The Technomancer PS4 Review

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Developed by French studio Spiders, whose previous work includes the 2013 release, Mars: War Logs, an ambitious title which had mixed success on a shoestring budget.  The Technomancer is the spiritual sequel set on the same red planet during the War of the waters, where Mars has been colonized for some 200 or so years and the barren dust bowl has very much panned out like Arnie’s holiday adventure in Total Recall.

Here you take control of Zachariah, a freshly promoted cadet, part qualified Technomancer, which is a mixture of a Judge Dredd style enforcer and a member of the Sith, wielding magical electric shock powers. Zach is employed by Abundance, one of a number of factions vying for control of this rust bucket of a planet.

At the beginning, there’s a quick combat tutorial to try out the 3 fighting styles you’ll be using, followed by a ‘live fire’ taster test Vs. some of the planets more colourful and interesting creatures which appear to have evolved into effective killing machines before your initiation into the brotherhood, which includes a secret you’ll be forced to take to your grave.

I found the story missions and side quests varied and although most had elements of fetching and delivering information or beating they advanced the story along nicely & after about 10 or so hours the game started to come alive.  There are a number of people you can talk to as the tale evolves which uses a fairly limited but competent dialogue tree. As you run missions for certain factions can have a negative effect on your standings with others, so as one door opens wider the other may shut; eventually you’ll have to align yourself with one of these corporations which will likely cut out missions from the others as a working relationship becomes irreparable.

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Traveling between Martian cities is completed by a Mars rover to which gives you a number of levels and areas to explore, there is a map which you’ll be referring to quite a bit as waypoints aren’t provided as you explore the different areas of the cities each with their own styles and environmental changes.

I really enjoyed the combat styles, the 3 stances offer short medium and ranged attacks which can be changed by the touch of a button smoothly and are necessary depending on the enemies. Rogue offers a knife and pistol, which allows you to fire a small number of shots which stuns the enemies to knock them off, guard. Guardian has a shield and mace equipped and the Warrior stance for combat in the Darth Maul style. Each of these stances can be levelled up separately, so a choice will have to be made if you want a balanced character or if you favour one particular mode of violence, although the enemies you face offer different threats which do mean you have to mix it up, and this can sometimes be a bit trial and error. For myself, I preferred the Rogue option as I appreciated the benefits of a long distant weapon to fend off some enemies who were armed with more superior firepower.

The defensive moves are generally just a combat roll away from the enemy and early on at least you’ll be using that in every battle in conjunction with the health syringe. Along with striking your enemies your electrically charged Technomancer skills are available on a cool down timer and can be mixed in when necessary. To complement the weapons there are crafting tables around which when Zach is properly skilled up allow upgrades & boosts to your gear to generate extra damage when in combat. The combat is generally fast paced with some elements of slow-mo action. Very early on in one of my first combat based missions I had to retry a ridiculous amount of times, as my skill level and damage output was low and the enemies were taking me out with 2 or 3 hits due to one having a gun taking pot shots whilst the other was getting slaps in at close range, the save option offered no saviour  as I was thrown straight back into the cut scene ready to be manhandled again. At one point I even considered starting again from scratch but persevered through sheer stubbornness.

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There are 4 skill trees which are aligned with your combat stance, allowing a boost the Rogue, Guardian and Warrior fighting styles along with the electrical Technomancing skills. In addition, Attribute points to level up core skills such as strength and agility and finally Talent point awards which can upgrade charisma lock-picking and crafting amongst others.

You can recruit 2 others to assist you and mostly act as distractions for enemies in combat, where you can kit them out with any weapons and any gear that you may have looted, in addition to having conversations with them about their views on people & places as your relationships develop which opens up further story arcs for you to explore.

Graphically Tecnhomancer has not offered anything jaw dropping or inspiring, the dark redness of the planet and metallic structures are only offset by the brightness of the planets radioactive mostly hostile creatures that have evolved there. There were never any issues with frame rate dropping, but when for most parts this resembled a superior PS3 title it should never show any signs of struggling on the current hardware.

We’ve been treated well with gloriously detailed cut scenes recently and in the character details here it’s fallen short, the mouth movements appear independent from the stone still expressive face. In some occasions Zac’s helmet was miraculously removed during cut scenes, only to return once the dialogue has concluded. On the opposite end of this, I felt the voice acting had real emotion from most characters and added to the immersion, but I felt this was slightly taken away by the use of bad language from some characters and felt tagged on when it possibly wasn’t necessary.

