Ascend: Hand of Kul was developed by Signal Studios and published by Microsoft Studios. It was released into public beta on September 25, 2013, free of charge. This review was conducted over a two-week period.
There’s a grim stigma attached to the free-to-play moniker that seemingly paints any game foolish enough to hoist its colors as a second-class citizen. That sentiment might have carried degrees of credibility in the past, but a new wave of free-to-play titles have begun to surge, eroding away the lingering stain on the distribution model. Spearheading that effort on Xbox Live, Signal Studios’ action-RPG Ascend: Hand of Kul doesn’t so much prove that free-to-play games can be great, but that great games can be free-to-play.
You begin Ascend: Hand of Kul as a Caos, a newborn thirty-foot humanoid, crafted to serve one of the three new gods that have awoken to challenge the rule of the Titan. You’ll bind yourself to one of these deities, championing their cause and gaining powers associated with their alignment as you gain influence and convert the will of the people. You’ll battle other Caos and countless monstrosities, always pushing further toward the endgame – where allegiances are fickle and the real goal is the pursuit of your own power.
DuckTales: Remastered was developed by WayForward Technologies and published by Capcom. It will be released September 11, 2013 for 1200 MSP or $14.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
In 1989, Capcom, much to the delight of gamers young & old, released the critically acclaimed Disney DuckTales. Many viewed this game as one of the best games, ever, on the NES. The game sold so well it was later ported over to the Gameboy. Sales combined between both platforms were over the 2 million mark.
Thus, fans were overjoyed when at PAX East 2013, Capcom announced that they would be releasing a DuckTales: Remastered in the summer of 2013. WayForward Technologies has been working on this title since 2011. Ducktales: Remastered has already launched for PC, PS3 and WiiU but the Xbox 360 version will not be released till September 11, 2013.
Mars: War Logs was developed by Spiders Studios and published by Focus Home Interactive. It was released July 26, 2013 for 1,200 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.
Mars: War Logs is a sci-fi/action RPG that is unmistakably, unabashedly cut from the same basic template used for Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect. The main character is a war veteran with a dark, mysterious, or troubled past. He or she travels with a few companions who provide assistance, special abilities, additional information, and so on. The villain is either an oppressive fascist regime or someone who harbors deep personal resentment for the hero. Throughout the journey, the party is faced with moral dilemmas as they seek to resolve primary tasks and sub-quests, with decision options usually broken down into a binary GOOD or EVIL choice and little in-between. There is an equipment upgrade system, where the player uses spare materials to enhance weapons and armor. The party gains experience points to level up, and skill points can be applied to unlock advanced abilities, feats, and class perks. There are romance options available, depending on the hero’s gender, demeanor, and rapport with his or her companions. This game format is very familiar to anyone who has played any high-profile console RPGs in the past ten years, and even more so for those running the original Baldur’s Gate on PC in the late 1990’s.
So let’s just get this out of the way, rather than meandering around it: if someone is interested in playing a sci-fi/action/open-ended WRPG, they have a ton of options available from half a dozen extremely prolific developers, some of whom started the genre. Many of those options are incredible adventures, spanning entire galaxies, with memorable characters, brilliant dialogue, breathtaking landscapes, and a few of them have dramatically pushed the genre forward in big ways. The market is immensely crowded, and Mars: War Logs is placed in a very tough spot because of that. Priced between $15 and $20, it is clearly aimed to be a mid-priced alternative to mega-funded RPGs from the likes of BioWare and Obsidian, and wants to be a Mass Effect that doesn’t cost $60 at launch. But the size of the budget and price of the game are but small parts of a much larger picture, so how does Mars: War Logs measure up?
Alien Spidy was developed by Enigma Software Productions and published by Kalypso Media. It was released March 20, 2013 for 800 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.
In the interest of full disclosure, we were unable to complete Alien Spidy for this review. Finishing a game before it’s reviewed is the ideal, but as you read you’ll understand the issues encountered that led to these circumstances.
Enigma Software Productions may not be a familiar name to most gamers, especially on the Xbox Marketplace. Their previous titles include History Channel: Legends of War – Patton, War Leaders: Clash of Nations and several other RTS and action games. Coming from a lineage of titles like that, it’s surprising to see a game like Alien Spidy come from the same studio. With its cute animation style and what looks to be fun, laid-back platformer gameplay, the game is a real step into uncertain territory — which is something we’d normally encourage. However, looks can be deceiving, and even though it’s nice to see a developer step out of their comfort zone, there’s something to be said for sticking to your strengths. In this case, Alien Spidy is a game that would have been better left unspun.
Alien Spidy puts players in the role of an alien spider named, you guessed it, Spidy. As the game opens, Spidy’s friend Virgi sets out on an exploratory mission to the planet Earth; however, Spidy quickly becomes concerned when he loses contact with her. Being the adventurous sort, Spidy decides to set out for Earth to save his friend. As he approaches the planet, his ship runs in to some technical difficulties. Crash landing on Earth, pieces of the ship are scattered across 70 levels in three unique areas. It is here players set out to find the missing parts of Spidy’s ship and save Virigi.
Happy Wars was developed by Toylogic and published by Microsoft Studios. It was released on October 12, 2012, free of charge. A copy was provided for review purposes.
There was a time when free-to-play games were regarded as the second-class citizens of the industry, relegated to social networking sites and mobile phones. While those days are over, free-to-play gaming never quite made it to Microsoft’s console until now, raising questions as to whether the model could even survive in a market that thrives on the bigger and better. Happy Wars’ delightful online action is the first to provide an answer to that question – and it’s a good one.
Fez was developed by Polytron and published by Microsoft/Trapdoor. It was released on April 13, 2012 for 800 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.
A few years ago Fez started making noise in the indie game scene as a game that had the potential to create a sense of immersion that would rival even the most cherished indie titles like Braid or Limbo. Polytron took their time with the game but now that Fez has finally released on XBLA, it’s clear that their time was well spent. Creating a game that forces gamers to truly think and explore these days is a fairly tall order. But Fez does just that. A sense of adventure and exploration accompanied by the classic 8-bit look will leave gamers swearing they have gone back in time to era they grew up in. An era where subtle clues were left behind for gamers to discover and slowly piece things together providing a true sense of accomplishment. An era where things may have initially looked simple but were far more complex once properly studied.
South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge was developed by South Park Digital Studios/Other Ocean Interactive and was published by Microsoft Studios. It was released on March 30, 2012 for 800 MSP. A code was provided for review purposes.
South Park games have generally been good over the years. South Park Rally, South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack, and even South Park: Let’s Go Tower Defense Play! have all been solid titles leading one to think that when adopted in to a different form of entertainment, the brand would be presented with the same attention to quality that shows in each weekly episode. Sadly that is not the case with South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge. You’ll probably crack a brief smile during the opening story book cinematic, but shortly after that you’ll likely be filled with rage, frustration and absolute disbelief.
If you’re not familiar with South Park storylines, then all you really need to know is that Eric Cartman and Scott Tenorman pretty much hate each other. As a prank that started with Tenorman swindling Cartman out of $10, the rivalry quickly spiraled out of control as it lead to Cartman ultimately tricking Tenorman into eating his dead parents. Now Tenorman is back for his revenge and this time he has taken one of the most prized possessions from Eric Cartman, his Xbox 360 hard drive.