Player Owned Housing

So I don’t know about you, but I personally have always been a fan of the Player Owned Housing systems typically found in MMOs and RPGs. The idea of having your own personal space which can be decorated with your heroic endeavours (or plain old furniture) has always been charming to me, and with the release of ESO’s Homestead update which adds (surprise surprise) Player Owned Housing, I thought I’d look back on some of my favourite versions of this feature in gaming.

To begin with, though, I’ll add that I’ve barely scratched the surface of ESO’s Homestead update. As a poor, lowly level 30ish character, I don’t feel the pull to immediately go home hunting, knowing in my heart that I won’t be able to afford much more than the free inn room that the opening quest awards you. I have a clip of my reaction upon entering my “House” for the first time, though:

Cosy.

Before moving on from the topic of ESO, I will add that what I have seen of the furnishing system looks very well done and fleshed out. It’s not grid or tile based; nor is it a simple options menu that allows you to select what you put in your house, but not where, as was the case in Skyrim (and Runescape, incidentally, discussed below). ESO’s furnishing system allows full free to place your furniture and collections anywhere. And, er, I mean anywhere.

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It has idle animations, too. The breathing wallhorse is a sight to behold.

So anyway, my first real housing system was in Runescape, and it comes in the form of one of its many skills, Construction. Any Runescape player that isn’t a billionaire will happily tell you how much of a bitch Construction is to train, as it’s one of the most expensive skills in the game. Obviously you have to buy your plot of land, and then each room costs money too – a pittance, really, but to a low-levelled player with little money, it’s a fair gold sink. You also have to pay to upgrade the size of your land, to allow for expansion. The real money sink, however, comes in the form of planks, which you need to build the majority of your furniture. Planks cannot be made by the player. The player must take logs to the sawmill and pay 500gp each to have them made into planks, a cost which adds up alarmingly quickly given how many planks you’ll be needing.

Besides this, however, the housing system is great… though on second thoughts, I may be looking at it through rose-tinted glasses, seeing as room furnishing layouts are unchangeable, you can simply construct different tiers of furniture within the highlighted spaces. Regardless, it’s still a satisfying feeling to upgrade your wonky, uncomfortable parlour chairs into cushioned seats, and to add more functionality to your kitchen as you go along. My favourite part about Runescape’s housing system was always the player-run house parties you could attend back in the day. I don’t know if anyone still bothers with them, but last time I checked, the house party world was devoid of, erm, parties. That being said, they may have all moved to Prifdinnas, a high level area I’m yet to unlock.

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Here’s my attempt at capturing the entire downstairs of my house. Yes, it’s wonky shaped. Can’t be helped!
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And here’s the upstairs. Bit less filled out, working on it!

Another one of my favourite housing systems belongs in Skyrim, though there are two types of houses in that game. The first one that shipped with the vanilla game consists of you unlocking the ability to buy a house, buying the house, and then buying each room from the steward to become fully furnished. Quite basic, but functional, and homely enough to enjoy living in. Plus, the cost was well-tailored to make it obtainable, whilst maintaining the satisfaction of making a hefty purchase to secure your own home.

The second version launched with the Hearthfire DLC, and allows you to build a house from scratch, adding from a choice of different wings as your house expanded. Much like Runescape though, you didn’t choose your furniture so much as unlock it. This is perhaps a little more forgiveable given that it’s a single player RPG, and players are therefore unlikely to think of making their home unique a priority. It’s a good place to store the wife and kids, anyway. And speaking of storage, houses in Skyrim acted as a sort of bank, in that they contained safe chests for you to store all your dragon bones and cheesewheels in.

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I always liked this screenshot of my house.

Player Owned Housing is a system that has been requested in World of Warcraft for many years now. In fact, one gate at the end of the Stormwind Canals had an inaccessible instance portal which the devs later admitted was going to lead into player housing. However, they said they’d only ever add it to the game if it had a function other than the novelty of owning a house. Player owned housing is still an often requested feature, but what many players don’t realise is that the Garrisons of Warlords of Draenor was a take on that concept. Players were given their own garrison which only they could enter, and it provided many in-game purposes regarding quest lines, professions, and conveniences such as accessing your bank and various vendors. Garrisons are retrospectively viewed as one of the worst ideas in the WoW, as they removed the multiplayer aspect by giving players too much accessibility in their private garrisons, and the mobile type gameplay of the mission tables one used to govern their garrison followers ensured that the player didn’t even have to complete dungeon or raiding content to get the best gear.

