The Wolf Among Us 2 Is Finally Happening

Glamouring for more

After a cheeky denial, Telltale Games finally spilled the beans this past week and dropped the exciting news that they are developing season 2 of The Wolf Among Us, and it’s due in 2018 (link).

The first season is a real stand out piece from the veteran studio; given the wonderful universe of the Fables graphic novels to work with, the game shines as a dark, gritty whodunnit-style mystery story, with some great character cameos and some genuine, edge-of-the-seat thrills that keep it fresh and engaging from start to finish. Honestly, I couldn’t put it down when I played it last year; for those who haven’t yet, it can be picked up for an absolute song regularly and is more than worthy of the 8 or so hours it takes to complete it.

Also announced; season 4 of The Walking Dead, what Telltale are calling The Walking Dead: The Final Season. That this is the final game is surprising to me; despite the lacklustre third season (see my review here), it seemed there were areas the game could have further explored through creative uses of the license, and as Season 1 and 2 have shown, when Telltale are on with The Walking Dead they are fucking onIt’s exciting to think we’ll be returning to see out Clementine’s story though, especially knowing she’ll once again be the playable character. Her story is the glue that holds the series together; her parts in A New Frontier were the strongest aspects, and the game sings when it hones in on Clem and her struggles. Looking forward to seeing if this one can recapture my imagination once again.

Oh, and something about a new Batman game, but I must admit to not being overly fussed about that series. If it’s great and I need to play it, let me know!

Lamenting The Modern Final Fantasy I Never Played

Fancy a gambit

I hear good things about the new, updated port of Final Fantasy XII.

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, as the remaster is known, has released on Playstation 4 to glowing reviews and a bucketload of positive hype. Forums, subreddits and comment threads are abuzz with nostalgia for what is, by many accounts, a very strong FF; one all JRPG fans should play.

Sadly, I never did get around to the original.

Sometime before the original release of FF XII, I was convinced the franchise was the greatest in all of gaming. From FF VII, right through to and X-2, by way of VI, I devoured them all; multiple times in most cases. Everything in the games appealed to teenage me: The stunning music, the stat-based gameplay, the characters, the stories, the length, the substanceFinal Fantasy was a big part of my gaming diet from the Playstation era onward; I played them over and over until my time to ascend to a Playstation 2 arrived, then I moved on to my beloved X. Great memories, all.

I remember reading a preview of FF XII circa 2004, and feeling just as hyped for it as the others. The world of Ivalice looked like just the kind of place I’d love to spend a few hundred hours; the characters looked superb and I even loved the revamp of the random battle system. I was all set to absorb every pixel of the game and continue my FF love affair for many more years.

Then; Halo 2 happened.

I’d owned an original Xbox for a little while, but having grown bored of the first Halo game it had sat, stagnant, for some time, whilst I continued to play my much-preferred PS2. However, as the hype for Halo 2 grew and grew amongst my friend group (we were avid LAN-partiers when Halo: Combat Evolved had first released), I found myself swept away; from that first time I connected to Xbox Live and played a game of Halo 2, against other people, I was utterly hooked. The next two years of my life were spent either playing H2 over Xbox Live, or having a breather with whatever else Xbox game my friends were playing at the time. Final Fantasy XII was completely forgotten, and by the time it had released and I’d heard about it, my PS2 was long gone; sold to fund my blossoming Xbox addiction. The passion had gone, and I moved on with my gaming life, having never played what may potentially have been one of my favourite games ever.

Now, the opportunity presents itself again, and my adolescent nostalgia has awoken; straining to be heard. I have designs on purchasing a PS4 in the very near future for its huge catalogue of exclusives; now there is one more exclusive to add to the list that I am determined not to let slip away again.

Final Fantasy XII. My beloved Master Chief may have stolen you from me once, but this is one fight he isn’t finishing.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The Master Trials – My Thoughts

Quite a title

I’m back! Apologies; real life has gotten severely in the way of writing these past few weeks, and this time I don’t just mean “drinking” when I say real life. Hopefully going to be able to get back into some sort of schedule from now, so expect my usual level of content production to resume hence (he says).

