Defending the
Indefensible edition
Feb 09
Posted by Mark at 17:50

Being the sort who likes to finish games, it's quite hard for me to keep my strand of What We're Playings current.

Save for the odd title we get sent to review- step forward, Von Sottendorff, and Dub Dash, which is getting a review later this week, it's usually a journey into my backlog. In this case, we're visiting Company of Heroes.

For a while, the Timed Mission was the one single worst thing in gaming, subject to howls of derision whenever they appeared half way through a title- and forget basing a whole game around the idea. I've never particualrly disliked them. What's I do dislike is the opposite objective of defending a point.

CoH throws this one at you almost on alternate missions- you fight your way to capturing a hill, or town centre, or whatever, then you have to stop the Axis troops from taking it back again for a certain length of time.

I suspect that it's the failing with a few seconds to go which winds most people up in both cases, although I find that where with having to achieve something before a deadline encourages you to find shortcuts and efficiencies, defending just gives the game longer to move the goalposts on you at the last minute, especially in the more open-ended strategy genre.

Next time I do a WWP, it'll be about a game I'm doing well in, promise.
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Posted by Duane at 15:33
Whoops, this was supposed to go up yesterday, life kind of got in the way
My playtime has been a little scattered over the past 7 days. I've sunk a little time into two titles that I have for review (Legends of Legacy and LEGO Marvels Avengers), competing in Time Trial Challenges on Driveclub and then the meat of my play time has seen me return to Star Wars Battlefront after it's recent patch.

I'm still enjoying that immensely and the recent addition of daily challenges has added to the experience, encouraging me to visit game modes I'd not played quite so much of, I know plenty of other games already do this but it strikes me as such a simple idea that I don't understand why DICE didn't include it sooner, especially as theres already challenges to earn more XP already I'm there.
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Good craftsmanship
Jan 26
Posted by James at 15:16

Iíve been catching up on a few big games that I missed out on, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is one that's stuck with me enough to the point where it made such an easy pick for What We're Playing.

Having visited the game in 2016, at a time when the Wii Uís fate has been decided a while ago, I get the feeling that upon its release two years ago, some pundits detracted from Tropical Freezeís achievements on the basis that it wasnít reinventing the wheel, and thus not saving the Wii U.

Itís a shame, because thereís a lot to love about Tropical Freeze. While itís easy to roll your eyes and expect another 90ís-era platformer, this is a game that puts its timeless platforming credentials front and centre, while also masterfully integrating modern technology, good game design and artistic talent together.

Itís the achievement of good craftsmanship that really sets Tropical Freeze apart, and the gameís attention to detail goes hand-in-hand with the gameís set piece-driven platforming, where the environment reacts to every one of Donkey Kongís stomps and rolls, and the level furniture can sway, transform and collapse around you.

Every level has an identity above and beyond its level design, but it also helps that that level design works well on many levels. Itís tough, yes, but more often than not itís tough in all the right ways. So while the designers have made a big deal about unpredictable destructive set pieces and environments to roll, hop and leap through, the physics and animation is orchestrated in such a way that youíll be given enough leeway to get yourself out of a sticky situation.

I guess Iím just happy that the market is still here for a 2D platformer thatís had quite a budget put behind it relatively speaking. While Tropical Freeze isnít pushing any limits from a technical perspective, the quality of the animation and artistry brings an otherwise fairly conventional game to life in ways I wouldnít have expected.

At GDC 2011, Satoru Iwata warned the industry that the move to ever-bigger projects that involve larger and larger teams may take away from the ability for publishers and developers to co-ordinate good craftsmanship when making games, or pay attention to all the little details that make players smile as it were.

Itís great that Nintendoís still very much delivering in that respect, given the transition to larger projects to fulfil the bigger demands of HD game development.
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Posted by Ben at 02:27
Only a couple of games for me this week, one significantly better than the other.

