The Division

Overjoyed with my recent paycheck, I thought I’d treat myself to Ubisoft’s The Division. Spoiler alert, I returned The Division within an hour and a half of playtime – you’ll find out more about that in this (relatively short and sweet) post.

When The Division was released in March, I largely ignored it. I’d enjoyed Destiny in the past, but I didn’t think that Ubisoft’s attempt at an MMO third person shooter would be particularly good. Their push toward the ‘Ubiworld’ style of game is off-putting, with most games (including a particular favourite of mine, Assassin’s Creed) being a slightly different world with the same objectives; short introduction to the world with control tutorial, large blacked out map that you reveal by attacking and conquering outposts, then fast travel between each one to run between mission markers.

The Divison screenshot
It begins so well…
From Ubiblog

When this genre of MMO third person shooter had been done so well by Destiny, it felt like a cash-in on Ubisoft’s part.

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Tanglewood

I haven’t written anything for a while, because I haven’t played anything for a while. Work and social life has taken up most of my time and energy, so I’ve not been able to play anything substantial for a while. However, I’d like to put the spotlight on a Kickstarter project I’ve backed this week, then I’ll be back to regular updates next week.

Full disclosure: I am friends with the man behind the Tanglewood game, Matt Phillips – however, I have accepted no gifts for this post and I have backed the Kickstarter project with my own money.

Tanglewood is a homebrew game being built for the Sega Mega Drive – some might think the mark had been missed now, but there is a great community behind the system and its games. Since the project was announced, it’s been picked up by sites such as Kotaku, Destructoid, Nintendo Life and more!

There is a tech demo of Tanglewood available on its website and I’d recommend playing it while you have the chance; it’s a platformer game, in the vein of The Lion King, with a lot of challenge behind it. You play as Nymn, a fox-like creature separated from their pack after the sun sets, and you have to find somewhere safe to spend the night.

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Nymn and a Fuzzl

After dark, terrible creatures roam the forest, including the menacing Djakk monsters which will hunt Nymn down for dinner. Nymn must use skills of evasion, special abilities, traps and trickery to defeat these predators.

At the moment, only the first three levels are available to try but they bring you into the world of Tanglewood and give a taste of some of the puzzles to come. You’ll find Fuzzls hidden in the world, who will bestow special powers upon you if you can move them back to their nests.

The world of Tanglewood is wonderful to behold – during the day, it is bright and colourful with Fuzzls dotting the branches in their own bright hue. The transition through to night is brilliant and then you notice how foreboding the forest really is, scared to push forward into the jaws of the Djakk.

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Nymn flees from a monstrous Djakk

 

What makes Tanglewood all the more impressive is the work behind it – Matt is building the game in pure 68000 assembly language, using original development tools. I wouldn’t begin to know where to start with programming, my job only requires SQL, but I’ve been assured that it’s not easy! It has taken Matt three years to get to this point, starting with applying basic movements to a Sonic sprite and tracking every step on his blog.

Tanglewood is currently on Kickstarter, with over 400 backers and £27,572 raised – if you pop over there, you can nab a version of the game on an original cartridge, as well as receiving regular updates from Matt – there have been additions to the team behind Tanglewood, including freezedream as the Sound Designer, Composer and Character Designer/Animator Adoru C. and Matthew Weekes, who was Environment Artist on Freedom Planet!

For more information on Tanglewood, please check out the official site. If you like what you see, please head over to the Kickstarter page and donate to Matt and this beautiful game.

Halloween Special: Outlast

To celebrate Halloween this year, I picked up a few horror games on the Steam sale to tide me over. Not that I’m a fan of horror games, but one night of jumpscares a year is enough. Last year, I tried Five Nights at Freddy’s but ran out of power at 4am on Night 2, with two animatronics advancing on the office, and noped the hell out of there.

Thankfully I’ve played a bit more of a horror game this year – in fact I’ve played more of 3 – so here are some of my thoughts on Outlast.

The premise behind Outlast is very interesting: you are an investigative journalist, poking around a mental asylum with only your trusty video camera by your side – this comes with a handy night vision setting, so you can use it to look through dark areas. You can’t fight back, you can only run and hide. It’s unsettling to play a game where you can’t really do anything, when you would usually expect to have a Glock and a steady hand. 

