Battlefield 2042’s Portal Is a Delight for Lovers of Fun with Friends

The next release in Battlefields franchise, Battlefield 2042 is bringing a not so distant future theatre of warfare to the collection. Well known for the rich and immersive situational grandness of the franchises multiplayer gameplay. It is no wonder it is a focus of this release.

With support for massive-scale 128 player battles and a battlefield that changes due to destruction and dynamic environmental hazards. It seems Dice are seeking to out-do themselves. The most ground-breaking aspect of this offerings multiplayer however, is the advent and inclusion of the new Portal system. A system that means players have much more to customise and get creative with, maximising the potential for fun with friends.

Where Does the Portal Take the Player?

Whilst not a tool for modders to get too pumped up about. For the creative lay-gamer it is an exciting and accessible way to spice up gameplay and get inventive. Portal is essentially a web tool that permits players to design, create and share their own game modes.

Allowing for the customisation of many variables, from weapons tuning to vehicle speeds, even including a logic editor for more intricate and innovative game modes. The biggest reason Portal seems to be creating such a stir amongst fans is this. Players have access to a selection of maps, classes, weapons and vehicles from 3 other games in the series. That is assets from 1942, Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3, assets that can be utilised and mixed and matched within the Portal, of course, varying results.

Do players want to see what a single squad of specialists from 2042 can do against 34 soldiers with bolt-action rifles from 1942? Now they can. Do fans want to have the most crowded and hectic experience in any Battlefield game ever? Now they can. As stated in an Aus Gamers interview by Rob Donovan, Senior Game Designer at Ripple Effect;

“You can put 128-players on our smallest map location too, something designed for 32,” …I think it’s going to be terrible, but there’s going to be people that love the chaos, our community loves to push the boundaries and we’re giving them more tools than ever to push those boundaries.”

Fobbed Off or Fun?

Whilst every other title in the franchise has released with a single-player campaign mode alongside the beloved multiplayer, 2042 does not. It has been dropped in favour of ‘evolving the multiplayer narrative’, which with the Portal they certainly seem to have succeeded. As it is very much being spoken about and lauded as an exciting new innovation.

However is this a new toy to distract from the lacking campaign or is it all in good fun? With recent campaigns being more forgettable than commendable the focus of players has most certainly been in the realm of the games online multiplayer. That being so, it is welcome to see developers focussed on what a game is most loved for, developing and enhancing it to allow for more fun with friends.

Will SCUM Rise To The Top?

 

 

 

To answer the question outright, yes and you heard it here first (maybe).

It seems like SCUM is set to rise to the surface of the pond that is the survival game genre, selling over 250,000 copies in its first 24 hours and amassing 700,000 sales in the first week – in what has been Devolver Digital’s biggest release to date.

But what is it you ask? You can get up to scratch on the ins and outs of the game by reading this article or instead enjoy this one line summary;

SCUM is a multiplayer survival game set in a dystopian future where corporations force prisoners to compete in a murderous blood sport reality TV show.

And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy then you probably shouldn’t bother reading this review. It’s a project that in many ways is looking to change the face of the survival genre and from my interpretation of its mission it’s looking to make survival games less futile. Something that as a fan of the genre, I argue is all too often the case. This is the biggest reason why it’s so appealing to me and so I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release ever since I found out about it.

The sheer scale of the game is as such that I feel to cover everything would take a small dissertation. So for the purpose of this review I’m going to be focusing on what I know has been of importance to the community and what you as a potential buyer should know.

 

 

First Things First

This has to be stressed, as I feel a lot of big names that reviewed this game have missed out this important detail or not stressed it enough.

SCUM is in early access and there is a lot more planned for it. Overlooking this fact has led to a lot of harsh and unfair criticism being levelled which doesn’t match up to my playing experience or expectations.  Stating this fact most likely won’t inspire confidence in many of you and I understand why…

Having personally learnt of the perils through games such as H1Z1 and DayZ, like many others I tend to avoid them and am rightfully suspicious of any upcoming early access releases. That being said I’ve wholeheartedly backed SCUM which released at the reasonable price of £15.49. However I decided to back this horse the whole way, so I forked out a further £7.19 and got the extra supporters pack.

