Sunday, May 31, 2015

Screenshot of the Week #40: Abstract art!

                I finally finished The Witcher 3 and oh boy it was a wild ride, emotional and full of tensioned moments. I loved the game more than I expected I will and I’m glad because I was waiting for a while for an open world game that does things better than the usual overrated games of this type. This doesn’t mean The Witcher 3 doesn’t have problems, it actually has in spades and some of them are quite annoying. The arcade combat full of issues, the overall low level difficulty, the annoying interface, the sluggish and unresponsive movement, the diminished sense of discovery  through repetitiveness and the lack of some common sense graphical effects are the biggest problems I faced in this game. Some of these problems can be fixed and the others we will have to live with, but this should be no surprise as no game is perfect. One thing is sure, while the other titles in the series were questionable, The Witcher 3 has earned its place in the annals of RPGs and stands proud as the AAA RPG we needed for a long time.
Artistic beauty?!

                From now on all my writing time will be dedicated to The Witcher 3 review and is going to be done when it's done. I expect an in depth and lengthy review, but the conclusion of it will be no surprise considering the things I mentioned above.

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Things you should know about Heroes of the Storm!

                In the last years the MOBA genre had an explosive increase in popularity. While most of the titles of this genre follow the same baseline of game mechanics, Blizzard attempts a slightly different approach with Heroes of the Storm in order to attract their playerbase. The game is a little more casual and addresses a larger audience and not only the diehard fans.
The game's mechanics are more softcore focusing more on team play and fun while not being that punishing. The changes made don’t help the game escape the oldest problems of MOBAs however(be prepare for toxicity and clueless players), but try do address some of the issues through the simplification.
                Heroes of the Storm entered the Open Beta phase on May 13 and keys are no longer required to play the game and we are nearing its release on June 2. With this occasion I wrote some of the essential things that the new players should know about Heroes of the Storm.

1. Expect toxicity

                In matches in Heroes of the Storm you can only communicate with your team members (if you want, there is an option to shut down the chat all together). This was a measure to prevent the trolling and toxicity that follows MOBA games and while it might help a little it doesn’t entirely get rid of this problem. So, even if is your own team, expect toxicity in Heroes of the Storm, but if things get out of control, you can always mute the players that bother you.

2. Try Mode, versus AI and guides

                MOBAs have a steep learning curve and their focus on team play makes every player important during matches. If you are a newcomer to the genre and the game, before playing with and against other players you should prepare yourself. The players with more experience usually don’t have patience and ruining their games will probably result in a scandal and considering the awkward matchmaking of Heroes of the Storm that will happen more often than not.
                The Try Mode allows the players to test each hero’s abilities against one enemy bot. It is very good to decide if a hero is suited for your play style before buying it. The Versus AI mode allows you to test your skills against AI controlled heroes with or without player controlled team mates. It is great practice for the novice players, so leave your arrogance aside and train before playing against other players.
                Last but not least, read guides about the heroes you intend to play. Guides are extremely helpful and can teach you tips and tricks on how to play against counter heroes and all kind of situations. They also help by providing some more competitive builds that might not be so obvious for the beginners.
I recommend going to: Heroes Fire and checking the top rated guides there.

3. Roles and setup

            There are four distinct roles for the heroes in this game: Assassin, Specialist, Support and Warrior.
                The Assassin is the known carry from other MOBAs, it deals extremely high damage, either by using burst damage combos or through sustained damage, this makes the Assassins very good at killing the enemy heroes.
                The Specialist is something new to this genre. This type of hero is designed to push lanes as hard as possible by taking advantage of the AoE abilities and attacks to deal high amount of siege damage (damage against buildings or creeps). The Specialists usually lacks the mobility of other roles, but make up for it with increased range of attacks and should stay further behind in team fights. The Support role is the well known healer of every game. It can usually heal, shield, provide buffs and assist with crowd controlling. It is a role with lower damage compared to any other, but it is crucial in any setup. The Warrior is the tank of the team, it has a high health pool and usually has crowd control and engaging abilities which make him the perfect fights opener.
                In Heroes of the Storm the usual setup of a team varies, but a good team should have a Warrior and a Support, as the last three spots can be accommodated between Assassins and Specialists. A second Support might be extremely helpful in some setups.

