Author Archives: MrLiamMills

Game Review: Mad Max

Some of you may be familiar with Mad Max, but some of you won’t. So what is Mad Max? In one word: glorious.Image result for mad max

I mean that in the truest sense of the word. It feels out of this world. At first glance, one might think it’s they are over-the-top movies, but they’re much, much more than that.

Everything in this world feels painfully real. The suffering, the tragedies, the characters, the wasteland, … The films have a very distinct style that has influenced pop culture more than you might think: it launched Mel Gibson’s career, the raiders in Fallout are heavily inspired by those in Mad Max and it spawned countless rip-offs by Italian and Turkish directors, as well as American ones. I feel like I need to discuss the films briefly before getting to the game. After all, that is what inspired its creators to make the game.

The great thing about the Mad Max films – and the game – is that they all feel different. The first film was very grounded in reality and quite slow-paced, though that is not a bad thing. The second film, The Road Warrior, was generally considered to be the best one. It established the character as he is still known and loved. He’s deeply flawed and haunted by his past, but that makes him feel very real. The third film, Beyond Thunderdome, has its problems; most of them caused by Hollywood mingling. And then there’re last year’s Fury Road, now regarded as the best of all four films. Tom Hardy plays Mad Max, not Mel Gibson, and his performance is excellent.

Now Max is a bit of a difficult character to talk about, because he is both simple and complex at the same time. He’s simple, because most of his actions throughout the films and game are selfish. Even helping people is often because it makes things more convenient for him, but at the same time he won’t harm the innocent. He doesn’t really care about who lives or dies, as this is a harsh world and survival is key, but he won’t just kill anyone for the sake of killing or just for fun. It is a very hard thing to explain. It’s almost instinctive. You just understand him on an emotional level, not an intellectual one. You just know if something is in-character for him to do or not, but you can’t really explain why. I say this, because there’s something I want to discuss at the end of this article after the SPOILERS warning.

Now onto the game! I’m not exactly sure when the game is set in the timeline, but it feels like it takes place right before the events of the fourth film: Fury Road. But, like with the entire Mad Max saga, the exact time has never been important. You start off the game losing the famous Interceptor, the car Max drives, and battling Lord Scrotus. You put a chainsaw through his skull, but he survives and throws you off a fast moving truck. You then set out on a very simple quest: get your car back and kill Lord Scrotus. This is very much in theme with the films, where the story is often quite simple and just a structure for strong characters.

And strong characters is what this game has. The portrayal of Max is pretty much spot-on (except for a little thing that bugs me in the ending). You find a hunchback named Chumbucket who is a car nut and believes you are some sort of Saint sent by the Angel to clear the wasteland. He offers you a car that you can upgrade and change the appearance of during the game. He is a fantastic character, obsessed with cars and fixing cars and thinking you’re some sort of deity. And of course, Max goes along with it, because it helps him. Where in other games having a companion around can be frustrating, Chumbucket is nothing but helpful. He brings you the car when you signal him with a flare gun, fixes the car when it’s damaged and most of his dialogue is really entertaining.

Visually, the game encapsulates the look and feel of the films very well. It’s a gorgeous game with a wonderful art style. The graphics won’t blow you away, but it’s not trying to either. It’s aiming for aesthetics rather the latest and greatest in graphical settings.

The story is very simple, as I mentioned before. There isn’t that much to talk about here, other than that it’s very much in theme with the films. The end goal is to get your car back and kill Lord Scrotus, but it can take you a while to get there. You can choose to just follow the main quests and do the bare minimum to unlock new upgrades for your car, so you can continue with the missions, but that will make the game a lot more difficult. Still, you’ll probably have to put in twelve to fifteen hours to beat this game in a hurry.

As a sort of side story, you can try to loosen the grip that Lord Scrotus has on the different regions by doing certain mini missions. You can clear out camps, destroy their totems and sniping towers, clear minefields, et cetera. Lowering the threat levels in regions unlocks more upgrades for Max and his car. This is where the game really shines in my eyes, as it makes the gameplay more varied. Clearing the camps requires more combat, destroying the totems and sniping towers is mostly done from inside the car and you need a special buggy that can carry the mine-sniffing dog to clear out minefields. Some camps have difficult bosses or certain things you have to destroy. Having done almost everything there is to do in this game, I racked up a very respectable 54 hours in this game. Not bad at all for having paid less than €15 for it in a Steam sale.

