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Tag Archive: video games


 

Review by C.J. Bunce

As part of the release of the new single-player action-adventure game Shadow of the Tomb Raider, two new companion books are coming your way, Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Path of the Apocalypse and Shadow of the Tomb Raider: The Official Art Book The game, available for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, continues the adventures of Lara Croft following the conclusion of the story launched in the 2015 game Rise of the Tomb Raider Players accompany Lara on her harrowing journey to become the survivor we know as the Tomb Raider.  The Official Art Book features exclusive concept art and developer interviews detailing the conclusion of Lara Croft’s origin story.

Path of the Apocalypse is the official tie-in novel to the game, written by S.D. Perry.  As we catch up with Lara, she has taken the Key of Chak Chel, setting off an apocalyptic flood–the Cleansing–foreshadowed by the ancient Maya (but she only did it because the agents of the secretive organization called Trinity were going to get to it first!).  She uncovers several clues that may help her prevent the next three foretold apocalyptic events from happening, but it seems like she may be the character in the ancient stories herself, acting to fulfill their prophecy.  Her first adventure is escaping the remnants of a flooded village.  Next, she and her companion Jonah must hire a plane that can sneak them under Trinity’s wide net of operatives, to re-trace the very steps of Trinity inside a system of deep caves, a path to the hidden Peruvian city where the silver Box of Ix Chel is hidden.  Halfway through her survival story inside these caves, readers might wish they had started to draw out their own map of the caves, lay out some kind of bread crumbs to find their way to the surface.  Lara continues deeper into the cave as Trinity operatives kidnap her friend and a pilot.  Do they wait for her to emerge from the cave’s entrance or take their weapons into the cave and pursue her?  And what are these toothy animals appearing in the dark corners of the cave?  With the fate of the world at stake, Lara is in no position to just give up.

Beginning with artwork from the 2013 Tomb Raider game and including great images from Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Official Art Book chronicles the video game production process, from concept to final design.  Art director Martin Dubeau, character artist Michael Verhaaf, and concept artists Maxim Verehin and Yun Ling, and hundreds of others served as digital costume designers, prop creators, and environment location scouts–just as if they were making a full-scale, live-action motion picture–incorporating their historical research on ancient Latin American cultures.  The game goes deeper into the history than the novel, introducing ancient peoples and the artifacts of their world.  These were all designed by Dubeau’s team and are incorporated in full-color layouts in The Official Art Book.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Ahoy there, matey.  Gaming developer Rare and distributor Microsoft have said they expect their new shared world action-adventure game Sea of Thieves to be a major success for Xbox One and Windows PC, with a Rare company executive stating he expects the game to become a franchise as popular as Halo, Gears of War, and Minecraft.  As part of its efforts to bring in players, Rare has partnered with Titan Books to publish a tie-in to the game, Tales from the Sea of Thieves.  Sea of Thieves the game is a first-person pirate adventure allowing players to sail a legendary world alone or with a crew of up to four players.  Released in March, the game’s greatest appeal so far for fans has been its great visuals, opting for a cartoon-like palette versus a photo-real world, and its cooperative gameplay.

Written by Paul Davies, Tales from the Sea of Thieves is a fictional journal written loosely in the style of seafaring lore like you’d find in A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly novels, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, more recently William Goldings’ To the Ends of the Earth, and countless other historical accounts.  Its design becomes a real-world take-home prop from the game, a mock “battered and beaten” textured hardcover that looks and feels like a 19th century book that will go well with your tricorn, Jolly Roger, parrot, compass, and telescope.  The contents are in-universe, providing the accounts of pirate crew experienced years before the events of the game, introducing the types of adventures players can encounter in the game.

The tales are light fare, suitable for any age.  They don’t go so far as the darker side of the high seas as you would find in Lovecraft, but the voices are similarly evocative of his style.  The artwork is stylized from the game and fun, full color with the icons and emblems you’d expect from pirate lore.  Even the page edges are untrimmed as with journals and books of years past.

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Guest review by Alec Jessen

The newest addition to Nintendo’s Kirby game franchise, Kirby: Star Allies, is now available for Nintendo Switch (known in Japan as Kirby of the Stars: Star Allies).  The release of the new game is centered around an interesting new mechanic that has not been seen before with previous games in the Kirby series: a multiplayer/cooperative story and gameplay.  This fun, new mechanic is an interesting addition to Kirby games, giving fans a chance to experience adventures not only with Kirby, but also with friends from either the real world or via the AI/CPU.  As with past games in the series, players help the young, pink, spherical hero Kirby as he fights to save his home.  In the new version of the game all of the characters are still as cute and lovable as ever.

