GAME REVIEW: Civilization 6

Background

Civilisation 6 is one of games I have had the most fun playing this year largely due to how this game harkens back to previous version of Civilisation, with its loading screen reminding me of Civilisation 4 (my first knowing attempt at the game). To the more cartoonish design from Civilisation Revolution, all this culminates in a more in-depth strategy game and one that Civil fans benefits from it.

Story

In Civilisation 6 there is no real campaign mode. Instead you pick a civilisation with certain buffs and unique units in which you then choose different ways to in win the game. For example, you could play Brazil and focus on building all the monuments and winning a culture victory; perhaps you want a science victory meaning you would win the space races. You can even play as the aggressive and war-like India, leading to a completely nuclear devastation of the world. As such the game does not have traditional story in that sense, but the game allows for you to create your own narrative each time you play.

Mechanics

There have been a number of changes to the Civilisation formula over the years but Civilisation 6 must have been an entry in the franchise with the greatest of amount of changes under the hood. As there is a myriad of changes, such as Casus Belli being needed to legitimise war, the various city developments, even the formations of units are entirely different. Wereas Civilisation 5 felt it borrowed heavily from Civilisation 4, this does not to seem to be the case. A key example can be found in how cities are developed. In Civilisation 5 you would build certain improvements that would give you certain resources that would buff or allow you develop certain units. In Civilisation 6 instead, you would have to think ahead about how you develop, not just your empire, but your individual cities. For example, you may have a city that is on the border to a rival empire so you would have to make it a massive military keystone, and as such you would develop encampments to help defend your city. However, you would need to ensure trade is following through and so you would need to build trades, and a city that is next to several important resources would prioritise commercial and entertainment centres. Leading to harbours, more encampments, more wonders, more defense etc. There is natural progress and response to how the situation responds, however my biggest critique of the game is how anti-war the game can be, but how aggressive the barbarian and AI can be. Perhaps this is due the fact that many of my AI had agendas (certain traits that dictate the AI’s response) that were focused on war, but I even tested this on a lower setting and still found myself unknowingly overwhelmed by how aggressive the AI was and had to fight many a bloody battle to push them back. Nevertheless, upon winning this war I was constantly denounced and constantly ashamed. Perhaps this a known choice stopping people from just focusing on a military victory, which was a common concern among players in Civilisation 5. This makes some sense but would seem odd on my part that I am being considered a massive threat by everyone for fighting a defensive war.

Sound Design

I will say that the sound design in this game is amazing, this mostly comes from the amazing soundtrack that Geoff Knorr does an amazing job with. With the opening being almost as iconic to the Civilisation 4 opening, to the little touches such as the slight changes in the different faction’s music as the ages progress. My personal favourite being the Arabian Atomic era, as it felt drenched in cold war paranoia of an enemy at every turn and the world turning on its axis. This music truly feels fitting for Civilisation 6 and shows how amazing Civilisation 6 is compared to Civilisation 5.

Conclusion

In conclusion, at this current moment in time I can find no major faults with Civilisation 6 and as such I would considered it worth of a ten out of ten. Seeing as the mechanics add great depth to the game, a more challenging approach meaning that you would have different options each time you play the game as one of the many factions. It is truly worth of being on every player’s wish-list.

Score

10 out of 10

 

ONE SENTENCE REVIEW: 'Melt' – JONES

One Sentence Review: ‘Melt’, by JONES


The talented, upcoming singer JONES, brings us the track ‘Melt’, from her forthcoming album ‘New Skin’. With her relaxing, soulful voice hitting the scene, is it for everyone?… 

Josh: “Dreamy.”

Halina: “Good song, good beat, quite catchy, but sounds very over used and done before.”

Molly: “The intro go my attention, the chorus lost it.”

Maddalena: “Chill sound, nice song.”

Elliot: “Happy but repetitive.”

James: “I expected it to go somewhere, but it did not.”

Megan: A nice song to listen to when your relaxing. Sounds positive and a lovely voice.”

Gemma: “A nice relaxing song while cleaning your room on a calm afternoon.”

Georgia: “Silky smooth vocals that could ‘melt’ in your mouth.”

Laura: “My new dreamy hungover tune.”

Leah: “Ethereal vibes, easy listening.”

Haroun: “Very chill, good for calming down for after a long day.”

Kate: “At first I feel like I should be walking on clouds and dancing on sunshine, and then get bored.”

Check out the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tx7pbLLhYoc


GAME REVIEW: SHU

Background

SHU is something I was not expected this year, a platform from an indie development team that interest me a great deal. With it being the newest game to be developed by Coastsink, it is something that I believe all gamers should at some point enjoy as its unique art style along with a different approach to level design is something I had a great deal of fun with.

Story

SHU’s story is something that has seen with many platforms in that there is a “great evil” coming and the main playable character must go forth into the vast world of SHU and prepare. However, this “great evil” comes in the form of the “Storm” which is constantly harassing you, and on more than one occasion made me drop my controller in sheer panic of his huge appearance corrupting the colours and filling the screen with sheer despiser. However, perhaps it greatest feature is on the different characters you encounter along the way who help you deal with the myriad of puzzle you may face in a given level.

Mechanics

Leading on from my pervious paragraph about the idea of there being numerous puzzle you must face, and you deal with them by having different characters help you. This is something that in most video games of this style would be attribute power ups or merely just being one shot wonders. Instead SHU’s approach is to teach how each of them work and so should you want to speed run the game, you understand exactly how they all act, and when this does happen it is something of beauty in terms of how smoothly you can progress through the game.

The last major mechanic I feel that needs to be mentioned is the importance of time, as the game gives you a limited amount of lives and it makes you focus on being quick and agile more so than anything else. As such you are given a limited amount of time but is increased should you meet certain checkpoints within the map.

