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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?


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

WW2 – The clubfooted gender war in …Battlefield V

I would like to apologize in advance if this review offends you. If you feel offended, please send me a private message. My views are moderate but I may sound blunt sometimes – English isn’t my first language and this article features sensitive topics that can be easily misunderstood.
Thank you for your understanding.

The saddest day of the year

So, apparently, today is the saddest day of the year.
-“That’s ridiculous!” I thought to myself.
Apparently, it relates to the fact that the holiday season has come and gone and what was new and exciting a couple of weeks ago is now uninspired and unsurprising.
Enough time has passed and now you realize that all your New Year’s resolutions and attempts at becoming a better human have caved miserably – like in every previous year. All that is left is an indiscriminate number of uneventful work days until something happens that actually sparks your interest.

This past season was VERY intense for me. Personal investments, social interactions, and even a brand new blog distracted me… and the season flew by very quickly.
The truth is, I got to skip a load of games and new releases.
But yesterday I felt the need to play something new and something decent.

battlefield 5 women

I was holding back on buying Battlefield V.
The franchise features an over-the-top base price (+DLC content) – and prices tend to lower past the holiday season. So I decided to give it a go.
After a painstakingly lengthy 53Gb download and installation (which I cleverly decided to sleep through it), I finally got to try it out.

This drew me to a very tense debate going on in-game.

Repeating History

Following the footsteps of its predecessor, Battlefield 1 (numbering systems are broken at EA btw), which included a negro-based squad that historically did fight bravely in WW1, Battlefield V surprised everyone when it showcased several female protagonists in a World War 2 setting.

When I first saw the trailer for Battlefield V I thought it was so awesome that they included female characters. At the same time players watching the trailer at the event were concerned on how that could impact the game experience.

Even though the role of women was determinant – and there were a LOT of women fighting throughout Europe – the proportion of battling women in this game is pretty much equal to that of men.
This can be tricky when you’re attempting to be historically accurate in a game.

Apparently, Battlefield V took a huge amount of flak for that decision.
So much that the Battlefield V subReddit moderators started banning users and removing topic-related posts.

“My immersion is RUINED!!!” – someone cried on Twitter.

EA would likely have replied:
Dear Bob,
We are very sorry that your immersion is ruined.

Our statistics show that at least 10% of our audience is female and they are not being accurately represented in our game. This is why we’ve made a game where 50% of our characters are female.
Thank you for understanding.

The gravity and complexity of the situation was clear to me when I noticed 3 female characters dressed as German generals stabbing players in the heat of battle while they were using voicechat to scream “FEMINAZI BANZAI CHARGE!!!”

I felt like My trust in Humanity was gone for good.
At the same time, my history-nerdy-brain proceeded to die a little.

Resultado de imagem para battlefield 5 women

A sad day for a sad society

The truth is, we live in a sad society where women are still being treated differently… and that is truly unnecessary.
EA has taken a bold step to try and break that mold that society imposes on itself. But at what cost? Does it make sense for an entertainment media that takes pride on a certain degree of realism to bring a contemporary perspective to a historical reality through politicized fiction?
Will that somehow affect our understanding of the past and blind us to the future?
Even though it does spark debate, it mostly seems to anger a majority of their mostly male playerbase.

I am a true believer of diversity and equality, but politicized entertainment feels cringy at best.
Are they going for the long run? Re-educating boys into accepting girls in games (when a kid spends 4h every day playing a game he does learn something…), or maybe trying to motivate girls to play in order to expand their female playerbase?

It might be commendable to a certain extent, but let me clarify why this affects me:
I see human beings as human beings.
If I ran a company, “race”, gender, sexual orientation or religion would be irrelevant to me – but being the nerdy type that I am, sacrificing historical accuracy – for what appears to be a business decision based on modern-day politic concerns – is …disappointing.
Playing Battlefield V somehow feels like an advertisement that you paid to play.

