Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Mount & Blade with Fire and Sword Interview Part Two

Part Two of my Interview with one of the Producers behind Mount & Blade with Fire and Sword. Hope you enjoy ;

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Turtle Beach's Z2 Review

Turtle Beach is well known for making quality headsets. The Z2 headset is meant to be the best Turtle Beach headset for the PC that's coming to the UK. So does Turtle Beach keep up their reputation of good quality and brilliant build quality or should you save your money?

The first thing to go over is that this headset is HUGE! The ear cups eclipse your whole ear, this keeps the sound in so people can't hear what you’re lessening to and you can't hear loud background noises. As you would think this ads allot of weight on your head (0.27 kg), this does add some irritation when used for a long period of time. On the other hand there's not as much irritation at all on short periods of time. Adjusting the headphones to fit your head is easily done with flexible speakers and adjustable headband.   

The headset is very pretty to look at with an almost full black look with the only bit of possible colour being the blue "Turtle Beach Ear Force" written on the speaker case, silver Turtle Beach logos and silver rings round the speaker case. The whole thing just looks good to look at. I must add that it also doesn't feel fragile or cheep, it feels solid and you can't hear the plastic flex under weight or like anything’s going to fall off at any minute.

One of the problems I had with it is taking any where because of its huge size and very hard to fit in a backpack without something getting in the way. This headset is not made to be taken around anywhere or to be used on a laptop this is made for your computer and not meant to be taken anywhere.

The headset's wire to plug into your PC reaches 10 ft; this is very long for any headset and is good because you don't need to take it off for going short distances. If you find the wire to be a little too long you can always rap the extra wire and tie it up using a piece of Velcro. you have a in-line volume control so you can change your volume without needing to push a button and it also comes with a mute switch and you can use it for your Xbox as well (do need to buy additional wire to use though).  

Now we got past the look of the Headset now let’s get down to the nitty gritty. The mic is very clear and crisp (video showing it off above). However the mic is very sensitive picking up breathing when at mid range away from your mouth; people next to me and at one point me eating (mouth closed) which was pretty embarrassing when talking to someone over Skype. To say the least it's a paint to get the mic in the right place, yes you could change the sensitivity on the game you’re using but it's a bit of a hassle. One way they could have fixed this is by adding a foam cover over the mic which would block out the breathing and only make your voice herd. On the other hand this would remove some of the slickness the headset has and wouldn't fit the style of it at all. (Being very clean and crisp) 

The Speakers are high quality being 50mm meaning that the bass is deeper. The sound quality is pitch perfect, I tested this out with hundreds of games and music (...well not literary) and they all sounded great, explosions where loud and had a satisfying boom to them and help with immersion. Couple this with a game with good sound design (e.g. Battlefield Bad Company 2) and you'll believe you’re really in that world. The sound is the most impressive about the whole headset, not that the mic is bad but it's not as mind blowing as the sound. 

All in all the Z2 is a brilliant peace of kit and if you’re looking for something cheep and high quality, I would go for the Z2, it costs £49.99 and you get your money’s worth and even a little more I fully recommend it. It may have its flaws like the almost too sensitive microphone and it size, however if you’re looking for an all in one headset that you'll only use in one location I would pick this up.

Liam Hackett

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Mount & Blade with Fire and Sword Interview Part One

The first part of this interview will be a text interview with one of the Developers/Producers behind the game,going over what's changed, difficulty and why so soon? The next Interview will be spoken and be more discussion which will be up soon. Hope you like this part and if there's anything you want to find out just leave a comment and I'll make sure your voice is heard.

At the very beginning of the game I found myself shying away from most missions concerning bandits or looters as whenever I tried to fight them the Bandits would shoot me with rifles giving me no chance to fight back even with a small party. Is how you going to balance the enemies so guns don’t kill you in one or two shots?
Guns do kill people after all, to stay alive you'll need a little luck and whole lot of tactics at any part of the game.  If you're really having trouble, you can opt to play the game on 'Easy' or 'Normal', we admit With Fire & Sword is quite a difficult game and thus there is no shame in playing it with reduced damage settings,etc.  Other than that, I recommend using a shield to catch some bullets or at least having some decent armour.

In past Mount & Blade games some people found it hard to actually get far into the game due to the big groups of enemies scattering the land which left you outnumbered and overwhelmed with what they should do how have you refined the game so this doesn’t happen in this one? 
Well, this sort of situations won't always happen because of the dynamic nature of the AI controlled NPC parties, but if you do find yourself in a sticky situation we have added a great new feature in the 'camp' menu that allows you to build an envoy of carts to travel in, so that when you are assaulted your party has additional protection(carts acting as small siege walls).  Your party will stay securely inside the cart envoy whilst your attackers rush towards you and try to make their entrance into your cart envoy, think of these as mini-sieges :)

Why is this game coming out so soon after the last Mount & Blade and why should people buy this instead of the last two?
With Fire & Sword is a great companion game to Warband and is not intended to replace our last game in any way, there is plenty of unique content and reasons to play both games.  With Fire & Sword brings to gamers a different style of warfare, new single player content, new gameplay systems that include a new castle, troop, and economic system, great new weaponry and factions for multiplayer and even a new multiplayer mode. 
In the last two games Mods where a big thing, are you still fully supported?
Yes of course, we wouldn't have it any other way.  We love our community and thank them for all they've done for us, we'll never release a game they cannot mod.

