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The Time of Contempt (The Witcher)
The Time of Contempt (The Witcher)
by Andrzej Sapkowski
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.52
86 used & new from $7.50

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs More Geralt... Badly! (Spoiler Free Review), November 9, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Time of Contempt is Book 2 of the Witcher Series written by Andrzej Sapkowski and translated into English. To get the most out of this book, you'll really need to read Book 1, Blood of Elves. Other books featuring Geralt exist, but they are only short stories and not really a part of this series directly. And of course, millions discovered Geralt through the Witcher Video Game Series, which is awesome!

The Witcher Universe:
Witchers are a mysterious organization of monster hunters that protect the innocent for a price. The Witcher Universe is a well-written fantasy world that springs from mythology and folklore. There are Elves, Dwarves, Dryads, Druids, Wizards, Trolls... There are warring kingdoms, treachery, diplomacy, monsters, and bands of rebel fighters. It's an epic Universe and the ties to European Folklore make the Universe feel more credible.

Ciri, a child of prophecy with a huge bounty on her head and is being chased by bounty hunters. Yennifer, a powerful sorceress who is engaged in wizard's guild politics is escorting Ciri to safety. Geralt, a professional monster hunter, works behind the scenes to keep them safe. Dandelion, a bard / spy, provides the main characters with information. There a quite a few twists and turns as Ciri travels from place to place, dodging evils of many kind.

The characters are all multi-dimensional and interesting and they all have good dialogue. The story mostly follows Ciri and the politics within the mage's guild, with Geralt, Yennifer, and Dandelion having supporting roles.

Writing Style:
You can't tell that the book was translated from Polish. It flows naturally, so that's good! There is no narrator who has an over-arching view of the story. Instead, the political battle between kingdoms is told in bits through the characters, similar to the Game of Thrones Series. Nobody has a complete view of what is going on, so you put the state of the realm together in your head from what you hear. You really need to pay attention to this book and follow the actions of the spies and mages. There is also no big build up or payoff. The story just flows. It does feel more organic that way, but it does lack that big payoff that most books deliver.

I'm a HUGE fan of the Witcher video games. I love it when Geralt ventures into the forest and slays creatures spawned from folklore and nightmares. It's also great when Geralt finds humans who are more like the proverbial monsters, than the monsters themselves and slays them, too. With that said, this book does have plenty of action, but Geralt isn't involved in most of it. Unfortunately, Geralt slays a wyvern and we hear about it second hand from a peasant. It would have been great to read about that. Geralt also battles 3 bounty hunters offscreen, so we only hear what is going on from a peasant's point of view inside a tavern. It would have been great to read these fights from Geralt's perspective. When there is action, it's quite good. There are magic duels, skirmishes, sword fights, etc... But there should be much more.

It's pretty adult oriented. There's violence, gore, swearing, and sexual situations.

I enjoyed the book, but I'm a bit disappointed. The cover features Geralt as if he just killed some giant creature and crawled out of its slime covered maw. Geralt only kills one monster in the book and it happens offscreen. He spends most of the book stuck in political intrigue, and most of what goes on is over his head. Ciri actually has more pages dedicated to her than Geralt, and she's interesting as the story unfolds around her. A huge portion of the book is dedicated to the political squabbles of the mages guild, and you really need to follow it closely. So, this is a pretty good book, but it's not what you'd expect if you're a fan of the videogame series, the Witcher/Hexer TV Series, or a fan of the original Witcher short stories.

If you like medieval fantasy with political intrigue, read The Game of Thrones Series by George RR Martin. It's much better than the intrigue here.

If you want to see Geralt battle monsters, definitely pick up the Witcher Game Series. It's incredibly well written and grounded in folklore. If you're not into games, you should at least watch the cinematics on youtube. You'll love `em.

Red Country (First Law World)
Red Country (First Law World)
by Joe Abercrombie
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.28
47 used & new from $9.33

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rush for Gold and a Rush of Blood (Spoiler Free Review), October 22, 2013
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It's like a spaghetti western with swords.

After returning home to her farm, headstrong Shy South and her hulking but sullen step-father Lamb, discover that they've been raided. With their farm burned to the ground, and the children missing, they set off to hunt down the kidnappers. The party eventually teams up with a wagon train of desperate prospectors as they trek across the plains searching for gold in them thar hills. Their adventure takes them across a wild frontier full of natives, mercenaries, the inquisition, and betrayers. A few characters from the First Law Trilogy return and it's great to see them. There are some twists and turns and people get what's coming to them.

The world is similar to the old west, but the characters carry swords instead of guns. Gunpowder and a cannon type weapon are introduced in this book and there's no magic. With the themes of natives, a gold rush, wagon trains, a small dirt-water town, it feels more like a western, than a fantasy book.

Shy South is hard as nails, enjoys a good drink, and can negotiate a banker to tears.
Temple is a man of many talents, but his cowardice holds him back.
Dab Sweet is a legendary scout far past his prime.
Lamb is a shy giant of a man, who avoids confrontation... until pushed too far.
The characters are all fun to read and they play off of each other with witty dialogue and dry humor.

Writing Style:
Joe Abercrombie is known for his gritty writing style, bloody violence, dark humor, and not-so happy endings. Everything in this book is dirty, dusty, covered in puke, blood, or excrement. But that's just the way it is on the frontier. The action is extremely violent and bloody. The humor is dry. And at times, the story takes an unexpected turn away from things that are predictable and climactic, to throw the reader a curve ball.

