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Sea Shanties: The Soul of Assassin’s Creed IV

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag did a lot for the series. By expanding on the ocean combat of AC3 and making it central to the games’ premise, it reinvigorated a franchise that had become increasingly rote. On top of this, it also allowed for the introduction of the best collectibles of the series to date.

Most game collectibles take the form of random objects scattered around the world (diary entries, feathers, hidden packages), usually providing an experience bonus or easter egg once a certain amount have been collected. Others unlock concept art or expand on the games’ lore. The inclusion of these in any game can be a mixed bag, and Assassin’s Creed has fallen afoul of an excess of them in the past, drawing criticism for what could be deemed as unnecessary padding. Indeed, Black Flag had its share of extraneous collectibles of varying usefulness (I still haven’t collected the 200 animus fragments), but among these were the uniquely memorable sea shanties.

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Pricepointers – Bringing Deformers back from the Brink

I had really been looking forward to playing Deformers, the multiplayer arena combat game from developer Ready at Dawn (The Order: 1886). After following it’s development for nearly a year, I was pretty excited by the time the open beta rolled around. Unfortunately, it didn’t work on my machine at all. Still, it’s tricky accounting for every combination of components in a PC, and I had no doubt that it would be fixed by the games’ release date three weeks later. During that time there was a major mix-up, where Gamestop accidentally leaked promotional codes meant for employees to the general public. But launch came and went on April 21st regardless, with opinion of the game being positive overall.  In the days following release, however, conversation surrounding the game turned sour. Of 101 reviews (as of the time of writing) on Steam, only 31% are positive. Complaints centre around the $30/€35 price tag, the lack of an option to play against AI opponents, and the exceedingly small playerbase, an issue that’s compounded by the first two problems. SteamDB states that the most users active at one time was 83, on the day of release. In the last 24 hours there were only 3 concurrent players. These complaints have been echoed by console players, many of whom have voiced the issue on the games’ subreddit.

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I’m in – Hacking in Videogames

Once, on the TV show Pretty Little Liars, a woman hacked a police van being used to transport prisoners. By hacking the on-board computer, she took control of the vans’ steering and made it crash. On the same show, one of the main characters hacks a police computer from her laptop via a Bluetooth USB stick. This, needless to say, is not how hacking works. Video games don’t generally approach hacking with the same laissez-faire attitude towards realism, but they haven’t pinned down an accurate representation of hacking that’s engaging and enjoyable either. From the stick-twiddling style employed by the Batman Arkham series to the Sudoku-esque glyph matching in Mass Effect: Andromeda, there are a myriad of different ways to isolate the node and dump ‘em on the other side of the router.

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Minibytes – Everything

There’s not a lot to Everything, the sandbox game created by David O’Reilly and published by Double Fine Presents, whose description boasts that it “will give you a new perspective on life.”. There’s not much to discuss in terms of the gameplay mechanics, which consist of exploring various macro and microcosms of the universe while inhabiting animals, plants, atoms, shapes, buildings, continents, galaxies and, well, see the title. Each of these can move, make sounds, gather or release more of themselves nearby, and dance. You can find snippets of text uttered by other elements in the landscape, and there are audio recordings by the late philosopher Alan Watts. There’s not much more to it than that. The visuals aren’t breathtaking but are very much suited to the game’s purpose, the score is excellent, and the grainy, lo-fi sound of Alan Watts’ voice smoothly eases you through the entire experience.

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Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment & Body Swap

Specter Knight could probably use a hug. Among Shovel Knight’s line-up of colourful and goofy bosses, Specter Knight comes off as that stereotypical highschool kid who hangs around the graveyard and contemplates how much everyone else sucks. As it turns out that’s not entirely without reason, as we discover in the aptly titled Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment which was released last week. The second DLC campaign for Shovel Knight, it was released alongside the body swap mode, which allows players to choose the gender and pronouns for several characters in the game.

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Shovel Knight: DLC Done Right

Shovel Knight is one of (relatively few) Kickstarter games which have enjoyed continued success following their campaign and subsequent release. The first outing by developer Yacht Club Games, it shattered it’s original campaign goal of $75,000 when it launched in March 2013, finishing at an impressive $311,502. It promised a return to the challenging platformer of the NES era, with a lush 8-bit aesthetic to match. Come release day in June of 2014, it was clear that it had delivered. Met with widespread acclaim, it currently averages a Metacritic score of 90/100 across seven consoles. There was little time for the devs to rest on their laurels, however, as every one of the stretch goals they had set were met during the initial campaign.

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Women In Gaming

Happy international women’s day! To celebrate I was going to do a piece on some of gaming’s finest female leads (I still might), but then I thought that it might actually be better to highlight some women working in the field of game design and development, and to maybe pay tribute to some unsung talent out here in the real world. Shortly afterwards I realised that I wasn’t aware of any women in the industry. Could not name a single one. This made writing the article somewhat difficult.

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