PC Destiny 2: First Impressions

Damn does this game feel great on PC, for a game that already felt perfect on consoles Bungie has done a superb job at making Destiny 2 feel amazing on PC. That’s only with a couple of hours of play. I can’t wait to see how end game weapons perform, especially the weapons that I came to love on my Xbox characters.

Moment to moment game-play feels fantastic too. I found that I had absolutely no adjustment period from having spent so much time playing the console version. Launching my Titan into a Fist of Havoc ultimate felt just as satisfying, if not more so than on console due to the sheer spectacle of watching lightning stream out of my character.

As you would expect Destiny 2 looks wonderful on the PC. With my 1080p monitors the particle effects from rain, weapons and ultimate abilities look spectacular. So I would imagine that these effects would look even better on higher resolution screens.

From what I have experienced so far PC Destiny 2 has been well optimised, I haven’t once dropped a frame. Though I do run a GTX 1060 in my rig so I shouldn’t drop frames anyway, but with the recent history of console games coming to PC it is nice to have one that feels properly optimised.

I can’t wait to play more of this game, especially as it looks like the release schedule for the PC has 7 weeks of content that lines up with the release of the first DLC in December. Meaning that PC players shouldn’t have to deal with any lull in content.

If you enjoyed playing Destiny 1, and were waiting to see what people thought of Destiny 2 on PC. You will not be disappointed.

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Tekken 7: Story Done Justice.

Tekken 7

Finally a fighting game that actually manages to tell a story well, sure its clichéd and predictable but it actually manages to compile a story that allows you to understand the mess that Tekken, and other fighting games tend to be story wise.

At least in the Mishima Saga storyline, the upshot of segmenting the story this way has allowed the developers to focus on the “main” story line of the Tekken series, which is the story of Heihachi, Kazuya, and Jin, and their extremely violent family history. Probably the best thing that this story achieves, is that it manages to tell the story of the full series, so even people who either have never played a Tekken game, or have (understandably) no idea of the story behind these main three characters.

This backstory is told through the eyes of a journalist, who lost his home and family due to the actions of the Mishima family, during his investigations to understand who these people are and why they act the way they do. For a game franchise that has been around as long as Tekken this is important because previous games have not really paid much attention to telling a story, so much as letting people infer what is happening from short cut scenes and the order you fight people during the early story modes.

Tekken 7’s story will run around 5 hours, depending on personal skill levels and which difficulty you want to play on. Importantly the Mishima story experience feels satisfying, story cut scenes tend to end with characters facing off, and the player being dropped into whoever the main character of that scene is. This does the job of making you feel involved with the current fight and the reasons behind it.

After the storytelling of the main campaign the various character stories feel like a last minute addition, as they consist of a single fight per character, usually against their main rival or someone important to that character’s storyline. Seriously take a look at the Tekken characters storylines, there is soap opera levels of connections and rivalries behind them.

I wish there was a little more for each character to do, because what little has been done is genuinely entertaining, if incredibly anime in style. One story for example has Eddy Gordo and the new Idol character Lucky Chloe fighting with a bet of Eddy becoming Lucky Chloe’s backup dancer if he looses. Or Paul being happy that he is finally not fighting Kuma (which apparently is a thing) only for him to end up fighting Panda who has stumbled into the arena while searching for Ling Xiaoyu.

Tekken 7 has also taken the plunge of giving every character a super “rage” ability that becomes available when you reach low health during a fight. This is activated with either a very simple combo input (usually a direction and double button press) or simply hitting the right bumper (R1) on whatever controller you have. These moves do a bunch of damage if they hit and are all superbly animated and satisfying to watch. For low skilled players like me it also acts like a panic button if you hit low health during a fight, to even the health pools out and give you a bit more of a chance.

Gameplay wise Tekken 7 is solid, now I am not good at this game, or any fighting game in this style really. But I still find it fun, I can at least play Asuka to a level I am happy with. I haven’t yet had a chance to play Tekken against someone in the same room which is where I think fighting games work well, but from what I have played online play is very stable. And this is playing through a US region from New Zealand, but I do have a fibre connection.

I have enjoyed what I have played of Tekken 7 so far, enough so that I am considering getting the DLC at some point in the future. The season pass price here in NZ is $35 right now, I think I will wait for the DLC price to drop however as if am paying for extra character stories that are only one fight each I do not think the pass is worth it at that price.

All in all, if you are or have been a Tekken fan I would recommend this installment of the game. Or if you are simply looking just for a solid fighting game Tekken 7 is probably your best bet right now, especially because of how well the online services work if you want to challenge yourself against people worldwide.

Destiny 2: What it Needs.

Destiny 2

According to the aptly named website wastedondestiny.com I have racked up 542 hours of game-play in Destiny 1, so it is safe to say that I have enjoyed my time with it and will probably be much closer to 600 hours before the release of the much-anticipated sequel.

But here are a few things that I think Destiny 2 needs to have to be successful, especially given the mess that Destiny 1 was in when it launched in September 2014.


