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Reviews

The original Little big planet was nothing short of amazing. The mechanics where,  even at the time, rather outdated and giving them a quick polish worked amazingly well. It’s pure innocent charms and Steven Fry’s commentary are impossible to resist. But really how complicated can a platformer be? Sure the graphics are nice and the platforming is huge fun but ultimately that’s not enough. And there lies Little Big Planet’s key to success.

As with so many successful modern games opening design and creation to the community can be a huge advantage. You can all but guarantee that eventually someone will make something amazing or use tools in a totally unique way that nobody ever thought of. There’s something very satisfying about playing each level knowing you could make everything in it, with enough talent.

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So Little Big Planet was something new and Little Big Planet 2 added a huge amount of features to expand the creative side of the game and therefore what was possible in a level. For Little Big Planet 3 Media Molecule had a seemingly simple, albeit brilliant, idea. More characters. Given what was possible in the previous two games with one character imagine what you could do with 4. In essence the single player campaign is an extended tutorial, now more than ever given the amount of new stuff to be explained. But it’s a decent adventure with the usual pantomime villains and silly jokes. As usual it’s impossible to resist Little Big Planet’s charms for all of its 6 or so hours offline.

The plot is simple, Sackperson has been captured and 3 new characters are tasked with rescuing him. There’s Odd Sock who’s a sort of dog like Sackperson who can repeatedly back jump off walls to make his way between two objects. When playing as Odd Sock there’s a definite flow to the game with levels tending to be fast paced and almost Sonic like at times. The speed and momentum is similar to the standard platforming with that slight weightlessness that makes the platforming so satisfying, but with some extra jumping abilities levels feel surprisingly refreshed.

Toggle is probably my favourite character to play as and also adds the most new function to the game. Toggle can either become very small so that he has very little mass or become large and have a very high mass. It’s another case of a simple mechanic that can give birth to complicated gameplay. One example is launching yourself out of water by first becoming heavy and sinking then switching back to being light and rising to the top violently to spring yourself up and scale an obstacle.

Swoop is basically a bird and as such can fly – a bit. Swoop is a little less interesting to play and can basically glide and fly about as well as flappy bird. As Swoop you can also pick certain objects up and move them around as a sort of plug and socket puzzle. There isn’t the same pace and momentum that I like so much about the gameplay of Little Big Planet and swoop just doesn’t capture me like the other characters. But still it’s yet another way to play and another option for level creation.

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The compulsory tutorial that you always have to complete before getting stuck into level creation has thankfully been drastically overhauled. Previously they have became stale long before the end. Even Stephen Fry’s narration wasn’t enough to keep the boredom away. With as many complex features as Little Big Planet now has an in depth tutorial is inevitable but luckily LBP 3 makes it slightly more interesting than before. Instead of pop-ups full of information and the odd video the tutorials now play as simple puzzle solving levels.

In one series you will need to create, delete and reshape items to get through the level. In another you will use string and elastic at different lengths and strengths to move objects or create swinging grab able items to Tarzan over a gap. Slowly but surely you make your way through all that LBP has to offer. Making the tutorial a series of mini challenges rather than just being told what to do you not only gives you a greater understanding of how to use the tools but helps prevent boredom too.

And once you’re done you can create and upload levels as much as you want. They can be simple or complex, long or short but they’re fun to create and LBP still invites you to get stuck in and just play around. Creating with a friend is especially fun and can even be quite productive. But I’m not a creative kind of person so playing other people’s levels is the main attraction for me. Luckily all the levels from both previous games are playable in LBP 3 which means there is an absolutely colossal archive of levels ready to be played already. There are some really amazing levels to be played from the previous games so it’s nice to have them all in one place.

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Following tradition everything still looks great but nothing is allowed to look slick. Everything has that tacked together feel that makes LBP look so distinctive. But that doesn’t mean the visuals haven’t been improved. The fuzz from Sackperson’s material in particular looks amazing. It catches the light just as you would expect and really makes you want to reach out and scratch the hessian.

All the usual charm and character is still the basis for LBP. In fact it forms the foundations for everything else to be built on. The first game was a great base and the second one expanded on that in a way that seemed very complete. But Media Molecule have managed it by adding new characters with new abilities that can drastically change how a level is played, or created. Even without substantial new tools just having a couple of key new mechanics has yet again expanded on Little Big Planet’s already impressive world. Even if you’ve been here before and played the previous games extensively LBP 3 is well worth visiting.

There’s something oh so addictive about any game like Elite. It’s difficult to explain why but for some reason I just can’t stay away. Just one more trip, just one more delivery, just one more bounty. At the peek of this addiction you will hardly care that you’ve now been doing the same thing for countless hours. Every time I had to request landing permission with a few satisfying button presses on my keyboard I felt totally immersed. The spectacular mundanity of it all is invitingly engrossing. Just going about you’re daily space life delivering space cargo is cool, and Elite is cool enough to understate things and just let it be cool.

There isn’t an attempt to push you along your way or suggest that you complete certain objectives to gain xp. It doesn’t suggest what modules to equip on your ship or even which ship to use. There’s plenty of room for error in Elite: Dangerous which allows for a true sandbox experience. Luckily there’s plenty of support available online in forums or on YouTube to help you on your travels which is more than enough to get started.

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To say that Elite is a grind is an unbelievable understatement. You start off in a Sidewinder which doesn’t really have enough cargo space to do any decent trading and certainly doesn’t have enough potential firepower to realistically fend off anything other than Sidewinders. But slowly but surely you make 100 credits a run. Then a few hundred. Then you break 1,000. You make a few 10s of thousands and you can treat yourself to a new ship and start again trading larger amounts. Somehow despite the unbelievable amount of grinding required and the occasional feeling of despair that can cause I still kept going back and steadily worked my way through the ranks as a trader.

At times Elite can feel exactly like what it so often is. An unending and slightly dull grind to the finish, which is really a self set goal anyway. I know it’s a sandbox and most of the fun is usually from self motivation but there are times were a little bit of direction, or a few token objectives, wouldn’t have done any harm. At times you can feel like a direction-less delivery boy sent to hell to perpetual deliver goods, at any time able to stop – but never stopping. The fear is that eventually I’ll realise I’ve been trading for 10 or 20 hours and only got a slightly better ship than the one I started in. And that I’ll spend hours more in that ship trying to get the next ship. Problem is I always want the next ship.

Then you flick around the responsive sci-fi UI that appears when you’re docked and check stock prices before loading up your ship. Closing it down you bring up the galaxy map and plot a course to your destination system. Your ship rotates and elevates up to the launch pad and after a satisfying voice confirmation you’re free to smoothly leave the station, taking care to avoid other ships. Once back into the deep black you carefully line your ship up before engaging the oh so satisfying countdown that is the hyperdrive. Upon exiting hyperdrive you urgently pull away from that system’s star and find the station you want to dock with. Once you approach you request landing permission and make your way to your allocated docking bay, ensuring not to violate any infractions like loitering in busy areas. Your ship is swallowed into the depths of the station and your trip is complete.

