A Witcher Retrospective: It Started with Some Confusing Amnesia


The Witcher is a story, we’re all just lucky to be in it as it unfurls.

I remember I first installed The Witcher years ago because my old PC had crashed and burned due to my graphics card not handling the amazingness that was Skyrim. A good friend kindly donated an old gaming PC he no longer needed, and while it was capable of playing Skyrim, it had no wireless card and my Ethernet cable would have had to go through corridors, tables, people and walls to connect to our modem. I decided to wait a while and play the Witcher (which I had found in a sale bin) just to pass the time and do something different.

I have told you before that I am a narrative obsessed player. This was everything a narrative obsessed player could ever want.

The Witcher starts the game with a barely conscious and amnesiac Geralt of Rivia. As the player, you’re as confused about everything as he is. Where are you? Why are all these people talking to you as if you know everything? Why would anyone want to live in Kaer Mohren? Holy shit, what the hell is that monster? Where is my shirt? Why is that lady barely wearing any clothes?

It was a great introduction to a game that I utterly got absorbed in. The fighting mechanics were actually quite fun for me and as someone who LOVES using the pause button to stop and strategise, I rarely had time to think hard about decisions but was still given the flexibility to recoup and re-arm (or re-potion). The camera angling was actually fantastic, you have the option of top-down views or over the shoulder and mouse controls reconfigured depending on what you preferred. I used primarily a top-down angle which I think ultimately also affected my view of the story.

Camera angles are important, this top-down view let me see the world more broadly than just over the shoulder, which would have benefited me the views of seeing faces and having more intimate one on one interactions with people. The broader bird’s eye view let me see the towns in all their drudgery and glory, allowing me to see into every corner and know every person hidden within the shadows and without.

Geralt is really, really chatty. For a tall dark and brooding type, he actually, isn’t. This was utterly hilarious to be honest. Geralt’s voice actor has such a smooth and smoky mysterious voice that hearing it every ten seconds and hearing some of the silliest things said with it made me feel like maybe I didn’t get Geralt’s personality, or that maybe that amnesia gave him a personality transplant.

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For one thing, he is the world’s worst flirt.

Ok, he has the sexy voice, but holy cow are his pick-up lines the pits. Maybe the women of Temeria are desperate for a decent roll in the hay (seeing as most of the other male characters hanging about seem to be lacking in the initiative, manners, hygiene, looks and general competency department). Maybe they’ve all got poor hearing and poor taste because seeing Geralt get it on with women with the ever so lame ‘Hmmmmmm, I bet you’re a naughty girl’ (in the flattest deadpan tone) made me feel like whoever wrote these particular scenes has never ever tried even speaking to a woman.

Ah wait, here we go, the age old ‘video games are male sexual fantasies and not grounded in reality’ trope.

Considering how well written the game is overall, the whole collecting women like baseball cards was bizarre and confusing. If I were a bit more sensitive and had little less common sense about the video games industry; I’d have found it offensive.

Instead, I thought it was kinda sad and really pathetic. Here is Geralt, who is genuinely attractive, a great talker, good listener, good person all round and he just dips his wick where he finds it. I mean he doesn’t even have good taste, seriously, the banker wearing a wimple?! Seriously Geralt, how bad was that knock to your head?

I can understand the sizzling sexual tension between Triss and himself, after all, its based on history and her strangely low cut dress. And, if you end up choosing to shack up with Shani instead, you have a lovely relationship built upon respect, mutual admiration and dealing with PTSD that is usually attractive to those who like the hurt/comfort style of relationship narratives.

Geralt is genuinely nice. So the whole convincing a dryad to sleep with him on the grounds that copulation helps fertilise the soil (she outright rejects you if you say something as dumb as that) is just brain boggling and so out of place for a character who is a badass lone wolf mutant sex-god.

Of course its also offensive but I find the insult lands on both the women as well as Geralt as a character and it dismisses his personal integrity, especially since his heart genuinely belongs to Yennefer.

