Fallout 76 – First Thoughts

As a PS4 user, I was a week late to the Fallout 76 Beta but I made sure I played all the hours available to me. I’ve been a devoted Fallout fan since a friend introduced me to Fallout 3 and even though I was hesitant about the differences between the Fallout we know and love and this most recent addition, I love the series too much to abandon it now. Off the back of the Beta, I have lots of thoughts and concerns and, ahead of its release on the 14th, I wanted to make sure I shared all of that with you.

I had the chance to play the Beta both alone and with friends. I completely understand why Bethesda seem to be encouraging players to team up with friends to explore Appalachia, but the game is also built to support people who choose to tackle the wasteland alone. The new perk system is built around perk cards that you can place into each of the SPECIAL categories. There are cards to support teams as well as lone wanderers. This new perk system was really strange to begin with but, the more I played around with it, the more it started to grow on me. The cards you get in perk card packs are completely random, which is my biggest issue with the system. However, the ability to remove all of my cards and start again to help build a completely new character is such a fascinating addition. It means you can shuffle cards around to prepare yourself for different situations rather than having a permanent perk decision that you might come to regret later down the line. Most of the perks on the cards are things that old fans of the series will recognise, with a few new additions to support team play. Each time you level up you will be able to put a point into one of your SPECIAL categories, the number each category has will determine how many cards you can place in it. You can also level up your cards to improve them, but this does mean they’ll take up more than one of your SPECIAL points but that’s what makes the mix and match element so appealing. You can use lots of lower level park cards, or a few higher level ones. It all depends on how you like to play and where you are in the game. This new system is completely different than anything Fallout has ever done before but, for the style of game they have gone for this time around, it works.

One of the newest additions to Fallout 76 is your C.A.M.P. You receive it as you leave the vault and it’s essentially a portable settlement. Expanding on the settlement building we came to know all too well in Fallout 4, it’s similar but with a new look and a huge expansion. You start off with a small selection of things you can build and to flesh out your catalogue you need to find plans. Once you’ve built a settlement you’re happy with you can blueprint it as well. This means that, should you decide to move your C.A.M.P, you can just plonk it down in its new home exactly as it was before. Your C.A.M.P will become a familiar sight to you as you play the game since it’s usually the easiest place to stash your items and use your workbenches. You will find both of these things in certain places throughout the wasteland, but you’ll end up needing them far more than you think. The stash box will become your best friend as you explore, each one you find holds everything you’ve put in it, regardless of the stash box you used, and it’s essential for offloading your junk. Unfortunately, there is a limit to how much your stash can hold but Bethesda released a statement that mentioned a future update that will expand it.

Fallout 76 feels more like a survival game than any other Fallout game before it. The stash box becomes so essential because all of the important things that were weightless in previous games now have weight. Your bullets and chems add to your total weight as well as things such as recipes and plans. Prioritising what you’re carrying has never been more important than it is here. The game also now includes a hunger and thirst meter and it’s important to keep on top of it. The cooking station, once abandoned and unimportant, is now one of the most important crafting stations. You can find food and drink in the wastes but, now that the game has added diseases, these consumables come with a risk of catching one. I often found myself forgetting to check my hunger and thirst and, luckily, the game does give you a little nudge when they’re getting low. But now, opening your pip-boy to quickly consume an ungodly amount of food or inject a couple of stimpaks isn’t as easy at it was before. The pip-boy doesn’t pause the game like it used to and, if you’re in the middle of a fight, they will keep attacking you while you fiddle through your menus. However, the favourites system supports this change and a wheel attached to the d-pad holds everything you’ve favourited and allows you to access and use it quickly without too much interruption to your combat. V.A.T.S has also had a bit of an overhaul and only slightly slows down the action for you. The percentage, which used to be a pre-determined number now changes depending on how you or the enemy moves once you’re in V.A.T.S. It’s a change that I’m not quite used to and I’ve found myself avoiding V.A.T.S more often than not.