It’s a simple trip from A to B back to A again but there’s always something to do. Or at least something to stare at. The knowledge that there is just so much out there to see gives a sensation of scale and isolation that I’ve never felt before. There are dangers even during these basic trading runs. Assuming you don’t get pulled out of faster than light travel to be raided by a pirate, maybe you get caught in the gravity of a star. On one occasion I got too close to a white dwarf and my systems overheated forcibly disengaging my hyperdrive. Suddenly I was sat there staring at a seemingly infinite space travelling at speeds relatively so slow I might as well be stationary. I had to divert all my power to my systems and engage my frame shift drive as quickly as possible to escape the star; although it looked so amazing I was happy to just sit and stare. There’s a vast and intimidating emptiness to Elite: Dangerous that makes the galaxy really feel like a galaxy. It’s a shame you can’t get out at stations and walk around but I guess we’ll just have to wait for another certain space sim for that kind of depth.

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Aside from the scale and uncanny good looks the ships themselves are another reason to keep you coming back. The light, agile fighters and multirole craft feel responsive and elegant. The larger ships and haulers feel heavy and wide, and clearly don’t perform so well in combat. Each ship has clearly had care and attention paid to it which allows the flight mechanics and combat to feel natural. It took me very little time to start flying accurately and the map in the HUD is a joy to use – not an easy thing to get right in 3 dimensions. Arming and firing weapons along with diverting power is another one of those fantastic manual tasks that Elite makes fun. Diverting all power to engines before accelerating and out turning your enemy then shifting power to your weapons before attacking is endlessly entertaining.

Unfortunately the combat can often become a series of head-on attacks, as is so often the case in space simulators. It’s a shame not to have the feeling of proper dogfights even though they’re perhaps not all that realistic for a space sim. But still the combat in Elite feels right especially given the power balancing ‘mini-game’ which lets you really feel like a captain; and every self-respecting sci-fi fan wants that. You can even give voice commands to your ship using a microphone with the right equipment and software.

And there’s good money to be earned in combat completing bounties or hunting down pirates is a good way to make cash. If you’ve got the skill, and the ship to pull it off, it can be much more lucrative than trading. It’s likely you’ll want to do some trading first to get a comfortable cash flow but hunting down pirates is fun. Or even becoming one.

The many modules that you can equip to customize any of your ships allow you to switch easily from trader to mercenary to pirate. Traders might want to go all out for cargo space while mercs will want a warrant scanner to identify targets. Pirates will likely want a cargo scanner to identify valuable ships and an interception module to drag ships out of faster than light travel so they can attack. Obviously it’s not a good idea to take the space equivalent of an articulated truck up against the space equivalent of an F-16 so ship choice plays a big part in deciding your role too.

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Elite: Dangerous is nothing short of spectacular. It’s grand in design and beautiful in execution. Sitting in your cockpit going about the daily grind is uniquely, and superbly entertaining. Exiting hyperspace in the orbit of an enormous, intimidating star looks incredible. Elite: Dangerous doesn’t look to change all that much but instead it makes sure it gets the important things right. The galaxy feels just barren enough to get a sense of scale with enough awesome space stations, stars and other players that it never feels completely empty.

At times the grind can seem endless, and even a little pointless, but Elite: Dangerous cleverly makes things interesting by making what should be boring anything but. With ongoing updates Elite: Dangerous will be amazing. There’s already a good amount of content and a decent community but more ships would be desirable, especially for the mid game. There’s nothing but huge jumps between ships rather than a gradual progression up and there’s rarely much of a choice to be made. It can be a pretty linear path. It’ll definitely be interesting to see what happens in future updates but even as it is Elite: Dangerous is a great space sim with tons of content and an amazing galaxy to explore. But it’s lack of help for new players and intimidating grind will turn plenty of people away from this game.

I’ve said it many times before and I’ve no doubt this won’t be the last time I say it but yearly updates often bore me. Especially when it comes to writing reviews. It gives me no pleasure to write what is essentially the same review each year, carefully treading through the minefield that is my own previously used words. But on occasion yearly updated titles can become a perfected reduction based on the experience of previous titles.

But somehow this seems to be something WWE avoids. Each new title seems able to completely forget the experiences of titles that came before along with the lessons that should have been learned. There’s fun to be had from this genre and in particular from WWE games. I remember having fun, I’m almost sure of it. But recently WWE seems to be trending downwards. So lets get stuck into the low quality cheesy heavy metal (and I say that as a metal fan) and look beyond the sweaty spandex and get stuck into the gameplay.

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Look ma! I can fly!

A few fundamentals have been altered to try and make things less ridiculous looking. We’ve all done it, standing around performing animations that make no sense given the current context. Even the Batman: Arkham titles occasionally see Bruce Wayne jumping on the spot like a petulant toddler.The solution to this in WWE 2K15 is to basically remove any connection you have with the wrestlers and instead implement a strange fixed animation play style. And it works in the sense that you no longer spend any time thinking how stupid it looks when you miss but also removes a fair amount of fun too.

Having played the series for so long this really seems like one of the worst moves they could have made. It’s all well and good having things look shiny and slick but that has to be second to the gameplay. Especially so with a yearly updated title that has done so much right in the past. I’m not even a WWE fan but back when WWE games were in their prime I played them extensively. It was never particularly smooth and wrestlers would run around regularly clawing at nothing. The focus of 2K15 seems firmly set on looks and style over substance.

But never fear! Just when you thought things wouldn’t look ridiculous enter the latest stamina system. Probably the stupidest system ever. The benefits are that spamming slaps will no longer knock Brock Lesnar out. The downside is that after a couple of minutes the wrestlers will potentially be hilariously dragging their feet around the mat and climbing the ropes as if everything was in slow motion. All that previous effort attempting to stop players from standing still hitting the air is completely wasted. This looks far worse. It can only be described as comical.

In terms of the gameplay all it does is slow things down and, beyond stopping the spamming of smaller attacks, really doesn’t add much. You might think that it makes you take careful consideration of what moves to do and when to do them but in reality it just punishes the loser. The less stamina you have the slower you are and the more likely you are to get kicked repeatedly in the face. It’s not the effect on the gameplay so much as the mockery that is the fatigued movement that makes me hate the stamina system.

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I knew it! Feather Boas ARE the manliest thing ever.

Which leads nicely onto what is undoubtedly 2K15’s biggest and most blatant offense. Its lack of features. It’s not like there isn’t enough to do but features that are present on previous WWE games just simply aren’t here. My Career still makes an appearance but basically plays out like a series of lifeless, and more importantly, directionless matches to grind out stats. The story of your superstar isn’t intuitive and barely even feels interactive as you play match after match. But still My Career is probably the go to mode.

Taking a look elsewhere WWE fans will notice the absence of certain game modes. Not being a huge WWE fan these were less obvious to me apart from noticing their absence from previous titles. It’s reasonable to say the missing modes aren’t the most popular but why not include them? Lack of hard drive space? Could the PS4 and Xbox One not handle it? That doesn’t seem likely. It’s just simple laziness. The roster feels lack lustre too and it doesn’t take long for a WWE game veteran or a wrestling fan to notice some further omissions.

One place WWE 2K15 can excel is with visuals. The wrestlers that have been rendered just for the current gen hardware look amazing. Faces are detailed and have amazing likenesses to their real life counterparts. But there’s also a lot of the game that is noticeably ‘last gen’ with assets taken straight from the PS3/Xbox 360 version – even though they are now in 1080p @ 60 FPS. Overall it’s fair to say that 2K15 looks great but when the updated assets come out it’s unavoidably obvious.

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Brock smash.

