The British Are Coming (To Squad) And Other Developments

 

Now for something we’ve all been waiting patiently for! Okay, okay… maybe a massive bit of hyperbole there on my part, but to me the exaggeration is closer to the reality of how I feel about this.

Squad fans, especially those from the British Isles are excited after having been given more of a look at the upcoming addition to the conventional armies of the game. Something that has been in the works since the Kickstarter campaign first began back in 2015. Today I’m going to take a look at what is in store for us fans and what we can expect from the British army faction. I have to say it’s seeming very good to me indeed and it looks like the team of developers from Offworld Industries have been having some fun along the way;

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Alongside the new addition of the British army I’m going to check out a few of the other upcoming updates due this year, that I haven’t yet touched upon. As well as a couple of thoughts and suggestions my pals and I have had on what changes we might like to see implemented.

 

 

The British Army

Okay … yes of course I am biased but the British army coming to squad is a big deal. I now get to play around with the kit and weaponry that the army of my country uses, as well as some of their pretty cool looking vehicles! Despite my obvious bias, it has to be admitted that objectively this is going to be good for the game all round in adding more diversity to it.
Check out this sneak peek at the funky looking British army truck;

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Here’s a little preview of a run-around with a British soldier, showing off the SA80 sights (I believe) and the British LSW (Light Support weapon) with its SUSAT sights, a 4×4 magnified scope which was developed by and still largely used by the British;

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The uniforms are looking spot on as does the weapons and the truck, in fact everything I’ve seen so far. They’ve done great with the models and I can’t wait to get to a grip on the look and feel of their vehicles, equipment and weaponry to see how they all handle, look and sound. As well as what their FOB builds look like, I wonder how they’ll add a British touch to them. This is the update I am most looking forward to but now let us take a look at more great updates due to come this year.

 

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More Models For Insurgent Forces

Adding more variety to the models of the insurgent faction is a very important thing to do and I’ll tell you why. This will better reflect the look of these unconventional military groups, further adding to the realism of the game through mirroring the real world. These unprofessional military units are usually more of a rag tag militia of civilians turned fighters and so have random equipment and limited uniforms, if any. This will do wonders for the immersive realism in the visuals of the game and I can’t wait to see them out and about when they’re released.
Boy are we in for a treat as in my opinion the models are looking pretty tasty and capture the authentic middle-eastern militant aesthetic chic, if you will;

 

 

Insurgent 1

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Insurgent 3

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Insurgent 5

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As you can see from these pictures there is some nice variety that captures the truth of the forces much more distinctly. They truly look like the casual civilians turned fighters that a great many on the battlefields of today are in that sphere of conflict, swept up into the wars that have enveloped their nations.

 

 

Up-armoured Technicals

Another update for the insurgents this time with regards to vehicle types, with the adding of makeshift up armouring on some Technicals. This emulates the grim reality of the real world conflicts in the Middle-East, as these feature heavily in the arsenal of jihadist and rebel groups, using whatever engineering knowledge, equipment and scrap metal at their disposal to make their weaker vehicles stronger. Resulting in some mad max style post-apocalyptic looking armoured get ups. Allowing their vehicles to withstand more punishment as well as ensuring their VBIEDs (vehicle borne improvised explosive devices) get closer to the kill zone and in so doing, making them miles more effective.

 

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Here are some pretty tame and rational looking versions, but these vehicle creations that were spawned out of war necessity range on a spectrum of pretty well done as above, to just plain bizarre. Here let me illustrate that end for you;

 

 

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Seems more Star Wars than our wars don’t it?! So what are the developers of Squad offering for our insurgents’ vehicular arsenal? Let’s take a look and find out!

 

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Technical 2

 

Pretty dead on and true to life looking, these vehicles will operate differently to how the less armoured bog standard techies work at the moment. Instead of being fast and unable to take much punishment, more suited for fast drop offs, careful support and extractions. These uparmoured versions will trade speed and handling for the ability to take more punishment. Making them much better for sustained support and perhaps even challenging the better armed and armoured conventional faction vehicles. That is … if you get the drop on them or drop in on them with an IED attached ready to blow.

 

 

Guided Missile Systems

Squad is getting its first guided missile systems introduced this year, in the form of the BGM-71 TIW, complete with a long distance magnification sight. It will be a bane for vehicle drivers but a much needed defence for infantry that will find them very useful on American FOBs, as the US are the faction these will belong to. All too often one vehicle can bring a badly or even well placed FOB to its knees even with anti-tank infantry, so perhaps these will give a bit more of a bite to FOBs under fire from vehicles. They can fire over a very large distance very accurately, can’t wait to see them flying through the air taking out the Russian 30mm BTRs. They’ve been destroying me recently and I am still holding grudges.

 

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Here’s a Gif of what the optics look like and how it fires;

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Heavy Machine Gun And SPG Optics

Both conventional factions are getting kitted out with better optics for their heavy machine gun classes. The US M2A1 Browning will get an M145 ACOG scope optic;

 

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And the Russian NSV will get an SPP optic for their heavy support weapon;

 

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Now I absolutely love ‘laying down some hate’ with these high round capacity fast firing killing machines, they’re great for suppressing enemies who are attacking or those your squad are attacking. It’s a versatile support weapon and now with optics will become even more effective and accurate as it can be hard shooting with iron sights beyond mid-range. Especially if you’re as awful as spotting enemies as I am, that’s why I always favour optics and am looking forward to getting a go with them as I spray hot lead to better effect.
As well as the heavy MGs getting optics, the SPG is going to get a new optic that will make it much more accurate and easier to use at range. Something I find will be welcomed since your first shot must count, with the length of time it takes to reload and all. Now you can judge range and target better giving you more chance of getting that first shot on. Check out how the optics look and what looking down the sight looks like below;

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Realistic Armour Thickness

Another update for the realms of realism – relative vehicle armour thickness and how well it would withstand being hit by munitions. Meaning vehicle drivers will have to consider what areas are exposed and be mindful of enemy movements in efforts to reach a clear shot of their weak spots.

 

wastefulshockedasianpiedstarling-size_restrictedfantasticmajesticarcticfox-size_restrictedConversely anti-tank classes will need to be wary of where they’re hitting the target for maximum efficiency. A nice touch bringing more aspects of MilSim realism and tactics into play.

 

New Maps And Updates

It’s clear that Offworld must be perfectionists or at the very least care about their game and its fans enough to constantly be improving and updating things. I like this, as they stated in their press release ‘with a new year comes a new year of mapping!’ To those who play the same map rotation over and over again and possibly getting a little tired of them this will be a god send.

The map Kohat is being expanded to improve areas that are empty and providing more variety alongside more capture points. The most exciting addition I think is the proof that the plan to add helicopters is coming closer to fruition! A new US army FOB is going to be put in …. complete with HELICOPTER LANDING PADS!!!! Get in.

 

Kohat

A number of other maps are being expanded and retrofitted in areas, adding more in buildings and ruins as well as new roads to make vehicles more utilisable and able to move quickly with more options. A new map known as Kamdesh Highlands is also in development with the subject matter being a rugged area of Afghanistan featuring lush pine forests and hilly terrain perfect for ambushes.

 

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  There is also some news on what has been a project in the pipeline for quite some time, the map Fallujah. They are moving on to the second phase of creating the city working on large buildings that will reside in the city centre. Looking to be ready by the end of the year, so check for monthly updates. The layout below shows it’s a pretty urban map, with heavily built up areas.

 

 

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Thoughts And Suggestions

Sometimes my buddies and I like to play in smaller tight knit squads and not have to deal with the hassle of leading a full squad of random people who often don’t listen or are back seat squad leaders. We got to thinking perhaps there should be a number of different squad types and set ups. Say a dedicated 4 person Anti-Tank team or perhaps a 6 person vehicle squad with drivers, gunners and support infantry for two vehicles. Just an idea that might add a little bit more flexibility in what type of squad you can play as effectively with smaller numbers.  I don’t know what people think about this one, if you have any thoughts feel free to leave a comment.

Another thought was more randomised patterns and variants in capture point progression in already existing maps, this would keep them fresher and give a different playing experience with each different layout. Not a massive issue and seems to be something that the mapping team are constantly working on as noted above. However just a thought that would keep older maps feeling newer without having to develop or build too much, less work but with similar effects to tide us heavy players over between expansions and new maps.

 

 

Clearly Squad is an ever developing game that does justice in capturing the look and simulated experience of some of the biggest contemporary theatres of war. It really aims to be authentic with enthusiasm and zeal and just looking at what they have planned, they’re hitting the mark. I’m just so eager to see what else they’ve got envisaged for this game and its future with every announced update, I can’t wait for the next, despite the game being great as is Offworld Industries just keep making it better.

Vermintide 2s’ New Patch 1.0.5 Overview And Review


If you’ve yet to read about Vermintide 2 and would like to, you can check out my first impressions review here.  I didn’t think I’d be writing another article on this game so soon, but I feel this is worthy of a look. It seems FatShark are holding true to their promises and 3 month plan (I wish it were a 5 year plan just because of the implication) by listening to feedback from players as well as fulfilling the promise of regular updates.

Having not even been out a month they have released a patch to fix some minor issues as well as to change the game in a small but critical way across the board. By tweaking a few things here and there to redress some of the balances and problems regarding difficulty level, heroes, their power level and weapons. Let’s take a look at what I feel are the most important aspects of the patch in regards to possible improvements or let downs.

With the approach FatShark have been taking so far and with what they delivered on release, I’m pretty confident it’s going to be mostly positive. Which is a shame as mostly all my looks at games have been positives, but then I guess I’ve just been lucky or smart with choice of games recently, either that or I’m supremely easily pleased. It’s true, I’m loving Vermintide 2.

 

 

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If you want to read every little bit of the patch note and digest all the flesh of the words picking their posts’ bones dry, you can do that here.
Anyways here’s my thoughts ….

 

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Difficulty and Hero Power

Overall it seems this patch has sought to make the game slightly easier and less punishing on the grind side of things. Buffing what rewards you can get and giving a greater cap on Hero Power on Veteran difficulty. I feel this was justified and needed as the real test should be the higher 2 levels of Champion and Legend, the leap from recruit to Veteran was just too high as it is. Especially with the kit and equipment you receive at Recruit level. Now rarer item drop rates have been upped, hopefully that should set that issue straight. As it could at times feel like a bit of a slog to get anywhere near strong enough to deal with the onslaught you face at the upper difficulties.           .

Why have these changes to make the game easier been implemented?

 

‘We don’t want Hero Power progression in the game to stop at Veteran. This change makes it less punishing to stay in Veteran to gain Hero Power.’

 

Thanks for having our back FatShark!

