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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Pokemon Sun Review - 8/10

Sun and Moon are the newest versions (as of now) in the main Pokemon franchise. They've been advertising the crap out of the game on their official Facebook page, and probably Twitter, so there's not much mystery to the game. More Pokemon, new location, new NPCs. Its pretty much the same as every other Pokemon game.

The Good:
I really like the idea that there are new/different breeds of Pokemon. When you capture a standard Pokemon everyone knows what the type is if you've been playing and researching for a decent amount of time. Though with these new change ups they make battling and finding new Pokemon more interesting. While these changes are sometimes more cosmetic than anything they, at the very least, shake up the game enough so it feels different from the other titles. So its less the same Pokemon game and rather Pokemon but with a little something extra.
Previous 3D titles have been very linear which is to say that they follow a X and Y axis fairly rigidly. X and Y axis' are basically left to right and up to down. even with the jump to full 3D the games still followed this. Towns and cities had you move along a predictable grid as opposed to near full 3D motion that we see in other games. How does this affect the games? Apart from being able to avoid trainers and grassy areas, not much actually. However its actually somewhat nice to see this. I don't always have to be forced into fighting someone. I can just find a spot I can squeeze through and possibly come back later. Its a small thing, but a nice thing.
A genuinely cool feature they added was an overhaul to the battle system layout. You can, at any point in a match, click on one of the Pokemon fighting on the field to check their stat buffs/debuffs and when selecting an attack, if you've caught the Pokemon before hand, it will show you which attacks will be effective or not. I first thought it was a way to hand hold some of the new players but it honestly is a cool idea. The prompt for the effective attacks is non intrusive so you can completely ignore it if you like. You can also check to see what the move can do just by holding on a question mark mid battle rather than having to go to your Pokemon screen, the certain Pokemon you want and then selecting the specific move you want. Its... nice.

The Bad:
I'm actually older than Pokemon, considering the first game was released in 1996. Feel old yet? So why do the games keep hand holding me? I will never ever defend the idea that every single main Pokemon game will ALWAYS do that stupid tutorial on how to catch Pokemon. It is straight up the most annoying thing ever. An unskippable cutscene that happens in every single game without the ability to skip it. "But its for the new players!" But what about the rest of us? I have a comprehensive knowledge on how to capture Pokemon. Which ball is best, taking into factor how rare and how much the ball itself costs via money and time as well as the best moves to use to put a Pokemon in that sweet spot for their health, which status ailments are best used, not to mention when to catch a Pokemon or to wait for another time based on how early in the game you are and thus lacking the proper moves and items to capture said Pokemon. I. DON'T. NEED. A. REFRESHER. And this isn't to say this is limited to capturing Pokemon. From introducing new concepts to new characters to new cities. The majority of the time I spend the game rolling my eyes and mashing any button to go forward. Not to mention the massive amount of blocked off areas until you do "the thing". I understand a few times for this and in select areas but it seemed like this was happening constantly. Walls, NPCs, Pokemon. Each new city or area I went to there was another roadblock until "the thing" was properly completed. The worst part is most times "the thing" is annoying and time consuming. Sure I will get to it later but don't keep me from experiencing the rest of the game in the meantime. If there was a barricade every other time this wouldn't be such a huge problem. But instead I get the classic, "Hold up! Go back and do the thing! Yes I know a Pokemon you actually want is just a few feet from here but... Go! The thing!" I can buy alcohol and pay taxes. Please treat me like an adult.

I know this review was fairly short but its pretty by the books. Its a game that even the most hardcore Pokemon fan can enjoy and I would feel comfortable giving this as a gift to a new player. The game is competent and adds enough new stuff to make it feel different from the previous titles.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 PC Review - 8.5/10

If you couldn't guess by the title this is a sequel to the first Xenoverse game. Think Dragon Ball RPG if you're not familiar with the first game. You get to create your own character to fight along side with and against characters from the Dragon Ball franchise. Along the way you'll gain more skills, experience to level up, money to buy more gear and fight harder enemies.

The Good:
So from a very basic standpoint the game hits every single note when it comes to a good sequel. Think Terminator to Terminator 2 or Spiderman to Spiderman 2. Everything is amped up to make it feel bigger than the original, the addition of a bigger universe as well as making the story piggy back from the original. The lackluster hub world of the first game has been revamped into a much larger area with more things to do, more NPCs to interact with who have varying quests and the loading times of the game have been significantly cut. I would say that anyone playing on an outdated PC would probably have some performance issues considering that the world is much larger. I recently updated my PC so that isn't a problem for me. I debated downloading the game on my outdated laptop to see the difference, if any, but decided not to for time constraints.
One of the things I love is that there is an abundance of things to do in the game just starting off around the first few minutes of the game. You can completely ignore the main mission for a time in favor of varying side quests, gaining moves from trainers around the hub world or just simply exploring. I remember having to endlessly trek and search around for anything useful in the first game but this really isn't the case here.
The fighting mechanics have really been amped up here by adding in new moves and maneuvers making the game feel different but also very similar. You could easily jump from the first game to this and have a decent grasp on what to do and how to fight without looking at a manual.
A nice little touch I noticed was how the game actually has unique openings for each race you pick. It really didn't add much but was a nice touch I noticed. Playing as different races also gives you bonuses to other missions in the game but you only get one. This really amounts to just getting more money or items but its a nice little addition considering the first game never really had that.

