Month: November 2020

CGM Flashbacks Episode #4

CGM Flashbacks Episode #4

On the fourth episode of CGM Flashbacks, hosts Cole Watson and Alex Handziuk talk about the newly release Xbox Series X and PS5. Are they truly worthy of the next-gen moniker? Are there any launch titles worth playing? And does the PS5 really look like Seto Kaiba?

Then the two Flashback to their pasts, sharing stories of their memories of past console launches. From running 10 miles on Wii Launch day to surviving a shooting to something about the Wii U and beyond! This is one next-gen related item that isn’t out of stock!

Immortals Fenyx Rising (PC) Review 1

Immortals Fenyx Rising (PC) Review

Immortals Fenyx Rising is a competently made video game. The world is colourful, the combat is simple and functional, and I encountered only a few bugs in the 25 hours it took for me to complete it. At the very least, it works properly. That is faint praise, but it is the only praise I can give to a game that is as joyless as this. Immortals is devoid of life and imagination, content to take elements from better games, including games that Ubisoft itself designed, and turn them into worse imitations.

The Greek mythology inspired Immortals follows Fenyx, a young customizable character who is stranded on the mythical Golden Isle due to an accident. There, they must rescue several Greek gods from the hand of the titan Typhon, who has escaped his prison and who looks like a generic demon that could be found in any number of video games. The story is narrated by Prometheus and Zeus, the former acting as the straight man to the latter’s petulant and humorous tangents.

Immortals Fenyx Rising (PC) Review
Immortals Fenyx Rising – Ubisoft

I say humorous, but I found the game’s attempt at lightheartedness to be grating instead. Each and every conversation between the narrators will feature a joke, and they occur with such frequency that they become tiresome. As an example, here is a line of dialogue between the two that occurs as Fenyx is climbing a statue of Athena that is only slightly paraphrased:

Prometheus: Athena’s wisdom inspired mortals to create beautiful clothing and garb to wear.

Zeus: She should have inspired them to create an elevator!

That is a particularly bad example, but that tone is consistent throughout the events of the story. I found each and every character, from Fenyx themselves to Hermes and beyond, to be annoying and unlikeable because a line rarely goes by without someone setting up a joke or pun. It’s as if everyone in Immortals is a second or two away from turning towards the camera and winking. After only a few hours, it becomes exhausting.

At least the world is pretty to look at. The Golden Isle is vibrantly coloured, with seven different colour coded biomes to traverse and climb. Yet despite the art style, the world may as well be painted in greyscale because that colour does not make up for how overstuffed it. Dozens upon dozens of treasure chests, collectibles, puzzles, dungeons, and the occasional quest dot the landscape, but there is no space on the island for anything to breathe or merely exist. It’s as if there was a fear that any empty space would cause players to become bored. In practice, the opposite becomes true. Every activity becomes tedious because it repeats so frequently. And when you see the same things repeat albeit with minor variations, the Golden Isle becomes suffocating, feeling far smaller than its actual size.

Immortals Fenyx Rising (PC) Review
Immortals Fenyx Rising – Ubisoft

The tedium of the activities on the island is exacerbated by the pitiful nature of the rewards received for completing them. Take a Fresco challenge as an example. These require you to arrange four stone blocks to form an image. The layout for each of these puzzles is exactly the same each time, with no real variation. The reward is always the same – a couple of coins that can be used to purchase abilities and upgrades. No matter what activity you take part in, the reward is identical to previous versions of the same activity.

In isolation, that isn’t a bad thing. But what you purchase and upgrade using those rewards is practically meaningless. Health, stamina, and equipment improvements merely add another bar to their overall capacity or increase the flat numbers a weapon or piece of armor has. And the skills you unlock with the aforementioned coins are uninspiring; there are a small selection of combat abilities to unlock, along with a number of skills that are neat, but don’t add a lot to your gameplay capabilities. Not once did I unlock something and experience a sense of growth, because the most important thing I ever received was additional health bars so that I wouldn’t die in a single hit from powerful monsters.

