Writings

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.

On A Rail

 

 

On a rail is a level from Half-Life that has received mixed reviews over the years but is most generally less liked for a number of reasons that I’ll broach on later. I say broach, because today’s article is less about the actual level, or overall game itself and is probably only tenuously linked to video games, I promise you it’s a link nonetheless though!

For what I intend to do is to reiterate to you, the musings I’ve been having, on a life lesson I feel I learnt partially from gaming. A statement on life which I wish to proclaim to you, using this particular level as some kinda segueing analogy.

So now that’s out of the way I shall digress.

 

Why On a Rail?

The title is a play on words regarding the ‘rail’ aspect of video games in general and the starkly obvious fact that you are on a literal railway line, do you geddit?

If you think about it, for the most part, what are games but predetermined tracks for you to traverse and triumph over? Even beyond the most obvious and extreme examples of these, such as rail shooters and platformers you cannot escape this element anywhere. In games with the highest level of autonomy afforded to the player, to actually play the game, you’re still confined to the encoded conditions of the rail that’s set before you.

I’ve learnt many a thing from the time I’ve poured into gaming, from history and politics to the more niche facts of life like, Tails of sidekick fames real name is actually Miles  or violence is actually okay and I should shoot up schools (kidding it’s just what yank politicians and the media would have you think.) There are a myriad of lessons about the real world we can find through gaming, alone or with others.

I’ll give an example of one I learnt with others;

My Dad got to the last level of Sonic Spinball and paused it whilst he went to work. I came home from school and excitedly ran over to our Megadrive when I saw it was on, firing up the screen to see what was on it, instinctively and stupidly I unpaused, in awe of a new part of the game I hadn’t seen yet – immediately dying and getting a game over.  I was frightened he would be mad at me, as I would be if someone screwed up my attempt to finish the game.

However, when he got home and I confessed it to him, he merely smiled and told me – ‘I only paused it so you could see the last level.’ If that don’t teach you something then I don’t know what does! I’ll let you come to the conclusion on what it taught me. To put it simply, gaming is a mirror from which we can learn about the real world, life, ourselves and others.

Whilst I could spend hours talking about the teachings to be had in the satire and political commentary aspect of games, my introduction to the Cold War virtually being through Red Alert 2, what I’m going to focus on is a little more abstract and quite personal.

 

 

Off-Track and Turning-Tables

Over the last year or so of my life I’ve had a lot of deep dark troughs and some lofty peaks, as you do. With my mental health suffering I had stopped writing and allowed not just my blog, but my life to stagnate.

It felt to me like I was on a rail of someone else’s design, trapped in a level I couldn’t beat. When I analysed the game of life like that, I realised I was ignoring one vital element and lesson gaming had taught me; every level is beatable if you persevere.

You may not be on a track of your making on a path of your choosing, in a world that’s hostile. You may be on a rail ride you didn’t plan for you, but in life, as in games, you have the agency to make all the difference that you can in the parameters you’re dealing with. You can progress to the next level, get past the bit you’re stuck on, with determination you can learn how to beat it.

So I’ve decided to pick back up the controller so to speak, I had given up but I’m back in the game and I’ll always come back to it. Even if I need to hit pause for a bit, I’ll be back, because I know I’ve got some dope cut-scenes ahead, or at least some disappointing credits that I can bitch about.

Doing a spot of research before I began writing, I came across a Steam forums thread that furthered my resolve to write this piece. Let’s look at some of the criticisms of ‘On a Rail’ I found there and see just how applicable they are when applied to life;

 

On a rail crit

 

Life is confusing, sometimes it’s unclear what you’re supposed to do, it can be daunting. In this event, you just have to move about a bit and explore to figure it out. On a Rail, like life makes you face things head on but as in the level, sometimes you can stop the train and prepare yourself by dealing with the area you’re in. And then lastly, sometimes you have some great nights where you set off fireworks… SEE WHAT I MEAN! These criticisms of it spoke to me as both valid points regarding this level and life.

 

On a rail crit 2

 

This sentient journey you’re on is always gonna be a mixed bag and it’s definitely tedious at times and fraught with risks. Sure perhaps you’d enjoy it a lot more if you could predetermine what’s around every corner and counter it. But that’s not life, it’s a beautiful difficult journey where you can grow and learn how to be more effective. It’s unfair at times but you can find ways to level the playing field.

And that’s what I am going to do, because as I love games, so do I love life even if it’s always on expert mode.

So, I am going to be better at it.

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;

 

BCU.png

 

 

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.

 

Inventory.png

 

 

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.

 

Desktop Screenshot 2018.09.07 - 16.15.18.22

 

 

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.

 

 Desktop Screenshot 2018.09.06 - 18.46.07.80

 

 

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.

