Desert Island Digital Downloads

Trapped on a desert island? No hope of rescue?! Better get some video games out then.

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Have you heard of Desert Island Discs?  It’s a very British thing really.  It was a show on BBC Radio 4, originally created in the 1940s.  The idea was you would be stuck on a desert island for an indeterminate amount of time and you would have to choose 8 songs to have on the island with you.  It’s a really neat concept that’s had a huge number of celebrities on over the years, and I’m very much going to steal it and make it about games.

Now, the assumption here is that I would have access to a machine that could play any game from any system, and would be powered by some unknown electricity source.  There would be no internet though (otherwise I’d just e-mail the nearest boat) so multiplayer only games won’t be allowed.  In spite of the title, these don’t have to be digitally downloaded titles meaning disc based ones are fine but I’m assuming that all currently available content is included with the game.  Also, one game per franchise, otherwise this would turn into a Dark Souls love-in  Finally, I don’t have to have played these games, meaning that I could be flat out wrong with some of these.  So feel free to call me out on my idiocy in the comments.  So, it’s time for me to crash land on an island.

The IT Crowd
E-mailing the emergency services is always the best option.

XCOM 2 + Long War 2

XCOM 2 Logo
XCOM 2 (2016)

Alright, let’s get the obvious one done.  I love this game.  I poured 150 hours into the previous entry (which is a lot for me) and probably even more into the classic.  I would have spent more time on it if this sequel hadn’t arrived.  It improves on XCOM in almost every way.  More content, new aliens, greater challenge, and with the Long War mod this a single game could go on for hundreds of hours.  And I very much doubt I would get bored of it.  Every battle feels different, and allowing your soldiers to die eliminates them forever making every decision count.  And die they will, assuming you don’t save-scum it…

Diablo 3 – Ultimate Evil

Diablo 3
Diablo 3 (2012/2014)

Ok, I know it’s better when played with other people, but I find this quite cathartic to play alone.  Mowing through hordes of demons with your chosen class, forever finding more and more powerful loot to take on greater challenges is really rather satisfying.  This version of the game game with the Reaper of Souls expansion which included a new act and a seemingly endless Adventure mode.  Add to that the seasons (I know it’s online, but it’s still a great feature) that changes the game on a regular basis and you have a lot to play with if you have to time to play it.

Persona 5

Persona 5
Persona 5 (2017)

This is an inclusion that I haven’t played but I’d dearly like to.  In fact I’ve never played a Persona game at all (although I have dabbled in a couple of the other SMT games).  The style of this is what grabs me.  I love the art style, the cutscenes, the story (what I know anyway) interests me, the music sounds excellent, the time management aspect in which you live your double life is right up my street too.  Apparently it’s also enormous, with a lot of high quality content for those willing to spend the time on it.  Perfect for if you have the time to spend on it.

Baldur’s Gate 2

Baldur's Gate 2
Baldur’s Gate 2 (2000)

I know the logo above is for the re-release, but I love this game either way.  Baldur’s Gate 2 is based in the Forgotten Realms world of Dungeons & Dragons and contains a fantastically complex story (I mean, it is Bioware), interesting and varied characters, and dragons!  It’s old fashioned, ugly (by today’s standards) and a bit clunky at times, but it’s a game that I would love to spend the time to go back to this, find all those quests I never experienced and the party members I never spoke to.  It’s hard as hell too!

One Finger Death Punch

One Finger Death Punch
One Finger Death Punch (2013)

This is an odd one, as games like this tend last just a few minutes, but this is one of those that will result in hours being lost.  One Finger Death Punch is based on the old stick figure Flash games from years back, but made so immediate and simplistic, yet challenging and varied that you’ll find yourself in a Zen-like state for hours on end.  Entirely mouse driven, a left click attacks to the left and a right click attacks to the right.  Enemies will approach you from one side or the other and your job is to punch their faces in.  There are weapons to use, knives to deflect and light sabre rounds.  It sounds so simple (and in essence it is) but it can become supremely challenging in later stages, and the survival mode can last hours if you’re good enough.

The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac
The Binding of Isaac (2011)

So much content!  I suppose a rogue-lite would be perfect for this sort of situation, as it’s forever changing.  The Binding of Isaac has you fighting hordes of grotesque enemies using your tears as weapons.  Along the way you’ll find items to power you up and chances to sell your soul to Satan for even more power.  It’s hard, varied, and unpredictable.  Plus the expansions add a huge amount to the game in the form of new items, characters and game modes.  This game has been out for years and still has a huge following, and with good cause.

