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God of War Reviews – Are They All Relevant?

Yo.

Hey.

How you doin’?

It’s been a while, huh? Well… tough.

So today, kiddies, let’s talk about reviews. More specifically, game reviews. Even more specifically (specificallier? Maybe not), game reviews for the new God of War by Santa Monica Studio on the Sony PS4.

GOW-OG-imageThere are plenty of them out there. No doubt you’ve seen your fair share if you’re into that kind of thing. There are the usual over the top, inane gushings of the fanatical fans. There are the more considered, thoughtful and detailed descriptions (both positive and negative) from those who are more interested in the actual game than the IP, developing studio or platform.

And then there are the reviews from people who just seem to want to jump on the reviewing bandwagon for a much publicised triple-A game in order to up their view count.

Gotta get them YouTube views up, even if you are talking shit, amirite? Right!

The first two types are to be expected and welcomed. The fawning, fan-boying reviews are a good benchmark to judge the independent ones by. As in all reviews, you should pay just as much attention to how the reviewer has arrived at their final conclusion as to the actual conclusion itself.

Which brings us to the subject of today’s little rant – those who do reviews because it’s a big name title just for the exposure, even if it’s a game or genre they’re not that interested in.

Now, don’t get me wrong, God of War isn’t the only game this happens to, it just happens to be the most relevant right now as it has only just been released, and I’m still playing it.

Yes, I like the game a lot, but no, I haven’t got a bee in my bonnet because of negative reviews. In fact, some of the bandwagon reviews are completely positive. They’re still talking bullshit though.

As a side note – I happen to write game reviews for an online publication (under a pseudonym), so I do have a vested interest in all of this. No, I’m not going to let you know who I write for, I value my privacy, and I’m not here to advertise for anybody (though if you pay me lots I might consider it). Occasionally I’ll write a personal opinion piece on this blog, which won’t differ too much, it’ll just be a bit more, well, personal.

Anyway, back to it. The game was released last Friday, and the first review I saw for it (not including the journalistic reviews written pre-release after playing advance copies) was an hour after the release. An hour! It happened to be a good review but still, how much playing of the game was done in that hour, bearing in mind the review itself needed to be written in that time too?

A few things from some of these bandwagon reviews that bugged me include –

  • A positive review waxed lyrical about the obvious love and affection between the main character, Kratos, and his son, Atreus, right from the beginning of the game. This isn’t the case at all.
  • One reviewer remarked how they liked the blue paint Kratos wore. The colour is, in fact, red (which is almost blue, I guess, in a certain light. Like total darkness). It’s also a tattoo, not paint.
  • A reviewer stated that their biggest problem with the game was the fact that they had changed the voice actor for Kratos, and he didn’t sound the same as he did in the previous games. This was the main reason for their 6 out of 10 mark.
  • Another reviewer disliked the main attack buttons being the controller’s trigger buttons. A quick look at the game settings reveals this can be changed. The same reviewer also heavily disliked the motion blur and film graining. These can also be lowered or turned off completely in the settings. As a result the reviewer stated that the controls were “ass” (obviously an advanced technical term), and the game made him feel nauseous (nit-picking: nauseated would have been the correct term) because of the blur.
  • A reviewer complained that the game’s map was too cluttered with icons. Yep, you guessed it, these can be altered to suit.
  • Another reviewer commented that while the game looks really good graphically, it would look a whole lot better on a high end PC. Well yes, no shit, Sherlock.
  • The best complaint of all, and a main reason for the reviewer marking the game down, was the fact the game didn’t tell you where the hidden things were, you had to go and look for them. You actually have to go out and search for the hidden items? Damn, no wonder it’s a bad game!

So what’s the point of all this, you may ask? Well, not much, to be honest, just a bit of a rant on my part. But also it stands as a piece of advice to be wary about a lot of “reviews”. Make sure you understand why the reviewer came to their conclusions, and that those reasons make sense to you. The best thing to do is find a reviewer who holds most of the same opinions as yourself, likes most of the same games and game genres as you, and keeps you entertained. Stick with their reviews and take others with a pinch of salt.

And of course, the best review of all – play the game yourself, whatever it may be, and make up your own mind.