It’s a great way to play as a team.  Kirby: Star Allies features Kirby having a new ability–the ability to make friends.  This allows players to turn most of Kirby’s enemies into allies, which can then be either controlled by the computer or by friends in a local co-op of up to four players.  The ability is not only so that Kirby can have a few buddies to travel along with.  The abilities of his new friends are a necessity for Kirby to progress on his journey.  For example, the fiery abilities of the character Burning Leo are needed to ignite bombs that open up new paths, and only the electricity of Plugg can activate certain doors.  And the combined power of Kirby and his newly converted allies allows them to complete tasks using abilities such as the Friend Bridge, where Kirby and his friends form a bridge for certain characters to travel across. The teamwork in Kirby: Star Allies is both fun and heartwarming, especially playing in the company of friends.

It’s Kirby in a great new high-definition version.  One of the most interesting elements of Kirby: Star Allies is the use of the beautiful, vibrant Nintendo Switch graphics, while still being a side-scroller video game.  Its use of graphics along with the aspect of a side-scroller is a refreshing, near-3D experience.  The designers created a great combination, keeping the classic feel of past Kirby games, while also giving it a modern, unique update–It’s a great blend of new and old.

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TRON banner

A familiar universe awaits fans of TRON.  Derived from the look and feel of TRON: Legacy, Disney’s 2010 sequel to 1982’s original sci-fi classic TRON, Disney Games has released TRON RUN/r, a new runner game with spectacular visuals and a cool and exciting soundtrack.   It’s the next iteration of TRON following the Emmy Award-winning animated television series TRON: Uprising.

Return to the world of TRON with TRON RUN/r, a new lightning-fast, action-adventure runner with a twist!  Blaze through dynamic circuits, face off against adversaries, and hone your DISC and CYCLE skills on 32 levels.  Then, challenge friends to the grueling STREAM program that will test you with endless combinations of modes and levels!  How long will you survive?

tron-run-r-screenshot-6

The story of TRON began as a video game, so it’s a natural evolution for the franchise to dip back into its roots, so you can imagine playing the game back at Flynn’s arcade.

TRON vid

Take a look at these trailers for the game and see for yourself:

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SW Battlefront

Review by Alec Jessen

Many of us know and love Star Wars, especially the video games.  The Star Wars Battlefront and Star Wars Battlefront 2 video games from back in the earlier 2000s were some of the best Star Wars games available, and here in 2016, we’re taking a look at a recent update of that video game released at the end of 2015 to quench our thirst for more Star Wars.  Star Wars Battlefront is a First and Third person shooter game that takes place in the Star Wars universe.  The game has much to offer, from the iconic Star Wars heroes to a variety of weapons to use.

Graphics

The graphics of Star Wars Battlefront are absolutely astonishing.  The lighting, animations, and the smallest of details create something magnificent, from the brush and trees on Endor, to the grains of sand on the Jundland Wastes.  When playing in Third person, the walking and running animations are perfectly smooth.  When a player is harmed, the character will flinch, adding to the effect of actually being in the battle.

STb 5

Gameplay

Almost all of the game modes in Star Wars Battlefront have a teamwork factor, meaning that it can be difficult in this game to be successful unless you have some teammates to back you up.  This is represented by the partner system as well:  Each player has his or her own partner, which they can “respawn” (coming back to the game once the player has been defeated) onto, and partners know where each other are at all times.

Skill is an important part of Star Wars Battlefront.  The developers of this game, DICE, did a great job of evening out weapons, vehicles, and first and third person.  Accuracy is the same for both first and third person, so those who prefer playing in third person do not have to worry about being at a disadvantage.  Players can also switch between the perspectives mid-game, by the push of a button.  The weapons of Star Wars Battlefront have great balance.  For example, if a weapon has a high rate of fire, it may not be very accurate, and if a weapon has a low rate of fire, it could be very accurate.  Players have to choose what they think will go best for their fighting techniques.

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Last Starfighter clip

Greetings, Starfighter.  You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada

It’s no secret that we at borg.com are fans of sci-fi videogames–especially if they are part of a classic sci-fi movie like Tron or The Last Starfighter.  Thanks to the freeware programmers over at RogueSynapse you can download a freeware version of a brilliant, true looking version of The Last Starfighter as seen in the movie right now, and spend the rest of the weekend mastering your Starfighter skills.

