The TBoD Podcast – Halloween Special

Salutations Werewolves and Mummies,

Here is our final and most fiendish podcast for the week…

The TBoD crew are joined by Spacca Attacker to talk about horror games from the past and present.

But have they bitten off more than they can chew?

Right Click an Save As to download this scary episode.

The TBoD Podcast – 2 Year Anniversary Special.

Friends, Romans and Teabaggers!

It is our 2nd Birthday as a blog and we are all pretty happy about that! So we thought as a thankyou to all of who have read/listened/watched our content at any point over this period we are bringing you a 2nd very special podcast this week. We sincerely hope you enjoy it. Please leave us a comment on any thoughts you might have.

On the agenda is a discussion around gaming and its current growth as an industry and a mainstream pastime.

We analyse the statistics around the number of gamers who are female and the possibility a fairer representation of women in video games.

Inspired by an opinion piece on IGN, we round out this show giving discussing whether or not video games could go down in history in the same manner as literature or films.

Sounds very high brow but don’t be scared, rest assured the dick jokes will return next week.

‘Right Click and Save As’ to download this episode.

Or you can subscribe on iTunes by clicking here.

The TBoD Podcast – 32 – Clutching Our Golden Joysticks Tightly.

This week we are bringing you a trio of podcasts, kicking of the week is our regularly scheduled programming, with guest host Crinbot.

As the next-gen race really hots up we talk about the TV Ads from both the Microsoft and Sony camps.

We chat about Edge’s Top 20 Games Of All Time as well the recently announced winners of the 2013 Golden Joystick Awards.

We also chat the latest about the heavy hitting shooters inbound, Battlefield 4 and CoD Ghosts. Plus we prattle on about loads of other stuff too.

And for those interested in buying a full size Warthog, get in touch with @peterbcooper

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Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf…

The-Wolf-Among-UsComing off the back of a “game of the year” winning title with a new series of games is always a tough ask for any developer, and Telltale games were always going to have an uphill struggle after the rollercoaster success that met the studios acclaimed series of “Walking Dead” games. The follow-up in this case is “The Wolf among Us” based in Bill Willingham’s “Fable” graphic novels. So does it leave me howling with joy or is it all huff and no puff? (See what I did there? Clever).

From the outset it’s pretty clear that the mechanics are almost identical to those in previous titles, this isn’t a problem more of a “ain’t broken don’t fix it” kinda deal really. The controls may be a little clunky and the combat somewhat awkward but that just lends a little more difficulty to a genre that would otherwise amount to no more than a walk in the park with puzzles. That is no criticism of this type of game, I know of many much simpler titles out there whereas here at least you are forced to think both in and out of the box, in fact some of the decisions you make may come back in a myriad of ways to bite you in the arse very brutally at times.

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Mirror, Mirror oh so wonky, what the fuck’s up with that flying monkey?

Graphically there have been some improvements from the studios previous titles but nothing completely awe-inspiring, sure the skins look nicer and the comic book style is further emphasized here but the character skeletons and the whole engine really seems to be pretty much identical to that used in TWD. This may not be a big issue though as the primary appeal here comes from the characters and the world they inhabit, flashy graphics are nice but they are not a necessity to tell a good story and this skewed fairy tale is shaping up to be a great one.

Obviously with both the Back to the Future and The Walking Dead titles Telltale were creating games in a worlds that were already pretty well-known and loved by many and this will have stood them in good stead from the off. While Fables is a pretty popular graphic novel it cannot be claimed that it has anywhere near the notoriety of those that came before, even so the story of “The Wolf Among Us” is apparently to be considered canon by the writer himself, so in creating the game the devs had a new challenge in keeping an interesting story whilst not alienating those who have read the comics. I don’t want to spoil even a moment of the experience of this first part in five so I won’t mention any specifics of the story here but I do want to touch upon the characters, primarily to compare them with the two heroes in TWD. Lee and Clem no doubt stole the hearts of all who played through their adventure together and to begin with I wondered whether I could feel the same way about the twisted versions of these classic fairy tale heroes and villains, however my fears were allayed almost immediately. Bigby, former antagonist of pigs and red hooded girls turned sheriff of fable town is immediately likable as the dark anti-hero, a film noir style investigator struggling with his inner demon. Trying with limited success to make up for his dark past by helping those in need in the present seems to be his main concern, but given his tendencies he is clearly not afraid to get his hands dirty in his line of work. The supporting cast around him are all as brilliantly realised and portrayed and the setting for the story is a sinister one which only adds to the overall feeling of hopelessness and foreboding.