4. The progression system

                Heroes of the Storm has two separate progressions: one for the hero and one for the account.
First of all, each hero can be leveled outside matches with the experience gained by playing with them. Leveling a hero will unlock a new Heroic Ability (ultimate) and talents that can be used during matches. It will also unlock skin variations for the hero and its mounts and even award some in-game currency (gold).
                There is a level progression for the player’s account as well, up to level 40. The account can be leveled with experience gained by playing any kind of matches except try mode and it awards various bonuses. A lot of in-game currency can be earned by leveling the account. At level 10 a 7 days booster will be activated which will increase the gold and experience gained from matches.
The account progression also unlocks two extra slots for the free hero’s part of the weekly rotation, but more importantly at level 30 the ranked mode will be unlocked and at level 40 the team ranked mode.

5. It is a team effort

                While all the MOBA games are about team play, Heroes of the Storm puts a much higher focus on this than any other and almost removes the need for individual play. The greedy chase for kills that ruins other games has been toned down by adding a shared Takedowns system. A kill is a kill for everybody that participated into that fight. To push matters even further, Blizzard has removed the individual leveling and replaced it with a general level for the entire team, this way the experience cumulated by one player goes to the XP pool of the team and when the team levels up all the heroes’ level up.
                As there is no gold gaining during the matches, the most important resource is the experience. In order to maximize the experience gain, each lane has to be occupied by at least one player from your team, as experience is awarded only if a hero is in range of the killed creeps.

6. No items

                Heroes of the Storm has removed the well known gold farming and item builds which are so popular in other MOBAs and has replaced them with a talents system.
                Talents grant passive bonuses to the existing abilities or active abilities based on each hero. The talents represent a simplification of the itemization and build from other MOBAs and add some complexity to the game without requiring a huge knowledge on the player’s part.
Talents are awarded at team level: 1, 3, 7, 10 (Heroic Ability), 13, 16 and 20. Each talent used better defines the hero’s role and build by enhancing particular abilities or strengths of that hero. Even if the number of talents is quite lower than the items from other MOBAs, there is a decent variety of builds and not all of them are so competitive.

7. Objectives, objectives, objectives

                Unlike any other popular MOBA, Heroes of the Storm is a game about objectives. Each map has its own main objective that can help in defeating the enemy Nexus and winning the game. Completing these objectives better and faster than the enemy team can lead to a swift victory. But the main objective should not be the only focus of the map.
                Defeating mercenary camps will recruit them at your team’s side. There are numerous mercenary camps spread on both sides of the map, taking advantage of them and recruiting them when possible (they have a respawn timer) will help push the lanes better. Timing powerful mercenary camps before the main objective starts will force the enemy team to make a decision between defeating the mercenaries and going for the objective.
The strategically opportunities are many and the objectives open up even more.

8. Map awareness, vision and control

                MOBAs are games about skill, patience, attention and team play. The more competitive the play gets the more demanding becomes on the player. The players must always pay attention to everything that happens around themselves and around their team mates. The (strangely placed) minimap in the bottom right corner is a great tool to keep in check everything that happens and everyone who intends to play this game for a longer period of time should gain a habit of paying attention to it, as this kind of attention wins games.
                To make the minimap more useful, vision is important. Most of the maps in Heroes of the Storm have special places which if controlled provide vision in the surrounding area. Keeping these objectives controlled will make things much easier on the adjacent lanes. But BEWARE (!!!), it is pointless to fight for these areas at the beginning of the game, it will most likely result in bad things happening. So have some patience and try to control them when most of the heroes are on their lanes.

9. Walls and structures

                The bases arrangement in Heroes of the Storm differs a bit from similar games and feels more like taken from strategy games. Each lane has a Keep protected by a destructible gate, towers and walls. The gate serves as a tactical building as only the heroes of that team can pass through it and in order for the creeps to push forward towards the Keep the gate has to be destroyed.
                Besides the protecting buildings, each lane has a well from which heroes can drink to regenerate some of their missing life and mana, once used the well goes on a 90 seconds cooldown. The well is a strategic building, it helps greatly in improving the lane sustain by reducing the number of teleports to the main base. It is a good strategy to try and destroy the enemy well as it will cripple that lane and make the pushing for the enemy’s Keep easier.
                All the team buildings are destructible and take damage from anything, be it normal attacks or abilities, but only the abilities that can hit multiple targets can pass through the buildings in order to hit targets behind them.

10. Unit collision

                Heroes of the Storm has a unit collision and blocking system that is part of the game mechanics, this can be both useful and annoying at the same time.
Creeps and heroes can have their movement blocked by the units in front of them and the unit collision goes as far as to completely stop a unit from moving if it is surrounded. This mechanic greatly extends the tactical play and everyone should get used to it fast and learn to use it at their advantage. Blocking the enemy heroes can trap them to their death, but this is a two edged sword as it is just as easy to block teammates and bring their death.
                The path of movement should always be carefully selected and a great deal of attention should be given to it because the unit collision system heavily interferes with the pathfinder sometimes causing serious problems.

