Thursday, 22 February 2018

Millie (Switch) - Review

Millie is available now on the Nintendo Switch and is priced at £4.49.

There are a lot of games on the Nintendo Switch eShop that started life as a mobile game. Millie was originally released on mobile and Steam a few years back for a little less money up front but a fair few micro transactions once you got stuck in.

I hadn't really heard of it until it came to the Switch store. I was intrigued. I'm almost 30 and so I spent much of my teen years playing Snake on my Nokia 3310. No phone since has ever been as loved. Millie looked enough like Snake to pique my interest, so I fired off an email and got to playing it the minute the code came through.

Millie isn't a Snake clone. It's actually more like what would happen if Snake and Pac-Man had a baby in that you do grow as you eat pellets but the pellets are spread around a maze-like level a la Pac-Man. And these maze-like levels can be incredibly tough to get around when you get bigger every time you eat.

There are 100 levels that are spread through three environments and the first few left me feeling pretty confident. I was doing alright. But then the levels suddenly seemed to get a lot bigger and it was a hell of a lot tougher to not keep smacking Millie's head into her butt. I had to give up on my perfectionist preferences pretty soon. Until then I had been getting every last pellet and not bumping Millie into herself at all, but I soon began moving to the exit the minute it became open and after I had quit out a couple of times because I had made Millie headbutt herself, again, I gave up on that too and accepted the time penalty that came with it humbly. Ish.

You do get some items that will help you along the way, but I tried to stay away from them for as long as possible. It's not possible to for long though. Well, I guess it probably is, but I don't know how much fun you'd have. As I mentioned before, the mobile version had micro-transactions built in. These micro-transactions included things like scissors that cut a little bit off Millie (ouch!), and clocks that allow you to rewind slightly after you've got yourself into yet another pickle. Luckily for us Switch players these are bought with the stars you earn in game, rather than real money. I did find it annoying though that after using some of them in a level only to have to restart it anyway, I lost what I had used. I was kinda expecting that you'd get them back if you failed the level after using them.

Millie is a fun little game, but wow does it test your patience. It would have even the most seasoned of gamers moaning with frustration, especially in the later levels. Kids might enjoy the first few levels they would definitely tire of how tough it is a little later on.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Kingdom Come: Deliverance (Xbox One) - Review In Progress

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £54.99.

This review will be a work in progress. As of now I am roughly 16 hours into the game and have played it literally as often as I could for as long as I could (out of choice, not because I have to). I will come back each week to update this review until I have finished the game. I felt like this was the fairest way for the game to get the coverage it deserves at launch. As ever I will not include any spoilers.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an open world RPG that sees you play as a young blacksmiths apprentice. The world is incredibly well crafted and feels really different to most other open worlds I've played around in, in that this game allows you to just live in the world it has created. Don't get me wrong it isn't fit to burst with side-quests and extra games - though there is an incredible dice game I've just encountered that I know will take up a lot of my time in the future - but you don't wind up using the wait function for hours on end in KC:D and come on, we've all done that in Skyrim. This can probably be attributed to the fact that your character gets hungry and tired over time and obviously you can't fight as well on an empty stomach or when you're dead on your feet. Because of this you end up just walking around the town, waiting for your next quest to become available.

I am still running an original Xbox One on a plain old HD screen and the game still took my breath away. All of you lucky Xbox One X owners are in for a treat for the eyeballs as the game is Xbox One X Enhanced. I have encountered a fair few graphical glitches though. There is a lot of texture pop every time I enter a town, which is unfortunate. I've also had a lot of chat scenes where my character and the character I'm talking to have kinda merged into one being. Not great.
The lip-syncing leaves a little to be desired too and makes the game seem older than it is. It's not a big issue by any means but it's a far cry from the likes of LA Noire. The voice acting, however, is brilliant and feels really authentic.

