Tag: review (Page 1 of 3)

Ghost Recon Wildlands Review

Ghost Recon Wildlands is the latest game in the Tom Clancy pool. Bolivia has become prime drug country and the aim is to take down the Santa Blanca drug cartel as quietly as possible.

Playable in a solo campaign, with friends or matchmaking online to build the best team to wipe out the Santa Blanca. Even in solo campaign you are not alone – AI team members will join you to aid in taking out bases, avoiding the Unidad and intercepting convoys.

From the get go this game was full of forced conversation between team members and a whole load of navy jokes. We tried several ways of completing missions; guns blazing, stealthy, helicopters and running enemies over in cars. It soon became a routine of stealth though. Upgrading drones was priority and finding a decent sniper rifle was close second. In many cases going into bases was saved until we had killed all the enemies from a distance.

The game has the potentially for spending a lot of time doing side quests, convoys, helping rebels and collecting guns. But in many cases this was unnecessary and we spent time getting a single effective gun and then plowing through the story missions.  With the use of a helicopter – which we always tried to keep close by – moving between missions didn’t take long. Playing in this way was satisfying but at the same time the game didn’t seem long enough. There wasn’t enough of a story element to bother doing side missions after completing the main story line.

The emphasis on playing with other players was forced forward continuously. Pop ups appeared nearly every 10 minutes reminding you of the matchmaking queue and the AI’s capability to sync shot made many of the missions easy even on the highest difficulty.

Some bugs made gameplay hectic and resulted in death if you happened to be flying a plane or helicopter. Others had you running on top of your car whilst you were driving. No missing faces in this game though.

The overall verdict? Enjoyable in a group but quickly becomes routine. Take advantage of the wacky physics that appear and have fun blowing your team members up accidentally during stealth missions. A beautiful game but it doesn’t feel quite finished.

Transistor

Transistor has to be the best £3 I have spent in the Steam Sale so far, with Bastion (also made by SuperGiant Games) not far behind. You are Red, a singer gaining fame in CloudBank when you are attacked after a concert, finding the Transistor you must battle the Process to save the city, and find out what happened to the one you love.

A quirky little game, it tests your logic by it two way combat system. Either a fast paced round of combat, hitting abilities on the fly whilst trying to dodge the Process, or a logical use of abilities in a pause based system where you are dodging everything once you hit play again.

The series of abilities available to players is completely dependent on how they build the Transistor. Each ability having an active, passive and upgrade function that can be placed in any slot to suit different play styles.

Transistor ability modification

Abilities are traces of personalities found from the dead or when levelled. Putting abilities in different functions allows the player to find out more about the person the ability is made from. This simple system gives story hunters a chance to mix up their playstyle and learn more of the lore as they go along.

Like Bastion, Transistor gives chances to increase the difficulty of the game, although instead of praying to vengeful deities you are adding “limiters” to the Transistor increasing experience gain and modifying the Process to make them stronger in certain areas.

A subtle love story until the end, Transistor combines breath-taking artistry with a smooth and enjoyable soundtrack to bring players back after the first play-through. With a multitude of challenges to increase the game length and difficulty it caters to experience players as well as beginners.

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola

Set in South London in 1837, this is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress, a prostitute and a mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown, a laundress and a rival in love. The idealistic young lawyer Edmund Fleetwood is appointed, at the recommendation of his father, to probe into Sarah’s case and prove her innocence. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. It is up to Edmund to discover just what she’s hiding and why she doesn’t value her life enough to save herself. In the process, Sarah is able to tease out what lies beneath Edmund’s own insecurities and naivety, and that the two of them have more in common than is first perceived.

Her expression closed. The vulnerable Sarah had disappeared; the defences were back in place.

Edmund pressed his lips together. “I see.”

Sarah looked at him straight in the eye. “I’m telling you the truth.”

He nodded slowly. He had thought he was getting somewhere.

The Unseeing is the debut novel of Anna Mazzola, who uses her knowledge as a criminal justice solicitor to provide a detailed and believable story of Edmund’s investigation into the murder of Hannah Brown.

Not a book to be read lightly, Mazzola had created a piece full of suspense, questions and few answers. Why is Edmund so attached to Sarah? Who killed Hannah Brown? Why does Greenacre protect Sarah and why does she stay silent? As readers we are so full of questions as we try to piece together little puzzles and riddles in order to see the big picture. This in itself is made challenging by twists in the story. Relationships between characters are never as they appear and all the answer seem to be behind locked doors and closed minds. With all this to think on, whether Sarah is innocent or not is no longer the most interesting thing.

Mazzola’s background in law allows a clear insight into the processes necessary to Edmund’s investigation but is written with very little jargon to distract the reader from the events unfolding. In many cases, what little legalities are shown are merely a tool to help Sarah continue her telling of her past and how she ended up with Greenacre. More importantly it allows us to discover the similarities between Sarah’s and Edmund’s lives and the intricate lies they tell to themselves in order to keep functioning.

The books incorporates many of the pressing issues from that era – the reliance of women on men in order to survive, the brutishness of the prison system particularly in how it ripped mothers from their children when they were deported, and also the corruption of the legal system – evidence went missing, suspects were considered guilty without clear evidence etc.

Not a story for simply passing the time away, Mazzola’s piece forces you to think about every little nuance in the tales being spun. How is the latest information going to change the lives of those involved. How and why do all these things connect and just why was Edmund chosen to investigate the matter once it had been decided upon. Every tidbit brings forth another two questions to be answered, more dots to connect before the bigger picture is shown. It is one to keep you guessing, and nothing is quite how is seems but in a refreshingly non-cliche manner.

