Astroneer: The game in Alpha that just gets better & better

I haven’t backed many games through things like Kickstarter. Maybe four or five in total.

I backed Tim Schaefer’s Broken Age, which in hindsight I wished I hadn’t as it took far too long to arrive and then I didn’t actually end up playing it (I think it took so long to get finished that I just  gave up on it completely.

I obviously haven’t lost faith in Schaefer completely as I’ve also backed Psychonauts 2. Hey, the original game was underrated and bloody good – and I have to admit, progress on number two is looking really good (I hope it isn’t fool me twice, shame on me with this one).

Late last year, I backed mountain biking game Lonely Mountains. I think it appealed to me because a) It has a really appealing low-poly look to it and b) I like mountain biking so it seems like a win-win for me, really.

Last year, I also backed Astroneer, from System Era Software and I have to say I haven’t regretted it for a second. The game is still in its Alpha stage but, man, the team behind it is knocking it out of the park with new features and support.

Long story short: You’re an astronaut on a proceduraly generated planet that must craft and mine to survive. It sounds simple but, actually, it’s quite complex.I guess it’s kind of like Minecraft but in space and with 3D printers that you can print buggies and a backpack that lets you craft dynamite and power generators.

The most recent update – the biggest update yet – has dramatically changed the opening moments : Instead of a simple capsule habitat, you  know have a wonderful, large base. Oh, just watch this video, you’ll see what I mean.

This is one game that I’m glad I dropped the cash on.

Let me know what you think about Astroneer in the comments.

Monster Hunter World diary Part 1: Where I have no idea what I’m doing

Part 1

While not a complete Monster Hunter newbie (I played a Japanese version on the PSP that I bought in Akihibara in 2008) but I’d be foolish to say that I went into Monster Hunter World having a clue on what I was supposed to be doing. That said, I thought I’d chronicle my adventures in MHW with a diary of sorts that describes how as a newbie I found things. I’ve also included a 15 minute video of me hunting a Kula-Ya-Ku bird. The video also features me climbing vines, opening my map a bit, swinging a giant broadsword, possibly eating some mushrooms and then, true to form, fainting and being carted back to my campsite. OK, here we go …

It’s me with my Palicoe buddy. Isn’t he cute?

I’ve only played about two hours of Monster Hunter World but this place is massive. I stuck with a fairly standard looking character, trying to get him to look a little like me, although I don’t have the rugged stubble on the chin that my hero does. I’ve got a cat companion called a Palicoe. I called him (I’m assuming he’s a he) Drew, after my dog. He’s a good companion so it seemed a good fit.

After completing the opening tutorial-like mission, I got to the hub world, and just like the environments, this place seems to sprawl on for ever and ever, another surprise around every corner. I followed the tutorial so I’ve learned how to (I think) upgrade my weapons and armour by going to the smithy and, importantly, how to fuel up before a big quest by gorging my face with food. I just love going to the canteen, ordering a vegetarian meal (I’m not vegetarian) and being served up a huge platter of cheese, drink and a whole fish! Cooked by Palicoes! This place is crazy.

On my first quest, which was really just exploring the world, I took down some low-level dinosaurs (I can’t even remember what they were) and hit in some undergrowth. I stumbled across some footprints that my scoutflies (is that right?) discovered. Apparently there is a big Jagras in the forest somewhere that I need to take down, if I’m up for it. Well, I decided I was up for it, despite not really knowing how combat works and still struggling with my great sword and its slow swing rate.

I followed the Jagras footprints till I eventually came him and what followed was a three-stage battle, with me mashing wildly at the action buttons on the controller, every now and then accidentally sheathing my sword when I thought I was swinging it. The Jagras puffed his chest out a lot and he reminded me a lizardy bullfrog. After a bit, he ran off, leaving me lying on the ground, having to eat mushrooms and smack flying bugs that replenished my vitality. What is this madness?

I still had to defeat the Jagras and the scoutflies lead me to his cave lair, where I found him sleeping – so I did what any good hunter in my position would likely dowould do: I whacked him in the back, hoping to injure him. It didn’t seem to work. Actually, I just seemed to make things worse. Long story short: After a lengthy battle that included hitting explosive flying things that stunned the Jagras, he was down. I was victorious!

