Buy This – A Plague Tale: Innocence

I forget where or when I first heard of A Plague Tale: Innocence, it was always a game I had stored somewhere in my brain. When I saw that it had finally been released I was very excited. I had spent a few weeks on a Sims 4 binge and was in desperate need for something a little more stimulating.

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Set in the mid 1300s, A Plague Tale follows Amicia and her brother Hugo, children from a noble French family. This particular story starts off bright and warm but as the game title suggests, things get really bad, really fast. I knew very little of the actual story going into the game (other than there was rats) so there were plenty surprises for me along the way. Without giving too much away, the story even subverts one of the tropes that is one of my biggest personal annoyances in fiction. It was also nice to have an older sister and younger brother dynamic in a world of grisly action dads and their apocalypse daughters.

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You play mostly as Amicia, using her slingshot to distract or take down human foes. I am awful at keeping to stealth where there is an option to take out a room of people. Still, not everything can be handled by sneaking around, and it is in these sections that the kill really weighs heavily on Amicia. I appreciated the way this was handled as it brought a richness to both the narrative and Amicia as a character. Eventually you get the option to craft different ammo for your slingshot which allows you to do things such as melt metal or set fires. You are also not confined to your sling. Along the way you will have to utilize torches, sticks and flammable carts to clear areas of rats.

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One thing I really did not expect was the characters that Amicia and Hugo meet on their journey. These characters essentially become party members. This really helps to switch up the gameplay as each person has their own talents. Not only do you get to collaborate with these characters to get through areas, but they all each have their own fully fleshed out stories. This adds even more layers onto the story and keeps it fresh and interesting. Even Amicia’s little brother Hugo has parts to play both with and without her. He very well could have been left as just an object to be protected but he has agency and purpose.

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If I had to make one complaint about the game it would be that there were some areas where it was very unclear as to what you had to do. It did not happen very often but it could be quite frustrating. Other than that I was very happy that my brain made note to keep an eye out for the game. It is definitely one for if you want something that’s not too long but still something you can get emotionally invested in. Honourable mention goes to the setting because we definitely need more games set in places like rural France.

Below is one of my favourite moments with Amicia. A queen.

All screenshots and video captured using Xbox One DVR.

A Plague Tale: Innocence is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

So I finally got to visit Token

If I am eating out in Dublin it usually means that I was too lazy to make lunch for work or I am going to a gig, so I am normally on a time limit. That is the main reason it took me so long to finally visit Token Dublin. The opportunity presented itself when I had to travel up to Dublin for a nutritional talk in the gym I attend. Rather than me just going home after the talk, my boyfriend said that he would travel up to meet me so we could check Token out.

Walking into the premises we were greeted by a wall displaying various pieces of retro gaming paraphernalia, followed by the “HIGHSCORE WALL” which is littered with Polaroids of people with way more patience and skill than I will ever have. There was nobody at the welcome desk to seat us when we arrived. However, it did not take long for us to be noticed and we were shown to a table. We were informed that we had an hour and a quarter to make use of it. Which is quite generous for a quick eater like myself.

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On the table was a specials menu which also listed desserts and drinks, along with cutlery and napkins. There were also two gaming magazines on our table which we just moved aside. The waitress had a good chuckle when she opened the magazines to reveal the menu inside after we asked for one. So be warned!

As it was our first time there, we felt it best to go with the Cheapskate Deal which includes a main, regular side draught beer/wine/unlimited soda and 10 tokens for playing games for €20.95. I added a cocktail (Cammy’s Hat) to my deal at only an extra €4. Although the menu at Token is pretty much broken down into four main dishes (burger, hotdog, tacos, fried chicken/vegan fried chicken, salad), there is enough variety to keep many people happy. Not being a particular fan of hotdogs, I opted for the vegan option out of curiosity. This comprised of vegan quinoa chilli, vegan queso, campfire sauce, nacho dust and jalapenos (I know, not great after a talk on nutrition). Along with the sweet potato fries, I can confirm it is well worth ordering. My boyfriend went the carnivorous route of the Out n In Burger (two beef sliders, cheddar, pickles, red onion, Token burger sauce, bacon jam) and the herb fries which he also really enjoyed.