There aren’t a whole lot of negative to this game, I feel. The driving controls could’ve been tighter, but most of the time they’re just fine. Two locations in the game are locked off after the mission is over, which means that if you didn’t pick up the collectables or scrap, they’ll be lost forever. This is odd, since none of the other locations become inaccessible. Lastly (and I’ll get into more detail in a bit) there’s one thing that happens right at the end that I feel is out of character for Max, which makes the ending a bit less enjoyable for me.

So overall I highly recommend it if you like the Mad Max films, but even as a general gamer, it’s a very fun game. The combat is fun, modding the car gives you lots of options and the characters are very enjoyable. The highest praise I could possibly give it is that if  I were to rank this game alongside the films, the order would be (from best to “worst”): Fury Road – THIS GAME – Road Warrior – Original Mad Max – Beyond Thunderdome. So yeah, very close second 🙂

 

 

–SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE GAME BELOW–

 

 

This is what happens at the end of the game that bothers me a bit. After the final boss battle, we see the truck that Lord Scrotus is driving close to the edge of a cliff. Max decides to ram it with his car and Chumbucket, still believing the car is the sacred tool, sent by the Angel to be used by you, doesn’t want you to destroy it. While charging at the truck, he climbs on the bonnet of the car, trying to convince you to stop. Max tells him to jump of and Chumbucket says he’s willing to die with the car. Max then proceeds to jump out of the car, right before it hits the truck and both vehicles fall off the cliff. I know Max is a character who will do pretty much anything to achieve his goal, but I feel like killing Chumbucket was very much out of character. Max doesn’t hurt people, unless he feels it’s absolutely necessary and I feel like killing Chumbucket was not. You may disagree with that, but it’s how I feel about it.

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Quick announcement: Upcoming article and Twitch

Hi everyone!

I’ve got two quick updates for you that may be of interest.

First and foremost: I’m writing a new article for this blog. It’s been a long time since I posted anything on this site, excluding this thing I wrote a while back, but more on that later.
It’ll be a fairly straightforward review of a game, but I felt the urge to write about it.

—-

The second thing I’d like to do is talk a bit more about the previously mentioned post that I wrote a while back. In reply to someone’s comment, I said that we were considering making some videos or streams in English and, well… That’s what we’ve done!

I try to stream multiple times per week, but I don’t really have a set schedule. I highlight most of the streams, meaning that anyone can watch them later. If you’re interested, you can always check out our Twitch channel.

After that, I also upload them to YouTube, where you can watch them as well. Some content is still in Dutch, though, but you can usually tell by the title.

And if you want to stay up to date, you can always check out our Twitter. Every upload to YouTube is posted there, as well as updates to when we stream.

That’s all for now.

Cheers

I’m Back! Sort of…

Hi everyone! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog. It’s been over half a year… The last post I made was THIS ONE in which I was talking  about the next step forward for me. So if you’re interested in what I’ve been up to, read on!

I’ll be honest in saying that my reasons for writing this are twofold. Firstly it’s because I think some of you might be interested. Recently, when talking to NekoJonez, he told me some of my articles are still being read, so that’s what drove me to write about this. The second reason, though, is a little bit of self-promotion, I guess. It’s something I’m not a big fan of doing, but I understand that it is hard to attract people to a starting YouTube and Twitch channel, so I’d like to take advantage of that, so I hope some of you are willing to at least check us out.

My cousin and me have been gaming together for the better part of a decade now and we always knew we wanted to do something online, but never really knew what. Last year, I went over to his home to play some games together, as he had jus bought an NES and SNES with a whole bunch of games. We had so much fun, we figured it was time to actually go online and do something with games.