Sound Design

The sound design for SHU is one that focus on and achieves matching the style and tone of the backdrop that much of the game takes place in. It suits the game extremely well to the point it would feel almost naturally until the “Storm” occurs, in which it proceeds to just full wreck everything causing a huge change in the musical tone and sounds occurring on the level.

Conclusion

In conclusion SHU, is an enjoyable game that any fan of platform should buy as there is no major changes or faults with the game but it still remains fun. I would give it a 7 out of ten, as its aim is to polish and improve on certain mechanics that have been used in the parts and succeeds at doing it in an effective standard.

Score

7 out of 10

 

QUARTERLIGHTS: LIVE ACOUSTIC SESSION

QUARTERLIGHTS


Quarterlights, the rock/pop band, who formed at Royal Holloway back in 2013, recently released their EP ‘The Real Life’. The band consists of Ollie Clark  (Vocals, Piano, Saxophone, Violin), Tom Molloy (Lead Guitar), Andrew Skipper  (Bass Guitar) and Luke Beasley  (Drums). 

They came to the studio for a chat and live, acoustic session – follow the link to listen to the show (in two parts)…

PART I

PART II


Interview conducted by: Isobel Sheeran and Halina Hayre

‘The Real Life’:

Itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-real-life-ep/id1155073513

Spotify – spotify:artist:3S4hlPFZxiNsOA1QOQVnsJ

 

GAME REVIEW: Mount and Blade Wardband Console Release

Background

Mount & Blade: Warband, was the second entry and the most popular in the Mount and Blade franchise. As it improved upon the previous version by the addition of multiplayer, the ability to carve out your own kingdom and just being a tad bit more graphically pleasing to the eye. However, the PlayStation 4 for the game is the very first time the game has been ported to the council and as such I was overjoyed to see that the game that I had sunk over one hundred and ninety hours into was as brutal and hard as I remembered it to be.

Story

In Mount & Blade: Warband, there really isn’t a ‘story’. However, the game is a true sandbox in the sense that you could play as a merchant for twenty hours or you could be a pillaging bandit lord that goes after rival merchants. You could even dream of becoming king (or queen) of the entire game world. The option is left entirely up to you. In the twenty hours I spent with the game I was able to raise a small band and start hunting bandits, only to become the hunted and end up being captured, freeing my old party and pledging myself to a lord as a mercenary. This true sandbox feeling is something that many games that I know of have tried and failed at doing but Mount & Blade: Warband succeeds in doing not only on the PC but also on the console port.

Mechanics

Perhaps my greatest concern prior to receiving the review copy was how well the port would be, as Mount & Blade: Warband had generally considered to be one of those games that controllers could never truly succeed in doing. However, when I finally got my hands on the port I was able to put my worries to rest as the melee combat style of being a mix of skill, timing, and luck still is in play and switching between weapons is actually easier on a PlayStation 4 controller than on a mouse. The transition felt natural and fluid. Furthermore, battles are much smaller affairs compared to the PC versions of the game which can been numbered in the hundreds on both sides.  Other than this, the port of the game has no major changes to the PC various of the game and such it would seem rather unneeded to go in depth of the various mechanics. As such I will simply state that the console port in terms of combat, questing, and diplomacy is on the level to the PC port. However, I am rather disappointed there are no ways to mod the game including many of the mods that are on offer on the PC versions of the game.

Sound Design

The sound design still has the medieval style combat and music that, although not rather that noteworthy as separate entities, they truly come into their own when combined together in the grand melee of combat that can occur in Mount & Blade: Warband. Again, I would like to state there is no noteworthy difference between the console and PC port in this regards and that the console port is on par with the PC in this level. However, due the lack of option to change music is something I miss as I would always like to change the music to make the game unique to myself.

Conclusion

In conclusion the game succeeded in being a smooth and amazing port for a game that had never been ported before by a company (to the best of my knowledge). However I would give this game a 8 out of 10 due to the technical limitations stopping it from being a true port of the game.

Score

8 out of 10

 

THE HUNNA: New Album '100'

THE HUNNA


 The Hunna four-piece indie-rock band from Hertfordshire, UK – established themselves on the scene when their debut single ‘Bonfire’ was released back in October 2015. Now, their debut album, ‘100’, has hit the charts running, with incredible support from BBC Radio 1. With sold-out London shows, Festival appearances, and their biggest tour so far in the UK hitting off to an astounding start – we managed to grab some time with the lead guitarist Dan Dorney.

Insanity Radio: Is it OK if I call you Dan?

Dan Dorney: Absolutely, or BD100, whatsup?

Insanity Radio: I have an interesting fact for you!

Dan Dorney: OK.

Insanity Radio: ‘Huna’ is an actual word in punjabi!

Dan Dorney: Is it really?

Insanity Radio: Yeah! And it’s a tag question,  meaning ‘isn’t it?’

Dan Dorney: Ah cool!

Insanity Radio: Because when I first heard it, when I was doing my research about you guys, I thought, are they an Indian rock band? I was so confused. Where does the name come from? It’s quite original, very unique and I’m sure it’s so memorable. 

Dan Dorney: Yeah, well funnily enough it actually came from what you just said. We have like a hip-hop background, we’re very diverse in our music, we all like different types of genres in music, and within hip-hop music, there weren’t ‘Hunnas’ used a lot, it means, you know, give 100% into something. Before we released, we spent two years writing and recording a few hundred songs and given it everything we got, and it just kinda sits with The Hunna, like we’ve given 100% in what we’re doing. Then we put ‘The’ in front of it, and we came up with it. But funnily enough, we actually come up with it in Tesco, somewhere in Bath, we were all hungover walking around, and we were like, ‘we should be called The Hunna man!’ – and we were like, ‘yeah, lets do that, lets do that’. And, we did.

