Hello! My name is Connor. I’m from the UK and gaming has been a massive part of my life since I was around 4 years old. I collect most things related to gaming, having a huge variety of games, classic consoles, figures and replicas (my Epic Weapons Frostmourne being perhaps my most prized of the lot). I love creative writing, be it writing reviews or my own short stories, and I also enjoy Viking battle re-enactment and blacksmithing. My favourite video games of all time include but are not limited to: Metroid Prime, Demon's Souls, Legacy of Kain: Defiance and DOTA 2.
Unsuspecting fans found out on the 10th of December that instead of going from 6.88 to 6.89, Valve are updating DOTA 2 straight to version 7.00 – a first in almost 12 years.
Version 7.00 brings a plethora of changes to the world of DOTA, including massive map changes, new aghanims upgrades, new neutral camps, a new HUD, skill trees, Monkey King (and an arcana for him) and much, much more. The update is to go live on main servers sometime today, but if you are impatient (like myself) it is available to check out on the test client.
Talent trees add variety to the playstyles of every hero now, similar to the talent mechanic in Heroes of the Storm. This means that, for example, you can specialise your character to be more tanky, or to do more damage depending on what the game requires. The talent trees add some very fun build possibilities such as octarine core Lycan (his ultimate would only have a down-time of 3 seconds with the correct talents) and carry Winter Wyvern. You gain a point for your skill tree at levels 10, 15, 20 and 25.
Three heroes have had new models: Slardar, Viper and Enigma. Enigma getting a remodel instead of Jakiro however is rather puzzling.
New aghanims upgrades
BOUNTY HUNTER – Allows Shuriken Toss to bounce twice on each hero.
CHAOS KNIGHT – Reduces cooldown of Phantasm by 20 seconds and allows Phantasm to be cast on an allied hero.
CRYSTAL MAIDEN (REWORKED) – Now applies Frost Bite to any unit that has been standing in the Freezing Field for over 2.5 seconds. An enemy can only be affected once.
PHANTOM LANCER – Spirit Lance now to bounces to nearby enemies up to 5 times.
RIKI – Increases ultimate duration by 4 seconds. Allows you to target an allied hero, hiding inside them for the duration.
SKYWRATH MAGE (REWORKED) – Anytime you cast an ability, a different random nearby target also has the ability cast on them.
SLARK – Reduces ultimate cooldown from 60 to 30 and causes Shadow Dance active to be a 325 AoE, hiding allied heroes underneath it.
SNIPER – Assassinate is now a ground targeted spell with 400 AoE. Upon cast, it locks onto the targets in the area, and after the channel period launches a 2.8x critical strike and procs headshot on the player-controlled units in the AoE.
ZEUS (REWORKED) – Grants you the Nimbus ability. Creates a storm cloud anywhere on the map that casts Lightning Bolt automatically on the closest enemy within 500 AoE once every 2.5 seconds. Clouds last 50 seconds. Cooldown: 50, Mana cost: 275.
You can no longer manually put skill points into stats.
Roshan has been moved to be near where the top run is.
There are now three extra inventory slots known as backpack slots. They can be used to hold extra items such as recipes however items cannot be activated while in these slots.
Illusions now give a gold and xp bounty when killed.
Illusion damage penalty against structures increased from 30% to 50%.
Attack speed bonuses now apply to illusions.
Necrophos has a new ability called ‘Ghost Shroud’. Turns Necrophos ethereal, increasing the magic damage he takes but also increasing the regeneration he receives. He slows nearby enemies while in this form.
Root now disables the following movement spells: Burrow Strike, Waveform, Blink Strike, Phantom Strike, Reality Rift, Pounce, Skewer, Ball Lightning, Timber Chain, Rolling Boulder, Icarus Dive, Leap, Poof, and Time Walk.
New structures called ‘Shrines’ have been added. When activated they regenerate the mana and health of nearby allied units.
New Ancient neutral camp including 2 Prowler Acolytes and 1 Prowler Shaman.