This book has less action than the other Abercrombie books, but there are raids, horseback battles, brawls, duels, and skirmishes. The action is bloody and there's a bit of gore. It's well written and you feel the characters struggle, the impact of the blades, and the injuries afterwards.

Maturity: Adult
There's sex, swearing, adult themes, drinking, puking, killing, beating, decapitating, dismembering, and downright ornery characters.

This is a very good book. The pace is uneven, but when there isn't any action, it's enjoyable to read the characters interacting with each other. The action is violent. The dialogue is funny. The humor is dark. The setting is right out of the gold rush. The characters are shockingly ruthless... but true to their motives.

If you enjoyed Joe Abercrombie's books, you'll like this one, even though it's much more western than medieval fantasy. If you haven't read the First Law Trilogy, just know that you'll get a lot more out of this book if you read that first. It's not completely necessary, but it helps!

Binary Domain - Xbox 360
Binary Domain - Xbox 360
Offered by NYC Electronics
Price: $15.48
63 used & new from $6.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Robots Die Good!, September 29, 2013
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
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Shooting Robots has never been so much fun in this exciting but sometimes flawed game.

Concept: 9/10
Take the cover and shoot mechanics from Gears of War and use your microphone to issue squad commands. Then wrap it all up in a thought provoking story about artificial life. The concept is good, but at times the execution is iffy.

Story: 8/10
The story behind Binary Domain is a very good one. It examines the future of robotic technology and examines how advanced artificial life can evolve. The characters and dialogue need an awful lot of work, though. The two main characters are Dan and Bo. They're less like super soldiers and more like the two weird guys you avoid at your buddy's BBQ. Dan and Bo are later joined by elite soldiers from other countries: A sniper from China, an explosives expert and a commando from England, a gangster from Japan, and a suave scene stealing classy French Robot. The characters argue and bicker at times and you need to make decisions on who you support by speaking into your microphone (or selecting responses from a list). The ending you get depends on your relationship with each of the characters. If they all like you, it sure helps out with the final battle. Some of the dialogue is awkwardly written or delivered and that hurts what would be a very intriguing story.

Gameplay: 8/10
There are two main types of gameplay: Shooting and Commanding your squad.

The Shooting is Great! The enemy AI takes cover, tries to flank you, and charges at times. Where you shoot the robots determines their reaction. If you blow off their legs, they come crawling after you. At one point, I was firing at enemies and I heard an eerie robotic laugh. The camera panned down and a robot grabbed my legs and pulled out a grenade. I had to blow his head off before he blew us both up. If you blow off their primary gun arm, they pull a sidearm. If you do severe damage to their heads, they get confused and attack other robots. This is a great way to streamline gameplay. Instead of pausing the action and casting a slow spell on enemies or a "confuse" spell, you just do it with your aim.

There's a pretty good arsenal of weapons and grenades at your disposal and you'll need them all. There are powerful melee enemies, sniping enemies, commando enemies, flying enemies, acrobatic enemies, and a huge variety of large bosses.

Commanding your allies works pretty good about half the time. Bo saved me once and I absent mindedly said, "Thanks," into my headset. Bo replied, "You're welcome." At this point, I felt very connected to my allies! There is a fairly extensive vocabulary that you can say to your squad. You can issue commands, encourage them, scold them, argue with them, etc. However, your microphone often picks up random noise and thinks you said things that you didn't say. Your buddies start acting confused. There are also some very awkward moments where an enemy or ally asks you a story driven question, "How do you feel about artificial life surpassing humanity?" Your options are something like: Dammit, OK, Pop Tarts, and No. It gets really confusing at times. It would have been great if this was planned out better. After a while, I turned the microphone off.

Levels: 9/10
The levels have a good variety of mission objectives and scenes. At times you fight in corridors, arenas, on top of vehicles, etc... Almost all of the levels are really fun.

Leveling Up: 9/10
You earn credits by killing enemies. The more damage you do to one, the more credits you get. If you kill them with a single shot, a melee attack, a head shot, or a multi-kill, you get bonus credits. Throughout the game, there are kiosks, where you can exchange your credits for consumables like ammo, grenades, health packs, and temporary stat boosts. You can also purchase permanent upgrades to your squad's weapons. Each attribute is upgraded independently: Accuracy, Firepower, Clip Size, Range, etc... This works great!

Graphics: 8.5/10
The levels and enemies look great and the animations for the characters are incredibly smooth. The robots are intelligently designed as well. One problem is that many of the main characters are very plain and they really don't have any distinguishing characteristics.

Sound: 8/10
Overall, the voice acting is OK. The sound effects really highlight the action and the soundtracks create an exciting or interesting atmosphere.

Multiplayer: n/a
There is multiplayer with a bunch of different modes, but nobody is playing any of them. I tried a few times and there were no games available for any of the modes.

Replay Value: 5/10
There are different difficulty levels and a mission select. Without Multiplayer Mode, I'm not sure why you would play the game over again. The Campaign is about 10 hours long.

Maturity: Older Teen
There isn't any graphic violence and the bad guys are machines, so there is no gore. There is the type of swearing you'd hear in an action movie, though.

Overall: 8
This was a great idea for a game, but the execution was a bit off. If you're looking for a fun 3rd Person Shooter for cheap, pick this game up. The combat is the best part of the game.
Buy it if you enjoy combat like Mass Effect or Gears of War.
Rent it if you have 10 hours to finish it, although you can just buy the game for around $10 now.
Avoid it if awkward dialogue bothers you or you really need multiplayer modes.

