Horizon: Zero Dawn

The Game

It’s been a couple weeks since gameplay footage for Horizon: Forbidden West were shared by game developers Guerilla Games. With that you may be asking yourself if it’s time you finally played Horizon: Zero Dawn if you haven’t already or giving it a replay if you already own it. The short answer is YES.

For those who haven’t already played it, Horizon: Zero Dawn is set in a post-apocalyptic version of our world, where the earth is roamed by giant mechanical beasts and civilization has descended into warring tribal factions. You play as the badass machine hunter from the Nora tribe – Aloy, a woman outcast as a child with a mysterious past that is more connected to the state of the planet than she thinks.

The tutorial zone brings you up to speed with hunting machines and sneaking around the world, which are the main two actions that comprise the core gameplay loop. There are a variety of machines and classes, much like animals in the real world. Each machine will have one or more elemental types, vulnerable spots (hit these), and behaviour. Initially you’ll start out with a bow and staff as your weapons, but as the game progresses you will amass an arsenal capable of taking down even the toughest machines. You’ll have access to bows, traps, slingshots and some more unique weapons like the ropecaster, rattler or tearblaster.

Once you’ve completed the tutorial zone you’ll be thrown onto into the massive open world onto your mission – this is where the game really opens up and let’s you do whatever you please. There are loads of side quests, collectibles and challenges to keep you in the game for ages and as if that wasn’t enough, the game has an awesome photo mode which will allow you to tinker with Aloy’s pose, filters and many other options – allowing you to get the perfect shot.

Worth it?

Generally you can find the game on sale for around £10.00 including the Frozen Wilds DLC, which is an absolute steal. If you focus on only the main quests, the main game will probably take you around 20-25 hours to complete, but if you’re like me and end up helping almost everyone you meet or getting side tracked with collectibles and various other activities you’re looking at at least 40 hours. The game is a visual masterpiece – the thought and details behind every machine are amazing, the scenery, the landscape and the story all deliver on a both a personal and a big picture scale. There are some minor ease of life improvements to be desired like being able to pay to fill your medicine pouch, also sometimes the climbable areas can be a little hard to see, but none of these are really deal breakers. The size of the world and amount of things to do can be a bit daunting and I did occasionally struggle to find the motivation to finish it, but I was very glad when I did finally see it through to a close.

Overall the narrative, character design, aesthetics and gameplay will transport you to another world. The size of the world and the amount of things to do will keep you busy for days. Some fights will really get your heart going and the story will make you think about the world and humanity as a whole. This is a modern classic, making it most certainly a must play. With a sequel coming soon, it’s definitely worth picking this up, especially considering the low prices.

Tips

  • Get the machine override components as soon as you can
  • Choose your fights – you don’t have to take down every machine you see
  • Farm animals for meats and skins
  • Upgrade your carrying/ammo capacity from the “Crafting” part of the menu
  • Rather than trying to figure out a machine’s weaknesses with your focus in the fight, open the menu and check your notebook for details on all scanned machines
  • Use overrides to pit machines against each other
  • Use the ropecaster to tie down flying enemies
  • The tearblaster is incredibly strong at close range and can help strip a machine of it’s most lethal weapons
  • Aim to get the purple level weapons/armour as soon as you can, you can also have a variety of weapons to switch between depending on the enemy
  • The lure/call skill can be very useful when trying to pull a specific machine to a stealth area for a quick and quiet kill

Useful Links

Final Fantasy VII Remake

The Game

Final Fantasy VII Remake by Square Enix is a brilliant introduction to the Final Fantasy series for anyone who’s never played any of the other games in the series. The original game was released in 1997 and made quite the impression. 23 years later the remake version was released. It keeps much of the original story, modernises the visuals and and has a truly unique battle system.

The game is a JRPG with “turn based” strategy elements in the combat – they aren’t really turn based, but you can essentially pause time and pick a move to perform. During fights you will be battle using your basic and heavy attacks to fill your ATB gauge, once that’s filled you can essentially pause the game and choose from a variety of spells and abilities to perform on your enemies. This system is quite rewarding, and fun to use, the combat itself can be quite hard as you block and dodge attacks and spells. There are some truly epic boss fights and monsters in this game, becoming more and more powerful as the story progresses.

The story is based around a group of “eco-terrorists” attempting to take down the evil corporation Shinra that is destroying the planet by draining it of its magical life force – mako. It’s set in a steam-punk(ish) fantasy world and you play as Cloud, an ex-SOLDIER – as you find out that means you have some pretty unique combat skills and are generally quite powerful. You are a mercenary, but you find yourself helping out Avalanche (the eco-terrorists) and cultivating your friendships with the key characters of the game. The game is rich with amazing side characters and stories all set in a detailed semi-open world (zone/level-based).

