Skip navigation

Category Archives: Games

16127173809_4b7757bd7f_cI have a terrible confession to make. Settle down because it’s a biggie. I used to be a Final Fantasy fan. I know, I know, it’s not crime of the century but throughout my teenage years I loved that damned franchise. The games of the Playstation era were, indeed still are, some of my favourites of all time. Hell, Final Fantasy was the reason I bought a PS2. Sadly I thought Final Fantasy X was a dribbling mess and it only got worse from there. Imagine my surprise when it turned out Final Fantasy XV wasn’t just an improvement, it was actually good.

Historically, the reason Final Fantasy resonated with me was the characters. VII, VIII and IX especially all had a rich cast that you could empathise and fall in love with. Sure, there was your typical angst-ridden protagonist but there was depth beyond them. I maintain that Vivi is one of the best written characters in all of gaming and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.

Somewhere along the way, Final Fantasy lost the ability to have that depth and instead forgettable main characters took up more of the game’s focus. Is anyone that surprised that Vaan wasn’t meant to be the lead in XII, but rather the far more interesting Balthier?

Where XV succeeds is that it not only has a less tedious main character in Noctis, but it limits you to only having three additional party members. Aside from the occasional guest, you only ever travel with Ignis, Gladio and Prompto. Unlike in previous instalments which have a much broader cast, limiting it to such a small number allows you to get to know these characters quicker and to a far deeper degree. They all feel like main characters.

Take Prompto for instance. Superficially, he’s an annoying character with a passion for photography and an unhealthy obsession with Chocobos. He’s also irritatingly peppy and doesn’t seem to take the situations the lads find themselves in with the seriousness it deserves. Yet his utter ignorance as to what’s going on with the political machinations and lore makes me empathise with him. For all it gets right, XV doesn’t do a great job of explaining a lot of things and you couldn’t pay me to watch the tie-in movie, Kingsglaive. In many of these situations I am Prompto.

Before I got my hands on the game, I’d heard a lot about these “beautiful boys” and written it off as a load of nonsense. Well now don’t I look like a prat because they are bloody beautiful. I’m surprisingly relieved that I get to spend dozens more hours with Noctis’ brooding, Ignis’ cooking, Prompto’s photography and Gladio looking amazing in a tank top. The memories of the beige cast of the likes of XII and XIII are finally consigned to the dustheap.

Though, that being said, if I hear Prompto singing “I want to ride my Chocobo all day…” one more time I shan’t be responsible for my actions.


As a poor man, I don’t play as many games as I’d like. Nowhere near in fact. Yet in spite of that I’ve still managed, on average, a new game a month so yay for me. With 2016 mercifully almost at an end, I thought I’d have a look back over what I’ve played and select some winners in some arbitrary categories I’ve come up with on the spot. Because bollocks to preparation.

Surprise of the Year
Contenders: Doom, Final Fantasy XV
Winner: Doom


Image from BagoGames

As much as Final Fantasy XV is a return to form, it has to be Doom. After some not unsubstantial concern before release, with an unimpressive multiplayer beta and slow looking gameplay previews, Doom turned out to be a masterpiece. Eschewing the approach of many modern FPS’s, Doom prioritised it’s single player campaign and was all the better for it. It wasn’t just a warm-up for the multiplayer a’la Call of Duty and Battlefield, but an honest-to-God story, one with plot and everything. The no-nonsense Doom Guy also had a surprising amount of depth, treating demons and allies alike (as well as robots, computer screens and machinery) with a disdain normally reserved for dog mess on the bottom of your shoe. Doom 2016 was everything that Doom 3 wasn’t. Well crafted, well balanced, engaging and above all a ton of fun.

DLC of the Year
Contenders: Destiny Rise of Iron, The Witcher 3 Blood and Wine, SWTOR Knights of the Eternal Throne
Winner: The Witcher 3 Blood and Wine

If this had been a standalone game it would probably be up there in many writers Game of the Year lists. As a coda to what I would say is the best game of the generation so far, Blood and Wine is as perfect a conclusion as one could wish for. Moving away from the war-torn, grim locales of the main game and Heart of Stone makes it almost feel like a whole new game, so drastic is the change in tone and atmosphere. Throw in vampires, court intrigue and Geralt’s continued befuddlement at the behaviour of the locals and you’re onto a winner. Combine that with a great story, achingly pretty new locations and it’s a wonderful send off for our rugged Withcer. You couldn’t ask for more.

