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    Dawn of Man Review

    Most of us have seen it. And if we haven’t, then we have seen it parodied on the likes of the Simpsons. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a classic. It was revolutionary in a number of ways that I am neither knowledgeable nor smart enough to describe. But all viewers are left with some vivid imagery and themes that remain with us.

    At the forefront for me, beyond that amazing score, is the black monolith at the beginning of the movie, appearing before a group of monkeys. The dawn of man. The moment it all changed. The inspiration and cause of all that was to come.

    The game “Dawn of Man” is none of those things. But that does not mean that it is not a perfectly OK game to play.

    The game’s premise is pretty straight forward; You start with a few villagers and you need to build them a home and help them to survive. This is a resource management game and brings up memories of Banished and even Age of Empires. New technologies are discovered. New resources are exploited. But what is ultimate important is survival.

    In reading previews, I felt this game’s main selling points were 2-fold. First, the setting was somewhat unique. You are starting from scratch, from the dawn of man (hence the name) and can build your group through numerous technological advances to something closer resembling our own world. All whilst fighting off saber tooth tigers and who doesn’t like the sound of that?

    Sadly, the game never really lives up to this. It has all the moving parts and they are in what feels like the right places but it just never felt important. I constantly felt I was in a rush to get the right resources in place to get the next building or the next technology, without feeling like the tribe had actually discovered something. It was unearned and meaningless. This is supposed to be the dawn of man, not production line simulator.

    The second was that this game looked like it was going to be a more personal affair. Those who have read my previous reviews know how important this is to me. Where Age of Empires has nameless drones, static through the ages, Dawn of Man has individuals with names, a family and a potentially bloody future ahead of them. Banished had attempted also this but the cities you create become too large too quickly for you to truly care about a particular person or family.

    In Dawn of Man players take control of a settlement of the first modern humans, guiding them through the ages in their struggle for survival.

    Dawn of Man should not have had that problem. With fewer people to care for, I should have cared more. But I didn’t. I wish I did. In some respects, a game like this should have been closer to The Sims than to Age of Empires. To Rimworld rather than Banished. It should have had more personal interaction and control than a point and click adventure without a story. Dawn of Man basically leaves you in the position of finding a resource and telling a villager to go and get it. Not exactly inspiring stuff.

    And that is not to say that this or those games are not good games. Dawn of Man does give you a sense of achievement as your village continues to survive and develop. It is also certainly a pretty game which makes it a nice way to pass some time. But as with so many others, and especially those that set themselves at the very beginnings of our existence (I’m looking at you Spore), Dawn of Man promised so much but didn’t quite have the complete picture of what these times meant and what they mean to gamers like me.

    It is at times like these that the philosopher in me takes hold. I’m not being melodramatic; I actually have a degree in philosophy. Games set at the dawn of man excite me because they allow me to scratch an itch of wonder at what made it all happen. Could I survive? Could I have been a great thinker of the time or a Picasso of the ancient world (finger painting on walls was about as far as I got artistically so who knows).

    Dawn of Man could have been that monolith. It could have challenged the genre and brought about a new age. An interesting age that allowed us to look back and ask “what if?”. Instead, it is just another black rock, albeit very pretty, that could be lifted and placed into another era, past, present or future, without much needing changed. And that’s OK. But Dawn of Man will not be one for the ages, and the opportunity for inspiration may have passed for another time.

    You can purchase Dawn of Man in the Humble Bundle store here, or on Steam here.

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    This War of Mobile

    A little slice of depression on my phone
    This war of mine stories: a father's promise

    This War of Mine has been a long time favorite of mine and I’ve played it on both PS4 (thanks PS Plus subscription!) and PC. Recently I got the opportunity to play it on my phone with a storyline I hadn’t played before (though it’s been on the other versions, I simply never purchased the DLC). A Father’s Promise adds yet another layer to this already depressing game and gives the game a sense of urgency whereas the regular stories are really about lasting the longest period of time you can. Spoilers ahead, duh.

    Rummaging through the debris of a broken building in This War of Mine

    The Story

    Imagine being stuck in a city that’s getting bombed and has become an active firing range where you just have to find somewhere to hole up, fly under the radar, and survive until it’s finally safe to GTFO. Well, that’s the scenario in This War of Mine. Supplies are scarce and as you spend your days trying to secure your living space and building everything you need for comfort, survival, and sanity. At night you send someone out to get supplies and hopefully, someone stays back to hold down the fort without getting stabbed.

    In A Father’s Promise, you start out with just two characters. A father and a daughter. Without spoiling the story-line too much – your daughter is taken away and you’re now not just trying to survive but find her. You trace her whereabouts through clues left at different scavenging sites. And you’re having to do all this solo – whereas you would usually have your scavenger sleep during the day and someone else build, you now have to balance it all with one person.

    On the upside you only have one mouth to feed, but time is a killer. It adds a new level of difficulty and as I said, urgency to the game where previously there was none except the impending doom of winter. It gave a nice twist to things that freshened up my experience with the game.

    Playing on Mobile

    Because of the games easy mechanics of mostly point and click, this game translates very well to a mobile device. Sometimes the smaller screen can get annoying if you fat finger something but otherwise it functions exactly as it does on all other platforms. Huge props to 11 Bit Studios for creating a game that performs so well.

