Video Games / Editorials

Quick Look: Habitat

Quick Look: Habitat

A few days back I got the chance to sit down with a wonderful little indie-game titled Habitat. It is a real-time, physics-driven orbital strategy game where you build, fly, and fight with the unique space stations that you create out of space debris orbiting earth. In its simplest terms it is a strategic space survival game. The game is developed by a studio named 4gency, and this is one of the better space simulation/strategy games I’ve played. It’s in Early Access right now, so take that into account if you decide to dip into the game. Here’s my video below of my Quick Look into the game. If the game tickles your fancy, and you need a romp through space then I can’t recommend it enough. Expect more videos like this for the site regarding indie games. It’s a fun one. You can purchase the Early Access copy of Habitat right now over on Steam for $14.99 Plus, slapping a fire-breathing T-Rex head onto your ship is awesome. Expect an actual review later on in the future when the game leaves the Early Access stages. Store Page: [Click Here]...

Why Styx: Master of Shadows is Worth Watching

Why Styx: Master of Shadows is Worth Watching

The stealth genre is making somewhat of a comeback, albeit a rather quiet comeback (no pun intended). The likes of Thief and Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeros have added to a very small library of recent stealth games. It’s not that the fan base is no longer there, it’s just that stealth games rarely seem to make it to release. Thankfully a new stealth game is on the way–a fresh new game with no ties to past franchises. Styx: Master of Shadows is a stealth title set within a fantasy setting, complete with all the humans and elves you could expect. Players take up the role of Styx, a goblin anti-hero, who just happens to be a master assassin and thief. As with most classic stealth games, Styx will task players with completing various tasks with a sense of finesse, leaving no clues behind.   It’s refreshing to see another stealth game in development, even more so when the main character isn’t what you’d expect from such a game. Goblins, by their nature, tend to be rather cheeky little gits, so the idea of playing as a master assassin/thief who just happens to be a Goblin is instantly appealing. Given Styx is set in a fantasy universe, the range of enemies and allies players could run into during the course of the game will be extensive, with plenty of creative freedom being available. The environments will also offer plenty of opportunity for players to approach objectives if the available screenshots are anything to go by. There’s a number of core RPG mechanics behind Styx‘s stealth gameplay. Players can earn experience and unlock new skills and abilities. Add to this six full talent trees and there’s plenty of depth promised. While there isn’t a whole lot known about Styx, the concept alone is interesting enough to grab the attention of fans of stealth games, as well as extending the appeal to those who enjoy fantasy settings. Be sure to keep your eye out for one of the more unique offerings set for release this year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbT6nM4qpW4...

Should Betas Be Pre-Order Incentives?

Should Betas Be Pre-Order Incentives?

The Destiny Beta is already solid, heck even the Alpha was, but is it solid enough to sell it to the masses? The general reaction is positive, with most people coming over to the concept of the MMO like nature of Bungie’s next big thing. The confusion that surrounded Destiny has seemingly been eradicated as a result of both the Alpha and the Beta. As more and more people become aware of exactly what Destiny. This has led to a few curious questions over the new role of Betas, both in terms of the game and it’s marketing. Betas were traditionally used to to test builds, allowing for feedback to be given and bugs to be found. As time has went on, Betas have become turned into something of a marketing tool. While there’s nothing wrong with offering Beta access as a pre-order incentive, there is a risk of flooding them with unresponsive players. The key element to a successful Beta is reaction and feedback from it’s players, the most vocal of them being the most important. Vocal Beta testers are a key asset when it comes to gathering feedback. Those who are willing to report a bug, fill in a survey, report what they liked and what they didn’t. While it may sound obsessive, perhaps too keen, these people are exactly what a Beta truly require to be a success on a technical term. This is where potential issues arise in terms of using Betas as a pre-order incentive. The way in which Betas are thrown around these days. The majority of people jumping into betas they gained access to via pre-order will have no interest in giving feedback. They’ll see it as a taste of things to come, almost a demo, which is a disservice to the Alpha/Beta process as well as the developers of said game in the Alpha/Beta stage. It begs the question if these Betas on offer are in fact betas at all. It’s a odd concept that such a important part of the development process has now becoming a marketing tool to gain bore pre-orders. Perhaps it’s just the natural progression of the industry, perhaps it’s just smart business. What ever the reason is, using Betas as a means to gain pre-orders still feels a little off....

