Category Archives: General

Anything that usually wouldn’t find its way here but has crept in none the less.

The Big Game

This is happening, it’s happening soon and I am totally ill prepared for it for these reasons:

  • My headset ‘may’ be failing. I’ve had reports that my mic cuts out. I can’t get this to replicate under labratory conditions though so maybe it’s my gaming partners ears that are cutting out.
  • My PC is not mobile friendly. It’s fucking huge for one but also I’ve never actually attached my SSD’s, they will just be flopping around inside the case, swinging by the sata cables and smashing into my tender circuitry. The case came with wheels, I didn’t attach them either.
  • I am slightly crippled. Due to my ongoing throacic outlet syndrom, gaming is currently quite an uncomfortable experience. My desk helps a little as I can pull out a section and use it for an arm rest, I won’t have this at The big game and have no idea what levels of excruciating pain I will end up subjecting myself to because of this.
  • I am unfamiliar with the preferred games. Obviously you can play what the hell you want (Isaac?) but it is pointless going to a lan party and not getting involved with the tournaments; namely: Dota 2, CS:GO, Trackmania and some others I’m not interested in. My best bet is CS:GO as I’m a CS ‘veteran’ but I haven’t played since the dark ages and I’ve played very little of CS:GO. I don’t think I can even remember how to buy ammo.

Still, I’ve commited. I must game.

From Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return

“This man/woman can build villages, gain knowledge and play music” is what you will be told if you zoom in on any of the little masked individuals who rely on your godly ways when playing ‘From Dust’, and I mean any of them. I have tried on numerous occasions to see if I can get a different result, possibly along the lines of “This man is the chief and can remove a birds head with a spear from thirty yards” or “This Woman is married to all the other men in the tribe and can make a meal from sand, sea water and bug-shit” but my attempts have been futile. This begs the question as to why the feature to zoom in and see this information is even in the game, it’s almost as if it was supposed to be part of something else that never got finished, and that pretty much sums up From Dust as a whole.

Individuality?

"Wait, you can build villages and gain knowledge too? No way!"

When you play From Dust you will find yourself moulding landscapes so that your tribe can capture enough totems left by the ancients in order to move on to the next area. You will defend your little ethnic stereotypes from tsunamis, divert lava flows, grow forests and raise lands, then four hours later you will complete the game.
I am not usually one to bemoan the shortness of a game as not having to trawl through many hours of gameplay to reach final satisfaction can be a boon sometimes but From Dust doesn’t provide you with this feeling of satsifaction. There are 13 levels to complete and most take around 30 minutes or less and will probably be achieved on the first attempt. There are also challenge levels available, for some reason more than the main storyline, they are a completely different play dynamic, usually asking  for a single objective to be completed in an extraordinarily tight time limit or against formidable conditions. After these have been completed or ignored that’s pretty much it, at least there is a sandbox mode so you can create your own fun… Wait, there isn’t?

Fuck

At the end of the game you get to use new immense powers that allow to to craft the landscape of your whim but it’s still just another ‘level’ and to be honest the area you get to use is so small and the restrictions are such that it doesn’t take long before you realise Minecraft may be a better option.

Some sand

Yay! ....Now what?

As you cannot directly control your tribe other than summoning them to a totem or collectable the challenge from the game is in how the various elements interact, as they will continue to do so even when you are not looking. The sand will be washed away by tides or the walls of a cliff will be eroded by lava and so forth potentially putting a previously safe village in jeapordy. The mechanics of this are very impressive and it all looks suitably fluid and lovely but because of this you just keep wishing there was more of it.
You may also start to notice some baffling inconsistencies such as why your tribes-people are able to swim around after being pulled out to sea by a bloody great tidal wave but need you to raise the very land beneath their feet land so they can cross a tiny stream and will stand there rudely shouting at you until you do so. 

So much could have been done with such a nice idea and the game is fun but you are just left wanting more while mulling over how Populous, despite being about 45 years old now, had more depth and substance.

Game Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC)

What the hell is wrong with Adam Jensens chin? Either it’s some kind of augmentation that he uses to pierce the film cover on microwave meals or he is actually the Robot Devil from Futurama.

