Salad In A Sticky Spot

I have a difficult choice to make right now.

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Rockstar announced the upcoming release dates of GTA V on PC and PS4/Xbone. I’m tempted, even though I already have it on the Xbox 360.

I want to be able to play GTA V Online with friends (although I’ll have to find some of them on GTA V in the meantime as well!). But, do I wait until Jan 2015 for the PC version or take the plunge and buy a PS4?

I’ve been seriously looking at getting a PS4 with CakeBoxFox. There’s some games coming up that we both fancy; and it would be a replacement for our aging Xbox 360 that is rapidly nearing the end of its natural life.

Thing is, there’s still not enough games on the PS4 to get us running out to the shops to buy one. Maybe there eventually will be; perhaps GTA V could be that watershed.

Extra problematic is that I’ll need a new PC to be able to run GTA V. My current one’s taken a beating for far too long and needs a replacement if I want to do some serious gaming on it.

I react a little like this to my PC right now
I react a little like this to my PC right now

So, either way it’s going to be expensive – but which would be the best? Its the decision a lot of gamers are going through right now. I really don’t know personally, so comment and tell me what you think!

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

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Digital Salad Answers

A slightly different blog today, following up from this one over at Healing The Masses. I really enjoy reading J3w3l’s blogs, so reading her answers to the questions (originally from this post) was genuinely really interesting. So, with that in mind I thought I’d give them a go as well!

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  • When did you start playing video games?

Back in 1997 I think was the first time I played a video game – the same year I got an original PlayStation for Christmas.

  • What is the first game you remember playing?

The first video game I remember was one of two games that came with the PlayStation in a bundle. There was a generic racing game (some things never change!) and Disney’s Hercules. I am ashamed to admit that that is the first game I remember playing, and it was pretty decent. Here’s a play through of it which I was amazed to find on youtube:

  • PC or Console

I’ve got to admit to being a PC kinda guy. I recently blogged about my Xbox 360 turning into an elaborate DVD player, for the lack of much gaming going on on it. I still appreciate having a console, but I’ll always lean towards the PC.

  • XBox, PlayStation, or Wii? 

I think the Wii is a fantastic invention in the gaming world, one of the best things to have hit it in a long long time. So in that way, I guess Wii. The one I’d buy if money wasn’t an option? A Playstation!

  • What’s the best game you’ve ever played? 

I’m going to have to pick Mount & Blade Warband for that one. It’s nothing special in many ways, but for the simple replayability and second-to-none modding community its earned every minute of my hundreds of hours of gameplay over the years. It’s my favourite all time game.

  • What’s the worst game you’ve ever played? 

London Racer.

No doubt about it, the worst game I have ever had the misfortune to play.

I bought it on the original PlayStation with my pocket money as a kid, and well, I would’ve got more pleasure from flushing it down the loo.

The most appalling game ever. If you want to see why see this very helpful review!

  • Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.

Nothing special here, I’m going to say Watch Dogs most of all. I pick Watch Dogs because despite the huge furore it kicked up with its hype-train and failure to live up to that hype-train I wanted to give it a go, I gave it a chance and it just spat on me for trying.

Watch Dogs, I really tried to like you, but you were just crap.

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  • Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.

Back in the day Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising was pretty revolutionary. There was a loyal group of fans that played it, the first ever open world modern battle scenario game, but eventually it just wasn’t mainstream enough and the developer went bust.

Definitely a sad loss, as that means that the fantastic multiplayer is now defunct. I really miss Joint Ops, a modern military game that could still rival any of the big hitters in that category today. It was visionary, ahead of its time, but sadly overlooked on the whole.

  • What are your favourite game genres?

Favourite genre these days would probably be nothing in particular, but certainly including open world. I’ve been spoilt I guess, I’ve come to expect a big and diverse game world and anything short of that just seems half-baked.

I’ve lost the MMO bug though, with are about as thorough as an open world gets, so I’m a complicated one for likes and dislikes!

  • Who is your favourite game protagonist?

I’d probably say Johnny Klebitz from the GTA IV Lost and the Damned DLC. A strange choice, and I don’t even know myself why I grew to like Johnny so much.

*spoiler*

That said, when Trevor ruthlessly murders Johnny in the first moments of meeting him in GTA V, I was shocked. So shocked that he killed off a character I had grown to like over many hours before that I still can’t bring myself to forgive Trevor. It’s the main reason I don’t like Trevor as a character in GTA V. I guess I don’t forgive easily! That reaction made me realise, though, that Johnny was probably one of my favourite video game protagonists despite his flaws.

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  • Describe your perfect video game.

My perfect video game would probably be a GTA V meets an RPG. Design your character, give them stats you want. More focus on buying and upgrading equipment, as well as levelling up, and then buying a property/stuff and making it look how you want.

I know GTA Online does a lot of that, and I want to try it for those features, but I want those in a singleplayer game – ‘cus I’m anti-social like that!

  • What video game character do have you have a crush on?

Thats a really difficult one. Honestly, I wouldn’t like to say. I think there’s such a shocking lack of female characters in video games full stop that it’s a bit ingenuous to name a favourite of the few there are. We need more!

  • What game has the best music? 

Europa Universalis 2 has a soundtrack that sticks with me. It’s purely classical music, so be warned. But as far as soundtracks go it’s perfectly chosen and well placed.

  • Most memorable moment in a game:

Loads of moments stick with me from all sorts of video games.

Probably the most memorable of all is the end sequence of Red Dead Redemption where John goes down fighting. The character you’ve played with for hours and grown close to sacrificing himself for what he believes in.

  • Scariest moment in a game:

The scariest moment time and time again in a video game has to come from Mount & Blade: Warband Napoleonic DLC. With how long it takes to reload, you get very drawn into the process of ducking, reloading and firing. You get in the zone.

I have jumped off my seat when I am going through that, fighting as best I can, when I have spontaneously exploded in the impact of a cannon ball without warning. That is genuinely terrifying when you don’t expect it.

