Review of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

hellblade

“Hell is reaching deep inside of her. She has dreamt of this before. They say dreams are visions as thoughts of our hopes and fears as dreamed by our inner eye. But, what if each one of us is dreaming even when we are awake and all we can see is what our inner eye creates for us. Is this what hell is? A world shaped by Senua’s nightmares? Maybe that’s why people feared seeing the world through her eyes. Cause if you can believe that what Senua’s sees is true, maybe yours will be too.”
– Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

 

Release Date: August 8, 2017

Platform: PlayStation 4

Game Designer: Ninja Theory 

 

This game seemed to be extremely difficult to review while in the middle of playing it. There were a few times where I would sit down with every intention of writing my thoughts and impressions, yet felt like I would not be able to do this game justice. It wasn’t until today, when I finally had the chance to beat this game, that I feel as though I have the ability to express what it is that I feel for this game.

hellblade 5

Story

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a psychological action/adventure game developed by Ninja Theory and made for the PlayStation 4. The creators wanted to give the players a type of experience that is considered to be taboo by social standards and has never been displayed so thoughtfully or accurately in any medium.

The story is based on Senua, a Keltic warrior who has become an outcast due to the fact that her tribe believes she is cursed and that she will bring ruin to her people. While in exile, she hears that her village is under attack, and feeling that the love of her life, Dillion, might be in danger, she returns only to find that everyone is dead and her companion has suffered a fate worse than death. She witnesses the aftermath of his brutal death which triggers a metal break within herself. She begins to hear voices in her head that tell her how she can save Dillion’s soul and hopefully break the curse within her. However, this will not be easy as she will have to literally fight her way to hell and back. Throughout the game and as major moments in the game are revealed, the voices in her head become louder and more direct. Senua will actually look back, lock eyes with you, and speak as if she is talking to you directly. This was pretty amazing to witness and really made me feel as though I was the voice in her head. The first time that this happened in the very beginning of the game gave me an understanding of what the adventure might hold, and gave me even more of drive to see what the rest of the game had to offer.

 

It’s hard to talk about the story without giving too much away. What I can say about this game is that the story itself will not hold back any punches and will force you to experience things that not many have had the discomfort of experiencing. Senua will face many different foes that feel as though they were taken directly from a Lovecraft novel while placing the setting of the adventure around beautiful landscapes and foreboding dungeons.

It’s impossible to get lost while making your way through Senua’s story. The game is designed to be very linear and often times will just require you to walk from point A to point B. In a lot of ways, this game is a walking simulator with certain battle sequences. This may sound like a bad thing, but the voice acting and overall story telling make the hours of walking very enjoyable.

Ohellblade 3ne issue that I had with the gameplay was puzzle solving. There are no variations to the puzzles that you solve and will require you to find specific runes in the area in order to unlock a door. The runes will be different shapes that objects in the area will take to the form of and this requires you to walk around aimlessly while focusing on different objects in the hope that it sort of resembles a weird “T” shape. Though I understand the relevance of such a puzzle, I felt as though it killed all the momentum of a previous fight or story sequence and would often take me out of the experience completely.

 

Visuals

Hellblade is absolutely stunning and it really shows off the power of the PlayStation 4 Pro. You control Senua through a third person, over the shoulder, system which will focus on the immediate area right in front of you. This particular playing style gave me the ability to take in everything that was in front of me and allowed me to see the detail in the world.

hellblade 2Your adventure will take you from the rancid and bug infested swamps, to war torn beaches and castles on top of mountains. You will fight your way through burned down villages and run for your life in dank and dark catacombs.
Each area felt alive and offered its own beauty and horror which made the game feel like it was given that extra special detail.

 

Fighting

The fighting in this game was pretty basic and did not require too much effort in order to master it. You could often times fight wave after wave of enemies and never be hit if you simply rolled out of the way and timed your attacks. This was a welcome feature however due to the fact that dying too many times during your play through will result in you having to start all over from the very beginning. When first told this, I did feel a particular panic start to set in, but it made the game that much more engaging and really gave me a sense of dread during each battle. It was only when fighting the first major boss that I actually died, but was able to learn from my mistake and press on.

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The bosses are a welcome addition to the same enemies that you will face over and over. Each boss that I fought was memorable in their own way and exemplified the area in which you encounter them. The main issue that I had with them was the amount of time that it would take to actually defeat them. I would figure out a good pattern and would often be hacking away at them for what felt like hours. Roll three times, hit them a few times, roll some more, use my focus, hit them a few times, roll some more…over and over until a cut scene.

You are given a very simple set of moves that you can use in combat. You have a light attack, heavy, melee, evade, and block. It wasn’t until I had fought a few waves of enemies that I realized that I could actually mix and match my attacks in order to create different combos. If you run at an enemy and press the light attack button, you will jump in the air and thrust your sword right in the chest of your enemy. I enjoyed figuring out the different attacks Senua could do and found better ways to defeat different enemies as the game progressed.

Conclusion
It’s hard to put into words how I feel about this game. It touched on a topic that many are not able to talk about, let alone actually play a game that revolves around it. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice will stand the test of time and will become a bench mark for how narrative driven games should be created. The sense of constant dread over your own slipping sense of reality while learning more about what plagues Senua will stay with me for a long time. I encourage anyone that owns a PlayStation 4, or even if you know someone that has one, to play this game. It is defiantly a game that went under the radar and that has a real chance as Game of the Year.

Discussion: How Would You Survive?

You are in your bed, sound asleep, recharging your batteries for the next day. You wake up feeling remarkably refreshed, perhaps thinking that the new workout you did the night before caused you to sleep harder than you ever have. You reach over for your phone and check to see if you have any messages, when you notice that it will not turn on. A slight panic washes over you. Did I forget to plug in my phone again? How many calls have I missed? What time is it? 

Because of cell phones, most people will forget that they actually had to tell time by looking at something called a clock. 

Now fully awake, you throw the blankets off and make your way to the nearest clock when you notice something that raises your stress levels; the sun is high in the sky. You have slept in and you are going to be extremely late for work. 