Crafting mechanics that were introduced in Fallout 4 are back and more important than ever. Each workbench includes more options than they ever have and as well as crafting and improving your guns and armour, you will also spend a lot of time at cooking stations and building your own personal C.A.M.P. This time around, everything works on plans and recipes which you will find while you roam the wastes. Guns and armour that you find in the wasteland and don’t want to use can be scrapped and they often give you plans for crafting. The workbenches become essential parts of your experience and the ability to craft ammo has returned but with an improved interface and crafting system, which will prove really useful as you find new weapons. In my own personal experience, higher level weapons have been harder to come by so I’ve found myself continually modding lower level weapons that I found earlier in the game. The great thing is, with the multitude of options available to you, you can play the game however you want to. There are times when I’ve felt irritated by the reliance on the workbenches, and the need to constantly repair my weapons, but being able to change and improve my weapons and armour has been essential to progressing and taking on harder fights.

Appalachia is absolutely huge and, even with all the hours available to me in the beta, I only managed to explore a tiny section of the map. It’s one of the main reasons I’m so excited for the game to finally arrive. I wish I’d had the chance to explore more and I can’t wait to see all the areas I’ve missed so far. There’s also a long list of enemies across the wasteland. There are some familiar ones but even more brand new ones and it’s really refreshing to have so many new enemies available to us. The main problem I have with the world is how empty it feels. Bethesda decided not to include NPCs in Fallout 76, a decision that might eventually backfire. All quests are handed to you by holotapes, or robots that can only spew a few lines of dialogue. Not having a hub to go to, like Megaton or Diamond City is so bizarre to people who have played the previous games and I think it’s something I’ve personally missed as I’ve been playing. It feels like your character has no effect on the world around you. In Fallout 3, the option to blow up Megaton was a huge decision that changed the course of the rest of the game. Without NPCs to talk to and only the voices of dead people on holotapes giving us information, there is nothing for us to change or decide, just stories to listen to and explore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying doing that so far but the lack of NPCs didn’t go unnoticed. The lack of characters to speak to does make the game feel like a real survival game but it still feels pretty lonely at times.

I don’t think I’ve put in anywhere near enough hours to be able to fully review Fallout 76. There is so much I haven’t seen and I’ve barely even touched the quests. So far, I have a short list of issues with the games but a slightly longer list of things I’m enjoying. However, the problems I do have are things that I might change my opinion on once I’m given the chance to play more of it. I don’t want to make any snap judgements about some of their changes or new additions until I’ve finished the game. What I feel like I can say with a great deal of conviction is that, if you’re a fan of the Fallout franchise, you need to give this game a go. Don’t let what you’re reading make your decision for you, make it yourself. Appalachia is a vast and endless wasteland that not only reminds us of the Fallout we know and love, but also brings with it beautiful landscapes, great places to explore and so many new additions that you’ll want to keep playing until you’ve seen it all.

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The Overwatch Problem

Now in its third year, Overwatch has drawn in millions of players and understandably so, too. The online shooter, developed by Blizzard, has spawned it’s own e-sports league as well as a huge amount of merchandise. One of the best things about Overwatch is the constant stream of new content, with developers bringing a new update every month. They add new heroes, new maps, new skins and there are 6 events across the year. If you’re not a regular player, each time you jump in there will be new things to experience. If you’re a dedicated player, there’s plenty to keep you busy and wanting more. At least, that’s been the case so far.

There are 6 unique events that repeat every year, each with their own game mode and cosmetic items for a select few heroes. Now into the third round of each of these events, the novelty is starting to wear off. The skins are always a great addition and there have been some amazing event skins so far. As nice as new skins are, events will continue to struggle if they rely on those alone. Each time an event rolls around, they are likely to come with a few small changes. The lore event, now named Archives brings a new brawl every year and the Winter Wonderland event added a new game mode as well. Other than that, there are additions such as competitive Lucio Ball for the Summer Games event and new characters for Junkenstein’s Revenge. There’s also the addition of event makeovers for some maps, which is always a welcome little addition. It sounds like I’m disproving my point by listing all of this, but even with some subtle changes for each event, it’s not enough to keep devoted fans coming back. These small touches don’t make it feel new or different enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Overwatch fan and I admire Blizzard for all of their new (and free) additions to this game. But each time a new event comes up, the hype builds across social media and then the disappointment settles in when they realise that the only new addition is a series of skins. I enjoy the brawls that already exist but after 3 years of playing Lucio Ball, I don’t feel excited at the thought of a 4th round of Summer Games in 2019. I genuinely think that Overwatch will always have a dedicated audience. But if Blizzard want to hold on to all of their fans and bring in new ones, I think something has to change. If not, I hope they bring more new additions to their events and since their current Halloween event failed to do that, we’ll keep our fingers crossed for Winter Wonderland.

