X-Wing Alliance

Join the Rebel Alliance and fly your favourite X-wing, A-wing or Corellian Transport to take on the Galactic Empire, all the way to the Battle of Endor.

Release Date

February 1999.

Pros

This is the best Star Wars space combat simulator to date.

They say “In space, no one can hear you scream.”, but it did not apply “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” Thank goodness for that, because X-Wing Alliance gives wonderful and authentic Star Wars sounds just like the movies. The laser cannons, explosions, engine rumble and of course the lengendary TIE Fighter all sound great.

The original Star Wars Trilogy soundtrack has been edited to fit the game perfectly.

You get to fly the Millenium Falcon into the Death Star to destroy it. It is not as easy as they do it in the movies, but it is still awesome. One thing that puzzles me is who are you in the Millenium Falcon since Lando Calrissian is the pilot?

The graphics are fantastic. Although not as nice as the newer Star Wars games, they are still fantastic. All the cockpits, ships, space stations, explosions all look Star Wars great.

Right from the introduction sequence all the way to the Death Star’s destruction, the game breathes the Star Wars atmosphere. From the hangar of your family’s base to the furious space battles, all the presentations make you feel like you are a Star Wars pilot.

There are plenty of ships to fly. The campaign is geared towards the Rebel Alliance, but you can set up your own skirmish battles and fly Imperial ships too. Waylon’s X-Wing Alliance Mod has some mods including missions converted from the TIE Fighter game.

There is a historical missions feature where you can refly any campaign missions that you have already completed. You can also try different ships and loadouts for that mission.

The ships are scaled very well. The fighters are tiny, the capital ships are big and then there is the Super Star Destroyer. Just like the movies, the SSD makes other ships look like Micro Machines.

Cons

The speech in general sound only OK. Then when you reach the Battle of Endor, Lando Calrissian sounds terrible. There is a nice mod that adds to movie sounds for this bit though.

There is a film room feature where you can record your mission and play it back for viewing later. Unfortunately the camera controls are limited and terrible. The joystick controls the free moving camera but it never seems to move the way I expect it to.

Other Points

The campaign story starts off with you being a pilot for your family’s business. Things go wrong and you end up joining the Rebel Alliance and flying for them all the way to the destruction of Death Star II in the Battle of Endor.

There is force feedback in the game, but it is not that impressive.

Like TIE Fighter, X-Wing and the Wing Commanders before this, X-Wing Alliance is a space combat simulator. Like a flight simulator, you must learn the keys and how to work the ships. It is still far easier to learn and play than the realisitc flight simulators like Falcon 4.0 and IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946.

If you have played the first X-Wing or TIE Fighter, you will feel right at home with X-Wing Alliance.

The Logitech G35 is detecting that there is surround sound in the game but it sounds very stereo to me.

The game is quite difficult. I set the difficulty to easy and still I struggle to complete a lot of missions.

Biases

Reviewed version 2.02.

Everytime I play X-Wing Alliance, I bring out the movies to watch again.

I really liked TIE Fighter, X-Wing, Wing Commander I, II, III, Privateer and Elite.

I only played the single player parts.

Patches

2.02 – A few fixes as well as a film room feature.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on the box)

  • CD-DVD: 4x Drive
  • OS: Windows 95/98
  • Memory: 32MB RAM
  • Processor: P-200
  • Graphics: 2mb PCI
  • Input: Keyboard, Mouse, Joystick
  • Sound Card: 16 bit Compatibles
  • Internet: 28.8Kbps. 2-4 Players, 2PCs
  • Network: IPX compliant. 2-8 Players, 2PCs

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.

Handy Tips

X-Wing Alliance does work under Windows 7 64 bit but there is a bit of trickery involved in installing it. There is a new installer and set of instructions here.

The cutscenes play out of sync on a multi-core PC. To fix it, set the affinity to only use one core. One way is to change the game shortcut to something like C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /C start “” /affinity 01 “C:\Program Files (x86)\LucasArts\X-Wing Alliance\XWINGALLIANCE.EXE”. I got this information from here.

If you are having difficulty reading stuff in the game, try this font fix.

The game was running very choppy on my PC and I had to set custom 3D settings in my NVIDIA Control Panel to fix it. I had to set vertical sync to force off and power management mode to prefer maximum performance.

Recommended Mods

Darksaber’s Ultimate Craft Pack – This mod improves both the graphics and sound for the game. It needs a pretty powerful graphics card to handle it though. On my PC it mostly runs fine, but there are some parts that gets quite jerky.

