My new year’s resolution is 5184×3456

posted in: blog, Photography | 0

Oh. I can’t believe I forgot to mention what I got for Christmas this year.Only 2 presents to open on christmas day, as we opened our secret santa presents a week or two before xmas, I got a small tripod and a thermos flask from my friends. My brother got me a headset (because 2 wasn’t enough apparently, it’ll be useful to take to hotels and stuff though as I dont really want to take my expensive set in my travel luggage.
From my parents I got a beautiful Canon 100D DSLR camera!

IMG_0144I haven’t really taken it out much yet, but playing with it around the house is kind of fun. Enjoy some really stupid, but incredibly hi def photos from around my house.
Today was spent playing around with aperture settings.

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I feel like this picture tells a story…
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Diva Miku meets her match..
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“No the chain is there for fashion. No, really.”
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Look better than they taste
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Part of the wall of fridge magnets

WOW. SUCH BOKEH.
VERY FOCUS.
MUCH PIXELS.

Long Live the Queen (PC) – Review

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

Long Live the Queen is, fundamentally, a visual novel of sorts. Now straight away this should tell you that this won’t be to everyone’s liking, but that same collection of people are missing out on some fantastic games like 999, and now, this.

Long Live the Queen PC

You play as Elodie in the run up to her coronation where she will be crowned ruler of Novan, of course it’s not quite as simple as that though, each week you will have to select the way Elodie will be educated – which will in turn, affect how the story plays out. For example, a civil war may start, if you are skilled in battlefield strategy you can win that way, or maybe you took classes in speech and talk your way out of it.
Part of these decisions are made in full by the player, and the other half are simply ‘skill checks’ which will alter the story without player interaction.
A simple comparison for those that are unfamiliar with these games would be the dialogue choices in mass effect, where you have a renegade and paragon option – except instead of 2 possible choices, there are about 30, and they happen in just about every event.

LongLiveTheQueen 2013-12-30 09-29-53-90
OH GOD WHAT DO I LEARN.
They are 'on' by default, but I actually suspect the game will be more interesting with the skill check reveals turned off..
They are ‘on’ by default, but I actually suspect the game will be more interesting with the skill check reveals turned off..

But of course, again, is not quite as simple as just selecting her education, her mood will factor in to decisions and learning as well, if Elodie’s mood is afraid she may not excel as well at topics like Military and Weapons, however if her mood is angry then she will learn at an accelerated rate. Similarly, trying to wage war when depressed and afraid may lead to unforseen consequences…

LongLiveTheQueen 2013-12-29 15-29-22-56

There are a ton of endings, some of which involve funny pictures like the above, others get a more lengthy epilogue. I believe I am on my 6th playthrough now, and only gotten the same ending once because of my own stupidity (damn those chocolates.).
Oh. and there are costumes too, in case Elodie wasn’t adorable enough as is.

LongLiveTheQueen 2013-12-30 09-30-15-63

A brief look at the ingame endings and events checklist says I still have much to discover.
A brief look at the ingame endings and events checklist says I still have much to discover.

Verdict:

Underneath its cute exterior lies a surprisingly deep and genuinely interesting game, your first few playthroughs will almost certainly lead you to death, but the game has been made well enough that you can simply use this as a springboard for future playthroughs, and you will play through again.
There are a ton of possible ends for our queen, not all of them happy, and finding them all is a joy.

Approximate Game Length :  Until you get fed up or get all the ends (3-10 hours)
Actual Worth / Steam Price:  £7 / £7 = 1.0
Should you play it : Yes, it’s an interesting twist on the genre.

Rating: 4/5

Cheapskate or Don’t want to pirate it? – Save the Date, which I reviewed earlier in the year is a free alternative, which, while not quite as deep, is a little bit similar.

Long Live the Queen has been on sale on steam for half price a few times now though, and for £3.50 it’s a pretty good deal, providing at least £1 per hour.

Steamworld Dig (PC) – Review

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

Steamworld DigSteamworld Dig is a mine-em up by ‘Image & Form’, a swedish studio with a catalogue so small, they don’t even have their own wikipedia page. Ouch!
It’s a good thing then, that Steamworld Dig is going to get them some much needed attention.

Did anyone else have hours of their childhood stolen by old browser game ‘Motherload’? Maybe a picture will jog your memory.
motherloadYes? No? Well regardless, that game was the shit. An truly addictive game of dig down, get ore, then come back up sell the ore and upgrade your equipment.

Fast forward to the modern day and we have beautiful Steamworld Dig, which plays… shockingly similar.

2013-12-30_00002

Replace hull with Health, Fuel with Light (top right) and we’re almost there. But i’ll stop comparing the two there.
Steamworld Dig is part pure motherload mine-sell-upgrade, part story, part metroidvania and part puzzle. The objective of the game is to get to keep digging deeper to uncover your past, along the way you’ll find rooms which need to be explored and completed to progress, these sort of checkpoints also provide you with new powers or weapons. Back up on the surface, selling your ores will level you up and give you access to better equipment like higher capacity inventory and such.
It is somewhat of a tried and tested formula, but one that works well regardless.

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While the game is graphically quite clean, it’s nothing too incredible, The music is meh, maybe 1 track per area, and 3 areas. The game will last you a few hours, I completed it in 3.5 hours, and for some odd reason, they have cut off any major methods of replayability – the ‘mine’ has an impenetrable bottom, and there is no way to randomly generate more ground. Similarly most of the buyable upgrades are honestly kind of boring and even the top tier upgrades don’t have as much punch as you would expect. This sort of leaves a bad taste in the mouth after you upgrade as it doesn’t actually feel much different from what you had before.

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Another issue the game has is pacing, you are only able to carry a set amount of loot, and there are few ways to get back to the surface, you can jump all the way back up but this is long and tedious, you can make a teleporter, but this costs a lot of orbs  – the same currency used for the permanent upgrades. Your best option then, is to zerg rush your way to the next game made checkpoint (in the form of escape tubes or teleporters), skipping out on all of the loot or any potential confrontations with monsters, just dig straight down and hope you get to another checkpoint soon so you can actually sell your gear.

