Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Battleborn Early Review: Unabashed Fun for all !

Battleborn being a MOBA like game with long progression system, I am calling this an "early review" as I have spent around 15 hours in it by now playing mostly the PvE mode. Such games can take a month of play to see it all and I will update this review if my thoughts change during the course of further play.

"Fun ! 
mindless fun ! "


That is how I feel about Battleborn after spending a good few hours in it !

......and if you, like me, like fun games then I implore you to try this game out ! It seems to have enough depth to keep you glued for quite a while, while also doling out immediate fun in dollops as soon as you begin ! While it looks pretty intimidating from the far, what about its 25 characters you can play as and multiple levels of progression and completely new modes of PvE and PvP play, once I dived in, I realised it provided instant gratification while promising fun for a long haul ! 

Honestly , I am not yet sure how long it can last with the kind of content in there, but if there is one thing I am very sure of now is that the game is hell of a lot of fun :^) ! ! !  In fact, so much that I am currently totally hooked to its PvE co-op missions and it has consumed all of my leisure time ....and weaned me away from Uncharted 4 Multiplayer, which by no means is a small feat !

Play it the way you want :

I think what sets Battleborn apart from other FPS games is the fact that you can play it the way you want. Although the introduction puts you in the shoes of a character with a gun, you can play this game as a brawler, a magicians spellfest or as a sword and sorcery fantasy title  !

How, you may ask ! 

Well, thats where the splendid cast of 25 playable characters comes in ! Each character has its own special unique play-style and you can choose any character in each game session you play, no holds barred !
The fun starts when you realise that every character is not a shooter in here and in fact, my favourite of them all is a dual-katana wielding Vampire named Rath ! How cool is that ! His move set is completely melee based, as the description suggests, and he can unleash a katana tornado attack where he just spins with his swords spread out decimating any hapless minion unfortunate enough to be caught in his vicinity !

Similarly, there are characters that can fly about, characters which can shoot missiles, characters with a sword and shield, characters with Bow n Arrow, etc. etc. You name the kind of character you want to play and I am pretty sure one of the 25 heroes will fill that part ! This is very refreshing when playing the story missions as just the choice of character can change the flow of the mission in new ways and make the same mission feel new, slow, hectic or tactical ! 

So, How do I unleash my Heroics! 

The game has a dedicated PvE and a PvP aspect to it. PvE offers 5 player co-op in about 8 missions and the PvP offers about 3 modes which range from Capture-the-Flag like mode to proper MOBA modes. Personally I have not played any PvP in this game yet and wouldn't comment on that, but have spent more than 10 hours in the PvE. Each match, whether co-op or competitve, has the common element of levelling up your character as the match progresses and gaining new abilities making your character grow within each mission. This progression is reset upon the end of a mission or match and it might feel new or weird to see your character restart from Level 1 in each mission, but trust me, that feeling goes away pretty soon and you feel the rush of you character gaining power with each kill in every match !

 That lends a very action focussed, gung-ho feel and thrill to each mission you play and with 25 different characters to play as, with each character having multiple combinations of skills you can choose according to the situation,  things stay fresh and in fact require quick tactical thinking each time you go for an upgrade in your skill tree.

This also makes sure you are not stuck with a particular choice of skills and can re-spec and try out different skill combinations each time you play. I found this system very engaging and very rewarding while upping the thrill of the missions as decisions need to be made in thick of the moment and can alter your character completely.

Its Mayhem, ma co-op Mates ! :

The PvE story missions let 5 people play together and thats where I have found myself spending most of my time. Missions have a unique flavour to them with wide open areas and a mix of hectic frenetic in-the-face gameplay intermixed with resource collection and tactical tower defense like elements.

Whether you are a lone wolf who gives no damn except to cause some mayhem or you are the worrisome one who develops sweaty brows at the sight of a mismanaged team, the game welcomes you all. In a group of five, there is enough space for that one or two guys who are there just to blow baddies up ! Just choose a tank-ing hero and go crazy in the wide levels designed to gratify your need for carnage.

Lone wolf be doing his own thing ! 

