Dave’s top ten video games of 2016 – 10 – Pokemon Sun and Moon

This is a recent one, and is the last game I got that I consider I’ve played enough of to be worthy of a place in this years list (that’s why you won’t find Final Fantasy 15 or the last guardian on the list). These games shook up the formula for Pokemon by revamping the challenges your trainer faces, replacing the series staple gyms with the island challenges that require different actions from the players to complete than simply battling, though they do end with a battle against a totem Pokemon, a special version of a certain species that is more powerful than the other Pokemon of the same species. 
The feature that I find the biggest improvement is the addition of “ride Pokemon”. These Pokemon do the jobs of HM moves on the other titles, allowing you to fly, break rocks, swim, and all other things. This is a major benefit as you would end up with a Pokemon in your team who was useless for combat, but had all the moves required for you to get around the world. Now these jobs are all allocated to these ride Pokemon, leaving your entire team open for exactly your team of choice. 
Another interesting feature is that, as well as the usual addition of new Pokemon, there are also new forms of classic Pokemon by the way of “Alolan form” Pokemon. These are special versions of said Pokemon who are unique to this region and have different typing and abilities, examples of which would be Alolan Raichu who is now an electric / psychic type, Alolan geodude and evolutions who are now dual rock and steel type, and even to both Alolan Vulpix and family and Alolan Sandshrew and family, who are now ice type. This is a great addition for old fans to be able to see old Pokemon in new ways. 
The storyline of this Pokemon game has been greatly improved, with more cutscenes, more actual in depth characters, and a little Easter egg that makes the whole story very tragic. 
Finally, while this may sound small, I find it massive. There is the Poke Pellago feature which allows all of your Pokemon that you’re currently not using be put to work on a set of islands that allow them to grow pokebeans, grow berries, hunt for stones and shards, and train up in specific stats or levels. This is great, and it means that all the Pokemon you have in the boxes are actually put to use, and you don’t feel so bad about not using them much. 
This is the biggest shakeup that’s been given to the Pokemon franchise in a long time, and in my opinion it is very well done and makes the best Pokemon release in the series. There are rumours of an enhanced third game coming out to the Nintendo switch, hopefully adding the following Pokemon feature found in the game files as well as more things to do and maybe even more Pokemon, as well as the whole thing being in full HD. We can only hope the rumours turn out as good as they sound. 
Stay tuned for number 9 (sorry I’m running late, I’m really not feeling well at the moment)

Games of the Year – Dishonourable Mentions

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, I welcome you to the 2016 completely arbitrary and overall pointless event that is Dave’s Top Ten Games of the Year!!!!!!
This year will be slightly different. I shall post one game a day until the first (the 31st being honorable mentions). Number ten shall be posted tonight, but to keep all of you satiated til then, I present those who couldn’t have been further from this list. The ones that missed the mark so drastically you’ll swear they were being aimed by storm troopers. I present to you…
The Dishonourable Mentions
Street fighter 5

This one has sort of managed to redeem itself in the months since its release, but at launch this game was an absolute mess. Modes were completely missing (including story mode and an actual arcade mode), net code was spotty at best, and the games you COULD play online were plagued by rage quitters as there were no punishments for leaving games early so it wouldn’t count the loss. The gameplay itself was solid, but for all of its errors, it has since been written off by long time fans of the franchise, who have since gone back to ultra street fighter 4
Slashy souls

This is an oddity and the only mobile game on this list. Released to promote Dark Souls 3, this game is everything that the dark souls series isn’t. While it is definitely too much to expect the atmosphere and storytelling, the timing and dexterity required in the main series games are completely gone, replacing them with an endless runner where you mindlessly tap to destroy anything in your path. Mobile games have shown they can be very competent, with games like Infinity Blade being a perfect example of how to translate the Souls series combat style to a touch screen. Slashy souls stands out as a very quickly made cash in to a series that is otherwise a set of masterpieces. 
Everybody’s gone to the rapture

A genre that is growing in popularity is the so called “walking simulator”, a game that doesn’t go out to offer a lot of action or high octane gameplay, but rather to tell a story as the player explores the environment. Certain titles in the genre do have puzzles, or at least have the player need to discover the storyline by looking at everything around them. Everybody’s gone to the rapture has none of this. You wander through a beautifully rendered version of a British village that is strangely abandoned, viewing visions of certain events that led to everybody disappearing. The problem is that the pacing is dreadful, your character walks so slowly, even when using the very well hidden run button. Add to this that the village is very empty and contains a lot of places where nothing happens, you spend a lot of time double backing on yourself because you’ve walked into a dead end where nothing important to the story had happened yet. This title could have had so much potential, but it was let down horrendously. 
Star fox zero