What players don’t realise – or seem to have forgotten – was the initial success of the Garrisons system, before it became apparent that they were going to lead into the death of gameplay. For the first time in Warcraft history, players had their own space in-game that they could customise (albeit to a very limited degree) and make their own. I remember reddit flooding with positive feedback about the system for a good month, and I myself was delighted with having my own base of operations. This, of course, didn’t last, and I soon despise my garrison as much as everyone else. Now we’re in Legion, however, I’ll admit that it’s not so bad when revisiting Warlords of Draenor’s content, although the lack of any cosmetic customisability is disappointing.

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Disregard the fact that my spellbook is open. This is totally not a salvaged screenshot of the only picture I have of my garrison on my hard drive. LOOK I’M NOT SUBSCRIBED RIGHT NOW OKAY

There were, of course, plenty of other games that allowed you the ownership and customisation of your own house. An old web game I used to play called Gaia Online is still around:

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I’m surprised this is still around.

I remember trying out Everquest 2 specifically for the player housing:

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Picture taken on my old, dying laptop, hence the horrible graphics quality.

And of course, the most cutting edge player housing of them all:

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Club Penguin, home of accidental intimidation.

All in all, there are plenty of games which give you your own house to dick around in, and I’m always drawn to the objective of owning my own place. Maybe it’s what drew me to Minecraft and Animal Crossing. Well, in the meantime, here’s another goofy EQ2 screenshot:

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Welcome to Jackass.
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The Death of Club Penguin

Bloody hell, remember Club Penguin? I decided to revisit it with a friend just last week after being thoroughly surprised to find it still going. To my surprise, the game was very recognisable and largely unchanged since I’d last logged in sometime around 2008…ish. Well, anyway, apparently the servers are shutting down at the end of March so that Disney can focus on pushing their new mobile version for the iPhone kiddies of today, which is sure to be riddled with more microtransactions than you can shake a flipper at. So I’ve decided to reboot this gaming blog after it’s unplanned month’s hiatus (sorry about that) to take a trip down memory… berg?

Ugh. That was terrible.

My original penguin was called KrazyK3000, and as that name is currently available for registration and I couldn’t log into it, I’m willing to bet it’s been deleted. I’ll never know for sure, seeing as the password recovery email was sent to my Dad’s old AOL email account… god knows that’s lost to the ages. I did, however, use my own email account to write in ideas for the game, and I still have access to that one. Here’s one of the two ideas I sent:

Hi. This isn’t exactly a BIG enquiry – if anything, a suggestion – but there’s no other place to ask.

I was a member for a month, and I can’t be one anymore. It’s really frustrating not being able to uby any clothes so I was wondering – maybe make the clearence sales available to all players? Or make a section for all players?

Think of it this way – the players of club penguin would wear these clothes, and think – hang on, I want the modern clothes/normal clothes. I’m becoming a member!

I’m not going to ask for furniture in igloo’s – that’s too much to ask.

Please take my idea into thought 🙂

Club Penguin had – and as far as I’m aware still has – a membership feature, allowing players to buy clothes and igloo (player owned housing) decorations with in-game coins. Free to play penguins had to suffer a life of nudity and empty igloos no matter how many coins they made, and as such membership was highly coveted by those without it. They sent me back a very polite no:

Hello,

You certainly sent your suggestion to the right place!  We will consider your idea but I cannot promise that free penguins will be able to purchase clearance items.  If you can think of any other ways that we can improve Club Penguin be sure to let us know.

Don\’t forget to collect the pin because the next one will be hidden on January 30th!

Have a great day,

Club Penguin Support

That was fine though, because the real fun to be had in Club Penguin was in the minigames. My favourite memory of the game is playing the Gone Fishing minigame until 1am as my father had fallen asleep on the sofa and failed to order me to bed. I was also a big fan of the pizza making game, and knew a secret that let you change the game so that you made chocolate pizzas instead of normal ones. I also vaguely remember the launch of an in-game dojo, and some sort of card minigame that went with it. You could beat other players and earn different coloured belts to show your prestige.

