Monthly Archives: June 2017

More VR goodness from Esper developer Coatsink

Update: Coatsink got in touch today, letting me know that Augmented Empire will release exclusively on Samsung’s GearVR headset on July 13.The game will have game pad and Gear VR controller support, offers 10+ hours of gameplay across 26 missions, combining exploration and turn-based action and features six upgradable characters and 60 environments.

Original story: I’ve always had a soft spot for British developer, Coatsink, the studio behind Samsung Gear VR titles Esper & Esper 2.

Now, the studio has just released a new VR game, A Night’s Sky, and has another one in the works, Augmented Empire.

 

 

Coatsink says of Augmented Empire: “Augmented Empire is a story-driven RPG set on the island of New Savannah, an isolated neo-noir city divided into three tiers by the ‘Citizen Grade System. While the citizens deemed of high societal value live in luxury at the summit, outliers and criminals are forced to live in squalor at the island’s depths. From the armchair of their secluded hideout, the player uses simple look-and-click controls to instruct their team of 6 augmented misfits in a world rendered as an ‘augmented reality’ diorama before their eyes while interacting with the office around them to investigate new developments, make calls and develop the skills of their team.”

The game will feature the voice talent of Kate Mulgrew (Orange is the New Black, Star Trek Voyager), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), Doug Cockle (The Witcher Series) andGarrick Hagon (Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Horizon: Zero Dawn).

A Night’s Sky, which was released in April, uses point and touch controls to connect constellations in the night sky to form patterns among the stars. “As different shapes are discovered, strange and wonderful creatures are brought to life that stride, bound and glide around the hillside.” Coatsink plans to release new DLC content packs monthly, with the first one coming out this Friday, featuring an owl,  a dragon and butterflies. It’ll set you back around $1.40 (£0.79, $0.99 and €0.99), if you’re interested.

I’m intrigued by Beyond Good & Evil 2 but I’m wary of the hype

Of all the E3 game reveal trailers that I watched, the one for Beyond Good & Evil 2 probably impressed me the most.

The trailer of the Ubisoft game showed a dramatic tonal shift from the original Beyond Good & Evil – despite being a sequel to the original game and featured an opening focusing on a smart-mouthed monkey and an equally aggressive pig. It was a bombastic affair, more adult themed than many E3 trailers – and I liked it. If that’s the tone for the final game, then I’m in.

Days after seeing that trailer, though, I was slightly deflated: It seems the trailer was based on the developers thoughts on what the game’s tone could take. The game is ages away from being completed and has hardly been started. In fact, the game was first announced nine years ago so it’s been in the pipeline for some time!

There was no gameplay footage at E3 but Ubisoft did hold behind-closed-doors sessions with Michel Ancel showing off what was essentially a tech demo, showing some of the mechanics they hope to include in the game. Central to the demo was the monkey character that featured in the reveal trailer. He had a rocket pack on and was piloted around the huge main ship, said to be 400m long. The monkey had come from a smaller ship, which was around 20m long,  that had come from the open maw of the bigger vessel. There was a lot of talk about what the developer wanted to achieve or see but little concrete evidence that it’ll actually happen.

We saw the ship physics as the smaller ship zoomed around the landscape, switching to hyperspeed then launching into orbit, an impressive particle engine showing off the friction as the craft broke the planet’s atmosphere. We had promises of things to do on planets and amazing atmospheric things with planets. It all sounded fantastic but it was a very, very small slice of a game that will probably be two years away, and with no guarantees that any of that will make the final game.

Ancel showed the scale of what they want to achieve by landing the monkey on the top of a 600m-high deity statue that towered over the city below then – in developer mode – pulled back to show just how large the world was. It gave an idea on the scope and scale Ancel wants to achieve with BGE2, and that’s admirable, but I’m wary until more game play has been shown that actually show the meat of what the game will be. I’ve heard too many games in the past promise so much then fail to deliver on many of the planned features (ie Sean Murray and No Man’s Sky, many games from Peter Molyneux).

Sure, be excited about Beyond Good & Evil 2 but be cautious at the same time: We’ve been burnt before by games over-promising and under delivering, right?

 

 

Logitech G Pro gaming mouse: FPS weapon

Logitech G Pro gaming mouse ($70)

I’m mesmerised by the light show that displays on the Logitech G Pro gaming mouse.

Seriously, I am: The mouse has LEDs around its mid-point and in its big G log that change colour from green, to light blue, to dark blue to yellow to green to pink to violet.

Light show aside, there’s more to the G Pro gaming mouse than in impressive light show: It’s a bloody good mouse for fans of low-profile and lightweight mouses (mice?).

