Game Review: The Sims 4

Game Review: The Sims 4 - Sim interactions & relationships are very much improved.

When a company comes out with a follow-up game to an incredibly popular, long-standing series like The Sims, there’s always the risk (and arguably the reality) that they won’t be able to please everyone. In fact, there’s a very big chance that they won’t end up pleasing anyone. Luckily, that doesn’t seem like it was entirely the case with The Sims 4.

I’m a long-standing fan of the series, and have been playing ever since getting my first computer as a preteen. I owned nearly all of the expansions, and invested countless hours into Sims legacies, often documenting them on various community sites for other people’s (and my own) entertainment. So, when The Sims 4 was announced it seemed like a no-brainer that I’d pick it up and continue where its predecessor left off. Except…there was a lot of content missing from the most recent game in the series. Among some of the most shocking of these missing features are swimming pools, toddlers, and a lack of open world to name but a few.

However, I picked it up all the same and gave it a try, and frankly I’m really glad I did. A lot of the changes they’ve made have been vast improvements, such as their self-proclaimed “smarter Sims”. It’s now easier to see what’s on your Sim’s mind, what they want, and how they’re feeling. This also directly influences your Sim’s personality; if your Sim is in a bad mood, that’ll be reflected in the actions they take. Angry? Maybe your Sim will take that out on their little brother, or in my case, on the giant teddy bear upstairs in your little brother’s bedroom. Your Sims also have goals, not just one single aspiration, giving a lot more options for development of a character. This isn’t even scratching the surface; there’s a lot of new career options including professional gaming and livestreaming, games development, and a more dedicated author career path.

Game Review: The Sims 4 - Building has been made a lot smoother, with emphasis on making it easier.

Building is also a lot smoother. I don’t personally use the room-building method — which allows the player to modularly build their house by slotting in rooms one at a time — but it’s definitely made things a lot easier on people who aren’t comfortable with normal building in the game. I’ve found myself inspired to make prettier houses all over again, whereas by the time I’d reached the third game I was bored and using the same style of house over and over.

There’s no doubt that when it comes to the player’s Sims themselves, though, they’re the focus of the new game. The character development and relationship options are much more realistic, the facial expressions making the characters seem more approachable and lifelike (without bordering on Uncanny Valley!), and the social interactions far more fleshed out than they’ve ever been at all ages.

Game Review: The Sims 4 - Missing features & bugs can get frustrating.

That doesn’t mean that The Sims 4 is perfect. The missing features do get to you after a while. Most of them are unimportant: I don’t really miss swimming pools (except for the chance to kill unwanted Sims off easily…), and toddlers were an annoyance to me more than anything. But things like the lack of open world do get frustrating, and I can’t fathom why so many careers are missing. Since I’m playing a sort of legacy, it’s bothersome that there’s no particularly expensive, large lot to waste all my money on, and that babies are just objects that can’t be moved from their bassinet. They’re also incredibly annoying!

I also didn’t like some of the changes they made that were meant to be improvements, such as only having three traits to begin with and having to unlock more traits as you play. That sounds like a great idea, but I’ve been playing the same family for over 20 hours and none of my Sims have unlocked additional traits yet. They haven’t got enough lifetime achievement points to do so! That makes me wonder how it’s possible with a normal Sim lifespan, as I currently have it set to “Long” just to make sure I achieve everything I want to.

Some of the lacking or “crippled” features do make it feel like the game took a massive step back, sometimes back as far as The Sims 1 if you remember the babies there. I’ve also encountered quite a few bugs, such as my recurring maid never showing up unless I exit the game and restart, in which case she apparently “showed up” while I was gone, but she still hasn’t actually cleaned anything. The game is meant to be pretty stable, but first of all, I’ve had several crash-to-desktops that have resulted in several hours of lost gameplay, and secondly it only utilises 4GB of RAM as it’s a 32-bit executable.

All in all, the game is fun, and I’m glad that I picked it up. But frankly, I’m more glad that I got it for a reduced price from a third-party retailer. As much as I love The Sims and am enjoying its fourth installment, I don’t think it’s worth shelling out the €60+ for it through Origin. Maybe if they fix a few of the issues and implement a few more features without them being DLCs, but otherwise I’d suggest waiting to pick it up from somewhere on sale if you’re interested in playing it. Otherwise, you can watch me streaming The Sims 4 on my Twitch.tv channel beforehand, if you’d like to see what it’s like before you buy.

Game Review: The Sims 4 - I'd recommend picking it up, but not for the current price tag.

Life Lately (15/09/2014)

I apologise for the lack of posts lately, once again! Things got quite a bit busier over the last few weeks and it’s been hard to sit myself down still long enough to catch up on posts. I know I say that a lot, but honestly, I travelled to LA in July and a week later to Germany for gamescom, followed by two extremely busy weeks at work and yet another business trip! I’m just now recovering from all the travel.

I’ve been picking up on my stream schedule as well, streaming at least two or three times a week which is fun! I’ve been getting very much back into it, which has been great because I really missed talking to people while I played games and this gives me a great opportunity to do so.

Due to all my travel, I completely failed at Blaugust, so I apologise to all of my fellow bloggers who were taking part! I wanted to do so much with it, so I hope we’ll have more opportunities to do blogging events that will help with the gaming blog community. I did meet some great games bloggers through it, however, which has been a real treat!

Gaming wise, I’ve been playing an inordinate amount of The Sims 4, and I promise to write up a review here over the next few days! I’ve also been playing Final Fantasy XIV, with a focus on levelling the classes I need for cross-class actions, practicing T5 with my FC, and farming for my atma weapon. All in all, I’ve had a lot to keep me busy, and I’ve been neglecting this place a little too much.

I hope everyone has kept well! Thank you for putting up with my sporadic posting.

Oops, I resubscribed

Blaugust Day 24: Oops, I resubscribed to FFXI...

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting at your PC (or other gaming device of choice) and staring at your list of games, not sure what to play. You remember the good old days in insert-old-MMO-here and sigh wistfully. Would it be that hard to go back? What would it be like? Most of us shut down the thought in an instant, remembering that there was a reason we quit or moved on, laugh at our moment of weakness and launch something else. I usually do. But not this time.

This time it was different, because my Free Company in Final Fantasy XIV are a big old bunch of enablers who played my personal addiction religiously. A lot of you probably already know my history with Final Fantasy XI; I wanted to play it at release so badly but couldn’t, and then a friend I met online started playing again and I jumped in too (if you’re reading this Tilly, thank you and curse you! Also, I’m sorry but I think I stole your hairstyle…) I never really got very far, not even reaching level cap, but I really loved it and I guess part of me felt rewarded since I could finally play it after not touching it when I really wanted to all those years ago. And now that my FC is playing, I’ve resubscribed again.

I’ve seen World of Warcraft players do the same, and have almost slipped up myself several times on that front. I’ve watched friends, now serial WoW quitters and resubbers, dip their toe in and get sucked into the whirlpool of nostalgia before realising the fun didn’t last. And I know, deep down, that will happen with FFXI as well. But y’know what? Right now, I’m revelling in the soundtrack while I sip on a cup of tea, just like I did six years ago on a cold evening in January, when I first started playing.

Nostalgia is a beautiful thing. Pity it’s pretty terrible for my wallet.

#Blaugust
Header courtesy of Belghast of Aggronaut.com.

Interested in taking part in Blaugust?

Check out the Nook on Anook, or Belghast’s post on the Gospel of Blaugust and get started! You don’t have to write a gaming blog, and your posts don’t have to be about gaming to participate. So come along and join the fun!

It’s OK to be a gamer

Blaugust Day 20: It's OK to be a gamer.

After reading Ben Kuchera’s post “Gaming is not the most important thing in my life” on Polygon, I felt a little annoyed, to say the least. Anyone who knows me knows that gaming is a massive part of my life, and a massive part of who I am. I’ve been told by a few well-meaning people that I shouldn’t allow it to define me as a person, and I don’t think I do, but something about this editorial bothered me for some reason.

I don’t think anyone will disagree that having gaming be the only thing you do with your life is pretty unhealthy, or that letting relationships or careers suffer due to your hobby is a terrible thing. But with that said, I was bothered by the attitude that it’s a negative thing to consider gaming a huge part of your life. Maybe I’m wrong, but I felt that the tone of the article suggested that people who only spend small amounts of their time gaming are not only “better gamers” (because it allows them to experience games differently) but also better, more rounded people. And I think that’s painting it a bit black and white.

Blaugust Day 20: Gaming has opened so many doors to me, and I've met so many wonderful people through it.

Gaming has opened doors to me that would have been closed to me otherwise. I am a successful 25-year-old working in a gaming company where I have met people I love and cherish, where I have grown my confidence and nurtured a passion that I’ve always known I had. I met my fiancé through gaming, and we have been happily together for almost 10 years. As a coworker quipped recently, “The couple who plays together, stays together.” That’s of course simplifying things a lot, but I chuckled and realised that when we hang out, we game. And that’s awesome.

Gaming is stress relief to me. It helps fuel my creativity. When I play a game I enjoy, I am inspired to create things, normally through writing. While gaming may not be the most important thing in my life, it’s one of my greatest passions. I work where I work because I play games, and because I want to make gaming better for other people who play and love them as I do. While I think I’d still be good at my job if I were less of a gamer, my passion drives me and makes me want to make things better. I want to push myself and push the industry to improve.

I get what Kuchera is trying to say, really I do. I don’t think it’s healthy that people feel they’re being personally attacked when someone dislikes their chosen platform or game, and I have received very violent and horrible threats from people when I expressed distaste at a certain MMO many years ago. I know they took it too far. And gaming is not the most important thing in my life. I don’t suppose it’s the most important thing in most people’s lives. But these well-meaning people who tell me how to define myself, and those that say it’s bad to consider gaming a huge part of your life: thank you for your opinion, but I’m afraid that’s all it is. An opinion, right or wrong, doesn’t make me want to change the way I live my life or celebrate this one very big hobby of mine.