It took a few months before these plans came to fruition, but they eventually did and so far I’m pleased with the results. A mutual friend of ours has also joined us for some of the videos, mostly our Twitch streams, so there’s three of us at the moment. We chose the name Dos Cosinos, which is sort of fake Spanish for “two cousins”. I think it’s even funnier now there are three of us and he’s not related ^^

Now for those who might be interested in what we created, I’ll put links to our YouTube and Twitch channels below, but mind you: everything is in Dutch. This is a deliberate choice. We know this limits our audience tremendously, but it’s a concious decision. We are also aware that some of the material we created is still pretty rough, but we’re constantly trying to improve, so forgive us for now.

As I said at the beginning of this article, it is very hard to get your content noticed, but I hope that some of you will be interested. We’re trying to do a few things differently and we are well aware that some of the choices we make, make it harder for us to get attention. We’re not fans of the quick-cut editing some vloggers and Let’s Players use, so our videos are usually longer and less “cut”. We also don’t like how most people beg for likes, comments and subscriptions in their video (usually at the end). It’s an effective strategy, I know, but we want people to do those things of their own volition and not because we told them to.

So, if you’re interested, you can find us on YouTube & TWITCH. Also on TWITTER.
We recently did an E3 podcast, for example.

Thanks if you do, don’t worry if you don’t.

Cheers

 

MrLiamMills

Quick Announcement – The Next Step Forward

Hi everyone, I’d like to make an announcement.

Half a year ago, I joined NekoJonez in writing articles on his channel, something I very much enjoyed. A few months back, we announced some changes to our pages, but with both of us being rather busy, talks between us didn’t happen as often as they should have. Thus, not nearly as much as we hoped would change, has actually changed (especially on my end) as of now.

In the meantime, life has gone on and I have found a new outlet for my creativity, in which my cousin will join me. As such, I feel like my involvement with NekoJonez’ work is not as it should be. So because of that, and also because I’d like to focus on other endeavors, I have decided to leave this page and discontinue my writing.

The friendship between NekoJonez and I will continue behind the scenes.

I wish him the best of luck on this channel and to you all.

Cheers

MrLiamMills

First Impressions: Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain

Due to delivery issues in my country, I had to wait until the ninth of September before I could get my hands on the PC version of MGS V. I’m someone who prefers physical media, so even though I could’ve bought it earlier on Steam, I wanted the actual disc. The wait was worth it. Something really great happened in the first fifteen minutes of the game that just got me hooked. It may be the greatest thing I have ever seen in a game. Beware: SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST THREE HOURS OR SO AHEAD.

As some of you may know, I am a big fan of the series. I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time. Years even. It’s almost as if the setting of this game has been perfectly altered to my preferences. It’s set in 1984, my favourite year in history, also in my favourite decade. The year that in my eyes epitomises the ’80s. You also play with my favourite character of the series: Big Boss.

After the events of the previous prologue game (that was only about 90 minutes long), MGS V: Ground Zeroes, Big Boss wakes up in a hospital from a coma he’d been in for nine years. This is where something great happens. I don’t know if people have been picking up on this and I haven’t been looking around on the Internet, since I am trying to avoid any and all spoilers. Any content whatsoever.

MIRROR

About fifteen minutes into the game, the doctor tells you people are still looking for you, wanting to kill you. For your own safety, you should change your appearance. This is when we get a very well done character creation screen where we get to change our face. There are a hell of a lot of options, almost as if you are creating your own Sim in the Sims.

Now here’s what makes this great. I was worried about this. I wanted to play with Big Boss as I knew him, so I tried to create a character that kind of looked like the older, grey haired Big Boss. After I was done, though, I was pleasantly surprised. The doctor gets killed before he can carry out the operations. You are still Big Boss.

I really hope this never gets brought up, ever again in the game. Not because I don’t want to change Big Boss’s appearance (which is also true), but because this would make it the single greatest joke I have ever seen in a game. If this is never mentioned again, the creators of the game spent a great deal of time coding a character creation screen that works really well, and all of that for a joke. Possibly it’s a tool they created in-engine to make their own characters to make development easier, but still. I’m a little afraid it’s going to be brought up again, but I remain hopeful.

I feel it’s maybe a nod to MGS 2, where you start the game playing as Solid Snake, but the second part (and majority) is played with Raiden, an all-new character. This displeased many gamers, so it would be funny if that is part of why this was put into the game. For a second, it looked like they were pulling a similar kind of trick; making us think we’re going to play with Big Boss, but forcing us to change his appearance. Then they pull the rug out from under us. “Nah, we’d never do that to you again.” It feels like they’re saying with a smile.

