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Telltale Games has a recent history of expanding existing games, film, and comic book franchises into episodic adventure games. The San Francisco studio has taken its formula from The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us and applied it to the Borderlands first-person-shooter series, spawning “Tales from the Borderlands” (TftB).

I had played part of Episode 1: Zero Sum at PAX Prime last August and enjoyed Telltale’s blend of original storywriting and comedic references to 2K’s IP. Tales from the Borderlands certainly gives us a break from the run-shoot-loot formula from 2k’s games, which we had gotten tired of with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

Assassin’s Creed has taken us to some historical, exotic locations and introduced new gameplay varieties in each installment. The newest title, Assassin’s Creed Unity ($60), returns much of the gameplay focus to the original formula: stealth, well-timed combat, and puzzle solving.

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Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag offered swordplay, dramatic naval combat, hunting, and deep-sea diving. AC IV provided a diversity of action in its open-world setting, resulting in a game rarely put down.

Anyone growing up in the earlier console era remembers the days of split-screen. Those were the same days that LAN play still existed – it's a strange thing to think that game developers have favored online play so heavily over local play that the latter has nearly ceased existing.

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Back in those days of split-screen play, though, there was “screen looking” or “screen cheating:” The act of looking at your couch-neighbor's screen to determine their map location. Anecdotally, I recall the days when my friends became so aware of screen cheating that they'd look at the floor of the map to mitigate the impact of the act; we'd rely strictly on memory to navigate the map, hoping that the floor would be plain enough to disallow screen cheat advantage.

The existence of “virtual laziness” is either profound commentary on the degradation of human nature or an example of poor game design. We've discussed it before: Laziness developing within games is common, especially where backtracking or repetitious, unnecessary combat inhibit actual exploration of the game's world and story.

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It's tough not to be hard on oneself when the prospect of holding “w” for a few minutes – because walking across a moon's surface requires shockingly little use of “s” – becomes too much to bear. It's too much work, too far to walk, and that pit of lava is looking rather inviting right now.

Our experience with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (BLPS) began with innocent GPU benchmarking, but struck enough of a chord to warrant a full review. This is in similar fashion to our Watch_Dogs experience. After hours of enduring backtracking, dull character progression, a lack of motivating storytelling, juvenile jokes, and forced, mind-numbingly boring traversal of desolate environments, we're here with the review: Borderlands is boring.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is not a Lord of the Rings game. There are no epic battles between a wizard and a balrog, there are no disguised female noblewomen slaying wraiths, and there are no hobbits singing jigs and jumping on top of cave trolls. However, having demoed Shadow of Mordor at Monolith Productions, I had not wanted any of that in the finished product.

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Sure, Peter Jackson’s films have translated well to a couple of titles, and some of our readers may have been satisfied by the more recent War in the North or Lord of the Rings Online, but there’s more to be had. What the Tolkien universe has needed to keep us inspired and excited is a logical, original interpretation of Middle-earth. Shadow of Mordor offers this originality by stripping the Tolkien world down to brains and blood, and the game is better off because of it.

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