 

EA Are Wide Of The Goalposts With This Gaffe

 

 

 

 

I know, I know, this is the second article in a row bashing Electronic Arts, my apologies. But how could I not stick the boot in when they make it so easy? And let’s face it, it’s not like it isn’t deserved!

So, not being content with the recent hatred garnered from their endeavours to cash in on the corpse of the legacy of one of the finest RTS games. EA true to form and right on track have decided they needed some more negative press.

 

 

Having recently lowered the bar for how much you can physically detest them, free-falling beyond the depths of the abyss in which it previously resided. It seems the cretinous company has sought to create their very own EAbyss if you will. And oh my how they’ve succeeded. Having pushed effortlessly past the 3rd and 4th circles of hell completely skipping the 5th and landing just smack dab in the centre of the 6th. They have achieved pure heresy since their evil machinations regarding the sullying of Command & Conquers great legacy.

So what have they bloody well gone and done this time eh?

Not satiated by their never ending ethos of lust, greed and gluttony they’ve seemingly gone and licked the shitty boots of the American establishment from heel to toe, in a move that can only be described as pathetically petty, if deliberate. Regardless of whether intended or not, this potential foul up has given ammunition to those who hold them in disdain. For EA have only gone and censored Colin Kaepernick’s name from a song used in the soundtrack of their latest Madden title.

The verse from which his name was censored in YG’s song ‘Big Bank’ (quite a tune as it goes) is as follows;

 “Feed me to the wolves, now I lead the pack and shit. You boys all cap, I’m more Colin Kaepernick.”

Have a listen to the scrubbed name version here;

 

 

For those who are a little lost by all this, let me do some quick explaining.

 

Who Is Kaepernick & Why Is This Significant? 

Over the last two years protests during the singing of America’s national anthem have taken centre field in the world of American Football’s NFL, but why?

Since 2016 some players (in some cases entire teams) have been protesting racial inequality and police brutality in the USA in a way that has shocked reactionaries in the land of the free. For these players have dared defy angry right wingers, the political establishment and NFL officials by kneeling silently during the national anthem.

Elements of the harbinger of democracy have massively overreacted to this valid and necessary form of protest by banning players and threatening other such sanctions against them. Kaepernick, having lead the charge as the first to sit then kneel during the anthem whilst playing for the San Francisco 49ers is the man who has borne the brunt of this backlash. Having effectively become persona non grata in the sporting world. Instead opting to become persona grata in the hearts of socially conscious people everywhere.

Here he is speaking on the importance of the protest and his reasons behind it, at a speech he made after accepting Amnesty International’s ambassador of conscience award;

 

 

Could this be EA’s own politics at play? Capitulation to pressure from the NFL, an organisation they must work closely with in the creation and development of the series which makes mega bucks? Or is it as their statement responding to this incident claims – simply the fuck up of a simple minded group of employees?

Let’s take a closer look at that statement.

 

 

EA’s Explanation, Credible Or Nah?

I’ll post the statement below so I’m citing my sources and all that, but EA say it was nought but a simple dropping of the ball in interpreting the law regarding rights. See, EA do not have the rights for Kaepernick to be in the game as a playable character and apparently members of the team took this to mean he couldn’t even feature as a lyric in a song….

 

 

EA’s Statement;

“Members of our team misunderstood the fact that while we don’t have rights to include Colin Kaepernick in the game, this doesn’t affect soundtracks. We messed up, and the edit should never have happened. We will make it right, with an update to Madden NFL 19 on August 6 that will include the reference again. We meant no disrespect, and we apologize to Colin, to YG and Big Sean, to the NFL, to all of their fans and our players for this mistake.”

I can’t be the only one to think this but … really now, seriously? I know that of course not every employee outside of the legal department is going to be well versed with the laws and ins and outs of them. However thinking his name couldn’t even be mentioned in a song he knows his name is in and which he doesn’t own the rights to, seems a tad overzealous for those who would be responsible for the soundtrack right?

So what do you think? Is this just a fumble or a political statement? Either way EA could do without the negative press, not that it’s going to stop them making oodles of money or carrying on their less than ethical business practices anytime soon. Sigh.

At worst this was deliberate but in my eyes, at best this was born out of the climate in which Kaepernicks name is mud to officials in the NFL and beyond. With that being so, those in charge of the soundtrack thought best to remove him all together. Let me know what you think or if you agree!

 

 

 

EA’s Command & Conquer Cash Grab

 

 

To many EA are viewed as one of the scourges of the video game world, a triple A behemoth that acquires and assimilates studios, most often to the detriment of fans and their beloved games. A company that is viewed as gluttonous for money and unscrupulous in their quest to fill their coffers, at the expense of delivering the best games and services they could. Well, frankly those people are far from being wrong.

