Thoughts: Mafia 3

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It would be fair to say that Mafia 3 has received a bit of a mob beating from the gaming press in the weeks since it was released. Not providing review code ahead of the the release date is a bit of a red rag to a bull where reviewers are concerned, and when combined with the raft of bugs and technical issues present in the game Mafia 3’s critical drubbing was something of a foregone conclusion. Much of the criticism is more than justified; it’s certainly very difficult to peer past those rough edges to get a look at the game within, and even if you manage it it doesn’t appear all that impressive at first glance. However, I’m going to put myself somewhat at odds with the critical consensus by suggesting that there’s enough good bits inside Mafia 3 that it might be worth a second one.

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Thoughts: Civilization VI

civ6_scythia

God help me, but I was actually looking forward to Civilization VI. After experiencing both Civilization V and Beyond Earth at launch I really shouldn’t have been; both were eventually patched into a decent state and after two expansions Civ V even went on to surpass its predecessors, but at launch they were flawed, buggy messes with plenty of basic functionality missing. Given Firaxis’s previous track record here it seems foolish to have expected great things from Civilization VI on launch, but after peeking at the development videos I just couldn’t help myself. The lead designer is the guy who pulled Civ V out of the muck. As a headline idea I can’t exactly call unpacking city management onto the world map inspired since Endless Legend got there first, but it’s potentially completely game-changing and Civ VI looked like it was going to explore the concept in far more depth. And in a departure from previous Civs they weren’t going to leave trade, espionage and religion for the expansion packs and instead integrated them into Civ VI as core features, essentially making it a Greatest Hits version of Civ V post-expansions. How could this possibly go wrong?

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Thoughts: World of Warcraft – Legion

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Little spotty on here recently due to me playing fewer games, also I went on holiday. Things should pick up at the end of the month since there’s something like ten interesting games coming out in the space of about three weeks.

I’ve resisted talking about World of Warcraft on here so far, except in passing. It’s twelve years old now, and my assumption is that by this point you’ve either played it already, or you are absolutely uninterested in hearing anything about it. Everyone’s going to have formed an opinion on it one way or the other and there’s little that’s useful that I can add to that conversation, especially since WoW’s pace of change has historically been somewhat glacial. New mechanics are added in so gradually that you barely notice how the game changes over time; even though a decade of cumulative additions means it’s a completely different game to what it was on launch, there has historically been very little new to be said about the it. This is precisely why I’m making an exception for the recently-released expansion Legion, though, since it goes against the grain of everything I just said by making changes to the endgame that are downright revolutionary when considered in the context of WoW. I can’t remember another expansion that changed the tenor of the game quite to the extent that Legion does — and certainly not in such a positive fashion.

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Thoughts: Master Of Orion

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Yes, I suppose that after the flood of pale imitations we’ve suffered through in recent years, it was only a matter of time until somebody dug up the body parts of the actual Master Of Orion series and tried to reassemble them into a modern game.

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Thoughts: Deus Ex – Mankind Divided

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It’s a really good thing for Mankind Divided that Invisible War exists. Otherwise its claim to the title of “Worst Deus Ex game”1  would be completely undisputed, and I think that’d be kind of a shame given how much it tries to improve on Human Revolution.
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  1. The shitty phone one doesn’t count.
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Thoughts: No Man’s Sky

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I have a philosophy about the necessity of playing bad games. Without knowing what a bad game is, you lose sight of what defines a good one; if all you ever play are good games, then your perception becomes warped to the point where you’ll probably end up hating some perfectly decent titles. It’s harder to spot what good games do well without some context for how bad games do the same thing badly. I won’t expose myself to things that are deliberately bad — I think there’s very little to be learned from the likes of Bad Rats — but I’ll happily play games that look like they might be interestingly bad, which try with all their might to succeed and fail in spite of it. It’s this philosophy that led me to play SimCity on launch, and it’s also responsible for my sporadic efforts to understand the CoD series’ repeated attempts to remain culturally relevant.  And now, too, it has led me to sink 20 hours into No Man’s Sky.

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Thoughts: Pillars Of Eternity – White March

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The first part of the White March expansion to Pillars of Eternity was released almost a year ago. I bought it, downloaded it and tried it, and bounced straight off almost immediately – partly this was down to a… questionable design decision that I’ll talk about in due course, but mostly it’s down to the game world. PoE’s fantasy universe succeeds in being more complicated and more nuanced than the entry-level D&D world of Baldur’s Gate, but that comes at the cost of accessibility and it turns out Pillars of Eternity is a damn hard game to get back into after six months, especially since the expansion does an absolutely terrible job of onboarding you into its content. I tried again in February on the release of part two of White March and got a little further, playing for an hour or so before I unaccountably lost interest; it turns out that you need to both be in the correct mood and have a sizeable run-up before you can really pick up White March with a seasoned adventuring party.

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