Rade Reviews: State of Decay 2 (PC Version)

I was pretty excited to hear about a sequel to my favourite game of 2014 – State of Decay. I was so dedicated to saving my local town, that I accidentally played for 10 hours straight. By all accounts, I was pretty happy. State of Decay 2 is currently available on Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service, and with a 14-day free trial, I thought “What do I have to lose?”

Currently, State of Decay 2 (SoD2) is only available through the Microsoft Store (although rumours of a Steam release for later this year are rife). I struggled a bit to find the correct area to download SoD2 without it trying to charge me for it.. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to find the correct link to download State of Decay 2 using my Game Pass since I couldn’t do it through the Microsoft Store app on my PC for some reason. Once I figured it out, it was a fairly smooth operation – minus the snail pace of my internet connection.

This is where I started to encounter issues. It took 4 attempts for SoD2 to make it past the main menu / splash screen where I would push a key to start, and it would crash to desktop. And this wasn’t an isolated incident – it happened repeatedly. After lamenting this on Facebook, it highlighted a larger issue with people trying to play the game with little to no luck.

Once I was able to finally get into the gameplay, it was a new, but familiar scene. You select which character pair you’d like to play with and you’re thrown into the post-apocalyptic world. State of Decay 2 attempts to flesh out the opening characters with some story, but I was more interested in their base stats which are vital to their survival. You pick up characters pretty quickly into the game and start establishing your home base. It’s similar gameplay from the previous games, in the way scavenging works, but the UI has been updated. It’s more user-friendly, and yet not. I think I’ve played so much of the original SoD that I have muscle memory for the previous controls, but certain elements just don’t make sense. Things like silent takedowns, and final kills were executed by press ‘Z’ in the previous game, but now it’s a combination of left CTRL + a button or mouse click which is distracting and means I got chomped on more than once.

There’s a new type of zombie to deal with, and a new style of infestation to go along with our undead friends, and all the other zombies have had a facelift – along with the rest of the game. Everything definitely looks more modern, but is still suffering from a mildly outdated look. It isn’t distracting, and doesn’t take away from the game at all, but if you’re a hardcore graphics fiend, you might complain.

Unfortunately, this is as far as I got to play. There was a large (20GB!) patch to fix the launch bugs which meant that I had to wait another day to play (Thanks NBN!) When I started up the game, I was faced with a working splash screen, but the following image.

A friend of mine had a similar issue. A part of the patch had failed to download correctly. But since this isn’t as easy as steam verifying files and downloading the necessary bits it needs, it meant the whole 20GB patch needed to be downloaded. Again. I’ve spent more time downloading State of Decay 2 than actually playing it – and I’m so disappointed.

Because I’m on ADSL (thanks again, NBN!), I have a small monthly allowance to use between two heavy users (netflix, downloading, etc) which means that downloading 40GB of data has chewed through just under a quarter of my allowance for the month. This might sound like a rare issue for some gamers, but since the state of Australian internet means that there is a huge portion of people in the same boat as myself.

Two days and a huge chunk of data later, and I’m reconsidering my decision to buy it later this month.

I can’t comment on the storyline, the development of character relationships, the gameplay, or anything else vital to games review because I haven’t been able to play it. The rare times I got it to work, it was great – but not enough to make a definite comment. It looks like something I’d love to spend time investing in, but I’m spending more time trying to make it work and I just can’t be bothered.

I wanted to like this game. I wanted to love it. I wanted something that would continue the same style of game I loved in the first State of Decay, but make it feel like a more desperate attempt for survival and I got a game that barely works. I can only hope it’s an issue with the PC distribution platform and not the Xbox One download because the series is a great spin on zombie survival horror, but I think I’ll just wait until State of Decay 2 drops on Steam, or run it through my Xbox One because it’s not a happy experience on the Microsoft Store.

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Review showdown: Inspiron 15 7000 (7567) 2016 VS Inspiron 15 7000 (7577)

Editor’s note: this review will be a little different to the regular format. I’ll be discussing key changes between the Inspiron 15 7000 (7567) 2016 model and the Inspiron 15 7000 (7577) 2017 model. If you missed the original review, catch up here and follow along.

Earlier in the year, I reviewed the Dell XPS 15” Inspiron gaming laptop and apart from some minor complaints (storage mostly), I thought it was a pretty solid laptop. Recently, an improved version of this laptop was released, and while there are some changes under the hood – overall it’s still a great gaming laptop for your on-the-go gamer.

