SOMA Review

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SOMA is a recent sci-fi horror game by Frictional Games, whom you might know as the geniuses behind the terribly spooky Amnesia: The Dark Descent and its sequel, A Machine for Pigs. At first, I had heard that SOMA wasn’t scary and was more of a “creepy” atmospheric game, but I can confirm after completing it that this is not at all true!

After finishing the game over the weekend, here’s my SOMA review including some details about what the game’s about, initial thoughts, what it does well and what could be improved. As well as a final note on whether you should play it! (Hint: You probably should!)

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Layers of Fear First Impressions Review

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Being a huge fan of horror games, I absolutely had to pick up Layers of Fear. Described as a “psychedelic horror”, you play a painter who is feverishly attempting to complete a true masterpiece while going mad in the process. Having watched several streams and videos, I knew I would enjoy it.

I wanted to share with you guys my first impressions of Layers of Fear, in the form of a review of all of the currently playable preview.

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My Favourite Horror Game (Blaugust #15)

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In honour of Scaredy-Cat Saturday, something I started a long time ago on my stream, and the fact that I’m currently enjoying watching Julia play Kholat, I want to talk about horror games and my intense love for them.

It is no secret that I am a wuss. As I told you in my last post, I’m scared of the dark. My fiancé, T always manages to freak me out by telling me scary little stories because he thinks it’s hilarious. My imagination runs wild, and I get so utterly freaked out. And yet for some reason I absolutely love playing horror games!

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Alien: Isolation Isn’t For Me (Game Review)

Alien: Isolation Review - The classic sci-fi enemy, the Xenomorph.

Alien: Isolation Review - Why the game simply isn't for me.

This week, Alien: Isolation has been nominated for a lot of BAFTA awards; in fact, that’s an understatement, as apparently the tribute to Ridley Scott’s franchise has picked up the highest number of nominations at this year’s awards ceremony. And I find myself sitting here wondering: WHY?

As a disclaimer, I’m generally not a huge fan of games that rely heavily on stealth, and I’m not going to say it’s a bad game, because evidently a lot of people enjoy it and it has a lot going for it for it to have received so many nominations for awards. However, it’s clear that nominations are not based on quality of game design, as a large number of players have a game-breaking bug not two minutes into the game, completely preventing progression without repeatedly restarting and crossing your fingers and toes in the hopes that maybe this time the door will be unlocked. I encountered this bug while streaming the game and it took 45 minutes of trying various “fixes” posted on the forum before a few game restarts finally seemed to resolve the problem and allow me to progress.

The fact that this has not been fixed, or at least hadn’t when I played a month or so after release, is absolutely astounding. Perhaps it has been fixed now, but the game has left a bad taste in my mouth. Because of my horrid first experience with the game, I just can’t seem to see it being an award winner.

I did persist after finally getting past what my friends have deemed as “Door-Gate 2014”, and honestly my opinion on the game didn’t improve. I feel like the gameplay is pretty lazy, as it seems so far that my entire purpose is to simply avoid vents with acid dripping from them, and walk relatively swiftly in the opposite direction of androids. Don’t get me wrong, I got a few decent scares out of being grabbed unexpectedly, but it was always a case of me not seeing the vent or not knowing an android was coming round the corner, and I corrected it next time I attempted the same corridor.

Alien: Isolation Review - Artificially inflated difficulty grinds my gears.

The one thing that really grinds my gears, however, is the lack of saves. I’ve had a big debate with others who enjoyed the game, who feel that infrequent saves are a good thing and should be preserved particularly in a survival horror setting. To some extent, I agree: the feeling that if you screw this up that’s it is incredibly powerful. However, I don’t feel that punishing your players is ever a good idea, regardless of genre. And frankly, the infrequent save points felt incredibly punishing. If I complete a significant milestone that was difficult for me to accomplish, then enter an elevator and return to my start point to tackle the next task, I expect there to be a save, either autosave/checkpoint style, or a save point for me to use when I’m about to enter or exit the elevator. Several times I accomplished multiple milestones, only to make a silly mistake and have to go back to the beginning where my last save was, which was unfortunately several milestones back because there had been no opportunity to save between.

One might say that it’s my fault for making a silly mistake, and sure, I’ll grant you that. But what if it weren’t? What if I encountered yet another crippling game bug like the door that never unlocked at the beginning of the game and required me to restart? What if my game crashed? Should I be punished for those too despite them not being my fault? To me, as a gamer and not a game designer, it just seems like good practice to include regular save points, at the very least after each major milestone is completed.

