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Star Citizen Black Hole

Star Citizen – One game to avoid or one to embrace?

…and will Star Citizen ever be delivered?

Ah. Star Citizen.
I avoided posting anything about Star Citizen on my blog for years now.

I’m an original backer since when it first was announced way back in 2012.

I wanted to distance myself from the game before posting on my blog since Star Citizen is (still) in development.
Thoughts about the game’s development tend to be polarized and I did not want my fan enthusiasm to compromise my perception of the game.

I used to stream Star Citizen all the time on Twitch (you will make me smile if you go follow my channel right now!).

Maybe now’s the time to clarify some misconceptions and point some concerns regarding Chris Robert’s massively crowdfunded project.

I won’t hide it.

I am biased in favor of Star Citizen.
The skepticism of some people is understandable, and the wait isn’t for everyone. -Are you one of these people?

Hopefully, you’ll find out after reading this article.

I will try to analyze some of the frustrations, doubts, and expectations that the fans and the haters are experiencing or discussing – hopefully enlightening newcomers to the game.

The aim of this article is to clarify and avoid buyer regrets.

Should you avoid Star Citizen?

A little bit of context first.

What is Star Citizen?

Star Citizen Cockpit

Star Citizen is hard to define, but let’s start by saying that it is one gigantic sandbox for many different types of emergent gameplay. Composed of two parts, it will feature a single-player campaign (Squadron 42) and an online Persistent Universe (MMOG-like).

They create the universe, you make the rules.

As with most 4X space games, FREEDOM is the keyword for the universe. Star Citizen allows you to become a space farmer, a miner, a bounty hunter, an explorer, a smuggler, a racer, a law enforcer and anything in-between.

The Star Citizen team is looking to develop a sandbox universe that provides a fertile ground for emergent gameplay. They are creating the tools for you to become whatever you want to be.
As an example, for a while, I had fancy a ship called Constellation Phoenix, which I planned to rent out to factions interested in using it for important meetings. During their stay, I would provide them with drinks, entertainment, and security.

I eventually traded the Connie for the Endeavour – a sprawling modular ship that will allow me to cultivate plants and make drugs on the same ship (legal …or otherwise) – it even stars a hangar to allow willing traders to dock with my ship!

The game will feature unprecedented sci-fi realism and a ton of complex missions and mini-games that will require learning and skill to master.

Nothing is dull or simple in Star Citizen.

Star Citizen FPS Mining

As an example, mining requires foreplanning and skill – unlike most space games, you actually have to learn how to mine and be very careful when doing it in order to avoid damage to your ship or even loss of life.
Selling your minerals won’t be linear either. Prices fluctuate according to supply and demand in different parts of the Universe, influenced by real-time player and NPC interaction. This was also analyzed in my other post that discusses economics.

This sandbox gameplay leads to many venues of gameplay exploration. This freedom to do whatever you want is the core focus of Star Citizen.

I also expect this game to become a major social hub for me and my friends.

COMPLAINT #1 – The game has no objective.

Objective – Achieve fun (0/100)

There’s no denying it. It’s true.
Is that REALLY a problem though?

Just like Grand Theft Auto online, or Red Dead Redemption 2 online. Star Citizen’s Persistent Universe won’t hold your hand or set you on a campaign path. You get to choose what to do, where to go, what to see and who to meet.

If you really think you need guidance, then why not set YOUR OWN goals?
Why not set a personal goal to explore every single system?
…or instead to amass wealth and spend it all on a luxury liner like the 890 Jump?

890 Jump
890 Jump

The ghost cruise ship of enjoyment

A long time ago, I used to play a game that had very much the same essence of Star CitizenFreelancer, a game by the same head developer (Chris Roberts) that I mentioned in my previous post.
When playing Freelancer online, you would find yourself cruising the star lanes for long periods of time on your way to make a trade.
One day I was crossing a remote part of the game’s universe when I spotted a massive player ship that was constantly communicating in system chat. Oblivious to my presence, this was his message to his own imaginary crew of tourists:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have now arrived at the Tau-31 system. To our left, you will be able to spot the beautiful semi-desertic landscape of Planet Harris, one of the first terraforming efforts by Planetform, Inc.
Please return to your seats.
We will dock at the Holman Outpost in 5 minutes.”

To think that this player was investing his time roleplaying as a tourist cruise ship really blew my mind. That route was probably not even profitable – but he didn’t care – because having fun was his objective. And whatever he was doing was fun for him.

Oh, by the way, there’s no “endgame” in Star Citizen either. Sandbox.

If you can’t understand the concept of setting your own goals, then please stop reading now. This is NOT the game for you – Abandon ship!

COMPLAINT #2 – The game is pay-to-win.

As I discussed in one of my previous Youtube videos, the concept of Pay-to-Win is that you get an edge in a competitive environment by injecting real money into the game.
Whoever pays the most has the most chances of “winning“.

Star Citizen Pay to Win Youtube Video

Although it is true that you are able, through various means, to buy in-game credits or ships with real money, the real question is WHY would you do it when the game has no end-goal…

Star Citizen is not about genital length comparisons. There’s no point in spending money in this game except for two very honorable reasons:

  1. To support the game development process if you believe in it
  2. To unlock new gameplay layers without having to grind to get there

However, if grinding is made fun (which seems like it will be with so many different things to do), you will actually be LOSING content by skipping gameplay aspects that you would otherwise have to explore and experience to achieve your final objective.

That sense of progression

This is exactly the reason why I’ve considered giving away all my ships – so I could start with the smallest, cheapest one ever and see my own game story grow from there.

If you believe SC is still pay-to-win then embrace it this way – or Abandon ship!

Instead, think of the guy cruising his tourists for fun.
-Does it really matter how he bought his ship?
-How does his enjoyment affect you?
-What are his goals?

Star Citizen Cockpit

COMPLAINT #3 – The game is too expensive!

You’ll often see news titles like “Player X has spent over 15.000$ to play Star Citizen“, or “Star Citizen’s new ship pack costs an absurd amount of money

Today, the cheapest game package costs 50$.

A few years ago you could buy one for 26$…

Sure, there are ships that cost over 400$ and there are ship packages which include a ton of ships (which are actually at a bargain price when you consider each ship’s individual price). But those ships and packages are NOT intended for just one person or a newcomer. They require several people to play.

Think of the Banu Merchantman which has a crew capacity for 8 people and costs 430$. Divide 430$ by 8 people and you get the price of the cheapest game package. Go gather your friends and buy one!

Banu Merchantman

These massive ships are NOT intended for solo play.

People who buy large ships now are simply trying to support the game’s development.

Also: every ship will be available to purchase with in-game money.
GTA V does this well. It gives people a reason to try to make in-game money. Something to strive for. An objective.

COMPLAINT #4 – The game will never be finished

Star Citizen has been in development for 8 years now.
The same amount of time as the sci-fi single-player game Cyberpunk 2077 by CD Projekt Red studios – which is expected to be delivered in 2020.

However, unlike Cyberpunk, Star Citizen is nowhere near completion.
At the same time, and unlike Cyberpunk, it shares its progress with the community regularly, instead of working behind the scenes and ultimately presenting a finished game. The complexity of developing each game is also radically different.

Some claim that the game will never be finished because of the feature-creep-Cthulhu. Others say their plan is actually to never even deliver a finished game. Even more skeptic ones say that Chris Roberts has run away with the crowdfunded money to a tropical island in the Pacific.

Feature Creep

Star Citizen Drake Dragonfly
Drake Dragonfly – hover bike

If you’re one of the investors (a.k.a. players) who feels frustrated by the way that they seem to keep adding new features and delaying the final delivery – then consider accepting it as a requirement or, instead, by blaming it on the idealistic dreams of the community.

A couple of years into development Chris Roberts suggested he could deliver a simplified game in two or three years.
One day a poll showed up on the Star Citizen website. The developer wanted to figure out whether the community would prefer to see a simplified version of Star Citizen within their initially planned timeframe or instead to deliver a more in-depth experience, one which would require a longer development stage.

As I somewhat expected, the community overwhelmingly (I believe almost 70%) asked for the later without knowing exactly what the real timeframe would be.

