VR Soccer ’96

A soccer/football game from the 90s that is not FIFA, but is in full 3D.

Release Date:

March 1996.

Pros:

There are eight camera angles to choose from. Some views can be zoomed in and out and some can also be moved around.

Cons:

There is commentary, but it sounds quite poor. I remember the commentary in FIFA 96 was smooth and continuous like watching a game on television. In VR Soccer ’96, the commentary is on and off, which does not give the watching TV feeling.

When you are defending sometimes the player selected will automatically change, which is very annoying in my opinion. What is worse is half the time, it will select a player in a worse position than the one you were controlling originally.

The AI controlling your team mates is completely crap when you are defending. The goal keeper is the only person that seems to do anything and even he is stupid sometimes. All your team mates will do nothing to get the ball. Sometimes they would even run away from the ball. So it is up to you and you alone to pick the right player and control him to get the ball.

When I run a player towards the ball I expect the player to get the ball. Half the time in VR Soccer ’96, the ball just bounces off the player. Why did the player not get the ball? In FIFA 96 it was so easy to get the ball.

The goal keepers act inconsistently and it does not matter which team it is. Sometimes they will do their job and jump all over the place defending the goal. Other times they just stand there and let the ball roll in. Very strange when you see it happen.

There is no manual for the GOG.com version of the game, but you can get the manual for Actua Soccer which some people say is the same game with a different name. The screen shots in the Actua Soccer manual looks the same as VR Soccer ’96, but half the things the manual says you can do, cannot be done in VR Soccer ’96. In the end I only learnt how to shoot, pass and slide tackle. Besides slide tackling, the only other way to get the ball from the opposition, is to run into them and pray.

You can set the formation before the match. It is a pity that when you start the match, the formation is reset to 4-4-2 every time. So you have to waste time setting the formation again for each and every match.

There is a bug where you see the goalie catch the ball, but the game declares a point is scored. Then the ball disappears from the goal keeper’s hands and appear like it just came out from the net.

Other Points:

The graphics look old, but is in full 3D and does show the action OK.

Music has been fixed for the GOG.com version of the game.  It doesn’t sound bad either.

You can change the names of the players, but it is quite pointless since the commentary still says their original names.

There are the usual options like whether to have offside, bookings, free kicks, substitutions and the choice of game time length from five to ninety minutes. You can also choose whether to have wind affect on the ball.

Only the international teams are available with forty-four countries available to pick from in friendly and league games and thrity-two contries in the cup game.

There is multiplayer, but I did not try it out.

Each player of a team has their own statistics. I am not sure if they affect the game though. So far no matter which team I pick, which players I use and what formation I use, I still lose matches big time.

Overall the game is very difficult to play. Part of the difficulty is due to the bad AI of your team and the strange ball getting behaviour.

I played both arcade and simulation modes. Apart from slowly clicking through all the other teams’ results in simulation mode, I did not notice any difference between the two modes. I still lose games big time in either mode.

If you fancy a challenging football/soccer game and you do not get frustrated by the very bad AI of your team mates, then VR Soccer ’96 is your game. As for me, I wish I still had FIFA 96, or RTWC 98.

Biases:

Reviewed GOG.com version of the game.

I really liked FIFA International Soccer, FIFA 96 and FIFA RTWC 98. After those I only played the odd multiplayer game of the newer FIFA games, of which I still thoroughly enjoyed.

I do not follow football/soccer in real life and do not really know which teams are good or which players are good.

Despite all the cons I still play this now and then.  Probably because I do not know what other soccer game to get and I have not found any free giveaways yet.

DRM:

The game is DRM free from GOG.com

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com):

  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 1.8 GHz Processor
  • 512MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • 4GB HDD (I have no idea where GOG.com got 4GB from. On my PC the game is around 170MB installed.)
  • Mouse, Keyboard.

Computer Played On:

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4Gb RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1Gb RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with egg speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Keyboard or Thrustmaster Firestorm Digital 3 gamepad.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

200 years after the events of Oblivion, move to the province of Skyrim to once again live another life in the world of The Elder Scrolls. The king is dead and the region has descended into civil war. To make matters worse, dragons have suddenly appeared, destroying everything in their path. Grab your sword, don your robe and discover what is behind these troubling events.

Release Date:

November 2011.

Pros:

The graphics are fantastic. It is expected to be better being newer than Oblivion and it sure delivers. I was amazed seeing the game for the first time. Despite greater details in almost everything, the effect of the eyes adjusting to the different light levels impressed me the most.

The beginning tutorial, like Oblivion before it, is excellent. Everything is well explained and I would say very beginner friendly. It is a bit difficult for me to judge its beginner friendliness as I am very familiar with Oblivion.

To compliment the beginning tutorial is the in-game help system. It is very handy and explains things by topic.

