General Gaming Update

So last week I didn’t do a blog post because I had nothing to specifically post about besides having played 2 hours of DiRT 3, and this week I still have no specific game to focus my post on or the energy to discuss another gaming related topic. So instead, as I can’t bring myself to bail on 2 weeks in a row, I’ll just have a natter about what I’m currently playing.

With the release of Minecraft 1.11, I tried to get back into playing a new vanilla survival world, in the hopes of finally settling down in one place and building something that would amount to years of progress and enjoyment. This did not happen. I experimented with many different custom terrain generations and ultimately came to the conclusion that if I had to punch another tree I’d promptly stick my head into the nearest lava lake.

Instead of giving up on the game entirely, however, I decided to search for a good Minecraft server, as the one I usually play on has been down for almost half a year now and despite all of the good-natured Discord updates, my patience was beginning to wear thin. The server I did eventually find is called RenMX, and has a whole bunch of amazing plugins which transform how you approach the game, from the claiming system to an on-the-go storage system and crazy things like hidden collectible cards which can be used to spawn in items, buffs, pets or other things. The server has a 6 year history, and perhaps most enticingly they expand the world map with each game update rather than resetting it and forcing you to start over. Whilst I never overtly minded about the latter way of doing things, I find myself much more attached to a world that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I’ve also been playing some more Tomodachi Life on 3DS. I won’t say too much about it here in case I decide to write a fully fledged blog post on it in future, but here’s something I wrote about it a year back.

The Autumn Steam Sale is here and my wishlist has lit up green. When I discovered that the Assassin’s Creed Ezio Collection isn’t coming out for PC, I decided to buy the original Assassin’s Creed 2, simply because it was £3.60 and whilst I’ve played it on PS3, I’d rather be able to play it in 1080p at 60fps because I’m a privileged bastard. So far, I regret nothing. I’m also intrigued by the upgrades to UPlay, such as how you can now use particular points earned by in-game achievements to earn a discount on future Ubisoft games. This is an idea I’ve had for achievements since they were first announced, so it’ll be interesting to see if any, er, more agreeable gaming platforms pick up this idea.

I went over to my friends house yesterday and tried some Battlefield 1 on his PS4, and whilst I might have previously not paid much mind to the game due to my own personal preferences in regards to thematic settings in shooters, I actually had a ton of fun. Battlefield has always been a series which rewards players well for participation instead of just how many baddies you done shot, and this only serves to make actual kills feel even more rewarding. Plus, the outbreak of skirmishes around the map make for fun emergent narratives that cause you to feel even more determined to push forward and take the objective.

And finally, I’ve recently re-installed the Elder Scrolls Online, after dropping it immediately when World of Warcraft: Legion began digging its claws into me. And I’m still playing that, to be honest, but it no longer takes up the majority of my gaming time and I’m eager to see how the One Tamriel update has changed ESO. Plus, it may help that I recently bought the game for a friend. I’m still only level 22 myself, but now that I don’t have to worry about being distracted by other quests and levelling up past particular storylines, I can let loose and get stuck in. I’m still not entirely certain how the alliance based storylines are going to work now that I can just teleport to the enemy and start working for them, though.

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Kill, Loot, Die, Repeat (Overture)

In the recent Halloween Steam sale, I focused on looking for super cheap arcade style games that I could waste my time on in small bursts. This was partially because there wasn’t too much in the way of larger titles on sale this year, but also because I’m a little… entirely broke. But, regardless, I have come across a nifty little game called Overture for 40p.

Overture is an action-adventure roguelike which draws heavy inspiration from hits such as Diablo, Realm of The Mad God, Zelda, and The Binding of Isaac. Explore vast randomly generated dungeons and slay hordes of cunning enemies!

The mixed reviews initially put me off. I saw many complaints of people dying too quickly and unfairly and not even knowing what killed them, but having played the game for myself, I believe that these players have simply been running into enemy-spawning traps and failing to utilise the game’s running mechanic to evade the ambush. That being said, this game is a bit of a roguelike that you have to throw yourself into and die repeatedly to progress. If this doesn’t suit your playstyle, then this may not be the game for you, though I’ll add that the sense of progression is well implemented, and deaths feel more like a small hindrance than a punishment. The speed at which you can die if you’re not careful can make longer runs feel very rewarding.

Here’s how it works – you have four classes of hero to choose from, each containing some sub-classes that you can play individually. In the game, monsters and barrels and other assorted environmental caches drop gold, which fill your character’s XP bar for that run. When you level up, you get better stats. This gold also carries across runs, and can be used to purchase upgrades for your characters. These upgrades increase your character’s base strength when going into the dungeon, essentially guaranteeing you progress on even the most catastrophic of runs. So while this game may seem like you’re bashing your head against a brick wall at first, you’ll swiftly start to notice your character getting stronger and dominating the earlier stages that previously gave you trouble.

Loot does not carry over between deaths, but it is extremely easy to see what is an upgrade for your character on the fly. In Overture, you’re not going to be sitting in a character screen humming and hawing over which statistics you want to gain and sacrifice between two different sets of robes. Rather, you’ll run over a treasure chest at some point and a shiny trinket will drop with green bold text saying +ATT, +MRGN or something along those lines.

