Fighting the Skaven horde is a highly enjoyable and challenging pastime that we at TiX Towers have enjoyed immensely. The Karak Azgaraz DLC gives us precisely the excuse we need to dive back in, providing a short, three mission adventure where players attempt to warn the dwarven hold of Karak Azgaraz of the approaching vermin horde.
Indeed, the thousands of vicious and bloodthirsty rat people that you’ve slain so far in Vermintide has failed to stop their attack against the civilised folk of Warhammer, namely the humans, elves and dwarves. The exhilarating and immensely satisfying medieval slaughtering must continue if you stand a chance at saving the dwarven hold of Karak Azgaraz. Therefore, you and up to three allies must gather again to slice, dice, shoot, and set ablaze the vermin in intense objective-based combat scenarios, first to the outlaying settlement of Khazid Kro then the Grey Mountains.
Khazid Kro places you in a narrow, claustrophobic settlement. It’s dark and dank and ideal for the waves of Skaven to come careening towards you and your party, as you frantically try to work your way through tunnels, all by the guidance of NPC dwarf Halgrim Halgrimsson. He tasks you with taking out the Skaven tunnels with some explosive barrels in order to obtain a keystone for use in the later missions.
With the tunnels destroyed, it’s up to the mountains in search of The Cursed Rune. A gruelling ascent through snowy terrain provides a nice variety of location to the majority of other missions in the base game, with a good old fashioned Skaven onslaught awaiting you at a vault that holds a crucial casket you need.
The DLC concludes at the peak of the mountain, where you must light a beacon to warn Karak Azgaraz of the Skaven threat. It’s a terrific little side-story with the same excellent intense and highly enjoyable combat of the base game.
Indeed, Karak Azgaraz is another excellent adventure for Vermintide players to enjoy, but it’s hurt by the surprising lack of players. For a title we celebrated as a game of the year last year, it’s baffling why we aren’t seeing more players in matchmaking. Perhaps a complete edition including all previous DLC will help mend this issue, and we hope it does, because this is some of the most fun you can have in a multiplayer title, and this DLC is more of a good thing, if a little short.
Knights versus Vikings versus Samurai sounds like something the team at Deadliest Warrior would dream up. Instead, Ubisoft are the brains behind the brawn and they are packing all their experience of item leveling from The Division, slick combat and animation from Assassin’s Creed, and a dose of the compelling fast paced multiplayer of Rainbow Six Siege.
Thrusting these worlds together is hung loosely on the whims of the warlord Apollyon and her desire to cause war and conflict – with the strongest rising to the top. This war is at the centre of the multiplayer; an ever-changing map of territories that reflects the triumphs and failures of the three factions’ players – think the online world of Chromehounds.
Like many other titles with character classes, each one has their strengths and weaknesses, but For Honor’s were more of a reflection of my own playstyle and inability to adapt – and adapt you must. Stick with the same moves or insistence on button mashing and you’ll soon be at the wrong end of a pointy stick. The combat mechanic is simple to learn but hard to master; only by playing through the campaign will you fully grasp (and appreciate) everything on offer to your warriors.
During the campaign Apollyon tells the story of her need for war and how the three factions ultimately mix – it’s a loose explanation as to why Vikings can fight for the Knights or Samurai can fight for the Vikings and one that I’m not sold on. It does mean you aren’t tied into a faction’s warriors but I think it could have made for a better war. Each faction has similar classes but each one is subtly different and this would have made an interesting consideration when choosing a side.
The campaign flows smoothly with only boss fights proving troublesome, particularly the Samurai, General Tozen, who fights with Honor – he doesn’t – using cheap tactics that will infuriate and slow down the combat. Retreating to recover health before returning to chip more of his was not fun. Meanwhile the Vikings get two excellent, albeit short set pieces, it’s a shame there weren’t more of these spread throughout the three campaigns. Ultimately, the campaign serves as a way to play as all the character classes and learn the art of war, which is based around a three-zone system.
Attacking and defending is done through the choice of three directions – left, right or overhead – these zones must be matched to an opponent’s attack to block the strike or used in combination with light and heavy attacks to mount your own assault. Attacks can be chained for deadly combos and if you finish an opponent with a heavy strike you can execute them, forcing a respawn and a penalty to their team points. Stamina must also be managed carefully; wildly swinging your weapon will leave you knackered and open to a counter attack.
When on defence you can parry attacks, which can open up an opportunity to counter attack, while dodging and blocking can drain your opponent of their stamina leaving them ripe for slaughter. It’s a wonderfully balanced system that is further buffed by feats that, once unlocked, can be used when you’ve earned enough points on the battlefield. Successfully blocking your opponent’s attacks also fills a revenge meter. Unleashing the full bar gives your attack and health a boost while a shield protects your overall health bar.
The omission of bots from games frustrates me – sometimes you just need to practice – so it’s great to see that For Honor has the option of AI matches for each of the game modes, this is made even more essential when you hit periods of disconnects. Favouring a peer-to-peer system over dedicated servers, disconnecting mid-game or being put into one as it was finishing was a constant irritation that wasn’t nearly as bad while playing against an AI team.
