E3 2018: XBox Press Conference.

 

xbox-e3-2018

Microsoft had a great showing this year showing 50 games over the course of their conference. They opened with a trailer for Halo: Infinite which shows Master Chief returning to a Halo ring in a world that seemed to be very open, so maybe that is a hint that this new game will be more open world than the traditionally linear campaigns that Halo has had before.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider got a new trailer that hinted at a bit more of what we can expect from the story when it releases in September.

Forza Horizon 4 will be set in Britain and was shown to be a shared world where you encounter actual players while you race around the game world. The other big selling point was seasons that drastically change the way the game is played, such as a lake freezing over in winter to allow access to previously unreachable areas.

Crackdown 3 got a new trailer and a release date for February 2019 a month that has become the hot new game release month for a number of big titles.

Kingdom Hearts 3 showed a glimpse of the games new Frozen world, with seriously amazing graphics that are comparable to the way the movie itself looks. Accompanied by a song from singer Utada Hikaru who did the iconic openings “Simple and Clean” and “Sanctuary” among other songs for the other Kingdom Hearts titles.

Sea of Thieves had a reveal of two more content launches for the next few months.

And Dont Nod developer of the critically acclaimed Life is Strange had a trailer for a brand new game in the same universe titled The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit which looks to follow a child in his active imagination and his relationship with his father, and it is FREE which is a bonus.

Metro Exodus finally got a release date joining in the melee that is February 2019 on the 22nd of that month.

From Software fans will be excited that a new game called Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will be joining the Dark Souls, and Bloodbourne franchises. From what was shown Sekiro follows a Samurai cursed with un-death out for revenge using his grappling hook replaced left arm for traversal and boss fights.

Fallout 76 had a proper reveal from Tod Howard of Bethesda Studios on stage where the game was revealed to be FOUR times the size of Fallout 4 and take place in West Virginia and follows a vault of people tasked with rebuilding America.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps had a gorgeous new trailer, yet again reminding me that I need to play Ori and the Blind Forest.

We Happy Few had a trailer to showcase the games story mode and its release date of August 10th 2018.

This reveal was around the time Microsoft announced that they had acquired four new studios. Forza Horizon developer Playground games, State of Decay developer Undead Labs, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice developer Ninja Theory, and We Happy Few developer Compulsion Games. Showing just how commited Microsoft is to catching up with Sony’s lead on great exclusive titles.

The Division 2 had a teaser trailer and some scripted game-play showing of the new Washington DC location. Xbox is also getting a remastered version of Tales of Vesperia releasing in Winter 2018 (summer for those of us in the southern hemisphere).

Xbox Game Pass got a lot of love, announcing that a bunch of titles will be coming day and date to game pass the day of the global launch of some games. Such as Forza Horizon 4 and Crackdown 3.

Devil May Cry 5 was revealed, as was an expansion for Cuphead and The Black Desert MMORPG beta is getting an Xbos One release.

A cute one person developed game called Tunic was revealed showing a Fox in a tunic running around a beautiful isometric world with a great Legend of Zelda vibe.

Microsoft continued their reveal of Japanese developed games with Jump Force, which looks to be a 3D fighting game using Shonen Jump characters. Goku from Dragonball, Naruto from Naruto, and Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece were in the trailer fighting Dragonball’s Frieza. At the trailers end Light Yagami and Ryuk from Death Note were teased as well. It looks like it could be a great deal of fun.

In the vein of open worlds both Dying Light 2 and Just Cause 4 were revealed. Dying Light 2 looks to be focusing on the consequences of your choices having physical impacts on your game world. The example they gave was whether to help a faction secure a water reservoir. Helping the Peacekeepers gives everyone water, but the Peacekeepers are  ruthless in making everyone follow their laws and ONLY their laws. Or you could help the outlaws sell the water on a black market but this makes the area a beacon to raiders who want the water for themselves.

Just Cause 4’s trailer focused very much on the story of the game which seems to me a pivot from the usual mayhem and destruction that the franchise is known for. Although that was seen in a game-play trailer as well.

Apparently Battletoads is getting a new game. I don’t quite know who this is for.

Gears of War had a three reveals, the first being Gears of War Pop a mobile game in partnership with Funko Pop toys. Followed by an X-com style Gears of War Tactics, then finally the game the audience was waiting for Gears of War 5. Which looks to be the game that all the fans of that franchise will love.

Finally Phil Spencer’s Closing note was hacked by Cd Projekt Red for the cinematic reveal of Cyberpunk: 2077. Cyberpunks world seems to be a future where digital technology is a part of everyday life. Most people look to have some sort of cybernetic implants and the world is fantastically colorful. We also see the man who could very well be our protagonist as he escapes from someone in his future car. The trailer showed me just enough to start getting me excited for this game when it eventually releases.

Clearly from the wall I just wrote Microsoft is well on their way to providing a number of great games. Some of which may be on whatever the next generation of consoles might be, as Phil Spencer teased that Microsoft’s hardware team is working on whatever is next to come for Xbox. I am certainly looking forward to a lot of what Microsoft showed of this year.

 

 

 

 

 

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E3 2018 – EA Conference

Electronic Arts really needed to come out swinging this year after the scandal that was Star Wars: Battlefront II and its horrendous micro-transactions. Unfortunately this conference did little to impress.

