Lesson of the day: Save often in Fallout 4

While playing Bethesda RPG’s most people know you should be saving often. You never know what will confront you around the next turn or anytime you enter a building or new area. Everyone knows this. Right?

Unfortunately, too many times I’ve found myself becoming complacent while playing Fallout 4. I’m currently working on my Xbox One playthrough (I’ve started on PC, but would prefer to finish it on Xbox first) and I learned a lesson the hard way today.

I was exploring the satellite array, as part of the ‘Lost Patrol’ questline and I struggled several times to clear the area. There are quite a few difficult enemies in the area, and I kept getting overwhelmed. I didn’t have any artillery in range, so I called in a vertibird hoping to use the minigun to my advantage. Unfortunately, I got myself killed again and again, usually by an exploding vertibird as I tried to take down some of the brutes.

Eventually I got the area clear and took down the legendary super mutant with the help of all three of my mini nukes and several missiles. I was working on checking out the area and gathering up all of the useful loot when I eyed a set of steep stairs that seemed to be hiding something good!

Fallout 4 satellite array stairs

As I approached the stairs I thought to myself maybe I should save, but figured I’d wait until I got to the top. Well it turns out I’m quite terrible at walking up narrow stairs, as I plunged to my agonizing death seconds later. What a terrible feeling! The worst part was that my most recent save was before I took on the legendary mutant, and I failed three more times before I finally downed him again. As I approached the deadly stairs again I made sure to save before I took the above screenshot, and then I carefully crawled up the stairs to see what awaited above. Would it be worth the horrific death?

As it turns out, what lied above wasn’t really worth it. There was some ammo and some power armor, but I never even use power armor. I find it too much of a hassle to track it down and equip it, even though wearing a suit probably would have made clearing out the satellite arrays much easier.

I learned a hard lesson today, and with that I sort of lost the desire to play more Fallout today. Dying over and over again got a little frustrating, so I’m putting Fallout aside in favor of some more Rocket League, a game that’s much easier on my blood pressure!

 

Thoughts on Battleborn so far

Battleborn Xbox One

I didn’t know a lot about Battleborn going into its release, other than it was a colorful first person shooter with a MOBA mode. The game’s prologue didn’t offer a promising start. The first time you play the game you’re forced into watching some a sort of hyper energetic anime sequence that is unskippable and entirely boring. Some people certainly seemed to love the opening sequence, but I was not into it at all. I had to put the controller down and leave the room until it was finished.

Once you get to the playable portion of the prologue things don’t get much better. Sure the game needs to introduce you to the mechanics, but I found the opening story mission to be boring and incredibly long. I just wanted to jump into the MOBA mode (Incursion). Instead I had to play through an unappealing mission that serves little purpose.

Once I got past all the roadblocks and finally launched into the Incursion mode I started to begin regretting purchasing Battleborn. My original plan was to try to rent it from Redbox, however it wasn’t in stock anywhere nearby on the morning of its launch. I figured Battleborn might make for a nice ‘pick up and play’ game where I could play a match anytime I find myself with nothing better to do. I would have been better served to continue to play Rocket League during those times.

The idea of the Incursion mode seemed like it should be enjoyable, but there are quite a few things that stop it from being fun. First of all, I have yet to play a game in which anyone on my team was using a microphone. The Xbox One has already proven to be a place where very little communication takes place, especially when compared to the days of the 360, but in games where communication and planning is a necessity the lack of players using mics ruins the experience.

So far it seems like the general populace playing Battleborn is just running around trying to shoot at anything that moves without any particular strategy. This isn’t how a MOBA should be played, and every game of Incursion I’ve played so far has been a landslide one way or the other. No one wants to wait for minions to make a push, everyone just seems to congregate around the middle trying to shoot everything.