If you would like to upgrade the graphics of objects individually then check out X-Wing Alliance Upgrade.

Battle of Endor voice update – Changes the speech for the Battle of Endor to be the sounds from the movie. So Lando sounds much better.

The Moon Project

An innovative and complex real-time strategy(RTS) game set on Earth in the year 2150. Three teams duke it out to try to get resources to build a space craft so that they can escape Earth before it plummets into the sun.

Release Date

March 2001.

Pros

This is the first RTS I have played where there is night and day. And lighting affects visibility in turn affecting strategy. You can have your tanks turn off their lights at night and ambush the approaching enemy.

This is also the first RTS I have played where you can custom build your units. In fact you have to design your units first before you can even build. Pick a chassis and put a 105mm gun and a rocket launcher on it. Or put twin rocket launchers on it, it is all up to you.

Even some of the buildings can be customised with weapons.

This is also the first RTS I have played where you can dig trenches, flatten the terrain and dig tunnels underneath. You can do battle in the tunnels too.

Good and dynamic music. It is not Command & Conquer but it is still good and fits the game very well.

Innovative multiple location management. The single player campaign consists of your main base and two mini-bases. Each base has its money, and you must transport money and units between them to get things done. When you start a mission, there is the mission area, and you transport units and money to the mission area to use.

The three teams are very different.

Full install does not need the CD in the drive to play. Of course this does not matter if you buy the DRM free version from GOG.com.

The super weapons are really super weapons.

Cons

The game is quite complex and difficult to learn.

The mission messages are sometimes too vague. They say do this, but do not tell you how you are supposed to do it. I had to explore around a lot to figure out how to actually do the thing they said. I am not sure if this was intentionally made this way, but I find it very annoying. If you are the type of person that must succeed every mission, be prepared to spend hours trying to figure out how to do stuff. If not, some missions you can fail and continue.

Whoever wrote the mission messages also seem to get their left/right, east/west directions mixed up. Either that or they are describing things from a weird point of view.

Your units path finding is a bit stupid. They will get themselves into traffic jams and sometimes keep moving back and forths for no reason. And for air units, sometimes they refuse to land where they are told. Aircraft landing is important as it is a means to rearm and repair.

Other Points

The graphics are old but good enough to make the game enjoyable.

Strange but FRAPS reports that the game runs at the maximum of 20 frames per second.

Like Homeworld, the units and money you have from one mission carries on to the next mission in the single player campaign. But you must send all your units back to base, or you will lose them.

The user interface is a bit large and takes up quite a bit of screen real estate. The good thing is you can hide them if you wish.

For an old game, it can run at native resolution on my PC at 1280*800. Unfortunately some of the interface goes a bit wrong and some text gets hidden. If you are not familiar with the game, I suggest playing in 4:3 mode first and see what is available.

When you capture the other sides’ construction unit or buildings, you cannot build that side’s units or buildings.

The Moon Project consistently causes the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) if I press the Windows key while playing the game. It will go to desktop OK, but when I try to go back to the game I get the BSOD. I have not put this as a con because I am not sure if it is a driver or game issue. If I access the options or the briefing screen though, I can Alt-Tab to another application and return to the game fine.

Biases

Reviewed version 2.1.

I have never played Earth 2140 or the other Earth 2150 games.

This is one of those rare games I can run with full graphics.

I really liked Dune 2 and Command And Conquer.

I also liked Dark Reign, Warcraft 1 and 2, Dark Reign and Total Annihilation.

I have not played any multiplayer games.

I have not completed any of the campaigns.

DRM

The Moon Project is DRM free.

Patches

2.1 – I patched the game before reviewing.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box)

  • Pentium 200
  • Windows 95/98/2000/NT
  • Graphics card 3D Accelerator (Direct3D, OpenGL)
  • 32MB RAM
  • 8-speed CD-ROM
  • 16bit Soundcard

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM
  • Win XP Pro
  • 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.

Handy Tips

In the single player campaigns, you do not need to move all your money from the mission area to the main base before ending the mission. The money will automatically be collected. But you must mine all the money in the mission area before it is considered yours. Also remember to ferry all units back to base.

 

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is a heavily story driven action role-playing game(RPG) where you slice and dice your way through various beasts in a quest to find the Skull of Shadows.

Release Date

October 2006.

