Monthly Archives: December 2014

The year that was

Well, by the time you read this, there will only be a few hours left of 2014 and it’s been a pretty good year, both personally and professionally.

I can’t say the same thing about the games, though. For me, 2014 was a bit of a flat year for games, mainly because it was the first year since I started writing about video games about 10 years ago that I wasn’t writing reviews for a regular publication, so review copies were far and few between (big ups to Xbox, EA and Ubisoft for sticking with me).  So, a lack of review copies, and not a lot of disposable cash to spend on  games in the early part of the year, meant I didn’t play that many games in 2014. Sad but true.

But before I get into my gaming highs, here are probably the biggest personal highlights of 2014: I started a new part-time job with Air New Zealand, which is a complete departure in terms of what I did for the past 20 years and I started up a new business called Write Angle Ltd where I can indulge my writing passions and write editorial content for websites and publications (www.writeangle.net).

It has been a year of change and growth. Ok, the self-promotion section is over …

OK, on to the games in 2014. As I said earlier, I haven’t actually played a lot of games this year so I’m limited by what I can pick are my favourites but if I had to pick three they would be: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4), DragonAge Inquisition (PC) and Sunset Overdrive (Xbox). I also pre-ordered The Witcher 3’s collectors edition on PS4 (although I’m contemplating changing it to Xbox One. I’ll ponder that one).

I haven’t picked those three games because they cover the three main gaming formats (at least I didn’t consciously). I picked them because these were the games I had most fun playing this year.  I bought Shadow of Mordor myself (yes, with my own money) from NZgameshop.com after reading positive reviews. I’m glad I did: It’s a stonking game that had me caught  hook, line and sinker.

I’m still playing DragonAge Inquisition – it’s a freaken huge game – and I am enjoying it much more than I imagined I would, despite not really being into role-playing games.

And Sunset Overdrive was a highlight for the Xbox One and one of the consoles true stand out titles. There haven’t been many outstanding Xbox One exclusives so the hype was heavy on Sunset Overdrive, but I’m glad to say it delivered.

Apart from those games, I haven’t really played much else this year. Oh, I did play Far Cry 4, and that’s great fun, too. I’ve got reviews of all the games I’ve mentioned on the site. At the moment, I’m contemplating buying This War of Mine from Steam. I’ve been contemplating about buying it since yesterday. Will I, won’t I. Will I, won’t I …

Lastly, I’ve been blessed to have some dedicated readers who have followed me from my stuff.co.nz days to Game Junkie 2.0. I appreciate you all and thank you for visiting my site. I’m hoping to grow in 2015 with hardware reviews but we’ll see how that goes.

Have a great and safe start to the New Year and once I’m back from summer holidays (end of January), I’ll kick into the site and see if I can make an impact this year.

Thanks again.

 

Far Cry 4 review: A land where you’re really just lunch for a wild animal

Far Cry 4: It looks idyllic but I bet there's a ferocious honey badger lurking behind a rock somewhere.

Far Cry 4: It looks idyllic but I bet there’s a ferocious honey badger lurking behind a rock somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Far Cry 4, Ubisoft’s latest in the series which pits a normal guy against a raging loony in a Himalayan principality called Kyrat, I like to think of the player as nothing more than a meatsicle. A tasty treat just waiting to be eaten by a bear, a bengal tiger or … a honey badger.

You see, in Far Cry 4 you’ve got to have eyes in the back of your head so you can see the animals coming in for the kill. I lost count how many times I was standing on the top of a grassy knoll when for no reason, I was attacked by a pack of wolves.

Or the time I was minding my own business and a bloody great eagle swooped down and attacked me. Or the time I was standing on the roof of a shack and something with sharp teeth decided it wanted to eat me for lunch. That’s the proof right there: That Far Cry 4 is nothing more than a game where the wild animals are more frightening that dictator Pagan Min’s thugs. As well as tigers and bears,  you’ll encounter rhinos, yaks, deer, pigs …

Then there’s the honey badger. What the hell is a honey badger? I can’t say I actually knew what a honey badger was before Far Cry 4. They look so cute until they start biting your face. One thing I know: A few honey badger skins make for a nice weapon holster.

It makes it sound like all there is in Far Cry 4 is animals that want to eat you, and that’s not true. There’s a heck of a lot to do as you fill the boots of Kyrat-born but US raised Ajay Ghale as he tries to get his dead mother’s ashes to her final resting place, and if you’ve played Far Cry 3, you’ll recognise the pattern where the more of the game world you unlock, the more side missions you unlock.  Far Cry 4 is like a fancy all-you-can-eat buffet: There are plenty of delights to keep you satisfied for a very, very long time.

I’m going to digress for a minute: my history with Far Cry began when I played the original game on PC, a few years ago. It was a game that would cause your PC to smoke if it wasn’t powerful enough (much like Crysis). Sadly, mine was never as grunty as it should have been.