Blaugust Day 20: I'm happy to identify as a gamer. Even if that includes wearing Draven make-up.

I define myself as a creative person, a writer with an incredibly active and vivid imagination, someone who wants to share everything she can with the world. I define myself as someone who wants to make things better. And I define myself as a gamer, someone who loves to lose herself in distant lands and exciting storylines, and draws her inspiration from fighting dragons and overthrowing kingdoms, flying spaceships (or, more likely, crashing spaceships). And y’know what? I’m okay with that. I know that I cannot speak for all gamers, but that’s my point. I can only talk about how I identify, so no one else can determine what is and isn’t “right” for others.

How is defining yourself as a gamer any different than defining yourself as a writer? An artist? A musician? A film aficionado? A bookworm? I think there’s a difference between saying you are one of these things, and saying that one of these things is all you are. And I think this article and its commenters miss that point by a wide shot. It also seems that these people who tell others how they should define themselves often are the first to tell everyone about how full and rich their life is, with all the travelling and skydiving and bungee-jumping they do, while still fitting in family time and a little bit of their hobby on the side. I wonder why it is that they feel the need to share this to anyone who will listen, but crap all over the people who enjoy one thing in particular.

#Blaugust
Header courtesy of Belghast of Aggronaut.com.

Interested in taking part in Blaugust?

Check out the Nook on Anook, or Belghast’s post on the Gospel of Blaugust and get started! You don’t have to write a gaming blog, and your posts don’t have to be about gaming to participate. So come along and join the fun!

Gamescom is over!

Blaugust Day 19: Gamescom 2014 is over! I had so much fun.

Blaugust Day 19: Gamescom 2014 is over! I had so much fun.

Gamescom is finally over for another year, and I have to say despite it really taking its toll on me — as it always does — I’m a little sad to see it done! I had an amazing time, but unfortunately my Blaugust posting slipped as I was working 12 hour shifts every day and just wanted to sleep once I got back to the hotel! Not to mention we didn’t have the best wifi!

I met so many wonderful people; players I’d never met before, people I knew from Twitter, guildmates from Final Fantasy XIV, and even a friend I’ve known for almost 10 years from Gaia Online unexpectedly! Despite working my ass off, I managed to squeeze in some delicious beer and Schnitzel and even get some shopping done in the merchandise hall where I bought myself an adorable Tonberry plushie from the Square Enix stand!

Blaugust Day 19: They even let me go on stage...are they mad?

On Saturday I was on stage to interview Siv HD and Sp4zie, which was a lot of fun. They’re both really great guys; very friendly and naturally funny. They made the Q&A really easy, even when I was panicking a little because there was a lot of people in front of the stage! If you look really closely in that photo, that’s me all the way down on the left wearing the red tartan leggings. I had a blast — no pun intended, which anyone at the League booth will likely understand due to the t-shirts this year! — and I really hope I get the opportunity to do more stage work in the future.

Blaugust Day 19: Goodbye Gamescom 2014!

So goodbye gamescom, thank you so much to everyone I worked with, met and hung out with. I had so much fun, and even though I am absolutely exhausted I’m sorry it’s over! If you’d like to see more photos from the event, check out the Flickr account that I got these images from. I’ve missed a few days of Blaugust in the middle and need to catch up on comments, please bear with me!

#Blaugust
Header courtesy of Belghast of Aggronaut.com.

Interested in taking part in Blaugust?

Check out the Nook on Anook, or Belghast’s post on the Gospel of Blaugust and get started! You don’t have to write a gaming blog, and your posts don’t have to be about gaming to participate. So come along and join the fun!

Convention Hype!

Blaugust Day 10: Convention Hype! It's Gamescom time!

Do you feel that? That tingling feeling going from your nose to your toes? That’s convention hype, and I am practically bouncing off the walls with it! This week is the week that over 340,000 gamers around Europe look forward to literally all year: Gamescom week! As this post is scheduled, by the time it goes live I’ll be on my way to Cologne, Germany for a brief holiday (visiting lovely friends!) before I throw myself head first into Gamescom, one of the biggest gaming events worldwide.

I am so excited. The photo above is from last year, when a community intern and I were asked to hold the photographer’s camera while he signed something for someone, and we decided to steal a sneaky selfie. You can probably see the excitement on our faces.

I’m mentally and physically preparing myself (with beer, games and relaxation) for a week of long days, sore feet and a lost voice. But ultimately, it’s all going to be worth it as I get to hang out with the community that I feel I truly belong in, where I’ve made my career and where I plan to stay for a very long time. I hope I’ll see some of you there!

I will be aiming to continue with Blaugust during this week, hopefully accompanied by some photos from the event and tales of my adventures, but there’s a slight possibility that I’ll struggle to keep up so I apologise in advance if that happens! I will reply to everyone’s comments as soon as possible. I am completely overwhelmed and utterly thrilled with the people I’ve been able to meet through Blaugust so far, and it’s only just begun!

#Blaugust
Header courtesy of Belghast of Aggronaut.com.

Interested in taking part in Blaugust?

Check out the Nook on Anook, or Belghast’s post on the Gospel of Blaugust and get started! You don’t have to write a gaming blog, and your posts don’t have to be about gaming to participate. So come along and join the fun!

The good old days of MMOs

Blaugust Day 9: The good old days of MMOs, Final Fantasy XI!

I have always had a very over-active “nostalgia bone”, which tends to be my downfall when it comes to MMOs. I’m often tempted back into old MMOs that I haven’t played in a while because of it. This hasn’t really happened to me recently as I’ve most definitely found my home in Final Fantasy XIV, but I am not naive enough to think it won’t happen again sometime.

But one time I’d love to return to is the good old days of Final Fantasy XI. I didn’t reach level cap like I have done in other MMOs since, or like my friends did in FFXI on multiple jobs, but I still remember the game so fondly. I played it with Tilly of Paper Crowned; she was a veteran, whereas I had never played the game before but had always wanted to from watching friends play it in the past. I still fondly remember curling up in my old computer chair with a cup of tea for a spot of fishing with friends.

A lot of people complained about FFXI; it was a punishing game, with very little forgiveness. One of my least favourite memories is of dying after finally reaching the level that I could equip my next gear, so I ended up lying in a heap on the ground, completely naked. It wasn’t my finest moment, to say the least!

For some reason, this game holds a special place in my heart though. It was the first MMO I ever encountered, even though I wasn’t able to play due to not being able to pay for it myself (I was a young teenager!) and having paranoid parents who didn’t trust the internet at the time. So I settled for watching people playing, marvelling over how the characters really breathed and the cat girls that pranced around the beautiful environments. I listened to friends talk about what jobs they’d level and what they needed for their subjobs, what skills they wanted to level up.

I’m fully aware the game is vastly different to what it was before. I realise I probably won’t enjoy it the same way I did. But that doesn’t stop me from looking back on it fondly and remembering those great times that I spent with friends or all those wonderful people I met. And maybe one day I’ll give it a shot again!

#Blaugust
Header courtesy of Belghast of Aggronaut.com.

Interested in taking part in Blaugust?

Check out the Nook on Anook, or Belghast’s post on the Gospel of Blaugust and get started! You don’t have to write a gaming blog, and your posts don’t have to be about gaming to participate. So come along and join the fun!

Why I heal

Most people have a really profound reason behind their choice of role in an MMO — or, indeed, in any game — especially when it comes to healing or tanking. I am often a healer in MMOs, and fellow healers always seem to have had this in their history, something that’s just always been the case. Their go-to class, perhaps. But for me? It’s not really how it works.

My first ever class in an RPG-esque game was a Paladin in Neverwinter Nights. I played her with a greatsword and a focus on smacking things in the face, which means later I decided Fighter made more sense. In fact, T and I played NWN together a lot, and we always had our two iconic Fighters in fullplate with greatswords, and a huge roleplaying backstory behind them. It wasn’t until I played Final Fantasy XI that I began healing, and even then it wasn’t entirely by choice. I wanted to play a Dark Knight. I wanted to play melee DPS. All of my friends also, sadly, wanted to play melee DPS (even specifically picking Dark Knight) and that messed with our static party, so I decided to take the hit and play something different. I tried tanking and it didn’t feel the same, so I went with healing instead.

Ever since then, I’ve dabbled in DPS classes every time I start out in an MMO, only to end up ultimately switching to a healer for the “good of the party”. My current MMO, Final Fantasy XIV, is no different. I started out as an Archer with intentions of playing a Bard and going support-DPS, especially because I’d always admired my friend’s Bard in FFXI and while they’re pretty different, I thought it’d be fun. It was! And I even tried to play Arcanist into Summoner, but we had so many DPS players in my first Free Company that it made sense to switch. Since I wasn’t fond of the idea of tanking, I went with White Mage, and it’s kinda stuck ever since, with me switching out to DPS with my other static when I play with them.

To say I heal out of pure necessity would be a lie, however. One thing I think a lot of healers, and even tanks, have in common is that we like to feel needed, or like we’re making a really positive impact on the party. And that’s what keeps me coming back to healing. I feel important, and I feel like my role is necessary. Most of all, I feel challenged, and that’s what makes it all the more interesting.

#Blaugust
Header courtesy of Belghast of Aggronaut.com.

Interested in taking part in Blaugust?

Check out the Nook on Anook, or Belghast’s post on the Gospel of Blaugust and get started! You don’t have to write a gaming blog, and your posts don’t have to be about gaming to participate. So come along and join the fun!