No. 1 – Story:  

By far the largest problem that Destiny had at launch was the fact that it had no story of note for people to level through. Infamously featuring the line “I don’t have time to explain, why I don’t have time to explain.” Destiny 1’s campaign was full of tidbits that could have been interesting if they had been given the time to grow before you were shoved off to the next mission that would likely have nothing to do with the mission you just completed.

Talking to people who still play the game, most agree the story of Destiny 1 ended the second it actually became interesting, which is rough when it happens 20 hours into the game.

To Bungie’s credit each new expansion brought more story, and the Taken King is held by fans of the game to be the story that Destiny should have had at launch. Rightly so in my opinion as its story is interesting and actually allows NPC character development, not to mention some short but compelling quests that gives each player class a little bit of flavor that previously didn’t exist beyond item flavor text.

Destiny 2 needs to build on the story and characters that were brought to life in The Taken King expansion, and give players some intensive to keep pouring hours of our lives into this franchise. Hopefully without forgetting the original Destiny story, because there are a lot of people who want to see where that story goes after being cut so short.


No. 2 – Game-play:

The moment to moment game-play is the only reason I have poured so much of my free time into Destiny, it just feels so damn good to play. The weapons archetypes all feel unique, and unless you mostly play PVP you have a free rein to choose your favorite types of weapons to play with.

As a primarily PVE player I have gone through periods of favoring just about every weapon type in-game, year one for me was pulse rifles, fusion rifles, and rocket launchers. Year two was scout rifles, shotguns, and machine guns. Finally year three has been hand-cannons, sniper rifles, and swords. So as long as Bungie can keep this feeling good they will probably be able to bring most of the current player base along to Destiny 2.

PVP is where they seriously need to do some work however, they really need to be able to balance weapons in such a way that you can take your favorite load-out into the crucible, without being slaughtered by everyone else who is using the current flavour of the meta OP weapon.


No. 3 – Exploration:

Destiny has deceptively small areas of play, with very little to reward you for exploration. Each planetary map is essentially a circuit with a couple of corridors tacked on, and you very quickly learn that exploring the far side of a map nets you nothing so you don’t bother to go out of your way again.

The Dreadnought that came with The Taken King was a step in the right direction, it was filled with little secrets and puzzles to seek out and complete. Unfortunately after doing them once there is no reason to ever do them again, and for the odd one that may need a group you were out of luck within a month of the expansions launch.

Again the quest to get the Exotic Pulse rifle from the Wrath of the Machine raid, is a fantastic puzzle that the community came together to solve, but it can be buggy and frustrating to find a group to fulfill the quests requirements, such as needing one of each class in a group. Or now finding a group that is willing to do the raid puzzle to even start the quest.

For exploration all Destiny 2 needs is to build on the community’s feedback from earlier attempts, i.e. make them solo-able after a length of time or provide an in-game way of finding people to complete tough quests.


No. 4 – Looking for Group:

The Destiny community and its ability to provide the tools that Bungie forgot is a big reason why people still play the game today. Without LFG websites life destinylfg.net, destinylfg.com, the100.io, and even /r/fireteams I would never have been able to find groups of people to raid with.

Coming from games like World of Warcraft that can have massively toxic groups I needed a fair bit of confidence to get on voice comms with five other people to begin raiding. It didn’t help when the first group I ever joined up with in Destiny kicked me because I didn’t have the perfect perk for my rocket launcher.

So I have to give a MASSIVE shout out to the Sherpa community that sprang up to help teach people destiny raid mechanics and get them that experience and confidence they needed. I found them through /r/DestinySherpa and the people there were fantastic and did a great job of teaching rather than just carrying people through tough content.

Destiny 2 very much needs in-built systems to support these communities, and make it easier for people to create groups to complete difficult content when they don’t have people they know in real life who play Destiny to group with.


No. 5 – Veteran Representation:
As a World of Warcraft player for many years, I have little attachment to current items in terms of stats of benefits they give to your character. Due to the fact that the legendary item you pried from the corpse of the toughest enemy you managed to slay, is replaced by the first uncommon drop you get from that squirrel that just happened to get in the way of your sword while you were out questing.

That said how that item looks is always important, and recognisable when you see it out in the wild. So I am hoping that Destiny will have some sort of system like WoWs transmogrification where we can take the look of the gear we have gained in Destiny 1 and use it to show off in Destiny 2

More likely we will get a couple of emblems and maybe a shader, to show we were their way back in year 1. In my case I just want to be able to show off the raid gear I spent weeks hoping would drop from a specific boss.


Destiny 2 is getting a game-play reveal on May 18th (only a few days away) and I can’t wait to see what direction Bungie has taken the Destiny franchise. It has been rumored, pretty much since launch, that most of the Destiny team has moved onto Destiny 2. So the team has had at least three years to build on their experience with Destiny 1 and as Bungie has been great at using community feedback to improve the game I am quietly optimistic that Destiny 2 will live up to expectations.

