Rogue One tie-in for Star Wars Battlefront?

Over the weekend, I took a look at the new trailer for Star Wars:Rogue One, and it looks great. Star Wars is a well worn universe, which comes with its own set of tropes. With that in mind, I’m willing to tolerate a certain amount of cliches in order for it to feel like a Star Wars movie. Of course we’ll have to wait until December to see how good it actually is, but I did pose the question on Facebook – “what if the best Star Wars movie turns out to be one of the side stories and not one of the chronicles?”

The next question of course is whether we could be heading for a Rogue One tie-in for Battlefront?

Battelfront made its “Battle of Jakku” map available in the lead up to the launch of “The Force Awakens”. Looking at the DLC schedule for Battlefront, there’s a couple of opportunities to give Battlefront players a taste of the Rogue One action.

  
Firstly, there’s the Fall 2016 release of the Death Star expansion. Given what we know about the Rogue One plot, a tie-in with some of the Death Star maps would seem a possibility. Giving Battlefront players a chance to explore previously unseen parts of the Death Star, ahead of the movie, would be a nice reward for Season Pass holders.

The second opportunity is the yet unnamed expansion pack scheduled for early 2017. It’s possible this is a Rogue One tie-in they’re trying to keep under wraps until closer to launch. Bringing this forward to drop in Winter 2016 would keep with the one expansion per quarter schedule, and also align to the Rogue One movie release. The Rogue One movie, plus a Battlefront expansion, would be a fantastic holiday gift for fans.

Of course it’s all speculation on my part. But the opportunity is certainly there to bring the movie and game together that way. What do you think?

First impressions of XCom 2: Familiar, fun and a little frightening

  xcom 2 dvd case 

Despite my previous doubts over whether I’d buy XCom 2 as a new release, I gave in and picked up a copy earlier this month. Perhaps I was psionicly seduced in to it by a Sectoid? With my first campaign heading for doom, here’s my impressions of the game so far.

Familiar

For those that have played XCom:Enemy Unknown, there’s a certain level of familiarity here. 

Like the previous XCom game, it has  a mix of tactical and strategic elements. At the tactical level, you engage in squad level turn based combat, as per the previous game. There’s also a simillar strategic layer in between missions, where you make decisions about how you progress the story. The strategic layer seems to have been expanded though. My initial impression is there’s more choices to be had in how you progress your rebellion against the aliens.

The XCom 2 storyline also features a familiar character from what is referred to as the ‘first war’.  While the new characters I’ve encountered haven’t grown on me as much as Chen and Valen from ‘Enemy Within’, they’re the sort of archetypes you’d expect. That, again,  helps make it feel like we’re in familiar territory.

The biggest difference for me was getting used to controlling via a mouse and keyboard, having played the previous game on the iPad.

Fun

 Ok, so my first mission to recover the generator gadget didn’t go so well. I was a little cocky and rushed forward before I understood just how different some of the enemies were. But before long I was back in to the swing of things and the more familiar territory of ‘you win most but lose soldiers along the way.’ Until I became overconfident again and was once more decimated by enemies with hidden talents.

Perhaps the only detraction from the fun for me is that my PC is underpowered relative to what XCom demands. Though less than six months old, my PC is more a desktop workstation than gaming machine. For most tasks, it’s powerful enough. Sadly, to get a smooth experieince from XCom I’ve had to dial the graphics right back.

Frightening 

One of the things I’m enjoying about XCom 2 is that fighting the aliens has become more frightening. Familiar other worldly foes have evolved in to far more lethal creatures. At least on this initial play through, the heart tends to race a bit when encountering new aliens. And just when you think you’ve conquered your fear of these amped up aliens, a new extra terrestrial talent is revealed, and the anxiety returns. 

Visually, the aliens are also more spectacular, even on the low quality settings on my PC. The Sectoids contort their body in ghastly ways, beserkers drool

When big brands make love: Lego Star Wars and ‘The Force Awakens’

The marketing department assigned to Star Wars is probably as large as The First Order, and merchandise is a big part of Disney’s plan for galactic domination. So  it’s no real surprise we have a new Lego Star Wars game to go with the latest movie.

