Farcry 5: The First Region

Ubisoft, much like EA and some of the other big video game publisher/developers have had their fair share of mistakes made over the years. I don’t really purchase too many of their titles as a result, because quite simply their cookie-cutter game design that allows them to churn out titles year after year tends to lead to boring experiences. I’m talking about the Call of Duty‘s and Assassin’s Creed‘s of the world. However, I am not immune to their charms at times, having purchased a handful of Call of Duty titles, and though I don’t enjoy Assassin’s Creed, I’ve always been somewhat curious about the Farcry franchise. I recall people talking positively about it in the past, and I’ve seen a video or two that made it seem somewhat appealing, but until now I’ve not legitimately played a single one. That changed recently, due to a sale on the Playstation Store, where the fifth (and latest in the numbered series) game was on sale for only $15. There were options for complete DLC editions and whatnot, but not knowing if I’d even like the game, I managed my risk. I also have a little less disposable income as of late due to the purchase of my car, so I’m trying to play through some games I already own, and only pick up cheap options otherwise. Nonetheless, I’ve started the game and have played it pretty regularly over the last week, managing to complete one of the game’s three regions. I say complete loosely, due to the sheer number of things you can do in a given region, but I did a large portion of what was on offer, and I assume at some point later in the game I could go back and do some cleanup. So as I’ve pretty much gone into this experience blind, I’ll share what I’ve learned about the series, this game in particular, and my personal story with it.

I neglected to take any screenshots during the tutorial, but the set up is basically this: You’re a rookie in the Hope County Sheriff’s department in Montana, where a religious cult has been terrorizing the locals. You’re heading in with U.S. Marshals to take on this threat. Things go okay for a while, then shit hits the fan, and as you attempt to obscond with the cult’s leader, his people go crazy, climbing onto your helicopter and literally sacrificing themselves in the chopper’s blades to cause a crash landing. Some of your comrades are captured but you manage to escape. From here, this little island serves as a tutorial area, getting you used to the game’s mechanics. The above graphic describes the majority of activities that you’ll take part in through the rest of the game. I’m not sure if it’s really “emergent” AI, but things seem to happen randomly enough, and as you complete the above tasks enemies get even stronger, or more variety of enemies will appear. For example, you’ll start with roving bands of cultists that will attack if they see you, to then having actual hunters tracking you down, to then having airplanes gunning for you. It’s never to a point of being too hard, but it definitely can get annoying at times.

For the most part, if you’ve played any open world games, you’ll be familiar with what is on offer here. There is a character customization option, but you never see yourself unless you utilize photo mode — but there is the option to co-op through the game so I suppose there is a reason for all of the random skins and clothing articles. Everything can be bought with in game currency, some pieces can be found in the world, and of course there is a premium currency which seems unneeded but I suppose whales will be whales. The perk system has a lot to choose from, but some choices seem more obvious than others. Getting the grappling hook and parachute are great for getting around, while the lockpicking and extra holsters obviously make sense. Other options seem to be less useful and are just passive bonuses, but I suppose this depends on your playstyle. There is a limited crafting system that works pretty similarly to The Last of Us, and you’re really only making explosives with the materials you’ll collect. Weapons are varied enough, but the “customization” is the same set of scopes, silencers and larger magazines on every gun, and there are more pointless skins. It feels kind of hollow, but it works well enough.

You’ll spend a lot of time staring at this map, and this is zoomed out to the size of the region. There are two other regions that are equally sized, and it surely takes a while to get from point A to point B on foot. As you complete missions, rescue people and generally blow shit up, you’ll eventually get captured by a group of cultist hunters, which will introduce you to that region’s leader, in this case John Seed. The Seeds are the cult’s leaders, and they seem just unhinged enough to be “crazy” but are also composed enough to keep order over their people. After escaping the first time, you’ll eventually piss off John enough to get captured again, this time with a longer sequence carrying on to escape. Eventually you’ll fill up your “resistance points” bar and John will call you out for a confrontation.

