Guest Blog By Kevin @Agent_Prince
Hironobu Sakaguchi, the world famous ‘father’ of Final Fantasy, could well be considered the Miyamoto of JRPG games. Since the unfortunate box-office bomb that was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (which Sakaguchi directed), Sakaguchi left his presidential position at Square (which ultimately became Square Enix), and founded his own company, Mistwalker in 2004. Since that time, Mistwalker have developed a range of titles for different platforms, and a further title looks to be on its way, although only concept art has surfaced thus far. Sakaguchi also enlisted the immense musical talents of Nobou Uematsu, who also left Square in 2004.
Mistwalker initially signed up with Microsoft to produce Xbox 360 exclusive titles, of which there are two: Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey. Blue Dragon in particular helped boost sales of the Xbox 360 in Japan, at the time of its release (2006).
Microsoft sold 35,343 Xbox 360s – an increase of nearly 90 per cent over the previous week’s figure of just over 4000 consoles. It’s likely that the rise was linked to the release of Blue Dragon, which was developed by Mistwalker, the studio led by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi
– Ellie Gibson, Blue Dragon release boosts Xbox 360 sales in Japan, GamesIndustry.biz
It’s been a while since I played through a Tom Clancy game. In fact it may have been back on the Playstation 2 with Ghost Recon so it’s fair to say that I went in to The Division with an open heart and an open mind. Now, running on current gen hardware and PC the next Tom Clancy instalment launched on March 8th 2016 with The Division.
We are in Manhattan and we are in the middle of the post events of a smallpox pandemic. This pretty much destroyed New York City as we knew it and instead created a crime fuelled dystopian society. What was once a bustling city, full of tourists, workers and success transformed in to a war zone with tired looking people, collapsed surroundings, danger and disease. Ubisoft play this out with a reel of fictitious news castings at the beginning of the game. This did a great job at setting the tone and hype for the campaign that was about to ignite. From there, I could create my player attributes and off we ventured in to the dangerous Manhattan streets.
The Division is an open world MMO with some seriously tasty RPG elements. A Role Playing Game you might ask? I wouldn’t categorise The Division as an RPG at all as we all know it’s a third person shooter but as I said there are elements in The Division that often made me question: should this have been a RPG? Ubisoft tastefully threaded the two genre’s together to produce this explosive adventure. The levelling up system seemed a little complex at first but as with any game I acclimatised pretty quickly. I was shocked at how quickly I picked up the how to’s actually. I recall watching a lot of the Beta footage and thinking at how cluttered the interface looked but don’t let this fool you. The Division is surprisingly user friendly and what’s more my hiatus since Ghost Recon didn’t affect my approach in to the game either!
Guest Blog by Adam M @AdamMiller
After running through the shatter corpse of a fallen foe, I made my way down the nearby street when suddenly another guy appears wielding a pistol. Undeterred I made a beeline for him, jumping over his bullet and throwing my gun at his face. He fell backwards loosening the grip on his firearm. Mid-air I snatched the gun out of his hand, turned to the right and shot a guy who was waiting to ambush me. Realising that the enemy by my side had recovered and I didn't have enough time to fire another bullet, I threw the gun at his face. After being stunned a second time, I smashed my fist through his face – which shattered his skull into tiny piece. I then moved onto the second level in the game. This is SUPERHOT, and it is one hell of a ride.
SUPERHOT offers an intriguing concept a First Person Shooter game (available on PC) where time moves only when you do, allowing you to dodge bullets and pull off amazing feats like Keanu Reaves in the Matrix. Starting life as an entry in a 7 day game design competition, SUPERHOT impressed many with its fascinating concept. One Kickstarter later and it has finally hit Steam with an XBox One release to follow in March.
I had played the prototype when it was released many moons ago, and the concept blew me away. Managing your opponents by dodging bullets, throwing objects at them, firing at just the right spot so the enemy runs into the bullets – it all combines together to create a shooter that requires you to think strategically and take advantage of every possible opportunity.