...and the team-player kinds can always be the support, the snipers or the healers backing up the carnage with tactically placed turrets, well timed super abilities and a constant supply of health and armour. The Tower-defence like mechanics really satisfy the tactician inside me and the currency used to build those traps and turrets is found all over the battlefield. So, if you like to be the sneaky guy who is hard to catch but causes trouble all over, just run around, get them shards and place traps and turrets all around the bad-guys and revel as your hard work pays off !
You will find you He-Man style cartoons time and again; Very refreshing !

The shards are also required to activate or power-up the gear that you have equipped on your character. So, do remember to collect the shards in between the action and , honeslty, the game does a good job of guiding you around shards during the missions. My strategy always seems to rest on activating all of my gear first and then focusing on spending shards on defensive placements.

This zeal of the game to let each guy have his own fun is very very appealing and very effective to create a order in the chaos that ensues in each of its missions. Just know what your role is or what your hero specializes in and go do your thing ! The team will automatically get the help they need and the characters will balance off each other to keep the guns going even long after the "missions successful" screen has flashed :^D!

Multi pronged Progression system: 

This game makes you feel rewarded, no matter what! Just look at this mission failure screen,even a failure is celebrated with fanfare here :^D

Jokes aside, the game has multi threaded progression system where you make progress one way or the other as long as you are playing, and , like I mentioned before, the game rewards you for whatever you do.
There are multiple ways you progress in this game like:

  • The overall Commander Rank of your profile which leads to unlocking more characters, loadout slots, etc.
  • Each Hero you play as also has its own individual rank which can be earned playing more often as that Hero. This leads to unlocking new skills within that character's skill tree and are very useful. Also leads to unlocking cosmetic items for that character.
  • Challenges: in game challenges can make you earn bonuses or can lead to early unlocks of certain characters.
  • In game Gear Drops: Defeating major enemies or finding loot-crate-thingies can drop Gear for your characters which can be equipped for another set of bonuses. Gear have a rarity system like any good RPG and higher quality gear can make a difference in higher difficulty missions.

During my playtime, I have seen that there is always something to look forward to and you keep feeling that urge and a constant nudge from the game to play another match, just one more before you retire for the day :^) !


If the initial 15 hours are anything to go by this is a very fun shooter/RPG/MOBA hybrid game which can be played for a daily dose of adrenaline rush or for an evening of tactical play sessions with friends. It has that quality of letting you enjoy the mayhem with randoms or plan a meticulous victory with your friends. Its a balance not many games have been able to strike ! Battleborn does it a confidence that comes from Gearbox's previous co-op outing with the Borderlands series.

If you are looking for a fun stress-busting action game which is unique and has tons of variety then look no further. Battleborn is here at your service ! Whatever you do, do not play it alone ! The game is made for co-op, and just like The Division before it, it is most fun in co-op.


  • Super fun, super rewarding gameplay
  • Splitscreen co-op !!!
  • High-octane mindless action
  • Tense Tactical Action
  • Play it the way you want
  • Multi pronged Progression system
  • More content promised by Gearbox


  • Lag can affect melee characters more than a ranged ones
  • Missions are selected by voting in PvE, which can lead to repetition

Friday, May 6, 2016

Dark Souls III: Easiest Souls Game yet?

Lets get one thing out of the way right from the start: this is NOT an article about bashing Dark Souls 3.I love the game and am paying it like a madman. It is one of the best games of 2016, even with Uncharted 4 around the corner. Now that that is out of the way, let us begin ! 

So, like any avid rabid Souls-Borne fan, I have been playing Dark Souls 3 exclusively for the past few weeks and this feeling keeps creeping up again and again that this might be the easiest Souls game yet ! I keep trying to shake it off, but it resurfaces every other hour and I can't help but feel that it is an intentional change by From Software and not because I have gotten better at playing these masterpieces over time. It is not a bad thing necessarily, as people who feel intimidated by the difficulty of these games can now try the series out without feeling.....well, intimidated !

This is the most welcoming and accessible souls game out there, for sure ! So, if you have been waiting to take a plunge, read on how this is the easiest of them all to take a plunge into....and if you still find it difficult, I list a few simple ways the game provides to make it feel even easier for your pansy pleasures ^_^ !

