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RPGs for the Playstation 3 (PS3): An Oldschool Perspective, Part 2
Sequels, Sequels, Sequels...
This is the second hub in a series examining RPGs for the Playstation 3. As I've stated before, there are (finally) a lot of RPGs on the PS3, and a lot more on the way. As someone who has played games since the 1980s (I played through Final Fantasy I and Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Quest I twice each on my NES), my perspective is a little more "oldschool", hence the name.
This time around, we are examining sequels and games that are based on previous franchises. Dragon Age: Origins isn't a direct sequel to any game, but in many gamers hearts, there was a hope it would be their next Baulder's Gate, so, in some ways, it has the expectations placed upon it that a sequel would. Since there are so many similarities between Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2, I thought I would go over both of them. I realize they won't get as much coverage as if I did them separately, but in an effort to keep the posts both short and informative, I made the decisions to do this. If and when Ultimate Alliance 3 comes out, I will give it more specific attention.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 & 2
On the PS2, there were a slew over-head, multi-player, hack-n-slash RPGs. There was even one made where you could fight as the X-Men called X-Men Legends . This game allowed up to four people to play co-operatively and was so successfully it spawned three sequels. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 is basically X-Men Legends 3. It plays just like it and after X-Men Legends 2 , the only way to add more characters was to go outside of the traditional X-Men and their enemies, hence the title "Ultimate Alliance". Alliance 1 was available on both the PS2 and the PS3 and I originally played it on the PS2 because I didn't have a PS3 at the time.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 came out in 2009, and is the latest in the Marvel hack-n-slash RPG games. Since the games are so similar, and the sequel really does just expand upon the predecessor, I want to go over both games at once. In the long run, I don't think the games are different enough to warrant two separate evaluations, at least not from my perspective.
The Good: The good in both games is that there are tons of characters to choose from. Each character has a unique skill tree to develop. These skills are not only familiar to Marvel fans, but effective and fun to watch during game play. Especially in UA2, where you can very easily combine attacks to create unique fusion powers depending on the Super Heroes you control at that time. UA1 does this as well, just not as effectively.
The story of both games is fun and entertaining for anyone who is fans of the comics. The first one is a bit longer, but not as replayable. In fact, one of the most ingenious parts of UA2 is that you have to make decisions upon which side you will fight for when the lines are drawn in ways fans are not used to seeing traditionally. For example, the leader of one side is Iron Man, and the leader of the other side is Captain America. So are you gonna fight with Iron Man or against him? This makes playing through the game twice almost a must, so in the long run, UA2 becomes longer than UA1, although both games allow you to replay the story at a higher difficulty setting to continue to develop your characters from a previous play through. This means that you can pull this title off the shelf again any time you just wanna be a Super Hero. Half the fun in replaying these titles is the characters are the ones you already know and love, and controlling them in a group where they bash heads and most of the environment around them is a lot of fun, as it should be.
I have to say how infinitely gratifying it is to be Wolverine and listen to him talk trash as you hack and slash your way through foes. Other characters are particularly fun as well, like Storm whose powers over the weather are truly awesome in UA2. The people who designed these in-game characters are obviously fans of the comic book characters and have done a great job making each character more and more unique as the series progresses.
The Bad: Like most hack-n-slash RPGs, the game play is repetitive at best. You go from one room to the next killing everyone and destroying everything in sight. This means that the brain power required to navigate from level to level is extremely low. When they say "button masher" this is the type of game they talk about. Keep an eye on your health, heal when you need to, and keep mashing "X". It'll all work out in the end.
I didn't like in UA2 how you had to unlock so many characters. I was thrilled to finally have Hulk to play with, but couldn't unlock him till I was nearly finished with the second play through. By that time I was over most of the game. It is really lame when the number one character you are excited to play with is so hard to unlock that your attention span with the game is done before you ever get to use them.