Blaugust Day 7: Non-Specific Game Blogging

Blaugust Day 7: Non-Specific Game Blogging, can get lonely!

Belghast over at The Aggronaut mentioned in his most recent Blaugust post that non-specific game blogging isn’t a huge thing and doesn’t have much of a community, and this is something that I identify with a lot as it’s always been a concern of mine.

I started public blogging years ago, and I focused specifically on Final Fantasy XI. I was never a particularly well-known blogger in the FFXI community but a friend of mine was, and it always inspired me to see so many people engaging with one another. That’s what motivated me to get involved with blogging more actively, and so I continued the tradition into Aion where I became a little better known. I tried a few different MMOs and blogged about them, but I realised that I am not a one-game gamer. I play a wide variety of games; MMOs, RPGs, FPS…the list could go on for a rather long time. And so I realised that I was always going to want to talk about multiple games, which is what made me want to start a general gaming blog like this.

I was always concerned that talking about so many different games would mean no one would be interested in reading on a regular basis, because people wanted to read about the games they were interested in. They didn’t want to read about my interests, or the games they had no intention of playing! Why would they want to read my little blog? Along with that, I noticed that there are tons of gamers who write about their experiences in specific games, but very few who interact on a regular basis and talk about all the games they play. I was worried that I wouldn’t find a “home” in a community because I wasn’t focused.

Blaugust has shown me that there’s a lot of people out there who play games the way I do, and even more importantly, who talk about games in the same way I do. And that’s really encouraging! I hope that I’ll be able to talk to these people more often, and we can form our own community. Maybe I can even reform #GamerGathering, the Twitter chat I tried to get started but that ultimately fell on its face a bit as we only had a few people interested in the chat!

#Blaugust
Header courtesy of Belghast of Aggronaut.com.

Interested in taking part in Blaugust?

Check out the Nook on Anook, or Belghast’s post on the Gospel of Blaugust and get started! You don’t have to write a gaming blog, and your posts don’t have to be about gaming to participate. So come along and join the fun!

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

One of the few games I’ve purchased in Early Access, Divinity: Original Sin has been fully released and I’ve jumped headlong into it co-op with my fiancé this past weekend. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it, as I played during Early Access and encountered a bunch of bugs, not to mention died within my first hour and had to restart because I hadn’t saved. However, after trying it out in full release and co-op, I’ve had a mostly positive experience that I wanted to share with you!

Graphically, the game is stunning for a top-down RPG, and character creation is diverse. Players can play either singleplayer, where they take control of both Source Hunters, or co-op with a friend in which each player controls one of the two characters. These characters can be customised down to the ground, including gender and appearance, voice, and starting skills. There is a class selection which doesn’t seem to be too binding as it only selects what equipment and skills you start with.

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

The environments are beautiful, and as I mentioned the game itself is aesthetically pleasing. This helps enhance the exploration aspect, since you will be spending a lot of your time looking in corners for interesting secrets, as well as searching for adventure in every corner of the map. Conversations can be found anywhere, and you often have to “argue” with your partner (or other character if you’re playing solo) or even NPCs, and this is done through a Rock/Paper/Scissors mechanic which was a pleasant surprise!

Combat is turn-based, which is fun because there’s more tactics involved than your standard RPG which seems to have gone in the direction of hack-and-slash. In Divinity: Original Sin, you have to consider where is the best place to stand in combat, what spells to use and when, when to run and when to attack. I have had to reload to the beginning of fights before because of poor decisions on my part!

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

I will say, however, that the combat can be frustrating due to packs of enemies having far too much crowd control, meaning everyone in your party may end up stunned, blinded or knocked down for long periods of time. This can make combat very difficult, but not in a way that feels is under your control. This is exacerbated by the fact that my fiancé took a talent called Lone Wolf, which means we can only have one companion rather than two. A full party of four (including two “companions” picked up throughout the story) might make this less of a problem, but frequently we find I’m stunned, he’s knocked down and on fire, and our mage is blinded, which makes the fight unnecessarily frustrating.

You do have to remember to quicksave often, and when I say often, I mean often! Just like most classic RPGs, you may make mistakes, or make decisions in conversations that impact your storyline that you might regret shortly after, so it’s useful to have a loading point. Luckily, quicksaving is as simple as pressing F5 at (pretty much) any time, so it’s not difficult to keep your progress safe!

We’ve already invested around 18 hours into the game, and that’s nothing compared to the 75 hours my friends and coworkers took to complete it, not including all sidequests. The game is vast, and I’ve found myself playing it for extended play sessions without even noticing. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the classic RPGs like Baldur’s Gate or Neverwinter Nights, particularly if you have a friend or significant other you’ve been wanting to play a new game with!

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

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

How to not rage

How to not rage: Nerd rage shirt by J!NX.
Image courtesy of Jinx.com (Nerd Rage Women’s Tee)

Something I’ve been asked a lot is how I stay calm when playing video games. Considering I live with the world’s angriest gamer, I thought it’d be a good idea to talk about it! First of all, a disclaimer: I generally am very good, naturally, at playing games for fun even in a competitive environment, and am probably calmer than your average gamer because of it. I can laugh at mistakes I make, or those of my teammates, and still have a good time when I lose, so this will colour my post a little.

However, that said, even though I work in the games industry and often stream these days, I am not some paragon of calm and happy. I am not at all immune to raging, shouting, gritting my teeth at my screen or even having the urge to throw things around because of something that went wrong. The difference is I generally don’t voice my rage to other people, particularly not in the game, because one simple fact has stuck with me throughout my gaming “career”: flaming a person on your team does not improve their performance, nor does it make you more likely to win, and it does nothing to calm you down. In fact, if anything it makes that person play worse because they’re upset, it irritates your teammates thus making them perform poorly, and it’ll stoke the fire you’re holding in your chest making you more angry.

I am no stranger to competitive games. I have been playing FPS games since I was 12 or 13, and even played in local and national tournaments in Quake III and CPMA in particular. I was pretty good at Q3, but I often got psyched out and over time got frustrated when I didn’t win. It was not uncommon for me to stop after a 1v1 and close the game down, walk away from my PC and grumble to myself. I have even shouted in exasperation. Over the years, as my skill level has admittedly fallen, I’ve found myself getting more annoyed when things don’t go how I expected, particularly in FPS games where I feel like I can do better. They’re high energy and fast paced, so it’s a lot easier to feel explosive anger building up.

So what do I do? Well, first of all, I try to talk about it (or rant about it) to my fiancé. I tell him the stupid thing I just did, or the poor performance my team are putting on, or the ridiculous things the enemy seems to be capable of. I growl and I grumble. And if all else fails, I quit the game as soon as I can. If it’s a game where players can’t fill in for me, or there’s a punishment for leaving, I wait til the end of the match and then stop. After that? Get up and walk away from the PC. A change of environment can really encourage a change in mood.

One thing a coworker recommended to me was alt-tabbing out of the game. If you die, instantly alt-tab out. This way, you’re not tempted to type anything aggressive into chat that you may regret later. If you feel the need to say those things, type them into Notepad. You can delete it later. This is also a great way of breaking the cycle; alt-tabbing changes the environment a little, and allows you to calm down. Wait out your respawn timer if you have to and try to breathe. Four seconds in, six seconds out. Repeat. Then alt-tab back in and try again, refreshed.

Ultimately, I don’t think there’s a magical way to stop you from getting angry at games. Most passionate gamers do! But these were some tips to prevent it from impacting other people, and also to stop it from ruining your whole day.

Just Sayin’: Skimpy armour isn’t the devil

I like skimpy armour. There, I said it. I like armour that’s flattering to the form and still fantasy-friendly. Before you grab your pitchforks, hear me out. I’m not talking about female characters wearing straps of leather and pretending it protects them in some way, but y’know that Conan guy? Yeah, I think the bare-chested look with the loin cloth works for a big sword wielding fella, and why shouldn’t that be an option for the ladies too?

Realism is a wonderful thing in armour, and something I have a great deal of respect for. Breastplates without boob curves look fantastic, and even better if they don’t impale the poor women wearing them. However, I’m not averse to the infamous “boob window”, or characters that require a great deal of manoeuvrability wearing clothing that doesn’t restrict their form. While I’d probably prefer my rogue to be wearing form-fitting black leather that covers the majority of her body, with a hood to match, I’m not going to turn my nose up at a bit of cleavage, or a midriff displayed here and there.

I realise that some people will feel this makes me a bad feminist, because skimpy armour is there to objectify and overly sexualise women, however I don’t entirely agree. While yes, games like TERA are fairly renowned for their armour that borders on the ridiculous, I do feel that we’re conflicting here a little. To quote Dani Colman in her post The problem with false feminism (or why “Frozen” left me cold):

I don’t have a particular problem with women being sexualised on screen, either: as long as they aren’t objectified, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with celebrating that the female body can be a beautiful thing that is very appealing to show off.

Feminism states that women should be entitled to wear whatever they want in the real world. Shouldn’t women in the gaming world have the same options open to them? At least within reason.

Just sayin’…

The trouble with MMOs

The trouble with MMOs: I've fallen in love with WildStar, too.

If you’ve been following the blog or have known me for any length of time, you know that I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XIV since its launch and have been thrilled with it because, for the first time in my lengthy MMO “career” I’ve finally found a guild that I feel at home with. They’re a great bunch of people whom I get along with really well, and I’ve even been playing other games with them. In fact, I’ve even loosely organised to meet up with a few of them in real life over the next year or so. We’ve been completing content together at a reasonable, casual pace, and make sure to make time to play together at least once a week.

However, the problem is that I’ve got this new found love in WildStar. The game is beautiful, and it reminds me so much of the good times I had in World of Warcraft back when I played. And I mean that in a good way — it doesn’t feel like a “rip off” to me, and I’m really enjoying having a modern game that I not only love, but that I can play with friends.

