Fallout 76 Announced: Have Bethesda Learned?

The Bethesda stream finally sprung to life today as they announced Fallout 76, their next AAA game.

More information will be available at E3, but you can already check out their official teaser trailer here.

This announcement comes perhaps as expected, as Fallout 4 was revealed in the exact same way, with a rather idle stream followed by the official reveal, but I will admit that I am super hyped for this nonetheless.

I have played… a lot of Fallout over the years; not as much as some people, as I know that some people do manage to sink thousands of hours into these games, but a hefty amount nonetheless. It started at university when I picked up both Fallout 3 + all DLCs and Fallout New Vegas + all DLCs in a Steam sale. I installed them both and started with Fallout 3, which was okay and I did play through it in its unmodded entirety, however the real spike came with New Vegas. I loved New Vegas and it remains one of my favourite games to date. I have sunk about 500 hours into Fallout New Vegas, having now sided with House twice, NCR once and independent Vegas once (not Legion though. As a woman I can’t justify the Legion without some heavy amounts of head-canon). I even tweeted the other day that I’d be totally cool with an HD remake of New Vegas, but I will also admit that a new Fallout game also piques my curiosity quite heavily. I then moved onto Fallout 4, which I have so far clocked in almost 700 hours, but have yet to do anything other than siding with the Institute because I’m evil and power hungry…

What does all of this mean though? Why am I saying this? In short, I am saying it as a preface to the main body of this article: what are my concerns? Because I certainly have some.

First, let’s get it out of the way. Fallout 4 was not the best written game. It was an improvement over Fallout 3 (not hard), but vastly inferior to Fallout New Vegas. I felt like the story in Fallout New Vegas was better thought out and more accurately portrayed the various moral greys of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. NCR were corrupt and held onto old world values a bit too much, Legion were very focused on order and the strong ruling (even if they are a bunch of misogynist jerks and are basically wrong about everything #IAmNotBiased), House was a bit of a megalomaniac and an independent Vegas was anarchy. The start of the story was literally “you’re a delivery boy/girl and you get shot in the head after being robbed of your package” but escalated into so much more in a well-paced story that had you find more and more out as you went along.

Fallout 4 felt like a reversal of everything that made New Vegas great. The story didn’t feel as well thought out; it started far more interesting with the whole “my baby has been kidnapped” story but doesn’t really evolve into anything beyond this. The factions are all quite plain, with the Institute being the obviously evil choice, warping your son into a monster and then appointing you as the leader of the Institute despite literally no qualifications to run a scientific super power in the Commonwealth; The Railroad is the definition of one-dimensional, only focusing on freeing synths and nothing else, the Brotherhood is AD VICTORIAM MILITARY FACTION SYNTHS ARE BAD, and the Minutemen are… incompetent, but clearly the good-guy faction.

I really hope that Bethesda have learned from their mistakes and will be approaching Fallout 76 like Obsidian did back with Fallout New Vegas, however this brings me to my second point.

Is Fallout 76 going to be a real Fallout game, or are Bethesda going for something different? I saw an article on Kotaku that hinted at Fallout 76 not being a traditional, single player RPG, which would be disappointing, I will admit. If it’s a battle royale type game I would probably cry and laugh at the same time; crying in disappointment, but laughing at the meme levels. If it’s an online RPG, my previous point still stands; I really hope they focus on the story. I wouldn’t be entirely opposed to an MMO-style Fallout game, however I would be wary as many studios have tried to make MMOs and failed miserably. Call me skeptical.

Obviously we don’t know much at the moment. All we have really seen is the teaser trailer and been told that more will come out at E3. Between Fallout 76 and Cyberpunk 2077 (I hear CD Projekt Red will be at E3?), I will certainly be keeping a very, very close eye on E3 this year, but I just can’t let myself get -too- hyped about this. There are too many unknowns at the moment and I am still feeling the sting of a slightly disappointing Fallout 4 (which was still a good game, just not as good as it could have been!).

Bring on E3!

War Mode – Why it is exactly what World of Warcraft needs

War Mode is the new PvP mode in World of Warcraft that is coming with Battle for Azeroth and now that a bit more is known about it I will say that I am actually looking forward to it.

When it was initially announced at Blizzcon 2017, the new PvP mode in Battle for Azeroth sounded pretty awful and came across a bit like “so, we’re removing PvP servers and only having servers where you can opt into PvP,” which sounded a lot like how normal PvE servers are today; the thought was that they were just getting rid of PvP servers and lumping everyone onto PvE servers. However, having seen War Mode in action, I have done a complete 180 degree turn from hating it to loving it.

The first reason is that War Mode isn’t server specific; if you opt into War Mode, you are matched with other people in War Mode in the same zone as you, regardless of server. This is a great idea as it brings the numbers that you need for world PvP to feel alive into the game. Zones will actually feel contested, rather than just having the tag of a contested zone, as walking around and doing quests will likely bring you into contact with enemy players, who will likely try and kill you for conquest points. Not only this, but due to the buff provided for player who quest with War Mode enabled there will be a large incentive for players to quest with War Mode toggled on (it’s not a small buff. 15% XP and damage is no joke. All associated buffs from War Mode work for the PvE content too!)

On the topic of conquest points, I also really like the bounty system. Essentially, a player who gets (I think) 10 kills on the enemy faction without dying will become an assassin, giving them a further buff, but also (I think) marking them for death for the enemy faction, giving players increased rewards for dropping an enemy player with this assassin buff. I think this is a fair way to both reward players for managing to get this PvP killstreak, however also makes it dangerous to do so. However, I believe the types of people who will get this buff are likely the kind of people who want the attention anyway and would like the idea of more PvP coming their way and rising to the challenge of the increased attention of other players.

I do think it incentivises PvP a lot; even I will be giving War Mode a try, but I feel like it might get traditional PvE players in a bit of a knot as the experienced PvPers will likely dominate the PvEers when it comes to clashes. I know that I am a great PvE player, but in PvP I am about as threatening as a squirrel. I think that War Mode is great, but I think it will be rough for PvEers who are toggling it on who may not be used to how PvP works, as it’s a very different beast to dungeons and raiding. I also think that some people will complain about getting killed with War Mode toggled on, as stupid as that sounds. People will toggle War Mode for the 15% XP buff and the ability to use PvP abilities on PvE mobs, but will then get upset when another player actually kills them. Don’t lie, you know this will happen; people will complain about anything these days!

Overall, I love the idea of War Mode and strongly support the implementation of it. After Warfronts were revealed to be PvE, I think PvP needed a bit of a boost, and this War Mode is just the boost I think it needed.

