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Faeria In-Depth Early Access Preview

Faeria In-Depth Early Access Preview

As a well versed player of digital CCG’s Faeria is a game that instantly feels familiar to me. Upon launching the game up for the first time I find myself looking at the cards and even before I play my first game everything makes sense in terms of understanding the mechanics of the cards, which although under different names are shared with other digital CCG’s I’ve played in the past. What’s different about Faeria is the use of an environmental board on which the cards in your collection can be played and can move around before entering combat. This simple addition adds a whole new level of tactical thought to a game which already has all the layers of a normal digital card game. The combination works so well that I found myself sinking 4 hours a day over the first weekend of playing.

A typical game starts with an empty board and hexagonal shaped ocean pieces on which you place your land. Depending on which faction you build your deck from you can either place mountains, lakes, forests, deserts, neutral land called prairies, or a combination of any and all of these types. You can then place your creature cards onto these lands. Your creatures can only be placed on your own lands although they can be moved onto opponent lands after they have been on the board for 1 turn or more.

From here it’s basically a game of chess with your creatures facing up against your opponents. It’s important to note there are also four Faeria wells at the corners of the board. Faeria lets you use your cards and abilities and controlling these wells can sometimes be critical to winning either long games where your opponent will run out of Faeria if not managed properly, or rush games where you will be placing a lot of creatures and using a lot of event (special ability) cards within the first few turns.

Matching your card choice to your play style is also a large factor of success and it’s important to know what all your cards abilities are and how you can best play them. This of course takes time experimenting and refining your deck when you think something’s not quite right, or not exactly how you want it to be. Whether you play defensive, rush, or go for a deck themed around a particular feature like ranged combat or a focus on efficient trades it’s important to have a game plan.

Once you’ve had a good look at the cards and have drafted a deck you’re happy with, it’s time to get into the thick of the action, and there’s a few choices of game types to be made. Firstly you should be focusing your time in solo mode, where you unlock all of the codex cards (basic game cards) by defeating AI opponents from each of the factions; water, desert, forest and mountain. Once you have done this and refined you deck with any of the new cards you should head into battle mode. Here you can play against other real players in ranked or un-ranked play. Un-ranked is a good way to test new or experimental decks you have been creating, while ranked mode, going from 25-1 and then onto God rank is the ultimate test of your deck crafting and playing skills and stands as a mark of your commitment and skill with the game. Pandora is another mode players of CCG’s might also be familiar with and is also known in other games as draft mode, or arena. This has yet to be implemented in Faeria but is very near and from what I’ve heard will work much in the same way that it does in other games.

Faeria Booster Pack

As you gain ranks and level your character there are certain awards that can be picked up. Gold for buying booster packs, card crafting material and avatar pictures. There is also a shop in which you can buy all these things and booster packs, but the good thing about Faeria is that in this early stage with not too many cards it’s strikes me as not very pay-to-win, which is of course a great thing. As the game progresses (as with all CCG’s) the struggle will be in keeping up with all these new cards and the change of the meta game towards these cards. That moment is not upon us yet and if you wish to get into Faeria I would say get in early and try to keep on top of the cards as much as you can.

At the moment Faeria costs £17.99 on Steam and with this you get 20 booster packs, 10 entries in to Pandora mode when it becomes available and exclusive aesthetic item for your god. Eventually it will be free-to-play but then the bonus for supporting development during early access will be gone. Assuming that Pandora entry is about 100 gold and ignoring the exclusive avatar items, this would have cost you 3000 in game gold, which takes while to farm though quests, so to get this quick boost as soon as you start the game feels worthwhile to me.

The Good and the Bad of Faeria
So you’ve probably heard enough about the in’s and out’s of Faeria to decide whether it’s your kind of game or not, but as a whole is the game worth playing or not? Let’s start with the positives.

Positives – The beautiful art style, familiar feel, smooth gameplay, the fact that it’s not pay-to-win, is easy to pick up and hard to master and lacks in RNG compared to other CCG’s are all great but fairly small reasons why you should play this game. The main three points for me are that: 1Faeria already has a great community of players who are all willing to help you understand the game and craft better decks and can chat to you thanks to the forum link you find in game. 2Faeria has a uniqueness about it in that it has an almost board game feel but it actually a CCG. The mix of evolving environmental board and chess game of your cards on this board is brilliant. 3Faeria even in this Early Access stage receives regular updates to balance the cards that people are playing every day. This is a great way to keep the community feeling in touch with the game and the changes that are happening whilst also receiving all the normal bug fixing and so on you would expect for a game in Early Aceess.

