Warhammer Quest – Review

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I make no apology, I am a full on raging geek. I play Magic the Gathering, Pokemon and I collect Warhammer models. Happily we now live in times where the geek have inherited the Earth. There are board gaming clubs and shops dedicated to all things nerd, operating in the open instead of in a loft, or the classic basement dungeons and dragons scenario. It is with this joy of being a geek that I get to review Warhammer Quest. I recall playing it with friends (Andy and Neil if you read this, I know you love a sweaty berserker), on a winter’s eve sat on the living room floor.

Screenshot_5The premise of the game is to guide your intrepid gang of pre-built characters through a dungeon that evolves as you play. What I mean by this is due to the tiled nature of the game, every room and encounter is subject to a dice roll. This meaning all sorts of shenanigans can ensue, ambush attacks, traps, treasure etc. The game is quite possibly the most faithful recreation of a board game since Monopoly went digital. Everything works exactly as if there were a dungeon master, laying each tile out themselves. The camera angles are from a top-down perspective, and can seem restrictive until your party start exploring. The game starts in the Warhammer Fantasy Universe, where a lot of character names and place names seem familiar and yet different. The setting feels like a cross-over of Van Helsing and Terry Pratchett’s interpretation of Germany in the Discworld novels. You select your party and are given the choice of uncovering a large map by looting dungeons, or attempting harder missions for shady types, and greater reward, but within the same region. This allows you the opportunity to gear up your party and get used to the mechanisms of the game itself.

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In line with the board game it plays as turn based using movement, then an action, followed by an attack, with spells and ranged attacks as additional actions. Once you are in attack, you cannot move again meaning, you need to plan out your attacks and movement accordingly. The AI will target your softer characters if they are closer, so they need holding and coddling like an overly powerful Furby.
The meat of the game is what you would expect from a iOS port – Dungeons, levelling up and collecting rare loot. The game feels as if it was designed to be dipped in and out of – and the graphics look similar, until you mess with the options. There are a few things that kind of niggle when playing. Your wizards don’t get very much experience when accompanying the party unless they actually smash face… which is great except, they are like Jack Wilshere’s ankles – made of Weetabix. Also due to the fact that it is faithful to the original, the Winds of Magic that power your spells are also randomised – meaning that potentially your magic users can be utterly useless all the way through the dungeon. In addition to this, the camera resets itself when it is the enemies’ turn. Meaning you have to wait until they finish to see the whole board clearly, limiting you tactically. You can speed up the enemies turn as well as they seem to want to examine every tactical possibility, slowing the game down significantly. The other major bugbear is progression, the limit for a character is 7 by normal means. There have been several mixed opinions regarding the scarcity of loot that can be traded for gold, which you need to progress to the next level, in exponential amounts. The levels extend further than 7, but the amount of gold required becomes close to Destiny levels of grinding required – The devs decided that to prevent that they would allow real money transactions for gold. For me this is a bit of a turn off, as the gold is available to buy immediately – and with a random loot table for the towns shops, this can lead to a potentially easy ride through the game. It feels like a bit of the mobile game was leftover when they ported it, and for a lot of gamers this will leave a sour taste in the mouth.

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Overall I was impressed by the game, for those seeking the ultimate challenge, setting the game to hard and enabling perma-death for your party, meaning your team can and will dwindle if you don’t pay attention. Certainly if you don’t have the ultimate edition of the game, you will be missing some of the cooler characters – Witch Hunter baby – making progression impossible.
I will be giving this game a 6.5 out of ten, with the chance to jump to a 7 if the annoying bits are changed or removed. This is simply because this game was not made to keep you glued to the keyboard, the graphics are great, but the annoyances are enough to detract from the overall product.

Score:6.5 out of 10

Mordheim : City of the Damned PC Preview

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This is an early access review, so to those of you wanting to purchase I will say this : Wait a little while longer – This isn’t because the game is bad, or the graphics are poor, or even that it’s a bug ridden crash fest. It really isn’t. I say wait because being driven insane by the tantalising crumbs left by Focus and Rogue Factor is not something I would want to inflict on anyone. I jest of course, I’m saying that anyone who has ever played Blood Bowl, or the Warhammer tabletop series of games (Necromunda, Gorkamorka etc etc) will feel right at home. With Focus being in charge the game seems utterly faithful to the tabletop rules (the Living Rulebook as it is known) with percentages replacing dice rolls.