Now, in a full adrenaline fueled panic, you begin grabbing anything that resembles clothing and start making your way to a clock. You just want to know that it’s not as bad as it seems. As you leave your bedroom, you being to feel uneasy and notice somethings are just off. The fan you always have on is no longer running, you don’t smell pre-made coffee that you set up the night before, and the screen on the microwave is completely blank. The power is out, you overslept, your phone is dead, and you know that you are screwed. 

You throw on your cloths, grab your useless phone and the charger, your keys, and make a run for your car. 

The moment you hit your door, you feel and hear the movement of tons of people. You open the door to see families taking in paniced tones and dragging their children for the steps leading to the lower levels of your appartment complex. 

Strange. But, you are late. Screw them. 

You brush past them and make a mad dash for your car. You feel the mid morning sun on your face and you start tapping into the abilities of your ansesters in order to make out what time it could be based on the suns possition in the sky. Anything to make yourself feel better I guess. You jump in your car, turn the key, and notice your fears have become real. You are three hours late for your shift. 

You slam your car in reverse, pull a maneuver that you have seen in movies (pretty sucessfully to your amazement), and make your way to the entrance when you notice you’re not going anywhere any time soon. Traffic is backed up and you are completely blocked. 

While creating new curse words that would make George Carlin flintch, you turn on the radio and hope that someone has a pretty good reason for why you are stuck. The only thing coming through the raido is low to high pitched tones. After a few seconds, a recorded message is played through the emerengy broadcast system

“This is not a test. I repeat, this is not a test. By order of the Governor and in cooperation with the United States Armed Forces, all residents are to return to their homes or seek shelter. Do not come into contact with anyone that you do not know. Do not open your doors unless you have been directed to by security or state representation. If you notice someone being overly aggressive, do not engage the individual and instead contact your local law enforcement.”


So this is the situation

You have woken up to a zombie outbreak. But, you have no clue that this is a zombie situation. All you know is that you are late for work, your apartment does not have electricity, your phone is dead, and you are blocked in by traffic all around. 

I have done a little research on the topic and I can give you some clues as to the state of the world if a zombie outbreak were to be unleased and they are starting to overwhelm us. 

Electricity

Aside from accidental damage (ie. Power lines going down) you can expect to have electricity anywhere from several days to several weeks depending on the type of generators that are running your area. For the sake of argument, we will say that you live in a city and you can expect to have electricity running for about a month. However, as you found in the story, your apartment complex has experienced a power outage and you do not have electricity.

Water

Because water is pumped while under pressure into water towers via electricity, you should be able to get water for at least several days. Since we are in a city however, the pressure will be greatly reduced and the horders will put a strain on the sytem. I would say that for this situation, you have running water for four days. 

Smaller cities and towns will have running water a few days longer, but fires that break out might put a damper on water reserves. 

Natural gas

This is tricky since natural gas might lead to issues involving fires and explosions. You can expect these systems to be operatioal for a maxium of a week, depending on the issues associated with it. 

Gasoline

Because of such a high demand, these could easily be gone in a matter of a week. Though they don’t necessarily need electricity to pump, gas will be the back bone for everyone wanting to escape the nightmare and will become very important. For this situation, your apartement complex is located next to a gas station. 

If you don’t want to be loney during your survival, you will need to think about your friends and family. 

In this situation, your parents live roughly three miles from where you are now. They are in a heavily populated subdivision located just a mile and a half from a hospital and a grocery store. 

Your brother and his wife live further away. Roughly fifteen miles from you and they also live in a highly populated subdivision. Your brother has access to an SUV and a very spacious, extended cab, pick up truck.

Your closest friend lives three doors down from your parents and has martial arts experience as well as police experience. Recruiting him would be invaluable, however he lives with family memebers that have medical issues and will need to come with you. Lets say the medical issues are diabetes and lower back issues that make walking a challenge. 

In geographical terms, you are in a normal city that is outlined by a larger city to the west and a smaller city located to your east. The larger city is roughly seven miles on the highway and the smaller city is about ten miles on the highway. Your apartment complex is one street away from the major highway, but due to poor planning, the road is a four lane street with a one lane entrance and exit. You are located roughly a hundred miles from the ocean to your south and more rual farm lands are located to the north roughly fourty miles from where you are. 

However, in order to reach the farm lands, you will need to drive through very heavily populated cities. 

What you have at your dispossal is everything that you would typically have at this point and time. 

Lets make this fun and see how everyone would survive.

 Send your answers in the comment section and lets debate the best methods for survival. 

I encourage you to share this post in order to see how many people we can get involved. Perhaps we can one day set up a scenario where we elect judges and (for lack of a better term) “Dungen Masters” to lead the story forward and see who would come out on top. 

Splatoon 2 Review

​Developer: Nintendo

Release Date: July 21, 2017

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Splatoon 2 is a third person action shooter with a lot of charm and personality. I never had the opprotunity to play the first Splatoon but was always curious by it. I watched a few Twitch competitions and always liked the idea behind it. At the beginning of the month, I had the opprotunity to play the demo for this game and ended being pretty impressed with the little amount of time that the demo allowed. It drew me in with the colorful world, interesting characters, and pretty simple game mechanics.

Beginning of the game

You start the game with the same tutorial that you would have gotten if you played the demo. I found this to be extremely important, especially since I never played the first one. The consept was simple; move from point to point while shooting different targets while the game teaches you how to effectively move around the area. I hated having to use the motion controls for this tutorial and just wished that they would give you the ability to change your controller layout.

Upon finising the tutorial; you watch a video showing the world around you and the different characters that inhabit it. The world is called “Inkopolis”; basically your hub world where you are granted the ability to shop around and customize your character. Along the left side of the street are the various shops that sell particular goods. You can buy new hats, shoes, shirts, and weapons that each have their own standard enhancemets, as well as some hidden abilities that will reveal themsevels once you have earned some experience in multiplayer. To the right of the street, there is a large arcade which you can walk into allowing you to partner up with your friends and play online using the Nintendo Switch App….