Negatives – Considering this game has only just entered early access on Steam there are actually very little negatives about it. This is probably in part down to the community and the open communication the developers have with the community, allowing them to suggest feedback and directly send screenshots or reports of bugs to a live developer and a team of moderators. However in the spirit of fairness I feel it would be unjust if I didn’t mention the minor negatives I have found with the game so far. 1 – There is a running battle log at the side of the screen, this is helpful but only has a history of a few turns. It would be nice to be able to scroll down this list and see what happened previously as occasionally your opponents turn can be comprised of several different moves, attacks and spells and the log quite often doesn’t even go back a full turn. It could also do with a little more explanation. Sure a creature attacked, but who did it attack? Quite often the target of spells and attacks are not shown. 2 – When opening booster packs and finding new cards, there is no indication of where these new cards are when you go back to the drafting stage. It would be nice if there was some kind of highlight that showed where these were for new players who were not acquainted with all of the games cards yet. 3 – There is currently no player interaction while in game. No emotes, no chat between friends, nothing. While some players may enjoy the silence it would be nice to have the option to chat to friends if you wanted. 4 – As the player base of Faeria is just taking off, matchmaking can be a bit unfair at times. You can be placed with an opponent five ranks above or below you, or even face the same opponent twice in a row. I assume this is because of the smaller player base and I’m sure it will be rectified in due course. It’s not like it happens all the time anyway!

If your interested in checking out Faeria further I’ve included a gameplay video below where I detail a couple of strategies for playing and talk about some other aspects of the game.

Faeria can be purchased for £17.99 on Steam, but will become free-to-play in September.

Clandestine – Early Access Preview

Clandestine – Early Access Preview

Clandestine is a stealth action game currently in the Early Access program on Steam. It’s developers Logic Artists aim to bring the genre back to it’s routes by doing away with the all too common feeling that your character is some kind of all powerful hero with every possible resource at their disposal to get the job done. Instead Clandestine is best played in co-op with one player taking on the roll of the spy and one the hacker.

The spy is the operative on the field doing the dirty work. Dispatching guards, picking up intel and traversing the maps like a stealthy ninja with a gun. While the hacker has no on field activities and instead has the job of supporting the spy using their various different cyber skill for things like unlocking security doors and disabling cameras.

I’ve put together a short video below that better explains the overall gameplay in Clandestine and what I feel are the good and bad points about the game.

So as you can see from the above footage, while Clandestine looks promising there are still a few changes that need to be implemented before the games full release. Remember this game is currently in Steam’s Early Access program that means many changes could be made before the official release.

Clandestine‘s release date hasn’t been set yet but if you like what you see and want to buy into the early access version on Steam, you can do so here.

Battlefield 4 – The Verdict

Battlefield 4 – The Verdict

Battlefield is and should be about team based gameplay whether that be single player with AI or multiplayer with a team of friends. With that in mind it’s strange that the campaign of Battlefield 4 does such a terrible job of making you feel like part of a team. Instead you are a mostly silent bystander who opens a lot of doors and watches as everyone else engages in conversation with their backs to you. Sometimes they push you and trap you in corners as the in game scenes unfold. Sometimes they order you, the leader of the team to help move an object, get to a position or open yet another door and that’s about the extent of the interactions. I wish I could tell you that was the worst of what’s wrong with Battlefield 4‘s campaign, but unfortunately I’m only getting started.

Frostbite 3 is an engine well known for it’s ability to produce amazing graphics, DICE have obviously made the most of this and for the most part Battlefield 4 has some of the best graphics I’ve seen on the Xbox 360. Visual effects seem to be the only thing they have focussed on however, as the gameplay in the campaign suffers from the age old problem of being all style and no substance.

A big example of this is during one of the games set pieces, as a building you’re standing on collapses around you. You fall helplessly through floors and past enemies, all the time not being able to do a single thing about it and it sucks. Sure, the set piece moments look amazing but my guess is that because so many people complained about the QT events in BF3, the developers removed the majority of these and we now have the watch-as-cool-stuff-happens-around-you-and-you-cant-to-jack-about-it events, which are much worse. Would you still buy a game knowing you can’t play the best parts of it?

