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My Love/Hate Experience with Wasteland 2

“Runs like shit, plays like shit, but shit.. I couldn’t put it down.”

The above is how I described the game to everyone that listened. Not exactly a solid pitch, but I can’t think of a better way to describe it. I became obsessed and enamoured enough to look past Wasteland 2’s many technical flaws and have since added it to one of my favourite games in recent memory. Wasteland 2 was made by a small studio most of you probably haven’t heard of: ‘inXile Entertainment’- a crowd-funded passion project of theirs that plays a lot what you’d imagine a ‘Fallout/XCOM: Enemy Unknown’ hybrid would

WL2 starts off with the usual spiel of ‘nukes destroyed the world, and we’ve learned nothing from it’. You’re given command of a team of ‘Desert Rangers’, and are tasked with policing the arid wastes. Wastes that are full of religious cults, scumbag raiders, cannibals, waring factions, power-hungry robots and the innocent just trying to get by. After creating very ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ inspired characters you’re let loose, and very quickly discover that the game doesn’t care that you’re a wide-eyed fresh recruit, and don’t know anything

You’re a scrub, and better learn quick. There’s no tutorial, no hand holding – you learn from experience, from experimenting with the game’s mechanics and figuring out what the game will let you get away with. It’s possible to make some character choices and in-game decisions early on that render your playthrough impossible. Is that poor game design? Depends on what kind of gamer you are. You can learn from your mistakes, and try again, or just plain give up.

The first choice you make frames the rest of the game perfectly. Two settlements are under attack, one is an agricultural centre, the other – a water farm. I went with the ag-centre purely because it was closer to the Ranger’s home base, the citadel. You can only save one, which you’re further reminded of when you hear the panicked screams on your radio of the settlement you didn’t rescue. For me it highlighted that there isn’t always going to be a perfect solution to the problems the game faces you with – it is, after all, the apocalypse. Emerging from the ‘ag-centre’, barely alive, no ammo and half my crew diseased I limped back to base, no longer wide-eyed and naive, but better for it. The game had shown me it’s true nature, and you know what? I loved it, I had survived the game’s first test and was hungry for more.

I played WL2 on console so throughout my time with the game I had to deal with the constant threat of frequent crashes, which I deemed to happen exclusively at the most inconvenient times as if  the game was going out of its way to spite me. After discovering that the chance of the game crashing increased with how many times I loaded a save, I began to see it as an intentional gameplay feature. Live with your choices and the resulting consequences, or pay the price. Fair enough.

Wasteland 2 is that weird person at a party that no-one seems to talk to. They’ve got a strange, anxious look in their eyes, smell kind of funny and don’t pick up on social cues. But you discover once you’ve invested some time, courage and persistence that those faults don’t matter and that they’re surprisingly interesting and deep. Go talk to that person. Just be willing to put up with some eyebrow-raising quirks along the way.

Wipeout Omega Collection, An Assualt On the Senses

Having never played a Wipeout game before I didn’t really know what to expect, I knew it was fast paced and required decent reflexes, but that’s it. What I didn’t expect was the amount of fun I’d have, and how sweaty my poor Playstation controller would get.

Booting up the game greets you with a hyper-modern (almost Mirror’s edge-esque) menu, the rather apt and motivating soundtrack is pumping, encouraging you to get amongst it – really amping you up for the experience. There’s a selection of the three games that come in the collection and after making your choice are thrown into your first race.

The game takes it easy on you initially – a simple antigravity vehicle, almost reminiscent of a Star Wars pod racer or star fighter, that handles well and can take a hefty amount of hits. The speed you’re required to zip, boost, shoot and slide through increases steadily on from that point on, and will definitely test the skills of even the most alert and capable gamer.

What I did not expect was the amount of variety in the game modes available. The events are divided up, including combat runs, races, time trials and a very interesting mode called ‘zone’ where you’re required to survive as long as possible as the game steadily increases in speed – all the while throwing ‘acid-trip’ like visuals at you that increase in severity the longer you survive.

Wipeout OC is an assault on the senses – it’s a stylistically eye-catching, flurry of blur and beat that you only stop playing once your eyes, ears and nerve have had it’s fill. It’s a racer for those who are bored with the typical racer that strives for realism because there is nothing realistic about Wipeout OC, and that’s completely fine with me.

Game Review: Deus Ex Mankind Divided – Want to Finish? Buy The DLC

Having squeezed every goddamn drop out of the previous Deus Ex game (Human Revolution), I naturally had high hopes for the latest in the series – ‘Mankind Divided’. Those already familiar with the DE games would know that it explores the concept of human augmentation, and the effects these ‘enhancements’ have on society and the human condition. What drew me to ‘Human Revolution’ was the dark tone, polished gameplay and character driven story. Did Mankind Divided shape up?

Jensen, the protagonist, has not changed in the slightest, once again sporting his flashy styled metro-beard, gravel-grinder voice and ‘let’s get shit done’ attitude. Having thrown the disk into my PS4, I was raring to go. Luckily the game offers a skippable 12 min refresher, covering the major plot points and characters of the previous title. I appreciated this, and made me realise how very little I actually recalled.

