Reviews by Daniel Steven Oles

Divinity: Original Sin
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Ambitious In The Extreme

This is a brand new engine with an old school heart to it. Despite really beautiful graphics and a streamlined interface this still feels like a VERY classic RPG in terms of how much freedom you have to go and do whatever you feel like. Want to move crates for the heck of it? Done! Cast spells that compliment like an oil slick you set on fire with a fireball or use a rain spell to douse a burning ship. It's all possible and more even than this is the system which allows you to determine the characterization of your two companions by choosing their conversation options and actively improving their skills.
Fun voice acting, great music, flashy spell and combat effects! The story is a little convoluted but again feels very much like a 80s/90s era roleplaying game with it's far flung concepts of alternate dimensions. Great fun if requiring a LOT of time to get the most out of it.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 25th 2016
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Call of Duty 2
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Realistic Warfare With All That Entails

Before COD became a power fantasy it was more like this: the nigh authentic experience of being a grunt on the field of the most deadly war in history. Whether in the trenches, on the beaches, or in bombed out cities you feel both integral to the effort but horribly horribly vulnerable. A sniper can zap you dead at any instance or a wayward grenade blow you to pieces. You actually find yourself darting along open ground looking for small pieces of cover to fall prone behind so you can set up a shot, feeling more like part of a team than just a gungho commando. Great acting, music, and the graphics still hold up nicely, this is a fine adrenaline fueled history lesson to experience.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 20th 2016
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Mount & Blade: Warband - Napoleonic Wars
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It Just Doesn't Work

This looks fantastic but it will not load. Mount and Blade is a fantastic game and adding this time period to it (one of my favorite) sounds great, but right now this is a broken mod, at least for me. I'd love to hear if someone manages to fix this.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 20th 2016
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Tempest: Pirate Action RPG
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A Charming Piratical Adventure!

The interface is a little bizarre and unwieldly at times but for an independant game this is fantastic! My favorite aspect of the Total War games in the naval combat and this game is a lot like that expanded into an open world game, complete with different ammo types to cripple ships for boarding and crew you can improve over time. The graphics looks nice and it runs relatively smoothly. It's clearly a work in progress in many ways but what's here is enjoyable as you sail around trading cargo, blasting bandits and improving your standing with the various factions. Fine music, sound effects, and just a fine piratical expeirence all told.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 20th 2016
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Crowntakers
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My Friend Got Hooked

I enjoyed this game quite a bit by myself but although it isn't multiplayer it was also fun to see how deeply my friend got into it. While playing this game by yourself you can't quite picture what it must be like to witness from without, but while watching him you realize how very involved this game can be. There's so many choices, so many tactical manuverings, so many things you miss in one playthrough thanks to that everpresent and merciless time limit. This game is unforgiving but feels so satisfying when you spring a trap or tackle a superior force and win out. We exchanged a lot of high fives and no matter how frustating things could be we were always up for just one more playthrough, just one more upgrade: the sign of a game that's harsh by fun and fair.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 20th 2016
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Mount & Blade: Warband - Viking Conquest Reforged Edition
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Open World at its most Open!

This is not so much a game as an experience you build yourself: like a Universalis game except with more action packed battles. There are quests to do and factions to please but like Minecraft this is a game where you set your own goals and strike out to achieve them, sinking hours into becoming the best warrior, ranking up to be a noble, pleasing a king enough to be a vassal, trading until you become rich. Everything you do reflects in someway on your character in surprising detail. Armor and weapon types effect your speed and effectiveness and you can use your own ensign to designate your eventual warband. The graphics are minimal but realistic and work great on practically any system. It's a rare game where you feel like you're living the medieval life and I at least can't get enough!

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 20th 2016
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The Dwarves
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A Role-Playing Game About Roleplaying!

The modernday requirement of all RPGs to be about making proxy characters has the downside of those characters not really existing in the framework of a story. Every player character is Dragon Age or Skyrim or even Tyranny feels pretty interchangable because they're fully customizable and therefore cannot have much of a footing in the world except as a generic 'chosen one'.

