Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Why I Struggled To Finish Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor

I'm a huge Tolkien fan. I grew up reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read them often. I voraciously read The Silmarillion and The Legend of Sigrud and Gudrun. I still go back and read all of those books again from time to time, so I was pretty hopeful for the game. It looked pretty and it sounded very cool. Then I played the game and that's where all hope was lost.

Shadow of Mordor is set between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. You play as a ranger named Talion who is responsible for guarding the Black Gate of Mordor. Certain story elements happen to Talion and he teams up with a wraith named Celebrimbor who is basically keeping him alive. While it's a little light on the story, it is an interesting concept and the open world of the game is quite stunning.

Talion taking down an Orc.

Talion and Celebrimbor's abilities do complement each other really well and you can switch easily back and forth between the two to use their powers. The menu system is pretty user friendly and easy to navigate. The save system is not so great and here is why. There is auto save and while that's not a big deal, it only auto saves after a major battle or story line battle. You have to fast travel to a forge in order to auto save the game before quitting. That's not exactly practical and a manual save would have been great for this game.

One feature that was very cool was being able to ride a Caragor. You have to position yourself so you can leap onto its back and dominate it via a little mini game with button prompts and then you have a docile Caragor who remains friendly even after you dismount it. You can ride around taking out your enemies and even command the Caragor to attack them as well. 

Crush your enemies while riding a Caragor!

The open world exploration is interesting and there is a lot to see and do with the main story and a variety of side quests. Celebrimbor has many abilities that are awesome such as shadow walking and being able to scan an Orc's mind to learn information about the various Orc captains and chieftains. It makes for interesting battles with the different abilities. You'd think that the game would be fun with all that great stuff, right? Wrong. It amazes me how much this game sucked the fun out of things when it had so much potential.

The wraith Celebrimbor scanning an Orc's mind.

One of the big things that frustrated me was the heal system. I understand planning out strategy and tactics for the game, but when it's executed poorly that's a problem. In order to heal you have to stop and cut a healing herb. Just one healing herb. It's a little difficult when you are running from a horde of Orcs to do this. It's not like you can yell, "Hey, time out I need to cut this herb so I can heal!" Stopping to cut a single herb for healing is rather silly. They should have made it so that you could at least carry a few healing herbs with you.

Then there is the Nemesis system. The way it works is certain Orcs (or Uruks as they're called) have unique names or titles, distinguishing traits, and a specific hierarchy. If one of these Orcs kill you, they power up and it's more difficult to kill them. You can exact your revenge on them of course, but there are certain ones that will return a few times to get revenge on you and they've learned your tactics so then you have an even more challenging fight. For me, that was an exercise in frustration. Having to fight the same enemy over and over again sucked the joy from the game, not to mention the only way to defeat those enemies is to power up yourself. This is done via unlocking runes to upgrade your weapons which can also be tedious. 

Then there's the fact that stealth and sneaking are your best friends in the game. I could see why many people commented that it felt like an Assassin's Creed game with all the stealth and hidden assassinations involved. However, Shadow of Mordor is very much its own game with all the flaws. The reason I say that stealth and sneaking are important to your survival is because if you are seen out in the open by one or more Orcs it's pretty much game over for you because they will swarm you and your only real solution is to run away or you'll be overwhelmed by the horde. There's definitely a learning curve with this and once I got the hang of it, I pretty much went full Solid Snake on all the Orcs taking them out from bushes or from above because it was a lot easier that way. 

All these factors really had me struggling to finish this game. It got so bad that I just plowed through the main story just to finish so I could write the Mother Gamer post and that was after my friend Daniel told me that the final boss was a DLC. That's right, you had to BUY the final boss DLC which is pardon my language total bullshit. This game was NOT fun for me at all and it's disappointing because it could have been a great game. I'm not the only one who felt that way. 

