Total War: Warhammer – The Beginning of My World Domination

(In the voice of Hal Douglas – movie intro guy)

In a fractured kingdom, one newly-elected emperor must stake his claim of the land. Against all odds, against countless armies, against corruption. And against those bloody chaos packs that just have to attack one of my settlements as I move my army out of range! This is my experience of delving deeper into the combined realms of Total War and Warhammer.

No surprise this isn’t a “hot-off-the-press” piece considering the game released nearly two years ago. In fact, Total War: Three Kingdoms is set to release this Fall and you could speculate that the third instalment of TW:W will release early next year. But with the second instalment (Total War: Warhammer II) getting so many awards and nominations since release, starting with the first made more sense in getting to grips with the game.

Strategy games aren’t a completely new kettle of fish to me; Anno, Halo Wars, Starcraft and venturing back to the old Command and Conquer games have each had their fair share of hours devoted to them. However, the sheer vastness of political, infrastructure and (of course) RTS combat results in micro-managing on a massive scale. It can be a little overwhelming if you’re new to the game and understanding what each of the many buttons lead to. But fear not, after time your grip will strengthen and you’ll be ready to invade enemy territory with confidence – and lots of swords.

All Hail Emperor Franz! Early days in my crusade.

The in-game Advisor will be a helpful guide in your first few actions and “turns”. As other factions create alliances or wage war, your first town or two will grow in population as will your coffers, supporting further growth and development. Armies or heroes will traverse your land, leaders will level up and new units to research will create new actions, some of which can be interacted with (e.g. diplomacy requests). Further details on newly discovered game mechanics can usually be found via the advisor and in-depth guidance via tutorial videos that can be watched while still within the game.

With everyone having a kinaesthetic side (self included) I felt there was an opportunity missed to help newer players understand the combat system. A few battles in, frustration was creeping in at setting units into a complex formation for greatest efficiency (or so I told myself) only to begin battle and they all converge into groups by unit type. Once understanding unit locking, the glory of marching an entire army in unison was possibly far sweeter than it should have been! The short combat introduction does help a little, but having even a small range of interactive tutorial sessions to learn broader strategies would have been welcomed.

Whatever your skill levels are though, I’d recommend viewing the Creative Assembly Youtube Channel which hosts over 350 videos on anything from basic tutorials to upcoming releases. Another place to regularly drop in to, or at least have as a helpful tool when in need, is the Total War Forums. After recently writing about game toxicity in games, the community of TW seems like a breath of fresh air – friendly and supportive. This is  one of the many areas where the “older” legacy games trump those of more recent years. The first in the series released in 2000 (Shogun: Total War) and with a potentially more mature player base comes less toxic gameplay and chatter.

They have no masters, no obligations, no code of laws. They do what they do, and that is all that can be said of them. These things: blame, regret, servitude – they have no meaning for a dragon. Risk. Splendour. Extravagance. If you had lived for a thousand ages of the world, that is all you would care about, too. – Imladrik, Master of Dragons

Getting excited at being able to use cannon artillery and a larger force of Reiksguard might be shadowed by the future prospects of the largest units in the game. Dragons are one of those (above, just in case you were wondering) but how they’ll compare against giants, mammoths and Treekin stokes the anticipation of upcoming battles yet to be fought. And I haven’t even dared to start on multiplayer; with the ability to play out a campaign with a friend-turned-enemy, bring an army to help a battle or just go head-to-head in a skirmish mode. Phew, someone get me a drink of Amasec!

Toxicity of Players


There’s over 2.2 Billion active gamers in the world. E-sports is one of the fastest growing areas, with a projection of 270 million viewers by 2020. Yet, with the growing number of participants, why is it that there seems to be an even faster growth in toxic gamers?

Let’s take a brief trip back to the year 2000 and a younger, less-hairier me is playing Unreal Tournament at a LAN Centre with around 10 others from school. It was my first real multiplayer experience on PC and only fueled the already-burning fire of love for games. Sure, console games had been there already, albeit limited to huddling around a single split-screen for GoldenEye or Mario Kart; but there was something special about individual “stations”. Online gaming was still its infancy and console gaming didn’t arrive until the ill-fated Dreamcast late 2000 so most multi-player battles were from the same room. There was frustration, maybe the odd curse word, but it was all fun; because that’s what gaming should be, right?