Why is this a problem? Because I don’t have enough time to play all of the games I want to play!

The trouble with MMOs: I work to buy my video games, then have no time to play because of work!

As the image above says, like most people work to survive, I work so I can buy games that I can enjoy. And then I have only a few hours per day to dedicate to gaming…meaning I don’t have enough time to play those games. It’s a massive first world problem, and a very pleasant problem to have considering I know not everyone is as fortunate as I am, but damn if it isn’t frustrating to know that I have gone years without an MMO that captured my interest and fed my nostalgia muscle, and now I have two.

The trouble with MMOs is simply this: they’re incredibly time-consuming, and to some extent quite addictive, meaning it’s easy to get completely wrapped up in one game and realise you’ve neglected the other, but by that stage it’s too late and you’ve missed out on a bunch of content.

And please, don’t mention EVE Online to me. I have three active accounts and a corp to run, when all I want to do is prance around colourful fields and ride around on chocobos all day, every day. What’s a girl to do? I’m considering scheduling out my MMO time, for crying out loud!

Life Lately (14/06/2014)

Life Lately (11/06/2014)

I’m still here! My sincerest apologies for being so absent lately, life has been pretty busy, both in the wonderful realm of “real life” and my gaming adventures!

Many of you know that my mum has been in and out of hospital the last few months. The good news is she finally was scheduled for her surgery last week, and while there were some minor complications during the surgery she was released on Friday! I got to go visit her at the weekend, and it was really nice! For the first time in a while I didn’t bring my laptop as I was busy all weekend. I did learn that I make a mean fried egg sandwich while I was up! She is recovering fast, and will be back to her normal self within a few weeks.

In gaming news, I have been hopelessly addicted to WildStar since its launch last week. My spellslinger is only level 18 but I’ve tried my first adventure and had a blast! I’ve honestly been clocking most of my out-of-work hours into this game lately, so I haven’t been giving other games, or my blog, the love they deserve. For that I am very sorry!

Now, I had honestly considered taking a long break from Final Fantasy XIV because of my newfound addiction, but with Square Enix announcing Rogues, Ninja and marriage in FFXIV I’m really excited! Especially because SE even went ahead and announced same sex relationships. This shouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s great that they made the step other companies have been unwilling to do.

I will be back on my streaming schedule as of tonight, all being well, so feel free to catch me on my Twitch.tv channel for Scaredy-Cat Saturday at 10:00pm GMT+1 today!

Wildstar Headstart!

Wildstar is finally here! The headstart began on Saturday morning, and despite a rocky start due to a suspected DDoS attack and lengthy queues, the game is just as fun as expected. I posted a Wildstar First Impressions review a few weeks ago, and I stand by my original thoughts. Some of the things that bothered me about the game are fixable through a little bit of tweaking, which is exactly what I was hoping.

I’m playing an Aurin Spellslinger on Ascendancy (EU PvE), so if you happen to come along on that server, feel free to say hey! My character is called Lovely, though you may also see me on Sweetheart, Chasidah or Delight!

Twitch acquisition by Google/YouTube?

Is the Twitch acquisition by Google's YouTube going to go through?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, anyone who is familiar with streaming website Twitch knows that there are rumours of a Google/YouTube acquisition for $1 billion. If you’re interested in the back story, you can read the Polygon report, but here I want to talk about my personal thoughts and how this might impact streamers.

Obviously, my channel on Twitch is relatively small, with only 150+ followers so far, as I’ve only been streaming there for a short time. However I am a “Turbo” user, meaning I pay monthly in order to receive certain benefits (such as no ads, custom colours in chat and a different set of emotes) and also subscribe to two streamers on a regular basis. I also have intentions of continuing to stream there more regularly myself, and while I doubt I’ll ever have the viewerbase of some of the people I love there, I still feel it has the potential to impact me as a viewer and streamer alike.

Firstly, there are positive sides to this acquisition assuming it goes through. For example, Google is notorious for having excellent server coverage across the globe, which is something Twitch currently, unfortunately, lacks. It’s no secret that their data centres struggle from time to time with the massive population of European users, not to mention an incredibly poor experience in Oceania. With a Google acquisition, could we expect to see increased stability and better service worldwide?

A lot of streamers are pretty concerned about the bid. YouTube has notoriously not been the most supportive of its content creators recently, making it frustrating for viewers to comment on videos, hassling creators into using their real names on videos (and repeatedly prompting them to do so if they say no), and various issues with copyright claims. If these kinds of issues come to Twitch, this would make the experience of streaming and watching streams extremely frustrating and not at all user-friendly.

However, with all that said, there are just as many streamers — including those with larger viewerbases — who don’t seem at all concerned, and are patiently awaiting more information. On the plus side, the reports explain that talks are still ongoing, and nothing is settled for sure just yet. Also, there are claims that part of the discussions will be on how independent Twitch can continue to operate if they are picked up by another company, which is great. There are plenty of companies out there, especially games companies, that have managed to retain their independence despite being acquired by a bigger company. I’ll withhold too much of my judgement until we get more information, as at least for the timebeing it’s still just a rumour. We’ll see how it goes!

What are your thoughts?
Let me know in the comments below!

First Impressions: Wildstar

First Impressions: Wildstar - Beautiful environments, adorable characters.

This week, Wildstar opened its arms to players for its open beta period, and I figured it was as good a time as any to give the game a shot. I’d been watching from afar, listening to what friends said (mostly positive) but not sure I was all that interested. However, after playing in the open beta, I can honestly say I am! As always, I’ll be honest; there are great things about the game, and quite a few gripes, which I’ll share in the hopes that anyone considering buying the game will make the commitment with as much information as possible.

First of all, the game is cute and I find myself immersed despite its cartoony aesthetic and super-saturated palette. Character creation is fun, and I immediately fell in love with the Aurin (purple hair!) and their bouncy personalities. The classes aren’t your usual fare; while there’s some similarities in the classes available to you, esper and spellslinger are a bit different from your usual mage and ranger archetypes, and the more active combat style works really well. This is what put me off other MMOs like Tera, so I’m surprised it works so well here. Combat did strike me as odd at first, but after I got used to it I found myself enjoying the mobility a lot.

First Impressions: Wildstar - Making friends with the local wildlife.

Questing is fun, even though I heard the opposite from a few friends. I especially like that, as an “Explorer”, I get to complete little side missions that involve exploring the map and finding trees to climb or radioactive pools to mark. I haven’t tried PvP yet, and I’m not sure when I will, but for now I’m having a lot of fun in the PvE.

One of my favourite things about the game, however, is its soundtrack. The musical score is gorgeous, reminiscent of Firefly in some places, and Star Wars in others. Everything about the game’s atmosphere has been perfected; every sound is really fitting for the environment. This is something particularly important to me, as I realised that a lot of my nostalgia for WoW was flared up by the sound and aesthetic of the game.

I do have some issues with the game, as I mentioned. The first thing I noticed was that the game runs really hot on my GPU, which is shocking as other more powerful, graphically intensive games run upwards of 20ºC cooler. The temperature varies wildly as well, no matter what I do with my video settings. V-sync changes nothing, and tweaking the settings seems to make no difference. My temps will be low for a few minutes then soar randomly for a while, before settling down again. There seems to be very little rhyme or reason for it as well, though I did notice my temps are always high indoors.

I also hate the camera with a fiery passion. It sticks pointing downwards at my character, seemingly at random, and it’s incredibly annoying. I’ve been told there are add-ons that resolve this kind of problem, and make the camera follow you at all times, however I’ve yet to find this add-on and am frustrated that I have to use an add-on to resolve something so simple.

First Impressions: Wildstar - Naradra, my Aurin Spellslinger for beta, but probably not my character at launch.

Ultimately, the problems I have with the game aren’t enough to put me off, and I did end up preordering so I could play with a friend. Would I recommend it? Yes, but only if you’re happy with a brightly coloured, very cartoony aesthetic, and more action-oriented combat rather than just stand-still-and-press-buttons. There’s still a lot of pressing of buttons to activate abilities, but there’s a lot more movement and manual targetting (though you can set yourself to auto-target your selected enemy in PvE.) If you are interested in the game, you can get 20% off on Green Man Gaming by using the following code: FUSWJT-B1DU64-JBV8UY

That will obviously only last for a while, but get it while you can if you are interested!

Why I stream

WHY I STREAM: via Twitch

Many of you know that I like to stream video games on my little Twitch.tv channel. Something I’ve noticed a lot since I started is the attitude a lot of people have towards streamers, and one big question always comes up. Why do you stream?

I’ve heard people’s opinions that streamers only stream for attention, to get famous, to make money or exploit viewers, and various other interesting takes on streaming as a whole. And while the “for attention” reasoning often gets used against women who stream, regardless of how those ladies might live up to people’s various standards of “respectability,” it does get used against all streamers by certain people. Even though I don’t feel the need to justify myself to anyone, I wanted to share my reasons behind streaming, because it was a question I asked myself a lot.

There are a few reasons. Initially, I started streaming because I loved watching streams and they always encouraged me to play games. The interactions seemed so much fun that I felt like I wanted that too, and so I decided to give it a try. While I doubt I’ll ever have a viewership as big as some of the streamers I love watching and interacting with, I love talking to the people who do come along and hang out, and sharing my enjoyment with other people is something I’ve done in all things I do for years.

I also found it helped me a lot with my confidence. While I am loud and somewhat obnoxious in real life (and on camera!) I use this as a way of hiding how shy I am. I’m pretty introverted, and I am really socially awkward and lack confidence in myself. I’d heard streaming in particular helped with other people’s confidence even more than making videos or blogging etc, because it’s live and people are actively watching you play and talk. So I tried it, first without a webcam, and later with one. It has helped a lot, though I’m definitely not there yet!