With six buttons (left click, right click, a clickable scroll wheel, two thumb buttons on the left side and a DPI (dots per inch sensitivity) button behind the scroll wheel) and weighing in at 85 grams, the G Pro gaming mouse isn’t cluttered with options but the buttons all feel responsive, with a nice feel to them. This is one of the nicest gaming  mice I’ve used in a long, long time.

It really does feel nice in the hand and the braided mouse cable just gives it a classy look. Testing the mouse on Bethesda’s Wolfenstein: The New Order (which I only started playing over the weekend after finding it for sale on Steam) and early access game Astroneer, the mouse didn’t miss a beat. It really is a solid, gaming performer. I like it. A lot.

The DPI button lets you switch between 200 and 12,000 DPI and if you download and install Logitech’s Gaming Software, you can customise the lighting and button configurations as well as using default configurations for a variety of games. The software will search your system for installed games and assign a set up, if appropriate. That’s just amazing.

In terms of colours, Logitech says there is something like 16.8 million colour combinations but I’ll take its word for it: I’m not selecting them all to find out.

While aimed at the e-sports gaming market, Logitech’s G Pro gaming mouse is a robust, high-performing mouse that will perform superbly no matter what game you throw at it. I’m impressed.

 

Logitech M331 silent mouse plus: Silence is golden

Logitech’s M331 silent mouse. The one I have is racing red.

Logitech M331 Silent Mouse Plus ($40)

Logitech’s silent-clicking M331 mouse is just the ticket for the busy office environment.

It doesn’t make much noise at all.

Hardly any noise when clicking, hardly any noise when sliding, hardly noise when scrolling. It’s pretty much  silent – and I like that about it. Logitech says it has eliminated 90% of the mouse’s click noise, and I believe it: It’s barely perceptible when it comes to clicking, scrolling and sliding.

Small and portable, the M331 comes with its wireless USB receiver tucked in its insides, fits into a laptop bag easily  and I found it really comfortable to hold for extended periods of time. The mouse worked well on a variety of surfaces: The glass top of my home desk, the laminate top of my work desk and even my leather couch.

Sure, the M331 is lacking programmable buttons of higher-end, more pricey mice (mouses?) but this peripheral isn’t designed for fast-twitch gaming (that’s what Logitech’s G Pro gaming mouse is for. A review is coming for that one). Logitech says the supplied AA battery will power the M331 for 24-months: I’ll have to take its word for that, at this stage, as I haven’t had it anywhere near that long.

Look, this review is going to be short and sweet because, well, there’s only so much you can say about a mouse. There’s one caveat: The M331 won’t work for left-handed people. It’s right handies only, sorry.

For my money, the M331 ticks all the right boxes when it comes to a portable mouse for laptop use.

Sit tight, I’m spamming you with E3 trailers

E3 is here.

The gaming expo that takes place in Los Angeles, California every year. I’ve been three times in my life but haven’t been since 2010. They were good times.

Yesterday and today, various publishers (Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, EA) revealed new gameplay trailers of upcoming games (upcoming means 2018 as well).

I’m posting some of those trailers here, in no particular order. Sit back, relax and enjoy.

Let me know what you think – if you’re so inclined. E3 continues until the end of the week. I’ll post more stuff when it comes through.

Beyond Good & Evil 2 (Ubisoft):

Southpark: The Fractured but Whole (Ubisoft):

Far Cry 5 (Ubisoft):

Assassin’s Creed Origins (Ubisoft):

God of War (PlayStation):

Metro Exodus (multiplatform):

Anthem (Bioware, Xbox):

Middle Earth Shadow of War (multiplatform):

Spiderman (PlayStation):

Uncharted The Lost Legacy (PlayStation):

Shadow of the Colossus (remake, PlayStation):

Wolfenstein New Colossus (Bethesda):

Huawei P10 review: Chinese smart phone goodness

Huawei P10 (around $1000)

Huawei’s P10 smart phone.

After a month using Huawei’s P10 smart phone, I’m starting to wonder whether the other phone giants should be looking over their shoulders.

Since arriving in the New Zealand market in 20XX, Chinese manufacturer Huawei has been starting to make inroads in the smart phone market dominated by Apple and Samsung. The P10 is one of the company’s flagship models (the other is the P10 Plus), aiming itself at Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S range.

I put my own Galaxy S7 and the P10 side by side & they’re roughly the same thickness. The P10 doesn’t have a physical home button on the front of the phone’s chassis and the only physical buttons are the volume rocker and a stylish red-coloured power button. The P10’s finger print scanner  is blazingly fast. Amazingly fast, actually.

