Kritigri’s Top 10 Games Played During 2017

Welcome to this years list of the top 5 10 games I played throughout the year! I’m adding 5 more onto the list this year because, well, I guess I played more games. Which is odd, considering I had less time to do so. As with last year, the games on this list were not necessarily released this year, they’re simply what I played. I do my list this way because I don’t often find myself playing the newest releases, so there wouldn’t be much of a list if I did! But before starting, I’d like to include a game that didn’t make it.

Honorable Mention – Chivalry: Medieval Warfare (5 hrs)

A standoff!

If you go into Chivalry expecting a sensible experience with knightly knights fighting knavely knaves, you’re going to be in for a surprise. Chivalry adopts the more Game of Thrones style approach to fantasy, with screams and mud and gore. But all of this is combined with a Monty Python-esque silliness. The war cries and death screams are sufferingly long and drawn out; the taunts wouldn’t sound out of place in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I picked this game up via Yogscast’s Jingle Jam 2017 bundle, and while I’ve known of the game for some time, it’s never been a particularly important acquisition for me. When I booted it up for the first time only last night, however, I found myself laughing and shouting at my screen for a good few hours before pulling myself away. The combat is chaotic and mangled, but it feels fair. The flash decision to wait and parry or go in for a slash makes duels intense, with moves such as feinting, blocking and dodging making close-quarters combat and tight and exciting experience.

The different choices of class and weapon loadouts ensure that you have a variety of opponents to face, and I myself favour the archer. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as hitting a lethal shot on an enemy swinging his sword directly towards a retreating teammate. Drawing your bow takes a decent amount of time and you can’t keep your arrow notched for too long, so making sure you hit your target feels all the more important. That being said, if you’re being charged you can always fall back on your trusty secondary weapon – saber for me – and try to outplay your likely stronger opponent.

The reason I added this as an honorable mention is because I can see myself playing a damn lot of this game, but with 5 hours of playtime I simply can’t weigh this up against the other games on this list. It’s an absolute blast, and I can’t wait to continue playing it, but I couldn’t quite bear to go without mentioning it simply due to the timing of my picking it up.

#10 – Dragon Age: Inquisition (23hrs)

Found a book nearby called “Plants versus Corpses”. Nice.

And thus begins the theme of this year’s list: Games which should have been higher up in the list, but weren’t due to me bouncing off of the game and playing something else. For Dragon Age: Inquistion, this was because I hit a certain point where I’d amassed a large amount of side quests, and after leaving my save file for a week and returning I felt overwhelmed and lost, like I had to re-learn the game and the plot. (This, to be fair, is a common RPG problem.)

I did play a sizeable portion of the main questline, though, unlocking Skyhold and filling out the roster of characters you can add to your party. I played this game way back at the start of the year, so you’ll have to excuse me for not going into detail, but I remember very much enjoying the story, the plot and mostly the environments. Despite eventually abandoning the game due to growing sidequests and subplots, I did appreciate the sheer quantity of quality content to be found in the lands of Ferelden and Orlais. During my time of play, I was fully immersed in the narrative and continued through my journeys not just because the game was fun, but because I wanted to progress the story and see how things played out. There were plenty of ‘oh shit’ moments and I don’t doubt that sometime next year I’ll reinstall and reacquaint myself with this expansive RPG.

#9 – Tower Unite (22hrs)

My workspace. For important work.

For many years, I’ve been on the lookout for games which let you simply play minigames and make a sweet little virtual life for yourself. Of course, there have been many, with varying levels of success, but none of them really grabbed me like the idea of Playstation Home. Playstation Home, as it turned out, was complete garbage, but a GMod gamemode by the name of GMod Tower popped up with many similar features and eventually, the developers decided to build this world from the ground up as their own standalone game. This was the birth of Tower Unite, and I’ve written more extensively about it here.

#8 – Minecraft: Switch Edition (15+ hrs)

I claimed this village! So I de-weeded and re-pathed it.

Yes yes, I can see you rolling your eyes. Let me explain.

I wouldn’t usually consider a console’s own edition of a game to be viewed as a separate game in its own right. I don’t consider Minecraft: Switch Edition to be separate to other editions. The reason I’ve put this here is because I consider this edition of Minecraft to be the perfect example of everything the Switch does right as a console.

Minecraft was my third purchase on Switch – my previous two being #6 and #5 on this list. I picked it up because I wanted something sandbox-y to mess around in while I waited for other releases, and I honestly didn’t expect much out of it. What I found instead was that all my worlds felt like little pocket dens, but without the restrictive touch controls and processing power of the actual Pocket Edition. The world I ended up settling on and playing the most was a survival-friendly flatmap with ores and caves. I set myself up in a village and have resolved myself to rebuild and expand it, alongside linking it to neighbouring villages via a nifty (but expensive) train system. This little project hooked me on survival Minecraft in a way that hasn’t happened in years, and the Switch’s portability and accessibility was key to bringing new life to a game I’ve already played to death.