So, the specifics, your hero power has been changed in how it is capped. It is now not capped at all on Champion and Legend meaning you can keep getting stronger which is probably needed if Veteran is anything to go by. Although I’m not too sure on how I feel about this one as perhaps it could make the skill challenge of the higher levels moot? I would hope it won’t detract from the challenge too much, whilst also making it more accessible to those of us who just don’t possess the skill to keep up with the intensity in difficulty. As well as allowing for more progression in the game. There also has been scaling of Hero Power below the top 2 difficulties for a better balance, with a maximum of 300 on recruit and 500 on Veteran. Chest rewards from Veteran will be scaled up from 200 to be capped at 300 hero power, allowing for an easier loot grind to make the top levels attemptable. All this will mean we’ll be noticing some changes to the difficulty at all levels.
It has also been made so that the game will less frequently spawn more swathes of enemy whilst you’re still in the middle of containing another horde or special unit, something that was needed as it became a bit overwhelming at times and was a lot of wet work hacking and slashing. That’s what we are here for at the end of the day. But I felt like I survived a real medieval battle and got a bit fatigued at times when they seemed to be unleashed never-endingly. No one wants to click to the point of tired clicking fingers and we all know nobody wants carpal tunnel syndrome, we’re here for good times only thanks.

Finally, there are now less roaming elites by a slight margin on Champion and Legend to further add to this nerfing of the games difficulty settings.

All-round I believe this was needed, whilst I do admire the challenging nature of the game there’s no reason to make a game too hard to the point that it becomes a chore. So good work.

 

 


Useful UI Changes

There has been updates for issues with errors in translations from English to other languages as well as missing subtitles, so good news for those who prefer to have subtitles in their first language. Or those who can’t read English at all, to those of you in that category staring at this page confusedly, hello. Often we native English speakers take for granted the global dominance of our language so it’s good to see FatShark looking out for our pals whose first language it ain’t.

There was an annoying issue where you had to unequip an item to be able to re-roll its’ properties or traits and that’s been solved. You’ll no longer have to backtrack and deselect the weapon or item, this may seem little but it was wearing thin on me, as usually I’m using the item I want to make better as it’s my bestest and most favourite.  So glad that’s been solved.

Instead of indicators for amount of ammunition being under a players portrait now a yellow icon appears near them when they have less than a third of their ammo left. An effective way to allow other team members to know who needs ammo when and who should be prioritised when it comes to single use ammo pouches. Making the game slicker, especially when playing with a team of random players who do not communicate. The bar below the character portrait has thus been replaced with a much more useful indicator of how full or empty a players’ special ability is. Meaning you can now know when your pals can use their specials and can call it into play asking them to use it when necessary. Just some small changes to the UI that will bleed into the tactics and gameplay in a way that enhances it I feel.

With this patch the UI has been made more slick and user friendly as well as more functional in-game.

 

 


Character And Weapon Tweaks

To put it simply and keep you from nodding off with all the facts and figures of every single of the 5 playable characters’ changes as well as their 3 career paths I’m gonna keep it short and sweet. I‘m just going to state that the biggest takeaway is that they have been buffed overall in many different ways, further making the game a bit easier.

I will say this on the subject, a lot of issues with special moves have been ironed out, for example making Bardins’ ‘Oi! Wazzok!’ more reliably taunt bosses. As well as a wee bit of scaling with their statistics here and there for the sake of balance again.

One major issue with weapons that I had started to notice that has henceforth been sorted is the fact that many enemies were ignored in weapons that used sweeping multiple enemy attacks. Turns out they were using a single target priority meaning they missed enemies that should have been hit. This effects Siennas’ mace, the Elven Spear of Kerillian as well as her glaive/dual-swords/dagger and finally Krubers’ executioners’ sword and halberd. This was a major issue I was noticing, as I got overrun by enemies I had clearly just felled with my swooping halberd so glad that’s done away with.

You can now better switch from ranged weapons to melee weapons for a quicker block, as the devs have prioritised the switching of weapons in the input queue. Now you can better deal with enemies that sneak up on you or charge you quickly whilst using ranged weapons. This is useful in boss battles, particularly when charge attacks are used by the big baddy and you’re trying to keep at range. I was forever getting caught out trying to get back to a weapon I could actually block attacks with.

The rest for the most part is just statistical balance and scaling I feel it positive just not so noteworthy personally, a few rare crashes and level bugs here and there were fixed. Just little specifics that are good but were less interesting to talk about in my eyes.

Overall this patch has sought to fix the balance of the game in the direction of being slightly less punishing. Some may boo, hiss and curse this decision, those who are purely in it to be beaten by the game just as much if not more than they beat it. Sadomasochists!

Some good work from FatShark that goes to show they are serious about that 3 month plan they’ve set up and listening to the input of the people who both buy and play their games. This patch showed that, as well as proving there wasn’t too much of any issue with the game at launch and showing that you can always improve a good thing.

Games can always evolve in different ways and are more than ever, developing entities, this one just ranked up.

Total War Saga: Thrones Of Britannia- A New Legacy For Some Old Familiar

 

 

Developed by Creative Assembly, Total War is a game series for history enthusiasts and strategy game lovers alike. Spanning many ages and geographical locations, from the Shogun age of Japan, the Roman ages all the way through to the times of the Napoleonic Wars and the age of Empire which featured new continents as the known world expanded. Most recently the franchise has dived head first into a series of Warhammer Fantasy Total War games to great success.

Just take a look at Creative Assemblys’ long lineage of titles beginning at the start of this millennium with Shogun, they’ve started to become a part of our history themselves;
Total war list

This article will be focusing on the Thrones of Britannia title, which has been pushed back to be released on the 3rd of May. Good, you can’t rush a good thing. Unless you’re just in it for the money ….
For those of you who don’t know the franchise I’ll give you a quick rundown on the style and gameplay of it just to set the scene a little, those of you who do. Maybe skip this section now and move on to the next subheading where I get stuck into the newest instalment.

It is essentially a grand strategy campaign map in the vein of the classic Civilization games of the 90’s and beyond, but with the twist of real time strategy combat thrown in. To speak of it in 90’s gaming terms of antiquity it’s as if the Civ and Command and Conquer series had a child at the turn of the millennium. Kinda …  I’m getting a bit carried away there, but I digress.

What I’m saying is, this series combines RTS battle gameplay and tactics with a large-scale grand strategy turn based campaign map which features management of different aspects of your faction, from keeping the populace happy, city building, tech researching to army building. As well as of course army movement and depending on which TW game you’re talking about, potentially much more.

But usually the faction management isn’t too in depth like other such grand strategy games, for example, Crusader Kings which has a great more deal to consider and deal with. TW on the other hand is usually simpler than most but with enough depth to make your decisions matter and for you to take note of your actions, for the most part of the series at least. I felt it lacking in some titles. Overall though I find you can take control without things getting too bewildering, which is a plus for a simpleton such as I who manages to give away my entire kingdom in Crusader Kings with a simple confused click.

I love this intertwining of slow, turn based planning and decision making combined with the faster paced action of unit based RTS combat of large scale armies. It’s just a mix that works so well, as I find I often get disinterested without controlling units in combat and feel like I’m watching the computer play out the game for me personally when I can’t influence battles directly. I like to have a say in things at a ground level as well as at an overarching god emperor level.

Without further ado onto the game at hand and what’s new and old this time round with a focus on what I’m looking forward to and what I’m fearful of…
Setting And Historical Focus

Since my younger days I have always wanted a TW game that focused on an historical aspect of my home islands … small though they may be, there has been some big history here, as with most places. I’ve always wanted to see one that focused on the isles where I was born, being biased and all, so I’m super excited about this one and supposedly it’s going to be the most detailed version of Britain ever to feature yet, 23 times bigger than the Atilla campaign map! Which is interesting considering the size of the subject matter being one of the smallest areas of land dealt with, more on that later.

Britannia takes place after the eventful saga of Viking Ragnar Lodbroks’ epic insurgencies into the British Isles through which the raiders from the North gained a foothold amongst the existing kingdoms. Ragnar died at the hands of the Anglo-Saxons, his sons swiftly took revenge raiding the isles and splintering kingdoms in a trail of slaughter that swept westwards. This game is focused around the clash of kingdoms between the Welsh, Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon and both the Great Viking army and Great Viking sea kings. Your fight to rule Britannia will ensue between these clashing cultures and ambitious powers.

Check out this trailer that does more justice than I in setting the scene for the newest fight you’ll be swept up in for your quest to make history;

 



As a history lover in general, with a particular penchant for this period of time in the formative years of the now apparently ‘United’ Kingdom in which I live, I cannot wait to play out this saga. And am looking forward to seeing how the history aspect of the different cultures and lands plays out in this one. Something TW is usually pretty good on although not always 100% in the name of balance and gameplay. Which as a self-proclaimed semi history buff can be forgiven, if it makes it a more enjoyable experience, after all it’s foremost a game and not History 101.

 
Campaign Map And Style

As previously mentioned (as far as my geography knowledge goes) this is the smallest location ever put into TW form,  and it is the most detailed map of Britain yet.  Splintered down into many provinces inhabited by a wide variety of factions, 10 of them playable. As can be seen below;
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Each province has a capital city with a web of connected smaller and weaker towns unfurling outwards across the land about the capital. I suppose this is where the most detailed part comes in. There are much more building slots for capitals focusing on military and more prestigious buildings, with the little orbiting towns being more focused around fewer slots and economy slots more specifically. However, of course these profitable towns and villages are smaller easier targets and so being, must be protected more closely or can be exploited in enemy territory.

I think this will suit the play style of factions well and add dynamism to the game, what with the raiding and pillaging of Vikings as well as the castle and garrison style warfare of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms for example. I feel this will do nicely especially since there’s so much more to focus on strategically and tactically in both defensive and offensive situations, with the extra detail added. Nice one but as ever we shall see how it works once released.

If you’d like to know more in depth facts about the map and the historical aspects of it as well as size comparison to previous games, check out TWs’ blog post map reveal here.

Just a quick note on style, I love the sort of ‘Ye Olde’ look they’ve gone for with the unit cards and character portraits, nice to the eye and thematically pleasing as well as varied enough to tell units apart. See below;

 

 

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Tech And Recruitment

 

Now for something a bit different and new, which I think in theory sounds grand. Instead of your unit upgrades being linked to what level buildings you have, they are now to be linked to what tech you have. Sounds much more logical and realistic if you ask me, you wouldn’t need to rebuild training grounds every time you get a new type of advanced unit, just the equipment and training really, right?  So once the required training grounds are completed, you need to upgrade using your tech tree choices.