Is the Multiplayer going to be the same with its huge battles and skirmishes, also what have you changed in the multiplayer to support the new weapons?  
Multiplayer is even better now because of the unique tactics players can utilize using the new technology of firearms versus the old ways of war.  Also “Captain Team Deathmatch” is a great new mode in which each player commands 3-24 bots, more than 16 players can fight against each other, so these battles will get quite huge!

How big is the main map compared with the other Mount & Blade games and how much more content is in this one compared with the other two?
The main map compares quite well to the original Mount & Blade.  There is a lot more content in the single player game because of the additional systems we've added as well as multiple storyline quests that are accessible through the three main factions in the game; The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, The Tsardom of Moscow, and the Cossack Hetmanate.

Liam Hackett

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Men of War: Assault Squad

Men of War: Assault Squad is a World War 2 RTS game featuring every kind of weapon from ground troops to  bombers (of sorts), however one of the biggest problems with World War 2 games is basically almost everything  passable with WW2 has been done from flight sims to card games so people got bored of WW2 and thus we have Modern Warfare games... and Vietnam for some reason, however, as I'm waffling on about this you're probably wondering "will this guy ever get on with the review" and the answer is... Yes.

OK one thing I want to get straight is this; There is NO Campaign mode! All there is, is a loosely tied together Skirmish mode so if your looking for a 400 page epic narrative well you won't find it here, this is strictly fighting no nambie pambie love story. However, this game is extremely cinematic and I'm honestly stunned that it was possible for RTS to be able to pull that off and so well. In fact, it's down to a dynamic battle system that they pull off this type of immersion.

Talking of gameplay there are 5 factions for you to play as ; The Americans, The Germans, The British (AKA Common Wealth), The Russians and the Japanese. However there's one big problem, they all play the same! Yes, the weapons sound and look different, and yes they have different special attacks (I'll get to that in a minute) but the bare bones of it, the factions are the same. The special attacks are unique to every faction, for example, the Americans can call for a single paratrooper to fly in at any given location, this can be handy to take down artillery without endangering your tanks and you can call in a bomber plane... Which is also used to take down artillery... Huuuu... Well to be honest almost every special attack I used was for taking out artillery. The only two I didn't use for taking out artillery was the tiger tank and an ability to call on extra men (controlled by the computer) to charge forwards and basically kill everything in it's path.

While playing more and more, I found out that I was basically doing the same tac-tics in every level. In fact on closer inspection of the mini-map, I found out that almost every map had the same strategic points (flag captures) which is 2 rows of three in a diagonal line and one big base at the end of the level, normally filled with artillery. The maps may be different with snow, desert or urban areas however you can tell by the layout that your doing the same thing and this is not a exaggeration. When you start a level you get told "The Germans (or Americans) have blocked the road ahead, capture this point so we can get our tanks in". This happens every time and it gets extremely repetitive and boring. I would of liked some variety, such as "Get to the train station and defend it as we plant a bomb to destroy a train". This would of given us variety and if the developers did this then we wouldn't be hit with this repetitive vibe. However for now the level design is just lazy, I hope DLC solves this though.

One thing I noticed is that I never used certain units, for example, there are normal infantry, snipers, anti-tank units, flame throwers, and a special type of infantry which is basically normal infantry but in armored vehicles. However, I never saw the point of using the flame throwers, as I never got close enough to using them before blowing up and they cost too much. Snipers aren't really effective as normal infantry because they can shoot at fairly long range and pretty accurately and the anti-tank is pretty much useless in nearly every faction (except the US), because the rocket launcher, almost every time, did little to no damage. So I stuck to normal infantry and tanks. Artillery I only used once, mainly because I got better range and accuracy with the special attacks.  The only time I used most unit types was at the hardest difficulty which is sad, as research shows that most people don't play on hard and only normal, where I only used normal infantry and tanks. So basically, there's a balance, there's a fog of war that can be turned on in the options that could help this, but this makes long range weapons over powered, so it's a double edged sword.

At the beginning of the game there's a great feeling of achievement when taking over a base which is slowly lost due to repetitiveness. However, it's a great feeling when destroying a tank then running for cover to take the flag. It's a feeling that I rarely find in RTS games these days. Animations are fluid and the environments are stunning. I know I don't normally go over this, but the levels are diverse and unique and it's a shame the design and the layout couldn't be changed on some of them to make them more entertaining.

Included with the game is a map editor to make maps and probably mods, but while trying to test it out it crashes. On the other hand, being a modder/ Developer myself I know that this is very much acceptable, being that I know how complex these programs are. So hopefully when the tool is fixed the modding community will come in and spice up the game.

All in all, the game is average while the game-play is exciting and frantic. However, the level design is lazy to an extent. I would like to see the modding community come in which will probably happen, so I would keep an eye on them. So if you want a fun action packed game where you can download mods and map packs.

Liam Hackett
Maria Matthews (Editor)