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.

I got an award??

I feel awful for not writing this post sooner but life has decided to keep me otherwise occupied, so my deepest apologies for the lateness of this one.

I was nominated by fellow blogger Sanguis Bootymus for this award, though it is more like a type of shout out chain by bloggers to bring attention to blogs that we think deserve some love. Many thanks for the nomination, I feel truly honoured!

Apparently I have to provide a short origin story of my blog, and I love to tell stories so I could go on for hours, but I’ll give the short version today. I’ve always had a love for video games, but I think that really started to come through when I would talk about them. I literally would talk my housemates’ ears off with the amount of time I would spend talking about games, until they eventually encouraged me to begin writing about them too. The blog is a product of me combining two of my passions: writing and playing video games… and also to spare my friends from hearing me talk obsessively about games.

Now for my own nominations:

  1. Planet Janet – While she’s not on WordPress, this is the website that my very good friend, Ayla (said like Isla, but cooler), set up last year. She posts quite intermittently but her content is consistently interesting to read. Additionally, there are many examples of her photography and I must say, she’s getting pretty good at it!
  2. Shelby “Falcon 509” Steiner – If you’re after balanced and honest video game reviews, then this is your man. His writing is concise, well researched and reads incredibly smoothly. I know that he’s hit a wall recently, so go and show him some love because his content is great.
  3. Karl Weller – Wow, there are so many gaming blogs out there, but what makes this one stand out is the man behind it. Weller has a great sense of humour and it comes across so effortlessly in his writing, something that I wish to be able to do in future posts. His articles are a great read and definitely worth your time.

And lastly, I have to give two pieces of advice for new bloggers. If there’s anything that I wish I did differently at the start it was to ask for help and to space out my initial ideas. At first, all I wanted to do was write about anything and everything, but because of this I found myself quickly running out of potential content. Relax, breathe and take it one post at a time. Also, I took to Reddit to ask for advice on my blog and I had quite a few responses, all of which were helpful and I’m really quite proud of the way the blog is looking now, as before it didn’t really feel like much.

For those who I have nominated, the next steps are to:

  • Write a post about the award and your nomination
  • Give a brief backstory on your blog
  • Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers
  • Write about the person who nominated you and leave a link for their page
  • Select a few blogs that you’d like to nominate

I’d like to end this on a quick note to say thank you to the unending support that I have received. It’s been such a pleasure and I’m enjoying myself here just as much as when I started. Thank you all so much for taking the time to read my ramblings.

Why is this game still broken?: Pokémon Go

Okay, I know this may seem as though I’m just complaining for the sake of it, and I know that Niantic are releasing updates and trying to fix the app, but I’m still having problems with it. I doubt that I’m the only player suffering but here is why I felt the need to have a small rant.

The new “sightings” feature is terrible. The three-step mechanism that they had before wasn’t perfect by any means (and didn’t even work for most people), but the idea of it was to allow players to know if they were getting closer or further away from a Pokémon that they were trying to capture. Now, the sightings feature does not let players know whereabouts Pokémon are located, but that they are simply within the area. I know that a handful of players received the update in which Niantic are testing out the full breadth of this feature, but the one I have is even less useful than the original broken tracking system.

The above are three screen shots that I took while playing Pokémon Go in the last couple of weeks, and which actually prompted me to write this post. In the first image (left), I was left confused because the closest Pokémon to me were a Psyduck, Horsea and Pidgey, and yet a Rattata was the one to annoy me with its presence. Not only is it irritating that common Pokémon such as Rattatas like to pop up at every chance that they can, but even when they’re not supposed to be nearby they still spawn. I would have very much liked another Psyduck instead of a purple rat. Similarly, in the centre picture, a Spearow appeared even though it was third in line after a Zubat and an Eevee. Yet again, in the third screen shot it is clear that a Drowzee was not supposed to be nearby, and yet it appeared anyhow. There was no lure at that PokéStop before or after I passed by, and so I did not understand why a Drowzee suddenly showed up. Now, I’m not sure if the sightings feature lists the Pokémon in the order in which they are closest to the player, but I can only assume so. Which begs the question, why is it so inaccurate?

