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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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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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What is this ‘FREE’ of which you speak?

Working as a freelance writer is great. I get to work with all kinds of interesting (weird?) people, helping them turn their vision into something tangible. Amongst the mundane scribblings I’m asked to do, from time to time emerges something really interesting, fun, exciting, something I can get my teeth into.
 
But, as with every walk of life, occasionally you come across a first class wanker, who will really try your patience. Such was the case with Yesterday’s Muppet…
 
Me: Hi, you left a message for me to contact you about some work you would like doing?
 
Yesterday’s Muppet: Ah, yes, I would like a new advertising copy written for my company [he then proceeds to describe how his business installs ‘state of the art’ guttering systems]. You will, of course, make it sound like we are the only company worth dealing with out there.
 
Me: Sure, I can do that for you. I’ll need you to provide me with the required word counts, and the expected time frame, so I can provide you with a fair and accurate costing.
 
YM: Costing? You would want to be paid for doing it?
 
Me: [silence for a few seconds as I realise my potential client has just morphed into a flaccid prick] Well, umm, actually, yes, yes I would want to be paid for it, that’s how it works.
 
YM: The way I see it, the fact that you had been afforded the opportunity to work alongside my company will look great on your C.V., enough to impress any future potential clients. Surely that would be compensation enough.
 
Me: [remembering that June is one of my ‘zero tolerance to bullshit’ months (I have 12 of those every year)] Afforded. The. Opportunity. I see. Well, the way I see it, Mr. ****, working with a video game studio who are due to release one of 2016’s most anticipated games in eight week’s time looks good on my C.V.
 
[Deep breath]
 
Me: Working with an international marine wildlife conservation society who are doing their utmost to make this world a better place, despite the best efforts of global corporations and corrupt governments to thwart them, looks good on my C.V.
 
[Another deep breath]
 
Me: And working with… you know what, Mr. ****? Long answer cut short – I will not do it for free. Extolling the virtues of your ‘patented’ guttering system, so you can print it on flyers to hand out at a trade show, is something I’m sure my C.V. will survive without. Unless, of course, you’re willing to trade? I’ll write your advertising copy for free, if you install a guttering system for me, free of charge.
 
YM: [spluttering] Free of charge? We couldn’t possibly install for nothing! What about overheads? Wages?
 
Me: My point exactly. Good day, sir.
 
Calls like that make me wish I still had an old fashioned telephone. Pressing the ‘end call’ button simply cannot compete with the satisfaction of slamming the receiver back down into its cradle.
Still, onwards and upwards, Rodders.
As always, that shallot.
Laters…
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Posted by on June 16, 2016 in Rant

 

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Bloodborne and all that…

bloodborne

So, it’s been a while…

Moving on.

For want of something to write about, I decided to pick on Bloodborne. For those of you who don’t know, Bloodborne is a video game (available from all good retailers, blah de-blah).

I haven’t, as yet, done a game review. And guess what? This isn’t one either. Reviews aren’t my thing. What I like in a game, book, movie, you might absolutely hate. What you like I might find totally boring. And you’d also be wrong, obviously.

So what is this then? Boredom, that’s what. Ran out of contracts to work on, couldn’t be bothered to wander into the bedroom to fetch the book I’m reading, at a loose end. Fired up the CD player, put on Floyd, turned it up to 11 just to annoy my noisy twat of a neighbour, and decided, as I’m a writer, maybe I should, you know, actually write something.

So here we are – my thoughts on Bloodborne, PS4 version.

It’s not the last game I played, in fact it’s been a while since I was on it. But I really enjoyed it, as in really enjoyed it. And even though I’ve completed the main storyline (currently at the end of new game +++), and though I’ve got the platinum trophy, it’s still a game I can go back to time and time again. PVP, two and three player co-op, randomly created chalice dungeons to explore – there’s plenty of end game stuff to keep a gamer occupied.

But what of the game itself? Well, it’s part of the Souls series – Demon Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, and soon to be released Dark Souls III. To be fair, Dark Souls II can be left off the list, as the guy behind the others wasn’t involved in that one. These games have been touted as the hardest games ever. That’s bullshit, but there’s no denying they are hard, in the sense it takes a certain degree of skill to complete them. That skill can be learned, however, from playing the game and paying attention.

The main reason people say the games are hard is because there’s an actual penalty for dying, which is something that has been lost from games over the years. Most games these days, when you die you just respawn a small distance away and carry on, no loss of anything other than a bit of time. In the Souls series, when you die you drop all the souls you’d collected (blood echoes, in the case of Bloodborne). Souls and echoes are the currency used to level up your character, buy new or improve weapons and armour, purchase needed equipment, and so on. You also respawn way back at the last bonfire/lamppost (checkpoint). All is not lost, however, as the dropped echoes can be retrieved – all you have to do is make your way back to where you were killed, and collect them. Die again on the way there, though, and they will be gone forever.

The main point of this post, however, isn’t about the gameplay. If you like hack and slash, like fantasy, like being a hard hitting warrior, a magic spammer or a sneaky rogue, and most of all like a good challenge, then you’ll like Bloodborne. This post is mostly concerning the ending to Bloodborne.

Or, more correctly, all three endings to Bloodborne. I won’t go into much detail about the actual lore of the game, mostly because I don’t know most of it. By choice, however, not through ignorance. I prefer to put myself in the position of the character I’m playing, and in Bloodborne, and the other Souls games, your character is just dumped into his or her environment, with little or no knowledge of where they are, or why. You learn as the game progresses, but not everything. So, as a result, I know some, but not all.

But that’s besides the point. I’m not a purist, never have been. If you are, and somebody writing about a Souls game without full and proper knowledge offends you – tough.