I’m not saying that games shouldn’t be difficult, but this practice of withholding checkpoints from players and making them replay long portions of the game if they screw up feels like a lazy way to artificially inflate difficulty, rather than making the game truly difficult and terrifying in itself. There were parts that were difficult, but most of the time I found them frustrating rather than challenging, as I mostly had to hide behind objects or in rooms repeatedly to wait for patrols to pass.

Again, I want to reinforce that I don’t think Alien: Isolation is a bad game. It has been nominated for awards in gameplay, music and design categories, and I know plenty of people who have played it through and enjoyed it immensely. However, that is not to say that it is above criticism, and I feel like there are a lot of areas the game could be significantly improved. I can even see how enjoyable it might be to try and play cat and mouse with perhaps the scariest sci-fi creature of all time. Sadly, from my poor first impressions of the game due to a game-breaking bug plus having to repeat the same 20 – 30 minute section of the game due to making a mistake or getting lost and not having a save to keep me going, one thing has become quite clear: Alien: Isolation just isn’t for me.

Game Review: 7 Days to Die

Game Review: 7 Days to Die

Survival horror games are a genre I’ve been enjoying for years, with a focus recently on fairly nasty multiplayer such as DayZ. I picked up 7 Days to Die in this year’s Steam summer sales as a refreshing change of pace from constantly fighting with other people to try and focus more on the survival aspects of the games. I’d been interested for a while but it’s still in Early Access, and you all know how I feel about Early Access games! So I wasn’t willing to pick it up at full price.

However, this is one game that I’ve discovered doesn’t live up to the usual Early Access problems. While I still reel at the term and the idea behind it, I have had a lot of fun trying to figure out how to survive and haven’t noticed too many issues that I normally encounter with an Early Access game. Most of my first night was spent running from one undead dog who just wouldn’t give up no matter what I did, and eventually building a house with traps around the outside that I kept walking into and injuring myself. Yeah, I’m that guy.

The game is very sandboxy, in that you can go anywhere on the map and build whatever defences you want to protect yourself. You can grow food such as corn or blueberries, hunt animals for food and skins for crafting, and craft tools and weapons, or even build houses and fortresses. 7 Days to Die features both singleplayer and multiplayer modes, with multiplayer being as large or small scale as you want. I spent most of the weekend playing with just myself and my fiancé, meaning we didn’t have to worry about people who were just out to break your defences down for fun. While that certainly has its place, I wasn’t in the mood, and it was nice to be able to switch off.

Game Review: 7 Days to Die

One of my favourite features, however, is that you can add someone to your friends list. Something so simple, but such a vast quality of life improvement for a game that benefits greatly from collaboration. This allows you to see each other on the map if both players accept, and makes it easier to team up to fight the zombie hordes together, or indeed other players if you decide to play on a larger multiplayer server.

It isn’t a horror as such, but it is quite frightening to be running around at night and realise that those shambling zombies you avoided so easily in the daytime? Yeah, they get a new lease of life (or unlife?) during the night or in dark areas, meaning they’re significantly faster and much more dangerous as a result! They also will break anything, including walls, windows, rooves, the floor — literally anything to get at you and your delicious brains. You will start to smell if you carry around fresh food as well, particularly if it’s on your toolbelt, making it much harder to hide even underground or in a structure, so it’s worth storing food safely to avoid being attacked. The game forces you to be inventive with your creations to make sure you reduce the chances of your house being destroyed, or you being killed.

Like Rust, placing a sleeping bag or bed will create a respawn point for you, which makes the game significantly easier with regards to sticking with friends or near your house, where all of your gear has been stored in storage chests and gun lockers. Aeroplanes will fly overhead and drop supply drops from time to time, with bottled water or food, or even weapons if you’re lucky.

Game Review: 7 Days to Die

7 Days to Die is fun but not without its downsides, however. Combat is still a little buggy, and while running away from a zombie I would dodge in to smack it in the face and would somehow hit — wait for it — a blade of grass which would soak all of my damage, meaning the zombie clocked me one on the head and I died. Most unfortunate! Also, zombie dogs can and will climb ladders to attack you viciously when you least expect it. I have died several times when there was nothing nearby, and I wasn’t bleeding out. It seems that a zombie hit me when I was on low health but there were no zombies in my near vicinity, so I’m not sure how that happened.

The audio is also a little buggy, with zombies screaming equally loudly regardless of how far away they are. This makes it pretty difficult to tell exactly where zombies are, which is somewhat interesting but mostly just frustrating for someone who relies on directional sound to figure out when someone is sneaking up on them.

I would still recommend the game if you enjoy games like Minecraft or Rust for their survival and building aspects, but if you’re on the fence about it try to pick it up during a sale, or wait til it comes out of Early Access. Definitely a fun game though, with a lot of scope for improvement too.