This meant that Chris Roberts could freely deliver his dream game. One he had been preparing for most of his career as a film director and game developer (Wing Commander, Privateer, Freelancer). Now he had big plans for Star Citizen and hiring the feature expansionist Tony Zuroveck (Ultima series) would only reinforce his interest in developing very in-depth and detailed game mechanics.

Innovation and delay

Even though many of these features or minigames are a gameplay delight, they take time to develop. A very long time for some. They also exponentially increase the number of bugs to tackle and problems to solve.

One of these features is the planetary tech they’ve developed. To render such massive planets and avoid loading screens sure was impressive – but it was also one of the reasons why the so-difficult 64-bit precision had to be accomplished in the engine.

Ships, in order to support the newly added features or concepts also have to be redesigned from scratch, like the Cutlass Red which serves as an ambulance and integrates with the health system, or the Carrack for the exploratory aspects of the game.

As a result, yes, feature creep is real and a real concern. It does divide the community between those who just want to play the game as is but in a more polished state and those who instead want the game to become better, with more content, features, and professions to explore.

star citizen medical

Star Citizen will never be released!

We should consider that the initial team for Star Citizen was rather small (50 employees) and the company had to slowly grow. Now they employ approximately 500 people in 5 studios across the world. This meant that more people had to be introduced, and teams still had to learn to work together on core aspects of the game, which ultimately lead to a slow start.

To support the growing number of employees, the initial record sales of the game wouldn’t suffice.

Looking at their latest financial report, one would quickly realize that what’s keeping this game in active development aren’t the initial sales anymore, but rather the on-going ship purchases, upgrades and merchandising. These sales sustain the whole team throughout the year.

Some people claim that they’re only making ships and concepts for ships to make money.

Well… this is… true.
They need to do so, in order to keep the project alive and proceed with development.

The reality is that the players are frequently buying paper ideas that aren’t yet realized in-game and are likely to change. Understandably, spending a lot of money on something that doesn’t yet exist seems difficult to accept for many outsiders.

Tic Tac Tic Tac

Adding to all this, as time goes by, age takes a toll on the game’s engine and assets, which has to be updated from time to time. Physics-Based Rendering (PBR) wasn’t a common feature in games back in 2012, but as time passes and technology evolves, it had to be introduced to avoid the pitfall of ending up with an already outdated game on release.
This meant refactoring all ships once again.

The same happened when the components feature was introduced. Ship components are parts of the ship that can be handled, fixed or replaced. The ships weren’t prepared for that and had to be refactored one more time.

Due to the live development approach, CIG prefers to deliver functional updates to allow the players to access other features or content.
These features are developed iteratively, being later on optimized, improved or further developed to add new innovations. The fact that they keep revamping the same features over and over is not a pre-planning issue but instead a requirement of the live development process.

Star Citizen Tumbril Ranger Bike
Tumbril Ranger Bike

Drinking Mojitos

I don’t think Chris Roberts is on an island in the Pacific.

This is his dream work. His unique chance to build his masterpiece.

His previous games have revolved around this theme and now he’s finally got a chance to make his vision truly come to fruition on his terms without any form of corporate pressure. Why waste the opportunity?

This is what led me to back this project. I’m a huge fan of his sadly incomplete Freelancer and I really want to see Star Citizen succeed.
I’m usually relaxed and I don’t excited about a game easily. Well maybe except for Red Dead Redemption 2 and Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2020!

My concern

The fact that the game development costs are just as high as their regular revenue is a concern as there’s a point when players stop investing in new ships and merchandise. They will constantly need to reach out to new players in order to keep development going.
This could also be seen as financially and strategically sound to work as fast as they can with the assets they have access to.

Apparently, last month was one of the most profitable ones for Star Citizen with many new citizens joining the ranks.

I’m convinced by my peer’s attitudes towards this game that there is a significant amount of people who are actually interested in the game but still patiently waiting for it to release before buying it. Maybe still afraid of it being vaporware.
If true, this should act as a life-saving device as they can “release” the game whenever they want and get a large influx of fresh new money to sustain development for a few more months or years. The truth is that the game is more than playable right now, even if it still lacks content.

Eclipsing thoughts

Star Citizen is said to be being developed to achieve a 10-year longevity goal. This is the main reason why they wish to build a solid core game engine that allows for improvements and extra content over time.

Game development tends to become faster and faster as more of the foundational game mechanics are set in place.
We should see a LOT more content coming in 2020.

What are your thoughts on Star Citizen and this article?
Do you share my view? What are your concerns?

Leave me a comment below, or check one of my other posts!
If you liked this one, you might also like THIS one.

You should also check out my Star Citizen Ship Comparison Tool which is currently on standby waiting for some support from the community. Leave me a comment if you would like to see it shine again!

I just made a new post on the economy of Red Dead Redemption 2 that analyzes Star Citizen’s economy layout. Go check it out!

See you in the ‘verse!
-ViLa4480

GTA-Online-Casino-Exterior

Not everyone is allowed to play at the new GTA Online Casino

GTA Online – Your account does not have permission to complete this purchase.

ALERT: Your account does not have permission to complete this purchase. For further help, go to:

This is the message that a bunch of players are seeing when they try buying chips from the cashier at the newly established GTA Online Diamond Casino Spa & Resort in bloody Los Santos.

The very anticipated Casino has just opened today – but gambling is not for everyone. Killing, stealing, trafficking is all well and good in GTA Online but DON’T YOU DARE GAMBLE!

Apparently, people from at least 50 countries, including Portugal, Hungary, Israel and Argentina have been prevented from trading in any chips.

These left-out players aren’t able to access the free daily bonuses at the cashier, or the wheel spin at all. It may also affect bonuses from the Penthouse, missions, world collectibles, and unique clothing and items.

GTA Online Casino
GTA Online Casino

Apparently, there’s a region lock to access the Casino’s features. This includes buying chips and playing with them – effectively limiting all gambling activity for some players.

We’re talking funny money here. In-game cash translates to the same amount of in-game casino chips which can only be refunded to in-game cash.

If there’s one thing Rockstar is used to deal with …is lawsuits.

Apparently, the reason for this region lock is that Rockstar does not want to register as a gambling entity (such as with other online gambling websites). Even if you now have to accept a new EULA, this effectively means that they’re not able to deliver this type of content to a large number of countries.

As far as I understand the law (and other games that do this), the real problem here is the fact that players are able to buy in-game currency with real money and then spend it all gambling (instead of buying new in-game cars).
Well, if that’s the problem, then the already present chip currency could be used to *legally* buy stuff without having to convert it to the real-cash-connected GTA bucks – that wouldn’t be gambling and that would solve the legal conundrum. Think about it Rockstar!

Make sure you follow me on Twitch if you wish to stay up to date about when these things change or a legal alternative has been found!

Most countries have grey-area laws on online gambling.
Most regulate physical gambling effectively but lack online regulation.

Here in the EU, only a few players in Germany seem to be able to access the Casino features. This has sparked a rush to VPN services. Players are trying to connect via VPN to get a German or American IP address in order to play at the Diamond Casino. Note: Some people argue that this practice may get your account banned for trying to bypass common online identity checks.

ALERT: Your account does not have permission to complete this purchase. For further help, go to:

Rockstar support is inefficient

Rockstar support is completely inefficient at informing players why they’re unable to use the Casino. There’s not a single official reply to queries regarding this situation and the players were left to figure it out for themselves.

I’m hoping that they eventually revise their region-lock limitations or that, at the very least, they inform players that they won’t be able to access this content beforehand. Some people are complaining that they bought Twitch Prime to access the “free” content and Penthouse at the now pointless Casino.

Players will eventually find a way around this issue. They’ve done that before with private servers, hacks and the RP server boom in the past couple of years.

They will find a way to make it work – legally, or otherwise.

Nope. She ain’t givin’ you no moneys.

In any case, it feels lame that the largest GTA Online update in years is locked to so many players around the world.

And there I was. Looking at the shiny new slot machine.
Press E to interact.
ALERT: Your account does not have permission to complete this purchase. For further help, go to: www.rockstargames.com/support

So frustrating!

This update should never have been developed in the first place. Their energy should have been spent on new content that everyone would be able to enjoy. Besides the Casino and the Penthouse, the remaining content is just a couple of missions, a few new unremarkable vehicles, and a pair of easily-outdated cosmetics.