Chin comparison - Jensen and the robot devil

ooh, pointy

Aside from the addition of finely honed mandibles how does Deus Ex: Human Revolution fair? It certainly needs to have broad shoulders, the original  Deus Ex was and is a great game, even if the graphics do compare to an early beta of Minecraft, and it still holds its own 11 years later. Deus Ex has a large community of rabid fans and before Human Revolution was released they were poised, ready to tear out the hearts of anyone who may attempt to sully the legacy a second time. Personally I enjoyed Invisible War but there was no doubt it was dumbed down and could never compare to its predecessor so, like many others, I was very much looking forward Human Revolution and lived in hope that I would soon be presented with a game that milked the juices of modern gaming machines while recapturing the feeling of depth and choice that the original Deus Ex had.

When I loaded it up for the first time I experienced genuine excitement as the title screen appeared, I’m fairly sure there was some kind of psychological trigger incorporated into the music that gave me chills and made me think “Yes, this is going to be FUCKING AMAZING”. As I delved into the game I was pleasantly satisfied with the overall style, it just felt right and also it didn’t look anywhere near as black and gold as the trailers would have you believe. The graphics are indeed excellent and you get a real sense of the size of the cities and buildings, the pinnacle being  the Tai Yong medical facility with its impressive view over Hengsha and beautiful ethereal music which perfectly compliments the scene, upon arrival I had one of those joyous game moments where I kept needing to stop and look out across the landscape, just to take it all in.

Once you get over how pretty it looks you get to the actual game-play and start finding new and interesting ways to incapacitate or eliminate people. The weapons are nice and beefy as well as enjoyable to use and fighting is suitably tense, specifically because it wont take many shots before you drop like a sack of cats. If need be you can use a Takedown, the new addition to the Deus Ex world, which looks suitably brutal and makes you feel more than a bit hardcore. Within all this you have the main quest with the inevitable twists and turns, side quests dotted around to distract yourself with as well as a fuck-ton of computers, e-books and datapads to read which will give you benefits such as XP as well as expanding on the over background of the world. There is also a plentiful supply of easter eggs to find, which include some quite obscure and unexpected references.
Sounds perfect yes? Human Revolution has done it, it has finally given us a worthy sequel to the original.

Well no, not quite.

Jensen reads the LFS human revolution review

"Wait... what?"

Before long you will notice signs that Human Revolution may have bitten off more than it can chew. First of all is the use of stealth in the game, an essential part of Deus Ex and therefore it needs to be well implemented. Using stealth is enjoyable but at the same time it doesn’t ever feel quite right, for one there are quite obvious stealth ‘routes’ through an area, at times there may just as well be a sign saying ‘stealth path’. Having a couple of different routes, one designed for stealth and the other geared towards combat rather than allowing the player to choose where to go and how to approach it seems to belittle the players ability to think and decide for themself. Another related issue  is the cover mechanic, if you just duck behind a wall you are much more likely to be seen than if you use the cover button which doesn’t really make sense unless you have an augmentation that reduces you to 2 dimensions so you just look like an interesting piece of wall-art.

Jensen hiding like a pussy

"I am at one with the masonry"

This brings me on to one of my major gripes about the game; It is clearly designed to favour a stealth playthrough. Not only is direct combat hard, especially at first, but you will get considerably more XP for stealth related actions. This doesn’t sit right with me when the game is supposedly about freedom of choice. It should be a different experience depending on how you play, but you shouldn’t be penalised. It dramatically changes the difficulty too, the game is quite easy if you play how the developers obviously want you to but somewhat more difficult if you want to break out the big guns. Your takedowns also cause a lot of unbalance as they are essentially guaranteed instant kill moves and, thanks to your recharging energy cells, can be used infinitely if you have the patience to run off, hide and wait for it to recharge before using it again. Conversely there are some mandatory boss fights which can be quite jarring as these are full on close quarter fire fights and, depending on how you have distributed your augmentations, can be quite hard work, unsurprisingly your takedowns are useless here.

