-Ratchet and Clank 3- Review

March 28, 2016 no comments Posted in Playstation & Sony, Video Games

 

….what? I don’t have anything better to do.

As you know from my last review Ratchet and Clank 2 was great. So a sequel came out a year later in 2004, with development being heavily revolved around rigorous testing and fan input on what problems could be fixed. The game would be known in the US as Ratchet and Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal while once again Europe were not able to handle the disgustingness of such a subtitle and just left the game without it. Now let’s see how the 3rd entry in the series changes what the first two games established.

-Plot….what? I ran out of ideas-

Ratchet and Clank are playing intergalactic chess in their apartment (as all great stories generally start). They also watch some Secret Agent Clank, a show Clank managed to get for himself with Ratchet as the chauffer. Afterwards they turn on a newscast showing Solanna (R&C1 galaxy) being caught in a massive war against tyrannoid invasions commanded by one robotic Dr. Nefarious. This includes Ratchet’s home planet so he immediately drags Clank onto his ship and the two make their way back to Solanna. Upon arrival Ratchet is reluctantly put in the position of sergeant of the Galactic Rangers; who mostly consist of rather pathetic and humorous robots who need Ratchet to constantly bail them out of trouble. I’m taking this as the reason they didn’t show up to fight Drek in the first game or they were on sabbatical the entire time.

Ratchet and Clank are greeted with a transmission from the Solanna President after taking out the tyrannoids on Veldin, who (while giving credit to Clank thanks to being a fan of his show) tells them to go after the man who defeated Nefarious once before…Captain Qwark. Qwark incidentally managed to escape his “employment” at Megacorp and made his way to the Florana jungles. By the time the heroes catch up with him he is completely feral and has about as much coherent thought as his new monkey friend Skrunch. Ratchet takes him to the Starship Phoenix under command of Sasha, the president’s daughter. After having a orgasm over all the Starship’s features (you will too) Ratchet begins his fight against the tyrannoids. After Ratchet gets Qwark’s memory restored via playing one of his “historically accurate” videogames in front of him, Qwark creates the “Q-Force”, a team of “elite” soldiers working against Dr. Nefarious, and assigns Ratchet a new mission to infiltrate Nefarious’ base and acquire as much information on Nefarious’ plans as possible.

Wondering why someone like Qwark is given command? Its played for laughs mainly, the guy isn’t the asshole he was in the last two games with his new character playing off humor similar to the Behind the Hero videos about him. It’s a great change, one that later games would continue to play off in different but similar ways.

Ratchet and Clank eventually arrive at Planet Daxx and learn about something called a Biobliterator, but not what it does. They also find a music video by Courtney Gears (har har), which tells robots to destroy organic lifeforms. Courtney Gears kidnaps and hands over Clank to Nefarious after the heroes make a attempt into investigating Nefarious through her. Nefarious present Clank a ultimatum: Help him conquer organic lifeforms or be a disgrace to his robotic brethren. Unbeknownst to the player and Ratchet, Clank refused causing Nefarious to replace him with a evil twin named Klunk while holding Clank as prisoner. Ratchet and Klunk. Ratchet, with Klunk, then follows up on the Bioblierator on the Obani Moons. While helping them access the third of the moons, Skidd, another member of the Q-Force, is kidnapped by Courtney Gears. Ratchet enters the third moon to save him, but is too late as Skidd gets transformed into a robot. Ratchet defeats Courtney Gears and later infiltrates Nefarious’ Star Cruiser with Qwark.

When Ratchet arrives, however, he discovers that Dr. Nefarous lured them to the ship as a trap, and he activates the self-destruct system before teleporting out. Qwark says he may have found intel and, much to Ratchet’s dismay, Klunk asserts that they must leave him behind. The duo escape as Qwark is left to die in the exploding cruiser. After a humorous funeral scene, Ratchet is fighting off yet another Tyhrranoid invasion in the city of Metropolis. Nefarious uses the Biobliterator to turn the helpless citizens and Tyhrranoid invaders alike into robots. Before Ratchet can attack him, Dr. Nefarious escapes the city and Klunk attacks Ratchet. After defeating Klunk, Ratchet and Clank are reunited. They discover via looking into the star cruiser’s crash site and playing a blacklisted “historically accurate” Qwark videogame, that Captain Qwark is still alive and is hiding at his secret hideout after he survived the self-destruct via escape pod.

I haven’t been mentioning the backstory between Qwark and Nefarious shown in the Qwark videogame segments. The two used to be in the same biology class (with Qwark being 26 at the time) and years after Qwark stops Nefarious’ amoeboid attack he accidently knocks him into robotizicing machinery which turned him into the robotic doctor he is today.

Back in the present day Qwark refusing to fight because he doesn’t want to die and Ratchet and Clank begin their final assaults on Nefarious. They destroy the Biobliterator only to find it to be the first of two and the weakest one, with the final one being held at Nefarious main command centre. Ratchet and Clank arrive at the command center and confront Nefarious, but before they can defeat him he teleports inside the Biobliterator, which transforms into a giant, heavily armed robot. Having regained his bravery, Captain Qwark flies in to fight alongside them and they engage in aerial combat against Nefarious and the Biobliterator and defeat it. The Biobliterator self-destructs, and Nefarious and Lawrence (his butler) are left stranded on an asteroid after attempting to teleport away from the explosion. The ending fades to the Q-Force and their allies watching the premiere of the latest Secret Agent Clank holofilm.

The story, despite having some more meat, is about as good as R&C2’s. The humourous and quirky dialogue is back and better than ever, with Dr. Nefarious being so good at his job he returns as a villain and later a protagonist in 2 more games.

 

 

 

-How to use a Ratchet again because this one is different to the other ones-

Sort of. Ratchet can do everything he could before so we’re solely focusing on the gameplay changes made to 3. What your XP gets you in this game is a bit different. Ratchet starts with 10HP which can go to 100 (200 in Challenge Mode). His weapons can now be levelled up from V1 to V5, gaining mods and powerful additions each time, with V5 giving them the most destructive upgrades. Because of this, Ratchet’s weapons can get extremely powerful, so much so you can beat the game without buying more than a couple of guns. The guns in this game are probably some of the best in the series in terms of power and even if they seem weak, all of their V5 states cause utter destruction and the last two planets in the game give out large XP amounts. The Starship Phoenix allows you to test weapons before purchase so you can determine whether or not you think it’s worth buying but if you know what you’re doing in this game you can buy just about everything. There are 2 bonus crates you can come across also; the Jackpot crate which temporarily doubles XP and bolts and the Inferno crate which makes Ratchet temporarily immune to damage and make all of his melee attacks kill in one hit.

The in-game economy is the least strict in the series, rivalling only Crack in Time. You get a LOT of bolts in this game, particularly when doing optional things and there is no more bolt paywalls. There’s no Hoverbike races or Ship Battles; there’s just Arena Challenges, Sewer Crystal Hunts and Ranger Missions. Arena Challenges work like they should with some platforming challenges thrown in to have something else to do there as well. Sewer Hunts are…something else. On Planet Aquatos you can go into the large system of pipes filled with Amoeboids and get Crystals for 2,000 bolts each. There are 101 Crystals in there. However you can’t fully explore the place without the Gravity Boots and Treasure Mapper (just to see where the fucking Crystals are on the map of the huge place). Not to mention there’s extreme fucking slowdown in the place. I don’t know whether or not it’s the enemies that cause it or why its in the PS3 version but jesus christ the place is nigh unplayable to go through with the speed it runs at the deeper you go in. The Ranger Missions are a set of missions that generally involve defeating enemies or using vehicles that come up on certain planets. Some are mandatory, some are optional that get you new items, but they all give you cash payouts and that is good. Something to mention is that Arena and Ranger stuff all refill your ammo after starting a mission which is great for saving cash.

The Quick Select now has 2 rings for storing weapons and gadgets. Also you can now change between that last 2 weapons you’ve use by tapping triangle instead of just the last weapon you used. A new series staple is the Swingshot (or Hypershot) activating automatically when you jump towards a target so there isnt a reason to keep it in the Quick Select anymore. Also Gadgets are rather barely used in this game with one gadget only being used in ONE PLANET. Items in this game to give Ratchet some need tricks; like a spare health refill in case he runs out or two of the items from R&C2 being combined into the Bolt Grabber V2 which can get loads of free cash from breakable objects extremely fast because of what it powers up.