 

EA’s reputation for being one of the most cut-throat companies in the industry precedes them and for good reason. Moving from gaffe to farce it has laid bare its modus operandi, which is purely to profit by any means necessary. As can be seen with some examples from their collection of scandals, most infamously and recently the ruckus caused by Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot boxes. Okay, they did backtrack on that decision but just look at the worlds of Fifa and Madden and their in game purchases. You’ll soon see how EA made $1.68 billion through microtransactions, subscriptions and DLC last year.

 

Now in general in the ongoing debate surrounding their practice, I’ve been a quiet onlooker tutting in distaste at their actions, noting it all with a shake of my head. This time however they’ve crossed a line I had subconsciously drawn in the sand. They’ve opted to revive one of the seminal real-time strategy games as a mobile game. It was announced at E3 to great internet uproar, that the game which alongside StarCraft and Warcraft shaped the landscape of a genre and helped populate it with players, is to be made into a mere mobile app.
 

What C&C Was To Me

Following the success of the 1995 Command & Conquer release which welcomed us to a near future of a Tiberium contaminated Earth, Westwood Studios released a second game set as a prequel to the Tiberium series. Known as Red Alert it was set in an alternate timeline where the Soviets had waged war against the Allies in the wake of the Cold War. This was the series I really got my teeth into and was my first bite of RTS games (sorry GDI and NOD, Allies and Soviets forever.)

 

Way back, as a wee lad of 6 years old in the year of ’96 I have vivid memories of playing Red Alert in awe on my mates step-dads PC. Even at barely over half a decade old I fell in love with the idea of controlling troops to outwit the enemy, especially those darned sweet attack dogs. I mean just look at the cute butter wouldn’t melt one bite one kill bastards…

 
Attack Dogs

 

 

As a series it had so much character and flare, making a great concept simple but most importantly extremely enjoyable gameplay. Just look at the trailer, for the time it must have been mind-blowing, especially if like me you love all things military (it’s not a phase mum,) it even filled me with an intense urge to play watching it back now.

 

The game had a soundtrack that really blew your bollocks off and made you feel like you were riding into battle alongside the action, it’s just so intense. To this day just hearing the ‘Hell March’ gets me in the mood to do some commanding and conquering instantaneously.

 

 

 

 

To me what really gave this specific C&C series character was the satirical and humorous take on the superpowers of the East and West in the campaigns and cut-scenes. This coupled with further characterisation in their building, tech and troop types made it an absolute delight of light-hearted parody. It was funny, often poignant and at times quite kitsch and to me this means that Red Alert: 2 was the epitome of the series because it captured all this the best. Have a cheeky peek at the opening cut scene to get a flavour of what I mean;

 

 

The series eventually fizzled out with releases that didn’t particularly live up to their predecessors’ names and so of course popularity dwindled. It is apt to note that EA took over Westwood Studios in 1998 and closed it in 2003. For all the years that it has laid dormant since the last 2013 release people have called for its revival, however no fan ever expected or ever wanted it to look like this.

Taking something so ground-breaking and influential in the rise in popularity of the genre, a game that was so instantly recognisable for its style and great gameplay and turning it into …. well just watch and see;

 

 

At time of writing 2.1k likes, 50k dislikes on that trailer.

 

 

Command A Cash-cow

C&C Rivals is but a mere husk of the franchises former glory days and in my opinion looks barely indistinguishable from any other ten a penny mobile game I see advertised all over social media. EA have created a knock-off version of a title they acquired, originally created by a studio they closed.

 

Yes perhaps you might say I’m falling foul of what I accused certain Fallout fans of in a previous article and yes, change isn’t always bad, just in this situation there’s no redeeming features. I’m not simply lamenting a different take on a treasured game, it’s the outright relegation of a pivotal series in the RTS genre to nothing more than a mobile game. EA are clearly looking to compete in that reputedly exploitative market with a nostalgic big hitting name. They think C&C is in the same gutter as pay-to-win games such as Clash Royale.

Now I am not entirely opposed to mobile games or even C&C ones at that, it’s more the practice of an exploitative market which all but forces you to make in-game purchases owing to dodgy games mechanics designed to do just that. Bringing out a new name in the series on mobile alone is an outright insult to a prestigious legacy.

 

Mock it

EA have made an obvious attempt to cash in on the pay to win aspects of mobile games using one of the biggest names in RTS history as nothing more than a cash-cow. Shame on them.

 

 

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.

 

Total War Saga: Thrones Of Britannia – First Impressions Review

 

 

When May the 3rd came, with it arrived the release of the first instalment of a new Total War series in a long lineage of the franchises’ successes, well loved by me. I was proper looking forward to playing it, especially since it was focusing on a period of tumultuous history that I find so interesting. Set in 878 AD after the Viking invasions and surrounding the struggles amongst the many kingdoms of Britannia. The land where I live, albeit now a United Kingdom (not to forget Ireland too of course).

