My thoughts playing Paladins [Open Beta]

Similar gameplay. Different battleground.

After watching one of the trailers for Paladins, you might think it is just  another copycat title. Although some of Paladin’s characters and gameplay looks like a different version of Overwatch, it introduces a few different elements in hope to stand out a bit differently.

Paladins is created by the developers HI-REZ Studios who brought you SMITE. It is a 5 v 5 team brawl in which you compete in 2 modes; Capture point and Escort. These modes don’t really help Paladins to stand out from the crowd and it would have been nice for them to at least come up with a different gameplay objective.

In terms of gameplay modes, you have the basic options of Casual, Competitive, Training & Custom. Competitive is locked until you meet its’ requirements of mastering 12 champions to level 5. During this open beta, I spent most of my time in Casual, trying to get better acquainted with the controls and gameplay. If you’ve played other titles like SMITE, Overwatch or Team Fortress 2 then you will find it quite easy to get use to the gameplay.

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In the open beta, you can choose to play 16 different champions, 7 which are unlocked first and the rest requiring you to purchase with in game currency or real money. Some character designs are fairly creative, however others seem to be a direct copy from Overwatch characters, such as Barik and Torbjorn.

You can customise each character with different colours for their weapons, head & some will have legendary costumes. After selecting your champion, you’re given another short round where you can customise your character. I think that they could just shorten this and merge the two together so you get into the games faster.

When you get into the game, you’re presented with your loadout, a set of 5 cards that alters your characters stats. You can asquire new cards by unlocking loot chests or purchasing cards from the store and can create a few different loadouts for each champion. Before the game starts, you can also purchase items to boost your characters even more from the card shop. These are individual cards which impact your defense, utility, healing & attack attributes. You can choose up to 1 different skill card from each tree and can hold up to 4 during a game. During the beta, I wasn’t able to sell back my cards and purchase a different one, so it seems that the ones you choose you have to play with for the entirety of that match, which adds a degree of careful planning to figure out which cards you should get. To earn these cards, you need to spend credits, which you get by killing enemy champions and completing the match objectives. You can then choose to purchase new cards or spend it to level your current purchased cards.

Once the game starts, every champion receives a horse mount that you can ride into battle. These mounts seem to serve as a quick way for you to get back into the game, which seems fitting as these maps are not that large, so it keeps the gameplay at a constant pace. Currently there are only 3 different types of mounts you can choose from, although it would be nice to see unique mounts for each champion in the final game.

The 16 Champions fill the criteria of Front line, Support, Damage & Flank. I tried out 1 champion from each criteria and they each felt unique and simple to master. You will definitely notice some characters, although presented differently, have moves similar to the characters from Overwatch. However, I think they do enough with the other characters so it feels like a different game. The style of some characters seem to take inspiration from other types of games, as well as other pop culture references. One example being a raccoon and tree champion which seem similar to Rocket Raccoon and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.

With titles such as Overwatch, they’ve built up a backstory and lore of characters and how they interconnect with eachother. Even with Team Fortress, we were introduced to the characters back story through comedic short videos. Players enjoy reading the lore as much as playing the game, as it makes the game world that the developers are trying to create seem more alive. So far with Paladins, there’s not much indication of a lore or backstory connecting the different champions but hopefully they are working on this.

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Being a free to play title, it feels like a solid game and is a fun alternative for gamers that don’t want to pay $60 for a multiplayer game, however with the in game currency elements they might unknowingly spend more than that. Hi-Rez studios have been developing Paladins since before 2015 and is currently in Open beta state.

If you feel like trying out Paladins, you can currently download it in STEAM or game client from their website.

 

 

Happy gaming.

 

 

 

 

 

Replaying Ubisoft’s: The Crew

As part of Ubisoft’s 30th anniversary, since June, Ubisoft have released a game every month that you can download and own for free. We’ve had classic titles such as Prince of Persia, Rayman & Splinter Cell. The only requirement is that gamers must download Uplay client in order to play their games.

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Will we see a time in the future, where we can consolidate all  our gaming clients into one easily accessible manager?

 

This month, Ubisoft have announced The Crew as the free title as part of their 30th anniversary.  The question is whether The Crew is any better even as a free title.