The hallmark of EA conferences over the last couple of years has been to showcase the teams and people behind their games. This is always a nice note to see game creators and let them showcase the passion behind their art. This year however these sequences felt drawn out and made the conference feel like it was padding for time.

That’s not to say these segments were bad, just not well placed it what should feel like a showcase of the great games for the year to come.

Unravel Two showed well, and actually looks far more interesting to me than the first game ever did. The mechanics of swinging around and puzzle solving with a friend seem really fun and rewarding. And it is available today.

The highlight of this conference for me was Sea of Solitude from developer Jo-Mei, the concept of a world where emotions have physical consequences seems fascinating, and the speech that was made on stage shows how much thought the developers have put into the story and world they have created.

Battlefront II had a small showing, where they tried to humble themselves and admit to their mistakes (without really saying it), and announced that they are bringing the Clone Wars, Geonosis, General Grievous, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker into the game. All of which feels far too late.

Vince Zampella revealed that his team is working on a new  game titled Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, which is set between Episodes III and IV while the Empire is hunting Jedi that survived Order 66. He also revealed that it should release around the holidays in 2019.

Anthem was intended to be EA and Bioware’s big showpiece for this conference and for me it fell flat. Again the showing wasn’t bad but it didn’t really show much of anything different from last years game-play demo. We got a bit more information about the world and why players need to use the Javelin power armor but there wasn’t enough of this to really get me excited about a game that I hope will be a competitor for Destiny when it releases on February 22 2019 (If it doesn’t get delayed).

It doesn’t help that from this showing I don’t have a clear idea about what the game entails. It seems story focused which is great coming from Bioware, and we were told that it can be played solo. But they also mentioned co-op with friends, which seems to be calling them into your game or joining a summons sent out by someone else. Which is just like the system used in Monster Hunter, rather than encountering random players like you do in Destiny. And I very much prefer the later, as when done well it makes the world feel lived in.

EA also showed off a little bit more of Battlefield V and dropped the announcement of a “royale” style game mode to be introduced after the launch of the game, which will have no loot-boxes or premium pass.

Of course they also had the usual assortment of sports games where they anounced a UEFA mode for FIFA 19, and a World Cup mode for FIFA 18 (which is free to play for a short while). As well as a (for some reason) shoutcasted match of a new Command and Conquer mobile game, which currently has a beta in the google play store for Android phones.

In the end this conference would have been served much better as a cut down and edited digital only presentation in the style of a Nintendo Direct, or much like Bethesda’s conference from last year. And I hope that we find out more about Anthem as the week of E3 continues and more people go hands on with the game.

Time to Talk – My time with Destiny 2

 

Destiny 2

Destiny 2 with the new expansion Warmind has left me thinking about how I feel about Destiny 2 and the whole franchise as a whole. As a base product I love Destiny, it is hands down the best feeling FPS game out there. But as time goes on with Destiny 2 it just feels like there is something missing.

I am an avid player of Destiny. I have been since year one, the week I began included the now infamous single instance of The Queen’s Wrath event. And I went on over the next 3 years of D1 to clock up 554 hours of game-time.

Now I was never one of the players that focused wholeheartedly on Destiny. I played it to achieve a certain goal with each new content drop. With release Destiny it was pretty much just to play the new game and see just what Bungie had concocted. With Dark Below it was to see if Bungie had improved on the story that had been a mess in the base game. With house of wolves it was to see what new game-play features the team had thought up in absence of a full raid, and also to begin using LFG features to play some of the harder content.

Through all of this I was excited to check out the streams and posts to see what the new content would be, and devour as much information as I could. Then the Taken King came and it seemed as if most of our prayers had been answered, we got an interesting story with a compelling villain and characters and it motivated me to be there the day the King’s Fall raid dropped so I could finally put a true end to Oryx. And again a few weeks later when the Heroic mode went live, so I could use my shiny new raid loot to complete the hardest challenge in the game.

It was great and kept me coming back daily for a month or two, then as always with Destiny I had my fill, and moved on until the next content drop could pull me back in. Which eventually was challenge modes until I had them all completed and moved on once again.

Rise of Iron didn’t pull me straight in, and personally Rise of Iron wasn’t worth the $40+ (NZ) cost at launch. Until the Age of Triumph, which was a great send off for D1. We got old raids back, and new challenges to complete. We had more content than ever to play and it was awesome. But as always I played my fill and left until D2 released.

I was, as most veteran D1 players were, a little annoyed that the only things I brought from 3 years of D1 were my characters faces, and a couple of fancy looking emblems. I’m not talking in terms of power or stats here, I’ve played WoW for 10+ years and you always expect the first rare you loot to be better than the epic you have from a raid boss.

Especially off the back of farming amazing armor sets, weapons and ornament in the age of triumph raids, and long or complicated quest lines for things like Sleeper Simulant and Outbreak Prime.

But D2 felt so DAMN GOOD, that I put that all to the side and played my arse off so I could be day one raid ready with my new clan. I enjoyed it so much that  I had three characters all leveled and set to go for the raid when it dropped. This enjoyment was fueled by what appeared to be a great content line up with faction rallies and iron banner weeks leading up to the prestige raid.