WHY I STREAM: The power of friendship! (League of Legends' Teambuilder feature)
Source: League of Legends Teambuilder Announcement

But the biggest reason of all is pretty silly, but one that means a lot to me. I’ve always envied friends who had a large group of people playing the same game as them, usually World of Warcraft or another MMO, that I never really had. Most of my gaming buddies live in the US so our gaming times conflict and worse still, there’s lag to contend with and often server issues such as NA and EU being separate. Because of this, I often only play solo or occasionally with my fiancé, depending on the game. We do have one mutual friend we play with, but again, I don’t have the large group of people who play the same game.

With streaming, I feel like I can overcome this. I can have 10 – 50 people watching me and talking to me while I play a game. Sure, we’re not always in the game together (though sometimes we are!) but viewers often jump in with tips, or jokes, or just plain keep me company while I play. This is especially important to me when I’m playing horror games because I am a chicken! Having people talking to me makes it all a little less scary than it is if I play alone. I’ve made some great friends through streaming, be they other streamers or just people who happened to drop by one day and stuck around. They’re people I play games with outside of streaming, and that’s something that’s helped me feel less lonely in the gaming community.

Do I like the attention I receive? Sure, it’s nice to receive a compliment from time to time, but it’s certainly not the reason most people stream, and I think those who use it as an insult don’t realise that with the good attention comes the bad; the trolling, the flaming, and the sexist or hateful remarks. But the fun you have can often outbalance that, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Why do you stream or watch streamers?
Let me know in the comments below!

My “Stack of Shame”

If you haven’t heard of it before, the Stack of Shame is that pile of games you’ve acquired, these days often on Steam and frequently through Steam’s many notorious sales, that you’ve never completed, perhaps never played, or even worse, never installed. Since mine is ever increasing in size to the point that I think it may start absorbing the power of the games I choose not to buy in order to sustain its ridiculous growth, I figured it would be good to share some of the high profilers on my own personal Stack of Shame!

I am looking purely at Steam purchases, as generally when I buy a physical copy of a game it’s because I intend on playing it right then and right there. I also don’t add my non-Steam games to Steam for tracking, so they won’t be present.

TOP GAMES I NEED TO PLAY ON MY STACK OF SHAME:

1. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood & Assassin’s Creed II
2. Batman: Arkham Asylum & Batman: Arkham City
3. Bioshock 2
4. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
5. Crysis 2
6. Dishonored
7. Divinity Original Sin
8. Fallout: New Vegas
9. RAGE
10. Sleeping Dogs
11. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery
12. Thief
13. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
14. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

These are all games I’ve never installed, with the exception of Dishonored and Divinity Original Sin, which I installed but only played briefly. All of these are games I’d love to play and complete!

Now, for the collection I’m actually ashamed of. The games I don’t remember buying, or don’t know why I bought, or in some cases have never even heard of…

THE REALLY SHAMEFUL GAMES ON MY STACK OF SHAME:

1. Blade Symphony
2. Contagion
3. Deadlight
4. Evochron Mercenery
5. The Path

I don’t remember buying any of those games. Worse still, I’m not really sure I’ve even heard of The Path. How does this even happen?! I’m going to make it my goal this year to complete at least a few of the games on my SoS. What games have you bought but never installed or played?

Fake guy gamers

Superman & Lois Lane by Joe Shuster & Jerry Siegel.
Image source: Comics Alliance

In complete contrast to my post about how harmful calling people “fake girl gamers” could be to the community, I came across an article today on Comics Alliance called Fake Geek Guys: A Message to Men About Sexual Harassment that completely fascinated me.

I encourage you to read the full article over there, but the gist of the message is that the sexism and misogyny that run rampant in the geek and gaming community is not okay. The angle that the writer, Andy Khouri, tackles this from is that a “real” geek guy will realise that these kinds of threats are not only stupid, but incredibly harmful and frankly dangerous.

“I will find you. I will hurt you. I will physically violate you… for being wrong about Spider-Man.”

Can you imagine, gentlemen, receiving that threat from a potentially dangerous man whose identity you have no hope of discovering but who knows your name, what city you live in, what you look like and where you work?

Now imagine receiving messages like that from men so frequently that you’re no longer bothered by it.

Now understand how f*cked up it is that you’re no longer bothered by it; that you’re no longer bothered by men’s anonymous threats of brutal sexual violence, because they’ve become just as common as a train not arriving on time.

– Andy Khouri, Comics Alliance

The quote above, taken from the article I linked, is what was so interesting to me. I have genuinely never thought of it this way. The way this has been worded provoked me to think back and remember the times I’ve been threatened with some form of violence, including sexual, on the internet. I was astounded. The first time it happened I had just left school and was working in a gaming centre. A young teenager and his friends threatened me online with some very violent sexual acts that I won’t repeat here, and why? Because I voiced my negative opinion on World of Warcraft (after playing it for a year, mind you.) It scared me at the time because these boys knew where I worked, my full name and what I looked like. I remember how that first threat impacted me so profoundly and how scared I was. But what shocked me was that it’s happened several times since. I’ve seen it happen to other people online and I’ve barely even batted an eyelid. I’ve even just shook my head and thought, “Oh, there go those keyboard warriors again,” like it’s something that just happens.

This isn’t something that should just happen, and despite my vehemence against calling out people for being “fake” in our community, this feels like a healthy way to use that term. People who are passionate about their geeky interests should be aware that, as Khouri says, our superheroes and our gaming idols don’t do misogyny and sexism and rape threats. And if they do? They’re not really the kind of heroes we should be supporting.

Make sure you read the full post by Andy Khouri here on Comics Alliance.

Throwback Thursday: My first MMO experience

Throwback Thursday: My first MMO experience - Final Fantasy XI.

My first MMO experience wasn’t through actually playing an MMO. I was a member of an online community when I was about 14 or 15, and we had a guild of people from all around the world. All of my guildmates were into this MMO game; a genre I had never heard of. It was over 10 years ago now, so you can’t really blame me! The MMO in question was Final Fantasy XI.

A guildmate whom I also knew offline was playing, and when I was at his house with some friends one day I remember him starting to play it. I was completely enraptured, especially when I saw the catgirl race, Mithra, for the first time. I watched him play, and day in and day out I read posts on our forum about this game and how my guildmates were levelling, what “Jobs” they needed to level. I remember hearing them talking about levelling White Mage in order to become a better Paladin, and I didn’t really understand it but I knew I wanted to play.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t, because it required a subscription and unsurprisingly by teenage self didn’t have a debit or credit card and my parents really didn’t want to pay for a subscription game. So instead, I looked on longingly and eventually ended up playing my first RPG as a result of my burning desire to explore Vana’diel. This was where my first exposure to The Elder Scrolls series also began, as I picked up Morrowind as a kind of consolation prize, and I’m glad I did!

Throwback Thursday: My first MMO experience - Playing FFXI recently.

It was many years, and even a few MMOs played, before I ended up getting my paws on FFXI, thanks to Tilly at LoveTilly.com who decided to hop back into the game again after a long break. I joined her, and played on and off until very recently when I decided to give it a break due to lack of people to play. The MMO does still have a special place in my heart, though. It was my first exposure to MMOs, introduced me to the wonderful world of RPGs, and even sparked my first public blogging experience as I blogged about my XI antics.

What was your first MMO experience?
Let me know in the comments!

Life Lately (16/04/2014)

Life Lately (16/04/2014)

I have been really slacking on the blogging front lately, and I’m really sorry! Every evening has been super busy with the massive (and growing!) list of games I have to play and at the weekend I was away, so I’ve been a little bit absent and even missed my Screenshot Sundays. Whoops!

In gaming news, I’ve been playing EVE Online and got my main pilot (the pirate lady) back into high sec finally, after spending a rather large amount of ISK to get tags for security status. It was a pain in the ass, but it’s done now and I’m glad! Now I can travel through high sec without people (legally) being able to shoot me. This is great, as I can start doing missions again on her, and even start moving more freely around space to find a place to set up shop for our new piracy/PvP corp.

However the big gaming news, for me at least, is that my Free Company in FFXIV managed to down Turn 4 of Coil last night! For non FFXIV players, the Binding Coil of Bahamut (or Coil, for short) is the first “raid” players encounter, and is split into phases. Turn 4 has been giving us trouble, so it was exciting to down it last night three times, and even get my healing robe! A few of us got loot so it was definitely a great raid night. We do need to grow our FC a little as we’re struggling to get enough people together for events, but at least we have fun together.

As far as real life is concerned, I went to visit my family at the weekend as I needed to visit my family doctor. It was a great weekend; I picked up a wireless Xbox 360 controller/receiver combo for my PC (even though I already have two wireless controllers…finding a receiver was difficult!) and played a little bit of Dark Souls. My family and I went out for dinner on Sunday evening and my mum and I managed to squeeze in a coffee date before I left on Monday.

The big news is that I ordered my new PC! I’ll be sharing the specs and a review of the website I used to purchase it as soon as I receive my order, but it should be arriving this morning. I’m really excited; it’s a massive upgrade and has even encouraged us to make a better gaming space in our apartment, which will make me feel much more comfortable about streaming again. I will even be creating a better streaming schedule, especially now that I have a brand new and shiny webcam on its way too!

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - My bosmer admiring the Ebonheart Pact landscape.

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - So reminiscent of Morrowind.

This is going to be a slightly different First Impressions post, as all of my previous posts in the series have been overwhelmingly positive, and as an upfront disclaimer this post won’t be. Some of you have probably read my post on why I won’t be playing ESO, so this one may come as a surprise to you. That’s right, I picked up The Elder Scrolls Online despite promising myself I wouldn’t. Before you try to burn me at the stake, in my defence I got a great deal on it and stuck to my guns on the Imperial Edition being the worst thing to happen to gaming ever (okay…not ever, but it was still pretty bad!)

