No Man’s Sky Previews on Stephen Colbert

No-Mans-Sky-Banner

[divider]

Stephen Colbert loves video games. If you’ve ever watched The Colbert Report then you’ll know this is just a small part of his “geek” credentials for want of a better word. Put simply, do not challenge him on anything Tolkien. But he did the unprecedented last night when he gave eight minutes of his new prime time Late Night with Stephen Colbert show to Sean Murray from Hello Games to show off No Man’s Sky.

Put simply, this is as mainstream as video games can get in the most positive way. If you’re wondering how mainstream this is? Well… This is the show that Colbert has taken over from the retiring David Letterman. His was a name internationally known as being the king of late night TV and now Colbert is the host and chatting about video games on the show. Forgive me if I sound pleasantly amazed but I am. I knew he was going to do some things with games but I never guessed it would be to this degree.

Sean Murray keeps the release date a secret sadly but managed to find a bison and name it after Stephen. This is the same show that featured recognised God actor Morgan Freeman and it appears, as the title is a bit of a giveaway, Murray may have trumped Morgan in this regard. Maybe we should push Hello Games to make Freeman the tutorial voice, that would work, right?

Sadly, we can’t watch the Late Night with Stephen Colbert show in the UK. In fact we can’t get any of the shows Colbert has done (unless you’re clever). But thanks to this age of viral clips and short context viewing, the official show’s YouTube has put it on for our viewing pleasure. So here it is! Enjoy:

[divider]

[author]

Advertisements

Skyforge Preview – Is 2015 a year of Russian Gaming?

skyforgeft

A few things come to my mind when you say Russian to me: Red October, The Dude’s favourite drink, and the orchestral cover of that crap Sting song that Charlie Brooker uses in every Yearly/Weekly Wipe. You might not think gaming is a synonymous word but it really is. From every WW2 shooter under the sun, to Catherine in every Civilization game, Chernobyl in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Metro 2033/Last Light, Russia, its landscape, its literature and its history has quite the plethora of gaming inspiration.

skyforge2

It also has one of the biggest captive markets outside of China for gamers. Whilst the console market isn’t as strong as the West, the PC market and browser based games are a huge draw. My.Com is part of a much larger communications giant in Russia with access to over 100 million users. At several points over the past year, we were invited to look at the three big draws the publisher has to offer. But now seems the right time to look at them, probably because you’ve already finished your second play through of Dragon Age by now.

But it’s not just Russian companies that are in for this market as My.Com have recruited some of the best to work on their titles. World of Speed, an online multiplayer arcade racing game with various real world locations and licensed cars to boot, is being developed by Slightly Mad Studios. You may know them for being the developer behind the much anticipated simulator Project Cars, and various Need for Speed games. It’s a fun game, especially in the 2v2 style of racing that isn’t just positional based but points based as well, leading to much tactical thinking. There’s also Armoured Warfare, which on the face of it is a World of Tanks clone. But the game has a lot more of an arcade “pick-up-and-play” feel to it. It doesn’t have the military history of the aforementioned Wargaming.net game but it is a fun tank shooter in the familiar vein, like a slightly less futuristic Battlezone.

skyforge3

Armoured Warfare and Skyforge, the main game we’re going to look at here, have something in common. They are being co-developed and optimised for the Western audiences by Obsidian Entertainment. You should know Obsidian… Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity and the game you voted as your best RPG of 2014, South Park: The Stick of Truth. Along with Russian developer Allods Team, Skyforge is an MMORPG set in a mixed environment of fantasy and science fiction on the fictional world, Aelion. A very large and visually enthralling world at that. Skyforge represents an entire planet for you to explore with a mixture between the worlds you would imagine from a Iain M Banks novel mixed with visuals from a hodgepodge of Warcraft realms. It’s an incredible combination of a futuristic world mixed with ruins and nature that doesn’t resort to turning things in to a bland destroyed battlefield to give it some visual nuance. In the game’s story you are an immortal (quite convenient) who must rise to become a God and earn followers throughout Aelion.