11. The visibility of invisibility

                In the current stage of the game there are two heroes that have invisibility by default: Zeratul and Nova. Other heroes might get a short duration invisibility buff through various talents. While the invisibility is good and has a great value in scouting and ambushing and you should always know that these heroes are not truly invisible. While moving, an invisible hero blurs the image at their position, making them noticeable for the enemy team. It is not always easy to spot an invisible hero, especially in the heat of battle, and is impossible to see them in the bushes, but pay attention, you might surprise them before they surprise you.
                The invisibility ends when taking damage or engaging in combat. A good thing to do when spotting an invisible is using a skill shot ability to damage that hero so it remains revealed for a while or even kill him on spot, as they can be caught off guard.
I can see you!!!

12. Mount up

                The mounting is an unusual feature for a MOBA, but very usual for Blizzard’s games. Heroes of the Storm has a mounts system which allows for faster traveling when not taking damage. There are few default mounts to choose from including some unique ones for certain heroes and more can be purchased through the cash shop. The mounts skins serve only as cosmetic changes and don’t imbalance the game at all as they all the mounts have the same speed.
                The default key for mounting up is Z. The heroes dismount instantly when taking even the slightest damage and the mount will be put on a short cooldown. As this is so unusual for this type of game, mounting will require a time to get used to at the beginning, but it can save time, lives and matches, so get used to this feature fast.

13. Grouped but not clumped

                Heroes of the Storm is a game where AoE damage trumps over single target damage (part of the simplification of the game), the difference is so big that the few heroes that have little AoE aren’t viable options for competitive play (Raynor, Nova).
                After the team reaches level 10 farming experience is not a priority anymore. In case your team reached level 10 before the enemy’s, you should take advantage of the heroic abilities and force a fight. If that isn’t the case, the team should still group up and complete objectives while waiting for a favorable engagement opportunity.
                When the team groups up doesn’t mean everyone has to be clumped up, this will lead to disastrous outcomes during team fights. Stay spread out to avoid as much as possible of the AoE damage and AoE crowd control.

                Heroes of the Storm is clearly a more casual MOBA and is way easier to learn than other similar titles, even so, the game has quite a steep learning curve and there are a lot of tricks to be known and game mechanics to be learned before piercing the depth of this game. I only covered in this article some of the basic things that should come in handy to the beginners, for a better understanding play the game more, the rest will come naturally.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Screenshot of the Week #39: True Detective!

                This article is going to be quite short. I’m behind on the schedule with The Witcher 3 playthrough, so time is of the essence (not to mention that tomorrow I go back to work).
                First of all, the graphics downgrade is real, which proves many things. I won’t go into much detail, a week ago I posted an entire article about this, but I want to underline some things one more time: Don’t trust or worship any developer, because this is a business and everything is related to money. And if possible, avoid preorders, because you can never be 100% sure of how things will turn out.
                All the controversy aside, so far, The Witcher 3 is a great game and I think it will stay this way until the end. The story is captivating and mysterious, the world is beautiful and enormous and the quests are absolutely amazing. Even so, TW 3 is not a game without problems, most of them are technical, but there are few game mechanics that don’t work too well. The camera can be quite annoying, especially when using witcher senses or indoors and the combat system has most of the issues of the previous title.
                Overall, my impression of the game is positive and I had a hard time picking a screenshot for this article since I took like a hundred. The review will be long, tedious and in depth!

                I didn’t keep my promise (again) with Heroes of the Storm article. Due to various reasons, I’m behind schedule with TW3 and I skipped writing in order to have some extra time with the game. The article will most likely be up tomorrow or Tuesday.

In the meantime, please share my articles and follow me on Steam, Twitter and on Facebook!!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Screenshot of the Week #38: RUN!

                One day and four hours until The Witcher 3 launches and while I should be excited about the release I’m more impatient for the moment of truth. Tuesday morning we will finally find out the truth about this game.
                While waiting for The Witcher 3 I’ve been playing the current “usual” games for me: Payday 2, Heroes of the Storm and Guild Wars 2. I also started a new game of Don’t Starve Together with a friend, to check out the progress of the game in the last six months.
Don’t Starve Together is still fun and much more challenging than it used to be, mostly because many of the bosses and challenges of Reign of Giants have been introduced in the game. In June all the owners of Don’t Starve will receive the Together version for free, but the game will still stay in Early Access for a while since not all the features have been introduced (slow development).
Panic mode!!!

