Unbiased Review: The Forest in 2020

Currently still among the top played games on Steam, The Forest is quite a unique title that I’ve had the pleasure of playing the last couple weeks. This title was released all the way back in 2014 as an early access game, but has since received many major updates from the devs and got a full release in 2018, which made it to consoles as well. So let’s talk about game play in 2020.

Graphics
This games look quite stunning on high. I can achieve 144 fps quite easily, so optimization is solid. If you take some time to look around, it is quite immersive. Trees and foliage look fantastic and I have no complaints on the models or textures. I do have one friend who keeps crashing or getting a permanent black screen, but I’m going to just credit that to poor PC building skills (or drivers).

Game play
This is an open world survival horror game. What does that mean? It means gather food, build shelter, fend off zombies/mutants/cannibals and explore caves. The game stays pretty ambiguous and you uncover little clues while exploring the game, which makes the experience that much better. There are a ton of little touches that make the game as good as it is. Even your inventory is not an ugly 2D screen with boxes, it opens as an entire interactive 3D spread of all your items where you can drag them around to craft new items. Your menu where you select items to build or view stats, is a little book that you pull out, which I thought was amazing.

A spooky moment and Inventory

Gathering resources is always a tedious task in any game, but The Forest manages to make it a little interesting by allowing you to craft items to help, like sleds to pull many logs, or zip lines and elevator cranes. You can really build out an intricate base and get pretty creative with it. If building bases isn’t really your thing, that’s OK too. There are items that fit the nomad play style just as well, such as temporary tents and small fires. Just hunt for food as you go instead of growing crops.

The main objective here is to explore caves and find more clues to Timmy’s whereabouts (a kid gone missing after an accident). A simple task, but with the whole survival thing in between to make it very interesting. The game excels in creating an immersive and spooky environment. They don’t rely on cheap jump scare tactics to achieve the horror effect, but instead use legitimate ambiance and world behavior to keep you on your toes. The enemies evolve and the AI keeps their behavior adapting to you as well.

Overall
A very fun game with a few friends. You can host up to 8 friends in one game, maybe even more with some mods, but I think 3 to 5 is plenty for a good time. The game has a few weird glitches here and there, but it definitely adds to the goofy and fun moments; I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are moments where the game is peaceful and laid back, and also moments of adrenaline when encountering new foes. As you progress you’ll keep discovering new items and mechanics you can use. Although I felt a little weird chopping off limbs and body parts to build effigies, or picking up animal heads, it quickly became second nature, as soon as I got a kill, I was hacking away at limbs – gotta collect them resources.

Fun times

Biased Review: Why is League of Legends so Toxic?

I’ve recently revisited League of Legends after not touching my level 8 account in several years. The game kept its steam going all these years and a lot of my friends are getting back into it amid these COVID-19 times. I wanted to join them and see what all the rage has been about all this time. I figured maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance the first couple times around, so lets hard commit this time. I set out on a journey to hit level 30 and begin my ranked journey.
Full disclosure: I was a longtime Heroes of Newerth and Dota 2 player.
I did hit level 30 and I did begin playing both ranked solo/duo and flex. How did it go?

Toxicity
Probably one of the biggest topics on League of Legends. I have played a lot of competitive games over the years – Counter Strike, Overwatch, Rainbow Six, Fortnite, Dota, HoN, Valorant, etc., I was used to intense attitudes and game rage.
I HAVE NEVER ENCOUNTERED PEOPLE AS BAD AS NEARLY EVERYONE IN LEAGUE OF LEGENDS. Unranked, ranked, it didn’t matter, everyone in League was a POS. I rarely had any decent interactions with anybody in the game over the span of roughly 200 games. Even if you’re winning, people are still trash talking non stop.

In one instance, we were crushing the enemy team, I was still new and my team was constantly insulting me for no reason, I was doing well, I won my lane and pushed it all the way and got the inhibitor, we were winning in all aspects – pushing, farming, kills, etc. We won that game even while everyone was hurling non stop insults at me. I was lucky enough to queue up for my next game and get the same exact team again. They immediately resumed trash talking, then proceeded to ban my hero that I designated, and then also banned the previous hero I was using – keep in mind as a newer player, I didn’t have many heroes unlocked for my specific lane, I had nobody else to pick. This was probably the most petty thing I’ve ever seen people do, especially following a win, they were bullying me as a trio. I had no choice but to dodge the game and quit. I didn’t understand why the game was like this, and I wish I could say it was an isolated incident, but this is the state of the game and this toxicity is in almost every game. I didn’t understand why anybody would want to play this game.