But the game still triumphs. The side quests are great to do and the skill tree progression is essential to your success. Every aspect to gaining knowledge, levelling up and equipping the right equipment make for a fantastic mix of strategy and action in combat scenes. The game makes you think two steps ahead and I utterly love that.

The difficulty doesn’t just lie in how fast you can click that mouse button, it lies in how well you can anticipate problems. How many times have I had to restart a fight because I either didn’t take the right potion or worse, the right combination of potions. How many oils can you put on your blade and which ones are efficient against wraiths. Can you survive on Cat and Swallow alone? Will the Falka’s blood upgrade be effective? What if I added a rune?

This was a real world, and it also had real problems. From the massive amounts of politics you eventually got involved in, like having to convince Foltest to relax prohibitions against non-humans, or choosing to support either Scoia’tael’s cause or the Order of the Flaming Rose (when you think about it, the word ‘Flaming’ was a dead giveaway for ‘repressed’).

And your decisions weren’t easy. I hated Yaevinn, he was smarmy, obtuse and generally unsympathetic even when Geralt agreed with him. On the other hand, Siegfried, a knight of the Flaming Order is so charismatic and friendly that I was amazed that he associated with such narrow minded, fanatical racist weirdos in dresses.

This is the beauty of the Witcher story. It has a narrative that you can read to your somewhat traumatised children that will actually leave them hanging on the edge of their seats. There is intrigue, will-they-wont-they romance and politics and twists everywhere. I remember a quest where I was tasked to find a den of prostitutes run by vampires, or demonesses, or something dangerous and sexy. It turned out one of the prostitutes had allowed herself to be turned and was actually enjoying her work because it provided more independence and freedom that the overbearing rule of her conservative, stuffy and all round tyrannical father. You make a decision; sleep with the ladies offering their goods, fight the ladies offering their goods, do both if you like, then rescue the unwilling daughter, kill the unwilling daughter, kill the unwilling daughter since you killed her co-workers anyway, or leave her alone.

While some of these micro decisions may not always affect the overall outcome of the story in a big way, it certainly did for my Geralt, especially as he began remembering things. Geralt struggles with the ideas that anything not human is considered aberrant, especially because he would be lumped in with that group. And yet, here he is ridding such aberrations from the world for the safety of petty humans who are nothing but narrow minded and racist.

One shocking scene is hearing little children gleefully cry out to kill the ‘squirrels’ (a withering nickname for the Scoia’tael, and more indirectly, a racist insult towards non-humans). That’s actually kinda freaky and it should elicit a feeling of shock and sadness.

The Witcher was a wonderful story, it was a good taste of a huge story where our decisions actually had massive consequences to the way we viewed the world.

And who knew! Them Flaming Rose Bastards are real Bastards!

I was actually surprised by the immense plot twist involving religious fanatics, a Scoia’tael incursion in a flaming battle-ridden city and the Wild Hunt. Yep, out of nowhere, the Wild Hunt, who we all know is the final (sort of) boss. I found it so easy to make quick work of him and all the end bosses but I think that was because the game mechanics were so ingrained in my brain at that point that I came into battle fully and utterly prepared for any kind of attack.

And with that, we shall leave off with a semi-colon to this retrospective as I next explore the LUSCIOUSNESS that is The Witcher 2 in my next instalment.

Until then, don’t let the Strigas bite!

Striga

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst Has a Strong Story, Features Gadgets to Help Faith and Gets Very Vertical


It’s been a long seven years for Mirror’s Edge fans, but finally after such a uncertain wait, Faith is finally back and in a much bigger and more impressive way than any of us could have imagined. Gone is the gunplay, meaning that players can not use any guns dropped by enemies and many fans of the original will note that apart from the short and simple storyline, this was the weakest part of the game.

Included as well is an overhauled melee combat system, which feels much more fluid in Faith’s movements and to accompany this is a truly open world setting for players to traverse.

The City of Glass is Faith’s new playground and it is littered with various objectives the player can undertake.