Why You Shouldn’t Expect A Console Version Of Elder Scrolls Online…Or Want One

Why You Shouldn’t Expect A Console Version Of Elder Scrolls Online…Or Want One

The Elder Scrolls Online has been one of the oddest MMO’s to release in quite some time. From announcement to release, the development window was rather short, even more so given the apparent scope of the game. Given the promise of both a PC and PS4/Xbox One release, the short development cycle comes off as rather suspect. After a PC release, and a console delay, Elder Scrolls Online turned out to be a bit off a mess, a MMO failing on core mechanics. Elder Scrolls Online is limping along, failing to live up to the hype, or even stand side by side competition, is a console version even a viable option any more? While the Elder Scrolls Online has all the distinct Elder Scroll elements, the imagery, the lore, music, it’s MMO components often fall flat on it’s face. Group questing is a utter mess, a mess that leads to frustration more than fulfilment. The questing experience on the whole is simply nothing to write home about it. Keeping in the grounds of kill quests and fetch quests, with only some sub-standard voice acting in between, the bulk of the quests feel forced. It’s not that the quests are all that bad, it’s just they’re done better in other games, especially when they involve group interaction.   Elder Scrolls Online suffers, at least in its PvE, from truly finding it’s feet in a MMO environment. The core game feels like it’s built as a single player experience shuffling around trying to fit into the MMO genre. While the PvP is genuinely quite good , the PvE is just a inconsistent, often barren, experience. This is a issue that feels a little beyond a simple patch or two, it’s a issue at the heart of the game. Given the issues, the decreasing subs, a console version feels more like a hope rather than a expectations, and even so, is it worth hoping for? It’s hard to see a console version lighting the world on fire. The bland, eerily lifeless, nature of the game would still be there. Perhaps the console market, which doesn’t hold too much experience with MMOs, would be able to see past the quality life issues Elder Scrolls Online suffers from. The main stumbling block that console version would run into would be the subscription fee.   While people may be used to paying for their Xbox Live and PSN Plus, most struggle with the concept of paying full retail and then paying a sub on top of that. The subscription fee is just as much as issue for the PC version, people expect content, expanding content, that justifies monthly fees. Elder Scrolls Online is simply not providing the content to justify the asking price for the masses. It’s hard to envision what a console version would look, and play, like. Elder Scrolls Online isn’t visually impressive, there’s a shade of doubt that the visuals would be acceptable on the two newest consoles. A console version simply does not seem like a valid concept, and the silence around the console version suggests ZeniMax and Bethesda are all too well of that. The core game has far too many issues in its current state to truly sustain a working monthly subscription model. The expectation is Elder Scrolls Online will hit free-to-play within a year, a plan that has been adopted successfully by a number of companies when their MMO’s have ran into the subscriber/user issues. The most notable of these free-to-play adopters being EA/Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic. After a initial period of success, The Old Republics subscribers plummeted, in reaction to this a free-to-play model was adopted, breathing life into the game and propping up the game for a sustainable future. The free-to-play mode, that also offers a premium monthly subscription option, is a perfectly serviceable option for most MMO’s that don’t command the huge or consistent user bases. Elder Scrolls Online has a issue with any potential plans to adopt a free-to-play model. If a console version is still in development, adapting a free-to-play model for the PC version will almost certainly render a console version with a retail price, plus subs, as utterly unserviceable. How could they possibly convince console users to buy, and pay monthly, for a game that is available as free-to-play on the PC. The future of Elder Scrolls Online is certainly unclear. A console version simply does not seem like a legitimate option any more and should no longer be expected. With nothing but words, no screenshots or gameplay, from Bethesda it’s a safe bet a console version of Elder Scrolls Online is dead in the water.    ...