I’m really glad I tried the game. It’s surprisingly pretty in a lot of ways, particularly the environments. The Ebonheart Pact zones are so reminiscent of Morrowind, the first TES game I played, and frankly I appreciate that, even if it is what some would consider slightly fan-servicey. The environments are a lot more lore friendly than I thought, and while the quests are a bit “fetch and return”, there’s still a bit more variety to them which makes them more entertaining than your average grindy questing experience in MMOs.

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - My bosmer nightblade, Sirantha.

I went with Ebonheart Pact because I initially planned to when I was excited about the game last year, and Nord was the race I planned on going before I picked up the preorder copy allowing me to play any race in any faction. Also, my boss was there and offered to get me into a guild he’s a member of, and the environments appealed to me. I have a Nord Dragonknight and a Bosmer Nightblade primarily, with a focus on the latter. The combat is fun, if a little confusing due to the skill trees, but at least it still feels somewhat open to allow for a lot of self-development and lack of restricted weapons and armour combinations. This makes for interesting class combinations like Sorcerer tanks and healing Templars, which is alien to me but seems fun.

Exploration is rewarding, as well as a great deal of fun to do. I love finding little hidden chests and battling to unlock them, then receiving some small item to say, “Good job! You found this before other people did.” There’s also vampires and werewolves in-game, and how you become one of either is pretty interesting — one method is to have players bite you at a ritual site (which they can do once every seven days) to contract the disease that morphs into these two supernatural beings, giving you an additional skill tree to draw on.

I have genuinely enjoyed the time I’ve invested so far, and will definitely be playing a little bit more. However, despite the fun I’ve had and the few hours I’ve invested, I don’t think I’ll be subscribing, at least not yet. Why? Apart from the fact that I’m already invested in two subscription MMOs, there are a lot of flaws I see that are putting me off, at least for now. The paygated race still sticks in my craw; despite it not giving any bonuses it still feels like a cheap trick. But that’s something I knew before buying the game, so what else gets me?

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - Pretty skies that remind me of my first night in Skyrim.

First of all, I’ve always played every single game in The Elder Scrolls series in first person. I find it far more immersive and have always enjoyed it. It just doesn’t feel like a valid option in TESO; the FoV is absolutely wretched and I can’t find a way to modify it so far, and as there’s a large amount of PvP in the game — with it arguably being the whole point — being in first person would put me at an obvious disadvantage. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for how awkward third person feels. It’s clunky, and I’m not sure I like it. The combat is punishing, which is fine, but it is relatively frustrating to die repeatedly even in low level PvE content. Yes, this is somewhat a case of l2p, but I don’t know if I’m willing to put in the effort when this was never a problem in previous TES games, even on the hardest difficulties.

I’m also not a big fan of PvP in MMOs, with very rare exceptions (EVE Online being a very notable one where I went full PvP and even pirating) so I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be getting out of the game, particularly if I don’t want to do end-game since I’m already invested in and enjoying another MMO full-time.

There are a lot of oddities that bother me, such as the fact that you only receive one copy of the preorder/beta items, and if you happen to delete your character that received the item, as many people have done due to playing around with classes, that’s the item gone forever. Can you contact support to have it returned? Probably. Should you have to? Absolutely not.

First Impressions: The Elder Scrolls Online - My Nord Dragonknight exploring the old starter island.

Ultimately, I won’t be continuing my subscription after my free 30 days are up. Will I come back to it? Probably, because it is a lot of fun, but not for a little while yet. It may not be the game for me right now, but it’s certainly not deserving of the huge amount of hate it’s received (though, nor is it particularly deserving of the massive hype surrounding it either, in my humble opinion.) Should you pick it up? That depends. If you’re looking for just another MMO, this won’t be for you, the same for if you’re looking for an Elder Scrolls game. It isn’t really either, it’s somewhere in between. It’s definitely a change of pace, with some adopted features from Guild Wars 2, and a lot of similarities to Dark Age of Camelot and even to some extent Warhammer: Age of Reckoning in its Realm vs Realm style combat and keep sieges. If you think you’ll enjoy that, by all means, this might just be the game for you. It’s fun, but something I will keep on the backburner for when I have the time to invest into it fully.

A thought on veteran rewards

A thought on veteran rewards.The lovely Zuu over at Zuulzilla.com made an interesting comment in a conversation we were having on Twitter the other day, as you can see over to the right. Zuu doesn’t believe players who have played longer than others should receive special treatment through veteran rewards. The reason I find this interesting is that I personally think veteran rewards are a nice boost, a way of saying thank you perhaps. I hadn’t considered that it would actually reinforce the “timecore” aspect I had mentioned in my recent Just Sayin’ post on Hardcore vs Casual play.

I’ve seen veteran rewards as a method of thanking players for subscribing, perhaps through exclusive mounts, pets or other benefits after a few months. Everyone will receive them as long as they subscribe for that period of time. But there are other methods out there, such as giving characters bonuses based on how long they’ve been around.

So I turn the question to you guys — do you think veteran rewards are a good idea, or terrible? In what instances have you seen them before?

Check out Zuu’s blog, and you can also find her over on Twitter!

How I fell for Titanfall

Titanfall Review: Wall-running is the coolest thing ever.

Titanfall Review: Some pretty cutscenes from the campaign.

I would normally do a First Impressions post about a game when I pick it up, but considering I’ve fallen head over heels for Titanfall since getting my paws on it last week, I don’t know if a First Impressions would honestly do it any justice.

While I have noticed some problems — there are some minor issues with hit detection, and I have already encountered a few blatantly obvious cheaters — I can easily look past the few flaws I’ve met, and the fact that it is kind of a rehashed Call of Duty with giant robots because the game makes me feel like a badass. I wasn’t sure if it would live up to the hype, but after five minutes in the tutorial and my first wall-running experience, I was legitimately giggling with glee.

For those of you who don’t know me, I played Quake III: CPMA semi-competitively (on a local level in local tournaments) and was pretty damn good at it. But without going into too much detail, movement was my jam. I loved rocket-jumping, strafing at ridiculous speeds, and drifting. Admittedly I was better at shooting rockets and grenades at other people than using them to propel myself, but I loved flying around corners and surprising people. With guns. So when I discovered I could run along a wall, bounce to a nearby wall, and then practically somersault from wall to wall for extended distances before landing on a roof and kicking someone in the face, I was sold on the spot.

Titanfall Review: Life is better with a titan.

My favourite moment of sheer badassery so far has been spotting a teammate fighting with an enemy in an upper floor room. I sprinted along one wall, sprang across to the wall of the building they were fighting in, climbed the wall sideways and flew through the window only to kick the enemy in the face as he tried to propel himself out the window in escape. I felt more like a boss than any game has made me feel in a long time.

A few gripes would be that all of the weapons are hit-scan, so pretty much point and shoot regardless of range, and matchmaking can be a bit frustrating at times. I’m also in the camp of people who thinks the smart pistol is silly, as it auto-locks onto nearby targets — this takes longer for pilots (ie other players) than for NPCs — making it a little easier in theory to use, however I don’t find it enough of a deterrent to stop me from having fun.

Do I think the game is worth it? Hell to the yes. However, I don’t think it’s everyone’s cup of tea. Non-FPS gamers will probably hate it anyway, and if you really didn’t like Call of Duty you might find the weapons feel a little weird at first. I was always more of a Battlefield player, but I did play COD2 and MW1, so I was at least vaguely familiar with the “feel” of the game. Why did I end up loving it when COD wasn’t really my game before? One sentence from the TV advert really summed it up for me:

Life is better with a titan.

First Impressions: Banished

First Impressions: Banished - The fun part of RTS games, city-building!

I’ve heard a lot of interesting things about Banished in the last two weeks, with people recommending it and others crying in frustration at their village being destroyed by a tornado. I knew I had to check it out, and I was only too pleased that it wasn’t an Early Access game; even if it’s just a perception the Early Access phenomenon really bothers me.

I wouldn’t say the game is especially pretty, but its aesthetic fits what it’s trying to do, and it’s extremely impressive that it was all created by one developer. The premise is that you have a group of exiled people who now have to rebuild their life. Think somewhere between Sim City, Age of Empires and Black & White (but without the pet). It’s actually a lot of fun, and I’ve been able to throw 10 hours at it without really noticing. I have just finally stopped starving my citizens, something I feel pretty proud about.

The struggles you’ll face are what you’d expect: starvation, freezing, disease, and natural disasters for example. Most of these can be easily combated by collecting food to store for the winter, gathering logs and changing them into firewood, building hospitals etc. However for a long time I seemed to be perpetually terrible at feeding my people! It’s hard to manage your population as if you build too many houses, your population will slowly expand, and if you don’t have the resources to support that growth your people will start dying. Luckily, Gatherers seem to be an insanely good early game food production method, so I’ve been able to start off a new town and grow to 50+ adults (plus students and children) with pretty steady growth.

All in all, though, it’s a great game for someone like me, who enjoys the building and resource gathering phases of an RTS, but not the micro-managing aspects of army-building and invading my enemies. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys building and resource simulations, it’s a lot of fun and not too badly priced! Pick up Banished for €18.99 on Steam now.

What’s new in 2.0.1? (Diablo III)

Diablo III's new patch features a cinematic viewing feature straight from the main menu!

Replacing all my Demon Hunter's gear with yellows from the new loot system.