Included in the demo for E3 but not limited to these were:

  • Billboard Hack
  • Speed Run
  • Delivery

Whilst these aren’t the official titles of the objectives, you can get a rough idea of what they involve.

Billboard hacking is exactly as it reads, you traverse the environment in any way possible to reach a high up billboard, press ‘X’ or ‘A’ to hack it and you’re done. Similar to Assassin Creed’s towers, though I’m not sure they really change the influence in a section or if they are more so for there for completionists, and to showcase the beautiful city environment. This was quite easy and I’m hoping the further you are in the game the harder they get.

Speed Runs are your time trial objective where you must get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in the shortest time possible and where the game truly shines. As Glass is an open world with no loading screens, players can follow the set marker trail to reach their destination but they are not restricted to it. You can still take shortcuts if you find them to shave off a few seconds, and remembering the days of Mirror’s Edge, speed runners will tear this game apart.

They will find every little hole Faith can slide under, every wall she can jump over just to get there a fraction quicker, and with leaderboards you can bet some ridiculous times shall be recorded.

Last but not least there’s package delivery. These are very similar to the speed runs, but you’ll have enemies around most corners ready to take you down. This is where we got a chance to test out the game’s combat in all its revamped glory. Whilst I didn’t mind the combat in the original you can definitely see that Faith’s movements are of a more fluid nature.

She seamlessly transitions from running to combat and it’s a sight. I applaud the removal of gun combat because it took away from using Faith’s most powerful tools, her body. Combat feels less like a chore this time around and Faith is equipped with a whole arsenal of new moves to take down foes. There are specific takedowns that Faith can do similar to that of the Arkham franchise whilst she’s in the air.

This demo, whilst short, gave me a good indication that Catalyst won’t be disappointing fans of the original entry to the franchise.

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After the 13 minute demo had ended, I managed to have a quick chat with Erik Odeldahl (Design Director) who whilst new to the franchise, joins the team at DICE which includes 7 original developers who worked on the Mirror’s Edge (2008).

We like to think we’re catering to several types of players. We have a very strong story that brings you through the city, brings you into contact with all the important characters and Faith’s origins story. The free roaming sections are very important as well, we believe even players that don’t usually do that type of stuff we really hope they will play this one as well.

I also asked that since the game is now open world how vertical does the City of Glass get for Faith to traverse, as giving players this type of liberating freedom means the game world must be engaging enough to explore.

It’s gets very vertical after a while and we have gadgets, but we’re not ready to talk about those yet to help with some of that, so definitely very vertical.

Whilst they haven’t touched up on the gadgets, I’m assuming they’ll be something akin to maybe a zipline to travel from building to building. Heading closer to the its February 2016 release date we’ll find out more about what they will be.

Overall, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst to me feels like the game it was meant to be 7 years ago. No gun combat, huge focus on parkour movement, a beautiful city run by a controlling government with our runners and another faction at play, ‘Black November’, which we know little about.

There isn’t much more I can add unfortunately, the demo gave us a glimpse of how the game runs and looks and fans should be pleased. It didn’t give away any plot elements, as doing so would leave us over the 8 months with knowledge we can’t do anything with.

It was a perfect short demo to showcase the open world nature of the game, no loading screens, revamped melee combat and how much free roaming the player can do.

February 2016 cannot come fast enough.

Just Cause 3 is a Bat-Shit Crazy, Next Generation Mercenaries That Never Was


Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction (2005) and Mercenaries: World in Flames (2008), were one my favourite titles back on the original Xbox, developed by the now defunct Pandemic Studios. They were every gamers dream of having an open world title where they could do almost anything they wanted. After seeing Just Cause 3 in action at the start of Square Enix’s E3 Press Conference, I must say I am excited for it’s open world gameplay that lets you ride a god-damn missile falling from the sky.

The images below are screen-caps from the trailer as, unfortunately, I cannot find ANY press assets from E3 that showcase these crazy stunts.