Worth it?

The game has a gripping story that makes you want to keep playing for hours on end. The combat system is quite unique, although it can take some time to master blocking due to the fact that dodge can be somewhat unreliable. There are some truly epic boss fights and the game is visually stunning. Levels are generally quite linear (except the more notable districts). The game is exclusive to PlayStation and will set you back around £60 on the PlayStation store, so you may want to keep on the lookout for better deals or discounts. Admittedly it’s only a year old and has hours of gameplay for you – with side questing (which I highly recommend), it took me around 32 hours to complete the game.

Overall I’d highly recommend the game, especially for anyone who’s never played a Final Fantasy game – it turns out there’s actually little connecting the various games in the franchise story wise, so this is as good a game as any to jump into the series. The game offers a good challenge, hours of gameplay, a rewarding and unique combat system, stunning graphics and a compelling story.

Tips

  • Always have Materia equipped so that you can level them up – they increase their level simply for being equipped in battle
  • Get the Assess Materia as soon as you have an option to do the side quest for Chadley, which is basically one of the first side quests in the game
  • Use blue Materia in linked slots in order to enhance or interact with the other Materia – Magnify and Elemental are two of the more notable ones
  • Always be on the look out for hidden chests and destroy any Shinra boxes you encounter
  • Interrupt enemy spells by using spells or abilities on them while casting (while they have a red text above them)
  • You can reset your weapon points/upgrades by visiting Chadley
  • You can use healing spells outside of combat

Useful Links

The Wanderer

The Game

The Wanderer is a mobile game made by Jamie Parish, an indie developer. The game draws inspiration from other post-apocalyptic titles (a few nods to Fallout), you will be challenged to survive and wander around the irradiated plains of what used to be a civilised world. At the beginning you are given a base camp where you can manage and store your resources, upgrade certain devices that will aid your survival and generally rest and reset between exploration missions. The core gameplay loop consists of you venturing out from your camp to various points on the map where you hope to find resources. Each hour of movement will cost you water and food, which you must replenish with the resources that you find. You will also have to maintain your health, illness and radiation levels as various foods or events can have an impact on those.

The game gives you some neat customisation options when starting out as well as a list of options that can make your playthrough even more challenging (should you choose to enable them). You will also have skill points to spend and you’ll earn more each time you level up. On your adventures you will often encounter random events where you will have a choice between several interactions – sometimes you may run into someone who requires some items, other times you may get attacked by irradiated monsters or bandits. When you arrive at points of interest you will be able to collect resources, these will reset each time you return to your home base. While there isn’t much to the core loop it can be quite addictive as you try to collect the resources you need to upgrade your tools and the ultimate goal is to repair the old van, which will massively aid you on your journeys.

Worth it?

The game has come a long way from its humble beginnings and there is really very little to fault on it. It’s great as both a casual game or something you spend hours on, trying to gather the right resources. There are some very minor gatcha elements like a log in reward, reward chests and you can watch videos to help boost XP or buy premium currency (which allows you to fast travel or respec), but for the most part these are completely unneeded and not intrusive at all.

Overall it’s a great little game and has all the key elements to keep you engaged for longer periods of time – things to build and upgrade, plenty to explore, some tricky resource management at times, quests, achievements, levels and even things like daily login rewards. It can be great for either a short play where you just go and explore a few locations or for extended sessions where venture much further from your home base or work towards building that van and upgrading your camp as much as possible. Definitely worth checking out as it is still being updated and actively improved,

Tips

  • If you are over exposed to radiation you will mutate – this will prevent you from getting radiation or illness from eating bad food, but you will lose health every hour. This can be easier to manage than constantly buying radiation masks
  • Revisit places near to your base – these reset every time you go back to your home base.
  • Focus on upgrading your backpack and base storage
    Recruiting the dog companion can be very useful as it can do really good damage at a higher level, however you will need to give it food and water
  • Don’t bother healing the dog as it will restore health provided it’s got food and water
  • Invest some points in Agility and Strength in order to increase the size of the hitbox in combat, as sometimes combat is pretty unavoidable
  • Ammo sells for quite a few caps
  • Karma will affect the sort of things that you find when scavenging – better karma, better loot

Useful Links

The Outer Worlds

The Game

The Outer Worlds developed by Obsidian and published by Private Division is a game that may look quite familiar to the more observant amongst you. You would be right to point out the many similarities to Fallout but it’s also worth mentioning that this is the team behind Fallout: New Vegas (but not the newer ones). In a nutshell, The Outer Worlds is what the newer Fallout games should have been.

