Horizon: Zero Dawn Throws Out Edginess for Colors and Fun

Originally posted March 7

Hunting robot dinosaurs has never been so fun.

“Horizon: Zero Dawn” follows the story of a young woman named Aloy, who lives in a time after modern humans. A mysterious apocalypse has passed, leaving nature to reclaim old skyscrapers and other buildings and humans to form varying tribes to survive.

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Aloy is “motherless” in a matriarchal tribe, called the Nora, where women are revered and respected, including the goddess “All-Mother.” Because of her lack of a mother, Aloy is shunned from her tribe and raised by an outcast named Rost.

One day, when she is six-years-old, Aloy falls into a “metal cave,” containing what resembles a modern-day scientific community. She finds an old piece of technology, called a Focus, which helps her find her way out and, later on, fight robotic dinosaurs and cultists that threaten her and, unsurprisingly enough, the world.

The game follows a typical RPG’s set of rules, with a skill tree, crafting and trading opportunities, material gathering and dialogue and situation options.

Fighting the mechanical giants is a daunting task, requiring players to sneak around and conserve their ammo. Aloy’s Focus helps players figure out paths that the machines take and where their weak points are, making it easier for players.

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After unlocking and crafting certain ammo, those weak points can be more entertaining than before. Some machines with canisters on their backs are prone to exploding and taking out many of their friends.

The gameplay can be considered difficult by those who haven’t had any experience with an RPG of this caliber, with an open world and enemies near every safe zone. There are missions, but unlike games like “Dishonored,” there isn’t a set zone for each. Players should think more of “Skyrim,” especially with the numerous viking and other Norse or European design choices.

The design is different than much of what has been available before in ancient-European-slash-Norse style games. The colors in “Horizon” are bright and inviting, while usually such styles are given mud-browns and mossy-greens. Of course it helps that the game isn’t set in ancient Europe.

“Horizon: Zero Dawn” is a must-play game for RPG fans. It’s available on the PlayStation 4 from the PlayStation Store and all major game retailers for $60.

Resident Evil is Scary as Hell

Originally posted on Jan. 31, 2017.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is scary. It’s scary in that it has jump scares, creepy maybe-dead wives, cardboard graphics and attaches itself to the ‘creepy hillbillies’ trope that’s been so overdone that a parody comic was made into a cult-classic movie.

The plot follows Ethan Winters on his search of his supposedly-dead wife, Mia, three years after she’s gone missing. He travels to a Louisiana swamp to a plantation that looks like Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. There he finds Mia, who attempts to help him escape before she’s possessed by some unknown force and attacks him.

Ethan then meets the Bakers, the family who live on the plantation and that players may recognize from the PlayStation 4 demo released late 2016. The family seems to be under the same possession that Mia was, and Ethan must escape the hellish plantation.

The game starts with a video of Mia telling Ethan that everything is okay and she’ll be home soon, with her terrifyingly thin hair falling into her uncanny-valley face.

The graphics in this game, if players don’t have to see too many of the non-player characters or plants, are great. They’re similar to P.T.’s singular hallway: small details that didn’t even have to be in the game make it creepier and more realistic.

Sadly, the NPCs’ faces have so many points of movement that, unless they’re already possessed like the Bakers, they look scarier than the main enemies or mold monsters. Players will see Mia’s first cutscene in their nightmares more than Jack Baker stumbling towards them while he’s on fire.

In the first playable scene of the game, Ethan travels through the Louisiana swamp country, full of foliage and what look like animal sacrifices. The dead animals look amazing, the flora and fauna do not. The leaves never really move, even if you run into them. They look one-dimensional and haphazardly cut, like a set piece for a middle school play.

The game feeds on the tired trope of “backwoods weirdos,” but also twists it to where they aren’t killing for fun. Sure, they eat intestines, torture the protagonist and basically be as creepy as possible, but Capcom makes sure that new players are surprised to the source of their insanity. Veteran Resident Evil players already know what to expect.

The gameplay follows in similar style of previous games, with a limited inventory, save stations, a constant sense of doom and the urge to waste all the bullets in the inventory as soon as a monster jumps out.

Overall, the gameplay makes the graphical weirdness worth it. Players should look forward to huddling in a corner after a few hours.

Resident Evil 7 is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC for $60 on the PlayStation Store, the Windows Store, the Xbox Store, Steam and all major game retailers.

Thank you, JudoJesus

This isn’t a review. This is a thank you note to a person I’ve never met. It’s pretty sappy.

