E3 Coverage: EA’s Conference

The first time I did E3 coverage, I posted all the news in one post, and while that was nice, I had a look at the sheer number of conferences this year and decided to devote one post to each conference. After I’ve watched all the conferences, I’ll post a summary with some of my highlights from E3.

Let’s start with EA’s Conference.

 

Madden 18 has a new story mode, which is cool. I’m a fan of how all these sports games are adding story modes, it makes the sports games more accessible to people that want a story as well

Battlefield 1

o   Night maps: this is cool, war doesn’t just happen during the day

o   Eastern Battles (In the Name of the Tsar). History buffs are going to get a kick out of this, I think. The Eastern Front was also less static than the west, so this will be good gameplay wise as well hopefully

o   More general updates as well with the Eastern Expansion

Another Battlefield update focusing on smaller, team-based modes, will be announced at Gamescom in August

EA wants more competition within their games

o   Will launch largest FIFA championship ever

FIFA 18: uses motion-capture technology from great players like Ronaldo

o   The Journey (FIFA’s story mode) has a sequel, which is good that it wasn’t just a gimmick and EA’s continuing their sport story modes

Need for Speed: Payback

o   Taking down a Cartel: heist missions, and an action focus

o   3 different playable characters to tell the narrative

o   Showed footage of a “Highway Heist”: lots of objectives during driving (e.g. take out 2 cars), but the actual driving itself looks slick as well. I’m quite excited for this actually, it looks like an innovative take on the racing genre and who doesn’t love a good heist?

EA Original: A Way Out

o   Escape from a prison in a co-op adventure

o   It doesn’t look like it ends when you escape the prison either, so I’m curious at how long it’ll be and how the co-op will work if the game can’t be finished in one sitting

o   Split-screen co-op only (online/couch)

o   One player can be controlled while the other is in a cutscene

o   Coming Early 2018

o   I’m excited for it, it seems like good couch-based co-op that is sadly lacking from most games today

Bioware’s Brand New IP: Anthem

o   More-to-come at Microsoft’s conference

NBA Live 18

o   Right hand is dribbling, any combination of hand moves to dribble, and left hand controls player movement

o   Story mode: The One

  • Looks more like a traditional career mode, but just slightly more in-depth, not a proper narrative like EA’s other sports games. It still looks like an in-depth career mode though, which is good
  • Features the league as well as street basketball, which is an interesting move, but one that I think will add a lot to the story and gameplay of the game

Star Wars Battlefront II

o   John Boyega (and Battlefront fans) just wants a full offline story mode

o   Battlefront II will have an untold story that bridges the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens

o   3 times the content of the first game

o   Skirmish (Instant Action) and split-screen co-op returns

o   More space battles

o   The best Battlefront players have been providing feedback on the multiplayer aspect of Battlefront II

o   Class system returns

o   John Boyega tells us that Finn will be in Battlefront II and all post-release content will be completely free

o   Premiere of multiplayer mode “Assault on Theed”

  • Three phases to the mode, that revolve around the droids attempting to take the Royal Palace
  • Phase 1: Droids try to escort a troop transport up the main street
  • Starfighters can provide air support by attacking ground troops
  • Vehicles spawned by battle points – this reminds me of how you needed to earn a certain number of points to unlock classes in the old Battlefront classes
  • Phase 2: droids attempt to take security checkpoint within palace
  • Darth Maul/Boba Fett Action: hero play looks just as good as hero play from the original Battlefront II
  • It’s interesting that heroes from different eras can play in the battle (e.g. Boba Fett in the prequels) but it could suit the style as well, so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out
  • Phase 3: Droids try to capture throne room
  • I’m interested in this game, it takes the traditional Battlefront gameplay and provides more objectives than just the “capture the capture points to win” of the old Battlefronts. I definitely think this game has a lot of potential

 

That concludes EA’s E3 conference. Overall, I thought it was a decent conference, but they also didn’t show much new content, instead focusing on sequels and yearly instalments. However, what they did show was promising.

 

Advertisements

Nonstop Chuck Norris Review

Every so often, you come across a game which sounds so ridiculous that it couldn’t possibly work. When I saw a game called Nonstop Chuck Norris in the app store, I laughed. But after downloading it and spending a couple of hours playing it, I think it is one of the better mobile games to grace the app store, offering easy gameplay and a large amount of replayability that suits mobile gaming really well.

