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Mass Effect 3: It all ends here

December 5, 2014

Hello everybody!


This week I’ll be taking a look at the final installment of the Mass Effect trilogy, Mass Effect 3.

The Story

The story picks up roughly six months after the events of Mass Effect 2. Shepard has turned him or herself in to the human government and his ship impounded. He is now on trial for working with a human terrorist group among other things. As the player quickly finds out, events elsewhere in the galaxy quickly put the trial on hold.


The Reapers, giant, ancient machines built to exterminate all organic life, had arrived.

After fleeing a now occupied Earth, Shepard, and the player, must find allies if they are to help retake their home world and defeat the Reapers. Players will travel to the home world of popular aliens such as the Asari, Turians, Krogan, and Salarians.

To get these allies however, Shepard must navigate not only Reapers, but also Cerberus, who have become hostile to their former ally. Then there are old grudges, racists, and greedy profiteers out for gain at the end of the world.

Along the way players will encounter familiar faces, good and bad, they’ve met from Mass Effect 1 and 2. Cerberus’ leader, the Illusive Man, makes a return. So too do the likes of Liara, Garrus, and more.

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My thoughts

I was thankful that Bioware got rid of the Paragon/Renegade rating in its Mass Effect 2 incarnation. However, a rating system still exists. This one is simply effected by what you do. The more people you help, the more people will help you.

It’s a rather strange system, as, well, Shepard is going out and helping the galaxy. That’s the whole point of the story: save the galaxy.

Another new resources is “reinforcements.” Literally, it’s your army. The one you need to take back Earth and fight the Reapers. If it isn’t big enough, you can’t fight. It’s another idea I felt was rather strange, but coupled with the new rating system, essentially your actions garner reinforcements.

Other than that, Mass Effect 3 improves the storytelling from previous iterations. Plot lines that started in 1 or 2 climax in 3 in some of the most stellar story telling I’ve yet seen in video games.

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Mass Effect 2: Epicness engaged

December 1, 2014

Welcome back!

Continuing with the Mass Effect series, today’s article will talk about Mass Effect 2.

The story

Following the events of Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 continues to put players in the shoes of Commander Shepard. With the traitorous Saren dead and the Reaper threat locked away in dark space, the Citadel government thinks the Reapers are no longer a threat. But Shepard a handful of others know the truth. They’re still coming.

Through a tragic set of events, Shepard is forced to work with one of the few others who acknowledge the Reaper threat: terrorist and human traitor, the Illusive Man. Leader of a rogue black-ops cell called Cerberus, his motives are a mystery, though he claims to be out for humanities best interests. He knows the Reapers are a threat, but the plan he has will send Shepard on a mission he deems “suicidal.”


I think I’ll take my next vacation here.

But Shepard cannot work alone against the Reapers, so the Illusive Man sends players out to recruit the very best for the mission. Several members of the crew from Mass Effect will return, though not all will fight alongside Shepard. A new, larger cast of characters will join up to fight, including several Cerberus agents, an assassin, mercenaries, a religious zealot, and more.

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My thoughts

Just as good as the original, but the developers at Bioware improved and streamlined what was wrong in the first. On the downside, they added what is called the Paragon/Renegade scoring. This existed in the first game, but players could simply ignore the mechanic if they so desired. In this game, certain plot lines are locked behind this scoring. Be too nice and raise your Paragon score, and plot lines or dialogue choices for Shepard that require a higher Renegade score will be locked from you.

I strongly dislike this mechanic. My choices are made for me if I want a particular plot line. The only way to increase your score either way is to have Shepard be a good/bad person throughout the game. The score accumulates over time. So even if I wanted Shepard to be a good guy, if there’s a plot I wanted to see that requires a high Renegade score, it requires that my character be a jerk throughout the game.

Other improvements though were a plus. The story, apart from the score mechanic, was excellent. Shepard, once a specter for the galactic government, is now considered a terrorist by some, and hunted by others, all to save the galaxy from an imminent threat.


Loved the game? Hated it? Hated this review? Sound off in the comments below!

The next, and final, article will conclude this trilogy with Mass Effect 3!