Knowing that my own personal world is just a few seconds away at any given moment – and in any given place – is oddly comforting, and while my initial tunnel-vision focus on the game has passed, I often find myself picking it up to complete little projects to make life better for me and my villagers.

Animal Crossing can’t come soon enough for the Switch.

#7 – Destiny 2 (40+ hrs at a guess)

It’s not pink, it’s lightish red!

Oh boy, do I have a lot to say about Destiny 2.

So, as someone who got to level 7 in Destiny 1 on PS3, you can safely assume that my experience with this franchise is minimal. And when the sequel was announced to be coming to PC, I was excited. After monitoring the console release, the PC beta and the general direction of the game, I made a tentative preorder a few days before launch…

And I don’t regret it. Playing through the campaign was an absolute blast and I enjoyed it all – the gunplay, the cinematics, the story, and especially the level design. Not only did three of the four locations look gorgeous (sorry Titan), but the combat and the enemies were reminiscent of a series I’d always wanted to play but never got the chance to: Halo. And the endgame, while admittedly low on incentive to complete replayable content, was full enough for me to come back to for a good few weeks. I do not regret purchasing Destiny 2.

I regret purchasing the DLC.

Curse of Osiris had a campaign that lasted merely a few hours. The story had you returning to the recently damaged Mercury – no, not the damaged side of Mercury, don’t be silly and don’t bring it up – to fight the Vex and try to save longtime mysterious character Osiris and, ostensibly, save the universe. The evil robots are doing evil robot things, such as running multitudes of probabilities in a dimension called the Infinite Forest to predict all possible outcomes in a war against, well, everyone, I guess. Naturally, they can predict all of our movements and it looks like they’re going to win, except they didn’t predict us because we’re the Guardian and we’re special. Yep. Moving on.

Gameplay wise, Curse of Osiris is even more sparse than it appears. You’ll expect me to complain about the amount of repurposed content in the DLC; for instance, every other mission in the campaign sees you returning to one of Destiny 2’s vanilla worlds to rerun an old section of content. (The enemies are different. That’s about it.) But I’m also going to bring up the fact that the game puts you through the Infinite Forest multiple times, a randomised, procedurally generated set of combat sections which removes one of the key things Bungie does well in Destiny – top-tier, hand-crafted level design.

I won’t whinge for as long as I could though, as this isn’t a full review. Suffice to say that I greatly enjoyed Destiny 2, and the DLC probably disappointed me as much as it did because I was looking for reasons to continue playing the game, and was instead convinced to just uninstall it and wait until they’ve fixed things up later down the line. This game was originally in the #2 spot, but given the questionable design decisions that have marred this game’s progress since release, I’m comfortable placing it down in #7.

#6 – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (5+ hrs)

What eldritch yellow demon has invaded my Mario Kart

My first Mario Kart game was DS, and up until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe it was my favourite. Sure, Mario Kart Wii and 7 may have had better handling, more characters, better tracks etc, but DS was the one I was most familiar with. In Mario Kart, you’ll be at your best when you know all the tracks and their turns, shortcuts and efficient power-sliding routes.

That being said, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looks so good, has so much more content, and has such a good quality of said content that it even overtakes the familiarity of Mario Kart DS to claim the top spot in the franchise, for me. I’ve not really played enough of it yet to get fully stuck in, but I’ve played enough to know most of the tracks and to hold my own online – though I’ve always had a strange affinity with Mario Kart’s controls to rank decently against most people. My only real gripe with the game is that they didn’t choose some of my personal favourite tracks for the retro courses, but you can’t please everyone!

There’s not much more that can be said about Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Yeah, it’s Mario Kart. It’s been too long since I played a new one. If you don’t play as Yoshi at any given opportunity, you’re dead to me.

#5 – Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (10+ hrs)

Someone’s getting ready for Animal Crossing

Okay, so remember when I said that I hadn’t played enough of some of the games on this list to place them higher up? Breath of the Wild is the absolute epitome of this problem. It’s most people’s Game of the Year, and I don’t doubt it could be mine if I’d played more of it. Unfortunately, my attention span sucks, and as an example, I’d owned Skyrim for years and started many playthroughs before I finally forced myself to tunnel-vision it until I’d really latched on. From that point, I enjoyed it so much it took the top spot on last year’s list.

For the 10 hours I did play, though, I enjoyed it immensely. The influence of games like Skyrim on Breath of the Wild seem influential, which gives a fuzzy feeling inside given that games like Skyrim and the entire RPG genre originally took notes from prior Zelda games. That being said, it wouldn’t be Nintendo unless they took the idea in new directions, including weapon degradation, puzzle shrines and more, all wrapped up in a traditional Legend of Zelda type story we all know and love. (At least it seems that way from 10 hours in.)

