The Last of Us 2 Officially Announced

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‘I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to finally be able to say that Ellie and Joel are back for another intense, harrowing, and emotional adventure.’ – creative director, Neil Druckmann

It’s been rumoured since the success of the first game, but The Last of Us 2 (known as Part II) has finally been announced during the Playstation Experience (PSX) keynote. While the necessity of a second game has been debated over the last few years, the trailer does provide an immense amount of curiosity to keep the naysayers at bay.

Ellie is much older than in the original game. She now looks to be in her late teens and possibly even in her early twenties, begging the question of how much time has actually passed between the two games. She is also seen playing guitar, a practise that Joel had promised to teach her once their quest to find the Fireflies was over. She seems to have taken to it as proficiently as she did when shooting a gun for the first time.

Our previous protagonist, Joel, also makes an appearance during the trailer but this is only brief. He walks through a house with several bodies strewn about the place before finding his way into the room where Ellie is playing guitar, asking what she is doing. The focus is very clearly on Ellie, which is one way of Naughty Dog emphasising that Ellie is the playable character this time around (other than Druckmann saying it himself).

The trailer leaves us with so many questions. Who is Ellie planning to kill? Does she know about Joel’s lie at the end of the first game? What has happened to them both during this time-skip? Druckmann has stated that as the game is in early stages of development, it will be a while until we’re able to see something closer to a finished project, but they were all too excited to wait any longer to give us a sneak preview.

A few things to take note from the trailer: nature appears to have completely taken over structures by this point, indicating that humanity still has not bounced back from the Cordyceps infection, but there are no infected in the trailer itself. The Fireflies are still around, as shown by their logo spray painted on a road sign. Perhaps this is who Ellie is referring to? Ellie has lost the childlike wonder that she once had, which is now replaced with a much more hardened and seasoned expression, like that of Joel’s. She has a tattoo on her right forearm, and just so happens to be playing guitar next to the window that appears in the menu screen of the first game. Where are they? What is the significance of this house? Only time will tell.

Druckmann, and both Ashley Johnson (Ellie) and Troy Baker (Joel), took to Twitter to announce the exciting news within minutes of one another. Seems as though they were all extremely eager to let the world know of this game’s existence, and the world appears to be glad for it. I think it’s safe to assume that we’ll all be keeping our eyes peeled wide open waiting for updates on The Last of Us Part II and the ‘epic journey’ that the game will take us on in the coming months.

EDIT: An interesting theory that I have seen on Reddit is that Ellie’s declaration is targeted at the Fireflies, who have since tracked down her and Joel after the events of the first game and killed Joel in response to his cold blooded murder of Marlene. Joel, as he appears in Part II will be an image that is haunting Ellie, urging her to turn back because this path will get her killed. As the first game was about a father coming to terms with the loss of a daughter, the second game will focus on a daughter losing her father. Interesting food for thought, no?

Alola, trainers!: Pokémon Sun and Moon

 

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Pokémon Sun and Moon Demo
Release date: October 18, 2016

After what can only be described as a tumultuous relationship with Pokémon Go and the sudden arrival of Ditto in the app, Pokémon Sun and Moon is finally here. Scroll down if you want to skip my thoughts on the demo and go straight to the main game review.

Initially I decided against downloading the demo as I wanted to do a completely blind playthrough as I have with previous titles, but I was swayed by the promises of awesome stuff that could be transferred to the full game. One of these things was the Ash-Greninja from the anime, which until now I had not seen or even heard of. I can’t say I’ve been keeping up with the anime as of late, but I personally like Greninja as I grew to really love mine in Pokémon X.

Overall, I have to say I was underwhelmed by the demo. New Pokémon always make me feel quite bitter and put off because I am a “Gen 1er”, but I’ve enjoyed the last few games despite this. I’m going to try and not judge them too harshly, but from the small selection that I’ve seen so far I’m not quite sold on them yet. I was also a little sceptical of the touch screen interface as it doesn’t look as good as the previous ones. I may just be nitpicking but it was a good set up, so I don’t see why the need was there for a drastic change in the aesthetics. What I did like about the changes were the small notes to say if certain moves would be effective or not against certain opponents in battle, which is great because it got really confusing after new types of Pokémon were added, such as Fairy and Dragon. At least it did for me, and I found this feature helpful.

Knowing that Game Freak had opted to not include Pokémon Gyms made me worried. Instead they have introduced a new system called the Island Challenge, in which the player must go through trials to progress on each of the four islands of the Alola Region. The Trial Captains act very much like Gym Leaders and are the ones who present the trials to you. The player will also battle against Totem Pokémon, which are a stronger version of Pokémon that have been encountered and can even call upon other Pokémon to aid it in battle. During the demo, you battle against a Totem Hakamo-o, which wasn’t particularly difficult but it’s a demo. I didn’t expect them to raise the difficulty level to that of Dark Souls or anything.

The changes were very different to what we’ve seen before, but I wasn’t going to let it dissuade me from purchasing the full game. The reception of the Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire demo was lukewarm, and that game turned out fantastic. Game Freak know what they’re doing, and we can trust them to produce something wonderful.

 

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Pokémon Sun and Moon
Release dates: November 18, 2016 (Japan, North America and Australia), November 23rd, 2016 (Europe)

Minor spoiler warnings

I decided to buy Pokémon Sun because, in my opinion, the sun lion (Solgaleo) looked cooler than the moon bat (Lunala). I did notice this during the demo, but the movement feels much more fluid and less clunky than in previous titles. There are even great looking cutscenes now, which are so smooth in comparison to what we’ve had before, which shows how much of a massive improvement there has been. The environments look diverse, and I love the fact that my character isn’t a tiny sprite/chibi anymore. The chibi look was cute, but I’m enjoying the more in proportion avatar as I roam around Alola.

I went with Litten as my starter, because look at that face. It’s adorable and I couldn’t say no to it. Though now, it has already become a Torracat and it looks like it’s going through its smug teenage years. The inclusion of several Gen 1 Pokémon has made me exceedingly happy, as at the start I was wondering why you would move from Kanto to Alola, because let’s be honest, Kanto is the best. So far, I’m liking the Alolan versions of some of these familiar faces. I’ve only seen Rattata, Grimer and Meowth’s Alolan counterparts as of yet, so I’m looking forward to encountering the others.

The new and improved Pokémon Amie that was introduced in X&Y is now called Pokémon Refresh, and is much more interactive than before. Instead of simply petting, feeding and playing with your Pokémon, you are now able to help them recover after battles. Whether this means you can cure status conditions such as paralysis and burns, and to clean them up if they get dirty during battle. It’s completely optional of course, but it’s a nice little way to feel like you’re bonding with your Pokémon. And, most importantly, it’s absolutely adorable.

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I am finding that I’m ignoring several of the new Pokémon in favour of ones that I am more familiar with, but I am attempting to catch every creature that I come across. As of where I am now, I have a caught each and every wild Pokémon that I’ve seen. I still get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watch the Poké Ball wiggle. It lingers for a second too long after the third shake and I’m sat there hoping it doesn’t escape. I love that these games still gets me this excited and nervous.

I’ve noticed that several of the NPCs are holding smartphones, and it looks like their screens have a pixelated version of Pokémon Go on them. I wonder if they had as many server issues as we did. I have also, since playing the demo, made my peace with the interface both during and out of battles. It works well with all of the added features in these games and now I’m not having to scroll through several menus to get to where I need to be. It’s easy to use, self explanatory and you get going pretty quickly.

