Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Thank You Sony for Keeping the magic alive !



           I am so glad that The Last Guardian is back in production and Fumito Ueda has confirmed that he, along with the rest of Team ICO members , have been working on it since summer 2014!

              The Magic of ICO and Shadow of The Colossus has to.... has to live on ! Some games are good, some great , some exceptional, but Team ICO's games are magical .......surreal pseudo worlds that your mind can inhabit !!! There has never been a virtual world like of the Shadow of The Colossus, which totally enveloped me in a sense of wonder while the game was on and which had me day-dreaming of the Colossi when idle !


Thank you again Sony for funding such games, for caring for the gaming dream ! For gaming is not just a business, its has the magic that this universe bestowed on all art, a magic that connects to us on our human level, sans lingual barriers. It has the magic that communicates without the use of language and there in lies the secret of touching us on deeper level, beyond words, beyond symbolism....... the untouched self.

Thank you Sony for keeping the magic alive by funding Team ICO, the once-in-a-lifetime-experience of Journey and the surrealistic magic of the upcoming "Dreams" and more projects that have got the confidence to materialise due to the existence of these masterpieces !

Dreams


What might get called offbeat today might just be the one that takes us into the future of games .............and into a journey towards ourselves !

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Destiny : Where is your Fantasy ?

(Lets say this is not one of my usual articles and its more like what I think about Destiny right now put into text. That said, lets dive in !)

Anyone remember this video? this is what Destiny was conceptualised as :


Where is this adventure and exploration? secret areas and secret loot?
Yes, Bungie,  the pressing question I ask of you:

Where is the 'fantasy' of Destiny?


The fresh start:

I am fan of Bungie and Halo and I have been playing Destiny since the Alpha, the first time Bungie let players get their hands on it and have loved the gameplay since the first time I moved my trigger finger in it! Its been more than a year of shooting Hive, Fallen, Vex and Cabal and I will be honest, the amazing art and the super fun gameplay loops have kept me hooked for so long. I still remember seeing Moon for the first time and declaring on forums that it was the best Sci-fi rendition of Moon ever. I didn't like Venus then, because it was just like earth, to be honest, but then I landed on mars:

 and watching a dawn on mars was enough to make me stand in awe again till a rocket from the Cabal brought me back into the "shoot>jump>headshot>Super Charged>Obliteration!" loop of Destiny fun :^) ! And boy did the Cabal know how to fall gloriously when shot in the head .........bam...pooff....phhkkhkhkhkh !
That kind of stuff reinvigorated the play sessions with smiles back on where they belonged :) !

Then came the strikes, something that's still my go-to place for fun and then, after month of not being able to form a group came the raid :O

 The Vault of Glass !



Oh, hell yeah ! The feeling of wonder restored beyond expectations, we followed our leader "HarshadB" like hobbits would follow Gandalf into the unknown! Each step taken as told..."Don't worry, jump down"....."Stop !"....."Crouch"....."Hide from the white ones"...."follow me" ! I was a wide-eyed boy again :^) , a little child filled with wonder as the rabbit hole (literally) kept getting deeper and deeper ! "Those are Oracles,this is the Relic, one portal is the past and one is the future", shouts of "I am blind!" "shoot him now !"........I was lapping it all up like a hungry boy let loose in the toy store of his dreams ! I was ecstatic and, like a perfect Hobbit, when "djsinghaero" told me there's a hidden chest beyond Atheon which only the first timers can see, a blatant lie, I immediately jumped over to my death ! :^)

I was in awe, I was in reverence of Destiny and Bungie ! It was one of the most memorable gaming time of my life , up there with Journey !



....and it lasted for a while.Once it was all done, I kept playing for the loot, the exotics, the Gjallarhorn and the fun the game was, including the PvP(however much lag it may have, it does have the needed ingredient: fun) ! But over time, as the surprises and awe faded away and I had my Hawkmoons and Gjallarhorns,  I turned my eye towards the world of Destiny.....only to find none ! 

