Hearts of Iron IV – The ‘What if?’ World War Simulator

After an extensive amount of revision for my history A level, I’ve developed a yearning for changing events. What if, Hitler sent the panza division to Dunkirk? What if JFK wasn’t assassinated? What if Trump was? What if I spent time doing my essay instead of playing Tetris into the early hours of Monday morning? Problem is, we haven’t developed any technology of the sort so in the mean time I’ll stick to virtually changing 1936-1945. Paradox Software’s latest ‘epic strategy’ game Hearts of Iron IV allows the player to take control of any country in 1936 or 1938 and dictate their actions through out the World War 2 , historically accurate or not.

Now that’s the simple summary out the way, time to get into the nitty-gritty. The gameplay is pretty complicated. I say ‘pretty’ with a fear of admitting how long it took me to even understand the game and I know I am nowhere near mastering it. It would take longer than this train journey to Manchester to describe to you so  I advise anyone interested to watch a twenty part tutorial if they want to learn. Whilst this has immediately turned off a lot of you already from even consider buying the game I’ll try to show you why I am having so much fun with it.

Paradox Software have used all their expertise in this game to create a thoroughly enjoyable game that keeps you engaged. They have allowed room for imagination they perfected with their genre-defying City Skylines and nailed the historical feel they gained knowledge about in Europa Universalis IV. The game all takes place on a boardgame-style map of the world which has acute detail when you scroll right into the forests of Northern Russia and an enchanting feel of scale of when you zoom out to see the continent of Africa. This allows for some real immersion in the game’s single-player as you genuinely feel strength when you can crush countries like Lithuania and keel over in fear of the Nazi Regime blitzkrieg-ing through the entirety of Europe. The UI is neatly designed also allowing an easy button press to take off a lot of annoying features like the day and night cycle (who plays with that seriously?) and to toggle on and off allied battle plans. That one comes pretty important when your pal Stalin is planning a separate plan for each of his thirty armies but you can’t see what your two divisions of Mongolian Calvary are up to. Side note: Don’t pick Mongolia unless you want to sit there for 2 hours trying to develop an army even Greenland wouldn’t use (Long live the Mongolian Fascist Regime).

Whilst the gameplay is too complicated for me to explain, take my word for it when I say it works. In fact, it’s so well designed even your craziest dreams are possible, for instance, what if the USA suddenly turned communist? I don’t know but it sounds fun. Every country has its own ‘National Focus’ tree which gives them tailored and well thought out event trees you can go down, which give their own benefits and drawbacks respectively. Even as I write this I want to just name off possible things to try out and see what changes. To make it even more fun I advise turning off historic AI so theirs even more randomness to their actions. As for the actual combat, it would make any battlefield tactics enthusiast giggle like a little school girl. To continue my quest of keeping this review simple I’ll just state theirs a lot of micro-management possible and depth to the battle plans but can just be set to auto and watch your troops plough through the lands of your enemies.

A major enjoyment factor for me is the politics and diplomacy threaded through the game. The game allows you plenty of options to interact with other countries like improving relations and creating factions but also allow for you to influence a political party’s popularity or even cause a civil war if you’ve got the political power to do it. I enjoy it so much because every sensible interaction possible has an ‘event’ for it. This is simply a little news article that pops up with a headline and a bit of text explaining whats going on but shows that extra bit of care that Paradox took to make this game. I challenged myself to find one it didn’t have it for by being Czechoslovkia and pushing to capture the German Reich but lo and behold a little article popped up stating ‘The Fall of Berlin’ and detail explaining how the Czechs pushed through. Like the gameplay, the politics is sensible and believable, an example being if Poland invaded Finland, Finland would join the allies and bring in the UK to help them. On the other hand, if Finland flipped to a communist state it would call on the great Mother Russia to stomp them out. This sometimes leads to even more countries piling in to defend certain pacts and alliances to the point where you ‘accidentally’ cause World War Two to happen three years earlier.