Some of the best changes are to do with convenience. I am so thankful that Poké Marts are now within the same building as the Pokémon Centres. It’s so much easier to flit between the two of them now without the added hassle of having to run to two different buildings that were not always very close to one another. Also, the change that is making life a lot easier on me is that when your party is full and you catch another Pokémon, you have the option of whether you want to switch out a member of your party to replace it with your new Pokémon, or to send it directly to your box. In previous titles, the new Pokémon would be sent directly to your PC in the Pokémon Centre and it would be frustrating. Sometimes I would be so far away from a Pokémon Centre but I wouldn’t be able to use my newest Pokémon without either backtracking or powering onwards with the risk of missing things. At least now, I can rearrange my team on the go if I so please.

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Now onto the part that was worrying me – the new Island Challenges. Going into the first of the trials, I can say I definitely got some Legend of Zelda vibes from it. I felt like I had just walked into Kokiri Forest or the Great Deku Tree, which was actually quite nice. I’ve got a lot of love for Ocarina of Time, so this made me feel somewhat more determined and comfortable when going into the trial. As the demo had explained, the most challenging part of the trial would be to face off with the Totem Pokémon at the end.

I did really enjoy the first trial. It was slightly repetitive but then the rude interruption occurs to spice things up a bit, and as ridiculous as Team Skull are, I do have to admit that I like them. This is a welcome change from the usual Pokémon Gym format, and I like that Game Freak have decided to try something different. The entrance of the Totem Pokémon was brilliant, and I don’t know if it was intended to be funny but I laughed. I did experience a drop in frame rate during the Totem battle, which was disappointing but a minor problem in the grand scheme of things that will hopefully be fixed. It was as easy as the demo, but I’ve no doubt that they will get harder down the line and I’m looking forward to how the trials progress from this point onwards.

The only thing so far that I can consider to be a negative aspect of this game as of right now is the Festival Plaza, which is very similar to the Mii Plaza that comes with your 2DS or 3DS system. It’s a nice idea, but it is confusing and the only reason I went into it was because I misclicked it while looking for Pokémon Refresh. After a bit of searching and digging, my friend and I managed to list one another as VIP guests in each other’s Plazas, trade with one another and even battled. (A/N: If you’re reading this – you got owned, son). Trading is something that I’ve always enjoyed in Pokémon, but I was never overly keen on battling as I hate to lose. This could be the game that makes me venture out of my comfort zone. Watch out, trainers, I’m coming for you… maybe.

I have to say, I’ve been playing this game for apparently ten hours now (admittedly, I did eat and write this review in between) and I’m loving it. The story feels very different, while also remaining true to the previous Pokémon games, and the new gameplay mechanics are great. I honestly cannot wait to see what else this game has in store.

London Film Festival 2016 – Bleed for This

 

On the 9th of October, I had the amazing opportunity to go to the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival to watch the premiere of Bleed for This. It’s a pretty big digression from my usual articles surrounding video games, but this is definitely something that I wanted to document. I’m going to dedicate the first half of this article to my experience at a premiere, as it was my first one, and the second half will be about the film itself. Skip ahead for the review on the biopic movie about Vinny Paz.

Because I knew that the cinema at Embankment Garden had only just been put up specifically for the London Film Festival, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I got there. My mum and I rolled in, all dressed up and with a good amount of time to get a drink in before I suddenly heard someone shout “Aaron!”. I’m going to be honest, the director and actors in this film were not people that I feel like I’d become starstruck by, and I was right. As far as I was concerned, they were people that are in a film that I was about to watch, so there wasn’t really a sense of being amazed by famous people on my part. If I was somehow going to get Kit Harington’s number from Ciarán Hinds, that would be cause for a completely different article. However, I was still really excited by it all and their presence made the experience that much more special.

Miles Teller was whisked away whenever he was finished speaking to members of the press, which is completely understandable. He’s the star of the film, you can’t expect him to speak to everyone individually. Aaron Eckhart had his back, and he took the time to take pictures and sign autographs for people while everyone else was doing their part. My ‘selfie’ with Eckhart is one of my highlights of the day, and it makes me laugh because the main focus of the picture is that poor photographer’s head rather than myself or Eckhart.

Once they were done on the red carpet, we went inside and took our seats. My mum and I were sitting three rows from the front and we were unbelievably giddy at how good our seats were, and at how huge the cinema screen was. I can guarantee that any trip I take to a Cineworld is going to be underwhelming in comparison. Ben Younger (director), Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart and Ciarán Hinds stood at the front and introduced the film to the audience. Younger told us about some of the challenges faced when filming and for Teller in particular, who had to lose and gain weight rapidly for his role.

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As the film’s credits rolled, the quartet made their way back to the stage and there was a short Q&A with Terri White, our host, and the audience. I would have filmed the Q&A, but I wanted to experience it without watching it through the screen of my phone. Also, the British Film Institute have their own YouTube channel, which has the full Q&A in much better quality than my phone could have ever achieved. Hinds’ responses to the questions were adorably jumbled after he admitted that it was the first time that he had seen the film in its entirety. There was a great chemistry between the actors off camera, as evidenced by Teller and Eckhart bouncing jokes off one another in their recounting of the short filming process. You could tell that they all had built up a strong bond and friendship over the course of filming and attending these events together.

Something that I found interesting was that Vinny Paz was not as involved with the filming as one would have expected. Younger claimed that Paz was on set a few times but did not want to stick around as the shoots were long and arduous. While they were joking, I think this goes to show the amount of trust that the former boxer put in Younger, the crew and the cast as he did not feel the need to be a backseat driver. Paz was, however, in full correspondence with Younger during the writing of the script, which is most likely where he must have felt that his story was in the best of hands.

Overall, it was a great experience and I’d love to attend more events like this in the future. I love hearing about the stuff that goes into creating films, whether its the actors’ struggles or the funny things that happen. This definitely had an impact on how I viewed the film. Because of all the excitement, it was hard to watch the film with a critical mindset and so I will be undoubtedly biased in some senses, but I’m going to try to be as balanced as possible as I write about the film itself.

 

Bleed for This (2016)

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“Now go out there and show me how you do things. Show me how you lift. Show me how you fight. Show me who you are.”

I’m not usually one for films about sports, because I personally am not someone who watches sports, and the lackluster performance of Miles Teller in the even worse reboot of the original Fantastic Four (2015) had sky rocketed my doubts, but there was something that drew me to this particular film after watching the trailer. Of course, Teller’s skills shone in Whiplash (2014), and he wasn’t playing a fictional superhero with questionable powers this time around, but instead he was throwing himself headfirst into a gritty drama, portraying world champion boxer Vinny Paz (formerly Pazienza).

Teller plays Pazienza as cocky and obnoxious, as boxers sometimes are during their pre-fight talks and weigh ins, but despite this, Pazienza is shown to have had an admirable sense of family and community. Ben Younger talked about the Pazienza family during the Q&A following the film and called them ‘colourful caricatures’, which does indeed come across in the film. Katey Sagal played Louise Pazienza, the worrying mother who refused to watch her son in the ring and instead opted to sit in front of her many depictions of Christ during fights. Ciarán Hinds as Angelo Pazienza played him as a caring father who implemented tough love as a form of affection, but with an unwavering belief in his son who he viewed as a champion from day one. While some people may view their characterisations as a negative, Younger believed that this was central to their personalities and felt that these aspects of them had to be recognised. I respect the decision, but there were a few occasions where I found the Pazienzas to be overbearing, though it came from a place of love and no one is perfect.

There was a sense of predictability within the film, mainly for three reasons: it’s a true story, there is a layer of cliché over almost everything and the trailer gives away far too much. Because of this, the first half of the film felt a little bit like every other boxing film that I’ve watched. The arrogant boxer gets knocked down a few pegs by his opponents and the people surrounding them, until they pull through and perform better than ever, so on so forth. It’s a tried and tested formula in film, so you couldn’t really go too wrong other than the fact that it didn’t feel very original.