Verdict:

Steamworld Dig is an interesting and addictive game for the short period of time it lasts, there are some issues with length and replayability due to the way the game has been designed (set rather than procedural), the game also has some issues with character progression. However Steamworld Dig is still a good game, it just could have been even better.

Approximate Game Length :  Short (3-5 Hours), little replay value.
Actual Worth / Steam Price:  £5 / £7 = 0.714
Should you play it : Yes, though Motherload did it better.

Rating: 4/5

 

Guest Post (GrantDN): TF2 – Change is Good?

posted in: Games, Guest | 0

I spent the better half of an hour thinking about Team Fortress 2 in my head, so I figured I’d try to properly describe my thoughts on it and put it up in case anyone has any thoughts or arguments of their own in regards to this stuff.

Team Fortress 2 was a hell of a game when it came out alongside Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Portal. My overall playtime on that game is close to about 500-600 hours, which is a crazy amount of time to spend on a single game (I don’t stick to a game all that often, only with VERY SELECT games). I loved that game, the gameplay was great, the visuals were cool, the teamwork and variation in tactics you’d discover playing with/against other folks was great.

…Then Valve kept adding shit to the game. Look, I know the argument I’m about to make might seem a bit mad, cause it should always be awesome to see a game get continous support and new content years down the line, but I don’t like what it has done to the general gameplay concept of Team Fortress 2. The first few updates were fine, it felt like they were adding some alternatives to accomodate playstyles, but now it feels like it almost doesn’t matter what class you pick, cause you can change up the playstyle so drastically that any attempt to try and counter certain classes just seems moot.

I don’t mind that TF2 went F2P, that part doesn’t bother me in the slightest, what bothers me is that Valve doesn’t accomodate players who want ”classic” TF2, despite the hypocrisy of that statement (when TF2 came out, Team Fortress Classic players complained about the streamlining of certain mechanics and aspects). I want Valve to just add a mode that is labeled ”Vanilla” or ”Classic”, where NONE of your TF2 items come in. None of the class update stuff, none of the cosmetic stuff. None of it. I’m sure it’s a very complicated thing to work around due to the amount of patching and updates done to TF2 to balance around all of the items, and people who have made the investment to get all these items in TF2 surely don’t want all that stuff scattered to the wind. But here’s a compromise: If Valve can’t implement a ”Vanilla” mode into the base TF2 game client, they should add a ”TF2 Classic” option in the Steam library, for the grumpy cynical people like me who want things to be like they were in the ”good ol’ days” of 2007.

I really liked TF2 when I was into it. I loved it, it was a fantastic team-based FPS game, and I’d gladly spend another 1000 hours of it if I wasn’t so disoriented and plain annoyed by all the changes they’ve made to that formula. Lord knows if any of what I say ends up mattering, but goddamn if I don’t end up spending way too much time thinking about it at times.

A very Minecraft christmas?

posted in: Games, minecraft | 0

So I believe I have finished all immediate work for now, and my schedule is free until after the new year. Of course theres a chance I will be called up and asked to work, but lets hope that doesn’t happen for at least a little while eh?

Nothing too noteworthy recently, anime series ‘Kill La Kill’ reached its (probably) halfway point and went batshit insane, so be sure to check that out if you are into action shows.

Other than that i’ve just been playing Minecraft and sifting through some of the other games I have on steam. I sort of dislike how much of a time sink Minecraft is, but at the same time, the things i’m making  at the moment are pretty advanced and it feels really interesting, making a fully automated, self sustaining factory is incredibly satisfying.

minecraftislandsHeres what ive been working on recently. I actually really like the design of it, even though its one of the few bases I just kind of made on the fly without thinking too hard, usually I like to get a rough idea in my head before I start building but this was really just like ‘okay we’ll make a clover’ and then it just grew and grew and grew, and now it reminds me of something out of another videogame entirely.
Each island has its own function, and though you can’t really see it, there is a TON of underwater piping and cabling to make sure everything is kept powered and supplied.

Some of the paths are pretty elaborate, for example, cows -> manure -> composter -> fertilizer -> wheat -> breed cows -> baby cows -> XP and drops.

Oh. also my engine room is insane and still not enough power for everything.

engineroom

 

Top 10 of 2013: PC Games

posted in: Games, top 10 | 0

Given that I don’t think ive bought a 360 game all year (aside from maybe Dance Central 3), this list is going to be solely on games that can be played on the PC (aka. the glorious master race). It’s been sort of a mixed year for games, with some nice highs and then some complete draughts where nothing of note comes out.
I’ve already reviewed a majority of these games over the course of the year so if you wan’t a more indepth read about any of the games on the list, have a look on the review list page.

number10 - Gunpoint

# 10 – Gunpoint // June 2013 // Tom Francis

Gunpoint was a nice little surprise of a game, especially considering it was essentially a single man job, the gameplay hook, premise, ridiculous story and great writing make Gunpoint an especially fun romp for the short time period it lasts. The only thing that could have made this game better would have been if it were longer.

number9 - element4l

#9 – Element4l // May 2013 // I-Illusions

Showing up as a bit of a surprise is Element4l, I really enjoyed this game back when I played it in June, however I never would have thought it would be enough to make top 10 of the year, the only explanation perhaps, is that I enjoyed it even more than I thought I did. The game is beautiful, with strong but simple gameplay mechanics, and backed by a fantastic soundtrack.

number8 - Outlast

#8 – Outlast // September 2013 // Red Barrels

I never finished Outlast, which is, perhaps, a testament of how good of a horror game it is. If it was their intention to make a truly scary game filled with a mix of cheap jumps and true atmospheric fear – mission complete. Outlast is as simple as your local ‘house of horrors’ funfair ride, but takes it to new extremes with great effect.

number7 - rogue legacy

#7 – Rogue Legacy // June 2013 // Cellar Door Games

A play on the traditional roguelike, Rogue Legacy was fantastically addictive when I first started playing it, the rewards and upgrades system is well thought out and keeps players coming back for more. Rogue legacy is also incredibly challenging, killing your player off whenever it feels, but thanks to the progression system, this rarely feels frustrating.

