Updownright first impressions: Concealed Intent

Concealed Intent is a Space, Turn-Based Combat game that’s in early access on Steam. It’s already getting bonus points for not being another damned zombie game that’s in early access so bravo for thinking of something original their guys.

I love turn based combat games, there’s something about the charm of them that’s just remarkable. Concealed Intent definitely manages to capture the charm I dearly love and incorporate it well, making it a strong turn based combat game. There’s a few gamemodes to choose from, there’s the actual campaign, skirmish and multiplayer, we’ll go into these in more detail later, but let’s start with the campaign, because that’s what you should have to do by law.

There’s gonna be one or two minor spoilers, as in, the first mission, I’m going to completely spoil for you and that’ll be it. The story for the game is original, I don’t think I’ve ever played a game where I’ve had to shoot my uncle’s ashes into a planet that looks scarily like Mustafar from Star Wars. I thought it was a bit odd that the game starts with you doing this, but I suppose it sets the game in motion for what you need to do. You basically run a sort of trading company that your dear old, probably melted, uncle left you in his will and that’s what the campaign revolves around.

Graphically wise, the game is impressive. I mean, for an early access game and a small company at that it’s pretty impressive that one or two people can actually make something that looks like this. Obviously graphics don’t matter on a game like this, so as long as it’s playable then who cares? I do, I have to, that’s my job, and if I’m not doing my job then the men will come for me now wont they.

I’m not a fan of the skirmish mode in this game unfortunately. It seems like it’s just a survival mode in which I didn’t do much surviving as there seems to be an almost infinite amount of enemies in the skirmish. I suppose if it was named survival mode I wouldn’t have too much of a problem with it but a skirmish match is usually two or more teams of enemies going to battle with one another, this just seems to be you in a small square, battling ships and satellites.

It’s also a shame that I didn’t get a chance to play the multiplayer seeing as though the game is in early access and not many people were actually purchasing/playing the game while I was playing. I’m guessing the multiplayer is either a co-op sort of skirmish mode (which actually sounds pretty fun) or just a 1v1 battle, which could also be fun.

Overall I’m pretty impressed. The fact that this game is in early access and is obviously making improvements is sublime. It’s also not a zombie game, has steam trading cards and I think I crafted the badge so that’s a bonus as well. It’s in a stable enough position to be played now, but it’s pretty obvious more stuff will be added, so until then.

Concealed Intent gets a 7/10

Fallout 4 Review

Before we begin, this review is going to contain minor spoilers. I’ll try my best to spoil nothing major but I can definitely say that the first hour (or twenty) or so of the game will be spoilt along with a couple other things that could be considered minor spoilers, you have been warned.

I’ve been looking forward to reviewing this game for so long now. I got it on Christmas Day and it’s basically the only thing I’ve played extensive amounts of, so far I’m almost thirty hours in and I’d say that’s about enough to make an opinion of the game. Having said that, I’ve went through a hefty chunk of the story and joined up with the three major factions of the game (Minutemen, Brotherhood of Steel and Railroad) all of which are very different factions that have their own unique side quests to follow throughout the game. I’ve gotten very far through all of those quests and I’ve just stopped myself after the “Mass Fusion” quest because anything after that is a pretty major spoiler.

Now, it only seems like the right thing to do to start with how the game looks graphically. I think, compared to other Fallout games it looked impressive at first but this whole new clean look makes the game look very, what’s the word, kid friendly. Instead of the rough textures seen in the previous Fallout games we have a very vibrant, colourful and squeaky clean style of graphics for your HUD, blood and Pip-Boy. Here’s an example of what I mean:

So that there is what the Fallout 4 HUD, menus and such looks like, a very clean look to everything, however compared to Fallout 3…

You see what I mean? Fallout 3 has this more mature HUD look to it, whereas Fallout 4’s looks a lot more vibrant than its predecessors. Personally, I like the new HUD change, I spent so much time with Fallout 3 and New Vegas it felt fresh to have a new graphical style to look at and it works well with the game and compliments the ambitiously colourful world you’re playing in.