    Divine Verdict

    I have always loved this game. It takes a horrible topic and instead of masking it with the perceived valor of being a soldier, puts you into the fray as a civilian. It doesn’t shy away from the darkness at all, confronting things like depression and even suicide. The addition of having to find a child in this story-line adds even more to the game. 10/10 if you get the chance to play this game (without being triggered too hard) DO IT.

    Find it on PS4, Xbox, Steam, and in the App Store! And check out the website.

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    MLB: The Show 2019

    “Here’s the 0-1. This is going to be a tough play. Bryant! The Cubs! Win the World Series! Bryant makes the play! It’s over! And the Cubs have finally won it all! 8-7 in 10.”

    I didn’t fall in love with baseball until I moved to Chicago in 2015 but the love affair started at a much earlier age. One of my earliest movie memories was watching Kevin Costner build his Field of Dreams. There is a romanticism to baseball. It woos you not with its rules or stats but with its history, what it stands for and how it brings people together.

    Since moving to the States I have tried to get involved with the sport in a number of ways. I watch almost every Cubs game, I have started playing fantasy baseball and I can’t wait for my kids to start playing T-ball. But I will never get to play myself. Not really.

    One way I have been making up for that is by playing SIE San Diego Studio’s “MLB The Show” franchise. I started in 2015 and have been playing it ever since. Buying the latest version has been my annual birthday present to myself and I love it every time.

    Here is today’s line up

    There are 3 main games modes; Road to the Show (RTTS), Franchise and Diamond Dynasty (DD). All three give you the opportunity in some way to live out your baseball fantasies. RTTS allows you to create a character and be drafted to a team. You start in the minors and work your way up to the majors with an end goal of being inducted to the Hall of Fame. Does it get better than that?

    Franchise allows you take on the role of Manager. You pick the lineup, you trade the players and you draft the next generation for whatever team you choose to lead. Not happy with how the computer determines who wins or loses? Well, you can take control of a single player or the entire team and those wins and losses will be on you.

    DD allows you to create your own team centered on collecting and trading electronic Topps baseball cards. With your team you can play in various game modes both on and offline, providing you with new cards, or various types of points that you can then use to purchase packs.

    Fly ball to left field

    Home Run!

    In previous years I have primarily focused on RTTS and franchise modes but decided to give DD a proper shot in 2019 and I have not been disappointed. I collected (American) football cards as a kid and the need-to-get-them-all attitude I had then has certainly been reignited, primarily because the cards end up doing and meaning more than just a piece of cardboard.

    Each card means a new player can be added to my team, who will then compete in the various game modes. But do I have someone better? Do I want someone with higher fielding stats or do I want a slugger? There are lots of options and subjective preferences, which makes this a very personal affair. There is even a creative side as the player can design their own uniforms for both home and away games.

    Play ball!

    I have only had the chance to play the offline game modes but I have been having a lot of fun with them. The 2 main options are Conquest and Moments.

    Conquest has various maps made up of hexagonal blocks that can be filled with your or other teams’ “fans”. Each team has a particular block that represents their home base. The aim of the game is to attack other blocks to take them over using your “fans”. When attacking a block you will play a 3 inning game. How hard that game will be is determined by the number of attacking and defending fans on their respective blocks. The greater your advantage in fan numbers, the easier difficulty you can play on. Taking over the entire map will give the player lots of points and plenty of high ranking cards.

    Moments is a new addition to DD this year and allows the player to play some of the greatest moments in baseball history. There is an entire section on Babe Ruth and one on the 2016 Cubs. The challenges are hard but the rewards great. And, frankly, who doesn’t want to recreate the moment the Cubs ended a 108 year world series drought? Just Cubs fans? Nah.

    Online matches are definitely on my list as soon as I can get myself online properly. Online game modes allow you join leagues with your team, play in a battle royale mode (where you effectively do a draft from random cards prior to starting) and also play games for fun with your friends or a stranger.

    Extra innings

    I grew up on (American) football so I played a lot of Madden in my youth. Creating a player was always fun but I never felt that I was really part of the action. I never felt that my personal skills were being put to the test or that I was part of a team. MLB The Show betters Madden for that experience by leaps and bounds.

    In the dugout

    Whether my player does well or not is down to me. Am I swinging at junk in the dirt? Did I try to steal a base I shouldn’t have? that is all on me. But it also reminds me that I am playing a team sport and that I cannot control everything. I can be 4 for 4 with a home run, a double and 3 RBIs, but I could still easily lose if the rest of the team is not playing well or the other team just happens to play better. And that has happened a lot. The game makes you feel that you part of it and that is a good thing.

    There are still some issues that mean this game is not perfect but nothing ever is. And when you are talking about a game that looks to give a personal experience, then personal preferences and gripes will always come into play. So I won’t give you mine. What matters is that these are so small, that I still come back to the game each year. Whether its summer ball or the off-season, I am still rounding the bases and heading for third. The replay value is immense.

    This is a game for me. This is a game for baseball fans. Why? For love of the game.

    The Standard edition of MLB The Show 2019 is available for download on the Playstation Network store for $59.99 or available on disc at your local games retailer and also on Amazon.

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