Greedfall Review

Spiders has been around now for just over ten years and are still one of those unheard of, obscure studios until you actually realise what games they have created over the years. Of Orcs and Men, Bound By Flame and The Technomancer being perhaps the more popular of their games, unfortunately they mostly have either received lukewarm or mediocre reception. Can the latest from the experienced development team raise the bar for the studio or simply fall?

De Sardet is a simple Legate of the Merchant Congregation which is mentioned quite a lot throughout. Along with Constantin, your trusty cousin who has been named the new governor of New Serene, you travel to the island of Teer Fradee to aid your cousin in his rule. Another primary mission however is to hopefully find a cure for a disease that plagues the populace, called the malichor. This is the anchor to which the rest of the main story will develop on and even the vast majority of side quests serve a purpose in this main arc.

Whether its disbanding a group of fanatics, destroying the nests of some wild beasts or looking to free those wrongfully enslaved, everything adds some much-appreciated backstory and depth to the world. Side-quests instead of feeling like unnecessary padding, they feel important and not so much like a chore.

7

As with any good RPG there are a varied and interesting cast of characters to encounter. Your party for instance represents the diversity of people on Teer Fradee well, five characters from different backstories, cultures and factions. Kurt is a captain of the Coin Guard and has been the protector of Der Sardet and his cousin for years prior, he chooses to remain by their side on their journey to the new island and beyond. Vasco is a captain of another kind, a sea captain, as part of the Nauts whose ship you use to cross the sea. Siora, Aphra and Petrus you meet at different stages of the story and are a Native, Bridge Alliance Explorer and Missionary of Theleme respectively. All come with their unique look, personalities and values that are fun to explore in their own questlines.

For those who like to dabble in romance systems when it comes to RPG’s will be happy to see you can build relationships with your party members even to the point of becoming partners. These bonds increase or decrease through your choices in the whole story but more importantly in their specific quests. It’s a basic system but one that isn’t always easy to trounce, just watch what you say and maybe keep different saves if your particular about who you want to end up with.

Story development is always what hooks me in these massive RPG’s, how you get from point A to B is important and I found the journey enthralling. Each twist and turn did well in not only surprising me but progressing the narrative in as an organic way as possible in a video game. It all flowed and nothing felt completely disjointed or out of left field, it all made sense even if it was all fantastical and weird.

92

Going in, I didn’t exactly know what to expect in terms of combat and was pleasantly surprised at how simple they kept it on a base level but had all these variables available should you choose to make use of them. X and Y assigned to quick and heavy attack respectively with A and B assigned to Dodge and Parry, it’s easy to get started and allows you the room to learn everything else.

Now, that everything else I’m on about comes in the form of tactical pause, fury, spells, potions and hot buttons. This mixture allows thought to go into each fight and believe me there are battles that absolutely test your limits, and I played in normal difficulty. Entering some of the more major encounters or tackling some of those peskier enemies require some strategy and planning before-hand. If you go in empty handed in terms of health or resuscitation potions your going to have a bad time. (Insert THAT meme here)

Fury is like an energy meter that builds with each regular attack and dispenses with a special attack or spell. Managing this well can lead to some devastating combos to your enemy and it pays dividends to keep on top of this, building up the meter against the easier beasts to then use your better attacks against the more powerful is the way to go. But ultimately, the choice is yours and I love the experimentation that comes with.

greedfall-03.png

So as expected with most games of the Role-Playing Game persuasion, as you level up you get points to dish out amongst your Skill, Abilities and Talent trees. The rate at which you gain these vary, skill points acquired at every level whilst the other two every few levels. There are two sides to the coin on this and depending on which side you land you may like or not like this system. On one hand I appreciate that it forces you to specialise and carefully pick what to go for whilst having to leave some behind and on the other hand it kind of sucks you have to truly grind in hopes to reach a high enough level to have all the upgrades at your disposal. One way they cushion the blow of the latter is allowing you to reset your trees throughout by using memory crystals, so at those critical points in the game or just if you want, you can change up what you go for and try everything. It serves the game better this way rather than allowing you to be all powerful at once, but sometimes I just want to be OP.

Idle gameplay consists mainly of travelling through each location and crafting upgrades or potions, there isn’t a whole lot else to do when not tackling quests, which is a bummer because of the potential of this world. I’m a huge advocate for idle or side activities in RPG’s that you can get lost in, one example Gwent in The Witcher 3, or the plethora of activities in GTA V. So Spiders, if you’re reading, give me some of that, please?