Anyway, I’ve been playing a lot of the first DLC pack for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, entitled The Master Trials. I have been itching for new BoTW content, and this package has come along at just the right time. I’ve finished the bulk of the content, and I’m now ready to divulge some thoughts (best taken with the usual grain of fanboy salt, you must understand).

IMG_20170708_121146

The main draw of the DLC pack is The Trial of the Sword, so named because completing it powers up the Master Sword, doubling its attack power, and also improves its durability (thank the heavens). The Trial of the Sword consist of three groups of trials, each ramping up in difficulty, and Link begins each cluster naked and unarmed; the objective being to carefully acquire gear and nurture it so it takes you through to the later levels. Whilst each stage features a set of enemies to defeat, the trial plays much more like a giant puzzle; you figure out attack routes, make use of sneaking opportunities, and use the environment to get ahead in any way you can. It’s both incredibly challenging and highly rewarding, in such a balance as to be expected from this development team.

The high difficulty level is clear from the beginning, and, like much of BoTW, is not scared to give you a few kidney shots as you swing wildly at it. The three sections allow you to save in between them, but if you happen to die during a section you are cast unceremoniously back to your previous save. This happened to me regularly, although the mechanics of the game are built so well that frustration quickly turned to admiration and determination to overcome. Finishing the Trial of the Sword took around 5 hours; a drop in the ocean in comparison to the main game, but a satisfying chunk nonetheless.

IMG_20170708_121138

The rest of the DLC consists of a number of armour pieces and masks to locate, providing a mindless distraction for an hour or two, and the much hyped Master Mode; a super-hard version of the main game, with its own save file, specifically for those after a real challenge. Master Mode ramps up the level, intelligence and aggressiveness of the enemies in the main game, to the point at which a battle against a simple Bokoblin becomes an epic struggle for survival that will leave you panting for breath and wild-eyed. This is likely to be a hugely worthwhile time investment for some, and a ridiculous addition never to be touched by others. It’s a worthwhile inclusion, however it could easily have been an option in the base game.

Finally; the Hero’s Path, which displays your journey over the world map for the previous 200 hours of gameplay, is an interesting addition, and great for showing you parts of the map yet to be discovered. I was surprised to find that there were huge areas I’d never been, despite feeling like I’d done pretty much everything. I look forward to several hours’ more adventuring, looking for more of the great content this game has to offer.

Well worth a look then for fans of the game, and a good deal too; considering that the price of the expansion pass includes this, and The Champion’s Ballad, an even meatier expansion due at the end of the year. The best Zelda just keeps getting better.

That Games Blogger Guy Reviews An Oldie: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Learning from the past

 

 

Game: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Developer: Crystal Dynamics

Released: 13th November 2015 (Xbox 360 and Xbox One), 28th January 2016 (Microsoft Windows), 11th October 2016 (PS4) 

Played by that games blogger guy: June 2017

Available on: Xbox One (version reviewed), Xbox 360, PC. PS4

The moments of solitude are the best. When the only company Lara has is the mountain, and the pitter-patter of water dripping from the gleaming ice. This game, like the 2013 reboot before it, excels when it strips itself back to basics; when it returns to the component parts that made the original Tomb Raider so thrilling all those years ago. When it’s just you, Lara, and a mystery to unravel.

There really is so much to love about Rise of the Tomb Raider. From the subtle nods to the series’ roots (Lara’s swimming animation is spot-on), to the wonderful punch of the weaponry on offer, the game is presented exquisitely, and seeks to dominate your attention with its varied gameplay elements. That this is a labour of love is obvious; time has been spent on every aspect of the game, and nothing feels bolted on or rushed.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Let’s talk graphics. Running on Xbox One, Rise looks absolutely stunning. The first light of a sunrise peeking out from over a mountain top; the dark and dingy ruins under the earth; the metallic glisten of a spent shell falling to the floor; Rise consistently delights and surprises with its views. The game takes place in just a handful of locales (in modern-day Syria, interestingly), but manages to differentiate itself through the varied fauna and flora, and the constant switching between claustrophobic caverns and wide-open vistas. It truly is a sight to behold, and does wonders for drawing you in to its story.

