The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard review

 

After not too long a wait, Bethesda has graced us with yet more dragon vampire killing fun in the form of the first DLC pack for our best game of 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, best known as the source of repetitive internet jokes which have prompted numerous angry blog posts. Under the title of Dawnguard, this add-on not only gives an extra 6 hours of gameplay but also makes a number of slight additions and improvements to an already great game.

On the whole, Dawnguard’s storyline is not fantastic but it’s still a good addition to one of the best games out there. The quests are fun, with a good mixture of murder, carnage and even the occasional puzzle, the new characters are interesting and in all honesty fun to interact with and, most importantly for an RPG, the storyline is good.  My major complaint with Dawnguard is the fact that there is no variety in what you have to do. Just like the rest of Skyrim, each quest is simply run here, kill/steal/Fus Ro Dah this, come back, repeat, and while this can be fun for short periods, I found that after about an hour of gameplay I began to become bored. It would have been nice for a Bethesda to make at least a little differentiation between Skyrim and Dawnguard, but alas no.

While the main storyline is at worst disappointing, the rest of the DLC is far superior. There are numerous minor changes to the general gameplay which make the whole experience feel much better than it did before. My favourite addition is that of horseback fighting, as nothing feels better than charging through battle, firing slow motion arrows from the back of your horse. This, along with dragon bone weapons, werewolf and vampire perk trees and other such improvements makes for a significant improvement for an already superb game.

Overall, Dawnguard is decent. While the storyline and quests are not what they could have been, everything else that comes along side the questline makes Dawnguard in my eyes worth the money, despite the high price tags. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard is available now for 1600 Microsoft Points (£13.71) from the Xbox Marketplace and for £13.99 on PC via Steam, while Bethesda is said to be ‘not satisfied yet‘ with Dawnguard’s performance on PlayStation 3, and have decided to hold back its release until they can ensure that it will not worsen users experiences in the Skyrim world.

 

E3 2012: The Review

It is that time of the year again. E3 has come and gone, and all those melodramatic gamers are at this very moment in time still in a state of shock and awe (and mild dampness in their trousers) having been given a preview of how they will be spending most of their waking hours over the coming years. As the resident bird in anger, I must endeavour not to be stunned into silence at the epicosity of this year’s conference, but report up on what went down and why. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to a poor man’s attempt to condense the infinite awesomeness of the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo into a single blog post.

E3 2012 kicked off with green smoke and the new trailer for Halo 4. The 7 minute trailer, mixing live-action with gameplay footage, certainly followed the trend of seriously epic that has made the Halo series one of the most successful for Microsoft’s Xbox platform. That said, it looks like the game is turning a bit darker and scarier with glimpses of forerunner technology and new enemies. The gameplay seemed familiar and both Halo fanatics and newcomers alike will have no trouble getting used to the controls. The interface was nice and the graphics were certainly on par with the latest flagships, so no surprises there. The video gave just enough perspective to get us interested in the game, revealing that it is set four years after the end of the war on a distant planet that Master Chief landed on after the end of the Halo 3. The trailer and gameplay also told us that the ancient forerunners will be playing a big part in the game, and if the weapons that Master Chief is using are anything to go by, this is definitely a good thing, as well as tying up a story that has spanned the best part of eleven years. Halo games have always been a staple of sci-fi shooters, and this next installment certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to disappoint.


Following shortly after came the announcement of another cross-platform sequel from Ubisoft in the shape of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist. This trailer genuinely made me want to get this game and start increasing the atmosphere’s lead content. I am a fan of tactical cover shooter games where a little bit of planning is required before all hell breaks loose, and the latest Splinter Cell seems to offer this. The gameplay footage showed a fluid and deadly combat system that no gamer will have trouble causing havoc with, as well as a plethora of stealth options and target marking which allows you to take out large numbers of hostiles quickly, quietly and above all awesomely. This being a cover shooter, the movement mechanics looked seamlessly fluid allowing you to be very efficient. As expected from a Ubisoft title, I even noticed a hint of Assassin’s Creed in the climbing mechanics, but either way it looks to be brilliant. Furthermore, Sam Fisher has been promoted to the head of the newly formed Fourth Echelon, meaning you now have many more support systems at your disposal as well as highly advanced intelligence which can be easily accessed through the Kinect integration on Xbox 360 meaning you don’t even have to look up from combat. This is definitely one of my top 3 games of the expo, and I am looking forward to its launch across PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in spring 2013.