You Can Order Both Marvel Ultimate Aliance 1 & 2 From Amazon
My other complaint with the series as a whole is that it really hasn't changed very much from X-Men Legends 1 through Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 . Of course, if it isn't broke, don't fix it, but the series is tired now, it needs something new and fresh. Yes, UA2 took large steps in this direction, but for UA3 to be a success, it will have to deviate from the formula even more. There are infinite numbers of ways to do this in a game that involves comic book super heroes. I just hope the way they do it remains fresh so the games don't become as tired as many of the comic book films coming out these days.
The Verdict: The game play can be numbing, and there is little brain work required in this game (unlike most four party member RPGs), but it is a hybrid with the Super Hero action game genre and this simplicity makes the game easy for anyone to pick up, making it a good party game for people who know the characters in the game perhaps better than they know each other. Overall, the games are fun, continue to evolve, and have some great cinematic sequences if you are a fan of comics. I give UA1 a 7 out of 10 and I give UA2 a 7.5 out of 10 as far as RPGs available for the PS3. They do not appeal to every RPG gamer, and they do not have the depth many RPG gamers are looking for, but for me, the ultimate test is that playing them is fun, and that matters most in video games.
When Sacred, the original Diabloclone on the PC, came out, I picked it up to keep me occupied while doing my undergraduate studies. I used the game as a good "power break". I'd spend half an hour decompressing from linguistic theoretical discussions and hack and slash my way through a dungeon. At best, the game was terribly buggy. There were dozens of revisions released (maybe not that many), and one of them required the destruction of my character up to that point. Nonetheless, the game had a certain appeal as far as mindless hacking and slashing goes when the whole point is to not consider things to deeply. One night, I lucked upon the greatest bug I'd ever encountered in an RPG, the kind we all dream about. You guessed it, the power-leveler's dream bug. In one cave in the desert, there was a shrine of experience that, when touched, would multiply the amount of EXP I received by something like 650%. Yeah, I would kill three enemies and go up seven levels. After a while, the shrine would reset, and I'd touch it again, and go leveling. Due to the respawn rate, this only worked for a while, but I gained about 55 levels and slaughtered the rest of the game easily with one hit kills on everything I saw for most of the game.
Okay, so now, there's a sequel, and they released it on consoles. I was game to try it, especially since it was marked at $12.99. Sacred 2, from what I can tell, has nothing to do with the story of Sacred 1 (What was the story again? I don't remember). So, for all intents and purposes, the only legacy it has to live up to is: buggiest game I've ever played.
The Good: The characters you can choose in Sacred 2 are strikingly different. Not only from each other, but from most of your traditional RPG choices. The cover shows the "Dark Angel" one class you can choose. Dark Angels can duel-wield, a must in my mind for hack-n-slash games, so I chose the evil looking hot-angel-cyber-punk chick on the cover of the game. The skill trees are different between classes and have enough interesting abilities and things to shoot for to keep an hack-n-slash fan happy for days.
There are tons of items and loot to be had in this game as well, and most of the fun comes from looting corpses. There are ample quests to set you up for these corpse looting adventures, so all in all, mindless hack-n-slash is achieved here with relative ease.
Wanna Try Sacred 2? Get Your Copy Here
The Bad: I guess it was too much to ask for that this game not be buggy. The number one complaint I had was some issue the game had with my screen. It kept flashing black as I tried to rotate cameras causing an annoying flickering that would limit my game play time to about 20 minutes a session before I got sick feeling. I waited for updates. The most definitely came, but the issue was not resolved to my satisfaction. The quality of the images when things are not moving is great, but drop-outs and issues with frame rate kept me from enjoying the basic aspects of this game.
Also, if there was ever a generic RPG (more so than Dark Kingdoms) for the PS3, this is it. I saw next to nothing that was new, and hardly anything that was done better here than somewhere else. Yes this game is fun and diverting for a time, but it cannot honestly be considered a contender for your money because the only thing that can be said about it, at best, is that it isn't as bad as Dark Kingdoms.