Of course, ambitiously colourful doesn’t really remind anyone of the Fallout series. If I said that to someone then their first thoughts would not be “Oh yeah the Fallout games.” However if I said spilt coffee they’d probably say “Ah, Fallout, brings back memories.” Change isn’t bad, especially this one, I’m quite a fan of this style of graphics. The new style brings a lot of positives with it and it doesn’t ruin the ambiance and immersion of the previous Fallout games.

So, that’s the HUD talked about, now let’s talk about the graphics as a whole. Previous Fallout games have been very dark, gritty and I think that’s often what people think of when they hear Fallout games, like I stated in the previous paragraph. This new colourful style is great, that’s what I think personally anyway. Everything’s been tweaked and messed with to make it look the nicest it can possibly be for the new generation of consoles, and it’s worked.

However what hasn’t worked is the story. That one fell like a bombshell didn’t it? The problem with the story is that it’s too much like Fallout 3, except with the roles reversed. In Fallout 3, you searched for your father (who dies), in Fallout 4, you search for your son (Who’s old, dying, and then dies). The voices in general are pretty recognisable too, for example Nick Valentine (who’s a pretty major character in the game) is voiced by the same bloke as Mercer Frey from Skyrim. Turns out the guy who voiced Nick Valentine also voiced everybody else, so this game should just be called “The Adventures of Stephen Russell’s Acting Talent”, which isn’t that much.

Speaking of voice acting, the character you play as has a voice. Yeah, Brian T. Delaney voices the Sole Survivor, with his most notable work being Mr. Popper’s Penguins, a grim horror film wherein Jim Carrey tries to slowly kill penguins on his balcony by making them watch Charlie Chaplin (believe me, I’ve seen the film, it’s actually not too bad of a film). Everyone got really angry with the fact that our character had a voice now, and rightly so, we were used to having a character that showed no flicker of emotion, whether it was executing a raider with a spoon or winning a game of Blast Radius, he would have the same, emotionally dead grimace plastered onto his face. I ended up covering his face up with sunglasses so I didn’t have to look inside of the burning hell that was going on in his mind. I don’t mind the voice acting for our own character, it allows for a better flow of conversation, instead of “dialogue” silence “dialogue” and so on and so forth.

Which leads me swiftly on to the dialogue choices in this game. They’ve been dumbed down quite a bit, you get the choice of four options, which are: “Yes, no, tell me more about this current event and sarcasm”. That is it, good luck making a character you feel invested in when that’s all you can do. It doesn’t matter what you pick anyway, the NPCs in this game are basically robots anyways, or synths should I say. Yeah, that’s the big new enemy this time around, not quite robots but not quite humans either. We’ll get to that later.

But the dialogue choices seem very lacking in this game, especially when compared to the previous games in the series (prime example again, Fallout 3). Also, the lack of a Karma System really makes your choices almost redundant as you have no karma to keep you from picking certain things. If you have a companion they will like/dislike your choices, but that boils it down to being about as fun as someone liking your post on Facebook. Speaking of companions, they’re bloody useless unless you want someone to absorb bullets and carry all the heavy items.

Companions also seem to have changed, maybe for the better in this case though. You can now actually have a full conversation with them and if they like you enough they’ll give you a fetch quest. Finish that fetch quest and you’ll gain their loyalty and an achievement or something. I dunno, I haven’t bothered with the fetch quests yet, too busy getting all the other achievements first. You can do the usual stuff of making them carry things and so on, but there isn’t really anything else you can do, with the lack of a command wheel all you can do is make them shoot, wait and pick up objects. Which is a real shame because I distinctly remember there were more choices in Fallout New Vegas with companions. Thanks Boone.

Of course, I need to talk about the settlement building. It’s what the community had been wanting for a long while now, a mod was made for this kinda stuff on New Vegas PC, but it was never apart of the base game. So, with the inclusion of base building, how is it? It’s pretty bare bones if I’m honest. I thought we would’ve gotten some form of “Go out there into the wilderness and build what you want.”, what we got was “See this fixed, green parameter that’s fairly small? Yeah, off you go.” It really takes away from the freedom of the game when you can’t go past a river to expand your settlement. I also found it extremely strange and stupid even that you could be attacked and killed in the build mode. If they’d just added some form of top down view then it would’ve worked so much better as it’d allow us to take full advantage of the customization of settlements available in the game. It’s a shame really, I didn’t bother with the settlements anymore after I discovered I could take damage and even die in the build mode.