Another big title to be announced by Microsoft was a fourth installment for the Gears of War series, entitled Judgment. Despite its original name, the trailer certainly had me curious as to what was going to happen in the game. I am not a big Gears man myself, so the fact that it even got into this post is a credit to Epic Games. The trailer showed only snapshots of action and was set to the daunting soundtrack of an American military reading a list of charges against the main protagonists, showing dark corners of a ruined courtroom, a rocket and many artistic angles of the lieutenant’s backside. What we can expect is lots of impossible missions, plenty of action and miles of locusts. This may not be quite my kind of game, but certainly one that fans will spend many hours enjoying.

The game I have really been waiting for is next on my list, and easily makes it into my top three games of E3 2012. It is of course Forza Horizon, the latest edition to Microsoft’s answer to Sony’s phenomenal Gran Turismo series and pretty much every racing game aside. Up until now, Forza has been a dedicated racing simulator similar to GT and arguably the best of them al. The immense driving mechanics and physics involved were always brilliant, and, as gaming progressed, so did the graphics until it looked faultless in last October’s Forza Motorsport 4. Up until now, the Need For Speed crew held pole position for street racing and more arcade style racers that I enjoyed as much as the serious Forza titles of the day. Now, developers like Playground Games have decided that as EA crossed the border and released more sim-heavy games such as NFS: Shift, they should return the favour and bring some of the Forza magic to the streets. Forza Horizon is based around a massive music festival in Colorado, and you as the driver are racing to get there in time for the start. As with any game, things are not as simple as they may seem, as along the way you shall encounter some interesting problems. This is starting to sound a little familiar, but my worries have been set aside by the trailer unveiled at E3. It doesn’t quite have the same challenge aspect as NFS: The Run, and nor does it come close to the sprawling islands of Test Drive Unlimited, but is showing undertones of Burnout, a series that has been largely untouched since the TDU­-esque Paradise met critical acclaim in 2008. The amalgamation of all these genres added to the precision and reputation of Forza in an open world setting means that although this is far from what I was expecting, I am still very excited to see what the end result will be. I have high hopes that maybe, just maybe, this will be the be all and end all of street racers.

The final game to go on my top three games of E3 this year is of course Assassin’s Creed 3, another title from the guys at Ubisoft Montreal. I wrote an article a couple of weeks back expressing my hope that the Assassin’s Creed series hadn’t peaked too early and that AC3 would live up to expectations and more, and what we saw at E3 means that it most certainly will. The game takes place during the American civil war, and gamers take control of a new assassin who goes by the name of Connor Kenway. Connor is half Mohawk, half English and half angel, and somehow that makes perfect sense. The story takes place across thirty years across New York, Philadelphia and Boston, as well as the high seas and the vast frontier. From the various videos I have seen, Ubisoft has continued to innovate to make the original AC formula seem fresh and exciting. Little details such as horse drawn hay bales that you can jump into as well as the static ones are the kind of thing I was hoping for, and the little things like that will continue to make this game just as good as we are hoping. New combat mechanics such as hiding round corners and the Mohawk axe replacing the sword combined with refined assassination techniques exclusive to this new assassin were shown in the gameplay footage, as well as continually stunning graphics which have been upgraded to include weather changes and seasons. Assassin’s Creed has provided the combination of mind games with sheer awesome combat that was serious and yet bags of fun for many years now, as well as a story that has always had me craving more. From what I can see, this latest installation shall continue this trend and will probably become the best AC yet, and for that I’m thankful.

I have been saving the best pair of games for last, and despite the fact neither made it onto my top three, they are probably the most significant and impressive from this year’s E3. I refer of course to Watch Dogs and The Last of Us.

Watch Dogs had me intrigued from the moment I first saw the trailer. I was genuinely perplexed at what this game was about. To me it looked like a campaign against internet information and only at the end did I realize it must have something to do with the ability to control the ctOS system. The gameplay footage shown at E3 confirmed this, as it showed a guy in an oversized coat controlling various electronic elements of his environment to achieve his goal, which turned out to be killing someone named Joseph DeMarco, a guilty man who was nevertheless acquitted for soliciting murder. I am very curious to see what Ubisoft has come up with here. It may well be the next big hit and is certainly unique in its own right which is why it is so important could this become the next Assassin’s Creed as the final installment is set for later this year. The gameplay also gave us a bit more to try and piece some logical plot together. The main protagonist Aiden Pearce seems to be well acquainted with killing, but his interaction with civilians during the firefight suggests some kind of anti-hero. Either way it seems to be open world, set in a city modelled closely on Chicago, the graphics look so phenomenal that everyone thought they were from the next-generation of console gaming until Ubisoft confirmed to Joystiq that the game would make an appearance on at least the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, and it is very new, with a launch expected next year, so I will be following intently developments in this new title. It is exactly what makes E3 so good – we talk in depth about the games that we are looking forward to hearing about, and then someone like Ubisoft comes out and stuns everyone with a brand-new IP.

