[The History of Glimmerside – A Cities: Skylines Diary] Chapter 1: Economic Ruin

The year is 2018. The governmental forces that be have decided that I am to develop and claim mayor-ship over a new town in the county of Riverrun. I have minimal experience developing towns, but enamoured by the prospect of making my mark on the world, I accept. This can only go well.

I name the town Glimmerside, after the glimmering river beside which the town will be made. I immediately spend three months trying to plan a symmetrical layout with two grids for residential and industry, and eventually give up on perfection. I also neglect to pause the game until houses have been constructed and residents start moving in, complaining at me for the lack of power and water. I set up basic systems for both, almost bankrupting myself in the process, before realising that I have perhaps started too big. Oops.

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Er… room for expansion?

I sustain my industry with the bare necessities and watch as my funds plunge to less than $500 during construction, barely evening out into profitable territory in time. I muddle along at a snail’s pace, my entire town earning as much as maybe one full time employee on minimum wage per day, before the governmental powers that be notice that I’ve reached 460 residents – an apparent milestone – and award me twenty grand, apparently blind to all else that is happening in Glimmerside. I almost choke in relief.

It’s not all sunshine and daisies from there, though. After extending my pipes, building some extra wind turbines, and creating a landfill for the whinging masses, I find myself running low on funds again. I use the last of them to make a long-overdue sewage pipe (down-river from the water intake, I’m not stupid), and sit back while my city turns out enough money for me to progress. Something’s wrong, though. My profits are suddenly dwindling. Glimmerside is losing citizens due to crime. I haven’t hit 900 population yet, so I’m not allowed to build a police station. Glimmerside is essentially a lawless place, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

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You never want to see that much red.

I take out a loan. The crime rate continues to skyrocket. Citizens continue to move away, distancing me from my goals of being able to build a police station. Abandoned houses litter the streets. Desperate, I try to make citizens happier. I build a medical clinic. I build another wind turbine to stop blackouts. I demolish abandoned buildings and add more trees – people like trees, right? But nothing works. The sewage is backing up again. Bandits parade brazenly through the streets. I’m in debt, and utterly unable to pay back my loan. I can’t see that I’m missing anything else; Glimmerside was doomed the moment I built those massive grids. With a smaller population, crime and budget may not be such an issue. But I bit off more than I could chew.

Glimmerside was doomed. Alternative methods would have to found…

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In part 2, I attempt to fix Glimmerside and wean myself off of the Unlimited Money budget, so begrudgingly bestowed upon me by the very realistically generous government.

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E3 2018: What Has Me Hyped

Firstly, I’ll mention that I missed the Sony and Square Enix conferences due to time constraints. I watched the EA Play, Microsoft, Bethesda, Ubisoft, PC Gamer and Nintendo presentations. Now, here’s what I’m hyped for in order of most to least hype. All of the following entries are what I’m hyped for, so the bottom isn’t something I hate but something I’m mildly excited for.

From the top, then:

The Elder Scrolls VI

Did you expect anything else from the top of this list?

Bethesda Game Studios rarely announce games so far ahead of time, but with the growing demand for a new Elder Scrolls game I’m thankful that they decided to give us some reassurance. The landscape shown in the teaser looks like it belongs to High Rock, native home of the Bretons who, thematically, I’ve always seen as the medieval kingdom style of civilisation. If this is the case, I think Bethesda have made a very wise choice in setting, as High Rock has many similarities to the style of Game of Thrones including the visual setting and political intrigue. I think that taking inspiration from Game of Thrones and emulating its style of fantasy would be a fantastic fit for the Elder Scrolls series, and wouldn’t come as a surprise given that each Elder Scrolls game since Morrowind has been catered towards a different style of fantasy – alien, traditional, and Nordic for Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim respectively.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

I am very far behind in the Assassin’s Creed series. The last game I finished was Assassin’s Creed Revelations, and I’ve been stubbornly refusing to skip the following games as I’m invested in the present-day story. I’ve had my eye on the modern games in the series since Syndicate, and the existence of Origins has had me willing to get back into the series for a long time. When Odyssey was revealed, however, to be in Ancient Greece, my hype levels went through the roof and I have since purchased and begun playing Origins, which luckily has no present day story at all.

If they make a game set in the decline of ancient Rome, it would complete the holy trinity of fascinating ancient eras. And I will play all of them.

DOOM Eternal

I really, really need to go back and finish DOOM (2016). It’s a fantastic game, and I only ever uninstalled it due to my then limited SSD space. That’s not barrier to me now, and the fact that a sequel is coming up – Hell on Earth, no less – has sent it rocketing back up to the top of my must-play list.