At first glance, some of the changes in this update seem insanely overpowered, such as a 25 second cooldown Reaper’s Scythe for Necrophos, or a 10 second cooldown Sunder for Terrorblade, but it seems that this patch is balancing itself by making everything broken in its own way, because if everything is overpowered, then nothing is overpowered. This should result in a more unpredictable and fun gameplay environment.
More detailed information about this colossal update can be found on the official update page here.
MOBAs are generally portrayed as difficult and unforgiving to new players, with steep learning curves and a large array of items to equip your character with in-game. We’ll look at the major titles and see how they compare on learning curves, variety, and playstyles.
The ‘Multiplayer Online Battle Arena’ genre is one that began with the release of a Warcraft 3 mod titled Defense of the Ancients. Since then, many other games have been released that all follow the same, addictive formula as the original DotA, but with their own unique twists. Below I will briefly go through some of the most popular MOBAs, and explain their pros and cons so that you know which one is the right fit for you if you’re wanting to get your feet wet in the genre.
DOTA 2 is the successor to the grandfather of all MOBAs, Defense of the Ancients, and as such retains the steep learning curve and tactical depth that made the game so popular. With a current roster of 112 heroes (with another one thought to be released this December) the game simply overflows with possibilities and potential team combinations. You’ll never have the same match twice.
Each individual hero has a very distinct playstyle from any other hero, so you’ll always find the right one that suits you. This all sounds great, except I wasn’t just casually saying that this game had a steep learning curve for the sake of it. DOTA 2 takes hundreds of hours to learn the basics, and thousands of hours just to play to a decent level, as each character’s individual spell mechanics must be learnt just to stand a chance at being able to deal with them in a game. Everything has a counter, either by an item or hero ability, such as the Monkey King Bar allowing you to hit units with high evasion, or the Orchid Malevolence that allows you to temporarily prevent the spellcasting of slippery foes such as Storm Spirit.
DOTA 2’s community however, has a lot to be desired. A large amount of players do not tolerate mistakes, making learning to play a nightmare (trust me, I’ve been through it). There is also a large amount of toxicity, but that is to be expected with such a competitive game. This was never really an issue for me, as for the several years that I’ve played DOTA 2, it’s always been with friends. This is hands-down the most rewarding and satisfying MOBA out there, but a large time investment is required before you can play it to a decent level, and that should be known before you start playing. One particular moment that got me all giddy when I started playing was getting an ULTRA KILL as Anti-Mage with Mana Void, which can be seen below.
DOTA 2 is a very hard game to start with, but I started with DOTA 2, and I can say that it was worth it. There is also arcade mode which is crammed full of custom game modes made by the community.
LEAGUE OF LEGENDS
League of Legends is somewhat similar to DotA, albeit much more simplified. There are also a few different game modes such as ARAM (all-random-all-mid) and URF (ultra-rapid-fire) to keep the gameplay varied. There is no creep denying and item builds are a lot more rigid. Unlike DOTA 2,League of Legends is a lot easier for players new to the genre to pick up and learn.
League contains more heroes than DOTA 2, currently sitting at a roster size of 133. The larger roster size means more diversity in characters, however, due to League’s exclusion of unfair mechanics and an emphasis on counterplay, the characters feel diluted and weak. Characters just don’t feel as powerful as they do in DOTA 2, which may be a turn off for some players. League can still have some very fun moments though, such as securing a Pentakill.
Sadly, the simplicity of this game heavily diminishes the feeling of accomplishment, making multi-kills feel considerably less satisfying than in the other games on this list. In addition, because of the reduced power of individual characters, ‘Pentas’ happen much less frequently than in DOTA 2. It’s just a lot more difficult for one player to really take over a game like you can in the other MOBA’s on this list.
On the other hand, League is very forgiving to new players. Inhibitors respawn after a delay and the recall feature allows you to return to the fountain quickly instead of walking back to it. You are also required to play against bots until your profile is a certain level, so that you learn the basics before playing PvP. This is a good starting point for learning the basics of MOBA’s as the skills you learn are transferrable. My biggest issue with League is that it hands-down has the most toxic, aggressive player base I have ever personally encountered in any MOBA so far, but don’t let that dissuade you, as there is a mute functionality and you can always play with friends. Another negative point is that you have to pay for new characters, or grind for them and buy them with the in-game currency. This limits possibilities and certain counterpicks, and is extremely frustrating.