Tiredness Kills. On your way to your summer hols you’ll likely to see this message on the side of the motorway, this is also true for young Zach, there is a fatigue system in place which insists you take a break every so often, like a hidden health and safety initiative, not resting for Zach loses him an experience bonus in combat, and also makes him less effective in battle scoring less hit points on his opponents, and it’s vital you expend as much damage as you can as it’s plausible to bite the bullet after 3 hits from an opponent.

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The currency system  is serum, which can be found as loot in chests & even in fallen enemies in exchange for their life & a negative hit on Zach’s Karma levels; for which I never lost any sleep over. With water being so short in supply I would have thought this would have been the currency of choice, but no, it’s serum, this can then be exchanged with market traders for weapons or protective attire.

This could be the next step for anyone who’s burnt through everything Witcher 3 has to offer, it’s not as polished or beautiful or as deep, but if Sci- Fi is your thing it will provide you with 25 hours+ of gameplay & an engaging fantasy adventure once you get passed the initial slow paced beginning.

It’s to its benefit being released during the dry spell of the year, nearing Autumn in silly season this title could have fallen into a black hole of releases, but as it is, it should have far more exposure than its predecessor and give Spiders a platform to realise their ambition of their next project.

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Battlefleet Gothic: Armada Review

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In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a real-time strategy game based on the classic tabletop game from Games Workshop, no not the 40k one with the tanks, troops and multiple video game adaptions (Dawn of War, Dawn of War 2, and the bazillion expansion packs… ok maybe not that many but you get the idea).

No Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is based on the tabletop game in which space battles raged out across kitchen tables across the land until its discontinuation in 2013. Set around the Gothic sector of the Warhammer 40k universe which saw the Chaos Warmaster, Abaddon the Despoiler, invade the sector and unleash merry hell, and the Imperium’s attempt to restore order.

The big difference between this and the other strategy games based in the 40k universe is that instead of focusing on the Space Marine chapters (The Ultramarine’s, Blood Angels, Dark Angels etc.) the main focus of the single player campaign is on the Imperial Navy, the tech support/back up for the Space Marines (it’s been roughly 15 years since I last played 40k so things may have changed in the meantime, but this is how I viewed them back then).

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The single player campaign focuses on Captain Spire, who in the beginning is ordered to check out why an orbital array (a fancy name for a space station) has suddenly gone quiet, upon arrival he discovers that the traitorous forces of Chaos have taken control, and have turned the stations defense platform on them shortly before a rather imposing chaos fleet is seen arriving. Left with no other option but to flee and report his findings to fleet command. Of course being the Warhammer 40k universe there is a suspicion that Captain Spire just turned tail and ran at the first sign of trouble… Fleet command are not ones for simply believing anything reported to them and consequently have Captain Spire put on trial with an Inquisitor.. A process that looks uncomfortably painful. After the story has been verified under intense pain and torture.. Quite why they couldn’t just look at the security footage and go “oh yes… Chaos” is beyond me, as surely in the 41st millennium, there must be at least one video camera installed on a ship.

Promoted to Admiral and given the task of protecting Imperial worlds from rebellion, and both alien and Chaos invasions, this is where you take over properly.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a real-time strategy game, developed by Tindalos Interactive and published by Focus Home Interactive.
After you have played through the initial tutorial mission and informed Fleet Command about the incoming invasion,you are presented with the map screen. From here you can select the next mission or visit Port Maw Station.

At Port Maw, you can view the ships available to take into your next mission, and use the Renown you have amassed during your accomplished missions so far, to purchase new ships, new slots and pay for upgrades to your existing fleet.

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Renown is gathered by successfully completing mission objectives, you will also gain a small amount of Renown if you fail a mission, though obviously accomplishing the missions gets you much, much more than failing.

As long as you have the Renown you can customise your ships as you see fit, Upgrade your Engines for more speed and manoeuvrability, your Generators for improved shields, the Deck for sensors and special abilities, The Hull for increased armour and defense turrets and of course Weaponry for increased range and damage.

As well as ship upgrades there are special skills to buy and crew upgrades to choose.

The Commissar attempts to keep insubordination under control, as occasionally if your ship crews decide they have had enough they will try and warp the ship out of the mission.