Diplomacy is real and what I love is being able to literally choose what I believe to be right and wrong. Making friends or even enemies along the way thanks to my own decisions lets me take ownership of my own decisions, and not necessarily be forced into them by linear storytelling.

greedfall-08.png

The island of Teer Fradee is gorgeous, in both by design and visual fidelity. Something I found myself doing was exploring every nook and cranny of each town and city, fascinated by the layout and how buildings were kind of pieced together and structured. What’s most impressive is the variety shown between not only towns from different factions but also the differences between streets in the same town. Some buildings and structures made of wood in one section of a city and a couple of meters away in the upper-class areas they are all brick. Through the design is how the lore of the world is delivered, you can tell what each location is all about just by looking at it, be it streets filled with trash signifying the more downtrodden poor areas or villages bursting with flora that let you know the population really care about nature and all it brings.

Surprise shout-out to the soundtrack, it was a complete surprise for me which I guess has been the theme of this game, but what a greatly executed collection of music that sets the scene perfectly for whatever is taking place or where on the island you are. It delivers these harsh, menacing tones when in the thick of battle and in contrast can bring your mood up with up-beat, fantasy vibes when taking a stroll through the forest. Great storytelling through music.

The gift that keeps on giving, perhaps an accurate description for the voice acting performances that really exude what each character is all about. The voices that piqued my interest the most were those of the natives, not only are their accents completely different but their vocabulary too that set them apart from the rest of the islanders. It made me believe in the idea of these tribes living for hundreds of years in Teer Fradee before everyone else decided to hop on over and inhabit the land.

greedfall-04.png

Now I know so far everything has been more or less leading to a glowing review, but of course this doesn’t come without some shortcomings. If you laughed at comings, don’t worry, I did too. Character animations are a bit stiff (didn’t do that on purpose), and when speaking their mouths don’t match what they are saying so it comes across as a little awkward and disjointed. Adding to that there are subtitles that absolutely do not match what is spoken, its mostly little things like instead of “accident” they say “accidentally”, not a deal-breaker but noticeable. To be honest all my gripes are really nit picky ones but they are the ones that kind of break immersion or catch you off guard making me think, ‘huh, strange’.

OVERALL: 8.7/10 – GREAT

Greedfall has now set the benchmark for the team at Spiders for what they can accomplish, it feels like the beginning of what their experience in the industry can deliver and testament to the practice makes perfect mantra. Teer Fradee is gorgeous, filled with fascinating cultures and interesting characters. At times the world feels a little empty and yet still fun to explore thanks to its design and soundtrack that make it satisfying to continue on. The adventures of De Sardet and his companions is one I was more than happy to experience and urge you to as well.

Written by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Greedfall, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or my thoughts on the game itself. I believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

Everspace Review

ROCKFISH Games is comprised of a team that for the most part has been together for ten plus years primarily on mobile titles, Everspace is their first venture into the PC and Console territory. The single-player rogue-like space shooter looks to cement the developers place in the market and perhaps provide a great first impression. But is it all space wonder or does it leave me wondering what the hell?

Try, try and try again would perhaps be the best way to describe the gameplay loop in which you are warped into space, fight, loot and keep on travelling until death or success. After one of two potential ends to the run you then need to upgrade your ship ready for the next mission and do it all over again. For those that either bore easily or just can’t deal with repeating the same things constantly, there is only so far you can get before deciding to throw in the towel.

everspace screenshot 02

That being said, it does its best to throw curve balls at you with its roguelike nature of seemingly procedurally generated encounters. Personally, not my cup of tea but I appreciated the element of surprise that loomed throughout my experience.

One run is comprised of numerous sectors that increase in difficulty as you progress through them. Something I’ve not come across before is that death is encouraged by design, because through failure you can then improve your ship and see if you can get further the next time around. This kept me engaged for brief periods before I found the grind becoming tedious. It just took too long for my ship to get to the point of reaching the latter sectors successfully. Accumulating the credits, fuel, plasma and other resources wherever possible came across as more of a chore than something rewarding to take part in.

everspace screenshot 03

The controls are intuitive and do well in creating a pick up and play feeling whilst in terms of difficulty design remaining tough to master. Because of the natural control layout, I became eager to carry on flying around through space shooting things, even when the dying rinse and repeat cycle began to irritate me. Just proving how important setting the right actions to the right buttons is, when it comes to inviting players in and keeping them.

