Category: Games

A few years ago I embarked on a mission which, in hindsight, was a bad idea. This year, I refuse to learn from my mistakes and try it again.

I am of course, referring to the Steam Challenge.

The idea is pretty self-explanatory, the execution can be a little more difficult. My Steam list consists of about 140 games, give or take a few betas and demos, and some of those games are multiplayer-only with no real story mode (Let’s Starve Together for example), or VR games (for which, I don’t currently own a headset.)

I’ve decided to approach the challenge with the same gusto I had when I approached the Steam challenge from last year which I failed to complete, but this time, I’ve got Math and ScienceTM on my side – and by that, I mean I have a spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet is a new addition as it’ll be my way of keeping track of what games I’ve started, how far into them I am, and what I’ve finished. I hope that being able to properly keep tabs on this information will keep me motivated to continue with the challenge without getting horrendously burnt out.

Burnout is something I need to be aware of too. While I have just under 150 games, I get tired of things easily and revert back to old comforts (I’m looking at you, 600+ hours in Borderlands 2) where I can get almost instantaneous satisfaction.

My biggest issue with my Steam list is working out how long to spend on those games that don’t really have a definitive end. Some games have a great list of achievements I can use to use as goals to set as “finish points”, because other games could probably use 10-15 hours to be completed or even longer. But I’m also one of those people who likes to spend some time with a game (see Borderlands 2 play time above) and if I really get into something, I might just accidentally lose half a day in a single game alone.

But to take a lot of the indecisiveness out of the challenge, I’ll be using the rules I found on the Geek Bomb forums. They read as such:

1.You must beat every single player game from start to finish on any difficulty.
1a. With large RPG/Sand box games like Skyrim, you must complete the main story line and the main story line in all DLC expansions you own (ie. Dawngaurd).
1b. In games where there is no ending or main story line (ex. Terraia and Sim City). You must play at least 10 hours.
1c. If a game is far too difficult for you to complete (Super Meat Boy) you must complete 15 hours before rule 1 is satisfied.

2.You must play at least 7 hours of PvP multiplayer or complete every single co-op mission (ie. Left 4 Dead).
2a. If a game has both you can either play one or the other (ie. Team Fortress 2).

3. You can either start from ascending or descending order; you are allowed to skip games if they follow a few exceptions.

3a. You can skip a game if playing a game have become impossible in situations like the following:
.Banned from multiplayer (if the game has single player, you must play single player component)
.An online game (like a MMO) is no longer supported.
.Your machine is not powerful enough to run the game.
.Your OS or chipset is not supported.
.Unresolvable issues that make installation or running the game impossible.
3b. If you already have satisfied rules 1 and 2 on any game then playing that game is optional.
3c. You may skip a game if there are essentially duplicates in your library (ex. You have both Half-Life and Half-Life: Source), but you must play one or the other. This includes Beta clients (ex. Team Fortress 2 Beta)
3d. If it is in your library, you have to play Amnesia to the end you fucking baby. Nut up man, it’s just pixels.

In order to keep this entertaining, I’ll be streaming and recording as much as possible – especially in games like Amnesia and F.E.A.R where I know watching me scream like a huge baby will be rewarding to everyone involved. I’m also trying to get my friends involved to keep me motivated.

I’ll be started the challenge on Saturday 1st, April. I’m not sure what game just yet, but be sure to check my Twitch channel to watch it all kick off and to see me succeed! (Or fail miserable – YMMV)

Screenshot_2016-07-09-23-17-42

Such a wee baby

The term “smash-hit” gets thrown around a lot when it comes to video games. However, when your game surpasses Tinder downloads and active Twitter users in a week, the title is more than justified.

In early July, Pokémon Go was released by the former Google start-up Niantic, to instant and almost overwhelming success from fans. The game, available on iOS and Android mobile devices, received fairly average reviews from outlets. Pocket Gamer sums it up best with, “Despite its problems, Pokémon GO is an immensely enjoyable experience.” I tend to agree.

Starting Pokémon Go is as easy as downloading the app from your app store and opening it up. It requires a Google or “Pokémon Trainers” account to log in, as opposed to being able to sign up with a general email, or other social media account. This has been marred with controversy, as it was revealed that Pokémon Go had full access to your Google account. While the news circulated quickly through the community, it was just as quickly dealt with, with permissions being changed in the latest update. You then create a male or female avatar with a few choices as far as hair and clothing are concerned and you set off on your journey.