Now, admittedly, I used to do a lot of my Pokémon hunting in the comforts of a vehicle. I was able to catch the majority of my first Pokémon while my brother drove us to see our cousin, and I was perfectly happy to give up any mileage to hatch eggs that would not be counted by the game because I was travelling too fast. A few updates later and now it is virtually impossible to catch Pokémon while playing in a car (as a passenger, of course. I have to confirm that about a million times before actually playing). It seems as though the game can’t refresh fast enough to load Pokémon when the player is going faster than 20mph. While I will admit that this does encourage players to walk instead of ‘cheating’, it does not mean that the ability to catch Pokémon in a car should be completely nerfed.

As you can see in the above images, I was very close to being robbed of a Gloom. My phone vibrated to indicate a Pokémon appearing nearby and I was confused when I could not see it at first, until I noticed the white rings near my character. I tried tapping them but nothing happened, and I was worried that I would miss out on catching it. I was in a car at the time, and it is not often that Pokémon spawn while I am in a vehicle now. I panicked, but thankfully my mum and I were in a fair amount of traffic at the time and so we were travelling slowly if at all for around 5 minutes. I managed to restart the game and the Gloom reappeared, allowing me to finally catch it. I have not had this issue before the updates and so I can only assume that it’s because of Niantic’s frantic attempt to ‘fix’ the game that more problems have been caused as a result.

I have to say, I’m getting very tired of the mentality of releasing an unfinished game and then fixing it later. This is why I try to avoid pre-ordering games, as I want to know if it’s even worth my money before committing any payments. It makes me wonder when this trend began to surface. I remember when once a game was released, developers had no control over potential glitches or the like. Now, a games developer can release a game any time they feel like it, charge players for the full game and then release updates and patches at a later date. It’s the same issue as what a lot of people are finding after the release of No Man’s Sky, as many features were promised but have not yet made an appearance. Yet because of these promises, people parted with their hard earned cash to pay for a full game but were given barely half of what they were anticipating. It is for this reason that I tend not to pre-order games, because developers will only continue doing this if they receive sufficient funds. Companies are more likely to induce change if you start being smart with where you put your money, not your complaints.

I can definitely see that the popularity of this game is dying down already. Kids will be going back to school as the summer is coming to an end, so there will be a decrease in players actively playing during the day. Even I have begun to play it less, and as you can see I’m only on level 15 at the moment, despite having the app since it released in the UK. I do find it enjoyable, but I still have moments where the game infuriates me. I’m happy to see the low battery mode making a reappearance and the game does seem to be eating up less of my battery, though it is still quite steep at times. I can appreciate that Niantic are working on fixes, but I feel as though they just need to do it better.

 

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. 

“It’s a trap!”: Star Wars Battlefront

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Battlefront‘s cover art

Star Wars Battlefront
Released: November 17, 2015

I was planning on writing this review quite a while ago but I was really struggling to do so. I had a few paragraphs written out and it was okay to say the least but I wasn’t feeling great about it. I am a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to anything creative that I do, so because of this strange feeling I was getting I scrapped it completely. For some reason this particular game wasn’t inspiring anything imaginative within me, and I just couldn’t think of anything to say about it. But in reality, this sums up the game entirely and also may be why I was experiencing some trouble. I think I was trying to be too diplomatic in my previous draft of this game and instead it ended up turning into a dishonest account of Battlefront. While I am a fan of Star Wars, I feel like Battlefront just didn’t live up to the standard of the franchise as a whole.

Now, I won’t lie, I have had fun playing it with my university housemates. It’s been pretty enjoyable when my housemates and I spend a few hours in the evening winding down and shooting mindlessly at Stormtroopers/the Rebel Alliance. However, it’s not the type of game that I would go out of my way to buy myself. It’s not something that I would play if I was bored either, I have several other games to fulfil that need. So, when would I play it? In all honesty, I’ve only played it because my housemate, whose PS4 we’ve been playing on, only has Battlefront and Fifa 16 (2015). I’ve only ever played a few sports video games but Fifa has never been something that I’ve enjoyed. The only other option then was to play Battlefront. I could have brought a few games from home but games take up a significant amount of space on the PS4 hard drive, and so I decided against using my friend’s new console for that reason.

Personally, I feel as though Battlefront is lacking in many aspects. I’m not much of an online player because at heart, I love local multiplayer. Battlefront does have a co-op mode for players to delve into, but I do think they should have included split screen online play and even a single player campaign. I believe that would have added another layer to the game but unfortunately there is currently nothing of the sort. That isn’t to say that the game isn’t fun at times. It is entertaining to play as Stormtroopers, people of the Rebel Alliance and even main characters from the original Star Wars films. I have to say, it’s pretty daunting when you see Darth Vader coming towards you, deflecting bullets with his lightsaber. Or to see Emperor Palpatine performing a Psycho Crusher (Street Fighter fans will appreciate that one) in your direction.

