E3 2017, Microsoft — 4K, Innovative, Immersive, Other Buzzowords

Again, apologies for the amazing lateness (I’m like two weeks late on this!). Stuff comes up, comics needed to be read, Mr. Robot episodes needed to be watched. Anyway, here are my thoughts on Microsoft’s 2017 E3 conference. Minor releases and the like are at the bottom. Continue reading “E3 2017, Microsoft — 4K, Innovative, Immersive, Other Buzzowords”

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E3 2017, EA — I’ve Never Seen a More Boring Conference

Yes, I’m late on this. But I’ve been busy-ish and getting ready for my Masters and, well, procrastinating. But I want to give my thoughts on the E3 conferences that I watched, and also have a reason to finish watching them. Because I do like E3. It’s a celebration of video games, when companies use some showmanship to get you hyped for their coming releases. Sure, I approach it with skepticism and like to watch people snark over it (Totalbiscuit this year), but I appreciate the idea of E3. Anyway, here are my thoughts on EA’s 2017 E3 conference. Continue reading “E3 2017, EA — I’ve Never Seen a More Boring Conference”

For Honored Closed Beta (Impressions)

Developed by: Ubisoft Montreal
Played on PC

Impressions is where I talk about my experiences with playing unreleased games, either at expos and conventions, or in alphas and betas. They’re done quick-and-dirty, as I’m on a limited time-frame when it comes to playing these games, and don’t feel comfortable giving an extensive review on an unreleased product that’s usually entirely gameplay-focused. Anyway, here are my impressions of the For Honored closed beta.

For Honored is Ubisoft’s upcoming melee-based multiplayer game, announced last year and due for release in a little over a week. I had the chance to play in the closed beta — though at this point, it’s one of those “obviously a demo” betas — and my conclusion is that it’s just not for me.

The game has some decent mechanics, as you have to angle your attacks unpredictably so that you don’t attack in the same direction that your opponent is blocking. It’s a nice mechanic, and it helps the game feel more polished and combat more precise. However, it’s just to easy to block attacks, so if you’re paying enough attention, you will rarely get hit by basic attacks, never mind the slower heavy attacks.

There are combos you can do with certain characters, and this gives the game more of a fighting game feel than I thought it would have. However, maybe it was just the people I was playing against, but I rarely saw anyone perform these combos. Fights generally devolved into seeing who was willing to risk getting in close to kick first and put their opponent on the defensive.

Kicking is the solution to blocking, and landing a kick breaks your opponent’s guard and stuns them, though it has a very short range. However, there’s really no defence against kicking aside from a dodge, but it doesn’t seem to be fast enough since the kick is pretty fast. The dodge is mostly used to gain distance without exiting the “combat mode”.

The game allows players to switch in and out of a combat mode, which is how you can attack with more precision via directional attacks. You can attack outside of this mode,a and you move faster outside of it as well, but these attacks are imprecise and are usually reserved for finishing off fleeing opponents or killing the constantly spawning minions on the map, which restores health.

These minions are basically those things you kill to gain exp in MOBAs, and I have mixed feelings about them. They get in the way of action and are never a real threat; merely a nuisance. But they are interesting as a way for you to throw off your pursuers, as you don’t phase through them; they can actually slow you down. Plus, they add to the scale of the combat, which is… not what the trailers made it out to be.

While the trailesr advetised giant battles like something you’d see if Battlefield and Chivalry had a baby, it’s much more tame. Matches were limited to 4v4 at largest, and most of the fighting between players takes place away from the main battlefield, which is where the minions won’t go. It’s a bit disappointing, even if I can understand why they made the decision, given how bad fights can get if there are too many participants.

And that’s one of my problems with the game, and this is something that I’m sure is just a “you need to play in a group” thing: if you’re outnumbered, run. It’s just too easy to gang up on people, but there are always people who run off solo. It’s frustrating when it happens, and unlike with other games, you don’t have a chance. You’re just screwed.

The controls, on mouse and keyboard anyway, are a bit too clunky. Movement is mostly fine, but the actual directional swinging is unintuitive.  You’re forced to enter an “attack mode” and any mouse movement from there on will direct the movement of your block and attack, and this just feels restrictive. I don’t think I ever got the hang of what key switched targets, which is the one thing the tutorial didn’t stretch out teaching you. The movement is also a bit problematic, and I’ve seen people fight by poking each other on ladders, and it just looks ridiculous.

However, the map design is pretty good. There are different levels to the maps, and they feel big without feeling like you could get lost. Navigating them is pretty intuitive, and it helps that most, if not all of them are symmetrical. looks great. Oh, and I don’t think it needs to be said, but the game

The different factions come together surprisngly well, and the aforementioned maps look war-torn without being too drab. Graphical fidelity is great, though you’ll likely not notice, with how intense this game can get.

Despite my criticism, the fights themselves, when there’s a decent amount of people switching targets and tagging in and out, are very fun. Everything has great feedback, and while mouse and keyboard controls are pretty bad, I’ve heard the game plays much better with a controller (although apparently the console betas had network issues). Controls, though unintuitive, feel fairly responsive, though there’s a sluggishness to your actions that I’m pretty sure is intentional, given the size of your character.

