The first Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing was a pleasant surprise. Releasing just after the disappointing launch of Diablo III, Neocore Games had the opportunity to capitalise on the fans angry at Blizzard for their decisions by bringing a different spin on the genre. The pretty cool aesthetic of steampunk and Victorian coupled with a slight twist on gameplay and snarky dialogue made it a surprising hit and was pretty popular upon release.
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Ryse: Son of Rome wasn’t the massive hit Microsoft were hoping with critics been mostly luke-warm to the title. It feels like a launch game, something you will show your friends and family to show the power of these new systems. Eventually, you’ll finish the game and move on. Microsoft and Crytek are hoping that won’t be the case with the release of a season pass and now its second DLC pack. While it won’t convert that don’t like the title already, it definitely has enough within the pack to keep those that are even still vaguely interested in the game to keep you coming back.
I fall into that “slightly interested” tier. I rather liked Ryse: Son of Rome when it came out, moreso than a lot of people. I played through the story fairly quickly, jumped online and ranked up a bit, started the game on the hardest difficulty and then . . . . just stopped. Other games started to come out and Ryse started to fall back in my mind. The first DLC released and I played a couple of rounds and then it went back to that place where I didn’t know if I’d ever return to that title again.
Now Mars Chosen brings with it six new maps, a new skin, but ,most importantly, a survival mode. This may sound like little or nothing to the base multiplayer game but it’s more than you may think. Sure it still looks mostly the same and the core gameplay remains virtually the same, but the flow of gameplay is different and that’s the component that may keep you invested this time around.
In survival mode, you face a never-ending barrage of enemies, all while you are bleeding out. The only way to regain health is to execute your enemies. This creates a frantic aspect that wants you to take on as many enemies as possible in quick succession. Rush in though and you will be overwhelmed. You’ve got to see the type of enemies you are about to face and dynamically change your strategy before charging in. Don’t get me wrong, this game is still rather shallow gameplay-wise but survival mode at least gives it some depth.
The biggest plus this game has going for it though is how much survival mode speeds your progression. In a normal game, it may last for about 5-8 minutes, and you will only take on a couple dozen enemies in that time. In survival mode, it doesn’t end until you and your partner and both taken down. This means matches can easily last 15 minutes or more with a much larger payout in terms of experience and coins to buy more equipment.
The progression in the base online multiplayer had its progression nearly crippled with taking much longer periods of time in order to rank up. A really good survival match could see you level up more than once and the increase in progression will keep you playing another round so you can rank up and unlock more equipment.
The Mars Chosen packs feels as though Crytek and Microsoft know the fans won’t be for too much longer now that bigger games are launching so they are speeding up the progression meaning playing will play for longer and then move on before simply leaving it behind. It’s an admission of the short life ahead but at least they’ve put in on a rollercoaster instead of in a retirement home.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow released last week and I decided to give it a good spin over the weekend to conclude the story of Gabriel Belmont. I finished Lords of Shadow 2 in two sittings, one lasting 13 hours. I was really excited and I finally had some free time to sink my teeth into a game (only pun this article, promise). Now here I am, Monday morning and I feel like I wasted my weekend. I come from a place of which I never really got into Castlevania until the original Lords of Shadow. This this is simply sacrilege to a lot of Castlevania fans out there but let me explain: I have played most of the Castlevania games that have come out, well most of the biggest releases on home consoles. While I have enjoyed some of them, they never really stayed in my mind for some reason. Enter Lords of Shadow. Now I never was a big fan of the God of War games but one thing you cannot deny is the fact that those games are stunning to look at with thrilling sequences and action. I never liked Kratos nor will I ever but I loved the ancient Greek setting.
