Epic Island, from Backflip Studios

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While browsing the Apple App Store, I stumbled across a game for my smartphone called Epic Island. Epic Island is labeled as a rpg simulation experience, set in a fantasy world where you send adventurers on quests in dungeons. It’s a time management game, of sorts, ala Farmville and Hay Day, except, of course, fantasy rpg world setting. I’m probably not doing this great game from Backflip Studios justice, so let me try to explain.

Epic Island is a casual fantasy adventure simulation. You select a hero and start out on a single section of land surrounded by a fog. This is your “main hub” I suppose you could call it. Here you have your hero’s buildings such as a Castle (for storing treasure chests you can’t open just yet, and for receiving notifications & communicating with friends), a Blacksmith (for buying new armor, which rotates every so many hours, or forging your own out of more common gear to reach higher stats and levels), an Arena (where you can select a hero to battle against other players heroes for honor and special gear) and finally a Boasting Hall, where you can look at your achievements and collect rewards for reaching certain goals.)

Each hub, including this first starting zone, has 2 dungeons. Dungeons start at Level 1, but the more you fight the creatures within them, the higher their level will rise – just like your own – and more powerful monsters will appear. Reaching a dungeon level of 5 is considered completing a dungeon, but I’ve already gotten some up to as much as Level 7. The greater the dungeon level, the greater the reward possibilities inside the chests you get for completing each level. The only issue here is that most chests require you to use the special gems currency to open them. The special gems are the rewards you earn for completing achievements, or you can also buy them through the in-game app purchase. These gems are also how you build your army of heroes, of which there are 5.

As you level up your character and earn that gold, you’ll be able to unlock gateways to other lands. Once you move out of the starting zone, the land masses you find will have Titans. Titans are giant and powerful monsters that level up just like the dungeons, only they take longer. Titans may have millions of hit points that you must dwindle down – but unlike dungeons, Titans can be teamed up against. I know for a fact that up to at least 3 heroes can attack a Titan at one time. The only downside of Titans are that they take up a lot of time, and Epic Island is, underneath it all, a game about managing your time.

Each quest you go on or Titan you fight requires your hero be busy for a specified amount of time. For allowing your hero to perform each request, they’re rewarded with gold coins, common to epic gear, fame (xp) and faction points, once they’re high enough level to join a faction. Aside from Arenas, Factions are another multi-player aspect of the game. Every so many days, 2 new factions will go to war against one another. You must choose a side and as you complete missions, you’ll earn faction points that will contribute to the overall total of your factions power. A Pavilion is eventually unlocked where you can view the percentage of who is winning/losing and view your own personal faction points earned.

As a bonus, you can also use your earned faction points to buy special faction specific gear sets. Set pieces are sold individually but include a helm, chest piece, weapon and an off hand item, such as  shield or a magical tome. See! This game truly is epic in all that I’ve told you so far. Now, to reiterate, you don’t actually go out and do the fighting yourself, you simply decide what your hero will be doing for you, select it and send him or her out for “X” amount of time to do it for you.

So, we’ve got Arenas, which can earn you special rewards and are ranked. Faction battles, which can earn you special rewards, armor sets and potions as well. Dungeons that level themselves based on your use time so that you always have a challenge. Titans to distract you while you wait for something else to do. You can even upgrade your armor to a level of 30 using common and unused pieces of gear. It’s all very well thought out and designed that I’m just in awe that such a cool game exists.

I wasn’t aware of Backflip Studios before these last few days, but I’m willing to call them my new favorite developer for mobile gaming. They’ve also got a large library of games for you to choose from, from Backgammon to Video Poker, etc. It’s nice to see a little innovation every now and then, and Backflip Studios is bringing it to the front.

While I love this game, I do understand that everyone has their own different paces they’d  To help you get a better idea of what I’ve been talking about, I’ve included a video from the publishers own website. Good stuff!