The world feels big, and for the most part it feels lived in. There are some areas of wilderness, but there’s always someone wandering around nearby. As with most games of this type, there is a fast travel option, where you can open the map and instantly teleport to a previously visited location. I used this sort of option in games like Skyrim almost exclusively, as it eventually became tiresome to trudge about the map on foot. That feels the same way here, but fortunately there is a grand scope of vehicles that you can pilot to get around quickly enough. I do think that the inclusion of fast travel can be a sort of immersion breaking, but its necessary if you ever want to feel like you’ve accomplished something. I’m happy that the vehicles make it feel easier to get around without breaking that immersion… in fact there were points where I was in an intense firefight and the next thing I knew I was in a plane and facing off against aerial opponents. There are times when things feel mundane, and then others where the game gets its hooks into you. I’m not in love with it, but I haven’t grown tired of playing it either. So that’s something.

The main storyline is sort of drab and predictable, but some of the side quests were particularly interesting. One quest saw me hunting humping bulls for their testicles, which is a true to life delicacy in some parts of this country. Rocky Mountain Oysters as they are called, sound revolting to me, but apparently these people really wanted some balls in their mouth. Another mission I did for a kooky conspiracy theorist had me running around for these mysterious orbs that were supposed to be of alien origin, and in most cases made the animals around them aggro and strong. I was actually killed by a mob of turkeys and it was fairly entertaining. That same dude actually built some sort of teleportation machine using these parts, and I’m not sure if he actually went somewhere or was just vaporized, but either way I was able to grab a weird science weapon and his shoes after the fact.

There is a bit of force patriotism in the game, which I suppose would be okay if we weren’t quickly becoming the laughing stock of the world. The game also has its fair share of bugs, which I assume is par for the course when these types of games are churned out as quickly as they are. One bug in particular stuck with me, as I was supposed to destroy this cult truck that was causing havoc on the streets, and as I’m following it and shooting, it literally disappeared. After some searching I found it on the map, considerably further back from where it disappeared. Then as I waited for it to appear from around a bend, it was literally flickering in and out of existence. I just kept chucking explosives at it, and somehow it still exploded and credited me with the kill, but there was no physical evidence as it had flickered out of existence again. Not game breaking, but definitely not a great look. So far though, after defeating John seed and moving onto the next region, I’m ready to reload and check out more. I see myself finishing the game, but I doubt I’ll bother with DLC and the like. Farcry 6 is already on the horizon, set to release next February, so I don’t see myself needing more of this, when I could just jump into that. It’s likely it’s on next gen systems as well, so maybe that will be an improvement in more ways than one.

On Fallout 76

I started on a draft about Fallout 76 back when it released in 2018 right around my birthday. It was actually a gift from my lady, who already knew how obsessed I was with the prior game, Fallout 4. The initial draft was intended to capture my first impressions of the game, which turned out to be less exciting than I had expected. Firstly, I wasn’t into the idea of having to download yet another launcher to play, but Bethesda released theirs alongside this game, also pulling many of their newer titles from Steam in order to support their lineup of games. It didn’t take long for Epic Games to also release their own store, and actually gain some ground on Steam with exclusivity deals. The community divided, Bethesda decided to return their titles along with future developed games to Steam, while also running their own launcher if you prefer. So one of the ticks on the box was checked for me there.

I didn’t end up releasing the draft I had been working on because I literally spent a handful of hours with the game before getting bored and running off to do something else. It looks and feels like a Fallout Game in the sense of environment and guns and NPCs, but that was probably the main issue, that there weren’t really NPCs aside from enemies. There was a sort of breadcrumb story trail that I followed around the map for a bit, and I also witnesses a nuclear bomb going off, as that was part of the packed in pvp experience. To be honest, there were so many more things I was finding wrong with the game than what I found right. Despite destroying the draft, I did upload some of those first screenshots so I’ll share them here and try to job my memory a bit.