Heroes of Might & Magic

Heroes of Might and Magic 3
Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (1999)

There are plenty of games from this series to choose from, but the ones I remember most fondly and the second and third entries.  I’ve played the more recent ones, but they seem to go for a more serious approach and feel less fun.  This is a turn based game in which you improve a stronghold with buildings that generate creatures and items for your heroes.  You then send you heroes out to explore the land, collecting resources, conquering new strongholds and defeating your enemies.  Games can take a huge amount of time (especially if you set up an 8 players game) plus there’s a campaign to play through.  Many an evening was lost to this game, and it may well help me keep my sanity on this sweet desert island.

Civilization V

Civilization V
Civilization V (2010)

I struggled to decide which entry to go for here.  I had tons of fun with the second entry in the series when I was younger and I very much enjoyed Civ IV as well (although the unit stacks made it a pain to play).  I felt that, after a ropey launch, Civ V is the best one that I’ve played.  Taking my empire from fledgling village to world spanning colossus is consistently enjoyable.  Add the fact that games can end up being nigh on endless (this short article sums up how some games can end up if you let them keep running) with that dreaded “one more turn” feeling and you can lose yourself forever in this.

That’s 8!  I wonder how many hours that would keep me going for.  There were others I considered, such as Football Manager, Bloodborne/Dark Souls, and Cities: Skylines but I ended up settling on these.  How about you though?  If you were stuck, what would you take?  I’m sure you’ll have ideas that I haven’t even considered so let me know!  I’ll be sure to pack them on my next flight…

 

The Surge – You got robots in my Dark Souls!

Robo-Souls? Dark-Bots?

Have I mentioned that I like Dark Souls?  I’m pretty sure I’ve said I like Dark Souls on at least 804 separate occasions on this blog.  Which is impressive considering I haven’t posted that many times.  That’s one of the reasons why I eagerly picked up Deck 13’s Lords of the Fallen when it was released in late 2014.  And whilst it certainly had a lot of similarities (read: had no identity of its own), it was unpolished and bland.  Since then they’ve…well they’ve not done much.  Anyone heard of TransOcean 2: Rivals?  But they have attempted to return to the Souls-like sub-genre with The Surge, and I’ll be damned if they haven’t made a pretty damn good go of it this time.

The Surge really is sci-fi Souls with a couple of little twists.  The combat system is similar with a couple of additions, scrap is used for leveling up and is handled in a similar way to souls, and equipment is improved by gathering the necessary resources and enhancing it at your bonfire equivalent.  Whilst it may not be terribly original in mechanics, it does just enough to differentiate itself from its source material.

The Surge
Unlike Dark Souls, you can find audiologs (because you gotta have those collectibles) that fill in some of the lore.

You play as Warren, arriving at his first day of his new job at Creo, a (totally not evil) company with plans to save the Earth’s atmosphere, where he will be fitted with a powered exo-skeleton (think power loaders from Aliens if you like).  The intro played with my character expectations nicely, although Warren’s apparent reason for wanting an exo-suit isn’t referenced again until the end of the game.  Anyway, Warren gets fitted for his suit (in a somewhat harrowing scene) but his neural interface that connects him to Creo fails and he is cast out on the (literal) scrap heap to fend for himself.  It seems that the neural interface has screwed up a lot of people in their exo-suits, sending them utterly insane and causing them to attack anyone who isn’t connected.  And so Warren is sent to find his way to the centre of Creo to find out what’s going on and to try to stop it.

The Surge
Most of the enemies shamble towards you before striking, but some will charge you down with surprising speed.

Even the plot plays out in a Dark Souls fashion, with snippets of information passed on by NPCs (many of whom have little side quests) that don’t give too much away.  The movement and combat mechanics are also very similar, with dodges, blocking attacks and running consuming stamina that regenerates over a short time.  Combat is very slow and deliberate, with committing to an attack at the right moment being crucial lest you suffer an enormous amount of damage from a single strike.  Weapons come in an array of shapes and sizes to suit your taste, from quick two handed weapons to slow, powerful hammers.  My personal favourite ended up being the staves (bit thanks to Drakulus for suggesting them to me!) for their ability to stagger enemies and knock them off their feet.  Armour also comes in lighter and heavier varieties that will alter your damage and stamina consumption in various ways.