Ok…soap box time

Nintendo…What the heck were you thinking? This is by far the most rediculous work around for a chat system I have ever seen. Aside from the fact that I could only get it to work half of the time, the idea that you have to rely on your cell phone in order to do all the work just makes you seem lazy. It feels like they just simply forgot that gamers have been treated to a much simpler way of grouping up with some friends and chatting across networks. The technology has been around for decades, and yet it seems as though Nintendo has just now started to stubble upon servers and multiplayer gaming. If you get this app to actually work and if you are able to start chatting with you friends, your phone cannot run or be used for anything else other than this app. If you get a phone call from you partents or a loved one, basically kiss all your hard work good bye. If you close the app for any reason, the connection will be lost requiring you to relaunch, join a new group, and hope that missing some calls will not hinder your job or family. If you want to chat with your friends while playing this game, there are easier alternatives than this system. I prefer using skype. Though there is a bit of a delay, its still better than having your phone die after attempting to use this system for a couple of hours.

I know there are probably a number of reasons why they decided to do this. I’m sure that they are not in the market to piss off their fan base. Nintendo…try harder.

I’m cooled off…I’m ready

At the end of the plaza is a large stage with an elevator like door that leads you to the online match making area and in the back corner of the plaza, there is an area where you can play a game called Salmon Run. This is wave based mini game where you fight hordes of fish like creatures and bosses in order to collect eggs for a mysterious benefactor in exchange for rare loot and hidden prizes. More on this later. When you are ready to start moving around, you will notice a woman where jumps down into a drain. By following her down the hole, you will be able to start the six hour story mode. Like most games, the first thing that I try out is the Story mode. I want to become invested in the world around me and get to know the characters that I will be playing with.

Story Mode

The story involves your character becoming a recruit in a shadow organization that maintains peace throughout the world. You find out that giant “Zap Fish” has been stolen and its up to you to get it back. The fact that they would intrust such a difficult task to a fresh recruit speaks volumes to the leadership of this organization…but I digress.

The story is broken up into multiple areas that are inhabited by multiple stages. Each stage can only be opened once you have located it within the area. They will need to be tracked down and then shot with your weapon in order for you to enter.

The stages are not very difficult and are at times will hold your hand through most of it. I saw these stages are more or a less an area in which you can try out new weapons and try out new techniques that could make you that much better when you get into the multiplayer aspect of the game. At the end of each stage, you will need to free a smaller Zap Fish in order to move on. Collecting a certain number of Zap Fishes will open up the boss stage and the real challenge will begin.

The boss stages were by far the best part of the story modes. Each one of the bosses had their own personality and art design that truley made them pop. They ranged from the wacky to down right creepy and each one were not to be taken lightly. Most of the matches involved me running around and trying to figure out exactly what it is that I needed to do. Eventually, through trial and error, I was able to figure it out and take down my opponent.

The overall story mode is not overly long, but it is pretty fun and a good way to hone your skills. The story is said to take a minimum of six hours to complete and is full of hidden secrets and items that can be found by those who have a sharp sense of situational awareness.

Multiplayer

Nintendo once again decided that they would change up everything that we are used to when it comes to online game play. When you first connect to the internet, you will be forced to sit through an opening news cast which introduces you to the available maps and the differnt modes. Yes…thats right…you can’t play all the maps. Nintendo decided that it would be a great idea to only offer certain maps at different points thoughout the day and that the maps would rotait. Because of this, periodically while you are playing, you will recieve a message that the stages have been changed and you will have to go back to the main screen and rejoin your game. Again…I am sure there is a rational reason behind this, though I am not seeing it. Before you start a match, you will have the ability to change out your clothing that you purchased, or try out some new weapons. Since the games launch, finding matches have been pretty smooth and the wait time has been drastically reduced. During the demo, I spent a total of five minutes waiting for just one more person to join the lobby. Because there is no way of backing out of the match maker once it starts, you are left with two choices; you can either set your system down and catch up on some houshold activities, or you can close the game and relaunch. There is a count down timer that will send you back to the start once the time runs out, however, if someone turns off the system or if just one person joins, the timer will reset. I am hoping that Nintendo will see that this is an issue and will try to correct the problem. A simple “back out” option would be great.

As of right now, the only game that is availiable for normal multiplayer is a game called Turf War. This has a very simple premise in which you attmept to paint the most territory with your weapons then the opponent. Its a nice change of pace from the typical “the most kills win” and instead relies on your ability to understand your opponents patters and attempt to out flank them.

You are given three minutes to take over as much territoy as you can get. I found that during the last minute of the game, everyone is just frantically coving as much ground as possible and are not too worried with killing someone that has been targeting them throughout the match.

Different weapons will give you certain advantages and disadvantages that will either help you or hinder dependening on the players you are against. Most of the weapons are typical gun variations like sniper rifles, assualt rifles, and pistols. While others are a little more comical in nature. You can use a giant paint roller that will paint a large surface area and kill enemies with a simple touch, but will use up a lot of your ink and will cause you to move pretty slow. There is also giant paint bushes, buckets of paint, and my favorite, the original VR pistol from Duck Hunt. I was literally beaming from ear to ear when I found out that this was an actual weapon that you can use.

With the lobbies filling pretty quickly and the matches not being to long, it was easy for me to drain a few hours into the multiplayer in an attempt to level up and have the opprotunity to buy new gear for the multiplayer. Its a vicious circle that I am ok with.

Horde Mode

The most addicting part of this game is their wave based mini game “Salmon Run”. You notice a shack in the back corner of the hub world and take a look inside. Once you are at least level 4, you will be able to speak to a faceless benefactor who offers you a proposition. He wants you to collect golden eggs for him and in return, he will give you prizes and treasure. Seems simple.

You will be partnered up with three other random people and will be sent to a platform in the middle of the ocean. You have to survive three waves of rampaging fish while defeating various boss fish in order to obtain thier golden eggs. In order to progress through all of the stages, you will need to collect a certain number of eggs. Playing the first few matches are pretty easy and they are designed to help you get a handle on he situation. After you have earned your first couple of rewards and are have leveled up, the real challenge will begin. Sometimes the water level will rise and you will have less area to run or re-group. Other times, special and more tough enemeies will appear and quick reaction timing with relyable teammates will be the difference between life and death.