RAGE 2

I’ve never played the first RAGE. It looked like a less colourful version of Borderlands. RAGE 2 does not look like a less colourful version of Borderlands. RAGE 2 looks like it wants to PARTY HARD YEAH WOO PARTY PARTY MURDER MURDER

Andrew W.K aside, the gunplay looks as heavy and satisfying as DOOM (2016) and the abilities look very interesting. The main character sounds gruffly charismatic and you know what fuck it I’m just going to buy RAGE 1 even if it is mediocre

Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee Edition (HE RIDES ON YOUR HEAD)

“This,” Nintendo says proudly, “is Pokemon Let’s Go. It is based off of Pokemon Yellow, but is a uniquely different experience to the Core RPG series.”

“That’s not Pokemon Yellow Remastered” says the internet. “It’s different.”

“Yes,” say Nintendo. “You see, in this game-”

“I HATE IT” says the internet.

The internet is very dumb. Pokemon Let’s Go looks fantastic and I’m excited to see how their changing up the formula feels as I play through the game. The internet is too busy focusing on the fact that there’s no battling wild Pokemon to realise that trainer battles and gym battles are still a thing, as is online play. The shift has definitely changed to collecting Pokemon, something which honestly excites me. I’ve grown a little bored of the newer Pokemon games. I might be more excited about this than a potential Gen 8 game.

Forza Horizon 4

I’ve played about 20 hours of The Crew, which is basically Need for Speed turned MMO. And I really like it. I have plans to delve back into it. The Crew 2 is coming out soon, and honestly, I might have been interested in it, if I hadn’t seen Forza Horizon 4.

I’ve never played a Forza game, but this looks gorgeous. The multiplayer stuff looks similar to The Crew, and having an open world racing game that’s actually set in my country for once piques my interest as well.

I want to race through the UK, collect and customise as many cars as I can, and hang out with other players. And this looks set to deliver.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate

When the Nintendo Direct ended with Super Smash Bros, I was disappointed, but that was because they hadn’t announced Animal Crossing, Mario Maker or more details on their retro games. Also, the last Super Smash Bros I played was on 3DS, and it didn’t make much of an impression on me. But put out and disappointed as I was, I continued watching. And then I remembered how much I loved Super Smash Bros Brawl on the Wii. And then I decided that I was pretty excited for this one, too.

Starfield

I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS YET BUT IT’S A SINGLE PLAYER BETHESDA RPG IN SPACE SO THAT’S COOL

Fallout 76

I’ve always been more of an Elder Scrolls guy rather than a Fallout guy. I’ve played a couple hours of Fallout 4 and I feel like that’s the one that I could really get into, though, so seeing Fallout 76 and how it’s modelled after Fallout 4 makes it interesting by default. The fact that it’s an online multiplayer game made by Bethesda Game Studios makes it a total wildcard that I don’t quite know what to think about. I’m going to watch this from afar as it releases and wait for the dust to settle, and the inevitable game-fixing patches to roll out.

Star Control: Origins

Star Control: Origins is based off of an older game of the same name which I’m pretty sure was a major inspiration for the Spore space stage. And anything that is similar to the Spore space stage is sure to tickle my pickle.

I’m sorry. That’s gross. I shouldn’t have said that.

Star Control: Origins looks to be a game about exploring the stars, meeting new alien races, collecting resources and engaging with hostiles. The planets are charmingly simple spheres that you can fly around on, and their simplicity looks to mean that there’s plenty of them. They’re not all trying to be totally unique. They know what they are, and they’re okay with it. I’m okay with it, too. You go, little spheres. You do you.

This isn’t quite going for the scale that No Man’s Sky did. It may, however, achieve more than No Man’s Sky due to its simpler nature.

Super Mario Party

I’ve never played a Mario Party before, but this one looks fun!

The Elder Scrolls: Blades

YEAH IT’S A MOBILE GAME but it’s also coming out on PC. As long as it isn’t driven by microtransactions, I’m down for a little distraction where I can build up my keep and go on little Elder Scrolls themed roguelike dives. Plus, apparently there’s a story mode. In short: I’ll take it!

Whatever the hell Halo Infinite turns out to be

Is there anything to say about this that I haven’t said in the header? It’s coming to PC. Woo, I think.

And that obvious one that I probably missed

Yeah, the one. Not that totally big and cool release that everyone’s talking about, but that little indie one that showed up for 5 seconds on the PC Gamer show and then left my memory. Oh, like Two Point Hospital! And Satisfactory! Okay, those are added to the list. I don’t have much to say about them, though? They cool.

what do you people want from me

My E3 Wishlist 2018 (Probabilities be Damned)

I’d like to mention that Volume 3 of my World of Warcraft Character’s Lore is very nearly finished. It took much longer to write for several reasons, but it’s almost done.