Insanity Radio: It’s a really nice message, that you all have given 100%, like that’s a nice message to send to the fans.

Dan Dorney: Yeah definitely!

Insanity Radio: How close are you to the other band members, are you like brothers, best friends, what are your relationships?

Dan Dorney: Honestly, we are literally brothers from other mothers. I’ve known Jermaine since Year 2 at school, I remember finding him on the playground and saying ‘Can I play with you?’, and he let me play with him, and I’ve known him since then. Ryan, I’ve known since college, the age of 16 – that’s when we decided to start this band. I’ve known Jack since I was 18, I’m 24 now – we’re all 24. So yeah, we’ve known each other for a really long time, like, we would always hang out with each other, got to do band stuff together, like recording, doing whatever really.

Insanity Radio: So you’ve almost grown up together?

Dan Dorney: Yeah, we have, honestly we have, it’s cool because we’re experiencing everything for the first time together. It’s really cool, and we all come from the same town and we all know each other in and out – it’s really good, because, whenever it gets tough, we have each other to rely on, and it’s really really good, it’s amazing.

Insanity Radio: So speaking about likes and interest, do you all like the same things, are you into the same kind of music, because when you’re writing and making music, are you into the same things, or do you have different tastes?

Dan Dorney: We’re all different, but we’re all the same, it’s really hard to explain – we’re all very diverse, like I said, we all have – like, Jack is the hip-hop King, I love my rock’n’roll, but we all do, we all like different genres, but it’s cool because we all bring new music to each other, we always check it out.

Insanity Radio: It’s good that you’ve all got individual tastes, and you all bring it together. So what has been the most memorable moment, as a band, together?

Dan Dorney: It’s going to have to be the Electric Ball-room. The Electric Ballroom was our first sold-out show in London. With the capacity of like 1200 I believe, and our next big show in London will be Kentish Town Forum – we’ve sold three-quarters of the tickets, so we only have a quarter left! That’s definitely the best memory for us.

Insanity Radio: I bet you’re excited for that London show then?

Dan Dorney: Oh, so excited – it’s like a dream come true honestly – I’ve worked so hard, so finally for it to happen in reality is amazing.

Insanity Radio: So speaking about sold-out shows, where do you see yourself in 10 years time? – Do you want to sell out the O2, is that the big dream?

Dan Dorney: That’s exactly what we want to do, in all honesty we want to be one of the biggest bands in the world if we can be. We always like, we want to inspire like we’ve been inspired. We want to inspire generations, inspire people to pick up the guitar, go on the drums, play the bass, sing. And just inspire generations ahead of us, and keep playing music, and keep writing, and keep having a good time, and enjoy it.

Insanity Radio: When you were younger, who was your inspiration? Who was your favourite musician/band?

Dan Dorney: Personally, my dad kind of educated me on the Rock N’ Roll. He presented to me like ACDC, Guns N’ Roses, all the massive, commercial, amazing rock bands. I used to really want to be in a massive rock band like ACDC or something like that. But we’re all inspired in different ways, I know Ryan has been educated when he was young by lots of soul music, like soul singing – his dad loves soul and blues. And Jack, like Queen, and Jermaine is the same as me, but Jermaine went to the same school as me like I said, we grew up listening to music together; like he would bring Nirvana, and I’d bring Radiohead or something like that, we were always bouncing off each other – that’s what we’re still kind of doing now, keep bringing new music along – it’s amazing, really cool.

Insanity Radio: If you weren’t in a band, what would you be doing?

Dan Dorney: Trying to make it in a band! We’ve always, me and Ryan especially, and especially the other guys as well individually but, we always wanted to be doing exactly what we’re doing. I left college at the age of 18 with Ryan, and we commited to doing something like this, and we tried everything we could possibly think of, like bar work, construction, sales. We were those guys you call up and ask ‘do you need a reclaim or PPI’ – you know, we’ve been there done that. We’d probably work in like, any job really.

Insanity Radio: What would you say was the nicest job you’ve had and what’s the worse job you’ve had?

Dan Dorney: Ohh- There’s definitely been two of them…like, we worked in construction, it wasn’t a nice job, it wasn’t easy, but the people we worked with were incredible people, and they taught us a lot of values and other good things. Also the sales job. It’s really cool cause — you take elements of how people are running their business and how people treat other people and you know you take it onboard, you know, sort of things we’re doing in music and they’ve really influenced us, and taught us a lot. But it has to be either the construction or sales to be honest.

Insanity Radio: I’ve never worked in construction so I haven’t got an opinion there. What would be the last thing you would do going on stage?

Dan Dorney: Ah, well I’m sure, we always put our hands in the middle and then we all like, syc ourselves up, and we all go like, ‘We’re The Hunna’, and we get ready, try get pumped up, do our stretches. Jack’s like our yoga teacher as well, — and he’ll be doing his stretches, and we’ll make fun of him — we’ll get ready, get hyped up — and then get on the stage and kill it. Haha –

Insanity Radio: You are all pretty close, what would you say was the most interesting thing that you’ve done together, apart from the band, like have you been on holiday together…?

Dan Dorney: Oh, we’ve done a lot together besides the band, I mean, we’ve had many holidays, I remember we all went to Ibiza, that was mad, that was really fun, that was good times, a bit of Pacha hotel, bit of Spades. What else have we done?…played football together, you know. There have been countless times, where we’ve done other stuff, and it has been absolutely mad. Just can’t put your finger on one.

Insanity Radio: Ok, so chatting a bit more about your up coming music, your album, things like that. So you’ve released your debut single ‘Bonfire’ last year in October 2016. So what’s next?