At first glance, the aesthetic changes between the 2016 and 2017 models are minor – if there were any at all. Sleek, black laptops with pops of colour to accent logos and WASD keys are fairly standard through gaming laptops and it’s nothing that needs to be changed for the sake of updating.

The thing I did notice about the 2017 model was the bezel around the screen. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the 2016 model to notice the size, but the 2017 model seemed to have the screen surrounded by a thick, black border. I showed this to a friend of mine and he noticed as well, noting that it seemed to take away from the actual display – which I completely agree with. The screen on the Inspiron 15 7000 series of devices is beautiful, and capable of playing video and games in 4k. The border around the screen seemed to be less of a edge to define the screen, and more like an eyesore to distract the user.

The major change that Dell incorporated into their latest iteration are the options available for your GPU. The 2016 model wasn’t underpowered by any means, but the 2017 model includes the ability to upgrade your NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1050 to 1050Ti with 4GB GDDR5 to a NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5. While the changes may seem minor on the outside, greater processing power means an overall better experience while gaming. Along with more dedicated RAM to help improve textures and frame rate.

It also means your games won’t become obsolete as quickly – It’s only a series apart, but the 1060 seems to be the goto requirement for a lot new games.

What’s disappointing about the upgrade in graphical prowess is the downgrade to actual power. Moving away from an integrated 74 WHr, 6-Cell Battery to a integrated Quick-charge 56 WHr, 4-Cell Battery means your battery won’t last quite as long away from the wall. The quick-charge is a nice addition, meaning you’ll be on the move to your latest LAN in shorter time, but as someone who likes to move around with her device and not always to somewhere with a plug, the smaller battery is a disheartening. However, the change in battery may have been more to do with actual space than anything else.

The last major change is the addition of a Thunderbolt™ 3 port. This ties into the quick-charging battery, but also allows for lightning fast data transfer and a move into the new normal. USB 3 / Thunderbolt™ is quickly becoming the universal adaptor for phones and computers. The problem is that it only includes one because of the traditional USB ports – but that’s more of a general consumer dependence on traditional USB products.

Dell have taken a lot of consideration in how they update the Inspiron 15 series of computers. While sacrifices to battery were made, they were to improve space and power and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Happily, the updates mean that you’re getting better value and a better experience from your Inspiron 15 laptop. It’s still a sleek device that’ll keep up with a mid-level gaming rig, with the bonus feature of portability – so you’ll always be able to game with your friends at home, or at a LAN.

Laptop provided by Dell for consideration.

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Rade Reviews: Dell XPS 13″ 2-in-1 laptop


Portability is one of the most important features for any on-the-go freelancer. Trying to balance power, battery life, and size tends to mean sacrificing one in favour of the others. Want something with a lot of power? It’s not going to last long without a power point. Need a long battery life? Prepare for that sucker to weigh a tonne. The Dell XPS 13” 2-in-1 balances the trio well without sacrificing too much to deliver a lightweight device.

Unboxing the XPS laptop was a new experience for me when I was presented with a tiny 13” laptop in sleek silver exterior. The laptops I normally unbox are 15”+ monoliths encased in black and red details which don’t really suit being an everyday carry. Weighing in at 1.24kgs, the XPS 13” is the perfect size to slip into your backpack, handbag, or satchel and jet off to your next meeting. I took it out with me several times, and it even came on an excursion to paintball training where I was helping my team with some social and sponsorship deals.

Working with the laptop on the go is a fairly painless experience, if not a tiny bit terrifying. I’ve never used a convertible laptop before, so bending the screen backwards was an anxious experience the first time, but provides a whole new way to work. It can feel a little awkward if you’re using the laptop as a tablet, as you’re pressing keys on the exposed keyboard but a quick readjustment of your hands sorts that out. However, it feels clunky in the converted mode, and not just because of the keyboard. Despite this laptop measuring in at 13.7mm thick, it doesn’t feel as slim while in tablet mode – possibly because I’m used to tablets being paper thin.

