Getting back into the controller groove, with the Steam Controller

Recently I picked up a Steam controller and started playing games in front of the TV, not something I have done in a very long time. Being part of the PC master race meant I was anchored to a desk hunched over a keyboard sticky to the touch…  and covered in biscuit crumbs. To the side of it lay my ‘bitchin’ gaming mouse with about three million thumb buttons. Perfect for quick switching weapons in UT or mapping every priest spell from WoW to one thumb.

Taking up a controller for me was like a watchmaker being given an iWatch.

“What the fuck is this handy compact all in one thing where I can just tell the time with out having to configure 8 million different things at once and spend hours calibrating it” – is what I suspect s/he would say.

Its been a slow few weeks with the new Steam Controller, but not for the reasons you might think – after all the controller has been heavily slated. People stating that its difficult to pick up and hard to use. For someone who has been off the controller game for a while I can’t say I noticed, being generally bad with a controller anyway.

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My first experience with my new controller was Skyrim. Unfortunately for me Skyrim has no built in controller support. By default the Steam Controller tries to map to the games Xbox controller settings, since this wasn’t an option with Skyrim the game fell into some kind of half controller half mouse monster. Strangely this worked quite well.

Opening up the controller settings opened up a vast array of customisable options for the controller, you can map any button to any keyboard button and map any of the d-pads (?) to any mouse configurations. They also have an option for user created controller set ups ranked by user approval.

It turned out I wasn’t the only one trying to play Skyrim with the Steam Controller so I opted for the best ranked set-up. This again gave me a mash up of button support with a mouse cursor I could control when it came to the map.

Despite being impressed with the versatility the controller gave me it still failed to come close to ease at which I can play the game with a mouse and keyboard. Despite my lack of “skillz” with a controller it would likely be better for anyone to just play the game with a mouse and keyboard given the lack of native controller support in the game.

Some time later I fired up Witcher 3 on the big screen, having just played the game all the way through with the mouse and keyboard I was interested to see if the controls mapped better on a gamepad. In this scenario the game does indeed play better on a controller, taking into account my obvious keyboard and mouse bias I can see myself becoming more proficient at the game with a controller.

As expected the controller mapped itself over to the native Xbox set up. This unfortunately took longer than expected – basically fuck GoG overlay, and fuck importing game into steam. Its just a massive cluster fuck, after a little bit of googling I managed to fix the issue. So yeah if you have problems with GoG and Steam playing nice, turn off GoG overlay.

Okay lets go back a bit before all the rage. So yes, the controller worked nicely with Witcher, a game with native controller support. The benefit of the steam controller if you can take the default controller set up and fuck around with it, but not just in game. You can fuck around with it on a lower level – okay lets look at an example.

As a rule you want to quick save after every mouse press.

With a controller you lack something all PC loving people can’t live with out – Quick save. As a rule you want to quick save after every mouse press. The problem with a controller is it has no such support. You have to go into a menu and save that way, like a common console player. The Steam controller comes with two back panels which you can map to whatever you like as developer have no use for them since the Xbox controller misses these buttons. So you can straight up map one of them to F5 (Quik save). The other I map to F12 in order to get some sweet arse screen grabs – like this mother fucker:

Is the steam controller worth the money? For me, I’m happy with it. The Steam controller gives you more flexibility over the xbox controller and lets you map any button to your keyboard giving you plenty of control over how you want to play. It even mimics mouse movement pretty well and with further updates I’m sure it will get even better.

Currently using it to work through Firewatch, and everything works. With the added benefit of screen grabs.

 

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GOTY (Games of the year), because picking 1 wouldn’t be fun.

Stand back and look in shock-horror at yet another 2015 GOTY post. Everyone and your mum has posted their top something games of the year and then gone ahead and put a number next to each one. In order to spice things up a bit i’m going to just list the 3 games I played this year, since all of them pushed the 50-100 hour mark i’m not entirely sure how I was suppose to play anything else.

So tl:dr – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Fallout 4.

(No surprise there then)


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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

With over 70 hours invested into MGS5 its easy to see why it made the pack, the game is fitting episode in the MGS franchise, but not a fitting end to it. If like me you where expecting a solid break down of what the fuck is all going on and how everything works together you will be disappointed. The game has the potential to be one of the all time best games to hit your eyes, unfortunately it falls apart towards the end.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

For me this was my most anticipated games of 2015. The Witcher 2 is in my top games to play in your life time and its being put together by one of the best development teams currently working in the industry. I might have sounded a bit too harsh on the game when I reviewed it after my initial play through. My hatred of sandbox norms unfortunately meant that I didn’t appreciate it as much as i should have. This year I plan to replay the game with the new expansions, lets hope this will make the game live up to my expectations.

