Star Wars: Squadrons (Review)

Star Wars: Squadrons is a space combat game set in the Star Wars universe. It was released in October 2020 for PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4. It was made available for free as part of a PSPlus subscription in June 2021.

Set after the events of Return of the Jedi (the one with the Ewoks), the main story campaign follows a New Republic fighter pilot and a Galactic Empire pilot alternately as they get involved in the New Republics new secret project. Of course, one wants it to succeed, the other to fail – reasonably standard, right?

Squadrons follows in the footsteps of some epic starship battle games, the likes of Tie Fighter – a PC game from back in the 90’s, which I spent many an hour failing to complete – and more recently to the Rogue Squadron – unique title, eh? – games that were around in the late 90’s early 00’s. I didn’t play any of the latter, as I was so bad at the old ones, I didn’t really fancy giving the newer ones a go.

For this reason, I knew that Squadrons wasn’t going to be something that I would pick up as soon as it came out, or probably ever really. But as it was on PSPlus this month, I figured I would give it a go.

You start the game by creating a semi-custom character for each side of the fight. I say “semi” because you only have a limited number of things you can do. It’s not as detailed as games like Mass Effect, but for a first-person game that you don’t spend the majority of your time looking at your character, you can argue it doesn’t need to be.

After character selection, you’re thrown into the prologue level as your Galactic Empire character. This level serves – like in most games these days – as the tutorial level. It helps you get to grips with the flying of a Tie-Fighter in a fight that you would be hardpressed to lose – spoiler alert; I died a couple of times. This level also serves to set up the game and introduce the new characters that you will interact with throughout the campaign.

Once you’ve fought your way through this, you’re into the game proper as your New Republic pilot. The levels generally consist of flying around, blowing your enemy out of the sky and trying to protect various assets to your fleet. On the Empire side of the coin, you spend your time trying to attack these assets, and yep, you guessed it, trying to blow your enemy out of the sky.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to this game. I know some people will enjoy the continuation of the Star Wars franchise and story and will probably love the multiplayer angle. Still, there just wasn’t enough to hold my attention – and that’s not just because I wasn’t very good at it…I did get better.

I’ve enjoyed past Star Wars games, and I’m a fan of the franchise, but this game was more of a miss than some previous entries. I feel like the game makers spent more time trying to make multiplayer work than they did on the story of the solo campaign, which is a shame.

This game had the potential to be really good, and although I freely admit that it’s not something I would drift towards often, I would play it occasionally if it had some replayability – I just don’t feel it has this. It’s a good looking game, the graphics are incredible, and the character detail is first-rate, but this just isn’t enough to make me want to play it any more than I already have for this review. In addition, the story feels like a rehash of something that’s been told many times over in the Star Wars universe and so doesn’t really add anything unique to the player experience or universe lore.

I’m going to give Star Wars: Squadrons a mid-range 6/10. I wouldn’t say avoid it, but there are far better games out there to spend your money on.

Mass Effect and its Legendary Remaster

Mass Effect is a third-person role-playing shooter that was originally released back in November 2007 for XBox and later in December 2012 for PS3. The “Legendary” edition a remastered collection of the trilogy was released in May 2021 for XBox One, PS4 and PC.

I was a little late to the Mass Effect party. I only got an XBox 360 late and so missed out the games release. From the beginning of my first playthrough I was hooked. The story, the characters and the world built around them were incredible and not like anything I’d really played before. I particularly enjoyed the dialogue choice aspect and how you could be as good or bad as you wanted and it affected how characters would react to you. I think the only time I’d really come across this before was within the original 2 Fallout games.

Before you even start the game, you’re given free-reign to create your character. Not only can you design what they look like but also what their background was. This was a nice touch that gave your created character that little bit more depth.

From the start of the game you’re thrown into the world at breakneck speed. Your fist missions involves you landing on a human settled planet to find out what has happened to a colony. You’re dropped onto a world where something has gone horribly wrong and you find out that several of the colonists have be turned into something called Husks and are now very hostile to you. As you continue on your mission, fighting your way through enemies you find out that a member of the elite Spectre force has gone rogue and is responsible for the chaos on this planet. This first mission sets up the rest of the game so well that you have no option but to continue playing and when you’re introduced to the Reapers, it sends chills through your body.