That this is a labour of love is obvious; time has been spent on every aspect of the game, and nothing feels bolted on or rushed.

We join Lara as she hunts for an artefact her father was obsessed with before his death; the Divine Source. Lara has grown since we first meet her in 2013’s Tomb Raider; gone are the struggles and emotional turmoil of having to kill for the first time, and in place is a confident, highly competent adventurer with a knack for survival. The body count is understandably higher this time around; thankfully the game provides ample entertainment in the form of its weaponry. Fully upgradeable yet again through Red Dead Redemption-style hunting and gathering, the arsenal is nothing too surprising (pistol, shotgun, rifle, bow, etc), but it is rendered superbly, with wonderful sound effects to boot. The pump-action shotgun here is easily in my top-3 gaming shotguns; the delightful snap never growing old as it blows away Lara’s foes.

Rise of the Tomb Raider (5)

The cast of characters Lara meets along her way is sparse but fairly strong. Jacob provides an interesting older figure for the hot-headed young Lara to spar with, but the two antagonists steal the show. Saying any more would be too much of a spoiler, but they are very interesting characters indeed; if you take the time to explore the extra content in the game, they have a deep and engaging backstory that further promotes the strong narrative.

Exhilarating climbing and platforming take centre stage over combat again; the developers have managed to recreate beautifully the feeling of traversal that old-school Tomb Raider was able to invoke, but in a modern way.

The game plays in a very familiar way to the first instalment. Exhilarating climbing and platforming take centre stage over combat again; the developers have managed to recreate beautifully the feeling of traversal that old-school Tomb Raider was able to invoke, but in a modern way. The game is certainly at its strongest when Lara faces a puzzle to solve or cliff to climb. However; the combat and upgrading systems are no slouches, and compliment the main adventuring well.

The music is used sparingly but appropriately; highlights include the introspective camp fire theme, and the bombastic score used in one of the many chase or escape sequences. Speaking of those sequences, the cinematic elements in this game have been ramped right up, even over the first instalment. This feels even closer to an Uncharted now. Wonderfully scripted, highly polished and thrilling from start to finish, your humble Games Blogger Guy only wonders whether the game may struggle from lack of replayability; to take the surprise from the cinematic elements would be a considerable detriment to the whole.

Rise of the Tomb Raider (3)Rise of the Tomb Raider (2)

A note must be made about the sheer amount to do in Rise. Whilst the main story could be breezed through in as little as 8 hours, the number of collectables, upgrades, hidden tombs, puzzles, and side missions included is simply staggering, and in fact is a little overwhelming. The game unfortunately suffers a little with Crowded Map Syndrome*, occasionally trying to tug you in too many places at once. Every room and area is stuffed with collectables, and this may frustrate completionists as they are held up in advancing the narrative.

This is a highly polished and enjoyable package, easy to recommend for lovers of single-player adventures and shooters alike.  Indeed, if you are an Xbox One owner, I would go so far as to say this is a must-play, being as Xbox is so starved of the kind of quality cinematic experiences that Playstation 4 gleefully revels in. The mix of platforming, gunplay, and story, has been carefully considered; the game oozes playability, and is deserving of your time.

Lara has firmly modernised herself and cemented her place in the upper echelons of gaming nobility. I’m excited to see which tombs her thrilling adventures have us plundering next.

 

Positives –

Stunningly presented

Thrilling and varied gameplay

Stunning to look at

Negatives –

Too many collectibles

Limited replayability

 

9/10

 

* Is this a thing? If not, it is now.

My Most Anticipated Game Shown At E3 2017 Is Actually DLC

Expanding the legend

Note: minor spoilers for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild follow.

