Trine 4 – Review

2D scrollers have never been high up on my list of games I have to play.  Thinking back, the only 2d scroller that really got my attention was Jazz the Jack-rabbit, and Duke Nukem 2D ( damn I am old).  Since then my focus has shifted, games like Doom and the original call of duty and medal of honor arrived and blew our child-minds.  Gran Turismo 2, Final Fantasy and a whole host of games and generation of consoles and games came and went.  2D scrollers were a thing of the past, weren't they? No, a wide array of scrollers were still being made.  Great ones as well.  Hence, when Trine 4 magically appeared in my inbox (thanks Apex) I met it with a strange sense of dread and excitement.  Dreading that I was jumping into the fourth installment of a series I knew nothing about.  But excited to see what the current standard of 2D scrollers was like comparing to Jazz and ol' Duke 2D. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRvbVZNqkA4

The Knight, Wizard, and Thief

If you are like me, new to the Trine series, Trine puts you in the boots of 3 playable characters.  Each with their own unique abilities.  You will need to utilize each of the character's abilities if you are to make your way through the ever-changing puzzles.  The knight has a shield which he uses to deflect incoming projectiles as well as reflect light.  His trusty sword can break objects as well as slay the troublesome enemies you might come across.  The Wizard can conjure up a box that can be used for climbing onto or hold mechanisms in place.  The Thief, equipped with a bow, can shoot 3 types of arrows as well as connect ropes to rings as well as to the boxes the wizard conjures.  Using these abilities and your wit, you need to overcome the puzzles Trine throws at you.   Trine 4 predominantly focuses on using the 3 characters and their abilities to solve puzzles.  Using the thief and wizard, predominantly, you can solve most of the puzzles laid out before you.  On the odd occasion, you might need the knight to reflect or deflect things that block your path.  There are however a few combat stages that are scattered across the stages.  These, unfortunately, do nothing for the game and I found myself wishing them to be over rather than enjoying them.  They are also rather straight forward.  Simply select the knight and bash and deflect until you have defeated all the enemies.

A happy and lovable place

  Trine 4 has the most beautiful and vivid maps and areas that I have come across in a long time.  The forests, caves and even dilapidated castles are all spectacular and lovely to see.  Even though it is a 2.5D scroller, the backdrops feel alive and vivid.  From the birds flying overhead, or the spiders and other animals crawling past in the background, all seem so natural.  This gives Trine a wonderful sense of fantasy, much like I felt while watching the Harry Potter series.  A sense of a truly living world happening around you.  To add to this lovable and enjoyable setting is the way the game challenges you but without frustrating you.  There are areas where you will get stuck for a few minutes but they do not hold you back long enough to get you frustrated.  I found myself enjoying the odd challenge here and there.  The respawn system is also extremely forgiving which will see your fallen comrades not stay downed for very long. While spending around 12 hours in Trine 4, I never once experienced a "game over".  Trine does not try to have you fail.  It does not need to keep you playing for longer by making you struggle.  It relies on its wonderful storytelling and fun, yet challenging puzzles to keep you hooked.  And hooked you will be.

Better with a friend

As if that wasn't enough.  You can also party up with a friend and have a second character, constantly, by your side.  This will see you fly through many of the puzzles but also have the game adjust itself to make it a little more challenging.  All in all the game has great replayability if you want to give it a bash solo, or with some mates.

Verdict

what really makes Trine 4 a great installment in the series is the fact that you need no previous experience or knowledge of the games to enjoy this one.  The story starts at a rather neutral point where no back story or history is needed.  For those who are not new to the series, there are many references and jokes that you will enjoy and relate to.  All in all, Trine 4 is a game I didn't know existed, yet after playing it, I am really happy I had the chance to.  Trine  4 is a happy and fun experience that will eat up time and leave you with a smile on your face and a happy heart. If you want to spend some time with a friend and take a break from the grind of the mainstream shooters or competitive racers, Trine 4 is what you need to wind down and have some casual fun!  

Special thanks to Apex Interactive for the review copy

 
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FIFA 20 – Review

Another year means another installment of many titles.  Games such as Madden, NHL and even Call of Duty come to mind.  Many of these titles have already captured their audience, be it recently, or over decades of titles.  Amongst these are many that simply don't reinvent themselves.  Soon these titles start to carry labels like "reskinned".  Call of Duty is one of these titles have come out in a big way with Modern Warfare, hoping to shake the feeling of paying again for a game you bought last year. To some, the FIFA franchise is the same.  Not really changing things up year on year.  But let's be honest, football doesn't change.  It has been played for many years and apart from new leagues and new stars, the game has not changed.  So for FIFA to be innovative they have to look at tweaking mechanics and making it more realistic.  Which they have done a great job of over the years.  With yearly updates and tweaks to dribbling and defending and even contesting, FIFA has kind of reached a pinnacle.  Then came "the Journey"!  Creating a story mode for a sports game seemed preposterous.  But FIFA did it and did it well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOsA3mc1xGw And so we come to FIFA 20...  Another year, another FIFA title, with new features and mechanics and an all-new Volta mode!

Football made for the street!

Let us get straight to the biggest addition from Fifa 19 to 20.  VOLTA! For those who are familiar with the old Fifa Street, this it's new version.  Unfortunately, the addition of Volta means we say goodbye to the corny, yet very enjoyable, The Journey.  Volta brings football to the streets.  Playing in a 3v3 on the roof of a skyscraper while doing moves that Messi can only dream of, really makes for fun times.  Throw in incredible celebrations and solid customizations and you have a great new mode to the FIFA franchise.  Volta comes with a few modes of its own.  Not only can you play kick-off style games there is also a story to it, albeit extremely cheesy, following in the steps of the Journey, but it also has a massive customization section.  Volta does not do as much justice to a "sports game with a story" as The Journey does but it does give some variation to the football genre.