Playing the game is incredibly open, and I don’t mean in the worlds but in the characters. The UI and combat system is pleasingly simple and is pleasantly just above spamming the keyboard all the time. This is mostly because your combat talents are actually pretty cool. There are lots of things depending on your class that you can do like fire a snowball that grows and collects all the enemies in its path. But the key in this is the character progression system and the ability to change your class. The progression tree, which is called the Ascension Atlas here, works in a very open way, much like a web. In fact, if you’ve played Civilization: Beyond Earth, the selection is very similar. Some things take longer to research and what you research opens up other classes and skills like a web. And, as long as you aren’t in combat, you can change your class. This is particularly intriguing as you can change what you are dependent to what you need, as can anyone in your party. It’ll make raids especially interesting. Just change from Paladin from Cryomancer in a couple of clicks. Easy.

skyforge1

All of this is unlocked via prestige. And as in any MMORPG you unlock this via quests. Quite like Dragon Age Inquisition is at times, quests are attained locally rather than via a singular point. Which means instead of going to a quest giver, just entering an area will activate a quest. You’ll be able to see that quests are available in an area via the big sky globe map on the space station, called the Divine Observatory, circling Skyforge. Battling and killing enemies, will unlock prestiege, unlock levels, better attacks, more attack slots, etc, etc, etc. Normal fayre for your MMORPG. There’s no word yet on buy-to-play bonuses with this. But you can earn it in your standard PvE and PvP ways and if you can get a good group of people together it could be quite a fun distraction for those of you who seek new challenges after World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online, ArchAge, etc. Something that will be interesting is the Guild PvP mode which will be coming in the future.

The game was certainly fun to play when we were playing it although it does have a very big audience to try and capture in the West. The Russian end will certainly warm to it quickly as long as they have a fairly good PC so it certainly won’t be a dead server zone. There’s no specs yet that are confirmed but it looks like it’ll need a decent package at least athough MY.Com promise to keep it as technically accessible as possible. The game is currently in Beta which you can sign up for now at their website. It’s PC only at the moment but as most players are PC based that’s probably a good thing. Obsidian are working mostly on “Westernizing” the game. We’re pretty sure that doesn’t just mean language translation but optimisation of where things should be on a UI, how stories are communicated in quests, etc. It’s quite amazing, when you look at how universal a lot of games are (WoW, LoL, and other Upper case-Lower case-Upper case acronyms, for example). Our recommendation? Give it a go. After all it will be Free-To-Play, so why not?

[author]