Heists is where GTA Online truly shines – co-op missions with cinematics and a story to play with your friends. Yet, no new heists have been released in a VERY long time. Instead, we’ve been stuck with mostly cosmetic updates that don’t effectively expand the story or the replayability of the game.

GTA-Online-Casino-Exterior

The truth is that the game is still fun.

Rockstar-outlawed private servers and RP have given it a boost recently. But the updates have mostly been delivering content that is both very expensive and insubstantial.

I live in Portugal. I’ve got a casino across the street from my home and I’m not able to play on GTA Online with funny money. *shrug*

If, like me, you’re not able to play at the Casino, check out my post on How I became an Undead Pirate in Sea of Thieves. A fun read. I promise. And you won’t lose any chips.

Alternatively, you may also want to check out my Twitch channel and join me playing this and other games!

I’ll see you in Los Santos (but not at the Casino),
-ViLa4480

Steel Division 2

Steel Division 2 – A battle too far

I got the chance to try out the new Steel Division 2!

Before we start dissecting Steel Division 2, let me clarify that most official screenshots suck.
They’re done at a very high zoom level to showcase the 3D unit model details.
The game isn’t played like that so let’s cut the crap.
Every screenshot I will add to this post will feature the average camera angle and zoom for most players.
Sorry if it doesn’t look as pretty as those incredibly detailed tanks and planes – but that’s the reality of how the game looks because that’s how you will play it.
The game is beautiful in its own way, but the screenie close-ups aren’t fair to what the game truly plays like.
This bad habit of showcasing aspects of games that aren’t relevant really upsets me as it tricks players into buying something that doesn’t look like what is shown. I also hate cinematic trailers btw. So this will be the first and last close-up you’ll see in this post:

Steel Division 2 – I was excited but slightly skeptic at the same time.
There were a few good reasons for that.

Steel Division 2 picks up where Steel Division: Normandy 44 left off. Instead of hitting the beaches of Normandy in operation Overlord, this time you’ll be fighting its eastern counterpart, Operation Bagration.

Eugen Systems has been developing this engine for quite some time now. The game shares similarities with one of my favorite games of all time:
A magnificent war tabletop-like game called R.U.S.E.
Man, I wish I had this blog when R.U.S.E. first came out back in 2010!

I promise I won’t spend this article talking about the oldie.
The truth is that most of the game mechanics present in 2019’s Steel Division 2 were already present in 2010’s R.U.S.E…. as well as every game in the Wargame series.

The 3 rules of war: location, location, location.

Steel Division 2 features a GIGANTIC war map where you’re able to scheme, plot and outthink your opponent using clever unit maneuvers and critical timing for moving your troops. 

The game demands that you think in advance, that you prepare for all possible attacks and counter-attacks. It demands concealment, ambushes, suppression and quick battle-critical decisions.

As a general, you focus on securing key locations on the map. It’s simple: the more you have, the more likely you are to win the battle. To achieve that you need to put boots on the ground.

Occupy and fortify villages with your infantry units. Place anti-tank guns at the main roads and anti-air units in the forest. Support with long-range artillery and have a couple of big, heavy tanks ready to flank any attacking force. Fuel and repair your planes to help push back the enemy.

Yet, you’re going to lose this fight. Sorry.

You forgot to place your recon units where they can spot the enemy at a distance. 

The enemy force advances towards the town.
You know they’re advancing as they slowly push the red line that splits the map between your sector and the enemy’s.

You don’t know what’s coming your way so you move your tanks towards the enemy. BAM! They’re blown into tiny pieces by the enemy tank destroyer. You can’t even see it as it is too far away and your recon units are nowhere to be seen. The enemy rushes towards your position. Once they’re in sight of your anti-tank gun you realize they actually have no tanks and your gun is useless at this point. 

Too late to fall back.
A number of storm infantry rushes towards your anti-tank gun and quickly take care of it. Your infantry units are holed up inside the village houses and are able to effectively suppress the enemy infantry. Enemy artillery falls on your units and it completely destroys their hideout. As a final act of despair you send your planes to destroy the enemy artillery. Unfortunately, they’re shot down by a couple of enemy anti-air units hiding in the woods.

The inevitability of war

The truth is that Steel Division 2 feels a bit pre-scripted in the sense that it is hard to bounce-back once you’re losing a match. The story of the match is mostly written during the first 15 minutes of it.
Efforts to change that are often met with resistance. It is pointless to throw new units to lock your position as they will take too long to get there. 

Your allies won’t help you. They’ve got problems of their own – and due to the size of the map they’re too far away to be of any help. In fact, it kind of feels like your allies are mostly just cosmetic.
Fortifying and defending a position tends to be easier than to attack an enemy outpost, but you can’t defend forever. The enemy will eventually score.
This inevitability of battle actually forces you to keep adjusting your tactics. You will now need to use choke-points for ambushes and to support your troops with a different mix of units. Hopefully, the enemy won’t be prepared for those.

Good timing and a plan for falling back is most times a requirement and a prelude to a successful counterattack. A counterattack victory is glorious but oftentimes happens due to the enemy spending all of their units before the battle timer runs out.

Fighting time

The Phase system splits the match into three timed phases where you’re able to deploy different types of units. It allows you to set up your forces in any way you like during each phase, allowing you to carry more units and more experienced ones as time progresses. You lay out your own strategy as a tabletop card game.

You will decide how many tanks you’re carrying into battle, how many artillery pieces, planes, snipers, but also which vehicle is transporting them and which weapons are they carrying.

This breathes new life into any stagnant fight. It ultimately forces players to re-adjust their tactics to fight the new enemy units.
Even if daunting at first (when you just want to rush and play the game), it becomes the key to your strategy. Something uniquely yours to surprise your enemy with.

One-man army

The game truly shines in multiplayer, where battles are dynamic and unpredictable. Even though communication is lacking and, in most public games, pointless.

Singleplayer, however, lacks that.
The AI is very slow and very predictable.

Matches seem to last for hours. It seems like both AI sides are just too polite to hurt each other. 

The most exciting single-player feature is the Army General maps. In this game mode, Real-time battles are just a fraction of a much larger turn-based conflict. Akin to the likes of a Total War campaign map, you’re able to move your armies in a large conflict map and fight the battles in real time. This however is a brand new feature that still requires some polishing. 

The UI lacks context information and it is unclear how units move and which units will fight in a battle. The missing tutorial is also a major downside. The fact that real-time maps are always the same (instead of being dynamically generated based on the campaign map) is also a downside.

I would love to see Hearts of Iron sized maps of the whole conflict and being able to truly wage war at a continental scale. However, these maps only represent a few hundred square kilometers. Due to the scale of the units on the map and how fast they reinforce, you’re not really able to plot a major flanking or bubble maneuver with your units. Instead you’ll see a blob of units spread along a slowly-moving borderline. The fact that you’re forced to reach a destination within a limited number of turns also prevents you from planning a massive invasion.

Afterwind

This game tires your brain. In a good, albeit costly way.
I really enjoy playing just a single match per day. 

The constant need for micro-management at a massive scale and battles taking longer than 30 minutes (up to 2h in single-player AG) really tire your brain and I usually turn to a brainless shooter like Battlefield V afterwards.

To be fair, Steel Division 2 doesn’t feel like a brand new game. It is very similar to other games being developed for the past 10 years by the same company. However, its game mechanics are solid and it feels like there’s plenty of different battle strategies to explore. The complexity of war and the tiny victories you get in each battle makes it very enjoyable. You’ll feel that losing a match can be very enjoyable if the battle was fair.

Steel Division 2 is a realistic and complex combat representation that really forces you to think ahead. 

The learning curve is steep.
Especially if you’ve never played any previous games of the series – or if you wish to become an expert and keep track of all the stats and micro-manage each unit. 

However, the massive scale, beautiful graphics, detailed and accurate combat systems and the dynamic multiplayer, make it one of the best and most realistic games of its kind. 

Just don’t expect to have your hand held in war.

I would value this game at 60€ if you’re a war enthusiast, 25€ if you’re a Tropico 6 player and 15€ if you prefer non-RTS games. 

Popcorn Score:

I’ll see you on the battlefield!
-ViLa4480


Tropico 6

Tropico 6 – Guess Who’s Back!