Star Fox … How on earth do you mess up Star Fox? Nintendo found a way. In keeping with a lot of their current activities, Nintendo decided to try and reinvent the franchise and “innovate” the gameplay by forcing in the motion controls using the game pad. This wouldn’t be too bad if it were implemented well or optional, but it’s not. You are forced to use a control scheme that is broken, making what would otherwise be a great, fun game a nightmare to play. All Nintendo had to do was make a HD Star Fox, and they failed
No man’s sky

Sean Murray is a liar. Let’s just start off with this. He stated in no uncertain words that the game would feature multiplayer. That you could meet other players. That you could effect galactic relations between species. That the animals would react to each other and to the player just as real animals do. That the planets would orbit their star realistically. That the distance from their star would effect the ecosystem of the planets. None of these things are true. The game that was released was a glorified cut down minecraft clone that stops being enjoyable very soon after starting when you realise the gameplay cycle consists of mining ores and fuels until your oxygen and atmosphere systems need refuelling, so you go and mine the things you need for that, and then you go and fly in your ship until you run out of fuel and repeat the whole process again. Aliens are just as boring, with none of them leaving their ships, and being represented by a single image when you interact with said ship, where they only act as a glorified shop. Essentially, this game could have been great, but it was a let down that was sold as something else, with some of the boxes of the game even having a multiplayer icon that was covered by a sticker. No man’s sky was sullied by one man’s lie, and in my eyes and the eyes of a good many other people, that will forever mark it as a disaster that can never be reclaimed.
Battlefield 1

This is more of a disappointment of what could have been. With a trailer released at the same time as the Call of Duty Infinite Warfare trailer, it seemed to be a huge break from the norm. In an era of modern military shooters, releasing a game set in World War One was a massive step, as no AAA games have put people into the shoes of those who took part in one of the greatest tragedies in human history. Sadly, when it was released, it turned out that a lot of this was set dressing, with the game playing like every other shooter on the market, featuring nothing mechanically that makes the game noticeably different from games set in world war 2 or in modern settings, which was missing a huge chance of making a truly unique experience. Instead, we ended up with another iterative instalment of the series. 
Rollercoaster tycoon world

The mighty have fallen. Rollercoaster Tycoon was a groundbreaking series that has won a lot of awards throughout its life for its innovative mechanics, changing how people approached management games. Even when they changed up the style of the game with the third instalment, it was still a great management game in a whole new way. The trouble started with the badly handled, fee to pay Rollercoaster tycoon 4 on mobile devices, and now with world they’ve shown that the talent behind the previous games has completely left the company. There is a clear lack of passion behind the title. The graphics are terribly done to a point where they distract, the way buildings interact with eachother is broken, the patching system is a mess, and the whole thing is filled with glitches. You constantly find yourself fighting with the interface to get anything done. This is a sad fate for a classic series. Happily, the minds behind the third instalment went on to create a TRUE successor, but that’s a story for another day (hint)
Mighty no. 9

After Capcom decided that they were going to quietly kill off the mega man franchise, many fans of the blue bomber were crying out for their favourite games to come back in some form. Keiji Inafune stepped up and said that he was going to bring the fans exactly what they wanted by making a new franchise with all of the aspects from his old games that the fans craved. He took it to Kickstarter, and it was crowd funded in mere minutes, ending up making the amount he wanted many MANY times over. The problems started when it became clear the project was changing from what was originally promised to the people who backed it. Then it started getting delayed many times, and more people got worried. The final straw was when Keiji Inafune attempted to crowdfund another TWO projects, a spinoff from the still not finished Mighty No. 9 called Red Ash, that was supposed to be a return to the mega man legends style of gameplay, as mighty no. 9 was supposed to be to classic mega man. People were nervous about this one, as he was asking for more money before his first project was complete, which isn’t really the done thing. Then it was revealed that Red Ash was already funded by an outside publisher, and that the backing on Kickstarter was to unlock stretch goals, many of which were things that people felt should be in the base game anyway, and most of which weren’t even revealed, moving to a lot of people to take back their money. Then the game was released, and it was amazingly sub par. Missing the mark of the original pitch completely, backers were given a game that played almost nothing like mega man, and that clearly didn’t show any benefit from the extra time spent developing it. 
And these are, in my opinion, the worst or most disappointing games of this year. Join me later when I will start the top ten BEST games of the year. 