My clan and I loved it, we were on most days helping each other out to complete exotic quests. I ran the Arms Dealer quest strike with many people to help them get the Legend of Acrius quest going. I also led a few raids and some guided games, just because I was having so much fun.

Then the wall hit me and the clan in the face with the prestige raid, we had done weeks of preparation getting people geared up, and theorising on what we might get from the hardest content, and we loaded in the day it went live only to find that the preparation we had done meant nothing.

The gear and weapons we had couldn’t get better, we were all at max power and prestige didn’t raise that. We all had normal raid sets that didn’t help us at all, so after a while of throwing ourselves at the prestige raid we all bounced, because the amount of work we had put in added to the time and patience needed for the prestige raid would give only a recolor (with shiny parts) of armor we already had.

We planned to come back when power levels were higher in the next expansion, then it might be fun to team up and complete this challenge.

Meanwhile the PC version launches and I start playing that with a couple of friends. With just a single character. Because you know, bugger playing through all that content more than four times. They didn’t have the time to play as much as I did….. cause they have jobs. But slowly they got there and I lead a sherpa raid with them and three other first time Leviathan raiders, it was great fun.

Then the hammer dropped, and Curse of Osiris launched to a messy story with the fabled character from D1 Osiris, essentially not really being IN the expansion beyond the opening cinematic. A new patrol zone that is a small circle, missions re-purposed as strikes, and the Infinite Forest which turned out to be nothing more than a fancy pathway to a door across a chasm.

The forged weapons seemed interesting, until you had to grind out content to give you materials on a chance drop for weapons that looked cool but weren’t much more than that. The exception being the quest for Saint-14 and his Shotgun which was interesting AND had a great reward, but it was hidden behind a bit too much boring content.

Eventually I forged them all just to be rewarded with Sagira’s ghost shell which looks great, but is functionally boring given how much time is put into getting it. And that was about it until Warmind dropped. I couldn’t even be bothered to do the Raid Lair even though I hear it is enjoyable.

Warmind isn’t terrible, but it does little to improve on what is becoming a stale formula. The story is again VERY short, and it doesn’t fit all that well into the lore behind Destiny. Apparently the warmind Rasputin has been on Mars rather than Earth this whole time, and went dormant not because of the Darkness and sleep of the Traveler, but to contain some Hive and a Worm God. Which is a good reason but HOW is there a Worm God on Mars, and given that Worm Gods gave Oryx and his/her siblings power. Why are we able to kill one so easily. Oh and now Rasputin feels used and wants  to exert power himself.

All of these story beats are individually interesting but we don’t get enough explanation of each point for them to come together and make sense as whole.

This dissonance leads into warmind’s game-play as well. Mars has a new patrol area which is a great improvement on Mercury, there are hidden collectibles which lead to an exotic sword and exotic sparrow. The war-sat public event from D1 returns with a Hive twist. Ana Bray has a long, possibly five weeks long, quest for an exotic scout rifle (who knows if it will be worth the wait) and a challenging quest for the return of the Sleeper Simulant.

Escalation Protocol (EP) is another addition to Warmind, which at the time of writing this is a very challenging pseudo horde mode akin to the prison of elders in D1, but in the open world. EP recommends a base power level of 370, however the soft cap for gearing without powerful engram rewards is 345. This means EP will demolish groups of random people for weeks.

This in itself is not a problem we should not expect challenging events to just hand gear to us, otherwise it is not a challenge and we would be complaining about it being too easy. However EP was sold as needing a group of 6-9 people to complete all 7 waves of enemies. Destiny 2 only allows you to take a group of three into a patrol space meaning you have to hope that there are three to six people there to help out. Or you have to hope that you can get two or three people to RANDOMLY load into the same area together so each person can then invite two others.

Essentially this serves as a time gate, we have to wait weeks until most people are at required power levels (I am at 353 after two weeks of milestones) in order to complete it with people in the wilds or mess about with networking to be able to play with proper groups.

This seems to be Destiny’s downfall, a lot of good ideas but they don’t make the last step to get everything in sync. As Destin Legarie says in his video review on IGN “It’s one step forward, two steps back, and Bungie seems cursed to repeatedly release updates that get a few things right, while convoluting systems that no one took issue with.”

As I think a lot of Destiny players are, I am waiting for E3 next month to see just what Bungie has in store for Destiny 2 in September. I don’t think it is exaggeration to say that Destiny needs this next expansion to be as good if not better than the Taken King in order for enough people to want to keep coming back.

No fan wants to see a franchise they love fail, but we each have a certain amount of tolerance and if Destiny keeps making missteps the fan-base will move to greener pastures. I will probably play through the new content when I feel like it but I certainly wont be bursting at the seams to play each weekly reset, and pestering friends to come and play. If more people feel the same way or worse Destiny will slowly die, and I don’t want to see that happen.

So hopefully the next few weeks will have Bungie showing us that they understand their community and fill the gaps that are currently such a problem for the longevity of the franchise.

God of War: A Bold New World

 

This new God of War for the PlayStation 4 is in a word a masterpiece, that does not mean it’s perfect but a seriously great game. To be able to take the rage fueled revenge machine that is Kratos from the original God of War games, and turn him into the multi faceted character that he is in this game Sony Sana-Monica has achieved something truly remarkable.