The premise, is to take your wandering war-band of souls – represented currently by Human Mercenaries, a militant order of nuns called the Sisters of Sigmar, and the rat creatures known as Skaven, and fight across the devastated city of Mordheim, treasure hunting and battling other roving war-bands. In doing so you will uncover new allies, loot and your war-band grows in experience and starts developing their own personality via traits, injuries and equipment. Players of Blood Bowl (and anyone who ever played Shadow of the Horned Rat!) should already be frothing at the mouth. As your war-band gathers its strength, the game will eventually allow you to micro manage skills, spells and even resources for new armour and weapons, as they look like they will have to be replaced should your ”people” get defeated in battle. It is turn based, like Blood Bowl, and there are a plethora of attacks and stances to take advantage of in order to weigh battle in your favour.

Mordheim-03The game modes currently on offer are the tutorial and a skirmish mode, that allows you to test each of the three races on offer, against a PC opponent or online – although I couldn’t seem to get a game online for one reason or another. Plastered across the remaining options is ‘Coming Soon’ including some of the mechanics such as poison and looting and treasure. The game plays brilliantly, the graphics are really well presented, with the Rat Ogre being particularly gruesome and unsightly. I had a few issues with camera angles, which had me looking at a brick wall whilst my soldiers attacked their opponents. A little frustrating but it was fairly rare. The game screams out for floating tool-tips, as I was using stances and spells that I had no clue what effect they had. Furthermore, the game has a feeling that once your warriors are well equipped and certain skills are unlocked, that they will become an unstoppable force of death, steamrolling over all opponents and taking away the challenge- I mention this as this was quite common in Blood Bowl, there were specific traits that basically reduced the chance of failure to an insignificant number. Saying that I did come across a few quirky numbers based on the way the game calculates the chance to hit – I had a 98% chance to strike my opponent, and I missed because he had a 46% chance to dodge. I would love the full series of numbers to be displayed, allowing the gamer a greater choice of action.

Mordheim-09This minor issues aside, the game could be released tomorrow (content unlocked of course) and it would play very very well. The depth and loyalty to the original tabletop game do it a lot of justice. Rogue and Focus should be very proud of what they have achieved so far, as the Steam community have mentioned in their droves. The addition of a little more random chance and events should keep replay value through the roof, as will the release of more war-bands, the potential for hot seat play, this is sure to keep fans happy.

If what the studio have envisioned comes to pass, I would be giving this game a solid 8 out of 10 as it plays so cleanly as it is. Well done Rogue Factor and Focus, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Terraria (XB1 Edition) Review

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I’ll say this right now, Terraria is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s as if someone has turned Minecraft into a Mario game…minus the cool moustache. It becomes spectacular when you have friends to play with. Anyone having played this on the PC will know that making an MP game, had its frustrations – NAT problems, IP address mining and use of third party apps just to play with your pal in the same CITY often put people off, or turned them to buying a server. Happily, the ability to crew up and lay the beats on a Giant Floating Eyeball with teeth – has become infinitely easier now that this terrific game has found its way to Xbox One.

That’s not to say this game doesn’t have its problems. My main major gripe is the controls. In an attempt to replicate the free flowing building that takes place within the game, the guys at Re-Logic and 505 games have given joypad users the choice of two control methods for the cursor – most games that use a cursor undoubtedly suffer when ported to a console – this one has as well.

terrariamobmp_combinedscreenThe cursor when on its default setting, can be pointed using the right analogue in the general direction you wish to chop, mine, attack or build, then it will snap to the next logical position when doing so. This is a massive help when digging through layers in a straight line. Point the right stick down and it will dig all three lower blocks beneath you for a quick descent. When the stick is left in a neutral position, whichever way the character is facing it will also attempt the same three block smashing (unless the cursor has snapped to a tree). This can cause minor annoyances such as missing odd blocks of ore, or not chopping wood from the base of a tree.

Perhaps as a nod to this Re-Logic have added in a second cursor type/choice. A quick depress of the right analogue and the cursor becomes free flowing. Blocks are now placed at the extent that your character can actually reach to (about 4 or 5 blocks from the body). This brings it much closer in line to the PC version; however the cursor speed is sloooooooow. This means that building a defensive mud wall to keep out pesky zombies becomes a risky mini-game in itself, as you battle cursor speed vs. the interminable shuffle jump of the early game’s deadliest enemy.