Screenshot-Original (3)Screenshot-Original (1)

Now I can’t sit here and say I’ve done particularly well in Battleborn. I’ve died…. a lot. Another problem that I have with Battleborn is that it feels like there’s too much going on at once. There’s so much flash and color on the screen half the time I can’t figure out what I’m shooting at. And when I am trying to shoot at an enemy player, I can’t really tell if my attacks are effective. Sure there are numbers all over the screen (like in Borderlands), however I can never tell if my abilities are even hitting the targets I’m trying to hit. I’ve found myself frustrated more often than I’ve had any fun with Battleborn, and since no one else is communicating I just end up joining everyone in the middle repeatedly dying.

Battleborn scoreboard

The story missions in Battleborn aren’t anymore enjoyable than the Incursion mode. You can matchmake with four other players, but I have yet to encounter anyone with a mic in those missions either. Everyone just runs around doing their own thing, and it just feels chaotic. So far I haven’t encountered any particularly difficult missions, but shooting at everything that moves with no real purpose alongside four other players isn’t exactly entertaining. Borderlands at least gave you a purpose, with its interesting loot drops and sense of progress. Battleborn hasn’t given me any sense of accomplishment or desire to do more. You can get gear as you accomplish things in the game, but I honestly haven’t found any of the gear I’ve received so far to make any sort of difference in game.

Screenshot-Original

If you’ve been on the fence on whether to buy Battleborn, I’d have to recommend passing on it for now. Unless you have a group of players you intend to play with, I don’t think very many people will find much to enjoy in Battleborn. A team based game in which no one cooperates is makes every match nothing more than a coin flip. I’m not having fun, and I probably won’t play much longer. Too bad I bought the digital version and can’t recoup any of my $60.

 

 

First week home

13051503_10110653896502894_7792154153027034704_n

Hey there, I’ve been home for just over a week and it’s been great, but it’s time I stop ignoring my blog! There’s so much I should be writing about, so I need to make myself sit down and start writing again. I figured I’d start with a brief check in, but I’ll write about much more in the weeks to come.

Since being home I’ve enjoyed all the great food I’ve missed out on, especially my first trip to Boise Fry Company, which I intend to write about over at ABoiseLife.com.

Boise Fry Company

The food was great, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Boise!

I picked up a Samsung Gear VR which has been a pretty cool experience. One of the first things I did was boot up Minecraft VR and it’s a mind-blowing experience for sure!

Gear VR

I’ve enjoyed messing around with my new gaming PC, and tried my hand at Dark Souls III. It took a few days but I finally beat the first boss (technically just the tutorial boss) but am once again finding it difficult to progress past the very first section of the game.

I’m contemplating downloading Battleborn today (for the Xbox One), because I’ve been wanting a shooter I can fire up when I just want to play something casually. Rocket League is a great game to fire up and waste some time with, but I just want to shoot things!

Thanks, as always, for reading what I have to say, and I hope to bring some significant content back to the blog within a day or two! Until then I’m going to keep relaxing and enjoying America!

13094344_10110690304121734_2190485331381656583_n

R.B.I. Baseball 16 on the Xbox One

Opening day is here, and for those of you looking to get a baseball fix on the Xbox One you have but one choice: R.B.I. Baseball 16.

RBI Baseball 16

There hasn’t been a ‘true’ baseball game on an Xbox platform since 2013’s MLB 2k13 on the Xbox 360. Therefore, for those of us who don’t own Playstation platforms, we haven’t been able to scratch our baseball video game itch for over four years. R.B.I. Baseball 16 is the third game in the revived series that originally debuted on the NES in 1988 and returned to modern consoles in 2014.

R.B.I._Baseball_Cover

If you’re looking for a realistic baseball experience, don’t expect to find it in R.B.I. Baseball 16. The R.B.I. series has always offered more of an arcade style experience and that’s still true in the 2016 version. The gameplay is incredibly simplified, in that at any given time you only need two buttons and the D-pad to play it. Pitching consists of pressing ‘A’ and using the D-pad or analog stick to either pitch a fastball (hold down), slow-ball (hold up), or curve (hold left or right). That’s it. Hitting and fielding are no more complicated.

R.B.I. Baseball 16 screenshot

On the plus side, R.B.I. Baseball 16 presents the game of baseball with a pretty realistic looking presentation. The stadiums look great and the players don’t look entirely cartoony. Unfortunately there is no audio commentary which would make for a nice addition.

