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Gears of War 4.

There might be a gap in my memory; I recall saying that I would not consider Gears 4 if it did not have the Retro Lancer as a weapon you can use in the loadout menu – whether or not I said that I cannot remember. Fast forward to last week and there I was playing Gears of War 4 with the Retro Lancer in Horde mode: I think I made a good call reversing my decision to avoid this game.

Gears of War 4 is the latest Gears game, and it feels alive – alive as in there is a large active community and you will always find fresh items in-game like weapon skins and maps to enjoy as the as the game ages. Now returning to the Retro Lancer issue, I play Horde mode online more often than multiplayer – I dislike the shotgun only nonsense that goes on as the shotgun is the only effective weapon in multiplayer when everyone is popping about from cover to cover firing off shells at one another. Now the Retro Lancer is available to a couple classes in Horde mode, and what made me switch over to Gears 4 after sinking almost six years into Gears of War 3 was the fact that classes were not locked to specific characters unlike Gears of War Judgement. Similar to Gears of War 3, you pick the character you want to play and that is it – the classes are where the skills and weapons are organized, not the characters.

 

Thus I picked the Scout class because of the increased melee damage and the Retro Lancer and shotgun combo made me feel all warm inside – being able to choose a character from the COG list also helped. Now about two weeks in and I can honestly say that I really like this new Gears game. Foot steps this time around sound a bit more believable; previous gears games had a heavy metallic “shook, shook, shook” noise to them when you jogged and sprinted (you don’t really walk in-game, not unless you push very lightly on the controls). This time around the sound of jogging and sprinting is more akin to boots slamming down hard on pavement – something that adds to the immersion when playing.

 

Characters and weapon skins are unlocked via cards you collect from credits you earn in-game, and you can further earn scrap to make characters by destroying cards you do not want and saving up the scrap to further unlock specific characters and/or cards – you can also buy card packs with real money if that is your cup of tea. There is also an E-sports scene in Gears 4, though I don’t compete so I could not tell you how that scene is and whether or not it is worth the effort.

 

Now the real meat of the game is the Horde mode for me – campaign was alright but Horde mode is where all the fun lies. This time around you are given a fabricator – a box that can construct whatever defenses you need and can be moved once it is set up. This new feature in Horde mode means instead of setting up a base, you can set up a defensive position and place as many turrets, barricades, decoys, and weapon lockers you want all over the place provided you can collect all the power drops that come from dead enemies. This new feature is nice; it allows players to use the environment to set up their defenses and choose an optimal spot to place the fabricator – a welcome change from Gears 3 that limited you to pre-set defensive positions once a base was established and all you could do was upgrade the defenses – if you needed more defenses or space you had to set up a new base.

 

Gears of War 4 turned out to be a surprise for me; being dis-satisfied with Battlefield 1 and disappointed with Titanfall 2, Gears 4 being a familiar yet new experience was a welcome change. Going forward I might focus in on a specific sub-set of games to purchase – saves me time and money and helps me avoid misery. Now that is not to say I am regretting my purchase of the Titanfall 2/Battlefield 1 duel pack, but I am unhappy with how the games have evolved as of late – the whole issue of delayed bullet time in Battlefield 1 and the fact that Titanfall 2 feels boring and stale made me re-think my interest in First Person Shooters altogether. Doom was alright, and Far Cry 4 turned out to be okay in small bursts but left me disinterested in finishing the game. Here’s to a successful Gears 4 – more combat, more close quarters action, and more bayonet charges – thanks for reading everyone.

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Another round of Gwent!!!

Right Gwent – good game! Now to be more detailed, the game is similar to the mini-game found in Witcher 3 but some of the leader cards have changed and the game will feel familiar to those of you who have played Hearthstone. Gwent, being a stand-alone title now, must have these features in order to attract players to the game rather than turn them off completely if it was released as just a copy-paste of Gwent from Witcher 3.

