• Gamer's Gazette Issue III (Originally Published on December 16, 2012)

    Ah December. By now many of us have finished or are finishing up finals and the promise of good food, sleep, the company of love ones,and time to actually play those games we bought during all those Steam sales will finally be fulfilled. And what better way to celebrate this great time than by reading a holiday edition of the Gamer's Gazette? Our crack team of writers are here to bring you the latest on gaming gift ideas and reviews on the hottest blockbuster titles. So grab some hot chocolate, put on some festive music, and stare at your computer screen and spend time with the staff. Well, the other guys on staff that is. I'm going to sleep. Wake me when school starts back up.

    Gamer's Gazette Editor
    Confederate Jeb


    Red Orchestra 2: Rising Storm Preview and Opinions
    Red Orchestra 2: Rising Storm Preview and Opinions
    Red Orchestra 2: Rising Storm Preview and Opinions
    Rising Storm Previews+Opinions

    Many of us may know, or may not, there is an upcoming standalone expansion for Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad knocking at our door. This expansion will take us to the pacific theater of ww2, instead of the eastern front that we are used to. Giving us, the player, the ability to play as either the Americans or the Japanese, with a whole new array of weaponry, abilities, and maps. I, as a current and active Red Orchestra 2 player, have been watching this closely with some excitement I have been wanting an expansion centered around that part of the war for a long time, or just to see my fellow Americans in battle. I will be going into further detail about what I expect and my opinions of the matter.
    Beach Landing

    The developers have recently released a video featuring alpha game play footage showing what we can expect to see in the expansion. Giving us something to "drool" at while we await patiently (or impatiently) for this expansion. My initial thoughts were what kindave weaponry will be featured, what are the new features, how will the new features be implemented?

    The Americans look very powerful to play as or play against. Most of their weapons are either fully automatic or semi-automatic. I think this can really make a big impact on how balanced matches will actually be. Since the Japanese seem to have very few actual automatic weapons. So you can expect them to be taking unusually heavy, and automatic, fire from the Americans. I am sure this may, and will, cause many frustrations online and single player alike for the player as the Japanese. Though, to counter-balance this the Japanese, are given several, several, unique features.One being that while playing as the Japanese you can actually plant your grenades into the ground, like mines! Something very new indeed. A many oblivious players can (and will) fall for this trap very easily. This could come in handy when, the gun toting American players feel the need to rush the Japanese, who I already know will be rushed very often just by seeing the amount of firepower the Americans have.

    Another unique feature to the Japanese is when Americans push on to to capture points, Japanese will have what a "Spawn Bunker" every single time the Americans have captured a point the Japanese will be able to spawn in, around, and behind the Americans advancing. So the American players must destroy these bunkers, or face the consequences. Showing that these randomly spawned "bunkers" are destructible means destructible environments..well to an extent. Generally I think this is a good idea it gives the Japanese a chance push back the Americans, but I think once players know exactly what to do about this it will get rather useless, if not annoying. Those Japanese sure are sneaky though!

    One last feature already revealed is the banzai charge, one of the most talked about of the expansion. The Japanese will "suppress" the enemy making them harder to hit and will get a stamina boost, and a suppression bonus themselves. This looks very fun, the Japanese even run around carrying katanas! Maybe I can bring back those days I trained like a Samurai! I wouldn't mind dying with honor if I brought a sword to a gun fight. Well, the Americans will probably regret bringing their gun to a sword fight. This could be a useless feature however, once the Americans know how to properly combat this or just are generally smart and don't fall into a trap. I assume that just simply hanging back while your comrades fall into a trap or when the Japanese go into their suicidal state you can just pick them off quite easily, as we already know they won't really even be shooting back.

    Many of the new maps look very interesting. Many of them will have lots of foliage and natural defenses, along with many bunkers. My favorite was Iwo Jima. Something I am just very interested in, being an American. We all know how that turned out, and I will love having the option to play as an American on the map. All the maps revealed so far just look great, really giving you that "nostalgic" feel. A bit of a bonus are a couple weapon previews. A Trench gun (the game has a shotgun now?!), and you guessed it right, the flamethrower. These weapons will be very useful in clearing out bunkers. Especially for that "need" some of you have to burn everything in sight! I was very excited to see this (and you should be too), nothing better than having a barbecue during this terrible thing that is war!

    I am patiently, and eagerly, awaiting what more they will feature and release. Everything looks great, The fact that they are trying their best to counter-balance the two teams means a whole lot balance is something needed in a lot of games, being overlooked many of times. While the American team will have a large weapon, the Japanese will have many sly features to counter-this. Whether it be grenade mines, mysterious bunkers, or suicidal charges. People who buy the expansion will also get the Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad multiplayer, I am just wondering, and well, most of the community is too, judging by the Red Orchestra 2 thread in the general discussion of our forums, how will current owners of Red Orchestra 2 be treated? Are we going to get the multiplayer for Rising Storm, since we already own Red Orchestra 2, or are we going to have to go all out and buy the expansion to get it? From what I have seen and heard, I assume we will be getting features limited for the expansion, just like people who buy the expansion will get features limited for Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. So I assume we, who already own Red Orchestra 2, will get multiplayer. These are all questions that I hope will be featured in a future preview.

