Comic Book Hero: The Greatest Cape (PC) Review

Game:Comic Book Hero: The Greatest Cape
Developer: Adam Ryland
Publisher: GreyDog Software
Genre: Text-Based RPG
Players: 1

Comic Book Hero: The Greatest Cape is the latest text-based video game from Adam Ryland and GreyDog Software, the masterminds behind the awesome Total Extreme Wrestling and World of Mixed Martial Arts series. While those two games deal with booking a wrestling or MMA company and becoming #1, Comic Book Hero is more of a text-based RPG of sorts in which you create a superhero (or take control of an existing one) and manage his everyday routine of battling crime. Is it another big hit or does it stumble along the way?

The world of Comic Book Hero is set in the INFINITY-verse, a fake universe populated with heroes, anti-heroes and villains. Even when the Universe is not based on any real life comic book property, expect to see characters whose looks, backstory and/or special skills match those of real life comic book heroes. Like all Adam Ryland-created universes, the world is fun to play in and the characters are interesting to play as. I have never played an Adam Ryland game whose universe isn’t fun and interesting. However, if you want to play in a big real-life universe from Marvel, DC or something else, be aware that like all Ryland games, CBH packs a powerful editor and a strong mod community who is already working on this type of stuff. As a matter of fact, the editor is my favorite aspect of the game and I think it is even better than the ones provided in TEW or WMMA. If you want to create any type of universe or character, it’s possible.

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But how does the game play? Well, in a way it is similar to Ryland’s old Wrestling Spirit series. You control a character, decide what he will do, who he will befriend and were to allocate the stat points you earn for performing actions. On the main screen you choose your mode of play, from Role Play (select an existing character, with his current popularity level, skills and existing relationships) to Clones (Clone an existing character, but drop all his popularity and skills to the lowest level so that you can challenge yourself), Custom (create a brand new character from scratch and customize all his skills) and Back Story (select a pre-existing backstory, fill in some basic details and the game randomly generates a character for you). All of them are fun to play and offer a different experience, especially with 3 selectable difficulty levels. So it doesn’t matter if you want to role-play an epic level hero like Mr. Infinity or a low level character like Doug the Ninja, or create a new character from scratch and fill in all the details. Back Story is cool as well, since you only pick the origin of your character and then the game generates powers for you. So for example, you can select something like Avenging Loved Ones or Martial Artist or even Found Mystical Object and the game will generate an appropriate skill set.

Once in the game proper you have a multitude of options, including training your skills, going out on patrol to stop random acts of crime (which sometimes leads to uncovering plots and longer story arcs, befriending other heroes who come to help and more), tracking down a specific villain or hero, trying to establish relationships with other characters (like friendships and even romantic relationships), doing civic work, moving to another location, visiting your Team HQ (if you are part of a team), recuperate (to heal yourself) and even going out in public under your civilian identity (if you have a secret identity to protect). All of these options (except recuperate, which is essentially taking a turn off to rest) can lead to something else. Being part of a team is a huge benefit since you can go out on missions, train with your partners (which grants more points than doing it by yourself) and build upon relationships. Heck, you can even become the team’s leader with time!

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Battles play out in turn-based fashion and takes into account your level, your skills, your powers and those of your opponent. Each character has specific strengths and weaknesses. A fire-based character might have a damage reduction rate from fire attacks dealt to him, but might be weak to water based attacks. Skeletons (yes, there are undead enemies and monsters) might have damage resistance against piercing weapons like swords and so on. There are also passive powers that can come into effect, like a supernatural character (ghost-like) being able to phase out and escape harm entirely and stuff like that. There are a ton of dice rolls running behind the scenes (although you can enable an option to see all the numerical results) that guide all the happenings in the game. So in a way, it’s like playing a superhero Dungeons and Dragons. Hell, with the editor tools you COULD make a D & D-like universe.

Your character’s popularity level is measured by units of comic books sold. No, you don’t get to produce comic books in the game. But this is a nice progression system. Every time a big event happens (like an encounter with a villain) an “issue” is created that details how much over or under target percentage of sales you hit. That percentage is your popularity level. Hit 100% and you move to another level.