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Things are getting hairy ….. oh dear.

It isn’t long before the shit hits the fan and, just like a bear’s porridge, the plot begins to thicken, so compelling is the world that this small morsel has left me salivating for part two and cannot wait to devour the entirety of Bill Willingham’s series, without doubt another happy ending is written here for Telltale.

eremenko

The TBoD Podcast – 31 – Watch Dogs Loses Ball

Hello wannabe futuristic city hackers,

Another week and another raft of stories in the gaming industry, some good and some bad.

On this podcast we discuss a few next-gen stories: –

The delay of both Watch Dogs and Drive Club and how that affects next-gen launch in general as well how one outlet is cancelling bundles that included these games.

The PS4’s Red Line of Death.

Microsoft’s further push into TV Programming with show on street soccer.

The Wii U’s recent sales jump.

We also get retro with the return of Road Rash and a 3D remake of the original GTA, as well the 8 bit inspired awesome game “Fist of Awesome”

Also we comb through the latest Q&A with Dave Dunn of Bungie.

Right Click and Save As to download the latest episode

Play-Mobile: Two for one

Recently we at TBOD towers have been playing an insane amount of GTA V. Alas there are times when we simply cannot be attached to our consoles and thus cannot become lost in the world of Los Santos, during these moments it is absolutely vital that we keep our thumbs exercised and I’ve been doing so with a couple of real quality titles on my mobile.

I don’t usually like tower defense games but Ironhide studiosKingdomRush” was one of the best in the genre in terms of flash efforts, the mobile port was excellent and the new to android sequel “Frontiers” is an absolute delight.

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It’s pretty much your traditional build, kill, earn, build, upgrade format but with a slight twist in that you can deploy soldiers from your barracks to block the path of your unyielding attackers. The theme of the game is taken pretty much straight out of fantasy epics like Lord of the Rings or World of Warcraft, fully equipped with Dwarven explosives experts, Elven archers, stout Paladins and crafty Wizards fighting for the side of good against waves of Goblins, Orcs, Lizardmen, Undead, Giants and overgrown insect pests.

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What makes the “Rush” franchise so engaging is it’s upgrade system, not only do you have the opportunity to upgrade your towers as you go but each round see’s you acquire stars which you can use to bolster your troops abilities permanently. There are also hero characters available, these heroes can level up and improve their abilities through a basic talent tree upgrade system, one gripe I have is that despite having paid for the game there are still micro transaction to unlock further hero characters. It’s a massive pain but I can understand the dev’s desire to do so and can’t think of another example where IAP is handled so un-obtrusively.

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This sequel improves drastically on the original in many ways that wont be immediately obvious, this isn’t a bad thing as the format of the first title was pretty much perfect but as you go through the levels you unlock extra tower upgrades, all of which are intelligently designed and oh so satisfying to use.

The second title I have spent some time with this week on my Android is a reworking of an all time favourite of mine, manage your planes, trains and automobiles in the triumphant return of “Transport Tycoon“.

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I have spent way more time than I would care to admit with “Open TTD” and have loved every minute of it, when I was younger I was really into “Railroad tycoon” and “Sim City“, OTTD provided me with even more ways to interact with my city and meticulously plan train routes and station placement. I know it may sound boring to some of you but hey …. I don’t grief any of you for loving “My Little Pony” do I? Each to their own when it comes to entertainment eh?

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So you can pick up an OTTD port on Android, but that’s all it is … a port. As impressive and achievement as that is it’s still somewhat buggy and the touch screen controls are pretty much non-existent. As such a genuine touch screen version is a welcome addition to the Play and iOS library. Add to this the cooperation of the original games developer Chris Sawyer and surely we must be onto a winner? In short yes, the game feels every bit as immersive as it’s PC counterpart which is an impressive feat. The interface has been simplified somewhat but just enough so that it is manageable on a four-inch screen you never feel like your missing out on anything. The game-play is almost identical to what you would expect from a tycoon game and despite the edited touch screen controls being a little tricky to get to grips with you will soon be joining towns with all the efficiency of the Japanese rail system.

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I may be somewhat biased due to my love of this classic game but I cannot fault this port, it has a bunch of great challenges to complete and even the ability to play a sandbox mode. If you love city sims, strategy games or if you just have a penchant for playing with trains then this title is a must have.

