Halo Wars 2 – A full priced game with BS micro-transactions?! Sign me up!

I was a bit torn over whether to include this in the “Games I like” or “Games I didn’t like” category.  On the one hand, the campaign is pretty good and the core multiplayer isn’t too bad either.  On the other hand, Blitz mode is just flat out BS with poor matchmaking in which you can buy power and steamroll your opposition.  And that’s not just because I suck at it.  But more on that later!  Oh, and just so you know, I put it in both categories.

Halo Wars 2
Spartans are suitably tough and can pretty much hold their own against most enemies.

I didn’t play Halo Wars.  It just didn’t interest me at the time and I couldn’t see how an real time strategy (RTS) could work with a controller.  But here I am, many years later fancying an RTS that I can pick up and play quickly.  I’ve not really played much in the genre for a long time, so a light strategy game was right up my street, plus I quite like the Halo universe.  We play…someone who is ordering UNSC troops to fight the Banished, a offshoot of the Covenant, because they are bad and live on a space station.  I didn’t follow the story at all (maybe because I didn’t play the previous installment?) but the cutscenes were nice.  I’m not playing my RTS games for plot though!  I just want to order tanks to blow stuff up!

Halo Wars 2
It can get a little busy at times, but for the most part the controls help you keep it together.

The game controls surprisingly well with a controller, with button holds and presses selecting groups of local or global units and button shortcuts allowing you to move around the map quickly.  Pressing X will send your soldiers to an area (there is no attack-move here, characters auto attack en route) or to attack a target, whilst Y will activate the most suitable ability for your current group (take over a tank, throw grenades at infantry etc.) Selecting a building on your base opens a radial menu to build troops and buy abilities.  This was the weaker part for me as I struggled to tell the buildings apart at times, meaning building an anti-air vehicle in the heat of battle resulted in me moving around the different buildings until I found the garage.  That aside, it controls better than I expected.

Halo Wars 2 cut scene
The cutscenes are as cool as most of the ones you’d see in the previous Halo games.

The campaign is good fun, with 12 missions (don’t expect the campaign to last much longer than 8 hours) ranging from traditional building a base and attacking the enemy, to guiding a rag tag group of survivors through enemy territory.  The units are based in the Halo universe as you’d expect, with Scorpion tanks, Hunters, and Warthogs aplenty.  Combat works on a loose rock/paper/scissors system with vehicles beating infantry, infantry beating aircraft and aircraft beating vehicles.  There are variants on this, with some vehicles being anti air and so forth, so picking the right set of units for the job is essential.  Making sure your giving the right orders to the right set of units in the heat of battle can be tricky, so getting comfortable with button shortcuts and who-beats-what is important on higher difficulties.

Halo Wars 2
Hijacking a Scarab to level an enemy base is something of a highlight…

The core multiplayer is fairly good too, pitting players or teams of players against each other in a race to build their base and eliminate their opponents quickly, or a more slow paced objective driven mode such as Domination.  These modes were fine, and facing higher level opponents didn’t guarantee they were any tougher than you, often leading to a fair(ish) fight.  Blitz mode is a different matter though.

Halo Wars 2
…but fending them off can be pretty tough.

I should love Blitz mode.  An RTS with card game and deck building elements?  Yes please!  You play cards (using energy as a limited resource) to summon units or special abilities to capture and hold control points which earn you points to win.  In theory a good deck and smart resource management should lead to victory!  But here’s the thing, you can buy card packs (with real money of course) to get new cards.  In itself this isn’t such a problem, but duplicate cards will be leveled up making them more powerful (somewhat like Clash Royale, you know, that FREE to play game?) meaning that people who spend money will have more powerful cards.  Not only that, but as your account levels up, you are given free packs meaning that a higher level player will have a distinct advantage over a lower level one.

Halo Wars 2
Getting in close to the action means you can quickly recognise the characters from the series. I remember Hunters being far tougher though.

I’ve complained about micro-transactions in full priced games before.  I can understand it in free to play games, and I get selling cosmetics in full priced releases.  But as far as I’m concerned, you do not sell power in full priced multiplayer games.  It will harm your online community and drive away new players.  I played several Blitz matches and was regularly put up against players at least 20 levels higher than me, meaning they had objectively better cards.  No matter how you spin it, a level 4 tank will always beat a level 2 one.  The poor matchmaking and power selling card packs drove me away from this mode and very much soured me on my experience of this game.  It’s a pity, because the other aspects of the game are actually pretty good, but free to play business models have no place in full price titles.