Bitter Sweet Freedom

I am free. The shackles that bound me have been removed. I am no longer a trainee teacher. This feels both good and bad, hence the title of “Bitter Sweet Freedom”. On one hand, I hated what I was doing and am glad to be rid of it. I finally have the time to exercise, to cook, to write. It’s a wonderful feeling. However at the same time it signals the end of a wasted year and the start of unemployment. That feels terrible. I’m not one to sit on my backside though, so I guess I have something new to focus on; getting a job in the lead up to my hopeful masters course. However, this does mean that I will be going full steam ahead with writing as well, now that I actually have time and don’t have to spend every waking moment thinking about teaching or planning lessons / resources / units of work. I won’t delve into the “why” I got kicked off the course, though I will say that every single formally assessed lesson of mine was at least a pass, yet they still failed me.

Would I recommend teacher training? In this country, I’m not sure. It’s entirely luck of the draw whether you get a good mentor as there is no vetting process; I am not the first person to have been failed because mentors have taken a disliking to them, nor will I be the last. If you get placed in a school where you don’t get along with your mentor and/or department, you are going to have one hell of an uphill struggle. If you are a trainee teacher and you find yourself in this situation, raise it with the university. I was just far too typically English and just got on with it, teeth gritted and determination flaring. On the topic of teaching in this country though, it’s a rather thankless profession. You work long hours, deal with a lot of stress and get paid pretty terribly. It was fairly normal for me to leave the house at 7am and get home at 8pm, due to meetings, lesson planning, resource creation etc. This is for a job that pays around 21k a year at the start, without growing too much. Sure, you get good holidays, but really it doesn’t make up for the insane workload during term time, as well as the incredibly political nature of teaching; if someone tells me teaching is a caring profession, I’m going to laugh. Teachers can be some of the most venomous individuals. However, I have heard wonderful things about teaching abroad, so if you’re considering teaching, my advice would be to work abroad. Better conditions, better pay and an actual respect for the profession go a long way.

Anyway, enough about teaching and my new found freedom from it. What have I been doing this week? Well, I’ve gotten back into The Division again. Sure, it’s a bit repetitive, but the Dark Zone isn’t. I… really enjoy the Dark Zone, which surprises me due to my aversion to PvP. However, one thing I have noted in the Dark Zone is that a lot of players are more willing to team up and make mutual gains rather than turn on each other, gain rogue status and risk losing their own stuff. Rolling through the Dark Zone in a group is a very rewarding experience and is generally safe, as most players won’t mess about with a group of four unless they’re also a group of four; though a group of four is easier to spot than the one guy with a marksman rifle taking pot shots at you. I’ve generally had a good experience in the Dark Zone, though I was sort of expecting full blown DayZ levels of asshattery so it would have been hard to truly surprise me in a bad way.

I’ve also played a decent amount of Monster Hunter 4 on the DS; I won’t lie, it was because one of my friends is incredibly into it. I also won’t lie when I say that I can see why. It is by far the most complex game that I have for my DS, with the large number of different weapons and play styles, as well as the insane amount of customisation options available. I’m enjoying the light bowgun for multiplayer and the dual swords for single player, as I like my mobility over the sheer power of weapons like the hammer. I’m still a massive scrub when it comes to Monster Hunter, but I’m getting better. I would totally recommend it for the DS, though it is not for the faint of heart. With the amount you have to remember and everything that you have to do on a successful hunt, it’s not going to be a casual game. For that, I think Fire Emblem retains the top spot in terms of my favourite DS title, as it’s much easier to pick up and play without really taxing myself. Yes, I’m a scrub with low mental capacity. Sometimes. I like to relax whilst gaming, okay?

For roleplaying, we had a massive rift in the party this week during Pathfinder. Everyone apart from my character is lawful good, and they were prying into my secretive character’s employment history and background, which she was unwilling to share. Also, having been away from my beloved bard class for too long, I will be switching in Pathfinder. My current character is going to leave the party to pursue her goals without them, as they are inept (in her eyes). I will be replacing her with an Aasimar bard, who is unaware of her celestial heritage. She has the leadership feat, and the natural born leader trait as she is supposed to be a leader of people, a bastard child of a noble house that is now in ruin (our setting has a large army of Orcs and Hobgoblins and undead wrecking faces). Her cohort (main follower) is her family’s former captain of the guard and has made me realise how stupidly good the fighter class is. He can tank, make ludicrous numbers of opportunity attacks, hit things with his longsword, shoot things with his composite longbow, sling daggers when disarmed or just hit things hard in the face with his bare hands… If it’s combat based, he can do it. He’s way better in combat than my actual character, despite being two levels lower and my bard actually having decent combat feats (going to build her like a duelist in combat).

However, my new unemployed status means that cuts have to happen. My Warhammer 40k projects are going out the window, as that’s very expensive and I need to be saving up for my masters. I might get the jetbikes that I need, but then leave it at that, as that’s a fairly central concept to my Eldar army. However, this does mean that I will still lack an “average” strength army, as my Eldar, whilst fluffy and lore-abiding, can be quite brutal when played right… And I’ve played Eldar now for about 6 years. If I get a job that pays well, I’ll either start a Chaos army, or a Militarum Tempestus one.

Also, writing high fantasy fiction when your mind is currently in a space / cyberpunk mood is…an interesting experience… A very interesting experience.

The Meta

I think the thing that really irritates me about teacher training is the conformity. “As a teacher, you are always on show. As such, you have to be a professional both inside the classroom and out,” was something that we were told near the start of the PGCE, along with “make sure your online presence is totally professional and private because parents and students alike will Google search your name.” Now, I understand that to a point; after all, no one wants to have a teacher who goes out on a bender every weekend and passes out in the gutter, or has a public Facebook profile covered in photos from that hedonistic holiday to Marbella.

However, like all things to do with this course, it goes to the extreme. I’m the kind of person who prizes my individuality. I love being me; one hundred percent pure, unadulterated me. I like my (cyber)gothic style, I like my strangely coloured and/or designed contact lenses, I like my (limited due to hereditary hair volume. Women who complain about having too much hair should really consider themselves lucky…) out-there hairstyles. What I don’t like is having to slot into what I am going to call the “teacher meta” where you have to be as generic as possible so you don’t scare parents into thinking you’re incompetent and unprofessional. To eternally present this image of the perfect role model. I’m never going to be the one to go out partying and get drunk and act like a buffoon, but really? My individuality makes me unprofessional? Specifically, my individuality in my own free time makes me unprofessional? My individuality makes me a bad role model? I have a younger sibling, and this is the last thing I would want them to see. Not me being an individual, but the idea of individuality being seen in a negative light. As a budding fantasy/science fiction author, I know dystopias, and this is really starting to feel like I’m living in a dystopian society.