Most Anticipated of 2017
On paper, 2017 is already shaping up to be a stronger year than 2016. Not to say 2016 was bad, just that a lot of the stuff that achieved critical acclaim didn’t appeal to me (I’m looking at you, Overwatch and Dark Souls 3). 2017 sees Rockstar returning to the Wild West in Red Dead Redemption 2, more piss-taking shenanigans in South Park: The Fractured But Whole and Link’s return to the home console scene with Breath of the Wild.


Image from BagoGames

But for my money the one game I can’t wait to get my hands on is Mass Effect Andromeda. I’m super excited to see where Bioware take the Mass Effect franchise. The early footage looks promising, with lots of lessons learnt from Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age Inquisition. Replacing Commander Shepard will be one hell of a task, but one I trust Bioware to pull off.

Disappointment of the Year
Contenders: No Man’s Sky, Uncharted 4, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
Winner: Uncharted 4


Image from BagoGames

Right, now bear with me. I loved the first three Uncharted games. Even the third one which for some reason nobody seems to like anymore. When it came to the fourth entry, it just fell flat for me. The middle third is a meandering mess. Doing repetitive nonsense in Madagascar was bad enough, but following that up with a God-awful island hopping adventure that makes the jet ski sections in the first game look good was the final straw. It may not be the headline grabbing failure that No Man’s Sky was, but as an exercise in falling short of expectation I don’t think you can look much farther.

Game of the Year
Contenders: Doom, Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC), Final Fantasy XV
Winner: Rise of the Tomb Raider


Image from BagoGames

It came out on PC at the start of the year, it counts. In short, it has all the strengths of Uncharted 4, but with good pacing, less tedious set pieces and a more enjoyable story. If Tomb Raider 2013 was the perfect 8/10 game, this took it to the next level. Giving Lara more agency in the game helped to harken back to the classic Tomb Raider games, but without losing the sense of who this version of Lara was. She was still the same character we saw trapped on a cloudy island in the reboot, but with more knowledge and more of an edge. It suddenly didn’t seem so odd to see her gunning down mercenaries left, right and centre without batting a TressFX rendered eyelash.


Mass Effect 3 is my favourite game of all time. I think about this far more than is perhaps normal, or indeed healthy, but with Mass Effect Andromeda in the news I can’t help it. Sadly it seems that this love isn’t shared by the majority of Mass Effect fans. Indeed, the third game is often seen as the weakest, in no small part to it’s controversial ending (more on that later).

I decided to play through the Mass Effect trilogy again earlier this year for the first time since 2012. Mass Effect 3 was my favourite at the time, but I wondered if perhaps I just got caught up in the excitement of the new. Playing through first two games again I was constantly looking forward to the third, but I couldn’t shift the feeling that perhaps I’d made a terrible mistake. Everybody and their Mum said Mass Effect 2 was the best, hands down. Playing through it I could certainly see their point. The story and gameplay were all top notch and a vast improvement over it’s predecessor. Yet something was off. I didn’t like the new crew. Sure, Mordin was great and Garrus and Tali were there from the first game, but the rest? Weaker versions of better characters. When I got to the third game that just confirmed it, it was like getting the band back together.

What set Mass Effect apart from any other series was interacting with your crew. I don’t just mean romancing them and getting up to some hanky-panky in your quarters either. Learning their life story and forming bonds was perhaps more important than whatever Reaper threat was going on in the main plot. Hell, in Mass Effect 3 those weaker characters from 2, though not part of your crew, now have stories that are interesting and humanising. Rescuing Jack and her students, dealing with Miranda’s asshole Dad, Legion’s sacrifice for the greater good, Grunt proving himself as both a leader and a Krogan. These are all missions that needed to take place in the context of Mass Effect 3, when straits are at their direst. When you throw in the Citadel DLC, which is one of the finest bits of DLC to ever be released, you’ve got a game chock full of great character moments.

