This Month In Gaming (June 2016)

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It’s been one of those months where, despite my addiction to gaming, I found myself not really wanting to play anything. I’ve got a stack of decent titles patiently collecting dust as they wait for the day I give them some lovin’, but I just can’t muster the motivation or desire to play with them.

In desperation I turned to an old favourite of mine; World of Tanks. Having not played the game for months, I was met by the inevitable massive update – but was then pleasantly surprised to find that, for reasons unknown to me, I had loads of free premium days on my account. For those of you (bellends) that don’t play World of Tanks; It’s a free to play game where you can pay for, amongst other stuff,  “premium” on your account. It means you get 50% more rewards at the end of each game, meaning you can unlock stuff faster.

The result was twofold. I remembered how much I loved World of Tanks and was also compelled to take advantage of my premium time – as it’s a use it or lose it system. And thus, June has been a non-stop World of Tanks gaming session. From not wanting to play anything, to clocking up more gaming hours than usual and going to bed at 2am.

I’ve always found the “carpe noctem” side of gaming to be quite appealing. I think there is something a little mischievous and transgressive about it. Being awake while the rest of the country is sleeping, watching the progress of the moon against the night sky and – although knowing I’ll suffer for it at work the next (well, same) day – chancing “just one more round”, as I play a meta game of chicken against the clock in the front room. I may need to be up in four hours time – but what the fuck – I’m only 1000xp away from that tier VI tank destroyer I’ve had my eye on.

World of Tanks really is quite an oddity for me. The paid for stuff doesn’t offer value for money as far as I am concerned. It just speeds things up a bit when it comes to progression – It doesn’t affect gameplay at all. This is a great model when it comes to F2P titles, but I actually feel like I owe wargaming (the dev) money. World of Tanks is one of my most played games ever, and it’s cost me basically nothing. I think I may have spent £5 on some gold once for an extra garage slot, which in hindsight I didn’t really need. This makes it one of, if not thee most value for money title I’ve ever played! Possibly a reflection of the capitalist society we live in, but it feels a bit weird to have got so much enjoyment out of something basically for free.

Prior to rediscovering World of Tanks – as I say at the start of this blog post – I found myself a little bored of gaming and was turning to other stuff. A little while back I vowed to spend some time watching all of the gaming to movie crossovers, even though I know most of them aren’t exactly good. Five minutes into Mortal Kombat (one of the better ones, apparently) and I started back-peddling faster than a “Vote Leave” campaigner post EU referendum.

It’s cheesy and crappy, but to the point that those things quickly become the accepted and consistent tone of the movie. They don’t really stand out as bad points. My main issue was that I just couldn’t be bothered to watch it. Without realising it, my mind kept wandering off to other places; I’d find I was looking at the screen, but my mind was elsewhere or I’d ever start playing on my phone. That’s the trouble though – this is a film where you can miss 15 minutes and miss NOTHING. There’s no hint of depth, intrigue, plot twists or outstanding acting. It’s all just really forgettable.

If there were any redeeming…well maybe not redeeming. If there were any note worthy points to the movie they’d be the following. The actresses for Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson) and Princess Kitana (Talisa Soto) are both hot. Scorpion and Sub-zero didn’t seem to lose much of their cool factor during the transition to movie. The Mortal Kombat theme tune is badass, and I noticed that they used an Orbital track in the movie…which shows some good taste was applied. Last but not least, this film isn’t as bad as Street Fighter.

Although I wouldn’t recommend Mortal Kombat, I would say that it’s OK. If anything, I guess you could argue the two dimensional acting simply remains true to the source material.

This Month In Gaming (May 2016)

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Backwards compatibility has always been a bit of an ironic concept to me. Everyone always bemoans consoles that don’t offer it, yet no one ever fucking uses it. That’s certainly been the case for me anyway. Without it, moving to a new console seems like a difficult first step, until later on, when it dawns on me that I’ve never looked back or missed my old games.

This now brings me round to the irony of ironies. After getting to a point where I’d finally realised I don’t use backwards compatibility, Microsoft adds the functionality to Xbox One and, of course, I’ve started using it; well, for one game anyway:

Dark Souls

Although Demon Souls was the first, and there’s been several sequels, Dark Souls seems to be the game people focus on. For many, Finishing Dark Souls is like a gamer rite of passage; a bench mark that separates the men from the boys. It’s also a bloody good game; so with it coming to Xbox One recently, I decided to load up my save and get closer to my goal of completing it.

What always strikes me about Dark Souls is how beautiful it is –  because it really has no place in being so. Dark Souls is a world of the undead, filled with skeletons, demons and ghouls. Its dilapidated fortresses and murky dungeons should really instil a sense of foreboding and horror, but instead come across more as sombre, peaceful and reflective. As you navigate battlements you’ll catch the occasional glimpse of a golden sunset in the background. The stark contrast serves to highlight and enhance these moments, often making me stop to take it in. The resulting affect is much more powerful than it would be in another, happier setting.

Having not played the game for many months, I was surprised by how easy it was to get back into. The nature of the gameplay means that you’re constantly taking baby steps, as you learn by your mistakes. There’s not layers of mechanics or complicated controls to remaster; the main skills are patience and concentration.

The game is as punishing as it is inconsequential. The only real penalty for death is frustration, so you’re free to take on (what seem like) impossible bosses over and over again. This doesn’t make the game feel cheap or easy though, far from it. If anything, there is something slightly sadistic about it. As lives are so abundant, the odds of survival are much less. At times, it feels like every foot of progress has been hard earned and finally defeating one of the many bosses can fill you with pure jubilation. The level of challenge is so high that googling walkthroughs and boss advice doesn’t feel like cheating.

It’s a great game, well deserving of the praise it gets. It can however, get a little heavy going, and I think this is where my other game of the this month came in:

Wolfenstein

I tend to play games at random, playing whatever I’m in the mood for that day. I say at random, but I think in the case of Wolfenstein it was to be a symbiotic relationship with my Dark Souls gaming. Where as Dark Souls seemed to demand a lot of me, Wolfenstein is much more mindless; shoot stuff in the face, then shoot some more stuff in the face.

I have no vested interest in Wolfenstein as a series, so I’ve no idea how well this one fits in. As a fresh faced Wolfenstein player, I can however say that The New Order is a darn (yes, darn) fine shooter. The “shooty bang bang mechanics” are great; really fast, fluid stuff. Even the story isn’t too bad – it basically boils down to “fuck Nazi’s”, but that’s ok becasuse….fuck Nazi’s.

If I do have a gripe, it’s the between mission stuff. You’ve got your little hideout/base area where you’re routinely forced to do sub-mission crap before you can move onto the next round of mindless killing. I guess it’s to add context and build both the story and the charaters, but the relality appears to be a bunch of dull fetch quests. If your idea of fun is searching around the base for lost toys, then great! For everyone else though, these are irksome at best and I personally just “googled” to get them out the way as fast as possible. It’s a minor annoyance really, and I like the idea of the base area, but I just feel they could of implemented in a more interesting way.

At the time of writing this i’ve still not completed the game, and yet I’ve stuck a fair few hours in. For a shooter (these days) this certainly hints at a legthy campaign – which is good news as they didn’t include a multiplayer.