Although a lot of my playtime is spent on me playing on my own adventures, the multiplayer allows for even more surreal game experiences. Like being every country in south America and sweeping the USA out the game before they can even consider the Nuclear bomb (We got you Japan). This is of course, assuming your friends don’t just want to solely take you out the game as early as they can. Which has its own enjoyment factor as you have to end up trying to get one ups against them in the micro-management combat, there’s also nothing more satisfying as capitulating another player’s country. Now there are loads of features I’ve left out and not talked about ( Navy, Air Combat, Factories, Division Designers to name a few) but I hope I can convince you when I say it’s probably my favorite game I’ve played in recent history. In fact, I’d go as far to say it’s overtaken the Civilization series when it comes to these strategic epics – However that could just be due to gross amount of playing the games – and if I knew about it last year probably would have been my game of the year.

As a lovely side dish, the game is constantly being updated with a weekly development log and a super active modding community behind it allows for fine tuning of elements and allows some countries that get overlooked to gain as much enjoyment as playing as a major power. Whilst I could name problems like the sometimes silly A.I when it comes the automatic combat mode or occasional bugs in online mode, they have a really minimal effect on the overall game experience.

I hope my abnormal amount of praise for this game convinced you to give it a look. I don’t usually have this much to talk about. Let’s just hope that Mongolia will finally get’s its buff to be as powerful as the German Reich and finally fulfill my dream of the entire world being under the Mongolian Fascist Regime.

A Division has no orders,

-Sam Burdis

P.S A Levels are finally here and Summer so I’ll be returning probably in September sometime and whilst I travel to Salford for a university interview I hope I’ll be speaking to you from a comfy student union. x

 

Hearts of Iron IV – The ‘What if?’ World War Simulator

RPGs – Skipping Dialogue

So to follow up the Skyrim article I thought I’d have a go at trying to talk about what is essentially one of the most common ways to deliver exposition in RPGs, Dialogue. I can’t think of a single game in the genre that doesn’t have some sort of spoken language to communicate and who wouldn’t want to? It’s easy to understand as we do it in everyday life and when well crafted, it can do the job that 4 pages of a book does in shorter time. Although, during the hours I spend losing myself in these various titles, I find myself skipping through the talks or conversations with NPCs. A controversial move because why would you want to skip possible important information about the story your character is wrapped up in? And to be honest I don’t really know.

Some part of me thinks it’s my inner child wanting to just skip to the action or to the bits where I can shoot a bow or explore somewhere, but after an hour or so I realised I have no idea why I am murdering these animals or why I am collecting a random book. Another part thinks it’s plain boredom and sometimes it is. When you are sitting through your 23rd text box of pure plain text for a side quest with no relevance to the main story, you start to get a bit exhausted and just want to get it over and done with. However, the part that I feel is most probable is just me not feeling immersed in the game. In World of Warcraft for example, I always went to the exclamation-marked NPC, picked up the quest and went to complete it without even reading a single piece of information. Now it’s not that the WoW Universe has bad writing or story to explore, my good friend has shown me that with his constant lectures, but it could just be down to not having a voice to put behind it.

In Skyrim, a game where I feel interested in almost every conversation, the game stops everything around, zooms you into their uncomfortably detailed face and reads out the text in a believable and accurate voice. Doing that directs my attention to exactly where Bethesda wants me to be and can then create a story that’s worthy of keeping that attainment, so when I accidentally kill the pet bunny instead of saving it I feel a little bit more guilt. In Bethesda’s other successful RPG, Fallout, the player has consequences to their actions via the Karma system. This means that certain dialogue options affects the rating of whether they are considered good or bad and get rewards like certain quests available to them or punishments like hunting parties going after you in the middle of your travels. So not only do they have the immersive features mentioned in Skyrim but they have some validity to your actions so you have to actual process the information given to you otherwise you could end up having an entire faction against you.

Although, this can be time-consuming for developers and that’s understandable, but that didn’t stop the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic. Whilst it isn’t as indepth as a £40 AAA game title in the RPG genre, it simply gives you two options of either making your character more align with the Force or the Sith. This made me more intrigued than any MMO had, not only is it in the Star Wars universe, but allows me to roleplay as a bounty hunter who would ditched his morals for more money. Not to mention the game itself is pretty fun but I’ll leave that for another time.