So WWE 2K15 is another in a long line of disappointing instalments to the franchise. The attention to detail in the current gen faces is incredible but far too much is just reused from the last gen version. The stamina system makes matches grind to a pathetic crawling pace that is nothing but a joke. Features and wrestlers alike are not present from previous instalments which stings a little and just comes across as lazy design. There’s no reason not to have every game mode imaginable in the game. To be honest there would be no harm including a few that aren’t real just for the video games.

My Career is mediocre but provides a reasonable distraction, even though it’s basically just one match after another. WWE 2K15 is an offensive entry to an already stale series of games. The current gen version particularly fails for not making enough use of the hardware. Don’t reuse assets, it’s always obvious and it’s always ugly. This is definitely one to miss.

It makes it clear from the very beginning that Temple of Osiris has no intention of becoming part of new-Lara’s world. Lara is sporting her classic blue tank top, that’s infamously and fashionably a couple of sizes too small. The interaction between the four available characters makes it even more obvious that there isn’t likely to be darkness and intrigue around the corner in Temple of Osiris. So with visions of the new, gritty, Lara aside you can just let yourself work through the game raiding its various tombs and temples.

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You can play as Lara, her friend Carter, Isis or Horus. Depending on how many people are in your team, and what combination of abilities you have available, the way you complete a level will change and the levels themselves even change. The Temple of Osiris is well designed so that you don’t need to play as certain characters or teams just to get through it although there are the usual advantages of playing co-op. Somehow when you play solo it just doesn’t feel right especially considering all the goodies that become out of reach.

Each character has four weapon slots, two rings, an amulet and a costume to equip. There are plenty of rings and amulets to collect and each one makes a noticeable difference to your character. You might have an increased bomb radius at the expense of defence or an increased fire rate at the expense of bomb radius; for example. It becomes a balancing act of trying to find an accessory that has a negative effect on something you’re willing to sacrifice but improves something you want. There are so many combinations that you rarely stop swapping things out and upgrading. There’s a moment were the idea of grinding out temples and earning gems with your co-op partner to earn all those lovely prizes seems like you’ll be playing forever.

There’s a methodical, if not completely unimaginative, design to Temple of Osiris that means you’ll need to raid various tombs and find all the pieces of Osiris, his hand or a foot for example, until you can put him together again. Hopefully then he can take the curse away. It’s not clever or original but for Temple of Osiris it gets the job done. For each ‘main’ temple you’ll often find a puzzle temple which offers up rewards like new guns and a bunch of gems which is more than enough incentive to find them and complete them. But they’re pretty easy and often you’ll spend little to no time figuring out the challenges in them.

For example you might need to blow up a wall using the Ancient Egyptian Big Round Bomb Dispenser™ and a labyrinth of man made streams to divert it to the right place. There’s some nice teamwork involved but (apart from the time it didn’t work) we rarely spent long in the puzzle tombs. It would have been nice to have a decent challenge or at least something mentally taxing but they still provide a reasonable distraction.

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Better yet would be some variation other than rolling around balls that either explode or function as keys that fit into cylindrical slots. I can only assume it’s a link to Egyptian myth but it’s difficult not to feel like your rolling around balls of dung for a living at some points. The core mechanics of Temple of Osiris are solid, relying on puling leavers moving objects into place and standing on platforms among other things. There is a solid base on which Temple of Osiris is founded but its uncomplicated and relatively simple puzzling can be a let down. The absence of a script to translate, or something that justifies some extra secrets to find is also surprising. One secret collectable in each area would have added some welcome intrigue and mystery.

Action is well spaced out between exploring the tombs. There is a multiplier system which doesn’t get in the way but gives you a nice reason not to repeatedly get hit and/or die. Once you’ve unlocked a few weapons you’ll undoubtedly find ‘the gun for you’. Every weapon but the character’s default will use a blue bar representing ammo that can be replenished from enemy drops or fixed pickups. After a short time I stopped using the default weapon religiously and started making real use of the ammo consumers. There’s something strangely satisfying about being an Egyptian god running around with dual MP5s.

Unfortunately I there’s a stiffness to the combat that stopped it from becoming a glorious ballet of left and right thumbsticks. It never hindered the gameplay as such but the combat just didn’t feel as fluid as it could have done. I never felt as connected with my characters movement in a way that something like Dead Nation allows, walking forward flicking the light on your gun from left to right like a member of SWAT. But the controls are responsive enough that you can get your character to do what you want and I never felt let down by a lack of responsiveness.

There are quite a few moments when the combat becomes a tedious engagement of enemies that run at you, usually on fire, as you work in tandem with a friend to take down another enemy with a shield, all the time avoiding the environmental traps. I didn’t feel I had the mobility I wanted when dealing with those combat scenarios. Sometimes it isn’t a problem, other times you lose your combo and die which is just plain irritating.

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The Temple of Osiris does exactly what you’d expect. It’s too short and more often than not too easy with combat that is nothing more than a bit of fun. But somehow it kept me coming back, if only for a little while. There’s a decent loot system that allows you to feel like your character is developing as you raid your way through all the Tombs you can. For a PSN title The Temple of Osiris is exactly what you expect and is a great bit of fun for an easy distraction filled with puzzles. In the couch co-op arena there are few better than Temple of Osiris.

If there’s one thing Telltale Games like to do, it’s telling a good tale. They’ve got the experience from games based on The Walking Dead and The Wolf Amongst Us, so let’s see what happens when they’re given free reign of one of HBO’s most popular shows, Game of Thrones.

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Thankfully, QTE filled action scenes are kept to a minimum

If you’ve never had experience with a Telltale Game of this type, the premise usually revolves around a more advanced, refined and interactive point and click adventure, with the main focuses being on the narrative and how you can affect it due to player made choices. Giving the player difficult decisions that drastically alter the progression of the game is a feature much touted by other games, but here, they feel significantly more substantial.

Due to the game adopting an episodic approach; obviously aping the show it’s based upon, you’ll be jumping between individuals several times over the course of the chapter. Focusing on a new set of characters that are tied to House Forrester, Iron From Ice takes place towards the end of the third season and focuses on their relationship to House Stark. Whilst you begin as Gared Tuttle, a simple squire to Lord Forrester, things quickly take a predictable turn after a spot of encouraging promotional news; it’s not long before you start making a few important decisions to set off the end of the prologue.

Once the familiar theme and corresponding set of opening credits are over, the game opens up in typical Game of Thrones fashion, namely reams of conversation. Those who’ve enjoyed the previous games’ ability to explore around may be a little disappointed, but the majority of the conversational options often more than make up for that. Alongside the new set of characters with their surprising amount of depth, you’ll also run into a couple of the more infamous characters from the show, the ever stimulating Tyrion Lannister and the (ice) Queen Cersei. Both have a reasonable amount of dialogue and represent themselves suitably well, especially in the interactive scenes that involve them.

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Everyone’s favourite Lannister

Alongside the quantities of conversation you’ll participate in, there are also a few smaller sections, much akin to the notorious quick time events of old. Thankfully these are few and far between and only really occur when necessary at the more action packed beginning of the game. As ever in a Telltale game, choices, and their immediate subsequent consequences are rife. You’re never going to be able to please everyone in a situation; plus the added time limit to prepare a response injects a panicky, ‘on the spot’ feeling to proceedings. A helpful indicator, especially at the start when you’re not entirely sure what each person wishes to hear, is presented in the upper corner of the screen notifying you on when you’ve made a significant decision. By the time you’ve completed just this first chapter alone, you’ll have dramatically altered people’s perception of you; making the mind boggle at the potential extent of all those seemingly minor choices stacking up and coming back to haunt you.

