Diving Deep: Journey Into The Sims 4

The Sims 4 released on the PC last week, nearly one year after it was first revealed. The lead-up to its release was a flurry of mixed emotions from longtime fans of the series; between concern over missing features (compared to Sims 1-3), the shift from an open world to single lot environment, the small introductory neighborhood size and more.

While I've certainly invested a lot of time into many other series such as EverQuest, Elder Scrolls and Civilization, the Sims franchise takes the cake for having devoted hundreds (or more *cough*) of my life to. I've been playing The Sims longer than any of my children have been alive (the eldest of which will be able to get his driver's permit next year). Let's just say my excitement for the announcement of The Sims 4 included many exclaimation points, and after my first 49 hours of playing it, I'm quite happy with the game, despite its spotty issues and omitted features.

This review is going to be extremely lengthy and touch on every aspect I've experienced thus far.

Monkey Tales: An Educational Experience

Monkey Tales is a series of educational games by Larian Studios, originally released in 2011 and repackaged together in a Steam release last week. Designed for ages 7 through 11, these games use an algorithm to establish your child's learning curve and ramp difficulty up or down to ensure a well-tailored learning experience.

I happen to have two children in this age range, and Larian Studios was kind enough to offer a review code for the game. My kids, in 2nd and 5th grade, gave the game a whirl and offered their insight on the experience.

A Haunting Weekend in Wayward Manor

Over the weekend, I spent some time liberating Wayward Manor of its fleshy inhabitants. The casual puzzle game, based on a tale and narrated by author Neil Gaiman, was released on July 15, 2014 to mixed reviews. While I enjoyed my time within developer The Odd Gentlemen's manor, completing a game within three hours can leave much to be desired.

WildStar Review: The Journey To Nexus

As a longtime fan of the MMORPG genre I have to admit that I’ve been pretty disappointed with the direction it’s been going as of late. A genre that once seemed chalk-full of life with mystery and adventure now seems to be just another convoluted cash grab by most companies these days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for game developers making money (they do need to eat after all) but initially that meant creating a believable world where player’s paths crossed from chance encounters. Where fear meant exploring an underground labyrinth with a rag-tag team of adventurers and encountering the most challenging creatures you’ve ever faced. Worlds that weren’t afraid to call you out on all of your boasting and bragging and throw you center stage with some of the most difficult challenges you’ve ever seen, but then turn around and reward you for succeeding through all of it.

Unfortunately, that no longer seems to be the case. Now we live in a time where paying money to skip the journey and see the end is deemed acceptable. Where monsters should not be too difficult, because everyone needs to get a turn at the epic loot they’re guarding. And where, in most cases, games are afraid to tell the player “No” and have them work for things from time to time.

And then there's WildStar.

As a player who thoroughly enjoys every part of the “MMORPG experience”--whether that is Raiding, PvP, Crafting, Questing, Exploring or Socializing--very rarely has a game come along that takes every one of those points and gets them “right” in my eyes. However, WildStar does just that. It takes all of the parts you’ve come to know and love about the MMO genre and gives them to you tenfold. While the game doesn’t do everything completely new and innovative, what it does do, it does extremely well. From its fun yet challenging combat systems, to its in-depth and relevant crafting, to having one of the best player housing iterations we’ve seen in the genre, WildStar is an enjoyable reminder to MMO fans why we play MMOs.

Now with the game having officially launched as of June 3rd, I want to take the time to dive into each of the pieces that make up this vibrant sci-fi MMO and why I think you should check out Planet Nexus for yourself.

FFXIV: A Realm Reborn - PlayStation 4 Review

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn launched on the PlayStation 4 last week. I’ve been a long-time Final Fantasy RPG fan, but when it comes to the Final Fantasy MMOs I have only had done beta testing for both XIV 1.0 and A Realm Reborn. It’s been a while since I've played in Eorzea and I’ve been looking forward to checking it out on the PS4. Square Enix was kind enough to send over a copy of the game to review; here are my impressions of how it plays out so far on the console!

Black Gold Online Alpha Impressions

Black Gold Online is a steampunk/fantasy hybrid themed MMO from Snail Games. It's currently in the Alpha phase, and we've been assured that Snail is continuously evaluating player feedback to make improvements as development continues. I had some time over the weekend to check out the Alpha build and wanted to share my initial thoughts on the upcoming title.

FORCED: Tactical Arena Co-Op

If you log onto Steam today looking to pick up a new title, might I suggest that rather than wading through the steaming piles of mediocre games you instead just go straight to FORCED. It's not often that ZAM covers indie games, but we couldn't pass up this one.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Review, Part 2

Almost three years after the release of the original version of the game, Square Enix released Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn last week. I started this review yesterday, talking about my experiences with Marauders and tanking, unlocking Job classes, and the way FFXIV: ARR handles Story Quests. In Part 2 I jump back into Duty Finder for more of ARR's dungeon offerings, fight the epic struggle called "Logging Into the Game", and finally wrap everything up and say what I think about SE's second attempt at bringing Eorzea to life.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Review, Part 1

Almost three years after the release of the original version of the game, Square Enix released Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn last week. I’ve already talked at length about the game’s mechanics, gathering and crafting systems and dungeons, but that was all during the various beta weekends. This time the game’s live for everyone to join and there’s no cap on how far I can progress, so it’s time to see just what FFXIV: ARR has to offer for MMO players. While there’re still a number of quests I’ve yet to complete, classes I haven’t touched since Closed Beta 3 and dungeons I haven’t unlocked let alone run, I have seen enough of the current content (both new and updated versions of what I saw during beta) that I feel confident giving my opinions on the game.

Neverwinter Review

It’s been over a month since Cryptic’s new free-to-play MMO, Neverwinter, went into open beta. Many players have taken the plunge into the world of Faerûn, leveling one of the five launch classes to 60 and partaking in the quest/PvE/PvP content available. Many of the writers here at ZAM have been playing through the game on our own characters, including me. I’ve made no effort to hide the fact that I’m a bit of a Dungeons & Dragons nerd. I’ve mentioned it in news posts, there was that long and rambling “what classes might we see next?” post during closed beta, and I even admitted to being a DM when I wrote that post. Considering that I had a fairly glowing preview of the game during the beta weekends, has the game managed to keep my attention these last few weeks as I progressed past what I saw in those first twenty levels?