Clank sections are back, working as he used to now guiding a monkey with a banana shooting gun as well as the Gadgebots. He’s controlled 3 times so it’s not worth talking about. Same goes for the Qwark Vid-Comics where you get to play…functional (I guess) 2D platformer sections. There are 5 and they’re all mandatory. They’re decent enough and you get a good deal of cash for doing well. They can even be skipped in Challenge Mode. Overall the differences this game brings are enough to justify itself as a sequel. The only time you should ever fail is when the enemy manages to get the better of you and not due to lack of power. The last couple of areas final boss are good challenges though even when you’ve been breaking the game in two with all your V5 weapons and equipment. It’s a great example of R&C gameplay and has obvious input from people’s complaints from the first two games, if a little lacking in the pure platforming department (Qwark Vid-Comics aside) with some planets just being a battle fest.

-Um, what? Multiplayer? Fucking hell-

Yep this game has ONLINE PS2 MULTIPLAYER. Predictably due to the set-up required you wouldn’t be using this for much more than local until the Playstation Network allowed use of the online multiplayer in the HD port. Its decent enough, with some Deathmatch, Capture The Flag and Siege modes. It’s nothing worth explaining in detail, I don’t tend to play it too often but it isn’t a ghost town in terms of people that are using its online these days. At least I think so from the little matches I played. Just don’t expect too many original assets, there isnt even any new music for this mode from what I recall besides the menu music. I imagine something like this paved way for a lot of what we know as today’s console online multiplayer with a number of features you’d be surprised for a PS2 game to have, that and I never played too many PS2 games WITH online capabilities. Might look into that sometime.

-Sooooooo…-

Presentation wise the game is good but I much prefer the aesthetics of R&C1 and 2. This game doesn’t have as much colour then the others and its soundtrack isn’t the best in the series. It’s not bad by any means and still works well but it’s not terribly good either. Maybe it’s just the kind of tone they were focusing on but it is very hard for me to remember music from 3. A few planets make a return from R&C1 with completely different aesthetics and level design but, with the exception of Aridia, have the same tracks from R&C1 although in Aridia’s case the planet looks NOTHING like the original so there wasn’t a reason to even use the same name.

Overall the game is about as good as its predecessor in my book although I can see why the changes it has have people call it the better game. It’s just rather easy for me to blow through at times but the humour is great stuff and its probably the most accessible R&C game. Pick it up along with its predecessor for your PS2 or PS3 although the graphical oddities in 2‘s HD version make reappearances in 3‘s HD version.

531591

-TheAceAlucard

The Non-Comissioned IT Specialist’s Guide to gaming hardware: Desktop vs Laptop

March 23, 2016 no comments Posted in Video Games

My target audience for this are the grandchildren, children, siblings and friends that are often abused as free tech support. A Non-Commisioned IT Specialist, or NonCommisioned Computer Officer(NCO) is a person who rises through the social ranks as “The computer guy/girl” through nothing but knowledge and exceptional google-fu; without any professional training. Despite this, they are under as much pressure to do their elected job right when their company needs them most, and as much flak when they do not, all without the respect or salary of your standard Computer Officer(CO), who can earn their position without even any experience on the metaphorical battlefield.

 

coming-out-1
Coming out to your parents as computer literate

After coming out as a person
Learning the Generals of Binary Technology(LGBT) you may be approached for buying advise. It is important you give sound advise here; you could be disowned and unfriended if your approachers regret their purchase, and if you don’t advise them at all, you could still be blamed.

The upshot of this is that we LGBT need to work together, as aposed to the vitrolic exchanges that frequently take place on Disqus and YouTube.
My contribution is to make a series of posts to target all those objectively wrong opinions that plague the world of “computer people”, you know, the ones which aren’t mine. Jokes aside, I will try to make these as unbiased as possible, I encourage anyone to speak up if they disagree with me.

The thing about opinions is that they are built on top of values, and values differ between people and their situations. So when you try to apply an opinion formed in someone with different values in a different situation, it could be like stuffing a square peg through a round hole(square pegs master race!); the round hole will yell at you.
Because of this, it is essential you base your advise around your enslaver’s situation and values.

 

Desktop gaming vs Laptop gaming

I see a lot of people upgrading to gaming laptops without considering a desktop simply because they already have a laptop and it’s familar territory. In terms of value for money, this is a very bad choice — the fact that Alienware exists at such a popularity proves this.
The only real benefit laptops have over Desktops is that they are portable, and I think people over value this benefit. I prefer my expensive, delicate computer hardware kept in an immobile, well ventilated case, behind a locked door.Can you easily imagine yourself spending a significant amount of time gaming outside the house where a portable console, or phone would not suffice? If you can, great. But I’d imagine there are a lot of gaming laptop owners who rarely use it where a Desktop would not work better.

Time to find a laptop to enter the ring. I generally don’t spend much time in the world of laptop hardware , and I find the majority of tech sites that show up on google to consist of speculation, weak opinion and weird values, so I will probably use Reddit. I find it neccessary to present the first paragraph after a laptop intro where there is a graph detailing a 15% difference in average keyboard temperature on the top google result for “budget gaming laptop” while being a pretty minor point, he makes out as if a warmer keyboard is a bad thing, which it isn’t really. As the source of all love and life always says: “Better out than in.”[video(reinactment)]

So to find a good, budget gaming laptop to compare with, I instead took to reddit.
Hmm
Hillarious mis-use of less-than and greater-than aside, my gaming laptop of choice is the
Sager NP8657s, from here and here(I gave up on the whole low budget thing)

Now for a desktop, I have picked this. I recently built a desktop using all of those parts(except for the case and monitor/keyboard), and I can assure you the parts aren’t just good on paper.

Fight!

 Component

 Custom Desktop

Sager NP8647s

 CPU  FX 6300(6 core, 3.6GHz, 3x 2mb l2, 8mb l3)  i7 Skylake 6700HQ(4 core, 2.6GHz, 4x 256kb l2, 6mb l3)
 GPU  Radeon R9 390(8GB VRAM, 1GHz clock rate)  GeForce GTX 970M(3GB VRAM, 1~GHz clock rate)
 RAM  16GB DDR3  16GB DDR4*
 Battery  🙁  60WH
OS Windows 10  If you pay more :L

It appears the desktop beat the Sager by a good bit. Let’s see the full story though. Here are some things to take into consideration(Uncategorized to avoid bias)

  • *For the desktop to upgrade to DDR4 RAM as fast as the laptop’s, I’d use this, which is currently $8 cheaper, and slower. It’s worth noting that the mother board I picked can’t support DDR4 though.
  • Looking at Benchmarks(FX 6300, i7 6700HQ) the laptop’s processor is a bit better, Megahertz Myth
    • Both CPUs should work fine with virtually all the AAA games out there, GPUs are way more important nowadays.
    • I will be testing this for myself later, I don’t trust these benchmarks fully utilized the 6300’s 6 cores
  • The desktop is currently $219 cheaper(Please correct me if you find anything for less)
    • This is not including the price of a sound system
  • Desktops are highly modularized, so parts can be upgraded, replaced and borrowed.
    • Someone who won’t be named for his own safety in public argued that “You have to replace desktop hardware”. Desktop hardware doesn’t age differently than any other hardware, you CAN replace Desktop hardware — but you don’t have to.
  • Building a desktop is like following lego intrusctions, but you have to be competent enough to appreciate that things can be delicate.
  • While you may rarely need to use your laptop on the move, the only alternative when you are on the move is one of those fandangled smart phones.
  • Desktops are more ergonomic; the optimal monitor/keyboard relationship is impossible
    • Desktops CAN be more egonomic, but that doesn’t mean they are.
  • 80% better and  cheaper(minus the price of a sound system/pair of headphones)
  • I spent weeks compiling that list of parts because I actually bought the parts. I spent very little time in comparison finding a good laptop, there could be better value ones out there.
  • Because they are being moved around all the time, laptops can suffer a lot more wear-and-tear depending on how careful you are.

 

Conclusion

Laptops if you need something portable, Desktops otherwise.
This is pretty obvious, but Desktops are perhaps up to twice the value for money, so it is very important those apes hounding you for advise leave their likely comfort zone in portable technology and get a REAL computer. It is also important it is home built, which is something that could take some persuading(you’ll probably also end up doing this yourself)

-Ratchet and Clank 2- Review

March 17, 2016 no comments Posted in Playstation & Sony, Video Games

 

Got some things to explain. Why the second game? Because the first game is aged shit. I COULD NOT play it again for the review and it only sets the basis for this game, while this game sets the basis for the ENTIRE SERIES. I’ve decided to skip ahead to 2, and I’ll explicitly explain to you exactly why soon.