    Skyrim Dawnguard Review
    Skyrim Dawnguard Review
    Skyrim Dawnguard Review
    Skyrim Dawnguard Review

    Unless you have been living under a rock this last year, or at least kept yourself moderately updated on what goes on in the gaming world, you have doubtlessly noticed the elephant Dragon in the room. Besheda took the gaming industry with a shout-infused storm in November last year with its enormous and much expected Skyrim release, and the game have bothered the internet with its horned helmets and its knee-struck arrows since.

    This November month marked the first anniversary of the Skyrim release, and what better way to mark the occasion than a review of Beshedas first full-length expansion for Skyrim: Dawnguard!?
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    No fairies allowed

    Before going into depth about this release, let me get one thing straight first: Dawnguard is mainly revolving around vampires. If for some reason your hypothetical fourteen year old sister should read this and scream with glee, fear not! I never came across those sparkly creatures with their long sentimental stares and their wooden acting we have all learned to hate. A Dawnguard vampire on the other hand, takes quite a few pages out of the classical books, complete with evil castles, demonic transformations, coffins, evil plots and human cattle-slaves.

    Our bloodsucking friends had previously been conspicuously absent from the Skyrim vanilla release, when compared to their far more prominent role in Oblivion. Being confined to being a slight nuisance found in caves alongside spiders and skeletons seemed a bit of a step-down for them. Particularly when taking into consideration that the Skyrim vampires are lore-wise supposed to be the most powerful of their sort in Tamriel. So the contents of this first expansion being focused on vampires were a welcome revelation to most fans.

    So having found a valid niche to base their expansion on, what sort of new content does Dawnguard present to draw players back into the already enormous and time consuming Skyrim?

    Well The Elder Scrolls for me have always been mostly about exploring the unknown. Poking around with your character in this fantastical world in your own phase always felt like the most satisfying parts of the games. Sadly, Dawnguard offers not as much new opportunities to do just that as you might have expected. There are two new areas which comes with the expansion, one is called the Soul Cairn and is something akin to an Oblivion Realm and the other is the ice-realm of the Forgotten Vale. Both are visually pleasing, at times downright stunning like I have come to expect from Skyrim, but they also both feel to me more like large dungeons than new genuine world space areas to explore. If anything they remind me of Blackreach, visually impressive but also a waste of potential due to the lack of interest points. A reason for this might be that they (Like Blackreach) are being largely filled with enemies and have relatively little to do in there except from following the associated main quest line and some preciously few and unimaginative side quests. In addition to these two main new areas, there is a few new regular dungeons scattered around the original Skyrim map that are suitably interesting by themselves, although I personally would have wished for a wholly new independent world space to provide the framework for this new content rather than the putting it all into main-world Skyrim which after all, I have explored before.

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    "Fort Dawnguard"
    There are also two new NPC areas, Castle Volkihar and Fort Dawnguard, home of the two opposing sides of the expansion, more on them later. The forts each have their own style, particularly the Volkihar castle is suitably harrowing with vampires openly feeding on corpses, black death hounds wandering about and human NPC's called “Vampire cattle” dressed in rags that serves the vampires or populate the dungeon where they can be fed upon at will. However, disappointingly both the castles are crammed into the opposing far extremes of the map, offering little other than the forts themselves to explore and the obligatory new dungeon beneath the Castles.

    For a comparison, the critically acclaimed and expansion pack for TES IV Oblivion, namely the excellent Shivering Isles featured a whole new island to explore complete with its own cultures and enemies. It did not depend on the main game nearly as much as Dawnguard does.

    Dawnguard also comes with a handful of new features, chief among them are the ability to turn into a terrifying Vampire-lord at will, with an accompanying perk tree independent of the dragon souls. The vampire lord, complete with its bony bat wings and fangs, is a morph that works much like the werewolf transformation did in the original game, but it is mostly based on spells rather than the combat oriented werewolf. With the vampire lord you can hover around in the air and fling missiles from your left or raise the dead with your right hands, you also have a small arsenal of stereotypical vampirical abilities like dissolving a group of bats that allow you to dash short distances (Sadly without the maniacal laugh) or you can fly about with your bat-wings.
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    "You have failed me for the last time"
    Alternatively you can run around on the ground and smack people with your claws and fangs. The accompanying perk tree advances as you slay or bite enemies in vampire-lord form and will eventually allow you to summon the new Gargoyles or force choke people Darth Vader style. The perk system is an excellent way to keep your vampire lord competitive into even the later game and hovering around as a terrifying lord of the night feels suitably empowering for the player. On the other hand, the Vampire lord is unable to activate levers and such, and can neither search fallen enemies for loot. For that the player needs to revert back to human form. Also the vampire lord is also sometimes too big to fit through some of the smaller openings and doorways in the game, which can be both annoying and time consuming considering changing back and forth between forms can take up to twenty seconds. For PC players these concerns can be fixed with mods, console players are not so lucky.

    Aside from the Vampire Lord, the werewolf has also gained a similar perk tree that advances upon feeding on fallen enemies. One of the main drawbacks of being a werewolf in the original game was that they did not have any meaningful way of keeping itself as a valid combat option in the late game, while powerful in the early game it became redundant fairly quickly. The new perks given to werewolf players includes summoning wolf allies and better heath and regeneration, allowing the werewolf to keep track of the progress of the game into the late stages much better.

