Last weekend was pretty technologically rough for me, and being without the Internet I did what anyone in my position would do, I went down to my local video game store and bought a copy of the 2015 horror video game Until Dawn. Then played it until I was done, which worked out to be dawn the following morning.
Until Dawn is brought to us by Supermassive Games. Creators of such memorable content as Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock, Killzone (The HD remaster), and Little Big Planet 2 (the PS Vita port only). So… you know, it’s those guys. If you haven’t heard of any of those games, don’t feel bad no one else has either. And they don’t matter, because we’re here to talk about Until Dawn!
The premise of the game is simple, a group of teens go into a cabin in the woods, and things go wrong. They return a year later on the anniversary for the last year’s horrific events, and more horror ensues. This may seem like a story you’ve heard before, even the characters themselves may seem familiar. The jock, the bitch, the geek, the innocent girl and so on. But let me assure you that there is little about them you have seen before. The game uses all of the classic horror tropes to lull you into thinking one thing, and then violently shifts you into another direction. And it does a wonderful job of it.
The game is based around a choice system, meaning what you do at certain points will directly effect the game later on. Though the story is linear, it could pan out in any number of ways as it has dozens of branching paths. The game equates this to the butterfly effect; a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, and a hurricane hits somewhere else instead of sun shine. At it’s simplest definition that is how the game works. However I get the strong impression that the developers watched a scene from Jurassic Park to get their full definition of how the Butter fly Effect actually works. Wherever the source, the game engine works pretty well. Most game changing events are obvious as they are about to happen, but the trick is you don’t know what they will effect nor do you know when that effect will happen.
This game mechanic is very similar to the 2010 Quantic Dream game Heavy Rain. In fact some gamers think that the same team made Until Dawn because elements of the games seems pretty close to one another. It’s the execution and pacing of Until Dawn that sets it far apart from its predecessor.
It’s a very cool game, and very well designed. The cast of real actors like Hayden Panettiere and Peter Stormare make the game feel all the more like you’re watching an actual high-end horror movie, and not just playing a linear video game. For a console the graphic rendering is also far above what I would have expected, and the sets, atmosphere and sound really make this someone that should be experienced in a home theatre setting or with a nice pair of headphones.
I had a great time playing through the game, and would recommend it to anyone who would like a solid 10 hours of being entertained, and maybe a little spooked along the way.
It’s Quake. It’s not Doom. Can we just get that out of the way? The story mode may be Doom, and the property may be Doom because they killed off Quake, but for all intents and purposes this beta is an updated Quake 3 Arena. I have also heard a lot of the Internet saying it plays very much like a Call of Duty clone, but I don’t agree with that. I guess that’s a sign of my age, and I’m not supposed to be able to put that together, but Quake is clearly what’s going on here.
Having said that, Quake 3 Arena was a great game, and this new Doom version of it too has that same feeling to it. So much so that it feels like I’m playing a game from a decade ago.
The beta itself has a couple of PvP game modes, which are essentially a team death match and capturing a point. There’s not much more to it, and there doesn’t need to be. This game type has always been about getting together with friends and blowing them up. It doesn’t need the same back-story of a Halo or Destiny.
You also have some options to make your space marine your very own. You can change his outfit to a limited number of other generic space marine outfits. You can also customize your colour scheme, with the same generic colours as every other space marine. And if you want a very special and unique snowflake of a murdering space jockey you can add levels of grime and scratches to your totally not generic space monkey.
The gun load outs are similar to the outfit choices. There’s the launcher (from Quake 3), the rifle and the shotgun that everyone will use because they are quick and deadly. And a few other fancy weapons like the lightning gun, which no one will use because it’s silly and you have to follow your opponent hitting them constantly with it to get a kill.
Then there are the Hack Modules. These are items you win randomly at the end of a match. You can hold a certain number of them, and when you die you can activate them for a temporary advantage. So you could die and come back with bonus armor, or be able to see the person who killed you on the map and get revenge. Most of them are borderline useless because you’ll die before you get the benefit of using them, it’s the advice of this writer that you stick with the ones that get you more XP, because that will unlock things for you faster.
The game looks good. Not great, just good. It plays very fast, which is likely why they didn’t go for the mind blowing, server crashing graphics of other games in the same genre. It doesn’t look like a next gen game though, not even close considering it’s coming out 2 years into the reason of PS4 and Xbox One.
It plays a little sluggish as well. The turn speed – both vertical and horizontal – can be adjusted in the menu, but even so it never feels like your character is moving and turning at the pace you want. If you’re used to playing Halo or Destiny you’re going to feel a little slowed down for sure. There is a speed boost item you can find in the level, but maybe that should be replaced with a short term sprint that each character has natively.
The damage system also leaves a little to be desired. Your health starts at 100%, armor [without a modifier] starts at 0. Every weapon deals damage based on distance and impact. What I don’t understand is how I can stand next to someone and hit them point black with 4 rockets and they don’t die?! How is that a thing? And it’s always the case. There is also way too much health and armor everywhere, which re-spawns far too quickly. You may as well just hold the fire and move buttons down and not look at the screen, you’ll be just as effective as everyone else.
The Daemon Runes are the game changer, literally. If you get one, you change into a monster for a minute (or until you die). In the beta it’s the skeleton fellow from the poster of the game known as The Revenant. Every hit from him is a 1 hit kill, and he can fly. His health is also 300HP. Pretty much the team with him the most is going to win. And that has been the case every time I play, no matter if it’s a team death match or the capture point round. Maybe they will either nerf his power or increase the weapon damage, but something has to change before launch.