Each battle felt like something new and not one match would end the way I thought it would. You deffinatley felt like you earned the win when you won and felt the sting when you lost. Only issue I have with this is that Nintendo once again decieded to change things up.

Nintendo decided that this mode would not be avilable all the time, and instead wanted it only playable on certain days and at certain times. This is extremely frustrating and it makes me want to find the person that is coming up with all of these dumb ideas.

Final Thoughts

I truly love what they did with this game. The environment, characters, and enemies is just the type of wacky that all lovers of Nintendo have come to expect. The story is not overly long, but thats ok. It gives you just enough training for online gameplay and it gives you a sense ounderstanding when it comes to the characters and events around you. The online game play is fresh and new to anyone that has just been playing the typical first person shooters and it lets you just have fun. The Salmon Run is by far my favorite aspect of this game, which all the more sucky that it can only be played during certain days and times.

They have some areas to fix, especially when it comes to the Nintendo Switch app and online availiablity, however, I have enjoyed my time with this game and hope that you will too.

Impressions of Destiny 2 Beta

This past weekend, Bungie released their open beta for Destiny 2 and, after finding an hour duirng my hectic weekend, I was finally able to see what this game has to offer.

I have a lot of good memories when it comes to the first Destiny. I remeber playing the opening beta with my friends and getting really excited for what the actual game will have to offer. We spent hours running around a run down version of Russia while fighting a slew of random enemies and exploring our Guardians abilities. When the final game came out, we still had a lot of fun, but the magic was fading. We spent a few months playing Destiny relgiously every weekend and eventually got bored. There was no story that was compelling enough for me to get invested in and we spent most of our time just replaying the same missions over and over and over and over and over. It got repedative and we, along with many other gamers just stopped trying.

Bungie recieved the critisim and attempted to right some wrongs. They created more and more content in order to draw in the fan base by adding additional missions, raids, weapons, and actual story content that gave this game a little more life. I was impressed with the new and improved content, but found that it just wasnt enough to keep me and my friends going. We blew through the additional story missions and once again stopped playing once it all became repedative.
I am giving you this glimps into my experience with the first game to hopefully give you a better understanding and see where i am coming from when i tell you that i am pretty excited for Destiny 2.

The demo was not long by any means. Me and my friends were able to see all the game has to offer within the span of a couple hours. The demo lets you play the opening mission of the game and it sets up who and what the main focus will be. One of the first things that i noticed when the demo started was the sense of ergency that I felt right at the start. Your home is buring around you and you are just trying to figure out who is to blame. As you make your way to your leadership, you encourter some familiar foes, but they obviously have had an upgrade. Most of the upgrades are cosmetic that give the game a little more polish; but some of the upgrades are also in the enemies best interest. Some of the enemies will have the ability to fly around and shoot at you from behind cover. Others now have more powerfull weapons at their disposal requiring you to make a more tactical approch in order to make it from point A to point B. 

The opening mission was pretty long which game you plenty of opprotunities to try out all the new abilities that your Guardian has to offer. Every Guardian now has new super abilities which allow you to completely desimate the waves of enemies that you will face. My favorite was the Titan’s ability which gives you a “Captain America” like shield that you can use to either shield your teammates, or completely wreck your opponents. You can even throw it and create a ricocheting disk that kills almost all enemies with one hit. I noticed right away that Bungie wasnt going to change much of the core mechanics, rather they would focus on polishing and enhancing the graphical aesthetics in the world around you. 
Once I completed the story mission, I was able to create a Fire Team and start on the cooperative game play. Unfortunatley, the demo only allowed you to play one strike or compeditive multiplayer. I was never a fan of the PVP multiplayer and because I only had a couple of hours to play this game, i decided to try it out when the game was released. 
I was very impressed with how the strike played out. The mission didnt seem like it was over too quickly, rather it actually made the time i spent worth while. We traveled through differnt areas and fought waves of differnt enemies that tested our ability to think on the fly and adapt. It had been so long since either of us had picked up Destiny, so there was some what of a learning curve taking place. After we shook the rust off, we started falling back into our roles which made the game a little more fun. 

Much like the other strikes in the first Destiny, after fighting through the horde of enemies keeping you from your objective, you will come face to face with a much more powerful foe.
It seemed as though the game developers created this boss in order to make you fail. Just when we thought we had a handle on the situation, the boss would use some new abilities that none of us were ready for. The stage would actually change as whenever we brought its health down to a certain point and more enemies would appear. Every time the stage would change, we would have to use a system of trail and error in order to find out what we can and cant do. This led to a few frustrating moments as we collectivly figure something out, only to die and have to start all over. This was frustrating in he beginning, but makes it much more fufilling when you finally beat it. Making you change up tactics and having an enemy that learns throughout the battle makes it more exciting. Its better than finding a glitch or hole in the wall that the boss cant shoot you in. 
This demo left me with a warm and fuzzy and gave me reason to buy this game. I really enjoyed the new abilities that the different Guardians can now use and i look forward to experiencing the rest of the story. 

Bioware Under New/Old Management

As of today, Aaryn Flynn will no longer be the general manager of Bioware and will actually be leaving the company completely. 

In a blog post written by Flynn on the official Bioware website, Flynn talks about wanting to move on and try new things. He says he has been thinking about this change for awhile and would like to branch out into new technologies. He was actually excited to hear that the former general manager, Casey Hudson, was up to the task of taking over Bioware. 

This exodus comes just four months after the failure of thier flag ship series Mass Effect came out and it leads to speculation as to the true reason Flynn is stepping down. All we can do is take his words at face value and believe him when he says that he is leaving because of his personal reasons. However, you can see how all the pieces line up. Bioware’s main series suffers a huge set back after it’s latest series is released with game breaking bugs and glitches along with lackluster reviews. The game was so negatively received that Bioware has decided to no longer invest all of its time and resources in the game. They announced that Andromeda will not have any single player DLCs and that they will be taking some time off from the series. This has obviously given Bioware a black eye and could be speculated that this lead to Flynns departure. 

