Tag: playstation

Year of the Console, July Review. Battlefield 1.

Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. It’s the end of Month 7 and we have reached the exact halfway point in our specially extended year, which is 14 months long. There has been a great deal of work, meal preparation and relationship-building this month so I have played Battlefield 1 rather sporadically, making a start on its single-player War Stories, which amount to only a portion of the whole game. Despite playing it in small bursts, it’s been a very absorbing game, to the point where I almost forgot I’d ever played anything else. I would have struggled to remember what we played last month.

As you know, we are following a dramatic historical trajectory throughout the year. July was the month in which we fully settled into the 20th century, which of course means war. Set during WW1, Battlefield 1 takes place in France, the UK, Italy, Turkey and Mesopotamia and is based on real events. I travelled around by tank as well as sneaking around on foot. The scenery, whether French villages, Italian mountain ranges or Mesopotamian deserts, would be gorgeous if everyone were not constantly blowing each other up and destroying buildings.

For the second consecutive month, we have not only screenshots but real gameplay. Here I am, in character as Daniel Edwards, a British soldier, driving around a muddy, ruined village in my tank, taking out German tanks, artillery and infantry. This mission is based on the Battle of Cambrai, 1918.

Screenshots

Battlefield 1. Electronic Arts (2016), PS4. A first-person shooter set during World War 1.

Plot and setting: The game begins with a series of single-player missions, set in half a dozen countries and climates. The missions are based on historical events in WW1 and the player adopts various unique characters to complete self-contained quest lines, or War Stories. These quest lines prepare the player for eventual multiplayer gameplay.

General remarks: This was an interesting change for me because Battlefield 1 is very rich in story while not being a RPG. There’s no character development as such. I never really got to know my character, Daniel Edwards, he didn’t have much internal dialogue. However, as a young soldier and tank driver for the British army in France, he and I certainly saw dramatic and terrifying events unfold. Battlefield 1 is nothing if not atmospheric. In strong contrast to most RPGs, it isn’t warm, decorative or obviously romantic. It’s brutal. It can be nail-bitingly tense but is not particularly relaxing.

Thumbs up: Amazing graphics and exciting gameplay. My heart was in my mouth as I stealthed around German camps in the dead of night, looking for spare parts for my tank and trying to pick off Nazis quietly without attracting everyone’s attention. The quest lines are clear and well-structured, there was plenty of action and most of the time I was clear what I was supposed to be doing, never having played a war game before.

Thumbs down: It’s an exciting game but it’s also a bit depressing. I loved being drawn into the drama but I also recall how much I enjoy games that offer blue seas, placid beaches, tropical flowers, palm trees and opportunities for quiet solo hunting or even house building and crafting and Battlefield 1 is the wrong place to look for that stuff. War is serious business and is not pretty.

Return to?  I recognise why this is such a Titan of a game. It is beautifully imagined and engineered. It looks great. It works and gives satisfying gameplay. It’s polished and professional. It offers entertainment and drama with a measure of real history. It’s a very macho game and I cannot say when I will return to it, however I acknowledge its many merits and technical accomplishments.

It’s almost August and time for a new Game of the Month! Kick-off on Tuesday, so stay tuned.

Year of the Console, April Review. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Welcome back to the official Year of Console Gaming that we are having here on TLYW. I can hardly believe it is the end of April already, which means it is time to stop playing this month’s game and give it a review. As you know, we are following an historical trajectory through 14 months of gaming. April represents the Middle Ages: I spent the whole month playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which is set in the 13th century; a time of peasants and rural villages and suchlike.

White OrchardWitcher 3 is a lot like Skyrim, as I expected. One critic remarked that W3 is to Skyrim as Game of Thrones is to Lord of the Rings, and after a month of gameplay, I think that’s fair. Skyrim is more serious and I would say more atmospheric also the artwork seems a bit more imaginative. That said, I seem to remember that Skyrim makes you spend a lot of time fighting in dark, labyrinthine caves and I really prefer to be outdoors as much of the time as possible. W3 provides for a lot of outdoor PVE. You can ride your horse around the open countryside until you come to a cemetery or disused sawmill and if there are wolves or ghouls or drowners around that want to feast on your flesh, they come out into the open and you can fight them under the blue sky and the sun. I say that, in fact the weather in W3 is usually terrible. You can be riding through some meadows, following a stream and admiring the mountains in the distance and then just as you remember that you should take screenshots, the weather turns. It starts pouring with rain and there are miserable, howling winds. As a result, while there is lots of open countryside in W3, which I like, it is a bit too close to the real thing, in my view, what with the terrible weather and resulting puddles and mud. I felt like I spent a lot of time in muddy fields, ruining my hand-crafted boots.

witcher 3 a
What you think it is going to be like.
Velen
What it is actually like. Geralt stands outside in a howling storm. Oh look, it is raining again.