Grig and Centauri would be proud.  Our apologies to your spouse.  The picnic will probably get rained out anyway.

Oh, and you’re welcome.

Starfighter video game screen freeware

Those from the generation that lived through these early video games recall keying in entire games like this that were included in Games or Compute! magazine.  It looked just like this, only it went on for dozens of pages:

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Atari box

Atari, the company that brought us the Atari 2600–the game system that revolutionized what it meant to be a zombie–offered families in the early 1970s the benefit of the neighborhood arcade without that annoying quarter-gobbling component.  Adults who shake their heads today at kids zoning out over their smartphone games forget what it was like when they first zoned out over  Combat, Air-Sea Battle, Duck Hunt, Asteroids, Yar’s Revenge, Berserk, Pitfall, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and all their pixelated friends.

When Space Invaders was introduced, kids lined up at Woolco stores for hours on end to play the in-store demo model to try to beat the current high score.  The earlier Pong and Breakout games were revolutionary–and addictive–but Space Invaders was exciting, nerve-wracking, and required a different take on an old skill.  Hand-eye Coordination became a new, finely-honed, almost magical power.  Wielded the best by teenagers.

Then something strange happened.  We got distracted by something else.  Most of us didn’t even notice when Atari vanished.  When modern video games playable on PCs via compact discs came around we all went searching for the original Atari games and for years, nada.  What happened to Atari anyway?

Pac-Man game over    ET video game

If you didn’t track the business pages for Atari back in the 1970s and 1980s, a new documentary will get you caught up.  Atari: Game Over is a nostalgic look back at the first video game designers and how one designer created the first great game for Atari, and later the last, and then vanished into anonymity.  His journey parallels several die-hard fans’ strange and curious search to prove or disprove an urban legend–that Atari lost so much money on the E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial video game for the Atari 2600 (thought by many to be the single worst video game of all time) that Atari dumped at least a million of the unopened boxes in a desert town landfill back in 1983.  It’s also a story of one of the first Dot Com economic busts long before there were Dot Coms.

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Dead Space Liberation

Electronic Arts was at the cutting edge of video games back in the 1980s.  Today’s EA provides games with stunning 3D level immersive experiences.  In 2008 EA released a very different and modern third-person shooter, science fiction horror survival game called Dead Space.  Dead Space was big, selling more than 2 million copies.  In the game, players followed along literally over the shoulder of Isaac Clarke–named for science fiction writers Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.  Clarke was as an engineer on an interstellar mining starship called the USG Ishimura, where he found himself stuck with some undead creatures called Necromorphs in a setting straight out of Ridley Scott’s Alien.  The February 2013 release Dead Space 3 brings along with it a new graphic novel series tie-in: Dead Space: Liberation

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Lucasfilm intends to create the next generation of gaming with its game-in-the-works, Star Wars 1313.  Bringing together the entire Lucasfilm family, LucasArts is teaming up with Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, and Lucasfilm Animation, to render a real-time production the company expects will provide an incredibly detailed playing experience.  Lucasfilm says it is using full performance capture, mixing voice actors with full motion capture to record facial expressions and movements, so actors can fully perform what the characters are doing and this will translated to the gaming screen like never before.  This is expected to be a big step toward the convergence of movies and gaming.

Don’t expect to get Star Wars 1313 any time soon for your PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.  LucasArts is designing this complex game for bigger game machines and so Star Wars 1313 will likely not be out in final form for a few years.

As for the substance of the game and story, this action adventure will veer away from the Jedi world that has monopolized Star Wars gaming, and feature a darker, more mature adventure.  From the preview this has the feel of the early Star Wars comic books that took place after the original Star Wars.  In fact the game is to take place between the first and second trilogies.  The background is the seedy underworld of the capital of the Republic, Coruscant.  Think Mos Eisley but in a dense urban area.  The game is to have interesting new weaponry and will feature a bounty hunter stalking his prey in the city.  Whether or not this will include Boba Fett has not yet been disclosed–the character in the preview is an example of a character you might find in the final game.  Supposedly there are some 5,000 levels to the city of Coruscant, and the number 1313 in the title refers to a particular underworld in the city that will serve as the center of the story.

Here is the preview footage:

I think the editing of the music is the best part, plus the explosion sequences look great.

