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Haven Review: DOOM [2016]

Doom_logoDOOM! If you’re a child of the 90s like me, you know exactly what it is. The popular game stayed with all of us for years, with its two-dimensional graphics displayed as three-dimensional rooms.  The game was all about fighting demons, as well as other sorts of monsters coming after you. It was incredibly popular and everyone loved it (apart from the soccer moms who screamed that bloody games are making our children more violent)!    2YYBfaq

Well that was then and this is now, and we have a new DOOM. The game has been reworked for a few years now; even had some closed multiplayer testing. But since it’s finally out we can at long last play and review it!

Thing’s start off fairly interesting, me sitting up from a weird coffin, only to see me shackled down and demons coming at me on all sides. They’re doing the most badass thing; just crushing their skulls into my coffin and breaking out. I quickly break out of a suit and learn the controls, going on a murderous rampage (of demons, no less) to finally leave the room I was in.

It was this first impression that told me I would love this title, because the game flows as if they took the original DOOM and just overhauled the graphics. The jumping, the moving around and the fights you get into felt to me like it was a rebirth of the original game and I absolutely loved it.DOOM-2016-Cacodemon_Plus_1437988255 However their are things that I found a tiny bit strange…mainly the glory kills. But I can understand that, being a new thing and innovation from the original design and concepts of DOOM, and it began to grow on me. The entire game felt so fluid to me, although I am playing on the Xbox One at this point. But I’ll get into that reason in a little bit.

The soundtrack stayed upbeat and hardcore, giving me a nostalgic trip. It was like I was listening to the heaviest of heavy metals as I crushed a demon’s skull in my hand  and watched its eye-balls pop out from between my fingers. I absolutely loved it. However I must mention that while I was enjoying my glorious killing spree, the game felt good overall. I felt like its story aspect was lacking and I was kind of disappointed at that, since they were changing a few things and adding other things.

But despite all this, it felt wonderful. It felt great and it truly felt like I was playing a piece of my childhood again. Although the game is obviously not for kids, let’s face it, some nostalgic parent out there will probably buy it and their kid will get a hold of it and it will create the next generation of DOOM fans.doom-2016_005

Now about what I said earlier in the article regarding playing on the Xbox One. A lot of people have reported this issue, and from my own research I can conclude that the PC port of DOOM is pretty broken for a lot of people. But groups and companies outside are not reporting on this and a lot of gamers have taken to complaining in Indie game development groups because of how broken it is.

As for myself, the title was broken for me as well. The start of the game was playable but if I opened Fraps, Loilo, and hell…even OBS, the game would close or it would give me a black screen in the top right hand corner. Even trying to adjust the graphics to 720p crashed the game and made it hang, and so I attempted to adjust the graphics manually, which also made the game crash.maxresdefault

Eventually I settled on playing it in 1080p and gave up on recording, but the moment I finished the tutorial area the game began to lag to no end and left me at 1 frame per second. This ultimately made me go to the Xbox One version of the game, because programming for a console system is far easier than for PC because the former’s hardware is always the same. But this brings up the point of Bethesda releasing a fairly broken version of DOOM onto the PC, and we are waiting for it to be fixed.
Despite this one major issue about DOOM, the game remains very solid in every way for our review scale, and again I absolutely loved it…even if I couldn’t play it on PC.

Everything about the title screams nostalgia and I continue to look forward to skull-stomping a demonic lord with my big boot!

: Disclaimer: We received this game for review purposes only. As such, all views in this article are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

-Daniel Clatworthy-

DOOM

Haven Review: Overwatch

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Not since the early days of Team Fortress 2 (TF2) have I been as enamored with a multiplayer experience as I have with Overwatch. There are definitely similarities between the two, and honestly these are what interested me in the latter to begin with. But once in the game, there are many nuances that have surprised me, to the point where I’ve fallen in love with Overwatch for a variety of reasons. However, the game is definitely not without it’s faults.

Another entry in the Hero-shooter genre, Overwatch pits a cast of eclectic characters against one another in team-on-team combat. The entirety of the gameplay happens over the course of 15-minute matches. Yet the game is packed with amazing design, wildly diverse settings and…if you know where to look…tons of interesting lore. The maps are scattered with informational tidbits. Since you’ll mostly be basting hunks of scrap metal at the opponent, it’s very likely you’ll miss them (and Blizzard seems to not care). This only adds to the charm of the game. If you’d like to hunt down these bits of info, go ahead, although your team might not be so interested in you doing that. If you want to just partake in the combat, there’s no need to know the minutia of the lore. But Blizzard, as they always seem to do with their games, has taken the time to put it there. All of these things come together to form a world that seems to have been inhabited. You’ll find tea still sitting out, or a magazine that was abandoned hastily when the fighting started.Overwatch 2016-05-30 15-26-58-49