But, there is still hope. 

Although Flynn will be missed, Hudson reclaiming the throne is not a bad thing for Bioware at all. 

Casey Hudson worked with Bioware for nearly 16 years before leaving in 2014. Hudson originally left to work on Microsoft Hololens which he said was a way to “broaden his horizons and try new technologies.” 

Hudson was the general manager during Bioware’s meteoric rise and he was the lead developer on many of Bioware’s top selling projects like; The Mass Effect trilogy, Jade Empire, and of course Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic. 

Fans have been eagerly anticipating a sequel to Knights of The Old Republic for some time and Hudson becoming the general manager might bring us one step closer. 

Bioware is partnered with EA and EA has gaming rights to Star Wars. If they can work a deal with Disney in order to make a proper sequel, Bioware could very well get a cold steak for that black eye and we can start the healing process. This might be tricky since Knights is not cannon to the original Star Wars story and Disney as been pretty reluctant to let people pervert the story. However, if anyone can get them on board, I think Bioware and EA can. 

Impressions on Splatoon 2

splatoon 2

Yesterday Nintendo released the final multiplayer demo for their upcoming third person shooter Splatoon 2. This demo was from 5PM to 9PM on Saturday and if you missed it, then you will just have to wait for the game to be released this Friday. I believe that having a four hour window on one day to try your new game is ridiculous, but that’s a story for a different day.

I have a confession, I never played the first Splatoon. I ended up trading in my Wii U before Splatoon was released and never had a chance to play it. I heard great things about it which led me to start watching some tournaments on twitch. The game always seemed pretty interesting to me and, in a way, seemed to be a much cleaner form of Call of Duty for younger gamers. I generally got somewhat excited when I heard they were making a second one for the Switch after it’s meteoric success.

I launched the game about thirty minutes before the servers became active in the hopes that it offered some type of a tutorial for first time players. When Nintendo had the test punch for Arms, they basically had a message that let you know that they had not started the demo yet and all you could do was stare at a title screen. I wasn’t sure if Splatoon was any different and was presently surprised by what they offered. The beginning of the demo placed you in a quick tutorial that showed you how to shoot, run, and become a squid. It also showed you how to traverse the landscape and use some of the different abilities that your character is able to do. I was a little worried that this game would rely souly on the motion control of the system to aim. I kept pressing the start button in order to change the settings, but found out that nothing can be changed until the tutorial was completed.

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Once you have finished the tutorial, you will be placed in hub world that is inhabited by the lifeless avatars of people that are playing the game. The hub world looks like an outdoor shopping mall with various stores, arcade games, a food truck, and a giant stage at the end of the strip. As you walk up to one of the stores, the automatic door opens and a small cut scene will ensue. You will meet the owner of the store and the owner will tell you about the product he or she is selling and what kind of requirements you will need to meet in order to buy equipment. Although, during the demo, you are unable to level up or earn money, so this was basically a chance for you to see where the different stores are located for the final game.

You will have a chance to walk around and talk with different NPCs that inhabit this world. They give a glimpse into what the main game will offer in terms of side quests by giving you general requirements for just talking to them. One NPC in particular is a giant cat that is laying on step taking a nap. The cat seems irritated when you go to talk to it and it will tell you that you need to at least be level four before it can help you. Others will tell you how to level up and that different rewards will be available to you when you have leveled up.

Exploring this hub world was interesting while I was waiting for the servers to open up, but it only occupied maybe ten minutes of my time.

Once the servers opened however, the area completely changed. Night fall had set in and the hub world turned into a block party with music blaring and flood lights waving. All of the NPCs that were once lifeless or sleeping were now dancing, eating, or partying.

I walked over a terminal that asked me a very important question. It was a question that plagued the world and would cause the four hours of violence that would ensue. Do you prefer Ice Cream or Cake? I chuckled when the question was proposed and I started to see this game as the fun and goofy game that it was meant to be. Of course, the right answer is Ice Cream (for obvious reasons).

Once I made my choice, I was able to start playing online and competing to prove that Ice Cream is far superior.

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You are given four different weapons to choose from as your primary weapon. Each weapon offered different pros and cons while also requiring you to learn new tactics on the fly. The weapons include; dual pistols, a automatic rifle, a giant paint roller, and a sniper rile.

The object of the game is to use your weapons in order to claim more territory then your opponent by shooting the area around you with your paint. By the end of the match, the team with the most area covered in paint will win. During the match, your character will not be able to move very fast. In order to move more quickly, you need to change shape and turn into a squid. Your squid form will soar through your paint and will allow you to make it to the front lines very quickly in order to help your fellow team mates fight back the opposing team, or so that you can start taking over territories without alerting the other team.

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I found going head to head with opposing players to be pretty challenging. Most of the weapons cannot shoot very far and it will require you to get up close and personal with your opponent, leading to a battle that is less about accuracy and more about who shot first. I found that using the giant paint roller was by far the best tactic if you wanted to just decimate the opposing team. This weapons would kill anyone that was touched by it and would also cover much more surface area then the other weapons. The problem with the giant roller, however, was the inability to paint up the side of walls which hinders your ability to take the high ground.

This test demo surprised me and showed me what I was missing by not playing the first Splatoon. I enjoyed exploring the hub world and meeting the different characters that would soon help me when the game is released later this week. The multiplayer was a good balance of enjoyable and difficult gameplay that made me want to get better. Though I wasn’t a fan of the aim mechanics, I still found it easier to master after playing a few games. All in all, I am excited to see what the full version of this game can offer and I am looking forward to finally being able to play a Splatoon game.

Review of Implosion: Never Lose Hope

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Since the launch of the Nintendo Switch back in March, not many games have come out that has made this purchase feel more than just a fantastic system in which to play Legend of Zelda. There have been a few games that has made me want to pick this system back up, but not many that have drawn me in and made me want to invest hours out of my day. Since we have to wait till October to play the next big title, Nintendo has been parterning with third party studios in order to give us something to make the wait a little more barable. In comes a game that was orginally built for IOS and Andriod called Implosion: Never Lose Hope. 