Lost in Action

I would LOVE to see a game that focused on the resistance fighters or spies (many of which were women). I would love to see a dramatic aspect to the game that highlighted the effort that young widow mothers had to endure during the war. Women also kept the gun, ammo and canning industries running throughout the war – without that effort who knows how the war would have progressed!
…But a game like this wouldn’t be Battlefield would it?

Imagem relacionada

Battlefield V also fails to represent – and thus lacks respect – for the life and death of the men and women who perished in those fights. Instead it leads young players to believe that this was the true reality of war and even treat it more as a fun historic fact rather than an actual tragic event.

While I value the fact that they’ve actually thought about women and “minorities” and made real steps towards embracing them as equals, I feel like this isn’t the right game nor the right way to demonstrate that so profusely.
It’s like making surgery with a butcher’s knife – and the player’s reaction might even backfire in the long run.
Will EA make every game follow the same logic now? Should it?

It is understandable that Mass Effect does it.

Mass Effect is set in a fictionalized future in an alternate reality of mindset.
…Should we be concerned about how to depict our past if we wish to learn from it?

Resultado de imagem para battlefield 5 women
Battlefield 1

…On a side note, they forgot to add women to Battlefield 1 until the last patch – and she had to be bald – were there no women before WW2?

So, yeah I do understand Bob who shouted that his immersion was ruined… but Bob must realize that even if clubfooted, messy and somewhat reprimandable, this was a step in the right direction.

The features they’ve included are all okay – just in the wrong proportions – and definitely the wrong battlefield.

It’s great that a player is able to pick a female character to play with. It is also great to see more variety in the game and even that women play a non-sexualized protagonist role – just do it in an alternate universe where factual history isn’t a problem.

…well I guess at least EA made sure their clothes weren’t camo bikinis in this game.

Imagem relacionada

I’ll see you on the battlefield,
-ViLa4480

Sea of Thieves - the undead pirate captain

How I became an Undead Pirate Captain – Sea of Thieves

I’ve got a tale to tell.
It will shiver yer bones.

If you would like to read my previous review on Sea of Thieves, check out my previous post: The Best Co-op Games 2018 – Sea of Thieves.

Something out of this world happened to me in Sea of Thieves…

I was sailing the high seas with my scallywag crewmates.
We were chasing a skull in the skies.

Skeleton fort in sight! – yelled my crewmate from the crow’s nest.

The crows nest in sea of thieves

We turned off the oil lamps, raised the sails and slowly docked our ship next to a cliff. Having the ship so close to the island meant we would be barely visible on the horizon. Pirates often roam raiding locations waiting for us to unlock its treasures… and then they attack – so it is important to stay hidden.

However…

Something strange and something wicked was bound to happen…

Once we defeated the last skeleton on the island we unlocked a treasure vault full of gold relics, silver cups, gemstones, rare spices and gold chests!

WOHOO! Someone cryed.

We started hauling our stuff back to the ship… but once we got there…
I mean… …once we got there… …ONCE WE GOT THERE…

WE COULDN’T GET ON THE SHIP!!!

Somehow, whenever we climbed the ladder, we would fall through the ship and into the ocean below it!

There we were… treasures in hand and unable to haul them back to the outpost.

Maybe the issue was the sand bank below the ship?

I decided that we were not going to be defeated by a bug!
So I climbed to the nearest watchtower and jumped onto the ship – hoping that I’d be able to lower the sails before falling through the lower deck again…

So I jumped…

Unfortunately, I forgot that I was low on health due to having fought the skeletons before. I died once I hit the ship’s upper deck.

Or did I?…

The quickest visit to the Ferry of the Damned

The Ferry of the Damned in Sea of Thieves
The Ferry of the Damned

I saw my restless body fall under the ship and then being dragged to the Ferry of the Damned – the place where dead souls linger before being returned to life.

However… my soul’s body fell off the Ferry of the Damned!!
…and it kept falling
…falling
…falling

The screen slowly faded to black…


*SPLASH*
I woke up under water.

While I’m pulling myself back to the surface I’m noticing that my arms are green… ghost green! I’m a ghost!

I am a ghost in the realm of the living!

How could this be?!
As I get my head above the water I can see the fort island far far away – easily recognizable in the distance because of the big cloudy skull above it!