The size of the keyboard isn’t an issue, however. While it takes a moment to adjust to the size of a smaller keyboard when you’re used to using a full-sized desktop but it’s a comfortable adjustment. It’s a quick keyboard and makes it easy to type up short or long documents with the short keystrokes and smallish-keys. The only issue I had was bumping the touch pad which would send the cursor into a mysterious position, but this is definitely a PEBKEC issue because I do it with every laptop ever. Also, for those who are into this kind of thing – the keyboard is quiet, so you won’t annoy the people around you with the constant tak-tak-tak of furious typing.

Opening the device can be difficult at times. The 13” XPS has a 5.2mm InfinityEdge bezel with a Corning® Gorilla® Glass NBT™ screen which means there’s no notch in the edge to separate the screen from the keyboard. It’s really fiddly to open and I often needed two hands to hold the laptop steady while I tried to pry it apart. But when you do, the screen is bright and displays colours fantastically. You get a bit of glare from sunlight on the glass, so it’s not a laptop I’d recommend to use in the sun – find a shady spot close to Wi-Fi and go nuts. It’s a great screen to watch or stream videos and doing some minor image editing on.

My major issue with the screen is that it marks so easily. Because the XPS 13” is marketed as a touch screen device, you can use it as a tablet (as mentioned above), but I hope you don’t mind fingerprints and smears all over the glass. It turned me off using it as a touch screen device because I didn’t want to spend 20 minutes every few hours cleaning off marks to keep using the screen.

The other test I put this neat little device through was some gaming (obviously). While it isn’t a dedicated gaming machine, the basic specifications would give you enough variety for some on-the-go time wasters. I also tried streaming games through Steam. This seems like the better option if you’ve got a good connection as you’re able to play games in full-spec while away from your rig. Since streaming isn’t as resource heavy as playing games directly off the hardware, you won’t need to worry about pushing the little laptop to the limits.

Battery life won’t be an issue either. I managed to get a few days of life from the battery when I was using it on my travels. You’ll supposedly get just over 8 hours of battery life for everyday use, and a little over 7 hours for your Netflix binge sessions. Even at home while I was using it as a dedicated media screen while working on projects, the battery was consistent and didn’t need too many settings adjusted to really get all the juice out of it.

It uses a Thunderbolt™ 3 connection for the AC adapter which is great for a quick charge and keeps the frame of the laptop as thin as possible. You’ve also got a MicroSD slot, USB-C ports, fingerprint scanner and all the other basic necessities you’d expect. The power button is hidden away on the side which took a bit of getting used to, but again, it’s all designed to keep the size down.

Like all current generation laptops, it comes preloaded with Windows 10 and a range of software options available. To me, retail installs of Windows 10 feel a little bloaty. You can have a range of storage options on the XPS 13” (up to 1TB), but you’re going to spend some time uninstalling the software you’re not going to use. There’s also no optical media drive which isn’t a huge surprise for a device which prides itself on its side – if you’re worried about this, USB optical drives are cheap and portable too.

The Dell XPS 13” 2-in-1 is a tidy machine. It stands up to the quality expected of Dell in their XPS line and balances portability, power and weight nicely. I’m still not sold on convertible devices as they tend to feel chunky and not as nice as dedicated tablets (something I’ve felt from years of working in tech retail). But, if you can overlook a messy screen and sometimes clunky feel from tablet mode, the XPS will fit right into your life. It’s stylish, lightweight and easy to use as an everyday carry.


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And now for something completely different… Gamer Diaries updates coming soon

The website is celebrating it’s 7th birthday this year! Thank you to everyone who reads, shares, comments, and subscribes to this crazy little website; you make it worth it. And a big thank you to the companies who provide me the sweet toys and games I get to review – it’s great to be working with companies who believe in building a community with smaller sites.

Since going solo and hosting my site, I’ve been using the same look and it’s starting to look a little dated. I’m in the process of redesigning things and giving Rade’s Gamer Diaries a new look, a new logo, and a whole new feel.

Over the next few months, you’ll start to see those changes appear. Firstly, I’m branching into topics outside of gaming which are going to include cosplay and convention guides, announcements, and rundowns – you probably noticed my Convention Calendar post a few months back, which ties in nicely with the PAX guides I write every year.

A new review series called “And now for something completely different” is going to be introduced later this year with these reviews focusing on non-gaming tech. I’ve already got something lined up for it, so keep your eyes open for that. (Yes, I’m a huge Monty Python fan)

I’m also going to start streaming on my Twitch channel a lot more and be more alive (so to speak) than ever before.