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Mass Effect

November 29, 2014

Hello fellow gamers!

This week I’ll be taking a look at the very popular sci-fi RPG Mass Effect. The first in a trilogy of games, Mass Effect was developed by Bioware and released to stores May 2008.


Don’t worry, you can change how he looks.

The story

The story takes places in a science fiction future in which humanity is united under a single government which is part of a galactic government led by the Citadel Council. Players step into the shoes of a character named Shepard, second in command of a hyper-advanced ship called the Normandy.

Shepard, male or female based on the player’s decision, is eyed for the elite position of Specter, a secretive arm of the Citadel Council meant to carry out the council’s will in for the betterment of the galaxy.

Shepard would be the first human given that prestigious position, and that alone puts a lot of pressure on the character. But the murder of a fellow Specter and betrayal from within the unit causes the council to direct Shepard to pursue the murderer across the galaxy. In the process, Shepard and the players discover a malevolent being bent on destroying all life in the galaxy.

Along with the option of playing either a male or female character, players can design their character’s facial appearance, skin tone, their history, and their personality. Every time there is dialogue, players are given the opportunity to choose what Shepard says, be it nice, mean, good or bad.

In the end, players’ response to particular events drastically change how the game plays out, and carry over into Mass Effect 2 & 3.

The characters, human and alien, Shepard and the player meet along the way are as dynamic and interesting as Shepard. Characters such as Liara T’soni, Garrus, Wrex and Ashley all play pivotal roles in the story, and shape what kind of character Shepard will be.

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My thoughts

The Mass Effect series is probably one of the best RPGs out there right now. The tropes are few, each of the characters that join Shepard’s crew feels alive, rather than a one-dimensional plot device.

The players’ choices effect how others react to them, and those choices carry over through the rest of the series. I felt an emotional connection to the characters, much like some of my favorite book series’ characters. This makes every choice important and impactful, even emotional.

The game is solid. The gameplay may be clunky at times, and your inventory space can fill up quickly, but other than a few minor complaints, Mass Effect is an exciting entrance to an epic, galactic story in par with the likes of Star Wars.


Had a favorite character? Least favorite character you were anxious to off? Sound off in the comments below!


Up next I’ll be continuing with the Mass Effect trilogy by examining Mass Effect 2.

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Overlord: Lord smash!

November 17, 2014

Hello fellow game enthusiasts!

This week, we’ll be taking a look at the hilarious, absurd and appropriately evil game Overlord.

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Have you ever watched movies like Lord of the Rings and wished the bad guys would win? Did those elves and dwarves annoy the crap out of you? Overlord gives you the opportunity to smash the tropes and cliches of the fantasy world with your minions, your gigantic weapons, and evil magics. Developed by Triumph Studios, Overlord was released Jun. 26 2007.

The story

The story leads the character, the Overlord, through a series of quests through Tolkien-esque towns to deserts and ruins reminiscent of ancient Egypt. Through the Overlord’s adventures, players will discover that the evil tower the Overlord lives in was once occupied by a previous overlord; one who was defeated by a group of heroes. These heroes have returned to their homes; however, as the player discovers, these heroes have become as corrupt and evil as the overlord they defeated.

Interestingly enough, as I played through the game and came across each of these “heroes,” I noticed each one seems to take on one or two aspects of the seven deadly sins. The halfling is fat and lazy, the human paladin is full of lust, the dwarf is angry and proud, and so forth. As players progress, they will discover just why these heroes have become so corrupt, and that they are not alone in their endeavor to become the Overlord.

As mentioned before, one of the core mechanics of the game is the army of minions players have at their disposal. Literally, players can dispose of them. Sacrifice them in evil altars to heal the Overlord if players so desire! Or steal their life essence to enchant those gigantic weapon. Otherwise, these minions can be used to fight for the Overlord, solve puzzles, or simply entertain. One of my favorites is the minion jester, who gives the Overlord titles such as “Gluttonous Overlard” should the player decide to steal the villagers’ food supply.

