Monthly Archives: June 2015

And the Award for Worst DLC Goes To…..

Fallout: New Vegas- Honest Hearts

I know what you’re thinking: this is bad writing. You shouldn’t reveal the answer immediately. Build some suspense! The reason I chose to do so anyway is not because some people like a tl;dr version, or because I’m pretentious and I do whatever the hell I so desire. No, it’s because I’d like to talk about Fallout first, and why this DLC was so disappointing. Prepare yourselves, because I have a feeling this’ll be a long one again.

In all honesty, I have not played the first two major instalments, though I did acquire them through GOG.com a while back and plan to play them some time. My first introduction was with Fallout 3. It didn’t run well, especially its DLC had serious performance issues, but I revered it nevertheless. It was so much fun. The engine used by Bethesda, its developer, has never been well optimised. Not for PC, not for consoles. Not for Fallout and not for The Elder Scrolls. But this is not a performance analysis, so I won’t go in-depth right now.

I fell in love with the world. Set some 250 years in the future, in a world where people in the fifties thought “Well, this is it: he pinnacle of art, style and technology.” Everything is inspired by old technology and the styling of the fifties. Monochromatic computer screens, old jazz and rhytm & blues music, clothing (what’s left of it), … Even futuristic items seem old. It just oozes with charm.

Story-wise I prefer the third instalment over New Vegas, hands down. I plan on comparing the two in a later article at some point in the future, so I’ll keep it at that for now. I even liked the five DLC-packs that were released. Broken Steel continued the story. It wasn’t incredible, but it was serviceable. Operation Anchorage was fun and brought a tonne of nice, new items to the party. Mothership Zeta was interesting and fun, though the story didn’t grab my as such. Point Lookout was my favourite, with it’s unique swamp location, barely touched by the nuclear bombs, and interesting storyline. And The Pitt was my least favourite, though still well above the quality of the DLC in New Vegas.

In New Vegas, we have four DLC packs, instead of the five in Fallout 3. I maintain that I prefer quality over quantity, so I didn’t complain from the start. But neither really rocked my boat. Maybe I felt less invested, because I find the world of New Vegas less intriguing to begin with, but regardless I should have had some investment.

The first two I played were Dead Money and Lonesome Road. The former annoyed me so much, I considered dropping out of the game entirely. Nothing else in both games gave me this feeling, ever, but this story was uninteresting, and the location was highly unappealing. I take it it was the intention to look unappealing, but it should not be revolting or appalling. I was relieved to finally finish and return to the Mojave.

The latter started very promising, in what looked like an abandoned nuclear missile silo. It was slowly paced and there were very few enemies. It almost seemed like this was created so the player would get invested in the story and atmosphere. A mostly non-combat DLC to teach us more about the world. But things quickly turned around once I progressed and got out of the silo. More combat, a mysterious figure that I couldn’t care less about on the radio, and nothing innovative in terms of world building. Like an Olympic diver performing a perfect reverse two-and-a-half somersault and landing flat on his stomach; promising, yet disappointing.

Then there were two more: Honest Hearts and Old World Blues. The latter had an interesting world in which scientists were isolated in a crater full of interesting locations, where not-so-ethical experiments had been performed. The story was decent and the “fifties-mad-scientist” vibe was fun, but after having been let down by most of the rest of the game, I still didn’t enjoy it as much as I probably should have.

 

Which brings me to Honest Hearts. Set in Utah, an area barely touched by the nuclear war of before, it had a decent setting. That part reminded me of the Point Lookout DLC from Fallout 3. What’s the story like? I couldn’t tell you. I beat it and I have no idea what it was about. How’s that possible? I’ll tell you: poor game design.

Let’s go back to Old World Blues (and in essence, every other map in Fallout for that mattar) for a second. Fallout has always been about exploring, as have all the Elder Scrolls games been. You could freely walk around the map and explore. You’d find new locations and some gave me new side quests, but none of them interfered with the main storyline of the game or any of its DLC.