The food is served in disposable containers and the cutlery is also disposable, but Token promise that it is either plant-based, compostable, recyclable and/or biodegradable.

The churros, vegan sundae or the deep fried Oreo cheesecake bombs were very much calling out to me but I was eager to get stuck into some games. We got the bill which was given to us in a Grand Theft Auto San Andreas PS2 case, paid and got our ten tokens each as promised in the meal deal.

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The view from our table

When we arrived around 2pm on this particular Saturday, Token was quiet enough but by the time we had finished our food there was a good crowd in just for gaming and drinks from the bar. Still, we did not have to wait very long to get onto what we wanted to play. The only machine I missed out on was Mario Kart because it was never free from a particular group of children. For those of you not too keen on sharing space with kids, they are only permitted in the premises until 4pm. We got good use out of our combined 20 tokens, playing many games together and a few solo. There are pinball machines downstairs but we didn’t explore that option and stuck to the cabinets. My favourites were Tekken Tag Tournament, Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, The Simpsons and Golden Axe. Token rotate machines as they see fit from this list. Side-note for any germaphobes –  they have anti-bacterial gel dispensers on the wall.

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Overall it was a decent way to kill a Saturday afternoon. The service was quick and friendly and there is plenty to keep you occupied should you not be eating. For your little ones and those in need of a place to sit, there are stools littered around the place to make it more comfortable to play some of the games. The main area is accessible for those with mobility issues, however, do be aware that there are a small few cabinets up some steps and the pinball machines are accessible down some stairs.

You can find Token’s website here for more information. If you want to check out their events comprising of everything from Dungeons and Dragons to E3 Press Conference viewings click here.

My first hour (and a bit) with Fallout 76

I was sitting on a leather couch in an Airbnb in Malta when Todd Howard took to the E3 stage to try to convince us that the direction that Fallout would be going for the moment would be a good one. I was curious, mostly because the Fallout has been one of the few universes to have truly captured my imagination. Even though I did not not enjoy the narrative of Fallout 4 as much as 3 and New Vegas, I still craved some more Geiger counter ticking, Mirelurk shell cracking goodness.

Despite not being an online gamer and against my better judgement, I ended up pre-ordering. I thought I’d have time to access the B.E.T.A. when it was available. At least least I could get a little used to it before the whole onslaught of team players would be roaming around on the servers. I was very wrong about that because I missed all of it because I have other (less fun) priorities.

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You’d think I could figure out how to put my fists away

 

I found a spare bit of time and finally booted it up on Xbox One, with the intention of doing one hour to get a taster of things. How very optimistic of me. I spent nearly an hour in character creation. Making the same character three times. When I first came out of character creation happy with what I had…there was no sound. I quit the game and I had to start all over again. Then I myself screwed up by not naming my character and couldn’t figure out how to remedy it so I restarted again.

The character creation itself took a little getting used to, but after the third time I was much quicker. At the start it took me a second to realise what changes were being made by certain sliders. In the end I don’t think I changed the default face I picked too much. If you can’t manage to change the actual face structure too drastically or you don’t really care to, there are great options for makeup, scarring, blemishes and ageing to take your character to the next level looks-wise. The female hair selection is decent and the range of colours for both hair and makeup are great. The lipstick is a bit odd if you don’t go for a dark colour but this might not apply if you use a darker skin-tone than I did.

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Me after the third time doing this

I played around with photo mode for a second which I can’t see myself using very often. Still, as I progress and discover more of the wasteland I might end up wanting to take Instagram worthy shots, carefully applying all the filters and other effects available.

With that, my planned hour was up so I quickly toddled out of Vault 76 thanking each handyman who had goodies essential to my survival on hand for me as I left. It was a bit annoying how I couldn’t pick up anything other than what was presented to me in the vault. Mostly because I kept trying to do it and not learning my lesson.