Whilst some of the narratives’ segments can seem a little slow or relatively less interesting than others, it’s safe to say, that they’re linked exquisitely to one another as the story progresses. Introducing each character takes just the right amount of time to become invested in their plight and you never seem to linger for too long in any scenario. It’s honestly as well paced as the source material, complete with tense, spiralling situations of which the show’s famous for.

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These two won’t be your friends…

Presentation wise, it will be nothing unexpected if you’re partial to the developer’s latest releases, which is not to say it’s unremarkable. Far from it in fact, Iron From Ice looks great with its stylised visuals. Action oriented scenes seem to lose a little magic but they’re rare and it doesn’t detract from the experience. The voice work is strong, as is also the script, but I suppose that’s to be expected of a franchise of this degree, still it’s nice to hear good voice acting and official music being used throughout.

As ever, so long as you’re vested into the source material, playing a Telltale game dedicated to it will often greatly appeal to you. There’s a potential worry surrounding the franchises staleness and a lack of moving forward with the mechanics and originality, but so long as they keep delivering great interactive stories based on established series, then fans will likely follow suit. It could be interesting to see a game set in their own universe, but it might require a considerable amount more effort; as for now, we’ll have to settle with the frustrating wait for the next ‘episode’ in the series.

If ‘old school’ point and click adventures are your bag, and you’ve either played or watched anything in the past 10-20 years, then Randal’s Monday may well be for you. Brought to us by Daedalic Entertainment and Nexus Game Studios, Randal’s Monday focuses on pop culture references, stabs at humour and the eternal plight of Mondays. Garfield would be proud.

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Starting out easy with a select few interactive items

First things first, Randal’s a bit of a dick, he’s a titular sociopathic kleptomaniac who’s more interested in someone getting the drinks in, than supporting his friends’ upcoming marriage. After the tutorial, consisting of the game letting you wander about in a small area and talking nonsense to your mates for a bit, the story begins to unfold. And, as how every good Monday unfurls, there’s an angry landlord demanding rent at your door.

After spending some time meandering about the flat, marvelling at each and every reference up to, and including Resident Evil herbs, you’ll inevitably acquire classically unfathomable items to combine and use in traditionally ‘unique’ scenarios. Picking out what you can select and what’s just a not so subtle nod to another franchise can be initially tricky, thankfully there’s a key assigned to highlight all the potentially interactive items on screen. After missing a vital component in one of the first areas and being forced to backtrack through each and every stage in true scavenging mode, this soon becomes second nature. As ever, for those who are beyond stuck and have already ripped their hair out, there’s a hint system in place to relieve the woes. With its typical, tongue in cheek style, the game will recommend you to reconsider using the system until such a point where you’re that stuck, you’d quite happily sacrifice a kitten in order to progress. A fact the game repeatedly reminds you of before allowing you to proceed.

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Look at the signpost! Look at it!! Please?

Utilising typical ‘point and click logic’ may be the joy of the game in some people’s eyes, whereas instead, it can and most likely will be, the bane for others. Incongruent puzzles require solutions that are simply not intuitive to the naked eye; no matter how well you half-solve the puzzle, finding the specific way in which the game wants you to progress can be an inevitable head shaking trauma.

On paper the game sounds fantastic, a typical point and click adventure with brilliantly cartoon-esque graphics, a swathe of pop culture references, and a smattering dab of humour. Combine this with the fairly interesting plot, even if it is all too reminiscent of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, and you should be onto a winner. With each subsequent ‘reset’ giving the developers opportunity to create new and interesting passes, it feels a little like a waste of potential at times. Instead of testing your cerebral lump, it instead feels quite content with setting up ridiculous and ‘wacky’ scenarios; all the while Randal throws cringe worthy insults at everyone he comes across. To say he’s crass and just plain unlikeable would honestly be a compliment.

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You’ll be seeing this expression a lot throughout the game

The general artistic flair is pleasing, and will resonate with those who enjoy familiar stylised cartoons. Voice acting is also above par, with recognisable cameos that not only aren’t embarrassing, but are in fact welcome after so much of Randal’s script. The time to work your way through Randal’s Monday will be high; sinking in up to 20 hours is highly feasible. Potentially higher if you can manage not to succumb to the step by step walkthrough offered by the hint system, which of course will be fairly unlikely given the logic behind some of the puzzles.

By all extensive purposes, this isn’t one of Daedalic’s best projects; Randal’s Monday will just be a small blip on their incredibly stellar record. If you can get past Randal’s character and don’t mind the incessant illogical puzzles then, as ever, you can get a lot of fun out it. The production values alone are worth checking out and if you’re into pop culture references, you’ll have a field day reading signposts, shop names and subway stations. Basically every (non)interactive item on the game is a nod to another game; leading you to think that perhaps they could’ve spent more time making this one something to reference instead?

Just when you started saying “you call that a grind Bungie?!”. I’ve got everything I need and I’ve done all the raids and I’m totally bored with Destiny. Well if that describes you you’re in luck. The Dark Below is the first DLC for Destiny and adds quite a few new features that will, in theory, keep you coming back for more. Even if that’s primarily because all your loot is now worthless. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first notable feature is the new Sparrow. I know you’ve all been screaming out for it. A Sparrow that allows you to perform wicked flips. Now when you perform a jump you can roll the sparrow before it lands. It also sports a lovely flame decal that really makes it look like something aimed at kids. I really find the entire thing just so tacky. I haven’t spent as long with my guardian as some but I’ve still invested many, many hours into him and making him look cool. Guardians are serious people who mean business. They’re supposed to be defending against the darkness. A slick black and orange Sparrow with armour plating or a ram or something would fit better. Either way you get a free legendary Sparrow with some nice stats and some useless abilities. Glad I didn’t buy one from the quartermaster.

You also get some nice new crucible maps to keep murdering other guardians entertaining too. And they’re well made and fun. Two of them are brutally tight and really allow matches to become what Destiny does best with abilities being flung around and guardians jumping, blinking and floating everywhere. The other map is a horrible long range map with vehicles all over the place. Being repeatedly shot in the head without a contest is no fun and I personally hate PvP vehicle battles in Destiny. If you like sniping or using vehicles then it’s a great map.

There’s a new vanguard strike too for your PvE craving. Most of my time in Destiny is spent in strike missions with players found in matchmaking. There isn’t really much new or different with the latest strike but it feels every bit as well made and fully featured as the original strikes. It’s particularly useful given all the extra vanguard marks and reputation I’m going to need to at least have one fresh mission to keep things a little more interesting. It’s well designed and just as fun to play as the other strikes.

But a much more significant addition is the raise in the level cap for your light level. You can now make it beyond the old level cap of 30 all the way up to 32. But to do so you’re going to have to get stuck into The Dark Below’s new raid. You’re then going to have to play it extensively to get the items you want because as usual all the best gear is handed out primarily according to luck. And there’s an extra layer of difficulty if you want to reach the lofty heights of level 32. All that gear you finally got from grinding the raid over and over will need levelling up before you get all that lovely light. But you can forget about using those ascendant shards and energies you’ve found. You’ll need ‘radiant’ materials that can only be found in the raid.