Alas some bad planning on my part had meant that I’d be in Scotland to see my folks for a well needed break, drat. Well after my trip, I’ve finally got to put some thoroughly anticipated hours in and experienced enough turn based fun to give you my first impressions. So I’ll get right on with that considering I’ve taken a while!

I guess life will always … uhhh … find a way to get in between us and gaming for reasons both good and bad.
LIFE UHHH FINDS A WAY

 

 

Developers Creative Assembly take great pride in delivering authentic story driven games, so let me join them in that tradition of theirs in my look at the fruits of their labour. Let me set the scene for you with my first experience of the game;

After arriving late back from Scotland on the 6th of May I decided to get it installed, however fate would have it that my PC would give up the ghost that very night which required no end of tinkering for my non-technical Neanderthal mind to fix it. So I returned from the homeland of my Gaelic ancestors to a battle of wit and grit (mostly dust) with my PC. I finally sat victorious on my throne with it before me, king once more and ready to enter the fray.

I was immediately at least 5 times more excited as I watched the cinematic opening scene, which does great at painting the picture of the historical landscape your saga will take place in. Stunningly beautiful and doing wonders in condensing history into an introduction that legitimately got me even more fired up to play it, which I didn’t think possible. Well they managed it, ringing true to Creative Assembly’s custom and making the game you’re about to play feel like a labour of love from the get go, combining historical facts and drama to great storytelling effect. I felt I knew it was going to be another success from that moment in my eyes.

I had a brief overlook of some of the faction choices and quickly chose who I knew in my heart of hearts I’d be choosing and had been most looking forward to playing. It was only fitting it should be the Gaels considering the lead up to this. Besides I am always eager to play the underdogs of history and half of my lineage. So I chose the ancestors of the Scots with the kingdom of Circenn.

 

 

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After loading in, which I must say feels faster and smoother for me than other recent games in the franchise, which was nice and consistent throughout. I was met with another cinematic setting of scenes specific to my faction choice which again was stunning and helped immerse me further. Immediately this game hit me like a cavalry charge to the rear with just how beautiful it looked. From the cut scenes to the map and units all the way down to details in the unit cards and UI in general. Very pleasing on the eye both graphically and stylistically.

 

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What I’ve felt playing so far is that the game mechanics are meant to make the game a slower pace, putting a higher focus on well considered strategic management and foresight. As compared with, say, the faster paced flightiness of the Warhammer series in the game. However despite this clear intent it doesn’t particularity nail it. My playstyle is always rapid expansion until I collapse from internal strife (I’m a sadomasochist I know) yet despite me clearly not playing this particular take on the game as intended I have found it to be very forgiving. I always scrape through by the skin of my teeth, even though I have essentially been playing it badly. I am playing it on normal, however a criticism from the wider Total War community so far is that it’s too easy and I would tend to agree from my experience. However I feel this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it does make it more accessible to those who may not be as good as other players or fanatics of the series but it has been announced it will be evened out with a few tweaks of balancing to enhance the difficulty with an update that is currently in Beta.  So we can see how the victory conditions and overabundance of resources will be changed to address the feedback given on these issues, has to be said it’s a nice rapid response time we’ve seen, with the update coming to Beta just under a fortnight since its release.

In my game I took alliances with my kinsman surrounding me (at least those that would have me) and doing so, was quickly dragged into a war against the Orkneyjar Vikings to the North and so decided to declare friendship with the Vikings of Northmbyre to the South. My plan to over-expand had worked and I had immediately made things harder for myself. Until eventually I was surrounded by enemies as the Vikings and I swallowed up my former Gaelic allies. I felt if I hadn’t manufactured my own difficulty I would have been finding the game a bit too easy as I wasn’t really struggling except through my own engineered stupidity and even then coping (I guess that’s how I’ve survived life so long in general to be honest.)

Anyways enough of my story with the game so far let me look at the meat of the matter, so I can better explain my impressions of the game to you and tell you more of what I think.

 

 

 

History And Art Style

Both historically and stylistically in my eyes this game really gets it right on both counts simultaneously. The art style overall is very suited to the period and I think I’m right in thinking that inspiration has been taken from the art of the period. Such as the unit cards amongst other images, highly reflecting the Pictish stone engravings we have found in archaeological digs.

 

Pictish Stone men

 

It is both beautiful and for the most part historically stylised for the era, a really lovely aspect of the game.

I have to say Total War is one of the only games in which I do not turn the music off, usually I get distracted by it and it annoys me. However the music of this game is of such high quality and thematically fitting that it only serves to immerse me further, absolutely spot on and something I’ve come to expect from Creative Assembly who have won awards in the past for their games music.
There is your usual quotes and poetic verses from the era in loading pages. The factions are historically accurate and it all feels very on the mark historically speaking. You’ve got your nice cultural bonuses and faction relevant details as well as units, giving each a unique play style, although there is less variety owing to the focus in game. But still plenty to give you the urge for more playthroughs.