Wake up, O Ashen one :

See, in a souls game, however much you may level yourself up, a slight misstep causes death and failure and a large health pool and beefed up weapons do make every game easy after a while, but the push-pull battle mechanics, the perfect timing of dodges to use those invincibility frames and every move of your weapon ingrained into your muscle memory have always been a defining factor in winning every 'one-on-one' or a mob fight.Umm...... Not so much in Dark Souls III !

Somewhere in DS3, I have a feeling I am having it way easier than before. My number of deaths are minuscule, paltry, unnoticeable on a Souls scale and I am getting by being careless in exploring, not measuring every step and letting curiosity take over blatantly ! My reckless decisions are hardly ever punished get the drift : though enjoying it like hell, somewhere I am finding it EASY .....that's heresy for a souls game :^P ! 

So, I sat down with my brains in my hands and decided to note down what exactly is helping me out here and letting me be a normal gamer, rather than a sulking Dark Knight. This is by no means a definitive list of features that make it easier, but I think they cover most of the gameplay aspects making it feel that way. Feel free to add more, if I have missed some completely!

Way simpler tutorial area: 

This isn't really a complaint about difficulty, as it passes very soon, but the opening area, which sets up the tone of the game, completely lacks the mystery and dread of the previous souls games.....and, well, the difficulty too. There are no confusing pathways or hidden threats or even a general sense of mystery to this environment. Nor are there any super tough enemies to run away from ! 
Yeah, its still very pretty ! 
 Bright sun-kissed-open-cheerful landscape isn't something you expect from a "Dark" souls game -_- ! Atleast, the Firelink Shrine saves the day by appearing pretty quickly and offering some mystique and hidden paths ! But yea, compared to the "Prison cell" and "Things Betwixt" of DS 1 and 2, this is the simplest, most spoonfed opening area of a Souls game lacking all fear, dread or mystique.

Bonfires are too close to each other:

 Yup, thats true. I never thought I would say such a thing, its a relief actually, but its also a problem, you see: there is no real risk of losing your souls in DS III unless you completely (very very unlikely) miss a bonfire location ! Bonfires are very frequent in this game, almost like checkpoints in other games. The dread of wandering around with thousands of souls and a sliver of a health-bar, with no more Estus to save you...haven't really felt that much in my playtime with the game. Except for one specific time where I wandered around bat crazy, not knowing what to do or where to go, I haven't really risked losing my souls for the want of a bonfire....and even in that particular case I found a shortcut within 100 meters of the bonfire ! I was just not looking hard enough.

 Early levels of the game have a bonfire every 5 mins and even later in the game, if you get a feeling  that the last enemy you fought was a tough one, you can be sure there will be a bonfire or a shortcut right around the corner. This takes away that very quintessential dread of playing a souls game and the relief one felt upon finding a bonfire......and in the process also makes the game pretty easy ! You don't really need to worry much now, just keep moving forward. You will find a bonfire waiting for you just about the time you end up using your estus flasks or even before that happens.

Pyromancy kills the crap out of everything: 

For the 30 hours I have spent inside this World of Lothric, I haven't held a shield for even a second.....which is good, great, awesome ! Finally, I can be a deadly pyromancer lighting up the enemies with glee ! ....but that also means that if you choose the pyromancer class while creating your character, like I did, then you will have a very easy time with most of the tougher enemies of the game, including doing quite a massive amount of damage to bosses without getting near them at all !
The rule of Fire !
 In fact, if you want to have it easy on yourself , I would say just go for Pyromancy right from the start.  You can change your playstyle later once you level up enough with the help of that fire in your palm ! The damage and the range of your standard fireball is pretty high right from the start and you can rely on taking out quite a lot of enemies just by using fire. The fact that most of the early game enemies are weak to fire helps a lot and bends the odds even more in your favour !