If you like this game, definitely check out Gears of War, Vanquish, and Mass Effect.

Darksiders II
Darksiders II
Offered by Hubbagames
Price: $12.00
190 used & new from $4.80

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Balance Between Action and RPG, September 16, 2013
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Darksiders II (Video Game)
Darksiders 2 expands on the original game by adding a massive character upgrade system, open ended environments, and a longer campaign with side quests.

Story: 9/10
Death comes to War's rescue after the events of Darksiders 1. In order to save his brother, Death must undergo a series of challenges in a massive world heavily inspired by Celtic Lore. The story is told through graphic novel style cut scenes and in game character dialogue. The world has been influenced by corruption and Death must destroy this corruption and save the land. There are traps, angels, demons, guardians, monsters, giants, and armies of minions that stand in his way.

Graphics: 7/10
The art style is similar to the first Darksiders. It is exaggerated and somewhat cartoony, akin to World of Warcraft. It's not bad, but in a game that rivals God of War in its scope, the cartoon style graphics clash with the epic setting. A game this epic should be a bit more gritty. The character designs are well thought out and the enemies and bosses are very well done. There is a wide range of massive environments full of foreboding ruins and ancient temples. The size and scope of the world really pushes the limit on Epic Fantasy.

Gameplay: 7/10

There are 4 basic components to Gameplay:

Death is armed with a pair of scythes activated by the X button. Death carries secondary weapons (Massive Hammers, short blades, etc.) that are activated by the Y button. By mixing attacks with the X and Y buttons, Death performs fluid combos by attacking with both weapons. Death can finish off weakened enemies by pressing the B button to perform an Execution kill. Death also has a phantom grab attack where he can pull small enemies to him or pull himself to larger enemies. Death's only defensive ability is a teleport. There is no block, so avoiding the enemies' attacks and counterattacking where there is an opening is the best way to survive.

There are also a handful of boosts and special attacks that are unlocked and upgraded on a skill tree. You can map these attacks to LB+X, LB+Y, LB+A, LB+B. Using these require energy called Wrath. In order to fill up your Wrath, you can use a potion or perform normal X, Y, B, attacks on enemies, then unleash Death's fury with his special attacks.

As Death progresses through the environments, he encounters waves of enemies. There are minions who constantly attack death with basic attacks and more powerful Lieutenants that have a special attack or do a great deal of damage. If you just try to button mash, you'll get killed.

This is the weakest part of the game. The levels are fairly linear, but there are lots of passages that loop back to other areas. Some areas become reachable when Death gains new abilities. The camera is not your friend all of the time. You also have a raven with you named 'Dust.' If you hold down the L Stick, Dust will fly to where you need to go. But sometimes, Dust gets confused. He may fly to a doorway and when you enter that door and activate Dust again, he flies to the doorway that you just entered. At times, this will drive you crazy. There are basic hand holds that you can jump to and crawl on to traverse the environments and find chests full of gold, items, and potions.

The Puzzles use switches, platforms, Portals, and even time Travel. They aren't too complicated, but you feel pretty good when you figure them out. They're a nice break in the action.

Boss Fights
The Boss Fights feel epic. This game features some really powerful enemies and some colossal bosses. They all involve some sort of pattern recognition or open window to defeat them. They're fun, challenging, cinematic, and memorable.

RPG Elements: 8/10
Darksiders 2 features a surprisingly deep RPG Gear System, where you can equip all of the pieces of Death's armor and weapons separately. Each item has bonuses or special boosts associated with them. So a Scythe may have a high damage rating, bonus elemental damage, bonus critical chance, bonus health on executions, etc... And the armor pieces work the same way. You can tailor your character to high damage resistance, bonus wrath or health, bonus damage, etc... And when you find pieces that work well together, you can become really powerful.

Sound: 7/10
The voice acting is well done and the music is hit or miss. The action tracks are exciting, but some of the exploration music is so serene, I found myself struggling to stay awake.

Replay Value: 5/10
The game is 25-40 hours long, depending on how many side quests you finish. It features a New Game+ Mode, where you can replay a harder difficulty and keep the gear that you have.

Maturity: Teen
The Packaging says, M Rated with "Violence, Suggestive Themes, and Blood and Gore."
This game is loaded with Fantasy Violence. Watch Death rip apart and decapitate demons with his scythes and superhuman strength! But the art style is cartoony and the attacks are so over the top, it's more exciting, than disturbing. You'll want to say, "Wow, cool!" rather than throw up. Death swings a weapon, and blue sparks or fire fly out of the cartoony demon. That's pretty much it. It's surprising how this is Rated M, and Soul Calibur is Teen. I'd say Soul Calibur is worse because the fighters are humans, the graphics are more realistic, and the attacks are less over the top.

Overall: 7/10 (Not quite an 8)
The game is fun and really long. It's a good deal for the price! You'll like the combat system, the RPG elements, and the epic scope of the game. You probably won't like the camera at times and it is fairly easy to get lost - especially if you are doing side quests.

Buy it if you like God of War style action, Epic Quests, and RPG Loot Systems.
The game is really long, so buying it might be a better deal than renting it, unless you have 25-30 hours to spare in a week.
Avoid this game if you want to rush from fight to fight because the exploration and level designs may frustrate you.
Avoid this game if you prefer realistic graphics like Assassin's Creed over World of Warcraft Graphics.

If you played this and want more:
If you liked the Loot Systems, play Borderlands!
If you like Epic RPG's check out Skyrim or Witcher 2.
If you like great melee combat, check out Bayonetta, Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden 2, or Devil May Cry.