Pokémon Go is an incredibly physical game. While it might be set on your mobile phone, the game uses GPS tracking and Augmented Reality to give the player a greater sense of depth. To catch Pokémon, or find gyms and Pokéstops, you have to travel physical distances to find them. This has had an unprecedented effect on Pokémon trainer’s physical and emotional health. Stories are emerging of people who struggled to leave the house (like this war vet) able to go out into the world and social again without anxiety. Twitter and Facebook is flooded with similar stories of people going out and meeting like-minded trainers who are happy to talk tactics. Along with the improved mental health, it’s getting people up off the couch and into the world. J and I spent all of the Friday following release walking around our local suburb all afternoon catching Pokémon. We walked more on that Friday than we do normally. While the world is in the grasp of an obesity crisis, it’s ironic that a video game is getting everyone out and about.

Welcome to (Zu)Bat Country.

Pokémon Go is F2P (Free-2-Play). The game does have microtransactions, but if you don’t want to spend money on in-game items, you can hit up any number of Pokéstops; which are at local and popular landmarks and parks. Again, this is somewhat controversial. Pokémon Go uses Google Maps to generate Pokéstops. This means that places with historical importance like Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, a memorial dedicated to the victims of Nazi concentration camps during WW2, and a restored Church which was now a liveable home, were automatically turned into Pokéstops in the virtual world. In the craze Pokémon Go is generating, it appears that people are forgetting about the social courtesies that a lot of these places afford. With a lack of support from Niantic as far as reporting bugs and other issues, the places that want to be removed from the game may struggle to get answers.

The lack of support from the developers is grinding a lot of people the wrong way. While the game is incredibly fun and capable of great things, it’s buggy as hell. During the first release version of the game, the servers could barely keep up with the load. People were locked out of the game, unable to sign in, for hours. When you could access the game, you would have to manage multiple game freezes while trying to catch Pokémon which meant you needed to close the game and reopen it to see if you’d caught that Eevee you just spent 10 Pokéballs trying to catch. It also means that people have been forced to do their own research and figure out the intricate details of the game.

 

It’s conflicting. Technically speaking, the game isn’t nearly finished and isn’t what Niantic has promised gamers. If this game was released by another developer, people would be up in arms over the server issues and privacy concerns. However, nostalgia is giving people rose-tinted glasses which is giving Niantic more slack than they deserve.

However, Pokémon Go is doing some great things in society. Discounting the achievements made by people who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental illnesses along with the new burst of enthusiasm for fitness and walking would be an insult. The encouraging steps that these people (including myself) take to find something that brings them relief should be celebrated and rewarded.

With the potential updates of trading and trainer battling that Niantic has rumoured, I don’t see the enthusiasm around Pokémon Go dying down anytime soon. In fact, with more and more people hearing about it and downloading it, it’ll only get bigger and hopefully better.

20150727-UntilDawn-Header-700

My friends and I have these nights that have become a bit of a tradition in our friend circle. We organise scary movie nights where we’ll binge on the best horror movies we can find until we can’t handle any more, then we binge on Disney movies until we feel better. We’re legendary at the pizza shop near my friend’s house, but that’s a story for another time.

It’s a weird, sadistic pleasure we all enjoy. That explains why I enjoyed every scream-inducing jump scare that Until Dawn has to offer.

Until Dawn is the story of eight high school friends who go back to the cabin they were staying at, when two of their friends (sisters) mysteriously go missing after a prank goes wrong.

Visually, the game looks amazing. Using motion capture with some well-known names (Hayden Panettiere and Peter Storm, just to name a few), the sense of Uncanny Valley isn’t nearly as off-putting as the motion capture in say… LA Noire.

Not only do the characters look realistic, the environments you explore look great, too. Eerie and unsettling, areas in the game only add to the suspense and anxiety you’ll feel during the game.

Sadly, the camera work lets the fantastic environments down. The camera in Until Dawn jumps to give you the best vantage point in the classic horror movie style. When you’re trying to navigate through 3D environments, this type of camera movement can break the immersion and really detract from the tense scene.

The biggest mechanic in Until Dawn uses to push you through the story is called “The Butterfly Effect”. This mechanic relies on the player making split-second decisions to situations and decides the fates of your fellow co-eds. It makes you think “What if I didn’t check his phone?” or “What if I didn’t try to wake up my brother?” Some of these decisions won’t affect your outcome, others will change it dramatically. It works really well with the quick-time events, where a stumble could seal the fate of someone else. Until Dawn combines the use of quick-time events and a brilliant inclusion of PlayStation’s Sixth-Axis motion control with a fantastic score and sound effects. Making a quick-time decision is hard enough when you’re trying to escape a tense situation, but when the controller is ticking loudly and violins are screeching, everything comes together in one anxiety-causing moment.

