Video Game Review – Evolve

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Nath sometimes reviews games. This is one of those reviews.

So here it is, the first game in my top 5 releases this year, 4th in the list, but it could be 1st in my favourite game of this year. I have been following this game for a while before it’s release as the concept interested me quite a lot and I was looking forward to see what the finished product would look like.

As soon as start you are thrown into a tutorial firstly as the monster, specifically the Goliath, a large powerful beast. You learn the basic controls, such as running, climbing, attacking, eating and performing the Goliath’s special moves which include a jumping attack and breathing fire. I have to admit I did enjoy causing havoc as the monster, however I found controlling it very difficult as it is not very agile. Turning and escaping battle is difficult. Luckily the “Charge” move will get you out of trouble quickly, but if you have used it already, you could be in big trouble.

You will also learn the reason why the game is called Evolve. As you are playing as the monster, you can eat various other smaller monsters in the game in order to regain health, increase your shield and evolve. There are 3 stages to evolution, in stage 1 you are strong enough to take down small monsters with ease and also take down some of the larger monsters without too much trouble, however you would be useless against the hunters searching for you, so the idea of the game changes in stage 1. You have to be tactical in your approach, you can’t go in all guns blazing as you will get killed and very easily I might add. So you take your time and get to stage 2, you’re bigger and stronger and you can take down everything quite easily, except a group of skilled hunters, you are still going to have trouble taking them down. It also takes longer to reach stage 3, but when you do, you are nearly unstoppable. You’re at your largest, strongest and toughest, the only thing can stop you is a group of very strong, brave group of hunters.

So after you complete the tutorial as the monster, you play the tutorial as the assault hunter. He is the tank and the damage dealer of the group of hunters, armed with 2 weapons, mines and a shield. The aim of the assault hunter is take down the monster, but also generate hate to keep the monster focused on him, quite a large responsibility. You start off with a lightning gun for close quarters combat and an assault rifle for long range combat. You also have mines to lay about the level and cause some damage to the monster but also locate him when it is on the run. The shield will protect you whilst the monster is laying its arsenal into you, but only for a limited amount of time so use it wisely.

Unfortunately you are then left to your own devices which I thought was a real shame as you don’t get a tutorial of how to use the other monsters or hunters, you only get a small video on how to use each one when you select it. It is the same with the game modes, you are basically shown how to hunt each other. But you know what they say, learn by doing. I stuck to the single player for the time being in order to get an idea on how to play each game mode as well try out the different classes of hunter.

The first thing I noticed is that there are unlockable hunters and the way to unlock them is to level up the ones you have. The new hunters have different equipment, such as flamethrowers and multi-firing rocket launchers. It certainly gives some incentive to play the game in order to unlock the weapons and characters. You also have to unlock the Kraken and Wraith monsters too by playing as the Goliath and levelling him up. A lot of hard work has to be put in, however the rewards are worth it.

So I tried out the trapper hunter first as this was the only other hunter that I wanted to use. The trapper (surprisingly) traps the monster. The first is by using a series of harpoon traps that slow down and damage the monster, a very useful weapon. However the dome, where a large dome is created to prevent the monster from escaping, is also very beneficial. It can also be your downfall. You may think you’ve trapped the monster in the dome, but you’re trapped in the dome with the monster. I found this out the hard way when the beast was cornered but realised the AI isn’t great when your medic dies followed closely by the assault hunter. The trapper does have a good arsenal, but it is useless unless you have the whole team.

So I ended the first round dismally and to add insult to injury, the monster gains a bonus in the next round. Not only did I have to go after a monster again, I also had to go after some smaller monsters as well. It is absolute carnage. It was also a new game mode that I hadn’t experienced. This mode was called Nest, where the hunters have to go and take out the monsters eggs before they hatch. So you have a large monster to kill, some smaller monsters and eventually some more smaller monsters. The odds are stacked against you, however it seems the AI improves which doesn’t make it near impossible, but you do have to put a shift in and protect that medic.

Even with the odds stacked against me, I manage to persevere and win the round. Like honey badgers fighting a pack of lions, you wouldn’t think it but it does happen. Plus we get a bonus – tower defence. This put turrets everywhere in a game mode where we really needed them, Rescue. Clues in the name here, you have to go and revive wounded soldiers and bring them back to the base for evacuation. A very simple game mode, made a hell of a lot easier with the turrets. You can cheat a little bit and keep the monster in a dome whilst the rest of you evacuate the wounded soldiers. I did find this mode quite easy, however if you do have turrets as your ally it does make things easier.

