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).

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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: Sony Press Conference Reaction

God of bore

Following Microsoft’s reasonably good showing at their press conference, on Monday night it was Sony’s turn to try to wow us. Here are some thoughts from your friendly neighborhood games blogger guy:

I must admit to being a little underwhelmed by Sony’s offering, having expected the mighty blow that would finish Microsoft off for good to appear (anything from Bloodborne 2 to a The Last of Us Part 2 gameplay trailer would have done this, I feel), but did not end up materializing for the whole of the fairly compact presentation. We weren’t expecting any hardware announcements, and sure enough there weren’t any curveballs from Sony in this department, so it was left to the games to prop up the Sony tent this year.

Following hype-inducing trailers for Uncharted and Horizon: Zero Dawn DLC’s, Kicking things off was Days Gone (link), a good-looking game but rather similar in many aspects to Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us and Uncharted franchises. Everything from the post-apocalyptic environs to the rugged, bearded protagonist, to the gibbering zombie hoards, screamed “unoriginal”; honestly I feel like the PlayStation has these games in abundance and another one may be overkill at this point. It did, however, demonstrate some interesting mechanics involved control of the zombie hoards using the environment; whether this will be enough to prop the game up in the crowded PlayStation exclusives list remains to be seen.

We were given a look at Monster Hunter World (link), confirming the rumours of a more streamlined, action-orientated version of the venerable series being developed for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The trailer showed some entertaining-looking gameplay involving the hunting of a large T-Rex-like creature, and I’m personally excited to be getting a more accessible installment in the franchise; it’s long been lauded as a giant of modern gaming, and many feel it deserves to be available to a larger player base.

The biggest personal surprise of the night was the gorgeous-looking remake of Shadow of the Colossus, coming in 2018. This looks like a full rebuild, with modern presentation and rather splendid-looking graphics. I only played Shadow for the first time last year, and was absolutely enthralled by it; if they fix the (admittedly god-awful) controls, then this remake could do very well indeed.

A good chunk of the conference was given over to PSVR, and we saw a number of titles in development; some interesting, others fairly dull. The Inpatient caught my eye for the setting; an asylum for the mentally unwell. Done carefully, this game could provide real thrills as one questions whats real and what isn’t; done poorly, this could upset a lot of people. It’s certainly one I’ll be keeping tabs on.

God of War (link) probably provoked the most excitement from the (unusually placid) live audience, and with good reason. The game looks like it’s going to provide a more emotional kick than previous entries, with Kratos’s son in tow and seemingly a playable character in parts. The juxtaposition between merciless spine-crusher and attentive father will be interesting to observe. Additionally, the gameplay looked suitably bombastic, with the same slick-looking combat you’d expect but ramped up a notch. As we learn more about the game, it could be that this is a real system-seller for Sony providing they keep pouring on the hype. A very exciting title, indeed.

Elsewhere, we were given glimpses of the new Call of DutyDestiny 2 and Detroit: Become human. Detroit has been much-hyped in recent months, but I found myself completely unmoved by the trailer on offer here. Nothing about the game seemed interesting or unique; many of the “android-uprising” tropes have been visited many times before, and the trailer did little to sell me on the mechanics of gameplay, either. Worth keeping an eye on though, as most Sony exclusives tend to be, as we hopefully learn more about what potentially makes the game unique in the months leading up to release.

The final game shown at the presentation was, rather surprisingly, Spider-Man (link). I almost turned off the stream and went to bed at this point, but I’m pleased I didn’t, because this game looked to be one of the more exciting reveals of E3 2017 thus far. Expecting little, I was blown away by the fluid combat mechanics, the detailed city environment, and the sense of movement when Spidey embarks upon his signature web-slinging escapades. Thoroughly enjoyable to watch, this looks like a real labour of love for venerable developer Insomniac, who’s renowned levels of polish look set to make this an exciting adventure indeed. Whilst I don’t think this should really have closed the show, it really did stand out for its gameplay and I’m itching to give it a go.

So far, then, it’s been fairly middle-of-the-road in terms of wow-factor for this years’ E3. Given the open goal Microsoft left for Sony, I was surprised to see a more modest, reserved affair from Sony’s press conference. It’ll be interesting to read the fallout of over the coming weeks and months, especially with the Xbox One X just around the corner.

