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tallforadwarf's book 'o' words
"If I have seen slightly further it is by standing on the shoulders of dwarves."
2 new reviews of 2 old products! 
6th-Oct-2009 08:00 pm
All hidden behind a cut in case you don't care: Reviews of d20 Cavalier's Handbook and Dino Crisis 3 for X-Box. Tiny spoilers.

The Cavalier's Handbook is a part of Green Ronin's "Master Class" series of books, each presenting a new class with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a d20 source book. The Cavalier's handbook is different from most similar supplements by actually being good. Good and useful to other classes, not just the new one presented.

The Good: For your money you get two versions of the cavalier, one for both fantasy D20 and D20 modern. That's great and I'm surprised more books haven't done this (yet D20 modern was woefully under-supported and multi-game supplements sell notoriously badly). You also get a bunch of new feats, magic items, etc., most of which are non-cavalier specific, and will be of use to any character interested in riding or leadership-type stuff. There are also fantastic sections, including plenty of random charts, for players to roll up family histories, create semi-historically accurate coats-of-arms, found and join orders (complete with ideas on turning the order into a PrC of sorts), and some nice roleplay advice for characters trying to adhere to a code of honor. There are some wonderful ideas on assembling such a code too - ideas that do a fantastic job of differentiating the cavalier code from the paladin code - kudos for achieving that! Finally we've just got time to praise the interesting new ideas and expanded rules for followers. Being an AD&D player, I grew up with the notion that characters eventually get followers, and the cavalier's book adds a new level of depth to the "numbered-nameless" ones. I'm definitely going to be house-ruling (to simplify) these rules for use in our home games. All that in 95 pages!

The Bad: As predicted, the PrCs are mostly wasted space. Many of the ideas are too similar, just recycled with a different alignment, or don't really provide any exciting hooks for your game. Severely overshadowed by both the core material (Sister of Sidhe is for Elven cavaliers, but could be much better represented by Arcane Archers with mounted feats), and the new rules for orders presented in the book. We're not talking "Stormlord" levels of crap, but just nothing all that great. There are a lot of stat blocks too - some may find this useful, but they're spread out across the book, rather than organized into an appendix. The only other bad thing I can say about this book is the number of references to other books. While some players might like the connections between the Noble and Cavalier Handbooks, for example, it constantly assaults those who don't own both books with the notion that they purchased only half a product. And there are references to at least four other Green Ronin products! Maybe it's just product placement, I dunno.

The Ugly Truth: 4/5 - This book is awesome and at only $2.00 from Paizo at the moment, you have no excuse for not buying it!

Dino Crisis 3 is a text book example of "jumping the shark". Series not doing as well as you hoped? Then set it in space, in the future, make all the dinosaurs mutants with psychic powers and give the player a jet pack! Man, if *only* they'd done that to Happy Days....

The Good: When Dino Crisis first came out, I was sold, first in the cue. Resident Evil with a not-overly-sexualized-sexy-red head, dinosaurs and machine guns. Awesome! Truth is the game sucked because it was too slow paced. I never bothered with #2. So, after jumping over the marine predator into the future, the series hits you full on. This is fast, furious and rewards you for shooting the shit out of a near endless stream of dinosaurs. It plays more like Crimson Sea than Dino Crisis, and that is a good thing. You can upgrade stuff and shop, which is always nice, and the areas to explore are absolutely huge. You get a jet pack, which is always great, helpful for those tricky platforming sections, and very useful in the awesome zero-G environments.

Now, just look at some of those points again:

The Bad: The game hits you full on - and it is stupidly tough! The dinosaurs don't stop coming until your hand aches from shooting them and they do tremendous amounts of damage. Compared to the bosses who just sit around while you slowly shave their life bar down. Speaking of bosses - one of them you don't even get to kill! A CGI cut scene takes over halfway through.... *Yawn* Do I really need to be shown how "cool" these characters are? Take a look again at the game - you'd expect dinosaurs, right? Well, there aren't actually any dinosaurs in this game, at all. WTF! There are mutants who look like dinosaurs, and you can read their files to see what type of dino-DNA they're based on, but they're not actually dinosaurs. While they might fool you by their almost looking like dinosaurs, you can't really buy into while playing the game as they teleport, turn invisible and shoot lightning at you. Jumped that shark and just kept sailing, like Eliot with an alien in his basket.... You can upgrade stuff at the shop, which is fun, but what is not fun is that there is a limit to how much money you can carry. And you have to spend most of your money upgrading your "coin pouch" to be able to carry more money, as otherwise you can't afford anything. Often you fill up on money right before a big fight, so you kill dozens of dinosaurs, using up precious ammo, but don't get to keep any of the money you earned for shooting them. Quite why the homicidal computer lets you shop, I'm not sure. This feature would have been better off as a bonus game, like "Mercenaries" in Resi3. The areas you get to explore are huge, at least 5x larger than anything in Resi1-3/Veronica, and way larger than Dino Crisis 1. But the game still uses the fixed camera angle meaning you can never see anything! 90% of the dinosaurs you kill are off screen at the time. And this makes the platforming sections a nightmare. To make matters worse, the shift in camera position shifts the controls, too. So, for example, a window breaks and the cold vacuum of space threatens to suck you outside - quick! Jetpack away from the endless void! As you move forward the camera shifts perspective, along with the controls, and you find you're now hurtling towards the broken window at jetpack assisted speeds! Ass! The zero-G sections are a lot of fun and the controls handle well here. It's just a shame there is nothing to do in them - where are our zero-G dino-fights? I'm guessing it was too much to program, which is why we get to shoot tiny security-spheres or whatever they are. Here's my final complaint. Why is everything so shiny! Bollocks plot, stupid controls, etc. aside, why is everything so pristine? The ship has been lost in space for 300 years, filled with vicious dino-on-dino fights (as shown in the opening movie). Why isn't it trashed? And where did the crew live? You never get to see their irradiated bodies floating in zero-G, or even anything that resembles crew quarters. It's just endless shiny space corridors and reactor rooms.

And given all the impossible platforming sections, these guys must have all had to use jetpacks every time they needed to go to the bathroom....

The Ugly Truth: 1.5/5 I think this is the reason we've yet to see a Dino Crisis 4.
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