For $20 R.B.I. Baseball 16 is better than having no baseball at all on the Xbox One, however I’m left wanting the simulation experience that the MLB 2K series offered.

Taking a risk with Just Cause 3

The last two years have been rocky for blockbuster video game releases. Just about every major title released throughout the year has had a rocky start. The trend of “broken” games slipping past QA testers and onto store shelves (or digital marketplaces) seemingly started with the releases of Assassin’s Creed Unity and Halo: The Master Chief Collection in November 2014. Both games were horrendously bug ridden, and in the case of Halo, partially unplayable. The Master Chief Collection’s multiplayer portion, arguably its biggest draw, barely worked at launch. It would take anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour for players to be matched into a game, and even then things didn’t run smoothly. To make matters worse, 343 Industries was unable to make the game run smoothly until many months after its initial release. This angered consumers, as they were sold a product that obviously wasn’t ready to be released until much later.

The PC version of this year’s Batman: Arkham Knight was so miserably broken that after a slew of negative reviews and refund requests it was removed from sale soon after its release in order to be “fixed”. How the game was approved for sale in the first place is remarkable, as it took several months after its initial release for it to be deemed worthy for sale again.

It has become the new norm for developers to release games ‘on time’ only to require gamers to download bulky patches on release day. Halo 5, which released last month, required an additional 9GB download on its release day for gamers to be able to access the multiplayer portion of the game. Patches have gone from a legitimate means to fix issues with a game to an excuse to release shoddily crafted games in exchange for $60 from consumers with the promise to finish a games development by the time the game actually reaches store shelves. There are several problems with this. As apparent with the release of The Master Chief Collection, developers can seriously underestimate how long it will take to get a working version of a game to consumers. It can take days, weeks or months before you finally get exactly what you paid for. Imagine buying a car at a dealership for full price and only receiving the frame, with a vague promise that you’ll receive the engine and tires and an undetermined future time. Who in their right mind would do this?

The requirement for a patch to complete a game especially punishes those without access to broadband internet. Many games are incredibly inferior without their day one patches. The Evil Within, for example, ran at a lower framerate and at a lower resolution without its day one patch, as Kotaku reported. Someone who bought the disc version of the game without internet access would be stuck playing a version of the game unfit for release.

This week’s release of Just Cause 3 proves that developers are not going to change their ways anytime soon. The console version of the game is apparently plagued with issues causing the game to perform worse than one would expect of a AAA title. One of the draws of Just Cause is the ability to trigger extreme explosions during chaotic firefights, yet these trademark explosions are apparently causing extreme dips in framerate on the console versions of the games (as low as 20fps on the Xbox One according to VG247). Not only that, but gamers are reporting load times anywhere from two to five minutes, which in modern gaming is an eternity. Having to wait as long as five minutes to respawn after a death is not enjoyable, and gamers are rightfully expressing their annoyances on Reddit.

The general consensus on how to express that gamers are fed up with sub-par releases is to speak with our wallets. Don’t pre-order games, and don’t buy them on day one. Gamers are often excited for new releases in their favorite franchise years prior to a game’s release, and we often can’t wait to get our hands on these games. Yet buying these unfinished products without even thinking just encourages developers to release games as soon as they can, whether it’s ready to be played or not. Their goal is to generate buzz and make as much money as quickly as possible. It isn’t until the buzz has died down that problems with the games start to become apparent, but by then the developers and publishers have made most of their money already.

just cause 3

With all this in mind, I should know better than to purchase Just Cause 3 the week of its release, right? In theory…and yet, I still couldn’t resist. All of the videos I’ve seen of people playing the game made it look too fun to miss out on. I’ve read about all of the issues, and I kept telling myself not to part with $60 for a product that is going to underperform until it’s fixed at some point in the future. IGN gave the PC version of Just Cause 3 a respectable 8/10, while the console versions earned a bleak 5.9/10 due to the various performance issues. Very few games earn such low scores these days, especially AAA titles. Even the recent Mad Max game, generally considered well made but rather boring, earned an 8.4.

