Top 5 Open World Games: Monthly Roundup February 2018

Please see here for previous Top 5 Round Ups from 2018:
January: Top 5 Rocket League Showroom Battle Cars

Open worlds have been a significant thing in gaming recently. The early part of 2017 had The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon Zero Dawn going head-to-head in the spring. They were both grand adventures set in a sprawling and varied open world full of possibilities. I did a compare and contrast post about those two games here. Further games like Assassins Creed Origins and the recent Monster Hunter World have continued the theme.lozbotw4

Recently I picked up the Hot Wheels DLC for Forza Horizon 3 and one of the things I noticed about it is how it is less open-world that the main game I had played a year previously. The two key parts of an open world game are the ability to go where you want and do things in whatever order you want – all within reason, of course! So, it got me thinking about my favourite open world games and whether or not that aspect was what made the game great.05-02-2018_22-35-04

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: Yes
Hyrule is the undisputed star of this game. In fact this game in general is the absolute definition of an open world game done right. The world was so big and so varied and every single new area you came across had something interesting to do, fight or investigate. For sure, everything else was great – the characters, the story, the shrines, the boss battles – but it was just existing in the world and experiencing everything it had to offer that made Breath of the Wild so great.lozbotw2

Horizon Zero Dawn (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: No
The broken state of the world in Horizon Zero Dawn is a spectacular sight to see. It’s quite the most beautiful game I’ve ever played – see here for a post about that. But actually that’s not really what it’s all about here. Sure, you can go about things as you wish but actually the story line was so gripping and spectacular that I wanted to plough on directly through it. It’s a great achievement of a living and vibrant world, but it’s still only a backdrop for a fantastic narrative.Horizon Zero Dawn™_20170707221530

Forza Horizon 3 (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: Yes
The first Forza Horizon was a great racing game and it’s sequel opened up the world so that you weren’t tied to just the roads anymore. However, it was the 3rd edition that really got the combination right. Cars that were as fun to drive in a race as they were to just drive about the place and an absolute myriad of events and challenges to take part in dotted everywhere. This really was the definition of doing things in whatever order you want – there are always multiple options of what to do next and you can just fill your boots.08-02-2018_07-34-01

SSX3 (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: No
SSX3 took the somewhat on-rails gameplay of SSX Tricky and placed it all on three open mountains that you could descend as you wished, taking part in whatever events you liked. That was cool, and the long events that took you right from the very top to the very bottom were spectacular. However, that wasn’t the main draw – it was the spectacular tricks: doing uber tricks whilst grinding on a rail is something that has never been bettered in any extreme sports game.2018-02-08-03-35-28-1-e1518104985266.jpg

Minecraft (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: Yes
No round up of open worlds would be complete without Minecraft. Not only can go you wherever you want and do things in whatever order you want but you can even shape the world itself how you want! So, of course, the world itself is the key here. Whether it’s building your first tiny shelter, bravely venturing into the depths in search of resources or zinging about on a rollercoaster of your own creation, Minecraft is all about how you and the world interact.2017081613284700-773F9627E0AC611AA92DA55E307BD361

What about you? What are your favourite open world games? And was it the world that made them great, or something else? Let us know in the comments below!

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REVIEW: Rime (Nintendo Switch)

    • Released: 2017
    • Played on: Nintendo Switch
    • Also available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4
    • Time to get into: 2 Hours
    • Time to complete: 8 Hours
    • Multiplayer: No

 

When this was originally released in mid-year 2017, I thought it looked great and it was receiving some praise in reviews. However, I forced myself to wait for it to come out on Switch, due to my ‘policy’ of not playing a game that I can play on Nintendo‘s multi-purpose console, on a console that is chained to a TV. As it turned out this was an error on my part for two reasons: firstly, it took absolutely ages for the Switch port to arrive (it was finally released in mid-November) and secondly, when it did, it brought with it a few technical problems that almost ruin the game. It’s the first time that fixating on the Switch version of a game has backfired on me and it ran well enough for me to still be able to experience the two things Rime offers: puzzles and story.2018011613274200-552353331B48AB6CE514D1402342184E

Puzzles
Although you are running around an island exploring, the reality is that Rime is a puzzle game. If you’re the kind of person to go after collectables then there might be some value in checking every dark corner but the main thread of the game is; solve puzzle – move to next puzzle – repeat. There is no real threat in the game – those that do exist, like falling too far or getting snatched up by a massive bird (don’t ask), don’t do you any harm and you immediately get put back where you were just stood to carry on. Essentially all the other aspects of the gameplay are just window dressing on top of the puzzles.2018011214471200-552353331B48AB6CE514D1402342184E

