Hades: The Welcome To Hell Update (State of the Game)

Hades continues to develop in a great direction with the last update of 2019, Welcome to Hell. With only five days away from the next big patch, I thought I’d take a look at the State of the Game of my favourite Early Access title as it is right before the Demeter update!

The verdict? Solid additions all around! Though, between you and me, I spoke about a few elements added outside of the “Welcome to Hell” update. That said, Hades continues to be my favourite roguelite, and everything it does, it does extremely well.

STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER REVIEW – Excellent, Buggy, Lacking Ambition

Jedi: Fallen Order has a lot going for it – an excellent story, an addictive combat system and plenty of Metroidvania elements in the planets we players explore as we take on the role of Cal Kestis. Unfortunately, Fallen Order is also plagued by bugs and the number of gameplay systems directly copied from other games make for a certain lack of ambition in terms of the innovation developer Respawn Entertainment implements.

In this video, I did my best to take a critical look at the story, dialogue, gameplay systems and the overall presentation of the game. I’m happy with how it turned out – if you are too, leave me a comment and please, please, please…share the video with your friends!

Revisiting the Classics: Hellblade – Senua's Sacrifice, a Descent into the Underworld

I don’t necessarily have the best opinion of content I’ve worked on in the past but I had a friend over this last Friday and I happened to show her the trailer of the recently announced Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 (it looks great, you can see it here) and she’d never heard of the first one. Rather than explain the first one to her, I remembered I’d done a video on it and played it for her.

Imagine my shock when I realised it was quite an in-depth look at Senua’s journey. Well-crafted arguments, solid examples, quality audio. Yes, I was annoyed by having left an instance of repetition in my narration but I’ll forgive my past self this one.

If you’re interested in Hell, Hades and the Underworld, this one will be a great watch. I used the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to contrast desire and lack of faith with the journey of self-discovery and reconcilliation that Senua goes through.

It’s one of my better video essays and I’d appreciate your support, likes, shares.

Afterparty Review – Crude Fun, Surprisingly Deep

Afterparty, the latest game by Oxenfree developers Night School Studio, swaps suspense for crude, crude humour, while holding onto the good old-fashioned interpersonal drama that might be familiar to you from their previous title!

Does it work? You’d be surprised. Several factors help Afterparty along, foremost among which is the fact that Milo and Lila are a pair of really likable protagonists. The sharp dialogue and its delivery by a stellar cast don’t hurt none, either. Overall, this is an excellent game and I am happy to recommend it…but don’t take my written word for it, watch the video! Go on, you know you wanna.

Saturday Night Gaming Returns: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Legacy of the First Blade: Hunted (#01)

It’s been a good while since I’ve written anything about video games, hasn’t it? Here they are, then, my thoughts on the first episode of the 12-15 hour-long first paid DLC for Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey! Some Spoilers for Hunted from this point onwards.

Makedonia, one of the fourty or so regions in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, played a nominal part in the game’s main story campaign, a rather large zone for the thirty to fourty-five minutes spent in a single conquest battle and several dramatic cutscenes. Strange, I thought – but I needn’t have worried. Legacy of the First Blade uses one of Odyssey’s largest territories to excellent effect, infesting Makedonia with a whole lot of different quests, a fresh new cult to dispose of, and plenty of side-activities.

The character focus in this DLC is Darius, the eponymous First Blade, called so because he’s the very first person in history to use the assassins’ Hidden Blade. You know the one if you’ve so much as seen an Assassin’s Creed trailer from the last twelve years – springs up, very sharp, used to stab people. Darius is an old Persian, uh, assassin, responsible for the murder of king Xerxes; well past his prime, he and his son Natakes are struggling to survive and evade the Order of the Ancients, the Persians’ own version of the Cult of Cosmos, now safely dismantled by Kassandra – at least in my first playthrough. Darius’ skills are the equal of or even surpass those of Kassandra; while the two first cross blades when they meet and Kassandra certainly seems to be winning by the time Natakes puts an end to the fight, Darius is no joke; he also displays the Batman-like ability to disappear in the middle of conversation, leaving his ill-humoured lackey Kassandra with all the heavy-lifting.

Darius is a cypher – though he reveals bits and pieces of his history throughout this first episode, there’s always a hint of something left unspoken, an element of hidden knowledge. The revelations keep coming as the conflict between Darius, Kassie and Natakes on one side, and the Order of the Ancients on the other, intensifies. It works because it’s tried and tested, and also because the leader of this branch of the Ancients, the Hunter, has a legitimately daunting presence, which is more than I can say about every single member of the Cult of Kosmos. The mental games he plays with Kassandra lead to one of the more memorable scenes in the hundred hours I’ve spent playing this game – Kassandra, staring at a tree from which victims of her blade are hanging. They’re one and all no-name soldiers, Athenians and Spartans alike; it’s a moment of forced reflection, which questions her humanity. The obvious coarseness of this scene only serves to make the conversation options, “I am a monster/I’m not a monster” deliver an even stronger gut-punch.

