If you are reading this, then you may be in the same position I was in a few months back. After reading the ever so notorious review that gave, I Am Alive a bad name, I was left unsure whether the game would be worth my money or not. After reading and watching several other reviews it quickly became clear that this game was getting a lot of mixed reviews, but the over all theme of the game and some of its interesting mechanics kept me interested. Eventually I took that leap of faith and purchased I Am Alive from the Xbox Live Marketplace.
I Am Alive is the age old tale of man meets apocalypse. This time around zombies are not included (unfortunately?) but the threat remains a very serious one. Mankind. You will encounter people scattered throughout the ruined city you venture through. Sometimes these people will need your help and you will have to wrestle with your heart deciding whether you can spare supplies that are so scarcely stumbled upon, or continue on your way improving your chances of survival. And sometimes these people want to chop you up into little pieces and take all the goods you've collected. When the latter situation arises you will have to be very careful and think out combat before you jump right in. In I Am Alive, it doesn't take a whole lot to end up dead. A couple of stabs or a bullet or two and that's all she wrote. Ammunition for your pistol is extremely rare ( I don't think I ever had more than 5 bullets at a time, if that.) and must be used sparingly and in a situation where you are being assaulted by a mob of angry passerby's one wrong move could be the end of you. This is where some very interesting game mechanics come into play. Though your pistol may be empty the enemy doesn't necessarily know this. You can actually point your gun at an opponent and attempt to bluff them, tell them to back away before you kick them off a ledge. Or maybe you choose to start combat by speaking soothing words to your enemy, talking them down before you close in for a quick slit of the throat with your machete. In some situations taking out a mobs leader will cause the weaker members of the group to surrender. The idea here is to take what precious time you have to evaluate the situation and find a method that is going to work best for the situation you are in. Executing this in the proper manner can be extremely rewarding and I would love to see more games take such an innovative approach to combat. This is no run and gun experience and even for someone like me who loves to Rambo on in, guns blazing, it can be a very refreshing adventure. Though it is not advised to sprint headlong into combat, once you have gotten yourself into the fight, the pace quickly makes the change to fast and chaotic. The combat its self is short lived and feels very natural and realistic.
If the game has guns, I'm usually doing this...
Contrary to what I've read from an another source, the controls in I Am Alive are very solid. The layout will take a little getting used to but it wasn't long until I was playing as if I had been for days. It's quite hard to imagine the layout being any different and I find the controls to be both intuitive and graceful allowing the gameplay to feel very fluid with few hiccups. This is very good considering a lot of the game is spent doing some Tomb Raider like climbing. The city has taken a massive hit from the occurrence known only as "the event" and travel has been made very difficult due to collapsed roads and fallen buildings and huge dust clouds which is harmful to your stamina, and in turn is hazardous to your health. You will have to scale buildings and wreckage (which also drains your stamina) in order to find alternate routes to your destination. I typically do not enjoy a lot of climbing puzzles in games, but in the case of I Am Alive, I thoroughly enjoyed these sections. Figuring out how to make it to a rooftop before your stamina drains causing you to fall to your death can be extremely exhilarating and I never found it to be overly challenging. The games sense of direction can be a bit poor at times, offering only an indication on your map as to where your destination is. Finding the way to that destination is up to you, in this case a lack of direction is more than understandable and I embraced it without question.
I Am Alive certainly doesn't hold all the visual glamour that you will see in games like Crysis, but it's atmosphere is near unrivaled. A lot of post-apocalyptic games have been released in recent years, and though I Am Alive is filled with grey, dusty looking surroundings, you will find yourself in an environment that is all too real, leaving little to envy about the protagonists situation. Textures can be a bit bland, and aliasing is slightly noticeable (a personal pet peeve of mine) but the lighting in I Am Alive is superb for an arcade title and you will find your surroundings to be very immersive. When considering the price of I Am Alive, the visuals are certainly nothing to complain about. Unfortunately the story does not share the same caliber as the games atmosphere. Not all the voice acting is particularly bad, but the dialogue can be about as inspiring as cardboard. Characters feel bland and strangers you run into rarely have anything interesting to say. The presentation of the story is particularly poor, being told in short snippets of cut scenes that seem lifeless making it difficult to sympathize with the main character and the situation he has been thrown into. I Am Alive is also a very short title, I personally finished it within 5-6 hours and the game currently doesn't have any multiplayer support and it is likely that it never will. The only replay value here is a stat screen that gives you a percentage on how much of the games tasks you have completed. Whether or not going back for another round to get a 100% on your play through is worth it, is up to you, I have not as of yet and its likely that I never will.
