Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

It has only been a few months since I played the first three entries of the Uncharted series for the first time, and whilst I was slightly underwhelmed by what is heralded as one of Sony’s flagship IP’s, I thought it would only be right to give the series a chance in Nathan Drake’s final outing. I strongly believe that playing Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection in such a close proximity to The Last of Us impacted the way I viewed the Uncharted series, as TLoU provided some of the most incredible experiences in my time spent playing games. Yet, as Uncharted 4 was developed after The Last of Us, I had high hopes that what Naughty Dog achieved in TLoU would reflect onto the latest entry in the Uncharted series. With enough time to reflect on Nathan Drake’s final adventure (I’ve written this post way later than I anticipated), I can safely say that Uncharted 4 took some of the most brilliant aspects from The Last of Us, and breathed life back into a series that could quite easily have become stagnant.

Mild spoilers follow.

The biggest problem I had with the Uncharted series prior to playing the latest entry, was that I found the characters to be pretty tiresome, characters that have been sorely overdone in not only video games but other cultural mediums. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times where main characters Nathan Drake, Elena Fisher, and Victor Sullivan, had great character moments, but overall there was something missing in their characterisation that meant I could never click with them. Playing The Last of Us, whose characters are both interesting and relatable, before playing Uncharted may have impacted the way I looked at these characters, however I’m sure someone out there would agree with me that the potential for these characters to fully shine was never realised. As Uncharted 4 was developed after TLoU, my hopes for richer characterisation of Drake & co. after the praise of TLoU‘s characters have definitely been satiated. I was initially apprehensive that introducing Samuel Drake, Nathan Drake’s long lost brother, would work well since there has never been mention of him before. Yet, his introduction was not only entirely believable, but it added layers of much needed characterisation to the long standing protagonists of the series. Through the flashback chapters to Nate’s childhood (one of my favourite parts of Drake’s Deception that I’m glad they continued) helps us understand Nate’s constant use of adventuring to run away from his problems. Nate’s abandonment by his father, and later Sam, obviously led to feelings of loneliness, and this could be the reason why in later life he partakes in life threatening adventures, so that he can dismiss these feelings. This is why Uncharted 4, in my eyes, is the defining game in the series. We can finally delve deeper into Nate’s character, with the other games only scratching the surface. The best character moments in the game are seen between Nate and Sam, and this is massively helped with the introduction of optional conversations, a feature that also added layers of great characterisation in The Last of Us. Granted, some optional conversations could be easily missed, but conversations such as one that takes place between Sam and Nate in a pub in the abandoned Libertalia, seamlessly blends comedic banter and thought provoking insights into these two characters. Enough about our male protagonists though, Uncharted 4 is noteworthy for carrying on the splendid characterisation Elena received in Drake’s Deception, realising her potential of strength and independence (and a penchant for classic video games!). Elena’s presence throughout the game proved her potential to match the strength and skill of the machismo Nate, and the agency she took in her relationship with Nate was commendable. We were also graced with the introduction of another badass female character, with new antagonist Nadine Ross. Although Rafe Adler was undoubtedly the best villain of the Uncharted series, Nadine was arguably more interesting as she was running the show, and when it came down to it she refused to be just a boring sidekick to Rafe.

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Nate and Sam’s relationship is brought to life by Nolan North and Troy Baker’s excellent acting.

What also posed a problem for me playing through the Uncharted series was its issues of pacing. Whilst Drake’s Fortune was the biggest culprit in this, the pacing seemed a little off in the rest of the series. Uncharted 4 massively improves on this, giving adequate spacing to shootouts, puzzles, and story moments that require some time to breathe and reflect on the events that occur. Although shootouts occur about as frequently as the other games, the addition of stealth sequences helps to digest the shooting mechanics which are often criticised. The partner system which takes direct cue from The Last of Us, also adds another entertaining dynamic to shootouts, with physical combat also massively improved in this game. With this in mind, it would be a crime not to mention the improvement Naughty Dog have achieved in their final boss fight. In the first three games, the final boss fights were largely underwhelming, but with the help of an interesting villain, and an exciting action sequence, Naughty Dog should be commended for finally pulling off a finale that the series deserved.

Naughty Dog should also be commended for quite possibly setting a bench mark for the PS4 in graphics terms. Uncharted 4‘s plethora of locations to explore are visually stunning, and although some of the character models have changed quite drastically in the jump to the next generation (I’m looking at you Elena) it is hard to deny that these are some of the most hyperrealistic looking video game characters, and this only adds to the cinematic qualities that the Uncharted series strives to attain. The stunning graphics become apparent as cutscenes seamlessly flow back into gameplay with no massive change in graphics quality, and action scenes that are brimming with explosions could easily be mistaken for a Hollywood action flick. These hyperrealistic graphics also add to the emotion of character driven scenes as facial expressions are translated impeccably through the characters.