HEROES OF NEWERTH
Heroes of Newerth is a game that borrows heavily from the original DotA, but has carved a different path that gives it a unique identity. HoN is gritty and dark in its visual style, with more emphasis on gruesome creatures and gore than any other title on this list. It also has a strange nostalgic appeal to it, as it looks similar in graphical design to Warcraft 3. There are also several built in weather effects to choose from.
This game is very similar to DotA, meaning it is also quite difficult to learn. Pace is also faster in HoN and it is easy to lose track of what is happening in teamfights, resulting in unnecessary deaths that can lead to large amounts of frustration. Heroes of Newerth has a current roster size of 132, but unlike League, they all have the same depth and impact as DotA characters, so they don’t feel as weak as the characters in League.
I wouldn’t recommend this game as a starting point as it can be difficult to know what is happening due to the speed of the game, but if you have already played DOTA 2 or League of Legends then I’d say you should give it a try.
Paragon is a beautiful, third-person MOBA created by Epic Games (creators of Gears of War and the Unreal series) and built using the Unreal Engine. The graphics are staggering, which most players will love, but the gameplay is also very addictive. Paragon is one of the easiest MOBA’s listed here to pick up, but it also has a large amount of depth due to unique ability interactions and an advanced deck-building system.
The deck-building adds so many possibilities for customisation. You can build your character exactly how you want; be it a tank, damage dealer or a mixture of both. There is a basic tutorial in Paragon that teaches some basics such as last hitting and destroying towers. Much like in League of Legends, you are required to play against bots until you level up your profile, preventing new players from playing PvP instantly. Paragon also has a recall feature to return to the fountain quickly like in League.
There is also individual character progression outside of matches that adds a greater goal than just winning, motivating you to play more to level up and earn the esteemed master skin at character rank 10.
Paragon is a very good starting point for players new to the genre, while also being thoroughly enjoyable for MOBA veterans such as myself.
Smite, much like Paragon is a third-person MOBA that features Gods from various cultures as playable characters, which is a pretty cool thing in itself. Smite is a fairly simple game to pick up due to the tutorial and the option for the game to auto-level your abilities and auto-buy items, so you can focus more on your God and the map rather than having to sift through lines of item descriptions. Taking the time to learn what all items do however will give you a tactical advantage in the long-term.
There is also a recall feature like in League of Legends and Paragon, making returning to heal at the fountain faster and less punishing. The game is free-to-play, but to unlock all of the Gods you must either buy them with in-game currency, or purchase the ‘Ultimate God Pack’ to unlock all present and future Gods.
Smite has several game modes to allow for greater replayability, such as the traditional DotA style conquest mode, a 5v5 deathmatch arena mode, an ARAM mode, a 3v3 one lane mode, a 4v4 two lane mode and a daily mode that changes every 24 hours.
Which one should i play?
If you have never played a MOBA before and want to see what it’s all about, League of Legends and Smite are very good starting points, with easy to pick up mechanics, tutorials and fountain recalling. Which one to play just depends on if you prefer a third-person or top-down view. Smite is also available on the PS4 and Xbox One if you don’t own a gaming PC.
If you want to try out a MOBA and also like card collecting games such as Hearthstone, then you should try Paragon, as the card system in place is very interesting and allows for in-depth customisation of your character via the deck-builder. You can also download Paragon on the PS4.
For those who want a long-term challenge and are willing to do a lot of learning outside of the game by watching pro replays and reading up on various things, DOTA 2 and Heroes of Newerth are the games for you, with the latter being for players who want a faster paced experience.
Or you could just play the one with the coolest looking characters.
Haydee Interactive’s debut title is a controversial one due to the questionable design choice of the protaganist. The question is: Is Haydee a good game? Or is Haydee Interactive just using sex appeal as a marketing scheme?
