Monthly Archives: November 2016

What to make of Final Fantasy XV

I’ve never been a particular fan of the Final Fantasy games.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried to be.  I once collected pretty much all of the Final Fantasy games from I up to VIII with the intention of playing through them all. But I never did it.

I played through about half of IV and quite enjoyed it, but I couldn’t get more than an hour or two in to Final Fantasy VII before giving up. The same happened for Final Fantasy X. The bum-numbingly long cut scenes killed a lot of the enjoyment for me – the same reason that I drifted away from Metal Gear Solid (another game I really wanted to like). I ended up giving the games to my sister in the end.

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Now, a decade since its inception, Final Fantasy XV is finally on shop shelves. And from the viewpoint of an outsider looking in, it’s really bizarre. The cover depicts what looks like a Japanese boy band, who appear to be sponsored by Brylcreem. They clutch what surely must be foam swords, judging by the way they’re flinging them about. Of course, massive swords are a hallmark of the series, but they just look so odd in the hands of the members of SMAP.

The cast of Final Fantasy XV, a.k.a. SMAP.

The cast of Final Fantasy XV, a.k.a. SMAP.

Even more bizarrely, according to the trailer, they seem to be using swords against enemies with guns. What’s that old adage about bringing a knife to a gun fight? And they seem to be in a modern setting, but there’s dragons.

What the fuck is going on in this game?

Still, it does look pretty.

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The No Man’s Sky Rebirth

After happily pottering around No Man’s Sky for weeks, I finally hit a plateau and decided to check out the end game. It turns out it’s utter balls.

I whizzed through all of the Atlas stations, as I’d already hit all of the Journey Milestones to access them, and after visiting the tenth and final one… well, not much happened. I won’t give it away, but it was underwhelming to say the least. After that disappointment, I thought I’d research the other questline – the journey to the centre of the universe – to see whether it was worth the hours of my time it would take to get there. According to this vitriolic article, which reveals exactly what you find, it most definitely isn’t.

So I popped the game back onto The Mantelpiece, and I was just considering whether to sell it when the announcement of a huge update appeared last weekend. And I mean huge. The so-called Foundation update, which is a pleasing nod to the Isaac Asimov book series, comes in at more than 2GB and adds huge amounts of stuff. Check out the video below to see what I mean.

I’m impressed by the sheer amount that they’ve added to the game in this update, and it has met with a glowing reception in write ups from Eurogamer and Kotaku. There’s also promise of plenty more in future tweaks, not least the rumoured addition of land vehicles. The end game may still be underwhelming, but the scope for cosmic pottering has been amplified enormously.

Last week, I wrote that one of the joys of No Man’s Sky is that it’s essentially a giant space shed in which I can dawdle about and generally pass the time in a pleasantly unguided fashion. But now, thanks to the addition of base building, I can now ACTUALLY BUILD A GIANT SPACE SHED. And a greenhouse, too. It’s like they read my mind.

Sheds in space! Bring. It. On.

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Video-game pottering is big business

I wrote yesterday about how as I’m getting older, I find myself craving games that are just a bit slower and relaxing. It turns out I’m not the only one.

As an article on Eurogamer today reveals, Farming Simulator 17 has smashed sales records, selling double the amount of the previous game, and debuted at number one in the all formats sales charts in Germany. And this comes after big AAA games like Titanfall 2 and Watch Dogs 2 have failed to meet sales expectations.

It seems that there a plenty of people like me who would rather potter around a field (or planet) than engage in exhausting, non-stop gunplay. There’s more to life than shooting off machine guns.

More to the point, there’s a whole generation of ageing gamers who still want to dabble in gaming but are perhaps put off by the whining teenager stylings of games like Watch Dogs. The greying pound is strong in video gaming.

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From The Armchair: Old Man Lucius

ArmchairWhat ho, chums!

Friends, I’m growing old. As I near the end of my fourth decade on this planet, my listening predilections are veering from rock and roll towards radio plays, and my shoes are getting comfier and less fashionable with every passing year. I’m wholeheartedly embracing it – bring on the grey hairs, I say. I now actively look forward to receiving new socks and slippers for Christmas.

One change I’ve noticed is that my choice of games is getting more sedate as my body withers into middle-aged podginess. My extended time with No Man’s Sky has been so relaxing because that game is essentially an enormous galactic toolshed, and I’ve been pottering around it happily while avoiding doing the dishes. One of my biggest regrets so far in life is that I don’t own a shed of my own, but thankfully gaming can fill the void with virtual sheds like this one, in which I can make useless things and let my mind wander freely.

No Man's Sky is essentially a space shed.

No Man’s Sky is essentially a space shed.

I’ve also been playing a lot of Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones on the Wii U, a Virtual Console version of the old Game Boy Advance game. (God knows why they didn’t release this portable game on the 3DS as well, Nintendo works in mysterious ways sometimes.) I think turn-based strategy games are probably my all-time favourite game genre, simply because they give me the space to sit and ruminate on what I want to do next. It’s truly relaxing, and these days that’s what I really play games for – to take a break, and lose myself in another realm. Or shed.