Those puzzles are decent enough though. Most of the puzzle mechanics here have been seen before in video games but overall Rime uses and combines them well. You are asked to do things like move blocks to certain places, block light from falling on things, collect keys to open doors etc. One thing I did like though is the use of shouting – one of the buttons causes your character to shout out which can be used to activate things – usually lights. In truth it’s not really any different than any other button press but it impresses in two ways. Firstly simply as something a little different. It’s enjoyable when a few shouts are needed in fairly short order to just run about shouting at everything – let’s be honest, we all want to do this in real life from time to time! Secondly the fact that a shout can carry a short distance, rather than another form of activating something like pressing a button or standing in a certain place, means that you can use it to activate things you can’t reach, or activate more than one thing at a time. Without giving anything away, Rime finds a few clever uses of this and figuring out these puzzles are some of the most rewarding in the game. Overall, the puzzling is good – difficult enough to be interesting without ever becoming frustrating.2018011717411700-552353331B48AB6CE514D1402342184E

Story
There is no dialogue in Rime and the story is revealed to you very very slowly indeed through semi-interactive cut scenes. As always on this blog, I will steer very, very clear of spoilers but there are two things worth noting. Firstly, this is not a deep and multi-layered story. It is more about mood – as it the whole game, not just the cut scenes. Rather than weave a narrative, Rime focuses on feel – it’s is an emotional journey taking in aspects of beauty, horror, fear, loss and determination. Secondly however, Rime doesn’t seem to be able to quite decide which of these aspects – story or puzzle – it wants to be most. In many ways it reminds me of Old Man’s Journey – that game has the same type of slow-burning, heartfelt story as Rime but where that game is happy for the gameplay to take backseat to the story, Rime is less willing to commit. Perhaps fearing that their story wasn’t as strong, perhaps trying to be more, to satisfy a full console release compared to mobile, one way or another the developer Tequila Works hasn’t fully committed to either and both parts suffer as a result. Neither the story or the puzzling are strong enough to stand up alone, it’s them in combination that holds Rime together.2018011813271300-552353331B48AB6CE514D1402342184E

Problems
Which would be fine, if the game ran solidly. Unfortunately it does not. In general it astounds me that the Switch is clearly capable of running a game as beautiful as Breath of the Wild and yet here we have Rime – which just looks bad by comparison. It feels like your eyes are tired and you can’t see properly. I was regularly blinking, only to discover that it didn’t help – Rime just looks fuzzy. On top of that, those lousy graphics aren’t even solid. You can tell when the game is loading something in the background because the frame rate slows to a crawl for a good few seconds. I guess this is the result of it being ported to the Switch, rather than built for it, but it is close to being ruinous to any enjoyment of the game.2018011717550100-552353331B48AB6CE514D1402342184E

Conclusion
Rime is fairly close to being a great game. The puzzles are never dull and often fun and satisfying. The mood and the story are powerful and well realised across the game as a whole. But I just can’t recommend you play it on Switch. Unless you only play it in docked mode – in which case, what’s great about the Switch version is lost anyway. Basically play it – but on another device!Review3

Click here to purchase the cart for Switch from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the disc for Xbox One from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase the disc for PS4 from Amazon.co.uk:

Click here to purchase a download key for the game on PC from CDKeys.com:

First Impressions: Frederic: Resurrection of Music (iOS)

Another day, another rhythm game! I love them! This one is arguably even more random than Super Beat Sports, that I played recently. The gameplay is nothing unusual but here we have a story mode!IMG_0011.PNG

You play as the resurrected Frederic Chopin, who was a 19th century composer of piano music. For reasons yet unknown (I’ve no idea how far I am through but I doubt it is a long story mode) he has been brought back from the dead to fight the good musical fight against horrible modern music. Obviously!IMG_0015.PNG

Gameplay wise it’s essentially a piano-based version of the standard Guitar Hero/Rock Band where you see notes coming down towards you and tap on the screen at the right time to play the melody. The songs are all remixes of Chopin compositions – the remixes are in different genres to match who Chopin is meeting in the story, from reggae to hip hop. So far, I’ve really enjoyed the music – perhaps classical piano fans would be horrified but for me they’ve done a good job of combining recognisable piano motifs with more recent beats.IMG_0010.PNG

