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.

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

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!

Destiny 2 Looks Like It’s Going To Be A Good Time With Friends And Strangers Alike

Clantastic

Bungie and Activision have finally revealed some more Destiny 2 details, in the form of a livestream reveal and gameplay trailer (trailer here details here). The game is looking suitably impressive, and there was emphasis placed on the new classes, locations and story details, which all look slick as hell. For me, though, easily the most exciting aspects of the reveal were the additions of matchmaking to multiplayer PvE content like Strikes and Raids, and Guided Play, which looks like a superb approach to helping those who can’t commit to hardcore raiding (me!) to fully enjoy the endgame content. Colour me massively interested, at this stage.

The reveal speaks of a developer very much in tune with its community of enthusiasts; Bungie have been careful to consider the potential for toxicity that can come about in games such as this, and countered it by ensuring that individuals are paired up with a Clan. One would certainly hope that Clans will be far more accommodating to an individual who has chosen to play with them, wanting to demonstrate their ability and teamwork, and on the flipside the mode could be just the breakthrough that a slightly shy individual may need to get themselves in a social group, making new friends. An innovative and inspired attempt at solving an age-old problem.

Having Clan mechanics be built-in to the fibre of the game from the get-go is also a positive step forward. Contributing towards Clan rewards could be a good way of ameliorating the slightly more mind-numbing tasks that are sure to be a part of the bread and butter of the game.

I played and loved the first Destiny for a number of months before the endless grinding and monotony pushed me away. I’ve since been assured by pretty much everyone who is still playing the game that it has improved tenfold since those first few months, and is a now a much richer experience. Whilst I feel that it’s too late to go back at this late stage, I’m thrilled by the idea of jumping into the Destiny 2 experience on day one, given that Bungie and Activision appear to very much on the same wavelength as their punters. September 8th is closer than you think.