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4)

Approved by the Tolkien Estate, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is not your family-friendly fare. In fact, I’m not even sure if an M rating does it justice, considering the extend of violence that occurs within the game. It’s a button-masher, a stealth game, a fighting game, part RPG and will remind players familiar with the franchise of Assassin’s Creed. Shadows of Mordor is an open world epic adventure with a combat and AI system that will amaze you as it adapts to your adventure. Enemies will remember you, receive promotions for killing you over and over and level up each time as a reward for their actions. Oh, and there’s a story about revenge and all that in there as well.

I read and watched very little of Shadow of Mordor over the last several months. I’ve never been a huge Lord of the Rings fan, so I made a point to ignore a game based within its lore. As the game’s release date neared, though, I started taking note of the features it offered. I’m thirsty for a good next generation role playing game, and this seemed to be a cool drink of water to sate my thirst. Turns out, it’s going to end up worsening my carpal tunnel syndrome!

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The game itself is beautiful, well thought out and painstakingly created with layers of lore, dialogue, story and action. The movements are smooth and fluid, the graphics equally so. Landing combos, parrying incoming blows and moving from one target to the next flows like water around your screen with only a rare hiccup if there are over a dozen or more characters on the screen. And if you aren’t careful with your stealth and smart with choosing your battles, the number of enemies on screen will increase exponentially! At one point I believe I was fighting 20+ enemies as the first two set off an alarm and called the others. It’s maddening, and basically boils down to mashing the buttons as fast as you can to flow from one move to the next while trying to execute finishing moves without being knocked down.

To say Shadow of Mordor is violent would be an understatement. The main storyline itself is one of revenge – a slain ranger brought back from death by a Wraith with the intent of taking down everyone involved with the murder of his wife and son before his very eyes. The Wraith assists our ranger by granting him supernatural abilities and enhancing his natural ones, such as speed and agility. To aide him further, our anti-hero carries a broken dagger, a sword and a bow, all legendary with challenges you can complete from certain areas – for instance, the one I did today involved killing 10 enemies without setting foot inside the keep they were walking around in. I managed to take out 9 of them via explosions, releasing hungry hounds upon them and just shooting them in the head with my spirit arrows.

To say Shadow of Mordor is not fun and entertaining would be serving it a great injustice. It is fun, though the fact that you have such a large system of enemies to work from makes me a little wary of going back each time. These special enemies are given names, strengths, weaknesses and are promoted within the ranks like real players. All that being said, however, I have to admit the game is a bit over-the-top as far as experience goes. I’ve watched my ranger stab swords through so many spaces on enemies bodies, seen half their heads chopped off. Seen all their heads chopped off! Guts stabbed, backs shanked, legs shortened and so on. Shadows of Mordor is not for young children, weak of spirit or mind, and certainly not safe out there with everyone else.

I started playing Shadows of Mordor yesterday morning, and tonight, nearly all day. One thing I noticed is that it’s fun and addictive, but it can also quickly draw you away from the main storyline and distract you for hours upon hours on end. This isn’t a good thing, but I do assume you can go back to any location later in the game and finish up those quests if you’d so like.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is not the next generation rpg I feel we deserve, but it’s ours nonetheless, until something better comes along. My only complaint with the game is that I’ve injured myself while playing, My thumbs get tired quickly from pushing the button combinations quickly while he gets his pair of pants on and then draws a sword to battle the dozen+ others that have been tipped off to your presence. Those ultra smooth combos don’t come easy, as you’ll find yourself tugging on triggers, slamming button combinations and directing your character in which direction and enemy to strike at next.

Shadows of Mordor is a fantastic pick-up-and-play story, if that’s what you’re into. It does so much more right than wrong, at least in these first several hours of the game. The story is simplified and the enemies come in floods, it seems, for those that lack the proper stealth skills. As for the smart man, exercise your thumb, you’ll be needing it a lot in close range combat, and if the story is your goal for playing, for the love of all things good, stay away from large groups of unnecessary enemies. You’ll thank me later for it, trust me!