While gamers continued to swoon over the announcement of Watch Dogs, Sony’s conference began, but they stole the show at the end of theirs with the unveiling of the first gameplay video of the other of the important games, Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. From what we know so far, it seems to follow an I Am Legend-esque theme with an over run city and few surviving humans each willing to kill the other at the drop of a hat. The infected that stalk the land run fast and are agile but can’t speak. They certainly aren’t your conventional zombies, but they will do the job and they are a nice change from the stereotype, perpetuated by Ubisoft in the trailer for ZombiU. The initial idea came from the cordyceps fungus which attacks only one type of ant, driving it insane before killing it by growing out of the ant’s brain. The idea for these infected is similar, only applied to humans. Check it out on the BBC’s Planet Earth if you want more info, but despite the sci-fi nature of the infection, it is real, and kudos should go to Naughty Dog for staying true to science. The character you play is an aging man with a beard accompanied by a teenage girl who never experienced what the world was like before the epidemic. The game is certainly as juicy as Watch Dogs and the short gameplay footage available shows a cover system, intense and brutal combat and limited supplies. This looks to be a heart-pumping game that might follow a familiar formula, but will be delivered in a way never seen before that will make one hell of a game. Naughty Dog, despite their pedigree of success with the Uncharted series, has shocked the gaming community with the quality of this release, so I have no idea what will happen when we actually get round to playing this. The graphics look very pretty, and although I can’t quite work out if it is open world yet, the ways in which you could tackle any one building look numerous. The developers say that they want this to be about the emotional experience between humans in this terrible post-apocalyptic city of Pittsburgh and beyond in the journey across America, and I am sure that we will be treated to a cinematic experience that will leave us empty at some points as we connect with the characters and what they must do. Either way, it looks awesome and will definitely become the next Alan Wake, if not more.



At this point in time, the letters on the keys of my keyboard have been rubbed away by the repetitive keystrokes required for this article, but little else can be expected when one is asked to sum up E3. For those few who have not died or fallen asleep, I commend you and I shall continue to fly straight on with the last two major events of this year’s E3.

Another awesomely humbling game is the long-awaited reboot of Tomb Raider. From what I saw of the new Crossroads trailer, it looks to contain a Far Cry-esque island with a very sinister side. In contrast with the previous games’ emphasis on open world decision, the new game is about as linear as you can get without it being Mario. As you would expect from such a major title, the graphics are magnificent and an action packed fighting mechanic with plenty of weapons and a seemingly half-decent plot line added into the mix should make a fun third-person shooter. It might not be ground breaking, but it is nice to see the old game revived in such a nice way, and it will certainly be a title to play and have fun with after I have finished everything else at least twice.

Another very important game is the latest installment in the Call of Duty series. Black Ops 2 is taking a very different tone from its predecessor, as it is controversially taking place in the future. The opening caption of the trailer asks what happens to one’s highly sophisticated and deadly army of unnamed drones when the enemy can control them. I have a sneaking suspicion we might just find out, as the gameplay footage shows a grizzled soldier accompanying the president through a war torn city with drones flying overhead blowing everything up. After the comparative disappointment of Modern Warfare 3 compared to Battlefield 3, does this latest title deserve a chance? The gameplay looks very identical to all previous CoD games, but the new weapons and potentially interesting plot produces a compelling argument. The graphics were on par, and at the end of the day we all know it will sell better than probably any other game at E3 so why not. CoD games will always be good even if they’re not always great. The new technology will be fun to explore, and using unmanned drones to reduce obstacles to dust and smart jets as well as new age combat arms mean that I will definitely give it a chance and hope that CoD will get back to being good. I for one don’t want to put money on another wet fish.

Last and most definitely least for me was the announcement of Xbox SmartGlass. This allows you to connect to your Xbox through your Windows, Android or iOS device allowing you to play music, surf the web and get interactive with movies and games through more than one channel. SmartGlass will certainly add to existing games and activities and is certainly a good idea, but by no means groundbreaking. It is simply an improvement to a system which is expected as technology becomes more and more accessible. The system will help games like the upcoming Madden and FIFA games, where voice and motion integration are the next improvements, as well as giving you another stat channel to immerse you fully in the gameplay. Before long it will be like playing real sport. It is good to see that Microsoft is still innovating because the Xbox has been serving gamers true for a very long time now and improvements like this could help shape the future of gaming consoles which, once the mould is broken, could provide gaming at a depth never before imagined.