The Verdict: There might be patches and more updates that have resolved technical issues with this game, but I doubt they will fix the overall mediocrity of everything else the game offers. Yes it's fun, yes it's multi-player, but other than that, it's just an uninspired Diablo rip-off as buggy as the first game in the series. I give it a 2.5 out of 10 when comparing it with other RPGs available for the PS3. If you see it for $5.99 and have no money and nothing else to play, grab it, it might have new patches to make it worth six bucks.
Dragon Age: Origins
Anyone who has played video games for a good long while now probably recognizes the name "Bioware" as the team that developed the very successful and addictive Baulder's Gate series. Time has passed, but gaming must go on. Bioware, for reasons I don't know about to discuss, now finds themselves developing a new RPG that for all intents and purposes is the new Baulder's Gate. Having the expectations of a series like that puts a lot of expectations on a company. What should they leave the same? What should they change? There is the problem of fan expectation (Fallout 3 also comes to mind here) can be big. So, how does Dragon Age: Origins stack up? Furthermore, what about the world they created for this new epic?
The Good: Let met get it said right away that by the time you are through with Dragon Age: Origins, you will not be thinking about Baulder's Gate anymore. Yes there are similarities (tactical drive party combat comes to the forefront), but Dragon Age: Origins succeeds in establishing itself as its own identity in the video gaming world. Overall, the game is a smashing success. The three best parts about the game are the replayability, the world it takes place in, and the combat system.
The game succeeds in replayablity because of two reasons. The first is that it isn't that long. It ranks as one of the shorter RPGs I have completed. The second reason is that the character you choose, their class, and your responses throughout the game affect the outcome of not only small parts of the plot, but large parts as well. The game continually surprises you as your seemingly innocent responses in dialogue can completely change the course of events in the game. This obviously makes you curious about other responses, and means that a subsequent replay can be a very different game, albeit most quests repeat, just with different goals, rewards and results. The character you choose also dictates how the story begins and how the characters you meet (both your party and NPCs) treat you, making the idea of playing a dynamically different character intriguing by the time you resolve the main story. I could go on and on discussing replayability, but life is short.
Another reason the game is so fun to play is the land of Ferelden's history and people. There are intricate relationships between Dwarfs, Humans, Elves, and the other beings in the world of Dragon Age. There is even a specific type of evil that plagues the land every few hundred or thousand years, called Dark Spawn. Well, the Dark Spawn are always around, but they get real dangerous every so often thanks to the emergence of an Arch Demon, a.k.a. "Dragon" in "Dragon Age" (I assume). The Arch Demon sings a song that the Dark Spawn find so beautiful they spend generations trying to find them. There is an order known as the Grey Wardens. They protect Ferelden, and the other countries in Dragon Age, from the Dark Spawn by drinking Dark Spawn blood and taking the "taint" into themselves so they can sense the presences of the beasts before they attack. This is your role in Dragon Age: Origins, you are the last Grey Warden in Ferelden as an Arch Demon awakes. The rest of the stories and legends and histories are varied and complex, and I believe Dragon Age 2 will expand upon that dealing with legends and issues that have nothing to do with Grey Wardens. The world of Dragon Age is huge, and we've only seen a glimpse of it. The stories of this land are appropriately grand without completely overwhelming you in sheer volume like Elder Scrolls.
The other reason this game is so much fun to play is the tactical combat system. There are three basic classes in Dragon Age, Rogue, Mage, and Warrior. Within those classes there are four specialties. You can use four party members at once, and you have a few characters that are unique classes to compliment the basic three. During combat, you simply press R1 or L1 to switch between characters. This means that you can have your Mage cast a hex on a boss character, switch to your Rogue to back stab and stun them, and then switch to your warrior to two-handed hack the boss down to size in no time. Learning the three classes, their own unique attacks, and the way they compliment one another leads to a lot of fun switching between characters in mid-battle. I found myself playing as a Mage most often, and switching to my Rogue once my Mage's abilities were spent and needed recharging, and then my Warrior, etc. In this way, I was able to keep bombarding powerful bosses with powerful and specialized attacks and abilities. This made using all the different skills and abilities I learned fun. I often find myself spending all my allocation points on passive skills in RPGs because the abilities do not offer a strong enough reward to compete, especially on characters I don't actively control. Dragon Age is a delightful exception to this rule. I played through the game three times just trying to learn all the abilities to determine which were the best (as well as to see story elements I hadn't witnessed yet). Experiment with your tactics slots and your active commands, and combat will become engaging and exciting.