Now I know what you are thinking; lets face it, I was thinking the same thing. Cell phone games are great for when you are just sitting on a bus or if you have a couple of minutes to kill, but a cell phone game that is ported to a consle already looks shady. Because I was looking for something to take up some time while on a three hour car ride, I took a chance on this $12 game and have had a blast ever since.

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Implosion is a hack and slash style RPG that has resently come out for the Nintendo Switch. The story takes place in the future when humanity no longer can call Earth home due to an alien race known as the XADA. The XADA have nearly wipped out the entire human race and those who were lucky to escape now hide in space. you play as a soldier named Jake who pilots unmaned machine known as “Avalon”. This machine was created through a program called “War Mech 3” and is now our last hope for survival. Ok…so the story may sound pretty cheesey and forgetable, but it’s actually enjoyable once you sit down and play the game. The voice acting is much better then expected and you can actually feel different emotions between the different characters as you discover what has happend to your home.

Implosion’s story is a top down hack and slash based around linear missions that require you to travel from the beginning to the end while killing all the bad guys in your way. The levels lack certain flair and imagination however, due to the fact that you are either traveling from room to room in an under ground bunker, protecting an area from a monster invasion, or moving across different landscapes. Though the variation between the areas are lacking, it makes tracking down hidden rooms or finding collectables pretty easy. You will start to notice the hidden corners or random doors pretty easily once you have seen the same area over and over again.

Each mission will have optional requirements for you to complete in order to gain badges. These badges will help you to unlock better upgrades for your Avalon as well as grant you new mechs and additional story missions. I found myself replaying the same mission at least twice in order to make sure that I completed the special task. Some of the tasks would require you to perform feats like:

do not use a single health item

destroy all of the containers

do not get knocked down

do not restart

use only ranged weapons

I really wanted to play with the new Mech called “Crimson”. However, once I earned enough badges to play as it, I had an attachment with Avalon and I wanted to make it even more powerful.

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As you progress through the story, you will pick up augmentations that will allow you to swap out existing upgrades and tailor your playing style. If you want to be almost invincible, but spend all of your time fighting just one person at a time, then you can spec your machine to have higher endurance. If you are quick with your rolls and you feel like you cant be touched, then find and equip augments that maximize your strength. Good luck if that is your choice. These enemies can be freaking jerks.

You will fight everything from mutants to zombies to mutant zombies. The game will start you out with the training wheels as you fight enemies that will rarely fight back and will eventually just let you go and  wish you all the best. Eventually you will have to go toe to toe with giant beasts, up-armored mechs, and some very familiar looking aliens that make you think that Ridley Scott is about to make some phone calls. Most of the enemies will have a pattern that you can exploit, others will just be so fast or have so much health that you will need to come to the realization that you are going to get hurt. This isn’t much of an issue due to the fact that you will basically have six lives for each mission. If you go down, you can revive right where you are and pick right up with full health and shields. This makes the game much more enjoyable to finish, but will be maddening when you have to complete a mission without dying.

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At the end of each area, you will have a boss level in which you will have to fight a pretty challenging and pretty awesome looking monster. They each have some type of move set that will require you to think on your feet and ultimately exploit in order to beat them. The boss battles are really where this game shines. During the battle, you will be able to listen to some great battle songs that make you feel immersed in the battle and that much more enjoyable.

For $12, you really can’t beat it. Its the type of game that you can enjoy when you have a few hours to kill and you want to try something different. Though the level design and enemies are pretty repetitive, you will still have a pretty fun time mixing different augmentations and mastering different combat aspects.

 

 

Thoughts On Remasters and Remakes

resident evil remaster

With the release of Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy, rumors have begun making the rounds that more platforming games form the 90s will be making a return. For me, these games were easily 80% of the games that I played as a child. Games like Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and Spyro would take up most if not all of my time during long summer breaks. When my parents were at work, video games were a pretty cheap baby sitter.

Remakes on a classic video game series shows both old and new gamers how far we have come. Game designers have had decades to perfect some of the core basics that make not only platformers fun, but the general experience of video games more enjoyable. I remember thinking that I was awesome at games like Super Mario Bros or Golden Eye, but then I find out that I have been spoiled by easier game mechanics and more fluid camera controls. Just try and play the first Jak and Daxter today and see if you don’t throw your hands up in frustration over dying the same way over and over.

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I spent a lot of time trying to master Crash Bandicoot during one of my summer vacations and I feel a lot of the nostalgia coming back when I get a chance to play the remastered version. All in all, that is exactly what remakes and remasters do; they feed on our desires to relive those golden moments of our youth. They give us a chance to see if we remember all of the same twists and turns that we learned while grinding out the same area over and over. We are shown how our feelings and interest have changed as we ask ourselves, “how did I find this enjoyable?”

Personally, I can see both sides of this argument and I will try my best to outline the pros and cons of the remake argument.

Pros

Gamers love nostalgia. It’s what drives us to play another Mario game or follow along with a series that has multiple spin offs. We fall in love with these characters and want to know more. Having a new game in a series will not only help us to see what new adventures we will face, but it also expanse on the lore that the game is built around. A prime example is the Uncharted series which featured a new game for both the Playstation 3 and the Playstation 4. These games were blockbuster hits that showed off the true power of the consoles that they were attached to. Only problem was that the Playstation 4 could not play Playstation 3 games, so all of the hours you spent playing Uncharted 1-3 would just be a memory if you decided to sell your Playstation 3 in order to buy a Playstation 4 (Which I did). However, Naughty Dog released a remastered collection of the original games that could be played on the Playstation 4, allowing you to once again relive the adventure and be caught up on the lore before diving into Uncharted 4.

 

spyroRemakes can be a great thing for developers as well. Companies like Capcom are often times struggling to compete with bigger industries like Activision or Square Enix and will need more capital in order to produce new ideas. One way that Capcom can do this is by re-releasing older games for current consoles. By doing this, Capcom can spend less money than producing a new game, hiring new staff, and creating new engines. It’s cheaper to use a game that has already been made, put some polish on it, and sell it again at a fraction of the original price. Capcom has gone on the record and stated that they will make remakes of their series Resident Evil in order to fund their new projects and bring about new IPs. Though this may seem like double dipping, I can see how this is a good strategy and can understand it from their point of view. Just as long as they are not blowing smoke up our butts and they are actually going to do what they say.