Finally I have come to an end of a battle that has raged for an entire day of my life. The Electronic Entertainment Expo this year was as massive as ever, and I have only managed to scratch the surface of what the industry brought to the table at the Los Angeles Convention Centre this week. Other notable mentions should go to Microsoft’s implementation of a strange singing being called ‘Usherto launch Dance Central 3, LocoCycle, Resident Evil 6, Matter for Kinect, South Park: The Stick of Truth and a game for Kinect called Wreckateer that looks to be some kind of voice and motion controlled Angry Birds rip-off which I can actually imagine having loads of fun with, especially if with friends. This looks to be a great year for gaming, and if this year’s E3 was anything to go by, video gaming will continue to blow our minds away. If anybody is bored this summer, it is because they are truly insane, and I am already looking forward to next year because to be honest I can’t even begin to comprehend anything more spectacular than this. After a good six hours writing this, I am the Angry Bird signing off until next year.

The Last of Us gameplay video steals the show at E3

In Sony’s E3 press conference, Naughty Dog, the studio behind the Uncharted and Jak & Daxter games, unveiled the first gameplay video of their new IP, The Last of Us. The game is set in a post-pandemic world destroyed by a plague, and players take control of Joel, a ruthless survivor, and Ellie, a brave young girl, as they try to survive across America. The gameplay video, created live at the keynote from a PlayStation 3, shows Joel and Ellie treading through an abandoned hotel, before death ensues for many enemies. At the end, an assailant sporting a rifle enters a derelict room, before getting stabbed and losing his head to the gun. Watch the epic 7:23 video below (18+) and take a look at the previous trailers and a few screenshots, and prepare for the PlayStation exclusive launch in late 2012 or early 2013.



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E3: The Preview

E3 is just around the corner, so we thought we’d give you a peek at some of the stuff that we’re looking forward to this week.

The Last of Us

The Last of Us is the latest title from Naughty Dog, famous for the Uncharted and Jak & Daxter games. This PS3 exclusive is set in a post-pandemic world destroyed by a plague, and players take control of Joel, a ruthless survivor, and Ellie, a brave young girl, as they try to survive across America. Think Dead Island but better.


Tomb Raider

Lara Croft is back, and she’s determined to get her crown back as queen of action games.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard

Skyrim came out late last year to almost universal acclaim, including our own game of the year award. Now, Bethesda is set to give us more information about the recently-announced Dawnguard DLC.

Lego Lord of the Rings

Lego games are always awesome, and the minifgure take on Lord of the Rings promises to be no exception.

Hitman: Absolution

The Hitman series returns with death, death and even more death.

The Testament of Sherlock Holmes

Despite being an obvious attempt to cash in on the ongoing Sherlock fever, this LA Noire-esque detective game seems intriguing.

Far Cry 3

The Far Cry series returns to an isolated island, and this time you get crazier the longer you stay there.

Assassin’s Creed 3

With a new protagonist and a new continent, AC3 promises to be epic, but can it differ enough from its predecessors to make gamers happy?

Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments, and get ready for the biggest week of the gaming year. E3 here we come!

Why I love the PlayStation Vita

I am a PlayStation fanboy, and, when I heard about the PlayStation Vita, Sony’s new handheld, I knew it would be the console for me. Now I have had a few weeks with one, I love it even more.

As soon as I got it, I was struck by just how big the Vita was. I had seen pictures and renders of it beforehand, but not until it is in your hand do you actually realise how big it is compared to the older PSP models. See these comparisons with the PSP-3000 for a taster.

On older PSP models, only one shoulder button was located on either side, instead of the two that you would find on a traditional PlayStation controller. However, the Vita compensates for this oversight, having a rear capacitive touch panel in place of another trigger. Many people will say that they would have preferred to see two triggers rather than the capacitive panel and I did not feel too enthusiastic about Sony’s choice. However, having actually used the device, it can add greatly to the gameplay experience, providing the developers use all their resources to optimise their games for the Vita. One fantastic implementation of the panel is on FIFA Football, where one has the ability to shoot with quick taps on the rear of the console. To shoot at the bottom right corner of the goal, tap the bottom right. It could not be simpler, especially for penalties. In Uncharted: Golden Abyss, a Vita-exclusive launch title, different gestures result in different actions, such as climbing walls and slicing through the jungle and, as developers learn to take full advantage of what the Vita has to offer, things can only get better.

