Playing Breath of the Wild on the Wii U

zelda

I’ve never been a huge Zelda fan, but with the release of the Switch and the huge amount of hype leading up to the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I figured I needed to see what all the excitement was about. I never did get into Ocarina of Time on the N64. I rented it a few times, but as an impatient eleven year old I never could figure out what I was supposed to be doing. Even in recent years I’ve tried to give it another shot, but often found myself running in circles trying to figure out what to do, or if I did find myself headed in the right direction I would repeatedly die at the hands of the enemies I’d encounter.

My time with Breath of the Wild so far has been pretty positive. First off it looks great, with a beautifully unique art style and it runs relatively smoothly even on the Wii U. I absolutely love the way they handle the map in the game, where you do all of the icon placement yourself. This keeps the map from becoming overwhelming early on, as you can climb a tower, mark a few things on your map and then set out to see what you’ll find there. That doesn’t mean you won’t get sidetracked along the way, however. I’ve found myself headed toward a tower or shrine, only to veer off in a different direction when a camp of enemies catches my eye.

The game has a reputation for being a little difficult, and that may prove to push me away from the game eventually. I’ve died a handful of times in my first hour or so with the game, but the quick reloads into a recent autosave make it more bearable. Oftentimes I’ve found that I died because I’m rushing into combat with multiple enemies and missing a way to use the environment to my advantage.

One other minor gripe, is that the Wii U version completely ignores the gamepad. I assume it’s because Nintendo has basically abandoned the Wii U at this point, which is a shame, because there are many ways they could have effectively used the gamepad, and therefore justified its existence one last time. Of course you can play the game on the gamepad (though I’ve found this seriously detracts from the game’s beauty), but otherwise you’ll just get a black screen with a message telling you that you can play on the gamepad.

Breath of the Wild Wii U gamepad

I’m looking forward to spending more time with Breath of the Wild, but at the same time Horizon Zero Dawn is also calling my name (and Mass Effect Andromeda is quickly approaching). If you have a Wii U and want to dust it off one last time, I can definitely recommend picking up Breath of the Wild for it.

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Enjoying Horizon Zero Dawn so far

Last night after work I played about an hour and a half of Horizon Zero Dawn, and I’m pretty impressed so far. It looks downright amazing on a PS4 Pro and a 4K HDR TV. I also really like how they try to make the tutorial into something that actually has a narrative, and is more interesting than following prompts on screen. Things really get fun once you’re given control over the adult Aloy, and I’m really enjoying the combat so far. The bow feels like it has real impact when you land a shot on a critical part, and everything just looks and sounds great during combat. It’s especially thrilling to get into a scuffle with several enemies as once, and the music during these instances works to amp up the adrenaline as enemies close in on you.

I’m looking forward to putting some more time into Horizon Zero Dawn as the week goes on, but I can already tell it’s going to be a great time. The last thing I’ll say is that the game has a real polish, and I’ve run into zero bugs or hiccups so far which is rare for games on their release days lately. I can’t wait to play more!

MLB The Show 16’s beginner mode is a tad too easy…

MLB The Show 16 too easy

I’ve been playing MLB The Show 16 on the PS4 Pro I picked up this weekend, and it’s felt great to be able to play baseball again (after too many years of hoping for an MLB game to return to Xbox). That said, I think I need to step it up from the beginner difficulty setting. I won my first game of the season 17-0 (with a little help from two created players with uber stats), and I hit six consecutive home runs in a single inning! Regardless I’ve been playing a blast, and just wanted to share! I hope to share my first impressions of the PS4 Pro after I spend some more time with it. Until then, enjoy the hilarity:

 

Halo Wars 2 first impressions

Yesterday I excitedly fired up Halo Wars 2 on PC, and from its first moments it was impressive.┬áThere is one problem I’m having with it, however, and that’s the way it controls on PC. It doesn’t control like an RTS at all, which I assume is because the game was designed with console gamers in mind (it is a Play Anywhere title). I had to dig into the key bindings menu a lot, even after finishing the tutorials, just to figure out how to do things that should be common sense. I’m incredibly puzzled by some of the control decisions they’ve made on PC. For example, to rotate or zoom the camera you must first hold down the ALT key. It just doesn’t feel right. The worst problem of all, however, came when I tried to figure out how to bring up the pause menu. The ESC key did nothing, and I tried just about every key I could think of, but nothing happened. Eventually I turned on my Xbox controller and took control that way just to get into the key bindings menu to find out that F10 is the pause / menu key, not ESC. What the heck?