In many ways, Hunted was a condensation of what worked well in the main storyline of Odyssey – family drama, the search-and-destroy so familiar from the time spent hunting the Cult of Kosmos, the requisite ship combat quest, a pair of boring treasure hunts, and a lot of animal life slaughter. Bears, wolves, eels, nothing on four legs is safe, whether due to Kassie’s desire to have a romantic dinner with Natakes or because the Hunter is an animal lover, it doesn’t matter.

I thought it was good – good enough, fresh enough to continue playing well past the point I’d usually leave an open-world game like this one. And I’ve played on since – next up, I’ll talk about Episode 02 – Shadow Heritage.

Thanks for reading! How about you, Reader? What have you been playing lately?

Darkest Dungeon In-Depth: Introduction and Overview — Everything is Resource Management

Hullo, everyone, and welcome back to the recurring topic of this blog nowadays, which is indeed nothing less than the much-loved aphorism, #EverythingIsContent.

This one is in video form! But if you’ve got preference for reading, after the embedded link, I’ll also drop my script — which is most of the vid but not all of it. I tend to go off-script whenever genius strikes!

The Script

Hello and welcome to Darkest Dungeon In-Depth

I’ve spent dozens of hours over the last several weeks playing Darkest Dungeon; spending so long with one game over such a short period has lit in me the desire to take a deep dive into the many facets of this excellent game of tactics, survival and Lovecraftian horror. This I will do in a series of videos released twice weekly, over the next few weeks. Ever since before it was officially released, I’ve thought that Darkest Dungeon is truly an exceptional game, and once I heard about the announcement of the sequel, I realised I’d never actually properly finished it. The thing is – it’s a massive game, especially if, like me, you don’t want to just go through the easier, “Radiant” option; no, a game like this deserves an in-depth dive, in more ways than one. I’ve spent over a hundred hours playing it.

Disclaimer: I’m not going to pretend I’m a good player – I’ve made more mistakes than I’d like, but I am learning, and I have put a of research in each of the different sections of what will, a few weeks from now, turn out to be a fairly long mega-video. Without further ado, let’s get into part 1—the overview.

01: Introduction and Overview      

Darkest Dungeon is, at its core, a game of resource management. These resources come in many forms: first and foremost, they come in the form of the dozens of adventurers you go through over the extent of your journey into the Ancestor’s Estate. In the Hamlet, the resources you manage are gold, and the four types of relics with which buildings are upgraded: portraits, crests, deeds and busts. And in each expedition you send your weekly group of adventurers, the resources you manage range from consumables, like bandages and medicinal herbs, to the very limited inventory space which will force you, time and time again, to decide between riches, baubles, trinkets and the other type of currency mentioned earlier.

Resource management goes very deep indeed, where characters are concerned. Every class of characters has their strengths and weaknesses – the leper delivers devastating blows but his accuracy is a problem, especially on higher level expeditions; the hellion has the ability to buff herself and a reach unlike most other melee characters, as well as take on three enemies at once in a massive assault with her glaive but at the cost of lowered damage and speed; and the vestal…well, okay, she’s the perfect virtuous healing machine. But this isn’t meant to go into the strengths and weaknesses of the different classes, but rather to reinforce my statement – everything is resource management. The weaknesses I discussed can be neutralised with the use of trinkets, as well as the locking in of positive quirks.

Trinkets, I think, are self-explanatory. What’s interesting about them is that the majority have not only a beneficiary effect, but also introduce some new weakness, taking away from characters’ speed, or just about anything else that can negatively impact an adventurer. Perks of the positive variety are  somewhat more interesting, and they can allow for a good deal of hair-thin customization.

Using one of the buildings in town, the medical ward, you can strap on the characters to fancy leather chairs and prod them with needless until the positive quirk is ‘locked in’ i.e. it won’t ever be exchanged by something useless at the end of an expedition. The process is obscenely expensive – which is why I only began locking in positive quirks of characters once they hit resolve level 5, i.e. became champions of their class. Definitely because I hadn’t yet realized that was a possibility by that time, nope.

To conclude on the topic of the original Negative quirks range from mildly annoying to seriously debilitating, depending entirely on randomness. You can remove the

So much for quirks, negative or positive.

Resource management in town is…kind of a pain, sometimes. Fully upgrading any one building in the Hamlet costs hundreds of crests and one additional of the collectible ancestral resources. Paintings are the most rare of these, and are a nightmare to carry, as they stack in threes. For reference, crests stack in twelves, while busts and deeds stack in sixes in your inventory during an expedition. Not that there aren’t plenty of each, and as you’ll be going on dozens of expeditions –even hundreds – the Hamlet will expand before your eyes. In my view, the best buildings to work on are the blacksmith, the guild hall and the recruitment coach, on account of the fact that upgrading the first two allows for unlocking higher level skills, armor and weapon upgrades, as well as cheaper prices in terms of these upgrades. With these upgraded, the coach can in turn be upgraded in order to offer a chance of recruitment of more experienced adventurers, who come in with better gear and access to all combat skills at the level they’re recruited at. While you’ll never recruit a character above resolve level 3, these still save a bunch of money in terms of investing into gear and skill upgrades.