There are several online modes to play, which looks great at first but in actuality there are only a handful of them that are even worth playing. The majority of them feel similar to one another, with very few differences between the modes. Personally, I enjoy playing Blast and Droid Run, but I play the two of them very similarly. Although in Droid Run you are supposed to capture and maintain control of the three droids roaming around the map to win, I end up just killing people in the opposing team and not paying all that much attention to the droids. Instead, I treat it as though I am playing a team deathmatch, which is what Blast is. By creating numerous game modes for the players to choose from, it actually dilutes the experience. This isn’t to say that other shooters do not have similar issues however, for example, Halo 3 (2007) had nine unique (within the game itself) online modes to choose from, in comparison to Battlefront‘s repetitive eleven. Taking Halo 3 as a base, one of the modes is Territories, which entails the players to capture areas on the map in their teams. Within this mode, there are three variations or sub-modes to choose from (as it is with all of the online modes), making changes such as the number of rounds played and what happens when an area is captured. Comparatively, Battlefront has Droid Run, Supremacy and Drop Zone that bare similarities to Territories. Both Cargo and Extraction have a familiar air of the popular Capture the Flag element about them, while Heroes and Villains and also Hero Hunt are basically Juggernaut. Once we begin to group them together like this, Battlefront only really has five unique game modes.

With five online game modes, no single player campaign and a measly selection of missions to play offline cooperatively, it’s really no wonder why I feel as though Battlefront is inadequate. It is definitely a game that you only play if you don’t feel like using that many brain cells. As I said before, I play this game mindlessly because there isn’t much else to do. I suppose if you want a chilled out time playing video games, then this one is perfect because it’s very simple and doesn’t require much thought or effort. Even the levelling system doesn’t feel that rewarding as all you can really do is unlock new skins/characters to run around as and better weapons. I guess this is basically every shooter out there but I’m still not convinced with this game. As a Star Wars fan, I did enjoy being in the different maps taken directly from the movie franchise. The music and sound effects make for a great time as well, but it does feel very ‘meh’ overall, for want of a better adjective.

This is more than likely the shortest review that I have written on this blog, but that’s quite indicative of the amount of content that there is to sink your teeth into. The lack of content has made this post extremely difficult to write because there simply isn’t enough for me to talk about. It’s fun for about an hour or if you just want a standard shooter to play, but I’d say save your hard earned money for a better game. There are so many shooters out there that are more worth your time and effort, because this one is pretty lackluster.

 

“Get me outta here!”: Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty!

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Abe in all of his glory in high definition

Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty!
Released: July 23, 2014

I’m actually finding it very hard to believe that it’s almost been two years since this game came out. I wrote a Throwback Thursday post about the original Abe’s Oddysee (1997) last summer, which still remains my favourite game ever. Upon hearing that it would be getting a remake and not a remastering in 2014 I was ecstatic. It had been quite a while since I followed a game release so closely, but I was a woman obsessed. I really cannot explain in words how excited I was, but it’s because of this enthusiasm and love for the original game that I believe actually ruined my experience of it. Being too excited for anything in life will always make it seem not as great when it eventually comes around because nothing can live up to your expectations, so unfortunately after completing New ‘n’ Tasty, I was left somewhat disappointed.

I remember having to wait for my brother to get home from work on the day it was released as he’s the one out of us two who has a PlayStation Plus membership and he also didn’t want to miss out. Time had never moved as slowly as it did that day. Eventually, he finally came home and we almost immediately started playing it after it installed. I was amazed at how the game now looked. It was much more vibrant and dynamic, while also keeping in touch with its roots. The story of the game has remained untouched, which is great as it’s already perfect as it is. The levels are also largely unchanged, asides from perhaps one or two minor changes to account for the fact that the game is now a side-scroller rather than having a stream of static screens to flit between. Knowing that the levels are almost the exact same, players of the original game will remember where all of the hidden levels are. This was something that I greatly appreciated as it was nice to see that every aspect of the game had been taken into consideration. I also miss having to find hidden areas in games these days as many developers tend to leave them out or not make them worthwhile.