In Mercenaries, the open world was the players playground and they could level any single building that they saw fit. Give or take the Just Cause franchise includes this feature, a decade ago on the original Xbox, this blew my mind. To see a game on the new generation of consoles feature such a vast open world for the player to explore where they can level buildings, use barrels as explosives by using the grapple hook and allowing them to hook enemies to buildings is just pure bliss.

From watching the trailer, you’ll instantly notice the similarities between both games and you’ll know why Just Cause 3 will be amazing. Driving tanks, soaring through the sky in your wing-suit, leveling buildings, blowing everything up it’s what I really wanted Mercenaries 3 to be, but unfortunately never was.

On the show room floor, Square Enix were holding public interactive presentations where they would showcase just how you can cause destruction in the game. Players can destroy buildings by using the grapple hooks to couple them together with exploding barrels, they can destroy statues again by using exploding barrels, or the statues own arm to slap itself and make it crumble.

Players are able to use helicopters to destroy bridges and make them tumble with cars still on there, unhinge large fuel containers to blow up petrol stations or tether cars to other cars, the possibilities are endless. Avalanche Studios have embraced the over the top nature of the franchise and it’ll make you and I enjoy the game all the more.

What you saw over the course of the 3 days is exactly what I saw and there wasn’t much else. You can’t sell the game to me any more because I’m already sold. I love an open world game where I can traverse the environment and do as I please. Standing on top of the plane you were just flying then just casually base jumping off it, only to spread your arms and activate your wing-suit to sore through the sky, will be on many players “To do” list.

Losing speed? Just use your grapple hook to hook onto the ground to pull yourself further and continue flying.

There are so many open world games coming out end of this year and early next, that they’ll need something special to make them stand out from each other. Just Cause 3 will have some really tough competition for crazy open world game, but I strongly feel that it does enough to set itself apart from the pack.

Thousands of Fans Outraged About Metroid’s Direction They’re Petitioning to Get Them Cancelled


Nintendo, in it’s E3 2015 Direct, showed off two Metroid games after having not released a title in the series since Metroid: Other M for the Wii in 2010. It should have been a glorious, beautiful return to form – bringing a fan favourite franchise back from the dead to give new life to Samus’s adventures through pirate infested space – but instead it was met with a Change.org petition to cancel the games.Do I agree with this reaction? Not necessarily, but I can definitely see where it’s coming from. What was once an isolating, terrifying and thought-provoking quest into deep space has been strapped on to a multiplayer shoot-em-up, and a 3v3 space soccer simulator. Of course, we’ve seen but a few seconds of each game, and it isn’t fair to completely write them off without first at least playing them – but let’s think about them for a second.

First, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a first person, multiplayer shooter coming exclusively for the 3DS. I’ve never understood multiplayer games on handhelds, since if I am going to get together to play games with my friends there will be a TV and console nearby, but even ignoring my own tendencies, the system simply isn’t made to play these types of games. One analogue stick isn’t enough to control a FPS properly, and though the ‘New 3DS’ does include a surprisingly sensitive nub above the ABYX buttons, it simply doesn’t afford the kind of control a second stick could.

Secondly, Metroid Prime: Blast Ball is a ‘3v3 Sci-Fi Sports Battle’ game where you shoot large balls into goals before your opponent can – essentially, it’s soccer for space marines. While my first reaction was that this was incorrectly targeting the eSports movement, I have since changed my mind about that – surely Nintendo knows that the 3DS system isn’t likely to be picked up by the eSports community. eSports require precise controls, usually given by mouse and keyboard or finely tuned controllers, that I don’t believe the 3DS can deliver.

In watching the trailer again, it seems apparent the main issue is the shift in audience. Nintendo is no longer aiming Metroid games at ‘hardcore’ gamers who want to be challenged, and left to their own devices in a dark and hostile world, but is making games for kids. Making games more accessible doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but when it dilutes a brand to the point where it isn’t recognisable, until the name pops up on the trailer, it isn’t good.