As you progress through space with your version of Commander Shephard, you meet various alien races – some friendly, some not so friendly – but each race has a detailed and well thought out history. From the Turian, to the Krogan to the Volus and beyond. Every race is so well put together and you can really believe that they exist.

The game takes you to many different worlds, some world’s you investigate using a vehicle known as the Mako. This vehicle was the cause of so much frustration when I originally played it. These section were the only bits that I hated doing. The Mako just didn’t control very well, so it ended up taking me more time than it should to complete certain goals on planets and it meant that I didn’t investigate all that I could because I wanted to spend as little time as possible playing these sections.

The combat was sometimes also a source of frustration. The cover system wasn’t the best so I would die a lot, and I mean, a lot.

Despite these couple of issues it became one of my favourite games and it contained some of my favourite characters. So when it became the fashion to remaster or remake games, I longed for a Mass Effect remaster. Eventually we got it, in the form of the “Legendary Edition”.

As soon as this new edition was announced and that it would contain all three games in the Shepard I was beyond excited. I recently picked up a copy and got stuck into the first game.

Now, it’s been a long while since I played the original game on the XBox so I can’t really remember what it was like – other than the bits I hated – but the remaster is great.

The graphics are definitely improved. They’re much smoother and the characters look smoother and less blocky. It looks prettier but still the same – if you get what I mean. You can tell that something has been done, but you can still see the original art beneath. As it’s been so long since I played the first game, I can’t really remember how the controls where other than that they were a pain in the ass at times. The Mako sections – the bits I was dreading – feel so much better. The vehicle finally goes where you want it to and so I’ve been able to spend a lot more time investigating the planets that you can land on although I don’t think the control scheme has change in this new version. The cover system also feels a bit different although I have a feeling that it’s the same too. I don’t know if it’s in part due to me now playing the games on the PlayStation rather than Xbox, or whether it’s just that my ability to play games has gotten better. Either way, it works in its favour.

All in all, this legendary edition of Mass Effect is well worth playing. It brings back all the memories that I had when I played the original game all those years ago. Although these days I’m playing it on the PlayStation not the XBox, so I don’t know if the controls feel better because I’m used to this controller now.

I can’t give this game anything below 10/10 it’s an incredible game that everyone should play.

I’m almost finished with the first game in this collection and I’m really looking forward to getting into the next. If it’s anything like the first one it’s going to be epic.

The Editing Struggle

When the week started, I was determined to get the paperback proof copy of Blindsighted edited, but it so far hasn’t happened for one reason or another. I’ve managed to get around three quarters the way through it, but the past couple of days haven’t been very productive.

I find editing a difficult thing to do when my head isn’t 100% in it. Generally, I don’t mind the process, it’s a necessary evil and is a critical process in writing a book, but when my head is having an off day, I just can’t get going with it.

Writing is something that helps me get through some bad days. The act of creating and engaging with the characters and worlds calms my brain and gives me something good on which to focus. With editing, though, I don’t get that.

As I’m going through something that I’ve already been through multiple times, nothing new is grabbing my attention and focus. I find my mind drifting and thinking about other things more often, and I end up missing things that need to be altered or corrected, which, in the end, will only harm the story.

As much as I want to get this draft completed – I think it will be the last – I don’t want to rush it, miss things and then put it out into the world only for people to pick up on my mistakes.

If I could afford to hire an editor, I would do, but as it stands, I don’t have the money available to me to do so. So, for now, I have to do the bulk of the work.

I’m really pleased with how Blindsighted has turned out; it’s very different from my last book, The Next Stage. It’s been good to write a different story genre, from something that was heavily sci-fi to this paranormal horror is a welcome change.

I don’t know what genre I want to write at the minute, or even if I want to stick to just one, I think I may end up being more of a multi-genre author. Of course, for that to happen, I need to get Blindsighted released.

