Fear And Loathing Of Fallout 76

 

 

 

The world of Fallout has rightly earned itself a place in gaming popular culture and in the hearts of a passionate following of fanatics. A category I feel I fall into personally, as I love to explore all things Dystopian and post-apocalyptic, so to me discovering Fallout was a godsend. This aspect is something the series has delved into in a way that is exquisitely spot on, time and time again. Crafting wonderful single player RPG worlds out of the nuclear wastes of the USA, along with well written stories to match. It’s truly a gripping game you can happily lose yourself in, even with all the misery.

 

Naturally, there is much debate amongst fans over which of its games are better and which makes the franchises bottom fall out, you know, the usual my favourite is better than your favourite type stuff. Now to me, up until the most recent release in the series developed by Bethesda, the games studio has hardly put a foot wrong (sorry New Vegas diehards.) To others I’m a heretic and a fool, it’s a really rather hotly debated topic. To be expected, as anything gains passionate fans so too does it gain their impassioned opinions which are often voiced vehemently. Something which Bethesda’s most recent announcement has caused no end of, falling foul of angry and hesitant  fans at the first hurdle. As well as the customary surrounding hype, the heralding of this game has caused a lot of fear and loathing across the internet, when very little has actually been concretely revealed despite unverified leaks.

 

So let’s take a look at what has been announced before we move on to dealing with what us fans are causing a ruckus about whether positive or negative. After a 24 hour stream  which was watched by 2 million and displayed nothing much beyond their customary ‘standby’ screen this announcement trailer dropped;

 

 

Oh god it says so little but makes me feel so much and personally I don’t care what it is, just give me it already it’s a bloody Fallout game (as long as it’s not a mobile app game!) Well, to wait for more concrete facts on what the game actually is planned to be we will have to wait for Bethesda’s announcement at the upcoming E3 event. However there is much speculation and rumour as well as apparent insider anonymous tips basically confirming what it is. But before I get on to discussing that let’s take a wee look at what this teaser trailer reveals to us.

 

First thing you notice is the music, a cover of  John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ and so immediately it’s pretty obvious where this ones gonna be set. West Virginia I suppose, if the lyrics are anything to go by, but perhaps Virginia reunified after the bombs dropped? We will have to wait and see. Which brings us to the next significant point in the video of Vault 76, the poster stating 1776-2076 marking the USA’s tercentennial year. 300 years from the date it didn’t want to pay the taxes it owed to the British government for protecting them from their new neighbours they managed to piss off rather quickly. Ungrateful I know.

 

Next comes a TV clip which states ‘When the fighting is stopped and the fallout is settled, you must rebuild.’ This makes sense as in the lore of Vault 76 it was to be one of 17 control vaults of 500 residents compared to the other experimental ones and was programmed to be opened 20 years after the bombs of nuclear war dropped. Setting this particular Fallout game way earlier than any we’ve yet seen, which is one of the worries I’ve seen voiced online. What will be in the wasteland besides waste if it’s so early after the bombs dropped? To me I don’t feel like this will be an issue as there will still be plenty of options to fill the wasteland with points of interest, story and dangers even if civilisation hasn’t started rebuilding as fully as it has in previous games. Perhaps as suggested by the fella on TV, that will be your job anyway….

 

 

The next point of focus in the trailer doubles down and emphasises on this, a shot that pans out across the atrium showing the remnants of a celebration that has been held for what has been billed as ‘reclamation day.’ The day the vault dwellers head out to recolonise their now irradiated country – however those with a keen eye will see that the date on the pip boy featured in the trailer, states 27 OCT 2102, a whole 5 years out from the 20 year programmed reopening date of 2097. Did someone oversleep? Did something go wrong? Is this just a lore error on the part of Bethesda (wouldn’t be the first time,) again we will just have to wait to find out why.