RPG elements are in play and take the form of loadout and perk systems. I felt like I was controlling my personal ships with the look I chose and upgrades I installed etc. Because of this I became more invested and attached to what I was doing. Experimenting with the variety of perks was fun and interesting to see how they affect gameplay.

everspace screenshot 06

On the surface it looks great, its visually pleasing and nails the look of what we have come to expect space to look like. Other ships, fighters and freighters have different designs that build this world and lore around you and the team make great use of colour to represent the varying factions. The blemishes began to appear when you get right up close with textures and you notice the not so fine detail, but that still doesn’t bother me, because if you play how you should, you won’t see that anyway.

Sound is playing an important role in atmosphere building, space is commonly associated by either other worldly sounds or an absence of sound altogether. This however, mixes both in a subtle way to produce the same sense of dread and nothingness. Using ambient music reminiscent of retro sci-fi films and even games, alongside almost classic sound effects for the engines and lasers makes for this slight nostalgia trip I love so much.

OVERALL: 6.9/10 – AVERAGE

Everspace delivers a competent and enjoyable experience the latter of which I feel only lasts so long due to a lacklustre and unsatisfying gameplay loop. The look and feel were enough to draw me in but not quite enough to keep me hooked. It looks great, sounds even greater and plays really well, those who love a grind will find it here for sure. It just isn’t my thing but of course that isn’t to say it won’t be yours.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Everspace, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

Insurgency: Sandstorm Review

New World Interactive hit the scene in terms of developing games in 2014 with Insurgency, a multiplayer tactical based first-person shooter, it was received with generally good reviews and caters to the more hardcore of players that thrive on difficult, no nonsense gameplay. Sandstorm seeks to replicate the formula and deliver the same tough fast-paced action as before but hopefully bring it to 2018.

There are three experiences to jump into and are all online, players taking on AI, players taking on each other and the third is PVP but ranked competitively. In the co-op section the only gamemode is checkpoint but from a glance it almost appears as two, the difference between them being which side you start on. Checkpoint is a rush style mode similar to the Battlefield staple, one by one, capture and destroy objectives. The twists come with respawns taking place after a point is either taken or destroyed and if the offensive team is successful in capturing the objective, they then need to endure a counter-attack as well. It takes a classic mode and changes it slightly, making it feel fresh, I enjoyed jumping in, and playing against the AI isn’t quite the walk in the park you would expect, there’s a challenge which is definitely welcome and great for getting in some practice.

id-2 (1)

Versus mode provides the flexibility of getting better against players whilst not affecting your competitive rank. There are three modes available and whilst each are different in their own ways they also come across as a bit too similar. All three involve points to either capture, defend or destroy, two of them feature respawns occurring after a successful capture of an objective and a different combination of two have limited respawn waves. This presents the feeling that there is a lack of varied content and leads to me only being able to play for an hour or two at a time before getting bored and some will get to that place way before me.

Competitive play is a more tight knit mode with a five a side battle, three objectives, capture the most points or kill all enemies to win the round. This leads to faster fights and forces the ability to respond under pressure be it respond well or otherwise. The atmosphere this brings is addicting, constantly having to be aware of team-mates locations and communicate to keep tabs on what is happening and where. Easily a favourite mode of mine in all online shooters, I love being tactical and feeling a part of a team.

The Low TTK (Time To Kill) provides that harsh reality of imminent death when turning corners without checking them and running across map with no care, because you can get caught out and in one second be watching from the sidelines, waiting for a respawn. Of course, this goes both ways and allows you to really catch your opponent’s off guard. Furthermore, the minimalistic HUD means no unnecessary clutter on the screen, just your weapon and your surroundings, which allows skill to take precedence.

id-1

I love the idea of being able to access all weaponry and upgrades from the get-go however this leaves an almost empty progression system that only allows you to earn customisation items through play. With all weapons available there is a supply point mechanic that gives you limited currency to spend on a layout for any given round and can be adjusted throughout each game which offers a balance of flexibility and restriction needed in this type of game.

Back to the equipment, there are a ton of toys to have at and experiment with, I went straight to work toying with the various combinations of what to take, when to make use of them and sometimes how to use them. I often favoured the sniper rifles as they allowed me to keep an eye from afar and take pick off enemies before they even reach the objectives, didn’t always work out that way but that is what I’m going to tell myself.