And then the near-fatal car crash happens.

“I know exactly how to give up. You know what scares me, Kev? Is that it’s easy.”

The crash looked so convincing. It was gruesome and that was a necessary detail. This film does a great job of indicating to you that this is a true story with the use of archival footage of Pazienza, and so to make the car crash scene and its aftermath as lurid as it was is the best way to show it. Teller himself talked about having been in a serious car accident while in his 20s and that two of his friends had been killed in car crashes during the Q&A, which is something that the audience can then hone in on. Car accidents are an unfortunate everyday occurrence, and with all of this apparent sense of cliché in the film, the audience need to remember that this is a true story. Seeing Teller as a bloody mess with his head limply hanging out of the car window serves as a powerful and shocking reminder that this actually happened, and they spared no detail.

Pazienza broke his neck in this accident and was told that he would be lucky to walk again, and so fighting was off the table. The fitting and eventual removal of the Halo (a circular metal brace screwed into the skull at four points and propped up with four metal rods, as pictured above) was a grisly ordeal, and Teller’s performance during the removal procedure was both, in equal parts, full of wincing and hilarity. After the Halo was first put on, the sense of defeat that Teller so competently illustrates with just his expressions is astounding. It’s around here that you come to realise that this isn’t just another boxing film, because the greatest moments are when Teller is depicting Pazienza out of the ring and his demonstration of his sheer ‘dogged determination’.

Aaron Eckhart as Kevin Rooney made for an interesting on-screen dynamic between both himself and Teller. As the film became a little less about boxing, it began to shed light on the influences and relationships between these people. The trust and belief that Pazienza and Rooney had in one another is forever shifting throughout the film, but it is because of this that there was a solid foundation for both of them to fall back on, and this is portrayed brilliantly by Eckhart and Teller. The friction between the two men is justifiable, and it is hard for the audience to take sides in this instance. With Pazienza’s serious injury, his resolve to disobey doctor’s orders to pursue his passion for boxing is more than praiseworthy, but Rooney’s initial inadvertence to potentially help Pazienza cause irreversible damage to himself is logical and understandable.

This story is considered one of the greatest comebacks in boxing history, but in reality it’s more than that. Paz’s conviction and persistence to return to the ring, continuing his training despite his condition, isn’t just an achievement for a boxer but it’s a true testament to a person’s willpower to never give up. Paz’s journey is inspirational, and Bleed for This captures the essence of what it means to resist admitting defeat, no matter what or how great the task is.

5 Upcoming Games to Be Excited About

5. Horizon Zero Dawn

February 28, 2017 (North America), March 1, 2017 (Europe), March 3, 2017 (UK)

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First things first, this game looks beautiful. The environments are stunning, and those mechanical beasts are a complete contrast to the wonders of nature. Incredible juxtaposition. You have my attention, Guerrilla Games.

Now, because it’s an action role playing game with a big emphasis on open world, I can’t help but compare this game to the Witcher series. That was the first thought I had when I saw this game’s reveal at E3, but there are enough unique points about it that differentiates this game from the behemoth that is Witcher. Our protagonist, Aloy (or Ygritte as I have heard people comment), uses an array of ranged weapons and stealth attacks to take down Machines, which can be looted for parts. The world is divided into sections, which are controlled by different tribes. Aloy’s adventure takes her across the world, which she was shielded from her whole life, and the player is able to take on quests from different tribes. Exploration is key in this game, and Guerrilla Games have stated that there will be no loading screens when entering new areas, which is ambitious and I commend them for that.

Guerrilla Games have also claimed that this game will be heavily based on trial and error, and as such, there will be no tutorial. I can’t tell you enough how happy I am to hear this. I’ve found recently that I have preferred to figure out controls myself rather than be thrown in and out of tutorials to tell me basic controls, like how to move my character. Sometimes teaching controls is useful, but more often than not I feel as though tutorials can hinder the player and ruin the immersion. So, I am pretty ecstatic that the developers aren’t going to be holding our hands during this game. It will really feel as though the players are Aloy, who is going out into the big wide world for the first time, and we will learn about her own abilities as a huntress and the world around her as we embark on the journey together.

 

4. Corpse Party 3DS

TBA (Europe), TBA 2016 (North America), July 30, 2015 (Japan)

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It’s not necessarily the game that I am excited for in this case, I just can’t believe that it’s coming to 3DS. Corpse Party is one of the best RPG maker games ever. The story line is great, the atmosphere is chilling and the soundtrack is unbelievably catchy. It was around when I discovered Corpse Party that I was also very much into Ib and The Crooked Man, both of which I thought were great RPG maker games too. I think there’s something about horror and RPG maker games that goes really well together, and Corpse Party got it just right. The campaign is long enough to keep you interested and there are several characters to get attached to, though that is a fool’s errand because these characters drop like flies. Especially if you start to get things wrong.

You play as various characters, all of whom are students, but after school activities go awry when one of them suggests that they perform a ‘ritual’ to mark their everlasting bond as friends. After a sudden earthquake, the students find themselves in an abandoned school, separated from one another and with evil things lurking in the darkness. They encounter the bodies of those who were trapped in the school before them, and the malevolent spirits that are trying to lead them to the same fate. The students of Kisaragi Academy must survive several obstacles in an attempt to solve the mystery surrounding the ominous place, and to finally reunite with their friends.

You really wouldn’t think that small 8-bit characters have the ability to scare you, but I really do think that this game makes a lot of triple A title horror games look like chumps. I don’t usually play horror games, but RPG maker games have a certain charm to them. You can’t help but be drawn in by them. I am a big fan of anime and manga, and so the art style and voice acting is definitely up my street, as it feels as though I am playing through an anime rather than simply watching it. The game is already out in Japan, and America are likely to get it before us here in Europe, but I can wait. It’s just going to feel like forever.

 

3. For Honor

February 14, 2017

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Move over, Chivalry. Your time is over.

I adore the medieval period (though the literature can be quite taxing), from the architecture to the artwork and, most importantly in this case, the warfare. For Honor gives players the chance to play as Knights, Vikings or Samurai, all in a medieval setting. Where it differs from Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is that it’s not just the players in the game, but instead the AI makes up a lot of the armies, which makes it feel a lot more like a siege or battle scenario. There will be multiplayer options, so don’t worry, you’ll be able to hack your friends up to your heart’s content. But, if you’re like me and you’re not someone who plays online very much, you’ll be pleased to know that For Honor features a full single-player campaign that is completely separate from the other game modes.

Also, this is probably going to be the best Valentine’s Day gift ever. However, at the same time I don’t want to get my hopes up too high. While this game looks awesome in many ways, the gameplay that I’ve seen doesn’t make me say “Wow!”. I love the fact that Ubisoft have implemented  a slightly more complex control system. The right analogue stick serves as directing your guard for opposing attacks, and it seems as though they have taken inspiration from Dark Souls and Bloodborne with the inclusion of light and heavy attacks, coupled with a dodge button. At the same time, when you watch gameplay it does look as though you’re simply just slashing your way through enemies with ease. There doesn’t seem to be any weight to your weapons, so the impact and damage they inflict appears superficial.

There is time for Ubisoft Montreal to reflect on any criticisms they have received, and I do hope that they try to do their best with this one, because this game looks like it has some real promise and potential.

 

2. We Happy Few

July 26, 2016 (Early Access)

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There’s something about pairing excessive happiness with a horrific dystopian world that grasps my interest. I mean, look at these people. Their appearances are so disconcerting and I love everything about them.