Game: Nonstop Chuck Norris
Platforms: iOS, Android
Price: Free-to-Play (in-app purchases for consumables)
Release Date: Worldwide: April 20, 2017

To start, let’s discuss the basic premise. There’s a story to the game, but understandably its rather nonsensical. An evil, robotic cat is attempting to destroy everything and it’s your job as Chuck Norris to stop it.

It should be noted that Norris is fully aware of its meme potential, and uses and abuses this potential to its full extreme. Chuck Norris has been embedded in meme culture and this game uses memes and general joking. It is completely self-aware, and it makes the game so much more enjoyable.

You see, you begin with a baseball bat, running around and attacking enemies. Chuck automatically runs to enemies, but by tapping icons at the bottom of the screen you can perform super moves that deal more damage. Defeating enemies earns XP, which can level Chuck up, and allows more moves to be learned. After defeating enough enemies in the level, the player usually wins a prize of some sort, which are completely ridiculous. Clothing items I encountered were horse heads for armoured protection, and weapons range from rifles being used as melee weapons to gardening rakes. The prizes generally have a theme of some sort as well, like cowboy or samurai.

file2

Gameplay: Chuck automatically attacks enemies, and the special moves (bottom) can be activated by the player

After winning the prize, Chuck punches his way to a the next floor, and the cycle repeats. There’s a boss every couple of floors, which keeps the game interesting, and requires the levelling up of Chuck’s items. Coins are earned from defeating enemies, and upgrading weapons and armour merely costs a sum of coins. The game will tell you when it thinks you’re ready to handle the boss as well, which is nice. If you haven’t got enough coins to upgrade, you can keep defeating enemies to earn coins until you do.

And this leads me to the really fantastic game design in this game: if you leave the app, Chuck keeps fighting for you. If you leave at a boss level, Chuck will continue fighting enemies and earning coins for you while you are gone – so if you don’t have enough coins, you can leave for a couple of hours, come back, and be ready to go again. I really like how I wasn’t forced into the microtransaction market with this game.

Another interesting feature of Nonstop is its replayability. Once you reach floor 20, you’re encouraged to “open a rift”, which causes you to lose all your items and coins, but you can also use tokens you earn in boss fights to upgrade Chuck’s permanent abilities (like +100% coin gain), as well as earn one of microtransaction consumable items, an energy drink which causes Chuck to go berserk and absolutely fly through floors. While the game gives you one of these for free at the beginning, I never used it again, even though it did look really cool. Again, the game doesn’t force you into microtransactions, which really makes it easy to recommend on an app store flooded with subpar games.

Other features include doing daily missions to unlock items that can lead to pets (I earned a doge pet pretty early on, which is silly and awesome at the same time) as well as leaderboard integration, if you’re into that sort of thing. I should briefly mention the art style as well, which is a colourful cartoon style that definitely suits this game.

file4

The colourful, cartoony nature of Nonstop

My one major gripe with this game is that although replayability exists in levelling up Chuck and attempting to go further each time, there’s no collectible system of any sort, which means it feels like you’re not achieving much. I just wish that I could collect some of the wacky items I come across, but I can see the difficulty in implementing such a system in a game like this. I do feel like some sort of cosmetic collectables would have strengthened this game.
A minor problem I have with this game is just that some of the special attacks don’t feel like much happens – it would have been nice to have a bit more of a screen-shake when Chuck slams the ground causing an earthquake, because at the moment the special attacks just feel a little unsatisfying to use. This is a very minor problem though.

Above all, I think I can summarise this game with an example of one time I was playing: my Chuck Norris was slamming enemies with his garden rake along with his shadows, and his pet doge was attacking goons off-screen. Nonstop Chuck Norris does so much right, on a platform where games get so much frequently wrong. It’s a fun, easy-to-play game, and it doesn’t force you to use microtransactions. What more can you ask for? I give it a 4.5/5 objectively and a 4/5 subjectively.

Positives
– Great gameplay
– Good replayability
– Hilariously self-aware
– Great game design

8.5/10

Negatives
– Lack of cosmetic collectables weakens replayability
– Special moves sometime lack “oomph”.