On the other hand, there’s evidence like the Pokemon series that blows this theory all out the water. This is a game which is reltable to a book when it comes to talking to NPCs. The game rarely offers interaction with conversations and often it’s just a  silly comment or remark. Yet I find myself actually wanting to talk to characters unlike being forced to but it doesn’t have a single voice sound effect in the whole game besides the bleeping of lines being written. As to why, I feel it’s because I know the conversations aren’t going to be a novel every time I talk and it could just simply be a witty one liner. It could due to the simplicity of the words used or the casual tone the overall game presents itself in that makes me want to explore it. It could just be because it allows me to input names that are used in the conversations but that doesn’t really help with immersion when you call your character ‘cuntface’. I’ll probably never know, but all I know is Pokémon sometimes makes me care more about a 3×3 sprite of a character than a 3D model hand crafted by a prestigious designer with millions of speech interactions.

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So to conclude, I won’t listen to the important lore or impressive story arc a team of writers have had numerous brainstorms to create, but I will want to hear about how a kid likes to wear shorts because they are comfy to wear. Fuck me right?
Press Any Button to Skip
-Sam Burdis

P.S After writing this I played some Witcher 3 and add it to the list of games that do offer immersive conversations and amazing stories. It also uses all the factors I named as well to achieve it so boom the correlation lives on.

RPGs – Skipping Dialogue

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition – The Time Machine of Video Games

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When the fifth installment to Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls RPG series came out in November 2011, the reception received was on another level. For me, this ‘gamer’ who played Call of Duty: Zombies until he couldn’t feel his fingers (or when dinner was ready), I didn’t understand it. Who would want to walk and explore… In a video game? Why would you want to listen to someone talk about dragons? Who cares, I thought. When I played it on my brother’s steam account, I skipped all the dialogue and all the story I came across. Consequently, I gained minimal satisfaction from the game and thought it was one of those rare moments where I just didn’t agree with the hype train and quit to go lose more hours screaming at people on CoD or something along those lines.

As I made more friends (somehow) in my school life and as time went on, I found out that many placed Skyrim in a good light and any of my past problems were plainly met with the response of ‘roleplay’. Now if the genre RPG Adventure didn’t give it away already, roleplaying games are intended for the audience to pick it up and immerse themselves into the character they create. At the time, I had just realised that sitting in front of an Xbox 360 from dusk till dawn wasn’t the whole experience with gaming, as I had just bought a new PC. So imagine my surprise when my friends ask me to ACT in a video game, silly no? Well, since I was scared to be a social minority I went home and tried it again. Alas, no improvement. I don’t know whether it was the game running at maximum 20 FPS or my uneducated brain not understanding half the mannerisms or lore. Although I managed to run through a decent amount of the game – since I couldn’t be bothered walking everywhere once fast traveling was an option – I disappointingly dropped it and jumped on to the next bandwagon, which was some small indie game called ‘Minecraft’.
Circa October 27, 2016. My nicely nicknamed ‘Skyrim friends’ perk up once more but this time to inform me that a ‘Special Edition’ of the game had been released. I was half amazed at the fact that Bethesda had managed to get away with a £40 remastered edition of a game that was only 5 years old but also half intrigued once more by the sudden buzz for the game. Seeming as it was a big deal to my friends, I managed to fit some time in my super busy schedule to give it a look.

Just as a little input, since the last time I picked this up I had managed to get a computer that wasn’t just scrap parts and developed at least some knowledge of the outside world.

After the relatively short download period, I jumped in and spent some time creating a character that would actually be fun to be, I chose an Orc who, due to a shitty ass childhood, wants to go do some magic at Winterhold College and named him the creative and definitely LORE friendly ‘Michael’. After some hesitation I decided to give myself a little challenge and set it to the second hardest difficulty, ‘Master’, since I figured it would be easy enough. Unfortunately, I remembered the main twists and events of the main questline from my previous endeavour so after the chains of the tutorial and the first mission broke loose I went off to explore.

