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Death of the Outsider – The Verdict

Death of the Outsider – The Verdict

It was only at the beginning of September that I finally finished Dishonored 2, and now I have finished Death of the Outsider, the expandalone title which serves as a fitting post-script to the Corvo/Emily Kaldwin arc of the Dishonored story. Corvo and Emily have been the duo at the heart of the series from the start, while Daud and Billie Lurk have spread their wings in the expansions to the base games. With Dishonored 2 putting Corvo and Emily’s story to bed, Death of the Outsider ends the story of Daud and Billie, and the unifying factor to everything, the mysterious Outsider gets his final swansong.

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Destiny 2 – The Verdict

Destiny 2 – The Verdict

It’s strange to think it was three years ago when Steve and myself first shared Our Thoughts on Destiny the First, and two years since I decided that The Taken King had gone a long way towards tidying up some of the rough edges from the base game. Now, here we are and Destiny 2 is part of our world, and I love it. Bungie have learn from what made The Taken King so good, and created a wondrous game.

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DiRT 4 – The Verdict

DiRT 4 – The Verdict

Rally, one of the purest forms of motorsport. Man and machine against the road, a co-drivers hastily barked instructions all that keeps them from slipping off the road and out of the action. Codemasters reached near perfection with distilling the core rallying experience into a video game with DiRT Rally a few years ago. Now, they’re back with DiRT 4, a racing game with rally at its heart, but a different beast to the hardcore icon from 2015.

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Tyranny – The Verdict

Tyranny – The Verdict

So here’s a question for people who like that kind of thing. What exactly is an evil man? Surely good and evil are simply decided by which side of an army or faction you are born into? Maybe it depends on which views you are brought up with or what you come to believe to be true on your own terms. Or is evil a more personal thing, something that is defined by your actions no matter where you come from or what your background is? Paradox Interactive’s new RPG Tyranny really poses this question to you from the get-go by allowing you to choose your backstory in the lead up to actually taking control of your character. The army of Kyros under which your loyalties lie, have taken over most of the known world aside from one small peninsula in the south. As one of Kyros’ leaders in the eventual occupation of these lands, you begin the game by deciding exactly how your armies go about capturing the district. I won’t spoil any of the important choices for you, as this intro literally shapes the game you play and choosing the level to which your evil or mercy extends is half the fun of the early game.

What I will say is that as with other Paradox games the writing and character development in Tyranny is of a very high standard. Rarely does it feel like you’re reading a piece of filler text but instead insightful and interesting dialogue and backstory, and taking part in decisions that literally shape the game and characters you are playing in and talking to. Just be prepared to do a LOT of reading. If reading is really not your thing, then I would seriously consider your attitude towards this game as skipping text would, in my opinion ruin the enjoyment of the overall game.

In a majority of games in this genre party interaction is something that I often find tedious and an endeavor that has no meaningful outcome. Party conversations in Tyranny however hold weight as each character that you talk to will react differently to you depending on your choices in game and the ways in which you interact with them on an individual level. You can gain fear or loyalty from them, making their own actions change according to yours. This is the same for larger factions and NPC’s in the game, who you can also gain and lose reputation with depending on your actions. This certainly makes conversation choices a lot more meaningful for me and means if you want to role play the evil guy you better be prepared to deal with the consequences. The only disappointment from the party members is that there is not a whole lot of depth to them after conversation. You may visit an area in the game that they have a connection with and they will hardly even talk. There’s also not much in the way of ‘loyalty quests’ or anything to connect them personally to these places and I feel like they lack a bit of depth in that department, which is a shame. A personal quest or two that included each of the characters you can add to your party would go a long way to solving this problem.

The voice acting is also of a high standard when it shows, but not all interactions are voiced. I’m not sure if this was due to me playing the early review release of the game which im told would be missing the odd bit here and there or if they decided that it just wouldn’t be practical to have every section of the game voice acted. Certainly the main story line arc was mostly voice acted and if I think about it long enough that’s probably enough for me.