Max Payne 3 - Xbox 360
Max Payne 3 - Xbox 360
Offered by NYC Electronics
Price: $10.20
248 used & new from $3.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dark Movie with Interactive Action Sequences, August 18, 2013
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
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Max Payne 3 offers the kind of sarcasm that can only come from a drunken killing machine who's addicted to depressants. Although the game is heavy on story and repetitive on action, it still manages to be entertaining, but the amount of cutscenes and lack of boss battles will alienate a lot of people.

Story: 8/10
The story is well told and well acted through a plethora of cutscenes that span more than a decade of Max Payne's life. The story is engaging, very grim, darkly humorous, and compelling. But the sheer amount of breaks in the action for unskippable cutscenes really make you feel like you're watching a movie rather than playing a game. If you just want to jump into a level and kill bad guys, you're going to need a lot of patience. The story is also disturbing and many people may not have the stomach for it.

Gameplay: 8/10
It's a shooting gallery with a lot of features to polish the gameplay. Max primarily guns down low life bad guys with guns. He can do this from behind cover or in bullet time, where it's much easier to take out the bad guys with a clean headshot. From cover, Max can duck and shoot, blind fire, and quickly move to other cover. A few shots to the body will down most enemies, a lot more shots to the body will down bad guys in body armor, and a head shot takes care of just about everything. Max can also enter his trademarked bullet time mode, which slows the action and allows the Player to take aim and quickly dispatch enemies. Max can also initiate bullet time from a diving roll, where he jumps into the air, time slows, and he guns everyone down. There's an assortment of weapons from hand guns, dual wielding, sub machine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns, and the occasional explosives. The AI is pretty good and will duck and shoot and occasionally charge and flank. One nice feature deals with Max's Pain Killers. If your health reaches zero and you have some in your inventory, you get a chance to save yourself. Max falls to his back and if you can kill the guy who is shooting you in a few seconds, you recover. If you cannot shoot him, you die. Unfortunately, sometimes, due to camera or animation issues, it is impossible to shoot the guy in time.

Sound: 8/10
The voice acting is great and a large portion of the story takes place in Brazil. Many of the actors were recorded in Brazil, so it's authentic. The soundtrack is moody and grim, which fits the tone of the game. There are also some action tracks to highlight the action.

Replay Value: 5/10
The campaign has 4 difficulty levels, but it is so deliberately paced, I can't imagine anyone wanting to play the 12 hour campaign more than once. There is a level select, so you can go back and get achievements. There is also an arcade mode with a very complex scoring system which rewards risk taking, aggression, and defense. You can compete on leaderboards for bragging rights. Max Payne also has Multiplayer with a character advancement system.

Maturity: M+
This is for adults. The game features porn, drugs, gore, very disturbing scenes, glorified violence, language, and a bleak outlook on life. Having a kid play this is a very bad idea... unless he's already in Juvie... then he will like it.

Overall: 8/10
At times it feels like you brought an airsoft gun to the movies to watch some Hollywood Blockbuster and you're firing at the screen during the action scenes. Despite the grim atmosphere, the ton of cutscenes, and the repetitive gameplay, Max Payne 3 is still a memorable experience. It's fun and it will have you cringing and laughing at some of Max's one liners. For the price, it's worth playing.

Buy this game if you like really dark stories like Breaking Bad, Sin City, Oldboy, or Dexter.
Buy this game if you like the series and the shooting mechanics of the other games.
Rent this game if you have 10-14 hours to finish the campaign.
Avoid this game if you don't like really dark games or stories.
Avoid this game if you need a variety of gameplay.
Avoid this game if you need skippable cutscenes.

If you liked Max Payne 3 for its gunplay but want a more open ended experience, you should definitely play Red Dead Redemption or Far Cry 3.
If you liked Max Payne 3 for its adult themes, check out the Darkness 2 or GTA.

Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3
Offered by Delaware
Price: $24.99
209 used & new from $2.86

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dramatic Ending to the Series, July 24, 2013
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Mass Effect 3 (Video Game)
Mass Effect 3 relies on drama, nostalgia, and improved gameplay to end the epic trilogy. It deserves to go down as one of the best Sci-Fi trilogies of our generation, but it's got a few issues.

Story: 8/10
Throughout the story, there is a dark sense of drama, and an overt feeling of impending doom! Reapers have invaded the galaxy and they are intent on wiping out all non-synthetic organisms, so all of the races you have encountered in ME1 and ME2 face genocide. The Reapers begin their attack on Earth and as the humans quickly realize, they're outmatched. Lucky for us, there's a Halo Device called the Crucible that will destroy the Reapers! Commander Shepard must assemble his crew and search the galaxy for allies for the war and engineers who can activate the Crucible. Cerberus is also after the Crucible and they're battling Shepard's crew along the way. On the quest, Shepard will make many difficult choices regarding who lives or who dies, and some of these are painful.

Graphics: 9/10
The characters and cutscenes are great! The environments are on par with ME2 (great), but some are lacking a bit. The enemy designs and visual FX really bring the battles to life.

Gameplay: 8.5/10
The basic game flow goes like this - Start on Ship, Search Galaxy Map for Quests, Fly there, Play a Mission (A battle in the Unreal Engine), Return to Ship, Talk to Characters about it, Repeat!

