Big series I’ve given a miss

Some series are considered classics that every gamer should play. It’s therefore a surprise when you meet someone who hasn’t completed at least one entry from them. For example, how many people do you know who haven’t finished at least one The Legend of Zelda release?

I have to hold my hand up here. Yes, I have fond memories of playing Ocarina of Time with my brother when we were kids and The Wind Waker with my stepson more recently, but that doesn’t mean we completed them. In fact, there are a number of well-known series where I’ve either not finished a game or haven’t tried one at all, because they’ve just not appealed to me or I’ve been distracted by other titles. Here are eight more franchises in addition to The Legend of Zelda that I still need to get my teeth into.

Assassin’s Creed

My brother gave me his copy of the first Assassin’s Creed game to try out over a decade ago and I do remember finding the first couple of hours enjoyable. I liked the contrast of the different story elements and the visuals were rather pretty. But my overall feeling was one of boredom: the missions were a rinse-and-repeat mix and I just couldn’t be bothered to complete any more of them. I put down the controller then, and that has made it hard to go back to the series since – although a lot of people have told me the later releases do get better.

Borderlands

I’ve never understood the fuss about Borderlands. Although I have friends who rave about the series, it’s not one which has ever appealed to me and I haven’t played any of the games. In fact the only dealing I’ve had with the franchise is briefly participating in a tabletop-RPG based on its world perhaps eight or so years ago. Dan over at nowisgames.com is a big fan and I’m sure he’s going to tell me I need to rectify my lack of experience; but after hearing his thoughts about Borderlands 3, it doesn’t sound like something I need to worry about too much right now.

Fallout

My stepson has been obsessed with its post-apocalyptic world for years; several blogger friends have told me I really need to play the series; and I previously promised a stream to Rob from Bandicoot Warrior. So why haven’t I started Fallout yet? After getting over the hype-train and subsequent shouting about Fallout 76 last year, I tried to install the original game on my PC and just couldn’t seem to get it working due to resolution issues. I’ve written before that I can’t play a franchise without starting at the first release so Fallout will have to wait until I spend some time on fixing them.

Final Fantasy

I used to watch a group of male friends play after school when we were teenagers, although I couldn’t tell you which Final Fantasy game it was. I also briefly tried to play Final Fantasy X over a decade ago. But as revealed in a post last month: give me a release which makes use of turn-based combat and you’ll be lucky if I even click on the start button. In some ways it’s a shame, because I’ve heard so many good things about the Final Fantasy storylines and I think I’d probably enjoy them. I just don’t want to have to sit through rounds of turn-based matches to get to the narrative.

Metal Gear

My dad was into technology when my brother and I were growing up so we had access to a number of consoles, handheld devices and PCs during the 1980s and 1990s. But I don’t ever remember playing or even coming across a Metal Gear game in all that time, so the franchise has completely passed me by. It does intrigue me now though and Athena from AmbiGaming encouraged me to try it; but if I’d want to go right back to the beginning if I was to do so. With over 20 titles in the series so far, that’s a whole lot of games to get through.

Pokémon

My younger brother loved the cartoon when we were kids and I’d often get roped into watching it with him. That explains why I was intrigued when a friend showed me his copy of the original Pokèmon game on his Game Boy (I can’t remember if it was Red or Blue). I borrowed the cartridge once he’d completed it and spent a few weekends chasing after the creatures; but ultimately, ‘collecting’ games and turn-based combat just isn’t for me. The nearest I’ve come to a release since was traipsing around my old town after my stepson and Pokèmon Go! until it rained.

Red Dead Redemption

I almost completed the first Red Dead Redemption title. I must have made it to only a few hours away from the end when I got distracted by another game (I can’t remember which now) and didn’t bother going back to finish it off. At some point I’d have liked to reunite with John Marston and fulfill his journey before moving on to Red Dead Redemption 2, but the hype surrounding it before its release late last year totally put me off. It eventually got to the point where I didn’t want to open the WordPress reader for fear of seeing yet another post about it.

