The Witcher Review

The Witcher logo

For many people, their experiences with CD Projeckt Red’s Witcher games based on the books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski (who himself translated the word to English as “Hexer”, so who the guy who thought he knew better than the author is I don’t know) begin with The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, while the second game was released on PC and later Xbox 360, the first game was a PC exclusive. Also, The Witcher 2 was a rather traditional action RPG title whereas the The Witcher was more of a single player MMORPG strangely enough. The final reason is most likely that The Witcher is shockingly unintuitive.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy The Witcher. That is, I enjoyed it for the first 20 hours. The second 20 hours of my 40 hour playthrough were excruciatingly boring. For the first couple of chapters (of five in total) I explored extremely thoroughly and completed every side mission. For the other three I was so desperate to finish the game and get to see its sequels pretty graphics on my new graphics card that I started just continuing the storyline. I didn’t need the experience points after all as the combat consists of MMORPG style clicking on enemies. The game is needlessly drawn out, and as implied already, exploration is enjoyable due to the world’s charm and extremely atmospheric hold on you. The combat however is as basic as it gets. Even on the hardest difficulty, it remains dull and occasionally completely unfair just to make a stark contrast between boringly easy and cheatingly difficult.

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Combat is unengaging

Starting from the beginning however, The Witcher is a dark fantasy RPG that centres around a Witcher (humans who have been mutated after birth to possess superhuman abilities and attributes as well as intensively trained and make a living hunting monsters and fulfilling other dangerous freelance contracts) named Geralt who loses his memory before the start of the game and is suffering from amnesia at its beginning. After an attack on the witchers’ base which serves as an ineffectual prologue and tutorial, you are sent on a quest to recover the stolen mutagens (which are used to mutate and create witchers). The story gets much more complicated and the ultimate goal in fact changes but only at the very end did it really regain my interest after many hours of trudging around and made me lose all interest. There are several interesting characters and sub plots which become more important later but are always there in the background (such as a mysterious boy named Alvin) and that makes for some pretty intriguing and exciting storytelling, but unfortunately such moments are too far between.

The story touches on some potentially interesting themes such as the racism that exists towards elves and dwarves from humans but such themes are left unexplored in any meaningful way. The real historical cause of racism is never brought to the fore and the game fails to make any kind of meaningful comment or even acknowledgment on the racism theme that it chose to introduce. Ultimately you choose to be a racial extremist or a huge bigot. One could argue that only offering the player a side to choose but forcing your hand into extremism is making a point regarding racism, but I fear that that is giving the writing too much credit.

Gameplay is split between third person exploration which is highly enjoyable for the most part, combat which is overly simple and uninteresting and dialogue which is entertaining but far too drawn out. The world is expansive and fairly deep. You can forage for items that are of alchemical use as well as find and complete side quests. There is a dynamic weather and day-night cycle and overall the world just manages to feel surprisingly real and draws you in with. The audio and visual design create a fantastic atmosphere.

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Even graveyards look good

Combat has the least to talk about. You simply time your clicks based on the colour of your cursor (essentially quick time events) and have access to a handful of magic spells that you can’t cast as frequently as you would like and also aren’t as helpful as the game would like you to believe. The multiple combat stances and one sword for humans and one for monsters are a sloppy attempt to add a pretend layer of depth to the combat that simply serves to add more confusion to the mix.

There are a plethora of mini games to play, side quests to pursue, items to collect and all the usual RPG gameplay tropes. The one side activity that must be briefly mentioned in a very negative way is the rather sexist way in which woman are portrayed. I have no problem with dark fantasy with plenty of sex. I also would not make a big thing over female characters being extremely eager to get into bed, but I do find it distasteful that after Geralt has sex with a female character he you receive an explicit card of that character which can be viewed at any time, essentially making woman in this world the equivalent of Pokémon. Frankly, I am amazed that this has not been brought up more. If I was not a gamer at heart, who wants to see as many games succeed as possible, I would probably knock of several points just for that unbelievable crassness and stupidity.

