VICE Esports Documentary

Recently I’ve been watching a few League of Legends streamers on Twitch, finding it an entertaining way to take a break between doing coursework. Whilst watching the streamer Cowsep (http://www.twitch.tv/cowsep) this morning, I was directed to this VICE documentary. With the swiftly growing popularity of games like League of Legends in the esports world, this documentary provides a fascinating insight into the esports world and focuses on League of Legends’ dominant position in this world.

When opening Twitch’s main page, it is increasingly likely that one of the featured channels will be streaming a live esports event. I am always astounded when seeing the viewer count on League of Legends events, usually garnering a few hundred thousand viewers. However, the VICE documentary really opened my eyes to the hype at the actual events. Sporting venues across the globes, originally built for traditional physical sports, are now hosting esports events that are attracting hundreds of thousands of attendees, combined with the masses of online viewers. It was interesting to see the dedication of fans who would cosplay their favourite characters, and how this had even become a business for cosplay troupes who had become famous in South Korea. Esports fans from a range of ages and backgrounds are flocking to these events to which much of the general population are puzzled over. This is the feeling I get from the host of the documentary. In a way, he does a good job of representing a member of the population who is unfamiliar with this fairly new phenomena, and how he responds to it. However, for a host of a documentary, particularly one that focuses on a group that can face prejudice and discrimination, ‘Nerds’, he comes across quite judgmental at times and unwilling to accept the lifestyle of some esports fans he encounters. Nevertheless, the documentary gives an interesting insight into the esports world, with the rise of a new form of celebrity, and the dark side that can sometimes plague it. If a person who was totally unfamiliar with games like League of Legends went to watch this in the hopes of understanding how it is considered an esport would be disappointed as it provides no look into the mechanics of the game and how the esports ‘athletes’ are trained to do well at these games. However, if you are familiar with esports games, particularly MOBA’s (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) like League of Legends, then I would highly recommend watching it, as it is very interesting to see the growth of esports that is looking to become even more popular for years to come.

Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode Three: The Sword in the Darkness Review

To keep this mostly spoiler free, as I have in my reviews of the previous two episodes, I will try and make this short but sweet. The Sword in the Darkness follows on nicely from the previous episode, ushering tense events from the decisions you made there. A few new characters were brought in, and new information came to light about current characters that made you question who was to be trusted on both accounts. As with the previous episodes, there was a nice balance between cutscenes, character control, and quick time events. In the previous episode, I was disappointed with the unoriginality of Gared’s storyline, however this episode showed promise, with his story beginning to branch away from what I feared may have been a boring copy of Jon Snow’s. This episode I found Asher’s story a bit more boring, but I think this is largely to do with what his story is. He is trying to raise an army to take back home for his family, and so until he reaches this goal his story seems like filler of the same nature, walking from place to place, and encountering the same antagonism. With the introduction of another noticeable character from the Game of Thrones world, Daenarys Targaryen, at the end of the episode, this will hopefully pick up the pace and interest of Asher’s story. The same as last episode though, Mira’s story proved to be the most interesting story, filled with many tough decisions and repercussions from past decisions, that created an intense, but exciting play through. Mira is looking to be my favourite character of the game, however, the other characters are starting to show promise. This episode was enjoyable to play, and has started to set in motion the connections between the multiple stories that will hopefully come to a head with many exciting prospects.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Review

Ever since it was first announced, Dragon Age Inquisition had been one of my highly anticipated games I wanted to play in 2015. I purposely waited to save up for a next gen console to play it on, and I am so glad I made that decision. The graphics on the PS4 are incredible which made playing the game and watching the cutscenes an immersive experience.

Look at this beautiful landsca... OH MY GOD THERE'S A DRAGON!
Look at this beautiful landsca… OH MY GOD THERE’S A DRAGON!

Originally, I got into the Dragon Age series from a chance borrowing of Dragon Age Origins from a friend. Having not heard anything about the game, I went into it blind but came out adoring it, and it has become one of my favourite games. Admittedly, I haven’t played Dragon Age II due to the poor reviews it received. However, this did not hinder my understanding when starting Inquisition as I was able to use Dragon Age Keep, a website created by EA, that gave me a brief overview of the events in Dragon Age II and let me choose key decisions that would affect the Dragon Age world I had already influenced from playing Origins. This was a great idea by EA as I could see certain choices I had made in previous games, had already had an impact on the brand new story I was starting.