-How the series went from decent to awesome, R&C1to R&C2 –

Ratchet and Clank was released in 2002 by Insomniac Games for the PS2. It was a action-platformer that had a large focus on using ludicrous weapons and gadgets to get through various sci-fi planets. However its design choices were detrimental in it being as aged as it is compared to the other games. Combat could get clunky, you could only get a max of 8 hit points, you needed to be a absolute hoarder of cash to get anywhere, difficulty could get obnoxious and weapons were EXTREMELY situational most of the time. There was a weapon named the Taunter that did nothing but make noise to, as the game puts it; “lead foes into traps”. Basically you either wasted your money on it or spent more money to get a mine weapon that complements it in only certain situations. Worst of all for a good chunk of the game the two main characters were the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you’d want out of partners. Ratchet acted like a typical teen who sounds like a surfer “dude” who’d use worse like “tubular” whilst Clank was just a textbook nerd who was prudish and stuffy as all hell. The two had no chemistry for most of the game and were not enjoyable heroes to be stuck with which is one of the worst things you can do. The game isn’t terrible or even all that bad, it has some good things about it that I do love but I can find those in ANY other Ratchet and Clank game.

Luckily the game managed to get enough praise to have a sequel start its development 5 months after the first game’s release. And HOLY FUCK did they fix EVERYTHING.

-NOW THE AMAZING PART-

Ratchet and Clank 2: Going Commando (Locked and Loaded in Europe, apparently we can’t handle nudity jokes) was released in 2003 and is one of the best examples of a sequel overtaking its predecessor in every way. Everything about the game’s development says they wanted to fix criticisms of the first game and add a few “big ideas”, things that would add to the game’s “Wow-factor”. And they did for the most part. Mention must be given to them specifically fixed the personality of Ratchet before I begin the plot synopsis. He’s grown up more or less, now able to take charge in stressful situations without being impetuous and cocky. As well he’s less of a dick and is more friendly to Clank.

So without further ado, LETS FUCKING DO THIS.

The story starts off nearly a year after the first game where Ratchet and Clank are having a interview on the TV show Behind the Hero. The two state that after all the praise and festivities they’ve started living a uneventful life again, with Ratchet explicitly saying “No one needs a hero right now”. A corporation head watching from a entirely different galaxy disagrees and teleports the duo to a space carrier. The man introduces himself as Mr. Fizwidget, founder of the Megacorp company an extremely powerful corporation that manufactures every product in the Bogon Galaxy. He requests Ratchet’s aid in retrieving a biological experiment that was stolen from the megacorperation by a mysterious thief. Ratchet almost immediately accepts with Clank being hesitant…that is until Fizwidget tells them the rewards of the job; a penthouse suite, a job as Megacorp accountant and a robotic masseuse. Clank agrees immediately after . Ratchet is then given combat training and a new body armour (complete with helmet) on the 2 week trip over to the new galaxy. After failing to stop the thief’s escape from his flying lab Ratchet begins his journey after him during which Clank gets kidnapped from his apartment and held as hostage by the thief. Ratchet rescues him and the two eventually manage to track down and recover the experiment as the thief makes his escape. After heading to the rendezvous point on a abandoned mining planet, Fizwidget accidently lands on Ratchets ship thinking it was “a little debris on the landing pad”. The old man waves it off stating that “Its insured!”. He retrieves the Experiment and offers the two a ride on his ship but accidently ejects them out after attempting to turn on the radio. The two fall into the inner abandoned mine, Clank assumes Fizwidget kicked them out on purpose but Ratchet decides to give him the benefit of doubt as a easily distracted old man. They make their way out of the mine but are held up by the thief. The thief unintentionally knocks off his own mask (by humorously slipping off the top of his ship), and it is revealed that “he” is actually a female Lombax named Angela Cross. Ratchet states he doesn’t have the experiment, which she states has put the galaxy in danger.After finding a way to repair their ship, Ratchet and Clank discover on a couple of Megacorp research and development facilities and that Angela’s claims are true, as the Experiment is revealed to be a dangerous predator that Megacorp intends to market as a pet.

They try to persuade Fizzwidget to destroy the experiment on a number of occasions but fail due to the man’s convenient incompetence. The experiment now dubbed the “Protopet” is now being cloned and shipped across the galaxy. The team decides to head to Megacorp Headquarters to halt the cloning of the experiment where Qwark happens. They discover that Captain Qwark, the disgraced superhero from Ratchet & Clank, had disguised himself as Fizzwidget and planned to release the protopet from the beginning in spite of its hostility, so he could save the galaxy from his own threat and restore his reputation.

To be fair to the game this isnt what you’d call a left field end as videos appear in the game explaining what happened to Qwark after Ratchet and Clank stopped him from assisting the main villain by taking him out. Qwark was arrested after selling fake gadgets to people under a false identity and was charged with paying a extremely high sum to the recipients of the defected products. He attempted to flee custody, got arrested and escaped by flushing himself down the prison toilet. He attempts to use a “Helix-o-morph”, a gadget Angela designed to repair the genetic flaw in the Protopets that causes their aggression, and zaps the original Protopet, but it malfunctions, mutating the protopet into a gigantic, vicious monster that swallows Qwark whole. After Ratchet defeats the giant Protopet, Angela and the real Fizzwidget arrive on the scene, with Angela explaining that Fizzwidget had been tied up in a closet the whole time. After spitting Qwark back out, the giant Protopet is changed back to normal once Angela retrieves the Helix-o-morph and fixes it by putting the batteries in the right way. With this the device is hooked up to Megacorps TV transponders allowing it to fix all of the Protopet clones, ending the game with Qwark being forcibly signed on as a test subject for Megacorp products including the…crotchitizer.

Well as you can probably tell this series goes about things with a generally humorous and quirky narrative (I sadly cant sit here listing examples so I cant really do it justice) which is much more enjoyable thanks to the better character in the main protags and well as, for the most part, good characters in general. And trust me I did cut a lot out of the synopsis including all the Thugs-4-Less scenarios which I love. Fun fact: despite Angela being a female of Ratchet’s species absolutely NOTHING happens between them and it’s great because she has a good deal of personality which is why they never used her again. It’s what it needs to be for a Ratchet and Clank plot, I’m not expecting anything deep and intricate from a series that loves having fun doing ridiculous things with its weaponry. Voice acting is good, with James Arnold Taylor taking on the role of Ratchet…for good, even up to this year’s game and film. It’s a bit odd hearing his first go at the role though he sort of fluctuates, sometimes making Ratchet sound different on occasion at the beginning.

 

-How to use a Ratchet (lololololololololol)-

Let’s start with what the original game introduced. Ratchet can run, crouch, jump, double jump and do a combo with his wrench on the ground. He can do a overhead swing with the wrench and toss it while crouching. Weapons and Gadgets are selected by holding triangle to bring up the Quick Select. Here you can choose which weapons or gadgets you wish to equip without having to go into the Weapons menu to equip them. The game doesn’t pause in the Quick Select menu, and you need to pick which ones that are in it in the pause menu. Firing the weapon is done with circle and double tapping triangle swaps to the last weapon you held. Ratchet can also glide with Clank (in the original he needs to upgrade him first) and perform a long jump forward and up with him. Bolts that drop from breakable objects or enemies can be used to purchase weapons or get past paywalls the game throws your way sometimes. Gadgets are used to manipulate specific things when needed, like a Swingshot for the swingshot targets. They sound situational and they REALLY ARE, especially the last gadget which you only use 2 and a half times since you get it near the end of the game. What’s worse is that there are two items that conceptually do the exact same thing: Infiltrator hacks stuff with a minigame and the Electrolizer activates stuff with a minigame, not to mention the access points for each look similar enough.  Clank sections return…in two areas where you perform a decent platform challenge whilst commanding robots to do shit for you. Nothing worth mentioning really, Clank sections sort of stay like this until Crack In Time so meh.

Now the new things and get into the problems afterwards. The game adds XP meters for both your weapons and health. Every time your heath XP is maxed your heath increases. Including Nanotech Increases you can find your health can go all the way up to 80 HP just from 4 HP. This is not only better than the original game its also important since enemies can start doing more than 1 HP of damage. Luckily you can now buy armour in this game, decreasing the damage you take. Sadly the armour system is introduced right after you repair Ratchet’s ship which is about nearly a third into the game which is rather late. The weapon’s XP allows it to permanently transform into a stronger version of that weapon when filled. The amount of things your quick select can hold has been increased. A very useful addition is strafing with L2, which allows you to aim MUCH EASIER than the last game. You can even lock on to enemies with weapon mods (which is rather stupid). In the first game you had to pray the weapon had some kind of target indicator which would angle the shots because you have to move Ratchet to aim. Additional means of acquiring money has been added, there’s now Arena Challenges, Hoverbike Racing, Crytal Searches, and Space Combat Missions as well as optional boss fights. The mods I mentioned earlier can be bought with Platinum Bolts which you might find looking around the planets, they don’t do too much so you don’t have to get them but they’re nice enough to have like a Acid or Shock Mod. There is even a weapon shop that lets you get back R&C1 weapons for no cost if you purchased them on a R&C1 save file, meaning you get free weapons if you have. This game also introduces the Charge Boots as a means of moving faster, which you get after finding the Hoverbike Race track on the Megacorp Games planet.

