Just A Quick Go: Dead Cells

After my 20-25th death in Dead Cells, I thought I’d take a break and explain why I keep chucking myself at deaths cruel embrace. I’ve had my eye on Dead Cells for a while now but always been hesitant to fully jump on the hype train. The graphics looked amazing, the combat looked fluid and fast. It looked like a fantastic game but I kept hearing that word being thrown around, which kind of put me off it. That amalgamation of two brands, Metroidvania.

Before you brandish the pitchforks, I don’t hate those games. I prefer Metroid Prime to the 2D games though. I tend to fall off the 2D Metroid games at a quick rate. Except for Metroid Fusion, that was a brilliant game. Castlevania I haven’t really played except Castlevania on the N64 which, even in my 10 year old mind, I knew that was a dud rental. After that I never touched it again until the DS games, which I liked. But with both series there is always a point, where after hours into their respective labyrinths I think ‘Where do I go now?’. These games are designed so that you’ll find a pathway but will need a certain tool/key/skill to go that way. The problem is I always end up forgetting where that was and I just lose interest fast when I’m finding dead end after dead end. Dead Cells alleviates this issue for me by not only having a map that has pictures for my dumb brain but also by being a rogue-lite game. A fantastic one at that.

In Dead Cells you play as……….I’ve no idea actually. You are a blob that rolls into a corpse, controls that corpse and then heads off on his adventure. There isn’t much in the way of story here. It’s mostly filler text, scribblings on walls and observations your character can make. These help to fill the world but so far I don’t really know what this world is. Does that matter in a rogue-lite? Not really. There may be a story I’m missing or a reveal at the end but I’ve not even beat the game yet so I can’t explain the world. But that works in Dead Cells favour. As you control this blob controlling a body (I’m a bit of a blob myself so I know how that feels), you venture through different areas on an island, fighting your way through people and abominations. On your travels you will gather a bounty of resources including better weapons, stat boosts, blueprints for new gear, traps, money and the all important cells. Cells are the name of the game both figuratively and literally. Sure on your quest you may find a fantastic sword and astonishing bow but as soon as you die though, you lose all your gear. Cells however, are used to make your next journey easier.

Dead Cells Jars 3
The more you play, the more these blueprints will fill the jars. It’s a visual treat at the start of each run, to see how much you’ve progressed.

As you progress and slay enemies, they will sometimes drop cells. Once you reach the end of the area you are currently in, you go to a hub between areas. Here you can retool your gear, refill on health, enhance your character through mutations (more on that later) and most importantly; spend cells on eternal upgrades. For example, on your previous area you found a blueprint for a slick looking bow. On arrival at the hub space, you speak to a character who trades cells for game wide permanent buffs. Say I had 40 cells and the new bow blueprint I found costs 30 to create and to put into the game’s rotation. I put my cells into that and unlock the bow. Now that bow can appear on all my future runs. Consider it an investment. Now I have 10 cells left. I’m sure you didn’t need me to do that math for you but there it is anyway. What to do with that spare 10? I could put it toward a sword that poisons enemies, an extra health flask on top of my other 2, a perk that allows me to carry over 3000 of my gold to my next run upon my death. There are tons of ways to increase your arsenal and better your odds on your next go. There are lots of ways to increase your chances as you play. You will come across shops, find chests with goodies inside, find cursed chests that offer tantalising surprises for those who are willing to risk it for a biscuit, secret areas and be able to utilise up to 3 mutations.