(Map of Fallout 3, with all discoverable locations)

In Honest Hearts, I immediately became confused when the party I was travelling with all died within two minutes of arrival, and not ten minutes after first being introduced to them. I failed about half a dozen quests because of that, so I decided to load my previous save and try again. They all died again and the same thing happened where I failed a bunch of quests. Slightly aggravated and confused, I decided to look up if I was doing something wrong. Turned out it was a scripted event and could not be prevented, which means it was part of the main storyline.

Now why would I fail half a dozen quests for that? Why would the developers give me the impression that all the members in my party had little side quests they could’ve given me? The only quest remaining right now, was (verbatum) “Recover the map of Zion Canyon.”, pointing at a location all the way in the utmost North-Eastern corner of the map, with me all the way down South.

Everything felt like this was created by a fan or something, not by the actual developers. A mod, maybe. The writing and phrasing of the quests felt off and confusing. And then, a colossal error in judgement… The maps in the DLC are usually not that big, with thirty or so locations, allowing you to explore them in only a few hours. So as I often did, I explored the whole region first. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Especially considering the only quest available right now was “Recover the map of Zion Canyon.”

This has never been an issue. EVER. Not in Point Lookout, not in Old World Blues, not in any of the huge maps of the main storyline of the game. On my travels through the map of Honest Hearts, I encountered a few NPCs who had specific names, not just “Raider” or something else vague. Usually, these are people who are important in some (side) quest. Now in the main game, or any the other DLC packs, if you encounter a place where you find someone with a specific name, they will rarely attack you before engaging you in conversation. This makes sense. It allows you to get involved in some quest or back out of the situation, without killing that person and locking yourself out of a quest.

Not in Honest Hearts, though. I encountered two or three people with an actual name, who all attacked me on sight. I had little choice but to retaliate. They didn’t have any important items on them, like notes are keys to something, so at first I figured they were just minor characters. Why would I assume otherwise, when this game and its predecessor have never worked like that? I figured wrong. They were vital characters; leaders of local tribes. So when I finally explored the whole map and recovered the map of Zion Canyon, my screen went black. I thought the game crashed for a second, until a video started playing about how I had influenced Zion by killing these characters. Tribes disbanded, influences changed, and so on. It talked about everything I had done and I hadn’t done anything yet but explore and recover a map!

FNV

I can’t be the only one who explored before continuing the quest and be surprised by a sudden cut-off. Guess what, turns out I’m not. Turns out more people were kind of angry and confused. Turns out that in the beginning of the story, right after your party members have been killed, a character important to the storyline is somewhere behind or among the attackers and shoots one of them in the back (on the picture above marked with a red box). Me, being all worked up because of the battle, not realising he’s important and since he’s some distance away, I shoot him down. Since this is in the middle of a fight with half a dozen of people at the same time, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that he had a specific name. Killing him causes his tribe to turn hostile and in turn creates a ripple effect throughout the whole community of tribes, causing their leaders to attack me on sight too.

I guess, “technically”, it’s my fault for not paying attention to every single person on screen during a battle and thinking “Ooh, is he an enemy or someone important?”. I apologise for being kind of busy fighting for my life while bullets whiz around my head. I also apologise for having been confused by the demise of my recently acquainted party members, including the leader, who I though would be integral to the story and with me for the most part of the game. I should have played this open-world game more linearly, and I’m equally sorry I could not resist the urge to explore first, rather than ignore the world the developers have so painstakingly created around me, and just hurry through the quests.

Oh wait, no I’m not. This is crap and they should be ashamed.

EDIT: This, of course, is not the worst DLC ever and I’m sure plenty of people enjoyed it, but it felt really frustrating, and I do maintain the beginning of this DLC is highly confusing from the beginning and that little mistake at the beginning ruined the whole storyline for me. That’s what bothers me most and it’s poor design.

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Follow-up: Blog changes of 2015

Read this article first before reading this one! So, I got extremely busy and I forgot about a few ideas I had. Thankfully, my good friend and co-blogger actually reminded me about it. Also, if you are following me on Twitter, you might have already seen me teasing the hell out of something. 

