Archive | September 2018

Firewatch Column – Centralian Advocate.

Advocate Column – Firewatch Opinion

{Please note this column was originally published on 10 August 2018 in the Centralian Advocate} 

Firewatch was released on the 9th of February 2016 to “generally favourable” review scores; it averaged at around 80% on Metacritic. You might be wondering what makes this game so special, it’s actually nothing specific that makes it special, rather the way it all comes together.

Firewatch is a game about an every-day guy who starts working as a Bush Ranger Fire Lookout in a National Park in Wyoming in America after he leaves his old life behind. It may sound like a mundane premise but the developers know how to make this setting very intriguing. The story is helped by stellar voice work delivering dialogue; Rich Sommers plays the protagonist, Henry, and Cissy Jones plays his colleague Delilah and both are fantastic actors. Although the two main characters only work together, they’re relationship plays out in interesting ways. Henry relies on Delilah for updates and reports to continue his work as a Bush Ranger Fire Lookout.

The tone is a little dark and mysterious, but it’s not horrific or terrifying; it has more of a Twin Peaks, spooky vibe to the game. Because it’s set in a National Park it feels incredibly isolated, Henry is almost alone and he doesn’t have experience in his new role. His only connections to other people, are visitors of the park and his trusty side-kick Delilah; she is incredibly important to the game and plays a mechanical part in the game by informing the player of objectives and her dialogue is largely narrative focussed.

Firewatch - Radio.Compass.Dialogue

Firewatch gets often gets Pigeon Holed as a ‘Walking Simulator’ type of game, or genre, which may sound a little negative. It can be a negatively used description, especially for games that are trying to be an Action Game, or an FPS (First Person Shooter). However that description is exactly what the developers, Campo Santo (Studio) was going for – a game that tells a story while walking around and exploring a world.
Campo Santo’s focus was on creating a palpable atmosphere which could draw emotions through its aesthetics, the art work and the broader atmosphere. It’s impressive the way that the developers encourage players to invest in the game and story; touches like lighting effects, the colour palette, the ambience, the sound effects, the (musical) score and the narrative all contribute to an immersive surrounding.

I thoroughly enjoyed Firewatch, I thought the game was thoughtfully crafted and came together really well. Start to finish players could complete the game in about 3 to 4 hours, some might see this as a negative aspect as well, however the length supports the tight experience in my opinion; the story doesn’t suffer from any filer or feel bloated. The developer’s attention to detail and their laser focus on a particular experience really made this a top-to-bottom, high quality experience.

 

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Mass Effect Andromeda – A Galaxy far, far fresh.

{Please note: this column was originally published on 13 July 2018 in the Centralian Advocate} 

Advocate Column – Mass Effect Andromeda 13 July 2018

Mass Effect Andromeda was released on 21 March 2017, more than a year ago now, it’s a lot cheaper than it was at its initial release and that’s due to a couple of reasons, not all positive either.

The Mass Effect series is a juggernaut amongst the gaming industry – the fandom surrounding the franchise was huge and intense – the fans were rabid with in their passion for the series! The first 3 games, titled Mass Effect 1, 2 & 3 respectively, were not only a commercial success, but the games created a polarising community of Mass Effect super-fans. These fans would defend the series against any negativity in online comments threads and created large chat websites and forums to discuss important aspects with other super-fans.

It’s an understatement to say people loved the series, so you can imagine the fever pitch of excitement when Mass Effect Andromeda – the fourth game in the series – was announced and then eventually released in March 2017. That excitement turned quickly to anger as the Andromeda’s previews were trickling out and players were getting their hands on the game.

I played the game around the time of launch and really enjoyed my time with it. I actually found it strange that the general consensus was negative. The game was introduced as another part of the Mass Effect series, and it had an awesome premise – the player (and all of its crew, including multiple massive transport space ships) is trying to settle a new galaxy, damn cool. What it made me realise though, I think that expectations were heavily impacting Mass Effect Andromeda, those expectations skewed perception of the games quality.
Now don’t get me wrong, Andromeda wasn’t as enjoyable or strong as any of the first 3 Mass Effect games, sure, I conceit that. But it doesn’t mean that it was bad game at all.

