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

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada

Game Review: Battlefleet Gothic: Armada

Background

Warhammer 40k video games have been much like the lore in the franchise: troubled, turbulent but amazingly deep to learn about. Many would argue it was not until the Dawn of War 1 that Warhammer truly showed its full potential, with amazing sound design – a humanising element to the most inhuman members of the Imperium of Man and the Space Marine. This began the Warhammer 40k video game franchise’s great crusade: with the subsequent expansion and sequels to Dawn of War it showed the great lore and gore style of the table top game. However, following the collapse of THQ leading to the franchise’s own Horus Hersey: the rights to Gameswork shop IP were no longer as strictly held by Relic with nearly all manner of games being made. Some were somewhat bad clones of their games, and others give hope to new ideas that can help expand the lore and potential of the franchise. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, I am proud to say, is one of the best games to come out from the Warhammer 40k franchise post-THQ and, given enough time and possibly expansion and squeals, it can perhaps become one of the best games of its type and class. The game focuses on a rather overlooked element of the tabletop games but an important one to the lore: the imperial navy. Furthermore, I have had limited experience with space real time strategy games (RTS), with my main experience being from Homeworld and Star Wars: Empire at War as the market for space RTS is somewhat niche and I have often focused on the land side of RTS games and never really cared for space RTS due to the fact it felt weird and required a different style of thinking. However, from playing Battlefleet Gothic: Armada I have a renewed interest in trying and playing new space RTS games if they are done in a way that is somewhat similar to this game.

Story

The story of the game is one of the most fascinating elements as it takes inspiration from the old Battlefleet boardgame. In the game you take command of Admiral Spire, a newly promoted captain who fights to protect the gothic sector from one of the biggest villains of the Warhammer 40k universe, Abbadon the despoiler, as well as Eldar and Ork pirates. The events of the game take place in the lore in the Gothic Sector during the twelfth black crusade. What the game does well is its usage of painting like cutscenes and dialogue between and during missions, building the feeling of a true Warhammer game – nothing feels truly like a Warhammer game until you hear the Orks screaming ‘WARRGGH’ or the tainted foul legionaries attempting to sway you to chaos. I will not go too into depth on the story as it one that should be experienced in its full way and largely dependent on your skill as an admiral and your ability to think and act flexibly.

Mechanics

This game’s ability to make ships feel as big and weighty as they appear is done amazingly so in the Unreal engine 4. This is further supported by the importance of micro management, in which you have to quickly respond to a situation and focus on a ship at a given time. This is helped by the game making sure you balance your ships with a points allocation system as the higher the class the ship they less you can deploy. However, the issue with this idea is that for relative newcomers it requires a certain learning curve. As past RTS tactics such as turtling in which you hold a portion of the map will not work in this game you have to think differently to how you would assume a land RTS match would work. Nevertheless, the game rarely gives you a ‘game over’ screen, instead adapting to your failings and as such the game becomes harder and harder – due to your inability as an admiral, you are to the blame for the game ramping up which I love. This may detract people but this fits well into the Warhammer universe, of the desperation of imperium of man, of always being at war: in which any battle could be the one that leads to your downfall.

The other main feature of the game is the ship to ship combat, with each race having a certain focus on a certain skill – Eldar ships focusing on speed, Orks focusing on close ranger combat and Imperium of Man and Chaos ships focusing on ranged combat. Each require a different way to approach the game with different tactics. For example, you would want to avoid ramming Ork ships if you’re playing as Chaos but you also want to avoid chancing Eldar ships since they can cut away your defences with speed and swiftness. How this plays out in the game world is that you will often have certain abilities, such as speeding up your ship, launching torpedos or choosing which side to focus your attacks on, which require you to focus on micro management to ensure you able to win the battle using tactical intelligence. Again, this may prove to something of a learning curve to new players but this is rather easy as the main campaign teaches you the basics of ship to ship combat.