Blind Collectables : Holding Endorphines Hostage?

Before I start this off I hasten to add that I am not saying blind boxes are bad. That would be amazingly hypocritical of me as I am addicted to the Pokemon Trading Card Game. This is simply me putting across a viewpoint I thought of for people to mull over. Please don’t kill me. 

Blind boxes, blind bags, booster packs, even random lots from places like eBay. As nerds, we love them. We can’t wait to grab massive armfuls of the things and then proceeding to bound home to free them from their cardboard/foil holding cell and release the beautiful contents. They are literally Schrodingers box of small plastic wonders. Before you open them they could be anything (within reason. You wouldn’t expect to open a TMNT mini figure blind box and find a live Komodo dragon. That would be a bit weird). 

When you open the box, there are three feelings you can get. You open the bag to feel happiness when you find a regular item you don’t have, you feel amazing when you find a special rare item you don’t have, but then there is the feeling of annoyance when you open the box and find something you already have, especially if it’s a rare variant and out of all the ones it could have been, it has to be the one you already have (and having pulled 4 Kyogre EX and 3 Groudon EX from Pokemon Primal Clash boosters, I know those feels).

The very reason that there are rarities in these boxes is for the purpose of making you have to buy more boxes than there are collectables, making sure you get the majority of common items quickly and then having to hunt down the rare ones. There are some companies that release boxes that are guaranteed to contain a full set, giving die hard collectors a way to ensure a whole set, but these are few and far between.

I mentioned a very scientific word in the title didn’t I? Yes, Endorphines are basically things in your brain that make you feel VERY good about something, for example, like pulling that 1/100 clear with glitter pony. There is a negative to this however, as not only can the rush be addictive, but it can be exploited. When you open a blind box you always hope for something good, and if you don’t get it you’re tempted to try again and again. You get the urge to buy more and more until you get something you really want, only then getting the positive endorphine feedback that you crave. This can take a long time, and also a large amount of money, sometimes costing multiple times more money than entire sets of regular figures or sets of living card games (card games with an entire set in a box) will cost.

You may be thinking that it sounds like gambling, and in many ways it’s very similar. Once in Japan, Bandai got into trouble when they did a blind figure Gundam promotion with Coca Cola, hiding small figures on the bottle caps, covered by a plastic shield. These figures gained such high values that the Japanese government considered the difference between the cost of the drink and the potential value of the item to be breaking their gambling rules, and forced them to make the domes clear, thereby making the figures much less valuable. 

Random packed games also have their own negative side too, with the rarer cards or figures tending to be more powerful than their common counterparts. This makes competitive play very challenging as you could have a very good collection, but someone who has paid more money for their collection will have a much more versatile and powerful library to choose from.  

So, the question were left with is, even knowing all of this, why do we still love them? Well this topic is much bigger than just me, and so I’m opening the floor to all of you. What do you think about the topic? Do you think they’re a waste of money, or does the endorphine Rush defeat any negatives you might think of? I hope you enjoyed reading this, and I look forward to hearing your discussions with eachother in the comments 🙂

– Dave

Dark Souls 3 Collectors Edition Contents Review

The third game in the renowned Dark Souls series released today in the parts of the world that aren’t Japan, and it’s just as hard as you’d expect it to be. I will be writing a review on the game itself after I’ve had enough time to get to grips with it’s systems and see if it’s another great game that From software has given us

But for now, were going to look at the big box that was given to me by the nice Mr. Postman.

The box itself is a major beast, showing a possible face for the unkindled one (the player character). It’s a very nice image, with the orange/green glow giving a sense of hope, tying into the theme of embers and fire that the dark souls games revolve around. What were really interested in lies within this cardboard tomb

1. The Art Book

 

Firstly we have the a4 hardback artbook which, as you can see, covers the whole trilogy. The book itself is separated into three sections, one for each game, and contains box art, area art, monsters and characters for each game. It lacks a lot of the text that the previous individual art book releases have had that explain why things were done the way they were, but as a collection of good artwork from the three games it’s still a very nice piece.

