The Art of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Book Review

It has been a while since I have blogged, but I just had to write a little review for The Art of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. The book is wonderful!


I am a huge fan of art books, I love to see how ideas come about and how games are made. When I discovered there was an Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag art book, I was extremely excited. Why? Because I love the previous games in the series, especially 3, and I enjoy seeing the effort and research that the creative team behind these games put in.

This book is stunning, I think it is the most beautiful and fully packed art book I have read. You are greeted with gorgeous art on the hardback cover and sleeve before you've even opened the book. Upon opening I was met with a fantastic map and I was already excited. The quality of the images and artwork is phenomenal. Some books overlook how important it is to ensure their carefully crafted artwork or screenshots are in the correct ratio or not losing any quality in printing, but every piece of visual candy in this is presented fantastically and professionally.

Many of the pages have small sections of text, explaining context for images. I personally love this, as it shows the sheer dedication and passion that went into the creation of the game and the depth of research. You can visually see how they used real locations to create their art. A few of the pieces of art or concept art were not included in the final game, so it is a treat to see them and the decisions involved. Some of the artists whose work and insights can be seen within include Raphael Lacoste, Martin Deschambault, Donglu Yu, Maxime Desmettre, Grant Hillier, Yong Jin Teo and many others to appreciate!

The art speaks for itself, with varied locations, designs for characters, and of course ships and weapons. Many images take up a whole page, so you can easily see the little details that have gone into the designs; bits of clutter to add pirate character to ships and interiors; sweeping landscapes which go on for miles; buttons, buckles and trinkets attached to characters. It's all there!

Seeing how the teams researched and used real life ships, history, people and places is rewarding, since all of that work can be visually appreciated within the art and thus the game. I particularly liked a detailed overview of a ship and color-coded sections with relevant labels.

The locations vary from picturesque ports, to ramshackle villages, dark caves, and lush forests. All of them are intriguing and look ready to be explored. I really loved a section which showed an interior filled with period pieces, and small details which make it perfect and really seal the deal on the pirate theme.

The ships! There is a large selection of beautiful ship art, from renderings of a whole ship - including The Jackdaw - to illustrated moments of battle and subsequent sinking. These pieces of art and concept art are evocative and rich.

If you're a fan of the game, of art, or of pirates - there's something in there for everyone. It can be bought from a lot of book stores - including Titan Books directly.

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Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom Review - Definitely Worth Getting

This game is full of charm and is a unique adventure in amongst all the current FPS' etc. Since it has been out for a while now it is dropping in price and very within budget - I would've happily paid for it full price (I got it in a sale at the start of the year) but it has ranked in some of my top games. The relationship between the two characters is lovely and really enchanting. The Majin himself keeps you wanting to play through the story and discover more. There's a nice balance between combat, adventure, and puzzles. The difficulty isn't too high or low and it feels well polished. There are elements that are of course not perfect - sometimes textures weren't top shelf, and the voice acting does have its pitfalls, but a very quality game and it has fallen under the radar. I've written a more in depth and comprehensive review over here.


Portal 2 releasing tomorrow? What platforms have you chosen?

I still have not read any solid confirmation yet if it is coming tomorrow (on Steam) - which is my platform of choice. I considered the PS3 version, with free Steam copy, but I knew realistically that I'd never play the PS3 version and just go straight to the Steam one as it feels more natural in experience. Curious to see the number of Xbox users.

But I am getting excited either way and Companion Cube & I are filled with glee - so here's a silly picture of us to express that... thought I'd spread the love a bit.


3DS - a few days in...

So far absolutely loving it. A few more things I've noticed since - the battery is absolutely terrible. It flashes a red light on the right when it's about to go, but literally, about to go... you don't get a huge amount of time to piss around in your game and such - just save, get out of dodge and charge up. Obviously you can continue to play whilst charging without problem. I managed pretty much a level of Star Wars, and a few matches of SF4 online before it went, that's from full charge. But I have max brightness and wifi enabled at the moment. 
Another observation - today discovered in Nintendogs that you can use the AR cards during the obedience trials to show your dogs tricks, very nice touch and awesome integration & use of the augmented reality. 
Second observation - the surround sound has impressed me quite a bit. For a handheld, it's really nice and satisfying. Especially in games such as Star Wars where there are many people, events, sound effects, etc - it does convincingly feel at times like it's coming from various directions or stand-points, it mingles well with the 3D depth into adding a further realistic element which is far more immersive. So thumbs up for that! 
Thirdly - Super Street Fighter IV online has lots of matches constantly, very impressed. It just keeps giving. I suck, but I love it too much to care - so much fun. Sakura has become my favorite and I'm gradually learning how to kick slightly more butt. 