Even if nothing changes, I’ll probably always be an Overwatch fan. I haven’t played as much over the last year as I normally would, but I still love jumping back in, getting my competitive rank and just enjoying the game as it is. If you play on PS4, feel free to add my account, Kimderella11. I’m always open to playing with others and actually building a decent team! I hope you enjoyed reading my brief opinions on Overwatch. Let me know how you feel about their events, whether you love them or hate them, I’d love to hear it. Thank you!

 

Review: Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley

Developer: ConcernedApe 

Published By: Chucklefish 

Available On: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PSVita 

For this review, the game was played on a PS4 console.

 

If you’ve ever dreamed of moving to the countryside, you might find yourself living vicariously through Stardew Valley. Your character, bored of the monotony of everyday life, moves into their deceased Grandad’s farm house. But with the picturesque country living comes the job of owning and running his farm. If you’re not normally into farming or simulation games, you might already want to dismiss this one. I urge you not to.

You’re dropped in the deep end and what seems like a simple game can actually become quite complex if you want to maximise your production and make the most money. The great thing about Stardew Valley is that figuring all that out never felt like a chore, it was a real pleasure to explore the town and build my farm from the ground up. Not only is there plenty to explore and a whole world of possibilities outside of your small farm, but you can do it all with an amazing soundtrack to hum along to. Each season comes with its own unique music and you will never get bored of listening to the same tune day in, day out. With each season comes a different set of seeds for you to grow, a new coat of paint for the environment around you and the simple pixel-art graphics add a real charm to the game.

The main part of the game is maintaining your farm. With a multitude of tools at your disposal, you’re responsible for preparing the ground, planting the seeds and watering them every day. Different seeds will grow in different seasons, grow over different lengths of time and be worth different amounts when they’re harvested. Choosing which ones to plant is something you can decide for yourself to hopefully make you the most money. Figuring this out never felt challenging and with each new season came the chance to perfect it. As you settle into your new life as a farmer, new ways to improve and enhance your farm will become available to you. Fertilisers and sprinklers being among the most important ones. Fertilisers will either make your crops grow quicker or improve the quality of them, making them worth more money and sprinklers will save you the job of watering your plants on a daily basis. The sprinklers will also save you more than just time. Your character has an energy bar and each action uses a little bit of energy. Take away the watering of your plants every morning and you will save a lot of energy.

Taking care of your farm isn’t the only thing that will fill your time. You can also keep and care for animals as well as mine, fish, forage and complete quests for townsfolk. A lack of linear plot means that there are plenty of other elements in the game to help fill your time. The main one is the town’s Community Centre where you will need to fill several bundles with items that you find, grow or make throughout the game. Completing these bundles is really satisfying and the rewards are always worth the effort you put in. Some of the more awkward items can be really hard to come by and ultimately make some of the bundles a little frustrating. The mining system will also take up a fair bit of your time with 120 levels of the mine to uncover. It becomes more difficult the further down you go and it will save your progress after every 5 levels. With mining also comes combat as there are plenty of enemies to defeat throughout the levels. It’s important to keep track of your health and energy bars though, both of which are easy to lose quickly and if you do die, there is the potential to lose a chunk of your progress as well as some of your items.

Around the town, you will come to know the friendly faces that make up the small community you now live in. You can stay distant from each of them, only speaking to them to complete their quests or shop at their stores or you can choose to befriend them. By completing their quests, giving them gifts, especially on their birthday, you can improve your relationship with them. Improve it enough and you can choose to marry one of the town’s singletons, move them onto your farm and start a family. Improving your relationship to the point of marriage is not a quick process. Remembering their birthday is essential and you’ll need to figure out what they like to make sure they get the best gifts possible. All of this is entirely optional, however, and you can shape the game as you wish, choosing how you want to run your farm.