As stated earlier, I’m currently playing the new God of War, and enjoying it immensely, though I can appreciate why some people might not like it as much, if at all. I’ll write a personal opinion piece and post it on here once I’ve completed it.

Maybe.

As always, that shallot.

Laters…

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Posted by on April 24, 2018 in Gaming, Rant

 

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Fortnite: Battle Royale

The doors of the bus clank open, inviting you to disembark. You hesitate, unsure whether this is really where you want to get off. A deep breath, a shrug of your shoulders, and you step out, to plummet hundreds of feet down towards the ground below.

To your north, Loot Lake sparkles in the early morning sunlight. Greasy Grove lies to your west, close enough for you to be able to make out its individual buildings. You can see a dozen free-falling bodies heading in that direction, so you swing around to the east. Retail Row lies in the far distance, but Fatal Fields is closer. You adjust your heading and drop towards the farm.

As your glider deploys, slowing your descent to a less terrifying speed, you glance around. You can’t see any other gliders in the area, but you know that doesn’t mean you’re on your own. A long, red barn lies on the edge of the farmstead and you head towards it, sighing with relief as your feet finally touch solid ground. Rough planks of wood cover the barn’s entrance, but they prove to be no obstacle for your pickaxe. The old wood splinters and splits, and then you’re inside.

You’ve been here before, plenty of times, and you know there’s good loot to be found. But this time it seems your luck has run out. There isn’t a glowing chest on the shelf above the entrance. Damn. You run to the far end of the barn and enter a small room there. But again, no chest. What the hell? Back out into the centre of the barn you check the stalls on either side. Some bandages. A few shotgun shells. A couple of rocket grenades. And finally, a pistol with ammunition. At last! It isn’t the best of weapons, but it’s better than nothing.

Armed with the pistol, you pause, listening. Gunfire rattles in the distance, but it’s not close, and not in the direction you intend to head. All is quiet in your general area – no crash and crack as somebody demolishes the environment for building materials, no thump of running footsteps as an adversary looks for their own loot. Silence.

A quick check of your map ascertains the circle is to your north-west, but not too far away. There should be time for you to explore the other farm buildings, surely one of them will contain better weapons. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Another deep breath, and you’re off, scampering across the bare dirt towards the farmhouse.

Rat-tat-tat! The unmistakable sound of a burst-fire weapon rings out in the still air. Bullets thump into your back. You stagger, trying your best to turn around, raising your meagre pistol as you do so. You squeeze the trigger and your weapon fires with a loud report, the bullet flying away into the distance, not even close to hitting your assailant. Your health is dangerously low, you’re outgunned, but still you try to get off another shot, maybe you’ll get lucky.

Your attacker switches weapons as they approach, a pump-action shotgun now grasped in their murdering hands. You both pull your respective triggers at the same time. Your bullet hits the fence post next to your opponent. Their shot hits you full in the face.

Game over. You grin, swear at the RNG gods, and prepare to try again.

fortnite battle royale

The above describes some of my games in Fortnite: Battle Royale pretty well. Truth be told, it describes quite a lot of my games. I’m not very good at it, you see.

But does that matter? No, of course not. I find the game to be a lot of fun, and surely having fun in a game is a lot more important than being good at it. Some may disagree, but tough, this is my blog, not yours.

So what, exactly, is Fortnite: Battle Royale (or FNBR for short)? Released by Epic Games in September 2017, it’s a stand-alone and free to play game, set in the same ‘universe’ as Epic Games’ base game, Fortnite. It’s important to note that the base game isn’t required to play the Battle Royale version (as a side note, the base game will be released as free to play later this year).

“Okay, yes, that’s nice. But just what is a Battle Royale game?” nobody asks, but I’ll answer anyway.

Wikipedia describes the genre as – “A battle royale game is a video game genre that blends the survival, exploration and scavenging elements of a survival game with last man standing gameplay. Battle royale games challenge a large number of players, starting with minimal equipment, to search for weapons and armor and eliminate other opponents all while avoiding being trapped outside of a shrinking “safe area”, with the winner being the last competitor in the game. The name for the genre is taken from the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale.”