Instantly it felt different, whether it was these allegedly ‘high definition’ graphics brought about in the Special Edition or the cognitive change that comes with aging. I started to appreciate the beauty of the game. I realised that people didn’t walk around just for the sake of roleplay, they actually wanted to look around at the scenery and hidden locations you only really find by straying off the path. From the impressive structure of Winterhold College to the vast wastelands of The Pale. I was yearning to keep finding locations and thinking of my character’s reaction or thoughts in those situations .

I guess half of the game is about crafting your own narrative, with some essentials elements (i.e being a dragonborn) required to have the main story make sense. As Michael, as mentioned before my aim was to reach Winterhold College, the mage capital of Skyrim, but I wanted to make sure he knew his stuff first and made him go help Whiterun or any Imperial cities. I went for a playstyle of covering every spell area and not specialising in one (which was a pain when it came to leveling up) and a good ol’trusty mace, because sometimes the traditional methods work best. At first, it all seemed fine and dandy, with a cool ass lightning bolt followed by a swift swing of the mace combo, I seemed unstoppable in the early levels. Then later on I started to realise my flaw. I had gone too general and my skills were all spread out thinly whilst my enemies at the same level as me could easily throw a fireball my way and make my day a lot worst.

It also could have been the fact that I chose ‘Master’ difficulty. If you are thinking of doing a playthrough on it, prepare to be scared of literally anything that moves. Whether it’s a rookie bandit or a wild bear, they are all going to put up a fight. You think, maybe, that by pushing to get a higher level mace or armor you’ll be safe….but No, that just allows you to chip a little more health away from their looming health bar as they maul your eyes out with a rusty iron dagger. Heaven forbid if I ever get a dragon encounter that isn’t near a city, because even with the support of the hundreds of troops to help me slay the beast, the amount of close calls was insane. Even the death toll of anyone who attempted to help could rival the Battle of the Somme. Not to mention if you accidentally hit somebody else with a lone arrow the guards instantly turn on you and make you reload your save.

A highlight of that shows this difficulty to me was when I had to go up the big ol’ mountain (Players know which one I mean) to meet the Greybeards, after preparing for a while I got the courage to start climbing. Nevertheless, on the way up I got through the wolfs and bears ok on my own then , on the home straight, I came across a Frost Troll. Sure it looked scary enough but after easily sweeping through the various hostile wildlife before I thought it’d be a simple battle. Firstly, I attempted to just hit it and what do you know? I did about 2 HP of damage and was flung into space in one hit. My second attempt was to get one of the pilgrims that sit on the side of the hill to help me. After baiting the Frost troll to come and get one of them involved, I had a glimmer of hope that Michael could slay this monster, but no, after around four hits the pilgrim made their way down the mountain a much different and steeper path. Leaving me to yelp in fear before exploring this new path down the mountain myself, slapping my rag doll limbs against the trees as I went. After around 30 attempts of just trying variations of tickling the troll with my attacks I got a good idea – a seemingly rare moment. I dropped all my stuff in a bottomless chest and ran straight at the troll, naked. The troll must have been bewildered by the spectacle of a naked orc sprinting directly at him because Michael jumped around the monster and ran into the sunset with ease. Yet, the Frost troll started to pursue, so after pausing the game to start the Benny Hill theme song I run as fast as the stamina bar allowed it and dodge any hostile creature I came across before I made it to the temple victorious, naked, but victorious, (Made the conversations with the Greybeards a bit more interesting anyway)

To make the role-play that little bit more serious, I devised a few in-character gameplay elements like no fast traveling, no map etc which (whilst at first a nuisance) doubled my game time and doubled my enjoyment due to actually seeing more of the game and finding caves or secrets on my own travels. However, it made me re-consider my choice on difficulty more often, since you wonder why at level 21 you can’t kill a Mudcrab easily.

Recently, I finally got to the grand Mage Capital and started to the questline for Winterhold, although I have the game down for a while. The curse of playing it through already made me remember most of the questlines so the betrayals and twists in the stories of the common quests weren’t as effective as their intended to be. Although, I did have a lot of a fun with the game with all the side quests and while I may exaggerate the difficulty, it definitely added an extra element of knowing you can’t take on the world, or in fact, anything.