Then it started snapping:

I mean..... where is the Fantasy of the world? When Bungie initially revealed Destiny as a concept, the world, the fantasy was huge, and even in the final game the way each place is well named , it all hints towards a very strong mythos. 
But where is all of it? Where is the reason to fight? Where is the context? Where are the people who need saving ? 

Something as simple as , Why is the "Valley of Kings" on Mars called the Valley of Kings?  Or Why are we, a group of Exo, Awoken and Humans, going together in this battle against the Hive, Vex and the Fallen? Why are the Exo and Awoken even interested in it? cos the Queen doesn't seem to be and we have no idea where the Exos came from and thats me, my Warlock is an Exo and I have no idea who he is ! I know the game went through some development hell back then, but it been an year since release and we should now be treated to a proper game ! Heck, Witcher 2 got a totally new opening cut-scene months later because the devs felt it was needed and this is supposed to be a 10 year haul of a franchise and we don't get a proper beginning or basis for the fight !
......and Who are we saving? Humans in that slum under the Traveller that we never ever visit? What are they doing there all day?


Who is that Speaker who has nothing to do at all? He has no role I can tell? I have never seen one human from the city, has anyone seen any human we need to save? I am at the tower, I take orders from a broadcasting robot, I go out into the designated areas, do what the broadcasts say and I come back into the tower. 

That's my Destiny ? My Legend ?


The story quests provided no context at all either,except for "Shoot! Its the bad guys!" and the DLCs just keep adding new Bad guys to shoot, albeit in the same old places. I have recently been getting interested in FFXIV and even Elder Scrolls Online and these games provide tons of unique story content before asking you to jump into Dungeons (Strikes in Destiny) and you can stay engaged with unique content for months before you start redoing the missions for grinding.

Dear Bungie, Where is the world of Destiny? Please spare me the Grimoire cards Bungie. I am a book lover and I have read all the books of the Witcher series but..... it did not serve me a videogame when I bought a book, nor did it serve me a book when I bought Witcher 3. There is a difference, right? 
The godforsaken Grimoire cards!

If I want to read a book on Destiny's universe I would buy and love it too, if its good, but I didn't spend $100 to read flash cards on my PC ! I spent them to live in a world full of wonders , forge my own legend in it and there is none in Destiny ! 


House of Wolves: The promised DLC to solve this exact problem !



This was supposed to be the saviour of the fantasy, the story, but it did nothing at all ! Its still the same ol', same ol'.Why is my Queen not angry at me(an awoken) for not serving her but instead serving a Speaker of the humans? And all those mentions of many Houses of Wolves, I got nothing out of it. Skolas is the new bad guy and all other new bad guys are clones of the older bad guys. "Kill them all ! " That's all I got from it because all the past events Ms. Petra keeps referring to while describing missions to me, they have never been told to me by Destiny before.....ever !
             So, how do I care if a certain Fallen Captain clone with a yellow bar on his head has fought in the Great War of AwesomeTreachery? What war, who fought.......never heard of it, never been told ! Oh, maybe my Ghost knows as usual, but he is silent this time....maybe the speaker at the tower would know....nope, he just sells some piece of cloth and arm bands !...........what are you doing Bungie?

So, it all made for no context to me.

 "Get a Scorch cannon and shoot the rest: That's House of Wolves for me !"

 and for all of us out there actually !

 Same problem with the new playable activities:
Prison of Elders: 


Why is there no context in POE at all? We aren't even trapped in a prison by someone's treachery and trying to escape, instead we are just in there playing gladiator for Variks ! Why the hell, may I ask ? The Queen never asked for Gladiatorial events, she asked for help from the Guardians to defeat the Fallen.
 Just to make a point about context, why can't I be escaping out of a prison while finding tougher enemies as I go? Why can't each round instead be about escaping an area, blowing up a wall to get to the next, finding a key from a special target to move on and ending up in cells with tougher enemies untill we reach the boss and escape the prison? It  doesn't change anything, we can still have the same objectives as now, but it changes everything. Now, there is a reason for doing it all, there is a story to it all that fits inside the universe we are fighting for,  not disjointed levels that need clearing of enemies ! Now, its an actual event happeneing in the current history of Destiny. It makes a difference, we are not playing Pong here, Bungie, are we? :-/