So that’s all well and good for the hardcore among us but what about those who don’t have a dedicated raid team waiting for hour after hour of high level Destiny action? Well actually there’s loads for you. I’ve spent a lot of time on Destiny but I still prefer matchmaking. I don’t have a huge amount of online friends and certainly not enough to effectively organize a raid. So I’ve been content with vanguard strikes to get my fill of Destiny.

Well your local neighbourhood vanguard merchant has just what you need. They just so happen to have a new set of armour available that, when upgraded, will get you to level 31. Sure you’ll have to wait for the irritating weekly limit on vanguard, or crucible, marks but other than that you can guarantee your way to 31 and use your ‘standard’ ascendant materials to upgrade them. It’s not about an enormous grind anymore so much as it’s about re-grinding and doing the same things to get very slightly better equipment.

Everything about the latest update to Destiny make me feel like I’ve been wasting my time. Raising the level is one thing but replacing the items that I bought for items that are just plain better for the same cost is punishing me for owning the game earlier than some players. All the ascendant shards I’ve used on armour are now almost completely worthless as I’ll need to replace my armour. So a new player, that hasn’t bought a season pass (you can get to level 31 without owning The Dark Below), can easily be a higher level than someone who played Destiny for days on end and just hasn’t played for a week or two. That seems a little backwards to me.

Everything about Destiny’s latest update devalues everything that you previously earned. It opens up options for more grinding and gives me a good excuse to play some more Destiny, which is never a bad thing, but there really isn’t much value in The Dark Below. The bike is a cheesy gimmick at best and since I’m not ever likely to be able to complete a raid The Dark Below only offers me a few campaign missions that while not bad, don’t make me feel like I got a good deal and some crucible maps.

As with a lot of Destiny Content the raid players get exclusive access to content and everyone else gets nothing. It’s one thing to keep rewards for the hardcore but to exclude others is just unfair. So I get punished for not having enough friends interested in raids. But somehow Destiny manages to make raid players feel robbed at the same time by providing ‘nearly as good stuff’ easily at vendors; and even worse they’re available without paying. This expansion does nothing but alienate and punish those who are dedicated. If you haven’t got much loot and don’t pay for the DLC you’re in the winners group. Everyone else seems to lose in some way.

Tiny Troopers is simple in premise. It’s a top down thumbstick shooter that offers a decent bit of casual action. There is no other way to describe Tiny Troopers other than casual. Not that it’s expected, or even necessary, in this arena but there isn’t going to be plot or characters that shock you or even keep you interested. Tiny Troopers is inevitably therefore at its best when you just want to get on a game for a bit and have some uncomplicated fun.

Playing the console version tutorial makes it very apparent that this game was not designed for a pad. Everything takes an effort to control and nothing seems to be were you expect it to be. Opening the menu to order in supplies is a nightmare. It seemed every button I was pressing was wrong at first. It’s nothing that can’t be learned but going against the conventions of every other game ever made really doesn’t help for a fluid experience.

Even targeting is awkward. Firing a rocket for the first time will produce results that no one could predict. There is a sort of hideous lock on to shooting that makes everything feel overly rigid. Don’t expect to be satisfyingly running around while accurately snapping from enemy to enemy using both thumbsticks together in the dance that makes these games so satisfying. Tiny Troopers feels much more like a case of move over there. Open the menu. Press a button. Shoot. And repeat. There’s no fluidity or satisfaction at all as you run around destroying everything.

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Rather out of place is the, almost, persistent death and ironman-like saves. There’s no retrying if one of your little guys gets killed in the field. The only option left for you will be to revive him using one of your valuable Medals that can be found in various quantities on each level. It’s actually a nice way to handle persistent death and keep the threat of losing a soldier but still giving you a chance to revive them. Having a limited amount of medals, and therefore revives, available is a great way to handle persistent death.

Unfortunately exploring Tiny Trooper’s dull maps is not particularly great fun. There’s not much to look at and what little there is isn’t really good looking. In fact most of Tiny Troopers isn’t great to look at. Low quality textures and bland coloured blocks make up Tiny Troopers’ maps and provide nothing more than a functional environment. The Troopers themselves don’t look great either and animations and movement are as rigid as the control system.

There are absolutely tons of collectables and more than enough missions to complete. But this game does not belong on a console. Maybe with touch screen controls and a smaller screen Tiny Troopers would be a great casual distraction but for a PS4 it’s too difficult to look past the low grade visuals and incredibly poor control system to enjoy it. Even the basic visuals wouldn’t be so bad but the controls really need work, they make everything you do take far too much effort. Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops is a nice distraction for a very short time but after an hour or two the giant cracks become unavoidably large.

 

The problem that faces most MMO’s is trying to do everything well all at the same time. For a racing MMO that means an absolute bucket full of missions and races but not really much else. So long as we can play easily with other people. Although it would be nice to have a decent character and some plot in a racer for a change.

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Well The Crew isn’t going to deliver on plot and character. Your first task will be to recklessly speed across open fields to make the cops lives more interesting. But your late for the big race, as your friends keep reminding you. You’re just such a rebel that you don’t care. And that’s just about as deep as the characters get. Your a street racing criminal, something bad happens to your brother, you get blamed and end up working with the FBI to get out early. Just about every character is as two-dimensional as possible. The voice acting doesn’t help either and ranges from cheesy to hilariously cheesy. After as little as an hour or two I had become totally disinterested with the plot and decided to ignore it entirely. There’s not much to miss.

What’s far more distracting early game is the unbelievable amount of information contained in the tables post race. It doesn’t take long to fully understand all the info but most of it is just unnecessary. There’s a base score plus some other number added to it and then the threshold and…you get bored and stop looking at it. I need to know my score, my exp and my cash. I need to know if I got bronze silver or gold and what prize I won, if any. I can’t believe the only way to get this information across is to have two results pages after every race. A concise and clean results chart would’ve gone a long way to making The Crew less cluttered.

The map is overly cluttered too although it’s partially because there’s so much to do. There are a fair selection of tasks, some standard races, checkpoint races, takedown missions, escaping from the cops and more. It would be useful to zoom the camera on more than 3 levels especially considering the map size. It is huge. I don’t know when I’ve seen a map so big in any game before. It’s not particularly dense but there’s a lot of road to race on in The Crew. Getting across the map by car will take a noticeable amount of time but luckily there are trains and planes you can pay for to fast travel somewhere you haven’t visited yet. Other than that fast travelling is quick and easy.

New parts can be acquire by completing mini challenges. As you drive around you can go through a checkpoint to start one and you might have to drive as fast as possible without going off the track or race through increasingly small ‘goal posts’. They’re quick and quite challenging so you’re never short of some way to acquire new parts for your rides. But because you level up quite frequently parts quickly become redundant so you find the constant need to repeat the same tasks just to keep up with the XP those tasks give you. It feels progressive but in reality there are just so many upgrades that they become devalued. And finding missions is an absolute pain. If you want some higher levelled tires, for example, you’ll have to flick around the map and look through 10’s of objectives to find the right one. A simple filter to select which upgrade you were looking for would have done. There are filters for other things but not the one you actually care about. It doesn’t seem like a difficult feature to include and its omission makes life more difficult than it needs to be.

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Handling isn’t quite an all out arcade affair but sliding around corners isn’t going to ruin your race. It makes sure you’re always having fun but doesn’t have the finesse or accuracy to reward those who race ‘properly’. The rubber banding AI is extremely obvious too. Whenever you do have an accident and end up at the back of the pack you’ll soon recover and find yourself back in first within 10 seconds or so. Only to then constantly race against second place as he snaps back. It’s so difficult to get a lead that the only part of any race that matters is the end. Often the rest of the race is a waste of time. Inevitably on one occasion I had lead a 30 minute race only to go off track on the final straight and lose completely. I didn’t even get a consolation prize so 30 minutes wasted because I made a mistake at the end rather than at any other point.