The Witcher

My other-half was obsessed with this series when we first met. It wasn’t one I’d played or ever been interested in but he was keen for me to give it a go, as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt had recently released and he thought it might be something we could play together. One day he left me with his copy of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and told me to try it – but a few hours later, I grew bored and realised I’d much rather play something else. Although he was a little disappointed, he admitted it was kind of cool seeing his new girlfriend finishing Diablo III the next time he came over.



I’ve come to realise that the more hype there is surrounding the series, the less likely I am to play it. Perhaps that’s through fear of being disappointed – or because there are so many news articles I can read about the same franchise! I’m not the only one who still needs to get to grips with some big games though. While drafting this post last month, Will from Geek Sleep Rinse Repeat published his own article about the best titles he hasn’t completed so head over to find out what’s on his list.

Who knows, some of the entries on my own may soon be knocked off. Our upcoming 50-day challenge for GameBlast20 seems like the perfect time to get some of them crossed off the backlog.

gamescom 2019: Borderlands 3

Oh Borderlands, what fun we’ve had over the years. I don’t remember much of the first game but played Borderlands 2 for many hours on multiple platforms. Its claim of containing a billion different guns was no lie, with each core weapon having many combinations.

 
Poor Claptrap has had some bad press over the years and some have compared the robot to Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars as an attempt to entertain children. Funny when you consider the game has a PEGI 18 age-rating in the UK. I quite like Claptrap and his social awkwardness and penchant for puns, probably because he most reminds me of myself. He’s always been helpful to his Minion, the protagonist the Vault Hunter, and has saved their lives on more than one occasion. Claptrap didn’t make an appearance in the gamescom demo sadly but that may have been on purpose.

I mentioned in my round-up post earlier this week that the queue for Borderlands 3 was nowhere near as long as it appeared. The wait was around an hour and didn’t lack for entertainment, with at least one guy in the queue stripping down to his undies while the 2K Games staff cheered him on. That was the most enjoyable queuing experience at the whole event as there was the typical Borderlands level of comedy mixed in with cartoon violence. However, I was praying that they didn’t try and convince me to dance as well, and luckily for everyone else that didn’t happen.

Once inside the play area, each station was set up with an Xbox One controller and the loudest set of headphones I’ve come across. The gunshots were deafening but it added quite a punch to the gameplay. I immediately noticed the player had a better feeling of movement than in previous releases with added motion when changing direction or stopping without it feeling heavy. It’s hard to describe the addition, but hopefully you’ll know what I mean when you get to play it. I’ve included a video of the demo further down so be sure to check that out and you should see what I mean.

Borderlands, Borderlands 3, gamescom

Even though the game is out in a couple of weeks, the gameplay is so smooth and enjoyable enough that I was more than happy to queue for a go. The gun play is fast, deliberate and full of variety with lots of exciting weapon mechanics. I selected the Siren class in the demo, which was equipped with a shotgun and rifle that had no reload and would fire faster the longer you held the trigger. It’s like an automatic rifle with a long-range scope but little recoil and fast rate of fire. This isn’t obvious at first as the weapons are visually unique compared to their real-life equivalents.

As for the Tediore shotgun, if you’ve played Borderlands before you’ll know that the gun is thrown like a grenade and explodes when reloaded. I’d forgotten this at first and wondered why I blew myself up as I reloaded it while facing a wall. This is one of the weapon mechanics that is unique to the franchise and adds variety to the gun-play. The third title claims to have gazillions of weapons this time but I don’t know how we’ll tell the difference considering a billion is already an absurd amount! There were weapon drops in the demo but I didn’t take the time to investigate them, so I had no hands-on the various damage types unfortunately. The one grenade type was of the bouncy kind and because it was such frantic section of the game I didn’t get to check out what it actually did!