The Bad:
Every single PC player got the shaft on this game. Not only did the game release a whole two days after the consoles but, living on the West Coast, I had to wait until 2 pm to finally download the game. So after a significant download time of which there was, strangely, no preload option until the day of I was finally able to play the game as quickly as possible so I could get the review out. After the download finally finished I experienced connectivity issues and even now still. Unfortunately I didn't see any option to stay out of online completely and every time I went back to the main menu I had to wait through about a solid minute of multiple times where the game connected to the online aspect. I personally didn't want to turn off my internet in case a new patch came in. Though this could be a fault on my part seeing as how my internet had to take several hours to download a 10 gig game there was also some problems with people who got the day one edition of the game and the developers said they were trying to fix the problem so that the content we paid extra for would become available. It seems like the game needs some more upkeep.
There's a significant amount of hand holding when the game first starts. First off they cripple you by not allowing you to fly around the massive map until about an hour into the main game. Tutorial prompts flash on the screen incessantly every so often and doesn't really ever go away. After I got the ability to fly in the hub world I was forced into doing these EXTREMELY lengthy tutorials on a new type of mission where you fight harder bosses. Elder Kai has these optional missions to teach you the various mechanics of the game and how to fight which I thought was cool until I played them. There you're forced into painfully long explanations on how to do a thing, repeating the information and then doing it all while you are unable to move or do anything other than pressing A to continue the conversation. This is really a problem when you want to play as other characters. The first game crippled you in forcing you to play one character and then after playing a significant amount of the game only then were you able to make new characters. Even then they shared the same save file so you could take a level 1 character into the final boss fight of the game. This game separates the saves for different characters which seems good until the tutorials rear their ugly heads again, however this time you should be well versed in how to use the mechanics and controls yet they still will go through the same song and dance limiting your mobility, your freedom and ultimately making it a "Spam the button so I can get to the fun" type deal. This could have easily been subverted with the option to skip tutorials when possible however I see no option. So starting a new character will end up being a great annoyance.
The game takes a MASSIVE difficulty spike really early on. As long as you're not terrible every fight will vary from cake walk to somewhat challenging. However, once you start fighting Freiza it skyrockets in difficulty, most notably once Goku becomes a Super Saiyan. You will have to fight not only Freiza in his most powerful form but Cooler makes an appearance. They power up and proceed to rip any delusions of grandeur from your hands. They are relentless with their basic attacks and can easily juggle you while using the janky camera to their advantage as it will stick on any nooks and crannies. So when you get knocked down you might as well throw in the towel because you've just lost. It becomes less a challenge of skill and more "Did you bring enough powerful healing items and also spam this one attack with the right build that you have been forced into". If you've been plugging any points into basic attack, powering up any of your supers/ultimates or Ki then you might as well make a new character because you aren't going anywhere. I think its a problem with the AI being to aggressive. The main problem is that its so early on and it forces you into a corner of "Git gud or go home" that is completely removed from the rest of the game. Even the final boss isn't as hard as these two. God forbid if you let Goku die because you will experience a boss fight even more frustrating than anything in the Dark Souls' franchise.

The game is good but it has some problems but problems that can be fixed eventually. I would say it is better than the original game despite my score. Xenoverse gave me a baseline for Dragon Ball content I didn't have before and now Xenoverse 2 has cemented what I should expect from these games. If you're a fan of the series you'll definitely enjoy it though you might be annoyed if you can't get the Day 1 Edition of the game. Get it if you can because of the extras though its not going to ruin the overall experience.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dark Souls 3 Ashes of Ariandel DLC Xbox One Review - 7/10

The Good:
As always the game looks very nice. There's a variety when it comes to the various areas given in the new DLC. First a frosty forest then a Lovecraftian village. Basically you're getting some fair variety, as far as a piece of content is concerned.
The enemies are unique and interesting save for the wolves which are actually just reskins of the regular undead dogs and the larger dogs are copy pasted versions of the Royal Rat Authority fight from Dark Souls 2. Though that's not the absolute worst thing and I don't think it detracts from the game in really anyway.
There's some unique weapons that have been added, which I will explain a bit more on later. For now they're varied and different from the vanilla game and I can definitely see them being useful for other gameplays as well as PvP. There's also been some new armor added, however, I see that as purely cosmetic. While some of them may have differing effects and uses they all seem to just be window dressing as far as I'm concerned.

