Category Archives: Video Games

Game of the Month: Horizon Zero Dawn

When most of my friends (in the social network sense) on the PlayStation Network play the same new game it is usually worthwhile a look. The latest game is category is Horizon Zero Dawn. After reading a few reviews I immediately ordered it.

Horizon Zero Dawn tells the story of a post apocalyptic world. The human civilisation has perished and the relatively few survivors live in primitive tribes or medieval societies. Giant machines resembling animals like horses, tigers or even dinosaurs roam the lands and often pose a danger to the human population. The main character of the game is a young woman, named Aloy. For reasons unknown to her she was outcast from the tribe of the Nora at birth and given to another outcast, named Rost, who raised her like his own daughter. To find out who her parents were and why she was banished from the tribe Aloy trained very hard for years to take part in the Proving, the yearly hunter trials. A victory would not only make her a member of the tribe but also grant her a boon which she intends to use to find out about her heritage. Although Aloy actually wins most of her questions remain unanswered. Instead she must embark on a dangerous journey to find out who she really is and why the members of a dangerous cult called the Eclipse are trying to kill her at any cost.

Horizon Zero Dawn is an open world action role playing game. Its extensive story is told through dialogs, cutscenes and artefacts that can be found in the vast world. Besides the main campaign there are a lot of side missions, errands and discoverable areas like bandit camps or dungeons. Over the course of the game Aloy acquires new skills which e.g. improve her combat abilities. Collecting plants, hunting animals and looting defeated enemies provides resources that can be used to trade with merchants for better armour and new weapons.

Horizon Zero Dawn is a very enjoyable action role playing game. But what sets it apart is its excellent story full of mystery. The huge number of characters with excellent dialog and voice actors make the world feel alive and transform the game into an interactive movie. The game is similar to the award-winning The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt without ever appearing to be a mere copy.

I’m a big fan of games with a strong narrative. And Horizon Zero Dawn has that in spades. I enjoyed every moment of adventure and discovery that the game had to offer, all the way to the beautiful cut scene at the end. I can highly recommend this game to all players who enjoy games with a good story and a lot of action.

Game of the Month: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I had heard and a read a lot about the game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. But I was not sure whether I wanted to play this game, because the setting seemed to be a very dark. It was the recommendation of a fellow worker that finally convinced me to give it a try.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt takes place in a dark medieval world. Over a thousand years ago a cataclysm called the Conjunction of the Spheres unleashed numerous monsters like ghouls, griffins and trolls into the world. Ever since they pray on the population and their live stock. There are also racial tensions between the humanoid races like humans, elfs and dwarfs which often lead to violence. To make matters worse a war between the Nilfgaardian Empire and the northern kingdoms is ravaging the continent.

The player follows the adventures of the witcher Geralt of Rivia. Witchers are magically mutated monster hunters with superhuman strength, speed and senses. They make a living from hunting and killing monsters for money. Geralt is contacted by his former lover Yennefer of Vengerberg, a powerful sorceress. She tells him that Cirilla, Geralt’s adopted daughter, has reappeared and is apparently being chased by the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is a powerful group of spectres that leaves death and destruction in its path. Together Geralt and Yennefer must try to find Cirilla first and protect her from her dangerous pursuers.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an open world, third person, hack and slash game with role play elements. The game world is absolutely massive and full of interesting locations like monster nests, bandit camps or hidden treasures. Besides the lengthy main quests there are a huge number of interesting side quests and witcher contracts available. All this is combined with excellent story writing and compelling dialog spoken by brilliant voice actors. The combat system is also very well designed: there are no win buttons and no quicktime events. The outcome of a fight depends on the right mix of preparation, clever use of Geralt’s magic powers and good old reflexes. The game never spams you with enemies to increase the difficulty. It instead presents you with very well designed and thereby challenging opponents and forces you to learn from your mistakes. But it is never unfair in doing so. Spectacular graphics depicting breath taking landscapes and impressive cities, realistic character animations and excellent sound complete this outstanding game.

I greatly enjoyed playing The Witcher  3: Wild Hunt. It felt like an interactive fantasy story full of interesting characters and rich lore. It is possibly the best game not released by BioWare that I have ever played. Along the way you have to make a lot of decisions for Geralt. And it is usually challenging to tell what the correct choice is. More often than not it turns out that there is no correct choice, there are always unfortunate consequences. You can only decide for yourself which is the lesser evil. I was also happy that Geralt gets a good farewell at the end of his trilogy (the first two Witcher games are not available for PlayStation 4 unfortunately). I still have unfond memories of the disappointing ending of another trilogy.