You may be wondering why I have yet to touch on the story, the reason is that Fallout 4 is also yet to touch on a story. Unlike the predecessors, Fallout 4 doesn’t really have any pacing, the “story” is centred around finding your son Shaun, but to be quite honest some of the things you do to find him are a bit odd and the way they string the story together through pretty much a dream sequence in someone elses head to advance the plot was plain ridiculous. But what about the side quests? The Brotherhood of Steel, Minutemen and Railroad? They must be good, right? Well, all the factions hate one another for some strange reason so you can’t side with all of them, because The Brotherhood of Steel want to destroy the Railroad and the Minutemen want to abolish the Institute. This really adds an “Okay, pick one or the other” feel to the game and I really didn’t like it. I know the game has to have consequences, but this wasn’t the way to do it. The Brotherhood of Steel story is fairly fun, and that’s only because you get to rebuild Liberty Prime, however I haven’t made it far enough into the game because I got bored. As for the Minutemen, all you really have to do with them is build settlements around the wasteland and they’ll make you general for some daft reason.

But the one thing I haven’t talked about yet, it’s the big one. It’s what ties the game together and it’s basically make or break. If this doesn’t work then it’s all ruined. The combat. How is it? Honestly, I thought it was fantastic and satisfying. There’s something extremely sweet in a demented way about not using V.A.T.S. and still being able to pull off headshots. I used to rely very heavily on V.A.T.S. but now seeing as though it’s as useful as the tin foil around a baked potato, I left it, I completely forgot about it. I use it from time to time if I’m lazy but other than that there isn’t really any reason to use V.A.T.S. anymore. If you’ve got a decent gun like the Hunting Rifle, slap a red dot sight onto it. Yeah, you can modify guns to a much larger extent now, which I forgot you could do because I found pretty much the best gun ever and that’s the gun I’ve used ever since.

The combat is quite honestly the best in the series. I’m sorry if you disagree with me, but that’s what I think. It’s very smooth overall, the animations look nice and I haven’t experienced any bugs as of yet. Apart from the one that they couldn’t iron out…

I got bored. Now, to be fair, I get bored with a lot of games and I got bored with this one after thirty hours of playtime, so I’d say the game did it’s job extremely well. But this was supposed to be so good. Seven years of waiting for a sequel to Fallout 3 (if we don’t include Vegas, which we wont, even though it’s the best in the series) and this is what we got. A game that’s made so many attempts to make itself new that it falls short. Maybe the DLC and Mods will fix this, but we shouldn’t need DLC Packs and user modifications to make the game fun.

With all of that in mind…

Fallout 4 gets a 7/10

Yes, gaming can be a good thing

Most gamers have heard it all of their lives.

“Stop wasting your time in front of that screen!”, “Don’t you have something better to do than play games?”, and now years later “Why are you still playing games? You’re an adult! Grow up!”. It’s crushing to hear those around me, even my loved ones putting down me for my choice in hobby or even my work in gaming. The laughter and snide remarks of those who feel themselves “above” gamers comes out whenever the topic arises, causing me to feel like an outcast in certain groups of people.

How easy it is to let their words enter my head. To let them convince me that something I love is useless, immature, a distraction from truly living. So many have let the derogatory remarks of those surrounding them ruin their love of gaming. They put the controller down, and never return to the hobby and community that once meant so much to them. I stopped listening to the negativity. I know that gaming is more than a bright screen in a dark room. It’s more than an escape from reality, even more than just a game. Gaming can be these things, but it can also be so much more. It’s something that most outside of the gaming community miss. It’s a part of who I am. Gaming helped mold me into the man I am today, and I hope to help mold gaming into what it can be tomorrow. I can look myself in the mirror and be OK with who I am even if others aren’t, and I can tell you that despite what you may have heard, it’s OK to be a gamer. In fact, you might just be better off for it.

