REVIEW: Watch_Dogs

wd

The next generation defining game is finally upon us.  First announced at E3 2012, Watch_Dogs demonstrated exactly what we wanted to see from the next generation of consoles, wowed audiences and became Ubisoft’s new hot property IP.  No with it finally in our hands, has it lived up to expectation?

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Modding Skyrim Part 1

Work

Real life work commitments have kept me from playing anything in the last few months save from 90 hours of Bravely Default which still remains unfinished and Lightning Returns, however, this week I must have pumped some considerable time into modding Skyrim and tweaking its system files.  I thought I would share the results and briefly run through what it is I have done to get it looking this good.

Skyrim

I’ve recently rebuilt a gaming PC so first off I’ll drop the specs just so you can gauge what I’ve done, with your own rigs, and maybe tone it down a bit / up a bit give or take.

  • Intel I7 4770k 3.5ghz
  • MSI Radeon R9 290x Gaming Edition
  • 16Gb DDR 3 2133mhz

When you come to start looking at mods and tweaks the first thing that will ultimately come up from any google search relating to this is the nexus mod manager and the nexus modding community: http://www.nexusmods.com/

Simply put, this is one of, if not the best modding sites for Skyrim.  Everything is in order, rated, comes with its own download manager/mod installer/launcher and makes the whole modding experience pretty smooth and requires no additional technical knowledge to get everything up and running.

So first, Nexus & the mods I am using:

The program itself is only in beta and crashes on me frequently but that still doesn’t stop it from being the best.  Crashes have never resulted in any data loss or mod corruption, only 30 seconds of wasted time waiting for it to re-open.  When you first install it the program will setup your mod folder where you will need to be saving all of your mods or alternatively you can make you own one and have the program read from there, whatever tickles your fancy.

The screenshot shows what I currently have installed

Mods

 A Matter of Timehttp://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/44091/?

This mod will give you an in game clock letting you know what time of day it is.  That’s essentially it.  If you’ve been in a dungeon a while and you’re wondering whether or not you’ll be emerging in darkness or day light then this mod is going to let you know.  This is almost untaxing of any computer so installing this won’t bring your system to a crawl.

A Matter Of Time

 A Quality World Maphttp://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/4929/?

This mod enhances the visual appearance of the standard world map and will show you where the main roads are.

Map

Audio Overhaul For Skyrim 2http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/43773/?

Very difficult to take a screenshot of this one however this mod seems to enhance, add or replace many of the sounds in the game with better quality or more appropriate versions.  I’ve not played the original enough to gauge whether or not this makes any significant difference but if modders have deemed it necessary to “Overhaul” the sounds of Skyrim, who am I to argue with their work?

Bandolier Bags & Pouches: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/16438/?

This mod enables you to do more with hides you skin from animals and makes it worth doing a spot of hunting any chance you get.  Essentially this is a very similar mechanic to that found in Farcry 3, skin some animals, turn their leather into pouches.  The pouches you craft can add, 25/50/75 extra points worth of carry capacity and can be customised in a variety of greys, up to 3 can be equipped and are visible on your character in 3rd person.

Bads02Bags01

 

Book Covers: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/35399/?

Essentially pointless but hey, if you’re wanting the exterior to look nice you might as well make the interior nice as well.

Books

Ceramic Style Potions / Poisonshttp://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/4259/?

Very similar to the book covers, makes potions and poison pots that little bit more shiny.

Potions

Cloaks of Skyrimhttp://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/12092/

A couple of the screenshots above show the cloaks.  These can come in a variety of colours and display the emblems of different factions.  Cloaks can be enchanted like any other item and can be equipped in addition to the usual equips although it doesn’t add anything to your armour value.  If you are using this mod in conjunction with Frostfall which I will talk about later, cloaks provide you additional protection from the environment and make you look a bit like Ned Stark.

Enhanced Distant Terrain: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/1598/?

Pretty straight forward – allows you to see further into the distance

Enhanced Night Skyrimhttp://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/85/?

I can’t remember what the old skies looked like but this gives you a lot more to gaze at.  What goes on in the sky will change and depending on what is happening way above you, may give you a red/green hue on the scenery around you.  Unfortunately for this screenshot I was only treated to a collection of stars.

Stars

Frostfall – Hypothermia Camping Survival:

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/11163/?