Exploring the asylum is nerve wracking, fearing what might be around the corner and running at the first sight of trouble. Just what you’d expect if you were actually there. 

You’re on a timer when you’re in the dark, as the camera battery will drain out so you’re relying on memory and hope that there isn’t something waiting for you in the corner. Batteries are scattered around, but they’re tiny and easy to miss. You are expected to ‘reload’ your battery as well, another clever twist on the usual format.

The story is dripped to you piece by piece as you explore and point your camera at different bits of intrigue and record something. Only once (in my playtime) was something jumpscared into my notepad. It would be nice if there was a little more direction for what you’re meant to be recording, because my camera was up and down all the time – but, in the thick of it, how would you know what’s important?

Outlast is a tense and confined experience, forcing you to stare through a camera lense to see where you’re going to hiding in a locker when a patient is on the prowl. It turns a number of usual concepts on their head to present the story to you, taking the player out of their comfort zone – but, for this experience, it works. You are just a reporter looking for a big scoop, all you have is a camera – even in America you’d be pushed to lug around a gun for protection, let alone finding ammo in a hospital.

Catching Up

It’s been a while – a little bit of writer’s block and a lack of new things to play has stopped me from writing anything for the past few weeks, but I have been keeping some notes aside to help me put something together today. As far as The Gamepad goes, the domain is mine and can be live but I’m just trying to make sure things look good.

At the beginning of the month was Play Expo Manchester, held at EventCity near the Trafford Centre. Tickets were fairly cheap for the day only, so we grabbed a pair for Saturday – doors open at 10, but we’re fashionable and cool, so we arrived for 11.

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The anonymity of using my character name on this website is now completely lost. Oh well.

It was a pretty interesting day, although I don’t think I have the patience to stick around for too long – however, we did get to have a look at a couple of cool indie games that I’d like to share with you.

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

In the world of nerdism, you’d be hard pushed to place anything above Lord of the Rings as ‘the nerdiest thing ever’ – a rich, detailed world that essentially defined fantasy genre, that has entertained generations of readers. It should be the perfect setting for a game, probably the best fantasy game you can imagine, but designers have stumbled while bringing Middle-earth to life. Lord of the Rings Online was, thankfully, the last time I had a go at becoming a Hobbit and going on an adventure.

In September 2014, Monolith Productions took a shot at the Middle-earth mythos with Shadow of Mordor. The first that a lot of people saw was a gameplay video that was very reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed, with a focus on stealth, sneaky kills and free-running; there were some other controversies there as well, through some shady actions on Warner Brothers’ part, but we’ll leave that to Google to remember.

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Evolve: Stage 2

Whenever I see a game becoming over-hyped, I can’t help but think “you are going to fail and it will be hilarious”. A few big launches have turned out this way and I can’t help but think I have a pretty awesome superpower. One day in the future, I’ll talk about the remnants of Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online and SimCity, but today I will focus on Evolve.

Or, as it has been rebranded now – Evolve: Stage 2.

Evolve immediately turned me off at announcement, when the developers seemed to spend more of their time plugging the downloadable content as opposed to actually programming their game – granted, the downloadable content made up 95% of the game, so maybe they just had a lot of spare time. Monster packs, hunters, weapons, all sorts of shill were thrown up on websites and at conventions as a way to entice their audience – the game was a shopfront for a load of assets they were throwing together.

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World of Warcraft: Legion

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a big Blizzard fan, so as soon as I found out the release date for World of Warcraft’s sixth expansion I took a week off from work to play it. Legion was a revitalisation for the MMO with a lot of hopes pinned on its success, considering the mediocre reception of Warlords of Draenor. A long and winding story has been laid in the last couple of expansions, now coming to a head with the Burning Legion setting their sights on Azeroth.

From the beginning, we are on the back foot: the first scenario takes place on the Broken Shore, a massive effort from both factions to push the Legion back before the invasion even begins. We barely make it out alive, with major losses to both sides and distrust sewn back into the Alliance and the Horde.

After we realise the extent of the Legion’s power – which included Invasions throughout Azeroth during the pre-patch questline – Khadgar decides to take the fight to the Legion, magically teleporting these willing adventurers and an entire city to the Broken Isles.

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