The Bad:
While I do like the weapons there are far too little clocking in around just 12 conventional, one pyromancy flame, one torch and two shields (technically three but I tied it in with the conventional). While that may seem like a decent number the problem is that magic users have been given the shaft again. Miracles and pyromancers get at least one thing while there seems to be no staves. This problem seems to have been pulled over from the main game seeing as how at launch, and still currently, conventional magic is still terrible without severely crippling yourself. The best I can say is they've added in a new spear that can be thrown and its damage is best when having Focus Points and dips down significantly without them but that isn't really much of anything. They have added a few new spells but I doubt two spells will make up for its uselessness in PvP as well as the PvE game.
There are only two bosses in this DLC. Compared to other DLC under From Software's games this is paltry at best. The first is a generic gank fight that pits you against an NPC and wolves. Its definitely interesting but the problem comes when the real challenge is simply just avoiding the hordes of wolves nipping at your heels rather than an actual fight. The final boss is a decent fight, forcing you to use your healing items sensibly while also going through different phases. Though if I had to say I'd rather have a fight like Sif's where the boss gets weaker through the match. It doesn't really make sense for you to kill a boss and have them revive only to be even stronger. If anything they should be strong at first, forcing you to waste your healing, only to mirror the player's strength as the fight drags on. Though that's more of a personal feeling than anything. The fight is interesting but really ends up being a let down as From Soft ruined the surprise by showing her in the trailer. So when you first meet her as a friendly there's no surprise later. I personally don't care about having the game spoiled but others do and putting the twist reveal in the trailer just takes away from the experience.
If I had to lay my biggest criticism its with the enemies though this is more of a general From Soft thing that has been going on. Whenever they try to amp up the difficulty it comes off shallow almost every time. Giving the enemy more health, limitless stamina, an aggressive behavior combined with the fact they can chip off your health by half with a single hit does make the game harder but this is how it keeps going. There's these new knights that fit this criteria to a T. They hit harder, don't seem to falter and use really annoying tracking attacks far too often. The first encounter I had with one of them they used the same running jump attack buff three times in a row, each hitting significantly hard with my level 80 quality build. If you don't know what a quality build is its basically very balanced stats so I can take a decent amount of punishment while dishing it out as well without sacrificing maneuverability and staying away from magic completely. I like to call this artificial difficulty kind of like a kid saying "No! You can't do that because of this thing I just invented!" Having a few of these enemies every once and a while isn't bad but populating almost an entire area of them is not. Which really doesn't make sense because not more than an hour later into the next area and you face these powerful crow enemies who are fast, hit hard and their attacks are hard to telegraph but they're less of a test of endurance and more of an event. They have unique weapons and moves and are a genuine challenge. I wish there were more like them than the forest knights.
From a technical stand point this DLC does have a far ways to go to make it better. If you're walking from a foggy area to a non foggy one you'll notice that the FPS dips SIGNIFICANTLY. It seems to go from 60 down to 20. I would also like to reiterate that I am playing on my Xbox One and not my PC so this shouldn't be a technical problem on my end. If you really want to see how bad it is, in the crow village you're supposed to run and jump onto this roof after coming to a locked gate to progress further. I've tried to jump and every single time the frames dip without fail. Just saying the game needs a patch just to fix the bugs of this DLC.

I personally think the price is too much for this DLC, though if you're reading this you're probably a fan of the games and have already purchased it. Buy it if you want more out of the game. If you haven't bought the initial game this won't pull you in to the rest of it.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

How I Would Make a Horror Game

Hey, what's up. I wanted to do something a little different this time. There's a fair amount of horror games out there and not too many I would really recommend in any sense. That's mostly due to the fact that I'm not a horror fan, which may seem weird since I'm writing this. However, I haven't written anything in a while so this is a good exercise for me.
I traded in my copy of Mankind Divided and got two games, one of which was Alien Isolation. I've been playing it since this morning and it got me thinking about the horror genre. Personally I'm not a fan of horror for a very basic reason of not liking being scared. Unfortunately that limits the amount of games I can play as a lot of games, while not being a focused horror game, will add or borrow elements from the genre itself. Kind of like the Scarecrow mission from the first Batman Arkham game. The very basis of horror is to invoke a feeling of dread or fright in a person which would enhance the game for a player. While some games sometimes fail in making a genuinely frightening moment often times it has more to do with the mechanics of the game rather than graphics or anything else like that. These are just a few ideas I would take into creating my own horror game, if I was so inclined to do so.

1. You have weapons but they're not viable.
One of the biggest problems I have is being completely powerless in a game. While it does make sense in a horror game it also makes no sense at all. For every gamer there has been that moment where the immersion is broken. An invisible wall, invincible enemy you're supposed to fail at defeating or just a situation where you could have used common sense to solve a problem. You can't honestly tell me you wouldn't try and fight back against a horrific creature trying to kill you. Now you probably don't have access to a sword, gun or any other conventional means of weaponry. But hey, wood exists and its pretty sturdy. Why not hit that unspeakable horror over the... head (?) with it. The makeshift weaponry should have an effect though not a significant one. Like in stealth games the weapon itself should only be truly useful when you've got a jump on the creature and even then just a minor one at best. You should be able to swing away in an attempt to keep these creatures at bay but of course wood breaks and you're left defenseless. I think Silent Hill 2 would be the best example of this in the harder difficulties. Sure you can get some pretty decent and useful weapons but early on you're just left to use whatever you can.

2. The option of choices.
Alright so, bad news: the monster is pissed. Your table leg splintered over it's head and now its chasing you down. What do you do? I personally like that in Isolation you're able to craft certain tools and materials. So as you're running and hiding you're picking up things to attack, subvert or defend against the monster and these tools should make you feel accomplished. Using a flashbang to temporarily stun the creature or a molotov to send it running away in pain is a great idea. Ultimately the monster WILL come back but you now know this particular monster has a weakness to fire and you have a good few minutes to scavenge and complete your goals therefore prolonging your death. You could also completely avoid the creature. If you're good enough, stealthy enough and even smart enough that creature won't even know you're in the shadows. Its kind of like how in Dishonored you can go through the entire game without killing anyone. While that is a feat in itself, going through the game without being noticed once or knocking out a single guard is also something to behold. Games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne reward players for being skillful though on a subtle level. Defeating a horrific boss using only you're puny fists? That's a great accomplishment. You won't get anything for it but you did something no one else is going to be able to replicate immediately and that's pretty awesome. My horror shouldn't be able to immediately find me or have any scripted "Ah it found you because the script said it would!" moments.