FNBR Freefall

Wikipedia also describes Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode as – “…up to 100 players…all start with no equipment outside of a pickaxe for resource gathering, and parachute onto the map. Once they land, they can scavenge for weapons, armor, and resources, the latter which can be used to make structures… Over time, a “storm” surrounds the area, and makes it so that the “safe” area of the map shrinks down in size. Once the “safe” area has shrunk to the smaller circle on the map… it will generate, at a random location, a smaller circle within. Those caught outside the area take damage and potentially die if they remain outside it too long. There are also random air drops of resources, weapons and items… with varying randomized items determined by rarity.”

Exciting stuff. No? Just me then. And the millions of players currently playing the two most popular games in the genre – Fortnite: Battle Royale and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds.

It’s a simple premise for a video game, and that is one of the major attractions. Unlike most games with a deep progression system, which require countless hours of dedicated gaming to advance through, Battle Royale games can be picked up and played whenever a player feels like it. Half an hour to spare? Cool, you can jump in and play a game or two. Just like video arcade games of old, you start every new game from scratch, nothing carries over into the next game (cosmetic items aside). Games can last up to twenty or thirty minutes, or for just a few minutes if you play like me.

The social aspect of these games is also a major selling point. Games can be played solo, in pairs with a friend, or in squads of up to four players. A few beers, a few friends, and you’re good to go for a few hours entertainment. There’s little downtime between games, but you only start when you’re ready, so you can take as long as you like.

Fortnite: Battle Royale sets itself apart by being a lot more light-hearted than other games in the same genre. The cartoony style of the graphics sets the not so serious tone, and the gameplay matches this. The biggest differences between FNBR and it’s ‘competitors’ are the ability to destroy the environment, and the ability to build structures.

Your opponent is hiding behind a tree or large rock? No problem. Repeatedly shoot said tree or rock, or fire off a well placed RPG or two, and they’ll soon be without cover. Don’t forget that they can also do the same to you, too! The same goes for buildings, they’re not the safe havens they are in other Battle Royale games, and can be destroyed quite easily.

fornite-building

Want to get up to the top of that cliff? No problem, use the build tool to construct a ramp up to the top. Need a bit of a breather in relative safety? Again, no problem, just build yourself a fort to rest in. Structures can be manufactured from wood, brick or metal, the materials required are gathered from the objects you ‘harvest’ with your trusty pickaxe. These structures are also fairly easy to destroy, however, so have a care!

Being quick on the build is also extremely useful when coming under fire. Players can quickly construct a barrier between themselves and their attacker, giving themselves a few extra seconds to either go on the offensive, or run away.

I freely admit I’m no good at the quick building part, which is probably why I haven’t as yet won a solo game. I’ve come close, surviving until the last two on one occasion (until I fell off a cliff trying to get an angle on the other player), and I quite often get into the top 10. But no wins. Yet.

But the win will come, in time, of that I’m sure. Because despite being no good at building, despite not being the world’s best player of third person shooters (or any shooters, for that matter), Fortnite: Battle Royale is, without a doubt, a lot of fun to play. And it’s that fun factor which will keep me going back for more, time and again.

So, if you like shooters, or are just looking for something new and fun to play, you could do worse than give Fortnite: Battle Royale a go. Sure, it’s still in early access, so occasional issues are to be expected (and Epic Games do a sterling job of keeping on top of those issues, and also in listening to their community) but it’s FREE, and available on PS4, Xbox and PC. So what have you got to lose?

Apart from maybe your dignity.

As always, that shallot.

Laters…

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Posted by on January 6, 2018 in Gaming

 

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Assassin’s Creed: Origins… thoughts.

AC Origins

“…the silver disc of the moon peeks out from behind a cloud, painting the buildings and surrounding dunes a muted monochrome. From your perch atop the three storey mud-brick building you have an uninterrupted view of the entire desert fort. Several small structures cluster around this larger central one, all of which are surrounded by a thick wall standing almost fifteen feet high. This wall, which forms a rough, protective square around the compound, provides an excellent defence against the imagined phantoms of the night.

A wry smile touches your lips. That same wall proved no obstacle at all for the real enemy. You.

