Tag Archives: PC

Warhammer End Times: Vermintide

Warhammer End Times: Vermintide is a new FPS from developer Fatshark, who are perhaps best known for their Medieval combat game, War of the Roses.

The game takes place in the Warhammer fantasy universe (the lesser-well known sibling of the futuristic Warhammer 40k), both tabletop games from developer Games Workshop. While perhaps not everyone’s favorite Games Workshop IP, Warhammer fantasy still brings rich lore and fun gameplay mechanics to the table. Unlike Warhammer 40k, however, Warhammer fantasy has traditionally not translated as well to the electronic medium.

Vermintide heavily pays homage to Left 4 Dead, with four adventurers fighting through swarms of Skaven- evil humanoid rats with a hatred for mankind in place of zombies. Much like L4D, there are several “special” enemies that have different abilities than the average Skaven.

This is where Vermintide begins to fall short, with the unique Skaven being almost complete rip-offs of L4D enemies. For example, there is an enemy called the Packmaster which hooks players and drags them off (much like the Smoker from L4D), and a Hunter-esque enemy called the Gutter Runner, which leaps onto the player and pins them down while stabbing them. Vermintide even features a direct rip-off of L4D’s tank enemy called the Rat Ogre. Other than the unique Skaven that clearly rip-off L4D, Vermintide’s standard enemies are just plain boring. Hordes of rats run at you much the same way the standard infected in L4D do, with no regards to their own personal safety. That would be fine if every level didn’t include these same enemies either standing around doing nothing or blindly rushing at you like crazy Wal-Mart shoppers on Black Friday. After a while, players will find it almost becomes a chore simply cutting through the same enemies over and over again.

Vermintide’s other big problem is the optimization. Sudden frame rate drops, random bugs and crashes plague Vermintide at random intervals. Even the best machines it seems have sudden frame drops for no apparent reason.

Other than optimization issues, Vermintide’s bugs can make the game range from absolutely hilarious at times to down right frustrating. Many of these bugs happen when one of the game’s special enemies attacks and include players being launched into the sky where their allies can’t save them, or pulled through walls by the Packmaster’s hook. Enemies sometimes even seem to spawn out of nowhere and/or teleport with no explanation as to how. Certain levels also contain easily exploitable designs, making the threat of certain enemies (such as the Rat Ogre) completely moot.

Vermintide’s loot system (while innovative) also fall short. Players may customize their chosen hero with different equipment from weapons to trinkets which add special abilities. At the end of each level, a number of dice are rolled to determine which piece of loot the player receives for winning with higher dice rolls netting the player rarer and more powerful items. These dice rolls can be augmented with pick-ups throughout the level, which add more dice that have a better chance at higher rolls.

Unfortunately because it is completely random, even with the best dice there is no guarantee the player will receive a rare item. This can be very frustrating,  as pretty much the only way to beat higher difficulty levels and ultimately receive rarer loot is to outfit yourself with rare items.

Combat can also be very tedious. Each character is equipped with both a ranged and melee weapon and while some of the weapons are fairly unique, the fighting itself is very straightforward and standard.

For a game whose primary focus is close-quarters combat, Vermintide’s melee combat is just plain boring, usually turning into button mashing as you cut down hordes of enemies. There are no combos and only two different types of attacks – regular “light” hits and heavier “sweeping” hits for crowd control (performed by holding down the attack button briefly). There’s also a block button, but enemies can break your block after just a few hits (more or less depending on the enemy), rendering blocks mostly useless.

One aspect in which Vermintide does well is the playable characters. There are five heroes to choose from, each of which brings a unique gameplay style and a role that they fulfill within the group.

The Soldier for example, uses mostly large melee weapons and powerful muskets/blunderbusses, makes for a great heavy hitter and also can use his huge sweeping attacks for crowd control. The Witch Hunter is almost a hybrid class with a good balance of quick melee and ranged attacks. The Elf Archer is pretty standard, providing ranged support with the quick-firing bow while also able to provide quick melee strikes. The Dwarf Ranger makes a great tank, as his default weapon is an ax/shield combo allowing him to form a living wall in the small corridors and alleyways the players often traverse. Rounding out the list is the Battlemage, who is perhaps the most unique hero of all. While having a fairly week melee attack, the Battlemage can use powerful and fast ranged spells to utterly blow away hordes of Skaven. The Battlemage can also charge up her ranged spell and fire an explosive shard that deals massive damage.