Dan Dorney: What’s next? Our albums out on the 26th of August, its called ‘100’. It contains 16 tracks, and 5 of the tracks are bonus tracks, but we’ve decided to call them ‘Plus One Hunna Tracks’ – just to be different, have a bit of fun with it. And there’s a lot of bangers on that album. Funnily enough, we all went yesterday to have an album signing, where the CD’s are made, and the Vinyls are made, and we took some with us, and on the drive back, through Stevenage, to Hertfordshire, Watford, we got on the album and it absolutely blew us away, we were really happy and impressed with how it sounds. So big singles coming out, it’s gonna be new tracks that you haven’t heard, like ‘Alive’, ‘Never Enough’, ‘Bad For You’ – we got a lot of big bangers on that album.

Insanity Radio: So everyone listening to this, watch out for The Hunna and their new album coming out on the 26th of August. They’ve got a lot of new tracks, something for everyone on their album. So are you all from Hertfordshire?

Dan Dorney: Yep, we are all from Hertfordshire, in a little town called Watford.

Insanity Radio: Watford?

Dan Dorney: Yeah! Watford, yeah!

Insanity Radio: That’s not very little, I mean, I’m from Birmingham –

Dan Dorney: Birmingham’s a lot bigger than Watford, no? Haha-

Insanity Radio: Well when I say I’m from Birmingham, I’m from a place called Warsall, and it’s like a village outside. What’s Watford like growing up?

Dan Dorney: Watford, you know, it’s actually pretty cool, you’re only like, a 20 minute train away from London, you know, and that, it’s so great to get in and out, like without have the hustle and bustle all the time. It’s really cool, like, you know, it’s up and coming as well, there’s been a lot of money being put into Watford right now, it’s on its way up. But, you know, we always spent our time in the Harlequinn, always shopping, and everyones really cool there, it’s a really cool place to be. And it’s near London! – Haha

Insanity Radio: So would you say London is like your favourite place in the UK?

Dan Dorney: Yeah, I have to say, we do like a bit of London, especially now we’re older, we try and go in there as much as we can. Like we said, it’s only like a 20 minute train journey.

Insanity Radio: What would you say is your favourite part of London? Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Camden?…

Dan Dorney: We like to spend a lot of time in Camden, Camden is really fun. Like all the stalls, you know, you’ve got big bars, good places to eat. But we go everywhere. There are still so many places in London we need to explore and know, better than we do now.

Insanity Radio: Have you met Lana Del Ray?

Dan Dorney:Unfortunately not no, we’ve heard some stories, from people in the studios writing with Lana Del Ray, and obviously, Tim’s an amazing guy, we’ve given him a squad name, we call him Uncle Tim. He is like an uncle to us, literally, he is incredible. We wrote loads of songs and then we put them to Tim, and then he taught us loads of different techniques and how to write in different ways and loads of stuff we didn’t know, then he went through our music with us, and we worked on some other tracks and made them, improved them, make them a bit better. And like, he’s really good, and he has become a really close friend to us, just incredible.

Insanity Radio: Is he like a mentor then?

Dan Dorney: Yeah, he is honestly like, he is the man, he knows. He is honestly the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, he is so down to earth. And funnily enough, he’s got a little baby on the way at the moment and we can’t wait! A little Hunna baby! Haha-

Insanity Radio: Who would you say was the one person, who set of people, who you can say, ‘yes, they assisted us from the start, they’ve helped us, we are where we are today because of them’ – who would they be?

Dan Dorney: Yeah well, we are where we are today, like from the work we put in. You know, it didn’t happen over night, like I said, we spent so many years preparing and writing, and getting ready for what we’re trying to accomplish now, and what we are accomplishing actually. And, you know, people who are surrounding us, we surround ourselves with good people, and our record label, an independent label, they’re not a major label, they’ve brought so much to the table and like, it’s like a family, honestly, the label, the people we’re working with, what we’re doing, its still really strong, and we couldn’t be happier with the people we are surrounded by.

Insanity Radio: So do you have anything you want to say to your fans or to anyone listening to Insanity Radio – a little message?

Dan Dorney: OK, One Hunna, thank you for listening, appreciate it, and go check out our album, it’s going to be out on the 26th of August, which is days away, it’s going to be an awesome album, hopefully album of the year, go check it out and spread the word – OneHunna.


Interview conducted by Halina Hayre

Written up by Isobel Sheeran

Please do check out the audio of the interview here: https://www.mixcloud.com/IsobelSheeran/18082016-insanity-radio-1032fm-an-interview-with-daniel-dorney-bd-100/

The Hunna:

Twitter: @THEHUNNABAND
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3U1k6n2HLZ2BlMoAXhNsEA

 

GAME REVIEW: Deus X Mankind Divided

Background

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the latest entry in over a decade long series dealing with themes of trans-humanism, conspiracy, and snarky one-lining protagonists. Mankind Divided’s aim in the game is to show the slow fall of the golden age that started in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the start of the dark age to come in the form of the original Deus Ex. This is heavily implied in seeing Adam Jensen descend to the Earth in way similar to Icarus losing his week in the age old Greek myth. However, the game plays very similar to the Deus ex: Human Revolution and despite there being very little change in the mechanics shown in the previous iteration, it still tells a compelling story that somewhat ends abruptly and rather frankly sequel baits to extreme levels.

Story

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided takes place two years after the events of the original series. It shows Adam Jensen trying to get closer to understanding the greater conspiracy at hand as well dealing with the segregation that has occurred with mechanically augmented individuals. The allegories which are common in the Deus Ex franchise always feel relevant for the time. These themes could easily be applied to either the racial Apartheid that occurred in South African or even to the stigmata that is applied to Muslims in certain countries in the global north. Regardless, the story always has you question your loyalty and to whom you should be trusting in the game and this makes for a great Deus Ex experience.