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Nintendo could easily continue on with these games, ignoring their most hardcore fans, and change the Metroid universe into something far more kid friendly. It’s equally possible Nintendo could pull the games, or more likely re-brand them, and begin work on a more traditional Metroid title to heal the relationship with customers who have given them decades of time and money.

It’s difficult to say what the future of Metroid is: even with the announcement of a new game it is still in as much doubt as weeks before. Nintendo hasn’t made themselves any friends with this announcement, but I look forward to seeing what it’s response is.

Bethesda Showed Too Much Doom And Lost Me Entirely With Its Outdated Shooter Mechanics


Bethesda finally unveiled what the new Doom would look like running on the id Tech 6 engine, and to be honest I feel that during their press conference they showed off just a little too much of their new shooter. The initial single player gameplay felt too scripted with the way that the gun moved giving off that it was floating in the air and didn’t feel grounded, the way that many Hollywood movies rely on CGI to create large scripted events not taking into account ‘gravity’.

The chainsaw segment was a nice nostalgic touch but with the limited animations and it being overused, it wore off quickly. Your game needs more then blood, guts and gore to convince me to fork out to buy it and enjoy it. There’s only so much action I can take and so many bodies I can mutilate before the gimmick grows tiresome. It’s what Doom 3 was criticised for the further you got in the game, repetitive combat and less than average AI.

What was shown excited the crowd but when they showed even more single player content this time in Hell I was bored, annoyed and not excited for it anymore.

I was shown too much in such a short time frame.

The above embedded tweet just goes to show how bland Hell looks in Doom at this moment in time of its development, I’m sure that closer to release and after countless fans voicing their opinions, more colour would be added but for the moment it looks more like Doom 3. Gears of War faced the exact same criticism for being too grey, Doom right now looks too brown.

Whilst that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t help to sell me on this new Doom.

During the conference those in the background screaming and clamoring during the chainsaw gameplay weren’t all media and mainly those that waited in line for hours to get a last minute no show ticket. They’re excited for the game and I get that, it’s Doom, it’s gory and brutal but it’s a tired shooter in a generation where they’re evolving to a point where being a run and gun shooting game anymore doesn’t cut it.

From the press release, multiplayer in Doom is the main feature I’m looking forward to. Frantic fast-paced arena action with classic and new modes introduced into the fray. Coupled with SnapMap which is Doom’s new easy to use level builder, this is what will sell the game to me. Endless hours of creating the ultimate level, not needing any expertise in map building.

Editing levels on the fly putting other gamers experience to the test. More of this and less generic single player gameplay.

Return of id Multiplayer

Dominate your opponents in DOOM’s signature, fast-paced arena-style combat. In both classic and all-new game modes, annihilate your enemies utilizing your personal blend of skill, powerful weapons, vertical movement, and unique power-ups that allow you to play as a demon

Endless Possibilities

DOOM SnapMap – a powerful, but easy-to-use game and level editor – allows for limitless gameplay experiences on every platform.  Without any previous experience or special expertise, any player can quickly and easily snap together and visually customize maps, add pre-defined or completely custom gameplay, and even edit game logic to create new modes.  Instantly play your creation, share it with a friend, or make it available to players around the world – all in-game with the push of a button.

The closer we get to the game’s release, the more that’ll be unveiled and I sincerely hope that id software have more to show that isn’t just a sawn-off shotgun and a chainsaw gunning down countless enemies who appear from thin air to just stand there and take a beating. Doom 3 was criticised for a lot back in 2004 (Forgiven that 11 years ago the same tech available today wasn’t back then) but let’s hope that in the 11 years since, let’s hope the fans and critics thoughts were taken on board to bring Doom into a new generation of gamers and consoles, because looking pretty doesn’t cut it anymore.

The Way Open-World Games Can Kill The Gaming Experience


Once upon a time, in the near past, gamers cried out against the flood of linear, set-piece heavy games. It wasn’t worth the money to play a game that lasted 7 hours, involved limited choices and a crippling amount of hand holding.