We Happy Few is set in a fictional English city in an alternate timeline during the 1960s. The people have begun to take a hallucinogenic drug known as ‘Joy’, and as the name suggests, Joy makes them happy. But it also comes with serious side effects. People on Joy are left with little morality and are very easily manipulated. People who refuse to take their Joy are known as ‘Downers’, and can actually see the decrepit nature that they really live in, but Downers are greeted with violence by others. Players will control one of three characters who are Downers and must survive and escape the city, all the while trying to complete a task that is personal to their specific character.

This game definitely has influences from Orwell and Huxley from a concept point of view, which is clear to see. I did also feel as though the animation style was reminiscent of Bioshock, which I don’t think is a bad thing. I also got Tim Burton vibes from the character designs – large eyes, long limbs and skinny frames. With that combination, it’s safe to say that this is the type of game that I’ve been waiting for. In an industry that is saturated with ‘new’ ideas, this one stood out against all the big triple A titles. When I first watched the trailers and gameplay, I really couldn’t hold back my smile. The happy, colourful atmosphere is completely torn apart by the brutality of violence and paranoia, but people continue to take their Joy because they don’t want to see that side of life. It’s so brilliantly done!

I like that Compulsion Games have also steered away from Contrast but kept the intrigue. I enjoyed Contrast as it’s a platform game (anyone who knows me understands my love for platform games), but I also fell in love with the setting and the story. Shifting in and out of a shadow form to get past levels felt ingenious, but now we’re in a much darker area than that of simple shadows. I really cannot wait for the full game so I can experience what it’s like to be “off my Joy”.

 

1. Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon

November 18, 2016 (Japan, North America, Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan), November 23, 2016 (Europe)

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Thanks to Pokémon Go, my excitement for Sun and Moon is ridiculous. The mobile app has served as an appetiser, but I’m ready to throw myself back into another Pokémon adventure. I am finding the designs of the new Pokémon interesting, and it doesn’t seem as though Nintendo are running out of ideas (I’m looking at you Chandelure and Vanilluxe)… at least not entirely. I mean, Shirodesuna is pretty much a sand castle. Although, the name seems to be a play on the words shiro desu na, which literally translates to “That’s a castle, huh”. So, well played with the humour there, Game Freak.

I am leaning towards getting Pokémon Sun over Moon, because Solgaleo looks so much cooler than Lunala in my honest opinion. I do usually get lean towards blues and purples, but this time around I’d rather get the sun lion over the moon bat. I also think that my starter will have to be Litten because that cat looks adorably grumpy, and I can’t help myself. Another thing that I was a little confused about at first was the Alolan Pokémon, but after a little research I found that these Pokémon have become slightly different to what they usually appear as in other regions. Generation One Pokémon such as Vulpix, Sandshrew and Marowak have become ice, steel and fire types respectively, because of the different microclimates in the Alola Reigon. Marowak is definitely the coolest looking one so far, and I cannot wait to use him as a fire type this time around.

The new Battle Royale feature that will be introduced in this game sounds extremely fun. Up to four players can battle and the trainer who has accumulated the most amount of knockouts and with the most Pokémon remaining is the winner. I’m not usually one for online battles on Pokémon, but this is different to the standard battles that we have had before and I like that Nintendo are attempting something new. Until this game comes out, I have been considering replaying Omega Ruby (because I have all the Eeveelutions on Pokémon X and I’m not willing to give them up) to satiate my need for a Pokémon fix.

And that’s my final list! A couple games that should get honourable mentions are Battlefield 1 and Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom. The only reason I didn’t include them was because I’m still a bit skeptical of AoT as it looks a little skittish in the gameplay, and I personally have not played Battlefield before but the new game does look like it will be incredible.

I’m sure I’ve missed out plenty of games that deserve to be on this list, so write them in the comments and let me know what you’re excited for!

Gotta glitch ’em all!: Pokémon Go

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Pokémon Go
Released: July 6, 2016 (US and Australia), July 13, 2016 (Europe)

Pokémon Go was finally released in the UK a few days ago, and it has quickly captured the attention of many people. I have already seen many people out and about, congregating around PokéStops and Pokémon Gyms and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m one of these people. Pokémon Go allows fans of the original games and television series to go out and experience life as a Pokémon trainer, like the characters they played as and watched did. It’s exciting to see Pokémon that you know and love pop up in familiar places. Although I was never a fan of bug type Pokémon, I was ecstatic when I first came across a Weedle. The game does come with its problems but I’ll go over the good things first.

The app is highly addictive. You can’t just stop at catching one Pokémon, you gotta catch ’em all! Especially when there’s word of people having already gone through the enormous challenge of evolving their Magikarp into a mighty Gyarados, it drives you to want to do the same and become even better than them. It’s all a bit of healthy competition and it’s bringing together people from all walks of life. I’ve seen several posts on Reddit about people becoming friends with those that they meet at PokéStops. There are also people claiming that the app is helping to improve their mental state as it is encouraging them to go outside and get exercise in. Those Eggs won’t hatch on their own! This alone is enough to convince me that the game is worth investing some time into. Pokémon Go has already impacted many people’s lives and the majority of people are in love with this game. I do genuinely believe that the app is encouraging children to get out of the house more as well. There’s been a lot of talk about how kids these days are constantly stuck in front of screens, and although Pokémon Go involves a mobile device, it does make them want to be outside catching their favourite animated creatures.

I went on my first PokéWalk yesterday morning (I would have gone sooner if I wasn’t busy with graduation the day after the app’s release in the UK), and although I didn’t catch any wild Pokémon, the walk itself was lovely. My family moved house around a month before I had gone off to university and so I had not had much of a chance to explore the local area. Pokémon Go gave me an excuse to do so, and I really enjoyed myself. I ran into a couple of children with their mum who were also out on the hunt for Pokémon and we all looked just as excited as one another. I believe that people have a tendency of staying indoors these days, it’s not just children, and so Pokémon Go has given people a reason to go outside, even if it is only for twenty minutes or so.

Now, unfortunately there is a myriad of problems with the app and I have to address these issues because I do pride myself on being able to write about both sides of a topic, and also because these technical issues are such a prevalent problem that it is difficult to ignore them. The biggest problem that I have encountered when playing Pokémon Go is not necessarily down to the game but, because I happen to live in the middle of no where, the internet signal is terrible. Now, this could be down to the combination of having a four year old iPhone 5 and being on a rather terrible mobile network because it’s cheap. However, because of this, I have found it exceedingly difficult to do well in this game as I live in a small village with poor reception and so walking around in search of Pokémon is not usually successful. In all honesty, I have better luck catching Pokémon just by turning on an incense and just waiting around for them to turn up. Today, I have managed to catch a few Pidgeys, Rattatas and Spearows as they seem to be in abundance. But amongst these common Pokémon, I have also caught Drowzee, Zubat, Magnemite, Koffing, Geodude, Magikarp, Psyduck and Goldeen. I’m sure I would have better luck in cities, but am I really willing to go to somewhere like London just to catch Pokémon? If I don’t even want to upgrade to a better, more expensive mobile network, then I doubt I’ll fork up the money for a train ride. Unless if it is an outing with friends, in which case I would definitely make a day of it. 

The other problem that happened without fail earlier in the day was that every time I threw a Pokéball to catch one of these beasts, the game would freeze. It would take a minimum of three attempts to restart the app and reconnect to the server and despite my attempts, it would only sometimes register the Pokémon that I had initially caught before the game decided to rob me of my joy. This does not often occur when playing through WiFi (A/N: I take this back. It’s now happened three times in a row over WiFi as I write this post), but it was a common occurrence when playing through 3G and 4G. This brings me onto the frequent server crashes and login failures that happen all too often. I have read many complaints where people have expressed disappointment in not being able to even connect to the server, let alone suffer the glitches that occur within the game. The server practically had a meltdown after the European release of the game. It was released in twenty-six countries on the same day and that was it. Millions of people trying to access the game crashed the server, but despite the app already having numerous problems it was decided that a mass release of the game was a good idea. Perhaps fixing the game before doing this would have been a better idea. As I’m writing this, the game has crashed after I just caught a Staryu (A/N: It did not register the Staryu after I had finally managed to load the app again, and I’m very annoyed about this).