I met JudoJesus in a 1v1 match in Overwatch.

I’ve always hated playing against real people in multiplayer games, because I’ve always heard about how awful the communities are. And yeah, sometimes there’s a lot of mean-spirited people who seem to be on whenever you are, but it’s a given in the gaming world, right?

Well, today I clicked on 1v1 after growing confident enough with the different arcade modes. I hadn’t met too many mean people, and I was hoping that maybe the person I was playing against would be kind enough to let me just get the lootbox and go back to fighting A.I.

I entered the game, and was paired up against someone named JudoJesus. We were both playing Bastion (not of our own choice; in fact, their first word was “ugh” as we watched the intro), and I noticed their skin was no where near my basic skin. I checked what level they were.

74.

I’m only level 34. I figured I was doomed, but I tried to start a conversation anyway.

“lol yeah, i’m just in it for the lootbox anyway”

“same here”

They didn’t want to be in that situation just like me. I decided I would take the high road.

“i’ll let you win so you can get your lootbox,” I typed, knowing that would leave me with another match, and another moment of stressing about my opponent.

“what about your loot?” They asked.

I told them I would just play again, and they agreed. They seemed hesitant, however, watching me with Bastion’s eye-less face for a minute before killing me.

On to Symmetra, one of the numerous characters I’m bad at.

While I was waiting for death, JudoJesus said something I didn’t expect, however.

“let’s just make this even. if i lose, i lose,” they said.

I laughed and typed back, “sure, but i’ll still lose lmao”

They told me to just try.

Somehow I beat them that round, and they beat me in the next.

I don’t know if they felt bad, but for some reason they left during that final round, leaving my Tracer to run around aimlessly, confused as to why I couldn’t hear them.

I got my lootbox and watched my (terrible) play of the game. I messaged them after, thanking them for the match.

JudoJesus reminded me that the Overwatch community isn’t just a bunch of frustrated nerds, even though I find that fact shoved into my face often with songs on youtube, posts on tumblr, and messages from friends. Sometimes we’re good, even in situations where it doesn’t matter that much.

They could have easily left me to play another round with another stranger, but instead they gave me the easiest win possible (and a decent conversation).

My Top 5 Games of 2016

The hell year of 2016 is finally over, which means we may soon be able to enjoy the games that were teased to us at E3 2013 (looking at you, Kingdom Hearts 3)! But before we dive into uncharted waters, here’s my list of the top five games of 2016.

5. Pokemon Go

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Why?

Well, even if you don’t like physical activity, Pokemon Go is fun. We get to meet three new characters as well as make new friends when players go out into the world.

It incorporates something the populous loves into something a lot of us hate. I know for a fact that I have walked far more this year than usual, and looked forward to my walks along my campus because of eggs and rare Pokemon.

Sure, we got made fun of by people who don’t understand, but it still brought groups of people together and was one of the most influential video games of 2016.

Pokemon Go came out July 6, 2016 for smartphones.

4. Firewatch

Holy shit Firewatch. The art. The writing. The music.

Holy. Shit.

Firewatch is a game from developer Campo Santo, focusing on the seclusion of nature and the intricacies of human longing and privacy.

The game takes place in 1989 in Wyoming, with you playing a man named Henry with a tragic personal life. You’ve taken refuge from the real world in the wild, taking a summer job as a fire lookout.

The summer is dry, and your supervisor, Delilah, is telling you to be on the lookout for any smoke in-between talking about your lives.

But one day you’re drawn out of your watchtower into the wilderness below. You discover secrets, mysteries and drunk teenagers, as well as more about yourself.

Firewatch came out February 9, 2016 for PS4 and PC, and September 21, 2016 for Xbox One.

3. Dishonored 2

I’ve written about Dishonored 2 before, begging for people to play this amazing game.

As the sequel to the award-winning Dishonored game from Arkane Studios, it has a lot to live up to. And it does.

Dishonored 2 reminded me why I loved the Empire of the Isles, why I loved the Kaldwin women and Corvo. The storytelling remains beautiful, just like the graphics. It matures from its roots, much like any sequel to a game should.

Dishonored 2 came out November 11, 2016, and is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

2. Pokemon Moon/Sun

More Pokemon! I’m not an adult with no time for a childhood classic! I have too much time.

The new game in the main franchise follows your 10-year-old protagonist to the island region of Alola, based on Pacific Island cultural hubs like Hawaii and Polynesia.

