Deus Ex Mankind Divided: That’s me sorted for a few weeks, then

To celebrate my copy of Deus Ex Mankind Divided (which I pre-ordered ages ago) arriving today,  I thought I’d post the launch trailer to SquareEnix’s latest games in the series.

20160824_182655I really enjoyed DX: Human Revolution once the boss battles had been patched to be more aligned with how you wanted to play so I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with Mankind Divided and my PS4.

I’ve also posted a picture of my copy, ready for me to play (I also note you can see my socks in the image. Hopefully, they match!)

Here’s the blurb from SquareEnix on what’s the game’s about:

“In 2029, after the Aug incident that resulted in the deaths of millions, mankind stands divided. The oppression of the mechanically augmented has created a climate of fear and resentment, resulting in an escalation of crime and acts of terror. Amid all the chaos, Adam Jensen goes after the Illuminati, the men and women responsible for tearing the world apart. Armed with a new arsenal of state-of-the-art weapons and augmentations, he must choose the right approach, along with who to trust, in order to unravel a vast worldwide conspiracy.”

 

Here’s the trailer:

 

Anyone else picking this game up?

 

No Man’s Sky: Fly, land, gather

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*Apologies if this review seems a little disjointed in places. I just had so many thoughts and ideas about No Man’s Sky that I just jotted them down.
For the first time in a long time, I’m torn over what I think about a game.
The game in question is No Man’s Sky, the procedurally generated survival/exploration game from small British developers Hello Games. One moment I’d decided I’ve had enough because the relentless grind to farm more resources from another planet was getting too much or the game has crashed yet again while trying to warp between systems,  the next something wonderful happened and I’ll play for another hour.

My quandary is that while I don’t hate No Man’s Sky, neither am I in love with it and I can’t see myself playing it in a month’s time. Why? I think it’s because after visiting 20 or so planets, I think the grind has finally got to me.

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No Man’s Sky starts with you on a uniquely named planed (every player starts on a unique planet), your spaceship a piece of wreckage and you having to hunt for the resources to get it working again so you can head into space. Simple.

 

You’re armed with a multi-tool – a mining tool that lets you blast rocks and minerals – and a survival suit, and not much else at this stage. After you’ve hoovered up enough plutonium, carbon or whatever other mineral is needed, an onscreen message will tell you to repair your ship’s busted launch jets and pulse unit, meaning you can head into space.

I couldn’t even pronounce the name on my starter planet: Subaiawag-quyli IE906. Sure, I could have renamed it to something more personal, more meaningful but was there any point?

I upgraded my multi-tool’s  scanner equipment which let me scan and catalogue fauna and flora that I came across. I found a weird dinosaur-like thing so renamed it Gerasauriis Bipodal. I scanned some more animals and some plants. I uploaded the data to some giant space database and got some galactic credits for my trouble.

I found crashed escape pods which offered blueprints for upgrades to my multi-tool or space ship, and I unlocked beacons at settlements that revealed the locations of things like alien ruins, distress transmissions or colonial outposts. It give me a reason to stay on a planet for a bit, exploring it rather than roaring off world after a few minutes.

No Man's Sky_20160811205707Then the grind set in. I had to constantly mine for things like plutonium and other isotopes that would keep my ship fuelled and my survival suit working. My son suggested No Man’s Sky is “Minecraft but in space” and I guess he isn’t far wrong, in some respects.

I landed on a planet that had water that was -75deg. I’d started to wish I’d packed my 7mm wetsuit in my spaceship’s boot. It didn’t matter: A large whale-like creature with a red icon floating above its head swam past. It looked hungry. I decided to stay out of the water and walked back to my spaceship. A creature walked up to me: It looked friendly – but then it head butted me, draining some of my health. I shot it with the weapon function of my multi-tool and  got  back into my space ship, took off and found somewhere else to land.

Settlements on planets often have alien lifeforms that speak to you and offer you things like blueprints but after a few encounters you realise that they’re trotting out the same type of dialogue and there is no real interaction with them.