Blog changes

So, my blog is going to stay what it is. My opinion on games. Yet, now Mr. Liammills is going to be a part of it. So, that’s why I changed the title. I might change it to Arpegi Gaming Blog, to name it after my group. MrLiamMills is part of that group and this would cover my ass if somebody else would write for this blog.

Also, I decided to take a leave from ButtonSmashers. Don’t read this wrong, we didn’t have arguments or anything of that nature. Recently, ButtonSmashers went through some major changes. And most of them didn’t click with my personality and style of organizing things. I stopped blogging on that blog, since I felt uncomfortable with how they organize things. I am not saying they organize their things all wrong, heck no! I’m saying that it doesn’t work with me. Yet, we stay friends and we might collab in the future.

I had a new series in mind for this blog, but I decided to sort of cancel it. The reason is because I have so many other projects and things I want to focus on, I just wouldn’t be able to start writing a new series. I have so many series already, I think I’m fine.

So, like MrLiamMills said, this blog is going to be for our gaming lives only. I think there will be a high chance that we still put our main focus in this blog. Yet, there have been times MrLiamMills and I wanted to write about other things. To avoid disappointing gamers who read this blog and to keep the subject and theme of this blog the same… We decided to have another blog. The name hasn’t been decided on yet. But on this blog, we will talk about news, music, video, movies and more. I have a project in mind for it already.

Announcing: MALWARE & SUCH content

Okay, if you haven’t figured it out by seeing what I tweet and such yet… I recently got extremely interested in malware and security. I wanted to write blogs about that as well, and I planned a few things in advance. When I tried to write the articles, it never felt right.

But now that MrLiamMills announced we are having a 2nd blog, it’s my time to announce what I’m planning to mostly write on said blog. My main focus will be looking at malware, how they infect your pc, security tricks, how to be safe on the web, how to improve your pc performance and such. I might write the odd movie, music or entertainment article.

Anyways, I think I’m going to close off this announcement article here. Keep in mind that there are still some things that need to be worked out before this will really take off. We are both extremely busy. I can’t talk for MrLiamMills, but for myself, I got a new job and I’m getting used to the new rhythm. There is a lot of personal stuff coming together in a short moment, so yeah.

Oh, before I forget, I will be out of town next weekend. I will be at MineCon.

Thank you for reading and I hope you are excited with our new way of… well… how we are going to publish content. In short: one new blog where we post non-gaming content. And the title and tagline of this blog changes so MrLiamMills doesn’t need to feel restricted ;). Take care guys and girls (and others beings) and until the next entry.

Quick Announcement – Additional Blog

Earlier this month, I made this post in which I talked about changes coming to the blog. Here’s a little preview of what’s to come!

Actually, that may be a little misleading. Technically, this is about changes to my blog, but it’s supposed to work in tandem with this one. NekoJonez has been so kind to allow me to post on his blog, but as the title suggests, this is a blog for “handheld and niche games”.

I, myself, am in addition to being a gamer, a big fan of movies, and it doesn’t seem right to talk about them on this blog. There may also be other things NekoJonez and me would like to talk about, that aren’t really fit for this blog. As such, we have decided to use my page for that.

The preliminary name is “Games, Movies, Music, and Everything Else in Entertainment“, but that may still be subject to change. For now, it’s still a blank page, I know, but that will change in the not-too-distant future.

When either of us has more news, we’ll be sure to inform you. I’ve personally got quite a full agenda for the next few weeks, but I’ll try to work on something. Soon…ish…

Cheers!

Gaming Nostalgia: Skipper and Skeeto 1 – Tales from paradise park

Wikipedia entry

512ZFPC4MCLAs a kid, I played a lot of children’s and educative games. Well, not all the time of course, but I have a lot of fond memories of it. When I went to MiseryLC’s place the other day, he was actually so kind to lend me his copy of “Skipper en Skeeto 1 – Pretpark” which translates to “Skipper and Skeeto 1 – Funfair”. It’s a very nostalgic game for us both, and I decided to write an article about it. So yeah, here we go! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and or the content of this article. 