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There’s no denying that Uncharted 4 is one of the most visually beautiful PS4 games.

It was a risk convincing myself that Uncharted‘s final chapter would be the Uncharted I believed it had the potential to be, due to the experience Naughty Dog had with The Last of Us. However, I firmly believe that A Thief’s End is the best game in the Uncharted series, and this would not have been possible without the lessons learned from the success of The Last of Us. With our well known protagonists finally receiving the characterisation they deserved, and a plot line that didn’t border on the extremely ridiculous with no inclusion of supernatural elements this time around, Uncharted 4 is a well rounded adventure that is arguably a perfect finish to this series. It’s a bitter shame that the whole series wasn’t as brilliant as Nate’s final adventure.

Thanks for reading as always! What were your thoughts on the finale to this notable series? I’d love to hear what you thought in the comments.

An update on me

Hey there, long time no see! You may have noticed that I’ve been unusually quiet since the beginning of this year. I decided to take an unannounced hiatus so that I could focus on my remaining pieces of coursework for my degree, but mainly to focus on my dissertation. I didn’t announce the hiatus just in case I felt like I could write something, but after a continuous 4 months of writing essays almost every day, I found it hard to motivate myself, or find enjoyment, in writing in my spare time. As of two days ago, I am completely finished with all the work for my degree, and hopefully by putting all my focus into it, it will pay off once I graduate. Now that I am finished, I’m looking forward to writing some more pieces on my blog, and with a plethora of exciting new releases this summer, you can guarantee that this blog will be a lot more active than it has been in the previous part of this year! As I have preordered Uncharted 4, the next piece I write will most likely be centred on this, so look out in the coming weeks. I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, and becoming more interactive in the WordPress community again.

If you’re reading this thanks for sticking with me despite my inactivity. As a treat here is a picture of me with my finished dissertation which I was lucky enough to write on the passion that brought me to WordPress, video games!



Undertale Review


If you weren’t living under a rock during the latter part of 2015 then you are likely to have heard about Undertale. Whether you heard the endless praise from critics and fans alike, or you encountered one of the many memes that have erupted from the game and its community, Undertale was, and still is, one of the most talked about games in recent months. Heck, you can’t even walk a few steps through the Plaza in Splatoon without being greeted by Miiverse posts depicting characters and scenes from Undertale, oddly enough. It is fair to say that Undertale has gained cult status, and the amount of passion that has been shown for the game by critics and fans definitely had me intrigued to play myself.

I’ll start by how I mean to end this piece. Go play this game! I truly believe that there is something for everyone in this game. From the gameplay itself with its intuitive combat system and entertaining puzzles, to one of the most genuine, heartfelt stories, filled with excellently written characters. I honestly haven’t experienced a game so evocative in a good while, and to top it all off it has the most fantastic soundtrack that I can say with certainty is the video game soundtrack of 2015, maybe even the last five years, in my eyes. Seriously, even if you feel you aren’t interested in playing Undertale, listen to some of the pieces of music on YouTube, it may just change your mind.

The story of Undertale takes place in a world where monsters and humans, who had once lived together on the surface, has been torn apart by war, leading the monsters to be banished underground and the entry to the surface sealed by magic. You take on the role of a child who has fallen underground whilst traversing the fabled Mt. Ebott. It is your goal to find your way out of the underground and back to the surface. However, as it is filled with monsters you are going to have to fight your way through. Or, are you? Met by the kind monster Toriel at the beginning, you learn that as well as the option to Fight the monsters you encounter, you also have the option to Act, which can lead to some of the most hilarious interactions.

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If you enjoy dark humour, there is plenty to be found in Undertale.

The reason you have the option to Act is that picking the right options will allow you to spare the monsters. Unlike some games, where morality can feel tacked on, the decisions you make in Undertale will drastically alter the story. You can take three routes, the neutral route, the pacifist route, or the genocide route. These routes are self-explanatory, however the vast difference in the story depending on which route you decide to take is quite hard to convey without spoiling. All I can say is that I was astonished at how much depth had been added to the story playing through the pacifist route after initially completing the neutral route. It took me around 7 hours to complete my first playthrough and I was immediately compelled to start all over again to initiate the true ending which can only be seen by completing a true pacifist run.

Like your typical RPG, Undertale features an experience points system to level up the protagonist. However, if playing as a pacifist you won’t receive any experience points from battling, only gold. This adds a huge degree of challenge as having a low health pool of 20 can prove quite troublesome in some of the later boss fights. Speaking of, the degree of variation in fighting bosses is interesting as each have unique battle systems implemented. The fighting system in Undertale features a box that hovers above your menu where you must tap Z when a moving line lands in the center of this box to initiate your attack. After this the monster will retaliate with their own attack which sees you control a heart icon and play a minigame of sorts, ranging vastly from every monster you meet, and particularly amongst the bosses. For example, fighting the sassy skeleton Papyrus will have you using the arrow buttons to make your heart jump over obstacles made from bones. Later on you will meet the brash knight Undyne, whose battle feels like playing a music rhythm game. This variation will keep you on your toes in every battle.