World of Warships – Preview

wow ft World of Warships is the latest offering from Wargaming, the mad geniuses behind the free to play successes World of Tanks and World of Warplanes. This time they’ve taken to the water and while we were at Gamescom, we managed to get hands on with the game and was guided through it by producer Mike Fedorov. The BigWorld engine has created some wonderful graphics. Aside from the ship detail, the world around it is just as good looking. The water, whilst not yet complete, looks amazingly fluid and responsive to everything around it. Apparently it’s going to get better and more transparent come beta release so that’s even better. The sky is just as good. Apparently members of the public were asked to tell the difference between real world skies and skies in game. Some people pointed out what they thought was the real sky. They were actually all in game, so if it can fool people then you know it looks good. The atmosphere that the engine provides is vital to World of Warships given the lack of land based battle. If you don’t feel immersed in the areas then you won’t get as in to the game and if you’ve played World of Tanks, you know that authenticity is one of the things they pride themselves on. That is no different with the warships either. This time you’ll have two nations to start, Japan and the USA, expanding to include the British, Soviet and French if not more in future. The game will run ships from the turn of the 20th century as far forward as they can. Meaning that you’ll have effectively 120 years worth of naval military history to play with. Although it’s not going to be a complete recollection of this, you won’t have whole lines of ships, but you’ll have enough ships of historical relevance to be completely lost in. wow 2 The ships fall in to four basic classes. The biggest ones being the airplane carrier and Battleship, both of which suffer from low manoeuvrability but have ridiculously big guns for flak and shelling everything in your path. The middle class is the cruiser. They are also armed with flak cannons but has a weaker defence. It also have more precise gunnery so you can sharpshoot any weak points of your enemy, if you so happen to know them. The final class, the one we played with, was the Destroyer. A small, snappy vessel with small guns but armed enough to do damage and with quick manoeuvrability. What’s so good about the detail in these? Everything. They look fantastic and each ship has around 500,000 polygons. Even a gun turret contains more polygons than a single tank did in World of Tanks. They also evolve, being historic and subject to changing design and accompaniment over the years. So if a ship had some new guns installed between World War One and World War Two then that will be reflected in the ship in game as well. The team of historical advisors, as with anyone with a passing interest in military history, are meticulous. The blueprints for the ships have been used along with archive material and pictures from all throughout history to get everything just right. There are even “paper ships”. These are ships that were never actually constructed but their blueprints were drawn up. Consider it history plus. Just like World of Tanks, World of Warships is very easy to control. A simple WASD format will speed the ship up or down whilst turning port or starboard. The mouse controls the direction of your fire as well as shooting. You will also have additional buttons to change your gun rounds from normal to armour piercing and when it comes to torpedoes, you have a secondary sight guide. The guiding of you shot is trickier than a lot of games like this. You will have to accommodate that not only are you moving at a rate of knots but so is your enemy. You effectively have to judge how far ahead your shot needs to be. This gets even trickier when you’re firing torpedoes as ships can alter course and you’ll miss. This is made even MORE tricker by the fact that you are moving and you need to pay attention to where you’re going at the same time, or else collide with some land or another ship. Thankfully there is a navigational map where you can plot your courses if you want to take that particular element out of the equation. As long as you don’t blow your allies up. Friendly fire is always on and might land you in a bit of trouble if you’re not careful. wow1 At the moment the game is in Alpha and the Beta is expected before the end of the year. As opposed to World of Tanks, Warships adds a bit more of a tactical dimension given the nature of the warfare arena you’re playing in. Everything from missing a jut of rock to working out where that sonar beep is coming from telling you of your impending doom. Finally you have to be very mindful of your allies and enemies given how the area is not as closed compared to World of Tanks. It will be a lot easier to make a mistake and blow up one of your friendly escorts. But that challenge is one I suspect regular players will rise to and champion, along with drawing other new players to it as well. Just before we played the game, I remarked that the last naval warfare game I had played was the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) game 688 Attack Sub. A game that whilst frustrating was also very tactically nuanced and reminded me a lot of Crimson Tide and The Hunt for Red October. Since then, I haven’t really found a naval game that really gripped me or that I found myself playing. Even the Battlefield naval missions didn’t really hit that level of challenge enough for me to be truly gripped. I get the feeling that World of Warships may well solve that missing whole in my gaming experience. [divider]   [divider] [author]

Mortal Kombat X – Preview

mkxft

One of the first things I did when I started writing about games was I did a review of Mortal Kombat, the release from 2011. So naturally I was very excited to get my hands on the new Mortal Kombat X and see how exactly the next generation power has managed to add to the already smooth and visually opulent violence.

In truth, it adds quite a bit. The level of detail and the smoothness of the frame rate is making this one of the most fluid fighting games to date. Not just in its own genre but fighting across the board. The solid 60fps (a phrase I am sure to have worn out by the time I’m done covering Gamescom) makes not only the motion of the characters incredibly smooth but also completely unaffected by the particle effects from attacks. Sub Zero freezing will give you no lag.

mkx1

Speaking of Sub Zero, the gameplay has changed a little bit. Nothing has changed in a huge way but enough in a freshening way. There are three subclasses to the character you pick. Each one of them has something that adds a buff to some of your moves and attacks, or resistance to the oppositions attacks with defence rebuffs. These variations add another element to the game that makes you think a little differently about how you approach a fight. Scorpion, for example has a demon that he can summon to grab them from the ground in one variation. Another can set himself on fire so that his opponent will also catch fire and the final one will have swords to slice with. These traits are on every character and not only add the tactical element, but also some kick ass new moves.

When it comes to new, there will be new characters. Without spoiling any story, and the lore of the Mortal Kombat universe is being expanded quite nicely with this, 25 years has passed since the last instalment. This means that some familiar faces may be gone but legacies remain. Such as Cassie Cage, the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya, and Kotal Kahn, a man who has profited from the conflicts by taking over the Outworld. Don’t fear though as roster DLC will be coming.