When the game is initially loading you're shown a video that tells you about the games world and the tough times that they are in. It tells of a beloved Emperor who's son, Wenceslas has taken the throne and basically disappointed everyone with his actions. Wenceslas has a half brother though, Sigismund and he has decided to challenge Wenceslas' right to the throne by kidnapping him and laying siege to many of the towns that were loyal to him. This story drew me in from the beginning. Once I'd got past the pretty long load I was treated to cutscene after cutscene filled with brilliant characters and plenty of drama. The first time I loaded this game my kids' had a party later that day and I didn't turn the game off until I was gonna be late. The prologue was insane. By the time the credits started I felt drained - in a good way - and couldn't believe that everything that had taken place was just in the opening act.

Combat takes a lot of getting used to. I lost my first few fistfights and I actually had to go running back to my mum so she could patch me up after I picked a fight with a man that owed my dad money. No, really. Once you get a sword though it begins make more sense (for me at least) and it is very satisfying when you finally manage to do it right! The character you play as is a young blacksmiths son who hasn't really used a sword before so it kinda works, he's not going to be a great swordsman from the off. The bad fist fight was on me though. The game isn't hand-holdy at all, obviously there are some tutorials but honestly they're handled in a terrific way. The only real tutorials are to do with the different fighting skills and trust me you'll be glad of those! The fighting mechanics are completely realistic; there's no marker for where your arrow will hit when using a bow and arrow and you have to move your right stick around to strike from that direction with your sword. It is the most truly in-depth swordplay I have ever encountered in a video-game.

Things can escalate really quickly, if you fail to complete a quest one way it will urge you to complete it another way. This lead to me being caught trying to pick the lock of a chest in the guard's quarters. Once caught I had a few options; pay the massive fine of 750 Groschen (to put that into perspective I had 6.8 at the time), sweet talk my way out, fight or flee. When I told the guard I couldn't pay he kindly offered to let me reside in jail until my fine was paid up.

There are autosave points; mainly after important cutscenes or, as I've found out straight after you've messed up. The game will also save when you sleep. If you ever want to save in between you have to use Saviour Schnapps - a liquor. It will save your progress whenever you decide to use it, but it does count as drinking alcohol and has the negative affects that come with that. It's a really cool mechanic that has stopped me from flicking to my dashboard quickly when I've messed up really badly, which I admit I have done with other games. What can I say, I'm a perfectionist!

I want to show a little love to the in game map because it is really pretty cool. The art style of it is lovely, and it's super easy to navigate. Anywhere you haven't ventured to is covered in fog, but once the fog disperses you are left with a detailed map of the town. Each quest shows up on there as a colour-coded letter which makes it incredibly easy to head to the correct quest marker, unlike so many open world games where you have to set your own marker near to the one you actually want to head to, or disable every other quest. You can keep as many of your quests active as you'd like on here. You have a little icon that shows where your character is and when you choose to fast travel it plots a route for you and you watch this icon make it's way across the map.

Henry, the games protagonist is a young lad who is training to be blacksmith like his father. He is naive, but eager to prove himself. You can choose to play Henry a few ways I guess, but from what I feel I've learnt of the character (at least thus far) he has a strong set of morals that he won't want to part with easily. So with that in mind, I play Henry as someone who is unwilling to loot corpses or complete the shady jobs for people and will look for an honest way to earn the coin he needs to pay his debts. I am willing to change this later if at some point in the story it seems like Henry has changed - which may well happen - but for now I'm very glad to be telling crooks that I will not help them steal from graves. The quest marker is still in my log if Henry ever changes his mind. My Henry also eats pretty much only cabbage, unless someone kindly lets him eat from their pot of stew. Hey, don't judge! Cabbages seem to offer the best nutrition to price ratio I have found so far.

I think this is what I like the most about this game so far. It's an incredibly well-crafted story - one that has had me dying to experience more - but it still has the freedom to create your own story like in Skyrim. Yes it can be very, very difficult but I honestly find that so much more immersive. Henry is a flawed 'hero'. He isn't already a gifted swordsman or a master archer. He's not even a great blacksmith. He's learning as he goes, which does make it easier to accept the crushing defeats I have experienced all too often. At 16 hours in I have only killed three men, all of whom threatened me when I was on my way back to my home town and wouldn't yield when I miraculously managed to get them on the back foot. I love that this game really charts Henry's progression through the story and I can't wait to carry on with his journey!