5 Reasons You Should Devote Your Life to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt


Apart from Jarrad who’s currently reviewing the game, what can I say about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that you probably haven’t read or seen about the game is damn beautiful. However it’s not just the games graphics that make it that much more exhilarating to play or want in terms of an RPG, no. It’s the vast richness of the dialogue, the delicate amount of detail given to every character in the world, the environment, the enemies, menu hubs, everything.

I’ve compiled a small list of things I feel made me want to devote hours of my life into this game and enjoy everything that it has to offer.

1. Art Imitates life

Everything about The Witcher 3 reminds me of life. The character personalities met along your journey, be they friends or foes. These characters all live in an eco-system that players can seamlessly move between.

The player’s choices in various missions shape the world around them as they progress through the story and with a dynamic weather system that includes a night and day cycle, there’s surely more to this game than just killing stuff. I found myself spending more time exploring what I could and taking in the sights, following merchants around their respective towns to see their behaviour.

Closely watched reactions from townsfolk when I drew my sword in front of guards only to have them warn me to sheathe it or suffer the consequences. Everything you do in this game will attribute not only to the existing world but to the 36 possible endings you could possibly obtain after completion.

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2. Witcher Hunts Will Be AWESOME!

Griffins, Water Hags, Leshen’s, Werewolves, Wraiths, Noonwraiths, just to name a few of the enemies you’ll encounter early on in the game. Giant stone gargoyles and stone orges. In my short time with the game before needing to hand it off to our reviewer, I managed to fight each of these beasts and I loved the challenge they provided. These beasts did battle with my sword inside of a 20 hours span.

Some had me searching for various items to give to people, killing certain enemies or collecting a specific item to draw out the enemy at various locations, most the time I’d need to use my Witcher sense to find objects of interest that would give me clues as to what to do and where to go to next. These hunts will be broad and have multiple branching smaller quests. The further you get into the game the more complicated they’ll get.

I can’t imagine what the rest of the game has in store for me especially knowing that I can easily go where I want regardless of my level and tackle higher level bosses. Early on in the game once the player beats the Griffin, I managed to pick up a Witcher Quest that was level 33 and I was only level 6.

So the game does have that mentality of true open world.

I didn’t try my luck because Drowners that were a level higher gave me grief, and playing on the hardest difficulty didn’t help either.

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3. No Loading Times During Gameplay, Godsend

For a game that includes such a rich amount of content no loading times when traversing on your trust stead, or just casually taking a stroll through the lush forests make the experience much more enjoyable.  Many houses in the game world can be entered however most are cleverly disguised, and upon entering each house players aren’t met with any load times. This is what you want from an RPG of this magnitude.

The ability to travel where you want how you want and not worry about waiting for 30 seconds at any given time to load the next area only to have to travel back to get something else and then you’re just flooded with load times.

There’s nothing worse and off putting than long load times and CD Projekt Red must be commended for such a technical feat.

Free to go where you want with no load times.
Free to go where you want with no load times.

4. All Hail The Lore

I cannot stress how much effort CD Projekt Red have included in this game. The amount of lore that various characters and monsters have is astounding. Each major monster you hunt has different characteristics and respond differently to the environment and its changes.

In my preview in February I encountered different monsters to what I did in my 20 hours two weeks ago. It seems the game will react to your choices and you just being at the right place at the right time. There’s no telling what you may run into but when you do, you best be doing some research before you tackle them.

Read about them in the Bestiary because chances are they’ll have weakness and they’ll also tell you various traits they may have. Some enemies may onyl appear at dawn or dusk at certain times of the day, they may only respond to a certain action and so forth.

Each beast has a back story, peasants they’ve terrorised, where they originate from, weakness, strengths and so much more. I’ll stress this gaain, don’t speed run this game take your time with it the amount of knowledge you’ll garner by taking your time will be multiplied by 100.

5. Hair and Tree Physics

Seriously, check out them physics. It never gets old seeing the world around you react accordingly to the weather. Trees, bushes and various fauna all sway to the velocity of the wind. NPC’s go back in their homes if a storm approaches and washes away any sunshine, heck even character fear certain actions by the player or enemies lurking about. There’s so much to take in and I’m all for taking my time to appreciate just how much work CD Projekt Red have put into this game. I didn’t get the chance to nab some storm videos to turn into gifs nor most of the good stuff.

Now that review embargo is up there are plenty more gifs you may be able to find and “Let’s Play” videos that will start to surface.

But for now enjoy these beauties.

Evolve’s March Update brings new Hunters, Monster, Maps and Observation Mode


Earlier in the week I got the opportunity to try out Evolve new DLC which will be available March 31. Along with many updates to the game, it will be the first set of new hunters and a new monster to the game, the Behemoth.

Evolve Behemoth

The Behemoth is a huge rock like monster, who can turn into a massive ball for faster movement speed. The Behemoth has more armour and health than the previous three monsters, and can also do the most damage.

On those facts alone, one would think the Behemoth is a game breaking monster, and simply a means of ‘pay to win’, but as opposed to the Wraith, the Behemoth moves significantly slower in combat, and his abilities are far more defensive than aggressive.