So yes, I’m doing this game a disservice by placing it at #5 – but I’m also being honest with myself. This is a list of games I’ve personally played, not a list of games based on their objective merits as a whole. I’m sure I’ll get back to Breath of the Wild and fully focus on it in time. For now, here’s four more games that held my attention more than this one.

#4 – Quake Champions (29 hrs)

Ah, ragdolls.

I grew up on Unreal Tournament, but unfortunately the new game isn’t doing so well. Development seems to have all but halted while the devs are focusing on other games, and the lack of any kind of progression system (last I checked) and the limitations of the game being unfinished (lack of maps etc) have caused me to turn to alternatives.

So hey, Quake Champions is a thing.

And like certain other items on my list (see #3), it’s a little controversial. Some people, like me, are fine with the implementation of the champions and enjoy the game’s evolution as a service, with new maps and champions being added over time. Others do not. Others detest the notion of game-changing abilities and unlockable cosmetics. And that’s fine, because Quake Live is still a thing. So they can go back in that direction while we all have fun with what we’re enjoying.

I play a lot of Scalebearer and DOOM Slayer (forever plastered into my brain as Doomguy). Personally I find the gunplay very satisfying and while the net code was an issue up until recently, a recent patch has greatly improved issues on that front. The abilities feel balanced, for the most part, and knowing how to deal with them adds an interesting dynamic to the traditional arena shooter gameplay.

I just wish the majority of people didn’t vote for Blood Covenant every single goddamn time it came up. I get it, it’s a classic map, the Deck 16 or Facing Worlds of Quake. But sometimes I wanna play Burial Chamber or Ruins of Sarnath. C’mon, folks. I’m good at those maps.

#3 – No Man’s Sky 1.3 (42 hrs)

I name my spaceship The Arrowhead. It looks cool until you look into the cockpit and see all the discarded sweet wrappers.

No, I’m not mad, and no, I’m not trying to be controversial. The reason I put the game version in the title of this is because No Man’s Sky quite famously launched as a ridiculously overpromised and underdelivering game, and there’s no denying that this was a shitty move on the developer’s part. However, as someone who both loved the space stage of Spore and has a soft spot for bad games being patched until they’re good, I decided to give the game a try after hearing some good things from a friend.

No Man’s Sky is one of those few games that I found myself having to tear myself away from to go to bed, only to immediately play it the following day the moment I had some free time. The game is still plagued with a myriad of flaws and imperfections, but since 1.3 the content that’s available is well worth a look. The game has a main questline now with a decently written plot that gives depth to its strange universe; there are sidequests and motivations to push you forwards, and while the limited world generation does eventually become rote and stale, it still provides decent exploration incentive for a decent amount of time.

I’ve written more about the game here, but for now I’ll say this – the game’s desolate themes, found within its soundtrack, scope and story, is something which makes the wide emptiness of space something to be immersed in, and not driven away from. I had a good 42 hour stint back when I bought the game, and I now find myself looking to reinstall it and fire up my trusty Arrowhead to delve into the abyss once more.

#2 – Super Mario Odyssey (15+ hrs)

All in a day’s work.

I was as sceptical as anyone else when this patchwork quilt of a game was unveiled earlier this year. New York in the same world as the Mushroom Kingdom? Talking hats? Possession of sentient creatures? I basically wrote it off for a good few months. But then I reflected on some of the previous 3D Mario games I’d missed, and began to reconsider. And boy, am I glad I did.

Super Mario Odyssey is perhaps the most fun I’ve had in a 3D platformer since the Ratchet and Clank series. I’ve been yearning for a good 3D platforming collectathon for a while now, and have found that the older games aren’t as fun as I remember and the newer ones don’t live up to the past. I was actually thinking that this genre was maybe not for me after all, until I played this game.

Odyssey is as thematically spontaneous as the trailers suggested, and this has led not to a loss of unity of effect, but instead a brilliantly successful tour of the many wonders of, well, whatever Mario’s planet is called. Each level has a set of diverse and unique enemies, some returning from older games and some new. There’s usually one standout enemy that has a unique ability you can use once you possess them, from swimming in lava to lengthening your body across long gaps, and what’s amazing is that the game touches on each new mechanic for only a brief period of time before launching you into something completely different. It’s an Odyssey in every sense of the word.

What’s also impressive is the amount of content available to you after completing the main game. I won’t spoil anything, but there’s an absolute plethora of activities to keep you occupied after you confront Bowser and reach the end credits. I imagine that there’s probably more to do post-game than during the story!

#1 – Overwatch  (128 hrs)

Do you need a hug?

