Adventures in Clash Royale: Final Part

Clash finale

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It’s been an interesting couple of months with Supercell’s Clash Royale; two months of highs and lows with a game so brilliant yet so frustrating. Since the last update, I’ve quit the game and returned to it twice; the second time in hilarious fashion, as I spent all my hard-earned gems and gold on absolute shit in a mad fury, only to reopen the app an hour later; devastated. The trophy level I’m at seems to be just so difficult to break through, especially for someone like me who is spending a long time getting the necessary cards through grinding. It’s enough to induce a rage-quit every so often, but the smooth gameplay and ease of use sucks me back in.

The level of strategy in Clash is just so; it really does satisfy that cerebral desire to out-think and out-maneuver an opponent, just like any AAA RTS, or so they may claim. It’s not all serious business though; these past few weeks, I’ve been absolutely loving the 2 vs 2 mode, which enables players to team up against another pair, seeking the best synergies and timings to win. It’s a lot of fun, and the cheeky “bad manners” King faces just add to the flavour. Nothing better than beating a taunter.

In terms of money spending, I’m still at a great big zero pounds, zero pence. However, I did actually make the definitive decision to buy a load of gold and gems when I saw they were available on special offer, but I ended up forgetting and missing the deal! Good to know that my subconscious has sanctioned real spending though. I’m fully on board and ready to dive in when the next big offer comes around.

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The deck. Trusty favourites still there,  new additions in tow.

My deck has evolved yet again to include the Miner legendary I had unpacked prior to the last update. I’m enjoying some good success by pairing it up with my beloved Goblin Barrel; drop the Miner first then the barrel straight after, and the tower targets the tough Miner, leaving the gobbos to do the damage, or at worst, suck up some of my opponents’ resources as he adapts to my plan. I can’t wait to get another Miner and get mine upgraded, it’s a great distraction card and adds some much-needed tankiness to my offering.

Clash Royale is a really great game. After two months I’m playing it more than ever, and finding myself ensuring I have some time every day to play. The combination of quick games, satisfying unlocks, clever strategy and hidden depth makes for a definite mobile app winner; give the game some time and it’ll get its claws in you, barely letting you out of its sight as you find yourself playing just one more game.

Give in to mighty overlord Supercell. You may not agree with the so-called “freemium” games market, but you’d be missing a true strategy gem if you dodged this one. It can be obtuse at first, but stick with it; let it into your mind, and you’ll soon be loving the 3-minute strategy blasts it can provide.

Join me in Clash Royale. My adventures are well and truly underway.

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.

Xbox Survey Mentions SNES Classic Mini

Mini tease

It seems Microsoft may know more than they are letting on regarding the potential announcement of a SNES Classic Mini. With E3 now being just a week away, I’m sure we’ll know the truth soon.

I’m ready for the announcement; my wallet might proclaim otherwise, however.

My Resident Evil 8 Wishlist

Eighth wonder

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard released to critical acclaim in January of 2017, looking and feeling like a complete breath of fresh air for the venerable series. The switch to first-person view, the inspired locale and the excellent Jack Baker combined to create a great soft reboot for the series and just a bloody good horror experience in all.

Now that the dust is settling (and whilst I twiddle my thumbs waiting for the delayed DLC), I’ve had a few thoughts about where I’d like the next main installment of the series to go and do (spoilers follow):

Introduce more varied enemies. The classic Resi zombie is now long gone, confined to some rubbish appearances in Resident Evil 6 and a few spin offs. I’m quite happy with the new Molded enemies; they provide a good middle ground between shambling undead and slithery proto-horror that felt creepy to encounter and enjoyable to fight. However; more variations are needed if the series is going to progress. I’d love to see some Licker-like monstrosities erupting through windows in RE8. Those fuckers were awful in the best possible way.

RESIDENT EVIL 7 biohazard (3)
The Molded: A terrifying foe, but limited in variety.

Give us an interesting protagonist. Christ, Ethan was a bore. The flattest of video game personalities since Peter Dinklage’s Ghost. I’m not asking for a superhero, boulder-punching comedian fighter pilot, just someone with a bit more about him or her. Give us a decent backstory. Allow the character the odd quip or two. Make them react in a believable way to the horrific occurances unfurling before them.

Be creative with the setting. The Louisiana bayou’s and creepy mansion in 7 were excellent; arguably the most alluring aspect of the game. However, there needs to be something new in the next installment that maintains the fresh feeling. I’m thinking there is scope for the series to return to a ruined city aesthetic, despite Resident Evil 2 Remake being an upcoming thing (give us some more damn news!). With the first-person perspective taking centre stage, running through claustrophobic alleys and apartments could be thrilling if done well.

RESIDENT EVIL 7 biohazard
The locale was an inspired design choice.

Albert Wesker returns as main antagonist. Just kidding.

Ramp up the horror. There’s a part of Resi 7 where you are navigating an abandoned series of corridors and rooms with no enemies; just the closest, creepiest atmosphere I’ve certainly ever experienced in the series (you know the one). This section highlighted a brilliance in both horror design and mechanics by Capcom: To put it simply; they’ve still got it. In Resi 8, I’d like to see more of this talent shine through, with larger sections of exploration taking place sans-enemy, with a focus on inducing genuine panic in the player. Full disclosure – I haven’t played that bit in VR, nor do I want to. At all.

