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 2nd April 2017.
Mass Effect: Andromeda (Xbox One,PS4 and PC, £49.99)
WE are all for ambition and we love BIG at Gaming Towers . . . and Mass Effect: Andromeda has certainly reached for the stars. The guys and girls at BioWare were obviously feeling the strain of following up the Mass Effect trilogy. They are considered by many to be a masterpiece of gaming design and fable so they are big shoes to fill. And they have definitely gone for big. This clocks in at more than 50 hours and you still won’t have seen everything. And there are countless menus for customising your character’s playing style — surely there is an easier way to do it. Commander Shepard and the crew have been replaced by Scott or Sara Ryder and, 600 years down the line, you have to find new worlds in the vastness of space.
The Andromeda Initiative has seen each race send 20,000 people to the Andromeda system in arks led by the Pathfinder. But things soon go south. You wake from your cryo sleep and you are soon promoted to Pathfinder and the adventure begins. Fans will know how the game plays, but there is a greater range of movement. The combat is a little more basic but still satisfying although the new auto-cover system is a bit hit-and-miss. A big part of the Mass Effect games was the story and the way it is delivered. Andromeda picks up the baton and, for the most part, runs with it. But diehard fans will insist that it falls a little short of the levels set by the trilogy. The new crew have beefy back stories but none stand out like Garrus or Tali did in the past. But they are new so hopefully they’ll grow on us.
There is also a wave-based multiplayer where you and three friends have to complete missions as well as hold out long enough to get out. You’ll also bag some loot to use in multiplayer if you complete the mission. It’s fun with friends, but not so much with randoms. The developers have created a world that is stunning at times. It is backed up by an epic soundtrack and the voice acting is top notch with Clancy Brown (Highlander and Daredevil) and Natalie Dormer (Game Of Thrones and Hunger Games) leading the way.
But there are fairly big issues, mostly down to the rough finish. The frame rate drops, textures pop and there is really bad draw distance in the Nomad and horrible character facial animations. BioWare have made a rod for their own backs with the quality of the trilogy. This whole package just lacks the quality you expect from a Mass Effect game but hopefully patches will fix it. It is great to see the return of a much-loved series but it is not so great having to battle the demons.
Forma.8 (Xbox One, PS4, Wii U and PC, £11.99)
IF you don’t like to be spoon-fed your information then Forma.8 is just the game for you. You are a security drone that has been launched on a planet but it crashes. That’s it. You don’t know why you crashed, why you are there or what you have to do. And play . . .
It is a refreshing take on the Metroidvania style of game as you explore a huge world. You’ll come across areas you can’t reach until you find new skills so it needs a good bit of back-tracking. But you can get new skills by finding other fallen drones and harvesting parts. Your only weapon at the start is a pulse blast to help move rocks but you’ll progress to launching bombs and get a cool teleport move. You’ll use your abilities to solve puzzles and get into new areas as well as defend yourself from the locals plus there are secret rooms and collectables along the way.
Forma.8 has a striking art style in the vein of Inside or Hue. The foreground is black but the background is a wash of colour. It’s backed up by a powerful soundtrack that works away in the background then pipes up when needed. There is a map system — but it’s as much use as a chocolate teapot. It was so hard to read that I gave up. The lack of hand-holding does backfire a little because no guidance means you can be left floating around and totally lost. Forma.8 is fun and charming. There is a curiosity to it that will pull you in and you get the chance to explore the unknown. It is a real hidden gem of a game.
Art of Atari (£34.99)
HERE’S a history lesson that you WILL enjoy. Find out how one of the biggest companies in gaming began in 1972 and check out over 40 years of headline titles like Pong, Breakout and Missile Command as well as the game that cost Atari everything — E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. This 352-page hardback beast features interviews with artists and highlights Atari’s arcade legacy and the home console market. There are some stunning art pieces that have never been seen before. It’s a retro gamer classic.
See funstockretro.co.uk to get your copy.
TURN back time and relive the thrill of arcades with Artcade. It looks at some of the classic arcade machine marques and is a true walk down memory lane with games you might have played at the seaside or in motorway service stations. This is a hardback history of coin-op gaming and features stunning artwork from classic cabinets like Asteroids and Frogger to more recent favourites like Smash TV and Terminator 2 Judgment Day. You will smile at what you spent your 10 pence pieces on.
Also available from funstockretro.co.uk.
On The Upload
NEIL Taylor makes history fun. His Youtube channel centres on how games came into being. He takes a close look at some of the classics but also talks about the companies behind the titles, the people who thought them up and the hardware.
“Growing up playing the C64 and moving on to the NES I’ve seen the games industry move on and become something that is bigger and crazier than I ever could have imagined with a legacy as rich as it is deep. I’m a strong believer in knowing where you’ve come from to understand where the industry is heading.”
Search TheKidDogg on Youtube to join in the fun.
WE warned you . . . and it came to pass. OpTic Gaming smashed the Halo World Championships at the weekend. The guys were defending a title they won under the Counter Logic Banner in 2016 and were lost just two games as they took away half of £1 million prize pot on offer at ESL Studios in California. They faced EnVyUs in the grand final and came out 4-0 winners.
The best of the Euro teams was FAB Esports. They finished a respectable seventh and netted themselves a cool $20,000 into the bargain.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…