The only issue I have found with Stardew Valley is the complete lack of an end game. The game will continue on, year after year, and you will always have a farm to run and a town to interact with. You can reach the bottom of the mine, complete the bundles, get married, have a family and fully extend your house, but the game will never end. Although that’s fine for people who play the game for it’s relaxing farming simulation aspects, players who are looking for a complete experience and a conclusion to all their hard work will be left feeling a little lost.

What Stardew Valley lacks in end game, it makes up for throughout the game. The game never felt particularly challenging but that doesn’t take anything away from it. It’s the perfect game to pick up if you’re looking for something relaxing and easy to play. The graphics are a perfect match for the gameplay and the soundtrack is one of my personal game highlights. Despite there being no conclusion, I still put a lot of hours into this game and have already restarted it a couple of times to make different decisions and even reach the alternate ending. Stardew Valley was an absolute pleasure to play and, even if you’re not normally into games like this, it’s definitely worth trying it. You might be pleasantly surprised.

 

My First Experience: Until Dawn

[Will contain spoilers!]

I know I’m late to the party, Until Dawn has been out for absolutely ages and I’ve well and truly missed the train. But I got it free on PS4 and while I had some down time I figured, why not? Now, I don’t actively avoid horror games. I’m a horror fan, I love reading horror stories and watching horror films but I can separate myself from those. Horror games drop you right in the middle of the action and make you control it. That’s a little too much for me. No amount of cheerful games/videos will make the nightmares go away after a night of horror gaming. So when I saw all the trailers for Until Dawn, I decided it might be best to avoid it. When all the decisions are down to you, I knew I’d end up messing it up and have to sit through all the scariest outcomes. Just like the first time I played Heavy Rain and killed almost all the characters. I love games where your decisions alter the game, but I almost always choose the wrong path.

I went into this game completely blind. I had seen trailers and bits of gameplay but in terms of plot, I knew absolutely nothing. I had no idea what to expect. I assumed that there must be a way to save everyone and I honestly tried my best. I failed miserably, and ultimately lost 4 characters. But that’s not too bad considering my track record with these kind of games. Okay, that’s quite a lot. But the important thing is, I tried my best.

I was fully engrossed and addicted to this game in the first lot of chapters. I really enjoyed the gameplay. Apart from the stupid hold still mechanism, I lost Sam because the controller said I moved when I was sat as still as I possibly could. She was my favourite, man! And although I don’t have any sort of extensive knowledge on cameras/photography, I loved the way everything was framed. So many times when I was walking through the woods and the camera would be up in the trees somewhere. It really gave the feeling of being watched and it really added to it for me. And although I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I don’t mind QTEs. I love games like Until Dawn and Heavy Rain where I can just sit down and spend most of the time just taking in the story, enjoying the cut scenes and don’t need to concentrate too much. They’re perfect for lazy gaming nights, although the jump scares made sure I didn’t get too relaxed for too long.

I do have one problem with the jump scares. It’s the same problem that I have with horror films. I like horror stories that mess with you, Until Dawn had elements of that. Knowing that something was in the woods, that someone was watching you, but not knowing what it was. But a lot of jump scares, across all horror are just cheap and there for no reason other than to make you crap yourself. Until Dawn had way too many of them and nothing really left me continuously scared. It was a quick jump that I shrugged off because it had no bearing on what was going on. It’s all down to personal preference, I prefer something that leaves a lasting effect, not something that makes a loud noise for no reason. But the killer with the creepy mask, now he was frigging unsettling.

I liked the characters. Mostly. Emily, I could have done without. I was kind of routing for her to fall off a cliff or something. She was such an awful human. But she lived in the end. I ended up losing Matt, Sam, Josh and Jessica. I didn’t really get much time to get attached to Jessica, I don’t fully understand what killed Matt and I know where I went wrong with Josh. And I’m still mad about Sam’s death. Stupid motion controls.

