
  • Stygimoloch, a fairly well rounded dino, average speed and durability and equipped with a machine gun.

On certain maps, the Axis also obtains a T-Rex, which is big, slow, hard to kill and equipped with dual machine guns that mow down everything in it's path.

Then for the Allies we have:
  • Hardgrave, a grunt equipped with an M1 Garand (Semi-automatic infantry rifle), a Colt .45 (I don't even need to explain), Frag grenades, and his fists. If Hardgrave scores enough kills he can 'rage': Unarmed combat, increased damage, increased damage resist.
  • Spencer, a grunt equipped with a Tommy Gun (Do you need to ask?), a Colt .45, Sticky bombs (self explanatory, I hope), and his fists. Spencer can also call in an artillery strike.
  • Crossley, heavy weapons. Carries a shotgun, a PIAT (anti-tank weapon), smoke grenades, and his fists.
  • Vike, sniper. Equipped with a Scoped Mosin-Nagant (Infantry and Sniper rifle), Nagant Revolver, a dead rabbit!?, and her fists. Vike can lob the dead rabbit on to the battle field in order to distract a velociraptor to be so she can kill it safely.
  • Brun, medic. Equipped with a STEN (machine gun), P38 (pistol), medkit and, you guessed it, her fists. Brun is pretty good as a 'run and gun' character due to having a decent full auto main weapon, and the ability to heal her allies is a nice touch.. if her player uses it.
  • Frank, something of a tank, equipped with a BAR (automatic rifle), a Flechette gun (a gun that fires a scatter shot of blades), frag genades, and his fists.
  • Trigger, Allies only dino. A Protoceratops equipped with a machine gun. Basically a re-skin of Stygimoloch.

Now, the first problem we see is: Axis has 4 dinos, Allies have 1, and honestly, who wants to play a silly human? On servers that don't autobalance, this leads to Axis outnumbering Allies frequently.

As well, the balance between Axis and Allies is slightly skewed. The Axis generally feels a tiny bit more powerful, but what shows even more is that the Axis characters all work fairly well solo while for the Allies to really shine they need good solid teamwork.
Problem is? Axis also shine with teamwork.

Balance aside, another major problem with Dino D-Day is it's learning curve. I thought that I was just having problems because I haven't played a FPS in ages.. nope, the controls are not entirely intuitive, and and most of the classes (including most of the dinosaurs) have quirky issues for trying to learn how to play them.
Paired with the lack of any form of single-player/training/practice options and you will find that you spend a LOT of time dead at first.

I will also address a complaint that I have read many times on the game's forum:
They're selling an unfinished MOD as a full-fledged retail release game!

First, it's not a mod, it just uses the Source Engine, though it's original release was as a mod to 'test the waters' so to speak, to see if there was interest in the idea.

As for it being 'unfinished' and 'marketed as a full game', both of those are completely, 100% true. The developers have said, many times, that the game isn't finished. They're constantly working on new updates and content for it, and so far there has been no mention of DLCs for it. So yes, they're selling an 'unfinished game', but the developers need to get income so that they can fund working on their game.

I blame Steam for the marketing, personally.

At present, the game offers 3 gameplay modes, determined by what map you're on:
  • Death Match: If I have to explain this to you, please do not ever buy a FPS. There are 3 maps for this option, one includes the T-Rex. (Imagine that, on the map that gets the T-Rex, Axis wins about 9 of 10 times, as opposed to about 3 out of 4 on other Deathmatch maps.)
  • King of the Hill: Simply put claim a location and kill your enemies who try to take it. Presently only 2 maps for KotH.
  • Objective: Instead of “Rawr, kill everyone!” these 3 maps require you to do specific things, 2 of the 3 are very simple straightforward objectives.. Allies: deliver 5 bombs to an Axis target. Axis: Stop the Allies! The third I've yet to play, but it involves taking machine gun bunkers, and safely escorting a giant dino-tank across the map, while the Allies try to kill it.

Right here, I see a way that the game could be improved: KotH and Objective maps available for Death Match. They have released the DevKit for Dino D-Day so that mapmakers can create their own maps though.

Unfortunately right now most of the dedicated servers are running the T-Rex map 24/7, which .. well.. the map is skewed towards the Axis in the first place, it has the T-Rex which is horribly balanced, and Axis are slightly stronger.. so it gets kinda boring.

They are talking about adding a couple more gameplay modes, including a single player campaign (WOO!) and Survival Mode. Very little details have been given as to what these modes will be like, I would personally like to see Survival Mode have 2 options, 1 a straight up 'survive a horde of enemies' mode, the other more like L4D.

I would also like to see Bots, I know bots suck, people hate bots.. but honestly, especially with the learning curve, a way for someone to play solo would be really useful.

Now, the player base.. right now, due to the rather new nature of the game, and the fact that it's rather poorly balanced, the player base is actually not too bad. I've yet to see excessive taunting and asshattery on wins, nor have I seen mocking and berating of n00bz for not knowing how to play.

So, I gave it a below average score, what would bump it's score up to over five?
  • Balance. Balance balance balance balance.
  • Single player options, even if it were just the ability to have bots.
  • Making certain specials easier to use (I'm looking at you, Raptor Pounce and Dilophasaur Throw).
  • More maps, especially balanced maps, and more non-DM maps.
  • Death Match mode on all maps.
  • More gameplay modes.
  • Did I mention balance?

All of them would be nice, but even just a couple would greatly improve my opinion.. especially the balance.

And, a word on achievements: Many of the achievements should be my pet peeve of “you're playing the game how it's supposed to be played!” achievements, but due to how awkward some of the controls are, they're really not. I'm sorry, a standard mechanic being a pain in the ass to pull off doesn't make it a 'real achievement'.

Oh, and a word to my German readers, all.. uh.. one of you:
The game is available in Germany too, as they edited the images and have removed the Swastika, the SS logo, etc. These have all been replaced by actual WWII era German insignia, but ones less known or less associated with Nazis.

For those who are rather opposed to this, I'm just going to leave this here.

“Nazi dinosaurs. That is all.”

Availability and price:
Steam: $9.99