In this new title Kratos has left the destruction of the Greek Pantheon behind for the Norse realm of Midgard where he is living a peaceful life with his wife Faye and son Atreus. And doing so by hiding the truth of his God-hood as best he can.

The game begins straight from the title screen the first time you boot the game up and if you were to marathon the story from there you may notice that the game will never cut for a single moment. This technique makes God of War incredibly immersive as you are always following the main characters  from the very start of their adventure.

God of War begins with Kratos and Atreus collecting wood for Faye’s funeral pyre. The main quest of this game is set off by her final request to have her ashes scattered from the highest peak in the realm. So Kratos does what any good Spartan would do and begins by testing Atreus to see if he has the skills needed to survive the journey. And so begins the games tutorial.

In just this simple tutorial you can see how Kratos has changed, he is genuinely sad over his wife’s death, there seems to no longer be any rage left in him. However he still has his hangups, as seen when he and Atreus have a moment where they can see the far of peak that is their goal and reminisce about Faye, but he is unable to comfort his son.

This is God of War’s crowning achievement, its characters. Kratos and Atreus’ relationship and they way it evolves throughout the story is incredible. Even the other characters that weave in and out of the story are thought out and evolve alongside, and often due to Kratos and Atreus.

What is just as great is that as the story progresses I found that every question I had about this new realm and the people within was answered, and often not in the ways I was expecting. This made the story compelling and its twists and turns difficult to predict. Which I like very much in a story driven game.

As in the Greek mythology driven God of War games, this new Norse mythology based game is woven around Kratos and his family. Some of the twists and turns will be seen well in advance if you have some knowledge of the Norse mythology. So for me some of these didn’t have as great a pay off as they might for someone with no knowledge in this area. However that should not take away from the many twists and turns that this game has that no-one will see coming.

Generally game-play is great as well Kratos’ new weapon the Leviathan Axe, which mimics Thor’s hammer from the Marvel films, feels incredible. The act of throwing it at an enemy and ripping it back into your hand is probably the most satisfying weapon I have ever had the chance to use in a game.

Even with the axe embedded in an enemy or pinning an them to a wall Kratos is by no means powerless. He still has his fists and a shield that can be used to lethal effect and there are even some brutal execute animations that show just how powerful this God can be. There are other weapons in the game that Kratos can use but they are spoilers and I wont mention what they are here.

Atreus is always by his Fathers side and becomes very useful in any fight. He uses a bow and various types of arrows to inflict damage and help to stagger the enemies you are fighting with Kratos. All under the guise of being trained by his father.

Here I should mention the voice performances of Christopher Judge ( Teal’c in Stargate SG-1) as Kratos, Sunny Suljic as Atreus, Jeremy Davies as the Stranger, Danielle Bisutti as the Witch in the Woods, and Alastair Duncan as Mimir. All of these actors give superb performances, which only serves to heighten the excellence of God of Wars story and characters.

It is a story you should experience even if only for the relationship between Kratos and Atreus, and by no means do you need to have played the original God of War games. You only need the idea that Kratos killed all of his Pantheon in rage fueled revenge for his first families deaths.

This game should be in any PS4 owners library, it is another in an incredible line up of first party PlayStation games.

 

PC Destiny 2: First Impressions

Damn does this game feel great on PC, for a game that already felt perfect on consoles Bungie has done a superb job at making Destiny 2 feel amazing on PC. That’s only with a couple of hours of play. I can’t wait to see how end game weapons perform, especially the weapons that I came to love on my Xbox characters.

Moment to moment game-play feels fantastic too. I found that I had absolutely no adjustment period from having spent so much time playing the console version. Launching my Titan into a Fist of Havoc ultimate felt just as satisfying, if not more so than on console due to the sheer spectacle of watching lightning stream out of my character.

As you would expect Destiny 2 looks wonderful on the PC. With my 1080p monitors the particle effects from rain, weapons and ultimate abilities look spectacular. So I would imagine that these effects would look even better on higher resolution screens.

From what I have experienced so far PC Destiny 2 has been well optimised, I haven’t once dropped a frame. Though I do run a GTX 1060 in my rig so I shouldn’t drop frames anyway, but with the recent history of console games coming to PC it is nice to have one that feels properly optimised.

I can’t wait to play more of this game, especially as it looks like the release schedule for the PC has 7 weeks of content that lines up with the release of the first DLC in December. Meaning that PC players shouldn’t have to deal with any lull in content.

If you enjoyed playing Destiny 1, and were waiting to see what people thought of Destiny 2 on PC. You will not be disappointed.

Tekken 7: Story Done Justice.

Tekken 7

Finally a fighting game that actually manages to tell a story well, sure its clichéd and predictable but it actually manages to compile a story that allows you to understand the mess that Tekken, and other fighting games tend to be story wise.

At least in the Mishima Saga storyline, the upshot of segmenting the story this way has allowed the developers to focus on the “main” story line of the Tekken series, which is the story of Heihachi, Kazuya, and Jin, and their extremely violent family history. Probably the best thing that this story achieves, is that it manages to tell the story of the full series, so even people who either have never played a Tekken game, or have (understandably) no idea of the story behind these main three characters.

This backstory is told through the eyes of a journalist, who lost his home and family due to the actions of the Mishima family, during his investigations to understand who these people are and why they act the way they do. For a game franchise that has been around as long as Tekken this is important because previous games have not really paid much attention to telling a story, so much as letting people infer what is happening from short cut scenes and the order you fight people during the early story modes.