                This Saturday’s article about false advertisement was a blast, it had lots of views and comments (even if many of them were trolling posts) and I’m glad. I think I’ve hit the nail in the head regarding this issue and hopefully raised some awareness about it since this problem persists mostly because we, the customers, allow it through our actions (avoid preorders!).
                Next week Heroes of the Storm enters Open Beta and I have an article in work for the game. After that I will take a break trying to beat The Witcher 3 so I can write my detailed review about it.

In the meantime, please share my articles and follow me on Steam, Twitter and on Facebook!!


Saturday, May 16, 2015

The growing trend of false advertisement...

                More than a decade ago video games had more features and complex game mechanics than one could now dream of  but the technological limitation left a big mark on the production value. But with the technological evolution, the expanding of the market and rise of the internet, the production of video games has been taken to a whole new level and with this the industry transitioned from smaller projects to a plethora of AAA titles and from family-like studios to gigantic corporations. What once was mostly the labor of love of a small group of people has become a laborious work involving hundreds part of a complex mechanism that is constantly in motion.
While the evolution is normal and we should be extremely happy for this, not everything moved to the next step and some concepts were abandoned with time, as profit triumphs over everything else when it comes to a business.
                With the growing of the industry, the investments in video games have become astronomically bigger and so did the expectations for profit. The explosion of video games conventions, the TV commercials, the social media and the journalists have become more important in making sure a game reaches as wider of audience as possible. Marketing has started to play a role just as important and just as paid as the development process itself and this weird balance and the forced idea of profit over anything else has brought us to a point where things start to get out of control.
                It was expected that most video games would become mainstream and the bigger studios will start taking increasingly fewer chances with their newer titles and play it safe. The investments are huge and the profit has to be guaranteed or otherwise nobody will want to invest in AAA games. And while we like this or not we have to understand the risk factors when developing a AAA title, especially for a smaller studio. The real issues is when the developers try to sell something that isn’t there and this brings this article to the real issue of today, an issue that has spread rapidly in the last couple of years and to which there seems to be no solution: false advertisement.
                According to the law, a physical product should look and work as advertised. If the product doesn’t respect these conditions it can be returned by the unsatisfied costumer and the company responsible has to reimburse the client. This law protects against fraudulent attempts and together with warranty has served the customers well for many years.
But what happens when an industry doesn’t have any laws?
                Promises that can’t be kept are always made during the development process of a game and this comes mostly from the optimism of the developers thinking they can add more into a game than their technology, budget or deadline actually allows and while this is unpleasant and happens often it is excusable as long as the customer is aware of the changes. But there is a thin line between unrealistic promises and false advertisement and in the last years this line has been crossed multiple times.
                First there was Alien Colonial Marines, a game set on capturing the atmosphere of the Alien movies by continuing their story. From the first videos released to the public the game looked amazing and the journalists’ preview demo confirmed the quality of the game. What nobody knew at that time was that the preview demo was vastly different and superior to the final product. At launch the players got to experience an unpolished game with washed up textures, horrible AI and so many issues that it was barely playable.
This was a huge warning that not everything the developers show and say can be trusted and a good lesson for those who pre-order games, but few learned from it

                Dark Souls became popular quickly on PC, despite the questionable port with horrible graphics and fps locked at 30, so it was only natural for Dark Souls II to make its way to the PC platform. This time around, From Software promised a better port and overall improved graphics with lavish details and an atmospheric lighting system. The game looked great in videos, even if the technical part was a little farfetched for the old generation of consoles. The game was first released on consoles and it looked heavily downgraded (no shock there) compared to the presentation trailers and advertisement, but the hopes for the PC version were still up (why downgrade for PC when this platform can handle it?). With no new footage for PC close to the release date things became worrisome and people started to ask questions. From Software took immediate action by removing the better looking screenshots from Steam. The release came as a confirmation that the game didn’t look anywhere near like it was originally advertised and while the graphics on PC are slightly better the game was far from 2014 standards. The excuse for the old generation consoles was the balancing of the visuals and resource management during development, the PC downgrade could hardly be justified and there are no excuses for the lies.

