No Man’s Sky Review – Should You Buy?

No Man's Sky Review

No Man’s Sky, the long anticipated space exploration game, released recently on both PS4 and PC. The gaming community hyped it up since its first announcement. But did it live up to expectations?

I have invested around 25 or so hours into the game so far since its launch. I wasn’t particularly over-excited for No Man’s Sky. It looked enjoyable, and I love space games. However, I was also satisfied with my repertoire of available space exploration games as it was. With that in mind, I cautiously watched from the sidelines, avoiding too many spoilers, and looked forward to the game coming out so I could try it for myself. It’s safe to say I didn’t buy into the hype too much.

That said, I do very much enjoy No Man’s Sky. I also have a lot of criticisms for it. It is not without its flaws, and at the moment it seems that the gaming community is divided: either they love the game and think its perfect as it is, or they hate it and scorn Sean Murray for his somewhat misleading statements leading up to the game’s release. I fall a little in the middle.

Here is my No Man’s Sky review after spending a substantial amount of time in game, exploring three systems and numerous planets (both inhabited and completely empty.)

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Don’t Be a Downer | We Happy Few – First Impressions

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I love playing horror games and scaring myself, but if there’s one thing I’m terrified of more than any of the games I’ve played to spook myself it’s surrealism, particularly the happy kind. For this very reason, We Happy Few genuinely seemed like the perfect game for me. With a suitably creepy aesthetic and theme, and the chirpy surrealism that rustles me to my core, We Happy Few quickly earned the spot as my most highly anticipated Kickstarter game, and I backed it almost immediately.

I have been excited for its release ever since I backed it just over a year ago, and after that I tried to put it to the back of my mind so I could go into the game with a fresh pair of eyes and a completely unspoiled mind, ready to be freaked out. I ignored the E3 coverage and waited patiently for its release. I almost decided not to play in Early Access when I discovered that its story hadn’t been released yet, and it was instead a fairly early demo version of the game, but my excitement got the better of me.

Sadly, I was quite disappointed.

Here are my initial thoughts and first impressions of We Happy Few, along with a breakdown of what the game is, what it does well, and where it needs to improve. I’ll also give you a recommendation at the end on whether or not I think you should pick it up and why.

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Stardew Valley Review | An Addiction Blossoms

Getting Started in Stardew Valley | Stardew Valley Review

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always really loved the idea of taking a step back from “modern life” and getting absorbed in the simple life of farming and living off the land. For that reason, the adorable new game Stardew Valley really appealed to me from the get go — a cute, pixelated indie game that focuses almost entirely on farming? Sign me up!

Now that it’s been out for around three weeks, and I’ve become thoroughly addicted to it, I’d like to share my thoughts in my Stardew Valley review.

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SOMA Review

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

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

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Layers of Fear First Impressions Review

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

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

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Soul Axiom First Impressions Review

Soul Axiom First Impressions ReviewI recently received a copy of Soul Axiom from the kind folks at Wales Interactive, and after hearing it was a sci-fi adventure game with a bit of a creepy twist, I was instantly intrigued. You guys know I absolutely love creepy games, and I’ve been on a real cyberpunky sci-fi kick lately, so this seemed right up my alley!

Soul Axiom First Impressions Review

The game opens with your character falling through the sky and landing unceremoniously on a spectral looking ship. You don’t know anything about yourself or where you are, but some exploration starts to reveal the basics of the game, and no sooner had I started to feel comfortable with my surroundings than a giant woman with wings let out a bird-like shriek and started ripping my spectral looking ship apart!

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First Impressions: ARK Survival Evolved

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I have had my eye on ARK: Survival Evolved for some time now, having always had a love for dinosaurs and a bit of an addiction to survival games (DayZ and various iterations of zombie games come to mind). Thanks to my dear friend Zeberg who picked it up for me as an unexpected gift, I was able to play it! During the Steam sales I also grabbed it for T so we could try it together. Here is my ARK: Survival Evolved first impressions review!

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First Impressions: Pillars of Eternity

First Impressions: Pillars of Eternity, a new take on classic RPGs by Obsidian and Paradox.

I am ashamed to admit I had not heard of Pillars of Eternity until last week, but I bought it on the spot. Why? Because a colleague uttered the words that I’ve always wanted to hear: “Hey, did you like oldschool RPGs like Baldur’s Gate? Because it’s kinda like that.”

I did like oldschool RPGs like Baldur’s Gate. I also was obsessed with the original Neverwinter Nights and its expansion packs, and many an evening after school was spent playing it with friends. I love roleplaying games, and I enjoy a good yarn, and it seemed that this game would have all of that with a nostalgic feel that would throw me back to my long evenings wrapped up warm in front of my computer, playing through an epic tale and acting out my fantasies of being an adventurer.

