Lost cities, tombs & treasures, and ladies who can beat the snot out of you!

Rise of the Tomb Raider

And this lady is an iconic one, too. Lara Croft, the tomb raider. In her latest adventure, Lara attempts to unravel the mysteries behind the Divine Source–an ancient artifact said to grant immortality. Her father sought the artifact throughout the course of his life, but came up empty-handed. Now Lara has uncovered a missing piece to the puzzle, and she’s off to raid tombs and discover lost cities…and kick guys in the junk! Well, not really, but she knows how to handle herself in a scrap.

Lara’s not the only person seeking the artifact, though. Trinity, an organization reputed to be thousands of years old, is also on the hunt–and they’ll kill anyone who gets in their way. Can Lara overcome an entire band of mercenaries and unravel the past to discover what her dad could not?

The answer is yes and no. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, a video game for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, I accompanied Lara on her latest archaeological thrill ride. Sadly, the game consisted mostly of action and world exploration than historical mysteries, but the game was still fun nonetheless. SPOILER ALERT: she defeats the bad guys, only to learn Trinity is much bigger and more influential than she first believed. There will surely be a sequel, but I might not buy it. Because when it was all said and done and the end credits rolled, I felt like the game lacked that something special. Chalk it up to my own biases. I recently completed both Uncharted 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn, which I enjoyed for their integration of history and storytelling, and fun gameplay mechanics; respectively. So please know those games skewed my opinion slightly.

Regardless, Rise of the Tomb Raider shined in its optional tombs Lara can explore at various points throughout her adventure. It was during those moments, when I attempted to solve tomb riddles to reach a hidden treasure, that I truly believed the game hit its stride.

I give Rise of the Tomb Raider a 7 out of 10. A mediocre experience from a biased gamer. So what are you playing this summer? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email. As for my next gaming experience, well, I’m itching for nostalgia. And I’ll get it in Final Fantasy XII: the Zodiac Age–which just came out this month!

Final Fantasy XII

 

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Top 5 Video Games of all Time (Part Two)

In my last blog post, I talked about my top 5 favorite video games of all time based on story. In this post, I will share my top 5 favorite games based on gameplay mechanics. So here we go…

Top 5 Video Games: Gameplay

5. Halo: Combat Evolved. When the Xbox was gearing up for release back in 2001, I was skeptical. At E3 (one of the biggest video game conventions in the world), Microsoft announced their console’s “killer app,” a game they touted would sell millions. When I saw that the game was a first-person shooter, I scoffed. What the heck was Microsoft thinking? Didn’t they know players preferred role-playing games like Final Fantasy VII? Boy, was I wrong. The game turned out to be great. I spent hours playing the single player campaign. But where the game truly shined was in its LAN capabilities. If you’re not familiar with LAN, it involves connecting four Xboxes up to one another so you can play with up to 16 people at once. LAN parties became a thing. You’d invite your friends over, tell them to bring their Xboxes, stock your fridge with drinks and snacks, then prepare for hours of fun. Online games today lack the fellowship Halo: Combat Evolved offered. I miss those days.

Halo

4. Devil May Cry. Man, the year 2001 was a great year for gaming. Although this game’s story is kind of blah, its gameplay is fast, stylish and fun. You play as Dante–a demon hunter who is half human, half demon himself–toting two semi-automatic pistols named Ebony and Ivory, and a huge great sword named Rebellion. Everything about Dante screams cool, from his weapons to his red trench coat. He fights demons with style as he juggles combos and performs insane aerial maneuvers. I probably beat this game three times in a row just to enjoy its addictive gameplay.

Devil May Cry

3. Horizon: Zero Dawn. This game likely made the list because I’m still on cloud nine from playing it the last couple months. You play as Aloy, an outcast who travels the land in search of answers to her past. During her journey, you fight massive robot dinosaurs with impressive bows and arrows. Each robot has weaknesses to exploit. At first, I was overwhelmed going up against the machines, but as I learned to target their components and weapon systems, I found the gameplay to be enjoyable and strategic. Plus, it’s fast-paced, the graphics are insane, and the story is awesome. Horizon almost made the top 5 list for best games based on story, too.

Horizon Zero Dawn

2. Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I know many of you out there reading this post have played Skyrim. For you, that game would probably be ranked higher than Morrowind. I’m here to say Morrowind is better. Now, I must clarify that Morrowind was the first time I had ever played a massive, free-choice game. You can literally create a character however you want, from his avatar to your play style. When I first roamed the land, I couldn’t even kill a rat who attacked me on the road. It took several swipes of my dagger to finally slay the creature. But by the end of the game, I could defeat any foe with blade, bow or magic…and I could fly. Holy cow. I went from nothing to the most powerful being in the world. Sorry, but you can’t fly in Skyrim. Not unless you play the PC version and add Mods.

Morrowind

1. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. How could an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) not make the list? If you’ve ever played a game like World of Warcraft, then you know how addicting the gameplay can be. Of all the games I have ever played, I have logged more hours in the world of Eorzea than any other. I play as Vosslar, a level 60 elezen bard/paladin/white mage/you name it. One of the great things about the game is you can play multiple classes. I have a tank, a healer, and a DPS (damage per second) character. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, then you’ve likely never played a game like this. What’s so addicting about FFXIV’s gameplay is the online element. Through the game, I am connected with thousands of players. Together, we can form parties and tackle dungeons, monsters and high-level raids. Gamers are typically a nerdy group, but MMO players are the nerds of the nerds.

Final Fantasy XIV

Well, that’s a wrap on this discussion. Those are my top 5 favorite video games based on gameplay mechanics. What are your favorite games? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you!