                Shortly after the Dark Souls II mess, the first truly next-gen title was expected after a long delay of seven months. Watch Dogs was said to be developed with PC as the primary platform (we heard this before, remember Battlefield 3?) and advertised by Ubisoft as a truly next-gen game in both graphics and game mechanics. The game looked amazing during the early demonstration videos. The seven months long delay was going to give the developers enough time to polish the game to deliver “a truly memorable and exceptional experience” (I’ll never forget what happened). The lack of information related to the PC version prior to release had a déjà vu feeling to it and a rumor about a downgrade started to circulate. The videos presented a few days before the release day came as a shock (for some) and the downgrade was not just a rumor anymore. Despite looking good the Watch Dogs we knew was not there anymore as it suffered from what some would call “optimization”. In less than three weeks after release a modder found some hidden files in the game which could enable the graphic assets originally shown at E3 2012. Ubisoft responded to this by saying the game wasn’t downgraded and those old settings have a negative impact on performance and gameplay. In reality the game run as poorly with those unlocked settings as it did without them and this raised the question if Watch Dogs was downgraded intentionally on PC. Despite the controversy and the laughable PR, Watch Dogs broke sale records for Ubisoft and in less than a year it had over ten million copies sold.

                Somehow things like these are expected from big corporation, but you know things are bad when even Kickstarter projects financed by the fans have the same problems. Divinity: Original Sin, a highly successful crowdfunded RPG was released lacking some of the important content that was promised as tier rewards during its Kickstarter campaign and nobody knew about this until they couldn’t find those features in the game. While this shouldn’t bother those who didn’t help finance the game, the backers were let down. The much awaited high end hardcore dungeon that was presented in a video one year before release was gone and many players were searching for it in-game. A stretch goal advertised as something that should be in game that brought Larian Studios more money was removed without notice.

And the players found out like this:

                The Witcher 3 is one of the most ambitious RPG in years and the initial footage shown in 2013 was mind blowing featuring some of the best graphics ever seen and taking advantage of many of Nvidia’s graphic assets. The thirty-five minutes demo from 2014 reinforced the technological advancements present in the game and everyone was optimistic as CDPR are considered by many the saviors of PC gaming. The first misstep was taken in November 2014 when CDPR announced sixteen free DLCs for the game making people happily preorder a game that was set for release in February 2015 just so they could postpone it to May one month later. We know for a fact that the mouse and keyboard controls were still not implemented less than a month before the game’s release, hinting that CDPR knew the game had no chance to release on February so one might wonder if those free DLCs were just for preorder show. But this was water under the bridge, for a game of this caliber the developers should take their time and time costs money, so the true next-gen experience could wait a few more months while feeding of a few extra preorders.
                The Elder Blood trailer had the first signs of a visual downgrade and was followed by a train wreck of complaints and bizarre PR affirmations that in the mind of skeptics (like me) only confirmed the suspicions related to this matter. Yet Marcin Momot, the community manager of CDPR, reassured the fans that the graphic fidelity seen in previous trailers can be achieved on PC. But things only got worse, the more videos released the more graphic assets were removed and despite being asked to release a PC video using the Ultra settings, CDPR ignored this request and kept saying that Ultra settings look better than anything we’ve seen recently (apparently we should take their word and see at release).
The last nail in the coffin for the PC version was the fact that all the preview copies sent to the journalists for reviews were for the PS4 and we had to wait for release to find out how good the PC version really is.
Some major gaming websites uploaded videos showing the Ultra settings and the graphics quality was laughable compared to what we were expecting. The forums became flooded with angry fans that felt deceived and the martial law was installed by the moderators for damage control. Threads were closed and people banned for stating their complaints and I started to wonder how much more are CDPR planning to sacrifice their fans to keep on the charade?
                In the end according to the official sources the differences between the consoles and PC versions of the game will be: draw distance, resolution, framerate and Nvidia’s hairworks. Basically from all the fancy graphic assets, the PC gamers will only have access to some common sense settings and an Nvidia asset for which they are even mentioned in the game’s manual (…).
                In The Witcher 3 release story the marketing and certain interests trumped over the screaming fans that not a long time ago helped this company exist, but apparently that doesn’t matter anymore (remember Crytek?!). With the game being released on three different platforms and having over one million pre-orders despite the controversy, it feels like the PC users are not so important anymore (add to this the fact that console users can already play the game prior to release, while the PC users have to wait until May 19).
On the brighter side of things, this entire masquerade might be a wakeup call for many, a bucket of ice cold water in the face of those who believed that there are saviors out there who separate themselves from the corporatist interests of AAA video games development. The reality is cruel and blunt, video gaming is an expensive business and like any other business it all comes down to money and in this perspective CDPR nailed it with The Witcher 3.
I don’t want to go as far as to say what determined CDPR to do this, though it is pretty obvious for me, but I can say I can’t remember to have seen such a chaotic and weird (avoiding the word disgusting) marketing campaign in the past. I still don’t know what to expect from this game in the release day, but my hopes are very low.