Mutations are basically buffs for that individual run. When you first start playing Dead Cells, you have a dozen of so to choose from. As you find blueprints though, you will expand that list of possibilities. Do you go attack heavy and increase your damage for 15 seconds after an enemy kill? Go defensive and increase your HP? Increase your damage when you deploy bear traps, turrets or any of the other throw-able tools? The choice is yours but the best of players will choose a mutation that combos with the gear that they have.  All the above is why Dead Cells works for me. I don’t need to retain map data to know where to go. Dead Cells has branching pathways but you will always find an exit you can use. As you progress through the game you will encounter foes that once defeated, will leave a new power up for you which, will help you enter previously unreachable areas and will carry over after you die. It’s this continually satisfaction that keeps me coming back to Dead Cells. When I first played it, I couldn’t do the first area. Now I’m lasting close to an hour before getting my butt kicked. But even when I die, I know that all those cells I collected in the other areas, have all gone towards my goal of beating the game. It doesn’t matter that when I died I lost 26 cells because through the other areas I must have put over 100 cells into permanent upgrades and weapons. The more you play, the better you become. Not only that but your understanding of how the enemies fight improves. And on top of that! For all you speed runners out there. In a lot of the levels you will find doors that are only accessible if you get there within a certain time limit. Through the door you will find a stat increase, money and a stash of cells. So you always have a choice of going through the game at your own pace, or bombing it through the level like a mad man.

DeadCells Ramparts
Ramparts is my favourite location so far, There a very Prince of Persia feel to it when fighting enemies on the rooftops. It looks amazing too.

I realise I’ve written over 1000 words and barely said how I feel about the game. I’ll give a quick summary here but hopefully you found what I’ve described as interesting. This is a great game and thoroughly recommend you check it out. Besides its lavish environments and addictive gameplay, the one thing I love about the game is how it plays. It flows so well. It’s hard to describe except just to say that it plays really good. To compare it to another game, I would say it plays as good as Super Meat Boy. By that I mean, the sense of control and precision. The movement and combat in this game is on that level. Even when things are out of control on screen, I never feel out of control. Besides one or two times when I meant to jump down a narrow gap between two ledges. My character kept grabbing onto the ledges and pulling itself up. I died there which was annoying but on a mostly randomly generated game like this, that stuff is bound to happen. But that was a minor incident in my hours of game time. It didn’t stop me from immediately starting another run. If you’re looking for an addictive, expansive and combat heavy side scroller, look no further than Dead Cells.

Overwatch: Wrecking Ball Impressions

Hammond the happy, hyperactive hamster has been unleashed upon Overwatch, in his mechanised ball of terror. After an hour or 2 with him I thought I’d share my brief thoughts. I should say that I almost exclusively play Mystery Heroes and so I never sought out to main Hammond and just played him when I randomly received him. Bullet point time!

  • Spider swinging is very fun but difficult to master. So many times I envisioned myself gracefully swinging round a doorway and bonking enemies into the water below in Rialto. So many times that didn’t happen. It’s quite difficult to gauge how much room you need to give yourself in order to gain full momentum, hit the enemies and get away without crashing into a wall and being completely vulnerable.
  • The potential of Wrecking Ball will reveal slowly over time.  The more people play the devious, little rascal the more his talents will shine. His grappling hook has the most potential I’ve seen of the heroes. Skirmishes are a great opportunity to test out the small mammal’s dive bomb capabailities. Within an hour I found a launching point on Rialto that allows a seismic slam on the bridge, just outside the attack spawn. You are able to fly over the rooftops and out of sight and if you have an early ultimate this is a perfect time to rain destruction as you land. By my standards Hammond is truly an easy to pick up but hard to master hero.
  • He feels mobile yet clunky, I’m sure that is part of his design but I also feel that his control scheme doesn’t flow. That might just be me, the fact that I’ve barely played him or even just that his gameplay style isn’t as suited to a controller as a mouse and keyboard. Time will tell but shifting between forms, scanning enemies for extra shields and hooking buildings leaves my fingers a bit perplexed. I’ve not experienced this with other heroes but it doesn’t help that I’m playing Mystery Heroes and constantly changing characters.
  • He has great time wasting potential. In the right spot, Hammond is able to latch on a payload and continuously swing around it, bashing any enemy that comes near. He can be stunned out of it or killed but takes time and effort. Throw in 4 enemies shooting at you at the same time and this ball of destruction can take awhile to get rid of. The fact that Hammond spawns in ball form also leads to a quick return to combat. Especially useful when defending the final point and you need a tanky hero to buy precious seconds.
  • His ultimate is more defensive than offensive. His mines do big damage but it’s best use that I have seen, was on Lijiang Tower. The garden section with the control point in the centre and both spawns separated by bridges. I was Zarya and during a massacre inflicted on my team me and Mercy were left. We were on the objective trying to hold it as the enemy was 99%. Mercy was being safe and staying outside the room but able to heal me from a distance. Just then an enemy Hammond rolls through and lays his mines down between me and Mercy! Now we’re separated and Mercy I have to hover around the same spot to be healed because Mercy can’t get any closer. It was a great split us up tactic. In the end I thought I’d be clever and bubbled the Mercy so should would avoid damage and could fly to me. However, Hammond’s ult tore through the shield and Mercy on her dive to me. Here’s an artistic illustration:
Hammond Mines Trap
I paid an expert for this masterpiece.
And that’s my opinion on Hammond currently. I see a lot of potential with him but I also think I need to get a lot better with him. A lot of heroes can counter him and once he is stopped in his tracks, he is a huge target and easy to kill. I also feel like his gun could use a bigger clip size.  Saying that though, Hammond automatically reloads his guns once he is in ball form for a few seconds. So the ideal play is to launch yourself in, shields up, shoot shoot shoot, when empty: roll away through cover or around enemies until guns are loaded and then unleash bullets again.