I can’t decide whether it looks like an eye or a canoe.

The majority of the bosses you will get to know quite well, through interacting both inside and outside of battle, which can create difficult decisions in how you want to end the fight. The characters have been written extremely well, and getting to know them throughout the game will make you feel a range of emotions. What really shines through each character though is their comedic aspect. There are some brilliant pieces of dialogue from the characters and its easy to see how they have become such huge memes.

What also sets Undertale apart from many RPG’s is its self awareness. Many fans have lauded instances in the game where it breaks the fourth wall, and it manages to come across as very meta with its self awareness of typical RPG tropes, and even topics of the wider gaming community. This is a hard thing to achieve without it falling flat, or being overdone, but Undertale has just the right amount and without it, many of its characters would lose a lot of their charm.

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Reading signs is not a monotonous chore in Undertale.

Undertale is a fantastic RPG that is captivating from the get go. The soundtrack is absolutely brilliant and the characters are lovable, both of which I will fondly remember for years to come. I’m sure this will be one of the games I will always come back to for some good old classic fun in the future. I really can’t stress enough how great this game is, and to do so anymore would inevitably lead me to spoiling it. You really don’t have any excuse if you haven’t played this yet, as it quite low spec so can be run on most average laptops and desktops, and a single playthrough can be done in a day if you don’t have much time on your hands.

Have you played Undertale? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading!


The WakuWafu and Starlight Blogger Awards

Cor blimey! It seems I’ve been nominated for The WakuWafu and Starlight Blogger Awards by none other than the brilliant Chasm of Thought. I always enjoy reading your blog and I’m thrilled that you enjoy reading my work as much as I do yours.

These are the rules for The WakuWafu Award:

1. Thank the person who has nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

2. awardChoose any 3 things you would like to say about yourself to your fellow bloggers.
3. Think up 3 questions you would like to ask the people you nominate.
4. Give one piece of advice to your fellow bloggers.

5. Make sure to tell us over here (http://wakuwafu.com/2015/09/08/the-wakuwafu-award/) that you have been nominated (and/or completed the award) so that we can put your blog up on the wakuwafu page! Make sure to put down your blog in the comments section!

The Starlight Blogger rules are:starlight-blogger-award

  1. Thank the giver and link to their blog in your post.
  2.  Answer the 3 questions given to you.
  3. Please pass the award on to 6 or more other bloggers of your choice and let them know that they have been nominated.
  4.  Include the logo of the award in a post or on your blog. Please never alter the logo and never change the rules.

I’ll get straight into the questions asked by Chasm of Thought.

Which fictional reality would you be happiest living out the rest of your days in?

So I ummed and ahhed for a while over this but I’ve decided to go with Skyrim. There hasn’t been a world in a game that has captivated me like Skyrim did. A beautiful world with a range of different environments that could satisfy a lifetime of adventures, I mean I clocked over 200 hours in that game and could easily go back to it. Plus I would be a badass Dovahkiin. Enough said.

Which person do you respect most? Can be fictional or real, known personally or not. You also don’t have to necessarily like them.

So I’ll keep with the theme of video game related answers and tell you who I respect most in the video games industry. He is someone I’ve known of for a few years but only started following in recent months, yet he has provided a lot of entertainment and insight. It’s none other than John Bain aka TotalBiscuit. He is quite the controversial figure in the games industry, but listening to his podcast and an assortment of audio blogs has provided a lot of insight into the industry, and has helped me think about things from different perspectives. I don’t always agree with his views, but I respect his opinions and can always understand where he is coming from. He also doesn’t give a damn about calling someone out on their shit which I do rather like.

What made you want to start blogging, and what’ve your experiences been like so far?

Well this I can answer pretty easily. I’ve been an avid video games fan since 5 years old, but as usually goes with being a kid I didn’t have much money to spend on them. Picking the next game to play was sometimes a difficult decision and so I turned to gaming magazines for help. I used to pore over these magazines, vicariously playing games through them and what I read really inspired me as a writer. The next logical step was to start a blog, and the rest is history (albeit a short one). What I’ve loved about starting my blog is the engagement I’ve had with the gaming community on WordPress, and I love reading everyones thoughts on different games.

Here are my nominees

I can always rely on these blogs to give some informed and entertaining discussions on a range of different video games and films, and I’ve really enjoyed engaging with them in my short time blogging.

