Steam In Home Streaming Beta

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Finally I’ve been accepted into the Steam in home streaming beta. Couldn’t be any more excited! I guess the question you maybe asking right now is why am I so excited?

For a while now I’ve been looking for a good streaming solution to stream my games from my gaming rig to other devices in the house. I’ve used Splashtop,which is absolutely abysmal, and I’ve tried other non main stream options. When I read about Steams streaming option I got pretty excited and signed up for the beta immediately.

I’m going to be honest, I didn’t expect it to work, but to my surprise it does! I sat upstairs with my MacBook Pro Retina perched on my lap and clicked on the option to stream Skyrim, a fully modded version of it, and bam, it loaded and played as smoothly as if I were playing on my gaming rig.

I haven’t spent much time with the streaming service but I intend to have a real good play. Once I’ve had some more hands on time I’ll get an update out. Right now however I’m having a geek overload.

Elder Scrolls Online Preview

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When I saw the announcement for The Elder Scrolls Online my heart fluttered and sunk. My feelings were mixed, on one hand we were finally being given the opportunity to play with our friends in Tamriel, on the other hand there was a risk of this being a quick and easy cash in for the studio.

I watched trailers and hands on videos, showing off what this game was all about, but still I was unsure. We’ve all been let down by MMO’s before, ones that had extremely fancy game trailers, how could we possibly know whether or not this would be any different?

Finally the beta weekend came up and I got my first hands on experience with this game and straight away a number of my fears melted away. The first thing you notice when you jump into The Elder Scrolls Online is just how detailed it is. The character creation has an awful lot of depth, giving the player a huge amount of customisation options and the character graphics are absolutely superb.

Pretty impressive and very similar style to Skyrim.

Once I created my character I was thrown into my first dungeon, a prison, from which I had to escape. My first quest was fully voiced and felt like something from Skyrim, not World of Warcraft. The same can be said for the majority of quests I have played through, they are all pretty detailed, not your standard fetch or kill style quests.

The gameplay felt very similar to Skyrim, a first person or third person adventure depending on your preference. I played first person, a warrior wielding two handed weapons. A soon as I entered combat I found myself in familiar territory, the game handles just like Skyrim, left mouse click attacks and right blocks but there are also a couple of extras thrown into the mix, such as the ability to double tap your direction keys to dodge and evade attacks.

A lovely reminder of my days spent in Skyrim

Once you fight through your first quest you’ll be taken to a new location. I played as a Nord and was transported to a snowy village with lush forest surrounding it. The environment was absolutely stunning and an absolute pleasure to explore. Unlike other MMO’s, the graphics are rich and detailed, the environments exceptionally well developed. There were large forests to wander through, high mountains, flowing rivers and cascading waterfalls, really something I didn’t expect to see in an MMO.

Time for a drink

Time for a drink

I teamed up with my brother and we went exploring, seeking out new and random quests which were all voice acted and interesting. Some of the quests were bizarre and humorous, sending us on random missions, while others were more serious, pitting us against invading soldiers. My only gripe when exploring with a friend is that even when you are both grouped together and completing the same quest there is no combining or sharing the quest. If one of you completes the quest they are the only one to do so. I loved the way SWTOR handled a group when completing quests and

I created a second character in order to check out some of the other starting locations and found myself in a desert village, a huge port beside a beautiful ocean. Once again exploring felt great, wandering along side cliff edges and looking down at beautiful lagoons. All of the fauna was different, completely styled to match the hot and arid landscape I was exploring. Interesting animals roamed the sands and ruins were scattered about all over. The whole place was a stark contrast to the earlier snowy landscapes I’d explored as a Nord.

A stark contrast to my earlier play through

I teamed up with my brother and we went exploring, seeking out new and random quests which were all voice acted and interesting. Some of the quests were bizarre and humorous, sending us on random missions, while others were more serious, pitting us against invading soldiers. My only gripe when exploring with a friend is that even when you are both grouped together and completing the same quest there is no combining or sharing the quest. If one of you completes the quest they are the only one to do so. I loved the way SWTOR handled a group when completing quests and would love to see something similar in ESO.

I’ll admit, I’m still undecided about this game. I want to love it and I came pretty close. I can see myself sinking hundreds of hours into ESO, exploring alongside friends and drinking in the new environments. On the flip side it’s an MMO and they are normally plagued with issues, ready to ruin the game experience. The subscription worries me as I’m not a fan of having to pay for a game upfront then continue paying monthly. If the developers can continue to deliver updates and new content after the games release then maybe, just maybe, I’ll take the plunge and finally commit to an MMO.

All in all, an absolutely fantastic Elder Scrolls experience, even if it is online.