Mechanics

The part that somewhat drags down Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is in the form of the limited new game mechanics that are implemented. As the game somewhat leans on the pervious iteration of the game rather too heavily, and even through there are new and rather awesome mechanical augmentations, it does not change the game that much. Instead, the game is able to polish issues that occurred with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and as such this is worthy of praise, as even the different bosses can be dealt with in various ways. This was a major complement in the Human Revolution iteration.

Sound Design

If the Human Revolution took its sound design inspiration from the Ghost in the Shell and the original Deus Ex was from the Matrix, the current sound design is from Akira, with a grimmer and darker appeal, but not one that has transitioned totally to the techno style of Deus Ex. Its music queues and notes make it appear as though the game suggests that there is no hope and that the fate that occurs in Deus Ex is a given and cannot be stopped despite the best efforts of Adam Jensen.  However, Mankind Divided still lacks a certain core theme that both Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Human Revolution had. As Deus Ex: Human Revolution had Icarus, wereas the original Deus Ex had its iconic main theme. To my memory I cannot think of a certain track that feels iconic to this entry in the franchise.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the game succeeds in polishing and fixing the errors that had occurred with the pervious entry in the franchise and as such it should be remembered as an intermedium entry in the series linking the events of Human Revolution and the original Deus Ex. However, its story and themes give it a certain level of staying power which is why I would give this game a 7 (seven) out of 10 (ten). The game somewhat feels that it was cut short ; yet somehow implies that Adam Jensen plays a critical role in the fall of the illuminati and the rise of Majestic – 12 (the main antagonists as of Deus Ex).

Score

7 out of 10

Hearts of Iron IV screenshot
Hearts of Iron IV screenshot

Game Review: Hearts of Iron IV

Background

Hearts of Iron IV is the fourth entry in the Hearts of Iron series from Paradox Interactive, the developers behind Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings and Stellaris. The year is 1945, on September 1st the old world is under the control of the resurgent Neo-Ottoman Empire. The old imperial powers of Britain, France and their allies have been pushed to the bottom of the African continent. The Americans are fearful of involving themselves due to a nuclear bomb having been detonated on New York, Washington DC and Boston: the prelude to the invasion of the Turkish Island hopping campaign. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany have collapsed along with all major resistance in Europe. Today is only the start of the new empire of sons of Otto. This sums up my first 15 hours of my third campaign of this truly wondrous game: a game that lets you think and plan as a military planner would need to.

Story

The backdrop of the game takes place in either 1936 or in 1939. In 1936, you can push your nation state in certain ways that in 1939 would be impractical to do. This could be factors such as improving infrastructure, researching certain technologies and planning ahead of time. As such, for those more interested in the grand planning, it would be best to play in the 1936 era as you could look at your nation state and research how to progress in a way that would suit your playstyle. For those more interested in the grand conquests then picking a powerful nation in 1939 could be more of what you are looking for.

Mechanics

The mechanics feel at times like a more polished Europa style but at the same time feels like the game is trying to be overly complex. What the game aims to be is to as close to reality as possible but still be enjoyable as a game, a feature reflected in the game’s mechanics in many ways. For example, the game makes sure that you understand the importance of ensuring your forces are supplied with fuel, replacements and other logistic equipment – if you lack in some of these areas your troops could be hindered or beaten even if you outnumber and outclass the enemy. However, my biggest annoyance is how hard and tedious it can be to launch sea and air invasions. If you were to attack the United Kingdom, for example, you would need to have 75% control of the air as well almost complete control of all the parts of the sea you would need to send your troops. If you compare this to a game like Europa Universal IV, if you were to launch a sea invasion you would only need to put the troops on a transporter and send ships to defend it, however, in Hearts of Iron, you need to defend sections of sea and put yourself at risk to a massive sea invasion. I can understand the need to have this but with my experience with Stellaris and Europa it seems really weird in compassion.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Hearts of Iron IV is amazing if you are willing to have the patience for it and attempt to enjoy the game. The game is at its best when you can either become a massive superpower as a minor and weak nation, or when you finally defeat a nemesis that has long since been needing a good conquering.

Score

8 out of 10

MCM Comic Con May 2016

London MCM Comic Con, hosted in May 2016, was a smash hit event that wowed all those who attended. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and, if you can, you should attend the next Comic Con in October.

The cosplayers that were on show were amazing, showing the skill and grace that goes into recreating characters. It was amazing to see so many people in such amazing cosplay and I was impressed by the sheer variety of series that characters were taken from, such as One Punch Man, Beserk, Dragon Ball Z, Psycho Pass and Jo Jo Bizarre Adventure. When I was attending the various meets you could almost see characters being recreated detail by detail and showing that the skills required to cosplay, something that is often overlooked.

Another great part of the convention worth mentioning is that crowd management has greatly improved in effectiveness. Myself and my colleagues were able to see all the amazing items on sale without getting boxed in and lost as has happened in the past. Furthermore, upon speaking too others who were attending the event they, on pretty much every day there was a reduction in the amount of time it took to get inside the event, even on the Saturday which is seen as the busiest day of the event.

Furthermore, the variety of stalls on offer was something I thoroughly enjoyed. To have the ability to play the many games on offer (including Overwatch, Battleborn, Attack on Titan and Odin Sphere Leifthrasir to name a few) and then be able to go somewhere to relax, such as to the outside area, was great. This is even better when you consider how vast and different the cosplayers were and their many meets gave you the opportunity to see groups of people appreciating and enjoying their fandoms.