 

Map And Settlement Design

In my earlier article taking a look at the game pre-release, I mentioned that this one was billed to be the most detailed Total War map of Britain yet, 23 times bigger than the entire Attila campaign map, despite being focussed on one of the smallest regions dealt with in any Total War game.

It feels really vast, so well detailed and geographically pleasing with regards to terrain and it’s great to finally see Britain at a larger scale, personally speaking. I feel that there is a Total War for everyone and despite them all being for me, this one in particular is doubly so because of this.

 

The settlements are well designed and are varied and detailed, making a nice setup for both naval and land siege battles.

 

 

Game Mechanics

Overall as previously mentioned, this is a slower paced game with a larger need for strategic foresight than is necessary in other recent titles. With a return to a more in depth take on faction management as we have seen in past Total War games such as the medieval series. Let me tell you why this is the case, what has changed and how it plays.

 

–  Main Settlements And Smaller Holdings;

The fact that main settlements are now the only ones that have a garrison that isn’t a standing army, means that the smaller surrounding holdings in the province can easily change hand. This is something that lends towards the goal of making the game more strategic. I like this change as it means you have to be prepared and look more into the potential future, watching your enemy’s movements closely and preparing to counter with your armies. It also makes it easier to manage your economy, military tech and other such categories of settlement building keeping them separate and focused. As well as being a nice more historically accurate take on the game.

 

-Recruitment;

 

The recruitment area of the game is much more realistic in a sense. You now only recruit a certain number of a unit’s strength instantaneously and over turns more troops are trained to join the unit and make it up to full strength. This means you can’t just buy a full army over a turn or so to defend any settlements that are to be imminently besieged. Recruitment of unit types are limited and only become available again when they are replenished, giving you limited access to higher tech units. Which gives recruitment a nice balance, again adding to the strategy side of things, which I feel makes it a nice addition.

 

-Loyalty, Legitimacy And Food Surplus;

These three aspects are important and if you don’t get the balance right things can go wrong fast. The most important in my experience is food surplus, if you cannot feed your armies and populace things really go south fast. Legitimacy of your rule and the loyalty of your generals and governors, whilst seemingly supposed to be important, was never an issue with me. Bar one civil war which I quickly quashed. Lesser legitimacy and war fervour comes with penalties as well as bonuses at higher levels but loyalty felt a little moot. You can easily buy off your underlings with giving them estates as well as adding loyalty points through character progression selecting the right option.  The family tree and character progression to me felt a little 2D but perhaps this is something that will change with the rebalancing of the game that is due?

 

 


– Stances;

There are only two options for stances which are raiding and encamping, you can gain further movement ability through technological advances as well as character progression. Which seems to simplify it all, streamlining it nicely and taking away the perils that come with forced marching.

 

-Battles;

 

 

The battles in this game play so smoothly and the UI is very streamlined. For example having smaller banners that reveal greater detail when needed, making the action much easier to follow and allowing you to more easily micro manage the combat.

In sieges there is the option to place barricades to create fall back points as well as choke points, I like this. However it could be more varied as to where you can place them. You don’t get the choice and there are limited options as seen below.

 

 

 

Instead of capturing towers as an attacker, the towers fall and are completely destroyed. I feel that they should remain as they have in other Total War games and work in advantage of the attacker to make things a little easier on them. This, in my opinion tips the balance in favour of defenders even more so than is necessary.

 

I have yet to experience naval battles however had the misfortune to be attacked by a superior force of Vikings by sea. Something that was quite the sight to behold. And a reason why I look forward to playing them in the future!

 

 

The only criticism I can find of this aspect is that the AI has a bit of a one track mind, at least on normal difficulty, only really attacking head on and in so doing, are easily beaten with the right balance in numbers and unit type. As well as your prowess as a general of course. Though for the most part I feel this game has given me some of the best battle gameplay I’ve had, the smoothness combined with how slick it is when it comes to managing large armies on the field is great stuff.

 

 

Conclusion

To surmise, this game is another great Total War game which really sums it up. If you’re a fan I feel you’ll love it, if you’re not it’s not going to pique your interest unless you’re really into the historical focal point. I wasn’t blown away beyond the art style and the chance to play a game focusing on my homeland. Which just goes to show the level of quality I’ve come to expect from Creative Assembly, it has become par for the course in their long line of successes.

I only have four criticisms of it that really come to mind. The first being that the difficulty is way too easy at present, the balancing needs to happen to make it more challenging. This may be good for those who aren’t as adept at strategy games and would be a good entry level to the series in its current state. However seasoned veterans obviously find this a bit off putting.