The New Game + that lets you replay the game with all your stuff and stats has been tweeked into Challenge Mode. Here you have a bolt multiplier that increases each time you kill a enemy and decreases when you take a hit, letting you get insane amounts of cash very fast. This lets you buy the million bolt arm or the RYNO II; a insanely powerful rocket launcher that breaks everything. Any weapons that have their XP maxed out can be repurchased in their MEGA state, which also comes with ANOTHER XP bar to fill making it even more powerful after its full.

Introduced in this game is the Insomniac Museum which unlocks after getting EVERYTHING in the game. Or you can do this quite deliberate and easy to pull off glitch put in by the developers to get there from a secret teleporter Silver City. The Museum showcases a bunch of cut content, gives you immense amounts of behind the scenes and game info as well as letting you mess around with all kind of cut stuff or developer tools. It’s one of my favourite parts of the game just for the pure fun of messing around and learning neat stuff from people who had a fun time their game.

 

-Issues may include…-

OK I’ve blabbered about good things long enough let’s get into the reviewer clickbait: THE PROBLEMS. Firstly the Space Missions are crap design-wise. The controls are simple enough however you’re in a spaceship with full 360 degree movement instead of only need to worry about turning, rising and descending. The ships you’re against go everywhere and are much more accurate than you are, in the time it’ll take for you to find them you’re already taking a bunch of potshots. You’ll be mashing R2 to straighten the ship constantly to get a good idea of where you reside in the area. Basically look up one of the missions on Youtube (I can’t be bothered, no good examples came up on my first search) and see for yourself how clunky things are. Luckily there are only 4 mandatory missions but 2 of them REQUIRE upgrades in order to accomplish the mission without failure, which means getting Raritanium from earlier space missions and buying better shields and weapons at Slim Cognito’s later in the first third of the game. They do give great payoffs and a few of them arent combat orientated.

One of my main issues with the game is the tad unbalanced in-game economy. It means that if your not hoarding things can get troublesome. Let me explain. There are a lot of weapons in this game that, while good for taking different approaches, only serve to waste a lot of your cash when it comes to boss fights where dealing damage is everything. The game has QUITE a number of weapons that are useless in terms of damage as well as throwing good weapons in the vendor right after a few crap ones. With the occasional money paywalls and armour that you’ll need to buy, don’t be surprised that you’re going to have to grind if you bought whatever came up in the shop, not knowing how ineffective it is. R&C1 had this problem too but in that game enemies didn’t take “damage” as much as they took “hits” so many non-situational weapons were still effective from beginning to end. Here the stats matter and weapons like the Lancer or Heavy Lancer lose their use before you get halfway into the game. GET the Mini-Rocket Launcher and Bouncer weapons before deciding on anything over 20,000 bolts.

Speaking of boss fights, special mention goes to the fucking one against the giant robot piloted by the Thugs-4-Less leader. Something HAS to be wrong with this fight design-wise, it takes way too fucking long to finish, your weapons do piss damage to his incredibly large HP so your only option is these turrets…that also do piss damage and get destroyed by the giant robot very easily. It’s a fucking mess.

-Presentation-

The game looks great for 2003 PS2 standards and the aesthetics of each area are generally overwhelmingly pleasing. Ratchet’s new armours make him more cool looking than the…”outfit” he had in the first game. Graphical quirks occur left right and centre in the HD version, particularly with cutscenes that happen in a ship, but usually aren’t enough to diminish the quality of them overall (we’re not at Ratchet Deadlocked HD yet). The humour is great and I cannot do it justice, with only a few jokes that lost touch over time. Music is fucking awesome, its bombastic, its funky, its atmospheric, it has so much variety with different instruments. Its everything it needs to be and more and I recommend a listen to it. The only problem is, the game has no credits music. Why? I don’t know, it just plays the Final Boss music during the credits instead for some reason and there’s no credits music in the soundtrack. Also why is there only ONE track for Hoverbike Races? The Ship Missions have multiple music tracks I’m sure they could squeeze out one more.

-So is the fucking amazing game a fucking amazing game?-

Yep. The in-game economy is one of the few worst in the series and certain sections I fucking tire of but overall it’s a fantastic game and a major improvement over what was, allowing the series to continue to the point nearly running out of ideas and then getting a reboot and a film next month. Recommended for any PS2 owners or anyone with a PS3 can get it as part of the HD collection, where you can get it with its meh predecessor and its equally good sequel.

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On a humour note, look up japanese Ratchet and Clank box arts if you have time to waste. They’re…weird and sometimes inaccurate. For Ratchet and Clank 2 the cover shows a oddly drawn Ratchet in his original design, something that’s only present in the first cutscene in the game.

-TheAceAlucard

Dungeons and Dragons review by person who has never played it or knows anything about it

March 4, 2016 no comments Posted in Video Games

Dungeons and Dragons is a popular board game lovingly developed in 1986 by Hasbro and has since adopted new versions with tailored game-play, more characters and better weapons through DLC. The aim of the game is to be the one who defeats the “Dungeon Master” — a sort of last boss, if you will  — without dying. A quest often angrily complained about by DnD players (D@Ds, pronounced ‘datdders’) as impossible, before frustratingly announcing that I’m talking crap.

D’D is very unforgiving, Players will have a hard time winning on their own without partnering up with another player or NPC companion, and they must remain vigilant as both have the opportunity to stab you in the back for a lovely profit(And in a large majority of rounds, they take that opportunity). Because of this, it is recommended newbies play with the ‘easier’ settings  on their first run, and make a gentleman’s agreement not to attack each other.

As the name suggests, a major element of DandD are dragons. Dragons in D,D are similar to those in pokémon, you collect them, fight them, and level them up to unlock new features and aesthetics. Players can introduce these dragons into combat scenarios to fight for them(And of course, risk losing them to Death, or more charismatic players).

Combat in DnD is refreshingly simple compared to most board games — whoever rolls the highest number in an encounter wins — with a few basic modifiers thrown in such as your weapon of choice. Combat occurs when a player arrives on the same tile as an opponent, be it another player or one of the many malicious monsters contained in D.D. Combat is encouraged, but not ultimately necessary if you team with another player.

In summary, DD provides skillful, amusing and tactical gameplay while being attractive to a wide audience, easy to pickup and helpfully short-lived, making it well worth your time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Final Fantasy Explorers- Review

February 22, 2016 no comments Posted in Nintendo, Video Games

What a first, huh? A review that of a recent game rather than a SNES RPG

I have rather little to talk about before getting into the main portion of the review which is the gameplay. Explorers was released late 2014 in Japan, taking until January 2016 to be released in the US and Europe. All I could garner for development info was the director Atsushi Hashimoto making the game based off the concept of a multiplayer Final Fantasy adventure with a job system being incorporated. Soon after the game came out my drive to purchase this immediately was rather flustered by reviews generally not going higher than 7 out of 10 (Fun fact IGN indeed rated the game 6.8/10. I presume too much Final Fantasy) but after purchase has my fears been unfounded? Well first off the game isn’t being sold for the general 50 or above euro Nintendo games get as price tags for no fucking reason so scrounging 40 euro for the game wasn’t as much of a problem.

The story? Please. This game can be summed up as a Final Fantasy version of Monster Hunter, a series that does not bother with plot as far as I’m aware. The basic premise is there for the sake of it, people who hunt for powerful life and technology powering giving crystals are known as Explorers. YOU are a Explorer heading to the island of Amostra, which is newly discovered as a vast source of crystals but on the way there your airship gets blasted by fucking Bahamut. After booking it you (I’m getting fed up with this already) get to the town of Libertas to began questing around for questing’s sake in search of the island’s Grand Crystal. After about 20 hours of doing stuff and having a rather pointless lesson in what the search for crystals do to the world you get to the Grand Crystal, the story stops pretending it’s a thing and most of the game’s quests start opening up. Now let’s get to the REAL review.