I also hate games where you’re on your own against the world – FarCry series style. I like to have a companion along for the ride!

I don’t play many scary games if you couldn’t tell!

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  • Most heart-wrenching moment in a game?

The most heart-wrenching moment in a video game I have ever played is a small one really.

Back when it was released I thoroughly enjoyed playing through Red Dead Redemption. I completed it over a couple of months and grew very fond of my lovely dark brown horse. He lasted until very near the end when he get caught in the crossfire of one of the final shootouts.

I was genuinely devastated. I’d really built up a friendship with my horse; so well done Rockstar on tugging on my heartstrings once again.

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  • What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?

I like to to keep and eye on loads of websites and blogs. I like to dip into them all, so I couldn’t list them all!

Special favourites are those that talk about other things as well as gaming, like my good friend Murf. It’s nice to remember that gaming is a part of us as humans, it’s not the only thing that defines us!

  • What’s the last game you finished? 

Grand Theft Auto 5. A fantastic game, although I don’t think you ever fully finish it I finished the story a few months back.

  • What future releases are you most excited about? 

I’m quite excited about Assassins Creed Unity and The Order: 1886 on the next generation consoles. I don’t have one, but these’ll be the first games that truly tempt me to buy one.

Most anticipated game of the future overall though is Mount & Blade: Bannerlord. No scheduled release date yet, but I’m a big fan of the previous installments, so I’ve got my hopes set high for the next outing.

  • Do you identify as a gamer?

Not these days, no. Until recently I definitely would have done, but somewhere along the line I think I’ve fallen out of the gaming loop. Maybe I’ll catch the bug again sometimes soon, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying my old favourites in the mean time.

  • Why do you play video games? 

I play video games for fun. I watched the Lord Of The Rings films as a kid and I wanted to be in that world (hey, I was a real geek). Video games gave me the best way of being a part of that world, living my dreams and enjoying them. That’s what video game mean to me.

So that’s it, I hope you enjoyed my answers!

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Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

 

Digital Salad Gaming Update

I’m back after a bit of a hiatus and back to updating on what’s been going on gaming-wise in the life of Digital Salad. Last time I blogged about gaming I was talking about how I just couldn’t get on with ESO; just like many other gamers. The free 30 days expired a couple of days ago and I certainly didn’t purchase any more game time – in total I used about 6 hours of those 30 days (all within the first 2 days). So here’s what else I’ve been playing in the meantime.

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Aside from being a spectacular GIF of a Xbox One exploding, it also represents where I’m at with console gaming these days. I’ve only used my Xbox 360 console to play DVDs in the past 30 days. It has essentially turned in to a fancy DVD player for me and I think that comes down to the games.

With some exceptions, not many console games really push my buttons. They’re all re-hashes of previous games or just plain old broken. I saw the inevitable announcement of Assassin’s Creed Rogue this week – the franchise’s last hurrah on the older generation – and sighed from the resignation that Rogue is just Assassin’s Creed IV meets III with no new features as far as I could tell. I had a feeling it wouldn’t be groundbreaking, but that just smacks of laziness from Ubisoft.

There’s been one console game that I have kept dabbling in though, and that’s GTA V. I still think that GTA IV’s DLCs were better games that GTA V, but for having fun the fifth installment is much better.

In particular the awesome guys at the YouTube channel Achievement Hunter have got me back into GTA V with their fantastic ‘Let’s Play’ videos. I love the videos they make – full of just having fun. Whilst Gavin in particular irritates the other guys with his incompetence at the game they bring him along anyway for the fun, and that symbolises the best parts of why I like their videos. Give them a watch and you’ll be itching to play GTA V.

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The only problem with the Achievement Hunter videos is that it really makes me want to play GTA V Online. However, at the risk of sounding like a sad and lonely Digital Salad, I have no friends to play it with – so it could never be as awesome as the fun they have.

The other gaming I’ve been up to has been Pokemon.

CakeBoxFox is a life-long Pokemon fan, but I’ve never actually played one. I’m from the generation that’s had pokemon all the way, from the very original GameBoys onwards. Damn I sound retro.

Nearly everyone I knew and know has played a Pokemon game of some sort, but not me. I had a deprived childhood it seems! So CakeBoxFox suggested I give one a go. We picked up Pokemon X and Y for the 3DS and got gaming.

The new generation of Nintendo handheld console – the 3DS is definitely the best place for me to start my Pokemon adventures – where I can trade and keep in touch with CakeBoxFox over the internet whilst we adventure side by side. I’ve been honestly loving it.

2 gym leaders in I’ve got about 50% of my team pretty much sorted. I started with the Grass starter – Chespin – who has been a great trooper so far. I picked up a Squirtle courtesy of the Professor and I’m sticking with a Litleo as my fire pokemon main because of how insanely cute he is (although later on he probably will be replaced sadly). We’ll see what else I pick up, but I’m quite enjoying having a Ghastly in the team for now.

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I’m getting there with learning what types are good and bad against others, but it’s a big task. I’m loving the adventure so far, but most of all the best bit about Pokemon is the ability to drop in and out of it – playing for just a minute or two a day is do-able! I like a game that does that.

One other gaming discovery I’ve made is the Full Invasion 2 mod for Mount & Blade Warband; a game I’ve gushed about many times before!

Full Invasion 2 is an online only mod that pits you cooperatively against increasingly difficult waves of enemies and bosses. It’s classic zombie/bot survival. The real magic to it is the insane amount of options you have for who to play as. I have played as the French Army of the Revolution against the Soviet Red Army. In the end, Stalin was a boss just too powerful for us even with our looted machine guns.

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And there’s me defending Helms Deep as an archer of Gondor against the hordes of Mordor. In the end Sauron saw us off, although we did kill all the Nazgul and Mumakil with him – no mean feat!