In the tense circumstances, every action feels like it’s life-or-death, and that’s the point. When you trigger a Butterfly Effect action, white butterflies will appear in the corner of the screen and you can see how this matches up with the story. These decisions also affect your relationship and personality stats. You can go back and review your decisions, along with clues or totems you gather along the way so you can modify your behaviour when you inevitably replay Until Dawn.

Until Dawn is also a massive, dirty cheater. During the game, you’ll be interviewed by Dr. Hill, who becomes increasingly more disturbing as you go through the story. He asks you what you’re more afraid of and the game uses this against you. Essentially, you have yourself to the game on a silver platter. During my interview, I said that I was scared of clowns, more scared of dogs over rats (big bitey vs little jumpy), and needles. The major scare it used was clowns, which made me scream (actual, blood curdling screams) on more than one occasion; much to the amusement of my jerk-ass boyfriend.

Dr. Hill reminds me a lot of the Games Master from the 90’s VHS horror game Nightmare, with most of his NPC interaction happening in changing environments and getting right up in your face. It feels like he’s actually going to crawl out of the TV and berate you in person. He’s a great way to break up the gameplay, but still keep terrified.

This game isn’t without flaws. Until Dawn started to lose me half way through the game when things took a weird turn after the plot twist, when the pacing changed and one plot device being used a little too much for my liking. The device makes sense in the greater scheme of the story, but it jumps from one bad guy to another without much explanation as to why. It also seems to focus on certain characters more than others. I felt myself wondering where one character was after huge repeating scenes with other characters.

The story also lacks in any kind of originality. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Until Dawn relies on several horror movie tropes like The Jock, The Bitchy Girl, and The Quiet Nerdy Guy. Any of these characters could be easily found in a remake of The Breakfast Club, if it happened to be set in a Canadian cabin during a blizzard. I did find myself rooting for one particular character, and then I accidentally killed her because I was playing to her personality.

My bad…

Until Dawn managed to scare the pants off me and make me want more. Despite some poor camera movements and a slightly disappointing story, if this game was a movie, I’d pay to see it in cinemas and spill my popcorn all over myself. Definitely something I’ll be replaying again and still screaming like a terrified little child.

Seriously though, fuck. This. Game.

(Review also available on Player Attack)

(Originally published on Player Attack)

One of the biggest tragedies of Grand Theft Auto V is in how little its moralities are spoken on. The characters are reprobates, the actions amoral in the best case and utterly reprehensible in the worst.

They are monsters of the most depraved calibre, and with a single document, I wondered if I shouldn’t be among them.

At the end of Grand Theft Auto 5, you’re presented with a psychoanalysis of your playthrough by the in-game therapist Dr. Isiah Friedlander. The doctor’s observations are harsh, brutal, and entirely honest. Mine read as follows:

– Fascinating. Rarely have I encountered someone so deluded.

– Good at compromise. Not so good at willpower.

– Terrifying egomaniac.

– Irresponsible with money and with rest of life.

– Likes to show off around women.

– Morally conservative about some things – which is weird.

– Not good on giving time to others.

– Keen to be a part of the American dream, which is odd.

– Psychopath or sociopath? Both.

– Magpie who will steal whatever takes their fancy, time and time again.

– Ignores anything spiritual.

– Lazy.

– Friendly, in a way.

– Easily distracted.

– A real mess.

 

I didn’t understand what any of this meant until I went back and thought about it. Some of the points are fairly obvious: I stole anything that wasn’t nailed down (but I do that in Skyrim, too). I have to admit I avoided any physical activities. Triathlons, swimming, biking, and anything explicitly physical was something of a bane. My money was better spent on vices, like clothing, cars, and comforts.

It is easy to get wrapped up in it all. Having the money to lead a lavish life of fast cars, cheap booze, and easy comforts make work infinitely less appealing. Anything that required dedicated effort was, by default, infinitely less attractive. The best things in life should be easy, or fulfilling, and fun.

With Benjamin’s exploding from my pockets, I never needed to do anything other than exactly what I wanted. And no one wants to work, do they? Is it really so wrong to live the American dream, to be distracted, messy, and dedicated to living the high life without the high responsibilities?

Dr. Friedlander seemed to think so.

What could x have meant, though? Other points are less obvious, and I still haven’t shed much light on the subject. More research is required, but to what ends. What would exploring Dr. Friedlander’s possibilities mean making me do?

Grand Theft Auto 5 has an unconscious morality system. While I can choose certain things to differ the ending, other things aren’t in my control. My actions are taken note of by Friedlander and judgements are made. I’m not sure whether to be offended by Friedlander’s assumptions or impressed by Rockstar’s new take on the traditional morality system; if it can even be called that.