After Story

Game, Complain, Repeat

Matt on Video Games

Wave Motion Fist

Established 82

What Rhino Said

Three Questions I’d Like To Ask

  1. What video game character would you want as a sibling?
  2. What is your most anticipated video game this year?
  3. What is your favourite video game OST?

A Piece of Advice for the Road

I am by no means an expert to dictate on how to write, but one of the most important things I’ve learnt through studying at university and blogging is proof reading is key. I’m always surprised by how many mistakes I make or when something doesn’t sound right at all. It’s a really useful habit to get in to, so I think this is the best advice I can give to my fellow bloggers!

Thanks again to Chasm of Thought for the nomination, and if you got to the end I hope you enjoyed learning a few little facts about me.

Battlefront critics: Why so Sidious?

DICE’s take on the Battlefront series has been out for almost a month now, and in that time I’ve managed to clock a fair 31 hours into; an amount of time I can faithfully say I’ve enjoyed every second of. How could I not enjoy it? Battlefront effectively captures the magic of the Star Wars universe, dropping you into the heat of the battle in some of the Galaxy’s most iconic locations. Whether you’re a Rebel soldier, rustling through the foliage on the forest moon of Endor, or a Stormtrooper ploughing through the snow on the icy planet Hoth, playground fantasies of taking on these roles and blasting apart your enemies in a galaxy far far away are certainly satisfied. Yet, since its release Battlefront has received a fair amount of criticism, some of which I can agree with, but for the most part I think is unfair.

I’ll start by mentioning the criticisms that I do agree with. Battlefront has a progression system where points earned through combat, completed objectives, and awards accumulate into experience points and credits (Battlefront’s currency). Battlefront has been criticised as many of the weapons that have come to be considered OP (overpowered) are unlocked at higher ranks, therefore when starting at Rank 1 it can be rather irritating to go up against people who have had the opportunity to rank up and gain these weapons. Granted, I didn’t have much of a problem with this as I played on launch, however those who may have bought the game recently will likely have a hard time coming up against higher ranked players. The spreading of weapons and other unlockables such as grenades and power-ups throughout the ranks has also been criticised as players may feel burned out trying to grind through the ranks to be on an equal level to higher ranked players. I must admit trying to rank up to 13 to unlock the jump pack was pretty irritating as for me I feel that the jump pack really opens up the game and makes it more fun.

Battlefront has also been criticised due to its game modes. There are a total of 9 multiplayer game modes (10 if you have recently downloaded the free Battle of Jakku DLC) which in principle sounds like a good amount. However, some of these modes feel uninspired and a few just worth avoiding. You have your typical Team Deathmatch mode called Blast which is what it is. You also have Cargo, DICE’s take on Capture the Flag, again pretty similar but just swap the flag for a cargo backpack. These modes are your typical features of most modern shooters, but when you have modes like Walker Assault and Drop Zone, these typical modes seem mundane and more like filler. The mode I have the biggest problem with is Heroes vs Villains. A great concept, two teams of 6 fight each other but with 3 in each team taking the role of either a hero or villain from the Star Wars universe. Don’t get me wrong, I think the inclusion of these characters are great (despite some dodgy voice acting), and they can really turn the tide in battle in modes like Supremacy. However, the combat between the heroes and villains is extremely clunky, particularly between lightsaber aficionados, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. There are also balance issues with these characters, as Emperor Palpatine feels completely underpowered, whereas Boba Fett is often seen as overpowered.

There are other minor issues such as dodgy spawn points and balance issues in weaponry, but hopefully patches will be issued to solve these; some weaponry issues have been solved in the latest patch. Despite its issues though, I still maintain that Battlefront is a good game and my main disagreement with some critics is their argument that the game is not hardcore enough for fans of the shooter genre. The main reason I have enjoyed Battlefront, played it for so many hours, and will be likely to continue playing for a while is that its not as serious as your typical shooter game. You can see your Kill/Death ratio and the percentage of games won and lost, but there isn’t as much pressure like typical shooter games to be as concerned about these things. When I’m playing a round of Walker Assault I’m not too bothered about the outcome of the match because it doesn’t have much detriment tied to it, I still gain experience points and credits, and I’ve had the experience of being immersed into a battle that has iconic status in the Star Wars films. Many have criticised Battlefront because of this, stating that it has a lack of depth, however EA have stated that it was aimed to appeal to a wider audience than the hardcore shooter niche audience. Personally, I don’t find games like Call of Duty appealing for their multiplayer, as I am certainly not a hardcore player. Playing Battlefront for me is great because it doesn’t matter that much how skilled you are in shooting as you can still have fun, and still gain that immersion into the Star Wars universe that many Star Wars inspired games have failed to achieve. Plus you can always blame your awful shooting skills on some serious role playing as a Stormtrooper (I can admit to doing this!)


Thanks for reading! Have you played Battlefront? Let me know in the comments what you think about Battlefront’s criticisms!