Trials of Osiris:

Who the hell is he, the Osiris? Why is he giving out Egyptian headsets that belong more to a costume party than Destiny? Is he a religious fanatic, cos his servant is a "Brother" Vance surrounded by Candles? Why has he organised this event? What purpose does it serve in the overarching (lack of?) story of the Destiny universe? 
Stop checking messages Dude, we are angry here !

.....and for all things spoken and said why the hell is he on The Reef that belongs to the Queen of Awoken? Mr. Vance isn't an awoken from what I can see ! Is the Queen sharing profits with Mr. Osiris from this reality TV fight show of the guardians? I know, its all for fun and everything does not need justification, but going that little extra bit is what its all about ! 

         If I know there is a rogue group of Gaurdians fighting back for mysterious reasons that need to be subdued or if Osiris, the last king of Ancients has an artifact/weapon that can turn the tide against the darkness and Guardians are being tested for being sent to him (Mercury Lighthouse?) then wouldn't this "just-another-MP-Mode" turn into an actual event happening in the Universe? How hard it is to put such context in?


C'mon, Bungie,  HoW content has the same issue that Destiny has had overall.

  Lack of context !

The game is great and the gameplay the best out there, but the gameplay cannot hold on its own forever ! 

Where is the fantasy, Destiny? 
How do I become Legend without a world ?

    I know you will just say 'The Taken King' fixes everything, just like you said House of Wolves will. House of Wolves didn't, it added more activities but it didn't fix the basic issue here, the complete lack of a believable fantasy which we can invest in ! 
                 
After being burnt by it, I am very wary of buying The Taken King and I believe my money can be better spent on a very awesome Hideo Kojima game that month and on a specific Sci-fi game called No Mans Sky after that. And if that doesn't arrive soon, I may just try Final Fantasy XIV instead.

You might say my comparisons are unfair and FFXIV asks you to pay each month to play it(and it ain't a shooter), but then I have also spent $100 on Destiny. With that money I could have bought and played FFXIV for 6 whole months with much larger content and updates and , not to mention, Elder Scrolls Online does not even charge a subscription fee and for the base price $60 I could have had an immense world of my own !

But, lets say this isn't about money, I still can't get over the fact that after putting in $100 and hoping for similar content as other games ,after 2 DLC packs, I am still left with a game which has about less than half the content of a similar format game and has no fresh events regularly which even F2P game Warframe hosts every other week!

I am not optimistic anymore, Bungie ! I think the time has come to put down the rifle and take a break...............

...the problem is...it makes me sad :( ! That's is real problem, that it makes me sad, cos I want to play Destiny, but the game is getting jaded and is revealing its empty-ness as I come any closer. Its a Shiny hollow shell, where my Legend is just a Mirage.............

Save it Bungie !

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hello Games: Where games surpass our imagination !

Needs no introduction, No Mans Sky is every explorer's "dream-come-true" game ! Its one game where it does not matter what happens in there, it does not matter what check-boxes it ticks, all that matters is you, in your little ship and .....the Universe out there !


......... open to you, all encompassing, unimaginably big but yet, for the first time ever, within your reach....in your grasp ! You can, for the first time, just get in your ship and aim for anywhere! Anywhere ! 


...and live the adventures that happen along the way. For once it is literally not about the goal, its all.......I repeat, all about your journey :)......to wherever you want, for however long you want. Whatever "life" you want in this space !

In a way its a journey into your own mind. It asks a question so beautiful :

"What is it that you would do if you could explore the whole Universe ?"

that how can one not be excited about it :^) !!!!

Here is the latest video shedding light on the small team going about making this masterpiece. I cannot imagine the leap they have taken going from making the little levels of (the very fun game) Joe Danger to a galaxy so massive that it might not ever be possible to visit every planet in it !