There’s also going to be a huge overhaul of the website as far as design goes. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re getting a little long in the tooth, so it’s a fantastic time to bring in a new look. I don’t have an exact time frame on this, but it’s happening I swear.

All this should happen before the end of the year, so we’re going to be hitting the ground hard and fast to get everything into place. If you’ve got any suggestions on what you’d like to see, hit me up on Facebook or leave a comment below. Again, thank you for making the last 7 years awesome. Let’s make the next 7 even better.

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Review: Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming Laptop

My first laptop was a Dell XPS M1530. It was a monster of a thing that stood up to a lot of hardcore gaming, university and an month-long overseas trip. Ultimately, it was the overseas trip that killed my precious laptop, but it served me well. It’s the gaming laptop that I hold all laptops up to as my standard – despite its age, and the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop held a pretty good candle to my ol’ faithful.

Unpacking the Inspiron 15, the first thing that struck me was the matte black finish on the laptop, with the red Dell logo standing proudly in the centre. The edge of the keyboard has a red metallic pattern which brings just enough colour into the picture without being overpowering. As I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews, I like the look of more understated laptops with a minimalist feel. The other option you’ve got for the lid cover is matte red with a black logo – so at least you’ve got some choice in the design.

Since gaming laptops are made for gaming on the go, I carried this thing around with and sat down where ever my legs decided – it feels deceptively light. I stuck it in a backpack and carried it around in my arms, and it wasn’t ever uncomfortable, even while carrying around extra weight with the charging pack, a mouse and a few other bits and bobs. While it’s one of the bigger laptops I’ve reviewed, it carries the weight well.

But like all these laptops, it’s about how good they are to game on. The Inspiron 15 holds a Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti as standard – you know it’s going to take everything you throw at it in stride. The only time I had an issue was with State of Decay where the whole operation thing crashed – although, I think that had more to do with the optimisation of the game, more than the laptop itself. Other than that minor trip up, everything I played ran beautifully – and can be played up to a 4K resolution. Like I’ve said in earlier reviews, 4K Gaming isn’t really my bag but if you’re into that, you’re going to be very happy. However, the screen can take some getting used to and can sometimes look a little lacklustre when you’re looking for real exuberance – especially in 4K.

Big exhaust vents on the rear of the laptop make sure that you’re not going to see spikes and dips because of the hardware shutting down. The only time I really noticed any uncomfortable heat was while I was working in bed and had the laptop sitting on my lap against the quilt – but even this was a minor issue.

I also loved the fact that I could get a good few hours out of the Inspiron 15 while I was working. Not having to rely on the power pack and an available plug means that you could easily take it to university or to your favourite spot and work without a worry. I can’t say the same for a hardcore gaming session, but when you’re running your resources at full speed, battery life is the trade off.

Since I’m a writer, that was another big test. I was working on a few other commissions on Inspiron 15 and the keyboard was comfortable and easy to use. The touch pad gave me the most issues – it’s very touchy. Although, since I’m used to typing on standalone keyboards and spend half the time adjusting my cursor on my everyday laptop because I’ve accidentally knocked the touch pad with my palm, I’m not sure if that’s an issue with the pad or me. Probably me.

The thing that urks me the most is the lack of an optical drive. Call me old-fashioned, but I like having the option – especially if I was to run older programs that aren’t easily downloaded. Although, there are 3x 3.0 USB ports, 1x HDMI and a media card reader to keep you happy if you need to load something on the laptop – If you’ve got the space.

Dell are big on being able to customise your laptop with various options available through their range. Their base laptop only has a 256GB solid state drive which isn’t huge in the grand scheme of things. Game downloads are getting bigger and bigger (60GB+ downloads are a regular thing), you would have to be very selective about what games you install on your hard drive if you end up purchasing the entry-level laptop. Spending the extra $400AUD to move to the middle-tier doubles your RAM and gives you an extra 1TB of space – although the compromise is downsizing your SSD to 128GB.

Overall, it’s a good-looking quality laptop for a decent price if you’re looking to get into the gaming laptop market. Some of the faults (HDD space and screen) can be frustrating but don’t make the Inspiron 15 unusable. It’s compact, pretty and packs enough power to get you through whatever you need to do without breaking the bank – although it’s probably worth throwing a few extra bucks towards the second tier laptop if you’re looking to load your entire Steam list.

Laptop provided by Dell for consideration.

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