The Main Quests are marked on the Galaxy Map. In order to begin one, you just fly to the planet and land on it. From there, you pick your squad. In a few story related missions, one squad member is automatically chosen for you. You want to pick a squad that best combats the enemies you'll be fighting or pick a character with biotic powers and another with mechanical powers to balance your squad. You can upgrade Shepard's armor to give him boosts to offense or defense, and you can choose the guns for your squad members. Shepard can carry up to 5 different gun types: Pistol, SMG, Assault Rifle, Shotgun, or Sniper Rifle. But the heavier the combined weight of the guns, the longer it takes for his powers to recharge. So, do you want more firepower or more special powers?

Everyone levels up when Shepard levels up, and you assign points to all of the character's skill trees to unlock or boost their powers.

The quests are usually battles similar to Gears of War encounters. Enemies charge you and you can use your weapons and powers to stop them. You can take cover behind objects and roll. At first, the cover mechanic feels really strange. I found myself rolling by accident, then pressing A to take cover, then have it not work, so I double tap A, then Shepard takes cover, and jumps out of cover to get shot in the face and die. After a few battles, I did get the hang of it.

The guns do damage, and the powers either debuff enemies, attack them with a damage type, summon a drone, or get enemies to fight on your side. Success in battle is largely determined by your aim and using the right powers against enemies. The game is pretty easy on normal mode, and on the harder difficulties, you'll really need to strategically use the damage types.

Powers and Weapons: 7/10
Upgrading the Powers is very simple. There are 6 levels of each power and 1 or 2 choices on each path. So you may unlock a biotic attack, and for an upgrade, you can choose to do concentrated damage to 1 enemy or have a wider area of effect.

The guns are pretty bad. There are many weapons in the game, and each can be upgraded 4 times. But it is really hard to tell which guns will best suit you. One frustrating thing is that you cannot see how one type of shotgun compares to the other shotguns while you are upgrading it. So you may have a cool shotgun that you like, and then you'll spend money to upgrade your new shotgun 5 times and realize it's not as good as the one you are using. And there's no way to get your credits back. Also, some assault rifles are full auto, while others are burst fire. It doesn't tell you this on the equip screen. There are just bar graphs on Damage, Capacity, Fire Rate, etc... It would have been great to show the Player the max attributes of a weapon in a different color on the bar graph.

Each gun can carry 2 modifiers, that improve accuracy, clip size, weapon capacity, etc...
This helps you balance out the gun's deficiencies.

One really nice feature is that Shepard can earn Reputation Points by acting favorably with a crew member. Once Shepard does this, he can add their powers to his own and upgrade them. So, if Tali likes Shepard, he can use her Summon Combat Drone ability. If Liara likes him, he can use Singularity. Etc.

The Endings: 6/10
I don't want to spoil the ending, so I won't talk about what actually happens. Instead, I'll just point out the mistakes on a conceptual level.

Note: My expectations were so low for the ending, I thought Commander Shepard was going to slip on a banana peel, fall out of an airlock, then get probed by space monkeys. As he pounds on the glass, space monkey giggles and Uranus jokes are overheard while circus music plays in the background.

The War Asset Meter:
Every Quest that you do, fills this meter. There is a minimum line on it and that's pretty much it. You can also fill this meter by playing lots of multiplayer. It doesn't make sense, but it sorta gives players a reason to try it. If you fill it all the way, you get a very minor tweak to the ending, but the game doesn't tell you that. Most people just partially fill the bar by doing the main quests and that's it.

The Choice!
In the end, you are presented with 3 choices. There is a blue switch, a column of light, and a red switch. But there is no confirmation on what switch does what, or what happens when you jump into the light. The game really needed confirmation text, "Pressing this will destroy the Reapers.", Option 2, Option 3...

The way the ending was originally edited, it was choppy and confusing. Parts of it also made no sense and there was almost no mention of Shepard, a character that you've been playing for 6 years! In the Extended Versions, they added some more scenes and some voice overs. They're better, but not great.

Basically, if you want to make an artsy ending or a cerebral ending that makes people think, do it in an epilogue. Make the regular ending a payoff. Remember when Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star? That was gratifying! That makes the audience feel good! Mass Effect 3's ending is confusing about how you get each one and when you see it, it raises more questions.

Sound: 10/10+
The sound effects, music, and voice acting are awesome!

Maturity: M
This is rated M for sexual situations, violence, and language. It's a lot like an Rated R action film.

Replay Value / Multiplayer: 8/10
You can play the game over and get different endings, different romances, and choose to ally yourself with different races. You can also play on the harder difficulties and try battling through the levels with different squad members. Each pass through takes about 20-30 hours, depending on the difficulty level and the number of side quests that you do.

Side Quest Logs - There aren't any. If you meet someone at the citadel and they say, "I can help you if you find the lost artifact of Gormic for me." You can search the galaxy and scan planets to get it. But when you find it, you aren't sure who needs it. You just find an artifact and you know someone that you met in the past wanted it. This game would have been better you could look up - "Artifact G - for Fred, Citadel Hospital," so you didn't have to wander around as much.

Other fails, I already noted: Cover, Gun Upgrades, and triggering the Ending.

Overall: 8/10
Flaws aside, this is a really good game that is part of an amazing trilogy. The world that Bioware created is incredible. All of the different alien races, their cultures, their religions, and how they interact is mind-blowing. It also makes you think about the human race in relation to the vast and infinite universe. The combat is fun and tactical, the characters are memorable, the story is dramatic / universal in scope, and you'll feel emotional about parts of it. Sure this game could have been much better, but overall, it's really good!

