Warcraft


The Beginning

Viewed – 18 October 2016  Online-rental

I went into this fairly blind, other than seeing the trailer a couple of times and thinking … hmm, looks fun.  You see, I never played the long-running MMORPG PC game on which this takes it’s inspiration, and well sitting down to it I was presented with a colourful if unremarkable fantasy adventure movie.  The story has a race of Orcs who travel from their world which is apparently dying into the human world of Aseroth after their powerful wizard opens up a doorway powered by, it seems the souls of innocents.  At the same time we meet a conflicted Orc and his pregnant wife who don’t seem totally in approval of the wizard’s ways but follow him anyway.  Once in Aseroth the Orc race start attacking the humans in a bid to take over, which brings forth seasoned warrior Lothar (Travis Fimmel), a reluctant mage and a powerful warlock ‘Medivh’ (Ben Foster) who must figure out a way of saving their world.

Warcraft-Movie

Adaptations of video games (or even computer games) have rarely gone well, with a couple of exceptions (Silent Hill, Tomb Raider?).  In the hand’s of director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) however I was hoping for more.  Sadly we don’t get that.  This avalanche of hit-and-miss CGI and surprisingly wooden performances is only marginally helped by some exciting battle sequences and vaguely interesting character development especially from the conflicted Orc and a half-human, half-Orc female.  Yet this fails to really hold it’s head either alongside or above similar fair like The Hobbit or even Game of Thrones and is a little too pretty and safe.  Hardly any blood is shed for that family friendly rating and it really grates especially when the movie would have benefited from some gritty violence.  The final act does liven up proceedings, what with a magically animated ogre and some fun effects and tense showdowns.  However that can’t help a very weak story, a world I was left knowing very little about (it begs for an explanatory prologue) and characters only had a fleeting interest in.

Perhaps fans of the game will be spotting references and nods throughout for added fun, but anyone else should get their fantasy-adventure fix elsewhere.

Verdict:  2 /5

The Division – so is it good?


I have spent just over a week with this heavily hyped and eagerly awaited online RPG shooter.  The Division pits you as an agent called into help clean up the streets of New York of thugs and looters following a deadly pandemic.  As previously reported on here, I tried out both the closed and open betas and enjoyed them…but the main game opens up that experience massively and presents a very detailed and darkly believable world.

Division concept art

So what’s it actually like to play?  Firstly creating your agent is a little basic but it gives you enough tools to form your own identity, complete with hair styles, male or female genders, tattoos, facial scars, facial hair etc.  You can also swap the clothing throughout the game to various aesthetic-only effect, and it is fun if a little less appealing than the various appearances on offer in Destiny surprisingly.

Secondly I like the game’s initial mechanic of updating your base of operations based on resources earned from various themed missions…rescue a medic, rescue a tech guy and recue a security guy etc.  It’s absorbing and makes the player seek out particular missions to gain particular resources.  For an online based game its a great single-player incentive.  The game also offers up a wealth of side missions which vary in detail but can get quite challenging too.  The game is also split into various districts that are set at certain levels that you’re best avoiding if your character’s level isn’t high enough.  One shot kills are plentiful if you dare to enter these areas at a low level.

TheDivision ps4

The multiplayer portion of the game is fairly seamless and if like me you don’t have actual friends to jump into a game with, match making with a group is easy and works well, with communication only partially necessary as the missions mostly lead you by the hand amidst being assaulted by various enemies and objectives.  On the other hand the ‘darkzone’ is not such an easily accessible place and I haven’t really had the opportunity to jump in with a team, so therefore solo excursions have meant many deaths and little to no reward as of yet.  It remains enticing, especially with the prospect of exotic loot, but for now it’s on the back burner.

Division dark zoneIt’s a game I think will take up a lot of the players time and the world is highly detailed, full of atmosphere with lots of areas to explore and random encounters to help build up your stats as you find supplies, kill bad guys and have fun.  New York City is impressively realised, that visual downgrade hardly an issue anymore as this game is a real looker; weather effects, state-of-the-art lighting and superb textures and animations all helping immersion.  One slight issue is some pretty bad pop-in especially when leaving a safe house or underground area and reaching the street – but I’m sure it’s a visual hiccup that can be patched.  I’m playing it on the PS4.

The gameplay itself, despite a strong narrative and interesting back stories and solid gunplay can get repetitive, and samey enemies seem to be a factor that you keep encountering again and again.  The various factions in the game add some variety, but the way you take them on is pretty much the same every time.  As with any MMORPG (which this is to some extent) it’s a concept and a game world that hopefully will grow and develop as time goes on.  I am enjoying it a great deal if you hadn’t realised and am only looking forward to what the developers come up with to further add to the experience.

Will The Division be good?


I have the game coming next Tuesday and to be honest I’m a little apprehensive.  The two Betas that we had were ok, and the gameplay and combat seemed good…but I’m still not entirely sure how interesting the final game will end up being.  Will it be a game that only really comes alive when playing co-operatively, or will it work just as well (or well enough) in single player?  The world it depicts that of a post-virus outbreak near-future New York is certainly compelling and developer Massive Games has done a great job of bringing New York to gritty life, but the wow-factor of the first reveal and the final graphical downgrade still stings me.

the division art

I have been playing a lot of Destiny lately and enjoy it on an exploration and character developing basis, and the various missions whilst a bit samey are still fun with solid gunplay mechanics and an interesting world.  Yet that has several large planet environments to explore and therefore gives some variety to the surroundings.  The Division on the other hand just has New York and as well realised as the city environment may be, for a game that is meant to last for a long time, several years in fact … one admittedly huge environment is still that – one environment.  I’m sure the various areas and districts will have their own flavour, but at this stage I’m wondering about the game’s lasting appeal for months to come.  It also niggles me the developer’s focus on The Dark Zone, a multiplayer PVP environment that for me, was never the big pull of this game and turns it into basically another multiplayer shooter but with loot and a few NPC characters to shoot.  It’s interesting but the developer seems way too focused on it and less  focused on the game’s narrative or single player / co-operative experience outside the ‘dark zone’.