As I turn around I had to take some time to contemplate and try to figure out what I was seeing.

A massive blob of chests and artifacts was floating above me. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I touched them and they fell to the sea floating above the water… several high-end chests and skulls! What were they doing here?!

I was in the middle of the ocean, my skin was ghost-green and there’s a bunch of chests hovering right above me. Wow!

A flying blob of treasure in Sea of Thieves
A flying blob of treasure chests!

While stranded in the middle of nowhere, I ask my crewmates to come and get me before I drown… I give them instructions on how to find me as there’s no mermaid in sight to get me back to my ship.

Then a small fin appears above the water. IT’S A SHARK!!!

While trying to grab my sword I notice that it is nowhere to be found!
Ghosts have no weapons – I thought to myself! – and I can’t really punch it or negotiate a truce!

The shark tries to bite me… but no damage is dealt. I am dead after all… You can’t re-die if you’re dead!

I dove as deep as I could… yet there was no damage to my non-existent health bar. …You can’t drown if you’re dead!

As I come back up to the surface I notice the chests that were previously floating above the water slowly falling down into the abyss. I managed to grab them and brought them up to the surface again and again like a juggling act!

A ship approaches me! My friends have arrived!

They’re stunned when they see my character undead which granted a few laughs and some poorly constructed jokes!

A friendly ghost waving in Sea of Thieves
A friendly ghost waving

We proceeded to haul all the chests and skulls floating above the water… we weren’t going to let them go to waste! We headed back to the fort to finish what we started and then proceeded towards the outpost to sell our stuff.

On the way there I saw something shiny in the distance – so I aimed the cannon, got myself inside it and fired it to go check it out.


Meanwhile, the sea around the ship turned ink-black and we were attacked by a giant 10-legged Kraken!
That slimy creature wrecked our ship! My crewmates were running very low on supplies and unable to survive the fight!

The Kraken has a terrible sense of timing.

I ran and swam towards the ship as fast as I could and when I got there all of our treasures were floating above the water and the ship was nowhere to be seen!

My crewmate was being attacked by sharks and I kept feeding him my bananas – a ghost has no need for bananas.
Eventually he died and I was left there by myself hauling stuff above the water as they sank slowly.

Our ship’s silhouette was visible in the distance! They picked me up and we hauled everything back onto the new ship.

so much booty - sea of thieves
So much booty!

After what seemed to take ages hauling stuff, we were finally able to sell our loot for a massive profit.

What exactly does it mean to be a ghost in the realm of the living?!

Maybe it was all just a bug that caused an exception and made me live when I should be dead.
Apparently immortal – but without weapons, I wasn’t able to cause any harm.
I was able to cross rock walls… would that be an issue for the game in the long run? Would that make me able to go through fort walls and steal the loot?

We joked that I should go to other player’s ships and act as an NPC giving them weird quests like “Fetch me a spotted 4-legged pig so a golden chest you may pick!” and then handing them a skeleton captain’s chest or something.
Or instead, pose as having a Ghost-Legendary Character Skin unique to the pirates that delivered 500 chicken!

We had a lot of fun with that peculiar bug for a while but, eventually, the server spit me out and I had to reconnect – back to being a regular living pirate with the sun laying down above a small ship floating on the waves of the Sea of Thieves.

YARR!

A ghost in sea of thieves

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.

Also, check my list of the Best Upcoming Games – 2019!

While writing this post I found a video on Youtube by Cyx in which he finds what they think is the ship of the damned deep underwater at the exact same location where I came back from the dead!
You can check it out here.

I’ll see you on the Ferry of the Damned,
-Cap’n ViLa4480

The Best Upcoming Games – 2019

Which games are you most looking forward to play in 2019?

This list will always be under construction!
Let’s build The Best Upcoming Games 2019 list together!

Check it out below and share your suggestions!

Please note that this is an ever-evolving and ever-incomplete list of games based mostly on my own personal taste – but if you guys have any cool suggestions please drop a comment here or via Twitter!
-ViLa4480

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Do you have other games you’d like to see highlighted?