The six maps are different in terms of layout but aesthetically they are all too alike which doesn’t help in conducing a long play session. They look good, don’t get me wrong but it’s the same thing almost across each map with one outlier, they certainly got the title right in Sandstorm, because that’s what it is, sand everywhere which wouldn’t be any form of issue if executed right. Visual fidelity in shooters often go hand in hand lately but I don’t quite see the 2018 quality we have to come to expect, having said that in no way is this a bad looking game, by any stretch of the imagination.

id-12

I must applaud the technical aspects of the level design, attention to detail went into ensuring each map added something to the gameplay, providing plenty of areas and points that can be used for great advantage or even disadvantage. I was constantly on my toes, ensuring I was aware of my surroundings, keeping an eye on windows, ledges and even the so many murder holes you can find throughout.

Sound is vital in allowing you to immerse yourself in the and keep track of enemy footsteps, so it’s great to see or rather hear that sound design has certainly been a priority for the team at New World Interactive. I found myself using hearing nearly more so than sight to work up a plan on the fly to decimate the competition, yeah, I have issues.

OVERALL – 7.9/10 – GOOD

Insurgency: Sandstorm is a competent shooter that absolutely does what it needs to, bring fast-paced tactical gameplay into 2018 and almost 2019 now. The maps are incredibly well designed and do a lot in adding depth to the already enjoyable and tough gameplay. There is a lack of varied content and content in general but those who don’t bore easy when subjected to the same thing over and over will feel at home here. Finally the mid-ground between realism and arcade style has been well-tread providing a satisfying experience catering to many players.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Insurgency: Sandstorm, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek Review

tinyBuild has done a great job in building its portfolio over the past five years with many titles being well received such as Mr. Shifty, The Final Station and Party Hard 2. There are other games however that haven’t exactly shone bright. Hello Neighbor released last year for the first time yet before that is when it received most of it’s publicity, due to somewhat a broken state of the game in terms of technical issues and in difficulty when in early access. Keen on sticking to the IP, Hide and Seek looks to rectify what went wrong but instead, makes things worse.

It very much feels like a rehash of the original just with differing characters and the intent of building a narrative that leads up to the first title. I didn’t get far, or couldn’t get far into the content due to lack of direction, interest and a lot of irritation. You play as the young daughter of the Neighbor you had to avoid in the 2017 game. This time it’s about hiding from your brother as they play hide and seek and jump into exaggerated worlds that are based upon the reality of their home.

screenshot_25

Whilst playing it becomes obvious that the hide and seek is more a side objective whilst you try to complete different puzzles, and uncover what happened in the events leading up to the game before it. This feels like a piece of DLC and yet is priced otherwise, which wouldn’t be so bad if the quality was there but unfortunately that is not the case.

Gameplay is uninspiring and repetitive with the major game mechanic coming across as completely annoying. Whilst on the run from the brother, if he spots you the music kicks in to let you know he is closing in and when the distance between you is miniscule the screen fades a little, those parts are okay. When he grabs you however, he lets out this completely obnoxious noise somewhat reminiscent of Roger’s “NYEH” in American Dad. Aside from that, I don’t feel incentivised to go ahead with the levels, there’s nothing to clearly guide the way and when I try to accomplish something, I’m held back by terrible level design and difficulty spikes.

screenshot_18

The most promising aspect of the series are the visuals, delivering a unique art-style that I feel is now synonymous with these games, from the characters to the worlds, the use of varied colours is inviting and urges you to wander and take in the scenery around you. Accompanied with the ambient noises, each level really comes alive and immerses you right before everything else knocks you back into the real world.

OVERALL: 3/10 – TERRIBLE

Hide and Seek is a complete misstep for the publishing portfolio of tinyBuild and yet another step in the wrong direction for Dynamic Pixels, a promising premise with lacklustre execution makes for a forgettable experience.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

Battlefield V Review

Battlefield can often be referred to as the rival of Call of Duty, or at least that’s how many gamers see it, you’re either a Call of Duty player, or a Battlefield player etc. I love both series dearly and oppose the idea that they are in direct competition, in the shooter space sure, but they are both a different kind of shooter compared to the other. Large scale warfare is what the BF series excels in, can the same be said for Battlefield V?

Much like in the previous game, the single-player content is split up into War Stories, smaller mini campaigns designed to give a look into different fronts and perspectives of what it was like in World War II for those in active duty. I loved this take on a campaign in BF1 so welcomed the idea of the developers doing this again. My expectations were set high and I believe this time around they missed the mark a little, primarily in quantity rather than the quality.