Buy it if you love the series, and please understand that the endings are better.
Buy it if you love sci-fi and like themes about man's role in the universe.
Rent it if you have 20-30 hours for one play through.
Avoid it if you want a Commander Shepard Centric Ending.
Avoid it if you didn't like the other games in the series.

UFC Undisputed 3
UFC Undisputed 3
Offered by Shopville USA
Price: $49.99
54 used & new from $18.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best UFC Game So Far, July 1, 2013
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: UFC Undisputed 3 (Video Game)
Warning: This is NOT a Button Masher! You need to practice!!! But after putting in the hours, the game becomes fun and feels rewarding because you earn every win. I'd recommend the UFC games for fans of the sport and fans of fighting games. There's a good deal of strategy here and the game is so realistic that you'll actually be able to get more enjoyment out of watching the UFC if you learn how to play this game. You'll have a better understanding of the strategies and how the techniques work together.

Concept: 9/10
Sports games fall on a continuum of Difficult Simulation and Fun Arcade Game. This UFC Game is right in the Middle. It's got all of the current weight classes, fighters, personalities, graphics, introductions, from the sport, so it feels really authentic. The gameplay is complicated and takes about a week to learn. But, MMA is complicated because it combines punches, kicks, wrestling body control, and jujitsu submissions. All of these disciplines play pretty well and after you learn how to play, the game is fun.

Game Modes:
Exhibition - 1 fight - pick a weight class, 2 fighters, and go at it.
Title - take a famous UFC fighter and fight your way through the contenders to become the champ.
Title Defense - Once you are the champ, fight the best of the best to keep your title.
Career Mode - Create and Manage your fighter, train to become better in certain aspects of MMA, and fight your way to the top.
VS Mode - fight a buddy - (Offline ONLY)

Gameplay: 8/10
It feels like there are so many ways to lose in an MMA fight. You can get beaten down for 3 rounds and lose a decision. You can get beaten down severely and get KO'ed. You can get hit with a flurry of powerful strikes in rapid succession and get a flash KO. You can get thrown onto the ground, dominated, and KO'ed. You can get thrown to the ground and submitted. But all of these techniques can be used on your opponent, too. Knowing when to use the techniques is as important as knowing how to use them.

Striking: 9/10
Standing and trading punches and kicks. You can target your opponent's head for a KO, the body to drain your opponent's stamina, or the legs to slow them down and nullify their takedowns. You get BONUS damage for excellent timing. If you catch an opponent coming in and beat them to the punch, you do more damage. If you dodge their attack and counter, you also deal Bonus damage. This takes a while to get used to, but once you do, it's pretty fun. You can also catch kicks by grabbing your opponent's leg and counter punch them in the face. Not only is this rewarding, but it also deals bonus damage. On the easier difficulties, the game is almost 100% striking. It's a good way to learn. As you play harder difficulties, the AI starts incorporating other aspects of MMA like grappling, transitions, clinches, ground and pound, and submissions.

Grappling: 8/10
You can grab your opponent in a clinch, deliver knees, elbows, and punches, or throw them onto the ground. Once you're on the ground, you can move the R Stick in semi-circles to change your position. You can pull the right stick to "block" or cancel an opponent's transitions and keep them where they are. You can grapple from the top and bottom while delivering punches and kicks to ground and pound your enemies. Certain positions on the ground yield better results. For example, if you are in your opponent's guard, you can't punch very hard because you can only swing your arms. If you get on top of them in a full mount, you can deliver haymakers to their body and head and go for a KO. Grappling is pretty easy once you learn the positions and how to block your opponent's transitions. But it takes a while to "get it."

Submissions: 8/10
When you are grappling, you can click the R stick to go for an arm bar, choke, etc... This brings up an Octagon with a Player 1 BAR and a Player 2 Bar. The length and speed of the bar is determined by your grappling skill and current stamina. Each Player can move their bar around the octagon shaped track. (like 2 trains) In order to submit your opponent, you just have to overlap part of their bar with part of yours. This is easy when you both have large bars. To make an opponent TAP OUT, you have to keep your bar over theirs and a gauge starts to fill. But you have a limited amount of time to fill it, otherwise your opponent escapes from the submission attempt. The bars can pass through each other, so you can try to move away, or move through the other Player's bar to escape. It's kinda fun, and very suspenseful.

Training: 7/10
In career mode, there are training exercises to boost your stats. These are 2 minute mini-games where you practice your moves. Depending on how well you did, you get stat boosts for your next fight! But training in opposite disciplines may actually lower your stats in the opposite discipline. So if you are a striker who wants to learn grappling or submissions, your punch and kick stats may drop a little bit. When training, it's important to be well rounded, but not abandon your most effective techniques. Most of the games are easy, but you don't get to practice them. They just throw you into them and you have to do your best in 2 minutes. It's frustrating at first, but gets easier later on.

Graphics: 8/10
The graphics look pretty good and authentic to the UFC. The venues, octagons, and crowds look great. The fighters all look like their real life counterparts, but they could look a bit better. When the fighters take damage, their face swells, they bleed, sweat, and their body and legs turn reddish-purple from the repeated hits.

Sound: 7/10
The music is great and the commentary is from Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg. Most of the time, the commentary is on the mark, but sometimes, they'll say something strange.

Multiplayer: NONE
The THQ servers are down because THQ went bankrupt. There was online support, but not anymore.

Maturity: Teen
If you like the sport, you've seen blood and fighting. There's no profanity or anything that you wouldn't expect while watching a UFC.