I went back to hub world, fuelled up, upgraded my weapons (I still have no real idea what I’m doing but I’m not sporting a rather fetching outfit with armour fused with Jagras skin), chatted to my handler and was told I had to establish a hew camp deep in the forest. A flying monster picked me and Drew up, dropping us at the forward base camp. My handler tells me I have to establish another camp so off I head.

I stroll past some docile monsters, pick up some berries and other plants, and talk to a fisherman. I also collect some mucus, some dung and examine some piles of bones. I think the fisherman tells me he’s the best fisherman in all the land. Who am I to argue?  There’s a researcher woman standing a little bit further up the track. Doesn’t she know there are monsters roaming? I didn’t see if she had a weapon: I think she had a pen and clipboard, thought.

Suddenly, a Jagra appears so I hide in a bush. It walks past me then suddenly a tyrannasauraus-like monster appears. My handler tells me that I’m not to attack it as it is too strong for me. I don’t argue with her.

I eventually find the field leader who was waiting by some climbable vines that I missed completely. I think I walked past him a couple of times before realising I was supposed to talk to him. We climb up the vines, finding a flat piece of ground that will be suitable for a camp – but there’s a Kulu-Ya-Ku bird there, throwing pottery at us. I have to kill it as the camp won’t be safe if he’s wandering about.

I follow the Kulu-Ya-Ku’s phosphorous footprints, finding some doodles along the way, and eventually find him. I start swinging my giant sword at him. He picks up a bolder in his claws and throws it at me. I whack him with my giant sword, it clangs off his tail. What is is made of? Steel? The Kulu-Ya-Ku runs off but I lose track of him. I look at the map. Oh, he’s miles away. I eat some berries and carry on. Eventually, I find him, swinging my sword at him. He whacks me with his tail.

I hit some flying bug: It explodes, stunning the Kulu-Ya-Ku. I rush in for a charged swing but realise I’m facing the wrong was so watch my on-screen character swing wildly nowhere near the Kulu-Ya-Ku. My health is dropping so use the D-pad to scroll through my inventory. I find some raw meat, picking the button that I think will let me eat it. It doesn’t: The meat drops on the ground. I try again: The meat drops on the ground. The Kulu-Ya-Ku throws another rock at me.

Suddenly, a screen prompt tells me to waggle the left stick back and forth: I’ve been stunned. I frantically try but suddenly, I faint. That’s not very hero like, to be honest.

A cut scene suddnely appears, showing a palicoe tipping me off a cart back at the base camp. I decide I’m done for the day and quit the mission. I’ll try again tomorrow, once I’ve eaten a bit and licked my wounds. I’ll get you funny looking Kulu-Ya-Ku bird. I’ll get you yet.

To be continued …

Shadow of the Colossus: The Knight & the next one after that

I’m making my way through Shadow of the Colossus, the PlayStation 4 remake of the 2005 game which originally appeared on the PlayStation 2, but until my review appears, I thought I’d share a video of the game’s third colossi, the Knight, and the game’s fourth colossi, which I can’t remember the name of. Whatever its name is, it took far too long to defeat as I kept falling off (plus it took a long time to get into the right position). Review before the weekend, hopefully.

Enjoy the videos.

Shadow of the Colossus opening cinematics (PlayStation 4 Pro)

Thanks to PlayStation NZ, I’ve got an early review copy of the remake of Team Ico’s classic PlayStation 2 game Shadow of the Colossus, which I’m playing through at the moment (I’ve also played it on PS2 and PS3), so I thought I’d share the opening cinematics of the remake with you.

Captured on a PS4Pro, the game has been remade for Sony’s current generation console thanks to the remaster masters, Bluepoint Games, who have done other PlayStation games in the past. Look out for a review in the next week or so.

Enjoy the video.

COD World War II review: He ain’t a fan no more


This review comes courtesy of my longtime collaborator over the years – and my son – Mitchell. He’s done a few reviews for this site before so here he is with his take on Activision’s COD: WW2. Hold onto your hats, it’s going to get a little bumpy …


I have been a fan of the Call of Duty series for a number of years.

2010 brought us the release of Treyarch’s first installment into the franchise, Call of Duty Black Ops. Black Ops was received incredibly well by the gaming community and to this day, remains at the sixth best selling Xbox 360 game of all time.