But back to Far Cry 4 … In terms of open-world games, Number 4 ticks all the right boxes – without really being revolutionary. That said, some of the most serene moments were when I hopped onto a little propellor-driven helicopter and glide across the Himalayan tree tops. You can jump onboard an ATV and blat about the dusty trails, drifting around corners (although I struggled with the controls to start with) You can scale radio towers to destroy the propaganda-spouting machines at the top.

Another great thing was actually using the environment as a means of clearing out enemy outposts. Elephants, wild dogs, bees … In one case, an elephant was being held in a pen. I shot the lock (alerting the guards, of course) but causing the elephant to rampage, trampling the soldiers, leaving me with only one or two to take care of. Once you unlock the ability to ride elephants you get to cause all sorts of chaos.

far_cry_42If you’ve played FC3, you’ll get to grips with FC4 right away, too  – it’s not that much different from FC3 (but now have auto-drive on vehicles if you have a side-arm equipped and there’s a co-op mode) but it’s villain Pagan Min that really shines, here. If you thought Vaas in Far Cry 3 was a brilliant bad guy and couldn’t be beaten, well, think again. Pagan Min takes the crown.

I’ve loved exploring Kyrat and as I often do with open-world games I’ll get sidetracked by side missions and ignore the story missions all together (eventually you’ll have to get back to the main missions, though). As I said before, there’s enough content to keep an open-world fan busy for weeks –  although that can be a double-edged sword. Often games that have too much to do, too much content, can be overwhelming and players might give up because they just can’t do it all.

Far Cry 4 is a great game that is strengthened by its villain Pagan Min.

Just watch out for those honey badgers. They’re not as cute as they first appear.

DragonAge Inquisition: A game that steals time from me – but I’m not complaining

DragonAge Inquisition: Action RPG that is great fun.

DragonAge Inquisition: Action RPG that is great fun.

I’ve been meaning to write something about DragonAge Inquisition since, well, I first started playing it a couple of weeks and 25 hours ago, but every time I sat down, fingers poised over my keyboard, I was instead drawn to the DAI desktop icon, which I promptly clicked and started playing the game.

I think that action in itself says a great deal about what I think about Bioware’s latest action-RPG: That’s it’s good enough to distract me from writing some thoughts about it.

I’ve always liked Bioware’s games – and I didn’t even rage at the ending of Mass Effect 3 – but after playing the first two DragonAge games I wasn’t sure I’d be interested in the third in the series. I didn’t get as deeply involved in DA as I did ME but after a handful of hours with DAI, I was hooked.

dai_review10Inquisition is an action RPG  where the player controls a character of your own making, depending on the class you choose. I chose a mage and if I have one regret about things it’s that I rushed through the character creation menus a little too quickly, getting a rather generic character. If I have one piece of advice, it’s spend a bit of time getting your character just right: You’ll be playing him or her for dozens of hours so you want to be happy.

The game opens with your character appearing from a green rift in time, just one of many that has opened up along DAI’s game world. As you gain the trust of those around you, you’ll face off against demons, templars … and dragons, if you’re brave enough.

While the first few hours of DAI are fairly pedestrian, stick with it as after a while the game opens up and becomes truly stunning, especially once you reach the Storm Coast and recruit tough guy Iron Bull. Don’t rush from the opening Hinterlands, though: Take your time and explore, close fade rifts, do jobs for farmers, collect magical shards. Just take your time.

DA Inquisition is also a game where you can actually spend hours just doing side missions for the people of Thedas before you even tackle the main story missions. That’s what I’ve been doing and it’s a good way to build up your party’s skills as some of the demons and monsters can be quite tough.

It’s also amazing what you’ll stumble across as you explore the land. I came across a giant fighting a dragon while exploring the Storm Coast.  I get too close but I climbed a nearby hill and just watched the incredible feat. The first time I stumbled across a dragon my party was underpowered so was wiped out pretty quickly.

sep_2_-_quiversDA Inquisition’s combat can be as complex or as easy as you want thanks to the game letting you pause mid-battle to survey your surroundings and issue orders to your three squad mates. It’s a nice option but most of the time I just blasted foes in real-time with spells from my staff.

I’ve ready a few people have had problems with DAI – I’m playing it on PC – and have experienced once crash to desktop and a DX Diaglog error when I start a few missions using the war room. It’s apparently an Origin issue, so I’ll keep investigating.

Would I recommend DragonAge Inquisition? Wholeheartedly yes. It’s an amazing game that has set the bar high, as well as issued a challenge to CD Projekt Red’s now-delayed-again The Witcher 3 for the crown of best action RPG.

We’ll have to wait until May to see how The Witcher 3 stacks up.

Thanks to the team at EA Australia for the PC code that was used for this review