This is a direct quote from my good friend Daniel who had to suffer through this game also: As flawed as it was, it had so much potential. Management of the game seemed to hurt it more than design, but in the end a final product is a final product. The DLC issues are one of the examples where management used shady practices just to get more money. An ending is not a DLC. Secondly, I played on the Xbox 360. The fact that the game was cross generational was a poor choice. On last gen consoles, load times were abysmal taking up to 45 seconds to load the menu or the map. When each interrogation loads the menu, it led to horrible pacing. The load times often cut the first five to ten seconds of each cut scene out for me. Finally, there was a glitch where the audio would play a never ending tone. Only restarting it would turn it off.  Now, these technical issues are apparently not in the current gen versions and at least one of them was patched out after I finished it, but I was not able to truly enjoy the game. I finished it, but I powered through the story to cope with the issues and ignored the side missions. It had a lot of potential too. I was very disappointed. 

I agree with him. It is incredibly disappointing when you are excited to play a game and it does not live up to your expectations at all. I also agree with him about the management. There were so many things that were not handled well. One of the other big glaring things was the deal they had with YouTubers that they could get early access to the game ONLY if they gave the game positive reviews and did not mention any glitches, bugs, or technical problems. TotalBiscuit blew the whistle on these shenanigans and Jim Sterling of The Escapist managed to get a copy of the contract and analyze it thoroughly. It is ridiculous to me that they resorted to these ham fisted tactics. People would have played the game because while it's not a perfect game, it's not completely terrible either. The graphics are pretty, when the battles work out they're actually a lot of fun. This just screams a lack of confidence. If you're truly confident in your product, there's no reason to to do this. It's also caused people to start doubting positive gaming reviews now, wondering if they've been bought off through a shady contract for early access. That's not good at all. It makes me wonder how the hell this game won Game of the Year. I know that award isn't that big a deal, but it did not come across to me as a stellar game at all.  Games are supposed to be fun and while this may have been a fun game for others, it was gaming hell for me. I don't plan on playing this game again. Once was more than enough. 

You can check out Jim Sterling's video about Mordor Gate here: 

*Shadow of Mordor is playable on these platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, XboxOne, and Playstation 4 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Fallout 4 Automatron DLC: Now With More Robots!

I had been counting down to the release of the Automatron DLC for Fallout 4 because it looked awesome and appealed to my love of robots and giant robots. Automatron arrived and I was thrilled to try it out. The DLC cost ten dollars and you definitely get your money's worth and more.
Automatron starts with a distress signal on your Pipboy radio that leads you to Ada, a robot whose friends have been killed by a robot army led by the Mechanist. Ada becomes a new companion as you aid her in her quest to find the Mechanist and find out why the robots are attacking everyone in the Commonwealth.

Meeting Ada.

The Automatron DLC is a little under three hours of game play and there is a lot to see and do. The Commonwealth is now running rampant with killer robots and one of the ways to combat them is to upgrade your current robot companion Ada and build your own robot army. You can also upgrade your other robot companion Curie as well.  You do need the science and robotics perks for this in order to upgrade your robots to their shiny potential. All this can be done after you build your very own robot station and you can crank out all the robots your heart desires as long as you have all the necessary materials of course.

Build your own robot!

The story takes you to a couple of locations with robot ambushes and a couple of linear dungeons that are pretty cool where you can pick up all kinds of great loot. You even get an awesome weapon, the tesla rifle which takes out your enemies in epic fashion and is a lot of fun to use. There are a variety of robots trying to take you out and no two are alike. There's even a crazy robot with chainsaws and flamethrowers for arms. This is where your power armor and most powerful weapons come in handy. I used the heck out of my tesla rifle and missile launcher for a lot of these encounters.

Taking out a Robobrain, one of the many enemy robots in Automatron.

Eventually the story leads you to the lair of the Mechanist and you get to loot all kinds of things here while fighting off killer robots. You finally get a showdown with the Mechanist towards the end and again, I was grateful for my power armor because the Mechanist sends wave after wave of robots to end you. It makes for an intense battle, but it is incredibly fun. After it's all over you get to have a chat with the Mechanist and you learn some revealing things about why the robots attacked and some interesting back story about the Mechanist. 

The Mechanist appears.

Once the main story of Automatron is finished not only do you get the Mechanist armor for yourself, you also get the Mechanist's Lair for your very own so you can build and upgrade even more robots of your very own. You can tinker to your heart's content and order is restored to the Commonwealth once more. Automatron while short, is fun to play and worth getting for the story and for all the great perks and items you get with it. Now, it's time for me to build more robots!

Get your own Mechanist armor set. This one's mine.

**The Automatron DLC is playable on these platforms: PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One