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    "Attacking from Horseback is not Dawnguard exclusive, but a neat new feature"
    There is an assortment of new weapons and armor variety. Both the vampires and the Dawnguard get their faction-specific armor theme and there is an assortment of special items for the player to find through the new locations. A new collection of “Dragonbone” weapons yet more efficient than the Deadric weapons have appeared to compete with the ten or so mods doing the same on the Nexus website. Most interesting however is the crossbow, a newcomer to the game the crossbow functions like a slow-firing high-damage bow utilizing the same perks as the normal archery. It also comes complete with its own series of side-quest to improve the effectiveness of the weapon. In my experience the crossbow works great for sneaky characters who depend on first hit damage bonuses and is a welcome addition to the Skyrim arsenal.

    Not Dawnguard exclusive, but fairly recent and interesting addition into the game none the less is the ability to use horses for mounted combat. This is a neat feature in itself, but in my experience it was mainly useful due to not having to dismount every time a wolf comes at you. The close combat was largely ineficient in my exsperience, but ranged combat as a horse-archer worked much better. Dont expect anything like mount and blade though, Skyrim uses a quite different engine.

    Skyrim have lost none of its shine

    The Dawnguard expansion begins as your character reaches level 10. I would heartily recommend players to start the quest as soon as possible after that for the best experience the new loot and items can give you. While some will undoubtedly prefer to start the Dawnguard quest as your old grizzled champion that laughs down Ancient Dragons and Vampire Lords alike, I personally find it more interesting to evolve with the game from early on.

    In any case, you eventually learn that the Vampire-Hunters are recruiting members in old fort Dawnguard from a random source. I was personally attacked by a band of malicious vampires and their dogs outside of Riften when assisting orc came to my rescue, afterwards he told me about the Order.
    You can then travel to fort Dawnguard where you accompany a young peasant to find the vampire-hunter veteran Isran in the formidable yet run-down Castle. You are also pleasantly handed a crossbow on the way, which seems to be the Dawnguard-order’s specialized weapon.
    Joining up in different factions in Skyrim tend to be rather demanding affairs, they usually consists of something akin to “Go alone to that bandit-held stronghold and kill everyone inside and we might let you join maybe”
    Serana, your new friend, follower and potential spouse

    The Dawnguard Order being no exception to this fine tradition, you are sent as a fresh initiate of the order to prove yourself by investigating an old tomb where the vampires have apparently found something interesting. The interesting part turns out to be a young girl named Serana which you release from a tomb after killing all the vampires. She is also a vampire and has been imprisoned for a massive amount of years, she also carries an Elder Scroll on her back. Surprisingly she seems to be a quite nice and grounded down to earth person considering she's an undead vampire imprisoned for a thousand years. Apparently enough to charm the Dovakiin because she persuades you to take her to her father and you are not given a say in the matter either way.

    This is where the games main quest starts, as you arrive at Castle Volkihar and confront Lord Harkon he offers you a “gift” for returning his long-lost daughter, the gift being drinking his vampire blood and the ability to turn into a Vampire Lord. This is where the Dawnguard quest forks into two pathways, you can either decline Harkons offer and be banished from the Volkihar castle, and continue the Dawnguard story from the Vampire-Hunters point of view, or you can become a vampire and align yourself with the vampires at Castle Volkihar.

    It would be nice to say that the option to align yourself to either faction would allow you to play out the conflict between vampires and vampire-hunters from different perspectives. But sadly that is not the case. Whatever faction you choose you are invariably drawn into the same questline involving the vampire-lords Harkons estranged family members and his diabolical plan to “blot out the sun”. The two different paths only have cosmetical differences where the main plot is concerned while the side quests differ more, the vampire side quests revolve around empowering your vampire lord transformation through certain items found while the orders side quests revolve around recruiting new members and finding ways to improve the crossbow technology.

    In general I would say that the vampire side is generally more fun and atmospheric to play through, while the order side reaches a more satisfying conclusion, it also harbors the great advantage that you can have a hilariously bugged armored troll as your sidekick while the vampires only get an undead dog.

    I would say that the story part in on its own are quite weak, with some very confusing sequences and it also feels very restrictive on the player. However it harbors several redeeming factors that are worth taking into consideration. The quests mainly revolve around Serana the vampire girl you rescued, and she sticks around throughout the quests (You have the option not to take her with you, but it is heavily discouraged as she is essential to understand the story) She is a charming piece of work and will offer random comments and other insights to help you on your way. Additionally Serana have her very own follower AI so that she now seem much more alive and vibrant than other followers, for example rather than staring into your back at all times like Lydia she now occasionally wanders off and do random activities nearby if you are stationary, she also takes her hood on and off depending on if you are outside or inside while at the same time complaining about the daylight which is great for immersion, considering she is a vampire.