I haven’t set a specific date for release as I don’t want to rush things and put more pressure on myself than I already do. I’ve said before that I’m hoping to release in the next couple of months, but if I set a date, I will probably only beat myself up if I don’t meet the deadline. There’s no rush, and it’ll be out when it’s out. My mental health is more important than publishing a book. I need to make sure that I keep my brain happy; everything else will come in time.

Reading this blog back, I can see it’s a little bit all over the place. I’m struggling even to type this, if I’m honest. So, that being said, I’ll leave things here for now and get back to trying to edit.

Have a good weekend.

Writing Update – Blindsighted Second Draft

A few weeks ago I finished the first draft of my new paranormal/ horror story Blindsighted.

Rather than taking a break from writing I decided to jump straight into another WIP this one an as yet untitled sci-fi. I’ve got a few chapters and have a vague idea of where I’m going with it but I spent most of my time researching dreams, mainly what happens to us if they don’t dream, as this is a pertinent part of this new WIP. I won’t go into it much at this stage though.

After a couple of weeks of working on this story and putting together a few blogs for the coming weeks, I started to have ideas for extra chapters and ideas that I could slot into Blindsighted so I’ve taken this as a sign that I should get back into it.

I’ll start by going over what I have and then working on the extra bits and pieces as I come up to where they should go.

I’m excited to work on this story again as it’s completely different to my last release The Next Stage and I’m enjoying the change of pace.

Once I’ve completed this draft I’ll likely share the synopsis of it so you can have an idea of what it’s all about. The only thing I’ve generally shared so far is that it’s about “a man with no eyes” which I hope is whetting your appetite for more.

Anyway, back to the writing. Have a good week.

Dreams and Writing

Dreams are weird. In our dreams, we can do and be anything. They’re thought to be the brain’s way of processing emotions, stimuli, memories, and other information that’s been absorbed throughout the day. Many of the people that appear in your dreams may be people you know, perhaps in different roles; but they are people you recognise, only a small percentage are people you don’t, and maybe you’ve seen out and about.

Within dreams, we can fulfil fantasies and play out scenarios that wouldn’t necessarily happen in the real world. For me, dreams can be extremely lucid. Many of my dreams feel so real that waking from them can be confusing, and it takes my brain a few minutes to adjust and realise I was asleep.

I’ve had odd and unsettling dreams that have woken me during the night, I’ve had pleasant dreams that leave me feeling good, I’ve also had dreams that have had credits and “Previously on…” moments – this might just be due to the amount of TV I watch though. I’ve also had dreams that continue night on night or ones that I go back to after a few nights, and even ones that link to others in some way, either by character or occurrences.

Some dreams I have, disappear into the ether as soon as I open my eyes, others stay with me for hours, and some – like the ones I’m going to talk about – stay with me for years.

The dreams that stay with me for years can do so for a few reasons. This can be because they were so good/bad that they linger in my mind, or because I think it’s a good idea that I can develop.

Creatures was one such story that I developed from a dream.

I remember the basic premise from the dream was that there was a scientist (someone I didn’t recognise played this character) who was in a lab. Something went wrong in this lab, the accident spawning mutant rats that caused an apocalyptic event.

Something with this dream stuck with me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I kept remembering extra details to the point where I had to write it down, hoping that this would stop it from being at the forefront of my thoughts. The more I wrote and added to the story, the more I remembered from my dream. It was an odd process, but it worked and allowed me to get the story down on paper and organised into what became my first novel.

I’ve had several other dreams of this type that I’m attempting to develop into a coherent story. These include; It’s All in the Eyes and Blindsighted – but ironically not my story based around dreams.

It’s All in the Eyes is a story that’s been in my head for around 17 years and one that I’ve tried to write down on multiple occasions without much success, but it’s still in there, rattling around trying to escape. Recently – as I’ve said in a previous post – I’ve started working on this again. There are few new details that I’ve added to make the story flow and read better, but the basic idea is from a dream that I had nearly 2 decades ago.

I find it odd that dreams like this stick with me. This dream isn’t special. It’s not one that I’ve actively tried to remember but it just lingers in my mind. I wonder if – once I written and released it into the world – whether the dream itself will made into memory or whether it will continue to be at the forefront of my brain. Creatures did this. I’m working on a sequel to it, but the dream that the first book was developed from has faded away. It still crops up now and then when I think about it, but otherwise, it’s like most other dreams I’ve had and had been relegated to the back of my mind.