Changes on and off the field

Fifa titles generally don't seem to make that many adjustments from one year to the next, Fifa 20 is no different.  Looking at gameplay you will be hard-pressed to spot the difference between Fifa 19 and 20.  Once you grab the controller though, you will feel the distinct change in speed.  Where Fifa 19 felt very quick all the time, Fifa 20 takes that but fleshes it out.  If you play with a team known for their speed on the attack, things feel extremely fast, and visa Versa. This creates a new style of ebbing and flowing throughout a match.  In Fifa 19 even using some of the fastest players around it felt like you could easily be reeled in.  EA took some good steps in addressing this and it feels like players truely feel at the correct speeds now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgQNOIhRsV4 According to EA they have also changed some of the ball physics to make the ball feel lighter.  In my opinion, it felt heavier and I struggled to weight my passes and kicks correctly.  This can very easily be changed in future updates if more people seem to experience a similar feeling.  Apart from that, the other tweaks are all rather minor.  Animations have been smoothed out and more variation has been added. Free-kicks have been tweaked and, at first, they might seem a whole lot simpler.  At first, it feels like all you need to do is point and shoot.  You will soon learn that doing that will have you shooting all over the place.  There are many factors that come into effect when doing this.  Wind, curl, and even the quality of the kick-taker.

Career and FUT

Career mode has been a little of a step-child for the FIFA franchise.  Not receiving much love over the last couple of years and never seeing any updates.  This year is different.  FIFA 20 sees the biggest update to the career mode in a long time.  Career mode is excellently presented, as with most things Fifa, pre-seasons, training camps, all to boost your performance.  Career mode now focuses on team morale more than anything.  Red faces next to player names will indicate their morale is low and green will show high morale.  Higher morale means better team chemistry means better performances!  Morale is directly linked to player performance and the way you and your manager conduct themselves during interviews. FUT is one of the main reasons most people play FIFA and this year sees more improvements in the form of more iconic players, more team, season and individual objectives and much deeper customization options!  

Verdict

FIFA 20 is once again a strong outing in the FIFA franchise, the addition of the Volta and the reworking of career mode does give it enough to be a strong successor for Fifa 19 which in itself was one of the best in the franchise in a long time.  Volta takes the place of the Journey, which drops a small part for a large new genre of football.  The gameplay tweaks are not all good in my opinion but tweaks are still changes which is what FIFA is known for, constantly innovating the footballing genre. FIFA  fans will undoubtedly still get this year's outing no matter the verdict.   All in all, FIFA 20 is a good title, maybe not the best, but with the new Volta mode, it does offer much more in terms of being a fun, hop on and play title.  

Special thanks to Prima Interactive for the review content

 
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The Surge 2 – Review

Sequels are the toughest games to make.  If your first game was a success, then the sequel needs to pull all the good qualities of the first installment and tweak the weaker ones.  On the flip side, if your first game was rather lack-luster, then you are expected to revamp completely.  Both come with large amounts of pressure to deliver.  The Surge was a great title from the company that brought us Lords of the Fallen.  Lords of the Fallen was stunning, but was possibly too hot on the heels of the Souls franchise and copied too many ideas from the likes of Bloodborne and the Souls series. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaHTdLwiIPQ

Tweaks and changes

The Surge 2 does, however, make some good changes and welcoming tweaks to the system that was used in the original Surge.  Unlike the first Surge, you now have the ability to build your own character.  No matter what character you build and choose however, you still start the narrative as a plane crash survivor after the nanites from the first game escape.  Surge 2 is more of gameplay with a solid narrative-type game rather than a strong story with decent gameplay.  The combat has been tweaked and feels wonderful.  Each rig with its weapons and armor falls into a well-explained class and easy to grasp.  Looking for a light and fast rig, the Operator is the way to go, prefer being a damage sponge, Goliath class is your go-to class.  And if you are looking for something in-between, Sentinel is your class. These classes can be upgraded using cybernetic implants, accompanied by a host of high and low tech weapons, you are sure to be having some dismembering-fun in no time!  What really struck me was how each of these weapons and armor that is at your disposal has an effect on the movement and flow of your rig.  When you are using the Operator rig you feel like you can chain attacks together and bounce between enemies like Spiderman, but on the flip side, you can be sent flying across the battlefield with a single blow. Blocking and injectables are both new systems that improve Surge 2 dramatically.  The blocking and parrying system feels like it has been directly taken from For Honor.  For those not familiar with this system, it does take some getting used to but once you are comfortable, it is extremely robust and very rewarding.  The block and parry system works extremely well when using the goliath class with its extremely slow attack speed.  Guessing the attacking direction correctly will see you parry and counter which is extremely satisfying when done correctly. The newly added injectables also add a whole new dimension to the fighting dynamic.  Even though two goliath classes are identical, applying a variety of injectables can because both these Goliath builds to be completely different.  This increases the replay-ability of Surge 2.

Slashin' and Lootin'

Executions are very clever and satisfying.  As before, you need to target specific body parts and once you have done enough damage, you can dismember that limb.  The animations for these dismemberments are spectacular.  But what makes it truly great is the way it integrates into the looting system.  In Surge 2 most of your loot is collected from downed enemies.  Instead of this loot just being random, the way you fight the opponent will determine the loot that they drop.  Looking for a very specific piece of armor?  You will need to find an enemy wearing that exact piece of armor and dismember it.  This gives the player reason to go and hunt down specific enemies.  At the same time,it puts an interesting take on the looting and grinding aspect because it puts less emphasis on grinding until you find the item you looking for and rather has you exploring until you find someone with that item.

The story thus far...