Most serious Star Wars fans by now will have seen ‘The Force Awakens’. By June, those who are content to watch it at home on DVD will probably have had their chance to see it too. That means by the middle of the year, the plot of ‘The Force Awakens’ will be as well known as the weak spot on the Death Star. Throw in the bonus of most US schools being on vacation, and June 2016 seems a reasonable time to launch Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Retelling the Star Wars stories with their signature quirky humour, the Lego Star Wars games are among the most played games on our XBox 360.  Jetite has conquered all the existing games, and unlocked a staggering amount of characters – including  Indiana Jones. The Lego Clone Wars game was also our first attempt at playing something like an RTS against each other. 

As a parent, the Lego Star Wars games have a lot going for them.

  • They’re easy to pick up and play – which means even non-gamers in the family can join in the fun.
  • Cartoon style combat, no bad language and no (obvious) adult themes – makes them suitable for a wide range of ages.
  • Adult ‘in jokes’  – although sometimes quite subtle,  there’s more humour to these games than just the slapstick stuff that makes the kids laughing out loud.

Which brings us to the trailer for the new game. It really does suggest the latest instalment to the Lego Star Wars franchise will be sticking to the formula they know works – poking fun at the movie.

But what about Disney Infnity? Isn’t there a Force Awakens game for it too?

Yes, indeed there is.

  

And I’ll admit to being a little surprised to see two games going after what I assume will be pretty much the same market.  I can only assume that when Lego rocked up with a bag full of money to buy the licence for the latest game, Disney felt confident they wouldn’t be cannibalising their Infinity product.  It’s even possible the  June 2016 launch for Lego was imposed by Disney, creating a six month window in which Infinity ‘Force Awakens’ could promote itself without competition. 

When Lego finally launch in June, Star Wars buzz will be well past its peak. It’s going to be interesting to see if the strength of the Lego brand, and the legacy of its previous Star Wars games, will be enough to make the game a commercial success. 

Can XCom2 deliver the tactical brilliance of Enemy Unknown?

  
XCom2 is only a couple of weeks away, and I’m tempted to make it my first major game purchase of 2015. For those not familiar with the franchise, here’s what I loved about its predecessor, ‘XCom: Enemy Unknown’. 

Turn based combat suits this middle aged gamer better 

As a middle aged gamer (MAG), my reflexes and coordination aren’t what they once were. Truth be told, my reflexes and coordination have never been spectacular. So while I enjoy shooter games, and I’m loving Star Wars:Battlefront, they aren’t my strength.

During my university years, I spent a lot of time playing real time strategy (RTS) games, especially the various instalments of the Command & Conquer series. I’m also a way back fan of turn based military games like Panzer General and Close Combat.  

While I still enjoy RTS, turn based games probably suit my lifestyle better. Firstly, they’re easier to put down and resume, as you don’t lose the same momentum as a game you’re playing live.. Secondly, they’re much better suited to mobile/tablet gaming – especially if you have fat fingers. 

Plenty of choices when it comes to both tactics and strategy

Another thing I love about XCom is the choice at both the tactical and strategic level.
While progression through the game story is relatively linear, players have a range of options for getting to the next milestone. Which new technology will your scientists research first? Will you spend your resources on new weapons now, or invest in better training for your soldiers.

At the tactical level, there’s choices to be made about who to include in your squad, along with the range of weapons and equipment to be selected. It means you can choose the mix of soldier types and equipment that suit your playing style, rather than being locked in to taking a specific squad mix.

Available on iOS, for playing on the go

I was a little later to XCom:Enemy Unknown than most folks because I actually discovered it on iOS. This game played beautifully on the iPad. While the original iOS version lacked the character customisation of other platforms, this doesn’t detract from the overall experience of the game.

For weeks my daily commute was consumed by the challenge of repelling the alien invasion of Earth. It was great fun, and fantastic value at $20.

If you’re a fan of turn based combat games, and looking for a taste of the XCom universe, your cheapest option is to pick up the iOS or Android, or to keep an eye out for Steam or Humble Bundle sales.

And if you’re already an XCom fan, I’d love to know what you think about XCom2 and the battle to reclaim Earth.

From Test Drive to Total Recall: The visual experience of gaming

Gaming has changed a lot in my lifetime.

One of my earliest gaming experiences was playing the original ‘Test Drive’ car game on my uncle’s PC. At the time, the Hercules graphics card was the state of the art in home computer graphics. The video below, though it’s an emulation, gives you a pretty good feel for what that experience was like.