Diablo III Patch 2.0.1 sees the franchise taking a step back to its roots, with gameplay feeling far more reminiscent of Diablo II. This is definitely something I can get behind; while I enjoyed the game as it was, it did feel a bit tedious to go back and farm for gear and the auction house truly felt like a poor choice. With the new loot system, legendaries drop more regularly, and gear is more likely to be for your class, rather than picking up that useless battleaxe for the barbarian you never play.

I’ve been playing quite a bit in the last few days, and have to say it’s a lot of fun! I’ve replaced a lot of set pieces and legendaries on my demon hunter with yellows and additional legendaries that have dropped, and saw my DPS soar from 150k to 200k in minutes. The changes to class abilities don’t go unnoticed either; my companions now feel much more useful with my wolf giving my party and I a boost to our damage. Much appreciated!

The new loot system is dubbed “Loot 2.0”, and apart from just increasing drops and their usefulness, it actually binds legendary and set piece drops to the player’s account. The drops can be traded with any other players who were present when the item dropped, but otherwise they’re yours permanently. It seems that crafting has become more viable and fun as well, meaning I don’t feel so bad breaking down my gear. Or was it just me who shied away from doing that before?

New difficulty in Patch 2.0.1 including Torment.

There’s also a whole new difficulty system, which seems to replace the “Monster Level” that was in place before. I’m currently running around on Torment I or II depending on who I’m with. I haven’t tried soloing these difficulties on my demon hunter, but as a small group of three we were running some XP routes to farm Paragon levels, and it was pretty effective and fun! The new Paragon system also means that Paragon levels transfer across all of your characters, and each level allows you to put a point in different stats. For example, in the “Offense” tree, I can put points into my primary stat and increase my damage, or I can put points into Utility and Defence as I earn them.

Players can now join Communities and Clans via the in-game menu.

There is also a new Community and Clans system, allowing players to join other likeminded people. I haven’t joined any Communities or Clans yet, but I’m thinking of talking with some friends to see if we’d like to create something. Either way, it seems like a good system similar to guilds in MMOs, and while it’s far from the most exciting feature from the patch, it’s definitely worth mentioning.

If you’re interested, I’d recommend checking out the full patchnotes. For those of you who have been playing, what’s your favourite feature of the new patch?

What to do at level 50 (FFXIV)

What to do at level 50 (FFXIV)

(Please note that this guide is slightly outdated as gear is very much different, and Tomestones of Philosophy no longer exist. But some of the other tips are still very relevant!)

So you’ve just hit level 50 in Final Fantasy XIV and you’re a bit overwhelmed. Where on earth do you start? Well, luckily there are plenty of things for a new level 50 in FFXIV, so here are some suggestions based on my own experience.

1. Finish off your main storyline.

The storyline is genuinely one of FFXIV‘s greatest assets; it’s fun, engaging, and unlocks a whole host of interesting content for you to work on. Some examples are a few additional dungeons, and your Relic weapon, which will be arguably one of the best things you’ll receive in-game.

2. Start your Relic quest and get your Relic weapon.

Starting your Relic quest is as simple as speaking to Nedrick Ironheart, an NPC in Vesper Bay, and accepting “A Relic Reborn.” You can repeat this quest for each job you hit 50 on, however after you finish it once, subsequent quests will be accepted directly from another NPC called Gerolt. The quest itself has a lot of steps and will take a little while to finish, however you’re lucky if you’re starting now, as the “Notorious Monster” style fights you have to complete can now be queued up for via the Duty Finder! Make sure to unlock Amdapor Keep, and get started on your Primal fights. You’ll probably want to have one of the Primal weapons to be able to complete Titan Hard Mode, as it is a bit of a DPS race and can be a big test for healers. You’ll also want a few pieces of your Darklight armour, which I’ll get to next! Once you’ve got your Relic, however, how do you get your Zenith weapon? Easy! You can upgrade it by trading it to the furnace next to Gerolt along with three items, which can be purchased in Mor Dhona (Revenant’s Toll) for 300 Tomestones of Mythology each.

3. Gear up! Get your Darklight armour set.

Darklight armour is the first set you’ll start collecting. To do so, simply complete some level 50 dungeons such as Wanderer’s Palace or Amdapor Keep. These will award you with Tomestones of Philosophy (some earlier dungeons will give a small amount too) after each boss, and Tomestones of Mythology. The Philosophy stones are for Darklight gear, and the Mythology stones allow you to get your AF2 gear.

4. Level up alternate classes to unlock cross-class actions.

You can use multiple cross-class skills, depending on which job you’re playing. For example, the ideal cross-class abilities for white mage would be Swiftcast (Thaumaturge), Surecast (Thaumaturge), Virus (Arcanist), and Eye for an Eye (Arcanist). Each job will have its own preferences, and each class will have really useful skills to share. Virus is one as I mentioned before, but also Raging Strikes and Quelling Strikes from Archer can be useful for ranged DPS. Make sure to unlock the ones most useful to you by levelling up the relevant class and equipping them in your spellbook (P).

5. Join a Free Company!

This one sounds so obvious, and is shockingly something I usually reject. I sometimes want the solo experience, even in an MMO, so feeling forced into a social group can be intimidating and even annoying. But my fun levels have increased tenfold by joining a great guild that really fitted me, and I now find that I log on just to hang out with them and help where I can. A lot of the game’s content can be completed solo or using random groups, but nothing beats a Free Company group! And if you’re looking for a home, Cake is recruiting on Odin!

Got more questions about things to do at level 50 in FFXIV? Let me know in the comments!

First Impressions: Magicite

First Impressions: Magicite - Spawning with monsters right in front of you, pretty dangerous!

First Impressions: Magicite - A variety of biomes makes the game surprisingly pretty.

It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for 8-bit, pixellated or voxel games. They tickle my nostalgia bone, and with focus being thrown away from graphics you can generally find some little gems with amazing gameplay. I picked up Magicite after seeing some screenshots from Jewel at Whimsical Zombie and knew immediately I needed to try this game.

Without really noticing, I’ve already clocked in almost 8 hours of this adorable little game. It’s fun, and ridiculous at the same time. At the weekend, we played as a group of three and the first thing I did was smack my friend round the head with my axe. Good job, self! I didn’t know that party-damage was on, so a few more smacks happened before we realised we were all damaging each other.

First Impressions: Magicite - Some of the monsters you encounter are a bit crazy. I mean, come on, a dinosaur?!

Magicite features procedurally generated dungeons, meaning you never see the same layout twice. The game features a variety of biomes each with their own set of nasties; little mushrooms armed with axes and shields, tiki-masked beasties firing little blue magic missiles at you, and even dinosaurs that cause giant green balls of…something to fall from the sky. The environment is pretty unforgivable. Somehow, despite how simple the concept of the game is, it’s insanely addictive, and fun whether you play with friends or alone. I find I generally get further by myself, or with one other person. At least then I’m not competing for resources and mourning the fact that my buddy has an iron pickaxe while I’m still beating rocks with a glorified stick.

First Impressions: Magicite - Something I see a little more often than I'd like to admit...

I definitely recommend this game to anyone looking for a fun, easy to pick up crafting adventure. Magicite is just €8.99 right now on Steam!

Just Sayin’: Early Access Sucks

Just Sayin': Early Access Sucks

Hi guys! I’d really like you to read my blog post about why Early Access sucks, but it’s not quite finished yet. So for the low, low price of my hosting costs, you get to read this post before anyone else! Aren’t I generous?

No, for real though. Something that’s been grinding my gears for some time is this Early Access phenomenon. Back towards the end of 2013, a few games were announced, primarily on Steam, and were marketed as “Early Access.” Just like Minecraft; remember that? Before we gave Notch all of our money? It was cool. Really, it was. A game goes on Kickstarter, people get to show their faith in the developer and help fund the development costs of the game. Miss the campaign? No problem, you can pick it up in early access, possibly for more than the Kickstarter pledges cost, and still join in with the early adopters. I struggled a bit with games like Planetary Annihilation that were charging what I thought was an extortionate amount, but fans explained the reasoning and I got off my soap box.

Then we entered 2014: arguably the year of the Early Access. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a new game pop up on Steam, advertised as “Early Access.” Many of these games are incredibly, awfully broken, and use the Early Access stick to beat you away with your complaints. Most of them would probably be better suited to the title of, I don’t know…”beta”? Maybe even “alpha”, at some points. At this point, it’s becoming an invitation to pay to test a game that simply isn’t complete.

So what, I hear you say? I want the game now, and I’m willing to pay! Who are you to tell me what to do with my money? Remember Cube World? I paid for the “Early Access.” I played, and it was buggy. But that’s okay, they’ll fix it, right? Nope. The developer decided he wasn’t going to bother communicating with the community any more, and seemingly all but ran off with the money, with a few token tweets here and there after people begged him to come back. I’m not sure where that game is as far as development is concerned. To tell you the truth, I lost faith in the devs after they buggered off with not a word and only a broken game in their legacy.

Early Access genuinely did mean something. Now, it’s just an easy way out for developers. I’m not saying stop supporting indie studios, far from it. I know someone who is currently one-man-army’ing his own games engine and first video game. I think supporting indie studios is the way forward. But can we just start calling it like it is? Beta testing was honest, it was fun, and it was a free way for people to test your game and give you valuable feedback. Charging for that feedback feels cheap.

Just sayin’…

Happy Valentione’s Day! (FFXIV)

FFXIV: Happy Valentione's Day to you and yours!

A very happy Valentione’s Day to you, and Valentine’s Day to all you non-Eorzea citizens! I just finished the FFXIV Valentione’s Day 2014 event and gathered all of the adorable goodies, including heaps of chocolate because really, who doesn’t love chocolate?! (I actually know a few people who hate it, but shhh…)

Whether you celebrated with your loved ones, alone, or didn’t celebrate at all, I hope your day was lovely all the same! Now get out there and get your paws hands on that discount holiday chocolate!