I have to say, seeing Abe was a real treat. The graphics of the original game, while amazing for the time, are particularly pixelated now and so it was the first time for a long time that I was actually able to properly ‘see’ Abe. He’s never looked better! The attention to detail is so incredible and I felt quite emotional when I saw his head pop up in the menu screen. That was until I heard him speak. It is going to be exceedingly difficult not to compare this game to the original, and I’ve already made reference to it several times in this post. It is because I am an avid fan of Abe’s Oddysee that has made me so critical of its remake. Abe’s voice, for some reason, just didn’t fit the profile. In the original game, he sounds nasal and rather hopeless whereas in New ‘n’ Tasty, Oddworld Inhabitants and Just Add Water seem to have opted for a comedic approach. The original game is funny, but in a much more morbid kind of way. New ‘n’ Tasty is much more overtly humorous, with stock sound effects when Abe slips or falls over. It all just felt a little contrived.

Now, I have already mentioned that the game looked vibrant and this is one of the best features about it. New ‘n’ Tasty is a beautiful looking game. The bright colours and the range of palettes is what I can only describe as delicious. I was so impressed with how incredible the game looked. Paramonia in particular was the area that I had the most enjoyable experience in. This may be because I am partial to cooler colours such as blues and greens (teal in particular), but either way it was a pleasure to play this section of the game. My favourite level has always been the initial escape from the Stockyards and I was happy to see that New ‘n’ Tasty had not changed much here. It was still as nerve wracking as the original, having to wait for the motion sensor lasers to move away from you so you can time your movements. Even the inclusion of the Mudokon to save from the Scrab as soon as you enter this area was great as it really showed that this game was not messing about. I think Scrabania is the part that most resembles the original game whereas Monsaic Lines feels the most different. It is not because this part of the game looked dissimilar to its original counterpart, it was the atmosphere within this section that was different. It’s going to sound very nitpicky, but I think it was because in the Monsaic Lines you have the most interaction with other Mudokons here. The voices really are a prevalent problem for me. They’re funny, and I appreciate that many fans actually lent their voices to the game, but again the humour felt too forced.

This brings me onto my biggest issue with this game – it was far too easy. One of the best and worst things about Abe’s Oddysee was the steep learning curve. If there were more checkpoints in the original game then it would have been perfect, but New ‘n’ Tasty had checkpoints at what felt like every twenty paces. With checkpoints this close to one another, it made me wonder why on Earth the ‘Quiksave’ function was even included. During my first playthrough of this game I abused that Quiksave button, which I really shouldn’t have done because I completed it within a few days. It was great when I was doing a particularly challenging puzzle and I could Quiksave in the middle of it to avoid a bomb or an enemy if I messed up, but took away from half of the fun as it was no longer a process of trial and error. Another pointless game mechanic was giving Abe an endless supply of bottle caps (vault dwellers and people of the Wasteland would kill for that) that could be thrown to distract enemies. If anything, the bottle caps are actually a hindrance. I don’t know if I’m using them wrong or if the AI just don’t respond to them because whenever I attempt to use a bottle cap it usually just results in Sligs being out of time and makes the level impossible. It wasn’t needed, and the whole point of Abe is that he’s the most pitiful character that it’s hard to believe that he’s the hero. Giving him bottle caps, as useless as they are, is essentially giving him something to fight back with. However, if the bottle caps are intentionally ineffectual then I would go as to say that including them was a stroke of genius. Arming your already forlorn protagonist with an impractical item? Brilliant.

I’ve written a lot about how the game disappointed me, but there were definitely moments where I really enjoyed it. I did find myself playing it again over the Christmas break and it wasn’t out of boredom, I genuinely wanted to play it. New ‘n’ Tasty, while it doesn’t really compare to the original game, is still extremely fun to play. What it seems like the developers did was take a classic game and re-imagine it for newer audiences today. If you come to this game as a new player, having never played or even heard of the original game or franchise, then you’d probably love it. Essentially, it’s a platform game with a quirky but lovable protagonist in a bizarre world where the story is that he’s escaping from his former employers to avoid being turned into food. It all sounds ridiculous and wacky but that’s what is at the heart of these games. A lot of time and effort went into making New ‘n’ Tasty, and you can see it when you play the game. It would have been easy for Oddworld Inhabitants and Just Add Water to simply make a remastered edition of Abe’s Oddysee, but they made a point of remaking it from the ground up and I have to applaud their efforts. While I don’t agree with every change that they made, a lot of it makes sense due to the nature of it changing from a 2D platform game to a 2.5D platformer. Instead of having just shadowy areas where Abe can hide from Sligs in some areas there is smoke for Abe to blend into, which makes it clear that Sligs cannot see you. The element of surprise when walking into the next static screen from the original was taken away in New ‘n’ Tasty as it became a side-scrolling game, but it worked in accordance with how the game now operates.