My colleague, and most of the internet, was not wrong. Pillars of Eternity is so far very reminiscent of oldschool RPGs, in several ways. Firstly, its character creation is in-depth and detailed. Your choices here will greatly impact your gameplay. The aesthetic is perfectly suited to the gameplay, and the graphics are pretty for an isometric game, which I wasn’t expecting. The game feels dark, which is great for a dark fantasy RPG. Combat is difficult, especially if you’re playing on more difficult settings or not familiar with turn-based roleplaying games (or are out of practice, like me!)

The storytelling is surprisingly good. I often find myself skipping conversations in other games, but in Pillars of Eternity I’ve been reading everything and listening to the often fully-voiced scenes. There’s also one feature I absolutely love, and that’s the story scenes that act almost as cutscenes, where your screen changes to a page from a book. You see text on one side, which is read out by a narrator that acts almost like a DM (Dungeon Master, for those who never played D&D), and on the other side is a sketched out scene, which changes as you continue throughout the “cutscene” or story. I love it, it was incredibly engaging, which is kind of surprising when most games these days require high-action cutscenes to keep people’s attention. I found myself completely grabbed by these scenes, eager to find out what happened to my companion who had just stumbled out of the woods before me, or what that terrifying banshee-like face on the right of the page meant.

One of the cons I found is that I’m not a huge fan of the way abilities are used, as I feel like there’s a lot of clicking involved. This is mostly due to lack of shortcuts for abilities, which I’ve heard is possible to assign but I’ve yet to figure out how. Basically, right now you’ll have to click on the ability you want to use or spell you want to cast, then click on the target. When you’re using a lot of abilities or spells per fight, especially with multiple party members, that can get a bit tedious, but the combat is still fun and active all the same. You also get used to it very quickly!

The only real gripe I have, though, is that playing on a two monitor PC makes edge-scrolling difficult. There is an option in the settings to “Cage Cursor” which, in theory, prevents your cursor from moving onto the other monitor, however when you get into a cutscene it stops functioning properly until you turn it off and on again. However, all that said, I’ve learned to play with middle mouse for scroll and found that it’s actually much easier and smoother than playing with edge-scrolling even when it’s fully functional, so I suppose it’s not all bad!

I strongly recommend this game to anyone who has a love for oldschool RPGs and isn’t afraid of a little bit of difficulty, where your combat strategy is more important and valuable than just bashing things with a big sword. I can almost 100% guarantee you’ll fall in love with it immediately.

First Impressions: Pillars of Eternity is an RPG that old-school players will love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - A gothic roguelike RPG which is strangely punishing & still fun.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - How will your party members die?

When I heard about Darkest Dungeon, I was dubious. I’ve tried plenty of roguelikes and self-proclaimed “hard games” in the last year or so that have either not lived up to their claims, or have been decidedly un-fun. But people kept talking about this gothic, dark RPG and it got me all interested, so I read some reviews on Steam and couldn’t help but cackle at some of the funny ones. After reading about someone’s paladin becoming a kleptomaniac and stealing from the party, I was sold.

Darkest Dungeon is all about failure, death, and losing everything you’ve worked hard on. You recruit a squad of heroes whom you send out to fight for you, and inevitably they die. A lot. And you get to watch as that hero you actually kinda liked just keels over after somehow surviving on zero hitpoints for the last three battles. On top of that, there’s the “Stress” mechanic which fills up as bad things happen to your heroes and party. When it reaches full, your hero will gain an “Affliction”. These will have negative effects on that adventurer, such as causing them to retreat further back through the party, skip their turn, or even harm themselves.

For a start, the gameplay is fun! I was surprised that I didn’t find losing party members frustrating. I was a little sad when my Crusader died as he was really awesome and the real hard hitter of the group, but I’m hoping another one comes up in the village to be recruited in the future. Hopefully soon, too. The combat is quite slow but that works for the game style, and each adventurer you recruit will have the potential for different abilities, which can make your party feel like a different make-up every time.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - The dark art style suits the gameplay.

The art style is gorgeous, and fits perfectly with the dark, gothic theme. It’s not a particularly happy game, and that works immensely well with the rough 2d character and environment artwork. Atmospherically, it’s excellent.

Like I said, combat is slow, and the game is not at all forgiving. It is quite possible that you’ll fail quests and lose an entire party of adventurers you’ve been working with for a while, including rare items such as an accuracy boosting ring I’d put on my highwayman shortly before he got critted in the face one room over. If you make the mistake of getting attached to any one hero in your party, prepare yourself for the worst or be sorely disappointed (though we all know you’ll likely be disappointed even if you steel yourself against the pain of loss).

All in all, I would totally recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good dungeon-crawler. Darkest Dungeon is in Early Access on Steam which I generally dislike, but it’s in a great state for play, and considering how much fun it is I would absolutely encourage you to pick it up if it sounds like your kind of thing.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon by Red Hook Studios.