Resident Evil 7 seriously impressed me as a long-time fan of the series, and it would have been a true contender for my Game of the Year had Breath of the Wild not come along (who knows, maybe the upcoming RE7 DLC will change things…). My hype for the eighth main installment grows like a Molded’s phallic appendages. Looking forward to it, Capcom!

That Games Blogger Guy Reviews An Oldie: Quantum Break

Break even

 

Welcome, dear blog reader, to the first in the series of that games blogger guy reviews an oldie, in which yours truly provides earnest thoughts on games that have been out a while and may or may not have been given time to breathe by the games industry. As is often the case with games these days, rarely are they finished articles when they are hurled out the door by their respective developers. Regularly, we are seeing games take longer and longer to hit their stride. This (infrequent) series will look at some of the blockbusters that have come out in recent years, as well as old classics and forgotten gems, bidding both to broaden my own horizons as a lover of the medium, and hopefully to provide some thinking points for you guys. Discussion is most welcome!

With that said, on with the review.

Game: Quantum Break

Developer: Remedy Entertainment

Released: 5th April 2016 (EU)

Played by that games blogger guy: April 2017

Available on: Xbox One (version reviewed), PC

Quantum Break is a game about time travel, that curiously takes place over a range of just 17 years. No dinosaurs, no Roman Empire, no call of infinite space marines. Just a relatively modest plot about maniacal capitalist companies and the power-hungry madmen who run them, with a minor footnote about the end of the world, or something. In doing this, Remedy seemingly aim for a feeling of nigh-realism and intrigue; the resulting adventure, however, falls somewhat short of the mark and struggles to assert its identity.

Released in April 2016 to rather cool reviews, Quantum Break places players in the role of Jack Joyce, a wise-cracking everyman who happens to have one of the world’s greatest scientists for a brother, William. William has invented a time machine – a somewhat believable-ish one, I might say – and the resulting fallout of such a discovery brings down the might of huge conglomerate Monarch Solutions, headed up by an old friend of Joyce; the cold and calculating Paul Serene. The story unfolds in a unique and bizarre blend: Traditional cutscenes, in-game text files and audio logs, and four twenty-two-minute long live-action television episodes placed in between the game’s five acts. It’s these sleek, stylish, and high budget story scenes that provide the game its unique selling point; however, the show makes several missteps that stop it from being anything truly memorable.

Featuring a number of reasonably high-profile actors, the show is well put together and does tie in with the game well. A couple of the performances are great – Lance Reddick is superb as the mysterious and menacing Martin Hatch – but many are simply phoned in, and are offered no help at all by the scriptwriters. I was made to cringe several times by obvious clichés and ham-fisted plot advancements; Breaking Bad, this ain’t. But thankfully they are short enough to work with the gameplay.

“The gunplay is fluid and enjoyable, and the various time-based powers at Joyce’s disposal are clever, adding a layer of twitch-strategy that echoes first-person shooters…”

The game does pick up a lot of brownie points in the action department. The gunplay is fluid and enjoyable, and the various time-based powers at Joyce’s disposal are clever, adding a layer of twitch-strategy that echoes first-person shooters, despite the third-person perspective. Using Joyce’s Time Stop to freeze an enemy, shoot a hundred rounds into the millimetres-square space in front of his face, then let time unfreeze is endlessly entertaining, as is charging up a Time Blast and sending a group of goons flying. The graphics are gorgeous, too. If only there was a bit more variety in both enemies and locations, though. The game rarely changes from grey, brown, and black environments, and the number of different enemies could almost be counted on one hand. Disappointing, given the superb bedrock that controlling Joyce presents over the eight or so hours the story provides.

“Using Joyce’s Time Stop to freeze an enemy, shoot a hundred rounds into the millimetres-square space in front of his face, then let time unfreeze is endlessly entertaining…”

As far as action games go, there are certainly worse in recent memory, and this one in particular can often be picked up for a song (I got it brand new for less than a tenner (£), less than eight months after launch) so is reasonably easy to recommend. I can’t help but lament the wasted potential, though; it’s clear that Remedy and Microsoft were planning the birth of a new super-franchise here, but the lack of variety and odd choice of plot development stops it short of being anything truly great. Certainly worth a look for sci-fi and third-person shooter fans, but not revolutionary by any stretch.

Positives –

Stylish presentation

Great graphics

Thrilling time-based powers.

Negatives –

Dodgy plot and acting

Lack of variety

Short

 

6.5/10

 

RIP Alan Wake

Good-but-not-great third-person action game Alan Wake is getting removed from sale today due to music licensing issues. It can be picked up for a song (zing!) from a number of the usual e-outlets. I thought it was worth a gander when I played it some years ago.

I recently beat its flashier Remedy Entertainment brother Quantum Break. A retrospective review of that game will be going up on the blog shortly.

Next-gen Playstation in the Pipeline?

Digital Foundry have published an interesting piece on the whispered possibility of a 2018 release for the PS5. At such a curious crossroads in games development, could we be in for a new generation so soon?

It certainly isn’t business as usual this year, with the release of the Scorpio on the horizon. Exciting (and expensive!) times to be a gamer.