Under No Flag (UNF) is based in North Africa in 1942, immediately your thrown into the role of Billy Bridger, a prison inmate turned soldier who looks to redeem himself and prove his worth to others. A relatable character for many and someone I found myself empathising with. The missions are straight forward and place you on wide-open maps with objectives such as blowing things up more than anything. An issue I faced was that the second mission relied heavily on stealth gameplay, don’t get me wrong I love that normally, but Battlefield for me has always been about loud, chaotic action. Fortunately, going in stealth isn’t mandatory, however that being said, going in guns blazing is a tougher fight, all the enemies rush to you, reinforcements get called and you need to keep aware of your surroundings to survive. The final act in this story is very much a worthwhile and earned climactic finish that pits you in a survival effort to take on wave after wave of enemy forces in an epic encounter.

BFV_EAPlayScreenshot_11_wLogo

Nordlys is the story that was a part of the main marketing push, we had brief looks into this several months prior to launch and is set in 1943 Norway. By this time the country has been occupied for three long years, and it’s time to kick the Germans out. Instantly this feels miles apart from the previous campaign, playing as a young Norwegian resistance fighter who seeks to save her mother and liberate her country. Absolutely love it, the fact that already I’m seeing a contrast in Nordlys and UNF in terms of setting, characters and the mission itself. Much like UNF however, there is a heavy reliance on being quiet, sneaking through and silently killing enemies, this time around though it feels like it fits, I enjoyed playing that way in this scenario.

Tirailleur takes place in 1944 where infantry fight in Provence, France. This completes the trifecta in yet again delivering a new environment, varied characters and a new ideal behind why you are fighting onwards. This time you are a soldier taking part in Operation Dragoon, the goal of liberation is still there but Deme, the character you play seeks for him and his allies to be remembered as Kings for succeeding in a mission where no-one else can. Fighting alongside troops and a close friend makes each conflict feel different to the ones you face in UNF and Nordlys.

I adore the variety in the single-player content, the one thing branching all three stories kind of puts a bad taste in my mouth, stealth enters all three and it doesn’t fit, it absolutely works in Nordlys but feels rather forced in the other two. That aside, I enjoyed my time fighting in the desert, going from there to the snowy mountains and from there to the woodlands, it’s refreshing to witness each setting change and puts the point across that in WWII, the war was quite literally everywhere, a scary profound point. Three characters each come from different backgrounds, a white male prison inmate, a female resistance fighter and a black infantry soldier also show that from 1939-1945, everyone was affected no matter who you were.

BFV_RevealScreenshot_12_wLogo

It is common knowledge that perhaps everyone gets Battlefield for the multiplayer, each year it is the most important part of the game to get right. It needs to offer something for everyone and provide enough reason to keep playing beyond just killing people and telling them you fornicated with their mother.

There are six game modes to play with eight maps to jump into, the content is there, now it’s just about execution. Breakthrough is straight up attackers looking to push the opposition back by capturing each point in a sector and then onto the next one. Frontlines takes the Breakthrough style and turns it into a two-way street, like a tug of war with both teams trying to push forward point by point. It also has a smaller player count with 32 compared to Breakthrough’s 64.

Conquest is all out war between two teams with the same goals of holding as many objectives on the map and running down the other sides life count. Domination is basically Conquest on a smaller scale, the same exact rules but with half the number of players. Team Deathmatch is as basic as it gets, just get those kills in a 16v16 environment.

BFV_RevealScreenshot_07_wLogo

Finally, Grand Operations (GO) is the pinnacle of the game mode offering, a massive conflict that spans multiple days, maps and even other modes with the outcome of each day affecting the next. By far one of my favourite modes to play in any game. It switches things up and keeps you on your feet. No matter how many times I played the same GO it was different each time in terms of what transpired, due to differing team strategies that can drastically alter the field.

It is unfortunate that the other remaining modes are mostly clones of each other with slight revisions. There isn’t much change going from one to the other and someone who likes to switch it up constantly, may be hard to find themselves pleased.

I am happy to say that the maps are varied, all eight are completely distinct from each other. Being able to fight anywhere, on barren wastelands, in farming fields, upon snow covered mountain tops and in once great cities reduced to rubble, is satisfying. No matter the map, I found myself falling in love with the level design, art design and attention to detail, they feel authentic.