Surge 2 has a straight forward story that is told the same way.  The plot has its moments that are interesting but apart from that the plot feels very direct and expected. As before the story is told by interacting with NPCs and picking up recordings that tell you more about what has been happening since the nanites have devastated the world.  The story of Surge 2 will take you to a wider variety of locales compared to the first game.  Instead of being stuck in industrial areas and cities.  Surge 2 will take you to a more diverse set of locales as well as have a larger variety of enemies to contend with.  It does, however, feel like Surge 2 put more effort into building more diverse and beautiful open worlds and left out a few touches on the plot and story aspects. With the story being told via NPCs and recordings that can be picked up, and the game allowing you to explore areas in any order, the story can become disjointed if you wander into an area and get plot details out of order.  When the dust settles on Surge 2, the general feeling was that the incentive of gathering stronger loot is more than what progressing the story was.  This is not a negative point but it is something to be aware of if you are looking for a more story-driven RPG.

Verdict

Surge 2 does not reinvent the wheel when it comes to Souls-like titles, but that is not what it was trying to do from the start.  What is does do well is the basics, it ticks the boxes.  At times it feels like that is all it wanted to achieve and that it's happy with being mediocre.  Then you get into the combat and the spectacular upgrade system, not to mention the way it makes use of a parry system that really gives the combat system life.  Surge 2 might not be a replacement game for the hardcore Souls fans, but it is definitely worth the time and hours that you will invest in it.  If you were a fan of the first game then it is a no-brainer, you will love it. Surge 2 is a good game, will it be placed along with greats like Dark Souls or Bloodborne, probably not,  is it the best of the rest, most definitely!  

Special thanks to Apex Interactive for providing the review content

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Borderlands 3 – Review

If you are here you probably have an opinion on Borderlands already.  Either you are a fanboy or girl, or you simply hate Borderlands.  I have yet to come by someone who is on the fence about the Borderlands franchise.  Most people love it, but there will always be the odd few who swim against the stream and declare it to be utter trash.  I fall in the first group, I love Borderlands!  So how do you write a review about the game that popularized the loot & shoot long before the likes of Destiny and the Division came around, as well as the follow-up, although maybe not in release order, to arguably the greatest game ever, Borderlands 2?  Well, why would you change a winning recipe? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Av5Eyx3bGtM

And so it begins...

Borderlands is a franchise known for going against the grain, and the opening moments prove that.  Unlike other sequels changing from the predecessors, Borderlands is so confident in itself that it dares to be familiar.  This shows how confident gearbox and Borderlands are with themselves as well as this installment in the franchise.  And it is with good reason that they are.  From the opening moments you will be met with the usual Borderlands story, you are vault hunter, tasked with helping Lilith, a Siren from the previous installments, to find vault across the universe before the calypso twins (Anti-heroes and twin brother and sister) find them and DESTROY THE UNIVERSE(queue dramatic music).  Not to mention the utterly hilarious jokes and jabs that are strewn across the wastelands of Borderlands. This is part of what makes Borderlands so great, instead of changing up their whole game they keep the things that is loved by the fans and tweak the things that can only improve the experience.  The shooting has been completely reworked to give a more enjoyable experience as well as giving the movement system a more fluid feel.  You can now traverse obstacles easily.  Graphically Borderlands 3 has taken its unique cartoon-styled graphics to a new level.  Fewer reds and oranges and a whole lot more color!  Borderlands 3 is lovely on the eye with lots of bright new colors and even MORE weapons.  As if the weapons, you will be hard-pressed to find a game that has a wider variety of truely "original weapons" .  Ranging from your run-of-the-mill shotguns to seriously interesting alien tech that instead of reloading, you throw at your enemy and explode on impact.

Welcome to Pandora

Borderlands 3 will start you on the very familiar planet of Pandora.  You will need to help clean out all the bandits from Pandora, which is rather normal, but this time around you are not stuck on Pandora only.  Your journey to stop the Calypso twins will have you traveling to many jaw-droppingly beautiful planets.  It is not a simple fast travel from the one planet to the other either.  Your spaceship is an explorable and living area in itself.  Feeling a lot like the submarine that you spend time on in between missions in Wolfenstein: the new Order.  Every environment that you have the pleasure of exploring will provide vast amounts of loot as well as countless NPCs that provide hours of laughs if you stand around and listen to their dialogues.  Borderlands 3 also introduces us to four new vault hunters who are joining in on the fight Borderlands 3 also introduces 4 new Vault Hunters:

Amara - the Siren

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xASquu1qp0 The Borderlands official website describes Amara as: "Gifted with powerful Siren abilities, Amara is a renowned champion of the people and bonafide badass. Using her action skills she can Phaseslam the ground to damage nearby enemies and knock them into the air, Phasegrasp enemies in place with a giant ethereal fist, or even Phasecast an astral projection of herself that deals damage to everything in its path."  With 3 skill trees to populate Amara can use her elemental powers to crush opponents or throw them around like rag dolls.  Amara is perfect for any fight.

Moze- the Gunner

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfmfrpgXF3k Moze the gunner is best described as: "Moze is a battle-hardened former Vladof army soldier who specializes in mechanized combat. She uses an action skill to digistruct and climbs into her bipedal tank, Iron Bear, which has hardpoints suitable for mixing, matching, and mounting high-velocity Railguns, rapid-firing Miniguns, semi-automatic Grenade Launchers, flamethrowers, pneumatic fists, and homing rocket launchers."   Moze has a history of fighting bad guys, using her trusty Iron Bear mech she is able to hold her own in any gunfight even when grossly outnumbered and outgunned.

Zane - the Operative

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GIKVcgbXXM Zane the Operative: "Born into Pandora's notorious Flynt family, Zane is a semi-retired corporate hitman who always has a gadget up his sleeve. His action skills include a SNTNL drone that flys around and attacks enemies with a machine gun, a deployable Barrier shield, and a Digi-Clone that simultaneously distracts enemies and dishes out damage and which Zane can teleport to switch places with."  Zane comes from a notorious family in the Borderlands, having seen his fair share of combat during his time as a lone operative he can use his very unique skill set to take on whatever Pandora, or the other planets can throw at him.