Often with the fingerprint scanner on my S7, it’ll take two or three times before it’ll unlock my phone. With the P10, it was unlocked instantly and first time. Powered by a Kirin960 Octacore CPU and packed with 4Gb RAM, Huawei’s phone has a 5.1-inch full HD panel, a 3200 mAh battery, 64Gb of storage and is running Android 7.0.

I used the P10 every day for pretty much a month and was impressed with it. I used it for a mix of social media, web browsing and general day-to-day stuff and the battery life seemed about standard with a modern smartphone these days (about a day). Call quality was good and the camera excellent.

With dual Leica lenses (20MP on the back and 12 MP on the front), the P10’s camera is damn good. I was impressed with the resultant images, taken in a variety of light conditions (although I only have shots of the lake near my house here). I’m still undecided whether the camera is good as that of my Galaxy S7, though, which is my benchmark for smart phone cameras, though.

If there was one thing I wasn’t that keen on with the P10 it was the EMUI user interface: I just didn’t like the look of the interface as much as that on my Galaxy S7 or stock Android. That’s just my personal preference, though, and isn’t a deal breaker as the rest of the phone is so damn good.

I really enjoyed testing out the Huawei P10 and I’d definitely consider buying one if my Samsung Galaxy S7 suddenly died tomorrow.

 

Impact Winter review: Surviving winter

Inside the church where Jacob, Blane, Wendy, Maggie and Christophe are sheltering after an asteroid struck earth, plunging it into winter.

According to Wikipedia, an impact winter is “a hypothesized period of prolonged cold weather due to the impact of a large asteroid or comet on the Earth’s surface” – and that’s the premise behind Impact Winter (PC: Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later this year), a survival game from developer Mojo Bones and published by Bandai Namco.

Players control Jacob Solomon, one of four survivors eeking out an existence in an abandoned church after an asteroid has hit earth, plunging it into perpetual wintry conditions. The group’s robot companion, Ako-Light intercepts a radio transmission indicating that help will arrive in 30 days. You have to explore the game world, searching for supplies to help you survive until help arrives.

The game really does an excellent job of a bleak existence as the result of a cataclysmic event. Jacob’s fellow survivors – Christophe, Blane, Wendy and Maggie – can be given tasks to complete while Jacob goes out and searches abandoned house for supplies and equipment that will help speed up how long it takes for help to arrive.  Tasks can be things like repairing the church to upgrade its resilience in the harsh weather or making equipment that help in the search for better supplies. In the game’s early stages, Jacob will also has to make sure that the fire in the church, which provides heat and cooking facilities for the group, is constantly fueled.

Part of the charm (is it charm?) about Impact Winter is that there’s a real sense of urgency in trying to find supplies then get back to the church to get stuff done. Every time Jacob or the other survivors achieve a milestone, XP points are earned and  time is taken off how long it will take for help to arrive, allowing more skills/roles to be assigned to the characters. There’s also a real sense of hopelessness at times with Impact Winter as during one expedition I had to hurry back to the church as I was notified that Blane was not feeling well. By the time I got back to the church – the temperature had plummeted to -7 degrees – Blane, Wendy and Christophe who are all bed-ridden, hungry and unwell, and the fire had died. I wasn’t doing too well and had to use all the wood I had gathered to help repair the roof to fuel the fire.

Jacob trudging through the winter.

Impact Winter does a great job in setting a gloomy, post-apocalyptic scene, with Jacob wading through knee-high snow and being buffeted by arctic winds. Houses and business as dark and gloomy and often you’ll have to decide what to take and what to leave behind. Ako-Light, your robot buddy, has a powerful spotlight that is useful for illuminating dark spots and can help dig out objects from the ground.

Sadly, Impact Winter is hampered by technical issues, which is a shame. Sometimes, the game takes a while to load (but that seems to have been sorted) and even though I was using a game pad, button presses don’t always do what they’re supposed to. The key layout just seems to be a mess (apparently, a patch is on the way to sort out the key binding issues).

Technical issues aside, there’s a huge amount of depth to Impact Winter – and a huge amount to like – and it’s a game where you have to carefully pay attention to the other members of your party and not go Rambo and head off on your own for too long. Sure, it takes a bit of getting used to juggling everything you have to do to survive – I’m failing miserably right now – but Impact Winter is an interesting idea that just needed a bit more polish before it was released.

Jacob outside the entrance to the church where the survivors are living.

 

Thanks to Bandai Namco for providing a review code for Impact Winter.