The second is that some of the new and reintroduced features seem a tad fickle, for example the loyalty and family tree appear to hardly have much of an impact and is easily manageable even when playing like a lacklustre fool such as I.

Thirdly, I felt the story element of the game was slightly lacking, perhaps for example in game historical battles could have been added as missions to relive the periods actual happenings if you so choose to follow that path. Although overall it does a good job of capturing the cultures and era historically and the story telling is sufficient, it doesn’t hurt to ask for more.

The final is not an outright criticism as much as it is a selling point, obviously with the scope of the game being focused on a smaller historical and geographical period the depth of this game isn’t as wide and varying as say the Warhammer series of Total War. But if you’re looking to get stuck into the world of Britannia in this period of time, it’s a solid offering that you’ll have great fun playing.

A nice more strategically minded game that does require greater forward thinking tactical foresight in your play style, despite the easiness of victory and handling of adverse situations, something that I hope the tweaks to the balancing fixes. It’s beautifully made both visually and with regards to its smoothness of game mechanics and ease of use of the very functionally streamlined UI, I would definitely recommend this game. Especially to fans of the franchise, naturally.

 

It will be interesting to see what updates are in the pipeline. And of course I am eagerly anticipating the Three Kingdoms instalment and will be writing on how its development is doing and what we can expect from it in the coming weeks.

 

Finally, I give this game over 100 wolf hounds chasing 3 Vikings…

 

 

 

 

A RuneScape Riot; One Spicy Meatball

(Time of writing – 16th of May)
A source on the ground in RuneScape’s capital city of Falador in the World 2 server, whom wishes to remain anonymous (being in their mid-twenties and understandably not wishing to be associated with online browser based MMO games) has reported mass protests and civil unrest on the streets. This news comes after an unpopular decision taken by the games developer Jagex was announced and players are clearly and visibly not happy with it.
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Yet another riot in a long lineage of this gaming communities’ digital civil unrest, in favour of the little people and if you ask me, personally, one of RuneScape’s only redeeming factors that I can find. Beyond providing work for ‘farmers’ in less economically developed nations or allowing those who play a monetary means to justify the many months lost to this game over the course of their life. Jagex will find out once more that when provoked those little people can become one giant and infuriated people when they stand together. I kid.

Reportedly there are some ‘absolute scenes going down.’ As can be corroborated by our anonymous tipper who has been amongst those protesting, first as an observer then as a participant. They sent in some fresh from the front-line footage which you can view below to give you a better idea of the sheer scope of the matter. The video was captured earlier this afternoon and e-mailed over to us using the pseudonym, buying-gf-for-100-gold-but-not-renewing-my-subs@[Redacted].com, and it clearly shows that the tension is so thick it could be cut with even a bronze dagger. Players can be seen shouting slogans such as ‘We pay we play, save RuneLite, Jagex don’t let us down’ and ‘RuneLite or nothing.’

 

 

So what exactly is the decision making gaffe behind the grumbling gamers at Jagex’s gates this time? If you’re not in the know and haven’t guessed what the issue is already, let me be the first to sadly inform you that a well-liked client named RuneLite has been banned by the developers.

 

A Brief History

So how did we get to this moment?

OSRS (Old-School RuneScape) is the original 2007 version of the game that was re-released in 2013 by Jagex owing to popular demand. After, in the words of the game’s fans – they ‘fucked their game up.’ It was reportedly ruined over a number of years by worse decision after bad decision, such as an imposition of a trade limit as well as removing the wilderness where players could go to engage in PvP combat. These two reasons alone were huge controversies and the cause of past riots in and of themselves.

Fast forward to the current day, there are a number of different third-party clients that people use to play the OSRS version of the game, OSBuddy being the most popular. It has a few plug-ins which make the game easier and more user-friendly, for example, XP trackers as well as mini-games to add to the fun. The PRO version (paid for by subscription) has a few more of those plug-ins such as NPC markers and a health regeneration overlay.

A group of people from the community came together and decided to create an open-source client which included all of the paid features of the aforementioned OSBuddy and more … on top of all this it was completely and most importantly free, the absolute madfolks! Causing OSBuddy to lose popularity/patrons and therefore profits (RuneLite you MONSTERS.)

 

 

The Spice Coating This Meatball

Jagex have just this very day decided that by being open-source, RuneLite are infringing on their intellectual property. As the open-source nature of the client allows people who code bots free access to their code. Here’s where the spicy shady things start to come into frame.

When approached by Jagex with the request to remove their client, the owner of RuneLite said they would make the client code closed-source to abate the cited worries. This was not enough and Jagex said ‘No’ and has even reportedly threatened legal action if the project is not entirely shut down. It has always been speculated amongst the community that there has been dodgy dealings between Jagex and OSBuddy and here we are, faced with what seems to be pretty blatant concrete evidence if you do even just a little digging into the current matter.