FL4K - Beastmaster

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NG3HwDD40M "FL4K is a wandering robot who always brings one of their three loyal pets into battle to buff stats and attack enemies. Their action skills let them send forth dive-bombing Rakk, teleport Gamma Burst-irradiated pets through rifts, and even Fade Away to temporarily become invisible while moving faster and regenerating health."  FL4K is the perfect lone hunter, with one of his three pets that help in battle, when FL4K is around even the toughest hunters become prey.

Glorious Weaponry & Missions Galore

A common trap that games like Destiny and the Division fall into is monotony, the endless grind can become extremely draining and painful.  Borderlands avoids this by keeping a frantic pace of new weapons, enemies and weapon archetypes.  Another way that Borderlands keeps your interested is by making ALL missions feel important.  If your ECHO-3 device didn't label them as side missions there would be nothing to distinguish them from the main storyline.  These side missions will have your traveling to all the planets with the odd fetch and carry mission here and the but generally, these missions do not feel like fillers rather than crucial to experiencing the full Borderlands experience.  The less-favored missions can easily be appreciated and loved by the simple humor that Borderlands throw at the topic. Gearbox was also very proud to state that they boast " 1 billion guns", they might have crooked the books slightly by giving nearly identical guns a different name and slightly tweaked stats.  But what they have done well is to give each weapon manufacturer a distinct feature.  Vladof guns have 2 different firing modes, the guns that the children of the vault don't need reloading they overheat and need to cool down.  All of these tiny elements help to sell the illusion of an endless amount of weapons to find.  Borderlands 3 takes it a step further, Each weapon has its own character, whether you have your revolver hammer cooking or the chatter of the assault rifle as it sprays lead, or the red hot barrel of your shotgun after slaying a team of skags.  These little things make you appreciate what Gearbox and Borderlands 3 have achieved with this long-awaited installment.

Friend or Foe

Borderlands has always been known for the wonderful split-screen action and endless hours of looting and shooting you can have with a buddy, or 3.  Borderlands 3 is no different.  When you join up with a buddy online, the party leader can choose whether loot is evenly shared amongst each other, with each player only seeing his or her own loot, or it can be a free for all, fastest looter wins.  Borderlands even jokes about that!  Everything is lighthearted in Borderlands.  There are also a couple of new modes : Mayhem mode, which is a wave-like mode where enemies become increasingly tougher with the reward of increasingly stronger loot.  True Vault Hunter mode (the new game plus) and circles of slaughter (true horde mode) and Proving grounds which resembles Diablo 3 rifts.  With all these modes that can be played solo or with friends as well as taking them on with each of the 4 vault hunters, you will be playing Borderlands 3 for a long time to come!

Verdict

If you are a Borderlands fan, you probably already have this game and you are neck-deep in the action.  For those who are not yet captured by the Borderlands franchise, Borderlands seems like a light-hearted game that doesn't take itself too seriously.  And on the outside that is true.  But underneath that smug exterior laced with on-the-nose humor is a very VERY, if not the greatest loot&shoot franchise ever.  Borderlands 3 takes a known and loved formula and improves on something that seems perfect. Borderlands 3 ticks all the boxes.  Great story, extremely loveable characters, humor that you will not find in any other game, original mechanics and gunplay, stunning graphics and hours and hours of mayhem and fun!  Why should you buy this game? Easy, there is no reason you shouldn't!  

Special thanks to Prima Interactive for supplying the review content

           
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The Battlefield we all wanted... But it's COD   As an avid COD fanboy, this has to be the most refreshing game I have played in a long time. With a rise of jetpack gameplay that went three years strong, we finally get propper boots on the ground with the satisfaction of customization (see later on) on your weapons. Don't get me wrong, COD WW2 and BO4 was nice, but very limiting and got stale real quick.

Cross-play, FINALLY

With the introduction of crossplay, I can definitely say, this is balanced from a PC players experience, BUT. Console aim assist is STRONG. Coming from console to PC, I can clearly see why they need it, but I do not agree with the snapping on to the head, this is something that might need to be fixed as I saw many examples of skilled players abusing this. Que times will most definitely be down. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wETBUY86Fy4 With the introduction to the bigger playlist, I can say that the balance between chaos and fun is PERFECT on the 20-man domination game mode. Going through all the different playlists by simply ticking a few options is very refreshing, I really hope this carries over from the BETA. As for the "Battlefield" game mode, this is the most chaos I have ever seen in my life, but it works. But ultimately, Ground War feels like a dollar store version of Battlefield 4. As for the competitive future of the COD franchise, this will be very interesting. I love the Cyberattack game mode, this has a lot of room for growth especially when you can revive your fallen brothers in arms. This mode will punish you for your mistakes, but won't be rewarding your opponent's luck, so no more cheeky cross-map 'nades, you'll be right back on your feet. This is a very refreshing mode other from Search and Destroy and personally I hope this mode takes off. With the introduction of the 2v2 game mode, I can most definitely say this will be my favourite playlist and has so much room for growth with 3v3 and even 4v4 added at a later stage. Close quarters combat combined with having to rush to pick up a weapon can be so rewarding due to having to work with what you have. Adding on these game modes, the realistic mode feels like a reskin of normal hardcore mode all players are familiar with.

Near-perfect BETA?

