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Noita Early Access – First Impressions

Noita Early Access – First Impressions

Noita (the Finnish word for witch) is an early access rogue-lite with an emphasis on every pixel being simulated. That’s right, every single pixel in the game has physical properties and can be affected by the player in one way or another. Explosions gouge chunks out of caves and yourself, fire burns down anything organic including any wood you’re standing on and yourself, water fills up all the little crevices and drowns you if you’re not careful and many enemies have the same abilities. Indeed traversing your way through Noita can be as precarious and treacherous as fighting the enemies that dwell in it’s caves.

Combat and exploration come with a magical flavour, as you move around the underground landscape with what is essentially the power of a recharging jet pack. The game also adopts the no hands held approach which works well in generating a sense of exploration and a reasonable learning curve although I admit I did take a peek at the wiki a few times.

Weapons come in the form of wands and throwable flasks, each with their own properties and statistics. In the case of wands, the statistics of any given wand are permanent but they also come with spell slots and interchangeable spells attatched to them. Wands are plentiful at the start of Noita and this makes for some interesting experimentation as you try different combinations and find out a combat style that suits you. Flasks are equally as interesting and can teleport, polymorph, increase damage, burn, slow and many more things.

As you progress through Noita you find yourself passing through many different biomes, at the end of these biomes you are offered the chance to rest as you pass through a gateway chamber of sorts. You are able to replenish all spells, heal and are offered a choice of three upgrades of which you can only choose one. There are over fifty different types of upgrades currently in Noita and combining this with the different types of biomes and enemies gives the game a nice amount of replayability.

Noita may currently be in Early Access but even taking a quick look at the wiki shows the amount of content it has already is impressive. Developers Nolla Games reckon that Noita will be in development for a year before it’s full release. I’m looking forward to see how the game evolves during this time.

Hearthstone Closed Beta – First Impressions

Hearthstone Closed Beta – First Impressions

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is one of those games that a lot of people might not understand or gel with immediately. If you have no background with Blizzards Warcraft games then learning the ins and outs of classes, abilities and how best to play might take a little while longer, although a background in CCG’s (collectible card games) of any form will certainly help. As a person who played World of Warcraft for around five years, I knew from the instant I saw my first game that I wanted to play it for myself as it brought back memories of time spent on many of my characters, but still posed something of a new challenge as far as gameplay was concerned. But enough of my nostalgic babble, I suppose you want to know just exactly what Hearthstone is.

Hearthstone is a strategic digital CCG, based around Blizzards popular Warcraft games. The aim of the game is to lower your enemies health (from thirty) to zero using a pre-compiled deck of thirty cards with different stats and abilities. Each card has a mana cost and you start the game with one mana crystal, rising by one each turn to a maximum of ten. As is the case with most strategic card games (digital or otherwise) knowledge of your opponent and their abilities is key, but that mostly comes with practice and experience with different situations.

Knowing which cards to play when is vital for success.
Knowing which cards to play when is vital for success.

There are nine classes in the game, each with class specific and neutral cards that can be used to adapt your heroes deck theme. For example as a Mage you could construct a rush-down deck that consists of direct damage to the enemy hero and spellpower minions used to increase that damage to a maximum. You could alternatively construct a turtle deck (defensive) that allows you to restrict the use of your enemies cards against you, reducing the damage you take whilst slowly chipping their health away. For each class there are many themes of deck that can be constructed and with nine classes at hand there really is a wide variety of outcomes that could appear in every game.

There are also three game modes to be considered; Casual, Ranked and Arena. Casual gameplay consists of practice games against scalable AI of your choice and also includes a multiplayer portion, where most players gather to grind gold and test out new decks they have created. Ranked mode follows much the same structure as casual multiplayer except that each win and loss will move you up and down a ladder. The lower your ranking, the better a player you are generally considered to be. Ranked gameplay is generally considered as hardcore mode as most players participating in this ladder system will have honed their decks to perfection and will rarely make mistakes. If you enter into ranked mode unprepared, do not expect to go very far.

Arena mode lets you play to a maximum of twelve wins or three losses (whichever comes first) before claiming your prize.
Arena mode lets you play to a maximum of twelve wins or three losses (whichever comes first) before claiming your prize.

For me Arena mode is where the real fun is to be had, and is essentially a way to make maximum use of your gold (in game credit) whilst testing your skills to the max. Buying a deck in Hearthstone will cost you 100 gold and consists of five randomly chosen cards. Entry into Arena costs 150 gold, but gives you the chance to win more than one deck, along with bonus gold and dust (used to craft individual cards). The minimum you can walk away with at the end of a bad arena run is one deck of cards, so the choice is yours to spend the extra 50 gold and gamble with the chance to extend your collection or play it safe and just buy decks.