I also love a good gothic tale and that’s why Lords of Shadow struck me. It was a massive game filled with incredible locations and pretty decent combat to boot. The world sucked me in and I was a fan from beginning to end. I even forked out for the Lords of Shadow collection to finally play through the two DLC episodes that continued the story as well as Mirror of Fate HD and the Lords of Shadow 2 demo. It was safe to say I had a pretty enjoyable Christmas break with it. The demo was exactly what I wanted: Massive battles, Stunning vistas, and most importantly, people out for Dracula. I was excited. I get the opportunity to review a lot of games and for that I feel very lucky but Lords of Shadow 2 was one I always planned on playing for myself. I’d take the weekend off, grab a few sugar-free energy drinks and enjoy what happens to the dark prince. And in the beginning I was pretty damn happy. After playing through the amazing opening again, I was thrust into an open modern-day word, really to regain my powers and unleash terror on the world as a villain. But that never actually happened. In Lords of Shadow 2, you are a broken man, or whatever is left of Gabriel as a man. Being the prince of darkness for a thousand years has changed him. Gone is his thirst to fight and kill all who oppose him and in its place is a overly-dramatic, vulnerable mess. Don’t get me wrong, I love spins of what you expect from a character but this was like taking away his name and just becoming a dusty, quite blank slate. Dracula wants to die, he’s had enough and is now a shell of his once infamous stature. The thing is: He can’t die, he’s immortal. Thankfully though, Zobek, his old friend who, if I’m not mistaken, died in the first game returns in a suit to offer Gabriel one last deal. The only weapon that could kill him, his cross-whip was broken in the Lords of Shadow DLC has been recovered piece by piece by Zobek. Satan, who, once again was killed in the original Lords of Shadow is coming back with his three main acolytes (Lords of Shadow also had three lords of shadow. Just thought I’d point that out). If you, as Dracul of course, can defeat these three acolytes before Satan returns, then Zobek will grant your wish and kill you. Dracula excepts of course and off you set on a journey bouncing back and forth between two different worlds in order to find and stop Satan. The story then results in the once awesome blood-sucker becoming and depressed, weakling when opposing anything that’s seen as modern. You are reminded constantly that you are not strong enough to face some enemies. Mercury Steam’s answer? Stealth sequences. Seriously. You are Dracula, the prince of darkness and here you are relegated to hiding from the cast of Gears of War should they have donned locust attire and eaten nothing but lard after Gears 3. These obese, ridiculous looking monstrosities are technically stronger and superior to Dracula. I keep saying it because I don’t understand how the developers have missed this: You are the prince of darkness, you should fear no one, no matter what. You are the one who casts fear into the enemy, you are immortal and nothing should relegate you to the shadows. But here I am, hiding behind a pillar waiting for fat man shoot to turn around so I can sneak to the next pillar. Should you not time it perfectly however, chances are you will be met a barrage of gunfire until you “die” and restart from the checkpoint. This happens more times than it should throughout the game and they’re not a two minute sequence. Some of these could easily last up to half an hour. The most insult of which requires you to sneak around a garden and try not to make noise by walking on fallen leaves; otherwise you will be hunted down and must start again. These, sometimes, incomprehensible ideas seem to only stem from development troubles which has been rumoured for some time. This of course is disappointing, especially when the developers really did seem to have a lot of love for the series and a passion for creating a truly awesome story. Unfortunately, this conflicting of ideas being implemented even continues into the enemies design. The original Lords of Shadow had some amazing enemy design that created both visually stunning and mechanically thrilling combat. This doesn’t seem to be present nearly as much here. You can see some inspiration from previous Castlevania games in the form of the mechanical enemies you fight but the mutants are downright dull and honestly look rather terrible. They look like generic zombie-based creature #42. The locations you visit in Lords of Shadow 2 range from atmospheric masterpieces to the most unoriginal and placeholder-like locales in any game. One, you will be traversing gothic architecture that just never seems to end to a science facility and other like-styled facilities in the modern world. One of Catlevania’s strongest points is the gothic, dark, vampire-esque locations you traverse, not dull, copy and paste facilities that seem to make it into any game as filler. I understand the juxtaposition was intended to enforce Dracula’s vulnerabilities as an character that comes from a simpler age and with scientific advancements, immortal is just a myth. Except you are actually immortal. I have hated on this game for 1100 words plus without mentioning a single good point and thankfully there are a few positives to take away from this game. Firstly, the bosses are all still rather great. None of the are too complex but none of them are push-overs either.