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Female characters are represented… fully

Dialogue is mostly enjoyable and integral to plot development and exposition and not being careful with your words can have lasting effects. The writing may be in need of an editor but overall, this portion of the game is a plus. Or rather it would be if not for one glaring issue – the voice acting. The voice acting ranges from decent to pathetic. I don’t understand why nobody has ever brought this up before, but Geralt sounds utterly ridiculous. The strange thing is they give him a flat, emotionless monotone that could actually work for a certain type of character but then proceed to attempt to characterise him as pained and sympathetic and having a great honour about him as well as giving him lines that sound ludicrous in his bizarre voice. The dialogue options in the game and the conversations you have in general while too frequent and far too long would actually be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game if not for the complete joke that is Geralt’s voice actor.

The visuals overall must be complimented. While the game is showing its age a little bit now, the artistic design itself is excellent and the game still looks good today. The rain pouring down in the main city looks fantastic and I can almost smell the damp cobblestones. It is a fine example of great design and clever choices fooling the senses even better than sheer resolution. Similarly the audio (apart from the aforementioned voice acting) is excellent. Ambient sounds can send a chill down your spine and paint a fantastic atmosphere while the music is simply perfect throughout. The fact that the audio and visual design is so strong is one of the things that allowed me to struggle through the often tedious game and find those great moments deep down.

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Even the simplest menus are unfriendly

The first thing that makes The Witcher such a struggle and so unwelcoming is that it seems to take sadistic pleasure in making every little thing as difficult and unintuitive as possible. I love freedom and lack of definite direction in open world games but I struggled with The Witcher’s level of obnoxiousness. Also, open world is actually a rather generous term to offer to the multiple semi open small worlds that you are often locked out of that this game offers. Everything from levelling up to alchemy is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. I remember the first time I played Morrowind as a young teenager and I didn’t know how to level up. It didn’t take me a huge amount of time to figure out that I needed to do so while sleeping and when I did, I felt foolish for not realising sooner. When I finally got to level up in The Witcher which involves mediating and then navigating illogical menus that you are hard to comprehend to get to the right screen and then even spot that you can this is the level screen and then realise you have experience to spend and then realise that one button will lock in the purchased skills and everything else on the screen will undo it by comparison made me feel angrier than ever when I finally achieved it, because it turned out it was indeed the game that was being stupid.

Having said all that, the exploration is fun due to the well-designed world, the dialogue is interesting and can be meaningful even if it is too long, the story has great moments in it, and the combat while very simple can hold your interest most of the time. All this would come together to make a very average game usually, but the audio and visual design are the saving graces here. They help to paint a world that is enjoyable to play in and therefore make the flawed gameplay that bit better. While I have made many negative points, the game is ultimately an enjoyable experience. I am very glad I played it and ultimately like it. Its flaws however are just particularly annoying due to its unintuitive and obnoxious nature. The vision and skill of the developers is clear, the execution however left quite a bit to be desired. The Witcher is far from a bad game. It is actually a good game. It is however clunky, unintuitive and far too drawn out. If you love to get invested in deep worlds then you could do a lot worse, however if you dislike spending 40 hours to complete 20 hours of proper gameplay, then steer clear.

Visuals: Showing their age a little, but fantastic at creating the world 8/10

Audio: Fantastic music and effects. Shocking voice acting in parts 6/10

Storytelling: Enjoyable story elements that are too broken up amongst tedious and drawn out sections 6/10

Gameplay: Despite the combat’s simplicity it is enjoyable. Exploration is great thanks to the world. Certain elements are far too unintuitive however 7/10

Performance: Runs well but can be demanding on an older PC. 8/10

Value: Plenty of gameplay and certainly requires multiple playthroughs to see everything, but not everything in the game warrants existence. 7/10

OVERALL: 7/10

Demon’s Souls Review

The full written review is on a hard drive back in the UK… so until it is retrieved the video review will have to suffice. Luckily I remember my scoring!

Visuals: Showing their age a little, but still very good 7/10

Audio: All good, voice acting works well while music and SFX are very appropriate 8/10

Storytelling: Intriguing new ideas that was hit and miss but overall made from a positive experience 7/10

Gameplay: Innovative and brilliant. Great challenging combat and boss battles 9/10

Performance: Runs well. Loading times are long but not too frequent 8/10

Value: A lot of game here. Even with one playthrough ignoring multiplayer you can’t complain 9/10

OVERALL: 8/10

Dark Souls II Review

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Dark Souls 2 was the slightly underwhelming follow up to 2011’s masterpiece Dark Souls. With a re-mastered version of Dark Souls 2 just having arrived, it is time for a look back at last years version before taking on what’s new in Scholar of the First Sin.