Haydee is a difficult game. A very difficult game actually. The game lacks any hand-holding mechanics and the tutorial is bare-bones, leaving most players solving puzzles and getting through rooms using trial-and-error, resulting in a very large number of deaths. After your first death, you are rewarded with the ‘Welcome to… Haydee!’ achievement; an unpleasant augury of what lies ahead.
Haydee is a third-person over-the-shoulder puzzle shooter game, set within a large complex consisting of 160 rooms. It is your mission to reach the end, but due to complete lack of a plot you aren’t sure why, which is annoying but doesn’t take away from the core experience. The labyrinth is divided into 6 sections, with each one being colour-coded to indicate the main obstacle of said zone, such as the blue zone being filled with water. Almost every one of these rooms contains a puzzle and/or various platforming sections, and in true Metroid style, some rooms require you to backtrack to them later with the necessary upgrades to complete them.
Platforming in Haydee is reminiscent of the old Tomb Raider titles, whereas the combat mechanics are very similar to that of Resident Evil 4. Both feel good and responsive, however fall damage is not to be underestimated in this game, potentially doing large chunks of damage even when falling from a seemingly small height. Robots also dish out ludicrous amounts of damage, and coupled with the limited med kits and saves (which are a consumable item that you find), you’ll have a hard time surviving for long, even on ‘softcore’ difficulty. The limited number of saves, even though it harks back to Resident Evil, will infuriate many players, as it is very easy to lose hours of progress because of one tiny mistake. Oh and by the way, there is no map, so you will get lost.
Visuals and character design
Haydee’s visual style is in the same vein as that of Portal, with its sterile white rooms and futuristic technology resembling what can be found within the Aperture Science facility. The graphics on max setting are very good, but due to the highly stylised nature of the game’s setting you won’t see anything that’s truly breathtaking. Sleek is perhaps the best way to describe the appearance of this game, with its sharp edges and glossy colours. Lighting in Haydee is absolutely stunning. Shadows look damn near-perfect and the glowing red eyes of the robots are menacing and ominous, especially in dark areas.
Now to address the elephant in the room — the character design. Yes, the main character is overly sexualised considering the setting of the game, but it only takes away from the core experience if you let it. Nevertheless, I have narrowed the reasons for this design choice down to four possibilities:
The highly feminine character juxtaposes the sterile and dangerous surroundings effectively.
A tongue-in-cheek poke at social justice warriors.
A protest. There is no shame in the female form.
A sexy lady would sell the game better.
No one except the developers know exactly why they designed the character in such a way, but if it was number four I’d be highly disappointed. There is not yet an option to change the main character’s appearance without mods, which is a shame as it may lead people to ignore Haydee, or feel uncomfortable playing it around others.
The soundtrack in Haydee changes from area to area, and while being repetitive, I never got bored or irritated with it. It was rather enjoyable actually and went very well with the visual aspect of the game. The sound effects are decent and sound clean, but the weapons don’t have much of a BANG to them. They sound underwhelming and weak, making them not very satisfying to use. Robots sound good, with the lighter robots making cool slicing noises when they attack, and the heavier ones bludgeon you with a heavy thunk. The various clicking noises when pressing buttons and equipping items I found very appealing, in the same way as popping bubble-wrap is.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing this game. There was such an immense sense of gratification upon completing of a really hard area that you just can’t get with many other modern games. The only other game that gave such a feeling of accomplishment in recent memory for me was Bloodborne, so maybe if you’re a fan of the difficulty of the Souls games you might enjoy Haydee. I can whole-heartedly recommend this game to fans of Metroidvanias or puzzle games, but even if not, it’s at least worth checking out — if you can get past the character design.
Sean Murray and Hello Games takes one giant leap into the world of space exploration, with potentially the most ambitious and hyped-up video game to date. The question is, does it live up to the hype?
No Man’s Sky. Every self-proclaimed gamer should be very familiar with this title. Famous for the colossal hype that has been built up since its 2013 reveal, and for the disgruntled reactions of thousands of gamers post release, the game has been getting a lot of negative attention recently. Is this because the game itself is bad? Or is it because it didn’t live up to the impossible standards that every gamer had set after letting their imaginations run wild? There is some truth to both of these points, yet the game might not be as terrible as people are making it out to be.