The Bad: There are not as many things wrong with Dragon Age: Origins as there are right. One of the things that I really felt the game got wrong, however, was that once the story was over, the game was absolutely over. There are no areas to go fighting just for the love of the combat system the way you can in almost every other similar RPG. This means that you cannot develop one character until you learn all the interesting abilities. This has its advantages, but for my money, I'd like to keep developing my party for a while since the story is of a reasonably short size.
Another large problem I have with Dragon Age is that there are tons of DLC packages. There are some many aspects of story that you cannot learn unless you want to buy the entire DLC library. The cost of this would be over $100 on top of the cost of Dragon Age: Origins. I am a little shocked that no one else is complaining. There are tons of extra quests to download for this game, I count 8 off the top of my head, but I might be leaving one out. The worst part is there are questions the game (and the sequel, Awakenings) do not answer and you must spend another $6.00 here and $5.00 here to find out those answers, one by one. This makes me feel like I am being taxed for being loyal, not rewarded.
One other negative in Dragon Age is that the game play and graphics felt like a PC game. The quality of the images is sub par when comparing the game to Final Fantasy XIII or God of War III. I know this is probably because the game wasn't designed for the PS3, but as this is a PS3 hub, it should be mentioned. The character design and art is must stronger than Oblivion, but the backgrounds from time to time look under developed or strangely two dimensional. Not a big complaint in my eyes, but it's definitely something for Bioware to work on if they want to compete in the PS3 market
The Verdict: This is probably the game I have played more than any other on my PS3. The game I played most on my PS2 was FFX, but so far Dragon Age: Origins has to be my favorite PS3 RPG based upon the amount of time I've spent playing it. Only FFXIII and Demon's Souls come close to it. On my ratings for the PS3 RPGs as I have qualified it, I give Dragon Age: Origins a 9 out of 10. It will end up costing you too much to see everything the game has to offer, but for my time as an RPG gamer, this game delivers in many more ways than I've mentioned here. I will review Dragon Age: Awakenings in the next hub because it sells for $40.00 as a seperate disk, and that merits a discussion of whether or not it is worth the cost.
The Fallout Universe Expands...
Coming Next Time...
In the next hub, we'll cover Fallout 3, Nier, and Dragon Age: Awakenings. These are three very different games that represent three very different types of RPGs, so check back soon for the next hub! I plan on picking up Fallout: New Vegas, so hopefully we can start discussing some of the brand new titles before too long.
Comments, suggestions on games to review, and questions are welcome. Would love to see the start of a discussion along with these hubs. The discussion doesn't have to be on the PS3 specifically, there are a lot of RPGs that may or may not be on the PS3 at some point to discuss, so let's discuss.
Do you think the "downsizing" of Dragon Quest from the Playstation to the DS has been a good thing?
Read More Hubs in this Series
- RPGs for the Playstation 3 (PS3): An Oldschool Perspective, Part 1
The first Hub in this series covers Elder Scrolls IV, Final Fantasy XIII, and Borderlands.
- RPGs for the Playstation 3 (PS3): An Oldschool Perspective, Part 3
The third Hub in this series covers Fallout 3, Dragon Age: Awakenings, and Nier.
- RPGs for the Playstation 3 (PS3): An Oldschool Perspective, Part 4
This is the fourth installment in the series on Playstation 3 Role Playing Games. It specifically discusses Fallout: New Vegas, White Knight Chronicles, and Demon's Souls.