Why did I spend more money? To put it simply, the USP and team behind this game have really inspired confidence in me in the run up to release. Since my first week of play and the proof from the pudding so far, that confidence seems worth doubling down on.

In the run up to release developers Gamepires and producers Croteam have been pretty transparent with what they have in the woodworks and their intended goals, doing wonders for my distrust in developers of early access games, even if they admittedly have been a tad bit vague. They’ve been interacting with the community and taking heed of feedback, a trend that has continued since going live,  listening and taking points on board they’ve been quick to hot fix issues and release patches.

With more reputation at stake than other developers who’ve cashed in on the survival genre and legged it, as well as having a sure-fire hit on their hands, means I have high hopes for this game that I am confident isn’t just pie in the sky.

 

 

The Detail In The Realism

The massive level of in depth realism is something that to my knowledge is unprecedented in survival games.

Through the ‘BCU implant’ the puppet masters at corporation TEC1 have bestowed you with, you can monitor everything about your character. Just check out how much info it gives you;

 

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From skill progression, to current injury/ailment, your vital signs, number of teeth, calorie macros, to the volumetric content of your stomach, intestines and colon – just for example. SCUM has a lot of really impacting character micromanagement.

This takes the survival aspect to a whole new level in a ground-breaking way. You must account for so much that will genuinely effect your character and gameplay meaningfully. Everything from your diet, your health, the weather to your physical fitness and beyond.

If you don’t watch how much you’ve eaten, you’ll vomit. If you don’t monitor your bowels and bladder, then my friend you will drop your weapon and your kecks to shit or piss in the middle of battle. If you don’t stay dry and warm, you’ll get hypothermia. You’re getting rained on without waterproofs, your stamina is effected as your gear gets heavier. Get in one too many fist fights and lose your teeth, you ain’t eating well.

Even the inventory menu and how you interact with objects acts in a way that lends itself to reality.

 

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For example, if you want to load your weapon you must first bomb the magazine up, inserting the rounds and then ensuring the right weapon is in your hands you can drag the magazine over to the free slot to load it. You can’t move items en masse from your inventory meaning that even looting has to be carefully considered and is realistic in that you can only move things one at a time when picking them out of a container. Anything you have in your hands will be dropped when completing actions or picking up new things if it hasn’t been assigned a space in your inventory. In this way I have dropped many, many weapons, losing them, for I am a fool.  You can even throw most all objects in your hands which has become kind of an obsession for me;

 

 

 

The sheer ambition in SCUM’s approach to detail in realism is a lofty but clearly achievable goal and is long overdue for this genre.

 

 

Character Customisation And Progression

As with everything in this game the team behind SCUM have gone for depth and impact with this aspect. A lot isn’t readily available currently owing to the nature of early access but even so there is still a lot to consider when creating and customising your character.  Take a look at a quick glance in the video below;

 

 

A lot more to come but still in-depth despite the bulwark of customisation being currently unavailable. You must build your character wisely to suit what you want to get out of them for your playing style, do you want them to be smart enough to craft every single item? Want them strong or able to run faster and longer?  There’s a lot of different build styles and with more to come that will only broaden and allow you to focus on different areas, thought must be put into who and what your character will be.

Too slow with bad endurance? You’ll probably be the first poor sod to snuff it as your faster mates leave you behind as an insurance policy. Not intelligent enough? Resources will be scarcer for you as you can’t craft certain items.

Your characters skillset will progress with time and experience which remains after death when you’re resurrected, something I’ve personally not come across before in a survival game. Another factor that I feel sets SCUM apart and gives it a deeper meaning and something to work towards.

 

The Setting

The map is based on islands of the developers’ homeland, Croatia. As I said in my previous article they should be given a job for the Croatian tourism board because it’s absolutely stunning. Nice variation between rustic farming villages, larger towns, a prison, an airstrip and various military installations spaced out thoughtfully amongst beautiful landscape, making for a well-rounded and enjoyable setting. I’ve also found what appears to be a TEC1 headquarters which so far isn’t interactive, perhaps pointing to some of the lore and story that’s to be added as the game develops.