Mass Effect: My Road to Andromeda.

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Mass Effect was a series that I ignored for a very long time, mainly because I didn’t have any of the hardware to play the games on as they released. But eventually I got my hands on Mass Effect 3 as a consolation for having bought Sim City 2013 when that game had its god awful launch.

So I figured it was time to jump in to the series and see what I was missing so I bought Mass Effect 1 when it next went on sale. I approached it like I do in many RPGs to make myself and experience the world as I believe I would act.

So out came John Shepard Hero of the Alliance………….. and I didn’t even finish the first mission. For some reason I couldn’t connect with the characters or world in any way so I moved on and played something else.

In the following years as rumors of Mass Effect Andromeda started to surface then finally a brief reveal at an E3 press conference, I began to get interested in this elusive series once again. By this time I had heard a lot of good things about playing Mass Effect as female Shepard. So I decided to take a different tack when trying to play this time.

I approached the game as playing a character, choosing the way they would act rather than the way I would act. Experiencing the story through them rather than through myself, Jennifer Hale’s superb voice acting helped immensely with this too.

Doing this brought me in deep and I played the whole trilogy with all of its story DLC in about a week in January 2016. The only game I didn’t perfect (finishing all quests) was Mass Effect 1 due to trying to get away from the most dated part of the series.

All in all I loved the trilogy, and more than a little annoyed with myself having ignored the franchise for so long. It really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me given how much I love the Sci-Fi genre, and now with Andromeda on its way later this month I can’t wait for it to drop, (even if I am annoyed with having a couple of assignments due around the same time).

Mass Effect: Andromeda from what I have seen of it, looks to be moving back towards the kind exploration that Mass Effect 1 had. With being able to touch down on many different planets in search of resources and technology to improve your character and teammates. Though hopefully Andromeda’s Nomad is vastly more controllable than the MAKO.

It will also be interesting to see how the story plays out given that Humanity and the Council races from the Mass Effect trilogy are in a completely alien environment in the Andromeda galaxy far away from any help or home that they recognize.

Andromeda will also have replay value of a different magnitude than the Trilogy, due to a couple of interesting gameplay changes. The first being that your choice of Male or Female player character is a choice between siblings Scot and Sara Ryder, and supposedly the one you don’t choose is present in the story and each will have different interactions with the world.

The second change is the removal of the Lightside vs Darkside AKA the Paragon/Renegade system in conversations, to more ambiguous choices that are more along the lines of a rational versus an emotional answer.

I hope this means it will play out similarly to the Witcher games where choices have consequences but everything has shades of grey, and what you think is the “good” answer at the time may have unforeseen consequences.

Plus as a person who almost always is pulled to the light and chooses the good option hopefully will give the opportunity to play a little more naturally.

I really hope Andromeda is good, I even upgraded my PC graphics card from a GTX 760 to a GTX 1060 just to make sure the game looks as good as I hope it plays. But we will see at the end of the month, and hopefully if my assignments go well I will have the opportunity to play through the game and get some impressions up here quickly.

I may even do a first 5 hours impressions article. But I will have to see how addicted I get to it.

 

FINAL FANTASY XV: FOR FANS AND FIRST TIMERS

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{Check out the Video}

A Final Fantasy For fans and first timers is the message that greets you when you boot up the newest addition to the famous Final Fantasy series. And after a ten-year wait since the announcement of this game, it definitely needs to impress both groups.

But how has the game actually fared. Well it depends on what you look for in a game.

I’ll start with the story, it’s interesting but feels very disconnected from the world that you are playing in there never seems to be a threat significant enough to pull you through the story. This is especially true if you haven’t seen the prequel movie Kingsglaive.

Noctis Lucis Caelum crown prince of Lucis, who with his three retainers and friends is travelling to meet his wife to be Lunafreya or Luna Nox Fleuret. Noctis is the chosen King of Light who is destined to rid the world of darkness. It is when Noctis learns of the death of his father during peace talks with the Empire of Niflheim that he must set out to gain the approval of his ancestors. And with Luna’s help the support of Eos’s six gods Titan, Ramuh, Leviathan, Shiva, Ifrit and Bahamut. So he can take back the Crystal stolen by Nifelheim and fulfil his destiny.

Theproblem for me is that I never feel pressured to move the story forward, demons only appear at night or in dungeons, and unless you have a mission to assault a Niflheim base, you only see enemies from Niflheim when occasionally drop ships appear out in the world. For me this is where the story and the world are disconnected.

Because they appear only under very specific circumstances neither the Demons nor Niflheim feel like a threat that you should be hurrying to destroy. Even though according to the games NPCs both are supposed to be apocalyptic threats.

Although the first two-thirds of XV is open and free for you to explore, as soon as you decide to proceed to Altissia to finally meet Lunafreya the game becomes very linear. Altissia as a small city has a small number of side quests. But once you decide to gain Leviathans blessing the rest of the games has you running down a hallway. Fortunately around the same time you also gain access at rest points to Umbra a dog of Luna’s to travel back to past Lucis, or Altissia so you can continue side quests.