The red carpet is set, the people have been groomed, the rebels silenced.
All is ready for your speech, El Presidente!

With Anno 1800 on the very near horizon, Tropico 6 has just released.

With its unique serious-but-silly tone, Tropico 6 sets itself apart from other city-building and management games.

Take a vacation from the polluted, traffic-ridden, industrial metropolises in Simcity or the cold and way-too-clean streets of Cities: Skylines.

Come to Tropico.
Now! -Or else.

Welcome to Tropico!

Eyes in the skies to “protect” your people!

If you’re new to Tropico, let me explain why you need to try it out:
‘Dictatorship is just a rude label.
You have been divinely appointed to guide your people… but now you need to stay in power. By any means necessary.

Things get trickier over time, as each and every decision you make tips the 8-sided scale of your people’s support towards a certain faction. If you appease the communists with a shiny new school, the capitalists will surely dislike the costs it imposes on your budget and might even rebel.
Ah… do not worry Mr. El Presidente, bribery is still an option, and there’s plenty of jail cells available in your island!

Draw tourists to your beautiful nuclear powerplant!

The game becomes more and more complex as you play it. It steadily grows the number of actions you’re able to perform, the number of buildings available to build, and the number of factions present. This level-up scalability keeps things fresh and interesting, even for experienced players.

Shiny, sweaty engines & bananas

The landmark game in the city-building genre has a brand new game engine – and it looks amazing. It allows for even prettier graphics, which have always been key to the Tropico series.

This is Tropico 6 – the banana-republic simulator!

One of its major improvements is the new archipelagoes system.
El Presidente is now able to expand his godly benevolence to nearby islands.
This new iteration also adds true multiplayer features. There might be some concerns over saving 4h-long multiplayer games. However, the prospect of having an archipelago run by several dictators with different ideologies is quite thrilling.

A lot of the game has changed but the essence is still there. You get to run a beautiful Caribbean island whilst struggling with famine, poverty, explosive cigars, religion, rebellions, allegiance to foreign superpowers and rivalry with Caribbean neighbors. You are still able to turn your island into a religious commune or a capitalistic intellectual haven.

Why bother making new landmarks when you can steal them instead?

The introduction of world landmarks (that actually serve a purpose), raids, and the expanded trade options feel like all previous Tropico DLCs have been added to this new game for free. It also seems like it has plenty of room for new, solid, expansions.

The combat system is still bad, as it has always been in the series, but they’ve added plenty of new buildings, factions, and abilities, which keeps things interesting.

Final speech

Tropico 6 does not set itself apart from the series.
We wouldn’t want that anyway – but it does a few things very well.

The game is really fun to play and explore. New and experienced players will enjoy the type of complexity and progression it provides – and it feels like a substantial upgrade to previous iterations of the Tropico series, without changing its core concepts. Even though it seems like there’s a bit of “soul” missing to the game, it still gets my vote and I can’t wait to play more.

Popcorn Score:

5/5 Pops – a solid score for a solid game that orders you to go play it. Now.

If you enjoy this soviet-era funny-but-not-so-funny approach, you might be interested in checking Papers, Please: The Short Film! Go check it out now!

If instead you would prefer to support this blog and get Tropico 6 at a discount price, buy it through here!

I’ll see you at my speech,
-ViLa “El Prez” 4480

Between The Stars – A Space Oddity

Between the Stars is an odd game. In a good way!

We’re talking about a new successful Kickstarter campaign. It raised almost 38.000$ for the indie game dev studio Isolated Games in Barcelona. It is scheduled to be released in Q1 (maybe Q2) 2019.

This game set in space is actually an RPG hybrid with roguelike, management and shooter aspects.

Following the story of an experienced captain who just lost his/her ship, your objective is to upgrade your ship and crew, make decisions, convince others to join your cause and, obviously, fight the baddies.

The RPG aspects of the game have been reinforced with dialogue choices that actually matter and …dice throwing. -I know. Throwing dice in space is funny.

A space oddity

To be honest, I had a hard time figuring out where to start my analysis for this game. It is so different from other games that it becomes hard to pick a corner to start unveiling it.
At the same time, it shares similarities with so many “very” different space games like Star Citizen, Freelancer, X4: Foundations, Fractured Space, Avorion or FTL.

Your path through the stars

Something I love about space games is the inevitability of movement. You’re always going somewhere doing some thing – and the way game devs mimic the movement of a large ship truly enthuses me. I love feeling the (weightless) weight of a large ship moving slowly and sometimes carelessly through an asteroid field.

Oh, by the way check out my post on Sea of Thieves! You’ll understand where my poor space sailing skills come from!

Even though Between the Stars focuses on combat between medium-sized ships, it does that very well. It is not that easy to fight in an asteroid field and you’ll notice that it almost feels like you’re commandeering a real sea ship instead of a space combat fighter.

This somehow adds glimmer to that special Enterprise feel of exploring space and interacting with other crews – which happens often. Combat can be dangerous and …unnecessary.

As expected, they’ve added space stations and planets where you’re able to dock, trade, repair and interact with quest givers. Crew combat is also possible against other ships and it relies strongly on dice throws and crew experience.

To boldly go somewhere

You never really know where the game will lead you to next – you get to interact with other ship crews, explore abandoned shipwrecks or delve into dangerous uncharted territory. Your choices on how to approach these events are critical as they will affect the outcome of the situation.

When exploring an abandoned ship stranded in space I came face to face with a beserk A.I. in critical defense mode. It was trying to protect the ship’s components from intruders.

I felt like my poor choice of words mattered. Even though I knew the final outcome was likely going to be similar since it was still an early mission.

The fact that the game tries to present itself as unique in each playthrough is very refreshing as it does so gracefully.

Procedurally generated space, crews and events work well with the space theme, since you truly feel like an explorer in an unscripted universe.

Here’s a notice to the general public: please stop comparing procedural games to No Man’s Sky. Don’t take one bad marketing example to kill a dev technique that can be incredibly fruitful.

Sound in space

The audio experience is great, except for certain dialogues that seem poorly recorded and an average voice acting.

This is not yet the final release version of the game, but it feels a bit sad that the game lacks characters with a strong… character… and an enticing voice to go along.

The audio graphic representation is incredibly accurate though! It feels like they’ve spent more time coding the audio bars than actually recording the audio!

In the absence of physical characters and advanced facial expressions, the sound is critical to convey strong emotions that will drive the narrative! I know we’re in space but… sound matters!

The color of a black hole

The graphics are incredibly sharp and colorful.

Even though the UI, space stations and asteroids lack some style and sophistication, the ships planets and backdrops look amazing and combat and special effects are a delight to the eye. 5760×1080 resolution is supported, but the UI does not adapt well.

The game also lacks the complexity of trade lanes that Elite Dangerous or X4: Foundations sport, but we must keep in mind that this is not really a trading game.

Trading is somewhat present, but this is more like a shooter action-based game where trade lanes are, for the most part, purely cosmetic.

Overall I did enjoy this fresh new take on Space RPGs. I tend to prefer longer campaign-based games, but it felt fresh and I’m curious to explore the release version which will feature more content, stories and new gameplay mechanics.

It is not a triple-A game, but considering the budget for the game it truly is fantastic.

Development is still unfinished and unpolished. I will refrain from rating it. But I will point out that it looks gorgeous, has great potential for an enticing storyline and I’m looking forward to playing the final version.

I will add this game to my “Best Upcoming Games 2019” list. Go check it out!

I will see you in my ship,
-Capt. ViLa4480

Oh and by the way – do you enjoy refreshing indie games? Check out my post on Volcanoids – A steampunk survival-management game!

The Division 2

The Division 2 – The Revolution Continues

I just got my hands on Division 2!
It was okay, as expected. I was happy enough.

There’s a reason why The Division 2 is called “The Division 2”.
It is not an army reference as one might think at first glance. It instead reflects on the game’s premise: the United States of America are divided into two factions (…and a half – I’ll explain later on).

Good on one side, Evil on the other. Classic.

The Division 2 takes place 7 months after Ubisoft’s 2016’s controversial success The Division. Unlike the original title which was set in a very snowy New York, this one is set in Washington D.C.