On the Gothic sector map, you can see the available missions, the threat level of the sector, the turn number, and how many world properties are still available. For each world property still owned you will gain bonuses, some will earn you discount with the various Crew leaders whilst upgrading, some will earn more experience for your captains after missions, and some affect repair costs in between missions.

Selecting the next mission available gives you a brief overview of the mission ahead before taking you to the fleet selection screen, from here you can see the amount of ships available, and the fleet point value assigned to each one. Each mission will have its own Fleet point total and like the tabletop game you are limited to that point total when selecting your forces. Your forces range from the small quick Escort ships, all the way up to the hulking great Battleships.. essentially giant floating monasteries of death…
After you have worked out which ships you are taking in, hit the ready button and watch a small cut-scene of your fleet slowly approaching the battlefield.

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Being a space real-time strategy game you may expect that your ships will be ducking and weaving around asteroids and under minefields… this is not the case, despite being set in space, famous for being… well ‘spacey’ – for all intents and purpose that sprawling mass of stars and planets you see all around you may as well be solid earth. Think along the lines of the older Command & Conquer games and you get the idea, click where you want your ships to move to and watch as they approach in a straight line.

Placed around the maps are various hazards that you will need to avoid, or use for a strategic advantage, minefields will tear your ships to shreds in seconds, and asteroid belts will slowly sap your armour as you make your way through them. You do have the ability to make quick turns by ordering the engines to perform high energy turns, the giant starship equivalent to handbrake turns which when performed right look breathtaking… of course if your me and manage to essentially handbrake turn INTO the minefield you can watch in awe as your freshly bought cruiser disintegrates faster than wet toilet tissue…

Battlefleet’s combat boils down to who can keep the most guns firing the longest, certain weapons can only be fired from the sides of the ships, and torpedoes can only be launched from the front, so you are left with the options of trying to chase the enemy from behind or attempt to stay alongside them and hope your shields and armour outlast theirs. And while the ships armed with torpedoes have the opportunity to inflict heavy, heavy damage, the torpedo’s themselves have no guidance system so you will have to try and line up the shots yourself, this is made a little bit easier with the Tactical Cogitator system, hitting space bar will greatly slow down time to give you a few extra seconds to plan/wild guess where the enemy will be when you think the torpedoes will hit.

If you fail a mission, it is not an instant game over, nor a “replay mission” situation, the game carries on and your loss affects the moral of the sector, whereas if you succeed in a mission you can normally carry on to the next story based mission with no interference… but if you fail the chances of pirate attacks or chaos incursions increase slightly. Any ships lost in combat or the void are unavailable for a few turns until they are repaired, rearmed and re-crewed.

Your main enemy in the game are the forces of Chaos, but they are not the only force you will have to contend with in defending the Imperium, Ork pirate raiding parties, and Eldar Corsairs turn up to cause you trouble at various points.

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When you have had your fill of the single player campaign, you can set up some skirmish games against the AI or jump into multiplayer.

The multiplayer is a fun experience, instead of just the Imperial Navy you can choose from the four armies featured in the game each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Imperial Navy, Whose fleet feature’s heavy forward armor, powerful weaponry and the most choice of ships armed with torpedoes, but are also slowest and are bad at long range combat.

Chaos Fleet, While the Chaos forces suffer from low damage, a lack of torpedo’s and hardly any heavy armor, they are the best at long range combat, have many launch bays for attack squadrons and bombers, and have high top speeds.

Orks, the football hooligans of space bring in some of the most resilient ships ever created, forever up for a fight they also have the strongest assault skills, and have the bonus of being the most customisable ships in the game.. on the downside they are the most disobedient, the least manoeuvrable and have the worst accuracy and range…

Eldar Corsairs, they have the fastest and most manoeuvrable ships, the best fighters and bombers and the most obedient captains.. But before you start thinking that these are the greatest fleet in the game, be warned that they are very vulnerable to boarding actions, the majority of the weapons are on the front of their ships and they have the weakest armour.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is a great game, and the difficulty should prove challenging to even the most hardcore strategy gamer. There are only a few bits that could do with improvement, it would be nice if the camera pulled back a little bit more to give a better view of the battles, and more notification when your special skills were available to use, or if the ability to actually make groups worked (no matter how hard I tried.. ctrl +1-0 has not worked for me). But these are minor complaints.