Lava Bombs can be used in certain closed off areas, that will damage and hunters within the damage radius. In combination with Rock Wall, can either leave the hunter trapped inside with the monster, or allow the monster get increase it’s distance from the hunters when trying to eat and evolve.

The Tongue Grab works similar to the Wraith’s Abduction, where it will extend its tongue in the direction of the hunter being attacked and and bring them into close quarters to apply massive damage.

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Fissure is a wave the Behemoth sends out, that sends a blast of damage along the ground, stunning and hunters caught in it.

But monster loves aren’t the only ones who got some love, with four brand new hunters, Torvald the Assault, Crow the Trapper, Slim the Medic, and Sunny the Support. All of which have their own dialogue options, whether they are partied together or with existing hunters.

The four new hunters bring their own style to the game, and although the obviously have traits similar to other Assaults, Trapper, Medics and Support, they bring their own traits, personality and backstory.

Torald, the Assault is the main damage dealer in the group. With the ability to shoot Mortar Cannons from a long distance, but when in short range, using Shrapnel Grenades to cover the target in weak points, then following up with his Autofire Shotgun.

Crow, the Trapper has brought his pet with him, Gobi, a batray. Unlike Daisy, Gobi is not a party member, but can assist the party by scouting from above to track down the monster and other wildlife. Crow also brings his own arsenal, his Stasis Gun can be used to temporarily slow the monster and can be charged up to prolong the slowed effect. While his Kinetic Long Rifle can be used two different ways, in quick bursts it will deal more damage per second, but when charging a show, it can bypass a monsters armour, doing direct damage to his health.

Slim, the Medic is the most interesting of the new hunters, with his bug-like features, he’s the only non-human hunter, aside from Bucket. Slim main damage dealing weapon is his Leech Gun, when shot at a target, helps speed up the cool down his class ability Heal Burst, which is also much wider than all other medics. His Spore Cloud Launcher, when shot at the monster, stops the monster from smelling and identifying the hunters, making it difficult to tell them apart. Finally, Slim has a bug looking Healing Drone, which he can send to teammates from a distance to heal or revive.

Finally, there is Sunny, the Support. Her main weapon, a Mininuke Grenade Launcher, does more damage in a single projective than any other handheld weapon for any other hunter. Similar to Hank, she can shield other hunters, but it’s done automatically by deploying the Shield Drone. Lastly, Sunny can use her Jetpack Booster, which she can use on other teammates to either shorten the distance between them and the monster, or help them get out of a bad situation.

Evolve DLC SS1

Although the new hunters and monster are paid DLC, the first major update brings free content to everyone, including Observation Mode, which is designed to allow a sixth player, giving them the ability to switch between the view of all the hunters and the monster, which also shows an informative HUD that shows players health, survival odds, perks and more.

Lastly, two new maps will be available, Broken Hill Mine and Broken Hill Foundry, which include destructible entryways, which give the monster new shortcuts throughout the map.

The new content will be available on March 31st for all versions of Evolve on Xbox One, PS4 and PC users.

8 Things When Playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt That Left Me Wanting More


Last week we FINALLY got our hands on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. After checking it out at E3 multiple times by various writers of the site and myself having a hands off presentation late last year, when I received the email to finally have 3-4 hours of this game in front of me I was super excited. There’s so much content in this game and it’s currently finished, it just has 4 months of refinements to be made to be the best god damn game it can be.

To which I totally agree with, with the way that 2014 ended after multiple games required large downloadable patches to fix various problems, I’m happy to let CD Projekt Red take time to fine out as many bugs as possible. This is a large game and there is a lot to see and do that it would take players at least 100+ hours to explore and do everything. With there being so much that I played in the short 4 hours I thought I’d do a small list of some of the better things that kept me wanting to play more of this game.

1: Horseback riding on your trusty stead, Cockroach (Roach)

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What’s that over there? Let’s go check it out. God no. No! That was a bad idea. Run! RUN! Pretty much any time I rode Roach through the woods and somehow came across a pack of White Wolves or a dormant Bear. This is what players will spend most of their time doing in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Riding around on your trusty stead coming across wild animals and beasts of the wilderness, finding hidden caves, or certain areas of interest with hidden monsters, riding through random towns and swiftly sword-slashing enemies from the comfort of your horse.

The developer were nice enough to check out Ard Skellig on Skellige, and let me tell you it’s beautiful. Easily the largest of the islands there is so much to explore. It’s majestic riding Roach around and witnessing the extremely large draw distance. On the PS4 it is seriously impressive, and almost maxed out on a PC running on a 4K LG TV is simply put, beautiful. I’m in love with this game and honestly don’t know how I’ll wait 4 more months to play it.

Whilst the game still has 4 months of refinement, Roach wasn’t exactly the trusty horse you would expect. He’d randomly pop his head into conversations making for hilarious moments of laughter, he’d handle like a boat sometimes and other times would somehow find himself stuck between objects needing you to lost sight of him to respawn him. He’s got some bugs (No puns intended) still but at the call of a whistle he’ll be by your side. You’ll be spending a lot of time with Roach on your travels and he’ll definitely come in handy in various situation during combat with NPC’s in some areas and overall travel.