The environments where you play the game have also expanded too with the brand new Jungle area (thanks to Kotal Kahn) but the expansion is not just in the choice. The environments are all very smooth with excellent depth in the animations. But it also is immersive and has breakable areas and places that can be used for attacks and defence. Not just the branches of trees or rocks, but the style of the environment can also aid certain players attacks. I got some great freezing action in with Sub Zero in these areas.

mkx2

Of course you haven’t heard me say anything about the violence and the excellent X-Ray system from the last game. Well it’s here, it’s back and it’s expanded. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it and it certainly wets the appetite for the old ‘ultra violence’, as A Clockwork Orange’s Alex would call it. The three tier power bar mechanic is back and it is smooth and deliciously gory. Some new X-Ray animations have been added, no small part in thanks to the new characters. But the animations are bone crunchingly, spine crackingly vile, repulsive, bloody and impossibly painful… Excellent.

This also means the fatalities are given the next generation treatment too and live up to the face slicing promise that you’d expect (there’s a hint there). The game is coming out on all consoles, so you don’t need to upgrade to enjoy the continuation of the new Mortal Kombat lore. However I would certainly say you are missing out on the smoothest 2.5D fighting game I’ve ever laid my hands on and until later in the week, it was definitely the best looking fighting game regardless of style (more on that in WWE2K15).

The release date is, predictably, 2015 and will definitely be worth waiting for. It has the potential to go unchallenged in its genre for quite a while as well in the next generation market so if you’re a die hard fan waiting for Tekken or a next generation Street Fighter, then you might want to explore this first.

[divider]

MKX Screenshot 1 MKX Screenshot 2 MKX Screenshot 3 MKX Screenshot 4 MKX Screenshot 5 MKX Screenshot 6

[divider]

[author]

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor – Preview

shadowofmordor4

So not a lot was really known to us about the new Lord of The Rings RPG, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Thanks to GamesCom, we now know a lot more and does it look deep, stunning and exciting. Who knew that Sauron could be this cool?

Set before the famous book in three parts by J.J.R. Tolkein that we all know and love, but after the last stand of the evil Lord Sauron against the alliance of elves and men. You take the reins of Talion, a Ranger of Gondor who, despite being dead, seems pretty animated to find things out. He also shares his dead body with Celebrimbor, a wraith who is currently experiencing a bout of amnesia over who he is, what his past is and what role he had to play in a bigger plot.

The duo travel around Mordor from mount doom to the newer previously unknown places further south, to uncover the secrets of the wraith and the world around them. Especially when they come upon a strange creature who speaks simply and has recently lost possession of a shiny gold ring to an adventurous thieving Hobbit. Along the way you will find artefacts that trigger memories as well as give an ‘eye’ on Sauron and his descent into the darkness.

The face of it, which is a good looking third person RPG is actually hiding beneath it a deep word that is continuously evolving and, by using Mordor, is completely open to creating new areas outside of the Middle-earth we are so used to playing in. It plays very easily, much like a good hack and slash in places but that would be insulting to its rich and intriguing enemy mechanics.

shadowofmordor2Each enemy, from the Uruk grunt you hit to the to the commander of the troop, has a levelling system that remembers your battles. If you die, you are not reset to a point but placed further down the line in time so those individual soldiers gain more skill points and move up the pecking order of rank. They’ll also remember what you did that they didn’t like, especially if they have fears. Some are scared of fire and they will flee if that comes near them, or some might hate wild animals and do the same.
This chain of command structure, evolution and AI memory is indeed very clever and puts a nice spin into the gameplay of smashing as many orcs as you can. You feel you know these guys, that they have a place or character in the fiction of this world, without having any kind of impact on the games main plot. It’s this detail, despite how graphically impressive it is, that really immerses you in the the game. Each commander has a place in the world, whether they work the slaves, are the executioner or just have a reputation for death. Even down to each commanders bodyguard who will give you a quick pep talk before trying to kill you.