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Okay, rant over. I have come up with a new revelation this week. That revelation is that dice hate me. Last weekend, I managed to roll a double 1 in Stars Without Number, used a psychic power to re-roll and… rolled another pair of 1s. Double snake eyes? Really? Not only that, but on the Sunday, despite having ludicrous numbers amounts of talents and skills and stats that make my Imperial Envoy a social god (and utterly incompetent at just about everything else), an NPC managed to charm my character by rolling incredibly well against my utterly atrocious dice rolling, which basically made my character appear useless. For most of that session, nobody came to my character for anything. At all. Even when we had a diplomatic situation later on, the intelligence officer took it and nobody thought to contact the actual diplomat. What am I even around for? It was a rough weekend for roleplaying, but at least I manage to perform well in pathfinder, though as a sorcerer I don’t really have to roll to hit or anything like that; most of my spells auto-hit with enemies having to make saves to avoid damage, thus removing my utterly terrible dice luck from the equation.

I’ve also gone back to SWTOR, but as a totally new character so nobody in the galactic starfighter community knows who I am (apart from one guy that I told who is very nice and shares my views on both gunships and overly-competitive pilots). It’s great being the new player; there are no expectations to do well, no victimisation where half the team comes after you. It’s liberating and, dare I say it, fun. I’ve also been playing a lot of VoidExpanse recently as well. On hardcore mode. Permadeath is very worrying, but the way the game is designed it wouldn’t be too harsh if I were to lose and have to start again. I’m playing a trader type, so a lot of my XP comes from buying resources on the cheap, then flying them elsewhere and selling them for large profits. The XP gains for this are pretty decent and it doesn’t take too long as you can just autopilot and minimise; most of the time it doesn’t bite you in the backside. Come to think of it, I’ve been in a real “space” mood. Space is pretty cool though… I wish I had the time to work on my science fiction…

And finally, one month later…

I get my ass into gear and write another of these. Apologies for my disappearing act (sort of), the world decided that it was an opportune time to crumble around me (sort of). Got way too close for comfort to failing my teacher training, which would be a wonderful way to render my entire year as defunct. Nevertheless, things have settled and I am writing once again; and what a better time to do so than the week including International Women’s Day!

So, what’s new? Well, I think the largest thing is that I am seriously considering (translation: I am going ahead with it and hoping it works out) is a Masters in journalism. It’s what I actually want to do with my life, so why wait any longer? I’m finally in a position to follow what I actually want to do, so it’s time to put together the most kick-ass application I’ve ever done. It’s not a question of want by this point, I think it’s more a question of need. I’ve had 8 years now of doing the wrong thing, and then trying to repair the damage and gain some ground back. I finally feel like I am able to push forwards, and forwards I shall go!

In other news, I became a demon. No, not literally, but yes I am making a Metal Gear Solid reference. My Cyberpunk 2020 campaign has ended with a pretty intense finale that saw one PC die in a fiery explosion, one got tranquilised and forgotten about (the player wasn’t there and the GM wasn’t about to kill off a PC whilst the player was absent), one ran away, avoiding more close calls than I have fingers, and one… was me. Our party got caught by two corporations working together who wanted our VIP. Whilst everyone was arguing, I slipped away unnoticed (after critting an earlier disguise roll; I went from clean and corporate to Mad Max Fury Road). Two corporate teams showed up and attacked, so I hid in a dumpster and contacted my own corporate overlords and requested an extraction for myself and the VIP. Whilst everyone was fighting, my corporation sent in a clean up crew of 4 cyberninjas and extracted me. The cyberninjas cleaned up, as they were supposed to, grabbed the VIP and then we all flew away in the helicopter that they came in on. So yeah, I betrayed the party; I became the monster that I feared rather than breaking character. The guy who had all the near misses got out okay, as the journalist who wanted the story and helped us get across country was killed in the firefight, leaving this guy’s character (a media who also wanted the story), to write it and become a big time journalist. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that my character “won” the game, as she was deployed to a top secret facility in Switzerland to train corporate spec ops, her family were moved to a corporate-owned resort, which was both luxurious and secure, and she joined the corporate hall of fame where only like… 14 people knew of her achievements. As a covert operative, she would have it no other way! Oh, there was also the 500k advance payment. We’re going to be playing a Star Wars game now on Sundays, but we’re Imperial and limited to only humans. I am distraught by the prospect of being human in a Star Wars setting; I want to be a Chiss! Or a Mirialan. Or a Miraluka. Or a Twi’lek. Not a boring ol’ human.

I also had my first totally improv RP moment. So, my character in the Pathfinder game I’m in is very good at lying. She’s an elven courtesan with a serpentine bloodline that gives her magic and she learned that a trade prince was in the city, staying in the keep as a guest to the regent. Naturally, she decided to lie her way into the palace to go see this trade prince. Why? I have no idea. I did it because I could. Do I need a reason? Not really. Plus the GM wasn’t prepared for it, so he was on 100% improv as well. I had no reason to be there, but I did manage to get on the trade prince’s good side. Win-win.

On the topic of winning, I’m considering dusting off my Eldar collection and getting down to the local wargaming club. I don’t know why, but I’ve just had that urge recently; however, I am unsure whether I will as I don’t want to buy any more 40k models, but at the same time it’s hard to play Eldar as a “middle of the road” army. Either they are incredibly good, or they’re incredibly dead. I’ve been toying with the idea of an Imperium army with a central core of Militarum Tempestus and an Inquisitor. If they weren’t so ludicrously priced, I’d also put in some Sisters and have an old-school Witch Hunters style army, but those Sisters models are incredibly expensive! I think the main factor against me playing any more 40k is GW’s business model. Good job guys…

Another part of the past month (that’s why this is turning into a huge post. A lot can happen in a month…) saw me finally getting a Nintendo DS with Fire Emblem (Awakening. Fates isn’t out in Europe yet…), Monster Hunter 4 and Final Fantasy Explorers. Of the three games, I’d say Fire Emblem has been the most addictive; I love Fire Emblem so much. I’ve completed it on normal difficulty in newcomer mode, but I am now playing through it on hard difficulty in classic mode. Permadeath is scary, especially with critical hits flying about. I think I’ve managed to stave that off via level grinding the DLC, but those first few missions were far too tense; nothing hurts quite like losing a unit to a 3% chance crit…

Another gaming part of the last few weeks has been the release of The Division. Whilst I haven’t had too much time to play it as of yet, due to being incredibly busy with the whole not-failing-my-teacher-training business, but I do plan on playing a whole lot more and writing a more in-depth review of it. What can I say about it now though? Two hours in and I absolutely love it. It reminds me of the fun times I had in Defiance (which I have also been tempted to return to, but won’t with casual SWTOR starfighter and RP, The Division and TF2 taking up my gaming time. Being an adult sucks; I don’t have limitless time to spend gaming and writing about it!

