Released in the holiday season of 2007, and originally intended to be released as a Prince of Persia game following the success of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Assassin’s Creed marked the start of an even more prolific series of games. Whilst the first game was met with generally favorable reviews at the time, future entries would go on to establish it as one of the definitive IPs of the seventh generation of gaming, and going on to provide a basis of sorts for several games made throughout both the seventh and eighth generations, including Batman: Arkham Asylum and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. As for my own personal opinion on the original game, it is admittedly quite typical. I feel that whilst it was a very decent game overall, the best of the series would be yet to come.
Graphics – 8.5/10
Set primarily in the Holy Land during the third crusade, the vast open world is lovingly crafted to represent the structure and architecture of three primary cities; Acre, Damascus, and Jerusalem. The attention to detail of what these locations would have looked like during this era is staggering (something the developers of the series would become renowned for as it would go on), and though the visuals on the technical level perhaps haven’t aged quite as well as other entries in the series, they were nevertheless cutting-edge for the time, and the game is still a joy to look at on the conceptual level.
Gameplay – 8.5/10
The object of the game, as the name suggests, is primarily to carry out assassination missions. Players gather information by pickpocketing, eavesdropping on intriguing conversations, and can take advantage of several different weapons and methods of combat to carry out each kill. But apart from that, there are also various sidequests to be completed throughout each of the cities, which improve the player character’s abilities. The player is also given access to new weapons and abilities after each main assassination throughout the story, such as throwing knives and additional armor. Again, more features would inevitably be added with later installments of the Assassin’s Creed series, but as far as this game goes, this provided more than just a blueprint for that. It provided players with an immensely addictive experience, going further than what Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time did. I always thought personally that The Prince of Persia revamp of the early 2000s could’ve done with a game being set in an open world, and this was Ubisoft’s answer to that concern.
Controls – 9/10
The control scheme was almost perfect, which was relatively impressive, given that truly nothing like this game existed beforehand. But the biggest issue I had with it, was the one-on-one combat system. It works loosely similar to what it does in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with players locking onto one target at a time to attack them, whilst also being able to counter-attack other surrounding enemies in the process. Whilst it would be refined in later Assassin’s Creed games, I found it to be somewhat flimsy at times in the first, and it was at these points that I could tell that it was a new idea that needed tweaking if the series was ever to progress past this game. Luckily, however, the rest of the game’s mechanics were handled brilliantly; movement across buildings, streets, and rooftops is extremely fluent, which again, was impressive given that the idea was a relatively new thing at the time.
Lifespan – 7/10
The biggest disappointment that comes with the first Assassin’s Creed game, however, is the amount of time that it lasts. Whilst not being criminally short, like a lot of other games of the seventh generation, it clocks in at around a total of 30 hours, which is good, but nowhere near the time it could’ve been made to last with the inclusion of a few more sidequests, as again, later games in the series would demonstrate; especially given how the size of the team expanded throughout the game’s development.
Storyline – 9/10
The story of Assassin’s Creed is something that would become disjointed over time, but the first lay the foundations for something special. It begins with the main character Desmond Miles, having been imprisoned by an organization named Abstergo. Their intentions are to uncover ancient secrets hidden in Desmond’s ancestral past through a VR machine known as the Animus, which allows the user to experience the lives and events of their descendants. The experiment’s overseer, Warren Vidic uses Desmond and the Animus to tap into the ancestral memories of Desmond’s predecessor, Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, who was a senior member of an organization known as the Assassin Brotherhood. Following a failed attempt on the life of Robert de-Sable, Altair is stripped of his rank, and ordered to carry out various other assassination missions in order to restore his status and reputation among the brotherhood.
The events of the story, from the perspectives of both Desmond and Altair, unfold into something that will be completely unexpected by players, and truly helped massively to make this game stand out as a hallmark in telling an effective story in gaming throughout the seventh generation. Although fans of the series have had mixed reactions to the directions in which the story was taken, later on, there can be no doubt that the story in the original game was expertly presented. It’s exciting, tense, suspenseful, and without spoiling anything specific, ends on a masterfully executed cliffhanger that you will not believe.
Originality – 8.5/10
Despite Assassin’s Creed having its many influences, such as Ubisoft’s own Prince of Persia and Grand Theft Auto, the fact of the matter is that this series has always delivered something unlike any other before it, and it was all very effectively perpetuated with the original game. Since I first played through it, which was many years ago, I’ve come to have a newfound respect for the original game and everything that is accomplished at the time. During the series’ early years, especially after the release of Assassin’s Creed II, (which remains my favorite installment), I used to look at the original game as being simply the inferior blueprint. But after having played it again recently, I’ve since discovered a new appreciation for it.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed, whilst not being the best game in the series, still remains one of the defining gaming experiences of its time. It’s a game that still holds up, despite its few flaws, and I recommend it to anyone looking to revisit a seventh-generation classic.
Once again looking out for upcoming Kickstarter projects, I came across a title clearly not without its influences, but one which looks like a great deal of fun, and definitely not one to be missed. Salt 2: Shores of Gold, under development at LavaBoots Studios based in Huntsville, Alabama, is the sequel to the original Salt released back in 2014 to commercial and critical acclaim by many reviewers. An open-world pirate game, drawing many similarities with Rare’s Sea of Thieves, featuring an infinite procedurally generated open world, heavy RPG elements such as combat, crafting, and leveling up, and a vast amount of exploration to experiences with landscapes ranging from expansive oceans to quaint islands top mysterious caves. Wanting to know more about titles, I got in touch with LavaBoots Studio’s Will sterling to learn about what the final game will offer to players compared to games made of the same ilk and get a better idea of what the developers want to achieve with this project upon its Kickstarter release scheduled for March 23rd. Here’s what Will sterling had to say about Salt 2: Shores of Gold:
Of course, Sea of Thieves is cited as the primary Influence behind the Salt series, but were there any other games that inspired its development?
Sea of Thieves was mostly an inspiration in terms of the art style but not so much for gameplay. We actually released Salt 1 in 2014, years before Sea of Thieves came out. Our main inspirations in terms of gameplay are open-world games like Skyrim and some old-school MMOs like Everquest. We wanted to take an open-world exploration experience, put a pirate spin on it, and see what it played like in an infinite procedural world.
What has the developmental process been like for Salt 2?
The development has been fantastic. One of the benefits of having worked on games for almost a decade now is learning how to refine your process and become much more efficient. We took a visual-first approach to develop Salt 2 and put a lot more emphasis on art and visuals than we did in the first game.
How close are we to seeing the finished product?
We’re still a ways off. We plan on releasing on Steam Early Access in the Fall of 2021. We currently have a lot of content in the game and most of the core features implemented, but there’s still a lot we need to add and test before we release.
What has been the most exciting aspect of developing Salt 2?
I think one of the most exciting aspects has been making a sequel to a popular game. Because of this, you have a community that’s very excited about a new version. And because we are confident this version is leaps and bounds better than the original, it’s a lot of fun to share the development process with the community and see the excitement build.
What has been the most challenging aspect of developing Salt 2?
We are a small development team of only two members. Because of this, anytime you make a big open-world game with lots of moving parts, it can be challenging. I think just trying to make a large-scale game in a small amount of time, with a small team, and with a limited budget is always a challenge.
How well has the game been received so far?
So far the reception has been exceptionally positive!
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
The game will launch on Steam Early Access but we do plan on porting the game to Xbox and Playstation, pending approval of the platforms.
Are sea shanties planned for inclusion in Salt 2?
Right now we don’t have any sea shanties recorded. We have recorded about 22 songs for the soundtrack. However, I do think sea shanties is a great idea and might even be a neat way to involve the community in the creation process. So while it’s something that isn’t in the game currently, we aren’t ruling it out.
Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?
I can’t think of anything major that’s been scrapped just yet. This is probably largely because the game is a sequel so we already have a pretty good idea of what went right and what went wrong with the first one.
How instrumental has fan feedback for the first game being in terms of the sequel’s development?
Very instrumental. We’ve tried to look at the first game and take note of what was popular and what wasn’t. With Salt 2, we’re focusing on doing more of what was good in Salt 1 and adding new features that we think players will enjoy.
If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?