Moreover, what was enjoyable at MCM Comic Con May 2016 was that there is a variety of guest that appeared. These included John Noble (Elementary); Jeremy Shada (Adventure Time); Josef Altin, Hannah Waddingham and Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Game of Thrones); Lotte Verbeek (Agent Carter); and Willa Holland and Katrina Law (Arrow). With the privilege of gaining a press pass to the weekend, I was able to see the various guests and I cannot stress how amazing it was to meet them in the roundtable interviews, recordings of which you can enjoy below! These especially provide a greater understanding of how the individuals act and how they come to understand the characters they play.

With such a large number of people there was inevitably a significant amount of rubbish left at the end of each day. However, this was partly due to the restricted space due to security measures that meant that only those who had tickets were allowed entry and a minor issue that can easily be resolved in time for the next convention.

This event is something that anyone who likes comic books, video games, anime or just having a good time should attend. I had an astounding time at this year’s May MCM Comic Con and am looking forward to the next one!

Check back here for links to interviews from the event!

TRANSVIOLET: "Seeing the World Not As It Is, But How It Could Be"

Among a wave of young artists writing songs which not only represent entertainment, but also a defiant statement that their generation is as aspirational and determined as any other previously, US electropop quartet Transviolet stand out not only for their brilliant music but also the message behind it. Sarah McTaggart (vocals), Judah McCarthy (guitar), Michael Panek (bass) and Jon Garcia (drums) were in the midst of their first headline tour of the UK when Insanity Radio caught up with them. At the Boston Music Rooms in London, we met to talk about their music, “millenials”, and their plans for the summer festival season and beyond.

Insanity Radio: How has your tour been going so far?

Sarah: Amazing! It’s our first headline run in the UK, so we didn’t know what to expect, but a lot of the kids we met on the Twenty One Pilots tour have been coming to these shows and it’s been fun.

Insanity: So far, what have you found are the main differences between touring in America and here in Europe and the UK?

Sarah: You guys have a lot of stairs.

Mike: The drives are much shorter.

Judah: Yeah, it’s easier to get from venue to venue. Also, most venues and clubs here allow younger kids in, which we’re very appreciative of as a large number of our fans are younger. We prefer having younger kids in the room ‘cause they’re crazier, louder and get the older cool kids to get into it too.

Insanity: How have you found the difference between playing as a support, as with Twenty One Pilots, and stepping up to play your own headline shows?

Sarah: I think as a support act, the people there are usually there for the headliner, which is great ‘cause you’re making new fans, but the pro of being a headliner is that the crowd are there for you and are singing your songs back to you.

Judah: When the people in the room are singing at the same volume as the music coming from the stage, that’s awesome.

Insanity: You’ve got a four-track EP out right now, what is your favourite song on it to perform live?

Sarah, Jon and Judah together: “Night Vision”.

Mike: For me, “Bloodstream”’s pretty fun.

Judah: Yeah, we’ve been opening our set with “Bloodstream” and it’s a cool dark, heavy way to start the set.

Sarah: And we’ve added a new intro to it, which is pretty awesome.

Insanity: Nice! So when you write songs, do you think about how you’re going to play them live?

 Mike: I hadn’t, but now I’m starting to.

Judah: On our record, and with all the songs we’ve written, I record as much guitar as possible so it’s impossible to play live.

Sarah: There are normally about seven layers.

Judah: I can’t recreate it, so I have to write something new to play live!

Insanity: When you’re writing songs, do you tend to start with one musical idea, or a lyric; how does your songwriting process work, in effect?

Sarah: I think it’s different every time, sometimes I’ll come in with vocals over piano chords, ask the guys what they think about it and start adding things. But sometimes it’s the opposite, one of the guys, who all produce now, will come in with a track and ask what we think about it, so then I start writing vocals over that. It’s different every time.

Insanity: The lyrics to Girls Your Age” struck me as very emotional and interesting, did that come from a personal story?

Sarah: Definitely, it’s my personal coming of age story, talking about the first time I was in love, or thought I was. It’s about being young and a bit naïve, and being in love with somebody older, and looking back trying to understand those feelings now that I’m older. It’s kind of a cliché, the younger girl falls for the older guy and she’s manipulated, but I don’t know if I was manipulated or who was manipulating whom. I couldn’t work out fully what the story was, so I wrote the song to try and figure it out myself.

Insanity: The other standout song on the EP is “New Bohemia”. It’s a very positive way of presenting young people which is rare in the media, was that a conscious decision?

Sarah: Yeah, I was looking for a way to describe our generation as I saw it, because there is a stigma about our generation that everybody’s entitled and lazy, and we have no game plan for the future, but I don’t think that’s the case – I think there are a lot of young people who are intelligent and resourceful and want to change the world for the better.

Insanity: British media right now seems to have an obsession with the term “millenials”…

Sarah: Yeah it’s the same in the States. It has a really negative connotation attached to it. I feel like we’ve been handed a timebomb, told to suck it up and stopped whining.

Insanity: What’s cool about “New Bohemia” is that it expresses that everybody is individual, in contrast to the idea of “millenials” putting a blanket term on people with real differences.

Sarah: It labels everyone in the same way, as if we’re all just sitting here chanting Drake lyrics and drinking or something. Not all millenials are the same.

Insanity: In summer you’re coming back for Reading & Leeds Festivals, have you done any big festivals in Europe before?

Jon: We just played our first festival, but we didn’t know it was going to be a festival.

Judah: Until we got there we had no idea what it was!

Sarah: When we got there it was fun. It was called “Les Nuits”.

Judah: (Struggling with French pronunciation). It was “The Nights”, anyway, in… French? Anyway, it was awesome, a great country to play in.

Insanity: Do you know much about Reading & Leeds, or the lineup?