Like I said, I enjoyed my time with the game; Bioware, the Developer of the series (including Andromeda) are really good at making quality RPGs (Role Playing Games) with epic and incredibly well told narratives. The developer also incorporates decision making and branching story paths into the game – and this is the part Bioware and Mass Effect fans adore. The decision making gives players a real ownership of the story and game that engages people for further immersion. Andromeda still has all of that, it’s just that it wasn’t as good as the first 3 Mass Effects.

Mass-Effect-Box-Cover

What I will say is if you have none, or very little experience with the series, you can still enjoy Mass Effect Andromeda. It’s a great game, it has deep systems and is highly entertaining. The developers added features that weren’t present in the original 3 games as well, each planet you colonise, players can invest time completing side quests to build up and ultimately gain benefits from that colonised location. If you’re a die-hard fan, well you would have already made your mind up, if you’re interested though, I’d recommend picking up Andromeda.

The game is well over a year old, so you can very likely find cheap copies of it anywhere, and if you do see the game, it’s a worthy purchase now. It’s good for gamers to be aware of not only quality games, it’s great to be aware of games that are amazing and at an appealing price tag.

 

 

NBA 2K18 – Play the Playoffs.

{Please note: this column was originally published on 8 June 2018 in the Centralian Advocate} 

Advocate Column – NBA 2K18 – Matt Davies 8 June 2018 (2)

Please NOTE: this column was originally published in The Advocate on 8 June 2018 ahead of the 2018 NBA Playoffs. 

With the NBA Finals upon us, it provides us with a good opportunity to highlight one of the strongest NBA video-game series ever to grace our consoles. Not only is this a stellar basketball game, it also includes many historic and legendary playoff teams – like we currently have with the all-mighty Golden State Warriors, respect not love.

The NBA 2K series is a long established franchise, released annually which is common for the sports genre. The game improves majority of its features every year with little exception. The most recent instalment, NBA 2K18 continues the series’ excellence and presents us all with a rich and deep NBA experience that is hard to match.

It’s quite timely to write about this game while the NBA Playoff Finals are underway; one of the best aspects of the NBA 2K18 is the range of historic and legendary Playoff teams available for gamers. It’s also important to note that all of the current teams are available as well of course. The Developers support this game with regular updates to the current team rosters with trades and injuries.

NBA 2K18 has all of the modes of the previous entries in the series as well, from My-CAREER, My-League, My-GM to My-Park. But it’s the My-League mode that can provide the ultimate NBA Fantasy.

The most engaging way to enjoy these historic teams is through the previously mentioned illustrious My-League mode – which has improved features and additions. In My-League (my personal favourite mode) the most interesting aspect is you can build a league that includes NBA teams from any era – provided they are available in the game.

Players don’t have to participate in a full-regular season either; you can create your own Playoff Bracket from scratch. You could put Michael Jordan’s 95’-96’ Bulls with a Season Record 72-10, in the same playoff bracket as the 2001 Showtime Lakers who only lost 1 game in their playoff campaign. This is incredibly fun and entertaining while the real-life playoffs are occurring.

The series already had a large amount of historic teams and players to choose from and it has grown even larger with this iteration. This is emphasised with a stack of famous 2000’s teams added to the game including; the 2011 Championship Dallas Mavericks, 2012 Oklahoma City finalists team, the 2013 Miami Heat with the ‘Big Three’ and the 2016 Golden State Warrior’s with their Season Record 73-9 are also playable, just to name a couple of more recent teams.

I consider myself a serious NBA fan, I can name every NBA Champion and the opponent since the year I was born (I’ll welcome any challenge at the pub if you don’t believe it). NBA 2K18 provides the fantasy of ultimate NBA teams competing and satisfies NBA fandom with a high degree of quality.

If you want the ultimate NBA experience, play 2K18. If you want the ultimate NBA Playoff experience, play 2K18.

Celeste Insights (Video Game)

{Please note: this column was originally published on 25 May 2018 in the Centralian Advocate}

Advocate Column – Celeste Insights – Matt Davies 25 May 2018

Celeste is a game that at first glance looks older, purely in terms of its visual presentation; it was developed with an 8bit look. Don’t let the presentation fool you though, the game looks stunning! It’s been a popular trend among modern games these days – presenting a retro aesthetic in games of today.