The gameplay in No Man’s Sky revolves mainly around resource collecting and heading towards your choice of goal; the path of the Atlas or the journey to the galactic centre. No matter which you choose, the gameplay remains very similar sadly, revolving around a constant grind for materials to craft warp cells so that you can move on to the next star… then the next star… and another one… and well, this is No Man’s Sky in a nutshell. You can set yourself other goals of course such as scanning 100% of the organisms on a planet, but you would probably get bored of doing this after only a few planets.
Flying your starship in open space is enjoyable, except for when you encounter space pirates. The ship rotates slowly as if flying through treacle, making combat difficult and almost always resulting in your death. On a planet, flight feels restricted and bugged, like it’s using a sort of pseudo-autopilot that can’t make up its mind, sometimes erratically shooting you up into the atmosphere again for no apparent reason. Like all things in the game, flight becomes boring and feels like a chore after a while, bringing us to the game’s biggest weakness – longevity. The game struggles to offer anything new and interesting to keep you entertained after the first few hours, with the average users experience going something like this:
Hours 0-2: Your jaw drops. Everything is new and beautiful. You hastily explore every nook and cranny of your first few planets; your curiosity insatiable.
Hours 2-5: You’re more used to the freedom that the game offers now, and you start to focus on the upgrading your ship and crafting warp cells. You start skipping a few planets.
Hours 5-10: You only land on one planet per star now, you start to notice similarities in them. The voice of your personal assistant is beginning to irritate you.
Hours 10-15: A black hole broke your warp drive for the sixth time. Back to farming minerals… again. The odious voice of that vile assistant repeats, “Life support low” while your life support sits at 75%. Your anger grows.
Hours 15-20: Your warp drive broke again and you need 1000 more Iridium to fix it. You smash your head against your keyboard.
Constant, niggling issues take away from the core experience of the game, such as the aforementioned personal assistant and the extremely irritating lack of inventory space. Gamers that have been following the progress of No Man’s Sky for a while will also notice that features Sean Murray promised are missing, such as multiplayer, warring factions, faction reputation, derelict ships, landing on asteroids, large-scale space combat, planetary physics and the list goes on and on.
No Man’s Sky’s visual style is unique in the fact that you either love it, or you hate it. Certainly the chalky pale greens and pastel reds aren’t for everyone, but you can’t have a game of this size made in CryEngine can you? Jokes aside, the game is rather nice to look at — if you get a nice looking planet that is. My luck was rather awful and 9/10 of the planets I visited were desolate wastes but that doesn’t mean that they all are. Some are lush planets with fields of verdant vegetation, and some are ocean planets with little land. When you find one of the aforementioned planets, expect to fill your hard drive with screenshots as they are truly a wondrous sight to behold.
On the other hand, one major issue seems to exist within the game. Ore veins that have already been mined are rendered in as if they haven’t been mined from a distance, just to disappear again when you get closer, resulting in some unnecessary frustration and confusion. The way that the planet surfaces render in is also rather ugly at times, this is accentuated when activating beacon waypoints.
Quaint and dithery tones accompany the gameplay of No Man’s Sky, and are rather pleasant actually. Hello Games chose wisely to source their ‘Music for an Infinite Universe’ from British math rock band 65daysofstatic, as it complimented the games atmosphere well. The soundtrack also seamlessly changes depending on what is happening in the game. Ambient sound effects such as wind and rain enhance the realism and immersion while playing the game, making the shelters and outposts feel all the more cosey in harsh weather conditions.
Deserving of the hate?
No Man’s Sky is a candle in the wind; it’s a fun game at first, but the fun doesn’t last for long because you run out of things to do. It does show promise, but the game feels incomplete. It’s easy to understand why the fans are so annoyed, but Hello Games isn’t a triple-A studio. It’s just a typical case of the hype being so much that the game could never achieve what fans expected. Perhaps, with many updates, the game could become the game that everyone hoped it would.