The game was indeed underwhelming, but only in the sense that it had the unfortunate duty of being compared to the original Dark Souls. Making a sequel to a game as fantastic as Dark Souls was never going to be an easy task and realistically no matter how good the sequel was it would never be enough. Dark Souls 2 is however genuinely not as good as its predecessor. It is of course a brilliant game but not only does it lack the originality of Dark Souls (through no fault of its own) it also is falls slightly short of its big brother in almost every way. Having said that, falling only slightly short of one of the greatest games of all times is still pretty impressive. If you have watched or read Dark Souls review (or any other Dark Souls review) then there is not a lot to say that is different. It is mostly the same, just slightly less excellent.

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Majula serves as your new hub

The biggest negative that sadly must be addressed are the visuals. They look fine, and nothing more. Unlike the promotional videos which demonstrated extremely impressive visuals, the textures are lacking detail, the lighting is unimpressive and the artistic design is much less inspired than what came before.

The audio is perfectly good, with the sound effects all doing their job well, the voice actors being excellent and the music sounding very impressive but sadly once again is just not as good as Dark Souls.

Gameplay is virtually the same with almost no change whatsoever. The controls feel slightly less tight and the remapping of the jump button made jumping even worse if that was somehow possible. The game runs reasonably well wit the same types of technical problems that occurred in Dark Souls which are irritating but not deal breakers. The story is told in a very similar way to the first game with the player enjoying as much of it as they are willing to search for. This is a type of storytelling that some enjoy and others hate. The lore is deep and expansive but does not interfere with gameplay or progression in any way. The vagueness and mystery of the whole plot goes together nicely and compliments the mysterious nature of the game in general.

The list of differences is rather short. Rather than being an interconnected open world like Lordran, Drangleic is a large number of huge paths that essentially lead to dead ends. As a result, you can warp from bonfire to bonfire from the start as long as you have found and lit it. You can only level up however at the central hub rather than at any bonfire. Weapons now degrade very quickly but repair themselves at bonfires unless completely degraded. You can carry a torch instead of a shield (or second weapon) to light your way and some enemies are also afraid of fire. Enemy and boss design is also less inspired and a little dull. Most bosses large humanoids in armour which is uninspired.

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One of the more interesting boss designs

There is really not a huge amount to say about Dark Souls 2. For the most part it is just like the original but because both games are so deep, complex and engrossing, the second instalment is a welcome retreading rather than just feeling like a cash-grab. Apart from the few changes mentioned, everything has made it over intact from the online player interaction to the tense exploration and desperate boss battles but as stated, everything from the visuals to the narrative fall a little short of what came before. Yes, it is not as good as Dark Souls, but it is excellent nonetheless and definitely worth playing. Not much else really needs to be said.

Overall, Dark Souls 2 is completely wonderful game that has the misfortune of being compared to its superior predecessor. If you want more of the same, you will be very happy, if you want a deep, challenging and engaging action roleplaying game, you could only really do better with another Souls game. Just like the original, Dark Souls 2 is a superb and stimulating adventure that simply cannot be passed up.

Visuals: Washed out and not what advertised, but good 7/10

Audio: Atmospheric and appropriate with great music 8/10

Storytelling: Typical Souls mysteriousness but intriguing if you are invested 7/10

Gameplay: Flawless 10/10

Performance: Mostly solid with some glitches and bugs 7/10

Value: Huge game with great replay value 10/10

OVERALL: 8/10

Dark Souls Review

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What is there to say about Dark Souls? Released in 2011 as a follow up although not a direct sequel to the PS3 exclusive Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls was an instant hit and has since earned itself an enormous following that are as passionate as they are vocal. Set in a dark fantasy world with death and despair lurking around every corner, a game where death and failure are almost central mechanics, it seems strange when you hear it described that such a game could ever be successful. Then you play it.