Honestly, I think Full Invasion 2 is not only the best mod I have ever come across but it would be a respectable game in its own right. I recommend anyone with Mount & Blade Warband or even thinking of picking it up to give Full Invasion 2 a go, it’ll be worth it.

That’s it for now, I’m planning a few more posts in the next couple of days so stay tuned!

 

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Digital Salad: Watching Watch_Dogs

Watch Dogs is the latest big release and I decided to pick it up and give it a go. I recently blogged that I’m beginning to realise that I’m something of a classic gamer nowadays; so I wanted Watch Dogs to be, perhaps my last, foray in to cutting edge new games. I wanted to see if it wowed me, to see what I thought of the much lauded new franchise that looks set to stay.

So, here’s the Digital Salad review of Watch Dogs on the Xbox 360; although it is available on all other consoles!

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Ubisoft’s latest offering, Watch Dogs, has been out for a month or so and much has been written about it’s highs and lows. IGN reviewed the game and gave it 8.4 out of 10, which seems a fairly solid score.

I’ve been playing around with Watch Dogs for a while since I picked it up, completing a few missions but mostly just exploring the open world – and more often than not getting myself killed or horrendously stuck. Just open world things!

The first that strikes me, and seems to have struck nearly every player, is the absolutely appalling driving in Watch Dogs. Cars are a big part of the game, they’re the only reasonable way to get around the large map quickly, and you get access to all sorts of different vehicles over time. Its something they needed to get right, but got oh so very wrong.

Granted, Ubisoft Montreal haven’t ever really made a game with driving in before. Given that though, they should honestly have got some support with the driving mechanics because they are so awful it really hurts the overall gameplay and enjoyment. It really is that bad, and is the main reason why IGN marked it down in their review.

Not including shooting whilst driving as a mechanic is another part of the poor overall driving experience, and leads to far more frustrations than it should. I’m right behind the mark I’m tasked with taking down but I can’t shoot them off the road, collision damage is limited and there’s no hacking opportunities nearby – you just have to wait for them to crash themselves in that situation!

Driving is awful in Watch Dogs
Driving is awful in Watch Dogs

Talking of the screenshot above, the graphics look awful on the older generation of consoles. A lot of current generation console gamers took to the internet to vent their frustrations, many accusing Ubisoft of purposefully degrading current generation graphics to sell more next generation copies.

Honestly, I don’t suspect such an underhanded plan from Ubisoft, but it does feel a little bit like they didn’t really try enough with the current generation copy. That’s fair enough, its now a dying platform, but it still feels a little sad that they didn’t both to provide for so many gamers.

The story was touted as a ground breaking aspect of Watch Dogs, playing a hacker who can control the world around himself and use it to his advantage against the dystopian politicians and bureaucrats who use it to – to be honest, generally stop crime. CTOS, the government’s anti-crime system that hacker and protagonist Aiden Pearce breaks into and uses to his advantage, isn’t really all that far fetched. I think Ubisoft wanted that to be some sort of social statement, but throughout the whole game the only person who really is doing bad with it is the protagonist Aiden Pearce.

The story is not all that great to be honest, Aiden isn’t likeable in the slightest and seems like a walking cliche. Not only that but he makes himself into judge, jury and executioner in what is a very grey world of ethics.

CTOS servers in game
CTOS servers in game

The hacking, one of the most core mechanics of the game, is pretty boring. It’s not all that different from the game world, touted as open and dynamic – but, within an hour I was seeing the same info snippets pop up for different random civilians. It doesn’t wow me, the world is just too empty and the hacking too shallow. All you can really do is open some doors, raise some barriers and steal some details. Neither element is all that groundbreaking.

All in all, Watch Dogs feels far too much like a modern Assassins Creed knock-off. Many of the aspects of Watch Dogs, produced in the very same studio as all the Assassins Creeds, resemble those in its Assassin counterpart. Honestly, though, Watch Dogs would have benefitted from taking on a few more of the elements from its successful cousin. The Chicago of Watch Dogs is ready made for the parkour of Assassins Creed, but Aiden Pearce is condemned to the ground or as high as ladders can take him. I really really wished parkour had been carried across to Watch Dogs.

It was almost inevitable that I was going to end up mentioning Assassins Creed in this review, and isn’t entirely fair to compare the newborn Watch Dogs franchise with its older, mega-successful, relation. Watch Dogs is a good game, just nowhere near good enough to justify the intense hype surrounding it before release.

I have had fun with Watch Dogs, but there’s a nagging disappointment for the the expectations it didn’t live up to. Without the hype upping my expectations before I bought the game, that wouldn’t be there and I would just be content playing through what is a good, solid game. I think that’s perhaps the biggest lesson the gaming industry needs to learn right now, hype is not necessarily good.

All in all, Watch Dogs gets 3 out of 5 from Digital Salad. Its disappointing in many ways compared to the hype, but remains a good game that is worth a good chunk of your time.

 

Watch Dogs

 

 Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Digital Salad Gaming Update

Since my last post, explaining why I decided to uninstall Wargame: Red Dragon despite and perhaps even slightly because I had been spending hours on it fruitlessly, I have been busy! So I am long overdue an update to the followers of all things Digital Salad.

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Guild Wars 2

The first thing I need to update is Guild Wars 2. I had promised myself that the patch on May 20th would be make or break. I’ve hardly touched the game since I hit level 80 on my final alt, I’ve had no drive to play it at all.

After the end of the Living Story there hasn’t been much content released at all, most likely because the developers at Arena Net have been focusing on their big release in China. Its a big market that they want to make a big splash in, that’s perfectly understandable. That said, it almost feels as if they’d like to replace the original player base with the new Chinese market.

Besides the lack of new content, the second World Versus World tournament season is nearing its end. In the EU, my server, Seafarer’s Rest has won with a little over a week left to go. There’s no way that any other server can match the straight winning score that Seafarer’s has managed to chalk up.