The Division 2
There are terrible drivers in this city

The reason for this change, according to the developers, is that, besides the political aspects – that the franchise seems to enjoy tackling – the city of Washington allows them to expand the playable map into new types of areas.

Green spaces, wide open regions, open rooftops and suburban zones that are harder to depict in the much more urban New York. Wider roads also allow for much more interesting combat with more room for flanking maneuvres.

What has changed?

Not that much! Is it a better game than its predecessor? Sure is. Here’s why:

The Division 2
Really, Ubisoft?

Gaming development cycles dictate when you’re getting a sequel and whether it is going to be good or bad, innovative or unsurprising.
With a bunch of new releases and solid sequels, 2019 is expected to be a good year for the gaming industry.

When a new franchise pops up, it usually delivers a brand new game engine. That was the case with The Division.
It had a rough start – it was riddled with bugs and people were complaining about everything from server instability, bugs, weapons getting stuck all the way down to violence and political concerns.

Technical issues tend to occur more often with new game engines. These obstacles take time to fix, rebalance and adjust. When a developer starts working on a sequel, they don’t design a whole new engine from scratch. Instead, they upgrade the one they’ve got from the previous game, which makes it sturdier and feature-rich. It is also much more cost-effective to build and market.

The Division 2
Resilient Christmas decorations are still on after 7 months

That is why the first sequel to a successful game tends to be technically better than the original (even though narratives are likely to be worse as they’re harder to connect with the previous one).
Check out my previous post on Warhammer: Vermintide 2 and how it improved upon its predecessor.

This is the case with The Division 2. It is a solid, expanded and well-polished game, but kind of …unsurprising.

The biggest changes

The game seems like a meatier, tougher, more solid version of the original rather than a brand new sequel – but it introduces a series of small but rather interesting changes.

The Division 2
Nature quickly finds its way to claim the land
  • Scenery: the most obvious change. It has moved from snowy New York to summer Washington D.C. It is still an American urban region that looks somewhat similar to its predecessor. There’s so much more garbage on the streets now!
  • Lighting has been improved with more detailed light sources and reflections. It also feels less saturated and dramatic when compared to its predecessor. Water effects and glass reflections look brilliant.
  • Specializations have been added to the game. Three skill trees are now able to be unlocked once you reach the level cap.
  • Photo mode is a new feature with which you’re able to take the prettiest selfies – it even includes filters that make your eyes pop!
  • New gadgets available, namely barricade-standing turrets and rolling seeking mines, among others.
  • Spongier enemies: They seem to absorb bullets! Low-level enemies seem to require a huge amount of bullets to die. It doesn’t really break the game, but it affects immersion and realism and drives the player into much longer (often slightly boring) fights.
A simple “NO TRESPASSING” sign would do it. Right?
  • Smarter enemies – with the new wider combat zones, you’ll see them perform flanking and cover maneuvres as a group. This makes combat much more interesting as it forces you to retreat and move to cover more often.
  • NPC settlements form in newly liberated areas. It is actually pretty cool to see them go out and fetch supplies, food, etc. Adds immersion.
  • NPC Backup – they seem to request and offer backup in sporadic fights across town.
  • “Free” DLCs for a year. No further comments.
  • GUI is definitely different, but the changes are mostly cosmetic as the core features are all there from the previous game.
  • New faction. Once you finish the campaign the game will reshuffle and redraw by introducing a whole new faction called the Black Tusk. They will occupy previously liberated areas with their drones and robotic dogs and gadgets. Exciting!

Got issues?

It is worth mentioning that the character creator was awful in the public beta, only allowing you to pick randomly generated characters.

All of them looked like hillbillies…
And they’ve occupied the White house
Hmm…

The Division 2
The new Photo mode allows you to take photos of you taking selfies in front of the White house

Sure. There are still problems to be fixed – as expected – but in terms of core gameplay, The Division 2 sure is well-built.

A couple of issues stand out from my (limited) experience in the public beta:

  • Enemies seem to suddenly spawn right in front of the player, preventing a stealth approach on occasion.
  • All melee enemies are female – why not add more variety?
  • The yelling sounds by the enemy faction seem repetitive and very limited
  • Game crashes every hour – apparently due to desynch between the server and the client

I’m pretty confident that all of these issues will be fixed before the release on March 15th.

The Division 2
New safezones now even have rooftop barbeques!

Should I get it?

Here are some more bullets for you:

  • Did you enjoy The Division and want some more of that? Then yes – definitely. Get it now with my referral link!
  • Have you never played The Division? Then get it at a cheaper price and with a Season Pass discount here! It is still well worth playing the first one before The Division 2 is released!
  • Did you not enjoy The Division at all? Then this might not be the game for you as it only feels like an improvement to the first one! Or instead… try playing it with friends… They make everything more fun!
The Division 2
So much filth. Everywhere!

In the end, I have to admit that I had a lot of fun with the private beta and I can’t wait to play with my friends tonight! The game is fun and it is actually pretty cool to see all the little details that set it apart from the 2016 title.

I’m curious about the story behind it, but I’m sure it won’t be the main reason why I’ll be playing this game. Guaranteed buy though.

I look forward to publishing a lengthier and updated review once the game is finally released! Stay tuned (subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter for updates)!

I’ll see you in my squad,
-ViLa4480

The Division 2
Life is (almost) back to normal.

Volcanoids – A steampunk adventure!

I’ve got a love for steampunk.
I enjoy things that clank and bang – and feeling that awesome sensation of pushing a mechanical button or pulling a lever.

I dig that.

It came to me as a great surprise the fact that I had never heard about Volcanoids before until I saw it at the front page on Steam!
This surprised me even more since Steam has been failing miserably at providing me with good suggestions for games that I’ll enjoy.

Volcanoids has a great premise.

I’m a huge fan of the Guns of Icarus franchise.
Flying a steampunk balloon-ship, firing cannons at the enemy ships and repairing damage with a huge hammer and a group of friends is solid-steel fun and the type of fun you’re able to find in Sea of Thieves as well.
Even if it was a different concept, I thought Volcanoids could be just as fun – so I decided to try it out.

Volcanoids

Volcanoids puts you in control of a mechanical contraption that works pretty much like a submarine… but on land… It digs like a mole rat!

Apparently, some mean mechanical beings have triggered several massive volcanic eruptions to sustain their own energy needs.
Those explosions destroyed villages and turned the land into a sad gray wasteland. It is now up to you to survive and explore and eventually find and dismantle the enemy’s mechanical drill.

You need to be careful though as the volcano is still active and spewing rocks and ash from time to time.
When the volcano erupts you need to run to your drill and go underground to avoid damage.

…And the mean robots are still out there.
…And they don’t like you.

Because these guys will attack you and your drill, you need to craft bullets and turrets to protect your beautiful machinery. To craft, you will need to gather materials from nearby mining sources.

Managing power supply is also very interesting. You need to bring coal to your drill and turn your systems on and off to be able to keep the whole thing running without going out of energy.
This adds a welcome new layer of complexity to the game.

Make it do things!

The game really shines when it comes to the feeling of presence and the immersion you get when you enter the drill and make it do things.
When you first start your machine all those cogwheels turning and the noise makes you feel like you’ve given life to Frankenstein. IT’S ALIVE!!!

Just like Frankenstein, this game is still missing some bolts.

We have to keep in mind that this is an early access game by a very small indie dev team. They’ve got a great concept to explore but still many things to fix or improve.

In my view, Volcanoids shouldn’t be available on Steam just yet.
It lacks polish – especially in terms of gameplay mechanics that were, in my opinion, missing.

This decision to go public this early in the project might unfortunately result in a cascade of bad and undeserved reviews by unaware or unwilling buyers.

I’m hoping that this won’t dishearten the devs into giving up on this project and move on to something else. That would be worse than a volcano covering us all in ash!

For such a small team of devs they’ve accomplished something worthy of note – it is just the many small things here and there that need improvement.

Under construction

Volcanoids
Now that’s a nuclear volcano!

The truth is that besides the obvious bug fixing that is expected from an early access game (I didn’t encounter any bugs whatsoever – and I was playing at 5760×1080 just fine!), it lacks some core gameplay mechanics and graphics improvements.

I really enjoyed building and expanding the drill piece by piece, section by section. I even enjoyed the countdown (the volcano erupts as timely as a geyser!), which, even though it isn’t very realistic, adds an urge and a sense of purpose to the game.