The last mode I played was Defend. This is difficult, you are constantly being attacked by smaller monsters and the large monster comes and goes every now and again. You can’t go after the main monster, if you leave the base exposed, the little monsters will destroy it. You just have to bide your time until you can trap the main monster.

So after a couple of rounds training I decided to have a go online hoping that the players would be better than the AI in the game. Before you start your adventure online, you have to select your preferred choice of character, including the monster. I went for assault first, followed by the monster, followed by trapper, then support and lastly medic, not because the medic is boring, it’s just that I’m not that reliable as a healer. Extremely unreliable.

So my first venture online was against a Wraith. This Wraith is a silent killer, that hovers above the ground and has no arms or legs but has 4 powerful scythes. It also eats smaller monster by “drinking” them. It is a truly powerful beast, may not as be as powerful as the Goliath, but harder to hunt. This made things very difficult. Luckily the trapper we had could hunt the Wraith very well, I was the assault hunter, I did my job very well, taking down the monster with the lightning gun and the assault rifle, however the medic and the support for some reason also thought they were the assault hunter and decided not to do anything else but try and kill the monster with their inferior weapons. We died very quickly. My after game rant mostly consisted of me shouting “You had one job” over and over again.

The next round I got my chance to play as the Kraken, a monster that is a cross between Cthulu and a dinosaur. Again not as powerful as the Goliath, but it has a very unique arsenal, consisting of lightning strikes and vortexes to take out the hunters. Admittedly it was difficult at first trying to use the monster I haven’t used before, but learn by doing. And I got owned. Hilariously owned. It didn’t take long at all, I was trapped and I couldn’t escape. Where was this organised team when I played? Unbelievable to be honest, it was a complete walkover.

The next round I ended up playing as the Goliath in a game of Nest against a team of mediocre hunters. I had to bring my A-game to the table. Luckily I managed to hatch a nest fairly quickly to get things going. Everything was overrun and by the time they had finished trying to take out the monsters, I was a stage 3 Goliath and managed to wipe out the team with ease. It was a great moment, one that I will savour.

Overall the game is brilliant. The graphics are fantastic, made with the CryEngine 3, the same graphics as the Crysis series. It is dark and dank, but with an odd flurry of colour every now and again. The gameplay as the monster can be a bit laborious as it can be difficult to move the large monster, but it is something you can live with. The difficulty is fairly well balanced and it is easy to overcome a level when the odds are stacked up against you and your team. The online gameplay could do with some tweaking to make balanced teams but its not unplayable. Overall I would give this game 9 boulders to the face out of 10. Could be a potential game of the year, but there are other releases I am looking forward to.

Nath

So it’s All Come Down to This… Cave-ins and Betrayals

Adam has started playing Dungeons and Dragons with some friends in London. Here is his account of their first epic journey.

So it’s all come down to this. With everyone fed and drinks poured, we got an early start on the last night of The Lost Mines of Fandango campaign. The group had no idea what to expect, with conversations with the DM hinting at various nefarious plans of his to ensure that not everyone would make it out alive. Perhaps even none of us. As always, it started back up at the inn.

Bubbles threw the customary herpes roll for the start of each game, to see if they had a flare up or not. A natural 20. With no sign for two sessions now, was the viral disease gone? Was it linked to Glass-staff, and now we had snuffed him out Bubbles was clear? Was this dice roll indicative of a successful night? Doubtful. That isn’t really how probability works.

With Gundrin safe, we learned more about Wave Echo Cave.  The Forge of Spells located there was created by wizards and dwarves, but they were later all killed by orcs. Those orcs in turn all died in a cave-in, so now all that resides in the caverns are the Black Spider and his minions, stirges and various members of the undead, such as ghouls, zombies and skeletons. Not to be deterred, we restocked (and got some new bling) and headed off.

As we approached the cave, King Roberto the Pirate King used the power of his eyepatch to summon a storm, raising his his sword as a mast to attract the lightning into the blade while yelling a vague attempt at the Unrelenting Force dragon shout from Skyrim. Barely hurting himself, he managed to trap the bolt into the longsword Talon, giving it +1 lightning damage for the rest of the day.