Orbiting a new planet, I was alerted to a distress signal planet side. After traveling to what seemed almost the entire circumference of the planet, I discovered an abandoned space ship. I compared the stats of the new ship and my current one – and while on paper it was better, l was reluctant to repair it because a) it was a toxic environment and there were hungry crabs surround the space ship and b) it was a toxic environment and there were hungry crabs surrounding the space ship. I headed off world, happy with the decision I’d made.

I didn’t venture much into caves on planets as I’d heard that heard that because they’re procedurally generated, chances are they might not end – and if you can’t remember what direction you can from, you’re screwed as you can’t warp back to your ship from anywhere, either.

I headed back into space and coming out of a warp into a new system, I landed smack bang in the middle of a space battle. I took down one of the three enemy ships but, sadly, my ship was out gunned and I spiralled into a death role and blew up. I re-spawned on the nearest space station and my ship had lost the items in its storage slots but, thankfully, my grave was still floating in space the next time I fired up the game.

No Man's Sky_20160810233958I found a space station and was sucked in by its tractor beam. On board was a solidary alien, sitting behind a desk. He spoke some language that I didn’t understand but the game told me he wanted me to handover my multi-tool. I refused, not sure what would happen. He applauded my stand, apparently, clapping. He gave me some more words of his language. I was still confused about things.

Hello Games have nailed the thrill of pointing your spaceship at a planet, engaging the pulse drive and racing to your destination. It’s seamless, too: You see your ship’s heat shield glowing pink as you enter the planet’s atmosphere, spreading pastel colours across the craft’s nose, then it’ll level out as it hits the planet’s atmosphere. It’s all automatic, though: You can’t crash your ship into the planet or objects and landing is as simple as pushing a button.

There is combat, but to be honest, it’s lacklustre and involves either shooting at the galactic police sentinels because they think you’ve mined too much stuff or at pirate spaceships that are after any precious cargo you’ve got onboard.

No Man’s Sky is a survival game as much as it is an exploration game but the grind is real, and after a handful of hours, I started to wonder whether the grind had got too much. I’m not even sure the carrot of reaching the end of the universe is enough for me to carry on.

One of No Man’s Sky’s biggest flaws  is the number of inventory slots you have in your ship and exosuit. You don’t have enough to space to start with – and your suit will constant nag at you about it “NO FREE SLOTS IN SUIT INVENTORY”” –  so you’re constantly having to transfer items between your suit and ship,  and eventually discarding stuff just to free up space. You even have to have a free slot in your suit inventory just to talk to another alien!! I find this mind-boggling that I must have free space in my inventory to talk to an alien. That’s like saying I can’t talk to a work colleague until I’ve taken something out of my jeans pockets first.  It’s madness!

 

After a few hours, though, plants that you saw three planets ago start looking similar to the plants on the planet you’re currently on, and the animals you saw four planets ago kind of look similar to the ones in front of you now.  That’s not surprising, as the animals are all generated from a finite pool of body parts so it’s inevitable that eventually similarities are going to happen. A lot of the plants look similar but are just named differently, too.

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On the technical side, No Man’s Sky crashed several times while I was either warping between star systems or preparing to warp. When it crashed the sixth time in six days, doing the same thing, I decided enough was enough and decided to call it quits until it’s more stable, even though I was having moments when I was enjoying it.

No Man’s Sky is probably one of the few games that I’ve really been conflicted about it. I like that you can explore a huge galaxy – and Hello Games have done a nice job of making you feel you are in a huge universe – but I not really big on the fact that after a few hours the game becomes a grind and, frankly, a little tedious.
Hello Games is an indie studio – despite the fact that PlayStation handled all its PS4 marketing – and should be applauded for trying something risky and ambitious, but I can’t help but think that because of the massive hype heaped upon it by both PlayStation, games media and gamers themselves, it was never going to live up to expectations.

 

I really do think No Man’s Sky is a slow burner game if you have patience, and if you’re a gamer who gets satisfaction from resource gathering then more power to you but for me, I’m at the point now that the relentless grind of doing the same thing over and over again is just getting a little too much. Also, I don’t think it’s worth $NZ95. It’s been promoted as an indie game from a small study but it’s commanding a premium price.