Sadly ‘never race alone’ doesn’t work quite as well as it should. Or more specifically it doesn’t work as often as it should. On a handful of occasions me and someone else quickly got into a crew just because we played a mission together. We then remained together and completed plenty of missions until we finally parted ways. That random co-op is were The Crew really comes to life. There are decent competitive co-op objectives and joining a crew and playing together worked seamlessly.

But more often than not you’ll be playing alone. When starting a mission you can send a request to other players to join you. But ultimately they’re better off playing alone. And so are you. There’s really very little incentive to play with others besides the fun. And that apparently isn’t enough to get people to join you. Time after time my requests were unanswered and I just played alone. For a game with the tag line ‘never play alone’ you rarely get chance to play with anyone else.

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And that’s The Crew’s biggest problem. It’s just a massive racing game with a huge map. And the scale of that map is undoubtedly impressive but there isn’t nearly as much variation to the races as there is quantity. The co-op is by far The Crew’s biggest asset but you rarely get chance to see it. There are plenty of cars and upgrades to unlock but the missions become repetitive before too long. And premium currency in a full priced game again Ubisoft? It’s a disturbing vision of the future if this marketing ‘tactic’ catches on.

The Crew is an ambitious MMO with unrivalled scale and great co-op play. But the poor looks, repetitive missions, two-dimensional characters and narrative are far too much for the occasional co-op to make up for. I still had a lot of fun on The Crew, but I had it alone and lost interest far quicker than I wanted to.

 

It’s not too often nowadays that you’d stumble across what you might call an ‘educational’ game. If you’re a little tired of the modern military simulators, and fancy a little more insight in your gaming, then it might well be worth paying a visit to Kisima Inŋitchuŋa (Never Alone). From Upper One Games and E-Line Media, Never Alone hopes to build around the Alaskan community’s values and mythologies in bringing something a little different to the table.

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Get used to seeing the blizzards

Focusing on the Iñupiaq, the native, indigenous people of Alaska and their stories, Never Alone sees you in control of Nuna and her fox companion. Drawing heavy inspiration from the Alaskan tales, you’ll not only bear witness to adaptations of the stories, but also have some good old fashioned puzzle/platforming fun along the way too.

After a distressing encounter with a polar bear, you’re soon teamed up with your spiritual fox companion in an effort to make it back to your village in one piece. As the start of any involving game dictates however, all is not well upon your return. With the village destroyed by some unknown entity, it’s now your task to discover the true nature of the devastation.

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A strangely serene setting

As with any 2D platformer, there’ll be small puzzles to scratch your head over on your journey; this is where the arctic fox comes into play. Available to play in either coop or singleplayer, you’ll need cooperation and timing to succeed in your obstacles. Not only does the fox possess a smaller frame for access into smaller passageways, but can also scrabble and clamber up sheer ledges. And as far as his spiritual side goes, he’s got a few tricks up his fur collar there too. Namely involving being able to ‘see’ helpful spirits that can help guide you along your path, alongside acting as platforms for progression. Nuna on the other hand, can use her comparable strength to move boxes and later on, help access new areas with her acquired bola, even with its slightly awkward aiming system.

Amongst the many jumping sections and dabbling of puzzles you’ll come across, there are also a few ‘boss’ sections to contend with too. Mainly involving some sharpish reactions and accurate platforming, you’ll undoubtedly have to work with your partner to see the other side of them.

Taking place across eight chapters and featuring stories of the Blizzard Man, the Little People and the Rolling Heads amongst many others, it’ll take a solid afternoon to work your way through. It’s the (gratefully) easy to unlock, real time footage of Alaskan tales that stick with you the longest however. Stumbling upon a lone, mysterious owl will unlock a cultural video, immediately available to watch via a dab of the touchpad. Featuring genuine Alaskan folk, these cutaways give an insightful guise to the natives and their stories. Some may feature harrowing tales of being stranded on a floating slab of ice with little hope of escape, whereas others will focus on their proud heritage and memories of their childhoods.

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He’s not as intimidating as he looks…

The story, as a whole, should be praised for sticking with its native roots. Each chapter offers a new danger and is presented excellently by both real time scenes and artistic representations resembling ancient artwork from the region. The graphics retain a soft and gentle appearance that’s often offset by the forceful arctic weather to create a simple yet immersive atmosphere whilst the unobtrusive music sets the tone without forcing your attention.

Whilst the gameplay of the game itself is arguably its weakest point with some solid, if not a little predictable platforming and puzzles, everything else shines. The bonus cultural insights, the soft art style and the understated music alone, remain key reasons for you to play Never Alone.

All too often pool games have a habit of not quite striking a balance between you being able to win every game in a single turn or your opponent winning every game in a single turn. Well pure pool has a simple but effective way of making sure you don’t have to be a professional pool player to play but still not let you win without challenge.

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So you get showing were the cue ball will go and then where that will leave the ball you hit. When this happens there’s not a huge chance of you missing unless you make a mistake, which is unlikely. But were pure pool kept me interested was when you hit a sharp angle or take a shot from long range. When this happens the markers begin to fade and make it difficult to see exactly what you’re going to hit. There’s just enough for you to take a decent shot but you’re not able to take perfect shots across the table every shot. Not only does this add a challenge and skill to Pure Pool but Its also so rewarding when you get a good shot and the game isn’t there to jump in and take the credit with its training wheel UI.

There’s not a whole load of excitement that can be injected into a pool game as far as graphics are concerned. But the tables, balls and cues are well detailed. The backgrounds look nice but spend their time our of focus which is either not to be distracting or because they’re low fidelity. Considering the amount of time you’ll spend looking at them they do their job just right. It looks pretty and saves power for the important things. Everything is smooth and the UI is as minimalist as possible. It doesn’t intrude and it always feels like it was made to help rather than hinder you.

The main menu is as minimalist as possible too. There’s very little for you to do before you get in and play. There’s a few different game modes to play around with but Pure Pool has one priority and that’s to get you into the game and playing pool. It’s a simple process but it’s one that a lot of games miss (*cough* EA Sports menus *cough*). I just want to play pool and Pure Pool just gets it done.

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Pure Pool is great fun and it does what it says on the tin without any fuss or flash. It looks nice, the UI is exactly what you need and there’s plenty of difficulty should you want it. Or you can always go online. And because long shots aren’t just as easy as short ones there’s actually a point to things like were the cue ball ends up after a shot. It’s great fun and a welcome change of pace from the racing and killing.

 

In general people aren’t keen on games released on a yearly basis. It often ensures a franchise becomes stale and repetitive. Throwing creativity and solid design out the window in favour of just getting more games on shelves and ultimately more incoming cash. At least that’s how it comes across to fans sometimes. Well Ubisoft have gone one step further and rather than releasing a multi-format title have released 2 Assassin’s Creed titles for this iteration of the historical epic.

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There should, however, be some advantages to a non multi-format release and I often even resent them as often it feels they hold back generations. In theory those playing PS4 and Xbox One versions can rest assured that those versions will work optimally on next gen hardware because they’re only available on those native platforms. Oh wait a sec. The atrocious frame rates that you find on at least the PS4 version of Unity don’t end there?