Thunder

Excitedly, the homeopathic cleric Samuel tried to replicate this. Every step was slightly off, starting with the fact that Samuel doesn’t have the same ability to summon lightning. He then raised his hatchet, rubbing it on his head to generate static electricity. Rather than imbuing his weapon with lightning, he slightly scalped himself and suffered minor damage before we even went into the cave. Finally, Tiny forgot to tie up his poorly named horse again (now with 3 names: Asymmetry/Raider/Rascal). He lost his horse in our 1st edition game for forgetting to tie it up, which he failed to learn a lesson from, but luckily since getting it in this game has not had it stolen or wander off. Yet.

We went in to the cave, finding one of Gundrin’s brothers dead. As is tradition, we looted the body but he didn’t have anything of use. So we stole his shoes. Dead men walk no trails. Or something. The only other thing in the cave was a hole and a rope down into the darkness. Tiny went down to look around quietly, but Samuel shouted down after him and two skeletons appeared. He managed to stay hidden, but Samuel dropped down after him and hurt himself. Deano followed, and he and Tiny quickly saw off the skeletons. King Roberto and Lordi dropped down too and hurt themselves a little, while Bubbles landed perfectly, “slut-dropping” to celebrate and/or taunt the others.

SD

We had two choices here, one corridor appeared to have acid damage down it but with no visible traps, so we concluded that there was likely some kind of acid spewing nasty awaiting us. The other direction did not have acid damage. We chose the path of least acidification, arriving in a large constructed cavern, littered with bones. Tiny and Bubbles investigated (with Tiny hearing a voice in his head say “You’re a cunt”), spying a group of ten stirges in ceiling. Lordi tried to sneak round the room, but made too much noise and got swarmed by half of them, the other half went onto Roberto. A swarm of the little buggers could be nasty, as they hit for much more damage than you’d expect for a weird mosquito/vampire bat/bird cross, but they also take little more than a backhand to kill, so the group made short work of them.

Lordi and Roberto did take a fair bit of damage, leaving the former fairly close to being knocked out, so we went up to a guard room for a quick rest. However, there was no such luck as nine skeletons rose up to meet us. Deano attacks with burning hands (which I always hear as if a stoner is chanting “burning maaaannn!”) charring several. Samuel then ran in, smashing one of the smoldering skeletons to pieces, which may have been his first ever kill. Throwing his extra attacks around like a big-shot, sure to not put himself in great danger later, King Roberto walked into the room confidently,  killing two and damaging another, while getting hit himself for a savage critical.

Skeletons

Much to everyone’s surprise (possibly because he is a cleric, and not a very good one) Samuel killed another two by dual wielding even though he has no proficiency for doing that, caving in their skulls. Roberto gave him a fist bump as congratulations and the DM gave him a disadvantage on the next roll. Worth it. Deano kills another. From the door, a heavily damaged Lordi attempted a cone of ice spell from the door on the last skeleton, already only crawling slowly along the ground towards the party. They missed, and the skeleton continued to inch towards the caster, before King Roberto just walked up to it and crushed its head under his foot.

After a rest, we walked through a cavern full of mushrooms and spores. Some erupted near King Roberto and the DM tried to make him roll for poisoning, forgetting that he, Deano, Tiny and Rick all found rings of resist poison in the wizards tower. The DM was unhappy about not getting to poison someone. This would not be the first time the DM would be irritated that his plans didn’t work out entirely. Before stashing some of these mushrooms, Deano used his resistance to openly eat one in front of Samuel, mocking him and his susceptibility to poison and hunger.

We arrived a hall with a starry ceiling. Feeling magic coming from two attached rooms, Samuel went straight into the first, as he couldn’t bothered to be helpful anymore. It was burnt out, and contains a wraith named Mormesk. He was once a wizard, and one of the founders of the Forge of Spells. We tried to get information and convince him to give us his treasure, but Samuel got bored and attacked. Predictably, Tiny sneaked in mid-combat,  stealing the treasure. After a quick fight, Samuel finished off the wraith. He was having a killer night.

The opposite room contained a brazier (we all laughed) of green flame – the Forge of Spells. A multi-eyed floating monster calling himself The Spectator (a relation of a Beholder) used a psychic voice, telling us that he watches the forge. Lordi, after being ignored a few times while yelling “ray of ice”, hit him with a ray of ice. Once again mid-combat, Tiny stole some shiny weapons from the sides of the room. The fight was looking to get pretty hairy, but Samuel in a stroke of genius used a Control Water spell to desiccate the monster’s multiple eyes, removing all of the fluid and blinding him. No longer able to fulfil his roll as a spectator, he disappeared. Suspecting that we were coming up to the end, we all used the forge, which temporarily granted +1 stats to all of our weapons.