Heavy footsteps crunch the compacted dirt somewhere below. You peer over the edge of the tall construction, but the thick shadows are impenetrable, masking whoever is down there. A gruff voice calls out, asking the sentry at the gate if all is well. Curses follow when there is no reply. There will never be a reply, you muse. That particular sentry had felt the steel of your blade as it sliced his throat from ear to ear.

The owner of the voice steps out of the shadows into the pale moonlight. Even from this height the breadth of his shoulders mark him as a large, powerful man. Your breathing quickens. The leopard skin cape draped from those broad shoulders, the large, spiked steel-headed mace clutched like a child’s toy in his huge fist, both denote him as your intended target. The man you travelled five days across the unforgiving desert to assassinate.

You stand up, balancing easily on the outer rim of the flat roof. A deep breath, calming the underlying excitement. A quick check of your blades, and then you step out into thin air, plunging towards your victim, a bird of prey swooping down onto its quarry…” 

birdie

Have you ever wanted to be a master assassin, bringing death to your foes in a bygone era?

No? Just me then. Except the popularity of the Assassin’s Creed series from Ubisoft proves it’s not just me, after all.

boatingThe newest instalment in that long line of video games is Assassin’s Creed: Origins. This one takes you all the way back to the beginning of the Assassins, set in the twilight years of ancient Egypt. That’s an era that I’ve always had an interest in, and so I was looking forward to the game from its initial announcement.

Safe to say, I wasn’t disappointed, as the 100 hours gameplay I put in during the first ten viewdays after the game’s release testifies to. I finished the story. I visited all the places and collected all the things. I got the platinum trophy (I play on PS4). And I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m not done with the game, either. It’s still a lot of fun to dive back into that ancient world, plus the developers have plans to add extra content, both free and paid for, which will hopefully add a lot more hours of enjoyment.

So why, exactly, do I like Assassin’s Creed: Origins so much? Am I a die-hard Assassin’s Creed fan? Well, no, I am not. In fact, the only other game in the franchise I’ve played is Black Flag, because pirates. Who doesn’t want to be a pirate, am I right? No? Just me again then. Truth be told, I didn’t enjoy that game as much as I thought I was going to, and as such I’ve never completed it. Not even come close to completing it.

kittiesOrigins was a different animal though. Ubisoft promised a very, very large open-world environment. They said they had re-vamped the gameplay, adding a more RPG feel to it, and completely overhauled the combat system. That was enough for me to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially when coupled with the ancient Egyptian setting. In my opinion Ubisoft delivered on all of their promises.

Is the game perfect? No, of course not. Very few, if any,  video games are. Besides which, what constitutes perfection differs from person to person. It’s almost as if different people like different things. Shock horror. But, for me, Assassin’s Creed: Origins has far more positive points than negative ones, and that can only be a good thing.

bugsJust what are all of these positive and negative points? Forgive me, but I’m not going to list every last one, this is just a ‘my thoughts’ piece, not an in depth review. So let’s start with some of the positives.

The story line. I really enjoyed the story in this game. I can’t go into too much detail because that would end up with major spoilers, but it had me engrossed, and I was really able to emphasise with the major characters. I felt for them too, things weren’t easy. There were also very few trips back to ‘reality’ via the Animus, and those few trips were short and sweet, so your immersion isn’t broken too much.

Map size. The map in Assassin’s Creed: Origins is huge. I travelled in a straight line from north to south, on foot, on horseback, on boats, depending on the terrain, and it took me Afternoon strolltwenty minutes. I also did the same west to east, and though the distance looks shorter it took me the same amount of time. I’ve heard various people say that the majority of the map is empty, and while this is somewhat true, it’s not the entire story. You are, after all, in ancient Egypt, so the majority of cities and settlements will be clustered around water sources, and as such there is a lot of wilderness out there. But it’s not as empty as looking at the map might suggest. Go for a wander and find out what really is out there.

Combat. As promised, Ubisoft really did overhaul the combat system. You feel as though ohgodyou’re a lot more involved in the combat sequences, with the availability of light and hard hits, combos, special moves, and the all important ability to dodge. You have a large variety of weapons to choose from to match your playstyle, including straight swords, sickles, heavy blunts, sceptres, dual daggers, lances, various shields and a collection of differing bows. Each weapon type has it’s own moveset and special ability.