Having said all that, the game is still fun to play. The biggest issue I have with it is on day 2 of the open beta I’m struggling to find people playing the game. Last night at it’s midnight launch I could start a match almost instantly. Now I find myself waiting sometimes over 10 minutes for it to find the minimum player count to start the game. Not a good sign on only day two of the beta release.
For a free beta I say download it and play, but for an $80 game with some undefined season pass already available for purchase I think this game is a pass. I don’t think the novelty of the Doom franchise is enough to get anyone to buy this game, and that seems to be what Bethesda and ID are banking on.
We’re getting into April and as of the 12th that means it’s time for Destiny’s first update this year. A couple of weeks ago Bungie released a statement outlining what will be coming in this update. Not only did they not stray from that outline, that small outline was literally everything they did.
Light, Armor and Glow Sticks:
Your new max light level is 335. You’ll be notified of that as soon as you start the game up after the update. You’ll also, in typical Destiny fashion, have a couple of things waiting for you on the tower.
First of which is the Sterling Treasure Mystery Bag – which is an absurd name for a box of stuff – but in keeping with all the other names Destiny has for things. The bag, which is a box, can contain any number of things from armor pieces and specific glowing shaders for those armor pieces. You can also come away with an assortment of helper items which can increase rewards in Prison of Elders, Crucible and Vanguard matches. The armor will be frustrating at first as it all comes in at level 3, which is annoying, but with the new leveling system it’s easy to get it up to spec. What I don’t understand yet is why this armor has no perks to it for Intelligence, Discipline or Strength. I understand they take on the traits of the gear you infuse into them first, but not fully, and that’s annoying.
Now for the shiny things the glowing shaders (chroma) for the new armor. Why is this a thing? Why not just make all armor able to apply these? That would make a lot more sense. Maybe I missed the forum where players were asking for this, but all of the people I know who play this game are confused and disappointed by this new armor type.
What else is new?:
There are two new Prison of Elders modes. Which are kind of exactly like the other P of E modes you’ve played before. All Bungie seems to have done is bump up the difficulty – which they should have done in TTK for all P of E modes – and added the Taken and a new boss to the mix. Having the Taken as an enemy there is really neat, but the fact that they only show up randomly, and you have to be lucky enough to get into a game that has them (then all the fights that game are Taken fights) is really annoying. I know Bungie likes its random number generators, but maybe for this they should make the Taken happen more often since they are your selling point of the game right now. It’s also very annoying that the bosses for these taken fights are the same bosses from normal PoE just with a Taken skin on them.
Other than the new boss and the taken, the only thing that will keep you playing P of E is the rewards, which finally are worthwhile again after months of waiting. Prison of Elders became a complete waste of time after The Taken King was released as it only dropped Year 1 rewards, which were useless to most of the players in the game. Why they haven’t updated the other 4 versions of P of E is still a mystery to me.
The King’s Fall raid has also had some slight changes. The recommended light for taking on the challenging end of TTK has dropped. Why are they making it easier now that the max light level has been increased? That’s actually very disappointing for players who have been building up their teams to take on the raid.
There are also a couple of new levels to the game, and “Blighted Chalice” a new strike. In true Destiny fashion there really isn’t anything new about them. They only have one new character model for the whole thing, someone you’re told is the successor to Oryx, yet he can easily be defeated, as can all of these new levels in a little over two hours of gameplay. When I did it I was only 308 light with the character I used, and all the content seemed to fly by.
If you’re wondering about Nightfall and Vanguard Playlists those also have some slight tweaks. Though the last raid has been nerfed, the weekly Nightfall has been buffed and is now a minimum 320 light. As for the Vanguard Playlists, those have a couple of new levels, and again I use the term lightly as in Destiny fashion they are old year 1 levels, now with a Taken skin. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool. But it should have been done on the TTK launch. I would wager we get all the year 1 strikes by by years end as new “refreshed” content.
Year 1 Legendary and Exotics are updated. What that means is they are now available in TTK and have values matching those of the new stuff. So in the guise of a whole new bunch of things, they are re-releasing old things to work in the newer game. Which also could have been done half a year ago, and I’m sure it was, its just Bungie waited to release it now as “updated content”.
No HUD mode. The heads up display in destiny is pretty much required to play the game. But for people making videos, streaming and taking screen shots it gets in the way. This feature may not be for everyone, but it’s available to all through the games menu system.
The Candy Shell now shows up in the menu preview.
The update is not without it’s share of bugs however:
Year 1 Universal Remote can to be decrypted at the Cryptarch
Ghosts are being given as Nightfall rewards
Cryptarch reward packages may contain Year 1 items
Page numbers not showing up in a players Vault
Having spent hours playing through the update, the mission content, Prison of Elders and Crucible and with all the hype around what Destiny was going to do this year, I’m a little disappointed with this update. More so since this is all gamers get from Bungie until the Fall update. And with the recent news that Destiny will be ending next year and a new Destiny 2 game taking it’s place, it doesn’t seem like they are going out with a bang, or delivering on the gaming experience Bungie lead us to believe was coming. This update is just a lot of the same, rehashed levels, weapons and characters. The flying to and from the Reef seems, more so in this update than any other, like busy work to remind players there is a Reef to go to.