The core game is excellent however. The bright colours and massive selection of blocks, ore, weapons and bonkers enemies (the unicorn being my favourite… Right up until it two shots you).  The focus of the game being to take your avatar – from the new creator – and mine, craft (wink), slash and axe your way around a procedurally generated world with the aim of building your entire arsenal of weapons, armour and house fittings from the materials available. Sounds overly simple, yes it is.  The way this game differs is just how you go about it. The addition of a statistics system, a fully functional magic system (which is amazing) and a crazy amount of random events – attacking goblin armies, zombies that will kick your backdoor in. Then add several world changing events such as meteorite strikes and corrupting effects make this game a great addition to anyone’s gaming library.

terrariamobmp_screen157Wrapping up: This game can get difficult if you haven’t made the next tier of armour and weapons. The bosses will kill you over and over.  This is especially true if you don’t set up your home base well. This will prevent you access to some of the vanity items and cheap sources of healing potions and ammunition, as your housing spaces need to be set up to encourage NPC’s to move in.

Where the game falls down is due to the control system and cursor. This was always going to suffer when ported to console. However with a little patience and perseverance this game is rewarding singly, and crazy awesome with the addition of mates.

Score: 7/10

World of Warcraft : Warlords of Draenor Review

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World of Warcraft; A game on the cusp of celebrating its 10th year of active subscriptions. It’s become an institution to the genre of Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games, the standard to which other MMORPG games are held against, and aspire to. Many a time I’ve heard other gamers in games that are in direct competition to WoW wish for features that were missing in their current game, that would make their current experience so much better. ”It’s good…but it’s not Carling” the advert tells us. Other players do the same ”It’s good but I miss WoW’s XYZ” It is a huge game, and it just got bigger with the release of the fifth expansion, Warlord’s of Draenor.

For those of you more than familiar with the game, or at least have a working knowledge, Warlords has you scurrying back to the Dark Portal chasing WoW’s very own Jeremy Kyle  – Garrosh Hellscream. Our pal Garrosh has managed to find a way to muddle up the timeline and reactivate the Dark Portal in order to find himself back on his homeworld- Draenor, at a critical point in Orcish history.

This is where you, the player steps in.

In an attempt to try and review all that is possibly on offer in the new expansion, I have split my review into a gaming diary of seven days. I was more than  happy to rediscover my love of WoW whilst playing for this review, and I intend to explain why below.

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Day One  : Confusion and Pretty Things

After completing a full install, and thanks to the wonder of Blizzard’s installer, I didn’t have to wait all that long. I was greeted by the trademark cinematic music and trailer, and a little voice in my head said ”This is it! be excited again!” I could feel myself getting carried away in the moment, something Mists didn’t manage to do for me. I decided to use my shiny level 90 boost on my Pandaren Monk, as I love the class and it’s utility. As an aside the level 90 boost was a stroke of genius by Blizzard. Allowing players still working their way through the previous content to immediately get to the new content, in my opinion, was the best way to keep players logged in and playing. They also created a way to stop you rushing off half cocked with your new found powers, by deliberately restricting the talents and spells of your class until you had chance to engage a few enemies and unlock them. Or at least that was the theory, one that should have worked really well. What happened to me (and more than a few others I’ve spoken to) was my delightful avatar – now looking even more splendid thanks to some nifty upgrades to sprites, was unceremoniously dumped outside of the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands and Summarily executed by the standing Iron Horde Elites. Oh, I’m dead. No worries I’ll run back to my corpse and resurrect….right in the middle of the original murdering Orcs. Not cool. Some four deaths later, I had run sufficiently far enough away that I was not going to be swatted the moment I entered the corporeal realm. ”Aha!” I thought, ”I can rectify this error by using my hearthstone” which teleported me approximately 100 feet back to my original spawn point, right into the middle of some grinning Orc-kin.

Not the best start I could have hoped for. 5 minutes in and I’ve sampled the Iron Horde’s hospitality a few too many times for my liking. In mild frustration I logged into my Warlock character, who was also level 90, and made my way to meet Khadgar within the walls of Orgrimmar. Some chatter here and there and I was asked to confirm my teleportation to the Dark Portal. Boom! Cue a cinematic of absolutely ridiculous amounts of Fanboy awesome. Needless to say I was hooked instantly. What followed for the rest of my evening was a non-stop rush through the starting zone, helping the motley ragtag escape the clutches of the Iron Horde.

WoW_6Day two: Make Monk Go!