Game Review: 7 Days to DieScreenshot source: Official 7 Days to Die Website

Autumn Steam Sale must haves

I’ve been a terrible blogger lately, and I must apologise! Work has been very busy, and I’ve been having so much fun in my downtime that I’ve been very bad at keeping up with my non-gaming hobbies. Thank you for sticking around!

Now, it is that time of year again! The Steam Autumn Sale has graced us with its presence, much to the dismay of our poor wallets and bank accounts. Every time a Steam sale rolls around I both simultaneously wince in anticipation, and squee as I add the new games to my library. This is the reason I have such a huge gaming backlog! So, what have I picked up so far?

Steam Autumn Sale purchases: Papers, Please Steam Autumn Sale purchases: Rogue Legacy
Steam Autumn Sale purchases: The Walking Dead Steam Autumn Sale purchases: Gone Home
1. Papers, Please | 2. Rogue Legacy | 3. The Walking Dead | 4. Gone Home

I’ve only started playing Papers, Please so far and have been having a ridiculously fun time, which is surprising considering most of the point of the game is to stamp passports! But it’s become much more fun after a coworker joked about his conspiracy theory that secretly, people playing the game are actually working for Heathrow. I hope not, as I’ve unwittingly let a few shady characters into the country if that’s the case!

And now for the absolute must-haves, in my humble opinion, for this sale.

Steam Autumn Sale must haves: Game Dev Tycoon Steam Autumn Sale must haves: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Steam Autumn Sale must haves: XCOM: Enemy Unknown Steam Autumn Sale must haves: Outlast
1. Game Dev Tycoon (€4.49) | 2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (€7.49) | 3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown (€9.99 | 4. Outlast (€6.45)

I personally adore all of my suggestions above, but if you only pick one of them I will forever recommend The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. On top of the original game only being €7.49 right now, the Legendary Edition, which contains the base game and all expansions, is only €13.59 right now. This game tops my list of favourites at the moment; those of you who know me, know I’m an Elder Scrolls fiend and have been since Morrowind. I did, indeed, shed a single tear of joy when I saw the teaser trailer for Skyrim!

I do also recommend Outlast pretty heavily for you horror game nuts out there. That might be because I’m cruel and want everyone to share in my pain, though…

What games have you picked up this sale?
Let me know in the comments!

Spooky Halloween stream!

You are invited to the Psyche Plays Halloween stream!

You are cordially invited to join me on Friday 1st November at approximately 9:00pm GMT (time to be confirmed) for a spooky Halloween stream! The stream will run “until late”, meaning I will basically stream until I fall asleep or all my viewers have run off to bed. I was originally planning on this being an all-nighter stream, but as I’ll be going up to visit family the next morning I’ll need to get a little bit of sleep for the journey!

Streamed Games:

» League of Legends (Harrowing skins only!)
» Diablo III
» Outlast
» Stop It, Slender!
» Don’t Starve

I may add more creepy games (Nightmare House 2 is a distinct possibility!) as the night goes on, but this is the list for now. To take part, simply go to my Twitch.tv channel, and make sure to click “Follow” if you want to receive a notification when I go live! I would love it if you’d come hang out with me! Feel free to leave a comment below or tweet me your game suggestions.

Psyche Plays Outlast…and fails at it

If you missed my first post about Outlast, let me give you a quick recap! Basically, I’m a wuss, and I decided it was a great idea to pick up indie horror game Outlast and give it a shot. Not only that, but I thought, “Hey, since I’m going to play Outlast anyway, why not record it? Or better yet, why not stream it live so everyone can laugh at my stupid face as I scream?!”

So that’s what I did. Make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel for more videos. I release a new horror game video every Saturday for Scaredy-Cat Saturday! You know what that means…there’ll be a new one later on today! Oh, joy…

Can I outlast Outlast?

The answer to that question is probably a resounding, “No.” I cannot outlast brand new indie horror game Outlast. My first playthrough, above, I barely lasted 16 minutes excruciating minutes. Apologies in advance for the dark webcam and very loud mic.

I am a scaredy-cat by nature. Horror movies are usually okay, but I have incredibly severe nyctophobia (fear of the dark) and it’s not just what might be in the dark that scares me, but the darkness itself. Horror games get me involved in the action, which is inherently scarier than just passively watching. I tried to play Amnesia: The Dark Descent, another indie horror game and one of the most infamous, and also F.E.A.R., but have not finished either. I thought it was a great idea to pick up Outlast for some reason!

I’m determined to finish this one, so I’ll be adding videos to my Outlast playlist as they come out, and will also be livestreaming on my Twitch.tv channel for Scaredy-Cat Saturdays!

I’d love it if you’d subscribe to my YouTube channel, I’ll be putting out horror videos every Saturday (or Sunday) and other gameplay videos throughout the week!