This Week In Gaming – 05.04.2019

This week Jason Schreier, the best journalist in the gaming industry drops a huge story about Anthem, Borderlands 3 gets a release date and the next Assassins Creed may have been leaked in The Division 2. All that plus the usual waffle this week in gaming. 

What I’ve been playing

I’ve had a busy week, so I have only really played more of the same. Apex and The Division 2 continue to dominate my gaming time, although I am getting the hankering for a single player experience. With Days Gone just weeks away I am trying to hold out for that, but some of my old favourites are calling me.

All the Borderlands news has made me tempted to jump into Borderlands 2, but on top of that my all time no.1 favourite game of all time Skyrim is sitting there on my Xbox and PS4 dashboards, tempting me to dive back in and replay through all of the stories I know back to front. I think I can hold out for another few weeks, with the satisfaction of those sweet sweet Apex Legends Wins and the satisfying grind of The Division sustaining me.

I look forward to updating you on my 500th Skyrim play through next week.

Kotaku Anthem Article

If you are reading this you probably have somewhat of an interest in the Gaming industry. If you do, I suggest you follow Jason Schreier on Twitter. He is the top journalist in the gaming industry in my opinion. His latest excellent story comes from Anthem developer BioWare, and 19(!) anonymous sources who detailed the troubled development of EA’s much maligned game.

I encourage you all to go over to Kotaku.com and read the article, but the general story is that the game suffered a very confusing production process, with several decisions not being made until as late as 12 months before the games release. These important creative decisions combined with the problem that EA’s game engine Frostbite brought with it made the game a development nightmare. The issues are plentiful, but not particularly new to the triple A game development world. The story sheds light on the conditions that people are working in within the games industry and that sometimes the heads of these companies need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

BioWare is a studio that has the potential to produce the very best games we see. They created the excellent Mass Effect series as well as the Star Wars epic Knights of the Old Republic. They then saw more success with Dragon Age Inquisition, which insiders cite as the worst thing that could have happened due to the incredible crunch the studio went through to produce the Dragon Age game.

Crunch, if you don’t know, is the name for the big push developers make to finish a game by a deadline. It’s been a part of the games development cycle for years, but over the last few years we have been seeing a swell of discontent towards this process, as it really does have an effect on the mental health and happiness of the people who make the games we love so much. It’s a huge issue, and I personally think games should be given as much time as they need to be complete. If stories like this lead to better decisions from the people in positions of power at the big companies than I am all for it!

Borderlands 3 Release Date & incredible box art unveiled

With last weeks PAX event confirming the existence of Borderlands 3, 4 days later Gearbox have revealed that the game will be in people’s hands on 13th September 2019. Just 5 months away. This is excellent news to me, and I am glad they are going with the unveil and quick release approach being my preferred method, against the “Tease a game for years” method adopted by games like Last of Us 2 and Death Stranding.

They dropped a new trailer online, which showed off the characters and the villains, along with more shots of the environments we will be seeing in the game. Borderlands 3 looks like it’s going  to be by far the biggest one yet, and Guns with Legs certainly does seem cool, but I am not sure we are getting anything really new aside from the planets and the characters. My only question is; Is that Enough?

I love the borderlands games, they’re great fun and at the time were groundbreaking for the Co-op RPG genre. However so far Borderlands 3 seems like they are just giving us another Borderlands 2, but with more guns and more locations. To me, that kind of update is DLC level content not enough for an entire game.

I am assuming there are going to be a lot of small touches that will make the game smoother and more diverse in terms of class choices and gameplay styles, but so far we haven’t seen anything that’s made me really think this is a PS4/Xbox One game rather than a PS3 or 360 one. There is a gameplay demo coming in a few weeks so lets hope we see something then that wows me a little.

Assassins Creed Ragnarok

What a name that would be. One of my personal favourite games of 2018 was Assassins Creed Odyssey, and I have been toying with going back to the game regularly to see whats ben updated. Ubisoft confirmed there wouldn’t be an immediate follow-up, as they were focused on supporting the world they’d built with that excellent game.

Eagle eyed gamers have spotted posters in The Division 2 picturing a Viking holding a globe like ornament. Nothing in that right? except when you zoom in you can see the ornament is the infamous Apple of Eden from the Assassins Creed franchise. This poster along with concept art leaks with the title “Assassins Creed Ragnarok” attached to them have led to the assumption that the next game in the time hopping series will be set in the norse world of the Vikings.

On paper, it all makes sense. They are some of the most famous sailors in history, so the boat mechanics perfected in the last few AC titles are easily implemented, and the norse mythology is some of the most epic and ripe for storytelling we have available to us. On top of that, they were famously savage fighters, meaning the hack and slash gameplay perfectly suits the style of that time period. Comparisons may be made to the masterpiece that was God of War, but I think they are to wildly different games. AC has evolved into a sprawling, multi layered, branching story role-playing game set in a huge world with a hundred of hours of gameplay there for the audience’s enjoyment. God Of War is a much smaller story and I expect the follow-up to be a similarly intimate in nature.