The experience of the game varies from character to character. For example, some areas can only be accessed by characters that can travel across space and even across dimensions. Inactive or “retired” heroes and villains might make a comeback. Playing an anti-hero can be extremely challenging since they tend to alienate all other heroes and building relationships is next to impossible. Developing relationships is a trial and error process that requires you to approach different characters in different ways. The intensity of your approach, the personalities in question, all of that needs to be taken into account.

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Like I said at the beginning, the editor is powerful and flexible, allowing you to create almost anything. Medieval swords and sorcery setting, a futuristic space setting, alternate dimensions, a typical city setting and even a combination of all of the above (and certainly much more) can be easily created, as long as you put in the time. I am sure dozens upon dozens of awesome mods will be available in the next few weeks.

However, the game is not perfect. There is no multiplayer, which would have given the game a whole new dimension. You can’t play as a villain. The biggest one to me has to be that the game eventually ends. I mean, it can go on forever, but eventually when you hit maximum popularity and have beaten everyone there is nothing left to do but start over with a new character or in a new mod. Games like TEW and WMMA would run forever (as a matter of fact, I have a WMMA game that has lasted me 25 in-game years) but that’s almost impossible to do with CBH. I guess that’s OK, since you have over 100 potential characters to play as in the default data and that number will likely be 10 times over when all the mods come out.

Comic Book Hero: The Greatest Cape is not for everyone, but fans of text-based games, comics, super heroes and RPG’s (and even tabletop games like D & D) will love it. The editor is incredibly powerful and flexible, the combat system feels satisfying and more importantly, it is easy to learn and fun to play. GreyDog and Adam Ryland have done it again: Comic Book Hero is a winner.

Pros:

-Fun combat

-Lots of characters to play as

-Incredible editor/mod tools

-Well-crafted universe

-Highly replayable

Cons:

-Can’t play as the villain

-No Multiplayer

Final Score: 8.5/10

 

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World of Mixed Martial Arts 3 (PC) Review

Game: World of Mixed Martial Arts 3
Developer: Adam Ryland
Publisher: Grey Dog Software
Genre: Sports Simulation
# of Players: 1

World of Mixed Martial Arts 2 is one of my all-time favorite games, so I was very excited to get my hands on the sequel. After playing it non-stop for the past week and a half I have to say one thing: WMMA 3 blows its predecessors out of the water in every area and it’s a must buy for text-based game fans or MMA fans.

For starters, WMMA 3 is a text-based simulator developed by Adam Ryland, the creator of the Extreme Warfare, Total Extreme Wrestling and Wrestling Spirit series. The game’s default database is a fictional universe set in the Cornellverse (the same universe as the Total Extreme Wrestling games) that features fake fighters and companies that have some similarities to real life promotions. For example, Japan’s #1 promotion is ALPHA-1 and it is as close to PRIDE as possible, complete with one 10-minute and two 5-minute rounds for fights (extended to 6 rounds for title bouts), battles that take place in the ring and judges that evaluate the whole fight instead of a round to round basis. Their heavyweight champion is Hazzan Fezzik, the most dominant MMA fighter in the world who specializes in Sambo and thus, can be compared to Fedor Emelianenko. The Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (or GAMMA) is a close approximation to the UFC, Xtreme Cage Combat (XCC) is a very close approximation to WEC and so on. If you don’t like the fake fighters and universe, the game is highly customizable with mods.

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If, like me, you are a fan of the fake universe, be prepared to see some major changes. The database is set in 1998, one year earlier than WMMA 2 and features one new promotion set in Brazil. There is a total of 1,100 fighters, around 300 more than in WMMA 2 and many of the returning characters have seen drastic changes, like former 0-0 prospect Spencer Rubenstein who is now an established fighter in GAMMA (their Light Heavyweight Champion as a matter of fact) while other veterans (like Chuck Dooley) are now prospects. All the changes have made the database better since it is better balanced and every fighter in it feels useful.

One of the major complaints about WMMA 2 was that it was too easy to separate the good fighters from the bad fighters and it was too easy to create a mega-star by putting him in the cage with tomato cans (bad fighters). That is not the case in the sequel. The introduction of Fog of War means that it is harder to get accurate scouting reports on young talents. The way it works is that the more fights a fighter has under his belt the better and more accurate the scouting report becomes. A guy might seem like a future star after 4 fights because he has absolutely dominated weak opposition, but 10 fights later you realize he is just a journeyman or gatekeeper who happened to have had a good streak of bouts. This simulates real life pretty well since the more you watch a guy fight the more you get to know about his style and skills. Add in the random “destiny” stat variable and you could (in theory) play this game forever and always find something different and unexpected.