Finally I was outside. The little time I spent out there I did have fun. After finding a machete on a corpse, I made my first few kills and looted the bodies. I even found some shacks and crafted a weapon and also made some food. However, I did not dare venture any further because guess what? You got it. Another big nasty Bethesda bug. Which is a bit of a slap in the face after downloading the 55GB update. I could not scroll and select items in the Pip-Boy, which is a pretty essential part of the game.

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Bethesda’s bugs have always been a notorious source of frustration and entertainment. Judging by the commentary surrounding Fallout 76 now that it has been launched, adding online to that has probably not done anyone any favours. For now I am stuck with the game and hopefully will get my money’s worth out of it. I don’t really have the time to play it often which may work out well as it goes through this teething stage (if I don’t have to update it every time I do have a chance to play). I am definitely still willing to give it a chance. I would probably be less so inclined had I continued with a broken Pip-Boy, luckily for Bethesda they have my money and my patience.

So You Have to Buy a Games Console

Even though I have long left the hell that is retail (specifically toys) for greener pastures, I will never forget the lessons I have learned regarding shopping for gifts. Few of which are more awkward than games consoles and/or games, especially if you have no prior experience with them. Below I have compiled the main things that people didn’t even know (or think) they had to consider before buying one. Sometimes this information confused people more but I am throwing it out there in the hopes that it might help someone on the way to a relatively stress free Christmas.

Check the shop’s return policy

Many shops have return policies that differ from their standard return policy when it comes to games consoles. Make sure to clarify your position if not told by the staff member before buying. In my own personal experience on both sides of the retail counter, more often than not a console which is having issues will not be taken back by the retailer. You will be advised to contact the manufacturer of the console should any issues arise.

I myself have had an issue with a console but the shop took it back on the condition I had proof that I had logged the problem with the manufacturer first. However, this can differ depending on the shop and manufacturer you are dealing with. It is preferable for a manufacturer to try to fix problems directly rather than have a shop just hand out another unit for free.

Keep your receipts

This goes for anything with and electronic component really (I have seen countless remote control cars back to the shop in my retail days). A receipt might be the difference between having to pay the manufacturer for a replacement or a repair if it has a technical fault. Your “get out of paying for a technical fault card” will not last forever though so make sure you are aware of the length of the manufacturer’s guarantee and what it covers. Also, please don’t show up to the shop, 3DS in hand, ranting and raving at the sales assistant only to reveal that you took the battery out of it to try to fix it. That is definitely not covered.

Internet

It is an unfortunate fact of life that some large consoles today rely on a decent internet connection. Some are more dependant than others. So be mindful of this when enquiring about which console to buy. You can always check your internet speed with your broadband provider. This still applies if the person you are gifting the console to will not be playing online. Which brings me to my next point.

Set it up

Where possible try to set up your console as best as you can before Christmas day. Most consoles need to update their software every so often (although it can feel like much more often than that) and will probably be looking to be patched the day you switch them on. More importantly though, many packaged bundles do not come with a physical game, only a download code, so after you wait for your console to update you may be sitting around on Christmas day waiting for a 50GB game to download and install (a huge inconvenience if you have a bad broadband connection). If you think you can solve that problem with a physical disc, think again. Most consoles require a game to be partially installed on the hard drive before they can be played.

Of course it is vitally important that you do this in case you encounter any problems with your console, especially if you have younger kids. Nothing ruins Christmas day like a faulty present and the prospect of having to look for a replacement the second the shops and customer care offices open back up.

If you are a parent it is also a chance to become familiar with the console yourself. There are a plethora of parental settings to explore from timers to age restrictions. I have had a few things thrown at me by parents who decided it wasn’t their job to know what exactly they had given their child. Not good when you have something that’s attached to the internet.

Anyway, you might want to set up a sneaky Netflix account for yourself because consoles aren’t just for games anymore.

Games

Maybe you’re not committing a couple of hundred of your earnings to an entire console and have opted to simply buy a game. Well there is no use promising little Bobby a game featuring his favourite Italian plumber if all little Bobby has is a Playstation. Unfortunately not all games are available for all consoles.