The level of interactivity has increased since Oblivion. Forge weapons, upgrade them, cook food. You can also play hide-and-seek with children or brawl in a bar. Of course we did not buy Skyrim just to cook and play hide-and-seek. This is just some nice extras on top of a very well fleshed out fantasy RPG.

Dragons! Big, don’t mess with me, fire breathing dragons. I was especially impressed when I fought the first dragon at level four and the beast ate me for breakfast. Yup, not just breathing fire, it actually took a big bite and threw me off like a toy. I like!

Just like Oblivion before it, Jeremy Soule did a fantastic job composing the soundtrack for Skyrim. Being a big fan of the Oblivion soundtrack, I was happy to hear some “shadows” of Oblivion in Skyrim. Of course they could all be “shadows” of Morrowind. Most of the of music for Skyrim is new though.

Also like Oblivion, Skyrim provides a very large open world for exploration. I am not sure which game is larger, but the cities of Skyrim feel smaller to me.

I find the main story to be more interesting than that of Oblivion. I also find many of the side quests have quite interesting plots. The stories combined with the massive world really makes Skyrim an interesting place to lose yourself in, just like Oblivion but better.

You can get followers to join you on your adventures They will fight with you… or die trying. You can also ask them do things like pick locks. Only one follower can follow you at any one time so you cannot have the whole party of adventurers thing happening.

Just like Oblivion, Skyrim is moddable and has plenty of mods. Check out the collection at Nexusmods.

Cons:

The inventory listing looks cleaner than Oblivion, but it lacked the very important feature of sorting items by value, weight or damage/protection values.

The audio volume level is very low. I set everything at maximum and I can hardly hear the people talk. There are quite a few discussions on how to fix the audio, but nothing has worked for me.

It is possible to get stuck in places and not be able to jump out of it even though it is quite shallow.

There is a bug with the interface when selecting items to store in a chest or to sell items to a merchant. Each time I selected an item to sell or store, the highlight moves up one item and up the screen. Sell or store enough stuff and the highlight will completely go off the screen! Minor but annoying.

Other Points:

The combat feels a lot easier than that of Oblivion. With unmodded Oblivion I had to play on the easiest difficulty as I was dying so quickly. In Skyrim, I started playing on the hardest difficulty of legendary, but dropped back to master difficulty. At the second hardest difficulty of master, I found the game challenging without dying every few minutes.

More like Dark Messiah of Might and Magic and less like Oblivion, Skyrim has done away with classes. All skill levels are raised by performing their specific activity and the class your character will develop into is pretty much what you like doing most.

In Oblivion you were a prisoner that escaped, because the Emperor had to use your cell to escape. In Skyrim you are a prisoner again. This time though you escape because a dragon came just when you were about to get your head chopped off. Is there something about prisoners becoming heroes that I do not know about?

The levelling up is very similar to Oblivion in that as you use your skills, they raise in value. Raise enough skills and you level up. What is different is, each time you level up, you select whether to increase health, magic or stamina. You also gain a point to spend on perks.

There are quite a few other things that have changed since Oblivion. Equipment no longer degrades, so there is no more repairing. You no longer have a mobile potion factory. Some of the skills have been merged. You must now arm your spell with your hands before you can cast them.

People can permanently die in Skyrim, including shop keepers. Once they are gone, that is one less person you can sell stuff to. It is good that the game has this level of realism but it is also bad as I always liked certain people to be immortal to make my own gaming life easier.

Biases:

Reviewed Legendary Edition with all released DLCs, version 1.9.32.0.8.

Initially I played the game unmodded. Later I installed the Convenient Horses mod.

I have not completed the main story of Skyrim.

I am a big fan of Oblivion, but I have never played Morrowing or any other Elder Scrolls game.

I liked Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.

DRM:

  • Steam.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box):

  • OS: Windows 7/Vista/XP (32 or 64 bit)
  • Processor: Dual Core 2.0 GHz or equivalent processor
  • Memory: 2 GB System RAM
  • Hard Disk Space: 9 GB free HDD space
  • Video Card: DirectX 9.0c compliant video card with 512MB of RAM
  • Sound: DirectX compatible sound card

Computer Played On:

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with headphones.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Recommended Mods:

Convenient Horses – Gives a lot of options for horse management. The main thing I use this mod for is calling my horse. I seem to lose my horse a lot.

Sacred

A demon unleashed. Evil factions draw near. A kingdom under threat. And you are thrown right in the middle to fix it all. Welcome to Sacred. Choose from eight characters to roam the world of Ancaria. Have fun beating up loads of enemies, while helping a sheep get back home and gearing up your character for bigger better fights.

Release Date

October 2004.

Pros

There is a very good tutorial. Text boxes pop up when you reach certain areas and explain how to play the game. For veterans, they can be skipped totally as well.