Hey it's... thingy and... the other one.... what were we doing again?!
Hey it’s… thingy and… the other one…. what were we doing again?!

Thankfully Battlefield 4‘s multiplayer is an entirely different beast. A beast that has just been let out its cage and is hungry for fast paced action, destruction and the slumped bodies of soldiers recently crushed by falling skyscrapers. Thanks to the pre-release beta, the Siege of Shanghai map might well be the best known for anyone who doesn’t yet own the game. You might be surprised to hear there are actually ten maps in total and two new game modes in the base game, along with new vehicles and three playable factions. This news alone is enough to get me interested in the idea of playing battlefield multiplayer again and the new games modes really do fit in well to the roster.

The first of the new game modes, Obliteration sees both teams with high value targets that need defending from the enemy. A bomb will randomly spawn on the map and it’s your task to transport that bomb to the opposing teams high value targets whilst simultaneously defending yours in case of a counter attack. This game mode calls for high amounts of team co-operation and usually works best when everyone travels together across the map, aiding the bomb carrier until he reaches one of the targets. When planted the bomb has to be defended for a short amount of time until it detonates, so it’s not simply a case of making it to the target.

For those who are veterans of Battlefield, Defuse the second game type added to BF4, is a rather different kettle of fish. For starters you only get one life per round, once you die you can either quit or watch over your team mates shoulders as they continue with the game and respawn as the next round begins. Secondly, Defuse focuses on infantry only gameplay in small maps much like you would see in team deathmatch. The aim of the game is for one team to defend a point on the map, whilst the other carries a bomb to that point and attempts to detonate it. The game will be over if the attacking team detonates their bomb or if all players on one side die, unless the bomb has been planted with only one defender still alive, in which case they would still need to defuse the bomb before it detonates in order to win the round.

I would be quite happy if EA/DICE focussed solely on multiplayer for the next Battlefield release.
I would be quite happy if EA/DICE focused solely on multiplayer for the next Battlefield release.

This game type produced mixed reactions from me at first as I wasn’t sure it fitted into the Battlefield style of play, but after a few games the hardcore feel to this game type really affected me. I found myself being more cautious, aiming faster and more accurately and sticking with team members more often. This could in turn transfer to the other games and improve your play style overall. The only problem is if this is the game you favour above all, unlocking new weapons and levelling up would take forever as you gain little XP from playing it.

If I was considering Battlefield 4 simply as a multiplayer game, this review would certainly score much higher praise. But as things are it seems like a brilliant multiplayer game has had a single player campaign tacked onto it in order to justify another full priced retail release. Did DICE/EA really need to release a new game for what is essentially the same experience with some new game modes and vehicles? Certainly not and it shows, almost as if the campaign was one big afterthought. Poor AI, buggy checkpoints, forgettable characters, ghastly textures in startlingly obvious places like the sky, and an unusual system of unlocking guns in a single player campaign simply don’t work and drag down the fine work that has been moulded and improved upon in the multiplayer portion of the game.

Verdict – Headshot

Platforms Available – PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, XO
Platform Reviewed – Xbox 360

Review based on a purchased copy.

Please check this post for more on our scoring policy.

F1 2012 Hands On First Impressions

F1 2012 Hands On First Impressions

Being a fan of Formula One and wanting to play a F1 game are two entirely different things. In my opinion the games that I have seen in the past haven’t delivered the excitement and tension I get when watching the races on TV, and don’t convey the same feel of complete precision and total control that the drivers have over their extremely powerful cars. That is until now. I’ve been following all the press releases and developer diaries from Codemasters game this year with a close eye and they seem to have been making all the right changes. Introducing some great new features such as the Young Driver Test that feature in the real F1 world, brings a new sense of realism and for the first time an eagerness to play a F1 game. The following is my first impressions after playing today’s demo release from Codemasters F1 2012.