Which brings me to Bayonetta 2. I finally finished the game this week, and I think it’s brilliant – right up there with the first one, and between them they represent the absolute pinnacle of the hack ‘n’ slash genre. Superbly crafted, ambitious in scope, incomparable in depth and simply gorgeous to look at. But quite often I found I was simply too exhausted to play it.

Bayonetta 2: exhausting.

Bayonetta 2: exhausting.

I’d often fire up the Wii U and thrash through a level or two, only to turn it off about an hour  and play something a bit less taxing on the old thumbs and fingers. Bayonetta 2 is a game that demands lightning reflexes and constant attention, and my ageing brain is far too addled with years of coffee and biscuit abuse to take that kind of strain for long. An hour is about the limit before my failing cortex demands a game that has in-built coffee breaks – i.e. turn-based strategy.

I’m already glancing through my game collection and mentally discarding titles that look like they might be a bit too much like hard work. Crysis 2 seems like it might require too much running around. Child of Eden is basically a headache inducer. Zone of the Enders needs to just slow down and smell the roses once in a while.

Phew, all this typing is hard work. I think I’ll just close my eyes for a few minutes…

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Meet the Most Helpful People in Elite: Dangerous

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My uncle has been a fan of Elite since the first game came out in the 1980s, and the other day he dropped me a line to tell me about a group called the Fuel Rats. Perhaps I’d be interested in writing a story on them?

I took a look at their website, and I was immediately intrigued. This group is dedicated to rescuing stranded Elite pilots anywhere in the galaxy – and sometimes they go to extreme lengths to save them. In one case, a Fuel Rat flew for seven hours straight to get to someone who was helplessly floating in space, their fuel tanks diminished. Another rescue took a total of three days. It makes a welcome change from tales of griefers causing chaos.

I spoke with two of the Rats, Marcus and Kerenn: both were really helpful and had some fantastic stories to tell. Have a look at the finished article on Kotaku UK to find out what they had to say:

The Most Helpful Pilots in the Galaxy

And if you ever find yourself stranded in Elite: Dangerous, head over to www.fuelrats.com and send out the ‘Ratsignal’ – help will soon be on its way.

Now, before you go, luxuriate in the deep bass voice of RadLock Recursion as he guides you through his 200th Fuel Rats rescue:

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Spiffing Reads: Devil’s Third and Bye-Bye Wii U

This week on Spiffing Reads, it’s (almost) all about the Wii U, long may it rest in peace.

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The ups, downs and future of Tomonobu Itagaki’s Devil’s Third (Polygon)

Devil’s Third came out on the Wii U last year to less than glowing reviews. It’s torturous development history over 8 years and across numerous publishers makes for a fascinating story. It may not have turned out to be the best game in the world, but you have to admire Tomonobu Itagaki’s tenaciousness in getting the damn thing finished.


Farewell Then: Wii Barely Knew U (Kotaku UK)

Production of the Wii U is coming to an end, after the machine failed to live up to sales expectations and struggled to find an audience. Still, it’s well loved in my house, where it gets used daily for Netflix, iPlayer and occasional bouts of Bayonetta 2.

Housing Ladder arcade game has players dodging buy-to-let investors (The Guardian)

Before there were video game arcades, there were arcades packed with electro-mechanical machines. Now this artist is making electro-mechanical machines that carry statements about 21st-century living.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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Spiffing Reads: VR Arcades, Zero Wing and Capcom vs Square Enix

This week on Spiffing Reads, we start start off with how the games industry has finally woken up and listened to some of my amazing ideas.

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Why VR arcades could be virtual reality’s salvation (Polygon)

Back in 2012, I visited an arcade for the first time in years, and found it to be a thoroughly dispiriting experience. The endless driving and shooting games showed a desperate lack of imagination, and I put out a call for developers to make the arcade into an more of an ‘experience’: “What about a game where you go over Niagara Falls in a force-feedback barrel? A space shoot-em up where you fly on the back of an animatronic octopus? An augmented reality game where you shoot down invisible attacking monsters that only you can see?” Well, four years later, someone finally listened. The latest VR arcades in the Far East sound phenomenal – here’s hoping we see them in the UK soon.

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Zero Wing had 32 weird secret endings in Japan (Legends of Localization)

The line “All your base are belong to us” has long been held up as a legendarily terrible example of Japanese to English translation, and is emblematic of the often quite shoddy translation work (and poor game scripts) in the 1980s and 90s. The line came from the shoot ’em up Zero Wing, but only now has it been revealed that the Japanese version of the game had 35 different endings (the English version had 3) – and they were all utterly bonkers. Example: “After I beat you, I’m gonna clean-clean the world. And then I want to build even more bases!”

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Square Enix and Capcom march towards contrasting futures (GamesIndustry.biz)

Another great feature from Rob Fahey, who wrote a scathing report on Electronic Arts last week. This time, he’s looking at the business strategies of Square Enix and Capcom, and it makes for fascinating reading. I was surprised at just how much money Square Enix is making from mobile: “Last year, its mobile revenues overtook its revenue from console games. This year so far, it’s made more money from mobile games than from console games and MMOs (its third largest business segment) combined.”


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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