I think for me it would have to be an Elder Scrolls title. I’m a huge fan of world-building in development and I can’t think of any more fun world to be a part of than the Elder Scrolls franchise.
What have been the biggest lessons learned from the development of the original Salt?
I would say mostly general development lessons. We’ve learned how to prioritize and be much more efficient with our time so we can develop games quicker. We’ve also improved tremendously in terms of art and have realized how important it is to have a good cohesive art style for your game.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
My biggest piece of advice would be to limit your development scope and release something. Don’t be afraid to put something out there, even if it isn’t any good. Going through the process of releasing a game, getting feedback, and improving for the next game will teach you so much more than sitting on a game for years, trying to make it perfect.
Lastly, I’d like to thank Will for taking the time out of developing the game to talk to me as well as to wish him and the rest of LavaBoots Studio the best of luck with its development and the Kickstarter campaign. If anyone is interested in checking this game out or funding the project, the page will be live as of March 23rd via the link below:
Disclaimer: This interview contains some strong language. Anyone who is offended by such content is advised against reading this interview.
The fifth generation of gaming is one of the most beloved periods in the medium, with consoles such as the Nintendo 64, the original PlayStation, and the Sega Dreamcast going on to become among the most popular and well-received platforms in the history of video games. However, come the end of the fifth generation, as the transition to the sixth was being made, among the last games published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64 was Conker’s Bad Fur Day; a game which garnished critical acclaim upon release and has since gone on to become a favorite among fans of the console.
I was lucky enough to have an interview this week with the lead programmer of the game; Chris Seavor. Chris joined Rare back in 1994, where he was tasked with developing for the Killer Instinct series initially; he then went on to not only work on many Rare games on the programming side of things, but also voice many characters created by Rare, such as Spinal from Killer Instinct, Gruntilda of Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie, and of course several characters in Conker’s Bad Fur Day, including Conker himself.
After having left Rare in 2011, he most recently established Gory Details Ltd with former Rare collaborator Shawn Pile, and together have developed both Parashoot Stan and a dark adventure game named The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup, and as of this writing, there is also a new game in development from Gory Details, said to be a twin-stick dungeon-bash title. I had a lot of questions for Chris concerning his early life, his time at Rare, the development of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, as well as the ultimately canceled sequel, and of course, his work at Gory Details Ltd and what gamers can expect from their new project. Here’s our in-depth interview: The Twelve Tales of Chris Seavor:
Where did your passion for video games originate from?
Playing them as a kid… That and board games…. A friend had been bought Dungeons and Dragons for Christmas (the pink edition which I still have) and he couldn’t understand it so he gave it to me… It was a revelation. This is where my love of ‘game mechanics’ came from which then evolved into video games when I had access to a BBC Micro and eventually the eponymous Spectrum 48K.
What games would you play as a child and how would they go on to influence you as a developer?
Ironically the first game I ever bought was Knightlore. I got it from a mate for half price. 5 quid I think. My favorite game from childhood though is RebelStar Raiders which was a turn-based squad game where you had to infiltrate a base on the Moon. Still holds up. Obviously, Ultimate games were in there, but also John Ritman’s variants on the genre like Head Over Heals, which brilliantly introduced a second character to add a cooperative element to the puzzle solving. Quite groundbreaking. The list is huge though; Elite, Paradroid, Out of the Shadows, The Hobbit, Lords of Midnight, Bards Tale, Chuckie Egg, Monty Mole, etc. Oddly though, I never really liked Manic Miner or Jet Set Willy as I found them too difficult. What a scrub eh?
What consoles did you own early on?
None. I was at college when the NES and SNES and Mega Drive came out, so had little money and was too busy drinking and dossing around on the beach (I was at college in Cornwall for 4 years, then Bournemouth for 1). Games kinda left my life for a long time…… Next device I bought after my C64 was a SNES whilst working at Rare just to play Zelda and DKC, so yeah!
What is your earliest memory of game design?
I would design whole RPG systems for tabletop gaming. My 2 favorite systems were MERPS and Warhammer Fantasy RPG. MERPS for its crazy crit tables (and the lore) and WHRPG for the gothic world-building. Loved em to bits. I stole from both. I also wrote a Fighting Fantasy novel, but only got as far as about 100 entries before losing track. Those things are hecka-complex to write.
Were there any development companies you aspired to work with before you went to work with Rare?
Psygnosis. I didn’t know who Rare were, to be honest… Psygnosis were in Liverpool as well, so I could stay with the parents and save some cash. Lazy fucker I was. I had an interview with a few; EA, Psygnosis, and Rare included. Not sure what happened with Pysg, but EA offered a job eventually but I’d already started at Rare and liked it. Mainly because I’d made some friends and to be honest, that’s always the most stressful part of starting out somewhere new: being alone. The job turned out okay too 😉
Where there any other careers you attempted to pursue before going into games design and game voice-over work?
Not attempted, but I’d always planned to go into the film industry. My actual skill set was 3D graphics (a career path very much in its infancy in ‘93, unlike now) so film / TV seemed a natural fit. Games I never considered and in the end just sort of fell into it with a chance conversation with a long time friend Ady Smith (Rare, Eidos). Ironically Ady is teaching game stuff down at my old college in Cornwall now.
What was your upbringing like? Did your parents have any positive or negative reaction to your enjoyment of games, or was there even an element of that during your childhood?
I’d have to say it was pretty negative when I was 13 -15. I always like to remind my Mum of a comment she made once after I spent a whole day playing The Hobbit on the big TV.. ‘You’ll never make any money playing games all day…. It’s not a proper job’. She’s right about one thing though… It’s not a ‘proper job’, thank the maker!
Did any facet of your childhood go on to influence you as a developer, similar to how traveling through the forests of Kyoto inspired Shigeru Miyamoto to create The Legend of Zelda?
Not directly. I’ve always loved the cinema experience and would watch every movie I could… I guess that helped in later life. I read a lot of Horror and SciFi, not so much fantasies apart from Prof T the bulk of it back then was, to be blunt: Shit. I read a lot of Fantasy today though, the grim, dark stuff. It’s so much better nowadays.
What was it like for you to experience the medium of gaming taking off back in the 70s and 80s?
It just was… You don’t really know you’re IN something when it’s happening around you… Like DKC or the N64 period at Rare. It was just a job, and you were hoping your game would sell more than the other Barns did. Only now looking back do you realize the fondness people have for that time, and the games we’d made as a company… It’s kinda weird as I don’t think of it in those terms.
Was the aspiration to become an actor or voice-over artist from an early age as well, or was that something that manifested later on?
Nope. I’m not a voice actor, I’m a 3d Artist / Game Designer. The voice work was a time saver and for practical issues. It seems to be its own thing now in games, with big names getting involved… Fair enough I suppose, but I think it’s a waste of money. Keanu Reeves is a great guy by all accounts but he can’t act for shit. Spend the money on some unknowns who need the break instead… To be honest, I think the influx of big Hollywood names into the games industry is largely down to the egos of the Production Managers, Execs, and Bosses… It’s the only chance these people will ever get to hang out with the Stars!! Also, BAFTA can try and inject their dull game awards ceremony with a bit of glitz and glamour… Game development has little glitz, even less glamour. And then of course there are Mr. Keighley’s Game Awards… I mean, really? I rest my case, your honor. Here’s the proof it’s a bullshit waste of money .. Name me one person who bought Cyberpunk 2077 because Keanu Reeves was in it? You found one?? They’re a fucking liar.
Who were your inspirations where your voice acting was concerned?
Again, no one really. I just did some silly voices based on accents and the range of my voice. Conker’s voice came pretty easily, in fact, I think I just did it instinctively the first time Robin and I were in the studio.
Were there any teachers you had at school who would have a lasting impression on you where your career was concerned?
Absolutely not, Fuck those idiots.
My teachers tried to tell me that the best years of my life would be my school years, but I disagree with them; my best years have been everything that came afterward. But did you enjoy school when you were a kid?
Absolutely not. Fuck those idiots even more… School was shit. Sadists and morons. I fucking hated it with a vengeance. Imagine trying to encourage 14-year-old lads to enjoy reading then dumping Jane Austin’s Mansfield Park in their lap. WTF!? Stephen King, Tolkien, Sven Hassel first… THEN Jane Austin, in later life, when you have enough life experience to relish in its satire.