Tekken 7’s story will run around 5 hours, depending on personal skill levels and which difficulty you want to play on. Importantly the Mishima story experience feels satisfying, story cut scenes tend to end with characters facing off, and the player being dropped into whoever the main character of that scene is. This does the job of making you feel involved with the current fight and the reasons behind it.

After the storytelling of the main campaign the various character stories feel like a last minute addition, as they consist of a single fight per character, usually against their main rival or someone important to that character’s storyline. Seriously take a look at the Tekken characters storylines, there is soap opera levels of connections and rivalries behind them.

I wish there was a little more for each character to do, because what little has been done is genuinely entertaining, if incredibly anime in style. One story for example has Eddy Gordo and the new Idol character Lucky Chloe fighting with a bet of Eddy becoming Lucky Chloe’s backup dancer if he looses. Or Paul being happy that he is finally not fighting Kuma (which apparently is a thing) only for him to end up fighting Panda who has stumbled into the arena while searching for Ling Xiaoyu.

Tekken 7 has also taken the plunge of giving every character a super “rage” ability that becomes available when you reach low health during a fight. This is activated with either a very simple combo input (usually a direction and double button press) or simply hitting the right bumper (R1) on whatever controller you have. These moves do a bunch of damage if they hit and are all superbly animated and satisfying to watch. For low skilled players like me it also acts like a panic button if you hit low health during a fight, to even the health pools out and give you a bit more of a chance.

Gameplay wise Tekken 7 is solid, now I am not good at this game, or any fighting game in this style really. But I still find it fun, I can at least play Asuka to a level I am happy with. I haven’t yet had a chance to play Tekken against someone in the same room which is where I think fighting games work well, but from what I have played online play is very stable. And this is playing through a US region from New Zealand, but I do have a fibre connection.

I have enjoyed what I have played of Tekken 7 so far, enough so that I am considering getting the DLC at some point in the future. The season pass price here in NZ is $35 right now, I think I will wait for the DLC price to drop however as if am paying for extra character stories that are only one fight each I do not think the pass is worth it at that price.

All in all, if you are or have been a Tekken fan I would recommend this installment of the game. Or if you are simply looking just for a solid fighting game Tekken 7 is probably your best bet right now, especially because of how well the online services work if you want to challenge yourself against people worldwide.

Destiny 2: What it Needs.

Destiny 2

According to the aptly named website wastedondestiny.com I have racked up 542 hours of game-play in Destiny 1, so it is safe to say that I have enjoyed my time with it and will probably be much closer to 600 hours before the release of the much-anticipated sequel.

But here are a few things that I think Destiny 2 needs to have to be successful, especially given the mess that Destiny 1 was in when it launched in September 2014.


No. 1 – Story:  

By far the largest problem that Destiny had at launch was the fact that it had no story of note for people to level through. Infamously featuring the line “I don’t have time to explain, why I don’t have time to explain.” Destiny 1’s campaign was full of tidbits that could have been interesting if they had been given the time to grow before you were shoved off to the next mission that would likely have nothing to do with the mission you just completed.

Talking to people who still play the game, most agree the story of Destiny 1 ended the second it actually became interesting, which is rough when it happens 20 hours into the game.

To Bungie’s credit each new expansion brought more story, and the Taken King is held by fans of the game to be the story that Destiny should have had at launch. Rightly so in my opinion as its story is interesting and actually allows NPC character development, not to mention some short but compelling quests that gives each player class a little bit of flavor that previously didn’t exist beyond item flavor text.

Destiny 2 needs to build on the story and characters that were brought to life in The Taken King expansion, and give players some intensive to keep pouring hours of our lives into this franchise. Hopefully without forgetting the original Destiny story, because there are a lot of people who want to see where that story goes after being cut so short.


No. 2 – Game-play:

The moment to moment game-play is the only reason I have poured so much of my free time into Destiny, it just feels so damn good to play. The weapons archetypes all feel unique, and unless you mostly play PVP you have a free rein to choose your favorite types of weapons to play with.

As a primarily PVE player I have gone through periods of favoring just about every weapon type in-game, year one for me was pulse rifles, fusion rifles, and rocket launchers. Year two was scout rifles, shotguns, and machine guns. Finally year three has been hand-cannons, sniper rifles, and swords. So as long as Bungie can keep this feeling good they will probably be able to bring most of the current player base along to Destiny 2.

PVP is where they seriously need to do some work however, they really need to be able to balance weapons in such a way that you can take your favorite load-out into the crucible, without being slaughtered by everyone else who is using the current flavour of the meta OP weapon.


No. 3 – Exploration:

Destiny has deceptively small areas of play, with very little to reward you for exploration. Each planetary map is essentially a circuit with a couple of corridors tacked on, and you very quickly learn that exploring the far side of a map nets you nothing so you don’t bother to go out of your way again.

The Dreadnought that came with The Taken King was a step in the right direction, it was filled with little secrets and puzzles to seek out and complete. Unfortunately after doing them once there is no reason to ever do them again, and for the odd one that may need a group you were out of luck within a month of the expansions launch.