But what about the game itself? I played through the entire prologue, the hospital section, in about an hour. Truth be told, it is not the best gameplay ever, and it uses a trope I don’t very much care for. I’d describe it as a playable cutscene, where you take a few dozen steps or perform a few little actions and the game takes over for a few minutes, showing us more of what’s going on with the story.

I remember people complaining that MGS 4 had too many and too lengthy cutscenes. This was something that never bothered me, since I love the story, but I can understand the complaints. The ending cutscene was a little shy of an hour, so I feel like in MGS V, they have made a compromise. Instead of having the first hour be an hour long cutscene, it has some sort of gameplay. All in all, despite not liking this trope in general, I was deeply engrossed in what was going on, making this still very enjoyable.

After that, the game really starts and we are dropped in a very expansive, open world. You wander around Afghanistan looking for a captured friend. How you tackle this mission is all up to you. Will you visit a few outposts first, gathering intel, or will you go to where he’s captured right away? It’s all up to you. This is where the game really comes to life. The amount of player choice and agency is incredible, and perhaps a stark contrast when compared with the first hour, but I understand why that had to be done. It’s like the first act of a movie: you need to establish the world and the situation, so I’m not upset at all.

So gameplay is great and the visuals? They’re stunning. Digital Foundry did an article about the PC version, which is incredibly well optimised. (This is also pretty much the only content on the Internet about MGS V I looked at.) Even low-end CPU’s like an i3 can run this game, no problem, provided you have a decent GPU. The standard graphical settings come very close to the PS4 and XBone settings, but when you bear in mind that most of those are set at “HIGH” or “MEDIUM”, you can imagine how gorgeous this game looks at “ULTRA” settings.

Fortunately, my GPU’s are beefy enough to handle the highest possible settings. A high draw distance, loads of post-processing effects, high quality lighting and textures, and even volumetric clouds. The first three hours seem very promising. I love the visuals, the gameplay is great and the story already has me hooked, so guess what I’ll be doing today?

Review: Papo & Yo – Artsy Fartsy?

A while back, this game I had never heard of came with the monthly games you receive as a PlayStation Plus member. I played it for half an hour then, but I put down the controller and removed it at that time. I decided to give it another try and I just felt like I had to discuss it.

Because it’s good? No. Maybe. Hard to say. It was fun enough that I played through it, but it didn’t need to be much longer. The game wrapped up in just under four hours for me, but then again, I’m a slow gamer. In wanting to write a review about this, I decided to do a second play-through to gather all 25 collectibles and got halfway in just an hour. Knowing how to solve the puzzles makes it incredibly easy.

So what is the game about? You’re a little kid being transported to a slightly peculiar world, where you meet a little girl who taunts you and runs away. You decide to follow her. Later, you encounter a monster that follows you along the way.

It’s a little hard to explain what his part in all this is, but he’s a part of puzzles. You need to use fruit to lure him somewhere in order to progress, or have him fall asleep so you can jump on his belly. It sounds a little ridiculous, and it almost feels that way at times.

The puzzles themselves are okay. They’re not great or even good, but at least they’re not infuriating. The most difficult – and perhaps aggravating – puzzles are those where the monster is angry, because he ate a frog. Then, it will chase you and throw you around. You need rotten fruit to calm him down again. Yes, really. I’m not making this up.

Graphically, what can I say? It’s an Unreal Engine 3 game. It doesn’t look impressive, and is bugged by frame rate dips and tearing, but overall it’s fine. Just that. Fine. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons uses the same engine and, while plagued by tearing as well at times, looks far more impressive than Papo & Yo does. Especially the worldbuilding and environments.

The controls are good, though. I rarely missed a jump and that’s not always a given in 3D-platforming games, so kudos for that.

My main problem lies with the story. Mind you, I will go into spoilers here, but if you have half a brain, the intro of the game basically tells you everything you need to know. Now if it were a much simpler story, I’d be fine with it. Perhaps a story of a boy trapped in a fantasy world, trying to escape. Think The Unfinished Swan. It wouldn’t need much rewriting either. Or perhaps the girl took something from you and you need to get it back.