 

Reverse Engineered Gaming Community

A couple of friends and myself decided to get together and go in on our own little gaming community. There’s nothing fancy or special about it, aside from the fine folks that choose to sign up to be a member. We’re new, we’re growing, and we’re looking for a large variety of members across all platforms. There is only one caveat: We’d like to keep this family friendly! No vulgar language or inappropriate conversations. Just folks that like to come together and play games and have a decent time.

Right now we’re only set up across Destiny (on the PS4), and Diablo 3. Looking for others to create as they see fit, just please let us know and join the Facebook group to connect with others to set up game times and sessions. We hold no copyright on the group name, but please show a little respect when using it as it will hopefully come to represent many others as we join together and grow!

Visit us & sign up here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/revenggaming

Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Superheros (Xbox 360)

* This is a quick and dirty take on our first day and a half with Disney Infinity 2.0, Marvel Superheros for the Xbox 360. This is not a game review or level-by-level run down *

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My son and I picked up Disney Infinity 2.0, the Marvel Superheros starter edition for the Xbox 360 this weekend. The characters included are Black Widow, Iron Man and Thor. The set also comes with the Disney Infinity 2.0 game disc and a character base as well as 2 power discs. The discs we received (I’m not sure if they’re the same from box to box) were Assault on Asgard, and The Kiln. As a preorder bonus from our local Gamestop, we also got to select a free character, Venom in this case, and my wife picked up two additional characters – Groot and Rocket Raccoon.  My son also picked up a couple of power discs and received The Infinity Gauntlet and World War Hulk Sky.

Right off the bat, I think the execution is epic. Skill trees for the superheros, flying abilities, voice work, animation – it’s all beautiful to behold. But all of that seems to come at a price, for the Xbox 360 version, anyways. That price to be paid is in the execution of the gameplay. As soon as you put a figure on the base and attempt to load into a world, there is a long and drawn out wait. Gold flashing, rotating light fills the screen and you’re left just sitting there, staring and waiting. At least one other person online has said it takes at least 30 seconds, whereas the old game the characters were good to go within 3 seconds. This is an eternity when you’re waiting to play the game. During this time you can’t move, push buttons – anything at all. You’re at the mercy of the character loading.

We didn’t get to play individually, but as for split screen co-op mode, it was like playing a high-end PC game on a low-end PC. There were glitches, lagging gameplay, moments when we thought for sure the game would freeze up because there was so much going on on screen. I’m not sure if other consoles are having this problem – especially new generation consoles, but our old 360 seemed to be pushed to its limits, and was struggling to keep up. Hopefully this is just poor planning – or perhaps from the console trying to load all the data stored on each individual character. After all, those skill trees are carried with the character if you go to another console to play, so that’s stored on the base. I’m guessing there’s some load time issues there. As for the jerky, lagging video experience, I have no idea what is causing that except for possibly the pure processing power.

There is also the issue of not being able to cross over characters. For example, in the Avengers playset, you can only play as an Avenger. Rocket or Groot or Venom can’t come play the adventure. I honestly can’t recall if this is the same in 1.0 version games or not. It’s been awhile since we played, to be honest. There IS one method of allowing certain characters, and that is to collect 10 of their tokens within the game. This will allow you to bring that character into a different playset. So far we’ve found 6 Rocket Raccoon coins and 3 of another superhero I’m not familiar with from the Spider-Man playset.

On a bright spot, you can use Disney 1.0 characters in the Toybox and in the challenge mini games, however you can not use their playsets while the Infinity 2.0 disc is in the system. You actually have to start up a 1.0 game to use your old playsets. This is another disappointment. And, of course, 2.0 characters can not be used at all with the 1.0 game.

While I want to like Disney Infinity 2.0 Marvel Superheros, I also find myself forced to hate it. Too many bugs and play issues not to mention backward compatibility issues as far as playsets go. There are hopefully some patches coming down the line that will take care of the majority of these. I doubt any of them will include backward compatibility, but I can always hope.

Now if I can just decide what to do with all those Skylanders characters that are just sitting around collecting dust …