If this sounds like your cup of tea and somehow you’ve managed to avoid it then I’d suggest giving it a go. Hell, if you are one for story, the LORE inside this game is incredible large. Not even mentioning the depth of detail in the small things like items having so many variations, loads of ways to improve weapons, various skills and skill trees that allow for customisation. A favourite of mine was the alchemy or Enchanting which typically gave me the edge for surviving brutal dungeons. Locations themselves were also well designed and crafted with some sort of story to tell everytime, even through small stuff like the placement of objects can tell a better story than the group of writers for The Big Bang Theory could ever make. I feel myself wanting to start this up again and finally put an end to Michael’s story (and the fact I have barely made a dent in this game with 100+ hours) but apparently I need time for A-levels.

There’s a good chance Skyrim may stick around for another ten years though. The active modding community surrounding it allows for almost every element of the game to be changed for your liking, whether that means realistic HD textures or flying Thomas the tank engines. There’s also the big fanbase for LORE, with numerous subreddits dedicated to theories of the metaphysics surrounding separate gods and planes of existence, like arguing whether or not chickens are animals or a desperate cry from Ius to escape from the Akatosh party. It could very well be a game that stays popular till the end of time, or , at least till Elder Scrolls VI comes out.

 

Skyrim belongs to the nords,

-Sam Burdis

P.S When I went back  to get pictures for this, I attempted to do a random dungeon I found with a few only a few small goblin-like creatures (Falmers) in, it took me 4 hours. Tried again in the default, low difficulty with the same loadout, 20 minutes. With this information I don’t recommend ‘Master’ difficulty on your first play through if you value your sanity.

P.P.S After many attempts, I can’t get past one of the starting quests for Solitude. It seems after killing numerous dragons and acquiring the best possible armor and upgrades possible at the moment, I am no match for a singular frost Draugr Scourge.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition – The Time Machine of Video Games

Eletronic Farts – Why I hate EA.

 

In my posts you probably can see that I have a sort of hatred towards Electronic Arts. That’s not because I am jumping on the band wagon of hating the big guys because they can be used as a scape goat. Its just how the company works and how it treats its selling techniques, games and even players. To be honest, this has only occurred in the past few years, I use to look forward to their new releases.

Electronic Arts started out in May 28, 1982, before my time, they had so I am going to skip forward to when I got to know they existed. My first real experience with an EA game was back on the PC with Command and Conqueror, more specifically the Generals. This Real time strategy game was what I normally saw my dad play at the Gaming LANs he attended. This game was a great game in the loved series due to its easy to play hard to master style of play with many house rules being developed meant that it could be enjoyed at any time of the day. It also had the original EA intro, which is epic no matter what. For that I am grateful for EA because its a game that I now hold close to my heart due to the amount of time I played it with my dad and brother.

The next time I really dipped in with EA again was Battlefield 2. Another game that was introduced to me through my dad let me waste hours on trying to drive the big tanks. This was a pioneer when it came to FPS, as the only real contenders was Call of Duty series or Medal of Honor (which I never really touched). This also set DICE (EA’s game development company) a new series to be develop to this very day. What was key about this game was that Electronic Arts started to do Downloadable Content. This was actually pretty well received during the games span due to the base game not actually having much content. However it planted the seed for later events.

So its going okay for EA at the moment, and I could go on about others like Mirrors Edge, Dragon Age, Spore, Mass Effect, Black and White, even Burnout but what caused all the hatred was the sequels. The earliest start was Mass Effect 2. This game was quite reasonable for a  sequel to its great original IP and received very good reviews but what bugged me was the pre-order DLC you got, and this was before it became the norm, including things like “better guns” and a new “appearance” for your character. There was also a total of 18 payable downloadable content for the game over its release. This made the community question the series and saw more in the light of it looking like a money farm rather than an actual game. Although, it was accepted overall due to some of the DLC actually expanding the game and making it bigger and better. This made EA realise that they could make money through this concept rather than the game.