The fighting revolves around teams of six heroes duking it out over capture points and payloads. Each player chooses a hero, and while there are some helpful guidelines that pop up during selection, the game doesn’t limit how many of each hero your team can select. I love the freedom of creativity that happens when opposing a team comprised of 6 “Reinhardt” characters, a tank with a large shield and hammer. I was particularly drawn to “Roadhog”, a character with a big ol’ hook that can grab people and reel them in, only to be finished off with a devastating shotgun blast to the face. Most of the other characters I tried were fun to play, as well. There wasn’t a character in all 21 that I hated.Overwatch 2016-05-30 15-43-30-05 Each one is interesting to learn and wildly different from each other. That’s not saying I was good at all of them; in fact the opposite. I’m fairly poor with most. But, that doesn’t mean I didn’t end up laughing and rolling around as I got the shit beat outa me for utterly fucking up the play style of a particular hero. Therein lies the joy of Overwatch! The colors and designs, the silliness of the heroes, the wide variety of projectiles being fired all over the place, all come together to bring such joy to my heart that even when I’m doing my absolute worst I’m still having fun. It seems like the game even rewards you for just having fun and trying your best.Overwatch 2016-05-30 15-33-58-46

The most experience you get at the end of a match comes from just sticking around for the whole thing. If you played at all then you’ll get a bunch of experience and level up. Other factors are also involved. If you finish in the top three of your team, or in the top 50% of a category (damage done, time spent on an objective, etc.) you’ll get a little more XP. If you participated on the winning team, then you’ll also get a nice chunk. However, the only thing you get from leveling up is cosmetic, in the form of skins, victory poses and sprays. With sprays you can choose a mark and then leave it anywhere you’d like on the map. It’s pointless but wickedly fun. You’ll sometimes get into spray wars with others who are trying to find and cover up sprays they left while they do the same to you!

Overwatch does have a couple of problems that are present. For the most part, they are easy to ignore, but they’re still there. The first is that the game contains micro-transactions. If you like, you can spend about one dollar (USD) for a loot crate (which gets cheaper the more you buy). This is the same reward you get for leveling. Again, crates only contain cosmetic items. It’s not invasive; there aren’t ads for them all over them game. They don’t boost your ability to play the game, but they are still there. In this $40 game title there are still micro-transactions, and it makes me a little sick to think about. But what else can we expect from Blizzard? They sure do love their money. The other problem (which is less of a major issue and more of an annoyance) is with some character balancing. Right now turrets are a huge deal in the game. They have the ability to wipe out a team without much effort. The worst of this phenomenon is from “Bastion”, a robot who can transform into a powerful turret whenever he wants. He can also self-heal. I’m not saying Bastion needs to be nerfed, or that nobody should play him. It’s just that when Blizzard‘s motto behind Overwatch is that everything should be fun, it’s not that fun getting mowed down from 100% health to zero in less than a second. Bad Bastion players are easy to deal with, and certain heroes do it a lot better. But Bastion is easy to get good at and even a novice player can still get the “Play-of-the-Game” fairly easily. Without a dedicated anti-turret class (like there is in TF2), it can definitely get a little overwhelming. We’ll see as time goes on how everyone deals with this. Whether Blizzard introduces an “Anti-Bastion” class, or players simply find good strategies against him, I definitely believe that the game already has ways to deal with it, and it’ll just take some time to find the right combinations.Overwatch 2016-05-30 15-30-58-45

Overwatch let’s you be so creative; it doesn’t try to narrow down anyone’s play style. If you want to try and pull off a crazy thing that just occurred to you, go ahead. I think a factor that really adds to this creativity is the map layouts. There are so many back alleys and rooftops to access. It’s crazy trying to find all the different directions you can go, and figuring out which characters can fit to what spots. Certain heroes like “Widowmaker” (a sniper) and “Genji” (a ninja), can traverse the map differently than others. With things like grappling hooks and wall climbing, they can get onto rooftops that no one else can. However I’ve seen all sorts of characters come up with inventive ways to get to those positions. Once they do, the enemy isn’t expecting it so they’re able to get the drop on ’em. Overwatch does very little to hinder you. It gives you a set of tools and lets you go crazy. While other games are trying desperately to rein in players and limit them, it’s absolutely a pleasure to see a game that doesn’t. This title has done so much to capture my heart and give me a new FPS to obsess over(watch).

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-Jordan Kamm-

Haven Review: Battleborn

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Battleborn is the new team-based hero shooter from Gearbox. The first thing I really noticed about the game, and what has stuck with me throughout my playing experience is that it’s a lot slower than I thought it was going to be; both in game play and waiting. Honestly, in the week after its launch, the queue for games has become a lot shorter.