I decided to give the monk another run out, happily logging in and running like a scared rabbit worked well enough and I found myself airship bound for Orgrimmar. Quickly fighting through the initial zone again, albeit in healing specialisation (Thanks to which I mistakenly selected my spec in Undercity whilst panicking about only having a single spell – see above for Blizzards plan for newly boosted 90’s) and got to the point a lot of people had been very pleased about – The Garrison. I couldn’t see how it would be different to player housing in other MMOs. How wrong I was! The Garrison is an instanced personal quest hub. Almost like your own miniature Orgrimmar/Stormwind – minus the role-players having barely disguised cyber sex and random fireworks displays. You accrue followers and resources from accepting quests within the Garrison, which eventually allow you to upgrade it and add in buildings of your choices. The followers themselves are given as quest rewards and come in various types. Each follower has a special zone they are more effective in, and they also get assigned a skill that is used in a fairly complicated version of scissor, paper, stone. This, combined with the additional quests, items, combat pets and followers triggers a kind of insane kleptomania that Ash Ketchum would be proud of. You feel compelled to Catch Them All. Add into this heady mixture of completion-ism, the fact that there is a base chance of ALL quest rewards and boss drops to be upgraded (followers too) to either rare or epic rarity from the lowest form, means that Blizzard have really gone out of their way to make sure they are doing something new and different, and most of all, rewarding, to keep the community engaged. My night was spent goggling at the stunning snow covered landscape, taking screenshots of lava pools and watching it snow. Yes. Weather effects!

WoW_WoD_PressKit_TFu_19bDay three : Heal Me!

Today is the day I shall attempt to go into a dungeon. A new one. I tell myself as I log on. ”I know! I’ll use my monk to heal!” After realising that I’ve never healed as the monk, and watching the health bars of my team mates drain like a overfull bath, I was summarily booted from the group after we wiped out on the second or third group of enemies. Oops. My bad. After a quick look at an online guide, I felt ready to try again. Attempt number two went really well. The healer has a nice rotation and plenty of buttons to press should damage start ramping up. I did notice something that disturbed me, and then after giving it some serious thought, actually pleased me. Loot is not guaranteed when you kill a boss. The instant gratification reward system was replaced with a few coins. After my rage died down, I rationally allowed some grudging respect for the design team. What better way to get me revisiting the dungeons than making the loot unpredictable, potentially looting a better piece and accruing me vast wealth along the way?

WoW_6Day four : The Shaman Who Died (A Lot)

I made a few discoveries today. The servers that controlled the instances was unfortunately suffering in light of the recent DDoS attacks, whilst the goblins and gnomes of Blizz HQ rushed to repair them, I logged into my other characters to see how and what has happened to them since the patch release. There were a LOT less buttons on my hot-bar. After reading up on the changes, I felt that not all of these changes were for the better. My Paladin missed her angelic wings  it looked awesome, which is important to me. My shaman was missing his little spell effects that lingered around his weapons – they have now been made a passive effect based on talent specialisation, but still it felt a little flat. Other than that the other major change was the statistic squashing that affected every single piece of equipment. After the servers stabilised, I was able to check on my garrisonand my followers missions. I was offered an upgrade to my Garrison. Wow! What a way to allow players to customise their home base. The level 2 Garrison became a Fort (with suitable bigger walls and harder looking NPCs) and I had the freedom to build whichever buildings I wished. I can’t wait to expand further, with my buildings becoming little workshops that turn common Draenor materials into mounts, spell boosts, food and weapons and armour. This was a brilliant move by Blizzard.

WoW_WoD_PressKit_TFu_21aDay five: Class Balancing you say?

I’m now in full-on WoW withdrawals. Work seems to take forever to be finished before I can jump online – there are now no queues on my server. My routine has become checking for follower mission completion, looting the accrued garrison resources and making sure my work orders have finished. Blizzard have added in a narrative that really puts you in the centre of the action. It’s created in a way to really celebrate the accomplishments you have achieved since your character was born; admittedly this feels flat when you have newly boosted a level one to level 90. For someone who used to log into just to role-play, I found myself nodding to NPC’s acknowledging my character as the hero they have undoubtedly become. The little comments within the scripted quests from the NPCs such as Thrall and Khadgar give a believable feel to the game and really help with immersion. Thrall – the Guardian of a WHOLE planet, is deferring to me? I get asked to fetch 15 wolf skins from a nearby encampment. Yes the scout work still exists, it always will , but it doesn’t feel as tired as it should.

WoW_6Day six : Collect ’em all!