Rogue basically doesn’t work at points. Frame rate drops are not rare and you will notice. It seems spectacular to me that Ubisoft not only makes two games that don’t require multi-format porting and the issues that brings but also managed to ensure that both have appalling frame rates. You might let Rogue off if it were a port, which I’m glad it isn’t, but it’s not. It looks ok but there’s nothing in Rogue that will excite anyone – especially those who’ve played previous titles, and Black Flag in particular.

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Rogue is almost a follow up to Black Flag and shares many similarities with the pirating adventures of Edward Kenway. This time you take to the seas as Shay Patrick Cormac. He’s no Kenway but there is a decent depth to his character and the story that surrounds him is easily good enough to carry the game. Although it is shorter than most AC outings which is disappointing. Shay provides a nice alternate perspective into AC and attempts to show us the Assassins vs Templar story from a different point of view. It works up to a point but essentially the game plays the same and Shay’s story ultimately adds little depth to Assassin’s Creed on the whole. And while there’s some out of Animus stuff to do it’s still an area that I fell is greatly lacking in the franchise. I appreciate that I’m in a minority on that one but I enjoyed the sequences from the present. I thought AC2 and even AC3 had great present day sequences personally but Ubisoft have moved in another direction. I suppose a decent meta-story doesn’t fit well with yearly releases.

Other than the main story the usual assassin’s distractions present themselves. And just like with Unity there’s so much to do it’s almost overwhelming. There are a few new features but most are the core distractions we’re all accustomed to. Shay’s allegiances offer up a few changes too but not enough to really change the game. Many of the tasks offer nothing more than hour after hour of mindlessly playing what is basically the same objective. It’s all too easy to just ignore them and not bother. Rewards are limited so most things will be just for the completionists. Even then there are so many collectables it just becomes a chore.

Naval combat makes a reasonably welcome return. But once again it’s something we’ve seen before. I still enjoyed being a captain but it leaves Rogue feeling even more like a sequel than it already did. In itself that’s not necessarily a problem but a game updated yearly relies on fresh mechanics and gameplay to keep it alive. Rogue doesn’t feel like a proper effort but feels more like a cash in than ever – at least as far as the mechanics go. And given the half sized plot and reused elements there is a certain feeling of DLC to the game.

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As usual with AC there’s plenty to do in Rogue. But the more relevant question is likely to be do you want to do it? Sure there are an unbelievable amount of collectables and distractions but it boils down to the same old AC game. The naval elements don’t quite feel tired yet and I still enjoyed commanding a ship but it felt too close to Black Flag. And as a further insult Black Flag was playable on PS4/Xbox One and not last gen hardware so if I want to take control of a ship, given the choice I’ll take Black Flag on PS4/Xbox One.

All the time niggling at the back of my mind was that I was playing a last gen game while Unity sat looking at me from across the room. Without any significant changes and improvements Rogue doesn’t even attempt to move forwards. In fact it specifically looks backwards. But if you want more AC for your PS3/360 the that’s what Rogue will give you. Just don’t expect any surprises or hints of progress or innovation.

If there’s one thing Bioware are known for, it’s depth. Whether it be the usual intense amount of character customisation, the myriad of gameplay content or the relationships between characters in your party, it’s rare to be disappointed. After taking the series in a new direction with the divisive Dragon Age 2, can they please everybody this time around with Inquisition?

Upon starting a new game, you’ll be prompted to either import decisions you may have made on the ‘Dragon Age Keep’ website, or start up a new land with all major decisions from the previous games arbitrarily made for you. After this, its decision time already as you’ll be made to make a fairly important choice regarding your class. With two rogues, two warriors and a mage to choose from, making a decision is difficult, as certain weapon types, armours and skills are restricted by class. Warriors can only wield either a short-handed weapon and shield or a two handed implement of death. Rouges, no matter which variant you opt for, can only equip either daggers (with the possibility of dual wielding them) or a bow; whilst the mages opt for staffs and staves.

If you’re ever a little disheartened by your characters aesthetic customisation in RPG’s of late, be belated no more as Inquisition features more sliders than you could ever wish for!  You can create any kind of monstrosity you desire, fairly easily as it turns out, but it’s worth making them look at least vaguely acceptable due to the fact you’ll be staring at them for the best part of 80 hours.

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The environments often look this good

Once you’ve spent an inordinately large amount of time making your (anti)hero look just right, it’s about time to feel overwhelmed and bewildered in the vast sweeping spaces of Inquisition’s open world areas. Starting off ruddy mysteriously, you’re quickly accosted, accused and deemed untrustworthy several times over by various different people, all within five minutes. Fortunately, the people of the realm respect gratuitous violence more than a few sweeping statements; letting you gain a little reputation and respect via helping slaughter a few enemies.

After completing a few main missions, the game opens up in such an immediate way, it’s genuinely daunting. Once you travel to the Hinterlands, you’re given free range of the area, letting you explore as far as you dare push the limits of your slowly accruing levels. It’s around this point you may wish for a little guidance or a few explanations regarding some base mechanics. A couple of useful pointers from me, being that you can fast travel to both the compass and tent-like icons on the map, once you’ve discovered them of course. Another, more fundamental mechanic being that there is no health regeneration outside of combat without using potions, save for a select few skills that rely upon killing enemies. Whilst the party’s health (and your potions) can be restocked at the aforementioned camps, it’s worth keeping an eye on your health at all times. You can revive your teammates if you’re out of medicinal supplies, but they’ll only come back with critical health; with often the best option being to run away like a ‘true hero’ and quickly get to a camp before getting overwhelmed.

Combat itself can be fairly straightforward or rather strategic depending on your use of the tactical view. In normal combat, you can hold R2 to continuously attack with your basic strike, whilst mixing it up with special, stamina/mana attacks you’ve acquired through levelling up. Whilst you can, to an extent, utilise positioning aspects to flank, gain height advantages and generally ‘outwit’ the enemy simply by manoeuvring your character during battle, in some cases (especially on higher difficulties) you’ll want a little more control. A stab at the touch pad zooms out the camera to an overhead view and pauses combat, letting you get your bearings of the situation. Not only can it be easier to see exactly what’s going on, but specific instructions can be given to each and every party member including moving them to specific points, targeting preferred enemies and supporting other members should you see fit. Also adding another layer of control to your squad is a behavioural system nestled in the menus where you can decide whether they should conserve potions etc.

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When things look a little bleak, try the tactical view

When you’re not either sneaking up on a bandit or getting walloped by a bear, you’ll likely be talking to some NPC or another, especially with there being so much potential dialogue on offer. Aside from the countless quests available, party members and key figures to chat with, lore and background codex entries are dotted about with reckless abandon in every area, rewarding you with slight amounts of XP upon picking them up. The blessed dialogue wheel thankfully returns, along with potentially helpful icons which represent what sort of tone you’ll be taking the conversation towards.