Check out this statement from Adam, the owner of RuneLite;

 

adams statement.jpg

 

A statement which clearly shows intentions to meet the worries of Jagex and work with them. Jagex are yet to respond to it directly and have specifically stated they’re not interested in airing their dirty laundry of deeds and grievances in the angry eye of the public sphere. Couldn’t imagine why, could you?
The Sauce Of The Heat

Check out the developers of OSRS at Jagex try to brush it off and dance around the resentment and anger in the chat bar in their scheduled monthly Twitch streamed Q&A. A chat bar that is absolutely off the hook with unbridled rage of a fan-base scorned, a fan-base who they are currently blatantly condescending to. Those present immediately call it for what it is, bullshit, considering the offers from Adam at RuneLite to make it closed-source being met with legal threats.

Say what you like about RuneScape fans but they call it like they sees it.  Something fishy smelling is afoot and I’m only LVL 1 fishing so it sure as heck ain’t me! Especially considering OSBuddy made a few of their pro plugins free shortly after this whole debacle was set in motion;
OS BUDDY MAKES THINGS FREE

 

After the statement made by Adam surfaced about going partially closed-source and using RuneLites own API OSBuddy go right ahead with announcing this;

 

JAMES

 

Looks like they could do with a lesson in timing or at the very least better PR people. It seems, to this unbiased and critically thinking eye that mayhaps a certain 3rd party and a certain Jagex are in cahoots. You rub my back with money I rub your back with wiping out the competition kinda deal? A corrupt conspiracy with money at the centre? Surely not? (haha)

Well here’s something to add a little more fuel onto the raging dumpster fire that is Jagex and OSBuddy’s handling of the situation, a representative of OSBuddy admitting they have a non-disclosure agreement in place and that their client is safe as houses for one reason or another – undisclosed of course;

 

OSBUDDY IS GONNA BE FINE NDA

 

This is a developing story but from what has transpired I feel pretty comfortable in pointing my cursor at this conclusion following some cursory research. What do you think, spicy or nah?

 

For what it is worth, I would just like to personally congratulate everyone in the RuneScape community as well as the wider world of video games who have been involved in ‘riots’ for just causes. Not only for standing up for themselves but their peers and other consumers too. After all, games and gaming should be for the enjoyment of those who play them, not solely the company’s profit. Or at the very most, exist for each other in an entirely symbiotic nature. I hope Jagex listens to the people who make them successful and that their humble and just demands are met. Developers would do well to listen more to their respective gaming communities that pay for the profits they take home. As some have learnt the hard way, that is, if they ever learn at all.

[UPDATE: Since time of writing there has been a full u-turn by Jagex and now RuneLite lives on!  As can be confirmed by the screenshot below from a discord post by its owner in which he refers to Mod Mat K, who instigated the conversation regarding the shutdown. Thanks to the efforts of all those involved in the community riot, in the game and on the web they had no choice but to listen.]

 

ADAM 2

Special thanks goes out to; Thomas Calvert of Essex age 23 and a ½.

 

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.

Sunshine Blogger Award Challenge

 

 

I’ve been nominated for the sunshine blogger award and challenge, which was a pretty lovely thing to find out about as I’d never heard of it before nor been nominated for any award in a very, very, long time. So for those of you like me who hitherto hadn’t heard of its existence, here is what it is all about, summed up;

“The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive, and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.”

I’d like to say thanks for the nomination from Red Metal, it means a lot to me as I value these aspects in blogging and life in general, so nice to see I’m thought of in that way by a peer.

Red metal of Extra Life Reviews is a brilliant independent blogger who writes thoughtful and in depth game reviews.  I find their work is always interesting, well written and thought provoking. I particularly like the engaging questions they pose to their readership in their ‘A Question for the Readers’ series, as it’s good to see writers getting others involved to voice their opinions. So again, thanks to them, for the nomination and the chance to respond to the set of fun and interesting questions they posed. They were also one of the first from the community to interact with me and make me feel part of a wider network, so I’d just like to thank them for that as well, they truly are a ray of sunshine.

 

Sunshine bloger award

 

 

Rules:

  • Thank the Blogger who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 Questions The Blogger asked to your blog.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post or on your blog.

 

So without further ado here are the questions posed to me and my responses. Have to say before I even began writing this I was enjoying formulating and recalling these answers in my head, some nice memories there that I’m glad to share.

 

 

 My Answers

  1. What is the dumbest competition you ever got in with your friends?

 I’d have to say without a doubt it was a race/competition to see who could drink the most milk the fastest without puking. We were about 11-12 and home alone with a fridge full of milk. What were we supposed to do, can you blame us? Well I suppose. I won and no one puked, think it was about 4 pints that I managed (A gallon.)