Spectator

Finally, we headed up through the arch at the end of the hall, finding a large room lined with stone pillars and a giant dwarf statue at the end with huge emerald eyes. At the foot of the steps up to the statue was a campsite, where two bugbears and a dark elf got to their feet. The Black Spider and his cronies. Boss fight time.

Immediately four of us were webbed up by four giant spiders crawling down from the ceiling. We all struggled free, as the Black Spider disappeared. Once again Roberto’s resist poison ring came in useful, avoiding succumbing to a spider bite. He eventually took out the spider facing him and another, while Tiny and Bubbles brought down one each. We were all taking heavy damage, first from the spiders and then the bugbears. Samuel was hit badly, and tried to escape to the exit but was knocked out. Our first actual KO. And while nobody was looking, preoccupied with the battle at hand, clawed hands dragged his unconscious body away…

It looked like the battle may be turning in our favour. All throughout, the invisible Black Spider was using his telepathic powers to plant suggestions into the heads of various party members, to get them to turn on their companions, but we were lucky with out rolling so they were all shrugged off. With a well placed magic missile, Lordi managed to simultaneously knock out the Black Spider and kill the more wounded bugbear.

With only one enemy left, it looked like we had this in the bag. Suddenly an imp came down from the ceiling, appearing to be Scratch’s true form (Deano’s pet psychic rat), who started pulling at one of the eyes on the statue. All through the boss fight, and in fact the whole dungeon, Deano had been constantly messaging the DM. Secret plans had been afoot. He then used thunderwave on the whole room, damaging everyone and throwing Tiny to the side of the room. I flat out ask him if we need to get out, and he said it would probably be a good idea.

Not quick enough though. Scratch yelled ‘I did it!’ and yanked the eye free. The room started to shake, the pillars fell and the ceiling collapsed. Deano was already at the door, with Bubbles and Tiny nimbly making it through too. King Roberto stumbled but just got there in time (I fucked up the first roll, but used an inspiration point to re-roll and scraped by). Lordi though, failed the dexterity roll and was crushed to death instantly.

nothic

Once the dust was cleared, with the last bugbear, the Black Spider and our companion Lordi all dead from the cascade of rock, we found Samuel’s corpse horribly mutilated nearby with his heart removed. It turned out that Deano had been continuing his friendship with the Nothic, the beast he had been feeding dead and live bodies to back in Trent Reznor Manor, and had promised him plenty more bodies to feast on in Wave Echo Cave if he came along as insurance. When it turned out that most of the creatures in the cave were light on meat and heavy on bone, he offered a new deal – us.

He planned the cave-in using Scratch, but unfortunately for him far more of us survived than he had thought. So he played the innocent. And he played it well. The most infuriating thing about his betrayal and the nature of the RPG is that we knew full well that he had tried to stab us in the back. We knew he had been doing similar things all along, and that ultimately he could and would betray us. But our characters didn’t know. He never did anything so blatant, until this, that we could accuse him of. We never had a chance to catch him in the act. And even if we had, he was one of our strongest fighters. A confrontation may have left us more than just one man down. Well played you cunning bastard. If fewer of us had escaped the cave in, he almost certainly would have finished us off too.

So we had two characters die, Samuel and Lordi. But then out of nowhere, and possibly in his first selfless act of the game, Tiny announced that he had a scroll of revivify. Presumably taken from one of the many treasure chests he looted without telling us, he could revive one dead character. Despite having had an excellent night, Samuel was done. His player wanted to move on to a new character after this, and didn’t mind being the sacrifice. So Lordi was revived, and Samuel remained dead and horribly torn apart. What a guy.

Epitaph

Samuel the Cleric 2014-2015

And that was it for our first campaign in D&D. We had a deal with Gundrin for 10% each of the profits from the Forge of Spells, the kind of potential fake in-game money that a person can retire on. We all had a blast trying this out, as for almost all of us it was a first foray into pen and paper RPGs. Even those that were initially skeptical ended up loving it, and nearly all of us picked up the Player’s Handbook. In the end we all decided to start up some new characters for the next session, as these had all been presets with modified backgrounds. Now everyone has had a feel for the game, everything is going to get a bit more in depth and the stakes are likely to be higher, but everyone is in.