After first setting up your character the demo puts you in a MacLaren car ready for the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi. The YDT goes through all the basics of controlling the car, things like cornering, acceleration, breaking and how to use features like KERS and DRS. You can also free drive round the whole track in wet or dry conditions to test different settings. The full YDT is not available in the demo as the whole second day of the test is missed out. During the second day you can expect more performance testing, learning about tyre conservation, systems tests and wet weather tests.

The YDT seems like a good way to ease in anyone who hasn’t played any F1 games before like myself, but could become a little grating for any veterans of the series or anyone who already knows a lot about F1. The videos provided during the test are informative but actually getting out and trying it all is where the real fun is and makes the video sections seem a bit pointless. Simple things like being able to drive your car out the pit lane and into the starting position would make the experience all that more realistic, and while you can view this if you choose, you are unable to control the car until out on the track proper.

Moving onto the second part of the demo and I’m now placed in the Williams team for qualification in Monza. There is a lot of useful information in the build up to the qualifying and race itself which I like a lot, adding to the build up of your qualifying lap and the race itself. You can receive mail from your team about your performance and any goals they might have for you in the race ahead, view weather conditions, and watch a Hot Lap video with commentary. The Hot Lap videos are a very good idea that are unfortunately not delivered in the best of ways. A lot of information is thrown your way in just a few minutes and there is no way to pause or rewind the video to take another look. It would also be nice if the video could be viewed in full screen instead of half screen with the track layout in the other half, a mini map on a full screen would be much more effective.

Hitting the apex is very tricky when using a controller.

Car tuning and customizations are something that have been restricted for the demo but look to be very in-depth if they are all available in the main game. Before a race you can alter all kinds of aspects of the car such as front and rear wing aerodynamics, suspension height, tyre selection, gear changes and how much fuel you have on board at any one time. You also have all the usual driving assist options such as ABS, manual or auto gear changes and breaking assists. Interestingly you can also choose a rival driver for the season allowing you to set your own goals of beating the driver in a race and in the season as a whole.

Once setting my fastest lap and placing second on the grid (must have been beginners luck), it was time for the real race. For the purposes of the demo you play in Season Mode which is a shortened version of the full career mode. The season is ten races long and only five laps per race. It started off well, handling was a little unstable as I was using a controller and so hitting the perfect apex and sticking to the race line was a little tricky but quickly getting used to how KERS and DRS worked gave me a valuable advantage and I pulled in front in my first lap. Pulling ahead of the pack by a few seconds I was starting to get a bit ahead of myself and pushed my speed too much, making a few mistakes. Luckily the Flashback feature allows you to rewind the race a certain distance before your mistake and let you try again. This may seem like cheating but fortunately you can only do this four times a race and I found myself having used all four Flashbacks by the time I was on the fourth lap.

With just over one lap to go I messed up again and found myself in the gravel with no way of altering my mistake. Pushing back onto the track it got even worse as I almost caused a collision with Vettel and was awarded a time penalty. Now back in sixth place I pushed my KERS and refocused for the final stretch. Gaining one place during this lap I noticed that not having any music or much team chat over the radios was a little strange. The noise of the engines and the odd screech of tires was all that was audible and realistic as this may be, over the course of forty or fifty laps of a full race this could become very tiresome. I finished the race in fifth place but was pushed to twenty-first due to my time penalties.

Racing without a proper steering wheel is the biggest grumble about the racing control. The various customisations I could make to the handling and assists helped but ultimately this would be a totally different game when played with a wheel which I don’t have. The game immersion is really good giving you lots of information in the build up to the race and allowing you to adjust accordingly. As I mentioned before this could be improved by small things like allowing you to control your car when leaving the pit and lining up for the race start or being apart of the pre race interviews that you see on the BBC. The menus and overall layout is clean and well explained and made making any adjustments easy. Equally if you’re not fussed with all the pre race waiting around and just want to get out there you could set the game to easy and use quick set up options.

The F1 2012 demo was played on the Xbox 360 and is available to PC and PS3 owners over the next couple of days. The full game release will be on September 21st in Europe.

Mass Effect 3 Single Player Demo Impressions

Mass Effect 3 Single Player Demo Impressions

Mass Effect is on the horizon again and what better way to get worked up about saving the galaxy and making planet sized decisions with your favourite commander than to dig into the Mass Effect 3 demo. The single player section of the demo is in two parts and may be short and sweet but there is a lot to talk about and even more to get excited about.

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