Tech is also more difficult to reach, making you work more for those unlocks and advancements. You have to meet prerequisites such as having enough of a specific unit type before being able to research further down the line of tech. It’s more learning by doing than just choose, click, and wait. More of a goal to aim for. Additionally there are restrictions on the type of tech re-searchable by each faction that can be unlocked by discovering their potential from other locales and cultures on the map.  The building options remain geographically specific, however you can unlock the tech to utilise them once you venture into these areas and capture them.

Again, logical and realistic I feel. Making the maps location more geographically meaningful and influential, something I’ve always liked in TW games, with regards to holding resources and region specific unit types. So glad to see this being taken into account with tech giving variety to play style depending who and where you are.

When you unlock units to recruit, armies that are in the stance ‘fortify’ can recruit from a global pool wherever they are on the map. Not exactly new, except when you take into account you do not get the full unit, only a quarter of their full size.  You must spend longer, waiting turns to muster them up to the complete outfit. I think that to be a nice touch that also brings a bit of, (third mention now) logical realism to the matter and I’m a sucker for the more realistic side of gaming so am very happy about all this. It brings a nice bit of balance and another side of strategy to it, meaning that you can’t just whip up massive hordes if you’re rich. You too have to wait and therefore make better prior planning and preparation.

Making strategy and tactics the name of the game (as of course it is)  as well as a bit of historical realism, like it, like it.

 

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Character Progression, Loyalty And Dilemmas

In Britannia there is some old familiar in the progression of generals and rulers, however they have done away with the skill trees and allowed a more natural development via action based progression. Characters have 3 fundamental stats; governance command and zeal. They will each develop as they do the respective jobs of fighting or governing, with zeal acting as a bonus multiplier on the other 2 stats.

I really think this is great, giving you more choice to focus and hone the characters for the roles you want, rather than choosing from an almost identical blanket of perks from a skill tree. In the past you would gain followers of your court by sheer chance, now you can influence which you get by picking them yourselves whenever a character levels up, giving specific bonus boosts to the character.

Loyalty has been brought back into play for this one meaning your generals and governors can defect if things aren’t favourable regarding you in their eyes. You can appease people with landed titles and estates dished out when you want to placate a particularly ungrateful bugger. Bringing this back is great as it gives a bit more to keep an eye out for with regards to ambitious jealous rebels, like back in the good old days of the earlier games such as Medieval TW.

Dilemmas are pop-up text events such as the ones you would get in the likes of Crusader Kings or other such Paradox games. These offer you choices on how to respond , as well as giving a more eventful play through, adding yet another avenue with which to influence the game. They are designed to give historical context and help influence your fight for victory, with possible negative outcomes also of course.

Often there is very little choice to how to respond which lets these kind of in game choices down, so I’m hoping they will be done justice, be interesting and be more than just an annoyance you rapidly click off the screen.

 


War Weariness And War Fervour

Not exactly a new mechanic, however it has been updated. Using a sliding scale which you have to balance to keep your populace content. To keep it short and sweet, if you aren’t at war for a long period – people are going to get mad and want to fight. If you’re at war too much, they’re going to get mad and need a break.  Some people eh?

This is great for the strategic and planning aspect of the game, you can’t just have all out …. erm … total war? Can you? It’s in the name … but like … it’s not really possible in reality. Something the Americans learnt in Vietnam.

I look forward to this annoying me as I love to constantly be fighting and over expanding to point of collapse. Ah well, better put a leash on myself in that case.

If you’d like to have a closer look at some of the new developments in this game I’ve touched on in a way which explains them with visual aids of the gameplay and UI have a little look at this. As it embellishes a little on what I’ve touched  upon;

 

 

DLC And Non-Playable Factions

In the good old early days of the franchise you could actually unlock previously unplayable factions by completing campaigns. Now and for a long time, the game has been taking every opportunity to introduce micro-transactions and DLC. Payable features to unlock more diverse parts of the games,  that just used to be a part of the game. Widespread practice these days I know, but that doesn’t mean we should accept it as their consumers. It just sours the whole experience and takes away from the progression and meaning of victory and the overall diversity in who you can play as, what units you can field. Variety is the spice of life after all.

Take one of the hitherto latest instalment in this long line of great titles, the Warhammer takes on the game. Both amazing in many ways in my opinion however not without their criticisms. My main gripe being they brought out two separate games in quick succession with absolutely oodles of DLC which when combined cost more than the game itself and didn’t really add more than factions you could have been rewarded with as unlockables…. ah well. Profit is profit. But when you’re bringing out a £1.99 blood and gore DLC to be added to the game, you’ve gotta start questioning your morality.

I haven’t seen any news on DLC in this game but I’m not holding my breath for a micro-transaction free game knowing the history and trend. Ah well, can’t have everything but we will see, perhaps this can be the redemption and return of rewards for beating the game in the TW series. Considering that previous  negative backlash disheartened Creative Assembly, it seems likely it’s their end game to make these extra costs a permanent feature.

 

All in all what seems to be minuscule changes to the outside eye, seem to me to be actual fine tuning and honing the game to better deliver the crème de la crème of what TW can offer fans. Except in the world of DLC and the game actually rewarding you.

Using their years of experience to deliver and effect positive changes that are going to have big implications on play style and the strategising and decision making side of things. Switching things up for the better. It appears the team behind this game have designed the map and factions around historical accuracy and great gameplay. Combining both to create what I feel could be the best TW title to date.

This focussing on yet more specific periods of history shows that we can expect yet more new sagas to come in this old familiar series. I for one welcome this, as every culture and region of history should be explored in this game style I believe, it’s a game series that just begs for more to be released and justifiably so I’d say. Even with the new found tendency for DLC and micro-transaction cash grabs …. the games themselves tend to not be cash cows.

I wager that this release will be what lovers of the game are looking for, the old tried and tested formula that works well, with a hint of added freshness for us to all salivate over. Exactly why I’ve pre-ordered it and am subconsciously counting down to its launch.

 

 

 

 

 

Warhammer Vermintide 2: Grim, Ghastly, Great

 

 

Straight off the bat it has to be said and is probably already well known by those of you it applies to, but fans of either of Valves’ Left 4 Dead franchise or the Warhammer fantasy world, especially fans of both, are going to absolutely love this corker of a sequel to Vermintide: End Times.

It’s a simple formula really, take the team based co-op and quirky escape style play of L4D add the world of Warhammer Fantasy table top games and you’ve got an instantly popular title. I reckon it can be easy to become lazy or complacent with such tried and tested gaming gold dust. However developers FatShark didn’t just lean on the popularity of the brand and style of game. In my opinion they have delivered a well-rounded playing experience that stands on its own merits and is just such a pleasure to play.

I haven’t played Vermintide: End Times, the first game in the series, but I had to try out the second as did many others it seems. This release has been bringing new fans to the desk as it outsold its predecessors’ lifetime sales in just two weeks!

In this article I will go over a few of my first impressions, looking at what aspects really struck a chord with me and what I thought made it an enjoyable experience, based on my first day of playing. I would also like to dedicate this article to a good friend Spawndex whom loves the Skaven and will probably be angry to know I still haven’t tried them in Total War: Warhammer 2 and that I much prefer dismembering them in Vermintide 2.

 

Character Progression, User Interface And Crafting

There are 5 heroes to choose from a Witch Hunter, Dwarf Ranger, Waywatcher, Bright Wizard and my personal favourite an Empire Soldier. Each have different abilities and can be levelled up with equipment and cosmetics gained, as well as skill choices to be made that are unlocked as higher levels are reached. There are 25 levels for each character with 3 perks unlocked every 5 levels, these can be mixed and matched as and when you please in the skill section of the inventory. There are also 3 unlockable career paths for each hero which give them different passive and special abilities. Each hero of course has their own play-style, strengths and weaknesses that you must get to grips with, some nice variation there but I won’t bore you with the intricacies and let you find out for yourself.

You can gain loot through completing missions or levelling up and can get better loot boxes through completing a variety of tasks and challenges in-game. I like this as there is no micro-transactions so the game is all about the rank up grind and not buying your way through the gameplay. Essentially robbing yourself of the experience.

Some of the items you get really add to your fighting style, mainly the weapons, which can have their own properties and add to your heroes overall power level known as hero power. As well as weapons you get necklaces, charms, cosmetics and trinkets to outfit your character with that also contain perks and give an addition to this level.  You can also unlock deeds with harder challenges from crates, which give you xp bonuses for completing them. This progressive customisation of characters is nice as it gives you something to aim for and doesn’t feel too unreachable nor too fast, it’s a nice balance.

However there has been some criticism levelled on the specifics of hero power which I have yet to experience with my limited time in the game. Essentially your power level effects the way weapons fundamentally work and some have said it makes for inconsistent gameplay, having to unlearn and relearn your weapons intricacies depending on difficulty and power level. If you’d like to know more have a watch of milkandcookiesTWs’ YouTube video on the subject;

 

 

Before missions start players join into an interactive lobby known as the Stronghold where you can open your loot crates and rewards, view your inventory, crafting options, choose skills you’ve earnt and customise your loadout. It’s a preparation room, as well as being a generally fun and nice place to dick around in before the match starts and all players are ready. However there is also a bit more functionality to it with potions and bombs to test out, as well as dummies you can hit to test your damage power to find your best set up. Another comment on this Stronghold is that it is that from clicking the play option on the main menu to being in the stronghold is pretty much instantaneous, no load screens.

 

DICK ABOUT 1

 

All the actions mentioned above are carried out through a user interface which is simple and easy to use,  feeling very natural in no time at all. The UI even has nice sound effects which is a nice touch. Below is a little video of me just showing a bit of it off.

 

 

The crafting system allows you to break down and salvage unwanted lesser and useless loot and combine the scraps to create new items, upgrade existing ones or re-roll the properties on them. Meaning the crappy rewards too have their uses and don’t just sit there idly. The crafting is easy to use also, which I like as I don’t enjoy fumbling around and am easily confused. But confuse me this did not.

Currently the cosmetics seem to be very limited but the developer has stated they will be adding more to the currently scant array. Which will do them well as there are even forum posts imploring for more unlockable and buyable (why they want to have to pay I don’t know) cosmetic loot. But it appears the developers are pretty adamant that they are to keep micro-transactions out of the game as can be seen by this blunt response to a question begging to throw money at them …

 

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This character progression is brilliant for players like me who like to feel they’re going somewhere, giving a feeling of achievement and decision making flare to the game. Adding more to the playing experience and replay value through giving you 5 different classes to hone and equip.

 

Gameplay And Mechanics

It has to be said that it is primarily a hack and slash game with ranged weapons taking a secondary but important role, you just have to use your ammo wisely. Whilst hack and slash games can become boring and repetitive button clicking at times, the game mechanics are just so smooth and intuitive that you feel much more in control of your character. Therefore you’re more involved instead of button mashing as there is variation in moves. Even a fool like me picked it up easy enough, not to say the game is easy, far from it, I was just playing on recruit which is the easiest out of 4 difficulty settings and apparently equal to L4Ds’ hardest setting. This game has done a good job of making the fighting and movement feel more natural and the gameplay so intense that it’s gripping and involving, you always have to be on your toes with there being a lot of enemies!