Combat is still a lot of fun with essentially the same system in place as the first Lords of Shadow game. It’s responsive, features great opportunity for experimentation and pulling off combos, and the pace doesn’t let up. Possibly the best aspect though is the music. The game is almost worth playing through just to hear some of the songs during the game. It’s one of the only things that keeps the atmosphere intact throughout. While things like locations, character design, and even the protagonist himself breaking my immersion, the music never did. As a fan of Lords of Shadow I came away rather disappointed. Mercury Steam get so many things right with the first game and set themselves up for an almost guaranteed winner; But it never materialised. We got a game confused about its personality, lost about its protagonist and one that was thirsty for a conclusion. Instead we get an “ending” but its left in a way for more story-based DLC to come out to give us the “true ending”. It’ll be one ending I won’t be playing. I’ll just pretend it all ended in the Resurrection. Maybe it would have been better if the dark prince himself stayed on that decrepit throne, it gave him more dignity in the end.
We’ve been hearing the hype since last year with only a small number of people having actually tried Titanfall but with the beta that just ended, hundreds of thousands, if not millions have finally got their grubby little hands on Respawn’s mech battling online shooter and outlook is good, very good indeed.
The beta launched late last week for Xbox One and PC with an invite only beta. As the beta went on, Respawn and EA opened their gates and allowed more to join and then eventually it turned into a complete open beta with anyone that could access the game without a code.
The beta included three modes and two maps. The three modes were: Attrition (a team deathmatch of sort where teams racked up a score by killing the other team. Because of AI controlled characters, there are different amounts awarded to who or what you killed from 1 through killing a grunt AI character to five for taking out an opponent’s Titan. It’s a fast-paced match that never really lasts more than ten minutes. It begins slowly with a mostly pilot v pilot scenario but as you take out enemies, you reduce the time until you can call for Titanfall. By the last third of the match, you can guarantee that at least one titan is roaming the map from each team for the rest of the duration.
The second mode is hardpoint that require each team to take and hold three points on the map. This mode all comes down to the pilots taking the points and possibly the titans holding up a defence. Fortunately though Titanfall isn’t so easy to break down into simple tactics and the play is so fast, it’s all about critical thinking on the fly.
The last mode is Last Titan Standing. This was easily the least favoured by players. Each team begin with all their players in titans and the winner, as you can probably guess, is the team with the last titan standing. It’s fast but doesn’t showcase what makes Titanfall such a fun experience.
Thankfully the maps are designed in a way that having a titan doesn’t mean you dominate. There are plenty of places on both the maps included that can house pilots and titans cannot enter. Add to that the fact that every pilot has an anti-titan weapon for taking out the mechanical beasts.
The balance of the titan is something that could have been a cautious area for people to find out before this beta. Thankfully, Respawn have balanced everything from how long and how often you obtain a titan to just how powerful it is. When controlling your titan, you need to be vary weary of your surroundings as enemy pilots can jump off from buildings and rodeo your titan and take in down in just a few seconds. Of course there are counter-measures so it’s all down to fast reflexes and being able to be dynamic in the field.
That dynamism is what makes Titanfall such an incredibly fun game to play. A lot of people moaned about the AI controlled players on the field and although there is some concern, it may not be for the reasons originally stated. The AI act like creeps in Dota. In Dota, the allow the player to level up faster, in Titanfall, it allows the player to have less time between called down their Titan. The problem lies in their difficulty. Now it would be unbearably frustrating to have such a challenge where each grunt could kill you but most of the time they don’t even shoot at you despite being right in front of them. It doesn’t break the flow of the game, but it certainly breaks immersion.