EVO Is The Single Greatest E-Sports Event

EVO Is The Single Greatest E-Sports Event

The world of E-sports has grown in the last few years. The rise of League of Legends, DOTA2, Call of Duty and the ever present Star Craft 2 have resulted in the scene being full of range. While each game has it’s respective following , all with their own distinct community and event presentation, there is only one event that captures the true joys of video games in a competitive nature. EVO is hands down the best representation of video games as a spectators event, a competitive event, a genuinely enjoyably event. While the likes of League of Legends and DOTA2 may provide huge spectacle, complete with sold out arenas, the humble but honest nature of EVO makes the event incredibility endearing. The simple, yet slick, set up of EVO gives it a much more human level. There’s no over the top set pieces, no obnoxious promos, just a easy on the eye set up. Two people, one scree, and a crowd of people more than willing to give the event life and personality. The range of fighting games present at EVO each and every year is always staggering. From the well known power franchises such as Marvel Vs Capcom to the more obscure fighters such as BlazBlue, it’s all there and packing their own unique charm. Regardless of how familiar (or even unfamiliar) someone is with a game on stage, the action is appealing, the crowds enjoyment is infectious. A curious five minute look at a game can turn into a full on viewing of the games respective tournament. EVO speaks to the tradition of old arcades, the idea of winner staying on, of people playing their favorite games side by side. Prefer Street Fighter to Marvel vs Capcom? No big deal, everyone just likes to enjoy the moment. While other e-sports events put their ‘stars’ into almost celebrity like status, EVO almost encourages the barrier between crowd and competitor to dissolve, with relationships being created giving each match a story. People like Chris G and Justin Wong almost play roles in the eyes of the spectator, it’s oddly similar to something you’d normally see in the likes of the WWE.   EVO is truly the best combination of competitive video games presented in a format that doesn’t feel alien to new comers and veterans. The sense of fun, the sense of community, the connection between what’s going on stage and how the crowd is reacting result in EVO being a sheer pleasure to watch. Non-E sports fans (like myself), fans of MLG, LCS, DOTA invitationals, everyone should at least checkout EVO. Hard to explain, easy to enjoy, EVO is hands down the best competitive video game event around....

The Growing Sickness Of ‘Gamer Entitlement’

The Growing Sickness Of ‘Gamer Entitlement’

Owning one system over the other does not entitle anyone to throw insults around, nor does it entitle a person to develop a strange, almost, fanatical devotion to a brand name. Devotion to a brand, tied with entitlement, has led to some truly odd accusations of late. A circle of Xbox One/360 owners have decided that Bungie have ‘betrayed’ Xbox users in some sort of insidious manner. They, as Xbox owners, feel entitled to everything Bungie plan to do with Destiny. Assuming this is down to Bungie’s history with the Xbox brand, but does is justify the reaction of group of people? No, of course not. Companies, are there to make money. While video games are a creative industry, the fact is business plays a big part in almost every element of big developers and publishers. They set out to make a profit in order to thrive and grow, they do not owe anything to anyone’s personal agenda. A customer is entitled to a working product, this is true, but when that customer starts expect said company to fulfill all their wishes..that’s when things get sticky.   Bungie’s relationship with Sony does not show a ‘betrayal’ of anyone. It’s a sound business decision to supply Sony consoles with exclusive, both timed and permanent, that makes the PS4/3 version of Destiny more appealing than the Xbox offering. Activision know how these deals work, they know the effectiveness of them. Similar deals have made involving Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto 4, it’s nothing but business. This doesn’t stop a vocal minority to feeling wronged and demanding that they receive everything the ‘other people’ do. The entitled few are becoming increasingly ridiculous, asking for boycotts, formulating conspiracy theories, sharing it all through social media, it’s a mess. The romantic notion that the video game industry is there to fully bend to the will of it’s customer is miles off the mark. The industry is cut throat, history even shows this, business is not personal (as they always say in the films). Entitlement is a growing sickness, often tainting someone’s point of view or even a discussion. Maybe it’s a good time for people to step back a little and view things a little more clearer.    ...