There’s quite a few cool things your duo can do. As a wraith you can possess people to stun them or make them fight for your side. Or explode their head. Your weapons can create an awesome combo barrage of slicing and dicing, especially the slow motion kill cams that appear. Firing arrows gives you the chance to slow down time so you can really hit six or seven Uruk in the face, Legolas style, before you need to start slashing away. The artefacts and weapons in game also contain vast amounts of lore so as with a lot of modern games, there’s good reason to go out and find all the things you can and learn more about the history of this time.

shadowofmordor3You will level up and develop as well of course and your characters have traits, such as Talion’s ranger skills allowing him to climb up big walls and our wraith being able to control others. There is a puzzle element to it too, when presented with the wild landscape of Mordor and how animals and monsters can be manipulated to let you pass whilst avoiding costly combat.

The open world itself is very immersive, from the slave driven farms of Nurn to the ashen landscape of Mount Doom, Tolkein’s fantasy environment has been brought to live vividly and imaginatively. And being Mordor and not being limited to the canon of what is established, it is also quite big. You could probably make a small comparison to Dark Souls in the way that it looks but for once we can truly say that it certainly is its own game.

Not long for this one in the big wait. The game comes out on September 30th on every platform, including PC. Of course that means it has quite the release schedule to go up against but keep your eye on it as it will definitely be worth your time, Lord of the Rings fan or otherwise.

 

[author]

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel – Preview

borderlands-pre-sequel

If there is any game that’s going to blur the line between a tie-in/sequel between two incredibly wacky and successful games, it is going to be Borderlands.

The Pre-Sequel sets itself between Borderlands 1 & 2 and tells the story of how Handsome Jack became Handsome Jack and captures once again the craziness that the first two games provide. You negotiate the many bad guys around the moon of Pandora, Elpis, which adds a nice new dynamic of low gravity and oxygen starved environments. Firstly, fire. Fire will not work in space. There is no oxygen. So unless there is an oxygen zone you’ve set up or that you’ve entered then there will be no fire, explosions, etc. But you can still fire guns and that will give you the added option of shooting off oxygen helmets and giving the bad guys something else to think about.

The story itself adds a few new characters that you may have seen dotted around the Borderlands universe before in DLC’s, etc. But the main thing you guys all want to know about is Claptrap. Yes he is playable, yes he is funny. But there are now reasons for that. At this point, Jack is busy reprogramming Claptrap and isn’t getting it quite right. So this makes for a crazy cacophony of mixed up thought processes and hilarious speech whilst your playing. Unstable and zany, Claptrap will really steal this game.

2K_Borderlands_ThePre-Sequel_InGameArt_moonBanditsWhen playing co-op, he is so much fun with random buffs that sometimes work. If he gives you a thumbs up and you return it, buffs for all. If not, he’ll get selfish and give more buffs for himself. There’s lots of these random events with funny animations around them to show the horrible clash of poor programming that prevents him from doing some things and allows for hilarious mistakes. All of these are available on the three skill tress that every character has. Claptraps though really are much funnier than everyone else’s.

Of course the game itself has other playable characters such as Wilhelm who later becomes Handsome Jack’s bodyguard in Borderlands 2 and Nisha the Lawbringer who is the Sherrif of Lynchwood and later girlfriend of Handsome jack. You’ll also have Athena the Gladiator from the Borderlands 1 DLC ‘The Secret Armory of General Knoxx.’ The effort in Pre-Sequel to establish a lot of more the story canon to fans of the franchise and to really make this  a big arc that resolves any queries and links between the first two games.

There are lots of cool new enemies as well and the environment in the levels also gives a PvE trickiness at times, especially with the low gravity jumping. But you cannot help but realise you are playing a last generation game. Sure, we understand that the development in this game is something that Gearbox want to do, not to just cash in on Borderlands. They do care about the franchise and want to add this nice tie-in between the games. And I suppose that there is an element of that it isn’t broken then you don’t fix it with this game. The graphics and the smoothness of the cel shading has really been perfected in the engine and in the consoles that they are currently making the game for (along with the PC port).

However when we played the hands-on at Gamescom, it felt a little bit weird given how many next generation titles are coming out soon that this wasn’t one of them. It does show as a testament that the game really does stand up to those new games though given how much Gearbox have perfected this game after years of developing it. Yes we were all disappointed that we aren’t getting a PS4/Xbox One instalment anytime soon. But given that we aren’t ready to trade in our other consoles yet, then this will do nicely. Unless you are playing on a PC and are annoyed that you’re getting a last gen port again. Sorry about that.

