Splatoon 2 And Its Splatfests

Team Cake is a lie

I’ve just finished a couple of hours’ play on this evenings’ Splatfest: Cake vs Ice Cream. I had an absolute blast and plan on picking up the game on the back of this very strong demo showing. I was initially put off by the motion controls, which I’m told are the best way to play the game and the only way to be competitive, but I found to be a tiresome chore. Switching (zing!) to traditional stick controls made the game click much more easily with me, however, and I thoroughly enjoyed the frantic painting and gunning gameplay. Highly recommended for those who are bored of grey and brown shooting games.

There’s a great introduction to Splatoon’s Splatfest events up on Kotaku UK right now that makes for lovely weekend reading.

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.

Adventures in Clash Royal: Part 3

Ladder anxiety blues

Good news: since the last update, I’ve absolutely smashed my targets; I’ve reached over 2500 trophies, I’m in Arena 8 and I’ve also leveled up to 8.

Bad news: Nobody warned me about the CRIPPLING LADDER ANXIETY.

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It’s becoming a problem. As the caliber of opponent improves, things are starting to get dicier in ladder matches. It’s very hard to predict a battle at this stage, and people are generally making fewer mistakes; for my humble little deck this means a swing of anywhere up to 200 trophies once the dreaded tilt kicks in. Then, when I get back on track and start making gains, the ladder anxiety is compounded. Oh, strategy games.

My trusty deck has evolved once more, with the subtraction of the 1-elixir Skeletons, and the addition of the 3-elixir Skeleton Army. My rationale for the choice was to provide more cover for the legions of Hog Riders coming my way, whilst also increasing survivability a bit against AoE. Initially, the extra elixir cost was difficult to play with – I found myself down to 1800 trophies at one stage early on in my climb – but once I’d gotten used to it, I was able to offset the elixir cost with more strategic split pushing that could occur with leftover Skeletons. Chucking a cheeky Knight on the opposite lane to the Skellies can sometimes work wonders. Along with level-ups for most of my other cards, the trajectory has, until recently, been pretty much consistently upwards.

I’ve been lucky enough to get my first two Legendary cards in the past week or so; Graveyard and Miner. I haven’t been able to slot them into my deck, but I feel like Graveyard is just begging to be tinkered with soon. Opening it up gave those serotonin receptors a nice little treat; I’m looking forward to more of this now I can start entering Tournaments and the like.

Still, getting over that ladder anxiety is proving to be tough. I reached my lifetime-best 2509 trophies, then spent two days not playing at all. What did I do, my first three games after? Lost.

Next goal is to conquer the ladder fear and kick on to 3000 trophies. Hoping to get some card levels in the double figures sometime soon, too.

What a game, though. The beauty is in its speed; a game takes just two minutes, but in that time is distilled all the strategic planning, mini-maxing, resource management and bad manners deflecting that you could ever want. The gotta-catch-em-all monetization factor with the Chests doesn’t hurt its appeal, either.

The quest continues.

Atari Returning With A New Console?

Wood you believe it

As Gamesbeat reveal here, it would seem venerable games company Atari are getting involved in hardware once again. According to Atari CEO Fred Chesnais, the new console is based on “PC technology”, inciting rumours that the box will be some sort of emulation player similar in fashion to the NES Classic  Mini, which sold very well last year, but on which production has ceased, seemingly due to Nintendo oddness protocols.

It’s Pokemon Direct Eve

Written in the stars?

With the news that Nintendo will be airing a Pokemon direct tomorrow 6/6/17, IGN are running a hype-inducing feature looking at some of the possibilities.

Please please let it be number one. I would settle for number four, also. Both would be mind-melting!

Adventures In Clash Royale: Part 2

Full tilt

The tilt is real, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m discovering just how damaging tilt can be in this game; with such short matches it can be easy to launch yourself into another one straight from a loss, furious at yourself/your opponent/the game/fucking RNG, and continue the downward spiral.

Screenshot_2017-05-31-08-39-44
Approaching 2000!

Since last time, I’ve managed to gradually claw my up to a peak of 1902 trophies, but I’m currently bouncing between 1800-1900. I’ve reached Arena 6, and am starting to see a few more legendary cards appearing in peoples’ decks, such as the infamous Log. Really looking forward to getting my hands on that one for all the Goblin Barrels/Skeleton Armies I’m facing.