I guess I should really finish this post before it gets too-… Where did these 1100 words come from?! Well, I’ll end it here by saying that I wrote another thing for my university’s paper. Go look at how I talk politics without actually stating my own beliefs.

This is my link. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Never talk about politics on the internet. That’s one of the more well-known rules of the internet!

An Authentic Experience

So it’s been an interesting week. And by interesting, I mean totally crap. Got my first exposure to office politics (giving my teacher training a real authentic touch) and I’d really rather not write about it. Essentially, it boils down to people taking issues up with the university first instead of me, painting me in an absolutely terrible light. On the positive, I’ve sacrificed my entire weekend to plan every single lesson up until half term, which is shockingly close! My motivation to be “outstanding” should come from a genuine desire to do well, but in reality it’s all for revenge. No greater good. No just cause. (Whoa-hoooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa)

So, what’s been going on that’s actually interesting? I’ve run around in even more circles in Fallout 4, because I’m just that indecisive. I don’t think I’m going to bother with the Minutemen because it turns into a single player MMO at that point with its countless, repetitive “make a new settlement” quests. I will say now that I don’t like Fallout 4 as much as I loved New Vegas (I may have said this last week too, but that’s besides the point!), but I will go into that in more detail once I finish sorting my life out.

I also played a bit of The Division over the weekend. It runs sluggishly on my laptop, which is around three years old and only just showing her age, but other than that I am excited for the release next month. The gameplay was solid and engaging, and I liked that my fears that it was going to be a total open world PvP-fest like DayZ (Internet Jerk Simulator) were entirely wrong. I had lost track of The Division over the years, so I wasn’t sure how the game was going to be designed and playing an hour or so (as I said, I sacrificed my weekend) was a great way to experience it first hand. It felt  a little bit like Defiance. But better. I enjoyed that game way too much, so a similar game that is better? Sign me up!

On the role-playing front I think I’m going to keep with CP2020, but I have made a new character for it. After this mission, Renée is leaving; she has a family to provide for; two daughters and a husband. This current team is going to get her killed and she can’t afford that. So I’m going to retire her at the end of this mission and play a full stealth combat character. Because getting headshots by ricocheting bullets off walls is the only way to get them. I never really play combat characters, so it should be interesting to say the least.

Going to see what this week brings. Hopefully plenty of role-playing and some gaming now that I’ve got all my planning out of the way. Currently working on my fantasy novel plan too. It’s an exciting, but fairly tense time!

One Week Later: Free-to-Play Wildstar

Of course it would happen. Why would it not? Naturally, a few days after I get a subscription for Star Wars: The Old Republic and work up some sort of hype for the coming expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire, Wildstar goes free to play. So after a few days of banging my head against the brick wall that is Galactic Starfighter and mourning the loss of basically every pilot who wasn’t afraid to have fun, replaced by win at all costs pre-made group abominations from galactic hell (I’m calling out both sides of the conflict here, both Republic and Empire on the Progenitor EU server), as well as debating which character to actually play, I decided to hop into Wildstar and see how the game has shaped up over the past year.

The immediate conclusion? I think I wasted £9. Maybe.

The new free to play iteration of Wildstar certainly isn’t anywhere near perfect. As expected, lag and queue times run rampant with the massive influx of new blood spilling into the game and at peak hours it can be almost unplayable. There were some serious log in issues as well, which meant that I could not access either of my characters for a long time, instead hopping over to play some Counter Strike: Global Offensive or Team Fortress 2 while I waited for fixes. Even today, I sit here writing this with some scepticism, the problem with lag at peak hours is still very present, but I equally know in the back of my mind how hard the developers at Carbine are working to iron out these kinks; the folks at wildstar-roleplay.com bought them pizza as a thank you for the hard work and long hours they put in around the launch of free-to-play.

After cleaning out my laptop of all the dust that had built up over an undisclosed number of months of neglect that I am too ashamed to announce, I finally hopped onto Nexus, ready to carve out my little slice of heaven and stick it to the Dominion or Exiles, depending on which character I was playing. It was nice to see my old characters still around on Entity, the North American PvE superserver, with the only necessary change being that names are now first and last name, rather than just one blanket name (super awesome for RPers such as myself!). I first logged in to my two existing characters to find that the gear and crafting system had been overhauled. To what extent, I was unsure of and still don’t quite know, but I had to spend a good half an hour sifting through my mail box on each character due to items I owned no longer existing, which was particularly painful for Caecilia, my Cassian, who I logged on to completely naked as all her crafted PvP gear had disappeared.

Since then, combined with the important fact that I now have a job that doesn’t allow me to stay up to ludicrous hours to roleplay with the North American crowd (I am in the UK. 5 – 8 hour time difference is no joke!), I have moved over to Jabbit, the EU PvE superserver. I created both Linna Dawnleaf and Caecilia Helvetius, amazed that my names were still available but less so when I realised that matching both first and last names would be improbable, and logged in. As I said previously, there were large problems with lag and queues at peak times, usually around 7pm onwards UK time, and the RP community apparently comprises of about 95% Aurin, the constant “why does everyone play Aurin?” “We need less Aurin around,” style comments grating on my nerves every day. However, the game is still very solid.

As a free player, you can very easily play the game with no issues whatsoever. Unlike Star Wars: The Old Republic, the free to play option in Wildstar doesn’t throttle you. There’s no XP debuff, subscribers (known as signature players) instead gaining a healthy +25% increase to XP gained, allowing them to skip some quests if they wish, there are still plenty of costume and decoration slots for you to use, you don’t get limited to a handful of battlegrounds and dungeons per week; the approach that Carbine have taken with the free to play update is giving the game as a whole with negligible limitations (less buy and sell orders on the commodities exchange and auction house) to free players, whilst offering some nice boosts to signature players, such as increased XP and gold gains, without breaking the game. Also, if you purchase the box, you get a really nice host of additional bonuses that last forever, such as an additional 10 character slots (so, box purchasers get 12 characters instead of 2) or an additional 1000 on the décor cap. Full details about specific bonuses for box purchasers and subscribers can be found here.