Black Ops was the first Call of Duty game that caught my attention from the get go and was what ultimately turned me into a COD fan. I had played the earlier games such as MW2 and WAW, but they never really got me into the series as a fan.

A few years later, Treyarch studios released Black Ops 2. The sequel to the game that kickstarted my obsession with the FPS genre and is still my favourite game in the series. There isn’t a single game that I have played that comes close to touching the amount of hours I clocked up playing Black Ops 2. I couldn’t even tell you how many hours I spent on that game. I was addicted: Spending hours on end, hurling abuse at the TV when someone got a “lucky shot” on me or spammed grenades across the map.

Call of Duty has changed a lot throughout the years, though. What was once considered to be a realistic war sim, in which a serious fan base was a part of, has turned into a “twelvie shit show” with jetpacks and laser guns. But hey! That seems to be all Call of Duty is nowadays right? Pre pubescent teens screaming down their mic’s, playing obnoxious music and telling you that they’ve slept with your mum. Welcome to the modern Call of Duty fan base.

The past few iterations of the Call of Duty series have been a severe disappointment, to put it bluntly. The developers stemmed too far from the original premise. Once a realistic war simulator that was somewhat representative of past and present warfare, became an entirely different style of game that was almost Halo-esk, with jetpacks, space warfare and laser guns. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive Halo fan and always have been, but when these additions come to a game which was once a realistic war FPS, my mindset changes.

Since 2014, the COD fanbase has been rapidly declining, with old fans of the franchise like myself even jumping ship and finding new games to explore, either still in the FPS area like Battlefield and Overwatch, or in my case, switching to an entirely new genre all together. I have moved on from FPS, outgrown it. I just cannot be bothered with the online community and constantly being disappointed by a series that I once loved. I would much rather play a game with a well-developed story and a character that I can bet behind. Games like Dishonored and Horizon Zero Dawn seem to be where all of my attention goes these days. These games excite and immerse me in ways that Call of Duty never could. Sure Black Ops 2 is my most played game in terms of hours clocked, but that was years ago. Even the power of nostalgia cannot reignite my passion for a Call of Duty game.

That being said, new year, new Call of Duty game. This year brought COD back to its roots, with a game set the middle of World War 2. This did initially get me a little bit interested, just as it did years ago. I experienced something that I hadn’t felt since 2012… excitement for a Call of Duty game. Paired with this excitement came a lot, and I mean A LOT of skepticism, which is only natural for someone who has been let down every year since Black Ops 2.

When WWII was released, this skepticism turned into hope. Hope that I wish I never had, because on boot up, I experienced an array of server issues, terrible spawn timing, ridiculously over-powered guns, supply drops (money grabbing pricks) and of course, screaming 13 year olds. I stuck it through, however, just for a while for the sake of this review. I played the multiplayer for around 10 hours, tried a majority of the weapons and classes, played about half of the campaign and the verdict is that WW2 is not surprisingly, a Call of Duty game. There’s nothing quite like getting shot in the back from a player who spawned directly behind you who then proceeds to teabag your corpse.

The main issue I feel like, besides Activision themselves, is the fact that they returned to their world war 2 roots after abandoning it for so long. This past warfare homecoming, wasn’t the greatest idea. The premise of war has been so over developed in video games and other forms of pop culture. If you have good taste in movies, or are a fan of the depiction of war in visual settings, you will most likely have seen Saving Private Ryan and or the series Band of Brothers, which in my opinion are both absolutely fantastic in depicting the catastrophic and devastating nature that war has not just on countries and nations, but an individual’s psyche as well.

One of the newest portrayals of war, Dunkirk, released this year shows and entirely different side of war. It shows war as being less about mindless goons fighting, and more about survival and the genuine terror of the individuals involved. What I’m getting at is that these depictions have set the bar so high in terms of the accurate portrayals of war, that when Activision decided to return to WW2, it was without a doubt a hit or miss situation. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, again, Call of Duty missed the mark.