Overwatch Endorsement System: Is Fake Kindness A Bad Thing?

Overwatch is a game that I play a lot, generally at least an hour every other day. I’m a console pleb with a mediocre laptop so I can’t speak for the PC Overwatch community. This view is merely from a PS4 position so take that with a grain of ‘this guy doesn’t know it all’.  Overwatch, for those that don’t know, has a basic communication wheel in game. You press some buttons and your character and a little text prompt, for your team to see, will pop up and say ‘Thanks’, ‘Hello’, ‘Understood’, ‘Group up’, ‘My ultimate is (number)% ready’ and the infamous ‘I need healing’. Basic but it can get the job done. Of course you can use mic’s but if you’re like me, a bit shy and you can’t be bothered to listen to background trashy music or mic technical issues then this communication wheel is all you need.

When put to good use, a team of strangers can co-ordinate a winning move! Or in the hands of a sore loser, can be a minor annoyance. Similar to Rocket Leagues spamming of ‘What a save!’ ‘What a save!’ ‘What a save!’, when a bad player blames others for his death, a torrent of ‘Thanks’ starts appearing on screen. Like a persistent moth batting against a light bulb. It’s not a big deal but it’s damn distracting. Constant inputs incur a couple of seconds ban which helps the droning of suicidal Genji’s but the next death usually brings on another tirade of blame. It is an issue that since launch I’ve got use to but never over. Like a mild rash, without the satisfying itch. Then arrives the endorsement system.

Endorsement

The endorsement system is a simple feature that was added to Overwatch. At the end of a quick play or competitive match you are given the chance to praise your teammates or  a respected enemy. These praises are ‘Shot Caller’, ‘Good Teammate’ and ‘Sportsmanship’. You can only give out 3 endorsements per game. As, you receive endorsements you receive rewards. Or that is my understanding anyway. The system has only been out for a short time and I’m only at a level 2 endorsement level. So far though, I haven’t been showered with gifts or whatever the reward scheme is. Nevertheless, I’ve noticed a sharp decrease in message spamming. I still see ‘I need healing’ and ‘Thanks’ pop up a lot but not as much as I did before the new system.  A lot more ‘Understood’ and ‘Group up’s have been rearing their pretty heads. Much to my joy. A team that communicates in a team based game? Hold on, we may be onto victory here. It’s a nice surprise and I’m sure Blizzard was hoping that this new system they’ve introduced to their game would quell a vocal minority. You can’t shut up everyone that’s unpleasant but a start is always welcome.