Did Drake’s Deception save the Uncharted series?

Having finished Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection I have been left feeling conflicted over what is heralded as one of Sony’s best exclusive series. Perhaps I longed for the feel of action-adventure that was so deftly achieved in Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider. Or perhaps playing The Last of Us before dabbling with Uncharted set the bar too high for well written characters. This is not to say the Uncharted series doesn’t achieve either of these two aspects, however I didn’t believe in the certain praises the series has received until playing the finale of the collection.

Having all three games available to play one after the other for the first time was both a blessing and a curse. It meant that I was able to absorb the story and characters, and register the emotions and feelings quickly to formulate my opinion of the series. Yet this also posed a problem because I may have been quite critical when certain elements hadn’t developed as I would have expected between the years that had separated the original releases. Starting with Drake’s Fortune undoubtedly left a sour taste in my mouth thanks to its dire gameplay. I honestly describe the game in my head as ‘the one where you shoot some bad guys, climb a tower, rinse and repeat’. The only thing that saved Drake’s first outing was the characters. Yet, their characterisation was limited and I couldn’t decide whether I loved or hated them from one minute to the next. The game nailed some aspects of the action-adventure genre and failed miserably in others.

Luckily a lot of my ill feelings were remedied through playing Drake’s second outing, Among Thieves. The pacing and variety of the gameplay was far better this time, and the characters received some much needed attention to the way they were written. In some ways it felt more thrilling than a modern Hollywood action flick, with its range of fantastic locations and action tropes that created a far more engaging experience than Drake’s Fortune. However, possibly being spoiled by playing The Last of Us, I still felt underwhelmed by the characters and this was key to how I would form an opinion on the series. Fellow adventurer-come- father figure to Drake, Sully, is put on the backburner towards the beginning of the game, claiming he isn’t cut out for the adventuring life anymore due to his age, which damaged the game after losing one of the key characters who genuinely made an impact in the first game with his humorous dialogue and jesting relationship with Drake. This is especially cemented when the third instalment comes around and Sully takes part in a highly precarious adventure that the second arguably couldn’t match with the stakes at play. Thankfully, Drake’s cliché love interest from the first game, Elena, is written a lot better this time around, serving a good example of a strong female role in video games. Yet, where she shines in strength and independence, I felt she was boxed in by the ‘good girl/bad girl’ dilemma Drake faces in his conflicted romantic pursuit of both Chloe and Elena. Drake himself was humorous like in the first game, but that is really where he shone the most, making him seem slightly one-dimensional. Admittedly I may be a little too critical of Drake, but the stereotypical ‘white heteronormative male’ lead role he falls into is sorely overdone.

However, by the third instalment Drake’s character is explored in more depth which helps him move away from the stereotypical presentation he received in previous instalments. I believe visiting Drake’s childhood was a key turning point in the series as not only did we get a good explanation for why Drake became a treasure hunter (explanation in previous titles were both questionable and unexplored) but we were able to connect with Drake emotionally, and the portrayal of Drake and Sully’s relationship improved how they are viewed as characters as a whole across the series. Not only that but it introduced the menacing villain, Marlowe, who is by far the best villain of the series and this was aided by the fact that she shared a history with both Drake and Sully. What was also fantastic about Drake’s Deception was that alongside the traditional treasure hunting adventure, support characters delved into Drake’s psyche asking why he was really pursuing this lifestyle with the incredible danger it posed. Although there was never a clear answer to this, this gave the player a chance to come up with their own answers, and it also provides a compelling avenue for Uncharted 4 to potentially take.

What Drake’s Deception also vastly improved on was its portrayal of the supernatural. The supernatural element in Drake’s Fortune was probably one of its only saving graces for me, as it was quite unexpected when you encountered it, and added an element of horror in a game you wouldn’t expect to contain. Not only this but its portrayal of supernatural tied with the longstanding trope of Nazi affiliations with the supernatural, made for a more understandable story typical of its genre. Yet, Among Thieves’ incorporation of the supernatural was quite ridiculous, and almost felt like the writers felt obligated to include it, leading to a tussle between debunking the supernatural to then accepting it. Once again, Drake’s Deception took the supernatural theme and portrayed it in a way that both made sense and also served as a way of analysing Drake’s character. (Mild spoilers from here on) After drinking water that was unknowingly contaminated with a natural hallucinogenic, Drake begins to see his enemies possessed by fire demons known as the Djinn. Whilst hallucinating he also sees Sully get shot, which thankfully is nothing but a hallucination. For me, this represented the guilt and fear Drake felt for including Sully in his dangerous lifestyle, and the Djinn possessed enemies that had to be quelled twice before actually dying represented Drake’s inner demons that are a struggle for him to fight. Obviously, this is just my take on it, but the clever way of portraying the supernatural provided an avenue to explore the characters in this way.