The last major mechanic I will discuss is the customisation of the fleets, as each fleet changes depending on how you use it and how you level up. For example, you may want one light cruiser as your scanner and bait with another cruiser being your tank, meaning that you may want to attach torpedoes to disable enemy engines or elements in their ship. Perhaps the only major flaw is that you cannot paint and mod new colours and logos, as with the Dawn of War franchise, and it would be nice to possibly introduce something like this or allow for a mod kit. It would be amazing to see new races being added, such as the Necrons who could be this slow tank style race or the sister of battle whose love of flame based weapons means they could be faster than the average imperial ship but still prefer to close in to combat with flame based weapons. It would be interesting to hear new factions being introduced with future expansions or sequels since it would be a shame to end this brave new step in Warhammer games.

Sound Design

The sound design in the game is something that worthy of being mentioned, even though the music is largely limited. Despite seemingly limited resources, Tindalos Interactive do an amazing job in building the style of score that is fitting for the Warhammer 40k. A mix of choir but dread, sort of classical but with more fear built in. It may not be as memorable as the Dawn of War soundtracks, with industry legends such as Jeremy Soule  and Inon Zur, nevertheless, I have great expectation that with a greater budget the game could create an even greater musical score.

The last major point I would like to discuss is the actual sounds in the game, as the voice work helps build that feeling of Warhammer 40k. Hearing the Ork ship horn bellow as it prepares to ram for you, hearing your ships fire its broadside rounds, and hearing other ships explode helps create a meaty impactful sound which perfectly fits the grim darkness of the Warhammer 40k universe.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada stands as a beacon of light in Warhammer 40k games’ current bleak future: even though Dawn of War 3 was recently announced, we have yet to receive any clear idea what kind of game it will be. Nevertheless, I look forward to future content for Battlefleet Gothic, perhaps the addition of new factions such as the Necrons would be interesting to change the balance and style of the game. Something I would love is finding a way to have space and land battles on a grand scale, perhaps working with Relic to blend Dawn of War 3 land combat with the grand space combat of Battlefleet Gothic. However, the minor but rather telling issues of the game are something that can be improved upon with more experience and as such I look forward to future entries in the Battlefleet Gothic franchise.

Score

8 out of 10

Street Fighter V Character
Street Fighter V Character

Game Review: Street Fighter V (PS4)

Background

Street Fighter is considered by many to be one of the very first ‘proper’ fighting games, in terms of the fact that two people have the ability to fight each other for glory and being considered the best. It seems fitting that the theme of Street Fighter V is the idea of reset. Four of the sixteen characters are new characters (Rashid, Necalli Laura and F.A.N.G.), with another four being characters that have barely been used in the long and deep history of the franchise (R.Mika, Karin, Bridie and Nash). As such, despite being conflicted with the games launch options, I would suggest that if there was ever a time to enter into the Street Fighter franchise it is with Street Fighter V. However, since the game has been designed to be constantly updated and improved I will not give a score at this point in time and perhaps may give one a year later looking retrospectively.

Story

With Street Fighter V, Capcom have decided to release a sort of overview of the characters stories as somewhat barebones and instead the grand story mode is be added at a later stage (around June). As such I am rather conflicted, as the game is impressive in terms of mechanics but the story is more a way of just showing off the new V Trigger or having the new characters introduced. This again goes well with the idea of being a reset and makes me ever hopeful for the grand story mode in June since Street Fighter, in my humble opinion, has perhaps the richest story modes to exist in fighting games. Considering the main premise of most fighting games is to have two characters beat each other up, Street Fighter does this in a way that adds layers of sub-plots. Since you could look at the Ken and Ryu rivalry and argue that is the main plot, or you could look into the Shadaloo who are the guys organising the fighting event or Zangief story line of inspiring the children of Mother Russia. Its the franchise’s ability to link seemingly random events and stories into one cohesive mesh that is one of Street Fighters strongest points. So when the game is being sold for full retail price, I am somewhat disappointed but optimistic that Capcom have promised that June will deliver an in-depth story mode (I say this despite having received a review copy of the game).