The problem is that, to me, it felt like the creators wanted to make a game with storytelling similar to Shadow of the Colossus, but failed. It’s easy to criticise, I know, but it feels like the kind of story a first year student of film school would come up with.

There’s not much dialogue in the game, and what’s being said does not sound like any language I ever heard. Speech bubbles do appear next to the characters when they say something.

Now brace yourselves, because you will not see this one coming. Especially not after the intro, and the first flashback about an hour into the game where you see yourself sitting in the back of a car being driven by an adult male. Oh, and there’s a quote, from the game director himself, saying: “To my mother, brothers and sisters with whom I survived the monster in my father”, right when you start the game. The monster is your father, the frogs represent his alcohol abuse and the girl was the person you father hit with his car.

I had a suspicion this game was fairly personal, from the director’s own experience. Looking up some information about the game confirms this. I don’t mine a personal story done well, but I just feel like this game is laying it on thick. It feels like they’re trying to be subtle and use metaphors, but it’s so blatant.

I feel like I’m being really harsh on the game, but in all honesty, it’s not terrible. I’m just very sensitive when it comes to metaphors and artsy fartsy storytelling. Would I recommend it?Perhaps. I know of people who have very much enjoyed this game, so who am I to take that away from them?

What does strike me as odd is that most outlets give this a positive review. The only major outlet that gave it a bad one, was IGN. “The on-paper premise of a traumatic childhood brought to life as a playable short story is brilliant, but the wounded execution can’t quite sell the emotional expression.”, is what they had to say and I tend to agree a little.

I guess it’s a decent game if you like that kind of story, but if you’re looking for interesting puzzles, you’d better look elsewhere. It’s also an easy game for completionists and trophy/achievement hunters, as my two playthroughs gave me a lot of trophies in a total playtime of around six hours.

“Quick Thoughts – Unacceptable Remaster” addendum

Just very quickly, in relation to this earlier little article, I’d like to point to a little video on YouTube I’d love for you to watch: Extra Credits

Their channel is great, by the way, if you love the intricacies of gaming.

Cheers

eSports – What’s The Big Deal?

What I’m about to write today will differ from the content I usually write. The reason for this is that I was asked recently what my opinions were on eSports. Hence this article.

This article is inspired by the following image. Link

I usually write about things I like or dislike, which is why it has been so hard for me to write this article. My stance towards eSports is quite… indifferent. That being said, eSports are gaining more and more ground.

It’s well documented that the gaming industry brings in more revenue than the music industry, or even the film industry. Gaming extends beyond your classic triple-A titles and even indie games. It also entails mobile games and social games, like those found on Facebook and other social media.

As such, games reach a wide audience. Somewhat surprising, perhaps, is that in recent years watching people play video games has become so popular. People love watching streams on Twitch or “Let’s Plays” on YouTube, and those numbers grow each passing year.

Maybe, keeping that in mind, it’s no wonder how the world of eSports is booming. We see more and more different kinds of games used in official eSports tournaments, but it is striking that the most popular games are MOBA’s and strategy games.

League of Legends and DOTA 2 are incredibly popular, as is Smite, though perhaps to a lesser extent. Star Craft 1 & 2 are still very popular, especially in Asian markets. Other genres are also represented, but to a far lesser extent than the ones mentioned before.

We still see first person shooters and fighting games being used, but not
as much. It might be because those rely mostly on skill, whereas strategy games and MOBA’s require a blend of skill and logical thinking.

Last year, the DOTA 2 championships had a prize pool of eleven million dollars. These events, which are often sponsored by big-name brands, deal with huge amounts of money. Viewer-ship for eSports is even surpassing the “actual sports” championships. More than double the amount of people that watched the MLB world series, watched the League of Legends World Championship. Even the NBA finals don’t come close to those numbers.

Earlier this year, viewers of ESPN 2 complained about eSports being broadcast. It’s apparent that these kinds of events are gaining a lot of ground, so much so that they’re slowly, but surely becoming part of everyday society. As with all change, opposition is to be expected, but I think it’s a good thing that gaming is becoming part of mainstream culture.