number6 - Guacamelee

#6 – Guacamelee // August 2013 // Drinkbox Studios

Metroidvania platforming refined to near perfection. Whilst Guacamelee is tooo short, it is able to deliver constant fun and laughs as you play through Juans tale. The skill ceiling is also surprisingly high thanks to a well thought out combo system, dimension switching mechanic and some unexpectedly hard platforming.

number5 - gunslinger

#5 – Call of Juarez: Gunslinger // May 2013 // Techland

COJ Gunslinger is an odd one, on one hand it doesn’t do much particularly new or groundbreaking, but goddamn the gunplay in this is fun and satisfying, and then the showdown finales are tense and great fun.
Gunslinger is possibly the most refined shooter I’ve played since Max Payne 3, no gimmicks or twists, just fantastic perfected shooter action.

number4 - payday 2

#4 – Payday 2 // August 2013 // Overkill Software

There aren’t enough robbery games, pure and simple. Payday 2, whilst not perfect, is a fantastic excuse to join a group and unite for some multiplayer first person PVE, couple that with a very extensive item drop, exp and cosmetic system, and then throw in regular updates to the game including (apparently) regular free DLC and you have a winner. I still play Payday 2 on and off thanks to the continual content updates.

number3 - Stanley Parable

#3 – The Stanley Parable // October 2013 // Galactic Cafe

The Stanley Parable is an incredible piece of media which will make you question the games you play and the way you play them. Crafted in such a way that it almost appears to read your mind as you play, the Stanley Parable has a bunch of quirky endings and things to discover as you play through again and again, all backed by some fantastic writing which is in turn backed by some incredible voice work.
This one isn’t the type of game you’ll be playing for days, or even hours, but the impact it will have is sure to dwarf that of other game experiences you’ve have

number2 - Tomb Raider 2013

#2 – Tomb Raider // March 2013 // Crystal Dynamics

The first in what is going to assuredly be a new series, the latest Tomb Raider game was an absolute blast to play – a perfect mix of pseudo open world, progression and action. Despite playing almost every Tomb Raider game since the PS1 era, I think this is the only one I actually completed. The story was mostly retarded, but the beautiful world and solid third person shooter action will have you not caring less.

number1 - Bioshock Infinite

#1 – Bioshock Infinite // March 2013 // Irrational Games

Yep. You probably saw it coming, but in my opinion, Bioshock Infinite takes crown for best PC game released in 2013. An interesting twisting story, fantastic gunplay, interesting varied and beautiful world and the best reverse escort mission ever. Bioshock Infinite has it all.
Waking up on that beach in Columbia and just being completely taken back by the sheer beauty of it all is also probably one of the best moments in single player gaming I’ve encountered.

Top 10 of 2013 : Anime

posted in: Anime, top 10, WYSBW | 0

A Strong Q2 and Q4 for 2013, though sadly only just enough actual good shows to form a top 10 list. There are no runner ups, everything that isn’t on this list was relatively mediocre. That said, at least you can rest assured that everything that actually made it onto the list is good.

no10 - tamako market

Tamako Market // Slice of Life // 12 Episodes

At the ‘worst of the best’ of 2013 is Tamako Market, great for a relaxing watch, featuring minimal storyline or progression as is normal for these sort of shows, but featuring some very likable characters. Tamako Market won’t be for everyone, but if you enjoyed K-On and the likes, give this one a try.

no09

Oreimo 2 // Comedy Drama // 13 Episodes

The barrier for entry for this one is to have seen the first season, Oreimo really isn’t for everyone given its somewhat incestual undertones but the character development is certainly there. Season 2 was more interesting than the first (imo) due to it having a slightly more serious overall tone and an expansion of the love triangle sort of set up in the first season.

no08

Hataraku Maou Sama // Comedy // 13 Episodes

Geared primarily as a comedy, but ‘Devil is a part timer’ has a good lick of Romance in there as well to keep things interesting. All of the characters are lovable and the series has just enough progression to keep viewers interested while still being a light watch. One of many from 2013 which need a sequel asap.

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Dia no Ace // Sports // Ongoing (13+ episodes)

Ace of the Diamond feels like watching Major all over again, the story of a pitcher determined to be the best, with a unique pitching style and tons of hidden potential. I love a great zero to hero story and this is certainly one of those. The show is still relatively early days so consider picking it up before it balloons into what will likely be more than 2 seasons long.

no06

Yowamushi Pedal // Sports // Ongoing (38 episodes)

Yowamushi Pedal is the story of nerd who finds out he is a cycling beast. It can probably be most easily compared to Hajime No Ippo in that the main character experiences some crazy growth during the series. The show itself has been confirmed for 38 episodes, which should be plenty of time for our hero to join a competition and face some interesting opponents. I was actually shocked at how enjoyable this one is, mostly because one logically kind of asks just how interesting a show about bike riding could even be, but as it turns out, the answer is very.

no05

Hajime no Ippo: The Fighting! – Rising // Sports // Ongoing (25 Episodes)

Anyone who has seen the previous 2 seasons will know how incredible Hajime no Ippo is, and this latest season is no exception. A new, cleaner art style and some fantastic fights and what looks like the most evil boxer of all time, this season has started strong and looks to end even stronger. If you haven’t seen the previous seasons, you should probably go and watch those first since they are even better.

no04

Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko // Harem Comedy // 12 Episodes

A fun show not to be taken seriously, filled with slapstick and ecchi fanservice. Henneko is the biggest guilty pleasure this year, and you’ll hate how fun it is to watch. The Tsukiko sisters are incredible and the main character doesn’t even bother trying to be a decent sort. If you need something dumb to watch, Henneko will be waiting for you, just don’t be expecting much plot (or not a sensical one anyway)

no03

Watamote : No Matter How I Look at It, It`s You Guys` Fault I`m Not Popular! // Comedy // 12 Episodes