Yes, this is a BETA. This has to be the most well-rounded BETA I have played in a while. Apart from the weapon balancing issues, there is not much to complain about. The versatility you get with gun customization can be very rewarding and satisfying, but the cons are just as heavy as the pros. Customizing your gun to your playstyle feels very fitting in this field of play. We as a community have been very vocal about how we feel about our games and I definitely feel the developers have heard our frustrations, this is their answer, and I love it. The modern marvels of competition, it only benefits us as the consumer and forces the market to step in the right direction, so if our hardcore fanboys can stick together and simply show the developers we will play the best games and stop being loyal to empty promises, we will change the gaming industry and bend it to our will. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmMmR3cFH24 Stay tuned for the full review at launch. Review by Jason Cloete
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Razer Blackwidow Review

When playing PC games, peripherals are your tools.  A good headset can mean the difference between hearing the footstep of the guy coming around the corner.  The mouse can get your crosshair centred onto that headshot before you get to be on the other end of the scope.  And lastly comes the keyboard.  Often overlooked as the "lesser-needed" tool.  Surely a regular standard keyboard can do the same as what the gaming, mechanical, branded keyboards can do, right? Razer is no novice when it comes to making gaming keyboards.  The Blackwidow itself is not the first of its namesake either.  The Razer Blackwidow has enjoyed being one of the top mechanical keyboards around, for a fair amount of time.  Instead of accepting their design, Razer has kept on improving, striving for perfection.  Have they achieved it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zujjicJ-qTo

The Good

First things first, the Blackwidow, is different from its brothers, the Blackwidow Elite and the Blackwidow Tournament edition.  Apart from not hitting your wallet as hard, you will be hard-pressed to tell them apart at first glance.  What really has made the Blackwidow series a firm favourite is its styling.  It has a rather understated design with nothing flashy or that screams GAMER.  At first glance, if you don't notice the Razer logo, you might mistake it for a regular office keyboard, boasting a Numpad and nothing else out of the ordinary. The Blackwidow only shows its true colours, pun intended, once you turn on the Chroma.  And with the addition of all the new features to the Synapse 3 software, Chroma has no reason to be restricted to only a keyboard or a mouse.  Your whole gaming- rig and room can now partake in the Chroma effect.  With the addition of Philips Hue, home integration is a reality when gaming, add in the game integration with games such as Apex Legends enjoying integration as a standard, and Chroma becomes fantastic The Razer Blackwidow is a fan-favourite for good reason.  it has fantastic build quality, feeling solid and well built.  Razer also puts its green switches to good use in the Blackwidow, stating that it even has reinforced sidewalls on every key to ensure there is no wobble when pressing down on keys.  The green switches provide a good balance between tactile feedback as well as being clicky.  The Green switches are also rated for 80 million keystrokes, so don't expect them to give up on you any time soon.  Typing and gaming both feel divine on the Blackwidow, keystrokes feel confident and strong under your fingers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffvneEPgPqk Another way Razer has marketed the Blackwidow for both work and play is the exclusion of the dedicated macro keys.  Instead, they use their very own Hypershift.  Hypershift allows you to assign any key of your choosing to a secondary function.  Don't worry if you have different macros for different games, the Blackwidow has onboard storage for a host of macros which you can simply flick through when needed.  If you are scared of losing those macros due to someone highjacking your Blackwidow and changing your fine-tuned macros, Razer even provides cloud storage for your macros.  This allows for quick and easy setups when moving between PCs or Blackwidows alike.

The Bad

But with the good comes the bad.  The Blackwidow has had time to refine itself and it has, very successfully, done so.  The braided cable has 3 options of routing which is nice if you have a less than normal setup, but what would make it nicer is if the keyboard had a place to store your excess cable.  If you are someone who travels a lot with your gaming gear a removable cable would actually be the best feature.  Another slight let down is the commission of the wrist rest.  Leaving the wrist rest of the equation does drop the price by a substantial amount but other gaming keyboards in the same price range can throw in the wrist rest at the same price. If you are wondering about the differences between the Blackwidow and the Blackwidow elite, here is a link to the review we did on the Elite.

Verdict

The Razer Blackwidow is a great keyboard.  It boasts great mechanical keys, paired with an underrated look which looks great attached to an office computer as well as a fully-fledged gaming rig.  Being subtle when it needs to be, and with a little bit of Chroma, becomes the RGB monster than Razer is known for.  Being the cheaper option to the very formidable Blackwidow Elite, whilst losing some of the extras of the Elite, does shape it to be a competitive mechanical keyboard in the sub-R2000 range.  Unfortunate to see the loss of the wrist rest, but adding this as one of your tools of the gaming trade will not leave you disappointed.      

Special thanks to Apex Interactive for supplying the review item

 
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Razer Kraken (2019) review

The entry- to mid-range headset market is a crowded one indeed.  With the likes of Astro, Turtle beach and PDP flooding the market with their budget-conscious headsets.  It can easily become overwhelming and difficult to decide which one is for you.  Razer doesn't make this any easier when they dropped the latest version of their tried and tested Kraken series. I have reviewed the Razer Kraken before in its previous generation and I was on the fence.  It was decent but lacked a couple of essentials.  Let us see how the 2019 version goes about reclaiming current fans as well as tick a few of the unticked boxes of previous years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EerI8DPogkE

Design

Razer has a pretty distinct design and colour scheme.  The Kraken looks exactly the same as the previous generations.  Razer, unlike some of the other big names in the gaming peripheral game, are not scared to be bold with their designs.  The Kraken features bold and big earcups that stick out far with a bold Razer logo on display.  Did I mention it is VERY green?  Razer makes a very clear statement.  They make peripherals for gamers.  The Kraken features the same retractable microphone as in previous generations as well as the same thick padded headband. Build quality remains the same, which is not a bad thing.  The Razer Kraken feels strong and sturdy.  Sturdier than some headsets that fit into a higher price bracket.  Inside the box, you will find the headset itself, the cable with the inline volume control as well as mic mute slider, as well as a splitter for pc use.

Comfort

The previous Kraken that I reviewed had a few shortcomings when it came to comfort.  Razer did listen and they have made the earcups oval-shaped.  This makes a massive improvement in comfort around the ears.  They have also filled the cushions, which is covered with faux leather, with a gel-based foam making it fit the contour of your head much better.  The thick padded headband, as well as adjustable cups (up and down), helps to find the perfect fit.  With the Kraken being a heavier headset, the demand for a firm and strong headband is a necessity. The only letdown in the comfort department is the fact that the earcups do not have the ability to swivel.  This causes some troubles with finding a snug fit and also creates leaks which don't help when trying to achieve passive noise cancellation.  But, this can be solved if you do a few minor adjustments and find the sweet-spot in terms of position on your head.