When Blizzard announced that they were developing a competitive, hero-based first-person shooter, I was very excited. My laptop couldn’t really run the game though, so I put it out of my mind until April of this year when I took the plunge and bought it. And I don’t think I’ve stopped plunging since. The longest period of time I’ve been absent from the game was for about two or three weeks, and that felt weird. I’m always playing a game or two, usually with my friend Reece. It’s so easy to pick up and play. So, where to begin?

I’m a level 177 all-rounder (thanks Mystery Heroes), though my most-played hero is Roadhog. Seeing the game from outside I always thought I’d main Reaper thanks to his dual-shotguns and his abilities simply appealing to me. After seeing my friend play Roadhog, however, I gave him a try, and pretty much mained him until his damage was nerfed and he could no longer one-shot most heroes after a hook. That being said, he’s still one of my more consistently played heroes to this day, followed by Ana (who I suppose I mained a bit after the nerf), Hanzo (who I admittedly suck as), Pharah (who’s fun depending on who you’re up against), Junkrat (who I seem to consistently get many kills with) and McCree (who scratches the same itch Unreal Tournament’s instagib mutator did, providing I get the headshots).

Overwatch doesn’t have a campaign, but it does a phenomenal job of characterising the heroes through a combination of voice lines and interactions in the spawn room, emotes, skins, and outside media. It has the most diverse roster of original characters I’ve ever seen, and the world they inhabit is as fascinating as it is familiar. The maps are thematically diverse in the best sense; one match you could be pushing a payload down a narrow London street, while the next, you could be trying to attack the point in a space base on the moon. The cartoonish style of the heroes and environments separates Overwatch from many other competitive shooters on the market, giving it a distinct style that makes it immediately recognisable, while not looking childish or naff.

As a longtime WoW and Diablo 3 player I’m already a big fan of what Blizzard create, and Overwatch is no exception. I don’t think I’ll ever quite get into Hearthstone or Heroes of the Storm (much as I like their aesthetic and cosmetics, respectively), but in Overwatch, Blizzard have cemented their place as my favourite and perhaps most trusted games developer so far. Their design philosophies, from “don’t ship it til it’s ready”, to their general release model for updates and patches has earned my consistent attention, and while they often make some questionable decisions (like dismissing the notion that their loot boxes should be included in the ongoing controversy), I always have faith that they’ll find the right path.

I hope.

Diablo 4 please.

It’s Almost That Time Again

Last year I did a personal top 5 games that I had played during 2016 – whether they’d been released during that year or any year prior. Putting the list together and writing out the rationale was quite a fun experience, so I suppose I’m announcing 2017’s Top 5 list. Except I bought a Switch this year so I’d better bump it up to a Top 10.

The list is already written, with the order to be finalised and the entire thing being held back in case anything drops into my lap to grip me during the last month of the year. I’m not including any games from the previous year’s list (so no WoW or Skyrim, although they were played plenty more) and despite my psuedo-promise at the end of last year’s list, I regret to say that Kingdoms of Amalur will not be making it for 2017 either. Maybe 2018, eh?

Oh who am I kidding, I’ll be too busy playing WoW…

World of Warcraft as a Single Player Game

BlizzCon is fast approaching, and it seems highly likely that Blizzard are about to announce the eighth expansion to their almost thirteen year old MMO. The game is old enough that it’s possible for couples to have met in Azeroth and had a child by now who could raid the Tomb of Sargeras with them. And yet, with Legion being the most popular expansion since Wrath of the Lich King, development shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. But all good things must come to an end, and WoW’s end – be it a year or a decade from now – is as inevitable as the sun blinking out forever someday.

The end of WoW is a possibility that’s surely never far from player’s minds, especially those who live and breathe for their Azerothian alter egos. I know people who have max level characters across every class, who throw themselves into raids every week and have sunk tens of thousands of hours into the game. And I’m no part-timer myself. So the prospect of interest in the game dwindling enough to lead to servers closing down is cause for worry and speculation, especially as the game shows more and more signs of aging. Sure, they continue to graphically update the game and introduce new mechanics, but some things can’t be fixed in an expansion. World of Warcraft will always be limited to the foundations the game was built on, which in itself is a bastardisation of the Warcraft 3 game engine, as far as I understand it.

The way I see it, though, it’s no cause for worry. As the MMO as a genre grows older its interesting to see the various ways in which some of the games stay alive after their discontinuation. Many close down for good. Some, like Everquest and Guild Wars, move onto sequels whilst keeping the original game alive with a smaller development team for those dedicated few. In Runescape’s case, Jagex came to realised that the game had transformed so much that they needed to bring back an older edition as a separate game to keep a portion of their audience happy. But some games, like Wurm Online and The Secret World, have opted to modify the game to become available for offline play.