Game Play
Lets move on to the actual game itself. Coming from Dota 2, a lot of things bothered me in League, but after a couple hundred games, I adjusted to…some of it. I generally hated most of it. The animations seemed pretty lackluster, the most notable one is Blitzcrank’s hook, it’s just so ugly and has no fluidity to it, it looks like a static image that moves across the screen.
The current meta is also pretty cheesy. Essentially everything revolves around maximizing 1 hit combos, so currently, assassins dominate the game. Their job is to just run around 1 shotting everyone as soon as their cool downs are done. The majority of the game is just watching this happen, team fights are often short and involve someone getting nuked and then one team walking away. Everyone also has a blink/dash/mobility skill, so if you chose a hero without one, good luck. The cool downs and mana management in this game are both almost non existent. In Dota 2, you had to actually consider the ramifications of spamming your spells due to long cool downs or loss of mana. In League, everything feels less significant, you don’t need to consider your mana much as mages have enough to last a long time, while many tanks barely use mana or don’t even have a mana bar at all.

Essentially, League is a game of how many times you can spam your spells in lane or on creeps, while also spamming your combos to one hit everyone else. You missed all your skill shots? That’s OK, they’ll be off cool down in 3 seconds. Finally out of mana? Just teleport (infinitely) back to base and walk back.
Sure I might be exaggerating slightly, but there is truth to it.

Blitzcrank’s hook animation

The jungler will also control most of the game, which brings us to the going joke that everyone just blames the jungler anytime lanes are losing, because they really do control a lot of the game. Playing the ADC (attack damage carry) just means getting creep kills and praying the other lanes don’t gank you, or that your team doesn’t feed.
Items are also less complex, builds are a lot more linear than in Dota and there are far less activatable items, you’ll have at most 1 item with an active ability. Lastly, there is an issue of balance among heroes. Riot really takes their sweet time balancing heroes; Balancing is always a tough job, but when the same heroes are seeing bans in almost every game…you’d think they’d take a hint by then. But whatever, I’ll just keep getting body slammed by Sett a couple hundred more times or throw few more spells at Yasuo’s walls. The game has about 150 champions, but you end up just seeing the same ones over and over, probably also due to the pay wall as well along with the balance issues.

Ranking and Matchmaking
Ah yes, I’ve finally made it to level 30 and I’m ready to get ranked!
First of all, whatever toxicity I saw in unranked mode, it just multiplied itself by at least 10x.
Second, after my first game, it tells me I’m IRON I. Yet the following solo games that I play are full of all gold and silver players. I did not come across a single other iron or even a single bronze player (yes I put in the effort to look up everyone in my games). How can the game continuously pit me against gold and silver, while keeping me in Iron ranking? The amount that my ranking increased after wins against these silver and gold players, was not anywhere near enough to place me anywhere above bronze II by the end of placements, assuming I could even win all the placement matches. Was the matchmaking purposely holding my rank back, just to tilt me more while matching me with people not even within 1 entire metal tier of my own rank? It didn’t make any sense at all.

Overall, this game was OK at best when I played with friends, but it quickly became far too toxic of a place to be. Rankings hardly seemed fair; I wasn’t annoyed that I was low ranked, but I was annoyed that I couldn’t even play against people of the same rank at all during my placements. The game felt less responsive than other MOBA games and as much as I tried to like this game to play with my friends, I instead just became agitated everyday by this game. Runes also add completely unnecessary complexity to the game and probably makes it that much harder to balance.

EPIC Store Offering GTA V for FREE

You saw the title.
Epic games store is currently offering Grand Theft Auto V Premium Edition for free right now.
All you have to do is sign in and go to the store page to claim it. There were some reports of the entire store crashing earlier today from all the traffic, but it has since been resolved; I was able to claim my copy to my Epic account.

This includes the entire GTA V game which includes story mode and online. The epic page also states that you will get the criminal enterprise starter pack which will help give you a boost with $1,000,000 in GTA online cash.

Maple Story 2 SHUTTING DOWN

Less than 2 years from opening its Global version, Maple Story 2 has received the axe from Nexon. Unfortunately the game failed to recapture the massive audience that the original Maple Story lured in. The official date for closure is May 27, 2020. With that being said, Nexon is running some events before shutting down for good, mostly massive EXP and DROP increases. So if you want to go in for one last hurrah, now would be the time.

I did play the game upon release, but like many others felt, the game didn’t have the same allure as the original. The social aspect was significantly diminished; the simplicity and lack of features actually made the original Maple Story more sociable. Grinding through Maple Story 2 felt more like a single player game with a so-so combat system. In the original, you spent more time with people as you were forced to do Party Quests and since the grind for levels was so heavy, you had to lean on others to pass the time and took breaks to do other activities or just hang out in the Free Market. It was a more rewarding journey with a massive community behind you. None of these characteristics were present in MS2. I was extremely excited for this sequel, but in the end, it was a let down. Even so, I am saddened to see it end so soon, instead of being fixed by a major update. Even Final Fantasy 14 was considered a flop when it first released, but it was reworked into one of the most popular MMOs. I hope something like a Maple Story 3 will be in the works.