What was the best piece of advice you were given as a child?
That kind of thing only happens in YA fiction… I never much paid any attention to adults as a kid. I think I became aware of how flawed they all were at a very young age. The one bit of advice I do remember was from my Nan: ‘Christ lad, don’t get old…’
Rare had been renowned for their sense of humor with hidden jokes and Easter eggs in their games and Conker was no different. But where did your sense of humor stem from early on?
I wasn’t particularly funny as a kid. In fact, I was and still am almost terminally shy. I still find it stressful to group up with people in games and be expected to have a conversation, even in chat. (except when I’m shouting abuse 😉 I think my humor stems from looking at life’s absurdity and just laughing at it all. People can be so fucking dumb, so finding comedy gold in the actions and words of others is a never-ending resource. I’m a pessimist and a cynic. That’s where my humor comes from I think….. Plus I’m a bit weird and apparently lacking intact (although I am usually told this after the fact…)
How did the opportunity to work for Rare first come about?
Shared petrol money and a day out from Uni. I just turned up and they offered me a job. That’s it really.
What was your first day at Rare like and what were you tasked with working on initially?
It was fine… I was pretty nervous but that went very quickly…. I shared a room with Kev Bayliss, and we got on fine. Still do (which is amazing for me 😉 ) My first job was to sketch out and start building the environment for Sabrewulf in Killer Instinct.
In terms of working on the Killer Instinct series, what are you most proud of?
Killer Gold I reckon… Just because it was my first experience with actual polygons in a game, rather than pre-rendered. A whole other kettle of fish. I had to convert my original Nurbs Models from KI2 to work in the new engine. First game out from Rare with actual live 3D models… Quite proud of that. And they look okay I reckon, particularly Spinal’s Slave Galley…. (Early nods to Sea of Thieves there ;)) joke.
Did you ever come up with any ideas for any additional characters for Killer Instinct or Diddy Kong Racing?
I did a couple of characters for Killer Instinct 2 (arcade) which were not used. Fully modeled one of them, a Vampire Prince with long white hair. Even did a set of animations. I wish I still had the frames but nope… All gone.
How rewarding was it seeing your work come to fruition with the release of a game at Rare?
Best thing ever… Really, everyone should try it.
Are there any interesting stories about how the voice of Spinal first came about?
Same as Grunty really.. Scream and Cackle. I’m a one-note pony when it comes to baddies.
The concept for Gruntilda’s voice, I’d imagine, would’ve been one of the most straightforward ones to have had to come up with, but was that the case? Was there another different approach taken where she was concerned?
I just screamed and cackled… That’s what witches do right? 😉
How exhilarating was it knowing you had just voiced a major Nintendo villain at the time?
It was 10 minutes of work, and the tight arses didn’t even give me a free copy of the game… To this day I have never owned a copy of Banjo. Not sure but think it’s probably the same sample they use in the new Smash?? Maybe?
Who was your favorite character to have voiced before Conker?
The ones that didn’t have me coughing my guts up and no voice for 2 days. Conker. it has to be him really… Death, Conkula, Frankie, any with interesting dialogue and motivations.
Which additional character in Diddy Kong Racing (with the exception of Conker) do you feel would’ve been worthy of a spin-off series?
I don’t care enough about Diddy Kong Racing to be honest. Wasn’t there a Tiger? The Tiger then.
What were the Stamper brothers like to work for?
They were great, very hands-on when needed, very hands-off when we were getting on with it. I mean, things could from time to time get fractious but it was usually just clashing egos (mine mainly) Tim’s passion for games when I first joined Rare was in his very being. All he cared about was the game/games. Chris, I saw less of because he tended to be the business side of things, and was a software guy anyway. They had a certain dynamic as brothers, sort of like a video game boss ironically. The whole was greater than the sum of its parts… (hmm, sounds like shade, but I don’t mean it in that way)
Were there any Rare games that you would’ve liked to work on, but never got the opportunity to?
From a purely mercenary cash standpoint? Oh DK 64 and DK Racer. They made fucking TONS of cash for the teams. But creatively? Nah, I’m happy the way things were. But what about Goldeneye, You say!? Cashwise? Nah… old deal. Creatively?? I think I would have done things to stop it from being the game it is now. Not good things… I was still in a DOOM 2 mindset at the time.
Were you scheduled to work in some capacity on Rare’s canceled game Project Dream before it later became Banjo-Kazooie?
Nope. Definitely nope…
If you could’ve voiced any other Nintendo character (or Rare character) at the time, who would it have been and what approach would you have taken to do it?
Never really thought of it. The only character I would love to have voiced which Rare (almost) got to do was Harry Potter. It would have meant I’d have been the first person to perform that character in media. A good one for the CV. Plus I think I’d have made a decent enough game out of the books (only 3 were out at the time) as I was already a big fan, had I been asked… Nevermind.
Who were the funniest people in the Rare office to work with?
That’s a tough one. Everyone pretty much made me laugh, sometimes unintentionally… Grant Kirkhope has ‘funny bones’ just because of his outlook on life and his rock ‘n’ roll stories. Robin’s funny as well, particularly when he’s drunk……. Martin Hollis has a very dry sense of humor and Noz always made me laugh at his various woes over the years…Doaky though, he’s just sick that man.
What was your reaction when you first heard about Microsoft buying out Rare?
Yay!! EA and Activision were the 2 other main contenders. Whatever criticisms people have for MS, I have no doubts whatsoever Rare as a studio would not exist now if they’d succeeded. Nintendo though? They made a great off by all accounts, and already owned nearly half the company… I don’t even want to think about that.
What made you come to the decision to leave Rare back in 2011?
I didn’t. I was happy to stay but things were, shall we say, engineered to make sure I didn’t….. Long story, not a pleasant experience, and some of the people involved, one in particular can go fuck themselves. They know who they are; not that things didn’t turn out well in the end… I got a nice fat cheque to send me on my way and here we are.
What is your opinion on the current state of Rare?
At the time I left it was not very good, what with a combination of Don Mattrick and his cronies not to mention that Kinect abomination. I was 90% sure we would be shut down within a few years… Since then though, along came Sea of Thieves .. Amazing what can happen when you just let a team get on with things and stop fucking them about. I think they’re in a very strong position now, although they really do need to mine that IP goldmine a bit more … Baffles me that they don’t.
What was the developmental process like early on during when the game was supposed to be either Twelve Tales or Conker 64?
I was only doing art at that point, and the direction the game was taking design-wise was not something I could influence. We were essentially trying to make a Mario 64 type platformer. It was…. Fractious.
How did you initially feel after being moved up to the project’s leader by the Stampers?
They knew it was what I wanted so they gave me a chance. Seemed to work out, although I think I was expected to fail.
What was it like working with Robin Beanland?
Yeah, okay. We don’t really get along 😉 Nah, he’s always been a talented bastard, unlike me who’s been winging it for years…. I think we get on workwise because we understand what we both want versus the limitations of the medium. It’s important to temper your expectations and ambitions with what’s actually possible. Plus we both like lager and vindaloos. Although age has finally caught up with me on both counts there.
What was the feeling across the team following the game’s showcasing at E3 1998?
Was that the BFD first showing? I remember the TT one being a fucking disaster. The BFD one was as good as it got. Great stand by Nintendo, free beer, most of the team was there too so it was a decent crowd. And no interview pools, which I really hate… There’s nothing like a bunch of bored games journos asking tedious questions for 12 hours straight to break your soul.
What was the revised pitch to Nintendo like when the intention changed to make the more mature game it turned out to be?
I don’t know. I pitched it to Tim and Chris, not Nintendo. I didn’t work for Nintendo; I worked for Rare, but I’m sure some discussions were had. To be honest, if T+C were happy with what we were doing then Nintendo would have been too. Rare was the golden goose at that point don’t forget, and it gave us a good deal of leverage.
What was the feeling across the development team when the project was finally finished after the long development cycle the game had?