Elite Jumps Into Modern Gaming (Elite: Dangerous Review)

Elite: Dangerous Review - Exploration can be incredibly rewarding when you find beautiful systems like Acrux.

Elite: Dangerous makes me feel incredibly small. With a realistic rendition of our very own galaxy, 400 billion stars each potentially with a system full of planets to see and scan, it would take over 12,000 years for one person to visit every single system if they only stayed in each for literally one second. Feeling small is an understatement; I feel positively tiny.

I have never encountered a game in my years of gaming that has made me feel like this before. I played Frontier: First Encounters — also known as Elite III — about 10 years ago, but even then I only darted between a few familiar star systems to deliver medicine and make money off other people’s plight. I didn’t really think about how big that game was; I just shot pirates and delivered my cargo, hoping I didn’t pop on the way. Most of the games I’ve played and truly enjoyed have felt pretty big, but I’ve felt like a massive part of them, and I’ve known I will explore every inch of the game within time. I will finish every achievement, complete every quest, tie off the storyline in a neat little bow and be done with it. Even the biggest games I’ve played, even the most open, have had some sort of finality after a while.

Elite: Dangerous Review - I know I will never see it all, so I want to spend my time wisely.

Not this one. I am very conscious of the fact that I will never explore every little nook and cranny of the Milky Way. I am reminded often that I have to decide where to spend my time, because I can’t see it all. And that’s surprisingly nice, for a change. There is so much for me to do that, instead of being overwhelmed or confused, I find myself cramming all of my time into doing the things I enjoy the most, and seeing the things I wish I was able to see in real life. Just the other day, I posted a video of the Acrux system, a stunningly beautiful system full of stars that glittered with a myriad colours as I scanned each and every one. That is something I will never achieve in my lifetime, but Elite: Dangerous has made that possible for me.

Elite: Dangerous Review - I still feel small, but like my decisions and actions matter.

And yet, where space makes me feel pleasantly insignificant, like no matter what I do it ultimately doesn’t matter (and that’s reassuring!), I feel like everything I do in E:D has an impact. I can help overthrow galactic governments. I can hunt down interstellar terrorists and pirates, and make people’s lives that little bit easier. I can actually see the changes I am causing, even if they’re small, on the balance of power in any given star system or region of space. While the game is a sandbox, there are still some hefty decisions commanders will need to take on their journey through the ‘verse. Will you side with the extravagant and powerful Empire, who wiped out an entire species in order to set up their new home planet? Or will you prefer to stick with the corporate and arguably corrupt Federation? Alternatively, will you fight alongside me with the Alliance?

Or if you wish to steer clear of politics and blowing people up, you can always explore the vastness of our galaxy, alone or with friends, and do some interstellar sightseeing. When all is said and done, how will you become Elite?

You can buy Elite: Dangerous now for £39.99 / €49.99 / $59.99.

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.

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

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!

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.

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.

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!

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!

First Impressions: DayZ Standalone

First Impressions: DayZ Standalone - Running around, looking for wells, constantly thirsty.

I’ve been playing DayZ since shortly after the mod was first released, due to colleagues talking incessantly about their shenanigans and an awesome story I read online. I was hooked, despite the bugs. I even revelled in how the community moved from survival-focused to banditry-focused. Mostly because I became a bandit myself at that point. I killed indiscriminately.

So when my colleague came into work a few weeks ago and simply said, “Did you buy it?” I did. I bought it on the spot, sight unseen. I bought it for T. I encouraged our friend Andy to buy it. And we played it. So what did we think?

Well, it’s certainly buggy. Occasionally falling through walls and/or floors can cause some sticky situations. Zombies that chase you until you break line of sight…which never happens, because they can see through walls and, as if that wasn’t enough, walk through them. The hunger and thirst meters are weird at best, and annoying at worst, as you seem to start thirsty and it doesn’t get much better. Some of the guns bug out a little when you try to look through a scope you’ve equipped. Ladders can, occasionally, instantly kill you.

But, I do actually really enjoy it. It brings back the feeling of needing to survive, instead of it being just about shooting every guy you see. I’ve stopped feeling the instant urge to shoot people, and started waving at them instead. Last night, a guy approached me and shouted at me over mic, “Get down on your knees!” Seeing as I can’t take instructions in real life without being a stubborn ass, that didn’t go down so well, and I hit him in the face with the baseball bat I wasn’t planning on using. There’s a more tangible depth to the game that I hadn’t noticed in mod for a long time.

First Impressions: DayZ Standalone - Sporting a rather unfriendly looking Dallas (from Payday) mask.

It also brings a lot of great new features, like a quickbar for ease of weapon switching or using items, customisability of your character through the use of clothing and aesthetic items like masks, modular weapons, more buildings that you can enter and explore for loot, and clothing inventory on top of backpacks. Some features are yet to be implemented, such as vehicles, but DayZ standalone is well on its way to becoming an enjoyable game in its own right.

