Games for your Brains!

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Educational games are rare. However, Nintendo, who are trying to capture casual gamers have released a few that meet the the definition of an eductional game. Here are a few to get you started.

Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure

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Zack & Wiki Quest for Barbaros' Treasure is one such game. Zack is a boy with a dream of becoming the greatest pirate in the world. To reach his goal, he must solve 24 puzzles. In each one, Zack must manipulate the environment in some way to finish that portion of his Quest. He is helped by his sidekick Wiki.

Whilst not being a eductional game at first sight, Zack and Wiki employ problem-solving skills in order to meet their objective. An important skill.

Arcamedic Builders

The developer Arcamedic Builders sells many Wii games which focus on math and word skills. In Grand Prix Multiplication, the performance of the player's cars depends on answering math problems correctly. With Word Frog, the player must choose antonyms, synonyms, or homonyms for specific words

Arcamedic Builders games are online games that are optimized for play on the Wii. Over one dozen games are available.

Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree

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The Brain games from Nintendo have had huge success, especially on the DS. This game is based on a Nintendo DS game. The game begins with a test, in which you are rated in 5 categories. These scores are used as a baseline for future tests. One can compete with up to seven other players.

In contrast to similar games available for home computers, Wii Degree makes extensive use of the WiiMote.

Cranium Kabookii

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Cranium Kabookii is a new kind of Wii game that takes advantage of the unique features of the Wii. The game utilizes the Wii Remote and the "Kabookii Decoder Glasses". Cranium Kabookii creates a living canvas on the TV screen in which teams jam together, exercise drawing ability, act, solves puzzles and even crack codes to win games.

The activities include:

* Getting players to spraypaint the entire solar system on a wall. Believe it or not, you can hear the can shaking in your hand!

* Turn the Wiimote into a hammer to play "Auld Lang Syne" on a xylophone

*Solve word puzzles

The Kabookii Decoder Glasses are an added bonus, as they let only one player at a time to individually see the hidden clues on the TV screen. Cranium Kabookii is a wonderful educational game for all the family, and one that will keep kids entertained for hours.

Smarty Pants

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Do you have a craving for trivia? Smarty Pants: Trivia for Everyone is just such a game that will quench your appetite for trivia! It cleverly alters the questions to what is most appropriate for each individual player. The way it works is this: players reveal their ages (they do this when they create their Mii) and then the game only asks questions suitable for that age of player.

Smarty Pants is a good choice for ages eight and over, and is also an excellent choice for a family party game.

The Wii is an excellent platform for eductional games, and regardless of you age or interests, there is always an educational game for your Nintendo Wii.

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Take Control!

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Everybody knows about the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii. It's often that people compare each consoles graphics power and stability, but rarely do they consider the pros and cons of the controllers themselves. It is the controller that links you to the game, with out it gamers would be lost. A lot of work can go into making a good, accessibly comfortable controller. So, overall, how does each controller compare?

Microsoft Xbox Controller

When the original Xbox released in 2001, it came with the initial controller now known as the Duke Controller. As Microsoft soon discovered, the Duke was way to big and bulky, and hurt people's hands. So the Controller S was released, a model that is very similar to the current Xbox 360 controller, only the Xbox 360 version is the most comfortable and easy to use model by far.

Yes, the Xbox 360 has a great controller overall, but you may be surprised to know that the one thing that gamers have never forgiven Microsoft for is the absolutely abysmal control pad. There is no excuse for it. Every other current-gen console has implemented the pad perfectly. Microsoft apparently wanted to stand out as different by having a control pad that does not work, but it is a huge price to pay for such decidedly unprofessional behaviour. If such a flaw were to be fixed, the Xbox 360's controller would be near perfect.

Sony Playstation 3 Controller

The current Playstation 3 controller is not as new to the game as you might think. It is basically the PS2's, only with certain internal modifications. The original PS3 controller, which had a new look, sort of a boomerang shaped thing, and control scheme, was cancelled. The reasons for this are clear: the controller didn't work as well as the time-tested PS2's did. Perhaps it was a good decision, but I doubt that Sony will get away with doing the same thing over come the next generation of gaming. One feature that was, and still is, lacking from the PS3 controllers is the combination of the six-axis controller and the DualShock 3 controller. We all know Sony thought that having a rumble function was not the future, but we gamers demanded it. So, why could they not combine the two together? Who knows, maybe in the future.

The PS3's controller works as well as ever, even if we can't have both six-axis and DualShock together, but gamers are going to start wanting something less familiar and more original soon enough. Truth is, the way Sony is now, I doubt gamers will get what they want.