Mechanics

Street Fighter has, like many fighting games, always been one of learning the basics in order to master it. Street Fighter V is no different but what they have done is simplified the commands in way that allows new players and veterans of the franchise to understand the game. This is best shown with V Trigger, as this is new mechanic that, if played well, can flip the table on your opponent. For example, Zangief can harden his body to reduce the damage and stagger effect on enemies attacks, allowing you to get closer and use his grappling ability. This mechanic has been balanced with many characters as, although it reduces the damage, Zangief still takes damage and often at a higher rate due to his reduced ability to crawl.

This is the most notable change to Street Fighter format but the game polishes and perfects the other elements involved in the game. Charged or special attacks are done in way that feels fluid and free. The games training mode lets you test out different playstyles quickly and efficiently while the challenger’s mode requires you to use what you learn in training mode against a CPU with ever increasing odds. Capcom’s ability and the work of series veteran Yoshinori Onoto, who worked on Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Street Fight III 3rd Strike, allows for such refinement in the gameplay style of Street Fighter V, perhaps also explaining why some of the characters are drawn from the Alpha series and Street Fighter III.

Sound Design

Street Fighter V, is perhaps the best game in the franchise since Street Fighter 2 in being able to either remix or create new pieces of music that best represent each characters playstyle and personality. The strong, stoic, grappling Russian Zangief has a grand and orchestral theme; American Ken’s playful rock filled style fits with the guitar usage in his theme; and Middle Eastern Rashid’s love of technology and wind based attacks is best shown when the bass drops on his theme and you hear his name. The credit for this amazing job must be given to all the composers involved: Masahiro Aoki, Hideyuki Fukasawa, Keiki Kobayashi, Takatsugu Wakabayashi and Zac Zinger.

In the words of William Shakespeare ‘If music be the food of love, play on’ and with fighting games, perhaps more so that any other genre, every factor matters as often the rounds and matches in the game are done quickly and swiftly. This means that music becomes vital: if the music does not give you the feeling of going for broke or the ability to feel alive then the game would feel dull. It is because of the iconic music that games like this are remembered and Street Fighter V has succeeded in this.

Conclusion

This leads me to my conclusion, which leaves me conflicted as, although the story is missing the core of the Street Fighter franchise formula, the mechanics and sound design are there and do an amazing job. As such I will not give a score at this current moment in time since the game is ready to be scored yet and doing so would be an unfair judgment of the game. This project that Capcom is doing, as Killer Instinct has done, to keep updating, tweaking and improving could prove to be Street Fighter V’s strength. Furthermore, you can unlock new character costumes and potentiality new characters by simply playing the current arcade mode. This could be a better choice of getting new characters instead of the largely unliked methods in the past which was to release new version of the game within the same generation and, with some Capcom games, the same year. As such I look forward to the future of Street Fighter as some of the characters are fan favourites. However, if I had to give one recommendation is to buy the game sooner rather than later so as to unlock the characters at your own speed.

Score

Review in progress

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

Game Review: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen (PC)

Background

Dragon’s Dogma is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated games of the previous generation, as the game attempts to mix elements of Dark Souls, Monster Hunter and The Elder Scrolls into a new IP (intellectual property) from Capcom. The game that I played on the PlayStation 3 so many years ago was a fun and bizarre adventure, with the usage of the pawn system and the ability to climb monsters and strike at weak points. When the chance to play a possibly improved and polished version of this game for PC came, I was more than happy to play the review copy. As such, I can say with joy that this game feels better than the initial PS3 port of the game. The issue of long loading screens and jagged movements has been resolved and improved to the point that it no longer feels like a chore to resolve item management. However, minor issues get annoying after a while – slightly dated graphics and the fact that your pawns still constantly say the most random of things with their non-stop chatter in particular.

Story

The lore of the game is complex but pretty much boils down to one issue: the issue of fate. The game argues that your job as the ‘arisen’ is to take back your heart that was stolen by a dragon – not the Skyrim kind of dragon that dies after a few hits but the Desolation of Smaug kind. This is an event that regularly occurs in the game’s lore so when you eventually meet that big firebreathing lizard (after your first encounter where he literally steals your heart), you are given choices and options. Capcom do an amazing game post-dragon first since they seem to take a large inspiration from the manga Berserk, which similarly deals with issues of fate and giant creatures that need slaying (sadly I think the Berserk armour easter egg has not been ported into the PC port of the game). It is hard to discuss the Dragon’s Dogma lore without going too deep into spoilers and the story is what kept me going: the idea of finding out what was out there, finding new enemies to fight and fearing the day and night cycle.