2: Wasting even more time on the Quest Board

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Most of your time apart from doing the main storyline and wandering large islands, will be spent completing quests you’ve undertaken from the Quest Board found in most villages/towns. In White Orchard, this particular board contained a Witcher contract as well as a few basic tasks.

The one that I selected was to find a villagers missing brother. After chatting to him he told me that his brother would lay in the aftermath of a small battle with the Black Ones and he’d be recognisable via a small white flower that would be marked on his shield. If his body was charred or missing, his dog would be able to pick up his scent and track where his body may lay. Using Witcher Sense to find these shields, the dog got whiff of his owners scent and I followed him to a small little shack in the middle of the woods where the villagers brother lay barely alive.

Another quest involved a Witcher contract, where a Noonwraith had been terrorizing a well in a near by site. The villager that had put up the contract feared that this Noonwraith would soon kill his daughter and requested the Witcher destroy it. In order to further identify what was keeping this Noonwraith trapped in the world, we needed to use Witcher sense and find any item of relevance that may have belonged to this bride to be. After finding a journal beside a large pool of blood, Geralt found out that this bride had been murdered alongside her husband.

Finding some blood stained hand marks on the door leading to the well, I then checked out the well where I found a body hung by the neck with the rope tied tightly to the well. Pulling the corpse up from the well, Geralt realised that it had been missing an arm, an arm that could potentially house the missing item binding the Noonwraith. Jumping in the well, I recovered the bracelet and begun the ceremony to burn the corpse and release this spirit.

Angered by what I was doing the Noonwraith decided to harm me and a battle entailed.

3: Using Witcher sense to highlight items of interest during quests and random shenanigans

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As outlined during the Noonwraith Witcher contract, Witcher sense isn’t limited to when the game asks you to use it. You can activate it at any time you wish in hopes to find anything worth your while. Looting corpses, chests, finding relevant items during missions, or investigating scenarios like the picture above. It will come in handy and be used heavily when needing to find an item that’s been described to you.

If you’re short on supplies needed for your Alchemy then loot corpses or chests and you might find what you want. Many games have similar character powers that can highlight certain items, but coupled in with the rich backstory that CD Projekt Red have injected into The Witcher 3, I feel that this is the most fun I’ve had using this ability. Learning how one died, or what may have happened whilst listening to Geralt talk is orgasmic to the ears. Seriously, I LOVED listening to that husky voice of his  when he’d come across something of relevance. Players that wish to take their time and explore every little thing in this game will be using Witcher Sense a lot.

4: Monster Hunting legendary Slavic Beasts then claiming their limbs as proof of your victory

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After the opening cinematic and tutorial level, It all started when Vesimir and Geralt were riding to the town of White Orchard when they came across and helped an accurate Stephen Baldwin look-a-like with a horrible Dumb & Dumber Lloyd Christmas hair cut from the claws of a terrifying Griffin chowing on its dead horse. With no active contract on the Griffin yet, Geralt had no choice but to continue to White Orchard and ask around in search of Yennefer. Of course during the natural course of progression, Geralt found out that there indeed WAS a contract on the Griffin.

Whilst this was a quest tied into the main storyline it still involved the same mechanics that you’ll enforce in Monster Hunting quests. You’ll be required to seek out NPC’s who have either seen or encountered the said beast. Investigate various aspects to how it feeds, acts, or where it frequents. In the case of the Griffin, Geralt was required to obtain a certain type of material that would have a strong enough smell to attract the Griffin out into an open area.

On top of that we also checked out a small camp where a group of Nilfgaardian soldiers have been killed by the Griffin. Using Witcher sense to investigate what had happened, I found a trail of blood that led me through the woods to a small cliff where I had found the bodies of the 3 soldiers and a dead Griffin. It added another layer of depth to these random characters and my hunt to kill this elusive Griffin.

Other monster hunter quests will definitely involve this same typoe of structure but they may sprawl hours and require multiple parts to complete. If they’re as satisfying and finally confronting the Griffin and slaying it then I’m all for distractions. After watching multiple videos of the game more than 6 months ago a lot has changed.

5: Using the Beastiary for rich and deep history about encountered monsters

Primarily the inventory menu system for your bag items, equipped items and more.

When it comes to killing various monsters in the world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, apart from your sword the beastiary will be crucial in your success. In this sub-menu you’ll have the ability to read up on every encountered beasts and learn of it’s rich history as well as the most important items required in dealing the most damage when encountering them. Some monsters will require you to use your alchemy and create various potions or oils that increase attack or do a certain type of damage.

Certain signs will wield better chances of landing a blow and so forth. It’s critical that with a game of this magnitude that combat isn’t the sole part of your enjoyment but learning about characters and enemies alike.

With the battle against the Noonwraith, I had no idea how to physically damage it because it was a physical entity. Once I had throroughly read the Noonwraith entry in the Beastiary, I knew exactly how to damage it and ensure victory. The only way to achieve this was to place a Yrden sign on the ground, lure the Noonwraith into it, and start attacking her when she became physical.

