The Journey Back to GTA Online

I can leave all I want, but I'll always come back.

I can leave all I want, but I’ll always come back.

Grand Theft Auto is possibly a favorite of mine among the dozens of other games I love to play. In fact, I enjoyed Grand Theft Auto V so much that I purchased it on my PS3, PS4, and PC as I progressed through the release dates for this title. I specifically fell in love with this game’s multiplayer feature, with all the chaos and player killing included. However, there’s only so much you can do online-at least when GTA V was first released- so the online can get a bit stale. My last stint with the game was when I got it as a gift for PC, and I played the hell out of it for several months until I soon lost my heist crew due to disinterest. But here I am again, running GTA V once more, on PS4. What about this game compels me to come back so frequently?

One of the biggest things about GTA online that always pushed me away after a while was the lack of any comprehensive content. Sure the game bringing out some nice cars and vehicles here and there was nice and all, but in the end its just a slightly faster, slightly nicer looking car. The heists were a HUGE addition to the game, as it added a new challenging set of missions, accompanied with some story involving integral characters to GTA V’s story. The heists definitely kept me going until I switched over to another platform. I feel that Rockstar is aware that with having such a major online platform to deal with, content has to constantly be up to date; otherwise players lose interest and leave. However, what I didn’t like about Rockstar’s attempt to keep its player was adding ludicrously expensive content, essentially forcing players to purchase their premium Shark Cards, which instantly pumped in game currency to their online account at the cost of real money. The worst part was that these premium purchases weren’t cheap, with the most expensive package costing 99$. At this point content was a matter of adding more little cars and vehicles that would only fuel these purchases.

Eventually, I left the game because of these purchase-pricing issues, but everything improved vastly over the course of the game’s existence. Sure, they added expensive super yachts and super cars, but they revamped reward pricing, so doing missions was a viable money gaining possibility. On top of that, races and other playlists were getting face-lifts, making the alternatives to money making grow more. Now, people didn’t have to worry about not having buddies play the heist, they can always try out all these other playlists to keep them preoccupied and having fun. When I returned to my latest session of GTA Online, I was using my now defunct PS4 online character, as I had transferred this very character to the PC, ultimately leveling him close to 100 with millions worth of property. This PS4 character was only level 30 and had 15,000 in its account, but with all the changes that Rockstar made to the game over the years, I quickly managed to snag over $1.5 million and level up over 18 times within the matter of two weeks. Now mission running feels more rewarding than ever, so I can tolerate the repetitiousness of running these missions.

On top of that, many of the hacks and glitches that would have deterred many people away from the game have been mostly ironed out, although I still wouldn’t have minded if people would dropped me a ludicrous amount of money from time to time. Many of the God Mode hackers made surviving the overworld near impossible, as these individuals also unlocked the strongest vehicles in the game, but now its mostly free game for all players, so there’s an oddly civil atmosphere that exists in some servers I join.

Overall, I still am a bit worried about Rockstar’s premium purchase options and how it affects gameplay overall, but with these improvements they made I feel much more comfortable returning to GTA online and enjoying it once more. The cooperative elements of the game have never stopped being fun in my opinion, but they could do with improving reward rates for the game. 10 million for a super yacht would involve serious money grinding, which would, in my opinion, ruin the fun of the game. Hopefully Rockstar will release new heists or add new major content updates that will keep us going and add to the chaos that is GTA Online.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius: A More Interactive Mobile Game

A nice change of pace from the stale freemium mobile games

A nice change of pace from the stale freemium mobile games

Square Enix’s newest addition to its mobile franchise, Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, came out not too long ago and its surprisingly entertaining. I mostly take these games with a grain a salt due to the fact that their freemium game play mechanics ruin most aspects of the game, making it a mostly annoying experience. This game, however, does something a bit different, as it tries to present itself as a full-fledged game, despite the obvious freemium mechanics such as an energy system.

