Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Magna Carta 2

Enter the world of Lanzheim, a beautifully rendered world from a Korean development group. Magna Carta 2 is the third in the series, and is exclusive for the XBox360.

The good: Beautiful graphics. The world is rendered lush and the characters in the story are very stylish, though the style and modeling of the characters takes a little while to get used to. Effects such as spells are quite dazzling in their own right, but it might take a few playthroughs to see all their skills. The cinematic scenes are well rendered and interesting, but not too many to take away from the game.

The music, while not stellar, is of good quality and appropriate to the mood. From the quiet nature town of Cota Mare to the battlefields of Dunan Hill, the music matches quite well and doesn't get too repetitive. The sound is also of high quality.

The game play is quite absorbing, though at times one can feel the battling getting stale. Encounters occur in real-time, so no sudden random encounter battles from other RPGS such as early Final Fantasy games. There is some challenge overall, but this has more to do with trekking across wide stages without getting to save (sometimes 45min between such). While not unusual for RPGS, it makes playing in discrete chunks more difficult.

The story overall is about as standard as one can get for an RPG. Amnesiac hero. Check. Displaced princess. Check. Overly perky sidekick. Check. In fact they could have renamed it "Basic Elements of Japanese RPGS." This isn't to say the story is bad, but it is rather predictable (although there was one twist I did not expect). On the bright side, I felt that the game had very powerful pro-life tones.

The moral: Overall I was very pleased with the story from a pro-life perspective. While it does trip at the finsh line with a reference to relativism, the games conveys a sense that all life is precious, and that the forced sacrifice of some for the benefit of all is not right. There is also touching moments where the origin of one character is from immoral circumstances (according to what is possible in the world), and this character requires both redemption and validation that the character has worth despite how the character came to be.

Some mild language, provacative costumes for some of the female characters (apparently good women don't wear much clothing), and violent imagery (though no blood or gore if memory serves).

My rating: 8.0 - Teens and up.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Assassin's Creed 2

Set in the 15th century Florence, Itay. This game follows the exploits of one Ezio Autitore. This is the sequel to the hit Assassin's Creed.

The technicals: Graphics are excellent, with some minor glitches (esp. when synchronizing on rooftop map points.) But overall the presentation is gorgeous.

Music is a right mix of soundtracks depending on action sequences or sneaking around. Voice acting is stellar for a video game. I did have some issues with balancing the music and voice volume though (which can be adjusted in the options menu).

The good:

Everything that was wrong about the first game, repetive missions, pointless overworld, pointless secondary goals like *shudder* flag collecting have been done away. There are still plenty of secondary objectives. Ezio has plenty of cool new gadgets (as well as the trusty hidden blade). The story follows Ezio, the ancestor of the series future protagonist Desmon Miles. Using the Animus, a machine that allows the user to relive the memories of one's ancestor's (convienently stored inside the user's DNA).

This game is fun. From jumping on rooftops to figuring out ways to assassinate your targets, it has never been cooler to be an assassin.

The bad: Glitchy at times (XBox 360). One odd glitch in particular when trying to assassinate a rooftop guard, only to have him replicate into about 20 guards. Needless to say, I had to leave in a hurry.

The restrictions: Sexual innuendo abound, as well as R-rated language (mostly in Italian, but subtitles. Realistice violence and blood.

From a faith perspective:

From Leonardo da Vinci's Animus profile, "Rumors abound about his homosexuality." Right then I realized I was playing a Dan Brown novel. The game itself seems to go out of its way to attack the Catholic Church. I was particularly annoyed about some of the profile entries regarding the treatment of religion. Unless you read the profiles however you may not see this aspect of the game until ***SPOILER ALERT*** you have to assassinate the Pope (not kidding), who is revealed to be the Templar leader this time around. Now granted this is Alexander VI (and who didn't want to take a swing at him). But I found it very disconcerting to say the least, since by this point the reason why the papal staff is the key to unlocking the secret of Eden under the Vatican (not kidding, seriously) doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Overall the tone of the game is anti-religion. In particular anti-Catholic.

In the future, I intend to post why the Assassin's Creed story ultimately makes no sense whatsoever. But for now suffice to say that this sequel improves on the gameplay but basically nukes the story.

But I was a little disturbed athow much fun it was to kill two guards at once with Double Hidden Blades. That didn't get old...


Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 9.0
Control: 9.0
Fun value: 9.5
Faith value: 1.0
Rated: Adults only (if that)