The story is told through a variety of cut scenes and character dialogue. The cut scenes use the same graphics the game does, so there is no difference visually between actually playing the game, and seeing things happen in a cut scene.

The Overlord doesn’t talk, (though he does in the trailer (see above)) everyone else, including the minions, talk for him. Dialogue from characters like the local villagers, the undead elves, or Gnarl, the head minion leads the player along and tell them what to do next.

My thoughts

The story isn’t particularly compelling overall. It wasn’t until I discovered that there was another Overlord that I really got invested in the plot. Otherwise, I found the corrupted heroes interesting. Enough so that I wanted to continue just to see what kind of crazy the next hero was. But when plot came up and said, “Stuff was happening! It’s bad! Well, not as bad as you sire.” I sat there thinking “erm…so?”

For a game that claims to allows you to choose to be evil and really evil, I felt there were too few opportunities. Stealing the villagers’ food was one of a small list of opportunities to choose. Players are, in fact, retrieving the food from the corrupt hero Melvin Underbelly, who stole it from the villagers. Once players retrieve the food, they are given the choice of returning the food to the villagers, or keeping it for themselves. (I chose to keep it all.) The lack of choice overall was disappointing.

The comedy was good, the game play was fun, the plot was…eh, alright.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments below!


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Limbo: No flashlight?!

November 3, 2014

Welcome back fellow video game enthusiasts! This time I’ll be examining developer Playdead’s game, Limbo. Limbo is about a boy who enters the world of Limbo to find his lost sister. The game is entire two-dimensional, like older games such as Mario or Pac-Man. Your character can only go up and down, left or right across the screen.

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It feels…homey?


This game has no story, apart from the fact that this boy enters Limbo to find his sister. What the puzzle game has instead is a world and an atmosphere that is dark, moody and dangerous.

On his way to finding his sister, the boy traverses the cataclysmic and industrial world of Limbo.

While I won’t say Limbo is scary, it is very dark. It is not a happy place. As I mentioned, the world you wander through looks as though it had suffered some destructive cataclysm. Death is everywhere. And where it isn’t cataclysmic, it is industrial. Hundreds of smoke stacks can be seen spewing black smoke into the air. Giant, ruined factories must be traversed to continue. Limbo just isn’t a happy place to be.


Death by spider.

The environment will kill you; the inhabitants will kill you; everything is out to put an end to you. Bear traps, pools of sludge, and giant factory machines are just a few examples of what could finish you off.

Who the inhabitants are is another story. One of the first you encounter is a gigantic, horrifying spider. This monstrosity will pursue you at several junctures, and only a lucky fall or other escape will save you.


Yup. She looks totally trustworthy…that IS a she, yeah?

There are other humans here in this world as well. Rather, there are humanoids here. Everything in this game is a black and white silhouette. Details are few for most creatures and objects. Where these humanoids come from, and what their story is, is a mystery. The only thing players will know is that these people are scared of you and will try to kill you.

My thoughts

That the game has little story, yet has so much art and detail, leads me to wonder what the art was trying to convey. Was it trying to say something? Some sort of statement? What is limbo?

According to

  1. Limbo is a part of Roman Catholic Theology. Limbo is a region bordering heaven or hell, serving “as the abode after death of unbaptized infats and the righteous who died before the coming of Christ.
  2. Limbo is a place or state of oblivion to which persons or things are regarded as being relegated when cast aside, forgotten, past or out of date.
  3. An intermediate, transitional, or midway state or place.
  4. A place or state of imprisonment or confinement.

Taking this information into account, this would imply that the boy’s sister died, and is currently in limbo somewhere near heaven or hell. Why then is everything dark, dreary and dead?

Are the other inhabitants, those who try to kill the player, stuck in limbo, unable to get to heaven (or hell)? If that is the case, perhaps they took over Limbo and created a civilization there, hence the industrial machinery players so often witness or explore.

It is an interesting world, which is for certain. Have another theory of what Limbo is? Share it in the comments!

Check back next time, where I will be taking a look at Overlord!

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Far Cry 3: Welcome to the Jungle.

