Dishonored 2: Honoring the Perfection of Its Predecessor

Dishonored 2 keeps up with its predecessor in providing a satisfying stealth and assassination experience.

Dishonored 2 keeps up with its predecessor in providing a satisfying stealth and assassination experience.

The Dishonored series brought fourth a refreshing take on the tactical stealth franchise by providing a  gritty steampunk universe teemed with corruption and crazy magic. Gameplay wise, Dishonored combined the frustratingly fun stealth and assassination mechanics and added a bit of supernatural powers to aid you on your objectives. Ultimately what made Dishonored such a fantastic stealth game was the environment the player is thrown in: He or she can choose where and how to complete the objective. You were given different windows of opportunity to attack your target as well as different environments, weapons, and locations to take out your target. Of course, you were also given the challenge of doing so without being spotted or metaphorically going in guns blazing in dealing with your target. Dishonored 2 continues the satisfyingly fun gameplay, continuing where the first game left off 15 years later.

In Dishonored 2 you’re given the option of playing the original protagonist Crovo Attano or Emily Kaldwin, Corvo’s daughter. I only got to play as Emily for this review, but each character comes with their own stories and abilities to utilize to take care of their targets. Dishonored 2 takes you away from Dunwall and places you in Corvo’s hometown of Karnaca, where you will fight or sneak your way to your targets and retake the throne. Aesthetically, Dishonored 2 continues to provide beautifully bleak landscapes, this time with a more coastal touch in Karnaca. Dishonored 2 continues to make the most use of your environment as well, giving Karnanca and its different segments different opening to traverse the area stealthily.

As this was my first time playing a Dishonored game on the PC, I was a bit worried that the keyboard controls would be unruly and confusing but I was surprised to see how intuitive everything is. It may not have the compact feel of a controller, but stealthy movement and combat in Dishonored 2 is still top notch like its predecessor. Moving through the environment for the most part is pretty solid with the occasional movement glitch here. At times, trying to jump into smaller enclosures or nooks will be difficult because your character has a small animation glitch that at times prevents entering the smaller enclosures.  Your powers play a significant role in maneuvering the maps, but if you chose to do a no powers run you can also easily manage your way around without the ever useful Far Reach power. When using your Far Reach and other powers, you’ll be able to expedite your item hunting or objectives significantly through the several alternative shortcuts you uncover as you explore each zone.

This ultimately brings me to the reason I personally found Dishonored 2 to hold up with the original: it makes traveling and exploring fun. Sure, this game is not by any means an open world adventure game, but the intricate alternative paths coupled by the different ways you can silently or loudly deal with your target are vast. Even though I know I’m stuck within the confines of the zone the mission puts me in, I feel like there are so many hidden areas that unlock more to the story behind the Dishonored universe. The collectibles further entice the player, giving context to what’s happening to the world outside your character’s environment. The combat and stealth elements are extremely satisfying as well, but just knowing that the map is so well planned out that you can find hidden lore through your attempts to deal with your target makes for a satisfying adventure, albeit in limited quantities.

Dishonored 2 continues to follow the impressive level design and strategic stealth gameplay that its predecessor started and adds fun little things with each character to provide a truly unique experience. The game may run a bit dry at times depending on your play style, but when it comes down to it the combat and stealth elements can get very exciting, especially during the target assassinations. Dishonored 2 is out now for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC, so check it out if you want to release your inner supernatural assassin.

VR and the Future of Gaming Hardware

Will VR be the great change in gaming?

Will VR be the great change in gaming?

Whether we like it or not, virtual reality is becoming a staple of video game hardware and many are trying to integrate it within their platforms, sometime almost forcefully. Gamers have been dreaming of being able to dive in to the virtual world since the beginning, but the technology was never so feasible until now. Nintendo attempted to bring its players into VR through their Virtual Boy platform, but it failed so hard on release that VR was then seen as a stigma in the gaming industry. When Palmer Luckey brought back the vision of VR through the Oculus Rift, the craze for VR revived itself, now with massive companies such as Sony and Valve following Luckey into the VR frontier. However, many have speculated if VR is truly the future of gaming, or if it’s just another hardware fad.

There are a near infinite uses for VR, both within the video gaming industry and outside of it, but there are some concerns to our current VR craze. The last attempt to make a gaming hardware integral to the gaming experience was Microsoft’s problematic Kinect, which was a semi sophisticated camera attachment that essentially could read your movements in different ways. The idea behind the Kinect was that it was supposed to bring players closer to the game through more physical interactions rather than having a passive control of your character in-game. On paper, the Kinect seemed like an awesome idea because your body literally became the controller, but upon release the Kinect brought forth a different story. We did not see this new method of integration between player and game, but instead experienced one overpriced unit that only served to give limited voice support for select games or provided an awkward gaming experience, mostly within the party games genre. There was virtually no support with the Kinect aside from gimmicky voice features (Think Mass Effect 3), so many owners had almost literally no use for the peripheral. Microsoft once again attempted to force the Kinect to its consumer base with the Xbox One, but after much community backlash, this approach was later dropped entirely. The Kinect then died in mediocrity, with no support or compatibility with the ever evolving gaming industry.