 

This however, became very apparent for me in the recently mentioned FIFA games. Before, back in the playstation 2 and xbox original era, FIFA was a great footy game which means that every time you went over to your mates you had to ready your tryhard mode and attempt to beat him no matter what the rules are. It brought a feeling of self-worth when you scored in the last minute and crushed the emotions of your opponent as you threw your controller in the air. So, roll around FIFA 14. Part of the yearly series that FIFA made, now with this new attitude EA had acquired they thought of a unique idea. Why not bring the team management of the base game and the competition of the series together? This was the birth of ultimate team. In this mode you draft your team from cards you get from packs, with these teams you then face off with your mates or opponents online for either a tournament or a feeling of being better than someone else. The slight issue was they introduced another way of getting through the game. FIFA points. These were the quick fire way to buy packs with real money so you can get better players than others. Now this spelled out disaster, making people who had already dropped £40 pounds on the game now had to spend more money on just trying to compete. This made that feeling of self-worth I was on about previously, more artificial that most. It also caused much upset for the parents of many finding their credit card being used on multiple payments and just generally bringing a new way to play the game. No one cared about the base friendship game now, it was all about paying to win. Unfortunately, it was highly successful for EA, people were buying points left right and centre and also set the foundation of Free to play models for IOS games now.

Skipping through the notably microtransaction-filled Need For Speed series and the Mistreatment of Mass Effect 3’s new model, EA saw fit to try this model in other games. SimCity was a much anticipated reboot of the much loved city builder, this series was back near the roots of PC gaming with making the player feeling like they can actually change the world. There was not many city builders around, especially ones that didn’t look as in depth as this newly announced addition. This ‘reboot’ promised superb graphics, interactive gameplay with friends and a real feel of immersion in creating the city. The first problem out the game was it had to always be online to play it. This meant that when the game was released it caused hours of waiting for gamers just so they could play their game they just brought. Another problem for PC users was that it used EAs new game hosting platform Origin, this laggy and unrobuse software was nothing compared to the reliable steam platform users had got use to. Then finally, only days before its announcement, it said it would have microtransactions for extra features. A developer later said that the company had given time out on making the game to make more DLC. All these factors made SimCity a flop for the community and this sort of bad reputation EA had gotten now became a villainous one and certainty made me look at them in the wrong light.

This theme of microtransations ran through many of their new games: Battlefield: Hardline, NHL 16,  The Sims 4, Titanfall even the goofy plants vs zombies series had a sequel filled with them. This reputation EA has created for themselves is terrible, they rely on this model and promise so much to their community to just let them down with DLC and unfinished games. Although there is a sliver lining, this brought many who relied on the triple A market to look towards the indie game scene where many diamonds occurred all without publishers and these big budgets which restored faith for those who had lost it in the game industry.

So here we are  now with EA’s next victim being the legendary series of Star Wars: Battlefront with the same old great graphics but terrible game method. After all this it has sort of left me a state of distrust and the opposite of brand loyalty towards the company and quite frankly I just want to play the games I use to like. It’s a shame because EA and other publishers end up running good games like Dragon Age: Inquisition which I had a great time with, but they somehow managed to jam microtransactions  into that as well.

Anyway, now you have read over 1300 words of why I hate a corporate business why not go do something productive?

 
Buy 10 for £39.99 (Best Value),

 
-Sam Burdis

Eletronic Farts – Why I hate EA.

Tom Clancy’s The Division – (Map) Size Matters?

In a recent video from Youtuber Arrekz, we got to see more gameplay of the new addition to Ubisofts Tom Clancy’s franchise with The Division. This game apparently takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where survivors are all players and sort of play The Last of Us but in a multiplayer format. Whilst the game it self looks interesting the big topic of discussion today is the Map the open-world game takes place in.

The general consensus is that the map is quite small compared to other titles made by Ubisoft, for instance the Assassin’s creed series which in Black Flag you had the whole Mediterranean  to explore as well as in Watch Dogs you had a giant city to mess around with. The Division has also been compared to GTA V for map size, seeing that they are roughly the same. However, does the size of the map actually matter that much? its the age old question of quality or quantity.