WW2’s campaign fails to meet the challenge of creating a well received war story that is new. As well as returning to a past setting, it also feels like Sledgehammer Games returned to outdated game mechanics, with a game that feels like it’s on rails and is riddled with quick time events. It brings nothing new to the table and ultimately negates the “heroic” attitude that they were going for. I honestly don’t know how many more times we can see the American perspective of D-Day. Quite frankly, I am sick of seeing it over and over again. That is my biggest gripe with the game:  We weren’t given anything new at all. We were force-fed the same Allies vs Nazi’s scenario, which is something that we have seen countless times, simply because it is an easy story to tell, with definitive good and evil. Despite its lackluster campaign gameplay, Sledgehammer did get one thing right. I did genuinely appreciate the visual effects within the campaign. The gore and emotions shown by the soldiers was a really nice touch that ultimately helped to make it feel more authentic although it followed the same generic cliche.

Call of Duty WW2, as stated earlier, is unmistakably a Call of Duty game through and through. For some people, that is enough. But for me, I was looking for a lot more. If it was any other game in the COD series, I would not have cared for the campaign or let it influence my review because it’s Call of Duty, and Call of Duty’s main focus is multiplayer, which is quite good, don’t get me wrong, but considering that it is based on the biggest war of our time, I was expecting a lot more in terms of the campaign.

Ultimately, I just cannot be bothered dealing with the fan base or spending a ridiculous amount of time playing a FPS anymore. I’ve gotten older, I have other priorities, COD no longer captures my attention as it did a few years ago.

If cliché war stories don’t bother you and all you care about is playing multiplayer, then you’ll be happy with WW2 and I’d recommend picking it up because in my opinion, in terms of multiplayer gameplay, it is probably the best Call of Duty game we’ve gotten from Activision since Black ops. But unless you don’t mind hearing squeaky screaming and inappropriate calls about your mother, I’d recommend muting that headset.

Thanks to Activision for the review copy

Assassin’s Creed Origins: The video review

OK, I’m trying something new here: A video review rather than a long-form written one.

It’s not perfect – word from pre-screening audiences say that the game volume is quite loud in the beginning (so you’ve been warned) – and I likely bumble a few words here and there (thanks nerves). Also, at times it sounds like I’m reading from a script, which, funnily enough, I was.

I’ve taken a while to take the plunge to do video interviews: As a former newspaper and online journalist, I hate the sound of my own recorded voice, after years of hearing it while transcribing audio interviews, so have tended to stick to what I felt safest doing: Written word reviews where I can express my opinions without anyone hearing what I sound like.

So, have a listen, prepare yourself for slightly loud game audio, and leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your feedback, and who knows? If it’s positive enough, I might do more of them.

As always, thanks for visiting.

Skyrim on Switch: Take an arrow in the knee, anywhere you like

You can now play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – henceforth known as Skyrim – on the toilet.

Think about that for a second: You can now play one of the most well-known RPG games from Bethesda while sitting on the porcelain throne. Is this the future of gaming?

Skyrim on Nintendo’s machine is the remastered version that was released on consoles in more recent times and it’s the real deal, although if you’ve played the remastered version – or the original game itself – you’re not going to find anything that you have seen here before. Make no mistake, though, this is Skyrim through and through – and it feels like Skyrim.

The Switch outputs Skyrim at 1080p when in docked mode and 720p in portable mode and to my untrained eye, it looks pretty damn good, although you can tell it’s a six year old game, graphically at least, when you look at the character models especially: People look slightly rough around the edges but textures are generally sharp and clear. Again, this is Skyrim in portable format.

The Switch version makes use of the consoles unique control system, too: You can use the Joycons for melee combat, casting spells and firing arrows, like you could in Breath of the Wild. It felt natural when firing a bow but combat felt a little sluggish when using the motion control system, so I tended to use the more traditional control scheme.  You can also use the motion controls for lock picking, and it works extremely well, with a gentle rumble indicating you’re making progress.

Really, there’s not much more to say, though: This is Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch. It doesn’t reinvent the game and doesn’t bring anything new to it. Interestingly, though, I’ve found myself playing more of Skyrim on Switch than I did when I played it on console: Maybe it’s the portability – and being able to play on the toilet if I want. It’s also one of those games that if you’re the type of gamer who likes to explore every nook and cranny, picking up as much loot as you can, crafting armour and weapons and generally poking in every corner of a gameworld, you’ll find hours and hours of content here.