Rare game

61QY3X94DTLIf you are from America and you haven’t heard from this game, I won’t blame you. The creator of this game is actually from Denmark. While there is an English version, I grew up with a version in my mother tongue. I actually only just found out what the name of the game is in English.

I have fond memories of actually acting out this game with my sister. We hid objects to solve puzzles around the house and we played out the story with our own characters and objects.

Sadly enough, my copy got lost one day and I forgot about the game. After a couple of years, I started to play another game from my childhood again: Freddy Fish. Then, I wanted to play this game again. So, I went on a search on the internet to find a copy of this game. Then I learned how much this game went under the radar. I found various versions of this game in the original language, but I wasn’t able to find it in a language I could understand.

New copy

61AHHC15BXLIt’s a shame to admit that I haven’t played my “new” copy yet. I really should do that and write a sort of (quick) review of this game.

While the boxed version is extremely hard to find, the more common version you would find in Belgium is actually a version that was given away for free with a Dutch magazine for females. It still exists to this day. It’s called Libelle, and it’s full with topics ladies would read from the age of 18 and up.

It came in a jewel case with a little booklet telling you about how to install and the warranty. The usual stuff. Thankfully, the magazine hasn’t placed their logo all over the jewel case or disc (or in-game even.) The logo of the magazine is just in the top left corner once, and that’s it. Nicely done.

There are 11 mini-games in this game. All these games are optional and you don’t need to play them. But all the games are educational, for example, if you would click on the globe that you see in the screenshot (in-game of course), you would play a geographical quiz where you needed to guess where certain countries are. I actually remember some of them vaguely while writing this article. This is quite mindblowing if you realize that you haven’t played this game around over 15 years.

Wrapping up

skippershouse

While I have memories of the sequel of this game, I think I said mostly everything I wanted to talk about of this game. It’s always difficult to write these articles since you want to write a quite in-depth look about a childhood game you remember, but there isn’t enough content for that.

While I could talk about the animation, voice-acting and other things, I think I will save that for the review I’m going to write when I have replayed this game.

 I wish I played more entries in the series or even bought more of them, since they are now quite rare and unrated. They are quite well done educational games. I even dare say that they rival the quality of Humongous Entertainment! So yeah. I hope you enjoyed reading this short article about Skipper and Skeeto. I also hope I can welcome you in another article on my blog, but until then game on and take care~

E3 Thoughts.

After seeing all the conferences of E3, these are my thoughts.

Triple-a games can suck it (except Fallout 4 and MGSV).

That is all. Thank you, I’m going home…

First Impression: Tomb Raider IV – The Last Revelation

600px-Tomb_Raider_4_coverTomb Raiders.net entry

The year is 1999 – 2000. Young NekoJonez was 8 years old. I only had a gameboy and quite an old pc. It could run old dos games and such just fine but as soon as I started to play games that were released after 2001, my computer freaked out. So, I grew up with handhelds. Although, there is one game I played as a child while not being 100% allowed. I played Tomb Raider 5. A game I picked up at a local toy store for a few bucks. I heard quite a lot of rumors of an Indiana Jones style game on the PlayStation, and that they were able to take a peek when the big brother or parent played the game. So, curious Jonez is curious and when I played TR 5, I was kinda disappointed. The controls really threw me off. Years later, I get myself the Tomb Raider bundle after having so fond memories of Legend, Anniversary, Underworld and it’s latest reboot. So, the last few weeks I gave TR 4 a try… Did it change my opinion when I was a child? Let’s take a look at the game. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game.

Editoral note: The reason I linked to Tomb Raiders.net their informative entry of this game instead of my usual habit to link to WikiPedia or the official site is because I used their images for this article. They deserve the credit. 

Tutorial

baddies4

I choose this game since it’s one that I wasn’t able to play as a kid. When I bought two TR games, they actually messed up and put TR III on the disc where IV should be. And they put TR IV on the one which needed TR III. I still own that copy, so I might show it in a video.