Lets go back a bit and see when really this craze of map size actually came about. The practical use of making the map bigger was used as a unique selling point for sequels of big titles, sort of matching with the though of ‘the bigger the better’, it can be dated all the way from Pacman with its sequels constantly trying to work on making it fresh. However, the need for a big map really came into play with the birth of open world RPG games because it expanded on the world that the player can immerse themselves in. Think about it, you are exploring the lands of a mythic place, connecting with your characters emotions then bam, you hit an invisible wall or a message saying to turn back. It doesn’t help the company.

On the other hand, when do  you know to stop? sure, you can make it keep going and going with random generation but then that breaks the experience for players knowing that the game doesn’t even know that they will walk into and the user starts to break this immersion and realises its just walking around in a load of scripts and algorithms. You also have the case of being too big meaning you have to walk for hours to reach that sweet loot on the other side of the map. You could argue that’s part of the fun for games like Fallout and Skyrim but then after the walk, you find yourself just fast travelling there anyway so what’s the point?

The perfect recipe for a map? there isn’t one, because games have constant variations in  environments means you can never be too sure how well you have done it and normally cant base it off another game. In addition, the only way you know when you have done a good job is when the community doesn’t bring it up and it sucks that you put so much thought into it to not be even considered. In a ideal world, its quality in a vast land but since we have to be realistic, I think The Division have it pretty spot on.

You see The Division is selling that its set in a devastated New York City, and that means they already have a boundary sorted out for them. Basing your game in a place people can recognise means that they cant really argue map size because it already being a thing! Sure, it might miss out a few provinces here and there (sorry Brooklyn) but in the end, you aren’t playing The Division to see how your apartment looks after a germ pandemic.

To wrap up, map size doesn’t matter, as much as the publishers want you to believe so you can buy another sequel, it doesn’t. What does matter is in the map to explore and find by yourself. A recent example of this is Just Cause 3 which brought a giant world for players to destroy stuff in, but if you go into a town and just watch you see the emptiness of personality through out the streets as well as glitchy AI where a old lady looks at you and immediately runs into a wall, take this video for example.

Hopefully The Division will  now put extra effort in the map knowing that people will be paying close attention to the content. I hope its good anyway, they got siege right at least.

 

Clean your bank notes,

-Sam Burdis

 

 

 

Tom Clancy’s The Division – (Map) Size Matters?

Battlefield, Published by a Bad Company

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January is the point in all media where things start to drag. Spoof horror movies, news reports on the same topics, but in the gaming industry its sort of a drought from the big Christmas rush for triple A companies and more of a dribble of indie games. So in this break I am going to discuss something that I have gone back to recently and found a new love for.

Battlefield has always thrived being an immersive FPS and impressive graphics, Its key point was always the destruction. This record can be tracked back all the way to Battlefield 2 and 1942 with its easy to use, hard to master style of play (expect for Air vehicles, they are and always will be made for Pros). Yet, this style of play let players experience a more realistic side of this genre compared to its counter part, Call of Duty.

 

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was made back in 2010 by the Swedish company DICE but published by the notorious Electronic Arts. This game received great reviews on its release because of its destruction and impressive graphics that still hold up to this day. The variety in weapons and playstyles kept it refreshing for people who had put hundreds of hours in the game and the map sizes gave the player a great satisfaction if they ever managed to capture every point. Skip forward to 2016, here I am looking for a game to play when my friend asks to download it. Now I had experience with B: BC2 before but never with a clear insight of its mechanics. So I jumped in and was immediately back in the swing of things.

As I played, I noticed that I didn’t really get bored with the game itself like I had with the more recent ones. Sure, you got the common problem of max levels flying around in jets destroying every living creature or a sniper that manages to land on top of an aerial and get a clear vantage on your spawn but something made me want to keep playing, then I figured it out.

This Happens a lot….