I really hope this turns out to be true, but time will tell. Ubisoft have a history of hinting at future games in their current releases, so I think this has a pretty good chance of coming true.

Until next week!

 

 

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This Week In Gaming – 29.03.2019

Borderlands 3 was finally unveiled by Gearbox with a great trailer in a press conference littered with technical problems. On top of that we had Sony debuting their “State of Play” events, which was essentially a Nintendo Direct but for PlayStation, and Days Gone released a trailer that finally got me excited for the game. All that and the usual waffle this week in gaming!

What I’ve Been Playing

Today, thursday, I won 3 games of Apex Legends. Each win justifies the past hour of poor loot drops and quick deaths after deploying worth all the pain. I am absolutely hooked on this game and long may it continue. The new character has added a new dynamic to the game, and I think the community is ready for some map changes. The battle pass disappointment has fallen by the wayside, and now I am just chasing the sweet sweet nectar of victory.

I have been playing a bit of The Division 2 as well, teaming up with a mate really does make the game a lot more fun. Clearing rooms of enemies strategically covering one whilst the other moves into a new position to get a better angle is very satisfying. The game showed me the first signs of the loot cycle, something which I think could get me hooked given enough time. I am going to keep going back to this as there are no other games out soon that I am waiting for. The next big games out are late april when Mortal Kombat and PlayStation exclusive Days Gone hit the shelves, but more on Days Gone later.

What I have not played, nor had any real thought about in the last couple of weeks, is Anthem. A game that dominated the news in the build up and then dominated the news in all the wrong ways weeks later. The game is decent, and then you finish the story, and that’s it, it’s over. It was built to be a new, live service that gamers could keep coming back to. The problem is the loot is terrible, and being in the looter shooter genre that is a bit of a problem. I reckon the game will be better in 6 months, but it’s released in a really odd place in term of where the game is in its development, and it almost feels unfinished.

Borderlands 3 unveiled

I have written before about my appreciation for the Borderlands games. I saw a post on Reddit remarking that Borderlands 2 is a Desert Island game, and that is an excellent way to describe the franchise. They are huge games, giving players hours and hours of content. Gearbox knows it’s a popular franchise, as they have now remastered the original Borderlands game, and will be releasing an Ultra HD update for the Handsome Jack collection which has Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel, which is hundreds of hours of gameplay for people to enjoy while they wait for the main event.

Now, the Borderlands 3 trailer itself is excellent, showing off the game well, and even if the graphics don’t seem particularly different from 6 years ago, I reckon in-game we will be able to see the effects of a the generation jump. However the excellent trailer was the end cap on a bizarre press conference, with Gearbox chief Randy Pitchford using it to display his magic skills and seemingly promote himself as a celebrity. This weirdness was broken up by some laughable technical hitches, with the trailers faltering and at one point stopping completely. Right up until the Borderlands 3 trailer debuted in all its glory… At the second attempt, after the initial display seemed to be jumping as if it was lagging.

Technical issues aside, the audience in the room ate it up, because it was the return of a truly beloved Franchise. Cosplayers cheered and whooped at every reveal in the trailer, and laughed at every joke. The game is bringing back all of the characters we have grown to know over the last few games, and although it featured plenty of gameplay we didn’t get any definitive information of whether the game is a straight up sequel that plays just like Borderlands 2, or if this is going the Live Service route. My gut feeling from the trailer is that the game is going for a straight sequel, Co-op fun game, with more characters we can enjoy just like the previous games did. The villains look stylish and hopefully they can be half the villain Handsome Jack was, although even that is some task. The trailer ends with the promise of more news on April 3rd, so keep your eyes out for next week’s TWIG (This Week In Gaming, what a great acronym) as we will have all the news there.

Sony in a State of Play

PlayStation owners Sony have been slowly changing the way they do their announcements. From cancelling the annual PSX event, to pulling out of the mega-show that is E3, they have been moving towards a new way of delivering their news. This week they released their first “State of Play” video. I say that as that’s exactly what it was, a video, with games listed off with a little bit of info from the disembodied voice. This approach is somewhat impersonal compared to the friendly faces that brought us the PS4 years ago, with no Shuhei Yoshida or Shawn Layden present to talk through the developments.

Sony delivered the video, featuring announcements of several VR games including Iron Man VR and a Five Nights at Freddy’s VR title. Their focus on VR caught me a little off guard if I’m honest, but it has made me consider whether VR is a worthy investment. I have been intrigued by the prospect for years, and Beat Sabre very nearly tipped me over the edge, but the investment just never seemed worth the money. With games like Blood and Truth coming, something that looks like a real triple A title but only for VR, I might have to rethink that stance.

The showcase ended on a bit of an odd note, with a trailer for Mortal Kombat 11. Sure it looked excellent, but we already knew that and it wasn’t really a wow moment to go out on. What did wow me was the trailer they showed for Days Gone, Sony’s new exclusive.

Days Gone finally makes sense

I have loved just about every PS exclusive i have played on the PS4. The Last of Us, Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, Spiderman and God Of War are all absolutely exquisite games. They represent the very best of what games can be. Days Gone is the next up to bat for Sony’s exclusive titles, and until now I have been underwhelmed by everything I have seen. The gameplay has always looked slick, and they world is beautiful. But that is not what makes any of the exclusives work for me.