They seriously need to announce a release date asap ! Explorers, Scientists,Space miners, Pirates, rogues, adventurers.....all aboard, Ahoy :^) !


Monday, July 13, 2015

Metal Gear Solid is immortal !!!! :^(


From the Japanese voice actor of Snake:

"“Kojima Productions was forced to disband, but it appears that the work that the team has been putting their utmost effort into is nearly complete. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I expect it will become their greatest masterpiece. I couldn’t help it. I just wanted to say ‘Kept you waiting, huh?’ (Laughs.) But even if this is the end, Metal Gear Solid is immortal!”


This brings a tear to my eye...... Seriously still wish this is just a major troll from Kojima San and he would bring forth some stupid video and say "Did you rike it?"...... This cannot be real !

:^(

"Snake ! Snaake ! Snaaaaaaaaaake !!!"

Battleborn: Get aside Mr Destiny A new addiction is incoming !

BATTLEBORN !

Nice name, yeah? Well, not really.Generic space marine is what I think of when I hear  Battleborn but I paid attention because it sounded a lot like that awesome amazing super fantastic Miyazaki love called Bloodborne but, calm your horses,  it has nothing to do with it which is sad because anything to do with Bloodborne is most welcome, will be appreciated and devoured till  no more can be devoured ! 
     The similarity of name with the Japanese masterpiece is not the only reason Battleborn caught my attention, in fact, putting aside teh jokes, the real reason is that its being made by Gearbox, the creators of Borderlands franchise and, well, I liked Borderlands 2 quite a bit. The cast of multiple crazy characters and the skill trees combined with the unique art style worked its magic on me back in the day and , in fact, writing this right now makes me wanna re-buy the game for my ps4 to try out the newer characters which were released later as DLCs. Damn it, there goes my money again, I shouldn't be writing stuff at all and should be just posting this kaboom-a-shazaam of bad-assery mixed together with some phonetic crooning of exotic sorts :D .......!

   What you just saw, Ladies and Gentlemen, needs no explanation : its gamingsuace being poured in dollops ! Bring it on Gearbox, let the games begin :) ! Yeah ! all that excitement brewing in me and I haven't even shared the gameplay demo yet. Well, I am not Snake to keep you waiting, here , here :
(That Ratchet and CLank vibe to te banter is unmistake-able)

You know what, I can be that Archer right now :^) and that Vampire Ninja :O : the cast of characters is crackling with energy ! I think Destiny, the only game that actually ever got me "addicted" in the true painful sense of the word is in danger now. I sense a true competitor even if the games are very different from each other. Destiny is following the MMORPG formula while Battleborn wants to tread the MOBA way, both not really committing to the respective genres instead trying to be lighter versions of each. Yet the common element of selling a fantasy of playing as exotic characters mowing down enemies together with your friends while earning yet stronger powers as you play remains at the heart of both .......and that both are aimed at the FPS lovers out there ! 

The competition is real and as far as I am concerned, Battleborn is already in the battle with Destiny for my time. I cannot wait to try it out for myself and see the punches it packs considering I am already getting jaded with the DLC pricing and the direction Bungie is taking with the way they serve content in Destiny. Instead of being a world where regular new events occur, Destiny is more on the lines of fixed content being delivered via DLCs which you keep playing till the next paid DLC arrives. This may have always been what Destiny was 'destined' to be but I perhaps had a different vision of a persistent world where newer events get pushed into the world every week, like Warframe does. I mean whats the point of running your game on servers if you aren't pushing fresh events regularly? Even small missions which change things, like :
"Fallen are taking over cosmodrome...defend it , events lasts till Monday evening."
 Or
"Hunt a special target amidst a massive firefight between hive and fallen on earth. "
Or
" Fight alongside cabal in taking over an area from Vex....some guardian can choose to take Vex side... Events lasts for few hours ! "

 /end_Destiny_rant.  I got carried away but thats how I had imagined Destiny to be. 