The combat in Immortals is boring. It is similar to the combat found in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, except it is completely lacking in impact. It is as if the weapons are toys, lacking any weight behind them no matter their appearance. When I hit anything with a sword or axe, there is no sense that I have dealt damage to an enemy beyond the health bar going down. The bow may as well be a tool exclusively used for solving puzzles, because it does not feel good to use in battle. At least when I shoot something with a bow in Assassin’s Creed, it staggers or otherwise shows a reaction to being hit. The previously mentioned abilities that are used in combat similarly don’t feel good to use. They look cool, but because they aren’t as effective as merely mashing a light or heavy attack, there is little reason to make use of them. There is no reason to not repeatedly mash enemies with basic combos, because everything else merely causes the damage sponge enemies to live longer.

Immortals Fenyx Rising (PC) Review
Immortals Fenyx Rising – Ubisoft

Special mention must be made of the boss fights, which are unexciting and simplistic to a depressing degree. Humanoid bosses feature the three to four attack patterns that are used in the exact same order repeatedly. Monstrous bosses don’t feel dangerous, and often go down at the same pace as their normal counterparts. The final boss, in particular, is disappointing – I merely grappled it, which was enough to avoid all of its attacks, and spammed a light attack again and again in order to defeat it. It took 10 minutes.

Much has been made of Immortals’ similarities to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You can climb almost anything in both games, and both feature a glider you can use to slowly travel through the air or catch wind currents with. Their implementation in Immortals is inoffensive, in that neither improves or worsens the already bland exploration that is present in the game.

The more interesting comparison lies in Immortals’ use of Vaults. In lieu of the shrines found in Breath of the Wild, Immortals has Vaults that serve a similar purpose. Each is either a combat test or an environmental puzzle, takes place in an area separate from the world map, has a stat upgrading item at the end, and a hidden chest or two with minor rewards. I enjoy completing shrines in Breath of the Wild, but Vaults are among the most tedious activities in Immortals for one major reason: They take far too long. Shrines in Breath of the Wild take, on average, a few minutes to complete and usually feature a single puzzle to solve or a single enemy to defeat. Vaults, on the other hand, almost always feature multiple puzzles or multiple waves of enemies to fight against. Some of the mandatory Vaults take upwards of half an hour to complete. Yet because the reward for completing a shrine and a Vault is the same, the latter feels much more tiresome.

Immortals Fenyx Rising (PC) Review
Immortals Fenyx Rising – Ubisoft

One Vault in particular has stayed in my mind. It featured a pinball minigame, where you pressed two switches to control the flippers as you aimed to light the ball on fire and send it tumbling down a hole. It was a neat, one-off physics experience. Except upon completion, I discovered there was a second pinball game with an entirely different course that needed to be beaten before I could leave the Vault. It was there the ball got stuck repeatedly, requiring several restarts in order to complete due to the layout of the ‘pinball machine’ itself. What was a single fun experiment became a flat, grueling series of puzzles that took far too long to complete. And that, in turn, makes me dread what should be exciting challenges.

When I first began to play Immortals, I was not expecting much beyond a by the book open world adventure. Similar to an average Assassin’s Creed, in that respect. But Immortals is far worse off, as there is little here that hasn’t been done better elsewhere. What would otherwise be its unique qualities — a colourful world and lighthearted story — are undermined by a bland world with tiresome environmental puzzles and a grating cast of characters. For those looking for a better game in a similar mould, try Assassin’s Creed Valhalla; despite being the twenty-second release in that franchise, it is far more inventive than Immortals Fenyx Rising.

Walmart Canada promises info regarding online restocks of PS5 and Xbox Series consoles next week

Walmart Canada promises info regarding online restocks of PS5 and Xbox Series consoles next week

If you haven’t yet managed to find any PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S consoles in your hopefully online-only Black Friday travels, take comfort in the fact that you definitely aren’t  alone.  Stock of Sony and Microsoft’s next-generation consoles have been thin on the ground ever since they officially launched over two weeks ago, and unless you happen to already  have your name on a wait list at EB Games, a reliable connection at a local Mom n’ Pop game store, or are willing to pay a scalper or bot rental service a small fortune to procure one of these coveted consoles, online purchasing is the only option left to most would-be-buyers, and odds are likely that those efforts will almost certainly be in vain.  Even with both Sony and Microsoft pledging their upmost efforts to put out as many additional units as possible between now and the end of the year, trying to divine just how many of those machines will specifically  make their way to Canadian retailers (as opposed to American ones) is a nigh-impossible task without some sort of hint.