BFV_EAPlayScreenshot_12_wLogo

Visually it is one of the most stunning games I’ve seen, and DICE have done a fantastic job in putting the Frostbite engine to work, which aesthetically always raises the bar. Everything from design to execution impresses, lighting to weather to ‘leveolution’ it all comes together to produce something that can near enough deceive your eyes. The characters are unique, coming with their own recognisable characteristics and appear lifelike at a glance.

The soundtrack is gorgeous and emotive, combining with the visuals it truly makes for an immersive experience. Going from sad subtle tones to loud booming battle pieces it really takes you on a journey. Alongside that you have the sound effects that bring war to life on the screen, rushing around the field has literally never felt so daunting before in a video game. You hear every bullet, explosion and impact it’s quite unsettling at times, just goes to show the power of audio.

Progression is important, without it there is no reason to continue playing, in this case, it’s a little convoluted but a lot of fun and allows for plenty of experimentation. Your loadouts can be different for each side which allows you to not only choose your assault, medic, support and recon class but for both forces, be it Allied or Axis. The same with vehicles, these can be adjusted with specialisations to suit your playstyle. Going further in you can change your combat role, weapon sights, skins, appearance and much more, I felt a sense of ownership of my character, like it was really mine.

OVERALL: 8/10 – GREAT

Battlefield V takes the same formula it always has, massive warfare and done little to change it up along the way. Not there’s anything wrong with no straying from a successful path but more innovation is needed to distance itself from previous titles to not be considered a re-skinned iteration in the series. There isn’t enough in terms of story but what is there drew me in hook, line and sinker. Grand Operations is a brilliant achievement in technical design that breathes fresh air into the multiplayer suite. Progression is complex but it incentives you with customisable weapons, vehicles and characters to keep fighting.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Battlefield V, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

Fallout 76 Review

Fallout is one of the most anticipated and beloved franchises over the past decade and serves as one of the major staples in Bethesda’s offerings to us, the gamer. It comes as no surprise still however that the announcement of Fallout 76 was met with mixed responses, an always online, multiplayer game strays from the typical experience we have usually received. Personally, this is the kind of game I yearned for, a massive Bethesda world that I can play with others. But does the risk pay off or is it a mis-step?

What is absolutely clear from the get-go is that story is at the heart of this open-world RPG but it doesn’t out-right take center stage. Throughout my time in West Virginia, I purposely tried to focus my time in the main quests and lore but often became distracted in the side missions, events and in general, mucking about with friends. Whilst the main storyline could be seen as lacking I take the glass half full approach in saying and believing the rest of the content packs out this adventure in a meaningful way. There is no shortage of things to do, sights to see and enemies to kill.

Typically, side quests have a negative connotation of being a waste of time and adding little to no value. I believe that just isn’t the case here, I found myself invested in each one, to the point of seeking out all the possible details that can be discovered by searching the surroundings. Whether it was training to become a fire breather or trying to solve the case of the missing boy it all felt worthwhile.

Fallout76_B_1540295973.E.T.A._SavageDivide

It isn’t just what the story is, but how it is delivered too, and I feel the series has done a fantastic job in delivering information through sound, something 76 follows up on in a much more aggressive way. There are few friendly NPC’s and no human allied ones other than the voices you can hear through the many holotapes you will collect along the way. This way of storytelling accentuates the feeling of being alone but still being able to convey the objectives to the player.

Marmite, I can tell I confused you with that, what I want to get across is that the gameplay of Fallout can be referred to as ‘marmite’, you either love it or hate it. Unfortunately for this venture, the same issues arise and if that wasn’t bad enough you have to contend with the bugs that can at times make playing, such a chore. The movement is janky, the menus are cluttered, and combat is lacking in fun.

Frequently, traversing the terrain has resulted in either getting stuck or falling, and that isn’t down to my poor awareness either, it just doesn’t feel natural. Combine that with trying to fight something and I just constantly got caught against something and completely ruined by a swarm of enemies. When that happens time after time it becomes irritating.

Fallout76_B_1540295989.E.T.A._Wanderers.png

As it was stated during the Bethesda E3 2018 press conference, you play with dozens of players, not hundreds or thousands, because it’s the apocalypse, not an amusement park. It completely makes sense in theory, but in execution it has resulted in a world that feels a little empty, especially when playing alone. It isn’t just the number of players that make the wasteland feel bare, but also how many buildings you can explore, there are far too many structures that are blocked from entry, this makes this vast world seem just a tad smaller.