 

pip boy

 

Now for the real atom bomb that’s got a large portion of the community up in arms (honestly looking at comments on social media and YouTube it seems it’s 50/50 at this point.) The reason why? Anonymous insider tips has it that this game will be the franchises first furore into online multiplayer and not only that, but it may be an MMORPG or shock horror even a stinky awful survival game, which now has people referring to 76 as a Rust clone, which I think is cute. As if every survival game is just Rust over and over again, spoiler alert, they’re not. Here’s just some examples of the hate and hype it’s getting –

 

Fallout mixed reviews

Featured fallout 2

Fallout mixed reviews 3

 

To many Fallout fans it seems that it’s not only war that never changes, to them their beloved game doesn’t or shouldn’t really much either and change is something that they feel should be avoided. I can understand that people may not want a multiplayer Fallout game with potential survival game and MMORPG elements however there is probably just as many that do and haven’t yet ever received one. So basically they’re being pretty selfish and I’d suggest they learn to share or something I guess or that not every game is going to be tailored to their exact wants and needs. To me, as I often say, variety is the spice of life and I welcome taking the Fallout world in other directions, I just hope there is a single player option for those who do not wish to play online, that it does the namesake justice and that more classic Fallout games will be made in the future to satisfy those poo-pooing this one already.

 

Change, change always changes (or happens rather) but in all seriousness, it’s the one constant in life and though we may cling to the nostalgia of what we feel a game was, is or should be, we must remember that diversity can add freshness alongside the classics if done right. I have wanted a Fallout game to be multiplayer and co-operative for so long now and I am really excited for more concrete evidence on what exactly it is, stay tuned for more on this as it comes in, I’ll be sure to write about it. In conclusion Fallout 76 should not be feared and loathed, even if it’s not exactly what you hoped for. It should be judged on its own merits, so let’s wait and see if it rises like a mushroom cloud or nuclear bombs. Topical jokes haha.

 

What are your opinions on the announcement of this new game? I’d be interested to hear.

 

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.

Spyro; Reignited But Not Rebooted

 

 

 

Jurassic Park and Star Wars reboots? A Crash Bandicoot remaster?  It seems the latter half of the second decade of this millennium has been a very lucrative time for cashing in on childhood nostalgia. Especially considering fans of the originals which are getting said treatment have in many cases spawned the next generation of consumers.  This trend has only snowballed and is set to continue, so it seems.

As well as bringing new generations to the movie and games franchises that have been relaunched or touched up for a new age this usually makes a large sector of older fans very happy. I’m going to look at and voice my opinion on why it possibly shouldn’t.

The latest announced game to get a makeover in the video game world came with the remastering of the old Spyro The Dragon trilogy aptly named Spyro Reignited. Making large swathes of childhood fans giddy with glee at the prospects of recapturing those happy memories of our younger years with a cosmetically new recycled adventure. To be released exclusively on PlayStation (of course) on the 21st of September published by Activision.  Here’s hoping it too follows the trend of Crash Bandicoot and ends up available on other platforms as my now Xbox owning childhood nostalgia senses are tingling and I’ve already got my wallet open in anticipation. Though, empty as it is I don’t know what good that’ll do anyone.

 

 

What can we expect from this upcoming remastering of the trilogy and what do I think of this announcement. Let’s take a look at both to find out.

Old Flames Rekindled And Remastered

I was slightly disappointed when I realised this wasn’t going to be a new game. But that soon subsided and turned into excitement when I remembered that I can only hazily recall the stories and would love to relive them as I fully know that they were great. Then after riding that wave of excitement, I was straight back to disappointment when I clocked that it was a PS exclusive.

So what can we expect to glide onto our PS consoles from this old classic?

 

  • Memorable characters and good story driven gameplay – From your companion Sparx the Dragonfly who offers you protection, whether he’s simply buzzing or talking (as in Spyro: A Hero’s Tail) he had bags of attitude and was mischievously endearing. Speaking of bags of stuff, that reminds me, Moneybags, one of my first lessons in why the filthy rich kinda suck. He exploits you for your hard earned gems instead of aiding you out of the kindness of his heart, this memorable bastard is another great example of the characterisation that was a huge part of what made this game great. The story-lines were very nicely done too and engrossing as a child, I cannot for the life of me remember them well enough to truly critique them but generally the cut scenes and story progression was a quality of this game that made it very endearing. Especially rescuing the dragons and scuppering Gnasty Gnorcs violent plan for the dragon realms and thus restoring peace. That was lovely.

 

MoneyBags
Just look at him, the pompous sack of wealth and human waste!