Watamote follows Tomoko as she battles her social anxiety issues, a topic which likely strikes close to home with many of its watchers. Sometimes watching someone else do so much worse than yourself is comforting and entertaining, and watamote brings this by the truckload. Many complain that watamote was simply too cringe to be watchable because of just how painful it is to watch adorable Tomoko be so damn bad at life, it all kind of depends on what sort of perspective you have, but I thought Watamote was one of the most entertaining watches this year, along with having the best ending song of the year.

no02

Kill La Kill // Action // Ongoing

Kill La Kill is the anime version of a video game ‘boss rush’ mode, and made by Platinum Games. The result is a visual explosion for your eyes, ridiculous fight scenes coupled with catchy musical hooks and insane boss enemies nearly every episode. KLK doesn’t take itself seriously, and as long as you don’t either, you’ll be treated to one of the best action shows ever made.
Literally every single character is incredible, personality wise, badass wise, or simply visually well designed and concepted, and when they bring them in en masse like Kill La Kill is currently doing…. Well… I can’t wait for the next episode.
Oh. and Mankanshoku Mako is the best comedy relief sidekick ever.

no01

Shingeki no Kyojin // Action // 25 Episodes

Yup. Everyone that actually watches anime by this point has probably seen, or at least heard of Attack on Titan, and the hype is completely warranted.
The show is full of twists and turns, and while the pacing starts to falter towards the season half of the series, it’s still a fantastic watch. Attack on Titan may very well be not only the best anime show of 2013, but the best show. Period.

 

anime2013
My 2013 in anime. Unlabeled are some of the stuff carried over my last year, big empty one in the middle is Space Bros (still going after 1.5 years)

I didn’t choose the food life

posted in: blog, Food | 0

Awesome weekend out in London hanging with some old friends. Got a thermos flask and a tripod for secret santa presents, which is awesome (i just have to hope Im actually getting that camera for christmas I guess) and then we pretty much spent the rest of the time either hiking about with my bigass bag, or eating.

I don’t get out too much so I guess getting to explore the city just kind of unleashed something, I had some macaroons (freakin £1.80 each), then later for dinner I had seafood bibimbap at a korean restaurant (£11 @_@ ).
Then the next day we went to patty and bun and I had 2 burgers there (£16) and to finish off my wallet, a trip to the hummingbird bakery for some cupcakes (£5)

owwwwwwww.

For serious though, Patty and Bun – http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g186338-d3696403-Reviews-Patty_Bun-London_England.html – is incredible, I think it really says something when the service is shit, the tables are small and cramped, they cram you in like sardines, and yet there is still a queue outside the door all day. I seriously recommend the chilli burger, because that relish is incredible.

Guest Top 10 2013 – Henrik (GrantDN) Overview

posted in: Games, Guest, top 10 | 0

Howdy folks! I really wanted to do proper write-ups on all the fantastic games I managed to sneak time into playing, so I figured my GOTY Top 10 would also be a venue into doing proper posts about all of them. I hope you enjoy reading them, and I will also use this post to give direct links to each spot on the Top 10.

Also, I have included a Runner-up section within each post, keep in mind that this wasn’t Runner-up for THAT spot, rather Runner-up to be in the Top 10 in general. I made it because on one hand I could give that game its propers, and also because I felt bad not being able to give it some credit.

Nr.10
Nr.9
Nr.8
Nr.7
Nr.6
Nr.5
Nr.4
Nr.3
Nr.2
Nr.1

Hope you enjoy reading through ’em as much as I enjoyed writing ’em, and if not, I still appreciate you skimming through ’em. Take care and let’s hope next year will be another great year for games!

Guest Top 10 2013 – Henrik (GrantDN) Nr.1

posted in: Games, Guest | 0

Bioshock Infinite

I'm still blown away at the visual aesthetic of Infinite
I’m still blown away at the visual aesthetic of Infinite

Bioshock Infinite is a weird beast, in a lot of ways. Most of this stems from Bioshock Infinite being a very straight-forward, linear shooter. There aren’t really any incredible gameplay mechanics on display, and despite having an interesting story, it’s still only good in terms of game storylines, not quite an experience that transcends media in any way, shape, or form.

Despite all this, Bioshock Infinite is one of the most memorable games from this year in my eyes, despite only recently having jumped back into it for a bit on the PC, I could still vividly remember most of the set pieces, moments and experiences I had with this game all the way back in March of this year.

Elizabeth, don't ever leave me :'<
Elizabeth, don’t ever leave me :'<

The visual aesthetic of Columbia, the musical score, the Christopher Nolan-esque plot and most of all, the character of Elizabeth have stuck in my head all throughout this year. Paraphrasing myself back from when I wrote a review of Bioshock Infinite in March ‘’There is this magic in Elizabeth’s eyes, that almost makes her seem real, despite it being very easy to deconstruct her as just this Magical AI character who is always there for you, giving you health/salts/money and picking locks for you’’. I still stand by that, and while I’m sure the more cynical gamers out there would certainly have more gripes about the game, I enjoyed the hell out of this game.

This game for me is what the original Bioshock was to lots of people out there seemingly. (although those people are out of their fucking minds, cause Bioshock 1 had TERRIBLE gameplay)

Top 10 Runner-up: Metro: Last Light

Half of the game is spent in tunnels...
Half of the game is spent in tunnels…

I like the STALKER games. Why does that matter? Simply because a majority of the folks at A4, the developers of the Metro games are veterans from GSC Game World, and it shows. Despite Metro being a much more linear experience than the STALKER games, it shows in the extra gameplay polish and less buggy nature of Metro 2033 and Last Light.

Metro: Last Light felt like a very tightly designed game, where you could engage with the human enemies either via stealth, or brute force, and I found myself utilizing stealth often and I found it really exciting to pull off. The game also displays some impressive visual moments, as well as presenting its post-apocalyptic world with a pretty gritty and grim feeling.

...The other half in the wasteland.
…The other half in the wasteland.

Metro: Last Light shares similarities with Bioshock in that it tries to litter the game world with little hints and clues to help explain the universe, instead of some character blabbering it all out clear as day. That subtle drip of information helps present the universe with some mystery, and peaks the player’s natural curiosity, should they choose to follow it up.