Nintendo Wii Controller

Lastly there is the Wii. The Wii's Wiimote is hard to compare to the controllers of other consoles. It pushes the boundaries of controllers far beyond what Microsoft or Sony have ever done. It is more innovative, original, and advanced than any controller that has come out in almost two decades. Perhaps longer.

It is an amazing piece of technology that has all the potential to take gaming to a whole new level. With all the hate towards the Wii's lack of powerful hardware, at least the console has it's Wiimote going for it.

Gamers everywhere should look forward to what the eighth generation of gaming controllers will bring.  Who knows what innovations will be brought to the table and take gaming to the next level?

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Old School Gaming, Give it a Go!

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Games have changed dramatically over the decades that have been around. Older games do not have the advanced gameplay and pleasing graphics of today's games. However, some of them are monumental in the history of video games, like Space Invaders or Pac-Man. They can still provide hours of fun for nostalgia's sake - to relive the glory days of one's youth. Even todays youth can enjoy the older games as a welcome diversion to today's fare.

Here are four options to explore for those wanting to play classic games.

Online Games

Not many people would think to look on the internet for old video games, but with the massive uptake of Flash and Java, old video games have had a rejuvination. There are many sites which offer Flash or Java based games. You can find almost anything you want: Frogger, Donkey Kong, Centipede, and on it goes. There are hundreds of games available online. Many of these sites are advertising supported, that is how they offer these games for free. Just be careful as some sites falsly advertise these games, and instead send viruses or even trojan horses. Therefore, make sure you have good virus protection loaded onto your system and keep it up to date.

Just Google "classic games" or something similar to find these sites.

Console Emulators

Another option is console emulators, which are programs one can run on their computer that mimic video game consoles.

As with the online games, many options are available for emulators and games. In most cases, the games are not exact clones but do fairly closely mimic the gameplay of certain games. The Nintendo Super Mario franchise is one which has many cloned games available. When dealing with emulators, there is a legal issue to be aware of. When downloading the games to play on the emulator you have to actually own the a copy of the game, otherwise you are breaking the copyright laws.

Multi-Game Consoles

There are many variations of this, and the idea is that you can purchase a new console that has one, five, ten or more games preloaded onto it. These units have been available for years and continue to sell well. Check Amazon our your local stores and see what goodies they have.

Buy Older Video Game Machines

This last tip is an activity that could consume a great deal of time if you choose. But ultimately is the best way. Not only does it bring back the full nostalger of playing the consoles again, but you can play the games the way they were meant to be played. You can simply buy used consoles, games, and controllers and hook them up to your television.

Popular choices include the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

The first place you should check is eBay, where you can often find an entire package including the console, controllers, and ten or more games for under $50. This would be everything you need until you decide to purchase more games, and hundreds or even thousands are available for sale at any given time.

If you would rather not buy your used video game equipment online, many people have good luck locally. You can try the following:

* Craigslist (if you know how to use RSS feeds, these searches can be automated).
* Nickel-type papers.
* Yard sales (don't be afraid to offer less than the asking price).
* Second hand stores.

Here's a tip about the last item, second hand stores. These types of stores get inventory in all the time, especially non-profit stores where individuals make donations of goods. What you want is someone on the "inside" who will call you when specific items arrive that you might want. If you can get this kind of help, it will save you a lot of time. Otherwise, you will need to check back with the stores on a fairly regular basis. Also, when buying from a second hand store, they only accept consoles or games that work, so when buying from these places your almost certain to have a product that works.

No matter which option you choose, you can find classic games for free or for the fraction of what you pay for games these days, and enjoy them almost as much as today's games!

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Virtual Console Goodies

March 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Wii's Shop Channel features many NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, TurboGrafx 16, NEOGEO, and N64 games that are available to be bought and downloaded. Many are classics, while others just have not aged too well. With all the games that are available, it can be hard to distinguish between what you are looking for and what just is not worth your time and money. Not all the best games on the channel are here, but instead three of the best EVER!

Paper Mario

Paper Mario is a classic RPG that was originally released in 2001 on the N64. It may seem dated in terms of the technical proficiency of the graphics, but the visuals themselves remain as absolutely beautiful as ever, not to mention unique.

The reason for this is that the characters and environments are portrayed in 3D, yet they themselves are 2D. Like paper cut-outs of a rich, detailed page of a book. As Mario, you explore a diverse overworld whilst getting people to join your party and fighting off monsters. And while Paper Mario adopts many aspects of RPG conventions, the mechanic that really stands out is the timed button presses in battle, a precursor to the over abused quick-time events that plague games these days, that increase the damage you do to your opponent, as well as decrease the amount of damage he does to you.