Visuals. The game looks gorgeous. I played on a basic PS4 and the visuals were still very Long way to goimpressive. Those of you who know me will know that in open world video games I’m a bit of an explorer, and can’t resist climbing the next hill to see what’s on the other side. In a lot of games this is frustrating as the draw distance is so limited you fail to get any sense of scale. Not so In Origins. In this game you can see for miles, and really get the sense that you’re in the middle of a vast and sweeping land. There is incredible detail in everything you can see, even down to the small insects. Hours can also be wasted with the built-in camera option (all the images in this post are from my play through, taken with the in-game camera).

So what about some of the negatives? Well, for me, one of the main ones is the skill tree. When you first open it up you see that it has three branches – hunter, warrior and seer. In RPG terms these basically equate to dexterity/agility, strength and magic. I initially looked divingforward to creating a character based on one of those skill branches – I usually play a dex build in games like that, so I was looking at the hunter branch. As it turns out, as you progress through the game you’re able to acquire the majority of skills in all three of the branches, you just have to decide which ones you would like first. I was a little disappointed, as I would have like to have been able to create a character based on how I like to play, instead of ending up with a generic one, basically the same as any other player’s. A minor point, but still, it would have been nice.

Also, sometimes the character movement seemed to be a bit clunky. I’d either get stuck on tomb1some seemingly innocuous part of the landscape, or I’d end up jumping from the top of a cliff instead of climbing down it like I wanted to. This is a problem in a lot of games, to be fair, but getting killed by bad game mechanics rather than something in the game itself, or your own stupidity, is always annoying.

At various places across the vast landscape you might just happen across a tomb, either in a tomb2pyramid, of which there are several, or hidden in the side of a cliff, in a canyon, or cave. I would really have liked to have seen these tombs to be a lot longer/deeper, and a lot more challenging with the amount of traps and puzzles contained within them. The result of watching too many Mummy movies over the years, I guess.

So, all in all, as I’ve already stated, I really enjoyed playing Assassin’s Creed: Origins. I had a blast playing it, and am looking forward to playing a lot more of it with the upcoming added DLCs. In my opinion it was very good value for money. It cost me £50, and so far that has worked out at 50p per hour. Bargain.

sunset

Just remember though that all of this is just my opinion, and should be treated as such. As always, if you want to buy a game, then it’s up to you to do your own research and make up your own mind.

As always, that shallot.

Laters…

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Posted by on November 12, 2017 in Gaming

 

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Diary of an Explorer #2

Elite Dangerous

Ship’s Log: Star Date 3303-07-28

A quick entry – more from embarrassment than the lack of anything to say.

I left Lembava, full of high spirits, visions of glorious adventure in my mind. 3000ly years out I decided to land on a moon to pick up a few minerals for my FMV. My mother always told me I was too hasty growing up, that I needed to slow down and smell the roses once in a while. Well, you know what? She was right.

Guess who never checked the moon’s gravity before going in to land?

Yes, that’s right, this bad boy, that’s who. In too much of a hurry.

Cruising down to the surface to land I though it seemed I was going a bit too fast. No bother, I thought, I can handle this. Wrong. Vertical thrusters on full I still pancaked onto the barren, rock strewn landscape. My shields vanished, alarms sounded, my cockpit cracked.

Yep, gravity sucks.

CMDR ABCurtiss

Look, mom, I’m a less than competent pilot.

Fortunately my momentum bounced my ship back up, and with full power to everything I had my Star Dancer was able to make it back into orbit. Using the FMV I managed to repair everything, apart from the FMV itself and the power plant. As both had sustained over 40% damage, I though the smart and prudent course of action was to head back to the Bubble for repairs.

I know, I’m a fool.

I am now docked at Ising Vision in the Neto system, home of the famous Pixel Bandits Security Force. They were gracious enough to accept me into their ranks, even after my amateurish error.

All systems are fully repaired and operational, so I leave tonight on my grand adventure (again).

Let’s just pretend my little mishap never happened, deal?

Deal.

Onward!

CMDR ABCurtiss signing off.

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Diary of an Explorer #1

Elite Dangerous

Star Date 3303-07-24

Well, here we are. It is time.