First off the avatar customisation is rather shit with a very limited number of options, though I don’t mind not spending hours increasing the size and shape of every part of my character’s face. I do mind having to shorten my character’s name to Chris due to character limits that shouldn’t be there. Like usual you start off in your Freelancer Job, to get more you need to unlock them. You unlock a bunch early after completing one of the tutorial quests but you unlock most of them by finishing the Job Test quests that you’ll get along the game. Other Jobs are unlocked by specific means such as learning Firaga, Curaga, and Blizzaga to get the Red Mage Job or killing 500 monsters to get the Dark Knight job. You shouldn’t have any trouble with the requirements except the “Make 20 Monsters” one but we’ll get to that later. Jobs as you’d expect change your stats, the abilities you can use, weapons you equip and so on and so forth.

You get equipment mainly through the shop in Liberta using the materials you get from defeated monsters to either make more stuff or upgrade your equipments’ stats until the piece reaches its stat limits (haven’t reached the Buster Sword’s one yet so I don’t plan on replacing it). You don’t level up for killing things Liberta serves as the main hub, you select your quests there and after each quest you get sent back although you can choose to explore the island but certain areas are blocked off till you get a quest telling you can pass through and then the area is unlocked for good. These area barriers get rather annoying to see and I can’t think of a reason for them to really be there. You can select main areas you’ve discovered via the airship outside of quests but the in between areas leading to the main ones like mountain passages or forests have to be travelled through during quests and they’re much more repetitive since its basically 3 similar areas till you reach the next main area.

After a certain point you can also select a number of subquests to be done during quests for rewards like killing monsters or delivering a item. Regardless all quests cost a bit of money to actually start for some reason, it’s not like you’ll ever run out of gil in this game. Quests you unlock come in set difficulties which determines the monsters’ strength and exploring Amostra is always done on the highest quest difficulty available to you but Lv. 2 and Lv.3 item drops don’t happen unless you’re above a certain difficulty whilst Lv. 1 drops are always guaranteed. If you want to make finding new materials easier use LibertaExplorer, it’s a site opened by a bunch of fans at the start of February that contains a enormous deal of Explorers info that players should definitely check out, it’s really convenient. No matter what however you will get annoyed at how enemies tend to not appear in areas that they should like the humble Chocobo which you can kill but only if it decides to show up.

Let’s get into mechanics now. Explorers can all do a normal attack and sprint. Your AP meter is the fuel for your abilities and sprinting, it fills as you attack, use a ether or stand still. For the love of god don’t overuse it and run out unless you want to be left walking after your teammates as they sprint away. You can lock on to nearby enemies by tapping R and have the camera move to in front of you by tapping L, holding L or R opens the ability lists allowing you to use what you have on them. Abilities also have a charge time after use but usually you should always have at least one ability to use if you spam all of them. Holding both L and R opens the Crystal Surge menu when the game tells you have one available. The controls do have a hefty use on the shoulder buttons but it’s easy to get used to, my main issue is how the lock-on always locks on to any boss monsters if they are in the vicinity and not the small fries unless you press “Track Small” on the touch screen.

You learn all your abilities from the Main Crystal in Liberta and they all cost CP. CP is what you get from killing things and is multiplied heavily after a quest. CP is also used during equipment upgrades and monster fusions. The Main Crystal also lets you learn any mutated abilities you’ve found. What are those? Let me explain that with Crystal Surge. You have a count of your Crystal Resonance on the top left that you raise by using abilities, when it gets over 100 a Crystal Surge can occur. The Crystal Surge menu then can be opened allowing you to choose a temporary status change for example all of your attacks are Critcal Hits or all of your attacks are Fire Elemental , but the 4 that appear are random and you won’t know what they do unless you look them up in the game or just try them out. Anyway when a Crystal Surge is active some of your abilities may turn yellow. Use them and you unlock a ability mutation which is a extra add on for the ability you have and all mutations can be stacked and added with whatever other mutation the ability is compatible with. For example:

  1. I have a ability called Sonic Steel
  2. I activate the Fire Crystal Surge that makes my attacks all do fire damage
  3. Sonic Steel turns yellow and I use it during the surge, the game prompts me that I’ve gotten the Fire Mutation
  4. I purchase Sonic Steel1 (which has the fire mutation) from the Main Crystal and replace it with the normal Sonic Steel.
  5. I get a poison mutation for Sonic Steel1 allowing me to purchase Sonic Steel2 which now has a chance of poisoning and burning a enemy.

I can increase the power and chance of success of abilities by repeatedly mutating the same Surge. If you don’t want to use any of the Crystal Surges that appear in the list you can change it by using abilities a couple of times. If you want to get the most of your abilities, GET EVERY MUTATION YOU CAN.

Now there’s Magicite (no not the Final Fantasy VI stuff) which you unlock after you Encase your first Eidolon during the quest where you learn how to. Eidolons are the series’ summons that fight you in specific areas and can be defeated for items but when they are at low HP the Encase Crystal Surge can appear allowing you to capture the Eidolon and use their magicite. It is REALLY annoying trying to capture a Eidolon for the first time so here are some tips that you should keep in mind every time you attempt it:

-Use abilities or Crystal Shards that don’t damage the Eidolon to raise your Crystal Resonance

-Use the Oracle item to change the Surge list

-When playing in a team you all have individual Crystal Surges at around the same time and raising Resonance is much faster. Having 4 people with Surges increase the chances of one of them having Encase.

When you Encase an Eidolon, you unlock its Trance for permanent use and can sell the Magicite as a Eidolon. Your Trance meter fills as you attack and use abilities. When its full you can go into Trance which fills your HP and AP. It also lets you use a Trance Surge when you get another Crystal Surge which is a really strong special but what it does depends on the Eidolon you have equipped. Now WHO WANTS TO TRANSFORM INTO LIGHTNING FROM THE POPULAR FINAL FANTASY XIII!?!?!?!? Like unlocking Jobs, you can unlock Magicite from the Libertas Moogles after completing certain requirements that let you transform into veteran Final Fantasy characters in Trance and use their Trance Surge. No Final Fantasy IX characters sadly. You can also unlock and forge Final Fantasy outfits but they’re generally overshadowed in terms of protection and convenience.

Now Monster Creation. This thing mainly exists so that people playing solo can have some semblance of “team”. When a monster dies they have a chance of dropping their Atmalith…it’s their soul so to speak. You use this to create monsters to fight with you and they can…level up even though you can’t. I split Monster Creation into two catagories: Either they’re shit or they’re broken damage dealers. My personal favs are the Black Knight, Cactuar and Magic Pot who deal really high magic damage.

So people like playing with other people right? This is self explanatory, you can play with up to 3 others in different quests, the difficulty is raised depending on how many people are there so good job synergy and teamwork is necessary. This can be done with friends or people you find online that may or may not be cunts and run off whilst you try to get materials. Can’t do much in profanities though, you have a set list of things to inform the team of.

I think I’ve covered more than enough. The game is rather clunky but still great fun as it serves its purpose well. Like some other games (BRAVELY DEFAULT) I think it would’ve benefitted greatly from some more time, attention and additions to make things more convenient. The music is…decent but with a game like this you’re probably listening to music or a podcast (wink wink nudge nudge) when playing. It’s worth the price that its going for and fans of the series have already bought the game because of all the beautiful fanservice. I wish Gilgamesh and Omega Weapon weren’t the only non-summon boss fights though, some more fanservice in optional boss department pls.

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Anyone want to see what review comes up next? I’m leaving that up to you.

-TheAceAlucard

My Top Five Sandbox Games

February 12, 2016 no comments Posted in Video Games

A game wherein the player has been freed from the traditional structure and direction typically found in video games, and is instead given the ability to choose what, when, and how they want to approach the available choices in content. The term is in reference to a child’s sandbox in which no rules are present and play is derived from open-ended choice. While some sandbox games may have building and creation aspects to their gameplay, those activities are not required. Sandbox games usually take place in an open-world setting as to facilitate the freedom of choice a player is given.

“Sandbox game” — Wikipedia

I like a good action-packed game every now and then, but my toy of choice in the gaming playground is the sandbox. The kind of games that appeal to that excitement of opportunity, and don’t later disappoint you when you realize they’re actually mostly hollow.

Here are my top 5.


#5 The Powder Toy(Free & Open Source, Windows, Mac)

This image may be slightly deceiving, you can't really build large structures that move like the Vertibird pictured centre-top

The Powder Toy is like a normal sandbox, but 2D and with a huge variety of particles that interact with each other in useful and intricate ways rather than just boring old sand; These particles include explosives, gasses, solids, liquids, and a bunch of real-life elements(which are more like elements that are just named after real elements to give you a hint on it’s behaviour than actual realism) TPT also differs from a standard sandbox by having less toddlers, allowing you to play in it without ending up in a cell.
 