Going solo in West Virginia is a burden, to stand a chance it’s imperative to grind to get the best possible weapons, apparel, aids and stats. I don’t exactly have the best patience when it comes to grinding, some games get it right and others make it feel like a chore because of either the time it takes to level or what you must do in order to gain experience. Discovering places, killing enemies and completing quests are the ways to gain XP, you can get better percentages through use of certain perk cards, items and joining with team-mates, your incentivised to be in a group and almost penalised to be a lone wolf. Fighting a horde of enemies whilst with some buddy’s is pretty easy, alone, it’s tough, of course depending on levels etc.

Something I love are the random encounters I faced, be it game scripted or player based. I remember one of the scariest moments, I had cleared out a couple of buildings and proceeded to loot the corpses. What followed was a pip-boy stop to scour through my well-earned winnings and all was fine, all quiet etc. What followed was a loud “CONGRATULATIONS!” it was almost enough for a bowel movement, just something so unexpected it caught me off guard. I laugh about it now, but Mr. Prize-Bot is still out there, taunting me. When it comes to player interactions it could be something as simple as being given a helping hand against some enemies followed by the thumbs up emote and going on our separate ways. It might however look something like six players getting together going emote crazy and taking on waves of enemies, either way it brings a smile. Those moments I cherish in games.

Fallout76_B_1540295993.E.T.A_Fireside.png

S.P.E.C.I.A.L and perks serve as the core RPG elements that go hand in hand with levelling up and becoming a stronger player. There are seven stats and with each level you can choose which to increase by 1, simple enough really. In reality it’s more complicated as each increase in a particular stat you get an extra perk slot for that specific category, be it Strength, Luck etc. Equip perk cards that you accumulate that can give numerous different benefits. This is where a bit of forward thinking is really needed to know where you want to be and how you are going to get there. I toyed with the system ad nauseam and always found new and interesting combinations.

Now this is technically a survival game and as such there are a few meters you need to be aware of at all times, food, water and HP/Rads. It’s another layer to the game that drew me in, keeping me on my toes and was one of the deciding factors in a lot of my perk choices. I went for perks that gave me the most benefits and bonuses from consuming item to ensure my character was in tip top shape.

Base-building is back and was absolutely a much-welcomed addition in the previous game, it solidified the message that the player is the last hope for rebuilding a fallen community. It is also a blinking beacon that signals everyone to have at it and build whatever crazy things you can. This kind of freedom is just refreshing to see, being able to almost change the game world and add your own flare.

Fallout76_QC_HighLevel_1534240563

Visual fidelity has never come across as a priority in Bethesda titles, instead opting for design as opposed to fine detail. The graphics seem a little three years ago almost as if the same settings were copied and pasted from Fallout 4. That being said, there are some technical features that stand out and make this world come alive, just things like proper lighting, shadow effects and wind effects go a long way in building an atmosphere. West Virginia has undergone a drastic transformation and it truly does look that way, in terms of the level and the characters, everything has been designed superbly and puts across to the player how horrifying a post-apocalyptic earth could be.

The soundtrack of Fallout 76 is often subtle but can escalate into these ‘epic’ feeling moments. When at its quietest, you know the music is still there floating about, creating tension and when combat begins the pace is matched by the background tune, becoming hectic. Voice acting plays a big role in the immersion building process, be it the grunts and roars from hostiles, a casual chat with a robot or listening to a holotape. The performances vary with some standouts such as The Overseer voiced by Adrienne Barbeau and Mr. Fluffy, my favourite robot in a videogame.

It is with a little regret that I admit I never managed to launch a nuclear missile due to lack of friends available at the same times. This kind of proves a point that some content, like the atomic strike is cut off to those playing on their own unless you keep at it and grind to the max, something not all are willing to do.

OVERALL: 7.2/10 – GOOD

Fallout 76 is a flawed game, by any stretch of the imagination, but be damned there is also something so endearing about it. The deep survival role-playing mechanics go hand in hand with the over-arching theme of Fallout, to survive and rebuild. Its bugs are face-palm inducing and should have no place in a somewhat fully released product in 2018. I fully believe player-choice has been one of the core reasons for me to stay the course and enjoy my time playing, I got frustrated but I also smiled and laughed at the same time, gaming, am I right?