Now I have the game for both PC and Xbox One – the game, as it stands, is a free open beta and judging from the FAQ the business model going forward is to have it release as a Free-to-play with card pack sales for the game. Now playing on PC you get a free range of motion in that you can just mouse directly over whatever you want and click on it per se, whereas the Xbox version you need to go step by step (ie: up past the siege, ranged, and melee rows of your side before viewing the cards of the enemy that are on the field in their respective rows) in order to scroll over a card you wish to view. After sinking in some time into the game I can safely say that playing with a mouse is a lot more interesting than a controller when it comes to Gwent – user experience may vary.

 

The game’s interface is also different from the Witcher 3 version, and the weather effects have changed since Witcher 3. However with all that said, ultimately Gwent is still Gwent and anyone who has played Gwent in the Witcher 3 will feel right at home with this game. Run through the tutorial to get a good handle on the game, and then off to the races you go.

 

A note before I end this post for today, Gwent on PC will require you to register with GoG – the digital distribution site for CD Projekt Red; Xbox has no additional registration. Thanks for reading folks, and we shall see you next time.

Injustice 2 story arc review (spoilers).

Okay so I admit I did watch the first Injustice game movie per se, and was not overly impressed with it. Basically Superman goes all North Korea on the world to impose peace and Batman leads a resistance to fight against his tyranny. Long story short based on the second game’s story arc Batman wins and Superman goes to jail. Fast forward to the present game and Brainiac is the evil invader; this time Batman has the help of some former villains and he goes about attempting to re-establish stability and freedom while Superman’s die-hard supporters hide in the shadows.

Batman supporters include former enemies, and they side with the Superman faction to fight Brainiac. Superman is released and they go about fighting Brainiac – several battles take place before they finally unlock some magic to take down Brainiac’s shields on his ship and they invade his vessel to defeat him. After Brainiac is defeated the two sides meet up on board and the backstabbing begins.

 

Essentially the story can end in two areas – either Batman wins and imprisons Superman and the world has freedom again (and Supergirl joins the new Justice League formed by Batman) or Superman wins and basically programs Batman to be his follower, and offers Supergirl the same option – join him or be programmed to join him (he takes over Brainiac’s tech and uses it to: “convince” others to join his cause).

 

After two hours of game movie time it appears that the campaign is heavily scripted, and while you are given choices to choose who to fight with the majority of the experience is cinematic in nature meaning you are watching more than you are playing per se. Being a fighting game the cinematic experience is there to set up each fight where you lay down the hurt on the enemy forces before moving onto the next few pages of the book per se.

 

Great character design: all characters look well made and there is not a pixel that is out of place. Environments are also unique and despite not being a fan of fighting games I am tempted to pick this one up – more so to fight than to actually go through the campaign. The story feels odd for me; being a fan of Wonder Woman and Batman it pains me to see them on opposite sides, but that is how the story goes. Essentially the Justice League has broken into two parts: Superman and his followers who believe in a totalitarian-style regime where order is enforced, or Batman and his followers who believe in free will and choice – that freedom, while imperfect, is important above all else. A lot of Batman’s followers who were not former Superman followers believe in his cause for he believes in redemption and voluntary association – Superman just makes it mandatory for people to be associated with the regime or they will be faced with lethal force.

Strange paradox going on here; choose liberty or choose order – one still has order but there is a strict code and redemption is possible, while the other is peace and stability but with the ever-present feeling of violence just around the corner if you do not obey the rules to the letter. Different trains of thought; great setting for the game but I think I will stick with Superman being reasonable rather than: “you guys are dumb so let me go all North Korea on you and you get to live in peace – live in peace or I will jail and execute you for failing to live in peace.” This time around Injustice feels right, and definitely the second game shows improvements over the first – this might just be my first fighting game in decades.

 

The usual rules apply here folks: the game movie will be located below for your convenience, feel free to check out my Patreon page if you are interested in supporting this blog, don’t forget to check in on Fridays for the Xbox livestream, and thanks for reading!

 

Patreon Page:

https://www.patreon.com/thoughtsandtopics

Livestream channel:

https://beam.pro/Sgt_Montego

 

 

Helldivers: state of the game in 2017, and news on the livestream schedule.