This would only be temporary as once the sign disappeared or she walked out of it she’d revert back to her original form. If you don’t frequently use the beastiary, you’ll find yourself dieing a lot from lack of knowledge. It doesn’t necessarily make the game easier, so don’t fret if you think that.

6: Following random NPC’s and seeing what they do throughout the day

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This is seriously amazing.

For such a large world each NPC you encounter has a pre-determined life cycle (I know, you’r thinking pre-determined, but hear me out). They’ll wake up in the morning do what they do, then at night either socialise with friends or go home and sleep. You’ll see a Shepard herd his sheep across the field or fend away Siren’s trying to eat them one morning, or the next you may not see him at all and just witness the majestic sunrise in front of you.

When it thunderstorms and rains heavily most NPC’s will run inside their homes for safety.

It’s awesome seeing that this is a living and breathing world where most actions have a reaction. You can’t go into a village and slaughter everyone so don’t get that excited for freedom, but during the main storyline you’ll be plagued with some decisions that’ll affect the outcome of a town. As witnessed by the Leshen monster hunt, siding with one group of villagers could result in the town becoming overrun and slaughtered hours into the game. Upon re-visiting the town would be a wasteland of bodies and burnt down houses. Certain NPC’s may now be mourning at their losses during the day, and disappear during the night.

7: Anytime NPC’s like THIS guy picked a fight with Geralt, It’s beautiful

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There are certain characters in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that don’t like Witcher’s at all. As witnessed in White Orchard, upon entering a local bar to ask around for Yennefer, some NPC’s expressed disgust when approached by Geralt. Players can coerce there minds into playing nice with Geralt if a conversation interaction is available, but it doesn’t change their overall tone.

When I had finished with my questions in the bar and needed to head out to the garrison to further push along the story a few NPC’s had taken it upon themselves to think they could force me to leave, which for Geralt was of course not an option. Cue a short conversation tree where I can initiate the fight and off we were in an good ol’ 3 vs 1 fist fight. What was interesting here was that Roach was tied up on a nearby fence and any time an enemy approached from behind, Roach would swiftly kick them into oblivion and knock them out. Allowing you to easily win the fight with a slight advantage.

I’m not sure how much more intense interactions like this become, but if this were any indication then they would be a lovely distraction from the main quest. It incorporates combat, dialogue that provides some chuckles and conversational trees. Everything that makes this game so appealing and changes things up so that it’s never stale. If you loved the conversational tree in the Mass Effect series and you’ve never played The Witcher you’ll love it.

If you’ve played both then feel safe knowing that in this game anything you say can lead in any direction.

8: Picking fights with multiple enemies resulted in sheer brutality and fun

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This what you’ve all come here to read, how good is the combat. Well let me tell you, it’s DAMN good! Whilst not as difficult as Dark Souls or The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings, it still provides a decent enough difficulty that players will need to carefully enter battles with multiple ghouls, wolves, bears, etc… Whilst being a Witcher does grant you certain powers, do not always rely on them to get you out of sticky situations. Some enemies are more difficult to defeat and the Igni sign won’t really do much for you.

When taking on 4 or 5 Ghouls at once learn to dodge and roll using B/Square. It’s easily the most crucial game mechanic you’ll need to know and saves you most of the time in combat. The one downside to the roll feature is that, instead of a double tap it requires you to hold down the button for a second or two before it registers. When you’re low on health and forget to hold the button down it could result in death and redoing the section again.

I’m not sure if it’ll get changed when the game is released, but it’s the only real quarrel I have with combat. Assigning a Sign from the Sign wheel is mapped via the left bumper or L1. In this sub-menu time slows down to hopefully give you enough time to decide what to use and equip it. Enemies will still be able to attack you and the game doesn’t completely pause so in the thick of battle it is crucial you know exactly what to use. Using the right bumper or R1 allows players to use the sign in combat.

These aren’t unlimited uses that can be spammed as once you’ve used a sign you’ll need to wait for your stamina to replenish before throwing down a Yrden trap.

Players have the ability to do normal attacks as well as strong sword attacks, which if timed correctly can give Geralt a flurry of well executed slashes on enemies. They don’t necessarily do more damage but the animations are smooth. Geralt isn’t invincible during these attacks so players need to meticulously decide on how to approach groups of enemies. Players can parry/counter attacks and they have a split second before an enemy lands an attack to parry. There are slight visual cues as to when you can perform these so always be alert during battle.

Health regeneration can be obtained via eating edibles purchased from merchants, whilst the description states that during battle they cannot be consumed and regenerate health, I found myself quickly scoffing down some bread which funnily enough during combat did actually give me health.

OXCGN’s PAX Aus Dragon Age Inquisition Preview


Before the hectic weekend of PAX Aus, I went to EA’s Dragon Age Inquisition event playing the first three hours of the game. I played it on PlayStation 4 and had a great time exploring the land, doing quests and enjoying the new tactical camera during combat.

It started with the usual character customisation and it was beyond what we’ve ever seen in a Dragon Age game before. There were four different races, Human, Quanari, Dwarf and Mage, as well as various types of classes determining your style of combat. Classes went beyond just your usual mage, warrior and rogue and expand into specialisation of a particular weapon. For instance I chose the rogue class which lead to picking between archery and double-bladed weapon wielding. I’m assuming with these various choices just in the first 30 seconds of the game it will allow for a lot of replay-ability and encourage gamers to get more out of their purchase.

