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

Quite a title

Advertisements

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.

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.

Far Cry 5 Reaction

Heavens, yes

Far Cry 5 was revealed this afternoon to much aplomb, and is looking very splendid indeed. Ubisoft appears to be pursuing a return to a more madcap, larger-than-life feeling akin to the wonderful Far Cry 3 and Blood Dragon, rather than the more formulaic 4, and is all the more enticing for it.

As a long-time lover of the series, it’s the setting that has caught my attention the most. Roving around those Northwest mountains, streams, hills and woods of Hope County looks like it’ll be an absolute joy. The characters look varied and interesting, too. Use of a Christian cult as the bad guys is both an inspired choice and a potential risk; there is bound to be something offensive to someone here, and I’m sure there will be no shortage of backlash as more sinister details about the antagonists emerge. But with great risk comes great rewards, and I’m certainly looking forward to confronting this new foe with all manner of weapons/vehicles/wild animals whilst laughing gleefully.

Also exciting is the showcasing of the ‘planes we’ll be able to fly. As long as we have a big enough world to cruise around, it’s sure to be highly entertaining. Pair two of these with a couple of mates online, and you’ve got all the makings of a unique and enjoyable co-op experience.

It looks like the silliness factor has been turned up to 11 with Far Cry 5, and that’s always been for me the times when the series has shone brightest. Leave the complicated plots out of it, and let me loose in a fascinating playground filled to the brim with things that go boom, and I’m happy.

This one releases February 27th, 2018 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC. That’s a long time to ride the hype train.

High Hopes For Far Cry 5

Where eagles dare

Rock, Paper, Shotgun have an interesting piece today looking at how Ubisoft can rejuvenate the popular Far Cry franchise following the great (if a tad uninspired) Far Cry 4.

Your humble games blogger guy is more than a little excited about 5; the series has always struck the right notes with me and I can’t wait to see where it’s headed next. There’s a big reveal scheduled for this Friday, so we’ll know more then.

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!

Far Cry 5 Confirmed To Be A Thing

Ubi fooling no one

As if we didn’t already know, Ubisoft today confirmed via the Far Cry Facebook page that Far Cry 5 is in development. Also confirmed via an Ubisoft press release and covered here by Kotaku is that it’ll be coming this (financial) year, along with the new Assassin’s Creed, The Crew and South Park games.

Yours truly will be all up in that ‘Creed and Far Cry when they are released; Far Cry games are reliably fun, and I’ve been hankering for a new ‘Creed since completing the excellent Syndicate last year. Bring ’em on, Ubisoft.