To sum up, it’s really nice to see some titles coming to mobile that clearly have a lot of heart and soul poured into them and it’s refreshing that they aren’t hampered by ridiculously over the top price tags (*ahem* Square-enix)  or riddled with in game adds (everything ftp on the Play store) hopefully this will usher in a new era of games that are priced well and play amazingly.

While we are on the subject of Mobile games with pure class…. please, please, please go check out Nicoll Hunt of I fight Bears debut title “Fist of Awesome” , I had a brief love affair with it at eurogamer and am off to go play it to death right now as it’s just come out for both Android and iOS. Review to follow.

You’re welcome.

– eremenko

The TBoD Podcast – 30 – Rockstar’s massive package.

Hello!!

Our thirtieth episode and Quim turns thirty! Coincidence? I think not!

Today we discuss GTAV Online, Beyond Two Souls and the Battlefield 4 Beta and how it’s knackered on the PC.

We also discuss an indie game looking for funding called Beyond Eyes and other verbal diarrhea.

Right Click and Save As to download episode

Enjoy.

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Like most people, I was anticipating September 17th with moderate (read uncontrolled) levels of salivation. The glimpses of gameplay released showed a beautiful landscape, painted with complex, diverse, and interesting characters. Add into the mix the cutting satire we are now accustomed to, all new mission types, a plethora of drivable/flyable/pilotable vehicles, and we have the makings of something very, very special.

Initially, I wasn’t disappointed. The introduction and prologue provided an excellent starting point, setting the tone of the game, whilst intelligently and rationally explaining the new control features. Granted, following the prologue, there was the obligatory forced driving mission to start off the game proper; this time though, it was a dash through some of the more affluent areas of Los Santos in a choice of one of the two of the nicest cars in the game. Once that was finished with, we met the first two characters, Lemar, and one of three main protagonists, Franklyn. Two small-time hustlers, both ambitious, albeit it in different ways. At first it felt a little formulaic; ok, so here are two young, black guys from the ‘hood, a ‘dogg’ here, a ‘homie’ there (just think of a stereotype and it was most likely there). Throughout the opening stories however, we were shown a different side to Franklyn, a side of youth which is not often publicised in general media, that of a conscientious, honest, and good man. Subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) we are shown Franklyn’s more complex character, something I have been yearning for in games. Too often, characters are shown to be one-dimensional products of their environment with no depth, hidden or otherwise. It becomes apparent that Franklyn isn’t just some small-time hustler content with selling a few wraps, no, Franklyn is so much more. This can be demonstrated by the way he car-jacks. I know, it sounds ridiculous but he carefully pulls the driver out of the car; no violence, no screaming. Compare this to Trevor’s method and I’m sure you’ll agree that this was intentional from Rockstar.

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This theme is continued as we meet the other characters in the game, and is not merely confined to the main 3. Yes, they have the most depth, but Rockstar didn’t stop there, they added this philosophy to all characters you meet in the game. Be it Devin Weston, the ruthless, smarmy billionaire, who somehow manages to be both despicable and admirable at the same time; Simeon Yetarian, the eccentric crook who prays on the manners and insecurities of prospective customers (just look at how he plays Jimmy in his first scene); or even Dave Norton, the average FBI agent who made a bargain with Michael, and now must deal with the consequential shit-storm. The characters are deep, well thoughtfully realised, and very believable.

This attention to detail in characters has been applied to the story too. The introduction of each character and the story around how they came to know each other is well thought-out and convincing. At no point did it feel contrived or forced, which truly is a great achievement considering the aforementioned complexity of them all individually. I actually started to invest myself in the characters, which is usually a symptom of good literature, not video games. Moreover, the difference in opinion between me and my gamer friends was quite extraordinary and goes a long way to attest to character-realism within the game (listen here to our reaction special)

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In this circle-jerk of detail and depth, it would be unforgivable of me to overlook the graphics and feel of the game, and in this humble writer’s opinion, it has to be one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever seen. Anyone who knows me can attest to my love of sunsets, and I was astounded by what I saw; the colours, the contrasts, the clouds, all of it. Another noticeable feature is the water; I can’t see how water can be made to look more real; it’s truly incredible. From the waves, to the foam they create and the way the water splashes against the rocks, Rockstar have surpassed themselves, along with many other developers.