This is one of the best mods I have installed.  Wind rain or shine this mod will track whether or not you are wet, cold, hot and affect your character’s performance, vision, health, stamina accordingly.  To counteract this, the mod comes with its own built in Ray Mears crafting simulator which will allow you to collect firewood, ruined books, torches, build campfires, different tents, walking sticks etc.  This mod will make climbing mountains in the cold feel like a real trek and make you think twice about running out in the rain or jumping off a waterfall.  The mod will also take into account what armour you are wearing.  A complete set of fur armour will offer you the best protection from the elements but by the same token won’t offer you a great deal of defense if you are attacked by a bear.

FXAA Injector: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/131/?

This mod will enhance the overall sharpness of the onscreen visuals, better lighting and shaders.

Enhanced Terrain: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/29782/?

Enhanced terrain makes the overall look of the outside world that little bit more real and sharpens up some of the objects in the distance

Immersive Armours & Weapons & Cretures:

 http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/19733/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/27644/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/24913/?

I would recommend clicking the links for these two mods as I’ve not come across anything like what is shown in their screenshots yet but essentially, the immervise series makes old weapon and armour types look new and adds a range of additional weaponry and armour types as well.  Immersive creatures will add additional enemies to the world, dictate when and how they spawn and also modify their difficulty.  Some of them are right bastards early on.

Lush Trees & Grass: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/27644/?

The lush trees and grass mod is exactly that, adds more leaves to the trees and blades to the grass. This is a matter of taste though.  While the trees in your immediate surroundings do indeed look lush, the game itself struggles to maintain this level of detail when looking over long distances the lush trees resemble levels from Fez.

Climates of Tamriel: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/17802/?

Adds additional weather systems, storms, sounds and visuals to all areas of Skyrim.

Pure Waters / Pure Weather:

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/1111/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/52423/?

Skyrim

Pure water and weather again enhance visuals and immersion.  The above screenshot shows just what it can do with water.

Real Vision ENB: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/30936/?

If you’re wanting to improve your Skyrim experience by improving the visuals then you are going to want this mod.  Screenshots won’t do it justice.  Visit the link and watch the videos.

Real Ice & Snow: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/13466/?

Another “Ronseal” mod that enhances ice and snow effects.

Flora & Fauna Overhaul: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/141/?

This is my mod of choice when beautifying the outside world.  I prefer the way the trees look in this mod over lush trees and grass due to the distance factor mentioned above.

Skyrim HD: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/607/?

Download all of these.  This will improve every texture in the game for all areas to 2k resolutions.

 SkyUI: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/3863/?

UI

The normal UI of Skyrim is relatively unintuitive and cumbersome, this mod replaces that and makes everything viewable in a user friendly menu.  If you really enjoyed how the originally UI got things done then give this one a miss as it really is only down to a matter of preference

Sounds of Skyrim, Dungeons & Wilds:

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/8601/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/10886/?

The sounds of collection adds additional sound effects when you’re wandering through the relevant areas.  Nice touch.

Static Mesh: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/8655/?

smm

The screenshot the author of this mod uses sums it up perfectly.

 Sword Of The Ancient Tongue: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/52700/?

Now I’m assuming that this mod adds an awesome looking sword, however, as I am still yet to to craft it, I have no idea how good it is.

Unofficial xxxxxxxx Patch:

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/52700/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/23491/?

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/31083/?

Fixes a number of bugs that Bethesda are yet to address

Wearable Lanterns: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/17416/?

Bit dark at night?  This mod allows you to attach lanterns that burn oil, which can be bought from shops, or, collect the glowing bugs and stuff them in a jar!  Whatever takes your fancy.

Winter Is Coming: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/13486/?

Adds a number of additional wearable armour types to make your trip through Skyrim a tad warmer

Xenius Character Enhancement: http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/2356/?

Makes faces more face like.  Not that you view your own too often but everyone else looks a tad better because of it.

 

That’s it for the complete run down of mods I have installed although that’s not all you can do to make Skyrim that little bit better.  My next post will concentrate on the editing of the system files, again, to improve system stability, frame rates and further graphical enhancements you can squeeze out of notepad.exe.

Cheers

Spectacularly Underwhelming Start To The Year

12-honest-questions-to-kick-start-new-year

 

Looking at my shelf and the games I’ve sunk some serious cash into this year, only two have actually been worth it – Ni No Kuni.  Regardless of whether or not you like the art style, genre, Ghibli or Level 5, I find it hard to believe there is a soul on this planet that will call it a bad game.  It’s solid.  Something that most other AAA titles have been missing this Q1.