Celeste is a 2D, arcade platform genre (game) – the gameplay is what makes this something that’s totally worth spending time with. Although 2D platform games have been around for a long time – everyone is familiar with Mario – this one brings a suite of new elements to it that helps stand out. The protagonist (Madeline) has a stamina bar to manage which enables her to grab onto walls with a button press (L1) and wall jump. When the player wall jumps the leap projects Madeline further than a standard jump.

Madeline also has the ability to dash in a direction – in mid-air you can only dash once; this is another cool gameplay element that really keeps the game fresh and interesting. The creators use the dash ability in intriguing ways as well – implementing green glowing balls of energy that recharges the dash.

There are 7 core chapters to the game, and each chapter brings a new and different gameplay hook to levels that provide good variety for the game overall. For example one level incorporates floating gold feathers that when Madeline touches them she is granted the ability to blast through the 2D space briefly in any direction and usually there are obstacles to avoid while using this blast ability.
When you include the dash and wall grab abilities – which can also evolve as the game continues – with things like the feathers and the green glowing balls of energy, the game can be very complex, varied and challenging.

There are also many unlockable levels and end-game content that provides players with dozens of hours more gameplay depending on how willing one might be on tackling the deeper challenges. It’s another thing that the developer deserves high praise for, the additional and unlockable content; the challenges not only provide more hours of time with the game but it also adds interesting twists and alternative paths throughout the game.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the level design, which is another element of the game that is truly stellar. I only mentioned a few of the things that alter gameplay and provide other avenues for level completion – but there are a many! Each level is cleverly designed and is engineered to seriously test the abilities and gameplay alterations a player can use to provide a rich and rewarding experience.

Celeste is a game that is charming, beautiful and provides pure fun. The writing in the game is clever and whimsical and is a worthy story to pursuit. Although the gameplay is where Celeste shines, all of the aspects of the game come together strongly to create an un-miss-able experience. Also it’s available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC.

Published Column: God of War PS4. Centralian Advocate

{Please note: this Column was originally published in the Centralian Advocate in May of 2018} 

Advocate Column – God of War Review (2)

God of War PS4
A truly awesome game that is epic in every sense of the word.

The latest instalment of the God of War series has updated the games presentation and overall tone compared to previous entries, which was highly bombastic and visceral. Players still control Kratos, a brutal Greek Spartan / God as one explores this new foreign Norse world. The tone is a lot more serious, intense and overall more mature, and Kratos’ son is along for the ride. Adding a father son relationship could have easily given the game a whimsical quality, I can tell you, it does not.

God of War PS4 visuals are incredibly gorgeous, the game strikes a unique balance of stunning scenery animated with such detail that it seems life-like and fantastical at the same time. The result is truly beautiful. The attention to detail is amazing; Kratos’ clothes are portrayed accurately, with cloth textures looking very accurate – which an especially impressive achievement for a game where you pick and choose attire, and therefore changing textures on the character model regularly.

The combat feels good; Kratos wields a new weapon – The Leviathan Axe which was crafted by Ancient Dwarves and magically returns to him after throwing it, like a boomerang or Thor’s Hammer. The axe feels very powerful and heavy as Kratos swings it at his foes. The early hours of combat feel a little repetitive but you soon unlock many abilities and weapon upgrades which opens up many offensive options. There is an added wrinkle to the combat of God of War with a meaningful upgrade system. You are now able to upgrade Kratos arsenal of weapons, skills and amour; which is especially great because it opens up the combat immensely and provides a great deal of options to engage in the action.

The story unfolds in a strongly and at a good pace, the heightened intensity raise the stakes a lot and I was immersed immediately in what was happening with the narrative. The God of War series has always been rooted in mythology and the latest instalment is no different. What is different though; is this one is based in Norse mythology as opposed to Greek mythology. Don’t be mistaken though, you will still encounter numerous un-dead and vicious foot soldiers, and there are still plenty of larger, very powerful and truly captivating monsters to battle.

This still feels like a God of War game, just grown up a whole lot, like an adult. There are still many aspects that make this a traditional GoW game – like the mythology, the combat, fighting a variety of monsters and players are adventuring with the same legendary protagonist in Kratos. However there are enough aspects that have changed – for the better – that make this game truly outstanding.

If you’re looking for a high quality video game that will take you on an intriguing journey while enjoying spectacles. God of War PS4 is a must pick-up game.