 

Scum setting

Setting

 

 

It is a big map, some say too large for the up to 64 player servers. However I still manage to run into potential friends and foes at a steady pace, so personally I think it does the game justice. Making encounters all the more special and lending itself to the realism dynamic, fight or flight must be carefully considered, this isn’t a run and gun game – it’s survival and it’s very unforgiving.

 

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The stunning landscape lends itself well for the sheer amount of walking, jogging, running and catching your breath you’ll be doing.  Something you should keep in mind if buying this game, the reality of going anywhere over a long distance is a bit of a hike especially if you’re not the fittest and fastest build.

 

Another notable point regarding the scenery of SCUM’s world, is the diversity in flora and fauna which really makes it feel more real and immerses you in the world. For example there are boars, goats, donkeys, horses, bears, chickens and deer that I’ve spotted so far with many more to be added as you can see in the crafting menu under meats. Dogs, cats, ducks, pheasants, sheep, geese, rats, cow, rabbit, wolves and small rodents for definite so far.  Without listing the different fauna you can consume and utilise this seems to be the most extensive list I’ve come across in this genre. Doing wonders for world building with its variation.

SCUM seems to consistently be bigger, better and more in comparison to its peers.

 

Graphics, Gameplay And Mechanics

One of the biggest issues and complaints levelled by the community so far is regarding poor performance issues and cheaters exploiting a weak anti-cheat system. FPS drop and server lag have been an issue for many, something the developers have been working on incessantly to tweak. This is something that is to be expected within the early days of an early access game, so of course we can cut them some slack. I personally haven’t had any issue with performance, however I have just upgraded my PC to a 1080 GPU and am getting decent FPS and splendid graphics, with a higher end machine it runs like a dream and looks like one too. Double check the minimum requirements for sure when looking to buy this one as it does seemingly take a lot to run without a hitch.

The gameplay and mechanics in my opinion are smooth and intuitive with the gunplay being nice and realistic enough, making shooting things a pleasure. Unarmed and melee weapon combat is also pretty smooth and tasty, I enjoy boxing with the Puppets (resurrected dead AI prisoners who attack you) as its pretty fun, as well as punching my mates.

 

 

 

I particularly like the way the 3rd person vision doesn’t give you an advantage and only allows you to see other players your character would see in 1st person mode. Allowing for 3rd person to be used without any unfair advantages. Camouflage and stealth work well and in my experience the camouflage system is the most realistic I’ve ever seen, in the fact that it actually works.

Awareness is also a cool and useful mechanic that has been done well, a skill that if you hold down the right mouse button allows your vision to focus and your hearing to sharpen. Depending on your characters level you can hear and see exponentially better, giving you an edge when listening and looking for approaching enemies. It can also be used for hunting animals, in that you can track their last direction moved when focusing as well as better hearing where they are.

Mechs that guard the military bunkers and installations are a great touch, giving you more to consider than just blindly running in. The Puppets alongside the mechs give a nice PvE element on top of the PvP. You never feel 100% safe and always must be wary if you are to live long.

 

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Fame And Events

Fame is a points system that your character can build up through kills, actions and just surviving day to day. They allow you to choose where you resurrect when dead, whether it be on your teammates for 100 fame points, random for 25, 75 for your home shelter or 50 for the sector you’re in. This means if you keep dying you will go into the negative and it will take a long time to build back up. This aspect of the game is nice as it stops people from committing suicide over and over to get the spawn they want to come back and get revenge or what have you.

 

 Events

 

 

If your fame is high enough you can spend some of it to join or initiate events such as TDM to gamble the possibility of winning more. This gives you more to do than just survive and is a fun way to break the game up and win rewards. If you join, your character will be safely logged out in the spot you were in until the event is over and you return. Nice little feature that I hope will be expanded on for more variety.

 

 

Backstory Lore And The Higher Purpose

All I have to say on this is, I want to know more and I want to know now! There is such a great potential this facet that I hope isn’t squandered.

So far the only logical and feasible higher purpose that I’ve seen rumoured to be implemented is to stage an escape from the island. Something that I hope is suitably convoluted but in an enjoyably difficult way so it’s not just thrown in haphazardly to match their promises of the ‘higher goals’ billed by developers for SCUM.