I don’t often base purchasing decisions on review scores, but for such a highly buzzed about AAA game to be rated so poorly says that the performance issues are significant. All intuition and research were telling me not to buy Just Cause 3, not yet at least. Just Cause 2 is backward compatible on the Xbox One, I should just play that until Just Cause 3 is fixed.

In the end, I ended up purchasing Just Cause 3 last night. I’m a part of the problem. I can’t help it. I’m sorry! Maybe I’ll be able to enjoy the game, despite the performance issues. We’ll see. Worst case scenario I’ll just play more Fallout and dabble with Just Cause 2 (I never played it) until some more patches release. It’ll be fixed, I’m sure. I hope.

Halo 5 so far

Vamers-FYI-Vamers-Game-Hub-Halo-5-Guardians-2015-Box-Art

Halo 5 finally arrived this past week, and after spending three days downloading it I finally got to spend some time with it during my day off.

I jumped into a few Arena matches and got my butt handed to me again and again. I think I probably have three kills total in the Arena so far. The Halo 5 multiplayer experience feels very chaotic compared to the games I spent the most time with (CE through Reach). All of the player chatter and weapon spawns make the game feel very busy, maybe too much so. I have to admit, I didn’t really play Halo 4, so maybe this is what Halo feels like now. I’m sure I can get used to it.

The Breakout mode was my favorite from the beta, and I think it’ll be one of my favorite game types in Halo 5. Breakout is a series of rapid rounds in which each member of your team only has one life and you win the round by either capturing a flag or by eliminating the enemy team. The mode is an absolute blast and almost every match I’ve played has felt close.

Warzone is a massive 24 player mode that also features AI combatants and bosses. It feels like it borrows a bit from Titanfall, while also from games like League of Legends. You gain points for holding territory and killing enemy Spartans, but you also gain points for taking out AI combatants and bosses that spawn into the map. Warzone also allows players to use requisitions, which are similar to Titanfall’s burn cards. You can get special weapons or bonuses by using requisitions, and you unlock additional requisition packs as you play multiplayer or via in game purchases.

12189658_10109667623691514_4833886418716956169_n

I only played one Warzone match and it seemed quite complicated and even more busy than the Arena multiplayer. I enjoyed it, but I felt entirely overwhelmed and mostly just ran around getting myself killed.

12189058_10109667623791314_952938246249912377_n

I played through the first five story missions today, and it’s been an incredible ride so far. I’m a little out of the loop having not gotten very deep into Halo 4, but I’ve felt invested in the story and its characters from the opening moments. The story itself has been incredibly action packed, and the ending of mission five is the stand out moment of the game so far.

12193845_10109667623551794_6147098958299718737_n

Halo 5’s soundtrack is as epic as ever, quite the relief after 343’s split with Halo composer Marty O’Donnell. I’ve felt chills during intense moments in the game so far, mainly because of the powerful music that accompanies the on screen action. On a similar note, the sound effects in the game are incredible. Every gun is as much a joy to listen to as they are to shoot.

Everything about Halo 5 feels masterfully crafted, however as a Destiny fan I’ve felt myself comparing the gunplay between the two games. Halo 5’s guns certainly sound better than the guns of Destiny, but the act of shooting and downing enemies is still much more satisfying in Bungie’s Destiny over 343’s Halo. It may not be a fair comparison, but I can’t help but pit 343 and Bungie against each other. Despite not living up to Destiny’s quality, Halo 5’s shooting mechanics are by no means bad. Halo is certainly a very capable shooter, part of me just wishes it felt a bit more satisfying.

Bungie may have the edge when it comes to gunplay, but 343 wins hands down when it comes to storytelling. Halo 5’s cutscenes are sure to have your pulse pounding, and some of Master Chief’s lines will probably have a die hard Halo fan grinning from ear to ear. It’s not all about Master Chief, however, as a second fireteam led by Spartan Locke are equally as important. The new characters are well voiced and are incredibly charismatic and interesting. I’ve found myself just as excited to be playing as Locke as I was to step back into the Master Chief’s boots.