Speaking of Goblin Barrel, I’ve actually introduced it into my deck, which besides that remains largely the same as last post. I removed the 2-elixir cost Goblins for it, so I’ve now got a slight increase in average elixir cost, but the Barrel seems to be more than making up for it; doing work on those towers often whilst I’m attempting to feign an attack elsewhere is working well.

Screenshot_2017-06-02-14-39-41
Current deck

As I gradually creep towards 2000 trophies, I must say I’m starting to rue the slow leveling that is a feature of this game. Players can only enter special Challenges and Tournaments, where the big money prizes are on offer, from level 8. As a lowly level 6, I anticipate I’m still a month away at least from being able to access them. The geniunely enjoyable gameplay and deep strategy of Royale is keeping me hooked, though.

I still haven’t spent any money, although the temptation grows stronger each day. The difficulty being a Free-to-Player is becoming more apparent now that cards are getting more expensive; there have been a couple of occasions in which I have completely run out of Gold in the past two weeks, mainly due to buying much-needed Epic cards from the store. Again; I have to salute the cunning monetization of the game by Supercell. This shit is hard to ignore.

Hopefully by the next post I’ll have smashed through that 2000 trophies mark and reached Arena 7. Time to turn that tilt around!

Adventures In Clash Royale: Part 1

Royale with cheese

For those that don’t know, Clash Royale is a free-to-play mobile game for Android and iOS from Supercell, the chaps that brought you Clash of Clans and subsequently laughed as it printed money. Royale brings that same graphical style, cheesy humour and addictive collectathon gameplay into the 1 vs 1 strategy genre. In it, players collect cards which summon all manner of strange creatures, and play them against each other to see who can destroy each others’ towers first in incredibly quick, minutes-long matches. Cards are harvested from chests, which are earned through play or bought in the store for in-game currency or real money. Cards need to be leveled up, which requires collecting more and more duplicates of them; the sheer brilliance in the monetization design by Supercell is plain to see and, according to Think Gaming, makes them over two million dollars a day.

As both a big strategy game fan, and a sucker for a freebie, I thought I’d give Clash Royale a go and see how I enjoyed it. Initial impressions were very good. I started a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll be blogging about my adventures semi-regularly. Don’t roll your eyes at me like that.

My first few weeks with the game have been enjoyable, and I’m really starting to get a feel for the basic strategies that go into successful climbing. I’m currently sitting at a little over 1600 trophies, which is the scoring system by which you are ranked, and whilst progress is now much slower, I’m still finding that I’m generally winning more than losing (or drawing).

Deck wise, I’ve just gone with what feels good, and it’s usually fairly competitive, but I find I get roasted by players with a lot of AoE:

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My current deck. No idea if it’s any cop. Tips?

MVP of the deck so far is definitely the Minion Horde; up at level 6, they are getting serious work done dealing with Balloons, Princes, Hog Riders, and many of the other common damage dealers I’m seeing at Arena 5. They are also my only reliable Baby Dragon counter, although sadly I need to let the BD aggro on my tower and get a hit in before I can play the ‘Horde without them getting killed. This is something I hope to rectify as I get used to the game.

I’ve tried to keep the overall Elixer cost of the deck down; I feel much more comfortable knowing I’ve got shit I can play whenever necessary rather than having a few high-cost hitters. As of now I’m trying to focus on leveling and avoid distractions with shiny new cards. I absolutely love the Prince; if you can drop it at the right time it just wrecks towers, and usually forces overcompensation in terms of Elixer from your opponent to counter it.

In terms of financial expenditure, I’m still firmly in the free-to-play camp, and haven’t as yet felt like dropping any dollar on it. I’m getting a good stream of cards from regular play at the moment, although I can totally see why people would drop a few bob on a magical chest or two. This is an addictive game indeed.

I’ve been really surprised by the depth of strategy so far; for a game that takes all of three minutes to play a round of, there is so much to think about and do, and I’m experiencing real thrills playing it. This is interesting, as I usually cannot immerse myself in mobile games such as this at all. This ain’t Starcraft, but it’s scratching an itch at the moment and I intend to see how far I can go before either boredom sets in, or, heaven forbid, the wallet is called forth from its dusty resting place.

Check back soon to see how much I’m tilting  I’m getting on.