Guest Top 10 2013 – Henrik (GrantDN) Nr.2

posted in: Games, Guest | 0

Assassin’s Creed IV

Edward peeping dem beautiful pixels.
Edward peeping dem beautiful pixels.

Silent murder on the high seas…..or something, I should probably stop trying to be clever with these openers, they’re all stupid.

Ubisoft has been at this Assassin’s Creed game for a while, first game was released in 2007, and since 2009, they’ve been putting them out yearly, which is a very frightening realization, although less so once you realize that only 3 of them are good and the rest are okay to downright terrible.

Luckily, ACIV: Black Flag can be considered one of the good ones. Yup, seems like Ubisoft managed to reduce the level of ass present in AC3, and also managed to capitalize on a bunch of the tech they introduced in that title, namely giving the player more traversal options as well as putting ship combat in the game, although in a much larger role this time around.

You play Edward Kenway, who seems to actually enjoy the prospect of being alive more so than previous protagonist Connor, who happens to be Edward’s grandson, this aspect already makes Black Flag a stunningly more enjoyable experience when your main character isn’t constantly acting like he’d be better off dead. Edward somehow manages to find himself shipwrecked at the start of the game along with an Assassin. He then promptly hunts down and kills the Assassin, I honestly don’t even remember if there was a reason, but I gotta admit, I respect Edward’s moxie in this regard.

The story follows standard Assassin’s Creed style in being VERY slow to introduce you to all of the gameplay mechanics, although you unlock more than enough early on for that not to feel like a very short leash on your main character’s neck. Story involves pirates and assassin’s and templars and probably dinosaurs, I can’t honestly recall, not that it matters much.

Someone is about to regret every decision they've made until now
Someone is about to regret every decision they’ve made until now

The gameplay is still very much your standard AC affair, although the ship traversal feels fun, and the environment seems colourful enough that you should have fun collecting the 8 billion collectibles littered around the map, well, maybe that’s just people like me but I sure as hell did it at least.

There is also modern day stuff which has also always been present in AC, although it is much more streamlined and shorter than previous AC games, thus it feels infinitely more bearable and thus makes ACIV a better game. If you feel burned out on Assassin’s Creed, I wouldn’t blame you for skipping out on Black Flag, but I will still heartily recommend it, if you’re up for giving it a shot. And it’s also ideal for someone just wanting to jump into the franchise, due to having very negligible ties to the narrative of the past games.

Top 10 Runner-up: Injustice: Gods Among Us

Deathstroke ain't playin'
Deathstroke ain’t playin’

There weren’t many fighting games to talk about this year, and Injustice was one of the few notable enough I feel this year.

There isn’t that much to say about it, it feels very much based about the Mortal Kombat fighting system, with some changes made to it to make it a bit more accessible and flashy I’d imagine.

The story involves an alternate universe where Superman has become a dictator after suffering a great loss due to the Joker, so main universe characters need to go and fight people until they make things better.

There’s a good selection of characters, the levels look nice and the online netcode seems mostly smooth, an improvement over Mortal Kombat’s, which was plagued with issues.

Guest Top 10 2013 – Henrik (GrantDN) Nr.3

posted in: Games, Guest | 0

The Stanley Parable

"And so Stanley stood up from his desk, and walked out of his office."
“And so Stanley stood up from his desk, and walked out of his office.”

Have you ever had someone who isn’t very familiar with games see you playing a game? Have they ever asked you why you did what you did, and assuming it was a linear game, have you ever had to explain to them that you are physically not allowed to divert from the linear path laid out to you?

The above are questions that very well define what The Stanley Parable is. It is a first-person adventure-game, to give it my simplest generalization. It originally started as a Half-Life 2 mod, but has been rebuilt as a standalone game. The game involves you waking up in your office, with an unseen narrator dictating the story in a linear manner. However, the game presents several opportunities (some very obvious, some very well hidden) to divert off the linear path set out for you, and with this, the narrator reacts to your actions and presents colourful commentary to go with it.

"Has this influenced your decision to purchase The Stanley Parable?"
“Has this influenced your decision to purchase The Stanley Parable?”

The Stanley Parable is a game that challenges linear game design, and the subconscious nature of the gamer to simply go with it and accept a world designed with a very closed-path structure. The scenarios present in the game, as well as the incredible voice over and lines spoken by the narrator are what present most of the comedic nature in The Stanley Parable, and while it doesn’t involve much in the way of gameplay mechanics (there’s a use button, movement, and a crouch), it manages to be a great, engaging experience nonetheless.

Top 10 Runner-up: Beyond: Two Souls

Absolute Waifu material
Absolute Waifu material

David Cage loves movies. He also seems to enjoy making video games. Somehow he decided that games should be more like movies. That is the best way of describing any Quantic Dream game.

Beyond: Two Souls displays this right from the box art, which features Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe’s namesake at the top, just like a movie poster. The game describes the life and times of Jodie Holmes, a small girl who seemingly has a ghost she can communicate with. No one knows who this ghost truly is, but apparently Jodie gets enlisted into a top-secret military facility for testing and training purposes. The structure of the story jumps back-and-forth in Jodie’s life, from her early childhood, up until her mid-20’s.

The gameplay is largely based around walking around environments, interacting with whatever the game allows you to interact with. You can also take control of Aiden, Jodie’s ghost friend who has several context-sensitive actions of his own you can utilize. When the game gets into larger set-piece moments, the game essentially turns into a cutscene where you need to engage in QTE sequences to progress.

While having a very linear story, there are small secondary decisions and choices Jodie can make which will affect some aspects of the story, although most of it is simply relegated to just being included in an epilogue scene. At times, I actually really enjoyed Beyond: Two Souls, and there is one sequence in particular that I thought looked visually ASTOUNDING, although I imagine there was a lot of visually trickery involved in making it seem that way.

ABSOLUTE Waifu material
ABSOLUTE Waifu material

I don’t consider Beyond a must-play by any stretch, but it is certainly the most exciting game Quantic Dream has actually made, and if you don’t mind adventure games, it’s an alright 8-9 hour experience. Also, it has Willem Dafoe in it, so it kiiiiiiiiiiiiiinda is a must-play in many ways.