Screenshot Sunday #9

I’m going to interrupt the holy ritual of a wordless Screenshot Sunday to say first of all, I’m sorry for my lack of posts this week! Secondly, I am deeply invested in Final Fantasy XIV hence the multitude of screenshots you keep seeing from it. And finally, only one screenshot this week as I’ve been crazy busy with work and super tired when I get home! Hope you’ve all had more gaming this week than I have. I’ll be making up for it next week!

SCREENSHOT SUNDAY: Final Fantasy XIV - Just giving someone the sideeye in Crystal Tower.

Happy Sunday!
What have you been playing this week?

2014 in video gaming

An all text post? The horror! Now that 2014 has been upon us for an entire month (seriously, it’s been that long since Christmas already?!) I’m preparing myself for a year of video games. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into some great singleplayer or co-op games, especially the latter, so what’s coming up that’s got me all excited?

February

» Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
PvZ was always a bit of a guilty pleasure. I have a Conehead Zombie model on my mantelpiece at home!

» Divinity: Original Sin
I actually picked up this game already in Early Access, but that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to it as I haven’t given it much of a chance yet.

March

» Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
Any excuse to get me back into playing D3 again! Have you seen my post about the Catalyst Gaming Media giveaway?

» Dark Souls II
Maybe…that’s all I’ll say. I liked the first game (never played Demon Souls) but I didn’t play it for long, so we’ll see!

…and Beyond

» LEGO: The Hobbit
LEGO: Lord of the Rings was the first LEGO game I played and I loved it. I’m looking forward to its successor…or…prequel, depending on how you look at it.

» Firefly Online
I must admit, I’m very dubious, but I can’t resist at least checking it out. Browncoats unite!

» The Sims 4
Another dirty little habit. I’ve loved The Sims series since the first game was released. I ain’t even ashamed.

» Dragon Age: Inquisition
Must. Finish. DA2. First!

» Star Citizen
As a sci-fi fangirl going through a spacey kick lately, I have to admit I’m curious. I haven’t decided if I’ll be playing yet, but I’m eager to see what it ends up being like.

» Serious Sam 4
Oh. Em. Gee. I get struck with such nostalgia. I played this with T and his housemate when he was at college, and I still remember the silly allnighters we had. I didn’t enjoy BFE but we’ll see how this one turns out.

You’ll notice I’ve left quite a few up-and-comers off this list, but for the most part that’s because I’m not sure about a few of them, such as Titanfall and The Witcher: Wild Hunt; both are games I’ve heard great things about, but I haven’t heard much more about the former, and the latter I’m simply too behind in the series to know yet. Others, I’m really not interested in. The Walking Dead is great for story but the control system put me off, and that’s put me off trying The Wolf Among Us, admittedly. That’s probably unfair of me, so maybe I’ll lift my unfounded prejudice this year!

What are you looking forward to in 2014?
Let me know in the comments!

Why I won’t be playing ESO

Why I won't be playing The Elder Scrolls Online. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a massive The Elder Scrolls fangirl. I mean, cried-a-single-tear-of-joy-when-Skyrim-was-announced fangirl. And I’m not even ashamed! But we need to sit down and have a chat about The Elder Scrolls Online or ESO for short.

Yesterday, I heard the news that The Elder Scrolls Online collector’s edition and preorder packs had been released and the community weren’t too happy about them. I looked into it myself and could see why.

As a bit of backstory, while I was at Gamescom last year, I heard that ESO was going to have a cash shop. This in and of itself wasn’t a bad thing necessarily, especially if they only offered cosmetic items, but considering their marketing angle was, “Access all of the game with one low monthly fee!” (Paraphrasing, of course.) They then introduced the cash shop and it just left a bad taste in my mouth, as it wasn’t really aligned with their marketing campaign. But I was still okay with it. Again, cosmetic items are fine, and I am addicted to buying vanity pets!

However, their Collector’s Edition allows an exclusive race, Imperial. And if you preorder? You can play all races on any alliance. The latter isn’t so bad, but locking an entire race with “unique bonuses” to CE? That’s ridiculous. I have enough money to buy the CE, and wouldn’t shy away from it normally, but this just goes against everything I believe in as far as game pricing is concerned. When there are many MMOs out there that are just as enjoyable, if not more so, and for less with no exclusive bonuses, races or classes for CE, why would I want to invest in something I’m not even sure I’d enjoy when I fundamentally don’t agree with what they’re doing?

And so I’ve made the decision not to buy. Of course there will be people out there who will, and that’s great, but I am already fully invested in FFXIV and have no desire to spend all of my time getting into another MMO right now unless it really blows me away, which frankly, ESO? You haven’t really done.

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Giveaway

Win a copy of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls!

No one can stop death... - MalthaelThey say I was lost to them. They say I turned my back on Heaven.

Fools.

I am the only one with the dedication to seek that which was stolen from us. Have not we fought over it for centuries? These humans, these abominations, they are not worthy of that which we have given them. They are but creations of an abhorrent union between angel and demon. Why should we cater to them? Why should we allow them to live?

I did not turn my back. I am the only one left who upholds what we stand for. And I will not stand for this.

I am Malthael. I will rend the souls of humanity from their vile shells, and I will consume them. I am the embodiment of death.

I will do what they cannot, and you will not stop me!

· · · · ·

How to enter

All you have to do is “collect” the 10 villains and follow the instructions in the giveaway thread. Now that you have the name of my villain, simply visit Catalyst Gaming Media and keep an eye on the members’ content for the name of a featured villain. Visit the Diablo III: Reaper of Souls forum thread for more information and a list of participating blogs, podcasts, video creators, and comics!

Mod Review: A Realistic Hope (Skyrim)

Skyrim: A Realistic Hope Mod Review

Skyrim: A Realistic Hope Mod Review

Do you want your Skyrim to look like this? I know that for the longest time, I’ve always admired beautiful, rich coloured Skyrim screenshots, and wondered why they had depth of field and I didn’t. As much as I absolutely adore the game, I did kind of miss the vibrant environments of previous Elder Scrolls games (I was a Shivering Isles fangirl…) and found that, while the bleak landscapes of Skyrim were beautiful, the fact that even forests and interior areas looked a little grey kind of bothered me.

Enter stage left: A Realistic Hope. ARH is a “photorealistic ENB” mod, which deepens colour, adds depth of field, and modifies some textures to be more photorealistic. The environments feel more alive, if a little bit oversaturated in colour, and allow you to get some seriously beautiful screenshots, let alone feel more immersed.

Skyrim: A Realistic Hope Mod Review

Ultimately, it is very beautiful. I love that whatever I’m looking at takes the focus, and honestly I didn’t notice any performance drop when in-game, even though I chose to download the regular mod rather than the “performance” version. With some .ini file tweaks, the game focuses regardless of whether you’re in first or third person, and when you look at something close to you, you’ll notice the background fades out a little.

The only real downsides for me were very minor. The regular mod does increase load times significantly; I went from loading a zone in 10 seconds or less to 30+, but this isn’t a huge wait for such a visual improvement. The only other issue I encountered was that it seems the shader that gets used uses a stencil buffer type effect which updates slower than your rendered frames. I’m not sure if that’s what it is or how it works, but if you stand in front of a particularly strong light source (in my case, it was a large fire) it seems that the “stencil buffer” lags behind a bit, so you see a bit of a residual outline. But it’s barely noticeable!

Skyrim: A Realistic Hope Mod Review

Despite the really vibrant colours, the environment doesn’t entirely lose its bleakness. Outside towns, things can still get pretty grey, so if you’re worried about losing the cold atmosphere of the game, don’t be too concerned. The vegetation is still bright, but the evenings feel pretty crisp and somewhat unwelcoming.

How to install

Make sure to download the mod manually (don’t use the mod manager, even if it gives you the option on the files page!) on the Realistic Hope ENB mod page on Skyrim Nexus. The installation steps are explained pretty well on the page, but in case you’re a little bit confused, there’s also similar directions below.

Before installing, you should also get WATER – Water and Terrain Enhancement Redux and install it. I recommend doing this using the Nexus Mod Manager. Once you’ve installed it, activate the mod in the mod manager and follow the instructions. It will ask you to choose your preferences such as water colour, whether you want additional features like boats and vegetation etc. Up to you!

001. Download the file and extract the .ZIP. You can use WinRAR or any other extraction software you have.

002. You can extract the file directly into your Skyrim folder, but if you’re concerned about overwriting files, compare the filenames in the downloaded directory with those in your Skyrim folder. If there are any that might be overwritten, rename them. I usually add, “.OLD” at the end of these files so I can recognise them if I need to restore them. You shouldn’t have to overwrite anything, however.

003. Navigate to My Documents > My Games > Skyrim and open up “SkyrimPrefs.ini” in Notepad.

004. Search for “bTreesReceiveShadows”, “bDrawLandShadows” and “bFloatPointRenderTarget”, and change the value from ‘0’ to ‘1’. If it’s already set to ‘1’, ignore this step.

005. Add the following text at the bottom of the file to play or look at your character in third person (good for screenshots):

[Camera]
fOverShoulderAddY=0.0000
fOverShoulderPosZ=-10.0000
fOverShoulderPosX=0.0000
fOverShoulderCombatAddY=0.0000
fOverShoulderCombatPosZ=-10.0000
fOverShoulderCombatPosX=0.0000

006. Launch the game!

If you have an older system, you may want to try the performance version of the mod, which is listed in the downloads section. I haven’t tested this, but with my system (AMD Phenom II X4 955 at 3.2Ghz, nVidia Geforce GTX 560 1GB, and a measly 4GB RAM) I can run the regular version of the mod with a bunch of other mods, with no drop in FPS.

Happy Adventuring!