I’m sure in a few months No Man’s Sky will be a much different game to the one that it is now (a new patch was released for PC and PS4 on Friday) and chances are I’ll revisit it sometime in the future just to see  to see what has changed, but for now, I’m done with No Man’s Sky. There just isn’t enough variety to keep me interested any more.

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S: mid-range tablet

Samsung TabPro S

In the quest for portable computing devices, many people are turning towards hardware that doubles as both a tablet and laptop.

Enter Samsung’s TabPro S, the latest iteration of its Galaxy Tab line-up (I own one of the original Galaxy Tabs. It was good then: Not so great now).

The TabPro S is  a 12-inch tablet, running Windows 10 and aims to take on the iPad Pro and probably Microsoft’s Surface Pro device.

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The TabPro S in its locked, upright position

The TabPro S comes with a keyboard cover (yes, it’s included in the price) that snaps onto the base of the body via a magnetic coupling. At first, I wasn’t sure that the keyboard cover was strong enough to support the tablet in an upright position, but once I’d got the hang of it, I pretty much kept it in that position while I had it, using it to watch movies via streaming services like Netflix and Lightbox, web browsing and general tablet-related activities.

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A close up of the TabPro S’s keyboard that acts as a cover

While the keys don’t have much travel and are quite close together, I was able to touch type accurately most of the time but definitely not to the accuracy that I could on a standard or mechanical keyboard. I also wouldn’t advise using the keyboard on your knees: It’s quite unstable so needs to be used on a sturdy flat surface like table or desk.

The super AMOLED screen is the hero with the TabPro S, offering full HD at a resolution of 2160 x 1440 resolution. The screen does have quite a large bezel, though, but it didn’t detract from my time with the tablet. Strangely, though, it doesn’t come with a stylus: I can see this device as just the ticket for design or art work.

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The Samsung TabPro S in tablet mode

Under the hood you’ll find 4Gb of RAM and an Intel Core M CPU (a dual core CPU clocked at 2.24Mhz), which means that the TabPro S isn’t a powerhouse performer but it means that battery life is fantastic, offering several hours use  before needing a charge.  Apart from a 3.5mm headphone jack and the USB-C charge port, there are also no other connections on Samsung’s device so you can’t connect other devices or a USB flash drive.  The TabPro S has 128Gb of flash storage, which should be enough, given the push these days to save most of your content to the cloud.

A nice touch is that you can pop in a SIM card and access 4G speeds if you’re out of Wi-Fi range.

I definitely see the TabPro S as productivity machine rather than a gaming one, but thanks to its Windows 10 operating system, you can stream content from your Xbox One console to the device. I streamed Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption to the tablet and it worked flawlessly and lag free. It’s a great feature if your Xbox One is connected a TV that is being used by other people but you want to get your game on.

A downside for me, is the lack of a USB port but Samsung are clearly going for portability (it tips the scales at less than 700 grams) and thinness with the TabPro S.

The TabPro S isn’t a laptop killer or replacement thanks to its medium range specs but it would be ideal as a BYOD device for a school student or a lightweight business tablet.  It’s also a great device for consume multimedia content like Netflix or other streaming services.

A good effort from Samsung.

 

Esper: Moving things with the power of your mind

Ever pretended that you were Magneto from the X-Men movies, using your powers of telekenisis to pick up objects and/or people and fling them around the place as if they were nothing?

Oh, you haven’t – me neither – but while Esper, a game built for the Samsung GearVR from British developer Coatsink, doesn’t put you in the spandex suit of Magneto or any other super hero, it does let you pretend you have the ability to move objects around – with the power of your mind!

Esper1BSet in 1975 (so there’s a lot of brown and beige), Esper places you in the shoes of a test subject at a secret government testing facility where you have to prove your not a threat to society by completing a variety of puzzles.

Controls are simple, which is what you want in a game that involves mind powers: Look at an object and tap on the GearVR’s touchpad to pick it up (the object will glow with a blue outline), look around to place it somewhere then tap on the touch pad to drop it. Simple. If you want to move the object forwards or backwards in 3D, you simply slide a finger backwards or forwards on the touch pad. If you don’t want to play with your right hand on your head the whole time, you can also use a compatible Bluetooth controller (if you have one, obviously).