This newest trailer finally showed us what has been missing from any gameplay demo we have seen so far. It showed us a story, and it showed us characters that we can get invested in. So far Days Gone has been Starkiller from the Force Unleashed games riding around on a motorbike killing zombies. For the first time in that trailer I saw Deacon, as he interacts with other characters and we get hints at a character behind the familiar face of actor Sam Witwer.

It’s still not top of my anticipated list, and I am not expecting it to challenge Horizon or God of War for the top of the Sony exclusive library, but I am actually now excited to play the game. The promise of an engaging story does more for me than any gameplay video could, as that is what I like most in video games.

Aside from those sweet sweet Apex W’s though. Obviously.

 

This Week In Gaming – 15.03.2019

This week Halo Infinite might be a live service, Borderlands 3 is teased and uh… might be a live service, and there’s loose rumours about Sony buying Take Two so i go into why that would be such a big deal. All that along with the usual waffle This Week In Gaming. 

What I’ve Been Playing

This week, for some unknown reason, I loaded up Ghost Recon Wildlands. Wildlands was a game I was absolutely hooked on back when it came out. The sense of achievement when you take out an entire base without them ever knowing me and my team-mate were there is incredibly satisfying (I played almost the entire game with one mate online, and it was glorious wasn’t it Conor).

I logged in just to have some fun blowing things up, but then I saw “Ghost Mode”. Ghost Mode turns up the stakes, meaning if your character dies, that’s it, that character is dead. It hasn’t happened yet because me and Conor are gods on Wildlands, but that fear of permadeath is real as we have both experienced in moments. The upped realism continues when it comes to reloading and losing the bullets in your clip and other little tweaks that give the game a new sense of tension. I am looking forward to going back through and systematically wiping out the entire cartel again using my old man with a grey mohawk, smoking a cigar and tattooed up.

I am toying with the idea of diving into The Division 2 this weekend, something I wasn’t going to do before I got my hands on Anthem. Anthem has disappointed me because it never got its hooks in me with the end game, and I am now stuck between getting stuck into The Division 2 or going back to the sweet embrace of Destiny 2. The Season Of The Drifter is now live on Destiny 2, and I am starting to feel that itch to go back and shoot up the world with my Warlock.

Halo Infinite – Live Service? 

I am a relatively bias free gamer, I prefer PS4’s interface and the exclusives are much more my style, but I spend more time playing games on Xbox and I prefer the Xbox Controller now. One area I have never had a touchstone is any of the Xbox Exclusive Games. I’ve dabbled in Forza, but prefer Gran Turismo. Then it comes down to Gears of War, a game I have never tried and probably should, and Xbox’s ace up its sleeve, Halo. The issue is I have never enjoyed any of the mainline Halo games, and I don’t enjoy the multiplayer.

I only enjoyed one Halo games campaign, Halo Reach, which is being added to the Master Chief Collection soon meaning I might reinstall that, but I tried Halo 5, I have played all of the other games in the series for a spell, and never have I been hooked. The reason for me used to be the shields, meaning multiplayer felt stiff and frustrating for someone used to the fast, quick killing style of Call of Duty. What I have realised as I’ve matured as a gamer is that I don’t like Halo because I don’t like Master Chief. He’s a bland, uncharismatic character from what I have seen. A man with no equal, and unlike his oddly similar leading man in Doom Guy, the Halo games are supposed to be a sprawling, epic narrative.

All of that is irrelevant to the story, which is that Halo Infinite is apparently a kind of reboot for the series, and rumours suggest it will be a Live service, in the same vein as Anthem, The Division, Destiny and very other shooter being released lately. This news means I am a lot more likely to be picking up the Xbox exclusive, because I will have my own character in the world of Halo. I have no idea if this is something people are hungry for, but I imagine a weak story/single player experience will lead to a lot of complaints from fans of the franchise. I for one hope the game does something different to entice me into the series.

Borderlands 3 confirmed? 

This week Borderlands developers Gearbox put up a tweet with a picture that sent fans mad. The pic (linked to this post so you’ve seen it hopefully) shows a highway sign, with March 28th, Boston, MA written on it. That is incidentally the date of the convention PAX East.

The distinctive Borderlands aesthetic is present, and the exit is marked as “3”. That is all it took to send the internet mad and the hype levels for Borderlands 3 into overdrive. This is one hype train that I am fully on board with. Borderlands was a good game, and I had fun with the time I spent on it, but Borderlands 2 is arguably the game we owe the current trend of Looter Shooter games to. It had an unbelievable amount of guns, all dropped randomly throughout the game, and distinct, entertaining characters we all loved. It also had that X factor of an incredible Antagonist we love to hate, Handsome Jack.

Borderlands 3 has to deal with monumentally high expectations, and I for one am really intrigued how they are going to approach it. Given the success of Looter Shooters like Destiny, does Gearbox learn from the games that it inspired and produce an always online, live service experience. Of course Borderlands 2 was Coop, and it encouraged you to play with friends as it made the game even more enjoyable. Whether they stick to their tried and tested Coop roots or depart into the Live Service realm is going to be a huge talking point when the game is unveiled in just 2 short weeks. Keep your eyes on This Week in Gaming for all the news come March 29th!