We went home for some sleep. Then I went to Edinburgh for the New Year and got completely smashed. I also bought a sword which I then had to carry around all night. There’s a great restaurant on the Royal Mile called The Witchery, it’s basically like something out of Harry Potter. The maitre’de rather than scowl at me and my sword she kindly took it and hung it in the coatroom citing an old rule of no swords in the dining area. (I think she might have been joshing me )
How rewarding was it to see the game garnish as much critical acclaim as it did?
Validation. And relief. I wish we’d have launched in Japan too… I think they’d have liked a pissing, drunk, cute squirrel.
How did the voice for Conker come about?
It was the first voice I did. No process, just came out fully formed on day one…. One of those things I guess, The lisp was to add a curtness that belied the character but apart from that it was spontaneous.
Where there any other references to popular culture that were planned to be included in the game, but never made it, apart from the Pokemon reference?
There were a few levels that got cut, but that was for the sake of time rather than censorship. Pokemon is the only really notable one. There are a few easter eggs though… more than a few. Oh, wait there were two scenes cut from L&R for, reasons. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
What was the feeling about experiencing the game’s ending for the first time, as it provides such a stark contrast to the comedy perpetuated throughout most of the rest of the game?
I had that ending in mind right from the very start. If we were going to subvert the genre then let’s go for it. I don’t think I agree with the premise of the game being a comedy in a light sense. The game is DARK all the way through, and the laughs tend to stem from the misery and bad luck of others and the unintentional actions of the protagonist. I make it clear right in the very first shot of his eyes on the throne that this won’t end well for Conker.
What would you change about the game if you had the opportunity?
I’ve thought about this a lot. Maybe pare things back a bit to get a lower rating (which actually wouldn’t be as much as you think) or maybe not… It is what it is. I do regret not doing the fake outtakes after the credits, I had that planned quite early on when we’d started experimenting with 4th wall breaking stuff in the game. Just not enough time, sadly.
How satisfying an experience has it been seeing Conker’s Bad Fur Day being updated for new audiences in the form of both Live and Reloaded and Rare Replay?
Yeah, it gave me a chance to make a PVP combat game which is a difficult thing to get right.. I also added a narrative thread through it as an experiment to a further idea (Getting’ Medievil). I think it worked quite well… They shut the servers ages ago though….. Rare Replay I had nothing to do with… It’s a thing I guess. Sold well, so says a lot about there being plenty of old-school Rare fans still out there spending money.
As it’s one of the most outlandish stories I’ve heard in all of gaming I have to ask; whose idea was it to come up with the Conker’s Bad Fur Day condoms campaign?
Not me. It’s a bit tacky, literally 😉
What new Gameplay elements were planned for inclusion in Conker’s Other Bad Fur Day?
More of the same really…. Who can say? That’s the kind of detail you get to when at the coal face and we didn’t get that far.
Early concept art has since been released on the Internet of the Conker sequel, but what other new types of locations and characters were planned to be included?
About half the game was completely new areas and the other half was updated and evolved areas from the original. The structure was pretty much the same, hub world, then smaller story worlds…. Familiar, extended with a fine blend of old and new.
Have you further developed the idea of a sequel since leaving Rare?
Nah of course not. No point.
If Rare ever called you back to develop the sequel to Conker, would you do it?
Depends on what I’m asked to do. If it’s just to read someone else’s lines then nope. If they want me to write and direct it, then maybe, but it would be a lot of work and cost a lot of money for something so niche. Who can say.. MS have got deep pockets. Risk wise it makes a lot more sense to make BK3 and they haven’t done that either, so go figure.
How did the idea come about for you and Shawn Pile to establish Gory Detail?
Boredom, plus I knew if I didn’t do something with all the time I suddenly had then I’d go insane. Shawn was the same I think, but you’d have to ask him. We’d actually talked about it long before mainly as a creative outlet, never really thinking it would happen. Then circumstance changed and here we are.
What were the influences behind Parashoot Stan and Rusty Pup?
Stan is a cliché, which was the point of the character. The kid pretending to be the hero but actually IS the hero. Rusty Pup is forged from a similar fire influence wise but is a lot more subtle. It’s actually set in the same world as Stan if you look closely but is a lot more tragic. No one has decoded Rusty Pup yet, which I’m fine with but it isn’t some vague metaphor or opaque fable. It’s a series of events, in order, which really happens. The clues are all there.
What were the most exciting aspects of developing the games?
‘Exciting’ is not a word I’d use to describe game development. A bunch of execs off to some launch party or awards ceremony to get drunk might disagree but that’s not development.
What were the most challenging aspects of developing the games?
Getting past pre-production and into full production. Until your that factory, churning out assets and regular versions there’s always a nagging feeling at the back of your mind this might be canceled any second. Pre-production is nice creatively and full production is a grind, but the security of the product is a huge weight off your mind. (hey, that rhymed!!)
How satisfying had it been seeing both these games garnish what commercial and critical acclaim they have?
Commercially? Yeah right, we’re millionaires now Rodders. Critical, well I think they’re great little games (Rusty not so little) Labour of love, both of ’em. I wish more of the mainstream media had bothered to review Rusty. We sent out a ton of codes. They claim they support indies etc, but they don’t really… Not really. I actually had one outlet say they weren’t interested unless I gave them an interview about our next game which I’d pitched as a Conker Spiritual Successor. It was kind of a publicity stunt (though true in essence). Needless to say, we said no. If I was in the games biz to make lots of money I’d have crawled my way up the corporate ladder, squeezed the right prostates, and jumped ship every time I fucked up. I’d rather be poor. I’m fine though but no more Porsche’s. Not this week anyway.
Were there any ideas planned for inclusion in either game that were later scrapped or reworked?
Yeah, loads. Rusty had a whole crafting system and twice as many mechanics including mind control baddies, loads more platform types, and a whole extra world… it was just too much, and the crafting would have made testing all the possibilities pretty much impossible. Stan was going to have 2D side-scrolling mini-bosses where he landed on a large Zeppelin and would run through with guns blazing. We just didn’t have the time and I also felt it was a bit jarring with the rest of the mechanics.
Is there any DLC planned for Rusty Pup in the future?
I did some stuff, even made some assets. It was an extra chapter, a deeper area with shorter, very difficult one-shot puzzles. A haunted house theme. But it would have taken 6 months to make, largely down to me and was and also totally free. Time is precious, so I decided it was best spent on developing the new IP.
What can you tell us about Gory Detail’s third project?
It’s coming on okay. I spent the bulk of last year preparing assets and I’m pretty happy with the tone and look of the game. It’s a typical twin-stick dungeon bash game but with a twist… Fast-paced, silly characters voiced by me and lots and lots of bad language, blood, and guts. COVID didn’t help though. At some point you need to sit with people and point and talk… I’ve not seen Shawn for a year now. Still, we’re not slaves to publishers and huge wage bills so it’s not a problem. You really only want the stress of making the game, which is more than enough.
Would you still like to see Urchin be brought to life under Gory Detail?
Yes… But we can’t call it that. Anyway, games aren’t the only medium in which to explore interesting narratives. 😉
Have any of the former Rare alumni at Playtonic Games had any advice to share with you and Shawn or has there been any general conversation between you all?
Yeah, we’ve chatted a few times… Gavin has been really helpful and made some gracious offers of help with production but the studio environment isn’t something I find appealing… It’s just me. I’m an old fart. In the future though, who can say? They’ll certainly have first dibs on the next game we do if they want it.
What are your opinions of the indie development scene today?
Business-wise, it’s very healthy for a lucky few, but for most I suspect it’s a struggle in a saturated market. Getting eyes on your work is increasingly difficult, and for the very small indies such as Gory, it’s almost impossible. From a gamer’s point of view, it couldn’t be any better. There’s a lot of good stuff out there and with the big boys taking fewer and fewer risks with their products, ironically people are turning away from their games as they tend to be over-produced and under-developed.
What genre of game have you and Shawn never undertaken before that you would like to do one day?
I have folders full of stuff. I think the next game though will be our last probably, as its core game is just the beginning. It’s designed around mini self-contained storylines, like the chapters in Conker. So if it’s a success I’ll be happy to just keep making and selling new Chapters as DLC so long as people still keep buying them. That’s the plan anyway.
Which pre-existing video game character would you like to see make a cameo in either Parashoot Stan or Rusty Pup?