As I work on my latest story idea, I’m doing research into dreams, what they are, what causes them, and why some of them feel more real than others. This may help me understand why dreams like the one that spawned Creatures are difficult to shake, or it might just confuse me further. Whatever dreams are, I stand by my previous utterance; dreams are weird.

Lockdown Writing

I live in the UK, and we’re currently in our…wait a minute, I know this…third lockdown, and we’re experiencing all the fun that goes along with it.

Lockdowns have been sh!t, to say the least. We all have to find ways of getting through them; some people have built things, others painted, watched, read, played, but it has been writing for me.

During this time of world collapse, for me, writing has been a great escape. I know I left my full-time day job at the start of 2020 to focus more on writing, but continually being unable to leave the house is also a good catalyst for getting more writing done.

The first lockdown and the proceeding events gave me time to focus on finishing off The Next Stage. I had more time that I ordinarily would have spent playing games or watching crappy movies that I instead used to be more productive.

It’s so easy during these lockdowns to while away the time without actually doing a great deal, so for me to be able to focus on something has not only helped me pass the time, but the focus has also helped my mental health.

More time for writing doesn’t just mean the act of writing words, but also the planning of a story. I’ve been able to do more research on specific topics that I want to have in my books.

For my latest book, Blindsighted, which is a supernatural horror, I’ve been able to look more depth into hauntings, spells, and even – without giving too much away – spells. The added time for research means that I don’t rush it and simply add the first idea that I come up with; I can look into a few different things and pick which one I think will work the best. I did quite a bit of research for The Next Stage, but it makes me wonder how much I could have done if I had been writing it during these lockdowns. I feel like I put a lot of detail into it as it is, but maybe it would have been even greater if I’d written it now; not that I feel it’s lacking in any way.

It’s not just the writing that has passed the time during lockdowns, but also everything else that comes with being an author.

The publicity of a newly released book took up quite a bit of time. Spending my time on Twitter, not just posting ranty comments – although there have been a few – but interacting with fellow authors, reviewers, and the writing community, in general, has taken the place of the those physical interactions that I may have had while not in lockdown. Even though I’m an innately antisocial person, I still struggle when the choice of being social has been taken away from me. I also started my Instagram and even this blog during one of the lockdowns, both of which have helped me get my work out there to more people.

During the start of this lockdown, I also did my first radio interview; something that came out of nowhere and I never thought I’d ever do. But now that I’ve done one, I’m looking forward to the next.

Even these blogs have helped me. This has been another outlet for book publicity and my frustrations and want for social interaction.

Through my interactions with Twitter, I’ve found that I’m not the only one who has focused on writing through this uncertain time. Fellow writers have also used this time to finish projects they’ve worked on for some time and even publish more works than they would have been able to in an average year.

More books being published, I’ve found, has also helped other non-writers through the lockdowns. Being able to escape to other worlds has got them through the worst times. This, in turn, has again assisted the authors by providing that little bit more income.

I hope we can get out of the lockdowns and the restrictions as soon as possible, but having writing to focus on makes the time go a little quicker and makes it that little bit more tolerable.

The Next Stage; 100! (Bonus Entry)

It’s been a little under two months since The Next Stage released in Kindle and paperback form. Today it an amazing milestone.

It now has over 100 ratings on Goodreads, and every single damn one of them is ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

It has now overtaken Creatures with number of reviews and rating average.

This, to me, is a huge thing to happen and something that I never even thought would happen. When it 50 reviews and they were all ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I thought that was amazing, but hitting 100 is phenomenal.

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I had started work on the second book in the series. I’ve done an outline, and I’ve already started writing -so far I’m up to just over 4000 words, so it’s slowly getting up steam. I think I’ve for a pretty solid story so I’m hoping it’ll follow in the footsteps of the first one and be something that readers enjoy.

Below are all the places you can pick up a copy for yourself along with the Goodreads page.

Amazon

Google Books

Apple Books

Lulu

Kobo

Goodreads

Thank you to all who have bought it so far, especially those that have reviewed it. I hope many more people will enjoy it.