These issues are very unfortunate as it is a very fun game to play, but the glitches and crashes make it difficult to enjoy it. It is also off putting when you’re not sure if the game will save your progress because of these frequent crashes and the host of other problems that it harbours. I am going out later this week with friends to try and catch Pokémon  in a neighbouring town and maybe I’ll have a better experience then. A week is a fairly long time for Niantic and Nintendo to make the appropriate changes to the app, and who knows, perhaps they’ll have these issues fixed soon. I would love to write more positive things about the app, but as of now the game is quite broken and so it would be unfair to base a final judgement on the app as it stands right now. Once the technical issues have been addressed and the app is finished, I will then write another post outlining how these things have been fixed or not (A/N: I have now also been deprived of catching a Poliwirl. These problems need to be addressed sooner rather than later).

As a side note, the fact that I have to update this post with how the game continues to somehow break is highly irritating and disappointing. Apparently the servers have been dodgy all day and so it’s advised that if you are able to sign in then do be careful when using lures, incenses and lucky eggs as the game may crash. Honestly, I expect more from Nintendo, Niantic and The Pokémon Company. They have made more than enough money in the last couple of weeks, and it’s not as though they don’t have the funds to fix these problems. 

Never work for free: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

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The titular Witcher, Geralt, holding the heads of his targets

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Released: May 19, 2015

N.B: I wrote this post as I was experiencing the game. From opening the package to the actual gameplay, I began documenting it from the outset as I felt like trying a new approach to my ‘first impressions’ posts. If things seem a little jumbled or like I’m rambling then that will be why. I wanted to try and leave this as unedited as possible. Feedback of any sort is always welcome!

I don’t know if CD Projekt Red were just trying to butter up the players who purchase this game, but I was not expecting all of this extra content in the package when it came through my letterbox. I saw in bold letters in the corner of the box stating ‘Bonus Content’, listing a compendium, the soundtrack, a world map and two stickers. Now, I just expected to have to download these bonus features (not the stickers), but there it all was. Inside the case! I was so excited and impressed by the additional content that I momentarily forgot about the game itself. I bought the standard edition of the game and so I expected to receive only the game, as it is with many other titles. Not only this, but CD Projekt Red also included a note inside on how to claim 16 free DLCs (downloadable content), no matter which edition of the game that you purchase. Instructions of how to download these features were on the official website, where I saw the statement: ‘Dedicated to gamers who want more from physical box editions of games than just the disc and manual […]’. I’ve never been as touched by a video game developing company as I had in this moment. Firstly, I must say a huge thank you to CD Projekt Red for valuing their customers. Games do not come cheap these days and it is nice to have a few extra things to make up for the ever increasing prices. So, again, thank you CD Projekt Red for caring about your players.

It comes with the territory of being a literature student that I inherently love reading. The compendium that was so kindly included by the developers was a nice surprise. I found myself looking into the universe of The Witcher before I even put the disc into the PS4. I’ve not played the previous two games and so brushing up on a brief history of the game’s universe was a good way of preparing myself for what was to come. I’ve stated many times here that RPGs (role-playing games) are not my type of games, but I’ve been delving into them more often recently and I was excited to sink my teeth into this one. My initial excitement, however, was short lived. After waiting for two hours for the game to install, I expected to get straight into it but I was denied this pleasure. I watched the opening sequences which got me understandably pumped to play but then I was met with a loading screen that was seemingly stuck, but the tutorials kept scrolling by. I knew the game was huge (for perspective, it turns out that this game is 30 times larger than the previous Witcher games and 20% bigger than Bethesda’s Skyrim) but the PS4 was making worrying noises as though it was struggling to run the game. The long wait had me wondering if I had a faulty disc, but with a little more patience the loading bar finally started to fill and make progress. I was not overly impressed at the start when the graphics, textures and even sounds had to take a few moments to catch up with what was happening on screen. When the game finally decided to start playing nice, I was met with a beautiful and most incredible world. Unfortunately, my battle with glitches and the like was not over yet.

I kept the tutorials on for the time being as I still wasn’t familiar with the controls, but I found that they actually hindered what little gameplay I had managed to experience in the first ten minutes of starting the game. It made everything run extremely slow, which can become very frustrating, especially when it is telling you a simple and standard command such as something along the lines of ‘press X when walking towards a door to open it’. In my panic during a tutorial, I managed to jump off of a high tower and successfully killed Geralt, the protagonist, in what I think could be considered record time. Dying in games does not concern me as much as it used to after my ordeal with Bloodborne (2015), but the exceedingly long loading times even in between deaths is excruciating. Perhaps this is why CD Projekt Red provide bonus content, to keep us players occupied while we wait for the game to actually load. Joking aside, the game does run very smoothly once you get past the initial loading screens and jittery start.

With such a rocky start, my patience was wearing thin. The game did eventually begin to play out as it should do, until it decided to randomly crash and the PS4 automatically ejected the game after stating it could not read the disc. This was a huge disappointment and a real shame in my eyes. The game itself is fantastic. The story is compelling, the characters intriguing and the locations are nothing short of breathtaking. Despite not having played the previous games, I felt as though I knew these characters simply through their dialogue with one another. I was not able to fully absorb the game for what it really is due to these technical difficulties. A friend of mine explained that prior to the second game being available on Xbox 360, The Witcher series was exclusively for PC. This definitely explained the graphical issues and strain on the PS4 and was possibly an oversight by the developers. In the event that this was to continue happening, I came to realise that I could not spend hours on end playing this game to save myself from continuous frustrations of it crashing randomly. Then the miracle occurred.

After the game crashed for a second time within two hours, I gave up on it for a while. I had received messages from friends to say that I would enjoy the game to no end, and I knew this, which made the technical problems all the more frustrating. Fantasy is a genre that is near and dear to my heart, and so I was becoming increasingly dejected as the game just did not want to cooperate with me. I came back to it about an hour later and the first thing I noticed was that the PS4 did not sound as though it was dying from its endeavour to run the game. There were no graphical glitches, no problems with sound cutting out and even the loading time had been sped up exponentially. Was I finally able to experience the game as it should be played?

Once I knew that the game was not going to crash again, I became invested in the story and characters very quickly. I immediately cared about how NPCs (non-playable characters) would perceive Geralt’s actions and words, and so I became mindful of how I was playing the game. Although this may be due to a slight doubt in my mind of whether the game would decide to crash, but despite this I found myself interested by the lore. Having not played the previous games, I knew that I would be out of my depth in terms of references but I enjoy researching and I know that I will be reading up on the history of the universe to better familiarise myself with the game. The look and feel of this game made it seem as though I really was in a different world. From passing people speaking a foreign language to watching the most spectacular sunset, I had been completely taken aback by how amazing it actually looked. I started to forgive the long loading times as I came to understand the scope and ambition behind the game. Interactions between characters don’t feel forced, and even on occasion are funny. I felt as though I was watching something like Game of Thrones as I chose to speak to people for information and take on jobs in exchange for money. Coincidentally, I did converse with a character that is voiced by Charles Dance who just so happens to have starred in Game of Thrones.