It would be great to have a seismographer that warns you whenever a random eruption is about to happen but, instead, we’ve got a very precise countdown which is very …predictable.

The tutorial is incredibly long as it details all of the complex crafting processes one by one instead of mixing it with quests and letting the player explore the machines by himself.

Tutorials tend to be unpolished in Early Access games and that’s okay given the circumstances. But let’s be honest, at the very beginning, Minecraft didn’t have a tutorial and it succeeded because the gameplay aspect of building something over time was easy and very captivating.

The same happened with Kerbal Space Program where the player is free to build and make mistakes without a guiding hand going through all of the processes – as long as they’re easy enough to figure out.

Making mistakes is part of the fun.

Nuts & Bolts

I felt like the knobs and bobs inside the drill weren’t as interesting as they could be.
There’s a very (unnecessarily?) complex crafting system in place but, to my disappointment, it mostly requires that you use GUI crafting menus instead of pulling levers and pressing buttons.
Most of the machines inside the drill are very similar to each other and are often times duplicated, which makes it even more confusing and somewhat frustrating to find the right one. You are able to build them wherever you like as long as they’re on the walls of your drill. This will let you organize them somewhat.

The gameplay aspect lacks some depth. You just go around gathering minerals to build new structures in your drill and destroying the enemy’s structures.
The game would certainly benefit from posing challenges to the player, like new minions, more complex quests, exploration areas and gameplay challenges.
You also get this feeling that the narrative ends when you start playing as there’s not much of a story afterwards.

Volcanoids

The control you have over the drill is very limited.
Whenever you wish to move it, a cinematic shows what’s happening from the outside.
I found out that I preferred skipping the cinematic and instead look at the inside of the drill moving around like a snake as it digs deeper into the earth.
I expected the drilling process to be riddled with clanks and bangs and shakes and smokes – it was instead very smooth, unfortunately!

To graphic or not to graphic

Volcanoids

The game looks gorgeous in the screenshots – especially the driller.
That’s the beauty of steampunk! It always looks great!

But the reality is that everything else seems a bit too simple, low-poly and jagged. Some would call it “dated” – which is a terrible tag for a new game.

This could be improved by using a different text font, a new lighting system, better resolution textures, more detailed terrains and objects or, instead, a minimalistic and innovative graphic style – which is tricky when it comes to steampunk.

As it is, Volcanoids looks above-average-good.
Not yet great – but… with room for improvement.
The unique theme makes screenshots very interesting at first glance, but in-game everything seems a bit too simple.

Multiplayer

Volcanoids

One of the features I fear the most in their development plans is adding co-op multiplayer and PvP.
From my own experience as a game developer, single and multiplayer games have two very different development cycles.
Adding multiplayer to a singleplayer game is VERY tricky and time-consuming.
They’ve got a great premise for a single-player game with a lot of work yet to be done. Allocating resources for the development of multiplayer is a risk that I wouldn’t take… although it could be fun to play with minions on your side and attacking someone else… but the game has to shine in areas like gathering and UI interactions first.

Back to the surface

Volcanoids

I won’t give a rating to this game just yet.
It wouldn’t be
fair to rate it as it is clearly still missing features.
We can’t really judge it on what it currently is or what it could become.

However, as I stated before, the game has some curious and unique aspects to it that make it fun to discover – but the player will lose interest quickly if he finds nothing new to explore. Multiplayer could be interesting but given the amount of polish and content that is still required, I’m hoping to one day see this just as a good singleplayer game.

If you’re unsure whether to get this game or not, my suggestion would be to let it cook for a little longer before trying it out. If instead, you would like to try something new then go ahead – get this one while it’s hot!

Volcanoids has a Trello page where you’re able to keep up-to-date with development and see what they’re up to. It also features a Discord channel where extremely friendly devs are regularly giving away keys.

I’ll be paying attention to Volcanoids as it could turn into something really fun in a year or so. I’ll review it again by that time!

Meanwhile, why not check out my other post about this other innovative game called Dungeon of the Endless? Go try it out!

I’ll see you underground!
-ViLa4480

Battlefield V Revive 2

There’s something weird about Battlefield V…

I’m trying to figure out what it is…
Something feels different when playing Battlefield V.

As you might have noticed from my previous post on gender wars in Battlefield V, there’s a bunch of stuff in that game that feels out of place.
Slightly strange and even awkward at times!

I know – it all sounds silly – and it is indeed hard to explain.
Battlefield V is very similar to its predecessor, Battlefield 1 (again, EA has trouble with numbering systems), but somehow …its gameplay FEELS totally different.
It isn’t easy to figure out what has changed – but something definitely did.

Overwhelming!

When playing on my first map ever someone was crying in chat:

-“This game has way too many animations!”

I thought that was laughable at first. I couldn’t figure out how that could be a bad thing.

The quantity and especially the quality of animations is one of the key factors in driving immersion in a game. Consider the effort that AAA games are putting into animation nowadays!

GTA V, Star Citizen, The Last of Us or L.A. Noire have amazing casts and technology to provide a truly credible cinematic experience.

Competitive multiplayer games have specific needs…

But I think I get it. He might even be right.
There are so many things moving, running, burning, falling, firing, exploding… down to the micro animations that each character and weapon has!

Player characters are now even able to run while crouched or lay on their backs while firing and also roll around while waiting for a revive.

It does take some time before we’re able to get used to all of that.
For a new player, it may indeed feel a bit overwhelming.

Size matters. Its… complicated.

The maps have been a concern for players since DICE announced they would add “ENORMOUS” maps to Battlefield. Many players are now complaining that they are too small and comparing Battlefield to Call of Duty. No one is ever happy!

The truth is that maps are indeed ENORMOUS …and too small at the same time!
It comes down to what maps are available in each game mode and how player respawns work. Indeed there are gigantic maps but most of the action is focused around one or two objectives and nothing else is going on on the rest of the map.
This is not entirely bad. The problem is the map layout.

The way they built most of the maps as a narrow rectangle doesn’t really entice the enemy to flank and capture an objective behind enemy lines in the Conquest game mode. Which is a good thing as it prevents massive waves of enemies from spawning behind the player.

The problem seems to be the fact that it condenses the action around those two choke or capture points. It becomes a slaughterfest for both sides.

Add to that how easier it is now to spawn next to your squadmate in the middle of a thick battle.

Maps are also uncommonly detailed with plenty of open buildings, rocks and hills, where it is easy to hide for a whole match without the enemy ever seeing you.
Yesterday I spent the whole match lying down inside a truck capping an objective and forcing the enemy to stay in that area not to lose it. They never found me.
Summit1g also did that a few days ago. He just stood there while waves of enemies went by.
Interestingly, at the same time, there are groves everywhere yet it is still terribly difficult for a sniper to get a good and clear vantage point. This pleases some and angers many.

This is actually a very light fog!


Add weather to the mix: wall-thick fog shows up quite often in larger maps.

Thick fog reduces visibility drastically and it forces players to go into close-quarters and melee combat.

Chaos ensues.

Busy bees

Then there’s the fact that there’s so much more to do now.
Starting with the new ability to build fortifications. You are now able to build sandbag defenses, barbed wire, and anti-tank barriers.
This is a cool new feature, but plenty of players die trying to build these often times ineffective defenses.

Imma build ma own fortification now!

Sure, medics are still healing and recons are still sniping.
But you are now able to find new perk packs to picking a class that are probably ignored by most players.
They certainly affect gameplay and may take some time for a new player to figure out.

As an example, Support is the only class able to build stationary turrets in specific maps but that isn’t clear to most players.

Every player is now also able to revive squad members – but medics do it faster and can even run faster IF they equip the Swift Effort perk AND tag a wounded soldier.
We’re not just talking about class-based effects, but combat perk packs that affect how a class performs.

MEDIC!!! I mean.. Squadmates!!!

Having so many new perk options makes the game smarter.
Not everyone appreciates these changes, however.

Personally, I don’t dislike them, but information is lacking when you first start to learn to play with these classes – there are many of them – and indeed they do feel very different to play with – starting with the weapons.

Bang bang!

