TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead rips out your heart in a good way. Honest!

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THIS WILL CONTAIN MILD SPOILERS. I will not include huge plot reveals, but some spoilers may sneak in here. 

If you are on the fence about playing The Walking Dead game created by TellTale Games, here is another review to push you in that direction. Even if you haven’t seen the show, you can still enjoy everything that the game offers. Like any zombie game, the undead are around every corner waiting to sink their teeth into you. But even though the end of the world is apparent all around you, that is not what this game is about at all. It’s all about choices, decisions that you make based on your logic, morals and compassion (or lack of these qualities).

You play as Lee Everett, a seemingly average guy that is being hauled off to prison in the intro of the game. Clichéd as it is, your escort runs into “something” and your car crashes. You experience your first confrontation with the undead and you manage to escape. Terrified and lost, you come across an abandoned neighborhood and find a little girl named Clementine surviving on her own. You are now her protector and you both take on the path of survival against the undead.

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TWD plays out just like a TV show; it is set up to progress in episodic intervals. In total, there are five episodes and a special episode that can be played afterward. I completed the game in just over four hours, and while short, the game packs one hell of an emotional punch to the gut and there is high replay value. Every time you start up the game, you will see a message like “the game is tailored to how you play” so you can have a different experience each time you go through the story.

I played TWD on the PS Vita though it is available on the Xbox 360, PS3, Ouya, PC/Mac, and iOS as well. The gameplay is simple enough as it is mostly just walking around and clicking on items and people to interact with. The core of the game is how you decide to progress. The simplest decisions you will be making is who you want to save and who will die because of that choice. You will not get all the time in the world to make these choices either. So read quickly, process your thoughts and hope that you make the best choice possible in your situation. No matter what you choose, you will make allies and you will make enemies.

You will be responsible for cooling tempers/adding to the fire, saving lives/not saving lives, deciding if the group will stand together or be destroyed, and above all else, you are responsible for Clementine. How will you raise her? Will you make the best parent? Do you treat her as a child or an adult given the circumstances? TWD will constantly test your morality and will make you realize that there is no right or wrong, just survival. Will you be sympathetic to your fellow survivors or will your emotions get the best of you and make you snap? TellTale does a fantastic job of making you responding quickly to situations and experiencing immediate backlash from your group whether positive or negative.

This game may even make you question your own morality. Why did you choose that? Did you really make the best decision you could or did you panic? Is that what you would really do in that situation? If anything, TWD is an eye opener into yourself and what you consider worth saving and fighting for. So grab your tissues and maybe down a drink or two because TWD will pull at the heartstrings. And guys, this is just Season 1.

Heroes of Dragon Age mobile game receives 3/5 stars from me!

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I was so excited when Bioware/EA launched the Heroes of Dragon Age mobile app back in early December. That and another replay of Origins and DA2 would hold me over until Inquisition is released later this year.

What is the point of the game? You acquire various “heroes” and journey through the history of Thedas starting with the First Blight. There are ten maps to clear (that I have seen so far), and each map contains five areas that must be unlocked by destroying the enemies that stand in your way. The heroes that you control range from familiar faces like Morrigan, Sebastian, and Anders to Desire Demons, Revenants, and Abominations. Yes, you can have characters that are normally known as enemies and villains in your party.

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To start off, you are given four heroes and a large animal or magical creature as a fifth member. The picture above shows a typical PvP match. The blue bar on the top left displays the party’s overall level, the yellow meter (energy) divided into squares indicates how many times you may visit a map and battle , and the pink meter (stamina) shows how many times you may participate in PvP matches.

How do you acquire more heroes? After each quest battle, you win gold and experience in typical RPG fashion. Head on over to the store and you can purchase a hero pack. Each hero has a colored pedestal that indicates the rarity and quality of said hero. Here is a basic breakdown of those colors:

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Brown = Common Hero

Silver = Uncommon Hero

Gold = Rare Hero

Red = Epic Hero

Green = Legendary Hero

The common and uncommon heroes can be purchased with gold while all other heroes can be purchased with gems. There are two ways to gain gems. One, you can win them by clearing challenges and maps in the quest lines or you can (you guessed it!) buy them with real money. It is extremely difficult to get an epic of legendary hero if you are not willing to spend real money. I have been playing the game since it launched in December and I have yet to get a legendary hero. It is, however, possible to get a rare hero by purchasing the uncommon pack; the chances are just very slim.

The heroes have their own stats and unique abilities that come into play when you create your ultimate party, but there is a feature in this game that really surprised me.  The actual fighting is on autopilot. When you enter battle, you click and watch. You don’t control your party in any way. This feature really takes away the experience of the classic turned based battling system in an RPG and it sometimes makes me rage quit in PvP matches. I somehow lost to parties ten levels lower than me, and I have no idea how that was possible. The only option you are given during battle is to fast forward through the battle and pick up your rewards seconds later. A positive to note is that your party’s health is completely restored after each battle.