Mechanics

The mechanics in the game are interesting developments in the RPG (role playing game) genre as a whole, as you have a new and interesting take on the class system in which you can change class rather easily to better suit the pawns and your play style (called vocation in game). For example, if you wanted to play less like a berserker and more into range you can do that. There are also different sub classes that mix two classes into a one, so you could be a mystic knight (a classic paladin) who has the ability to use heavy weapons and armour but with a few spells in your back pocket should you need them. My favourite was having an advance vocation and becoming a warrior with two handed tanks aimed and designed to cut away the most amount of health to large enemies. Plus, playing Forces (a berserk soundtrack) while running around as the warrior class felt snug like a shoe.

The other major mechanic is the beast fighting element in which you are able to climb up on creatures, such as Hydras and Griffons, and attack them while they try to throw you off. This may sound like nothing new, but in the heat of the moment with the music score blaring and your pawns all trying to help with range weapons and your character holding on by the tips of their fingers hoping they don’t get thrown off: it truly is one of the best moment to experience. Something that I think games like The Elder Scrolls Skyrim fail to achieve is the idea of how big and grand an enemy is: in Dragon’s Dogma you feel and fear the presence of these grand creatures whereas in games such as Skyrim you just hit them in the ankle a few times with a heavy weapon and poof they’re dead.

The next major element, which I have mentioned several times already, is the pawn system. This is perhaps one of the most interesting elements of the Dragon’s Dogma systems as a pawn is a NPC (non playable character) that you create early in the game to help be a support role for whatever class you pick. However, you also get two additional pawns from other players if your game is connected online or from the developers if your game is offline. This then allows them to learn about new enemies and dangers as well how to fight them allowing other players to hear advice from the monsters you fought when they return to their owners. This can also work for your pawn as well and sometimes you can receive gifts and items.

The last major mechanic I woud like to mention is the day and night cycle, as often in RPG games the day and night cycle has no major importance to the game. However, in Dragon’s Dogma you get to see why this is a Capcom game when it’s night time as the game becomes less of an Arthurian legend and more like Dark Souls where every kind of ghost, undead or anything that poses a challenge can appear. I remember when I got lost and ended up going to one of the hardest areas in the game due to being lost at night, leading me to having to run away with little more than a cloth on my back and a rusted sword.

Sound Design

The sound design, and most notably the soundtrack, is amazingly well done, as it helps create immersion and the feeling of grandness that the art style of this game shows. A new feature introduced in Dark Arisen, Bitterblack Isle, reflects this as the music becomes darker and more gothic, with each encounter feeling like a boss battle struggle. The final boss music for the Bitterblack Isle is a wondrous and beautiful song that is fitting for the struggle you have to encounter and makes you feel sorry for the final boss (not when he is trying to turn you into a paste).

Conclusion

The only major flaws I can suggest is that the pawn systems seem to be an idea that could be tweaked with a few minor changes. For one, I wish there was an option to stop recycled dialogue from occurring since hearing the same thing over and over again tends to get tiresome. Lastly, it would be an interesting idea to include more multiplayer – it would be interesting to see the different ways players could team up to take down bosses with experienced players giving advice on enemies and locations to newcomers to the franchise. As such I would give this game an 8 out of 10 due to the fact that Capcom have a great job porting this game onto the PC and I look forward to new places to explore and new enemies to fight in future works within this franchise.