Building upon the idea of Drake’s inner guilt for Sully, the series deftly explored the consequences those who surround Drake had to face. Newcomer to the series, Cutter, is almost out just as he is in with a close dance with death thanks to Drake’s enemies, which also makes Drake’s old flame, Chloe, realise the danger of sticking with Drake particularly with the high stakes and the uncertainty of Drake’s treasure he seeks. When Elena becomes gatekeeper to Drake and Sully’s progression for this treasure, she scolds Drake for taking advantage of Sully, both of them knowing he would “go to the ends of the earth” for Drake (although contradictory considering Among Thieves). However, with the deeper exploration of Drake and Sully’s relationship in Deception we do agree with Elena, and we also sympathise with her as she seems to be donning this role too. For me, one of the most touching scenes of Deception and the series as a whole was after Drake had narrowly escaped death after fleeing a sinking cruise ship. We see Elena desperately pacing, making plans, unsure of Drake’s fate. When a dishevelled Drake appears at her door they settle down on the sofa and Elena lays Drake’s head in her lap. Drake explains what had happened and for once acknowledges the emotional pain he may have caused Elena and apologises, to which Elena replies “I know”. It’s both charming as it is bleak, as Drake is finally showing true affection but deep down Elena knows this is who Drake is and being involved in his life is a risk; a realisation that is cemented as Elena stares into space whilst stroking Drake’s hair. At this point both characters became instantly identifiable, as the series looked past the glamorous Hollywood-esque action adventure, and added a deeper human element to the story.

With a shift from trope filled storylines and characters in previous instalments to a more humanistic approach of presenting its characters and how the story has progressed, Drake’s Deception saved the Uncharted series from possibly becoming a franchise that churns out the same clichéd characters and storylines until the whole series becomes disregarded. Without Drake’s Fortune we wouldn’t have the basis for the characters who have become so iconic by the end of Deception, and Among Thieves set the precedent for a game that’s setting and actual gameplay is one of the most thrilling adventures that can barely be matched in the last decade. Ultimately though, Drake’s Deception took a much loved genre and added a much needed spin, adding a more humanistic and connectable element to its characters, that both saved their previous representations in the series, and created the potential for Uncharted 4 to build upon, which I have no doubt will be the case after Neil Druckmann’s experience with the brilliant The Last of Us.

There needs to be a Kingdom Hearts Symphony Orchestra!

Earlier this week The Legend of Zelda: Symphony Of The Goddesses Orchestra performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert ahead of their world tour, suggesting a growing interest in video game soundtracks arranged in symphony form. No longer do we have to pore over YouTube to listen to our favourite video game soundtracks, but can go to a theatre and marvel at the amazing arrangements that orchestra’s like Symphony Of The Goddesses are presenting. Last year saw the world tour of Final Symphony, with orchestra’s presenting the amazing music of the Final Fantasy series. Yet, despite these two massively adored franchises gaining the recognition for the fantastic music that accompanies their games and inspiring these concert tours, I feel that this new found venture is missing out on some of video game’s greatest music scores.

For those who are unfamiliar with the series, Kingdom Hearts is the unexpected mashup of the Disney and Final Fantasy worlds, combining the charm of the much loved Disney worlds and characters, and the pensive storytelling of Final Fantasy. As you can imagine you therefore get music that ranges from classic Disney to epic battle music that you would expect from a Final Fantasy game. With seven games in its main series, and many remasters, there are plenty of music pieces that could be adapted into a symphony. Plus, main composer Yoko Shimomura has created the music so masterfully so that most pieces have noticeable connections in key, motif etc. to link key characters and events, meaning that in many cases pieces could be strung together quite easily to make a fluid arrangement in symphony form. Some pieces of music from the Kingdom Hearts series were featured as part of the Symphonic Fantasies concert, which featured music from many Square Enix produced games. However, there are so many epic, and moving pieces from the Kingdom Hearts series that I feel it could only be done justice through a symphony concert of its own. But I digress, rather than me witter on about how much I love this series and its music, here are five pieces of music that I think make a compelling case for the creation of a Kingdom Hearts symphony orchestra tour.

  1. The 13th Reflection

  2. Vim and Vigor

  3. A Fight to the Death

  4. Dismiss

  5. Dearly Beloved

    (The main menu theme on every Kingdom Hearts game, go to 10:27 for my favourite rendition)

Thanks for reading! (And hopefully listening) If you’ve played any of the Kingdom Hearts series what is your favourite piece of music? What game series’ score would you love to hear at a symphony concert? Let me know in the comments!