On the 14th of March 2016, Oddworld Inhabitants announced Oddworld: Soulstorm. Keeping in theme with naming the remakes after products manufactured within the games, Soulstorm will be a remake of the sequel Abe’s Exoddus and will be released in Autumn of 2017. It felt like the announcement of New ‘n’ Tasty all over again. The excitement is bubbling up within me, and Oddworld Inhabitants are doing a great job of keeping the fans on their toes. The more fans follow them on Twitter, the more they reveal of Abe. So far we have the hand and chest and I have to say, I’m intrigued to see his face. They aren’t showing all that much as of right now, but it is enough to lure you in and hold your interest. It definitely feels like the developers are trying something different this time around. The teasers for New ‘n’ Tasty was all very colourful and vibrant, much like the game itself. With Soulstrorm it seems like an entirely different ball game. If you look at their website, it feels a lot more darker and grimy in a way. I have to say, I’m liking it so far. I can’t help but feel excited whenever Oddworld Inhabitants announce things, it’s almost like a reflex at this point. Funnily enough, I had started writing this post about a week before the announcement. It’s like my brain was giving me clues all along! Hopefully Soulstorm will live up to the hype and Oddworld Inhabitants improve on aspects that could have been a little more refined in New ‘n’ Tasty.

I do have my complaints about New ‘n’ Tasty, but regardless of that I still enjoy it. Abe’s Oddysee is in my Steam library so it’s nice to go back and play the original, but after playing  New ‘n’ Tasty I forgot how hard it actually is.

I’d recommend this game to people who like eccentric and unusual things. This isn’t your everyday game, it is really something special. If you’re someone new to the franchise then I’m certain you’ll love it but I do strongly believe that playing the original is a valuable use of your time.

Throwback Thursday: Assassin’s Creed II

 

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“Ezio Auditore de la la la”

Assassin’s Creed II
Released: November 17, 2009

As much grief as I give the franchise as a whole, I cannot hide my former obsession with the series and this game in particular. It truly is near and dear to my heart and I spent hours upon hours playing it. This was actually the first game of the Assassin’s Creed series that I played and it had not occurred to me that I should probably have attempted the first one beforehand. Although, with my most recent experience of a game (The Witcher 3) it seems to be an ongoing trend of mine. I have quiet an ardent love and interest for the Renaissance and it spans from the artwork to even the politics, particularly in the Italian Renaissance. It’s such a fascinating time in my opinion and by setting Assassin’s Creed II in this period, Ubisoft managed to completely sell it to me.

You start the game as Desmond Miles, our modern timeline, Nathan Drake-sounding protagonist. Having not played the first game I was very confused as to why a lady named Lucy Stillman was breaking Desmond out of an odd looking machine and eerily clean building, littered with baton brandishing security guards. Having since gone back to play the first game and subsequently the majority of the sequels over the years, I do understand what was happening now. The main premise of the series is the ongoing war between the Assassins and the Knights Templar, who serve as the antagonists of the franchise. Desmond, a descendant of the Assassins, is captured by the modern day Templars in the first game who hide their true identities behind a multinational company known as Abstergo Industries. It is here that Desmond is introduced to the Animus, a machine that allows one to relive the memories of their ancestors. The Templars use the Animus to gain access to information concerning what is known as the Pieces of Eden directly from these memories. The beginning of this game are the events that take place immediately after the first. Lucy, an Abstergo employee, breaks Desmond out and reveals herself as an undercover Assassin. She takes him to a safe haven where they meet up with fellow Assassins Shaun Hastings, a historian and analyst, and Rebecca Crane, a technician and the mind behind the new and improved Animus 2.0. It is here where Desmond goes back into the Animus to relive the memories of his ancestor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a young man from an affluent Florentine family living in the Renaissance period.