The Surge
Whatever’s behind this door is bound to be friendly.

So far, so Souls.  But the selling point here is how you acquire new weapons and armour.  During combat you can target specific limbs of the enemy, and each hit fills an energy bar.  Once a certain amount of damage is done and you have enough energy, you can perform a finisher that will sever the selected limb and unlock the armour attached to it for your own use.  This is also how you gain resources to upgrade those armour pieces.  It’s an interesting approach that forces you to not hit too hard lest you kill the enemy and lose the equipment you wanted.  The energy bar also allows you to use certain buffs as well as your drone to attack opponents from range.  It’s an additional meter to manage, but its addition is an interesting one, as it drains very quickly when you aren’t attacking thus promoting an aggressive style of play more akin to Bloodborne.  A thumbs up from me on this addition.

The Surge
The finishing moves that sever limbs look impressive and are pretty quick so tend not to get old quickly.

Scrap, your souls equivalent, is collected by killing enemies and lost upon your death.  Like in Souls, you can reclaim them by finding your body, only this time you have a time limit to reach it.  Killing enemies on the way extends this time limit, but I rarely found myself running out of time.  These are used to create and upgrade equipment as well as level up your power core.  Rather than level up specific stats, this allows you to plug in more powerful augments to define your character.  The augments you can install are limited by your total level/power, meaning you can’t just jam in all the most powerful ones.  You may only be able to afford a few low level ones or one high level one and this creates an interesting balancing act.  You probably want some healing items to take with you, but that means you may not have enough power to install an upgrade for your stamina.  Each augment will increase in effectiveness (up to a limit) based on your over all core power so you can still get a decent buff from weaker options.  I really like this feature.  Not only does it force you to make some difficult choices, but it also allows you to completely respec whenever you return to the Medbay (your bonfire equivalent) as you can slot augments in and out as you see fit.

The Surge
These ones killed me so many times. I found the standard enemies more challenging than the bosses at times.

The environments suit the game well, but after the opening area (a gorgeous, open scrapyard area) it becomes little more than industrial areas with a slightly different colour scheme.  There are a couple of nice changes towards the end, but on the whole the game was rather stuck with what it could offer.  It does allow for some rather tense moments journeying through tight, dimly-lit corridors in which an enemy with a flame thrower could ruin your day at any moment.  These corridors often act as shortcuts that lead back to the Medbay when needed most which is a good thing considering how large some of the areas are.

The Surge
Get used to these sort of environments. Sci-Fi games can suffer from this, as there are only so many ways to do “industrial” locations.

Enemies aren’t hugely varied, with many of them being people in suits of lighter or heavier armour, wielding one weapon or another.  The occasional ranged drone or annoying pouncing walker will show up, but for the most part you’ll be fighting the same few enemies until the final area.  The showpieces are the bosses of course, of which there are 4 (5 if you count an upgraded form of one of the ordinary enemies).  Whilst these certainly look interesting, they aren’t all that challenging.  In fact, I managed to defeat 3 of the 5 (including the final boss) on my first attempt which was a little disappointing.  I get the feeling that The Surge wanted the journey to the boss to be the big challenge, as I died during my exploration of areas far more.  Sometimes these deaths felt a little cheap as I would dodge back and end up passing through barriers and falling to my death.  These little moments indicate that this is a little less than polished in places which is a pity.

The Surge
Some of the bosses have impressive scale, but they really aren’t all that challenging compared to the series it tried to imitate.

However!  I enjoyed The Surge rather a lot.  It may be a little bland in places and lacks the polish of its source material, but it really did scratch that Dark Souls itch for me.  The change from light and heavy attacks to horizontal and vertical strikes forces you to learn the best move to use to damage each body parts and the overall combat feels weighty.  Whilst this isn’t one I’m going to be rushing back to straight away, it certainly is an adventure I enjoyed for its 20 or so hours.

The Surge was developed by Deck13 and published by Focus Home Interactive.  I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend it lovers of Dark Souls and their ilk.  Whilst unpolished, it provides good, tense fun throughout its campaign.  Well played Deck13!

E3 2017 Wrap Up – Games and such

I don’t think I’ll ever go to E3 in person, and that’s just fine by me.

I’ve never been to E3, and I doubt I ever will. That’s mostly because it looks like there are far, far too many people in a big, hot hall. I’m more than content to read about and watch the games in comfort, and not have to go near crowds of humans who may be infected with a dormant form of the zombie plague.