Dark Souls is first and foremost deep. It is perhaps the deepest game that I have ever played. The way in which it gets inside your head is simply incredible. The world of Lordran is bleak and depressing and fills you with a sense of dread, despair and hopelessness. I completed Dark Souls over a week that I had off, taking me roughly fifty hours. Any time I was not playing it over that week I was thinking about it. I would lie in bed feeling chills at how awfully bleak the world of Dark Souls was and finding pleasure it such dark emotions. The game had truly effected me and sunk deep into my psyche. How many games can you say have done that. When I finished the game and watched the credits roll with the haunting soundtrack reaching its peak, I did not leave my chair. New Game Plus began and I kept playing for another couple of hours before taking a break. Over the next few days I finished a New Game Plus, this time playing around with co-op and PvP rather than merely hosting the occasional invader. I saw the second ending and then I stopped playing for a while. Instead I watched Let’s Plays online and enjoyed lore videos. I then got the PC version a few months later and started a new game all over again, eager to enjoy the DLC. Dark Souls took over my life and I love it for that.

 DARK SOULS 3 Think carefully about your character creation

With that gush over and done with, let’s take a look at the actual game. It is a third person action roleplaying game with a meticulously crafted combat system that requires careful strategy and technique above all else. Levelling your character is important, but improving your weapons is perhaps more so, and skill matter above all else. The gameplay is a combination of tense exploration and discovering in a beautiful and dangerous world, fighting all manner of beasts and demons while occasionally engaging in truly some of the most epic boss battles in gaming. You will die and die often as the saying goes. Dark Souls is rarely unfair but it is always unforgiving. It is in many ways a very old school type of game that requires you to learn patterns and systems in order to outsmart them. You must be careful and patient as recklessness rarely pays off.

Visually, the game is stunning. Almost everything about the graphics is stunning, but even more impressive is the artistic direction. The designs are simply gorgeous. The first time you step into Darkroot Forest with its creepy ethereal lights and dark foliage you will be blown away by how beautiful yet chilling it is as well as by how perfectly realised the artist’s vision has become. Character, enemy and boss design are nothing short of inspired. Imaginations run wild and the results are breathtaking.

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Lordran is beautiful but terrifying

Sound is subtle but everything hits the right mark and sudden sounds amongst the quiet often make you tense. Music is not only extremely good on its own, it is fantastically fitting and well designed into the game itself. The mood is always perfectly set and your own wildly changing emotions will always feel catered for as if an unseen conductor is in your mind making things work.

The story that is here to be told is not going to be fully found by those who don’t very much wish to see it. As the Age of Fire begins to die, the curse of the undead begins to emerge. You play as the Chosen Undead who is to play some role in the days to come. Will you extend the Age of Fire or usher in the Age of Dark? If that is all you need to know, then you will be more than happy, but if you want to understand the full tale, you must engage with some unconventional storytelling methods and fully read item descriptions as well as pay attention to your surroundings and read into every little thing from enemy placement to cryptic dialogue from NPCs. The lore of Dark Souls is stunning and fascinating and I personally enjoyed playing the game understanding the little that I did, before taking to the internet to get the full story and be pleased at realising the significance of something I saw, with my new-found knowledge. There is as much story here essentially as a player wants there to be. The only negative is that players who enjoy being told a story as they play may be slightly irritated by the unusual narrative methods.

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Sometimes it is wiser to flee

The game runs well with the only loading times being upon death (and very occasionally elsewhere). There are obviously some technical miss steps, but nothing major. There are easily fifty hours for a single playthrough as well as an enormous amount of replay value to be found.

The challenge of the game, including its mechanic of taking away your lifeblood (souls) upon death and tempting you back to the place of your demise in order to retrieve them is probably its main hook, but its incredible visual design, world building and lore as well as its unbelievably deep and well designed combat are what have made Dark Souls rise above and beyond, and are why it will no doubt survive the test of time. Dark Souls is nothing short of a modern classic, an absolute masterpiece. I don’t believe in perfect games, but if there was one, it would be Dark Souls.