Battles in EOTM can occasionally surprise you
Even EOTM has grown dull now

The thing is, this season has been incredibly dull. I loved playing last season and had some fantastic experiences despite our abysmal performance that time around. This time, its been more of a repetitive zerg train for weeks and weeks, and that’s just not dragged me back into the game the way I thought it would. I’ll probably log back in for the achievement chest on May 30th at the end of the season, and that’ll be it.

The latest patch to GW2, a re-release of the Queen’s Gauntlet and Zephyr Sanctum are both releases I did pretty much to death the first time round. Sadly, as well, many of the best aspects of these releases the first time round have been viciously nerfed, so much so that the potentially heaving Queen’s Gauntlet – an experience I loved first time round – is already pretty much deserted for most players most of the time.

Frankly, I will stand by the promise I made to myself a few weeks ago. This is make or break time for GW2, and its looking like it’ll be coming off my computer sometime in the near future. I will log in on May 30th for the WvW season chest, and that will be the day I make the decision. Will GW2 win me back? It will definitely be difficult to leave my Salads behind.

Hearthstone

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Hearthstone is still creating a bit of a buzz, so I thought I would check it out and see what the fuss was all about.

I downloaded and installed the game (surprisingly fast actually) and instantly saw why so many have fallen for the game so much. It is a really beautifully made game with a lot of care and attention going into its design. Add to that the, these days pretty novel, card style of play and you have a real recipe for success from Blizzard.

I love the game, but at the same time I’ve been really struggling with it. I know its just me, but I can’t get a deck to work on any of the professions. I’ve had some invaluable help from friends with building my deck, but I’m still not mastering what I’m finding a pretty steep learning curve of how I actually need to play that deck.

I can’t fault the game for that for one second; it is fantastic and many players probably get into far easier than I do. It’s just denting my enthusiasm for it a little. I also feel that the decks aren’t quite as flexible as I would like, with a little more viable build variety being a definitely area that I would like to see Blizzard work on. Otherwise, Hearthstone is definitely a really great game, I’d probably say one of the best of 2014 so far, and amazingly free to play!

Diablo 3

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Recently, fantastic flatmate CakeBoxFox was bought a copy of Diablo 3 for the Xbox 360 and we’ve been playing it co-op as a duo a fair amount for the past week or so.

We are definitely a bit behind the times with Diablo 3 but we had been prevaricating over whether to buy it or not for a while. Being bought it was the perfect kick start we needed; and we’ve been loving it!

I cannot recommend Diablo 3 enough. I’ve been playing as a very aggressive style Monk, with Fox supporting me with a back line minion master Witch Doctor. Together we’re a pretty unstoppable force – so far at least! I definitely enjoy the teleporting mayhem that ensues in a fight as a Monk, and I know that Fox is enjoying the Witch Doctor very much as well. Diablo 3 definitely seems to cater for all profession preferences and play styles.

Most of all, besides the fantastic sofa co-op, something so sadly lacking from so many modern video games, Diablo 3 is the perfect RPG for both Fox and I. The setting is good, with a nicely rendered top down view, but most of all its the mobs that make Diablo 3 a winner for me. Diablo 3 has good bosses that challenge you as well as huge mobs to make the Dynasty Warriors series proud; a perfect balance which is incredibly satisfying when you triumph over everything a dungeon throws at you!

A screenshot from the PC version of Diablo 3. Fights often get this crazy, and they are amazing fun when they do.
A screenshot from the PC version of Diablo 3. Fights often get this crazy, and they are amazing fun when they do.

The story of Diablo 3 is nothing special, but well done. Its enough to carry the game, and its the gameplay which makes it really shine out – and that’s the main reason I recommend it so highly.

DEFCON

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Sorry for the capitals, but that’s how the game is spelt and illustrates a simplistic brutality at the very heart of this classic indie gaming offering.

I’ve had DEFCON for quite a few years, but only recently got back in to it. The game is essentially the screenshot above. You are randomly assigned a  zone on a stylish 1980s wargaming style world map, asked to place your nuclear silos and anti-missile batteries – then you wait as the clock ticks down to nuclear armageddon.

DEFCON is amazing, not only as a game but as a social statement. You can honestly have great fun, as strange as that may seem, triumphing over all in the nuclear exchange that inevitable happens in every DEFCON match – a brutally short 5 minutes or so usually. The gameplay is fast, simple and effective – all of which feed in to its brilliance.

You sit there, potentially as the victor, having killed billions around the world. It doesn’t matter though the game shouts to you; you killed more of the enemy than your people!

Then it shows you the statistics, and makes you sit and look at the destroyed cities of your homeland. Moscow may well be leveled, but London and Washington are too. Your people are dead, while you sit comfortably in your Cold War bunker directing it all on your retro computer monitor. This is how real nuclear war plays out, on a screen in a bunker somewhere detached from the reality of what “1 million dead in Moscow” means.

As far as social statements go, and political ones too, I don’t think they come stronger in video gaming format than DEFCON. It doesn’t ram any message down your throat – it just shows you exactly what nuclear warfare is in stark brilliance.

There are no winners in nuclear war as they like to say, and you really realise how much that is true with DEFCON. The game feels brutal, and that’s because it is. That’s it main theme, clinical brutality – exactly what nuclear warfare is. It feels wrong, it feels horrible and that is the really important message that DEFCON makes.

Play DEFCON, I really do recommend it. Not only is it a really well made game, but for the important message it makes it is worth the download (the trial version you can get for free off their website is essentially the full version, so just get that for free!).

Overall

Quite a long post updating you on what I’ve been up to gaming-wise recently there, from the ups of DEFCON and Diablo and the downs of GW2 and Wargame: Red Dragon. All sorts of other exciting things have been going on as well which would be far too much to include here, so I hope to update you on other happenings soon!

 

 

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Digital Salad: Dynasty Warriors 8

I recently bought a copy of the latest Dynasty Warriors, released about a year ago. CakeBoxFox and I have been fans of the Warriors series for ages now, and love it most of all for its sit on the sofa co-op. Getting the latest outing, number 8, was a given for us. If you’ve never played a Warriors game before, give this a read and it’ll hopefully give you an idea of the game – if you are familiar it might help explain whether its worth pushing the boat out to buy the latest version.