3. Ya, no 'sanity' meter.
You're in the shadows creeping around the monster and kind of having fun messing with it. It hasn't even seen you yet and you're halfway through the game! But you know, it would be a shame if that art designer's work went unappreciated. Might as well get a peek at what the monster really looks like... I'm going to say this right now and never take it back. Any game that has a mechanic that punishes you for looking at the creature already failed at their job. Sure if the enemy has a specific ability to do that? Fine. The basilisk in Harry Potter makes sense because it's stare is deadly. Medusa? Her sight can turn others to stone when looked directly at. But anything else? Look I get this is a horrific monster and peering into the maw of this thing is going to shatter your fragile conceptions of your place in the universe but other than that I should have no problem ATTEMPTING to comprehend it. If Cthulhu came to Earth at this very moment and perched himself directly above humanity for all to see people would be rightfully shocked. But as a person who loves science I would be one of those brave few to stare right into his eyes. To go into a ship and try and communicate with him. Sure he might try and destroy us but we at least ATTEMPTED. Why is my character such a baby they can't even see the creature without soiling themselves? I get that its scary but if I've been through the game and now am at the halfway point or clocked in a few hours of staring into that monster's sparkling tender stare you'd think I'd be used to it. The character heavily breathing? Perfect. We are now conveyed that this character is afraid. It builds up tension but I, as a player, can ignore it if I so choose. It has little to no bearing on me as a person. My point is a game's ascetics and mechanics should seek to enhance the gameplay instead of hamper it. And if your reasoning is that the monster doesn't look frightening enough, then you've already failed. Horror is subjective. If a person was born without the ability to feel fear or turned into some sort of Batman-esque figure then that is their own thing. Adding in arbitrary mechanics doesn't make the game feel or play better. On the contrary.

4. The fewer, the better.
On a personal level I love the first Alien movie and its the best horror movie I've seen. Atmospheric, tense, horrifying, gripping. Its THE horror movie I put all others to standard. Also Elen Ripley is a badass character who evolves throughout the story, turning from a scared woman into a badass Valkyrie who casually shoots off a one liner as she punts the unspeakable horror to certain doom. Aliens on the other hand? Its an action movie. I really hate when people say Aliens was "A good horror movie." because it isn't. A horror movie that is. First of all everyone is far too prepared for what is inevitably coming. Too many guns, too many muscles, too much macho. Also while I'm at it, too many characters. I'm going to be clear and say that every single person in that movie acted fantastically but the movie itself checks off just about every cardinal sin when it comes to the horror genre. While I'm at it, too many aliens. Sure the alien is awesome but having more of them presents a problem that can only be solved by subverting the expectations and having them come out victorious or making them be ineffectual. Predator is the perfect reasoning behind this. Sure the Predator is badass and super deadly but the movie its in completely screws over the creature. It gets some decent kills but ultimately it can't fend against a few dudes in a jungle with some pretty basic weaponry and is ultimately defeated by it's own hubris. While having multiple monsters isn't a terrible idea, having one ultimate monster is the best idea. While the other minor monsters don't have to be cannon fodder, this one monster stands above the rest. Its the ultimate goal, your one fear. While the others are nibbling at your heels, your attention is put squarely on this one monster. Think Pyramid head from Silent Hill. Whenever it comes around its an event. What is it going to do now? How will we fend against this?

I know this was a pretty short list but I really liked the idea. With all the game makers around maybe I could make a game like this or someone else could. In any case I hope I enlightened you in someway.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Windows 10's Newest Update (and General Windows 10 Talk)

The latest version of Windows 10 arrived about a week ago and so far, it has been a very great experience. A lot of my former issues that plagued my brand new laptop that came with Windows 10 have now been fixed.

A few of the errors I encountered (also encountered on other computers) were the Microsoft apps and taskbar seeming to cease operating until a restart and various notification area icons disappearing (volume, battery, network, etc.). All of these and more have now been fixed in the newest update.

With that said, there still needs some work to be done and some things need to be undone.

Windows Update
Still, Windows 10 forces your standard users into Windows Update. The updates can be held off, but they cannot be disabled.

Microsoft deserves praise in the area of Windows Update for a few reasons. One such is if you have ever had to recently do a clean install of Windows 7, you know how long updates can take downloading from the internet and installing to your machine.

A personal anecdote, I was setting up a computer for someone and installing a clean copy of Windows 7 on the machine on a Friday. I left the computer on and allowed it to download and install updates over the weekend. Monday morning and I come into the office and it is still downloading and installing updates. Unbelievable.

The updates are sometimes necessary to ensure that you are receiving the right amount of protection for your machine. Microsoft patches vulnerabilities and/or creates ways that make it more difficult to be exploited. Without updates, you leave your machine exposed to the world and vulnerable to anyone on the net who wants your information and has a little know-how in hacking. Windows 10 offered a new way to download and install updates by allowing PC's to "talk" to one another over the network. If my PC is fully up to date and you are installing a brand new copy of Windows 10 that has been sitting for over a year, your PC would normally take a very long time to finish the update process. However, thanks to the new feature in Windows 10, your PC will talk to mine and mine will allow yours to borrow updates to decrease the amount of time and energy your PC puts into getting it all from the net. Wise also in case Microsoft servers ever are to go down yet you still need a critical update.

In the very early days of Windows 10 (more like early months), my PC, at the time, was continually trying to download a driver update for my touch screen laptop. The driver temporarily broke the touch screen, in that it wouldn't work until I removed the driver update and rebooted the computer. Only issue then was that Windows tried to download the update again to the PC. I repeated this process a few times before finally just disconnecting myself from the net.

I asked for help on Microsoft's official forum but received advice from professional Microsoft employees along the lines of "remove the update and reboot", which obviously was not correcting the problem. No further help was given at the time. In the next few days, I simply decided to go without a touch screen and just let it update the wrong driver. To my surprise, it didn't install the wrong update again. That issue never happened again on any Windows 10 PC I have used either.