You don’t really have a sense of right or wrong in Grand Theft Auto 5. As a player, you know that behaving the way you’re encouraged to in-game would be considered wrong, but within the context of the game world, it’s entirely okay. Other games like Mass Effect give you a variety of choices based on your characters morality, but in Grand Theft Auto 5, it’s an afterthought.

My biggest issue with the traditional morality system (in games like the original BioShock or by some extension, the Mass Effect Trilogy) is that you’ve really only got three options: Teachers Pet, Boring or Pure Evil. There isn’t enough depth into how your choices changed the game world or your character.

The analysis by Friedlander gives a more in-depth look at how you played. I’m well aware that Rockstar probably has a pool of lines to pick from that depend on what choice you make, but it’s a nice change from “Oh, you harvested all the little girls? I bet you kick kittens, too.” Oh, come on game!

I harvested like two little girls. ”In the original BioShock, if you harvest one too many girls, it tips the scale from good to evil quite quickly, implying your choices have dire consequences. While in BioShock: Infinite (the third instalment) of the game, any choices you make have no impact on the outcome, implying that your destiny is chosen for you no matter what.

The mini analysis post-game definitely made me sit up and think about how I played Grand Theft Auto 5 and it’s making me rethink the way I play through now. Did I ever question what the game was making me before I read the report? Should I have? I still murder indiscriminately, but there’s some forethought going into it. I’m constantly aware that the in-game shrink is making notes and silently judging me and I wonder if I’m really a sociopath, a psychopath or both?

Swoop

Swoop

My first encounter with LittleBigPlanet was a few years ago when my then-boyfriend and his friends bought it on a whim. I walked into our lounge room after work to find four grown men laughing like school children. “What are you playing?” I asked. “LittleBigPlanet. It’s great fun! What’s the time?” My boyfriend asked. I told him it was just after 6 o’clock.

“Oh, we’ve been playing this for about 5 hours. We should probably eat something.”

LittleBigPlanet is one of those games you can get lost in so easily, especially when you’ve got company but sadly, I don’t think that LittleBigPlanet 3 (LBP 3) is a game I’ll spend much time in.

After you’re convinced (by the wonderful voice of Hugh Laurie) to release three evil Titans (based loosely around Greek mythology) into the Sackworld of Bunkum, your Sackboy navigates the land enlisting new characters to undo the trouble you’ve caused. The new characters, named Toggle, Swoop and Oddsock add an interesting new element to the puzzle-solving side of the game with new weight and height challenges.

Introducing our new Sackfriends:

OddSock: A sackdog who can wall jump and run faster than your average Sackboy.

Toggle: Toggle can transform himself into Big Toggle (who can weigh down platforms or switches) or Little Toggle (who can run across water or fit into tight spaces.)

Swoop: A sackbird who can fly and pick up light objects and other characters (except for Big Toggle.)

Toggle

Toggle

Gameplay hasn’t changed too much with the inclusion of the new characters or items. Although things like the hook hat present a fun challenge when you’re racing along a zipline then fling yourself into some fire, which I did numerous times and generally while playing the game in front of my mum. Then she proceeded to mock me.

Get from point A to point B and collect all the things! (All of them.) Along with stickers, random point bubbles and outfits (the best part of LittleBigPlanet, let’s face it.), you’ll also collect bells to pay for things. The only things I’ve bought with these bells are more outfits, so I’m not sure what else they’re actually used for. It’s much of a muchness.

A lot of the game feels like a grind. Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop aren’t automatically unlocked, and you need to find three marbles to unlock each character. The levels are varied enough to keep you interested for a while, but it doesn’t feel like there’s enough of a pay-off to continue to unlock the other characters. Whether it’s because the game focuses on a multiplayer experience (areas in levels are only unlocked by playing with two or more people), or just a lack of pacing in the levels, the repetitive nature of unlocking your new Sackfriends makes them feel a little more like Sackenemies.

Oddsock

Oddsock

This isn’t my biggest issue with the game, though. LittleBigPlanet 3 has repeatedly failed to load or crashed my console. During initial installation, the first level after the tutorial failed to load three times and required me to reboot my PlayStation 4. The other games that I’ve played on my PS4 (Dragon Age, Grand Theft Auto, Sleeping Dogs) don’t cause this kind of malfunction with my console, nor do they freeze during gameplay. Too many times have I given up and either stopped playing LittleBigPlanet or just stopped gaming for a few hours because of the crashes.