Of course the trailer only shows some apparently spice smuggler inspired scenes in someone’s space vessel–nothing yet about how the city scenes will look.  There is no release date for Star Wars 1313 but the buzz is already building across the Web.  Check out the Star Wars 1313 website for updates as they are released.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

By Art Schmidt

Boy, hunting bounties through the galaxy is thirsty work.  But it’s satisfying, like a hot shower on a winter day.  Of course, you have to keep returning to the bitter, cold world, but hey, at least your hair looks nice.  Am I right?

Being a Bounty Hunter in Star Wars: The Old Republic has been a blast.  Since the game launched just over three months ago, I’ve been planet-hopping fairly nearly non-stop, and the game does not disappoint.  There have been two major updates (i.e. New Content) in these first few months, with the promise of regular content adds continuing.  Each class in the game has its own storyline, and in my case I’ve played several.  I think the Bounty Hunter is the class I’ve had the most fun with so far.

Why, you ask?  Well, let me see if I can explain…

Of all the cantinas, in all the settlements, on all the planets in the galaxy, all I could find was this dive.

From the time I first arrived on Hutta, I knew this was the kind of life I had always wanted.  No more punching keyboards and time-clocks for me!  No more PTA meetings, no more neighborhood barbeques, no more meals that weren’t deep fried or baked in marinara, no more fresh breath.  I was going to dedicate every waking hour that I could to being the best bounty hunter I could be.

 

This loser was planning to skip out on the Hutts. But the Hutts don’t like skipping. It doesn’t agree with their BMIs.

After running errands for the Hutts and taking out a few small-time bullies, I got my first real assignment.  Some guy was trying to escape the planet and his gambling debts to the Hutts, and they were none too happy with him.  So I settled the score on their behalf.  Once I had established myself as a world-class bounty hunter (in one corner of Hutta, at least), I was on my way to joining the Great Hunt, the annual galaxy-wide competition among elite bounty hunters.  It’s winner-take-all, and by take all I mean you have to kill not only the folks on the bounty list, but also your competition.  Talk about full contact!

I take all my holo-calls in miniature. It reminds me I’m better than everyone else.

Once I had established my credentials (and pocketed a bunch of credits), I finally got my ticket punched for the Great Hunt.  Hike-two Hutt sponsored me in the Great Hunt, and I was accepted into the contest, but not before my trainers were killed by a cheating Mandalorian slimeball who wanted to win the Great Hunt himself.  All that was left of my team was the techie Mako.  She was the least experienced of the team (besides me), but she was easy on the eyes and handy with kolto, so I let her tag along.

Imp shuttles are cheap and available to anyone. Just like my loyalty.

I hopped aboard a shuttle for the Imperial fleet Space Port where I was hoping to learn a few new tricks and make a reputation for myself.  Also, I didn’t have my own spaceship yet, and all of the cheapest shuttles connected through Fleet, so I really didn’t have a choice.  Mako complained about having to ride in my lap on account of I could only afford one seat, but I’m saving up for a shiny new blaster I’ve had my eye on.

Dromund Kaas had a sun once, but the Emperor thought it was spying on him and banished it.

The Great Hunt is run out from Dromund Kaas, the Imperial home world.  It’s rainy and gloomy most of the time, like the Imps who run the place.  But they’ve got plenty of credits to spend, and they don’t shy away from hiring the right kind of hammer to nail down their problems.  I like hammers.  I had to bag three high-level bounties on Dromund Kaas to get past the first round.

I framed this one and sent it home to mom. Now she won’t return my holo-calls.

But I was feeling pretty good about my chances.  I felt so good, in fact, that I pulled the ears off a gundark.  The bounties were spread all over the planet, and without my own personal speeder it was difficult getting around.  Luckily Mako is good at navigating, and I’m good at shooting things, so we make a good team.

 

Mako says I never take her anywhere nice. Look how my blaster fire reflects off that waterfall! That’s romantic, baby!

Halfway through the last bounty, Mako did start complaining that she hated Dromund Kaas and she wanted to leave.  Leave?  This planet wasn’t paradise, but the credits were rolling in, and my reputation was almost tangible.  And it so happens there were plenty of Republic spies around for me to keep in business.  She just doesn’t appreciate me.

Well, with my bounties bagged and my credits in hand, it was time to swipe one of my targets’ starships and blow this Popsicle stand.  Hey, he wasn’t using it anymore…

I’m pretty sure I can download the flight manual for this ship off the holonet...

Next target was a sneaky smuggler as famous for ditching Republic customs officials as he was for double-crossing the Imps.  Apparently he double-crossed the wrong Sith Lord and landed himself on my target list.  His mistake.