So, do I think that it’s a good direction for Wildstar to go in? Honestly, yes. I always knew that free to play would come eventually and Wildstar lasted longer than I originally anticipated on a subscription model, originally guessing that it would make the jump 6 months after launch as opposed to the 16 months it ended up running for. I believe that it will introduce a lot of new players to the game, but my only concern is whether Carbine is sufficiently prepared for the massive influx of players. I do not believe that masses will leave, as the free to play implementation is well done and very accessible for new players, though the initial rush will certainly die down somewhat in the near future and of course not everyone will stay. They have opened up new servers and offered free character transfers to the new servers while they try to find a solution, which is all well and good assuming people actually transfer. However, I’ve heard that there is still a massive imbalance between the old servers and the new ones, as a lot of people either have settled into a community on their current servers (such as myself and the roleplaying community), or they simply can’t be bothered to move.

Final conclusion: I don’t think I totally wasted £9 and will be checking the new expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, however I think that I will settle on Wildstar over the new expansion.

Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Final Thoughts

So, having finished Shadowrun: Hong Kong, I feel as though I should shed some new observations on the game. Now that I have completed the game once, though I will be doing another play through straight away, I must say that my opinions are not as high as they were walking into it for the first time. Please note: there will probably be minor spoilers, though I will stay away from specifics where I can! I’ll start with the good.

The music throughout was very good. Is it better than the Dragonfall or Returns soundtrack? That’s down to individual preference and it fitted the theme and locale very well. That being said, I loved the soundtrack of both the original Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall, so it’s hard to say which is better, if any. In my opinion, the music in this game is very, very good, but the previous games set a rather high bar to meet. It has at least done that.

Animations and effects also stayed better across the board. Full-auto and burst fire now feel like they really are spraying bullets everywhere with the occasional hit, as it should be. Magic effects are greatly improved from the previous games too, spells like powerbolt and manabolt feel far more magical and less… sparky. The bouncing spell mechanic is good fun as well and makes standing on dragon lines far, far more useful. I had instances where I cast aim on a character and it bounced to the whole crew.

Cybernetics have been greatly improved. Now, you need to take the cybernetics skill in order to take a lot of the more powerful cybernetic options rather than everyone being able to take whatever they want. I like this as it means that you actually need to invest in body and the cybernetics skill if you want to build a chromed up cyber-warrior rather than just every non-mage character taking all the best options. Added to that is the much larger selection of both cyberware and positions to put them, as well as extra essence given from the skill in cybernetics and you can really chrome up to the max!

There are... a lot of extra cybernetic options...

There are… a lot of extra cybernetic options…

Last but most certainly not least, possibly the best change in fact: decking. I just want to scream to the high heavens about how awesome this is. Before it was very simple, you jacked in, did some combat, activated some nodes and then jacked out. Now, when you jack in you are not automatically in combat. Combat-based IC aren’t always present, though there are usually trackers that patrol specific routes that you need to avoid.

Matrix combat is still unavoidable in the later parts of the game and trace can build quickly!

Matrix combat is still unavoidable in the latter parts of the game and trace can build quickly!

There’s a new trace mechanic which will start to increase if any IC detect your presence; while in combat with IC your trace will generally increase by 5 each turn (per IC that sees you), though if a tracker IC sees you it will increase by 20 each turn.

Avoiding tracker IC patrols is the new way to glide through the matrix without any issues

Avoiding tracker IC patrols is the new way to glide through the matrix without any issues

You get to most nodes by hacking blocker IC, which you can either force through at the cost of a large amount of trace, usually around 50+, or you can do a small minigame where you have to remember number patterns to increase your hacking time, then deduce a symbolic password as characters are periodically and very briefly revealed to you.

Sometimes there's a password option too, though most of the time it's either hack or force!

Sometimes there’s a password option too, though most of the time it’s either hack or force!

Because of this, you can largely get by in the matrix on the starting cyberdeck, though I will say now that later in the game the decking parts have actual IC and some brutally difficult tracker IC patrol webs, so don’t expect to be able to hack systems late game with a shoddy cyberdeck. I really, really love what they’ve done with the matrix portions myself; also, the music track for when you’re in the matrix is much better than the previous one. Definitely part of the soundtrack that improves upon the previous.

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You don’t have to do all of the number sequence memorisations. Each successful one gives you more time to work out the password in the next part though.

However, this game definitely has some drawbacks that I would like to visit. Firstly, I’ll go with the temporary one: bugs! As the game is a new release, there are a decent number of bugs which can be really frustrating on a play through of an RPG. There were some that were merely conversational, with NPCs saying silly things, but there were others that hampered my progress through the game. Also, there are typos aplenty. I think I counted at least a dozen on my first play through.

Where's my cyberdeck? Uh... It's right on my back. Are we both blind here?

Where’s my cyberdeck? Uh… It’s right on my back. Are we both blind here?

I also did not like the crew quite as much as the crew from Dragonfall. I got a really good idea of where Dietrich, Eiger and Glory came from and really enjoyed their story arcs and Blitz was comical enough that his otherwise insufferable bravado turned into a bit of comic relief for me. However, I don’t get that same feeling with the current crew. Duncan is your non-blood related brother and comes across fairly hollow. He’s an Ork who grew up with you and had anger management problems, eventually joining Lone Star with your foster-father’s help keeping him on task and under control. I don’t feel that there is a huge amount of depth to his character. Gobbet is one of the more interesting characters, a rat shaman with a special connection to Rat, or so she says, who grew up on a cobbled together raft with a bunch of friends. She’s probably the deepest character and her character arc is certainly the most enjoyable and simultaneously dark one to play through, her voice lines are generally the most enjoyable to read and post-run conversations with her were among my favourite. Is she on par with the Dragonfall crew? Debatable, but at least it’s up there! Is0bel is insufferable for me. It’s fortunate that I often play a decker and didn’t need her that much in this play through because I do not like her character. Anti-social deckers who claim to be the best just aren’t my cup of tea, especially when their background is sort of hollow and you have to ask a different crew member to fill in the details. During her mission you find out what an over-sensitive little brat she really is, though I won’t go into the details as it would most certainly be a spoiler. I do not like Is0bel and I dread my next playthrough when I’ll be running a mage character and will need her on my team. Racter is the other interesting member of the crew, though he falls short when compared to Gobbet and the Dragonfall characters as his personal run is just an optional objective to a run you do anyway. His conversations are interesting and he definitely has mental issues, but that’s part of what makes him interesting. His dialogue is well-written, portraying what he is quite well and he manages to narrowly avoid crossing the line where he becomes insufferable. Finally, there’s Gaichu. He’s interesting to a point and his character is good, but I feel that he might just infringe upon special-snowflake territory. His character mission is short and also brings up some fairly dark themes, but I didn’t find myself as emotionally invested as I did in Gobbet’s. Definitely not the best, but certainly not the worst.