My favourite place to hang out in-game was the Coffee Shop, despite the fact that there really wasn’t much to do there. I remember particularly enjoying the soundtrack:

It reminds me oddly of Spyro the Dragon, retrospectively. At the time I thought the music was peaceful, though now I’d say it’s oddly funky. And the mere usage of that word makes me sound too old to be reminiscing about Club Penguin.

After what I somehow interpreted as a positive response to my first suggestion, I went on to send a much more enthusiastic email to the Club Penguin Support Team regarding one of my wilder and more original ideas:

Here’s another idea for you =] (Amn’t I great?)

Rockhopper Back – With ORANGE puffles!
“Yeah, yeah, another puffle, so what?”
-Available to all players (even if they already have 2) hwile they’re on sale on the migrator.
-Only available to members in the pet shop afterwards.
-Special trick – Burns an orange doorway in the air, and emerges through another orange doorway on the other side of the igloo.
-Special trick on full stomach – burns an orange doorway in the air just above the ground, and appears out of one higher up, falling repeatidly.
-Eating food: Opens mouth wide open, eats the bowl whole with the food, an orange doorway appears, the bowl slides out.
-Taking a bath: I dunno, sorry.

Or you can think up your own cool tricks, at least go with the orange puffle?

Idea colours for future puffles:

– Light green
– Dark Blue (not purple)
– Rainbow/Colour shifter
– White (Maybe turns invisible?)

Please take my ideas into consideration 😛

If anyone is lost, a “puffle” is a kind of furball which can be bought as a pet in Club Penguin. Free players could buy a red and a blue one, whereas members had a few extra options to choose from. The odd thing is, I was never a huge fan of them, and I’m pretty sure that I submitted this idea more as an attempt to influence the shape of the game than being legitimately excited for them.

Anyway, here’s the pacifying response:

Hi there,

Thank you for your fantastic idea.  It\’s so great to see how creative penguins can be.

It is always so exciting when Captain Rockhopper returns with surprises for all his penguin friends and orange Puffles would be quite a find out at sea! You have clearly put a great deal of thought into what orange Puffles would be like, and I especially like the part where they could burn orange doorways in mid air and then use them to transport around. Your truly an inspiring penguin and although I can not promise we will be able to use your suggestions, I will definitely share them with the rest of the team at our next meeting!

Keep sending in your terrific thoughts and have a great day!

Waddle and imagine on,

Club Penguin Support

Very professional and complimentary, and I can only guess as to whether this was actually brought up in any meeting, but as yellow puffles were introduced a short time later I think it’s only fair to say that I belong in the credits as a Lead Designer with the Most Original Idea Ever in the History of Anything.

All joking aside, it’s a shame to hear that they’re shutting the game down, and I’m sure I’ll log on during the Great Penguin Doomsday soon to come. As childish and memefied as the game is, it provided legitimate hours of fun for young Kristian, and I’ll miss being able to revisit it during bouts of nostalgia.

Kritigri’s Top 5 Games Played During 2016

So it’s around this time of year that every starts making their top 10 games of 2016 lists, but as somebody who only got a decent gaming in August and was subsequently too busy playing all their older games in glorious 60fps at ultra settings, I’ve not exactly played much of this year’s games. So instead, I’ve created a list of the top five games that I’ve either started playing, or played the majority of in this year. So, without further ado:

5: The Elder Scrolls: Online

This game has a bad reputation for launching with a subscription fee, with many features of Elder Scrolls games missing, and apparently most inexcusably, for not being multiplayer Skyrim. Since launch, however, the mandatory subscription fee has been waived, a plethora of updates have polished the game and brought it up to standard, and whenever the game goes on sale, a rush of excited new players give negative reviews of the game for it not being multiplayer Skyrim.

ESO is a great MMO in its own right, and it might have been higher up on my list had I not only scratched the surface of it. While it’s true that I have 75 hours logged in the game, you can pretty much divide that number by 10 in regards to how much experience that’d give a gamer in a typical RPG. My character is yet to hit level 30, but I’ve very much enjoyed working my way through the quests in Stonefalls, Deshaan (both provinces of Morrowind), Shadowfen (part of Black Marsh) and have recently arrived in Windhelm (part of Skyrim, though the not the entirety of Skyrim is in ESO… for now.) I find the storytelling to be unique and interesting, and the fact that every quest and NPC in the game is fully voice acted is an achievement not to be sneered at, considering the sheer size of ESO’s Tamriel. The quest objectives themselves may be somewhat copy/pasted, but this is a problem – a trope, even – that many (if not all) MMO’s are doomed to follow.