There has been a lot of talk about Noctis and his friends Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto and how great their relationship is in-game. Unfortunately the story missions make some odd choices with these important characters that ruin them for me.

Each of them has a short absence from the party over the course of the game, and when they return they have had major changes that are not explained. I believe this is where each supporting character gets some DLC in which I assume these stories are told. It is very disconnecting when these characters that you have spent hours with suddenly change with no explanation.

FINAL FANTASY XV_20161211215346
Story completion is only the beginning.

Luckily however the moment to moment gameplay is amazing.

As has been typical of Square Enix Action RPGs you are given a myriad of options in combat. You only ever control Noctis but he is able to wield any weapon in the game, which could be anything from a great sword to a revolver. Each of which has strengths and weaknesses in a given situation allowing you to play as you like. I spent most of the game with a long sword and a lance for example.

The depth of this system is extended when Noctis is able to slot four weapons or magic at a time that can be quick switched with the tap of a the d-pad, which is useful when every enemy, has its own strengths and weaknesses that you can take advantage of. Even enemies in the same family have different weaknesses which keeps you switching weapon sets to be as effective as possible.

Ignis, Gladiolus, and Prompto each have abilities that you can employ at will with a tech gauge that should remind a Final Fantasy fan of the active time battle system. These abilities range from a regroup command from Ignis that heals the party, to a gravity well from Prompto that can drag enemies together, or a colossal smash from Gladiolus with his great sword.

These abilities break up combat and can be combined with other effects to unleash devastating attacks. For example try Ingis’ Overwhelm ability while Noctis is using the Bow of the Clever, the rain of energy bolts will tear almost any enemy apart.

Noctis has exclusive access to thirteen of his ancestors weapons, some of which are the only weapon of that type in the game, such as the crossbow Bow of the Clever or the shuriken Star of the Rogue. Once Noctis has collected a few of these he gains the ability to unleash them as a type of Limit Break super attack once a gauge has charged.

Magic is also available in FFXV but as a crafted bomb of sorts that Noctis can craft after absorbing elemental energy from deposits around the world. On their own they can be useful when enemies are weak to a certain element, but they can be combined with other items to be given powerful effects.

These can be potions and the like which will heal you when that spell is used, or meal ingredients that can make spells poisonous. Some powerful items can even make spells Limit Break above the 9999 damage cap.

You can even combine Rare Coins that you pick up with your spells so that they give you massive chunks of experience. Which is helpful when you take advantage of FFXVs unique experience system.

Experience is gained as you would expect through killing monsters and completing quests, however it is only applied to your party when you rest at a campground, motel or hotel. If you have the money a hotel at Galdin Quay will double all experience, and the Royal Suit in Altissia will triple experience if you have the 30,000 Gil.

Campgrounds allow Ignis to cook for the group which will give you buffs for the following day. Ignis will learn recipes as you collect cookbooks or ingredients from monsters or vegetables found in the world. He will even copy a recipe when you eat at a restaurant so he can cook it later. These buffs can give you increased exp gain, increased attack, magic, and health as well as other supporting effects to help you out.

XV even has an end game for when you have beaten the main story, this consists of completing side quests, difficult monster hunts or dungeon challenges which open up once you complete every dungeon once. There is even a secret dungeon that is all about puzzles and platforming rather than combat. These dungeons give you powerful weapons and accessories so you can tackle the next challenge.

Essentially FFXV is two games to me, one which has a largely forgettable story and one which I have so much fun playing and keeps me interested in completing the next dungeon or monster hunting challenge.

I am sure fans will enjoy the familiar systems and game-play that is unique to the Final Fantasy series.

First Timers will have no trouble in picking up this game, it is not at all difficult to understand the core systems to be able to enjoy playing. Perhaps if you enjoy it enough you can then choose to go deep and complete the many challenges that Final Fantasy XV has to offer.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

 

Witcher_2_cover

Witcher 2 was the first time I heard about this series. I learnt about it from a friend at school who knew I was into video games and he was super hyped for this game, so he was doing all he could to get me to play it so he could have someone geek out with. Unfortunately, we only had a Mac in my household and I wasn’t aloud to dual-boot it for games.

A couple of years later when a steam summer sale rolled around I was able to pick up the enhanced editions for Witcher 1 and 2, and I fell in love with the series as soon as I began playing.

The Witcher 2 Assassins of kings is such a great improvement upon the first game that it is no wonder it is where lot of people like me first heard about the series. Not to mention the Xbox 360 release gave the game a much wider scope than being a PC exclusive. Graphics played a big part in this as well, for a long time before I played the game I often saw it being used as a graphics benchmark for gaming PCs.