I want it to be engaging and lengthy enough to not feel arbitrary and hollow, like shooting a chicken when you’ve already got a full belly …

 

 

 

 

 

From where I’m sitting (incidentally that’s in front of my PC playing SCUM) the bottom line is, this game is a whole lot of fun with a whole lot of depth and meaning I’ve never before come across in a survival game besides, maybe The Forest. With the team behind it promising more, the best is probably yet to come.

With such a successful launch showcasing its potential for longevity and with much more in the pipeline, I feel it can become the pinnacle of survival gameplay. Either way it has the market cornered on bowel movement simulators.

Lovely to look at, immersive, realistic and with goals to aim for – but most importantly wholly enjoyable and a good laugh. These are the reasons why I’d recommend any fan of survival games and mental ultra-violent prison experiment reality TV shows to give SCUM a go.

It’s simply bloody SCUMptious and you should sink your teeth into it.

 

State of Decay 2; Making Good On An Old Promise

 

 

State of Decay was a god send for fans of both open world games and zombies in general. I remember the excitement surrounding it at the time of its announcement, amongst me and my zombie loving peers. Developers Undead Labs in conjunction with Microsoft Studios released their offering in the summer of 2013 receiving many positive reviews from critics and players alike. But man, was I to be in for a personal let down, I was a victim of my own internal irrational hype machine with hope for the peak open world zombie experience in my heart. I couldn’t wait to play this game with my friends and this was the main reason I pre-ordered it, to play it with them.

Well as always with most things in life, the proof was in the pudding and it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I’m not going to say it was a bad game, objectively it’s a good game and to many it was even greater than, it just left me wanting more and I feel had so much more missed potential.

However I’m not exactly fully qualified to give a proper critique, as I gave up on it early on owing to how 2D it felt to me. It was a good enough game, ran well, looked nice and was pretty damn smooth, with some good mechanics. Where it was lacking meant it was not enough to hold me there as a player, I didn’t feel the urge to invest my time into it. The campaign seemed short as from what I know I’d almost finished it even with my lacklustre playing. What progression there was, felt almost pointless to me beyond my own personal progression I hadn’t seen any real fruits of my labour. Despite my fading memories of my 2013 gameplay I’ll try and explain what it did well but why that wasn’t enough for me personally.

 

 

Stumble Beginnings

The concept and story was all there and done extremely well. The zombie apocalypse survival fantasy was the best aspect of it, creating homesteads for survivor companions you rescue. Scavenging to feed and equip yourself and all those extra mouths you accumulate, even down to keeping the group happy with a morale system as well as upgrading your base to help raise their skill levels. That was pretty neat and something I liked very much, but to me it felt like it had little bearing on my game except for having an AI squad which could and should have been some of my human pals. I’ve been told if you died as your character it meant perma-death and you have to choose from one of the survivors for who you will play as next. I like that aspect of it thinking about it retrospectively, the problem was I never died. I played it long enough to know I wasn’t fully enjoying it despite it being decent but I didn’t play long enough to die, even though I completed quite a few missions.

The map was quite small and the game therefore felt quite limited in scope, it wasn’t very big for an open world map, although big enough for what the game was I suppose.  It was overall so limited that it almost made the great selection of vehicles seem a tad overkill when you consider the wastelands of say for example, Fallout, with their vastness and varied areas all traversed on foot. Take a look at the map below and you’ll see what I mean. Well if you agree with me that is…

 

state of decay map.png

 

There was some great horde mechanics although sometimes at the beginning they would be already forming at areas you needed to go, which made it quite difficult at low levels. The special enemies were varied and fun to fight. Such as the Feral zombie and the Juggernaut pictured below. I think you can guess which is which, the feral was the highest threat in the game if you fell foul of their ambushes. The Juggernaut relies on brute strength and high health, naturally, slow but powerful. Some good variation there. Adding some nice variety in fighting style and tactics.

