Holiday Recommendations: Video Games

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Gamers can be fickle. Buy the wrong game and they may feel obligated to endure hours of suffering to show you that they loved your gift — even when they didn’t. Fortunately Lytherus is here to save both you, the gifter, and your giftee from giving and receiving the wrong video game gifts for the holidays! Whether you or your gift receiver is a hardcore or casual gamer, you’ll find our holiday guide to fit your needs, likes, and play styles! With titles like Halo, World of Warcraft, and Epic Mickey, how can you go wrong?

Halo: Reach

Halo: Reach, developed by Bungie Studios, is the final chapter in the Halo franchise. Reach is a prequel to the 2001 hit, Halo: Combat Evolved, and takes place in the year 2552 on the planet Reach. When the relay station on Reach goes offline, team commander Colonel Holland sends Noble Team – a special operations group made up of super soldiers known as Spartans – to investigate.  On approach of the relay station, Noble Team runs into the Covenant, an alien confederation which has been warring with humans for many years.  The encounter brings the battle to the front door of the last remaining human colonies on Reach.  The Spartans must fight off the Covenant out while struggling to protect the precious lives of the last of the humans.

Reach has outdone itself this time around by bringing new weapons, tricks, and online playlists to keep players excited and to keep the Halo franchise feeling fresh. Don’t miss out on the final adventure through the Halo universe!

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

There has never been a better time to venture into the World of Warcraft. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? World of Warcraft is the best-selling MMORPG of all time, still going steady nearly six years after its original launch. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the newest expansion to Blizzard’s best-selling franchise, hits store shelves this December. However, the World of Warcraft has just undergone changes of cataclysmic proportions both for old and new players; the world has changed forever, damaged beyond repair by the evil dragon Deathwing and his elemental and cultist minions. Blizzard, the game’s developer, used this storyline opportunity to revamp, re-do, and re-populate virtually every aspect of World of Warcraft. The game is no longer six years old: everything is brand new, including all new zones, content, quests, items, and more.

World of Warcraft offers gamers the chance to immerse themselves in an ever-changing fantasy world, where quests, battles, adventures, and more await them. Players control their own customizable avatar, picking one of ten classes (warriors, mages, warlocks, death knights, and more) and twelve customizable classes, including the all new worgen, a vicious race of werewolves, and the goblins, a tech-savvy race of gold lovers.

Minecraft

Minecraft has completely rocked the world of indie gaming over the past several months. Initially developed in just a week by Markus “Notch” Persson, an indie game developer, Minecraft offers players an endless “sandbox” world building 3D environment where they can explore, build, create, and run in terror to their hearts desire. The game – still in alpha – has sold over 500,000 copies since its launch.

Players in Minecraft start off in a random “spawning zone”, given no tools but surrounded by elements in nature used to mine, construct, and craft to their heart’s content. By day, players can collect the ore needed to construct tools and the earth needed to build huts, fortresses, landmarks, hollow-volcano-lairs, and more – the possibilities are endless. By night, the terrors come out to play; armed with a sword or bow, miners must take to their fortified buildings to hide from the creepers, spiders, skeletons, and more. Players only interested in the world building aspect of Minecraft can disable these features by either entering world building mode or setting their game play mode to “peaceful”.

This highly addictive game literally offers players an endless amount of entertainment in both single player and multiplayer modes. We highly recommend checking out some of the more amazing Minecraft creations, such as a medieval fortress, a server full of brilliant creations, kingdoms, and more.

Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Blizzard Entertainment has finally delivered their to 1998’s international hit StarcraftStarcraft 2: Wings of Liberty is a sci-fi real time strategy (RTS) game similar to their previous RTS hit, Warcraft 3. Wings of Liberty’s storyline picks up just four years after the events of Brood War.  Jim Raynor, our main hero, is still fighting off the Zerg, the alien race hell-bent on destroying the universe, while trying to rescue his former love interest, Sarah Kerrigan. Campaign mode is nothing short of brilliant, featuring enticing and challenging gameplay, as well as Blizzard’s highly renowned cinematics to aid storylines (without hampering gameplay). Multiplayer has lived up to the hype and expectation, delivering a challenging and enjoyable environment to compete in leagues against millions of players around the world. Players have the option of playing as one of three races; Terran, Protoss, or Zerg. Terran are a race consisting of humans led by Jim Raynor himself.  Protoss are a race of religious humanoid warriors with technology much more advanced than technology found elsewhere.  Zerg are vile insect-like aliens featuring abilities allowing them to mutate and evolve into many different creatures, all controlled by a single hive mind.

The Starcraft franchise is known for setting the bar extremely high for its depth, balanced races, and intensity. Whether you are new to Starcraft or you have been playing for years, you will find many surprises, stories, and characters to keep you coming back time and time again. This is a fantastic title for new players, as it requires no knowledge of previous storylines to play and enjoy the game.

Assassin’s Creed 3: Brotherhood

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, developed by Ubisoft, is a third person action-adventure primarily focused on the sandbox-style gameplay in the open world of Italy.  Brotherhood carries the same core mechanics as its previous installments; parkour movements throughout the entire city, crowd-blending stealth tactics, quick and stylish assassinations and an epic melee combat system.  The game also introduces a brand new system where the player can actually recruit members to their brotherhood by destroying any of the “Borgia towers” around Rome.  Ezio, our protagonist in this story, can then use his new recruits for assassination assignments or even as support on his current missions.