So, what does Battleborn do? Battleborn isn't going that way either, instead they are being a MOBA with a co-op campaign. A MOBA is primarily PvP genre, just like League of Legends and DOTA, and I think thats why Gearbox is so focussed on revealing co-op content first to distinguish themselves from regular MOBAs and catering directly to the FPS fans first and foremost. Just like any other MOBA, Battleborn has a wide array of characters, 25 to be specific and Gearbox is making a huge deal out of it and comparing it to Borderlands 2's 4 but, to be honest, that comparison is just misleading. This is a MOBA-esque game and 25 is not over the top for a MOBA !( C'mon Gearbox, get your act together ;) !) But when they are as crazy and imaginative as Gearbox makes them, then that count of 25 sure packs a punch !

This difference from Destiny, yet sharing the similar fantasy is what excites me actually. This game can be heaven with a bunch of friends, just like Destiny is... but with 25 characters to choose from and each match letting you level your character up differently, there is a LOT of builds to try out and a LOT of fresh gameplay to be savored. Considering that we are having so much fun with just the three classes, technically six, in Destiny, imagine having 25 characters with multiple skill trees which can be changed every mission... ....I see smiles plastered on my face :^)! I hear cackles of laughter while failing and victory dances when the classes just work together ! Who doesn't want to be a Vampire Ninja, for gods sake ! I know I do ! :^D and did I mention a four handed witch yet , oh and a Mecha that can fly up in the air and shoot tracking missiles ala "insert-favourite-anime-name"  !!!

.....and just look at the art style  ! 
In-Game screenshot !

My heart screams :OKAMI !!! :)

Although I am not totally convinced by the art but the mix of Diablo-esque art with Sci-fi with Ratchet n Clank tendencies looks fantastic to me. The explosions are what caught my fancy instantly, they look hand drawn and pulled straight out of Anime ! Apparently the character designer from Borderlands has the reins of Art direction in this one and he has been allowed to go as crazy as he wants and though something feels off about it IMO, it still feels "alien" in a very new way. Its unsettling, unfamiliar to look at and I guess that's the premise of the game. Its the place left after all star systems have died and your warriors fight the last battle of the universe in this far-away corner of the universe ! A world alien to all aliens too, an inviting yet unsettling place for adventure. SOunds and looks equally cool. Hoping it gets mroe polished by the time beta arrives and more importantly, hoping to jump into the beta myself. Sony hasn't really been giving us the betas that were promised with PS+ subscriptions !

Here's the official website, btw: https://battleborn.com/

The promise here is huge and the possibilities immense.
I just hope the MOBA influences don't dilute the fun for me. Battleborn has a 2015 release window.Here's hoping for a excting end to this wonderful gaming year of 2015 !

Oh, edit: Here's the latest interview of th eproducer, much needed tons of info in there, enjoy:




Sunday, July 12, 2015

Halo 5 Vidoc: A Hero Reborn.....really HALO???

Fellow Spartans, I think its pretty well know now that a new Vidoc titles "A Hero Reborn" was released by 343i recently showcasing quite a bit of new footage from Halo 5 as well detailing out their plans for the direction they are taking with the campaign of Halo 5.

Here's the vidoc for your viewing pleasure:

Now, I know its supposed to make us go gaga and over our heads with frenzy but .

........Call me cynical or whatever, but that vidoc does not look like Halo to me at all!

The armour and environment design , the colours, the art direction is so so damn different now that it could be some other game all together. Even the Master Chief silhouette is so changed that its hardly recognisable. IMO, they went too far already.

I don't feel excited :( , I am not angry or anything but I feel a gem is lost. I used to wait with baited breath for all HALO Vidocs and ads as they were all so amazing. This ......not at all. They are changing things for the sake of changing things. Its as if they want to make sure they leave their mark on the HALO franchise. They seem to believe they are bigger than HALO in this HALO project. Its not about HALO, its about our HALO and Bungie's HALO.

or maybe I am just crazy !

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review: Rights, wrongs.......and all the fun in between !