There’s a distinct main quest chain and for much of the first four levels you are going to be directed around and locked into the story, which results in what feels like a lot of time watching cut scenes and taking messages from one NPC to another. This is particularly noticeable as the first four or five levels seem designed to be slow paced in the sense that you don’t get much XP for anything that you do. You are going to spend the first few levels firmly in the starting zone and the game really makes sure that you explore it thoroughly, unlock all the hidden treasures, start crafting and learn how to engage in combat semi-competently before releasing you into the wild to take your chances in the larger world. This was initially frustrating but then by the time I moved out of White Orchard I was happy that for once I knew how to fight and how to get new gear.

These RPGs often suffer in the area of NPC dialogue, facial animation and acting. It’s hard to get it right. I found the Skyrim NPCs stilted and puppet-like, with wooden conversation. W3 is a bit better in this respect, but only a bit. Geralt’s adopted daughter is annoying, which doesn’t make you feel like going on a life-threatening, epic quest to get her back when she disappears. His wife, Yennefer, is horrible. She’s very attractive but she keeps saying sarcastic things that she thinks make her seem funny and clever when in fact she’s just being a bitch. Again, do we care if she and Geralt are permanently separated? Finally, there is Geralt himself. He is not badly acted, if you overlook his unlikely American accent, but he keeps having to make all these moral choices in the game and the implication is basically that he is a good guy. Except the game is also programmed in such a way that if you want crafting materials and saleable junk, which you do, then you loot them from crates and barrels and cabinets. Including inside people’s houses and no-one will raise an eyebrow or say a thing about it.

Eventually, Geralt will start crafting in a serious way, because he has realised he will need level 6 gear (ooh), and this will drive him into every house he passes so he can burgle it, in full view of the owners. His morals quickly evaporate and he robs the poor, the sick, the elderly. He robbed one family who were all lying on the floor of their house, apparently starving to death. Inexplicably, they had a silver platter and some emerald dust in the kitchen dresser (why didn’t they sell these items for food?!) and Geralt walked into their house, took their valuables and walked out again, stepping over the dying bodies of their children on his way to the door. Really nice. And that’s our hero.

Maybe that’s why I ultimately don’t care too much what happens to Geralt. He isn’t a very nice man, his personality doesn’t have much depth and his family members are unpleasant. That said, he is great at riding his horse and finding his way around and he knows how to have fun with fighting. The sword strokes and small repertoire of magic spells aren’t too hard to pick up and he certainly looks quite flashy and sexy as he jumps around, beheading things and showing off his special moves.

White Orchard
Geralt heroically slaughters a low-level bandit.

I managed to become a reasonably good fighter at level 4 and I could see how if I keep playing it, combat is probably really fun and satisfying as one’s skill increases at later levels.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt (2015), PS4. A single-player, open-world action-adventure game set in 1272.

Plot and setting: Monster-hunter Geralt rides on horseback around the countryside and various mediaeval villages, slaying ghouls and mythical beasts while searching for his missing wife and daughter.

General remarks: Fairly engaging. A large open world with lots of space to explore and move around. A generous amount of quests and a good balance between the main quest chain and various side quests.

Thumbs up: Runs smoothly, seems to be bug-free so far. Combat and crafting are both pretty easy to learn – systems have some variety without being needlessly complex. There’s a really nice thing you can do when riding your horse, if you hold down the X button on the PlayStation, the horse will canter and automatically stay on the path, if there is one. Really helpful. Lets you enjoy the scenery and concentrate less on driving.

Thumbs down:  Because I don’t like Geralt and his family very much, and because Geralt isn’t a character I would have built for myself, it’s hard to know what my long term goals are within this game. Build good armour and weapons, obviously. The main quest line takes off quite quickly once you get out of the starting zone and the Wild Hunt faction looks like an enemy worth fighting.

Return to?  Yes, possibly. It’s a strangely amoral and emotionally detached experience but combat is quite enjoyable and there are abundant quests.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Year of the Console as we move on to a new game and a new era of history, starting on 1 May.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Welcome to Month 4 of the Year of the Console Game. It is 1 April and I am incredibly excited to announce the game that we will be playing throughout this month, as we move from Antiquity into the Middle Ages, on an historical trajectory that will continue for the next year. The game for April is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

I have already made it out of the starting zone and collected some screenshots, check it out. As you can see, it is going to be very outdoorsy, just the way I like it. Sun shining down. Snow on mountains. Rivers. Attractive sunsets.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Game of the Year Edition_20170328001645

Witcher 3 is an action RPG that is played from a third person perspective in an open world. According to Wikipedia, that world is 30 times larger than in the previous two games in the Witcher series and the practical upshot of that is that I am going to be spending a lot of time exploring, on horseback and occasionally on boats, which sounds perfect for me. It is set in 1272, so we have moved on from the craziness of Ancient Greece and have joined a society that is much more similar to the present day than anything we’ve played so far.

With its knights, rustic inns and many dangerous & fictional predators such as gryphons, The Witcher 3 is bound to feel like familar territory to any RPG gamer. There are obvious parallels with Skyrim, which I played on the PC and loved. One review of W3 said that Witcher 3 is to Skyrim as Game of Thrones is to Lord of the Rings. To me, this says that Skyrim is the more intelligent and complex game, with better, more serious storytelling, while Witcher 3 is going to be about glamour and spectacle, but we shall wait and see if this comes true. I’m not against a bit of glamour and spectacle. I enjoyed Skyrim‘s subdued, almost monochrome, palette and austere, Nordic landscapes but I have the feeling that W3 is going to be more showy and if there are beaches and glittering blue seas, I will not complain.