Score

8 out of 10

Game Review: Rainbow Six Siege

Disclaimer: this review this game is multiplayer game only as such the features discussed may be changed after the review has been published

Intro

The Rainbow Six franchise has always been, historically speaking, focused on realism, team work and tactical gameplay. As such I am glad to see that Rainbow Six after taking some well-deserved time off has gone back to its roots and possibly rewrote the handbook on teamwork. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege is as meaty and punchy as the gunplay and explosives in this game. However, the issue of being multiplayer only and being sold for a full retail price concerns me. I’d say this in a rather ironic way due to the fact that the game was given to the company I work for as review copy. Nevertheless, if I am to the review the game as whole it is a fun game to play with friends but feels rather boring after a while if played by yourself.

World Building

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege has removed single player to focus on the multiplayer element, which has helped create a fun, impactful and joyful experience. There is nothing as fun as teaming up with five of your friends to help plan and fight the enemy. While I show some concern in relation to its price the game does a good job in presenting a plausible game that feels realistic and gritty, as the guns and explosives feel far more powerful than other games on the market. If the developer’s aim was to make a Call of Duty-like game with simple controls, the team focused requirements of Battlefield and a hint of the realism as in the Arma franchise that they have succeed in doing so.

Gameplay Mechanics

There are several new features that deserve be discussed in this review, the most notable is the new class system. Each of the class are “operators” which give you certain abilities that help you depending on the situation and will likely benefit you in attack or defending. For example, some class carry sledgehammers, which help get through walls with more ease; others let you install a fixed Machine gun or have a bulletproof vest. Each one helps build on the destructibility mechanic of the game, which is helped with the use of team focused tactics. The game also allows you to deal significant damage to the map, which can help give the edge in battle; destroying parts of wall provide you a perfect little hidden nest, or in attack you could remove the wall denying the enemy cover, pushing back the defender. This leads to next major feature, the focus on the “team” aspect of game; you win or lose by how good your team is. This is supported and compounded by the abilities of your chosen class. If, for example, you and your friends all pick attack-focused classes then you will be at a disadvantage when you defend. Furthermore, the game provides some level commands for team strategy but is recommend you use a microphone as it would be more affective when problems arise and a change in tactic is needed.

Sound Design

The soundtrack for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege is nothing special or notable. Although it helps build tension when required it is otherwise quite minimalist. However, the true crowing jewel is the sound design. The sound design is powerful and meaty and helps build the realism of the game, you can really feel a given explosion. If you are close to them can be feel distorting or when you first encounter a thermite drill; it is the scariest thing to happen especially when you have the 2-second silence before all hell breaks loose. You’re spraying and praying that you kill something.

Conclusion

The game is downright fun but best to play with friends. However, it can become stale and boring over a prolonged period and I am rather annoyed the game was solid for full retail price. If the games price could act as almost a season pass if the DLC is substantial and worth then my score of giving this game a 7 out of 10 could likely rise but I am judging this game upon first release.

Score:
7 out of 10

Game Review: Just Cause 3

[Warning, this review may have minor spoilers that occur within the first hour of the game.]

Before I start this review I’ll give you my history of this franchise and of sandbox games as a whole. When Grand Theft Auto 3 and its spin-offs (like Vice City) were released each game helped set the standard for sandbox games. In the original Grand Theft Auto 3 for the first time we had “3D mayhem” (you go take the subway or drive a stolen car; you could shoot everyone you saw on the street only to escalate into being chased by every cop and their grandmother). GTA Vice brought boats and GTA San Andreas brought planes and a deep story. Now you’re wondering why I’m talking about Grand Theft Auto in a Just Cause review or even the history of sandbox games. Here is where I bring to full circle. Just Cause 1 was one of the first games I played, and for its time it was mechanically amazing, you could jump out of a plane parachute and then if you timed it right you could steal a car; only then to jump out and blow up an enemy patrol. Just Cause 2 perfected the average grappling hooking for Just Cause 1 and made into a work of art it perfected everything in Just Cause 1 and improved. Now you in Just Cause 3 you would know if certain buildings (helpful painted in red) can be destroyed in any way that you see fit. Creating such an explosive fireworks display that made me feel like it was bonfire night on steroids while raving to Daurade Sandstorm.

