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What’s in Your Box: Week of 3/14

/ Mar 14th, 2015 No Comments

Shadows of Mordor

Each week, we here at Gaming Illustrated are always playing a number of different video games. However, we may not be talking about them in reviews or editorials. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth talking about, but for any number of reasons an avenue to speak on them doesn’t come up. To remedy the issue, we’re going to ask our staff (and you, honestly) what’s in your box?

What’s in Kalvin’s Box

It seems pretty unanimous that Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a great game. It has been on my radar since it came out, but only after watching Gaming Illustrated’s Chance Asue play it that my curiosity intensified. Upon playing the intro of the game a few weeks after its release, my opinion was that it looked fantastic.

Sadly, I haven’t gotten around to jumping into it fully until recently. My regard for the look of the game has changed rather sharply since then. After playing Far Cry 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Order: 1886, and other much prettier games, Shadow of Mordor’s looks can’t keep up. The Uruk modeling is fantastic, but everything else just looks okay from Talion to the environment. However, we know a game isn’t only about aesthetics, if so then The Order: 1886 would be the best thing ever.

Shadows of Mordor

Shadows of Mordor isn’t the best looking of the bunch, but it is hella fun.

Shadow of Mordor succeeds in its gameplay. The Nemesis system, the combat, and the wide range of upgrades make for an accessible yet oddly complex experience. While very Assassin’s Creed-like, Shadow of Mordor wisely uses a Arkham styel combat system to manage the hordes of enemies on screen. Combat opens up in a nice way once you get the higher tiered upgrades and more Bright Master powers.

Hunting down and taking out the various captains and war chiefs in the game is a blast. Nothing is more satisfying than revenge killing a tough Uruk captain that has killed you a few times. The open-worldness of the game isn’t unbearable thanks to smart fast travel spots, but being able to do whatever you want can get you lost in a series of murdering small fry Uruk captains for hours.

Shadow of Mordor is a good game with a few flashes of brilliance. It is definitely an enjoyable time, and succeeds in making a Lord of the Rings game worth playing. And more personally, makes me actual give a #*$% about a LOTR related product.

Outside of playing them big AAA games, dude! I’ve played a few free-to-play games on my cellular telephone and 3 Dimensional System. For whatever reason I decided to play Simpsons: Tapped Out, which was kind of a dumb idea. It isn’t terrible if you like the idea of tapping your screen a whole bunch, and waiting for satisfaction. What is it about phone games that think people care about getting their touch screen all grimy with finger grease?

Simpsons: Tapped Out

What are you doing with your life?

The die-hard Simpsons fan inside me is in love with it though. There is a special feeling creating your own Springfield. Except to get the more fun building and characters, you need to invest heavily into the micro transactions. Donuts are currency used to buy specific characters and buildings. And you rarely gain any worthwhile donuts from playing the game normally. It is aggressively out for your money in a gross way. Despite that I can’t stop playing it.

The other two games I’ve checked out are Heavenstrike Rivals and Pokémon Shuffle. Let’s get this out of the way, Pokémon Shuffle is no good. It is a version of Trozei with Puzzle & Dragons mixed in, but with way more limiting free-to-play gimmicks. You use hearts to battle in the game and get 5 at a time. Each battle costs one heart, and you need to wait a half an hour for them to recharge. Unlike other free-to-play games that recharge them if you level up, there is none of that here. You have to hope for a jewel to drop to recharge your hearts right away or pay money to buy jewels. If you’re going to give into the micro transactions you might as well buy the recent Pokémon Trozei outright since it is a better game.

Pokemon Shuffle

It stinks!

Heavenstrike Rivals, on the other hand, is free-to-play done right. It is a fun little strategy game where you fight against enemy captains on a 3X7 grid. You place your warriors on the grid and they move down the row fighting against enemy fighters in an attempt to deplete the health of the rival captain. When a fighter is placed into battle, you can move them left or right in hopes to get them in an open space to attack the other captain. Once your rival captain’s health is gone, you have won the battle and spoils.

You also only get a small amount of mana to use when choosing fighters, so figuring out the best way to maximize your limited number of mana is important. Each fighter has a certain number of health, attack, movement/attack range, and skills. Using mana costs, fighter abilities, and movement to your advantage against enemy combatants is key to winning battles. If you happen to lose, you can revive using a core (the currency used to buy new recruits) to replenish your health, re-shuffle your deck, and keep your current warriors on the battlefield.

Heavenstrike Rivals

Heavenstrike Rivals is surprisingly good as a free-to-play game.

You are limited by a number of actions with a recharge time, but it recharges fairly quickly and you can replenish your energy fully when you level up. The micro transactions aren’t aggressive, and you can actually enjoy it without spending a dime because the currency you need to gain new recruits or items is given decently through actual gameplay. There is also a story to missions, which is fairly extensive for the nature of the game.

The major issue with all of these games is that they’d be so much better if the cost a flat fee. Whether it is $5 or $15, the game would become much more playable and enjoyable if it didn’t have micro transaction shanks in it. I would gladly pay good money of a SIMpsons game where I could build cities to my heart’s content without having to give EA $1000 dollars for 60 donuts.

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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