E3 is just around the corner, and while I won’t be able to watch it because I booked my holiday for the week before like a muppet, I will inevitably hide myself from the internet until I’ve watched the VODs of the streams I wanted to see. I’m a sucker for live reveals. Anyway, I thought it’d be fun to write a list of the things I’d love to see at E3, whether it’s likely, implausible, or downright impossible.

So, in the order of when they popped into my head:

Ratchet and Clank on PC

Likelihood: It’d be one hell of a surprise. I’d possibly explode.

There’s literally no evidence to support that this will ever become a possibility, but it’s number one on the list of things I’d lose my shit about if it ever became reality. The Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy and the Spyro Re-ignited Trilogy have me ecstatic (I don’t own a PS4), but while I played those games at a young age, it was Ratchet and Clank that really had me hooked, and I’m currently on a long overdue quest to 100% every PS3 title (HD remasters and PS3 originals) that has trophies. And sure, maybe I’ll throw in a 100% for Tools of Destruction and Quest for Booty, too. I’ve already completed Ratchet and Clank 2, my favourite in the series, and am in the middle of completing the first game, possibly my least favourite (but still fucking fun). Bring the original trilogy to Steam (originals or buggy remasters), give em some Steam achievements, and I’d be more than happy to do it all over again. I’d settle for a Switch port, but what I’m really after is an achievement run.

Spyro Re-Ignited Trilogy PC or Switch Port

Likelihood: All but officially confirmed for the Switch, at least.

I’m more excited about the Spyro Re-Ignited Trilogy than the Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy, despite preferring the latter during my actual childhood. This is because Spyro appeals to the older me, the one who’s played Ratchet and Clank and sees many of its ideas originating in Spyro’s world. Plus, having played some of both series’ PS1 originals recently, I think I just prefer Spyro’s gameplay nowadays.

Anyway, when multiple people asked Nintendo Support if Spyro would be on Switch, multiple people got the response, ‘yes’. Plus, if I recall correctly, the trilogy was actually listed on Nintendo’s website for a brief time before they took it down, so rumour has it they’re waiting to announce it at E3, possibly with a later release date. What I’m concerned about is a PC release, so I can hunt those achievements. I’m not as crazy about achievements as I used to be, but for platformers and classics like the games I’ve previously discussed here, I’m a sucker for it.

Diablo 3 on Switch

Likelihood: The Diablo Twitter account basically confirmed it before Nintendo hushed them up. Woopsie!

What matters most is whether the announcement would come from Nintendo, or Blizzard. I’m imagining Nintendo, as they’re rumoured to be the ones who were quick to step in and tell Blizzard to say that they had no news regarding Diablo on Switch after Diablo tweeted a gif of them pressing a plug switch to power a Diablo nightlight.

Look, basically this Eurogamer article keeps me living in hope.

Dragon Age 4

Likelihood: Decently likely!

Keep in mind that I haven’t done any research and that this is just a fun little wishlist, but apparently Bioware have been plugging away on something after Mass Effect: Andromeda. I quite enjoyed what I played of Inquisition (maybe half of the main story, a decent chunk of sidequests) and I’d totally be up for a new one.

I should probably go back and finish Inquisition first, though…

The Elder Scrolls 6

Likelihood: Not very likely. And I respect that.

Apparently, after the rip-roaring success of Skyrim and Fallout 4, Todd’s slice of Bethesda wanted to work on something new. They’ve also stated that Elder Scrolls 6 is a long way off because the technology isn’t there yet for what they want to do. (…ES6: Tamriel?) At first, this angered me. Damnit, there was demand to be met! But over time, I’ve softened to the idea. That being said, an Elder Scrolls 6 announcement would have me hyped to the goddamn moon. I’m not expecting one, and I’ve got plenty of ESO content to tide me over, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on my wishlist.

Starfield!

Likelihood: I imagine it’ll be front and center for Bethesda’s conference

Remember how I said Todd’s slice of Bethesda wanted to work on something new? They’re working on something called Starfield (project name or game name, idk), and I don’t know much about it (like I said, no research), but apparently it’s a sci-fi RPG. And I’m talking outer-space sci-fi, not post-apocalyptic Boston sci-fi. I’m super excited to learn more about this, and if it was just Skyrim but in space I’d be… I’m running out of metaphors for excitement, bear with me… happier than a moon pig in spacemuck. I guess.

Ratchet and Clank 2

 Likelihood: Pretty sure Insomniac are mostly busy with Spiderman

Still, they re-imagined Ratchet and Clank for PS4 and the result was phenomenal. I don’t actually own a PS4, but I have watched a playthrough of the game, and the amount of original ideas from the first game that they reworked for the PS4 iteration was astonishing. Seeing as Ratchet and Clank 2 is my favourite game of the series, I would love to see it get the same treatment.

DOOM 2

Likelihood: I mean, the first game was received brilliantly. Sequel time!