The Stephen Fry-narrated game, with its gorgeous art-style has changed a little too much for my liking. While Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop offer an interesting new take on the puzzles, the game stops me in my tracks when it comes to enjoying it. It’ll be one of those games that I keep around when I have friends over and we wanna screw each other over. If the game doesn’t wanna screw us first.

My opinions of Dragon Age have been coloured a very murky shade of awful by the mess that is Dragon Age: Origins. In fact, just thinking about that game makes me want to go screaming into the night. Dragon Age: Origins felt like it was punishing me for not being a die-hard Dragon Age fan and nothing I did or said could make that better.

It’s surprising, with all that being said, that I’m enjoying Dragon Age: Inquisition so much. There’s the recurring theme in my gaming that I don’t really enjoy the first RPG I play in a series, but get into the second instalment I pick up (please refer to my Skyrim addiction for further evidence.), although I don’t quite get what’s going on.

When a peace conference between the Templars and mages ends with a large explosion opening rifts between the human world and the Fade, the Chantry’s senior cleric, the Divine, and several mages and Templars are killed. The only survivor is your character.

When your character is discovered coming from one of the rifts with no memory of what happened, but a mark on their hand with the ability of closing said rifts, you’re enlisted by former associates of the Divine to establish an Inquisition to find out who created the Breach, close it, and establish order between the Templars and the mages. Not that any of that means much to me. I’m too busy picking flowers and being killed by Dragons to pay attention to any of the lore. That’s where I think Dragon Age really has me pegged though.

I’m not someone who has all the lore stored away in head for easy access, or always knows what’s going on, but it’s not affecting my experience in the game at all. I’m happily playing through the missions with a somewhat minor understanding of what’s going on and that works perfectly fine for me. There’s plenty of well-crafted scenery for me to explore.

Gameplay is very RPG-esque. Although the formula isn’t something you can really change. You can go through your party and select what perks and skills you’d like them to have or you can auto-level them up with the single press of a button, something which I now rely on after accidentally giving my archer a skill which requires her to use daggers. Probably should have paid more attention to what I was doing, but oh well.

Combat gameplay can go two ways. You can just go in arrows blazing, which is generally the way I play. However, you can use their tactical planning mode where gameplay pauses. In this mode you can command each character in battle and decide how they attack, defend and move. In larger battles with more enemies, this mode can be vital. Playing around in this mode in some of the smaller fights to figure out how to use it could come in handy.

Customisation is where you’ll spend an obscene amount of time. Although, I found that the character making screens took a little getting used to. You start with four races to pick from: Dwarves, Elves, Humans and Qunari, then from there on to your class: Mage, Rogue, or Warrior. For reference, Rade is an Elvish Rogue, because she’s a boss.

After you’ve picked out who you’ll be, you can choose what you’ll look like and the only real limit is your imagination. You’ve got sliders and colour wheels for days. The only thing I regret doing with my character is giving her bright purple eyes. She’s kind of pretty, but has these really bizarre purple eyes which ruin everything.

Rade’s weird purple eyes can’t ruin her scripting though. BioWare’s David Gaider once again writes some very excellent dialog for all his characters. When you’re going to spend hundreds of hours (don’t give me that look, this game is going to dig its claws into you and you’re doing to play this through several times) playing this game, crafting out well written characters is important. Each character shouldn’t feel two-dimensional and it’s something that BioWare excel at.

However, it’s a BioWare game, so it doesn’t come without a bug or two. I haven’t come any myself just yet, but a few of my friends have posted on their social media floating books, some hilarious clipping issues and rendering issues. These aren’t as bad as a few other games *cough* Assassin’s Creed *cough*, but these can get frustrating and for a game that looks as polished as Dragon Age: Inquisition, it’s disappointing.

Like I said in the beginning, I’m surprised I’m enjoying Dragon Age: Inquisition as much as I am. Dragon Age: Origins causes me physical pain and it steered me clear of Dragon Age II. The only reason I picked up Dragon Age: Inquisition was sheer curiosity, and it paid off. It’s pretty to look at, I’m invested in the characters and I don’t have to be overly invested in the over-arching lore to understand the story. It’s the perfect game for die-hard Dragon Age fans or people just looking for something to invest their time in.

 

beth_christmas_2007_topper

It’s that time of year again! With Christmas on the horizon, the difficult task of buying gifts becomes obvious. Being the well-skilled shopper that I am, I find buying gifts for my game-orientated friends the worst. It’s like buying shoes for someone without knowing their size.

So in the spirit of the up-coming season, I give you my guide to buying the perfect gamer gift.

Gift cards are the easiest solution for the picky gamer or someone you don’t know very well. Your friend can pick what they want without the risk of buying something said gamer already has or doesn’t want.