Here is usually where I consider the game to actually start. The modern day timeline is still fun at this point in the series, but no one plays these games for Desmond’s side of it all, and the end of the world plot of the modern timeline becomes quite strained after this installment. Ezio remains one of my favourite characters from any video game that I have played. He is a loyal friend, intelligent and gets the job done. This does not mean that he doesn’t come with flaws, as he is arrogant at the beginning of the game with an air of narcissism. This is one of the reasons why I loved the game so much. Ezio is by no means perfect and his character development is enjoyable to watch. He goes from being a mollycoddled teenager to becoming an experienced adult who has learnt from his past actions, although his cavalier attitude does make reappearances every so often. His development also felt quite believable as well. Initially Ezio is driven by vengeance as his father and two brothers are wrongfully executed for treason, and it is only until he comes to realise that their deaths were part of a much bigger battle that he dedicates his life to the Assassin Order, like his father before him.

It’s a common opinion that this installment of the series is the best game and Ezio as a character is only one reason for this. The gameplay was heavily improved from the first game, which I quickly came to realise when I went back to play it. Assassin’s Creed (2006) was extremely repetitive, although the story was sound. As Altaïr, the player would travel between cities to do the same menial tasks: eavesdrop on a conversation, beat someone up for information, pickpocket another person and finally assassinate the target. This trend continued throughout the entire game until right at the end where there was finally some variation and a rather unexpected boss fight. Ubisoft were able to take the basics from the first game and develop these ideas for Assassin’s Creed II, such as creating a wider range of missions to participate in (whether they were main or side missions). As a result, this gave a better sense of exploration for the player as they were able to deviate from main missions to become more immersed in the game. Even the ability to swim was an improvement. If Altaïr fell into water, the player would immediately be ‘desynchronized’ (sic), so adding the element of swimming was a welcome touch and even served as a great method to run away from guards. Alongside swimming Ezio was also able to row gondolas and this was a perfect way to manoeuvre around Venice, especially when you would accidentally jump into water that would lead to a dead end. The gondolas proved to be very useful in getting around the city at a faster pace than running around like a headless chicken.

The health system had also been developed, meaning that players had to visit doctors to buy medicines that could be used to replenish health for major injuries. Armour was able to break, meaning the player would have to go to a blacksmith for repairs. There were much more weapons that could also be utilised and bought from the blacksmith, and the ammunition capacity for things like throwing knives and smoke bombs could be upgraded at a tailor. The player was also able to hire groups of NPCs to help fight or distract guards for a certain number of florins. I do remember that one of the first achievements I received in this game was for spending 5000 florins on courtesans. What can I say? They were the best at distracting guards while I grabbed treasure/Codex pages.

The more I think about all of the improvements that were made in this game, the more I realise that it’s so hard to list them all. I will say that my two favourite aspects of this game were the Glyphs and the Assassin Tombs. I loved going around the cities to find the Glyphs that Subject Sixteen (another assassin descendant) had left in the Animus because the puzzles that ensued were always so interesting and challenging. I remember my dad actually helped me with a lot of the Glyph puzzles as we spent hours one day just hunting specifically for them. The Assassin Tombs were also a lot of fun, though this was more because these levels reminded me a lot of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2003), which my brother used to play a lot of on the PS2. At the time, I wasn’t really allowed to play a lot of games that my brother had because I was a little too young but that never stopped me from watching him play. It was nice to eventually experience a game in a similar kind of way as I didn’t get to play Prince of Persia all that much.

The way that Ubisoft had managed to implement their own story line into historical events was one of the best things about the first two games, but I think I eventually lost interest in it because it was no longer set in a time period that I knew or cared enough about. But, rearranging and analysing pictures of both Biblical and historical figures to reveal the supposed Pieces of Eden in the Glyph puzzles that the game’s version of the Knights Templar were after was very cool. It all just seemed to work so brilliantly, and I think the games lost touch with that further down the line. I’ve talked about my hatred for Assassin’s Creed III in a previous post, and I still stand by this opinion. I just think that after spending such a long time with the franchise, Ubisoft should be able to produce a better game than what they did in that year. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was a definite improvement, and it’s probably the best one since Assassin’s Creed II, but nothing beats it.