The Witcher series is similar to game series like Mass Effect, where you can take progress from once game into the next. In Witcher 2 you get to keep a portion of the money you had in your Witcher 1 game and whatever end-game swords you had, whether it is D’yaebl, Moonblade, or the Mahakaman Rune Sihil, as well as Ravens armor if you completed it. This equipment serves to give your character a boost in the early game. Although there is an annoying bug where during the intro to the game you are often equipped in the Temerian armor you would have otherwise had, even if you had already equipped your carry over items

CreedWitcherJoke

As is a Witcher standard, story telling is the main pull of the series and Assassins of Kings is no different. The game begins with Geralt being under interrogation for having killed the king he was serving at the end of the first game. Through this introduction you get to play through the events that Geralt is retelling to his interrogator, and you get to see the events that lead up to his incarceration. Needless to say Geralt is innocent and escaped to discover who the killer is and exactly why the king was killed.

Similar to the first Witcher game each chapter of the story has you exploring a specific area to further the plot. Although these zones feel far larger than they did in the first game. Witcher 2 has the added element that when you take a side with either the Scoia’tael or the Temerian Blue Stripes you get to experience a very different story to someone who chose the other side. In fact, unless you replay the game (or have a save at the decision point) you never see the other side of the story. This gives the game great replay value as you can be sure that you will be seeing something new if you play through the game again.

Combat wise the game feels much better than Witcher 1 as you can switch between silver and steel swords with far greater ease. Manoeuvring around enemies in combat is much more intuitive than in the first game. Witcher signs are still powerful and useful, although there is a new perk system when you level up that, for me, encourages more of a single direction, like spending points only in Swords combat, only in Signs, or only in Alchemy.

Combat in the Witcher 2 also removes the stances or fast, slow, and group, that I enjoyed in the first game, although it is possible to achieve the same effects with higher level combat perks. Due to the fact that I felt funneled into a single tree I don’t find myself using signs as much as I used Igni in Witcher 1.

A complaint I have seen on forums online is that the Witcher 2’s UI is designed too much around the use of a controller. This is true, however I played this game with the use of an Xbox 360 controller, simply because for an action RPG such as this I prefer to use a controller rather than a keyboard and mouse.

All in all The Witcher 2: Assassins of kings is a great improvement upon the first game in the series, and I can honestly recommend picking the franchise up at this point, as the story of the first game is a bit more stand alone, whereas the events of the Witcher 2 lead up to and influence The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in a large way, although it is possible to jump straight into the Witcher 3 without missing too much, I would still recommend playing The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings first as it is such a great game.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: A Fantastic Sequel

Rise of the Tomb Raider

When it was announced that the Tomb Raider franchise was being rebooted by Crystal Dynamics, I didn’t care. I had never played more than a demo for an old PS1 Tomb Raider game, and so I ignored all of the news around this reboot. It was a wonderful surprise when I saw it and played it for myself, I fell in love with the franchise and couldn’t wait to see what would happen with the sequel.

Usually I am the kind of person that devours anything related to the franchises I love, but in the case of Rise of the Tomb Raider I decided to ignore as much of the news as possible. The idea being that I would be as pleasantly surprised as I was when I played its predecessor Tomb Raider. Luckily even with the amount of gaming news I consume, from news sites to podcasts and YouTube videos, I managed to go into Rise of the Tomb Raider without having had anything spoiled for me.

It was worth it! I downloaded the game to my Xbox One and was immediately wowed by how good the game looked, it was the first time I had ever sat there staring at the screen not realising the intro cut scene had ended. I have heard people talking about this before but it was amazing to experience it for the first time.

Right from the start Rise of the Tomb Raider does its best to make you feel like this game is a step up from the first game. The tutorial section is split between two opposite places in the world, an icy mountain peak, and somewhere in the Middle East, this is a contrast to the first game being set entirely on a windswept island. It also does the job of making the game feel much larger just by giving the player the idea that Lara Croft has travelled a great distance.

It is unfortunate that it is the story that lets the game down a bit. The basic premise is that Lara went back to the world after the supernatural events that occurred in the first game, and was ridiculed for telling her story. A newspaper headline “Another Crazy Croft,” and some explanation from Lara tells us that her father was discredited for his own theories about the supernatural and archaeology, to the point that he shot himself.

So after her experiences on the island Lara sets out to solve her father’s theories about an Immortal prophet as a way to validate her own experiences and redeem her father’s name. As such Lara goes on this expedition alone rather than risk her friends from the first game, in fact Jonah is the only character to return from the first game.

Needless to say, Lara finds that she is not the only one searching for the immortal prophet, and so general mayhem follows. Alongside the main storyline is the expansion of the idea from the first game that some of the collectibles tell stories of people from the past. In Rise of the Tomb raider these collectibles tell the story of the Immortal prophet’s people running from Trinity (a religious order of some sort), and a Trinity soldier who is sent to follow their trail and report the prophets location.

These side stories are simple and if you get into them, make you want to find the next collectible so that you can read the story of these people. In Tomb Raider I found that these side stories spoiled the major twist for me. However Rise of the Tomb Raider only tells a supplementary story, the only purpose it serves is to flesh out the history of the game world and nothing else. Being interested in stories of all kinds I loved this addition, and I was happy that Crystal Dynamics expanded upon this idea.