They’re not that type of game, particularly Rusty. The next one though… I have plans for lots of cameos, although not very complimentary ones. 😉
Do you and Shawn find that having creative freedom is one of the best things about developing games for yourselves?
It is. It’s the price you pay for having to fund everything yourself. We’re not averse to having a publisher, just not during development. Finish the game first, then see if anyone fancies tackling all that marketing, support stuff I fucking hate doing.
Have Rare since reached out to you following the establishment of Gory Detail or the release of the two games?
Only for Conker stuff. I’m happy to do it although I suspect it was a last resort. I was sent some recordings of a guy they’d hired to mimic Conker and it wasn’t very good. Point is, they tried to do it with someone else and must have realized the fans would not accept a fake Conker. Heh! I also offered to do other voices, for the Young Conker app, but they already had someone for them. Just Conker for me…
What have you been most proud of throughout your career?
Rusty Pup… So far. I filled that game with my very soul.
Is there any advice you would be able to offer any aspiring developers who may be reading this?
Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something.. …. It might be true, but the best way to find out isn’t by shrugging, but by trying to make it work and then finding out they were wrong.
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Chris for agreeing to answer my questions, and for sharing so much about his storied career and what we can expect to see from him and Gory Details Ltd in the future. If you’re interested in what Gory Details has to offer, you can view their steam page via the link below:
You can also keep up with Chris’s posts on Twitter via his Twitter handle:
A full review of The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup will be coming to the site very soon but in the meantime, I’d also like to wish Chris, Shawn Pile, and Gory Details the best of luck with their current games as well as their new upcoming project… MARVELLOUS!!
Whist scouting for even more exciting looking games on crowdfunding platforms, I came across yet another ambitious and promising title boasting a lot of very potentially groundbreaking gameplay features. The Silent Tombs, currently under development at Dundee-based Primordial Game Studios and recently posted on Kickstarter, is a procedurally generated, puzzle-based exploration game planned for release on Steam in December 2021, whereby players must explore tombs and uncover deep-rooted secrets of ancient British civilizations such as the Celtic, Gaelic, and the Anglo Saxons. The gameplay makes use of a decibel meter, which incorporates a strong element of psychological horror, similar to the likes of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, but in a much more open-ended environment.
Wanting to know even more about this project, I reached out to the game’s principal designer Vaughan Holloway to ask some further questions in regards to the project, and about what gamers can expect to indulge in whilst playing this wonderfully innovative title. Here’s what Vaughan Holloway of Primordial Game Studios had to say about The Silent Tombs:
What were the influences behind the game?
The original idea actually came from the tabletop game ‘Escape: Curse of the Temple!’; I used to play it with friends when I was working at Junkfish; while brainstorming betas, I put together a culling system that allowed for a real-time progen system that kept 95% of the game culled at any time. I put those two things together with my love of history, and the original build of ‘Silent Tombs’ was born!
What has the developmental process been like?
It’s been about 8 months since I met Konstantinos at a networking event in Dundee, and since then we’ve gathered a really great team of people around this central theme. We all have full-time jobs, so we’ve been working on ‘the Silent Tombs’ in our evenings and weekends, mostly. I did the design and programming and constructed the build, while Konstantinos built and imported artwork and Alasdair provided the music.
How close are we to seeing the final product?
We’re hoping to have a soft release for our Kickstarter patrons in Nov 2021, and the game will be officially released in Dec 2021.
What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
The first time I was able to test the game using Konstantinos’ artwork in the game was amazing; we were able to build the game and test it with the HDR Pipeline. The Volumetric Lighting and new materials just completely blew me away.
What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
Before we did the Kickstarter, we were preparing a video and pitch deck for the Global Games Pitch in Nov 2020; before that, we mostly working in our spare time and suddenly having a set deadline, especially for a Livestream pitch was the most challenging and nerve-wracking part of the development, so far.
Have there been any Gameplay elements planned for inclusion that have been scrapped or reworked?
Originally, we were planning on having ghosts and skeletons coming after the player if they make too much noise, but the animation / AI elements of creating enemies would have been too much. Like a lot of games like Slenderman / Phasmophobia, it’s not the enemy that’s scary but the anticipation of running into the enemy anywhere… so, instead I wanted to have the feel of the tomb itself bearing down on the player. We’re planning on using scripts called Proximity Shaders to change the level around the player. We haven’t ruled out the possibility of physical or otherworldly enemies in the game yet in some form, but I want the threat to be more subtle.
How well has the game been received so far?
It’s been slow going trying to get the game out to the community at large, but of the people that have looked at the game on our website, socials, or Kickstarter, it’s been a mostly positive response! I think people are excited to see more, and we’re looking forward to buckling down to developing the game again.
You and the team clearly have a deep-rooted passion for ancient British history. Where did all that originate from?
Personally, my grandfather was a teacher, and we visited a lot of ancient sites in my childhood; I’d visited Sutton Hoo at least three times before I was 15. As I’ve grown up I’ve tried to get out and visit places myself, especially after my grandfather passed away. I’ve been lucky to find work in Scotland, there is so much to see! I don’t think people, especially people outside of the British Isles realize how deep and amazing British history is, and I’m hoping this game not only inspires them to have a look but also gives them some information on sites that can get them started!
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
PC, to begin with; we will be launching on Steam and GoG.com in Dec 2021.
Have any elements of the previous titles game that your or the rest of the development team been incorporated into The Silent Tombs?
For me, there haven’t been any direct elements to inspire ‘The Silent Tombs’; I drew a lot of design inspiration from ‘Escape: Curse of the Temple!’, which I played a lot during my time at Junkfish. While working on Monstrum 2, I did a lot of work using procedural generation and I tended to experiment with building progen prototypes. It was these two elements, plus my passion for British history combined to make the first early build.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Absolutely! First, it sounds kind of rough, but ideas are cheap. If you want to build something people want to play, build a lot of -one-day prototypes’ (really simple gameplay concepts that only take an afternoon or evening to flesh out) and get lots of different people to test them. Don’t get discouraged; you learn more from negative feedback than positive feedback.
Where on the Internet can people find you?
We have a website at www.primordialgamestudios.com, and our Twitter / Insta handles are GamePrimordial; our Kickstarter is currently running under ‘The Silent Tombs’, go check it out!
You can also check out The Silent Tombs on Kickstarter via the link below if you’d like to support the project:
but for now, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Vaughan for sharing as much about The Silent Tombs as he could, and to wish him and the rest of the development team the best of luck with the Kickstarter campaign and the release of the game. The Silent Tombs is one of the most unique upcoming games I’ve come across in a long time, and I for one can’t wait to sink my teeth into this title upon release. I hope you guys have enjoyed learning more about this, as indeed I did.
Continuing on with my efforts to discover new and upcoming video games and sharing them with my readers, last week, I stumbled on another ambitious and exciting title in the works. Aquamarine, developed by Moebial Studios operating chiefly out of Yreka California, is an open-world underwater survival game influenced by an insanely wide array of different science-fiction games, comic books, and films and upon release will be boasting a wide range of gameplay mechanics including vehicular travel and upgrades, morality mechanics, unearthing secrets the world has to offer and wide-scale exploration (to name but a few), which players will have to take advantage of in order to survive in a beautifully designed outlandish underwater world that is the game’s namesake.
Already having reached the half-way point in their Kickstarter campaign at the time of writing, I reached out to the game’s lead designer Patric Fallon to find out more about this game and it’s breathtaking conceptual design as well as to unearth some facts about what games influenced this title and about it’s developmental process thus far. This is what Patric had to say about Aquamarine:
What were the influences behind your game?
So many! We actually listed some of the main ones on our Kickstarter page. But everything from Lucasarts-style adventure games, to old-school roguelikes, to Dark Souls and Metroidvanias, to survival games like Don’t Starve and The Long Dark have influenced Aquamarine’s design. Aesthetically speaking, we’re pulling a whole lot from psychedelic sci-fi art of the ’70s and ’80s, as well as the comics and animated films of that time. Our core influence for the visuals is French artist Moebius, who’s been having a bit of a popularity resurgence in games lately.
What has the developmental process been like?
