Alienation – Squashing Alien scum across the globe: Would you like to know more?

Housemarque; synonymous with quality if you ask those in the know. A presumptuous statement to some, but the quality of their games speaks for itself and Alienation, their latest foray into the twin stick shooter genre is another notch on that near perfect game play and pacing post.

Alienation is, at its core, a cross between Diablo 3 for its ‘loot game’ and a previous Housemarque game, Dead Nation from 2010, for its aforementioned twin stick top down shooter mechanics. As a criminally boiled down explanation, this alone should get you excited as that combination of difficult shooter with the loot aspects of a dungeon crawler sounds pretty damn awesome, however that only begins to scratch the surface of this games secrets. Left 4 Dead makes an appearance, as taking too long in one area and the horde is unleashed upon you in a mass of bodies stream from all corners of the screen to crush your armoured frame as well as the smattering of Borderlands with its character power sets to assist you on clearing the planet.

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Speaking of our glorious, armour bedecked hero’s, let’s go over the options you can choose from. Does the heavily armoured and armed tank class fit your play style? Wielding a pair of energy gun’s as primary weapons the Tank is generally your front line fighter. Massive damage output not only in weapons, but has an electrical ace literally in his sleeves with a Tesla Charge that obliterates anything in close proximity to him and a ground smash (stomp really) for those panic moments when you are surrounded by a bunch of mutants.

Dismayed at being punched in the face? Sneak around the back with everyone’s favourite techno rogue (who can be a Rouge colour if you wish) with the Saboteur. This sneaky bugger sports a sub machine gun as his, or her, primary weapon and zips around the field with a short-range teleport as a dash. All of you dagger rogues will enjoy the ability Plasma Sword, which gives you two high damaging melee attacks, which is in a cone in front of you. To boost your melee combat ability you can also put points into Camouflage so you can. . . well you know what you do. Lastly, in a strikingly non stealth skill, you can also summon an Artillery Strike, which pings your teammates, the ones taking those punches in the face we were talking about earlier, and then bombards the enemies within a small area around them, thankfully you cannot damage your teammates with your attacks.

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Or you can be the backbone of any great party. You go by many names, but are officially known as the Bio-Specialist. Stand proud as you blast down Leapers with a full auto Xenorifle and support your team with your devastating technomancy and summon swarms of nano-machines called Wraiths! If you start to get overrun don’t fear as you channel your inner Nurgle and lay down a trail of poison to damage those following you. Of course, your real power is what your teammates crave, and that is the ability to lay down a healing AoE to keep you and your squad in the fight. Along with these specific powers, all characters share a set of passive abilities. Athlete: allowing you use your melee abilities while dashing, Warrior: increasing your melee damage and the arc you swing in, and finally Survivor: which gives you a passive heal when you are below 25% and increases the bonus from health orbs.

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While our heroes are fantastic, the enemies are vast and as you progress through the game, they can become quite punishing. With save points scattered throughout the level, there are points in each section which seem easy, and then you turn the corner, sometimes literally, you run into a wall of enemies who quickly burst you down. This peak-valley-peak game play might be the place where players find themselves struggling initially, especially if you jump directly into the highest difficulty, but as you progress through the game you learn the ebbs and flows and should have no issues progressing through the game if you play smartly. If you leave your game open other players can join you, as it is a 4 player online co-op, and that can also cause a difficulty spike as more players = more/harder enemies.

One thing I do have to say that can be legitimately irksome is the Leader system they have in place. If you are familiar with other top down shooters, such as Helldivers, your team has a somewhat limited radius that they can travel from. While not normally an issue, once the frantic nature of the game kicks into full swing teams, especially those not on mic’s, can easily get split and when you have two members get snapped back across the map to their teamlead, it can be quite jarring. This is doubly frustrating when your team lead is down as your team cannot make a full retreat to regroup, and for that extra bit of salty sauce, wait until the leader dies in an area where your revive attempt keeps getting interrupted by getting damaged. I have seen this online in a couple of videos and had it happen to my own team when we were fighting under mortars.

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Those small aggravations aside, this game is a fantastic foray into the looter-shooter genre/game type and has a lot of area’s to mess around in. I am currently 10 hours in on my main ‘normal mode, 3 hours on my secondary ‘normal mode’ I mess around with when my buddy isn’t on, and just died on a 8 hour hardcore mode, which caused me to almost throw my controller across the room, so have to restart.

For trophy hunters, this looks to be pretty reasonable, just putting that time in to grind, which is nothing new to those who are looking for them plat’s. Out of all the games from the Launch party 2016 sale on the PlayStation Store, this one takes my top vote. Great buy, great game, great time so go out and get it people.