TR III and TR V worked just fine. Until I tried to run TR IV. The game crashed as soon as it wanted to boot. And because I didn’t knew a lot about computers back then, I wasn’t able to fix it. Then Steam came around and offered me this bundle of all the Tomb Raider games. So, I bought it. I was surprised when I saw that my 64-bit beast of a gaming machine was able to run the game just fine.

The game opens like how I remember the other old school Tomb Raider games open. With an introduction screen with ‘new’, ‘load’,’options’ and ‘exit’. In the background you have an animation of a few levels you will encounter in the game. I adore these title screens since they give the game that much more charm.

Yet, I wasn’t pleased with the first level. Not at all. With little to no backstory, you are dropped into the tomb and you have a guide with you that explained all mechanics of the game to you. The voice acting is a bit off. There are sometimes small moments of silence between lines and the young Lara has barely any emotion put into it. (At least, that’s my opinion).

I wanted to explore the level, yet, out of the dialogue of the tutorial I felt that it wasn’t really allowed. What really made me annoyed is the fact that you don’t have a weapon in this level while there are enemies.

Tank Larabaddies1

Truth to be told, it actually let me get used to the controls. The controls that threw me off and stopped me from playing the Tomb Raider games in the past. So, this brings me to one annoying thing in this game. The menu to configure your controls. While it works fine, it doesn’t recognize azerty keyboard lay-outs. It isn’t the biggest issue though, it’s that you can barely “read” the menu. It’s quite hard to actually make out what key does what unless you take out a ruler and put it on the screen. It’s a nitpick I know, but it’s rather annoying. … Oh, I actually lied. There is an even bigger issue. You can bind one key to more then one action.

The controls are responsive yet they are outdated. Playing old games like this really proves to me how hard wired my mind is in using the controls in a game now-a-days. Yet, after you get used to it, you will be able to pull off some nice moves. Yet, there are two major issues I have with the controls… and that is how picky the game can be of your location to be able to pick up an item or pull a lever. The second issue I have is how awkward the controls are for swinging on a rope. At least to me. Maybe I’m too used to the control scheme Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine used.

 Gameplay

scenery1I think it would be unfair to judge the game on graphics and animation, in a way. They are quite outdated and on modern systems they then to glitch out a bit. Yet, I don’t think it’s an issue. The presentation brings an amazing atmosphere. It really feels you are exploring a tomb.

After the tutorial level, there is little to no explanation on what to do. Thankfully, after you solved a puzzle, a small cutscene plays showing you the general direction you need to go in.

It actually blows my mind how well designed this game is. You can explore around and find hidden areas and I rarely got the feeling of being lost. While I was thinking about what I wanted to talk about in this article, I wanted to mention the lack of an ingame map… Actually, it isn’t an issue. Since it helps to build the feeling that you are exploring a location nobody has visited for quite some time.

So, let’s talk about the music. This is actually difficult for me since I feel that the soundtrack of later games are better then the old soundtracks. Before you write angry comments trying to explain to me what is wrong with my opinion here, let me explain. What I mean is that the more action packed soundtrack fits the atmosphere more then the more calm, bit creepy soundtrack of the old school games.

Actually, I like the soundtrack of this game. From what I have heard, it adds to the creepy atmosphere you would get when you are really exploring tombs. It fits more to the style of the old school Tomb Raider games.

In any case, I think I’m going to wrap up this article for now. I know that I talked a bit too much about the controls in this game. If you didn’t get the clue, I’m quite enjoying this game. If I finish it, I’ll surely write a review article about it. I wanted to focus in this article more on the issues I have now-a-days with the controls and why they actually made me stop playing Tomb Raider as a kid. I think I should return on that topic.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article. I wish you an amazing day and I hope to meet you another time. Take care, NekoJonez.

Review: Path of Exile – Free to Play Done Right

A year or so ago, I was looking through the free-to-play games available on Steam. A lot of games there are good examples of your typical free-to-play game. You CAN play for free, but paying gives you a real edge. That’s why people often refer to these kinds of games as “pay-to-win”, since these games almost punish you for not buying any content. But not Path of Exile. Oh, no. It’s marvellous.