TPT’s greatest feature is the electronics. You can wire things to behave in rather specific ways, leading to interesting creations like controllable reactors, laser rifles and miniature computers. The game’s ‘wire’s are anything that’s conductive(gold, ‘metal’, iron…), and electricity is a yellow pulse that travels infinitely at a speed dependent on it’s medium. Various particles act accordingly when in contact with electricity, which can be controlled with switches, sensors, one-way wires and other brain materials.
 
And it’s topped off with an in-game scene browser which you can use to download and upload some amazing scenes. So, it’s free, it works on Win(e?)dows and Mac OSX, and it’s tiny. Might as well just download it already.

 #4 Algodoo(Free, Windows, Mac)

Algodoo screenshot

Algodoo is a 2D physics game where you build contraptions from shapes, motors, thrusters, lasers and physics, and then delete them because they are all crap in comparison to stuff in the Algobox

You may remember Incredibots from 2009, well, Algodoo is like that but better. With a better engine, a (much) better interface, more object properties, scripting(Though, the custom scripting language ‘Thyme’ is probably the worst I’ve ever seen bar intentionally bad ones), lasers and Water!

Despite being 2D, there is a lot you can do in Algodoo. I’ve had a lot of fun making multipurpose vehicles, games, solar systems, and just generally messing around in this game. It runs well, is now free, and best of all: it doesn’t use Flash, earning it #4 on my list.


#3 Minecraft(20€, mods only work on Linux, Windows, and Mac)

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Missiles are piped into these silos from below. Because nothing reminds you of your sandbox days quite like liberating enemies from existance before they can sign any silly peace treatie!

You already know what Minecraft is, I don’t need to tell you.

 

But what puts it at #3 on my list are it’s mods. Specifically,  Industrial Craft 2, Buildcraft, ComputerCraft, ICBM and a Bukkit server with Factions.

Industrial Craft 2 brings Minecraft into an industrial revolution, and then some. Mining lasers, carbon armour, jetpacks, teleportation devices and a large array of power storage, transmission and generation blocks(incl. Nuclear reactors!) to power them.

Buildcraft adds mostly just item transportation pipes and automatic crafting tables, which can be used to build factories to construct pretty much anything. I use it to make automatic ore processors, missile construction factories and extremely advanced nuclear power plants.

Computercraft gives you mining turtles, portable and static computers and a few other computer peripherals, and everything is programmable using Lua. You can draw to a computer’s screen and get user input, leading to some people creating their own OSs! Mining turtles can be programmed to do your bidding as they have their own inventories, and they can attack, dig, and transfer items. You can also use OpenPeripherals and OpenCC Sensors to make them stand watch at your base and attack intruders.

ICBM adds InterContinental Ballistic Missiles, which allow you to punch a hole in the world up to 10,000 blocks away. The size of the hole they punch is anyone between ‘conventional’ TnT, to a missile with 3 nuclear warheads powerful enough to reclaim a moderately sized base back to nature. With that last bit in mind, it’s important to construct missile counter measures, such as radar & EMP towers, anti-ballistic missile silos and AA guns.

Factions is a server-side mod that allows players to claim land and prevent your low-level, unorganised griefers from helping themselves, claimed land is uneditable to anyone but the faction it belongs to. The fun part of Factions is that for claimed land to remain claimed, the owners of that land need to not die too much. Traditionally, on Vanilla servers, this meant that Faction ‘raids’ would occasionally  take place. Raiders would invade an enemy base when enough of their players were online, attempt to slaughter as much of the enemy as possible(Attackers often fell victim to clever traps, and well prepared defenders often stood a decent chance of repelling the attackers, and profiting from their *highly* precious, often beloved raiding kits)

What about when a faction simply builds a box and hides in it? Traditionally, a TnT cannon would be constructed outside a faction base by the invaders’ smartest technicians in order to breach the enemy base. With ICBM, I like to exhaust their missile counter-measures with a barrage of low-tier missiles, and then make a clean entry hole from afar.

Or if I’m feeling like the materials are worth it, convert their entire base into a crater. ICBM is awesome.

 


#2 Garry’s Mod(10€ on Steam, free on certain other places 😉 )

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If the Internet was a game, this would be that game. Garry’s mod was originally a Half Life 2 mod, abusing HL2’s (at the time, arguably still) groundbreaking engine by turning it into a Sandbox game. Eventually it became standalone, with it’s own support for mods. And when I say “support for mods”, it’s not like child support or anything added in a “I suppose we have to” sort of way, It’s closer to air support, like calling in a Wing of Enola Gays to the middle of the Atlantic and blowing other modding support out of the water. It’s fitting that “Enola Gays” was split into two lines, given the context.

 

Gmod’s modding support provides access to a high-performance engine through an easy to learn, easy to implement scripting language – Lua – with an API providing both coarse and fine levels of control. Which allows the immature newbies and people that have never scripted before to enjoy themselves, and allows the (still immature) experienced modders to create their crazy works of art exactly as they invision it.

There are two types of mods for Garry’s mod: In one type, people add content to Sandbox mode(Hey dawg…), such as Wiremod and less impressively, an assortment of meme mods like Epic Sax saxophone, a ‘This is Sparta’ weapon etc etc.

And for the more ambitious, separate gamemodes can be made. Which has led to some pretty creative games, like the iconic Prop Hunt, where players animate inanimate objects and have to hide from regular humans. Or Trouble in Terrorist Town, which is like Cluedo but with social engineering and PvP. Or DarkRP, where you roleplay as a 12 year old roleplaying as a gun/drug dealer/manufacturer trying to print earn a living in a world full of hackers guys out to shut down your meth lab legitimate business. Multiplayer mods and gamemodes thrive because whenever a player joins a server with them installed, that player automagically downloads and installs all the mods on the server, and is only bothered by them when they join that server.

Sandbox mode allows you to weld various plates, cubes, complex shapes and models together, and then attach axles, ropes and thrusters, which can be controlled from a seat or remote controller if you have Wiremod installed. All of this can lead to some pretty cool vehichles(And pretty cool combat if you have Pewpew installed), but in multiplayer mainly just equates to a lot of people getting run over and the 13 year old’s Mona Lisa constructed and painted in a large, often impressively creative variety of ways.

 


#1 Kerbal Space Program(40€, free demo with less features, Win+Mac+lin)

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KSP is my favourite sandbox game, and my favourite game full stop.

The best way to play KSP is badly. People say that it is a hard game, because they can’t readily do what they set out to, or what they’ve seen other people do.

KSP is not a hard game. KSP is a Sandbox game. When your ship disintegrates during re-entry, or crashes into Mun instead of landing gracefully, you might think “This is hard” , “That failed” or maybe even slam things if you’re prone to anger. People that I’ve managed to get into this game instead think “Hehe! It exploded!” or “That was close. Now what can I do to get closer?” like tiny green Elon Musks.

Unlike what too many think, it isn’t a game you need to be smart to play(or even to be good at). Ever wonder how a few thousand tiny green men and women manage to get to other planets without any other technology or even civilizations outside of the Space Centre? It’s because they’re relentless(And also because they seem to value science over each other’s lives, judging by all the Kerbals drifting around my Kerbol). If you cannot accept that failure is always an option, this game is not for you.

If this game is for you, do not look up anything. The game covers all the essentials  and when you look things up, you miss out on all those fun ways you can fail. Start a career mode, and just have fun, because a spectacular fail is still spectacular.

Also, take screenshots and videos. I regret not taking more, they help you remember the great moments you had.

Things of the Year 2015

February 1, 2016 no comments Posted in Video Games

Why hello there, I’m Sean Reidy and these are my things of the year 2015.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
This is a game I spent several year obsessing over every slightest detail of in the lead up to its big release on September 1st. I had seen every trailer dozens of times. I watched any appearance of Hideo Kojima for some hope of news. I watched a Japanese livestream on Christmas Day to have a chicken hat confirmed for me. I bought the big 140 euro collector’s edition with a half scale replica of Big Boss’ bionic arm. I played the game non-stop for a month and I feel it is half a perfect game. Playing the game you see the occasional glimpse of an all time great, and the game still debatably is. But it could’ve been so, so much better. The game’s core gameplay is fantastic, every movement is fluid and responsive. The shooting is great, every one of the game’s wide variety of guns feel different to each other. The story is acceptable by general gaming standards but is pretty woeful by Metal Gear standards. Some segments of the story are fantastic. Quiet manages to have somewhat of an arc without any dialogue, the “woman in the room” who I won’t mention for spoilers has a heartbreaking side story, the mission “Voices” is spectacular and builds a fantastic atmosphere in one of the game’s very few indoor areas. MGSV is a huge disappointment, but also my Game of the Year.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
My Film of the Year was less of a disappointment. I was a big Star Wars fan a good few years ago but it had sort of subsisted into me deciding Empire was the only good one. The Force Awakens changed that, in the lead up to it I rediscovered the series I had abandoned and the film itself was the final clincher. I loved it. Almost every part of it. I understand it’s just A New Hope with new characters but I really like those new characters. Kylo Ren’s pathetic immaturity has given me one of my favourite film villains in years. Finn was well-acted, humourous. And of course, John Williams, fantastic as ever. The soundtrack is great, with the highlights being Rey’s Theme, March of the Resistance and The Jedi Steps & Finale. Rey’s Theme in particular gives a sense of discovery, hearing that song in the film I felt as if this was really it. After 32 years they got it right again. Good job, Disney.