Oh how things have changed.

Here’s me driving my little Opel Astra on a rain soaked track in Forza 6.

It’s a world away from the laggy, two-tone graphics of the original Test Drive.

If we’re not yet at the stage of photorealistic console games, one has to imagine they’re just around the corner. Once 4K televisions become more common, we’ll probably see even more demand for console gaming to take its next step forward in visual quality.

But what if we look even further out?

By the time Jetite reaches my age, how far the visual experience of gaming have advanced? How will things like augmented and virtual reality change the gaming experience in the coming decades? Perhaps the TV screen will be obsolete! Will the future of gaming be like Star Trek’s “holodeck”? Or will it  be purely in our minds – closer to the virtual memories of Total Recall?

Interesting times ahead.

A Brave New World.

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Daughter (Aka. Pinky Pie….Age 6.): “What game is that Dad  ?”

Son (Aka. Groot..Age 3): “Who is that that guy…what he do ?”

Pinky Pie: “Did you just shoot those people ?”

Groot: “Are they people or robots ?”

Both: “Can I have a turn ?”

ME: “It’s called Destiny…he’s a guardian….yes I did shoot them….their aliens….no you can’t, this isn’t for kids….wait a second……Why aren’t you two in bed.?..do you know what time it is ??….and how long have you been standing there ????…get into bed before your mother catches us and I get into trouble !!!!!!”

I’m a gamer, that said, I’m never going compete in tournaments, or get my name in the paper. My gaming skills have been rated as “Solid”,  by the  20 something, hardcore gamers in my extended family, which basically means when it comes to gaming I’m a firm “C”…maybe a soft “B”, if their feeling generous.

Gaming was always something my kids were going to be exposed to and get interested in.  Although for some reason I thought they would be older when it happened. In retrospect I have no idea why I thought that, but i did. So when this conversation happened at age 6, I was surprised.

Pinky Pie: “how do you play minecraft ?….. can i install it on my ipad “?

What I thought: “How does she even know what minecraft is ????……Can you even get it on an iPad…..I have no idea how to play…..”

What I said:  “Sure honey, its bed time now though, how about we have a look tomorrow, okay ?”

Satisfied with that answer, Pinky Pie, twirled away and off to bed, and I went off in search of  my iPad and youtube.

This was a new dimension to the one of the problems a first world parent….I had up until this point been primarily concerned  with the suitability of the  content they were exposed to when watching television or movies, but suitable content in gaming, both on console and mobile devices was something I had not thought, I would have to deal with at this age. What is appropriate content  and what is available out there for kids of this age ? and how can I share the gaming experience with them in a responsible way ?

So now I have begun a journey through the world of gaming for kids as a responsible adult. I cant be alone in feeling a little unsure and more than just a little overwhelmed at the shear volume of content available these days. I think there are too many choices when it comes to gaming for myself, so one of the goals of this site is to share my experiences and hopefully it will provide some useful information to you and other parent who like me, stand like a dear in headlights when your child comes home from school and tells you all about this game that their friend told them about and can they play Terraria too ???…”Please Dad…. can  I ???? ….PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE !!!!!!!”

I miss pacman.

How Star Wars became the catalyst for upgrading to Windows 10

msft xbox streaming
Source: Microsoft / xbox.com

One good turn deserves another. Or in the case of recent developments in my household, one tech upgrade begets another.

A while ago, I fell in love with the new version of Star Wars: Battlefront. Even before I’d played the game, the prospect of crushing “rebel scum” had me salivating. By the time I’d watched the various demos and trailers from E3, it had become a matter of when I’d upgrade to the XBox One, rather than if.

So it was, that Battlefront became a major driver behind me upgrading to the XBox One.

What’s perhaps a little unexpected though is how Battlefront ended up setting in motion my upgrade to Windows 10.

Earlier this year I purchased a new desktop computer from Dell. It was released in that window (no pun intended :-) where manufacturers were installing Windows 8.2, but including a free upgrade to Windows.

For the last few months my PC has been not-so-patiently reminding me that it’s time to upgrade to Windows 10. But I’ve never really had any reason to make the switch. Heck, I only ‘upgraded’ to Windows 8.2 because that’s what came with my new computer. Windows 7 was meeting all my needs just fine.