Creating your character’s look was incredible with a variety of facial features to pick and choose from. Different from any game that I’ve ever played before is their new system to change the sizes and direction of body parts through the movement in a box. Now that might sound a bit weird and I probably won’t explain it perfectly but bear with me. Pretty much you move this square around your characters face and it adjusts the way the particular feature you’ve chosen looks. It took me quite a bit to get my head around it but it worked effectively and didn’t make your avatar look like too much of some weird creature.

There are plenty of default facial features as well if you prefer to jump right into the action.

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Now the game leaps you straight into the aftermath of the explosion of the Conclave and surprisingly you aren’t the Inquisitor. Instead you’re a survivor who has the newly acquired ability to close rifts in the demon world. Cassandra and Lelianna, familiar faces from the previous games, jump on the chance of recruiting you to hopefully get rid of the largest rift in the world, The Breach.

After the quick injection of story the game, the game quickly exposes you to the combat, half of which being very fun whilst the other a tad monotonous. Now the usual fighting requires holding down the right trigger, moving towards enemies and sometimes using your special attacks. I loved mixing in my special attacks whenever I could but whilst waiting for it recharge it’s easy to become disconnected to the game. It just didn’t feel like I was participating in the fights and pushing through the formalities. Even with the chance to change characters on the fly there just isn’t enough variety to make it enjoyable.

With the tactical camera it is a much different experience, making the player think and plan out each fight trying to achieve the best outcome. The tactical camera gives you a bird’s eye view of the battlefield with the time pulled to a hault. You can switch between characters and set their enemy to target, see opponent’s stats and set time rolling again. This mode expands with the ability to customise your party’s behaviour, a mechanic used in previous Dragon Age games, and the variety of choice whilst leveling up.

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Included in the game after fights is the use of “operations” which is where you control the Inquisitor’s forces through a war table. You can send them off into either Orlais or Ferelden with perks that can either improve their attack, persuasion skills or their ability to observe and explore the surroundings. You can send them on three different mission types whilst scouting, making them focus on building connections, gathering recruits or revealing secrets as they expand and reveal more of the world map.

Dragon Age Inquisition’s world is quite beautiful showing off familiar locations such as Kirkwall and Redcliffe. It is a magnificent craftedsetting which is much more open than its predecessors. You can easily find hidden places to explore such as caves and many opponents that are far stronger than yourself. I managed to bump into a couple of dragons, which one-hit killed me with its flaming breath, causing myself to rush the rest of my party to safety. These random encounters occurred because this installment in the series seemed to be more focused on carving your own story rather than following the story missions one-by-one.

This saddens me a bit though because I love getting immersed in a game’s narrative, and Dragon Age Inquisition doesn’t feel like it wants you to do that. Majority of my play through I was off doing side missions to gain enough power to continue the story and it was a struggle trying to find the next main mission marker. It’ll be interesting to see the final product and if it will have an epic story like Origins hidden between the side missions.

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OXCGN’s Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review


It’s easy for developers to take successful mechanics from other games and incorporate them into their own, and this is mostly what Shadow of Mordor is, combining the parkour free-running of Assassin’s Creed, mixed with Batman Arkham’s combat and adding an intricate hierarchical system in a Tolkein world that will consume you for days and days.

It really doesn’t feel like a Lord of the Rings game, rather it just takes the setting – orcs, Gollum and some lore – to create an average story to pull you through the game. Basically, you’re living on the Black Wall when orcs invade your home and gruesomely murder your family right before your eyes. You’re the last to be killed off, but your soul becomes trapped with an Elf and as one being you return to the world to diminish Sauron’s forces and break your curse. It was hard to become invested in the story, with an exception of a few flashbacks, when the cut scenes were so dry, dull and fairly short – not going into enough depth to grab your attention. Most of this is all excusable, though, because of the amazing gameplay mechanics that shine an innovative light onto video games.

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Combat works in two forms: stealth or slicing and dicing, where you can attack with your bow, sword or dagger. During stealth you perform all the usual sneaky assassinations present in Assassin’s Creed, including ledge kills, haystack deaths, air assassinations or the simple backstab. On the other hand whilst fighting with a sword you are encouraged to swing your weapon around the place, jumping over enemies and countering quite often. This countering system is very forgiving, working nearly every time. In the middle of your sword slashing, you can still perform a counter perfectly as long as you tap the corresponding button in time.

Along the way you’ll gain experience and unlock many moves and abilities giving you a variety of ways to take out your targets. I especially enjoyed ‘shadow strike’: where you aimed at your enemy and are transported right next to them to deliver a killing blow.

All of the combat feels swift and polished, leaving most mistakes your own fault, although sometimes the game can feel unfair. Stealth mechanics felt a bit clunky, similar to earlier Assassin’s Creed games, and a lot of the time when I would be attempting to jump across roofs, my character instead jumped straight down to the ground with a thump. Also, just navigating my character whilst climbing felt like a bit of a challenge at times, and more often that not didn’t go the way I intended.

