Friday, December 30, 2016

The games of Christmas 2016

A combination of Winter sales, Christmas spirit and a few days holidays always puts me in the mood for some video games. Here are the titles which have gotten some of my time since the start of December: 

1. Neverwinter Nights 2: A buggy launch cast a shadow over this sequel but fully patched it remains an engrossing gaming experience. Even though I have a boxed copy I rebought it from gog.com to save the hassle of patching it myself and I got all the expansions as a bonus. This is actually the third time I started the main campaign of NWN 2 and each time I get about half way through and then move on to something else. That is still many hours of gaming goodness each time however. 

2. Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone. Witcher 3's expansions have been on my wishlist for quite some time so when isthereanydeal.com informed me that they had finally fallen into my price range I jumped and bought them both. I have only played the shorter"Hearts of Stone" and it was excellent full of dark gritty witcheryness. The send expansion "Blood and Wine" is supposed to be even better so good times are ahead. The passing of more than a year has not dimmed my admiration for CD Projects Masterpiece. 

3. Titanfall 2: I played a small amount of Titanfall 1 but it was multiplayer only and I suck at multiplayer shooters. When I learned that Titanfall 2 also had an extensive campaign I was delighted and picked it up in an Origin sale. Much stompy  robot fun was had in the campaign although I have yet to try the supposedly excellent multiplayer. I guess I know I will still suck. 

4. Deus Ex Mankind Divided: I loved Desus Ex Human Revolution so odds are good I will like Makind divided. Haven't had time to more than scratch the surface yet though.

5. Battlefield 1: I keep buying these multiplayer shooters even though I am terrible at them. Battlefield 1 seems to be winning the shooter popularity ratings on Youtube which is unsurprising considering it has Zeppelins, tanks and mounted combat. I have only sampled the campaign so far. 

6. Rise of the Tomb Raider: I loved the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot so I was quite looking forward to this sequel. Unfortunately I only played it for a couple of days before getting distracted and moving on. The game is extremely polished and objectively very good but it also feels so similar to every other "Ubisoft Open World" game these days. You get a huge open world to explore chock full of  well crafted side missions and diversions with a tentative story to tie them all together. Gameplay is slick and there is a character advancement system so polished that you seem to level up along multiple axes without even thinking about it. I can't actually find a flaw in any of this except that the formula has become so polished that has become boring. 

On the PC hardware front you may be surprised to discover that I am still gaming and playing modern AAA titles on a seven year old platform with a 2010 era LGA 1156 motherboard. I originally though to replace it back in 2014 but  I decided to wait until Windows 10 came out and did some  upgrades instead.  By the time I had fitted extra memory, an SSD, modern graphics card (GTX 970) and a mildly overclocked 8 thread Xeon processor I realised that my rig ran Windows 10 perfectly and was still able to keep up with modern games so I held tight.  Now almost two years later I think it really is time for a complete replacement but there is a new AMD processor family (Zen) being launched in the Spring so I will wait for that. Zen / Ryzen may or may not live up to the hype but extra competition should bring down CPU prices. Currently my budgetary comfort zone only extends to the four threaded Intel I5 family but I have a gut feeling that multi-threaded gaming is coming of age and that an 8 threaded system will ensure better longevity. 


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