Whether I would suggest the game to others or not is a tough call. I did really enjoy my time playing I Am Alive and do not regret purchasing it at all. I would also be thrilled if a sequel to I Am Alive was released. All in all, if you are short on cash and are looking for a lengthy experience, or are the type of person that is only driven by a powerful story, I Am Alive is not for you. If you are looking for an innovative and refreshing experience and you have some cash to spare, I Am Alive is a great title and will provide you with what you are looking for.
As I play through Dungeon Defenders I can't help but notice the abundance of players that have found a way to modify their items. I'm not surprised that players are discovering such flaws in the system, but what I am surprised at is how many of these people genuinely love playing the game with these items. As a person that enjoys the accomplishment of overcoming the challenges that a game has to offer, it's hard for me to see how someone could look at an imminent win as the superior play style to playing a game the way it was meant to be played. Even at a young age I had no interest in cheats, hacks or finding ways to exploit a game, I have always preferred the grind, and lovingly embrace it over an instant, cheap win. A few of my friends make the argument that once they have beaten a game they go to cheats to seek out some replay value, and to me this is fine. Hell, even if you absolutely insist on breaking a game to get through that single player campaign, it's no skin off my back. But, I am greatly bothered when I am playing a game for its co-op experience and many of the players that join assume that I would rather cut corners, and even go as far as to help me do so. A prime example of this is when I was sitting in the tavern in Dungeon Defenders and I decided to walk away from the TV for a moment. I returned to a player dumping mana on the ground (Dungeon Defenders currency) around my character. I of course was unwillingly picking up all this mana until I realized what was going on and swiftly kicked him from the match. No big deal right? Right. I want to play legitimately, so I drop some mana, take care not to let it happen again, and I'm on my merry little way. It simply becomes a matter of weeding out the people that mod and only playing with other players like myself who enjoy a challenge. But why do I have to put in so much work to play the game the way it was meant to be played? Somethings a little backwards here... I suppose you could say the developer is to blame, by the time I got around to playing Boarderlands a good 90% of the people still playing chose to do so with modified weapons. A problem that the developers never seemed to care to address. It was literally so hard to find another player that wanted to play legitimately that in the end I gave up and continued to play the rest of the game solo. Fortunately, the cheating in Dungeon Defenders hasn't come even close to what it is in Boarderlands, but that day may merely be just around the corner, and I can't help but feel a bit concerned about the outcome of co-op in Boarderlands 2. Whether you blame the developer or the player, this is a problem that seems to be getting worse as time goes on, and as the problem increases I tend to feel more and more alienated from the world of multiplayer gaming.
I have not posted in quite a bit and for good reason. A lot of stuff has been coming up and I have been far too busy to indulge in any lengthy games, let alone write about them. So in recent days I have been downloading a few Xbox Live Arcade titles here and there. Arcade titles are cheap, but with that easily affordable price tag usually comes a pretty mediocre experience. But once in a while you stumble across a diamond in the rough, one of those titles that has you scratching your head and wondering how you purchased such a dazzling gem at such a great price. Games like Gotham City Impostors and Minecraft (Which I have been planning on writing about, if only I could find out WHAT exactly I am going to write about.). But on today's agenda is writing a review about a fascinating little title I have recently stumbled across, a game that goes by the name "Dungeon Defenders". Cheesy name, no doubt, and the cover photo that goes with it is even more cheesy, so needless to say I didn't really expect much when downloading Dungeon Defenders off the the Xbox Marketplace. Fortunately, I was wrong... very wrong. Not only do I thoroughly enjoy Dungeon Defenders, but I have so far found it to be one of the best Co-op RPG experiences since the release of Castle Crashers. Dungeon Defenders is as entertaining as it is innovative, and stands out as one of the most original RPG experiences I have had the pleasure to be utterly addicted to in quite a long time.