Most of the criticism is reserved for the ending. I can see why, especially in the vanilla version the game released with. There’s very little resolution to your journey, the galaxy you’ve fought so hard to save seems fucked regardless of whatever choice you make and your crew just seems to abandon you. When I played through it I was pissed off as well. It felt like a betrayal of what the series was based on. Luckily most, if not all, of my criticisms were rectified when Bioware released the Extended Cut DLC. It’s a complaint that no longer holds any weight for me. Sadly no DLC patched out those damned dream sequences. It may be my favourite game, but it’s not flawless.

I see Mass Effect 3 as being a bit like Lost. Both are held up as cautionary tales of how not to do an ending, but that’s missing the point. The destination wasn’t half as important as the journey.


You go onto a gaming website of your choice and look up the upcoming releases for silly season. You look at your bank balance. That feeling of crushing resignation hits and you realise you can’t afford all the pretty things. But there is a bright side! Not only do you save a few quid, but odds are a large number of upcoming releases will be buggy as hell, if not more broken than a plate at a Greek wedding. So, based on nothing more than track record, development history and my admittedly flimsy understanding of betting, what are the odds of that game you really want being broke?

  1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5
    I remember loving this franchise as a kid and it pains me to see the lack of love and attention this latest instalment seems to be getting. Virtually zero promotion and covering up the sub-par graphics with cel-shading reek of a developer not being at all confident in their product. It’s lazy, it’s uninspired and points to a game that will be a disaster.
    Broken likelihood: 1/4
  2. Minecraft Story Mode: Episode One
    Reaction to Telltale’s games have been decidedly mixed since it reinvigorated the episodic genre with the first season of The Walking Dead. In large part this is down the their continued use of Telltale Tool, a game engine developed in 2004 and saddled with more and more expectations as technology has progressed. This has led to bugs galore, with the strength of the writing saving a lot of blushes. I can’t see that changing with Minecraft.
    Broken likelihood: 3/1
  3. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
    There isn’t a chance this won’t be broken. Considering the utter mess that was Unity and their insistence on Assassin’s Creed being an annual franchise, there’s more chance of me beating up Dwayne Johnson. I’d bet my entire life savings on this game having, at the very least, horrendous frame rate issues and texture pop-in. More likely we’ll see more game breaking bugs a’la Unity. I simply don’t have the faith in Ubisoft to prove me wrong.
    Broken likelihood: Evens
  4. Halo 5: Guardians
    If you’d asked me a year ago I’d have said there’s no way this would be broken. With 343 Industries taking over the Halo franchise and releasing a remastered Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 4 to high praise and very few, if any, bugs. Then came the Master Chief Collection and things went tits up. Yet I can’t help but feel that Halo 5 will be largely issue free. Without the pressures of an annual release cycle and learning from the mistakes made with the MCC, I think it might actually be all right.
    Broken likelihood: 10/1
  5. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
    Treyarch have a pretty good handle on Call of Duty and if the beta for BLOPS III is anything to go by that run will continue. COD may have a few problems as a franchise (though those seem to be being addressed more this generation) but stability isn’t really one of them. Even Ghosts was fairly bug free.
    Broken likelihood: 20/1
  6. Fallout 4
    Like a dodgy takeaway at 2am, bugs are guaranteed with a Bethesda game. By the very nature of it’s scope it’s inevitable that problems will occur. The real question is will they be game breaking like they were on the Playstation 3 releases of Fallout 3, New Vegas (admittedly that was Obsidian, but still) and the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I hope not, but the track record isn’t great.
    Broken likelihood: 6/1
  7. Star Wars: Battlefront
    Battlefront’s an odd duck. It’s being developed by an experienced studio and with a massive licence behind it, tying it to arguably the biggest film of the year. Yet DICE’s development of Battlefield 4 was plagued by problems and their collaboration of Hardline with Visceral was a disaster. That being said, I think the power of the franchise will see it through. I can’t see Disney allowing EA to tarnish, no matter how slightly, their crowning jewel. Bob Iger would blow his nut.
    Broken likelihood: 10/1
  8. Rise of the Tomb Raider
    Another one to add to the pile where the chances of game breaking bugs are slim, but not impossible. As with any game that tries to increase the scope there’s always a risk of bringing in unexpected variables that mess with the engine. Yet short of an Arkham Knight style fiasco I can’t see anything game breaking. Bugs yes, but that’ll be the extent of it.
    Broken likelihood: 15/1
  9. Just Cause 3
    I get the feeling that if there’s significant problems with this that it might just add to the fun. It’s a silly sandbox designed for having fun in and so long as the game doesn’t crash silly bugs might just add to that. Sure there’ll be torrents of boiled piss for people not being able to have the fun they want, but I can already see the YouTube videos of people exploiting them.
    Broken likelihood: 12/1
  10. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
    The final entry on this list I can see going one of two ways. One way is that it’ll be fine. Perhaps with a disappointing single player but with a multiplayer to write home about. The other is that it’ll be plagued with matchmaking issues and server problems in the run up to Christmas. The pre-release buzz is positive so if Ubisoft can keep the server’s ticking over in theory it should be fine. But that’s relying on Ubisoft which is never a good place to be.
    Broken likelihood: 9/1