There is a reason why the updates are now forced. Microsoft wants uniformity between users to make support easier for themselves and those who work in IT. It is difficult to walk into a building and have to use 3-4 different techniques because not everyone is on the same page, rather, same operating system or update.

An additional problem was that most users were not doing updates as they should have been which caused a lot of issues. Issues that average users faced meant that Microsoft was going to take the fall as these people would just assume that Microsoft was not doing their job to protect their computers, which is not true at all. You simply need to manually run or allow your computer to automatically download and install the latest updates to make sure everything is running fine.

To remedy these issues, Microsoft simply forced everyone (except if running Professional, etc.) to automatically install and download updates.

An issue that Microsoft still needs to look into is when to update. Microsoft was smart enough to think ahead and allow the computer to intelligently determine when you would not be using your PC and use that time to download and install updates. Sounds great on the surface but in this internet day and age, many of us use our computers on an hourly basis for various things. Some of us even use into make a living for us and never have free time away from the PC. So when does it install an update? Likely at an inconvenient time for us. You can check YouTube right now and see people being interrupted while playing a game, writing a spreadsheet, etc. by a Windows Update rebooting their computer in the midst of the work/game they are already engaged in.

Cortana
Microsoft has been trying to play catch up with Apple and Google who each have been implementing and improving their voice assistants in their various OSes and hardware with Cortana.

Apple's Siri was revolutionary when it first came on the scene a few years ago. Ever since then, she's gotten a few more features to help users use her for better things. A short while later, Google stepped on the scene with Google Now.

Google Now took a different approach than Siri, in that Siri was designed to be your assistant in many ways in a personal way. Google Now focused on productivity and accomplishing a goal and less on being your personal assistant to make you feel good. Each have their strong suits and pros and cons to one another.

Fast forward a few years later to when Microsoft announces their chosen champion, Cortana. They boasted many features for Cortana that would seem to infuse Siri and Google Now, while implementing other features. One thing Cortana also had going for it was the use of an already popular brand name now being used in the real world.

Today, Cortana has moved from mobile phones to our desks on our PCs and then finally to our living rooms via our Xbox One.

Focusing just a moment on the desktop Windows 10 Cortana, people expected a lot and didn't get what they fully wanted upon first release.

Cortana came with a lot of expectations such as being able to listen for "Hey Cortana" and respond accordingly to your request. PCs that upgraded from Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 had difficulty getting their microphones to be compatible with Cortana. Weird enough, my newest laptop came with Windows 10 pre-installed and it too had issues using my microphone.

This all changed when the newest Windows 10 update came along. Not sure about 8.1, 8, and 7 machines, but my PC is now able to use Cortana almost flawlessly. Cortana responds immediately any time I say "Hey Cortana". Cortana actually gets results now, whereas before there was always a server issue.

However...Cortana still has issues that need to be worked out.

For me, I am curious why Cortana requires my location to be on all the time in order to use her. If you disable location services completely or disallow Cortana from using them, Cortana ceases to work and you are forced to use Windows' default search without a voice assistant.

I already use Siri for Weather information or simply check online in Bing or the Weather Channel. I rarely ever use Cortana for things like this that use location so it puzzles me why Cortana absolutely, 100%, positively needs my location to work.

With growing cries for privacy among people, I would think that Microsoft would also take these into consideration as well. People are aware that the NSA and other government bodies, not even just the U.S., but all over the world are listening in on us and watching our moves. Some of us do not want to have location services on, especially on our PCs that contain lots of vital and sensitive information.

Microsoft needs to rethink aspects like this, not only of Cortana, but in all of its products, especially in Windows 10. I hope that future updates address these issues.

Overall, I am very pleased with the progress made to Cortana in the latest Windows 10 update.

The Start Menu
We are all thankful to have the Start Menu back. Even better is that Microsoft incorporated both the Start Menu and Windows 8 and 8.1's Start Screen so that people who liked either could have a choice While I think many of us would agree that we would have liked the Start Menu to remained the same as it has since, well, the beginning of the Start Menu (with menus, subcategories, and the like), I think we can all say that the return of the Start Menu is still good, especially for those lacking or not enjoying using touch screen devices.

However, Microsoft's newest update brought a fairly big change to it by simplifying the menu. This can be seen as good or bad, depending on how you liked the initial Start Menu brought back in the earlier Windows 10 release.

One positive thing is that it eliminate the need for an additional click to get to your installed programs.

It made the Power, Settings, File Explorer, and profile picture smaller and without text, by default, which I can see as being confusing for some of the users I support.

There should be an easy way for people to log off and there should be more clear signs about how to shut down.

The icons used are fairly universal nowadays, but they still can be confusing to users who are not very computer illiterate. That said, it would be wise if Microsoft could revert to using icons and names together.

Settings
Microsoft still has issues in this area and has since Day 1 of Windows 10.

Ever since the early days of Windows, the OS has categorized all of its various OS settings in one nice little place called Control Panel. Many of us are familiar with it and it's very useful for customizing your computer to your needs.

Windows 10 flipped this by introducing Settings, a new app that handles more settings for the OS. Only problem is that some of the stuff that is missing from Control Panel has been moved, without notice, to Settings. Other settings are shared between Settings and Control Panel and some settings will take you to Control Panel from Settings and vice versa which can become very confusing after some time, even for users, like myself, who are fairly familiar with the OS.

It seems that Microsoft prefers using these app tiles more than having desktop app icons like they have in the past. Understandable that a company wants to move their product into a new era, but there needs to be some help and guidance along the way. A forceful change makes it difficult for us to learn the new ways they want to introduce us to.