2. The Map and Patches

Continue reading

You should be watching Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

  
I tried to review the first episode. It didn’t happen. I tried to do a rundown of the series so far and again, it didn’t happen. Not for lack of trying, I went through many drafts, pages and pages of writing that just didn’t do it justice, so I’ve decided I’m not going to bother. All I’m going to do is give you a link to the opening and give you a message. 

Here’s the main theme, and here’s the message. 

Stan Lee has made a believable hero with the power over fortune, featuring some of the best actors and comedians British TV has ever made (yes the amount of comedians I spot each episode is amazing, and they play straight roles so well!). James Nesbitt is perfect, and my question to you isn’t whether you’re going to watch it, it’s why you haven’t started yet.

Warner Bros. Gives PC Gamers The Cold Shoulder over Mortal Kombat

blueboardNWarner Bros Interactive have had a bad time with PC games recently, what with the abysmal release condition of Arkham Knight, a game that was removed from the steam store for months before coming back, still in a broken state, and the the release of Mortal Kombat X which saw some people unable to even play the game, and others only getting parts of the game as it refused to download the whole thing due to a poorly integrated “play as you download” system.

Yesterday, it seems WB finally showed their thoughts on their PC owning player base when they released a trailer for the upcoming complete edition of the game, which also showed off the next pack of DLC, containing such cameo characters as leather face and the Xenomorph from Alien. The trailer advertised the release for Xbox One and Playstation 4, but notably absent was any mention of PC or steam. When asked about this, a representative from the company simply stated that the content would not be releasing for the PC platform. No reason was given for this decision, it was just done.

For WB to do this is a very low blow for a customer base that has paid for their games KNOWING that this game was being released with future content in mind, even to the point of dlc being offered as pre-order incentives before the first actual gameplay trailer for the thing was released. They cannot in good conscience say that they delivered everything that they promised, because from the start they sold Mortal Kombat X as a platform for more content to be added to in the future.

What do you think about this? Do you think that they have every right to throw in the towel after their bad history of launches, or do you think that the PC gamers deserve the same content as the console gamers, the content they have just as much of a right to? Leave a comment and tell me your thoughts

My Top Ten Games of 2015

2014 was a pretty lousy year for video games, with quality titles being scarce, and the rest of the releases being at best, uninteresting, and at worst, unplayable. Happily for all of us, 2015 came to the rescue with a release catalogue that has been referred to as the best in many years by people with many more followers and much more experience in the industry than I. 

Now that it has come to the end of the year, many of those same people have taken it upon themselves to create lists of video games from the mass of releases, and place them in an arbitrary order. If they can, then so can I! This is the list of my top ten games of 2015

10 : Heroes of the Storm

In a world being overwhelmed by hordes of MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games, it takes something special to be different, and while many newcomers try to appeal to the hardcore side of the audience by adding more complexities, Blizard decided to go a different way. Heroes of the storm tries it’s best to stand out by being a much more chaotic experience. Getting rid of items and shops and adding map gimmicks and mini objectives for teams to go for, such as fighting over control points on a map to supercharge a hero or collect coins for a pirate captain so that he will fire his cannons on your opponents. HoTS manages to be a MOBA that anyone can pick up and play and most importantly be able to understand quite quickly without making it too simplistic. 

9 :  Warhammer – The End Times – Vermintide 

Imagine a four player co-op game in the vein of Left 4 dead, and set it in the end times era of the warhammer fantasy setting. Everything that Left 4 Dead did well, Vermintide did better. Each of the five selectable characters is unique and plays very differently, from the sturdy tank-like warrior to the nimble fast firing rogue and even the magic hurling spellcaster, each one is unique as well as having multiple weapon sets that change up how they play even more. Combine that with a loot drop system and you have a very customizable experience where most players are bound to find a combination of class and equipment that will play exactly the way they want to. 

8 : Cities Skylines

For anyone let down by the last Sim City game and looking for a deep city management sim, Paradox has got you covered. The number of tools available to you in this game are astounding, and there is very little you cannot tweak if you are willing to get in deep with the mechanics. Districts of your city can be marked out to have their own unique edicts and taxes, public transportation and supply routes can be played with to the most minute detail, and the game has been so heavily modded that if there’s something that you can’t do, change, or build in the base game, there’s more than likely a mod out there for it to give you the ability to do just what you think the game is lacking. 