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    A different Oblivion realm.
    Another good thing about Dawnguards tale is that it involves a great bit of lore that was left largely unexplained in the original game. Besides the obvious part of the Volkihar vampires explained earlier you also get to know a great deal more about the Falmer and the Snow Elves they evolved from, which is the focal point of the Forgotten Vale part. Also the Soul Cairn have its own set of rather confusing lore to add to the ever expanding TES series. Basically the Soul Cairn is an Oblivion realm containing undead and lost souls that mostly reminds one of Dante’s limbo rather than the Dante’s inferno like the hellish ones found in TES IV (Shivering isles not included). In general the Soul Cairn was a nice change of scenery with an interesting and rewarding boss fight, but they left me no incentive to return once done with the quest.
    However there was one point of the Dawnguard quest I was deeply dissatisfied with, and it involves retrieving the Elder Scroll from the Blackreach, which is really a quest from the main story line which revolves around dragons, not vampires. The elder scroll you are sent to get is also named “Dragons” so it is unknown for what purpose it relates to the vampire quest, none as far as I saw. It did however send me on a long and tedious journey down the largest dungeon in the game which I have done before in the main game and therefore felt both repeating and unnecessary way of lengthening the game time. If they have to send people down to the Blackreach (Which admittedly from a design point of view is a downright inspired part of the game) At least come up with your own story and a unique quest. The Blackreach was and remains a huge beautiful waste of potential.

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    The Forgotten Vale provides the most cinematic sights in the game.
    On a more positive side the story of the game have a good mood to it and is easy to immerse yourself into much thanks to the well designed locations. The story also offers some very good and unique boss fights that each feels very different from what you have encountered in Skyrim before. What the story lack in depth it makes up for in the nicely designed locations it brings you to and the unique and cinematic Boss fights and also the impressive atmosphere that reigns in large parts of the game. Although I did find the final showdown and result of the Vampire-aligned quest somewhat anti-climatic compared to the other bosses. This is not true for the Dawnguard side though.

    I found the music in the new areas in Dawnguard to be largely uninspired. There were only a few new tracks and they were largely monotonous rather than noticeable. There certainly was no music akin to the Skyrim main theme chant or the excellent Sovengarde track in there.
    As one have come to expect from Besheda there is a plendora of minor bugs, and some which were close to game breaking. I had problems with unsheathing my weapons and my character drawing an air-crossbow while the real remained in the scabbard and my followers had the same problem with certain items which was highly annoying.

    Voice acting are pretty good, as have been the case for Skyrim since its release. But there don't seem to be any new actors drawn into the mix. Rather it seems that the old people were drawn in for a new haul. perhaps it would be better if Serana for example got a new voice actor, considering how many lines she have, but overall its barely noticeable that a few NPC's have roughly the same voice as her. The best voice acting performance was the one for Isran who sounds suitable iron-willed and fanatically determined to exsterminate the blood-suckers while lord Harkon the Vampire could perhaps have sounded a bit more menacing.

    Dawnguard is far from a perfect expansion and is in my opinion throughoutly outclassed by a previous TES expansion, the Shivering Isles. However Dawnguard is also 10$ cheaper which redeems this somewhat.
    In general I would say that Dawnguard offers an interesting addition to Skyrim, and for what you get for your money I would believe it was worth it. It took me around 15 hours to complete both factions in the game with a new character and people that are more inquisitive than I will take longer. However the game do suffer from a few drawbacks including a largely restricting and confusing story and an assortment of bugs. The game could also have profited from a more interesting soundtrack and a different level design.
    On the other hand the expansion offers plenty of content, including the awesome Vampire Lord and the crossbow. The lore additions and the lengthy new dungeons also make the world of Skyrim even larger and more diverse and there is also an assortment of very interesting and innovative boss fights. I found the vampires to be very well designed and interesting and defiantly stands out as a great addition to the Skyrim world while the Dawnguard order felt more like a regular guild. There is an assortment of interesting new spells and shouts to try out and a few very unique weapons which I cannot reveal due to spoiler reasons. All in all, I would say that Dawnguard in an imperfect yet worthy expansion to the great game that is Skyrim and everyone who enjoy the original game will also enjoy this expansion too.

    Bring Your A-Game
    Bring Your A-Game
    Bring Your A-Game
    Bring Your A-game

    The gaming industry is different from its older siblings in more than one way and that is something I think most of us can agree on. This is an editorial about what I think is one of the most striking cultural differences between the old media and the gaming industry, and the incredible changes that are happening and are about to happen to it.

    I am the kind of person who knows exactly what he wants. I am a demanding person to say the least who only goes with the top of the crop. Knowing this, one could think that I would have a hard time finding games that are to my liking - after all, I only watch a handful of new movies each year and tend to be disappointed in a fair few of them - and games and movies are the same right? Luckily they are not. Games are so much more and that is what keeps dragging me back into them.

    While I have basically stopped watching television at all, I am spending more and more of my free time solving puzzles, creating potions, rescuing princesses and mining for diamonds. Games capture me so much that the old media does not seem to have a chance to compete for my increasingly limited time. Why would I watch someone take down a platoon of bad guys when I can do it myself over and over again in different and often far more spectacular ways? There are games that go even further, games like Heavy Rain, a game that is balancing on the thin edge between film and game. For me, another striking example is the Uncharted series which couples Oscar-worthy scripts with gameplay and scenery that beats Indiana Jones out of the water.

    But something shining as bright as the gaming industry must have a dark side as well. I purchase far more games than I am able to play. I have still not managed to get time to complete Assassins Creed (1) or Bioshock (1), two games that I have enjoyed, although, due to my limited time, got abandoned half completed. To make matters worse, games are somewhat more of a fresh-ware than film and to some extent music. That is not to say that an older game will not be as good years after its initial release - look at the old Mario and Zelda games for instance - but the bulk of games which are produced today are increasingly relying on the newest technology to such an extent that the soul of the game is left behind as an afterthought. I have had chances to play Assassins Creed (1) a fair few of times since its release and I have constantly made the decision that it was not good enough for my time due to its shortcomings.