Toast of London
Please watch Toast of London. Seriously. I don’t know a single person who watches it and it is the best surreal sitcom on TV since The IT Crowd. Toast stars Matt Berry (Douglas Reynholm from the previously mentioned IT Crowd) as Steven Toast, a failing, middle aged actor from London who is forced to do whatever job comes his way. The best of this year’s episodes involved popular US actor Jon Hamm, as Toast develops an unwanted homosexual crush on him. The show evokes memories of Father Ted, and I’d put some episodes on a level with that show’s absurdist highs like Speed 3 and The Mainland. It’s a fantastic show and, despite winning BAFTAs, I worry it has gone underappreciated.

Music Complete

The latest album from the legendary New Order is something that popped up out of the blue for me, I only knew of its existence a day before release, I’m glad I did find out about it though. The album has a perfect mix of electronica, the occasional classical instrument and some pretty good vocals. The highlights on the album include Restless, a song that sounds straight off a Joy Division album with its vaguely mopey lyricism with top class instrumentation, Stray Dog, a contemplative slower song with a spoken word angle that sounds semi-similar to Ron Perlman and Tutti Frutti, a much more house type of song with occasional disco flashes throughout. Overall the album was a tremendous surprise, and one I thoroughly recommend you give a listen to.

Bonus Thing of 2016

Blackstar, the 26th and final studio album of David Bowie was released on January 9th, Bowie’s 69th birthday. I listened to it then and I thought it was fantastic. I thought I had already found my album of the year. 3 days later, Bowie died after a secret 18 month battle with cancer. This cemented the album as my favourite, which allows me to write this in absolute confidence. Listening to the album that weekend was a strange experience. It was a fantastic album, but a weird one. A lot of things in it were unexplained. Then the news broke. It is a parting gift from Bowie, with the jazz infused tones of the album playing him out from the world. He did not take his death idly, and instead used it to fuel one last masterpiece. To my mind the best songs on the album are Lazarus, Dollar Days and I Can’t Give Everything Away. These songs are rooted in death. Lazarus is the most blunt of these, opening with “Look up here, I’m in heaven” before descending into a final verse about how “This way or no way, you know I’ll be free” and the song uses the same notes repeatedly to create an overwhelming sense of dread. It is a fantastic album, only made better by the unfortunate context.

Chrono Trigger Review

January 28, 2016 no comments Posted in Nintendo, Video Games

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Disclaimer: I rushed this one out the ass.

-Release-

In 1995 Square released Chrono Trigger saw its release on the SNES, a creation of what was dubbed the Dream Team; Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of Final Fantasy), Yuji Horii (creator of Dragon Quest) and Akira Toriyama (who most of you probably already heard of) with the game being produced by Kazuhiko Aoki. It was critically acclaimed upon release although official PAL cartridges of the game were not created for some reason and it wouldn’t be until 2009 that PAL regions got Chrono Trigger via the DS version. There was a PS1 port created in 1999 but like Square’s port of Final Fantasy VI and such, it was absolutely filled with load times and they were almost 10 second ones at the least. I presume this has something to do with the PS1’s RAM or lack thereof which is why SNES ports got these load times. The only new addition to the PS1 version was a set of animated cutscenes that would play at different intervals created by Bird Studio and Toei Animation. They’re great and all, especially with the opening’s version of the main theme but they’re also included in the DS version of the game along with bonus features, a better translation and such. Predictably the DS version is the best one out there, while I did manage to cope with finishing the PS1 version that’s something I’ll never do again and there are already iOS and Android versions of the game if you need them.

-How Trigger got triggered (lol)-

Crono is a young swordsman who’s a mute. Oh boy. In all seriousness the kid wakes up excited (at least that’s what his mother says) for the festival the Guardia kingdom is holding to celebrate its long prosperity. While testing out his friend Lucca’s teleportation device being showed off at the fair a girl named Marle, who tagged along with Crono after bumping into him, tries the machine out but her pendant causes a malfunction which opens a random portal that she gets sucked into. Crono picks up the dropped pendant and decides to open the same portal to find her while Lucca stays behind and tries figures out just what the hell happened. He finds himself in the Middle Ages where he finds that Marle has been mistaking for that era’s queen whose been missing. Marle suddenly and rather painfully disappears in front of Crono just as she begins to explain why she was mistaken for the missing Queen Leene (lol). Lucca appears to tell Crono that Marle is actually the present’s Princess Nardia who took on the name of Marle to go off doing non-royal things. Leene is the Nardia’s ancestor and because she is still missing with Marle taking her place, a grandfather paradox occurs causing Marle to simply not exist. Crono and Lucca team up with a frog knight named…Frog in order to rescue the missing queen and restore the royal family line. After doing so Marle is restored and using Lucca’s new device designed to open gates in time that are appearing for some reason (sort of explained later on) they return to the present. Upon doing so Crono is arrested upon escorting the princess back to the castle under the pretence of “kidnapping her” (don’t worry there’s a sidequest also explaining this well enough) and escapes from jail with the help of Marle and Lucca. After escaping to a time gate leading to the distant apocalyptic future they discover that at some point the planet was ravaged by a unknown force named Lavos. Deciding to try and find a way to stop the event from happening they begin their journey through time to save the future and that’s where I’ll stop for now. The game may be over 20 years old but I don’t feel up to spoiling a lot of elements that make it easier to enjoy. Besides this synopsis is pretty bare but the depth to the game and the characters start coming about from Antiquity onwards along with the endgame sidequests mainly focusing on character events and development for example going back in time to stop Lucca’s mother from losing the ability to walk by getting caught in the active machine right in front of the poor girl (just save beforehand so you don’t fuck it up and make Lucca watch it a 2nd time). It’s what they went for I think, mainly giving you a romp through the world and characters they created until you get to Magus where things start adding up. The time travel logic isn’t pure perfect, it never is when changing history is the subject, but it uses it really well ignoring some paradoxes .

 

-Gameplay-

We have quite a number of new things to cover but nothing too in depth. Trigger does away with random encounters and transitioning into a different screen for battle. Battles are initiated by coming into enemy contact or going to a specific tile for fixed battles and battles all happen on the same map. This was considered quite innovative to have battles happen where they start, however there’s one major problem with this: There are a lot of fixed battles, combine that with enemies respawning everytime you leave the room and come back and you have a annoying number of repeated fixed encounters when you step on a tile on your way back to somewhere. EarthBound didn’t have this problem because dungeons had one way to go most of the time and avoiding encounters was more of a element there. In here its more in theory. One thing that makes it a bit harder to take is how because you fight on the same map YOU KNOW that you’re fighting the exact encounter again in the same area whilst with random encounter transitions you feel more like fighting just another one of that enemy type if they show up. You get used to it fast enough and if you don’t it’s not something that hampers the whole deal but it’s something that’ll make it hell to play the PS1 version where battles have load times where they didn’t. At least thanks to this system there are no encounters in the world map. Battles run off Final Fantasy‘s Active Time Battle. Basically everyone, enemies and characters, runs off a ATB Meter which gets full when they can perform a command. The higher a characters’ speed the faster the meter goes, although I recommend altering the battle speed and ATB in the Options menu to go faster or slower and whether or not it still fills when selecting through Items and Techs in case you don’t want to feel pressured to pick something in those menus fast before the enemy snags you. Techs are basically where all a character’s special moves and spells are and they cost MP to use. You learn Techs by gaining TP but unlike XP a character has to be in the battle to have earned it, whilst members out of the party can gain some XP on their own. Techs generally have a field of effect, some work more when the enemies and lined up or in a particular area of range; for example Falcon Strike is a Tech that attacks diagonally so anything next to what your attacking gets hit as well. What makes creating a party in this game unique in terms of strategy are the powerful Dual Techs. When two character’s ATB are both filled you can use any Dual Techs they may have. Dual Techs come about when character’s Tech’s can be combined for example Crono’s Cyclone Tech can be combined with Lucca’s Flame Toss to create Flame Whirl. Dual Techs cost the characters using the Dual Tech the amount of MP that their normal Tech would cost on its own meaning Crono spends MP needed for Cyclone and Lucca spends the MP needed for Flame Toss   learning Dual Techs is a matter of changing around party members once in a while when they learn new Techs and seeing what appears in the Tech menu. It gets even further with Triple Techs which require a specific party and in some cases a specific item to use. Party members can be swapped at any time outside of battle so making a new party is a button push away if needed. Since TP has to be earned during battle I generally like to fight the respawning Rubble on the Mountain of Woe past the halfway point of the game, the bastard drops 100 TP which is not something I can pass up to grind on until everyone has their Techs which is something you WILL do before getting to the near end anyway. I don’t think this game will ever force you to grind too much but there are bosses that you will need to think of a good strategy to beat…or be like me and just abuse strong Techs when I can get them early. Basically fights give good challenge either way, they’re difficult enough as things go on so that you need to keep your eyes open and learn the enemy starting with Magus and especially with the fucking Golem boss.