What I believe should happen is that Control Panel and Settings share the same settings in a duplicate manner and Microsoft provide non-intrusive ways to guide users away from Control Panel to Settings, as it seems they want to begin moving everything there, eventually.

I put emphasis on the word "non-intrusive" because Microsoft, as well as many other companies, have a nasty habit of annoying users when they are trying to be helpful. Putting up annoying notifications to remind users about Settings every time they open Control Panel would be counter productive. Whereas, maybe a one time message upon opening Control Panel (with the option to have it open again on next open or never appear again) to inform users of Settings would be a better, non-intrusive way to guide users into Settings and gradually move them away from Control Panel.

The latest update has yet to bring about a change to Settings or Control Panel, as far as I can see except a few minor bug fixes for specific hardware.


All in all, Windows 10 is getting better than the nightmare it once was. Microsoft continues to learn their lesson and hopefully will make fewer mistakes in the future. I look forward to future releases and more features that the company has in store for its OS and the users who use it. It will certainly be an interesting journey for Microsoft's last PC OS as we continue on.

If I were to guess, I would say that we will begin seeing major updates during the summer time for Windows 10 throughout the coming years. I believe next year we will see the official name "Windows 10.1" with a major user interface overhaul compared to what we received this year. Perhaps a new look to the Start Menu? Or, hopefully, some changes that won't upset users too much and will genuinely take their opinions into consideration.

What do you guys think of Windows 10, so far?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Xbox One Review - 7/10

To be honest, given how I'm not a person who is able to get review copies of games I either cover a game when it comes out spending a few hours grinding through the game to the point where I feel I've got a decent enough grasp of the game or get an indie game which most people wouldn't know about and therefore would have significantly less coverage. On the few occasions where I post a review of some kind about a game that is older or has been out for some time its usually because I feel the game is exceptionally terrible and I need to highlight to others to stay away from this game... or I just feel bored and like I've not accomplished anything in some time and reviews like this take about five minutes or so to write. Magic broken, I suppose.
Anyways, Deus Ex: Mankind divided is the fourth game in the series of Deus Ex. I'm not counting The Fall because that was apparently a really terrible game that was mobile then ported to PC and still remained terrible because I like to keep the good or decent parts of a series in tact. Yes, even Invisible War was a better game... however debatable that is. More importantly this game is the sequel to the well received Human Revolution game in which the game takes off relatively shortly from and features the same main character via Adam ("I never asked for this") Jensen. I personally liked the game despite its sometimes major flaws.

The Good:
Game looks good. Not a surprise. Next! Alright, maybe I should talk about this a bit. The previous game featured very stylized graphics where orange was a prominent color to the point where if someone were afraid of the color they would have died around the opening of the game due to cardiac arrest. All joking aside the game looked really good and still holds up now after about five years albeit with very ceramic/abnormally shiny looking character models. This game is even more impressive looking and ditches the orange everything look. The world looks more real and less like a Blade Runner game where the main designer cut someone off halfway when they explained how orange and blue are complimenting colors. There's also a diversity of character models in which before you saw very generic looking NPCs now each one has their own unique style in some fashion most notably the augmented. I was often struck by how beautiful some of the augments looked to the point where I would just stare and gawk at the level of detail and intricacies of the designs.
The story takes a nicer turn in that Adam is not like some messiah figure but just a random guy caught up in a thing. I've always hated chosen one stories and, while the original game wasn't that, it felt really close to it. See Human Revolution and Mankind Divided take place some time before the very first game in a prequel status. The augmented are looked down upon and generally seen as a very thin allegory to racism in which they are treated as second class by most at best. In the original game, while I believe there was some of those racist overtones, the game featured a bevy of augmented characters that blurred the line between augmented and robotic where very little of humanity remained of them both mentally and physically. In Adam's time most augmented people only have a few parts rather than being fully augmented. This is because most people's bodies reject augments and require upkeep and chemicals to continue functioning somewhat normally. In Human Revolution they treated Adam with awe and reverence since he was a near fully augmented human being who didn't reject his augmentations at all. So it was like a chosen one story in various ways which kind of bored me. Apart from a single line of dialogue you can completely miss (at least that I've found) there's little to no mention of this. I like this because the story feels more grounded in the sense we're just another part of this world instead of basically reading a bible of sorts detailing mythical figures.
The AI has also been upgraded. There was so many points in the game that I hid from being attacked and preferred stealth as an extremely viable option. The problem with the previous game was when you were found out it really only paid off to go guns blazing until all your attackers were stains on the floor. Enemies are smarter and more realistic in this game, usually staying on alert even when you're supposed to be in the clear. Throw an object in the direction of two enemies and, usually, one enemy will stay behind while another investigates to cover them. Speaking of cover, enemies actively use it and move around as to not be bullet sponges or mindless zombies that only know how to shoot. They try to flank you when their numbers are greater and work together. If you're facing a single enemy they usually like to stay in cover whereas in a group one or more will come at you while another puts the pressure of constant fire on you. There are also more types of enemies that in the first game, albeit not significantly. You've really got to watch your back when facing down the police because they have these armored mech suits that not only soak up damage but also can dish it back out. They were by far my most difficult challenges in the game, apart from my desire to go through a completely no death gameplay... which I will unfortunately have to talk about later down below.