But if you’ve bought an XBox One, there’s a great reason to give in to the nagging and move to Windows 10. The ability to stream games from your XBox One to your PC.

What?

Yes, play XBox One games on your PC. And not just your PC, but your Windows 10 tablets as well. This seems to be Microsoft’s nice little sweetener for those folks who have given Microsoft powered devices prominence in their homes. As a strategy for locking people in the the Microsoft ecosystem, this is a smart move.

So how well does it work?

Setup was pretty straight forward. The option for game streaming was already enabled on my XBox One. On my PC, I simply fired up the XBox app and logged in with my XBox Live account. A couple of clicks later and my XBox was mirrored on my desktop monitor.

Determined to put the streaming to the test, I dived into a game of Battlefront. While the quality of the experience isn’t the same is playing on the big screen in the lounge room, my 26” Dell delivered a pretty solid performance. If you have to share your TV, it’s an option that’s well worth exploring.

Perhaps the only drawback I’ve found so far is that you need to be logged in to the XBox One before you can connect and stream to your PC. In practise that means you’ll need to start the XBox streaming before you hand your TV over to someone else.

But that’s a small price to pay for the convenience of being able to play your XBox One games on an alternate screen.

So if you’re the owner of an XBox One and you’ve been wondering if you should move up to Windows 10 – this is the upgrade you’ve been looking for.

Star Wars Battlefront: Nothing like the stomp of an AT-AT

  
If you’re a fan of the Star Wars universe, you’ll want to check out the eye candy that is the latest Star Wars:Battlefront game.

This week I finally succumbed and bought myself an XBox One. The decision to upgrade was primarily motivated by the desire to play the latest version of Star Wars Battlefront, but other titles like Forza 6 and the upcoming Mass Effect title also played a part.

There may be a longer post to follow on the whole path to purchasing an XBox One and getting it up and running. But having just stepped away from a couple of hours of Battlefront, I wanted to take a few minutes to say “Wow”.

Let’s get something out of the way up front. I suck at first person shooter (FPS) games. I suck badly. My reflexes and hand eye coordination are pretty ordinary, even for someone my age. So what you’re getting here is the first impressions of someone who isn’t a regular player of this genre. But what I am a fan of is Star Wars.

So what are my first thoughts?

A lot of hard work has gone in to ensuring this game feels like the Star Wars universe fans know and love. (Check out this article on the making of the game for why this game looks so good).

This game is beautiful. From the way the wind whips the snow up on Hoth, to splashing through streams on Endor, the environments you do battle in are gorgeous.

There’s also lots of little things done well. Running across the snowy landscape of Hoth, you leave clearly formed footprints behind you. If you charge out of a dimly lit bunker in to the full glare of Tatooine’s twin suns – you’re temporarily blinded by the glare.

But better than that, the battles I’ve experienced so far feel just like you imagine they should.

I’ve spent most of the previous hour playing the ‘Walker Assault’ mode, which involves fighting alongside or against an invading AT-AT force.

When you’re fighting against the AT-AT’s as they trudge across Hoth’s snowy white plains, their size and firepower make them seem like almost invincible machines of death. Which is how it should be.

On the flip side, fighting as an Imperial soldier alongside an AT-AT is terrifying in its own way. Using the AT-AT’s legs for cover, the controller vibrated in my hands each time the At-At’s heavy steel feet stomped against the rocky desert of Tatooine.

Although its very early days yet, I’m loving Battlefront. After I’ve spent more time playing, I may have more to say about the gameplay. But for now, I’m still just enjoying being wowed by the world that DICE has managed to create for fans of the Star Wars universe.

Walking War Robots: Live. Die. Repeat. Fun. Week 1.


Like the tide of battle, my enthusiasm for Walking War Robots has ebbed and flowed throughout the week. But In spite of lacking variety in some areas, it’s a game that’s managed to keep me coming back, so far at least.

Stamping about in a giant metal mech and blowing up other robots is fun, especially if you have a pre-existing love of mech warfare. Which is why I’ve found myself still playing Walking War Robots (WWR) this week, even though the game is a little repetitive.