Sony bidding for Take Two?

I have to preface this one with the fact that this could all be an absolute non story. However if, and its a big if, but IF the rumour happens to be true, and Sony buy Take Two… Oh bugger it, as I was writing this Sony have confirmed that none of this is true. Still, I have committed to this, so here is what the rumour COULD’VE meant for the PlayStation brand.

Take Two, if you didn’t know, is the company that owns 2K games, along with other IP’s and one other studio. That other studio is none other than Grand Theft Auto creators and gaming icons Rockstar Games. I am a believer in there is no smoke without fire, and I can’t help but feel with Microsoft’s recent moves towards ensuring they are in the driving seat next generation, Sony may have been looking to make a real statement as to why you need to be on the PlayStation side of things.

The rumours death could be down to a straight up refusal by Take Two, and therefore both sides just quash the rumours by denying everything. What would have been noticed though is the sharp increase in their share prices when the rumour came out, making the idea of a take over increasingly enticing for the Take Two shareholders. The story was almost missed due to the havoc on the stock market because of my home country having a government that has done an absolutely shite botch job of Brexit, but somebody clocked onto it and sent the some fans dreaming.

With Take Two under their thumb, Sony could boast exclusivity of the biggest selling entertainment franchise in the world. Forget Disney owning Marvel, They would own GTA. a game that grossed over a billion dollars in a single day when it first released, and has continued to chart in the top-selling games every month since its launch in September 2013. They could have the games appearing exclusively on PlayStation, but they could also opt to make movies, tv shows, anything out of Rockstars properties. 2K could produce their own range of PlayStation exclusive sports titles, and god knows what else.

The chances of it happening now are next to nil, but for a hot minute there the Games Industry was about to be in shock. That’s why I follow this stuff so closely, all this speculation is half of the fun.

Til Next Week!

ChAzJS on Xbox & PS4

 

 

 

 

This Week In Gaming – 08.03.2019

This week we have Microsoft cutting out their discs, EA announcing no conference during E3,  and the new PS4 firmware update that allows you to play on your mobile. That and all my usual waffle about what I have been playing this week below. 

What I’ve been playing

This week has been a movie week for me, and therefore games have taken a bit of a back seat. I did however manage to finish off Anthem, and get my first win on Apex Legends. Two games I have written a lot about over the last few weeks. Apex continues to be a game I want to play more of, whilst Anthem is very much the opposite.

Anthem sits in a very weird place for me right now. I do like the game, in fact I like every part of the game. When combined though, something just doesn’t feel right. I am left with the opinion Anthem is a really good BioWare, single player game, with the multiplayer looter shooter components strapped onto the game to make it into a live service. It has great characters, but if you’re playing through the game with friends in your party you will miss the majority of the best moments in the game.

Enough about the games I played, and onto the news this week!

Microsoft leaving their Discs out

Brad Sams at Thurrott.com (full story here) has revealed Microsoft’s plans to release a new Xbox one which will be the first of the major consoles to launch without a disc drive. The new all digital Xbox is being released with the aim to lower the barrier to entry for customers into the Xbox ecosystem. This news is the latest in a number of customer friendly stories that have come out around the Xbox system in the last few weeks, and I for one think the signs are positive, as I have mentioned before.

A digital downloads only console is another sign for me that Xbox is keen to really shock the industry with its next platform. If they are planning for Xbox Scarlett to be available as a service, it will of course not have a disk drive. This new level of Xbox could serve as the gateway drug for a lot of people into this new world, a world without having to get up off my butt and find the case for the game I want to play.

rumours suggest the targeted price for the digital Xbox is less than $200 (Post Brexit that’s just a cool £30,000.00) so it seems the idea is to get this xbox in as many homes as possible and get their foot in the door before the next-gen. The question I have is whether or not this move is a little late in the day. By now, if you are a PS4 only owner you are heavily invested in their system, and unlikely to want to change. The low price point may be enough to provoke one or two impulse buys, but I just cannot see this making a dent in Sony’s stranglehold over Xbox when it comes to active consoles on the market.

That thinking does lead me to believe that once again Microsoft are playing the long game, possibly taking a hit financially here, to gain favor with the public and increase their public image with the next console war on the horizon. They do not have an exclusive game to attract fans like Uncharted or Spiderman, but they have a Game Pass which will give Digital only Xbox owners a huge range of games to play from day one. My guess would be each digital console will come with a few months Game Pass included, just to get people’s toes in the water of the Xbox well.

E3 weekend loses another conference

E3 was the major event of the year in the gaming industry up until just a few years ago. It’s one of those events that I have followed and enjoyed all of the news and content that comes out of the show. Over the last few years the event has seen its guest list of companies throwing press conference has steadily shrunk, down to the point where now E3 is just another event, along with the PAX events and even San Diego Comic Con. It is still the biggest event of its kind, but the gulf has largely disappeared.