So here are a few thoughts on the bits and pieces from during the event.  I’m sticking to the games and tech mainly, and avoiding the god-awful, cringe worthy presentations.  Stop with the faux YouTuber nonsense!  Anyway, enjoy!

EA

EA Logo

Sports, innit!  Madden has a story mode now, just like most of EA’s other sports franchises.  FIFA will also have a continuation of its story mode, The Journey, which my wife will be fairly happy about.  There’s more content for Battlefield 1 coming, which I don’t really car about much.  Seems to be a lot of night time maps, so if you like that sort of thing then brilliant I suppose.  Need For Speed is back.  PAYBACK in fact.  It’ll have a story mode once again which is the one thing it has over Forza/Horizon.  It looks pretty but I’ve never really been interested in racers for their plots.  If the racing is good then I may take a look, but it seems to be full of scripted sequences which may break the flow of the racing.  I’ll keep an eye one it but I’m not holding my breath.

There’s Battlefront 2 on it’s way as well.  It looks pretty, and there’s a single player campaign now too.  Basically this looks like what the previous game should have been, but then we knew that already.  Then there’s A Way Out, which is the one thing here that actually grabbed me.  A co-op (only) prison escape action adventure.  THAT HAS LOCAL CO-OP!  That last bit alone is enough to interest me, but it looks gorgeous, is from a developer with a good history, and it seems to stand out somewhat from many games.

Verdict: Lots of “Meh” with a little bit of “Oh, now that’s interesting”.

Microsoft

Microsoft logo

Microsoft needed games, and I suppose they had some.  They also needed to show off the Scorpio (or Xbox One X as it’s now called) well, and I’m not so sure about that.  I suppose the new system is powerful, and the Forza 7 trailer certainly looked good running on it, but it’s not really a system seller, and that’s what was really missing.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Forza a lot, but I won’t be buying a new (expensive) machine especially for it.  The original Xbox backwards compatibility was a great thing to show people though!

Anyway, games aplenty here!  A new Metro game, named Exodus (which may be exclusive, I’m not too sure) has me interested.  Dark, scary, and very serious.  It’s a series I like and I’m glad it’s back.  Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, the battle royale style game, is a bit of a Twitch darling right now, and is heading to the console.  The Darwin Project seems to be in a similar vein but more light-hearted.  I’m not too fussed about either.  Skipping a few (seriously, there were a lot),  Dragonball Fighter Z looks fun, The Last Night and The Artful Escape have interesting art styles, Sea of Thieves is something I don’t care about, Cuphead still looks cool but really should get around to coming out and Crackdown 3 still exists.  There were a ton of other indie games, before getting to see Ashen, which seems to be trying to fill the void left by Dark SoulsOri is getting a sequel which is nice, and Shadow of War looks great too.  Then we got to see Anthem, which seems to be EA wanting to take on Destiny, which is pretty brave.  It does look good though!

Verdict:  Xbox One X is a thing now, too many games but very few system sellers.  Microsoft seem to be aiming at current users rather than new ones.

Bethesda

bethesda logo

This was about as safe as they get.  Bethesda took few risks, with VR versions of DOOM and Fallout 4, which will probably be pretty cool, and more Elder Scrolls.  We had Skyrim on Switch (again, and not looking brilliant if you ask me), and extra stuff for Elder Scrolls: Legends, their card game.  DLC for Dishonored 2 (honour has a ‘u’ in it!) is fine for fans of the series I’m sure, and a sequel to The Evil Within (which I didn’t like much) had a pretty great trailer.  Then we got the only bit I was really interested in, Wolfenstein 2, which looks pretty great.  The New Order was excellent so I’m hoping for more of that quality.

Verdict: Safe.  Very few risks here which is a little disappointing.

PC

XCOM 2 content!  Everything else can go home as far as I’m concerned, this wins.  It looks like a sizable expansion too, in the vein of Enemy Within.  Very excited!

I suppose I should mention other things too.  BattleTech seems to be coming along nicely, which is nice considering I backed it on Kickstarter.  Mount & Blade 2 and Total War: Warhammer 2 look fine too.  There were a few VR games too, but I’ll leave those to better qualified people to discuss.  Lawbreakers was mentioned too, offering some serious looking competition in the hero shooter genre.  Wargroove looks quite interesting, seeming to bring back the strategy of the classic Advance Wars.  I’m interested in this one.

Verdict: Go home everyone.  There’s more XCOM 2.  Life complete.