Weapons feel incredibly different from class to class. Many people complain that medics have water guns and that support isn’t able to use their LMGs to actually kill enemies – instead only able to lay down suppressive fire.
I feel like that’s actually a good thing in disguise.

Even though it is frustrating to play as a medic and not be able to kill the enemy in front of you most of the times, it forces players to focus on their class abilities. In this case, healing and reviving players.

Laying down suppressive fire still feels pointless – and you won’t last long until a sniper gets to you. It only works well in choke points or bad weather where there’s too much going on before a sniper scope finds you.

All these factors only add to the complexity of learning the quirks of the game. It overwhelms new players and it justifies the frustration that many complain about.

Something Fishy…

There’s also something very strange going on with close-quarter combats.

My ping isn’t high, but it seems like I always lose very close quarters 1-on-1 gunfights.
I’m not missing any shots – but somehow I never get to kill the enemy. As if their weapon fires more rounds in the same amount of time. Or if they started firing before me, even though their animation didn’t start before I shot.

Other players complained about this as well.
I’m convinced that this has to do with packet delay management or lag compensation for large numbers of players. It feels unfair quite often.

Above all else, the game has a very different pace.

I’m pretty sure it comes down to the aiming system.
In Battlefield V it seems to be harder to aim properly until you get used to the way it works.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a complex aiming options menu.
You can actually go into detail by adjusting the aiming speed according to the zoom value of your weapon!

Battlefield V - Aiming sensitivity options according to sight zoom levels
Aiming sensitivity options according to sight zoom levels

There are also other options that I’ve never seen before in other FPS franchises like “Soldier Aim Ratio” or “Uniform Soldier Aiming”. They include lengthy descriptions that only make it more cumbersome to understand.

The truth is that this only makes good players better and newbie players worse – as most new players don’t even know how to adjust these settings properly. This leads to newbies calling out good players as cheaters and a lot of bad vibes in chat and frustration to both sides.

Hide. Think. Act.

I REALLY like to have additional complexity in games. I like to feel that my skills and battle sense are progressing over time. But I think that, in the end, Battlefield V is not as newbie-friendly as other previous games.

Enjoy the countryside!

Last night I had a great run.
I was determined to figuring out how to play Battlefield V properly.
I decided to take a more relaxed, counterattacking stance. If someone fired at me I would… Hide. Think. Act.

I wasn’t going to run towards the enemy nor would I shoot as many bullets as possible at them. I realized that two shots to the head or three to the body were all it took for my weapon to kill.
So I started being more mindful of my presence and taking aim before firing or revealing my position.

Aha! I became the top player in most rounds!
I think I may have figured the key to succeeding in Battlefield V.

Something different, something new

In the end, it feels like there’s definitely some balance to do and a learning curve that most players aren’t used to from previous games.

It is hard to understand exactly what to learn and how to progress… 
But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel if you manage to relax, learn and enjoy the game for what it is, without expecting it to be something else.

Instead of becoming frustrated, I’m actually enjoying the game now!

If you liked this post check out my previous one on Battlefield V’s clubfooted gender wars or how I became an Undead Pirate in Sea of Thieves (funny).
…Or instead subscribe to my blog to receive monthly updates on any new posts! 😊

P.S.: DICE fix the PIAT damn it! It is NOT to be used as a shotgun!

I’ll see you in my squad,
-ViLa4480

Dungeon of the Endless – An Indie Game you won’t dare label!

Did you know Dungeon of the Endless was free for the weekend? If you didn’t that’s likely because you’re not following my Twitter feed!

How innovative can you be these days?

We live in a world where stamping labels on things and people is, sadly, mandatory. There’s no time to waste!
The flow and amount of information to be processed and the need to clarify what something is, or is not, demands that we categorize everything and everyone as quickly as possible.

We have truly entered The Age of Labels.

It is part of who we are as humans.
The Universe doesn’t care whether there’s light or shade, day or night, a half-full glass, a dead cat in a box or a tree falling in an unpopulated forest.

But we humans do care.

This is how our brains save disk storage space. We compress info into tiny boxes with labels.

Concepts are easier to access and we can figure them out quickly by simply reading the label on the box.

Unfortunately, this somewhat compromises our ability to think differently. To be innovative. To think out of the box – and to be appreciated and recognized for that.

Music that doesn’t belong to any genre in particular tends to be ignored by most people, as we tend to flock to our tried-and-true favorite genres. The same happens with movies and games.

This tends to become an even bigger issue when you consider the way we access this content. Check out my ramble on how Valve has made me lose interest in Steam – their content delivery platform – by improving it.

With so much new content available to us each day, the most productive way for a developer to innovate nowadays is to mix genres.
However, like with a nice cocktail, to mix it up properly requires real talent. These guys nailed it.

Missing a label?

Dungeon of the Endless


Somehow I missed Dungeon of the Endless when it first came out in 2014.

Luckily it isn’t a game that gets old with age!
I managed to pick it up recently since it was free-to-play during the weekend and being sold at a discount.

I just tried it out and it really surprised me:

Amplitude delivered Dungeon of the Endless back in 2014 – and it caused an issue for most gaming blogs. Why? Well… there was no easy way to categorize it!

It is NOT a strategy game, not a survival game, not a tower-defense game, not an RPG, not a MOBA, not a dungeon-crawler!
It is all of those things at the same time… and yet, very different.

The point of the game is to exit an abandoned sci-fi ship with a team of heroes and a crystal (similar to Dungeon Keeper’s dungeon heart).

Unfortunately, the ship’s architects decided that it would be fun to build elevators that only take you to the next floor… and build them in different rooms on each floor.
The type of insanity that GlaDOS would be proud of.

Unique.

Dungeon of the Endless is a unique game, yet very familiar. It delivers a real-time-turn-based game pace.
Does that sound confusing enough?

The game presents a real-time game flow, but it grows and expands as you open up doors in an abandoned ship. So, in reality, it only advances when you unlock the next “turn” by opening up doors in real-time.

Over time (aka turns, aka doors opened), you will be gathering supplies and building resource miners or defensive turrets or evolving your heroes.


All these abilities will come in handy when little alien insects start to show up. Apparently, they HATE your beautiful crystal for some reason and will try to destroy it.

Luckily, with all the resources you managed to mine so far, you’ll also be able to unlock new weapons and abilities for your heroes and your temporary “base”.

The game is unlike any other, yet similar to many.

The very pixely graphics and constant smooth animations deliver an intense atmosphere to the game. The very bright colors, somehow akin to fire burning in the background, keep reminding you that you need to escape as quickly as possible from the alien-infested ship. However, some strategy is in order, as resources are limited – but alien attacks are not.


The very pixely graphics and constant smooth animations deliver an intense atmosphere to the game.

The very bright colors, somehow akin to fire burning in the background, keep reminding you that you need to escape as quickly as possible from the alien-infested ship.

However, some strategy is in order, as resources are limited – but alien attacks are not.

The crystal being attacked!
Now's the time to panic.
The crystal being attacked!
Now’s the time to panic.

An endless dungeon

The gameplay is fast and fun, and the base-building aspect adds a lot of flavor to it. Unlocking new abilities, characters and weapons is definitely the main drive for the player. The superb audio and music also make it a very pleasant experience.
I had some trouble with the controls. They’re not complex at all – just very uncommon.
Sadly, there’s not much of a storyline to the game, except for a few less-than-funny jokes between heroes. Co-op is a plus, but not necessary since it truly shines as a great singleplayer game.


I really felt like this innovative game was a breath of fresh air.
That freshness that started around 2010 with very popular indie titles like Braid, Minecraft or Spelunky seems to have faded with all the sequels and adaptations of those popular games (just think of how many games mirrored Minecraft’s gameplay mechanics!) and innovation started to take a toll.

Dungeon of the Endless proves that there are many unlikely game genre combos that haven’t yet been explored.

I’m looking forward to trying out Amplitude’s following success Endless Legend.

Popcorn Score:

I truly enjoyed this game.
Even though it lacks a good storyline, it balances that with a fast and fun gameplay, beautiful graphics and a great ambiance.
If you’re looking for something FRESH, this is the game you want to try.

Do you like my ramblings? Would you like to read some more? Check out my previous post on How Sci-fi changed my life!
You may also want to subscribe to my blog by entering your e-mail on the form to the left or by following me on Twitter!