The thing is with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is that this is totally for the fans. There isn’t going to be anything incredibly new and breath taking. Yes there are little things and new bits shoehorned in but the idea is that the story of these characters is told. If you are coming in to Borderlands fresh with this game then don’t. Go to Steam and get the first two (normally discounted) or even in the sales on the consoles. Otherwise you will be completely lost as to what’s happening whilst still admiring a nice smooth exciting shooter with cel shading graphics. But you’ve got time to get the other games done before this comes out on October 17th. Then you may well appreciate Claptrap’s eccentricities.

[author]

Batman Arkham Knight – Preview

The latest of the Rocksteady produced saga of open world vigilante crime fighting is soon to be upon us with Batman Arkham Knight, and the Batmobile is ready to ride us into a butt-kicking frenzy.

To start with you will be presented with familiar and comforting sight of gritty gothic visuals amidst a sweeping sprinkle of rain and enough wind to unfurl your cape pleasingly. You ride in to the game in the Batmobile with a load of violent gusto and start looking for the new villain of this piece, the Arkham Knight.

The crazy combo super fighting still feels as effortless and as pleasing as ever along with a few new things thrown in to the mix. Using the environment to incapacitate enemies is fun but the best is the new and easy button combination to make the Batmobile get involved in the fun by gunning down a guy you throw in the air to receive bullets.

Batman Arkham Knight preview 2The Batmobile itself is very easy to drive. Although it does feel as if the brake/reverse controls aren’t where they naturally should be. Once you use the new click wheel selection to get to it, you have two options: drive it like a car complete with afterburner, or into a warthog-esque bumper car with guns and missiles, which require charging up. You also have a very cool tow cable which adds a brand new element to the game. Pulling down walls and doors to make way for your incoming pain arrival which also allows for some cool driving and, my favourite, being able to exit the Batmobile and mid-flight start unleashing fury and then jump back in as the car is moving away. It makes for some excellent cinematic crazy set pieces like jumping a ramp as you’re re entering the car and hitting the after burner. You can even dodge the incoming volley of attacks with a quick retro thruster burst.

The demo we played started with the Batmobile arriving outside the ACE Chemicals Plant and after a short reconnaissance and a few rounds with a couple of human punchbags, you get attacked by a big helicopter destroying the only bridge to the plant. A helicopter piloted by none other than the Arkham Night. A guy who bears more than a passing resemblance to Batman if he wore Mass Effect colours. A guy who takes orders from a very static fuzzed up telecommunication from Scarecrow. So begins your journey to rescue hostages, stop Scarecrow from releasing his crazy toxin across the East Coast of America and find out who this guy is brightening up your suit, but not your day.

Of course a lot of the focus on this game is how the next generation of consoles handle it. The answer is of course very well indeed. The frame rate works very well at bringing the smooth cinematic presentation to the screen whilst getting those all important kick ass moments that you make yourself. In fact when we played it, we hit a combination of jumping down, calling the Batmobile, slipping in nicely whilst in motion, hitting the afterburner and moving forward without even stopping and almost making a jump. The team around us squealed with excitement and the smoothness of it was thanks to the frames.

Batman Arkham Knight preview 1Graphically the Arkham series has always nailed lighting and this edition to the franchise is no exception. The shine of water both on the the ground and on the characters reflects beautifully in the light in stark contrast the the dour gothic colours of Gotham and the neon lights of the factories. The water reflects the lights in office buildings as well surrounding the further playable three islands. It might be the first game where, thanks to the Batmobile, you might just want to cruise around and soak it up, rather than fly around.

We have to wait until 2015 for the game to grace our consoles and it will be worth the wait, after some final polishing. But one thing is for sure, the franchise is nearly six years old and the one thing it still is is fun. There are a lot of AAA games franchises that can’t say that and the way the games have developed, got bigger but kept the games, the characters, the story and the visuals both entertaining, gorgeous and fun says a lot to the promise of Arkham Knight come next year.

[divider]

Batman Arkham Knight 5 Batman Arkham Knight 4 Batman Arkham Knight 3 Batman Arkham Knight 2 Batman Arkham Knight 1

[divider]

[author]