Overall, Paper Mario is an amazing and memorable accomplishment, both as a Mario game and as an RPG.

Super Metroid

Of all the games in the renowned franchise, perhaps it is Super Metroid that is the most spoken of. It was the last Metroid game to be released for a total of eight years. Eight years gamers waited, until Metroid Prime came along on the Gamecube; arguably the best Metroid ever, and that should say something because without Super Metroid, there would be no argument and without Super Metroid, Prime would be without a doubt the best game in the series.

Super Metroid is a side-scrolling shooter that relies heavily on exploration and discovery, as well as the adrenaline-pumping action that each boss battle presents. As in any other Metroid, bounty hunter Samus crash lands on an alien planet. Now, she struggles to reach the last surviving Metroid.

Samus is equipped with many awesome abilities. She can morph into a small ball for rolling through tight tunnels, she can fire a cannon beam attached to her arm, and perform a double flip-jump whilst flying through the air.

Many of the things the game is so well known for, such as it's exploration and atmosphere, have to be seen to be believed. All you need to know is that Super Metroid is a classic game that is definitely worth it. Your Wii needs this game, it is a gem of game and must be played by everyone.

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Ocarina of Time is still hailed as the greatest game of all time, still duelling out with Final Fantasy VII. Honestly, Ocarina of Time is in every way the best game ever. No game has aged as well as this one.

It may look like your typical action adventure at first, but it has one thing that separates it from the rest of the games, its epic story. You begin playing as Link, a child living in Kokiri Forest, where there is no pain or suffering. Or at least, it used to be that way. The guardian of the forest, the Great Deku Tree, is under a curse cast by the infamous villain Ganondorf. Link is chosen to journey inside the tree and kill the curse within. Link destroys the monster and breaks the curse, but it is too late, and the Tree dies. With his dying words, the tree tells Link to find Zelda. Only once you find Zelda can you save Hyrule from falling under Ganondorf's evil reign.

And so it begins. Ocarina of Time was the first Zelda game to be played from a third-person perspective. The land of Hyrule is a vast place filled with many characters, places and things to do. Combat is very friendly and simple to execute, but what the game truly strives at is the storyline, exploration, and the atmosphere. It's what Nintendo does best and the musical score is perhaps the most widely recognized in gaming history.

There have been many Zelda games since then, none of which have recaptured what Ocarina of Time accomplished. It recommended that if you check this game out, especially if you never got a chance to play it on the N64.

There have been many Zelda games since Ocarina of Time, but none have recaptured the magic that graced the Ocrarina of Time. If you have never played it, this is a definite purchase. If you have, why not relive the experience again, you know you want to.

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The Developer Conundrum

February 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

In the games industry there are three distinct development parties. These are third-party developers, second-party developers and first-party developers. Third-party developers are not generally associated with any particular console or corporation other than themselves, whereas second-party developers have signed contracts with a console manufacturing company and release platform exclusives. First-party developers, however, are different all together. They are part of the console manufacturing company and often carry the company's name.

With the different types of development companies out there, games have been developed for various platforms. This provides another dilemma for gamers when choosing a console. We not only have to decide on the quality of the console itself but also the franchise that are available on that console.

Microsoft: Halo is undoubtedly Microsoft's main attraction, with Halo 1 and 2 released for the original Xbox. It was one of the main reasons people bought the Xbox and for many current Xbox 360 owners, Halo 3 is one of the main reasons they bought the 360 as well. There are many other fantastic games for the Xbox 360, but without Halo, there would have been much less Xbox 360s sold.

Halo is not the only franchise exclusive to Microsoft's platform, Epic's Gears of War series and Bizarre Creation's Project Gotham series are both exclusive to Microsoft.

Sony: One of Sony's biggest and loyalist second-party developer has been Insomniac. They have been a second-party developer for Sony for more than ten years, and have released a gamer, almost every year for their platforms. Even today, for the PS3, the company releases games annually, and on the odd occasion twice yearly. Insomniac is an extremely reliable company for producing quality games, and would be proud to own the console they develop on. This generation, Insomniac is best known for the Resistance series, a highly acclaimed first-person-shooter) and the Ratchet and Clank series (a brilliant third-person platformer / shooter).

Naughty Dog are also a primary second-party developer for Sony, with the Jak and Daxter series, and most recently the Uncharted franchise for the PS3. Also it is worth mentioning that for a decade, up until recently, every core Final Fantasy game released was exclusive to Sony platforms. Final Fantasy developers, Square Enix, continue to dedicate itself to the PS3 with exclusive game rights.

