Paragon Beta Review

Epic Games’ new MOBA, Paragon, is now available for those who buy a founder’s pack. I’ve been playing it for a week now, and, as a new player to this type of game, I’m having fun! There are many things in the game that are incomplete. It should be remembered that the game is barely out of alpha, so that is to be expected, but despite that, the experience is thrilling.

The game has three modes of play:

  1. Players vs Player
  2. Coop vs AI
  3. Solo Play

Solo play is the only option you can choose when starting. It’s a useful mode of play to get used to the characters. I spend 90% of my time in solo play.

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The game launched with thirteen playable characters, and each of them has a series of stats that appear when you hover over them on the character selection screen. One of the stats is difficulty. Some characters are easier to play than others. Some characters can’t even be unlocked until you reach a certain level.

Once you’ve selected the character you’re going to play, and the mode of play, then you can get started. The first thing to do is select your cards. The cards are the game’s upgrade mechanic.

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The game map itself has three lanes of attack, with jungles between them. Your team has five members, so when you’re playing with other players, there are tactical considerations that can be made as to which lane(s) to attack with multiple players. In the jungle, there’s also the orb guardian. Defeating that creature (which still isn’t finished) gives you the Prime Orb. Getting that to its destination enables your team’s Prime Helix cards. This aspect of the game is largely ignored when playing solo, but the Prime Helix cards give some excellent advantages, and will give a team the edge they need to win.

Gameplay is quick, and often brutal. If you put your character up against the wrong type of opponent, you will die. Those who stay alive in the first stage, and have defeated a few others, will have an edge going forward.

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The more you play, the more reputation you build, the more card decks you can buy. You can spend money on the game but only for cosmetic items and some boosts, none of which affect actual gameplay.

Overall, the experience has been a fun one for me. I get to play the game, and dip my toe into the world online play without the necessity to do so, and considering the game is out of alpha (barely), it’s a fun experience to have.

I’d give it a score of 4/5 based on what’s there, and Epic’s promise to listen to the gamers, but when the game goes into full release, that might change.

Deadpool – Ayoub’s Opinion

This is not a review of the Deadpool movie. There are a great many of them around, and many of the positive ones have covered any points I would make in the way that I would make them. What I’m writing here is an opinion on what this movie means, and why we should celebrate that it saw the light of day.

Outside of Marvel’s own movies, too many of the other films based on comic books have been one director or another’s “interpretation” of that comic. Take for example the portrayal of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where some writer or director decided that the Merc with the Mouth shouldn’t have a mouth, or Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, where Galactus was turned into a cloud. These two are examples of a lack of respect or knowledge of the characters by the people making the films.

Deadpool marks the first non-Marvel Studios movie that attempts to be somewhat faithful to the source material. From one point of view, the Deadpool movie is more faithful to the character simply because the @#!&ing language isn’t censored the way it is in the comics. The biggest departure from the source material is the dead pool itself. In the comics, the dead pool was part of the Weapon X facility. Also, the absence of Ajax’s boss, Doctor Killebrew, seems odd. It’s clear in the movie that Ajax has a boss, but he or she is never mentioned.

Despite the changes, watching the Deadpool movie feels like reading the comic. The movie gets away with breaking all the rules because that’s how the character works in the comics, and the only way to make a Deadpool movie that will not be universally panned by every fan is to make it this way.

But why is this a good thing? Why should it be celebrated?

Because the success of this film should be a wake-up call, not only to the other studios with rights to comic book characters, but to Marvel Studios as well: It proves that making a film without major changes to a beloved character can work. It proves that making changes for the sake of making changes, or purely through the hubris of the studios thinking they can “improve” on the source, is not necessary. Deadpool works because it has been made by people who care about the source material, and by people who seem to be fans. They aren’t experimenting, and they aren’t setting off on creative tangents.

If the studios are paying attention, they’ll hopefully see that they need to rein in their teams, or find teams who are actual fans, and see what they can come up with in terms of telling the stories in a faithful, yet impressive way, otherwise we’ll never see a good Fantastic Four film, or a good Punisher film. I’m also hoping that Fox themselves pay attention and stop trying to stray too far from canon in the X-Men films.

The people behind Deadpool, led by Ryan Reynolds, have broken the mould by staying faithful to the mould, and that is why this film is important. Let’s hope for more of the same.

Paragon – A MOBA With a Difference?

For those of you who haven’t heard of Epic Games’ upcoming PS4 and PC Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, Paragon, take a look at the trailer below:

I could sit here geeking out about how visually stunning the game promises to be, but I’ll save that for a review after I’ve played. More interesting than the game itself is Epic Games’ promise that this will not be a pay to win game.

Paragon is designed so that all players can compete and win without ever having to spend money. All Heroes are free, and cards can only be earned by playing the game. The game will never be pay-to-win, meaning we will never sell gameplay-affecting items. We will sell cosmetic items (skins, emotes), boosts and other convenience items, along with Paid Early Access. We’re taking this approach because we believe that competitive games need to be fair for all players. 

This is, at least to my knowledge, a big and brave move. Most others I’ve seen will have premium items that make the game easier, even if only slightly. That this game will be a level playing field for all players, regardless of how much they spend, will either be very costly, or a stroke of genius.