Sound & Microphone

Ultimately, the reason for buying a headset is for the sound.  Being in the sub R1500 there is a fair amount of competition.  The likes of the Astro A10 and Steelseries Arctis 3 really set the bar rather high with wired headsets.  The Razer Kraken, unfortunately, doesn't come with a mixer so the mixing levels will need to be done in-game or via a 3rd party app.  The volume wheel sits nicely and neatly packed on the inline control and gives sufficient volume. The Kraken does a good job when listening to a wide variety of music.  Delivering punchy and deep bass which has enough oomph that you can almost feel the bass tones kicking.  Mids are very audible and allow for clear tones.  The highs are not that high and often they get lost and leak into the mids.  During times with less mid-range, you do experience the highs, but they are drowned out by the mid and bass tones. When gaming on PC, the same was experienced but this can easily be adjusted by simply applying an equalizer which then made the tone balance much better.  Unfortunately, on console, there are no equalizers to be used.  The Razer Kraken, however, does have really good spacial sound.  Playing games such as R6 Siege and Apex Legends on both console and PC.  I usually use an Astro A40 TR which uses an external amp, allowing for massive amounts of customization to try and use sound to the best advantage possible.  The Kraken obviously does not have all the gizmos the A40 TR has but it does a great job of indicating sound direction on both console and PC. The Razer Kraken retractable mic is nothing out of this world.  it does the job and it does it well.  It gives clear voice to your party without any frills.  The lack of mic monitoring is a letdown as most of the competition in this price range do provide monitoring.

Verdict

The Razer Kraken is a commendable and very capable headset.  It delivers good comfort matched with gamer orientated styling all while delivering superb spacial sound.  The sound spectrum is great but the highs can be a slight bit stronger.  Add in swivel earcups and mic monitoring and the Kraken is nearly perfect!

All in all, Razer delivers once again, keeping up their name as one of the leading names in gaming equipment!

 

Special thanks to Apex Interactive for providing the review item

 
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Greedfall Review -Xbox One

When it comes to RPG's, you are instantly drawn to the likes of the Witcher-series, or Dragon Age.  And for good reason.  They are arguably some of the best RPG's around.  Greedfall, and the developers, Spiders, decided to take a different approach.  Instead of trying to compete with the likes of CDPR, Spiders decided to go back to the roots of RPG.  Back to the Dragon Age-days.  Instead of being a completely open-world game like ESO or the Witcher, they opted for the semi-open world, which they are known for. Personally, I think this is a wise decision from Spider studios.  Instead of falling into the trap of being compared, they have taken a step back, allowing them to create their own identity.  After playing through some of the early hours of Greedfall, I was pleasantly surprised.  I was instantly taken back to the glory days of RPG's.  Where my love for the genre started, all the way back to childhood days.  From the start, you are met with deep story-telling.  The type that has you (and needs) your undivided attention.  environments that are beautifully crafted, although not as living as the Witcher 3.  Greedfall could very well be one of the hits of 2019 as long as you tune your expectations accordingly... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDnfDJ_T5ks

What is Greedfall?

Spiders does what they do best, worldbuilding, and the world in Greedfall is great.  Set in the discovery-era.  The muddy and moody streets of Serene, this first city you will step into, draws inspiration from the likes of Paris in the 1700s. After creating your character you will be met with a rather long prologue set in the streets of Serene.  It is here where you will experience many of Greedfalls mechanics and get a strong sense of what is happening to the people of Serene.  Lore can be found everywhere if you are willing to listen... Greedfall makes its intentions known from the first mission.  Get onto the ship for your voyage to the new world.  Sounds simple enough.  It is not, you have a few loose ends to tie up before setting sail.  The governor has not yet boarded the ship, still too drunk from the stupor he had the night before.  Time to put on your detective hat and find him.  Treading around Serene and asking fellow patrons is not a simple and easy way.  Asking the pub owner of his whereabout will lead you to either repairing the broken furniture from the governors rowdy night or simply pay to have them replaced.  This simple mission shows that Greedfall is not going to bombard you with "fetch and carry" missions or simplicities like other RPGs.  No, it has deeper dialogues where speaking too much or too little can change the perspective of the interaction completely.  Greedfall at its heart is a detective game and a rather good one! Once you reach the island of Ter Fradee you will discover that there is more than 1 faction trying to colonize the island.  The main reason for you heading to Ter Fardee is to find a cure for the illness that plagues Serene, as well as your mother, called Malichor.  It is not long that you will realize that characters are not divided between the traditional good- and bad guys.  Greedfall weaves a terrific story with tribes and factions having their own unique traditions and nuances and even views on actions and what happens throughout the game.  This goes an extremely long way to really flesh out the story and make it believable.  Greedfall also does not use the well-known morality system, meaning players will need to make choices based on their own moral compass.  This is very refreshing as sometimes the "right" for of justice is not always the justice that fits the crime. Greedfall is by no means a happy place like many other RPGs try to portray.  Greedfall takes on some heavy subjects in the quests which I have not often seen touched let alone peeled open as Greedfall does with its superbly written quests.  Some of these sensitive topics include colonization, religion and politics.  And without the moral system, these topics mixed with personal opinions and views can bring out interesting story arcs.

Visuals

At first glance, the graphics of Greedfall are tremendous.  Living cities with wonderful palettes of gloomy colours to match the general life at the time.  Opposingly, on the island bright and vibrant colours which match a diverse, but still realistic environment.  Taking a little closer looks will show some cracks in the graphics but mostly they are easily overlooked.  Facial customizations, yet limited, is good, the characters faces seem to match emotions when speaking and generally look life-like.  The main characters that is...  NPC's are beautifully designed but at times become repetitive in the use of outfits.  Some of the issues that do take away from the realism are that opposing faction soldiers wear identical armours. Facial animations certainly did impress when you compare it to the Technomancer, not Witcher 3 levels just yet but leaps and bounds in the right direction.  But alas, this is overshadowed but the rather clunky way the NPC's move.  Greedfall tried hard to give characters individual feel, by even introducing dialects and accents for the natives.  Although the voice acting is of really high quality and there is tons of dialogue to work through, there are times that the accent was dropped and picked up at a later stage. But as a whole, Greedfall does well to draw you in and keep you glued to the story and actions of characters around you, even if they do, at times, lose their "life-like" aspects to a robot-like movement, or lipsync being out.  All small things that a simple patch can fix.