November 3, 2014

Welcome back fellow video game enthusiasts! This time I’ll be stepping away from the horror genre and looking at how story is told in the first person role-playing game: Far Cry 3.

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Ubisoft’s game puts players in the shoes of Jason Brody, a college grad who, takes a vacation with several of his friends, his brothers, and his girlfriend to the Pacific paradise called Rook Island.

What begins as a fun-filled adventure turns into a nightmare as Jason and his friends are captured by pirates.


So purdey…


The story

The story follows Jason Brody as he escapes capture and flees into the jungle where he is picked up by the island natives, the Rakyat Tribe. Here, Jason meets a man named Dennis, one of the tribe’s leaders. Dennis teaches Jason the “way of the jungle,” and “the path of the warrior.”

Most of the story follows Jason’s journey to find and free his friends, and make allies, some strange and some dangerous. During this journey Jason, and the players, begin to see a darker side to the character.

At first Jason was horrified of killing people. As his story progresses, his attitude changes to one of enjoying the slaughter. While his new allies within the Rakyat Tribe are proud of his change, his friends from back home are worried, and eventually scared, of this transformation. By the end of the game, Jason and the player must decide whether to escape the island with Jason’s friends, or remain and become a member of the Rakyat.


Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust, and another one down and another one gone, another one bites the dust.


The tools

Much unlike the horror games such as Slender: The Arrival or Amnesia: The Dark Decent, Far Cry 3 tells its story entirely through character dialogue. Jason and the player discover the state of Rook Island through characters like Dennis, his friends, and the crazy villain Vaas.


Heath Ledger’s Joker has nothing on this crazy.


The voice acting is well done, the animation is superb. Each character feels like a real person. I was very invested in each and every character. When one character died, I legitimately felt sad. When I finally finished off one of the big bads, I was as satisfied as Jason was. Even the jungle took on its own character. It was gorgeous, but lethal. The animals were out to kill me.

Along the way, characters will comment on things such as the craziness of the real world: busy lives 24/7, a reliance on technology, and a mass of cheaters and liars out to swindle. This plays into the theme of choosing between fleeing the island or staying. There were times when I thought “yeah, screw the world. This place is gorgeous.”

There were few cut scenes. Everything was told in-game, and players never once leave Jason’s first-person point-of-view. Players see everything from his eyes.

There are multiple ways of traversing Rook Island:

–          On foot

–          By car or ATV

–          By boat or

–          By para sailing.

Fights can be executed several different ways as well. Players can:

–          Go in guns blazing

–          Use a sniper rifle and stay at a distance

–          Use stealth to sneak in and slay pirates with a machete

–          Set traps to blow pirates up or lead them into the path of an angry bear

–          Or avoid fights altogether

My thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed Far Cry 3’s story of survival and choosing to join the dark jungle or flee back to civilization. I legitimately enjoyed the choice given at the end: Return to civilization, or stay in the jungle. I won’t spoil the ending, but there was a catch to staying as much as there was to returning to the crazy world in America, and it was enough to make me choose to return Jason to the real world. The story was well done and I recommend the game to anyone looking for a game with a good story.

Agree? Disagree? Want to share your favorite Far Cry 3 moment? Wish to spread the word of your lord and savior, Lord Vader? Sound off in the comments!

Next time I’ll be taking a look at developer Playdead’s Limbo, and what kind of story they tell.


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Outlast: You’ll wanna wear brown pants for this.

October 30, 2014

Welcome back! This week I’ll be taking a look at indie developer Red Barrels’ Outlast. This first person, survival horror video game follows freelance journalist Miles Upshur as he investigates Mount Massive Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

Upshur, and the players, quickly find out something really bad is happening. Military vehicles are parked out front, but no one is attending or guarding them. The doors are locked, so the only way in is to climb through an open, unbarred window.

What greets players is a continuous nightmare from beginning to end. Monsters, ghosts and the asylum’s resident crazies are all out to get Upshur and do unspeakable horrors to him. Like Slender: The Arrival, or Amnesia: The Dark Decent, Outlast does not allow players to fight the crazies taking up residence in Mount Massive. Players’ only option is to run and hide.