There are rare Pokemon found only here in Alola, only on certain islands. There are also variations of series favorites, including Raichu and Meowth.

The villains of this game follow in the steps of greats like Team Rocket, Aqua and Magma, but aren’t really made to be taken seriously. Team Skull is more like if you took all the millennial jokes on Tumblr and made them a reality.

One Skull Grunt says he’ll do anything for money, adding, “Do you want to see me get hit by a hyper beam?”

Oh, Nintendo, what did we do to deserve you?

Pokemon Sun and Moon came out on November 18, 2016, and is available on Nintendo 3DS.

1 Overwatch

Wow what a surprise. For someone who didn’t have enough time to play a lot of games, I made a ton of time to play this.

Blizzard drew me in when they first announced Zarya back in March of 2015. I was amazed to see this beautiful woman that hadn’t been made with the tiniest waist in the world. Well, she wasn’t tiny in any respect!

It wasn’t the first time I had heard of Overwatch, I’d seen Tracer and Reaper before, but this was something completely different.

I followed the game for a while until it was finally released. And then I didn’t have any money.

My wonderful girlfriend stepped in and bought it for me (after I pestered her enough), and we played together for a while. But then I played more. And more.

Eventually I passed her in level and time recorded, and I was playing on my own. I’ve made so many friends from this game, both in-game and off. I’ve gotten better at PC controls than I ever expected to be. I’m better under pressure.

Even more than that, however, I’m feeling comfortable as a girl in the gaming community.

With each announced update over the past eight months, I’ve been getting more and more excited for what’s next.

Overwatch came out May 24, 2016 and is available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.

Here’s to a wonderful 2016 with games and to an even more amazing 2017!

Dishonored 2 Review

Dishonored 2 is the anticipated sequel to Arkane Studio’s popular game from 2012. The second game follows the similar sneak or kill player choices as the first, but in the past four years the gaming industry has introduced better graphics engines and a wider variety of ways to play.

In this game, players have the choice to play as the previous game’s protagonist, Corvo Attano, or his daughter, Empress Emily Kaldwin.

The game begins with a tutorial in the form of the former assassin teaching his daughter how to fight in case she is in danger. Seeing how Corvo’s lover and Emily’s mother, former Empress Jessamine, died while under his watch, it’s understandable he would want his daughter safe.

The beginning of the game is set exactly 15 years after Jessamine’s death, and the story begins when it’s discovered that Jessamine apparently had a long-lost sister who is the rightful heir to the throne.

I chose to play as Emily, meaning that this review may differ from other players’, just because they may have chosen to play as Corvo.

Emily is thrown into Dunwall Tower, and Corvo is turned to stone. Emily escapes easily, leading players into their first “mission” to reach a boat down by Dunwall’s docks so she can be taken to the land of Serkonos, where most of the game takes place.

The previous game’s chaos rating carries over to the new game. If players kill too many guards or any civilians, their chaos level rises and can change the outcome of the game. If players decide to sneak and spare as many people as they can – which is possible, since the game is beatable without killing anyone – the chaos level remains low and keeps the outcome of the game peaceful.

The graphics in Dishonored 2 keep with the stylized, gritty look of the first game, but in a more realistic manner. Not everything has the sharp lines of the first game, and not everyone looks like a painting.

What’s a new game without glitches? Even though Dishonored isn’t as large as their other games, like Skyrim and Fallout, the glitches are numerous even in the first ten minutes of the game.

Guards turn in place for a good minute before finally following their path, dead enemies float in the air, and players have a three-in-ten chance of being able to pick up an enemy successfully. These barely hinder the game, however.

The game is an amazing follow-up, worth four years of waiting for. Emily was a cute child in the first game, but proves herself a protagonist that little girls can look up to in the second. It’s highly recommended to any fans of sneak games, or any first-person game. Or if players just like playing games.

Please play this game.

Dishonored 2 is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC for $60 from the PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store, Steam, and all major game retailers.

Infinite Warfare is an Over-Glorified Space Marine Simulator

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Space is the current frontier for the Call of Duty (COD) franchise, exploring the galaxy in its newest title.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare begins like any video game does: with no explanation of the story whatsoever. Players start out attacking an enemy ship, learning how to use their futuristic military-grade weapons, only to be killed when the tutorial ends.

The screen then pans out to show that what they player had been doing was actually recorded on the dead soldier’s helmet camera and sent back to the good guys’ headquarters. Who are the good guys? Nobody knows.