 

Sunshine Blogger Award (& Site Update)

Something I really like about WordPress is the community of people it brings together – it’s so easy to follow others and see what other people have to say about topics you’re interested in, which is pretty important when it comes to gaming, which is such a wide topic.

An example of this community in action is the Sunshine Blogger Award, where blogs nominate each other to promote good content elsewhere. I was recently nominated by AmbiGaming, which was a nice surprise as I haven’t won any of these before and it definitely brought a bit of sunshine into my life, so thank you AmbiGaming.

Before I get to the details of the award, I just also want to take a paragraph here to thank my readers also. I’ve had this blog for almost four years now, but I basically ignored it for two years and now I’m trying to get back into blogging. It means a lot to see people reading my thoughts, and I’d like to continue the level of content I’ve been putting out recently. Posts like the Diversity post I did a while back aren’t something I generally do, but I really liked writing that post and I’d like to do similar posts in the future. I was looking through some of my old news posts and I miss doing those weekly updates, even though I don’t think I have the time for it any more. I’ll find something to get my groove back though – I really missed blogging and it’s good to be back.

And now, the Rules of the Award:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you
  2. Answer the questions given to you
  3. Nominate at least (fill in number here) bloggers!
  4. Write questions for your nominees to answer

Question 1: Surprise! You’re in an RPG. What is your character build?

Usually when I play RPGs where I can create my character’s build, I like attack-focused characters and put a lot of points into health so I can go around destroying things. If I woke up in an RPG, I would definitely not be able to do the “warrior” class and I think I would actually be better suited to a magic class (with a ranged attack weapon like a bow if necessary). The main reason I don’t like playing those characters in games is because I find the mechanics a little clunky and the need to replenish “mana” cumbersome, but if it was me, I’d definitely be up for a little spell-casting. I’d probably then put points into health, and maybe a stealth option if there was one (I don’t play many RPGs so most of what I know is choosing classes).

Question 2: What video game soundtrack rocks your world?

Tough question, but one I’ll enjoy answering. Generally, I find most video game soundtracks pretty unremarkable, they’re alright during gameplay but I can’t hum them back to myself after I turn the machine off. With that being said, I find Nintendo manages to consistently put out amazing soundtracks. My runner-up would have to be the Pokémart theme, just for it’s jazz goodness:

My winner though is the orchestra version of Professor Layton’s theme from Professor Layton Vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:

Everything about this piece just comes together: the perfect mix of class and swagger for the professor. I love it, the entire game just had a really good soundtrack.

Bonus: The Super Mario Bros. theme has a special place in my heart, and this arrangement of a compilation of tunes by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra is just beautiful:

Their version of the underwater waltz at 3:10 is well worth listening too, it wouldn’t sound out of place in a classical ballet.

Question 3: If you had to summarize your blog with one snappy quote, what would it be?

It’s tough answering this when I already have a tagline, but I’ll attempt to do it anyway (that’s not my answer by the way).

“Bringing people together through their love of games since 2013”.

When I started this site, my goal was just to create someplace where everyone was welcome to discuss anything about games and gaming general. I still have that goal in mind, all these years later.

Question 4: If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be? Bonus: Why?

Here in Australia we have Jacaranda trees, which are super pretty in bloom:

jacaranda-mimosifolia-2

They also tend to bloom right around exam season in November, so if you wait until the Jacarandas start blooming it’s probably too late for you.

That’s part of my reason why I’d be one: they’re nice trees with and I have a bit of an emotional connection with them since I associate them with most of the knowledge I’ve learnt thus far in my life.

Question 5: If you had one day during which everything you did would be successful, what would you do?

The problem with this question is that it doesn’t define “successful”. For example, I could say publish a book, but that might mean the book publication itself was successful (i.e. it uploaded to Amazon) but the book itself could flop completely. Or if you say the cynical answer and rob a bank, you could rob the bank successfully and then be caught by the police the day after.

With that in mind I think the best thing to do would just be to have a massive party. If it’s successful, all my friends living in other cities could fly over, the party would go off without a hitch, and everyone would have a good time.