    We gamers - for let us be honest, you are one if you read this and got all the way through the first paragraphs - are a special kind of people even though we often try to hide it from the people around us. The word “gamer” is something people disregard as childish and, in some ways, irresponsible. Compared to words like film or music lovers, you can quickly see how a gamer is treated as a secondary citizen in many peoples eyes.

    The bottom of this issue is something that has been part of our culture since at least a hundred years back, and it is reflected in most, if not all instances of the western culture. One could make a comparison to Picasso, a well regarded painter who, at his time, was considered as a secondary citizen just like gamers, but is now part of the culture elite. Even something as trivial as music on discs was a controversial medium for many years, not to mention once we left the LP format for CD-ROMs, an issue which is still debated to this day by the real audiophiles.

    Gaming is, after all, a new medium which is very much unlike anything humans have ever seen before. Within a few more centuries we might very well see gaming as being equally regarded along music and film. The revolution is already happening in our society. In Sweden 80%* of the population play regularly and the median age of a gamer is rising faster than ever before. It is no longer strange for a kid to have parents who both buy and play games themselves, an unthinkable thought when I was young(er).

    There are multiple reasons why we have seen such an explosion of the medium in recent years. I would like to think of the Xbox 360 as the first storm that hit us. With a lower price than last generation consoles at launch and a focus on connectivity and integration with ones living room, it has often been described as Microsoft’s Trojan Horse into people’s living room. The second wave was the launch of the Wii. Never before had so many elderly, families and middle aged people rushed for a game console. The Wii sold in incredible numbers and that while most “gamers” discarded it as a toy due to its performance. Although the Playstation 3 has sold as well as the Xbox 360 , its launch did not impact consumers’ purchasing behavior the same way, though it shall not be disregarded as an unimportant part of the revolution we are seeing.

    Instead it was the launch of the iPhone 3G in 2008 that set of the next and, I would say, biggest wave, changing how we consumers look at gaming. With iOS 2, Apple allowed the whole worlds developers to write applications and thus included games for its smartphones. The older phone manufacturers had included games and allowed users to download additional ones for a long time, but it was now, with the iPhone’s touchscreen and its centralized market, that the explosion of games was able to hit the average consumer. Games were now played on trains, at tea breaks and in almost any other free time slot during a day. Games had finally hit the general consumer en mass.

    While the Wii had paved the way for the oncoming storm, its success had somewhat slowed down. Consumers, it seemed, bought the console to play the included Wii Sports and maybe one or two of Nintendo’s own games, and then leave it to collect dust. The Appstore gamerush continues to this day, over four years later, to skyrocket in both sales as well as the amount of time its user spend with those said games.

    Today it is not considered strange to have multiple generations of ones family gaming at least once a week. This has and continues to move gaming into the higher stages of the cultural ladder, and while one could think that the hard core gamers, those who spend their hard earned money on home built computers and highly specialized games in the most peculiar of genres would applaud this, we find ourself in a different reality.

    As the revolution goes on, we gamers feel as though we have been put aside for the mass market appeal, and that is ever so often the case. The big publishers value the new goldmine that is the casual gamer more so than the far fewer hardcore gamers. We know this all too well form the Total War series. As of the last decade, we have seen how Creative Assembly has turned Total War from being a relatively open platform to a closed down one. Much of this is of course due to the increased complexity of making games these days, but also developers increasingly strive to control the whole experience.

    This, among other things, has made many hardcore gamers look down upon casual gamers as if they were a plague that has hit their beloved games.

    It is as if we reject the notion that we ever wanted to be a part of the mass market and the top leader of our cultural society and that saddens me greatly. It is time for us to welcome the casual gamers as equals and to help them discover more than what is on the surface, to show them our own beloved favorite games, genres and overall weirdness that only we know. We are, after all, the experts, the collectors of art, the audiophiles and the film snobs of our format.

    * P4 Extra (2010) Petter Hegevall i P4 Extra. Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDXUk95Ll6U.

    Assassin's Creed 3 Review
    Assassin's Creed 3 Review
    Assassin's Creed 3 Review

    The Assassin's Creed series has always held a special place in my heart, as seeing the original game convinced me to move past my old Gamecube and Xbox and invest in an Xbox 360. But this love affair makes me just as quick to be critical of the faults as I am to praise the highlights. Assassin's Creed 3 had its ups and downs in the months leading up to its release; a marketing campaign that left many skeptical and some outraged (and the Brits say Americans get too mad about their flags being burnt) and a focus on the naval vessel combat that could easily be a redux of the panned tower defense minigame. Does the conclusion of Desmond's story wrap up loose ends? Is Connor as compelling a character as Ezio? Read on to find out.

    Assassin's Creed 3 is the epic conclusion of Desmond's storyline, and encompasses the story of the third ancestor in the "trilogy"; Connor Kenway, a half-British half-Mohawk Assassin living during the Seven Years War and the American Revolution. Following the events of Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Desmond and his team have holed up in an ancient temple of the First Civilization, trying to find the artifacts that will allow them to awaken a power that will save the world from Armageddon.