 

 

  • Humour – The world of Spyro games always had more than a touch of humour, such as in the aforementioned character of Moneybags, however my most favourite example is the cowardly and cheeky soldiers from the level Peacekeepers Homeworld. I always loved charging headfirst at them and making them quiver and cower  in their tents before scorching it to reveal them. I also sniggered most profusely when they insultingly moon you in a half-baked taunt. They amongst many other examples add enjoyable and funny elements making the game so much more entertaining.

 

 

 

  • Interesting worlds and gameplay – The world of the dragon realm and all that lays beyond was simply mesmerising as a child, often brightly coloured and always varied these were a delight to explore and play through. Another element that was very varied in these games were the enemies, creatively imagined minions that fit into each world thematically and nicely. Also the gameplay was a mixed bag of goodies. Part platformer, part fire breathing head bopping combat, part flying levels all based around a central home-world through which you could access the many interesting areas, through the aid of portals. Check some screenshots from the original trilogy;

 

Spyro world 1

Spyro world 2Spyro world 4

Spyro world 5SPYRO UNDERWATEr

 

 

Some great variation in level design, always interesting to play through and lovely to explore. That’s without even showing the flying levels or bonus stages, or the true scope of the underwater levels (what a dragon is doing underwater I’ll never understand.)

All this and more (cliché alert) will be what you should expect if you’ve never played the game before and if you have and know what to expect already from that aspect. Then you will probably realise that the main deliverance we can expect from this remastering is a massive upgrade in graphics as well as some new creative flair to character and level design details. Just take a look at this difference, much more going on and highly polished too, the comparisons look absolutely stunning and mesmerising. On this merit alone I would buy the trilogy.

 

SPYRO GRAPHICS

 

 

From this ….

 

Spyro comparison.png 

 

To this …

 

spyro.jpg

 

 

A remarkable improvement, but why no new adventures for our scaly pal?

 

Fear Of The Hype Machine

Maybe if the hype surrounding the remastering holds true upon release, perhaps developers may see a potential new spark for an old flame with an original Spyro reboot? Perhaps a new trilogy or a singular game in the works. That’s what I’d really want to see despite being psyched for the updated old trilogy, I want something new.

However with any new take on an old anything, there are always going to be those fans who over-hype and those who dismiss the notion outright owing to the sanctity of their childhood being possibly ruined. Then there’s those like me in the healthy middle ground, that would realise both ends of the spectrum are  valid and that we must wait in nervous but optimistic  anticipation to judge on the results as the proof is always in the pudding. So why is a new game not being announced, when there are fans who would eagerly await one?

Well, with such potential negativity and room for failure surrounding reboots, owing to the effects of what I call the hype machine increasing the chances of a prospective new reboot being disastrously received, remastering is the easy answer. Perhaps that’s why developers and publishers alike opt for the safer gamble and are remastering rather than rebooting. It seems they are happy to take the easy route to guaranteed money bags and are all too often too afraid to take a leap and create an all new game.  I feel they need to have more faith in themselves and respect for fans, but that ultimately fear of the hype machine holds them back.
 

 

UNLIMITED HYPE.gif

 

Whatever happens after this new remastered trilogy, I hope they don’t drag-on announcing a new release (Har-har) that is, if they do plan for one at all.  I can’t wait to pick up a controller and catch up with my favourite purple scaly pal (sorry Barney I got no love for you) for a new adventure or just to relive the old ones. I can still be pleased with some old hat with new ribbons on it even if I hold it out and say ‘please, can I have some more?’

In short the milking of the nostalgia cash cow is a lot easier than hunting for the big prey of a new hit game. Rinsing and repeating with the old formula is nothing short of a lazy cop-out in my eyes, it’s just a safe bet if it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Enjoyable though it may be.

 

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.

 

Brit 2.jpg

 

 

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

Insurgent 4.jpg

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.

 

Uparmoured real 1

Uparmoured real 2.jpg

 

 

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.

 

Tow 1.jpg

Tow 2

 

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

ashamedhighlevelaldabratortoise-size_restricted

 

 

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.

 

KAmdesh.jpg

     decisivegratefulindianringneckparakeet-size_restricted

  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.

 

 

FAllujah.jpg

 

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.

 

NICE ONE BRUV.gif

 

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.