video game journalism

10

Nate’s Journal 

I was given the super fun task of illustrating Drake’s journal for Uncharted 4. These are my favorite 10 spreads, there are 33 in total. I also did a lot of the handwriting for handwritten note pickups. (writing was primarily by Josh Scherr) 

I think the coolest part about the whole thing is my young nephew and cousin came to visit me at the studio. I was showing them some stuff I worked on and my cousin goes “so wait… is Nathan Drake’s handwriting your handwriting?” I think my cool aunt/cousin status tripled that day hahaha

youtube

Here is a video of Dan Shaving Patrick’s facial hair due to him losing to Dan in Mario Maker. This is quality content that everyone should watch. 

“Should I Play Total War: Warhammer as a Warhammer fan?”

The simple answer is yes, you should. You should even play Total War Warhammer if you aren’t a Warhammer fan, and I’ll explain why.

Last week Creative Assembly offered me a review key for their upcoming title, Total War: Warhammer that is being released this coming Tuesday on May 24th. Since then I’ve logged a sickening amount of hours into it fighting battles that as a long time table top player, I always wished to see animated. Whether it’s Karl Franz on Deathclaw fighting Louen Leoncoeur on Beaquis or a retelling of Storm of Chaos where Grimgor headbutts Archaon this game is filled with moments that appeal to both long time fans of the series and traditional real time strategy players. This review aims to explain why this game is important for Warhammer tabletop players and why it’s being made at an interesting time for both companies involved.

Firstly, if you don’t know what Warhammer Fantasy is, I can say with utmost assurance that it exists as one of the best traditional fantasy settings in modernity. But….Warhammer fantasy has changed. Those who are long time fans of the tabletop game or just those obsessed with its rich lore probably know about Warhammer fantasy’s departure into its next, current edition; Age of Sigmar. The Warhammer fantasy most have come to familiarize themselves with (8th edition) has been departed from by Games-Workshop and the reception has been very mixed. Almost all of the major characters and faction leaders have been killed canonically in “The End Times” and whole factions playable on the tabletop have been rendered null. On the flipside, Age of Sigmar has brought with it new factions as well as a completely new rule set for tabletop play that upset those who are more used to a high skill ceiling game, cutting over 200 pages from the rule book to a pamphlet only 4 pages long. It is speculated that Games-Workshop created Age of Sigmar as a last effort to revitalize a stagnant Warhammer Fantasy sales figure, forging new armies and rule books to keep interest. While many saw this new “Ragnarok” and “rebirth” narrative as a canning of a deep, 30+ year old lore, plenty of other players sighed in relief as the game was made to be more accessible to play and much more transparent. As Age of Sigmar is still relatively new, it remains to be seen how it develops, though it is safe to say that the fanbase is and will continue to be divided.

On the other hand we have the Total War series. This series, created in 2000 by Creative assembly has consistently pioneered the real time strategy landscape. The series emerged to great critical acclaim, and carved a niche for itself within computer gaming that scratched a “Risk” itch, being both interesting as a war campaign game and a real time strategy combat game. Creative Assembly has continued this title all the way into 2016 and in that time, Total War has seen Feudal Japan, the height of the Roman Empire, Medieval Europe, Napoleonic Europe, the Americas, and most recently an invasion by Attila the Hun. Never has Total War seen a fantasy setting before Total War: Warhammer and just like Games-Workshop received backlash for Age of Sigmar, so too was Creative Assembly met with flak from its own fanbase for creating a non-historical title. In many ways, both companies are similar in their departures from their comfort zones and whether these departures were driven by necessity or tact, the truth is that these two series are perfect for each other.

Now, that the background has been explained, on to the actual game. Total War: Warhammer takes place in Warhammer Fantasy, 8th edition before Age of Sigmar. Subsequently, 5 of the most iconic factions of Warhammer are playable in the series’ first iteration; The Empire, Chaos Warriors, Dwarves, Greenskins, and Vampire Counts make up 5 of the promised 13 playable factions by the series’ end. Each have been impressively realized and CA will continue after launch to flesh out the factions with both FLC and DLC in a 3 part series that take place on a single campaign map (think expansion pack per game). This game is filled with juicy lore and in game events that make each faction feel the way you imagined them feeling from their backgrounds and books. Both mechanically and spiritually this game is very much Warhammer Fantasy, 8th edition but in a real time strategy setting. Mechanics like vanguard deployment, winds of magic, armor saves, ward saves, wheeling, and misfiring/miscasting are all present in Total War: Warhammer to make the game feel both familiar and fresh. Real time makes it much punishing in a way that will keep rule book worms on the edge of their seats, yet similarly demand a level of attentiveness and forethought from more fast and loose game players that is very rewarding.