Adding to this, Playstation 3 games do not work on a Playstation 4 and vice versa. Some Xbox 360 games work on an Xbox One but Xbox One games do not work on an Xbox 360. 3DS games work on the 2DS but do not work on a DS or a DSi…there is a lot of instances where you can be tripped up. There is also no going back if a game is opened and it is discovered far too late that it will not work in a particular console. I wasn’t even allowed to take back sealed games with a receipt in the shop I worked for, so I really emphasised this to anyone buying a game.

Double, triple, quadruple check you know what you are buying for. If you intend to buy a game for somebody make sure that you know exactly what console they have, even as much as taking a picture of the console night help a staff member figure out what you are looking for.

Know what you are buying

I once had a granny come in with Grand Theft Auto in her hand, telling me how great her grandson was and how he really wanted it for Christmas. However, dear old granny let slip that her grandson was only seven years old. The look on her face when I had to explain that the game in her hand was over 18s. If I had not caught that, her grandson could have very well received GTA and it also could have very well flown under his parents’ radar.

Now I am making no presumptions here, maybe his parents would have been cool with it. I did once have a six year old come in with his dad for a Call of Duty game which they were going to play together online as they had with COD before. That was the dad’s decision. A different woman had also asked about GTA for her thirteen year old son and she said she didn’t mind the violence but would pass because of “sex stuff”, her words, not mine.

So just double check with whoever you are buying the game from to see if it would be suitable. It also helps that an age rating is written on the box, but remember an age rating of 3 does not mean it is just for 3 year olds. It is for 3 years to however old you want. It may sound self explanatory but I have had countless arguments with people about this.

Be wary of a new trend in games where they may subtly harass you into buying in-game items with real money (my dad still hasn’t recovered from when my brother bought €200 worth of things on FIFA). It has gotten so insidious that governments are debating as to whether to consider certain games as containing a form of gambling. The company EA is in the spotlight right now because of what they have pulled with Star Wars Battlefront and are planning to pull with UFC 3. You can read about it here. Just be sure to pull your card details off the console after you buy something on it or just opt to buy online store vouchers.

It may sound like a lot to take on (before you get into things like what storage you should get etc.), but the beauty of modern technology is that when it works, it works. Consoles pretty much take care of themselves, setting up much like your own phone would. However, don’t use this as an excuse to tune out of conversations surrounding it, especially if you are buying for younger kids. There is a whole world attached to that little box sitting in your living room.

 

I Love Cuphead

Very seldom does a game catch my attention like Cuphead did when it graced our live-streams back at E3 IN 2015. Cuphead, a colourful homage to 1930s cartoons, stood out among grittier titles like Gears of War and Dark Souls. I wouldn’t normally jump at the chance to play a “run and gun” style game (I’m still traumatised from getting the high score in Bully’s side-scroller Nut Shots) but I was totally drawn in by the 30 second clip. The fact that the release date ended up being my birthday further cemented my choice to buy it on day one.

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The in-game map where you defeat bosses or run and gun sections to progress. There’s also a shop and a few friendly faces to talk to.

Cuphead has been compared to notoriously butt-kicking Dark Souls due to its difficulty. Other than the obvious glaring differences you could make an argument for it. If you die during a level, you have to restart the section, enemies and all, just like Dark Souls. You also die very frequently. Before you scream “UNETHICAL GAMES JOURNALISM” I did make it through the tutorial (I have video proof). However, that doesn’t mean that I have not died a million times (I have video proof). The beauty of Cuphead is that dying is how you learn. Again, just like Dark Souls.

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I died on purpose for this screenshot, don’t take my games from me

After the whole Dan Takahashi drama people have become snobby about the game and its difficulty, claiming it as some litmus test for a true gamer. Cuphead does not care if you are an experienced gamer or not. When you face one of the many bosses or run and gun levels for the first time you will not know your arse from your elbow. You won’t know if a certain enemy can be shot and killed, you won’t know if it’s better to hold off on shooting and concentrate on dodging, you won’t know if the platform you’re about to jump on will burst into flames. The list of obstacles is endless. Adding to this is the option to buy guns and special powers from coins collected in the world. Changing these around can really help with your game-plan. Still though, you won’t know if it will help until you try, and fail, and try again.