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The story

The story is all told from Miles Upshur’s first person point of view. As players traverse the haunted, gore-filled hallways they will come across different slips of papers, such as doctors’ notes, admittance papers, medication forms and so forth.

Each of these documents helps players paint a picture of just what nightmares were going on in this place.

Along the way, players will come across multiple characters, each of them seemingly trying to one-up each other in terms of “how crazy can I be?”

One of the first reoccurring characters to appear is Father Martin, an ally who…really isn’t. He does guide players along at points, but his words are vague and religious more often than not. What his motive is in the end is unclear, though he is no friend to some of the other inhabitants of Mount Massive, such as Dr. Richard Trager.

father martin

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the HOLY CRAP!
Photo courtesy of Google images.

Dr. Trager had to be one of my favorite villains from this game. He’s just freaking out of his mind, bat-shit crazy. The voice acting would have been hilarious were it not for the fact that he’s trying to kill the player. His nonchalant way of saying “I love the mountain air” and telling the players they can go free when they’re tied to the wheelchair he put them in is just a minor example of how deranged he is.


Dr. Trager will see you now…
Photo courtesy of Google images.

My thoughts

The story is given to the players through the game’s mood, through documents littering the asylum, and the asylum’s crazy inhabitants. A lot of it was very much a trope though. A freelance journalist going to a secluded asylum for the criminally insane? That can’t go wrong. A guy wearing a strait-jacket on backwards and spouting religious text? Totally trustworthy.

There also was an overload of blood and gore. Entire water fountains are filled with body parts and blood. After a while, players will start to become desensitized to all the gore. It loses its scariness.

One thing I particularly enjoyed though was the idea of using a video camera to capture certain events. Capturing a ghost on camera, or recording text written on a wall in blood will cause Upshur to write a note for players to read. I liked this, it gave Upshur some character.

Is it overall a successful story? Sure. Do I think it is the best? No. As I said earlier, it is filled with many tropes. I still feel that Amnesia: The Dark Decent tells one of the better horror stories.



And now I’ve reached the end of my list of horror game reviews. Didn’t see your favorite horror game? Know a good horror game with a good story you want me to take a look at? Sound off in the comments section below!

In my next blog, I’ll be breaking away from the horror genre and taking a look at the story in Far Cry 3.


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Slender: The Arrival of pants wetting.

October 11, 2014

Hello fellow gamers!

Continuing with the horror theme started in last week’s blog, I will be looking at Blue Isle Studio’s Slender: The Arrival, and what methods the game uses to tell its story.


Image courtesy of

So what is Slender: The Arrival?

Similar to Amnesia: The Dark Decent, Slender: The Arrival is a survival horror. Players cannot fight. Running is the only option. While Amnesia gave players some puzzles to figure out, such as brewing a potion or fixing a steam engine, Slender merely asks players to get from point A to B without getting caught by the eerie, inhumanly tall and skinny Slender Man.

What’s the story about?

The story is about a girl reaching her friend’s house only to find the place trashed and her friend missing. What follows is a terrifying search through the forests and caves nearby for the character’s friend, and all the while players are stalked by the silent, faceless Slender Man.

Similar to Amnesia: The Dark Decent, players can pick up notes found throughout the game’s levels. Each note gives the player some backstory. One note mentions the funeral of the character’s friend’s mother, and another talks about a hallucination shared by multiple people.

What’s the atmosphere like?

Apart from the notes players pick up along the way, the game has little in the way of a narrative like Amnesia or other video games. Instead, the game focuses on the ambiance and scaring the player. Right from the start, the game gives off a creepy vibe. Players start on a trail by the side of the road. The path is blocked off by a toppled tree, so driving isn’t an option. Players must walk through the forest to reach the house. As players move through the fall colored forest, quiet, eerie music plays. A mix of strings and piano which, coupled with the sound of feet crunching through the grass nearby, puts me on edge.

As players move through the forest, the sun goes down, until the forest is dark but for lights from the house and a distant radio tower’s red, flashing light. Upon reaching the house and entering, players will find the house trashed, and the friend the character is looking for gone.

