‘Almost’ is an interesting word. When I was at school, dressed in paper-thin sports kit and forced to run the circumference of the playing field at the behest of sadistic P.E. teachers, the mental reassurance of ‘almost there’ was just powerful enough to keep an unfit nerd from keeling over. On the other hand, all the guys who ‘almost’ reached the summit of Everest before dying a frigid death – well, that just sucks.

Getting close to success before failing miserably is one of the worst things a human being can experience, along with anything Minions-related and dragging your scrotum across broken glass. It’s a feeling that crops up all too often in video games, as players accidentally and idiotically leap into a hole right before the end of a level, or get wasted by a troublesome boss with only a sliver of its health bar left.

The latter example is perhaps the most frustrating, scream-inducing, controller-throwing occurrence that can happen in a game, and no series knows that better than Dark Souls. Yesterday, I spent around two and a half hours dragging my balls over the broken glass that is Dark Souls III’s Dancer boss, and I’m glad no one else was in the house because I must have sounded like James Bond in Casino Royale’s torture scene.

As the twirly-swording bastard repeatedly and metaphorically hit me in the groinal area with a knotted rope, I managed to ‘almost’ defeat it numerous times. With only a few stabs needed to bring it down, I could smell victory like a dog can smell anuses, but the proximity of success only made the prospect of failure more worrying. Trembling, with beating heart in overdrive, I desperately rolled and rolled and rolled to avoid the boss’ flailing arms, praying to the deified Hidetaka Miyazaki that I might survive just long enough to land that final blow… But Miyazaki is a cruel spirit, and with the fear of imminent death lingering in my broken mind, I got sliced apart like a melon and had to start all over again.

Though I grunted like a tennis player and swore under my breath, the controller creaking in my vice-like grasp, I didn’t give up. Part of me wanted to rage quit, turn off the console and ride away into the sunset, but I didn’t. I sat there on my sofa a resolute warrior, like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, and powered through the hours as the Dancer taunted me with its deadly ballet.

Like everything else in this marvellous series, I had to appreciate its exquisite design, but in those moments I hated the Dancer with a burning passion. Death was too good a fate for that prick. I didn’t, however, hate the game. The Souls series, including Lovecraftian spin-off Bloodborne, are infamous for their high level of difficulty, but (and I apologise, because literally every Souls fan yammers on about this) it is never unfair.

While they seem like it at times, no boss is impossible, with each one presenting you with a series of attack patterns that can be learned and reacted to accordingly. When you first encounter your adversary, you’ll get wiped within seconds like a pooper in a hurry, but as your mincing becomes as prolonged and repetitious as a John Cage composition, you’ll start to pick up on clues that will help you read the boss’ behaviour.

With time, these get wired into your brain, and you’ll start surviving longer. The boss will still deal out an obscene amount of damage, and have more HP than the HP Sauce factory, but you as a player will improve. There’s a lot riding on your skills of course, as a single cock-up or break in concentration will turn you into dungeon pizza, but knowing that gives a sense of personal, meaningful progression that few other games can boast.

Every time you almost win, and it feels like that little chip of boss HP is judging you as you fade into a loading screen, the crushing disappointment is always accompanied by a powerful determination. You may have just been kicked down for the umpteenth time, but that ‘almost’ victory reassures you that you are ‘almost there’. Just roll a little earlier; be a bit more defensive. Use the environment to your advantage. Play better.

Even when it feels like you’re freezing and suffocating to death atop a mountain, remember to listen to the sweaty, shorts-wearing kid inside your head.

You got this.

And thus endeth the Word of Tom.

Here’s my triumphant fight with the Dancer in full. Get rekt.


Four Guys One Sofa: My Top 5 Local Multiplayer Games

towerfall 2

It seems weird these days that most games would rather your friends be countless miles away than right on the sofa next to you. The glory days of the split-screen seem to be behind us, moved over in favour of push-to-talk chat and ping. I still don’t even know what the fuck ‘ping’ is, just that I often have a problem with it.

While pwning noobs can be a lot of fun, and online multiplayer is a cool way to socialise with friends you don’t often see, nothing beats having some mates over for some good old couch co-op or competition. Whether you’re working as a team or dicking each other over, games are inherently more enjoyable if you’ve got chums to share them with, and if they’re in the room with you it means you can punch them, too.

With split-screen multipayer seeming rarer and rarer in the big releases, it’s great to see it returning to form as the focus of many new games, especially independent titles. What’s more awesome, is that even more games are beginning to be intrinsically geared towards having up to four players. If you’re lucky enough to have three friends and multiple controllers in the same room (I know it’s hard, both are expensive), it means a far more involved and exciting game session, with a lot less pad-passing and a lot more ‘friendly’ punching.