Guest Top 10 2013 – Henrik (GrantDN) Nr.4

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Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Well Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiet.
Well Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiet.

Do you like 80’s movies? Predator, Terminator, Robocop, you name it, FC3: Blood Dragon pays tribute/homage to all of ‘em. The game takes place in an 80’s vision of the near-future, a neon-coloured wasteland where dumb quotes get thrown out, everything is more dangerous as a cyborg, and also dinosaurs, cause why not?

You play Rex Power Colt (a fantastic dumb name for a character), voiced by Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese from Terminator) himself. The game seems like a fun experiment by the Far Cry 3 team to give out an extended demo of the main Far Cry 3 game, while having the ability to be balls-out insane due to the smaller scope in general.

I really enjoyed Far Cry 3, giving it my Nr.1 spot last year even, due to what I felt was a very enjoyable, nice looking world with exciting gunplay, mobility and fun missions and gameplay mechanics. Blood Dragon takes all of this, puts a ridiculous spin on most of it, and just lets you go wild into the world right after finishing the prologue mission.

Yea, suck it Mr.Cyber-Dinosaur.
Yea, suck it Mr.Cyber-Dinosaur.

FC3: Blood Dragon in part feels like a massive in-joke, which might bother some people, but as someone who really enjoys all of the things that Blood Dragon draws inspiration from, I felt satisfied with almost all of the aspects of the game, and as a downloadable title, it is a fantastic title to jump into whether you’re skeptical of Far Cry 3, or just want a game as crazy as Blood Dragon can be at times.

Top 10 Runner-up: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

You can't hide forever Billy the Kid...
You can’t hide forever Billy the Kid…

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger stars Silas Greaves, an aging outlaw who talks about the glory days with a bunch of curious listeners at a bar, which is the main conceit for why gameplay includes running commentary by Silas, which can change depending on your actions. In this regard it draws similarities with Bastion, where the narrator Rucks provided commentary depending on the actions the player had taken during gameplay.

Gunslinger is a mostly straightforward shooter in most regards, with one major difference being duels that you engage in, which occur at fixed points in the story. Despite all this, the game visually looks really great, showing off Techland’s technical prowess, and the gunplay feels satisfying as well as including a scoring-based XP system based on how you go about playing the game.

For a downloadable title, this looks INCREDIBLY nice.
For a downloadable title, this looks INCREDIBLY nice.

While I thought Gunslinger was a very solid downloadable game, and didn’t have any real expectations going into it, I still feel a bit let down by the very linear structure of it, which I know is going to sound weird considering some of the games I will be including in this list. I still absolutely consider it worth a play, which is why I felt it important to at least receive a runner-up spot and a proper write-up.

Guest Top 10 2013 – Henrik (GrantDN) Nr.5

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Saints Row IV

This only begins to cover the insanity
This only begins to cover the insanity

Saints Row IV doesn’t win any awards for graphical fidelity, frame-rate or even gameplay innovation. But it’s still a REALLY fun game, and that is why Saints Row IV makes it into my top ten list for this year.

Game kicks off with the Main Character being the President of the United States very briefly, until aliens come and fuck your shit up. From there, the game decides to cook up a scenario which allows the insanity of the gameplay to exist, and hell, in some cases it actually doesn’t, which I’m 100% fine with.

Sure the city is the same as Saints Row 3, sure they’ve built the game on a very familiar framework, but the additions they did add help craft an intoxicatingly fun experience in Saints Row IV, with the super powers allowing for incredible mobility, which helps traversing the city and gathering collectibles not feel like an absolute burden, and the offensive abilities also feel fun to use while fighting off enemies.

You just know Keith David would pick the one on the left.
You just know Keith David would pick the one on the left.

I can’t comment too much on the musical selection of the game, due to only listening to the classics station (not to be confused with the classical station), but from what I heard on there, I was psyched the whole way through. Hearing Aerosmith’s ‘’Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’’, Biz Markie’s ‘’Just a Friend’’, Men Without Hats ‘’Safety Dance’’ and several more tracks that were just a blast to listen to, especially since Saints Row IV allows you to play the radio while on-foot now.

I know I haven’t really commented much about the actual game itself, but the easiest comparison is to it to compare it to Saints Row 3 mixing with Crackdown, and making that combination work. Sometimes you don’t need to start from scratch to make a great follow-up, as long as you add enough to make it feel enjoyable and don’t break anything along the way.

Top 10 Runner-up: Grand Theft Auto V

Michael always was a busta'.
Michael always was a busta’.

Grand Theft Auto V in many ways exists on the other side of the spectrum from Saints Row IV. It is a brand new environment, with several new gameplay mechanics, even including multiple characters with unique activities and abilities to boot. Rockstar certainly made a very pure follow-up from GTA IV, also improving upon many of the aspects that I didn’t really enjoy in IV.

GTA IV felt like a realistic world, it was a cool showcase, a very visual world with plenty of detail but it also felt dull, drab and boring in a lot of ways. GTA V shows off that Rockstar North have established their ability in creating these worlds but they have also decided to have so more fun while having the player engage with that world. From practically dumping a black market gun stockpile onto your player very early on, to having sidequests that involve outrageous activities and very charming, quirky dialogue exchanges, to the very storyline feeling a lot lighter than the one present in GTA IV’s. The musical selection is alsol very well thought-out, including several varieties of tracks to account for different tastes, from Snoop’s ‘’Gin & Juice’’, to Aphex Twin’s ‘’Windowlicker’’, to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘’ADHD’’, Tyler the Creator’s ‘’Garbage’’ and Queen’s ‘’Radio Gaga’’, among others.

The world can look stunning at times, even on 360/PS3.
The world can look stunning at times, even on 360/PS3.

I think GTA V is a great game, certainly worth playing for someone who wants that experience, but it ended up on the runner-up spot due to still adhering a little too much on its world ‘’making sense’’, if you follow what I mean. I’m sure there are people who would MUCH rather that than just a complete nonsense world just for the sake of fulfilling the player’s fantasies, but that’s not for me.