I’m not here to defend a life of playing games in solitude, wasting away behind a monitor. I’m also not here to condemn those who don’t play games. Instead, I think it’s important to realize the important and positive role that gaming can play in one’s life. Gaming has had such an impact on my life and the lives of many of those around me that calling them games seems almost unfair. We are able to experience things that no one else does. We can interact with incredible worlds that only exist in 1s and 0s. We find friends in strangers from all corners of the world who happen to be put into the same online match as us. We even get to experience one of the most complex art forms in existence.

When I say that being a gamer has helped make me who I am, I’m not speaking in hyperbole. Gaming has had a profound effect on so many aspects of my life. My earliest memories of developing musical taste date back to the soundtracks in the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater series. Many of my favorite moments of spending time with friends as a child are centered around having a PlayStation controller in my hand. The sports I like, my love of history, even my current obsession with motorcycles can all be traced back in some fashion to a game I played. Sure, maybe NFL Blitz wasn’t the most accurate depiction of football, and maybe I shouldn’t have picked my favorite team for life while playing it in the arcade (please Buccaneers be good again before I die, k thanks), but playing against my dad in that empty mall arcade as player 2 and feeding that machine quarters will always be one of my favorite memories of spending time with him during my childhood.

As an adult, gaming continues to impact my life in big ways. I meet great people from parts of the world I’ll probably never see in person, and learn about their culture and who they are simply because I have a controller in my hands and a headset on. I’m able to interact with and experience very personal stories that give me insight and make me face emotions that could never surface in quite the same way in any other medium. Believe it or not, gaming drives me forward in life. I find inspiration and motivation somewhere in between the 1s and 0s. With each digital adventure I have through an on-screen character, the drive to have my own adventure increases. I’m introduced to new concepts and places. Sometimes I’m even shown things I didn’t want to experience, only to have my point of view change as I’m introduced to new and opposing ideas.

It’s due in part to these experiences, interactions and friendships that I continue to grow and evolve as a person. The gaming community inspired me to write, something I may have not picked up if not for the brilliant gaming writers I followed years ago. Now I’ve written hundreds of articles, about not only what new game came out, but about the deeper issues and topics embedded into gaming culture and even several pieces on affairs outside of the gaming sphere. I’ve somehow managed to meet and develop relationships with people who hold positions that I idolized all because I wanted to write about a game.

Sure, the average gamer doesn’t exactly decide to take to the internet in a linguistic tirade about how terrible that Game of Thrones role-playing game was, but that doesn’t mean that games can’t have positive effects on them that translate to the outside world. Everything we do has the ability to positively or negatively affect us, it simply depends on how we react to the experience. Gaming is no different. We all know playing games can go downhill quick and have serious negative impacts on someone’s life.

As much as I hate to admit it, the stereotypical TV portrayal of an unhealthy, unhygienic guy in a dark room playing games every possible minute of every day is real. It’s certainly not a correct portrayal of the average gamer, but it exists all the same. Gaming can be and often is used to escape from reality into simpler, happier, or simply different worlds. This can be a great tool to combat stress, anxiety and in some cases even cope with emotional trauma, but it can also be used as an unhealthy crutch used to avoid negative emotions and reality altogether. Some players use games as an attempt to escape completely, substituting their reality with a more stable digital reality only to become the stereotype I speak of. This is obviously not OK.

It’s easy to slip into a unhealthy relationship with games. In fact, I think most of us have done just that at some point. For me, there’s really only two ways to get out of it. Either force yourself to completely quit gaming for a period of time and then limit your hours per week or day when returning, or make yourself too busy to constantly play. Like basically everything else in the modern world, gaming can be an addiction and in those cases must be treated like one.

Somehow, though, I’m able to keep a healthy relationship with gaming and allow it to have a positive, rather than negative, influence on my life. This is partly due to the fact that I simply don’t have enough time to let gaming control my life, but I also find that engaging in the community rather than always just playing games can have some great positive effects on my relationship with gaming. Not only does it allow me to do things like write, make friends, gain perspective and learn, but it also makes the time I am able to play so much better. If you’re a gamer, keep tabs on your gaming and try to find ways to allow gaming to make you a better person. If you’re not a gamer, simply recognize that gaming is rarely a waste of time or mindspace.