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Fallout 4

Having had trouble getting into Fallout 3, I was on the fence about Fallout 4. The game however dragged me in and I poured 50+ hours into it.. I liked the game, it kept me interested for an ample amount of time, I didn’t know what to expect so for me it was a nice time sink. For everyone else it wasn’t so good, it felt to console’affied (coined it) no longer living up to the Fallout franchise and your ability to persuade end-bosses to kill themselves – or something. Anyway didn’t work out to well.

So thats it 2015 the year sandboxes games became the norm.

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EGX Game Expo: How far we have come.

As I walked into the arena at EGX I wasn’t expecting to get blown away by anything in particular. Having played video games for over half my life it hard for me to get excited about anything any more (The last game I got truly excited about was Witcher 3). Indeed its difficult to get excited as most games companies prefer to take the safe road and invest in tried and tested IP as opposed to investing into something truly new and unique. Its said that everything ever  written can be boiled down into seven plots, something which can easily be extended to game-play.

However despite the negativity something happened at EGX I didn’t quite expect. I finally got Excited about gaming again.

Gaming has always had an issue with Hardware, allot of bottleneck on games happened for the prolonged period in which the Xbox 360 and PS3 just wouldn’t fuck off and die (they still haven’t), being a PC gamer things have been pretty dry and thanks to marketing, and just generally how things are PC ports became the new norm. Anything released on a console would get wrapped up and released onto a PC, however because hardware is released every 5 mins on a PC it quickly out grew the consoles, but had to suffer with games designed for the console from 5 years ago.

Then the big announcement, ‘Next Gen’ (I assume next gen will be ‘Next Next Gen’ ?), new shinny consoles doing all sorts of new and shiny things – and no games.

But things seem to be warming up, and it all seems to have kicked off with – CD Projekt Red releasing Witcher 3, which despite my opinion was still a massive achievement. It looked visually stunning, it felt like a truly immersive next gen game. The type of gaming which we always wanted but never quite got. I recently picked up MGS5, another game that’s pushing the barriers and giving us something which visually looks amazing.

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I never quite realized this however until I went to EGX and got to see some of the up and coming games hitting the market later this year and early next year.

What truly sold it to me was the tech demo for the new Hitman game coming out March 2016. I have had very little interest in Hitman, I still have very little interest in Hitman. It’s more about what it represents, the level design, the game-play everything about it shouted “Next Gen”.

I doubt will see any true disruption in the gaming industry until they sort out all the 4D virtual reality stuff which is in the pipes from Valve and Facebook – I’m just happy that things have finally taken a step in the right direction.

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The standalone success of Gwent

Gwent was more or less a success in Witcher 3. I never had much interest in dice poker in the last 2 Witcher games and didn’t think much of Gwent when I first started. But like all things once I figured out the rules and started to win I enjoyed the game immensely. In truth i’m not very good at CCG, after suffering a consistent loosing streak in Hearthstone I generally took the approach that card games; where not really my thing. Gwent continued to enforce this decision when I lost the games main card quest, which you can try about half way through the game.

So what are the rules? Gwent is a game where two players try and win 2 out of 3 games. They do this by laying out cards on the table which simulates a battlefield. After a little back and forth one play will decide to pass: either by not having any cards left, or by believing they have the stronger hand to win the round. We then see who has the highest score. The player with the most points on the board at the end of the round takes the point. This simple explanation does the game little credit, but its this basic Idea which makes the game quick to pick up.

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You get different card which have different abilities which allows the player to gain additional cards by giving the opposition points, or cards which multiply the players score if they are placed next to each other. All manner of different cards with different abilities are available to the player which can give certain buffs and benefits. But nothing alters the game more than weather cards, which have the ability to reduce a whole section of cards down to one (for example `fog` will reduce your siege line down to 1 point each).