My point is that with each Grand Theft Auto game it added a certain precedent, and the Just Cause franchise polished the mechanics of the genre. Now relating this back to JC3 I’ll make one last comparison, this is to Saints Row. When GTA 4 was released it aimed to create a dark and serious sandbox game when it was on the Xbox 360 generation of hardware.  This was done to make it a very separate affair from the last from Grand Theft Auto San Andreas that was released back on the PlayStation 2. This lead to the first sandbox major split, either Sandbox games would be silly or they’d be serious. Saints Row 3 went the silly route hook, line and sinker. Just Cause 3 (and I proudly say this) has taken the entire fishing boat! It is, at times, one of the silliest, craziest and bombastic games I’ve ever played. I loved every moment of it! It has taken everything from Just Cause 2 from its beautiful polished engine, to improving the grappling hook having been suggested by the community.

Some argue that this is a bad thing, because immersion is lost due to its silliness. I can say at least from my time playing this is not the case. I’d spend hours finding new ways to tare down statutes or destroy bridges or create my own space program with C4, a helicopter, a wing and a prayer. My (somewhat longwinded) point is Just Cause 3 is the kind of game that hasn’t been released in a long time. This is the kind of game that you give your sibling or your old uncle and they’ll do the exactly the same thing: blow stuff up in the craziest and insanely funniest ways possible! This has been Just Cause’s main selling point from Day 1 and I’m glad this game still has one last tango with it.

World Building

For those who have not played a Just Cause game you are missing on out some of the most fun you can have outside the mercenaries’ franchise. In Just Cause you play as Rico Rodriguez a dictator toppling, Antonio Banderas looking, plane jacking badass, who works as “the agency” (alluded to be the CIA) in which his job is remove dictators however he sees fit. By this I mean if it means putting a bomb on a dictator while free falling (just as in JC1) or riding a missile while shooting at another dictator on another missile (as was the case in JC2).  While still being the main character in JC3, this time he works independent of the agency and is largely helping to fight and liberate his homeland. The plot is thin and silly which isn’t a bad thing because we get to spend time with Rico, seeing his view on things, I mean that must count for something seeing as he is a man who has ridden several missiles in his life time I wouldn’t mind that!

Gameplay Mechanics

His trusty grappling hook from the previous games has been powered up letting you hook on to several things at once letting you then tear things apart. Rico’s parachute has also been upgraded and it lets you guide yourself more easily. However, the main new tool is the wingsuit that let you live your own Frank Miller Batman X Spiderman, in which you can grapple yourself to a building, jump off, glide just above the ground while humming that batman theme only to then grapple yourself and fly-kick the poor fool you hit. This is so seamless and so beautiful is like watching a river flow which is even more so helped with its gorgeous graphics. Considering I played on it on the PlayStation 4 , considering the graphics capacity of the console and the fact that its this early in the current generation cycle it is amazing that games can look and play this well.

The other major change is that explosives in the game have changed to act in a more organic and colourful. This is perfectly the case when you use your new Spider/Batman skills to go into an enemy base, plant all the C4 under the sun, only to fly back and watch as the entire base collapses in such a way that the only thing you can think is the old adage “I love it when a plane comes together”, only to see enemy soldiers panic and flee and almost comically try to fight against your Spider/Batman skills. The reason I sound like I’m underselling it is that when you experience your first JC3 explosion you’ll begin to experiment with more and more ways to make as big as a fire explosion. It just needs to be experienced!

Soundtrack

The soundtrack of Just Cause franchise holds a certain place in my heart partially due to the fact that JC1 has an amazing main theme, mixing acoustic guitar to give this rebel-like aspect that feels unique. This is further the case with the JC3 battle and action themes that have a certain guitar feels that feels like shoutout to the “causes” of yesteryear. However, my favourite track feels like an ode to the mile-high club of JC2 which can be found on YouTube as the Just Cause 3 – Electro Beat (Iste Nocte Non Finira).