The playable segment was the mission shown back at E3 in June and ended with a boss called Mouthpiece, who is a big dude with a shield and loudspeakers to cause an area of effect attack. Sadly I failed a couple of times while trying to figure out how the attacks were signposted, but there were plenty of smaller enemies to kill and achieve second wind instead of dying. After finally completing the demo, I was getting ready to walk out but saw everyone was still playing. The whole room was empty of players when we were brought in so luckily I realised it was a time-limited demo and started a second run. I selected the gunner class and was able to try out the mech-style ability before running out of time and, while it was short-lived, it was thrilling to stomp around in a big robot firing lasers everywhere.
 
Overall I was delighted with the experience and while I wasn’t too excited by a similar-looking sequel, the gameplay feels so refined I’m now looking forward to getting back into Borderlands again. There are only a few weeks until the game is released on 13 September 2019 and I probably wouldn’t have considered buying it straight away. Having now got a taste of the title, I’m looking forward to it. Is anyone joining me with Borderlands 3 once it arrives? What did you think of the demo if you’ve also had the opportunity to play it?

gamescom 2019: a round-up

I’m writing this halfway through the last day of gamescom 2019 after finally having been able to get my hands on some games. The past few days have been both amazing and challenging at the same time due to it being my first time at the event.

If you’re someone who loves being part of a crowd then you may well disagree, but I’m not alone in thinking the organisers may have attempted a new visitor record. Moving around within the halls wasn’t too bad unless you were in a rush, but there were a few choke points in the corridors between halls with crowd-control. The queue length for most games was up-to two hours, although some were visibly deceiving and moved faster. However, there was no instant gratification to be had at this event.

gamescom 2019, Borderlands, Borderlands 3

I’ve always enjoyed the Borderlands series and, even though the third installment is due out in just over two weeks, I wanted to have a go. A Reddit for Gamescom revealed details about the queue for this particular game and that it was much quicker than other queues of its length. So I jumped in first thing on the last day and was able to play roughly an hour later. Once I was inside the play area, it was obvious why: there must have been 50 or more stations.

My longest queuing experience was for Final Fantasy VII Remake in the PlayStation section. I saw that the queue at the Square Enix stand was massive and thought that for Sony’s area would be shorter. I finally made it to the front over two hours later even though they had 24 stations set up, and my thoughts on the game will be posted tomorrow. Thankfully I had a book to read but I almost forgot what I was queueing for by the time I got to my destination.

gamescom, Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy VII Remake

The PlayStation section became my favourite due to it being a welcoming space with plenty of things to do. A stage hosting frequent live-streams had lots of seating space and there was plenty to play, with quick access to titles such as Dreams and Medievil as well as the longest queues for Death Stranding and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The Experience PlayStation app provides digital queueing but I found the spaces were quickly taken. It was a case of spamming the RSVP button at 08:59 to grab a booking when they became available at 09:00 – although that would have been for one game only so the other slots were gone immediately.

Another reason I enjoyed Sony’s area so much was the PlayStation Plus lounge exclusively for subscribers which I really appreciated. They served free drinks and had a balcony overlooking the show floor where I spent an hour taking photos and recording time-lapses. It was a great feeling to be there and watch everyone else moving around, glancing up and likely feeling envious. The lounge wasn’t completely obvious so you could forgive attendees for not realising it was there. They also had a playable version of Erica but again, there was a queue so I skipped it. It’s now available anyway and was already on my to-buy list!

gamescom, PlayStation

The PlayStation app also has a reward system for scanning QR codes after playing each game, with a dynamic theme as a reward for scanning all of them. It was a fun side-mission to collect these even though the staff were quite happy to share them regardless of having played the specific title or not. I don’t know if Microsoft or Nintendo had an equivalent because I sadly didn’t spend any time in their areas. There was a general digital queue for any participating stands but I wasn’t impressed with the offerings: DOOM Eternal, Dragon Ball Z Kakarot, Wasteland 3 and The Witcher 3. It didn’t appear there were many companies taking part in this service, which is a shame and I hope they improve on it next year.

I’ve learnt a few things from my gamescom experience that I would like to share for those that visit next year.