One of the main gimmicks for Trigger is, well, time travel. Different version of the same planet through a number of time periods allowing access to new locations; The present, middle ages, prehistory, apocalyptic future, antiquity and finally the year 1999 where Lavos rose and destroyed the planet. And when I was born. Lovely. The End of Time which you enter soon into the game acts as the main hub for any Time Gates the group come across until you get the time machine Epoch and eventually its upgrade to fly. Gaspar will generally give you hints of where to go next so getting confused on what to do isn’t ever a problem. Just don’t touch the bucket’s Time Gate, that takes you straight to the final boss. Gaspar does warn you not to touch the bucket when you meet him but fuck he could’ve mentioned where it lead. The Epoch comes majorly into play when doing sidequests which are basically the meat of Trigger‘s final chapter. Getting Crono back into your party endgame is technically one since at that point you can beat the game with any party you want but the others serve to strengthen the party for the fight against Lavos so ignoring them is a very bad idea unless you want Lavos to wipe you out. I won’t go too in depth to them but they’re enjoyable side quests nonetheless and give you great equipment for the final battle as well as the time travel coming into play for stuff like the Sun Stone and Rainbow Shell. The game is designed quite straightforward until that point, and it helps cut down the backtracking by a mile.

I think I’ve covered the main gameplay so far so let’s get into the DS version’s additions. Besides some interfaces changes we also get a self filling map which is always nice to have. There’s also 2 Lost Sanctum areas which basically have you do fetch quests and things for reptites in return for rewards. I never bothered since the stuff opens extremely late game and you all know how I feel about areas being dedicated to fetch quests. We also have this Arena of the Ages. Ever wanted to raise a monster? Now you can, although this is accessible from the End of Time it doesn’t anything I deemed worth going after although some items can be nice to get a bit early and the raising mechanics are extremely straightfoward. I just get a kick out of watching my raised pet out damage another one but that’s about it. Finally we have 4 extra boss fights against a few shade versions of your party members and then the Bucket will take you to the Dimensional Vortex dungeon. This does get you some more awesome equipment but it’s the last thing in the game so I didn’t feel it was worth trying out and Square usually made extra dungeons in ports a pain to get through. Maybe when I bother to go after the Dream Devourer (yeah that’s the name of it) and the other ending, I’ll update the review but not now.

Speaking of extra equipment Chrono Trigger was one of the first RPGs to introduce the holy New Game Plus. Replay the game with all your badass equipment, levels and Techs? Fuck yeah but now we can get into alternate ending territory. There are a large number of endings you can get that the game keeps track of, all based on when in the game and how you beat Lavos. The ending most players should get first is the ending that comes after you rescue Crono and fight Lavos after going through the Black Omen. A lot of the endings are more of a play for laughs like what if you went into the Bucket defeated Lavos before helping Ayla take out the reptites in Prehistory, thus turning the present’s humanity into repitites. Another ending is…the female characters going through a list of the male characters of the game. Fucking hell.

-Presentation-

Sexy on all accounts; the music is phenomenal and definitely my favourite SNES soundtrack. The graphics were spectacular for the time make the game hold up extremely well amongst the DS library although the numerous uses of the SNES’ list of special graphical effects (can’t name them all myself right now) does age the game to some extent. The story is what I feel it needs to be, its less about deep questions but still keeps characters’ and story’s development and has good writing with twists that are strong as they need to be. I recommend the game for everyone to at least try out, I know a lot of people aren’t very friendly towards some of the ideas implemented (specifically ATB and encounters started by touching tiles) but it’s a great game given a fair shake and worth any gamers’ time. The DS version is great despite my disinterest in a lot of the extras but seeing as the other options are the PS1 version (huge load times), the SNES version (90’s RPG localization), and iOS (touch screen controls), I think you’ll come to the conclusion it’s the best choice out of them.

531944

-TheAceAlucard

 

 

 

Wanna know why this was rushed? I wanted to review Mother 3 but I realised how long I would take writing a plot synopsis so I looked over a couple of things I could do. I tried rushing a playthrough of the original Ratchet and Clank as a nod to the upcoming reboot game and film but it was agonizing going back to it. I had about four days to decide, most of which I wouldn’t spend writing so I picked Chrono Trigger as a easy ticket out.

Complexity, Change & Community The 3 C’s of Pokemon VGC

January 25, 2016 no comments Posted in Video Games

I’ve been a long time Pokemon fan having played every main series game since Pearl. And in recent years the games official championships have had an explosion of viewers and participators. With the game now having garnered eSport status I still find myself being brushed off by most people when I participate in competitive Pokemon even by friends who play bigger eSports such as LoL and Dota. So today I would like to explore the true complexity of this Pokemon VGC along with some of the recent changes to the format and there impact on the community.

Complexity

Some of you may not know this but there are currently 721 Pokemon, you also are only able to have 6 Pokemon on your team at a time. Which means there is a total of 137,579,356,487,018,880 possible team combinations this all before taking into account Items, EVs, IVs, Moves, Abilities and Forms. And that is just team combinations. You are also allowed to only take 4 of your 6 Pokemon team into battle meaning you have to look at your Opponent’s team and try and predict what they will bring along with the how to counter them. The format is also a “Double Battle” which means you always have 2 Pokemon active at a time. So you have to manage two Pokemon at at a time whilst also trying to work out what is the best plan of attack along with predicting your opponent is going do.

Maths also factors a surprising amount into this, you will often see top level players with notepads beside them and they’ll constantly be scribbling trying to calculate the percentage chance of out speeding the opponent to get the first shot in along with the percentage chance of the bonus affects from there moves taking place. So to truly be a Pokemon master you need to be able to manage all of these skills along with being willing to put in a lot of time just to get into this team of yours it can take several hours to just to get one Pokemon for your team of six and then you have to retry again if the team dynamic doesn’t work.

Change

Pokemon VGC gained it popularity at the 2014 VGC World Championships receiving millions of views. Then Se Jun Park one using a Pachirisu on his team. And using it surprisingly well. For those not in the know Pachirisu is a Pokemon that is often caught early on in the game and then quickly discarded due to it’s weakness and small move-pool. This rocked the Pokemon Community for lack of a better word, showing that you too can be a Pokemon Master with your favorite Pokemon, Karen would be proud.

But then in 2015 the meta game stagnated having an incredibly small variety of Pokemon among the top level players. For example Landorous-Therian Form was on the team off all top 16 players in the masters division. The fans cried out asking for The Pokemon Company to do something. The logical decision would be to ban Pokemon that were overused and overpowered. But instead they added in a bunch of Pokemon previously banned for being too powerful. This changed so much of how people played the game. Yes there is more variety (This is just from what I am seeing, there hasn’t been any live streamed Pokemon tournaments at the time of writing) but at the same time there is a new Landorus if you will. Not as bad, but still rather prevlant. Xernas. Xernas was always a hassle to deal with before even when it was surrounded by legendries, but now amongst lesser ‘mons Xernas can be fatal to an entire team if not neutralized quick.

Community

The VGC community has grown in recent years as I mentioned above. People are now able to make a living off making VGC Youtube videos, which doubles as practice. And the Friend Safari subreddit has gained thousands of members. But there is also a different side to the community. With legendries being non-breedable that means that you have to turn your game off and on again and battle them again and capture them and then get there IVs checked and it can take a couple of minutes just to do it once. So people have turned to twitter and social media. Asking and trying to exploit people to send them legendries to use. This was received negatively by most pokemon fans and demonstrates how far people are willing to go to get just one Pokemon.