Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 27th August 2017.
SEA Of Thieves is set to make a real splash when it docks next year. Some lucky gamers have had hands-on time and the feedback has been glowing, according to Rare’s PC design lead Ted Timmins. I caught up with him and found he is loving life on the virtual high seas. He said:
“The biggest highlight so far has to be seeing people’s reaction. That speaks volumes. It’s amazing to see the game getting nods from the press and the like but seeing the players enjoying it is the thing that means the most.”
Timmins is the new kid on the Rare block, but he has embraced the vision. He added:
“I joined the project just over a year ago so I wasn’t really there for the initial stages but I know a huge part of that was to create a game where people can have their own stories. That’s happening. People at expos are talking about what they did and the alpha testers are posting on the forum about the tales they are finding, but really it’s about the pirate game you’ve always wanted. At the end of each section you have an experience that was different to the last and will not be like your next. When you set sail for the horizon you don’t really know what’s going to happen — that’s the real magic element to the game.”
The challenge was the scale of the world. Ted said:
“We have a tonne of islands. You learn where they all are in the world but, within that, the quests, ship wrecks, storms and riddle quests push and pull you in different directions. They are all procedurally generated so the world is set. Everything else is the unknown. Then we are always changing it based on player feedback. We are immortalising them in the game. For example, the first person who died in the alpha test has their name scratched into the pile next to the ferry of the damned exit point on the ghost ship.”
While they are sticking to Rare principles, they also aim to raise the bar. Ted said:
“If I said you can fire yourself out of a cannon, that sort of says it all. It wouldn’t be a Rare game if it wasn’t funny. The studio is built on games that make you smile and make you want to spend time in them. Sea Of Thieves is the next step on that path. We already have 50,000 people testing the game and through them we are hopefully building a game that we want to last for years and years and we can build a world that players keep coming back to.”
Sea Of Thieves is due out early 2018 on Xbox One and PC.
Agents of Mayhem (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £42.99)
IF you loved the 80s Saturday morning cartoon GI Joe and you are a fan of open-world games, then get your paws on Agents Of Mayhem. The Volition team has moved away from the Saints Row series and produced an over-the-top game that is full of laughs, but spiced with some interesting mechanical twists. Agents Of Mayhem focuses on an elite group of heroes and their bid to save the world from the evil Legion organisation. Each team member is so OTT but has their own back story. It gives the characters real depth. Kingpin is a rap star/gang leader, Redcard a mad football fan and Daisy is a rock-and-roll roller-derby girl who packs a mini-gun. Get the picture? If there is any stereotype then it’s in here.
You have to pick three agents, but you can swap them at any point during the mission or return to the Ark to re-spec before and after tasks. Each agent has a unique skill-set from being able to hack systems to taking down enemy shields. Each has an upgrade tree. All the action takes place in Seoul in South Korea which is a refreshing break from the dime-a-dozen New City clones that most open-world games go for. It has a clean, crisp look with futuristic white skyscrapers as well as the more traditional Asian-inspired buildings. The game has the standard story mission beats, but there are side missions and a truckload of other objectives from taking out doomsday weapons to delivering vehicles and saving hostages and it all happens with huge splashes of colour. There are some great cartoon cut scenes which reinforce the Saturday morning cartoon vibe and the voice acting is top drawer. That said, other than an awesome 80s-style theme tune, the soundtrack is really flat. A few radio stations with some classic 80s cheesy tunes would have hit the spot.
Agents Of Mayhem is a fun and enjoyable game but you get the feeling that you have played all the aces in the first few hours. You find that it all just loops round as you do the same tasks. That is a real shame because the opening gambits are great. You are left wanting more. It is the same story with Seoul. It looks great but lacks . . . err . . . soul. You never really feel like the city is anything more than a pretty backdrop to an endless series of explosions. But, if all you want to do is shoot stuff and look cool then Agents Of Mayhem is an undoubted winner. It lacks the depth and subtlety to raise it into cult game status. With a bit more variety and a clear direction it could have been something special.
Sine Mora EX (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £15.99)
FIVE years ago Sine Mora was a bit of a trailblazer for 2D hell shooters. It was developed by Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture and saw Theodore Reiker join with Suda 41 and anime director Mahiro Maeda. The twist was the time mechanic. Instead of dying after being hit and having to restart the level, Sine Mora used time. You have a set time to complete stages. Anything left on the clock becomes a bonus. You can add time by destroying enemies or lose it by being damaged. Well, now there is a Sine Mora Ex update with a new co-op feature and improved graphics as well as full English voiceovers.
You will be stunned at how good it looks — this is a 2D shooter with full 3D backgrounds. When you tackle the bosses, you have to destroy different areas so you must fly. You get a real sense of the scale of the game. The story follows a group of animal pilots. It is a bit long-winded at times. I could have done without the screeds of text before each mission. That said, on the easiest setting, the story mode will take around 90 minutes to complete. Go in hard and it will take more than five hours. Complete the story mode and you unlock an alternative narration which you can go back through. There is score attack as well as boss training where you can improve your performance and beat your score.
But the big attraction is arcade. It separates the men from the boys and it is linked to the leader board system so you can see where you are in global terms. Sine Mora Ex is a solid update and is must for 2D shooter fans but they may feel short-changed by the amount of new features.
SWITCH on your inner Lewis Hamilton — F1 has revealed plans for a Formula 1 eSports Series. The Formula 1, Codemasters and Gfinity series will start next month as gamers will aim to prove they are the best virtual F1 driver. The overall winner will bag an F1 Experiences Package, qualify for the semi-finals of next year’s Formula 1 eSports Series and become a character in next year’s official F1 game F1 2018.
F1 2017 is due out on August 25 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
On The Stream
ERASED Citizens have expanded and embraced Twitch. Gaming power couple, Christian Vaz and Emma Matthews, have been streaming the like of CS:GO and Overwatch as well as giving viewers a taste of future games like Dauntless. They aim to stream a variety of games from classic NES titles to new AAA and indie games.
“If you’re looking for a relaxed and friendly place to hang out then our stream is the place to be as myself and Christian stream most weekdays from around about 3pm.”
Watch their stream at twitch.tv/ErasedCitizens.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…