Furthermore the chopping up the enemy lark is very visually and audibly rewarding, giving good and most often graphic feedback, if you love gore in games, this will get your bloodlust pumping. Sometimes you can even cut a Skaven rat clean in half at the waist and see its entrails, check out a pretty tame example of the audio visual feedback below…

 

And now an example of Skaven guts and legs teetering over …

 

The use of dodging, blocking, parrying and melee fighting are just a delight to play, it’s been built spot on. This can also be seen in the shooting of bows and guns, they’re not at all clunky as you’d have come to expect at least a little of from playing other similar games. It’s just not there, you feel like a well-oiled fighting machine all round.

You can tag items using the T key which helps show others where any spare gear is, simple I know, but  it makes things nice and easy. The mission loading pages are pretty brief and have nice tidy little cut scenes to introduce the story arc for the certain Acts you are working on, they’re speedy and keep the pace of the game moving nicely. The storylines and missions are varied and fun and do not feel repetitive and played out even when playing them through over again as there is enough difference in between to make it feel somewhat fresh again. Besides I reckon this one is just too fun to get stale quick, if at all. Although I do hope more and more will be added, what we’ve got does suffice though. But you always want more of a good thing …. right? Well we’re in luck as the developers have been quite clear with their roadmap and plans for the first 3 months since release, in which they state aims to achieve;

‘Regular DLCs and updates … Dedicated Servers … Mod Support.’

As well as listening to feedback from us the players and their fanbase, pretty nice approach if you ask me.

The enemy types are numerous and it is fun to engage with their different fighting styles and qualities. Some that will pick you off and drag you away, others who are shielded and better at combat, gunners and flamethrowers. As well as wizards that suck you into a green vortex spell they cast, just to name a few. It’s a joy to engage in combat with all of them. The bigger monsters and bosses  are great too, though sometimes repetitive but varied enough and always a fun challenge when they rear their ugly heads again. Especially that one whose weakness is a little Skaven rat baby thingy on its back …


The Bile Troll also has an apparent weakness … but isn’t that area a weakness for us all?

 

Aesthetics And Level Design

Now for some more words that I’ve already used regarding this game, intuitive and varied. That is exactly what the level design is. There are so many different settings in this vast fantasy world, Reichland towns, Skaven strongholds in the mountains, Dwarven holds and the fortresses of men that I’ve seen so far. They are well made, good looking, easy to follow but with enough room for searching and exploring. Allowing you to take slightly different routes for good replay value.

Also the gear around the map you need is randomised so you have to be explorative and I like the fact it encourages that. I could see myself enjoying these maps and missions over and over again combined with the gameplay it’s just so enjoyable.  They also have replay value added by the fact that loot boxes earned can be upgraded by hunting for the hidden Tomes and Grimoires scattered around the map. Giving you better gear, and cosmetics the better your box is upgraded. I like the way that carrying these books give you a health penalty as they are cursed and that they disallow you from carrying any healing potions or otherwise depending on the type of book. Making things more challenging when you run the risk in hope of better loot.

Here are some screenshots from various levels;

 

VERMINTIDE.jpg

MAP 1

Map 2.jpg

Map 3.jpg

It’s very atmospheric, especially in the areas of grim, morbid and foreboding. You’re fighting your way through the ruin and horrors that the inhabitants of this world have suffered through at the hands of the Chaos realms and the Vermintide of Skaven. The aftermath is truly a horrific and gripping experience to play through and I commend FatShark for capturing the terror of this fantasy world so well, they’ve spared no expense in the areas of bloody grimness. Lynched corpses littering trees, hanging from rafters, flesh tents … they’ve really pulled out all the stops, so much so that at points it actually had me shuddering. Really doing the source material the justice in capturing its essence.

 

Missing 3

 

MEAT TENT

 

There’s a level where you have to help relieve a besieged fortress under attack from the Skaven and break out through the gates. It’s a very atmospheric battle as you fight your way to the castle, you can see cannon burst, rockets and the green Skaven energy bursts firing to and fro in the sky. Makes you feel you’re part of something larger and so making it very immersive and … what’s a cooler word for epic? Lets just say, extremely satisfying.

 

Vermintide map 1.jpg

You get to a cannon and must destroy the enemy catapults, aiming it, firing it and finding more ammunition for it before finally destroying them all and sallying forth.

 

Vermintide fortress map 2.jpg

 

Another level starts out looking like an epic Dwarven hold but soon turns out to be a nest of filthy vermin, it has clearly been taken over and turned into a Skaven enclave in the mined out depths below. This map stands out to me as it just looks astounding and breath-taking in size, scale and attention to detail.

 

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dwarve hold 2.jpg

Vermintide dwarve hold.jpg

Vermintide dwarve hold 2.jpg

Finally I’d just like to comment on how well they have implemented good lighting, there are dark parts in missions (notably when you are following a mine cart by torchlight,) which are done really well. My friend I was playing with even exclaimed mid-game ‘This is how you do darkness!’ He was not wrong the lighting in this game is exceptional.

 

Dialogue

The dialogue is often hilarious and not monotonous at all, except maybe when it comes to using your special powers which can become repetitive. Although take this with a pinch of salt as this was my first time playing of course. The characters react to each other and have a bond and are constantly in friendly rivalry and competitive banter whilst the fighting is going on. The dialogue and accents suits the characters well and of course it features the Dwarven and Elven rivalry we all have come to expect. Even though I’m not a super fan of Warhammer I think they capture the lore well in this and the game as a whole. Those who know the lore more in-depth than I can be a better judge of that but i generally feel those folk will be satisfied. As a whole the dialogue does a good job of adding to the immersive experience coupled with the level design, character progression and gameplay it’s another big old thumbs up from me. And it  has been getting chuckles out of me so far so I’m loving it … see this example below….

 

As well as being immersive it makes the characters more 3D and equips them with some nice personalities. Even if I hate that slimy sounding smug Witch Hunter bastard, at least he makes me feel something, instead of just being a throwaway flat nothing. Each character is their own person and it comes across.

 

TWEET.jpg

 

Kerillians fine by me … sort that other geezer out first!

 

Slight Bugs Or Glitches

Just a couple minor things to mention here which really don’t detract from the game at all. I had a dual monitor phantom mouse clicking off the screen issue with windowed or bordered full screen. But was easily fixed when I set it to full screen with no borders.

Of course there are some minor AI model bugging issues but they’re few and far between.

Sometimes the bosses’ health meter doesn’t show up for a while if at all in the time it takes you to dispatch the foul creature. Which can be a bit jarring when you have no feedback for how the fight is going, but usually it’s only for some of your party and rarely all of you. So no biggy there really.

 

Concluding Remarks

All round it’s a fantastic game in my eyes,  even if you’re not a fan of either aforementioned franchises but just like team based escape games and hack and slash with tactical team gameplay. This one is still for you as I think this is just an objectively enjoyable game for the most part.

One slight remark that isn’t really a criticism just a suggestion, even though there is already enough in the game to make it worth the money. I just got to thinking perhaps there could be a different game mode in the form of Stronghold defense and through this you could upgrade your Stronghold cosmetically and functionally. More of a suggestion and wish on my part more than anything, as I would like to do what it says in its name and hold it strong. Geddit? Har-Har.

A solid effort with very little criticism to be levelled, if any, thus far from my 15 hours or so of experience. Which is good, so I’d say I’d give it 10 somethings out of 10 somethings on my first playing. Going to be playing this one thoroughly, we’ll see if my first impressions hold true.

SCUM To Look Out For – An Upcoming Survival Game Looking To Change The Genre

 

SCUM is an early access open world PC survival game due to be released in 2018. Set in a reality TV gameshows’ second season, broadcast by fictional and questionable entertainment channel TEC1. The questionable part being, that in this gameshow – the locked up must throw down for the pleasure of a greedy capitalist society run by corporations, as TEC1 fight for their ratings and corporate sponsors.

In a dystopian profit driven society where inmates die for peoples’ enjoyment, you take control of a convict who is thrown into this gladiatorial style event, versus enemy players as well as hostile AI controlled by the TV network through BCU implants. Implants that can reanimate unfortunate runner ups turning them into mind controlled zombies. It is a fight to the death for your freedom, exploring the islands of the archipelago along the way, making alliances and using resources to survive. As the games tagline says;

‘Your life sentence is about to become your 15 minutes of fame.’

Although this type of scenario has been broached upon before in other games such as the culling, I think there is so much more potential in it, especially with the survival genre. And it seems like Croatian developers Croteam feel the same, as they are picking up the torch to make a survival game with much more to it – just check out this trailer!



 

This is why I think SCUM will be one to look out for and why I’m deciding to support it during early access. I’m going to take a closer look at some of the reasons that convinced me.

 

Backstory

If you check updates from the developers, you will have seen that the story elements surrounding this game appears to be quite important to them. They’re looking to create a world that is truly driven in all senses, giving it a setting and lore and so  making it much more multi-dimensional. This is something I think will stand it in good stead as a survival game, as there is more to it than simply kill, survive and loot.

It feels as if there will be potentially more going on with the game because of it, secrets to discover, an unfolding story with more heart and depth put into it. Something that most all popular multiplayer survival games fail to achieve, a good story that actually impacts on the game experience itself. It is set to be a hybrid sandbox survival game with ‘higher goals incorporated’ as the developers put it. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see just exactly what that means for the game.

But if they are true to their word this will mean survival games as a genre might become a little less futile which I feel they are usually, even if enjoyable.

 

 


Character Building

This will be a massively important element according to the Crotean team;

‘SCUM evolves the multiplayer open world survival game with unprecedented levels of character customization, control, and progression where knowledge and skills are the ultimate weapons for long-term survival. Players will balance base level needs with knowledge-based skills to manage everything from nourishment, metabolic rate, and body mass to weapons and proficiency, combat style, and security systems hacking. Dominate the island with your skills, cunning, and strategies to achieve higher levels of game and receive powerful gifts from corporate sponsors and, if you happen to slip up and die, get resurrected by the show’s producers with all your valuable skills intact.’

Hinting at the sheer depth and scope in ambitions of this project. A survival game that is fine-tuned and honed in on developing skill and other elements of your character that are rarely touched upon in this genre. This coupled with the story itself means it will potentially make for one fun and immersive game.

But of course it takes more than that to convince me to back an early access game nowadays… well … sometimes anyways.
 

 


Unarmed Combat

Typically in survival games unarmed combat is left up to throwing random swings, backing in and out of the fight and hoping like hell. With half the skill of two animals butting heads.