Unfortunately, where Vermintide goes right is not enough to redeem the entire experience. This very well could have been a great game. It has all the right elements: unique characters, a great IP to work with, an innovative loot system, and tons of replayability. Unfortunately, it falls short in far too many of these areas to make it the next big thing. Vermintide becomes far too grindy and predictable after only a short period of play. Perhaps with some time, developer Fatshark will add content to the game such as new levels and enemies that will make the experience more interesting but until then, Vermintide remains just another mediocre FPS.

An Open Letter to Rockstar and other Triple A Developers

open letter to triple a and rockstarI recently picked up the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V, and I am hugely disappointed by it.

Having previously played the Xbox 360 version of GTA V, I knew how great the game was, and I was excited for all the new features being added to the PC release.  I waited in anticipation for months, as the release date was pushed back over and over again, but I said to myself, “It’s alright, better to have a great game with a later release”.  And then, the day finally came: GTA V on PC.

I planned on waiting a week or two before buying so I wouldn’t have to deal with release-week bullshit, but decided “eh what the hell” and bought it anyway the day after it came out.  I excitedly started the patcher and thus my first disappointment: I would have to wait over nine hours for the 50 plus gigabyte game to download.  I thought to myself, “It’s okay, this is a huge game after all.”  I decided to let it download overnight so that I could play it in the morning.

When the morning came, I got up, ate breakfast, and sat down at my PC ready to play.  What was I greeted by?  A five minute loading screen. “Okay, Okay, it’s not that bad,” I thought to myself. When I was finally able to play, I was greeted by the awesome “tutorial” bank robbery in the beginning.  I finished it, went through the couple of cinematics, and was soon on the first mission with Franklin.

I was, however; soon hit with my first crash.  “Well,” I thought, “I guess I should quit for now and go to work.”  This crash would be followed by several more throughout the following days, until a patch finally came out that seemed to fix it.

What the patch didn’t fix however, is the broken multiplayer.  GTA Online is perhaps the biggest selling point of GTA V: the ability to make your own character, start your own crew, do missions and heists with friends, and a multitude of other activities.  All of this would be great if I could actually fucking play it for longer than a few missions.  The lag is so bad, that a ride with a friend turns into us staring at each other in the car not moving while the server catches up.  NPCs teleport around, cars rubber-band into the sky and through the ground, and mission objectives don’t update.  Now, to be fair, I have been able to play for extended periods of time without lag.  However, the stuff that really counts-missions and heists, become pretty much unplayable depending on who the host is.

Now if this was a brand new game, I could forgive it.  After all, every game has some hiccups on launch week, so it is to be expected that a game as huge as GTA V would have some bugs.  There is one thing that makes this unacceptable:  THIS GAME HAS BEEN OUT FOR OVER A YEAR AND  A HALF.  GTA V originally came out for Xbox 360 and PS3 in September of 2013 (I remember, I was at the midnight launch), and GTA Online was released a few weeks later.  So it’s not like Rockstar didn’t know what they were doing.  Not only that, but the Xbox One and PS4 came out FIVE MONTHS AGO.  Rockstar had more than enough time to test server stability, playtest for bugs and crashes, and better optimize the game for PC.  THEY EVEN DELAYED THE PC RELEASE BY SEVERAL MONTHS.  There is absolutely no excuse for the sub-par quality of this port (READ: PORT; NOT BRAND NEW GAME).

This pattern of shit releases is not rare.  In fact, when a “triple A” game is released now-a-days, it is often EXPECTED for shit like this to happen.  Now what I want to know is when it became acceptable for a company to release a broken fucking game?  Years ago, if a game came out that was as buggy as most modern Triple A games are on release, it would be universally panned for being a shitty, unplayable game.  But now, for some reason, these games get a free pass because the company that makes them has been known to release good games in the past.

It’s as if their past achievements somehow validate any game they release in the future.