Part of the reason why I enjoy Hearthstone so much is that I have almost never played exactly the same game twice. With 439 cards to chose from there are so many different options for every class that the potential for gameplay is almost endless. There is an addictive side to the game, as you only start out with a basic card roster. It’s only once you have levelled up your characters and played a few arena games that you will be able to craft some proper decks and by that time your hooked to the flush gameplay, RNG of the card draw and the chance to prove your skills at all levels of the game. Blizzard are dedicated to balancing this game as well as they possibly can and have already implemented several patches based on feedback and statistics. I for one am very interested to see what the future of this game has to hold. Did I mention it will be free to play upon full release? What more could you possibly want?

Deadpool – The Verdict

Deadpool – The Verdict

Deadpool is a game that does what it says on the tin. By ‘tin’ of course I mean case, and by ‘what it says’ I mean what Deadpool says… that’s right, he quotes himself on the case of his own game. It’s this self styled egotism that sets the standard for a large portion of the campaign.

As a character Deadpool is a bit like Marmite in the sense that you will either love his over the top, whimsical narration of his own game or you will detest his immature humour and big headedness. If you already know about Deadpool‘s outlook on the world you will largely know what to expect from this, otherwise you might not be able to overlook the childish and immature narrative and comedy that is peppered throughout the story. It never relents either, so if immaturity is something that grates on you quickly then you will find no comfort here, however if you fondly remember the times you used to laugh at inflatable women and jokes about celebrities then this will be right up your street.

The combat is surprisingly solid for a game that doesn’t take itself seriously and consists of a melee/shooting mix, using combos to build up DP points (Deadpool‘s self styled version of XP) and further bonuses. These points can then be spent on upgrading your characters health, abilities and weapons, which in turn allows you to build up bigger combos and earn more DP, I’m sure you see where this is going. The weapons on offer are not all that varied with three melee type weapons, four guns and four types of grenade. Whilst upgrading and changing weapons around can be fun it’s entirely feasible to stick with the starting weapons for the duration of the game unless played on the hardest difficulty.

There is also a small platforming element to Deadpool. When navigating certain chapters you are expected to make your way through areas that cover various altitudes, or jump across lakes and chasms littered with platforms. Not much emphasis is put on this though as these areas are generally cluttered with enemies and other objectives. Platforming is not your focal point when you also happen to be fighting off enemies, dodging helicopter fire and collecting power-ups and sometimes even all of them at the same time. This does however make for very enjoyable gameplay when set pieces like this are in full swing.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Deadpool
Teenage Mutant Ninja Deadpool

Graphically and musically this game falls under the fairly standard category. A meaty guitar riff dominates the start up screen but after that I don’t recall anything audibly memorable aside from Deadpool himself. Graphically there isn’t really anything that makes me stop in awe, whilst at the same time nothing fundamentally wrong with design or modelling. Enemy AI also falls into the neither here nor there section. Although there are occasionally some enemy types that are really tricky to deal with, most of the time it’s the sheer number you encounter that is the daunting part.

Clocking in at around 7-8 hours on veteran difficulty Deadpool is not the most extensive, but in my opinion this length is just right for the type of game it is. Any longer and the combat would begin to get tired and repetitive, the tomfoolery irritating and the story boring, and any extra playtime would be at the detriment of the gameplay itself. Gameplay can be extended by the challenge mode which uses eight areas from the campaign and pits you against increasingly harder waves of enemies, with an unlimited wave mode unlocked at the end of each stage.

Personally I think this is a great little game packed with silly and dirty jokes, a strong lead character and enjoyable gameplay. This won’t be the case across the board due to the humour style and possible repetitive gameplay. Factoring cost into the equation of value for money also lowers my final scoring for the game. At £30-ish Deadpool is not the most expensive release, but with only a 7-8 hour campaign that has little replay value and a challenge mode, there’s not a lot to sink your teeth into once that first playthrough ends.

For anyone who has yet to experience Deadpool and want’s to know more, just think of what the Mask films would be like if they were rated 18 and you will have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. Just don’t play it when your mum is around as things can often turn off the wall crazy or downright rude, in the funniest way possible.

Verdict – On Target

Platforms Available – PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Platform Reviewed – Xbox 360

Review based on a copy provided by High Moon Studios.

Please check this post for more on our scoring policy.