The Walking Dead, Episode 1 sets the stage; Diablo III continues the epic journey
Of the four games being reviewed this week, two have been in development for several years. The other two are based on books that have become hits because of their TV adaptations.
(Blizzard; Mac OS X, Windows; rated mature)
Sure, there have been a few issues around connectivity in the first week since Diablo III was released. The massive and expansive role-playing game requires an online connection to be played, and enough people had problems logging in that Blizzard issued an apology. But that shouldn’t dissuade eager fans from getting their copy of the game because those problems will be short-lived, and this is a stunning game. The controls are almost too simple, but I loved that all I had to do was click a mouse to move and attack, using the keyboard for additional commands. With careful attention to detail and some incredible shading work, the smooth animations and crisp graphics are superior, even if experiences may vary depending on the computer and monitor you’re using. You’ve got a variety of character types and weapons, so you can go into battle against the forces of evil any way you please, even using the environment to take out enemies. Killing monsters and collecting treasure has never been so satisfying.
(Microsoft; Xbox 360; rated everyone)
This clever game, developed by Montreal’s Polytron (which has only two employees, Phil Fish and Renaud Bédard), is intended for those who thrive on puzzle solving. The trick here is that you run and jump in a two-dimensional environment, but you can shift the perspective in three dimensions. So a path that isn’t immediately obvious becomes clear when you rotate the environment 90 degrees. Your objective is to collect 64 cubes and anti-cubes that are scattered throughout the vast realms, thereby preventing the fabric of the world from being torn asunder. Presented in quirky and colourful 8-bit graphics, Fez presents all manner of puzzles, from simple environmental problems to more complex and mind-bending stumpers that require code breaking and knowledge of math systems. The game itself is one big mystery, inspired by Edwin Abbott Abbott’s dimensional treatise Flatland and brimming with other cultural references.
Game of Thrones
(Atlus; PS3, Windows, Xbox 360; rated mature)
Based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels, which the masses have discovered through the HBO series, this role-playing game was developed by France-based Cyanide, which has a studio in Montreal. The game is more like the books than the television show. It’s something of a ponderous affair, with too much precious dialogue and a combat system that is as plodding as the character animations. You’ll have some degree of control over the skills of the two characters you play, and your actions do affect the path of the plot. But those hoping for excitement and intrigue will find this game requires more patience than anything.
The Walking Dead, Episode 1
(Telltale Games; iOS, Mac OS X, PS3, Windows, Xbox 360; rated mature)
Based on Robert Kirkman’s comic, which also spawned the popular TV series, this is an episodic take on surviving a zombie apocalypse. Episode 1 sets the stage for the serial, which puts gamers in the role of convicted felon Lee Everett. The mechanics of this adventure game are fairly simple. You’ll move Lee around, looking for and using objects in the environment. Time limits on responding in conversation and acting while under threat do add a sense of urgency to the game. And player decisions—on dialogue and plot—will affect the story being told. The atmosphere matches what’s been established in the other media, but this game is mostly story and you’ll find yourself watching more than playing. There will be five episodes in all. Episode 2 is scheduled for release in June.