So much for resource management in town. Coming next, Apprentice and Veteran expeditions.

Anthem: Demo Weekend Impression

Hullo, everyone! In case you didn’t know, along with occasionally writing stuff for this blog, doing reviews for BookNest.eu and universiting (coining that word), I also make videos on video games! I thought I’d share with you, dear reader, my latest video below but with a twist! If you care little for my voice or my video editing skills, I’ll also upload the ‘script’ which is largely what the video consists of! Whether you read or watch, thanks! Any likes and comments are, as ever, appreciated!

Or: How I learned to stop caring about FPS drops, and love the Magneto cosplays!

Anthem is more enjoyable than I thought it would be, which makes its abhorrent technical issues, and there is a myriad of them, nothing short of appalling.

I had the…uuuh…pleasure? Of playing Anthem during its demo weekend, and while I had fun with several parts of the game, I am far from convinced it is worth the asking price. Anthem excels in making you feel powerful – with a few exceptions, but on those later. Never has a game felt so much like what an Iron Man game should be; especially with the first javelin we had access to during the demo. Miniature rockets, grenades, and an ultimate that’s powerful enough to wipe out dozens of mobs all at once cements this power fantasy in a way that is nothing short of captivating, and for that Bioware has my most sincere congratulations. Good work, guys.

That, coupled with the vast amount of customization of the javelins made me thoroughly enjoy my time as the Storm Javelin in particular, whose ability to glide through the air with his majestic cape and aristocratic poise made me immediately seize the opportunity of giving my favourite master of magnetism tribute. Some pretty sweet moments were to be had, especially whenever I dropped the Storm Javelin’s ultimate ability. It’s a visual spectacle, and again, it plays really well to the core power fantasy this sort of game revolves around. Well, that and loot.

Speaking of loot, some of the guns aren’t too impressive in their damage output or their sound assets. Bit too silent sometimes, bit too normal in others. This is a science-fantasy world, right? Why not give guns an extra kick?! Granted, maybe they do become better at level 30 than at level 10-15 but with how little we know about the end-game look of the game outside of PR, who the hell cares?

Now, for the technical issues – and they were truly abhorrent. Once, when I alt-tabbed, Anthem murdered my screen resolution, transporting me back into ye olde middle ages. FPS drops were a common occurrence, and me and my dear friend, MegaShortFuze, were disconnected just as we were doing the stronghold mission – an admittedly fun mission, although why anyone would replay it more than five, ten times, I do not know. There’s only so much fun you can get from decimating a big-ass bug that doesn’t seem equipped to do anything to harm any of the javelins in the air: and hint, that’s all of them! Those things literally float on jetpacks, in the air! I don’t think I got hit a single time!

I will say, that boss at least was fun. At least it made us feel powerful. Know what wasn’t? A big, bullet-spongy anti-air gun boss! I don’t remember how it’s called, and I don’t care about wasting anymore time on it, ever, to find out, but that thing took us way too long to kill, and me and my friend were deploying advanced warfare tactics, son! That whole experience was frustrating and unrewarding, unlike the stronghold.

As for the story…the less said, the better. The one quest we actually had access to showed some fun Bioware writing and at least one memorable character, even if for a gimmicky reason. What about comm-conversations between supporting characters while we’re in the warfra—I mean, javelin? I recall smiling at a single line, but I don’t remember the line itself. It’s just…not even filling, y’know? Same as that nice lady that talks to you occasionally in Warframe. Makes for a nice change of pace from all the bullets flying at your noggin, but it’s not like you actually care, is it?

IS IT?

The sad truth of the matter is, I doubt Anthem’s creation has been due to Bioware’s sudden and inexplicable desire to break away from the tried and true format of creating rich worlds where choice matters for the benefit of making a Destine-lite loot shooter. Even so, they’ve done an admirable job in creating a game as fun as Anthem seems to be, in terms of the core gameplay loop and javelin customization. What has me most worried about Anthem is just how much we don’t know about this game, days before its release – how much will the cosmetics cost in terms of real money, as opposed to time spent grinding? How extensive is the end-game content? To quote Anthem’s latest video on the topic, there will be “challenges, contracts, freeplay and strongholds.”  How does the content drop delivery map look like, two months down the road? How about six? Just how many tens of gigabytes will the day-1 patch be, and how many new bugs will we get for each one fixed? I could go on and on asking questions like these – and it’s unfortunate that I have to. There was a time when I gave Bioware every benefit of the doubt, but in a world where EA’s bottom line forces its developer studios towards ever more rushed, money-grubbing video games, that time is long since past.

Anthem is…a definite ‘wait for many months, if ever’ buy for me. Based on my enjoyment of the core, I honestly would like to play it at some point. Based on how tired I am of EA, I ought not to. Time will tell. And so will the impudence EA shows in their monetising of cosmetics.

But at the same time… I still think there’s a massive audience for this game. Five-six million copies, maybe? And then, undoubtedly, we’d get a headline in PCGamer the like of, “Anthem underperforms well below EA’s expectations.”

Hell, I take on bets about that last point!