With E3 firmly in its refractory period, it’s time to take stock and assess where our money is going to go over the next year or so. Whilst the conferences were fairly mild in terms of hype-inducing announcements, there were still a good many titles of interest showcased. I’m incredibly excited about Sea of Thieves, Destiny 2, Super Mario Odyssey and Ashen, to name a few, but this year the E3-shown game I’m most enthusiastic about isn’t even a game proper; it’s two DLC packs; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild DLC 1 and 2, to be precise.

I felt there was potential for a modern classic here; within two hours, I knew that to be the case.

Breath of the Wild really is something quite special. The game arrived along with the Nintendo Switch console on March 3rd 2017, sending shock waves throughout the industry. Prior to launch, my own speculation was rife; sure, it’ll probably be good but nothing on Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask, my anxious internal monologue went. However, as I slid the cartridge into the Switch (following the customary tasting), and began to play, I felt there was potential for a modern classic here; within two hours, I knew that to be the case.

BOTW 6

Breath of the Wild is an adventure that holds both gaming past and future in equally high regard. It’s impressive architecture, graphics and wide-open world provide the modern slant; perfectly vast without being overbearing, full of quality-of-life nuances and with buckets of added activities. In sweet juxtaposition with this is the tried-and-true good versus evil narrative that the series has always delivered so well, with the focus yet again on the gradual building up of ones’ arsenal of abilities before taking on the bad guy. The painstaking manner the developers have gone about polishing and presenting all this, is nothing short of superb; the game oozes quality, and received the review scores to match (if you care about such things).

Breath of the Wild is an adventure that holds both gaming past and future in equally high regard.

An oft-discussed and much lauded aspect of BotW’s gameplay is the brilliant Shrine puzzles. The first DLC pack, The Master Trials, looks set to deliver more of these in abundance, with a long questline of Shrines to go through to power up a certain well-known piece of equipment in the main game. With new armour to collect, the addition of a hard mode, and other bits and bobs such as new map features, the package should look very tempting to fans. Just getting more of this stunning game is enough for me; I’m ready and willing to drop yet another 40-odd hours in to it, no problem.

BOTW 7

The second DLC pack looks to be an even meatier package. Entitled The Champion’s Ballad, details currently are scarce, but the pack appears to be a story sequence set before the events of the main game, possibly at the time of The Great Calamity. The four Champions who were such focal points of BotW return and look to take centre stage, alongside Zelda herself. Could we be playing as a character other than Link in this DLC? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure; more story for this game can only be a good thing. I won’t even discuss the four new Amiibo that are set to release alongside it; that is not a rabbit hole that would be sensible to tumble down, despite my yearning heart/wallet.

Famously, Nintendo are often late to the party when it comes to what are widely considered to be industry standards. DLC was a concept mostly absent from their systems until late in the 3DS and WiiU lifespans, and whilst some may scoff at the concept (and Nintendo’s typically hefty price tags), with packages like the two discussed for BotW, I’m hopeful that consumers are getting their monies’ worth (although let’s not mention the crap pre-order bonus for BotW’s season pass, shall we). I, for one, am happy to spend my hard earned on a game such as Zelda; a majestic labour of love, that took ages to come out because the developers gave a shit about its quality, and its place in series legacy. Here is a work of art that will truly stand the test of time; for me, a season pass is but a small price to pay to squeeze even more player experience out of it. Link’s adventures in Hyrule are only just getting started.

Take-Two Interactive Declare War On Modders, Internet Declares War On Take-Two

No liberty city

Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive has started issuing Cease and Desist instructions to hugely popular modding website OpenIV, and the GTA community have not taken too kindly to it at all. Indeed; as Rockstar Games have often encouraged the development and use of mods in their games, this sudden attack by Take-Two has incited angry reactions from many in the wider gaming community too; Jim Sterling of The Jimquisition fame is particularly scathing (and hilarious) in this episode of his popular Youtube show.