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As I mentioned above, the database has been rebalanced and every fighter feels useful. In WMMA 2 a star would beat a tomato can 99% of the time. WMMA 3 does a better job of utilizing a fighter’s strengths and weaknesses, making upsets much more common and forcing you to make good booking choices. Fighters are also smarter and utilize tactics and gameplans during fights in a much more intuitive way than they did in WMMA 2. For example, if you put two natural strikers (let’s say kickboxers) against each other, but one of them has better takedowns and submissions than the other chances are that this fighter will try to take the fight to the ground and tap his opponent out, something he would not do against a high-level BJJ fighter. A boxer fighting a wrestler will try to use movement and quick strikes to stay away from the clinch and minimize takedown opportunities. A BJJ fighter will gladly accept a takedown from a mediocre wrestler if he feels he has an edge on the ground. The fight engine has been greatly enhanced, adding new positions (like North-South), new submissions, the ability for a fighter to refuse to tap, more varied takedowns (German suplexes, Judo throws), more submission escapes and a greater variety in the commentary. This makes for exciting fights, less repetitive commentary and a more enjoyable experience.

Another problem addressed from WMMA 2 is that submission attempts where automatic deaths in that game. What I mean is that once a fighter managed to lock in a submission he would win the bout. That is not the case in WMMA 3: fighters can gas their arms while trying guillotines, fighters can escape submissions this time around and they can even refuse to tap or hold on until the round is over.

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Promotion customization is also greatly enhanced, especially in non-regulated areas that allow soccer kicks and stomps in the ground. I just fell in love with Fight League Brazil and their brutal Vale Tudo rule set. The judges are enhanced as well: Now you can choose whether judges evaluate every round (like in the UFC) or the whole fight (like in PRIDE) and they can even outright rob someone by making a terrible decision. There is even an achievement (named Cecil’s People) for witnessing a robbery!

The mod making tools have also been enhanced, allowing for the use of Eras that will greatly affect the comings and goings in the world. For example, setting the Era to the dawn of MMA will mean more one-dimensional fighters, while the modern era will feature more well-rounded “real” mixed martial artists. Mod makers can even program certain events to happen in the future (like economy booms or depressions) and the use of templates will help in the creation of fighters. The mod makers at the WMMA forums believe the game is worth the price of admission for the improved mod making tools alone and I agree with them.

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All in all, there are over 200 improvements and changes from WMMA 2 to WMMA 3, making it a real must buy for fans of MMA or fans of the entire series.

If you like text-based games and/or MMA, this would be the most fun you will have. It’s every arm-chair Booker’s fantasy come true, the ability to be Dana White (because no one wants to be Scott Coker….only joking Scott, we love you ) and book your own company, your own fights the way you want it to be.

World of Mixed Martial Arts 3 is a great improvement from WMMA 2 and will satisfy fans of the genre. Sure, there are some similarities between the two games, but it’s like going from a 1994 Corolla to a 2010 Corolla: it’s the same car, it’s the same brand but the new one is a billion times better will all its fancy bells and whistles. I have played all three games in the series and I can honestly say that I won’t be able to play the first two anymore. WMMA 3 is just too good.

Final Score: 9.0/10

 

FastBreak College Basketball 2010 (PC) Review

Fastbreak College Basketball 2010 Review

Game: Fast Break College Basketball 2010
Developer: Brian Nichols
Publisher: Grey Dog Software
Genre: Text-Based Basketball Simulation

If you have followed my game reviews since I joined 411mania you know that I am a sucker for text-based management games. Baseball Mogul, World of Mixed Martial Arts and Total Extreme Wrestling are some of the games I have reviewed and played for months at a time. A lot of people hate text-based games, but the reality is that you can find in them an experience that is sometimes more realistic and well developed than the “simulations” with graphics. Such is the case with Fast Break College Basketball from Grey Dog Software. In a year were popular college basketball series like NCAA Basketball and College Hoops have disappeared, Fast Break makes its return in glorious form with one of the best management games I have ever played.