Also the multiplayer is about as busted as Rocky’s face at the end of every Rocky movie.

Guest Top 10 2013 – Henrik (GrantDN) Nr.6

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DmC

dmc
Get dunked.

This is probably the part where some folks will close this tab and forget this list ever happened. If you’re still reading, let me explain why I enjoyed Ninja Theory’s reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise and why it was an enjoyable game that I’d recommend anyone that enjoys reflex-intensive action games check out.

DmC has a neat visual design to it’s world, from just the artistic variety they show off in the levels, to the levels themselves morphing and transforming depending on the context of the situation. The music is mostly based on contemporary music, mainly dubstep tracks which some people might not enjoy, but I felt it seemed absolutely appropriate for the very adrenaline-focused nature of these types of games. The story is dumb and the characters are very ‘’take it or leave it’’ in that regard, but I will say, if anyone out there has ever actually found themselves invested in the lore of Devil May Cry, you should be ashamed of yourself, that is all.

Topsy-Turvy Turmoil
Topsy-Turvy Turmoil

While DmC might not be a 60-fps fun ride on the consoles, I never saw that as a massive hindrance, and hell, if you’re that stubborn about having your perfect framerate in your action games, just grab the PC version, where you’ll get incredible visual fidelity as well as fantastically smooth frame-rate assuming you’ve got the hardware to match.

I found DmC to be fun, and I thought Ninja Theory did an admirable job. If they were the ones to work on the sequel, I’m sure a minority of people would lose their shit, but y’know what? Fuck those people, fuck ‘em in their stupid, weeaboo, stuck-in-the-past mentality. Bring on a DmC 2, cause from what I’ve seen of this first attempt, I’m ready for another one.

Top 10 Runner-up: MGS: Revengeance

CHOP TIL' YOU DROP
CHOP TIL’ YOU DROP

For the people who wanted DmC to stick more to its japanese roots, and keep that smooth frame-rate on the console versions, Platinum Games have you covered. I never liked Raiden in MGS4, I thought Kojima’s attempt to ‘’redeem’’ his character by making him a badass cyborg ninja was incredibly stupid, which hey, MGS is known for so par-for-the-course I guess.

MGS: Revengeance manages to bring the cutscene Raiden from MGS4 to life though, with you being able to slash almost anything in the environment into itty-bitty blocks of textures, which is always enjoyable to watch, but it also has that very twitchy, slightly unforgiving combat that old DMC games were known for, as well as having that Platinum style to it which makes for a very enjoyable, if slightly short experience.

At about 5 hours on the normal difficulty, MGS: Revengeance is definitely not in it for a marathon run, but for a short sprint, it is certainly exciting enough to give a play.

HE HAS A SWORD ATTACHED TO HIS HEELS.
HE HAS A SWORD ATTACHED TO HIS HEELS.

If you’re not interested in getting it on 360/PS3, it seems a PC version is technically still in development, although WHEN it’ll actually come out will still need to be seen.

Guest Top 10 2013 – Henrik (GrantDN) Nr.7

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Gunpoint

That poor guard...
That poor guard…

Real-life industrial espionage is boring, don’t you think? I certainly wish it was more along the lines of how Gunpoint displays it, involving hacking security systems, jumping really high/far through windows because of your sweet shoes, and punching guards potentially infinitely, despite only needing 1 hit to knock them out.

Gunpoint is the creation of one Tom Francis, former PC Gamer UK writer, who after having critiqued games for a huge chunk of his life, decided to make one and show them how it’s done. His first attempt, while feeling very conservative, is an A-class effort to behold, with Gunpoint being an incredibly enjoyable little stealth-platformer, with some witty banter written by Mr. Francis to help keep the atmosphere light and very breezy.

You play as Richard Conway, a man who considers himself a ‘’freelance spy’’, who after just having received his sweet mail-order shoes, manages to get himself involved with an intricate corporate plot from which he now has to find a way to clear himself of, putting his trade and his gadgetry to use.

Mistakes were made.
Mistakes were made.

Gunpoint is an example of a game with very simple goals and ideals, a short length and a very concise path proving to be an absolute boon to it. I heartily recommend everyone play Gunpoint, because clocking in at a little over an hour, it’s a short-but-incredibly-sweet experience to behold.

Top 10 Runner-up: Monaco

Accurate portrayal of a multiplayer Monaco match
Accurate portrayal of a multiplayer Monaco match

Every good heist needs its fair share of quirky specialists depending on what’s needed, and Monaco manages to create some fantastic archetypes with which to pull off professional-level heists or create absolute chaos in Monaco, whether playing single-player, or multi-player (which is definitely more of the draw for this game). These include the Mole, who is OBSESSED with digging, the Hacker who only ever speaks in abbreviations and leetspeak, and the Cleaner, a mute professional who can knock out guards if he can sneak up behind them.

Monaco is a simple top-down perspective puzzle-platformer, where the goal of the game is either to finish specific objectives, clear all the coins or whatever else the game decides needs to be done, and then after that the players (at least 1 of them) must reach the finish aswell, or it will all have been for naught.

While Monaco can be pretty enjoyable if played with a serious stealth-game thought-process, the greatest joy comes from heists going terribly wrong in that game, when you’ve got guards screaming at you in french, dogs chasing you, alarms tripping constantly, and coins to catch in order to boost your score, Monaco’s manic nature is certainly where you will find the most fun.

The Boat, The Boat, The Boat is on fire!
The Boat, The Boat, The Boat is on fire!

If you were to get Monaco, I would suggest finding at least 1 friend or mutual partner who you could play it with, and if possible, try and get the max of 4 players in a game. As a single-player experience, Monaco feels a bit less enjoyable, but it seems a very intentional decision to focus on the multiplayer aspect as such, and I’d very much recommend it if you can muster up some other players.