Firstly, let’s talk about maps. In particular the lack of maps. Despite not playing more than a few games a day, I’ve been fighting on the same three maps.
Over.
And over.

And over.

It’s all starting to feel a little like Edge of Tomorrow – but without the prospect of waking up to Emily Blunt every day. According to the WWR Wiki, there’s four maps available. But so far my heavy metal feet are yet to tread the snowy terrain of the Yamantau map. [Edit: Ok, I’ve now experienced Yamantau, but it still seems to be the least frequent map I’ve encountered in my first week.]

There’s also a lack of variety in the missions. Every mission is a team ‘control the beacons’ mission, with victory also granted if you manage to destroy all enemy robots. Oh what I’d give for a free for all arena battle. Or some small team battles. Or just something else now and then to mix things up a bit.

And yet, despite these limitations, I’ve come back to WWR for a few battles each day. At about ten minutes a match, it’s easy to quickly dip in and out of the game. Being randomly assigned a team for each match also avoids the hassle of organising people to play at a specific time, and a lot less guilt if you do happen to need to drop out of a match early.

I’m still learning the best tactics to use when fighting with different mechs and armaments, which is helping to hold my interest. If you want to last the full eight minutes, it really pays to give some thought to the best way to fight with your chosen war robot and its arsenal.

Of course, the lengthy times taken to upgrade various weapons also helps drive repeat ‘play’. If you can call logging in simply to kick off a new weapon upgrade ‘playing’.
A week in and the limitations of this game are obvious. Yet back I go day after day for a couple of rounds of metal on metal mayhem. A fortnight or a month from now it may not have the same day in, day out appeal, but I can imagine it being one of the games I pick up when I want a quick hit of multiplayer fun.

 

Need to Know

  • Available for iOS and Android
  • Multiplayer – online only
  • Free to play
  • In-app purchase: in-game currency or experience multiplier.

Walking War Robots: Surviving Day One

 There’s some experiences you never forget. Like the first time you strap yourself in to sixty tonnes of stomping steel battlemech and stride through a war town landscape with rocket fire ringing in your ears.

My first serious ‘mech’ experience was an arcade based game at Timezone, back in the 90s. After a lengthy wait in line with another dozen eager mech pilots, I ponied up my cash and was strapped into a near life-size cockpit. For the next ten minutes, I and my fellow pilots chased each other around a virtual battlefield, our individual machines literally shaking and rattling with every explosion. Given the state of technology at the time, it was an incredibly immersive experience, and a hell of a lot of fun.

There was also the memorable but unfortunate time I was playing one of the MechWarrior games and discovered how easy it is to blow a set of PC speakers if you turn the bass up too much. The rest of the missions on that computer just didn’t feel the same without the satisfying thwump of exploding enemy mechs.

Although I’m not a hardcore fan of mech games, I do have a soft spot for piloting giant robots into battle. Which brings me to my first twenty four hours with ‘Walking War Robots’. (hereafter referred to as WWR)

There’s no discernible plot to this game, and no complex moral dilemmas for your character to solve. What you get is exactly as is advertised on the box – walking war robots. Giant walking robots that you can equip with a progressively more deadly arsenal of guns, rockets and energy weapons.

WWR is an easy game to pick up. Select your first mech, pick your weapons and join the battle. The controls are fairly intuitive, so before long you’ll be unleashing a fiery cascade of cannon fire on your foes. Just be aware that this is one game where more experienced players may actually respawn more times than the newbie – your number of respawns in a round being determined by how many mechs you have in your personal hanger.


Playing on my iPad, there’s enough visual detail to make it clear you’re striding between skyscrapers rather than just solid blocks. But as I soon discovered, the environment is indestructible, so no matter how many rounds you hammer in to a building, it’s still going to look picture perfect. Structures also seem to offer the same amount of cover no matter how many missile hits they take. Still, it’s a small quibble in the scheme of things.

In my first day of casual playing I’ve learned the basics of the game, upgraded some of my weapons, and even earned enough to buy some additional mechs. It’s been fun so far and now the challenge will be how long WWR can hold my attention for.

If you’re a long term WWR player, I’d love to hear in the comments what keeps bringing you back to this game.

Need to Know

  • Available for iOS and Android
  • Multiplayer – online only
  • Free to play.
  • In-app purchase: in-game currency or experience multiplier.