I’ll offer a more rounded opinion on the game once I have played a fair bit of the final product.  At the moment though I’m a little less excited than I should be.  I’ll leave you with the launch trailer…

A return to Destiny


Destiny

A while back I played a game called Destiny on my Xbox One.  It’s a game that was heavily hyped leading up to it’s launch in September 2014, and seemed to reach much of that hype on first appearance.  However I stopped playing it shortly after I finished all the single player missions that came with the game.  Recently however and with the prospect of similarly styled online action game The Division – I thought I’d give this another go, especially considering all the DLC that has been released for the game in subsequent months.

So I went ahead and purchased The Taken King Legendary Edition, which also came with The Dark Below and The House of Wolves expansions, and even more excitingly boosted my character’s level to 25.  Levelling up my character was something I had been struggling with when previously playing the game and I’ll admit I didn’t put in the right amount of time to really boost my level and stats.  Over the last week or so I have therefore being having a great deal of fun in Destiny and really appreciating the play style of the game, the various planets to explore and a ton of missions to go on.  The big draw of a game like this is the loot (which is either dropped during gameplay by defeated enemies or rewarded following completion of a mission).  Loot & experience helps improve your character’s abilities, by upgrading and swapping weapons, armour etc. and altering how your characters performs and looks.  It can be a labour of love to mould your character to your play style and make him (or her) as bad-ass as you can.

Destiny vistaNow the other big draw for me also is the sieges in the game where you get thrown into a mission with usually up to two other players and work together to defeat the enemy and again, collect loot.  Now I’m a bit of a novice at what is now being called PVE (player vs enemy) as apposed to PVP (player vs player) and the urge to go in all guns blazing, collect as much loot as possible is addictive even if on one occasion I did a bit of  an online no no by collecting all the loot following a siege and leaving my colleague with nothing …. and they’d done all the best work as I’d kept dying all the time.  I am not proud of this and well, have tried to share and be a better player ever since.

Destiny-Moon

It has to be said also that the look, the level design, the character models and the atmosphere in Destiny should be applauded.  The game looks jaw-dropping at times with epic vistas, creepy dungeons and plenty of effects, superb lighting, impressive water and reflections and a pulse-pounding score making this game feel epic and important.  There has been some talk of Destiny 2 lately, which I think would be a mistake – Destiny was hyped as a constantly evolving online world and just jumping to a sequel barely two years into this games lifespan seems too early.  Give us more DLC Bungle, support the game and let the community and the game world grow to what you originally had in mind.  The game already plays brilliantly – don’t ruin it now.

My character – isn’t he cool?

Destiny Character

The Division beta – impressions


One of the most hyped games for this year has to be Tom Clancy’s The Division, an open-world MMORPG set in a locked down New York after a pandemic outbreak.  I got access to the beta of the game over the weekend after pre-ordering, and I must admit it’s very good indeed.  I haven’t actually managed to partake in some of the much talked about co-op gameplay or the PVP dark zone sections, but just exploring the disaster-stricken New York streets, taking on scavenger gangs and completing side missions as well as the beta’s main mission … has been a lot of fun.

Division beta 1

screenshot captured directly from my PS4

Visually the game has had a bit of a downgrade since the initial E3 reveal but that was to be expected considering the game was first shown before the Xbox One and PS4 were even released.  But with that in mind, how do the visuals stack up in this near-finished version?  Very good indeed actually.  There are a ton of effects at work, impressive weather such as wind & snow considering the game is set at Christmas, and a wealth of detail on buildings, the road, and cars (yes you can still close that car door, folks!).  The lighting is very atmospheric and with what appears to be a dynamic weather and day / night cycle the game shows off it’s true beauty the more you play it.

division beta 2

screenshot captured directly from my PS4

Gameplay-wise (with similarities to Destiny) you create your character (well, their face and gender but I didn’t do much with this aspect when first booting up the game), and then are introduced to the world, following the storyline of an agent flown into the crisis and having to make his (or her) way to the base of operation – a hub environment that you enhance and develop as you go on missions and complete tasks.  It’s a good idea and one that will mean there’s more than just a develop character / stats excuse to keep on playing.  I wonder if this is the only base of operation or if there will be others in different areas the player can develop?  The core shooting feels good too, with an excellent cover-based mechanic that enables the player to run to various areas of cover very easily, making for some exciting encounters.  The character / NPC designs are very detailed and slickly animated making this game feel very next-gen overall.  I think it will be a game that could become quite addictive also as more missions become available and various quests are discovered.  The enemy characters at this stage seem quite samey (all violent hoodies it seems) but that could change once the game is out and we could get boss fights.  It’s too early to be sure though.

For now The Division is looking to be a solid game to invest a ton of time in so I can’t wait till March 8th!