The only element that is fresh, new, and quite incredible is the hierarchy system of Sauron’s forces. Whenever the protagonist kills an enemy in most games we’re rewarded with experience and a chance to become stronger. In Shadow of Mordor this system is still present – but the enemies can do the exact same thing. If they kill you they gain power, challenge others and move up the ranks with the goal to become a warchief. High stakes are now present in every single fight, and you’ll see yourself constantly trying different battle tactics just so some low level orc doesn’t get a lucky killer blow.

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Throughout the world you may come across many opportunities to gain intel on captains or war chiefs, and this is absolutly essential whilst hunting these opponents. With intel you can learn enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, giving you a complete advantage on the battle field. Some are completely immune to certain attacks, others terrified of things such as fire or wild beasts. Having this intel makes the game more exciting but, at times, it feels like some of these characters are overpowered. It wasn’t hard to find a war chief who was completely immune to every combat attack (even stealth hits) and instead find your only weapon would to be fire barrels that may or may not be present where your opponent lies.

There is one way to get around this though, which is an interesting concept as you progress in the game called ‘Branding’. This system allows you to take complete control of orcs and order them to do your bidding. The most satisfying part of the game for me was when I branded my own captain, raised his power to the limit through challenges and fights, and got him to take out a war chief that was impossible for me to even hit. Seeing my obedient orc trample that war chief to the ground gave me an amazing sense of accomplishment, and left me in utter awe that this is what games can do now and how our enemies can mature and change just like our character.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is an incredible game, and the only thing I could nitpick on is that sometimes there are repetitive environments with no outstanding landmarks. Other than that, there is an immense amount of joy in this and you will easily be glued to the screen – strategically planning your attacks on every captain. Shadow of Mordor borrows from a lot of games but introducing a refreshing, intricate hierarchy system makes it stand out being one of the best games of 2014.

Pros:

+ Innovative and amazing hierarchy system

+ Intelligent enemies

+ Smooth combat

Cons:

– Simplistic and dull story

– Repetitive Environments

TL;DR

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is an incredible game, borrowing from the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Batman Arkham, and combining it into a satisfying Tolkien world. It may have a simple narrative but with an intricate hierarchy system and an abundance of clever, unique enemies, Shadow of Mordor will keep you occupied for hours.

8.5/10

Review copy was not provided. This was a release copy as purchased by reviewer.

Samurai Warriors 4 Preview


Prepare for battle!

There’s something about smashing through a sea of enemies that really gets your heart racing. You charge down a hill at the wall of minor encumbrances before you, only to hit them with a wide slash, sending them flying back through the air and clearing a path for the next move. Samurai Warriors 4 takes this feeling and keeps it at the forefront of it’s combat, making for a game you’re sure to spend a lot of time in.

Samurai Warriors 4 marks the tenth anniversary of Tecmo Koei’s Samurai Warriors series, making it’s first debut on the Playstation 4. The game will also be available on the PS Vita and the PS3 at launch, with cross-save features, but only as digital downloads.

After a few hours hands on with this title one thing was immediately clear; this game felt much more like a next-gen title than the recent ports of Orochi Warriors 3 Ultimate and Dynasty Warriors 8. From the general presentation to the smoothness of play, veterans of the Musou (Warriors) games will find this title to be familiar but sleeker than ever.

The graphics are another area you’ll see improvement from previous entries, with the game looking much sharper, as well as allowing a lot more enemies to be rendered on the screen at once. I found the render distance felt further than previously too, stopping enemies who are retreating from disappearing off-screen all too regularly.

The game’s story mode takes the form of regional stories that tell the tales of individual families and factions, and the unification story following the narrative to the end of the warring states era in Japan. Throughout these campaigns there are over fifty characters playable, giving you a huge range of options both in the story and other modes, such as free mode and chronicle mode.

You can customise everything... even individual eye colours!
You can customise everything… even individual eye colours!

Add to this roster custom made characters and you have a seriously impressive amount of options for how you want to play when jumping into the action. The create a character system has been greatly enhanced with this title, allowing for a much greater degree of control. From the armor type, hair style, voice and weapons, pretty much every option you could want to quickly create diverse, extra characters has been offered.

After this, you can take that character (or an existing one) into the all new ‘chronicle mode’, allowing you to explore Japan as a travelling warrior, meeting famous warriors and writing about battles as you yourself become one of the toughest in the land. This was a really fun mode to play around in as it lets you craft your own campaign and story, long after you’ve completed every faction’s arc. It’s up to you where you start, who you meet and where you go while travelling and exploring some really well put together battlegrounds.

I found that the battles, while lasting a good thirty to forty-five minutes, really drew me in. I didn’t find myself getting bored at all during the scenarios I played, even losing track of time at one point. The stories weaved into the scenarios are more than enough to keep the battles varied throughout, and levelling up to receive new, more showy and devastating combos is something I found myself all too happy to keep killing for.

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My only qualms with the game at preview stage were ones that have plagued many a Tecmo Koei title, namely the camera and sometimes overcrowded HUD.