Nominations

That concludes my answers to the great questions, and now I’d like to nominate some other people for this award (in no particular order):

  • MoffBadgerPlays: A pretty new blogger, but she’s putting out some great gaming-related content. I remember my early days of blogging, unsure of whether anyone really liked the content I was putting out, so I hope this nomination encourages her to continue, because her content is already strong and it’ll be sure to get stronger.
  • Ever Gamer Review: A blog which has enjoyable content about games. All of the content just feels real, and the posts are a good mix of funny and helpful.
  • I Play All The Games: This is a blog I really like – someone’s attempting to play through every single game ever made. They’re up to the “C’s” of the Atari 2600, and it’s really interesting to see what some of these old games were like. I hope that one day in the future, when he reaches the NES stage, we’ll be able to compare notes with my NES collection.

And of course, the questions:

  1. If you could go back in time to any situation for 24 hours (just watching, no interrupting), what would you go see?
  2. What advancement in technology are you most (or least) looking forward to in the near future?
  3. If you could merge any two consoles together to create a Frankenstein’s Console, which consoles would you merge?
  4. What’s your favourite mobile (iOS/Android) game?
  5. If you could be any type of breakfast cereal, what sort of cereal would you be and why?

Once again, a big thank you to AmbiGaming for the nomination.

Jetpack Joyride’s Easter Update is a Fun Easter Egg Hunt

Jetpack Joyride is just one of developer Halfbrick’s success stories – not only is it one of the most popular games on iOS, but most casual gamers would recognise either this game or Halfbrick’s other breakthrough game, Fruit Ninja.

A few years ago, Jetpack Joyride went free-to-play and it can be debated how good of a decision that was for the game. I picked it up again as a result of this update, and the game’s certainly changed a lot since I first played it way back in 2011, although I may save my thoughts for a proper review later.

The Easter Update (or “Eggstravaganza” as the developers are calling it) features a new vehicle skin and outfit. The skin can only be bought, but the outfit can be collected by collecting 1800 floating eggs in the game before the event ends (which is about 9 days from now). This isn’t a particularly difficult task – I routinely get 20 eggs in gameplay, and generally at least 10, which means you’d only need to play the game around 15 times a day to get the outfit, which given how short Joyride‘s playtimes are, isn’t a particularly difficult task. Another big plus from me is the lucrative coin spawns that come with the event – one in particular spells out “chocolate”, which is a nice 300 coins (when I first played, I would struggle to get 300 coins per game, now I can routinely hit 1000+ per game in this update).

I’m not going to give the update a score (I don’t think there’s enough content here to warrant a score like a full game) but this is a great update to an already great game. I would definitely recommend picking it up if you’re looking for an easy, fun mobile game.

Mass Effect Review

Why play games that release in 2017 when you can play games that released in 2007 instead?

Game: Mass Effect

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (reviewed), PC

Price: $15

I know Mass Effect: Andromeda just released, but I don’t have anything powerful enough to play it, and I thought I should actually play the originals before I get to Andromeda.

Mass Effect is a science-fiction spectacle; an action-RPG filled with ambition. The basic plot context is that in the future, humanity discovers a “mass relay”, which enables faster-than-light travel to other planets, and discover an entire alien coalition, which they then join. The plot of this game revolves around you, as the human Commander Shepard tracking down the rogue agent Saren, who attacked a human colony to gain information about the civilisation that came before ours. Mass Effect is very plot-driven and I don’t want to spoil too much, but the story is just pure great sci-fi, plain and simple.

World-building is a large part of any science-fiction story, and Bioware has not skimped out on that aspect. Examining technology, hacking random computer terminals scattered around planets, and collecting artefacts will unlock entries in the “codex”, the game’s encyclopaedia to the Mass Effect universe. If you love all that background information, there’s a lot here to keep you happy.

Another big part of this game is the narrative system. Now, you are in complete control of Commander Shepard’s story. You not only get to customise the look of your character, like other RPGs (I made my Shepard a little silly-looking with a ridiculous moustache, but there are definitely more nightmarish Shepards out there) but also their actions. This game gives you a variety of dialogue choices, and choosing some options will increase your “goodness” (which the game calls Paragon), and some options will increase your “rogueness” (which the game calls Renegade). You also get a variety of other decisions to make, like saving characters or choosing whether to hack someone’s computer for a shady client. It reminds me a bit of Telltale’s games, but this was before Telltale’s big break, and so this style of storytelling deserves a lot of credit. These decisions will also (apparently) carry over into the sequel, and I have to say, I’m excited to take my Shepard through these games.