When it comes to gameplay Rise of the Tomb Raider does a great job of improving on the first game’s systems. I didn’t notice it too much in tomb Raider but the auto cover system works flawlessly, you are able to hind behind trees or rocks without button presses or awkward controls for getting in or out of cover.

Also added, is the ability to have multiple variations of the same type of weapon. For example you have a number of different bows with different attributes, a longbow that does more damage but is slower to draw and fire and you are unable to keep the bow drawn for a great length of time. Aside from this is a compound bow which does slightly less damage but can be kept drawn for a long time and is more accurate than your other bows.

The same goes for guns, you can have a revolver or a semi-auto pistol; an assault rifle or a bolt-action rifle. Added on top of this is an upgrade system similar to Tomb Raider’s, however it is treated more like a crafting system, where you must collect resources from enemies, animals, and crates to add things to your weapons. Such as adding a scope to your bolt-action rifle and turning it into a sniper rifle so you can take out enemies at a greater distance than you can with your bow.

Another improvement made in Rise of the Tomb Raider is that the challenge tombs you come across now give you a reward other than experience and a treasure map. You now get secret skills that augment your gameplay, like an ancient archery skills that teaches you to quickly fire a second arrow immediately after firing your first, or “inner strength” which gives you a second wind if critically damaged.

The tombs do have better challenges than the first game and they can be massive, some of them are amazing surprises as well. Imagine climbing a barren cliff, and just as you climb around the side of a rock you see a massive temple carved into the side of the canyon wall, you work your way towards all the while hearing a low humming noise. You work your way through the temple and as the final door opens the low humming noise becomes the deafening sound of a massive pipe organ. The temple was built around a natural formation that sounds like a pipe organ when the wind gusts down through the canyon.

And that is just one of the challenge tombs. The others are just as good, you can tell that Crystal Dynamics put a lot of time and effort into this part of the game. Alongside the challenge tombs are some secret crypts that give you pieces of an ancient weapon, the puzzle here is finding the crypts but each one tells the story of a founder of the immortal prophet’s city, which is another thing that adds to the story of the game world.

Rise of the tomb Raider is not an open world game, however it does a great job of making you think that it is. There are a number of large zones that you can explore to find secrets and resources, and each of these large zones are connected by smaller zones that have secrets of their own. This makes the game world feel much larger than it is, you rarely see a loading screen once you are in the game unless you choose to fast travel around.

All in all Crystal Dynamics did a great job with Rise of the Tomb Raider, they managed to improve upon every aspect of Tomb Raiders systems, and they have once again set up for a great sequel. As of writing this the DLC for Rise of the Tomb Raider is all out although I haven’t yet played it, once I do I will write about those as well. I can say with confidence if you enjoyed Tomb Raider you will most definitely enjoy Rise of the Tomb Raider. Even if you are new to the franchise it should be easy to jump in here without much trouble as there are only a few references to the first game.  Pick it up, you will not be disappointed.

Tomb Raider: The Crystal Dynamics Reboot

Tomb Raider1

Last week I wrote about the uncharted collection and talked about how I feel like I was spoiled for the uncharted games because of the Tomb Raider reboot by Crystal dynamics. Today I am writing about just the first game in the rebooted Tomb Raider series simply because unlike the uncharted games I played them when they first released and I have had time to sit and think about each game separately. I will probably write about Rise of the Tomb Raider this week as well, but I don’t know think it will be tomorrow.

So I was watching E3 at the ungodly time of the morning that I have to get up in New Zealand to watch the live streams, when the reboot of Tomb Raiders was announced, and I have to say that I had no excitement whatsoever for it. This would probably be down to the fact that all I had ever seen of Tomb Raider before this was playing a PS1 demo and watching the Angelina Jolie movies.

Due to my distance from the franchise I just wasn’t at all interested in playing this game, I even completely forgot it was a thing until I saw my flat mate playing the game on his PC. I sat there for a while and was completely taken in by the setting and the gameplay, as he worked his way through a puzzle. I picked the game up the next day and spent the next few days doing nothing but playing through this gem that I had been ignoring for so long.

Tomb Raider is a pretty run of the mill treasure hunting story that turns to the supernatural, with the sections between and around story points being delivered through some amazing set pieces. Like climbing beneath a crumbling bridge to hide from the gunmen above so you can sneak into an ancient palace, which you then have to escape from while being hunted down and outrunning an inferno.

Where Tomb Raider excels is in its combat, it feels so smooth and easy to target and take out an enemy. You aren’t fighting the controls more than the enemies that are on-screen. The bow is especially great, because as you move through the game you are given upgrades that make it your most versatile weapon.

You get the ability to use your bow to fire rope arrows that help you traverse chasms and pull items towards you to complete puzzles. The fun begins when you are fighting enemies that stand on balconies and the roofs of the shacks around the island, if the building has a rope attach point you can pull the balcony out from under the enemies. This adds a bit of variety of variety to combat and can often help you to take out multiple enemies at once.