There is a story, not one that you need to care about if you haven’t played the previous two games. Our hero is that blond guy you see in the pictures. His name is Geralt and he is searching for two missing people: his girlfriend and also his adopted daughter; an annoying child who looks disturbingly like a miniature adult. He’s going to travel around this giant landscape doing quests for people who might be able to give him some information. He will end up fighting various beasts and ghouls but will be aided in this endeavour by being a Witcher – a specially-bred monster-hunter who can do a bit of magic as well as swing a sword and use a crossbow.

Combat seems like it’s going to be fairly straightforward. Apparently, dodge, parry and counter-attack are essential skills for melee combat so I shall make sure to get some practise in early before I level up. Other than that it’s just a case of whacking things with the correct choice of sword or using one of only about half a dozen magic spells. I think the combinations of buttons are going to be simpler than God of War III and there should be less extreme button-mashing.

The Witcher 3 was developed and published by CD Projekt. It was released for the PS4 (and Windows and Xbox One) in 2015. It immediately won numerous Game of the Year awards. I think we are in for a fun month. I hope so. I will let you know how I get on.

Trailer:

God of War III Remastered

Welcome back to the Year of the Console Game. It is 1 March and I am super excited to announce the game that we will be playing throughout this month, as we move from pre-history into Antiquity, on an historical trajectory that will continue for the next year. The game for March is God of War III.

god-of-warGod of War® III Remastered_20150311214233

The setting is Ancient Greece and your character is that muscly guy who you see there, whose name is Kratos. Kratos is the son of Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. In the earlier parts of this trilogy of games, Zeus has somehow betrayed Kratos, and now Kratos is out for revenge. This is going to involve leaping around wildly and hitting a lot of things with a big sword.

The God of War series is by Sony’s Santa Monica Studio and first appeared in 2005 for the PS2. It is critically acclaimed, was a flagship brand for PlayStation and is agreed by many players to be one of the greatest games of all time, so lucky me that I get to play it. God of War III Remastered was released in 2015 for the PS4, which is the version I am going to play.

This is really going to push the boundaries with my console gaming skills, which is what I wanted. Ark: Survival Evolved offered opportunities for puttering around quietly in a boat. Far Cry: Primal permitted me to spend most of my time in the bushes, firing arrows at things from a distance. God of War III is going to be something else altogether. This is old-school console gaming. I can expect:

  • constant hack-and-slash action that requires quick reflexes and the ability to remember combinations of buttons;
  • elements of platform gaming, which I haven’t seriously engaged with since the 1990s;
  • puzzle-solving, see above.

The need for fast reflexes and remembering complex combinations of buttons worries me a bit because I am old but I wanted a challenge so now I’ve got one.

Everyone says this is a gorgeous-looking game and that’s important. It’s going to be action-heavy and fiery and will certainly make a change from two months of unspoiled nature, dinosaurs and neanderthals. Here’s the trailer so you can see what I am in for throughout March.

Days Gone (Sony, PS4, 2017)

I will post properly very soon. I’ve been enjoying the unbelievable luxury of finishing each day’s work at a sensible time and then pursuing my interests, which right now means gaming. I think I’ve sunk about 30 hours into Far Cry Primal since I unpacked the Playstation at Xmas. On Day 1 I had effectively no experience with console gaming. 30 hours later, I can operate the PS4 controller with the skill and confidence, if not the twitchy reflexes, of a 17-year-old. I have speared rhinos, taken down whole camps of rival cavemen, grappled my way up mountains, used an owl to drop bombs, and tamed a sabre-tooth tiger, which I now ride around on. I think I’m about two-thirds of the way through the game. I only stopped this evening because I came to a large fort which I had difficulty handling. I now realise that what I need to do is capture one of the mammoths that is idling around outside the fort, ride it in there and trample everybody to death.

Anyway, this isn’t about Far Cry Primal. It’s about the game I’m going to play when it is released and when I have finished the other games on my urgent priority list. Of course, I am referring to Days Gone (tbc, probably 2017) by Sony Bend. It is an  open world action-adventure survival horror game, played in the third person (a view I prefer because I can see more of what’s going on around my character). It is set in a post-apocalyptic rural environment where the place is overrun with hordes of zombies. I mean hordes. And they are fast. They batter down obstacles and they climb over each other to race towards you. I just watched the trailer and it is nail-bitingly tense action, genuinely frightening and quite stressful for all 10 minutes even when all you are doing is watching someone else play. Check this out:

I actually said ‘Oh no’ out loud when my hero made it to the roof of the building and I could see how many zombies surrounded us on every side.

Interview with one of the artists here on gamesradar.com. “Over the top, extreme action,” he says. Who doesn’t want that? This will be ideal for my newly polished console handling skillz.