Maybe even a full review? Leave a comment below or via Twitter!

Curious to know what the Best Co-op Game of 2018 was? Check out the extensive reviews here!

Would you like to buy games at a discount? Follow this referral link for discounted games at Kinguin. Go check it out if you would like to support this blog!

I’ll see you in-game!
-ViLa4480

Chewbacca

How Sci-fi & Fantasy changed my life

I’m not exactly sure how I came to discover Star Citizen.
I guess it was a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

In the beginning…

I have to admit. I didn’t grow up with Star Wars, Star Trek, Conan or LOTR. My parents never really enjoyed sci-fi or anything that felt out of this world, unrealistic or fantastic. This meant there were no chewbaccas, elves, action men, or superhero comics during my childhood.
I vividly remember getting two action figures for my birthday and I couldn’t figure out how to play with them.

It is understandable that you might feel an altruistic frustration when reading these lines… Don’t worry, I had a happy childhood. Instead, I turned to legos, puzzles, videogames, TV shows, history books and boardgames. It might sound strange but I honestly had a lot of fun reading dictionaries… Yeah… I guess I am weird that way.
I was never one to go out and play on the street either… even if growing up in Portugal, the land of football (soccer).

This affected the videogames I played during my childhood. Actively avoiding sports games, first person shooter games and any other games that were set in space or fantasy related.
I have to admit… I still do avoid some of these themes.

Something that I am now able to recognize is that the lack of high fiction themes actually made me crave those things.

Surviving childhood

I’m not exactly sure how I survived my fantasy-less childhood… I guess I was enlightened by certain events…

My parents would never buy games for me – they thought buying games was a waste of time and money when I should instead be reading books on Finance and the great classics of literature.

So I had to resort to other forms of getting to them games.

Back in the old cassette or diskette days, pirating games was easy… but not that easy when you don’t know someone who actually owns the game you want.

You have to understand that due to the fact that ads for videogames were pretty much non-existent here in Portugal, most of the times I didn’t even crave for a new game because I didn’t even know it existed in the first place.

One day my father started buying these computer magazines that often times brought diskettes or CDs with plenty of game demos. I would spend hours upon hours playing the same game demos over and over until the next diskette arrived…

I remember playing a demo version of Heroes of Might and Magic III which only allowed you to play for 16 turns! The amazing scenery was quite beautiful – and I often tried to speedrun as much as possible to reveal most of it before the 16 turns were over! …But I never got the chance to actually buy Heroes III.

16 turns to reveal the full map!

Demos make you smarter!

Thinking that I was playing all these game demos, now made me come to the conclusion that this did make me grow up not only as a player but also as a person.
I just realized that I was playing rather complex games and I didn’t even speak the language nor did I understand advanced game mechanics at all.

Since I had no access to other games I was forced to play whatever showed up – and in the process, I had to figure out how they were meant to be played without tips or instructions.
I was not just learning how to play many different game concepts, but also how to react to very different interface systems written in an unfamiliar language!

Kids need to exercise their brains as often as possible and, to be honest, I can’t think of a more intensive and multilayered activity than this.

The Age of the Internet

The Internet came to my door and it slowly became my world. I was too young and naïve back then to realize the impact it would have on everyone. My parents wouldn’t allow me to go online for a few years – and with that crazy modem screaming like it used to when connecting to the web, it really wasn’t easy going online without having other people noticing.

However, the first thing it allowed me to do was to read articles on newly released games and even to be able to order games online that I would otherwise never be able to get my hands on since there were no videogame shops or arcades near me.

I remember getting the game Descent: Freespace by Volition thinking it was a historical strategy game (how did that happen?!). Slightly disappointed since it was sci-fi themed, I reluctantly decided to play it.

I was hooked…
That game broke my ice towards sci-fi games.
For the sake of time I won’t go into too much detail but… It had such brilliant characters and story arc! It simply blew me away and I never saw that coming.