I picked this up to play on my iPad as the appstore were selling a bundle of this game and it’s sequel at a bargain price. It’s a perfect game for a large touchscreen, so I’d recommend that if you have that option – I think it’s also on Android and it’s definitely on Nintendo Switch.IMG_0016.PNG

I’ll play through both ‘Resurrection of Music’ and ‘Evil Strikes Back’, assuming they’re as short as I expect, and then I’ll get a review up. I can already see that the game’s strength, much like any good rhythm game, is going to be in it’s replay value but I will try and resist going back for higher difficulty settings and better scores until I have finished Frederic’s story.IMG_0012.PNG

An ode to Forza Motorsport cover cars

It’s been a recent tradition for me, since the Xbox One was released, that I fall in love with the car on the cover of each Forza Motorsport game. Is it that they just always choose a great car to adorn the artwork, or is is that something about the car being on the cover tricks me into enjoying the drive? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?!

With Forza 5 it was the McLaren P1. A thing of beauty that went like a rocket and other than some brakes that struggled to slow the thing down, handled very nicely as well.

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Then came Forza 6 and the Ford GT. Even more beautiful, particularly in blue. And although it didn’t have quite the acceleration of the P1, it flowed round fast corners like it was flying, a joy to drive.

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But now we come to Forza 7 and the Porsche 911 GT2 RS. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fine car to drive. But on this occasion it is not my favourite.

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Instead that title goes to the Porsche 918 Spyder. As you’ll see below this car is very similar to the 911, which probably supports the theory that it’s all in my head! I really can’t think of anything I can complain about when driving this beauty. Speed, agility, balance. I’m going to be looking for 918s in future racing games for sure. And yes, I do have a thing for cars with those little wings on the back that go up and down!!

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What about you, what are your favourite cars from the racing games you have played? Let us know in the comments below.

Click here to purchase the disc from Amazon.co.uk:
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Xbox Game Pass expansion – news and views

I recently posted some thoughts on Gaming Subscriptions (here and here) and talked about my conclusions from having an Xbox Game Pass subscription for a few months. Essentially, I found that it was probably great for newcomers to all that Xbox has to offer but for those of us who have played most of the games on the service as they came out originally, it holds little value.

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However, Microsoft has just changed the game (pun entirely intended). See here for the details but the short version is that from the release of Sea of Thieves in March, all Microsoft Studios games will be available on Xbox Game Pass alongside their release. That means that for your monthly subscription you get the pool of older titles that you have now and additionally get to play any new Halo, Gears of War, Forza and many more. Coming up soonest are Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2 and Crackdown 3.

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This is an immediate game changer for us consumers. If you are considering buying any of those games within a year or two of their release then the cheapest way to do it will be via an Xbox Game Pass subscription. Why pay £50 up front when that will get you 6 months of the game you want, plus everything else that the service offers?

Perhaps more interesting though is what this could mean going forwards. Will things like EA Access follow suit? If this is a success for Microsoft, other publishers will surely want to get on board with the concept. But on the other hand, perhaps this kind of deal only makes sense for a company who also sells hardware off the back of it. Xbox Game Pass wants to be the Netflix of gaming but it was more like a catchup service. Perhaps this change will enable it to have the same kind of success as Netflix has in video.

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One potential word of caution though. We have gotten used to new releases having the ‘standard’ version and also some kind of ‘enhanced’ version which either includes more content up front, of gives the access to it when it is released. No doubt Xbox Game Pass will only supply the standard version and leave us with add-on purchases for our season passes and extra cosmetic items. If this idea takes off industry-wide I can easily foresee a slow creep to where the ‘standard’ version is really more of a ‘basic’ version – a glorified demo, to tempt you in to paying for the full experience. That might not even be a bad thing but given the various recent controversies around additional downloadable content, it’s something to keep in mind.

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For what it’s worth, I can see this really shifting Xbox Ones in the short term. New buyers won’t need to worry about which particular games to get in their bundle – just get an Xbox Game Pass subscription and you’re set for a long long while. In the longer term, who knows where this will take us but as a consumer, I intend to reap the benefits whilst I can.

What do you think on this? Will you be getting an Xbox Game Pass subscription on the back of these changes? Let us know in the comments below!