Upgrading your weapons is a big part of the new Tomb Raider games, and you are able to add a few interesting things, such as a grenade launcher to your assault rifle, or fire to your arrows. As you play you come across crates that give you experience to upgrade your character and the salvage currency needed to upgrade weapons, further into the game you also start to pick up weapon parts that once you have all of them for a particular weapon type, you get a permanent upgrade to that weapon.

Take the tree limb long bow you pick up at the beginning of the game as you progress you get a recurve bow, or later in the game, a compound bow. These small upgrades over time make you feel like you are gradually getting stronger and more capable of surviving the island.

I liked about the tales told through the collectibles that you pick up while exploring the island. There is the story of a priestess to the Sun Queen of Yamatai (the island kingdom), the story of a Japanese ambassador to Yamatai, and a short journal from a World War two soldier about losing all of his men to the island. These add to the mythology of the place, they make the place feel like it has proper history. Unfortunately for me these journals also helped me to figure out where the plot of the game was going way before it occurred in the game itself. So in this case although the stories help to flesh out the mythology of the island, they also hurt the pacing of the story.

Tomb Raider allows you to level up your character and augment your personal play style as well. You are able to choose to specialize in hunting, so you get more resources for upgrading weapons. Or you can specialize in combat, making it easier to take down enemies. You are even able to specialize in exploring, making it easier to find the secrets and collectibles on the map.

That last option really depends on who is playing the game, as some people like the challenge of finding all of the secrets themselves, without the help of the game or a guide. Others like to have the option to highlight the collectibles so that they can find then and 100% the game without too much trouble.

For the people who like to find the secrets on their own, the game has some neat ways of helping them along. When you are close to a secret tomb the game plays a certain musical tone to make you aware that you are close to something important, there is usually also a painting or a symbol near the entrance to a tomb that helps you along your way as well.

And for those that like a bit of extra help, you are able to utilise your survival instincts (super vision) to see a beacon showing you where to go to find the object you have selected on your map. This can still be a bit tricky from time to time as you often still have to explore a whole building to find exactly what you are looking for, but it is still easier than looking without any help.

The challenge tombs are great fun as well, they are neat little puzzles that challenge the way you can use the games mechanics to be able to platform around to the tombs reward. Such as using your rope arrows to pull a buoy into a rivers current so that it can make a flag pole turn so you can jump across it to a climbing wall that so you can get to your goal. The only problem with these puzzles is that they are not very difficult, it would be odd make more than two or three attempts to be able to solve a tomb. Even when replaying the game a couple of years later I was able to remember each puzzle and complete them straight away.

I love the work that Crystal Dynamics has done with this rebooted Tomb Raider series, and I hope they are able to keep up their good work, and give us even greater gameplay as the series moves on. I know they have improved from the first game into Rise of the Tomb Raider, I just hope they can continue this trend.

If you haven’t picked up this new Tomb Raider series, I recommend that you do. I’ve played it to completion on PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One and I can recommend it on any of those platforms. So pick it up if you want to have a few hours playing through some amazing scenery, and having great fun while doing so.

 

Overwatch: Blizzards Newest Gem

Overwatch

Overwatch is Blizzards first new series in 17 years, which is astonishing given the quality of games that blizzard is known for. I suppose when you have been managing the growth of mammoth series like Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo, there isn’t a lot of time left for developing totally different ideas.

In this case Blizzard has managed to hit it out of the park, Overwatch is fantastic and it already feels so well polished and complete, even while still being in closed beta. That isn’t to say things haven’t changed a lot over the beta process Blizzard is still pushing to make sure that their newest game is the best it can be before it launches.

Since Overwatch was announced, Blizzard has been doing a fantastic job at getting people invested in their newest universe. This is evident from the announcement trailer for the game, which amazed people with the Pixar quality of its animation. It was amazing to watch this new world unfold in front of my eyes, and already be intrigued by who these characters are and what their stories will be.

Blizzard has continued to build excitement for this new universe by releasing two more high quality animated shorts that focus on particular characters, giving us a further glimpse into the stories this new world has to tell.

The first of these shorts is “Recall” which focuses on the gorilla scientist Winston, and shows a bit more of the mysterious character Reaper, who also appeared alongside Winston in the announcement cinematic for Overwatch.  Second to be released is the short titled “Alive” which focuses on the assassin named Widowmaker and her conflict with Overwatch’s mascot character Tracer.

These cinematics provide small glimpses into the world of Overwatch, but they give just enough information to make you interested in the stories of these characters. At this point I can’t wait to see what Blizzard has in store for us with the rest of the content they have planned for Overwatch.

All of this talk about story and setting is important, because it flows so well into the gameplay itself. Every playable character feels unique, interesting, and full of life, and most characters are easy to jump in and start to play with. This is an important factor as it shows Blizzard is interested in applying the idea of “easy to learn, hard to master,” which is something they have taken from the success of Hearthstone.