 

  2.  If you could form a band, which genre of music would you end up playing?

 That’s a hard one, I have no musical inclination and am awful at it, so probably a genre where the triangle is prominent. But ideally I’d say Ska or Reggae, I like the sounds of that. Although in a hip hop band would be amazing too.

 

 3. What is the first film you ever watched in theatres?

Well the first film I can remember watching was the Lion King, as I remember the trauma of watching Mufasa die. Yes I cried!
4. What is the oldest film you’ve watched all the way through?

 

 

 

 

The Man With The Movie Camera, which used ground breaking techniques and a documentary style, following life in a 1920s Soviet City. Directed by Dziga Vertov, it was a massive innovation for the time with amazing camera work. If you’re going to watch it, try to watch the version with the accompanying score by The Cinematic Orchestra. Absolutely superb and engrossing for an entirely silent movie.

 

 Sunshine Blogger 1

 

5. Have you ever fallen asleep watching a film before?

Oh countless times but my first memory of this was when I convinced my friends’ step-dad to allow us to rent Beavis and Butthead Do America at the tender age of 12. Good yet awkward times as he watched it with us grunting dissaprovingly.

 

6. What is your personal record for most number of films watched in a day?

 I think it was all three of the Lord of The Rings movie trilogy, this is the most I can clearly remember. Although Star Wars rings a bell and I may have watched all three originals and episode 1 in a day but I could be making this up. Not very impressive I know.

 

7. What is the single most heretical opinion you hold when it comes to video games?

Hmmmm, this is tricky. I’d have to go with this one as everyone disagrees with me on it when I bring it up. TF2 absolutely destroyed the Team Fortress franchise and took away everything that had hitherto made TFC great. You can’t change my mind.

 

 8. What is your proudest achievement playing a game?

 I’d have to say any time I am successful at Squad Leading in Squad, it’s just so difficult to do well and takes a lot. It feels good to lead a group of players turned soldiers to victory using your own initiative, tactics and strategy to adapt and overcome the odds.

 

9. What do you believe to be one of the few advantages that gaming critics have over film critics?

You can choose the experience and mould it somewhat when you’re playing a game, you are involved and interact with it. So you become an extension of it in essence and that makes it a lot easier to interpret, experience and report on critically.

 

10. Have you ever binge-watched a show?

Countless times, Trailer Park Boys is the most current! Usually with my partner, we are suckers for soaking up some quality shows en masse.

 

11. Do you follow any webcomics?

Sadly not, I used to like Cyanide and Happiness quite a bit growing up, but comics haven’t been my thing for a long while, web or otherwise.

 

 

Blogger Who I Nominate

 

As part of the challenge you are asked to tag 11 other bloggers who you feel deserve nominating for this community award. I’ve only been on the scene since February of this year, so for me finding 11 who haven’t already done it would be hard. So I am going to make one definite choice of the blogger who I think sums up the tenants of the award and who I would like to see answer my questions. And they are – Kim of the blog Later Levels.

They made me feel welcome to the community too by interacting with me and I love their writing style in general, the blogs tagline absolutely resonates with me as I’ve learnt with every passing year – ‘XP comes with age.’ I love the way they write as it feels very personable and inclusive of the reader, for example their Question of the month competition where readers and their peers pose questions to them to be answered in a blog post. Check out their latest addition to this series here which is both a great question posed (what three video game characters would they choose to help them survive the icy zombie apocalypse) and a good read! For all these reasons I think they are a ray of sunshine in the blogging community and would like to thank them for their work.

Also to Kim specifically, don’t feel any pressure to respond at all I’d hate to make you feel obliged!

 

 

My Questions

After answering your set questions, the next part of the challenge is to come up with your own set of questions for your nominated bloggers. I am going to ask these questions;

 

  1. If you had to play one game for the rest of your life what would it be?
  1. If you had to kill off one of your favourite video game characters who would it be and why?
  1. What do you find the most rewarding aspect of blogging to be?
  1. What is your proudest achievement in blogging?
  1. What is your favourite genre of game?
  2. If you could set up an office to blog from anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
  3. The worst movie you have ever seen?
  4. The best band or artist you’ve seen perform live or if you haven’t, who would you most like to see?
  5. If you could have a sidekick companion from any game who would you choose and why?
  6. Who is the most misunderstood enemy/boss in video gaming?
  7. Nintendo or Sega?

 

 

I hope you found my answers and questions interesting, feel free to answer my set of questions in the comments section if you like them enough to give them a go, as I am interested to see readers answers. Once again thank you to Red Metal and well done to Kim, I really love both their work. Keep an eye out for my upcoming articles on State of Decay 2 as well as Post-Scriptum, two games I’m looking forward to experiencing and sharing those experiences with you!