 

Cons

Reliving older games from our youth is great, but often times will make us realize that we are living in the golden age of video games. I recently bought Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy because of my happy memories playing it when I was younger. I loved the idea of updating the graphics and character models in order for it to fit current generation gaming, but quickly realized they could have done a little more with the gameplay mechanics. When making a remake or remaster of a game, developers will either enhance the graphics enough to where it runs a little more smoothly or upgrade the textures so that you can see better detail, but will often forget to make better choices with the camera placement or the jumping mechanics. They will not touch the gameplay mechanics because they don’t want to spend too much money or time on a remaster. They just want gamers to buy them and have it be a quick surge of money for the company.

jak and daxter remaster

Again, I can’t be too mad when companies do this. I understand that making video games cost a ton of money and they need to make that money from somewhere. The problem with this is that gamers will feel like they just got ripped off after the nostalgia has gone away. I played the remake of Crash Bandicoot for maybe a couple of hours before I put it down. The new art style, the remade character models, and the reimagined world around me was great, but the gameplay was just lacking and often times impossible to master. I have become spoiled with polished gameplay.

 

All in all, remakes and remasters are becoming a normal business strategy among game developers. They need the new source of income in order to develop new and exciting games that will one day have their own remasters. Whichever way you land on the subject, we all benefit in some way to remasters of classic games.

Living In A Broken Age

broken controler

You watch a trailer, read reviews, watch the gameplay, and wait for your chance to play the next big game. You have been counting down the days and wondering if the game is going to hold up to all of your expectations. You go to pick it up at midnight and awkwardly wait in line with a bunch of people that just want to get their game, install it, and maybe play it for a couple of hours before they have to go to work. The anticipation is mounting during the drive home as you start using math to figure out just how many hours you have to play this game before your lack of sleep with hinder your performance at work. After a download time that feels as though you have downloaded every file known to mankind, it is finally time for you to play this long awaited game. You boot it up, the screen goes black, and you are kicked to the main screen. Turns out…. there’s a problem.

In recent video game history, this seems to be a very common occurrence. The maddening effect that broken games can have on our community has led to gamers blowing up social media with new memes and GIFs that will help to express the distaste they have for the industry, without actually holding up signs and protesting on the front lawn of Ubisoft or EA. Currently, we hear about a game being pushed back and we collectively have a sigh of relief because we know that they are finding some of the frustrating bugs and fixing them before we have a chance to turn it into another Facebook status or Twitter rant. Other times, however, we see a game series that has a new game every year and is riddled with game breaking glitches and story effecting bugs that create massive holes in your wall.

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So what has led to this decline of the gaming industry? Why do these companies think that they can continue to get away with barley passable games being produced to the public and then fixing them to the original intention some six months later? It all comes down to an industry term known as MVP or “Minimum Viable Product.”
MVP has become a common practice in the gaming community since the ability to patch a game via the internet. The Minimum Viable Product model means just as it sounds. The company will produce a product that meets the bare minimum standards in order to classify it as a “video game” and then ship it as a complete product. Because of the invention of the “Day One” patch, games can simply start the mass production cycle while game developers and coders try to franticly create a fix for all known issues.
However, some problems are too big for designers to fix, and this can cause a game to be shipped completely broken. Prime example is the fiasco that occurred when 343 re-released the Halo: Master Chief Collection and the multiplayer was impossible to play. I was one of the many people who bought the collection on day one and had waited in a lobby for thirty minutes in order to attempt one online match. I ended up talking with my friends and doing household chores while I waited. Though this was a great chance to catch up on laundry and dishes, this was a terrible experience with a beloved series. 343 issues an apology and assured us that they were just as shocked as we were.

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Since the launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, we’ve received several, well deserved, complaints related to slow matchmaking and other issues. From everyone at 343 Industries, we are truly sorry and feel your frustration. You deserve better and we are working day and night to find solutions as quickly as possible, with our first priority focused on matchmaking improvements.
Tomorrow morning (Wednesday morning Pacific Time) we plan to roll out a number of server updates to help improve matchmaking. Again, these are server-side fixes, so you won’t need to take a content update or reboot your console; you should see the effects right away.
In addition, we are targeting another release for this weekend, which will address a number of other community priorities. An unrelated issue with services is also causing achievements to not unlock correctly, and we realize this just makes it all feel a bit worse.
A game as large as Halo: The Master Chief Collection has a massive surface area, and while we made every effort to have the best launch possible for our fans, issues surfaced with launch and we’re committed to improving this as fast as possible and get you all into matches. We’re committed to improving things as fast as possible so you can have the Halo experience you’ve been waiting for.
Your feedback has been helpful for us in isolating issues, so please keep the input coming. We thank you for your continued patience and understanding while we work through these challenges. The development team at 343 Industries worked insanely hard to create Halo: The Master Chief Collection for you, and we won’t stop until it’s worthy of your passion for our franchise.
Dan Ayoub
Executive Producer

 

They promised to have a patch for the problem right away and that we will soon be playing online in no time. However, because of the MVP, the apology was just an attempt to save face. You can’t tell me that 343 had no idea that Halo was this messed up. The amount of time and testing that goes into a game would have shown to the rest of the staff that there was an issue. The problem rests with shareholders and companies that want to show strong quarterly figures.

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Another example is the issue with Ubisoft and their cash cow Assassin’s Creed. Since the launch of Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft has been wanting to suck as much money out of the consumer as possible. They created a promise for the shareholders and consumers that they would make at least one Assassin’s Creed game every year for as long as they can. Though this made a lot of gamers happy, this also put a strain on an already broken system. They pushed their developers to make something new and exciting for each installment, but lacked a genie that offered wishes or a devil to sell their soul to. Their promises for a new and improved Assassin’s Creed game every year, plus new entries into their already stacked game portfolio, just wasn’t based in reality. Luckily for us, it seems that Ubisoft has finally gotten the message and has started taking some time with their games. It only took five apology letters and years of them being social media targets for them to realize that maybe they need to focus on the gamer and not on how much more money they can make this year as opposed to last year.