Now, Wurm Online is still going, but the developers opted to create an edition called Wurm Unlimited that’s purchasable on Steam for players who want to run their own servers or play by themselves with customisable rulesets, such as changing the amount of time it takes to harvest a resource. And while I haven’t played it myself, PC Gamer’s Secret World: Legends review portrays the game’s move to single-player as being a slightly awkward but somewhat successful shift, concluding that “The more that you want to play it as an MMO, the more you’re likely to chafe at this reboot’s restrictions, especially in terms of loot. For more solo or narrative-focused players, however, it’s a great second chance to see what it has to offer, as well as the Secret World’s best chance in years to expand its reach and continue telling its story.”

MMO’s aren’t, as a rule, built to be played offline. World of Warcraft especially stands out as an MMO that has enjoyed iteration upon iteration within its lifetime, and most recently has gained functions in the world that encourages and requires player co-operation, such as particular world quest bosses and rare mobs. This, I think, would be the biggest issue in turning World of Warcraft into a single-player experience. As for dungeons and raids… well, just because the game isn’t an MMO doesn’t mean it has to be single-player entirely. I can’t picture Blizzard being comfortable with handing the reigns of server administration and hosting over to players such as with Wurm Unlimited. However, I can see them dedicating some server space for hosting online parties to go dungeon delving or raiding, though I can’t guess as to how much demand there’d be for raiding in a static world.

As for the gameplay side of things, I don’t think WoW would prosper as a single-player game if it were transformed in the state it’s in today. The entire world’s questing and story was overhauled back in Cataclysm, but the time period between the Cataclysm overhaul and now is greater than between the original game and Cataclysm. Blizzard recently reviewed the 1-40 levelling experience and re-balanced the amount of damage it takes to kill enemies, as low level players were wiping the floor with bosses without so much as a second thought. There’s still a lot of work to be done though, and with each patch and expansion the cohesion of the overall game slips more and more in favour of the last ten levels being the sole focus of enjoyable content. You typically won’t find any challenging or gripping content gameplay-wise until you’re playing through the most recent expansion, and that’s hundreds of hours of dedication which most players aren’t going to be willing to dedicate.

All hope is not lost, though. Talk among the WoW playerbase seems to be mostly unanimous on the front of the old levelling experience needing a new touch of paint, and with the new level-scaling system and world questing system, there’s a decent chance that Azeroth is going to get the modernisation it needs to bring it up to speed with the modern day expansions. Blizzard themselves have acknowledged the need for this in Q&A’s, so I’m definitely interested to see what’s in store as BlizzCon approaches. But while I hope that this update would lay the groundwork for a single-player World of Warcraft, I hope even more that the day when it’s needed is still far in the future. And besides, I’m sure that when Blizzard does finally call it a day for WoW or releases a sequel, they’ll keep the servers for the original game up for many years afterwards.

My Decade-Long WoW History

World of Warcraft has easily become my most-played game of all time, and I’m probably safe in assuming that the all-time part is gonna stick. Due to this, when a recent reddit thread popped up asking people of their earliest WoW memories, I decided to recount just where this potentially unhealthy obsession all began.

When I was twelve my Dad bought me the Burning Crusade + Vanilla WoW BattleChest. He knew I played Runescape and thought I’d like this… though I’m not sure if he was aware of the monthly subscription fee. After being unable to download it on our family PC I gave up on it and spent a few months reading the game guides instead.

Eventually on some random day I decided to try the download again, this time with the WoW website open. According to my placebo-addled mind this made it work, and I promptly jumped in with the gametime provided and made a human warrior to get a feel for the world before I chose my real race/class combo. After making it to Goldshire I decided to reroll as a Night Elf Druid, as I’d seen people running around as bears and cats and wanted to be able to do that. Shapeshifting was clearly the coolest ability in the game, in the mind of a twelve-year old. And that’s how… I can’t say it with a straight face… that’s how the Druid Shadowmadman was born.

I’ve lost my original screenshots but luckily I made video slideshows of them that still exist on Youtube! Link’s at the bottom of this post, if you’re interested. It’s *very* 2008.

Over the course of the next few months I joined a guild called Dynasty Warriors (EU Karazhan), and ran around in Elwynn Forest and Westfall killing mobs and ignoring quests. I distinctly remember my guildies poking fun at me for levelling as slowly as I did. Oftentimes, I’d just hang out in Goldshire or travel across the world, dodging (often unsuccessfully) between mobs to make it to strange and hostile territories. I think I made it to Durotar once. Other naive noobish memories of this time period I have include running around Elwynn trying to figure out how to level woodcutting (not a skill), and leaving Dynasty Warriors to start my own guild (an edgily named Shadows of Destiny) which attracted many clueless players as low a level as their Guild Leader.

That message of the day is inspiring.