Life in the Bubble is chaotic, and I’ve had enough. Humankind’s uncontrolled urge to wipe themselves out in the name of peace, all in the pursuit of power and dominance, has driven me to the edge of… what exactly? Losing my mind? The fabled lost isle of Insanity? Probably not, and if I’m honest – which I can be, occasionally – I’m fairly certain that my so called sanity is far from what it should be anyway.

But no. It’s far simpler than that. Humankind, in its present form, just makes me sick to my stomach. The greed, the incessant need for power, the corruption, the endless wars, the needless deaths of the innocent – I can’t take it any more.

Yes, yes. I know. I’m far from an angel myself. I’ve smuggled stolen goods. I’ve relieved traders of their cargo – piracy, as some would call it. I’ve traded on the black market. I’ve even shot down fellow smugglers and pirates so I could collect their bounties, therefore enriching myself further.

So call me a hypocrite if you must, I’ll not deny it. But there comes a time when enough is enough, and this is that time. Have I seen the light? Ha! Do me a favour. But still… I can’t take it any more. I can’t remember the last time I slept more than a few hours at a time. Nightmares plague me. The illicit alcohol I’ve taken to drinking in the hope it’ll make me sleep soundly only gives me the worst hangovers. I have the shakes every morning. I’m becoming an alcoholic.

That’s why, for a while now, I’ve been hanging out in the Lembava system. That Li Yong-Rui runs a tight ship for an Independent, I have to admit, but I’m not here for him. I’m here for the discount on ships and parts. The Credits I had stashed away, added to those I made when I sold my trusty Cobra, were enough for me to buy an Asp Explorer and outfit her the way I wanted.

Star Dancer

Star Dancer – ship ID: T4T3R5

Star Dancer, as I named her, is good for only one thing – exploring. I have piloted her for thousands of light years and so I know her inside out. I persuaded that eccentric engineer Felicity Farseer to work on my ship, and that, coupled with my custom outfitting, has given Star Dancer a jump range of just over 51LY. 51.16, to be exact.

She is my ticket out of here, out of the Bubble. Away from so called civilisation. Some say spending too long out in the dark, all alone, will drive a Commander mad. Well, what of it? I’m most of the way there already. At least it will be peaceful.

And I might just get to see some awe inspiring sights on the road to madness. Who knows. Only one way to find out.

I leave tonight. To where, I have no idea. Only that it will be a very, very, very long way from here.

This ship’s log, this diary, will be a record of my journey.

Onward!

CMDR ABCurtiss signing out

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Gaming – What’s Being Played?

Elite Dangerous

On the 27th of this month – that’s June, if you’re not keeping track – the massively multiplayer space epic Elite: Dangerous finally arrives on PS4. In 22 days and 10 hours, at the time of writing this post, to be exact.

Am I looking forward to it? Yes, yes I am.

If you’ve read my previous ‘thoughts and opinions’ posts on a few other games you might have gathered that I’m an adventurer at heart. And you’d be quite correct – I always want to know what’s around the next corner, what’s over the next hill. Onward, ever onward. Way back in the mists of time when I first started playing World of Warcraft the first title I earned was the Explorer one. I was far too low level for a lot of the areas but nevertheless I had to persevere, had to uncover all of the map, just to see what was there.

That adventurous spirit is why I like No Man’s Sky so much. It is, after all, a game which is all about exploring and discovering. I played it to death when it first came out, getting the platinum trophy the month after the game’s release, and I still pop back into that colourful galaxy every now and then. Elite: Dangerous has the same attraction for me. Billions of star systems to explore, each with their own orbiting planets and moons, is too much of an attraction to resist.

But, as I said earlier, Elite: Dangerous isn’t released for the PS4 until the end of this month. So what am I playing in the meantime? As I’m busy writing these days, coupled with a few other commitments, I don’t have as much time for video games as I’d like, and so you’d expect I wouldn’t be playing many different games.

Ha, yeah, right.