One thing we didn’t really hear from before the beta were burn cards. As you complete challenges and compete on the battlefield, you will earn burn cards. These cards allow the player to essentially have one-time buffs which are used when respawning. They add another layer of strategy to the game as to when and what to use and what time.
Gunplay was incredibly smooth. If you’ve played the team’s previous games, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare specifically then you will know just how satisfying it feels. The lack of recoil really keeps the flow of gameplay fast but then when you add parkour and double-jumps, pace never lets up.
The beta only featured two maps but both were incredibly fun to play again and again but we still don’t know yet just how many maps will be included in the multiplayer only game next month. Rumours and people on forums have looked through the beta code to uncover some interesting facts regarding the full game but none of it has been confirmed by Respawn or EA yet.
First off, on top of the three modes included in the beta there seems to be team deathmatch and capture the flag. There have also been talking that a separate campaign multiplayer will be included also.
In terms of maps, 15 have been uncovered from the code. These are: Angel City, Colony, Fracture, Relic, Airbase, Boneyard, Corporate, Outpost 207, Lagoon, Rise, Smugglers Cove, Overlook, Nexus, and O2.
We only have a month to wait but now that the beta is gone, a month has never felt so far away. Did it actually live up to the hype? Not really, obviously but it’s still a damn good shooter and possibly one of the best to come out in some time. Also . . . . monsters?
Ryse: Son of Rome is one of the more divisive titles to come form the launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Some people hated the title, describing it as boring and repetitive while others have been more favourable about it. I definitely fall on the more favourable side of the game. I have actually played this game more than any other next-gen title online. I’m sure some of you are wondering why Rise is my choice of game to play online. Well, despite the game never really progressing and becoming more complex through upgrades, or even though it may seem repetitive at times, at least its different to everything else on the system.
Rise’s multiplayer component sees you and another player taken on waves of enemies in different scenarios. These range from killing upper rank enemies, to holding spots, killing messengers that run away and more. On top of that, the map in which you fight within will vary. Each map looks drastically different but will always take place within the coliseum. It may be novelty but I rather liked the layout of the map changing in real-time from round to round as grids of the floor go from under you or trees and statues rise from the ground to cast a massive shadow over you it really can be quite fun and interesting.
It’s definitely not for everyone but those that enjoy action games and the Roman time period should definitely try it out. The multiplayer was something I thought I’d play for an hour and no more. I have easily thrown close to a dozen hours into it and don’t see myself shopping any time soon. As you complete matches, you earn XP and gold. That gold can be then used to buy tiered packs that unlock new weapons, armour, and boosters to use during the match.
So now on to my initial impressions of the coliseum pack which is now available for 3.99 or part of the season pass that includes 14 maps, a new game mode, six character skins and more. In the first pack, you will get two new maps: Ascension and Hinge as well as two new maps. The two new maps are quite different in their look and layout. Henge is dark and moody with the surroundings being covered in forested areas and large rocks. Ascension sees you fight through areas covered in fight and you aim to fight your way out of it.
Neither of the two and bringing anything drastically new to the table but they do help to bring some more diversity to the layouts and what you must do to succeed. The pack also comes with two character skins covered in armour. The armour though is completely aesthetic and it means that buying new packs and equipping the new armour is still required meaning you can still have the fun of progression while looking good.
There is no release date on the other packs just yet but it’s a decent start and something that fans of the game are sure to enjoy. Those looking from the inside may find this all a little bit redundant but as I’m one of those that thoroughly enjoy the multiplayer and see me going the full-hog to level 100 so if you enjoy the multiplayer, then this is something you should consider.
On this week’s Branching Dialogue, I talk about the criticism Respawn’s Titanfall has been facing following the announcement that the game will feature 6 V 6 multiplayer. A lot of people seem to think that bigger is always better. Probably not.