While it may have a similar retro-futuristic atmosphere to Fallout this game is actually based in the 24th century when humanity has left Earth on its mission to colonise the stars. Similarly to Borderlands you’ll find that corporations and companies are in charge of life on these planets and in a typical hyper-capitalist fashion they are focused on exploiting people until they die – all in the name of maximising their profits. Quite early on you will learn that The Board is in charge of the colony of Halcyon where you now find yourself after being woken up from a hibernation pod, where you’ve spent the last 70 years. However, the colony is in a dire state and it’s up to you to sort it (or not).

The game is heavily decision based, has brilliant dialogue options and gives you an unimaginable amount of freedom. You don’t like this quest giver because they looked at your strange – that’s fine, you can kill them and keep playing. Of course all such decisions will influence the world around you and you’ll quickly learn that every action has consequences and not everything is black and white. There are virtually infinite ways to play through the game, in fact after I finished my first play through I couldn’t just put the game down and instead started a new playthrough immediately, now trying to do the opposite of what I did on the first play through – easier said than done. Virtually every quest will give you at least one decision to make at some point, this will affect the outcome, your relationship with factions and in some cases even the ultimate fate of the colony.

The combat is essentially the established and familiar mechanics seen in the Fallout series. You can choose from a variety of weapon types, be it melee or range, different damage types and weapon mods. This will allow you to customise your weapons so that you can have the perfect gun (or hammer) for any occasion. During combat you can use the TTD (Tactical Time Dilation), which slows down time and allows you to hit enemies in their most vulnerable places.

Worth it?

While the game doesn’t necessarily do that much “new” stuff it cements its place in gaming history with some of the great titles of this genre like Skyrim or Fallout: New Vegas. The Outer Worlds takes an established and successful formula and turns it into an epic masterpiece. The visuals are stunning, the dialogue is extremely well written, the story is compelling, the characters and their backstories and off the cuff comments are brilliant. There are many side quests and regions to explore, each with its own unique challenges. An average play-through of the game will take about 20-25 hours (my first playthrough was 27hrs and I did a lot of side-quests), depending on how many side-quests and dialogue options you engage in, but as mentioned above that’s only going to be one version of the story. You can easily replay the game taking a different approach and be introduced to other stories and characters. The replay value and potential of this game is actually brilliant – while some key story points may remain, getting to them and their outcomes can differ immensely.

If I had to fault it (which is really difficult) I would say occasionally it sounds a bit empty – maybe some sort of radio or a bit more on the music front and there’s the occasional visual bug, but that’s being picky. At full price the game will set you back £49.99 – honestly I do think that’s a bit on the expensive side as its now a couple years old as well, but you can frequently find it on sale for a much more affordable £19.99 – check out the links below for some good deals on CD keys. If on sale, I highly recommend you give it a go (especially if you’re a Fallout fan, who’s been left wanting after recent games). Overall it’s a brilliant game, great visuals, aesthetics, dialogue, story and gameplay. An absolute must play.

Tips

  • If you are doing ok and not being particularly challenged, don’t spend your skill points as you may reach a point where you need a few extra points in a dialogue option or lockpicking and those spare skill points will come in handy.
  • You can actually make your character dumb at the start of the game, which will unlock some [Dumb] dialogue options (and even a dumb ending) – definitely doing a playthrough like that.
  • Persuade/Intimidate/Lie are useful skills to avoid doing leg-work. Being able to talk yourself out of a situation can save you time.
  • There’s always multiple ways to handle a situation. Sometimes you may see a door that’s locked and think it’s the only way through, but if you look around you’ll often find alternative options – maybe a key somewhere, some dialogue or a PC you can hack that will get you through.
  • Generally speaking there’s two main paths to take – you either help The Board or you help Phineas the scientist who saved you. Each option has a variety of main quests you’ll need to complete to progress with many important and impactful decisions along the way.
  • Adding things into your medicine slots means that you will ingest that when you restore your health.

Useful Links

Spider-Man (2018)

The Game

Spider-Man by Insomniac Games is a PS4 exclusive released in 2018. WARNING there may be some spoilers ahead. The game let’s you play as your favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man in a fresh take on the story. The game throws you straight into the action as your first task is to take on Wilson Fisk aka the Kingpin, but fret not, putting him in prison is only the start of your adventure…

The story sees you take on various criminal organisations and both familiar and less familiar super-villains. However a large part of the game is based in the world outside of the story. Whereas normal games may have a few open world objectives, this game is actually packed with bases, challenges, collectibles and mini-side-quests. There are also a few side quests, but personally I think a few more could have been added, although with all the other open world objectives I understand why there aren’t that many. Completing quests will unlock Spidey costumes, each with their own unique abilities that you can mix and match across suits. The suits are a great element to the game and really keep you collecting the various tokens you need in order to unlock them. Each suit power is quite unique and it doesn’t feel like there’s necessarily a hierarchy but rather different powers for different play styles.