There is no doubt that VR headsets have the similar story to tell; it is a sophisticated and pricey peripheral that promises to bring players closer to the games they play, but does this necessarily mean that VR is doomed to fail like the Kinect and Virtual Boy? Looking forward, we can already see that VR has permeated well beyond video games and into more practical fields such as medicine and military. As much as we would like to think that VR is another gimmick, we cannot deny that it has already been implemented into important projects. Within video games specifically,  VR gaming specifically within the PC truly provides a unique and immersive experience unlike the Kinect. Due to the nature of VR headsets and the technology behind it, when you play in VR, your perception of your surroundings within a VR compatible game shifts radically, as you are no longer experiencing the game from a flat screen, but rather you experience it almost literally around you. The technology also allows for a scary amount of depth perception, so you truly feel as if you are leaning and moving in game. Granted, VR tries very hard to accommodate outside the PC community, such as Sony’s Playstation VR. Although this platform provides an integral proof of concept of VR within consoles, it falls short to provide the same experience that the PC’s Oculus and Vive can provide. This does not necessarily mean that there is no hope for VR to thrive outside of the PC, it simply is a matter of both developer support as well as support from manufacturer as well. VR. has a thriving community of optimistic gamers and intellectuals alike that want to experience a different level of reality, and VR attempts to bridge that desire. VR has already succeeded where the Kinect and Virtual Boy failed by bringing in major third party developers to work around this new platform.

The biggest obstacle that the VR system faces in the future is the problematic pricing that many have voiced concerns over. The Playstation VR-for example- is supposed to be the affordable VR alternative to the Vive and Oculus, but at 400$ the PS VR is no affordable purchase for some. Even now, the PS VR owners is significantly smaller than what one would expect for the newest addition to console gaming, but again the pricing puts a massive damper in allowing the system to progress forward. As technology advances, one can hope that VR becomes much more accessible to the general gaming community. Even now, rudimentary VR units like the Google Cardboard or the Samsung Gear VR provide an even cheaper outlet for VR, with Samsung’s platform running on the more premium side at 100$. Although these alternatives do not provide the depth of field and full range control that the higher end VR rigs can create, they provide an affordable entry into the technology behind VR.

VR, without a doubt, has potential to redefine gaming hardware for the future. The main problem is making sure that third party developers can accommodate this new introduction of VR into their future titles. As for major companies such as Sony, who have a history of abandoning promising hardware (:cough: Playstation Vita), longterm support is integral to prevent their VR from falling into mediocrity. Another hurdle VR must face is providing an affordable but immersive experience for players. PC users already have to dish out a sizable amount of cash for a VR gaming rig and then spend the additional fee for the actual VR system as well. If the technology can improve enough to provide a top quality VR experience at an affordable price for the average consumer, you can definitely expect VR to be a game changing experience within gaming and beyond.

World of Final Fantasy: Chibi Final Fantasy Characters, Nostalgia, and Good Fun

This cute spin on the Final Fantasy franchise is delightfully adorable and fun to play.

This cute spin on the Final Fantasy franchise is delightfully adorable and fun to play.

While we’re still a few weeks away until the long awaited Final Fantasy XV releases, Square Enix recently released World of Final Fantasy to keep fans waiting. This game is by far the most adorable Final Fantasy ever made; the entire game revolves around cuteness. World of Final Fantasy isn’t all just cute though, the game does a great job at bringing in the classic RPG feel to a contemporary platform with a unique spin.

World of Final Fantasy follows twin siblings, Reynn and Lann on their quest to regain their memories and fulfill a prophecy that could either save or destroy the world of Grimoire. On their way, they must capture cute beasts called Mirages so that they could aid in their journeys. These Mirages take the form of many classical Final Fantasy beasts, deities, and creatures-some with a unique twist to their look. Classic Final Fantasy characters also make their appearance in game too through the Medal system, which allows Lann and Reynn to summon these heroes into battle to unleash awesome attacks.   A lot of the game plays up the nostalgia of the previous Final Fantasy titles very well including awesome musical tracks as well as iconic locations seen from several different Final Fantasy titles.