Wristbands can be obtained inside the venue

Upon arrival I followed the masses from the nearby train station through a very long route snaking around the venue. It was confusing as most people were continuously moving forward to tents scattered along the path. These were issuing colour-coded wristbands indicating your age group and I jumped into a queue, which took half an hour before I received my red 18+ identification. These tents are also inside the venue with much shorter queues and so they can easily be obtained any time. They’re designed to last so unless you cut it off, the wristband will last all four days.

Research digital queues before the event

As mentioned earlier, PlayStation had their own digital queuing via the Experience PlayStation app and Linistry provided queues for other games. This is apparently a new feature this year and will no doubt be improved upon in 2020. It gives you the freedom to roam the event while waiting for your time slot, before heading over to the fast track of the particular title you’re after.

BYOS: Bring Your Own Stool

If digital queues aren’t your thing and you prefer good old fashioned queuing, then bring something to sit on! I noticed recyclable cardboard stools were given out by three companies if you played their demos so be sure to make that a priority. Some visitors had brought their own foldable camping chairs showing their gamescom knowledge. The longest queues are two to three hours, if you can wait that long.

Try the currywurst mit pommes

I was actually quite surprised by the number of food stalls compared those at UK gaming events. I can’t speak for pricing as I’m not used to the Euro and the British Pound is weaker than ever, but you can’t beat currywurst mit pommes. Seating is a problem unless you walk your food over to a chill-out zone (not recommended) so I had to sit on a curb because I didn’t bring my own stool.

Getting around the venue

The Koelnmesse venue is massive and well air-conditioned, but there were areas crammed with people all trying to move in opposite directions. Find the side-routes between halls and avoid the main corridors when it’s busy as crowd-control can really slow everyone down and cause frustration. For halls that run parallel with each other, there’s usually a route between them outside and I recommend taking them. I found that because Germans drive on the right-hand side, the flow of people around the individual halls stick to this format.

Stuff I can’t comment on

There were a few things I wasn’t so interested in seeing and so can’t comment on: anything eSports related, the various streamers broadcasting live, Google Stadia, Facebook Gaming, FIFA 20, Call of Duty, and sadly the Ubisoft section as it was mostly Tom Clancy titles. If you did attend these sections or play the games, please do leave your thoughts in the comments below in case I missed something special!

gamescom 2019, crowds, queues

Cologne itself was a wonderful experience, and the architecture is eclectic to say the least. The tram service I used from where I stayed in Marsdorf was fast and efficient. I felt terrible for not speaking any German but that didn’t cause any issues as everyone I talked to was quite happy to converse in English. At the time of writing, I still have one last day in the city where I’ll be visiting the chocolate museum overlooking the river Rhine followed by general sightseeing.

I’m not sure whether I’ll attend gamescom next year at this point but I will certainly miss the city – including one particular potato restaurant that has changed my life – so watch this space!

Good job: careers in video games

While queuing for two hours to play the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo at gamescom, what else is there to do but discuss video games? The conversation turned to what the best jobs in gaming are and inspired a bit of healthy debate.

I’ve been working in IT for almost 15 years now and occasionally I think a career-change might be in order. But with so many options available to us nowadays, how could I decide what to do with the rest of my working life? Perhaps video games can help us out here. Let’s take a look at some fictional jobs in our favourite titles, currently fulfilled by some of the best characters in the world.

Connoisseur o’ Carrion: Captain Blondebeard

Argh, now here be a career fit for a scurvy seadog, serving those landlubbers only the best blackened cajun chicken on Plunder Island. If it weren’t for that El Pollo Diablo setting all the chickens free from their cages and stealing my ideas to become the next Nando’s! Do you have a reservation? If so take a seat next to the old silent patron – he may not seem like good company but he could talk your ear off about the Grim Fandango. If the choice is either working at Blondebeard’s Chicken Shoppe or having your wife kidnapped by a demon-pirate with a liking for themeparks, I know what my choice would be.

