The Wolf Among Us 2 Is Finally Happening

Glamouring for more

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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!

Assassin’s Creed Origins Has Some Fresh Ideas For The Series

Assassination station

In an interview with Kotaku posted this week, game director Ashraf Ismail discusses a number of the changes being made to the Assassin’s Creed formula for the new iteration, due out in October. Of particular note is that day/night button; sounds like an interesting mechanic that will hopefully add some much-needed tactical elements to the game.

I’d really love if they could take a few notes from franchises like Hitman; I want my Assassin to do proper Assassin-y things, like poison soups and hide in cupboards for weeks on end. Origins sounds like it’s taking a step in that direction, with its busy, scheduled world moving around your character as you plan your attacks. Very exciting, and I hope it rejuvenates the venerable series.

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.

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