As Christmas and New Year’s shenanigans are fast approaching and, for a short time, people will pretend each other don’t smell, I’ve decided to compile a list of my top 5 games to play in four-player local multiplayer. Every one of these has a hefty mileage at mi casa, and are the bread and butter of my game nights. If you’re looking for something new to play with the lads/gals, look no further. And don’t punch too hard. (more…)

The Beast From 2003: A Retrospective Review of War of the Monsters (PS4)

War of the Monsters - PlayStation 200001

One of my biggest regrets in life will always be trading in my PS2 along with its accompanying collection of games. Don’t get me wrong, the copies of Devil May Cry 4 and Pokemon Pearl I got out of the trade tided me over for a while, but the loss of the previous three DMC games, the original Monster HunterShadow of the Colossus and a whole host of other games soon hit me like a frying pan to the face.

The game I was saddest to see go was War of the Monsters, developed by Incognito Entertainment and released on the console in 2003. Inspired both by Japanese ‘kaiju’ monster movies (think Godzilla) and 1950s American sci-fi (think Earth vs the Flying Saucers), WotM is a 3D arena-based brawler in which up to four giant creatures battle to the death, leveling buildings and causing chaos as they go. I have very fond memories of it, being one of the first games I experienced in split-screen multiplayer and becoming a game night staple right up until we were parted.

And so it was with a little internal squeal that I heard a small number of PlayStation 2 classics had been released on the PS4, and that one of them was War of the Monsters. I dutifully handed Mr Sony my eight British pounds and, at long last, we were reunited.

I booted it up and jumped straight into ‘2-player’ (Old English for ‘multiplayer’) to face off against a friend I played the game with ten years ago. The nostalgia levels were 8,999 (not quite 9,000), but does the Beast from 2003 stand the test of time, or does it shatter our lovely rose-tinted glasses with its giant monster foot? (more…)

Video: 2015 in Gaming


Back in September I applied for a writing job with legendary video games website To my excitement, I managed to make it all the way through the application process to the interview stage.

And so it was one chilly October morning that I traveled to the Big Smoke on a rather pricey train journey to meet and be interviewed by the VG team. Though there was some stiff competition and I ultimately didn’t get the position, I was given some useful feedback that has definitely encouraged me even more to pursue a career in this stuff!

The application required me to complete two game-related tasks: one game guide (which you can read here) and one free task in which I was asked to talk about five games I have played this year in any way I see fit. After much non-nit-related head-scratching, I decided to carry this out in video form, so I grabbed a couple of friends and a plastic axe and ventured outside to pretend to be a television presenter and be stared at by many a Newport chav.

Considering that busyness and workery left me only one day for script-writing and one for filming, and that the editing process made my elderly laptop attempt seppuku, the finished video actually turned out pretty well, and I didn’t get stabbed by a Newport hoodie.

I’d like to say a massive thank you to Rhys Jones, who calmly put up with me fudging my lines for hours, and Ben Morris, who, as well as having an idea involving goats, pulled off a trick in Rocket League that I will never be able to match in my entire life. Both of them gave up their time at very short notice to help me out, so for that I’m incredibly grateful. I’d also of course like to thank Tom Orry and VideoGamer for giving me such a fantastic opportunity, and for being generally awesome people.

Without further ado, here’s the video. Enjoy!

Music used:

Tom Durbin – ‘Wadi’ & ‘Tiye’ from KV55 EP

BEAMSTAR – ‘Dreams of a Distant Coast’ & ‘Hollywood Air’ from Coastal Dreams

And thus endeth the Word of Tom.

Mad Max: A Wasteland Photography Survival Guide



How to make the most out of Mad Max‘s Capture Mode

by Tom Durbin

There are a number of ways to explore Mad Max‘s desolate Wasteland: on foot, behind the wheel of your trusty Magnum Opus, or even through the dust-smeared lens of a battered camera. Whether you’re experiencing the unflinching ferocity of a sandstorm, or facing a brutal encounter with a pack of War Boys, just click both control sticks simultaneously and you will instantly shift to Capture Mode. Here, you are presented with numerous tools to let you perfectly capture these moments of odd beauty and wanton carnage in a personalised photo, or show off that sick jump you made in your car.

Taking a great picture in Mad Max will require much practice and at least some knowledge of photography. Thankfully, I have managed to track down the elusive Shutterbum, the Wasteland’s foremost photographer, who has agreed to give us some advice on the subject. Together, we’ll go through all the settings in the game’s Capture Mode before sharing some examples and giving you a few tips. Let’s start with the basics. (more…)