I may go back to my first character at some point, but for now this is King Roberto the Pirate King signing off.

Roberto

These D&D adventure write ups may continue in some form on the site as we make the games a little more regular with our new characters. I hope you’ve enjoyed these articles, please let us know any feedback you may have from them in the comments below!

Adam

 

Comic Review – Superman Unchained #9

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

Slightly more major spoilers than normal.

This week saw the finale of the Superman Unchained series with issue #9. The whole arc was published by DC comics, written by Scott Snyder with pencils from Jim Lee, inks by Scott Williams and colours from Alex Sinclair, and in this issue the lettering was done by Sal Cipriano, with the flashbacks interspersed throughout illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, amd colours from John Kalisz. Back when this series started in June last year I was particularly excited, so I thought it would make sense to review the final issue.

Superman Unchained is a stand alone tale with the Man of Tomorrow facing off against a terrorist cell known as Ascension, Lex Luthor, the army and their own superhuman Wraith: an alien being with abilities similar to Superman, yet more powerful and knowing seemingly more about Kal-El than he does. Throughout the series, Superman fights and teams up with almost all of these characters, none of whom are particularly trustworthy. Luckily he does have his fellow Justice League heroes Wonder Woman and Batman lending some assistance, as well as Lois Lane, none of whom are useful at all in this finale. Wraith’s people are on their way to Earth to take it over, having seeded it years ago with Wraith himself. This fact is relayed to everyone by Luthor, who appears via a hologram from the comfort of a high back chair sipping wine to pontificate, sneer and suggest a way of stopping the huge alien armada – providing Clark with a solar fuel injection that will cause him to explode amidst the fleet, with a strength “six thousand times the power of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.”. Superman being the hero that he is, he flies straight into space to do just that. However, there he is met by Wraith, who takes on that burden himself and throws Clark free, detonating himself and saving the world.

There was a lot happening here, and I’m not entirely clear on everyone’s motivations. Wraith remained fairly unknown right up to the end, and I don’t think I really understand why he took Superman’s place and attacked his own people. His whole life Wraith had been a weapon, aimed by the US government. Maybe his end is his opportunity to make his own choice, not to be used as a tool to hurt innocents again. The issue itself and the story felt somehow incomplete, possibly due to a lack of significant action. Perhaps the huge brawl Superman had against Wraith a few issues back should have been closer to the end, but this feeling may actually be due to the various delays that the release of this book has had throughout its run. I think that is probably the main complaint I have about this series, as it has taken nearly 17 months for all 9 issues to come out, without any specific reason for the delay (though I think I have a pretty good guess). My own terrible memory and attention span means that I don’t actually remember a great deal of this series, and I think my overall impression of this issue would probably be much more positive once I sit down and re read the whole run.

Luthor’s monologue about Superman, only briefly interrupted to allow for the final showdown to breath, was particularly enjoyable. While told from Lex’s bitter outlook, it does still hint at what I liked most about this series as one of the most likeable, interesting Superman stories since the New 52 started. It certainly feels the most spot on for characterisation, allowing Clark to shine as the hero he really is. I’ve always enjoyed Snyder’s character work, so that didn’t really come as a surprise to me. I will say that as this series seems largely unconnected with the rest of the DCU at the moment, more risks could have been taken with the ending. In superhero comics it is rare that the hero actually dies at the end, mainly because there is no real end, but in this case it could have remained a possibility. Jim Lee’s art was very enjoyable here as usual, with the close up full page splash of Superman crashing through some asteroids, immediately followed by the second splash page now pulled back to see him roar through space, being my particular highlights. The inks and colours brought all of this to life with a clear vibrancy that really stood out from the page during the big action scene with Superman, Wraith and the ships. The flashback sequences by Nguyen, while very different, looked great too, but broke the flow of the read a little bit. Overall though the art was very strong.

I did enjoy this issue, and I worry that I have been too harsh on it. As a series overall I would give it a 9/10 (and you should definitely pick the collection up when it comes out next month), and with a re read I may feel more generous towards this issue too with the rest of the story more fresh in my mind. It is still a decent end to a great series, and I wish that it was going to carry on as an ongoing (just without the delays!). Check this out at your LCS or digitally.

7.5 Bagels out of 10