Halo 5’s use of two man fireteams is certainly interesting, however there are some issues if you’re playing with AI teammates. I’ve found the AI to be pretty terrible, especially when it comes to reviving downed teammates. The AI will drop everything to revive you if you call for help once downed, however this means they’ll just stand there allowing enemies to fill them with bullets in the process. As convenient as it is to have the chance to revive when downed instead of restarting at a checkpoint, it’s almost as frustrating to watch all three AI teammates die on top of you body during an intense gunfight.

I’m sure Halo 5’s four man teams shine when all three members are human players, however I haven’t had the chance to group up with anyone yet. I was disappointed to find that there is no matchmaking for co-op play, meaning you’ll have to coordinate with three other friends if you want to jump into co-op play. It would be nice if Halo 5 treated its co-op mode like Borderlands 2 or Diablo III where people could be matched into your game based on story progression at any given point.

So far I’ve enjoyed Halo 5 quite a bit. I can’t wait to get deeper into the story and also play some more multiplayer matches. I’m hoping to at least finish the story before Fallout 4 releases, however working 12 hours a day, six days a week leaves very little time for gaming. At the very least I should be able to finish the story during my next day off (Monday), before losing every bit of free time I have to Fallout 4!

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode One

Minecraft Story Mode

I just finished episode one of Telltale’s newest adventure game, Minecraft: Story Mode. I was curious to see just how Telltale would go about telling a story in the Minecraft universe, considering Minecraft is essentially a wide open sandbox with no objectives or story of any sort.

Minecraft: Story Mode plays the same as the other Telltale games, with the player controlling a character while periodically choosing dialogue options or making split second decisions via QTE’s.

Minecraft Story Mode

The game will surely appease fans of the Minecraft universe, as it wastes no time featuring just about every creature and object in the game. It’s characters will also occasionally reference crafting recipes for objects in the game, and several of the game’s puzzles center around crafting tables.

Minecraft Story Mode crafting

The story was interesting from the opening moments, and I quickly became attached to the characters. They are well voiced and they each have unique and interesting personalities. The game is lighthearted and comedic and will likely appeal to gamers young and old. Minecraft: Story Mode has an excellent soundtrack that I can’t wait to hear more of once Episode Two arrives.

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode One is out now on consoles, PC/Mac, iOS and Android. I definitely recommend checking it out whether you’re a Minecraft fan, a Telltale fan or both. You’ll surely be amused!

My time so far with Metal Gear Solid V

mgsv cover

I’ve never really gotten into the Metal Gear series, however everything I saw about MGSV looked intriguing. I liked the idea of trying to sneak into bases and take out a target or rescue a hostage. I also liked that MGSV would provide players with plenty of firepower and the option to go in guns blazing if they so choose. This sounded appealing, because I’m terribly impatient and am horrible at stealth missions in games. I decided I’d purchase Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

I should note that my only experience with the Metal Gear series comes from watching someone play the first Metal Gear Solid back in 1998. I remember trying to play it, however my eleven year old self couldn’t handle the sneaking and I would always get angry when I got spotted and panic. I also played Metal Gear Solid 2 on the Xbox, but remember very little from it besides getting so frustrated with the underwater section that I nearly quit. I played around with Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, but never really got too far in it.

Because of my lack of knowledge of the Metal Gear series, the opening of MGSV left me dumbfounded. Not only did I not know what was going on with the characters (or who any of them really were), but the incredibly strange nature of everything that was happening caught me off guard. I expected Metal Gear to be something of a serious game, not quite as sci-fi and nonsensical. I’m still uncertain if the opening sequence was some sort of dream or hallucination. Everything seemed so normal at the start and before I knew it I was being chased from characters out of a comic book movie. This all put me off, and I thought for awhile I may have made a mistake by trying to jump in with the fifth game.