Gamepad: Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes Tips & Tricks

updownright Post SW.jpg   For the last few weeks, I’ve been working on and writing about pretty serious topics, and so I thought why not freshen things up a little? Also seeing how I’m a big advocate for mobile games, I’ve decided to make a Tips & Tricks article for a game that I must admit, downloaded once, deleted and downloaded again. In other words I’ve had a love-hate relationship with it for a while now, but recently started playing it again, and I’m liking more and more every time. The game I’m talking about is Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes.

0. (Optional) Dark Side Starter Pack

So, in the beginning of the game, or once you unlock the Dark Side part of the campaign, you’ll be prompted to a little screen offering you a Dark Side Starter Pack for 4.99$ which expires after about four days. Now, before you grab your pitchforks, let me explain. I hate DLC and microtransactions as well, but this is the only time in any game, that I’ve given money for something like this. And it’s a pretty good bargain, you get character shards, a 3-star character, enough crystals for a Chromium Pack and a lot of credits. Ironically it’s the only item in the in-game store that’s actually worth it and not overpriced.

1. Sim Tickets

If you do your dailies, you’ll notice that every day there’s a quest that gives you 25 ticket items. These are used to instantly complete a chapter in the campaign, or a cantina battle (once you unlock those). Save those for the inevitable times when you don’t want to play but you still want to complete daily quests.

2. Managing Your Resources

Since every character requires gear, you may notice that you’re always getting a piece, but you can’t equip it because it’s not the right slot for the characters you have. I suggest keeping any spare gear that you don’t use. First reason is because there is no inventory limit, meaning you can stack as many as you want. There’s a sell items tab where you can sell all the ”useless” gear you have around, but I advise against that, because the sell prices are abysmally low, and you never know when a newly unlocked character may need to equip gear that you just threw out.

3. Building a ”One size fits all” team

Galaxy of Heroes has a somewhat linear and predictable gameplay, but there are a few things to consider when building a team. In order to build the best team for every battle, make sure to always have a tank and healer, for sticky situations when enemies are focusing on a character from your team who isn’t build to sustain large amounts of punishment, so that the tank can ”agro” while the healer… well heals your team. Having two or three well equipped damage dealers helps as well. This kinda ties in with tip #4 which is…

4. Prioritising Characters

It goes without saying, but gear and leveling priorities should be as follows: Healer > Tank > Damage dealer. While a bad tank is something your team can live without, a crappy healer character is crucial in order to achieve victory. This is also why you should use Ability Mats on character abilities that can benefit the entire team or do lots of damage.

5. Gearing and Leveling

Once you have the characters you want to focus on, it’s a good idea to gear them first. Every character has six gear slots and after those are filled up you can upgrade the character. Leveling your teammates is done by using experience items which are divided by tiers. I always keep the higher tier XP droids for later, and always level up character with low tier XP ones, and so should you! All this gear and XP talking raises a new question: Where do you get stuff like that? I’m glad you asked. You get these from…

6. Challenges!

I just want to clear up something. Completing chapter in the campaign or Galactic War, Cantina Battles and what-have-you awards you with gear and xp items. However these usually use up your energy. There is however another way! Daily challenges are a great way to stack up on items that you need and/or want. These are different every day, and can be played up to five times before you have to wait for the reset, but they’re relatively easy and offer great rewards. Items awarded from completing challenges include Gear items, XP Droids, Credits or Ability Materials . Challenges are usually accompanied by modifiers that restrict which types of character you can use or give the boss in the end of every battle a buff, and are honestly nothing to fear.

7. Shipments

Almost every subsection of the game has a shipments tab. Once you get to a high enough level and gain access to all of them, you’ll notice they each have their own currency tied to them. Shipments reset once every six hours, and an item can only be bought once, so that you don’t stack up on too much things at once, but gradually unlock stuff. I try to buy shipments at least twice daily, because each day there’s something that I need.

8. Cantina Battles, Galactic War and Key Card Battles

Cantina Battles are tied to a separate energy pool, and each battle costs eight energy. They are mostly a waste of time, HOWEVER you can play them as many times as you want, as long as you have energy and they always reward you with a special currency you can use to buy shards to unlock Boba Fett (not gonna lie he is pretty kewl).

Galactic War is survival type of scenario. Your character’s health and ability cooldowns carry from battle to battle, but after each fight you get a reward, so that you WANT to continue playing, and if a member of your team dies, you can replace them.