Conclusion

In summary, if you like James Bond games buy Just Cause 3! If you like Saints Row buy Just Cause 3! If you ever wanted to sky dive out of a jet while then gliding with the grace of a bold eagle about to grab its prey BUY.THIS.GAME. I really had fun with this game, the only main issue that I can found in this game is that the story at time feels weak but despite this I would give this game a solid 8.5 out of 10.  The reason I don’t give it a higher marker is that in the later stages in the game it starts feel repetitive but this is in really later stages, however others may argue otherwise. The game is a blast to play with and is perfect if you just want to tear things up! This is the kind of game I have long long waited for and it was worth it.

Score
8.5 out of 10

GAME REVIEW: Fallout 4

Fallout 4 is a game that deals with various conflicting themes, such as loss of innocence when your child is ripped from your partner’s hands to the beginnings of hope you have as you first emerge from the Vault. This is not new however as other games this year, such as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, have focused on similar issues. Fallout 4 succeeds in its new mechanical improvements such as being able to create new towns, settlements and home bases. Where Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain makes you think of what could have been looking towards the future, Fallout 4 reminds you of what was and forces you back to a future in which you walk once more into the sunset hoping to return home.

World Building

World Building in Fallout series has been a core focus within its post apocalypse landscape keeping the feeling of previous games but set in the mind-set of the 50’s. As the rampant demand for bigger goods, and faster cars occurs (drawing parallels to the 50’s capitalism) this has lead the world into a new dark age. One inhabited by super mutant creates that lumber over you, or to synthetic life forms that are reminiscent of Blade Runner lurking on the question of life and humanity.

In this Fallout game you a survivor of the vault on a personal mission and trying to come to grips of the world that was. Over the course of the game you’re a tourist going from town to town, righting wrongs, with a Client Eastwood approach on life, as in past games. However, where in Fallout New Vegas you could in a tussle over the control of a town; shoot a person’s head off to take their hat and head for the next town (after looting them of course) in Fallout 4 you are instead banding together to survive in the world hoping simply to see the next day.

The key flaw within Bethesda games is not the game world itself but the main quest tends to be a rather dull affair as is the case with The Elder Scroll V: Skyrim, the main quest is more there to provide you an excuse to initially explore but often to be forgotten when you bump into someone who needs you to go in another direction. This is similarly the case for Fallout 4, in which you may be told to head for the main hub city but you may get lost on the way and end up helping some random people who will likely give you a small amount of bottle caps for your time. The journey to the quest can sometimes be more fun than arriving to the destination.

Gameplay Mechanics

In Fallout 4 there are several major changes to the gameplay mechanics and graphics, the first of which is the power armour systems. Instead of having to learn how to wear power armour and then equipping it like any other piece of clothing, as was the case in Fallout 3 and New Vegas you get your first suit of power armour pretty early on; with the only major issue being you need to find a source of power for it. It balances the game in some ways; as power armour is far more powerful in this Fallout than in previous versions. You can however customise and change the suit to how you see fit even painting it different colours if you find the right bucket of paint. The graphics are not the most gorgeous of 2015 but the game still holds firm and considering how slow the loading speed is and how much can be one screen at time. I would willingly trade fancy graphics to better functioning game any day. This leads me to my next point with regards to crafting; as the game has removed the old method of guns breaking down and instead replaced with a mechanic that allows you to take apart old guns and use the spare parts to improve it. For example, you can take the standard issue pistol and make into a silence pistol with a scope. Or turn another pistol into a sub-machine gun early on, however since the game is a based in a wasteland you always have to be careful and conserve ammo as best as you can.

This leads me to my next point with regards to the graphics and changes in animations, were as in Fallout 3 and New Vegas the game was running on a heavily upgraded but ageing graphics systems. Its animations often felt chucky, old and odd as well the graphics not always being the most ‘sophisticated.’ Fallout 4 improves the animation heavily, as with my first encounter with a Deathclaw allowed me to feel for the first time that this creature was based on a Chameleon seeing dash side to side, then seeing it grab you as you made a squeamish yelp. This was the Deathclaw I had always thought was trying to kill me, not the weird teddy bear monsters that looked like they failed to hug me in Fallout 3 and New Vegas whenever they attacked me. On a side note sprinting has finally been added to; which leads me to the next improvement to the game that is V.A.T.S. For those who have never played a Fallout game this is one of the most iconic mechanics of the game and a throwback to the original game and its turn based combat systemof yesteryear. The major improvement to Fallout 4 is that V.A.T.S. does not stop time but rather slows it down. This does not sound like a massive change but when you are being chased by a group of feral ghouls who run like 28 Days Later zombies it means picking a target is all the more difficult but satisfying when it hits.