Sandbox gaming brought with it a much-needed reprieve from the boredom of most AAA action games. Players could go anywhere on the map rather than being ushered through narrow corridors, we could ride horses or drive cars, there was a renewed sense of exploration in gaming. NPCs entered the frame and memorable quotes and animations not to mention glitches became the fuel for countless memes. Sandbox gaming rose to become the dominant force in gaming.

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But with all this freedom and choice there is one area that inevitably suffers, the narrative. When developers seek to give us a wealth of experiences they seem to either offer us clichéd stories or stories so vast in their complexity that they are hard to follow and ultimately fall flat. In comparison when developers like Tell-Tale choose to focus our attention on the story but offer a simplified gameplay experience, we find ourselves drawn into these worlds and are unable to tear our eyes away from our screens.

Now I understand that there are many gamers who love the countless fetch quests, hunts, escort excursions and good old start a fight with that guy missions, but I find that many of these side quest detract from the main story and only offer minimal opportunities for advancement and add little to my enjoyment of the game.

ACUnity

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a game where all too often side quests and the illusion of a dynamic world detracted so much from my experience that I found everything hard to follow and ultimately uninteresting. I love the chance to jump and run my way through beautifully recreated historic sites and I love random events unfolding in front of me that I can either watch or get involved in. However, following the story in dribs and drabs if I happened to try a detective mission, or do a co-op mission, or jump through to another time period which at best is a disjointed experience and at worst is a confusing jumble of good guys who are bad guys and bad guys who are good guys and a bunch of characters and factions I couldn’t give a fig about.

The Order 1886

Many of us don’t want the interactive movie style of Call of Duty or the clumsy on rails feel of The Order, we want a bit more freedom. But if open-world freedom is constantly presenting a massive list of distractions then inevitably the story is going to suffer.

In my opinion well-structured and interesting narrative should be a major focus in games. We are so impressed by the technology that offer dynamic worlds but all too often these nuances act as nothing more than padding and add nothing to the narrative.

So what is the true gaming utopia we seek?

Balance isn’t easy in games. If you have narrative that is too self-indulgent or convoluted you could end up alienating potential players, the Metal Gear series risks this with their flair for the dramatic. However, the Metal Gear series has got the right idea generally – make story and characters highly important, full of twists and turns and character development, coupled with gameplay that complements the story. Just don’t overdo it with cut scenes.

Game environments are also something to get right. Sound and setting are very important but many open-world games cut and paste locations to accommodate the vast amount of side missions, NPCs and miscellaneous happenings.

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What’s more, they stick to one location with a minor sub-location to make it look different. In Assassin’s Creed: Rogue we had snow, water, forest, towns, forts, but these were repeated throughout the world ad nauseum. One of the best parts in my experience was the adrenaline-pumping run through Lisbon during an earthquake. Guess what? It was linear and the only place away from the wilds of North America, which we largely explored previously in Assassin’s Creed III.

City-focused games like InFamous are the same. Once you’ve explored the Space Needle, had fun catching the monorail, and found the few other buildings that look a bit different, Seattle loses its appeal to explore. Then it depends completely on the gameplay experience and story, because you are stuck in that place. The solution is to have less focus on building a massive cityscape with millions of side-options and gimmicks, and instead focus on a tight narrative that grabs you and carries you along slowly, but with more freedom and choice than a film, through a number of beautifully created environments.

Wolfenstein The New Order

Impossible? I don’t think so. It’s about balance. Assassin’s Creed II had a good degree of that balance and diversity despite being open world. Metal Gear Solid 4 felt more open than it was, despite the great variety of stunning settings and largely linear approach, an illusion that allowed differences of gameplay style (stealth or run and gun) encased in a continually progressing story flow. Wolfenstein: The New Order brought both self-aware kitsch and sentimental depth to the shooter story, and if it had a bit more open environment would have had that balance.