Croteam have spotted this issue and are seeking to put it straighter than a well-aimed jab. They are adding something other survival games for the most part lack – the ability to block, dodge, counter and throw combos. As well as a free-camera mode and 1st person view when you enter melee combat. Meaning overall you have much more control than is usually afforded the player. Alongside this the skill level of your character effects how well you do it all.

Now combat will be so much more meaningful if you’ve yet to scavenge anything that fires projectiles.

 

 

 


Atmosphere And Map Design

I am not sure whether or not Croteam is actually an arm of the Croatian tourist board, because if they’re not they should at least be getting commission. After viewing screenshots of their map I definitely want to plan a trip there. The reason why – the 144km2 map is based around the Croatian island of Brac and from screenshots so far it looks simply stunning.

 

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Two prisoners stop for a well earned drink by this idyllic stream.
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Looks perfect for a wee fishing holiday don’t it!?!?

 

The creators have stated on their blog that they generally prefer a tense horror feel, the kind of atmosphere where you suspect anything could be lurking in the dark or round the corner. There is of course a changing day and night cycle, which will naturally effect this but they’ve also talked of having absolute silence with sound effects of lurking animals and perhaps crickets at night. This would really do it justice and I hope they pursue that option, as it is totally suited to a game where hardened criminals are roaming about an island trying to kill each other. Rather than going for atmospheric music which takes away from the true fright of the situation, as it is usually triggered  by events and gives away the element of surprise I feel.

 

 
Camouflage/ Stealth/Awareness/Tactics

In this game the sounds you make and being sighted will not be the sole way you can be detected, your player has a scent. That’s right, if you don’t wash regularly by taking dips in water then developers have stated you’ll have to ‘check…which way the wind is blowing!’ I love this fact and if this is an element in gameplay then it shows just how far they want to take this genre of game into the next generation and towards realism and player immersion.

But how have they developed the more traditional aspects of stealth, camouflage and awareness? Check out this video showing off how well the camos actually function;


With awareness and a system developers call, tactics they are seeking to level the playing field where it comes to unfair 3rd person exploits, whilst still keeping it in the game. This is where awareness comes in, your characters awareness level will allow you to track another players position once spotted for a limited period of time, depending on how high your skill is. Meaning you will not be able to see someone you wouldn’t be able to see beyond an obstacle in real life whilst in 3rd person until you can physically make eye contact on with them. Put simply, what you will render in 3rd person mode is only what you would see in 1st person. This video will show you exactly what the developers are going for as it’s a little difficult to put into words and do it the justice it deserves;

Now a lot of comments online have been complaining about how this is essentially a wall hack perk for advanced players with higher skills, seeming it would be an unfair advantage over n00bs that are new to the game. I too am slightly worried as the longevity of the most advanced levels tracking essentially means you can be tracked once out of sight for a large while, if done correctly. So much of what the developers are aiming for seems great in theory, but a lot of gamers are worried about how it will translate into practice. The developers are very good at getting back to these worries and elaborating on it, so  here’s a Q&A the developers put out to further explain what frankly needed a further explanation to put minds at ease;

I really believe this will look to alleviate unfair advantages that people have on the battlefield, levelling the playing field and bringing the fight down to skill and knowledge. Not unfair exploits.

Layers And Wetness

 As reasons you want to buy a game goes layers and wetness is a little strange, but let me digress.

Wetness in the world of SCUM is very important, from making you sick, drowning you if you’re heavily laden, as well as weighing and slowing you down through clothes absorption. There is a realistic system of clothing layers and their properties of absorbance that you must be wary of when taking a dip, sweating a lot or being rained on. Keeping dry clothes aside, having a fire ready or leaving your heavy backpack of loot on dry land are all things to think about, you cannot simply just run willy-nilly into water. Even your different body parts are split into regions that get effected differently depending on what is happening. Say only your feet layers would get wet if you walked through ankle deep water. There has to be a lot more thought going into your gameplay and surroundings and I like the idea of these factors coming into play and effecting such things as travelling to combat.


This game is looking to take the survival element so much further, with in-depth realism in all aspects of play and this includes stamina and inertia as well for realistic movement and running.

 

 


Developers


I have faith that Croteam are a team of developers that can deliver, most well known for their Serious Sam series which has become their brand and a staple of their success. As well as creating the critically acclaimed The Talos Principle. They have built their own engine known as the Serious engine and have been developing it for over 20 years. From what it seems to me with my limited research on them, they are a tight knit company that isn’t afraid to get stuck in and do the hard work to achieve success. I hope my slight assumptions will be proved a reality with SCUM and that it will be a labour of love for them, as this will ensure the same brilliance that these developers have been known for in the past.

I also like their sense of humour, which can be seen in the narrator of their videos John Dick. It also has to be said that these videos putting all their ideas on show to receive the critical eye of fans of the genre and then responding to questions and worries is very commendable. I feel it’s a good sign of their sense of duty to create something worthwhile and to put it frankly, worth the money. Which let’s face it, is becoming few and far between in this year of our lord 2018 with the gaming industry squeezing money out of players until their pips squeak.

 

 

Prisoner of My Gaming Industry Doubt

Nevertheless I am a prisoner of the rightfully earned doubt I hold in the gaming industry. Will it work, will it really be what’s promised – bottom line until it’s delivered we don’t know if they can or will deliver on the lofty goals they’ve envisaged. But I have hope and this is certainly achievable by developers of Croteans standards.

They are really gunning to step up the survival game genre taking a lot of aspects they feel have been lacking. Bringing them to the forefront, giving them depth and intertwining them in a way that means they will all matter and be influencers on gameplay for a great gaming experience.
I really hope they deliver on their ambitions and promises, as I think a lot of us would agree that these are all issues that hold back this type of game. Maybe if this game proved popular and was successful, it could really influence and develop this genre, revitalising it into a new well-deserved and in depth direction and becoming more. Or at the very least unleash an amazing new game onto the playing field.

Either way, I am looking out for this one and cannot wait to play it that’s why I dub this SCUM to look out for.

Squad V10 Overview/Review – An Indeterminable Period Of Waiting Followed By Much Enjoyment

It has been well over a month since the V10 update dropped on the 5th of February and I’ve had more than enough time to enjoy it. So it’s about bloody time I reviewed the long awaited and excitement inducing update for Squad. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game itself, don’t fear as I have a review you can check out before reading this, for those of you are, get stuck in and enjoy.

In this review I will not be covering every single aspect of the update, just the bits I consider to be the most important, interesting and exciting. To include everything would take quite a lot more pages of an already long article and I don’t think you or I would like writing or reading every little detail all that much. First off check out the trailer because it’s so damned good;


Gameplay And Meta

One of the biggest changes to the way the game is played is the fact that now you cannot utilise the flag rush meta straight off the bat in AAS game types. If one enemy is on a flag, you cannot block the capture with superior numbers without searching and destroying the single enemy. Meaning that you cannot stop the enemies’ advance dead in its track from the get go.

Even though I have always enjoyed crushing the enemy from the beginning of the game, I do feel that this is a better way of balancing things out for teams so the game can actually get started and flow, not dying a death before it has even begun. Encouraging teams to focus on the progression of the game as well as installing a proper supply chain for forward operating bases. You can still block the flag but this requires hunting and destroying all enemies, which is more likely to be a high risk gamble and waste of resources.

There has been a 3 minutes ‘staging period’ added at the beginning of matches, allowing time to spawn up, organise your squads, which vehicles you are taking and the like. However your movement is limited to the staging area of the main base until the time elapses. Graciously the developers have made it so you cannot discharge your weapons, having the foresight to know what gamers made to wait can be like and so helping to avoid griefing.


Mobility

An aspect of life that’s for the most part highly important, becomes even more so on the battlefield, what with the wanting to run away when the loud noises start and all. With V10 you can now run away even more effectively, a part of the update that is definitely applauded by heroes and cowards alike.

The addition of the ability to vault over objects and use your buddy as a boost to climb hitherto unreachable places, means taking cover and traversing the terrain has become even easier. No more being trapped behind knee high walls while the rounds kick up dust at your feet. Well, that is unless you’ve not got the stamina to carry out the mantling move.

A free look bind has been added allowing you to be even more observational on patrol with a 180 degree arc of vision. The speed and ease of entering the prone position has been made more slow and difficult, meaning goodbye to the tactic of drop shots and hello military realism. Whilst prone you can also now lean round, perfect for peeking corners, turning your whole body out and giving you a much better field of view when looking out from cover. Crouch sprinting has been implemented, meaning you can now run distances with a lower profile at the cost of speed.

Another feature that comes into play with your movement is the fact that your weapon length is now a valid factor you must take into account when near obstacles. It will be made to lower and you cannot fire, meaning that your secondary weapon pistols can often now have a bigger advantage in tight spaces, especially as a marksman with their long barrels.

All in all this update has done wonders for your mobility and has brought much more to the table, realism and gameplay wise, making getting around smoother and more tactical.

FOBs And Deployables

Now when you place a FOB radio set down, both the ammo and construction points are set to 0, owing to this, a number of the deployables have been cut in the points that it costs to place them. This has been implemented as previously they relied heavily on the points you initially started with for placement. The ammunition resource cap has been doubled to 2000, meaning FOBs can now be better defended and provide better cover and support, something that will make this feature of the game more useful and hopefully therefore more used. As all too often mortar teams are seen as pointless. Packing more of a wallop over a sustained period should make them regarded as useful as they should be. Another element which further develops the usability of mortars is the new smokescreen rounds. Which cover a large area and can last up to a minute, allowing for advances to be made.

Logistics trucks now work a bit differently, you can now decide with what you would like to fill the truck. Either construction materials, ammunition or both depending on your FOBs needs and your squad leaders’ orders. To drop supplies off you must use the number keys 1/2 or mouse scroll to select which resource you wish to drop, then hold the left mouse button to drop off. To pick up supplies you hold down the right mouse button.  Lastly logistics trucks now have the ability to load up from a FOB to take the materials elsewhere, the significance of this is that now if retreating or advancing you can salvage what’s left and redistribute it. The developers have stated there will be more development on these building aspects in the future, hinting that perhaps some FOBS could be used as supply hubs in a logistics chain.

 


An anti-aircraft emplacement has been added as a deployable for both unconventional warfare teams, a ZU-23 twin barrelled 23mm AA gun. It costs 100 ammo points to reload and is limited to one per FOB, costing 400 construction points to build. This addition is hinting that perhaps we are getting closer to the promised incorporation of helicopters which the developers have been working on since 2017. I hope they get implemented soon as I really cannot wait to play flight of the Valkyries down my mic in local chat at the nearest possible opportunity as we hover onward into battle, sorry fellow players.