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Dynasty Warriors is something really special in the world of gaming for me.

Healing The Masses did a great post this week talking about the most influential games to her. On my list, the Warriors series would feature very high.

Dynasty Warriors primarily is about the co-op. It’s a shadow of itself when you play it on your own, so grab a friend and sit on the sofa for a roller-coaster ride. You will argue, but then you’ll also triumph against hordes of enemies fighting back to back – and there’s no victory better than that!

That’s what Dynasty Warriors is though, and to be brutally honest there hasn’t been much to differentiate previous version from one another. There was Dynasty Warriors, there was Dynasty Warriors Empires, there was Dynasty Warriors Xtreme Legends (bet they thought that sounded cool). Then there was Samurai Warriors, Samurai Warriors Empires, Samurai Warriors Xtreme Legends and not forgetting, Orochi Warriors.

Personally, I’ve always liked Samurai Warriors the best. Orochi is good fun, a fantasy blend of Samurai and Dynasty Warriors together, but my personal choice has always been the Samurai.

Fuma - Saumrai Warriors poster boy and an incredibly frustrating enemy to fight.
Fuma – Saumrai Warriors poster boy and an incredibly frustrating enemy to fight.

Honestly, I think I’m perhaps not dissimilar to the hordes of people who buy every installment of COD one after another, knowing that there’s very little change between each one. My reasons are definitely similar; I enjoy the formula and I’m hungry for more maps and different settings for that same formula. So, I really wouldn’t recommend buying more than one or two different Warriors games unless you seriously like them.

What’s not to like about that formula though? Charging into hordes of enemies and carving through them with ruthless attacks and sometimes absolutely beautiful special attacks. It’s great fun, especially if you’re playing with a friend and do your special ‘Musou’ attacks together – which does a special super attack. They are fantastic fun to pull off and look amazing.

Dynasty Warriors 8 promised to be something special and new though – so is it?

A character using a harp as a weapon. Just Dynasty Warriors things.
A character using a harp as a weapon. Just Dynasty Warriors things. (borrowed picture)

Basically no, to cut it off in its prime.

They really did hype up the new features of DW8, but I can see the ghosts of Warriors past running strong through it. That’s not a bad thing at all, and it remains a very good outing for the series. The thing is though, its not all that special as far as the series goes – none of them are individually special; aside from perhaps the new direction the original Orochi went in. It’s the overall picture that matters.

DW8 has a solid story if you are interested, but its the same old for me and yet I still somehow don’t care. The only thing that gets on my nerves about it at all is that the combat seems to have been slowed down overall. I loved the hyper-fast combat of previous Warriors games, but they seem to have toned back the speed dial on DW8, which is a real shame. That could just be the system struggling though.

I have DW8 on the Xbox 360, and with the graphical updates of this version the game noticeably lags out at any moment when you get into a big fight. That’s just when you don’t it to lag, and it gets really irritating. That’s just the older generation of consoles struggling under the burden of so much going on, so I don’t particularly blame Koei for that. Its just such a shame that the technology hampers the impact of DW8 a little.

That said, if you’ve never played a Warriors game, I would really recommend picking up a copy. Grab a friend and play it co-op, the game only shines when you’re sitting next to your comrade in arms – and that’s why I love Koei for sticking with sofa co-op. Warriors games are the king of sofa co-op.

Creepy stock picture of co-op gaming with friends
Creepy stock picture of co-op gaming – Dynasty Warriors 8 is co-op gold

It’s a shame they didn’t put DW8 on the next generation consoles, because I’m sure it would have shined there. That said, Koei have decided to go PlayStation exclusive with their next games, which will be on both the next generation and older. Yet another reason why the PS4 gets the Digital Salad vote in the next generation console face off!

 

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Digital Salad Returns!

It feels like its been ages since I last blogged about gaming, so a return is long overdue! I’ve been playing various different games, although my GW2 playtime has pretty much stopped entirely even with the climax of the Living Story and a whole host of changes to the gameplay. So this blog will be a bit of a round up about my thoughts on what I have, and haven’t, been playing recently.

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GW2 news!

First off, the Living Story has finished its first season. Scarlet is dead (to which the forums erupted in *ding dong the witch is dead* style joy), and all is hunky dory in the life of our motley gang of heroes. Well, us the players have done most of the hero-ing for them over the year – but sharing the glory isn’t a bad thing!

I must confess though that I wasn’t in the least bit interested. I promised myself that I would keep giving the Living Story a go, through each release, until the end of the Scarlet story ark. I couldn’t even manage that. I logged in the Escape From Lion’s Arch and really tried to give it a go, but between horrendous lag and angry commanders yelling at everyone, I gave up after about 3 attempts. It just wasn’t fun. Scarlet’s death was just an extension of that really.

The only bit I was mildly interested in was the video they had upon killing Scarlet, which they’ve since released:

Despite Scarlet’s death it seems that she succeeded in waking up a dragon. Guess that’s the scene set for Season 2 of the Living Story whenever that comes around. I will almost certainly not take part in that season judging from the nose-dive my GW2 play has taken recently. More interesting is wondering whether anybody will be around for Season 2. The GW2 forums have become noticeably quiet, as has it’s blogsphere and reddit channel. I’m beginning to think that the GW2 playerbase is just dying back to leave just the hardcore fans that will persist forever.

There’s a lot of big gameplay changes coming up in a week or so, including trait changes and wardrobe changes, that will make quite big differences to the overall game. The thing is, I really don’t care anymore – I’ve finished the game I realise, and that’s something you should never be able to say about an MMO.

Assassins Creed News!

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The latest Assassin’s Creed has just been announced – Assassin’s Creed Unity, the 5th installment in the series. Very little is known so far other than it is to be set in Revolutionary France.