This new niceness has raised the question though: is it all fake? To be honest, yes some of it is. But why care? Negativity in a team game can quickly spread. One person spams ‘Thanks’ on death and then after the 3rd time this repeats, someone spams ‘Group up’ back at them. Then a 3rd player may join in on that and then suddenly half the team is bitter and eagerly awaiting the match to end so they can find a new team. It creates a bad aura that brings the energy plummeting in matches. I know because I’ve spammed ‘Group up’ before. I shouldn’t have as that makes me no better, I’m still causing distractions and providing no useful or tactical information. And so, if Player A is seething with rage in a match of Overwatch, yet he chooses to say ‘Thanks’ when healed and ‘Group up’ and actually does it, is that a bad thing? Would you rather he is honest and let his emotions unleash on ‘Thanks’, or would you prefer he plays nice for brownie points? I would rather choose a positive atmosphere to my matches than an honest moan session. I’m British, I love a good moan but not in a team game. Fake kindness wins over unpleasantness any time for me. Not only that but positive reinforcement is always better than negative reinforcement. If the nasty player sees that their pleasant disposition leads to more victories, they are more likely to continue that act.  Combine that with the fact that habits grow the more they are repeated, which means that subconsciously this nice behaviour could stick to the individual, naturally.

It’s almost like a paradox. Is a player a good teammate, if they are secretly a bitter Overwatch player that keeps their whining to their self and is courteous in game for fake badges? I think if it leads to a better gaming experience for everyone in game then cheap tricks are fine by me.

My Top 5 Games of 2017

Ignore the date! It is NOT late March and therefore this article is NOT long overdue.

5. Puyo Puyo Tetris

Puyo Puyo logo

I’m actually surprised this is in my top 5, but looking back over all the games I played of 2017, this one I’ve kept coming back to. Puzzle games aren’t even a genre that I have much love for compared to others but Puyo Puyo Tetris is just so easy to love. Tetris is universal, I don’t need to explain that as anyone having an interest in gaming and reading this knows how Tetris works. Puyo Puyo is something I’d never played before and when I got the game I figured I would just play the Tetris modes and that’s it. Puyo Puyo is similar to popular Facebook and mobile phone games. You have colours, you line the colours up and score points and clear space. Setting off a chain reaction of disappearing Puyo’s will grant more points and space as well as obstacles for your opponents.

The game does a great job of explaining the gameplay mechanics of both modes and it’s Frankenstein of a mode where they merge the two. What follows is a simple concept but hard to master package that has a mode for everyone. The chaos that ensues when four people play against each is hilarious especially with modes like Swap, where each player has to play Tetris for a set time and then swap to their own Puyo Puyo game and the pattern continues until a victor remains. A great game with a lot of replay value and perfect game for a Nintendo Switch as the portability is a huge bonus.

4. Stardew Valley

Stardew valley

I own this on 3 platforms. I’ve put over 100 hours across all 3 and yet I still haven’t finished a single playthrough. It’s one of those games that I’m sure everyone has experienced. You start it, you play it for hours a day, you spend dozens of hours getting the result you want and rather than finish your current run, you decide to start again. Not due to boredom or unhappiness with your current run. But due to that simplicity and addictive nature of the beginning of the game. The thing that enraptured you in the first place.

Achieving an ideal farm and a peak routine that yield’s the most profit and productivity is fun. It’s great fun and very therapeutic. On the other hand, a simple basic farm has my pitiful mind brimming with potential. Do I focus on animals? How should I organise my crops? Do I want a cat or dog on my farm? How do I improve on what I did previously? There is so much choice in this game that I think I’ll be playing it for another 5 years before I finish a run. And I am completely okay with that.

For more on how I feel about Stardew Valley and a more in depth look at an average 20 minutes on the game, feel free to check out a feature I wrote a while back. Here is the shill….I mean, link! Shill

3. Mario Odyssey

mario

This is a fun game! It gives me a warm, happy feeling when I play it. I know that sounds all touchy and overly sentimental for a game but it’s the truth. Mario games in the main series have always held that power over me but Mario Odyssey might be one of the prime examples. Everyone and their gran knows what Mario is and how it plays so I’m not going to explain that.

Mario Odyssey has what makes a video game a classic. It’s beautifully colourful, has fluid gameplay, an amazing soundtrack and has many moments that planted the stupidest smile on my face. This game is a stand out in Mario’s long history. From the beginning to the end of this adventure, humour and nostalgia are injected into every corner of this game. Nintendo set out to make the most fun and Mario filled Mario game and I believe they done that spectacularly. Sheer fun on a cartridge.

2. Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath-of-the-Wild

Breath of the Wild has spoilt me. Why can’t I climb all mountains in all other open world games? I’ll be the first to admit that I have an issue with open world games. There is usually too much to do and the world in question is a lot of the time, devoid of personality or enough personality to fill its scale. Breath of the Wild laughs at that problem. I loved exploring this world. There is so much to find and see that I never tired of climbing mountains. Not only is Hyrule a treat to traverse but the actual traversal mechanics are a delight to play.

This Zelda is a tricky one to place. It’s number 2 on my list and I believe it deserves that spot. Saying that though, it’s one of the weakest 3D Zelda games in my eyes. I always loved Zelda’s dungeons and bosses and this game lacks in that area severely. On the other hand though, it still deserves the number 2 spot and is still the best realised open world game I’ve played. I think this is an amazing game and an amazing series. Even when Zelda is at its weakest it is still head and shoulders above most of the video game industry. So even though I just said this is a weak entry in the series, I still recommend buying this game 100%. A superb game.

My game of the year is………..

1. Persona 5

Persona 5

For me this was the clear winner. I loved the others on this list and when I wrote down my preliminary top 10, Persona 5 was placed at number 1 and it stayed there. Others I swapped and ummed and ahhed about but not Persona 5. That speaks volume to me and hopefully to you about how I feel about this game. This was a stellar year in gaming but this quirky high school sim/JRPG/heist game takes the grand prize.

I’m not a stranger to the Persona series or even the Shin Megami Tensei series. I remember buying Persona 4 for £10 for my PS2 back when PS2 games were no longer the key market. The next gen had come along but I saw this strange game with these fantastic reviews and gave it a go. My mind was blown. It is still my high point for JRPG’s, a genre that I’m not the most proficient in besides the odd Final Fantasy game.The Persona series is like no other series I’ve played. It’s tone and weird nature are enveloped by solid characters, unique storyline’s and a combat system that I care for with a passion. It’s essentially Final Fantasy turn based combat with Pokemon chucked in. There are so many aspects of this game that I could write paragraphs about.

In the end though, it’s style that is all over this game that I love immensely and the reason it is my number 1 of 2017. The look, the music, the character and Persona design. Even the menu screen is a joy to view. It has pizzazz all over the place and it’s not a style over substance game. The world and the characters that fill the world are rich in detail and care. Every aspect of this game took time and consideration. If you haven’t played or seen footage of this masterpiece then please go on YouTube and have a look. Just at the menu screen or the end screen of a battle. To me the end screen of a generic battle is a classic. It’s up there with the Final Fantasy victory fanfare (the one that you just sang to yourself). That is only a small detail of this game but that flare and flourish is cascading through this game.

There is nothing else like it at the moment in my opinion besides other iterations. Persona 6 can’t come soon enough but I’ll gladly accept Shin Megami Tensei on the Switch till then.

Trivia Time- Doom 3, Demolition Developers

Doom 3 was released in August 2004 after a long production cycle, work on Doom 3 started back in mid 2000. The game was well received for its graphics and lighting but not so much for its gameplay, which was very different to the classic run ‘n’ gun formulae of previous Doom games. Clearly the team had spent a long time designing the game and its world and clearly it shows. The research facility on Mars, where the game is set, feels lived in and worn. When you enter rooms there is blood, remnants from fights, damaged surfaces and misplaced objects. But the rooms were like that originally.

When the levels for Doom 3 were created, they were created immaculate. Brand new rooms! Like a newly built office. As if the Mars research facility was a brand new, vacant building. Developers were then given the task of going through each level and giving it that tattered, lived in feel. How they did that you ask? Well, the developers created special weapons to do the work. Details of these weapons are very scarce but I like to imagine they made guns that put dents into walls, smudges on surfaces, smeared blood upon the tiles and a variety of effects to make the world of Doom 3 a damaged one. Once they had gone through each level with these weapons, the levels were then used in the game.

doom 3 room

It’s a clever idea. It helps give the research facility that authentic feel that helps our ability to believe in this universe. Also, how fun would that be, to be one of those developers? To create something and after months of hard work and detailing the levels, you get to go round and smash up the place. I bet it’s very therapeutic, especially wrecking certain rooms that were more difficult than others to design. I would love that job. Professional level wrecker!