Visuals: Beautiful and terrifying 9/10

Audio:  Minimalistic but brilliant 9/10

Storytelling: Unconventional but excellent 8/10

Gameplay: Flawless exploration and combat 10/10

Performance: Minor issues that do not detract much 8/10

Value: Excellent lenght and replay value 10/10

OVERALL 9/10

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review

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The second half of 2014 was had a slew of disappointing releases but it also had a large number of gems. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor was one such gem which picked up numerous game of the year awards and were I to name a personal game of the year of 2014, Shadow of Mordor would certainly make it to the final punch out. When it was first announced, people were quick to point out that it seemed to be a hybrid of Assassin’s Creed and the Batman Arkham series. One of the coders from Assassin’s Creed II even went on record as claiming that Monolith had stolen his code. When Shadow of Mordor finally arrived, we were able to judge for ourselves, and yes it is completely and utterly a hybrid of Assassin’s Creed and the Batman Arkham series. Also, it is excellent.

Shadow of Mordor is obviously set in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings universe. It occurs between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and depicts Sauron returning to power and building his orc army. You play as Talion, a ranger of the north played by Troy Baker. At the very beginning, Talion suffers personal tragedy at the hands of Saurons army and he himself is killed and as Sauron’s minions attempt to bring forth the spirit of Celebrimbor (the elf who forged the rings of power), he is bound to Talion. This gives the player the abilities of both Talion and Celebrimbor and of course, as a man bound to a wraith, you cannot die, but merely be defeated in combat. The story essentially revolves around Talion and Celebrimbor wishing to separate and their efforts to thwart the Dark Lord’s plan to grow his army. There may be twist or two and you will meet a couple of classic characters, but overall this original story while not offensive to Tolkien fans, is fairly uninspired.

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Talion/Celebrimbor is not happy

Shadow of Mordor takes the parkour and free-running of Assassin’s Creed but thanks to the protagonist’s supernatural abilities, make them even easier and even more empowering. Without the need for some level of realism and grounding (after all we are a ranger/elven wraith and not a historical assassin) the jumping and climbing is able to be even more awesome and even more fun. Similarly, the game takes the counter based combat from the Arkham games, where enemies briefly telegraph attacks, enabling a counter to continue your combo, and again makes it even better. It is more fluid and more satisfying to slice through orcs with a sword than it is to punch out teeth with a bat-fist. Talion’s abilities and other weaponry also flow into combat far more naturally than Batman’s batarangs and batclaw did. With a big enough combo built up, you can instantly execute an enemy in a gruesome way, you can brand an enemy mid combo, fire precision arrows with focus (time slowing ability) and use a number of other unlockable abilities. It all goes together beautifully to create some fantastic and dare I say, cinematic combat with the camera zooming in on an orc’s severed head as you brutally finish him off mid combo.

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Combat can be very bloody and satisfying

All in all, this makes for very familiar and very fun gameplay. The most impressive thing about Shadow of Mordor is that yes, it did borrow heavily from two beloved series, but it improved upon those systems, added its own flavour and completely and utterly carved out an identity of its own and made an experience worth having. One of the key ways that this was accomplished was with the third major game mechanic which is far more original – the nemesis system. Alright, so if you think about it, all the nemesis system really is, is a list of dialogue trees and levelling up parameters going on in the background wearing the outfit of dynamic relationships, but that’s like saying that a video game is just a bunch of ones and zeroes. You cannot see behind the curtain. The strings and puppet master are kept well out of view and this makes it very easy to be pulled into the world and really develop investment in these relationships. The system essentially means that enemies will grow as the game progresses. If an enemy defeats you, then they will grow in power and be promoted. They will also remember you next time you meet and wonder how you survived. If you flee from battle or you enemy does the same, then again, they will reference the last encounter when next you meet. These captains have strengths and weaknesses that can be discovered by interrogating worms in the orc armies. It was so very satisfying to be defeated by a grunt, watch him brag and be promoted to captain, only to discover his weakness to stealth attacks, sneak into the centre of his camp and jump on him from above, killing him instantly with a knife without him ever knowing what happened. This kind of dynamic story building moment is what sets Shadow of Mordor apart. It has great parkour and fantastic combat, but the nemesis system makes the game experience your own unique adventure to craft.