Gameplay 2

An example of the dialogue wheel in Mass Effect

The gameplay is mainly combat-focused, but sadly this is where the game falls down a little – the gameplay is just a little too repetitive. I played this game twice (more on that later), once on easy and once on medium, and the game was pretty simple both times. The game introduces you to the cover system in the first level, but I found I never really needed to use cover – I just preferred to run and gun. I was playing as a soldier though, which meant I got access to all the guns in the game, but no tech or biotic (magic). You choose your class at the beginning of the game, and there’s definitely a lot of replay value just for the style of gameplay you choose. If I was playing as a different class, like tech, which only gets a pistol and sniper rifle, I might have used cover more.

There’s about 5 main missions to do in this game, and of these 3 can be done in any order, but there’s definitely some benefit to doing some before others (gaining new squad members, for example). This game isn’t open-world like other RPGs we’ve come to know and love, so even though you can tackle the main quest in any order, the levels themselves are mostly linear (there was one mission that was less linear, in that I did it differently on my two playthroughs, but the outcome will always be the same). My one complaint is that I didn’t quite realise the game was going to end with the final mission (I thought the game still had a while to go) and once the game’s over, you can’t go do any of the side missions (disappointing, as the game keeps this sense of urgency throughout and yet the urgency is all fake and you do have time to go off and do side missions). This meant I felt I hadn’t really experienced all the game had to offer after my one bare-bones playthrough, so I did it all again, and did the side missions. There’s one sizeable piece of DLC included in the PS3 version, which was a nice addition, even if it didn’t add much. I did some exploration and side missions in my second playthrough, but after a while they become so similar and their flaws become so apparent – there’s only so many pirate bases with reused assets I can take before I get bored. While there are some interesting missions here, most of the side missions fall flat, which was disappointing for such a large universe.

Gameplay 1

A look at the gameplay

The music in this game was quite good, I don’t usually notice music in games but this music was executed perfectly, it’s all your classic 80s synths and it suits the tone so well. The music becomes a lot more dramatic during the climaxes of missions as well, and it really helps the tone of the game.

The game has some general issues which I think are just a product of the time it was released – texture popping (where textures don’t load fully before a scene begins and then “pop” in later) occurs rather frequently, and during one scene my character just disappeared completely, so Shepard briefly spoke as a levitating pistol, which was quite amusing but also distracting as this was a major climax in the game. One time an entire scene was skipped after a mission. There’s also some design issues – it can be tough to figure out where to go – and a lot of the maps are reused, especially on non-essential planets. These aren’t major issues, but it does take away from the game a bit when each planet you visit just feels like a reskinned version of the last one.

Above all though, Mass Effect is solid. It made me care enough to play it twice, which is something I can’t say a lot about most games, just to experience it properly the second time. I had a really hard time trying to decide what score to give it – it falls just short of excellence, but it’s certainly great. I’m giving a 4/5 objectively, due to it’s design issues, and a 4.5/5 subjectively, because I did really enjoy it.

Positives
+ Great sci-fi storytelling
+ Great customization options
+ Good variety of gameplay options

8.5/10

Negatives
– Gameplay repetitive after a while
– Maps reused for side missions
– Fake urgency detracts from ability to do side missions
– Miscellaneous design and graphical issues

Games, Consumerism, and a Tangent on Diversity

Recently, I was on a flight, and when I was doing my usually parsing through of the in-flight entertainment options, one title in particular caught my eye – a French-produced documentary about the effect on video games on the consumer’s market (unfortunately, I’ve completely forgotten the name of the documentary, and my googling prowess hasn’t helped me, but if I remember it, I’ll update here). What I thought might be fun is to go through the points raised in the documentary and give my own comments on them.

Disclaimer: I have no economics knowledge whatsoever, so take whatever comments I make about the economy here with a grain of salt.

Although the description said it was going to be about the economic effect of video games, it sort of had a bit of everything in it.

The documentary opens with a discussion about how games have changed in the public eye – as gamers have grown up, so too have games. I thought this was a great point – we now live in a society where some games are considered art, where we have a diverse range of experiences available to us, and (for the most part), games aren’t considered to be the coin-operated ventures of the past.