Not only that, most Triple A companies have a legion of fan-boys and apologists that try to make nothing but excuses for the shit games they put out.  “Oh how could you expect a game to be working perfectly on release”.  I don’t expect it to be perfect on release, but if I am going to spend $60 (or more in some cases) of hard-earned money on it, IT BETTER FUCKING BE AT LEAST PLAYABLE.

This problem is not exclusive to Rockstar.  The list of games that were broken on release is as big as the national debt these days.  Battlefield 4, Hardline, Assasin’s Creed Unity, Dragonball: Xenoverse, Sim City; the list goes on and on.

These aren’t games from tiny companies with two guys in their mom’s garage.  These are huge corporations with multiple studios around the world and hundreds or even thousands of people working on them.  In fact, the games made by two people in their mom’s garage tend to be HUGELY superior in terms of stability on release.

Why is it that games that have multi-million dollar budgets as big (or bigger) than Hollywood movies, with huge teams of some of the best (allegedly) programmers in the world, and (in some cases it seems) nearly unlimited amount of time to work on the game can’t ever get it right on release?  Why do players who spend $60 or more on these games have to wait weeks or months before they can actually play the game they bought?  And more importantly, why do people try to make excuses for this?

If I pay for a product, I expect to get my money’s worth out of it, and honestly, I rarely do anymore.  We as players, as consumers, should not be putting up with this.  I’d rather wait an extra year for a game to come out for it to be playable on release than get it early but broken and unplayable.  There is even less of an excuse for games that are ported to other consoles.  These are games that have been out, that all the code has been written for, and have already been optimized for something less powerful than the average gaming PC, but are still broken.

Here’s a radical idea developers: DESIGN THE GAME FOR PC AND PORT IT TO FUCKING CONSOLES.  There was a time when PC had the most cutting edge games, and the consoles got the watered-down, shitty ports.  Now, the opposite is true.  Triple A developers don’t give a shit about the PC gaming market anymore because the console market is worth more to them.  So instead of maximizing capabilities of a game and fully optimizing it, they essentially handicap it so it will run on consoles so they can make more money.

It’s now at the point where I will no longer buy Triple A games at full price because I know they aren’t worth $60 most of the time.  I’d rather wait six months to a year for a Steam sale, because I know that by then at least most of the bugs will be fixed and it will be somewhat playable.

Triple A developers have lost their passion for making games.  The industry has become much too corporate.  People who have no business running a game development company are at the helm, and they couldn’t care less about releasing a quality product as long as whatever they put out makes them money.  It makes me sad, knowing that an environment which I have always loved and felt at home in has become a barren wasteland of corporate interests.

It makes me sad to know that games from small developers with tiny budgets are far more playable than games that have bigger budgets than most Hollywood movies; but people still go for the big budget games just because of brand loyalty or past achievements. It especially makes me sad that people keep going for this system. They are so entrenched and blinded by big money that they can’t see that what the industry is pumping out these days would not have been acceptable 10 or 15 years ago.  My advice to anyone reading this: don’t buy Triple A games at full price. Read about what kind of problems people have been experiencing, and ALWAYS take mainstream gaming news reviews with a grain of salt, because half the time they are paid to overlook major issues.

Sincerely,

A Very Disgruntled Gamer

Elite Dangerous Review

Elite: Dangerous  is a space trading and combat sim made by developer David Braben and Frontier Developments.  It is the first game in the Elite series since 1995’s “Frontier: First Encounters and its safe to say the wait has been well worth it.

The game takes place in a 1:1 scale model of the Milky Way Galaxy, with  thousands of real star systems to visit( including our own) and billions more procedurally generated systems based on scientific models.  Elite can be played both offline and in a massively-multiplayer fashion in which players can interact with each other in number of ways.  A crowd-funding campaign for the game was started back in 2012, and after several stages of development and testing; the full release came in December of 2014.

Like many space sims, the player is able to control every aspect of their ship, from lights and landing gear, to power regulation of the various systems.  Unlike past space sims, Elite allows the player to look around the cockpit of their starship and actually interact with the various screens and HUDs present.  Almost any ship function from targeting to silent running can be manually controlled by the player through this method, adding a level of depth that makes Elite unique among current space games.