EA left the official show a few years ago, and launched their EA Play weekend to coincide with the week of E3. Each of these events to date has featured a key press conference, with game announcements, trailers and unveilings presented in the same manner Sony and Microsoft have done for years. They have now decided to pivot to streaming events for different games, a move which I think only EA could pull off.

EA as a publisher boast one of the widest ranges of games on its roster. Alongside franchises like Battlefield, Anthem and Apex Legends, they have the entire flock of EA Sports titles like FIFA and Madden. This huge range means a more focused stream approach should allow viewers to just tune in and watch a good showcase of the games they are most interested in. At present, fans of battlefield have to sit through a whole EA sports section, which could be featuring games they have no interest in.

It opens up the old debate of “Does the industry still need E3?” and for me the answer is a resounding Yes. The show is a focal point for news announcements as well as a place we can see the full diverse range of video games. Here’s hoping nobody else pulls out of the show.

PS4 Firmware Update might hint at their plans

Now this story is almost entirely speculation on my part, but I had a lot of fun last week with the Xbox predictions, so here is my thoughts on the direction Sony might be heading with their next console. The most recent firmware update to the PS4 allowed for access from iOS devices. Now this has been possible for a number of years on Sony’s own mobile devices, but this is the first time we’ve seen PS4 games accessible outside of their own ecosystem as far as I know.

What’s interesting about this to me is the fact that some people at Sony are still working on mobile integration even this close to the announcement of the next console. Could Sony’s next console be able to be played remotely from anywhere? I doubt it, but why on earth are people there still working away on this type of unrequested feature if the technology behind it wasn’t going to aid with their next console. I have never seen much fanfare around playing games via mobile. As our phones become more and more like small PCs, the possibility of me actually enjoying a big blockbuster game via a mobile is increasingly likely.

There are absolutely no details of the PS5, and Sony has no reason to rush it out. I am, as you may have been able to tell, absorbed by the mind games both companies are playing. Right now Xbox has all the work to do, and they seem determined to do it. Sony is in the dangerous position of being on top of the mountain, with everything to lose. The next round of consoles may be the last we ever see, with a digital only world fast approaching, so the winner of this final bout between Xbox and PlayStation may find themselves as the leader of the pack for a long time.

And of course, Nintendo will always Nintendo.

This Week in Gaming – 01.03.2019

This week I go over what games I’ve been playing in the last 7 days, discuss the Pokemon 8th generation announcement, take a quick look at the anthem release and the big story this week for me is Xbox Game Pass potentially showing us a glimpse of the future of Microsoft’s gaming platform. 

What I’ve been playing

This week started with Anthem. It’s a fun enough game, and as my review last monday mentioned, I think it is a good basis for what could become a good, possibly great game. I have to say though, it has not kept me on the hook and wanting more. The last few times I have logged in, I have played Anthem because it’s what i feel i should do, rather than what I necessarily want to play. For me personally, that is a very bad sign.

I did eventually find myself dusting off my PS4 controller, and jumping back onto Fifa 19 for the first time in months. Perhaps it’s my beloved Arsenal’s recent form, but I had a scratch only Pro Clubs could scratch. For those who don’t know, Pro Clubs is the game mode on fifa where you control one player on the pitch, and have to play your position. Ultimate Team is where the money lies, and the career mode is where a lot of hours are clocked up, but for me Pro Clubs is where the best football minds on fifa go to show their skills.

I am not an excellent gamer, I don’t claim to be the best at COD or Fortnite or Apex, I am decent, and can have a great game now and then, but I know my limits. When it comes to Pro Clubs on fifa, I am confident in being one of the best players I know of, and in my position (Box to Box Central midfielder) I am the best I know of. Humble brag. Anyway, that’s what I did this week, played five games with some of my old fifa team mates online, and we won all five. Now enough of my bragging, onto this weeks news.

Pokey Mans

Detective Pikachu’s trailers have made me excited for a Pokemon film, more than I would have ever imagined. The first games Pokemon games I have played a few times through, and I have some great memories with them. Since Gen 1, i have fallen out of the franchise completely, and I could not name more than 3 of the Pokemon from Gen 2 onwards.

This week, Nintendo called a Pokemon Direct, where they unveiled the newest additions to the Pokemon franchise, Pokemon Sword and Shield. In what is apparently a UK inspired setting, we see a more detailed, 3D world, and some new features that I am sure excited the hardcore Pokemon fans. For me though, Pokemon needed to do something drastically different. By now, everyone knows what Pokemon games are, every kid has their pokemon game. Mine was years ago, and when I look at this new game, it seems like things have not changed beyond the graphics. The idea is still seemingly to take one of your 3 starter pokemon, slowly gather more, and then eventually beat the evil corporation and become the best trainer in the region.

I sincerely hope that these games are exactly what their audience want, but to get someone like me to be interested, I needed something closer to Breath of the Wild. I didn’t get into that game because Zelda’s world doesn’t appeal to me, the Pokemon world does. A full RPG game, with the Pokemon creatures out in the wild to be engaged with in a new way would have made me severely regret departing with my Switch. As it is, I am comfortable that I made the right decision for me.