Speaking of re-imaginings deserving of sequels, DOOM! I’ve played about half of the new one before uninstalling to make room for, well, anything else. (I’ve only recently acquired a long-overdue hard drive for my PC.) I can’t wait to reinstall the game and play it over. I’d love to see a sequel to the newest DOOM. I could see it spawning many sequels with possibilities of a rich universe of science and demons, and lots and lots of gore.

Also, Wolfenstein got its sequel. It’s only fair!

Spelunky 2

Likelihood: As likely that I’ll fall and die to spikes in my next run.

Spelunky 2 was announced last October, so we’re due for some gameplay and some more information on the sequel. I run a series named The Daily Rogue where I play roguelikes – typically Spelunky – and embarrass myself by dying over, and over, and over again. I’d like to do that in a sequel, too.

Halo: Master Chief Collection, PC Edition

Likelihood: A few months ago I’d have said unlikely. Now….

The point of a console exclusive is to lure someone into buying said console. They’ve never worked on me. But Halo has come pretty damn close. For many, many years I have wanted to play Halo, and when they announced the Master Chief collection I held my breath and dared to wish for a PC announcement by the end of the presentation. There wasn’t one. My dreams were crushed. Again.

Recently, a fanmade mod of a PC game named Halo Online – exclusive to Russia – became popular enough that Microsoft took notice, and shut it down. After the inevitable outcry, 343 Industries mentioned that they’ve taken notice of the requests for the franchise to come to PC. I’d be surprised if E3 2018 contained anything more than a “we’re working on it” style announcement ala vanilla WoW at Blizzcon, but I’d be ecstatic nonetheless.

Need for Speed Underground 2 HD

Likelihood: A man can dream…

Burnout Paradise recently received the remake treatment, and that’s not even that old of a game. Instead of announcing yet another Need for Speed that fails to meet the mark, why not revive a classic? And speaking of remastering classics rather than modern titles…

The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion Remastered

Likelihood: Probably not

Skyrim didn’t need a Special Edition. It’s a nice update to the game, but giving Oblivion a rework would have tided us over much more comfortably until the Elder Scrolls 6. As someone who started out their Elder Scrolls life in Skyrim, it’s hard to go back and appreciate Oblivion without all of the creature comforts that Skyrim offers.

Hell, just officially recognise Skyblivion and assist the development. It’s been in the works since the Merethic Era.

Pokemon Switch

Likelihood: If they can stop frothing about Smash for more than two minutes…

It’s confirmed that the next Pokemon game is coming to Switch, but in what form? The dream would be a full action-RPG style adventure across multiple continents, from Kanto to Alola, but that’s very unlikely. At this point, though, I am wondering if I’d welcome a remake of Red and Blue in whatever format Pokemon appears on the Switch than I would a new generation entirely. With every passing gen I find it harder to immerse myself in the world of Pokemon, but I always love the remakes.

Virtual Console Substitute on Switch

Likelihood: A few months ago I’d have said likely. Now…

They’ve announced that the Nintendo Online service is going to include a library of NES Games that grows over time. What they haven’t announced is whether this extends past NES, and whether these games will be sold separately at all. As someone who bought Switch partially because they envied the Wii U’s general console….

NINTENDO, PLEASE. YOU CAN HAVE MY MONEY. JUST DO IT.

Animal Crossing on Switch

Likelihood: It’s due, if you don’t count the mobile one.

Following on from my last entry, I’d be more than happy with just Animal Crossing Gamecube appearing on Switch. I’d be delighted to see a new entry in the series, however. I’ve always thought that the handheld entries were lacking something, and that the console ones suffered from lack of accessibility – especially on the Wii, where you had to break out the motion controls if you wanted to interact with your inventory at all. (Don’t judge me.) A Switch game would be a brilliant way to bridge that gap.

Mario Maker on Switch

Likelihood: Well, they’re porting everything else from the Wii U…

Mario Maker is my sole regret for not having a Wii U. Customisable Mario levels sounds like exactly my flavour of jam. I have a certain enjoyment for games where you throw yourself at nigh-impossible levels over and over again to gain the satisfaction of being in the 1% of people who actually beat it, and Mario Maker literally has a UI that tells you if you’ve accomplished this. GIMMIE.

Untitled Yoshi Game

Likelihood: It’s been in development for a while!

Do you really need me to justify this entry?

BADUNG

 

Everything on the Switch.

Likelihood: I will march down to Nintendo and make some very polite demands

Ratchet and Clank on Switch. WoW on Switch. ESO: Switch Edition. Runescape. Destiny 2. LEGO Star Wars. Jak and Daxter Fortnite GTA V Saints Row 3 Spore No Man’s Sky Borderlands Brain Training Atari Arcade Duck Hunt Club Penguin Getting Over It With Benjamin Foddy Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything Everything not call of duty though

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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You BASTARD

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.

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.

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?