However, in recent months, there seems to be an exponential growth in what some people call Toxic Players. People who believe they are completely “pro” at the game, that everyone is inferior to them and that when anything wrong or unpredictable happens within a game, directed verbal abuse seems “normal”. I say normal because it has become an expected part of playing competitive games now, which is a sad thing indeed.

As examples, any player can have a bad game; new player, returning player, young player, making a mistake, trying something different, feeling ill, being distracted, sneezing, breathing….you get the idea. In any sort of competitive match, sometimes you lose a point, get ganked or even have a battery go dead in your controller. Sometimes, it’s just about someone new just getting into a game.


I’ve only recently got into League of Legends and, while I’m using the above as an example, it’s certainly not the sole offender here. After playing a number of MOBA’s, this does come up on top and by that I mean it’s almost EVERY single game where there’s someone who will make some sort of abusive comment. Another culprit is Overwatch which had so many complaints about toxic players via forums their Game Director (Jeff Kaplan) changed their regular developer video to a plea for all players of the community to play nice (below).

There a line between Raging and being completely Toxic; it’s not difficult to understand what’s acceptable and what isn’t. But people cross it, never to return. Insults have ranged from wishing cancer on players/family, incest, rape, killing in a variety of ways and using every swear word there ever was. What is it that makes them think this is fine? What about the detrimental effects it could have on somebody; for me, it’s just feeling a little peed off and put off the game due to some gamers ruining the whole gaming experience, but for others it could have destructive repercussions. My 9 year old plays Minecraft online and has played some Battlefront too – the latter of which I’ve had to delete a number of direct messages that have included insults and abuse.

Of course there are times when plays from a single person can mean the difference between a win or lose, but get frustrated, offer help/advice/tips, ask them to stick with you and accept the learning curve. My two kids are already on track for following in my footsteps, but what I don’t want is for them to think it’s okay or normal or expected for abuse to be in their own games. I wouldn’t want someone with depression or who struggles with mental health wanting to relax or de-stress by playing some games (as many do) to be the target of harassment. Personally, I don’t want to have to be riled into justifying reasons why it’s okay to not be a professional and flawless gamer – I mean the numbers speak for themselves and it’s only going to grow further.

Have you been a victim? Why do you think people believe it’s okay? And what can be done to help make the community a friendlier environment for the future?

Insomnia61 #i61

After 5 EGX’s and 2 Rezzed(‘s?) I thought I was getting the hang of exhibition events. It’s a little like another dimension, where everyone around you is pretty damn awesome and everything to buy is pretty damn awesome and everyone you talk to….etc etc. Like a music festival, everyone singing along and strangers coming over to talk (that’s normal in this dimension by the way, not in the real world) so do the bodies around you, with their different tastes of genre and their own lyrics to shout. This was different from my other experience though; not only because of my first time to Insomnia, but as an “exhibitor”.


About two years ago I made the life decision of journeying into the industry as a career rather than continue as a fanatic observer. Kim, now writing for, allowed me into her world of article creation and was my first introduction to SpecialEffect as she was a volunteer. After speaking with the volunteers who were at this years’ Rezzed, I had the opportunity to support a really worthwhile cause that I related to and it was incredible to see the support from all the attendees as they walked by and played the demos we had on offer; chin-controlled Overcooked and eye-controlled Forza. If you’re going to an upcoming event, have a go yourself as both are pretty addictive but show how even those with some of the most difficult of disabilities can still access gaming through the charity.

The NOWTV Esports Awards team competed against each other on Forza

If you haven’t been before, the exhibition side of the event has been a fairly recent addition. Insomnia originally (and still does!) includes the opportunity to set up camp inside and bring your own PC (or rent a decent one) for the whole Bank Holiday weekend to play games sitting next to friends and family while meeting loads of other like-minded people. Growing up in the generation where that was the ONLY way to play together whether that was LAN connecting some XBOX’s or running Unreal Tournament over a local network (we did that at school once) it was a communal thing and something I still do to this day, albeit very rarely. There’s something about gaming with a friend who’s right next to you which makes the experience completely different, with maybe a little nostalgia for good measure.

Stock photo possibly from a previous event, but just shows the extensiveness of the LAN arena!