I’ll find you at my crystal,
-ViLa4480

Best co-op games of the year (Part 2) Sea of Thieves

Before reading this post, make sure you check out Part 1 of the best co-op games of the year 2018! My previous post focuses on Warhammer: Vermintide 2.

Also, you totally must check out what happened to me when I became a Ghost in the Realm of the Living in Sea of Thieves!!!

Yarr!!! Everyone loves pirates!

Have you ever wanted to be a pirate?
Not an online pirate you scallywag!
A real swashbuckling, wood legged, parrot carrying, hook fingered, golden tooth pirate! Yarr!!!

Well I got good news for you, the aspiring pirate!

Both Sea of Thieves and Warhammer: Vermintide 2 were released on the same month of March in 2018. Both compete for the prestigious PopcornGamer title of being the best co-op game of 2018.

Sea of Thieves is a predominantly co-op multiplayer game in a very large map where pirates, AKA players, roam the high water mountains in search for treasures, adventure and plunder.

At first, what will really strike you is the graphic style of the game.

Sea of Thieves is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS.

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It features very clean and appealing graphics (unlike Atlas. Ew.). It really conveys a lighthearted, sunny and happy swashbuckling experience …an extreme opposite to the surprisingly gruesome Warhammer: Vermintide 2!

Sea of Thieves feels like a simple game (maybe a wee bit too simple?).
The game peppers the seas with tiny curious islands and it gives you a map or a riddle that you need to figure out in order to find a treasure chest.

Oh… and remember: X marks the spot.

A day in the life of a Pirate!

You dig, dig, dig …until you hear a loud *THUMP!*.

YES!!!
You found it!
That wood casket is sure to bear all sorts of precious metals and gems!

Your grin turns to grimace when you realize that you’ve angered the lost souls protecting that cursed chest!
Now there’s a horde of skeletons rushing towards you. You can’t hit them while holding your precious chest… so you run back to your ship!

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When you hear the *clikety clack* that the banana-eating skeletons make while trying to catch you shiver slightly, but that doesn’t stop you. Once you are on your ship and you lower the ship’s sails it gently picks up speed and you wave at the skeletons that can’t figure out how to swim to get to you.

Riches onboard.
You head towards the nearest outpost.

It must be worth a fortune – you say to yourself!

Still dreaming of the brand new hat that you’ll be able to buy with all that money, you fail to notice the dark sails that approach your ship from the East. Too late.

Trouble on the horizon

*CRUSHCRACKSHHWSHSPSH!!!* – Your ship is being rammed from the side by a massive galleon. PIRATES! PIRAAATES!!!

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You rush to the lower deck to fix the geiser-like holes in the hull of your ship. The enemy cannons are roaring outside! You need to hurry the repairs and come back up to divert your ship from their firing lines!

You turn around and a strange wood-legged pirate stands next to you. Sword in hand.

“DUEL ME OR DIE” – he says. The request doesn’t really make much sense… but you rush to your sword and the fight begins.

A dirty fight with a one-eyed pirate

The dirty pirate lunges straight at you with very fast swings. All you can do is evade the massive sword spam. He hits you once… twice! But you still breathe! Putting the sword at an angle blocks his next attack and he is pushed back with a surprised stance!

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The enemy clearly has an advantage now that he has hit you but… dang it… you’re a pirate too! Rules mean little to you!

You grab your pistol and BAM! shoot him in the empty eye socket!

He falls to the ground and you rush to the helm and steer away from that despicable pirate’s ship.

Apparently, in the midst of battle, they started being attacked by a mythical giant shark!
It’s probably best to grab this opportunity and rush towards the nearest outpost and sell the treasure chest as quickly as possible before they dispatch the giant fish and catch up to you again!

As you move away from the battle you feel a strong sense of relief!

The sails are being raised and the battered ship will soon be safely parked at the dock.
Selling the cursed Captain’s Chest earns you just the money you needed to buy that fancy hat that you were dreaming of.

HA! The next time you encounter those pirates you’ll impress them with your brand new hat!

Hats, hats everywhere!

Indeed, a gold hoarder like you needs to spend all of your hard earned money on something. They say that money can buy anything. Well, not in this game.

Unfortunately, in Sea of Hats you are only able to buy cosmetic items!

It is a shame because, if you’re like me, you dress like a very sleazy pirate (in fact, that’s the only way a pirate should dress like!). Once you own your favorite character outfit and ship equipment, there’s not much else to crave for.

There’s no character progression, no skills, no weapon upgrades, no crafting or equipment upgrades for your ship, not even craftable banana sandwiches!
This makes the game feel pointless at times. My in-game bank account is filled to the brim but I don’t feel like spending my gold on anything. And, to be honest, I feel like I’ve only been playing it whenever a new regular update comes along, bringing with it brand new content to explore.

One could argue whether or not the lack of upgradable items is an issue if the game succeeds in entertaining you with every other aspect of it.

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The truth is that it would turn a great game into an amazing one.
To have something to crave for… an objective that pushes the players into exploration and adventure.

Who knows… maybe they’ll add a bit more of that in future updates…

A game to be played… just for fun? We’re not used to that!

It is kind of amazing to think that a great quality game from a large enough developer managed to avoid pay-to-win schemes or major grind systems.

The truth is that it doesn’t feel like you’re grinding when you’re distracted by the fact that you are actually enjoying it.
They focused solely on making a game that is fun to play and that brings people together. And they succeeded brilliantly.

Even if the islands look very similar to eachother, the quests obvious, the monsters predictable and the combat too simple, there’s a lot of plain fun to be had with your friends.
The emergent gameplay that comes from having PvP in the open world really drives you into incredibly epic battles with other players.

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Very seldom did I get angry for losing a fight, since the excitement you get from it is well worth the money lost.

Friends improve every game!

I must underline the need to play with friends.
You will feel lonely playing it alone in your tiny sloop in such a large ocean.

However, if you have no friends, you really don’t have to worry.

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It is SUPER easy to make new friends by playing this game with an open crew.
The Sea of Thieves community is surprisingly friendly and they often ask you to add them to your contacts list.

Almost everyone uses a microphone, which is critical to interact with other players when you’re busy repairing 13 holes in your sinking ship.
If for some strange reason you don’t own a microphone, you’re going to want to get one after playing Sea of Thieves.

It is true, the game lacks content and diversity for its steep price, but they seem to keep adding new stuff every now and then which is well worth checking out regularly.

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I won’t lie. It is expensive for the content it provides.

They claim that the price tag is worth it since you can use the same copy in Windows as well as Xbox. We both know however that it is uncommon for a gamer to buy the same game twice for different platforms.

But considering the enjoyment you’ll get from playing it – it is still well worth it.

What an amazing game!

Games aren’t perfect. They can’t make everyone happy.
Sea of Thieves has got flaws. Every game has got flaws.

But it brings something new to the table. And puts a grin on your face.

If you’re looking for something innovative that features beautiful art, very polished gameplay and that guarantees laughter while meeting new people – this is it.

Go get Sea of Thieves right now!

And no, you do not want to play Atlas just because it is popular on Twitch.
Get a better game instead. Any other game will do.

So long 2018!

2018 was a great year for co-op games.
Lots of new releases kept us well entertained throughout the whole year.
Now we’re all looking forward towards 2019 upcoming releases.

I have considered many of the co-op games that I’ve played this year… Rainbow Six: Siege, Kingdom: Two Crowns, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Warhammer: Vermintide 2, A Way Out, Destiny 2…

Sea of Thieves blatantly stands out as being the one that made me smile the most. And that is priceless.

Popcorn Score:

5 out of 5 Pops!

After much consideration and a strong competition by other great co-op games PopcornGamer declares that Sea of Thieves is the Best Co-op Game of 2018.

Thank you for all the fun times I’ve had this year, Rare studios.
You made me happy.

If you would like to join me in Sea of Thieves, add me on Steam and use this referral link to get Sea of Thieves at a special discount price.

Click here to check out Part 1 of the Best Co-op Games for 2018.

Also, you totally must check out what happened to me when I became a Ghost in the Realm of the Living in Sea of Thieves!!!

The most anticipated games of 2019 list is out! See if your favorite game is in there!

I’ll see you on-board,
-ViLa4480