Games are a great gift if you know what your friend plays. Steam has a ‘wish list’ system that is a fantastic indicator. Games are ranked in the order that your friend wants them and they show up-to-date prices. If you’re buying a game for the console user, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network Store and the Wii store offer a range of games that be purchased using a credit card or a point-system.

As far as the consoles go, Xbox One and PS4 bundles are a great choice. EB Games have Xbox One without Kinect + 6 game bundles going for $529, Xbox One with Kinect + 7 games for $599 and their PS4 bundles are just as good. Several different game bundles with the black or white PS4 console available for $598. Other retailers like Big W or JB Hi-Fi will have similar bundles available, so shop around and see what you can get.

Nintendo released brand new 3DS consoles this year and they’re going for $250, gifted along with the new Pokemon Alpha Sapphire or Omega Ruby, Super Smash Bros or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, you’re going to make any gamer happy.

Big name AAA titles like Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Far Cry 4 have been reviewing well. If your gamer hasn’t picked up one of the later year release titles, they should definitely be something to check out.

If your gamer doesn’t play video games, try to find your local tabletop games shop. The staff are generally very helpful and friendly. Check out the Youtube series Tabletop, hosted by Wil Wheaton, for some fun board game ideas. Tabletop has given my friends and I some great games to play, including Gloom, Zombie Dice and the friendship-ruining card game Munchkin. If your tabletop gamer like RPG-style games, buying the miniatures they want or a set of really cool dice will get you some quality brownie points.

If your nerd has a game in mind, but it hasn’t been released, offer to buy the pre-order for them. Some pre-orders are quite cheap and you still get some decent loot with it. If they already have a pre-order organised but haven’t paid it off yet, offer to pay the rest off. Some collector’s editions can be upwards of $150 price wise, so buying it or paying it off is always a good idea and who doesn’t want a shiny new figurine for Christmas?

I picked up a PS4 a few months ago when Destiny finally launched as a full game. I was excited about Destiny after playing the beta with friends on my Xbox 360.

A white PS4 with Destiny and The Last of Us: Remastered from Dick Smith (where I work) for cheap? It was too good to be true. I’m starting to regret my decision, now.

My first console was a PlayStation. Many hours were wasted on 40 Winks, Crash Bandicoot, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos and Spyro. I moved on to the PlayStation 2 and the brilliant library that came with that console.

My love affair with the Xbox started with a second-hand Xbox when I was 13 or so. I can’t remember why my Mum bought it for me, but I got Halo 2 and a few other games with it in a deal EB Games had going at the time.

It was instant, life-long love and I’ve never really looked back. My first Xbox 360 was so well “loved”, that the disc drive failed. A common fault, but for a relatively old Xbox 360, surviving the 7 years that it did was a great feat. My second Xbox is slowly gathering dust until I can be bothered to connect it to my bedroom TV. Its place in the lounge room was replaced by the PS4.

The Destiny hype suckered me into buying the PS4. My friends suckered me into buying the PS4. The price I got from work suckered me into buying the PS4.

It sits quietly on the shelf above the TV, making friends with the Blu-Ray player I bought my parents a few years ago. My PS4 is unloved. I think my PS4 was a brilliant investment, don’t get me wrong. It’s something that I think will get plenty of use in the future, but looking back on my choice, I would have waited and picked the Xbox One.

I own the Titanfall Xbox One controller, I’m considering picking up the Halo: Master Chief edition without owning the console because my dedication to the Halo series runs so deep that I’m pretty sure my blood is khaki. I want an Xbox One, but spent my money on a PS4.

Giving up the PS4 isn’t an option with plenty of quality games coming out on it in the future, but in the present, all I want is an Xbox One, Halo, Sunset Overdrive and a weekend off so I can play video games until my hands form Xbox One-shaped claw hands.

The sad reality of things is that it’s the day after PAX and PPD (Post-PAX Depression) has already set in. I woke up this morning with a bit of a broken heart because I couldn’t take the 20 minute walk from my hotel to the Convention Centre and hang out with the coolest people I know.

So, in a vain attempt to combat the PPD blues, I thought I’d do my write up of the weekend and the mind-blowing things that happened.

The major change between 2013 and 2014 was the venue. For those who couldn’t attend PAX Aus 2013, it was held at the Showgrounds in Melbourne. Because of the more “outdoorsy” venue, moving between theatres and halls could be troublesome. Forgiveable, considering it was the FIRST PAX being held in Australia the organisers listened to the complaints and moved the event to the MCEC.

Such room.

Much success.

Wow.