I believe it’s a stroke of genius, for three reasons:

  1. Epic Games is the only company that can publish a game using the Unreal engine, and not have to pay a license fee for each user. That makes it a lot easier for them to give access to this game away for free.
  2. Epic’s main revenue source isn’t tied in to this game, or any other game they publish. They make more money from other publishers who use Unreal than they do from their own games.
  3. With many other engines giving away their development kits for free, and now Amazon’s Lumberyard saying that there’s no charge for using it to distribute an offline only game, Unreal need a big, easy to access game that will show off all the things the engine can do.

Taking the above three points into account, it’s easy to see that Epic is doing this to show off Unreal. While they may garner some revenue from the cosmetic packs they will be selling, I doubt it will offset the development cost of the game, but they don’t need to do that, as long as they get a lot of people playing. The more people who play, the more Epic can argue as to the robustness of their game engine, which means they can persuade more studios to use them.

I’ve signed up for the beta (of course) and I’ll be very interested to see whether their move to level the playing field will pay off.

XCOM 2 – Ayoub’s Review

XCOM 2 launched last week, and I’ve spent most of this week playing it, loving it, and being frustrated by it.

XCOM 2’s predecessor was the first Turn Based Strategy game that I really enjoyed. It is a more visceral experience than other TBS games purely because you know the names of your soldiers – They have personality, and I love the kind of game where the characters have, well, character! With other TBS’s it’s arguably easier to send a battalion to certain death in a gambit; they’re usually a group of identical and nameless soldiers, but when you’ve crafted a character, gave them a name, a history, trained them, and guided them through several hair raising missions to build up their skills, to see them get killed is painful.

XCOM 2 builds on that element in its predecessor by offering more character creation options, and a staggering amount of customisation options. There are more personalities for your soldiers, and your creations are also featured on the game’s main menu page to personalise it for you. Check out my chain smoking sniper, “Flatline” with her gun, “Codecaller” (Yes, you can personalise and name weapons, too) below

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Any characters you’ve created, or had created for you and like, can be saved to your character pool and used in other playthroughs. There is no post-campaign option, which makes your character pool very important in terms of ensuring you have your favourite team every time you play.

The story of the game ignores the events of the first game, and takes you to a world where the aliens won, and you, the Commander, were captured. The tutorial mission shows how you are recovered. The story then continues with you as the commander of a rag-tag band of guerilla soldiers. In XCOM Enemy Unknown, for a well funded operation, the limits on squad size seemed odd and not fitting with how any other military organisation works. In this game, the small squad and guerilla tactics fits well, as do the limited resources, making those soldiers you created even more valuable, and makes the loss of one a bigger event. The addition of turn limits for missions has met with some controversy, but I’m going to go against the flow of complaints and say that it’s a good thing. It adds more to the guerilla style feel of the gameplay, and also makes the game a bit more unforgiving to overly cautious players.

The biggest thing with this game, however, is the unprecedented mod support. The mod creation tools’ download is nearly twice the size of the game itself, partly because of the tools, but also because it includes 32 and 64 bit versions of the game itself so that your mods can be tested. There is nothing held back. Modders can change everything, and create anything. This is a lot more than even Bethesda provided for the most modded game on Nexusmods: Skyrim. This means that budding game developers can use it to learn how to develop a game, and that it will soon be possible to find a great number of mods to tailor the game to your tastes.

On the downside, the game is horribly optimised and crash prone. These are things that can be fixed, however, but they’re frustrating on launch day. No AAA game should ever be released in this state. When it can take over a minute to load a level, there is something very wrong. The only other real flaw with the game is that some actions become overly repetitive after a while. Not the missions, because many are generated on the fly, but many of the base actions can become tedious.

I give the game an 8 out of 10, but once the patches come through for the bugs, that will go up to a 9 out of ten. There’s not a lot wrong with the game at all, and while I feel a little sorry for the console gamers out there who can’t play this game (yet), I’m not bothered enough by that limitation to mark the game down further.

 

Marvel’s Secret Wars 2015

The main story arc of Marvel’s Secret Wars has finally come to an end, and while it was a truly exciting story at times, the ending was underwhelming.

Maybe it’s because the post event stories have already started, maybe it’s because the ending was predictable, or maybe it’s that the event ended because the story did, but the release of the final issue of the story registered as little more than a footnote, as far as my excitement for it is concerned.

The ending was pretty well telegraphed once Molecule Man was revealed as the source of Doom’s power. The fact that everything returned to something approaching normal means that, as transformative events go, it wasn’t much of one. The Battleworld showed us some of our favourite characters as very different versions of themselves, it put them in unfamiliar situations, and made some characters more interesting. It should have set up a Marvel world with some seriously fun changes, but instead it just fizzled out into an artistically beautiful, yet thoroughly predictable finale, and left the only truly interesting change as the new, supposedly improved, Victor Von Doom.

So there it is. The Secret Wars started with a bang, then, thanks to Molecule Man and Reed Richards, became an event that few characters in the Marvel universe will remember, and less impactful than other events like AvX, House of M, and Axis.

Ultimately, the Secret Wars event was greater than its core story. The side stories were much more entertaining than the core story, and the core story outlived the event for way too long. It’s still a good read, just to see how it all fits together.

Also, I’m annoyed that Elsa Bloodstone and Abigail Brand didn’t get their own series post event.

In other words, ignore my whining and read the damned comic. It gets a 4/5 rating.