A few heated debates across the internet forums and legions of desperately upset players have petitioned the American Government to fix Blizzards server issues. Blizzard announced that the server population is healthier than ever, with a massive TEN million subscribers. It has stung the lead developers to release an interview, stating that all of the money in the world cannot fix the server issues. Fans scream blue murder about poor launch management and throwing more cash at server structure. Blizzard know that this initial outlay will be pointless in the long run, as content slows down and subs fall away. In a way to allay peoples rage and fears they have kindly extended every subscribed players account by five days. Nice gesture. I’m still logging in at peak times with no queue. Yes you are having to wait to play, but it means that this game is SO good you are going to have to have patience before you can get your  mitts on it! Do the crappy rides at the amusement park have long queues? Hell no! The rides that have the most hype and give the biggest thrill have the huge queues.

WoW_Dungeons_BF_EM_04Day seven : The Hunting

My day is spent struggling with the spotty garrison server issues. Unfortunately my game time was a little restricted as well. So I settled myself down to a spot of questing and generally enjoying the game. Quite a few occurrences of loot upgrades (thanks to my War Mill) and chatter with other players show the promise of Legendary quests issued by Khadgar himself, which will eventually lead to Legendary items to equip and show off. I’m now able to access my bank and trade in the metals and ore for other trade goods that I can sell. I am so happy with the way my fort is turning out and I look forward to playing the end game content.

Blizzard have shown that listening to player feedback, tweaking an already tremendous reward system from questing, has made the World of Warcraft and my own personal world a brighter place to be in.

 Score: 8/10

Animal Gods Pre Alpha Preview

d123dee29be54395b7d6cf2634ddea10_largeAs my first game preview, I took a look into a game from Still Games, a tiny studio of just two people. This game has reached it’s Kickstarter goal and a demo is freely available to download. It’s not a huge demo, but from what I played, this game has serious potential. The link to the demo is on their Kickstarter Page.

The game itself places you as the protagonist, Thistle, in 15th Century Europe, armed with a magical (and rather natty) cape, and a 200 year old Bronze Age sword. Two things hit me like a Spartan phalanx when I booted it up. The first, to say that this game is pre-alpha, the graphics are simply beautiful. Powerful colour combinations and bright sharp edges, mixed with shadows that resemble tribal markings, give this game a very stand out appearance. Resembling a Zelda: Link’s Awakening top down view (which was the designers intention) this game doesn’t suffer in comparison, it appears to want to build on that and make it wholly theirs. The second thing was the musical score. It was both haunting and catchy in a Halo choral choir sort of way. I found myself humming it later on and not being able to place it until I played the demo again.

9e5bf778c2134a14e0def5ed72d92c40_largeThe demo is a few short screens introducing me to a very simplistic control system (that on the personal computer formats screams for keypad support), allowing for both left and right handed people to play quickly and easily. I enjoyed the mechanics of swinging the sword, and using the magical cape to avoid pitfalls and other traps. There was an odd moment where input lag killed me, happily this only set me back to the start of the current screen. As this has already been Nintendo verified it is available on the Wii U controller, so movement will be a lot crisper than WASD/arrow keys pressed in conjunction. The end of the demo shows Thistle dropping tantalising hints as to his mission and the missing Animal Gods.

There are very few negatives that I came across, and all of them can be forgiven as pre alpha bugs/glitches. The sound dropped out once or twice, and the directionality of movement failed due to input lag. If the keyboard stays as the primary movement option then more difficult dungeons within the later game will become an exercise in absolute frustration. Saying that however, the dash effect from Thistle’s magical cloak was generous, that allowed a two or three pixel leeway when dashing across some of the larger gaps in the game preventing them from becoming anything more than a minor obstacle. Also, the movement lag wasn’t too bad as the sword swipes seemed to protect the character in a 180 degree arc, preventing you from being utterly overwhelmed (this may also be in part to a sparkle effect from the sword tip when it is swung) from all directions. Anyone who has ever played Z:LA on the NES or Gameboy will feel immediately at home.

79a2530425488de4b62a517262439da7_largeAll in all this game will be kept on my wish list for now, as the stretch goals seem rather promising, with weapon upgrades, a hard-core mode, a port to the PS4 and a bartering system all due in the near future as backers pledge more funds. I’m personally excited to see how far down the jRPG route they take this game and how they develop the adventure as a whole. You can clearly see the direction the studio want to take, and still have more than plenty of options to make it unique and yet familiar at the same time.

Developed by: Still Games.

Kickstarter And Playable Demo Can Be Found Here