Anthem out of tune?

I have written a lot about Anthem in the last week, and by now I am sure you are sick of reading it, if you are one of the few who reads this regularly. Thanks for the support if so! Anthem’s launch has been rough, and apparently the sales figures haven’t exactly blown anyones minds either. The headlines read particularly gloomy, with a fraction of Mass Effect Andromeda’s sales figures being touted as the number. In reality I think the number is a bit higher, but there is no doubt it has not caught the imagination quite like EA wanted, and perhaps expected it to.

Apex Legends launched just a week before Anthem, and seems to have done exactly what Anthem was expected to do. Apex has become a phenomenon, with people I wouldn’t expect asking me about that new game they’ve seen people on twitter or Facebook talking about. Anthem by comparison, has been a barely visible ripple in the pop culture pool. As I’ve stated a few times, I quite like the game, but something is missing when it comes to that buzz you normally get from a big  game launch. BioWare need to keep the support up, and deliver regular updates straight away to keep people coming back to the game. Something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

Game Pass, present and future? 

My apologies for the terrible pun sub-title.

This week it was found that Microsoft has begun to push elements of its Xbox infrastructure onto the Windows platform PC users are familiar with. I won’t pretend to understand the details, but there is a tonne of detail in the story linked here in a story on Thurrott.com by Brad Sams. Long story short, Microsoft seem to be getting rid of the differences between how xbox and PC games are run, and bringing them together so that Xbox games could potentially be run on a PC. What does all this potentially mean?

Earlier this month, we saw an announcement about xbox live coming to Nintendo Switch. This led to stories that Microsoft could bring Game Pass, the best deal in the games industry, onto the Nintendo platform. This would mean that Nintendo players could play Xbox games, possibly including exclusive titles like Halo, on their Switch. Now of course we know the Switch doesn’t have the power under the hood to run games requiring the power that a Xbox One can provide, let alone a Xbox One X.

How would they get around this lack of processing power? Potentially with their own games streaming service. I speculated last week that Google may be dipping into the market and being the first games streaming available for the public. Microsoft have already announced they are working on a similar project, and that more will be unveiled in the coming months. Could the Project Scarlett we have been told about be a completely new type of console. Is it possible Xbox will become a service? So on top of being a console you can buy, there is also a dongle you can plug into anything, and an app on your TV or devices, and even an app on Microsoft’s rivals consoles.

PlayStation is so far out in front of Xbox that Microsoft are having to make calls that are risky, perhaps not cost efficient, and they seem to be approaching it with the consumers desires at the forefront of their minds. Is their plan is to make their games, their brand, available anywhere. Imagine if Microsoft announce that they are making the vast library of Xbox games available to everyone, regardless of the console they can afford. All you need is a subscription to Xbox Live, or whatever name they give the service, and you are free to browse the library of games and buy what you want.

It is no secret that the console making companies lose money on their Hardware sales. They make their profits through the cut of the money they take from the sales of every game on the platform. With this kind of service, they will still need to build the hardware, but can save a lot on packaging all the complex components in a nice, living room friendly shell, and shipping them around the world. Instead they can install the centres they mentioned in their last E3 conference around the world, allow anyone to connect to it via the internet with a relatively low-cost subscription, and voila, everyone is buying and playing games on their platform. Cloud processing has been a reality for a while, and google proved with their Assassins Creed test last year that it works. Microsoft have something Google doesn’t the Xbox brand. A well-known name in the world, one that immediately makes anyone think of video games.

Could Xbox be ready to change gaming, and bring it to the entire world? I could be completely wrong, but who knows, maybe Game Pass on switch is just the beginning.

For more speculation, ramblings and opinions on games, movies and TV, follow Screenbunka on Instagram, Facebook and twitter. Thanks for reading!

Anthem – Review So Far..

EA owned studio BioWare have a long history of single player, character driven, branching story path games. Mass Effect is well-known as one of the most beloved series in the gaming world, and that studio’s new property is a very enticing prospect for a lot of fans. However, being the first “Live service” type game BioWare have attempted, there is a lot of skepticism over how well everything will work and whether EA have affected the choices being made by the developer too much from above. 

As a big Destiny player, I went into Anthem with my expectations in what I feel is the right place. I know this game has micro transactions, but they are all cosmetic, and the suits themselves are so customisable in terms of pain jobs that the options really don’t matter very much. I also went in knowing there would likely be connection issues and game bugs, as well as little quality of life defects which were all present in the first Destiny, and still present in Destiny 2. These types of games are sold as a platform for players to enjoy for a long time, not just one 20-30 hour play through.

That being said, I still had pretty high expectations when it gets down to the feel of the gameplay, the production design of the world, the lore, the characters, and the story. I played a few hours of the demo a couple of weekends ago and the flying felt fun, but the small slice I got was tough to judge thoroughly on the gameplay. The world certainly looks beautiful, with lush jungles, stunning waterfalls and cool looking javelins to look at as they zip around the environments. But does it all click together?

Javelin. 