Zelda A Link Between Two Worlds Review

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Introduction

Zelda A Link Between Two Worlds is a pretty neat little game with a very interesting mechanic behind it. I’ve never really been able to get into any Zelda games and I’ll admit my 3DS was purchased purely to play the new Pokemon game on, so imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying this game. So what makes this a game worth playing?

The game follows our hero, Link, as he battles a villain who is seeking to transform the Seven Sages into paintings, adding them all to his horrid collection. When Castle Hyrule is attacked by the menace things really get underway, sending our hero on his quest to save princess Zelda and the Sages.

Gameplay

imageWhat I really enjoy about Zelda is the casual gameplay. It’s easy to pick up and play and you don’t need to invest hours at a time to enjoy it. Exploring Hyrule and Lowrule is good fun, using a number of different tools to help get to new locations. The added ability to transform into a painting and meld with walls adds a whole new level of exploration and puzzle solving. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I saw pictures of Link turning into a painting but I’m impressed with how well the concept works.

Puzzle solving works well in this game, giving the player a range of abilities and tools to help them get from A to B and discover treasure or hidden items. The puzzles aren’t overly taxing but they are enjoyable and add a little something more to the game.

Combat starts out pretty basic but as you progress through the game it gets a little deeper. The new items the player acquires help out in fights, all causing different types of chaos for your enemies to deal with. One thing that I found to be pretty different is how the players user interface becomes more intuitive as they progress, the quick skills bar evolving with time.

Graphics

The graphics are pretty good, a top down, cartoon style. It’s just what you’d expect from a game built for the 3DS. The style works really well and works perfectly with the 3D option.

Speaking of 3D, I found that it works well in Zelda, the most tolerable game I’ve played yet with 3D on. After a while though the novelty wore off and I went back to 2D but I’m sure there will be plenty of players out there who will be able to play all the way through with 3D on.

What I liked

I loved the way that this game mixes things up with new concepts like turning into a painting to explore. It’s different to anything I’ve played in quite some time and really adds depth to the game. I can’t really imagine this being a particularly great game without these added concepts.

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What I disliked

That the guy I rented my house out to kept taking my rented items if I died! Damn you!

Stand Out Feature

It’s definitely the range of unique tools and abilities this game gives the player. It just adds so much and really helps to mix things up. I’ve had some great moments staring at the screen figuring out where on earth I need to go next when a lightbulb moment hits me and I use one of my tools to fly over some spikes or meld with a wall to cross a mountain ledge. Hats off to the developers on this one, some really good fun things to play with.

Conclusion

As I said at the start of this review I’m not a fan of the Zelda franchise but I’ve really enjoyed my time with this game. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’ve even decided to give Ocharina Of Time another blast!

If you’re looking for something to sink a fair amount of time into on your 3DS then is recommend giving this game a blast. I’d almost go as far to say I’ve enjoyed it more than Pokemon… almost…

Give it a go and see for yourself how much fun this game is. You won’t regret it.

Zelda A Link Between Worlds Impressions

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I’ll admit, I’ve never really gotten along with Zelda games. I attempted to give it a go on the N64 when it first came out and I enjoyed it a little but it wasn’t one of my favourites. My 3DS has been a little neglected, growing unloved now I don’t sink much time into Pokemon so I needed a new game. I saw the reviews and user opinions of Zelda A Link Between Worlds, and decided to give it a go.

My first few hours have been great fun. It’s a pretty casual game and looks very nice. The puzzles are fun, and the world is enjoyable to explore, a fantastic art style really shining through on the 3DS. 

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this game but so far I’ve had a blast, wandering the kingdom of Hyrule and battling a range of enemies. I’ll post a full review once I’m done with the game but so far so good! Let’s hope it keeps it up.

Counter Strike Go Review

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Introduction

A remake of a classic, or rather an upgrade of one. When I first saw Counter Strike Go in action I wasn’t sure if I was excited or terrified, it is a game that I sunk countless hours of my childhood into after all. With the current trend of so many shooters turning into over the top, fast paced chaos I was a little apprehensive. I’m glad to say there really was no reason to be nervous.

Gameplay

For anyone who has played Counter Strike in the past you will be familiar with the gameplay of Counter Strike Go. Chose a side, terrorist or counter terrorist, then fight along side your team mates to carry out map objectives that range from bomb defusal to hostage rescue.

The great thing about Counter Strike is the pace, it’s not too fast, it’s not over the top with Michael Bay style explosions, it’s just right. You’ll work along side your team and use tactics to your advantage, with every shot and kill making a difference. Fire fights in corridors are intense, evenly matching all players and skill counts for something.

For the hardcore amongst you there is a competitive mode where you will need to purchase body armour during matches and your death cam will be limited to your own team. For the casual amongst you theres a casual mode, giving you an open death cam to watch all the players regardless of the team and no need to buy armour, just decide on your weapons and go complete your objective. This separation of players is fantastic as you rarely encounter people who are playing for different reasons to you.