Elite: Dangerous, akin to many of its predecessors, is completely open-ended.  Players have can choose a number of different ways to make their mark in the galaxy, from legitimate activities like mining and trading to the more underhanded tactics like piracy and smuggling.  One of the best aspects of the trading system is that every system has its own economy which is completely player driven.  Market prices depend on supply and demand, and smart players will work out complex trading routes to maximize their profits.  Star ports also have “bulletin boards,” which allow players to take missions to assist various factions that operate out of the system.  Completing these missions not only means both credits and renown for the player, but also affects other missions available to other players.  For example, if one faction gains more ground in a system than another, it will change the types of missions available to players.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Elite: Dangerous is its tremendous scale..  It is impossible for any one person to explore every system, even if you spent  seconds in each one.  Players can spend hours exploring only to find that they have only traveled a few dozen light years away from where they began.  Exploration is actually a great way to make money starting out, as any scan data from stars or planets can be sold to stations that are 20 light years away or more for big money.  While that seems far, every ship is equipped with a “frame shift drive”, which allows for speedy travel from system to system.  The FSD is essential even for traveling to different planets within a system, however, as traveling at sub-light speeds could take hours, days, or even weeks of real time in some cases.  The vastness of the galaxy in Elite may also be a detractor for some, as players can spend  hours flying without encountering much more than a single star with no planets or stations.  Elite lives up to its “simulator” label; just as in real life, space is big and mostly empty.  There is also no way  to visit the surface of planets- only the stations that orbit them.  While some may find this disappointing, it is understandable considering for Elites budget and time frame.

Elite also may be a bit tricky for those without a controller or flight stick, as ships are able to fly not only up,down and side to side, but forwards and back as well.  Those who play flight sims may be a little thrown off, as normal rules of atmospheric flight don’t apply in the vacuum of space.  New players would be better suited to treating their ships as fast moving submarines rather than “flying machines”, as space is more a vast ocean than an open sky.  The game does, however, offer full controller and flight stick support, and even has built in options for Saitek joysticks, a flight industry standard.

Overall, Elite has enough variety to keep both lovers of the space sim genre and newcomers entertained for hours on end.  It is easy to simply get lost in the beauty and vastness of this 1:1 scale model of our galaxy, and exploration alone will keep many occupied.  Some players may have issues with the open-ended nature of Elite: Dangerous, as the game drops the player in without much direction, albeit with an extensive tutorial if they choose to play it.  The various jobs and activities are both enjoyable and add depth, and the ability to look freely around the cockpit makes Elite feel even more real.  With future updates to include the ability to walk around ships and star ports, as well ships that require a multi-person crew, Elite: Dangerous is definitely worth checking out.

Warframe (PC) Review

Warframe is a cooperative free-to-play third person shooter/RPG with the feel of an old-school dungeon crawler.

The game takes place in the far future where the Solar System is overrun with several different races vying for power. You play as a Tenno, essentially the last remnants of humanity that use different armors (aptly named warframes) to do battle with the warlike Grineer – the technologically advanced Corpus, and the biological Infestation. After being awakened by a woman known as Lotus from a cryogenic sleep, you find yourself struggling to regain your lost power while trying to survive the war-torn solar system.

The main objective of Warframe is to get loot (a lot of it) and level it up. Missions are designed with maximum re-playability in mind, with no two levels being exactly the same. Warframe uses a procedure generated level design based on various tile sets, much like the dungeons of Diablo or Path of Exile. This is good because you will be playing the same levels a lot.  Certain rare resources are best acquired by fighting specific bosses, leading to many replays of specific boss battles in order to farm said resources. While it is possible to buy new weapons, Warframes, keys and other items for real money, it’s not required. Pretty much everything in the game can be unlocked by grinding, save for cosmetic upgrades and more inventory slots.

Coop multiplayer is really where the fun is at in Warframe. Up to four players can fight together in a variety of different mission types from straight-up exterminations to spy missions that require some twitch-based puzzle skills. Players can also form clans and build “dojos”, which are essentially giant space stations for clan members to meet. In the dojo, clan members can duel, trade items, research various items and weapons, or just hang out. Other than dueling, players can also enter PVP areas and fight in teams against other clans.