Again the quest to get the Exotic Pulse rifle from the Wrath of the Machine raid, is a fantastic puzzle that the community came together to solve, but it can be buggy and frustrating to find a group to fulfill the quests requirements, such as needing one of each class in a group. Or now finding a group that is willing to do the raid puzzle to even start the quest.

For exploration all Destiny 2 needs is to build on the community’s feedback from earlier attempts, i.e. make them solo-able after a length of time or provide an in-game way of finding people to complete tough quests.


No. 4 – Looking for Group:

The Destiny community and its ability to provide the tools that Bungie forgot is a big reason why people still play the game today. Without LFG websites life destinylfg.net, destinylfg.com, the100.io, and even /r/fireteams I would never have been able to find groups of people to raid with.

Coming from games like World of Warcraft that can have massively toxic groups I needed a fair bit of confidence to get on voice comms with five other people to begin raiding. It didn’t help when the first group I ever joined up with in Destiny kicked me because I didn’t have the perfect perk for my rocket launcher.

So I have to give a MASSIVE shout out to the Sherpa community that sprang up to help teach people destiny raid mechanics and get them that experience and confidence they needed. I found them through /r/DestinySherpa and the people there were fantastic and did a great job of teaching rather than just carrying people through tough content.

Destiny 2 very much needs in-built systems to support these communities, and make it easier for people to create groups to complete difficult content when they don’t have people they know in real life who play Destiny to group with.


No. 5 – Veteran Representation:
As a World of Warcraft player for many years, I have little attachment to current items in terms of stats of benefits they give to your character. Due to the fact that the legendary item you pried from the corpse of the toughest enemy you managed to slay, is replaced by the first uncommon drop you get from that squirrel that just happened to get in the way of your sword while you were out questing.

That said how that item looks is always important, and recognisable when you see it out in the wild. So I am hoping that Destiny will have some sort of system like WoWs transmogrification where we can take the look of the gear we have gained in Destiny 1 and use it to show off in Destiny 2

More likely we will get a couple of emblems and maybe a shader, to show we were their way back in year 1. In my case I just want to be able to show off the raid gear I spent weeks hoping would drop from a specific boss.


Destiny 2 is getting a game-play reveal on May 18th (only a few days away) and I can’t wait to see what direction Bungie has taken the Destiny franchise. It has been rumored, pretty much since launch, that most of the Destiny team has moved onto Destiny 2. So the team has had at least three years to build on their experience with Destiny 1 and as Bungie has been great at using community feedback to improve the game I am quietly optimistic that Destiny 2 will live up to expectations.

Horizon Zero Dawn: Initial Impressions

I played this new game for a few hours last night and I have to say that I have been blown away. Not only does Horizon look fantastic, it matches that with superb game-play as well. Not to mention how fascinating the story is, at least so far.

It is not often that a game manages to tick all three of those boxes, especially within the first couple of hours.

Combat against the machines that wander the world feels great, and each different type of machine has its own threat if you are not careful enough to avoid their attention. Watchers for example will call out to nearby machines, warning some away and calling other watchers to come and help deal with the threat. Striders are less aggressive and usually run when you start to attack them, however get too close and they will turn and fight.

This makes fighting them very interesting, as you are constantly learning new ways to take them down and as you get stronger a machine that once needed stealth and a bit of luck to down, needs only a few stabs with a spear, but you still have to be careful of the rest of the machines pack, because they will come after you if you aren’t paying attention.

The only thing that throws me off graphically with this game is to do with talking to other characters, faces and voice acting are amazing but like a lot of games there is very little expression made around the eyes. While this isn’t a major problem it becomes a little distracting when everything else about a character is so expressive, but you are basically having an intense staring contest with them. But this is a problem that will get fixed as game development becomes even more advanced.

So far I am finding the story truly fascinating, and I can’t wait to find out more about this world. What happened to all of our cities? What are the machines? Where did they come from? Why did humanity choose to live so simply rather than rebuild? I hope all of these question get answered, either through the story or through exploration of the world.

Exploration hasn’t been a big thing yet with how far in to Horizon I am, but I believe it is just about to open up for me. That said I love how full of resources the world is, you find crafting materials everywhere you look, and you definitely make good use of the machines and animals you hunt.

Currency in this game is Metal Shards, which as you might imagine can be found on machines, however shards aren’t the only thing needed to buy things from traders, some items need special parts such as a lens from a watcher or a striders heart.

A great quality of life system has been implemented here though, if you do not have the required part you have an option to “start a job” where the part you need is highlighted on the map the same way a quest would be. I love this, in other games I have become used to writing out lists of items to farm or constantly opening inventory screens to make sure I have the required number of parts. This small addition is really helpful.

Anyway, I am going to go and play some more now and I can only hope that Horizon Zero Dawn lives up to what it has shown me so far. I can also tentatively recommend that this game is worth getting even though I am only a few hours in, which is a pretty good indicator of just how well this game begins.

Mass Effect: My Road to Andromeda.

mass-effect

Mass Effect was a series that I ignored for a very long time, mainly because I didn’t have any of the hardware to play the games on as they released. But eventually I got my hands on Mass Effect 3 as a consolation for having bought Sim City 2013 when that game had its god awful launch.

So I figured it was time to jump in to the series and see what I was missing so I bought Mass Effect 1 when it next went on sale. I approached it like I do in many RPGs to make myself and experience the world as I believe I would act.