I would also like to highlight the player character and the conversational choices that you are given throughout the game, as this drawback is related to the previous one about your crew. The character you play in this one felt as if I was being shoehorned into a type of character that I do not necessarily wish to be. In Dragonfall any lines of dialogue related to your character’s background were left wide open and there were definitely some varied inferences drawn from the various lines of dialogue, allowing you to role-play as a wide range of characters. In Hong Kong, it’s very black and white; you were a street kid who got taken in by a guy and then left for a job that, three days later, put you in a corporate prison for the rest of your life up until the present. From that point onwards, it always tries to push you into that role of a shady, either gang, thug or shadowrunner criminal type, shunning the megacorporations and the type of life working for one would entail. For example, my character was a very corporate, very businesslike decker who I played through Dragonfall with no issues, however in Hong Kong the same character feels contradictory; there are so many instances where I don’t feel like that type of character is even considered. To me, this was a real disappointment, especially given that there was a very corporate looking elf portrait in the character creator, and was only reinforced throughout the game.

Mega spoilers for Dragonfall and Hong Kong in the paragraph below, as I will now be talking about the ending. Highlight the paragraph to reveal the text and do so knowing that there will be major, major spoilers here. You have been warned!

Suffice to say, I am disappointed. In Dragonfall, you find Vauclair and he talks about his plans and why he’s doing what he’s doing; he sees the dragons as manipulative and controlling and wishes to get rid of them through a biological weapon that only hurts dragons. You can, through dialogue options, talk him out of it, fight against him or even join up with him! It was a really well done sequence of dialogue and Vauclair was a great antagonist for the game; he honestly believed that what he was doing was right and for the good of the planet. Siding with him doesn’t seem like an utterly moronic idea and I did do a game where I ended up siding with him, bringing about the near extinction of metahumanity due to the dragons being responsible for keeping some eldritch horrors at bay. All through the game, however, there are hints as to this consequence, especially if you play a mage or shaman and frequently speak to Absynthe and Aljernon, and you can use this as ammunition to talk Vauclair out of it, where he realises what a blind fool he has been. In Hong Kong, however, the choice felt really stupid. You track down Qian Ya and fight her twice before she offers you a deal where you can leave and let her have the Walled City in exchange for fourteen years of good fortune, or you keep fighting and eventually shut her out. There was no real reason to accept her deal, there was no feeling of “this is a good idea” when contemplating it, unlike Vauclair who put up a very good argument for his cause. If I missed something, it must have been due to a bug because I frequently spoke to Crafty and had enough points in conjuring to cast simple buffs and perceive things on the astral plane. I read through all of her notes and made sure to pay attention to everything about the Yama Kings, but nothing seemed that relevant. I’ve heard that you can avoid some fights through conversation options, but I did not see them. However, that is not the point I wish to make. The point is that the end of the game falls flat. There is no real reason to make a deal with the demon-goddess unless your character has large amounts of selfishness and stupidity and this disappointed me after the build up was very good and Dragonfall’s ending being so solid.

Overall, would I recommend Shadowrun: Hong Kong? Yes. It’s still a solid game with a good story and decent enough characters. However, I am a little disappointed overall. I enjoy the game and have already started playing through it a second time, though looking at it as a whole I would say that it simultaneously took steps forwards and backwards.

We All Saw It Coming – Steam Box Revealed

As the title of this article suggests, we all saw this coming. With SteamOS announced at the start of the week, it was inevitable that one of the remaining two announcements would be their Steam Box console. As they will not be commercially available until 2014, all we can really do is look at what it promises and take first impressions based on that.

The first thing that strikes me is the contrast to other modern day consoles. The Xbox and Playstation variants all remain the same, apart from maybe hard drive space and wireless capabilities, capable of largely the same core functions. The Steam Box, however, will be offered in multiple different specs, allowing for users to pick and choose according to their exact needs. This is highly ambiguous and could translate to the same as the aforementioned two consoles, but I do not believe that this will be the case. Whilst I do not have any sort of conclusive answer, nor do I have a good idea on what to expect from this, one answer in the questions section of the announcement page leads me to believe otherwise. It is as follows:

“Can I hack this box? Run another OS? Change the hardware? Install my own software? Use it to build a robot? Sure.”

Whilst Microsoft and Sony would actively try to stop you from hacking their consoles and modifying them, Valve have straight up said that they do not mind what people do with their Steam Box. For me, this is not just good news, but great news as one of my main gripes on modern gaming is the lack of customisation. I will not expand on this, having done so at length in a previous article, but if the Steam Box is allowing us to do whatever we want, then we will not have such a hardware imposed barrier on what we can and cannot do. More freedom means more flexibility and a likely increase in wiggle room when it comes to content on the system itself. I am a strong advocate for custom content, as it means more maps, more game types, more skins and just more of everything depending on what type of game it is. What makes this better is that it reduces costs to developers as they will not have to flood us with content which may transpose onto cheaper costs for the games. Again, this is merely speculation on the system and only time will tell. That being said, 2014 is not that far off!

This will certainly make the next generation of the console wars a lot more interesting. With both Sony and Microsoft already locking horns, how will the Steam Box fair? Will it be able to knock the two giants off the top spot? Seeing as Microsoft had a very rough start with the Xbox One, I believe that the newcomer to the battle is in a strong position. However, we have to look at the Steam Box as more of a PC that will be attached to your television set that uses a controller as opposed to a traditional gaming console. This might scare people away from buying it as a lot of consumers just want simplicity. They want to be able to return home from work, switch on and have an hour of gaming to unwind without having to worry about potential errors and having to fix problems that may arise themselves. I have had many times where I have tweaked with Garry’s Mod, only to get constant lua error messages which I was able to fix after combining Google searches with a level of computer understanding somewhere between good and mediocre. With my Xbox 360, however, I have never had any such problems, though I also lack the custom content of my PC games. Will it replace the Xbox or Playstation? Possibly, depending on the consumer, price and games available. The likelihood is, however, that it will not cause the Playstation or Xbox to recede as a living room gaming system.

