Category Archives: Gaming

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 you 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.


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.



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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…” 


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.


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.





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?



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.


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


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.


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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Ghost Recon: Wildlands – Impressions


In early March this year, two video games are being launched which I’m interested in. Namely, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and Horizon Zero Dawn. Tired of being let down by AAA games bought at launch, I’ve researched both of these titles, in a bid to make sure they are what I thought them to be.

Now, I’m not about to buy two big games in the space of a few days. Not because of the cost, though that should always be a factor, but because when I get a new game I like to play it until it’s completed. This would mean if I bought both, one would sit on a shelf, unplayed, until I was done with the other.

Which one to get, then? Both appeal to me because of the vast, open worlds in which they’re set – I’m an adventurer at heart, so I can happily waste a great deal of time exploring a vast, playable map. As a storyteller, I’m drawn to Horizon Zero Dawn because it appears to have an interesting and complex storyline, something I can really immerse myself in. Ghost Recon: Wildlands, on the other hand, has four player co-op, and that is what tipped the balance in its favour.

So when I was selected to take part in the closed beta for Wildlands, I saw it as a good chance to get stuck in and test it to death, to really ensure it met my expectations, and lived up to its promise.

I’m sorry to say, it failed in that regard.

Don’t get me wrong – the game has a lot of good points, and they may be enough for a lot of people to derive a great deal of enjoyment from it. So let’s start with those good points, shall we?

  • Gameplay: In Wildlands, players have the freedom to do as they wish, with the entire map being open to them from the start. You can hop into and operate any vehicle you see – a range of cars, pickups and SUVs, trucks, motorbikes, various boats, choppers, and aeroplanes. How to achieve a mission objective is entirely at the player’s discretion. Do you use total stealth, and sneak in like the ‘Ghost’ operative you’re supposed to be? Do you go loud, and blast everything you see into oblivion? Do you make use of the local rebels, and have them create a diversion for you? Maybe you’ll wait for the cover of darkness, or a passing storm, and make your move then. The choice is infinitely yours.
  • Visuals: Wildlands looks good – it’s bright and colourful, with impressive draw distances. This means you can crest a hill and be greeted by a sweeping vista of fields, forests and snaking rivers with a backdrop of rugged, snow-capped mountains. It really gives you a sense of being in a vast, wild land, reinforced by the knowledge that in the full game you can travel all the way to that distant mountain range.
  • Map Size: The map looks to be huge. The beta was restricted to one region, and that was big enough for a good few hours of intensive gameplay. This region, however, is only one of a total of twenty one, so take those hours of gameplay and multiply them by that number. Judging by the region available in the beta, it’s fair to make the assumption that the entire map will be full of a range of different terrains, and various objectives to keep you occupied.

Sounds good so far, right? And so it should – many game developers would be happy to achieve just a few of the above points. But, as previously alluded to, there are negative points. So let’s take a look.

  • Gameplay: While there is a great deal to do in Wildlands, with a broad range of ways to accomplish those things, the game seems to be unsure of just what it wants to be. Is it a ‘serious’ tactical shooter, making the player think about the best plan of action before attempting said plan? Or is it a more ‘arcadey’ game, with the emphasis firmly on fun? As it turns out, it’s neither of those – rather, it appears to be a bad mixture of the two. Using tactics, you could stay at a distance and use your sniper skills to quietly take out patrolling guards. This is badly let down, however, when the bodies of those you’ve silently killed just disappear. A ‘serious’ shooter would give patrolling NPCs the ability to spot dead bodies, and raise the alarm, making tactics and timing all important, but that is sadly lacking in this game.

    If you play with the three in-game AI co-op buddies, you can order them to do various things, from waiting where they are, to regrouping, and even coordinating synchronised take downs. Impressive stuff… but sadly let down when you quickly realise they can do all the work for you, taking all the fun out of it. For instance, when I arrived at the final boss fight of the beta, during the ensuing shootout, I got myself shot down (I was playing on the hardest difficulty). Your buddies have the ability to revive you, within a certain time frame, but the AI ones will only attempt this when it’s safe to do so. As a result, as I lay bleeding to death on the floor, my AI buddies took out all of the bad guys, including the final bosses, before reviving me. I’m less than proud to say I ‘beat’ the final bosses while slowly dying on the floor, without having fired a single shot in anger. Not fun.

    It is also fair to say that you stand more chance of being killed by a bad game mechanic than by legitimate gameplay. Having no jump ability means you can, from time to time, get caught up on a small obstacle which isn’t deemed high enough to trigger the ‘climb over’ mechanic. Having no dive, or roll, ability means if you’re caught unawares, you’re stuck there like a rabbit in headlights while all hell breaks loose around you. You can go prone, but doing so when under fire is always a bad idea.

    And why is it, when I jump into a big 4×4 and floor it in an attempted quick getaway, that flimsy looking tent in front of me, instead of folding like the piece of cloth it is, actually stays just where it is, while the front of my jeep crumples like soggy cardboard? C’mon, people, destructible environments! They are a thing you know.

  • Visuals: As mentioned above, Wildlands is bright and colourful, with impressive draw distances. But graphically, it is lacking. Now, I’m not particularly bothered by graphic quality, I much prefer to prioritise gameplay. And I’m well aware that to achieve large draw distances in a vast open world environment, certain things have to be sacrificed. But the game still looks bland, with various surfaces being dull and almost texture free. Also, in certain areas during a rain shower, the raindrops hitting the floor were represented by very large, very pixelated  ‘splashes’. Now, as this was just a beta, there is every chance that particular visual effect is incomplete, and will be fixed before the final release. But then, there is every chance it might not.
  • Map Size: Again, as mentioned above, the scale of the game’s map looks to be impressive, consisting of twenty one large regions. Which, for me, started alarm bells ringing. The gameplay in Wildlands reminded me very much of Far Cry 4 – namely, taking over the smaller outposts, before moving on to the large ones, and finally taking out the boss. Whilst that was fun, I couldn’t help but wonder if having to do that for each region, basically repeating the same actions twenty one times, would get tedious. Of course, I could be totally wrong in this, and every region might be completely different. There is no way to tell without playing the finished product.

There you go, some of what I consider to be a few of the more relevant good and bad points. On a side note, I have heard a few people comparing Ghost Recon: Wildlands to The Division. Why, I do not know, the two games are poles apart. Yes, they’re both 3rd person shooters, yes they’re both set in an open world. But that’s all. The Division, though being set in an ‘open world’, is still a cover based, linear shooter. The long, straight New York streets restrict your ability to roam freely, and they’re all chocked full of very handy abandoned vehicles, and various barricades which you can shelter behind while you engage the enemy. The ‘boss fights’ are similar – you go where you’re told, when you’re told, your own thoughts on possible tactics be damned. And bullet sponges! Bullet sponges everywhere!

So yeah, don’t use The Division to judge Wildlands, either in a good or a bad way. Just sayin’.

My final verdict on Ghost Recon: Wildlands then? My impression after having played the beta (and yes, I completed all the story line, did all side quests, collected all the things, tested it all thoroughly)? Sad to say, I won’t be getting the game at launch. I’m kinda bummed about that, as I wanted to look forward to it, but the game, in its present form, just doesn’t do it for me. Sorry, Ubisoft.

That being said, all of the above are just my thoughts after playing the one closed beta. It’s all just my opinion, and should be treated as such. If you’re looking to buy this game, or any other, it’s your money you’ll be spending, so you should do your own research, and make up your own mind.

As always, that shallot.



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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Gaming


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