Dungeon Defenders is ruled by a unique combination of two magnificently conjoined elements. On hand you have something similar to Gears Of War's horde mode mated with your basic tower defense game. Wave after wave of relentless enemies will pour into a well thought out arena while you and up to three other players will place traps and defense mechanisms to prevent your enemies from reaching and destroying a crystal. If and when this crystal is destroyed you will have lost the match and will need to start over and try once again. On the other hand you have some serious RPG elements, making Dungeon Defenders feel similar to something like Torchlight. This gives the players the ability to run around and hack and slash or blast at enemies along side your defenses all while leveling up and searching for that epic piece of gear that will help give your character the upper hand in upcoming matches.
Though a lot of tower defense influence is prominent in Dungeon Defenders, this game feels much closer to your everyday third person, hack and slash RPG. Loot grinding adds much to the replay value of the game and keeping your character level as you switch from level to level allows the player to feel some extra sense of progression as they push forward. The campaign holds thirteen or so arena's, all of which include multiple waves which you will have to fight off in order to progress. In between levels the players can return to a hub area which is referred to as the tavern. In the tavern, you will be able to sort through items you have picked up, sell, equip, or upgrade them. You can also choose to level up your hero, or trade with a shop keeper, all before continuing to go about your business. In addition to all the levels that you can complete, Dungeon Defenders also sports a whole separate section of challenges and even a PVP arena to test your skills against other players in a good ol' fashion arena brawl.
Dungeon Defenders fully supports a single player experience, but I would highly recommend playing with friends or even complete strangers as the game sports a ridiculous amount of onscreen enemies, and in later levels you will be required to protect more than one crystal at a time, this can be rather difficult when you are going it solo but still can be accomplished at higher levels. The amount of onscreen enemies that you encounter truly is amazing and in later stages this game can get very intense. Playing with other players will really add to the experience, all classes were designed to compliment one another and seeing the strategies of other players can be a great way to pick up on hints and tends to spark the creativity within. When you do find the perfect group of people, Dungeon Defenders really starts to shine. Fortunately this is not all that uncommon. Dungeon Defenders has four classes to choose from, all of which sport their own placeable defenses. Each class is fairly unique and you are able to switch among classes freely, though the classes do not share experience. Throughout the levels you will occasionally be confronted with a boss in addition to a wave you are fighting which is great for a change of pace and adds some great flavor to the mix. Dungeon Defenders is powered by the Unreal 3 engine and looks very nice but also holds a sort of cartoonish, light hearted fantasy style, similar to that of Torchlight. There is some story thrown into the mix but as with most action RPG's it is near irrelevant, with Dungeon Defenders the experience is all game, and the gameplay here is about as solid as it gets. The controls feel smooth and responsive. The soundtrack is nothing to rage about, but melds harmoniously with the games feel and atmosphere.
I haven't found a whole lot of things to dislike about this game. At times there is some lag and at least on the Xbox version there are some players that mod weapons to make themselves ridiculously powerful, but if this bothers you like it does myself, you can always kick the player from your match with the press of a few buttons. Something that does tend to bother me is the fact that every level has a set amount of defenses that can be placed, now this in itself is a reasonable thing of course, unfortunately that number is also shared by all the other players in the map. This means if one player decides to place a bunch of defenses, you may find that there are no longer enough points for you to place anything down. In addition other players are given the ability to sell your structures at will. Surprisingly, this is not a frequent problem, but it can be frustrating on rare occasions. The positive side to this is that you are really forced to work as a team and make compromises. My final problem with the game is the semi auto targeting system in the game, at least as a melee character you will occasionally find yourself being pulled in a direction you did not want to go as you happen to target a monster that you did not intend to. If there is an option to turn this off on the 360 version, I have yet to find it.
Dungeon Defenders gracefully combines action RPG with the strategy of tower defense and is truly a must play for fans of either genre. With rich, exciting gameplay and near endless replay value, Dungeon Defenders stands as one of the greatest pleasant surprises I have stumbled across so far this year in the world of gaming. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some crystals to defend.