After about twenty levels of pissing around I was distracted by the ever-present call of Runescape, and that was that. I neglected to tell my Dad that I no longer played the game so he payed for about five months of WoW for no reason (sorry Dad) and I considered my WoW days to be behind me. But eventually – and I don’t remember quite how I came to learn about this – I discovered the existence of private servers for the game, allowing you to play for free (and against Blizzard’s wishes). I promptly hopped into an instant-level-70 server and began exploring Burning Crusade’s Outland on a pimped-out version of my Night Elf Druid. Over these next few months I’d spend many hours hopping between different servers as they got shut down or failed to work, from fast-levelling servers to “Blizzlike” servers. I vaguely recall seeing the Wrath of the Lich King loading screen for the first time, so around then must have been when I stopped playing private servers.

I didn’t earn this.

I even figured out how to set up my own private server for personal use, so as to mess around with GM commands. I recall turning myself into a giant, switching models to various boss NPCs in the game, teleporting to an undeveloped Emerald Dream and making NPC’s say weird and wonderful things. Looking back, this kind of experimentation was experienced by very few players, and I’m lucky that my bored teenage self took the time to bother figuring it out. Current me doesn’t remember a single step of the process. All I know is that I couldn’t get mobs to spawn or quests to work, so the single-player WoW I dreamed of never came to fruition. And besides, it felt astoundingly lonely in an empty Azeroth.

GM’s had access to a spell called “Hand of Death” which “Instantly kills all enemies.” Whatever resisted this, it was stronger than a GM.

What followed was the largest gap in my WoW history. I remember when Cataclysm was announced, and I was angry that they’d ruined Loch Modan. I remember hearing somewhere that Mists of Pandaria had been announced, and stating that the game was losing direction and probably on its way out. And then I stopped paying attention altogether. For all I knew, we could be 9 expansions deep by the time I next focused on it.

You know what they say about people with big feet…

In 2013 I became a uni student, and it only took a few months of having my own income and a new laptop before putting two and two together and re-considering World of Warcraft. I poked my friend Reece about trying the level 20 trial, to which he said he’d already done it on a Night Elf Druid. (We make very similar decisions sometimes.) Regardless, the idea of returning to WoW with one of my closest friends meant that I didn’t keep to the Starter Edition all that long, and before I knew it I was shooting past level 20, joining a guild and diving deeper into WoW than ever before. This was near the start of 5.4 (the last patch of Mists), and it’s worth noting that I levelled my first ever character from 1 – 90 and still had time to get bored of the endgame content. I don’t know how long-time players survived the content drought.

I bought the Fey Dragon after a student loan payment. Can’t say I’ve ridden that thing more than 6 times. What an investment!

Since then, I’ve levelled 9 out of 12 classes to level 100+ and have sunk literally thousands of hours into the game. I’ve been a part of four wonderful guilds and have met a plethora of new friends. I’ve become an on-and-off-again kind of player – usually a few months on and a few months off – but I still spend time goofing off, pursuing alternate avenues of gameplay and generally falling behind on my ilvl after I’ve consumed all of the narrative content that a patch provides. I’m starting to think I’m in this to the end.

I’ve come a long way.

If they announce WoW 2, I’m fucked.

Screenshots Slideshow 1

Screenshots Slideshow 2

Screenshots Slideshow 3

Screenshots Slideshow 4 (The Series Reboot)

No Man’s Sky – The Escalating Outlaw Incident

So I’m wandering around upon the pink, dusty service of the quaintly-named planet Okopfiessaont-Nish when I come across some containers that need destroying. It occurs to me that I’ve been playing the game for a good 5 hours and I haven’t even created my first weapon yet. So, without further ado, I create my bolt-caster and get to work.

My destruction immediately alerts a Sentinel drone, but I’m not too alarmed. I’ve heard some alien traders talking shit about these things, and there’s a whole statistic dedicated to how many you can down, so I figure that these things are public enemy #1. So I shoot the first drone down – a satisfying experience, having seen them hovering around the place, getting up in my face like I’m something to be examined. Satisfied, I return to my work.

Not long after destroying the second container, I get an alert. Drones again – two, this time. Alright. I take them out fairly easily and when no more come in for the attack, come to the conclusion that these things are pretty flimsy and not to be taken too seriously. Nevertheless, when I get attacked by three at once I decide that the party’s over and that I’d rather just take what I’ve collected and haul it back to the local station for sale. Lazily, I give the Sentinel drones the slip and jump into my trusty Rasamama S36, exiting the planet and cheating the things out of their vengeance.

Or so I thought. Upon exiting the atmosphere I get a message – LOCAL AUTHORITY SHIP INCOMING. I’ve been attacked by Space Pirates™ before, and was able to open my communicator to bargain for my life. Figuring I can do the same here, I open the quick menu only to find that the option isn’t there any more.

More drones, then. No big deal.

I’ve engaged in space combat once before, and I whooped ass. But on that occasion I was up against a lowly space pirate who’s eyes were bigger than his stomach. This unmanned Sentinel ship (I assume), however, comes packing lasers hot enough to take my shields down in just a few moments. This guy hurts.