Now I want to talk about my biggest problem with the game. Which no doubt will be controversial but it’s just my personal opinion. Wendigos… really? Like I said, I went into this game blind but one thing I didn’t expect, was some sort of Uncharted-esque supernatural plot twist. I liked the idea of some crazed killer running around the forest. It was impossible to know where he was, what he wanted or why he was motivated to chase them all down. I was so disappointed when Josh pulled off the mask and it was revealed that wendigos were the main threat of the game. I didn’t find them threatening at all and it took me right out of the game. Like I said, it’s all personal preference.

The addition of the status updates and the butterfly effect screens is, strangely, one of my favourite things about the game. Being able to see the effect that my decisions were having on relationships, and seeing the butterfly effects that carried on throughout the game based on my decisions was fascinating. It was such a clever addition and i checked those screens after every decision.

I enjoyed the game overall, I think it was really well done and I will probably give it another go to try different decisions and find all the collectables. I was really surprised at how good the graphics were and I thought the character development was done in a great way. The mystery of the location and of Beth and Hannah’s death keeps you gripped on the plot and even if I wasn’t a fan of the twist, I can’t slate the story too much because I did genuinely enjoy it. I don’t play horror games very often, but playing this through all its jump scares was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. I’m not sure I’m ready to jump straight into another horror game straight away though. Maybe a nice Lego game for now.

My First Experience: Monster Hunter World

I adore video games, I played a lot as a kid and came back to it in a large way in my late teenage years. I play games a lot but I’ve realised recently that my taste in video games isn’t very adventurous. I have a list of genres that I tend to stick to and it wasn’t something I noticed until it was pointed out to me. So I’ve decided to branch out! I’m going to play games that I normally wouldn’t even consider and write about my experiences with them. I don’t normally do challenging games. Yeah, I know, what kind of gamer doesn’t like a challenge? Well, that would be me. I’m not a throw my controller at the wall kind of person, but I will yell every insult I can think of at the player character like it’s their fault I’m controlling them badly. So naturally, I’m aiming to take on some more challenging games in my quest to expand my video game library. And the first one I’ve decided to tackle is the brand-new Monster Hunter World. Here goes!

Like a lot of gamers, I watch E3 every year without fail. And 2017 was no different. With E3 2017 came the announcement of Monster Hunter World for PS4 and Xbox One. I remember thinking it looked amazing and my two E3 watching buddies were so excited for its release. Me? Not so much. I was convinced I probably wouldn’t play it because it didn’t look like my kind of game. Even when the beta was released, my partner spent an entire weekend playing it and I just wasn’t interested. Fast forward to January 2018 and my partner bought it day one. I watched him play it non-stop all weekend and the more I watched, the more I wanted to play. So I gave in, installed it and I have been hooked since. I work from home and my productivity and motivation has took a dive off a cliff because I just want to fight monsters.

Because I’m clearly a very bad gamer, I avoid boss fights at all costs. My partner is a huge Dark Souls and Bloodborne fan and I’ve never had an interest in playing them because it’s all based around boss fights. I am useless at remembering boss patterns, I very rarely have the patience to take them on and they just do not agree with me. Monster Hunter seemed very similar, the monsters are essentially boss level opponents and the game seemed like everything I have always avoided. I feel like I am a completely changed gamer, I have embraced every monster fight and have never been prouder than I was the day I took down my first Anjanath without fainting once. Everyone has always told me that the beauty of games like these, where boss fights are a large part of the game, is not the fight itself but the feeling of relief after beating it. And I finally understand!

I have a specific play style across a lot of games. I am useless at tactics, I am useless at long range I am very much a run in guns blazing kind of gamer. And it’s worked for me so far. When I started Monster Hunter and needed to pick my weapon, there weren’t many that jumped out at me. I avoided all the big bulky weapons because I like to be able to get around quickly, I’m not good with big tank characters or weapons. I settled on the simple sword and shield, feeling a little weak compared to my partner who chose the gunlance. But I genuinely love it. It’s perfect for my play style and provided you learn the combinations and remember to dodge and use your shield (which I’ll admit, I still forget to use) you can do some serious damage with that tiny little weapon set. The weapon upgrades are great as well, the more you kill monsters the more weapon trees you unlock. Different trees have different elements/ailments and each of these will be better against some monsters and useless against others. The weapon designs are amazing, the weapons themselves are motivation to go out and kill more monsters so you can make all of them.