Despite that, the game does a solid job at performing as a full game, offering the player an engaging enough stories with actual exploration elements. The game plays similar to Brave Frontier, which is no surprise considering that the Brave Frontier developers Alim Co. developed this game as well. The difference between the two games is that Brave Exvius’ gameplay isn’t just limited to tapping on your units to attack in the traditional RPG sense, you are now given the capacity to explore select dungeon areas to find loot and level grind. At the cost of a set amount of energy, players can explore indefinitely until they reach the end of the dungeon, where they fight a boss to exit. These “exploration zones” are unlocked after the player finishes the stage where the zone exists. This makes Brave Exvius feel more like a traditional RPG game and less like a tapfest freemium game alone.

The combat mechanics are typical of these types of mobile games, which are not necessarily a bad thing, if executed correctly. Fortunately for Brave Exvius, it does a great job of incorporating a solid turn based combat system, complete with limit breaks and Esper summoning (Espers being the mythical beasts that players typically can summon within the Final Fantasy series). Character progression is also surprisingly intricate, as you can level both the character’s abilities (skills, spells, passives, etc) and limit break through its leveling system or enhancement system. You can even level up and enhance your Espers, using unique shards to increase their level. Every level grants an Esper skill points, which can then be allocated to increase their stats and even teach them skills that can be used in combat.

Despite all this, is the game worth the download? If you like traditional RPG elements and don’t mind the annoying waiting because of the energy system, then definitely give it a go. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius does a great job of providing a stable turn based experience, and the leveling and combat system encourages you to play more. Unfortunately, these neat elements are marred by the energy system, and the wait may push you away from the game, depending how much of a patient person you are. The premium currency is not all that hard to acquire, as the game provides you with the currency every time you level up your rank or whenever you finish a stage. Overall, if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t mind waiting and enjoy the classical game play from the more traditional Final Fantasy series, you should definitely try out Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, available on Android and iOS.

A Solid Performance from Microsoft



Microsoft started off the first day of E3 with some pretty big AAA titles. Microsoft’s performance in E3 has been, for lack of better words, a roller coaster ever since they announced the Xbox One in 2013. Their strange emphasis on multi-media rather than actual gameplay capabilities has been something of a joke within certain online communities, so there was much improvement to be made. Their presentation highlighted the demo for Halo 5 Guardians, Microsoft’s iconic franchise. The game play was impressive, keeping up with the Halo aesthetics. Nathan Fillion used his likeness and acting reprising his role as Edward Buck, ODST Marine-turned-Spartan. The second installment of the Tomb Raider franchise, Rise of the Tomb Raider, was also presented pointing out amazing environmental graphical detail and high impact quick time sequences. There was some controversy with Microsoft and this Tomb Raider franchise as Microsoft had implied that the series would be an Xbox One exclusive, only to change it to it being a “timed” exclusive, meaning Microsoft would claim first rights to the series before it is released on other systems. Overall the presentation provided enough reasons for me to consider purchasing an Xbox One, although many of the titles that Microsoft presented with their console are either timed exclusives or titles available across both PS4 and Xbox One with a PC port also to be available (e.g. Rise of the Tomb Raider, Elite: Dangerous). The indie support that Microsoft has allowed is an added bonus as well, with this awesome throw back to 50s cartoon animation called Cuphead to come to Xbox. I was honestly happy to see that Microsoft has stepped up their performance with a nice balance of different genre gameplay and no disproportionately imbalanced genre exposure (You know, like dealing with a 10 minute presentation on sports games, which I believe to be a heavily niched genre in gaming). Let’s see how Microsoft moves forward from here.

Watchdogs 2 Looks Promising and Fun

Will this new cast bring redeem the series?

Will this new cast bring redeem the series?

Watchdogs 2 is official and the game play videos shown at E3 prove it. Many are skeptical of this sequel, and rightfully so, after the heavy criticism that came about after the release of the first title. Many criticized the first game because of the “hype factor” that came from the E3 presentations, with the final title being something completely different from what was being promoted. However, this Watchdogs sequel does not seem to have that hype promise that its predecessor had.