Read the Nexon press release here.

One Week of Valorant Ranked

Valorant ranked competitive mode has been out for about a week now, giving me some time to evaluate the new mode, here are my thoughts.

Ranking System

The ranking system is similar to league of legends, in order from worst to best, Iron – Bronze – Silver – Gold – Platinum – Diamond – Immortal – Valorant. Each tier has 3 sub-levels, i.e. Gold 1, Gold 2, Gold 3. Now here is where the curve ball comes in – In league of legends, Gold 4 is considered worst, while Gold 1 is highest of the tier; In Valorant however, Gold 1 would be the lowest and Gold 3 is the highest. I’m not sure what the purpose of this was, but it did cause some confusion for a good while, I would think they would just be consistent about it across their own games within Riot, but the only reasoning I could conjure up was that, in counter strike it went from 1 to 4 (highest) as well, and its safe to assume that CS players are going to make up a solid chunk of Valorant players. The only requirement to start playing ranked is to have 20 games played, no level requirement or anything else (thankfully). This seems pretty reasonable compared to LoL, where you had to play a ludicrous amount of games to reach level 30, although at the same time, this could lead to a smurfing problem when the game is fully released.

Gameplay

So how did my first week of ranked go? Not bad. Even in closed beta, there are enough people playing for matchmaking to be decently fair in most games. Individual performance is definitely factored into the rankings, as one person in my party climbed the ranks higher than the rest of us by scoring MVP many games. This did however, introduce another problem, even though we all started at the same time and played many games together, if you are 6 ranks below someone, you can no longer queue up with them. This is total nonsense, considering we ALL won those games as a team, but suddenly we can no longer queue with our friend anymore, because he became 6 ranks higher. The Valorant algorithm doesn’t seem to care for anything aside from kills. Scouting enemies, planting or defusing, healing , resurrection, walls, etc. All of these things can turn games around and create wins for your team, but if you’re not getting maximum kills, then your rank will suffer. This leave no incentive for people to pick up the bomb ever, or play heroes like Sage that are a huge boost to the team, but might not have an offensive toolkit. This also promotes smurfing, as people naturally will still want to play with their friends, but have no choice but to create a new account and purposely tank the MMR, and then proceed into ranked to ruin Iron player’s dreams. Streamers have also pointed out that even though you can’t queue with your lower ranked friends, Matchmaking will still put you into a game with people of those ranks considered “too low” sometimes, which makes even less sense. There is also no definitive separation of solo vs 5 stacks, so an entire team of solos can sometimes end up playing against a 5 stack; summit1g made a comment about this unfairness as well. I would love to see a solo queue mode as well.

Anticheat Issues

Valorant has still been facing a handful of issues. Aside from regular game bugs, there was quite a big issue with their Vanguard Anti cheat system this week. Many users (including myself) have been reporting the Anti cheat has been blocking various things from drivers for PC components, to cooling software being blocked. Yes, you read that right, COOLING SOFTWARE was being shut off, one redditor has his GPU almost fry and start burning plastic, because Riot shut off their cooling software. I was luckier in that it was shutting of drivers for my RAM, causing RGB function to cease, but I haven’t seen any other symptoms. One of my friends stopped being able to launch the game completely for a couple days due to more Vanguard issues. Riot released a hot fix on 5/8/20, hopefully that resolves any major issues for most players.

All in all, its a good start of beta ranked. Get out there and enjoy!
If you still don’t have access to the game, read below.

If you haven’t gotten into the Valorant closed beta, here’s how:

  1. Create a riot account if you don’t already have one
  2. Create a Twitch account
  3. Link your riot to your twitch account here
  4. Watch any drop enabled streamer on twitch playing Valorant here

Riot has stated that watching multiple streams does not increase your chances. We recommend that you leave one stream running all day, you can also lower the resolution in the video player to reduce the network usage.

Valorant – Ranked Matchmaking Patch!