Ubisoft

Ubisoft New Logo

This one surprised me more.  I expected a lot of stuff we already knew, but there were a few unexpectedly interesting games.  So, forgetting about Assassin’s Creed: Origins having a trailer (that looks to be playing it safe with the series), Far Cry 5 still looking interesting, and the bizarre Mario/Rabbids crossover game, there were some cool announcements.  The Crew 2 exists (not interested), South Park has a release date (let’s hope it sticks this time), and Steep has some DLC (did that sell well enough).  Then there was Skull & Bones which is a pirate game!  Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag was great so I’m expecting a top pirate themed adventure here.  I know piracy is often frowned upon in gaming (ZING!), but I’m pretty excited by this.  Transference could be brilliant, terrible, or mad as a bag of cats.  It’s some something to do with VR I think?  There’s Elijah Wood in it which is…good?  Maybe?  It was bizarre enough to get my attention.

We had a game called Starlink, which seems to combine No Man’s Sky style space exploration, with the toys-to-life mechanics seen in Lego Dimensions and co, and an actual story.  I like space shooters so I’ll keep an eye on this one.  Then the one that people have been clamouring for for years: Beyond Good & Evil 2.  It’s been so long since the original that I’m not sure if I’m interested anymore.  Also, it’s a prequel so that trailer from years ago will still go unresolved.  Still, the trailer looks pretty cool so here’s hoping the franchise can finally be resurrected successfully.

Verdict:  Better than I expected!

Sony

Sony Logo

A problem I had here, was just seeing more trailers for games that had had trailers last year.  Spider-Man, God of War 4, Detroit, Days Gone, and so forth had been shown before.  I think this is a problem with E3 generally, showing games way too early leaving me to burn out on them before they get close to release.  Anyway, enough of that.  Gran Turismo is back, which is great although it will need to do well to compete with Forza for my racing attention!  Crash Bandicoot wasn’t really a surprise, but it’s nice to see.  Knack 2 is a thing that exists.  Hidden Agenda looks interesting, from the people behind Until Dawn.  It seems to a similar choice based progression but with multiple players using their phones to progress and interact with the game.  I like the look of this!  Superhot VR is a nice thing to have on the console, but I was very happy to see Undertale on a console.  Such a tremendous game deserves to be played by as many people as possible.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy had a trailer appearance and looks good (I’m not that into the series though).  A console based Monster Hunter game is a great thing to see.  It feels right at home on a big screen.  I’ll probably pick this one up.  Speaking of ones to buy, Shadow of the Colossus is getting a PS4 remaster (or remake?) which means I may finally get to play this classic that I missed out on.  Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite got a story trailer (and a good one at that), but I’d like to see some gameplay in it.  Call of Duty WWII had a trailer too and very much looks like a Call of Duty game.  I think everyone knows what to expect here.  We got some Destiny 2 as well, which is fine if you’re interested in the series.  I don’t think it’s going to sway me though.

Verdict: A lot of what we’d already seen, but some pretty good stuff all the same.

Nintendo

Nintendo Logo

I haven’t been big on Nintendo for while now.  I feel for every innovation they push, they make 2 boneheaded moves that ignore modern innovations.  Still, the Switch seems to have done well for them!  Most of their stuff gets shown in the Nintendo Direct stuff they do, but they had some nice presentations here.  Xenoblade Chrinicles 2 looks fantastic, pity I haven’t played the series at all.  A new Kirby game is nice, but I suspect a lot of people were very excited to see Metroid Prime 4.  Whilst it’s only a logo for now, it’s a great series to try to bring back.  I think I’d have rather they try to create a new Metroid series, but Prime was an excellent trilogy so I understand their thinking.  Yoshi.  Yay.  Fire Emblem Warriors.  Also yay.

Rocket League is coming to the Switch which is nice.  It has cross play too which makes a lot of sense in this era.  Throwing in Nintendo items is a smart move.  Then, there’s Mario Odyssey.  Damn that trailer is good.  Suitable song, fun looking gameplay (I want to possess a koopa!) and frankly stunning visuals.  This and Breath of the Wild are pushing me towards buying a Switch.

Verdict: Nintendo forever relying on their established franchises.  Still, what they have looks pretty good.

So what did you like most from the show?  Would you rather go there in person?  Let me know!

 

Injustice 2 – Stop Batman’s Murder Spree!

Batman seriously needs to cut out all that murder.