So from the opening few hours of gameplay, I was thoroughly impressed. One thing struck me however; after 25 hours or so, I noticed the game completion percentage was quite high. I put this down to the fact that I hadn’t just blasted through the main story, and had taken time to look around, sample some of the leisure activities available, and get a feel for Los Santos in general. More on that later…

After the initial ‘wow-look-at-all-this-stuff-it-looks-amazing’ glow had subsided, the story developed and grew; the missions became more in-depth and exciting. Unlike one of the main failings in GTA IV, the missions are rich, diverse, and most importantly, congruous. The side missions, rather than distracting you, immerse you further in the lives of these characters. Be it the dysfunctional family life of Michael, or the maniacal maelstrom that is Trevor, we understand the characters better, without the missions becoming abstract or arbitrary.

Then it all came to a rather abrupt end.

In some ways, I can understand it; better finish on a high than to string it out for another 10 – 15 stilted hours and end with tame, laboured (anti)climax. I also reasoned that the additional content would be interesting enough to keep me going until online was released (little did I know about the problems we’d suffer from with that however). Ultimately though, it was disappointing that a game filled with such satisfying intricacy came to a thoroughly predictable and somewhat unremarkable conclusion; no twists, no turns, no ‘holy shit!’ moment; just ‘that’s all folks!’.

After the interminable credits (honestly, they must have been 20 minutes long), I settled back into my chair to embark on the quest for 100% completion with my pockets greased with cash (see, only a little spoiler!), and I must say, I was thoroughly unimpressed. I had all but exhausted the Strangers and Freaks missions, the random world events became boring and sparse, and worst of all, the collection missions were an absolute abomination; find 30 pieces of nuclear waste which are scattered along the sea bed; collect 30 submarine parts for a not-so-grieving widow…are you serious?! What is the attraction with collection missions other than to string out game time? Who honestly enjoys this bullshit? Not me, that’s for certain.

Before I get too negative, I need to say that I do genuinely love this game. The looks, the stories, the characters, the freedom, it’s all top-notch. My problem is that it’s too short, and that the additional content is artificial and boring.

My disappointment with the game was tempered by the promises made during the online gameplay trailers and thus far, I’ve not been let down. I’ve spent around 10 hours doing missions, races, parachute jumps, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. I can now only hope that the ongoing content release keeps up pace with our collective appetites.  After all the launch problems GTA Online suffered, it looks like Rockstar need to pull multiple rabbits out of multiple hats for some time.

Xbox One or PlayStation 4 – Console Conundrum

The next-gen is almost upon us and as a gamer the upcoming console goodness has been increasingly occupying my mind, so much so that even during trivial matters such as work, my cogs are constantly whirring at an ever-increasing rate to fathom out which console to go for. I have both the XBox One and the PlayStation 4 pre-ordered and the time has come to choose a side, and I need help. But before I throw this to the arena for you to give your opinions I thought a background on my increasingly tumultuous thought process may be in order.

It all started way back in February when the Haus of Shuh revealed their plans for the next iteration in Sony’s prestigious gaming history and I, like many of you, was impressed by what they flaunted on stage. The opening vista of Killzone: Shadowfall, the support of indies and pretty epic hardware that console gamers have been drooling over. I recently bought a PS3 and have to say I do think it’s a pretty great platform (bar the controller, more on that later) however for my sins I am an Xbox player by and large, choosing to do pretty much all my gaming on Microsoft’s current console, with much of that time passed having played Halo, I love Halo. For me in general though the XBox 360 is just better, it’s more social, has a better controller, an easier GUI etc etc. So with Sony being first out of the gate with their reveal I was eager to see if Microsoft could come out with the goods.

My wait would end three months later, with bated breath I sat patiently watching the countdown tick away, then rather impatiently waited through Major Nelson’s pre show babble and finally it began. I would see what I would be playing on for the next seven years. It’s on! Look at all those awesome….sports…..and T…V….shows…yaay. To say the least I was a little confused by the whole reveal, and the following statements both conflicting and unpalatable, always online, can’t share games etc all of it left me a little glum. Microsoft butchered my expectations and as the month went on and as the bungles continued they literally gutted those expectations in front of me and cooked up the sweet meats and served them as a TV dinner, so along with the rest of the internet I pulled the napkin out of my collar pushed back in my chair and walked out of the Xbox diner.