 

SPG-9 emplacements and the mounted variants now have the option to choose between high explosive anti-tank or fragmentation rockets. The latter being best for hitting grouped together infantry units or those taking cover inside buildings.

The militia now have a new defensive deployable in the form of a wooden trench wall section, limited to 10 per FOB and costing 150 construction points.

FOBs are a vitally important part of gameplay and I’m enjoying seeing these developments, how they can be used and pondering on what can be added. I think it will be interesting down the line to see what other developments are being worked on and what effect they’ll have on the game itself. 

Weapons And Kit

A lot has changed in regards to weaponry, a lot of it being very minor and fiddly details that I don’t feel worthy of noting as they are none to exciting. So for this section I am going to cut it down to what I feel are the most important elements. Many of what I am going to gloss over are just points on kit changes that bring balance to the different teams as well as more true to life loadouts and damage changes.

Firstly, all animations for the equipment and weapon usage have been completely rebuilt from the ground up for V10, some nice smooth animations (when they don’t bug out.) Furthermore the way weapons handle overall has been revamped too – recoil, weapon sway and movement are all something you’ll have to get used to again, which are all effected by your current level of stamina. I do find the weapons are a lot more realistic to use now, but somehow smoother at the same time. Same can be said of the swapping between what’s in your inventory, you can now cancel your reload or equipment change to select another weapon a lot quicker. Giving you better ease of response to developing situations, which can be vital to your survival out in the field. No longer will you be stuck doing something you need to stop. Almost all weapons can now have their scopes and sights zeroed in, to help aid at different ranges, something I haven’t quite got to grips with, but I’m certain will be useful once you know what you’re doing.

Now for one of the biggest factors of new weapons and kit that has been afforded to us, machine gunners. Finally they have been equipped with bipods to allow positions to be set up and for more effective fire to be levelled against the enemy. You can deploy them on most any surface including your squad mates back if they stay still providing you a firing position, and potential meat shield. Win win for the gunner eh?  All belt fed weapons have been given visual animations of the belt diminishing as ammunition is fired through, adding a nice little touch of realism and a better visual feedback for when reload time is near. These kits are great when used in tandem with marksman or other fire support roles, having a spotter to direct fire – they are best operated from a held position providing overwatch for your squad. Equipped with 500 rounds they can sustain fire for a large amount of time. You can get a rifleman to lay sandbags to make their position elevated and slightly protected.  A brilliant plus for your squads’ tactical fighting ability this kit unlocks at 5 squad members and is limited to 4 per team, unlocking one per 10 people on your team. Giving it a nice balance I feel.

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Here’s a quick run through of the most important small noteworthy changes for brevities sake;

All the reticules bullet drop compensation indicators on scopes are finally fully functional. Coming in great handy for those long distance shots you just can’t calculate yourself. All marksman kits now have binoculars meaning they can play their role more effectively. Also binos themselves have become more effective – equipped with a proper reticule and rangefinder, which helps you indicate range by the height of the enemy at different distances. All non-scoped riflemen now get a reel of razor wire alongside their deployable sandbags, helping your squad dig in further when taking defensive positons.  The Insurgent raider kit has been given 2 drum magazines that hold 71 rounds, good for pushes and holding against a numerically superior force. Making you into bit more of a shock trooper. Insurgents now too have a grenadier kit, however it is restricted to 3 per team, better reflect their more heavy reliance on RPG weaponry in the real world.

Some lovely new changes in this sector, bringing more diversity to the game.


Vehicles

The first thing you will notice on all vehicles in V10 is that it now takes a while to enter, exit or move seats. How long it takes depends on the vehicle and type of seat you are moving to. This means that soloing vehicles is no longer as effective as it used to be, thus encouraging teamwork. Meaning vehicles take up more of your squad to operate or are less effective. Adding to the realism and overall balance of the game.

Insurgents have a new vehicle in their arsenal, a civilian coloured Ural 375D logistics truck (only in certain maps.) Both Insurgents and Militia have a MTLB variant with a ZU-23 AA gun on the back as well as a smaller PKT turret up on the front mount. A vehicle that can be operated to full effect by 3 people means that smaller vehicle squads of friends can get a lot of enjoyment out of this one.

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Me and my pals have had much fun using it so far and have found it best to be used at a distance to deal with people holed up in hilltops. It makes light work of smaller vehicles, but is vulnerable against the more heavily armed and armoured ones. Has to be said, it handles like a dream and is quite speedy, making it good for withdrawing and getting about in general. It costs 18 tickets when destroyed and only takes 6 minutes to respawn (thankfully as I absolutely love this addition.)

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Alongside the aforementioned vehicle, the Insurgents now have an Ural 375D mounted with a ZU-23 AA gun on the back which shoots high explosive rounds. It is a very vulnerable and cumbersome vehicle which is best used at a distance or for ambushes as it cannot fire directly forward. When destroyed it will cost 12 tickets and also has a 6 minute respawn timer.

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BTR-80 / BTR-82A / MT-LBM 6MA / MT-LBM 6MB / BRDM-2;
These above vehicles have now been fitted with a coaxial PKT machine gun, which is much more useful to supress and dispatch infantry threats and can be switched to in the inventory slot number 2. All vehicles mentioned above, as well as Strykers are also now equipped with smokescreens shot from launchers, you carry 2 loads worth and it’s great for beating hasty retreats or tactical advances. They are reloaded at the cost of 75 ammo points per piece. Developers have done this to ensure this feature is not abused and the map is not a constant mess of smog. Which I feel is very sensible, making them viable but not abuseable.

MT-LBM 6MB and BTR-82A;
Are now equipped with a high explosive round for their main cannon, which is good for dealing with infantry taking cover or inside buildings. But best to switch back to your armour piercing rounds to deal with vehicle threats, even though HE does deal some damage. It’s not the firepower you need for blowing up armoured vehicles.

BTR-80 and 82A;
Now come fitted with a periscope for commanders, giving an extra seat. One day this will be rolled into the driver seat to make them the vehicle commander. But for now this is a nice little asset for SLs to use as an extra set of eyes.

V10 has made vehicles much more versatile, realistic and effective and I am absolutely loving using vehicles even more now since V10 dropped. Great fun, great effect – all round good update on this front.

New Map

There have been a few changes to a few of the existing maps, mostly bug fixes or adding more variation in buildings, populating certain areas and giving them more playability. But I am going to focus on the newest addition, the snowy map of Belaya. It includes 2 AAS game versions as well as 2 different invasion game type layouts.

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This tundra is set in Eastern Europe and is a nice change from lush grasslands and deserts we’ve been hitherto used to. Giving a nice new terrain to play in, with light to heavy snowfall which really adds to the immersion, obscuring your vision somewhat and giving you the need to focus more in outside areas on patrol. My favourite part of this map is the tunnel complex of the train yard, which makes for some truly fun close quarter combat and is both fun to defend and attack. It’s quite hilly but not too mountainous, has plenty of bisecting roads for vehicles and is generally quite passable in off-road routes, depending on your vehicle of course. A beautiful addition bringing something new to the table that plays very well.

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User Interface

The main menu UI has been completely overhauled giving it a nice sleek look and making it easier to navigate. It also allows you greater access whilst joining a server with the ability to browse the menus without being dropped from the queue, so any last minute bind changes or what have you can be sorted without hindrance. Installed Mods are now viewable while in the main menu and a music player has been added, allowing you to choose through the Squad soundtrack. I’m hoping maybe we will be able to add your own playlists in the future, although there is no word on that.

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As a SL there has been some changes to your UI, vehicle claims appear on the left hand-side of your screen and you can now approve the request using a hotkey rather than fiddling around on the map. You have also been given more symbols to mark on the maps, one for ‘request pick up’ and another for ‘mine spotted’. You can now invite unassigned players into your squad if you wish to fill your ranks too though I haven’t worked out how to do that yet.

In general all weapon selection icons have been given a new and updated style, current selected weapons and equipment names are shown to you above your ammunition counter, allowing you to know what you have selected at all times. Coming in handy particularly if you have different types of rockets or grenades to switch through.

Miscellaneous

There is now some limited integration with discord, so you can see who in your channel is playing, what server, team and squad they are in. Hopefully there will be more of these little additions that are helpful. Another feature added is mod support through the steam workshop, all you modders and fans of mods out there will be delighted to hear!


Bugs And Glitches

There has been a number of existing bug fixes here are the ones that the developers have listed;

  • Fixed US Logistics Truck windows being fully bulletproof.
  • Fixed destroying certain vehicles crashing the server.
  • Fixed ammunition indicators and inventory being invisible while in a vehicle turret.
  • Fixed the “Ballerina Pose” bug that was occurring when a player dies or exits a vehicle.
  • Optimised the burn effects for vehicles and destroyed vehicles.
  • Fixed incorrect bullet casings being used on all AK74 and AKM series rifles.


Still with these bugs fixed, there are still a great great many issues. Here are a few that I have been experiencing and feel need to be addressed pronto;

Glitching through structures such as roofs when revived.You can mantle through certain windows with frames. Sometimes when you switch weapons your models hand comes off it and goes up into your face disrupting your view. Also weapon models disappearing from character which can be fixed by changing weapon sometimes.Players in vehicles sitting outside of them at some distance. Or even in the drivers lap obstructing view.

And a bug that I sadly didn’t get a clip of, where I was tilted upside down and couldn’t walk or move without spinning upside down… it was hilarious but quite disorientating and I had to be run over several times by my obliging squad mates before it corrected.

And these are just the ones I know off the top of my head. There are probably quite a few more to contend with.

All in all even with the unfixed and new issues, I absolutely love this game and they can’t detract from it – it is just enjoyable to no end. Most of the bugs are just funny but some do hamper gameplay in a number of ways as well as others being exploited to unfair advantages. Either way, they all definitely need fixing, however understand that with such a large game as Squad there are bound to be growing pains that need ironing out. Let’s just hope the ironing is done sooner rather than later.


All being said and done this update was a leap forward in the Squad experience thus far, also hinting at the course this game is taking and continuing to take, with glimpses of the future (i.e. aircraft counterparts to the AA weaponry.) It’s a course I myself will stay following closely and urge you to join if you like team based tactical shooters and large scale warfare, this is for you.

 

Trumps Roundabout Round-Table Talks

Recently I begrudgingly felt I had to write about video game violence in the news, writing an article in which I mentioned Trump wished to meet with games company executives to discuss the perceived issue of violence in games (you can read that here.)

Well he certainly followed through on this talk, bigly. Holding a bizarre and rushed get together with a handful of execs at a round-table meeting that was held on March the 8th, it was closed to the press but what we do know doesn’t do the stunt any favours. The current commander in chief followed in the footsteps of Joe Biden who did the same in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. A meeting that lead nowhere then has once more been staged, and I hazard a guess it will lead nowhere once more again. Another massacre, another meeting with little to show for it other than the illusion of action as a distraction piece.