The Imps have a ray shield covering their entire base on Balmorra. Rumor is it’s to keep the civilians in.

The trail led me to Balmorra, a dusty rock-strewn backwater engulfed in a civil war where the Imps were trying to help the rebels overthrow their government.  And guess who was helping the government?  You guessed it, the Republic.  Man, these guys should just go to war already.  On second thought, that might mean less creds for me.  Scratch that thought.

Republic Cruisers look much smaller up in space...

While I was hunting down my prize, some Sith wannabe offered me a pile of credits to infiltrate the nearby Republic ship yards and steal the plans for a prototype starfighter, while rigging the goody-goodies prototype craft with explosives.  I didn’t care for the way she kept breathing through that big mask on her face, but hey, credits are credits.  Besides, she used my three favorite words in the same sentence: explosives, steal, and credits.  Even Mako agreed it would be easy money.

I think that ship’s name was Apollo, or something...

It was.

While doing the Imps dirty work for them and reaping a large pile of credits, we were able to sniff out the bounty we had on Balmorra, and take out our competition along the way.  Once his head was claimed, we took a shuttle back to the spaceport and prepared to get our next assignment in the Great Hunt.

Imperial shuttle craft. They’re boxy, but safe.

On the way back to Dromund Kaas, we encountered some Republic patrol craft, but they were no match for my D-5 Mantis.  I call her Trixie, but only when Mako isn’t in the room.  Mako’s the jealous type, and unfortunately I’ve got a lot to be jealous of.  What can I say?  Everyone has their cross to bear…

Hey, watch out for that astero- Oops, never mind.

Trixie and I made short work of those pesky Talon fighters.  Talon, yeah right.  I de-clawed them one after the other.

Next stop was Nar Shaddaa, and believe me, never will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.  Well, actually I hear there is one, but I haven’t seen it.  Plus, Nar Shaddaa has two things that other place doesn’t: neon and air conditioning.  I’m thinking of buying a timeshare here.

It’s like Sin City, only on the whole planet, so there’s nowhere to wash your hands.

Again, the Imps needed some expert assistance in blowing some stuff up.  I think it was a Republic-something, but I could be wrong.  The credits, however, were so right.  Plus, we bounced in and out of so many cantinas I got to finish my World Adrenal Tour.  I got a free T-shirt!

All your secret Republic base are belong to us!

I didn’t stay on Nar Shaddaa long, though.  I couldn’t bear the thought of blowing up too much of it, and every time I walked into a Cantina or a massage parlor credits kept leaping out of my pocket.  Once the bottom line starts to drop, it’s time to hunt somewhere else!  Also, Mako kept nagging me, something about my eyes always crossing, so we finished up there pretty quickly, claimed our bounty, and moved on to Tatooine.

Darth Anus here wanted me to polish his boots, so I told him to stand in a pile of bantha poo-doo. I didn’t know lightsabers could be thrown with such accuracy!

Tatooine.  What a dump.  A hot, sweaty, sandy pit that I couldn’t believe anyone lived in.  I mean, what kind of people are going to come from this place?  Certainly no one who will ever be of any importance.  Our prey here was a slippery double-dealing merchant and scoundrel who went by many names.  I called him Reward Worthington.  He was certainly difficult to catch up to!  He gave Mako and me the slip not once but twice before we finally cornered him as he was about to jump onto his ship.

When we found him, he begged for his life, but in a cool, hip kind of way.  He had proven to be rather resourceful, so I let him join my crew under an assumed name and took some of his DNA to prove I’d bagged him for the bounty.  No one was the wiser, and I got a clever new crewman.  I’ll have to remember to keep him away from the hyperdrive controls.  And my personal safe.

I had to purchase Mako a new wardrobe so she didn’t melt in the heat. I spared every expense.

One other upside to Tatooine, besides the new crewman: Mako was able to get a good tan.  With my profits from the bounties and other work I did on that sandpile, I was able to purchase a shiny new green speeder.  I think it’s called Ubrikkian Striker.  I’m going to call mine Slave 1/2.  Don’t ask me why, I just like the name.

I left everything on Tatooine just as I found it: in the dust!

Claiming that last bounty made me the winner of the Great Hunt!  There was much fanfare!  There were many credits!  There was crying and weeping!  I’m glad my mother wasn’t there to see me.

So the first hundred days in The Old Republic has been a blast.  Let’s see if the next couple hundred can stay just as interesting…

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