Mechanics

This is the first aspect of Greedfall that had me doubting.  Yes, the Witcher 3 has changed everyone's perception of what RPG fighting mechanics should be.  They need to be fluid and smooth and free.  Greedfall is not that!  The fighting mechanics in Greedfall is quite the opposite, not quite as clunky as DragonAge titles of old, but still rigid.  Once you turn down the camera sensitivity, which at normal will have you spinning around the world at light speed, things are better. Greedfall does have a tactical pause function which allows you to queue up abilities such as healing, much like Final Fantasy (of old) and Dragon Age does.  The clunky fighting mechanics are less an issue and more a feature.  Greedfall made it clear that they want it to be a homage to old RPG titles, and that is what the mechanics are. Your team members, which you can swap out, all have unique traits in battle as well as in social environments.  Having the correct party member with you at the right time can be beneficial on both the battlefield as well as when trying to pull information regarding your next quest.  Each team member can be equipped with weapons and armor as well as trinkets etc.  Changing clothes do change your character's appearance aesthetically which is always nice. But one of the aspects that will have majority of RPG fans rejoicing is stats.  Everything that you can pick up or equip will have stats.  With stats comes proficiency, which Greedfall does by means of skills and traits.  Want your player to be better at blunt weapons, equip more points to blunt weapon mastery.  Want to be a better lock picker (which I suggest you focus on),  apply more points to lock picking. Combat, apart from the clunky mechanics is genuinely great and enjoyable.  Whether you are going up against a challenging boss or slaying grunts, combat is not something I found myself wishing would pass.  Instead, I enjoyed using my musket to etch away at armor until I could wield my sword and dish out a flurry of damage that even Zorro would be proud of.  Then there is a whole magic system that I have not even tried out yet! Your squad members, however, cannot be controlled much, they tend to do whatever they deem necessary which in most cases is not the needed thing.  This is a little disappointing in a way because this also creates a lack of a tactical aspect for Greedfall due to your squadmates automatically engaging the enemy when you are trying to sneak past.

Verdict

Greedfall might have its few issues, but these are easily corrected in a patch, what can't be fixed with a patch are the things that Greedfall has got spot-on!  It provides stunning narratives coupled with great stylized and visually spectacular environments that won't let you even notice that they are not completely open-world. If you are a fan of RPG's like Dragon Age, then Greedfall is for you!  It doesn't just give you the RPG fix that we have all been craving for too long now, but it exceeds that.  Greedfall is not merely a time-waster until the next AAA RPG comes along, no it is a fully-fledged title in its own right!  Spiders have come leaps and bounds from their rather poor showing on the Technomancer to delivering a great title in Greedfall. If you have time, and you like RPG's, get Greedfall.  Thank me later.  

 

Special thanks to Apex Interactive for the review copy

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Sea of Solitude

The vast majority of games these days tend to focus on big action or open-worlds and on the odd occasion, a gripping storyline.  It's not very often that these stories decide to touch on sensitive, and real topics such as loss, depression and other REAL issues.  Each and every one of us struggles with on a daily basis.  Maybe not one of the aforementioned issues as such but internal and VERY personal issues.  Mental health is a very real issue in all walks of life.  Many people battle this disease on a daily basis without letting anyone know.  Fighting their monsters alone. Sea of Solitude is a game that makes that phrase, literal.  Sea of Solitude is from a German studio called Jo-Mei Games.  With the help of EA Originals, Sea of Solitude is a haunting, yet brief, adventure through Kay's mind.  A place that shifts and changes from a spectacularly colourful seaside town to a dark and gloomy, monster invested nightmare.  These monstrosities and challenges are challenges that the creator herself faced in her own life.  What makes Sea of Solitude so hard-hitting is not the challenges themselves but watching them unfold.  The writer Anna Borges wrote about chronic and passive suicidal tendencies.  She said that it's like living in an ocean, but not like fish and sea creatures do, but alone with an expanse of water all around.  She went on to write that it feels like swimming through a storm.  Other times the water is clear and calm, but you are always in the ocean.  People in these situations have things that keep them going.  Treatment or support, something that keeps them afloat when they tire. To Kay, her lifeboat is that... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EDcrwDCYqo

From Darkness to Light

When you find Kay, she is in near-complete darkness.  The first words she utters: I haven't seen the sun in... I don't remember!  This sentence sets the mood for Sea of Solitude.  Not too long and you find your first spot of light.  When you reach it the world changes from the gloomy darkness to a bright, vibrant and happy place.  This is what Sea of Solitude is, as in life, finding a speck of happiness between the doom and gloom.  Not only does the light change the way the level looks, but it also changes it completely.  It will lower or raise the water level giving you access to other parts of the level allowing you to progress.  shoo-ing a few seagulls here, finding notes in bottles there.  Reading these notes shed some more light on the story of Kay, as well as the girl who came before... Sea of Solitude plays a lot like most third-person adventure games.  Blending platforming, stealth and puzzle-solving by means of environmental obstacles.  Kay is able to jump and run, she has a small wooden boat that she uses to manoeuvre through the flooded streets.  This boat is also her only safe place when she is in the dark world.  Another ability she possesses is her flare.  When Kay is lost she can shoot her flare, and it will guide her in the direction of her objective.  