Both on and off the battlefield, Creative Assembly made each specific faction feel unique and true to their lore. For example, playing as the Dwarves you are incentivized to build economically in your Karaks and provinces, waiting for your enemies to strike you. Dealing with your enemies in this manner keeps your “Book of Grudges” clear of grudges, which build up when attacked or slighted and can affect your public order and political tension with other Dwarf clans. Once the threat has been dealt with defensively, you can push offensively to retake your holds from the greenskins or clear the surrounding areas of vampiric influence. This is not only an interesting campaign mechanic, but one that forces the player to adopt a lore friendly Dwarfish playstyle in order to best min max his or her campaign. Another example is the sheer destructive allure of the Chaos Warriors. In their power (maybe intentionally imbalanced) and hyper aggressive, frontline playstyle they, on the outset seem more enticing than the forever underdog the Empire which mechanically and stylistically emulates the corruption of Chaos. Making a one for one translation of table top wouldn’t have been that difficult, but it also wouldn’t have been interesting. Making a fully fleshed out campaign map and story arc, on top of a real time strategy battle game that feels true to both Total War and true to Warhammer is difficult, and this game hit a home run.

To Warhammer 8th edition fans, this is your last sanctuary. It isn’t a one for one recreation of battles but it’s damn close and it offers much more off of the field. The combat is not turned based but it has every underlying mechanic inherent to the table top and it feels great, see for yourself. If you are not pleased with Age of Sigmar and you’d like some refuge, I could not recommend this game enough.

You would like this game if:

-You enjoy lengthy pay offs

-You’re a lore junkie

-You’re a combat junkie

-You’re a strategist

-You love character customization

-You’re a loot grabber

-You’re a completionist

-You enjoy world building


You may not like this game if:

-You’re a multiplayer addict, as the game’s multiplayer feels archaic and lacks in depth customization, which the game supports despite being amiss. Will almost definitely be updated at a later time.

-You dislike High Skill Ceilings, as this game is difficult to know to its full depth

-You dislike games that require a lengthy learning period

Creative Assembly took a risk and created a great game, easily one of the best in the Total War franchise. The game scratches itches for many different gamer types and lives up to almost all of what it promises to deliver, a title that I know I will still be playing months down the line. This game is not only interesting as a window into a game studio making moves to differentiate itself, but also stands alone as a fun and addicting title. Creative Assembly set out to create a fantasy game but actually made a historical title, historical for a fan base of Warhammer players who felt spurned by the series they loved, now archived in full by a company who loves it as much as they do.

Taking in $158,922, which was considerably more than her initial goal of $6,000 dollars, Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women is a very good example of all the hype regarding Kickstarter and none of the payoff.

A very successful Kickstarter, but with no delivery of all the content her 6,968 donors paid for, along with several severe problems plaguing the series: No noticeable increase in quality from her pre-Kickstarter days, poorly written with use of word salads, huge use of confirmation bias, inconsistent train of thought from episode to episode, cherry picked material, context-removal, little to no sources, little to no valid sources, baseless accusations and of course, is long overdue for completiction! Sounds like a perfect edition to Kotaku’s list of Kickstarter projects that have yet to deliver.

Many of the issues regarding Tropes Vs Women in Video Games have been pointed out again and again by many throughout each episode’s release, though the video game press seems to ignore this. Indeed, the press seems to frequently only give constant praise rather than equal coverage to the positive, neutral and the negative takes regarding the series. One of the more well known examples of Sarkeesian’s poor understanding of video games involves Hitman Absolution in which she accuses of encouraging misogynistic attacks against strippers, going so far to state that the placement of these women was a purposeful detail the developers placed into the game,“It’s a rush streaming from a carefully concocted mix of sexual arousal; connected to the act of controlling and punishing representations of female sexuality.” What Sarkeesian doesn’t include is that at no moment does the game force you to kill these women, that the game even punishes you when you commit violence against innocents, man or woman. This mix of sexual arousal and violence is seemingly a highly subjective experience provided you even go out of your way to kill these women. Not a peep from the gaming press, including Kotaku, regarding an important piece of information that was left out in a project that required a large amount of donors in order to research. 

Even with her awfully late material, it was even announced that Feminist Frequency was gonna do two other video series about video game characters. Meanwhile Tropes vs. Women is only half way through the 12 announced episodes for the first entry in the series, with the last episode coming out on August 25th, 2014

All the entries listed in Schreier’s article obviously had major problems to attribute to being listed yet Sarkeesian’s project seems to have just as many if not more major issues to warrant being an addition to this list. However Sarkeesian’s Tropes Vs. Women in video games isn’t on this list, how strange! 

Perhaps it just didn’t make the cut; that “13 successful Kickstarters That Never Delivered” wasn’t too appealing of a title!