 

One answer could be that there isn’t any newish players on the game anymore because of its age or another could be because of nostalgia but I just think it’s because of the company to put it out there, EA. In Battlefield 4 right now, we are seeing microtranscations available to fill in the skill gap of most players. We also saw a buggy release when it dropped with the servers because EA just went with the old “shove it out there and pray” tactic that these big publishers like to do. There’s also a giant amount of DLC available which really splits the community from being to access those other maps. Whilst in B:BC2 its forgotten about, so if you do find a weapon OP or your pistol is shooting peas at the them then you can’t do anything, you just stiffen your upper lip and keep playing and that’s refreshing. I see B:BC2 as Battlefield’s peak. The gameplay is solid and not filled with game breaking bugs, the maps offers vastly different experiences and environments and even the accessibility of the game, just being on steam, helps it out for players to just simply load it up besides opening their web browser or Origin.

Now not every reason is EA’s fault, that’s just like blaming your homework on your dog eating it. The community as stated before aren’t as welcoming as B:BC2 because it’s still the most current game filled with a wide range of players and different personalities. There is also some blame on DICE for not sorting the hundreds of bugs the game had on its release not to mention the balancing of guns. However, is a subsidiary of Electronic Arts and so its decisions are probably made by EA themselves. I can tell you for a fact that it was EA’s decision for the battlepacks that give you ‘unique’ skins and dog tags for your killed victim to view.

I guess what I am trying to say is B:BC2 is good because it’s the newer battlefields without all the gimmicky crap that makes it up now. We probably will never see Battlefield reach its peak again and that’s sad but it doesn’t mean we can enjoy this game, well, at least until EA decides for some more cuts and switches off the servers.

But the one thing that is consistent is the campaigns.They will forever be forgotten in every Battlefield game.

We are losing, Fight Harder,

–  Sam Burdis

Battlefield, Published by a Bad Company

Chroma Squad – First Impressions

I have a new thing to look forward to at the beginning of every month, the Humble Bundle Monthly. In the latest one it included many games I had already have / played. However, I was delighted to find a new gem, Chroma Squad. Chroma Squad was an indie game created by Behold Studios which I had heard absolutely nothing about besides some mutters among my friends about its playability.

So I did some research and saw it was a Pixel-based Tactical RPG where the player controlled a group of Power Rangers facing new challenges every episode whilst simultaneously controlling the studio that the program is produced in. I am a sucker for pixel art so the look of this game made me install it first out of the bundle.

The Narrative follows these method actors of a group called ‘Chroma Squad’ who break off a big studio to create their indie studio making more episodes. Since every episode is supposed to be a TV episode there is a lot of cutscenes, and I mean ALOT of cutscenes, half of this game I was just holding down the enter key trying to skip through them all because they are just SO boring. I mean, its great for the first couple of scenes because of the dialogue but after a while you realize you’re just reading speech bubbles from emotionless characters with sound effects and pop culture references sprinkled in every now and then.

As for game-play, it’s a standard tactical RPG with objectives to do. The player has five members to control each with their own abilities which can all be customized in the studio. It’s a refreshing experience to play because its been a while since we have had a refined one as this but after the objectives get near impossible and you bought the wrong thing then it just gets to be tedious retries over and over again. However, the game has so fun elements. The key is to fill the audience bar as more audience = more profit, but this means that you have to follow the typical action conventions for it to appeal to the audience. This makes the experience a little bit more fun and challenge, for instance, if you use your finishing move too early, maybe just to kill a standard minion, it leaves you with a drastic decrease in audience. A later feature (and normally a season finale) is the Giant-Mecha fights which bring back some nostalgia of how totally cool they were in the original power rangers as a kid and the use of a ‘quick time’ event makes gives you some pleasure when you hit it perfect.

As for the studio side of things, there’s not much to say besides emails which let you get that enhance on the story in the ‘real life’.You also buy upgrades for characters that affect your typical stats and the studio which increase the fame and audience (and money). All of this is pretty fun but the problem with it is what the original Assassins Creeds where you start to crave the life outside the animus more than the inside making you want to skip through all the cut-scenes and rush through the gameplay.

Right now I have reached ‘Season 2’ of the show which is sort of like acts in the story and I haven’t uninstalled it like normally do with these quirky indie games. Who knows? it might be my new go-to podcast game.

Binding of Issac, you have Competition. –

Sam Burdis

Chroma Squad – First Impressions