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The nemesis system in action

The nemesis system is key to the overall story of the game. You are tasked eventually with taking out the five War Chieftains and replacing them with orcs loyal to you (by enslaving their mind with you wraith half). To draw a Chieftain out you must kill his bodyguards and the Chieftains are far from easy opponents more often than not. You can try to enslave their mind outright, or can have one of your own waiting to take over and then kill the current Chieftain, ensuring the succession of your own orc. Events such as feasts, duels and hunts occur when you progress time either by choice or by being defeated in combat. These events will change the hierarchy of the orcs as well as increase their power. By intervening in events you can make sure power sways in the direction you want it to as long as you make it to the events before time moves on.

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Enemies have their own strengths and weaknesses

There are also challenges associated with the three core combat types – namely melee combat with your sword, ranged combat with your bow and stealth combat with your dagger. These challenges along with almost mandatory collectibles scattered across the world round out the gameplay.

Despite being set in Mordor, the game looks very impressive. There are two major areas in the game. The first is typical Mordor-like, very dark with creepy ruins and the second is surprisingly lush and green. When the rain starts pouring over Mordor you will be shocked by how pretty the visuals are. If you are a fan of Peter Jackson’s movies, then you will very much approve of the audio design as well. Troy Baker as usual does a great job and the orc voices while nowhere near as varied as you might like, serve their purpose fine. There are some technical issues, such as getting stuck in geometry, loading times are unpredictable when you fast travel or die but overall there are no major issues.

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Certainly a little bit Assassin like

The biggest complaint against this game is strangely enough the fact that it is a Lord of the Rings game. I don’t mind the fact that the game is essentially a fan fiction, the story is perfectly fine. My reasoning is quite the opposite in fact. I feel that this game was strong enough to have stood out of its own as a brand new IP. With the excellent gameplay and innovative nemesis system, Monolith could have taken the opportunity to build their own fantasy world and would have had the foundations for a rather exciting series of games. The fact that these wonderful ideas are simply embedded into a old IP are a pity to me. The basic enough plot also could have carried more weight if they had taken the time to build their own world rather than just tell us that its Lord of the Rings and therefore we know the rest.

The other major problem that the game has is its difficulty. Usually this wouldn’t bother me, I play games how they are intended usually. I will play something like Assassin’s Creed if I want an gameplay experience or Dark Souls if I want a challenging game. Most games I play on medium difficulty and if I want to replay them, will do so at the hardest level. Shadow of Mordor however does not have difficulty settings and it is very easy. The reason that it is an issue here and not one in Assassin’s Creed is because it means it does not take full advantage of the nemesis system. Throughout the entire game I died between five and ten times, which may sound impressive, but it isn’t. The nemesis system would be so much more meaningful if a Orc continuously destroyed you and mocked you and a true rivalry built up until finally by obtaining the right information and through use of all your skill you finally overcame him. Furthermore, after I had completed the relatively short 15 or so hour game (with a decent amount of side questing), even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I was not massively inspired to return to the game again. I have been tempted to get the DLC but have yet to take that plunge.

Overall however, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a fantastic game that draws heavy inspiration from two giants in the industry, adds its own flavour and then gives you a beautiful environment to create your own dynamic stories. A greater challenge and more original story would have been nice, but it is a brilliantly fun game and perhaps the foundation for something even greater down the line.

Visuals: Ugly yet beautiful 7/10

Audio: Fittingly Tolkien plus Troy Baker 7/10

Storytelling: Wasted opportunity. Nemesis system great though. 7/10

Gameplay: Brilliant. Combat, parkour both fantastic 9/10

Performance: Some minor issues and technical imperfections 7/10

Value: Shortish, but nemesis gives replay value. Too easy 6/10

OVERALL: 7/10

Wolfenstein The New Order Review

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Wolfenstein is a name that every gamer knows. Whether you played them growing up, dabbled with them out of curiosity years later, or pretend to have played them to seem cool and retro to your friends, we all know Wolfenstein. They spearheaded the now beloved first person shooter genre, and even though going back and playing Wolfenstein 3D today is a pretty painful experience in many ways, it is still genuinely good fun and has held up more than many older games. Well, near the end of last year, the series that helped start it all made a return in Wolfenstein The New Order and in a world where games seem obliged to throw in bad mechanics just for the sake of having something new and different and attempting innovation for innovations sake, The New Order simply gives you Nazis and guns to kill them with. Just like the original Wolfenstein, The New Order is as basic as first person shooters get. Of course, it is absolutely brilliant.