The opening sequence is long, and the player has very little agency. I almost would have preferred to have it all be one long cutscene, because every time the game gives control to the player there’s quite literally nothing to do but look around or press forward. In fact, the opening bored me so much that by the end of it I had fallen asleep (I was playing after work) and I awoke to a mission complete screen. I’m not sure what I missed but it probably doesn’t matter.

METAL GEAR SOLID V THE PHANTOM PAIN

Once I got into the game proper, I finally started to enjoy myself. The game looks great and controls very well. Everything Snake does feels just right. The sneaking isn’t too difficult, but I still always find myself getting spotted. Luckily once you’re spotted the game provides you with a reaction moment where you can save yourself by either pulling off a headshot with a tranquilizer round or by knocking the enemy out with a close quarters combat maneuver. I haven’t failed a mission yet, however I have been downed by a flurry of enemy fire, but was able to heal myself and get out of the situation. I’m not sure if there’s a limitation on healing, but when you’re badly injured you can hold ‘Y’ to get yourself back in the action. In this case I switched to a rifle and just blasted everyone dead before sprinting out of the complex and to the helicopter without ever turning back.

Shooting myself out of bad situations hasn’t always been helpful, however. I was on a side ops mission and ended up shooting the person I was supposed to extract, thus failing the mission. Luckily the game doesn’t greet you with a fail screen, but rather leaves you in the open world with a ‘side ops cancelled’ message.

I’m not quite certain how I should be managing the Mother Base, but I’ve been having a blast fultoning any knocked out enemy back to my base to be one of my new “employees”.

 

I’ve only completed two missions in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but I’m certainly looking forward to diving deeper into the game. I’m not sure if I’ll ever understand the game, but at least the gameplay is a blast!

A quick look at Pure Hold’em on the Xbox One

pure holdem

There’s finally a poker game on the Xbox One, with last week’s release of VoFoo Studio’s Pure Hold’em. The game sells for $19.99 and was developed by the studio that brought the realistic pool game, Pure Pool.

Pure Hold'em™

So far the game scratches the poker itch, and offers a great way to play poker from the couch. You can buy into online tables designed for varying skill levels, and there are also online tournaments, again segregated by skill level. You can play a high / low game once a day to try to bank more chips, however the game also offers in game purchases for those too impatient to try to earn a large enough stack to play with.

I’ve enjoyed the game so far, however I’ve occasionally run into instances in which I can’t get into any games. I’ll receive an error saying I can’t connect to the server when trying to join open tables or tournaments, most often in the Jacks league. It seems that you receive this error when the game can’t find any games for you to join, because I’ve been able to join games at higher stakes tables without any issue. As the player base grows hopefully it’ll be easier to find games. Until then there’s an offline mode with AI bots that seem to play well enough.

A quick look at Magic Duels on the Xbox One

Magic Duels Xbox One

Magic Duels is a free to play, yet fully featured Magic The Gathering game which made its way to the Xbox One last week. The game features a single player campaign as well as a battle mode in which you can challenge AI or human opponents with your custom built decks in order to earn coins. The coins you earn can be used to purchase booster packs, or other upgrades such as converting cards to foil cards.

Magic Duels coins

I’ve been casually interested in the Magic games in the past. I’ve played the 2014 and 2015 games (both of which required a purchase) but could never quite get hooked. Magic Duels certainly has a very slick presentation, however the gameplay feels sluggish and dated, especially when compared to Hearthstone. I’m sure comparing Magic to Hearthstone will offend Magic players, but Hearthstone is much easier to play and its card battles run smoother than Magic’s. There are way too many button prompts in the magic games. When your opponent plays a card the game expects you to look at it and press ‘A’. When your opponent attacks you’re expected to hit ‘A’ after every card attacks. The battles should just be able to play out smoothly, without all of the prompts slowing the game to an annoying crawl at times.

Magic Duels will certainly appeal to Magic and card battle enthusiasts, but those with a more casual interest in the genre will most likely be put off (especially for those who have played Hearthstone). Ultimately, Magic Duels has me hoping that Hearthstone someday makes its way to consoles. Sure the ideal way to play is on an iPad, but I wouldn’t mind playing a game or two on the Xbox One if it were an option.