To Play or Not to Play

The Final Fantasy franchise is one that I find both intriguing and daunting. With fourteen games in its main series, and countless sequels, spin-offs and remakes, it would surely be a task to play through every game in this vast franchise. Herein lies my predicament. As someone who has had little experience with Final Fantasy (does Kingdom Hearts count?) I have wanted to play the much hailed series for a while. However, I have no idea where to start, or even if it matters where you start. With Final Fantasy VII, praised as one of the greatest JRPG’s, receiving a remake on the PS4, I feel that it will be a must to play both the remake and the original. I’m also quite keen on trying out the Final Fantasy X-X2 HD remaster on the PS4 as from what I’ve seen it looks like a pretty fun game. I suppose my biggest question though is whether it is vital to play every Final Fantasy game to be able to truly understand and enjoy any of the game in the series. Also, just a little background on my experience with JRPG’s, the only one I can recall playing was called Blue Dragon, a game I never completed because I got so tired of it’s linearity and monotony. I’m hoping that some of the Final Fantasy games won’t be like this, however a heads up would be great dear readers!

So I ask you readers to help me in my predicament. What Final Fantasy game should I start with to finally get into the series? Does it matter about playing every game or what order? As always, thanks for reading and I will be interested to hear your thoughts on my situation, and your experiences with the Final Fantasy franchise!

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture Review

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was arguably one of the most anticipated independent releases on PS4 this summer. We have been drip fed information and praise throughout the year from the developers themselves, and gaming outlets, which amassed a lot of excitement in the gaming community for its release. Yet since its release almost a month ago, there has been much contention over this deserved praise. The latest addition to independent studio The Chinese Room’s repertoire has gained huge critical comment from both ends of the spectrum, making it somewhat difficult for a potential buyer to determine whether they will enjoy playing the game or not. On the whole I enjoyed the game, yet by identifying what I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about the game I wonder whether I enjoyed the concept of the game rather than the game itself.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is set in a rural English town where (you guessed it) everyone has mysteriously disappeared. Yet, left behind are strange orbs of light, and impressions of the inhabitants made up of specks of light, playing out their lives and how they all disappeared. You play the role of an anonymous observer, who traverses the many areas of this town to find clues as to how this happened, being guided by the orbs of light that represent the major characters of the story. There are five main areas in the town and your aim is to uncover as much information in each to fully understand the situation that has unfolded.

The game’s story is compelling, and the way it is told through piecing it together by interacting with the world does provide an immersive experience. However, the game deals with many themes and some of these are explored quite deeply. This does aid the plot to an extent, but often times it feels like The Chinese Room are juggling both plot and theme which leads to it feeling unbalanced. This becomes evident by the end of the game when the two main characters, Kate and Stephen’s, stories seem to be rushed, and the main plot is only explained quite basically. Perhaps this is done intentionally, as the game features many hidden codes and messages that the developers included for its audience to decipher, and so perhaps they intended the plot to be analysed deeper by the player. Yet, by creating a plot that revolves around themes of religion, philosophy, and physics, and these being represented by some quite complex ideas, it becomes a task to try and piece together the meaning of the plot. The concept for the plot is definitely interesting, however in practice it isn’t accessible to all players, and can end up looking like a confusing mess.

These balls of light can be opened up to reveal character interactions using the Dualshock 4's motion controls.
These balls of light can be opened up to reveal character interactions using the Dualshock 4’s motion controls.

In terms of gameplay, this is where the game faces division amongst those who played it, as it is quite simplistic. Controlling your character through first person perspective, you traverse through each area discovering information by interacting with radios, telephones, and other electrical equipment by pressing X, and unlocking scenes of character interaction by using the motion controls on the Dualshock 4 to open up balls of light. After the novelty of using the motion controls wears off you realise this was probably implemented to detract from the mundane nature of only pressing X. However, the most irksome mechanic, in my opinion, was the speed in which you walked around the town. Only through a chance read of the Playstation blog did I find out that you could hold the R2 button to increase the speed of walking, something that is not made apparent unless you read the instructions manual webpage. Even so, the increase in speed is really not that massive, which can become tiring as the game encourages you to explore every nook and cranny of the world (which was a lot larger than I expected) and to use footpaths that can help you backtrack through each area, with the reward of a trophy for finding each of these sometimes hidden pathways. By the end of the game I was so tired of backtracking to try and find every piece of information that I just played through the main story knowing I had missed a few pieces of information which could have impacted some of the storylines. One small thing that could have been included that would have also helped avoid this annoyance would be the inclusion of a map in the pause menu. There are many maps around the different areas with ‘You are here’ markers, but it is easy to lose track after walking away from these and can become a task to try and remember where the maps are.

The graffiti you come across sadly represents Britain too well.
The graffiti you come across sadly represents Britain too well.