The writers don't shy away from being in your face about their characters feelings.
The writers don’t shy away from being in your face about their characters feelings.

There’s a lot to take in to account when getting into your first few proper combat situations in Tyranny, although if you have played Paradox’s other game Pillars of Eternity, you will feel semi-familiar here. Once you build up a party and level them to suit your play style things get a little easier, but initially I found it a touch hard to manage the ability overload you are faced with. There is the option to let AI manage your party members but this is best turned off if you’re thinking about tackling one of the harder difficulty levels as sometimes they can be infuriatingly slow to react, especially when switching between targets that are further apart from each other. Thankfully you can pause combat and manage each characters abilities and if things are moving to fast for you in real-time, there’s an option to toggle slow combat speeds.

Once you get into the thick of the stats, abilities and equipment management, it’s actually quite enjoyable if you like that kind of thing. The spell system allows you to essentially create your own spells and assign them to any character, with higher cost spells being restricted to characters with high lore values which are normally casters anyway. Spells are created with a ‘Core Sigil’ deciding what element or type of spell it will be, an ‘Expresion Sigil’ deciding how the spell will effect the target and an ‘accent’ which modifies anything from casting range to the strength of the spell or how long the effect of the spell will take place for. Each sigil has a lore value and this is what restricts you from just giving the strongest spells to every character. For your mage assuming you have one in your party, spell creation is something of a strong point in the game, allowing you to entirely shape the type of combat style you want later into the game once you’ve collected a lot of sigils.

On top of the spell system each character has their own skill tree with multiple options from which they can learn new abilities or improve combat traits like armour penetration or health. Certain pieces of equipment can also provide abilities but are mostly for stat improvement and aesthetic value. Overall the combat and ability system is fairly in depth and as a person who enjoys tweaking optimal stats and abilities I enjoyed the system that Obsidian have put in place here, certainly when compared to other games of the same genre which almost seem to shy away from making these things in any way complicated for whatever reason. In a game that isn’t entirely about combat it makes sense not to completely overload the player with combat based decisions and I feel this medium depth level worked well at not spoiling my enjoyment of everything else that Tyranny has to offer.

I really enjoyed the medium level depth of the combat, skill and ability system in Tyranny.
I really enjoyed the medium level depth of the combat, skill and ability system in Tyranny.

Graphically and in terms of level deign Tyranny is a really good looking game much on the same terms as Pillars of Eternity, which makes sense when you take into account that the same team developed it and it’s made with the same engine. The levels are really well designed both visually and the way in which they can be transversed and interacted with. It’s almost as if concept art has been improved upon by artists and designers leading to some stunning scenes and intelligent design. Throughout the whole game I don’t think there was a single area of the game where I thought the designers had slipped in quality.

Ultimately Tyranny is a game about making decisions and unlike some games who promise a lot it really makes these choices count. During my play I compared my choices and outcomes to that of a friend and I’m happy to say that there was no illusion of choice, your actions really do change things like the people you meet, the areas you visit and smaller sub areas that you may or may not have access to, how people react to you, what people call you, items you find in the game and probably much more than that.

To sum things up Tyranny is a well designed and enjoyable RPG that makes decisions count, has enjoyable combat, interesting characters and well written dialogue. It places itself in a fairly unique setting and certainly makes being evil a lot of fun. Above all of that I think the thing I like most about Tyranny is that it’s not very often in a game that I get to actually make the decision I want. In most other games I may be provided with options but certain game world rules mean that none of them suit exactly what I want to do in that situation. In Tyranny however I can happily kill off an NPC, slap someone in the face, throw them off a building, show mercy, save their life, take a bribe, or basically anything I want if I deem it necessary as I am literally the law bringer and in the end this is what makes it most enjoyable for me.

The Verdict – Red Mist

Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC

Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.