More information about the SteamOS and Steam Box can be found at: http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/

Now we wait another twenty six hours to find out what Valve’s third announcement is. I am personally quite excited, despite knowing that it will not be Episode 3.

Are Games Getting Worse?

Phew… It seems like forever since I last wrote an article, but I had a lot of exam reassessments at University, so it has been stressful times. However, I believe that it is time to change that! Today I’m going to be writing about a subject that I’ve been thinking about during my relaxation time between now and the start of term. This topic is that of modern gaming and if it is an improvement or step backwards.

So, why am I writing this? This topic that has been done to death by more bloggers than I care to count. Recently I was playing through Unreal 2: The Awakening and it really came to my attention. Those who follow me on Twitch or Youtube may know that I recently did a play through of Unreal and Unreal: Return to Na Pali and I rather enjoyed them both. There’s something that I find satisfying about blowing Skaarj and other aliens apart as an escaped convict with no objective beyond escaping with your life. You do not play as a Mary Sue space marine of death and destruction in power armour, you literally play a convict who was fortunate enough to survive the crash landing on an alien planet of the prison ship that he or she was incarcerated on. You go through the ship, finding dead crew members, or alive crew members who then get brutally murdered before you find the dispersion pistol and start your journey, which has no real direction at the start, though it pieces together as the game progresses. As I said, I really did like Unreal. I’ve also been playing through the Half Life series of games again and absolutely loving those, but I will not subject you to my wild Valve fanaticism in this article. The original series were released in 1999, with the sequel and its episodes coming between 2004 and 2007, and possibly remain some of the best gaming experiences that I have had.

Now forward to Unreal 2. Again, not a new game, coming out in 2003, the game-play mechanics stayed true to the Unreal style; fast paced action and plenty of jumping and projectile dodging. However, when I got into the story and the core gameplay, you play as a preset, generic space trooper in power armour. He is not a marine, he used to be and is trying to get back in, so we can’t define him as a space marine at least, but he is rather generic. His supporting staff consist of a mechanic who did something bad in the past and is mopey about it, a blue alien pilot who is confused at everything and a third character who gets her own mini-rant. Of course, Unreal 2 fell into the trap that almost all games fall into these days: They made the female character the token eye-candy of the game. Why can developers not get out of this obsession? She wears the tightest fitting clothing ever that makes sure the gamer does not need too much imagination, comprising of a pair of tight fitting leggings and a top that looks like somebody got a crop top and cut a whole out from where her cleavage is. She also happens to be a war hero, and obviously war heroes all dress in PVC. So much rage! At least she seems to have a tough personality and is quite a fun character when conversing with the other crew members, but I am not sure her personality was the first thing that the developers were concerned about when coming up with her as a character. The story is, again, mediocre. Without getting into too much detail, you are space trooper Marshall John Dalton who is basically a galactic peacekeeper. You find an alien artifact when responding to a distress signal and, naturally, everything goes pretty bad pretty quickly. The Skaarj show up, the corporations show up and things get odd. Upon writing this I have not yet finished the game, so the ending could be incredibly amazing, though I’m not holding out much hope.

Fast forward again, though this time to the modern day. I’m going to not talk about specific games here as I do not buy many new games any more. ActiBlizz, as I like to call them, I will not buy from on principle, and EA are verging on the same with a few exceptions. I will instead talk about concepts and general ideas in gaming as I can not accurately pick apart a game that I refuse to play because it just looks so terrible and felt so terrible when I gave them a try. First on the agenda: Micro-transactions and downloadable content. This is a point that I can sympathise with as well as scornfully detest. On one hand, I can see that new content takes time and effort. This time and effort costs the company money as they have to pay the workers to produce said content. It is understandable that companies will charge for things that have costed them money to produce and this has always been the case through expansion packs which generally costed a little bit extra and gave you more content. What I do not like about modern micro-transactions and downloadable content is the fact that companies are charging people for downloadable content that is already on the disc! Not only do you pay the extortionate going rate for games that can be around £50 sometimes, but you then have to pay about £10 to access something that is already on the disc! As someone who is used to paying around £30 for a new game that will last me for a few years, I find this to be rather stupid. A good way around this, which a lot of Valve games seem to follow, is to release a game which has good game-play off the shelf and then leave the game open to the modding community. The modding community is hugely talented, a relatively recent update for Counter Strike: Global Offensive shows evidence to this, and want to create content for the games that they play. A lot of games that I play, including Team Fortress 2, the Dawn of War series, the Counter Strike series, Unreal Tournament, Killing Floor and Left 4 Dead 2, do not really have much or any paid downloadable content, barring aesthetics such as hats in Team Fortress 2 or character models in Killing Floor. What they do all have are a massive amount of community-developed content. I’ve lost count of how many maps I have downloaded from Filefront for my installation of Dawn of War Soulstorm, how many games of the zombie mod for Counter Strike: Source I have played over the years or just how three of my player models in Killing Floor look like Flandre Scarlet, Patchouli Knowledge and Hina Kagiyama from the Touhou series. Now, let’s go to Call of Duty. You pay $15 for five maps. True, those five maps are professionally made by the studio that made the game, however are they worth $3 each? They are simply not. If I’m going to pay $15 for more content, I expect there to be something of substance behind it, not just a handful of new maps. I will happily pay £10 – 15 for an expansion for a game, as long as there is some substance to it. The Secret World does this well with the issues that come out every now and again. £8 and you get a new line of missions that I have heard are very well written, as well as a new weapon to try out. I have not bought any issues because I am not such an MMO gamer, but I respect their payment model.

That brings me onto the next point. Subscriptions. I was following Wildstar, the up and coming MMO by Carbine Studios. It looked very interesting, despite its MMO status, because it catered towards role players and was being developed with role players in mind as customers. I enjoy role playing and was very excited when i heard the concept of player housing, character customisation and lore of the game world, so I got stuck in. Recently, however, the business model was released. It is going to operate on a $15 per month subscription with a base price of $60. My interest in the game immediately just vanished. What can I get for $60? Four copies of Counter Strike: Global Offensive, a Crimson Hunter flyer model that my Eldar army so desperately needs, a new Sisters of Battle unit of any variation, a healthy amount of new cyberpunk clothes and accessories, around eight new books, the list goes on and on and that only takes into account the cost of the game with the complimentary first month. Consider this. I have been playing Team Fortress 2 on and off now for around six years. Let us assume that I have only really played it for two of those years as I have been busy with studies and the like; that is twenty four months that I have been actively playing Team Fortress 2. Now let us transpose that onto Wildstar with its subscription. $60 for the game, then add $(24 * 15). I would have spent $420 on playing a game. Yes, $420! What could I get with $420 that would last me at least two years? Well, I can buy a normal game like Saints Row 4 for around $50, or I could massively expand my Eldar or Sisters of Battle army, or I could buy a Playstation 4 with Metal Gear Solid 5; don’t even get me started on how much out of the ordinary clothing I could get with that, I would be in heaven. People will claim that the subscriptions are in place because more content is being launched all the time and it’s a dynamically developed environment, but again is it worth it? The content is often lacklustre and infrequent, so I would say that it is definitely not worth it. Team Fortress 2 and Killing Floor require no subscriptions and I know for a fact that the Halloween events are just around the corner. Frankly, I am giddy with anticipation for more chances to obtain haunted metal without resorting to custom servers.