Fleeting, yet lasting

Sea of Solitude is not extremely challenging, but that is not what it's supposed to be.  The game is very well designed and streamlined.  The story of Kay is told through a variety of flashbacks.  You might hear Kay and her mother at an ice cream shop discussing what her soon-to-be baby brother will be called.  Hear an exert from her parents fighting, or her brother struggling to find some attention he so craves.  All of these interactions in the form of a monologue helps to drive the story and keep the player pulling back the layers of Kays' story. It is always said that your actions and experiences shape the world around you, in Sea of Solitude, this is completely true.  As you progress and learn more about Kays' story, the world changes.  The experiences and traumas that she endures don't always manifest themselves subtly, the way they do is what makes it so impactful.  Many people in Kays' life are manifested in different ways.  Later on, Kay comes across a horrifying fish monster, or ghostly children or even a big buzzard flying overhead.  These are all manifestations of people and things that Kay has had to endure.  She also faces a monstrous version of herself, this being the way she sees herself.  Weak, bad and worthless.  But finding that glitter of light will make all the bad thoughts disappear.  

Verdict

Mental health has been touched on in games before.  Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice was lauded for taking such a big step in making it known with its dark and gritty tale.  Stories like these are normally personal and not easily obtainable or even effectively told.  Sea of Solitude is tremendously approachable.  The bright and approachable environment makes it easy to get into, and once you are in, the story will do the rest. What really makes this game great is, if you are willing to do some introspection, you might see even the slightest of a speck of yourself.  If that is the case, Sea of Solitude will multiply into something that when you reach the end, can look back and use as your own wooden boat when YOU feel like you might be treading water in an endless ocean.    

Special thanks to Prima Interactive for supplying the review copy

 
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MSI Clutch GM60 -Review

Gaming mice, how far they have come.  Some of us might remember a more simple time. A time where if your mouse wasn't moving well you would open it, clean the ball tracker and off you went.  Those were simpler times.  Since then the technology has improved at a dramatic rate.  Introducing us to the optical mouse.  Microsoft might have been the leaders in that field, bringing us the legendary IntelliMouse.  Not only was it groundbreaking in terms of accuracy, but it was also ergonomically sound as well as priced perfectly. This was groundbreaking at the time.  But since then, other companies have jumped on the bandwagon and the technology has skyrocketed.  Not only has the sensor tech improved.  We have seen the move to mechanical switches, refinement of ergonomics to cater for left- and right-handed users.  Adding wireless and Bluetooth functionality, charging pads and the colour onslaught of RGB.  The big names in the mouse category such as Logitech, Corsair and SteelSeries has pushed the market to develop at such a rapid rate that it could be tough for new brands to step into the market.  MSI has decided that it wants in!  Can it claw its way into a very established market and fight it out with the big names?

Look and Feel

The MSI Clutch GM60 looks nice! With RGB under the left- and right-click buttons as well as under the logo, it does illuminate nicely.  So from a looks perspective, the Clutch GM60 does fairly well.  The feel of it is rather confusing.  Coming in at around the R1500 mark it is rather expensive.  That price would have you feel inclined to expect a more premium feel.  The Clutch GM60 comes with many swappable parts like side panels that click on with magnets as well as a swappable top cover.  The fundamental problem with them is they don't change the ergonomics of the mouse that much.  The side panels do help if you prefer to have the sides of your hand off or on the desk while working, but other than that it has no real point.  The Clutch GM60 does have a decent weight which is nice for someone who likes a slightly more meaty mouse.  Unfortunate that the weight cannot be adjusted like many others in its price range.  The swappable panels feel rather plasticky as well.  Making them feel more premium would go a long way to justifying the price. Then we get to the RGB.  RGB is not for everyone, so this section might be slightly opinionated.  The Clutch GM60 has 3 zones of RGB.  Featuring the usual 16.8 million colour spectrum. The RGB zones are all covered with a frosted type plastic making the colour softer. personally I quite like that.

Performance & Software

After some homework, we found that the Clutch GM60 is fitted with a Pixart PMW 3330 sensor.  This is a decent sensor, being used since 2016 on mice like the Asus ROG Strix Pugio and Evolve.  This sensor allows for decent DPI options and has respectable accuracy.  I personally use a Logitech G903 as my every day and swopping it with the Clutch GM60 I could definitely feel the difference.  But once again, we need to compare apples to apples, and when doing that the Clutch can hold its own rather well.  Pairing the Pixart sensor with OMRON keys definitely creates a strong and durable. The MSI software that accompanies the mouse needs some work.  One of the features that the other bigger brands have that really sets them apart is the ability to control everything from one app or hub.  Like Razer and Logitech does.  If you have multiple MSI devices, you can pair certain aspects of it and work it from the app but generally, the app needs refinement.  Everything works but feels clunky.  The RGB feature in the app, noticeably, lacks the ability to match the RGB with what is on your screen.  Unless we couldn't find it.

Verdict

The MSI Clutch GM60 is by no means a bad mouse.  Considering that this is MSI's first step into the gaming mouse section they have made a good first step.  Their biggest adjustment would need to be to find its own identity.  The Clutch GM60 is not sure what it wants to be.  Does it want to be a budget/entry-level gaming mouse.  MSI is marketing this as an esports focused mouse and it is not, but that is okay!  Instead of trying to compete in an already saturated market aimed at a small target market, they should promote it for what it is, a mid-level gaming mouse.  It ticks the right boxes.  It has customizable panels, removable cable, very capable sensor and switches, and it has programmable RGB.  Those all make for a more than acceptable and capable mouse. This makes it a really good first-step for MSI.  What they need to go and do not is focus less on features, as they did with the Clutch GM60, and focus more on their design and refinement.  Any brand can slap features on a mouse and call it good.  The Clutch GM60 feels slightly rushed and a case of accepting designs and imperfections because they were "good enough" rather than perfect.  But a brand like MSI, that is synonymous with quality, albeit, in other sectors, we can expect their next iteration of the Clutch series to be significantly better and probably rivalling the other big brands. A single sentence to describe the Clutch GM60: A jack of all trades, but (unfortunately) a master of none, yet.    

Special thanks to MSI gaming for providing the review hardware

 
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