Guest Top 10 2013 – Henrik (GrantDN) Nr.8

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Guacamelee

Spoilers: I'm sneaking past this thing cause I ain't wanna die
Spoilers: I’m sneaking past this thing cause I ain’t wanna die

Remember when Konami used to be the kings of making 2D platformers that relied on feeding the player upgrades that improved their mobility/traversal through the environment? I know Symphony Of The Night was heavily inspired by Super Metroid, but Nintendo never seemed good at keeping up with IP that wasn’t Mario, Zelda or Pokémon, and Metroid has always been a stepchild over there, and also has seen massive tonal shifts with almost each successive entry, hence why Castlevania is the example here, even if Super Metroid is a little closer.

Drinkbox seems to remember, and they’ve made a pretty cool title in Guacamelee inspired by Konami/Nintendo. You play as Juan, a simple agave farmer who is in love with El Presidente’s Daughter (I honestly couldn’t find what her actual name is, so we’ll stick with this), but when an undead matador named Carlos Calaca cockblocks you and leaves you for dead, it’s up to Juan and a magical luchador mask he recieves to save the day.

Flame Face is a jerk :<
Flame Face is a jerk :<

It’s a roughly 4-hour long experience, but it manages to feel just right and doesn’t overstay its welcome with the length, and the gameplay mechanics feel smooth aswell as the combat having a good learning curve to it, which good players could take advantage of to completely smash enemies, while folks like me were okay enough at the basics to make it work and still had a good time.

The game has a nice visual style, some funny jokes and dialogue, and the sound design felt appropriate, albeit not super memorable if I’m being honest. Overall I think Guacamelee is a great game, Drinkbox did a good job with it and you should certainly check it out, whether on PC, PS3 or PSVita.

Top 10 Runner-up: SteamWorld Dig

The town is pretty small, but it has everything you'd need.
The town is pretty small, but it has everything you’d need.

SteamWorld Dig might seem like a familiar concept to some, at least it did to me, until I realized that it was very similar to an old flash game I used to play called Super Motherload (which is getting remade and released on downloadable services I believe). In that regard SteamWorld Dig does a pretty good job, the basic gist being that you need to dig down from ground level, gathering resources along the way, and requiring you to surface in-between digs to unload, get more light, heal yourself or just upgrade your equipment.

There isn’t much to talk about regarding story really, you play a digging robot called Rusty who is exploring the ruins of ‘’The Old World’’, which seems to imply some form of post-apocalyptic setting for the game, which the present-day seems very wild-west inspired, albeit with robots.

HL3 confirmed for Apocalypse?
HL3 confirmed for Apocalypse?

The game started out as a 3DS game, which might perhaps explain the very simplistic nature of the mechanics, or even the very modest size of the game, even on PC (under 50 Megabytes), while still looking nice even on very high resolutions. The game is roughly 4-5 hours long, which probably is a sign that it was meant more as a game to be played in small chunks, being on 3DS originally, but I still think SteamWorld Dig is worth a go for anyone looking for a good game to play in small chunks, or even for longer expeditions, it still holds up just fine.

Guest Top 10 2013 – Henrik (GrantDN) Nr.9

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Tomb Raider

That logo sure looks nice.
That logo sure looks nice.

Tomb Raider is another franchise that has gone down the reboot-hole recently, albeit still being developed by Crystal Dynamics (the development house who took over TR duties after Core Designs), who have technically for the 3rd time redesigned the vision of what Tomb Raider is (Tomb Raider Legends was first, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was 2nd, despite being an intentionally smaller, downloadable title).

So what is Tomb Raider? While it wouldn’t be unfair to say it has drawn inspiration from the Uncharted series, it also includes some exploratory aspects most attributed to the ‘’metroidvania’’ style of game, which means Lara’s only option isn’t just to push the stick up to move forward, but that she can go back and collect stuff that may or may not end up assisting her progression. There was a lot of initial fear as to where the franchise was heading, with people worried that Tomb Raider would lose most of what made that brand what it is, but Crystal Dynamics have managed to make a very enjoyable game that visually looks quite nice and while it certainly won’t win any points in the story department, I will certainly say it tries to emulate the storytelling style that the franchise is known for, for better or worse.

Don't worry, she's just swimming in Ribena
Don’t worry, she’s just swimming in Ribena

There is a multiplayer mode, which works as intended, although longtime fans certainly weren’t (and most likely still aren’t) very attached to the idea, so it should definitely be considered an afterthought to the main single-player experience, which as before stated, definitely is worth the (current) price of admission alone.

I look forward to seeing where Square-Enix/Crystal Dynamics intends to head with the Tomb Raider series, hoping that they capitalize on what made their latest title well acclaimed among the gaming populace this year (and next year if you’re one of the folks getting the PS4/XB1 version).

Top 10 Runner-up: The Last of Us

Fake Ellen Page out in the snow
Fake Ellen Page out in the snow

I imagine there is some shock as to why The Last of Us didn’t manage to reach the actual top-ten and instead had to settle for a runner-up spot in my list. Allow me to try and give some explanation:

The Last of Us is a very nice looking game by Naughty Dog, who are well-regarded as an excellent dev team, but who also seem to sniff out a good idea for an IP, and then milk that until it starts to feel stale before moving onto the next big thing. I hope that doesn’t happen with The Last of Us, although I’m sure neither Sony or Naughty Dog wants to waste all that time spent concepting this universe for a single title, which is more a problem with modern game design in general than just Naughty Dog/Last of Us.

Now about the game itself, The Last of Us dwells in the now popular-if-slightly-stale ‘’zombie’’ market where many recent videogames have tried their luck to strike it rich. It tries to present a more down-to-earth feel for the scenario, meaning that fights with either the undead or actual humans feels tense at all times, and thus gung-ho mentality doesn’t always pay off, if at all.

OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD
OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD

The story is a very major focus, and with that the relationship between Joel, the main character, and Ellie, your companion through most of the game. Their relationship makes for a very touching, though also grim story, followed-up with some great musical pieces and some very nice visuals, especially since it’s pushing out of a 7-year old console at this point.

The gameplay isn’t super engaging if I’m honest, and I wasn’t huge on the multiplayer, which is why Last of Us has to accept a runner-up spot for now, although if you have a PS3, you should certainly give it a shot.

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