Look, even if we pretend Batman vs. Superman didn’t exist (and a lot of people would like to), Batman has been killing for a long, long time.  I’m sure he justifies it to himself:  “The fall killed him, not me.”  “He died of electrocution!  I didn’t make the electricity!”  “The Batmobile was on autopilot.  Not my fault!”  Can someone do something about it?  Does he need a therapist to deal with his serious denial issues?  Probably.  But that’s not what we’re here for.

Injustice 2
I found Harley Quinn to be my character of choice. Here she is shooting a gorilla.

Injustice 2 is the follow up to 2013’s rather good fighter: Injustice.  On an alternate Earth Superman was tricked by The Joker into killing Lois Lane and setting off a bomb, killing millions in Metropolis.  Superman kills The Joker in his rage, and decides that he will rule Earth with a regime of his creation, filled with other superheroes.  Batman, amongst others, manage to take him down and lock him away, thus saving the world.  Enter Injustice 2, in which Brainiac has come to wipe out the last Kryptonians as well as Earth.  Batman and co. try to stop him, but it quickly becomes apparent that the only one who may be able to best Brainiac may be the imprisoned Superman.

Injustice 2
Superman activating his character power to gain extra damage. Don’t worry though, I’m sure Batman will just murder him.

Normally story in fighting games isn’t really important, but NetherRealm have continued their tradition of crafting a well put together story, with excellent cutscenes and a chance to play as a large variety of characters.  Occasionally you can select between two characters and it even includes multiple (well, two) endings.  A single playthrough takes around 5-6 hours, and feels like a good length for the story it tells.  I enjoyed the campaign a great deal and got a good feel for which characters would work well for me (I settled for Harley Quinn).

Injustice 3
The cutscenes look great in most situations.

Beyond the campaign, there are the usual training and single fight options for the solo player.  There’s also the excellent Multiverse mode that provides different challenges every few hours meaning there’s always something new to try.  Perhaps there’ll be bombs falling from the sky, or the level will undulate, or maybe the whole stage will be upside down.  Not all of them are hits, but they’re all different and keep things fresh.  On the multiplayer front, there’s local and online as you’d expect.  There’s also an AI battle mode in which you select a team to take on another player’s AI team.  It’s a nice distraction that helps you unlock items, but it doesn’t really add much.

Injustice 2
Batman shooting people with machine guns. Did Zack Snyder direct this?

Items!  As you play, you’ll gain boxes that contain gear and colour schemes for your heroes.  Many of these have benefits to your character, from increased health and attack, to specific effects such as increased ranged damage.  This was a nice addition in the Multiverse mode, but in online matches (Player matches anyway, I didn’t notice it in Ranked) it becomes a little irritating.  Whilst this option can be turned off, most online players use this gear, meaning you can easily end up against someone with a more powerful character than you.  Also irritating is the fact that the boxes are seemingly random, meaning there’s not guarantee that you’ll get any items for a character you like.  Whilst it does encourage you to look into other characters, it can be frustrating to open 5 boxes and find not a single useful item for your level 18 character.

Injustice 2
The background often contains weapons, such as this crocodile…

The controls are as you’d expect for a fighter, with light, medium and heavy attacks, as well as a character specific ability.  I like the character abilities, as they play into each personality.  Green Lantern powers up his ring, Supergirl fires lasers from her eyes, whilst Aquaman can form a water shield to slip out of combos.  Special moves can be powered up by spending meter earned from fighting.  Meter can also be used in a Clash, which is one way of breaking out of a combo.  Players will bet chunks of their meter, with the one spending the most gaining an advantage.  Super moves can be carried out by hitting both triggers when you have a full meter which involve a brief cutscene of the attack that look excellent but can become tiresome after you’ve seen them a few times.  Also, Batman’s involves the Batwing firing missiles at his opponent.  How is he not murdering people with this?!  Robin doesn’t even have super powers!

Injustice 2
Superman getting his own back after being bullied by Batman for so long.

Speaking of how things look, this game looks beautiful.  The characters are fantastically well animated with lots of incidental detail, even when they aren’t the focus of attention.  The animation quality carries through into battle as you might expect, with moves looking fluid whether in the air or on the ground.  Apparently some of the animations are recycled from Mortal Kombat X (well done to Drakulus, Cheap Boss Attack, and Counter Attack on the CA Podcast for spotting that) which is a little disappointing.  It makes sense as they are basically the same fighting system, but it would have been nice if it had been all new.