The game itself is a wonderfully cute looking game. It crosses fairy tale-like art design with a little bit of Kingdom Hearts inspired art as well. The game plays up its story book-like narrative by creating worlds and towns that feel like they would appear in a pop-up book (coincidentally, the collector’s edition of this game comes with such pop-up book) and the music is as amazing as it is nostalgic. Aside from the original scores, a lot of classic Final Fantasy songs have been reworked into World of Final Fantasy, further emphasizing that nostalgic feel you experience throughout your playthrough. One of the highlights of the game is quite possibly the dialogue that the siblings share. Some might call it agonizingly annoying, but I find that the excessive bickering Reynn and Lann have while sharing their adventures with other heroes adds a more personal and natural feel for the game. You are not some tragic hero out to seek revenge, but rather two kids who embarked on an adventure to find themselves and save Grimoire from some evil baddies. The goofy dialogue that sometimes even breaks the fourth wall adds to the light hearted nature of the game.

The gameplay mechanics of World of Final Fantasy is a nice throwback to more traditional RPG combat, but with a unique twist to it as well. The combat system of World of Final Fantasy follows the Active Time Battle (ATB) system that was widely popular in old school Final Fantasy games. Of course, you can change the settings of the combat so that you can do proper turn based combat, allowing you to make more careful choices during fights. The unique twist to this traditional combat system is the integration of a Pokemon style capture system that integrates the Mirages of World of Final Fantasy to the main characters actual stats. Every Mirage has its own skill tree that gives it attribute bonuses and skills, which when coupled to your main characters, increases their overall strength. This “Stacking” mechanic results in an interesting combination of chibi monsters you can combine to maximize your strength. It’s also important to note that these little cute creatures will literally stack on top of your main character’s heads as well. The whole head stacking thing isn’t just for the cute reaction, you’re able to stack and unstack every turn, which boasts various strategic purposes like attacking more than twice unstacked or stacking and received a combine set of attributes and health across all the stacked Mirages.

World of Final Fantasy plays at the heartstrings at long time fans of the series all while also welcoming newcomers to the series with open arms. Although the stacking system does take a bit of time to get used to, the combat and gameplay mechanics allow for good dungeon crawling fun. Not only that, but the clever implementation of a capture system coupled with the stacking system allows for hundreds of combinations of cute creatures to balance off your main characters’ heads. World of Final Fantasy is out now for the Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita.

Diablo 3 Expansion and Updates Confirmed at Blizzcon

Necromancers inbound. Also new item sorting features and other improvements.

Necromancers inbound. Also new item sorting features and other improvements.

Blizzard announced this past Blizzcon that Diablo 3 will be receiving the Necromancer class and players will be able to experience the classic Diablo experience with a recreation of the original Diablo game, all a part of their 20th anniversary celebration. Not only that, but there will also be an update that will add new maps and several new features, including a storage tab exclusively for crafting materials and an armory so you can swap out your gear sets with minimal effort. Not having been able to play the original Diablo game myself, I am interested to see how Blizzard will remaster the classic that spawned an iconically dark fantasy universe.

Blizzard had announced that there would be a Diablo announcement prior to Blizzcon, which lead to many believing rumors that Blizzard would be dropping a new Diablo sequel. However news of implementing necromancer, on top of bringing back the classic moments from the original Diablo easily make up for the slight disappointment of not seeing a new sequel.  Unfortunately, according to Blizzard’s Blizzcon  recap, the original Diablo experience is a part of a month long event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the series. The event will start January next year and will begin in Old Tristram, where the events of the first Diablo game began. There will be an array of goodies for participating in this event, including Transmogrification rewards (cosmetic items), achievements, and more.  It will be presented with an old school look and feel to the original, down to the 8 point movement from the classic game.

New zones are promised to be released as well on top of a plethora of new enemies, gear, and items. Slight mechanical changes such as being able to upgrade your Legendary Gems in Greater Rifts if you complete one without dying and new Challenge Rifts are being added. The biggest news, the addition of Diablo 2’s Necromancer class, was probably the most major permanent addition to the game. Unfortunately, the Necromancer class will not be a part of the free series of updates for the game, but rather a paid add-on.

Although some were excited that Blizzard finally announced something regarding Diablo 3 after years following the release of their Reaper of Souls expansion, many fans of the series and games are not happy with these latest announcement. Many players have been hoping for an overhaul of major mechanics in game, including a more serious and in depth PvP that was present in Diablo 2. Many also feel the Diablo 3 announcement hype was very unwarranted, as the addition to a paid necromancer class, on top of a temporary revisitation of a classic recreation of Diablo is not enough to keep the player base going. Some commenters in the Battle.Net recap argued that although the armory and material slots were necessities for a game like Diablo 3, those features on top of the new zones and items are not enough to keep a consistent player base going. The last major addition Blizzard added to Diablo 3 was its Seasons system, which made players create new characters and level them while they completed challenges that netted unique rewards for their career character. Although this system allowed people to explore new builds and familiarize themselves with characters they don’t normally play, Seasons only provided a limited gameplay experience, as players were now back to playing the same campaign and maps continuously.