Pros

There is a good tutorial that is seamlessly integrated into the game. It does assume basic knowledge of how to play first-person games, so complete beginners will need to read a bit of the manual before starting. For everyone else, the tutorial shows a lot of the different things you can do in the game.

The graphics are nicer than Oblivion. Although the visual range is heck a lot smaller than that of Oblivion too. Details, designs and animations all look better than Oblivion. Maybe if I had a better video card Oblivion might look nicer, but with the ATI Radeon X1600, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic edges ahead a little bit.

The game has a lot of head movement and tries to simulate how the person would see the world in different situations. Not just getting whacked and climbing ropes but also when falling off a horse and being dragged by another person. Some of these movements may give some people motion sickness quickly.

Sounds are excellent. Footsteps, clanging swords, speech and environmental sounds are all great.

This is the first game I have tried with the Logitech G35 headset. Although not as good as watching a movie with surround speakers, there have been times where ambient sounds made me turn around in real life, because I thought someone came into my room.

The music is also excellent. It is not as good as Oblivion but still very fitting to the fantasy role-playing environment.

The combat mechanics seem quite realistic. Depending on how you defend or how you use the weapon, each hit affects you and your opponent in different ways. The hit connection is also better than Oblivion. This also makes the game more difficult to play than other first-person RPGs but at the same time also good fun.

The AI is slightly better than that of Oblivion. Both games have the usual enemies attacking, blocking and retreating, but Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is the first RPG I have seen where a cleaver wielding orc could not reach me on the other side of a cliff and proceeded to pick up his dead buddy’s long bow and shoot me.

Cons

You must install STEAM to play multiplayer. After installation, STEAM kept giving an error when trying to load. This is not the first problem I have had with STEAM, but I would rather play other games, than try to fix it. No multiplayer for me.

For an RPG there is not much variety. You cannot buy and sell stuff. Variety of weapons and armour are very limited and the number of skills to upgrade is also very few. There are no side quests either. If you want excellent role-playing elements, go with Oblivion. But if you just want an action game without all the stats and stuff, then go with this.

There seems to be a bug when climbing ropes that are too close to a wall. I got stuck a few times where the only way out was to jump to your death.

Some cutscenes cannot be skipped, which makes it very annoying when they have one just before a big fight. If you die, you must reload and see the scene again and again until you win.

Other Points

The game is very violent and gory. Not just lots of blood splats but also lots of decapitation and impalement. You can choose not to perform these moves, but then the game becomes harder to play.

Similar to Lands of Lore 3, there are no classes in the single player game. There are just a bunch of skills and the player can pick them as the character gets more experienced.

Unlike Oblivion and the older Might and Magic games, Dark Messiah is a very linear RPG. In fact it plays like a normal heavily scripted first-person shooter.

There are no levels or experience points. As you progress through the game and complete objectives, skill points are awarded and you use them to upgrade yourself.

Having played and completed the Baldur’s Gate series, I felt that Dark Messiah of Might and Magic borrowed part of the storline from Baldur’s Gate. Because of this, I found the plot for Dark Messiah average. Players that have not experienced Baldur’s Gate may find Dark Messiah’s story more interesting.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.2.

I had problems with STEAM before, and now with this game. I am really starting to dislike STEAM. Because STEAM is required for multiplayer I could not try it out.

I really liked Baldur’s Gate 1, 2 plus expansions and Oblivion.

I also liked Lands of Lore 3, Might and Magic 3, 4 and 5.

I did not like Styrateg.

I have completed the single-player campaign.

I have not played the multi-player component of the game thanks to crappy STEAM.

DRM

I cannot remember what DRM was on my disc version of the game, but I do remember Steam was only required for multiplayer.

Patches

1.2 – Check if you have a readme 1.2 txt file before installing. This means your version of the game is already at 1.2. I could not find any where in game that stated the version number so I installed the patch. The game would not start after that. I had to reinstall the game to get it working and then I saw the readme 1.2 txt file.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box)

  • Operation System: Windows XP (only)
  • Processor: AMD Athlon, Pentium IV 2.6 GHz (3GHz recommended)
  • Memory: 512MB (1GB recommended)
  • Video Card: 128MB DirectX 9-compliant video card (256MB recommended)*
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9 compliant sound card (PC audio solution containing Dolby Digital Live required for Dolby Digital audio)
  • Direct X: DirectX 9 or higher (included on disc)
  • DVD Drive: 4X or faster DVD-rom Drive
  • Hard Disk: 7GB free
  • Peripherals: Windows compatible mouse and keyboard
  • Multiplayer: Broadband Internet connectionwith 64kbps upstream or faster. Installation of Steam software required for multiplay
  • *Supported Video Cards at Time of Release
    NVIDIA GeForce FX/6/7 families
    ATI Radeon 9/X families
    Laptop versions of these chipsets may work but are not supported.