Hello folks!

 

Figured I’d make a single article containing two items this time around – it will be mostly a review of the current state of the online community for the game Helldivers on Steam (Sorry Playstation fans, I do not know what the health of the online community is like on those systems as I do not own a playstation 3 or 4 or Vita) with an update on the situation regarding the livestreaming schedule that is upcoming.

Helldivers; essentially it is a top-down shooter by Arrowhead games (the folks who made Magicka) and it is a Starship Trooper’s themed shooter. This game is chaotic and fun at the same time; friendly fire is always on, and as such all weapons you use must be aimed properly lest you blow up your own teammates and leave you standing alone against a horde of enemy AI. Now this far into the life cycle of the game (the game launched on Steam 7 December 2015) the community online is alive and well. Whether it is day or night there will always be a match going on of various difficulties and as long as you know how to play and work well with your team things will go smoothly.

 

During the afternoons – I find – is when the game is the most active. Plenty of folks tend to play in the afternoon for various reasons, and since we get no information as to the players’ location one has to assume that East coast and West Coast are just thrown in together and players play on a mega server. Playing with mouse and keyboard is of no trouble, and I often find that it is more accurate to aim with a mouse than a joystick so keep that in mind when choosing your hardware (I am uncertain if a controller option is available on PC but look into it should you wish to play using said hardware).

 

Helldivers folks, still alive and healthy 2 years into the game – pick it up on Steam and fight for the Federation (no really, they even named the government: “the Federation” after Starship Troopers)!

 

Alright now to the livestream schedule, thus far it is still a work-in-progress but it seems that I will be streaming in the mid-afternoons to early evening Pacific Standard/Daylight Time on the weekdays. Now these streams are not guaranteed, but this is the best time slot to be streaming on my end so I will make use of this. Feel free to drop by and view the stream – link is in the tabs at the top of the screen under Livestream Link(s) (Beta) as well as below – thanks for reading folks and we shall catch you next time.

Livestream:
https://beam.pro/Sgt_Montego

Helldivers on Steam:
http://store.steampowered.com/app/394510/HELLDIVERS/

Borderlands 2: the state of the game in 2017.

Hello folks,

 

Thought I might do a piece on the state of the game Borderlands 2 in the year 2017 – some folks like to play old games, and why not help them figure out things while you are at it? Diving right into it the game still has people playing online co-op: the multiplayer base is separated by a matchmaker that sets you up with the games that are closest to your level. One reason, I think, this happens is to avoid players jumping into level 61 games and being absolutely murdered when they join in.

 

The most common games I find are ones that are levels 29 and below; seldom do you find games above this level – I have no information to answer the question as to why this occurs. Level 24 tends to produce quite a few public games, with level 14 also producing a similar amount of of public games for players to join in.

 

Being this far into the game’s life cycle there will be times where you are playing in triple digit ping games – best thing to do is adjust your gameplay and hope your connection is somewhat stable enough to handle high ping. Generally I can get the game to run and get a couple of hours in with the title, though sometimes the ping is too high for me to even play so I end up leaving after rubber-banding all over the walls.

 

Borderlands 2 is still alive and healthy for players to enjoy. The game is even healthy enough to be featured on Steam’s stats in the top 20 of games with concurrent players. Feel free to re-install the game or pick it up on a Steam sale if you lack a copy – still alive, still strong.

 

P.S. Bear in mind that this “review” is for the PC version; consoles I do not have a copy of the game nor do I plan on purchasing it at the present.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 Xbox One vs PC comparison/review

Alright folks time to compare and review the Xbox One version of Bad Company 2 to the PC version – figured after a good weekend of gaming done on the Xbox on parallel with the PC it would be best to deliver the results before the “meat” became spoiled so to speak.