Inevitably this game will be compared to the original, and that’s when some other problems emerge. For one there just doesn’t seem to be the same amount of choice, and when you do choose the consequences are limited. An example is a mission where I had to rescue some hostages. I duly did so by disarming the bomb in the room where they were trapped, then systematically executed each one of them. There was no response from them at all, no running off in blind fear, they happily sat there awaiting their fate and after I completed the mission no-one had any words to say to me about it, or the numerous Police I had murdered on my way out. Okay I could have lied and said they were all killed by the terrorists but surely there would have been an investigation? Did they not check the bullets that were lodged in all these bodies? Apparently not. Getting away with this kind of behaviour without any fallout seems somewhat absurd for an RPG, particularly in this age of gaming.
All in all it just seems a little lacking in some areas, there are less side quests, the play areas are less open and there are less things you can interact with, you can’t even directly hack security cameras to disable them. The story itself also reeks of familiarity, it’s almost as if they thought “This is Deus Ex, it HAS to be a conspiracy” Why does it? The story and world that has been created with the augmentations and politics are interesting enough, it doesn’t need this predictable slant.

Before I reveal the biggest disappointment for me be aware that this is a potential spoiler…

Here there be spoilers

An actual spoiler

…I am not going to reveal anything significant regarding plot details but none the less you may want to ignore the following and skip to the final paragraph.

I remember when the reviews for Mass Effect 2 came out, I posted a short blog regarding the fact that people seemed to be reviewing the game well before they could have even scratched the surface of it. I wasn’t implying that a game had to be completed to the fullest possible extent before an opinion could be given, but some games really need to at least be seen through to the end before it can be reviewed. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of those games.
It is probably common knowledge that there are 4 different endings to Human Revolution, a reasonable person would assume that you achieve these endings depending on decisions you make during the game. Not in the case of Human Revolution, your final, ultimate ending, the climax to your long struggle, is purely based on a choice of which out of 4 buttons to push. That’s right it is as simple as being asked “Which ending sequence would you like?”. I actually think this is appalling and is the main reason the game loses some credit for me, granted the voice over for each ending will be slightly different depending on if you killed no-one, killed some or were a homicidal arse, but this is a minute aspect, the actual climax of the story is purely based on whatever you want the climax to be. To top it off, all you need to do is save just before this and reload to see each ending (subsequently gaining the achievement for doing so). Granted the previous two games were similar in that they left your final choice until the end of the game but it wasn’t just about being presented with a row of buttons and chosing one. There is actually no reason for you to try playing through in a different manner to see how things pan out as it will make very little difference.

This is what grated on me more than anything. While playing the game through on the first occasion, I was actually looking forward to tackling it in a different way, now I just can’t be bothered, I started but what’s the point really?

None the less the issues with the bosses, the vague illusion of choice and consequence and the lack of balance does not stop this being a great game and certainly better than most. It is fun to play and has some good characters (Adam and Francis’ relationship is particularly entertaining). Just on its own merit Human Revolution is a cut above the rest and in fact it’s still a worthy successor to the original due to the finely realised world and ongoing ethical struggle between augmentation and humanity. Just don’t expect it to be as deep or as advanced as it should be.

Last Firing Synapse

Over here you will a tasty new blog, a group effort from Adam, Stef and myself. The content will be geared towards games, films, TV and books, primarily sci-fi, fantasy and anything geekery really but who knows what else will creep in? We are also plugging our efforts through Facebook and Twitter, like and follow if you know what’s good for you. We have similar yet different interests, opinions and areas of ‘expertise’ so hopefully it will be a varied and enjoyable read, we would also love to hear the thoughts of others so please aim your pointers at the reply button.

I will keep posting game related goodness here but will also Ctrl C and Ctrl V over to Last Firing Synapse so you can read it twice under tow different themes. Lovely.

Explaination/Justification

I have finally given in to my desire to share my undoubtedly valued opinions and musings on the world of games, music creation and anything else that worms itself in to, or out of, my tny mind. I’ve had this yearning for some time but I tend to get somewhat distracted by games, music creation, worms…

Some times I just feel like I might want to expand on my usual 140-character limit, and by hell that is what I intend to do right here. Granted I threw a few posts at Gamespot but obviously that is somewhat restrictive and I already have a Live Journal account but that is really of an era and state of mind, I wouldn’t feel right in using it for these specific purposes. I looked at Tumblr but that just looks like the sordid fuck-child of MySpace and Twitter and is not something that really thrills me. I considered WordPress some time ago but I think I was worried it may be too expansive for my current simple needs, but in retrospect that’s a daft way to think.

So here it is, all hope abandon… and so forth.