The Bad:
Alright so like I mentioned up before, no death playthrough is possible and grants and achievement or trophy in PlayStation's case. However this becomes infuriating given the fact that apparently if you sometimes try to relocate a body they will clip into the wall and sometimes die. This may not seem like a big deal but the easiest way to go through the no death way is to stealth and stealthing means knocking out people and moving their bodies. So its a challenge for me to both go through the game stealthily but also leaving a body because I don't want to have to possibly reload the game because this ragdoll decided, "Ya but like what if I stuck myself into a wall/door and then died... somehow?" I'm not saying its a huge deal but there's actually a mission in the game (side mission but still) that tasks you with knocking out a guy and then dragging him to a nearby storage locker to complete the mission. Also he has to remain alive. So if this clipping nonsense happens then I essentially fail the mission and have to restart and hope that it doesn't happen. I'm not sure if death by clipping effects the achievement but I don't want to go through the entire game thinking I've got the achievement in the bag only to find out that, "Oh wait, no. Remember that one guy like ten hours ago? Ya, nope. Sorry. New Game I guess?"
Speaking of new game, if you got the day one content you basically got shafted a bit. You got some extra content, sure, but when you find out that you could only redeem that content on one playthrough you're going to probably be pissed. I actually purchased a few extra Praxis Kits for about 7 bucks because I had the money and it would make the game easier. However, that's a one time purchase so if I want to replay the game I have to either reload a REALLY old save or just nut up and buy it again if I want that. That's really stupid. Sure I've been known to purchase additional microtransactions here and there but those went to my account which is to say as long as I have that account I have some semblance of those rewards. So if I purchase credits in Warframe I still have the knowledge that those credits went to something. If I got extra Cartel Coins in The Old Republic, again, that went to something. Instead of these Praxis Kits being used for one playthrough and then I've got to re-opt in if I want it again. For those of you who don't know, the Praxis Kits are basically your skill points. So I got 11 of them which means that I now get at least five entirely new skills or get to upgrade other skills further. Why doesn't that just stay on my account and get reloaded on every save? That's really stupid and I feel stupid for buying it now!
Deus Ex is an RPG through and through. RPGs predicate themselves on side missions... the good ones at least. Side missions vary but the basic point is that its an extra on top of the game that allows you to take a detour from the main quest to possibly get stronger or just take a break. The weird thing is that in this game sometimes they will actively punish you for exploring by screwing up side missions. There's this point where your abilities are broken and you need to get them repaired. The guy who repairs them tells you to get this thing to help you more. If you need any direction the best way is to get them by simply asking the mob boss. Oh ya, save before hand because if you try and deviate from the straight path the game fucks you over. Unbeknownst to me, I went through exploring the sewers and happened on the mob boss. Somehow they detected me and became hostile. "Oh shit," I thought. "Guess I'd better go back the right way." As soon as I did the game promptly yelled, "Dumbass!" by making all these guys continue to be hostile so the only way to get what I needed was to either kill them all and take it or steal it. After wisely reloading I found out by taking it the direct way this opens up even more sidequests for you. So if I took it by force I would have cut off certain points in the game. While this does make sense it actually gets worse. Another side mission tasks you with solving a reporter's murder by investigating and questioning. You have two main leads and if you don't follow each lead to their own backwards ways you're going to be fucked. One guy hates augs and probably killed her. I questioned him and then looked for evidence... only I should have looked for evidence and THEN questioned him because he refused to talk to me after I had the evidence I needed! The other suspect has info detailing he was not the culprit however I thought he was going to attack me so I knocked him out... which was apparently the WRONG move! The mission finished and no one was caught because the game just decided, "Closure? NAH!" My point is you NEED to save before EVERY. SINGLE. SIDE MISSION or else you risk being totally screwed over for the rest of the game. Keeping in mind all the side content I've purchased is non transferrable so double fucked.

The Meh:
So, spoilers, I haven't finished the game. Regardless if it's "This is so good let it never end!" or I'm just bad I haven't gotten to the end or to any boss for that matter. But apparently at the end of the game it ends on a cliff hanger. I'm personally against this practice in any form seeing as how a series could just straight up end with some loose ends and the fans would have no way of finding out the conclusion. At the very worst the developers have decided to make it part of what I can only presume would be DLC which is complete garbage. On the best end I would see this as a thematic choice which, while I can approve of a content creator making the story they want, it just kind of screws over the fans. It doesn't detract from the game being good but it also doesn't add to it. It just basically means I'm going to drag my feet as much as possible before the ending.

Final conclusion, the game is heavily flawed but good. I personally wouldn't recommend the full game price but honestly if you like Deus Ex then more of it really isn't all that bad. Its definitely not the best and definitely not the worst.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Fallout 4 Complete: Xbox One Review - 9/10

Alright. So since the last of the DLC for Fallout 4 has been released I thought I'd make my own little review on how the full game is. This might seem like a waste of my time but usually I've found a lot of people like to buy the full finished product once its been released like with the Skyrim Legendary Edition. It definitely sounds like a good idea. You've got all the content that was promised so you can play the game at your leisure without having to wait for some content only to find out you're overleveled for it, possibly ruining your experience. This review is going to cover all the aspects of the game so this will basically be an entirely new review unto itself as if the game was just released.