(This review was written for www.cgtantra.com and is published here :http://cgtantra.com/forums/showthread.php?t=36656 . I am posting here just for personal non-commercial archiving purposes.)

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
 Rights, wrongs …… and all the fun in between !
This review of the ps4 version of the game is 100% story-wise and gameplay-wise  spoiler-free to keep your gaming goodness intact while playing this masterpiece.

“I am Geralt of Rivia”, this statement outlines the world of The Witcher 3 very appropriately. How, you may ask? Well, because this statement is true, yet false. Yes, you play as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher, a monster hunter by trade but Geralt, as he proudly introduces himself, is not from Rivia and even his slight Rivian accent is a fake, a fact not well known among even his friends, and this same theme of dubiousness runs throughout the whole game. Nothing here is what it seems like!  No character you meet here is what the world or first impressions would make you believe. Every place, person, incident, decision or its subsequent result has another layer of motive, doubt, apprehension or misunderstanding! ………and this makes for an enchanting, exhilarating ride through a game world so well made that it is difficult to find an equal in our recent times !
   So, my friend, if you fancy yourself a tale well told, then come! Come, for a Witcher roams our lands! A Witcher whose tales may well be passed on, for they are worthy, brave, infallible as a Hero’s feats and yet unsure, aching and imperfect as our own feeble deeds. Come, for a fire burns and tales flow for all…. Geralt of Rivia has arrived ! 




The Adventure:

In a world co-inhabited by sorcerers, dwarves, elves, beasts, witches, werewolves and humans CD Projekt Red kicks off the adventure with a high quality CGI cut-scene that gets the ball rolling from the get-go. You, as Geralt , are introduced to being a Witcher, in exceptionally beautiful graphics to boot, and are set on the main quest immediately to go find Cirilla, a young girl tied to Geralt by destiny, a child-surprise as they say, if we go by the detailed mythos of the Novels set in the Witcher universe. Let’s just say she is a daughter to Geralt. What ensues is a series of quests to track some important returning characters from previous games (and novels) which takes you through a highly detailed hand crafted world full of side quests so good that they can put some full games to shame !


 I am not exaggerating here, as these short stories from the side-quests evoke empathy towards the side-characters in simple but such effective ways that a lot of major full releases lack. Also, true to the game’s theme, every quest you undertake can end up in you doing exactly the opposite of what you intended while starting the quest. Heroes turn out to be equally villainous while tormentors turn out to be victims of the actions of the preachers of good or simple plain survival instincts of others. This makes the open world come alive with a magic which even the best games of the genre (Skyrim included) fall severely short of !

      You develop an attachment towards the detailed world as you progress through the game. Anticipation runs high as you explore each area, as you find insignificant items and seemingly mundane treasure hunts bring forth highly emotive stories in the wake of their discovery. I will not mention any story detail here to not spoil the surprise one feels while playing the game, but it suffices to say that even some optional treasure hunts paint tragic tales of deceit, misunderstood morals and lonely penances. Seemingly violent Witcher contracts, quests to kill monsters for cash, evolve into quests of re-uniting timeless lovers and other times turn into moral arguments about the right to live, of survival instinct of other species v/s seemingly irrefutable piousness in human acts of indiscriminate expansion and the desire to usurp the whole world.

The opposing perceptions of right and wrong, when viewed from opposing perspectives, is a theme that runs through everything in this game. Characters, quests, hunts and even banter among NPCs question the right of the righteous and the wrongs in the wrongdoings. This is not a world you will forget upon shutting down the game. Instead, you will find yourself narrating these dilemmas to friends and family and thinking about your actions in your waking and sleeping hours. In time, you will start living as Geralt, the ultimate goal of any RPG ! 