Personally, I have to agree with Jim and the many GTA players voicing their concern. It’s not on that the modding community who for so long have enjoyed creating and sharing content should now be persecuted for it. I also feel a bit miffed with Rockstar, who admittedly are likely to be caught in a litigation and moral minefield, but are attempting to justify Take-Two’s actions with somewhat flimsy-sounding excuses. With Bethesda’s very recent attempts to bring back paid mods (paid fucking mods!), Take-Two’s timing here certainly seems a little odd.

E3 2017: Nintendo Direct Reaction

Ninten-do

After the fairly disappointing showcases by Microsoft and Sony, I had faith that Father Nintendo would save the day with some stellar announcements and gameplay trailers. But was that the case?

You bet it was.

Ignoring my obvious bias for just a second, I feel that Nintendo objectively did a better job of giving the fans what they want; we got a damn Metroid Prime 4 announcement for chrissakes (link). The short presentation rattled through a number of quality upcoming titles, all of them on Switch. Here are your games blogger guys’ thoughts:

I was cheering within five seconds of the Direct opening; Rocket League on Switch! The game is a perfect fit for Nintendo’s hybrid console; it can be played for five minutes or five hours, the customisation options lend themselves to Nintendo’s franchises, and it should be great for taking round a mates’ house with a few beers à la Mario Kart. Additionally, the game supports cross play with PC and Xbox One; this is great to see from Nintendo, who are often accused of old-fashioned business ethics. Very exciting news and I’ll be sure to pick it up despite already owning the Xbox One version.

They threw the fans another tasty morsel in announcing that a main series Pokemon is in development for the Switch. This is a fairly obvious one, but again venerable Nintendo shows wisdom in appeasing the sweaty-palmed Pokémaniacs, like yours truly. Do not look at me like that.

A couple of nice looking titles were nestled in amongst the big announcements; Kirby and Yoshi games were both confirmed to be in development for Switch. Kirby (link) looked the more impressive of the two, with bold bright colours popping out on the Switch nicely. Both are slated as 2018 releases.

E3 has been very light on the JRPGs this year, so it was nice to get a trailer for Xenoblade 2 (link). Whilst I need to see more before I commit to purchase, it’s good to see some deep, hardcore RPG’s beginning to emerge for Switch. The system is perfect for a lengthy RPG adventure; I’ll be checking this out for sure when it launches later this year.

Speaking of lengthy adventures, we got a good look at the two pieces of DLC content coming for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one in a couple of weeks and the oher at the end of the year. The DLC looks like it’ll be adding plenty to do, and the second, more substantial, pack looks like it might be a prequel of sorts. Very exciting. Expect reviews of these as the are released on this here blog.

Rounding out the show was an extended trailer for the bonkers-looking Super Mario Odyssey (link), showing the kind of bold, bright platforming you’d expect but with the insanity ramped up to 11. The main mechanic appears to be use of Mario’s hat, Cappy, in a variety of ways; as a weapon, a platform device, and also to possess enemies and take control of them (!). We even saw a huge T-Rex being controlled by the tiny hat sitting on top of its head. The game looks fantastic and is guaranteed to sell an absolute shitload when it comes out this October.

Fan service aplenty, then, but what I find most interesting about Nintendo is that even in these days of shareholder-appeasement, they appear to be continuously taking risks with their main franchises and challenging the preconception that they release the same game over and over. We can see this in Super Mario Odyssey, and also in Breath of the Wild; main series entries that are a great deal removed from their roots, feeling fresh but manage to maintain their sense of charm and continuity at the same time. This is great for Nintendo fans, and appears to be working, with Switch consoles still selling very well, especially in Japan.

Ok, I’ve stopped gushing. That’s it for my E3 conference coverage for this year, but I’ll be posting a more general piece covering the other conferences and my overall thoughts later this week. Also, i’ll be getting back to regular updates, and should have a retro review up by the end of this week or early next. Ta-ra!