Battleborn takes heavy inspiration from the MOBA genre much more than it does a standard FPS. I don’t play MOBAs very often. They tend not to interest me, and when I do play it’s with some friends already invested in the genre. However, Battleborn is different. When I started playing I didn’t understand some of the key ideas surrounding the gameplay. Things like “Don’t rush in”, Take your time” and “Be precise”. Doing what I do in other FPS titles, I completely disregarded these fundamentals and got horribly destroyed…again and again. At first I didn’t like Battleborn at all and kept trying to find excuses other than “I’m just bad at it”. I didn’t seem to even be having that much fun with it, but I kept wanting to try again and see if I could get a little bit better than before; try learn how this game actually worked, and what I was doing wrong. The more I played the more I found myself enjoying it. I haven’t really gotten any good at the game, but I’m at the point where I’m “usually” not the worst person on my team. When I try not to go for kills and just stick to the aforementioned key ideas, I tend to do alright and honestly have a bit more fun with the game.20160513162144_1

As well as these over all fundamentals, it’s taken me some time to learn the fundamentals. There are over 20 characters to choose from, however only 5 of them are playable from the start. At first I wanted to play a heavy damage dealer. I was wanting Battleborn to be more of a straightforward FPS, so I tried to play the characters who I thought fit that (or ones who had giant swords, because giant swords are pretty cool, too). I was far too aggressive with these characters; running into enemies only to get killed and deal no damage. Recently the characters that I excel in are the more support ones. I tend not to like playing support, but it forces me to be less aggressive. I stay back with my team. I help out and not just suck and die. Even going back to the offensive characters, I do a little better because of what I learned playing support.

One thing that happened to me many times starting out, and something I still think is a huge problem with this game is the level system (not the overall progression system, I’ll get to that later). With each level you get, you can choose one of two options to specialize your character a little bit, and tune them more to your style of play. That’s all fine. The problem is that the primary way you level up is by getting kills. 20160520141416_1If you aren’t getting kills you aren’t leveling. Eventually you’ll be so under-leveled that you practically can’t do anything. I’ve quit half way through games because everyone else was three or four levels above me…I could barely do any damage. Luckily, a way to alleviate this a little is that support characters will level if they are supporting and doing other things to help your team, like building various structures or fighting the little minions. This will give you some points to level up, but doing this is nowhere near as fast as getting kills. If you’re playing on the capture point map, rather than the MOBA map, there are virtually no minions to find and kill. This is a frustration I’ve had with most of the MOBA’s I’ve played, and Battleborn is definitely no exception.

When you complete a match, win or lose, you get experience points for both your “command level”, as well as for your particular character type. These are completely different from the in-match leveling system. The command level is your rank as a player. You get different stuff for reaching higher levels, including character unlocks and new items for your loadouts. When leveling up the character, this will unlock new options to choose in your “helix.” These are the choices you can make for each in-match level up. Unlocking these allows you to specialize your character even more. The more you play with a particular character, the more you’ll learn exactly how you like to play with them. These “helix” unlocks allow you to do just that. In order to unlock new characters you can do one of two things: You can either reach the “command” rank needed (the earliest hero will unlock at rank 10) or you can complete their challenge. Either way, it’s nice to see you can unlock all the characters through game play and there are no micro-transactions. The challenges can be anything from “win a certain amount of games” to “play as a certain faction for so many games”. You can also unlock a handful of characters through the “story mode”.20160520144445_1

The story mode is such a weird inclusion to this game. I really like the idea of it, but at the same time don’t think it’s that great. Probably the weakest part of Battleborn, the story mode is a weird combination of the multi-player game play mixed with Borderlands. It’s like Gearbox doesn’t know how to do much else. It’s “Border-Lite”, if you will. Each story mission gives you a short level to get through, and then finishes with some sort of boss. There’s really not much to them, other than the ability to unlock new characters. This may not always work out the way you want. If you decide to play a story mission, it works much the same way as multiplayer. You are put into a group and then everyone votes on which mission to play. You’re given three choices, so you better hope the one you want is among those (then hope that the others also vote for the one you want). The matchmaking for the story modes is all over the place. There isn’t any sense of grouping based on a common level. So one of two things tends to happen: You get grouped with someone way over-leveled and blow through the mission in about 10 minutes, or everyone but you is brand new to the game and you can’t complete the first half without using up all your extra lives. The stories themselves tend not to be too interesting. They consist of re-hashed Borderlands jokes, or some sort of vague rescue mission; possibly both.20160520142232_1

Battleborn is an interesting experience that I’ve had many mixed feelings about. However, the more I played it the more I’ve come to understand and enjoy it. It may not be exactly what I want in an FPS, but learning through the systems and practicing more and more has definitely made me appreciate it. At the very least it’s kept me driven to play more. It hooked me, even if at first I didn’t necessarily like being hooked.

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Disclaimer: We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

-Jordan Kamm-