The camera mechanics shared by the Musou games is something that never ceases to produce minor annoyance. There’s something about the angle and it not properly adjusting to your movements that can be a real pain in the heat of battle. For the most part though its functional and can be adjusted, but it’d be great to see something a little smoother in the future.

Given the choice, I’d much prefer to play or watch a Japanese product in it’s original Japanese with subtitles. The Japanese voice acting and dialogue is pretty good throughout. as is the translation, but the placing of the subtitles box really isn’t. Rather than writing along the bottom of the HUD or in a bubble to the side, the dialogue bubble continuously pops up in the bottom third of the screen, right over where your character and the main action is happening. That many enemies all at once can become confusing easily without a big box adding to it. While this isn’t a constant or a huge problem, it’d be nice to see a way we could move its placement in the full game.

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Despite these small issues, the game performs admirably. It’s a ridiculously fun and satisfying title that I’m sure will be a real time sink for many people. With the large variety and amount of content this is one to look out for, for both hardened fans and newcomers alike.

Samurai Warriors 4 is set to release on PS4 on 23rd October.

Preview conducted at Mindscape Games Headquarters, Sydney.

Jayden Perry ©2014

Project Cars Preview: The Dark Souls of Racing Games


Prepare to Spin Out. A Lot.

Imagine you’re playing a game of chess. You look at the board, carefully considering your next move; do you go on the offense, or do you hold your ground? You have to be aware of the moves ahead too, thinking about what your opponent will do next.

Project Cars has this feel to it, it’s not an arcade racer where if an opponent tries to shift it’s placement on the road you can just shunt it away with ease, try that here and you’ll likely lose the race. Instead it becomes a game of speed versus control, defence versus offence where every move you make can make or break your racing time.

Project CARS

I was shown two different versions of the game; the closed beta on PC to demonstrate the game’s features, options and menus, and the PS4 version for hands on racing.

When you load up the game you’re greeted with a gorgeous cinematic showcasing the game’s cars and tracks, and soon after you’re sitting on the menu screen. From here, you can access the game’s single player, multiplayer and social based game types.

A notable feature of the game that really took me by surprise was the level of customisation available to gamers. You can choose a difficulty level when you start that ranges from the usual easy to expert, but once that’s chosen there’s so many more options to play with.

You can tweak just about anything, from those that impact your own driving to the AI that race around the track with you. Traction, driving assists and the racing line can be a real help when starting to learn how the game works, then gradually turned down or off to transition into the heart of the challenge.

Project CARS

Enemy AI can also be tweaked with a large list of sliders for more of a challenge or to train against a certain type of racer, improving your strategy. For instance, you can up the defensiveness and blocking of the AI’s so you can find ways to get around enemies that like to block your overtaking online. It’s a really interesting system with a seemingly unending amount of possible combinations due to the sliders ranging from 0 to 100 for each characteristic. I feel like these options will work to actively make the game both more accessible for newcomers whilst still providing an intense challenge for the veterans.

In terms of cars and tracks, racing fans will not be disappointed at all, with over fifty tracks and sixty cars coming in the full release. The Playstation 4 demo only includes one track and one car for the purposes of showing the core gameplay, but the beta contains much more. Choosing a car and a track are likely something players will spend a lot of time deliberating upon, before hitting the grid for the real challenge.

Realistic driving is nothing new, in fact game developers have been striving to create a realistic race experience since some of the first car games were made. In my mind, Project Cars takes this to a new level, providing a realistic driving experience that’s nothing short of punishing.

Project CARS

When I first pressed the accelerator at the start of the race it felt like the stock standard sort of start to a race. I had been told to pay close attention to the brake lights of the cars ahead of me and to follow their line to get a feel for the track, passing the first corner with the aid of some gentle braking and turning. Upon reaching the second corner however, trouble struck as I didn’t brake quite early enough, finding my wheel on the grass off the edge of the tarmac. In Project Cars, things like this will cause the whole car to start to spin (due to the loss of traction from a wheel) and normal arcade racing tricks will only end with your car spun out, way behind the pack.

Instead, especially to begin with, you really need to take it slow and watch carefully, thinking about when to move and remembering how the AI brake and control. If you take the time to do this you’ll find your feet in the game pretty fast. After more restarts than I care to admit I was easily keeping up with the larger group, working out the best times to make a break for that next position and when to hang back watch for the other cars’ next moves.

I found the game incredibly satisfying, even in those restarts, because in those early tries I was actually learning about how the game worked and controlled. I can see this early difficulty proving a barrier to some, or it may become painful to those not accustomed to heavily realistic racing games, but ultimately with the assists most players should get a good grasp of the game after minimal time playing.

Outside of the games mechanics, the attention to detail and presentation are another place where Project Cars shines. As the cars race around the track you can see the suspension at work and leaves blow off the track and past your windshield. Rain and dynamic weather events change up the feel of the race, and the surrounding environments look gorgeous as you fly by. From the presentation of the cars to the stunning backdrops, the game looks great on the next-gen consoles.

