This Week In Gaming – 22.03.2019

This week has been a relatively quiet one in the games studio, except for the small story about an entirely new platform entering the video game industry. So nothing major I guess. I posted a story about that earlier this week, but I’ll go over the key points here in case you missed it, go over the pros and cons of Apex Legends’ new battle pass, and Xbox’s disc-less console is leaked. 

What I’ve been playing

The Division 2 is a really intriguing experience for me so far. I didn’t like the previous games gameplay because of the bullet sponge enemies, and that was pretty much what ended my time with The Division. The sequel has pretty much dealt with that issue by introducing faster paced, easier to deal with enemies. I feel a bit more powerful than I ever did in the first game. The tougher enemies now are much more intelligently designed, with armour you can shoot off to reveal clear weak points for you to aim at and do more damage.

The intelligence of the enemies is something I have really enjoyed. Unlike some games, where enemies just clumsily charge towards you to fight, the enemies here duck behind cover, and try to reposition and flank you. This has caused an issue for me, as so far I have been playing solo, meaning I have been slogging through tough levels in need of some back up. This week I will be playing more with people, either matchmaking or just with mates, and I think the tactical side of the game will really shine through here.

On top of that, I have been slowly allowing my mild addiction to Apex Legends to grow. I love playing this game, its tense, its fun, and the satisfaction you feel when you get that sweet sweet W is so gratifying. It has that “One more match” hook that all great games have and I am all in on the game now.

Apex Battle Pass

Speaking of Apex Legends, this week saw the release of the Battle Pass. I immediately signed up, and I went in thinking it would be a great addition. In reality, I think the service is a little disappointing. There are no challenges, which is what i was hoping to get. The challenges in the Fortnite battle pass give a whole new reason to play the game in different ways, but Apex have missed that element here. There are just levels to go up, not particularly dissimilar to the leveling system there already is in the game, just with more cosmetic rewards for leveling up. It’s a kind of carrot on the end of the stick, but one that I am not sure will keep gamers satisfied.

I hope they add more to the pass in the next few weeks, as at the moment I am not sure they have justified the £10 they’re charging. I am happy to pay it, as this game has already served up tens of hours of gameplay for me and I have loved all of it. There has been some understandable backlash from the fans, as people expected something much more in line with the offerings available on Fortnite. The excuse Respawn will give is that this is the first pass, and its early days for the game still.

For me, that excuse doesn’t really cut it considering they do not exist on their own in this genre. They can easily see what Epic is doing with their battle pass, and they obviously know as the name and system are almost copy and pasted into Apex. The developer needs to improve this to avoid further backlash, and they also need to speed up with content drops for the game. The battle pass came at the same time as the first new hero for the game, but the map has stayed completely untouched. We now are used to the ever evolving world of Fortnite,  and as much as I hate to keep comparing the two, that is the competition Respawn have. They need to keep evolving the game, and fast, or they risk being discarded and people returning to fortnite.

Disc-less Xbox

I wrote last week about a disc free Xbox being rumoured, and we now have seen the box. A report on the website WindowsCentral.com showed a photoshopped version of images they had been given by a source inside Xbox. To be honest, it is hardly a shocking revelation. The disc-less Xbox One S looks like a standard Xbox One S, but without a Disc tray.

The specs are confirmed to be a 1TB hard drive, which is good and has enough capacity for 20-25 games. The report also confirmed the new release as being the lowest price point to date for the current generation Xbox line. This all points towards giving people on the fence about Xbox One an easy to swallow price and  couple of games thrown in to get you started. Those games are Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon 3, and Minecraft. There is no Game Pass thrown in, but as it’s a ridiculously low price for such a great service already, that isn’t too much of an extra expense for consumers considering the bang for their buck.

In other Xbox news, Xbox boss Phil Spencer promised that Microsoft are “Going big at E3”. This came in response to questions about Google’s impressive first showing at the Games Developer conference this week. Their announcements at E3 are likely to be spectacular, as the confidence Spencer is speaking with suggests he was not too frightened by Google’s Stadia unveiling…

Stadia unveiled to the world

Google Stadia is the internet giants first foray into the games industry. Launching as their own platform, google wasted no time in stating clearly that this is a “next generation” platform, and referred to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as “Previous Gen”. So what does their console look like?

Well, it doesn’t look like anything. It’s entirely based on streaming games. There is no box, just a controller, and a google chrome browser. For TV’s you will need a chromecast device, but I can imagine they will develop an App for smart TV’s to remove that barrier to entry for people. Their message is very much one of inclusion, stating they want to bring powerful, high-end PC gaming to the world. The sheer power and ambitious nature of Stadia is impressive, and their plans are certainly a bold way to start out in the gaming industry.

Promising full 4K, HDR streaming to any screen, anywhere in the world is a very brave statement. What has come out after the conference is a bit more about exactly what is required for this service. Gone are the days of games requiring graphics cards and high processing power, now all you need is an internet connection. That is, a connection of at least 25 mbps to stream in HD, 4k will require 5-10 mbps more. If you don’t know what mbps you are getting right now, go to fast.com to find out. I get a solid 40-50 mbps, but I live in a relatively built up, busy area with a good service i pay decent money for. What is unclear is exactly how wide an audience this service can reach given the world isn’t on an even playing field when it comes to connection speeds.

Check out my over excited post from Wednesday for a more detailed breakdown of the announcements google made, but honestly I am really excited for the service. I am worried about the widespread success it can achieve given the demands it will put on people’s internet connections, but that is a worry that google need to address for people, and as technology advances, infrastructure will expand and get better everywhere. We are heading towards a streaming future, and google are first to show their hand. Over to you Microsoft and Sony.

Thanks for reading!

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