But seriously, the new venue is a major improvement. While the queueing is still an “issue” (tens of thousands of people trying to get into one place? THERE’S GOING TO BE A LINE.), the larger theatres and rooms made sure that if you waited in line, you were going to get a seat. It was a great improvement over last year.

Friday.

keynote edit

Pete Hines – Meat Shield

Friday was Rade-Sim day. By that, I mean that I was in civvies with a plumbob headband. My take on “casual cosplay”. Friday was spent exploring the convention, meeting people and attending panels. The first two I checked out were the Keynote (hosted by Pete Hines) and the Q&A by the ever hustlin’ Mike and Jerry, creators of Penny Arcade. Pete Hines had an insightful look into what PR in video games industry is like. His keynote was full of stories from his career and all the ways that Bethesda has grown. Oh, and horse armour.

The format for the Q&A was different to last year and I’m thankful for that. Robert Khoo picked out questions from The Internet for Mike and Jerry to answer, and were categorised by the type of question that was asked. Red envelopes were for more “serious” questions and white envelopes for “light-hearted” questions. A running joke of the panel was that white envelopes were a lucky dip of serious and light-hearted questions. But it meant that some guy couldn’t go on for 10 minutes about his telescope (check out the Q&A from last year) and bore everyone to death.

I got to spend time hanging out with my friend Tehkella (who writes good shit. Check it). She lives far away, which makes me sad but PAX brings us together. Which is what PAX is really all about.

With that major block of panels out of the way, I checked out the rest of the expo. The first place I headed was to was the Walk-Thru Walls booth to see the guys there. I met them last year and they’re cool kids. They also let me review for them, so that’s awesome. Then begun the wandering.

Wandering around the Xbox booth, through to the Cards Against Humanity area and just… around. I got lost in the expo hall. Listening to outrageously loud dance music, wondering how the fuck you get an enormous tank into the middle of a expo hall (no, seriously. Magic?) and just admiring all the fantastic cosplay. I’d managed to kill a few hours, but I hadn’t destroyed enough minutes to make it to the next panel. Cue the return home to my hotel and a quick costume change for my next panel. Little did I know, the next panel would be the highlight of my… month? Year? Probably writing career.

The panel was “The Realities of Writing About Games.” 5 people were about to destroy the dreams of a theatre full of people. It was a learning experience about what the people I want to work for want in your work. I found out I need to improve a bunch of my skills. But the best was yet to come.

The highlight for my PAX weekend was meeting Mark Serrels. He’s the editor for Kotaku AU and porridge enthusiast. I got to tell him about how he messaged me after an article (and subsequent comments) about some horrible shit at E3 and told me that I shouldn’t listen to the horrible people and keep going. This is something that has stuck with me through everything. This industry isn’t kind, but knowing someone believes in you is something to cling to, especially in the desperate times.

I told him this at the end of the panel, and he was just gobsmacked. Or, I think he was. But apparently I’d struck a chord with him because he wrote about me in a Kotaku article. [ insert fangirling here. ]

Everything after that was just… a bonus.

Saturday.

Cosplay day 1. I spent the morning wandering again, but this time dressed as a buzzaxe-wielding psycho. Had a few photos taken, screamed about poop at the top of my lungs (worth it!) and just doing normal con junk.

I decided to head off to a panel about Fake Nerds, featuring my friend Jimmy and hosted by my friend Jessica. Unfortunately, Jess’s schedule was all screwy and she couldn’t attend. But the panel was fantastic and by the packed room, it was clearly a hot topic.

Walking home after the panel, I hit the post-spring carnival race crowd full of drunks and then found one who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Pro-tip to everyone reading this: Don’t call the cosplayer wielding a buzzaxe fat. The temptation to smack your face with it is NEARLY overwhelming.

Saturday night made up for drunk, asshole guy because I got to hang out with some friends at a really creepy restaurant and a really cool bar. Lots of drinking and impromptu karaoke.

Sunday

Whee~ Sunday! Sunday was the day I was looking forward to. After a late night and a VERY early morning, I headed to my friend’s hotel room so we could get into our Borderlands gear and go to the Gearbox panel.

After a superb Gearbox panel (free games, woo!) and a huge Borderlands cosplay group photo, we headed off to the Gearbox signing and got to meet the Gearbox crew and a photo with Randy Pitchford.

groupAfter that, we stopped at the Smithe booth so Maya could drop her bag off for work later and photos at the Xbox booth and 2K booth in front of their “Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel” wall panel… thing and trying to find the massive cosplay group shot. There were like… 60 of us at least in this photo and that was just the people who’d found out about it in various Facebook groups or word of mouth.