Halo Wars 2
There’s a lot happening here! And this was just on Normal mode…

Halo Wars 2 was developed by 343i and Creative Assembly and published by Microsoft.  I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend some aspects of the game.  There’s a decent enough campaign and some fun to be had in the multiplayer.  But Blitz mode is a shambles because of how the card economy works.  If you do give it a try, consider yourself warned!

Advertisements

1 Year (and a bit) of Blogging – 12 months of this drivel

I’ve spent 12 months (and a couple of weeks, I didn’t keep track well enough) writing about games.  12 months (and a bit).  52 weeks (and a bit).  365 days (and a…I’ll stop).  I wasn’t sure I’d spend a single month doing this, but I’ve enjoyed it and found a lovely community of like minded people to share my tripe with.  And some of you read it.  And some of you even seem to enjoy it!  Madness!

Celebration Balloons
Balloons. For celebrating. Which is what I’m doing!

In that time I have:

  • Posted 57 blogs.
  • Had 3500(ish) people read this rubbish, which will seem like loads to some and next to nothing to others.
  • Had 185 (or so) people follow this nonsense.  Thank you to you all for your charity!
  • Received 475(ish) comments on this crap (excluding my responses), with The Shameful Narcissist, Vahrkalla, Defy The Majority, Lightning Ellen and Athena being the main culprits!
  • Been signed up to write for Big Boss Battle who are lovely and write lots of lovely words!  You should read them too!
  • Completed a 24-hour charity gaming marathon raising nearly £300 (thank you to everyone who contributed either money, time, or even just attention).
  • And other things that aren’t blogging related.  Like work stuff.  And family things.
  • And it all started with this poorly written tosh: Rainbow Six: Siege.
Sun_Apr_10_21-43-15_UTC%2B0100_2016
Mission Successful is right, screenshot!

This is shorter than most of my posts, but thank you to anyone who has spent even 5 minutes looking at this random collection of words at any point in the past year.  Knowing that even one person has read it is a lovely feeling, and you should all know that I fully intend to keep on writing combinations of words for your eyeholes to absorb.  Sorry about that!

The Surge
Expect a post on this at some point this year. Dark Souls with robots?! Sign me up!

And to you fine people, keep on writing too!  I love reading what you have to say and I want to carry on reading!  Enjoy what you’re doing, because I enjoy it too.  Here’s to another 12 months (or so).

Yooka-Laylee – It’s not terrible!

Quick note, I backed this on Kickstarter.  Ok, that’s out of the way.  On with the proper words!

Colourful characters!  Pretty animations!  Jokes clearly aimed at grown-ups (such as a snake called Trowzer.  Trouser Snake. PENIS JOKE!)  No, it’s not the latest movie from Pixar, it’s Yooka-Laylee, the well publicised collect-a-thon revival from (most of) the people who made the genre what it is (was?), funded through Kickstarter.  The team is mostly comprised of people from Rare, those clever sods behind Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong Country and Conker’s Bad Fur Day.  Those games have something in common, and it’s not just that they’re very successful collect-a-thons.  They’re also from around 20 years ago…

Yooka Laylee
The first world you enter is bright and vibrant. Each environment is completely different to the last.
I’ll get this out of the way: Yooka-Laylee is far from perfect.  But it is fun in spite of the flaws it contains.  Most of those flaws are hangovers from the games that it is so clearly trying to imitate.  It’s great to play a game with the same gameplay style and sense of humour as those classics, but it’s not so great to be struggling with some of the same issues that those games suffered with.  It’s nostalgia without taking into account how gaming has evolved since the glory days of the genre.

Yooka Laylee
The characters look great, but the incredibly annoying sounds instead of voices means there is no lip syncing. It’s a shame as I think the animation here could have been excellent.
Anyway, we play as Yooka and Laylee, a heroic duo like so many others before them.  Their peaceful days beside their shipwreck they call home is spoiled when the local business start sucking up all the books in the area, including their special golden book they found in the shipwreck.  Of course, this book is the true target of the corporations scheme, as the One Book’s pages allow the owner to rewrite the universe!  During its theft however, the pages escape and are scattered throughout the business’ tower.  Cue our heroes leaping into action to find the pages and save the day from the dastardly Capital B!