The Combat:

This rich, lush world and quest system is ably supported by a robust combat system, which frankly brings a breath of fresh air and immediacy to a world full of  RPGs with slow, clunky or repetitive combat. Combat in the Witcher requires you to think on the feet and juggle between its three arms of Swordplay, Signs (ala magic) and Alchemy. Oh, and bombs, never forget the ever useful bombs! This brings enough variety to fights to not feel repetitive and enough possibilities to win a fight your way. This caters to the very core concept of being a Witcher, of slaying monsters and sharing those stories with your friends. The fact that there are 5 signs, with equal number of alternate modes, two sword attacks which upgrade to 4 (along with 3 passive abilities), multiple potions which you learn along the way and bombs which you upgrade to better versions and a mutagen system to add boosts to your style of play builds up into a system which lets you add your personality to each fight, lets you build your own fighting style and lets you have encounters which you can live to tell tales of.  Add to that a very well explained and the incredibly useful bestiary in the game which details out the origins and the weaknesses of each monster type, (which must be exploited in order to win a fight, otherwise you might find yourself at a loss in the fight)  you have a well-built combat system which holds the test of time and lasts you through the 100 hours you may very well spend in this game. 


Button mashing your sword can get you only so far and very early-on the game makes it clear that a Witcher needs his kaboom-a-shazaam to jazz up his combat or pack his bags and leave. You are free to upgrade any aspect as you level up, but a very clever slot-system for your skill-tree makes it clear that you can focus on maxing out only one of the three disciplines over the course of the game while keeping a second discipline leveled up for support. To put in numbers, you have around 70 skills you can level up but you can slot only 12 at a time pushing you to make hard choices about your play-style and hone your Witcher towards a particular specialisation. During my playthrough, I focused on leveling up my Magic signs (because magic is the coolest form of self-expression in this world :^)) in such a way to make them almost always ready-to-fire and maxed out my light sword attack for some knuckle-to-the-bone interludes between all the fireworks !   My combat style was further boosted by the Griffin armour set which boosted my sign intensity even further making sure when I spewed fire from my fingers, I had roasted monster meat for dinner ! There are three such sets, with very specific bonuses and handicaps and multitudes of other armours which provide various boosts.

In my time with The Witcher 3, which is north of a 100 hours, I was always excited for the next big fight, and not wary of it, and was still trying to think up new cross ability combos, which speaks volumes for the combat system when usually combat in most RPGs end up feeling repetitive and random. Popping a magic shield, then freezing the enemies only to light them up with my fire-streaming souped-up Igni sign and then letting them hack you to their fill, as you laugh maniacally, because every hit they strike regenerates your health : Priceless !

The Devil is in the details:
…….and in letting the player be! I cannot explain to you the joys of stealing  treasures from right under the noses of high levelled monsters, one who can kill you with one hit, and running off with the loot on your sturdy horse …….and the fact that the game lets you have it without penalties if you can pull it off ! There are no “magical game barriers’ which stop you from doing what you want to, it’s a living breathing open world, for real this time. I sneaked into Novigrad, a major metropolis in the game, long before the story wanted me to and add to that I sneaked in without a mandatory pass required to enter the city…..and the game just let me be and responded properly by opening up the connected story quests for me.
No reloading back, no messages or “you cannot do this” mumbo-jumbo to break the immersion. I was in the city I shouldn’t be in, that was my achievement and the game acknowledged it and let me progress on from there. Such moments, of which there were many, make your time invested in the game  feel even more worthwhile. You feel even more invested in your story of Geralt and the Geralt you have molded with your hands.

Usually such freedom of gameplay comes at the cost of a lackluster or barren world, but there are no compromises in the Witcher3. The world is unanimously the most beautiful open world you will set your eyes on (which you can travel by foot, steed or boats) and each area is lovingly handcrafted to pertain a sense of place.
The Time of Day and Weather systems are perfectly tweaked by CDProjekt Red to make sure each moment, be it dusk or dawn, sun or storm, looks awe inspiring and gorgeous ! That share button on your ps4 should and will get spammed a lot. In fact, the game’s beauty made me re- realize the meaning of “stop and stare”, literally ! 