    Famous events such as the Battle of Bunker Hill fill Connor's journey.
    Meanwhile, in the Animus, the story begins with a character who will remain a spoiler, then changes over to a young Connor. He leaves his village at an early age in search of a way to save his people from destruction, only to meat Achilles, the elderly head of the colonial branch of the Assassin's Brotherhood, and find himself involved in the Assassin-Templar conflict that envelops the entire American Revolution. Connor's belief in freedom and equality are put to the test by seemingly well-intentioned Templars, and the actions of his friends take his allegiances to the brink.

    As with all Assassin's Creed games, AC3 is riddled with spoilers, so I won't dare ruin the game for anyone. The plot and gameplay start off incredibly slow, introducing new characters and game mechanics over the course of five to six sequences. However, the payoff story wise is well worth the wait. As per usual, the historical plot is more interesting than the 2012 plot, though this time around Desmond at least feels more like a character you can feel for. His relationships with the other characters are fleshed out, particularly his feelings for his father, and his emergence as a powerful Assassin finally takes place. The return of Warren Vidic and the video game debut of an important character in the Assassin's Creed universe also help to make the modern plot line more interesting. The ending of Desmond's storyline however, is a mixed bag. On the positive side, rather than continue on with the same loose ends, the ending finishes nearly all of the existing plots and replaces them with new threads to be chronically in later games. It worked, and I understood everything around the circumstances, but at the same time "meh" could easily describe the outcome. It was adequate; neither a glorious sendoff of epic proportions, nor a controller-throwing, outrage-inducing dud.

    On the other hand, Connor is most likely my favorite Assassin protagonist, though the introductory character gives him a run for his money. His personality, which includes kindness, a love for equality, and frustration at the world around him, is believable, but his relationship with Achilles, his mentor, is truly the highlight of the game, as is his relationship with the intro character to an almost equal extent. The plot quickly changes to a rapid pace once the introduction is out of the way, leaving a significant chunk of the story in side missions at the homestead (your base of operations) or in the naval missions. It is because of this that I highly recommend playing the missions related to these two as soon as they appear; waiting until after you beat the game will not lessen the experience, but playing them before the end certainly enhances the story. The amount of historical characters present, should you know a thing or two about the time period, is massive, with the likes of George Washington, Lafayette, Samuel Adams, Edward Braddock, Daniel Boone, and Charles Lee appearing. That is a fraction of the historical characters; I could be here all day listing them. The original characters are fleshed out more in this game than they have been in the past, which is great from a storyline perspective but diminishes a portion of the gameplay (more on that later).

    Naval combat is more than just a tack on.
    The young Assassin spends the majority of his time in Boston, New York, the Assassin Homestead (the base of operations) and the Frontier; a massive wilderness filled with small towns, forts, and animals. While there is plenty to do in these regions, from playing various boardgames to completing different guild challenges, there are three new additions that stand out. The proliferation of guns, which many have dreaded, was done well. Musket volleys from enemy soldiers do an adequate amount of damage, and at their worst are good at harassing the player. Reload times for both Connor and enemies are exactly the same, further reducing any advantage Connor might have (though having multiple pistols helps later on). This, combined with what feels like real variety in soldier type compared to the Ezio series, make combat more challenging than in previous editions. Not full blown hard, but not entirely a counter-fest.

    Now for the two era specific editions: hunting and naval combat. Using snares, bait, and the bow to gather ingredients and furs to sell is interesting the first few times it is performed, but over the course of the game doesn't hold very much weight. Naval combat, however, is much more than the tower defense disaster of Revelations. Essentially a condensed version of actual naval battles (players who enjoy hours of setting up per broadside are probably out of the target audience), the variety of objectives, weapons, and situations make every mission feel unique.

    As far as minor changes, the bomb crafting of Revelations has been replaced by item crafting for trading, which comes with an annoying menu system and not much else once you've crafted the items that actually affect Connor besides making money for naval upgrades. The Assassin recruits are all unique and have their own stories, which is a nice edition, but have little importance in terms of gameplay. They feel underpowered in combat (even ignoring the lack of crossbow lulz) and at best fulfill the functions of the old thieves and courtesans. The bow and rope dart, along with the muskets the player is able to pick up, add some variety to Connor's arsenal. The controls have been streamlined since Revelations, which can be confusing to longtime players like me who are used to holding down specific buttons on consoles. Fluid is the best way to describe the freerunning in AC3, whether that be hopping fences or running from tree to tree. Actually, fluid could easily describe gameplay as a whole, save for a few glitches that more often are not just result in a laugh.

    Multiplayer is as frenzied as ever, but easy to learn for the newcomer.
    The multiplayer introduced in Brotherhood returns with a few tweaks. For those who have never played Assassin's Creed multiplayer, combat in the base gametypes revolves around the player killing their assigned contracts, using the different abilities and perks of their loadout to either help to successfully perform the kill or avoid the other players targeting you. Numerous modifiers, such as saving another player from dying, killing someone while hiding in hay or a crowd, and poisoning your foe secretly add to the points earned. As you play, you gain points to spend on new abilities, customizable parts for the various characters, and profile enhancements. If you are the type of player who prefers to save time over money, you can purchase a separate type of point to buy these additions faster, but earning the normal points is fairly easy.