Yooka Laylee
I don’t know why, but this boss’ utter hatred of double-glazing salesmen really gave me a good chuckle.
The story is all fluff really, although the characters in it are mostly fun to read the dialogue of.  The “voice acting” though is as it was in Banjo-Kazooie et al. with silly noises rather than actual words.  It made sense 20 years ago, but these days it made me want to skip all the dialogue (you can’t) just to avoid horrible sounds.  The characters are all unique in design and often poke fun at one thing or another.  Kartos the God of Ore (a mine kart), Shovel Knight (of Shovel Knight fame) and Trev the Tenteyecle (amongst others) all stand out as being quite different to each other and offer unique challenges in each world.

Yooka Laylee Glitterglaze Glacier
Obligatory ice level!
The worlds are contained in books hidden in the tower’s hub area (which is horrible to navigate due to poor signposting) and each one is quite different to the last.  From the bright forests of Tribalstack Tropics to the grimy swamp of Moodymaze Marsh, everything looks very distinct and fits within its environment.  The Marsh contains broken old shopping trolleys as characters whilst the casino has anthropomorphic slot machines.  These characters will give you tasks to earn more pages that will allow you to access and expand further worlds.  Ranging from simply completing a race against the clock to complex platforming puzzles and the occasional boss, there are plenty of different challenges to undertake, and its easy enough to find one to do in any given level.  Some are a bit irritating though, such as navigating slides using you roll skill (tough and a bit annoying) or using physics to guide a ball into a hole (unbelievably frustrating).  If you’re going for 100% completion, which is something a lot of people like to in collect-a-thons, be prepared to take the rough with the smooth.

Yooka Laylee Shovel Knight
Totally want this guy’s autograph.
Special mention must be made to the absolute ARSE of a final boss.  I’ve already mentioned that relying on old fashioned gaming tropes is pretty hit and miss here, but this was certainly a miss.  A multi-stage boss battle that lasts nearly 15 minutes, with easy early stages and very difficult final phases and NO CHECKPOINTS!  I cannot stress how annoying this was.  Unless you’re Dark Souls, put checkpoints in your multi-phase boss fights developers.  Don’t make me waste another 10 minutes redoing the early parts to get to where I screwed up last attempt.  Don’t waste my time!

Yooka Laylee
I’ll be honest, if I’d spent long in this area I’d probably have developed a headache.
The thing is, in spite of the silly design decisions, the often cheap humour, the final boss debacle and all the other nostalgia driven features that have been ironed out through years of progress in the industry, I still found myself having fun.  Perhaps it was a return to that childlike enjoyment of a brightly coloured environment, or each mini open world having mini challenges in them to find all the items.  Maybe I’m a closet kleptomaniac.  whatever it is, for me this game was fun in spite of the missteps.  I’d read the negative early reviews and expected utter toss, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an enjoyable experience.

Yooka Laylee
This was a rather cute find: Laylee’s (the bat) TV and arm chair on the ceiling.
Yooka-Laylee was developed by Playtonic Games and published by Team 17.  I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend it if you’re feeling nostalgic and don’t mind some of those old irritations still being present.  It’s far from perfect, but it’s nice to have an updated Banjo-Kazooie to play through, dodgy camera and all.

5 Games From 2016 That I Regret Missing – Not enough hours in the day.

There’s an expression which has come to mind more and more for me lately.  When you’re young you have the time but not the money; when you’re older you have the money but not the time.  This applies to so many things in life, gaming included.  When I was younger, I missed out on a lot of games simply because I couldn’t afford them.  Whilst disappointing, it made a lot of sense.  Also, it wasn’t difficult to acquire games by *ahem* other means.  Not that I would advocate that (specially not now).  If my younger self could see the number of games I’ve bought and not got around to playing though…

Lol Limewire
This song still make me laugh.

I find myself buying fewer and fewer “epic” games simply because I won’t have the time to enjoy them.  Work, family and life in general are all more important (to varying degrees…screw work!) meaning that hobbies have to give way.  Regardless, it is still disappointing to intend to play a game but never get around to it.  So here are 5 games from last year that I had every intention of playing, but probably never will.  Oh, and Overwatch isn’t here…

Epic Games
No, not this sort of Epic. Their games tended to be of a sensible length.

Rules are different this time!  Obviously these have to be games I haven’t played that were released last year.  I’ve not included games from last year that I’ve bought and not started yet, as I probably will play them.  Onwards!

Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy 15
Final Fantasy XV (2016)

I’ll start with the big one.  I dearly wanted to play this.  It looked gorgeous, had a fun tone, unusual mechanics for the series and a huge world to explore with meaningful content.  Monsters!  Swords!  Magic!  Kick-ass sports car!  Silly hair!  Everything I could want in a Final Fantasy game.  Even an indecipherable story (probably).