Replay Value: 8/10
Since the game takes a while to learn and even longer to master, you'll be playing it for a long time. However, the lack of an online multiplayer mode really hurts. I'd recommend going through the tutorial, then a bunch of exhibition fights first. Then take a pre-made fighter and fight your way to the title. Once you are familiar with ALL aspects of MMA, try the Career Mode.

Overall: 8.5/10
If you are willing to put in the hours, the game is fun! Because it's so difficult, every win feels great! You can enjoy the UFC game for at least a month, even without online mode. I'd recommend it if you are a fan or casual observer of the UFC.
Unfortunately, THQ is no more and EA bought the UFC license. Hopefully the EA Curse won't affect the UFC and hopefully, they'll make great games.

Alice: Madness Returns - Xbox 360
Alice: Madness Returns - Xbox 360
Offered by 40K ITEMS ON SALE
Price: $24.46
58 used & new from $12.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Twisted Story / Annoying Gameplay, June 22, 2013
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was a fan of the first game, a dark, twisted take on Alice in Wonderland. The sequel deals with Alice's Madness as she attempts to solve a mystery.

Story: 9/10
A mysterious fire started, burning her house to the ground and incinerating her family. Alice was framed for the crime and it doesn't help that she can't remember what happened either. As Alice slips into madness, Wonderland slips into corruption. Alice must battle her way through Wonderland as she finds memories which will uncover the truth! The story is really well done and this would have made a great book, movie, anime, graphic novel, etc... Unfortunately, this story drives a lackluster game.

Graphics: 6/10
Alice looks great and the concepts behind each of the levels: Steam Punk, Japan, Storybook, Queen of Hearts, etc... are very interesting. But the execution is pretty weak. The game looks like it's 5 years old. The levels are low polygon-low res textures. The lighting and camera are also pretty bad, too. As I was playing through the game, a mystery began to form in my own mind. Why does this game look so bad?

Gameplay: 6/10
12 hours of Platform Jumping, 3 hours of basic combat, 1 hour of really bad puzzles. This is mostly a platformer where Alice can triple jump and glide. It's fairly easy and if you do miss a platform, they start you where you last touched solid ground. Unfortunately, the camera is not always your friend and you have to struggle to get it pointed in the right direction. The Combat is easy and straightforward. Hit or shoot enemies. Some enemies must be hit first, some must be shot first. When you kill them, they drop teeth and health. The teeth are used to upgrade the weapons. But there are no jumping attacks and aside from YYY or XXX, there aren't any combos. The mini-games are just plain bad. Slider Puzzles with the same solution and sometimes the same image across puzzles. A pinball game with awful physics. etc... The gameplay is so bad, I'm surprised 3DO didn't publish it... I started asking myself, why is this game so bad?

Sound: 7/10
The Voice Acting is OK. The music is well done and highlights the combat and creepy atmosphere. Overall, it's pretty good.

Maturity: M
This is NOT FOR KIDS! This is a very dark story in a game which features gore and horror elements! It's more like Silent Hill than Crash Bandicoot.

Overall: 6.5/10
When I finished the game and saw the ending credits, my mystery was solved. Nearly everyone was Chinese. So, EA took this Alice Madness Concept and farmed it out to a cheap rookie development house in China. This is why everything looks blah, and the gameplay is clunky. I really wish EA spent more resources on this game because it could have been really cool. I'd like to see the story continued, by a real developer. Alice deserves better!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2014 8:05 AM PDT

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PC
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PC
Price: $19.99
55 used & new from $11.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!!! But Sorta Flawed..., May 31, 2013
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
The Elder Scrolls is my favorite Video Game Series of all time and Skyrim is the BEST in the Series! But it's far from perfect.

The Elder Scrolls series is the most versatile RPG system ever created. When I play, if my character dies, I delete the saves, start over, and play an entirely different way. So, if my Wood Elf Hunter, armed with a bow, and potions gets crushed by a wandering Giant, I create a Nord Blacksmith Berserker Werewolf armed with a Greatsword and fight to free Skyrim from the Iron Grip of the Empire. If he dies, I can create a charming High Elf Mage with an arsenal of Magic Spells and Familiars. If she dies, I can create a ruthless Redgard Battlemage Vampire who wants Skyrim under Imperial Control. With mods, there are almost an infinite number of ways you can play through the game. There is no good or evil in The Elder Scrolls Games, there are just alliances and repercussions. And there are also a ton of different ways to complete most of the quests. It's the only series where your character can truly live in the world.

Skyrim is HUGE and the environments are breathtaking. The Art and Technical Direction come together to create a truly memorable experience. There are times where you'll be riding a horse up a mountain trail and you'll stop and admire the view. Then you'll snap out of it because you hear ferocious howls coming from just over the ridge. When you approach, you'll find two Sabercats battling a Troll. Of course you let them battle it out and slay the wounded winner, skin them, and make leather armor out of their hides.

Skyrim features a simplified Crafting / Enchanting System where you can create just about any weapon or piece of armor that you'd like. Throughout the game, there are ore deposits in caves or on the sides of mountains. Just bring a pickaxe to start mining. When you get ore, you can smelt it to make ingots. You can use those ingots and leather to create any type of weapon or armor that you'd want. Regarding Enchanting, you can use an altar to Learn an enchantment from any magical weapon that you find. So, if you found a sword of Fire Damage, you can learn how to enchant your own weapons with Fire Damage. Once you know an Enchantment, you just need an Item, the Enchantment, and a Soul Gem (a crystal with the soul of a beast inside) to enchant (and name) the weapon. There is no "durability" stat so you'll never have to worry about something breaking or weapon upkeep.

