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Hellion: Preview

Hellion: Preview

Every so often you get access to something in the early stages of development  that has the potential to be big, really big. Hellion is just that; it has potential. Whether it lives up to that potential is one thing, but so far, it’s promising.

Hellion is, well let’s just say it- a Star Citizen style survival game with Rust-like mechanics. That’s lazy of me yes, but now you know exactly what I’m talking about so I can focus on the details.

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Torment: Tides of Numenera – Early Access Report

Torment: Tides of Numenera – Early Access Report

Torment: Tides of Numenera is an upcoming CRPG developed by inXile Entertainment and is currently in Early Access on Steam. It’s the spiritual successor of Planescape: Torment, the cult hit from 1999, but unlike it’s predecessor will also release on consoles rather than just PC. In this article I aim to go over some of the major points of the early game and the stage at which the game is at in the development process.

First of all I should address the fact that Planescape: Torment was known for it’s well written dialogue and I’m happy to say that the writing in Tides of Numenera is excellent for the most part. Even the non-conversation, narrator style parts of the writing shine and quite often they feel like reading a sci-fi/fantasy book. The characters seem well developed even in this early stage. In my time with the game there were a few party members who jumped in and out during different quests and they all had unique personalities that fitted in well with the overall story arc. The city area I visited was well populated and each character seemed to have their own piece of unique written speech and a few side-quests here and there. There is the odd section where speech options or characters words were missing but this could be to protect the main story line or anything the developers don’t want to get out just yet and nothing that I would consider to be out of the ordinary.

The character creation event at the start of the game is a welcome break from the standard “choose your hero and modify every aspect of it” that is usually presented in an RPG like this. Instead you make your way through a scripted event which has choices at certain points. These choices decide where the stat points go into your character and so define your class, be that spell caster, melee or a mixture. As welcome as this change is it could do with being a little more in depth in its explanation. This will of course be your character for presumably tens, possibly even hundreds of hours worth of gameplay so you want to make sure that stats, abilities, classes, choices are explained in full detail. As far as I could tell there was no visual customization options at all and instead you can only choose male or female. After the scripted event you can adjust your character some more to suit your play style.

During my time with Tides of Numenera progression through areas seemed slow at first but I am the kind of person that likes to take a new map area and dissect it, talking to as many people as possible, exploring every area of the map and finding as many quests and secrets as possible. While progress for me continued to be slow when I encountered a new area, this proved to be more a credit to how well the developers have done at populating the maps with interesting people, engaging stories, quests and secrets rather than anything else.

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So you’ve heard a lot of the good, now for some of the not so good. There were some bugs were present for me early on. One occasion of a game freeze before combat, not being able to read tooltips, missing text, pretty much what is to be expected for the early stages of an early access game. None of these aside from the game freeze actually disrupted my gameplay much and even that was fixed with a simple reload of a previous autosave.

Tides of Numenera seems nice graphically although not stunning considering it’s been built on the same engine as Pillars of Eternity which i feel looked a nit nicer. The game still looks good though and the levels are well designed but the UI and menus seem a bit clunky and are not great to look at. They’re probably going to need some work before the final release as in my opinion that could be something that really pulls a game like this down. Inventory management, map and quest checking and general menu navigation are main parts of the game and having an inadequate or ugly UI can sometimes put me off spending more hours with a game.

Combat is a very early stage as so doesn’t feel great yet. I have only come across once instance of combat and replayed it a few times just so I could see all the different options available to me. InXile have made it clear they are at an early stage of balancing the combat and that is clear to me. Skills are not explained well enough yet and some stats/spells have no tooltips or not enough info to explain how they affect a target or yourself.

Only odd snippets of voice acting have been added already and so there’s not much to be said about that just yet.

To summarize, Torment: Tides of Numenera certainly looks to be a very interesting game that is hopefully going to continue the incredible revival of CRPG’s in the past few years. The developers are doing a good job with the writing, characters and level design so far but still have a lot of work to do. While taking all that into account if you’re looking for a finished game to sink you’re teeth into, you’ll want to wait for the final release. There are still a lot of changes going on behind the scenes and the final game is probably still a good while off yet. On the other hand if you’re interested in the game and want to poke about to see what the developers have been doing so far, there is plenty of stuff to keep you satisfied, just be prepared for a few bugs, unfinished dialogue and the odd crash.

FIFA 17 – Demo Impressions

FIFA 17 – Demo Impressions

This year’s obligatory FIFA release is more worthy for attention than any in recent memory. That’s important for me, as I have not purchased a FIFA game since 2013. Simply put, they rarely do enough every year to justify a purchase. They update the graphics slightly, tweak the gameplay slightly and slap the latest footballing superstar on the cover and then release it into the wild. It’s not enough for me to shell out £50. Every year, I play the demo, each time all reaffirming my position.

Until this year.

FIFA 17’s demo is still so very familiar:

  • Roster of fully licensed teams? Check.
  • Mocap from real professionals? Check.
  • Licensed commentary from Martin Tyler and chums? Check.
  • Alarmingly well rendered face of Wayne Rooney and his new hairline? Check.

There are some differences though. This years game is running on the Frostbite engine, the same one used to power Battlefield and FIFA has never looked healthier for it. Bright, smooth animations give players a sense of weight allowing them to move and react to each other’s presence in very believable ways. So far, just a slight fancier update than the usual.

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Then, you look at this year’s marquee signing.

“The Journey” is a single player story mode where you assume the identity of a young, up and coming star and his rise to one of the world’s elite footballers. You play Alex Hunter, the quintessential (he would have a potential rating of 200 in Football Manager) youngster and guide his on and off the field decisions. 2K have done this style of story mode once before in NBA 2K16 and while the basketball game took the first brave steps into the concept, it was lacking in refinement. The Journey feels like EA have worked out the formula, even in the short amount of time you have with Alex Hunter in the demo.

The new tweaks to the football of FIFA 17 are also interesting. A new set-piece creator enables you to choose how a player receives the ball. Be it a long far post cross to the giant centre-back or a near post drill for a first time Sheringham volley. It is a little ambiguous however, yet with a little practice became very effective.

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EA also are championing something called “Active Intelligence System” in which the AI is constantly monitoring its special awareness and the way AI players react and make runs. FIFA’s singleplayer AI used to get lots of negative feedback however, the fact that I didn’t notice any AI failings is a sign that it’s working as intended. Nothing the AI did felt unnatural during my playtime.

Passing can feel a little difficult to be precise with the analogue stick. A fair few times I wanted to pass to one player and it ended up at another’s feet because they were closer. “Be more precise then!” I hear you roar, but it is difficult and is the area that needs the most improvement. Shooting on the other hand feels lovely. Thunderbolt shots have a weight and true thump about them and feel wonderful when they crack against the bar.

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For years I have been begging for a game to have the same feel as Guy Ritchie’s first person Nike Advert “Take It To The Next Level”. Nothing has ever excited me more than the concept of a video game showing the experiences of real life footballer has. Being discovered, getting an agent, dealing with the press, the money, getting transferred all of these things seem to be present in The Journey the demo version was very enjoyable and I cannot wait to experience it fully.

 

The Elder Scrolls: Legends – Open Beta Musings

The Elder Scrolls: Legends – Open Beta Musings

I’ve never spent considerable time with a collectible card game, I tried Hearthstone earlier this year after seeing everyone rave about it for so long, and I didn’t get the attraction. I’m not going to proclaim that The Elder Scrolls: Legends, the new CCG set in the Scrolls universe is going to keep me playing for months on end, but it looks fun, to a newcomer at least.

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