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Fallout 76, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

Hitman 2 Review

Hitman is one of the most recognisable franchises in gaming today and has transcended the entertainment medium by jumping over into the movie world. It’s no surprise that another title in the series was on the way thanks to the success IO Interactive saw with the 2016 game. Since then, IO have parted with Square Enix and managed to keep the beloved IP and continue it with Hitman 2. Does it recreate the satisfaction when taking down enemies in a stealth-like fashion, and bring the enjoyable content found in its predecessor?

The stealth genre is filled with fantastic series, like Metal Gear Solid, Dishonored and Assassin’s Creed just to name a few. Hitman however, thanks to its setting, characters and game mechanics, stands out amongst the crop. Agent 47 in spite of his soul-less demeanour is a memorable character that you can cling onto and feel like a badass. From the barcode tattoo on the back of his head, to the lack of hair and even his red tie he is easily spotted in a crowd which makes it more impressive that his cover doesn’t get blown from mission start.

Variety is the spice of life and this could not apply more here, each kill can happen in dozens of different ways and each level is kitted with a plethora of objects to assist in your murder quest. Use everything from your typical guns or knives to falling chandelier’s and electricity. Those who are quick to think on their feet and remain aware of their surroundings will absolutely make full use of the killing playground.

hitman-2-hawkes-bay-guide-header

In terms of content there just isn’t a lot of it, but I guess it is all about quality over quantity which fortunately seems to be the case here. The campaign features just six missions, all of which however can be replayed a great many times and you still won’t have found everything or completed the mission in each different possible way. What’s refreshing about the story is it comes across as concise with no un-necessary padding, my attention was captured through-out and I remained invested from start to finish. I couldn’t help but feel like I had just played through a downloadable standalone piece rather than a full game and the replayability just isn’t enough to sate my hunger for more.

What doesn’t help that feeling of in-completion is that in the menus you can see the story option for Hitman 1 and then a campaign option for DLC that is to come. By paying a little more you can get some extra content although it seems a little disingenuous as it feels needed to complete the package.

Ghost Mode is currently in beta and a much-welcomed addition to the series, with two players going head to head in a competitive environment, who can be the better assassin basically. Same starting point, same target etc with each player going about in their own instance whilst being able to see each other but not out-right affect the other players world. I had a blast with this mode as a result of the tension and urgency that it brings to the plate. There’s nothing quite like casually making your way through a heavily guarded area only for the indicator to pop up that tells you your opponent has killed the target. Upon this happening a 20-second timer begins forcing the fight sort of speak, either eliminate your target to even the score or forfeit the point. Consider me hooked on this adrenaline rush.

hitman2_ghost_mode_knife

Sniper Assassin is the second new additional mode to the series and serves as the co-operative experience whilst also remaining slightly competitive. Compete against someone whilst working together to take out all targets from afar in a limited timeframe. It’s the best of both worlds with the competitive aspect coming up in just keeping track of how many kills each player has. The downside to both modes is that currently they are only available on one map each, which adds more weight to the lack of content argument.

Then we have Contracts, user-created missions, almost. Players can jump into one of the maps and select an NPC, however you kill that marked NPC will be tracked, saved and then available as a contract for other players around the world to try their hand at it. This provides another way in which IO have made the small amount of content go a long way and provides that quality. Challenges, Mastery and Unlockables combine to form this sense of progression as you rinse and repeat your way through missions to gain more experience and satisfaction in completing things 100%.

I am a huge fan of the visuals, more so the effects and design as opposed to fine detail and fidelity. Walking through a typical suburban neighbourhood whilst taking in the view of American flags rippling, trees swaying and leaves falling sets an atmosphere that almost contrasts to your objective of well, killing people. The brightly coloured street doesn’t share many features with some of the other areas you will encounter, showing the sharp differences in the locations as to which your assassin job will take you to.

Hitman-2-Hippy

Sound has been put to good use in conveying what is going on, building the tension exactly where it needs to and then bursting into a rush when things go awry. You need to be using your ears when tracking your enemies, as there are a ton of things to pick up along the way, vital information primarily.

OVERALL: 7.9/10 – GOOD

Hitman 2 delivers a well-paced story, deep gameplay mechanics and a ton of replayability. To go back to the argument of whether there is enough content, I want to say for the most part yes but only if your happy playing through the same few missions just in different ways and trying to 100% what you can. Personally, the amount of content just isn’t enough to keep me invested and I found myself becoming disinterested after a couple of play-throughs. A little more content would have gone a long way.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Hitman 2, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)