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You can change your load-out at any time when in the map

Cuphead gives you the option of local co-op which is a thing I sorely miss in today’s online obsessed world. Luckily for me, I have an on demand player 2 in the form of my little brother (like I was for my older sister). When I found myself at the mercy of a giant carrot, I turned off the game, nipped into town, came home and gifted a second controller to him. It took us a little while to get used to the addition of a player two but soon we had defeated the carrot and also cackling blimp lady Hilda Berg who he had been having trouble with when playing solo.

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Me in sadder times before I got my player 2

Each boss we have encountered has been designed so well that we look forward to seeing their multiple transformations throughout fights. Often my brother and I are shouting “WHAT?” at each other in awe and confusion. I think the greatest feat of Cuphead so far has been how captivating it is. No matter how many times we have failed we have never once felt anger or frustration. We have found ourselves almost instantly pressing retry every time and we go back in, guns blazing, probably a little wiser than the last attempt but probably not wise enough just yet.

Watch my true first few minutes with Cuphead below if you dare. I hope the Xbox One police don’t come after me for this abysmal display.

Right now Cuphead is €19.99 and is available on Xbox One and PC.

Tekken 7 vs Injustice 2

Despite only being born in 1992, I have very fond memories of playing the first few Tekken releases with my older sister and my cousin. The main draw for us was unlocking the insane ending stories that the Tekken developers always cooked up. I have stayed loyal to Tekken ever since then (there’s some Soul Calibur thrown in there over the years too). Tekken for me peaked at the third installment. However, I do remember being in awe of the graphics in Tekken 4 once it had arrived on PlayStation 2 and I definitely enjoyed Tekken 5 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. It was only with Tekken 6 that I found my interest in the series waning a bit as the traditional modes began to change format. I know that at some point things have to switch up a bit but the new additions just did not sit well with me.

Having some hope left, I was excited for the latest Tekken release and I bought it on day one. The problem came when I had seen so much hype for Injustice 2…which I also bought. I don’t think I touched Tekken for a good month and a half after that. Does that mean that Tekken 7 is bad? Not necessarily. You just have to be in a very particular head-space to enjoy it.

Tekken:

First of all there is no Anna Williams in Tekken 7 which is a crime.  Second of all…Tekken 7 is for you if you are a gamer that loves to grind. Tekken, with the progression of online gaming and the allure of eSports has become serious business. Gone are the days when I would bash buttons next to my sister on a Mortal Kombat arcade machine in a local fast food restaurant. I was actually extremely nervous before I entered the world of Tekken online (who knows why my body decided to do that). I saw multiple players with one hundred wins on their belts. I was like “cool” then got demolished. I did win once when I found someone as hopeless as myself. It was great when I lost after that and my win counter went down to zero. I then realised that what I saw were one hundred win streaks. I honestly wonder if these people have full time jobs because how does that happen? Special shoutout to the player who decided I was so useless they just left their character lying on the ground for a bit. That was rude.

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Me when I won

The closest you get to the older “ending movie” structure in 7 is a single fight as each character which ends with a short clip of them talking to their defeated opponent in the context of that particular fight. Still, I miss the hijinks between Law and Paul. The confined story in Tekken 7 is quite challenging as each fight seems to have something extra you have to keep on top of, e.g. dodging a soldier shooting at you at certain intervals, quick time events or even multiple enemies. It is a very sneaky way of getting you to grips with the mechanics of the game without you having to slog through a tutorial. They also added in something called “Story Assist” which you access by holding down RB on Xbox One to bring up a list of hotkeys for combos that would otherwise take multiple button presses. It is a great help in the story mode but I always find my hand cramping very quickly despite doing apparently less work. I think the biggest help I ever had was playing as Lars who had his own gun, but then I had no need to go hand to hand with anyone.