As the story progresses you will but heads with super-villains like Electro, Rhino and even Doc Ock (to name a few), while also learning about Norman Osborn and Otto Octavious’ past. At this point it’s probably worth mentioning Miles Morales – if you have watched Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, you will already know who this is although his story hasn’t quite begun yet in this story line. Some missions will let you play as Miles or MJ where you need to rely on your stealth to get past enemies (as you can’t match Spidey’s powers). These missions provide a nice break from fighting as Spider-Man and slow down the pace a little so that you can appreciate the tension of a given situation. There are also a couple mini games that recur in both main missions and side quests, these are generally pretty easy to solve, some of the more complex ones can be pretty fun to solve.

The combat is a fairly familiar combo-based type with access to nifty gadgets, badass finishers and aerial combat. Unlike other games with such combat (like Batman or Shadow of Mordor), you’re reliant on your Spidey sense to dodge incoming attacks as opposed to parrying or countering specific enemies. This takes some getting used to as combat is all about mobility, frequent dodging and the use of your gadgets. As you progress you will be able to upgrade your gadgets and unlock new and improve skills from the skill tree.

Worth it?

The Game of the Year edition was on sale for £26.99 when I purchased it recently, but generally speaking you shouldn’t be paying more than £30 for the game, DLC included. The DLC offers a lot of extra gameplay and open world objectives as well. The campaign takes about 20 hours to complete, depending on how much of the city you explore and complete. Swinging around the city is quite an experience and they have really managed to create an immensely packed world with constant activity and distractions for you to get stuck into as you swing around the city. You can never just go from A to B – there’s always something going on somewhere on route that needs your attention.

Overall I would definitely recommend the game to someone looking to keep busy over a long weekend or few days. The open world stuff eventually becomes a bit repetitive and you want to finish the story. Unlocking new suits is awesome, although I found myself sticking to one super power that I generally liked and one power-up configuration too. It didn’t feel like there was much benefit to unlocking other suits other than aesthetic purposes or collecting them. The story is good and fun, albeit fairly predictable for the most part. Generally speaking, a solid game.

Tips

  • Webbing enemies to walls is a way to instantly immobilise them, punching or throwing webbed enemies at walls will stick them to the wall permanently
  • Get the extended perch takedown skill – it increases the range of the perch takedown dramatically, so you don’t have to be directly above or near the enemy – this comes in handy for stealthier missions
  • The perfect dodge to takedown skill can also be very useful as it can allow you to play a bit more defensively if you are getting overwhelmed by dodging at the perfect time and using that to get your takedowns
  • If you feel that you are getting overwhelmed use your gadgets to get out of a bind
  • Experiment with different suit powers to find what works for you

Useful Links

Infinitinode 2

The Game

Infinitinode 2 by Prineside takes tower defence games to a whole new level. The game is a follow up on the quite successful Infinitinode, taking a lot of what made that game great and improving on it. Amongst some of its most notable features are the mind-boggling research tree, the custom map creator and editor, regular updates, daily quests and seasonal leader-boards.

In total the game has 15 unique towers, each with it’s own set of in-game upgrades which allow you to specialise that specific instance of the tower. From Tesla coils to flamethrowers, cannons to lasers – this game has them all. The game also features 9 regular enemies and several bosses – each enemy has specific tower’s it’s weak against, so it’s up to you to place the right towers in the right places.

If all the defending wasn’t enough the game also has mineable resources on each map. You can build special excavation units on these positions in order to harvest said resources. You will need these to upgrade your towers.

The game offers a series of pre-made maps as a campaign – especially challenging towards the end. If you complete the campaign you will unlock endless mode, which serves as the “endgame” – offering better prizes, infinite waves, harder enemies and even more research.

Worth it?

The game has an option to watch videos to increase a level’s winnings by 25%, it also has a chest decryption element that will give you prizes over time, once your chest has been decrypted. Other than these two “gatcha” elements, the game does a very good job of keeping you in without bombarding you with ads or crappy micro transactions. It offers you daily missions with rewards, I even missed a day and it saved my progress allowing me to resume from the last day I completed. There are some purchase options around double gains, personally I haven’t purchased any of these but if you’d like to support the developer this is probably a good way to do so (and reduce your grind time).

Overall this is an amazing tower defence game with excellent RPG elements – the skill/research tree is a really addictive element, wanting to constantly upgrade and improve your towers, buying global perks or improving your resource mining capabilities. The custom map editor, daily challenges and endless mode give the game insane replay value and will keep you coming back for more and more. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves a good tower defence game.

Tips

  • Set up a custom farming map on which you can grind papers and resources
  • Make sure you progress the story branch of the research tree in order to unlock levels
  • Get the BOUNTY modifier tile as soon as you can, this will help you massively when grinding coins in game
  • Use the wiki and reddit for more advanced tips

Useful Links