HOLY SHI…van

A couple of years later, with the dawn of DSL and unlimited timeplans, something else and something new was on the horizon.
I decided to try Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory – a brand new and FREE ONLINE GAME!
Reluctantly I decided to play it since it was an FPS game… but… well… at least it was free!

I was hooked…
…and I was GOOD at that game!

Friends mean fun.

One day, while playing Wolfenstein, a bunch of strangers that I was playing with, asked me to go and play with them… “to join a clan” they said via in-game text chat. I had no idea what that meant but I said “Uh… sure…”.
Butcher, Crisplover, Myrdraal were my teammates in that match – each from a different country.

I had a microphone and I installed Teamspeak to join them… but I was too scared to use my voice!
At one point Myrdraal stepped on a mine and I rushed to him unaware that I was screaming “Don’t moooove!!” with my voice comms active.

Everyone on Teamspeak was surprised to hear my voice.
…I was too.

They all laughed and greeted me and welcomed me to the clan.
Later on, I understood that my careless split-second decision to join them that day had turned into something much much greater than I anticipated. I had made new friends.

“IT SPEAKS!!!”

Chewbacca with a lightsaber

I was 18 and I had never ever watched a Star Wars movie before and Freespace was the only sci-fi game I had played until then. Some of my ET friends used to play Star Wars: Jedi Academy when they weren’t playing Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.
I didn’t expect much from a sci-fi game from a franchise that I knew nothing about.
To validate my point, let me clarify that I picked a Sith Wookie as my character …I thought red sabers would go well with brown fur.

Needless to say that I was forced by my roleplaying clanmates to go and watch Star Wars before they allowed me to play with them. And grumpily I did. And it finally opened up my mental doors to sci-fi.

My brain still has trouble digesting weird space creatures or magic and I still don’t see the point in using most of that, but I finally understood… it’s not about the creatures… Sci-fi allows for greater-than-life characters and story arcs. In Stargate SG-1 you barely ever see alien-looking monsters – they’re most often humans with different clothing and earthly needs. But it is the setting that allows a great adventure to happen.

The exact same thing happens with fantasy-themed narratives. I don’t get thrilled by characters using magic… Mordor isn’t fun because of its architecture. It’s fun because it creates a problem that needs solving. The whole Lord of the Rings story is simply about Humanity fighting evil and racing against time – a theme harder to depict in a non-fiction environment.

Fantasy and Sci-fi are an escape from the predictable boring reality of everyday life. It took me some time to grow up and learn that …I dig that.

Growing up

Even if repressed during childhood, sci-fi and fantasy themes managed to crawl into my life and taught me an important lesson.

While writing this article I’m realizing that the stuff that I’m mostly drawn to… are actually sci-fi or fantasy themed! I really feel like I may have lost something during my childhood as I never got to experience those worlds when our imagination runs wild. But at the same time, I feel like this whole process has made me grow up to become a little bit more down-to-earth and pragmatic when it comes to learning and how to enjoy new things.

Today I feel that anything can be enjoyed or learned no matter how much of a lack of interest or mental or physical disadvantage you think you have.

You need to find the fun and motivation in all things.
In my case, it was friendship that dragged me in and the exploratory will to pursue themes that I did not fully understand by playing a game I did not expect to enjoy.
Then my own walls of reluctance caved in when I understood that learning is fun and that having fun while learning makes it easy and achievable.

A couple of years ago I just couldn’t understand why someone would enjoy flight simulators – they seem EXTREMELY boring.
I decided to figure it out – it was hard to understand it at first – but then… I was blown away. The same happened with games like Europa Universalis or Democracy.

For years I thought I wasn’t able to draw.
I lacked the mental ability and the physical coordination to do so.
Last week I was stunned at my very first decent drawings.

Today… I’m loving this brand new blogging adventure.

Keep learning!

Boot
My very first boot!

Next week I’ll post part 2 of this article… on how I got to Star Citizen.
Meanwhile, why not learn more on how I just turned into a blogger?
Not a magic trick. Promise!

I’ll see you in-game,
-ViLa4480

P.S.: If you’re more into historical fantasy… why not try Papers, Please?

