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.

 

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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!