Revolutionary France isn’t a bad choice of setting at all. It’s brings in a huge potential for making the most of the parkour system in 18th century Paris, as well as potential for an actually interesting story.

That’s the funny thing about Assassin’s Creed for me, they were great games set in interesting historical periods that were ruined by the Assassin’s Creed – the horribly cliched story of the Assassins Vs the Templars that never fitted in to any of the settings other than AC1. That was the one downside of AC4, a beautiful and exciting setting with an abysmal story. Unity should certainly have a beautiful and exciting setting, and there’s potential for them to have a decent story – I hope Ubisoft make the most of that chance, but I’m not holding my breath.

The word is that Connor, of AC3 fame, might well pop up in Unity. I definitely hope they don’t bring him back – without a doubt the worst of the Assassins so far. Other than that, I can see the potential for huge battle scenes of the Revolutionary Wars, which they could really make something more of than the largely window-dressing battles in AC3.

I’ll be keeping an eye on more AC news though, along with news of the studio’s other upcoming release, Watch Dogs, which I’m tentatively looking forward to.

Dragon Age 2!

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One of the games I’ve been playing recently is Dragon Age 2. I’ve never played a Dragon Age before – for some reason I had an idea in my head that they were scary hardcore RPGs. CakeBoxFox had played DA1 and really enjoyed it, and with exciting news coming out about the latest DA (Dragon Age Inquisition) I thought I would give DA2 a go.

I’m glad I did!

DA2 is by no means the scary hardcore RPG I thought it would be, and I would recommend it to any gamer – even those who haven’t played an RPG before. Not that its perfect in the slightest, with appalling voice acting and a very limited world to name but two glaring problems. Somehow though, despite the flaws, I find myself really enjoying DA2. I’m invested in the characters, as badly as they are voiced, and I’m enjoying the story line as well.

I’ve been really enjoying using my personal Hawke (a berserker style warrior), his sister Bethany (healing/elemental mage), outcast Elf Merrill (buff/damage mage) and dwarf merchant Varrick (archer). I will swap Varrick out for somebody melee when I get round to meeting them (probably a choice between Fenris the elf warrior or pirate dagger rogue Isabella – I’m thinking Isabela at the moment).

Its very easy to focus on the flaws of DA2, but for a price of around £5 these days you really can’t go wrong with DA2. The combat is definitely good fun, and well polished. A Digital Salad seal of approval.

Wargame: Red Dragon!

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I’ve also been playing Wargame: Red Dragon (WRD). It’s not technically out quite yet (although should be soon), but I pre-ordered it and as part of the pre-order you get access to the multiplayer beta.

The multiplayer’s limited to a few maps, and no naval warfare (the big addition to RD compared to previous Wargame installments) but all the many factions are involved with all of their units.

I’ve been a big fan of strategy games since I first started gaming really, but Wargame had always passed me by. WRD had some good sounds going on about it, and seeing as I was feeling a bit lost having fallen out of love with GW2 I wanted to revisit my strategy roots and give it a good go.

I haven’t been disappointed!

I really enjoy the setting, a hypothetical situation of the cold war going hot in the late 1980s (although most countries have at least some post-1990s units), and the gameplay is really great as well.

The gameplay is the real focus of a strategy game, and I really like the deck structure that they have. You have a limited amount of points that you can use on troops that make up your deck – what you can call on when in battle. These points can be tinkered with depending on who you choose, for instance if you decide to go with a small country such as East Germany and specialise into Mechanised troops – your points will go a lot further in certain troop trees.

It sounds very in depth, but its very simple to understand. That said, I’m still learning the ins and outs of what works for me and why. Simple to get, but difficult to master – the way a good strategy game should be!

I’ll keep updating about WRD as it nears release. Naval combat is something that I’m definitely looking forward to!

Star Trek Online!

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I also decided to give Star Trek Online a go, thinking I just needed a switch in MMO from GW2 to something a bit different. All I knew about Star Trek Online (STO) was that it went free to play a while back, which I assumed meant it wasn’t that great.

That wasn’t an entirely true assumption. The game is great, and going free to play was a sensible decision. The world is certainly alive with captains filling all the maps. The gameplay is well thought-out as well, with space combat something which has always proved pretty difficult.

The thing is, is that I didn’t enjoy it. I love Star Trek, and used to watch TNG as a kid, Captain Picard was a large part of my childhood – which might well explain a lot about me! I thought, given my love for the Star Trek universe, that I would naturally get on with STO like a house on fire.

Weirdly enough it didn’t work like that, and I’ve since stopped playing it. For me, I’d much rather watch an episode of TNG than play STO. That’s just my preference I guess, but STO wasn’t the kind of Star Trek that I want.

Finishing Up

So that’s about it really. I’ve been busy gaming, but just haven’t had the time to blog about it! Hopefully this rectifies my unplanned absence, and I really hope to keep blogging about all the exciting things going on with gaming. I may well have fallen out of love with MMOs for now, but I’m certainly open to trying new ones – so maybe soon I’ll be back in to them. For now though, I’m happy giving RPGs a go and revisiting my old home of strategy games.

Keep having fun!

 

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

 

Digital Salad: Who Is Buying Next Gen Consoles?

Next Generation consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One, have been out since November. Despite a very slow start to exclusive next gen releases, the consoles have been selling strongly (according to the companies themselves at least!). I was wondering exactly who was buying the consoles though, so I put on my Geographer hat and delved in to the demographics. It’s a more interesting dig for info than you might think!

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The consoles have settled in now, getting on for 6 months after release. Games are still short on the ground, but more and more are trickling out – like this week’s Titanfall for the Xbox One. The big question before release was which console was going to win the war?

That question has now, largely, been answered. PS4 had a wider launch (48 countries versus 13), Sony has claimed to have sold 4.2 million consoles versus Microsoft’s claim of 3 million consoles, and the PS4 remains the cheapest. Nearly every poll, as well, puts the PS4 just slightly ahead of the Xbox One for desirability.