The games core gameplay is designed around 4 different classes, each with different abilities. At the time of writing, I have used the Storm and the Ranger, with one the Colossus unlocked. 2 of my friends have been using the Interceptor and the Colussus, so I am aware of their abilities, but I stuck mostly with the Storm class, as they suit the way I want to play.

With different elemental abilities, varying from shooting ice or fire at enemies to calling down lightning strikes, Anthem certainly does a good job of making you feel powerful. Despite there being a wide variety of guns in the game, I found they was almost a secondary weapon. The abilities refresh quickly, and there is a deeper than it first appears combo system at play during the encounters. Mastering these combos is never really explained, but as I play more I am beginning to get a feel for how you are supposed to play the abilities in tandem, not just with your other abilities, but with other players.

Being with other players is a key part of Anthem’s design, as the game regularly warns you should you choose to set your privacy settings to private and play missions solo. The game does not scale things down for you, you’re on your own and you have to do everything the usual 4 person squad would have to do. This makes some levels impossible, like the challenging Strongholds. I got over my desire to solo every mission with Destiny, so it didn’t bother me having 3 other people jump in on missions in Anthem.

Javel-out

Anthem’s hub world, similar to the divisions home base, is a single player area for players to walk around, interact with characters and pick up missions. All of this is done in first person, which to me eliminates the point of you picking a character model right at the beginning of the game. It’s most similar to the ship in Mass Effect Andromeda, with a range of characters in their positions, ready to talk to you about any number of things. One of the things it doesn’t do that Mass Effect did so brilliantly, is make all of them interesting. There are 1 or 2 dull characters on your ship in mass effect, beyond that they’re all engaging, unique, interesting characters.

So far in my time with anthem, the reverse is true. There are a couple of interesting characters, but only a couple who I am really invested in. It’s not as if the voice acting and animations are great, they all are as good as you will see in any big video game these days. My problem is that the game thrusts a few characters at you and kind of expects you to understand references they make which I feel will only make sense if you read all of the entries in your bio.

With a few characters, like Owen and Faye, they deliver some intriguing characters who actually seem to have an arc of their own. Their dynamic, and their relationships with your character make for some of the more entertaining cutscenes and I hope a few other characters develop in the same way they did in my play through.

Teething Issues

Turning on Anthem for the first time this weekend, I expected to run into a lot more game crashing bugs and glitches, but I have only had to reset the game one time, and I have only disconnected two or three times. All pretty impressive for a game that struggled in its beta/demo, but then they will argue that is exactly why they did the beta in the first place.

What Anthem does struggle with is a few little choices that were made when it comes to the menus and end screens of missions. Changing guns is something you do regularly in these games, and yet Anthem not only hides such a trivial task behind 2 loading screens, it also restricts you to only using the guns and abilities you depart with. Forget to equip that new assault rifle or new Ice attack? You will need to end your expedition, sit through the loading screens to get back to Fort Tarsis, then another one to get to the Forge menu.

The end of each expedition is a cumbersome affair. You get your experience points and rewards laid out, all in comparison to the rest of your squad, and then you’re given the choice of Fort Tarsis, The forge, or the Launch Bay. The one option missing from this is the ability to jump straight into another mission. Regardless of how short the mission was, you have to go back and then redeploy from the home base every time. This kind of thing is something that I can see them adding in with a substantial patch in a few weeks or months, but I do wonder how this has been overlooked.

At times these little quality of life touches in a game are overlooked, but when they are not there, you feel like something isn’t quite right. The comparison is being made a lot between this and Destiny, but I do feel right now they are unfair. At launch, Destiny 1 and 2 were vastly different. Right now, Destiny 2 is a well oiled machine, and its audience know exactly what the drill is. Anthem needs time to find its audience, and it needs support from BioWare and EA to make sure they listen to the fans and make the right choices.

So my thoughts so far…

Anthem is a game that feels a little under baked to me. There are some excellent ideas here, and I seriously think in a few months with the support of BioWare we could be looking at a really special game. The Stronghold levels are excellently designed, mini raid levels that are rewarding and still challenging. It’s those missions I want to see more of. I am about 20 hours in, at level 20 and I am pretty sure I have plenty of game left between now and the end of the main story. I have heard the end game content in Anthem is great, which bodes well. Right now it’s pretty much exactly what I expected from the game, but for people not experienced with Live Service games like this or Destiny, it may feel a little weird to you.

It’s an odd thing that only video games as an entertainment medium can deliver, but Anthem is essentially in its infant steps right now. Give it some time, and I think this could become something be great.

Played on Xbox One

Gamertag: ChAzJS

 

 

This Week in Gaming – 22.02.19

This week I go over what games I’ve been playing in the last 7 days, speculate a little on what Google could be unveiling at their GDC panel, and look ahead to this week’s big release, EA’s Anthem. 

What I’ve been playing

Last week Shadow of the Tomb Raider was brought onto Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft’s stupidly good value for money subscription service. I thoroughly enjoyed the previous two games since the franchise reboot in 2013. I didn’t get round to Shadow when it released for one reason or another, but once I had to give it a go once it came to Game Pass.