Furthermore, the the addition of dual analogue sticks to the Vita is also great as it gives you a proper feel of being just like a PS3 controller too. The old PSP had one analogue ‘stick’, but I could hardly regard it as that, due to the fact that it was just a little nub that was uncomfortable to use even for five minutes. Admittedly the sticks do protrude a fair bit, but they are 100% worth the added bulk.

The remote play is a lot better for the Vita and a lot easier to access and a lot more reliable. There are also a load of options to connect your Vita to your actual PlayStation Network/Sony Entertainment Network account to see who is online and talk to friends on party chat, just like you would if you were on your PS3. There are also better online connections to play against other people and, with an 802.11n WiFi chip, internet connectivity is much improved over that of the PSP. Also, with certain games available on both the Vita and the PS3, if you save the game to the cloud on your PS3, one can carry on with a Vita from your previous save point. This means you can play at home or out and about, which is a well thought out new feature to enhance the experience for the hardcore gamer.

The software on the horizon for the Vita is mouthwatering. Not only will great PS3 games such as FIFA 13, the inevitable Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, F1 2012, Grand Theft Auto V and Resident Evil be ported across and optimised for the dual touch panels and analogue sticks by developers, but a number of Vita exclusives are on the way from Sony and third parties, such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Touch My Katamari. Also, the prospect of downloadable PlayStation classics like Crash Bandicoot and Final Fantasy will give another dynamic, not only for the younger ones who will probably never have played the games before to give them a good experience, but also to the older ones who would of grown up playing these games and would probably love to revisit the classics of PlayStation gaming.

The PlayStation Vita is a great device and is well worth its price tag if you can afford it. I feel Sony have taken great time and effort to make it the best portable console ever and it certainly exceeds even my high expectations. The introduction of a new dimension to gaming makes it a better experience for hardcore players, who, up to this point, have been left out in the cold when it comes to gaming on the go. However, as most of us don’t have that sort of money at the moment, I suggest that, when the inevitable price drop occurs, you grab it because it will be a bargain that you can’t miss. I am sure that, if the price was about £169, they would fly off shelves like hot cakes, providing a large boost to retailers. If you do buy it, you will not be disappointed. You can take my word for it.

Technophobia: PS3 vs. Xbox 360 and why I don’t care

Technophobia is a column by James Hardy. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

Before I start this article, I’d just like to point out that I’m writing this from the point of view of a neutral. I don’t own a PS3 or an Xbox. I have a Wii.

Yes, a Wii. Shut up.

So now it is time to face the age old question: PS3 or Xbox 360?

Well no, it’s not. Because frankly, I couldn’t care less.

The truth is, Xbox owners will pick Xbox, and PS3 owners will pick PS3.

Sure, you might get the occasional Xbox owner who thinks a PS3 is better, or vice versa, but these people are few and far between. They are outliers in the gaming world.

In general, people want what they have to be better than others. And they probably won’t admit it if they think it isn’t true. That is a fact of life.

And the arguments that these people use just get tedious. They are always the same ones. A typical argument goes something like this:

‘Xbox Live is better than PlayStation Network Sony Entertainment Network.’

‘PS3 has a Blu-ray.’

‘Xbox is cheaper.’

‘So? It’s better.’

‘Xbox is more popular.’

‘And? PS3 has better graphics.’

‘No it doesn’t.’

‘Yes it does.’

‘No it doesn’t.’

‘It does. And what’s up with that stupid Xbox controller?’

That last point is fair enough. Seriously Microsoft, I want my thumbs level with each other. Not a hard concept.

I can hear you trolling already.

‘OMG ur so biased u deffo have a ps3 really!’

The 360 is better value for money though. There we go, impartiality is resumed.

So, er, yeah. These arguments are pointless. And stupid.

Why bother?

Digixav Gaming!

Hello there,

Chris, having endlessly been telling me about Skyrim for 2 weeks, expressed an interest into bringing gaming news, reviews and biased opinions to Digixav.

Needing some sleep having been forced to wake up at 5am today for the Lord Mayor’s Show, I said yes.

And therefore a new gaming section has launched here, with the editorial talents of Bada-man Steinberg, the occasional review thing from me and a NEW member of staff in the form of serial commenter and PS3 fanatic Euan McGinty. Please welcome him with open arms.

Enjoy the posts to come,

Xavier