Thanks for reading.

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Choose your own adventure in Stories: The Paths of Destinies

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What do a Fox, Cat, Rabbit, Frog and a conspiracy of Ravens have in common? If you said the next animated feature from Pixar you… may be correct, but that’s not where I am going with this. What they do have in common is they are all part of a fun, charming choose your own adventure in where you, Reynardo a dashing fox who has been thrust back into the adventuring life as you acquire a book which allows you to literally go back and change your own quest line. If that isn’t classic early 90’s awesomeness than I don’t know what is!

One of the first things you will notice about this game is its look. Stories is a slick looking game with a color palette that is both vibrant when needed, yet subtly mute and subdued as you progress down darker story lines. The use of color is one of my favorite aspects of this game simply because how how beautiful it looks.

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Color is also one aspect which helps you along the story progression. Shown above are two options to choose as your story path, each has its own color associated with it. This association help you progress towards new endings, the four truths, and eventually the end of your heroes journey. There is a downside to this method though as you are mostly going through the stages/levels to progress the story, but some of the climactic or intensive battles and experiences are left on the pages of the book.

This, I think, is one of the major downfalls of the game, yet it isn’t, again in my opinion isn’t a game breaker. As a story telling choice it seems to make the most sense in stream lining your experience as you get to choose different branching paths to flush out the games overall world. Herein lies my biggest issue with the game, is the branching story lines can start to leave you lost or re-treading the same story arcs as you trial and error your way through.

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This repeating story arc is either a boon or a bane, depending on how you look at it. It is a boon because the combat is fast, fun, and picks the best aspects of larger AAA titles combat to use. Bane, on the other hand, comes at the price of potential slow downs in larger combats, simplicity of the combat can become repetitive and the occasional glitch which will stick you into the floor due to pots/boxes/pillars breaking apart.

To further expand upon these issues, lets start off with the Boon. Combat, like mentioned above is a fun. You leap from enemy to enemy ala Arkham Knight, dispensing your foxy judgement across your raven foes. Enemies signal when they are about to attack you, and much like Ubisofts yearly Assassin’s Creed, you can parry these enemies and launch into a new and blistering offensive. To aid you in your raven-slaying are four swords you collect elements and ore to build, Fire, Frost, Shadow and Hero. The Hero’s sword is your first, and allows you to unlock doors of equivalent color, as do the other three blades, yet unlike the other blades it has a defensive ability to it. This sword heals you with your magic ability, so in the eventuality of getting hit, you have a reserve med pack of sorts to fall back on. The nice part is your magic regen’s over time so you can stand around and make a sandwich then heal back up again.

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The rest of your armament consists of a water sword, which you can freeze enemies in place with, a shadow sword that zips you around at light speed (pun intended) and, everyone’s favorite flavour of weapon, the fire sword! Bursting your feathered not-friends into a tasty treat so long as you have the magic to fuel it. Each of the swords can be upgraded so they do more damage both with and without the magic in effect.

You also have a gauntleted hand, which holds three gems. These gems are found in the “epic” chests and give you advantages such as, magic on enemy kill, critical damage increase, and physical resistance. There are more gems, so your play style can change a bit, but in reality, you are not making a tank/healer/dps class out of our hero, its just incremental changes.

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One thing has kept me coming back to this game though, even with the small issues I have had and it is the narrator. He does a fantastic job of both playing out each scene, and putting the necessary punctuation on the jokes as you traverse around the world. His name? Julian Casey. His voice may seem familiar, and that is because he is the voice of the scientist of Tiny Brains and as Uncle Jack of We Happy Few from Compulsion Games.  He brings each of the characters to life in such a fun and loving way that you forget sometimes its just one guy croaking and being shifty and fall into a world of talking animals living on the high, literally, sea’s of sky-pirating adventure.

The Canadian team of Spearhead Games has done a great job on this game, and that is as plainly as I can put it. Are there issues? Sure, it can be a bit repetitive, there are a couple of slow downs, and if the combat isn’t your speed you may find it a bit lack luster compared to a more complex fighting system. That said these issues, in my opinion, are minor to the overall enjoyment that is to be had from this game, a game I might add that hasn’t really been seen on the PS4, where I am playing it, yet, and an experience I think it worth the purchase.

Give this one a pick up and enjoy a return to the choose your own adventure novels, except now, you don’t have to mark/hold fifteen pages to make sure you don’t die. Thank you for reading

Enter the Gungeon: The cutest bullet storm you will ever come across. . . and will likely die to

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If you have ever wanted to know what a “cute death” would look like, then take a stroll through the Gungeon. This roguelike Gungeon crawler takes a unique spin on the genre and is an incredibly fun time which frustrates you like many roguelikes, or the Soul’s games, yet keeps you playing until three in the morning trying to pass the next level.  I am getting ahead of myself however, so lets dive a bit deeper into Enter the Gungeon.