Graphics

The graphics wont leave your jaw hanging open, it’s nothing to really write home about. However Counter Strike Go isn’t about graphics, it’s about simple and balanced gameplay and the graphics fit nicely with this. Character models have an improved level of detail over previous versions and the level design looks pretty good. One major improvement is the number of different character models which vary depending on the level you participate in. The generic four character models are gone.

What I liked

The pacing and combat has me sold. Valve has got this spot on, offering up a solid shooter with amazing gameplay. This isn’t another generic shooter, it’s a team based game with some brilliant competitive play. You’ll find yourself locked in one on one firefights or battling against a squad from the enemy team. This game offers one of the best FPS experiences.

What I disliked

There are so many attempts to get you to spend your cash on in game add-ons. Now I should point out that all the purchases you can make are purely aesthetic, they aren’t pay to win, but they are pretty consistent. At the end of each match people will randomly receive new weapon skins and occasionally stickers or weapon cases. The skins are great but the stickers and weapon cases need keys to unlock, keys you need to purchase.

Conclusion

If you’re a fan of Counter Strike then this game is a must. Valve haven’t destroyed it or altered it beyond recognition, they’ve updated it. Even if you haven’t played Counter Strike and you’re a fan of good solid shooters then I recommend this game. The Counter Strike games are some of the best shooters I’ve played and CSGO doesn’t fail to deliver.

Warhammer Quest Review

Introduction

I’ve sunk a fair amount of time into Warhammer Quest and must admit I’ve found it to be a pretty good game. It looks fantastic andworks extremely well with touch input. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into making this game. 

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Warhammer Quest is a top down dungeon crawler. You take control of four warriors who move from town to town, collecting quests and searching dungeons. There are a number of classes to control and lots of loot to discover. 

Combat and movement follows the conventional rules of Games Workshop, giving your warriors a set number of move and combat points per turn. This slows the combat down and forces the player to take a little more time planning their strategy which works fantastically well on the iPad. 

One thing that is a little disappointing is that Warhammer Quest is all about searching through dungeons and nothing more. It’s fun for a while but I’ve found myself wishing the game was a little more deep, allowing me more freedom to explore other landscapes or even just the towns I visit. 

However for the cost I can’t really complain. They pretty much nailed the gameplay. 

Graphics

This isn’t the kind of game that’s going to blow your socks off when it comes to graphics but it still looks good. I loved the art style of the dungeons and the animations of the warriors worked very nicely. 

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Conclusion

For anyone looking for a casual RPG dungeon crawler this is the game for you. There’s enough content to hold your interest for hours and it’s well worth the price. It’s a great game for killing time and it’s new and original, taking advantage of touch input and making great use of the controls.

Download – iPhone Download – iPad

iPhone 5S Review

Introduction 

Its been a long time since I used an iPhone for personal use. I fell in love with Android some time back and shunned the iPhones seeing them as basic and small so I really expected to dislike the iPhone 5S, in fact I wanted to dislike it. However the opposite has happened, I’ve fallen in love with it.

Look and Feel

Apple have done what Apple do well, built a device that looks and feels amazing. Its superbly lightweight and the screen looks fantastic despite it being relatively small. The iPhone feels premium, beautifully crafted and fantastic to handle.

I’ve been put off the smaller screen of the iPhone for some time now, preferring the mammoth sized displays you find on Androids. However using the iPhone reminded me of what this device is, its a phone. It no longer takes up every bit of space in my pocket and it feels comfortable to hold during lengthy calls. It still does everything else well while at the same time doesn’t over stretch its purpose. With tablets at such reasonable prices why do we also opt for giant displays on our phones?

If you are used to previous generations of Apple devices then you may find yourself in need of new charging or dock accessories as the port in the iPhone 5 and above has changed. There was outcry when this happened but at the end of the day it saved on time and also this device charges up extremely fast.

User Interface

I wasn’t a fan of iOS 7 on the iPad but on the iPhone it works well. Its punchy and sharp and responds extremely fast. Noticeable differences from the previous OS are the complete change of style, new launcher options and revamped multitasking.

We still lack some of the customisation options that you would find in an Android device but iOS 7 is pretty nice. Its fast and intuitive and above all else its extremely simple to use. Like all previous iOS devices Apple have maintained that quality where anyone can pick up a device and find their way around it regardless of experience.

Camera

Here’s where things aren’t quite as good. The camera is an improvement over previous models and the dual LED flash is a welcome addition. I managed to snap some great looking pictures on the go and with the additional camera functions, such as slow motion videos, things got really fun.

However, where the camera falls down is against its competition. Its the best Apple camera on any of its devices but when pitted against competition flagships it falls short. The main devices I have used along side the iPhone 5S are, Galaxy Note 3, Xperia Z1 and the Lumia 1020. What we do need to consider however is that they pack a better camera but they are also huge devices when compared to the iPhone. Its a trade off you need to decide on.