The Good:
Alright so the game looks nice and there's definitely a lot of variety in terms of locations. The worst parts of the previous Fallout games was the fact they all took place in a lot of grimey areas and you never really got to see much of any colors that weren't a shade of rust brown. The DLC still keeps in theme with the world having gone to hell with the color pallet but adds and extra touch with a splash of color just about everywhere.
The combat is pretty decent overall. Definitely better than the previous titles. The DLC adds some new features, most notably Automatron, in the idea you can craft your own robotic companion to your desire. The idea that robots drop new parts for you to make your robot better was also a really nice touch as well.
While most people might find it a tad bit annoying, I actually do like the crafting aspects of the game. All of them in fact. Of course the weapon and armor modifications are great but the settlement building is definitely a favorite of mine. The idea you can take a place and make it your own and no two settlements are the same because you can craft yours how you like is an awesome idea. I do have some gripes with this but I'll get to that later.
The writing definitely took a turn up. Personally I loved Fallout 3's story but the whole of it fell short when you had to do anything other than the main quest. A lot of NPCs were just sort of window dressing and felt flat. On the flipside I loved the gameplay of New Vegas but the main story felt lack luster. So while I was having fun with the game itself I just kept spamming any button to get out of the dialogue and back to the game. Fallout 4 really seems like the perfect marriage. There's a lot of interesting stuff to do and combat is fun and engaging. It really felt like Skyrim in the sense I really had no desire to finish the main quest though I never felt any desire not to either. The main quest is really tragic and never cut and dry. There's no pure evil or pure good just people being people. The connection you have to the world was also something I found lacking in the previous games but really shines here. You can be as important as you want and some people fawn over you while others may just simply pass you by. It feels like the perfect union of the best aspects of 'Chosen One' stories while making the mundane also equally compelling.

The Bad:
Alright so the mods on consoles aren't really handled that well. PS4 hasn't even gotten them yet and the Xbone's kind of suck in certain aspects. Sure there's a plenty amount but the problem comes with the functionality. Some mods just stop working. Why? Who knows. I personally think it was because the modder who made it in the first place deleted it outright. This causes some problems, including annoying prompts when you are about to reenter the game or just simply are trying to load a new save if its sufficiently far back. If you're not connected to the internet sometimes the mods just won't load. Forcing you to either mess around to get the internet back on just to play with some mods or go forward and possibly just be missing content. Speaking of missing content, my game straight up crashed a few times. I suspect it was because a mod was missing and the game just couldn't handle it. And it was always the mods I actually wanted like making lockpicking and hacking easier instead of having to spend minutes on something when I wanted to go back to the actual game. I'm not entirely sure I'm sold on the whole 'mods on consoles' idea though I'm glad to see Bethesda actually tried and did something new. I'd welcome it in a new game if they fixed the functionality.
Many people give a lot of mess to Skyrim's leveling up tree but this game makes me miss it. Sure, I don't need the same exact style. Elder Scrolls is all about mysticism and looking up to the stars was definitely a nice touch. However the tree here just looks bland like it was just good enough. Though that's not my main gripe with it. The ultimate problem is when you go to level up and see all of these garbage skills you'd never want to use and you have to wait to get to a certain level to use the actually useful skills. I always try to level up my gun crafting because then I can get all the best mods, but I have to wait until like level 39 to get the final level where most of the good stuff is. The Science skill is great because you can build some awesome stuff but again has the same problem of having to be around level 40 just to get the final level for the skill. I'm also sort of disappointed with the Speech skill... again. Fallout has always been crap when it came to this. I could be at the highest level possible and have the highest level of Charisma and still fail. Then I could put on the best Charisma boosting armor... and still fail. The worst for this is the end of the Silver Shroud quest where to save a guy not only do you have to be at the highest level but you also have to take some chems to boost your Charisma up even more for only the chance to save him. And if you tried going guns blazing the VATS system would always fail you and let one of these idiots kill him with one hit so the Charisma route is the only option. I've downloaded a mod which takes care of that but its just kind of weird that you have to jump through all these hoops just to get to a thing that should be easy to do.
I personally wish all the DLC packs had the functionality of all the packs. While the first two may, Nuka World doesn't allow you to build anything in the new landscape, or so I've seen so far. You can't really fortify your main stronghold at all from what I've played so I'm kind of curious as to why. Crafting settlements is a really cool feature that could have added greatly to the pack. Instead you just have the place. I know it seems like a minor point but I was really hoping to make some awesome Automatron or maybe even do some more unique raider type stuff.

The Meh:
I found most of the companions to be kind of... meh. I do have my favorites like Curie and of course Dogmeat but just about everyone felt flat to me. I was always just sticking around with a certain companion doing stuff I knew they liked because I just wanted their perk and nothing else. While a lot of them are funny like Strong most of them fell flat for me at best and at worst they annoyed me when they disapproved of something. I did my best to get them all to like me but I forgot a lot of times that I left them in a settlement and they disapproved of one of my actions like during the main quest to get to The Institute. While it was interesting to know they were judging me even out of my party it really just became a chore later like I had to put each of them in a good settlement to where I could get their happiness up and then skip back to another one to do their's. However, apart from remembering you have really no idea where they are. No little icon to show you where your companion is so if you screw up and send them to a place you forgot about have fun checking every single settlement you've acquired for them.
As a side note there seemed to be far too many settlements that had simply no use. I know I said I liked them but if there was some more functionality to them like creating a decent hub city that would have been cool. Instead there's a limit to how much you can place in one settlement limiting your creativity. I was trying to build a massive tower at a drive in theater only to be greeted with a prompt telling me I couldn't build anymore so I had to settle for a measly three story thing. Most of the settlements I gained were just for the stupid Minutemen stuff and eventually that became such a chore I completely ignored it all in favor of not doing it whatsoever.

All in all its a fantastic game and I'd definitely buy it again. I'll probably buy it on Steam years from now when my PC isn't absolute garbage. I do have a lot of places where I felt it failed a bit but ultimately the game is fun and I had fun and that's really all that matters.
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