Papers, Please: the short film

Papers, Please: The short …Film?

Free to read: there are no movie spoils ahead

A broken Valve

Have you read my previous article on How Steam broke my Valve? That’s the prelude to this post!
Go check it out!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Steam has let me down in the past few years, as I used to scroll its shop homepage on a regular basis… Steam then started showing very targeted results and my Steam shop started looking less and less interesting to me. It was showing the same results over and over again!
Somehow this led me to Papers, Please: the short film.

I was bored yesterday.

So I decided to go see what’s new on Steam. But since my Steam shop homepage is kind lame nowadays I went on to figure out what were the best-rated games of all time on Steam.

I was surprised! The top result didn’t belong to a game… It was a movie!
-A short film to be precise.
But not just any film… Papers, Please: the short film!

I have to admit that my jaw dropped a bit and my finger trembled with excitement when I hovered my mouse over it. Was this possible? What kind of black magic is this?!

Papers, Please: logo

Glory to Arstotzka!

Papers, Please is one of my greatest heroes when it comes to games.
As I understand it was mostly built by one guy (Lucas Pope) with the help of a small team of Arstotzkan loyal subjects.

The game is set in 1982 at the national border of a very closed soviet-like regime. You were one of the lucky picks of the October labour lottery as your name was pulled for immediate placement as a border admissions control officer. What an honour!

Your job is to allow or deny entry of people into the country – for the Glory of Arstotzka! to feed your family.


To me, games are about making choices.

…Making the right decisions that bring you the most benefit in order to “win” the game (even though winning something isn’t always required for a player to be entertained or to feel connected to a story).

However, the best games are the ones that make you think twice.
 
Papers, Please excels at this.


It presents you with tough choices over and over. 
To the point where you feel the misery of these immigrants and you still have to deny their entry into your country, knowing that they will die otherwise.

What an incredibly contemporary theme.

Corruption, bribery and even secret societies are also on the table as some people will try to do anything to get into Arstotzka …and you still have to feed your family.

Papers, Please Screenshot

The reason why I love this game is due to its gameplay simplicity in a cutthroat environment where each decision is critical to the migrant, the State and to your family. A bureaucracy simulator that is actually memorable.
As usual, Lucas Pope turned what at first would appear to be a technical graphics limitation into a graphic style on its own. One that not only simplifies interactions and leverages the narrative, but also that glorifies that great retro ambiance that drives the player back in time to a period of cold walls and warm tensions.

How does this translate into a film?!

I don’t know.
But they did it really well.

The film focuses on the usual role that the player performs. The Inspector sifts through all the data in the documents that he is provided by the migrants to look for info that’s missing or incorrect.

I won’t go into any further details as I don’t think it is necessary to spoil anything in a 10-minute long film.

Papers, Please: the short film

However, I will say that I was impressed at how carefully well executed the scenario and the attention to detail was in this film. It really captures the essence of the game.
The actors also do a great job at conveying that this is a life/death situation… and yet… just a job.

Summing-up, I would like to congratulate Lucas Pope and his team on being brave enough to make this great short film.

Art isn’t perfect, but this is a great 10-minute piece of art.
It isn’t priceless either – but it is FREE on Steam and Youtube.

Check it out in 4K glory right now:

Regarding the film I will rate it 4/5 Pops – it is great, but it lacks a little bit more depth and desperation that the game is better at conveying …but hey, it is free…

I will rate the must-have-played game 5/5 Pops.
No questions asked.

Film Popcorn Score:

Game Popcorn Score:

I’ll see you in Arstotzka,
-ViLa4480

Missed the first part of this story?
Go check it out now!

Interested in this game?
Click here to get a discount for Papers, Please.

Steam Shop

How Steam broke my Valve.

The kid at the toy shop

I love exploring Steam.
I just used to go through all of their pages, looking at all the new games being released and all of the innovative game concepts that they bring to every genre – and, on occasion, I would buy a strange new game that caught my eye. Have I mentioned that I am a true multigamer?

I REALLY used to enjoy scrolling through their shop’s homepage. It was fun looking at all the different games – I felt like a kid in a toy shop!