Nintendo: For the Nintendo Wii, first-party exclusives include Mario games, such as Mario Galaxy and Paper Mario, and Wii Sports. Wii Sports is a very popular game for the platform and best exploits the innotive features of the Wii Remote, or Wiimote. Many more first-party games have been created for the Wii, such as Excite Truck and Disaster: Day of Crisis. One first-party developer for Nintendo, Intelligent Systems, was founded by former employees of Nintendo's Research and Development division. Intelligent Systems is responsible for great games like Metroid and Famicon Wars.

This kind of information in most likely lost on casual gamers, but for those who are interested in the games industry and are serious gamers it is important to keep track of where games fit in with the developer hierarchy. This knowledge sets the level of expectation for each game and ultimately the success of a console system.

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Most Anticipated Games of 2009 Part 2

January 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Here at Video Game News Blog we have been trundling the web to bring you what we think will set your gaming experiences in 2009 on fire! Here is the second part of our Most Anticipated Games of 2009.

Ghostbusters (Windows, Xbox 360, PS3)

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Dan Aykroyd? Check. Bill Murray? Check. Harold Ramis? Check. Ernie Hudson? Check. What more could you want? The original Ghostbusters from the cult 1984 film of the same name are here in what write, Dan Aykroyd, describes as “essentially Ghostbusters III”. The story for Ghostbusters the game is written by the writers for the film, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. The best part of the game is you get to join the Ghostbusters a new recruit, testing out Egon and Rays new equipment. The story is set 2 years after Ghostbusters II and with the original creators and writers, as well as the cast, this should definitely be a worthy Ghostbusters storyline. The reason this game is on the list is two-fold, I am a Ghostbusters fan and also this game nearly didn’t make it on to the shelves. After Activision and Blizzard merged, Ghostbusters was one of the games to be dropped. Luckily Atari where there to step in and to publish the finished game. Just remember, don’t cross the streams!

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Gran Turismo 5 (PS3)

What would a Sony console be without a version of Gran Turismo released for it? Not a very good one. So far the PS3 has had the lacklustre Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, that at first whet our appetite but in the end just became a visual feast more than a next generation driving simulator. Gran Turismo is stated to having near photo-realistic graphics and superb attention to detail with the cars (this I can believe, as in an interview with Polyphony Digital they said it takes a minimum of a week to model just one car) and unparalleled driving physics. Could this really be the Real Driving Simulator the series claims to be.

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Halo Wars (Xbox 360)

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The success of the Halo franchise on the Xbox and the Xbox 360 has rocketed Microsoft into one of the leading console manufactures and publishers. Halo 3 was one of the fastest selling games of all time. Now, Halo is taking a new direction into the realms of Real Time Strategy with Halo Wars, developed by Ensemble Studios. This Xbox 360 exclusive sets to change the way RTSs are played consoles and to change the opinions of RTSs belong on a PC with a mouse and keyboard. Halo Wars has a huge chance to be a massive success in 2009, with the popularity of Halo being so great, but also this is Ensemble Studios last game and they will want to go out with a bang.

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Final Fantasy XIII (PS3 and Xbox 360)

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The most shocking news of E3 was when Microsoft and Square Enix announced that Final Fantasy XIII will be coming to the Xbox 360 in North America and Europe. Barring all flame wars on whether this is a good thing or not, Final Fantasy XIII will still be a great game and one of the most anticipated games of 2009. The success of the Final Fantasy franchise in the western world started with the release of Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation and with XIII being released on the Xbox 360 in the West will mean more people will enjoy the delight Square Enix will produce. No doubt the graphics will be breathtakingly superb and the story, as with so many RPGs, will be full of twists and turns, as well as heart stopping moments. Final Fantasy XIII has all the makings of being one of the best games of 2009 and will be set to delight JRPG fans around the globe!

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Diablo 3 (Windows)

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Blizzard again grace the most anticipated games of 2009 list, this time with Diablo III. The secret project they were working on and us fans were hoping was coming, was finally confirmed at 2008's BlizzCon to massive rapture. Gamers will be delving into the depths of Hell to battle demons and the like to end the madness that plagues the Diablo world. Three of the five classes in Diablo 3 have been unveiled so far - the Barbarian, Witch Doctor and the Wizard - and this time players can choose the gender of their character as well. The graphics have taken on a massive overhaul from the last incantation and the art direction looks super awesome (though that is a matter of opinion and various petitions have been created to make it more "gothic"). Blizzard again look to have a sure fire winner with Diablo 3 and it is sure set to entertain me in late 2009.