The 5 hour trek home on the Sunday certainly stoked the fires. It felt like “home” where I could completely be myself; a rarity at times with work and family. People I hope to meet again the wonderfully polite guys over at X-ROCKER CHAIRS who donated one to the charity – they’re super comfy by the way #proudowner – the ESports awards team who popped over to say hi a few times throughout the event and HUGS.TF who returned a flag! Below sums up the feeling a bit and shows the good vibes that SpecialEffect bring out of people. It’s proof that gaming is social, it’s an open and welcoming community and I’m gonna be back with a vengeance!


SEE, I’m still around!

On the “Other Stuff” tab, there’s a document or two in regards to some of the study I’m doing around work. Learning more about Social Media for business and marketing as well as film production too.

In terms of ACTUAL gaming stuff, I attended EGX Rezzed this year with a focus of making some new contacts, finding more industry info and spending most of my time in the UKIE Careers Bar chatting to people in the industry and listening to so inspiring speakers. Something I’ll do a write up on methinks!

Looking ahead, I’ll be at Insomnia61 this year, a first for the event for me being up the other end of the country. I’ll be arriving on Friday, working with SpecialEffect on the Saturday and free Sunday before beaming back home that evening. I’ll also be getting my stream back on a regular schedule too – so he says!

Connect, chat and enjoy.

Don’t worry…

…I haven’t lost it! Simply adding some old writings to the site so it’s all collated in one place. *yawn* should have warned it wouldn’t be particularly exciting!

But what it does mean is the next chapter, a new chapter, a completely different kind of chapter. Pushing forward, upskilling, creating opportunities for other opportunities so that “break” is created.

So, Don’t worry. I’m here, I’m back, I’m a little changed but certainly different – welcoming change by making change.

Indie: Lost Ember


Let’s face it, the majority of current games that are out now or soon-to-be released have some sort of killing or violence in it. The beauty and power of being pulled into the digital worlds of current-gen releases plays a big part in what makes them successful, making you feel as though you are truly playing the character portrayed in the story or, at least to certain degree, role-playing your multiplayer character to a certain persona. It may also be a little more of personal opinion here too, yet that special time we have with games seems to be even more inundated with options that have greater importance on making it seem “real” or more realistic, rather than the more fantasy and magical that gripped the minds of many gamers old and new.


Lost Ember draws you in immediately with its creative and colourful world as you follow the main character (so to speak), a wolf with the ability to control any other animal you come across. Your quest, to find out what happened to a fallen civilisation long gone by exploring the landscapes and ruins left behind.

Dark secrets pave the way to the fall of Machu Kila! The old capitol and hometown of the Inrahsi now lays in ashes, the ruins of the once pompous temples are overgrown by shrubs and trees and nothing remains of the old majesty.

Figure out what happened to the people of Machu Kila and get to know the characters behind its fall.

Well, if a civilisation has been destroyed, maybe there’ll be uncovered stories of violence or killing in here somewhere. But there’s little more information than that available and it’s something that makes the title that little bit more intriguing. It also took Second Place in the Best Newcomer category at the German Videogame Awards (or Deutscher Computerspielpreis if you speak German) this year and the small selection of those that have had a longer play on it have given positive reviews for this story-driven experience so we can’t wait to get our own hand on it! Until then, we’ll keep you updated with the latest and hopefully get more details on when to expect it soon – enjoy the teaser below!

Xbox Wireless Expanding

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Even before the Xbox One released there were plenty of ways to be able to combine your Xbox Accessories with your PC – I still use my 360 adapter on the odd occasion! Yet the “Xbox Family” has steadily grown since the release of the One with improvements in wireless items having recent Bluetooth additions when looking at the new Xbox Wireless Controller, though the Xbox Wireless Adapter has been a necessary accompaniment to have these run on a PC.


The new Bluetooth Wireless controller comes as a standard with the Xbox One S.

Today, the expansion continues as the first PC with integrated Xbox Wireless is announced in the form of the Lenovo IdeaCentre Y710 Cube. The first in many partner devices will allow all Xbox Wireless accessories to connect to your PC (providing it’s this one!) straight out of the box without any additional dongles or USB adapter thingies sticking out “your pc”. Other partners that are currently being worked with include those at the forefront of accessories; Astro, PDP (Rock Band Guitar), Turtle Beach, HyperX, Lenovo and more; so expect to see other third party items having the Xbox Wireless symbol becoming standard with the Windows 10 merge incoming.