                One would say that the benefit of the doubt should be given to CDPR in this situation, but I’ve been burned before and considering the secretive attitude and the almost (such a kind word) insulting marketing and PR campaign I don’t think it is the case for such thing anymore.
The clock is ticking and the moment of truth is closing in. The release of The Witcher 3 will mark a turning point for the consumers of video games. At first I thought it would be the first open world game that does it right since Gothic and Morrowind’s time, but now it is something much more serious than that. On May 19 we will have the definitive proof in this matter and we will know if and how much CDPR has lied to us, from that moment forward, things will never be the same. If the so called “good guys” did this, we can only expect the worse from this point forward. One thing I would like to point out, even if it turns out that this entire controversy was just for the console sales and the game looks as amazing as it should have, this should NEVER be forgotten.
                Most of the things I’ve said are related to graphics and while this might sound as me being a graphics whore, that is the worst possible interpretation of this article. The problems mentioned above stand as the most eloquent examples of false advertisement and intentional deceiving by video games producers and most of the cases are strictly related to the PC version of the games in question.

                Saddened by the situation, I can only hope that at some point in the future we will receive the protection required by the law, even though it sounds extreme. To put laws in practice to protect the customers of this market could be a complicated matter but it seems to be the only option we have because the trust is long gone… In the mean time, the only thing we can do to defend ourselves is to stop preordering video games!


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Screenshot of the Week #37: Loading hell...

                This weekend I went to East European Comic Con which was held in Bucharest, my hometown. I’ve seen some pretty cool and nerdy things there and I even wrote a short article mostly to show the pictures I’ve taken from this event.
                I haven’t spent much time playing video games this week. I played some Heroes of the Storm matches to prepare for the two upcoming heroes, Kael’thas and Johanna (a crusader from the Diablo universe). The game doesn’t attract me as much as it used to, it is still fun to play with friends.
                I purchased Payday 2 yesterday after playing the demo on Friday (yes, this game has a demo version!) and I think I will play it for a while. The game has well designed and challenging missions and the shooting is pretty awesome plus the money farming keeps me a little hooked as I want to buy more gear. Payday 2 has an obscene amount of DLCs, but most of them are weapons and all kind of cosmetic stuff with a few heists which can be played even without owning the DLCs by joining someone else’s session. Overall, Payday 2 is a pretty fun game and even after two years from release is still quite popular.
                I have been trying to play some more GTA V Online, but it seems like an uphill battle. The number of loading screens combined with connectivity problems and many other issues got me tired of the game already. I did buy it for the Online component and I didn’t get to enjoy as much as I wanted to which is very disappointing. I doubt Rockstar will fix all these issues because they are most likely engine limitations or part of the game design and the gamers accept them anyway (apparently nowadays we accept anything).
Isometric GTA V...

                This week I posted my beginner’s guide for Killing Floor 2 and while I wanted to write a review about the Early Access version of the game I think I will postpone it until the game receives more content. A new map has already been presented and it looks great, the people at Tripwire are definitely on the right track with this game.
                I’m currently working on more articles which I won’t name, but I’m trying to bank up a few for The Witcher 3 release since I won’t have much time to write then (assuming I’ll like the game).

In the meantime, please share my articles and follow me on Steam, Twitter and on Facebook!!


Saturday, May 9, 2015

East European Comic Con 2015!


                Today was the 2nd day in the East European Comic Con in Romania so I went to check what’s going on there. I can’t say it was mind blowing, but it was quite awesome to see so many nerds gathered in one place (we truly become a mainstream pop culture movement!).
                The event was probably bigger than it was in the previous years with lots of visitors and this is a good thing. Hopefully this will to grow into something larger with more prestige and production value. There were many things to be seen which aren’t something usual in Romani, many stands had various merchandizes from comic books, TV shows, anime, video games, etc. The even had even some known actors from popular TV shows (Manu Bennett, Robert Knepper, John Nobel, Osric Chau, Dan Starkey and Kristian Nairn).
I went to the mindset of not coming home empty handed and I bought some nerdy stuff for myself. I wanted some more but I didn’t really find what I was looking for (Darth Revan and Arturia from Fate/Zero figurines).
                Overall, things looked pretty good and I think I will go again next year. I took a few pictures and despite their poor quality (phone camera) I captured some of the interesting things (not all, because…) I’ve seen at East European Comic Con 2015 in Bucharest, Romania (!!!).
Death Squad having lunch!