There are plenty of animals walking around. People go around doing their own thing. Although they may not have any purpose in life, it does make the world feel alive. Oblivion had animals and people roaming around as well, but I did not find the game as alive as Sacred.

The graphics and animations are not as smooth as Torchlight, but does look nicer in my opinion. The game is very detailed with landscapes of all sorts, different buildings, caves that you can enter , different interactable items, arrows sticking out of monsters and much more. For the gore conscious, please note that the details also show dismemberment, blood flowing from the dead and exploding bodies.

There are loads of side quests which you can choose to complete or ignore. So far I have found the many side quests more interesting than the main campaign quest, even though some of them are a bit silly. There are no puzzle type quests, so some RPG players may not enjoy this aspect.

There are tons of items to loot and great crafting options.

When the music does play, it sounds good. It does not play enough though.

The world is quite open and very large. The roaming restriction by nature’s barriers may be by design, but the world still allows for significant free roaming. If you roam too far though, you might encounter opponents that will smack you back to town.

Unlike Torchlight and Marvel Heroes, you can actually save and load your game manually. So, save before trying something crazy. Have multiple saves to try different things and reload if you cannot bear to die and lose gold.

There are eight characters to choose from. That is five more than Torchlight, but obviously a lot less than Marvel Heroes. Having played the Wood Elf and the Daemon, I would say that the different characters are quite different. Each has their own skills and abilities, and have their own specialist equipment.

The AI is good and varied. Some enemies will run away, while others fight to the death. Some of your allies can and will fight with you and they actually help, while others will always run away. Overall, the different NPCs react differently and in my opinion react quite well for what they are.

Sacred is not the first game with horses, but it is the first game I have played that has horse charge! Use your horse to run into enemies to damage them and knock them over.

The speech, although limited, does sound good. Not as good as the likes of Marvel Heroes, but much better than that of Torchlight.

The sounds are also good. Weapon strikes. Spell casting. The death cries of goblins. Mooing cows. They all sound good. Unfortunately, Sacred cannot detect surround sound with the Logitech G35.

Spell/Special Combos! I have never seen this in any other RPG. You can create combos to cast/use spells/specials automatically in order with one mouse click. It is like creating macros to cast all your favourite spells in one go, or crafting a special whacking sequence. It is not for free though as you need gold to build the combos and you have to wait quite a long time after each use.

One very handy feature in Sacred is the auto-collect. Just press ‘a’ and your character will run around picking up loot. It sure beats clicking on every item. It is also configurable to pick up everything, just gold and unique items, or just gold.

There be dragons! They are not just small type dragons like the dragonkin of Torchlight. We are talking big fire breathing dragons that will roast you in seconds if you are not prepared. This came as a refreshing surprise as I cannot remember the last time I saw a dragon in an RPG.

Cons

The user interface is not as good as Torchlight and this does make Sacred a bit more difficult to play. The keys cannot be changed either.

It is a bit difficult to position the mouse cursor on an enemy to attack. Many times when I thought the cursor was over the enemy, it actually was not and my character was just running around rather than actually attacking.

The graphics resolution cannot be changed. It is fixed at 1024×768.

Riding horses is great, but there is one quite annoying bug. You can only mount a horse from the horses left. So if the horse is positioned with something in the way, you just cannot mount it. You then have to walk away far enough then call your horse again and hope it does not move to a place with more things in the way.

Other Points

Compared to Torchlight and Marvel Heroes, Sacred has less action. There is more going from place to place where there are only a few enemies to fight. This makes Sacred feel more like a traditional RPG rather than an action RPG. Do not let your guard down too much though, as there are areas with plenty of enemies to beat up.

There is good information that must be collected. They do help with the game, but it also means there is a lot of reading involved.

If you die, you will respawn at the last check point and lose some gold. This is not that big a deal as you can save your game at any time and reload it.

The Gold edition of Sacred comes with the extra Underworld campaign. I have not tried out the extra campaign though.

There is a day/night cycle, but other than changing the cosmetic lighting, it does not seem to do anything else. I have not played using the Vampiress character, but the manual does mention about suffering damage during daytime.

There is some light humour in the game.

Biases

Reviewed Sacred Gold version 2.28 of the game.

I have been playing using the Daemon and Wood Elf characters.

I really enjoyed Torchlight and Marvel Heroes.

I also really enjoyed Oblivion.

I have only played the single player main campaign and I am far from completing it. According to the game stats, I have only explored 2.25% of the world.

DRM

Sacred is available DRM free from GOG.com

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com)

  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 1 GHz Processor (1.4 GHz recommended)
  • 512MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • Mouse, Keyboard
  • Compatibility notice: This game is NOT compatible with Intel integrated graphics cards.

Computer Played On

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with egg speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.