Enter the Gungeon is, as said above, is a roguelike gun based dungeon crawler thus its name. Developed by Dodge Roll and Published by Devolver Digital this game, for me, came out of left field. I first found out about it from the PS4 launch party 2016 promotion . After a quick viewing of the trailer I instantly pre-ordered it. Truth be told, I am terrible at the game, and have only made it to level three of the Gungeon, but there is something super special about fighting The Evil Eye! Beholster with a grenade launcher and a bow & arrow, then die from a poor dodge roll into a pit while avoiding his eye-beam.

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All of the enemies in Enter the Gungeon are bullets, guns or firearm related. They range from your basic Bullet Kin, which walk slowly towards you and fire a single round per shot, the Gun Nut a metal Knight who strikes the ground with a gunsword releasing a blast of projectiles, to the Iron Maiden and sarcophagus of doom that blasts out three waves of large projectiles that stick to the wall then come back, homing in on you! These are just a couple of enemies I have come across on the first three levels of the Gungeon, which leaves a full supply crate’s worth of baddies looking to kill you, me, and your little dog too (if you are playing the Hunter)

All of those enemies are fun to kill, die to, and kill again but what really slams a fresh clip into your pistol is the incredible bosses. Like mentioned above, the Evil Eye! Beholster is one of my favorites as I am a huge D&D fan, but let’s not sleep on the rest of the first two dungeon levels bosses such as the Bullet King, Ammoconda, the Bullet Twins and another D&D throwback the Gorgun! One of the most common level one bosses is the Gatling Gull, a super muscular. . . well gull with a giant gatling cannon. who when he dies, gets covered by tiny birds (I assume crows or gulls) as a tribute to Metal Gear solid. The little touches each of these bosses get above and beyond their design and makes each boss have that extra bit of flavour you want. It also makes it much more satisfying when you kill that god damned Ammoconda for the first time as he is bullshit. . . . but I digress

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While enemies and bosses are cool, it would behoove me to talk about the heroes of this story as well, namely you. Well it’s actually you as a much cooler pixellated bad ass who has a particular set of skills that they have acquired over a very long career. Jokes aside, each character you have to choose from actually does have a particular set of skills to choose from which could help you in various ways.

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First up is my main man, the muscle with the hustle, the Marine! His talent set gives him a bit of an edge in both the beginning levels of the Gungeon with a Helmet, which is essentially a piece of armour, but also an ammo resupply he can call in which will benefit him in the later levels/after a hard room clear for your favorite weapon. The Marine is also the most accurate of the characters due to his trait ‘Marine Training’. This makes his starting pistol and subsequent weapon pick ups much more lethal from long-range.  I am not sure if he, or the Hunter are the “easy mode” characters, for as much as you can say “easy mode” in this game, as he has armour and better shots while she. . . well I will get to her next.

The Hunter, the gatherer, the Darlene Dixon of  this game is the other character who may fall onto the “more forgiving” side of the scale. Why you ask? It’s because not only does she start off with a pistol, like every other hero, but a crossbow (hence the walking dead joke) which is quite powerful in the first couple of levels. Not only a second weapon, but she has a dog. The dog is stupid, and is not beneficial in combat, but it has a special trait that can make your time with the Hunter much easier. The dog has an RNG roll to find random stuff in every room you clear. This has garnered me blanks, an item that can clear all projectiles in the room and stop enemies from shooting for a few seconds, to heart pieces and keys. You must truly pray to the RNGods to get those heart pieces.

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Up next, and featured two paragraphs up as the image for the characters is the Pilot. Your Han Solo, Iceman, and. . . . other slick pilot names which I cannot think of at the moment, the pilot is a smooth talker. He buys items from the vendors for a cheaper price, and we all love cheap health bullets (yes, your health is actually two red bullets crossed together to form a heart) and guns. He also has two great abilities that can help you along your travels, the first being a lock pick. You laugh, but when you find a high-end chest and used your last key on a low-level one (you savage) the one time chance to open it will be a godsend. The other ability is called hidden compartment. What does this do? well it grants you an additional ten percent ammo to all your guns AND, as if that wasn’t enough, it also grants you an additional active item slot which can be a life saver in those clutch dodge roll moments as you flee from a wall of projectiles.