The art style of the game is very minimalistic. Everything is white, with enemies [and bullets] in red, and objects that you can pick up in black. This simple style allows you to concentrate on the task at hand and spot any opportunities or dangers quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately the text is also in white, which can make it difficult to read against the white background. I found it almost impossible to read the text on the level replay screen. Whoever thought white writing on white was a good idea is a fool. The audio is pretty bare-bones too, with no music and basic effects. The only thing of note, aurally speaking, is the loading screen noise. It is ear-gratingly awful and forced me to reduce my volume down to 30% to stop my ears from bleeding. Don't let all this put you off though: what it lacks in the visual and music department, it makes up for with the gameplay.
As previously mentioned, any movement progresses time so even something as minor as turning slightly can result in a bullet to the face. As such, you need to stay still and examine your surroundings carefully. You will need to plan your strategy before you move. Many times I tried to go all 'Leeroy Jenkins', and all I got for my trouble was a bullet in the brain or a fist to the face. Death await the careless. There are many weapons at your disposal that you can use to aid you on your journey, from Katanas to Shotguns, as well as many objects scattered around that you can throw at people. Your red 'friends' have all the same items at their disposal, and they won't hesitate to pick up any weapons lying around to assist them with taking you out. They also spawn from every direction, so take care to listen carefully for their footsteps. Finishing a stage successfully is a very exhilarating experience; after most of the stages I couldn't help but feel like a badass – especially as the game treats you to a replay of the level in real-time. Seeing yourself pull off unbelievable feats is completely awesome. You can even upload these replays to killstagram.com [at the press of a button] to show off your skills. Such a simple idea, but it makes all the difference. I expect killstagram to be full of ridiculous replays in no time at all!
SUPERHOT allows players to play a story mode, of sorts, which you must play through in order to unlock the real meat of the content. It's short, and can be beaten in only a few hours, but it's fun and the storyline is a bit strange but in a good way. There isn't a lot to spoil, but it should keep you interested throughout; however, at points it can get quite obtrusive, throwing you out of levels for very minor plot development. I feel like less could have been more, in this case. Regardless of your opinion of the story, it only really serves as an extended tutorial – feeding you additional mechanics piecemeal after the game is satisfied that you can handle the stuff that has been given to you beforehand. It does the job well and, by the time you have finished the hectic final set-piece, you feel ready to tackle the challenges and endless mode that await you. The final part of the story is quite tough and puts all your skills to the test. Despite the relatively slow pace of the game, I felt exhausted by the end of it. Waves of enemies are coming at you from all angles and you need to do your best to survive and complete the take the game gives you for the mission. It's pretty great.
The bulk of your time with this game will be spent with the rather addictive challenge mode. There are many available, including speedrun challenges, Katana only challenges (yeahhhhhh!), instantly-killing throwable objects, and many more. It's all insanely good fun! Also available is an endless mode, which throws countless enemies at you in various themed arenas, and you need to rack up as many kills as possible. There are a lot of arenas available, so you won't get bored of them.
Some people may be put off with such a short story mode, but that needn't be the end of your experience with SUPERHOT. If you love the core gameplay mechanics, you can find many, many hours worth of entertainment. The prototype, at the time of writing, is available online for free, so check it out. If you like it, you should love the game. Enter this world and set your mind free.
Guest Blog by Adam M @AdamMiller
Guest Blog by John M @RoundEggFilms
Have you ever spent a night alone, deep in the wilderness, with civilization far and away from view? Have you ever wandered the vast expanse of a mid-western nature reserve, with friendly faces few and far between? Have you ever gone rock climbing? Navigated thtough rough, treacherous trail ways without the use of a GPS? Well I can safely say that I’ve never done any of those things. I probably never will. But after playing Developer Campo Santos’ flagship title Firewatch (a story oriented first-person walker) I felt as close to those experiences as humanly possible, without ever having stepped away from the comfort of my PC. Fire watch is also available on the Playstation 4, OS X and Linux.
Firewatch, as the name suggests, follows the story of Henry, a middle aged lost soul of sorts who takes on the lonesome job of fire safety lookout near Yellowstone National Park. His motives for this sudden, drastic change in lifestyle boils down to the result of a “choose-your-own-adventure” segment at the game’s onset. Although your choices are limited, this unique method of exposition succeeds in drawing you closer to Henry, a man whose troubled past haunts you as if you were somehow inadvertently responsible for it.
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