Brotherhood is the first in the series to give us a multiplayer option.  Multiplayer gives us four game modes and maps.  The gameplay is similar to the single player style of the series and forces players to use stealth to assassinate their targets.  Breaking cover will make the player visible to other gamers and a much easier target for assassination.

With all the new tricks up Ezio’s sleeve and the exciting multiplayer gameplay, this game is surely an excellent addition to your game shelf. We definitely recommend!

Rock Band 3

Rock Band 3 is the third main game of the increasingly popular Rock Band series. Released in October, this edition features yet another instrument for gamers to master – the keyboard. The keyboard can be used in the traditional sense, on a flat surface, or worn as a keytar. It has 25 full-sized keys and is MIDI-compatible, allowing it to be used outside of the game. As if an additional instrument wasn’t enough, Harmonix added a “Pro” mode, which was designed to more accurately mimic the playing of real instruments. When in Pro mode, the player may select different difficulty levels which still require increased accuracy, but aim at helping ease the player into the new style of playing.

There is no question that Rock Band 3 and all of its new features will be a highly requested item on Christmas lists this year; and with 83 songs offered on this game alone, and over 1,000 accessible through downloadable content, this series will never get old.

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Developed by Treyarch, Call of Duty: Black Ops is the exciting seventh installment of the Call of Duty series. This insanely popular first-person shooter series allows the gamer to take control of a foot soldier and experience war in all its glory from their living room. In Black Ops, the player assumes control of several characters throughout the campaign in various black operations behind enemy lines as the mystery of “Nova-6”, an experimental weaponized gas, is uncovered. As fantastic as the campaign is, most gamers follow the franchise for the online multiplayer action.

The multiplayer customization has been significantly upgraded since Modern Warfare 2. Players may now fully customize their weapons with writing, emblems, attachments, and camouflage painting. Even the weapon’s reticule can be modified. In addition, there are different styles for attachments; each have the same traits but feature an altered look. New killstreak rewards have been added, which include explosive RC cars, guided missiles, and controllable attack helicopters. As if all of these improvements were not enough, the infamous zombie mode has returned! Made famous in World at War, zombie mode allows the player to defend against waves of zombies, starting with nothing more than a pistol. With each zombie slain, money is awarded which can be used to buy new weapons or ammo, located around the map. Call of Duty: Black Ops will definitely be a stocking stuffer this year.

Epic Mickey

Disney’s Epic Mickey is an interesting game which features many of Disney’s oldest characters, such as Yen Sid, Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit, and the Shadow Blot. The sorcerer Yen Sid (representing Walt Disney) had created a pen-and-paper world for “things that have been forgotten” (which represent Walt Disney’s forgotten and rejected creations). This model lays on a table in Yen Sid’s study. The story begins when Mickey enters Yen Sid’s study through a magic mirror in his house and accidentally creates the Shadow Blot which ends up inside the model, twisting it into a ravaged wasteland. Years later, Mickey had forgotten about this incident until the Blot enters the house through the mirror and pulls Mickey into it. Mickey’s epic journey begins, as he attempts to destroy his accidental creation.

Epic Mickey is primarily an open-ended platform game with some RPG elements and allows players to come up with their own solutions for getting through levels. When traveling through different sections of the Wasteland, Mickey enters 2D side-scrolling levels which are based on classic cartoon shorts, such as Steamboat Willie and Clock Cleaners. Epic Mickey is on sale now, just in time for the holidays.

Donkey Kong Country Returns

After more than a decade, the Donkey Kong Country Returns! Featuring classic elements from the Donkey Kong Country series, such as the golden “KONG” letters, collecting bananas, swinging from vine to vine, and the infamous mine cart levels, DKCR is the classic side scrolling game we all love. Play as Donkey Kong as he battles the animals on DK Island who have stolen his bananas while under the control of the evil Tiki Tak Tribe. Cranky Kong returns to run his shops as the only returning member of the Kong family other than Donkey and Diddy Kong.

The game also contains the Super Guide feature which has appeared in New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2; that is, if the player loses 8 lives in a single level, they will be given the option to allow Super Kong to take over and auto-complete the level for them. This feature makes the game playable by even beginning gamers. This game is bananas!

Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2

Whether you are a fan of the series, or just like Tekken-style fighting games, we highly recommend looking into Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2. Featuring 23 interactive and destructible stages and 44 characters from the Shippuden series, NUNS 2 is an action-packed fighting game with hours of game-play. Players will unlock new Jutsu and Ultimate Jutsu for the characters as the story mode progresses. Players also have the option of choosing support characters which they can call in when they are in a pinch; the supports can block an attack, buy time to regain chakra, or join in a combo attack for maximum damage. They will also automatically summon themselves to help the player when necessary, such as when the player has low health and is about to take a fatal blow. Finally, when summoned enough times, the support characters can be used to activate a Team Ultimate Jutsu, which severely drains the opponent’s chakra and does significant damage.

Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 has definitely outdone itself in continuing the Ultimate Ninja Storm series and will make a welcome addition to every gamer’s collection.

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About Author

Mike Macauley

Mike Macauley is the founder and editor in chief of Lytherus.com. He also founded and runs Shurtugal.com, the official Inheritance Cycle community, and published his book, The Inheritance Almanac, in 2011. Mike can be found on Twitter at @mikemacauley.

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