Friday Catch-Up

So today is just an end-of-the-week catch-up.

Today, to celebrate The Next Stage getting over 50 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ reviews – 61 at the time of writing this post – the Kindle version is free over on Amazon. But, if you’d like a Google or Apple Books version, I have so promo codes to giveaway so just let me know.

I still can’t believe how The Next Stage has been received, and I’m exceptionally grateful the those that have reviewed it and especially those that have taken the time to do a text review. Reading how you enjoyed something I’ve written just makes it all worthwhile and like I’m actually good at what I’m trying to make my living doing.

In other news, I’ve decided to set myself a schedule for these blogs, so I have a vague idea of what content to post. It’s going to look something like this;

Monday: Writing update, where I’m up to with projects, and how I write, what I think about writing etc

Wednesday: Gaming, I’ll be doing reviews or retrospectives on gaming throughout my life.

Friday: Mental Health, these will be posts about how I live with bipolar, thoughts on how to deal with different situations, and general chat about it to get things out there.

I may deviate from this on occasion depending on what happens in my life, but I’ll be trying to stick to it where I can.

I’ve also decided to start Twitching again – game streaming, not the tick I get when someone mentions Twilight. My Twitch link is on the main page, but I’ll also be posting when I stream over on Twitter, it’ll probably be a weekend day, so if you want to join me, you’re more than welcome. I did a test run yesterday with Cyberpunk 2077, I’ll be playing through that, but I’m also going to be doing a try of all the months new PSNow additions – a blog about the one we’ve been playing recently will be coming on Wednesday.

As far as writing goes, I’ve been working on my ghost story, and I’m almost at 50,000 words, so it’s coming along. I’m hoping that I’ll have the story finished before Christmas and then I can polish it in the new year and hopefully release it soon after.

That’s it for today, so have a good weekend, and I’ll be back with more updates on Monday.

5 Stars! (Bonus Blog)

I just wanted to thank everyone who has so far read The Next Stage. Especially those that have rated it on Goodreads. It now stands at an average of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ with 50 ratings. I can’t believe that it has gone down this well with people and you’re actually enjoying it.

If you haven’t yet read it, you can find everywhere where it’s available over on the books page of this blog.

By way of celebration of this I’m making it available for free on Kindle on Friday 11th December. If you would like it sooner on Google or Apple Books, let me know, and I’ll send you a promo code.

Thank you again. It gives me more motivation to continue with writing.

Cover Second Thoughts

Monday, Monday, Monday.

I’m back to writing this week after all the fun last week, what with pain meds knocking me into a parallel universe and ending up in hospital with an excruciating migraine.

Well, I say back to writing…last night I got thinking about the cover for The Next Stage. I know, I know, I’ve archived all the files, and I should be moving on and concentrating on new things, but I got it stuck in my head, so I had to do something about it.

I was thinking that although I do like the simplistic cover, I’ve always felt that something was missing. I didn’t want to move away from simple – simple seems to be what my covers are all about – but I felt like I could make it a bit better, and maybe doing so would make a few more people take a look at what it’s all about.

So, this morning I did a bit of messing about with colours, fonts and images and I’ve come up with something a bit different.

This is what it looks like now;

I’m just uploading and changing the cover art in the various different places that the book is available, so hopefully, soon you should see a difference on their site pages. I’ll also update on the Books page on this blog.

Now that they’re all changed – or in the process of changing – I can now get back on to actual writing.

I’m currently focusing on my ghost story at the minute, but I’ve also had some thought about a story that is tentatively called Dreams. Dreams will be another sci-fi story, but it may (or may not) have some horror elements too. I’ve not done a great deal on it so far, having only written the first chapter, but I’ve got a lot of ideas of where I can take the story. I guess we’ll see how it turns out.

Reviews for The Next Stage are still steadily coming in, and I’m happy to say that they’re still all 5-stars. I’ve also had a few ideas of where I might be able to take a possible prequel or sequel to this book, so keep an eye out for updates on that too.

Anyway, that’s it for the blog today. Hopefully, I’ll have more updates on Wednesday.