Unfortunately, Steam has been “improving” certain features over the years. 

A great idea.

In the past couple of years, however, they started to target audiences for their games. They started showing games that were similar to the types of games each player likes or plays. They even picked games that have just recently been released – or because they’re popular among my friends. What a great idea!…

While this was amazing for the first few months, I started to realize that the main store page on my girlfriend’s computer was so much more interesting than mine!
I thought… well… this couldn’t be right. How could it be that I was having more fun looking at her targeted games rather than my own?!

Suddenly I realized that my Steam homepage was pretty much static most of the time. Even though games jump up and down the page, they’re mostly showing me the same games over and over.

Steam Shop
My Steam shop homepage

The toy shop that only sells Pet Rocks


I can tell you with 100% certainty that if I open up my Steam homepage right now, Star Wars: Jedi Knight and Star Wars: Republic Commando, as well as every single Commandos game will show up at the top of all game suggestions.


The reason for this being that I’ve added Star Wars Battlefront to my wishlist (back in 2011) and I’ve added Commandos 2 to my wishlist (in 2012).
 
Now, I’m not saying these are bad games. They’re not. But I’ve seen them on my homepage every single day for several years now!


…and for some odd reason, after all these years, Steam still thinks that today is the day when ViLa4480 is going to buy all these games!

Ah… Bugger – maybe tomorrow


I can’t help but think that they have someone in their offices wearing a cap and deciding which games are going to show up on my homepage…

Cranking the levers up and down (Steam Powered!) with an eager smile as my mouse hovers over those games. 

“…He never gets to buy them! 
Ah… Bugger – maybe tomorrow” – he says to himself.

Closing the shop


The truth is… I don’t enjoy going through the Steam homepage as much as I once did.
I used to enjoy the variety of games that showed up. But now I find myself mostly looking at the “Popular Releases” and the “Most sold” tabs as those reflect a little bit more variety than the rest of my targeted homepage.

While looking for something different, I decided to check which games were the best ranked of all time on steam. 

I was surprised.
The first one… wasn’t even a game.

And this is how I got to find Papers, Please – The short film.

Kingdom: Two Crowns logo

Kingdom: Two Crowns …One and a Half?

This is my first review post on this blog. If you guys would like to know more about how I started this epic journey check out PLANTING A SEED.

A mighty Kingdom

Kingdom: Two Crowns has just been released earlier this month and I decided to give it a go.

Kingdom: Two Crowns is a 2D side-scrolling “kingdom-builder” game. The kind of satisfaction you get from playing a tower-defense game, mixed with the satisfaction you get from playing an exploration game like Terraria.

Being insanely addictive, this game uses very smart and staggeringly simple game mechanics which I am able to describe in three sentences: 

  • You’ve got a bag of gold coins.
  • You buy improvements to your fort.
  • You survive waves of enemies.

Ah. But things are never this simple.

Kingdom: Two Crowns Splitscreen

Building and growing your fort means expanding your borders further into wild,unexplored territory. This not only means that trees will have to be mercilessly cut down, but also that other, harder decisions must be made:

-Will you destroy a homeless person’s shelter to expand your fort into fertile lands?
-What about the trader’s hut that regularly supplies you with a huge influx of coins?
-Will you spend all your money building new walls or instead hiring more archers to protect your current walls?


Decisions, decisions…

Know thy land

The game is a great exploration adventure game however… even though you can’t deny that there is a huge amount of geographic exploration to do… Let’s be honest and recognize that most islands in the game all look very similar and that the game mechanics never really change much throughout the map.

Nevertheless, what really drives the player to keep “exploring” the game is the huge amount of “interactibles” – mysterious statues, strange meteorites, portals and a never-ending list of upgrades to your fort that grant you game-changing special abilities.

Kingdom: Two Crowns Statue

Line of succession

Having bought the previous Kingdom: Classic and the sequel Kingdom: New Lands  I must say I was a bit skeptical about buying this new version. The reason for that was that when I first bought Kingdom: New Lands I had two reasons to buy it: First, I’d like to support the developers who had previously created such a simple and cool game. Secondly, I was also looking for new content and new interactions that would expand my experience of ruling a very 2D kingdom.