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Story mode has its entertaining moments

Tekken 7 customisation leaves a lot to be desired. Which is odd considering the focus on online gameplay. You get some items specific to each character and then really random bits like tank tops and deer masks for everyone. Some of these have to be paid for with in game money. However, more things can be unlocked through Treasure Mode and Arcade Mode which again, you will have to grind for. I know many people aren’t that interested in playing dress up so it really is not a deal breaker. Still, it would be nice to have the same level of freedom that Soul Calibur customisation has allowed in some of its installments. Saying that, if you’re looking for a really cute health bar and player card panel, Tekken 7 has you covered. My personal favourite is the neon pumpkin one. Very seasonal.

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Injustice 2:

Injustice 2 definitely has a wider appeal. It has enough to keep both beginners and veterans entertained even before they become their best Injustice selves.

The very few times I chanced my arm and went online were very pleasant experiences. One person who demolished me for ages before I eventually beat them messaged me to say they had fun! Of course I’m nowhere near as good as a lot of online players but the nature of Injustice is that things can turn around at any second. This is due to the two health bars you have, the second never draining until the first is completely gone. So if you use a strong move while your opponent is still on their first bar, you won’t be able to affect their second. In turn your meter you built up for special moves will be depleted and your opponent can use what they have in theirs in a “clash” which you would definitely lose and they would gain health back. Even the best players have to be careful of this!

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Just gals being pals

The story of Injustice basically revolves around Superman being a dick and Batman being a good Batdad to everyone except his own son. It’s great. You get no choice as to who you play as throughout however some sections allow you to choose between two fighters. If the completionist in you gets itchy about this, you can return to chapters to complete them as the second character. If you want to view the alternate ending to your initial choice, you will have to complete 75 out of the 76 available fights. If my counting is correct, around 31 of those involve single fighters so there is not awful lot of grinding to do on top of one playthrough. I found this a good way to decide who I liked playing as without any experience other than the tutorial. Turns out I’m a dab hand at Harley Quinn and Black Canary.

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I picked Superman in the end first because even though he’s stupid (spoiler) I can use him better

Customisation is very fun. You can earn what are called “Mother Boxes” which you get in various ways and open them to get gear. You can take part in timed Multiverse events (which I love) and earn items that way too. Each item carries with it a level and stats that affect a fighter’s strength, ability, defense and health. Of course, the character has to be the correct level to equip a piece. If there is a better bit of gear that you find ugly you can use some of the resources you earn to put the stats on something you prefer. The Multiverse events come in a variety of difficulties and may have certain stage elements (random earthquakes etc.) and customisation offers you a chance to change up your tactics through costume if you’re finding a particular event tricky.

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There is a lot more to Injustice than Tekken which has upped the playabilty for me personally. Tekken is what it is and I am just a filthy casual. Until I muster up the courage to delve back into the Tekken mess I will be happy deciding if Catwoman looks better in purple or black and punching Green Lantern in the face (he’s very annoying).

Bonus burn:

 

Quick-Take – Valiant Hearts: The Great War

I picked up Valiant Hearts: The Great War back when it was available for free on Xbox Gold back in 2015. It is now 2017 and I have finally made it onto its penultimate chapter. This is definitely not a reflection on the quality of the game. I have just not put much time into sitting down and playing it. After all, it had to take a back seat when games like Fallout 4 or the Witcher 3 commanded my attention. This is purely down to the spare time I have had to play games in the past few years.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is, as signified by its title, a game full of heart. Set during World War I, it focuses on four characters each with different roles. You get to play as a French man (Emile), an American soldier (Freddie), a German man (Karl) and a nurse from Belgium (Anna). Throughout you get to explore the world as each person but also get the opportunity to complete sections with multiple characters. A big plus to all of this is that a dog named Walt also accompanies you on some of your journey. Everyone loves a canine companion.

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Freddie with other African-American soldiers

Inspired by real life World War I letters, Valiant Hearts gives a history lesson in an interactive and engaging way. As you progress in the game you are rewarded with short bits of information about many aspects of WWI. Of course you can always skip reading these but it really would to a disservice to the game. By providing real life context to its setting, Valiant Hearts packs a truly emotional punch.

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Although a story of love and friendship during wartime, Valiant Hearts makes no easy light of the realities of war.