Nuclear and subatomic research scientist: Gordon Freeman

What’s better than being paid the megabucks for pushing alien material samples into other stuff in the name of science, while clad in a Hazardous Environment Suit? Sure, it could cause a resonance cascade scenario and end the world, but that’s not the end of the world when you have your best friend Barney Calhoun to help you clean up the headcrab mess. Oh, you can’t talk either but that’s OK. You can use a variety of guns and alien weaponry to get your message across to those pesky Xen invaders instead.

Archaeologist with a PhD in kicking your arse: Lara Croft

In comparison to that lowlife treasure thief Nathan Drake, here’s one role model who doesn’t stop after inheriting her family fortune. She has a taste for ancient and powerful relics with a side order of near-death experiences and a healthy dollop of the supernatural for dessert. Highly intelligent and athletic, Lara is someone we should all strive to be, never becoming complacent and always looking for the next achievement. Considering how long Tomb Raider has existed, we know Lara’s job description too well and should get through the interview with no trouble at all.

Entrepreneur: Merchants from The Elder Scrolls Online

A more generic role compared to the others, as there are far too many merchants to count in The Elder Scrolls Online. Some have the opportunity to roam specific routes through Tamriel while others are glued to the spot on crossroads and in towns. Well, somebody here has to buy all your junk – including worm bait when some bugger goes and steals the rarest eel out from under your fishing rod for the seventh time that day (I’m so sorry, Kim!).

General-purpose robot CL4P-TP: Claptrap

No, he’s not the worst character ever, PCGamer. Go ahead and name any other robot with the job to entertain us using the art of dancing while beatboxing. Not only does Claptrap have absolutely zero friends no matter how hard it tries, it’s also the most pun-arific robot I’ve ever known. The perfect example of this is Claptrap’s birthday bash in Borderlands 2; there’s a boombox, party favours and tons of pizza. Even though none of the three people invited turn up, it’s still a blast for the Vault Hunter. Let’s hear some love for this endearing robot!



Sadly, not only am I well on my way to becoming the next CL4P-TP, but you may have realised my selection is somewhat ironic. While I love each of these characters, I don’t envy their positions nearly as much and I’m grateful for their existence!

Question of the Month: October 2017 edition

The question of the month is back and will see us attempt to answer a quandary that has been puzzling the gaming community since it first mashed buttons playing Track & Field. We’re going up against our blogger-friends to find the ultimate response in less than 100 words – and we’re asking you to choose the winner by voting in our poll.

But first, let’s take a look at last month’s question and find out who won!

Results: who’s the most memorable video game NPC?

We received 34 votes in our September poll and you lovely people voted for the following…

question of the month, QOTM, votes, Resident Evil 4, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, The Curse of Monkey Island

Congratulations to Imtiaz from Power Bomb Attack and the Merchant from Resident Evil 4 for being our winners! A big thank you to all of our competitors for taking part and to you gorgeous people for voting. Now let’s see the competition start to heat up for the next question of the month

October’s question: if you needed a mercenary, which video game character would you hire?

We all need a helping hand sometimes: whether that’s someone to pick us up when we fall, give us a bit of emotional support when we’re feeling down or wash our socks when we’ve run out of clean clothes. But what if we needed somebody professional to take care of the really dirty work for us? Let’s reveal our contenders for the October 2017 trophy…

Answer 1: Travis Touchdown from the No More Heroes series

Chris from OverThinker Y says: “My choice is Travis Touchdown from No More Heroes. He’s an asshole. I mean, he is really kind of a disgusting human being who’ll do almost anything for money and / or just the fun of it. I don’t think there’s any situation in which I would actually WANT to be anywhere near the guy, but if I needed someone to beat up other people that I didn’t want anywhere near me, I can’t think of a better choice.”

Answer 2: Jodie and Aiden from Beyond: Two Souls

Kim from Later Levels says: “These characters are linked by an ethereal tether so I get two for the price of one! Jodie is a CIA operative who trained in black ops combat tactics and completed warlord assassinations without backup; Aiden has telekinesis, possession and pyrokinesis powers at his disposal, along with a forcefield and healing skills to keep his partner safe. Him being a spirit is handy too and together these two would make the ultimate mercenary: Jodie can send Aiden into any situation undetected, he can take out their targets, then they can get out quick without a trace of evidence left behind.”