Battlefield 1 – The (multiplayer) Verdict

Battlefield 1 – The (multiplayer) Verdict

I’ve played every Battlefield game apart from the first Bad Company and Hardline. I’ve tried every game online apart from 1942 and Vietnam and I think Battlefield 1 might have the best online action of the series since Battlefield 2, a game which I still rate as one of the best (though flawed) online shooters. What I like about Battlefield 1 is that it has stripped away some of the excess fat that had grown around series over the years, while also improving in some key aspects.

After playing the open beta and goings hands on at EGX, I wasn’t convinced that the game would succeed in multiplayer. Having played it online on live servers, I can say that it works. It isn’t perfect, no Battlefield game would be complete without its fair share of bugs (though I haven’t experienced any game breakers so far), and complaints about balancing.

Bug wise, I’ve experienced a few niggles with the squad system. In one round I couldn’t join any open squads, or even create my own. There is also the trouble of people locking squads when joining a game as a party. For a series that had a great squad system in Battlefield 2, it is frustrating that problems are still arising.

Small things, but the new spawn screen is gorgeous.
Small things, but the new spawn screen is gorgeous.

The balancing concerns lie around the Behemoths that can come to dominate a map, but despite inflicting heavy casualties, they won’t always turn the tide of battle back in the losers’ favour. A team with any modicum of sense will quickly set out to destroy the Behemoth and in most maps, there are plentiful ways of doing so. Planes are plentiful on maps where an Airship can appear, while a combination of fast attack boats and planes can quickly take down a Dreadnought.

I’m not convinced that the Armoured Train is suitable in all circumstances though. In one fight through the Argonne Forest (one of the finest infantry maps), one of these beasts appeared towards the very end of the round. It didn’t appear early enough to swing the tide of battle, but on a map without any other vehicles, it could prove to play too decisive a role in the action.

While I’m not over the moon about the Behemoths, I am suitably impressed by planes, something I haven’t been for many a year. Not since Battlefield 2 (and only during some patches) have I felt that planes complement the battle waging on the ground without being a depressing tank-busting sight or feeling that they live in an entirely different game with maps too small to handle their speed.

Operations are new, and a must play. Offering historical context along with great action.
Operations are new, and a must play. Offering historical context along with great action.

This is where the setting of Battlefield 1 shines (as much as that makes me cringe to write considering it is set during The Great War) as their slow speed means even amateur pilots like myself can keep them in the air for more than twenty seconds, and their fragile airframes remove the need for dedicated anti-air tanks or equipment. Gang together with some friends and you will soon do enough damage to a fighter to take it down, while working with pilots, you can help rid the battle of pesky lone snipers.

Another neat trick that applies to both planes and armour, is that you can only spawn into one from the spawn screen (where you can select the type of plane or tank you want). Gone are the dark days of Battlefield 2 where hordes of fly-boys and tankers would hang around at the main base waiting for their desired weapon of destruction, oblivious to the wider battle. With the spawn timings of the vehicles seemingly random, you are doing your team a disservice by waiting at the spawn screen for one to appear.

The ground action itself it thoroughly enjoyable, as it often is in Battlefield games. But the change in weaponry from modern automatics to bolt action and early semi-automatic rifles and ratty-tatty light machine guns is welcome. The changes just slightly alter the pace of the action, bringing it down just a touch. You don’t feel like you are playing a different game, but it’s enough to bring things back to the days of Battlefield 1942, a game I played for hours on end against the bots.

That doesn't look too good....
That doesn’t look too good….

The action is of course aided with some very fine maps. During the open beta, I wasn’t convinced by the Sinai Desert map in Conquest mode, but close it down for a game of War Pigeons or Rush, and it feels just right. The Argonne Forest is a formidable infantry grinder full of bunkers, trenches and dense foliage to hide in. Monte Grappa is full of Alpine charm and offer a brilliant mix of air, ground and armoured warfare. Clambering around the rocks and knifing an unsuspecting sniper is delicious. Amiens offers a city environment waiting to be blown to smithereens while Ballroom Blitz is a majestic tour around French grandeur. Until the bullets fly.