Battery

Battery life was surprisingly good, easily lasting me a full day. Its what I’ve come to expect from this kind of device. It won’t blow you away and you’re still going to need to charge this on a daily basis.

What I liked

Surprisingly I loved the size of the device. It felt almost perfect to use as a phone with all the smart added extras. For me it is nearly perfect as I carry a tablet around everywhere I go and have the option of using my iPhone as a mobile hotspot. For some, the size will be a let down, for others a massive bonus.

What I disliked

The price. Yes Apple have made a beautiful and premium device but I still cannot accept that it is worth the asking price. It has lovely features and is well crafted but its a hefty price tag.

Stand Out Feature

The finger print reader for me was the stand out feature. I expected it to be a gimmick, something that rarely worked. Instead I found it to be fully functional and pretty handy. Literally I pressed my thumb on the home key and voila! No need for patterns, codes or pin numbers.

Conclusion

In conclusion I loved the iPhone 5S and I can’t really fault it. Potential buyers need to decide on what they really need from a phone and take a look at what other devices they carry. If you lug a tablet around with you then the iPhone is a nice companion. If you’re looking for an all in one device for heavy browsing on productivity on the go then this device probably isn’t for you.

Is it worth the price tag? Hard to justify really. However its one of the most surprising devices I’ve used in a long time and for once I’ve been pleasantly excited while using the iPhone.

Check it out here: iPhone 5S

Xperia Z1 Review

Introduction

The Xperia Z1, Sony’s latest flagship, is an amazing bit of kit. The specs are formidable and the build quality is fantastic. So what does this all add up to in real world use? 

ImageLook and Feel  

As I mentioned above the Xperia Z1 is a wonderfully built piece of kit. It feels premium to hold. It’s a combination of glass and metal which really helps the Z1 to stand out against the competition.  

The screen quality is superb, full HD 1080 with Bravia technology which really makes the screen stand out. The colors look natural and the picture quality is extremely sharp. I really can’t fault the display on the Xperia. 

Where the Xperia falls short is the size of the thing. It’s a big phone, and that’s coming from someone who used the Galaxy Note 2 for almost a year. Due to the device being water and dust proof Sony have compromised on size. The Xperia Z1 is far larger than its rivals and at times can be pretty uncomfortable to hold, its sharp corners digging into your palms and making one handed usage almost impossible. 

User Interface  

The Xperia Z1 runs on Android and is extremely snappy, responding to almost everything I could throw at it without any lag. I found that Sony hadn’t loaded the device with too much bloat ware and their custom launcher was nice to use which is a pleasant surprise. 

Camera   

The Z1 packs a whopping 20.7 mega pixel camera which works fantastically well in low light conditions due to the size if its lens. Adding to this is the return of the hardware camera key on the side of the Z1 which helps to snap those perfect shots. 

I absolutely loved and hated the camera on the Z1. It’s an odd beast, either taking some of the best shots I’ve ever managed or alternatively snapping nothing but a blurry mess. 

I found that a lot of the issues cropped up when I used Sony’s ‘Superior Auto’ shooting mode which automatically switches settings in order to capture the best shot. I’ll warn you now, more often than not it gets things wrong. 

Switching the phone into manual shooting mode gives a much higher chance of snapping a fantastic shot, but still my experience was plagued with awful blurry pics. I don’t know why the Z1 is inconsistent but unfortunately it is. In comparison to other smartphones it may be capable of taking the better pictures but more often than not it will let you down.  

Battery  

For a phone like this the battery life is pretty good, which is handy considering it is built in. Consistently I’ll get a full days worth of battery which includes just over 4 hours of screen on time. For the power users amongst you I would suggest carrying a portable battery if you are going to be away from a charger for a lengthy period of time. 

What I liked   

I absolutely love the build quality and waterproof feature on this phone. The Z1, despite its size, is a joy to handle. Throw in the added bonus that I don’t have to worry about using it in the rain and I can capture novelty underwater photos and you’re onto a winner. 

What I disliked   

Potentially the best and the worst feature on the Z1, its camera. I loved how amazing some of the photos captured on the device look but I hate how inconsistent it is. Even in the exact same scene, with the exact same settings photo quality will differ drastically.  

Ultimately it ruins the camera for me as it just can’t be trusted to capture those fantastic shots it is capable of. Fingers crossed it is just a software fault and not hardware. 

Conclusion 

The Xperia Z1 is a beautiful phone with the specs to match. For those camera enthusiasts amongst you it is worth giving a shot, that is if you can tolerate the inconsistent quality issues.  

Be warned, for those who have smaller hands this may not be the device for you. It’s closer in size to the Galaxy Note 2 than it is to its 5 inch screen competitors. 

For a full run down of specs check out the Sony Xperia Z1.