The devilish detailing extends beyond just graphics, though. Each NPC you find in the little villages located around the map has a name, a profession and usually a side quest he/she stars in. Each NPC you pass usually has something to say about you, the current political situation, some quest located in that area or on war and its wake ! If you check out the Notice board at each village or town, which lets you pick up side quests, you will notice little stories for almost each of these NPCs in that village. 

The detailing spills over into dialogue options and the decisions you make too. Even seemingly disconnected quests have repercussions which affect your options in other quests or story quests. Friends or foes you make over time can suddenly make events pop-in out of nowhere affecting your story and gameplay in some other part of the game. It is difficult to tell how deep this rabbit hole goes, but I was pleasantly surprised multiple times in my game when thugs or help poured in from long forgotten characters and conversations.
Talking of conversations, you have multiple choices which you can make while talking to other NPCs, but contrary to other RPGs who offer black and white choices, Witcher 3 differs again. Not only are the choices more like real life, ie. ambiguous and unsure, but the dialogue also let you back out and change directions cleverly if the response from the NPC makes you change your mind ! Even during romances, I was able to commit, half-commit and then even back out of a relationship within a conversation scene making it feel…..surreal !

In no other games have I felt so compelled to think well before committing to a dialogue choice because in The Witcher 3, every decision you make has tangible repercussions which the game clearly feeds back to you making every decision or dialogue choice important and dear to your heart. I have found myself discussing my available choices with friends before taking decisions as many a times a seemingly just decision can later leave you with a terrible feeling of guilt. As I said before, in this world, nothing is what it seems !
Oh, and did I mention the humour ! The game has the same sense of humour that the novels have and this is one game where more than half of my time was spent smiling while playing the game. The amount of love put into crafting this game is simply staggering!


Conclusion:

To put it simply: This is RPG open-world gaming at its finest! Un-missable, un-skippable and one where your time spent in the game isn’t a pastime, it’s a purposeful adventure into your own conscience, your own sense of right and wrong and your ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. You might well never be a hero in The Witcher 3, but you can be the one who cares ! Whether what you do resonates with others or makes you a monster in their eyes is debatable and unpredictable, just like in real life.
If you are an Action RPG fan you will be ably satiated with this game and if, like me, you crave the tales of wonder, you will be in heaven ! Just don’t rush with the main story, do every side quest that pops up, find hidden areas and take time with the Witcher contracts as those side activities are where the meat of the game is. The main storyline is the thread that binds the world together but doing a Witcher’s deeds in this wind swept world is where all the magic happens!  For this is one lush garden of little wide eyed tales, pick the ones that feel ripe to you and play them as you live the life of a Witcher !

Pros:

+Best Side quests in a game, ever.
+Amazing Fan service. Novels and previous games are constantly referred to in meaningful ways.
+The best living breathing open world, sense of adventure is un-paralleled
+Humour and the branching dialogue
+ Combat and leveling up systems
+Superb graphics
+Decisions have surprising effects

Cons:

-Main story can feel aimless in the beginning.


Verdict: “Reviewer’s Choice: A Must buy! Do not miss this game if adventure runs in your blood “

(*all screenshots taken with the Share button on a PS4 system)












Friday, February 14, 2014

Christmas Magic+ splashes on the front page of Desura !

After debuting exclusively on Indie Royale's Boxing Day Bundle, L'il Pono's adventure: Christmas Magic+ is now permanently available for purchase on Desura for Windows, Linux and Mac. A single purchase entitles players to all three versions of the game. Also, this special edition includes the OST and the beautiful Concept Art Bundle with the game, making it the best version of the game out there ! We found Desura to be the best platform for our PC release as it is the one stop shop for anything indie and fun !

Here's our little gem shining bright on the front page of Desura:


Here's a link to the game, it will lead you directly to Desura:

Christmas Magic +


Its a joyous Valentine's Day for us and L'il Pono as he continues his journey to spread his magic on all platforms possible :) ! Hoping this brings Pono's magical adventure another step closer to your fingertips. If any of you had been holding out till now, now's there's no reason not to jump in ! Linux, Mac or Windows, whichever OS you play on, Christmas Magic is ready to be dived into !