There are three styles of battles in For Honor. Duel puts you directly against another player – either in 1v1 or 2v2, meanwhile, team deathmatch comes in two flavours – standard deathmatch or one-life elimination. My favourite mode though was Dominion. Combining team deathmatch with domination, three areas on the map need capturing, doing so adds 100 points to your team score and a place to recover your health, while losing an area costs your team 100 points. Killing enemy heroes and AI grunts also bolsters your score, with grunt kills helping to turn the tide of tug of war over one of the points on the map.
Once a team hits 1,000 points the opposition loses the ability to respawn their heroes – kill them and you win. This is when things get interesting. The losing team can still turn the tide of war and claw back some points and knock the other team’s points down by capturing points and executing heroes. Like the character classes, Dominion is wonderfully balanced and is exhilarating when you band together and turn the tide of battle.
For Honor looks gorgeous. Clothing flows as you run across the battlefield and becomes soaked in blood as you maim your foes. The lighting is incredible and the landscapes highly detailed – Ubisoft have done a great job. Character animation is smooth, attacks are brutal and the combat is so in depth that you won’t be left wanting for more.
Playing through the campaign is essential if you want to get ahead online, and by the time I had hit the Samurai campaign I was hooked to the combat mechanics, and with a greater understanding of the skills and techniques I had acquired I confidently took on Duel mode – it was a shame my opponent seemed to have missed out playing the campaign.
For Honor is awesome to play with a bunch of mates, while still a lot of fun if you’re on your own – although you may want to take on the AI or duel modes. Teamwork and sticking together is key if you want to rule the battlefield.
Punching, kicking, striking and stabbing zombies on an island paradise is an attractive concept, and even with Techland refining this experience for Dying Light, their original outing with Dead Island still holds some appeal. However, it’s still a victim of bugs and other issues, making it less enticing than it could be.
The island itself is the most appealing part of Dead Island, and it looks great with its Definitive Collection polish. The increased anti-aliasing has smoothed out the majority of the jagged edges, meanwhile the new lighting engine and vibrant colour pallet makes everything looks stunningly bright, wet, decayed and shiny. It’s a great looking title on the face of it. Unfortunately, character models are less convincing. Whilst the zombies look menacing and gruesome, the NPCs look more detailed but still wooden and emotionless. Their lack of lip sync certainly doesn’t help, with characters flapping their mouths when they speak to no rhythm or accuracy. Furthermore, a new motion blur effect completely pulls you out of the experience.
Fortunately the majority of Dead Island is spent exploring the island and engaging zombies in melee combat, and this still proves thoroughly entertaining. Finding health pickups to keep you going and gathering materials to craft make-shift weapons, or using whatever you happen to find lying around as an immediate weapon, offers a satisfying feeling of desperation, exploration and varied combat. Weapons will break with relative ease, forcing you to use whatever you can find in order to survive, and this encourages you to experiment with what you pick up, preventing the combat from ever feeling stale.
Additionally, the quests on offer are also varied and interesting. The main missions steer you towards ensuring the survival of you and the uninfected denizens of the island, pointing you towards more survivors that need rescuing, provisions that need securing, and locations that need to be made safe. The side missions vary wildly, from emotional journeys where an NPC will ask you to put their infected family out of their misery, to requests for you to find personal items. Moreover, you can approach these missions at your own pace, concentrating on side missions over the main ones, or ignoring all of it to explore the island yourself. It’s terrifically open once the prologue is over and it’s easy to get caught up in your own emergent story.
Unfortunately, as enjoyable as the core experience can be, and as lovely as the new visuals are, old issues are still present under the surface. Bugs that cause zombies to float in the air or fall through the ground are fairly frequent, as are moments where you get stuck in doorways and geometry. The vehicles are still unresponsive and the first-person platforming is clumsy. It simply hasn’t received the gameplay tweaks it really needed.
Riptide, Dead Island’s standalone expansion, is also included with the Definitive Collection, adding a few new perks and weapons, but ultimately offering more of the same in a different but far too similar environment. Bringing your Dead Island character over to Riptide is now easier than ever, but the expansion’s re-tread of the original’s experience makes it feel rather tedious. The Definitive Collection also includes Dead Island Retro Revenge, however, it’s currently locked until August.
Being able to play cooperatively with up to 3 additional players is still a great feature, and one that helps elevate any of the issues present. Here is certainly where Dead Island shines, and it’s supremely enjoyable slaying zombies and completing missions as a crew as opposed to alone.
Dead Island Definitive Collection provides a great looking zombie slaying title, but one with many of the same flaws of the original. Engaging zombies in melee combat is still entertaining and the bursts of adrenaline you get when zombies attack from all angles and you barely have a chance to ready your weapon is frighteningly fun. However, Dying Light does it all better, making this a difficult recommendation overall.