So off I went along with the rest of the internet over to the food truck Sony had parked up just outside and realised the food from here looked a lot better. Games by the baker’s dozen, full on support and open publishing for indie developers, all told the social aspects of the platform had been greatly improved and the hardware on paper even trumped that of the Xbox One. The one niggle I had was with the PlayStation controller, in fairness to the DualShock 3 it isn’t the worst controller in the world but in my opinion it’s not far off, it is small and flimsy and those thumbsticks might aswell not be attached the amount of good they do. Conversely the 360 controller is a tour de force in-game input and frankly made me happy to hold it. However reading reports about the DualShock 4 being worlds apart from its pigmy predecessor and claims it was even better than Microsoft’s current gen offering I thought “Screw it, this is my next-gen console” and the pre-order went in.

Happy in my choice I was more than ok to watch the news unfold for both consoles, particularly in Camp Redmond which each week seemed to be in the press for one thing or another, good or bad. It seemed to be one gaf after another for a time with their mixed up messaging and overly corporate double speak. A day came (about a week later) when Microsoft finally heard the raging mob on Twitter and reversed their always online policy, however I was still scorned from what I perceived as their initial attempt to shaft me. Of course that wasn’t the only U-turn, they changed their policies on pre-owned games, lending games to friends, including a headset and then being able to turn off the “always on” Kinect. Essentially what Microsoft did was bring everything in line with Sony’s stance in the most crucial areas.

Regardless of what you think the reasoning behind these changes were, whether it to please gamers or to maximise profits, which lets face both companies are trying to do on both counts, to me it seemed that all my objections were gone and the XBox One became a product I would quite like to have for the first time. But was it worth choosing over the PS4? Well just to be sure another pre-order went down, you know, just in case, then cancel it later when I was sure.

Then came Eurogamer 2013, the day I could hold a PS4 controller and finally be sure I had chosen the right platform for the next few years. So after queueing to get into the Sony area I finally held the controller and to my chagrin it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Now admittedly my first experience was marred by the fact that Blacklight Retribution was an early build and I was unable to invert the Y axis but I did spend about 40 minutes actual game time with the controller so got a decent idea what I would be playing on for the next few years. Now don’t get me wrong the DualShock 4 is by far and a way worlds better than the DS3, the thumbsticks are solid and a lot more response and in fact the whole build in fact feels a bit more premium, however, having heard it was more ergonomic I would have to disagree to some extent, sure it is shaped to fit in my hands more comfortably compared to the last iteration, but to me it still suffered from causing my grip to be a touch too narrow which for me if I were to game for a few hours on end could become a problem. I think this is down to Sony’s insistence in keeping to their “iconic” controller shape. Sorry Sony but that retro controller shape is not applicable these days so move on for the sake of my hands.

The Xbox One controller however was bloody lovely, mainly because its pretty much the same as the 360. Also Titanfall, a console exclusive (maybe), was next level awesome. Also Xbox is an ecosystem I am invested in with a gamerscore and large friends list that would be have to be basically left behind. But on the other hand the Xbone’s features, whilst cool, I wont really use that much, like the Kinect, or wont be available for some time after launch, like video sharing to YouTube. It is a good product in my eyes but feels rushed and unfinished in some areas. Also I don’t think I am the target audience for the One, sure I love Halo, I mean it cemented my love for video games as a grown up, but I don’t play Fifa/Madden or Call of Duty or watch much TV and that’s where Microsoft have their gaze fixed. They have cast their net wide but it seems the catch of the day isn’t me.

So that puts me back at square one. Do I go with the PS4 – a product which has the raw power and variety of gaming experiences but to me is a little lacking in having a truly great controller, whose launch exclusives don’t grab me and lets face don’t have the proven chops for a seamless online matchmaking experience, or do I go for the Xbox One, home of Halo, a brand I am invested with solid input and online infrastructure but which seems to a degree to exclude me from its demographic from the outset.

If you made it through this read then thank you and if you have an opinion on what I should choose answers on a postcard please, or in the comments below. Any advise will be taken kindly. Thanks again.

-The Quim Ninja

TBoD Podcast – Episode 29 – Rock *Super* Star


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We’re back from our stint in the capital at Eurogamer expo and feeling a little worse for wear. Hopefully this isn’t immediately obvious as we discuss some of the latest gaming news including;

Valves latest announcements,

Battlefield 4’s Beta launch,

Quims console conundrum,

GTA onlines teething problems and what little of it we have played,

If you enjoy the show leave a comment or rate the post, any reviews on iTunes would also be greatly appreciated.

Right click this link and select “save link as” to download

– eremenko