    The addition of Wolfpack mode bring coop to Assassin's Creed. Four players race around a map killing NPC targets, attempting to perform multikills and combos to earn more points. This gametype is fast paced and exciting, but in order to achieve the best scores and move to the later rounds, teamwork and communication are required, so don't expect to reach the last round with a group of randoms who charge into every group of civilians they can find.

    The game isn't without it's faults, from various glitches that are slowly being fixed to Shaun Hastings approaching Writer on Board or even Author Filibuster status on a few occasions. At times the more minor side missions feel like they lack purpose save for tormenting completionists (AKA me and my achievement hunting). But these grievances do little to knock Assassin's Creed 3 off its pedestal as the most complete Assassin's Creed experience yet.

    - CJ

    Assassin's Creed 3
    ConceptBring the Assassin-Templar fight to the 1700s.
    GraphicsCrisp, but prone to a glitch here or there. Patches are slowly fixing this issue.
    SoundMusic is not only epic, a staple of the series, but memorable, something the previous installments couldn't achieve.
    PlayabilityContent galore with streamlined controls to navigate the wilderness and more.
    EntertainmentA thrilling story and plenty of side missions to keep you engaged for days.
    MultiplayerChaotic fun, especially with friends. The addition of a coop mode is another highlight. Is a multiplayer campaign on the horizon?
    Overall Score9.5

    Holiday Gift Ideas from the Gamer's Gazette
    Holiday Gift Ideas from the Gamer's Gazette
    Holiday Gift Ideas from the Gamer's Gazette

    Holiday Gift Ideas from the Gamer's Gazette Busy contemplating what to get their friends and family this holiday season? Like video games? Read the Gamer's Gazette? Then do we have an article for you! The staff members of the Gamer's Gazette are proud to bring you their geeky, nerdy, and downright fun wish list for all you gamers out there. Some are games we've reviewed, others are just amazing games, and still others are smaller, quirky games you may have missed over the course of the year. There's also Legio and Mas Effect, because why not? Don't forget; by using the links
    Holiday Gift Ideas from the Gamer's Gazette provided here to make your purchases this season, you also help TWC get a small cut!

    Daily Simplicity is one of my favourite things in this world, therefore I will keep this list short and concise. First of I will recommend Alan Wake for PC which will deliver a chilling story with a strong gameplay perspective. One of the few strong single player games this year. For those RTS fans out there, Wargame: European Escalation will surely spark a few excitement feelings in the war department of your noggin'. The first of two RTS game that I can recommend this year. Be aware that its replay value triples when you play it with friends so think of that when you buy it. If your friends are Mass Effect fans, don't get them Mass Effect 3. Hehe. All joking aside its a fun experience but it does do things wrong and if you have at least a tiny grain of standards there are things in this title that will be disappointing. The second RTS game this year that I can recommend is the very own Fall of the Samurai for Shogun 2. This expansion brings rifles, cannons and slaughter to the conservative Japan and is truly a fun experience for those who loved Shogun 2. I am suspecting a sale for this DLC in december so keep a look out for that. Max Payne 3 sees us back into the shoes of one of my favourite game characters trough time. Rockstar gives us a beautiful and fun game that will make your pc cough and your bloodthirsty self happy. It shows flaws in its story but the gameplay and graphics sure make up for it tenfold. If you have any friends that like destruction, monstrous powers and a playground to use these powers. Prototype 2 is the game for you. I reviewed this game in the first release of Gamers Gazette and I can still recommend the game for a time sink.

    One of my highest recommendations this year is Sleeping Dogs which tries to move into Grand Theft Auto turf in this Chinese third person kick'em up. A strong story mixed with a more melee focused game really sucks you in and gives a fresh breath of air in a genre that have been stagnating for quite some time. It does feel repetitive after a little while but I can assure you that the story will keep you going. I don't usually hope for sequels but with this game I do.

    Sword & Sworcery EP iOS (Universal App, iPhone/iPod Touch only), Mac/PC (Steam) Android (Humble Bundle 4 Beta Only) A game that was originally released last year though it’s still on my list of must plays. Capybara delivers a game that bundles a exceptionally great soundtrack by Jim Guthrie with an old-style pixel adventure game that will make most gamers cry of joy. This is a modern take on the genre that formed many of us gamers childhood, the spiritual follow up to Nintendo's the Legend of Zelda series during it’s 2D era. The adventure takes you on a journey trough the Caucasus Mountains were you meet a dog called Dogfella, a girl called Girl and the wood cutter named Logfella. While the games has both enemies and battles that’s not the most fleshed out part and for that sake not even that important. Instead it’s the atmosphere and the often tricky jigsaws that makes your hearth beat for this indie pearl. The use of amazing pixel art in combination of both sounds and Jim’s soundtrack makes this a relaxing joy to play. In addition to all above is the game full of small anecdotes about how games can and often do speaks to the player. These can, if you’d get notice and get them often be incredibly funny. “Sometimes I grow weary of barking all the time but a dog's gotta do what a dog's gotta do what a dog's gotta do do.”, “We got The Gold Trigon. We are so awesome.”, “The storm has really been getting me down, it makes me wish that videogames existed in... whenever this is supposed to be.”
    Sword & Sworcery EP iOS (Universal App, iPhone/iPod Touch only), Mac/PC (Steam) Android (Humble Bundle 4 Beta Only)
    This is not a game for the faint hearted players so make sure you give it to someone that either loves pixel art, adventure games with tricky jigsaws or the family’s hardcore gamer.