It’s been slow, sporadic, and long. Development is tough to do without funds of any kind, but developing while trying to raise funds is also tough. We’ve had some major team changes over the years as well, but once those were handled we finally could move forward at full power. Since planning for this new Kickstarter with our current team, development has gone swimmingly, and we’ve brought Aquamarine to new heights that even surprise me sometimes.
How close are we to seeing the finished product?
Our goal is to have development wrapped by Q4 2020. Many things can change about the game and its release during that time, but we’re making sure our Kickstarter backers will have access to what we’re making ASAP.
What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
For me, it’s most recently been bringing together the current team we have now and seeing how well all of their work clicks together. Our new lead artist Leo d’Almeida is incredibly imaginative with color and concepts, and our new composer Thomas Hoey is massively talented at evoking a mood and fleshing it out through a composition. All of that coupled with my designs and our animator Drew Brouillette‘s eye for movement and detail has been so satisfying to see come together.
What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
At this point, the only real challenge has been funding. No one works for free, nor should they, and so self-funding development ahead of this Kickstarter has been difficult. I had to uproot myself from living in Brooklyn, NY, for 8 years to move to a tiny Northern California mountain town in order to be closer to family, save money, and finish Aquamarine’s development.
What has been the most frustrating aspect of development?
I’m not sure if there have been any major frustrations yet, but it can occasionally be problematic that our team is spread around the world in different timezones. But that’s really more about me wrestling my own brain about maximizing this, that, or the other. The truth is that everyone working on Aquamarine is reliable, professional, and above all else EXCITED about making the game. Nothing frustrating about that at all.
Something I’ve noticed about the game is the comic book art style. Were there any comic book series’ in particular that influenced this game?
Absolutely! In fact, I don’t think the game would exist at all if it weren’t for Moebius’s comic anthology The World of Edena. It’s such a beautiful and ground-breaking book that reading it immediately made me think, “How in the world is there no video game that looks like this? Or feels like this?” That’s how this whole thing began.
In terms of gameplay, how have you and the team been working to deliver a relaxing experience whilst having been influenced by some of the most action-packed games ever developed like Metroid and Castlevania?
Well, we’re essentially talking about two different aspects of game design: overarching design concepts vs. moment-to-moment action. Many of Aquamarine’s overarching design concepts come from my love for Metroidvania and Soulslike games, such as open-ended exploration, little to no hand-holding, item-locked progression, a single currency to collect and spend, and so on. But our moment-to-moment action comes from different genres, such as classic roguelikes, point-and-click adventures, and turn-based tactics games. Having a slower, more contemplative gameplay loop allows us to explore these mechanics from more action-y titles in a different way.
How well has the game been received so far?
I think we’ve had nothing but positive reactions so far since the Kickstarter launch, and it just keeps ramping up every day. And back when we were showing off super early versions of the demo, people were intrigued by the design ideas we were experimenting with. We even got a snazzy write up in PC Gamer Magazine in early 2019. We’ve also been approached by a handful of publishers and tons of fans curious about getting involved with Aquamarine in some fashion. I think that response will only continue to expand once we reach people who still don’t know we exist.
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
Currently, we are looking only at PC, Mac, and Linux, simply because that’s been my bread and butter for years. But I’m absolutely interested in what a console port of Aquamarine might look like and will be exploring that possibility if/when the time is right. I think Switch would be our first move on that front.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Follow what you care about, not what everyone around you seems to be interested in. I think it’s far too common for game makers to want to capitalize on a trend or make something that’s easy to explain to the majority of gamers. But that’s always a quick way to become another generic title in an ocean of generic titles and lose yourself in the process. Only by sticking to your passions will you make something true to yourself and not get burnt out as you go through the difficult journey of actually making it.
Do you have anything else to add?
Please check out our Kickstarter and consider backing us. We’re over halfway to our goal!
As well as checking out their Kickstarter page, you can also visit Moebial’s social media platforms via the links below:
The game’s Kickstarter campaign is continuing to gather momentum and you can help bring the project to life by donating towards the goal. Aquamarine is most definitely a game worth backing and I can’t wait until it’s release to see what kind of experience the finished product brings. As always, I hope you guys had as much fun checking Aquamarine out as I did and hopefully the title will gain enough momentum to be successfully backed before the deadline.
Developed primarily at Arkane Studio’s Lyon branch, and released in late 2016, Dishonored 2 was released later last year to critical acclaim, with player and reviewers citing major improvements made over the first game; most of which concerning the game’s difficulty, as many players opinionated that the last game seemed too easy. Personally, I agree that the sequel is better than the original game in almost every respect, and whilst the gameplay wasn’t structured as well as I believe a Dishonored game has the potential to be, it was more than a worthy sequel.
Graphics – 9/10
Taking place in a new city away from Dunwall known as Karnaca, there are many new aspects of conceptual design added to expand upon the series’ mythology, as well as an overhaul of graphical quality, making the game just as compelling and wonderful to look at as the first game; if not, more so. There are new machines to have to contend with besides the tallboys, and a new set of city streets and buildings to navigate through and discover new secrets and vantage points. The second game also seems even darker than the original, giving it more of a gritty feel to it appropriate for the feel of the story. The setting of the Void is where this aspect of the game seems most prevalent as the Outsider is also portrayed as a much darker character in himself.
Gameplay – 9.5/10
This time around, the player is given the option to select from two characters from the start of the game, both with their own unique set of abilities; there’s Corvo Attano, the protagonist of the original game and the empresses royal protector, or Emily Kaldwin, the empress of Dunwall. The game itself is also structured very similarly to the last, taking place in a semi-open world and offering players the option to either take a stealthy approach or run rampant and kill every enemy standing in the way. The game also presents the option of going the duration of it without killing a single person. The best thing about this game is that the character choice not only offers a new dimension of gameplay with so many new powers and options to experiment with, but it also gives it, even more, replay value than the first, warranting at least four different playthroughs. So even though it didn’t offer a completely open world, which I think can be implemented very easily in a game like this, there is plenty of replayability to be had to make for a fairly long gaming experience.
Controls – 10/10
As with the previous game, there are no issues with its control scheme, despite the fact that there are more options and abilities available. It’s actually quite impressive how the developers have managed to incorporate so many new features whilst at the same time keeping the fundamentals of the game to a perfect standard. Keeping a control scheme unique in a gameplay perspective that has also taken and maintained prominence throughout the industry for almost twenty years also makes it seem even more impressive in my opinion.
Lifespan – 7/10
Each individual playthrough of Dishonored 2 lasts about as long as it did in the first game, clocking in at around 20-25 hours, which for me, was mildly disappointing, as a game like this can have a campaign that can be easily made to last longer. However, the game’s lifespan is in its potential replay value, of which there is a great deal for those willing to delve deeper into the game. So whilst it may not have the lifespan that a Dishonored game could have, it still has a great of longevity attached to it, and will make for hours upon hours of entertainment.
Storyline – 7/10
The sequel to Dishonored takes place fifteen years following the events of the original game. Whilst Emily Kaldwin has long since been installed as the rightful empress of the city of Dunwall thanks to Corvo, the empire has prospered, but it has not been without challenge. A serial murderer knows as the Crown Killer is murdering enemies of the state left, right, and center, and has led many in Dunwall to believe the Crown Killer is Emily herself. Whilst Corvo and Emily are attending a remembrance ceremony for Emily’s mother Jessamine, a powerful witch named Delilah Copperspoon is introduced to Emily, and claims to be her older half-sister and rightful heir to the empire. Whichever character the player chooses at this point manages to escape Dunwall, whilst the other is subdued by Delilah, who usurps the throne, and the player character is tasked with putting an end to Delilah’s regime and rescuing either Corvo or Emily depending on the character’s choice. Whilst I thought the game’s story was not as suspenseful as the last since there is not as much of an elaborate twist to it, it still has the same level of political intrigue, and just as much emotional charge; especially as this time around, Corvo is given a voice as opposed to being confined to the role of the silent protagonist.
Originality – 7.5/10
Though the structure of Dishonored 2 remains relatively the same as its predecessor, the formula is kept fresh enough with the introduction of so many new features and abilities added. It’s most definitely evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, expanding on what was already good about the first game with the exception of the story. In my opinion, it does still leave room for both improvement and development in the event of a possible third game, but having played through both, I would welcome a third with open arms. The second game cemented the fact that both the concept and mythology behind the series is more than worth further expanding upon still.