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It’s nice and starts at $1,299 – more here

Lower latency, enabled cross-platform play, wireless support for stereo sound and eliminating the need for adapters are all benefits to look forward to with the new hardware but it’ll require some testing to find out how much better the wireless quality really is. For the cube above, it’s the first time the adapter is integrated within the chassis, but Microsoft have bigger plans for the future and hope for direct integration onto PC motherboards with hardware partners.

Another step to continue the all-in-one progress that has continued since the Xbox One released or another item on the ever-expanding Christmas you may never get? Let us know below.

Warhammer: Vermintide

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Warhammer Vermintide has been a bit of a hit on Steam since it originally released in October of 2015. Scoring top marks across many different opinion aficionado’s, I’ve also had a bit of playtime on the PC version after my first attraction to it at the EGX Rezzed event back in April (and tried to get information on the upcoming console version!). In its’ simplest terms, it’s Left 4 Dead in the Warhammer universe; with an RPG element of gear and varying difficulties, with a few different classes to play to boot. A more formal description though:

Vermintide is a four player co­op game pitting you against vile and endless Skaven hordes, which have overrun the city of Ubersreik. Players must fight the menace together as four out of five heroes, each with unique play styles, personalities and weapon arsenals. Players are dropped into the deep end of the pool, and the game will have you struggling to stay afloat until you finish the level ­or it finishes you.

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Today, we have a confirmed date for the console version of October 4th 2016 with a little of the press release below.

“More than half a million PC gamers have already taken Vermintide to their heart, and this fall it’s time for console players to do the same. The consoles will get an extended version that includes all DLCs released for the PC version to date” says Martin Wahlund, CEO at Fatshark, and continues”. We are over the moon to be working with Nordic Games on this release as their experience and expertise are incomparable.”

“The combination of Fatshark and Warhammer seems too good to be true. We do have quite a few fanboys in our team, who played Krater, Lead and Gold, and – of course – also played the hell out of Warhammer Vermintide on PC. To say we are stoked to work with Fatshark on Warhammer Vermintide for consoles and the physical edition for PC is the understatement of 2016 in my book” comments Reinhard Pollice, Business and Product Development Director at Nordic Games.

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So what will you get with the game? Well, there’s the addition of their “super challenging” Last Stand mode with two additional maps (think Halo Firefight/COD Zombies) as well as the Sigmar’s Blessing and Drachenfels DLC. So they’re not holding back wit ha stripped-down version, oh no, they’re giving you a healthy portion and then some. But what’s really got my anti-vermin blood going is that this is no ordinary PC port. Speaking to one of the developers at the aforementioned EGX Rezzed this year, they understood the complications and, shall we say, less-than-optimised alterations that a port from PC can include. Because of this, they regrew the game from the ground up to make sure it was made for consoles. No buggy controller issues or hotkey combinations, instead something that felt like it was an original member of the console family. We’ll also make sure to have a full review of the game closer to the time but until then, the console trailer follows.

Before you get ready to slash some oversized rats and alike, make sure you…

Kerbal Space Program Review

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Kerbal Space Program isn’t exactly rocket science. Say what? Calm down, maybe it is, and in this particular instance pretty darn accurate too. With an eclectic mix of realistic orbital physics; from air resistance, gravitational pull and Newtonian dynamics (you might wanna Google that one); with witty humour around a humanoid race that stresses little importance to health and safety, this original space-explorer smashes that final frontier with as big a rocket as inhumanly possible.

The setting is loosely based on our own solar system and includes a total of 8 planets and 9 moons all with individual characteristics from size and mass (and therefore gravitational pull), atmosphere and landscapes. Kerbol (Earth) is where your story begins and, depending on which game mode you delve into first, missions range from simply getting off the ground safely to piloting ships around the cosmos and all the planetary presences within it.

Kerbal Space Program

The game originally released on Steam Early Access back in June of 2011 and if you take some time out to watch some videos (we’ll have one up soon by the way!) or get your hands on a copy anyway, there have been some major overhauls in physics and the sheer number of creative options in your armory. It was finally “officially released” in April 2015 and has now arrived on Xbox One, as of 15th July 2016. A lot of its adolescence has been spent on the mouse and keyboard and that certainly shows in some of the button combinations needed for particular commands. This is where one of the few criticisms is apparent – it is a port and, although it’s a damn good one, some functions can be a little tricky with a sometimes over-reactive joystick. Having played both versions for many hours, actual creation and flying  especially does feel easier rather than having to hit a multiple of 8+keys on the keyboard, so it’s only a minimal complaint.