BlizzCon_Elite_Tauren_ChieftanIn my opinion Gwent has all the characteristics to make a good standalone game. It currently stands with a very basic deck, nothing in comparison to the waves of cards that come with hearthstone or other card games of this type. I believe that its relative simplicity could be the key to giving the game some standalone success, personally games like Hearthstone have the issue of overwhelming the user with choice (ironic considering I felt Witcher 3 overwhelmed the user with choice), the learning curve for hearthstone in my opinion is very high and the cards you start with will in no way hep you against a seasoned player. Gwent has a relatively small amount of cards to choose from which will reduce this learning curve. My personal preference would be to alter the game a small amount and give the player all cards from the start moving it away from the collectible card game genera and putting everyone on the same level from the start.

It would be interesting to hear other peoples opinions on what they would do to turn Gwent into a standalone game and hopefully Cd Project Red might help make this a thing.

One of the only outstanding issues I had with Gwent was the lack of any real challenge later on when it came to fighting AI opponents, you could very easily role the same strategy and win almost 9 times out of 10 (…apart from you failed the main Gwent quest, Shut-up) with the introduction of real players we could have a thriving little community.

Unfortunately Gwent is currently stuck in the Witcher, which is a shame as its a game I would like to continue outside of my PC screen and preferably on [INSERT GENERIC TABLET DEVICE HERE].

 

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Which Witcher: Part 2

With 60+ hours of game-play it’s time to conclude my thoughts on The Witcher 3.

Last time I talked about the Witcher I made a decision that Witcher 2 was the better game out of the series, now that I have completed Witcher 3 I will reflect on that and see which Witcher is best.

(If you haven’t completed the game this post will make little to no sense. Also spoilers.)

First of all lets break down what happened in Witcher 3. Things seem pretty simple from the start, we are out to find your ‘adopted’ daughter Ciri, who’s real farther is Emhyr var Emreis. Due to some messy child selling deal in the early days, she has some farther issues and so found her self training to become a Witcher under the gaze of Geralt, Unknown to him she has the blood of the elders running through her, and this gives her the power to navigate through different universes/worlds/gummy drop lands. The Wild Hunt wish to use this power to try and get their lovely Elfs selves in to our world, for what I can assume is to invade it? destroy it? conquer it? or migrate. Either way not good.

(I’m going to go ahead and say that my Witcher knowledge is a bit rusty so this post will need to be criticized ruthlessly.)

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As the game likes to point out every 5 mins Geralt isn’t special, he is a Witcher just going around doing Witcher things and spindling a romance with anything magic related with tits (but i have amnesia, fuck off). The point of Geralt being just a ‘Witcher’ got so ingrained into me I was half tempted to leave the lot of them to figure it out for themselves and ride around with Roach smashing up shit and chillaxing in the local tavern playing Gwent.

Unfortunately when I called Roach its like shouting directions at the blind, in a room full of boxes. I often gave up on Roach and just ran everywhere. He still turned out to be slightly more useful than the horse in Dragon Age 3.

Unfortunately when I called Roach its like shouting directions at the blind, in a room full of boxes.

In order to cut down the amount of time i was pouring into this game I gave up on monster contracts, they seemed to follow the same structure no matter what you did. I did complete most of the secondary quests I considered important. They do actually make a difference to the end of the game so worth investing some time into them, overall I found them quite interesting and added another level of story to the game. I also spent some time collecting Witcher gear and that’s about everything I did on the side. The game is massive and as highlighted in the last review i could literally pour hundreds of hours into this game.

I like to think that me and Geralt helped in our own way, we pushed the story forward, did all the grunt work, got everyone to the end. Then strolled in and fucked up some members of the wild hunt. And just when I thought: Yeah I did something, I helped. Ciri turns around and tells you your ‘just a witcher’ brilliant thanks. Why don’t you go and save us from a giant snowball or something.

The ending does come a bit out of no where, however the game does reference the White Frost a few times. It was also mentioned a few times through Witcher 1 and 2. If you actively sought it out. Games which leave me searching for more about the lore on the internet have achieved in getting my attention however I feel they should just make it clear in the game’s story what is actually going on. In the Witcher this wasn’t the case, I still have very little idea what was really going on in the end. Maybe it was all above my station, maybe a lonely Witcher wasn’t suppose to know everything, maybe that’s the point.

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I still stand with what I said in the last review, Witcher 2 was the better game. It kept me wanting more. In 3 I got to the point where I just wanted it to end and that’s the key difference between the two.

However despite the negativity which is spewing out of this blog post the Witcher was a joy to play and Witcher 3 was a fitting finally to an excellent series.

(Once I have recovered from Witcher 3 fatigue I might try and smash through Witcher 1, 2 and 3… that wont be for a long time though)

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