If you’ve played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim before don’t expect new content in the Switch version because you won’t find it here – and the price for the Switch version is a less than wallet friendly: Sorry, Bethesda, but $100 for a six year old game is crazy money, even if it is on a modern piece of hardware.

Hopefully in time, that price will come down as Skyrim is absolutely worth playing on the Nintendo Switch as it’s a competent and engaging visit to Bethesda’s world, quirks and all, and another example of how strong a platform the Nintendo Switch is.

Thanks to Bethesda’s PR team in Australia for the review code


Horizon Zero Dawn The Frozen Wilds: A review in pictures [plus a few words]

Aloy, the Nora brave from Guerilla’s PlayStation 4 exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn, is a breath of fresh air when it comes to video game lead characters.

The game is exquisite, too, with stunning visuals (I have a bog standard PS4 and the game looks amazing: I can only imagine how great it looks on a PS4 Pro) and set in an post-apocalyptic wilderness where robotic machines outnumber humans. The game play might not have differed much from games of similar ilk but with a likeable lead character, great visuals, and an engaging narrative, Horizon Zero Dawn was great fun.

The Frozen Wilds is the first piece of story DLC and Aloy must battle new and unknown creatures in a frozen landscape called The Cut inhabited by a race called the Banuk. If you liked the original game, chances are you’ll jump at the chance to guide Aloy through new adventures and it’ll be worth picking up. Alternatively, if you didn’t like the original game, I don’t see any point in picking this up: It’s more of the same.

The new DLC brings new costumes, robo enemies and weapons and it’s recommended you start it when you’re a fairly high level as some of the new monsters are incredibly aggressive. The Frozen Wilds also brings new enemies called Towers, which, I guess, buff nearby enemies, meaning they regain health and you can’t override them so it’s a good idea to destroy the tower at the beginning.

I thought, though, instead of a bog-standard review with hundreds of words I’ve illustrated The Frozen Wilds in pictures. So here it is, my review of Horizon Zero Dawn The Frozen Wilds using pictures captured from the game’s fantastic photo mode. Enjoy. Thanks to PlayStation for the review code.


Middle-Earth Shadow of War: A review mainly in pictures (oh, and some words)

Bruz, you little beauty!!

Bruz the warmonger tank – that’s him above giving Shadow of War main character Talion some sage advice – is probably my favourite orc in Shadow of War.

Sure, he’s got an unmistakable Australian twang – I was half expecting him to be flopping around in a pair of jandals (thongs to my Aussie mates) and singing Waltzing Matilda as he walks along – but for the most part he’s got a likeable charm about him. He’s got a roguish edge about him as he smacks enemy orcs about the head.

Shadow of War continues the tale of slain Talion (and his ghostly passenger, slighted elven king Celebrimbor) as they fight through the plains, valleys and mountains of Middle Earth, intent on regaining the one true ring and defeating the dark lord Sauron (Celebrimbor is slightly bitter because he was betrayed by Sauron). It’s classic Lord of the Rings stuff with elves, rangers, nazgul, a spider-lady, orcs and magic.

What made the original game in the series so good was the nemesis system where if an orc defeats you in battle it moves up through the ranks, gaining a new title and status with the overlord of the fortress he’s aligned with. It’s back with Shadow of War and it’s a good system, with orcs taunting and goading Talion before they defeat him. New to Shadow of War are ambushes, which means that at any point during the game an orc that you’ve had a run in with previously may suddenly appear, trying to puncture you full of homes.

It’s a nice system but it got a little overwhelming at times when during one particular fight, three orcs decided to “ambush” me while I was trying to take out a high-level captain. It was chaotic and from memory, it didn’t end well for two of them or me.

There’s a bit of grind work with Shadow of War: The more I progressed the more I felt things were becoming a chore as I slew orc after orc after orc to earn the valuable XP which could be used to upgrade weapons and equipment. Sure, I could have plonked down real-money for in-game loot boxes but sorry, I’m not going to do that besides, I refused to agree to the online terms and conditions so I was automatically locked out from the market place anyway.

Look, Shadow of War is a good game but I don’t think it’s as good as the original was. The orcs are entertaining, though, with witty banter before they try to gut you and feed your innards to dragons and caragors and I took great delight in dominating orcs and turning them on their foes. It’s also great fun romping into a battle with an orc captain as a body guard that you’ve turned to your cause.