So, three endings I said. Not uncommon lately for a video game to have more than one ending, it’s supposed to encourage more than one play through. Bloodborne has two obvious endings, and one which is hidden – you need to do certain things during the game to collect certain objects, which, when used will give access to the third ending.

Because this third ending is hidden, a lot of players say it’s the proper ending. For a completionist this may be true, but in terms of the game’s actual story, I believe this isn’t the case. Far from it.

My thinking goes like this… (the following are notes I made after completing all three endings, so might be a little rough. I could edit, but I’m lazy.)

Bloodborne plays on the quest for power through knowledge, leading to the ultimate power – becoming a surrogate for the Great Old Ones, or even becoming a Great Old One oneself.

The story weaves tales of different groups – Healing Church, The Choir, the School of Mensis, all striving for knowledge and seeking a suitable surrogate for the Great Ones. Or even becoming the surrogate themselves. As is always the case with those lost to their quest, it is left to others to clean up their mess. Hence the Hunters.

The blood is not good, as the scholars claim. It has terrible consequences, and those who succumb to its power transform to beasts when the moon is close. The Hunters are needed to eradicate these lost souls. At some point in history, this hunt became a ritual.

Regardless of the history – where the Great Old Ones came from, how their dimension overlaps ours, why they’re still here presiding over all, watching men scramble about in their rush to do their bidding – find a surrogate – our character has a job to do. And do it they do. They not only kill all beasts they encounter, they also hunt down and slaughter all those associated with the surrogate pursuit.

In the end, when all is accomplished, Gehrman, the first Hunter and your mentor, asks you to submit to him. If you do, he will ‘kill’ you, thus waking you from the dream. This ties in with the beginning of the story, where you are in the sickroom, being ministered to, and as you slip into unconsciousness you are told it will be like waking from a bad dream.

If you refuse Gehrman, you kill him. No victory there, as the Moon Presence descends, strips you of your echoes, and sets you up in Gehrman’s place, as the new mentor of the dream, forced to watch as future Hunters strive to accomplish what you yourself think you already have.

If, during the course of your travels, you find and consume at least three of the possible four umbilical cords found along your journey, when you kill Gehrman and the Moon Presence puts in an appearance, it senses something in you, and tries to eradicate you. You are forced to fight, and if you are victorious you ascend to greatness. Not only did consuming the umbilical cords transform you into the fabled surrogate, you are also born anew as an infant Great One. You have achieved godhood. Or have you?

So which is the good ending? In my opinion it’s the first one. You submit to Gehrman and he wakes you from the dream, the bad dream we entered at the very beginning. We have not lost sight of the fact we had a job to do, in a dream. That’s all it was, a dream. Even so, we do our duty, then return back to reality. A new day is dawning, the night, and its associated nightmares, is over.

Killing Gehrman and taking his place is not winning. Where is the victory in being forced to remain in the Hunter’s Dream, watching and mentoring countless new Hunters as they strive to do which you could not?

Killing Gehrman and also defeating the Moon Presence is not winning either. Becoming the surrogate isn’t a victory, attaining godhood isn’t a victory, becoming an infant Old One isn’t a victory. After all it was the maniacal search for the knowledge and know how to become the surrogate which caused all the problems to begin with. Problems you had to clean up. As a Hunter. Because it was your job.

The game teaches us that it is so very easy to lose sight of our true goal. The pursuit of knowledge and power is all to easy to give in to, and the use of that knowledge is a good way to become corrupted. Where, along our journey, did we forget our true purpose? Where did we step from our intended path onto a far more dangerous one? We are a Hunter. That is all we are, with a Hunter’s job to do – clean up the chaos created by all those consumed by the lust to find or become the surrogate. Somewhere along the line, we forgot that. So consumed are we as humans, and as gamers, with the need to win, that the thought of dying at the end of a game, in order to achieve that victory, is completely alien. We must live. We must continue onwards until we can travel no more.

We lost sight of our true goal.

We failed.

And what of the Moon Presence? The moon is prevalent throughout the game, but only as a moon, not the Moon. Surely this being is the true protector of this distressed land? When it is near, its presence forces those afflicted by the blood to reveal their true selves, thus allowing the Hunters to do their job. If a Hunter has visions of glory, and refuses to be woken from the dream, the Moon Presence installs them as the dream’s new protector, nothing more.

If a Hunter has succumbed to knowledge and power, by ingesting three umbilical cords, the Moon Presence will attempt to strike them down to prevent the ultimate failure – the creation of the Great One’s surrogate and the birth of an infant god.

If the Moon Presence is defeated, the true protector will be vanquished. What then? What evil will befall Yharnam, evil far worse than already experienced? Who will be left to protect? Who will be left to hunt those afflicted?

Stay on the path, Hunter.

Remember your true objective.

And, as always, that shallot…

Laters…

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Posted by on February 12, 2016 in Gaming

 

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Take. Your. Time.

Today I was going to post a short story I had written last week. It was the first of a series of stories based on a video game (yes, I’m a gamer, have been for the last 35 years).

But… well, my computer ate it. Seriously, it’s vanished into thin air. But no matter, I can rewrite it. There’s no rush, no deadline to be met, and on a positive note, rewriting will hopefully improve upon the original.

It got me thinking though, again, of how most people these days are in a rush, they want everything immediately, they need instant gratification. Which reminded me of a blog post I wrote quite some time ago. So, in the absence of a new story, I’ve decided to repost that brief rant I had.

Over the next few days I’ll attempt to recreate my missing story. Though it may take longer. There is, after all, no rush.

A Take Your Time Rant.

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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Rant

 

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