Pros:

Looks beautiful
A solid strategy game
Decent story

Con’s

Some may find it difficult
Could have done with more races

Score: 8 out of 10

Cities XXL Review

CitiesXXL-05Cities XXL is a City Builder from Focus Home Interactive, an independent studio from France. Similar in gameplay to the Sim City games, but with the emphasis on creating and maintaining huge sprawling mega-cities.

Graphically the game looks good, from a distance the world looks alive, you can see the cars and trucks moving along the roads, traffic jams growing, and planes travelling overhead.
If you wished to, you could zoom all the way down to the street level where you can see the pedestrians wandering around and the traffic up close and personal, this is where it loses some of its shine, the traffic you see from the sky looks fine, but zoomed in it all looks rather basic. But it is a city building game so the majority of your time will be spent zoomed out and planning where your housing and industry zones should be placed.

CitiesXXL-02When you fire up Cities XXL for the first time you are advised to go through the tutorials, and as a tutorial should be, it is very in-depth. Occasionally some of the instructions were a little confusing “we need to finish the unfinished road” ok.. where is the unfinished road? I found it eventually but some sort of highlighting would have been appreciated.

After learning about Housing, Industry, Commerce, Traffic Management, Industry Satisfaction, & Metro Lines, just to name a few tutorial subjects I felt ready enough to start my first city properly.

When you hit the play button you are taken to a map of the world, here you will select a map on which you hope to start building the perfect city, I counted 67 maps to choose from, each map has its own difficulty level, each with its own stat’s including resource, fertile area’s and holiday levels.

I decided HopelessVille would be located in The Wetlands.

Once the map had loaded we had to set up a main road, a Town Hall, and a Utilities Centre to provide your small town with electricity, water and a few starter jobs to lure people into your city.

CitiesXXL-04Enter the Unskilled Workers.

Your Citizens are divided into 4 categories, Unskilled Workers, Skilled Workers, Executives and Elites. Each category has needs and demands for homes and jobs, and eventually the game becomes a balancing act to cater for everyone and keep morale and satisfaction high.
Too many homes and you end up with mass unemployment and your city starts to resemble a ghost town, due to the empty lots awaiting people to move in. Too many industry/commerce zones and you end up with empty Business/Industrial zones that could end up costing you money whilst waiting for more housing to be built, to attract new businesses.

The Citizens are very vocal with their wants and demands, they will tell you when they want more retail zones, when they are bored and want more leisure activities. As Mayor, you are obligated to fulfil all the demands thrown at you to keep the city desirable to prospective tenants and businesses.

CitiesXXL-03When HopelessVille reached 15,000 citizens they reminded me they had no security or education, it was time to build police & fire stations, with some schools thrown in for good measure.

At 20,000, I was told my roads were too congested, I fixed this by creating the most intricate one-way system known to man. Life was good.

But when it starts going wrong you have to act quickly, I hadn’t noticed exactly when my income had gone into the negative, it was costing me money to run the city instead of earning it. In a panic I destroyed buildings, I raised taxes, I did everything to try and claw back the positive income..

If you need to, you can setup trades between your cities, HopelessVille had no oil reserves to plunder for fuel, but Omnicorp, the AI city that is set up to assist new players, had plenty… however with a negative income no trade could be setup. The situation was indeed hopeless.

Inevitably the citizens left and the industries ground to a halt.. I had successfully run HopelessVille into the ground.

I found the process of building your city and trying to maintain and grow your economies quite fun. When it became obvious that HopelessVille was a lost cause I didn’t think “oh well that’s it for the night” instead I had the desire to start again and try to do better.

CitiesXXL-01Unfortunately, the trend did not improve.. Hopeless City & HopelessTropolis also went the same way; maybe I cursed them with my name choice?
At the end of the day, Cities XXL is a very competent City Building game, if you are a fan of the genre and haven’t played any of the others in the series you should enjoy it.

There are some issues though, some pop ups could be a bit clearer, and when trying to check on your citizens wants and needs the screen gets a tiny bit too cluttered for my liking.
Performance wise on my machine I had a few frame rate issues the larger my cities grew, or as I tried to place roads while zoomed all the way out.
Now I don’t consider my PC a gaming beast but with my specs (16GB Ram, i5 3570K Processor Overclocked to 4.5GHz, with a 660 Ti 2GB card) it should not be as bad as it was.
Poor optimisation? Possibly.
If you have played any of the others in the series, you will have seen most of this before with very minimal changes between this and Cities XL

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.