So far, the only downside to ESO, for me, is that I mostly play alone. When I joined WoW some years ago, I was able to find a social guild that I could talk to before I’d even hit level 30; in ESO, most of the ‘social’ guilds I’ve joined say almost nothing to each other except for when they need somebody to join them for a dungeon. Perhaps it’s simply bad luck. More likely, it’s me missing my WoW guild. But this is a personal downside; ESO is actually a very solo friendly game.

4: Assassin’s Creed 2

Okay, so I’ve played AC2 before. What I really mean with this listing is the entirety of the Ezio trilogy. But I chose AC2 specifically because I believe it had the perfect amount of collectables and side-missions to complete, and was the most fulfilling experience of the three games.

The Ezio trilogy is a masterpiece of storytelling, and this is coming from someone who appreciates both the past and the present aspects of the story. Ezio himself is a truly likeable character, and the fact that we stay with him from his birth to his elderly life and watch him mature only increases my connection to the character. I also loved uncovering all of the templar conspiracies in the format of Subject 16’s scraps of code, and getting a sense for the wider narrative of Assassin’s Creed. I recently wrote a full blog post on the games here.

3: Grand Theft Auto V

More specifically, GTA Online. More specifically still, the PC version. More specifically still, the Cunning Stunts DLC. Because there’s a reason why the people of GTA: San Andreas Online went through the hassle of modding in silly midair stunt ramps, and Rockstar recognised this and capitalised on it wonderfully. It may help that I’m a longtime fan of the Trackmania series, but this is the first update to GTA: Online to really grip me. There’s a decent selection of tracks (plus you can make and share your own), and I’ve always loved the way cars handle in GTA V. Plus, it’s yet another wonderful way of making in-game money and numbing the microtransaction-enforced grind to get the things you want.

I’ve written more about the game here.

2: World of Warcraft: Legion

What, not number 1?

Anyway, if you’ve been reading this gaming blog over the last 5 or so months, you probably got a little sick of hearing me talk about WoW. Namely, I discussed it here, here, and here. And yes, I went on to play many hours of the expansion, partaking in dungeons and guild raids (for the first time) and world quests and all of the amazing things that Legion has to offer. In fact, I pretty much tunnel-visioned the game for 4 months straight. And Legion has so much content, you could never keep on top of it all. Blizzard more than made up for the barren of dead content that was their previous expansion.

But I burned myself out on it. I have no doubt that within a few months I’ll be back at it again, but I’m currently taking a break. For once, this was not because I’d log in and wonder what I could possibly do with my time, but instead, because I’d log in and be hit with a wave of indecision with so much choice. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but when you burn out on a game, you burn out all the same, whether it’s because of there being not enough content or just because you’ve played the damn thing for 4 months and ended up dreaming that the next raid tier was released early and got a little embarrassed and decided to focus on other things.

But that’s not why this game is in second place. Legion would be number 1 were it not for a game that actually trumped it.

1: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

At the beginning of the year, I was getting a little fed up about how bad my attention span was. For instance, I recognised that I had started up maybe four different saves of Skyrim over the last few years, always getting to Whiterun and then failing to continue, even though I was having fun. So, as part of my New Year’s resolution, I decided that I was going to 100% complete Skyrim. As in, get all 75 achievements, which include hitting certain levels, completing multitudes of quest lines, doing crafting, doing DLC, doing damn near everything there is to do besides clearing every single dungeon in the game.

And I did it.

I don’t think any game has held onto me the way that Skyrim has. I love the sassy NPCs and the physics bugs and the skill trees and the combat system and I love that I know the game inside-out enough to start a second playthrough with the Special Edition and know every nook and cranny but still not be bored. I love that after 170 hours I can still find a random encounter that I’ve never seen or play a fully unique quest that I never knew existed, that I can replay the civil war as a filthy Stormcloak instead of a faithless Imperial, that I can build a house again, that I can learn archery and sneaking and blind bloody murder and that I can look away from my screen and realise that 8 hours have gone by and that the real world still exists. I love that I still have so much to learn about the incredibly expansive, unique and hard to wrap your hard around lore, and that I can do this by deciding to go book collecting for my own library.

