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!

The Division Screenshot
The Division Screenshot

Game Review: The Division

Background

The Division is Ubisoft’s most recent new IP and attempts to be a realistic and serious game about a group of secret agents who are only answerable to the President of the United States of America. Called ‘the division’, they must restore order to the failed city of New York after a virus outbreak. Unfortunately this game has a lot of shortcomings, including a constant disregard for the mob of NPCs you fight and a requirement to grind through side missions to gain a somewhat worthless currency by the middle of the game. There is also the inconvenient requirement to have an Internet connection, even just to simply play the game on your own.

Story

There is a tiny amount of story in The Division, as it attempts to make you relate and somewhat feel sympathetic to the enemies you fight, done through various audio logs you find in game (recordings or hearing enemies talk outside of combat). However, the enemies are generic enough: after more than thirty hours of gameplay you no longer care about their backstories. Some aspects of the story give the impression that the game makes you question right and wrong but the absence of certain features makes it unlikely that this is the case – you can’t kill civilians, there are no penalties for failing to save people and no repercussions for killing friendly agents outside the dark zone (the player v player area). The game tries to build the idea that you are the moral good guy and is an aspect that made me bored whilst playing after killing the same enemy after a while, leading me to create my own story for my character.

Mechanics

This game doesn’t bring new mechanics to the industry but one thing that is praise worthy is how the game has an augmented design to it that makes it feel semi-realistic. You can only access this while stationary and this feature contrasts with issues such as not seeing players in the free roam area and not being able to shoot civilians. The issues diminish most of the good found in the game’s design.

Conclusion

This game fails on the most fundamental level despite the interesting and well done basic gameplay of cover shooting, gun customisation and special gadgets. The game on the whole bored me and is only fun to mess about with, particularly through robbing other players for fun in the dark zone. It is not the first game I would recommend but it is redeemed slightly by the solid foundational features in the game, giving it a respectable score.

Score

6 out of 10

London Anime and Gaming Con
London Anime and Gaming Con

London Anime Con: An unexpected adventure

Before London Anime Con I thought it would be a small little convention with a limited amount of cosplayers. However, the moment I arrived at the front entrance my expectations were surprisingly surpassed as the line to the front entrance was long and snaked around the block. As well as this, the people in cosplay dressed in way that felt fitting to the characters they represented and that of the individuals wearing them.

Thankfully I was able to jump the mammoth sized line, along with my photographer Sharky Cole, otherwise we would have been left out in the rain. Nevertheless, when the convention began the place was packed: buzzing and filled with excitement and interesting discussion on various subjects, such as having cosplay experts teaching about the different tools and methods like 3D printing and Worbla. There were various dancing performance and discussion of the anime industry from Aya Suzki and Monica Rial respectively. However, my personal highlight was seeing Lundo lightsaber sport who were officially taught in the various ways to use lightsabers in a sport environment; you were able to see a dynamic lightsaber battle using the different stances and styles in a thematically pleasing manner.

The two of the best highlights of the event were Cosplay World Masters and the Cosplay Masquerade as in both these events you could see the best cosplay shown for competition prizes. Cosplayers of franchises including RWBY, Warhammer 40k and Pokemon were shown off with amazing skill. However, the League of Legends cosplayers dominated the event and took home most of the prizes but nevertheless all the cosplays that were shown were amazing sight to behold.

Additionally, there was a significant video game presence at the event as you had companies such as Ubisoft showing off the new Far Cry Primal which was an interesting twist to the Far Cry formula in that you focus on using more melee weapons and animals to help you defeat your rivals. Additionally there were various PC Games being played such as League of Legends, Quake 3, Dawn of War and Doom to name a few. Likewise, there was a large indie game scene showing off their newest games with rhythm games being shown to animals shooting the zombified queen. Furthermore, a Pokemon tournament was held in which pokemon trainers fought gym leaders to earn prizes, being sponsored by Pokecenterloot. Lastly there was a large retro arcade area organised by the heart of gaming and retro arcade gamer. All these different game events added to the community feeling that suited the theme of a smaller and more focused event compared to a bigger and more commercial event.

The only small flaw with the event is that, at times, it felt like there were technical issues with the music playing on stage. However, this was not an issue with the event itself but more with the equipment that can be easily fixed, particularly as the event was well run with a small amount of staff compared to larger conventions.

In conclusion, the London Anime Con is the convention you should attend if you want to have a fun weekend with friends, talk to new cosplayers, get cool loot at a good price or just find out about new games such as the Illuminati. I would highly recommend going and there could have been things I missed out on due to the fact that I was moving place to place for the entire time I was at the event. So, who knows, perhaps there is a hidden gem I did not find that others may have.