Two things I don’t like, aside from the bugs I mentioned, are the lack of combat logging prevention, and the public hive only approach taken to servers. The former is a huge problem; that guy I hit with a baseball bat after he threatened me with a gun? Yeah, he logged out as soon as I hit him, meaning I’m left feeling frustrated because he got away, even though he initiated the fight. This happens constantly. The latter, however, is merely an annoyance for two reasons – players will server hop to loot popular military spots to get guns and mods for their weapons, and for me, it’s a problem because I often play with friends but would like the option of running off on my own without abandoning them when they’re not around to play.

All in all, the game is in Alpha, so it will improve. If you’re looking for a large-scale multiplayer zombie survival game, it’s definitely fun, as long as you’re prepared for the fact that other players can and will shoot you. Or attack you with a fire extinguisher.

First Impressions: Starbound

I’ve just picked up the new sci-fi sandbox adventure game, Starbound and have been playing it on and off since last weekend. I was playing before the character wipe, but didn’t want to get too involved since I’d only just started. The game is still in beta, but you can pick it up for a pretty reasonable price to get beta/early access.

First Impressions: Starbound - Landing on our first planet with MC Clank, aka my fiancé.

There’s a variety of races to choose from. While they’re really unique, I’m not really a big fan of the races themselves, so my “main” character will likely be a human called Thea, named after one of the two main characters in the story I’ve been writing for…over a year, now, haha. But I ended up making a floran just to be a little bit different while I play with my fiancé’s glitch character. He was originally playing Vince, the antagonist in my story as well.

First Impressions: Starbound - We're pretty adorable, sleeping next to each other to recover our health.

The game is fun, reminiscent of Terraria in appearance and some of the gameplay, but there’s just something very pleasant about feeling like I’m exploring the universe, discovering uncharted worlds and having to fight to survive. All in all, yes, it’s a lot of fun. I feel like there’s more purpose than in previous games of a similar type, which was ultimately why I stopped playing those. I’ve managed to sink a good few hours into Starbound without really noticing it. I recommend picking it up and giving it a go if you enjoy sci-fi and sandboxy games where you can explore and build!

Game Review: Gone Home

Spoiler Alert!
Please read with care if you haven’t already played Gone Home.

Game Review: Gone Home, an interactive story adventure game by the Fullbright Company.

I picked up this gem during the Autumn Steam Sale as several coworkers had recommended it to me. Since it was 75% off, I figured why not? I decided to play it last Sunday evening, over some delicious warm food and a cup of tea. I can honestly say that was the best choice I made.

Gone Home is strangely soothing and familiar. The story is told beautifully, and despite the fact that I was constantly squealing, “Aliens!” as I found clues (seriously, The X-Files was circled in the TV guide, and there was an “I want to believe” poster in my sister’s bedroom…) I was genuinely surprised. The game was not at all like I expected. It was suitably creepy, but in a way that made the entire story feel more real. Gone Home is a first-person story adventure, and you play the part of Katie, returning home after a trip to Europe. Your family, however, are gone. You try to find out what might have happened to them, and as you move through the house, you find clues that trigger journal entries by your sister, Sam. Her voice plays as she reads the journal to you, as though she’s left a note just for you.

The game builds in intensity, and you come to learn that your sister had fallen in love with her best friend, Lonnie. The story then becomes about your sister’s self-discovery, as she comes to learn more about her sexuality. The discovery is lovely to witness, and difficult as well, as you learn more and more about their developing relationship and the prejudices they face. My chest hurt when I learned that Lonnie was going to be deployed, leaving Sam behind.

Game Review: Gone Home - my heart started to pound as I climbed the stairs into the attic.

The game finally reached a crescendo; the metaphor of you climbing to the top of the house, up the stairs into the attic to the finale was not lost on me. I remember feeling my heart start to beat faster, and a lump forming in my throat. I didn’t know what I expected to find in the attic now that I finally had the key. When I read the final note from Sam, I fought back tears, and then I looked around the attic and saw the beautiful photos of her and Lonnie: their hands interlocked, the heart-shaped locket she saved up for dangling between their laced fingers; the chest pocket of Lonnie’s military uniform… The ending credits played and I burst into tears. My chest hurt, but it was cathartic. I tried really hard to hold back, but when my fiancé turned to me to ask what was wrong I smiled and the tears flowed freely.

It was only two hours of gameplay, but it was one of the most beautifully written stories, and I felt like I was truly a part of it. The game is a work of art, and it hurts that it’s over. I recommend it to anyone who wants to be emotionally involved in a game. I’d even recommend it to my mum, and she doesn’t play games! Hell, I’d even give you your money back if you didn’t enjoy it. Thank you to the Fullbright Company for letting me experience this masterpiece.