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Logitech G35 headset and/or Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with Altec Lansing ACS41 speakers or Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset.
  • Win XP Pro
  • 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 IV: Oblivion

A first/third person role playing game where you can live in the fantasy world of Cyrodiil. Be a wizard or a knight. Be a good guy or a bad guy. Do this quest or that quest. It is all up to you.

Release Date

March 2006.

Pros

A very very very large game. And it has an open gameplay structure. You can choose to complete the main story quests or complete the many many side quests. After completing the main quest, the game keeps going, so you can finish all the other many side quests. Although not the first game to do so, Oblivion does have some quests that can be completed in different ways, including failing the quest.

Excellent music. It really adds to the atmosphere for the game.

Excellent graphics. Even though I cannot run it on full, the game simply looks beautiful. The outside scenery, interior of buildings and dungeons, the animals, people and monsters, it all looks great. Of course we also have to thank the map designers and character builders for the good looks.

Lots and lots of mods to try. Check out The Elder Scrolls Nexus

There is day and night cycles with lighting changes depending on the time. The time also affects when shops are open and whether people are a sleep or roaming around. Daytime also affects you badly if you are a vampire.

There are nice weather effects.

Lots of classes, lots of skills.

Cons

You can tell this game was designed for gaming consoles. It only uses a handful of keys on the keyboard. Just like enabling modding for the PC version, they should have used more keys for shortcuts and make them customisable.

There are a few buggy quests. Luckily there are mods out there to fix some of them.

The patch that comes with the Knights of the Nine DVD did not work. I had to download another patch and reinstall the whole Oblivion because it stuffed up the game.

Other Points

Knights of the Nine adds extra quests and locations and stuff. I am really not sure if it adds a lot of value to the plain Oblivion because I never played plain Oblivion by itself.

Some people in the game can die and when they do, it is permanent. This is all nice and real but it also means that if a shopkeeper dies, that is one less person you can sell stuff to.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.2.0416 of game.

I really liked Baldur’s Gate 1, 2 and expansions.

I also liked Lands of Lore 3, Might and Magic 3, 4 and 5.

I have never played any of the other Elder Scrolls games.

I have completed the main storyline campaign.

Mods used:

    1. Auto potion.
    2. Harvest flora.
    3. Harvest containers.
    4. Unofficial Oblivion Patch.
    5. BTMod.

DRM

The disc must be in the drive to play.

Patches

1.2.0416. UK/EU/Aussie – Patches the game up to version 1.2.0416 for UK, Europe and Aussie versions of the game.

1.2.0416. Other versions of the game – No comment.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box)

  • Windows XP
  • 512MB System RAM
  • 2Ghz Intel Pentium 4 or equivalent processor
  • 128MB Direct3D compatible video card and DirectX 9.0 compatible driver
  • 8x DVD-ROM drive
  • 4.6 GB free hard disk space
  • DirectX 9.0c (included)
  • DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
  • Keyboard, Mouse

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Logitech G35 headset and/or Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with Altec Lansing ACS41 speakers or Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset.
  • Win XP Pro
  • 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.

Handy Tips

If you have a joystick connected to the PC and you do not want Oblivion to detect it, go to the My Documents\My Games\Oblivion folder, edit the Oblivion.ini file. Look for the line bUse Joystick=1 and change the “1” to “0”. Found this from 2K Support.

Recommended Mods

Auto Potion – Automatically use potions when your health or magicka is too low. Very handy.

Harvest Flora – When you harvest plants and herbs and stuff, they visibly disappear so you can see that they have been harvested.

Harvest Containers – When you search boxes and other containers, you can see that they have been searched.

Unofficial Oblivion Patch – It fixes a lot of bugs that was not fixed by the 1.2.0416 official patch.

BTmod – Improves the games user interface to be easier to use.

Free Levelling – Monsters and loot of different levels appear randomly. So when you are at low level, you will encounter high level monsters and get high level loot. This makes the game a lot harder when you first start off. Not recommended for first time players, but it is good fun once you know the ins and outs of Oblivion.