But The Dwarves does something different I've been hoping for: you play as a character who already has a backstory, already has a voice and attitude and skillset. Some might argue this makes the game predicatable but as a fan of story I GREATLY enjoy discovering by degrees how my character and the other characters as well fit into the grander scheme. I also like how the character is not intrinsically a masterful warrior or hallowed chosen one...he's a blacksmith. Most of the time he has few allies and is more tollerated than cheered for his efforts, and it's a unique experience!

As to the game itself it's quite an enjoyable pause-and-play system although at times it seems a bit chaotic. Still for all the massive amount of units on screen it handles fine, the music is epic, the acting fantastic.

This game makes me want to read the book the game is based on but as good as that might be it won't quite match the experience of unraveling the story from the inside by actually looking at things, talking to people, and making decisions.

I do hope that there's still a market for strong storydriven experiences centered on as well written characters as these. It's highly enjoyable!

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 6th 2016
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Hard West
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The Most Visceral Turn-Based Game Out There

The only major issue I take with this game is how difficult it is, but the title makes it clear this game is HARD. And it is: often unfair in randomness, unforgiving in it's tactical necessisity to survive superior odds.

But everything is great: the story, the artstyle, the music, the gameplay...all fantastic!

You cannot save between missions which gives an 'all or nothing' feel to things some might not like, but at least for me I found myself going back to the same missions over and over to use new abilites, take different approaches, try and beat my time or solve optional objectives.

This is the meatiest and grittiest turn-based game I've ever played. Shadowrun and XCom are comparisons, but nothing compares to how brutal this game feels with bullets zipping zig-zags of smoke and punching through walls. Enemies struck stagger and bleed and blood is a big gameplay feature such as stalking retreating wounded enemies or even canibalizing the dead.

If you like the wierd west genre, satisfying as hell battle, and light roleplaying this is your game. It's hard but it's so much fun you'll barely notice!

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Dec 2nd 2016
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Total War: ROME II: Emperor Edition
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Crashes and Poorly Optimized

I'm warning people to regard closely the 'no return' policy on this game.

Despite my Mac meeting minimum requirements the game looks terrible and crashes almost immediately even on lowest settings.

Looks like fun if it would work, but right now I'm poorer and that's about it.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Nov 29th 2016
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Napoleon: Total War™ - Gold Edition
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Marvelous Streamlined Napolean Sim

I'm impressed this works so well on my admittedly pretty simple Mac, but I'm not complaining! The campaign is a little simple but by no means bereft of content and the real meat of the game is the intense and strategic battles. Just firing up a bot battle is exciting and unpredictable in the right ways. Ship combat is some of the best I've ever played allowing you to manuver and change shot types and board vessels. The animation has it's quirks (all Total Wars do) but if you want a fine simulation of controlling a turn of the centry battlefield or want to follow the story of The Little Corporal, this is your game!

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Nov 26th 2016
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Trulon: The Shadow Engine
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Simple and Charming!

I didn't have any technical issues with this. To me it's like a classic if MUCH stripped-down JRPG and it makes up for somewhat repetative cardbased combat with a lovely art aesthetic, enjoyable characters, and a nice mix of fighting, object hunting, and just wandering around diverse environments. The music has a classic feel and so do many aspects. It's a labor of love on behalf of fans of the genre and a fine discovery, especially as a simpler game to play in windowed mode listening to a podcast or waiting for something work-related to finish rendering.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Nov 17th 2016
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The Sims 2 Super Collection
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Excellent Life Sim

I'm so pleased they made a combo-pack of all the scattered expansion packs!
The Sims 2 is one of the best life sims ever made and with tons of out of the box content this is one of my favorite purchases to date.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Oct 9th 2016
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Blackguards 2
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Not Optimized

It's an enjoyable strategy game, but good lord it barely functions on my powerful Mac. The story, the characters, the setting is enjoyably dark but it's hard to reccomend in its current state when although the system requirements are met by my rig it still chugs to an unplayable halt.
If it functioned it would be a fun game, but as stands it's just too shaky to reccomend.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Oct 1st 2016
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The Darkness II
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Not Quite the Original But Still Fun