It’ll be interesting to see how wrong my wild conjecture is come Christmas time. With any luck I’ll be completely wrong and none of these games will be broken at all. Yet with the range of games on offer and with the developers involved I think there’s more chance of Christmas being cancelled.


It may have been Gamescom this week, but the only game announcement that I’ve got truly excited about was made 5500 miles from Cologne in Las Vegas. As someone who’s put in way too many hours than is sensible to this game, season 11 of Star Trek Online (STO) could well be the best update to the game since I logged in for the first time back in April 2014.

New story content, exploration, equipment and maps will all be coming to the game with season 11. It will also bring an end to the ongoing Iconian story arc that’s formed the backbone to much of STO’s story these past five and a half years.

For a game that’s part of such a massive franchise as Star Trek, it doesn’t seem to get the attention of the likes of Star Wars The Old Republic. Admittedly it perhaps doesn’t have the same level of polish, but for a free-to-play MMO it’s far more generous than TOR. Season updates and expansions are free, you get free ships up to the fifth of six tiers (and if you take part in seasonal events you often get a free top tier ship) and the in-game currencies (dilithium and energy credits) are easily acquirable. Even a lot of the best equipment costs you nothing more than time.

So why should someone start playing? Well, like I said before, it’s free. It’ll also run on pretty much anything. I’m pretty sure it’d run on my washing machine if it only had a screen. Plus, if you’re a Star Trek fan such as myself, it’s the only continuing source of Star Trek stories outside of the novels. The key difference being that the novels don’t let you shoot things in the face. At least not without getting arrested afterwards…

Looking at Steam, it tells me I’ve spent 1357 hours playing Star Trek Online. That’s far more time than I’ve spent playing any other game I’ve owned. Your Final Fantasy’s, your Elder Scroll’s and assorted other time sinks all pale in comparison to an underrated MMO running on an overworked engine with a far smaller player base than a Star Trek MMO merits. With 2016 being such a big year for Star Trek, with both the release of Star Trek Beyond and the 50th anniversary, why not get ahead of the curve? You may download it and give it a go and think it’s a load of crap. That’s fine. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a hidden gem of a game where you can be Captain Picard or Kirk, or even Archer if you’re strange like that.

Star Trek Online Season 11: New Dawn releases in October 2015.


It may look like something from some dystopian future with everybody having screens attached to their faces, yet virtual reality headsets seem to be the future for gaming. Every major company and their Mum seems to be developing or investing in the technology, but is it a guaranteed success? Simply put, no. In spite of all the money being poured into it, it’s still a gamble with no certainty it’ll be little more than a niche interest. But if companies do want to make it a mainstream feature, here are five things developers need to do to make virtual reality a hit.