Blizzard has done an impressive job at catering to its community with its other titles, so hopefully they will consider the frustrations that long time players have with the lack of substantive content. The anniversary event will take place throughout the month of January 2017; no word on when the Necromancer or other updates will follow.

The Problem with Overhyping in the Videogame Industry

There’s always this childlike sense of excitement when our favorite IPs get a new sequel announcement or when we see a new IP that tickles our nerd fantasies. Developers and publishers know this well, and cater to this excitement and cultivate it into media and merchandise hype, with astounding trailers, interviews, and preorder incentives to keep their fanbase high and the wallets full. Unfortunately, unlike in the distant past where the gaming hype was always for the better (Think the Halo series), it seems that these days the video game industry is overhyping products without giving the consumer ample exposure to what exactly their hyping up. This in turn causes a lot of ambivalence within the gaming community, as many prospective fans for new IPs or continuations of IPs are let down by buggy gameplay, lack of features, or an overall lack of a full game.

This overhyping is increasingly problematic in this generation, as publishers are now hard pressed to beat their competitors out, by promising a newer experience, a larger world, or new ways to integrate new hardware into their games (e.g. VR and other peripherals). Eventually these promises simply water down to plain gimmicks and empty claims not evident in their final product. People no longer just want to see pretty pre-rendered trailers for games; they want to see actual gameplay footage run on the platform that they desire. The disastrous release of No Man’s Sky presents the perfect example of this overhyping issue, as many saw this seemly new indie development team making promises for a new open world experience involving spaceships, exploration, combat, and trading. They tickled every kind of gamer’s interest and hyped their game up with gorgeous trailers, interviews on all the features that will come with the game, and a small taste of the game through its short gameplay trailers. However, after several delays and lack of up-to-date information and details as to the development of the final product, No Man’s Sky released as a husk of what it was supposed to be. Many of the features promised-and even presented- in Hello Game’s trailers for No Man’s Sky did not make the final release, and there was no word from the developers themselves as to why many of these features were not present. The series of controversies that occurred following the game’s release only put the development team under the spotlight as another example of the dangers our overhype.

No Man’s Sky isn’t the first entry to the problematic overhype issue, Ubisoft has a long history with using hype as a tool to market flawed and often times incomplete games. The Assassin’s Creed series and Watchdogs fell in the same category with No Man’s Sky, creating a hype train that surely led to a swell of preorders and excitement among fans, but resulted in a community backlash due to problems encountered in the final product of the game. The Assassin’s Creed franchise was built on community hype, with its second entry game and subsequent arc providing massive innovations to its genre. However, Ubisoft took advantage of this marketing method continuing to promise what they’ve always done with the previous installments without actually providing any quality assurance to its fans. What resulted were a series of games with game breaking bugs, lack of featured endearing to the previous installments, and even a complete lack of a cohesive story. It was at this point that the move to stop preorders within the gaming community began to explode, as there was no reason to reserve a copy of a game that would not function on release.

Ubisoft’s then new IP Watchdogs would bring this problem full circle, as it’s gorgeous E3 presentation and description of the game did not correlate to the final release of the game as well. Many people were excited to be put in a world that wasn’t just going in guns blazing, but a world where strategic use of your environment and tools would help you advance. Fans we’re excited to be put in a unique world with unique tools and truly gorgeous next gen graphics, but Watchdog’s release again followed the trend of failed hype. Graphically, Watchdogs downgraded from its E3 reveal and the gameplay in final release ultimately heavily relied on conventional weapon use rather than the main character’s hacking skills. The controls in the game felt awkward, especially when driving the vehicles in the game. Watchdogs ultimately became a dorkier, watered down Grand Theft Auto clone, and all the hype for a unique gaming experience died.

Watchdogs disappointed many due to its horrible release after the hype it received

Watchdogs disappointed many due to its horrible release after the hype it received

The industry drive to hype its product is natural; you want people to buy into your product. However, the gaming industry is unique as there are several facets that need to be observed first before any hype can be honestly justified. Preorder incentives have become the new money making scheme, with promises for additional add ons that serve very little use in the game in the long term and day 1 patches that make you wonder if these games were ever ready to release to begin with. But as with any campaign or ploy, the community has fought to change these underhanded tactics and it has succeed to a certain extent. Now at important conventions like E3, you will see developers more heavily focus on gameplay mechanics and essential story elements to show off and you now see a much more in terms of game play demos. There is more awareness and dialogue open between developer and consumer, although instances like No Man’s Sky still may occur. Yes, overhype in the video game industry is still a prevalent problem today, but because of the mistakes made in previous IPs, we are at least more wary of what is being marketed and we are more skeptical as to whether what we see will actually be what we get. What we can hope for is for a moment where publisher and developer can return to the days where a game was released in its entirety without major bugs or without a sneaky removal of features and/or elements of gameplay.

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