But then the documentary goes on this weird tangent about how games are violent and mindlessly so for our “adrenaline-fuelled” society. It doesn’t actually give its own opinion on the “video games cause violence debate”, cleverly directing the question to a sociologist who then avoids the question, but it implied that most blockbuster games are violent spectacles featuring mindless explosions. Now, while this may be true for some games on the market today, I think it is a gross exaggeration to say this is the case for all games. For example, recently I’ve been playing shooters that are more than a mindless explosion simulator – although reasonably dated by now, games like Mass Effect and Bioshock showcase a side of shooters that isn’t one of mindless violence. Some games even use morals as a plot point, to cause the player to think about their actions. One such game recently was the Tomb Raider reboot, where the gore played a part in shaping Lara’s character – this was slightly ironic as this was one of the games in the montage of this documentary. This was a major thread throughout the documentary, and I find it a little upsetting that this “video games and violence” debate is still being used to fill time in documentaries.

In addition to the above, we go onto another tangent about the lack of representation of women in games and the industry. Yes, there is a diversity problem in the gaming industry, but the documentary failed to provide a compelling reason as to why this was so, instead portraying games almost as misogynistic propaganda pieces. The case used to propel this point was 2013’s Beyond: Two Souls, where the director for said game stated that gamers openly contacted the company, claiming they simply didn’t want to play as a female character. I question the validity of this statement – In Telltale’s The Walking Dead and Tales from the Borderlands (among others), at least one of the player characters is a woman (or girl, in The Walking Dead‘s case), and neither of those games have been panned like Beyond: Two Souls. This doesn’t even include the possibility to play as a woman in RPGs like The Elder Scrolls series and other such games. In fact, the only genre I can think of that doesn’t have a great deal of female characters are the “adrenaline-fuelled” blockbusters like Battlefield and Call of Duty. However, I think a case could be made that even today, the majority of the military is comprised of men – and this is a separate issue entirely, and while shooters should have more women in them, I think the real world should be a greater focus for change rather than the depictions of it in a game (again, there’s arguments for how the representation of women in games would encourage women to go into the armed forces, so I recognise that this could go either way).

And this then leads to the changing gaming market. This was actually a rather interesting segment, although unfortunately I’d heard most of it before. We receive the usual talk about the change from games being made in garages with tiny budgets to games now requiring the budget of film to do well (the documentary practically ignores the indie game scene, another issue I have with it), and then the greater change to mobile casual gaming. We get another small tangent here about how casual gaming is the bigger market, and how the typical gamer now is a woman in her mid-40s, but honestly I feel like this sort of hurts the message the documentary was trying to give in it’s previous tangent, which was that women don’t play that many games. Carrying on from the “violent video games” tangent, we’re told about China’s ban on consoles and it’s curfew on teenagers. Then we’re back to free-to-play games and whether they can be classed as “free” (an issue which Apple has at least recognised already) and how the app store is a Darwinian system, where only the best survive. An interesting tidbit one of the developers brings up is that they have 45 seconds to 2 minutes to snag a gamer – if you don’t like a mobile game in the first 45 seconds to 2 minutes, you’ll generally get rid of it.

Lastly, we’re brought to yet another representation issue (the documentary absolutely loves these – I can’t decide whether it was trying to be a documentary on consumerism or all the issues with gaming) with how Middle-Eastern countries are portrayed as the villains in a post-9/11 world, and the propagandization of shooters. A big example the documentary uses is the US Military’s America’s Army, where you form a squad with other players to take down terrorists as America. Another example included a Chinese game about repelling Japanese attackers. The documentary uses footage of a Middle-Eastern man saying he wished he wasn’t stereotyped as a terrorist by modern video games, and I definitely sympathise with him – but at the same time, video games have a story, and after any attack stories that resonate the most with players will be chosen- and sadly, the majority of terrorist attacks appear to be from Middle-Eastern countries, and that is why the general public resonates with stories where Middle-Eastern people are the villains. We’ve also had games where America isn’t always the hero: Bioshock, from what I’ve played, appears to be very much a cautionary tale about the perils of capitalism. While I think there are definitely some issues with representation in games, I also think this documentary exaggerated the issues.