 

 

 

The Stranger by Harlan Coben

A fairly typical well written thriller from a long list of books by Harlan Coben.

Coben excels in thrillers as we have seen in previous books such as Shelter and Play Dead. And with such an impressive resume The Stranger is simply following in formidable footprints without a lot of ammunition. Whilst a good read, it was lacklustre in comparison to series such as the Micky Bolitar series. But I digress.

The book follows the standard conventions of a thriller – secrets hidden for years are being revealed and the consequences must be met. Our protagonist Adam is simply one of many who are told that all in their lives is not as it seems. And in the huge webs of secrets and lies is the Stranger. The one who reveals all.

My disappointment with the Stranger is how the mystery behind the character is dropped seemingly without a thought. One minute he is the Stranger to us and to our protagonists and the next his name is revealed casually by another character. My biggest issue is that the mysteriousness could have been covering something intricate to add more substance to the story but all it did was leave me annoyed that I had so much time wondering about a character with little meaning. He was there to spark events but in my opinion wasn’t a talking point. Similarly Kuntz could have added something to the story but his story was thrown in with a few paragraphs and his real goal whilst revealed was never explained fully. I couldn’t hate him because again he was only there to push a tiny section of plot.

As a thriller it started off well, Coben dropped in small clues as to what was going on and the eventual ‘who dun it’ but then these clues just seemed to evaporate into thin air. What originally made you think was then either handed to you on a plate or withheld altogether. The bonds between characters such as Adam and wife Corrinne seemed forced, even the connection with his sons simply seemed to be there to serve as a way for Coben to push the dramatics of a missing person and less for the realistic feel of the book. We weren’t even sure of Adam some of the time. He comes up with all these great ideas but we see no thought process just a miraculous decision that works out well.

I think ultimately I finished the book because it was by Coben, not through a need to know how it ended. It was just too emotionally distant from the characters and completely unexpected considering previous works. Hopefully the newest book by Coben tugs the heart more, maybe then death and deception will matter more to the reader.

 

Coben’s latest book Fool Me Once  was published in March this year.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

Second book in the Divine Cities series, City of Blades continues the story of the divine and brings the reader to the uncivilised land of Voortyashtan, once home of Voortya – divinity of war and destruction. And it seems like someone thinks she may still be alive.

Similar to the first book in the series City of Stairs; City of Blades starts with a possible murder. General Turyin Mulaghesh is brought of retirement to tour the world and solve problems for President Shara. One of Shara’s trusted intelligence agents has gone missing and so Turyin must uncover all the secrets of Fort Thinadeshi is this strange and uncivilised land in order to determine the fate of Sumitra Choudry.

A fantasy story set in a world crafted in the previous story Bennett, this second installment is brilliant for very different reasons to the first. I rant and I rave about the ability of writers to build believable characters in most of my reviews, because I think it is a key part of a good book but this book makes me joyous with the depth of background and emotion each character is given. Whilst City of Stairs amazed me through it’s story and the vast world built, City of Blades managed to connect me to each and every character in such a way that I empathised with their pain.

By the time I finished the book I was left emotionally drained. I couldn’t put the book down so I was tense, scared, amazed and confused for about six or seven hours straight. Bennett’s lack of fear of killing off key characters lends to the craft of this book. As readers we are actually forced to feel true sorrow when a character which is such an integral part of Turyin’s journey is developed only to be killed accidently and tragically; the death is particularly tragic because it came from one person deciding to be brave for once. With every ache and pain, every grievous memory of previous wars that Turyin has to suffer, I suffered with her.

As a portrayal of real life, the author recreates the emotions of not only how war affects the soldiers – as we see through General Mulaghesh and the soldiers in Fort Thinadeshi (e.g Pandey at the death of a loved one), he shows how the war affects the lands and the people involved. More poignantly he poses questions on how actions in war are identified and whether those who commit these acts can ever forgive their past, he focusses these thoughts through Turyin during her time in both the Battle of Bulikov and her time in the Yellow Company. And despite all the terrible things she has done and horrendous acts she has committed, we still root for Turyin because for all her flaws, Bennett shows the constant war in her head- trying to the right thing, and still keeping as many of those under her command alive. She treats them like her children and refers to them as such in many occasions.

Bringing his well planned espionage back into the fray, Bennett continues his themes of intrigue and corrupt deeds with the madness of Sumitra Choudry and the wishes of select few who wish to resurrect Voortya, or at least remnants of her power. Of course, bringing the divine of war and destruction is definitely not approved by everyone and here Turyin is key to preventing the end of all things. Above all, all she wants is to make things matter.

At a faster pace than the first book — most likely due to the reader already having a basic understanding of the world and it’s makeup — Bennett ramps up the action fairly fast, but carefully ensures that nothing is given away before time. Some clues are given but these are few and far between, leaving us as much in the dark as Turyin herself. Bennett makes sure we pay attention to all the details for fear of missing out on something vital later in the story – he doesn’t write fluff fillers in this book, everything leads or links to some other part of plot or reasoning, and so he creates a web of stories where vibrations bounce between lives.

If you enjoyed City of Stairs, then this book will only bring you further into the web of the Divine Cities series and you can join the eager crowd of those waiting for the next in installment in the series. By far a better book than the first, Bennett clearly knows when he is on to something good when the beautiful creation that was City of Stairs leads to a thrilling and capturing sequel such as City of Blades. Time to look up ways to start a campaign. We have high expectations and we want more!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

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