As of today, this year I have purchased:

  • Tomb Raider
  • Metal Gear Rising
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Atelier Ayesha
  • Hyper Dimension Neptunia
  • Ni No Kuni
  • Anarchy Reigns
  • Devil Survivor Overclocked

At the moment, Kuni and Overclocked top the list – Atelier and Hyper are still sealed.  The rest I have found to be just void of any real direction and ideas.

Tomb Raider – the reboot.  Is not really a reboot.  A reboot would suggest going back to the roots of a franchise and nailing down what it is that makes Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider.  Instead we have a genre switch, nailing down exactly why Tomb Raider isn’t Uncharted.

Metal Gear Rising – a pet project gone awry then rescued by Vanquish and Bayonetta developer Platinum Games.  Ninja combat turned hack and slash free for all slapped into the stealth em up Metal Gear universe stitched up at the sides until it was deemed worthy enough to plop on to a disk and sold for a premium.

Bioshock Infinite – 3rd in the series of the dingy turned colourful FPS with bad FPS controls and ability juggling system.  Wonky AI and repetitive man bludgeoning coated with a splash of good writing holding it all together, if, you can stomach the gameplay.

Anarchy Reigns – Another Platinum Games venture, released two years after it was announced and after everyone who cared had either imported it or alternatively stopped caring.

Ni No Kuni – A beautiful example of a well worked, presented and paced time sponge.  Loveable characters, slightly annoying at times combat but on the whole a great experience that anyone who enjoys games, Ghibli or RPGs should be able to find a home with.

Devil Survivor Overclocked – Out in the US however due to region locking on the 3DS I was unable to play this until Ghostlight released it last week.  I’ve played the original on the DS but going into it again with fresh eyes and a better understanding of the game mechanics, full voice acting and extra content, I’m finding this equally as rewarding as Persona 4 Golden in the same way I played Persona 4 before it.

What’s next?

Well – with the announcement of Etrian Odyssey coming over here, boxed retail n all I’ll probably look to picking up the ones in between so that I’m not wondering what the hell is going on.  In addition – Fire Emblem is out this month which I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about and Persona 4 Arena finally has a release date of May 10th.  Main stream wise I’m looking forward to The Last Of Us which I’m hoping will impress.  Trailer wise and from what I’ve seen so far it’s looking pretty good, but then again I thought the same about Tomb Raider and Bioshock.

I guess we’ll see

Review Scores & Bioshock Infinite

10star

The last two major triple A releases, Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite, have both received heaped praise from pretty much every media source on the planet, and yet there seem to be an isolated few of us, stranded and forgotten, who seem to disagree.  As with any release you get the people who love the game, hate the game and simply do not care.  Games that score a 10 would indicate to me that all three of these categories are catered for, and that universally whoever you spoke to would agree the same.

With that in mind, I’d like to just state that, I lovED Tomb Raider up until the most recent entry, and that now after three Bioshock games, none of which I have enjoyed enough to finish, all still fail to capture my imagination and I find them to be dare I say it? Boring.

Now I can’t be the only one in the Bioshock boat, yet, with all the magical 10/10 reviews floating around I thought maybe this would be the one that finally turned the tide.  Not a chance.

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REVIEW: Tomb Raider

tomb_raider_logo_by_lubeans2011-d544tdk

Lara Croft is back, younger then ever and slightly resembling Cheryl Cole.  The new Tomb Raider endeavors to tell the story of how our iconic explorer came to be the woman we have known and loved over the past 16 odd years.

Review scores have been overwhelmingly positive about the much touted reboot of the franchise which is a shame because I’m about to piss on that parade because quite frankly I see very little to merit.

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OPINION: Metal Gear Rising

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Having Problems With Zavvi?

Zavvi Logo

 

It would seem a fair few of us are experiencing heart ache with our pre orders of Ni No Kuni with Zavvi as many of us, to our surprise, found “Payment Problem” crop up a number of times in our e mail inbox today.

Not wanting to emulate the scenario North America is facing and also not wanting to tarnish the great work that the guys over at Namco Bandai have accomplished in bringing us this masterpiece as they are in no way to blame, I don’t want to sully the launch of Ni No Kuni for all those fortunate to receive their order on time.

For all those affected I think it’s appropriate to place everyone in one location and approach Zavvi for an explanation sensibly.  After all, it could, and I hope, just be a minor hiccup which is why it’s affecting so many.

I can’t guarantee that this will work or even be recognised by Zavvi, but if you wanted to slap your details / order numbers / whatever you are comfortable leaving in the comments section, we can present it as a single entity, as a community working towards a common goal.

At present, if you are affected Play.com are still taking orders here.