The character creation was similar enough to Fallout 4, and honestly you could say it’s just the next iteration of the same game. I suppose that makes sense, but with the inclusion of other players, there’s other considerations that didn’t seem to be made. I understand its hard to shape a story around one person when there are others playing, but Borderlands has been doing this for years so it shouldn’t have been that difficult. The constantly open mics was a terrible decision, but it was nice that they added an option to turn them off. PvP sounds like it would be fun, but with the VATS system severely gimped, you wouldn’t be able to truly have epic fire fights with others. So then that leaves co-op, which sounds like where the core of the fun would be at, but it was distinctly lonely feeling while I was playing. I did see other people wandering around, but I didn’t group up or go on adventures, I mostly skulked around thinking they might try to fight. Whatever the case, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the game, but decided I would keep up on it regardless, because maybe one day it might morph into something more enjoyable.

Sometime after the release of the game, Bethesda released a roadmap of where they wanted to go with the title. The latest of these updates was slated to release in the fall of last year, but was delayed until this month. Wastelanders is the name of the update, and it promised to bring NPCs back to the game, which is ultimately what most Fallout fans wanted. If I can play the game solo but there are other people running around, that’s cool, but give me things to do. Also, make these things more fun to do with other people so we’re encouraged to group up and get things done together. Apparently Survival mode was added, and something called Nuclear Winter as well, but I don’t know exactly what those added to the game. As of yet, I haven’t played again, but I thought I should get some opinions down about my initial experience with the game before I do try it again so I have more comparison points. As a bonus, the game did release on Steam and owners got a free copy so I’m pretty stoked about not having to pay for it again and being able to play on Steam.

So with that, I’m going to try and dive into the game sometime in the near future and give it a fair shake again. I’m hoping that this ends up being another No Man’s Sky where it was a cool concept that under delivered at launch but redeems itself down the line.

Quick Thoughts: Games on the Cheap

Generally speaking, there are far too many games released in a given year to play them all. Sometimes you have to spend your limited expendable funds carefully, and that means skipping some titles in favor of others. What’s great about our current gaming climate, is that typically a year or so after a game releases (or stops releasing DLC) it typically has a “Game of the Year,” “Complete” or “Ulitmate” edition. This bundle will save you money, because a) you didn’t pay full price for the base game and b) you now get all DLCs included for either the same asking price or less. Give it a little more time, and you can usually catch these bundled titles on sale and save even more money. You won’t be on the cutting edge, playing the newest, hottest games on release, but in the case of most titles, you’re not missing anything by playing them late. In most cases I’d argue you’re smarter that the guy who pays $60 at launch for a title and then pays $10-20 per DLC on top of that. Nevertheless, I have found a few titles I’ve wanted to play in recent years but hadn’t gotten around to, bundled as I’ve mentioned and on sale to boot. It was very difficult to resist a copy of each of the games I’m going to discuss, and yes that means I purchased them once I saw the price was right. Let’s jump in, shall we?

I absolutely wanted to play Horizon: Zero Dawn when it released. The first time I saw it at E3 I knew it was a title that would be up my alley. I’m at a stage in my life though, that some games that I believe will be enjoyable aren’t always. I’ve also been trying to cut down on spending on games due to the fact that so many either collect dust or disappoint me. But for $10, I knew I needed to grab a copy, particularly because the Complete Edition came with bonus goodies and the game’s lone expansion The Frozen Wilds. I have not been disappointed by this title, and the inexpensive nature of the purchase doesn’t affect this — it’s a damn fine game. You play as Aloy, a young girl outcast by a tribe in a post-apocalyptic world where robot creatures roam the landscape and tribes of humans fight among themselves.

There’s a lot to digest in the early portions of the game. It’s clear that “the Old Ones” died off for some reason or another, and somehow, robots have formed into various beasts (perhaps a form of evolution or created by the dead ancients). You’ve been taken in by Rost, an outcast from the Nora tribe. He has sheltered you, but as a little girl you don’t really understand why the tribe won’t talk to you. On one fateful day, you end up falling into a cave that is a ruin from the old days, and find a “focus” which looks eerily similar to a bluetooth ear piece, but is definitely more useful. It provides information on the environment and things within it, becoming an excellent tool. Wanting to rejoin the tribe, Rost agrees to train you for “the proving” which is a ritual that allows tribesmen to become “braves,” and for outcasts to rejoin the tribe. The meat of the game is a third person shooter style, with some stealth elements, RPG progression, and a beautiful world to explore. It’s open world to a degree, though you’re held back for a time as you grow up, complete the proving, and become a “seeker.” Having that title allows you to leave the sacred lands of your people, and find answers. At certain points you are given “choices matter” styles of conversation prompts, and are allowed to choose your path. I assume these actions have consequences, but not many have shown up yet. I’m still in the early portions of the game though, so perhaps some of these will come back around. Overall the game looks great and plays great. It’s a title on the level of games like those made by Naughty Dog, where the graphics are top notch and the game play and story matches its beauty. I’m in love with it, and definitely look forward to what comes next.