Answer 3: Claptrap from the Borderlands series

Nathan posts his thoughts on his blog, Hurricane thought process, along with his monthly answers. Take a look at this post to find out why he chose Claptrap this time.

Answer 4: Samus from the Metroid series

Head over to Power Bomb Attack to visit Imtiaz, where he’s discussing why he’s chosen Samus as his answer this month.

Answer 5: The Iron Bull from Dragon Age: Inquisition

Athena from AmbiGaming says: “The Iron Bull from Dragon Age: Inquisition – and he kindly asks you note the article before ‘Iron Bull’ – is a large, menacing, deadly qunari for hire, alongside his loyal, fierce, and merry band of Chargers. Able to fell demons and other powerful baddies with one mighty swing of his two-handed double-axe, The Iron Bull shows that he’s as willing to work for a good cause as he is to work for good coin. The Iron Bull is a formidable fighter, and will always succeed in taking out whatever target you point him at! (Just have enough health potions ready!)”

Answer 6: Tychus Findlay from StarCraft

Say hello to TriformTrinity, and find out why he’s chosen Tychus Findlay as his answer to October’s question of the month.

Answer 7: Cloud Strife from the Final Fantasy series

Want to know why Ian has chosen Cloud Strife as his answer this time around? Go say hello to him over at Adventure Rules and read his argument for this character.

Answer 8: Niko Bellic from Grand Theft Auto IV

The lovely LightningEllen from LightningEllen’s Release has chosen Niko Bellic this month, and you can read her reasons why here.

Answer 9: Nadine Ross from the Uncharted series

Spoils of Lore says: “Introduced as a woman both feared and respected by unflappable veteran thief Victor Sullivan, Nadine Ross more than lives up to her reputation. She inherited the mercenary cadre Shoreline; and, while some might question her management skills, Nadine’s focus is consistently dedicated to her employer’s objectives and the company’s payoff. Capable of taking out both Drake brothers barefoot and in formal wear, she easily commands the respect of her soldiers. Little deters Nadine in a mission; but, she is very aware of when to cut her losses and knows better than to pursue more than her share.”

Answer 10: Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed series

NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog says: “I would go with Ezio. Yeah, I know. From Assassin’s Creed. Even while I haven’t played the game a lot myself, I think he would be perfect for the job. The whole game is about mercenaries you know. I can’t make a more convincing argument.”

Answer 11: Dante from the Devil May Cry series

Kevin from The Mental Attic says: “Dante from Devil May Cry. First reason, he’s already for hire, with a booming business and associates, so I can count on his professionalism. Second, he’s incredibly powerful and unless the plot states that he’s going to get hurt, he’s pretty much invulnerable, usually surviving some form of impalement. Third, he’s got a fantastic sense of humour and a cracking sense of style, both of which I dig very much. Also, he turns the souls of our enemies into weapons.”

Answer 12: Jesse McCree from Overwatch

Luna from GamersUnitedGG Blog says: “McCree is already a Bounty Hunter so he is a more than qualified pick! His weapon of choice is The Peacekeeper, a revolver that makes sure that he hits his target every time! Dead-Shot, his special ability, will also make sure that he never misses so you can be sure that your target will be taken out. His agility and quick speed will also make him a hard opponent to defeat. Don’t think he’s up for the job, look at some of his occupations: Bounty Hunter; Vigilante; Gang Member; and Blackwatch Agent. His precision shooting skill, combat roll and flashbang moves in the game sits McCree high on top of my list for the mercenary that I would hire!”

So who’s got it right, and who’s got it so wrong that they deserve to be hunted down by Duke Nukem for the rest of eternity? Place your votes in the poll opposite or give your own suggestion in the comments below, and we’ll reveal the most popular answer on Friday, 03 November 2017 along with the next question.

Got a question you’d like to see us struggle over next month? Or would you like to join in and add your own answer into our polls on a regular basis? Leave us a message or get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!