Injustice 2
The Joker looks surprisingly spry considering he’s supposed to have died. Mind you, this is comic books were talking about.

The sound is also excellent, with great voice acting throughout.  The battles open with the two competitors threatening each other, and these change based on who is involved.  This also happens with Clashes, and it comes across as excellent attention to detail when Batman says something different when he’s fighting The Joker or Cyborg.  It certainly helps make the battles more dramatic and helps maintain that comic book style.  The music is…present.  I didn’t really notice it a great deal, so read into that what you will.

Injustice 2
Superman looks angry. Probably annoyed about Batman keeping all the murdering to himself.

Overall, this is one hell of a package, with tons of content for solo or competitive players.  It looks and sounds great and above all it’s fun!  And when it comes to games, whether it’s fun is kind of important.  More than that though, the fights are satisfying, with weighty feeling attacks that can smash opponents through walls or damage the scenery.  It’s just a shame that the gear system felt a little weak at times.

Injustice 2 was developed by NetherRealm and published by Warner Bros.  I played the game on Xbox One and you recommend it to anyone that has an interest in fighting games.  It’s accessible enough to allow beginners to have fun (you should have seen us the first time we tried it!) but has enough depth to challenge veterans.  Give it a go.  Just don’t get on Batman’s bad side.

5 Utterly Awesome Boss Fights – Spoiler: No Ornstein & Smough!

Bosses don’t have to be tough to be an epic encounter.

So not so long ago I went on a bit of a rant about bosses that beat the ever living crap out of me.  Whilst an absolute pain to beat, they were a fun challenge and satisfying to defeat (apart from that arsehole Capital B).  Whilst challenge should certainly be an aspect to a boss battle – after all they are there to test your skill – a good boss battle doesn’t necessarily have to be tough to be a fantastic experience.  A combination of the right challenge level, sound and visual design, and sometimes doing something a bit unexpected can lead to a tremendous scene that will prove memorable for years to come.

Scarecrow
I’m of the opinion that this is one of the smartest boss fights in gaming. It used Arkham Asylum’s mechanics in unexpected ways and managed to make Scarecrow more memorable than The Joker.

So here are 5 awesome boss battles that have stuck with me.  Usual rules apply: only one game per franchise, only games I have played and bosses I have beaten.  You won’t find a disappointing Vaas knife fight here!  I’m not including Scarecrow from Arkham Asylum though, as that was so good it practically feels like cheating.

Oh, and spoilers obviously!

The EndMetal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Metal Gear Solid 3
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)

First off, a series famed for its boss battles.  I had this game at university, and I always remember a housemate of mine describing this fight as “a deadly game of cat and mouse”.  Whilst amusing, it’s actually a pretty accurate description of the encounter.  The End is an elderly sniper and member of the elite Cobra Unit that Snake needs to take out.  He can be seen at various points in the game, and you can even kill him before the boss encounter if you’re quick.  But doing so means you miss out on an incredibly tense and varied battle.

Metal Gear Solid 3 The End
You can even eat his parrot if you manage to catch it.

In a large forest arena you’ll need to find and defeat The End, who is trying to put you down with a sniper rifle.  Most of the time you can’t see him so finding him is half the battle.  This is where Kojima and co managed to put together something rather special as there are so many ways to go about this.  You could use thermal goggles, or perhaps try spotting his bird to indicate his location.  Maybe you’ll watch for the sun reflecting off his sniper scope.  Sometimes the camera will shift to seeing through The End’s rifle to hint at his position.  You could beat him by sneaking up on him altogether or, as some players discovered, by not playing the game for a week and having The End die of old age.  Such a smart experience as you sneak, watch, and try to outdo this master sniper.

Flowey – Undertale

Undertale
Undertale (2015)

I was super late to the party with this one and had a lot of concepts in the game spoiled for me.  I put this one off for a long time because of that but I’m glad I finally settled down to play it.  The story was interesting, the characters varied and the battle system very much out of the ordinary.  Talking to the monsters rather than fighting them?  It felt pretty novel to me.  And whilst I haven’t gone for a pacifist or genocide run yet, the final boss of the neutral run was completely unexpected.

Undertale
You go from 8-bit (I think) pixel art to this monstrosity. I genuinely did not expect this boss design, nor how intense the battle would be.