Take Overwatch’s mascot Tracer for example, she is able to warp around the map at high speeds dealing damage then warping away to safety. However she doesn’t have a large health pool, and as such she can’t take a lot of damage, but once a person masters Tracer they are very hard to deal with. She will constantly warp in behind you and take you out before you have time to blink, and even if you do manage to start putting damage on her a good player will have timed her recall ability properly and have warped back in time, and now be at full health and far out of your reach.

Overwatch sets itself apart, by adding the gameplay hook that whenever you are in your team’s base you are able to switch to any character you want, this leads to some interesting strategies, as teams will alter their make ups at different points in a match. This also means that some characters are more useful in certain situations. Mei for example is excellent at control point matches as you are able to wall off routes for a short while, as well as slow down and freeze enemies allowing your team to make quick work of them.

As the game evolves it will be interesting to watch different strategies evolve as people figure out which characters are the best to play at certain points in a match. It is also good to note that Blizzard has done a good job of making characters for every type of player. Do you want to heal and have the ability to resurrect your team? If so use Mercy. Or do you want to protect your team from incoming damage? If so use Reinhardt and his massive shield. You could also use Pharah and her jump jets to rain rockets from upon your enemies.

The personalities of these characters shine through into gameplay, as they are constantly chatting with each other, and as you play the game more you grow fearful of hearing the voice lines that announce an enemies ultimate ability is on the way. Such terrifying lines as “Its high noon,” “Justice rains from above,” or “I’ve got you in my sights.” Not to mention characters talking to each other before a match starts, like Mercy mentioning to Pharah how proud her mother must be of her.

It is all of these elements being brought together that make Overwatch such a great game, and at this point I can’t wait for the game to have its full release so I can have even more people to play this fantastic game with. Overwatch release on the 24 of May this year, so if you like multiplayer online shooters with interesting characters and a fascinating world, then pick it up. I know I will.

Destiny: The April Update

Taken King

After having the chance to play through the newest addition to Destiny, I have to say I am quite impressed. There isn’t a lot of new content but the things that have been added are fun and have improved the quality of life in the game quite nicely.

In this update is the new three player Blighted Chalice strike, a new story mission that leads through to the new strike, the update of the Prison of Elders to level 41, and the new Challenge of the Elders.

The Challenge of the Elders is probably the most fun piece of content added in this update, it’s a boss rush mode crossed with a score attack mode set within the prison of elders. The aim is to acquire a high score of 30,000 points in a single run which will get you a new weapon, and then to also get a cumulative score of 90,000 over the week which will get you a new piece of armor. Points are gained by killing enemies in various different ways, such as grenade, melee, or super kills. In this first week for example, the modifier is for precision shots so you get more points for downing enemies with precision kills.

You get the most fun out of this mode by trying to get as many points as possible in a single run. When taking my third character through I was able to get the cumulative score of 90,000 in just two runs, with about 43,000 in the first run and about 47,000 in the second. Although it wasn’t my first time through the two people I ran the challenge with were running it for the first time, so you can see that it isn’t a very difficult mode.

Although there is very little difficulty in this new update, there were also a large number of quality of life updates that have improved the general gameplay of Destiny. The first of these is the fact that when infusing gear (essentially adding the attack or defense value of one item into second) you now get one to one conversion, for example a 330 chest piece being infused into a 280 chest piece will now guarantee that the 280 piece becomes a 330 piece, whereas before it may have only become a 320 item.

This new infusion system means that people are no longer carrying around large numbers of items with middling light levels just to make sure they have the stepping-stones to completely infuse new items. Added to this Bungie has also given Destiny players more vault space (item storage) in the form of a third page for weapons, armor, and general items, which means at least for now people have all the vault space they could ever need.

Finally Bungie has overhauled the loot system, where now item drops from the raid, challenge of elders, faction rank up packages, the nightfall strike, and exotic engrams will now have higher light values than your current light level, meaning you are always progressing to the maximum light level of 335. This is great as before you were simply stuck waiting for that single piece of gear you needed to drop, and then hoping that gear dropped at a higher light level than the piece you already had.

All of my characters started this new update at around 316 light, and after running the Challenge of Elders, the Raid, and the Nightfall strike on each character in turn, I have managed to progress them all through to at least 325 light. So if I am lucky and get the right drops this coming week I will be very close to or sitting at 335.

Unfortunately this is where I begin to worry, because although this new content is great I don’t think there is enough here to carry Destiny through to the next big content drop. Of course I hope I am wrong, but would love for there to be things hidden within this update that will give me more to do over the coming months.

These could be quest lines that give exotic items, like the Sleeper Simulant fusion rifle, the No Time to Explain pulse rifle, or heroic mission secrets like the one that gives you the Black Spindle sniper rifle. I would love to see the return of the sparrow racing league, as I had a lot of fun playing that while it was around.

All in all this April update has been great, and I hope that Bungie can continue to give us content to keep us involved in the world of Destiny.