It is typical of most shorter games, in that it has a strong puzzle element. This is kept fresh as each character has unique abilities on top of the basic pull lever, climb, etc. For example, Emile has a shovel for digging, Freddie can cut barbed wire and Walt is able to climb into small spaces and fetch items. Many sections require you to use all three characters with Walt being the vehicle in which you switch between the human characters.

Sometimes you can figure things out at your leisure but there are also sections in which quick thinking is needed. Often when you are on the battlefield you have to run to avoid missiles and bombs while also clearing a path. The nurse Anna also has a unique segment in which you have to heal the injured through a series of quick time event sections.

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Emile and Walt in the trenches

Overall, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a superbly engaging game. It keeps you on your toes and also provides you with easy to follow historical facts. As you get to explore the relationships between the characters, it is hard not to feel for their situations. Despite the atrocities of WWI, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is great reminder of how resilient, brave and hopeful the human race can be.

Adventures in Andromeda

I am going to be honest. I know I don't remember the original Mass Effect trilogy with the same voracity as some others do. So forgive me if I can't give the lowdown on how different the shooting was in each game or if I cannot list what lovely RPG goodness was added following on from the first instalment. The point is, I remember the Mass Effect trilogy as a solid space opera with some firearms and biotic powers thrown in for good measure. I laughed, I cried (how predictably feminine of me) and my heart nearly gave out when I heard the bloodcurdling screech of a banshee.

By the time I was happy to wrap up Mass Effect 3, people were already in meltdown over it on the internet. Thankfully I did not see too much of this before I got to experience it myself. It was fine. I had a certain expectation that it would be near impossible to end it in a way that would fully satisfy all individual choices made in the games. However, as people discussed it more, I was left a bad taste in my mouth.

The newest game, Andromeda had no chance. The fandom were hungry and this new part of the Mass Effect universe was meant to fix the betrayal they felt they experienced at the hands of BioWare. Again, I was bombarded with review upon board upon tweet about how Andromeda was the worst thing to happen to humanity (and probably whatever is floating around up in space). Despite this, I paid €69.99 of my own money in order to check it out. I mean, how bad could it really be?

Not that bad actually.

If you don't play a BioWare RPG partly because you get to customise the appearance of your main character (in this case Ryder plus sibling) then we may not have our priorities lined up. I was very happy with how my Ryder turned out. I have to give credit to the best range of female hair options in a BioWare game to date. I did feel that I could not make the face too different from the templates given, but sliders are always awkward when you play on console.

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Customisation is available for your armour also. I had Ryder running around the galaxy in millennial pink. Who needs realism when you might be kissing aliens in space? Other than changing the colour you can build your own armour based on research you acquire exploring around. It took me longer than I would like to get comfortable with this. The development screens were far too fussy. I eventually got there and managed to even craft some interesting weapons. I did like that you had the option of making armour and weapons either from the Milky Way (Ryder's home galaxy) or from new alien tech you discover.

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In terms of plot, Ryder leaves the Milky Way when Commander Shepard of the original trilogy is doing his/her thing. The mission is to find planets viable for life to house the many other volunteers who left along with Ryder. However, you wake up 600 years later and there are big problems. Most of these come in the form of insectoid aliens called the Kett who are determined to make the galaxy a home for just them. In terms of design and overall motive, the Kett are not going to blow you over. They are a familiar villain. Much of the main story also has you go into vaults where you solve a few puzzles and shoot a few things in order to re-calibrate a particular planet's atmosphere. Thankfully they don't take a long time to complete. Many know how soul destroying those Dwarven ruins in Skyrim are…but maybe that was just me.

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Speaking of exploring, Andromeda's open world-ness did not feel too overwhelming. When you were out in the Nomad (your car essentially), quests were marked very clearly and the map had visible pathways to and from most points of interest. Unlike BioWare's other attempt at open world, Inquisition, travelling distances felt more purposeful. Where the game let me down however was when quests were running thin. Believe me, moving from the ship, into the galaxy map, into a cluster, into a planet, then going to the planet, walking to your objective, getting a small dialogue, being told the next part of the quest is on another planet, reversing the steps and then starting them again was not fun. At the beginning this was not an issue because you would to have a few things to complete on one planet which made the journey worthwhile.