The gameplay itself could certainly tick a number of boxes on a genre list. The freestyle sandbox element was the original and only version during early access and the rest of the game has been built around that pillar. Every part has its purpose, from a range of fuel tank sizes to communication arrays – and construction can easily lead to larger ships surpassing hundreds of parts. Sandbox lets you build with whatever the game has to offer but if you’re just getting started, beginning with the tutorials and then moving onto the Science game mode may be a good idea. This adds a small element of RPG with parts becoming unlocked via a gained resource, Science, which can be obtained by completing tasks and activities. It also eases you into the game with a slowly increasing catalogue of items so you get a better understanding of what pieces actually do. Career drops you into the hardcore science fanatic zone and, depending on the difficulty you set it at, is the most brutal. The biggest difference here is the addition of contracts; in-game missions which can usually require you to meet restricted criteria during a flight. For example, testing (ie. igniting) a rocket at a certain altitude while going a certain speed can mean having to retry from launch a number of times.

Kerbal Space Program

That’s a Rover right there, you just have to get it there!

Contracts reward you with one of three rewards or resources. Funds can be spent on rockets, building upgrades and astronaut employment (oh yes, if you send Mr Jebediah Kerbin on a mission that leads to him floating around space for the rest of his life, you’ll have to employ another). Reputation is another, and leads to better contracts with greater rewards, as well as some unlocks for buildings, while Science is here again for unlocking new parts.

Delving deeper into what you can do, landing and populating other planets with custom-made moon bases, creating a space station that could dwarf the ISS, or land on everything possible within the Kerbin System (including asteroids) are all loosely directed via missions. But what of pushes this game into its own individual territory is that you are reasonably free to do what you want, especially in Sandbox mode. Want to make the largest rocket possible? Just make sure you’re put enough struts in. There’s so much going on here that you can’t judge this game’s longevity by what’s on offer – only by your imagination and love for building rockets.

Kerbal Space Program

Created with the Unity Engine, Kerbals has been both developed and published by a small company based in Mexico; Squad. Previously focusing on digital and interactive services for a range of well-known companies, like Coca-Cola and Sony, KSP is Squad’s debut game. We’re huge – if envious – fans of the breadth of games available to our PC-loving friends. It’s great to see games like this making the leap to console, but at the moment there’s little to compare with Kerbals on the Xbox Store, unless you take Spore into consideration.

So KSP has its niche, and with it being a Top 5 Best Seller on Steam, gaining a number of gaming awards and getting ratings including an 84/100 on OpenCritic, what do we make of it now it’s landed on console?

Well, there are certainly improvements that could be made. The Node system (planning trajectory changes during flights) is one that could do with a little adjusting. And although you won’t be using is straight away, it’s a requirement when leaving orbit and heading off to the stars. During a number of hours play, there have been some occasional system crashes that seem to occur mainly from quick loading and a couple in the VAB – Vehicle Assembly Building. Although this has little long-lasting effects on saved data the initial loading time of the game can mean a 5 minute restart to get back where you were before. We do expect these bugs to be ironed out in the near future too. Finally, the price may dissuade you from what’s technically a five year old game, but in our opinion it’s money well spent!

Kerbal Space Program is available from the Xbox Store now, priced at £31.99.

MotoGP16: Valentino Rossi Out Now

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The “Ultimate MotoGP Experience” from Milestone and, of course, Valentino Rossi is now available! It’s not just the two-wheel MotoGP experience that Rossi is most famous for that you can experience though, as the game encompasses the many disciplines that have made him such a historical champion.

Not only does he have NINE Grand Prix World Championships under his belt for his motorcycle achievements, he has tested F1 cars (nearly lapping faster than Shumacher’s trial time in 2006) and beaten Colin McRae. Let’s just say he knows his stuff!

Italian video game developer Milestone is the lead for the country and has been creating racing games for over 20 years – arcade racer Screamer was originally developed by their previous alias Graffiti back in 1995 for windows and MS-DOS. Since then, the WRC and MotoGP series have been a staple in the racing genre of games so we’re hoping this latest and greatest is certain to make its mark.

Still not sold? We’ll have a full review coming soon to give you a more in-depth analysis and if this game can keep up with the current competition out there with racing games.