At their most simple, the puzzles involve things like simply lifting beach balls and Rubik’s Cubes and getting them to their respective destination. Most times, though, you’ll have to negotiate obstacles like glass pipes or other impediments to get to the end goal.

Puzzles start easy enough, but soon enough, the difficulty ramps up when the game throws in things like thickened glass that blocks your telekinesis. The puzzles aren’t difficult enough to have you ripping off your GearVR headset and throwing it across the room in frustration but you’ll have to think outside the square to solve some of them.

Esper2BEsper reminds me a lot like Valve’s game Portal, another game where you have to solve puzzles using the environment around you, except this one is for a VR headset, is a heck of a lot cheaper and, in true British humour, you spend the entirety of the game sitting in a leather office chair, behind a desk, while a plethora of puzzles appear in front of you, thanks to moving walls and opening hatches.

I actually played Esper 2, the sequel to Esper, before I played Esper so I had a pretty good understanding about what to do coming into Esper but some of the latter puzzles still stumped me at first. I never threw my headset across the room, though. Esper, and Esper 2, are great games when you have a few minutes spare and you want to, you know, throw beach balls around an office for a bit.

Esper is a great example of how to do an accessible, fun VR game that won’t break the bank and really shows how immersive VR games can be. Plus it lets you have mind powers. It’s win, win, really, isn’t it?

Recommended if you own a Samsung GearVR (it’s also available for the Oculus).

<Thanks to Coatsink for providing a code for the game. Cheers>

No Man’s Sky: Survive

PlayStation have released the last trailer in its four-part series: Explore, Fight, Trade, Survive in the lead up to No Man’s Sky coming out on August 10.

The new trailer, Survive, show you’ll face not only deadly creatures and toxins but extremes in temperature. Here it is here:

There’s still a lot of uncertainty about No Man’s Sky, a lot of questions about what do you actually do apart from just flying from planet to planet, scanning the world and discovering stuff. They’re valid questions and the universe is so big the chances of actually running into another player are slim. I’ve said it before: No Man’s Sky is either going to be amazing or people will play it for a few weeks then get bored with it and move on.

What are your thoughts?

I haven’t actually done a lot of gaming lately, apart from completing the Gary Busy elusive target mission in Hitman, which, to be honest, was far too easy and over far too quickly but I have been playing around with Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S, which is a hybrid tablet/notebook running Windows 10.

While it’s not a gaming device, it does let you stream Xbox One content to its HD screen which is nice if you can’t use the TV your Xbox Once console is connected to because someone is watching TV.  Look out for a review soon.

 

No Man’s Sky Trade & Fight trailers

PlayStation have released trailers two and three for upcoming space exploration game No Man’s Sky., titled Fight & Trade. The final trailer, which will be released in a few days, I’m guessing, is called Survive.

I posted the first trailer, Explore, on the site the other day but if you missed it, here it is:

No Man’s Sky is out on PlayStation 4 on August 10.

No Man’s Sky: How many zeroes are in quintillion?

I have to say when I first heard about No Man’s Sky, a game from British development studio Hello Games, I really didn’t know what to expect – and I wasn’t that excited about it.

All it seemed to be was visit a procedurally generated planet, scan lifeforms, get back in your ship then fly to the next planet. Rinse and repeat.

Well, the more I’ve seen of No Man’s Sky, though, the more intrigued I’m becoming and my thinking has changed about it. Sure, it’s still all about exploration and naming the lifeforms you find (I can guarantee there will be a few creatures named after body parts – and I’m not talking about arms and legs) – but it does look as if there’s a bit more to do than what we originally thought.

There’s clearly a lot of people who thought the same as me as PlayStation is releasing four game play trailers before the game comes out in August that showcase the four key things you can do in the game: Explore, trade, fight and survive. The first video, Explore, is up above.

Did you know No Man’s SKy has 18 quintillion planets? EIGHTEEN QUINTILLION PLANETS!!! How many zeroes is in a quintillion?

Look, I see No Man’s Sky going one of two ways: It’s either going crash and burn (into one of its procedurally generated planets) and people will be really confused or be amazing and we’ll all happily be exploring planets until the end of time.

We’ll know in August when it comes out.