The Iron Throne is somewhere behind a pillar.

Manu Bennett teaching people moor's war cries! 

Now I want to buy this game!!!


Monday, May 4, 2015

Things you should know about Killing Floor 2 (Early Access)!


                Killing Floor 2 is a horde mode first person shooter developed by Tripwire Interactive. The game’s goal is to kill all the enemy waves.
This article provides the information that beginner Zed hunters should know in order to increase their survival chances:
(Disclaimer: I'm not an expert in this game!)

1. Know your perks

                In the current state of the game there are four perks available to play: Berserker, Commando, Support and Medic. More perks are expected to come as the game development progresses. Killing Floor had seven perks to choose from.
Each perk can be leveled individually and will receive increased passive bonuses per level and a skill every five levels. The perks have their own roles and fit certain play styles.
                The Berserker engages enemies in melee combat. This perk has increased movement speed and a higher damage resistance, which makes it extremely useful for kiting and holding powerful Zeds while the rest of the team takes them down.
                The Commando is specialized in medium range combat, using assault rifles to deal precise damage. The damage of this perk’s firearms makes it good for taking down bigger enemies. Another utility of Commando is the spotting, as it can detect invisible enemies from afar and can show all the enemies’ health bars.
                The Support, as the name suggests, is a perk designed to help the group with various things. The Support is specialized in using the welder tool and seals the doors better than any other perk. Through skills this perk can carry more ammunition and even provide the group with extra bullets. The weapons of choice for Support are shotguns, which wreck havoc in close quarters.
                The Medic is designed to heal the group. Using healing grenade and weapons equipped with a healing shot special ability. The Medic takes advantage of its increased movement speed to move from one place to another and heal the group while dealing damage when possible. This perk is practically mandatory in every group that wants to take on higher difficulties.
                Find what perks you enjoy, learn to play them and level them up so they become more effective as this will come in handy for higher difficulties. But beware (!!!), there is a big possibility that the perks level progression will reset before game’s full release.

2. Use the specific perks weapons to get XP

                Leveling your perk is important, it makes the game easier and the XP required to progress is quite high. In order to level up always use weapons that are designed for your perk as they are the only one that grant XP on kill or assist.

3. Stay grouped

                While playing on the normal difficulty it might not be a problem to get separated from the group once in a while, but on higher difficulties this means almost certain death. Zeds chase everyone alive and no matter how good you are at shooting if the team is separated when the stronger enemies come, they will pick your group members one by one. Grouping up and focusing down the bigger enemies (Scrakes and Fleshpounds) is one of the best ways to deal with them.
All for one, and one for all!

4. Weld the doors

                The welding device (key 4 by default) is used at sealing certain doors to slow the Zeds down or set a different path for them. Welding the doors can be useful as it helps secure the area so the group doesn’t get overwhelmed. This feature is very important and becomes crucial on higher difficulties. A welded door doesn’t last forever, so take full advantage of the time bought. Try not to lock a teammate outside!

5. Don’t get cornered

                Positioning in Killing Floor 2 is extremely important, but when things go crazy there might not be enough time to think about repositioning. But there is one rule that should be kept even when the chips are down: never run into corners! Corners are a death trap because it is so easy to get overrun and you might not have enough fire power or time to get out of there alive.
When chased always try to pick an area that allows for an escape if enemies come from multiple sides. Going on upper floors with the possibility of jumping down is a good way to escape and slow down the Zeds for a while.

6. Cover what your teammates don’t

                Zeds can spawn in many locations on a map and can come from almost every opening. When taking a defensive position in an area, the group has to be prepared to engage enemies from 360 degrees.
Every group member should cover openings like tunnels, stairways or doors. Check out the positions your teammates pick to defend and move to an empty one.

7. Use pistol

                The pistol is an important piece of weaponry, despite its low damage it is quite useful and should be used instead of the main weapon on the starting waves. It is also indicated to use the pistol on the easier Zeds to preserve the ammunition on the main weapons for stronger enemies.

8. Cancel reloading

                Reload canceling is a feature that, sadly, is not present in most of the FPS games of these days, but it plays a big role in this one. In case you are under attack while changing a near empty clip, it is easier to just cancel this action by shooting the target. Reload canceling is very useful, especially if you are a reloading maniac like me.