One issue I can understand is screen clutter. I often find myself running into an enemy and being damaged before realising what’s happening. I can fully understand the confusion about ambush traps and not understanding what’s attacking you under the sea of numbers and pixellated gore. But I also have to admit that I find that to be part of the challenge. This is a heavily action based game that relies on reaction speed, and realising that there’s a skeleton popping out of the ground to skewer you on a bone kebab is just one of the aspects of the game that you need to be on the lookout for.

My only other criticism in this game is the achievement system. There are four achievements – one for completing the game with a character of each class. There’s plenty of opportunity to give players achievements for upgrading their characters, reaching certain floors, collecting particular loot or slaying particular bosses. But this isn’t something that a lot of people will care about, and I’m aware that many developers don’t bother with achievements at all. Just a little personal gripe.

Anyway, the game is usually £3.99 (which I wouldn’t call unfair), but it sometimes goes on sale for much cheaper. If you want an easily pick up and put down-able roguelike to throw yourself into which isn’t a platformer or a tactical dungeon crawler, then I’d point you in the direction of Overture.

The Life of a Pretend Millionaire (Grand Theft Auto V: Online)

I bought GTA V on PS3 when it first launched back in 2013, and since then have kind of regarded that as a bad move, given that it was £50 and I didn’t even play it all that much around launch period. In fact, since owning it on PS3 I’ve hardly ever booted it up, save for when me and my friend want to fuck around in a private session. But he eventually upgraded to the PC version, and the game becomes somewhat significantly less fun when you’re running around a private session (or public session populated by 12-year olds with a Michael Bay fetish) on your own. But according to my Rockstar Social Club statistics, I’ve played over 50 hours of multiplayer on PS3, so I suppose that it did sort of pay off in the end.

Well anyway, I finally upgraded to the PC version last week and whilst I’ve still not had a chance to fuck around with my friend in a private session as is my usual go-to for the game, I did decide to give the actual multiplayer a try. Whilst I still prefer the relative safety of a private session to the insufferable explosive hell that is public sessions, I’ve found in GTA V the multiplayer racing game that I’ve always wanted. So long as the host isn’t a dick and the racing isn’t “GTA-style”. The recently released Cunning Stunts DLC has made up the bulk of my activity; for those of you who are unaware, it give players the option to race in the more arcade setting of loops, ramps, and mid-air racing rather than the typical street-racing that was in the game before. I’m willing to bet that this was a decision made after reviewing the popularity of similar-styled racing on hacked tracks back in GTA: San Andreas multiplayer. I certainly approve! Winning a hard-fought race of multiple players in this game is so rewarding, both mentally and in cash and RP.

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Weeeeeee!

One issue that people have with GTA Online is the microtransactions. I’ve heard it said before that they purposefully put the free new DLC at ridiculous in-game prices so players are forced to buy it via the purchasable cash cards. And sure, that’s certainly true to an extent, it’s their business model. But I’ve found that it also isn’t unobtainable through standard play. I’ve only got 5 hours played of GTA V on my Steam account, but I’ve already made over $250k just from chilling out with some Cunning Stunts matchmaking. And of course, it’ll take me a fair amount longer to reach the millions necessary for some DLC content, but it’s certainly not an unreachable goal for those who do play the game for fun and not to grind out money. And I’m not actually attempting to save up for any particularly expensive content; I’ve actually spent some of it on some car modifications and stuff, so maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel like such a grind to me.

Loading times and UI issues are legitimate criticisms, though, and they have been since the game’s release. There’s plenty of annoying nitpicky stuff, such as the inability to start a private online game unless you’re launching into it from the single-player campaign. When in multiplayer, I had a very hard job trying to find out how to simply play offical Cunning Stunts races with matchmaking, and there’s still no way of knowing whether the lobby you’re joining is going to be an active one with 10-16 players or one with 4-5 who then leave. And the waiting times between races border on frustration at the best of times. At the end of a race, you have to look at who won, wait for everyone to like or dislike the race, go back to the lobby, wait for the host to decide to start the game, choose your car / outfit or whatever, and wait for everyone to ready up before a final loading screen. This can take up to 5 minutes, based on personal experience, and depending on the length of the race, you’re looking at actually racing for about half the time that you’re online.

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It is surprisingly difficult to get a picture of one’s entire garage.

One thing I do love about GTA Online is the progression of ownership. When I walk into my garage, I like being able to look at my vehicles and remember where they came from. Many people just have a collection of supercars, I’m aware, but my supercar shares a garage with my Bifta (off-road buggy style thing), my suped-up mini, my Banshee (favourite car in the game), my two muscle cars (one stylish and one for casual open-world usage), that free sports car they gave everyone (an Elegy), my original stolen and insured car that I began with, and more. The other day I walked into my downtown garage and found one of the slowest cars in the game that I’d hijacked and painted pink in a free-roam session a few years ago with my friend. The memory brought an instant smile to my face.

So yeah, I’m having a good time with GTA, and I don’t regret buying it a second time. On PC it looks gorgeous. I should probably play some single-player, too, because I remember being interested in the story the first time I began it. Plus, if I remember rightly, they give you plenty of the DLC multiplayer cars for free in a garage somewhere for a test-drive. So if you need me, I’ll be zooming off the edge of Mount Chiliad.

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The Pimp Wagon, in all its glory.