Final Fantasy XV
It really is quite pretty.

But the size of it moved it further and further down my wish list.  That ever present issue of time ate away at my desire to finally pick it up.  Even seeing how much reviewers and other bloggers loved it wasn’t enough to save it from the slide.  It’s still on my wish list, so maybe some day.

Super Mario Maker (3DS)

Super Mario Maker 3DS logo
Super Mario Maker 3DS (2016)

I don’t own a Wii U, so Mario Maker was off the table, but the idea of near limitless Mario levels was quite appealing!  Whilst I’m not the most creative of people, seeing and playing the levels other people would make sounded great to me.  So when I heard that there was a 3DS version on the way, I was certainly interested.

Super Mario Maker Bundle
Nintendo have tried to port a few Wii U games to 3DS, but the loss in quality is a problem for me. This is also the reason I did pick up Hyrule Warriors Legends.

Then it turned out the feature set was going to be severely limited by comparison.  You couldn’t access all the levels you could imagine, only the ones that were “featured”.  Levels could be exchanged via street pass, but browsing through the tens of thousands (or more?) of levels that people had created and picking out one that looked and sounded interesting was part of the appeal to me.  Maybe it will get patched in some day, but with the Switch being released, I doubt it.

The Turing Test

The Turing Test Logo
The Turing Test (2016)

I may, may still play this one.  A sci-fi puzzle game with a (supposedly) interesting mystery story certainly sounded appealing!  An interesting twist on the “weapon” as a puzzle solving device (a la Portal and it various imitators) along with inventive challenges made this something I was very interested in.  In fact, Vahrkalla made a very convincing argument for playing it, and I still very much want to give it a go.

The Turing Test
Robots! I want to play this even more now.

This one came along a few weeks after I’d played a few other first person puzzle games in the form of Pneuma and The Talos Principle, so the idea of another one put it to the back of my mind for a long time.  Some day I may well be in the mood to give this a try, but as it stands it’ll just have to wait its turn.

BlazBlue: Central Fiction

BlazBlue Central Fiction Logo
BlazBlue: Central Fiction (2016)

I like fighting games.  A lot.  I am terrible at fighting games.  Whilst I can pick up mechanics well enough, I struggle to put them into action during an actual match.  This is even more of a problem in anime style fighting games most often associated with Arc System Works due to them being so insanely fast.  But they’re so gorgeous!  And the action is so fluid!  Varied characters and bizarre attacks!  Things like Guilty Gear, Chaos Code, and BlazBlue really appeal to me.  Mostly for single player though.

BlazBlue Central Fiction.
A witch is fighting a cat lady and I have no idea what it happening.

The thing with BlazBlue: Central Fiction is that it came out about 6 months after I’d picked up Continuum Shift, the previous installment.  More fool me (perhaps) for not waiting for the newer version, but seeing as I was playing mostly offline, having the most up to date version wasn’t a huge concern.  Having said that, I would have liked to have seen the online community before everyone switched back to playing as Noel and using her silly endless combos.  Like I do.

Salt & Sanctuary

Salt and Sanctuary
Salt and Sanctuary (2016)

I was put onto this one because I love Dark Souls far more than is healthy.  Salt & Sanctuary was sold to me as a 2D Dark Souls, and if you watch it in action it’s pretty clear why.  Every action needs to be planned out to avoid silly mistakes and a resulting death.  The grimy art style is also reminiscent of its inspiration’s medieval world.  I should have picked this one up straight away by all rights.

Salt and Sanctuary.
This really does remind me of the Undead Burg.

I feel that at the time I was a little burnt out on super challenging games.  Since then, Nioh has come along and rekindled my love for those sort of games, but at the time I needed a break from them.  With that in mind, now may be the time to look into giving this one a go.

Some honourable mentions as always.  Hitman didn’t interest me during its development, nor upon its initial release.  But since then I hear all sorts of stories about hits gone wrong, elusive targets and bizarre successes.  I regret not giving it a go when it came out.  The Bunker was a really interesting one, being a throwback to the “interactive movies” of days gone by.  I like a good horror, but I feel this one may be more suited to a Let’s Play for me.  I loved the Attack on Titan anime, so the game was something I really liked the look of.  I got the feeling it may get repetitive quickly though, so I passed it by.  This one’s also still on my wish list though, so maybe someday I’ll pick it up on the cheap.