Judah: We’ve been asking around since we got here.

Sarah: Everyone tells us to wear shoes we don’t mind getting messed up.

Judah: We’re playing quite a few festivals this summer, and I don’t want to know too much about the lineup ahead of time ‘cause at any festival we do play, there’s so many bands that we want to see but there’s no time. You show up, play your set, do promo and press and then you leave.

Jon: I know we’re playing the same day as Red Hot Chili Peppers so I’m looking forward to that.

Sarah: Isn’t Die Antwoord playing? I want to see them if there’s any way, they put on quite a show.

Judah: I know the lineup’s incredible, I remember looking through it and thinking “oh my god!”… it’s stacked.

Insanity: Are you planning on putting out any new music before then?

Sarah: Probably not… it’s not up to us, we have music finished and ready to go, we’re ready to put it out when everyone else is.

Judah: We’re sitting on a trigger just waiting for the word.

Insanity: If there were any festival or venue in the world you haven’t played yet that you could, what would you pick?

Mike: Red Rocks is what Judah would say.

Judah: Well that’s a venue, but Glastonbury is the top of my bucket list. We’re also playing Governor’s Ball in the States this year, which is a big one for me. There’s so many…

Sarah: Coachella!

Jon: Coachella would be cool ‘cause it’s so close to all our friends in California; it’s where they all go.

Mike: I know which one I want to play, it’s one in Alabama called Hangout Festival, it’s on the beach and every stage is literally right on the water.

Judah: I’d like to do a tour like Lollapalooza, I know they have one in South America now, and I think they have one in Germany as well. All the festivals!

Insanity: You’ve toured America and you’ve been over here in Europe and the UK, where else in the world would you like to head to next?

Judah: Asia, Japan…

Sarah: I’d like to do Asia because it’s so culturally different to us.

Jon: Australia as well…

Mike: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kuwait… all the good ones!

Judah: Mike’s on tour by himself there! (jokingly) North Korea?

Insanity: So one final question: for someone unfamiliar with Transviolet, how would you sum up what your band represents?

Laura: Seeing the world not how it is, but how it could be.

Judah: Yeah, that’s good.

Mike: That’s the headline.

(Interview conducted by Michael Bird.)

Check out our gig review of Transviolet at the Boston Music Rooms. The band’s self-titled EP is out now.

Total War: Warhammer
Total War: Warhammer

Game Review: Total War: Warhammer

Background

Total War: Warhammer is the biggest and most ambitious game in the Total War franchise from developers Creative Assembly. Instead of focusing on a specific historical era such as Ancient Rome(Rome 1 and 2 Total War) or the 18th century (Empire Total War) it instead focus on adapting the table top game Warhammer Fantasy. Perhaps what the most interesting thing about this attempt is how well Creative Assembly have succeed in this transition away from historical events and on a fantasy approach. What is even more surprising is that Total War: Warhammer has allowed the team to loosen any previous chains of trying to keep the game realistic and instead creating factions that are all unique and separate to each other but draw inspiration from the lore and from various eras and playstyles that have developed over the years. This is something I will go into greater detail in the story element in which I will discuss the setting and the different factions in play.

Story

Total War: Warhammer draws upon the Warhammer fantasy lore which had been going on for about 32 years until its recent controversial reboot. This relates to the game as it is implied to take place in the last era that occurred in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, ‘the end times’: a point where powers of Chaos (the ultimate bad guys) basically reset the universe. What this means in game is that, if you play as Chaos you function much like Attila the Hun in Total War: Attila in which you just burn and raze any settlement you can find. This makes the empire the ultimate ‘good guys’ and dwarfs a natural ally with the Undead focusing more on an internal conflict and being something that functions like a plague. The orcs are also a constant threat and help you learn and develop tactics ready to deal with the eventual arrival of the Chaotic forces. As such you have this interesting mix of units, as the empire (the main human faction) have elements of Empire Total War by having a mix of gunpowder units but also having billmen and later steam tanks to help offset against the heavy cavalry of the Chaotic forces. As such they will often inspire tactics to keep the enemy away from you until your cavalry come in and smash into the enemy. In this game, the Undead faction do not have any morale and as such they will not retreat in a battle, this is however balanced by the fact that they will drop like flies the moment they are flanked meaning often the best tactics is to get close and pin units as you unleash mobs of units to deal damage and break their morale. The other major tactic style is that of the Dwavern faction who are the most fun to play as they have a high defensive stat and it is often best to just dig in at a high point and let the enemy come to you after you have pounded them with several artillery bombardments, significantly weakening their morale and units.

Mechanics

There is one major thing to take away from Total War: Warhammer in terms of mechanics, other than the game having made sure each faction is unique to each other, it is the simplified and easier to manage overlord system. Taking inspiration from Total War: Attila, this game has focused more on allowing you to allocate units and heroes’ skill trees in a way that is far simpler than the methods of Rome 2 or even Attila. It shows that the team at Creative Assembly have really focused on creating a polished game as now I can build units with ease, understand the strengths of them and know how to use them without having to look up a guide on what the negative effects of not employing a witch hunter for example.
The other major mechanic is the way that the team has weaved in the importance of civic peacekeeping and the threat of Chaos and the Undead in a way that seems natural, as instead of having to deal with the one type of unrest you have to deal with several factors. Often this comes in the form of Undead or Chaotic influences who seep into your land twisting and deforming the land and possibly making it hostile for you walk though, added onto the usual high tax rate and other normal effects. For example, what could happen if you let the Undead or Chaos influence get too high you may have a Chaotic rebellion and with it Chaos forces in the middle of your empire.