I think gaming as an art form, and a form of entertainment, still has a long way to go. But we’re getting there. I firmly believe one day it’ll be as prevalent and universally accepted as film is today.

Most people watching and playing games today are young people. Approximately 80% of people involved in gaming are male and under 35, but that is slowly changing. People who started gaming in the ’80’s are getting older and having children of their own, who in turn might be interested in video games.

And perhaps the ubiquity of games available on mobile and social platforms is a new gateway for people who might not ever have touched a video game otherwise. So while I personally don’t have much interest in eSports, I cannot deny its influence in recent years. As I see it, this will only continue to grow.

Quick Thoughts – Unacceptable Remaster

This will be very quick, as all I want to do is link to a different article. As I mentioned before in my previous posts here and here, part of what I think is wrong with the current generation of consoles, is the over abundance of remastered games.

Fresh of that same line are the Prototype remasters. Frankly, this is utterly unacceptable to be released. Eurogamer explains it in full, but in short, all they did to this “remaster” for the Xbox One is up the resolution from 720p to 1080p. No other visual enhancements. No better textures, lighting or LOD, nothing. And as evident by the videos, framerate is also unacceptable.

Please give it a read.

 

Cheers

First Impressions: The Long Dark

The Long Dark has been a game was aware of for some time. When the last Steam sale came, I decided to check it out, since it seemed so interesting. My actual reaction was “holy crab cakes, this is fun”.

Before I delve into the actual game, allow me to tell you a little bit about myself as a gamer. I don’t really have a particular genre I prefer. I love games, both AAA and indie. Since adulthood, and consequent responsibilities, my actual free time to the game has decreased, so I now tend to only play the games I really want to and leave the “time-fillers”, to call them so crudely, behind.

My first rule: I don’t buy a game at launch unless it’s something I really want. This doesn’t happen very often, but MGS: V and Fallout 4 are two games coming up I will pick up at launch. Otherwise, I wait until some game-of-the-year or complete version is out and discounted on Steam or something since I already have quite the backlog of games I still need and want to play.

My second rule is NO EARLY ACCESS GAMES. I capitalize it because it’s something I have always tried to keep at heart. I don’t like the fact they’re not finished, they can still change drastically, and I always feel like there’s some risk involved. But along comes The Long Dark, which blows me away. I broke my rule and bought it.

I tried it first before I bought it. Many a gamer will gasp at this revelation, but since there was no demo available, I found a not-so-legal version on the internet and tried that. I feel like it’s important for me to admit that, because I really wanted to try this game, but there was no other way I could without paying. In honesty, I barely played the game before I turned it off again. I had to buy it, instantly. Here’s why.

I love survival games. I love just being a nomad in Minecraft, walking around, scrounging for food and resources, and hiding during the night. This game is just that. Surviving. There is a story element, to be added later, but for now it is just survival.

Players can choose between three difficulty levels, though they are not called that, and I don’t see them like that anyway. They’re just catered to what you prefer to play the game like. You can choose an option where there is no wildlife that’ll attack you, or one where it will (which would be the standard mode), or one where things are more challenging and “realistic”.

You, as the player, are stuck in a very cold place, where it’s either incredibly cold or absolutely freezing when a blizzard comes along. You get hungry, thirsty and sleepy, but you also need to keep an eye on how cold you are.

Basically, you scrounge for food and supplies. You look for fuel to burn, food and drinks, new/warmer clothing, weapons, … Anything useful. You can craft items, combine them or use snow on a fire to make water. It’s a very complex, well-thought-out system, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard to use.

Survival is a basic human instinct and this game really makes me feel like I have the survive. It’s a visceral experience I have rarely had. I got immersed in the world very quickly and that’s part of why I like it.

This game has a beautiful aesthetic, and it runs well. Especially for an early access game. Some say the game looks a bit bland and that the textures look washed out, but it feels like a real world to me and I forget I’m playing an actual game two minutes in.

So would I recommend it? Tough to say. This is all based on the roughly two hours I have played this game so, but I think I would. I’m going to keep playing it, that’s for sure.

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.

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!

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…

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!