The only reason to review a game this far from its release is either because it was dreadful and a “how not to” in game design, or else because it was the exact opposite. Machine Games gave a masterclass in the concept of “back to basics” with this game. You are William B.J. Blazkowicz and you were “born to kill Nazis.” Unfortunately, in the game’s opening hour, you fail to do this as much as you would have liked, and end up regaining full consciousness and cognitive ability in 1960, in Nazi occupied…. everything. From here, you join a resistance and make a last stand/revolt against the Nazi regime. This alternate history of World War II may not sound all that imaginative but it was an interesting enough spin to keep me hooked throughout. It was familiar enough to understand and engage with very easily, but different enough to be worth engaging with at all to begin with. Blazkowicz is more of a character than ever before (that is to say, he is now a character) and while at times, the game can be seen to try too hard to be poignant, particularly in a game that is fundamentally about the mindless slaughter of Nazis, overall, the story manages to be exciting and surprisingly deep at times. It will not win any awards for storytelling innovation, but it is surprising and highly enjoyable.

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You might not recognise BJ these days

This pleasantly surprising depth is accompanied with with the outlandish Nazi Cyborgs, Nazi Robodogs and of course the Nazi Moonbase! It might sound like such things would cause a catastrophic inconsistency in tone, but it somehow all gels together incredibly well and rather than collapsing under its own weight, it simply gives the best of both worlds. The combat itself can be a little crazy too as you can dual wield any gun including shotguns and sniper rifles. For the most part the combat is a simple matter of you and your opponent shoot each other and see who can take the most bullets to the face, but this simple approach is very refreshing. Without cover systems, regenerating health and other more modern concepts, you have to create the dynamics of the fight yourself. The New Order gives you the guns and the enemies and it is up to you and the A.I. to make a good fight. To add variety, the combat may involve stealthing it with daggers and a silenced pistol, trying to take out commanders who can call in reinforcements, by organically tracking them using their radio signal. It can also mean dual wielding shotguns and firing as fast as you can into a giant robot while circle strafing. Combat is incredibly simple and yet wonderfully varied.

Regardless of platform (although next generation and PC is definitely preferable over last-gen), visuals are technically good and extremely pleasing to look at. Silently taking out Nazis in the rain is a joy thanks to the visual design. Sound is equally impressive with the guns all sounding very satisfying and the noise of combat being an unholy mess while still keeping you informed of your surroundings. Music is intense and the voice acting is all for the most part pretty good, even if some performances seem a little bit hammy. The game runs without any significant problems while achieving this as well.

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Nazis 0, Dual Assault Rifles 3

The game comes wit several difficulty levels and if you want to take on Über then you better be patient and have plenty of skill. There is no multiplayer here, but the campaign is a decent length, and with the multiple difficulty levels including the intense challenge of the highest difficulty, there is quite a bit of game here. There is a single choice to be made near the start of the game that will alter a mini-game you occasionally play as well as some minor story related things, but the way the presents it (as two completely different paths) is not really the case. The choice is less meaningful than it wants you to believe and although you could replay the whole game to see the alternate timeline, an increase in difficulty is the real reason to return here.

Overall, Wolfenstein The New Order was an intense and satisfying experience that was enormous fun. It was a fantastic achievement and return to the roots of first person shooters that did not lose anything at all by stripping it bare. It was childish, Nazi-murdering, violent fun, and sometimes that is all a video game needs to be. It was certainly one of the best games of 2014, an important lesson in game design going forward and if you haven’t played it yet, then you should really check it out.