I consider my options. Fight or flight? I think I could win, but not without cutting it close, and besides, I’m not sure what the penalty for defeat is. A crash landing? Loss of cargo? Reverting to my latest save? Uncertainty plagues me. But the space-station is six and a half minutes away if I boost the entire time, and my pulse-boost engines (the speed one grade above boosting and one grade below FTL) are disabled in combat.

I decide to fight.

The following combat is pitiful. Every time I manoeuvre my Rasamama in the correct position to blast my adversary, it’s closed the gap and has begun to open fire with its devastating lasers. I flee towards the closest cluster of meteorites, figuring that I could use my advanced (see: novice) space piloting skills to my advantage in a more hazardous environment. As it would happen, Star Wars lied to me, and this doesn’t actually change the playing field all that much.

The Sentinel ship takes my shields down and causes critical damage to me twice, lowering the amount of little ship icons on my HUD from 5 to 3. I, in turn, learn how to recharge my shields at any time via the quick menu, and employing some sharp turns and sacrificial charges to get some shots in, eventually land the killing blow. I’m rewarded with a Dimensional Matrix. I’ve yet to find out what it does.

I breathe a sigh of relief, but the satisfaction is short-lived. Before I know what’s happening, another red alert is flashing on my screen – LOCAL AUTHORITY SHIP INCOMING – and I’m on the run again. This time there’s two of them. I could barely defeat one ship – no way can I defeat two. I start charging my way towards the space station, only to discover that these new ships have blasters instead of lasers, and can easily keep my pace.

Okopfiessaont-Nish looms to my right. How close? I can’t get the tooltip to pop up, so I just boost towards it and hope for the best. Another few moments and I’m re-entering the atmosphere, hoping that the original drones from earlier have forgotten me. According to the game’s HUD, I’m still being chased by the two ships from earlier, but they don’t seem to have followed me into the planet’s atmosphere, so I land and hastily craft the components for FTL fuel which will allow me to jump systems. Will I be able to do that in combat? It’s my only hope.

I don’t wait to see if my enemies try to ambush me on the surface. Wasting no time, I deploy from the planet’s surface once more and exit the atmosphere. Bad news – the galactic map isn’t available on the quick menu, much like the communications icon was missing earlier. No FTL escape, then. The good news, however, is that I shook one of the enemy ships off my tail, so now I only have one Robocop to deal with. And the Space Station is only 3 minutes away by this point, so there’s really only one option left.

What followed were the tensest three minutes of my space-faring career. The Sentinel often got close enough in range to open fire, and I had to bob-and-weave all the way to the station, where I didn’t know if the Sentinel would follow me in, or if there would be more authorities waiting. Thankfully, I was able to dock peacefully and watch the little notoriety icon disappear shortly after landing. I don’t know if I’m now permanently a wanted man in this sector – all I know is that I’m jumping systems the moment I exit this station!

Oh, and I’ve renamed Okopfiessaont-Nish to Direscapus. It sounds far less cool now that I’ve confirmed the name, but there’s no changing it. Now whenever I gaze upon that ugly name, I’ll always be reminded of my, erm, dire escape.

I need to work on my naming game.

The Story of My Attempts to Play Destiny

There’s no hiding it. This post is a whinge, pure and simple. But a just one.

I own Destiny on PS3 and I’ve not played it much at all. I think I’ve got as far as the planet Venus in the campaign. But I remember enjoying it and only stopping playing it due to it being on an outdated system with mounting quantities of DLC with high costs and large, mandatory file sizes. When Destiny 2 was announced as being on PC, however, I got excited, and after watching the gameplay livestream a few days back I decided to set up my PS3 and play through the Destiny 1 campaign to keep me going until launch.

I gave myself ample preparation time. Knowing the notoriety of the PS3 download servers, I decided to download the inevitably huge updates in the few hours before I went to bed for work last night, knowing that I’d be able to play the next day. So I boot it up and I’m met with an 8,600mb update. 1/12. Okay, fine, go ahead. I’ll just browse Twitter while I see how long this takes.

45 minutes and 33% into the first update later, I’m met with an error. Something went wrong. I need to restart the download. Alright, fine, looks like I’m doing some downloading tomorrow. I’ll just get this first, largest update out of the way while I watch tonight’s episode of Doctor Who and shut it down during the second.

Something went wrong.

Fast forward to today. I decide to hook my PS3 up to my monitor rather than my TV so I can switch between inputs to check on the download as I edit a video on my PC. That’s my morning. And so far it’s my afternoon. And the download has failed on four separate occasions along different areas of progress, starting over at the beginning again every. Single. Time. It’s currently at 14%. I live in fear.