Bigger is not necessarily better here. Allow me to point out the painfully obvious – most of us have to work, study, take care of kids or do other things besides sit down and play games. In this ‘time poor’ life, most of us enjoy games in bits and pieces when we can find the time.

This means the story should be strong and easy to follow, even after weeks spent away, with interesting multi-faceted characters. It should be easy to jump back into, gameplay-wise, without having to strain our memories. Ultimately it’s how engaging the experience is that determines if we come back and finish the game or move on, disappointed.

Five Video Game Giants We Won’t See At E3 2015


Yvan lists The Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3 for short) is just around the corner where we’ll be able get hands-on experience with the latest that gaming publishers have to offer. Sadly, throughout the years, there have been casualties whether it’s due poor sales, moving onto mobile platforms, or simply going bankrupt. It’s not all bad though, as a lot of your beloved franchises have been reborn through other publishers.

Here, we list the bigger casualties from years past which we sadly won’t be seeing at this years E3.

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Acclaim

If you were a kid playing video games in the 90’s, you’d recognise the Acclaim logo (although it kind of looked like it was meant to say Acclaim) from games like Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, as well as the Turok series, a slew of WWF and Simpsons games. Acclaim were around during the 3rd generation of consoles, making games for the NES all the way through to the PS2.

In September 2004, Acclaim filed for bankruptcy and were left with over $100 million in debt. But it doesn’t end there, Acclaim saw the light of day again. Originally known as Acclaim Entertainment, the “Acclaim” name was purchased for $100,000 on August of 2005. In 2006, Acclaim was reborn as Acclaim Games. 

Unfortunately this was Acclaim by name alone, so many of the beloved IPs that they had once brought to life was in the hands of other developers. However, Acclaim Games managed to release 14 titles before Playdom acquired them in May 2010, and only three months later Acclaim Games closed their doors.

Midway Logo

Midway

Starting in the video game industry with pinball games and arcade machines, Midway eventually found themselves working on making games for home consoles, known for working on games like Joust, Tapper, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, Rampage and Total Carnage.

In the year 2000 (during the 6th generation of consoles), Midway was ranked the 4th largest-selling video game publisher. By the end of the 2000’s, Midway’s worth plummeted, where 87% share of the company was sold for $100,000.

By February 2009, Midway Games filed for bankruptcy, where Warner Brothers purchased most of Midways assets, including Mortal Kombat.

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THQ

Starting as a toy company in the early 90’s, moved onto making video games in 1995.  Having a number of their own IPs, like Saints Row, Company of Heroes, Warhammer 40,000, Red Faction and others, as well as having licensing agreements with WWE, Nickelodeon and Disney.

In August of 2010, THQ revealed the uDraw, an accessory for the Nintendo Wii that would allow users to draw on the tablet accessory and interact with their television. The uDraw accessory was eventually released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 but unfortunately for THQ it was a commercial failure, and is considered to be the main causes to why THQ declared bankruptcy in December 2012. THQ declared bankruptcy with many of the companies IPs being purchased by Sega, Koch Media, Crytek and Nordic Games.

Lucasarts logo

LucasArts

If you had a PC or Mac in the 90’s then you should know who these guys are. Famous for their point and click adventures, such as Sam & Max Hit the Road, Full Throttle and the Monkey Island series. Most of these point and click games worked around the idea of observation, problem solving and puzzles.

It was also involved in making a number of Star Wars and Indiana Jones games, al under the Lucas umbrella. Unlike most other companies on this list, LucasArts didn’t go bankrupt, but were acquired by The Walt Disney Company in October 2012.

However, all games that LucasArts had been working on (including a number of Star Wars games) had been put on hold. In April 2013, LucasArts would cease operation as a video game developer and any future games would be developed by Disney Interactive Studios or licence through third-parties.

Shortly after, in May 2013, it was revealed that Electronic Arts would develop any futures Star Wars games, including Star Wars Battlefront.