The sheer amount of content cannot be overstated enough; we’re talking Skyrim-esque levels here. The initially confusing ‘War Room’ will eventually allow you to unlock several enormous areas, each packed with quests, collectibles and secrets that’s guaranteed to put a smile on any true RPG fan’s face. In fact I was well over twenty five hours in before receiving the most lavishly satisfying homestead I’ve ever had the privilege to get lost in. Nine potential companions await your decision this time around, including some you may recognise from previous games. The majority of which can also be lost to reasons like betrayal and arguments, so play nice if you want to keep your happy family! An entire crafting system awaits your attention, requiring you to collect schematics and harvest until you’re sick of picking Elfroot. Another nice feature being that for the first time in the series, you can now ride mounts too, varying from the classic ‘horse’ design to horned stallions befitting of such a world. The list of content honestly goes on and on; you’ll constantly be finding new things to see and do, well after you’re tens of hours into the game.

As much as it pains me to say it, there are however some downsides to address. Firstly, equipping both yourself and your party is just plain fiddly. Not only can’t you compare currently equipped gear to the loot you find out in the wild, but when you do, you have to suffer through far too many unnecessary button presses. Combined with the fact you can’t use the D-Pad on any menu, save for cycling teammates, makes one of the most satisfying aspects to an RPG, simply a chore. For example, if you examine a piece of armour, compare it to your equipped character and then decide it might be better off on someone else, whilst switching characters, the cursor will often change to an entirely different piece of armour, further adding confusion.

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I’m sure there’s a name for people who name their crossbows…

Another sore point can be the potentially frustrating traversal on some of the maps. Routes between points aren’t often clear, instead giving you the incentive to go for it ‘as the crow flies’. Often leading you towards a non-too steep mountain, there are often areas that look like goat paths that should be climbable, but aren’t. Whereas other times, you’ll be able to put that mountaineering course to good effect as you scale almost sheer cliff faces.

Gameplay aside, the presentation can vary wildly between truly impressive and a little meagre. The use of the Frostbite 3 engine brings environments to life with vivid colours and visually arresting expanses. Whereas at the other end of the spectrum, the character models and facial details seem lacking and look distinctly as though they belong on the PS3. The sound quality is consistently impressive however, with abundant touches such as caves altering the shaping of sounds and again, that’s not to mention the frankly ridiculous levels of spoken dialogue in the game.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is by far and away, one of the most comprehensive RPG’s of late, stacked with content, customisation and enough lore to fill a library; making it one for fans of the series to savour. For those not so well versed in either the genre or the backstory, prepare to encounter a steep learning curve. Sticking with it is highly recommended however, as aside from a few annoyances, there’s no better place to spend more than a few weekends, than in the company of Thedas and all its inhabitants.

There’s really only one place to start with Far Cry. The villain. Last time we got the classic ‘Definition of Insanity’ line. This time we get a strangely polite, well dressed and slightly camp villain by the name of Pagan Min – amazingly voiced by Troy Baker. Take a look at him and his lovely shoes in this trailer.

There’s a brief introduction to stealth, how wildlife can be used and then a shoot out before you see the world map in all its open world glory. As with previous instalments your first job will be to climb towers and hijack the radio transmitter at the top to remove a section of the fog and add objectives and points of interest to the area. You’ll then have strongholds to capture for a place to rest your head, purchase upgrades from and fast travel to.

For me the strongholds epitomize the gameplay of Far Cry. Stealth is encouraged, and if you find an area challenging is often your best choice. But if you are detected it isn’t a fail. You just carry on with ‘plan B’ and get the job done using whatever you want. Or maybe you just start with plan B. It doesn’t matter and Far Cry won’t punish you for your choices.

There are massive underground caverns and places of interest to explore. Collectable chests, posters and masks. Races, hunting missions, assassinations, revenge missions and hostage encounters populate the map with genuine variety. There’s no way I’m even going to try and list everything to do but there’s easily enough to do outside of the campaign for even the most hardcore completionist. More importantly there is variation. And I don’t mean just a set of races for each vehicle, I mean proper variation. Rather than just having 100 of each objective Far Cry 4 offers you enough to do that you rarely do the same thing twice in a row – unless you want to of course.

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The size and scale of Kyrat is just ridiculous and traversing that map is more fun than ever. There are loads of vehicles to find from trucks to boats to microlights. I would say that changing the ridiculous controls is a good idea though. You can now shoot while driving and the control system uses the left thumbstick to accelerate, break/reverse and steer. Try a three point turn with this system and things become farcical almost instantly. Change to classic ‘L2’/’R2’ and take the accuracy hit when shooting. You can also use ‘autodrive’ which will keep your car moving along the current road so you can concentrate on combat.

Random encounters also keep your time in Kyrat from becoming boring. It’s rare that you will make your way to an objective without something unexpected happening. There are rebels to free, skirmishes to fight and strongholds to defend. Successful completion provides you with Karma XP that eventual levels your Karma level and provides rewards. The first few provide 25% discounts on certain items at shops so they’re not to be missed. It really helps make Kyrat feel like a fully fledged open world and not just a huge map with loads of objectives. They’re fun and they don’t take long so stopping off and completing them on your travels doesn’t become a chore.

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In keeping with the scale of the world map is Kyrat’s armoury. After a bit of hunting you can carry one sidearm and three of any other gun. There’s still the inevitable battle over what exactly you should take with you on your journey but it’s because of too much choice rather than a total lack of choice. Pistols, grenades, assault rifles, snipers, shotguns and, of course, the recurve bow all make an appearance. Working to unlock isn’t necessarily a case of just playing the main missions either as some require you to complete other tasks before you can buy them. Many of them also have upgradable parts that can make all the difference but what really matter are the signature guns. Sitting in a section of their own signature guns are uniquely modified in some way or sometimes even unique guns. For example the standard AK47 you can buy cannot be modified. But you can buy a signature AK that comes with a red dot sight, suppressor, extended mags and a damage boost. They cleverly give you something to look forward to but still allow you to use the standard version of the guns early game.

The gun play is inevitably a joy. Missed bullets hitting the ground behind targets adds a layer of realism to fire fights. Heavy weapons feel appropriately chunky while getting a headshot with a suppressed pistol makes you feel like 007 just for a second. Fighting Kyrat’s wildlife however isn’t so fun. If you’ve just been shot and are taking damage the last thing you need is to be ambushed by wolves or an eagle. Time after time I found myself backing away from a group of animals reloading, killing one and having to reload again all the time being hit in the face by other animals with very little I could do. My advice is simple, take a shotgun for wildlife. Eagles will just do damage to you instantly – and disable you as you stand there taking damage with an eagle stuck to your face. I hate the eagles so much. They’re a frustrating and pointless addition that just left me annoyed.

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Far Cry 4 is an amazing open world adventure that gives you a massive amount of content, amazing mechanics and plenty of polish. It looks and sounds amazing on every level, all the time. It looks smooth and ‘airbrushed’ and the textures on character’s faces are disturbingly high quality at times. Voice acting and weapons sounds are some of the best I’ve ever heard and make Far Cry 4 feel like a top quality product.

Even the co-op isn’t bad and can make for some hilarious Far Cry style moments. But it isn’t enough for me to consider Far Cry a co-op game and playing without friends isn’t as fun. The campaign is a little bit underused but does have the addition of choice. I enjoyed the moral ambiguity of decisions but in an open world game it’s annoying that you can’t complete everything in a single playthrough. Honestly there’s just that much freedom and that many things to do it just doesn’t matter.

Kyrat is colossal and provides you with hour after hour of varied gameplay. Far Cry 4 is a great entry to the franchise that bolsters the successes of Far Cry 3 and also adds a good selection of new features. Far Cry keeps moving forwards without losing sight of what makes it great. Far Cry 4 is easily one of the best games I’ve played in 2014.

 

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