The game still focuses on the idea that the world is linked in the cloud and that all things down to your car are connected online, but the serious air that existed in the first game through the protagonist Aiden Pierce gets aired out. We now deal with a group of people who work for DedSec, the hacking collective in the Watchdogs universe, and the group shown in both the teaser trailer and game play trailer seem to be a very merry and rebellious bunch. The tone of the game seems to play up the previous games mechanics, while also adding new hacking features that makes players needing to think outside the box. My main interest for the game solely rests on the fact that the tone and story seem to shift dramatically from the original, going as far as changing the setting from Chicago to San Francisco. This leads me to believe that Ubisoft wants to change the direction of the series to accommodate the criticism of the previous game while still providing a meaningful, worthwhile storytelling experience, however improbable this may seem for the series.

The shift in story from serious to chaotic seems to line up more with what the final release of the first Watchdogs presented the player with. There are still guns and will be more gunplay in the sequel, a mechanic that disappointed many players of the first game. However, the game play demo shown at E3 showed the gunplay to be in synch with the environment that the viewers were being shown. Whereas the first game’s ease of access of firearms felt unnatural, Watchdogs 2’s gunplay felt more organic, although I will reserve full judgment on this until the final release. Overall, Watchdogs 2 shows promise to redeem the series from its failures in the first game and Ubisoft is trying to sweeten the deal further through the game’s collector’s edition, which comes with a function robot that utilizes your phone to control it. Although I normally am against pre-ordering games that we won’t know are good or not, I am a sucker for collector’s editions- especially if they come with a frickin’ robot. Watchdogs 2 is expected to be released on November 15 2016 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Is VR the Future of Gaming?

Is VR another gaming fad doomed to fade into mediocrity?

Is VR another gaming fad doomed to fade into mediocrity?

Amidst the release of the long awaited Oculus Rift VR headset and its competitor, the HTC Vive, many have wondered whether VR is truly the future of video gaming or simply another gaming fad that would simply fade away. Oddly enough months after their release, VR games are constantly popping up, with YouTubers like Pewdiepie hyping the hardware through their “Let’s Play” series. On top of that, many indie and mainstream developers are releasing, or plan to release, games with full VR capability. Can we really still say that VR is simply a fad despite this almost obsessive drive to push VR gaming further?

Aside from the Sci-fi books and shows, VR has been realistically been attempted before through Nintendo’s failed Virtual Boy system. Following the flop, many companies avoided VR like the plague until the Oculus Rift came around. When people started realizing that we have reached a point where VR was an actual possibility, interest and hype spiked and news of VR compatibility and integration spread. However, to some, VR is simply a gimmick for companies to release their brand of expensive headsets to consumers willing to throw money at them (Oculus prices at around 600$ whereas the Vive goes for about 800$). Between the lingering issue of motion sickness and the concern that many of the games being released are simple gimmicks to highlight the VR head-tracking capacities, on top of the price tag, dissuade many from purchasing VR.

In reality, VR has begun a movement that seeks to evolve our way we interact with games. We’re not just dealing with headsets that force a particular kind of perspective; we are seeing the evolution of visual technology that pushes us towards being truly a part of the virtual world. Companies everywhere are creating hardware that pushes our interaction with VR, from haptic feedback vests to omni directional motion pads that allow us to physically move within the game. Not only that, but VR opens up new mediums for online communications, where now we can further legitimize our online interactions with people around the world with online virtual rooms where we can hang out and interact, as done through some Samsung Gear VR Oculus apps like vTime. The dream of integrating our psyche to the virtual world might not be possible yet, but we can at least have the sensation of being inside through VR.

The cost of VR is definitely high, and Sony attempts to mitigate this through its on Sony Playstation VR, which is expected to run at about 400$. While by no means is it affordable, it provides an alternative to the price and hardware limitations of PC VR headsets. New hardware will always start off with a large price tag; such trends are evident, like the moment when 4K became commercially available or the introduction to Blu Ray discs and players. However, I personally do not believe that this is just another expensive fad; the capabilities for interaction, integration, and inspiration are near limitless with VR. We can finally be able to capture our imagination in real time, or experience other countries-other worlds- in the blink of an eye. Hopefully the technology can evolve enough for more cost efficient means of production and distribution, that way many more people can understand the potential of VR.

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