Trivia Time: Resident Evil 5 Corpse Hunt

Publicity stunts are a funny thing. Some companies just miss the mark in spectacular fashion while others hit the tone of their respective game just right. Others, try something a bit different. Different is good……sometimes. Resident Evil 5 had such a stunt.

For those that don’t know, Resident Evil 5 is a third person shooter set in sunny Africa. The series is known for having zombies but the main enemies in RE5, are villagers under the control of the Uroboros virus. This virus basically puts whoever is infected, under the control of whoever is controlling the virus. Now that that’s explained, let’s talk about something completely different! This Resident Evil 5 stunt! Rather than taking place in Africa, this stunt take place in murky London. 50 contestants set off in the early hours of the morning, for a scavenger hunt in the city. The prize you ask? A trip for two to Africa. Not a bad prize at all. I’d give my right leg for that trip. And a hand. A torso. Another leg. Oh wait……I wouldn’t have to give them my body parts! Just the ones the organisers have scattered about the city.

27.-Resident-Evil-5-2009

Yes you read that right, body parts. Just lying there, no big deal. Someone’s grandma out for a morning stroll, wanders round the corner and hello there! A leg in the alley. Whether that happened or not, I am unsure of. Maybe the heads, torsos and limbs were hidden well enough. A little too well apparently because at the end of the competition, a few mounds of flesh hadn’t been returned. Yup, apparently one head, two torsos, six limbs and lots of chicken liver, for added effect, were not returned.

I like to think that this was one of the contestants who just ran off with his finds. Perhaps he was really happy with him or herself. Strolling along, limbs tucked under each arm, head in a carrier bag and torso shoved in a back pack. Then he sees the winner of the contest, Steve Long, walking by with more limbs. And our body snatcher decided that he/she wouldn’t win today. So, like a sulky child they took their football and went home. Only this time, it was a head instead of a football. Just like the Mayan’s used to do.  There’s an extra fun fact for you!

resident-evil-5-stunt-1-300x300

Trivia Time: Redead’s Scream

Redead’s are the stuff of nightmares. I don’t care what anybody says, The Legend of Zelda series can be dark at times. From paralysing screams, giants hands that spring from the shadows, the Happy Mask Salesman and that sadistic, smiling moon, the Zelda franchise is deceptively twisted. Exhibit A:

Zelda Monster

What is that!?!? Nintendo, that ain’t fair. A few hours ago I was in an open field with my trusty steed Epona, whistling a merry tune with my ocarina. Then you open the gates of hell and invite Satan’s creepy uncle to Hyrule.  That is an abomination of a mind I don’t want to delve into. Some creatures in the Zelda universe are creepier than horror game monsters.

None show this more than the Redead’s. These shambling corpses just stand there moaning like us Brits at a bus stop. Until you get close enough and then suddenly they scream. A scream so terrifying, that the main character Link, freezes in place. The player then has to mash the buttons to try to unbind themselves from the spot, before the slowly moving figure, latches onto you and starts biting. As a child, this put the fear right in me! So much so, that there were times that I’d just close my eyes and run through Castle Town. That was until I learnt that the Sun Song freezes them and then it’s easy. Easy but still scary.

redead kill

So, I wanted to try and figure out where that scream came from and whose vocal chords it belonged to. Alas, I didn’t find the person in question, I did find where Nintendo got the scream from though. The General Series 6000 Sounds Effects Library! A catalogue of sounds that can be purchased for use in media.  The scream that I have found is different to the Redead scream, but I believe this to be the base form before audio tampering. The scream even has The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask listed as one of its times used in media form. Here is the scream I believe to be the Redead’s origin:

This

Compare it to the completed game’s version:

Here

I may be wrong on this but I do believe that is the same scream. The very first half a second or so sound to me. It then changes and a sound effect is added, that is like a whooshing sound. I listened to quite a few women’s screams (what an hour that was) and that one sounds the part. For now and until I master audio mixing, that is the Redead scream to me.