However, the new changes to games have two major areas that I find myself confused and rather annoyed by. This was the change to dialogue with regards not to the voice actors who do an amazing job but rather by having whatever response simply put as one word or a short sentence. Mod’s have largely been able to put up to fix this issue for PC but as of writing this review Mod’s are not yet on PlayStation 4 or X Box One. This change feels like an attempt to be more of a Mass Effect game and possibly a step to take away the quirky and bizarre nature of Fallout. As I do enjoy the Mass Effect series, I noted that as the game went on the conversation became less and less important.

The other major change I did not enjoy as the change to Perks, as the new system seems to be a weird hybrid of the Skyrim system mixed with Fallout 3 and New Vegas. This being that the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points are the only ones you need to focus on and that instead of say levelling up lockpicking after you reached a certain amount of exp in Fallout 3 or New Vegas. Instead you would pick a certain perk and then just keep ranking it up much like in Far Cry 4. This may seem like minor change, but it in game it feels like a hard choice considering in the old games you would have a set amount of skills you would need to level up. In Fallout 4 you would need to make your sure that S.P.E.C.I.A.L is higher enough and that pour your points into a certain perk to level it up.

Soundtrack

The Soundtracks for the Fallout games as a whole has always been a key factor, if it’s the Metallic Monks helping to create a atmosphere of quietness and loneliness in the original Fallout or the main theme for Fallout New Vegas which gives it a feeling of dealing with things “the old west way” with a bullet to the head. The music in any franchise is important in its ability to convey themes and emotions that words may not, and in Fallout 4 the game succeeds in doing so. Helping to create a feeling of initial loss but then hope best shown with the main theme being a remix of the Fallout 3 theme and using the piano to help convey this.Whereas Fallout 3 felt more militaristic and more of a “picking yourself up after a battle”, Fallout 4 instead makes you want to in taking from the Vault-Tec ‘Prepare for the future.’

Conclusion

In Summary, Fallout 4 is an amazing game and a welcome addition to the franchise. However, what it lacks is the new and brave ideas that help make Fallout 3 and New Vegas those famous hits and iconic titans of gaming. Nevertheless, the games focus on making it simpler and more functional which allows the game to become affective in grabbing new fans into the rich Fallout lore. I now look forward to the expansion packs as Fallout has traditionally had some of the better expansion packs. I would love to go to New York and see it become much like Los Angeles in Fallout 1, a city of bones. Or maybe a return to Washington D.C and maybe bump into some old faces. However, at the time of writing I give this game 8 of 10 as my annoyance comes from the fact this games feels in some weird way a break from old and a new beginning; either being the lack of Ron Pearlman’s iconic voice narrating the introduction. I still though stand by my belief that the game is a welcome addition to the series and perhaps before Fallout 5 we will see Obsidian Entertainment take the reins to give us a cleaner and more polished Fallout as they did with Fallout New Vegas.

Score

8 of 10

MCM WARS: A NEW HYPE

Syed Aadil Ali of Insanity Radio spent the weekend at MCM Comic Con in London and wants to share his pearls of wisdom.

This past weekend, MCM Comic Con happened. For those of you who live under a rock, this is a huge convention where people dress up or ‘cosplay’ as their favourite characters from the comic book world. I had the pleasure to cover this event with three of my favourites: Sharky, Eugene and Alex aka the Melon Men. Thankfully, both Sharky and Eugene helped to take pictures of this amazing event. This event saw 130,000 people come and go over the weekend, which is a huge amount to consider. Now let’s go on to the pros and cons of this event! Continue reading “MCM WARS: A NEW HYPE”