    Devil’s Attorney iOS (Universal App) Android This is a game where you set out to defend the lawless people from the shining white knights of the law. Starting out in a shabby apartment and a less than good looking office - you battle your way up against the cities best prosecutors. Luckily for you the cities standards aren’t that high and you will soon find that your incredibly handsome character Max McMann will not only, with your help, win the cases but also ridicule your opponent to to great amusement. The dialogue is sharp and ever so witty whit such excellent voice acting that it never feels cheesy even though it balances near the cliff, a feat that shouldn’t be looked down upon. As a attorney you get to help your clients out of some of the most bizarre situations one could think of. The actual court battles is like a mini-game itself, were you have to use your attack moves by using the points you get each turn while thinking of how to best defend yourself from the attacking side. Lots of thinking is needed on the higher difficulty while the lower one should be good enough for most casual gamers. The player is also rewarded extra money from it’s clients if you manage to win the battle within a set amount of turn, and money is something you want. Not only can you upgrade your flat, but a huge amount of cloths and other accessories are away able to purchase. These adds points that unlocks new attacks and adds extra bonuses and are of vital importance to win the game on the harder setting.
    Devil’s Attorney iOS (Universal App) Android
    What really makes this a great game though is the interaction your character has with the defenders he smash in the court. The story while simple makes you wanna take on just another case and so it goes on and on until it’s way to late in the night. For 2:99$ this is probably the cheapest gift you will buy so thumbs up for you, you just made a great deal.

    Legio As you may have noticed by now, I am a rabid Mass Effect fanboy and will do everything in my power to promote this fantastic video game franchise. If I did not already own every Mass Effect game and DLC, I would demand a copy of the
    Legio Mass Effect Trilogy for Christmas. It contains all three Mass Effect games as well as some of the Singleplayer DLC. The story is superb, and some of the twists in the original Mass Effect still give me shivers. Mass Effect 3 also features an amazing cooperative Multiplayer mode where you can save the galaxy with some friends! Drop me a line and I'll play with you. Thus, you must all play Mass Effect or invoke my severest displeasure.

    Think on that this holiday season...

    Manco If I had to suggest one game worth picking up for the holidays, it'd be Dishonored. At its core it's a fairly straight forward FPS. Yes, it allows for radically different playstyles, from the bloodthirsty madman casually blowing away droves of enemies with a flick of the wrist over the sinister puppeteer walking quite literally in his enemy's footsteps to the merciful stalker avoiding any and all confrontation; and yes, you not only have access to regular weapons but also a satisfyingly lethal blade and a surprisingly well implemented array of magical powers. But what really appealed to me was the world I got to play around in. Your mileage may vary, but to me the City of Dunwall was a wonderfully immersive little gem of creative design. The exaggerated painterly look of NPC's, the little snippets of lore rewarding careful exploration, the almost palpable despair of the rundown, disease-stricken inhabitants contrasted with the promise of its steampunk-esque technological advancement, etc. It's not a perfect game: it's a tad too short even if you follow the adagio that quality is more important than quantity, the final act could have been fleshed out a bit more to allow the story some breathing room, the textures can be gratingly low-res at times,... But I had a blast playing it. I've not touched it since my first run, just so I'll forget much of the world and can feel that same sense of discovery again when I next tackle it.

    But 2012's last quarter had more than one good game, and my second suggestion is a game I haven't been able to finish. Not because it's bad, or gets repetitive (though repetition IS a problem so be warned). No, it's because I get too involved with my men, despair when my favorite soldiers die and basically ragequit. XCOM: Enemy Unknown probably won't satisfy hardcore turnbased fans, and I can see why. But if you're like me and the heydays of TB tactical games passed you by, then this game is a pretty good and accessible introduction.

    Confederate Jeb I'll stick to smaller Xbox 360 titles that were released this year because I love Xbox Arcade games and they don't get enough love.
    Confederate Jeb

    - Trials Evolution - a platform racing game that provides a fun campaign, mutiplayer competitions both via games or scoreboards, and an extensive user creation system that rivals the likes of Halo Forge. Difficulty ranges from easy to down right rage inducing should you enjoy a challenge, so all skill levels will enjoy this hit sensation.

    - Dust: An Elysian Tail - A Metroidvania style platform fighter, this game was made entirely by one man save for voice acting and sound. The fighting and controls are tight and the story is memorably emotional and funny at the right moments.

    Gamer's Gazette Staff

    List of Contributors/Other
    List of Contributors
    List of Contributors

    Confederate Jeb - Editor/Writer
    Merry Christmas! Ha, you didn't expect me to say "Happy Holidays" did you? I'll always find a way to stick it to the man.

    apple - Writer

    SturmChurro - Writer

    Påsan- Writer

    Daily- Writer

    Manco- Writer

    Kameraden - Contributor
    Shout out to Kameraden for helping Påsan on the subject of graphics in his article.

    Legio - Contributor
    Special thanks go to Legio for overseeing the further development of the Gamer's Gazette, and his thoughts on the holiday joy Mass Effect can bring.

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