The only other downside I’ve experienced with this game is the unbalanced leveling system. It takes quite a long time to level up and once you believe you can progress in the game, the next challenge in your way knocks the ice cream cone out of your hand and leaves you crying in a corner. Not literally, but you feel that way. I just cleared map five, barely surviving the boss battle at level 30 and the first battle (the easiest on every map) on map 6 has level 50 enemies. Sad face.

I believe in the Oreo effect, so I will end this review on the positive note. You do get a camp! Here you can have your primary heroes “consume” ones that you will no longer use and in turn you gain more experience! There is also a combining feature as well in case you happen to have identical heroes. Again, this helps your hero gain more experience and become even more badass.

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Overall thoughts.

Visuals: LOVE THEM.

Characters available: LOVE THEM

Music: Loops a bit, so I use my own playlist. HUZZAH INON ZUR.

Gameplay: Good

UI: Nice. Easy to use.

Battling System: Bioware, you owe me an ice cream cone

Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has stolen my heart!

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THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS. I do my best not to ruin key points for anyone, but there are some things that I will discuss that may be considered “spoiler-ish”, so this is my warning to you.

Too often have I said that revamps and remakes of great classics have come up short. My opinion on ALBW couldn’t be more opposite. I couldn’t put my 3DS for four days, and I managed to beat Ganon two days ago. Yes, my Christmas wish was to save Hyrule.

Just like Link to the Past, you take control of  Link, a seemingly innocent and average young man that is destined to wake up late to work every day for the rest of his life. However, in ALBW, there is no uncle that charges into Hyrule Castle to save Princess Zelda. In fact, the house you wake up in is yours, you have a friend named Gulley and you work for his father, the Blacksmith.

The foundation for a story has been set. While A Link to the Past did have its own story, it did seem to lack substance. It thrust you into the role of hero very early on and suddenly, you were on your adventure to save the kingdom. ALBW did that in a much more subtle manner. It grounded you first before you came to everyone’s rescue.

Gulley wakes you up because you tended to sleep in on your work days, and you both rush to the Blacksmith’s shop. The captain of Hyrule’s guard forgets his sword at the shop and you are tasked with tracking him down and giving it back to him. You end up in the Sanctuary (ALttP players will recognize this structure very well) and you run into one of the main villains of the game. Yuga, who we assume replaces the Wizard character from ALttP, kidnaps a woman named Seres by turning her into a painting and takes her away.When I saw Yuga, I immediately thought of Kefka from FFVI. Yuga explains early on that he wants to remake the world into his own image, a place of a destructive beauty.  

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You can guess what happens next. He goes after Zelda. Here, I will stop explaining the main story arc and talk about the main similarities and differences between the two games. One of the biggest differences is your interaction with the NPCs. I loved that you could talk to them and get a better feel of the world. When you enter Hyrule Castle, you learn of Hyrule’s history and of a prophecy that a hero will emerge, conquer evil, and save the kingdom. You even get to interact a little bit with the witch that brews your health potions and the sea queen that gives you flippers so you can swim.

Just like ALttP, you are must acquire the three Pendants of Virtue, the Master Sword and save the seven victims who were kidnapped and sent to various locations in the dark world. In ALBW, the dark world is called Lorule. There you meet Princess Hilda who saves you from Yuga. She is a dark version of Zelda.

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At this point in the game, you are not strong enough to take him on. There is no large Pyramid that you have to break into in order to fight Ganon. The iconic Pyramid is actually not needed at all thanks to the brilliant writing in ALBW.

Each of the seven people you save in Lorule has a background, they have personalities and they each directly influence you in some way. This is something we never saw or experienced in ALttP. We saw seven women being kidnapped and we knew we had to save them. That’s it. With ALBW, you interact with each person before they are kidnapped by Yuga, so you have more of a reason to want to save them other than obligatory hero objectives.

Another huge difference is a new character named Ravio. While you are adventuring between Hyruleand Lorule, Ravio sets up a shop in your house. This is where you can rentor buy items needed to progress in the game such as the ice/fire rods, bombs, the boomerang etc… Everything you need will be in your house. However, items such as the shield and Power Glove, you will have to find elsewhere, but I don’t want to spoil much for you lovely people.

How you are transported between Hyrule and Lorule is quite different as well. At one point in the game, Yuga turns you into a painting. You manage to escape but you find that you are capable of merging into walls and traveling along them. This simple technique/power opens up unique gameplay in ALBW.  You need to find cracks and crevices in both kingdoms in order to reach certain areas. Dungeons have also been revamped to accommodate this new skill. Some dungeons and bosses are very similar and others are a brand new experience. 

Overall, ALBW is an excellent remake of the 1991 classic RPG. There is a such a fantastic balance of old and new, giving the player feelings of nostalgia and surprise. The main story arc is beautiful (I even cried at the end), and the music is so reminiscent. I didn’t think it was possible, but I stand by my opinion that A Link Between Worlds surpasses A Link to the Past. However, it could not have been done without a strong foundation to build upon.

If you haven’t played either of these wonderful games, please do so. They are special gems that will stand out in every game library.