I have not played much of the main story, though this is how I tend to play games as I don’t like progressing too quickly. Instead, I have been focusing on exploring locations and doing side quests. The optional missions have been very diverse, from helping an old woman obtain her frying pan to ridding an abandoned village haunted by a spectre. I have enjoyed each of them greatly and I feel a real sense of accomplishment once completing a quest. Although on many occasions, I do wonder if accepting payment is the right thing to do, but I too need to survive in this world and a Witcher isn’t known for taking on jobs for free. One feature that I have found to my liking is the use of Witcher senses, which allows Geralt to focus on points of interest and track movement in the surrounding area. At first I was a little unimpressed as it felt like Eagle Vision from the Assassin’s Creed franchise, but eventually I came to see that it was a much more refined and sophisticated mechanism. Instead of just being able to spot targets, as it is for the most part in Assassin’s Creed, Witcher senses allows you to do much more. Tracking footprints and finding clues is particularly fun and I feel as though I am actually uncovering clues to piece together the wider story during these short missions. One of the biggest selling points of this game is the fact that everything feels as though it is being done for a reason and you aren’t wasting time or doing anything repetitive.

The controls are somewhat clunky and there is a slight delay or non-responsiveness to some actions at times, which can become irritating but it is quite minor in the grand scheme of things. Once you get past the occasional hiccup, combat flows fluidly and enemies are challenging, though not impossible. I am barely a few hours into the game and I have already encountered a myriad of beasts to combat. Not only this, but I have collected many books and information on creatures that I am sure that I will come across later in the game, which makes me even more excited and nervous to progress, but that’s half the fun. Alongside this, the world is masterfully crafted and the attention to detail is astonishing. It all feels very unique, which is definitely hard to come by considering just how many video games are around now. I was worried that the game would be like Skyrim (2011), which would have been all well and good but just not for me. I’m definitely more of a Fallout fan than Elder Scrolls, and I was not prepared to try and throw myself back into something Skyrim-esque.

To wrap up, the game is fantastic so far. The initial problems that I had after I had installed it, however, does make me worry that one day the PS4 will decide that it has had enough and just stop running it altogether. I did do a little research online and I found that graphical issues and crashes at certain points were all very common when the game was first released. Hopefully by now there have been patches to rectify this and I, along with other players, won’t be having anymore problems. After getting through these prevenient difficulties, I have found that I am thoroughly enjoying The Witcher 3. I will acknowledge that many references to previous games or the wider universe is going over my head at this point in time, but despite this the game remains accessible to new players. Allusions to the preceding titles are subtle enough for existing players to recognise, and yet lucid enough for new players to notice. Personally, this gives me incentive to look into the game’s history more scrupulously and I definitely look forward to doing that, alongside playing more of the game itself.

I recommend this game to people who love exploration, fantasy and spending a lot of time on games as this one spoils you with the amount of content there is to get through.

“You died”: Bloodborne

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Bloodborne cover art

 

Bloodborne
Released: March 24, 2015

I’ve only gone and got myself addicted to a game in my third year of university. I’ll say it right off the bat, I love this game and it’s incredible. Yes, it is exceedingly difficult, but the sheer joy of finally defeating an enemy (or a horde of them) is the most rewarding feeling. Admittedly, I haven’t played much of it simply because I am finding it challenging, however, I am completely fine with this. I felt like the PS4 was going to waste somewhat with only my brother around to play Fifa 16 while I’m away at university. For such a good console, it was as if my brother was doing it a huge disservice. Although, he did clarify to me that he plays games to relax and Bloodborne is anything but a relaxing experience. I debated between Bloodborne and Dark Souls II (2014) for a while and after consulting my friends, the overwhelming consensus was to go with Bloodborne. I do love fantasy, but the lack of a shield in Bloodborne seemed to suit my style of play better than what Dark Souls could offer me. Maybe one day I’ll go back to buy it but right now, my efforts are going into giving this game my all. The game has been out for just under a year at this point but I’ll put a spoiler warning here for those who are interested in playing it as I will be talking about specific content to do with the story and the game in general. I knew next to nothing about this game and I feel like that gives you a better experience when playing it for the first time. So, just a friendly reminder that if you are planning on buying this game then go try it for yourself first and let me know what you think of it when you come back to read my take on it.

I don’t play many RPGs, so this was a nice change but the learning curve is steep. Not only this, but I didn’t expect to feel so jumpy and on edge while playing it. The number of times that my parents have heard me getting scared or shouting in elation is quite humorous. It’s more to do with not realising that enemies are far more active in this game than in others that I’ve played. I feel the need to check every corner and watch my back as I progress through the beautifully constructed world that is Bloodborne. Initially I didn’t think there was much of a tutorial, which I was perfectly fine with as most games these days tend to hold your hand and give constant reminders of how to play throughout. This did lead me to press random buttons to figure out what controlled what but I got there eventually, give or take a few keys. I did find that if you roam around the Hunters Dream (a safe haven for the player from all the monstrosities) that there were several notes scattered across the ground that could be interacted with to learn the controls. This served as a strong indicator of what the entire game would be like.

The story is purposely kept very vague to prompt the player to go out of their way to unearth it, but the game doesn’t make that easy for you. As a new player coming into the game having never played any of From Software’s previous Souls titles, I had no idea what I was looking for. My friend did advise me that the story line was hidden within the game and this prompted me to try and remember small details whenever I did make conversation with another person. I did like the sense of exploration and figuring things out for myself, such as lanterns illuminated in a reddish colour indicate a window or door that can be interacted with to speak to someone on the other side. A most ambiguous detail but once spotted it becomes painfully obvious. For the majority of my playthrough so far, I have refused to look up guides or walkthroughs as I want to piece things together myself, and I kept this mentality until after I beat the first boss. I enjoyed being out of my comfort zone as I travelled around the first area of the game, rather tentatively and slowly at first but I soon got the hang of it. Learning how everything worked was quite the experience as well, such as the Blood Echoes earned from killing foes acted as the game’s form of currency that can be used to upgrade your character and weapons. Even figuring out how to equip my secondary weapon was a victory in my eyes! It might not sound like much, but I forgot how easy games are nowadays when every button and their function is spoon fed to you. It might have been a small victory, but it’s the small things that makes this game great.

The first boss battle was like something straight out of an epic poem or film. As soon as the chorus of this beautiful music began to sing and I looked upon this gigantic beast I was filled with both terror and sheer excitement. I respond to music very strongly and the combination of the incredible score and the screeching Cleric Beast was in every sense the perfect introduction to the type of game that I was playing. Having defeated the Cleric Beast after four attempts I had become slightly cocky and thought I could take on the world after bringing down such a colossal monster, but the Scourge Beasts on the other side of the Great Bridge and my friends were quick to knock me down a few pegs. The Cleric Beast, while I do consider defeating it an achievement, was child’s play compared to my struggle with Father Gascoigne. After becoming somewhat lost and too scared to venture into the Yharnam Aqueducts, I admittedly looked up a guide to figure out where I was going and came across a window that I had not interacted with. A little girl responded from the other side of the window, explaining that her mother had gone missing while looking for her father and provided a music box to me that her mother had forgotten to take with her and it played her father’s favourite song. It seemed useless at first until I accidentally used it in battle with Father Gascoigne and he staggered backwards, clutching his head in pain. I stared at my TV screen in shock as I dodged his incessant attacks before he made short work of me. I had not expected to feel sympathy for Gascoigne after he had defeated me countless times as I put the pieces together but eventually after continuously seeing ‘You Died’ appear on the screen, a primal rage within me completely shattered any sympathy I had for him.