Destiny Can’t Afford Not To Be 2014s Biggest Game

Destiny Can’t Afford Not To Be 2014s Biggest Game

With a number of big name franchises, and a few new IPs, slipping into 2015, it leaves a number of game fighting for the crown of ‘biggest game of the year’. Even with a degree of confusion around what exactly the game is, Destiny is fitting nicely into the possibility of being 2014′s biggest release. Whether this or not this a good thing remains to be seen however. Bungie are not used to failure, or disappointing their fans. After the success of their Halo franchise, and their loyalty to the Xbox brand, it was always going to be a challenge to craft a follow up game. Destiny is ambitious, it’s a unappreciated risk given the amount of money poured into the game. Failure, at least from a sales point of view, is not a option. Being seen as the biggest game of 2014 is purely a positive thing given it often guarantees healthy sales, in spite of quality.   Away from the financial aspects, the hype around Destiny is of a curious nature. Given the sheer fan fare, the power of the Bungie brand, the game isn’t being discussed as widely as you’d expect. Sure there’s a tight community of people, most of which are big Halo fans, discussing the game at length, but beyond that there seems like a lot of confusion from others. While the Alpha on the PS4 earlier this year cleared up some of the confusion, there’s still a wealth of people not quite sure what Destiny is. There’s also a rather strange group of people who have, apparently, decided Bungie are no worthy of their support. When Destiny was announced to contain PS4 exclusive content, both timed and 100% exclusive, a batch of Xbox owners decided to take it personally. Bungie had became instantly related to the Xbox brand after it’s run with the Halo franchise, thus resulting in a strong fan base of ‘fanatical’ Xbox fans. While the level headed, more mature, users understand that Bungie are no longer devoted to one house, others just can not understand it. These people are a minority, but a vocal minority. Bungie have a huge task ahead of them. Destiny is huge, huge is scope, content, budget. Bungie are used to handling pressure, but this time there isn’t a safety blanket of a franchise to fall back on. Halo is continuing, it’s growing into something different from what Bungie started, Destiny is the be all, and possibly even end all, for Bungie for at least the next year or so. While disappointed players, disgruntled reviewers may have the biggest visual projection of success, the finical element remains the under-appreciated risk stalking Destiny’s release. Given the pedigree Bungie has, Destiny is in the best hands it could be. With further, more widely available, Betas coming up, the confusion surrounding the game should lessen. More people will have solid grounds to formulate opinions, talking to other people, tweeting other people, sharing their thoughts through various channels. Word of mouth is a powerful tool for marketing anything, it could prove to be Destiny’s biggest ally. Destiny’s, and Bungie’s,success can only be measured in the long run, given the games content and planned life cycle. Destiny could be 2014′s biggest game, but it simply doesn’t have the choice not to be.  ...

Pre-Order Incentives – Where Do We Draw The Line?

Pre-Order Incentives – Where Do We Draw The Line?