 

Feral zombies.jpgJuggernaught.jpg

 

To get to the point my humble opinions is, it was a good game with an even better concept that was squandered owing to not being wider in scope and depth, failing to deliver on its potential as well as one major promise. The promise of multiplayer and co-op was the very reason I had purchased this game so eagerly. Now I understand nothing about game development except it’s costly and difficult so I can forgive the developers, of course. However when I read the news that they had scrapped the multiplayer we were told would be a part of the game, it became terribly apparent there wasn’t enough to hold me there to play on alone. I had other multiplayer games to play and frankly far more engrossing solo campaigns. I personally enjoy living out a games experience with friends and it all felt a bit hollow from that point forward. It was just a few brains short of a zombie picnic without my friends and co-op mode in general.

 

 

Undead Redemption

That’s where state of Decay 2 comes in, set to be released on Xbox and Microsoft this coming May the 22nd. It really looks as if Undead Labs have set out to fix the issues I took with the original. To put things back on track (in my eyes) for the series, in a way that fulfils more of its potential and redeems itself for the hurdles its predecessor fell at. It’s a game where the survival horror fantasy aspect is once again key but most importantly, it’s going to be multiplayer, for real this time! Check out the video below, this game is all about co-operation with the games host controlling their own base and those who join their game having the incentive to help build up this hosts world as they get to keep items and resources that they scavenge. Meaning this game will have a mutually beneficial community focus and just add more dimensions to the experience of gameplay with a team of humans, as well as the option to solo play of course.

In the words of Doug Williams, Art Director at Undead Labs speaking on the upgrade in platforms and engines says this meant they could achieve more with this game overall as compared to the first;

“new maps, more characters, more cars, more zombies, more simulation everything was a huge bump up.”

Jeff Strain who is the Studio Head added;

“it does give us the ability to create a smoother richer more graphically pleasing world for the players to play in.”

Overall from what I’ve researched this is true, it is definitely going to be bigger, better and more of what State of Decay could have and should have been! There are three more areas than before all the same size as the original, widening it in scope and giving more to the exploration, scavenging and base building aspects. You can build outposts that work in tandem with your main base in the area, base upgrading now requires you defend it from hordes as the noise of the building work attracts the wandering undead. So it seems there are some cool development in mechanics that add to the survival simulation aspect of it all which was already pretty decent before although there was definite room for improvement. There are also enclaves of other survivors that you can meet, trade and garner influence with, which allows you to get access to drones and other such aid by radioing them. Further developing the necessity for interacting with the world around you where before you felt able to skirt around that aspect, now it seems too rewarding to ignore. Also the new night mode looks pretty damn terrifying and will surely add more to the horror side of things, something I welcome as it seems to have been done so well that perhaps I won’t even be able to go out from my base at night without a human companion, the big scaredy that I am.

 

If you’d like to see a more in-depth look at these mechanics check out these videos below on the base-building and new survivor system aspects;

 

 

 

It seems like it’s going to be an all-around improvement this time round so if you were a fan, you’re going to be a bigger fan. If you weren’t a massive fan like me, then perhaps this will satiate your ungrateful and unquenchable thirst for more to fulfil the hype in your head. Here’s hoping, as they have stated they are aiming for a less canned experience and more of a unique one chosen by the player and moulded by them and their peers. Something I believe the original would have benefited from massively.

Undead Labs have really taken on board a lot of feedback from fans on what has worked well and what hasn’t worked or was missing all together. It really feels like they’ve listened and are going to bring out a game that will be an even bigger hit, although I’m going to refrain from over hyping it until I get my first bites of game play. We’ll see if I gobble it up or spit it out and I’ll get back to you all on that one come its release. I’m definitely looking forward to it albeit in hesitant anticipation.

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

Insurgent 2

Insurgent 3

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Insurgent 5

Insurgent 6

 

 

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;

 

 

Uparmoured real 3

 

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!

 

Technical 1.jpg

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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Tow 2

 

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;

 

Machine gun optics 2

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

 

Machine gun optics 1

 

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.

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;
FACTIONS.jpg

 

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;

 

 

UNIT CARDS.jpg

 

 

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;

 

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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.

 

dwarve hold 1.jpg

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.

 

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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.

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.”

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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.