I bought the original Titanfall for PC. In the past year I’ve decided to boycott Origin though, as I prefer my PC games to be linked up through Steam. As such I wasn’t going to buy the sequel on PC (and have already purchased a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisiton for PS4 so I can avoid having to use the additional platform). That might sound stupid to some, but I don’t mind playing EA games on the console, whereas I’m annoyed with the company on PC. So here we are. Titanfall 2 looked amazing when I first saw it — it’s more of the same, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. However, I just didn’t pick it up on release and hadn’t though about it for quite some time. Seeing the Ultimate Edition on sale for $8 though, and I was sold. This being a multiplayer game, there was worry about whether or not people would still be playing it, but unlike its predecessor, this one has a single player campaign, so I knew at least I’d get to experience that. So far, it’s been okay. Very similar to Call of Duty campaigns I’ve played in the past, just with the benefit of being a better game than CoD.

Being a Titanfall game, you get the requisite boots on the ground action along with the mechs that you pilot. There’s still wall running and double jumping, fast and furious gunplay and of course, MECHS! It’s a blast to run around, jumping and sliding and calling down your titan to fuck shit up. I have yet to play the multiplayer but I did check out the menus and saw a pretty healthy population despite being fairly late when I was playing. I think because it sets itself apart from other shooters on the market it has managed to keep a following. I’m glad that not everyone is off playing Battle Royale games and still appreciates a good ol’ fashioned FPS. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts about this one soon.

The last game isn’t a bundle deal, but is a remastered version of a game I first played on PS3. Burnout Paradise was a fantastic title that came out of nowhere for me. I believe it was my sister’s (now-ex) husband who showed me the game, and I only played it at his house and didn’t get too much out of it. I just remember thinking that it reminded me of Need For Speed Underground, which was one of my favorite NFS titles of all time. The remaster here takes the original game (and appears that the DLCs are present, so perhaps this is a bundle after all) and polishes it up a bit. The intro movie is still clearly PS3 graphics, but once you get into the game it looks a bit better than its OG version, and definitely runs at a higher frame rate.

You start the game with a crappy car and have a semi-open-world to explore. Like the Need For Speed games, you can roll up to points on the map that will start up a race, or can battle with random NPCs on the road. There are also stunts and collectibles along with challenges where you can pit your high scores against those on your friends list. It’s the same experience as before, but due to my limited time with the game in the past, I can now delve further into it. I managed to upgrade my license and open up a few new cars in my first session, and I look forward to getting down with more racing — it really is a blast.

As I said, I’ll likely have more thoughts on these games as I progress. At this point I would say they are all worth your time, even if you don’t get them for as cheap as I did. Each scratches a different itch, and I’m pleased with the expenditure.

Thoughts on ELEX

As I mentioned in my last rambling post, I started up the game ELEX recently. The first time I had heard of the game I saw it on Steam, and not knowing much about it I passed on it. Plus, I rarely buy games for full price because sometimes you get burnt. Later, I saw it again but this time it was on the Playstation store, and given the game’s 3rd person view and action oriented combat, I felt like it was probably better suited for console play. It was on sale this time around as well so I picked it up. I’ve had it for a while but finally got around to firing it up the other day.