I loved the atmosphere of the original The Darkness and this one largely dispenses with the realism and grit for a cell-shaded almost cartoony look, likewise changing out some of the more brutal combat animations. But it's still an exciting and psychological thrillride with a lot of variety in foes and how to dispense of them. I especially liked that the level structure is very unpredictable. One minute you're battling mobsters in the city, the next you're hobnobbing with your own crime family in a luxury manor. The collectables in this game are great too: each coming with an excellent story read to you by the breathless, panicky narrator. Reccomended for fans of shooters, gothic stories, and gangster lore.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Oct 1st 2016
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Omerta: City of Gangsters Gold Edition
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Best Kind of Guilty Pleasure

Honestly this game has it's issues in places but otherwise the theme, the ecconomic and action gameplay, the amount of content and options makes up for these in spades. I love gangster lore and this is a lot like a street-level version of the excellent Mafia game series mixed with Tropico. Problemwise the major issues stem from a slightly wonky combat interface but with so much to do I don't mind a few strange AI quirks of an iffy camera.
Runs smooth, sounds great and if you're someone like me it's great fun!

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Sep 30th 2016
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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
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The Best Star Wars Story Ever Told

This is like playing the world's greatest Star Wars graphic novel or film! The level of characterization, the faithfulness to the expanded universe, the humor, the drama, the action...it's all here! I sound like I'm overhyping and there ARE a few issues with lengthy backtracking in places and some annoying minigames (the race track was underwhelming to me), but none of it diminished the entertainment of slicing enemies with a sword or a lightsaber and having your decisons lead to new and varied results with lives literally in the balance.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Sep 30th 2016
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Skyborn
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Charming Roleplaying Adventure!

The only reason it isn't rated higher is it's aggressively linear, but the story and characters are enormously entertaining and there's a LOT of plot to work through here as well as new enemies to fight and allies to befriend. Play through it once and you'll get the total experience but that's not bad if the experience is fun and intriguing the first go through. If you like classic RPGs, especially JRPGs and don't mind turn based combat this is a fine addiiton to your library.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Sep 30th 2016
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Glowfish
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Simple and a Little Wonky

It's a very cute and contained game which I can hardly complain about since I got it free but it is pretty much what you see is what you get here. Cute characters, simple gameplay, some variation between levels, an elegant and stylish time killer type game.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Sep 30th 2016
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Max Payne 3
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My Opinion but the Worst Max

I've played Max Payne since the first game and even played the Gameboy version, and this is still my least favorite of the series. It might be different if I played multiplayer perhaps but to me the combat felt sloppier and more of a frantic series of running from bullets pouring in from all directions as opposed to ballettic dueling like the original games. Also Max is entirely unlikable here, swearing more often, drunk and whiny and surrounded by unpleasant people. Graphics are nice and it might be fun for awhile but I found the new setting kind of boring, the story dull, and the writing grating. Not happy with this Max.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Sep 30th 2016
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Tropico 5 – Complete Collection
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It's Good to be The Presidente!

This is as much a grand parody of the world's dictators (hillariously emphasized by the loading screens which include real and unbelievable facts about dictators) but it's also like owning your own private island. You set the crops, build the infrastructure, set the trade routes, determine the fate of every individual citizen (yes, you can execute them!)
The graphics are charming and it's genuinely soothing to watch the paddle boat dock letting loose new citizens or smuggled goods or exporting your hard earned resources for a fat bonus. Combined with a great selection of latintype tunes and the fact that you can pause of fast forward any time you want this is the ultimate casual management game.
The only reason it misses a star is probably my fault: It is HARD. On higher difficulties juggling the responsibilties of satisfying factions, importing goods at a premium and exporting at a profit, rembering to build guard towers to contend with pirate attacks, dealing with the aftermath of a tornado and other disasters...it can get a bit hectic.
But I still think it's an intelligent and very entertaining journey and by the time you reach the end game and have built a giant laser to cement your super villain status you will have gotten your money's worth in spades.

by Daniel Steven Oles, USA - Aug 6th 2016
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