Image result for path of exileIf you started playing Path of Exile, your first reaction would probably be “Oh, this is like Diablo.”, and you’d be right. Like Diablo, you can pick your character from different classes. In this case, you have the usual three attributes: Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence. There are seven characters available; three who specialise in just one attribute, three hybrids specialising in two attributes, and the Scion, who is a balance of all three.

People often get discouraged as soon as they see the skill tree in this game, thinking it’s too much to handle. Trust me, it isn’t. I don’t like complicated and convoluted things, and this is far less complicated than it looks. Each character has a starting point, with the Scion in the middle. In the case below, you see the Marauder (Strength) as a starting point. From there on out, every time you get a skill point, you can choose which direction you’d like to go with your character. Do you want to use a shield or not? Do you prefer a weapon in each hand or a two-handed weapon? You can find bonuses for all those things and mould you character as you see fit.

The story won’t blow you away, but it’s decent enough. It’s serviceable to progress the game. Each character has a slightly different back story as to why they have been exiled, but the principle remains the same. You have been exiled from your homeland Oriath and the ship you were on capsized, leaving you on the shores of Wraeclast where your story begins.

Graphically, the game looks very pretty. It has a nice style to it and a distinct aesthetic. Animations are fluent, combat effects are beautiful and the dynamic lighting brings environments to life. Rarely does it feel like the screen is cluttered with enemies or effects, allowing you to always keep a clear view of things. It’s also light on resources, allowing it to be played on “grandma’s old computer” too. The initial loading time is very long, I’ll admit, but once the game is beyond that, it plays smooth as silk.

Another thing I really like is that you’re playing by yourself for most of the game. Each of the three maps has a central hub; a small village or encampment. You only encounter other players in those encampments, where you can trade or talk to them if desired, so for most of the game you can play uninterrupted. You can also create a party with friends who will then join you once you are outside of an encampment, so it’s also a great co-op game.

In honesty, I can’t really say any truly bad things about this game. Its story is probably its weakest point, but truthfully, you won’t be playing it for its amazingly intricate storyline. Its strong gameplay is what’ll get you hooked. It took me around twenty hours at a leisurely pace to beat it, and it’s fun. So fun, that I jumped right back in after my first playthrough. I love the combat, I love the locations and the visual. Mostly, I love that this game looks, plays and feels like a game designed by a passionate team. It feels like it’s a full priced, retail game all for the low price of nothing at all.


Now what does this game do that makes it stand out over other free-to-play games (aside form great gameplay)? Pretty much every micro-transaction you can buy does not influence gameplay at all. The only thing you could consider having any actual use are more tabs in your chest, allowing you to store more items. To be honest, I never even filled up my chest, so I never felt that the standard space given was unfair. Everything else you can buy is purely cosmetic. Different weapon effects, skins for weapons and armour (not changing its stats!), pets, the ability to dance, and so on. No one has an edge. No pay-to-win.

I have played Diablo. Not every iteration, but the first one, Diablo III and its DLC: Reaper of Souls. I played Diablo III after I discovered Path of Exile and every step along the way I kept thinking of PoE and how I’d much rather play that than Diablo. I think that’s a testament to how great this game is. Best of all, it’s free, and how can you beat that?

(EDIT: Just an afterthought and little tip if you do decide to play this game. The game files are packed in a single 6GB file and when it updates (which it does regularly), it tends to get very fragmented. Especially after a few updates. Make sure you defragment your disk/folder regularly.)

Quick Announcement – Busy Times

Just a quick heads up that NekoJonez and me know there hasn’t been an update in a while. Things have been busy for both of us. We’ve been talking about a few things regarding the blog too, so keep an eye out for that in the future. No promises, but I’m going to try to post something by the weekend.

Cheers!

EDIT: Some content! I wrote you guys a little something for the weekend: a little review of a game I love!