The game is made by the company Piranha Bites, creators of the Gothic series. I remember seeing those games around in the past but never played one of them. I remember hearing some good things but looking back at meta scores it seems that it was a middling open world RPG in a market where devs like Bioware and Bethesda remained king. This is the company’s newest offering, but instead of being traditional high fantasy it has a fair mix of fantasy and sci-fi. The general premise is that the earth was chugging along (probably a modern day timeframe) when a giant comet collided with the surface and wiped out a large chunk of humanity. The comet held something called ELEX, which is a material that various people in the game have a different relationship with. New factions arose. The Berserkers forsake technology and have developed the use of magic with ELEX. The Clerics don’t use magic but have psychic abilities and use ELEX to fuel technology. Finally, the Outlaws have modern day tech and use ELEX to make “chems” which they use to boost various abilities. Each sounds unique and interesting, but from the get-go you’re pretty much just running around with no armor and shitty melee weapons.

The game is open world and seamless, so you’ll get the pokes and prods to go do this or go do that but you can ignore it all and head in any direction you like. Joining factions seems a bit tricky, as I decided I wanted to join the Outlaws (they’re the only faction that can craft, and I imagine ammo and things become an issue). I headed to the desert where they stay, found a bunch of quests to do for them and then promptly failed multiple. It seems that the general advice for the game is to do the companion quests and try to find better gear prior to even trying to join a faction, so I’m at a point where I might start over, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far.

You’ll meet a variety of interesting characters and so far the missions are standard RPG stuff. There isn’t anything too difficult here. Getting used to the terminology and figuring out which way to develop your character is probably the most challenging bit, aside from finding new gear. As you being the game you run into a Berserker almost immediately, and he takes you to their base, so perhaps that is the best way to get new gear but it doesn’t sound like you can swap allegiances on the fly like you could in games like Fallout. At this point I think I’ll try to get as much gear upgrades as possible and a companion quickly so that I will be able to survive a bit better and perhaps still go with the Outlaws. Probably should have done some research before I started but cest la vie.

The map is rather large and there is little in the way of fast travel. There are no mounts or express paths to various areas. The only thing I’ve found is little teleport beacons here and there, and I assume they are the only places you can fast travel too. Being able to wander and explore is great, but if you have to run from one end of the map to the other that would get old rather fast. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the skill points there, as I said I’ll be starting over.

For the most part I think it’s a promising title. My only real complaint is that there isn’t much in the way of gear or explanation in the beginning, but at the same time I don’t really want my hand held. Also, having a pre-set character is so 1995… I want to customize my character and not be stuck with a shitty generic name like Jax. The combat is a little wonky too but I’m sure that just takes getting used to.

That’s all for now. I’ll report back when I’ve made some more progress.

A Strong Candidate For GOTY

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According to steam I have just about ten hours put into Fallout 4, and I have a feeling I’ve barely scratched the surface. That’s not counting the fact that there will be eventual DLC that will expand upon the base game, meaning there are many, many more hours to put into this title. For the first time in a long time, a game has grabbed me to the point where I don’t want to play other games. This probably hasn’t happened since I got hooked on Skyrim. Dragon Age: Origins before that. Games where I wanted to see all the possible endings, play through with multiple characters, and find all of the secrets. I had my doubts about Fallout 4 though. I recall word that Bethesda titles tend to release as buggy messes. I read critics calling the game ugly, the same old thing, and dumbed down compared to previous titles in the series. People said the same about Skyrim when comparing it to Oblivion, so it’s likely that there are critics for everything, and people need to make up their own minds when it comes to judgments of games. My initial impressions of the game from trailers and things I had read was that it was a completely new game in a familiar package, and given my history with Bethesda, I felt I would likely enjoy this title.