First up, Until Dawn. Initially I wasn't that taken with it, I don't really like dumb horror movies, the kind that have started to be deconstructed in their own genre they're so tired, and that's what Until Dawn is. Initially anyway

As mentioned in my God Mode On post from last week, I'm less than enamoured by choices in games, and Until Dawn is pretty much the epitome of that. Huge consequences for minor choices you're forced in to, and a very binary selection of options. for example, I was asked if I was afraid of the dark, in a yes/no option, if I'm being honest, it's yes... to a point. Everyone's afraid of the dark a bit, I can be in the house alone with the lights off, I'm not a child, but there's an innate fear of the unknown, something the game acknowledges. But when it turned out Until Dawn's "walk around the house in the dark" scene didn't have the desired effect I was lambasted for it, a similar thing happened later on with another choice.

Anyway, there's a blog post for all that, the game itself has started to win me over. It's occasionally very funny, and once the pace picks up the game picks up

The other game I played is Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butoden on the 3DS. I played the demo the other month and didn't think much of it, I'm not sure what possessed me to spend money on it, other than licences work.

I' don't know, it's a so-so 2d fighter, very, very samey, retreading the same key Dragon Ball Z moments you've played a hundred times before. It's not irredeemably bad, and I keep waiting for it to click in to something more interesting, but it's something to play whilst half-watching football

Oh, I also finished Undertale, which I didn't think all that much of. It's clever, but I'm not sure how much I enjoyed it. I think hype may have had an effect there.
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Delusion Of Skill
And Talent Edition
Jan 12
Posted by Mark at 17:58

I've been playing one game a lot- The Delusions of Von Sottendorff and His Square Mind, on 3DS. Not as much as I should have been, however.

If that name sounds familiar to you, it's because Ben posted a trailer at the start of last month, and I should have reviewed it... probably somewhere in the region of a month ago.

There is probably a review to follow sooner or later- the game so far as been worth recommending- at its core, the game takes the form of a seemingly basic platformer, except instead of a sprawling assault course, the levels are made up of small square rooms which can be moved around like a slide puzzle, the objective being to find the right rooms to connect with one another in order to pick up the key that opens the door, then do it again in a different configuration to get to the door and exit the level.

This is all dressed in the charming, caricature-y art style of European animation, telling the story of Baron Von Sottendorff and his attempts to escape his mansion, an illusion brought on by his own descent into insanity.

It's all good concept- the premise of the story is a decent one and the gameplay concept is a good one. However, it's let down on a technical level very early on by an overly-rigid camera which tends to park itself behind a platform which doesn't go semi-transparent like in other games, obscuring the precision jumping the levels can demand, often from a physics model that isn't quite up to it.

This same level, a straight climb up a three-square room, also introduces some extra gameplay elements. It's the first level that you are unable to move the squares around in, and to progress past about two-thirds of the way, you have to bounce on the back of a fly which is patrolling a space too far to jump over unaided.

I mention the back of the fly as if you bounce on its front, it's an instant death for the Baron. If you miss completely, you fall all the way down to the bottom. Another element this level debuts is that it's the first to have a time limit.

My experience of this level so far has been: miss the fly, fall to the bottom, screw up the bit with the camera again, run out of time, have another go, repeat, get annoyed, do something else. So a puzzle game which has so far been made up of logic puzzles which have put up a pleasing amount of resistance has been stopped in its tracks by finicky action-game controls.

There's no review yet because I don't want to spit my dummy and go "Too hard, it's shit, 0/10" over one badly-designed level, as this would do a disservice to the quality that has been on show, and at the same time I don't feel I've played enough of the game to be able to at least verify that all the later levels don't make similar mistakes.

To summarise, I'm terrible at games and should hang my head/thumbs in shame. What have you been playing, and have you been any good at it?
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Only Imperial Stormtroopers
Are So Precise Edition
Jan 05
Posted by Duane at 12:08

So with the Christmas Festivities over and done with I was surprised to find Santa Claus had brought me a PlayStation 4, which is pretty much all I've played since. Alongside it I received copies of Destiny, which I quite enjoy and is ideal for sticking on Remote Play to do the odd Patrol quest, and EA's Star Wars Battlefront which has absorbed most of my game playing time.