The concept of pre-order content for video games has become a hot topic in recent weeks. From access to betas to ‘exclusive’ missions, the whole idea is starting to expand beyond a few nifty extras. What started out as physical freebies promised by retailers has grown in content from games being cut purely to be given away as a pre-order ‘bonus’. What started as s harmless practice has grown into worrying trend, but the consumer is partly to blame. On average, the retailers offering the pre-order extras are normally charging the most. Normally any sane person would be looking to save the most amount of money they could. The lure of pre-order goodies has become too good to pass up, leading to people paying top dollar (or pound) for a game they could get cheaper…all in the name of them little extras. The price difference begins to beg the question, are these even bonuses? Given you’re normally paying more money to obtain them over other stores, no…they are not bonuses as you are paying for the extras.   Away from price hikes, the trend of ‘early’ access to weapons/items in multiplayer games via pre-ordering is a rather worrying issue. Pay-to-win is often a term applied to free-to-play games packed with microtransactions, but in the last few years pay-to-win has became a issue with retail titles. Pre-ordering from a certain retailer and receiving (in this case Destiny) access to better weapons before anyone else is a distinct advantage. Anything with a competitive mode that is affected by pre-order extras (bar cosmetics) is a concept that should be rejected universally. Pre-ordering a game should not result in a player gaining any sort of advantage over another in a competitive environment. If there’s one thing worse than this awful practice, it’s cutting content from the game just to give away as a pre-order intensive. The biggest companies in the industry are actively doing this with almost all of their games, it’s not a growing problem but a very present and relevant issue. Combine this issue with the obvious practice of cutting even more content to sell as day one DLC and it begs the question, what exactly is our money paying for?     As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango…and the consumer is certainly dancing. These pre-order extras are clearly getting the job done. Games are pre-ordering so well that they are already being green lighted for follow ups with Watch Dogs being the latest example. The only way to combat the problem of questionable pre-order goodies is to simply not buy into them. The issue has been growing in intensity, and doesn’t show any sign of stopping, but if there’s a time to say no then that time is most certainly now. Are all pre-order bonuses bad? No, of course not. There’s a number of pre-order bonuses that do not cut down the core games content, nor do they unbalance the multiplayer element. Physical extras are always fun, and mostly harmless. The latest World of Warcraft expasion, Warlord of Draenor, offers a single character boost to level 90. This boost is a perfect way to bring back old players, give current players a new class to try, or even bring in new players. It’s a extra that only enhances the game, while giving the player choice in how ( or even if) they want to use it. As video game budgets become inflated, and the price of failure becomes heavier and heavier, it’s understandable why these pre-order extras started. Obtaining a strong sales base before the game has even launched is surely a great big feather in the hat of the publisher and developer. The problem is, the purist of this feather has result in these pre-order bonuses becoming increasingly intrusive and almost exploitive. Where will it stop? Will it ever stop? Why is it even accepted? It’s a problem only the consumer can affect, at least that how it seems.    ...