Lastly is one that seems to be fairly popular from the group of people I know who have played it and that is our lovely leading lead fulled lady: The Convict. Every game needs to have the “bad guy” character as playable, and Enter the Gungeon is no exception. The Convict again brandish’s a pistol with everlasting ammo and also wields a sawed off shotgun, making her the and the hunter festooned with weapons. Her unique perks are an interesting bag of party tricks. her consumable is a molotov cocktail which I am terrible at using and a photo. A photo sounds kinda dumb doesn’t it. Trust me I was thinking it was dumb right up until I got hit by one of the bullet twins and laid into him with the sawed off. . .  Holy cow! While only a few seconds long the photo gives you a damage boost as you get enraged each time you are hit. This is useful for multiple reasons, first and foremost is obviously your room clear potential. However what I like using it for is to chunk down bosses with crazy weapons. I beat the Ammoconda with a Bee Hive, that yes, does in fact shoot bees, by using her damage buff and blanks to survive and chunk health down. It’s a fun time, but a risky play style as you are not guaranteed much health return on boss kills or in the shops.

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Wrapping things up here I want to say this. If you are a fan of roguelikes, Dark/Demon Souls/Bloodborne you will probably enjoy this game, as it touch’s on many of the mechanics that you already enjoy. If you are not into those games, there is still enjoyment to be had in this game as its bright and colorful, a game you can learn to get better at without the “punishing” nature of the games previously mentioned, and genuinely   enjoyable to mess around with.

I highly recommend picking this game up, and to convince you I will leave this gif of various guns firing to entice you to Enter the Gungeon. Thank you for reading.

AllTheGuns

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of the conflicted fan – talking with fans about a movie to rock the ages

Batman v Superman has been getting hammered by critics and is a tornado of love/hate by the fans. I have always rendered my opinion on the movie, and for all its positives and negatives, it has still grossed 500 million in the five days of its opening weekend. I thought, it would be fun to see what other fans thought of the movie, so I reached out to about twenty or so of my friends and gave them a series of questions they could go off on.

I realize that this isn’t a huge sample size, but surprisingly there is a good amount of diversity within the people I asked. I won’t be using anyone’s name, just for simplicity’s sake, and will break down the bulk of responses by each question. This is just a bit of fun for me, but I think helps illustrate the wide amount of views and opinions on BvS. Here we go!

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1) What were your expectations before seeing Batman v Superman

When I asked our test group what their initial expectations for the movie were, I got a fairly standard response. Most were going into the movie with a moderate to low expectation. This either revolved around their enjoyment of the movie Man of Steel, how the trailers impacted them, many citing the ‘Doomsday trailer’ as a negative, and generally what they thought the movie would be about. Dawn of Justice’s darker tone didn’t excite as many as I initially thought. Another aspect which I personally didn’t consider was how much the run time would effect people’s opinions. When you look at a two hour and thirty minute superhero movie, you expect it to be jam packed with a fast pace and a good amount of action.

While a minority, there were a handful of people who had high expectations for the movie. Whether its based off of how, again, the trailers made them feel or their love of the DC universe in general. These individuals had really banked on the conflict nature of the trailers between our heroes and took queues form the various comic arcs that this movie used.

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2) Did the reviews/comments you saw BEFORE seeing the movie worry you and did they change your expectations

This ties into the first question a bit, as our preconceived notion of a movie, regardless if it is a superhero film or a Disney animated, always gets bumped around by early reviews, critic scores and general word of mouth. Like above, there was a majority opinion that while the reviews/comments didn’t overtly effect their want to see the movie, it did reinforce their own opinions on what they had seen in the trailers. Two aspects of the movie which got a lot of praise, Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, was met with much elation and generally good vibes. When you have two people cast in predominant roles, there is a lot of worry on how they will fill them out and do justice (no pun intended) to the characters, especially when they are going to be in multiple movies.

Another common thread among about half of our review crew, a name I just came up with so please don’t hate me for it, was that many critic reviews made correlations DC’s competitor movies, as is usually the case when talking about DC/Marvel, and said that this type of review/critical response did little to dissuade them from seeing the movie. The major point that was brought up revolved around the fact of “A Marvel movie is a Marvel movie, and I am going to watch a DC film”. I personally though this was a good way of looking at the movie in the lead up to actually watching.

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3) What aspect’s did you enjoy about the movie: specific scenes, lines, set pieces, characters, etc

This Question had the almost unanimous answer of “Batman was awesome”. Whether it was his visceral nature in the fights, the way he looked/moved or just Ben Affleck’s general awesome portrayal of the entire character, Batman/Bruce, fans seemed to really enjoy this character. Other aspects people liked were Wonder Woman, as Gal provides us with a fantastic looking, strong and kickass version of the Warrior Princess, although no one really mentions her ‘civilian’ identity Diana Prince, its safe to say there is a lot of good vibes for her in the Wonder Woman stand alone.