I’m a grown man. I’m not about to throw a tantrum because I can’t play the game I want to. But it’s a game I’ve bought, and it’s downloading these huge clumps of DLC which I’m never going to touch. It’s using maybe a tenth of my achievable download speed and it’s starting from scratch every time it fails. This download – only 8,600mb – is beginning to look like an insurmountable barrier between me and an older, outdated version of a game. A game of which I just want to play the parts that I already have downloaded.

Your Endless Virtual Vacation (Tower Unite)

Tower Unite is a social, minigame driven MMO which boasts the promise of no microtransactions to ruin the fun. It began life as a GMod server – called GMod Tower – and whilst it was an enjoyable experience, it was largely held together with sticks and tape, from what I could tell. Its successor, Tower Unite, is instead built in the Unreal engine, and is no longer free to play, to the game’s own benefit. The servers and developers will have proper funding, and everyone in the game is going to be on the same level of opportunity as opposed to donors holding certain privileges. Tower Unite is still lacking in content when compared to its predecessor, and is admittedly riddled with bugs from time to time (though not unplayably so). But I’m going to tell you why it’s worth picking up even in its current state.

Uh oh

I’ll address the level of content immediately. Lacking though it may be in comparison to its predecessor, it still boasts a fair amount of activities to keep you occupied. As far as minigames go, you’re able to choose from a wide variety of courses in Minigolf and Ball Race (a super-monkey ball style game). The newly released Little Crusaders is quite fun – lots of little crusader players versus one player driven dragon – though it currently only has three maps. Virus is a decent to mediocre shooter that some players may recognise from other FPS games, though this also has little in the way of maps. And I can’t speak for the final minigame, Planet Panic, because I’ve not found an open server the two times I tried to play it. I believe it’s a horde-mode game type. These minigames are all quite fun, each clearly having care and effort put into them. You’ll definitely play them for more than just the currency they award you for winning; I typically find the earning of Units to be a bonus rather than a motivation.

Get down here dragon. You do not belong up there.

That’s far from all there is, though. If you join a Lobby, you’ll be placed into the main world of Tower Unite. The Lobby, as well as being a rather pretty place to explore, contains multiple shops, a few activities such as the Typing Derby (a typing speed game) and Trivia, and some other locations such as the Cinema (almost identical to GMod Cinema) and the Casino. The Casino is where you’ll typically find most of the players in the lobby, and I’ve spent a few hours there myself. The existence of a Casino in modern day games typically sets off alarm bells but, as you’ll recall, there are no microtransactions in this game, and the machines in the Casino are actually rigged slightly in your favour. They’re also by no means the best way of earning money, with the grand appeal being the constant attempt to hit the jackpot on various slot machines. The last thing the Lobby serves well to do is preview upcoming pieces of content, with some buildings being shown as “under construction”. I’m personally hyped for the eventual completion of the Arcade.

Here’s what your starter house’s main room will look like. Behind me is a very generously sized backyard and beach.

One thing that drew me to this game, and to its predecessor, is the ability to own and extensively customise your own condo. This is what you’ll likely sink most of your Units into. Upon buying the game, you’re given a very generously sized and located player home, a modern building on the beachfront that’s decently sized and has more rooms than I’ve been able to furnish as of yet. You can place furniture literally anywhere you like, with complete freedom of placement and rotation, no matter how ridiculous. That means armchairs on the ceiling. You can paint your floors and walls different colours and textures, as well as save different house templates, meaning that you could theoretically have multiple different interiors depending on the occasion. And, most enticingly, the media services that allow the Cinema to be a possibility also apply to buyable televisions for your home, meaning you can invite your friends over to your virtual house and watch Youtube together, making it a brilliant virtual hangout.

This is the life.

None of my friends have picked up the game so far – not for want of nagging them – but even so, I find myself drawn to the social aspects of this game unlike any other MMO. I’ll happily talk to others gambling their souls away in the Casino, or start using voice chat in a particularly enjoyable minigolf lobby. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes Tower Unite different in that aspect to other games. Maybe it’s the second life nature of the game. Rather than focusing on gameplay and ulterior motives and goals, or finding hostility in open world interactions, I’m simply enjoying a virtual holiday-esque experience with those around me. Either way, it’s an aspect of the game that keeps me company, and prompts me to recommend it even to those who would be playing alone.


Despite all of this, I’ll admit that after 19 hours of playing, I feel like I’ve played a lot of what’s currently to offer. There’s only so many times you can pull the lever at that slot machine or fail to hit a par on most golf courses before you crave something new. There’s plenty of content that needs to be added, such as more clothing options, more minigames, and maybe some quality of life improvments when it comes to hosting game lobbies, like kicking people and being able to host a server for more than just the one round of a particular minigame. (And please, for the love of god, fix hair clipping through hats). But I doubt it’s something I’ll uninstall any time soon, and I’ll be following Tower Unite’s progress very eagerly over the coming months and – hopefully – years.