Eventually players can find out that they’re a part of the United Nations Space Alliance, fighting off the Settlement Defense Front.

Players take on the position of Captain Nick Reyes during “Fleet Week” in Geneva on Earth, and are quickly introduced to their squad for the rest of the game: Ethan, the only robot in the game that doesn’t want to kill you, and Salter, the woman I wish I could play as.

For everything the story doesn’t give the gamer, the graphics give back ten-times better. Players can see separate hairs on Salter’s head, small lettering is visible to give the players a sense that they’re actually there. That they’re actually Reyes.

The scenes in space have a gorgeous skybox, and the mechanics of the in-space battles give players the feeling that space truly is empty, except for the floating debris of destroyed warships.

The controls are similar to older COD games, and while the story may not be the easiest to understand, it can draw players in quickly.

The majority of the multiplayer maps in Infinite Warfare may remind gamers of a few of Destiny’s crucible maps. It seems companies can only go so far with “general sci-fi with only humans and robots” as a game’s theme and the same galaxy as the settings.

It’s a shame that with multiplayer, matchmaking isn’t based on levels; if players are level one, they can easily be forced to play against a team full of level 40s and higher.

I wish I had played more games in the franchise, so I could have a broader understanding of if the story is supposed to be so lackluster in the campaign, and if the groups always follow the trope of two guys and one female who is just “one of the guys.”

Overall, Infinite Warfare fits with what is commonly said about most COD games: lackluster campaign and good multiplayer. If players are used to this kind of disappointment and don’t mind it, this game is recommended. If players like pretty space graphics and that’s all that they judge a game on, they’d like this game. Otherwise, wait until it’s only $30.

Infinite Warfare is currently available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows for $60 at all major game retailers, the PlayStation Store and the Windows store.

N7 Day Brings New Andromeda Trailer

Originally published Nov. 7.

On Nov. 7 each year, fans of the hit video game series “Mass Effect” celebrate the franchise and are usually treated to small videos or surprises by developer Bioware.

Bioware created N7 day in 2012 for the fifth anniversary of the series, announcing a multiplayer event in Mass Effect 3 where players would win a banner to celebrate.

In 2013, fans were treated to glimpses for the upcoming fourth game in the series, Mass Effect: Andromeda.

2014 brought with it now-annual sales in the Bioware store and art from Andromeda.

In 2015, fans were treated to a video voiced by Jane Shepard, the main character in the first three games of the series, as well as more art from Andromeda.

With Andromeda being formally announced at E3 last year, trailers have been coming out almost once every few months. So for 2016’s N7 day, fans were treated to an extended trailer for Andromeda as well as more information about the game.

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In the trailer, the narrator says “600 years from where we stand,” leading fans to speculate if the game takes place 600 years after Mass Effect 3.

 The trailer also reveals the Ryder family. Fans have seen the father, Alec, before in the original E3 trailer for the game in his N7 uniform. Players will have the option to choose between his children, Sarah and Scott, to play as in the game.

Currently the release date for Andromeda is set for Spring 2017 after being delayed from its original release date of December.

My Top 3 Halloween Events

Gamers looking to get into the Halloween spirit have been invited to take part in numerous events over the past few weeks, including two in some of the top games on the market and one of the most popular mobile games of the year.

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Overwatch players were greeted to a spooky new main screen which introduced new character skins on Oct. 11. Overwatch’s Halloween Terror event came with new Halloween-themed character skins, including Mercy’s Witch skin and Symmetra’s Vampire skin, victory poses and voice lines.

The Hollywood map is changed to reflect the season, with movie posters showing horror movies and the skybox changed to be nighttime.

Players were also introduced to a new brawl type called Junkenstein’s Revenge, which is a horde game-type. Players can choose between Ana, Hanzo, McCree and Soldier: 76 to fight against Junkrat’s zombie robot horde and his partners Mercy, Roadhog and Reaper. The entire brawl is narrated by Reinhardt as if it was a fairytale.

Overwatch’s Halloween Terror event ends Nov. 1.

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 In Destiny, the Festival of the Lost returned for its second year on Oct. 25. The masks from previous years return, allowing players to look like characters from the series. The candy collecting mechanic has also returned, this time letting players buy items with full bags of candy.

Only Playstation 4 and Xbox One players can participate in Festival of the Lost, which will wrap up on Nov. 8.