Sound Design

The sound designers have done an amazing job to ensure that each faction is specific and unique to the audio given to them. The sound design is something I love about this game, although I have yet to find tracks that have made me want to play on my phone as I commute (such as the Duke of Death from Medieval 2 or Warriors Chant from Rome Total War). The grandness of the game is amazingly reflected in the musical themes, through the main menu and making you feel in game that this is a grand, dark fantasy world. Even the smallest things, such as playing as Chaos and choosing you war corndates, reflect this and hearing your allies shouting “skull for the skull throne” or “blood for the blood god” in a glorious choir made me chuckle. Hearing the clashing of sword and steel in combat, the stomps of giants and trolls, and the mounted beasts riding into battle are moments that make you feel that this is a true Total War game. The soundtrack gives you the true feeling of being in (for a lack of better words) a total war, where at any moment the silence could be broken by a volley of demonic cannon fire or an army of spider riding goblins and then hearing the volley land or the spiders clatter across the ground. Sound design has always been a strong suit for Creative Assembly but they have truly outdone themselves, however the lack of iconic music is perhaps the only part I am somewhat disappointed with.

Conclusion

Total War: Warhammer has done an almost impossibly task, creating a believably meaty dark adaption of the Warhammer Fantasy universe. Although its music is fitting it has not created any iconic tracks but this is possibly its only downfall. What I would like and am hopeful for is new expansion packs that add new races such as the elves, the lizardmen or, my personal favourite, the tomb kings. Nevertheless the games currently released give it a solid foundation, which gives me hope for future release from the Total War franchise.

Score

9/10

Game Review: Stellaris

Background

Stellaris is the newest real time strategy game from Paradox Interactive, the same company that have made amazing classics such as Europa Universal and Crusader Kings. Whereas Europa and Crusader kings focused on the earth and the conquest, politics and trade between factions, Stellaris instead takes you on a bizarre and amazing adventure as you build not just a global empire but a empire that spans the length of the galaxy. I will say that the feeling of space is truly immersive but the game suffers from being a bit simpler than other games they have developed.

Story

Like other Paradox Interactive games, there is not so much a linear story but more one you create. At the start of the game you pick your race and its traits, all of which dictate how you react and interact with situations and species. In my first playthrough I played as the ‘Imperium of Man’ with my first leader being Paul Atreides (It was a role play of Warhammer 40k and Dune). As such I started on a desert planet and so I expanded to have a considerable portion of the galaxy with some very fancy and very powerful units able to crush pretty much any faction. However, what is interesting is that at certain points crises can appear – by having a rebellion of AI like Matrix or Dune, or have a quasi Tyranids or Zerg style race invaded and cause all kinds of havoc. What I am interested in is the possibility of new mods being developed as I would like to see a Mass Effect style Mod where instead of having the Tyranids invading instead you have the reapers, perhaps even a full Dune conversion mod.

Mechanics

The mechanics of the game are largely similar to previous Paradox Interactive games but with a different focus. You have three core resources to focus on: energy credits, your basic cash gained by building power plants; minerals for building creation; and influence for political usage. It’s from these resources that you will make trade deals or go to war, since he who controls these resources controls the known universe.

Another feature is the ship combat, in which you build and customise ships to your preference. So for example a you may prefer to build hard hitting slow but powerful battleships but have a nimble Cruiser against certain enemies. Furthermore, you can change and upgrade the weapons in accordance to new technology and development in your resources gathering as in the early game you will often use cheaper easier to mass produce units but with the issue of them causing a major drain on your resource gathering.

Another major feature of Stellaris is that it is an easy to learn, hard to master game, as Stellaris is the simplest of games compared to Europa Universal or Crusader Kings. Perhaps this was a design choice but this make it a clear comparison to Civilisation. The tech tree, the focus on building certain buildings on certain spaces, and the constant political dealings felt more like Civ than any of the other Paradox Interactive games. Perhaps this something that will become less of the case and make Stellaris its own beast over time but at the point of review it somewhat weakness the game as a whole.

The last major feature I will discuss in the technolgy element, the reason I am not going any further is because the game is so vast and deep that it would take at least three pages to attempt to break down. However, my biggest concern for Stellaris is the technology system. In other games, you would have a simple tech tree that would you would need to gain access to certain technology. Instead Stellaris has an odd system where you sort of gamble and guess and pick more in the moment than planning ahead. This does lead to having to pick and choose certain technology over others but this could also mean you could close out certain technology unknowingly. Furthermore, you would not know when this would happen as there is not clear tree but rather a collection of individual choices that don’t work to the games strength.

Sound Design

The sound design, in particular the music for the game, is amazing. The main take away from the sound design for Stellaris is the musical cues, as you have this mixture of music that draws wide inspiration: from Interstellar with the use of organs, to Mass Effect with certain synthesizer usage, even X files seems to get a reference (then again this could be from my interaction and abduction of primitive alien races). This is perhaps one of the biggest strengths for an RTS game like Stellaris as often you are spending hours upon hours building your empire and you want music that helps you forget the minutes as you tick away building that new ship or colonising that new area. As such having such a broad variety of music references helps build that feeling of building a grand space empire, more so than games such as Civilisation. Hearing Battle for Supremacy play as you launch wave after wave in a desperate attempt to hold onto your closest colony or hearing Spatial Lullaby (a track that reminds me of Dune) play while you have a few moments of peace is something that helps build the world of Stellaris and kept me playing for hours at a time.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Stellaris aims to help build a new IP for Paradox Interactive and does an amazing of this, however the flaws with regards to its simplistic design and a rather confusing technology system give it an 8 out of 10.  I would still recommend the game to be played as, although others would compare it to Master of the Orion, Stellaris is its own beast and is something I look forward to keeping an eye on as new updates and developments are made for the game.

Score

8 out of 10