Overall, Dishonored 2, whilst not being exactly the sequel I had hoped it would be, still presents massive improvement upon the first game. It’s enjoyable and lengthy with a decent story, and plenty of gameplay options to match; well worth one playthrough at the bare least.
I think the best way to describe Watch Dogs is as an open-world Grand Theft Auto-Assassin’s Creed hybrid. It’s a game that requires the player to unique use the city as their weapon; having control of things like bollards and traffic lights to catch criminals and to escape from the police, or using the player character’s smartphone to access bank accounts or attain their personal details; information is power, after all. But especially after two years of waiting, I was, unfortunately, less than impressed by the now best-selling game in the UK.
Graphics – 7/10
Don’t get me wrong. Watch Dogs has some of the most brilliantly detailed visuals of the modern gaming generation; especially on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The problem I found was that there was nothing standing out in the conceptual sense. And the way I see it, having extremely advanced visuals can mean much less than as may be advertised if no creativity is put into the conceptual stage. Indeed, its by that token that I prefer the visuals in Ubisoft’s Child of Light than the visuals in Watch Dogs. To me, this is one of these situations. I’d say the most standout thing about the visuals in Watch Dogs is how unique the city is displayed on the map; how it’s been made to look something a lot like an internal computer network. This technique has also been used in a lot of the cutscenes in the game, which does add a bit to the overall atmosphere of the game, but otherwise, there’s nothing else to differentiate it from most other games like it, unfortunately.
Gameplay – 6.5/10
Watch Dogs is a game that has story missions, side missions, and plenty of extracurricular activities thrown in for good measure, and it will make for a decent gaming experience for people who are able to get into it. But I wasn’t able to get into it. Normally, I can tell whether or not I’ll enjoy a game after playing it for about an hour or ninety minutes, but I’d been playing Watch Dogs for roughly three hours, and I found it nigh on impossible to get into. To me, it just seemed to start off very slowly and not pick up momentum like I believe a game should do in its early stages. This has been a recurring problem for me in the seventh generation in particular; with games that people have told me they believe to be classics, such as Red Dead Redemption and Fallout 3. The way I see it, Watch Dogs is a fresh new example of this; a game that will be viewed by many as being excellent, but one that I have too much difficulty gaining enough interest in to play it for any extended amount of time.
Controls – 8/10
Incorporating a gaming formula that has been long-since perfected, Watch Dogs plays out simply enough for the most part, but the biggest problem I found with it was that there are far too many menus, and by that token, it seemed to me that there was just far too much to have to keep track of whilst playing. To an extent, it reminded me unsentimentally of Fable III; though Watch Dogs is far less complicated than that, I can assure. But the thing is, as the hacking mechanics in this game are very much new to gaming, there was inevitably going to be an element of trial and error, so maybe if they were to simplify it for a possible sequel, it may make for a better game than this. But still, other than that, there are no outstanding problems.
Lifespan – 10/10
Watch Dogs’ lifespan is something I mustn’t fault it for. Regardless of how little I think of how this game plays out, it will easily make for at least 60 to 70 hours of gameplay, given everything that there is to do. One thing is for certain; those who find this game easier to get into than I will be rewarded, as there are many collectibles, many side missions and even additional missions to do when playing the game online, which to my excitement, seems to be a recurring thing in games these days.
Storyline – 3/10
The story of Watch Dogs involves a vigilante and hacking expert named Aiden Pearce, who is out to find the people responsible for the unintended death of his niece instead of him. At first, it may sound like a half-decent story of revenge reminiscent of many Steven Seagal films, but unfortunately, it doesn’t really develop into anything more than that. I know because I took the liberty of finding out what happens before playing through the game. I look at it in the sense that the story wasn’t particularly gripping from the start, and from my own point of view, I don’t think I would have been missing much. But the most annoying thing about the story has been another recurring problem found in games like Final Fantasy XIII, for example; when events are moving at a rate, which doesn’t allow for players to think about what’s actually happening. It all just happens regardless.
Originality – 4/10
In reality, other than the hacking mechanic and the whole computer network-styled visuals found in the menus and some cutscenes, there’s not much else to make to stand out among other open-world games. There are a few Easter eggs I was able to find darted around, but what open-world game doesn’t include an Easter egg or two? There were no other unique things I could find apart from these to point out, which was particularly disappointing for how much this game was hyped for so long.
Overall, I think Watch Dogs will only work with a specific kind of audience, and it doesn’t really have the full potential to appeal to everyone. It’s not one of the worst games I’ve ever played, but it’s by no means one of the best either. Maybe if I were to revisit it in the future, I could have a slightly different opinion of it, but so far, Borderlands has been the only game to be good enough for me to play for an overly long time until it started to pick up.
Publisher(s) – Re-Logic, 505 Games & Spike Chunsoft
Programmer – Andrew “Redigit” Spinks
Producer – Jeremy Guerette
PEGI – 12
Terraria is a 2D platforming sandbox game, whereby the idea is to explore a huge open environment (including underground), build a house to accommodate non-playable characters such as a merchant, a demolitionist, and a nurse, and to fend off waves of hostiles that try to attack either the player or their house. Whilst it is very addictive in gameplay and lasts only as long as the player’s interest, there are other faults that hamper the game to an extent, but nowhere near the extent to make it unplayable; by any stretch of the imagination.
Graphics – 6/10
Visually, this game is a nice throwback to the era of both the SNES and the Mega Drive, as it’s rife with 16-bit sprites and environments. The main concern I have regarding the graphics is that whilst it may seem unique to a lot of younger gamers, as they may not have played games from the 16-bit era, older gamers may not be so smitten by the visuals, as there is not that much unique about it in a conceptual sense. Most of the enemies found in the game pretty generic and typical, including zombies, vampires, skeletons, and even slimes, which have been a stable element in the Dragon Quest series for years. The most unique enemies in the game are without a doubt the demon eyes, which are floating eyeballs that attack people. Even the Wall of Flesh, the hardest enemy in the game, doesn’t seem overly original compared to other monsters of its kind that have been seen in video games prior, such as Melchiah from Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver or the Mother Brain from Metroid. For the most part, the enemies are pretty typical, but nevertheless, the 16-bit graphics are nicely rendered and to an extent, I could appreciate that the developers were trying to make the game stand out from a graphical point of view.
Gameplay – 8/10
The fact that the game’s conceptual design is pretty weak doesn’t at all change the fact that it is an absolute joy to play once players become immersed. It is extremely addictive, and it can obligate players to continue playing, whilst they may not be making progress in the conventional sense; a gameplay element very reminiscent of The Elder Scrolls series. However, it will take some getting into. A lot like Minecraft or Don’t Starve, it’s not strictly self-explanatory. I would recommend getting tips on how to play it effectively before trying it. At first, I saw little point in carrying on with this game, as from first impressions, it seemed like things were moving too slowly. I then watched a few videos of people playing it and a few tutorials, and I decided to give it another go. Before I knew it, it was half-past 2 in the morning. Although at first, I struggled to understand exactly what this game had going for it in terms of gameplay, it grew on me, and I came to be impressed with what there was on offer. I have played very few 2D side scrollers that offer this level of exploration and freedom, and whilst it’s not a very original idea in general, I enjoy playing it.
Controls – 9.5/10
Another thing that initially annoyed me was the mechanic of building and mining in this game. It took me a while to figure out how to do it as effectively as possible, and I was about to run out of patience when I accidentally discovered that the analog stick can be used to switch between two ways of building and mining when it’s pushed down. But as I said, I found that out by chance and it wasn’t self-explanatory. I guess by that logic, however, it would be much easier to play this game on a PC. But anyone reading this who is thinking of trying the game will now know, and there aren’t any other problems to address at all.
Lifespan – 10/10
As I previously wrote, this game will only last as long as the player’s interest, and given this game’s level of addiction and variety, that should indeed be a particularly long time. There is no obligation to complete the main objective at hand, and players will be encouraged to make other forms of progress in order to pass the time, such as building a bigger and better house. I, for example, have dedicated time to simply making an underground network simply to be able to explore the depths of the in-game world more easily.