Visuals: Very good 7/10

Audio: Good, keeps combat intense 7/10

Storytelling: Surprisingly enjoyable 7/10

Gameplay: So much fun 9/10

Performance: Solid 7/10

Value: Multiple difficulties are the reason to come back 7/10

OVERALL: 7/10

Destiny Review

Destiny

Destiny was a huge disappointment to many gamers when it came out. It was a lesson in hype, and how we should do our best to avoid being taken in by it. I was lucky in the sense that I was not especially excited about it despite having been a big Bungie fan. I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that the game looked bland and uninspired when I saw it at E3. A friend of mine who was very excited for it pointed out that if everything in it was simply solid, then it would all come together for a pretty good experience, and I could understand his argument. Bungie had hyped the game out of proportion by highlighting its enormous budget and the likes of Peter Dinklage lending their voice to the game. I decided to look into it and secured my self and some friends Beta access for all four consoles that the game was coming out on. I was not particularly impressed but as my friend had said, all the mechanics were fundamentally sound, so I picked the game up on its release. It turns out that sound mechanics do not make a good game.

Yes it is true, the gunplay feels very nice, exploration is good, controls are responsive, matchmaking is solid in multiplayer, the difficulty curve for the most part is good, the environments look nice and are somewhat varied, the sound design is suitably sci-fi and appealing. Everything works by itself and does what it is supposed to do… but Destiny is just boring. There is no other word for it. It is boring. It comes across as a poor man’s version of everything. Jack of all trades and master of none. It is not quite MMO, not quite competitive multiplayer shooter, not quite co-op shooter, not quite an RPG. It was once of the biggest let downs in gaming history that was not caused by Peter Molyneux.

Destiny is one of the blandest experiences available at the moment. The plot is virtually non-existent and the storytelling is woeful. Peter Dinklage as Ghost is nothing short of a joke. To have this coming from Bungie, who created an entire universe and deep lore with their Halo series is a big shock and more than a little sad. I found myself getting bored during the feeble attempts at exposition. I started to ignore dialogue that occurred during gameplay and if there were any real attempts at environmental storytelling, they passed be by unnoticed.


Destiny Screen

Everything is solid. Nothing is great.

Combat is solid. It is a first person shooter with iron sights and a couple of other abilities depending on your class such as some sort of supernova blast attack, a golden gun and slightly different melee attacks. The three classes are actually virtually identical with no meaningful difference and the three races have no difference whatsoever, meaningful or otherwise. The enemies are completely uninspired being either recycled from Halo, stolen from Mass Effect or just as dull and plain as possible. Every mission is a waypoint chaser followed by protecting Ghost from multiple waves of enemies while he does something uninteresting that probably is story related but really how could you possibly know when you stopped paying attention to the story six hours ago. Then six hours later, the game is over. That’s right, it is short as well as bad.

The length may be seen as a mercy, but it is pitiful when you consider how much grinding is required and the fact that infinite waypoint chasing is considered a suitable side quest. The multiplayer modes are perfectly good but your level and equipment from single player carries over making it very easy to be complete out-gunned. The game seems to take pleasure in forcing you to play its dreadful single player just so you can have a fighting chance in its mediocre multiplayer.

If you play with a friend or two, then Destiny like any game, becomes infinitely more fun, but the core gameplay experience will not cease to be incredibly lacklustre. Furthermore, fireteams are limited to three – you and only two friends making this MMO laughable. Strangely enough the three on three multiplayer matches were actually my favourite by contrast. The most fun that I had in this disappointing mess by far was when a friend of mine and I started dancing in the tower and gathered a group of strangers who started joining in. Though, that was simply random and amusing interaction with strangers which I could just as easily of had at a bus stop.

Destiny screen 2

Combat is well designed and solid

Destiny is a competent game that is just boring. Its looks nice but bland. Combat is solid but dull. Audio is functional but uninteresting. The story is… unforgivably terrible. Destiny is a perplexing disappointment and was somehow even though I wasn’t excited for it, it disappointed me more than any game of 2014. It does everything to a competent level and it probably gets bashed more than many games that are far worse. This is possibly unfair, but Bungie blew their trumpet too much about how fantastic Destiny would be, but it ended up being completely mediocre. If you see it for a tenner somewhere, then pick it up, you will get your money’s worth. Otherwise, leave it be. Bungie are capable of making great games, but Destiny is absolutely not one of them.

Visuals: Good but bland 7/10

Audio: Fine but uninspired 6/10

Storytelling: Atrocious 2/10

Gameplay: Functional but boring 5/10

Performance: Long loading times and performance issues 6/10

Value: Short yet repetitive campaign, nothing new in multiplayer 4/10

OVERALL: 5/10