The Crew is Ubisoft’s attempt at an open world racing game with online elements weaved in to its’ single game. I won’t delve too much about the main story, as it is a fairly simple story about being framed for your brother’s murder, getting released early in order to work with the officials to bring down the top member of the racing underworld and get your revenge for your brother’s killer.

You are given a small selection of cars that you can own and customise, however you will encounter racing events where you get to operate a different vehicle. Each of these events, span from simple A to B races, takedowns, escaping cops, time-trials & various mini games. You find these events by travelling across a scaled down region of North America. The map size is definitely one of The Crew’s highlights and you can get simple pleasures by taking a virtual road trip from the west coast all the way to Miami. The problem is, The Crew only has a limited number of vehicles that you can own in its’ freedrive mode, so after a while, you have driven the same car across the map. The Crew: Wild Run, which is an expansion pack is not included in the free version of the game, but offers additional content & vehicles to drive. Ubisoft’s reason is probably to hope that releasing the base game for free will encourage more people to try out the game and maybe some of them will like it enough to purchase the extra content.

Is The Crew still fun to play?

Well, yes and no. As a free game, the base version is still worth a playthrough for gamers who decided not to buy it or never heard about it previously. It offers a few moments of highlights such as the ability to drive across North America, a cool photo mode feature and variety of events to try out. It also uses a few nice animations such as watching your car explode into a million pieces when you’re upgrading, is pretty to look at and a nice bit of detail included by the developers. However, if you’re hoping for a thrilling story and huge roster of cars to own, then this isn’t the game for you. The online element also doesn’t really add much to the game, apart from the occasional meetups which inevitably end with you or the other person crashing in each other; on purpose.

They’ve announced a new expansion called The Crew: Calling All Units to fix some complaints people have had about the police AI, increasing the level cap and introduced a new selection of vehicles to drive. This expansion seems to be their attempt in recreating the Police vs Racers gameplay, that most people have experienced in NFS: Hot Pursuit and is expected to be released in November 2016. With Forza Horizon, another open world mmo racing game, to be released shortly, I think fewer people will come back to The Crew, even with another expansion coming soon.

 

Happy gaming.

 

My early thoughts: The Final Station

I have just purchased The Final Station, which is a game about a lonely train engineer, waking up to realise all hell has broken loose. As the train engineer, you’re the only person engineer remaining with a working train and have been tasked with the job of transporting essential equipment to help fight the zombies.

Across my journey, I’ve encountered different strangers with their own destinations, who take refuge on your train. As part of the game, you have to manage the passengers and treat them with food or medicine, depending on their status. You won’t always be able to keep some of them alive, as you have to make the lesser of two evils. Every station that you arrive at, will require you to search for a code in order to refuel your train and move to the next station. As your search for this code, you might find useful items such as food, medicine or ammo. You use the ammo to defend yourself from the zombie-like creatures which look like walking shadows. You will encounter different types of zombies and each will require a specific strategy to dispose off, as ammo and the material to make it can be sparse. On the train, you have to look pay attention to the status of the equipment, as it overheats during your travel. this can be quickly averted by manipulating the levels.

And this is basically what you do. You move station to station, picking up stragglers, search derelict towns for useful items and try to survive the zombie apocalypse. I’m a fan of the atmosphere the game builds, the different locales you pass and the level of death and decay they’ve seen and although the gameplay elements are fairly simple, it does offer challenges and moments of panic when you have to face the zombies. The Final Station also reminds me of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, as they both share the same premise of travelling by train and killing zombies.

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My thoughts on game dev support post launch

It’s always nice to see game developers who are passionate about their games and support it post launch. Downloadable content is often misused by game developers as a way to earn more money for content that could have been included with the retail purchase.

Not every game developer has gone about DLC with the consumer’s interest in mind. Wildcard’s ARK: Survival Evolved is still in early access, but that hasn’t stopped them from announcing a paid expansion pack. This hasn’t gone down well with most of the users however Wildcard have recently tried to explain their actions.

CD Projekt Red have probably been the most reputable game developers this year offering free DLC (mostly cosmetic), where other developers would charge users and creating 2 amazing expansion packs, after the release of the main game. We’ve also seen them release updates & fixes to game even several months after they released their final expansion pack. Another developer to note that has a consumer friendly post support plan is Colossal Order’s Cities: Skylines.