The Relationship Between the Characters

I find a great sense of satisfaction from finding fruit for the Majin and running along to him with the huge bit of food to feed him. 
This is the most charming connection I've had with a character in a game. I love the relationship between the Majin and Tepeu. 
Has anyone else felt similar? Or even hate it? Or feel indifferent?



I have been eagerly awaiting this game and following the developers for months since I first heard about it.  So to finally see it available to play, early, I was bouncing all over the place. In a half awake state I entered the code as quickly as is possible (which isn't very quick on the Xbox pad), and bam it downloaded in a flash. 
Having played a good couple of hours already I was firstly struck by the beautiful graphics and visuals of the game, it is succinct and has a very happy atmosphere. It looks childish, but the puzzles become quite challenging so it is anything but childish. The characters themselves are very simple and appealing (especially to a female), and it takes you through some delightful backstory of them. Along the way there are little perks to collect and things to unlock as extra content, such as music and images that pertain to them. 
The main objective is to get ilo to reach milo, you can switch between both characters very quickly with X and use B to see where the other character is in relation to yours to plan a route - which views in a very aesthetically pleasing depth of field. You can also use Y to get a better overview of the entire puzzle area. As you are walking around with the left stick you can change the camera smoothly with the right stick. A nice nifty feature - when you walk behind a block or object of some kind, there is a peep hole (which can be turned off in options... though not sure why, unless you wish to add more challenge and mystery?) and it allows you to view through to see the litle character.
There are contraptions and objects that you can use along the way, with A, and gradually as you delve further into the story the difficulty ramps up slightly to challenge you. It is a very simple concept of reaching Point A, from Point B - but using your brain for the puzzles and using each other to achieve that goal. All the while there is a constant awareness of your partner, whether playing single player or co-op. Helping each other is key. 
Co-op is, of course, very fun in this game. It is sort of perfectly made for it. The mechanics of the game are ideal. It is made enjoyable by working together, even at frustrating moments when you're both scratching your head over a puzzle. It's always more fun being confused with another person rather than on your own!
There are achievements along the way and they are handed out quite evenly throuought playing. It's got a pleasant injection of charm and humor to boot. 
The patchwork style visuals and effects on objects are very well done and it is a polished looking game, with lovely music on each level. 
It is a game I can imagine replaying on frustrated days or just for a cheer up. Plus I really want to unlock the ilo and milo avatar pets!


Put Lost Odyssey back into my Xbox...

So after about a year of giving up on the Tank boss. I felt in the mood to play again. 
I think I've figured out how to get him this time, though I died again and pressed the Guide button, promptly followed by Y. But I plan to at least finish him off.
On further thought though... I don't know if I'll ever finish this game. I rarely finish JRPG's as is. So did you finish it?


Audiosurf + Portal

Fab combo. I got this in the Steam sale. How did I not have this game ages ago?! Audiosurf is insanely fun, and disturbingly addictive for such a simple concept. 
My first song was GLaDOS - Still Alive. SO. MUCH. FUN. Anyway, I have a headache from playing Beat Hazard. That game is chaos encapsulated into a small window.



I am loving this game. About 8 or so hours into it, just got accepted into the Order, got myself a yellow lightsaber. Love the depth of the story. After already really enjoying Dragon Age and Mass Effect, it was about time I played this - I loved previous Star Wars games.
I particularly liked the Jedi training Rocky style montage. It just needed some 80s music overlay and we were good to go.
Yesterday I found a dead body and three guys, any of whom could be the killer, so spent about 10 minutes talking to them all and putting together the pieces to conclude who the killer was. Great fun and a nice little hidden treat.
The graphics are also surprisingly impressive considering the age, it runs pretty smoothly on my Alienware and the textures are very sharp on both environments, and models. The faces... are pretty terrible in most instances but playing behind them is fine.
p.s. I also have an in-game crush on Carth.

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