Fast Break is not a new series. Back in the early 2000’s the developer Brian Nichols released both, a pro game and a college basketball game. The pro game actually made it to retail under the name Season Ticket Basketball. However, this new entry into the College game is the most polished yet. When you first boot up the game you will be asked to name your league, name the tournaments of your league (the primary and secondary tournaments) as well as set such options as allowing conference movement, which years can players turn pro, enabling or disabling the 3-point shot and choosing what method you want to use for stat ranges from three methods available: 1-100, 1-10 or letter grades. You can also choose a commissioner password, which is really useful for online leagues. Then you create your coach and assign points to your stats in such categories as Scouting and Recruiting as well as Coaching Offense and Defense. The game is pretty much a sandbox, so you can create a coach with max ratings and choose to coach the most prestigious basketball programs right away or choose a different approach and create a coach with low statistics and coach a team like Air Force. In other words, you can easily make the game as easy or as challenging as you want.

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Once you have chosen a school to coach, it is time for the real fun to begin. You are responsible for setting the depth chart and the gameplan, hire your assistant coach, scouting director and recruiting coordinator, use your scholarships and recruit talent, set your non-conference schedule and any pre-season tournament invites and deal with such things as the RPI, Prestige and Polls. Unused players will complain about their playing time during the season, injuries and academic suspensions can play havoc with your depth chart and of course, you have to meet the goals of your current school. Lowly programs will be happy with a conference championship or an NCAA (Or FBCA, the default league name) birth, while more prestigious schools will demand Sweet 16 or Elite 8 appearances. The off-season brings its own set of challenges, from replacing assistant coaches that leave for other schools, dealing with unexpected draft entries (nothing worse than losing your Sophomore All-American Center without warning) and entertaining offers from other schools. You can also follow your player’s progress and see if they were drafted to the pros.

Dealing with players is one of the more entertaining aspects. They complain about playing time and those with low academic ratings can get suspended. Usually you have to devote training camp points on working with these player’s academics just to make sure they don’t miss half the season. Draft predictions are just like in real life: Hit and miss. As the new season begins you are warned about the draft prospects of some of your players. If you have a sophomore center that is predicted to go in the second round he might stay around another year, but if he is a lottery pick, make sure you recruit a replacement! Sometimes players enter the draft without warning, just like in real life. A player might not have been on anyone’s radar before the season began, but suddenly he puts up All-American numbers and decides to enter the draft after going from nobody to 1st round pick. Players also make mistakes: I had a Junior Center named Arthur Orlando that put up decent numbers with Cal: 15.0 PPG, 12.3 boards and 1.3 blocks. In spite of not being a projected draft pick he decided to leave me anyway (and with no warning until the end of the season) only to go undrafted. I am sure he regrets that decision and would have benefited from another solid year in college basketball. Unhappy players also transfer to other schools if you not appease their demands for more playing time. Sure, losing a walk-on PF to a lowly school is nothing to regret, but losing a projected All-American prospect that just needed a couple of years of work is a real blow.

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Recruiting, just like in real life, is a crapshoot. The game uses a colored system to identify player’s potential. For example, red means warm-body, just a player. Orange is better than red, but not by much and usually signifies a player that could be a starter in a low prestige school. Yellow means mid-major starter, green means a good starting player on a top school and blue means potential All-American. When you scout a player he usually shows two colors. Showing red and blue means that the player’s current level is low, but he has All-American potential and just needs some work. You can also see the player’s current ratings and his potential ratings in different basketball-related skills. For example, a player with C Jump Shooting and A+ potential in that area means that he is a decent shooter that can blossom into a fantastic one. However, a player with C jump shooting and F potential in that stat means that the player has reached his “peak” in that particular skill. You have to measure their skill levels, potentials and their interest in your school before you commit to offering them a scholarship. They also have star ratings that are the way they have been rated by independent scouting organizations, but these are somewhat wonky. Most of the time a 5-star player is really great when you scout him, but I have seen 4 and 5 star players that are really crappy and some 2 and 3 star players that turn out great. Juggling your school’s scouting budget, your team needs, independent scouting organizations, your own scouting evaluations and the player’s interest level is a real challenge. Sure, you like that 5-star SF with All-American potential, but how does he fit into your gameplan and the players you will have next year? With his interest level at Average, is it worth it to pursue him and risk wasting valuable time and money when you have a solid and dependable 3-Star SF with an interest level of Very High in your board? Those are the questions you need to ask yourself and even then, things are not 100% guaranteed. I once had such a bad year with Gonzaga that I ended up with 3 Walk-Ons and only one solid recruit because I pursued the wrong players and by the time they went off the board to other schools most of the talented guys were also gone.