Its received a bit of criticsm from what I understand, with plaqyers complaining (mostly) of a lack of maps and modes, and whilst I've "only" sunk 12 hours into it over the past 2 weeks, I haven't gotten bored of what DICE have offered up so far. Up until recently I pretty much stuck to playing Supremacy, the games Capture the Checkpoint game, but have now begun to dip my feet into the other modes and try to tailor my Card Hands accordingly.

I'm not particularly good at it, but over the two weeks I've begun to notice some improvement, my K/D ratio (when not greatly affected by a friends improvementy is steadily increasing ans I'm beginning to be able to contribute to the match objectives on a more regular basis.

I spent periods of 2015 playing some of the older CoD's and kind of enjoyed them, but mostly played whenever my other half was available for us to both go online and play together, Battlefront has sunk its claws in enough now that I'm more than happy to lose time to it on my own (besides, I only own one Dual Shock 4 and I'm not even sure you can play Split-screen at all on it)
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Open World
JRPG Edition
Posted by James at 14:48

While Mark has been sinking some time into a remake of a 1987 JRPG, I've been playing what feels like the most forward thinking game in the genre this decade.

Iíve been pleasantly surprised by Xenoblade X. Any similarities to its predecessor, Xenoblade Ė the lush vistas, and MMO-like combat Ė only run skin deep, so itís a game thatís appreciably different in many ways. Which makes it all the more interesting as a result.

Xenoblade put a large emphasis on its main plot, one that led you from field to field to its eventual conclusion. Those fields were segmented off into individual open areas, and theyíd all have their own quests and doodads to pursue.

This mostly worked given the main story-driven nature of the narrative, but it did mean sidequests felt almost entirely inconsequential, especially so given the size of the game and the segmented nature of its world and NPCs.

With Xenoblade X, Monolith Soft approaches the open world RPG in a way that feels more cohesive. I know longer felt like some sort of heralded hero, fate of the world resting on my shoulders, on a quest that leads me from one place to another in sequential order.

Rather, I was one of the remains of humanity, having crashed landed on an alien planet after Earth was almost destroyed in hostile crossfire between two alien factions. I joined BLADE, an organisation set up to help get humanity back on its feet and find its bearings. I was just another cog in the machine.

This is nothing new, of course, but it does wonders for what the game is trying to achieve. You see, everything you do in Xenoblade X revolves around humanity's central base camp, New Los Angeles, which fits the premise of a truly open world RPG to a tee.

So whenever I ventured outside to set up some data probes in unknown territory, the world really did feel like it was my oyster in how I could choose to approach it, as for the most part I could go anywhere I liked, provided I covered a certain percentage of territory by the end of it.

Meanwhile, side missions actually took on some form of relevance this time round, thanks to it all taking place in a bustling, familiar city. There are plenty of interesting side stories for most of New Lost Angeles' inhabitants, human ones or otherwise.

The kind of missions that you'd mostly spend time doing in Xenoblade have been resigned to a quest board, too. It all leads to a side-game that felt relevant as a whole, rather than inconsequential. One that's compelling and integrated enough that it feels like it's earned its place to be part of the main story, which it is -- it's hard to accomplish the objectives to tackle story missions without dabbling in a few side missions.

I was excited to read that creative director Takahashi doesn't want to rest on his laurels for Monolith Soft's next RPG. The developer seems to have an ability to craft RPGs I never even knew I wanted, and these kinds of games turn out to play host to the most pleasant of surprises.
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Posted by Mark at 16:44
Since we now know that there's a new game in the series out next year, it's perhaps worth noting down my thoughts on the recentish PC port of the first Ys game.

There's something very "My First JRPG" about it- not in the sense that it's not hardcore enough, although the combat system invites such criticism, but in that a lot of it feels like it's come out of a programming tutorial.

In all fairness, the game- in the first place, at least- dates back to 1987, but this remake, from 2009, doesn't do a great deal to change this.

The game's presentation is easily picked on in this regard- the slightly-more-advanced-SNES graphics fit alongside all the imitation-retro indie games of the current era, but there's also a reliance on lots of visual effects that you'd generate programatically because you could, or as a means of teaching creating visual effects, not because they look good.