Once players enter the house, the music stops. There is no sound but for the character’s footsteps and the occasional crunch of strange footsteps outside. Many of the lights are off, the phone line is dead, and a note is scribbled on the fridge saying “Lock the house!”

Would you say it is a good story?

No. As mentioned earlier, the game’s story is merely told through notes strewn through the levels. Gamers looking for a horror game with a good plot will find Slender: The Arrival lacking. The gameplay is good, and it is a scary game. It just lacks much in the way of a plot.

If someone wanted to buy it, where should they go?

The game can be purchased and downloaded from Steam. As of this post, the game is only $9.99.

Next week:

Check back next week when I review the story in one more horror game: Outlast.


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Amnesia: the game that scares the crap out of you.

October 4, 2014

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Hello everybody! For my first blog I’ll be talking about Amnesia: The Dark Decent. Amnesia is a survival horror game developed a couple years ago by Frictional Games, a company who also is responsible for Penumbra, another survival horror experience.

Survival horror? What is that?

For the uninitiated, survival horror is a genre of video games designed to, frankly put, scare the shit out of you. The reason it is called survival horror is because players lack the ability to fight back against the scary monsters trying to kill them. Players must find alternative ways to defeat, or escape, the bad guys.

So, what’s the story?

The story takes place in the mid to late 1800s in a Prussian castle and revolves around a man named Daniel. At the beginning of the story, your character, Daniel, wakes up on the stone floor of a hallway. You quickly discover that Daniel has no memory, and that the amnesia was self inflicted. As Daniel tells him self via a note:

“…I choose to forget. Try to find comfort and strength in that fact. There is a purpose. You are my final effort to put things right.

God willing, the name Alexander of Brennenburg still invokes bitter anger in you. If not, this will sound horrible. Go to the Inner Sanctum, find Alexander and kill him. His body is old and weak, and yours, young and strong. He will be no match for you. One last thing,

a shadow is following you…”

So much of the story is told via notes?

Yes. Much of the back story of who Daniel is, why he is in a Prussian castle and why the name Alexander of Brennenburg should invoke bitter anger in him are revealed over the course of the game through notes found during players’ exploration.

The notes are left behind by either Daniel during his residence at Castle Brennenburg, Alexander himself or victims of the experiments and dark rituals performed under Brennenburg’s roof.

Another way the game’s developers tell players the story is through audio flashbacks. I say audio because nothing visually changes. The sun and moon don’t wind backwards several times until you reach a past event. There is no clock ticking in reverse.

Instead, there is a soft white glow which takes over the screen, then dissipates. This indicates a flashback is about to occur.

Then players begin to hear voices. More often than not, the conversation is between Daniel and Alexander. After the conversation has ended and plots points are revealed, the screen takes on the soft white glow again, then returns to normal.

Does it work?

I think so. Most plot points are revealed rather well. The only issue I see is that the game allows players some freedom to roam. This, in turn, means players can accidentally miss a note pertinent to the narrative.

Sounds cool! Where can I go to get more information on the video game?

Head on over to for a full review on the game, as well as links to similar games.

What if I wanted to purchase the game?

You can purchase and download the game from Steam. Head on over to Amnesia’s page to do so.


Check back next week, when I review how Slender: The Arrival tells its story!


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Hey! How’s it going?

September 23, 2014

Hello everybody! My name’s Josh Hafemeister. In this blog I will discuss video games and how story is implemented into these games.

How does horror do it? RPGs? First person shooters?

I will examine the tools used by the developers to get the narrative across to the players, such as dialogue, which is typically the way plot is told. Some games, such as Slender: The Arrival, do not use dialogue. So how does it tell a story? What techniques get the moods, themes and backstory to the players?

Being a gamer myself, I feel confident I will be able to relay my thoughts and ideas in an easy to read manner. The games that I wish to review are games I’ve already played, such as:

–          Slender: The Arrival

–          Amnesia: The Dark Decent

–          Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3.

–          Limbo

–          Outlast

–          Farcry 3

–          And more

Thanks for reading. I’m excited to get started, and I hope you all enjoy the ride!

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