Three Key Ways EA Can Improve Their UFC Games

Three Key Ways EA Can Improve Their UFC Games

With EA Sports UFC turning out to be more than a little lacking, thought turns towards the main ways a probable follow-up could improve. From cosmetic changes, to inclusion of modes, and tweaks to the gameplay, these are the three key ways EA can improve their UFC games.   Re-work The Ground Game: The core criticism of EA Sports UFC is how rigid the ground game is. Almost nearly every MMA bout will hit the ground at some point. Body positioning, guards, transitions all make up the key elements of a strong ground game. EA Sports UFC features a system that rarely feels smooth or natural. Each transition feels rigid, forced and not all that responsive. The control scheme doesn’t allow much freedom, giving one of the most creative elements of MMA an entirely linear mechanic. Re-working the whole ground game, including the odd submission mini-game, would be an instant improvement. A re-worked ground system should ideally give both fighters more freedom of choice in what they wish to do, instead of relying on repetitive flicks of analogue sticks and aiming to use sticks to adjust body posture and reaction. But most of all, movement should be SMOOTH. The current system is far too rigid and clunky, making it far less enjoyable or engaging than it should be. The submission mini-game should take its leave and be replaced with a more realistic, interactive, mechanic. Combining stick moments and press, much like the system seen in past UFC titles under THQ, is a far more enjoyable and satisfying concept than a cat-and-mouse mini game.   Add More Modes; Improve Current Modes: For a full retail title, EA Sports UFC features barely any game modes. The career mode is a loosely connected series of fights with some mini-games complete with light character progression chucked in. The career as a core game mode is simply not good enough. EA should look no further than the vast amount of content on offer in UFC Undisputed 3. Career mode, Pride fights, online fight camps, re-enacting classic fights and of course straight-up fights. EA not making use of Zuffa’s purchases is insanely short-sighted. Including a handful of modes, when past titles have had so much to offer, is simply not acceptable. Whether it’s EA not truly caring about the product, or EA simply testing the waters, their next UFC game needs to ship with far more modes.   Realistic Striking: While everything in the game looks pretty, there are some things that look plain stupid. Seeing someone such as Junior Dos Santos land repeated upper cuts and not knocking a guy out is silly. The striking in EA Sports UFC feels more like something you’d play with Killer Instinct–stacking combos together rather than landing that perfect strike. While not every fighter has one punch power, the ones that do should have it reflected in the game. Head shots hurt–they can really hurt–but EA seems to ignore that fact. Repeat strikes in dangerous places don’t reflect the damage they should. A person’s head does not simply return to its natural position after being hit with hard force; a leg does not pop straight back to the standing position after being kicked. EA is aiming for realism, and this should be reflected in their game’s striking. Another issue, albeit an utterly bizarre one, is the ease of which fighters pulls off moves rarely seen in fights. The showtime kick has been hit ONCE, and yet the majority of fighters can pull it off within the game. Highly specialist moves should either be locked to the fighter (or fighters) who can pull them off, or remove the rarely seen/used moves entirely.      ...

The Nintendo Balancing Act: Can They Do It?

The Nintendo Balancing Act: Can They Do It?

Nintendo is seemingly on the road to recovery–at least in terms of the Wii U. The back-end of 2014 seems ready to usher in a big 2015 for Nintendo’s curious creation. After the success of Mario Kart 8, and the sheer positivity of their E3 direct showing, Nintendo is riding a wave of positivity with the Wii U as the surfboard. All this new hype surrounding the Wii U, or more accurately the future of the console, does create a slight creeping worry–what about the 3DS? Nintendo spent a long time, and a lot of effort, on turning the skeptics of their 3D gaming handheld into fans. After a truly spectacular 2013, the 3DS became one of the must-own systems, breaking free of the stigma of being a pricey gimmick.   While it remains to be seen whether or not the Wii U will go through the same transformation, Nintendo must maintain a level of focus on the 3DS. It won’t be easily accomplished, as trying to maintain the momentum of the Wii U while supporting the 3DS will be the very definition of a balancing act, but it must nevertheless be done. Nintendo has done well historically when it comes to maintaining two systems, especially consoles and handhelds. Nintendo has seemingly planted the 3DS firmly within their future plans, with a focus on Amiibo and classic Japanese franchises such as Monster Hunter and Persona. The biggest game in Nintendo’s future release calender, for both systems, is undoubtedly Super Smash Bros. With both versions prompting positive reactions from E3, it seems both systems are already being fairly balanced. There was an initial worry that the 3DS had been overlooked during E3, but thankfully Nintendo’s reveal of Code Name: S.T.E.A.M put the worries to bed. It’s key that Nintendo maintains this balance between their systems, not allowing one to overshadow the other. It would be understandable for Nintendo to put their time, money and effort into the Wii U. Given the system’s struggles, and Nintendo’s plummeting profits, there’s almost an expectation for Nintendo to spend the next few years dragging the Wii U into calm waters. The balancing act has already begun, and so far it’s going smoothly. Both systems boast strong line-ups going into late 2014/early 2015, with titles such as Monster Hunter 4, Bayonetta 2, Smash Bros and the surprising cult hit in the making, Splatoon. Whether or not Nintendo pulls off this finely tuned balancing act, there’s at least a light at the end of the tunnel after some rough times.  ...

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