The next point is mainly for PC gaming, though I am not much of a console multiplayer gamer. The number of games featuring privately owned dedicated servers has massively dropped. I view this as purely destructive as privately owned dedicated servers hold many advantages over matchmaking services and company owned servers. All the best memories I have from gaming come from games featuring a list of dedicated servers as opposed to a matchmaking mechanic. Xyo’s Hardcore Search and Destroy server back in Call of Duty 4 , DarkDevice Synergy, Fizzadar’s Zombified World server in Garry’s Mod, NighTeam’s TF2 servers. All of these servers shared one factor that I absolutely loved. Community. Dedicated servers accumulate regular users who start to recognise each other every time they connect. It builds e-friendships, constructs a really pleasant atmosphere for those in the server, contains admins who can ban hackers or griefers on sight and settle disputes that may arise within seconds. Matchmaking removes all of this as every time you play, you will be put in a different server with different people and rely on an anti-cheat algorithm to ban cheaters, which we all know goes famously. Also, company owned dedicated servers require upkeep, so costs are increased with no real way to mitigate it efficiently, whereas privately owned dedicated servers, whilst having similar costs, have afar better way to mitigate it through donation services. I have donated to servers and mods in the past; you can find me in Synergy rocking my purple frag grenades as the “female hero” player model, and most server donation packages are not game breaking, usually just giving the user some new aesthetic toys to play around with, or coloured names in the chat. If people enjoy playing on a server with the rest of the server’s community, then people will donate to keep it running; it’s a tried and proven strategy that has lasted and improved for around a decade. Also, company owned dedicated servers means no custom content. Custom content is the lifeblood of PC gaming. It adds variety, fun, new experiences and gives a server its personality. I was streaming on Twitch this morning on a Mann vs. Machine server in Team Fortress 2 that multiplied all weapons stats by ten and introduced new wave configurations to make it challenging. I really do enjoy it because it gets incredibly hectic and downright ridiculous at times, when the pyro is rapid fire airblasting giant soldier robots’ rockets back at them, or when thirty steel gauntlet wielding heavy robots run forwards being impervious to all ranged damage but taking ludicrous amounts of melee damage and dishing out their own amount of pain in return. All of this is fun and breaks up the usual repetitive stream of official game modes, but with less and less games opting for privately owned dedicated servers, I do not see this fun part of gaming surviving. The lack of dedicated servers in my opinion is really just a huge step backwards, as if developers are trying to force PC gamers to think like console gamers. it is not going to happen!

Also, the quality of writing in games is definitely going down the drain. Consider the difference between games such as Final Fantasy VII, with such emotionally evocative moments that can literally bring a grown man or woman to tears, or Half Life’s memorable moments, environments and non-player characters, friendly or otherwise. Now consider Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Halo and World of Warcraft. Did Battlefield 3 even have a story? How similar to an 80s Stallone action film was Modern Warfare 3? None of these currently popular games contain decently written stories. Their main characters are hilariously badly written, though not in a way that can be comically interpreted like Indrick Boreale from Dawn of War Soulstorm. I do not want to play as perfect soldier #523. I do not want to be flawless and awesome at everything. World of Warcraft I have a slight soft spot for in that regard, having enjoyed the wonders of Vanilla and role-playing as a staunch traditionalist Night Elven Sentinel, but I look at it and my first reaction is: “Pandas? Really?” which is not what I should think about. However, the butchery of Warcraft is mainly community driven, so that does go to show that community can be both good and bad (I swear if I see another Blood Elf Death Knight walking around Silvermoon in-character and casually socialising with other Blood Elves, I will stab them and their conversational partners in the face. It is like nobody remembers that the Scourge almost drove them to extinction and caused them to now be a dying race). As well as poorly written narrative, there is also the issue of game-play mechanics. Call of Duty’s mechanics have not changed, yet there are at least nine of them! Battlefield as well has followed the same mechanics since at least Battlefield 1942 and actually got rid of the best feature about Battlefield 2142, which was called Titan Mode. Basically, in Titan Mode, it was the same as conquest but the capture points were anti-air gun platforms and your tickets were shields rather than reinforcements. The aim of the game was to get the shields of the opposing team’s titan down and then board it to blow it up from the inside. Oh, did I mention that there were two huge ships above the map as you fought on the ground? Well, the Titans were there. This offered so many resources to the commander and really brought about fun, team-driven game-play that relied on coordination between each squad. Is there anything innovative about Battlefield 3? Not really. Some would argue that you can blow up walls, but I hate to burst your bubble when I say that Red Faction did that way earlier. There are exceptions to this, however, mostly coming from the indie scene. Maere, when Lights Die is an indie horror game that literally had me screaming like a big baby; Element4l made me marvel at its music as I slid, rolled, puffed and burned my way through levels as my little ball of elemental power. Indie games are not the only outlet of innovation and good ideas, however. The Last of Us is a game that made me want to up and buy a Playstation 3 just so I could play it. The game has interesting characters with notable personality flaws, interesting game-play mechanics, a story that takes its time to evolve into something great.

Combined, it creates a pretty bleak future for gaming. I do not look forward to a future filled with $100 games with subscription fees, micro-transactions up the wazoo and no community-driven content. Somebody hold me, I feel faint just thinking about it.I hold out hope for the Indie scene, which is producing some really innovative gaming experiences and I recommend that everyone pays a lot, perhaps even more attention to them than triple-A developers. As usual, there are arguments for and against everything I have stated above, these are just my thoughts on the matter, so if you have your own views, leave a comment and let me know. I would have to forfeit my self-proclaimed journalistic title if I was not open minded about these things, but criticism should be constructive! Flames help no one, as Smokey Bear says: “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

I am so sure that still applies on the internet…