Of course; average conferences from the big two leaves the E3 excitement award wide open for my beloved Nintendo to swoop in and claim it on their bright red wings. I’ll be tuning in and tweeting along to the Nintendo direct this evening with vigor, and will of course have thoughts up on the blog soon after.

Edit: Undertale!

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Review

Lacking guts

Developer: Telltale Games

Released: 30/05/2017

Formats: Android, iOS, PS4, XB1 (version played), Windows

I still remember, with great fondness, the first time I completed The Walking Dead season 1. Here was a game (or point-and-click adventure, or interactive story, or whatever) that had delivered such a tight. engrossing story that I was subsequently hooked on the Telltale format immediately. I devoured (zing!) The Walking Dead season 2 with equal gusto, and I daresay I enjoyed it even more than the first; the character of Clementine firmly cementing herself in my own gaming cultural narrative, as she did so many others. The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones followed, each hugely playable and difficult to put down. The Walking Dead: Michonne came after, a small but satisfying treat as I awaited the arrival of the inevitable Season 3.

And arrive it did; in the form of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, the final episode of which was released 30th May 2017. I consider myself a huge fan of these games; an unashamed fanboy; which is why I feel so deflated writing this review.

There are such a breadth of issues with A New Frontier that it’s difficult to know where to start. The episodes are much shorter in length than any in the previous two games; I completed one episode in less than an hour, but even this doesn’t cause me the most bother. The engine, whilst somewhat changed from previous editions, is still janky as hell, and caused no end of texture problems, frame skips, random characters in scenes, and even a ridiculous beam of light shooting out of the main character, Javi, that wouldn’t go away without a full reboot of the game.

The Walking Dead A New Frontier - Episode 1 (3)
Talk about spoiling the moment.

There are issues with continuity; those looking forward to a meaty follow up of the story from Season 2 may be somewhat disappointed by the developments presented. However, it’s the sheer absurdity of some of the decision resolutions that really hamper this game and, sadly, cause it to miss by some margin the sheer emotional depth that previous installments were so effortlessly able to convey.

…it’s the sheer absurdity of some of the decision resolutions that really hamper this game and, sadly, cause it to miss by some margin the sheer emotional depth that previous installments were so effortlessly able to convey.

It’s difficult to write details about the choices here without spoiling things, so I wont, but honestly there are some downright daft goings on in this game that completely interrupted my “flow state” and on more than one occasion even coaxed an audible “bullshit” from yours truly’s usually placid vocabulary (ironically, this is also bullshit). I was given no cause to like or even care about any of the characters besides the ones introduced at the start; for this reason, many of the various life-or-death moments familiar to players of the series just did not resonate at all with me. A huge reveal early on in the season, one which felt like it really should matter, was rendered impotent by the obvious foreshadowing and set up of the scenario. Where was the Walking Dead that I know and love?

Thankfully, the kernel of what makes those games great is still there, it’s just buried deeply beneath quite a large amount of unnecessarily obtuse choices and uninspired writing. Where the game does find its rhythm is in its presentation of Clementine; older, harder, and tempered by a world that ceaselessly does not give two shits. Her regular flashback sections, although brief, provide the biggest emotional punches of the season, as we come to terms with the continued hardships she has had to endure to remain alive. Her relationship with Javi is also another high point, as their mutual mistrust eventually gives way to respect and dependence. There are themes of parenthood and growing up here that are explored thoughtfully, however; whilst this is intriguing to watch unfold, they are never really given time to mature fully.

Where the game does find its rhythm is in its presentation of Clementine; older, harder, and tempered by a world that ceaselessly does not give two shits.

It’s difficult to recommend A New Frontier to anyone but die-hard fans of the series. Terrible plotting, dodgy visuals and odd character reactions to player choices are at odds with the often-brilliant representation of Clementine and her character development. As a subjective piece of art, there are aspects to enjoy here, but as a whole it can’t compete with its predecessors.

Here’s hoping that when Season 4 inevitibly returns us to that dreadful land of death and misery, it can be a light in the darkness, once again.

5.5/10