1. Be cheap.
Peripherals have a fairly terrible history of success. From the Nintendo Power Glove to Kinect, bringing out add-ons to existing consoles has rarely been a recipe for success. The main stumbling block to a lot of these has been price. If someone has already spent £350 on a console and then has to spend another £100+ to get a fancy extra, most people won’t bother. If VR is to succeed, it has to be cheap. Any more than £75 and it’ll be consigned to a niche market.

2. Third party support.
So you’ve got your shiny new toy, now you need something to play on it. Inevitably first party support will be there, but it’s the third party games that determines which console does best. It’ll be the same with VR. Games like Adrift will be ideal, as would something like No Man’s Sky. Slightly slower paced, first person and interactive experiences with pick-up-and-play appeal. Perfect.

3. Tailor made games.
In addition to developer support, the games need to suit the format. Just porting over Call of Duty isn’t enough. Games need to work with the VR headset to make it an experience. A frantic first person shooter like COD will most likely lead to you throwing up over your cat. Games like Kitchen, the tech demo for Morpheus, showcases that perfectly. Terrifying and designed exclusively for VR, it demonstrates what VR is capable of when designers know what they’re doing with the tech they’ve got.

4. Comfort.
Most VR headsets look like something used at Guantanamo Bay. If you’re to spend hours with a TV screen strapped to your face it needs to not only be comfortable, but cool. I get hot enough wearing headphones, these headsets need to be so energy efficient that they’d make an environmentalist blush. Plus, as a bespectacled man, if I can’t wear it over my glasses comfortably and without damaging them then there’s no way in hell I’d buy it.

5. Link it with your TV.
Much like when Andrew McCarthy shagged Rob Lowe’s Mum in Class, television on your games console has become an awkward subject of late. Nobody wants to talk about it and it leaves everyone feeling a bit dirty. Mainly it’s because people with games consoles play them for games and watching tele through your XBox or PS4 adds nothing to the experience. However, imagine watching the football with an Oculus and feeling as though you’re in the crowd. Or watching the latest Attenborough documentary with the Morpheus and feeling as though you’re in the jungle. It’d be magical.

VR is a technology with bags on potential. Companies are putting enough money into it to make it live up to that, but the consumer support needs to be there. I worry that if they launch it as a cynical cash grab without the thought put into it, both its potential and all that cash will be wasted.

“Gentlemen. You can’t fight in here. This is the Game Room!”

Who’d believe that GamerGate is almost a year old? Or indeed that the cacophony of misogyny, death and rape threats and general harassment would still be continuing to this day, expanding to cover more and more of aspects of “geek” culture?  Yet GamerGate isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of the problem. Entitlement, especially within geeky, typically male dominated realms of pop culture, is a problem that’s become increasingly highlighted as it diversifies. And not just in terms of attracting people from minority backgrounds, women, the LGBTQ community etc, but also in terms of content and the way in which that content is received.

Surprisingly not that bad.

Surprisingly, not that bad.

Today, Vice posted an article about PewDiePie which encapsulates just that point. The article quotes many comments about PewDiePie which criticise him and his content. In itself, that’s fair enough. Everything can’t be for everyone. Yet in a culture that’s only recently started to open itself up to a wider audience, not having stuff catered to you is jarring for some people. A time was when a guy who made millions of dollars playing video games would be heralded by these people as a hero. Yet PewDiePie doesn’t market himself at the hardcore gamers, the ones who feel increasingly marginalised by the way the industry is progressing.

It’s important to note that PewDiePie is no saint. In the past he’s made rape jokes in his videos. Crucially though he recognised that these offended and upset people and after receiving complaints he said he’d never make them again. To my knowledge, he’s kept his word. This ability to recognise such behaviour as wrong and to admit that is something that eludes Gamergaters and their ilk.

Fed up with your shit.