Right first off both the Xbox and PC versions have healthy communities after all these years – the game always puts me in a match regardless of PC or console and I can always get a good match or two in before I leave due to boredom. However there are differences in the two communities: for starters the Xbox One/360 community is significantly smaller than the PC community. While playing on the Xbox One the largest match I ever joined was an 9v9 whereas for PC the vanilla Bad Company 2 servers tend to have near to full house of about 24 to 32 players depending on which server and time of day. Now for Bad Company 2 Vietnam the population is even smaller with Xbox putting me in matches of 3v3, whereas the largest I managed to join on PC was 14 players so 7v7 – I even had an 8v8 match or two before some players decided to leave to play something else.

The player count drops even further with Vietnam as players on PC far outnumber players on Xbox with PC matches going as high as 15/32 on large maps whereas on Xbox the largest I have experienced is 6v6 (and this is a consistent number as these are the most frequent numbers encountered). Sometimes both console and PC you can experience empty servers where there is just no one playing at that specific hour – vanilla Bad Company there is always people playing whereas Vietnam there are moments of utter silence.

Now I did drop more currency for the Xbox version than the PC version as I purchased it outside of a sale but despite my diluted sense of disappointment in my lack of restraint the Xbox Bad Company 2 turned out alright. With the game being almost ten years old Bad Company 2 should work on most modern systems (computers) with even my old machine using a 512mb video card able to run the game on medium/low settings.

Players who either want to re-purchase Bad Company 2 or have never played the game cannot go wrong with either choice. Yet I would be lying if I said both versions were equal – the PC version has a higher player count for vanilla, and Vietnam can also deliver a high player count when compared to the Xbox versions which seldom reach their maximum of 24 and even struggle to go past 15.

This concludes the comparison/review of the PC Bad Company 2 vs the Xbox One backwards compatible Bad Company 2 – PC has a higher player count and more chances to get into larger games than the Xbox version, but one can still have fun with the Xbox version albeit on a smaller scale. Thanks for reading everyone; please share this post with other readers, keep track of Thoughts and Topics for more content, check out the Patreon if you so wish, and we shall see you next time.

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Mass Effect Andromeda story arc (Spoilers).

Six-Hundred years since the events of the Commander Shepard storyline, and here we are in another galaxy. Going right into the story you are Ryder, a member of a family of three (you, your father and your sister – mom’s dead, sadly) who have been selected to embark on the Andromeda initiative to colonize the Andromeda galaxy. When you awake your father is the leading human Pathfinder (each race has a Pathfinder assigned to the Arks that carry colonists) and you approach your designated habitat world – a supposed golden world.

Landing on the planet, you discover that the world is uninhabitable and thus the supposed golden world is a bust. Dad dies and leaves you in charge of the mission as the new lead Pathfinder (Sis is still frozen in cryo); from there you venture to the Nexus – the Citadel of the Andromeda galaxy (though not as well equipped as a modern city with bars, night clubs and so on). Upon arriving on the Nexus you discover that the entire mission has gone to hell and all of the other arks – Salarians, Asari, Turians and so on – have either gotten lost, or found that their designated golden world was a bust. Now given a ship akin to the Normandy (named Tempest) you venture into the stars to discover the mysteries of the Andromeda galaxy.

You encounter the dangerous aliens known as the Kett – a bunch of freaks that wish to convert everyone into their mutated species. You encounter a race called the Angara who have been fighting the Kett since they entered the galaxy and they ally with you AFTER you help their resistance rescue people just like how John Connor rescues humans from Skynet camps. You discover that the worlds in Andromeda are linked to a central network created by an ancient alien species that helps terraform planets so that they are habitable. Soon thereafter you discover the Salarian Ark held captive by the Kett, and after sneaking aboard and killing anything that looks like rocks on legs you escape and the Salarians are safe and sound. Note that you also find the Asari ark in the story; before the Salarian rescue mission you encounter the Asari Ark adrift in space and unlike the Salarians who chose to surrender to the Kett the Asari said: “hell no” and opened fire on the Kett. Long story short a famous Asari Commando is on board and ends up being the one who abandoned her Pathfinder so you notify the Asari (it’s a dialogue choice) that this happened and they choose a new Pathfinder – simple.