If you have read other reviews of Inquisition you will often have read about its slow starting storyline, and as much as I wished this were a mistake I found it to be true. However, once past the initial 10 hours, the storyline picks up speed rapidly and becomes very engaging. Without spoiling too much, you start off by creating a character (which might I add, has some of the best customisation options I have seen in an RPG) and are thrown into mysterious set of events which has your character unwittingly holding the power to open and close Fade rifts (portals to the spirit plane). For the first part of the game you join up with three advisors and a party of four, to try and close a huge Fade rift that has appeared in the sky. The pursuing of this leads to the encounter with the main antagonist of the game, and sets in motion the main storyline. After this encounter, your character becomes leader of the Inquisition, an organisation aiming to put a stop to the antagonists plot to take over the world, whilst also trying to bring peace across Thedas. As leader, you command the War Table, an interactive map where you can assign your advisors to take up side quests, gaining power which can be used to start main questlines or to explore a plethora of places across Thedas as a side to the main questline, but also to level up your character and party members in order to complete the main questlines effectively.

The main storyline was brilliant, bringing in fan favourite characters from the Dragon Age series, a bonus for fans of the series. However, a newcomer to the series starting with Inquisition would not be lost as the timeline of the previous games and characters from it are well explained through cutscenes, interactions with characters, and codex entries scattered across the world. In key parts of the story, the cutscenes were rendered excellently, given a cinematic impression to these parts of the game. Also, the way the game ended left on a jaw-dropping cliffhanger that you might see in a film.

Codex entries sometimes provide witty references too.
Codex entries sometimes provide witty references too.

In terms of gameplay, the mechanics are very well done. One change from Origins that I enjoyed was the fact that rather than being pulled mechanically into place when using an ability, in Inquisition you are free to run around the area to choose a position to attack, and if playing as a Mage or Rogue, you can shoot projectiles whilst moving. What is also a great change from Origins is that when traversing the different areas of Thedas, you aren’t constricted to a certain path but can explore more freely with more of an open-world feel to it. One problem I did have with gameplay however is that when exploring caves or small areas, your party members often get in the way, bumbling about not knowing how to deal with obstructions, which often led to much frustration trying to move them out of the way. On the battlefield, however, with the use of the new Tactical Camera mechanic (new for consoles at least), you can take control of your whole party, moving them to certain positions and choosing what stance they will take in battle and what attacks and abilities they will use. You can also see what weaknesses enemies have by hovering over them, making hard boss battles like dragons (with over 10 dragons to fight in this game!) or large, hectic battles easier to work out how to win the fight.

Inquisition also has plenty of content to keep you satisfied. At this moment of writing, I have clocked 58 hours in which I have completed the main storyline, and completed a small portion of side quests. There is still plenty more content for me to play on my current character, and I am already thinking of starting a new character to try out a different class. Obviously, as Inquisition is a AAA game, it comes with a larger price tag than most games, however with all the hubbub recently over length in video games (see previous post) Inquisition is worth every penny, with at least one hundred hours of content that are also a joy to play.

Sadly, every rose has its thorn (cue Bret Michaels). As I was playing on the PS4 this may only be accountable to the console version but I encountered many glitches including trapped party members, characters getting stuck in a falling motion, and oddly, virtual foliage blocking the view in a cutscene. I did find the graphics of the game excellent; however, the hair models look quite weird compared to the rest of the design (again possibly a console problem). Inquisition had some fantastic musical compositions to assist cutscenes, however when roaming the world, it is often in silence with the occasional small musical piece, that was often the same, which slightly lessened the atmosphere of the game in my opinion.

Overall though, Dragon Age Inquisition is a fantastic game that builds upon the fantastic world introduced in Dragon Age Origins and developing it into what looks to become an excellent saga with the hint of further games to be added to the series.

TL;DR: Dragon Age Inquisition is a fantastic game that fans of RPG’s or the Dragon Age series will highly enjoy, but newcomers to the series will find it easy to become immersed in. A beautifully designed AAA game that provides tons of content, and is worth every penny for the heftier price tag.

My Hearth(stone) will go on!

So I’ve found myself using bits of spare time between going to uni and doing uni work to play Hearthstone, specifically arenas. I kept putting myself off playing for a while, convincing myself that my absence would have left me unadapted to the new meta. However, a few rounds of arena throughout the week led to a 9 streak win today and a few golden rare cards added to my collection. I will admit that some of these wins were helped by the ever-giving RNJesus, including one of the luckiest top decks I think I have ever drawn.

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Who knew my prayers/crossed fingers would actually pay off!

By playing Hearthstone this week after a long break from it, it has confirmed to me that it is one of those games that doesn’t lose its appeal, and even if you think you may have become unadapted to the current meta, with some basic understanding of the games mechanics you may surprise yourself how well you play, and how much you enjoy it.