Bank of Cyrodiil – Gives a nice bank for you to deposit gold and get interest. You can also buy a safe deposit chest to dump stuff, which is the same as buying a house but cheaper. I get missing textures or meshes, but other than the cosmetic problem, the mod works fine.

CM Partners Mod Basic – Provides companions to join you in your quest. You can get multiple companions to join and they can be commanded to do many things. With extra people fighting with you, it also means the game’s balance is thrown off. A small price to pay for some extra fun.

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.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky

The prequel to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky is a first-person shooter(FPS) set in the wastelands around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The land is crawling with mutants, dangerous anomalies, treasured artifacts and people willing to kill for those artifacts. You are a mercenary that survived an anomalous blowout. Saved by a faction called Clear Sky, your job now is to find out why the blowouts are occurring and try to stop them.

Release Date

August 2008.

Pros

The graphics are slightly better than S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl. And the animations look a bit better too. The user interface has also been modified to look more atmospheric.

This article was originally written based on my experience with Clear Sky on my older Windows XP PC with the specifications listed on this page. The screen shots were also taken with this XP PC listed. Having got a newer Windows 7 PC, I played Clear Sky again and was truly amazed how much better the graphics are. I still cannot max out the graphics settings, but the game looks much better than S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl.

Sounds are also slightly better than S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl.

Faction wars are a nice addition. But they are also available in the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. via mods.

You can custom upgrade your weapons and armour.

There is now dynamic action music and it works pretty well.

The AI is just as good as Shadow of Chernobyl.

Clear Sky has mods. Check out the recommended mods section of this page.

Cons

The story is nowhere near as good as the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and is also shorter. Even though Clear Sky is better in almost every aspect, I do recommend playing through Shadow of Chernobyl first to be able to understand the plot for Clear Sky.

Clear Sky only has one ending.

The random tasks you can get is buggy. Sometimes the game just does not let you complete a task even though it is done.

There is a bug where I cannot see fences sometimes. It is like walking into an invisible wall.

There is quite a few random crash to desktop bugs. I even reached a point where it was crashing consistently at the same point that I could not continue from my save game.

Other Points

The artifacts’ powers in Clear Sky are different to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl even though they have the same name and look the same.

The night time is much darker than vanilla Shadow of Chernobyl, but of course getting the Oblivion Lost mod for Shadow of Chernobyl fixed that.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.5.10 of the game.

I really liked Serious Sam, all the Doom games and Quake 2.

I also really liked Alien Vs Predator, Soldier of Fortune 2 and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl.

I also liked Star Wars Battlefront 2.

I also liked Call of Duty, Battlefield 1942, Delta Force and Spec Ops 2.

I have not played multiplayer for Clear Sky.

I have completed the single player story campaign on the easiest difficulty.

DRM

CD-Key must be entered when installing the game.

Uses Tages protection. The first time I ran the game, it asked to install the Tages driver.

The disc must be in the drive to play.

Patches

Make sure to install the patches BEFORE seriously playing the single player campaign. Save games in some old versions are not compatible with newer versions of the game.

1.5.10 – Bug fixes and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box)

  • Microsoft Windows 2000(SP4)/XP/Vista
  • Intel Pentium 4 2.0 Ghz / AMD XP 2200+
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 10 GB free hard disc space
  • 128 MB DirectX 8.0 compatible card / nVIDIA GeForce 5700 / ATI Radeon 9600
  • Keyboard, Mouse
  • LAN / Internet for Multiplayer

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Logitech G35 headset and/or Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with Altec Lansing ACS41 speakers or Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset.
  • Win XP Pro
  • 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.

Handy Tips

If you run Clear Sky in DirectX 10 mode and the game is crashing on start up on a Windows 7 64bit PC, it may be caused by the Platform Update for Windows 7×64-Edition (KB2670838). This was an optional update for my PC and from reading around, it was supposed to enhance some graphics stuff and prepare the PC for IE 10. I uninstalled the update and Clear Sky started running fine. Checking a few games before and after uninstalling the update, I did not notice any performance changes. I found this information from this forum thread.

Recommended Mods

Smart Mod Manager – A nice little application for loading and unloading all your Clear Sky mods.

Clear Sky Real Weapon Names – Shows the real names for the weapons in the game.