7 : Tales from the Borderlands

When I first heard that Telltale was making an adventure game out of the Borderlands franchise, I was very sceptical. Borderlands is a series all about it’s gameplay and enormous amount of guns. The storyline is there but it’s never pushed too hard, only ever seeming to matter to give you a reason to go and shoot things, and give characters like Tiny Tina a reason to exist. This game blew me away as the storyline was not only good, it was engrossing, and I found myself caring about the characters like I never had before in a borderlands game. The main series of Borderlands may give you a fun world to shoot things in, but Tales from the Borderlands takes that world and makes it feel alive. Plus it contains an entire finger gun fight QTE, which means it automatically gets a place in the top 10.

6 : Kerbal Space Program 

This game is a perfect toy box for anyone who has ever dreamed of building a rocket and sending it flying into outer space. You start with an empty hangar and access to all the pieces you could want. It’s then your job to put those pieces together to create a rocket ship that you can take to the moon and beyond … Or, which is more likely, a ship that will explode on the launch pad before it even gets a chance to go anywhere. It’s a game about trial and error. Every explosion is a lesson learned, and after many many failed attempts, you will finally find that one build that works and finally get to the moon, you will feel such a mass of triumph. This game is for everyone who likes to experiment and put things together to see what works, and there’s even a career mode for people who want to take it further.

5 : Splatoon

Shooter games nowadays all seem to be cut from the same cloth. Shoot at people before they shoot at you, shoot at people to stop them getting the thing, a lot of shooting people. You may argue that this is what the shooter genre is about, but Splatoon dares to turn the genre on it’s head. Splatoon gives you control of a half kid/ half squid creature, armed with a large array of ink shooters, and tasks you not with shooting your opponents as much as covering the entire map with your teams ink colour. This twist allows a lot of different types of tools for you to use, from ink cannons and quil pens to paint brushes and paint rollers. Splatoon is a unique take on an old genre that still manages to innovate. 

4 : The Witcher 3

I have to admit I was late to the party with this one, but I’m so very glad I did. There is a massive world to explore with a lot of side quests to discover, secrets to find, towns to liberate from monsters, and even more. None of this is unique to the Witcher 3, and yet it manages to bring them all together into an amazing package that seems to do everything brilliantly. The stories are believable and the characters are well fleshed out. There is even a playable card game with its own quest line. Put simply, if you like action RPGs, this game should definitely be on your radar.

3 : Fallout 4

While a step back in rpg mechanics from the predecessor, Fallout 4 still manages to be a breathtaking game. The gunplay has been improved dramatically from 3 and new Vegas, and the new crafting systems allow you to outfit your character with outfits and weapons tailor made to your exact specifications. This is also the first game in the series to drastically change power armour, changing it from a late game powerhouse into almost a vehicle that increases your speed, armour, and power, but which needs a resource to function, which once used up, then becomes slow and cumbersome, almost more of a hindrance than a help. Fallout 4 is definitely not a perfect game, but I find myself having a lot of fun with it.

2 : Bloodborne

I am a fan of the souls games, despite being terrible at them. I also am a great fan of the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft. Imagine my delight when I discover the team behind dark souls are working on a game that mixes the gameplay and storytelling of their past games with a dark Victorian aesthetic which borrows heavily from the Cthulhu mythos. Bloodborne also takes a step away from previous games in the series by removing emphasis on blocking, instead increasing the speed of combat and focusing more on motion, out manoeuvring your opponents and getting your hits in at just the right time. There are also a lot less weapons to choose from, with each varying drastically in how they are used, from the speed and grace of the blades of mercy, to the blunt power of the kirkhammer. The storyline is one of the best in series history as well, being spread around in item descriptions, in the environment, and very rarely, told to you. It takes a while to figure it all out but when you do manage to put it together it’s amazing. Definitely worth the difficulty. 

1 : Life is Strange 

This will probably be the most controversial placement on this list, but this game affected me more than any game ever has. It starts as a story of a girl who gains the power to rewind time, using rediculous dialogue that nobody in there right mind would ever use, but it quickly changes to become an epic adventure where every single choice you have to make has immense impact on the world around you and the people that inhabit it. This game covers some very deep subject matter, such as rape, drugs, and the death of a loved one, and it handles them in the most mature way I have ever seen a video game handle anything. Sadly, I can’t say much about the story without spoiling things, but know that if you enjoy games that focus on telling a story, and you’re okay with that story punching you squarely in the feels over and over again, then Life is Strange is one game you will not want to miss.