First Impressions: Cuphead

I’m not a person who typically likes games that are hard for the sake of being hard. In fact, I would be more likely to deliberately avoid them. Generally, I would rather play lots of different games than play a few games a lot, so anything that is deliberately hard doesn’t appeal to that mentality, as it would usually take longer. When Cuphead was shown at E3 last year I immediately wanted to play it as it just looked so great and seemed to be so much fun. But that enthusiasm was immediately doused when the first, and seemingly only, thing anyone could talk about with it was how hard it was.10-01-2018_07-25-15.png

In the end the wonderful art style, based on 1930s cartoons, won out over the potential difficulty and I was gifted the game for Christmas last year. I am happy to say that, whilst it is indeed ridiculously difficult entirely for the sake of being so, it’s also a huge amount of fun. In fact it is that aspect that has turned out to be the key, as it can be impossible to appreciate the retro visuals when you are just desperately trying to stay alive!10-01-2018_07-26-09.png

Despite having it for nearly a month I’ve only made it to the end of World 1. There are four worlds in total so it could be a long while before a review goes up on this blog! The reason for my slowness is not entirely down to being rubbish. In addition, every play session needs to be a long one, so the number of chances I get to play it are limited during a typical week. This is down to the punishing difficulty level – a quick ten minute go will almost certainly result in no progress at all. You need to slowly develop your understanding of each level as you play (and die, a lot) until eventually reaching the end. There’s not really any point in loading up the game unless you can dedicate a good chunk of time to it.10-01-2018_07-25-31.png

Thankfully, this doesn’t ever quite reach the point of feeling like a chore since it is just such a blast to play. The actions – running, jumping, shooting – all feel great and the tension created by the difficulty really gets released into joy and relief when you nail a boss that 30 minutes before felt impossible.10-01-2018_07-24-53.png

It’s still early days for me – it may be that the relentless unfairness of the game eventually gets me down and destroys the fun. At this stage, however, I have really enjoyed Cuphead. Given it’s bargain price, I’d happily recommend it – if it ever stops being fun then you’ll still have got good value for money out of it!10-01-2018_07-24-24.png

Happy New Year – let the gaming continue!

I’ve had an unexpected fortnight off from this blog to open 2018. With all the busyness of the Christmas break and then going back to normal life I didn’t have time to think about writing. The Boy and I did have time to play games however! As such, there is plenty for me to get my teeth into and write about through the rest of January. So, what can you look forward to from The Gamer Boys in the coming weeks? Read on.

Rocket League (Switch)2018011008294900-6F4D679ED7D2A016B654B265B956C5F0
We will have a review of this soon but, spoiler alert – it’s awesome! Of course it would be nice if you would read our review when it’s ready but really – don’t wait for that, just buy it. It’s going to be fairly high up on my all-time top games list. Something else we did was finally buy all the additional battle cars from the showroom, so I think I’ll put together a post about some of them – some are fantastic, and when such a great game is is so cheap, spending small chunks of money on DLC is no problem. See my First Impressions here.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle2018010308503700-9600BAE614E6833B1A261F5FB229CDBA
I have completed this game now, and it is wonderful. Somewhat odd, but once you get past that it’s just a really good game. The combination of the crazy Rabbids in the whimsical Mushroom Kingdom hides how deep the gameplay is. I’m sure it’s not as in-depth as some strategy games but it requires enough thought and planning to keep it intriguing and interesting all the way through. I wonder if a sequel, or at least further Ubisoft/Nintendo collaboration, could be in the works. Review forthcoming!

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I was given this game for Christmas and have been loving it so far. Of course, all the talk about this game is about how difficult it is. I will be no different! It is willfully hard for the sake of being hard – perhaps that is a subject worth looking at on this blog too. I’m currently just at the end of World 1 out of 4 so First Impressions will be up on the site very soon.

NBA Playgrounds (Switch)2018010918174200-4A1B5A3AF288537CEBE6559E7DFB000B
An ‘Enhanced Edition’ of this popped up on the eShop the other day. There’s a new set of tournament games to play through so I thought why not give it a go?! It’s still just as much fun as it was before although there’s nothing new enough to mean a change to what I said in my original review. Still – even more worth picking up now if you haven’t already!

In other news
I’ve got some other ideas to make The Gamer Boys blog less random, like a monthly round up of a ‘Top 5 “somethings” in gaming’ and other regular series like that. Let me know your thoughts on them when they start appearing! Otherwise, let us know what you’ve been playing at the start of 2018 in the comments below. Happy New Year!