Speaking of which, there’s some customisation involved. Progression exists in the form of equippable items that change your stats, but I never really noticed a difference. It’s there if you want it, and I’m sure there will be some good late-game loot for those invested in the game, but so far it seems like a cosmetic thing, and that’s just what I’ve been told; I barely noticed a difference. Oh, and your characters are like heroes, complete with separate “combos”, though I really only played one character in the time I played. Also, there are faction wars, which I think is the three factions fighting for dominance of a big map; it doesn’t seem that important and you can probably safely ignore it. Inf act, dont’ worry about factions like I did before starting: they in no way affect who you can team-up with.

For Honor looks to be a game with more depth than it gave the impression it had, and that’s a double-edged sword. For players of games like Chivalry, this game is for you. It’s more polished, looks prettier, and has tons of depth. but if you’re like me and just wanted a simple, pretty game where you hack people in different directions, you’ll probably struggle to get into it. Maybe the skill ceiling was too high, since I’m told tons of Twitch streamers were playing the game, but it was just a bit too much for me. I might check out the Open Beta, I might not, but as it stands, For Honor just isn’t for me. It looks like it will be a good new IP for Ubisoft, and a lot of fun, though, so if it sounds like something you’d like, enjoy.

P.S. I forgot which key screenshots things in UPlay, so my bad for the lack of screenshots.

Top 5 Games of 2016

I think it can be safely said that 2016 was a good year for games. While it didn’t have the amazing highs of 2015, like The Witcher 3 or Arkham Knight or Fallout 4, it had more variety, and a more sustained output of good games. And while 2016 had three huge sandboxes, this year had a bit more diversity in its big releases. We had great narrative-driven games (I refuse to use the term ‘walking simulator’), quite a few innovative shooters, and even some big platformers. Anyway, enough babbling, here are my top 5 games of 2016 Continue reading “Top 5 Games of 2016”

Top 5 Games I Missed in 2016

For the most part, 2016 was a good year for gaming. A very good year, in fact. There were a lot of really good releases, which I’ll get around to for one of these. Actually, there were so many that I missed a lot of big titles, and while not everything on this list I can say is “really good”, they’re big enough releases that I feel bad about missing them. So without further delay, here are the 5 top games I missed in 2016 Continue reading “Top 5 Games I Missed in 2016”

Steep Open Beta (Impressions)

Played on PC

At E3 2016, Steep was an odd little duck. It felt out of place among Ubisoft’s bigger blockbuster, fantasy and sci-fi games like For Honor and Watch Dogs 2. Not only that, but it was promised to be “an entirely new genre”, which just isn’t really true (it’s a combination of genres, sure). But it looked fun, and I like sports games that take you to cool locations, so I was interested. After playing a little over an hour of the closed beta, I can safely say that interest is gone.

The gameplay itself is just astounding in how boring it is. When you hear “extreme sports sandbox” you don’t think “boring to the point of absurdity.” But that’s just what the game is — it’s just so incredibly dull that you’ll find more entertainment in writing down bullet points about it. The actual acts of skiing, snowboarding, parachuting and wingsuiting are just poorly designed. The game creates this atmosphere than encourages speed, tricks and fun, but doesn’t allow for any of it.

But actual movement feels incredibly slow, and your inability to turn precisely adds to the overall sluggish feel of the game. Everything seems to have a delay, and while this may add authenticity, I think my character surviving some amazing crashes nullifies any authenticity that the game may have. The game just feels unresponsive, even in things like the map screen! Everything takes just long enough that it doesn’t lend itself well to the speed the game goes for. And just watching your character ski or snowboard feels slow. Maybe it’s the lack of noticeable motion blur, bad camera angles (for a camera which you can’t control for some reason) or lack of good feedback, your character never feels like they’re going fast.

The act of doing tricks is over-explained in a long tutorial video, as opposed to letting you participate and teaching you as you go, and the system is just not intuitive (though nothing in this game is). Tricks require that you time the holding of a button for as long as you can, and let go for the game to “reset” your character’s position, hopefully in time so that you don’t take damage. It’s an incredibly unintuitive system that takes control away from the player, and I don’t know who thought it was a good idea. The controls in general are unintuitive, and even switching what sport you’re engaging in feels clunky, and it kind of defeats the purpose of the game. Not only that, but menus feel hidden.

Let’s end with the sole positive: the game looks nice. The snow looks good and characters leave tracks in it. There’s a nice brightness to everything during the day, and it sells the game’s Red Bull-fuelled atmosphere. The game looks good, and that’s worth something… in fact it’s all the game’s worth.

So there ya go. I was somewhat excited for this game when it was announced, and playing the beta (which is much more like a demo, given that the game comes out in  a few days) has killed any excitement that was there. Steep looks to be just a badly put together game that manages to negate what should be an obvious winning formula.

Note: The beta ended and I didn’t grab screenshots in that time, so… whoops!

ABZÛ Review – Depth and Simplicity

Developer: Giant Squid Studios
Plaforms: PC (reviewed), PS4
Date of play: 3/08/12
Play time: 98 minutes

ABZÛ is a game I didn’t really know about until a couple of months ago. But Austin Wintory tweeted about it and I follow him so I figured it must be good, if only for the music. Wintory composed the soundtrack for Journey, which is still my favourite game of all time. And that’s good, because ABZÛ is very similar to Journey. It maintains the design choices of Journey: minimal user-interface, minimalist storytelling and a focus on music and visuals (specifically architecture) to tell a narrative. At the same time, however, ABZÛ managed to carve out its own identity with a heartwarming story with a strong moral, a beautiful aesthetic and immersive (pun) gameplay. Continue reading “ABZÛ Review – Depth and Simplicity”