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Up until now I have talked about personnel management and such, but what about the actual GAME of basketball? It is awesome. It is one of the most realistic engines I have ever seen and trust me, if it sounds like good basketball strategy in real life, it will work in the game. In one of my Elite 8 runs with Cal I noticed that most of my big guys were good rebounders and defenders, but their offensive stats sucked. So I surrounded them with a core of shooters, switched my offensive focus to outside and watched my team cruise. The 3 shooters all ended up shooting 38%+ from 3-point range and my inside guys went on to average double digits in rebounds, including one of them getting almost 6 offensive boards a game. I also averaged almost 14 threes made per game. On one of my challenge games, I was coaching Pennsylvania of the Ivy League and was seeded to play against the 4th best team in the nation, Kansas. I managed to pull off a six point upset over them simply by changing my strategy on the fly. My entire season I had relied on a pound –the-paint style offense, relying on my big men to score. However, Kansas had really good defenders and wrecked up my plans. Somehow my SG kept scoring and I was down only 6 points at the half. So for the second half I lowered my motion (thus, allowing more shooting freedom and creativity) and made my SG the focus of the offense. Why you ask? Because I realized his defender had low stamina and quickness and the guy Kansas brought off the bench to replace him had low perimeter D. So I made sure to increase the pace as well. My SG was able to outrun his defender and gas him out while scoring pretty much at will. The final score was 90-84 Penn, with my SG scoring 36 points. It is moments like this that really make you feel like a coach.

Sure, you are not really calling plays. What you do is adjust things like Motion, Pace, 3-PT Usage, Offensive Focus(Outside, Inside, Balanced), Defensive Strategies, the minutes your players are going to play, Defensive styles (man to man, 3-2, 2-3, 1-3-1 etc) as well as how much you are going to Press, Trap and use double teams outside and in. Most of these things are set by selecting a number between 1-10. Teams with highly creative shooters might benefit from low motion settings, while teams with poor inside D might benefit from doubling up on the paint. Once again, it comes down to player skill and a lot of trial and error to see what the better settings for your team are. I have spent hours just tweaking around numbers and seeing how they affect my team’s play. For those who find the prospect of managing so many numbers daunting, there is also a “Recommend” button that allows your CPU assistant coach to set the values according to your team’s skill and style and for the most part they are very competent, although human settings are obviously much better.

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However, not everything is perfect. There are several bugs that pop from time to time,like run-time errors and such, but patches come out almost weekly to correct the mistakes. There is no way to see pre-season tournament brackets, only the conference tournament and the main NCAA (or FBCA) tournaments. The interface is well done, but can be daunting and unfriendly to newcomers. The first few days I played the game were focused on seeing how everything worked and were everything was located, so newcomers can expect a tough learning curve. The interface is nice to look at, but with so many numbers, names and stats it doesn’t feel as clean and polished as other Grey Dog Software games. Still, it is one of the best looking text-based basketball simulations out there.

In spite of a few minor bugs and a steep learning curve, Fast Break College Basketball 2010 is the best basketball management game I have ever played. Choices you make truly affect the games, which is something I felt other text-based basketball games lacked. The engine is very sound and grounded on reality, leading to very realistic results. In a year were college basketball games are getting scarce, Fast Break Basketball 2010 proves that the best games can come from the smallest developers and more fun and addictive than those made by the bigger companies. But I must warn you: If you buy FBCB 2010, prepare to say goodbye to your life and bore your girlfriend with ramblings about how you lost the championship game by 3 points because your All-American SG is not clutch. Or how excited you are about your recruiting class. Or how tweaking motion improved your team’s total point output. In other words, prepare to be addicted and waste hours of your life!

Pros:

– Excellent basketball engine grounded in reality.

– Decisions you make truly affect the games.

– Full of depth and things to do.

– Makes you feel like a real coach.

– Very addictive!

Cons:

– Very addictive!

– Steep learning curve for newcomers.

– Minor bugs and errors.

– Interface is not as clean as other Grey Dog Software games.

 

 

Final Score: 8.6/10