I tried over and over again to defeat Gascoigne for days but I would either quit the game because I couldn’t take it or I was starting to get a headache from looking at the TV for too long. The most painful part of Bloodborne so far is that the majority, if not all, of my deaths do not feel unfair. I cannot blame the game for my failures, which is definitely a positive thing, but it’s hard to come to terms with when you have to realise that fact. There were moments in my numerous battles with Gascoigne that I thought to be unreasonable, but it all boiled down to him being an extremely powerful adversary and I couldn’t criticise the game for being difficult. I knew what I was getting myself into when I bought this game, I just had to pick myself up whenever I died and try again. I did and continue to refuse to play online simply because I’m too proud to admit if I need help in a game, and if Gascoigne was to be defeated then it would be with my character’s singular strength. With this determination in mind, I spent an excruciating three hours yesterday continuously trying to work out Gascoigne’s combat patterns and eventually succumbed to the internet for help. I would not recommend Eurogamer’s guide on how to defeat Father Gascoigne as it all seemed fine in theory but I found it hard to execute their ideal way of playing the game. This then led me to combine what I had read, what my friends had advised me to do and just getting stuck in. I kept telling myself one more try and at one point my dad had decided to come into the room and watch me as I had been ranting and raving about an extremely challenging boss battle for the last few days. I am currently calling my dad my good luck charm as it was only when he decided to watch that the glorious cerulean words ‘Prey Slaughtered’ appeared on the screen. I was so elated that I screamed, and it was only when I had calmed down that I came to realise how fast my heart was beating and that I had forgotten to breathe in the last minute or so.

Now, this may all sound very dramatic and exaggerated but being a lover of video games, I become immersed and invested in them very quickly. I find that I’m the same with many TV series and, on a much higher level, books. In my eyes, it’s not so different from watching a film for the first time and having some kind of emotional response or attachment to characters. After putting hours into this game and finally making progress, it was bound to trigger something as intense as that in me. This is one of the biggest selling points of this game. The sense of achievement in simply doing things, from the mundane such as working out the controls to the exciting moments like finally winning a boss battle, is absolutely overwhelming.

The defeat of Gascoigne has clouded my thoughts of other incredible details in this game. One of the immediate things that caught my eye was the design of the environments, which was so masterfully crafted that I couldn’t help but become absorbed by it. Although Bloodborne is not fantasy based like its Souls counterparts are, the scenery feels as though it is spawned from fantasy with it’s impressive use and display of Gothic architecture. The creatures, however, reminded me that Bloodborne is in fact set in a nightmare of sorts and the enemies were quick to stress this. The enemies have been very diverse considering it is only the first part of the game, which makes me eager to see what else there is store for me. Having only progressed a small amount in this game, I can’t talk about the story line with any certainty but from what I have managed to uncover it is most intriguing and I am excited to find out more as I go. From what I do know, the character the player controls (known as the Hunter) must slay all of those who have become infected with a type of virus if they hope to return to the ‘waking world’. More so, I am enthusiastic to start on the next area of the game. Central Yharnam had become all too familiar to me as I continuously roamed around the same areas repeatedly in an attempt to gain more Blood Echoes to level up my character. I didn’t mind doing this but it did become quite tedious after a while as I memorised where every enemy was by this point, which sucked the fun out of it a little, so I’m more than happy to be moving onto a new area.

One thing that my brother did mention, which has since stuck with me, is that his main issue with the game is that there is only one button to attack. While this is not strictly true (R1 to use right hand weapon, R2 to start a visceral attack, L1 to transform the right hand weapon and L2 to use left hand weapon) I did understand where he was coming from. It seems very simple in theory, but executing attacks perfectly requires time and patience. I can acknowledge that to some it may seem boring to be pressing R1 repeatedly to keep a string of combos going against an enemy, but hitting them as many times as your stamina bar will allow isn’t always the ideal strategy. I’m not the best tactician, I don’t claim to be, but I feel as though Bloodborne is lucid enough to show weaknesses in enemies but the effort that goes into working them out is entirely down to the player themselves. With the Cleric Beast it was better to stay close to it to avoid it’s wide ranged sweeping attacks, and Father Gascoigne required a more balanced approach of keeping him close and putting a fair amount of distance between you and him due to his use of a left and right hand weapon, exactly like your character. His beast form was more difficult to figure out as he becomes even faster and more aggressive than before, which in turn made me panic, but it soon became clear that dodging his attacks would prove more effective and to jump underneath him rather than away from him as he covers a lot of ground very quickly.

I’m certain that my friends have become quite tired of my constant stream of commentary whenever I find something new or difficult in this game but I can’t help it. This is one of the few games that I’ve been so desperately excited to share with people, so I feel the need to update everyone whenever I make progress. No other game comes close in terms of the thrill that I get from BloodborneThe Last of Us (2013) remains my favourite game as of the last few years, but Bloodborne is in an entirely different category that up until now I did not have as much experience with. I am sad to be parting with Bloodborne as I will be going back to university but having beat Father Gascoigne, I feel as though I can leave it feeling satisfied that I finally did it.

As standard procedure on this blog, I can’t rate this game as of yet as I have not even come close to completing it but with how amazing I have found it so far it’s safe to assume that it’s going to be positively received. But you never know, something could happen later down the line that makes me reconsider but as of right now, I am enjoying this game to no end and I cannot wait to continue it when I next get a chance.

I would recommend Bloodborne if you enjoy games that are atmospheric, blood-pumping and gratifying.

The wait is finally over: Fallout 4 release and initial thoughts of Fallout 3

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Please Stand By

It has been 5 years since the release of the last game, Fallout: New Vegas (2010), was released. Needless to say, fans everywhere were more than excited to hear that developers, Bethesda, were gracing us with their presence at E3 this year. This could only mean one thing. On June 3, fans of the Fallout series were finally rewarded for their patience, as the timer ticked on their website with the infamous loading screen asking that people ‘Please Stand By’. The same screen is used for the introduction and loading screens for pretty much every Fallout game. Things were beginning to look interesting. The tension was rife and after the timer finally hit zero, the inhale of strained silence began. Posts and videos soon exploded onto the internet and Bethesda uploaded the long awaited trailer for Fallout 4.

When I first watched the trailer, I had no idea what the Fallout series was about or why it was so popular. I thought it all looked a bit mediocre, seeing as it was going to be on the next gen consoles, so the graphics appeared to be lacking in my opinion. However, this did get me thinking. If Bethesda wanted to make this game aesthetically incredible, like the many games that have been released recently, then they would have. It’s been 5 years, they had the time to do it. So, this made me think that it was intentional. I read through several comments about the trailer and a lot of people had the same worries, only most of the replies were about how the games have never had a huge emphasis on the graphics but on the atmosphere, gameplay and the story instead. If there’s anything that this trailer did, it was tell a story. From the transitioning between the past and present, to the narrator echoing phrases from the introduction of Fallout 3 (2008), the newest game in the franchise looks like it’s going to be a special one. I liked the way that the German Shepherd was used as a device to drive the trailer forwards, as the main character is not seen until the end of the trailer. I thought that this was effective as the dog itself is an innocent creature amongst the devastation that had been caused by the war, and it is simply scouting the area while the screen pans in and out of the past and present to show the audience what was there before. I did not realise that the main character speaking, even if it is only a few words, was such a big deal. It became clear to me that the games have always featured a silent protagonist, so this is new and exciting for fans of the game. There have been some speculation as to who voices the character, many believing it to be Troy Baker, but he sounded a bit like Nolan North to me. We’ll just have to wait and see. I must admit, Bethesda have me pretty eager to see what they’ll reveal at this year’s E3.