I met people I’ve been stalking heavily investigating on Facebook and take photos with them and scream about meat bicycles and junk. It’s the most amazing feeling to growl “I LIKE MY LOOT LIKE I LIKE MY BABY STEAKS… RAAAAAARE” with another dude and immediately become friends because of it.

PAX Australia is one of those things that you wonder about what it’ll be like and have all these expectations and then when you get there, you see a sign that says “Welcome home” and that’s what it feels like. It’s home. There are 30,000 cousins in this family who enjoy the same stuff you do and you all bond over that, it’s the best feeling ever.

 

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am a Borderlands addict. My addiction led to nearly 600+ hours in Borderlands 1 and Borderlands 2, I own both the Borderlands 2 pre-order chest and the Diamond-played loot chest, a CL4P-TP figurine and David Eddings signed Gentleman CL4P-TP figurine. I also convinced my cousin to name a foal “Butt Stallion” and I’m an avid Krieg cosplayer.

…yeah. I have a problem. Clearly, the solution was to get my hands on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!

Borderlands: The Presequel! is told like a flashback by Athena, a highly-skilled mercenary captured by Lilith, Brick and Mordecai. Throughout the game, you’ll hear commentary from Athena and the others about the events you’re playing through. BL: TPS explores Handsome Jack before the mask; back when he was just John. An attack on the Hyperion orbit station, Helios, finds you teaming up with the future pretzel-eating villain to, get this… SAVE Pandora’s moon, Elpis and the people who inhabit the surface.

Crazy, right?

aaaaaaFour entirely new classes have been added to Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Instead of Assassin, Siren, Soldier and Gunzerker, you get:

Athena: The Gladiator. Athena made her first appearance in the Borderlands 1 DLC “The Secret Armory of General Knoxx.” Her shield packs a punch which you can throw at enemies, and of course, shield yourself with.

Nisha: The Lawbringer. Nisha will be familiar to Borderlands 2 players. She was the Sheriff of Lynchwood, the Eridium-mining town. Nisha’s skill tree “Law & Order” can give buffs to gun damage, health or shields. You can also duel-wield when you spec Nisha’s “Fan the Hammer” skill tree.

Whlhelm: The Enforcer. As you spec Wilhelm’s character, you slowly see him develop into the cyborg-human death machine that you fight in Borderlands 2.

Finally, you’ve got Claptrap: The Fragtrap. His “vaulthunter.exe” skill tree gives players (and co-op partners) buffs based on their current situation. He can also use skills used by previous by the previous vault hunters. At last, he’s the badass he wanted to be.

Gameplay is essentially unchanged from Borderlands 2 at its core, but with some interesting changes. Because you’re on the moon, gravity and oxygen are a new challenge to wrangle with. Instead of relics to change character stats, you now collect Oz Kits; masks that give you oxygen to breathe on the moon’s surface. They also provide elemental bonuses for your gravity stomp. Which is awesome.

Using gravity to your advantage, you can jump or boost jump (another Oz Kit advantage), you can slam down on your enemies and inflict elemental damage. With that elemental damage and a swift shotgun blast to the face, enemies can be promptly dealt with.

Gravity jumps and boost jumps can be a little difficult to work with in the beginning. Having your character accidentally jump off the map because of a misguided jump gets old pretty quick.

Another noticeable inclusion is the hundreds of Australian accents. Borderlands: TPS was developed by 2K Australia, so you’d expect one or two references about Australia (Like the bosses “Red” and “Belly”, to make “Redbelly”. A notorious snake in Australia), but it’s more like the residents of outback Australia were abducted and transported to Elpis in some bizarre experiment to see what Australians can survive. (Hint: It’s everything.) Plenty of jokes to keep Australian gamers happy, but maybe some of it will go over everyone else’s head.

I do have some complaints. While the writing is still on par with previous games, the ‘Straya thing it’s got going on can be a little (or a lot) over the top, and borders on insulting in some parts. I can appreciate the effort in trying to capture Australian culture, but sometimes it comes off more like a Crocodile Dundee movie than anything close to real Australian culture (says the city-slicker)

It also doesn’t feel as polished as the rest of the series. Characters clipping through moving platforms and AI bugs are a few things I’ve encountered through my gameplay. A little disappointing considering the quality of the previous two Borderlands Games.

All that said, the new heroes, new setting, new characters and new story work well with the old formula that made Borderlands and Borderlands 2 so popular.261640_screenshots_2014-10-19_00009

If you’re looking for something new from the Borderlands series, maybe wait until Tales from the Borderlands is released. If you played Borderlands 2 until you were blue in the face (like I did), then Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is right up your alley.