Thankfully, Walmart Canada has stepped up and thrown would-be PS5 and Xbox Series hunters a bone in a recent Twitter announcement.   While there won’t be any PS5 or Xbox Series units available during this Walmart’s Black Friday sales this week (including Cyber Monday, which the retailer has strived to make crystal clear in its communications with its followers), information regarding the next online restock of both consoles is forthcoming. In fact, it’s coming as soon as the week following, according to the retailer’s official Walmart Canada Gaming account:

Source: Twitter

Granted, if you are on the hunt for a PS5 or Xbox Series console, this announcement is hardly a guarantee that you’ll be able to secure anything at all, as both scalpers and bots alike will certainly be monitoring anything that Walmart Canada and its social media accounts declare in relation to this news.  It could all just end up leading to another crazy few hours of PlayStation and Xbox fans desperately refreshing their online carts and screaming into the abyss in frustration, but given that at least some of those genuine customers stand a chance to secure a next-gen console before the holiday, there’s still a faint glimmer of hope.

In the meantime, as someone who has personally had success securing an Xbox Series X purchase for a family member at one of my local EB Games stores, I strongly suggest calling up your local EB and putting your name on a waiting list as a backup.  It costs nothing to do so, and while you’ll have to actually go pick up the unit in store within 24 hours  if your reservation is successful, EB Games locations employ appointment pick-up windows to avoid crowding and follow local social distancing guidelines, so if you are already comfortable enough to safely and responsibly venture out to the mall to get your essentials, it might be worth try. Just a tip.

Pixels & Ink Podcast: Episode 327 — Considerate Souls

Pixels & Ink Podcast: Episode 327 — Considerate Souls

In this week’s Pixels & Ink podcast, Jordan is joined by Lisa, Alex, and long-time friend on the podcast Brendan Quinn as they discuss the PS5 being Sony’s “best Playstation launch,” CD Projekt Red ensuring that Cyberpunk 2077 will be released on December 10th, and Phil Spencer denouncing “console tribalism.” 

As the podcast goes on, Brendan talks about the PS5 remaster of Demon Souls, Alex takes some time to talk about KUUKIYOMI: Consider It, and Jordan talks a little Katamari Damacy REROLL for PS4. 

Ring Alarm System 2nd Gen Review 8

Ring Alarm System 2nd Gen Review

Keeping your home safe has always been a challenge—there are countless options on the market and all offer different options for protection and security. Tapping into the smart device market, and branching off from their very successful range of video doorbells, the Ring Alarm Second Generation makes home security easy and affordable. Made to be installed in minutes, the security system looks good, blends into most setups and, starting around $200, is an easy  option to recommend for anyone looking for a simple system with little hassle.

Ring is known for their different smart devices, from lighting, cameras and security systems. The minimalist approach makes them easy to integrate into a house without looking unsightly, and the fact that no part of the installation will anyone need to visit your house, makes it a DIY solution that feels cutting edge and made for the modern smartphone lifestyle. As this is a Ring product, there are the options to set things up to 24/7 monitoring, and other features that give more peace of mind while away; but should you want to stick with the app only, that is always an option.

What’s New with Ring Alarm Generation 2

At its core the Ring Alarm System 2nd Gen is very similar to previous versions. You still get all the pieces you need to set up most standard homes in the box—including base station, contact sensors, motion detector, keypad and a range extender. Once you attach the contact sensors to the doors, windows and any points of entry you are worried people can get in though, connect them to the base station, and you are good to go.

The major differences lie with the size of the elements, making them easier to install, and use. For example: the Ring Keypad is now 38% smaller when compared to the 1st Gen iteration, but even with this reduction, the sensors are still notably bigger than competing platforms such as Simply Safe. While I personally don’t find them obtrusive or a problem to install, for people that want the system as hidden as possible, this is an issue Ring needs to address moving forward.