The opening level served as a tutorial, helping to ease you back into the controls and game mechanics present in Human Revolution, while also introducing you to your ‘boss’ Jim Miller – head of TF29 (task force 29) – who to my surprise is Australian, and voiced by one. I was not expecting this, and immediately wanted to break into his apartment to see if an Aussie flag was hung anywhere. There was one – I was absolutely fucking delighted, and proud of myself.

Having passed the ‘test’ you’re given free reign on a ‘HUB’ in Prague. In the hub you’re doled out side missions, can visit shops and are constantly reminded that the augmented are an oppressed segment of society (it’s seriously drummed into you). After doing enough ‘investigating’ you are rewarded with a ‘story mission’, accessable from TF29’s base inside the hub. A mildly disabled South African flies you from mission to mission, but he’s an absolute prick, and I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to like him. I get it! You’re bitter, and South African! Geez!

Deus Ex Mankind Divided

Deciding what to invest your ‘Praxis’ (ability points) kits on was the most interesting aspect of the game. It was always a tough decision. Do I want to make my time hacking all the unattended computers in Prague easier, or invest in periodic ‘god-mode’? If making tough decisions like this doesn’t appeal to you there is always the option to buy as many Praxis kits as you desire, because you know, playing the game normally just isn’t enough right? Yes micro-transactions like this are available in Mankind Divided, for those with more money than sense – thanks Square Enix..

About 15 – 20 hours in I was still waiting for the ‘big twist’, the ‘game changing event’, the point in the story where everything came together to form some sort of interesting reveal. It never came. I only realised I had completed the final mission, after I had completed it and the credits were rolling. It completely blindsided me, and I felt incredibly disappointed. Did I miss something?

Ah wait I yes I did – I didn’t buy the season pass for future DLC..

mankind divided boss

What did Mankind Divided get right?

  • Moody, dark tone
  • Flashy, polished gameplay
  • Fun new augment abilities

What did it get wrong?

  • Flat, unsatisfying story
  • Microtransactions
  • Australians

Game Review: No Man’s Sky – Does It Deserve the Hate?

No Man’s Sky jumped into my life at the perfect time. My partner had flown out the previous day and I had been feeling a little lonely. NMS fed into those feelings, slotting in perfectly with my state of mind at the time. Already feeling slightly isolated, I could immediately relate to how the character must be feeling, alone in the vastness of space.

I’ll admit to going into NMS with incredibly low expectations, having watched hours of ‘No Man’s Sky’s Developers Lied To Us’ videos on Youtube. I tried to put that aside and really give it a chance, and for the most part, I’m glad I did.

It begins with (you) an unnamed and unexplained shipwrecked character waking up from what appeared to be an emergency landing. After spending the first moments appreciating the luxuriant purple trees, strangely indifferent fauna and incredible soundtrack I began to cut into the resources generously scattered over the area near my damaged ship. What you’re not told is that you should avoid being overly greedy when mining for resources. Sentry bots keep an unrelenting eye on your avarice. Take a gram more than they deem appropriate and they’ll respond with the appropriate force, by trying to kill you. Unaware of this radical robotic environmental group, I began completely annihilating the area, cleaning it of anything remotely valuable. I quickly found myself involved in a firefight I was ill prepared for, resulting in my death. Confused and humbled I mined more conservatively from then on.  

No-mans-sky-hunter-robots

I eventually got what I needed from a nearby cave, which also served as a haven from the lethal radiation present above ground. With my meager starship repaired I made my way into the depths of space. Four massive freighters jumped in as I exited the atmosphere, giving me one hell of a scare and forcing me to take a crash course in starship evasive maneuvers.

Having taken the step to leave the confines of my ‘starting planet’ NMS encouraged me to name all the systems and planets I discovered with currency as a reward for my ‘genius’. Never having any idea what to name things in games I decided to name my planets after two items in the room I was in. This resulted in my planets being named ‘Gandalf’s Jockeys’, ‘Mermaid Grenade’ and one named simply as ‘Gaaaarchomp’ (I had stopped caring at that point).

No-mans-sky-xwing

I spent the next couple of hours finding the correct resources and blueprints necessary for intersystem travel. With that done, I warped to the next system and found more of the same: gather resources, talk to a static and disinterested alien, create a warp module and warp out. Rinse and repeat.

At that point I felt like I had experienced most, if not all NMS had to offer, and I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I felt like I had spent those three hours wisely, but investing any more time would’ve been a waste. For me NMS was a summer fling, an experience to look back fondly on, not something to get into a lengthy off-and-on relationship with. Sometimes it’s better to know when to call it quits and move on, and I’m glad I did this with NMS.

Is it worth the full retail price? No. Does it deserve the scorn it’s getting online? Probably. Will anybody be playing it in a year? I doubt it. Will another player find and land on Gandalf’s Jockeys? God I hope so.