9. A headless Zed is a dead Zed

                Always aim for the head, some of the Zeds are extremely resilient and might be impossible to blow their head off, but many of them lose their heads after just a few shots. Even if a headless Zed still moves, he will die in a matter of seconds, just avoid their path and shoot something else.

10. Aim twice, shoot once

                Don’t rush into shooting at enemies that don’t represent a big threat, take your time to aim properly and shoot bullet by bullet. Save the ammunition for later on, because every bullet counts. Use the Zed time mechanic to your advantage to aim better as it slows down time and it is easier to headshot enemies.

11. Use block

                Melee weapons can block and this mechanics helps mitigate some of the damage taken from melee hits. You don’t have to play Berserker to use your melee weapon. When low on ammunition, sometimes, it might be a good idea to knife the squishy enemies, so don’t forget to block the melee attacks when doing that. Timing the block with the incoming melee attack will push back the enemy.

12. Save money for rainy days

                When having a lot of money (dosh) it is tempting to spend them on more weapons. While doing this could be useful and fun, if you die, everything is lost. It is wiser to save the money for the grimmer scenario, this way you can easily re-gear. 

13. Scavenge for supplies

                Basic weapons and supplies (ammo boxes and Kevlar vests) spawn in random locations over the map during combat and as the fighting keeps going new supplies keep spawning. When running low on ammo or grenades and the enemies are under control, search for supplies it will save some money especially since every ammunition box has one grenade, which is pretty expensive at the store.
                A good strategy is to spare a small number of Zeds each wave and search the map for loot and when everybody is set on supplies, kill the remaining enemies. Keep in mind that the loot you leave on the ground resets at the start of each new wave.

14. There is a boss

                The last wave on every map is a boss. During the Early Access stage of the game, the boss is always the same, a Zed that can shoot with two rifles at once, can heal by impaling players and throws gas, smoke and explosive grenades.
                The boss is difficult and killing him rewards a lot of XP. In order to do so, find areas on each map where it is easy to kite him while having cover from his shots and not getting stuck so the grenades can kill you. Don’t waste ammunition on the boss when he stands in the smoke grenades or he impales a player, because he has damage reduction. Heal the player impaled or chased by the boss and make sure to clear the incoming Zeds.
Don't get fooled by his squishy appearance!

15. Buy the HMTech-101 Pistol

                This pistol is designed for the Medic perk and while it doesn’t award XP to any other perks in the game it comes in handy when playing in a group.
                The HMTech-101 pistol has a 15 rounds magazine a weight value of one and decent damage for a pistol. It is a good weapon to save ammo on the main weapons and it is even better because it can heal teammates from afar. This pistol has a regenerating energy which allows for a maximum of two healing shots on teammates. It is extremely good when fighting powerful enemies or the boss as it can save lives. The healing ability cannot be used on yourself.

16. It's Early Access

                When you find a bug or something that doesn’t work properly, always remember, Killing Floor 2 is in Early Access. This is a testing phase and is not entirely relevant to the final product. Even so, Killing Floor 2 is one of the most polished Early Access games I have ever played and mostly lacks only in content.

                Killing Floor 2 is a fun game to play, but it can get boring fast if always played on the lower difficulty. This game’s real meaning stands in the challenge of beating the higher difficulties and this can be an extremely hard task, but before doing that you should know the things I mentioned above as they are some of the basic notions required to succeed. Even if the game is still in Early Access most of the things I mentioned above, if not all of them, will carry on to the full game.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Screenshot of the Week #36: It's Zed time!

                I’ve played all the big games released lately, now the wait for The Witcher 3 begins. It is not much time left until May 19th when I can finally play the game and see what was true and what wasn’t during CDPR's questionable marketing campaign.
                I haven’t been playing much lately, besides the usual casual Guild Wars 2 farm and some Killing Floor 2 matches.
I abandoned GTA V for a while, mostly because I’m not that into the singleplayer and the Online mode has some annoying issues, plus my gaming buddies bailed on me. But I will probably get back to it soon and to finish the singleplayer so I can write a detailed review about it.
                Besides The Witcher 3, I have my eye on a few upcoming titles including Magicka 2, Blitzkrieg, Armored Warfare CBT and the controversial Hatred (can’t wait!).
Don't try to figure out what is going on there!

                Things went slowly this week and I didn’t take in consideration Labour Day, so despite finishing this week’s article on Saturday, I won’t be able to post it until tomorrow. Last month I was very productive (as I promised) and I hope I can carry the momentum into this month as well (despite the slow start).

PS: Ding 100 articles!!!

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