Ring Alarm System 2nd Gen Review
Ring Alarm System 2nd Gen

Another change that is more a convenience than a major difference comes with from the batteries Ring is using in its sensors. Gone is the slightly harder to find 3v lithium battery, replaced by the much more readily available CR2032 coin cell batteries that can be found at any store. While a rather dull change on the surface, you will be happy to see a trusty CR2032 when time comes time to change the batteries. 

Compatibility and Ease of Use

With any new iteration, the question of compatibility with previous generations is always on everyone’s mind, especially if they are upgrading. Thankfully Ring has not made Gen 1 Alarm products obsolete. If you happen to have older products in your house, and just want the smaller keypad or sensors, they all work without any issues. Dropping the new system is easy, and within a few minutes the Gen 2 and Gen 1 will be talking like old friends.

Even from scratch, the Ring Alarm is one of the more easy to set up and use than smart devices I have tested in recent years. Most of the settings are located within the Ring app—only needing to have the base station connected to a router, either wirelessly or directly via Ethernet. The base station talks to all the sensors in the house as long as they are up to 50ft (15.24 m), but thankfully the five piece Ring Alarm package comes with an extender that gives you an additional 250ft (76.2 m), making sure most of the average home is covered.

Ring Alarm System 2nd Gen Review
Ring Alarm System 2nd Gen

Setting up the full package should take most people under 30-40 minutes, with the app and the included instructions walking them through the setup—including placement, ensuring everything works as expected, the overall way the system will act to people opening doors, and how the alarm will react when you are away. If you want to get really into the weeds, Ring has a host of accessories to make your house as secure and monitored as possible, including flood sensors, a smoke and carbon monoxide sensor and more.

App as the Centre of Security

Ring has made the App as the focal point of the system, and for the most part this all works as expected. Setting up the system, as explained earlier; is simple and straightforward. From tech newcomers, to veterans, the software makes the process as painless as possible. And once set up, the basic controls and settings are only ever a button click away. The system also makes it very easy to request assistance and sound the 104dB siren with a simple press of the exclamation button. It is the same button you can find on the keypad, but to do this remotely is a welcome touch, especially in an emergency.

Ring Alarm System 2nd Gen Review
Ring Alarm System 2nd Gen

It is also fantastic to see Ring allow for more granular control of the system to meet the needs of a variety of setups. From what sensors are active while home, to how the system reacts in Away mode—this is a welcome addition, since while I enjoy knowing the system is working, to have my notifications going off while home every time I open a door could get irritating, fast.

While I found the system overall intuitive, I would have liked a bit more attention to detail for setting away modes. It would have been nice to have the system send a notification for forgetting to trigger the alarm when no longer on site, or tie tighter into how the Ring Cameras act in conjunction to the system. These are minor nit-picks that could easily be adjusted in future app updates.

24/7 Monitoring

While the Ring Alarm Gen 2 makes it easy to monitor the system from your phone, sometimes it is nice to have that second set of eyes to keep you safe. This is where the Ring Protect Plus comes into play. This $10/month or $100/year service offers the ability of emergency response, along with a video history of 60 days for all the cameras connected to your Ring account. This, like any home system will add a real person at the end of your system, giving you a call, along with a notification when the alarm is triggered. You also have the ability to cancel the alarm with a password, or ensure the proper authorities are notified to be on site.

In reality this is a great value, especially if you are invested in the Ring ecosystem. When you take into account all the video cameras, monitoring and the peace of mind, it can be a great investment, especially compared to competing products in the security space. It is also nice to see it can be bundled with all other Ring products you may already have.

Worth the Investment?

The Ring Alarm System 2nd Gen is a fantastic value when compared to the other options currently on the market. It is easy to set up, fits most household setups, and overall does exactly what you hope for some a modern security system—all without needing to install wires or deal with costly monthly fees should you want to avoid them. If you want security, and are already invested in the Ring Ecosystem, do yourself a favor and invest in the Ring Alarm. You won’t be disappointed.



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