So out came John Shepard Hero of the Alliance………….. and I didn’t even finish the first mission. For some reason I couldn’t connect with the characters or world in any way so I moved on and played something else.

In the following years as rumors of Mass Effect Andromeda started to surface then finally a brief reveal at an E3 press conference, I began to get interested in this elusive series once again. By this time I had heard a lot of good things about playing Mass Effect as female Shepard. So I decided to take a different tack when trying to play this time.

I approached the game as playing a character, choosing the way they would act rather than the way I would act. Experiencing the story through them rather than through myself, Jennifer Hale’s superb voice acting helped immensely with this too.

Doing this brought me in deep and I played the whole trilogy with all of its story DLC in about a week in January 2016. The only game I didn’t perfect (finishing all quests) was Mass Effect 1 due to trying to get away from the most dated part of the series.

All in all I loved the trilogy, and more than a little annoyed with myself having ignored the franchise for so long. It really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me given how much I love the Sci-Fi genre, and now with Andromeda on its way later this month I can’t wait for it to drop, (even if I am annoyed with having a couple of assignments due around the same time).

Mass Effect: Andromeda from what I have seen of it, looks to be moving back towards the kind exploration that Mass Effect 1 had. With being able to touch down on many different planets in search of resources and technology to improve your character and teammates. Though hopefully Andromeda’s Nomad is vastly more controllable than the MAKO.

It will also be interesting to see how the story plays out given that Humanity and the Council races from the Mass Effect trilogy are in a completely alien environment in the Andromeda galaxy far away from any help or home that they recognize.

Andromeda will also have replay value of a different magnitude than the Trilogy, due to a couple of interesting gameplay changes. The first being that your choice of Male or Female player character is a choice between siblings Scot and Sara Ryder, and supposedly the one you don’t choose is present in the story and each will have different interactions with the world.

The second change is the removal of the Lightside vs Darkside AKA the Paragon/Renegade system in conversations, to more ambiguous choices that are more along the lines of a rational versus an emotional answer.

I hope this means it will play out similarly to the Witcher games where choices have consequences but everything has shades of grey, and what you think is the “good” answer at the time may have unforeseen consequences.

Plus as a person who almost always is pulled to the light and chooses the good option hopefully will give the opportunity to play a little more naturally.

I really hope Andromeda is good, I even upgraded my PC graphics card from a GTX 760 to a GTX 1060 just to make sure the game looks as good as I hope it plays. But we will see at the end of the month, and hopefully if my assignments go well I will have the opportunity to play through the game and get some impressions up here quickly.

I may even do a first 5 hours impressions article. But I will have to see how addicted I get to it.

 

Nintendo Switch Event Run Down.

 

{FULL PRESENTATION HERE}

 

It all Began with address from Kimishima the new President of Nintendo. The first announcement was March 3 for a worldwide release.

Prices were announced at Japanese 29980 Yen, $299 American dollars, Europeans were advised to Check retailers.

Switch will have modern online services, with online multiplayer services, interact with smart phone apps. Here they mentioned chatting with friends which would be a departure from how Nintendo has approached online recently.

Online will be free at launch until fall 2017, then it will become paid much like Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus. No word on how much it will cost.

The biggest announcement for me being a New Zealander is that the Nintendo Switch is region free. Which gives me a way to get games cheaper by buying from America.

Shinya Takahashi the software development leader was the next to come out, and he talked about how the Switch is intended to be a legacy system that builds on all previous Nintendo innovations from d-pad to analog, to motion controls.

Nintendo Switch is supposed to be a home console gaming system that can be taken on the go. Rather than a portable that happens to connect to a TV.

 It will work in three modes. TV mode when it is connected via the dock to your TV, tabletop mode where the portable unit sits up with the stand and can be played via the disconnected joy cons. Finally, portable mode where it is used as a traditional handheld device.

The new joy cons can be disconnected and used as player one and two controllers.  Of course it can be played in portable mode while charging the system.

The screen is a capacitive touch panel that will allow for touch interaction that Nintendo is used to working with from the DS to the Wii U.

Eight Switch consoles can be connected together for local wireless multiplayer, much like the DS family of systems can do.

General Development producer Koizumi was next out and he had the most screen time of anyone from Nintendo for the whole conference.

He began by describing the Joy Con controls and the ways in which they work. The square Joy con grip is considered the basic way of playing in the TV mode style. Although the pro controllers are also available.

 Apparently Nintendo telling us that the joy cons have clickable analog sticks is important, but they quickly got to some more interesting features.

The Right JoyCon has an NFC reader for Amiibo support, which is located near the home button that is on the right JoyCon.

Left controller has capture button, much like the share buttons that are on PS4 and Xbox one today. Capture button will initially be for screenshots only, though they have said video will be coming later.

There are accelerometers for motion control type games in each of the controllers, and each controller has Land R buttons so they can be used as fully functional multiplayer controls.

Color variations of neon blue and neon red were announced next, so more should be on the way if history is anything to go by. Wrist straps slide onto the controllers like the controllers sliding onto the Switch itself. Straps make each JoyCon into larger controllers with larger L and R buttons being part of the straps. Straps also have neon red and blue colors for people who want to be color coordinated.