Few companies seem to get the idea behind making the gamer happy before the company, one example is Rockstar. I tried to bring up Rockstar as much as I can because they just get it. Each time that one of their games comes out, you can bet that they have taken the time to track down 99.99999% of all bugs and it allows you to be completely immersed in the story. It took them almost ten years to make Grand Theft Auto 5 and their sales, along with glowing reviews, show that it was time well spent. They understand the idea of a slow, but controlled burn rather than dumping everything you got on a fire and hoping for the best. They will spend the time working and perfecting a game before giving it to the public. They want their name to be associated with great games rather than a few hits and misses.

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What does that mean for us? Hopefully social media and other platforms can help shed some light on this growing problem. Gaming company’s poor tons of money into people that just surf the internet and find out what everyone is saying about them or their games. With this, they can see that we are not buying their apology and maybe start to change their ways. I am not dumb enough to think that this will happen any time soon. At the end of the day, money talks louder than consumers. If money continues too poor in, then they are going to continue to do what they are doing. I often think of companies as toddlers that are starting to learn right from wrong. If we don’t scold them, they will not know that they are doing anything wrong and will continue to do the same bad behavior. It may seem fruitless, and we may see the same apology letters over and over, but if we continue to hold gaming companies accountable for their actions and demand that they do better, maybe they will get the hint and we can start playing some good quality games.

Getting Ready for State of Decay 2: Review of State of Decay

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Undead Studios is once again partnering with Microsoft in order to make the long awaited sequel to their cult classic, State of Decay. During the Microsoft press conference this year at E3, Microsoft showed off some of the new gameplay footage and received a lot of praise during their live demos on the showroom floor. People that had a chance to try the game said that it felt like a true sequel in the sense that it was much bigger, had more to do, and felt smoother. Which would be some great news since the first one never gave me a warm and fuzzy. I never felt a great desire to finish it and would often stop playing it for months on end. However, because of the good reactions from fans and first time viewers, I decided to download the game one last time to my Xbox and give it another shot before its return.

State of Decay is an adventure/action/horror game set in the zombie filled apocalyptic world. The game starts out with you in the middle of a zombie attack right from the get go. As you run over to your friend that is being attacked, you receive the basic tutorial messages and start your zombie killing assault. Saving your friend is only the beginning however, because now you must run from the approaching zombies that are far too many to fight on your own. As you run to safety, you are shown that you are not a super human being and will often have to stop and rest, which will cause your heart to race as you see the approaching doom and no longer have the strength to run. These tutorial missions foreshadow what you can expect throughout the rest of this game as you are choosing which battles you can win and which ones you will need to run from.

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The game will truly open up once you have made it to your first base of operations and you see what is really in front of you. You choose everything right from the start and will immediately start to feel the changes that your decisions are starting to make in the world around you. You have to choose how you want to strengthen everything around you and what type of activities can be performed. You will have a finite amount of space at your disposal and many different building and upgradable options. Sometimes having to sacrifice a library for a few extra beds might mean that you can have more survivors among your crew, but you will not be able to upgrade certain structures or make some people happy. You will have to balance with this “give and take” system throughout the main campaign and hope that you have made the right decisions.

state of decay

Rather than sticking with the traditional “army of one” type of main character, State of Decay changes things up by making the community that you build the main characters. You have the ability to swap out whom you play as throughout the game and will be able to play as anyone that you save. Each person will bring something new to the table and will have their own strengths and weaknesses. During my first play through, I got attached to the main character that you play as in the beginning of the game. The more that you play with someone, they will receive stat boosts and will start to become more powerful among the rest of your group. My down fall was getting so far in the game that I really didn’t have anyone that could be as good as him. When I got into a hairy situation and my main character became sick, I was extremely underpowered and was unable to complete any missions until either he got better or my other characters got stronger. Though this was the cause of me getting frustrated and not wanting to play the game for a while, I can take a step back and see what they are trying to do. I only have myself to blame for not playing the game the way it was intended. During my most recent play through, I can report that things had gotten a lot easier and I found that playing with the different survivors gives you a better understand of their stories and you will start to form a bond with each and every one of them. Knowing the strengths and weakness of those around me made the missions much more enjoyable.

Strengthening your characters will not be very helpful if you cannot keep your main base and outposts afloat. You will have to play resource management and track down food, water, lumber, medical supplies, and everything else that your compounds will need. Over time, your resources will start to dwindle and your people will being too lose hope in your leadership. They will begin to not trust you, which will stop them from going out with you during missions or supply runs. I never had an issue with collecting resources due to the fact that they are pretty easy to get your hands on. The world is littered with abandoned houses and remote farms that can be searched and pillaged for resources. The zombies will not make this an easy task as they will be on you the moment you walk into a structure. You can attempt to sneak around and try to get in and out without them spotting you, however, you will sometimes make noise when you are trying to open something up and this will in turn alert any zombie in the area to your position. You will need to start filling up your backpack and load up your truck before the numbers become too overwhelming. Though this system will get your heart racing the first couple of times, you find out that you can always come back to the house or structure if it becomes too dangerous and pick up what you left.

The story is pretty bland and underwhelming. If you sit there and think about what this games story is about, you will more than likely be right. I wish I had more to say in regards to the story, however this is not where this game shines.

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Where this game shines is the multiplayer. State of Decay was intended to be played with a group of friends (I think, in order to distract you from the lame story). Playing with people makes this game really come alive as you and your friends search houses and fight back the undead.

I finally beat the game just a few days ago and I was honestly ready for it to be over. Though the story was the worst part, I did have fun creating more outposts, trying out new characters, playing around with the different structure options, and doing some old fashion zombie killing. I am sure that you can pick this game up pretty cheap and get your enjoyment out of it before State of Decay 2 is available. I strongly recommend that you find other people to play with you as this will only make it that much more enjoyable.