If you like open world games, story driven games or hack and slash games you should definitely consider The Witcher  3: Wild Hunt. It excels in all of these areas.

Game of the Month: Dragon Age: Inquisition

Six years ago BioWare published Dragon Age: Origins, the first game of their new fantasy series. Thanks to its excellent story, rich lore, good game play and the epic size of the fictional world the game became a massive success. Its successor Dragon Age II however was less well received. Oversimplified role play elements, a too small game world and a less engaging story left a lot of fans of the first part quite disappointed. BioWare promised to learn from their mistakes and deliver a much better experience in the third part, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

The events in Kirkwall during the second game have lead to a mage rebellion. The resulting civil war between the mages and the Templar Order is devastating the whole continent of Thedas. The casualties on both sides and among the innocent population are high. The leader of the Chantry,  the dominant church, wants to stop the violence and uses her dwindling influence to host peace talks. But an enormous magical explosion kills her and the delegates of both sides. Even worse it also opens a massive breach into the Fade, the parallel world occupied by magical beings. Daemons pour through this opening and indiscriminately attack everybody in sight. More rifts into the Fade open in all of Thedas and the whole continent is descending into chaos.

The players character was sent as an observer to the peace talks and finds herself (or himself if you must) in the Fade after the explosion. She only narrowly manages to escape the daemons and uses the breach to cross back into the normal world. But the remaining forces of the Chantry arrest her on suspicion of causing the fatal explosion. With no memory of the events and a strange glowing magical mark embedded in her left hand, that is clearly linked to the breach, her chances of proving her innocence seem to be slim. However things change when it turns out that the mark allows her to close the rifts into the Fade and stop the daemons from invading the world. Her attempt to close the main breach only partially succeeds and almost kills her. But her heroics drastically change people’s attitude towards her. While a minority still believe she is responsible for the catastrophe the majority perceives her as a holy saviour that stands between Thedas and its utter destruction. She must now become the Inquisitor to lead the newly formed Inquisition and turn it into a force that can save Thedas and restore peace and order.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is indeed a major improvement over its predecessor. The game world is absolutely enormous. The first major area that the player unlocks is probably already larger than all the locations in Dragon Age II combined. And there are over half a dozen of such regions. The role play elements also offer much more depth again. All classes provide a lot of different skill trees and three specialisations which allow a lot of interesting builds resulting in very different combat styles. Warriors and rogues are no longer limited to a given weapon type and can be trained according to the player’s preferences. These improvements are also reflected in the combat system which features a tactical mode that allows precise control over all four characters in the party and enables devastating combined attacks.

The game also features a record number of companions and love interests. As they all have different backgrounds, beliefs and agendas the player faces an interesting challenge to keep them all in line. For the main character the player can choose one of four races, the gender and the class. All combinations have unique social backgrounds, which are reflected throughout the game. While a human Inquisitor will face less resentments by the exclusively human nobility she will also have more limited options to interact with the other races. A mage Inquisitor has a hard time to earn trust as people have suffered a lot at the hands of the rebel mages.

A common theme in BioWare games are the decision that the player can make. These decision often greatly influence the following events. Dragon Age: Inquisition is no exception and as in its predecessor there is often no right and no wrong choice, no good and no evil option. But there are always consequences and often enough not the ones that you were hoping for. The game even references past events defined by the player’s choices in both of the previous games and seamlessly connects them to the current storyline.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is BioWare at its best: a role play game with an exciting plot, a huge number of interesting characters, witty dialogs and a fantastic setting. The game provides a good compromise between the traditional and slightly unwieldy role playing of the first game and the over simplified action adventure style of the second game. If there is anything to complain about it is the final showdown. BioWare decided to split it over multiple missions and somewhat fail to maintain the arc of suspense. But that doesn’t change the fact that Dragon Age: Inquisition is a great adventure that feels like creating your own epic fantasy movie. And although the story comes to a satisfying conclusion it paves the way for more exciting adventures. I definitely hope to pay Thedas another visit in the future. 🙂