The meeting was started with the president showing a heavily cut and out of context edit of video game violence. Which the White House laughably later posted to their official YouTube account, spawning a lot of comedic responses and disdain. It went viral before later being taken down, having become something of a laughing stock. If you wish to watch the out of context reel of ultra-violence taken mostly from the Call of Duty series, check out the video below;


After this ludicrous video which he obviously thought would come up top trumps, the Donald stated ‘this is violent, isn’t it?’ He could have literally had the same effect and message by pointing at the screen and repeating ‘BAD’ over and over again as it played.

Video game execs, such as the CEO of Rockstar who was present, must have felt something positive could have come from the meeting, being that they even entertained the thought of attending – let alone following through and going to it. However, I feel and say that nothing positive can come from circumnavigating the real issues just to simply point, hiss and boo at a political and media scapegoat. You can rarely, if ever, get something from nothing – let alone empty gestures.

The mainstream media itself once again has escaped the spotlight and gladly shone its own upon the gaming world, as well as the killer. How about we talk of the treatment of mass shooters and killers in the news, which lets face it, feeds into this mentality and the desire of killers to make a name for themselves. Always focusing on body count, immortalising the perpetrators and their name with 24/7 sensationalist coverage. Showing all to bare to those would be killers how easy it can be to achieve the same disdainful acclaim. The media makes them infamous and feeds into the vicious cycle;


Inaction or even worse, the illusion of action, cannot and will not save the lives of innocent Americans. It is the equivalent of doing nothing disguised as something – a dangerous game to play when there is a human cost at stake.

The dodging of the real issues at hand must stop. It has become nothing but a perpetual carousel in the violent act of flogging one of the deadest of horses. Wheeled out once again to be beaten like an empty piñata. Politicians who employ this diversion tactic lack the will, backbone or desire to rethink the second amendment and so attack the first outright. Gun ownership trumps freedom of speech and the lives of American children in the land of the free. With so much political power coming from lobbyists such as the National Rifle Association will the spotlight ever fully turn inwardly?

Lest we forget the current leader of America received $30,000,000 in presidential campaigning funds from the NRA. Perhaps games will be left out of the firing line if games company lobbyists put up the dosh, to make him shut up.

Alas, I remember the days when games lobbies were a simpler thing, a place to gather players before the start of the match, now they have become more than that. Games industry lobbyists are becoming much more commonplace. Perhaps to combat the political force rallying against their portrayal of violence, perhaps they have their own sinister political agenda too. In a world where games execs are looking to push micro-transactions and extort gamers in ever new ways I’d wager to bet it is both. To me it is a worry that these even began to exist, rising from ashes of this dumpster fire debacle of a debate. I doubt they are about protecting players, focusing rather on their pockets and looking to protect profits.

If you’d like a more in depth, colourful and hilarious look at the meeting check out this vlog by Jim Sterling who as always is putting the world to rights;

 

Mavericks: Proving Grounds; A 400 Player Battle Royale Mode Set To Enter The Arena

Battle royale games, so called owing to their inspiration coming from the plot of their namesakes’ 2000 cult classic movie and novel, are a hot topic right now. These multiplayer games combine last man standing gameplay with elements from survival games, to create a genre that is both challenging and highly enjoyable.

Players are dropped into a map typically by parachute, with little to no resources. Then must scavenge at their chosen drop zone, praying that they made the right decision and the loot gods are good to them. After all no one wants to bring a frying pan to a gunfight, even if they can stop bullets.

The battle then ensues whether you are prepared or not and you must survive using your wits, skill and whatever kit is at your disposal. Whether you’re a hunter or a hider matters little, as you will be both by the end one way or another. In this game type the safe play zone is restricted, slowly getting smaller and smaller to bring players together until there’s only one team or person left after the final showdown. This ensures the gameplay flows when numbers drop, as well as making sure it actually comes to an end and isn’t just a glorified game of hide and seek.

A Brief History

Brendan Greene, more commonly known by his handle PlayerUnknown was the creator of the ARMA 2 mod DayZ: Battle Royale. A mod which Daybreak Game Company obviously liked the look of, taking him on as a consultant in the development of their game H1Z1.

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This was the first standalone of this type that I know of and where for me it all began. H1Z1s’ King of the Kill game mode released in 2016 and quickly enamoured me to the struggle of becoming the last one standing on the body heap, even with all its early access woes. The game type was just too fun for those woes to have mattered. Seemingly, I wasn’t alone in my love for this type of game, as in the following years they grew in popularity as well as numbers. After his contract with Daybreak ended PlayerUnknown was picked up as creative director by Korean owned Bluehole games studio. Through that partnership PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds was born, being so well received (hitting 30 million sales by February this year) that it’s looking to becoming an eSport.

Since then the titles have begun to snowball, with the recent 2017 addition of Epic Games’ go at the genre, Fortnite. This offering brought the elements of fortification building and destructible environments to the field. Evidently it is so fun that it has quickly shot into the ranks in terms of popularity, becoming a worthy competitor to PUBG and its ilk. As well as becoming a freshly baked meme in the process, which is probably now stale considering their usual shelf life – but who’s to judge. One things for certain, PUBG and Fortnite are currently doing battle as the two compete for top dog in the markets own version of the 2001 film.

Enter Mavericks: Proving Grounds, set to be the next instalment in what I can only imagine will be a long line considering the swift rise in popularity of this genre.

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A Maverick? It’ll Need Proving!

Originally known simply as Project X, the ambitious endeavour of self-proclaimed innovation oriented Automaton studios to create a 1000 player tactical shooter MMO has been named after more than a year. Set on an island in the near future, the now named Mavericks: Proving Grounds was revealed at the recent PC Gamer Weekender in London on February the 17th.

Before the wider MMO world is released in 2019 a BR game mode is to be unveiled sometime later in 2018. A game which will seek to fix what the team at Automaton think is wrong with similar games like PUBG, poor connection and bugginess owing to the connection and performance issues that arise with 100 players connected in large scale maps. Limitations they say other similar games infrastructure are incapable of escaping. So what was their answer? Seemingly it was to quadruple the number of players in the server.

Actually and probably quite obviously, there’s a little more to it than that. To avoid falling into similar traps that they feel make other BR and MMO games stale they will be relying upon Improbables’ SpatialOS cloud platform combined with a client created through Cryteks’ CryEngine. Having their vast and interactive map uploaded to the cloud and relying on the real-time visual rendering of CryEngine, Automaton feel they are able to really push the envelope. Looking to create a large and interactive world with a great many players in it, that has the potential to be a massive playing experience. The reason they are so confident in achieving this is because what’s powering the game behind the scenes is designed and built to deliver this. A pre-contained world that renders in real-time that the end-users PC simply acts as a viewing portal to, allowing for higher performance. In an interview with Polygon Lawrence Barnett of Automaton said;

“Everything [the user sees on their screen] is basically computed on the fly, and what that enables us to do is simulate a massive world on the server. Then, as the player moves through that world, you swap in and swap out the necessary information that they have to see. … There’s no way your computer could handle all this by itself.”

maverick 22
Some players are rightly sceptical as to whether gameplay will live up to what’s been promised.

Wildlife that actually reacts intelligently and dynamically to players. The ability to track the path of others as they indent on their surroundings through footsteps or paths taken through displaced foliage. Wildfire that spreads, as well as destructive environments are all parts of this interactive map. Automaton want it to be more than just a stage, they want players to be able to use it as an interactive tool to aid them. In Barnetts words, they want to ‘create a living breathing world.’ Not only on a massive scale, but in a logical way that will influence play style depending on where you drop. They’re looking to do this bit by bit like a quilt of set-piece patches, to avoid the map sprawling willy-nilly in a way that doesn’t impact on the experience positively.

The gigantic interactive and dynamic well designed map, coupled with the heavy focus on providing players with a top notch FPS gaming experience shows that clearly Automaton have massive ambitions for the game they’ve envisioned. Trying to improve upon what they and many players perceive to be the issues with similar games. Will it live up to its ambition as planned? One can hope even if sceptical, as quadrupling a BR games player size in a bigger and better than ever map, as well as creating such a large scale immersive MMO world will make for much fun and an all-round tasty experience.

Undoubtedly developers are looking to get their slice of the BR pie and luckily for them when it comes to the market, there can be more than one winner. With such fanatic customers with a thirst for this relatively fresh genre, who can really blame them. But can this game bring more to the table? Or will it be just another copycat jumping on the bandwagon of BR games success, with a view to sell yet another MMO in an over saturated market?

I for one am more than looking forward to finding out and reporting back.

On Video Game Violence And Addiction; Something Old, Something New

Video games have once again been in the firing line of headlines recently, something that we’re all used to, especially in times of violence. But as well as a recurring debate, there is an unprecedented decision in the headlines this year.

In the wake of the horrific and most recent US school shooting in Florida, which left 17 dead, 16 wounded and many more traumatised, politicians and pundits have wheeled out the old cliché that violent games are the chief culprit. Alongside this, it has been announced that the World Health Organisations’ (WHO) 11th International Classification of Diseases has decided to include a condition called ‘gaming disorder’ as a major public health issue.

One of these pieces of news should be treated cautiously, whilst the other has become a farcical age old argument, yet is still given traction in media and political circles, when it should be outright dismissed by now.

Video Game Violence

Societal issues, especially horrific events such as the most recent school shooting, are the cause of moral panic, more often than not, a moral panic that seeks to scapegoat rather than solve the issue at hand.  Whether it’s comic books in the 50’s;

Or whatever new music is prevalent, it seems politicians look to blame popular culture rather than deal with actual causes, because realistically speaking – that would be difficult and requires real action. It’s easier to point the finger and blast hot air when you lack the political will to enact real change.

Donald Trump has suggested in a timely fashion that perhaps we should provide parents buying games a handy rating system to know what kind of game they might be buying their child. No further comment on that one, it speaks volumes on how much he really knows and cares about the matter. A Rhode Island politician has even gone so far as to seek a tax on violent M-Rated video games, which states lack the power to legislate against the sale of. He states that this extra money should be funnelled into mental health care. Should this not be something that is provided for without punishing consumers of video games? Especially considering that less than 20% of school shooters partake in violent games. Perhaps politicians could foot some of that bill with the money they receive from pro-gun lobbying groups, like the National Rifle Association. I think most rational people would agree that video games have more place in the home than weapons.