In Undertale, you survive by moving your heart to avoid attacks in a bullet hell style.  The final boss really pushes your ability to the limit in this regard, but also messes with you as a gamer.  You’ll suffer damage from a series of attacks, then Flowey will save the game’s state and load it up again several more times to cause that same damage multiple times.  If you die, Flowey will shut the game down and when you launch it again he’ll taunt you over how many times he’s killed you and how much he’s looking forward to tormenting you forever.  Going from a heart warming game to this insanity was unexpected and unbelievably memorable.

Bell Gargoyle – Dark Souls

Dark Souls
Dark Souls (2011)

I was torn between this one and Father Gascoigne from Bloodborne, but I went with this as the location felt great.  For me, this is where Dark Souls really started and felt like my first real challenge.  Whilst getting here certainly wasn’t a walk in the park for me, the Bell Gargoyle trounced me several times more than any previous encounter.  I suspect that the fact it was the first real hurdle for me helps make it more memorable.

Dark Souls
I loved the feature in this game that allowed you to cut off certain enemy’s tails to acquire new weapons.

The battle takes place atop a church with the city sprawled beneath you.  The gargoyle swoops down to land on the roof and just goes crazy on you.  Once you get through the early onslaught and start causing some damage you feel pretty positive…then his friend shows up and you get a two on one battle to the death.  The environment, the desperate struggle to take down one enemy only to have his buddy show up, and finally surviving to ring the bell atop the tower.  It all comes together as a memorable encounter that tells you what this game is going to be going forward.

Senator Armstrong – Metal Gear Rising

Metal Gear Rising Logo
Metal Gear Rising (2013)

Right, this one is allowed in alongside Metal Gear Solid 3 for two reasons.  Firstly, because this is technically a spin of and is arguably its own franchise.  Secondly, this is my list and I feel like cheating a bit so nyah!  This game is full of crazy boss fights, including building sized mechs, robot chainsaw dogs and ninja cyborgs.  Picking just one of these is difficult enough, but I’ve gone for the final encounter.

Metal Gear Rising
Nanomachines, son!

A loud metal soundtrack, sword wielding robots, an inferno surrounding the combatants and an evil senator with even more bonkers policies than Trump (not trying to get too political here).  This is a boss fight that will really test the skills you’ve developed throughout the game (and took me a while to beat).  Taking down Armstrong is no easy task, requiring skillful use of your blade slicing abilities and well timed dodges.  This is Platinum at their absolute best and I’d dearly love a solid current gen port of this.

Bob Barbas – DmC: Devil May Cry

DmC: Devil May Cry (2013)
DmC: Devil May Cry (2013)

Ok, so this wasn’t the most well received reboot with many arguing (myself included) that the series didn’t really need one.  However, this is actually a pretty damn good character action game, with solid controls, a well thought out soundtrack and a werid interpretation of Dante that I’d prefer not to think to hard about.  It also has some top boss battles!  Ferris wheel demons and underground slug monsters were certainly memorable, but it was the manipulative news anchor that stole the show.

DmC Devil May Cry
He’s certainly not one of the hardest bosses I’ve ever faced, but the it does so much so well!

This is easily one of the most visually creative boss fights I’ve ever seen.  It uses the fact that Bob is a corrupt news anchor and runs with it by having the whole fight be themed around a news report.  You’ll fight through the perspective of a police helicopter’s camera, charging down a path made of news channel logos and listen to Dante’s name being slandered through propaganda infused reports.  Dodging lasers and explosions whilst approaching Bob’s digitised head to cause damage may be the way to win, but the framing of the encounter is what really makes this.  How many boss fights manage to make facing additional enemies interesting?  I certainly can’t think of many.

Some honourable mentions as ever.  I’ve mentioned Metal Gear Solid’s Psycho Mantis in the past as being very creative (that series is just incredible when it comes to bosses).  The Sephiroth battle in Kingdom Hearts was impressive for many reasons.  It was unexpected, challenging and full of fan service.  Jecht from Final Fantasy X is one I found quite memorable due to the catharsis is provides Tidus.  Whilst the encounter itself wasn’t all that incredible, the significance of it certainly is.  And Wyzen from Asura’s Wrath was a sight to behold.  Whilst the fact it was almost entirely a QTE works against it, the visual spectacle more than makes up for it.  Oh, and there was this guy from Serious Sam:

Serious Sam
The scale of this boss was insane for the era!

I notice that many of these are fairly recent.  Are modern boss encounters really more impressive than older ones?  Or did I just not play the right ones as a youngster?  Let me know if there are any I should experience!