Add to that the frequent bonfires to refill your FP, it means you almost always have fireballs at your disposal and can kite enemies from far, safe and away from their hit zones ! This made me so lazy in the beginning of the game that I didn't even bother to learn all the moves of my trusty I had a even more trusty fireball at my disposal :^)

Ember Ember everywhere: 

So lets say you are not a pyromancer and you do not have keen eyes to spot those Bonfires everywhere, worry not fellow knight, there is still this little mechanic which provides a huge help throughout the game: its called Ember !
Ember grants a longer health bar !
On the surface, Ember is pretty much what humanity was in the previous game, albeit a few differences. Consuming Ember provides one with a HUGE  health bar, like a temporary level boost, which is a complete and massive life saver. It is like having a boost of say 5 extra levels until your next death. It means more mistakes are forgiven and one can be more sure of reaching the next bonfire.
Ember grants a loooooooooong health bar ! :O
 It also entails the ability to summon other players for co op in your game to help you out. As was with Humanity, you lose your embered state when you die. All of this sounds familiar to Souls players, but there is a difference in DS3. You see Ember, unlike humanity, is not rare to fact, it is everywhere ! So much so, that it is pretty much possible to play the whole game in embered state !  
This changes everything. Once I realised that Ember wasn't rare at all, I started consuming ember each time I died just to get that super boost to my health bar and with that humongous a health bar , one doesn't feel much need to be scared, now does one !
Long health bars means selfie times even during Boss Fights :P !

....and even if you run out of embers, do not fret, cos the hand-maiden in the shrine will sell you some embers for a paltry amount of souls ! The number of embers she sells is limited but frankly, between bosses, random drops and the Handmaiden selling them, I doubt you will ever run out of embers, making the game that much easier again !

Embers light up the co op:

 ....and Ember again ! Once you have consumed ember, you can summon other players for co-op in your game and the co op turns the tide in this game. With a party of three, you can roll through areas faster than a fighter jet on nitrous ! So, if you feel you do not have the nerves of steel to go through this game alone, fret not, just summon two more people via there summon signs and have a blast, like you would in any game ! Its a ton of fun !
Knight Fight !

All this is great and super fun to do, but the fact that you have enough ember to play co op all the time can steamroll through the game all the time ! If Ember was a bit rarer, it would have been a strategic decision to use it only at the right time, but in my game I have always had a dozen to spare. So, I find myself going for co-op as much as possible....its the cheapest, easiest and most harmless way of making the game easier. There is nothing that three Ashen ones cannot handle together :^)!

Free souls for all :

Just like summoning others into your game, you can also join others' games to help them out in their world......and the game rewards you for it. The biggest fear of losing all your souls upon dying is the defining factor of all souls games, but that fear is removed for you if you help out others via co-op. So, what that means is that no matter what clumsy way you die in while helping someone, you will always come back with all your souls intact to level yourself up !

Its basically a free levelling up tool at your disposal, a rare aspect of a souls game which has NO PENALTY at all ! So, like any normal gamer, if you still feel that this game is hard, just go for fun co-op sessions in others games, bring back souls and level up your character really high before tackling your own demons ! and did I mention it requires no Ember or any other consumable at all? Which means you can do it as much as you want ! Voila, easy mode unlocked !

Secret of Dancer of the Boreal Valley:

Finally, there is way to get almost 50,000 souls very early in the game by defeating a very late game boss with the help of an NPC summon. It can level you up almost 11-12 times in a go granting you a huge advantage over the game. Though it is executed like a glitch, the game's lore suggests that it s not a glitch but an intentional event added into the game by From Software. The fact that they are not patching it either confirms that it is part of the many secrets inside the game.

This "secret" is best described in this video by "Naamtar", who discovered it and shared with all. It is very easy to pull off, but needs to be done very early in the game. Watch this video for a complete rundown:

With those 50k souls in your kitty, you will pretty over levelled for the next area and you can keep the momentum going from there on making the whole journey just a tad bit easier.

There you have it ! 

With the in game mechanics regarding Bonfires and Embers making it easier than before, you can make it even easier and newb-friendly by using pyromancy, getting help from co-operators and levelling up by helping others and using the Boreal secret.

These options are intentional game design choices made by From Software and the game can easily feel like the easiest Souls game, if you use them well. If you are a seasoned fan of the series, you may not like some of the changes made by From Software and for that , I say, except for the frequent bonfires, its all optional and can be avoided for a hardcore play experience.

But if you were always intrigued by the series and had never dared to take the plunge due to the percieved high difficulty these games offer, feel free to jump in now as Dark Souls 3 is the most accessible of them all and yet retains the quality, mystery, addictiveness and charm that makes a Souls-Borne game absolutely unique ! Join in and let it suck your life away :^) !

......and if you see an Orange summon sign, summon the phantom, we might just kick some ash together ! (pun intended ^_^)