Fed up with your shit.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to gaming. Hell the term GamerGate was first coined by the actor Adam Baldwin, a man whose Twitter feed is a smorgasbord of right-wing rambling that would fit right in at a Rick Santorum dinner party. Then there’s this years Hugo Awards, which has managed to be hijacked by a group right-wing authors and their supporters calling themselves ‘The Sad Puppies’, even managing to raise the ire of George R.R. Martin. Whilst they’ve been around for a couple of years with very little effect, their sudden rise in influence has coincided with the emergence of GamerGate. And then there’s the YouTube channels that have jumped on the crazy train. I remember watching Thunderf00t videos to do with astronomy years ago. Imagine my surprise when swathes of his channel is now dedicated to bashing feminists.

It’s become a lightning rod for those who had their niche, a thing that they could call their own. Now that it’s become more inclusive they’re rallying against feminists, “Social Justice Warriors” and those who think that maybe, just maybe, having more equality is a good thing. Because everything in geek culture in the past was aimed at a smaller market to which they belonged, their sense of entitlement is so that they feel that should continue.

Do I think that the likes of Adam Baldwin gives a toss about video games, aside from being paid to occasionally be in them? No. But it helps to further their agenda and people who see themselves as victims get swept up in it.

Is there a solution to this? Can those of us who, through our fandom, hobbies and interests are inextricably linked to these people, do or say anything to turn people away from such hate? I would like to think yes. We need to support those game developers, film makers and creative types who are helping to diversify geek culture. It’s important to not be afraid to provide constructive criticism when they drop the ball from time to time.

It’s my hope that, given time, opportunists like Baldwin, the misogynists GameGate, the Sad Puppies and countless YouTubers will become increasingly marginalised. With the widespread critical acclaim of the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road and Her Story and the increasing condemnation of shows like Game of Thrones for its treatment of women, I’d like to think that perception is starting to change. Sadly, I feel that for the time being those that shout the loudest will continue to impinge on geek culture.


It is a truth universally acknowledged that going into the third instalment of a trilogy without engaging with the previous two parts is a bad idea. Yet here I am, playing both The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Dragon Age Inquisition after only brief encounters with their predecessors.

I’d managed to complete Dragon Age Origins and did about a quarter of The Witcher, whilst I skipped both franchises second games completely. I can’t say either experience left me inclined to trying their sequels. However, with the slow start to this console cycle and their rave reviews, I decided to give them a chance. Understandably this has left me playing catch up with the lore. What’s surprised me most is that in spite of having played less of The Witcher series, it’s the one in which I’ve had the most success in getting to grips with.

Normally, the move to appeal to more of a mass market would be seen as jumping the shark, a phrase which itself did a Fonz about 10 years ago. CD Project Red have managed to avoid that pitfall. It still feels like Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones, but in a version in which you could skip the rubbish bits like The Two Towers or Game of Thrones season two and not feel utterly lost. I don’t feel as though I’ve missed out. The world is still vibrant, but in an approachable way. A way in which I’m not overloaded with information and left to fend for myself. In contrast, Dragon Age Inquisition is like trying to eat a pack of Ryvita. It’s dry and fairly bland, in need of something to liven it up and give it some flavour. Had I enjoyed Origins and played Dragon Age 2, perhaps that would have come from there.

This isn’t to say Inquisition is a bad game. It’s achingly pretty and the interaction with your team mates is as good as you’d expect from a Bioware game. Where it really shines is in the metagame. Making the Inquisition a force to be reckoned with is reminiscent of building your forces in Mass Effect 3. It feels like you can affect the world in a very real way, more so than Geralt can on his own in Wild Hunt.

But where The Witcher 3 succeeds is it not only draws you in, it also feels like much more of a next-gen game. Sure, Inquisition looks pretty, but like Origins it can still feel like something Bioware did on their day off. The combat is laborious, the quests uninspired, mediocre characters and an unremarkable plot. These aren’t points which I feel apply to The Witcher 3. Take, for instance, The Bloody Baron. By all accounts an utter bastard, yet by the end of his quest chain I was pitying him more than any other character in a video game in years.

My hope is that Dragon Age will realise its potential the more I play it. It certainly has the capacity to be brilliant. Just building up the inquisition and consolidating your power is enough of a hook to ensure I continue. Yet so far, it’s The Witcher that’s the apple of my eye.