Armed with a compelling story (that still made sense at this point), a well-rounded protagonist and polished gameplay, Assassin’s Creed II is a near perfect game. Of course, it has its quirks as every game does. It does on occasion feel as though the controls do not agree with you and Ezio sometimes goes running up walls where you didn’t intend for him to do so. The combat system has always been clunky in a sense that you’re simply just waiting for your opponent to strike so you can counter or disarm them. But despite these issues and flaws the game remains one of the best, and not just within the franchise. In my honest opinion, this was the high point for Ubisoft and the Assassin’s Creed series. With a new game coming out every year (not to mention the spin-offs) and now an upcoming film to be released, I feel as though Assassin’s Creed has simply become excessive. However, this does not taint my love for the second game of the franchise. It’s still a great game even now and writing this has made me want to start the game from the beginning once again for possibly the millionth time.

I recommend this game for people who have an interest in history, even if it’s a slightly skewed version of it (the fist fight with the Pope at the end is worth it, trust me). Also, it’s great for people who just like to run around armed and dangerous in beautiful cities. There’s so much that this game offers players and none of it feels really feels forced or boring. I know I feel sorry for the kid who went to grab it from the shelf in Game on Boxing Day in 2009, but was beaten to it by me. It’s coming up to 7 years old now, so if you’re playing it for the first time now then it’ll feel somewhat dated but it’s definitely worth your time and energy.

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.

Finding the root of your anxiety: Until Dawn

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Front cover art of Until Dawn


Until Dawn
Released: August 28, 2015

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of this game until it was released and as a result I wasn’t really expecting much. Developed by Supermassive Games, Until Dawn follows a group of 10 friends on their annual winter getaway in a mountain lodge, which is owned by the family of 3 members of the group. After a prank goes awry, tragedy befalls and leads to the deaths of twin sisters, Hannah and Beth Washington. A year on from the incident, the bodies of the girls have not been found and are being treated as missing persons. Josh Washington, their older brother, invites the remaining 7 friends back to Blackwood Pines and after establishing the new group dynamics, their reunion soon becomes sinister.

I have to admit, after seeing the premise of the game I wasn’t entirely impressed. It seemed like a very cliché, teen slasher movie and I didn’t know if I liked the idea of it at first. The characters seemed very generic, from the popular guy to the bitchy girl, and the isolated setting was also very ordinary in terms of the genre. However, it was when the first sequence with Dr. Hill (portrayed by Peter Stormare) came about that I started having a new outlook on the game. The doctor begins to ask you questions concerning your anxiety and talks about how your answers will affect your game. While this was the part that I found most interesting, it is not an entirely new concept. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (2009) incorporated a similar gameplay aspect, with Dr. Kauffman giving the player a psychological test, allowing the game to mould itself around the answers the player provides. I think the fact that Dr. Hill was played by Peter Stormare also had a part to play in my excitement, as my immediate response to seeing him was “It’s Abruzzi from Prison Break!”.

Dr. Hill uses a familiar tone when speaking, making it seem as if he is addressing the player and, in a way, breaking the fourth wall. He looks directly into the ‘camera’ and appears as though he is making eye contact with the player during his dialogue. All of this combined had me convinced that Dr. Hill was simply a way for the game to adapt according to the player’s answers without having to use a physical quiz or going through several menu screens to change the game. That was until after Dr. Hill makes you pick up and examine a photo. The hand that reaches out for the photo is visible and wearing a glove, and this made me question who I was actually playing as in these therapy sessions. After a while I stopped guessing and assumed that the reason the hand was there was to make the game seem more interactive and the glove was to make the gender ambiguous so as not to make assumptions about the sex of the player. But as the game progressed, there was something in the back of my mind telling me that the therapy sessions were more important than I initially gave them credit for.

The emphasis on the butterfly effect from the outset of the game was somewhat repetitive but it put an interesting spin on the game. Decisions made felt like they bared much more weight than in other games and actually made a difference. The choices the player makes ultimately decides which characters live and die. There is a way to save every character (bar the twins as, unfortunately, their fate is sealed) but there is also an ending that involves no survivors. There are clues scattered throughout the game, hinting at the mystery of Hannah and Beth’s demise, and also other aspects of the game such as the events that took place 50 years or so prior to the start of the game. Depending on the clues found by the player, it determines the type of ending you receive or how certain characters interact with one another. I thoroughly enjoyed the inclusion of these things as it feel as if there were endless possibilities and what you as the player were doing had a real effect on the game. I watched a few gameplay videos on YouTube and I saw some sequences play out that I hadn’t originally seen because different decisions were made, and that made me really appreciate the level of intricacy that went into this game. This gives the game a huge replayability value as you could progress through the game as dissimilarly to your original play through as you wanted to see what else can potentially happen. Although the phrase “butterfly effect” is thrown at you from every direction, you can understand why it is done as there are so many different paths to take.