My boyfriend is a huge fan of the series, and it’s safe to say that Fallout 3 is his favourite game. I’ve actually been working on a portrait of the Brotherhood of Steel armour for him for almost a year now. My pencils are getting smaller and smaller every time I come back to it. Admittedly, it’s not the easiest project I’ve set for myself. He bought the Game of the Year edition of Fallout 3 for me on Steam at some point in the previous year, but I have always been quite intimidated by it. I knew that there was a lot of content to cover and the large scale of the game is daunting, especially to someone who doesn’t usually play these types of games. Bethesda are also the masterminds behind the Elder Scrolls series, of which I have only played the fourth game, Oblivion (2006). I was terrible at it. There was so much to do and I had such little knowledge of the world. As much as I don’t like to admit it, I gave up on Oblivion before the game had really started. This was simply because I was so out of my comfort zone, and I wasn’t entirely sure how to tackle the super mutant behemoth that was these games (Fallout 3 references. Apparently quite good for creating emphasis, I must say). So after my negative experience with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I was put off the Fallout series. After the announcement of Fallout 4, I was bombarded with messages from my more than excited boyfriend. It got to the point that after saying I was sorting through my laundry, I received a message from him saying “Go play Fallout 3“. He then proceeded to try and sell the game to me. He started talking about if a character was annoying me, then I could kill them and move on. How the game adapts to your decisions and that the story is amazingly in depth, with little side stories branching off from the main one in every direction. It was when he said that I could play it on ‘very easy’ that he had me. What drove the point home was that he only wanted me to play the first 30 minutes. And so I did.

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Brotherhood of Steel power armour

Fallout 3

Released: October 28, 2008

This review will serve more as a first impressions of the game as I can’t judge the entire game from the first 30 minutes. There is far too much depth to this game to even attempt that, and I’ve never played the other games of the franchise so I really had no idea what to expect. I’m already feeling like I’m way in over my head as I attempt to come up with something to write. It was quite exciting to see the ‘Please Stand By’ screen as the game was loading, though there was a twinge of panic as I jumped into the unknown. Upon seeing the Brotherhood of Steel graphic that I have painstakingly spent hours on in an attempt to recreate it in my portrait, I remembered just how much effort I had been putting into it. I figured the game will be no different. I set the game on the easiest difficulty just to be safe, I really am not good at these types of games and I wanted to make the transition as seamless as possible. My first struggle was picking a name. At least in games like The Legend of Zelda I already have a set name that I will always use (people that don’t use the name Link in a Zelda game worry me). Customising the appearance of my character proved to be a challenge as well. Although there is an option to play the game in third person, I thought I would try to play it in first person for the experience. Alongside this, the character’s name is never said, so I was putting a lot of effort into nothing. I realised after I had set up my character that I could’ve been a lot more creative and made Hodor from Game of Thrones. However, there was no option to set the height and build of the character, so I didn’t miss out on too much of an opportunity.

I ended up playing the game for 2 hours, but I did not progress that far into the story. Only, I was dawdling in an attempt to gather supplies as I was advised by my boyfriend that I needed to scavenge as many things that could be useful. Before I get into the actual gameplay, I will talk about the introduction of the game. There is a short cutscene where a song from a radio plays, revealed to be in a run-down bus that has advertisements encouraging people to enlist for the army. There are also posters and banners promoting vacancies in Vaults, which are underground shelters. The camera pans out and reveals the desolate surroundings of the bus, the bleakness of the city with its worn and collapsed buildings. As the camera continues to show more, a figure in the Brotherhood of Steel armour is seen wielding a firearm. The screen fades to black and a narration begins, claiming that “war never changes”. The narrator explains that man had destroyed the world through nuclear fire and radiation, and that many refugees took to the underground Vaults for shelter. Only Vault 101 did not reopen after the destruction, in which the player’s character is born and will die as no one enters or leaves Vault 101. Having never played the Fallout games or even knew what they were about, I was immediately drawn into the game. Knowing that I would leave the Vault at some point, I was already trying to figure out how it would be done. However, I found myself clinging a little desperately to the Vault because I could navigate it and the story was linear at the beginning. You flash through your character’s life, to important moments such as their birth and 10th birthday. I have to admit, it was weird knowing that Liam Neeson was the voice actor for your character’s father in the game, so it took some getting used to.

When playing as your character, aged 1, I thought it was a bit silly. However, I soon changed my mind when I realised that the entirety of the Vault section of the game was a tutorial without actually stating it was. I was given small objectives, such as getting out of my play pen and finding a book. I was impressed with the Special Book, with each of the letters of the word ‘special’ standing for particular traits of your character that you can customise. These being strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck. It’s a bit like playing Dungeons & Dragons, which I also experienced for the first time this year. The way the game smoothly incorporates the customisation of the character within the game was impressive. I much preferred it over having to sit through several different screens, where I could change the crookedness of my character’s nose or move a scale from one extreme to another to indicate if I wanted them to be rational or impulsive. I was highly entertained by the fact that I could make baby noises at Liam Neeson (I’m just going to continue to refer to the character as his voice actor because it’s easier for me) during this segment. It’s the small things in games that are sometimes the most memorable.

After progressing through the tutorial part of the game and jumping forwards in time to when my character is 19 years old, I was suddenly thrown into the actual story of the game. Liam Neeson had somehow managed to leave the Vault for unknown reasons, sending the residents of Vault 101 into a panic and the security were now looking for me. I armed myself with a baseball bat and made my way through the Vault with absolutely no idea what to do. The first security guard that I came across was immediately hostile and I went to dispatch him, only I was beaten to it by the radroaches (giant cockroaches), which I quickly killed. Because of this, I assumed that everyone was out to get me and the next security guard I ran into I began attacking straight off the bat (no pun intended). I hadn’t realised that he was attempting to speak to me until after I was done killing him and taking his possessions. I think my distrust of the AI in other games made me disregard everyone while I was playing Fallout 3. After being told people were looking for me, I just assumed everyone was out to kill me. I actually felt bad in a couple of instances, especially when I thought that I was doing the right thing. I opted to save Ellen DeLoria from a small horde of radroaches, but in the process of saving her I ended up killing her son, Butch, after he attacked me with his switchblade knife. The entire development of the ‘Escape!’ mission had me in a blind panic, and I even ended up killing the Overseer, the man who ensures the smooth running of everything in Vault 101. After leaving a trail of bodies in my wake, I managed to escape the Vault and I was greeted with the desolate environment known to the AI as the Wasteland. I found that once I left the Vault, everything wanted to kill me. I quickly progressed to the town called Megaton that the game had marked on my compass in an attempt to just get away from the bloodbath that I had made. I explored the town for a while and had a bit of fun with the ability to push over a Brahmin, a two headed cow-type creature, before I decided to call it day.

I have to say, I am really enjoying this game. I checked the Wiki while writing up my actions and it appears as though I have made every wrong possible decision, but that is one of the best features of this game. It has an incredible amount of replayable content, and you can have a different experience every time. My responses to the events in the game this time around are probably the most genuine that I will have, but I will attempt it again in the future to see how I could do things differently. That is after I complete the game for the first time, which may take a long time. The only downside that I have seen to this game so far is the heavy emphasis on dialogue, which can become boring but it is necessary to the player as conversing with people is a way to gain valuable information and allies. It also improves your character’s stats, which is always helpful in RPG games, and can even be a better option than combat. Overall, so far I love the game and I am having a much better time playing this than I did with Oblivion. I am going to continue my playthrough of it and I will provide a much more in-depth review once I am done with it. It’s proven to be a pleasant surprise as I was not expecting to enjoy it this much, but the variety of outcomes is intriguing to me and I definitely want to see how the story progresses.

I won’t rate the game as of yet as it is only the first 2 hours, but I will say that it is easily going to be a high scoring one and I can’t wait to see how I get on with it. I know it’s on the easiest difficulty, but hey, I can live with that.