Key Card Battles unlock at level 52 and are supposed to be a high risk – high reward gamemode, but the community of the game feels pretty negative towards them, because they use up too much energy, and the rewards aren’t exactly great.

9. PvP

PvP is rank-based, so you may start with people who are easy to fight and when you get to the big boy league, things can get pretty hairy. However, based on your rank you get an in-game mail every day containing rewards from that bracket. The most expensive items in the shipment tab cost 400 tokens, so my advice is to try and keep a rank from between 2000 to 1500, if you’re not focusing on PvP all that much…

10. Crystals

Never, I repeat NEVER use crystals to refill energy, even though they’re a renewable currency. You also don’t have to buy a chromium pack every time you have 350 crystals. The best way to use them is to stack up until you have enough to buy the 8-pack from the store. That way you have a GUARANTEED chance to get a hero and you buy it with a 10% discount.

11. Unlocking Additional Characters

Most of the time, the game will reward you with character shards. Once you get enough, you unlock a character, and depending on that character’s tier, after unlocking them, any additional shards for the same character go to upgrades, so that you increase their power. Almost every battle rewards shards, and they can be played as much as you want. Hard Mode fights can only be played three times a day, but if RNGesus is on your side you’ll get your promised shards. If you want to upgrade a particular character, go and do battles that reward with shards for that particular character.

12. Daily Quests

My last bit of advice should go without saying but: DO YOUR DAILIES! Seriously, they reward you with all kinds of things, and once you get to a certain point, they don’t take more than 15-20 minutes to complete. Also make sure to login daily, because this game has the best login reward system I have ever seen.

If you sticked around long enough to read this I congratulate you! Now go build your party of heroes and conquer the galaxy. May the force be with you!

Achievement Unlocked! – Cubot: The Complexity of Simplicity

Platform: Xbox One
Time to Complete: 30 Minutes to 1 Hour
Gamerscore Available: 1000G
Gamerscore Achievable: 1000G

Wow, I actually had to go outside and get a £10 gift card to get this game, yeah, outside. Was bloody raining as well. Anyway, that’s not the point, I got that voucher with the sole reasoning of buying some Xbox One games with some easy gamerscore, I’ve gotten three (so far) and this is one of them.

This game is amazingly simple to achieve 1000G in, almost felt a bit cheap doing this, but no matter, Cubot is a puzzle game and like most puzzle games I’ve played I’ll need a walkthrough. Basically you move coloured cubes about and one wrong move can really make a huge difference, so, I’ve jotted down the exact directions you need to take, or, rather, someone else has and I’m going to copy it onto here. There’s a total of 10 Chapters with 8 Levels each and it takes a half hour or so. This is basically the Xbox One equivalent to Avatar: The Burning Earth. Let’s get on with it then. Continue reading

King’s Quest Chapter 2: Rubble Without a Cause Review

In King’s Quest Chapter 2, King Graham (Christopher Lloyd) continues to recount the adventures of his younger self to his grandchild(ren). In chapter 1, he was simply an adventurer hoping to become a knight to the king, but in Rubble Without a Cause, he himself is now the King of Daventry. That doesn’t mean his adventuring days are behind him, though. After a quick intro showing that Graham was actually not that good of a king in his younger years, he and his friends who work in the town square are promptly kidnapped by goblins and taken into a secret cave illuminated by bioluminescent lizards and held as prisoners. For some reason, Graham is chosen by the goblins to perform their chores for them which means he is the only prisoner able to wander the caverns unsupervised. This of course means that he takes it upon himself to figure out how to break everyone out and get back to Daventry. Continue reading

6 Games We Hope Don’t Flop in 2016

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Every year there’s a new lineup of games worth being excited about. Some of these games will fly out of the gates and fulfill or even surpass our wildest expectations.  Unfortunately it’s just as certain that a select few games will release and immediately flop like a sumo wrestler diving belly first into a pool a jello (you’re welcome for the visual). It’s not too much 0f a bother if it’s a game of no interest, but each gamer has games they pray don’t flop. We decided to kick off 2016 with the Updownright staff’s top games we hope don’t flop this year. Two games from each member for a total of six on our list starting……NOW! Continue reading