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Of course the worst offence Andromeda committed was apparently having more bugs than stars in the galaxy. I did get the famed funny faces albeit quite rarely and a few smaller quests did not complete for me. The latter annoyed me the most because I made the effort and got no rewards for my time. I also experienced some crashing and enemies stuck in walls and all that fun stuff. Luckily since a fateful day when my sister spent many hours working on a house in the Sims only to have her laptop die, I have been a serial saver. Some might construe it as making a game easier but if it meant I didn't have to dive into the galaxy map again, I was going to do it.

Overall do I regret biting the bullet and spending €69.99 on Andromeda? Not at all. I put a lot of time into the game and despite a few annoyances, found myself very entertained. If you are unsure about it still, there is definitely no harm in waiting until it goes down in price. Ryder's story has benefited from the lack of Shepard level fanaticism, spoilers are few and far between.

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As I played Mass Effect Andromeda on the Xbox One, all screenshots here have come from there (if you were curious).

 

Review of Batman: The Telltale Series

I was glad to receive Batman: The Telltale series as a Christmas present.  It had peaked my interest on release, but not enough for me to commit waiting from August to December to finish it. This is because originally the full game was broken into five separate episodes that were each released over the five months, as with all of Telltale’s other series. The format of the game is very different to what most of us are used to playing also. Telltale’s Batman is a point and click game, a sort of choose your own adventure, that moulds its story around the choices you make. At the end of each episode you are given a list of the most important decisions and shown the percentage of players who made the same choices as you. Adding to the pressure, sometimes a nice “she/he will remember that” pops up in the top corner of the screen to remind you that you are changing the story.

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A summary of the kind of hero I was throughout the game

I am a huge fan of other recent Batman games (Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Arkham Knight) in which you spend stalking criminals as Batman most of the time. What made this game interesting was the fact that you had a chance to explore the persona of Bruce Wayne. Often you are given the choice of dealing with certain characters in your cape or in your business suit. I found myself picking the latter. Being able to navigate the political side of Gotham as Bruce Wayne made the Batman story feel fresh. After all, the rest of the game gives you ample time to beat down on some thugs. As the game is set pretty early on in the life of Batman, Telltale gave themselves a fairly blank slate to work with. This has meant that characters such as reporter Vicki Vale and Oswald Cobblepot have been given new coats of paint, making them more central to this particular Batman story.

You have opportunities throughout to team up with or reject the help of each and every character in the game. The most fun duo to play as was definitely Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle (Catwoman). Unfortunately what starts off as a good representation of the Bruce/Selina dynamic turns extremely cringe-worthy if you pursue a romance with her. I found myself laughing at many serious moments in the game beyond Catwoman also. I do dislike a Batman that takes itself too seriously though, so it did not ruin the game too much.

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A dynamic duo (sometimes)

Gameplay-wise I was not blown away. I played Batman: The Telltale series on Xbox One and as with those who played on PC, I experienced some lagging issues. Especially at the beginning of the final episode. Although not game breaking, it did make fight sequences using quick time events a lot less immersive. I also was excited to use Batman’s arsenal of gadgets to solve crime as the world’s greatest detective. Mainly all you get are CSI type sections where you link correct pieces of evidence together. I found these tedious as by the time Batman talks through everything and tells you the story out loud at the end, you have already figured it out in your own head ten minutes prior.

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A high tech flip phone

Overall it is not a  bad way to entertain oneself, especially if you are looking for something short and simple. The story kept me interested especially since Bruce Wayne had a more active part in the narrative. As I have played some other Telltale series, I thought I had the decision formula down. Batman definitely has a more nuanced decision making system. Although when you are familiar with Batman lore, it can make some decisions  seem pointless.  I was also very glad I played all episodes in a chunk, unlike Telltale’s Walking Dead there was zero emotional connection to the game, so I probably would have grown bored playing one episode a month.