Following its lackluster start this past summer, Pokémon Go started its first holiday event on Oct. 26, though many players were able to access it on Oct. 25.

Players will find a boosted number of ghost-type pokémon on their travels, as well as a boosted number of candies: players are rewarded 6 candy for catching a pokémon and 2 for transferring them. Players’ buddies, pokémon that collect candy from a certain distance traveled, will also get candy four times faster.

Pokémon Go’s Halloween event will end on Nov. 1.

Destiny: Rise of Iron Has Puppies (and Lore)

Originally posted Sep. 26.

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Game company Bungie’s recently released expansion DLC for their game Destiny gives players a better look at the history and lore.

Released on Sept. 20, the DLC marks the second big expansion – and the fourth expansion in general – to the base game. Players take their characters back to Old Russia on Earth to learn more about the Iron Lords from their remaining member, Lord Saladin. Saladin has already been a staple character to the series, ringing in the Iron Banner event every month. But now players can learn his backstory and the tragedy that befell the Iron Lords.

The DLC begins with a cinematic revealing the history of the Iron Lords. The graphics for the cutscene are far above what Bungie released with the base game two years ago; facial expressions and details, such as the characters hair, are beyond what was possible then.

A new main storyline is available to players, as well as a new patrol and social zone. The Plaguelands is also available to patrol on Earth, making for the first time that there are two patrolable zones on one planet. The new social zone, The Iron Temple, is also located on Earth.

Also available are three new multiplayer maps, a new strike, and a new raid.

There are also, as usual, added weapons, shaders, armor, and a higher light-level cap- players can now reach a light-level of 385. Also added are new enemies, or at least reskins of the Fallen.

Like the calcified fragments in the Taken King DLC, there are new collectibles called clusters. These are located throughout the new play area, hidden back in corners and crevices. Some of which are only available during missions.

The story for Rise of Iron seems lackluster in its delivery, rushing by as players are thrown from mission to mission, much like Destiny’s base missions. The cinematics, as said before, are more eye catching, but the story doesn’t seem to take hold like the graphics do.

As with every launch, there are also a number of glitches. With every server reset, lag among peers in a cooperative game is expected, but not among enemies. Fallen will jump around, teleporting from one place to another, or randomly spawn right in front of you.

If readers are Destiny fans, the DLC is cautiously recommended. The graphics updates and new play areas are nice and fun to explore, but the story fails to hold ground; it’s very similar to the base game that was put out two years ago.

Rise of Iron is available for purchase for the PS4 and Xbox One through the PlayStation Store and the Microsoft Store for $30. Players must also have the Taken King DLC. Also available to buy is Destiny: The Collection, which includes the base game, first two DLC, The Taken King, and Rise of Iron for $59.99 at all major game retailers and the previously listed online stores.

Sony Unveils New PS4s

Originally posted Sep. 12.

At Sony Interactive’s New York Conference on Sept. 7, two new PlayStation 4 models were announced.

The PlayStation Slim model had been leaked online in late August, but was officially confirmed at the conference. The model is a slimmer, lighter and “more energy efficient” version of the company’s PlayStation 4, according to Andrew House, President and Group CEO of Sony Interactive. It will be available Sept. 15, and is currently available for preorder from Amazon for $299.

The other console that was announced was the PlayStation Pro. Originally named the PlayStation Neo, the Pro console is “designed to stand alongside and compliment the PlayStation 4,” said House. The Pro’s graphic processing unit is twice as powerful as the original PlayStation 4’s at 4.20 teraflops. It will also contain a one-terabyte hard drive.

The games will be the same discs and downloads, but the in-game models and graphics will be more detailed on the Pro. House said that the Pro will also improve the framerate on the future PlayStation VR, the company’s virtual reality headset.

The following games are some that are already released, but are expected to be forward-compatible with the Pro: Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, The Last of Us: Remastered, The Witness and The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited.

The PlayStation Pro will be released on Nov. 10, but is already available for preorder on Amazon for $399.

House also announced that, through a firmware update, all PlayStation 4 models will be compatible with High Dynamic Range TV sets. HDR TVs are capable of 4k HD playback, allowing for a more realistic and detailed image than a current HD TV.

A new PlayStation 4 controller with USB connection for control has also been announced. This will allow players to play without a constant bluetooth connection, as the current controllers rely on it even when they’re plugged in to charge.

There were not any new games announced, but various upcoming games were used to show of the Pro’s abilities. These games included Mass Effect Andromeda, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Watch Dogs 2, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.