Aesthetically, the game is magnificent. The graphics are crisp and the environments seem almost alive. The characters themselves are animated amazingly well, but that is to be expected after seeing the set up the developers used for the actors. No movement in their body or facial expressions went unnoticed and this brought personality to both the game and the characters. While it revolves around the cliché idea of a group of teenagers stranded in a hostile environment, it is not an entirely negative thing. The jump scares were somewhat predictable as a result, but that didn’t mean that the tense atmosphere didn’t deliver in giving some impressive scares. I liked the inclusion of the ‘don’t move’ segments, involving the player holding their controller as still as possible so as not to alert anything that is a threat to their safety. Until Dawn was brilliant in delivering a tense atmosphere, giving a real weight to the player’s actions. It was moments like these that made me realise that the interactive nature of video games, especially in horror, is better than films. During a horror film, you simply watch as a bystander, whereas games throw you into the terror whether you like it or not.

A spoiler warning for the plot line from here onwards. Now, one aspect of the game that I wasn’t sure if I liked or not was the Wendigos. In Algonquian folklore, a Wendigo is a creature that is created from a human subjecting themselves to cannibalism. The concept was cool and all, but I quite liked the idea of the supernatural not playing a part in the story of the game. After it is revealed that Josh Washington is actually the Psycho who was terrorising his friends in an intricate and sick prank, I was quite satisfied to know that my suspicions of Josh were correct. However, I knew that there had to be more of the game once Josh exposed his secret, only I wasn’t expecting it to be the Wendigos. A friend of mine and I were theorising three different killers: the Pyscho (Josh), the pyromaniac and the one who I dubbed as Predator because of their apparent infrared vision. Little did I know that the pyromaniac was actually a good guy and Predator turned out to be the Wendigos. While writing this all down now, I can see that it seems quite convoluted. It was an interesting concept, and while the gameplay during the scenes with the Wendigos are enjoyable and very tense, it felt almost forced. I think the supernatural in horror movies and games is an easy way to explain the weird and wonderful events in a story line, but I felt that with the production level and intricacy of Until Dawn, they could have delved into something more exciting than an overused trope. Despite this, the Wendigos were a terrifying addition to the game. Their gaunt bodies coupled with their misty eyes served as a truly horrific sight to witness, even more so when they were chasing you.

I keep coming back to praising the game for giving the player the chance to make decisions, which change the game in many ways. This is mainly because it is nice to feel like you have control of the story. As such, it immerses the player in more ways than one, making it even harder to witness a character dying due to a mistake that could easily have been avoided. Making snap decisions can either help or hinder the characters, and more often times than not, they end up needlessly dying. For the majority of the game, I really could not have cared much for Emily or Jessica as they were both bitchy and petty in nature, though by the end of it I began to feel sorry for Jessica as she goes through quite the journey. Emily didn’t really learn anything, which made her seem either too stubborn or a simplified character. Ashley was more of a background character to me, she didn’t seem to do much in comparison to the others. The strongest characters were definitely Sam and Mike. I thoroughly enjoyed the first segment in the sanitarium with Mike as it was a beautifully constructed level and delivered very creepy vibes. I also appreciated Mike’s comments during gameplay as it would often be my own thoughts voiced aloud by him, which was amusing for the most part. Sam was brilliantly fleshed out and it was refreshing to have an independent and strong female character, who ultimately saves the group (depending on how many are left) at the end of the game.

Overall, this game exceeded my expectations. I didn’t anticipate to enjoy it nearly as much as I did and I ended up invested in the characters and the storyline. It has its flaws, as every game does, but it did extremely well in delivering a fun and engaging experience. I think the characters needed a little more to their personalities but what we got was sufficient enough to drive the story forward. The Wendigos, while scary, seemed a little too far fetched but I suppose that’s the horror genre in a nutshell. The game is well paced and immersive and can be replayed as many times as you want, depending on what ending you’re aiming for. There are plenty of collectible items for the completionist side of our brains and an abundance of story to sink your teeth into. Definitely worth playing, even if it delves somewhat too much into cliché.

Rating: 7.8/10