Despite some annoying mechanics Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture redeems itself through its beautiful environment and sound design. Using the rural British setting may create a little bias in my opinion as a Brit, but I think there is an undeniable charm to the town that has been achieved through the design, and the range of different areas to explore, including a typical British seaside caravan park, encompasses British culture down to a T. In each area, the weather and the colour of the sky differs which works well in combination with the different themes and stories that are presented in each area. There has also been a lot of attention to detail in both the sound and environment design, with simple things like graffiti in bus stops that you could swear you’ve seen in your own town, or the changing sound of the rain when walking into a caravan from outside and hearing that tinny pittering that brings back memories of seaside holidays as a child. The soundtrack to the game is excellent, being able to evoke sadness and drama in combination with certain storylines, and swiftly changing to eerie and mysterious music to bring you back to your main goal of solving the game’s mystery.

The game's environments are stunning, with different weather representing a range of themes.
The game’s environments are stunning, with different weather representing a range of themes.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is not a bad game. It has some annoying gameplay mechanics and at times the story can seem a bit messy and thin. However, the concept for the game is interesting and it does manage to evoke the sense of mystery that it aims to achieve. The beautiful landscapes and music do immerse you into the game’s setting. But for those who don’t have the patience to walk around a rural British town for 5-6 hours at a slow pace with little action, and are not too fussed on delving deep into the story’s sometimes-complex themes, then this game probably isn’t for you.

Thanks for reading! Have you played Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture? Leave a comment on your thoughts, I would love to hear them.

Batman Arkham Knight Review

Batman Arkham Knight marks the end of Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy, concluding with some of the most exciting storylines and gameplay that leaves you a little sad when finishing the game. However, with a plethora of sidequests alongside the main questline, not to mention a guarantee of six months worth of dlc to come, Arkham Knight will keep you captivated for a long time. In this review I won’t be focusing in depth on the details of the story and so will be spoiler free.

When Arkham Knight was first announced as an 18 rating, I was intrigued to see how much the series had progressed in terms of mature themes. It is obvious once played why this decision was made, with one of the most dark entries in the series. Rocksteady have exceptionally adapted the darker themes of certain Batman comics, but have added their own flair to make a unique experience. As it is a video game, it is arguable that some of the more disturbing themes that have been portrayed through the comics are potentially more disturbing through the immersion of the gaming medium. However, this takes the characterisation of Batman and characters from this world to another level, and this emotional involvement makes the gameplay even more entertaining. What is also great about the use of darker themes in Arkham Knight is that horror elements tie in through the use of typical horror tropes (jump scares), but also uses a kind of psychological horror. Without being a stark horror game, Arkham Knight is able to weave horror elements to assist crucial game moments, showing Rocksteady’s mastery of the Batman universe that they have acquired by the end of the Arkham trilogy.

In terms of gameplay, there are only a few minor issues to an otherwise flawless game. The combat system has been reinvigorated with Batman being able to be more interactive with the environment, using walls, rails etc. to add interesting dynamics to knocking out enemies. Predator scenarios have also improved, with the introduction of multi-fear takedowns to quickly sort out an area, yet this is balanced with new types of thugs that appear in each scenario, making you think more tactically than previous games. There has been a lot of gripe with the introduction of the Batmobile in this game, but I believe that it was important to have this in the game as it is a significant part of the Batman universe, and for me completes taking on the role of Batman. There was a nice balance between the driving elements and the tank elements, with tank combat making fun but sometimes challenging gameplay. However, I can agree that at times it did feel a little overused, and perhaps lessened the excitement of being able to control the Batmobile later in the game. The new mission radial menu is a simple yet effective way of keeping track of all your missions and being able to swiftly switch between any mission whenever you choose to. It will also become your best friend when you realise that to unlock the full ending to the game, you must complete every side mission 100%. I really liked this as it felt like you were getting your money’s worth by wanting to complete the game 100%, but also you could truly understand every aspect of the story, giving you a somewhat better understanding of the ambiguous ending. I was slightly disappointed with the final ending, feeling a little bit rushed to me, but with later dlc to come it may enhance the meaning of the ending; at least I’m hoping it will.

Arkham Knight’s graphics are incredible, with undoubtedly some of the most realistic character models I have seen on a next gen game. There was something so satisfying about the clarity of rain drops sliding down Batman’s cape as you soared across Gotham, and the falling raindrops surrounding you as you dived back down into the streets. The detail of the wear and tear of Batman’s outfit, as well as the Batmobile, truly made the most out of the PS4’s graphics capabilities. Although, at times the graphics would lessen and it would take a few seconds to kick in, however this was a very minor issue.

Overall, Arkham Knight is the perfect ending to Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy, using the intricate story and game mechanics that it had built in previous games, but weaving in darker themes and captivating story dynamics that encapsulates the Batman universe perfectly in video game form. I believe Rocksteady have made such an impact on the video game industry that it will be hard for any other superhero games to live up to the Arkham series, however by the end of Arkham Knight it has made me want to revisit the rest of the Arkham series once again.