Choosing to look the other way or bury our heads in the sand when it comes to facing down the myriad of actual reasons that leads to violence, is traditional of our society. If we are to  actually face up to the real reasons, we might just shine a light inwardly and see that beneath the glossy veneer we present, our societies are often broken in so many ways it becomes overwhelming when trying to hone in on the factors that cause young men to commit such violent acts (I say men as statistically speaking this is the case.) This circular argument which takes us nowhere seems to have no end, as if the 90’s never happened and the diversionary tactics will work this time. We must outright accept that violence is not caused by games. It is embedded there to begin with, even if at the very least, these people play violent games to act out their fantasies.  If we as societies sought to actually be communities and look out for our fellow humans, these kind of events could be more easily avoided but there is so much inequality and alienation that people with these tendencies often fly under the radar until it’s too late. Or in the case of the Florida shooter, the signs are completely ignored by those around them. Politicians lack the backbone and will to do the right thing because it goes against the very ethos of our individualistic and capitalist societies, as well as the gun loving culture of the United States. Until we force them to face up to the many factors, they will keep trying to feed us a pill we just aren’t swallowing anymore.

It is time to end the debate and focus on the real meat of the matter.

Video Game Addiction

Most anyone who loves gaming will be able to recount times when pursuing it has somewhat negatively impacted on their life. Whether it’s the thirst for achievement and enjoyment that drives us to not put the controller down or walk away from the keyboard, making us get less sleep. Or the desire to own the best skins and other such loot hurting our wallet, it’s a simple fact we cannot ignore. Games have a certain addictive quality that needs addressing one way or another on an individual basis at the very least. After all games do have the potential power to affect lives and to change the world. But to what extent is the desire to pursue this hobby habitually a mental disorder? According to the WHOs’ recent classification, it is now considered to be the rule and not the exception.

Whilst I’ll be the first to admit my gaming endeavours have sometimes been slightly detrimental to my life. However the WHO needs to be careful not to view gaming as an inherent evil, as like anything people love and enjoy it can become a hobby people are passionate about or can even be a coping mechanism for other underlying mental disorders. Many psychologists are calling the decision to classify ‘games addiction’ as a mental disorder premature. Even if the WHOs’ heart is in the right place, they risk ‘pathologising behaviours that are normal’ for millions upon millions of young people, something that could do more damage than good. If games are treated as the issue and the true underlying problems are ignored, they have once again become simply a scapegoat.

Whilst the discussion and research of this topic are welcomed by me as a conscientious gamer who would gladly level justified critique at my hobby that would help people. This  classification would put gaming on a similar footing as gambling, which wreaks havoc on peoples lives and destroys families. Putting gaming on par with such an addiction is simply absurd, unless of course we are talking about micro-transactions and how it’s introducing children to gambling, which is much more of an issue than heavy gaming. What is clear, is that we need more solid scientific research and not to succumb to moral panic in lieu of facts, as the WHO potentially jumping the gun risks missing the real issues.

All this begs the question, if even scientific bodies are joining our politicians in succumbing to moral panic regarding games, what does that say about our society? And what hope do we have about getting to the truth of the matter? This is something that must stop, as in the long run it will only do more harm than good.

The World Changing Potential Of Games Rooted In Reality

Since they have earned their place in pop culture and especially to the outsider, video games have often been conceived as being associated with the fantastic. Imaginary far-fetched worldscapes enjoyed as a newfangled distraction from our boring reality. Whilst this isn’t entirely wrong and oftentimes is the case, to simply assume this at face value would be doing a disservice to the medium. As many gamers will know, there are a plethora of titles and genres which not only dabble in reality, but go as far as to try and replicate it, stick to its truths or influence it beyond the confines of the screen.

The game that is most widely remembered as the first home video-game had humble beginnings. It was an early iteration of Pong created by Physicist William Higginbotham in 1958, which was revealed to the public at Brookhaven National Laboratory open days. In a later interview he recalled that he figured –

“It might liven up the place to have a game that people could play, and which would convey the message that our scientific endeavours have relevance for society.”

Tennis for Two
The game Higginbotham created, he named it ‘Tennis for Two’ and’ it utilised an oscilloscope as a screen to play on.

 The origins of video-games as tools to aid proponents of the computer age is quite telling, in that it shows us, alongside being entertaining  they can be apparatus to inform and sway our opinions. We’ve come a long way from their origins in aids for computer salesmen, now games have the potential to reflect and explore much more, even to change the narrative of society itself.

I am going to look at how and why video games rooted in reality have potential world changing capabilities, as well as explore some of the ways that they have been used as tools to change reality. And most importantly why this should be something we concern ourselves with as a community.

Games As Art And Literature

Storytelling, it’s something our species have done since even before the advent of language – when we left our mark on cave walls to express ourselves, now we leave them on blogs. Like storytelling itself games have come a long way since their creation. In simpler times we had little pixelated avatars doing something for some reason but as what we could create in games advanced so did characters, worlds and the stories being told. It is clear that storytelling and video games have a symbiotic relationship, both have influenced each other, together. This is especially apparent when you look at games such as The Stanley Parable or Dream which have a heavy focus on exploration and narrative, as a way of exploring storytelling itself. Or any number of games that satirise real world events, such as the Command and Conquer; Red Alert series, which satirises the Cold War going hot.

 

ROOTED IN REALITY
A hilarious and far-fetched look at some of the awfulness that could have stemmed from the Cold War.

 

American film critic Robert Egbert is one of the most well-known voices in this old and tiresome debate and is of the view that ‘games will never be art.’ Whether or not academics or critics would argue against this mediums inclusion in these realms, doesn’t particularly matter in my eyes, it is clear to anyone who plays them and experiences them that they have artistic and literary merit. They are works that have visual and mental impacts on us, they are perfectly capable of making us feel and think. Most gamers, myself included, probably don’t really mind how their legitimacy in the world of high arts and literature is viewed by the respective gatekeepers but it does matter that they are art and literature that is developing a new narrative.

Games constantly break the fourth wall, from the tutorial guiding you to press ‘X’, to your characters commenting on your actions or inaction, such as when Sonic gets tired of waiting for you to play after a period of inactivity. They treat you as less of an audience member and more as a character, we are much more than just an audience when we game, we are an influencer, a protagonist on the stage. This is what I believe makes games powerful in the art of rhetoric and discourse, as we can relate even more to them and therefore they can sometimes be even better at influencing us than traditional literature. It is us who live through the story as the protagonist. Combining the worlds of art, literature and audience participation into one little multi-dimensional package makes them proficient at influencing us. It’s a form of storytelling that is interactive and can easily engross us as an audience, this is why it matters.

Sonic Waiting gif
Sonic growing impatient with you making him hang around, he knows you know he’s gotta go fast.

Historic And Current Events

There are historical games aplenty, for some reason nerds and geeks whom game, seem to have an obsession with these settings be they ancient or old. I am going to examine one such example as I think it best represents this fixation on historical games and the potential perils of rooting a game in reality. That example is World War Two games of which there are bloody loads.

One of the biggest triple A games of 2017 another timely timeless timed out ‘Call of Duty’ game set in WW2, showing us that love for WW2 games just won’t die, kind of like the COD franchise. But why is the historical narrative and accuracy so important? Somewhat sadly, simply put it’s because games are one of the primary ways many children and young adults will be engaging with the history presented. Whilst historical accuracy doesn’t determine whether a game is a great game or not, I feel developers and games companies owe it to society to be as accurate as possible when it comes to the historical narratives, at the very least. Where possible all sides should be put under the microscope for criticism. Allied powers committed atrocities in the war too and more often than not it is only the evil of the Nazis that is dealt with. In fact I cannot think of one game that deals with the atrocities of the allied powers and doesn’t treat them as simply righteous heroes [if you can think of one, please comment them as I’d be interested to see.]

Not to say that games should be propaganda, just that we must understand that they can inform us and if they do they should be on the right side of history and the nice side of morality. An example of propaganda in gaming that’s on the right side of history, is the controversy that ensued around the advertising campaign of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, where developers MachineGames and publishers Bethesda used the opportunity to double down on the anti-Nazi rhetoric of the game.

This ability to influence opinions becomes even more worrisome with regards to games that focus on the reality of current events and our future, they have the potential to impact the political narrative of the world. Sometimes this is owing to real world events not being done justice and misinforming those who play at best and at worst, because they are outright pushing an awful agenda.

Atomic Games, are an example of a developer which wanted to capture the truth of a contemporary historical account, yet the game they created remains unreleased. It was a game that Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines of the US army wanted made, to tell of their experiences in the Second Battle of Fallujah during the Iraq War, it was named 6 Days in Fallujah and to be published by Konami. These Marines had originally been assigned to help make training tools for the US army, but after their experience in war they wanted to tell the story of what happened to them personally and approached Atomic Games. The games creation caused much controversy from war veterans and anti-war groups who claimed it to be glorifying wars and disrespecting the many casualties as well as veterans. Ultimately Konami dropped what could have been an interesting look at war through the eyes of those on the ground. A former soldier who fought in Fallujah told the LA Times of the games significance,

“Video games can communicate the intensity and the gravity of war to an audience who wouldn’t necessarily be watching the History Channel or reading about this in the classroom. In an age when everyone’s always online or playing games, peoples’ imaginations aren’t what they were, sadly. For this group, books may not convey the same level of intensity and chaos of war that a game can.”

The fact that these soldiers had originally been assigned to Atomic Games to help develop training tools for the US Army goes to show how games can be used to further awful agendas. Now even ISIS and other terrorist organisations have been utilising video games  for recruitment and training. Even modding their own version of GTA V known as Grand Theft Auto: Salil al-Sawarem (loosely translating to ‘the sound of clashing swords’, artwork for which I used as the featured picture at the top of this article.  An example on the flipside of this issue is the new game designed to train teachers how to react during a school shooting. Games as a medium have become a way to influence the world to the developers’ agenda.

Rooted in reality 3
A screenshot from the recent teacher training resource game.

Video games can be used to teach us about our contemporary world and its past, as well as warn of potential future outcomes. This coupled with the possibility that the game you’re playing is being used to influence and inform your opinion on reality, should be something that you keep in mind personally. And something I feel we should talk about more as a community and society, to explore the ways we can use this as a positive as well as how we can avoid the negatives.

Tools For What And Who?

Games that are rooted in reality can potentially change the world, their usefulness as tools can and should be much more far reaching than learning tools and propaganda.  Alongside games, those who play them should be seen as a resource, a large community of people who dedicate their time and efforts to overcoming obstacles, solving issues and puzzles to advance, often sticking at something repetitively until they crack it and succeed. As such there should be games that are designed to help solve real world problems faced by our society because gaming can make a better world if we so choose to utilise it.

Some of the questions we should be asking as a society is if games can be tools,  for what and by who are they?

I believe games should first and foremost entertain, but if they are utensils to change the world, then they must be tools for the betterment of humanity by those who wish to see social change.