Nordic Games, developer of the action rpg Titan Quest, released an unexpected update to their game to mark the 10 year anniversary. As another treat, they rewarded owners of the original game with a free copy of the updated game. This has been a great piece of support from the developers, which has seen players up to 11,000 get back into the game.

Post launch support, is obviously pretty common and always to be expected, however it is the way that the game developers announce their plans which can affect their reputation in the long run. From a consumer perspective, it always seems more effective if they announce the plan for DLC or expansions after the final game has been released.

My thoughts on No Man’s Sky {PC}

No Man’s Sky, developed by Hello Games, a small indie team based in UK has seen its’ fair share of negative comments since launching in August.

Promising endless exploration and wondrous discoveries, many players have felt that after spending more than 100 hours, the game has failed to offer the same effect as the E3 video. Many are aware about the difference between E3 gameplay vs the final product, although with NMS the gap seems larger.

So far, I’ve spent around 47 hours flying around the universe, warping system to system, mining, upgrading, finding new ships and rinsing and repeating. At first the game was enjoyable to play, as everywhere I went, there was something new to see. However, soon after the game started to feel almost pointless to reach the end goal. Many have reached the center and felt the ending was not worth the many hours spent gathering resources and travelling. I myself, have yet to reach this goal, however I have not felt the motivation to get back into this game in order to do so.

The issue with the game, in its’ current state is the lack of depth after awhile, it feels like a early access game that requires few months in development and that after playing awhile, you could actually experience everything the game has to offer on a single planet. There could have been many reasons for this, maybe due to Sony getting them as an exclusive, forced their hands to release the game early.

With the user base averaging around 6,000 users daily, there are many players still enjoying the game, however with the launch seeing 200,000 users, this is definitely something HelloGames and Sony should address, especially if they wish to support this game for long term or release a sequel. Many have asked HelloGames to perform an AMA on reddit, which would help to shed some light on the lack of communication and truth about the missing features. We’ve seen HG communicate via their twitter, however this has only been towards bug updates & patches, rather than explaining the claim of misleading people.

There’s no excuse HG can give to please the 90% of angry players, however for those still playing, including myself, all they can do is move forward and create new content for the game.

 

 

Playstation Live Meeting 2016

It was rumoured that the launch of the PS4 slim and PS4.5 would be announced in early September and it was done during today’s Playstation Meeting, at Playstation Theater in Times Square, New York City.

Firstly, the PS4 slim has been announced as the slimmer brother of the original PS4 with the same amount of graphical power & lower power output. Price was announced at £259 and release date is expected on September 15th, 2016. Playstation VR’s release date is scheduled in October, this year.

Moving on to the PS4.5, which we now know as PS4 PRO, will be released on November 10th, 2016 for £349. This is the more powerful version of the original PS4 console, that puts 4k gaming into console gamer’s palms for the first time, HDR graphical improvements, PS VR support & HDTV support for even greater graphical fidelity. It will also allow game developers to squeeze even more out of the console to make their game look the best. Gamer’s will obviously require to upgrade to a 4k capable TV to reap the full benefits, however it won’t require a 4k tv to be played on, so the majority of 1080p TV’s will still be able to use PS4 PRO.

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Below are screenshots of games which will support PS4 PRO. Other titles to support PS4 PRO are Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Infamous: First Light & Killing Floor 2. I expected Battlefield 1 to be shown as one of the games to support PS4 PRO, however maybe we’ll see this via an update in the future.

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It wasn’t just the difference in games that the PS4 PRO would help to improve, Sony announced that they will partner with Netflix to bring 4k shows. Narcos S2 & Luke Cage have been announced as first titles to support 4k.

Finally, Sony announced that every single PS4 that has been released since the very first console sold, will receive an update to allow for HDR capability.

I’m probably going to save up for either the slim or purchase the original once the price drops. Although the PS4 PRO would be amazing, I just don’t want to fork out an extra few thousand pounds for a 4k tv.

With rumours about Microsoft’s Project Scorpio to have even greater power, it’ll be exciting to see that announcement and how it stacks up with PS4 PRO.