The current ‘installed games’ list on my PS4 and its 1tb external drive – in no particular order – reads as follows –

Mafia III, The Elder Scrolls Online, Doom, Batman: Arkham Knight, No Man’s Sky, Nioh, Tales from the Borderlands, The Crew, Titanfall 2, Driveclub, Grand Theft Auto V, Dark Souls III, Bloodborne, The Walking Dead Seasons 1 & 2, This War of Mine: The Little Ones, Project Cars, Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Division, Destiny, Far Cry: Primal, Far Cry 4, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Dirt Rally, Trials Fusion, Terraria, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Salt and Sanctuary, Final Fantasy XV, LittleBigPlanet 3, Pac-Man, The Deadly Tower of Monsters, Super Stardust Ultra, Just Cause 3, ARK: Survival Evolved, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Battlefield 4, Battlefield 1, Dying Light, Fallout 4, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Firewatch, Star Wars: Battlefront, Rocket League, The Golf Club, The Last of Us Remastered, The Witcher III: Wildhunt, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Steep, Uno, Minecraft.

In all honesty, and probably obviously, I’m not playing all of them. The one I find myself playing the most lately is Mafia III. I should be a lot further on in the story than I am right now, but I waste far too much time just driving around picking up all the collectables. I jump into Driveclub now and then, as blasting your favourite car along a mountain road is always fun. After watching a friend play Elder Scrolls Online lately I hopped back into that, but only for a brief moment. I loaded my level 50 toon, only to be informed I needed to re-allocate my skills points, so I’ll save that for a later date. Battlefield 1 and GTA V are always firm favourites as well, along with the wasted hour or three in No Man’s Sky hopping from planet to planet.

And so there you have it, a completely pointless blog post born out of boredom.

Elite: Dangerous needs to hurry up.

What games are you all playing lately?

As always, that shallot.

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Posted by on June 4, 2017 in Gaming

 

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Horizon: Zero Dawn – Opinion

HZD

Horizon: Zero Dawn, by Guerrilla Games, has been available to buy and play since March 1st, here in the UK. It’s been touted as one of the best games ever, with mainstream reviewers awarding it, on average, a little over 9 out of 10, which in gaming terms does indeed make it seem like HZD could well be the game to have.

But does the game deserve such a high review score?

Well, in my opinion (and please bear in mind, this is just my opinion, it doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things), no, it does not deserve such a high mark. I don’t generally rate games out of 10, as that is all subjective, but in order to bring my opinion in line with the reviewers’ way of rating a game I will, in this case, award the game a score.

After playing Horizon: Zero Dawn from start to finish (on hard), completing the storyline, completing all side missions and errands, destroying all bandit camps, clearing all corrupted zones, and collecting all collectables, I would give this game a solid 8 out of 10.

Cue the outrage. The gasps of horror. “But Alen, how could you be so mean to such an outstanding video game?”

The answer is simple: I’m not being “mean”, I’m just voicing my honest opinion. So, let’s get to it, shall we. Just why am I going against the accepted grain? Well, firstly, let’s look at what Horizon: Zero Dawn has going for it.

The Pros

Horizon: Zero Dawn, without a doubt, looks amazing. The picture at the start of this piece was taken from my playthrough, and as good as that image looks, it still does not do justice to how exceptional the visuals in this game are. The first region you explore after leaving the tutorial is dominated by the ruins of a large city. Skeletal skyscrapers lean at drunken angles, rivers flow where bustling streets once would have run. As you explore you begin to feel the tragic history of this land, and it bodes well for what you expect to find and explore later on.

As well as the sweeping vistas, the main antagonists in the game – the Machines – also look fantastic. They are exceedingly well created, move with the grace of real, living creatures, and certainly look as if they belong in the landscape.

The sense of peril and danger you feel as you wander around this post-apocalyptic land is very prevalent. Each one of those finely crafted Machines can, and will, kill you. They have good sight lines and will spot you at a distance. None of them are friendly, and even the small ones, the ones you can kill in one or two hits, will gang up and take you out. Running away is, as always, an option, but you’ll quickly discover that quite a few of your mechanical adversaries come furnished with lasers, grenade launchers, flamethrowers, and a number of other just as lethal armaments.

And… well, that’s about it for the pros. A depressingly short list.