Project CARS

I’ve heard Project Cars described as the ‘Dark Souls’ of racing games, and that description rings true; the game is punishing in all the right ways, with a difficulty curve to match, but it’s also beyond rewarding when it all clicks in that moment and you pull of the perfect turn. I’m not sure how all racing fans will fare when they get their hands on it, but the kickstarter success ‘Slightly Mad Studios’ has created will surely push, challenge and delight fans when the game hits shelves.

Project Cars has been localised for release in Australia by Bandai Namco and will be releasing in November for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC, with a Wii U Version coming in 2015. The game will also support VR headsets, with the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus confirmed already.

Project CARS

Jayden Perry ©2014

EA Australia’s FIFA15 Football Fans Event Recap


First in the world. First in Australia.

Carriageworks, in the heart of Sydney. FIFA and Adidas combined to host a world first Football Fans event, allowing fans to experience FIFA 15 and the new Adidas Predator line. The crowd were jittery as they queued to line up outside, with many excited fans eagerly peering into the venue to see the TV screens inside set up with FIFA 15, ready to play.

As the line was slowly filtering in to the venue, fans were greeted with a freestyling performance from EA Sports which included consecutive around the worlds and other various forms of tricks which definitely wowed and ensued with applause from the awestruck and appreciative fans.

Once inside the venue, there was instantly a massive crowd around the TVs with everyone wanting to try the FIFA 15 demos that have been set up. Even though this was an early release of the game, it was clear to see the various improvements that EA had highlighted within their videos.

On the other side of the venue was the Adidas Predator cage setup, in which fans footballing skills were tested to accurately hit targets that were consecutively lighting up within a 60 second time frame. This also prompted many “ooh’s” and “aah’s” with two Origin superstars – Jarryd Hayne and Will Hopoate present to show support for the Predators as well as test their skills. After trying on the boots, I have to admit that they are remarkably comfortable on the foot with the striking red, white and black design that has become so well-known for the Adidas Predator brand.

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Announcements

At the venue, there were two major announcements that were made by EA as well as Adidas.

Starting with the EA announcement, firstly it was with great pride that Lionel Messi was featured on the new FIFA 15 cover. This was then proceeded to be followed by a presentation by Tim Cahill in which he expressed his happiness as being the cover face for the Australian Cover of FIFA 15.

Adidas also announced the whole new Predator line in which they are bringing back and revolutionizing past models and features of boots such as the accelerator feature and incorporating them back into modern boots. This brought a sense of nostalgia and excitement as fans were now quite keen on testing out the new boots in the Adidas section of the venue.
Features

EA Sports highlighted 4 main pillars they used to restructure and further upgrade the new FIFA to make it the game that everyone will want to own when it is released.

The 4 pillars were – Emotion and Intensity, Incredible visuals, Intelligent AI and Player Control.

Emotion and Intensity

Breaking each of them down, whilst playing the game the crowd and also the outer part of the field has really been redesigned so that they come to life during gameplay. It is immediately noticeable who the home crowd are, the way the fans jump up when players such as Messi or Ibrahimovic touches the ball and the way the audiences groan/body language when a player just misses a shot in front of goal. Including this, banners on the side of the field are now animated giving a more pleasing visual flair to the outside of the field.

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Incredible Visuals

EA sports have really paid attention to the amount of detail they need to put in on things that they had once neglected in previous versions. A great example of this is the weathering of the pitch as the game goes on. By showing the marks and rough patches from where players have slid or fallen, this allows a more realistic approach to football with this weathering of the field also affecting the gameplay (players tripping over bumps in the field). Including that, great care has also been put into the detail from the environment (e.g. rain). Now gamers can see the visual robustness of the new game and how they’ve taken every consideration to mimic the detail of a football game through the brilliant display of rain drops off the pitch when a player makes a tackle.

That being said, EA have again put a lot of effort into making the likeness of the characters in the game to the actual players. It is quite astonishing from the previews and from watching the gameplay on the screens in the venue how well EA have done this. The easiest way to put this, is the players really look the way they are meant to, which is very pleasing on a whole.

Intelligent AI

The computer in the game has been improved in the sense that they have tried to make the players more real. The players now respond to the emotions of the game, for example at the 90th minute, if a team is leading then they’ll play possessive football in which the ball will stay deep in order to run the time down and take the win. They also take into account the new formation settings that has been implemented in the new FIFA such as ‘parking the bus’ and corner formations and will respond accordingly.

Player Control

Player control seems to be the most relevant to FIFA fans when it comes to gameplay. From the demo that was shown, instantly I could tell that players were more responsive, moved faster on the break, controlled the ball better and took account the balance that they needed in order to take a shot or stop a ball. Adding features such as stronger push and pull contact as well as more flair during tricks, it makes the game more enjoyable to play. One big aspect that I really enjoyed was the fact that you can take control of players off the ball during throw-ins cause that really helps make plays and distribute the ball without waiting for a player to run a certain direction for you, only to have the other team follow and consequently intercept the ball.

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Overall

Personally, FIFA 15 is a very exciting title to be released in September and for all football fans out there, it is definitely worth the wait. The event as a whole was an overall success, pleasing football fans and giving us all a preview of what is to come, from both Adidas and EA.

Here’s a video EA Australia published today about the event.