I think a better option than making exaggerated documentaries is to actually tackle the underlying issues in games. Recently, I think there’s been a shift in the types of games we play – nowadays, blockbuster games actually tend to have some thought put into the plot, and I think we can use that to our advantage to help with these issues. For example, stories could include a female soldier dealing with sexism, or a game focusing on Middle-Eastern culture (perhaps in the vain of 2014’s Never Alone, which fused Native American culture and video games).

(On a side note, I like how the documentary got side-tracked from consumerism to representation, and by extension, so did we).

What do you think on the issue of diversity in games? Any ideas for solutions? Leave a comment with your thoughts below!

Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 2 Review

When I played Season 1 of Telltale’s unique storytelling game set in the world of The Walking Dead, I absolutely loved it – it was my game of the year of 2014.

Will season 2 of this series be able to retain everything which made the first so great? Or will it fail?

Game: Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 2

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, PS Vita (Reviewed)

Price: $25 for the full season ($5 per episode)

For those of you that have never played, read, or watched anything to do with The Walking Dead, it’s essentially a zombie apocalypse story that focuses on the survivors and their problems in a world where everything is scarce.

Following on from the events in the first game, you control Clementine, a nine year old girl. The opening starts only a couple of months after the ending of the first game, but before long the game skips eighteen months. This is done, partially, to allow Clementine to develop into her own character. In Season 1 she was a major secondary character, but here she is the playable character, so it’s important to distinguish her a little.

clementine

What I immediately noticed about this game is how much darker it is. This is evident not only from its high age rating, but also from the general atmosphere and artwork. While the first game did have some bright artwork, here the majority of the action is gloomy and upsetting: and sure, this is a gloomy and upsetting story, but some variation would have been nice. At the moment, there’s barely any sort of variation between episodes.

Each episode is its own story, but they all are part of a larger arc. The main story here revolves around Clementine trying to find a new group of survivors and her journey with them, which is an interesting story as she soon gets swept up into a series of events that affect her and her group.

One of the problems I had in this season is that it felt like my choices didn’t matter. Now while I don’t mind the illusion of choice, this game doesn’t allow the role-playing experience the first season had. In the first game you controlled Lee, who acted as a father figure to Clementine since the death of her own parents. Some of the best choices you made as Lee had nothing to do with the story, but how you personally chose to raise Clementine. Examples that spring to mind include punching someone a few times but not enough to seriously damage him, not stealing out of the boot of a car, and so on. These choices had little-to-no effect on the story, but it felt like I was choosing what to do in this world, which I feel is just as important as the major decisions. Here, it’s fairly obvious the major decisions don’t have a major effect (saving characters will just result in them silently in the background) but there’s so little of these minor, role-playing decisions that it doesn’t matter anyway.

3

The linear plot itself is pretty decent, featuring some returning characters from season 1 and an exhilarating final episode climax.

The artwork is quite nice, as mentioned previously it’s dark and gloomy but it suits the story. This is definitely a cinematic experience, so I would recommend playing it on a big screen. Season 1 was pretty good on the small Vita screen, but season 2 wasn’t as good on the small screen. I would recommend a console purchase for the full experience.

The sound was decent, the highlight of course being the songs that play during the credits of each episode. There’s nothing really special about the in-episode sound though, but given this is a dialogue-heavy game I don’t expect much from the music anyway.

2

The biggest failure of this game was its lack of optimisation. It was occasionally slow and had some bugs; for instance at one point the dialogue for a scene played while the scene was still loading and then I had to watch the scene in silence. Episode 3 also crashed to the home screen at one point, which was a little upsetting but fortunately I was able to load from the most recent scene. I can’t comment on the other platforms, but I would recommend avoiding the PS Vita version, as it is, out of the platforms I’ve played Telltale games on, the least optimised.

So let’s some up what we have here: a good plot, decent storytelling, good gameplay, and good graphics. What we have here is a good game, but unfortunately one that just falls shy of the great and amazing games I am used to from Telltale. I give The Walking Dead: Season 2 a 3.5/5 objectively and a 3.5/5 subjectively.

Positives

+ Good Plot

+ Good Graphics

7/10

Negatives

– Decisions not as good as expected from Telltale

– Bugs and other optimisation issues