Movement in Warframe is perhaps one of the best aspects of the game. Your Tenno can run, jump, climb up walls, slide, and perform various other ninja maneuvers. The wall running and jumping isn’t just for show, as many levels require some platforming to advance. The combat is also extremely fluid; switching from ranged to melee is very streamlined, and there are many different weapons to choose from. Each weapon (as well as your warframe) can be leveled up and modded to make them more powerful. Mods can also be combined in different ways to make weapons even more devastating than normal.

In addition to its gameplay, Warframe has a rich lore and aesthetic that is unlike any other game out today. The concept of space-traveling ninjas in the far future is a very odd combination, but it works great. As you progress through the game, you learn more of the back story of each warframe, but also of each enemy type you encounter. The fact that it takes place in our own solar system (albeit well after humanity has largely gone extinct) makes for a new take on the whole post-apocalyptic/scifi genre. This isn’t a world where humanity is barely getting by in a barren wasteland. The Tenno are more of a shadow organization, barely a blip on the radar in this future where aliens rule the solar system, fighting each other for power. You are not here to “reclaim Earth” or help restart the human race in any way, but merely to survive in the chaos our solar system has fallen into.

While there are many great aspects of Warframe, it does have a few downfalls. It is still being actively developed, and so there are some crazy (often hilarious) glitches that happen occasionally. It is also extremely grindy. You can spend hours trying to get one resource without finding any. Having said that, developer Digital Extremes have really gone above and beyond to improve the game from what it once was, adding new maps, enemies, events, and greatly improving the user interface. While not perfect, it is certainly much more polished than it was a year ago, and new content (free content that is) is constantly being implemented.

Overall, while not the greatest game out today, Warframe is certainly very fun. It can get a bit tedious after a while, but if you can find some friends to play with, that definitely helps cut down the boredom caused by grinding for resources. If you are looking to play a game similar to Destiny but only have a PC, than look no further than Warframe. In many ways, Warframe does right the things that Destiny failed on, and while it may not be quite as vast as Destiny, Warframe certainly offers hours of enjoyment to any RPG/dungeon crawler fan.

Dying Light (PC) Review

Developer Techland, (the same company that brought us 2011’s Dead Island) has presented us with a new survival horror game for the PC titled Dying Light.

While retaining much of the RPG elements of Dead Island, Techland manages to refine and expand upon the loot/skill based system of their previous franchise, making for a much more enjoyable open-world experience.

Perhaps the biggest new feature is the new parkour system.  Unlike Dead Island, where movement was fairly restricted, Dying Light gives the player the ability to go essentially anywhere they can see.  What sets the climbing and free running elements apart from similar games like Assassin’s Creed is its natural flow.  One of the biggest issues with Assassin’s Creed’s free running/climbing mechanic is the level design.  While it was a fairly great system, buildings clearly have things that you are supposed to climb on, be it weird wooden planks sticking out in nonsensical locations or the random bricks that just happen to be out of place in a perfect climbing line.  Dying Light’s level design is much more subtle, making the parkour elements of the game feel a lot more natural and realistic.

The world of Dying Light is massive.  Dozens of side quests and little distractions will keep any fan of games like Skyrim or Fallout occupied for hours.  Not only is this world huge, it is also pretty.  From the picturesque scenes of the resort town to the grittiness of the slums, Techland definitely spared no expense on creating the world of Dying Light.

One of the best features of Dying Light is the day/night cycle.  During the day, zombies and the various other infected – while tough, will eventually become more of a nuisance than a threat.  It isn’t until the sun goes down that the game gets really difficult, with the standard zombies getting a buff and the appearance of the vampire-like Volatiles( monstrous creatures that can easily chase you down and murder you, even across rooftops).  Going out at night, however, does have its benefits.  The player will receive a boost in all experience earned, as well as a chance to score some loot drops without having to deal with the dangerous uninfected enemies.

Overall, Dying Light is a breath of fresh air in the zombie survival genre.  From the in-depth crafting and loot system to the amazing free running/parkour, Dying Light has something for fans of both the RPG and action-adventure/platforming genres. Techland took the extra time to release Dying Light and it shows.  The amount of polishing put into the game is rare for most AAA releases these days, making Dying Light the proverbial god among insects in the current market.