Clear Sky Complete – Improves the game in many ways including better graphics.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: A great series of first-person shooter games where you roam an open world full of dangers and treasures. Call of Pripyat: The final episode that takes you back to The Zone to survive all the radioactivity, anomalies, mutants and of course other people, while trying to discover what happened to the military choppers sent to the centre of The Zone, but disappeared.

Release Date

October 2009.

Pros

The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series have always had excellent atmosphere. Call of Pripyat takes it one step further by giving the option to turn off the user interface. It makes it a lot more difficult to play, but at least the option is there for those that want to see the game this way.

The graphics have improved in all aspects since Clear Sky. The things I noticed most though is the better lighting and shadow effects.

Just like Clear Sky and Shadow of Chernobyl before it, Call of Pripyat sounds excellent and gives an awesome surround sound experience.

The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games have always had a creepy atmosphere, but the slight ambient sounds and music in Call of Pripyat gives it an even creepier atmosphere than the rest.

The whole Zone environment has improved since Clear Sky. There is a lot more random activity than the previous games. Groups of people move around and engage in combat. Mutants roam around and sometimes even wander near safe zones… Well, if you can call it a safe zone.

The AI has improved since Clear Sky. The stupid gun fighters are still stupid, but then there are smart fighters as well, and they indeed are smart. This is the first fps game where an enemy went into hiding and never came back out. I had to go in after him and he was there waiting for me.

The equipment customisation and dynamic action music from Clear Sky is also present in Call of Pripyat.

The side missions are more interesting than in previous games. Some of the missions are quite puzzling and requires good exploration as well as good thinking to solve. Even more so than Shadow of Chernobyl.

The story is very interesting. Not as awesome as Shadow of Chernobyl, but is definitely better than Clear Sky. The ending gives a conclusion to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, but at the same time also leaves enough room to make a sequel. Depending on the decisions you made in the game, different people can have different endings. There is no ending movie as such. Instead, a slide show plays as the conclusion is narrated to you.

The weapons’ weights not only affects your in-game inventory, but also influences how fast you can turn the weapon with the mouse. This was most noticeable when I first picked up the light machine gun, although different guns do move at different rates. I do wonder whether this was already part of Shadow of Chernobyl and Clear Sky as I only noticed it in Call of Pripyat. It sure adds to the realism that the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series holds so high.

Cons

Faction wars in Clear Sky are not in Call of Pripyat. Yes, people from different factions still duke it out when they randomly meet each other in The Zone, but there are no missions for you to help take over checkpoints.

The game seemed perfect at the beginning. Everything worked well and smoothly. Then I reached Pripyat and the game started crashing randomly now and then.

Other Points

In general Call of Pripyat is pretty much an improved version of Clear Sky with new content.

The artifacts’ effects are similar to Clear Sky with some slight modifications.

There are only three map areas which is about half the number of the previous games. On the plus side, each of the map areas in Call of Pripyat are huge! Believe me, you will not get bored.

Story wise I do recommend playing through Shadow of Chernobyl first, then optionally play through Clear Sky and finally conclude with Call of Pripyat. Although good fun, I think Clear Sky is the weakest of the three games and the story does not add much to Call of Pripyat or Shadow of Chernobyl.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.6.02 of the game.

I am a big fan of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky.

I have completed Call of Pripyat once on the easiest difficulty level of rookie.

I only played the single player campaign.

DRM

A DRM free version is available from GOG.com.

The version I got from GamersGate uses Tages DRM.

A CD-Key must be entered during installation. It looks like this is for Internet multiplayer.

When you start the game for the first time, another serial number must be entered. Then information (do not know what information) is sent to the Tages server to get an activate code.

For me the game tried to connect to the Tages server and failed. It then gave an option to send information to the Tages server via http but that failed as well. I just could not connect to the Tages server via the Tages client or the web browser. In the end I did manage to get the activation code by using the http method and connecting through my VPN. I can only guess that the Tages server does not serve the Asian region or something. What ever the true reason is it is not good. If I did not have VPN it would be another case of DRM punishing customer.

Note that the GamersGate edition of Call of Pripyat provides the keys/serial in the wrong order on their website. The second number must be entered on installation and the first number must be entered when first starting the game.

It appears that GamersGate has got a new version of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat which uses Starforce instead of Tages. So, all of the stuff I wrote above is probably not relevant anymore.