Storyline – N/A (10/10)
One thing I tend to keep in mind whilst critiquing a video game is that not every game has to have a story in order for it to be good. Therefore, if a game doesn’t have a story, but didn’t necessarily need one, It won’t lose any marks and will attain a perfect score in that axiom of judgment. There is no point criticizing a game for not having an element that it didn’t need, and Terraria is certainly one of these games. When I reviewed Don’t Starve some time ago, I thought that it didn’t have to have a story at all; but the fact of the matter is that it’s there, and it’s just not elaborated on very much, and so it lost marks. But with Terraria, there is no story; nor did it need one. Therefore there is no need for it to lose marks.
Originality – 4/10
This is the aspect in which the game was left wanting in my opinion. As I said, although it is addictive and fun to play, the developer’s desire to incorporate uniqueness in the visuals with the 16-bit style wasn’t fully realized the way I see it, as it was pretty weak in conceptual design with few standout enemies or visual elements. It’s because of this that I’m skeptical that it would’ve stood out if the game was actually released in the 16-bit era.
In summation, aside from Terraria’s lack of visual uniqueness, and in terms of gameplay, whilst it does indeed borrow elements from Minecraft and the Metroidvania style of play, and therefore lacks the feel of a fully cohesive concept, it was still fun to play and one of the more addictive games I’ve played in recent times, and it’s definitely worth the very generous asking price attached to it.
Developer(s) – TT Fusion, Nintendo SPD & Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Designer – Lee Barber
Producer – Loz Doyle
PEGI – 7
Having wanted to develop a video game based on the Lego City toy line for quite some time, Traveller’s Tales agreed to work with Nintendo to bring Lego City Undercover exclusively to Wii U. Combining the familiar formula of most other Lego-themed video games with elements of the Grand Theft Auto series, it was met with positive reviews from critics, and it presented players with a moderately new twist on what they had been very much accustomed to form Lego games at that time.
Graphics – 8/10
To me, this game is a great example of how Lego, in general, can capture the imaginations of the people who either play with Lego (as I did when I was a kid), as opposed to many of the other Lego games, which were based largely on pre-existing intellectual properties, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. With Undercover, there are quite a few sly cultural references, and even some references to certain Nintendo games, but for the most part, the player can get a sense that very little can be off-limits in terms of conceptual design.
Gameplay – 9/10
Aside from the game looking great, it plays out great too. Outside the main story, there exists a multitude of different side quests to complete throughout a massive open-world environment unparalleled with any of the more linear worlds found in most other Lego games. The amount of customization and variety on offer is also extremely impressive since a wide range of abilities is needed to complete everything that can be completed. In lieu of Lego game tradition, replay value is also on offer, since players will also have to back to story missions with newly gained abilities to collect things they will have inevitably missed the first time around.
Controls – 10/10
Like in every other Lego game, the control scheme is also extremely simplistic, and easy to get to grips with. The use of the Wii U GamePad also offers a fairly unique twist on how open-world games are normally played. For example, there exist side missions, whereby the player must use the GamePad to scan the TV in order to find criminal suspects before making an arrest. It is also used as a glorified Head-Up Display, containing a map and icons indicating where side quests are located.
Lifespan – 10/10
Since there is a ton of things to do in this game, it can easily be made to last up to 100 hours, which certainly makes it the longest Lego game ever developed. There’s a lot of open-world space in the game and a lot of great use of it. The story mode will take the better part of 10 hours alone, but after that, the game will have only just begun.
Storyline – 6/10
The biggest drawback to this game is that the story isn’t particularly engaging in my opinion. It involves a police detective called Chase McCain, who is on a mission to capture a notorious criminal called Rex Fury. Other than the basic premise, there’s not that much present in terms of story. The only thing that saves it from being irredeemable is that there is a fairly strong comedic element, with cultural references all over the place, and a few clever little in-jokes to accompany them.
Originality – 6/10
Though it is possible to differentiate Lego City Undercover from every other Lego game, since there were a few new features introduced, it doesn’t stand out against many other video games out there to a certain extent. The Grand Theft Auto element of it makes this even more obvious. I would describe it best as being evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary since it made innovation, but only in its own circle, and brought little new to the industry overall.
In Summation, despite Lego City Undercover playing out very familiarly compared to many other games, it is a very enjoyable experience, and worth every hour of playing. It’s another game that, to me, gives testament to how the Wii U is a better console than commercial figures show.
Described by Avalanche CEO Cristofer Sundberg as 70% wacky and 30% serious, Just Cause 3 began development in 2012, and was released to positive critical reception in late 2015, containing new gameplay mechanics, and an open world with plenty of side quests and additional challenges. Although in the end, I didn’t find it anywhere near as good as Just Cause 2 was, I still derived hours of enjoyment out of it, and appreciated it not necessarily for how much content there is in comparison with the second game, but for how much more reined the core experience is.
Graphics – 7/10
From a technical standpoint, this is the best-looking Just Cause game to date. The level of detail that was incorporated is staggering, and the variety in vehicle design is as impressive as it always has been in any installment. My biggest criticism would be whilst the conceptual design isn’t woeful, and although there didn’t arguably need to be any improvement in this respect; I think it would have regardless been a nice idea to provide something a little bit different since a lot of comparisons can be drawn between this game and its predecessor. The game is apparently set in a different region to Just Cause 2, but that doesn’t seem as evident as it perhaps ought to be.
Gameplay – 8/10
As I alluded to, the game’s core mechanics have been improved greatly; most notably in its combat system. Building upon what was introduced in Just Cause 2, players can now use the grappling hook in a much bigger variety of different ways, including the ability to tether multiple objects together with the grappling hook, as well as the introduction of the wingsuit making the skydiving mechanics a lot more fun and providing a new set of challenges with the side missions that require players to use it in order to complete. My biggest problem with the gameplay is a location in the game called Boom Island. It is the place in the start menu where players can mess around as the game is being installed on whatever system it is being played on, but it’s also in the main game itself, and there is nothing to do on it much to my personal disappointment. Otherwise, however, there is still a fair bit to do in the game and will keep players busy for a fair amount of time.
Controls – 10/10
The game’s control system has also been largely refined with both the introduction of the wingsuit, as well as the new ways in which parachute travel is handled. It personally took me some time to get used to it, but once it clicked, there was no problem to be had with it. It’s also much easier to use the grapple hook in this game than it was in Just Cause 2; in the respect of using it for both climbing and combat.
Lifespan – 10/10
Though Just Cause 3 may not warrant 100 hours of gameplay like Just Cause 2 did, there is still enough to do in Just Cause 3 to warrant at least 60 hours of gameplay, which is still many times longer than the average AAA mainstream experience. It did disappoint me a lot that it isn’t longer, as I would have rather sacrificed updated graphics for more to do in the way of gameplay, but Avalanche still managed to churn out an impressively long gaming experience, and I didn’t find myself being able to complain too much.
Storyline – 7/10
Rico Rodriguez is brought into the region of Medici to bring down yet another tyrannical rebellion fresh off from his endeavor against Baby Panay of Panau. I found myself thinking that the story was only slightly better than any other story in the Just Cause series. Although the basic premise is unmistakably identical to that of the last two games, it introduces a couple of new elements, such as the relation between Rico and his brother, as well as a more involved villain. Both Mendoza and Baby Panay were rarely seen, nor portrayed in any kind of interesting way, but Sebastiano Di Ravello is much less forgettable, being portrayed as what his intentions and practices would suggest; cold, calculating, sadistic, and willing to stop at nothing to keep his grip tightened on Medici.
Originality – 7/10
The combat system in Just Cause 2 was revolutionary compared to that of the first game, and the developers did particularly well to keep it fresh in the third game with what new mechanics and improvements they implemented. Ultimately, I would have like an experience that improved on every single aspect of Just Cause 2 such as a bigger open world, more to do, a much better story, and a greater lifespan, but clearly developer attention was focused elsewhere. To me, it stands out as being more evolutionary than revolutionary.
Ultimately, Just Cause 3, whilst not improving on every aspect of its predecessor, still makes for a long and enjoyable gaming experience. I find myself having to wait until Just Cause 4 is announced to see if the developers deliver the ultimate Just Cause experience, but this is certainly a welcome addition to the series.