I haven’t tried to play Halo Wars 2 with a controller yet, so maybe that will end up being the way to play it, but I’m a little disappointed that it doesn’t control as smoothly as I expected it to on PC. Other than that it runs great, and I’ve had a fun time with it despite the control hiccups.

Dreaming of a future in which A.I. designs video games

image via ThinkStock

image via ThinkStock

I’ve been thinking lately about an interesting possibility for the future of game development. It may not be a realistic idea, but it’s one I figured I’d share anyway. I was imagining a day when artificial intelligence is advanced to the point where anyone in the world can ask in simple language for an A.I. assistant to complete a complicated task. If these A.I. assistants were capable of taking simple human input (no programming required) and learning the skills necessary to complete the requested task, so much would be possible. Just imagine if you could explain to an A.I. your dream video game idea, and then the A.I. would start toiling away, day and night working on creating a video game for you. Obviously game development is a complicated task, as proven by the fact that many talented programmers and designers often start with ambitions ideas and fail to create an enjoyable end product (cough: No Man’s Sky). But if A.I. got to the point where it could learn and work rapidly, I want to believe that it would be able to churn out “perfect” video games with regularity.

I should mention, that I have very little understanding of how artificial intelligence or machine learning currently works, but I don’t think that it’s entirely impossible for machines to someday outperform humans at any and all tasks. When this day comes I could imagine a person sitting down at a terminal and brainstorming video game ideas with an A.I. The A.I. would ask questions to help guide it along the creative process, but it could take care of most of the more intricate work (art design, programming) without much input. It would of course have studied everything there is to know about game design, and already know, for example, the general rules that apply to most genres. The A.I. would have the opportunity to observe you play other video games and have an understanding of the things that you enjoy and those that frustrate you.

It’s difficult to imagine a future where machines become excellent story tellers (though I doubt it’s impossible), so I think A.I. game designers would best be suited to craft sandbox games, or games that tend to follow widely accepted rules (such as sports or driving games). Still, it would be incredibly empowering to have an A.I. that could take my simple gaming desires and translate them into effective code and artwork, and ultimately a fully functional video game built just for me.

I’m sure there are many more practical and important tasks that A.I. will help us accomplish in the coming years, but I’m still going to keep dreaming about the possibility of having a personal video game development team in the cloud, even if it’s not likely to happen in my lifetime.

 

What I’ve been playing

Again, I have to apologize for not posting much lately as I’ve been busy, and the crappy weather hasn’t helped to motivate me.

Recently I’ve still been playing a lot of Battlefield 1 and enjoying the heck out of it. Other than that, I started Oxenfree and was impressed with the opening moments. I’m looking forward to digging more into Oxenfree this weekend if I have a chance. I progressed a little more in Firewatch and have to say that game has me on edge. I can’t wait to finish it out and try to figure out what the heck is going on. Lastly, I played a few hours of Watch Dogs 2 and enjoyed it much more than the first game. It has a fun, goofy style to it that just makes me smile. The post mission graphics and sound effects are just dumb in such a good way, in a way that reminds me of Amped 3. The gameplay has been enjoyable, although I’ve been frustrated with the combat a few times already.

It’ll be kind of a short weekend for me as I’m working late tonight (like getting home at 4 or 5 Saturday morning late) and then switching to day shift Monday, but if I have time I’d like to write something more significant. Until then, thanks again for not forgetting about me.

Happy New Year!

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy new year, and let you know that I’ll be publishing some sort of “game of the year” list later today. I haven’t spent as much time playing video games in 2016 as I would have liked (or it might be more accurate to say that I started a lot of games and finished very few, going back to 2015). I’ve started Final Fantasy XV, Watch Dogs 2, Dead Rising 4, Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1, and so on, and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of any of them. I have some serious gaming ADD. I put about four hours into Final Fantasy, and would like to play more, but I keep getting distracted. Speaking of Final Fantasy, I was ecstatic to learn that World of Final Fantasy was out for the Vita, but only put about two hours into it before never touching it again. I played the opening of Watch Dogs 2 and it seems to be an interesting game, but I need to get back to it. With all this said, my game of the year list will prove incredibly difficult to craft. This year will probably be my sloppiest list to date, and I’m sure that once I sink more time into some of 2016’s games my list will look entirely different. Maybe I can come back and revise the list in a month or two, but for now I’d like to at least post the games I’ve enjoyed most in 2016.

For now, I’m off to the gym for my first workout of 2017 (let it be known I’ve been going to the gym for months, I’m not one for resolutions) so I hope you all have a good morning and a great start to 2017!