Square Enix have largely stuck to the formula they have used in the previous 2 games, and not added a great deal I’ve found. A little disappointingly for me, the game feels similar to my time with Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider, but has so far not hooked me into the story. The first two games had shades of Uncharted about them, with the hunt for some ancient treasure being the motivation behind some great character work. This time round the same motivations are there, and we do dive into Lara Croft’s childhood, but its missing that intangible element that just makes you want to keep going back and pushing onto the next part of the story.

I think the lack of a supporting cast we are invested in takes its toll on this third instalment. By the third game in the Uncharted series, we are just as invested in Sully and Elena as we was in Nathan Drake. Lara Croft is the only character I could name from any of these games, I couldn’t even come up with the name of her friend in this game that I have been playing this very week.

One potential reason I grew tired of Tomb Raider, is because I knew I was just a few button presses away from the addictive brilliance of Apex Legends. Neither Fortnite or PUBG ever held my attention quite like Apex is right now, and if I wasn’t writing this, I would be playing it. I went in-depth on a little more in last weeks post, but it’s honestly one of the most well made, excellently balanced games I have played in years. The battle pass comes soon, and with it hopefully a slew of challenges and objectives to mix gameplay up a bit.

Google is coming

This week Google announced that they are going to be unveiling something, no clues on exactly what, at a press event to be held at the Game Developers Conference in March. After the apparent success they had with allowing people to stream Assassins Creed Odyssey through Google Chrome, all signs point to some kind of digital streaming gaming platform.

Google have been expanding into new markets in recent years, with their Phones and tablets emerging as viable options in both markets. They have a very trusted brand, and if they can beat Microsoft and Sony to the punch on a reliable games streaming platform with no latency issues we could be seeing a new contender emerge. Nintendo will always Nintendo, so I don’t see this affecting them very much, but I am sure the big 2 console owners will be watching carefully come March 19th.

I for one hope they release some form of hardware. I don’t believe it will be a box like the current generation consoles, but more likely similar to their Chromecast devices, which can just be plugged into a TV. The device itself will be just a proxy through which users can connect to Google’s cloud processing servers, allowing for HD to 4K quality, high fidelity games to run via the cloud straight onto people’s TV’s.

Such a device could revolutionise how accessible games are, and I can see new TV’s, or even an App for smart TV’s being launched which would allow everyone access to the world of video games with a much lower cost to entry. The elimination of a chunky piece of hardware not only saves space in people’s living rooms, but also reduces the production cost per unit sold for the tech giant. Any news on a release date for the platform is scarce, but all will be revealed in a few short weeks.

Anthem out of tune at launch?

I have been looking forward to BioWare’s Anthem since I first laid eyes on the game a couple of E3’s ago. I love Destiny, and I am a huge fan of Iron Man, so the two being smashed together and being given a story crafted by the creators of the Mass Effect series is a match made in heaven for me. It’s currently installing on my Xbox as we speak and once this is written I will be diving into the game (I prefer PS4, but my mates play Xbox, what can you do).

The game has been “out” for about a week now, although the exact launch day is a little messy. If you have an EA Origin account on PC at a certain level of membership, you could download and play Anthem, the full game, from February 15th. I have EA Access on console, meaning I had 10 hours of gameplay for free, available from the same date. I didn’t take up that offer because of two reasons. For one thing, I knew I had a busy week, and wouldn’t be able to get a decent session in until friday anyway. Secondly, being a platform in a similar vein to destiny, I knew the launch would be a little rocky.

That thinking has been proved right judging by all of the discussion around Anthem this week. Game bugs, crashes and excruciatingly long load screens have all been cited as regular occurrences for players in this opening week. BioWare and EA have announced a Day one patch to deal with these issues, but even the developers themselves aren’t sure exactly when the game released as the patch was dropped on thursday.

I know a lot of people now lose interest in a game if it is broken on release, and i completely understand and sympathise with that logic. With Anthem though, I am willing to give it a bit of time to correct these issues. At launch, Destiny 1 and 2 were fraught with similar bugs and issues. The same is also true for Ubisoft’s own version of these shooter looter games, The Division. What we saw with all of those games, and what I hope we see with Anthem, is continuous support and updates from the developers to make the game the best version of itself that it can be. Destiny 1 and 2 are both excellent games, and I have spent far too many hours on the Destiny 2 grind, and the gameplay and loot cycle have kept me hooked. If Anthem can get into a similar place, we are looking good.

What does worry me, is the comparisons some are making with Bethesda’s “How to botch a guaranteed success” game, Fallout 76. That game released with a load of bugs and glitches, and without the community mod support that Fallout 4 received, no sign of them all being cleared up. Just this week Bethesda banned a player who had committed over 900 hours to the game because apparently he had collected too much ammo for the game and he was kicked off the servers permanently. If Anthem goes the way of Fallout 76, it will be the biggest disappointment in gaming of the decade for me.

I will find out this weekend, and my review in progress (which means I will update it and give a final verdict when I’m finished with the main story) with Anthem will be up on Monday morning at 8am, so check back for my in-depth thoughts on the shooter then.

Thanks for reading!

ChAzJS on XBL and PSN