In Skyrim Leveling Up has been simplified. There are no Stats like Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, etc... Instead, there are Skills. Each time you use a Skill, it goes up. When enough Skills Go Up, you Go Up in Level. Whenever you gain a Level, you can get 10 more HP, 10 more Mana, or 10 more Stamina. You can also choose a Perk. If your character is a Swordsman, you can select +20% more Damage With Melee Weapons. As you get better with Melee Weapons, more Perks become available. Any time you Level Up, you can choose a Perk for ANY Skill, as long as you are good enough with that Skill to Unlock the Perk. There are Communication Perks, Combat Perks, Magic Perks, Crafting Perks, Stealth Perks, etc...

It definitely pays to stick with a gameplay style and improve it. If you focus on 1-3 things you'll be a lot tougher, than if you tried to improve everything evenly.

You might be thinking, well, wouldn't it get boring if I was just a Stealth Archer? I'd have to play a 150 hour game as a sniper. The good news is that anyone can cast low level spells and you can improve your casting abilities with Perks and Items. Every character you make can also learn DRAGON SHOUTS, which is a special kind of magic. You may have 1 Dragon Shout equipped at a time and these can freeze an enemy, slow time, make you teleport 50 meters, create a storm, pacify enemies, breathe Dragon Fire, etc... So, you can use these Shouts to round out your Character Builds.

There are a few flavors of killing enemies:
Two Handed Weapon Melee, where you can attack, block, or Power Attack - costing you stamina. If a Power Attack lands on an enemy, it creates an opening.

One Handed Weapon Melee + Shield, where you can attack, block, shield bash, and Power Attack.

Dual Wielding Melee Weapons.

Single Handed Melee Weapon and Magic Spell in the other Hand.

Archery (uses both hands) but combined with Stealth, you get massive damage bonuses.

Dual Wielding Magic Spells, where you can have a spell in each hand. Heal and Fireball, or Summon Familiar and Oakflesh, or Ward (shield spell) and Conjure Sword, or Invisibility or Raise Dead, etc...

The enemies are pretty simple:
Melee enemies charge you and perform attacks, blocks, and power attacks.
Missile enemies shoot at you and when you get close they draw a melee weapon.
Mage Enemies summon enemies or try to shoot you with spells.
Dragons fly around blast you with their breath weapon, and occasionally land for some melee combat.

In Oblivion, the entire world leveled up with you, which was terrible, because every fight felt like it had the same difficulty. Now, the world does become slightly more difficult as you level up, but there are still incredibly tough enemies like Giants and weak enemies like Wolves throughout the game, so there's some variety.

There are a TON of Quests in Skyrim: Main Quests, Misc. Quests, Nord Quests, Empire Quests, Fighter Quests, Mage Quests, Thief Quests, Assassin Quests, Faction Quests, City Quests, Daedric Prince Quests, Random Quests... and many of these have branching steps. And because this is an Elder Scrolls game, there are always a ton of different ways to solve each one. This is the type of game where the Adventure Truly Belongs to YOU!

Skyrim does require Steam and you can't play if the Steam Servers are down, which is awful. On the plus side of things, Steam makes it incredibly easy to browse, install, and upgrade mods with the click of a mouse. So Steam is a bit of a double edged sword.

The major flaw of Skyrim is the acting and writing. Although the lore is Incredibly Rich and Skyrim references ALL of the other Elder Scrolls games, the Dialogue is incredibly simple and the voice actors are on the level of a College Drama Class. Each Voice Actor also plays about 50 different characters, so it gets irritatingly repetitive. The characters are also severely lacking in emotion. The main problem is that there are NO Cutscenes. So, you may finally meet a Jarl / King, and he is congratulating you on your efforts, and a peasant talks over the king's grand speech with something trivial. So as the king is saying, "There hasn't been a Dragon in these parts in a thousand years. The scrolls were lost, but this is the harbinger... My pig just took a dump," interrupted townsperson #41. The characters are so emotionless, that it's hard to get motivated for the quests. You just see them as a chance for Loot.

Maturity: There's loads of fantasy violence, talk of prostitutes, and some gore, but it's fine for Teens.

Replay Value: Nearly Infinite. You can finish the Main Quest in less than 25 hours, but you can enjoy this game and discover new things for 1000 hours.

Overall: The lack of emotional content keeps this game from being perfect. But the adventure, the flexibility of the game, and the scope of the world are amazing!

Buy it if you want the adventure of a lifetime or wait a few weeks to get the Legendary Edition, which is more expensive, but comes with the Expansion Packs.

If you loved Skyrim, you should definitely check out The Witcher 2! If you like Open Ended World Games, there are plenty to choose from: Red Dead Redemption, Far Cry 3, Fallout, Assassin's Creed, GTA, and Saint's Row.

Harbinger 44501 20-Inch Pro-Thumb Loop Wrist Wraps
Harbinger 44501 20-Inch Pro-Thumb Loop Wrist Wraps
Price: $8.99
17 used & new from $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great for the Price!, April 20, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I sprained my wrist a while back and could only lift about 75% of my normal routine. So, I gave these a shot. I just got back from the gym and was able to lift 100% of my old routine with no wrist pain at all! Something I haven't been able to do in 7 weeks. They provide good support and you can't beat the price. The only concern is that the velcro straps are a bit weak. If you just rip these off your wrists, they probably won't last very long. But hey, these were 8 bucks.

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