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My main reservations were my dislike of the shonky FPS combat from the previous two Fallout titles, the lack of purpose for junk items that you interact with in the world (something I hope they find a way to improve upon in the next Elder Scrolls game), and ugly character models. The latter is still probably the weakest point in Fallout 4, while in the above picture my character looks up to current graphical standards, when zoomed in close hair on the head and the face still isn’t that great, but I play the game in first person mode exclusively, so I don’t really care that much. I can happily report that the new FPS system and even V.A.T.S. have been greatly improved. I can actually play the game in real-time, and shooting feels much more fluid, accurate and effective. V.A.T.S. doesn’t fully stop the action now, it actually goes into a super slow mode where the enemies can actually take cover while you’re in mid-shot, causing you to miss or hit something they’ve ducked behind. Because I play FPS games pretty regularly, I feel like my shooter twitch skills actually come into play in this game, rather than an RNG accuracy measurement is controlling the action. V.A.T.S. feels like a tool — not a requirement, and that’s exactly what I asked for. Finally, the junk that you see strewn about the world but would just avoid due to weight considerations in past Bethesda games has a reason to exist. Every piece of junk can be broken down into components and used in crafting at several different stations, along with the base-building mode that is completely new to the series. It took a bit to get used to it, but once I did I rather enjoy the crafting systems in this game, and I never enjoy building or crafting in games. It’s always something that takes time away from what I’d rather be doing, but it feels good to have the option to break up quests or exploring. It makes you look for things that you would normally ignore, just so you can build something new in your base.

There are a wide variety of things to do right from the start, and apparently I’ve only completed one story mission, despite finishing a slew of side quests and miscellaneous tasks. Base building took up some time, and crafting weapons, armor, food, chemicals and even upgrading my power suit have all had their uses and didn’t overwhelm me with a sense of too much to do. Conversely I wish I had more time to devote to the game, rather than feeling the game is demanding too much time of me. Strange, that sentence. I remember feeling this way about MMOs years ago, but somehow that pendulum has swung the other direction with that genre, despite sharing many similarities with a game such as this one. Perhaps it’s having an “end state” that keeps these mechanics from overstaying their welcome. What I really think is that being an FPS with RPG elements is different enough from the standard third person action MMO that I’m loving it. Maybe I never wanted an MMO to begin with, I just wanted a world as immersive as this one that I could play along with friends? Speaking of, Bethesda, why can I have a range of sidekicks, but your games aren’t co-op? Don’t say anything about ESO, you. That’s not what I want at all.

Companions feel improved from previous Bethesda games. Not only do they follow you tirelessly and help out in combat situations, along with being a great mule, but they actually sneak around with you and don’t aggro everything in a ten mile radius. I got to the point where I stopped using companions at all in Skyrim because they were more annoying than they were worth. In the case of Fallout 4, they feel more intelligent and useful. But, I did use companions in Skyrim for more than ten hours before getting rid of them, so my opinion here might change.

Catering to my explorer side, Fallout 4 doesn’t fail to impress. I’ve covered maybe 15% of the map and feel that I’m just scratching the surface. There is so much to see, and there is that feeling of seeing something cool and needing to check it out. There are collectibles that actually provide stats, much like earlier iterations of this series and TES. Comics, other books and Bobbleheads are hidden in not-so-obvious places and that makes you want to hunt them down in each nook and cranny you can find. Having a collectible actually mean something in-game is so much better than just having it to earn an achievement for your gamer card. I get the whole “gamer cred” concept, but I like having an in-game effect as well, so it scratches the itch for both explorers and achievers. Games like Call of Duty, Uncharted and pretty much every other console game/port take note… collectibles are lame if they only provide achievement/trophies.

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Fallout 4 felt really easy for the first hour or so. After that it was apparent that this particular wasteland can be rather dangerous. Radiation is something a bit more difficult to deal with this time around, taking from your total health until you use some RadAway, which isn’t all that plentiful to begin with. Basic enemies can be rather difficult too, because they tend to spawn/wander in groups. Big baddies like the one above would be instant death without the help of your powersuit; something I never had in previous Fallout games (though admittedly I never beat any of them). I also don’t understand why people are saying this game is so ugly. I don’t have a state of the art graphics card (GTX 770) but the rest of my system is pretty damn good, and I’m running the game @ 1920/1080/60hz on high settings and it looks gorgeous. I mean yeah, I’ve seen slightly better but it feels on par with what’s coming out these days. It’s definitely better than previous iterations. Besides, as I’ve said many a time: Graphics aren’t everything. Overall, Fallout 4 has addressed all the qualms I had with the series, put it in a better looking package that runs smoothly and has added features I didn’t know I wanted. I’m in love with this game, and feel it’s a strong contender for game of the year. It’s in my top 3 at least.