How about you?  Are there any recent releases you regret missing out on at the time?  Let me know!  I hope I’m not alone on these ones…

 

 

Nioh – Sadly not starring Keanu Reeves

It may have been established by now that I quite like Dark Souls.  A lot.  Also Bloodborne, which was like Dark Souls on Gothic meth.  The intricate, connected worlds, the strategic combat, the challenge, the enemies, the bosses.  Everything in those games comes together fantastically to create gaming experiences unlike others.  You know when a series has been successful when there are so many games that clearly take their inspiration from it.  Hyper Light Drifter, Salt and Sanctuary, and Lords of the Fallen all make use of mechanics and style of this young, but venerated series.  And here comes a new challenger: Nioh, otherwise known (perhaps unfairly) as Samurai Souls.

Nioh
Early areas in the Tower of London are mildly challenging, but nothing on what’s to come.

Nioh follows the supposed exploits of William, an Irishman who travels to 17th century Japan in pursuit of Kelley who has stolen his Guardian Spirit, Saoirse, so he can gain Amrita to release Yokai to ravage the country.  If that makes no sense to you then you’re in the same boat as me.  The plot is there, with plenty of cutscenes introducing you to various historical Japanese figures (if you’ve played the Warriors games you may recognise some), but I didn’t know what was going on at any point.  I suspect if you have some knowledge of Japanese mythology and history then you may follow it closer than I did.  Having said that, the Souls games had very convoluted plots (although they keep it more hidden) and are still very enjoyable.

Nioh
Pirate Cat is your friend throughout the game. I have no idea what the deal with this is.

They’re enjoyable because the gameplay is so well put together, and that’s very much the case here.  Combat against the humans and demons you face is quick, but requires thought.  You have light and heavy attacks for your weapons (of which there are a good few), but you also have stances.  Low, mid, and high stances give you different attacks that are suited for different opponents.  Mid stance spears are great for poking and keeping enemies at range, whilst high stance swords can destroy enemies rushing towards you if timed well.  There is a lot of depth here that allows you to find a style that suits you but gives you options when you need them.  I often stuck with a low stance sword but switched to high stance axe for enormous damage when needed.  Stamina management appears here too in the form of ki, but with ways to recover it during your combos with well timed button taps, allowing you to press the attack.

Nioh
The environments look great in most instances, with nice use of lighting and splashes of colour.

The enemies are varied, although there aren’t a huge number of them.  Standard grunts can still destroy you if you’re careless, but the powerful Yokai are the real challenge.  Axe wielding demons, tongue monsters, and bird men are all powerful foes that will take you out until you learn how to handle them effectively, it’s just a shame there aren’t more varieties.  The bosses are tremendous as you may expect, with spider demons and deadly samurai warriors providing a different challenge at the end of each stage.  The difficulty of them does vary rather wildly, with some of the early bosses being brutally difficult, whilst later ones I could defeat on my first attempt.  It may well be the case that I stuck to an approach that worked better for some bosses than others, but it didn feel like the difficulty spiked from time to time.  But the challenge is part of the point here, and just like Dark Souls, players can be summoned to assist you with bosses for some limited co-op action.  PVP is off the table for the time being though, being promised for a later update.

Nioh
How are you with giant spiders? Because they really want a hug.

Whilst the gameplay is tremendous, and kept me coming back for more side missions and main quests, the world was less engaging.  Characters didn’t really grab me, and the environments were quite bland.  There were only so many times I could fight demons in “Japanese village” or “cave” before the rot sets in.  The world looks lovely, but there was a lack of variety once again.  Further, most levels were fairly linear and lacked opportunities for exploration, although finding shortcuts back to your shrine (Nioh’s bonfire equivalent) was as satisfying as ever.  Another irritation was the amount of loot that enemies drop.  I found myself spending a lot of time rooting through my inventory, deciding what was worth keeping and what wasn’t.  And each item has so many different stats!  It’s hard to be sure if an item is objectively better or not.  Having said that, I did fine just looking at damage/defence and elemental effects, so it may be the case that there is a lot of depth for those looking for it, whilst those who want to play can get by just fine.  An accessible Souls style game!  Who would have imagined?

Nioh
This boss can sod right off. I mean, the design is fantastic, but I flat out hated this fight.  Because I sucked at it.

Nioh was developed by Team Ninja and published by Sony.  I played the game on PlayStation 4 and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Souls games or challenging action RPGs.  I did every single side mission in this, not for loot or leveling up, but because I wanted more of the gameplay!  I’m normally a main story and some side quests kind of player, but I wanted more of the action in Nioh.  After 40+ hours of gameplay, I’d say I got my money’s worth.