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Retro Arcade Joystick Announced for the PS3

January 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

xcmdominator 300x210 Retro Arcade Joystick Announced for the PS3Where you the Arcade King of yester-year? Well, with the newly announced XCM Dominator joysitck you can rain down those furious combos on your foes! This pure old-school peripheral for your PS3 offers six control buttons and a navigational stick. Also it comes with programmable rapid fire and macro modes that can store 20 commands, which will surely make those tricky combos a blast to pull off!

The XCM Dominator has only being announced for the US so far, so Europe and the rest of the world with either have to wait or order it from US sites. It will cost $89.99 and will be released next week.

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id Hire Award Winning Writer for Doom 4

January 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

doom4 300x227 id Hire Award Winning Writer for Doom 4

John Carmack and the guys at id Software, the creators of the great Doom and Quake franshise and the upcoming Rage, have announced that Award Winning Sci-Fi writer Graham Joyce, author of 'The Tooth Fairy', 'Dark Sister' and 'The Stormwatcher', is to be writing the story for Doom 4. This is a welcome change for the FPS genre, where story is usually bolted on to give meaning to you blowing seven bells out of aliens and the like. Having a well scripted story in Doom 4 will immerse players into the world of Doom, and will give it a much more structured feel. As usual Doom 4 will have id Softwares new technology, but with the inclusion of Graham Joyce in the story writing department, this will add another focal point to the Doom series, but also to the rather bland FPS genre as well.

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Anticipated Games of 2009 Part 1

January 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

2008 was one of the best years for games to date (we always seem to be saying that year after year...) with releases like Gears of War 2, Fable 2, Resistance 2, Little Big Planet, Metal Gear Solid 4, Left 4 Dead, Fallout 3 and many more. Will 2009 trump 2008? Let's see what the competition is shall we?

Starcraft II (Windows and Macintosh)

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StarCraft fans have been anticipating this one ever since the first instalment came out in 1999. StarCraft pushed the RTS boundaries with deep story, balanced gameplay and its pure addictiveness. It had three vastly rich races and near limitless potential for strategic variations. It is still played today extensively, especially in South Korea where they are Blizzard crazy. The second instalment to the series looks set to blow RTS and StarCraft fans away. Blizzard has an extremely good record for releasing games, with none of their games being a bad egg. They are now putting the finishing touches to their sequel with updated graphics, new unit types and abilities and a new improved online system. This is a mostly anticipated game indeed.

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Killzone 2 (PlayStation 3)

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Killzone 2 is one of the hottest First Person Shooters of 2009. This follow up to the original on the PS2 has broken the boundaries of what is possible graphics-wise on the PS3. In a couple of words it looks freakin' awesome! I was lucky enough to snag a view at it at the London Games Festival where they were showing the Beta build (I think - sorry I can't remember fully). From first looks it was simply stunning. Killzone 2 doesn't follow the mantra of previous FPSs, Guerilla Games have implemented a cover system that allows for a more tactical approach to your play and will give you time to plan your next move. They have also built an extremely engrossing atmosphere, with the crackle and pop of machine-gun fire and other sounds from the warzone. Clever AI will keep you engaged as they try to flank you or rip to shreds your cover you thought was safe. If you are a PS3 owner, this is an absolute must have.

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MadWorld (Wii)

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This is arguably the most promising Wii game of 2009 as well as being one of the most bizarre looking games, it lives up to its name. The look of the game is its most distinctive feature. It looks like the world of Sin City, with black and white being the sole colours most of the time. The games is based around a deadly game, called Death Watch, which has sprouted up because of an outbreak of a deadly virus that has forced Varrigan City, the setting for the game, into quarantine and chaos. MadWorld sees you fight to the death in battles to win the ultimate prize in Death Watch, your life. The concept of this game echoes Battle Royale, and with its brilliant art direction and, as ever with the Wii, it will have a very unique control scheme. Hardcore gamers have been waiting for a 'hardcore' game for their Wiis, could this be it, i think so.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic (Windows)

Star Wars Galaxies had lots of promise before it was released. Initially it delivered on that promise, to deliver a believable online world in the Star Wars Universe. Unfortunately they ended up messing it up by changing the core dynamics of the game, which made the game a challenge and fun to play, and ultimately lost subscribers. But all is not lost on the Star Wars massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), in conjunction with BioWare (RPG masters), LucasArts have revisited the times of the Old Republic and turned it into one of the most anticipated online games of 2009. Because the times of the Old Republic haven't been written about as much as the times around the six films, there is a lot of scope for a very exceptional story in Old Republic. One of the interesting features of the Old Republic is that every decision you make whilst you complete quests, will affect the outcome of your character and the story, and this cannot be changed. You have to live with your consequences, as you fall into the dark side or rise to the light side.

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