The other common threads that people were talking about was the supporting cast. Perry White and Alfred stole pretty much every scene they were in with both their levity, of which the movie had little, and their voice of reason/compassion in a movie which had a lot of anger in it. Of course we cannot forget about the fight scene’s. One thing that was seemingly universally liked was the look of the fight scenes. They popped with power and really showed off the visual powerhouse that is Zack Snyder. Did I mentioned everyone liked Batman?

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4) What aspect’s did you not enjoy about the movie: specific scenes, lines, set pieces, characters, etc

Funny image aside, this question had the most content per response, as some people/ had literally four paragraphs worth of items to discuss.. When you read reviews from critics or fan’s every point made there comes up in some form or another. While a handful of people dislike batman killing, others merely shrug at that aspect but point out the lack of motivation for most of the characters. Motivation be damned another group would say as they pick apart Alexander Luthor and his portrayal by Jesse Eisenburg as some sort of low rent Joker or Riddler. The Pacing for many people/ jumped around like a twelve year old on his eighth cup of coffee, and this lack of connective tissue between scenes did not help anyone’s understanding.

Looking back on the comments, Eisenburg’s character and Superman gets lambasted a lot, and in my opinion for good reason. People point out his lack of motivations in general, the lack of explanation of his actions, his odd character ticks which also have no explanation. How does he know Batman is Bruce Wayne, how does he know Superman is Clark Kent, why does putting his own blood into the evolution chamber create Doomsday. These are just the big questions in the movie that people have had issue with, let alone little gems like why did he let Mercy die, how did he get a jar of urine into the senate room. Superman received, as said above, his own blast of criticism. Why could he not smell it the urine in the jar, or hear the mechanics of the bomb in the wheel chair, show more emotion throughout the movie in general. His power set was poorly utilized and never consistent so you felt like he was a yoyo with a wonky string.

Getting to the fight alone concerns were raised at why saying the name “Martha” somehow made them best friends. Why did Lois throw the spear into a incredibly convenient deep pool of water THEN somehow realize that Doomsday was a kryptonian and run back to get the spear only to again, for the third time in the movie, become a damsel in distress and force Superman to put himself in a compromising position and weaken him as a character and a force in the movie.

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5) What was your overall impression of the movie

This question may be been poorly placed in the list, as we get off a negative aspect, so all the bad aspects are in the forefront of peoples minds. Surprisingly though, there was still a lot of positivity about the movie while still noting and accepting its flaws. We have a range of “It was utter shiet” to “I loved it” and I have the fake pie chart above to prove it!. In all seriousness, there were a lot of people who did just love the movie. They had a great time, didn’t put to much care into the movies missteps because they enjoyed themselves. Others, such as my self were closer to the “meh it was okay” line as we had issues with various aspects of the movie as they either didn’t make sense or we thought they diverged to far away from the source material we know.

There are also those who flat out thought this was a pile of garbage. In their mind, the film’s screen writer and director did not understand the source material and squeezed out a three ring coiler all over the DC universe rich history and lore. There were a few comments, and surprisingly this was the only place where they appeared, that Marvel had no really ‘concern’ for this movie as while it will make money hand over fist, the critical and fan reaction would be leaps and bounds better for Civil War.

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6) What do you think the future DC movies will be, ie: Do you think something will be changed/cancelled?

The last question in our little survey was also met with a decent amount of variety. The one thing all of the responders did generally agree on however was that regardless of the critic reviews, this movie was going to make a metric shit ton of money and that Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman would be seen by the public. Some people thought that for all its faults, BvS helps set up the DC universe so the other movies are in good shape. Others think that because the movie was a hot load of garbage they future movies would suffer from the narrative mistakes made here yet admits that the DC cinematic universe seems, at the moment, too big to fail.

In a bit of unfortunate timing, DC is doing some reshoots for Suicide squad to quote “Make it more fun” which doesn’t look good from a perception stand point. WB has a long history of being a ‘knee jerk reaction’ company, and having such little faith in the properties could in the end be the most harmful thing to their entire superhero universe. That being said, I am personally looking forward to both Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman (My favourite DC character) and hope that the lessons painfully learned here in BvS carry over to the future of the cinematic universe and we have a strong slate of movies for years to come.

I would like to thank all of the best friends who took the time out of their day to respond to me. You gave me a lot of information to work with, and I think we had quite a fun little time here. Let’s cap this off with a poll, because everyone likes poll’s. What did you think of Batman v Superman.