However, I must say I was a wee bit disappointed with Kingdom: New Lands since it was being promoted almost as if it was a standalone DLC.
-Does that make sense?
Nope.

It is basically the same game as Kingdom: Classic being resold full-price with an added expansion.

The problem wasn’t really that the expansion was bad. The problem was how it was being sold as something truly new – which it wasn’t since the new mechanics that were introduced weren’t really that different from the base game and many of the changes were merely cosmetic.

Don’t get me wrong: any expansion to this great base game is welcome – but paying a full bag of gold for a new DLC is …bittersweet.

Just one more crown…

Kingdom: Two Crowns Scary night

Along comes November and the video announcement for Kingdom: Two Crowns and I couldn’t be more curious. 
A developer starts by explaining that he was watching a player stream (not me, unfortunately!) with his girlfriend and that at one point one of them said “I wish we could play together”… the developer’s heart melted and so he decided to make that wish come true in Kingdom: Two Crowns.

This was huge news for me!
I love coop games.

…And I couldn’t miss the opportunity to play one of my favorite games with my usual test subject (A.K.A. my girlfriend).

What a great idea.
Then I saw the 20€ price tag.

Here we go again?

I’m not a cheapskate – but I don’t like paying for the same game three times either!
If they had added new cosmetic content I’m sure I wouldn’t have bought it… but coop… My only weakness… How could I resist? How could I?!

Yeah, I bought Kingdom: Two Crowns.
After an insane amount of time spent tackling screen-resolution, UI and gamepad issues I proudly decided to demonstrate to my girlfriend that I had finally managed to remove all blockers and smash all bugs and went to Mordor and back to get the game ready and working!

“It’s ugly.” – she said.
She does that. She has a way with words.

After convincing her that pixel art is actually an art form and not a technical limitation of the game, she conceded that she would allow me to play with her. I often get the feeling that I’m dating my cat.

Kingdom: Two Crowns Splitscreen

One crown. Two crowns.

The King and Queen of Choulândia were now crowned and ready to cleanse this Kingdom of all evil minions roaming the land.

Until I died in the first 3 minutes of gameplay.
Then we got desperately poor.
Then we decided to restart the game.

BUT THEN the Mighty Kingdom of Choulândia arose from the ashes, prospered and grew in size! We had thick stone walls, fertile farms, an army of archers!

Then my Queen bluntly said: “I’m bored.”
She does that. She has a way with words.

…Usually that tends to happen within the first 5-10 minutes of playing a game. So the fact that we were playing for almost two hours before she said that really struck me as being a great compliment to Kingdom: Two Crowns.
I was truly having fun playing with her!

We got to explore a new island, got some diamond-like gems and started building a new ship to come back home with our bounty.

We had to stop there.
But I can honestly say that I had great fun playing Kingdom: Two Crowns with myself and with my Queen and we had some good laughs with very poor fort-building decisions about building walls at the exact time that the enemy is attacking.

Kingdom: Two Crowns Sunset


Locking the gates

Overall Kingdom: Two Crowns is an amazing game for playing as co-op or single-player – especially if you’ve never had the chance to play one of the previous versions.
It is extremely addicting, fun, with a lot of content to explore and a great Christmas Gift for your soulmate (as long as you get to play with him/her).

However, the slightly steeper price for the content that has been added might not be entirely adequate if you’ve played the previous iterations since it feels like a small DLC rather than an entirely brand new game. I’d value this at 15€ for returning players, instead of the standard 20€, and despite the price point and the lack of apparent new gameplay mechanics at the start of the game, I would still rate it 4/5 pops due to its replayability and blunt fun factor.

Popcorn Score:

This is my first review post on this blog. If you guys would like to know more about how I started this epic journey check out PLANTING A SEED.

I’ll see you in-game,
-ViLa4480

Interested in this game?
Click here to get a discount for Kingdom: Two Crowns.