Patch 0.49 just came out and it includes ranked matchmaking…almost. Riot stated that they are working on a few stability/bug fixes before officially turning on matchmaking. There are actually quite a few changes in this patch, ranging from visual changes, game play, and balance. You can catch the full notes below from Riot, but a few of the noticeable things after playing a few rounds:

-Your dot on the mini map is a white dot, making it easier to identify yourself
-Nerf to Sage’s wall, so it can’t be used to boost into outer space anymore (thank god)
-New visuals – damage indicator, low health/ammo, voice activity icons, ult, spike , etc.
-UI Tweaks
-Penalty for leaving or dodging games
-Numerous bug fixes
-Ranked Mode will be activated *soon*

Read all the patch notes from Riot: https://beta.playvalorant.com/en-us/news/game-updates/valorant-patch-notes-0-49/

Update: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 4/28/20

New Modern Warfare update out.
The cliff notes:
-New Contract: Most Wanted
-New LMG: MK9
-New Store Bundles
-Shoot the Ship Playlist
-Gunsmith Customs

This update brings a few pretty neat tweaks. In addition to the existing contracts of recon, bounty, and scavenge, MOST WANTED will now be an option to activate. This essentially makes you the bounty target for every team in the game…why? If all of your teammates happen to be dead and you don’t have the money to buy them all back, if you survive as MOST WANTED – they all come back to life. Interesting concept, but I am curious as to how many would try it out.

New LMG, the MK9, supposedly has high accuracy, you’ll have to complete the weapons challenge to unlock it. In addition to that, the update brings new weapon bundles and more importantly, the new Gunsmith Customs editor. You can now take parts off of all blueprints and blend them all together to make a super epic gun – can’t wait for people to find OP combinations.

Shoot the ship is back…nuff said.

All patch notes: https://blog.activision.com/call-of-duty/2020-04/This-Week-in-Call-of-Duty-April-27

Unbiased Review: Valorant Initial Thoughts

If you haven’t heard, Riot has moved their first FPS game into closed beta. Many have deemed it the love child between Counter-Strike and Overwatch, which is kind of accurate.

The game is setup exactly like counter strike, just to name a few aspects:

  • 5 versus 5 with one team planting a bomb
  • Weapons are bought at the beginning of rounds
  • You run faster with the knife
  • The operator sniper rifle is essentially the CS AWP
  • The Phantom and Vandal Rifles resemble the M4 Silenced and AK-47, respectively in recoil and damage

There are some quality of life upgrades in the game compared to counter-strike, such as directly buying guns for teammates that they request in the menu and moving around to setup at beginning of rounds.

Now for the Overwatch aspect, each person gets to pick an agent that has unique spells or abilities. For example Sage can heal herself or teammates once every 35 seconds, she can also purchase extra abilities in the shop at the beginning of rounds, which are a slow orb (essentially a grenade that slows an area for a short period of time) and a wall she can put up to block enemies or even boost herself higher by standing under it. Lastly, her ultimate allows her to revive a teammate. Ultimate abilities are charged by kills or picking up orbs off the ground.

So how does this all mesh together…

So far, I am enjoying the game, but it does need some improvements. The dev team has stated that they aren’t focused on graphics as it was meant to be a competitive e-sports game that focuses on mechanics, I think this is a double-edged sword. It makes the game already look a bit dated, it reminds me of Half-Life 2 mods. The animations and models are very clunky. When people die its almost comical, it looks like how characters died in Counter Strike 1.6 (not CSGO), with almost no physics, just a couple repetitive animations. The blood splatter from headshots looks like they made 1 sprite for it because the splatter looks the same every time. The most laughable things are the smokescreen abilities which are basically smoke grenades, except they look like static circular images….take a look…

Blue Circle?
Purple Circle?

Overall the game is definitely worth a try, especially since it is F2P, once you’re in the beta. I’m happy its here, the gaming scene has been taken over by Battle Royales, over and over and over. Not everyone likes them, its time for some new refreshing games. I applaud Riot for trying to blend elements of 2 games together and I can’t wait to see what’s to come in future updates.

Stay tuned for a follow up review as the game matures a little more.

If you haven’t gotten into the Valorant closed beta, here’s how:

  1. Create a riot account if you don’t already have one
  2. Create a Twitch account
  3. Link your riot to your twitch account here
  4. Watch any drop enabled streamer on twitch playing Valorant here

Riot has stated that watching multiple streams does not increase your chances. We recommend that you leave one stream running all day, you can also lower the resolution in the video player to reduce the network usage.

Valorant Patch 0.47+

It didn’t take long for riot to release a patch since releasing the Valorant closed beta to more people of the general public.

The patch brings a few balance changes and bug/exploit fixes. The most notable ones are below:

  • Knife attacks will deal 2x damage on obstacles now like Sage’s barrier
  • Decreased Raze Paint Shells to 1 and has a 2 kill reset
  • Sage’s slow will now slow airborne players in the zone

Riot’s full patch notes can be found here

If you haven’t gotten into the Valorant closed beta, here’s how:

  1. Create a riot account if you don’t already have one
  2. Create a Twitch account
  3. Link your riot to your twitch account here
  4. Watch any drop enabled streamer on twitch playing Valorant here

Riot has stated that watching multiple streams does not increase your chances. We recommend that you leave one stream running all day, you can also lower the resolution in the video player to reduce the network usage.