Sega Logo

Sega

This one hurts a little. Once a hardware manufacturer, ranging from the third generation of consoles, with the SG-1000, to the sixth generation of consoles, with the shortly lived Dreamcast.

Sega has had it’s fair share of commercial failures ranging from the Mega Drive/Genesis add-ons (32X and Mega CD/Sega CD) to the rushed launch of the Sega Saturn as well as it’s new competitor into the market, the Sony PlayStation.

Sega’s last console, the Dreamcast, was released in November 1998 in Japan, and almost a year later in western markets. Unfortunately the Dreamcast’s sales was not enough which changed Sega’s focus to make software on other platforms.

Sega has since become a third party developer, making games for both home console, PC and mobile platforms, but has since moved their focus away from physical media releases after lacklustre sales of some of their major releases from last year like Sonic Boom and Alien Isolation.

In May of this year, Sega announced they would not be attending E3 2015.

With the majority of our bigger titles launching later in 2015/2016, particularly those from our AAA studios Relic Entertainment, Sports Interactive and Creative Assembly, we are concentrating our efforts for some of these major announcements after our relocation. Instead, we will be collaborating with our various business partners for this year’s E3 show.

The good news here is it may not mean the end for Sega at E3.

Sega will have at least one game at E3, Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which will be published by Nintendo.

Retro Review – Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines


As the first entry in Pyro Studio’s innovative Commandos series, Behind Enemy Lines redefined the possibilities of the strategy genre as it existed in 1998. No longer did strategy have to be about churning grunts and riflemen out of your barracks and throwing them like fodder at the enemy’s tanks. This is the thinking man’s tactical strategy game, one involving finesse and patience, where the loss of even a single unit spells defeat.

Just another day at the office.

Set amidst the endless gaming backdrop that is the Second World War, Commandos gives you control of a specialized squad of six commandos as they slip behind enemy lines (oh that’s why they called it that) in their attempt to sabotage the NAZI war machine.

Each from a different branch of the army, (green beret, marine, sapper, driver, sniper and spy) your commandos’ unique skills combine intricately with the varied level design and objectives to create hundreds of possible solutions to every mission. You’re given all the tools, and the game lets you figure out how best to go about it.

One mission might find you with your knife at the ready, silently crawling through the European snow towards an unsuspecting guard enjoying a casual cigarette, while the next finds you setting off a chain reaction of explosives in the African desert, and ramming a truck through a roadblock to your escape point. Your approach can be as methodical or as ham fisted as you like, as long as you get the job done. There is a scoring system in place but I find playing to satisfy yourself is always best.

C-C-C-COMBO!!!!!

Special mention also goes for the hand-drawn aesthetic of the game, which presents some of the most beautifully detailed environments in gaming. There are very few reused elements and every rock, brick and tree feels like its been built from the ground up and placed intentionally.

Commandos is not for players looking to get a quick fix and the learning curve is pretty steep. Getting to know the hotkeys is of course a massive help and makes reacting to screw-ups much easier.

DAM!
DAM!

WWII games are not as common these days as they used to be, but Commandos is the first one I can ever remember playing and definitely the one that gripped me the most. It spawned a genre that has been copied by the likes of Spellbound Entertainment’s Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive and Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood Forest and began a series that went from strength to strength, peaking at Commandos 2: Men of Courage, falling down a bit with Commandos 3: Destination Berlin, and then completely flying off the rails with Commandos: Strike Force.

Nazis: 0 Commandos: +-40... yes I counted.
Nazis: 0 Commandos: +-40… yes I counted.

Pyro Studios has pretty much fallen off the radar since Strike Force, and have moved onto producing tablet and mobile games. They have however recently announced the development of a new commandos title for the tablet and mobile market, but I can’t help but think that Commandos has already seen its finest hour. A sad fact I realise with a heavy heart. The original titles are still available on Steam or GOG.com for a reasonable price and is well worth the investment for any tactical strategy enthusiast, they just don’t make them like this anymore.

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