I’ve always said that my favourite game of all time was Ratchet and Clank 2 but I think we have a very strong contender here.

I’ve not even tried mods yet.

Honorable Mention

I feel like I owe Kingdoms of Amalur an apology. It should have been on this list. I bought it in February and played 9 hours of it and absolutely loved it, but for whatever reason, I stopped right there. And I always meant to get back to it, and I didn’t. But I feel like it’s another big, open-world RPG that I might just go ahead and 100%, because it is a rich, colourful, unique world that deserves attention.

Maybe 2017, eh?

The Travels Ezio Auditore da Firenze (Assassin’s Creed: 2, Brotherhood, and Revelations)

When Assassin’s Creed 1 was announced as a launch title for the PS3, I remember being somewhat interested, but ultimately, I never ended up playing the game. In fact, I kinda forgot about Assassin’s Creed altogether. It wasn’t until I decided to watch a Youtuber do a playthrough of Brotherhood that I really became interested in the series, and I bought and played 2 on PS3 some years ago.

Since then, I’ve been keeping a loose eye on the series, and in the recent Steam Autumn Sale I decided to pick up 2, Brotherhood, and Revelations. This was motivated partly by the fact that The Ezio Collection has recently been released on PS4 and Xbox One, meaning that everyone was talking about my favourite Italian in gaming once again. (Sorry, Mario.)

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Moments like this make me glad to not be afraid of heights!

From a narrative standpoint, it has been very interesting to see Ezio grow from a boy to an old man. I’m a sucker for lifelong narratives, and I’m currently halfway through Revelations and still finding great interest in the machinations of old man Ezio. (I could happily go on about my interests in lifelong narratives and life from the perspective of the elderly from here, but that’d be straying too far from gaming territory. Suffice to say it is a topic that interests me greatly.) But aside from Ezio’s story, I’m also greatly enjoying the story of Desmond Miles, the protagonist outside the animus who is using it to relive the memories of his ancestor, Ezio. Whilst some only care about the stories of past Assassins, I find myself drawn in to the sci-fi portions of Assassin’s Creed as well as the historical, though I hear this is significantly toned down in later games.

I have to say, I believe Assassin’s Creed 2 had the perfect amount of side missions and collectables. Whilst I’d not run around collecting 100 feathers myself, I found that outside of missions, the Subject 16 puzzles, the viewpoints, codex pages, Assassin Tombs and Villa management were enough to keep me satisfied. After 2, I feel that it gets a little out of control. I enjoyed the Borgia towers in Brotherhood, but they added Borgia Flags in addition to feathers, city management in ways of buying stores, investments, extra missions as rewards from 100% synchronisation, animus trials and more. And in Revelations, there’s still more to do. Though, I will admit that I am perhaps biased as somebody who is playing the games back-to-back, rather than as somebody who is waiting a year between games as they were developed.

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Assassin’s Creed has boasted odd glitches since long before Unity.

I’ve never really been one for stealth games, but Assassin’s Creed is somewhat different with how you move around the city, between crowds and across rooftops. Anyone familiar with the series will know of its uniqueness (if you can call a game with 9 main titles and a remaster ‘unique’ anymore). It’s not all about stealth, though; Assassin’s Creed has some satisfying swordplay, though I’ll admit that it becomes maybe a little too easy when they introduce kill streaks in Brotherhood. You kill one guard, you kill the entire crowd, so long as you time it right.

Parkour is also a huge element in the games, and the completely parkour oriented levels (i.e the Assassin Tombs in 2 and the keys in Revelations) are probably some of my favourite parts of the series. I love being presented with something seemingly insurmountable and being able to work my way there through conveniently placed nooks and crannies, leaping from one deadly hazard to the next. And Revelations definitely kicks it up a notch in terms of how dangerous it looks; there have been many sequences where a ledge will crumble as you grab onto it, and suddenly you’re kicking off of a falling rock and onto the parallel ledge, barely escaping your terminal fall. It can also be a source of frustration in the general run of things, though, as many times I’ll find myself running up a wall instead of past it, or leaping off backwards when I meant to simply jump.

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That’s, uh… that’s some good finger strength right there.

I only bought up to Revelations, but in a massive stroke of personal luck, Ubisofts free Ubi30 game this month is Assassin’s Creed 3, the very next game in the series. I very much look forward to playing it.

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.

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.