What really lets the game down- and this is where this week's WWP just turns into bitching about one bit of a game I don't like- is the final boss, which simply bounces around the screen similar to any number of screensavers, which doens't make for the most interesting of battles.

It's not that Ys I is itself bad, and by all accounts, later titles seemed to pick up a bit- it's just that these little bits stick out.
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Cider Terrorism
Posted by Duane at 15:05

First off, there'ss not been a whole lot posted between Ben's WWP last week and this weeks entry, typical years end really. Even so, moving on, I've actually been playing something... TWO things in fact.

I'll get this one right off the bat as there's nothing really to say about it. I'm still chipping away at Final Fantasy X HD Remaster on my beloved Vita. I could face off against Sin or whatever happens to be the final boss but I'm tackling some of the end game stuff and essentially making the games characters stronger and more versatile. I've decided to follow the paths to get each party members Celestial Weapons (currently working on Rikku's), and yes, I'm using a strategy guide to do so (I actually collect the Final Fantasy ones...)

The meat of this post goes to SEGA's Yakuza 5 though which was released last week. It's worth mentioning that my only experience with the series was back with the original PS2 game. I own 2, 3 & 4 too, but beyond installing the latter two I've never gotten around to playing them (this is one of the reasons I've not rushed to upgrade to the PS4...). As for Yakuza 5 itself, I've sunk about 6 hours in so far and not really gotten to play around with the world a whole lot. It feels like a cliche to say this, but it almost, kind of feels like that other SEGA open world story driven series (*whispers*Shenmue), but different enough and if I'm being honest I've sunk most of those six hours into the games taxi driver side game (plus a little Virtua Fighter 2 on my way back to Kiryu's apartment) which has been nice and varied, not to mention challenging as you're encouraged to stick to the rules of the road whilst also meeting your customers demands and dealing with various distractions. I'll have a review up at some point.
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Solid State Society
Posted by Ben at 17:34

I thought better of putting Arkham Shite in the title, but my time with Batman Arkham Knight hasn't been great. Running off a pretty decent pc, but one with a hdd rather than a ssd, made the game unplayable, this was post patch. It's the way the game streams data that's the problem, built with the consoles abundant fast ram in mind rather than a graphics card with limited ram. Simply put, the game doesn't work on most pcs and probably shouldn't have been released. I mean, it definitely shouldn't have released in the form it did.

So why am I talking about Batman Arkham Knight's problems in a What We've Been Playing article? Because I got myself a new ssd and reinstalled Batman. The good news is that running the game off an ssd does sort the vast majority of the hitching. I've still seen some, but it's rare enough I probably wouldn't mention it in a review but would no doubt see complaints on forums about it. Arkham Knight is never going to be regarded as a technical marvel, it's had too many problems for that, but it can certainly be a pretty game. I leapt off a building in the rain, as my cape opened the water drenching my cape burst off towards the camera. It's a great effect, same with the sparks from the various explosions you cause.

The game itself is littered with problems. There's a character they go to the well with way too many times, and Rocksteady still haven't learnt that the reason Arkham Asylum is regarded as the better game in the series is because it gives you long periods of play,with City and Knight you bounce from event to event and location to location too quickly.

There's too much bullshit. The Riddler trophies have got out of hand, I'm not sure why anyone would engage with them at this point. I liked them in the first game, particularly the actual riddle ones, and I got them all. Thereís no chance Iím getting any that Batman doesnít just accidentally kick over as heís glooming about. 4 games in I just canít be arsed, that the Ďproperí ending is locked behind getting them all, fuck that. Thereís a huge amount of side quests, theyíre not bad per se, but itís the way theyíre presented thatís a problem. Most donít appear on your map, you need to just stumble on them, in a huge city. Then it turns out theyíre gated, you canít just carry on doing them as you like, youíll have to stop to piss around in the worldís most disappointing Batmobile

So yeah, thatís what Iíve been playing, Batman, grimly determined to see it through to the end when really I should be using the final few weeks of the year, the bit where Iíve not got anything to review, to play games I enjoyed and want to go back to.
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