Right controller has an IR camera for hand movement tracking. They demoed it being able to recognize rock, paper scissors. So we will see what comes of that.

They talked about the Left controller on has precise “rumble” for a kind of haptic feedback. Nintendo is calling it HD rumble. They demoed it by showing Koizumi being able Feel ice cubes dropping into and rolling around a glass.

Next up was the announcement of Two new games focused on the JoyCons

The first game is Called “1-2 Switch” looks to be all about reaction times tied into party mini-games like Wii Play, such as a quick draw competition.

1-2 Switch developer and Nintendo Switch hardware director Kawamoto came out next to talk about his game. It can be played without looking at a screen, it’s all focused on staring down your opponent without looking at the TV screen.

1-2 Switch will be a Launch game on March 3rd.

The second game announced is a long-range fighting game with new characters that have springs for arms. So of course the game is called Arms. Kosuke Yabuki Producer for Arms then came out to talk about his game. He likened it to a fighting/sports game with characters that have extendable arms, so that boxing becomes similar shooting. The mascot characters are called Spring man and Ribbon girl.

Arms will have Online battles as well as solo, split screen and multiple switch console play. Is out in Spring 2017 (Autumn 2017 if you are in the Southern Hemisphere).

Splatoon 2 was then discussed by Hisashi Nogami who played the part of a “Squid Researcher” which was a bit awkward but very Nintendo. He discussed new weapons which also includes special weapons that activate after spraying a certain amount of Ink, essentially super/ultimate moves. Splatoon 2 is Planned for launch in summer 2017 (Winter in the Southern Hemisphere).

A new 3D Mario game was up next, which began in a world modeled after real life, then switched to Mario style worlds. Mario was shown throwing his hat, and riding a cat statue.

It is called Super Mario Odyssey. With his hat being the new mascot similar to FLUDD in Sunshine or the Lumas in Galaxy. Koizumi is Super Mario Odyssey’s producer. And talked about how Odyssey is supposed to be a sandbox type world like 64 and Sunshine. Which I love given that the directed worlds of Galaxy 1 and 2 didn’t work as well for me.

Super Mario Odyssey is coming Holiday 2017.

I am super excited that they announced Xenoblade 2, which looks fantastic and featured shots that make it look much more like Xenoblade Chronicles with massive world sized creatures. It also seemed to have the main character wielding a new form of the Monado sword.

Next up a New Fire emblem game called Fire Emblem Warriors was teased by Koei Tecmo.

Then they began to drop development stats. So they have 50 partners and there are 80 games currently in development for the Nintendo Switch.

Dragon Quest 10 and 11 has been announced for the switch in Japan. Dragon quest Heroes 1&2 was also announced.

 A new Atlas title is an Unreal 4 powered Shin Megami Tensei game which is celebrating 20 years of Shin Megami Tensei. It has only Just started development, and the cinematic was prepared specifically for this presentation.

There is a New Square-Enix title on the way, called project Octopath Traveler (Seriously what’s up with Square-Enix names).

Toshihiro Nagoshi from SEGA came out to talk up the new system and how good it will be for gamers.

Todd Howard from Bethesda Games was next to confirm Skyrim for Nintendo Switch. He talked about being excited to work with Nintendo for the first time.

Suda 51 from Grasshopper (No More Heroes, Killer 7, Lollipop Chainsaw). He is bringing Travis Touchdown back on Switch, but didn’t actually call it No More Heroes 3. He went on to discuss Switch being an exciting platform to develop games for as an Indie developer.

Then came Patrick Söderlund from EA, to announce that Nintendo Switch will be getting FIFA later this year in a game called EA Sports FIFA.

Koizumi signs off, just before a trailer where the mandatory montage of games trailer dropped and showed a lot of new and ported games.

There is Telltale’s Minecraft, Dragon Quest, Disgaea, a proper Minecraft port, possibly a new Sonic game and many more.

The console will launch with 2 JoyCons, 2 JoyCon straps, a JoyCon grip, the Dock, an HDMI cable, and an AC adapter. There are currently two options at launch, one with grey JoyCons and one with a set of neon Red and Blue JoyCons. Each option costs the same.

Satoru Shibata of Nintendo of Europe. Appeared on video to announce events for people to try Switch around Europe before launch on March 3rd

Reggie Fils-Aimé then made a similar announcement for America

He then briefly talked to Mario creator Miyamoto about switch and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Eiji Aonuma jumps out and is asked about the launch date for Breath of the Wild he throws back to the stage for Kimishima to make the final announcements.

Last up was a fantastic new trailer for Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, it began by showcasing a few new environments then dropped into a story trailer. We finally get a look at this games Zelda and there seems to be a bit more emotion in this Zelda which looks much darker than recent editions. We hear Link being asked to save someone’s daughter, presumably Zelda

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Will be out on the Nintendo Switch Launch day of March 3rd 2017.

Some of the peripherals were given prices just after the conference ended. The pro controller will be 69 USD, the JoyCons are 49 USD each, or 79 USD for both.

Honestly the conference dragged a bit, and didn’t really make me any more excited for the Switch. At this point I will wait and see what other games will be out at launch or very close to launch before I think of buying one. Although if some of those games are ports of Wii U games that I missed, like Mario Kart 8, or Smash Bros U that could easily make me pick up a launch system.