 

Soon after you head to Meridian – the supposed central network which turns out to be a giant floating city. After further discovery you find out that it is a key, and that the actual Meridian is off into the distance hidden within the Scourge – a giant dark energy mass that initially knocked your Ark off course. The Kett leader then takes your dear sister, now awake, hostage along with the Ark, and you go into Meridian to rescue everyone. Turns out Meridian is a hollow world like the world you wake up on in Halo 4, and you kill the Kett leader and the human ark is stranded on Meridian making it the new home for humanity in the Andromeda galaxy. The final cutscenes have you gather your crew to go out and explore the Andromeda galaxy, for you have finally made it to Andromeda after a 600-year sleep in cryo across dark space and with a home established it is time to explore the galaxy.

 

Right let us get this out of the way – no you are not Shepard’s kid or descendant as you leave Earth during the events of Mass Effect 2. When you go into Cryo and begin the journey you will have missed the Reaper War which takes place a year AFTER you have left. Bioware seemed to have wanted to skip having to deal with the Mass Effect 3 ending and so they simply have you leave before the war broke out – clever, right?

 

The facial animations also feel stiff at times. Sure I was initially skeptical of what Youtubers were saying, but after watching all five hours of the game movie (you can thank me later folks – up until 1am PDT to do this review for you) I can safely say that there are plenty of moments where the expressions of the characters feel stiff and emotionless. Witcher 3 managed to have emotion throughout the entire game, whereas here they only have some moments where they break a smile or have a gesture expressed on their faces – the rest of the time it’s stiff, Mr/Mrs: “I am serious like the Terminator.”

The story felt a lot like Mass Effect 1, but without a deep knowledge base to dig through about the galaxy as you are the first explorers who enter the Andromeda galaxy – the Angarans you encounter part way through the game really have little knowledge of their galaxy and so you are back to square one. Regarding aesthetics I don’t really like the space suit armor you are forced to wear throughout the game. Now the game movie has the Pathfinder wear standard default gear per se, but it just feels off; maybe it is because I am used to personalized armor with bandoliers of ammo and ornate power armor ie: Space Marines from 40k, but it just feels as though everything is all uniform and sterile – like there was no effort made to make the characters feel different.

 

Andromeda was an interesting story, and the new galaxy offers many opportunities for gamers to imagine what things would be like out there. Indeed the first world you encounter has floating mountains and flying creatures – something the Milky Way does not. Still, despite the mysteries of the new galaxy I cannot help but wonder why they just left everything behind to start a new life so far from Earth and the other worlds. Krogans I can understand, but Salarians, Turians and Asari were the dominant species back in the Milky Way, and at the time of the initiative setting off not even humanity had a decent spot on the council on the Citadel. Still, perhaps they desired something different, so off they went into the unknown, never to return, and never knowing how the Reaper War ended for the rest of us. The way they side-stepped the questions sort of bothers me, and again the story feels a lot like a re-hash of Mass Effect 1 – again without any history to the territory to which it takes place.

 

This is the point to all of it; Andromeda is a new beginning. Wherever you go, no one really has any idea what is going on, and they lack the knowledge of the worlds they inhabit to make it an easy ride per se. Andromeda ends off with a neutral ending (as I like to call it): the can have a sequel, or they can just leave it there if the game is not a hit with fans and create something else. There is room to grow, but whether that growth takes place or not is up to the developers – for now it basically sits like this: “colonists reached Andromeda: some got lost, some found their way, and soon they will have their own evolution in culture and technology separate from the Milky Way. This effectively means the colonists in Andromeda will never know what happened to the Milky Way, and we will never know if the initiative ever made it safely to Andromeda (600-year cryo-sleep to reach Andromeda means most folks will age out naturally (colonists out of cryo in Andromeda) by the time the visitors reach Andromeda – this also means a return trip is near impossible as once the Ark ship (only Arks can travel to Andromeda) reaches the galaxy it will be dismantled to provide support to the colonization efforts).”

 

Below is the link to the five-hour game movie, enjoy!

 

Mass Effect Andromeda game movie:

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