Although, I’m still convinced that moments after I killed an orc captain by decapitating him (he looked like a pirate with a comical moustache, actually) he ambushed me during a fight against another captain. I mean, I’ve heard of reincarnation but that’s taking things a little too far (although, again, one orc that I thought I killed re-appeared telling me his brothers had put him back together again. He did have a few scars, now that I think about it) …


Uncharted The Lost Legacy: Life without Nathan Drake

The guys and gals at developer Naughty Dog must be sorcerers of some kind because they keep creating magic with the PlayStation when it comes to the Uncharted games.

I mean, man, is there any other game on a console out there right now that looks as good as Uncharted The Lost Legacy? I seriously mean it. It’s as if Naughty Dog has turned up Uncharted to 11 on the visuals scale then added another few notches to the dial just for good measure. Just look at these images captured from the game. See what I mean?

The Lost Legacy is the first Uncharted game not to feature Nathan Drake, the main character of the previous games in the series – and I think it’s all the better for it. This time Chloe Frazer (who you control) and Nadine Ross are front and centre as they explore temples, caverns and ruins in jungle India to find the legendary Tusk of Ganesh. Oh, course, it’s not plan sailing: There’s a fellow treasure hunter and bad guy out to get them – and the Tusk of Ganesh – at the same time!

Gamers familiar with the Uncharted games will feel right at home with the game play, which is a mix of combat, traversal and environmental puzzles, with many of the ones in The Lost Legacy requiring a little bit of thought to crack them. They’re not impossible but with a couple I had to work through things one step at a time before things clicked. That said, a couple of puzzles did frustrate the hell out of me, requiring me to take a break, take a deep breath and come to it later with a clear head. That seemed to work.

Combat is generally solid, although I was frustrated at times when the game seemed to throw loads of enemies at you all at once, often meaning I’d die in quick succession before overcoming the odds. As you’d expect with an Uncharted games, you’ll be guiding Chloe through some jaw-droppingly gorgeous environments that made me second guess that I was playing the game on a standard PlayStation 4. It really does look that impressive.

The story is pretty solid, the motion capture and voice acting outstanding, and there’s a good relationship developing between Nadine and Chloe as they explore deeper and deeper into the jungles, trading one-liners and quips. Naughty Dog seems to be masters at those little things that make their virtual characters seems so real: The way Chloe cocks her head to the side as she plucks a bobby pin from her hair before she picks a log, the way a character brushes their hand along a rock face as they squeeze through a gap, the way they get covered in grime and scratches as the adventure unfolds. Magicians, I tell you, magicians!

At times in the combat I thought enemy numbers seemed to overwhelming (I was playing on normal difficulty) and I died a few times, mainly after I’d mistime a jumps (something that happened quite frequently when it involved rappelling over gaping chasms using a rope), sending Chloe plummeting metres to her death. There are plenty of treasure to collect for those who like to be a completionist when it comes to finding all there is to offer, as well as spots where you can take photos of your adventures that Chloe can view on her smart phone later.

The Lost Legacy was originally slated as downloadable content for Uncharted 4 but Naughty Dog decided it deserved to stand on its own feet rather than become DLC: I’m glad it made that decision. I didn’t miss Nathan Drake once in this Uncharted adventure and it shows that an entertaining romp in the Uncharted universe is possible without the wise-cracking Indiana-Jones like Drake.

Here’s hoping more adventuring from Nadine and Chloe is on the cards. Sorry, Nathan Drake, but I think your days are numbered.

Competition Time:  Thanks to the kind folks at PlayStation NZ, I have one (1) copy of Uncharted The Lost Legacy to give away. The game is PlayStation 4 only so you must own a PlayStation 4 to play the game. I’m not providing a PlayStation 4 for you to play it on.

To enter, simply tell me what legendary treasure you’d love to go on an adventure to find. Post your answer below or post your answer on the Game JunkieNZ Facebook page. The winner will be contacted via email or FB message and the prize delivered to them by PlayStation NZ. The competition closes next Friday, September 1.

Conditions: The competition is only open to New Zealand residents (the disc will be mailed to a New Zealand delivery address); One entry per email entry or Facebook post; The judge’s decision is final.