So, the PS4 takes the crown from the Xbone for now.

That argument has now been settled. I wanted to look a bit past that and look into exactly who is buying these consoles, whichever one they pick.

Being released in November, the real big target was Christmas. The previous installments of both consoles topped Christmas lists for kids for years. Christmas 2013 was a little different though, with the PS4 and Xbox One falling behind other toys such as LEGO (as a childhood LEGO fanatic I was amazed to see that it was Number 1 this year!). current generation video games and even Ipads. Apple seem to have pipped both Sony and Microsoft to the post when it comes to making their product desirable to the teenage market.

Christmas is a massive crunch time for console sales
Christmas is a massive crunch time for console sales

Even more fascinating is that neither console featured at all on the Christmas list for girls. Add to that figures that say only 25% of those wanting to buy next generation consoles are female gamers, when around 47% of gamers are female – it seems like neither console has gone down well with the female demographic. Why? I’ll pop the Xbox One advert in here, give it a look.

What really struck me about that was that there was only one female in the entire advert, and she wasn’t even a gamer! Clearly, and probably without particularly meaning to create a sexist advert, Microsoft have created a sexist console image that does nothing to interest female gamers in their console. I’ve heard female gamers refer to next generation consoles as ‘guy’ consoles, and I’d be inclined to agree based on the advertising – and it seems more so than with previous generations of console.

Another interesting point is that those buying the consoles are generally older than previous consoles. Neither console hit Christmas lists particularly well, with Apple in particular shoving them down the list. Kids would now rather have an Ipad than an Xbox One/PS4. That’s understandable in many ways.

There’s also the point that the Playstation 2 was £300 on release, whereas this generation are upwards of £450. Since the Playstation 2 though, the world economy has shrunk significantly, so family’s can’t really afford to spend so much on such an expensive present anymore.

Xbox One release night - who are these people and why are they buying it?
Xbox One release night – who are these people and why are they buying it?

So who is buying the consoles?

Well, it seems that those buying the consoles are men who, according to the statistics, are over 21. The next generation consoles have sold themselves to the stereotypical crowd. To a certain extent that makes sense from a business point of view. However, if they really wanted to make an epic business success out of these next generation consoles they needed to break out of that mold much more. They need to get all gamers on board, and a lot more besides.

The Wii was the classic success it was because it broke through the barriers and into ordinary living rooms. The next generation of consoles will not be doing that, and its a big missed opportunity.

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Digital Salad: Titanfall

I’m back, and back on the topic of gaming again! This time I wanted to take a quick look at this week’s big headline release – Titanfall for the Xbox One. I still have no plans on buying a next generation console, so playing Titanfall isn’t on the cards for me any time soon. That said, I wanted to talk about the big thing that went largely un-mentioned about Titanfall – for all the hype and cost it’s a game without a singleplayer mode.

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Titanfall has landed with us and seems to be going down a storm, despite some release day hiccups. It’s a big FPS release for the Xbox One which adds a well received Mech element to the very tired concept of the modern shooter. Titanfall is a very clever concept for that without a doubt, and it’s even fairly well explained in a (reasonably) believable back story and setting.

The thing is is that all of that is given in tiny little chunks, with the sole focus of the game being multiplayer. One of the lead developers of Titanfall (of ex-Call Of Duty fame) explained the decision – saying that he estimated only 5% of FPS players actually cared about the story/singleplayer elements of the games, so it was pointless for studios to bother making those elements any longer.

There’s definitely some legs to what they had to say. FPS singleplayer campaigns are abysmally poor, especially when compared to the game’s overall blockbuster budgets and advertising. Back in my Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3 round-up I said I finished that campaign in 4 hours flat, without meaning to power through. I wasn’t even particularly wowed by it, just all-to-cliched set pieces of Paris burning, London burning, generic modern city swarming with [insert paranoid nasty enemy here]. Its all very uninspiring, and lacked any effort from the team that created it. I appreciated the graphics of the set-pieces, but they could’ve been condensed into a 5 minute trailer. Where was the gameplay?

Its, honestly, pretty rubbish stuff, so of course nobody plays them and cares for them. The multiplayer is the only place they can find the dynamic warfare that players seek in a FPS game. Why can’t singleplayer offer this as well? NPC programming exists to make them far more dynamic than any FPS has tried with recent releases, sticking to tired old corridor shoot-outs.

Titanfall, understandably, wanted to shake that up a bit.

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Titanfall got rid of singleplayer altogether, but injected some of the story elements into multiplayer – a multiplayer which they went to great lengths to inject a lot of vigor and energy into compared to the rapidly greying FPS genre. Its not a bad idea, but I think it lacks ambition.

Multilayer is by definition already dynamic, but with that comes an isolation. Multiplayer, especially and notoriously with FPS games, is not accessible to the average casual player. Hardcore gamers know all the quirks and work arounds of the game engine, as well as all the limited maps back to front. There’s no way that a casual can play with hardcore players in that situation, and it leads to mutual resentment. I fear that Titanfall will fall into this trap for having focused on multiplayer so much.

The bold ambition would have been to take FPS single player campaigns back to basics, strip back the years of tat and restart with something fresh and ambitious. Make a truly dynamic single player, where you can have a roaming battle with NPCs, with a story attached to it. I don’t think any single player FPS game has ever surpassed the original Star Wars Battlefront in that field, and that’s what makes that such a classic to this day.

I wished Titanfall had been a bit bolder. I was excited when they were making sounds of reinventing the FPS genre, and they did a lot of good work on that. The trouble is, by making it multilayer only they risk making all that hard work go to waste. Here’s to more exciting single player modes in the future!