Minimum Requirements (as stated in the readme)

  • Microsoft® Windows® XP (Service Pack 2)
  • Processor type: Intel Pentium 4 2.2 Ghz / AMD XP 2200+
  • 768 MB RAM
  • 6 GB available hard drive space
  • 128 MB DirectX® 9.0 compatible card / nVIDIA® GeForce™ 5900 / ATI Radeon® 9600 XT
  • DirectX® 9.0 compatible sound card
  • LAN/Internet connection with low latency Cable/DSL speeds for multiplayer
  • Keyboard, Mouse

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.

Handy Tips

If you run Call of Pripyat in DirectX 10 mode and the game is crashing on start up on a Windows 7 64bit PC, it may be caused by the Platform Update for Windows 7×64-Edition (KB2670838). This was an optional update for my PC and from reading around, it was supposed to enhance some graphics stuff and prepare the PC for IE 10. I uninstalled the update and the game started running fine. Checking a few games before and after uninstalling the update, I did not notice any performance changes. I found this information from this forum thread.

Recommended Mods

Call of Pripyat Complete – This is an amazing mod that brings better graphics, sounds, Yakety Sax and more.

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.

Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars & Kane’s Wrath

Good, old fashioned real-time strategy(RTS) game that continues the story of Command and Conquer.

Release Date

Tiberium wars: March 2007
Kane’s Wrath: March 2008

Pros

Has a good tutorial that teaches the basics of the game.

The graphics are very good and very detailed.

The super weapons are really SUPER WEAPONS!

The campaign has a good story spanning all three sides and the mission structure and the videos drives the story well. The Kane’s Wrath expansion adds another Nod campaign to the collection and gives a good story that interweaves and extends the plot of the main game.

Three very different sides, gives good variety to game play. Kane’s Wrath adds 2 extra sub-factions for each side, but they are very much sub-factions with many similarities between factions of the one side.

Global Conquest mode in Kane’s Wrath. The main strategic map works differently from other Risk-style games in that there are no fixed territories. Each base or army has a radius range where things are affected by the base or army. And each army can only move or attack within that range for one turn. It really does bring a new way to play Command And Conquer.

Continues the Command & Conquer tradition of having nice videos that drive the story.

Cons

The Global Conquest game type in Kane’s Wrath does not allow saving of the game during a real-time battle. And there is a time limit before Fog Of War is lifted and then another time limit before all stealth units are revealed. This stops long and big battles from taking place which is good if you like fast battles. But they should have made it optional and allow saving during battle.

Other Points

The music is OK. No where near as good as the sound track to the first Command and Conquer.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.09 of Tiberium Wars and version 1.02 of Kane’s Wrath.

I really liked Dune 2, Command And Conquer, C&C Tiberian Sun, Rise Of Nations and The Moon Project.

I also liked Empire Earth 2, Dark Reign, Warcraft 1 and 2, Supreme Commander and Total Annihilation.

I did not like Homeworld.

I have completed all the campaigns for GDI, Nod and Scrin including the Nod campaign in Kane’s wrath.

I have also played a lot of Global Conquest games and ordinary skirmish games.

I have played a few games online. I think the teams are well balanced. I have tried all the different sides and have only won once so far.

DRM

When installing Tiberium Wars and Kane’s Wrath, a key code must be entered for each game.

The correct disc must be in the drive to play the games.

Patches

Tiberium Wars 1.09 English – No comments.

Kane’s Wrath 1.02 English – No comments.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box)

  • OS: Windows XP, Vista (32-bit)
  • CPU: 2.0 GHz or faster (2.2 GHz or faster for Vista)
  • RAM: 512MB (1GB for Vista) or more
  • Disc Drive: 8x or faster DVD drive
  • Hard Drive: 6.0 GB or more free space
  • Video: DirectX 9.0c compatible Video card with 64 MB or more memory and one of these chipsets is required: ATI Radeon 8500 (9500 for Vista) or greater; NVIDIA GeForce4 (6100 for Vista) or greater. Note: ATI Radeon 9200, 9250 PCI; NVIDIA GeForce 4 MX are not supported
  • Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible
  • Input: Keyboard and mouse
  • Multiplayer requires one disc per PC. Network (2-8 Players); Internet (2-8 Players with optional voice support): Cable, DSL, or a faster connection.

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset or laptop speakers.
  • Win XP Pro
  • 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

Sick of seeing the EA logo everytime your start up the game? Then get this mod to remove the logo on start up. NoLogoMod. There is one for Tiberium Wars and one for Kane’s Wrath.