What is perhaps best is the way the maps alter depending on the game mode you are playing. Playing War Pigeons (effectively a capture the flag without home bases) in the Sinai Desert focuses the action on the town, while Rush (with telegraph stations replacing M-COM stations) sees you advance from the desert outside town offering a mix of everything you want if you progress as an attacking force.

The heart of multiplayer though are Operations, a game mode complete with narration during loading to set the historical context and adaptable instructions from generals depending on how the course of battle plays out. They best described as a mix of Conquest and Rush and each Operation is spread over two or three maps, depending which one you choose.

Not being able to aim down the sights adds to the claustrophobic feeling of the gas masks.
Not being able to aim down the sights adds to the claustrophobic feeling of the gas masks.

The attackers have three attempts to conquer the four or five sectors on each map with each death ticking away at their ticket count. If they can’t conquer the map in their three attempts, they done for. The defenders have unlimited tickets, and must prevent the attackers capturing the flags at strategic points in each sector. Lose control of the sector, and the battle moves onto the next part of the map.

Operations are a great blend of all the elements that make Battlefield great, and are the one game mode where a Behemoth feels like it justifies its place in the action. Team work is required to capture and hold the control points in each sector, and medics are essential for the attackers to prevent their tickets bleeding away. As the front-line changes through the action, you get to experience every aspect of the majestic maps that DICE have crafted. Ballroom Blitz takes you from the trenches outside the Château, to the outer courtyards then the middle of house itself. Finally, you end up attacking the gardens at the rear to complete a truly astonishing battle.

One of the more understated changes that DICE have made with Battlefield 1 has come with the changes to the progression and unlock system. You still receive stupidly large amounts of points for every interaction (bring back the 2 points for a kill from the early games please), but you can now target different medals to achieve through the week with a medal rewarding you with a hefty bit of bonus XP. Medals have various stages to complete, with a stage being as simple as getting 10 kills in a round or more specific such as reviving 20 squad members. The medals rotate on a weekly basis, each with different requirements, and they will surely have the long-term aim of promoting team and squad cooperation, along with class diversity.

Mortars require some skill, but can be powerful tools.
Mortars require some skill, but can be powerful tools.

Classes have been pared back to Assault (with anti-armour tools), Medic (to revive and heal comrades), Support (heavy weapons and ammo supply) and Scout (snipers) along with Pilot or Driver kits for spawning in planes or vehicles. A simple, and clear, mix of roles and responsibilities that players will become more accustomed to over time.

As you progress through the ranks, you will also progress through Class ranks, both of which will unlock different weapons for purchase with War Bonds (earned with promotions). Some weapons are Class specific, while others can be used across the classes. And unlike previous games in the series, there are a sensible number of weapons to unlock (many are simply variations on a Factory weapon model) with a limited number of attachments for each.

I’m all for cutting down on the number of unlocks and customisation options, in recent years across the FPS genre the number of different weapon configurations has become something of joke. We will never go back to the straightforward days of 1942 or Vietnam, but we have a fine balance here.

I'm flying!
I’m flying!

I have no doubts that Battlefield 1 won’t be for everyone. Some will miss the modern weapons and vehicles, others will find the slight change in pace of the combat frustrating. On the whole though, DICE have done a stupendous job with Battlefield 1s multiplayer component. There are some stunning maps to behold with the game modes offering a pleasing variety to the action. Weapons and vehicles (especially the planes) are generally, well balanced, and I for one haven’t experienced any game breaking bugs. It’s disappointing that the French and Russian armies aren’t present yet, and I’m holding out hope they will appear along with some singleplayer, but overall? This is a great game.

The Verdict – Red Mist

Platforms Available – PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Platform Reviewed – PC

Review based on code supplied by PR. Head here for more on our scoring policy.