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Digital Salad & CakeBoxFox: Final Fantasy XIII 3 Lightning Returns

This week is Voluntine’s Week, and to celebrate CakeBoxFox and I have joined forces to write this blog about the newly released Final Fantasy XIII 3 Lightning Returns. Give it a read, enjoy, and maybe write a guest blog for one of your favourite blogs. You’ll see us both popping up as guest bloggers this week, in partnership with the fantastic Mr Murf. Have a great week!

 

Its release season and the latest installment of Final Fantasy hit the shelves on Valentine’s Day, last Friday. CakeBoxFox, life-long Final Fantasy fan and Digital Salad, newcomer to the series, thought we would get our thoughts together on the new release and answer the killer question. Will we buy it?

CakeBoxFox will be in italics, and Digital Salad will be in normal formatting.

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I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game. I’ve certainly been aware of them, I think they’re on every gamer’s radar, but I never tried one out. I was aware of the good reputation that Square had built up for the brand, but I was never much of an RPG gamer.

That has all changed in recent years. Tastes change over time – and that’s a great thing! Since living with flatmate CakeBoxFox I’ve been introduced to all sorts of RPGs, and re-introduced to MMOs which I was into way back in my early teens. CakeBoxFox has always been a Final Fantasy fan, but I’ll let her explain that some more later on, so I got the bug to try one out. Very late to the party, but better late than never!

That’s where Final Fantasy XIII 3 comes in, the newest release and the game that I would like to kick off an introduction to Final Fantasy with. Or would I?

Like the cautious gamers we are these days we generally hold off buying games on release day and wait to see how the reviews go down. We’ve been browsing the youtube channels picking up bite-sized chunks of gameplay and opinions; mushing them together to try and get a clear picture of the game. That said, the only use the mainstream reviewers (the IGNs and Gamespots) have been is to provide some extra gameplay footage – their commentary is next to useless! We’re gamer hipsters it seems.

Useful gameplay footage, but just ignore the opinions and commentaries from mainstream websites
Useful gameplay footage, but just ignore the opinions and commentaries from mainstream websites

Having played FF 6 to 13-2, not including 11 and 9, I’ve been with the series throughout many of it’s twists and turns. FF13-3’s coverage has done little to inspire me with regards to the gameplay mechanics, but I am glad of the change of scenery.
I mean, revisiting old places is great, but only if you liked them the first time round- otherwise the game drags you kicking and screaming back to somewhere where, really, you’d be happy to see it squashed by a dragon angry at the colour palette of the place.

So; what do we reckon?

For me, the timer counting down throughout the game is a massive negative. Square made it pretty clear that time was going to be pretty critical to the game, but I was hoping and praying that they wouldn’t have a clock ticking down in the corner of the screen all the time. I just hate that. I’ve spoke of this before, and feel that it’ll drive me more to the strategy guide than any previous encounter with the series has done.  *cough* FF12 Zodiac Spear *cough*

Time's a big thing for Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII 3
Time’s a big thing for Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII 3

I want to be able to enjoy the game at my leisure, especially when its such a rich world as that in a Final Fantasy. I don’t like being rushed when I’ve sat down and decided to invest so much time, effort and even money into the game. Even though the time limit can be expanded by completing certain missions, there is still a perpetual clock ticking away – which just leads to a rushed experience.

Add to the clock of doooooom the strange decision that ordinary monster encounters in the world don’t give you any experience, and suddenly the classic RPG is looking very linear. With the ticking clock, and no rewards for hanging around and training, you end up rushing from mission to mission. It suddenly sounds more like an Action/Adventure game than a stalwart of the RPG genre; and that really saddens me as a potential newcomer to the series.

Personally, I have no attachment to previous Final Fantasy menu systems, and XIII 3 apparently rides roughshod over those. For me, it only matters if the new version makes sense and works; and it kinda does. Less menus seems to be the theme of the day, and that’s fine, just so long as it works. But I love menus! I love tinkering with things and looking through my inventory, this drive towards no menus does more damage to the immersion for me than a ticking timer could ever create. FF13-2’s menu was just fine.

I like customisation, but I have a real problem with it being focused around Lightning’s outfits, with 3 different outfit and weapon combos being able to be switched at any point in combat. Sounds like an alright idea, until you see what that ends up with. Lightning – who isn’t exactly personality central – is suddenly massively over-sexed up with stupidly skimpy outfits to cater to a certain fan base. I’m not part of that fan base, so I don’t like it being thrust on me.

There’s a trend in final fantasy, the more sequels there are, the less clothes there are available for the cast. FFX-2 was an all female cast, and did have some revealing outfits but I guess higher boob-rendering capabilities are a draw for some. The lore nods are great and all, but please don’t shove Lightning’s body in my face. If I was a raging feminist I’d be up in arms about it all.

I’ll say this- I prefer characters with personality over looks, and Lightning here is nothing more than a dress-up doll from what I’ve seen. It’s kind of a sad note to leave it on really. She had some character, so let her keep that, not make her into a doll for some fanboys to fantasise about.

I want a female lead with a combat system that isn’t about dressing her up. X-2 and X111-3…

Lightning ... what have you done?
Lightning … what have you done? (been on a diet by the looks of things!)

I can potentially work with those big nagging doubts though, and I’m left very 50/50 on whether I will take the plunge and buy the game. Perhaps the time limit will actually work for me as a time-pressured gamer? I won’t know for certain unless I buy the game, but for that plunge to be taken it will most likely have to be a lot cheaper!

I will probably buy it, but only when the price drops. The reviews have been pretty damning and amusing across the board for the North American and European releases, which means it will drop pretty soon.

I’m interested to try out the combat mechanics and explore the new world, but I kind of feel that I’m going to be doing that without the usual backdrop of story telling I’ve come to expect. Change can be a good thing, but I think in this case, they’ve changed some bits but not others.

For the presumed final goodbye to this console generation, it saddens me that they used the same engine as FF13 from 2009. It could have been beautiful. Let’s hope 15 shows a return to fresh thinking form for the next gen.

Expect a joint review in the near future.

CakeBoxFox – cakeboxfox.wordpress.com

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com