The Cons

Referring back to the ruined city in the first region, and what it promises for the rest of the game… well, it fails to deliver. Apart from a very few isolated areas, ruins of ‘the Ancients’ are non-existent, and that, for me, was a big let down. It meant the map for Horizon: Zero Dawn was far too similar to many other games of the same genre. Yes, you have glorious sweeping vista, but you lose all sense of wonder, all sense of the tragedy that befell ‘the Ancients’, simply because you lose all sight of them.

The sense of peril and danger you feel as you wander around this post-apocalyptic land is prevalent… yes, it is, but that feeling soon evaporates when you realise that you can fast travel to any previously discovered bonfire. These bonfires are far too numerous, and being able to warp to them from anywhere on the map, at any time – well, where’s the fun in that? That dangerous expedition you’re thinking of taking to the far corner of the map, just to see what’s there? Well, how dangerous is it really when you can just fast travel back to safety whenever things start looking a bit dicey?

On top of losing the sense of danger, this system also breaks your immersion in this world. If Aloy can purchase fast travel packs from merchants, including the Golden Fast Travel Pack for unlimited travel, it stands to reason that anybody in the game can also do this. So why aren’t they?

I’m not saying fast travel is a bad idea, but if it’s going to be included in a game then it should be an integral part of that game. There should be a valid reason for this magical ability to exist for characters. For example – Aloy learns the ability to override Machines in order to ride them or make them non-hostile to her. So why not have her also ‘learn’ the ability to fast travel, using teleport hubs located at relevant points (bonfires). A small detail, but it keeps the immersion going.

The storyline of Horizon:Zero Dawn is interesting, but far from gripping, and I found it very difficult to care about what happened to the majority of characters Aloy met on her travels. There were even a few occasions where I found myself thinking why I was bothering to help any of the tribes, and if there had been the option to obtain a ‘bad’ ending where Aloy failed and everything was obliterated I would’ve definitely aimed for that.

The only crafting in the game is ammunition for your limited array of weapons, and various potions. You can’t craft your own weapons or armour, you can only use what you find or buy. You can upgrade weapons and armour by using one, two or three upgrade components on them, depending on the item’s level. You can’t, though, put your own stamp on weapons and armour, you can’t customise anything visually.

You have no choice what items are on your ‘fast use’ bar. If it can go on there, and you’re carrying it, then on the bar it will be. This makes for some very clunky mechanics as you’re trying to find your health potions in the middle of a battle. Coupled with the ‘fast use’ bar’s habit of resetting itself to one particular item after a cut scene, even if you’d left it set to the said health potions, and it becomes a very frustrating experience.

Later in the game you will be given a new lance, and, if you’ve been exploring everything as you go, you’ll be able to unlock the Shield Weaver Outfit. The lance is very, very powerful as a weapon, and the outfit absorbs something like 98% of damage, with a very fast recharge time. Using these two items makes the rest of the game somewhat of a joke. Of course, you don’t have to use them, but by the time I had realised just how powerful and overpowered they were, it was too late.

Conclusion

Horizon:Zero Dawn isn’t a bad game, it’s a long way from being bad. But the storyline, missions, side missions, errands etc. don’t offer anything you wouldn’t find in any of the other games in the same genre. The Machines make for a new and interesting adversary in a video game, but once you’ve figured out their weak spots and the best way to take them down, none of them continue to be scary or a major threat throughout the entirety of the game.

None of the ‘cons’, above, are game breaking, and of course it can be argued that a lot, if not most, are minor complaints. But that’s the point of this opinion piece. There are enough of those minor complaints that, when all of them are put together in the context of the game as a whole, make a score of more than 8 out of 10 out of the question.

All in all, Horizon: Zero Dawn is an agreeable and fun game to play. Take your time, explore the world, and you’ll have a good time, especially if you enjoy games of this genre (which I do). But if you’re looking for something that will blow your mind, leave you gasping and panting for more, then this isn’t the one for you.

There is ample room for improvement, and with the way clearly opened for a sequel, here’s hoping that the next version of Aloy’s Adventures in Machine Land will be the game to completely blow everyone away.

Fingers crossed.

And there you have it. As usual, all of the above is just my opinion, and should be treated as such. You should do your own research, and make up your own mind, before spending any of your own money on a video game.

As always, that shallot.

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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Gaming

 

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