In case you haven’t already guessed, this is my first experience with the Monster Hunter franchise. I had no idea what to expect. I thought I would kill each monster once, get bored and never touch the game again. Boy, was I wrong. There’s so much incentive to keep playing. I haven’t even completed the game yet, I was so eager to write down all my thoughts but it feels like it’s going to be forever before I’ve explored everything in the game. Once you’ve finished the low rank side of the game you are introduced to high rank. I am not long in to high rank and it feels like I’ve been dropped right at the start of the game and I’m experiencing it all over again. I found myself having the same sense of fear I had at the start of the game, expecting every monster to absolutely destroy me. Even though I’m almost 50 hours into my play time, I’ve reverted to being overly cautious of everything. Even the Great Jagras, who became somewhat of a pushover by the end of low rank, I’m very hesitant to fight. The game just keeps on giving. With high rank comes a whole new list of armour and weapon upgrades. And you also begin to encounter the terrifying Elder Dragons. So far, I’ve had the absolute joy of fighting Kirin (stupid unicorn looked so fabulous but was such a bitch) and I imagine the Elder Dragons that are still to come will be even worse. I’ve seen my partner fight all of them and the designs are incredible and with each one comes a whole new armour set for you and your palico.

Speaking of your palico, what a genuinely great companion they are to have around. They played a huge part in convincing me to play this game, because who wouldn’t want a cat companion? Some of the armour sets you can get for them are adorable. Ever wanted to dress your cat as a unicorn? Or a ladybird? Or a king? Well this is the game for you! Not only that, but he also comes out with some great cat puns if you read his dialogue. You are not his Master; you are, in fact, his Meowster. Genius. You can design them exactly how you want and if I had a cat in real life, it would definitely be identical. Throughout the game they level up just like you, obtain new gadgets that they can use in battle and they gradually become better with said gadgets. They’re surprisingly helpful for such a small companion considering a lot of video games have utterly useless ones. I’ve become completely attached to mine, who I named Crookshanks, and he’s probably one of my favourite video game companions ever.

I don’t feel like I have enough progress in the game or knowledge on the game yet to do a full and thorough review. I’m not sure I ever will because there’s so much left to do and so many new things still being introduced. The replay value and the motivation to keep going after you’ve already encountered each monster once is unbelievable. There’s bounties that you can complete, which are short mini quests, usually collecting items or hunting monsters; there’s deliveries to complete, which usually involve gathering specific items and there’s endless investigations, which give you a goal to kill a certain monster. I’ve barely even scratched the surface of the game with this brief explanation, there’s so much to it. Not only are there main quests, optional quests and all the little extras, there’s also all of the armour sets and weapon and once you see them, you will want to go out of your way to make them all for you and your palico. Not only is Monster Hunter World challenging, beautiful and full to the brim, it’s also just fun to sit down and play. I feel like I can jump in any time, even if I only have a little bit of time to kill, I can kill a monster and call it a day. But that’s very rare because once you’re in, you’ll be addicted and won’t want to put it down. If you have friends who also own Monster Hunter, make sure you experience playing together as well. The monster’s health is scaled to accommodate two players and it’s so much fun. Even if you don’t know anyone who owns it, make sure you grab a random player online to experience it. The SOS Flare in the game will call in random players to help you in a tough fight, not only is it a massive relief to get help when you’re struggling, but it’s a whole different experience with a second player.

Monster Hunter World has genuinely surprised me and even inspired me to start playing games I wouldn’t normally play. I honestly thought I would either dislike it or get bored of it and I genuinely couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve embraced the boss fight elements of it and can’t wait to come face to face with some of the bigger Elder Dragons. Monster Hunter is already an established franchise and there’s still a lot of stuff in the game that I’m trying to get my head around, there’s just so much to learn. But I think, if ever there were a time to enter the Monster Hunter franchise it’s right now with this game. It eases you in, teaches you all the basics and doesn’t treat you like you should already know everything about it. It’s a stunning game with even better design work and I honestly can’t remember the last time I had this much fun with a video game.